KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD [a Film Review]

The “Once and Future King” is here, well, the “Once” part at least. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a fantasy-action film starring Charlie Dunham (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim) in the titular role and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes film series, The Young Pope) as King Vortigern, Arthur’s uncle and murderer of his own brother to claim the throne for himself. Undoubtedly, this film is meant to be a popcorn movie leading up to a season of summer blockbusters, but the latest rendition of the tales of Camelot seem to feel more like a high-production-valued video game than an actual film.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. Madonna’s ex-husband fame, this film details Arthur’s rise to kingship from the assassination of his father, King Uther (Eric Bana; Hulk, Star Trek) to the discovery of his enchanted lineage when he pulls the legendary sword, Excalibur, from the stone. While one should note that Arthurian stories have always contained magical elements and demonic adversities, the excessively-fantastical vibe coupled with overused CGI elements in Ritchie’s reimagined Camelot pushes the limit for it to even be considered hyper-realistic.

Using fast cuts and a “big battle” opening to skim through the character development for Arthur, the first quarter of the film feels like a typical video game cutscene you would watch before playing. While the director does try to set the film in a darker tone than recent fantasy films, one cannot help but notice a pastiche blend of video game tropes and elements within Ritchie’s cinematic vision. An Assassin’s Creed-like falcon as the eyes in the sky, a snake charmer with a Prince of Persia vibe, a Dark Souls-like demon with a burning skull for a face and time-manipulating action sequences of Shadow of Mordor proportions, King Arthur feels more like a mood board full of medieval-themed video games than an actual film about the rise of Arthur.

Charlie Dunham leads the relatively-minor cast, other than Jude Law and Eric Bana in King Arthur. Even though Dunham plays the titular character to mediocre success, his TV-based fame ultimately falls short against the scene-stealing Law of A-list Hollywood fame, whose villainous portrayal of a jealous king remains as the saviour for the overall-lacklustre attempt at revitalising the Arthurian legend. While the most prominent female cast in the film, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey’s portrayal of The Mage – a nameless replacement for Merlin – is hindered by poor character development and her poor diction of English, a language she only learnt for her role in 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

To enjoy King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, one must accept the fact that this is not going to be the best medieval film out there, or even the best rendition of Arthurian tales. Ultimately, this film is just going to be a mindless popcorn film full of overwhelming CGI and over-the-top mysticism (even by fantasy film standards) to kick off a summer of likeminded films. Transformers: The Last Knight, anyone?

A MODEST PROPOSAL [a Point of View]

FOR PREVENTING THE CHILDREN OF SINGAPOREANS FROM BEING A BURDEN TO THEIR PARENTS OR COUNTRY, AND FOR MAKING THEM BENEFICIAL TO THE PUBLIC.

Singaporeans are always complaining about foreign labour coming into the country and taking their jobs, but many of these jobs are either low-skilled or low-paying jobs that Singaporeans are not willing to take up themselves.

Rather than waiting for an entire generation to approach working age, I propose to hire these children (ideally as early as 6) to do these jobs. They can learn to clean and wash outside and also earn some money to help with their parents’ monetary burden. This way, parents can worry less about providing for them, since they are providing for themselves. At the same time, they will be able to learn to clean up after themselves and reduce the need of domestic helpers, who happen to contribute to the number of foreign labour too.

Hiring children can also help to teach the weak “strawberry generation” how to endure hardship and stop complaining. They will be able to learn what made the pioneer generation so tough and hardy. Instead of explaining to them how tough their lives used to be, why not just let them live it?

But of course, you must be thinking: “What about their education? How can they study and work at the same time?” Well, the older generations have always prided themselves for managing studies and helping their family out. Yes, they study less subjects, and in less intensity, but every generation is the same right? Instead of letting your children enjoy watching cartoons or picking up hobbies like art and music, just push them to learn hard skills like math and science at a young age, not like this is new to anyone. If you start early, you don’t have to worry about not being able to catch up.

If people need convincing, just look at the British Empire during the Industrial Revolution and the pioneer generation of Singaporeans. They can learn to do work while studying. If it works for the previous generation, it must work in the present. Right?

I would love to get into more details but honestly, anything that isn’t accompanied by a picture or a video these days isn’t worth your attention anyway.

DAD VADER [a Point of View]

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Darth Vader. Galactic Villain. Servant of the Dark Side.

Despite his many flaws and wrongdoings that cast the galaxy in darkness, he did it all for one ultimate purpose. Family.

He turned to Palpatine for guidance when he learnt that Padme could die, and he would lose all of his family, including his unborn children. He sought to find that higher, but forbidden, power to stop her from dying.

When he met Luke on Cloud City, he promised to rule the galaxy as father and son. He wanted a sense of belonging once again. He wanted power to finally protect the family he had failed those years ago.

On the second Death Star, he knew that to save his children, he has to give up his life. The ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of his children from the Emperor. He knew he, as Vader, has to die so that he can once again be brought back to the light side, to be a Skywalker again.

Darth Vader, may not be the perfect moral character in Star Wars, but he undoubtedly wins Father-of-the-Galaxy.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [a Film Review]

Marvel Studios’ quirkiest space family is back for another adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Once again directed by James Gunn, the film boasts of the same formula that made the first film so successful: Nostalgic music, silly humour and colours. Like a epilepsy seizure-inducing Unicorn Frappacino.

After the first film’s success in capturing a fanbase of of both adults and children alike, Gunn cashes in with a family-orientated space adventure about family, easter eggs and Baby Groot. Honestly (maybe I am seeing this as an adult), I felt that the film has been made child-proof, with a huge emphasis on Baby Groot and his undeniably cute factor and the issue with family. Rocket and Star-Lord, Star-Lord and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Drax and Mantis, Star-Lord and his father, Ego, it is as if the whole film has moved from a space adventure movie that people called the “Star Wars of Marvel” to being a colourful, more fleshed-out version of a soap opera.

There is enough easter eggs and action to make it entertaining to adults too, but I feel that the adult-orientated content has been underwhelming. Overall, the film is still really entertaining with the humour and the action, but it feels like a kids movie. Yes, Marvel movies are a little tamer than their comic book counterparts like Fox (Deadpool, Logan) or DCEU (BvS, Suicide Squad), but it is a wining formula nonetheless.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND [a Film Review]

One of the most well-known monster in film history is back, and it is a roaring success. While “King Kong” had become somewhat of a camp to itself in the early film history due to the ridiculous spinoffs and adaptations, its return in the 21st century with Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005), with its beautifully done CGI landscape of  Skull Island and motion capture performance by Andy Serkis, made the monster a box office cash cow again. Kong: Skull Island does not disappoint as an action “kaiju” film, and yet, it shows that it is possible to remake film classics into modern wonders, with the right script and CGI technology. The classic conflict between man and nature, and its emphasis of Man’s place on this elusive Skull Island, is yet again explored in this film; all with a touch of Lilliputian grandiose. As the first film to really tease out Legendary Pictures’ Monsters Universe, Kong: Skull Island‘s success will undoubtedly leave the audience craving for the ultimate showdown between Kong and Godzilla. As Ken Watanabe’s character in Godzilla (2014) once said: “Let them fight.”

2017’s Oscar Buzz

The Oscar Season has started and it is time to binge these nominated (or potentially) films to see what makes them so Oscar-worthy.

Arrival
Arrival could be the first science-fiction film about aliens visiting Earth that is non-violent in a long time. Instead, the film chooses to focus on the linguistic aspect of communicating with aliens and how humans race against time and rising tensions of potential retaliation. The film features a particularly great performance by Amy Adams, although the premise of her character being able to sense the future is pretty Deux Ex Machina.

La La Land
There has been a while since I was so thoroughly entertained by a film, until La La Land. While the storyline of a struggling actress and her love interest, a jazz musician, is pretty cliche, Damien Chazelle’s direction and choreography of the entire musical film is extraordinary. It does not just pay homage to jazz, but the Golden Age of Hollywood too, putting his own spin into the whole genre.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge features a number of battle scenes that are pretty intense. They are bound to shock you into the cruel reality of war from the first bullet to the head to the last living breath. The biopic about Desmond Doss’ heroics is bound to be an Oscar-bait. The film features some pretty funny scenes involving Vince Vaughn’s character too.

ASSASSIN’S CREED [a Film Review]

Assassin’s Creed is the latest video game-turned-film adaptation to hit the theatres. Given that it’s a video game adaptation, people have come to deem them as really bad ideas because their track record of successful adaptions is not really extensive, or even existent. That said, I feel that Assassin’s Creed is a pretty decent attempt at tackling one of the most popular games out there.

Assassin’s Creed stars Macbeth actors, Michael Fassbender (X-Men franchise) and Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises), and is helmed by director Justin Kurzel, who also directed that Macbeth film. In a sense, I guess you can see this film as a reunion of all Kurzel’s Macbeth cast. With a huge A-list cast, the film looks promising in their star power and acting chops, but unfortunately falls to a lack a expansive space for the actors to play out their role to the fullest.

While I will not disagree that Assassin’s Creed did not live to its hype due to the mundane “rebellion” storyline and series setup, I think that the film is a relatively well done one, and certainly don’t deserve the overly critical expectations of other reviewers. Video game adaptation has always been a dangerous minefield to explore. While you have to honour the source material to appeal to the already massive gaming fan base, you have to think about offering a degree of authenticity and originality for film goers so that the film does not appear as just a higher-budgeted cinematic trailer for the game.

As such, I would say that the film is a relatively good attempt at breaking the curse of film failures. While it may not be cinematically the best, it’s definitely commendable.