Posted by: Sally Ingraham | December 17, 2010

Movie Mayhem: Dec. 8th – Dec. 17th

Has anyone else noted that Mark Wahlburg hasn’t lost his hip-hop walk? I watched Shooter (Antoine Fuqua-USA-2007) and The Corrupter (James Foley-USA-1999) days apart, and aside from being reminded that a Mark Wahlburg performance is pretty much the same thing regardless of what it appears in, I couldn’t help giggling a few times during both movies on account of Marky Mark seeping through Wahlburg’s shoulders. I had to follow this up with a viewing of the Good Vibrations music video, which makes my cup of Wahlburg overflow. Moving on.

In addition to those two shoot-em-up tales of bad guys and good guys, I watched The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone-USA-2010), which was long on star power and short (so very short) on storyline. Great snicker-worth cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger though.

stone of destinyI came across Stone of Destiny (Charles Martin Smith-UK-2008) while surfing the instant streaming lists on Netflix. It’s an uncomplicated and rather uninspired telling of the true story of Ian Hamilton’s daring theft of the Stone of Scone (pronounced ‘skoon’) from Westminster Abby in the 1950’s. A young Scottish Nationalist, he enlisted the help of some fellow patriotic students to take back the Stone, which the English filched from Scotland centuries before. The premise is interesting, but the movie overall didn’t quite deliver. It was mildly amusing, with decent performances from it’s cast (which included Billy Boyd, Kate Mara, and Charlie Cox) but something just didn’t really click. Still, it’s kind of great that the heist actually did get pulled off – ballsy move on Hamilton’s part! I hadn’t heard about the incident before, so that’s worth something.

valhalla risingI have to give props to L of omphaloskepsis for giving Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn-Denmark -2009) a go and then writing so intriguingly about it. I had already glanced at this movie and pushed it to the far end of my TBW list, but her notes on the film sent it straight into my living room the other night. This is a weird, weird film. After reading a scattering of reviews about it, I am struck by the one thing that they all agree on, whether the reviewer liked it or not – everyone’s initial response seems to be “Um…what??” In 1000 A.D., somewhere in some rather striking looking mountains (the Scottish highlands in reality, but as for the movie, who knows?) a possibly Norse warrior named One-Eye (for apparent reasons,) has been captured by a chieftain and his men and is used in daily battles to the death, put on for entertainment and gambling purposes. Without fail he wins the bouts, with graphic and grotesque skill. Then he escapes, allowing only the young boy who brought him food and whatnot, to live. This child can sense One-Eye’s thoughts (one of many otherworldly aspects of the film) and serves as a translator for him (he’s mute, and has visions to boot) when they encounter a roving band of Christian soldiers headed for the Holy Land. They join the mission in hopes of finding home, wherever that may be, but after a interminable journey via longboat through a dense fog, they end up somewhere that looks like the New World. Their experiences there quickly lead the soldiers to wonder if they’ve wound up in hell, and as they’re slowly picked off by an unseen menace, they turn to One-Eye in hopes that he can guide them to safety. Even though everyone else has already said this, I can’t avoid agreeing that the film reminded me of Aguirre: The Wrath of God. It had the same excruciating pacing, the same inevitable sense of doom, the same dang boat on a river complete with arrows winging from unseen hands to settle with emphatic thuds in quickly slumping bodies… Mads Mikkelson delivered an oddly riveting performance as One-Eye, considering that he never spoke and barely changed his expression. The unabashed goriness at times was balanced by incredible cinematography, with framing and color that kept me mesmerized even as I sunk lower and lower into the couch cushions in an attempt to deal with the bizarreness dripping out of my TV. I’m utterly incapable of answering that “Um…what??” question, since attempting to find sense of a movie like this makes my brain go gooey. “Pure experience” is what I would call it – like those movies that are pure entertainment, but “entertaining” is not a word I would associate with this one. Do read L’s more coherent notes on this, or just watch it if you have a strong stomach and a dedicated attention span! Interesting stuff.

kristin lToday I finally devoted three more hours of my life to the notorious Kristin Lavransdatter – and I hope they will be the last hours I ever donate to her! The movie (Liv Ullmann-Norway-1995) was as good as the book, which isn’t a compliment in this case. It brought the events of the first volume of Sigrid Undset’s tale to life in an excellent book-to-movie transformation, but it’s not possible to make something enjoyable out of The Wreath. While this was my favorite of the three books (which I read last Oct., Nov., and Dec. respectively, and basically hated), I found revisiting those events rather excruciating. I had to watch it though – a sick curiosity compelled me. For what it’s worth, the casting was excellent. Elisabeth Matheson as Kristin was exactly how I pictured her – nowhere near as beautiful as everyone claimed! And nearly mute and annoying… And Bjørn Skagestad as Erlend was totally sleazy. The only 100% positive thing I have to say about the movie was that it gave plenty of screen time to the only story that I found interesting in the book – the relationship between Kristin’s parents. How else were they going to fill three hours though? There was a ridiculous amount of passionate staring and weighty silences in this, and a great deal of crying and carrying on. In fact, this movie didn’t disappoint me at all – it was as laughably awful and squirm-inducing as I had expected. So I guess for me it was a success? Not the type of success I aim to encounter again though. Good riddance once again Kristin Lavransdatter – this glutton for punishment has been satisfied! 🙂


  1. Wahlberg is good in Three Kings. I’ve The Shooter and forgotten right away.
    I had a feeling Valhalla Rising was atotal failure and didn’t bother watching it. There are soo many similar movies out there that sure are way better, probably even Centurion, and definitely Arn, Knight Templar (that is really good). I had a feeling they wanted also to imitate Beowulf and Grendel (also good, if you enjoy that type of movie, I do). The aim is probably to come up with something as successful as Gladiator, King Arthur or 300… I truly like Madds Mikkelsen in King Arthur and Flame and Citron.
    I have reviewed some of those movies (Centurion, Arn, Flame and Citron) on my other blog

    I always heard Kristin Lavransdatter was so good, the novel I mean… Bit weary now.

    • I didn’t see the trailer for Valhalla Rising but I heard that it was REALLY misleading, and the short description on Netflix is too. I also assumed it was something along the lines of 300 or Beowulf and Grendel. It is very much NOT. It is something entirely different, and while Refn may have been aiming for something larger than he achieved, it didn’t seem to me that he had Gladiator type epics in mind – the description that really caught my attention was that Valhalla Rising ‘puts a Sergio Leone hero in a Werner Herzog landscape’. That is an apt description of it! I think you should give it a shot. 🙂

      Also, I want to see Flame and Citron soon – I have found Mads Mikkelsen interesting in the recent Bond movies and King Arther and Clash of the Titans, but I felt like he had more potential than he got to display in those. I’ll check out the reviews you mentioned since I’ve been eying Centurion and haven’t heard of Arn. Thanks!

      Lots of people really dig Kristin Lavransdatter, but while I found certain things about the novel interesting, overall I didn’t like it! It was fun to read with the group of people I read along with last fall though – we really bonded over our common dislike. 🙂

  2. I did watch the trailer and it did put me off. If you say it can be watched independently, then that is maybe something I would like. And Werner Herzog landscape is something I go for. If the cinematography gets anywhere near a Herzog… That would be grand. Arn is Swedish and extremely beautiful. I compared Flame and Citron to Black Book and Max Manus. I prefer it because it is more melancholic. Yeah, would be nice if you visit the site.
    This time the link should work.

    • I buzzed over and read your review of Arn – definitely sounds good. I’ll be watching it soon. I like your war movie blog – I added it to my blogroll in addition to Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for visiting and adding.. I am very reluctant to share this info normally but I had a feeling you can “handle” it. (And your visitors too). I did review And a Nightingale sang as well.
    I had awfully bad reactions when mentionng a war movie blog. What do people think I write abou? I am a pacifist and want to show how universal a theme it is. I try to review a lot of non-American movies. I do even have people who never saw a non-American movie before and discovered them through my blog. Not a bad thing.

    • I can only imagine the bad reactions you have gotten over your war movies blog – can imagine but can’t relate! I think what you’re doing is quite admirable, and I especially like the types of lists you come up with. I’ve already added a few movies I found through your efforts to my TBW list!

  4. Thanks a lot. Your comment is very encouraging.

  5. OMG, can’t believe you watched a 3-hour film adaptation of Kristin L! That’s hilarious and horrifying! If Kristin wasn’t as beautiful as she thought and Erlend was sleazy, that does sound like a pretty accurate interpretation, though. Too funny!

    Last night David & I watched Hiroshima Mon Amour, and I thought it was AMAZING. Exhausting and draining but extremely thought-provoking. I’m thinking about writing a post about it on Evening all afternoon, but in case I don’t get around to it and you haven’t seen it – highly recommended!

    • Thanks for the tip Emily! I haven’t seen it, so I’ll be checking it out – and crossing my fingers for a review from you.

      I’ve rarely seen a book-to-movie done as accurately as Kristin L., but that excited me less than it should have, considering that in this case I wouldn’t have minded some deviation from the plot. Oh well!

  6. thanks for the kind words and link…

    loved this: “with framing and color that kept me mesmerized even as I sunk lower and lower into the couch cushions in an attempt to deal with the bizarreness dripping out of my TV.” so very true… it is a weird weird movie.. glad to have heard your thoughts on it.


    • Thanks again for pointing it out to me. Weird or not, it was definitely worth the watch. 🙂

  7. Hahaha! “Elisabeth Matheson as Kristin was exactly how I pictured her – nowhere near as beautiful as everyone claimed!” You cracked me up! So funny that you put yourself to the torture, and finished to the end! I salute you!

    • Funny is a good word for it – I must have been a bit ‘funny’ in the head to do it. But since a friend gave me the movie when he found out that I had read the book, I couldn’t help giving it a shot!

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