Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: CENTURION

I’m all for swords & sandals flicks, so naturally I’m intrigued by this Roman empire feature Centurion when I first read about it in Empire a couple of months ago. The fact that it stars one of my top ten actors to watch Michael Fassbender doesn’t hurt, either. I first noticed the rising German/Irish star as Stelios in 300, which was then followed by acclaimed indie projects Hunger and Fish Tank, and more prominently Inglourious Basterds. In this movie, he’s starring alongside another 300 alum Dominic West, both seem to have better success retaining their buff physiques than King Leonidas himself (but I still love you Gerry Butler!) 😉

Anyway, the trailer arrives last week, check it out below:

Synopsis: Based on the legend of the Ninth Legion, an army of 3000 unstoppable Roman warriors who vanished without trace, Centurion is the tale of their vicious conflict with a murderous adversary, the Picts. Quintus Dias (Fassbender), a Roman corporal, is taken hostage by the Pict King, Gorlacon and the Ninth are charged with bringing him home and ending Pict domination of Britain. Led by General Virilus (Dominic West) and guided by a Pict prisoner and warrior woman named Etain (Olga Kurylenko), the army marches towards enemy territory and finds itself in the midst of a perilous battle with a mysterious foe.

Most blogs featuring this trailer raved about it, but my initial reaction is meh, it’s like a poor man’s Gladiator. I mean I’m not dissing it for it’s low-budget as a movie obviously doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. I just feel like I’ve seen it all before, and again the Romans are depicted as the good guys here. The beginning reminds me of the opening scene of the Ridley Scott epic when the Maximus-led Romans attacked Germania, it’s probably was filmed in the exact same forest! The intensely brutal fight sequences are to pretty typical in this genre, though given the director Neil Marshall is known for bloodthirsty/gory flicks like Doomsday and The Descent (neither of seems like something I’d enjoy watching), the level of savagery level might be off the charts.

The cliché-laden catchphrases are kind of ho-hum, “We live united or die divided!” and “I’m a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!” They just don’t carry the same gravitas as “At my signal, unleash hell!” or “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Then there’s every male’s favorite tough-chick Olga Kurylenko, who didn’t impress me much in Quantum of Solace (and even less so in the dreadful Hitman). She seems nothing more than eye candy for the dudes and from the reaction of the male bloggers out there, that’s probably all she needs to be.

Fassbender looks like he fits the part well, but it’s hardly a far-reaching role for him. I’m more interested to see him as Rochester in the latest Jane Eyre adaptation, which has lined up a pretty impressive cast, apparently Judi Dench, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) and Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) have just been added.

Anyway, no US release date is set for Centurion, but the UK release is April 23, 2010. What do you think, folks? Yay or nay for you? It’s definitely a rental for me just on account of Fassbender.

My Top 5 Favorite Gerard Butler Roles

The Many Faces of Gerard Butler
The Many Faces of Gerard Butler

This post that’s been on my draft folder for a while, but today seems as timely as ever for five reasons: IMDB featured him on its Character Spotlight section on the main page on Thursday, he was on Kimmel last Friday, his actioner flick GAMER just opened this weekend, and today EW’s PopWatch blog just posted “Is GB a lover or a fighter?” article. I’ve been a fan of Gerry — as he preferred to be called as Americans can’t pronounced Ger-ERD for the life of them — for about five years now. Some of you loyal readers know it all started when I saw The Phantom of the Opera in Winter of 2004 and was mesmerized by his performance. I became a GB groupies for a while, even going so far as planning a trip to the Toronto Film Festival in ’05 after learning he might one of the celeb lineups to promote Beowulf & Grendel. As I’ve outlined in my previous TIFF post, I ended up “meeting” him, well if you can call it that, which was the highlight of my trip.

I think it’s great that ze Butler is on people’s radar lately, even though I’d rather focus on his work instead of on the relentless gossips written about him. It’s a pity however, that I’ve decided to skip two of his latest offerings at the theater, but given that I did see Rocknrolla earlier this year and looking forward to Law Abiding Citizen next month, I’d still get my ‘Gerry fix’ by year’s end. He’s a talented and charismatic actor IMO, despite what some of you may think after you saw The Ugly Truth. But think about it, what actor is entirely immune from making bad acting choices? Even thespian like Ralph Fiennes did Maid in Manhattan with JLo for cryin’ out loud, which practically made TUT look like an Oscar contender.

Just a couple of facts: he’s done 37 movies in the last 12 years, even though he’s a late bloomer in the business having entered the industry when he was already 27. He’s got a law degree from Glasgow University, so he’s more than a pretty face and that intellect definitely comes across on and off screen. He’s what you’d call a chameleon actor, being able to ‘disappear’ into a role and look very different from film to film. When I first saw him as the Phantom, I had absolutely no idea that I’ve seen two of his previous films (as Angelina’s boy toy in Tomb Raider 2 and playing archeologist Andre Marek in Timeline). As you can see in my collage above, he’s done multiple genres of movies ranging from biopic (Attila), action (300), rom-com (P.S. I Love You), musical (Phantom), thriller (Law Abiding Citizen), drama (Dear Frankie), horror (Dracula 2000), even a kiddie flick with Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island). That’s quite impressive for someone with no formal training whatsoever. With that said, I’m not going to sidestep the fact that when it comes to doing accents, he’s not as adept in that department as say, Christian Bale or Russell Crowe. My colleague even said the worst part about The Ugly Truth was Gerry’s horrible American accent, which was totally distracting as he simply didn’t buy his character as an American. That should be a critique any actor should take to heart and work harder at perfecting. Personally, it hasn’t bothered me to the point that I stop watching his movies, and that’s largely because he is so darn charismatic. Well hot too, obviously, but über hotness alone can only hold my interest for so long.

So without further ado, let’s get on my Top Five Gerry Butler’s Favorite Roles:

  1. Phantom (Phantom of the Opera)
    This one is obviously going to be the top of the list, being the role that won me over. Some critics trashed his singing, comparing it to Michael Crawford’s voice — the original Phantom on Broadway — which is unfair as he had no vocal training prior to doing this role. Besides, Gerry’s rock ‘n roll voice was what Andrew Llyod Webber wanted for the film and I could see why. The way he imbued each song with such genuine heart-felt emotion was beautiful and devastating to watch. In fact, he sort of ruined the stage version for me as I’d much prefer Gerry’s dazzling performance. Plus, he could swing that cape like nobody’s business, and even with a half deformed face, he was as sexy as ever.
  2. Johnnie Donne  (BBC miniseries The Jury)
    Every time people tell me he can’t act, I almost always tell them to catch a glimpse of this little-seen legal drama. Gerry played a recovering alcoholic juror who’s trying to get his life back on track in the midst of a grueling murder trial. Even early in his career, I was impressed with his intense dramatic chops. It’s all in the eyes with Gerry, and all the close-up shots throughout this series truly captured the inner struggle of his character. My favorite scene is when he learned the truth about the woman he’s in love with. I can’t watch that scene without tearing up. He made brokenness and heartbreak so utterly bewitching.
    ….
  3. King Leonidas (300)
    The world finally learns who Gerry is because of this role. It’s not one of my fave GB movies because of the genre, but the movie worked because the audience believed in him as the King. Gerry transformed himself physically which definitely helped the role, but his regal yet severe demeanor gave Leonidas that commanding presence. If you see GB in any interview or talk-show, we know he’s a gregarious and goofy guy, but there’s no trace of that in this role.
  4. The Stranger (Dear Frankie)
    This tiny gem of a movie won many festival film awards and remains one of my all-time favorites. GB’s only in it for merely 20 minutes or so, but every single scenes he’s in packs an emotional wallop. There’s probably only a page of dialog written for his character, which is why it calls for a very restrained and measured kind of acting. There’s a scene where the Stranger reacted to something Frankie’s mother Lizzie said. I can’t forget that look on his face: it was a mix of disgust, pity, anger and deep sympathy all rolled into one.
  5. Gerry (P.S. I Love You)
    GB’s new fans from 300 was flabbergasted to see his soft side right after such a bad @$$ role, but that’s exactly what I expect from him. He’s said in interviews that he shared some of the gregariousness of his ‘Gerry’ character and it shows. He plays him with such ease and is as convincing as a softie, goofy dude — complete with the shamrock-boxer-clad striptease — as he was as a tough-as-nail King of Sparta. Having to act opposite two-time Oscar winner must’ve been daunting but lots of people who’ve seen this actually thought it’s Hillary Swank who could be better cast here.

Honorable Mentions:

  • OneTwo (Rocknrolla)
  • Andre Marek (Timeline)

So to answer EW’s PopWatch question, GB can be both a fighter AND a lover. He can’t be boxed into one type of role, which I hope will always be the case. Oh GB & co., if you’re reading this, I think you’ve done enough share of rom-coms by now, how about doing BURNS or The Teacher Man? Those are definitely right up your alley!

Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to see him bring his raw intensity in Law Abiding Citizen. According to this site, the script sounds pretty solid, so it’s up to his and Jamie Foxx’s performances to make this one a classic thriller. Can’t wait!

300 & Gladiator sequel talks? Oh, please don’t!

Maximus & Leonidas might be back!
Maximus & Leonidas – seconds from being resurrected!

All the rumors swirling about a sequel/prequel of 300 just got a new boost now that director Zack Snyder told IGN at the Comic Con this weekend that he’s basically just waiting for Frank Miller’s draft of the comic. Snyder said that there’s a lot of Spartan history to draw inspiration from. He also hinted that even though his character King Leonidas died at the end of the movie, he doesn’t rule out Gerard Butler coming back in some form. Ha, if that’s true, Gerry better starts training pronto to get his 8-pack back. He’s been kind of plump lately, even on CNN’s review of The Ugly Truth, he’s called a ‘potato-faced Russell Crowe with a lot less charm.’ Ouch!

Speaking of Crowe, have you heard of the rejected Gladiator 2 script that was uncovered this past May? Apparently Crowe himself enlisted a fellow Aussie goth rocker (and sometimes screenplay writer) Nick Cave to write it. The supernatural-themed script has to be one of the most bizarre and preposterous scripts ever written. For those of you who haven’t seen Gladiator (would you just put it on your Netflix already?), Crowe’s character Maximus died at the end, but Cave’s script resurrected him by having the Roman gods reincarnate him and send him back to Rome. But it doesn’t stop there, according to the detailed review of it by Gone Elsewhere blog, the century-spanning script has Maximus stood up for early Christian rebels, as well as taking him to WW II and modern day Pentagon! [shakes head] No wonder the studios dismissed the script, deeming it too over the top despite thumbs up from Crowe and the original director Ridley Scott. The script itself seems like a hoot and craftily-written, but I can’t imagine it working as a sequel to such a classic film. I couldn’t even finish reading it, I mean I LOVE Gladiator and Maximus is one of my favorite cinematic characters, but what Cave wrote is just too out there and weird for my taste. Check it out for yourself (download the PDF) and let me know what you think.

I personally think they should leave masterpieces alone, why mess with perfection, you know? In the history of sequels/prequels, only a tiny handful of them actually works (The Lord of the Rings, Toy Story) but most sequels are craps driven merely by profits. Alas, they probably will do a sequel to both of them in the future, those suits in Hollywood just can’t resist it with the popularity of swords & sandals flicks popping up again (see my previous post). In fact, I just saw a promo shot of Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia on the latest EW magazine at Barnes & Noble today. Jake’s looking very Ryan Reynolds-like with his new buff physique, but sorry I just don’t see him as a bad @$$ hero the way Crowe in Gladiator or Butler did in 300. It’s more than just the body IMO, it’s the panache/charisma of the actor that makes the character believable.

Anyhoo, enough with the sequel talks. I think Hollywood ought to invest in a fresh new crop of writers instead of doing the same thing over and over again.

Hollywood’s love affair with ‘swords & sandals’ flix

Clash of the Titans Remake – thrusting into theaters March 2010

Perseus ready for battle!
Perseus ready for battle!

I came across a pic of Gladiator-like Perseus wielding his sword the other day, and it piqued my interest. My hubby Ivan’s a big fan of the original movie with Harry Hamlin, which basically tells the classic Greek mythology of the hero Perseus who defeat Medusa to save Andromeda. Surely you’ve seen all kinds of statues of a naked guy holding the severed head of serpent-haired Medusa. Well, that naked dude is Perseus.

The role now belongs to Aussie actor Sam Worthington (most recently stole scenes from Chris Bale as Marcus in Terminator Salvation). Gone is the Hugh Grant-like flop, replaced by a shaved head a’la Gladiator‘s Maximus. Even the costume & shield look curiously similar – I’m guessing MPAA would slap them with  NC-17 rating if the flix were to follow the statue’s costume or lack there-of. In any case, Worthington could be the next Tinseltown’s ‘It Boy’ if he played his cards right, having also been cast in Jim Cameron’s Avatar (his biggest project a decade after Titanic). From what I’ve seen and read so far, he seems to have the same gravitas and intensity as his fellow Aussie Russell Crowe (minus his temperament I hope) and the tall, brawny physique of Gerard Butler’s Leonidas in 300.

I’m a big fan of historical romans/greek tales, but Hollywood’s ripe with as many misses as there hits. Alexander, The Last Legion, and In the Name of a King are all critical duds and box office flops. But apparently they’re not giving up this genre just yet. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prince of Persia (based on the popular video game) is promised to be a big blockbuster much like Clash of the Titans, both due out in 2010.

Not a big fan of Gyllenhaal myself, I’d put my money on the latter. Consist mostly of European talents: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Danny Houston, Mads Mikkelsen to name a few, it’ll focus more on Perseus personal life more than the original. Not a bad cast indeed! (Geek sidenote – James Bond connection alert: Mikkelsen was the baddie with the bloody eye in Casino Royale and Arterton played Agent Fields who ended up drowned in petroleum in Quantum of Solace). French native Louis Leterrier is directing the project, whom I thought did a good job re-imagining the Hulk with Ed Norton. Let’s hope this one is more in the same breath as Gladiator and less Troy

With that note, here’s a list of my fave swords & sandals flicks:

1. Ben Hur – Charlton Heston’s born to play the Jewish Prince (albeit he didn’t look Jewish in the slightest) and the production is what you’d call an epic proportion. Sure it’s a bit cheesy and slow at times, but the incredible chariot race scene alone is worth sitting for the 3+ hours running-time. The story of overcoming injustice and finally finding forgiveness through Christ still touch me to this day. They don’t make flix like this anymore. 

2. Gladiator – Russell Crowe in his Oscar-worthy role as Maximus is still the one to beat. He’s one bad-@$$ with a heart wronged by the very kingdom he’s sworn to protect.

3. 300 – I put this on the list more for Zach Snyder’s directing than Mr’s Butler’s role as Leonidas (although his 12-pack certainly didn’t hurt). The stylized, hyper-realistic visuals were shot almost entirely on green screen. I personally think the stunning CGI work helps distinguish this flix from the rest of the flock.

I’d have put Troy on the list if it weren’t for Pitt’s and Orlando Bloom’s involvement as Achilles and Paris. Even Eric Bana’s noble Hector and Brian Cox’s terrific portrayal as Agamemnon couldn’t save this movie.

So what do you think? Are you ready to be entertained?!