“Centurion”: A hundred bad guys with swords.

“Centurion”: A hundred bad guys with swords. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

I wish I found Hadrian’s Wall half as intriguing as British writer/director Neil Marshall apparently does. The structure, located in northern England, was built by the Romans to defend their northern line against the tribes beyond it, and it’s inspired the lesser two of Marshall’s films — 2008’s camptastic “Doomsday,” which imagines a future where a plague outbreak in Scotland leads to the wall being rebuilt for quarantine purposes, and “Centurion” (which played one of SXSW’s secret midnight screenings), which is literally about Romans and Picts engaging in bellowing border skirmishes in 117 AD. It’s a setting also being explored by Kevin Macdonald’s upcoming “The Eagle of the Ninth,” a film that plans to put a political spin on the ancient tale of imperialists and insurgents. “Centurion” doesn’t really aim to be anything more than a loping B-movie, but still comes up hollow — it’s a striking-looking, blood-spattered chase over the forbidding Scottish countryside that’s curiously spiritless.

Marshall’s modus operandi is basically survival horror — his four features to date have all been about a tough, outnumbered few struggling through hostile territory, soldiers vs. werewolves, cavers vs. crawlers, mercenaries vs. plague survivors, centurions vs. the barbarian hordes. “The Descent” remains his best work because of the unexpected complexity of the relationships between its characters, women whose history with each other includes rivalries, betrayals and resentment that bubble to the surface as the stakes are raised. “Centurion” instead has broadly drawn types — the (ahem) virile General Titus Virilus (Dominic West), the soulful Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), the was-going-to-retire Brick (Liam Cunningham), and the mute, near-supernatural Etain (Olga Kurylenko), who poses as a tracker assisting Virilus’ Ninth Legion in their search for Pictish leader Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), only to lead them into an ambush that leaves all but a handful of the men dead.

03182010_centurion2.jpgI’m still not sure how anything in which Dominic West plays a character named Virilus isn’t somehow fun, but in aiming for a grounded, subdued tone that’s far removed from the cartoonishness of “300” (in which West and Fassbender both starred), “Centurion” ends up in an awkward spot, trying to earnestly deliver on lines like “I am a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!” while also striving to sell former Bond girl Kurylenko as a woefully unconvincing Pict warrior badass. Marshall’s a fine director of action, and the film is rife with impressive footage of the mist-shrouded landscape and sequences of inventive, brawny violence, but to what end is all of that if you could can barely distinguish, much less invest yourself in, the characters involved?

“Centurion” will be released by Magnolia later this year.

[Photos: “Centurion,” Magnolia, 2010]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.