August 03, 2004

Catwoman & King Arthur

Having some time spare in Bangkok, I decided to go to one of the city's excellent movie theatres, to watch a couple of this year's summer "treats". At the very cheap price of 140 Baht ($3) compared to Tokyo's 1,900 yen ($19), it just does not hurt so much to waste time watching the latest Hollywood garbage.

Catwoman has been a project that has seemed doomed from the start. When the first images of Halle Berry's ill-conceived costume were revealed, there was universal ridicule. Compared to the glory of Michelle Pfieffer in a PVC catsuit, it was obvious that this latest endeavour was missing the beats.

When the movie was finally released, the expected critical goring began. One critic in Variety, compared Berry's performance to that of Elizabeth Berkley in the horribly bad, Showgirls. Ouch! When I read this, I pitied Berry, who is obviously a very talented actress. Could she really be that bad? I had to find out for myself.

Well, I must say I was a little disappointed, because I went to the movie expecting a total disaster, and discovered a movie that was vibrant, silly and kitsch. The story was ridiculously lame, but Pitof's direction was consistently energetic and imaginative, with beautiful splashes of colour and lighting.

If the Worst Actress award must be handed out, then it should be for Sharon Stone, who plays the bland villain. Halle Berry certainly camps it up the best she can with the flaccid script, and there are many embarrassing scenes that will no doubt come back to haunt her, but she most definitely is NOT as bad as Elizabeth Berkley!

Like so many movies today, the CGI was the biggest let down. It just could not provide the realism needed, and once again, it was a distraction rather than an enhancer to the film.

Catwoman is not a great movie, but it is mildly entertaining. It is certainly not the disaster that King Arthur is, and has more chance to become at least a camp cult classic, if nothing else.
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King Arthur is a film that defies all that should be included in an ideal summer blockbuster: entertainment, excitement, star power and impressive set pieces. What Jerry Bruckheimer succeeds in giving us, is a summer movie so horribly dull and boring, that the producer should be given a special award for such an incredible achievement.

The movie is set in the Dark Ages, and it became rapidly apparent that the director, Antoine Fuqua, had misunderstood why this period in history was named such. Instead of the Dark Ages being a period of little social or cultural development, he seems to have interpreted it literally, because the movie is filmed entirely in dark, pallid, grainy tones of grays and blues.

Matching masterfully the dullness of this enterprise's vision, Clive Owen gives a career best in what can simply be called one of the most uninspired, uncharismatic and stilted lead performances to ever grace the cinema screen. The durge of his voice is often inaudible and simply lacking in anything that could be called emotional or inflective. The contrast with Ioan Gruffudd's overly Shakespearian intoning Lancelot is unintentionally hilarious in scenes they share together.

The rest of Arthur's knights are basically an assembled collection of fictional stereotypes. It would be easy to take all these characters and throw them into a Muskateers' movie. Ray Winston, who I have worked with twice, on Robin Of Sherwood and Casualty, throws in an effort well below his talents, performing in the standard loveable rogue role.

The battle sequences are confused and messy, failing to achieve any of the impact of those found in the Lord Of The Rings movies, Braveheart, or even Troy.

If the legend of King Arthur had been as uninspired as this effort, the myth would have long been vanquished from memory. It is such a shame that the filmmakers decided to ignore the source material and club together their own story. The names of the characters alone, does not an Arthurian adventure make.

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