Quick Review: King Arthur – Legend of the Sword (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


KingArthur-LegendoftheSwordUsually, when I go to the movies, I either eat before I get there, or after the movie is done. This way, I don’t have to get up at all and miss anything. If it’s a film I’ve seen before, I’ll take the weakest part to use as a bathroom / food break, if I have to go. It’s one way I can tell if I like what I’m watching.

I got up twice for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Once to go downstairs and get a popcorn and drink, and a second time for a free refill. I even left my stuff behind in my chair for anyone to take on the second trip out. That’s how low my interest in this film fell after about 30 minutes in. I trusted the fates not to have someone steal my motorcycle jacket (keys, gear and all) to take a break from this film.

This may not be the best review to read about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

The Arthurian Legend has been captured in film a number of times. The Last Legion, First Knight, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Excalibur (my personal favorite), and most recently, Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur starring Clive Owen. There’s nothing wrong with a retelling of the story, but Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is all over the place and feels like it has nothing to do with the legends. This isn’t anything against Ritchie. I own Rock-N-Rolla and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and I loved Snatch. King Arthur was just off to me. Even the Sherlock Holmes films seemed more grounded than this one does. None of the actors are truly able to save this film, and a few people actually left in the middle of my showing. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever watched, but Ritchie’s made better films than this.

Granted, I didn’t really walk in with a lot of expectations. The film had it’s release date changed, being sandwiched right between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the week before and Alien: Covenant the week after. It really didn’t have a chance, though I thought maybe it could at least hold the weekend. On the other hand, the movie did feel like a lot of the sword and sorcery films I grew up with in the ‘80s, such as Hawk The Slayer, Beastmaster, Ridley Scott’s Legend, The Sword & the Sorcerer, hell, even Barbarian Queen. In that sense, I might say that the film holds up. If you’re not trying to compare it with anything Arthur/Camelot related, you may actually enjoy it.

Legend of the Sword is the story of Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), who needs to save his land from the evil King Vortigern (Jude Law) after reclaiming the great sword Excalibur. I could say more, but I’d give too much away. He’s aided by his friends, Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen), along with a Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) that takes the place of Merlin, who’s absent here. Everyone’s performances are okay, particularly Law and Gillen, who chew up any scene they’re in. Hunnam does just as good with what he’s given, but his Arthur is a bit of an ass at the start. Everyone seems to enjoy what they’re doing here. Even David Beckham gets a moment as a henchman. Of them, the only character I really cared about was Goosefat Bill. Aiden Gillen can play the hero, and play one well.

To his credit, Guy Ritchie’s direction is as quick and sharp as it ever was. When there’s action, it’s fast and fluid. You’ve got great running sequences, and giant CGI animals. Even the swordplay is fun, particularly when Excalibur is involved (those are really the best parts). It’s stylish, and looks awesome in some scenes. The dialogue is rapid, with quick cuts along whole segments. It’s what we’ve come to know and expect from Guy Ritchie. Though it worked well for his modern crime films, it come across as being a little disjointed here. I was hoping for King Arthur, not Underworld Boss Arthur who could be Robin Hood, along with his would be Merry Men of Sherwood Forest.

While I’m not saying that every element of the Arthur tale needed to be expanded upon, Legend of the Sword suffers from a few jump cuts that say “Don’t worry about all of this info, just know we reached point B from point A.” It’s efficient, but also turns the entire tale into a Cliffs Notes / Wikipedia summary. The film moves that quick. The film is peppered with these abbreviations that’s supposed to move the narrative along, but does this so fast that you almost have a tough time believing this movie was actually 2 hours long. I’m not asking for Hamlet, but at least allow your characters to flourish or grow or gain something about them that’s endearing. I’ll also admit to having a short attention span, it’s not that short that it requires quick-cut bursts to keep me enthralled.

Overall, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a miss for me. If you have to catch it, you may want to wait for the VOD edition.

6 Reviews To Help Lisa Get Caught Up: Ant-Man, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, The Man From UNCLE, Terminator: Genisys


So, it’s that time of year!  2015 is nearly over and soon, it will be time for me to make out my best-of and worst-of lists.  That means that now is the time that I look over all the films that I have watched up to this point, I realize how many of those films I have yet to review ,and I think, “Oh my God, how did I get this far behind?”

So, here are 6 capsule reviews, designed to help me get caught up!

Marvel's Ant-Man

Ant-Man (dir by Peyton Reed)

Ant-Man has already been reviewed twice on this site, once by Leonard Wilson and once by Ryan The Trashfilm Guru.  Leonard liked it.  Ryan did not.  As for me, my reaction was somewhere in between.  I enjoyed Ant-Man, though not as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the previous Marvel films.  Ant-Man was better than the second Thor film but nowhere close to being as good as Captain America: Winter Soldier.

What I did like about Ant-Man were the performances of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena.  I even enjoyed Michael Douglas’s performance, which is saying something when you consider the fact that, as of late, Michael Douglas has really been making my skin crawl.  I also thought that the film did a good job creating Ant-Man’s microscopic world, even if I’m still not totally sold on the character as a dynamic hero.  I do wish that the film had a stronger villain.  Corey Stoll is such a good actor and capable of doing so much and it was hard not to regret that he was stuck playing such a generic bad guy.

Cinderella (dir by Kenneth Branagh)

Oh, how I loved Cinderella!  The film, a live-action retelling of the Cinderella story, was a gorgeous fairy tale and a wonderful reminder that a film doesn’t have to be dark and depressing to be good.  (In many ways, Cinderella serves as an antidote to not only Into The Woodsbut countless Tim Burton films as well.)  Lily James is beautiful in the title role, Richard Madden is wonderfully charming as the prince, and Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter are perfectly cast as the stepmother and the fairy godmother.

Jurassic World (dir by Colin Trevorrow)

Jurassic World was previously reviewed by Ryan the Trashfilm Guru.  I hate to admit it but I was, initially, one of those people who watched Jurassic World and got annoyed because the film was predictable and the script was a bit clunky.  Traditionally (and, if you doubt me, just read my review of Avatar), it bothers me when a film devotes so much time special effects that it can’t seem to be bothered with character development and clever dialogue.

But then I thought about it somewhat and I thought to myself, you know what?  This movie had Chris Pratt and it had some very convincing dinosaurs!  And, especially when it comes to a summer blockbuster, that is sometimes all you need.

(Why I enjoyed Jurassic World while disliking Avatar largely comes down to the difference between Chris Pratt and Sam Worthington.)

Magic Mike XXL (dir by Gregory Jacobs)

Oddly enough, I had the roughly the same reaction to Magic Mike XXL that I had to Jurassic World.  Yes, there are certain things — mostly concerning the film’s script — about which I could nitpick but what’s truly important is that Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and most of the original cast of Magic Mike is back and they’re stripping again.  Magic Mike XXL is a huge (heh heh) crowd pleaser, a film that delivers exactly what it promises.

Though Steven Soderbergh served as cinematographer for Magic Mike XXL, he did not return to serve as director and perhaps that’s why Magic Mike XXL feels like a far less pretentious film than the first Magic Mike.  Out of the original cast, both Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer both declined to appear in the sequel.  McConaughey is missed, Pettyfer less so.

The Man From UNCLE (dir by Guy Ritchie)

The Man From Uncle is one of the many stylish spy films to be released this year.  Henry Cavill is an American spy, Armie Hammer is a Russian spy, and Hugh Grant is the Englishman who tells them both what to do.  The Man From Uncle was entertaining.  It took place in the 60s, so there was a lot of wonderful retro fashion and the whole movie moved at a nice, breezy pace.  Ultimately — and I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly fair — The Man From UNCLE suffered because it was released in the same year as Kingsman and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  Man From UNCLE was entertaining but rather generic.  At no point did it reach the lunatic high of Kingsman’s Free Bird sequence.

Terminator: Genisys (dir by Alan Taylor)

You can read Ryan’s review of Terminator: Genisys here.  I have to admit that Terminator: Genisys confused the Hell out of me.  Not being a huge fan of the entire Terminator franchise (though, yes, I do know what Skynet is and I have seen the first two films), I do have to admit that I sometimes felt lost while watching Genisys.

But you know what?  If you just sit back and relax and try not to think about the film too much — if you just accept it as an action film and watch for the stunts and the explosions — Terminator: Genisys is not the disaster that many critics made it out to be.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.  Most critics would die before they gave a good review to any film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  (Just check out all the negativity that greeted the brilliant zombie film, Maggie.)  After all, Schwarzenegger is an outspoken, confident, cheerfully arrogant Republican and most film critics can only relate to the arrogant part.  (And even then, they don’t ever seem to be very cheerful about it…)  Terminator: Genisys is a well-made and perfectly adequate action film, one that works as long as you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  It’s cinematic junk food and there’s nothing wrong with that.

terminator-genisys-super-bowl-ad-debuts

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


One of my favorite films of 2009 was Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.  I saw the first (of probably many) sequels to that film this weekend.  Now, I have to admit that I was kinda worried about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  As much as I loved the first film, it definitely had the feeling of being a happy accident.  There were so many obvious ways to screw the film up that I found myself suspecting that that’s exactly what would happen with the sequel and I worried that a bad sequel would make it impossible for me ever to really enjoy the first film.  Well, having seen Game of Shadows, I can see that no, it’s not as good as the first film.  However, it’s still  pretty good.

Game of Shadows picks up the story a bit after the end of the first film.  Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is still doing cocaine and solving mysteries in London.  Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is still his best friend and is still planning on getting married and, not surprisingly, Holmes is still not happy about the idea of losing him.  Holmes is also still investigating the mysterious criminal mastermind, Dr. James Moriarty (Jared Harris).  Holmes discovers that Moriarty is behind a series of world-wide anarchist bombings and, with the world on the verge of war, Holmes and Watson attempt to both figure out why and to thwart Moriarty’s scheme.  While I haven’t read enough Sherlock Holmes to say for sure (I read the Hound of the Baskervilles in high school and that’s about it), I get the feeling that, plotwise, this film was probably more James Bond than traditional Sherlock Holmes.  But no matter, it’s an intriguing enough plot and director Ritchie wisely doesn’t spend too much time trying to hammer home that similarities between Moriarty’s scheme and certain modern-day conspiracy theories.

If the first Sherlock Holmes was a comedy with some action scenes, this sequel is definitely an action film with a lot of comedic relief.  Whether or not this increases or diminishes your enjoyment of the sequel really depends on how you feel about the action genre in general.  To be honest, most big budget action films bore me several shades of silly and Game of Shadows pulls out all the usual tricks — slow motion explosions, fist fights full of jump cuts so quick that it becomes impossible to really keep track of who is actually fighting who, and the whole zooming into the barrel of a gun just as the trigger is pulled routine.  And yet these action sequences didn’t inspire my usual eye rolling, if just because it was obvious that the film itself understood just how over-the-top and silly all of it was.  The film has the decency not to demand that I take it seriously and for that, I’m more willing to accept the predictable parts than I would be with a film like Battle L.A.

Besides, even with the increased emphasis on action, the filmmakers still understand that what made the first Sherlock Holmes work was the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.  Seriously, Downey and Law have some of the strongest chemistry in the movies today.  Certainly, there a more believable couple than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  (It’s probably not a coincidence that the film, very early on, establishes that Watson is getting married and that Holmes is still mourning Rachel McAdams from the previous film.)  You buy their friendship and it’s just fun to watch these two actors bouncing lines off of each other.  Downey still comes across more like Robert Downey. Jr. than Sherlock Holmes (and that’s just fine with me) but Jude Law actually gets a chance to act in this film and he brings a lot of life to a character who, on paper, would just seem to be the prototypical sidekick. 

Joining the cast in this installment as Jarded Harris as the evil Dr. Moriarty and Noomi Rapace as the gypsy fortune teller who gets caught up in Moriarty’s latest scheme.  Now, you may be surprised to hear this with the current efforts to brainwash us all into being Rooney Mara-compliant but Rapace was the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and, regardless of the film establishment’s attempts to revise history, she is the one who made Lisbeth Salander into an icon.  Unfortunately, Rapace doesn’t get to do much here but I was happy to see her if just to know that the Hollywood establishment hadn’t succeeded in erasing her from history.  As Moriarty, Jared Harris doesn’t have a lot of scenes but he still totally dominates the entire film.  Harris’s Moriarty is truly serpent-like, outwardly smooth and calm but, on the inside, always ready to strike.  He makes Moriarty into such a memorable, genuinely threatening villain that he ends up giving the film an extra dimension that otherwise wouldn’t be there.  It’s a great performance and hopefully, when the inevitable third Sherlock Holmes film is made, Moriarty will be back and Harris will be playing him.

Trailer: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Official)


In 2009, we saw the first film in what Warner Bros. hoped would be the start of a new film franchise in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Down, Jr. in the titular role with Jude Law playing his intrepid assistant, Dr. Watson. The film did quite well in the box-office that a sequel was greenlit right away and here we are just five months from the premiere of the follow-up film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

The first film introduced the character of Sherlock Holmes to the public who really didn’t know much of the iconic character. That film also introduced the one person who would become Holmes equal in intellect and deductive reasoning but without the moral center: Dr. James Moriarty. This arch-foil for Holmes is to be the main antagonist for the sequel and whoever decided to cast Jared Harris in the role of the good Dr. Moriarty should get a raise. Harris has always been one of those character actors who disappears into his roles in every film he has done but never seem to get any glory. Hopefully, once people have seen him in A Game of Shadows, this will change and he joins the likes of Mark Strong, Anthony Hopkins and others who toiled in relative obscurity until finally hitting it big as a charming villain in a major film.

New to the sequel will be Noomi Rapace just fresh off of her stand-out role as Lisbeth Salander in the film adaptation trilogy of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. Also, joining the returning cast is Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes. The film, as shown in the trailer, looks to ramp up the action and bring Holmes and Watson on a whirlwind tour of Europe.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is set for a December 16, 2011 release date.

Scenes I Love: Sherlock Holmes (2009)


One thing you can always count on with a Guy Ritchie film is an interesting fist fight. Sherlock Holmes, which I’ve watched tons of times, doesn’t disappoint. It incorporates a bit of Wing Chun, and the blows actually landed in this scene (at least according to the behind the scenes crew). The music in the background (The Dubliners “Rocky Road to Dublin”) also really adds to this. Shame it wasn’t on the soundtrack.