Tag Archives: Kenneth Branagh

Orkney’s Skull Splitter & Thor

By Odin’s Beard! We’re back, Drinkers!

Sorry folks, I went to a screening of Anchorman last night night, so I’m feeling exclamatory.  But now that The Avengers has been out for some time, I figured this was an appropriately inopportune time to check out Marvel’s Avengers lead-up film Thor and Orkney’s Skull Splitter. So let’s get crackin’.

Let’s start with The God of Thunder. For an superhero action film, very little actually happens in Thor. An angsty, war-mongering and ravishingly handsome god disobeys his dad, gets cast out of Asgard, eats breakfast foods with Natalie Portman, fights a robot and then returns home a reformed hero. I’m actually impressed that they were able to drag it out to a 115 minute film. Part of that is due to director Kenneth Branagh’s (of Much Ado About Nothing fame) sweeping, operatic vision. The visual splendor of Asgard and its clothes ate a decent amount of screen time. And while the movie looks pretty, the acting is pretty stiff. But I guess that’s to be expected when half of your cast are gods from another region of space.

It’s not even fair.

Tom Hiddleston (Loki) does manage to steal every scene he is in by injecting true passion and rage into his character. For me, he was the real highlight of the film, a sentiment echoed by many viewers of The Avengers. And Natalie Portman also manages to stand out as well by simply being a fantastic actress and really good-looking. Unfortunately, they are exceptions to the rule. Our protagonist Thor, played by the inhumanly attractive Chris Hemsworth, manages to undergo a complete character transformation in about five minutes with little explanation. Apparently he and Natalie Portman fall in love but that’s more of a statement of fact rather than the conclusion to a meaningful character dynamic. Also, for no other reason than the studio wanting some explosions, a robot destroys a small town. That’s not even related to acting quality, but I wanted to point it out. Overall, I found this movie to be honestly be quite shallow. What I mean is that the film remains entirely on its surface. The narrative can be condensed into about 15 minutes and all of the actors seem to just be floating through it. When the credits began to roll at the film’s conclusion, I truly found myself wondering what had just happened. I actually thought that there might be more as I never felt that the stakes were particularly high. Not to be an Earth-elitist, but shouldn’t the fate of the planet be on the line? So Loki might have destroyed a nasty ice planet and illegitimately seized control of Asgard, but what does that mean to me? To us as silly mortals?  If you want another opinion on this film, and the other Avengers films, I suggest you head over to We Recycle Movies, where my friend Anne does a great job of breaking down the whole series in a way more befitting our film degrees.

But in an effort to prove that I have actually studied film, I do want to point out the use of canted (Dutch) angles in this film. Those are the shots where everything seems to be leaning to the side. While, at times, they do appropriately reflect the unbalanced scenario of our protagonist, I found the visual trick to be overused and occasionally unnecessary. Okay, I’m done.

Forged in Fire and Plaid, love is born between god and mortal.

And our Skull Splitter? (Yes, I know Thor has a hammer, not an axe, but you get the connection.) This UK brewed, Viking-inspired brew is actually far more subtle than a blow to the head. According to BeerAdvocate, this dark copper beer is classified as a Scotch Ale, meaning that it has a smooth mouthfeel despite its high ABV. And I think I have to agree. At no point did I feel this beer’s 8.5%. Rather, I got a smooth drink with some earthy, fruity malt flavor. I actually didn’t know what to expect from the Skull Splitter. With a name like that, I figured it would be knock me around a bit with big, robust flavor and overpowering booziness, but neither was the case. Instead, I found this beer to be smooth, relaxed and very easy to enjoy. Not sure how common this beer is here in the States, but if you come across it, I’d suggest grabbing a bottle or two.

And so, by the Hammer of Thor, I declare this 47th BAAM review to be complete! We had  fairly shallow movie with a surprisingly deep beer. The movie left me wanting for something more. More character, more action, more explanation; but fortunately this tasty beer helped carry me through the film and made the evening fairly enjoyable.

There’s only two more reviews to go before we hit our 50th. Coincidentally, the 50th review will match up perfectly with our one year anniversary here at beer and a movie. I’ve got some good movies and beers lined up, so stayed tuned. But until then, keep drinking my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Orkney’s Skull Splitter:
Deep copper color
-Surprisingly smooth despite the high ABV
-Nice, layered maltiness

Thor:
– Surprisingly little happens. Shockingly little
-Impressive set and costume design (kudos, Art Department!)
-Special thanks to Tom Hiddleston & Natalie Portman for making the film somewhat enjoyable

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Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout & Much Ado About Nothing

Good tidings, imbibers!

That’s really all I have for my Shakespearean writing for tonight. I’m not that talented/esoteric/confusing to do this entire post in Shakespearean English, so you all will have to to deal with my modern colloquialisms. Anyway, tonight’s delightful duo is Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout and the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Brief warning: I never read Much Ado About Nothing and have somehow avoided to learning anything about it at all, so I’m sorry that my analysis will be somewhat stunted.

The 1993 film version of Much Ado About Nothing was adapted, produced, directed and starred a certain man by the name of Kenneth Branagh. Mr. Branagh, who you may recognize from random roles in Harry Potter or Wild Wild West, is actually more famous for adapting a number of Shakespeare’s plays for the cinema. Much Ado About Nothing, a story about how people can be tricked/coerced into love and non-virgins should be killed, is one of Branagh’s many adaptations which stars a surprising cast. Denzel Washington plays the only black person in the entire film for no reason, Keanu Reeves plays a dick for no reason and Michael Keaton occasionally shows up for no reason. The film also features Emma Thompson, who is lovely in every role she takes on and, randomly, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, anyone?) is also one of the leads. For what it’s worth, the cast does a pretty good job despite the clunky language. Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington are the most ill at ease with the script but they really do make a good effort. As can be expected, Kenneth Branagh is really the scene stealer, filling every minute of his screen time with sharp wit and big personality. And while it is very easy to see the “acting” in this film, the nature of Shakespearean language allows the audience to cut them some slack.

"I'm in a Shakespeare movie. Wow."

Another feature of the stage-to-screen adaptation is that it needs to be visually fleshed out. Since one of the most boring things you could possibly do is to watch a recording of a play, Branagh takes this opportunity to broaden the visual scope of the story. Though he regularly utilizes longer takes, honoring the difficulty of performing Shakespeare live, he also indulges in massive, sweeping shots that are, for lack of a better word, cinematic. We fly above the lush gardens of the Italian villa on numerous occasions, as well as view scenes from multiple points of view. This blending of stage performance and movie-scale scope actually works quite well.

Remind me why Denzel Washington and Michael Keaton are in this movie again?

You know what else works well? Beer. More specifically: beer brewed by Rogue. These guys are awesome. And while their Juniper beer was “meh,” everything else they brew is always fantastic, including their Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. This big beer, with its strong aroma of chocolate and roasted malt is actually quite mild mannered. It sports a tame 6.1% ABV and is remarkably easy to drink; something not all stouts can claim. This is mostly due to the inclusion of oats into the brewing process. The oats help to smooth out the bitterness of the malt, making it very easy to drink. (On a similar note, I’ve been trying rye beers recently. The addition of rye has a similar, smoothing effect. Try it!). I can’t believe I’m saying this but I would actually recommend this beer to fairly casual drinkers. I realize that most people are wary of dark beers, but I think most people would find this oatmeal stout pretty appealing. In the unlikely case you don’t like it, just hand it over to me and I’ll finish it off for you.

So there you have it, Shakespeare lovers. A tale of confusion and love paired with a rich but not overwhelming brew. Both are appropriate for both the casual and the elite consumer, making it a worthwhile evening for anyone looking to kick back, relax and wonder what the hell Michael Keaton is talking about.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Rogue’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout:   
-Lovely nose of chocolate & roasted malt
-Remarkably smooth, thanks to the oats
-A great, easy-drinking beer for any drinker out there.

Much Ado About Nothing:
-A strong film adaptation from a not-so-easy-to-adapt playwright
-Mostly strong cast, with a few exceptions
-Actors were definitely “acting,” but who can blame them?

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