Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Blade Runner”

Director Ridley Scott has a long history of making epic and awe-inspiring films and Blade Runner has got to be at the top of that list. Its affect on the science fiction genre as a whole cannot be overstated. It has also heavily influenced both video games and anime for its style and futuristic prospects of what the world may evolve into in time.

The film is set in 2019 Los Angeles in a dark and dreary dystopia, where mankind has adapted to become a technocracy influenced by powerful corporations. Man has mastered interstellar flight and colonies are forming in space. The key to this success has been through the use of androids called “Replicants” who have become so life-like and self-aware that they are nearly indistinguishable from humans and as a result banned from Earth. If a Replicant manages to smuggle themselves to Earth, the police hire a “Blade Runner” to track down the android and kill it.

This brings us to our protagonist, Rick Deckard, a disillusioned former cop who was famous for his ability to eliminate Replicants. Deckard is played by Harrison Ford, who was just coming off the success of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Deckard is tasked to hunt down four Replicants who have committed several murders and illegally entered the city. They are led by Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer. Batty is a combat synthetic soldier with advanced tactical training and genius levels of intelligence.

Deckard travels to meet Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell corporation, who is responsible for creation of the Replicants. While there, he learns there is a psychological test designed to trigger an emotional response in Replicants in order to distinguish them from humans. He also meets Dr. Tyrell’s daughter, Rachael (Sean Young), and soon becomes infatuated with her.

The next phase of the plot involves Deckard hunting the Replicants down one by one while also pursuing a relationship with Rachael.  The Replicant leader Roy Batty soon learns that he and the other Replicants have a built in half-life of a little more than three years. Realizing this, he seeks to meet his maker and acquire more time to live. In the final phase of the film we see Deckard battling the Replicants in a life and death struggle.

The themes expressed in this film are as numerous as they are profound.  In the end we are left questioning the very nature of humanity as the Replicants struggle to survive. They have hopes, dreams, memories, and the fear that all self-aware beings share: the fear of death.

Actor Rutger Hauer unfortunately passed away on July 19th of this year.  During filming, Hauer rewrote his character’s final lines in the film, and they have been praised ever since as one of the most moving speeches of all time in the sci-fi genre. In memory of the late great Rutger Hauer I’ll shall share it here:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Blade Runner has left quite a mark on pop culture and cinema and I do believe we will continue to see its influence in novels and films for years to come.

Blade Runner is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence, brief nudity, and some language.*

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Mean Girls”

In the early 2000’s, teen comedies generally focused on the trials and tribulations of high school life, and Mean Girls set the standard for the genre.  This coming-of-age style film is brought together by an amazing cast of Hollywood’s leading young actresses of the time and witty writing by well-established producers and writers.  The film was produced by Lorne Michaels, the famous creator of Saturday Night Live and written by Tina Fey. This background of veteran comedic writing (with a long history of successful sketch comedy) helped to create an immensely funny and quotable film.

The film begins with our protagonist Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan), who is returning to the United States after twelve years abroad with her parents. Cady is enrolled at North Shore High School and feels immediately like a fish out of water due to her years of homeschooling. She is quickly taken aside and befriended by Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan), a fellow outcast who describes in depth the various cliques that compete in the school for popularity.

Of all the cliques in the school, none is more sought after and notorious than “The Plastics.” This clique features the most popular girls in school; The Plastics flaunt their good looks and their posh sense of fashion while exhibiting profound narcissism. Internally, each of them is filled with insecurities, and they feed off each other in order to maintain their status. This trio of manipulators includes Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), and the leader, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Gretchen is a pure follower who is always at Regina’s beck and call. Karen fulfills the  pretty blonde with no brain trope with her antics. Regina is the brains of the group, being the most popular girl in school and a puppet master extraordinaire. She is a crafty demagogue and can be so self-absorbed, she makes Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones look humble.

Regina and The Plastics soon take notice of Cady and quickly befriend her. Cady enjoys the new found allure of parties and popularity, and she quickly develops a crush on Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett). Janis insists that Cady use her new position in the group to get close to Regina and steal her old diary dubbed “The Burn Book,” as it is filled with gossip and secrets about girls and teachers at the school.  Things start to heat up when Regina discovers Cady’s crush and a jealous feud begins. This causes a schism between The Plastics, and Cady becomes the new queen bee mirroring Regina’s own tyrannical behaviors. Desperate and enraged, Regina releases the contents of The Burn Book and total anarchy unfolds. Cady, seeing, what she has become and the damage done to everyone, regrets the choices she made and seeks to reconcile with those she wronged.

This is a fantastic and iconic film. The comedy is top notch and it’s also relatable to anyone who shared similar experiences in high school where you weren’t quite sure where you fit in and hadn’t really discovered your true self. Mean Girls is still such a popular movie that as of late 2017 and 2018, it was adapted by Tina Fey as a Broadway musical in New York City.

Mean Girls is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive situations. It is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Cinderella Man”

Of all the archetypal character traits used in films, the “underdog” is most frequently used in sports films and biopics. I feel there is some kind of special connection we each share with people of humble origin or background who, through sheer determination and grit, go on to achieve greatness.  The interesting thing about underdogs who rise to be champions in the world of professional boxing is that one punch delivered from an upstart, a has-been, or a nobody can instantly elevate their career soaring to the top.

I feel Cinderella Man is a film that embodies just that. It was released in 2005 and directed by Ron Howard. Cinderella Man tells the harrowing true story of James J. Braddock. The film begins with James (played by Russel Crowe) having to give up boxing due to a broken right hand and a fairly unimpressive record. Soon after this, the United States finds itself gripped in the Great Depression. James grows depressed that he can’t provide more for his wife and children due to his injuries. He takes up part time work as a longshoreman yet his work isn’t steady. James is ashamed when forced to ask for charity and government assisted welfare. His wife, Mae Braddock (played by Rene Zellweger), is worried what will happen if James takes up boxing again. She fears he could be killed and leave her a widow left to raise her children alone.

However, fate steps in when James’s longtime former couch and friend Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) shows up with an offer for James to participate in a last minute fight.  With no alternatives and the fear of being unable to feed his family, James agrees and, to everyone’s surprise, he knocks out the # 2 contender in the world. This shakes up the boxing world, and James Braddock is soon thought of as an inspiring hero to the working class. He is given the nickname “Cinderella Man” by a local sports writer.

As James continues to win and progress it becomes clear that he will have the opportunity to face off against the heavy weight champion of the world, Max Baer (played by Craig Bierko). Baer is feared throughout the boxing world for having killed his last two opponents. But James Braddock is undeterred, much to the horror of his wife Mae. As the fight approaches, he is a 10-1 underdog against the world champion. The film then reaches its fever pitch climax as the whole city of New York listens in on the radio as the two battle it out in Madison Square Garden.

This is a great film and I always find myself watching it whenever I find it on television. Luckily, Cinderella Man is available at the Union University Library for rent. It is rated PG-13 for violence related to boxing and some mild language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “I, Tonya”

In the field of women’s figure skating, the name Tonya Harding will undoubtedly remain the most controversial one. Her story and notoriety continue to draw a wide range of emotional views on her legacy.  Some find her utterly contemptuous and unworthy of the annals of U.S Women’s Figure Skating history. Others view her career as a tragic fall from grace. Many have come to feel that Tonya’s skill and elegance in skating far outshined the stigma of her personal flaws, social class, rough upbringing, and poor life choices that inevitably led to her down fall.

I, Tonya premiered in 2017 set as a biopic drama and dark comedy. The film is based on a number of interviews of those involved throughout Tonya’s life and takes a narrative/mockumentary approach that constantly breaks the fourth wall. The film explicitly states at the beginning that the following dialogues and interviews are unreliable, thus leaving the audience to determine the truth of Tonya Harding’s story.

The film begins with a young four-year old Tonya being enrolled into a skating class by her mother LaVona Golden (played by Allison Janney). The portrayal of LaVona Golden would go on to earn Allison Janney an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in this role. I must take a moment to say that her acting is amazing in this film as she plays arguably the most detestable, foul-mouthed, cold, cruel, irredeemably loathsome woman to ever appear on film. Next we are introduced to Tonya’s coach, Diane Rawlinson, played by Julianne Nicholson. Diane is hesitant to take on training Tonya because she is so young but sees promise in the young girl due to her dedication and skill.

We see throughout Tonya’s childhood and teenage years that she suffers from non-stop verbal and physical abuse from her mother, who rationalizes that it will make her a better skater. The teenage and adult Tonya is played by Margot Robbie, and I feel this is her best performance to date. Despite her tragic upbringing, Tonya’s skill is unmatched and she becomes one of the top female figure skaters in the country; however, she is constantly denied a top prize, first place finish. Tonya blames this on her “white trash background” and her inability and unwillingness to act the part of a debutante on and off the ice.

One day while practicing, Tonya meets Jeff Gillooly (played by Sebastian Stan). Tonya and Jeff begin dating and are soon married. Their relationship is almost instantly toxic as Jeff is very physically abusive to Tonya and their marriage grows strained and dysfunctional at best.  Tonya’s career improves and she gains notoriety as she become the first U.S female skater to land the Triple Axel in competition.  It seems if she will become an Olympic champion, but fate steps in and she fails in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Defeated and depressed, Tonya thinks her days of skating are over, but her former coach Diane returns hoping that she will get in shape and compete in the 1994 Winter Olympics.  This brings about the “incident” to which Tonya’s lasting infamy is attributed.

Leading up to the games, Tonya is tied in skill next to her rival Nancy Kerrigan. Noticing this, Jeff enlists the help of his friend Shawn Eckardt (played by Paul Walter Hauser). Shawn is a moronic individual who styles himself as “Tonya’s bodyguard” and brags about being a counter-terrorist expert. Jeff asks Shawn to send out a death threat against Nancy Kerrigan in order to keep her from preforming in the Winter Olympics. Shawn recruits a couple of small-time crooks even dumber than him to carry out “the mission” as he calls it and it goes downhill from there. I feel the film from this point portrays the events leading up to the “incident” in a faithful way showing the numerous contradictory elements of who knew what and who was responsible.  The dramatic ending, the indictments and the final perspectives are as thought provoking as they are tragic.

Margot Robbie’s performance in this film is superb, and she was nominated for Best Actress. She seamlessly transitions from an aged, bitter narrator to a young, sympathetic protagonist who can’t catch a break in life. Tonya Harding will always remain a controversial character in the history of U.S Women’s Figure skating, but I do feel that this film did its best to humanize her and help us understand the full scope of the situation and those involved.

I, Tonya is available at the Union University Library. Please note it is rated R for intense language throughout, violence and some sexual situations.

 

 

 

Matthew’s Valentine Movie: “The Princess Bride”

There are few films that can easily appeal to such a wide general audience in its portrayal of a fantasy, romance and comedy. One that does it flawlessly is The Princess Bride. This film would go on to be so applauded by critics and its fans (gaining a cult following) that in 2016 it was inducted into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The film was adapted from a novel by William Goldman that shares the same name.

The story begins with a young boy sick and in bed while his grandfather offers to read him a book in hopes that it will make him feel better.  The boy is played by a young Fred Savage, who would go on to gain notoriety in The Wonder Years. His grandfather is played by Peter Falk, who in turn was famous for his ongoing role in the series Colombo.  The young boy is apprehensive and initially dissatisfied that his grandfather has chosen to read him a love story but the book soon captivates him.

The plot of the book first revolves around a young farm girl named Buttercup played by Robin Wright. Buttercup and a local farm hand Westley (Cary Elwes) live a simple and normal life and slowly come to realize they are in love with one another. Westley seeks to marry her but first ventures out to sea, hoping to return with a fortune, and is never heard from again (as he has been presumably killed by pirates).

Years pass and Buttercup has agreed to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Humperdinck seems to be a noble and chivalrous Prince but later proves to be much more sinister. On the road, Buttercup is kidnapped by three brigands who hope to ransom her back to the kingdom. They are led by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a cold and calculating Sicilian mastermind. His two cohorts are Inigo Montoya, a Spanish Swordsmen played by Mandy Patinkin, and Frezzik the Giant, played by the most famous pro wrestler of the time: Andre the Giant.

The three brigands soon find themselves hunted by a masked man dressed in all black. He proves their equal in strength, skill, and cunning. After this mysterious stranger bests the three, he then proceeds to abduct Buttercup. While traveling together it is revealed that this masked marauder is actually Westley whom Buttercup had long feared dead. Upon this realization the two are at once overjoyed that their love for one another has maintained through the years apart.

Unfortunately, Prince Humperdinck and his men catch up and Buttercup pleads for Westley’s life. Humperdinck agrees only if she will marry him, but secretly he has his second-in-command take Westley to be killed. Westley is then subjected to unspeakable torture and is left for dead. All seems lost until Inigo and Frezzik, now repentant in their ways, find Westley’s body and successfully bring him back from near death with the help of local healer Miracle Max (Billy Crystal). The three then set off to free Buttercup from the evil Prince Humperdinck. The film features a classic ending with our two protagonists, together at last, riding off into the sunset.  As the story is finished, the young boy begs his grandfather to tell him the story again on the next day and the grandfather happily agrees.

This is a timeless film that audiences of all ages can appreciate and enjoy. Its simple and well-known themes of adventure, fantasy, and true love are a hallmark of any fairy tale, and The Princesses Bride stands at the top of the list in my book.

This film is available at Union University Library and is rated PG. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

 

 

*written by Matthew Beyer

Library Staff Picks For Valentine’s Day

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Looking for a romantic movie to watch on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe you don’t like Valentine’s Day too much and would rather watch something completely different. Either way, the library has plenty of entertainment for this holiday! Here are a few of our recommendations.

 

Olivia Chin recommends:

  • Romantic Movie Pick: La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle; starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Music, dancing, LA, and romance- what’s not to love? I’ve watched this about 10 times since it came out, and it never gets old to me.
  • Non-Romantic Movie Pick: BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee; starring John David Washington and Adam Driver. This true story is both horrific and hilarious as a black police detective infiltrates the KKK. There’s a small romantic sublot, but it’s definitely not the main part of the movie; plus, this is a great movie for Black History Month.
  • Romantic Book Pick: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen. If you enjoy young adult novels with travel, realistic families and problems, and teenage romance, then North of Beautiful is the perfect read for you. It’s well-written with noticeable and validating character development; you’ll want to stick with these characters to the end (and will probably want to know more about them afterward).
  • Non-Romantic Book Pick: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. The true crime genre often gets about as far away from romantic as you can get. Before her untimely death, author Michelle McNamara chronicled her research journey as she tried to figure out the identity of the Golden State Killer. This book dives deep into the crimes he committed, the people who were affected, and the investigations that occurred.

Of course, I also have to plug our Blind Date with a Book program. It’s super easy: just walk up to the Circulation Desk, pick a mystery book from our cart, and go on a “blind date” with it!

Blind Date With A Book(2)

 

 

Rachel Bloomingburg recommends:

  • Romantic Book Pick: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This charming YA novel about a teenage girl whose love letters cause high school chaos (and spark romance) has also recently been made into a popular Netflix movie!
  • Non-Romantic Book Pick: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Another YA novel, this book dives into the culture of World War II espionage.

 

Hannah Shea recommends:

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  • Romantic Movie Pick: Killers directed by Robert Luketic; starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Watch what happens when a former hitman, who is trying to keep this a secret from his wife, has to go on the run! This movie is available via Prime Video.

 

Cara Stevenson recommends:

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  • Romantic Movie Pick: The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter; starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan. Loosely based on the real life romance of starring actor (and writer) Nanjiani and his wife, this story follows an inter-ethnic couple who faces cultural challenges. This movie is also available via Prime.

 

Lakreasha Scharcklet recommends:

Romantic Movie Pick: A Walk To Remember, directed by Adam Shankman; starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. This is a true tear-jerker and a classic romance story!

Non-Romantic Movie Pick: Same Kind Of Different As Me, directed by Michael Carney; starring Greg Kinnear, Renée Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou. Same Kind Of Different As Me is about unlikely friendship and overcoming racial barriers. You can read the book here.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Last Samurai”

When it comes to historical dramas and period pieces, The Last Samurai bridges the gap between the two genres. This film, which was released in 2003, seeks to tell the story of Japan’s aggressive leap forward from a traditional, non-industrial society into an advanced, organized world power. The background is set in part in the Satsuma Rebellion and also involves aspects of the Boshin War. These conflicts were the result of Japan’s attempt to restore the Emperor as the supreme leader of Japan and would cause the abolition of the Samurai warrior.

The Last Samurai has an amazing roster of American, British, and Japanese cast members that all do a wonderful job of bringing the story to life. Tom Cruise stars as Captain Nathan Algren, who served in the infamous 7th Calvary. At the start of this film, we find our protagonist as a depressed alcoholic who is ridden with guilt over his actions during the American Indian Wars. He is offered a job by his ruthless former commanding officer, Colonel Bagley (played by Tony Goldwyn), to travel to Japan to help train and modernize their armies along Western models.

Algren is joined by his longtime friend, Zebulon Gant (played by Billy Connolly), a gruff Scotsman who served with Algren in the Calvary. Next we are introduced to Simon Graham (Timothy Spall). Graham acts as an English liaison for the Japanese government. Graham is fascinated by the unique and traditional way of life of the Samurai in Japan.  While engaging the rebellious Samurai in battle, Nathan Algren is defeated and taken prisoner by Lord Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Katsumoto is intrigued by this strange foreigner and hopes to learn more about his enemy. Katsumoto was once the emperor Meiji’s teacher and mentor; however, he believes the emperor is being led astray by corrupt industrialists like that of Mr. Omura (Masato Harada) who want to modernize Japan at all costs, regardless of the damage to their cultures and heritage.

The last character who helps to change Nathan Algren’s view of Japanese society is Taka, a widow of a Samurai killed in battle against Nathan and sister of Katsumoto. Taka is played by Shin Koyamada; she portrays a devastated woman who is attempting to raise her now fatherless son. Slowly, she grows to understand that Nathan is just a warrior much like her husband was.

This film received wide acclaim both in the U.S and Japan. It takes the stories of several historical figures and combines them for a dramatic take on several wars that brought about Japan as we know it. This film romanticizes the nostalgic era of when Japan was sealed off from the rest of the world; however, this time came to an end as the allure of modernization proved too strong.

The climatic end sees Algren falling in love with the traditional society that has brought him peace and meaning once again to his life. Algren joins with Katsumoto in an attempt to make the Emperor rethink his progressive reforms and maintain the soul and identity of the Japanese people.

The Last Samurai is an excellent film full of action and drama and it is available at the  Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for strong violence and battle scenes.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Sherlock Holmes”

Director Guy Ritchie is well known for his fast pace and witty British crime dramas. However, when it was announced that he was directing a film about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s trade mark character Sherlock Holmes, many people, including this writer, felt sure it would flop. Much to my surprise, the film wildly exceeded box office performances and my own biased presuppositions.

Sherlock Holmes is a classic and beloved character in the literary world, and it takes a masterful actor to live up to Holmes’ unique quirks and captivating persona. Coming right off the success of Iron Man in 2008, actor Robert Downy Jr was chosen to play the part of Sherlock Holmes. Downy would take a new approach to playing the world’s greatest detective. This incarnation of Holmes appears as a gaunt and skinny man, egocentric and conceited to a fault. Holmes comes off as a lonely genius with no one capable of understanding his own complexities; this is undoubtedly what causes Holmes to antagonize everyone around him and in particular Watson. The only thing that can calm Holmes down and focus his brilliance is the thrill of solving mysteries and investigations.

Jude Law portrays Dr. James Watson as Holmes’ faithful companion and perhaps one true friend. Watson is level headed and quick thinking but tends to react much more by the book in regards to solving crimes. The main antagonist in this film is the evil Lord Henry Blackwood played by Mark Strong. Blackwood is an infamous killer who seeks to bring London to its knees. With his apparent black magic powers and knowledge of the occult, he has locked the whole city into a helpless state of terror.

Meanwhile, Irene Adler is played by Rachel McAdams. Adler is a woman from Holmes’s past, and they hint that they may have been once romantically involved. Adler proves to be a daring character and one of the few people to have bested Holmes (by which he is most impressed).  Lastly we are introduced to Mary Morstan played by Kelly Reilly. Mary is being courted by Watson, who plans to marry her and give up the life of adventure and intrigue. This causes a considerable rift between Watson and Holmes, and Holmes slips further into melancholy as he fears a life without Watson at his side.

This is a fantastic film. It flawlessly blends between quick, well-timed comedy and fast- paced action and adventure, and all the while our iconic duo delves deeper and deeper into the villain’s devious plot. Sherlock Holmes would go on to have a sequel in 2011 and is scheduled for a third in December 2020. I find this film is always satisfying and quite a bit of fun; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

* This film is available at the Union University Library.  Please note this film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images, and a scene of suggestive material.

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Denial”

This past Sunday, January 27th, was the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  I found the film Denial, which confronts the horrors of the Holocaust, particularly moving and relevant for today’s audiences.

 Denial is based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.  The movie begins in 1994 with Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust professor played by Rachel Weisz, giving a lecture in an American university.  Suddenly, she is ambushed by Nazi Historian David Irving (played by Timothy Stall) who scolds her in public, accusing her of slander and libelous conduct when she identified him as a Holocaust denier in her latest book. He then proceeds to sue her and her publisher Penguin Books in libel lawsuit.

What makes this case so fascinating and perilous is that, under the United Kingdom’s laws, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the responsibility will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you’ve got to prove it! So Deborah Lipstadt must then prove in court that David Irving is a Holocaust denier. Her council and lawyers fear that David Irving is seeking to put the entire Holocaust on trial to further his ambition and fame. In Deborah’s corner, she is joined by famous solicitor Anthony Julius (portrayed by Andrew Scott) who represented the late Princess Diana in her divorce case. Her barrister is that of Richard Rampton who is famous for dealing with libel cases; he is played by Tom Wilkinson.

Throughout the course of the trial there are many ups and downs. For example, David Irving chooses to represent himself and proves to be a formidable adversary who is quick to use legal mechanisms to his advantage. While Deborah and her team travel all the way to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to find evidence to destroy Irving’s claims. Towards the end of the film it feels as if the judge’s decision could go either way and it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat.

 

*This film is rated PG-13 for Language and it is available at the Union University Library.

 

Personal note: Denial came to my attention last year, and it became an instant favorite for me. Allow me to share a little bit of my background and studies in an attempt to explain why this film left such an impression on your humble writer. Last year I graduated with my bachelor’s degree which I built myself around History and Political Science. I’ve always loved history; I also enjoy trying to understand how and why it happened the way it did. So having some political insight is very useful to understanding history in context.  My grandfather served in WW2 and that too also sparked my curiosity and interest in Denial.

When my grandfather passed away a few years back, my family and I were cleaning out some of his drawers and discovered several items dating back to his days in the service. Of all the things I found among his belongs, two things struck me to my core. Late in the war he served as a jeep driver for high ranking officers and generals. In doing his duty he personally drove U.S military commanders to various Death Camps and witnessed the horrific aftermath that the Nazis left in their attempts at the final solution.

What I found in my grandfather’s possessions were two grainy photos showing piles of human remains stacked well over six feet in the air. It was something I will never be able to forget, and I know it left a lasting impression on my grandfather. It is truly frightening what humans are capable of doing to one another. That is why we can never forget what happened and why we should always call out the truly insidious individuals that attempt to downplay or outright deny the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The 13th Warrior”

It’s a new year and a great time to review some odd gems of cinema history. In my ongoing review of films that catch my attention and critical acclaim, I hope to shine the spotlight on films that have taken on a cult status.  Although today’s film was not financially successful nor did it achieve fame from a wider audience, it is often taken for granted among the adventure genre of films.

First a bit of background on this film: the 13th Warrior was released in 1999 and it was adapted from a book by the famous Michael Crichton entitled Eaters of the Dead.  Michael Crichton is more widely known for his novel Jurassic Park. During the mid to late 90’s Crichton’s novels were being adapted to film as fast as possible hoping for another big hit like Jurassic Park. Thus enters director John McTeiran, who’s best known for directing action hits like Predator and Die Hard. Although this film seemed like it would be a great success, it ended up coming in way over budget and flopped with audiences at the box office with estimates at a $120-million-dollar loss.

Now I hope to make the case that this film is not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. While it does have some obvious shortcomings, I still think this film shines in its narrative and set design, and the actors really try to give it their all in spite of the problems associated with the filming and production disputes. I think modern audiences can appreciate an adventure piece set in the dark ages due to a renaissance in the popularity of Norse Viking culture and current trends in video games such as the like of Skyrim.

Plot Synopsis

This film’s story begins with our main protagonist, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, played by Antonio Banderas. Ahamd ibn Fadlan is based in part of a real historical figure who would go on to write and describe his time spent as an ambassador to the Volga Vikings. In this adaptation Ahamd ibn Fadlan is forced to travel with 12 Vikings on a sacred mission of honor back to the far north of their homeland because an ancient enemy has returned and is terrorizing a Norse Kingdom. We are introduced to the leader and King of the Viking warriors: Buliwyf, played by Vladimir Kulich.  Buliwyf encompasses all the traits one would expect to find in a Viking, boasting a tall, silent, stoic appearance that can turn in an instant into ferocious fighter steeped in knowledge of Norse religion. His character is loosely based in homage to that of the mythical Beowulf.   The last character that stands out amongst the rest is that of Herger played by the Norwegian actor Dennis Storhøi. Herger’s character has the closest relationship to Ahamd and the two develop a quick friendship. Herger helps to explain the different culture the Vikings possess while being a friendlier and comedic character in stark contrast to the rest of the Vikings.

In summary, the 13th Warrior was a swing and a miss with mainstream audiences and to many it feels like an unfinished film due to some pacing issues. I wouldn’t go as far as some do and rule it out as a bad film, and I wouldn’t suggest it’s a B film either as the tone remains serious throughout and isn’t that campy. I think what’s most important is that I grew up with the film when there weren’t many choices in the genre as the Viking craze was still years off and this film has a very good period piece feel to it. So why not give this film a try- if it’s not the best, it’s at least entertaining!

This film is available at the Union University Library the Logos.

* Please note The 13th Warrior is rated R for violence throughout and some minor language.

**written by Matthew Beyer