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“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]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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