Tag Archives: Brian Blessed

Henry V (1989, Kenneth Branagh)

Director (and adapter) Branagh splits Henry V into three sections. They aren’t equal, they don’t match the act changes (usually); Branagh lets photographer Kenneth MacMillan open up the film to (outdoor) light while Patrick Doyle’s score becomes essential. The first outside, daylight sequence–Branagh (as Henry) gives his troops a rousing speech–defines the rest of the film. Even when it gets dark and violent in the subsequent, breathtaking battle sequence, there’s still a lot of light. That light carries over into the finale, which is light comedy featuring Branagh bantering with his betrothed-to-be Emma Thompson.

The problem with that finale is it requires Branagh’s Henry to be a likable character in a way Branagh’s never been concerned about. He’s a king, not a bashful suitor. It’s an odd conclusion, with Thompson not speaking English and coming off like a possession to be had. With Branagh’s strange comedic handling, the whole thing is off.

Until Derek Jacobi, as the modern day chorus, guiding the audience through the film, gets in the last word, Henry is almost in trouble. Not a lot, but more than one would expect given how Branagh goes from being expert to sloppy in one scene.

Branagh’s excellent. Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, Michael Maloney, Christopher Ravenscroft, all astounding. Branagh gets these beautiful performances in long, usually close-up takes. And gives a great one of his own with the same treatment.

The battle scene is an amazing intersection of artifice and reality.

Real good stuff.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Kenneth Branagh; screenplay by Branagh, based on the play by William Shakespeare; director of photography, Kenneth MacMillian; edited by Michael Bradsell; music by Patrick Doyle; production designer, Tim Harvey; produced by Bruce Sharman; released by Curzon Film Distributors.

Starring Kenneth Branagh (King Henry V), Brian Blessed (Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter), Paul Gregory (Westmoreland), Nicholas Ferguson (Earl Richard Beauchamp of Warwick), James Larkin (Duke John of Bedford), Simon Shepherd (Duke Humphrey of Gloucester), Charles Kay (Archbishop of Canterbury), Alec McCowen (Bishop of Ely), Fabian Cartwright (Earl Richard of Cambridge), Stephen Simms (Lord Henry Scroop), Jay Villiers (Sir Thomas Grey), James Simmons (Duke Edward of York), Christopher Ravenscroft (Montjoy), Paul Scofield (King Charles VI of France), Michael Maloney (Louis the Dauphin), Emma Thompson (Princess Katherine de Valois), Geraldine McEwan (Alice), Harold Innocent (Duke Philippe of Burgundy), Edward Jewesbury (Sir Thomas Erpingham), Danny Webb (Gower), Ian Holm (Captain Fluellen), John Sessions (Macmorris), Jimmy Yuill (Jamy), Judi Dench (Mistress Nell Quickly), Robert Stephens (Auncient Pistol), Richard Briers (Lieutenant Bardolph), Geoffrey Hutchings (Corporal Nym), Christian Bale (Robin the Luggage-Boy), Michael Williams (Williams), Shaun Prendergast (Bates), Patrick Doyle (Court) and Robbie Coltrane (Sir John Falstaff). Derek Jacobi as Chorus.


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Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012, Guy Vasilovich)

Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out gleefully turns the Star Wars characters into caricatures–it’s a mix of Empire and Episode One, apparently because that combination works out funniest. Darth Vader is upset when Darth Maul gets more of the Emperor’s attention, C–3PO (actually voiced by Anthony Daniels) annoys everyone, Luke is all of a sudden a heartthrob.

What’s impressive about Michael Price’s script is how well he tells the jokes. Lego Star Wars doesn’t revere its source material, but does appreciate it and all the pop culture hubbub it’s caused. The result’s far smarter for that approach. Price tells a lot of jokes I assumed he’d avoid.

The CG’s all fantastic; the shadowing makes some of the static LEGO figures appear to be physical rather than rendered. The John Williams music works well (and is the only thing used sincerely).

As expected, it’s fun, but smart too.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Guy Vasilovich; screenplay by Michael Price; edited by Michael D. Black; produced by Joshua Wexler; released by Cartoon Network.

Starring Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass), Julian Glover (General Veers), Lloyd Floyd (Luke Skywalker), Matt Sloan (Darth Vader), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Lisa Fuson (Princess Leia Organa), John Armstrong (Han Solo), Andy Secombe (Watto), Tom Kane (Narrator / Yoda), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul / Emperor Palpatine) and Jason Canning (Admiral Ozzel).


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High Road to China (1983, Brian G. Hutton)

Upon hearing John Barry’s beautiful opening titles music, I realized it was unlikely High Road to China would live up to its score. It does not. It does, however, at times, come rather close.

The film takes place in the twenties, with Bess Armstrong as a flapper who hires WWI veteran Tom Selleck to fly her to Afghanistan to find her father. Selleck’s rough and tumble, Armstrong’s perky and assured; they don’t get along. But unfortunately, Road isn’t a travel picture. The 1,200 mile part of their journey is done completely between scenes. It cuts down on the bantering between the two–but also cuts down on their expected romance.

About thirty minutes in, after they reach Afghanistan, the plotting becomes more predictable. They encounter a warlord–Brian Blessed camping it up in brown-face–and have to escape. Then they get another passenger (Cassandra Gava, in the film’s worst performance) and discover they have to keep going. It should be a quest picture… but it’s not.

Jack Weston is excellent as Selleck’s sidekick. For most of the runtime, the film’s salient character relationship is between the two men; both are broken down and marking time. None of the other actors make an impression–except Robert Morley. He’s awful.

Armstrong and Selleck are both fantastic; Armstrong gets a little more to do.

Besides the weak plotting, the film’s real drawback is director Hutton. Even when he’s competent, his work is never good enough for the actors.

Still, it’s not bad.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Brian G. Hutton; screenplay by Sandra Weintraub and S. Lee Pogostin, based on the novel by Jon Cleary; director of photography, Ronnie Taylor; edited by John Jympson; music by John Barry; production designer, Robert W. Laing; produced by Fred Weintraub; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bess Armstrong (Eve), Tom Selleck (O’Malley), Jack Weston (Struts), Wilford Brimley (Bradley Tozer), Robert Morley (Bentik), Brian Blessed (Suleman Khan), Cassandra Gava (Alessa), Michael Sheard (Charlie), Lynda La Plante (Lina), Timothy Carlton (Officer), Shayur Mehta (Ahmed), Terry Richards (Ginger), Robert Lee (Zura), Anthony Chinn (General Wong), Ric Young (Kim Su Lee), Timothy Bateson (Alec Wedgeworth) and Wolf Kahler (Von Hess).


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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, Kevin Reynolds), the extended version

It’s sort of amazing how little personality Kevin Reynolds brings to Robin Hood. I suppose his direction is adequate, but his shots are absent any creativity. Of course, maybe the shots were very creative and then Michael Kamen’s score–a combining, for the most part, of his Die Hard and Lethal Weapon scores–came in and ruined it all.

There are strong elements to the film. Alan Rickman, in the other major Die Hard connection, takes the idea of a sinister villain and turns him instead into comic relief, while maintaining the villainous attitude. Reynolds’s best direction is of Rickman, as Reynolds seems to understand what he’s doing.

Morgan Freeman, Nick Brimble and Michael Wincott are all good. Freeman’s Moor among the Englishmen is some of the script’s sillier developments (oh, wait, I forgot Geraldine McEwan’s witch).

Christian Slater is bad; Michael McShane’s Friar Tuck is weak.

As for the leads–Kevin Costner is appealing enough, if way too old to be playing the character as written. And then there’s the issue of his hair–he’d need a hair stylist in Sherwood Forest every day to get that bouffant style going. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio disappears for long stretches (the film’s too long by about a half hour but the script’s structure needs time to play out) but she’s fine. She’s not in it enough to really make an impression.

Robin Hood’s generally a tolerable blockbuster. Better composition–and consistent photography (Douglas Milsome is all over the place)–would have helped.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Reynolds; screenplay by Pen Densham and John Watson, based on a story by Densham; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Graysmark; produced by Densham, Watson and Richard Barton Lewis; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Costner (Robin Hood), Morgan Freeman (Azeem), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Marian Dubois), Christian Slater (Will Scarlett), Alan Rickman (Sheriff George of Nottingham), Geraldine McEwan (Mortianna), Michael McShane (Friar Tuck), Brian Blessed (Lord Locksley), Michael Wincott (Guy of Gisborne) and Nick Brimble (Little John).


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