Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Honsou, and Eric Bana
Synopsis: Summer is a wonderful time of the year. It delivers some of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters of the year. But, intermixed in that, is some of the biggest bombs of the year. And though this summer season is only two weeks old, we’ve gotten one of each already. Heading into this summer I made a short list of five blockbusters I thought could be potential bombs this summer. One of the films on that list was “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which opened on May 12. It was a film that cost more than $150 million to make. It brought in a total Box Office of just over $15 million opening weekend, and it’s gotten middling reviews and terrible word of mouth. King Arthur is well-trod cinematic ground. In the 1980s we got “Excalibur.” In the 1990s we got Sean Connery and Richard Gere in “First Knight.” And in the 2000s, we got Clive Owen and Keira Knightly in “King Arthur.” And now Guy Ritchie takes his crack. By now most are familiar with the legend of King Arthur. It always includes the kingdom of Camelot and the sword Excalibur. It also often includes a round table, a knight named Lancelot and a magician named Merlin. While the round table sort of appears in this film, and Merlin gets name checked a few times, this is decidedly not a conventional take on this story. Ritchie is known for a specific kind of filmmaking. He has a quick, frenetic pace, colorful characters and dialogue and a simple story. It’s been said that with “King Arthur” he wanted to do something different, and you can see the stylistic tensions in this film. Sometimes the film has lavish, dark, magical special effects. Sometimes it feels like a conventional medieval epic. And, at a few points, you get that Ritchie magic. And those sequences feel strong and work. The rest of it, not so much. Hunnam is OK in the lead role. He brings a decent presence to the screen, though his take on King Arthur is nothing to write home about. But the real issue here is Law as the villain. He has no screen presence and creates no real tension against either Bana in the early going or Hunnam in the later part of the film. Absent a strong villain, most of the slow build to the climax falls flat. In addition, as a viewer, large chunks of the film just make no sense. I’m not sure what kind of world Ritchie is trying to create. Sometimes it feels like “Game of Thones.” Sometimes it feels like a live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.” That’s troubling, and doesn’t help create a cohesive whole. Plus, the film is slow and dry to watch. As a summer blockbuster, you need to lean into the blockbuster aspect. This film is unable to do that. I worried that “King Arthur” would be a miss, and it is. Fortunately during this time of year you don’t have to wait long for your next blockbuster to be delivered.
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language.
Verdict: One star out of four.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholz, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack
Synopsis: Summer is about a few different genres, and one of them is outrageous comedies. Just in time for Mother's Day, we get the mother-daughter romp "Snatched." Schumer is one of the hottest comedians working today, and in this film she plays a newly single and newly unemployed woman with a pre-paid trip to Ecuador on tap. Unable to find a friend to go with her, she taps her mother (Hawn). And things don't go as planned. This is an interesting comedy pairing. Hawn hasn't starred in a film since 2002, but she shows no signs of rust as she slips into this character and an easy rapport with Schumer. I liked this movie a touch better than "Trainwreck" because it was crisper (only 91 minutes) and more focused. It's a simple premise, it's executed well, and it's entertaining. That's a credit to writer Katie Dippold ("Ghostbusters," "The Heat") and director Jonathan Levine ("Warm Bodies"). That being said, this isn't a great movie. It's OK. It has funny gags and moments. It has decent characters — though they aren't all well developed — and it hits its goals. It works to a certain degree, but it fails to rise to the level of engaging or memorable. It's just OK. And in a crowded summer landscape, it will likely take more than that to stand out.
Rating: R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Friday, May 19: "Alien: Covenant," "Everything, Everything," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul"
Thursday, May 25: "Baywatch"
Friday, May 26: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"