Tag Archives: magical element

Black Death: The Medieval Wicker Man

In a movie undeservedly put under the radar, it came as a surprise to me after watching Black Death that it wasn’t a more well liked and well known film. Among a handful of other medival pieces on Netflix (such as Ironclad, and Season of the Witch – review coming soon) this one, I would say, stood out as the #1 spot on the leaderboard. I mean, come on, you got Sean Bean as the lead. He puts his own amazingly remarkable mark on any and all medieval period pieces he does (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones). So its time to delve into those boils and see what’s good.

This movie starts (and focuses) around the account of a young monk in training. All around him, Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) sees the pestilence of the plague as a blight from God himself. As the movie begins, we even discover that he himself was being tested to see if he caught the plague. As a devastating disease that just took hold of his Church by the throat, Osmund finds himself in turmoil. His new found love Averill

Ulric and his gang at a witch burning. Monty Python style.

(Kimberley Nixon), something the Church wouldn’t approve of, must leave the confines of the monastery and find safety in a forest village far from the reaches of the plague. She promises to go, but will only wait for Osmund for 7 days.

With this separation between human love and the love of God, Osmund must make a choice to choice (although it would be frowned upon if he left the Church at all). Upon praying to God for some sort of sign on which way to go, Ulric and his band of merry men roll up hard to the Church to find a guide.

There are repenters in every one...

There is talk of a necromancer in a swamp somewhere near where Osmund is familiar with. Double whammy for him? He can meet his wench on the way. Overjoyed at the excuse to peace out (deuces style), he volunteers to lead Ulric. After some minor preparation, they head on out.

Here’s where things get sticky. Some people die, some people may (or may not) have the plague, and this village they find in the swamp, hasn’t been touched by the plague. So Sean Bean and his boys suspect witchcraft. And they’ve brought some deadly torture devices to get some confessions and drag home one witches corpse. Utterly decieved, Osmund has no choice but to go on this miniquest for God and his way of life.

The travelling troupe.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the ending, but think The Wicker Man. it doesn’t matter which version (Cage or no Cage) but watch that first and prepare for the medieval version afterwards. It’s not all that uncommon, I’m sure, for a movie to be inspired by another, and I found this version of a society that’s not what it seems to be quite unnerving. Upon looking into this movie, I got worried they’d introduce some B.S. magical element into the story. And I wasn’t having that from a movie that came from a very real place. (Speaking of real, we’ll have to talk about the realness that is Season of the Witch.)

Sean Bean. Witch hunting.

Luckily, I was spared and the movie satisfied me like a goat-wrapped Snickers. And you wanna know who stole the show? It wasn’t Sean Bean. He gave his great performance as his stock Boromir character. It was good, no doubt, no doubt. The real ingenious lay in the true to life performance from Eddie Redmayne. A relatively young actor I’ve not heard much from (other than the big works he’s done that I haven’t seen yet) has been doing period pieces like its his job. I mean, My Week with Marilyn? Who but the Redmayne is lucky enough to do that? But what I really felt about his acting is that he wasn’t faking. He looks like a normal person (of the time period) and I felt his true anguish and terror. Nothing felt forced. It was a spot on acting job.

But I do give Sean Bean his credit. I know that every time I watch a Sean Bean

The evil wench, Carice van Houten.

film, I’m getting a true to life, Shakespearean performance. He cuts no corners when it comes to true acting. On some other levels I found John Lynch’s role as Wolfstan to be riveting. As the older and wiser 2nd in command, Wolfstan tries to protect all that he can and do so with kindess. That kind of heartfelt performance comes from some attention to detail. A little nod to Andy Nyman, a pretty funny guy who applied some dark comedy to Black Death. This was a big turnaround role for me last seeing him as the portly and spunky friend of a friend in Death at a Funeral (the real one). I mistook Johnny Harris, the big old badass with twinblades for Eddie Marsan, and if you’re familiar, you may understand my mistake. Both bald, both bearded, both decent actors.

Will love find a way in such dark times?

As with most adventure movies like this (not exactly adventure, I guess I mean questing), you get to know all the characters in the travelling party a little bit. But not enough to really care whether some of them live or die. I mean… Griff and the mute guy Ivo in this movie? One had boils and one couldn’t talk. Not much was lost when they were killed. Not to say their characters weren’t important, it’s just with movies like this, you can tell the expendables from the not so. So when it comes down to the last guys, then you feel the heartache.

And with this classic film form in mind, the storyline bloodily zips along to its conclusion. Some twists and turns and some witches who burn, the transformation of Osmund is the final result of this film. Told in an almost brutal, Gerard Butler in Beowulf kind of way, a bit of magic never hurts to mix in. This movie delivers how its supposed to and makes for a fine period piece. I’ll give it an 8.1 out of 10.

Truly symbolic.

 

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Baccano!: You Just Have to Watch it.

I’m going to say as little as I possibly can about this show while trying to talk about this show and how interesting it was for me. Also, in this review, I’m going to attempt to talk about characters in such a vague way that I don’t reveal anything about the plot and just encourage you to watch the show. Impossible task? Challenge accepted.

This is an anime set in the Prohibition Era of America in the early 1900’s. There is an element of magic and mystery that intertwines itself in this show so that you have to accept what’s possible with the impossible. There are gangsters, and, orignally, magicians (of  a sort). The characters range from the mentally unstable to the kind and thoughtful. With inspiration from the film, The Untouchables, the gangster and his New York accent come to life in the world of the speakeasies.

There are a lot of characters...

When you first begin to watch this show, you may become frustrated. A lot of characters and events are thrown at you all at once. Told from so many perspectives, it can become overwhelming in the first couple of episodes. But have patience. In a nonlinear plotline that comes together in pieces, this show was ingeniously crafted to have the characters drive the story until the plot becomes clear. Just remember when watching that the Flying Pussyfoot (really don’t like the name though) is the central event of the series. Things occurring on the train, for the most part, are happening in the real time (I think…) while all other events of the early 1930s are flashbacks, or maybe even flashforwards. Still not entirely sure. It’s a show worth watching through more than once.

 

What's going on?

With all the gangster families, it can become hard to determine just exactly who is who and who did what and who is wanted for what purpose. With all the accents and the strange character names, (Jacuzzi Splot. Enough said.) with three different gangster mafioso families going on at once (the Gandors, the Genoards, and the Martillos) including Jacuzzi’s gang and the Russo family, toss in Isaac and Miria, and you have a lot of chaos all at once. Nothing is as it seems and nothing seems to make much sense in the Baccano! world. It’s all about the ending payoff.

A few noteworthy voice actors in the dubbed version to speak of. You have to start with Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent. J. Michael Tatum and Caitlin Glass

Isaac and Miria. Best.

really branch their talents to their extremes with two ridiculous thieves with no care in the world and no idea what’s going on. John Burgmeier puts on an English accent as a character I can’t reveal (sorry). And R. Bruce Elliott places a mean old Russian bastard who is actually a terribly villainous magician. Joel McDonald in a surprisingly heartfelt performance gets his Brooklyn on as Jacuzzi and Nice, his eye-patched love interest and crime partner is nicely done by Colleen Clinkenbeard. Throw in a Frenchman in jail and you have the wide ranging and seductive talents of Eric Vale.  Throw in Todd Haberkorn and his always likeable goofy characters and you have a Baccano! cast.

I love this man so much.

But, I could never forget the big standout in the show. In a very underrated voice actor comes one of the best performances of his career. Ladd Russo, a highly skilled and highly delusional killer is voiced by Bryan Massey. His questioning and highly energetic character from My Bride is a Mermaid, Shark, returns as another kind of inhuman being. Ladd is vulgar, he is brutal, and he is one of the most likeable and sinister characters in the series. Any guy who can walk into a room and say, “I like you! F%*k you!” deserves respect.

Let's get to pokin'.

And for the rest, AKA the amazing plot, you have to watch it for yourself. In the same vein of shows as Durarara! (interesting, both are marked with exclamation points…) comes a character driven show with a great payoff. Watch it for the characters and voice acting. Watch it for the interesting non-linear plot. Watch it just to watch it. It’s well worth a shot. You just might find what you’re looking for in a show in this 16 episode anime, Baccano!