Bite Size Review: I love the King Arthur Legend. It is my main literary obsession. I read every fictional adaptation of the story I can find, I read all the historical explanations, and even peruse the few scholarly articles written about the legend. Every time a movie comes along, I feel a brief moment of delight that quickly turns to dread. None of the Arthur films, in my opinion, does the legend justice. In this adaptation, Ritchie attempts to tell a more parsed down and gritty version. However, his execution falls flat. Some weird Mage with no name and a bevy of personal snakes replaces Merlin, even though snakes usually side with villains in the original legend. Snakes have never been associated with Arthur in a positive manner. Vortigern Pendragon (Jude Law) turns into a demonic despot who draws power from some weird hags who live in the moat under the castle. Eric Bana is completely underutilized as Uther Pendragon. Charlie Hunnam, while a good actor, just does not have the gravitas needed to elevate the material. If Ritchie stuck to one version of the legend and added in some mystical elements, then this movie could have captured the spirit of the story. This is yet another mess of a movie that degrades an amazing legend, which deserves so much better. (Best Arthur Movie is still Disney’s Sword in the Stone (1963), an adaptation of the first half of The Once and Future King by T. H. White)
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde (2003)
Bite Size Review: I lost brain cells watching this film. The first Legally Blonde contained an excellent message: never let the world define you and if you want to conquer the world while wearing pink, then go for it. Elle Woods elevated herself from intellectually unchallenged rich girl with no direction to a strong, independent, and driven lawyer. She rose above everyone’s low expectations and fulfilled her potential. Then they made this movie and regressed the character back into a purposefully low intelligent bimbo. The plot is something straight from the reject pile of the Lifetime network. Instead of making Elle into the intellect powerhouse hinted at in the first film, the screenwriters reduce her into an animated Malibu Barbie with a briefcase. Apparently, Elle can either be a good lawyer or feminine, but not both. Reese Witherspoon recently announced that Legally Blonde 3 just entered pre-production. Hopefully it will follow the vein of the original Legally Blonde and just ignore the mess of Part 2. Witherspoon and Elle both deserve better material.
The Expendables 3 (2014)
Bite Size Review: The gang gets back together…..sort of. Stallone forged a career out of playing himself. Rambo, Rocky, and Barney are pretty much all the same character. The Expendables 1 & 2 worked because Stallone stuck to a tired and true format and gave people what they wanted: just enough plot to explain the extended action shots and trademark catchphrases. Statham and Stallone play off each other well and their chemistry keeps the narrative from falling into caricature. Now I do not watch The Expendables for deep philosophical discussions. I watch them because I just want to see some old fashion action adventure featuring all the action heroes I admired as a kid. The Expendables 3 broke the mold of the first two movies by having Lee Christmas (Statham) and Barney (Stallone) end their partnership right before a big job. Barney embarks on a recruitment mission to bring in some new blood, which turns into an overly long and unnecessary montage highlighting the new recruits’ skills. Then they botch the job and Barney has to call in the old team to rescue the new idiots. Really this film could solve insomnia. It trades the old school action-my only expectation for the film-for an extended exploration into aging and sentimentality. All I wanted was to see Stallone and Gibson try to out action hero each other. Instead I got Ronda Rousey dropkicking some random guy while wearing a tight dress.
Bite Size Review: After making magic in The Silver Linings Playbook, Hollywood seemed determined to make Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence into the next power couple of the silver screen. After Playbook, Joy, and American Hustle, Lawrence and Cooper seemed capable of achieving the dizzying heights of Hollywood royalty. Then they made Serena. It went straight to DVD, so if you have never heard of it, that is why. Based off an excellent novel of the same name by Ron Rash, Serena follows a timber titan (Cooper) who marries a social climbing psychopath named Serena (Lawrence). The novel starts slow and builds into a dark, thrilling exploration of Serena’s ruthlessness and murderous tendencies. In the book, Serena is an immovable force of nature with a single-minded determination to secure her husband’s empire. In the film, despite Lawrence’s best efforts, Serena is not a believable character. She has melodramatic emotions and plot twists forced upon her with no depth or thematic resonance. Her behavior is inconsistent and the screenplay never reveals why we should care about her. Even more frustrating, Susanna Bier both over-directs and under-directs, sometimes in the same scene. A melodramatic score, shoddy camerawork, and slow motion montages of people riding horseback and lovemaking by candlelight overpowers the first act. As the narrative gets darker, Bier abandons this romantic style for a dour and depressing tone for no discernible reason. All the actors look pained and secretly hopeful that no one will ever see this disaster. My recommendation: leave the movie in the $3 bin and read the book instead.
Bite Size Review: This film is an excellent case study in how to ruin potential. The premise, while utterly ridiculous and unrealistic, could have turned into a great piece of escapist King Kongesque action. However, the screenwriters forgot to write a plot. Dwayne Johnson is clearly capable of a making an A grade level action flick. Rampage is a C level movie, and I am feeling generous. Transformers has better developed characters than this movie. Yes, Transformers. It physically pains me to write that sentence. I cannot even remember Dwayne’s character name in this movie. It is just Dwayne running around flexing his amazing biceps while Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up at the weirdest moments with an overly affected Texas accent. Naomie Harris’ character supposedly knows what is happening to all the animals. Too bad her character has the dimensionality of a piece of cardboard. I did not go to this movie expecting an Oscar worthy experience. However, I did expect something with more plot development than “Dwayne Johnson fights gorilla”.
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