Thursday, May 25, 2017


RIP to Roger Moore, passed on at 89. My pal Barry Graham would roll his eyes whenever I admitted, while fully acknowledging the superiority of Sean Connery and some other 007s, that I always liked Moore, and enjoyed his droll, campy Bond pictures. I also remember liking him in an odd thriller from 1980 called ffolkes (aka North Sea Hijack). So last night I took down this august volume from my shelf...

...and spent some time reading from Moore's adventures on the set of Live and Let Die.

I had skipped the screening of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a few weeks back, then heard it pronounced the first really big flop of 2017. But a friend of mine who had seen it and given his review ("Meh") nonetheless requested that I go see it, as he wanted my thoughts. So I did.

I suppose wouldn't want to argue too hard with anyone whose reaction to this very, very freely adapted origin story for the legendary King of Britain and his pals was "meh." Purists of Arthurian romance should certainly steer clear of it. The director, Guy Ritchie, has essentially just made another of his cockney gangster pictures, like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, with fractured, forward-lunging, whip-pan-driven action scenes and shady caper planning and bad boy bantering, all dressed up in a vague fairy-tale drag.

This movie's Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has been found drifting down the river, Moses-like, and grown up as a bouncer in a brothel, unaware that he's been cheated of the throne by wicked usurper Jude Law. When he pulls a certain sword from a certain stone, it gets Law's attention, and also that of a motley resistance and a freaky, Morgana-like Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey; Merlin is mentioned but not seen) who try to train him for the battles to come.

Without proclaiming it a work of great art, I have to say that I enjoyed this funky, nervy, defiantly anachronistic and diverse film more than I expected to. Structurally, by making Arthur undiscovered royalty, the narrative insists on perpetuating that same toxic notion on which so much western storytelling is built, from the actual Arthurian myths to the Tarzan tales to Star Wars to The Lion King to the real-life electoral politics of the U.S.: That political power is, and ought to be, a heredity birthright. But when the "chosen one" is the likable, unassuming Hunnam, and he's surrounded by such a jolly disreputable lot, it's easy enough to overlook this.

Plus, the movie is full of cool monsters, from the tentacled sea-horror with whom Law has a Faustian relationship to the giant bats and rats and snakes and wolves against which Arthur must prove his valor to...

Monster-of-the-Week: ...this week's honoree, one of the gargantuan, destroyer-sized elephants...

...that rampage through the battles. Yeah, that's right, giant elephants, in ancient Britain. You got a problem with that, mate?

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