Reviews – Slither, Serenity & Earlier

Slither

THANK god for movies like Slither. One of the most quiet, unassuming releases so far this year, it has to have been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a theater in a long time. This isn’t serious stuff, though it is savvy enough when it does get to that. But for the most part, Slither is a smart, fun romp that from the get-go put a smile on my face, and never let that smile leave. Whether it was a sharp joke or perfectly orchestrated horror sequence, Slither delivered.

Playing the sheriff of a town that is victimized by a killer alien invader thing, Nathan Fillion looks like he’s got the quiet unassuming kind of film down pat. He did star, after all, in last year’s best movie no one watched, Serenity. And one gets the feeling that Slither, sadly, is likely to get a similar distinction. He’s got a great sense of timing, and whether it’s a quick retort or a deadpan understatement, Fillion manages to pull off all the jokes that would’ve been mangled had they gone with someone more gung-ho or less experienced with this kind of self-aware humor.

Gunn has gathered together an ensemble cast of actors that are on the edge of the radar and ones that you know always will deliver. Nathan Fillion’s star is definitely on the rise and his role as police chief Bill Pardy will only draw more attention. He has the classic Hollywood look that could easily see him filling the action void left by Harrison Ford.

Serenity

Nathan Fillion (Saving Private Ryan) plays the beleagured ship captain Mal. Fillion is absolutely FABULOUS. In Mal, Fillion has created a loveable rogue unseen since Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Fillion is so charasmatic, and delivers (Firefly creator Joss) Whedon’s tight dialogue with a effortless flair that makes his captain all the more genuine and fun. Fillion gives Mal a beautiful intensity, but blends it with a vunerability giving a character that rendered the majority of the men in the theatre totally invisible to their dates everytime he moved. Or spoke. Or sat down. It got to the point that there was a collective intake of breath everytime the man stepped onscreen. Fillion is not only ruggedly handsome, but also has tremendous range. (To say nothing of the fact that I actually used the words “dreamy” when describing him to my boyfriend.) Harrison Ford best start looking over his shoulder.

Fillion proves to be a fantastic leading man who can kick some booty and knows how to show a little vulnerability in the right moments. While he has had a rough and tumble career on some failed and mocked television programs (Was I the only person who could stomach Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place?), it might have made him ready for this moment. Fillion makes Mal into a likable, heroic figure desperately trying to hide it as he lives a bitter, betrayed and haunted life after the civil war. He is the father to an eccentric family-like crew, but somehow fears getting too close to happiness and risking disappointment again. The rest of the characters are brought to life by a wonderful supporting cast who all bring something special to their smaller characters and fill out the movie like wonderful side dishes complement a great steak (or in Fillion’s case, as the ladies have pointed out to me, beefcake).

Firefly’s jump into the next phase has already trumped Star Trek’s sister Next Generation’s attempt with its four inter(non)stellar features. Serenity brings with it the intrigue and tragedy of Wrath of Khan with the humor of The Voyage Home, leaving no one behind. And the final half hour is a pure marvel of shock and serious action. From week-to-week, these characters took a serious beating with shootings, torture and very near-death experiences. It’s great to see that pessimistic uncertainty carried over along with the don’t-play-by-the-rules aura of our heroes. Nathan Fillion, who you might recognize as the first Private Ryan found in Spielberg’s epic and whom I gave great praise for his comedic performance in a little film called Outing Riley (by Project Greenlight’s premiere winner, Pete Jones) before I even knew he was the Firefly’s captain, has quickly become one of the great science fiction heroes. He’s cut from the Han Solo cloth before the Greedo-shot-first days – only in it for the money with the occasional flash of conscience – and Fillion turns him into one for the ages, the boy scout next door gone sour.

This is a bickering dysfunctional but loving family on a space ship battling cannibals and government assassins. Which is what makes it so cool. Whedon has the backdrop for grand, mythical battles and the contained environment for intimate, relationship battles. Plus, the guy has a nonstop sense of humor.

And he’s got the actors to pull it all off. Fillion spent three years on TV’s “Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place” (alongside fellow wise guy up-and-comer Ryan Reynolds), and he knows how to pull off both humor and bravado.

Han Solo? Your ship has flown. Indiana Jones? Move over.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds is the big screen’s most engaging and heroic rogue in decades, and Nathan Fillion, the actor who plays him, is the most qualified candidate to fill Harrison…And the cast are to be applauded for such feisty, enthusiastic turns. Fillion deserves to be a big screen star from here on out, and any number of his co-stars could enjoy rapidly expanding careers the way members of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien “fellowship” have done.

It’s obvious that the cast, having worked together in these roles before, had evolved into a loose-knit family — just as the crew of Serenity has done in the script. They also appeared to have become very comfortable with the various nuances of the characters, which leads to a more believable performance. I have to give extra kudos to Fillion, who does a wonderful job with the character of Mal. He infuses a loveable scoundrel quality in his portrayal of the character that is enjoyable to watch in the way that Han Solo was in the original Star Wars trilogy, or Starbuck in the original series version of Battlestar Galactica. But when Mal is pushed too far by the assassin, Fillion introduces a silent rage to the character that, while seeming opposite of how Mal is normally, really solidifies why Mal is the captain of the Serenity — and why his crew will follow him literally to hell and back.

Drive

With any serialized program, the audience desperately needs a single star who shines brighter than the others and through whose eyes we view the action. And DRIVE has a true winner in Fillion, whose alter ego is an every-day guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In a fascinating twist, Alex misses an all-important orientation meeting which would no doubt have provided him – and, by extension, us – with answers to several major questions. As Alex gathers information on the mysterious race, so do we. Of course, because viewers also have insight into what is going on with other contestants, there are moments when we actually know more about what’s going on than our hero. But like LOST’s Matthew Fox, Fillion perfectly serves as our eyes and ears in this brave new world.

Outing Riley

Outing Riley does slowly overcome its frequent stumbling blocks and settles in thanks in part to nice work from McDonald and particularly Nathan Fillion as Bobby’s closest brother, Luke. Fillion actually played the first, mistaken Private Ryan in Spielberg’s epic and here really shines as the Riley clown who gets hurt deeply that his brother couldn’t at least confide in him. He has a bright future in the business. –Erik Childress

Water’s Edge

The emphasis is placed on its characters, and it’s to the film’s benefit that it stars two such capable leads. Fillion and West both effectively convey the emotional agony of a couple that have suffered so much loss, united by grief more than the love that’s hanging by such a tenuous thread. –Adam Tyner

Lost

And this is where the great casting saves the day. Kevin is played by “Firefly” star Nathan Fillion. Captain Mal is back! If you didn’t watch the dearly-departed TV show “Firefly” or see its big-screen counterpart “Serenity,” you’ll have no idea who Nathan Fillion is. But trust me: He’s one of the industry’s most underrated actors and it’s an absolute pleasure to see him on the small screen again.

One small thing I need to mention: While it’s great to see Nathan Fillion, it was disappointing to watch him go through the motions of a poorly constructed character. Fillion has a smart-ass charm that’s hard to find and it would have served the “Lost” crew well to work that charm into Kevin’s character. What they should have done was ask “Firefly” creator Joss Whedon to write the backstory … good lord, can you imagine what Whedon and Fillion could do with this show? – Mac Slocum

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7

In addition to all the usual suspects, this season has some of the most interesting, well-drawn characters the series has yet seen. Principal Wood (D.B. Woodside), head of the new Sunnydale High and Buffy’s boss, turns out to be more than just an educator, taking on an important role later on. The standout, though, is Caleb (Nathan Fillion), a psychotic preacher who has become the instrument of The First. He comes in late, but he steals just about every episode he is in. The character is so deliciously eeeeeeevil that we cannot look away. The character is a lot of fun, and Fillion plays him perfectly.

Firefly

This was an interesting selection for the cast, an eclectic bunch of actors that each brings something special to the table. Fillion is well cast as the captain. His portrayal of Mal is cynical, bitter and hard but with a human core somewhat lost beneath it all. –Doug Maclean

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