Movie Review: “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen, Eric Bana, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Neil Maskell
Guy Ritchie

Director Guy Ritchie has had a fair amount of success breathing new life into old properties (“Sherlock Holmes,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), but when it was announced that he would be helming an adaptation of the King Arthur legend, something about the pairing seemed off, and it’s a feeling that permeates throughout “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Ritchie’s unique filmmaking style is constantly pushing back against the more traditional elements of a summer tentpole movie, and while that may have worked to good effect in the aforementioned projects, there’s a more noticeable divide here that prevents the film from having a clear identity. “Legend of the Sword” has plenty of great moments, but the sum of those parts is disappointingly mediocre.

The film opens in grand fashion as King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) defends Camelot from an army of giant elephants under the control of the evil sorcerer Mordred (Rob Knighton). Upon his victory, however, Uther is betrayed by his younger brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who murders the king and steals his crown, but not before Uther’s young son Arthur manages to escape down the river. Forced to survive on the tough streets of Londinium, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) grows up to become a small-time criminal who operates out of the very brothel where he was raised.

Meanwhile, Vortigern has become increasingly concerned that Uther’s true heir will return one day to reclaim the throne, so he’s begun rounding up all the men of a certain age and challenged them to pull the magical sword Excalibur, which can only be wielded by a descendant of the Pendragon bloodline, from its resting place. When Arthur actually succeeds, thus revealing himself as the prophesized Born King, Vortigern swiftly orders his execution. Fortunately, Arthur is rescued by a small group of resistance fighters, including Uther’s most trusted knight Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and a mysterious disciple of Merlin (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), who encourage him to accept his destiny and put an end to his uncle’s tyrannical rule.

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Movie Review: “Snatched”

Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Tom Bateman, Ike Barinholtz, Christopher Meloni
Jonathan Levine

“Snatched” is very light on its feet. Even at 90 minutes, director Jonathan Levine’s comedy can wear thin, but it’s not without some kind-hearted laughs. Plus, as mother and daughter, Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are able to keep the comedy afloat even when it struggles to find momentum.

Emily (Schumer) is a little dissatisfied with her life. After losing her job and getting dumped by her boyfriend, all she has to look forward to is a vacation for two in Ecuador that she was meant to take with her ex. After a funny and relatable exchange with her mother Linda (Hawn) over her single relationship status on Facebook, Emily pays her a visit, which Linda thinks she only does when she wants something. They both love each other but have grown distant since Emily left home. After all her friends turn down the trip, however, Emily asks her mom to come along. Linda is happy to stay at the resort and read her book while her daughter parties with James (Tom Bateman), who she met at a bar earlier that day, but when James takes Linda and Emily out for an adventure, the mother and daughter get kidnapped. They manage to escape, but trouble continues to chase them throughout the jungle.

The film begins with a misleading text that makes us assume Emily and Linda are about to go on an insane adventure, but it never gets as crazy or as funny as one would hope with Schumer and Hawn on the run from criminals. In fact, the R-rated comedy often plays it safe, sometimes feeling more like a PG-13 film, although Emily and her mom’s South American adventure goes to some genuine places.

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Apotheosis: Why “American Gods” is the culmination of Bryan Fuller’s career

With just two episodes, the new Starz show “American Gods” has displayed more originality, depth and complexity of tone than most TV series achieve in multiple seasons. Moving effortlessly between grim darkness and fantastical whimsy, it plunges into the multifaceted religious experience while also investigating the human experience. And although it is based on Neil Gaiman’s excellent book, this slice of television perfection could only have been delivered into a new medium with the magical realism of showrunner Bryan Fuller. Throughout his career, Fuller has shown an indelible ability to uniquely traverse between the light and dark, but it’s not until “American Gods” that Fuller was able to perfectly unify so many of his particular idiosyncrasies, obsessions and visions.

As a writer and producer, Fuller has worked on many beloved projects over the years, whether it’s his start in the “Star Trek” universe, his canceled-too-soon dramedy “Wonderfalls” or his work shepherding the cheerleader storyline in the first season of NBC’s “Heroes.” He also tried his hand with ethereal creations in “Dead Like Me” and dabbled in the comically macabre world of the Munsters with the failed reboot, “Mockingbird Lane.” But ultimately, the two shows that best reflect his ethos and duality are “Pushing Daisies” and “Hannibal.” While both cater around an eccentric cast in a sort of hyperrealistic version of life, their tones could not have been more different. And it wasn’t until “American Gods” that Fuller found a way to unify them under one story.

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Blu Tuesday: Heat and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Heat: Director’s Definitive Edition”

Michael Mann’s 1995 crime thriller is one of the best films in the genre, and it’s aged remarkably well in the 20-plus years since its release. Though the movie is perhaps best known for the iconic diner sequence between stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, whose cat-and-mouse tension permeates the entire film despite only sharing two scenes together, “Heat” has so many memorable moments (including the opening heist and the climactic shootout) that it continues to be imitated to this day. Although there’s nothing different about the director’s cut featured here than the one that appears on the 2009 Blu-ray (for all intents and purpose, this is the official version of the movie), the new 4K remaster that was supervised by Mann is such a treat that it makes this rerelease a must-own for diehard fans.

Extras include an audio commentary by director Michael Mann, a three-part making-of featurette, the 2016 Academy panel with the cast and crew, a Q&A from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, deleted scenes and more. FINAL VERDICT: BUY

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Movie Review: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki
James Gunn

It’s hard to believe that most people had never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to 2014, because in the three years since the release of the first movie, they’ve become some of the most popular characters in the entire MCU. While there was certainly an immense amount of pressure on returning director James Gunn to create a worthy follow-up, you wouldn’t know it from the self-assured confidence that the film exudes. Admittedly, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” isn’t as fresh as its predecessor, but it’s almost as much as fun, and that’s to the credit of Gunn and his excellent cast, who have once again delivered an offbeat, action-packed space opera (with yet another killer soundtrack) that doesn’t skimp on humor or heart.

After saving the universe from Kree fanatic Ronan the Accuser, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the rest of the Guardians have parlayed their newfound fame into a lucrative career as mercenaries. But when they’re hired by a race of pretentious, gold-skinned beings called the Sovereign to kill an interdimensional beast in exchange for Gamora’s captured half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), the Guardians manage to piss off their employers by stealing some of the valuable batteries they were charged with protecting. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Guardians are rescued at the last minute by an ancient celestial entity called Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s long-lost father. Though Peter is thrilled to finally meet his dad and learn more about his secret heritage, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is suspicious of Ego’s true motives. Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) is recruited by the Sovereign’s High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to track down and apprehend the Guardians for punishment, leading to a mutiny among his crew when he refuses to turn them over.

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