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Posts Tagged ‘King Arthur Legend of the Sword’

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

That’s right, spring is giving way to some and with it the multiplexes are filling with a shit mix of blockbuster sequels and kids movies.  Interesting movies are being released but less and less of them are finding their way to the big cinema chains.  My cinema attendance has already begun to tail off, but don’t worry, there are still one or two gems still coming out:  

Lady MacBeth – Don’t be confused by the title, this isn’t about the wife of the eponymous antihero of the Scottish play.  William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut is based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s play.  Transposed to nineteenth century England it has been referred to as Victorian noir.  Florence Pugh who impressed a couple of years ago with a supporting  role in the excelled The Falling is front and centre and in just about every scene, she doesn’t disappoint, neither does the film. Gripping and beautiful and directed with as confidence that belies the directors inexperience. Lady MacBeth

Lowriders – A family drama set against a backdrop of street art and the lowrider car culture in East Los Angeles.  Some of the dialogue is a little clunky and the acting a little wooden, but the family drama is compelling and the story is solid.  Lowriders

Sleepless – Scoot McNairy, Michelle Monaghan and Dermot Mulroney are all good in supporting roles.  The normally reliable Jamie Foxx is terrible in the lead, it as if you can see him acting like a poor salesman selling a lie.  The plot is filled with endless twists, turns and reveals, everyone you see coming.  The concept isn’t bad, maybe with a better director it could have been OK. Sleepless

Unlocked – You may as well cut and paste the review above.  Like Sleepless, this movie has a good cast: Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich who are all OK, and a weak link, in this case Orlando Bloom.  Bloom has a London accent to rival  Dick Van Dyke, this is more concerning considering Bloom was born about fifty miles outside London unlike the Missouri born American.  In case you are wondering, there are just as many twists and turns as above, and you will see them coming! Rapace deserves so much more. Unlocked

Miss Sloane – Having seemed to come out of nowhere less than a decade ago, Jessica Chastain has become just about the best actress of her generation.  This criminally overlooked film is one of her best performances.  The direction is taught with the two and bit hour runtime flying by.  The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mark Strong. Miss Sloane

Alien: Covanant – Have you ever seen a great film, where a weaker writer/director has devalued the original art?  There are many examples, Alien: Covanant is something far worse.  Alien director Ridley Scott hasn’t made a pointless pondering mess of a prequel Alien, he has made two.  I am sad to report this is as bad as Prometheus.  One positive, Michael Fassbender is good.Alien Covanant

Colossal – I am not going to say anything about the plot to this movie, just watch it and if you can do so without reading anything about it or seeing the trailer even better.  Not the film I was expecting but excellent none the less.  Anne Hathaway’s best performance since the brilliant Rachel Getting Married. Colossal

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer take on the legend of King Arthur is surprisingly not bad. Charlie Hunnam is pretty good in the leading role, the rest of the cast are also solid.  The modern street dialogue isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, Richie’s style as seen on the Sherlock Homes movies serves the action quite well, the week CGI and ridicules set pieces don’t.  It’s a mess but it has some good moments and it isn’t boring.  King Arthur Legend of the Sword

I have two contenders for Movie of the Month in what is probably the toughest choice I have ever had to make for this segment.  I don’t always pick the best movie, the first movie of the month went to one that presently surpassed me as I liked it after expecting to hate it.  When I can’t make a choice I tend to go with one of, or a combination of two philosophies: which am I most looking forward to seeing again, and which exceeded my expectations the most?  This doesn’t work here: I want to see them both again and they both exceeded my expectations, one had mixed reviews and the other I knew little about.  For that reason, I think for the first time, I am going to drop the Highlander tagline and pick two movies of the month: Lady MacBeth and Miss Sloane. Movie of the month may 2017

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A little like Robin Hood, every few years sees a new version of King Arthur, more often than not they fail to live up to the potential.  With the latest incarnation: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword due out next month, it’s a good time to look back at some past interpretations of the story:

King Arthur Legend of the Sword

The best interpretation of the legend I have come across came, not on the screen but on the page.  Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles (The Winter King (1995), Enemy of God (1995) and Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur (1997)) is a trilogy of books telling the story of Arthur from a more grounded prospective.  Set in a Post-Roman Britain at a time when the nation was under constant threat of invasion at the same time as being torn apart from within by petty struggles from the kingdoms.  There is also a struggle between the new Christianity that is sweeping the country and the Old Religions. The reason the story works so well is the way the magic is stripped away  to little more than superstition and legend leaving the writer free to tell a story of realistic historical fiction that retains all the elements of Arthurian mythology. Using the original Welsh legends of the Dark Ages as a foundation, but also including later European characters such as Lancelot.  Very  cinematic in its structure I am always surprised it has never been adapted for the screen, large or small.

The Warlord Chronicles

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): A ludicrously low budget and silly telling of the story that hits the marks you would expect in a story of Arthur with the comic inclusion of The Voice of God, killer rabbits, holy hand grenades, a wizard named Tim, a Trojan Rabbit, and who could forget The Knights who say Ni.  The budget didn’t stretch to horses so the actors skipped along pretending to be ridding they way children would in the playground, while their aids followed banging coconut shells together simulating early foley work.  The result is totally ridicules, but hilarious as you would expect from the Python’s.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Excalibur (1981): Taking its name from the legendary sword of King Arthur, John Boorman’s film is based on the 15th century Le Morte d’Arthur (the death of Arthur) by Thomas Malory.  Malory’s work has become the basis of many people’s Arthurian stories, it was itself based on existing stories from English, Welsh and French stories as well as his own inventions.  The film tells the story of Arthur from his conception to his downfall.  The story contains all the characters you would expect: King Arthur, Merlin, Guenevere, Morgana Le Fay, Lancelot, Perceval, Uther,  Pendragon, Igrayne, Mordred.  A million miles from the reality based version of Bernard Cornwell, this is pure fantasy and, probably the best fantasy version of the story.

Excalibur

King Arthur (2004): Let’s begin by saying the movies tagline “The True Story Behind the Legend” is a bit of a stretch, well actually it is total bullshit!  The story is as fictional as any other legend of Arthur.   Setting the story in a similar time to Bernard Cornwell’s take on the story, this Antoine Fuqua directed effort goes a stage further taking every sense of magic and fantasy out of the story.  Arthur (Clive Owen) is depicted as a Roman cavalry officer.  Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is a native Briton and the Daughter of Merlin (Stephen Dillane -best known as Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones) a tribal leader.  The story is a little convoluted but culminates in a Briton/Roman battle against Saxon invaders.  The film was met with nearly universally poor reviews but was actually an enjoyable if slight film with a fantastic cast making the most of the underwritten characters.

King Arthur

Again like Robin Hood, Arthur has also appeared on TV many times, here are a few of the memorable ones:

Merlin (1998): A three part miniseries depicts Merlin as the central character of the story.  A fantastic cast is led by Sam Neill as the titular Merlin and Helena Bonham Carter as Morgan Le Fey. The effects look dated now but  the story is good.

Merlin

The Mists of Avalon (2001): I have never seen this two part, three hour miniseries but am intrigued.  The IMDB synopsis reads: Based on the bestseller by Marion Zimmer Bradley It tells the story of the women behind King Arthur; including his mother, Igraine; his half-sister, Morgaine; his aunt Viviane, the Lady of the Lake; and his wife, Gwenwyfar.

The Mists of Avalon

Camelot (2011): It ran for just one 10 episode season on HBO and was largely overshadowed by Game of Thrones that started around the same time.  It wasn’t great but has some interesting ideas, namely complicated flawed human characters rather than black and white portraits of good and evil.  The main reason to watch are Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and Eva Green as Morgan. It is probably a good think that it didn’t catch on as it may have stopped Eva Green making the amazing Penny Dreadful.  The other reason I mention the series here, is that its look is very similar to what I can see of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from the trailer.

Camelot

There has also been a very popular series Merlin that ran on primetime BBC from 2008 to 2012, I gave up on it after the first episode so don’t really know anything about it beyond its popularity.  Will King Arthur: Legend of the Sword be any good and go on to be a franchise, or will Excalibur (1981) remain the benchmark for Arthurian movies.  Check back in a month or two to find out. 

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