Cinema Paradiso

by Gildas the Monk on May 5, 2013

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It is a bank holiday weekend, and it is fitting that a certain amount of sitting about doing nothing should take place. I feel very strongly that a certain amount of disciplined, applied laziness is a very important skill, which should be applied to everyone’s life. In my own case this often involves a regular Americano and a seat in a café at a pleasant café in a little village in the Pennines, I also like watching films. With that in mind I had a look through my DVD collection this week, and I thought I might compile a list of 10 films which never really made it big, although they did alright, and you may not have seen, but would be fine Bank Holiday weekend viewing, accompanied with the obligatory curry/shiraz/Stella, or beverage of choice.

Now, don’t go expecting touchie-feelie, girly movies, the much hated “Rom Coms”. No, this will be a Jennifer Anniston free zone (in other circumstances I could happily express a different point of view on the lovely Jennifer, but we will leave that for another day)! There will be a surfeit of swords, action, and knights. If you want introspection and sensitivity ask my better half, Sister Eva Longoria! So, lights, camera, action! Here are ten to seek out:

1. Solomon Kane. A lowish budget action pic with the very able James Purefoy in the lead role of a 17th century freebooting pirate who commits every sin under the sun, only to have his soul claimed by the Devil and who tried to turn into a man of peace. Needless to say, things don’t quite work out as planned, and Solomon is ultimately forced to return to his death dealing ways to save a family and free the West Country from an evil sorcerer. Plenty of sword play, zombies, chases, wonky accents, the odd crucifixion and a big black hat. Oh, and a Puritan girl with beautiful eyes. Easy and undemanding, but great fun. “Fight evil with evil?” Yep, good tag line. Let the blood spill!

2. Looking for Eric. This is brilliant. The enigmatic French footballer turned actor Eric Cantona sends himself up and stars as himself as the mystic figure who steps out of a poster and into the world of another Eric, a downtrodden postman with a broken heart and a lost love.

Through his mystic but inspirational aphorisms, Eric 1 guides Eric 2 to a spiritual and personal redemption. And a violent drug dealer gets a kicking in the process. It is quirky, very funny and heart warming. The best line goes to Cantona himself. “I am not a man. I am … Cantona!” Pause. Then all collapses in laughter.

3. James Carpenter’s Vampires. As you will have guessed by now, we are not in “Brief Encounter” territory with this list. James Woods leads a team of cross bow and gun wielding vampire hunters against a hoard of all too reasonable vampires. Apart from the blood and gore, it features a nice turn from the rather lovely and sexy Sheryl Lee, who you may remember as Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. James Carpenter’s 1998 take is slick, stylish and smart. And yes, her clothes come off.

4. Brotherhood of the Wolf. Aha! Just to show I am not a total Philistine, this is in French! In a remote French province something is eating the natives. Gregoire de Fronsac and his native American sidekick are sent to investigate. It is done with typical Gallic style, and involves mystery, martial arts, intrigue and a great deal of style.

The charismatic Vincent Cassels is in top form, as is his real life other half, the utterly beautiful Monica Bellucci, who plays a mysterious and highly dangerous courtesan, worth the watch in itself. A bit long, but worth it for the sheer panache, and Monica Bellucci taking her top off and doing naughty things with a knife.

5. Hanna. I went to see this 2011 offering at the cinema, and really liked it. Who is the mysterious young woman living with her father in the remote arctic, learning how to kill and about life via an encyclopedia? What is her mission and past? This is a strange but compelling film; it is Pippi Longstocking meets the Bourne Identity.

Saoirse Ronan plays the lead, and she is an incredible screen presence. Eric Bana plays her father and Cate Blanchett goes over the top as chief villain. There are silos, chases, gun fights, and the trendy middle class family from hell. And some quite bad stuff. Plus a driving, menacing soundtrack from The Chemical Brothers. Really compelling and quite dark at times.

6. Centurion. Another reasonable, mid budget, British effort, this has a top class cast including Micheal Fassbender and Dominic West as Roman legionaries who are on the run hunted by the Picts north of Hadrian’s Wall. Unrelenting pace and action, and the very beautiful Olga Kurylenko made a bit of a breakthrough I think as the chief huntress Pict; a totally silent part but she really carries it offf with great style and conviction, and she is becoming a big star now.

7. Haywire. Speaking of Micheal Fassbender, he pops up as a hit man in this 2011 Film, a vehicle for the really rather attractive real life mixed martial arts star Gina Carano to have a go on the silver screen, and you know what? She pulls it off really well as the on the run assassin who has been set up (I have just noticed the words “on the run”, “assassin” appear quite a lot in this piece … ).

It is a compelling chase movie and worth it for one fight scene featuring Carano and Fassbender alone. Very nasty.

8. Sideways Ha! Just to prove that not every choice involved sword wielding assassins, this gentle bitter sweet comedy involves a lot of … wine.

Two middle aged guys with not a lot going for them embark on a week long road trip in wine tasting country. It is gentle, thoughtful and moving and in the end there is redemption. Stand out performances from Paul Giamatti and the luminous Virginia Madsen.

9. The Right Stuff. This 1983 making of Tom Wolfe’s 1983 best seller about the test pilots who went on to become America’s first space men is compelling from start to finish and finely acted. Also, it features an Oscar winning score. Brilliant cast.

10. A Knight’s Tale. If there is one film on this list which you have to see on a Bank Holiday, it is this one. It is an off the wall take on medieval jousting which is played out to a soundtrack featuring Queen, and in some ways was regarded as Heath Ledger’s breakthrough role as the servant boy masquerading as a nobleman entitled to joust. But the stand out role is Paul Bettany as the “Geoff” Chaucer, a writer with a gambling problem, and there is a fantastic cast including Laura Fraser and Mark Addy. Rufus Sewell does another stand out as a villainous and cheating baron. There is humour, wit, romance and jousting, and a fair lady’s heart to be won. Oh, and a great soundtrack and some funky dancing. An original; and thoroughly charming film.

And with that, I bid you a happy bank holiday weekend, and the best wishes to our landlady, who regular readers will know, has been a bit under the weather for a while.


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