Arthouse films

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 14, 2006 | Publication: Chicago Sun-Times | Author: Bill Stamets
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Here's a look at some of the arthouse films opening today:

"Beowulf & Grendel" RATING 3

Set in the 6th century and shot in Iceland, this sword-and-storm adventure boasts a brave-hearted hero, a wily witch whore and a 7-foot hairy troll. (Like Lois Lane and Superman in their latest screen episode, the latter two characters share one of those special evenings that can lead to sequels.)

Beowulf (Gerard Butler) and his band of fighters sail to the kingdom of Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) to kill the man-monster Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson). Tendering otherworldly counsel to villagers during this guerrilla terror are the wandering Christian priest Brendan (Eddie Marsan) and the fetching pagan Selma (Sarah Polley). Beowulf's overseas intervention is well-intentioned, but he learns his mission lacked good intel, as the military calls it these days.

"It is not an allegory by any means of current events, like the war in Iraq," director Sturla Gunnarsson told the University of Western Ontario's newspaper. Contemporary parallels to the original "Beowulf" did occur to screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins, who began his adaptation of the 9th-century Anglo-Saxon saga during the ethnic massacres in the Balkans.

Gunnarsson says he aimed for "an absolutely CG-free world." Computer-generated effects were banished, although he prosthetically enhanced Grendel by employing a creature-designer of earlier mummies, phantom menaces, and Harry Potter beings. A semi-mythic period piece, "Beowulf & Grendel offers sublime scenery that's breathtaking and bone-chilling. Ominous ice flows, thundering waterfalls, frothing surf, and frightful cliffs lend an aura of medieval realism.

(Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Running time: 102 minutes. Opening today at Landmark Century.)