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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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Putting the “high” in high fantasy, amirite?

Warcraft isn’t all that bad. It’s a mess, but you can tell there’s a longer and more fully realized movie that Duncan Jones (director and co-writer) had taken away from him to some extent. Maybe the 2 hour and 40 minute version of Warcraft isn’t any better than this, but as is I think this movie feels incomplete.

That said, what’s left is certainly interesting. For one thing, this is a movie that you’d expect to follow the usual formula of nerd IPs, where maybe it’s 20% for the fans and 80% for everyone else. Instead, Warcraft is a movie that, for better or worse, was made by the fans and for the fans. The ratio is more like 70/30 or something. That means its a movie that deeply inhabits the games it sprang from, which can either be a very good or very bad thing for the much-maligned subgenre of videogame adaptations.

I’m not a huge fan of the Warcraft IP but I’ve played some of the games, including World of Warcraft, and picked up enough along the way to enjoy how fully realized this movie is as an adaptation of the IP. I also think that there were a lot of people sharpening their knives over this movie, due to the baggage of videogame adaptations and the way CG nerd IP movies have taken over the box office, even years before it released. That said, I can’t blame anyone for thinking Warcraft is generic, inaccessible, or dull. It kind of is all those things, but it’s also got more to offer if you keep an open mind. This is why my review will largely be in defense of the movie, but we’ll see how that goes. Read the rest of this entry »


Ah Netflix, what auspicious timing you have. On the heels of the release of the abortive attempt to bring this classic character to new audiences, Netflix has put up the original 1982 film in glorious HD. There was a time where it wouldn’t occur to me to do a Friday Night Netflix for this one but I’ve learned recently that it’s under-watched and consequently underrated for that sub-generation of 20-somethings whose parents didn’t raise them on a steady diet of 80’s movies. Conan the Barbarian has been extremely influential for me and remains not only one of my favorites but in my consideration one of the best movies ever made. It’s also the jewel of this genre, unrivaled not only by the string of similar movies made at the time but also any subsequent attempts to revitalize it for new audiences. Attempts like the Conan the Barbarian that just flopped horribly in a theater near you. That movie cannot hold the jockstrap of this earlier version and no, I don’t say that because I’m biased against remakes (I am a bit sometimes) or because of nostalgia. I watch Conan the Barbarian 1982 fairly often, multiple times a year, and it holds up like a motherfucker.

Now I’ll tell you why and why you should, if you haven’t, watch this fucking movie. Especially if you’re a dude. Or if you need a good reason to like Arnold Schwarzenegger as this is the definitive Arnie movie, whatever they say about Terminator. Actually, you should probably just see this movie as soon as possible. Now onto the why. Read the rest of this entry »


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