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Pick it up. You know you want to.

So if we take a really loose version of the Arthurian mythology, marry it to a cockney London (er… Londinium) gangster story, sprinkle in a bunch of references, some in tribute and some mocking, to other fantasy movies… this is what we get? This is what we get. The result is ridiculous and will offend the sensibilities of just about every type of nerd out there. Your history nerds will scratch their heads about everything from wardrobe to chronology to props, your mythology and literary nerds will want to know why King Arthur is suddenly Robin Hood, and your fantasy nerds might be placated by the most awesome magic sword in the history of magic swords, but their literalist tendencies will be set alight and pissed on by this movie’s utter disregard for consistent or coherent world-building. And we already know what the movie nerds think. Spoiler: they are not happy.

For my money, King Arthur is a more enjoyable movie than either of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock films mostly because it dares to be far more bonkers and far more often at that. But it also has the same issues, including an overly dour colour scheme which mars some otherwise beautiful compositions and sequences. It also has an overly smug lead, which I’ll talk about more later. The visual issues are compounded by a really bad (in my theater anyway) use of 3D. Like, 2005 bad. This movie is so dark that many of the aesthetic details especially in CG-heavy scenes are lost. I would bet that this is not a theater issue but one with the quality of the post-processing, since many people are complaining about the uninspiring visuals of the movie. They aren’t totally correct, there’s a lot to love visually here, but the movie consistently holds itself back by being 3D for absolutely no fucking reason. When I get to see it again, it will not be in 3D and I’m hoping the visual elements register more clearly more often. On the other hand, the music in this movie is brilliant. Even the non-score anachronistic songs. Forget the term for those, but they are well-used here.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is overall a baffling movie. I don’t want to ruin anybody’s fun here, because this movie actually is plenty fun, it’s just that the whole thing doesn’t really come together the way you want it to. There are many elements that work well, especially when the movie isn’t taking itself seriously, but many more that do not. It’s a huge boys’ club, with almost no female characters and the few present get very little to do besides support the male hero or die trying, but it also wins some diversity points by not pretending the medieval world was lily white the way the racists like to. Some will accuse King Arthur, kind of wrong-headedly, of casting it like it’s taking place in Modern London rather than ~500CE Londinium. It’s a fascinating exercise, really, because here we have this remix, this mash-up, and who better to do that with Arthurian myth, especially with the music video sensibility that King Arthur displays, than Guy Ritchie? But honestly, did they ever stop to think if they should do it? No, they did not. They were planning like five of these. I doubt we’ll even get two.


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The scale of this movie is in its own category.

I followed the production of Pacific Rim since I first heard about it. There’s probably no one who was more hyped for this movie than me. Pacific Rim wound up not being quite the slam dunk I wish it was, but it is a great ridiculous distillation of 80’s action movies, Saturday Morning cartoons, and corny ghetto anime. It’s the closest thing to a live action anime since Speed Racer. There’s no other movie quite like this, though, and that includes Speed Racer. But that doesn’t mean Pacific Rim always feels brand new. The story actually feels pretty familiar, maybe too familiar, and the plot is so basic and characterization so lean that there’s not much of the story that really differentiates itself from those familiar things. This may put off some people, but it should be noted that Pacific Rim is a movie aimed squarely at ten year olds, not jaded thirty year olds with enough pop culture awareness to chart every beat, reference, and quirk of of the movie. If you’re the type of person who enjoys that stuff, you’ll have a ball here. Guillermo Del Toro is the type of guy who enjoys that stuff, and so his movie is awash with it. It’s almost as prominent a feature as the film’s robust world-building (one of its strongest features). I’m sure Del Toro is the most responsible for the sheer level Pacific Rim reaches in that (blowing even District 9 out of the water), but writer Travis Beacham also deserves tons of credit.

Without splitting hairs too much, Pacific Rim is all about seeing some shit you haven’t seen in a movie before. Namely, watching gigantic mechs with human pilots do battle against sea monsters. That is exactly what you’re going to get. The story and characters exist to serve the initial hook or get the fuck out of the way. That introduces some problems, particularly a lack of story meat to chew on. The thinness of the story does not make it stupid, however. Everything functions perfectly well in spite of some rough edits and a few too many places where you really feel the absence of the three-hour cut that’s supposed to exist.

At its worst, Pacific Rim is a big corny cartoon that is another example of something I’ve talked about before: the cinematic equivalent of a big dopey dog that fucking loves you. This is a robotic dog painted up like an airshow plane, yes, but a dog all the same.

But at its best, it’s a spectacle unlike any other. This is big all over. Big subjects, big moments, and big clear images of staggering beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

This movie really surprised me.

The Ledge is that other movie about a guy on a ledge threatening to kill himself. No one knows this one exists, I guess. I don’t think it had a theatrical release (though it deserved one) even though it has a great cast. The one people are going to notice is Man on a Ledge with Sam Worthington which seems like a version of Inside Man in that it’s kind of a heist movie.

The Ledge is a drama that hinges on faith. I read about it and people called it a directly, vocally pro-Atheism movie and that alone was enough to catch my attention. I expected it to be a lot more preachy and a lot less good than it turned out to be, though. Your mileage may vary considering where it does get a little preachy is largely preaching to the choir for myself and I assume any reasonable person. Read the rest of this entry »


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