Movie review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m still playing catch up with the summer movies, so let’s review a picture that some people (small numbers of them as it tanked at the box office) saw last month. It’s King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword.

IMDb summary: Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

A few general thoughts on the background of the movie: 1. I’m actually a fan of the 2004’s version of King Arthur. It used to be one of my favorite nonanimated childhood movies and the archery sequence on the lake combined with Lord of the Rings: Two Towers final battle were two reasons why I took up archery. 2. While the trailers for the film looked fine, I never expected it to succeed at the box office or to turn a big profit. Neither the two leads are big box office draws, nor is the mythology that the film is based on a hot property. So, bearing that in mind, who, the hell, approved a $175 million budget for this picture?

Writing

2017’s King Arthur’s screenplay was credited to the director Guy Ritchie, producer of HP films Lionel Wigram, and, the writer of the new Robin Hood and The Flash movies, Joby Harold. The Judge’s director David Dobkin contributed to the story as well. In general, the writing was of mixed quality. I thought that the narrative (broadly speaking) was fairly straightforward (an hour of Arthur being called into action, and another hour of him attempting to defeat Jude Law’s character), however, the details within the story were really convoluted and even confused (there was too much happening at once).

Thematically, the concepts of egoism and power were suitably touched upon. The ending teases of the round table and all the knights were also pleasant. Other than that, since I don’t know much of King Arthur mythology from the legends, I can’t comment on the stuff they did or didn’t use.

The script also made a lot of interesting choices with the characters. For example, Arthur was written as a witty, talkative and borderline cocky individual – all these ideas are in opposition to the Arthur I’ve alway imagined – serious, reserved, yet quietly proud (basically, the 2004’s movie’s version). Still, overall, I was quite pleased with a different take on a character. I have also seen a lot of complaints online about the female characters of this film, mostly the lack of them. I can definitely see where these people are coming from – a few female characters that are introduced are either sacrificed, portrayed as obese or sexualized tentacled mermaids or are used for decoration purposes. And yet, the main mage character was also a female and she did shine in the movie and displayed her powers (really vaguely defined ones) in a spectacular fashion. The informant female character did not have much to do but at least she was present. Hers and Jude Law’s characters interactions were actually quite neat.

Directing, Editing and the Soundtrack

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s and RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes’s director Guy Ritchie helmed King Arthur and did an okay job. The high fantasy medieval setting (which I’m a fan of) was realized quite well (I’m a sucker for the combination of good historical costumes, sword fights, archery, and magic). The epic scope of the film was also worthy of praise. However, the mediocre CGI was quite infuriating, especially in the movie that cost this much to produce. The action scenes – filmed in a video game-like close-ups and slow motion – could have been better too.

The elements of the film, which are the most discussion worthy, were editing and sound design/mixing. The soundtrack on its own (by Daniel Pemberton) was really good and it was, at times, inventively paired with the visuals. However, some combos of image and music did not work. However, even in the bad combos, the song choices weren’t as unfitting as they were in Suicide Squad. A lot of these combination sequences were edited in a music video style – a lot of jump cuts, short snippets of dialogue, and a fast pace. On their own, these sequences seemed quite unique and entertaining (their explosive energy was amazing). However, when these quick sequences were followed by long, drawn-out scenes of people sitting and talking, the final effect turned out to be quite jarring and the whole film – uneven.

 

Acting

  • The two leads of the film were played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. I really liked Hunnam in the titular role and would love to see him getting more cinematic roles but I doubt that that will happen, due to the poor box office of this picture. He previously played the lead in the Pacific Rim and a supporting part in Crimson Peak. The Lost City of Z is his other 2017 release. Jude Law’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Genius, Anna Karenina) performance, to my mind, was the best part of this film. He looked good (his armor was basically the silver version of Dominic Cooper’s armor in Warcraft) and he seemed menacing. In the final battle, I would have rather seen him fighting in the said armor rather than a generic CGI monster (his evil form). I also thought that the announcement of Law as the Young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts sequel will give this movie a boost and some free promo but it doesn’t seem like the said casting news helped much or at all.
  • The two female characters were played by theFrenchh-Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey from Pirates 4 and by The Mummy’s Annabelle Wallis. I really enjoyed the cool and collected performance of Bergès-Frisbey.
  • King Arthur also employed the talents of two GOT actors that can’t seem to espace the middle ages – Aidan Gillen (Baelish) and Michael McElhatton (Bolton). Gillen (who was also recently in Sing Street) did a good job and I could see shades of Baelish in his performance, while McElhatton’s role was just slightly bigger than a cameo.
  • Another two actors, whose involvememnt is worthy of mention, were Djimon Hounsou (Guardians, The Legend of Tarzan) and Eric Bana (The Finest Hours). They both did a fine job with their limited screeentime.

In short, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was, to my mind, not as bad as everyone said. The filmmakers made some weird choices with the editing and music (at least they tried something different) and did overcomplicate the plot which lacked (sort of) female characters, and yet, I was still pretty entertained by the final product.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

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Movie review: The Great Wall

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the movie that is either groundbreaking or just a continuation of the oldest Holywood tradition. It’s The Great Wall!

IMDb summary: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

My introductory point about this film possibly being groundbreaking has to do with the circumstances of its creation. The Great Wall is the first major co-production between US and China (Kung Fu Panda 3 was also a co-production and came before this movie, but it was an animated project rather than a live-action one). And yet, this movie has also been accused of whitewashing – the old trend for Hollywood, which only recently started receiving some backlash. So, can this film be a start of something new or is just the same old thing?

Writing

The picture’s script was written by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro (writers of the Prince of Persia movie), and Tony Gilroy (writer of the first 4 Bourne films and Rogue One). The combined previous filmography of these screenwriters is of mixed quality and the writing for The Great Wall is also kinda mixed, mostly leaning towards mediocre.

To begin with, the whole decision to have a white lead was not explained that well during the runtime of the picture. It made sense to have a white lead and a supporting cast, full of Chinese actors, from the business standpoint, but it didn’t make much sense story-wise. The film, at least, stated that Matt Damon was not supposed to be playing a Chinese character but a European explorer, who is looking for gunpowder, so Damon’s casting cannot necessarily be called whitewashing. However, the decision to focus on a European hero, who saves China, brought up the whole ‘white savior’ debate. The fact the character’s arc begun with him wanting to steal the gunpowder didn’t paint the best picture either. Is the film, then, only reaffirming colonial thinking or is trying to tell a historical story accurately?  In short, I, personally, didn’t think that the picture gave a good enough explanation for having a European lead (played by an American) in a foreign setting. Even the film The Last Samurai came up with a better reason.

Speaking about the other aspects of the writing – I did enjoy quite a few of them. I liked the world-building and the mythology that the film was inspired by. I loved the idea to have a variety of specialized parts of the army. I liked that the lead character was written as an archer, because of my personal fondness of archery. I appreciated the fact that two languages were used in the film – it made the movie seem more as a co-production in contrast to it appearing as if Hollywood just hijacked another foreign story. I also loved that so many female warrior characters were written into the story. I don’t actually know if that is historically accurate, but I didn’t care much, in the moment of watching the movie. The picture’s attempt to have an underlying important theme – the opposition between paid participation and the true loyalty – was also commendable. While this debate wasn’t really treated as fully as it should have been, I like the fact that the film at least tried to be something more than it ended up to as.

And that final something is the fact that the film’s story was just kinda meh. The narrative was simple and straightforward – nothing one hasn’t seen before. It had two obvious plotlines – the first about fighting the monster and the other about stealing the gunpowder – which converged in the end. The main character’s change of heart during the finale was predictable and cliche. Basically, for a movie that did something very different with its financing and production, The Great Wall should have also done something new and interesting with its story.

Directing

The Great Wall was directed by Zhang Yimou. The majority of his films act as Chinese submissions for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language category, so he is an accomplished director. His direction for this movie was quite nice too and I do think he did the best he could with the given material.  The action scenes looked cool and I liked the massive scope of them. The film had some impressive long takes too. The historical setting, as well as the different sections of the army, were also realized well enough. Plus, the design of the monsters was varied and quite interestng (they kinda reminded me of the zombies from World War Z because of their movement and the sounds they emitted). However, the CGI definitely could have been more photorealistic, especially in this day and age.

My favorite action sequence was the first battle, mostly because it was reminiscent of the final battle from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, although not as good. I also really liked the smaller corrida-type (Spanish bull-fighting) fight scene, in which Pedro Pascal’s character was luring the monster and Matt Damon’s character was trying to shoot it with an arrow. I also loved that the battle scenes had a diegetic beat – the drumming within a story provided a rhythm for both the characters, who were fighting, and the viewers, who were just enjoying the soundtrack. Lastly, the scene with the Chinese lanterns also looked lovely but, as weird as this sounds, it didn’t felt unique. These lanterns are now used all over the world for various celebrations (or in movies, like Tangled), so their usage in an actual Chinese setting didn’t seem as unique as it should have.

Acting

Matt Damon played the lead and did as good a job as he could have. Honestly, he has never been my first choice for a historical movie but he did make the role work. Even with all the whitewashing backlash, Damon will be fine, as his career has been going great. While his return to the role of Jason Bourne wasn’t as positive as it could have been, his work on The Martian is still on everyone’s minds. Besides, in addition to acting, Damon’s producing work has been going great, as the film he recently produced – Manchester by the Sea – is a big awards nominee this season.

Pedro Pascal played a supporting role and brought a tiny bit of a different kind of diversity into the picture. Pascal impressed everyone on a single season of Game of Thrones and I am kinda surprised that his work on GOT didn’t lead to more roles for him. Nevertheless, I really liked his The Great Wall’s character’s sass – it pleasantly reminded me of Oberyn.

Willem Dafoe also appeared in the movie and didn’t have much to do, while the Chinese part of the cast delivered great performances. Jing Tian was amazing as the female lead, while Andy Lau and Zhang Hanyu did a good enough job with what they were given as well. I really wish that I knew more about these actors and their previous filmography.

In brief, The Great Wall was a film, whose behind the scenes story was more interesting than its on-screen plot. While it might have broken grounds from the business standpoint, it was nothing more than average from the creative one.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: The Great Wall trailer

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Sightseeing: road/hiking/historical trip

Sightseeing

Hello!

A few day ago, I did my first sightseeing post in a long time and now, only a week later, I give you another installment of this series. This time, I will tell you how I and a few members of my family traveled from Kaunas (wiki) to Jurbarkas (wiki) and visited a variety of locations, which have a very rich history.

We set off early in the morning and I was driving (I don’t have my license yet, but I can drive if a member of a family, who has a license, is sitting by me. This road trip was also a really good driving practice). We didn’t plan anything in advance, so we just stopped at places, which seemed interesting enough to visit. I have to admit that I have gone on this trip before with my classmates, when I was in 6th grade, but in was such a long time ago that I practically don’t remember anything. Also, who actually remembers anything from school trips, especially those from middle school years?

Anyway, our first stop was Seredžius mound. More about it here. The view from the mound was breathtaking. You can see the green scenery of Lithuania as well as the biggest and longest river in Lithuania – Neman (wiki) – flowing right by.

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The next mound we visited was actually a group of 4 mounds located near Veliuona (wiki). We managed to hike up to only 2 of them.

The first one is called the Mound of Gediminas’s Grave. It has a tombstone dedicated to Gediminas – the grand Duke of Lithuania, who lived ad ruled in 14th century. The Duke is actually buried in Veliuona. Plus, the mound has a beautiful view of aforementioned Neman river.

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The other mound that we hiked up to was the Mound of the Castle. It had a huge meadow on top of it. The castle that was standing there must have been huge. A commemorative rock with the dates of the battles that took place near the castle was also nice addition to this place.

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While near Veliuona, we also visited a museum and looked around Veliuona’s church. The museum is located in an old mansion and we actually where able to meet the owner of that mansion. She is over 70 years old and just came back from Canada. The woman spent her childhood years in the building that now houses a museum, before setting off on a journey around the world in her adult years. The museum showed the real life history – a history of one family, whose members lived there their whole lives. My favorite part was the opportunity to go to the basement of this mansion. There was no electricity in the basement and tones of old furniture and other unneeded stuff were laying around, so that place looked like it belonged in a horror movie.

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Our third stop was Raudonė Castle (wiki). It is one of the most famous castles in Lithuania. Now, there is a a elementary and middle school established in the building. There is not much to do in the actual castle, but you are welcomed to climb up numerous flights of stairs to the top of the castle’s tower. Both, the scenery and the 360 degree view, are amazing. If you are afraid of heights, you can take a walk in the castle’s park, which has ancient trees and cute ponds.

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The last stop was Panenumė castle (wiki). This one has plenty of activities. You can climb up to the tower as in Raudonė castle, but you can also visit the basement of the castle as well as the medieval jail cell. The castle also has a small museum and a huge park, where you can try your hand at archery or ride a horse. In addition, you can buy local goods at a little market, which is located in the inner-yard of the castle. Lastly, the second floor of the main castle is turned into an impromptu art gallery. Currently, there is an exhibition of paintings and other pieces of art made my junior students of Vilnius Academy of Arts (wiki).

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed travelling through these historic sites and taking pictures of these stunning locations. If you decided to visit these places, wear comfortable shoes, because you will have to do a lot of walking and hiking. But the scenery is definitely worth the climb. Have a great week and see you soon!

Olympic day 2015

Sports

Hello!

Some of you might know that I am a sports fan. I have been swimming for 10 years and have been participating in running and cycling competitions these past 3 years. I also really enjoy being in a spectators position: I will literally watch anything from basketball to chess.

Olympic day is an annual international celebration. The festive event is always held in a different city of a country during the month of June. This happens all over the world.

This celebration tries to educate people about different types of sports and advertises healthy lifestyle. This year, the Olympic Day in Lithuania took place in my city – Kaunas. The event started like the real Olympics start: with the passing of a torch and the symbolic fire lighting. In addition, posters with Olympic rings were hanging everywhere, so that they were visible at all times.

There was a wide variety of activities to choose from: attendees could try their hand at archery, basketball, volleyball, football, could exercise at Cross-fit booth, learn about fencing or wrestling. They could compete in a cycling, climbing or running competition.

I chose the running. The organizers offered  3 distances: 5 km or 10 km and the Olympic Mile Run. I picked the last one and ran the symbolic distance of 1,928 meters. The weather was really hot and dry, so these few kilometers were hard work.

I also appreciated the fact that the Paralympic sports were also included and represented in an equal manner.

I really enjoyed this celebratory event which was held mainly in Azuolynas (Oak Tree) park by the statue of Darius and Girėnas (they introduced Lithuanians to a lot of different types of sports during the Inter-War period, despite being famous pilots. Fun random fact: I attend high school which is named after them in honor of their achievements).

The organization was great and the mood was really happy and upbeat. Everybody were so energetic and optimistic. This event really brighten up my city and its citizens. All the participants received commemorative T-Shirts, so all of us looked like a giant team: united, happy and full of life. If only for one day.

Have a productive week! I have my last exam on Monday and then the summer will officially start for me too. Bye!