Weekend Roundup: The Secret of Kells and Gladiator re-watch

The calendar says it’s April. Spring? What Spring??

Hope it’s much sunnier where you are as it’s quite wet and gloomy here. In fact, looking at the 10-days forecast is quite depressing, full of rain/snow mix with temps barely making it out of 50 degrees! 😦

In any case, I didn’t make it to the theaters this weekend. As you know, I’d never go see Evil Dead 2 even if someone paid me! So here are what I saw this weekend:

The Secret of Kells (2009)

SecretOfKellsFor some reason this Irish-French-Belgian animated feature eluded me, even though it was one of the Best Animated Feature nominees in 2010. It definitely deserves such kudos!

Set in the eighth century, this film is a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, the illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels. The story follows 12-year-old Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) as he battles Vikings and confronts an ancient serpent god on a mission to locate a legendary crystal and complete the mythical Book of Kells.

A rare spiritually-tinged animated feature that’s rich in Celtic mythology and folklore. It’s so beautifully-crafted and instantly involving that within seconds I was whisked away into Brendan’s world. I love the flat look of the hand-drawn animation, somehow it adds to its ethereal quality. After having seen the more slick animated features with all the bells and whistles, it’s actually refreshing to see the simplicity of this feature, it’s just mesmerizing and beautiful to behold. Some of the drawings are as intricate as churches’ stained glass windows, which is appropriate given the subject matter.


Brendan lives a sheltered life, forbidden by his uncle, Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) to go outside the gateway. But when he secretly sneaks into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink, that’s when his adventure begins. There he meets Aisling (pronounced like Ashley), a fairy of sort who’s able to take many forms. She’s ever so cute and bewitching, and their friendship is sweet and lovely. The story at times descend into surreal, even abstract form, and though I don’t always understand the details of what’s happening, I still enjoyed the ride. The Celtic music has a transcendental quality about it, especially the Aisling song “You must go where I cannot…” composed by Bruno Coulais.


There are some tense and perhaps even terrifying moments that might scare off the very young ones though, the black and red color schemes during the attack scenes conveys the darkness of the moment. I love that this film is not just beautiful to look at but it also speaks about an inspiring message of devotion, bravery, sacrifice and forgiveness. If you’re in the mood for a charming animated feature hat carries a deeper meaning than what’s typically offered in this genre, definitely give this one a shot. It’s available on Netflix Streaming too!

4.5 out of 5 reels

Since Sunday was Russell Crowe’s birthday, I thought it was time for another Gladiator re-watch.

I’m still as enamored by this film as I did the first time I saw it over a decade ago. I’ve written all kinds of posts on this, including this essay on how this film launched thousands of imitation (part of the Movies that made going to the movies suck blog-a-thon). But even with countless Gladiator wanna-be out there, there is still nothing quite like the story of the wronged Roman General Maximus.

There are sooo many memorable scenes in this film, and certainly the one where Maximus revealed his identity to Commodus rates high up there. It stands as one of those scenes I could watch over and over again. But upon my nth re-watch, this scene after Maximus survived a particularly gruesome game with the tigers that’s been *arranged* specifically by Commodus is down-right heart-wrenching.

Time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end… your Highness.

Crowe’s expression as he uttered the line, his voice almost crumbling as he used every bit of willpower from ripping Commodus apart… it moved me to tears every time.

Well, what did you see this weekend? Anything good?

43 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: The Secret of Kells and Gladiator re-watch

  1. I love Secret of Kells! Celtic mythology is one of my interests and this movie is just filled with little nods and beautiful imagery, lovely animation. I haven’t seen Gladiator in ages, but it’s one of Scott’s better films, people usually praise Crowe or Phoenix but the performance that stood out the most for me was Connie Nielsen’s, she was incredible and her character was so tragic in the end.

    1. I’ve never seen any animated feature w/ Celtic mythology before so it’s really fascinating! Gorgeous imagery and lovely animation indeed! I made a special header but I forgot to attach it, I might leave that for a while in place of Thorin [gasp!] as it’s soooo beautiful!

      Oh I agree Connie’s superb in this. I wish her career had taken off like the male actors. She was so beautiful too. Oh and Derek Jacobi is awesome too!

  2. That’s funny Ruth. I was just discussing the Secret of Kells with someone today at my work. Good little film and absolutely gorgeous artwork. I reviewed this one myself a while back but I actually forget what I gave it. I think it 3.5 as I found the pace a little slow. Other than that it was great though.

    1. WOW, we really must be kindred spirits Mark. First the Mission soundtrack, now this! 😀 The pace is a bit slow at times but I was so mesmerized by the beauty of the artwork that I didn’t mind so much.

      1. Kindred spirits indeed Ruth. We definitely seem to be on the same wave length these days. What can I say? Great minds! 😉

        P.s. Sorry for the late reply, I don’t seem to be getting reply notifications from everyone at the moment.

  3. Didn’t get to see much this weekend. Did watch Evil Dead and watched Chocolat (review coming soon). Great write-up on Kells. Never really interested me but your review changes that a bit. Great stuff Ruth.

    1. Oooh I like Chocolat! I look forward to your review on that. The Secret of Kells is wonderful Keith, it’d be a fun viewing with your little one too. I forgot but you have a young kid right? I like the spiritual aspect of the story too, the Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels.

        1. Very cool! I think they’d appreciate this. Btw, I’ll be over to check out your doc review. I just read it on someone else’s blog the other day, not sure it’s for me though.

  4. Great post! I love Gladiator. It’s one of the first movies I owned on DVD and I was just in love with its scope and design and Crowe’s and Phoenix’s acting. I think it needs a rewatch!

    Secret of Kells seems interesting. The animation is certainly striking.

    1. I think I’ve got two sets of Gladiator DVD but the Blu-ray is such a beauty!! I might rewatch the special features tonight too.

      The Secret of Kells is striking visually, but the story is not fluffy either. I highly recommend.

  5. Secret of Kells looks like an awesome movies, just looking at the pictures, will check that one out (hadn’t heard about this before). Gladiator is a classic!

    1. It’s a thing of beauty Nostra, definitely worth a look! And yeah, Gladiator certainly stands the test of time. It still looks beautiful as well.

  6. Ted S.

    The Secret of Kells sounds like something my niece and nephew might enjoy, but probably not for me since you know I’m not into animations much anymore. It’s funny because I used to love watching cartoons and animated films when I was younger, I think my interest in the genre stopped when I turned 25 or so.

    Wow I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since Gladiator opened in theaters, I still remember seeing it in theater like it was yesterday. Even though it’s one of the most anticipated films of summer 2000, it wasn’t something I really wanted to see. I only went to see it because my buddies really wanted to see it, glad I did though. Although I found it kind of disappointing the first time around, I didn’t really get into the film until I watched it again later that year on DVD. I might watch it again on BD this weekend.

    I didn’t see anything new this past weekend, was thinking of renting Argo or Zero Dark Thirty but wasn’t in the mood, so I watched the very cheesy Bond flick, The Man with the Golden Gun. It’s one of the worst box office misfires of the franchise and almost destroy it, I know a lot of people hated it but I somehow enjoy the heck out of it.

    1. Ahah, that’s funny Ted. I think I’ll always appreciate animation no matter how old I am. Well not the silly ones like Tom & Jerry, but something like The Secret of Kells or even Pixar stuff actually has an appealing story for kids and adults alike.

      Gladiator is one of those films I’d love to see again in its big screen glory, please NO 3D though, but I’d think it might look spectacular on IMAX. Ahah, Man with the Golden Gun IS cheesy. The one Roger Moore film I still enjoy to this day is Octopussy though, it’s just as cheesy but enjoyable 😀

  7. Great review! The Secret of Kells has eluded me too, but it’s been on my watchlist ever since it popped up at the Oscars. I’ll have to check it out on Netlfix.

    It’s never a bad time to rewatch Gladiator! 🙂 I know it had its haters, but it’s still my favorite film of 2000. Crowe has many awesome line deliveries in that film.

    I watched some older films this weekend, the best of which were The Fountainhead, Kind Hearts and Coronets, and The Conformist.

    1. Oh you should give it a watch Josh. It’s definitely Oscar-worthy. It’s on Netflix Streaming too!
      Yep, Gladiator is always great to see again. It still holds up, the visuals, dialog, acting, etc.

      I’ve never heard of any you mentioned there but I hope you’d be reviewing those?

      1. I might at some point. I watched The Fountainhead and Kind Hearts and Coronets in preparation for Friday’s post. The problem is: I watch so many films that I have to pick and choose which ones to highlight on the blog. 🙂

  8. Wow, the art style of The Secret of the Kells looks wonderful, definitely interested in seeing that! As for Gladiator, I think it’s superb. I said the other day I wasn’t a huge Crowe fan but that part is just perfect for him. I didn’t get to see much at all. I watched Before Sunrise, which I thought was a nice little love story.

    1. The Secret of the Kells is delightful, Chris, hope you get to see it soon. Great actors could make any role seem *perfect* for him, it’s amazing that he just played a pudgy American businessman before this one and he was perfect as that, too!

      Oooh, Before Sunrise is great. Are you gonna see the sequels?

  9. Gladiator is probably my all time favourite film. Hands down. Everything in it is just perfect. Never fails to give me chills, make me cry and just generally emote every single emotion. Perfect. Think your rewatch has made me want to give it another watch!

    1. I concur with everything you said Jaina. It’s darn near perfect and is so rewarding with every rewatch as you’d find something new to appreciate. Like this scene I put here, for some reason it made even more of an impact when I saw it this time around. It made me tear up… and that scene of him discovering his wife and son being slain, oh my, Crowe’s performance is just so incredibly moving.

  10. Ahhh I’m more than due for a Gladiator rewatch. Loved it when I first saw it, and I imagine I would still like it now. I haven’t had much time to watch movies lately, unfortunately, but I hope to make it to the theater sometime this weekend.

  11. Looks like you had a great movie weekend, Ruth. I’m glad to see that you loved The Secret of Kells, and that so many of the people commenting are being inspired to check it out. Lovely little film.

    I’m also a pretty big fan of Gladiator. Got to give that the Favorite Films treatment one of these days.

    1. Hi Morgan! Yeah, it was a great choice to rent The Secret of Kells, I’m glad Netflix Streaming has it. Gladiator’s a modern classic, everything about it still impressed me. Too bad Scott & Crowe couldn’t replicate their movie magic with Robin Hood.

  12. The Secret of Kells is such a lovely animated film. It’s such a beautiful thing to look at. I can’t imagine the painstaking work it must have been to bring it to life. The story was not nearly at the same level, but it’s still a refreshingly unique piece of cinema.

    Gladiator is one of the most enjoyable and re-watchable films I’ve ever encountered. It’s still my favorite Russell Crowe role, and by far my favorite by Joaquin Phoenix who was simply amazing as Comodus. How could I ever forget the highly emotional fight sequence between the two at the end? Certainly one of those sequences that I don’t ever get tired of.

    1. Hey, glad you’ve watched The Secret of Kells and loved it. You’re right I think visually it’s stronger than the story but still it’s more meaningful than sooo many animated features out there.

      Yes, the scenes between Maximus and Commodus really is the heart of that film, it’s perhaps one of the best portrayal of sworn enemies without resorting to cliches.

  13. Julie Tan

    Hello Ruth, I had no idea there is an animation made on the Book of Kells! I will have to check it out! Rob and I missed the Book of Kells exhibit when we were at Trinity college in Dublin, but if you and Ivan get there someday, don’t miss it. 🙂

    1. It’s a beautifully-made animated feature Julie, I think you’d enjoy it. I definitely would go visit the exhibit when we go to Dublin, who knows when though. Thanks girl!

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