King Arthur: Legend of the Sword review

arthurThere are some stories that we will never stop telling. The recent round of these stories, be it fairytales, legends or classic books, seem to lean towards the “darker and grittier” aesthetic. A lot of people complain that this is unnecessary; that it leaves the characters one dimensional, and makes the ridiculous aspects of fantasy worlds all the more obvious and harder to swallow. But there are good things to say about this “genre” of remake. For one, it occacionally looks totally badass. It also, when done right, allows otherwise “silly” aspects of stories to be reworked, which can be a good stepping stone to more nuanced versions of those stories.

The gritty remake of King Arthur was King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen as the legendary king. It did not add much to the Arthurian legend, and only stands out in my mind due to the uproar over Keira Knightly’s photoshopped bosom on the poster. It’s a bit of an odd relic today, full of actors who would become better known later, for better or worse.

Guy Ritchie’s take on the well-known story is full of grittiness – silent screams, washed out colours, deep drumming music. In the hands of any other director it might have come out as “Batman in the 12th century”, but Ritchie has his own aesthetic, one that clashes head first into the dark fantasy version of Camelot. If you don’t like Guy Ritchie, you won’t like this film. It has all his hallmarks: parallell story, hard to follow narrators, hand held running, slow-motion, and cheeky banter. But does it lean too much in either direction? Would the story have been better served if it layed on more dark grit, or more lock stock?

Spoilers ahead.

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Beauty and the Beast Review

beautyI’m tempted to bastardise Dickens for my own amusement, so here it goes: all Disney-haters hate Disney in the same way, all Disney-lovers love Disney each in their own way. We all have our favourites, we all prefer one technique over another, some languages over others. I can swallow Hakuna Matata in Norwegian, but don’t you dare show me The Little Mermaid in my native tongue. I love Sleeping Beauty for its art, Tangled for its feel-goodness, The Hunchback of Notre Dame for its score, and Hercules for James Woods alone.

The new live-action Disney classics are very difficult to review without these childhood emotions colouring everything. It is therefore much easier to simply lay all those biases out, and see the movie as it is: an adaptation, from animation to live-action. In my humble opinion, I think Beauty and the Beast (2017) improves on the original in many ways.

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Assassin’s Creed Review 

assRebels, freedom fighters, revolutionaries, or resistance members. All have at times throughout history used questionable methods, even terrorism, assassinations etc. to further their goals. Who are the good guys when those opposed to oppression kill without discrimination? That question has been at the core of my fascination with the Assassin’s Creed videogame series. “Nothing is true… Everything is premitted” is the Creed. The Assassins make no excuses for their utter lack of morals. Their sworn enemies are the Templars, who while claiming the moral high ground are just as shady, and they want to rule the world.

The games are far from perfect, and some are even unplayable, but they all have a hint of that pure awesomeness found in the first game. I feel it most strongly when wandering through a crowd, approaching the target exactly as planned, before striking quickly and efficiently and then disappearing without a trace. It seemed almost impossible not to make a badass movie out of it, and yet somehow they managed to take everything bad from the games, and leave very little of the good stuff in.

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Arrival review

arrivalThe Star Trek series Deep Space Nine was recently added to our local Netflix. Having not watched it since it came out on dvd after it aired, I was eager to get lost in it again. During the first episode (which is a great first episode) there were some surprising similarities between the aliens known as “prophets” and certain aliens I experienced just a day prior at the cinema.

Arrival is being hailed as one of the best sci-fi movies of the year, the decade, even of all time. I’ve seen people gush this movie to pieces, so my expectations were very high. The film, however, doesn’t really need hype. It’s not a “hypeable” film for me. Afterwards, as people stood in groups outside the cinema, you didn’t hear a lot of excitement. Instead people were talking about the ideas the film explored. Arrival is that very rare thing: a movie complicated enough to make people want to debate heavy concepts, gracious enough not to talk down to its audience, and yet completely accessible to the average movie-goer.

Spoilers below!

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Dr. Strange review

strangeA photographic memory, a complicated personality, 177A Blecker street, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Which genius literary hero am I speaking of? It’s Dr. Steven Strange, the charming, flirtatious, magical doctor, played, as the universe dictates, by the equally charming Mr. Cumberbatch.

Marvel continues to stretch their opening logo-time with each success, showing off the status of their brand. They have every reason to gloat, and Dr. Strange does nothing to change that. But, does it enhance the brand? Does it lie in that good second-tier Marvel shelf, along with Ant-Man and Thor, or does it stretch up to that top shelf to be remembered among the Guardians, Winter Soldier and Thor (I’m conflicted, ok?). Read below to get my take on the shelving of Dr. Strange.

SPOILERS BELOW

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Kongens Nei – The King’s No

kongensneiIt might be strange for Americans, who fought a war to get rid of a king, to learn that Norwegians voted one in after gaining their independence peacefully. Since 1905, when Norway left the union with Sweden, our kings have been a source of pride, patriotism and fondness. This is useful in that we can all hate on our politicians as much as we like. During the Second World War King Haakon VII was used by many as a symbol of resistance against the Nazi occupation.

The King’s No is perhaps the story that cemented this sentiment in the Norwegian people. It adds as much action and epic patriotism as it can, without sacrificing too much history on the alter of Hollywood. The result is something between a History Channel reenactment (with a budget) and a biographical look into a foreign prince who became a democratically elected king.

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The Legend of Tarzan

tarzanPosterI was never a great fan of Disney’s Tarzan. The songs and animation are outstanding, but the film can be quite annoying whenever it forgets its purpose, which is often. Tarzan is an iconic character, and like many such characters he has been reshaped from the book version into a more fixed idea in pop culture. The classic shout, for example, is from an earlier live action film. It’s surprising it took this long for us to get a modern remake, but perhaps not if we look at the success (or lack thereof) of similar properties.

The local reaction to the new films has been a lot of “meh”, and the cinema was almost empty when I finally got there this weekend. Someone called it an empty action flick, which I think is an unfair assessment. But, as I always try to expose my biases, I tend to be far more forgiving on these types of adventure films than most (see: John Carter, Prince of Persia, etc)

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) stars Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan, and is set about eight years after Tarzan and Jane (Margot Robbie) have left Africa to live as Lord and Lady Greystoke in London. They are called back to Africa by the invitation of King Leopold of Belgium to see his great progress in the Congo. Those with a overview knowledge of history will know this is a load of crap. The King’s agent in the Belgian Congo, Leo Rom (Christoph Waltz), has other plans for Tarzan.

The below review will contain minor spoilers.

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