Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: Robin Hood (2018)

Okay, right from the beginning I should clarify that I haven’t actually seen Robin Hood (and I probably won’t until it hits Redbox) but given what I know about this film, I HAVE to talk about it. I first heard about this film months ago when I heard that there was a really bad trailer circulating on the Internet. When I first saw it for myself, I was half convinced it had to be a joke; there’s no way they could have made a Robin Hood film THIS bad…right? Well, actually yes they did and the more previews I saw the worse it got.

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The Middle Ages looked NOTHING like this

First let’s talk about the setting. As most people know, Robin Hood is traditionally set in or around the reign of King Richard the Lionheart (so between 1189 and 1200 CE give or take a few years), which places the story firmly in the Middle Ages. Knowing that, take a look at those previews again and tell me with a straight face that this film even loosely resembles that time period. Nottingham bears no resemblance to a medieval city, in fact in the previews it looks more like something from a post-apocalyptic future (or a generic fantasy film). I’m not saying a Robin Hood film has to be 100% period-authentic, but they’re not even trying with these locations OR the costumes. The machine-stitching is painfully obvious and nothing remotely resembles the era they should be in. I groaned aloud when I saw the footage from a party that Robin attended in his public persona as a nobleman. The costumes the ladies are wearing are totally inappropriate for the era (no woman would be caught dead in anything so revealing). I referenced the location looking post-apocalyptic before, I find myself wondering if they meant to make this a futuristic post-apocalypse retelling of the story and just forgot to tell the audience?

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As cool as it looks, Molotov cocktails were NOT a thing in the Middle Ages

Second, we need to talk about those arrows. It goes without saying that arrows do NOT work like that! They’re not that powerful (not at that size anyway) and you can’t fire them THAT quickly (I don’t care if it is a Robin Hood movie, no one is THAT good). This was another thing that really bothered me about the film, and that’s the pacing, it’s much too fast. A Robin Hood story can be many things, but a fast-paced action thriller is not typically one of them.

Third, where is Prince John in all of this? One of the key components of the Robin Hood legend has always involved the outlaw fighting against the tyranny of Prince John until King Richard can return. The only reason Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves got away with excluding the character is because they had Alan Rickman playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. I’m not saying Ben Mendelsohn isn’t a good actor, it’s just I’ve seen him play this kind of role several times before and no offense but it’s starting to wear thin.

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Lastly, I have to comment on something I heard from reviews of the film. I read that Robin is sent to the Crusades via a “draft notice” pinned to his front gate. Are you KIDDING me?? This is not how the Crusades worked! There was no draft for noblemen in the Middle Ages, either you went on Crusade or you didn’t! It’s like they did no research whatsoever for this film and didn’t think anyone would notice (spoiler alert: we’ve definitely noticed). All reports indicate that Robin Hood is going to be the biggest box office bomb of the year and I’m not surprised in the slightest. I knew this film would bomb the moment I saw the first teaser. Hopefully I’ll get my own turn to eviscerate the film once I can rent it from Redbox sooner rather than later (and as it’s bombing badly that shouldn’t be a long wait). For now, those are my thoughts on Robin Hood but I’m very curious to know what you think about it. Have you gone to see it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) is a film I’d not heard of before yesterday, but as I was searching for Criterion films to add to my collection, the film’s plot caught my attention. The film, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, is modeled after a kabuki play (classic Japanese dance-drama) and tells the story of a remote village where anyone who reaches the age of 70 must be taken to Narayama (a distant mountain) and left there to die of exposure. Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a 69 year old grandmother who has resolved to make the journey to Narayama when the new year comes, but first she wants to make sure her family’s affairs are in order.

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From the start the film looks like it’s a stage play: a narrator introduces the story and narrates various sections through song. I was worried at first that I would find a narrator distracting, but it flows in and out of the film so seamlessly that after a while you don’t even notice. I also like how there’s not even a pretense of realism: the action is clearly taking place on a stage and when a scene is done, the background will literally fall away to reveal the next scene.

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While the film shows various aspects of village life throughout the year, I feel that most of all the film displays the contrast between Orin, who happily accepts her fate, and Mata  (Seiji Miyaguchi), a man past 70 who refuses to journey to Narayama, even though he shames his family (and himself) by refusing to go. The difference in how they meet their ends couldn’t be more different: while Orin is left serenely awaiting death on the mountain, Mata is dragged kicking and screaming by his son, and finally resists so much that he falls off a cliff. The message couldn’t be more clear: not following tradition only leads to heartbreak and pain. You’re also left feeling nothing but contempt for Mata after seeing how calmly Orin accepts what must be done.

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The one thing about this film that confuses me however, is the ending. After Orin is left on Narayama, her son returns to his new wife and she consoles him with the knowledge that they can travel to Narayama together someday (as they are the same age). The scene abruptly cuts to a black and white shot of a train pulling in at a station, presumably where the old village used to stand. I’m sure we’re meant to gather something from this transition to the present, but I’m not sure what that message is supposed to be.

The Ballad of Narayama is a beautiful film that tells a very sad story. You’ll definitely be in tears by the end. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

*note, this song refers to Native Americans as Indians and “Injuns” which is politically incorrect now, but was considered okay then.

Now that Wendy and her brothers have safely arrived in Neverland and met the Lost Boys, it’s time to set off on the adventures Peter promised them. While Peter takes Wendy to meet the mermaids, John and Michael and the Lost Boys set off to locate the Indian tribe (with John assuming the role of leader). As the Lost Boys march off, they sing a song about “following the leader.”

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee day
Tee dum, tee dee it’s part of the game we play
Tee dum, tee dee, the words are easy to say
Just a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee dum
We’re one for all, and all of us out for fun
We march in line and follow the other one
With a teedle ee do a teedle ee do tee dum

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Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go
We’re out to fight the Injuns, the Injuns, the Injuns
We’re out to fight the Injuns
Because he told us so

Tee dum, tee dee a teedle ee do tee day
We march along and these are the words we say:
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle de dum dee-day
Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee-do-tee-day

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The boys traveling through Neverland is like any adventure you ever dreamed of having as a child. They cross rivers, swing down vines and unwittingly pass by several animals (a hippo, monkeys, a rhinoceros and even a large bear). Neverland is full of all kinds of terrain, from the jungle, to the savannah and ending in a forest filled with pine trees.

The song comes to an abrupt end when John discovers a pair of “Indian tracks” in the middle of a clearing. Looking back, it seems obvious that this was a trap for the Lost Boys from the start because how else could their be two footprints side-by-side? If someone is walking normally, one footprint should be in front of the other. But instead they’re next to each other like someone was just standing still. Clearly this is meant to be a trap to delay the Lost Boys until the tribe can close in and capture them (which they do).

I’ve always liked “Following the Leader,” it’s a fun interlude before the drama with Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. What do you think of this song? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Peter Pan “What Made the Red Man red?” (1953)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is the awkward yet likable enough school teacher in the village of Sleepy Hollow. He leads a contented life teaching the children while shamelessly flirting with most of the women in town when, one day…he happens to notice the beautiful Katrina van Tassel. Katrina is described as the most beautiful woman in town and she has every unmarried man in Sleepy Hollow wrapped around her finger (without even trying). Naturally Ichabod promptly falls head over heels for the young heiress (though the narrator states he’s equally interested in her fortune as much as her looks), but the short song about Katrina indicates that she’s not as innocent as she looks:

Oo oo oo oo
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
Once you have met that little coquette Katrina
You won’t forget Katrina
But nobody yet has ever upset Katrina
That cute coquette Katrina
You can do more with Margaret or Helena
Or Anne or Angelina
But Katrina will kiss and run
To her a romance is fun
With always another one to start
And then when you’ve met that little coquette Katrina
You’ve lost your heart

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Katrina is described as “that little coquette,” meaning she loves to flirt. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a later line forebodes that Ichabod’s quest for Katrina’s hand will end badly: “but Katrina will kiss and run/To her a romance is fun/With always another one to start…” I take this line to mean that Katrina has no problem playing with men’s feelings and doesn’t take declarations of love seriously, which can be hurtful if the person expressing those feelings is genuine. And believe me Katrina is taking full advantage of men’s feelings for her, like having them assemble a picnic or carrying all of her packages. It IS funny though to see how quickly Ichabod is smitten by Katrina: one look and he puts a chicken on his head and starts eating his hat!

What do you think of “Katrina”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

In Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (sometimes billed as The Adventures of Ichabod), the story follows lanky schoolmaster Ichabod Crane as he attempts to woo the beautiful (and very rich) Katrina van Tassel, to the increasing chagrin of Brom Bones, the town hero. In truth, Katrina is only paying attention to Ichabod to make Brom work harder to secure her affections, but neither man knows this.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

Things come to a head when a Halloween party is held at the van Tassel residence. After being upstaged by Ichabod most of the evening, Brom notices that Ichabod is superstitious (he throws salt over his shoulder after spilling some) and decides to use this knowledge to his advantage. He gathers the company around and begins to sing the story of the Headless Horseman, a terrifying ghost reputed to wander Sleepy Hollow.

Just gather ’round
and I’ll elucidate
on what goes on outside when it gets late.
Long about midnight,
The ghosts and banshees,
They get together for their nightly jamboree. 
There’s things with horns and saucer eyes
some with fangs about this size.

Oh When the spooks have a midnight jamboree,
they break it up with fiendish glee.
Ghosts are bad,
but the one that’s cursed
is the Headless Horseman,
he’s the worst.

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Ichabod pays rapt attention to the song, his terror growing with every verse. “Headless Horseman” is considered one of the darkest songs ever created for a Disney film (right up there with “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). According to Brom (performed by Bing Crosby), the Headless Horseman rides one night each year to search for a new head. However, if you can cross the bridge at the end of the Hollow, you’ll be safe from the Horseman’s power.

Now, if you doubt this tale is so,
I met that spook just a year ago.
Now, I didn’t stop for a second look,
but made for the bridge that spans the brook.
For once you cross that bridge, my friends,

The ghost is through, his power ends.

So, when you’re riding home tonight,
make for the bridge with all your might.
He’ll be down in the Hollow there.
He needs your head.
Look out! Beware!

Of course we’re meant to find Ichabod’s terror funny because, so far as we know, Brom is making this story up. After all, there’s no such thing as ghosts…or is there? Given how Ichabod’s encounter with the Horseman plays out, it seems possible that Brom might have been telling the truth after all (but that’s a story for another time).

Personally, I don’t remember being scared by this song as a kid (though I don’t think I saw this particular film very often), but I can see how it would be scary for some. Brom can look quite menacing when he chooses and he brings all his talent to bear on scaring Ichabod before he leaves the party. If I heard a song like that, I’d be nervous about riding home in the dark too.

What do you think of the song “Headless Horseman”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard III’ (2016)

I’ve said before that Richard III is my favorite Shakespearean play and I’ve done my best to see each major film adaptation of it (thus far I’ve seen three: this one, Olivier’s 1955 version and Ian McKellen’s 1995 version). When I heard that The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses would feature Benedict Cumberbatch as the last Plantagenet king, I knew I could not afford to miss this performance. And let me tell you, Cumberbatch plays the role so well that I feel it is at least equal to Olivier’s performance (and that is saying something!)

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Comparing it to the 1955 version, it’s clear right away that there are some major differences. In the earlier version, the role of Queen Margaret (Henry VI’s widow) is eliminated entirely, but in this version she’s one of the major characters and it completely changes the tone of the play, especially in a pivotal scene when Margaret curses Richard, Buckingham, Queen Elizabeth and the queen’s relatives. Sophie Okonedo is brilliant as the aging Margaret, who has by now lost her husband, her status and her only son. And while she sounds like a raving madwoman (and Richard tries to play her off as such), it’s made clear that everyone believes her words, even if they don’t say so.

Richard and Richmond rally their troops (2016)

Speaking of Richard, from the moment Cumberbatch appears on the screen, you cannot look away from him. This version of Richard III does something new, in that for the first time we see Richard shirtless, exposing his twisted hump for all to see. Cumberbatch turns in a masterful performance as the ultimate deceiver, putting on a kind face for most of the court, and only revealing his true self to the audience. Margaret is the only one to see Richard for what he truly is, and by the time the others realize the danger, it’s too late.

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Going back to differences in versions, this iteration of Richard III cuts out several soliloquies that I’ve come to enjoy in other versions. Most notably, Clarence’s speech about drowning (right before his murder) is all but eliminated, which is a shame as hearing Clarence describe the feeling of drowning right before he is murdered BY drowning only increases the horror of the situation.

The other scene I must highlight comes towards the end of the play, right before Richard rides into battle against Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII). Richard is drawn into a nightmare where he is brought face to face with the ghosts of everyone he has killed to get to the throne: his nephews, Henry VI, his wife Anne, Buckingham; all of these ghosts mock Richard and bid him “despair and die.” It’s a chilling scene and one that almost brings Richard to his senses, but the villain is unrepentant to the last.

I highly recommend The Hollow Crown: Richard III to anyone who hasn’t seen a Shakespeare play on film before and is curious about starting. It’s a wonderful performance from the entire cast and you will love it. If you have seen this version of Richard III, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below and have a great day 🙂

See also:

My Thoughts on: The Hollow Crown ‘Richard II’ (2012)

My thoughts on: Richard III (1955)

Film/TV Reviews

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The Hunt for Red October “Hymn to Red October” (1990)

My favorite iteration of author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character has always been Alec Baldwin’s portrayal in The Hunt for Red October (1990), in which the CIA analyst finds himself thrust into an escalating situation when a decorated Soviet submarine captain (Sean Connery) takes off with the Soviet Union’s newest submarine.

The Hunt for Red October Opening Credits (1990)

Besides the great performances from Baldwin and Connery, this has always been my favorite Tom Clancy film because of the score, composed by Basil Poledouris (1945-2006). His piece, “Hymn to Red October” is one of my favorite film pieces to listen to. The piece comes at the beginning of the film, just after an on-screen narration (in summary: what you are about to see, according to the government, never officially happened) sets the scene. It begins as the Red October submarine is heading out to see and Captain Ramius (Connery) agrees with his first officer (Sam Neill) that it is “Time indeed (for their plan to begin).”

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The hymn is orchestral with a male Russian chorus that begins very softly, matching Ramius’ thoughts (“Cold and hard.”) As the chorus grows louder, the orchestra swells up with it, as we see a gorgeous shot of the submarine that morphs into the film’s title before the opening credits roll (it seems weird now but it used to be common for films to open with the title and main credits). As the lyrics reveal, the singers are bidding the Motherland (Russia) farewell and answering the call of the sea. With the power of Red October, nothing can stand in their way.

I find the first few lines of the hymn to be most interesting as they directly reflect a plot point in the film. The line: “Light that has left me/How could I know that you would die?” seems to reflect the untimely death of Ramius’ wife, the event which helped to spur on his defection to the West. The rest of the hymn is styled as typical Soviet propaganda (note the line about “Our Motherland’s victorious march”) that extols the greatness of the Soviet Union.

Cold, hard, empty.
Light that has left me,
How could I know that you would die?
Farewell again, our dear land.
So hard for us to imagine that it’s real, and not a dream.
Motherland, native home,
Farewell, our Motherland.
Let’s go; the sea is waiting for us.
The vastness of the sea is calling to us, and the tides!
Hail to our fathers and forefathers.
We are faithful to the covenant made with the past.
Now nothing can stop
Our Motherland’s victorious march.
Sail on fearlessly,
Pride of the Northern Seas.
Hope of the Revolution, you are the burst of faith of the people.
In October, in October,
We report our victories to you, our Revolution.
And to the heritage left by you for us

What do you think of “Hymn to Red October”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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