Centurion

Unexpectedly…great…

unexpected41Yes, so, well, isn’t it strange how the movies you nearly pass by often end up being in your favourites list? Not sure if it comes down to expectations…or, rather, the lack of expectations? Or, simply the nature of things? Whatever it boils down to, I guess, doesn’t really matter…what counts is that they become your own personal greats and unexpectedly so…thus making their way into Taking Up Room‘s The Unexpected Blogathon.

Now, because I couldn’t make up my mind on which unexpectedly super movie to write about, I thought I’d just tell you about a three that immediately come to mind. Here they are in no particular order.

Vir Altyd (2016)

I’d done something we shouldn’t do…pre-judge. And I’d pre-judged South African movies. Until recently I only had some dodgy comedies to go on and that Oscar winner looked like it would hit home too hard, so I avoided it. I just couldn’t be convinced. Until, somehow I had Afrikaans movie Vir Altyd showing. And I totally fell in love. After getting used to the South African accents (I’m not used to hearing my own accent on the screen) I simply savoured every moment of this one.

We have Nina (DonnaLee Roberts) about to walk down the aisle on the day that her closest childhood friend Hugo (Ivan Botha) comes back to town for the first time in years. Circumstances on the wedding day (no, he has not come to break up the ceremony) have these two embark on an adventure which is absolutely delightful to watch.

vir-altyd

I can’t believe it took me so long to catch on to these Afrikaans movies. Didn’t expect to have this one amongst my favourites. With Pad na jou Hart, another teaming up of DonnaLee Roberts and Ivan Botha, close on its heels.

Centurion (2010)

2852-FINAL_CENTURION 70x100op 50 %.inddI clearly remember walking into the local Video Store (remember those?) to find something to watch. I had no idea what I was in the mood for. By this stage, however, the store owner had gotten to know me and pulled out Centurion. “No way” (or something along those lines) is what I told him. I didn’t feel like some random action movie. I can’t remember how but convince me he did (I do know he just checked it out for me at some point and told me to trust him)…I walked out the store with soon to be one of my favourites.

Centurion, yes, it is an action movie and a very simple one. A game of cat and mouse. A small band of survivors of Rome’s famous Ninth Legion find themselves on the run, behind enemy lines. But, the dynamics within the group fleeing for their lives together with those they encounter make this an interesting one.

Oh, and of course, being me, I just can’t resist that understated romance…*sigh*…I have a weakness for these romantic moments in “non-romantic” genre movies.

Michael Fassbender leads the flight to safety with Olga Kurylenko being one mean Pict (well, technically Roman) tracker who never once eases up on the relentless chase. We also have Dominic West, Imogen Poots, JJ Feild, Lee Ross, David Morrissey, Liam Cunningham, Noel Clarke and a whole lot more join in.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

This one utterly and truly blew me away on first viewing. Oh my! I was in this daze for days (ha ha – that wasn’t intended). I couldn’t function…all I had was “car” chases, dust, bizarre masks, blood bags, electric guitarists and such going round and round and round in my mind. It was like I’d stepped into another dimension. The night I’d watched it was totally sleepless…or, rather, it felt like I was awake but obviously not because I was in the Mad Max world. Basically, this one was such a warped, wonderful, weird visual trip that just couldn’t be switched off with the credits rolling. It had caught me so by surprise…it needed lots and lots of processing.

MadMaxPosterOnce again one I’d no intention at all, ever, EVER to watch it. I mean, “everyone” told me that the Mad Max movies were such a load of rubbish. Yet, as is human nature, the more I was told it was a waste of time, the more I was in some way intrigued. Especially given the fact that I’d never seen a Mad Max movie before. All I knew was one of the posters with Mel Gibson on it. That was it. One evening, I was like a kid…I’d just peek at the first few seconds…huh, fat chance…I watched the whole thing and could have gone for round two.

Hmmm, I’ve just realised that this is another “chase” movie with Furiosa (Charlize Theron), against the dictatorial system in a futuristic wasteland world, on the run with Max (Tom Hardy), just trying to stay out of the system he’s escaped from. Joining their cause in an attempt to restore humanity and order are Nicholas Hoult,  Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton  and with Hugh Keays-Byrne  leading the tyrannical world.

Thinking of it…I need another “Mad Max fix”…I know what I’m about to start watching again. And ooh, ooh, I believe there is a Chrome version – that must be absolutely gorgeous.

So, that’s it for now. The three movies amongst my favourites that totally unexpectedly ended up there.

Head on over to Taking up Room for more entries in her Blogathon.

And here are the trailers:

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The Romantic in me…

For starters, don’t read this if you don’t want me spoiling things for you. So:

I’m a romantic. Let me rephrase. I’m a hopeless romantic. The one who thrives on that tumbling, twisting feeling in my stomach when two characters finally fall in love. But not just any two characters. No, they have to be strong and independent with lots and lots of oomph! Their journey to each other mustn’t be obvious and definitely not soppy but also not the overused “we hate each other but actually love each other” type. In fact, the romantic kick I need is the kind that is not typically “romantic drama” or “romantic comedy” formula driven material. Don’t get me wrong, in order for my escapism to be satisfactory, I do want a happy ending (otherwise, what’s the point?) but, not the cheesy guy-and-girl-get-together-as-you-predicted-from-the-first-few-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after, but a rich, rewarding, more realistic ending where there is genuine hope that they will stay together. Here are the ones that are my absolute best:

One of the most romantic movie moments for me is in Centurion, where Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) and his two roman colleagues come across the dwelling of Arianne (Imogen Poots). Quintus Dias has been a tough, yet intelligent, ruthless Roman until this point. She has been living on her own (I admire her), using the guise of being a witch to keep men from the nearby garrison away. Without a moment of doubt, she holds her own but for some reason (fate?) she lets Dias and his men into her home, risking her life. These two form such a natural bond that Dias sees her home as the place he ultimately belongs. He doesn’t give up his quest for her, she doesn’t beg him to stay, yet, their actions are so much more romantic, more real because of this. Nothing like a good cat-and-mouse action movie with such tenderness thrown in to give a bit of a pace reduction for just a few minutes yet having such an impact.

Then, moving on to one of my favourite films in general, but, also one of the most romantic. The Last of the Mohicans. Wow, now there is romance. In the wild frontier of America, you get this absolute heart-wrenching love.  What is more romantic that Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Uncas (Eric Schweig) running through the carnage of an attack to save the women they have come to love. Or the waterfall scene where Hawkeye says to Cora (Madeleine Stowe) “No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you” and Uncas just holding Alice (Jodhi May) not requiring any words. In fact, the Uncas/Alice love story is so understated that it leaves me wishing it had been more prominent. But then, had that been the case, I doubt it would have been as heart-felt, as real, and as rewarding, even though, she does get a bit needy and helpless at times. But, thinking about it, how much more could have been said about their love than Alice throwing herself off the cliff to be with Uncas?

Yellow Sky, now that’s an amazing film. This 1948 black and white film is absolutely fantastic with James ‘Stretch’ Dawson (Gregory Peck) taking his bank robbing gang across the desert to hide out in a ghost town. Here he comes across Constance Mae (Anne Baxter), disguised as Mike, and her grandfather. As the story unfolds, Stretch discovers that Mike is Mae but, we also see the contradiction of Mike/Mae where she is tough and holds her own, yet, at other times wants to be a lady. This is so much more rewarding that the usual man saves damsel in distress scenario. He simply lets her be who she really is and vice versa.

Ah – Robin Hood, the Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett version. I just love the amazing love story that develops between Robin Longstride and Marion Loxley. There is utmost respect for each other from the moment they meet. Both are strong and independent without ever changing who they are for each other. The most romantic part is, not when they finally dance together or when they bid each other farewell stating their love, but, when Marion arrives on the beach of the Cliffs of Dover to help fight. They stand by each other, working together yet always staying true to themselves.

And man, oh, man. I spent the entire first season of the brilliant Peaky Blinders wanting, needing, silently begging Thomas (Cillian Murphy) and Grace (Annabelle Wallis) to get together. I was tortured to the last episode for that to finally happen and therefore it had so much more impact. Grace makes all the right (or wrong, depending on your stance) decisions fully knowing the potential consequences yet staying true to herself while rationally knowing she shouldn’t be falling in love with a tough, uncompromising gangster.

Then, the Swiss Family Robinson (1960) deserves a mention. Yes, Roberta (Janet Munro) comes across as the stereotype helpless damsel to be rescued, but, cut me some slack here – watching Fritz (James MacArthur) and her fall in love is just beautiful. She may not be the strong independent woman at first, but, she rises to the challenge and puts her whole heart into the situation that has come her way. This story leaves me wanting more but, realistically, all that needs saying is said and anything more or less would not have worked. I guess what it comes down to is that by leaving the viewer craving that feel-good effect, the goal has been achieved.

Then there are those films that leave you wishing, wanting the hinted or implied romance being developed more. The likes of The Quick and the Dead (Sharon Stone’s Ellen and Russell Crowe’s Cort), Broken Arrow (Christian Slater’s Hale and Samantha Mathis’ Terry), and oh my gosh…Ironclad where the brilliant James Purefoy’s Thomas Marshal and Kate Mara’s Lady Isabel develop an understated relationship. Ultimately, for me, the romance is in the strong women and the men who love them. Or, maybe, it’s the fact that these films have romances second to the main story and therefore have so much more impact. But, that “addictively” strange lurching feeling, that’s when I know a scene has worked with me, regardless of the actors (being good or bad) but the fact that they have successfully portrayed an emotion that has reached the audience.