Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Reilly’

David Morrissey

“BRITANNIA” My rating: B  (Amazon Prime)

“Britannia” is like a Limey version of “Drunk History,” only instead of whiskey shots the storytellers are doing acid tabs.

Were you to turn off the sound and just go with the visuals, this series from creators Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth and James Richardson would look like a pretty straightforward drama about the Roman conquest of Britain a generation after Julius Caesar.

You’ve got an occupying army of legionaries, painted and plaited Celts who resent the invasion,  mud-daubed Druid mystics overflowing with visions.

Episode to episode you can watch a Roman city being built, from a ditched military encampment to a walled fortress.

There’s plenty of violence, and some of the most realistic viscera seen outside a surgical training film.

Tons of drop-dead gorgeous scenery.

It’s when you turn on the sound that you realize what a wonderfully bizarre reality “Britannia” has created.

People here — whether natives or Romans — speak in contemporary colloquial English (“Bummer,” observes a Roman soldier).  They say “fuck” so often you look for the names of Quentin Tarantino and David Mamet in the credits.

Moreover, the entire enterprise is a sardonic black comedy, peppered with slapstick moments.

And the music choices are marvelously incongruous yet somehow absolutely spot on: Donovan, Fairport Convention, Cream, Richard Thompson.

Comparisons to “Game of Thrones” are unavoidable.  Like that HBO monster, “Britannia” features a couple dozen major characters, all of whom have their own stories that periodically intersect and/or collide.

Mackenzie Crook

To the extent that the series has a central character, it is David Morresssey’s Roman commander, Aulus, who’s only been in Britain a few hours before he’s fallen under the place’s spell and started to go native.

Not that he lets anyone know of his ever-growing obsession with Druid culture.  To the world he’s just a cynical soldier/administrator doing the Emperor’s bidding.  But as the series progresses it’s obvious that Aulus has his own bonkers agenda.

Whatever.  He’s a master manipulator who excels at playing the warring British clans off one another. You know…divide and conquer.

One faction is led by the aged King Pellinor (Ian McDiarmid…that’s right, “Star Wars’” EMPEROR PALPATINE!!!!), who has an ineffectual son (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and one kick-ass warrior-woman daughter (“Yellowstone’s” Kelly Reilly, who looks awesome with face paint and bow and arrow).

The other tribe is presided over by the white-maned matriarch Antedia (Zoe Wanamaker), who never lets go of a grudge and tells the Roman leader to “lick my crack.” Very ladylike.

Kelly Reilly

Mackenzie Crook (you may know him from the series “The Detectorists” or his recurring role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series) is flat out brilliant as Veran, the skeletal chief Druid and the power behind all of Britain’s thrones. He presides over drum-fueled orgies that looks like Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon in the late ’60s. 

Even under normal circumstances Crook is an odd-looking dude, but the show’s makeup artists have done a mind-boggling job to transform him into a tattooed, black-eyed wraith.

And if that wasn’t enough, in the show’s second season Crook also plays Veran’s brother, resurrected after a millennia in limbo and bent on overthrowing his sibling’s rule.

So one of the problems here is that virtually every character is a deceitful, scheming, two-faced, murderous snake.  Hard to know who to root for.

Thankfully there’s teenage Cait (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), whose coming out party was ruined by the Roman landing.  Cait is about the only psychologically healthy person in sight.  Except that she’s been more or less adopted by Divis, a  Druid dropout who believes she will be the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. 

Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Nikolaj Lie Kaas

Divis is played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who looks and acts like a hirsute Jason Bateman, right down to the sardonic asides. He’s like an inept Yoda who’s always cursing in exasperation. 

If “Britannia” has a major flaw it’s that the show has no sense of urgency.  The emphasis is not so much on storytelling as on creating comic character moments — like those delivered by a couple of Roman soldiers who go AWOL and spend their days stoned on the local pharmacopeia.

And just when you figure things can’t get weirder, Season Two opens with a flashback informing us that Aulus and his second-in-command (Hugo Speer) a decade earlier presided over Jesus’ crucifixion.

It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next season (which reportedly begins later this month).

| Robert W. Butler

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Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly

Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly

“CALVARY” My rating: C+ (Opening  Aug. 15 at the Glenwood at Red Bridge, the AMC Studio 30, and the Cinemark Plaza)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Not even a great-ish performance from Brendan Gleeson can disguise the confusion at the heart of “Calvary,” the new Irish movie from writer/director John Michael McDonagh.

As the film begins it seems to be setting up a Hitchcockian dilemma.  In the confessional, Father James (Gleeson) is threatened by a parishioner who as a child was repeatedly raped by his parish priest.

The perpetrator is long dead, but the victim still wants revenge. He announces (we hear his voice, but don’t see him) that in just a week he will kill Father James. The fact that James is a good priest and in no way connected to the long-ago outrage will only make for a more devastating “statement.”

James thinks he knows who this individual is.  And his superior informs him that when a priest’s life is threatened, the sanctity of the confessional is no longer an issue. James is free to go to the police.

But he doesn’t…which is only one of many improbabilities McDonagh pile atop one another.


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Romain Duris...new guy in New York

Romain Duris…new guy in New York

“CHINESE PUZZLE” My rating: B (Opens July 25 at the Tivoli)

117 minutes | MPAA rating: R


“Chinese Puzzle” is the third film in a series that began in 2002 with “L’Auberge Espangnol,” about a group of college  foreign exchange students living in a Barcelona boarding house.

Writer/director Cedric Klapisch checked in on those same characters as they turned 30 in 2005’s “Russian Dolls.”

“Chinese Puzzle,” the third installment, finds the characters hitting 40 and no more at ease in matters of love than they were as adolescents.

Caplisch’s films are less well known than the celebrated “Seven Up” documentary series (which has followed a group of former British schoolchildren for half a century) or Richard Linklater’s “Before…” films that periodically revisit lovers played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

But as with those other efforts, Klapisch’s films are bit like a reunion with old friends. The characters may be fictional, but there’s something oddly moving about watching the same actors play the same characters at different stages in life.

As “Chinese Puzzle” begins, Klapisch’s central character, Xavier (Romain Duris), has achieved a degree of fame as a novelist. He and his former college housemate, the British Wendy (Kelly Reilly), are married with two kids. Xavier still hangs with his best friend, the tomboyish lesbian Isabelle (Cecile De France).

He thinks life is swell. So he’s floored when Wendy returns from a business trip to New  York and announces that she’s met someone and is moving to the U.S. — and taking the children.

When Isabelle announces that she, too, has fallen for a New Yorker and is immigrating,  Xavier figures there’s not much left for him in Paris.  He jumps the pond.

“Chinese Puzzle” — that’s how Xavier describes his knottily confusing life — is a round robin of friendships and potential romances. Not to mention a comedy of dislocation as the Gallic Xavier learns to negotiates the brave new world of NYC.


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