Film Review: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Release Date: June 14th, 1991
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by: Pen Densham, John Watson
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Geraldine McEwan, Michael McShane, Brain Blessed, Michael Wincott, Nick Brimble, Jack Wild, Sean Connery (cameo, uncredited)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes (theatrical), 155 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“Locksley! I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon!” – Sheriff of Nottingham, “Then it begins.” – Robin Hood

I remember seeing this in the theater and loving the hell out of it. But I think I’ve only seen it once or twice since then and those viewings were in the ’90s. So I kind of didn’t know what to expect from it, seeing it decades later. And sure, I remembered some of the more iconic moments and lines but that’s about all I remembered.

This film starts out interesting and gives Robin Hood a neat backstory that saw him held prisoner in a dungeon in Jerusalem, far from his home in England. He is able to escape and saves the life of a Moorish warrior in the process. This warrior swears a life debt to Robin and follows him back to England.

Azeem, the Moorish character, was created just for this film but I liked the character a lot and it was cool seeing Morgan Freeman bring him to life while also getting to partake in the action heavy parts of the movie. Also, he paired up well with Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have watched these two go on further adventures.

The story is your standard Robin Hood tale for the most part but it takes some liberties, as all interpretations of the legend do. This one also pushes the romance pretty hard between Robin and Marian but honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of the action or the larger story. This version also has a witch character, who gives advice and directions to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff and frankly, it’s one of his best roles. He gets some great lines in this and he came off as very formidable against Robin in their final battle. Rickman turned the role down twice but finally took it when he was told that he’d have the freedom to play the character in the way that he wanted. I think that his influence and creative decisions made the character unique and memorable and it takes a great villain to shape a great hero.

I also like that the Sheriff of Nottingham had Michael Wincott as his main henchman. I’ve dug the hell out of Wincott for as long as I can remember and he was a good addition to this cast.

I also liked Christian Slater in this even though I felt like he was a bit underutilized.

The only truly odd thing in the film is that Kevin Costner, as the legendary British hero Robin Hood, uses his American accent, as opposed to doing a British one. I guess this was decided during production, as there are some scenes where Robin sounds a bit British-y. However, the director thought that it might be too distracting and break the film. I guess the critics of the time felt the opposite, though, as they got really hung up on the American sounding Robin Hood.

While the accent didn’t bother me too much, the running time did. I just thought this was 20-30 minutes too long and there was a lot that could’ve been whittled down. Once Robin gets back to England, early on, it felt like it took awhile for the film to really get going.

I thought that the action was pretty good and the big battles were exciting and hold up well. However, the final swordfight didn’t feel swashbuckling-y enough. I think that the director wanted a more realistic fight but part of Robin’s appeal, at least to me, was his athleticism, playfulness and mastery of the sword. Furthermore, the Sheriff of Nottingham truly gets the best of Robin and the hero only wins due to a distraction and a dagger he had hidden. It just felt kind of meh and cheap.

Still, I did like seeing this again and it was an entertaining experience. Costner was fine as Robin Hood but Rickman stole every scene that they shared.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: Life After Flash (2017)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Topol, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Brian May, Peter Duncan, Howard Blake, Barry Bostwick, Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Fulcher, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, Stan Lee, Ross Marquand, Josh McDermitt, Jason Mewes, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Rooker, Alex Ross, Patrick Warburton, various

Strict Machine, Spare Change Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

This documentary has been in my queue for a bit but I wanted to revisit Flash Gordon first before checking this out. Luckily, I recently found my DVD of the original film and was able to watch it and review it a week or so ago.

Now that the 1980 film was fresh in my mind again, as I hadn’t seen it in years, I felt like I could go into this with more familiarity, context and creative reference.

Overall, this was pretty good and it was intriguing listening to Sam J. Jones’ story about how his career sort of fizzled out and the reasons behind that. Luckily, this is a Hollywood story with a positive outcome, as the guy is now doing well and on the right track, personally and career-wise.

This spends a lot of time talking about Jones but it also delves into the film’s production, history and features interviews with many of the people who were involved in it. I especially liked seeing Brian Blessed in this, as I’ve always loved that guy.

Life After Flash also explores the fandom a bit, as it interviews super fans and collectors but also allows them to show off their cool shit and talk about their love for the film.

I dug this documentary quite a bit, as I feel like the 1980 Flash Gordon doesn’t get enough love and has sort of been forgotten by modern audiences. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about filmmaking and specific fandoms.

Film Review: Flash Gordon (1980)

Release Date: September, 1980 (Turkey)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Michael Allin
Based on: characters by Alex Raymond
Music by: Queen, Howard Blake
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Robbie Coltrane, Deep Roy, Kenny Baker

Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!” – Dale Arden

Far from great, this is still one of the coolest movies ever made. It’s certainly a product of its time, as it wants to exist on the same level as Star Wars but the rest of Hollywood hadn’t yet caught up to the magic that George Lucas possessed.

Regardless of that, this is still an enthralling motion picture that made the best out of all its parts, creating a one-of-a-kind, pulpy world that really felt like an update of the old school Flash Gordon serials it tried to emulate in many regards.

Also, this has more of a ’70s feel to it than ’80s. But it was technically made and shot in ’79, so there’s that.

Flash Gordon is overly fantastical and I mean that in a good way, as it’s so stylized and unique that it really stands out among a lot of the other epic science fiction space operas of its era.

The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. Sure, some things look ridiculously hokey, even for 1980, but they still work in this strange universe.

I thought that the cast was also solid, despite the lack of experience Sam J. Jones, who plays the film’s title character, had in front of the camera. He still shines and I’m surprised that this didn’t lead to bigger and better things. Although, he is overshadowed by some of the other actors, especially Max von Sydow, a legitimate veteran who seemed to be completely committed to the role of an evil, outer space madman hellbent on ruling the galaxy.

I also really dug Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed in this. They’ve been two of my favorite British actors over the course of my life and this is actually the first thing that I saw both of them in, way back when I was a young kid that rented this movie quite a lot.

Sadly but also understandably, I think that this film is mostly remembered for its music, as superstar rock band Queen did the film’s theme, as well as some other awesome tracks. Their music in this is spectacular and it makes the film so much cooler than it would have been without their iconic tunes. But really, between these songs and the film’s stupendous style, it’s like a perfect marriage.

All in all, this is a film with some flaws and it’s probably way too hokey for modern audiences but for the time, it worked. I just wish it had as much of a cultural impact as other big budget movies from that incredible era of live-action space operas.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi and fantasy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

TV Review: Blackadder (1983-1989)

Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989
Directed by: various
Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)

2entertain, BBC, 24 Episodes (plus 3 specials), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.

This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.

Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.

To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.

Film Review: Cosmic Princess (1982)

Release Date: December, 1982
Directed by: Charles Crichton, Peter Medak
Written by: Johnny Byrne, Fred Freiberger
Music by: Barry Gray, Derek Wadsworth
Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell, Brian Blessed

Group 3, ITC Entertainment Group, RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, 91 Minutes

cosmic-princessReview:

Cosmic Princess is a television movie that was made for American audiences using two episodes of the British television show Space: 1999. It was the fifth and final feature length film created from that show. It is comprised of a pair of season two episodes, The Metamorph and Space Warp. The episodes are spliced together with some alterations and edits, making them one tale where they were originally two separate stories.

This film also appeared on the original first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when the show was still only on public access in Minnesota.

I’ve been an avid science fiction fan my entire life. While I have seen Space: 1999, I wasn’t as fond of it as a lot of the other stuff on television back then. It kind of plays like a more serious version of the original Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. The uber seriousness is probably why I didn’t adore it like those other shows.

As a feature film, Space: 1999 doesn’t translate well. The editing is a mess and no matter how hard they tried to make Cosmic Princess into a coherent story, it still feels like two unrelated tales amateurishly welded together.

The first half of the film was the better half. It wasn’t good but it had Brian Blessed as an evil space warlord. Once that plot is resolved, we get a sort of “monster of the week” episode. The first half is more exciting and the stakes feel higher. The second half is pretty boring and doesn’t feel all that important unless you were invested into certain characters. If you had lots of episodes to invest your emotion into, it would probably work. As a final act of a film, it is empty and pointless.

The source material probably isn’t half bad but seeing it like this, isn’t doing anyone any favors.

Additionally, the film features some good shots and decent effects but by 1982, they already look incredibly dated when compared to Battlestar and Buck Rogers. Plus, Star Wars had already been out for five years when this hit the airwaves. Granted, it looks better than the Doctor Who special effects of that era but it certainly couldn’t match the charm.

Cosmic Princess is really a nonsensical mess. But I don’t blame Space: 1999 for that, it just shouldn’t have been edited into a series of TV movies.

Rating: 2/10