It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This raucous historical romp spins the iconic legend into something that's relentlessly entertaining, even if it never quite satisfies because it's in such a hurry to set up a sequel. Thankfully, there are some deeper themes along the way that give the actors something to chew on besides the scenery.
In post-Roman Britain, King Uther (Eric Bana) has been killed by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who made a deal that involved some very black magic. But Vortigern is haunted by the fact that Uther's infant son Arthur somehow escaped and will someday return to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone and claim his rightful throne. Meanwhile in Londinium, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has no idea who he really is. Raised in a brothel and trained as a muscled fighter, he has a nice little racket going on. So discovering his identity is a shock. He's immediately spirited away by a mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and some rebels (Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen) who help him plot how to take back his crown.
The entire film is essentially a chase as Vortigern and his chief goon (Peter Ferdinando) pursue Arthur and his growing band of rebels. That all of this is leading to an epic confrontation is no surprise. But Ritchie oddly frames each action sequence as a splintered montage, which means we're only ever watching a series of key images with no momentum or context. Some of these work cleverly, but they begin to wear us out: we know what's happening but we're not able to experience it ourselves. Thankfully the dialogue has a witty present-day snap that brings the characters and the camaraderie between them to vivid life.
Continue reading: King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword Review
A sharp improvement on the original, this second entry in The Divergent Series has a much stronger sense of its premise and characters, which makes it much more exciting to watch. Where Divergent felt gimmicky and a bit shallow, this chapter pushes the characters much deeper, giving the actors a chance to bring them more engagingly to life, which makes the odd set-up more involving as well.
It picks up immediately where the first film ended, with Tris (Shailene Woodley) escaping from post-apocalyptic, segmented-society Chicago with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and their shifty cohort Peter (Miles Teller). Hiding out in the Amity agricultural community, they know that Erudite leader Janine (Kate Winslet) has sent her goons (Jai Courtney and Mekhi Phifer) to find them. Actually, she needs a divergent to open an artefact from the pre-war days so she can rid Chicago of pesky divergents forever. When their location is discovered, Tris and pals head back into the city, teaming up with factionless leader Joanna (Naomi Watts) and getting help from the head of Candor (Daniel Dae Kim) before going to Erudite to face Janine.
The story has a strong push to it, driving these rebels ever closer to a confrontation with their nasty nemesis, and their journey is fraught with surprise wrinkles, vicious battles and some mind-bending imagery. In fact, there are so many dreams, flashbacks and computer simulations that it's not always clear if what's on screen is actually happening or not. But it all looks so cool that we hang on to discover where it'll go next, so the two hours passes briskly, and sometimes breathlessly. The film looks terrific, as director Robert Schwentke keeps the focus on the characters while creating some amazing effects around them, especially in the simulation sequences.
Continue reading: Insurgent Review
'Titans' - the team of superheroes that you may know best as the 'Teen Titans' - is being readied at TNT.
TNT, the Turner-owned cable network, is close to ordering a pilot of 'Titans' - a drama based on a group of superheroes. From the collective minds of Warner Horizon, DC Comics and writers Akiva Goldsman and Marc Haimes, the show will follow a group of young heroes recruited from every corner of the DC universe.
Akiva Goldsman will produce 'Titans'
Dick Grayson is the main man here. He emerged from the shadow of Batman to become Nightwing, the leader of the fearless band of new superheroes including Raven and Starfire.
Continue reading: TNT Going Ahead With Superhero TV Show 'Titans'
The fact that this magical romance has been retitled A New York Winter's Tale in the UK tells you what the filmmakers think of the audience: we can't be trusted to get anything on our own. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman lays everything on so thickly that there's nothing left for us to discover here. And he botches the tone by constantly shifting between whimsical fantasy and brutal violence. Sure, the manipulative filmmaking does create some emotional moments, but inadvertent giggles are more likely.
It's mainly set in 1916, where young orphan Peter (Farrell) is running from his relentlessly nasty former boss Pearly (Crowe), a gangster angry that Peter isn't as vicious as he is. Then Peter finds a mystical white horse that miraculously rescues him and leads him to the dying socialite Beverly (Brown Findlay). As they fall deeply in love, Peter believes he can create a miracle to save Beverly from the end stages of consumption. And Pearly is determined to stop him. But nearly a century later, Peter is still wandering around Manhattan in a daze, trying to figure out who he is and why he's still there. He gets assistance from a journalist (Connelly), who helps him make sense of his true destiny.
Yes, this is essentially a modern-day fairy tale packed with supernatural touches. But Goldsman never quite figures out what the centre of the story is, losing the strands of both the epic romance and the intensely violent vengeance thriller. Meanwhile, he condescends to the audience at every turn, deploying overwrought camera whooshing, frilly costumes, dense sets and swirly effects while a violin-intensive musical score tells us whether each a scene should be wondrous or scary. At the centre of this, Farrell somehow manages to hold his character together engagingly, even convincing us that Peter is around 25 years old (Farrell's actually 38).
Continue reading: Winter's Tale Review
The title kind of gives away the ending of this harrowing true story, which is worth a look despite its tendency to exaggerate the heroics. But it's also an unusually well-made military thriller that throws us right into the middle of the chaos with visceral filmmaking. And it's impossible to miss the point that these men rely on each other every moment of every day: they certainly can't survive alone.
The events take place in 2005 Afghanistan, where a Navy Seal team is sent into the mountains to find a feared Taliban leader (Azami). These men are like brothers, with Marcus (Wahlberg) leading Mike, Matt and Danny (Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch), under the command of Erik (Bana) back at the base. As they head out on their mission, everything goes to plan until they run into a group of innocent goatherds. Letting them go will compromise their mission, but it's clearly the right thing to do. And this decision sparks an escalating situation that seems increasingly hopeless.
From the very start, we know these Seals aren't normal soldiers: they undergo especially gruelling training and then bond tightly as colleagues, relying on their ruggedness, tenacity and camaraderie. Which of course allows writer-director Berg to portray them as superheroes. This is a problem, because it reduces the Afghans to faceless, murderous villains, at least until the much more complex final act in which an entire village risks its life to save an injured American soldier. And this strikingly moving sequence is the one we remember much more than the chest-pounding patriotism.
Continue reading: Lone Survivor Review
Peter Lake is a wanted burglar in a desperate struggle to escape an old gangster boss of his, Pearly Soames, in the cruel world that is 1916. One day, he breaks into a dazzling mansion that he thinks is empty, but then discovers the owner's beautiful daughter Beverly Penn at her piano who appears unafraid of him. Struck by her beauty, he embarks on a whirlwind romance with her that is marred when Peter discovers that she is dying of consumption. That's not the only thing Peter has to contend with as Soames repeatedly tries to kill him, but to no avail as Athansor, a white horse and guardian angel, is always there to save him. During one of those rescue feats, Peter finds himself in modern day Manhattan without a clue who he is and with no signs of aging. Determined to use this to his advantage, he sets out to save the one person he still remembers.
This heart-breaking fantasy romance is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin and has been adapted to screen by Oscar winning director and writer Akiva Goldsman ('Batman Forever', 'I Am Legend', 'The Da Vinci Code'). Not to be confused with the Shakespearian play of a similar name, 'Winter's Tale' is a tremendous story of reincarnation and eternal love and will released in UK cinemas on February 21st 2014.
Joseph Campbell was a famous mythologist, born in New York in 1904. He is most famous for his influential work, 'A Hero With A Thousand Faces', which was published in 1949 and influenced a generation of writers and artists, including Stanley Kubrick, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and George Lucas, to name but a few. Campbell also taught at Sarah Lawrence College in his hometown from 1934 to 1972, while balancing his research on myths and the human experience.
Continue: Finding Joe Trailer
Valerie Plame (Watts) is a high-level CIA operative juggling teams in a variety of locations. In the wake of 9/11, her focus is on investigating Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programme. Her husband, Joe Wilson (Penn), is the expert sent to Niger to investigate uranium rumours, but he finds no evidence.
And this is backed up by Valerie's discoveries from scientists in Iraq. So when Joe hears George W Bush lying in a State of the Union address, he writes a rebuttal. Enraged, Bush administration official Scooter Libby (Andrews) releases Valerie's identity.
Continue reading: Fair Game Review
On a mission in Bolivia, a five-man black-ops team is betrayed by their power-mad CIA boss Max (Patric) and left for dead. But they embark on a mission to get revenge and clear their names, with Clay (Morgan) leading techie Jensen (Evans), demolition expert Roque (Elba), driver-pilot Pooch (Short) and sniper Cougar (Jaenada). They also enlist the help of a sexy-but-shady woman (Saldana) as they track Max and his vile henchman (McCallany) from Miami to Los Angeles and try to stop his nefarious Bond-like plan.
Continue reading: The Losers Review
American audiences adore underdog stories, particularly those tied to sports. From Rocky to Seabiscuit, we devour worthy longshots given a chance to reclaim such precious commodities as pride, significance, or the undying love of family. That, and anything with Darth Vader in it.
Continue reading: Cinderella Man Review
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