I was delayed in writing this segment as I was watching one of the reviewed films just last night. I simply didn’t get an opportunity to get to the computer when it was completed.
The first film this week was on Netflix, and I know that Alison has always talked about and enjoyed a good swashbuckling adventure. Add to the swords and period costume a fantasy aspect and there can be some good escapism. For me, I like all of that as well, and add that I also really like the King Arthur and Excalibur story. I own Excalibur, the 1981 film with a young Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson etc. where the focal point was Merlin (Nichol Williamson) and he manipulating people, and ultimately being manipulated himself by Morgana. But enough about the history and why I wanted to give King Arthur: Legend of the Sword , directed by Guy Ritchie. This is not my version of the Arthur story at all. Likely that is the point, that they wanted to put a fresh new spin on it. That was the intent, but the story itself falls flat. There is an updated style, which is definitely Ritchie with his quick shots, cuts and rapid movements. Add in the more modern music (less strings and orchestra, and more drums and beat) and it has a whole different look and feel. It’s disjointed. The very young Arthur, isn’t taken from his parents dramatically by Merlin, but rather escapes in a Christian fashion from a new King who kills his brother and wants to kill all the offspring. Sinister witch-like forces, reminiscent of Macbeth, are at work for this new King (played by Jude Law) as he tries to strengthen his power. As I watched I kept thinking, “where’s Merlin?”. No where to be found except a young female disciple who has some power over animals (think Brandon Stark in a way). The young street rat Arthur has no interest in wielding Excalibur and fights accepting and utilizing its considerable powers. The story moves on in its new way, but with predictable results. Sadly it wasn’t very satisfying.
Last night was renting (finally) If Beale Street Could Talk, and I will wait for Alison to send me a Mary Tyler Moore response of “Oooooh Rob…” and explain to me what I was missing. Because after I finished, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I waited for the Regina King Oscar worthy performance. I waited for the story to move me in many ways. Where do I start? First there is the age old challenge of expectations, and mine were set high for this given all the hype. From TIFF where people commented about how it should have won the People’s Choice Award as Best Film (Oscar Winner Green Book did) and how the performances were so amazing. So I was awaiting a riveting evening of cinema. I watched and watched as the story of this young black couple in the Bronx unfolds. There were storylines that were begun and then fell away (like the boyfriend’s family and notably the Mother). The attitudes of the fathers that I hope are beliefs not held by all, where “we know some schemes, and we can go out and make some money for our kids” as they begin a fencing operation. That may be reality for some but it is a sad commentary. Then of course, as a lawyer, the criminal justice system that gets put on trial. There are corrupt cops, and prosecutors and judges presumably who are aiming to keep putting these young black men down. They conspire and fix situations for reasons that are not entirely clear. Finally my biggest challenge was following the timelines as the story jumped around from one time to the next. A sequential plotline would have helped as the jumping back and forth was just confusing, like even the whole issue of conception. But I won’t delve any further into that. In the end, it was not very satisfying and I even mumbled to myself “this better not be how it ends…” and then it did. Ugh! Roll credits and then I roll my eyes. I couldn’t even bother to finish the Extras on the DVD with deleted scenes, because I just didn’t need to see any more. Some movies inform, some movies entertain, some movies enlighten — in times where it’s hard to find something positive to point to, this movie didn’t provide any feeling of being uplifted or adding to the human story. Maybe more time for me should be spent watching the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to do that.