JT Film Review

138 – Camelot (1967)

Camelot Review

4/5 stars

Director – Joshua Logan

Cast – Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero

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When I found that Richard Harris was the star of the filmed version of the Broadway smash hit Camelot, I half expected a Paint Your Wagon experience. But in this extravagant re-telling of the Arthurian legend, Harris more than fills the required black leather boots as King Arthur, as do Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero as Guinevere and Lancelot respectively.

While expecting a somewhat dry and bland movie, Camelot surprised me with its wit and, dare I say it, depth. While focusing on the forbidden romance between Guinevere and Lancelot, the movie is really about the effects of their affair, both on King Arthur (who knows about it), and on the fragile union of England embodied by the famous Round Table.

Camelot starts off at what is chronologically almost the final scene. King Arthur finds himself facing an upcoming battle, and ponders the events leading to the tragedy of war. The movie then unfolds in flash back, starting with Harris’ joyously perfect rendition of “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight”, where he tells of his nervousness at his upcoming (arranged) marriage to a woman he has never met. Of course this woman turns out to be Guinevere, who has similar reservations. They meet-cute in a forest, away from their attendants, and fall in love. Their perfect bliss is soon marred, however, by the appearance of perfect knight Lancelot…

I like the maturity on display here, they’re all so level headed. While Lancelot and Guinevere are having an affair, they are aware of the consequences and even frown upon their actions; but as they say, they can not choose whom they love. On top of all this, King Arthur is aware of the affair, but decides to do nothing, so as to preserve the fragile English peace. No one flies off the rails here. The inevitable war is not a reaction of Arthur to his friend and wifes betrayal, but comes from scheming lords and knights, led by Arthur’s treacherous bastard son, Mordred. I enjoyed the way the movie shows a noble man try to do his best to rule a kingdom, despite forces beyond his control trying to upset his rule. There really is a lot of nobility in this movie, and not just from the royal blood on display.

Granted, the strengths of the movie definitely come from the musical on which it is based, as the songs are funny or affecting in the right amounts. Unfortunately the direction is not extremely assured, and the movie is definitely not helped by its somewhat sluggish pace. We could maybe have used a bit more spice, and you could say the ending is a bit abrupt, but it still packs a nice little punch if given a chance. All in all the grandiosity, seriousness, and wit of Camelot adds up to a very satisfying experience… if you can sit through the 3 hour running time.

OVERALL

Camelot is a big movie, with heaping portions of everything you could ask of a medieval musical. Sure it is a bit slow and unwieldy, but there is a depth of heart here. It is not all flash and Broadway sparkle. This is good old Hollywood entertainment, and I am glad I saw it. In the end, what more could you ask for?

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TRAILER

“Camelot” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 16, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Musical, Year - 1960-1969 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

96 – Hairspray (2007)

Hairspray REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Adam Shankman

Cast – Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Zac Efron, Brittany Snow, James Marsden, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, Elijah Kelly, Jerry Stiller

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Hairspray, an adaptation of a Broadway musical which was itself an adaptation of a John Waters picture, may not seem very promising. We certainly have seen adaptations and remakes thrive recently, certainly commercially but usually less so when it comes to the critics. Well, we know which one trumps which usually…

Hairspray however, is one of the better remakes/adaptations, and some say one of the best films of the year of its release (2007). Personally I will go as far as to say that it is among the best musicals of the decade. A small category to be sure, but I stand by it.

The strength of Hairspray is two-fold. First off is the boundless energy and optimistic spirit of the whole thing. The movie tackles race issues, yet never feels preachy or sad. The movie is set in the 60’s and even though it lampoons (to a degree) the social values and wholesome attitudes of the time, in some ways the movie revels in them. The kids are all squeaky clean, and everything can be fixed if we all work together and be happy. This could easily have been overbearing, but I found this attitude refreshing and impossible to resist.

The second greatest strength of this movie is its cast. The star, newcomer Niki Blonsky, has to be the happiest looking kid I’ve ever seen on-screen. Zac Efron and James Marsden (as a couple of the stars of local variety TV show “The Corny Collins Show”) are lively and energetic, Christopher Walken as Niki’s father is perhaps a bit dry, but he carries it off, John Travolta in drag as Walken’s wife is perfect, and a cameo by Jerry Stiller as the owner of a local clothing store is a welcome dash of colour. The greatest performance in the film I think is Michelle Pfieffer. She plays the villainous, racist, and self-important producer of the “Corny Collins Show”. She sings well, she dances in a slinky, smarmy sort of way, and we love to hate her every moment she is on-screen. What more can we ask?

The movie is perhaps a bit long, about 15 minutes or so.  A little subplot with Pfieffer’s character attempting to seduce Walken’s character was added by the director just for this film, and I think that could have been comfortably left out. It does however lead to a delightful almost campy little duet between Walken and Travolta, which is one of the movie’s best moments, so we must forgive it. The ending is a bit pat perhaps, but with this type of film anything else would have felt out-of-place. We knew all along that it would end happily, and we’d have it no other way.

OVERALL

Hairspray trips along nicely despite dealing with a fairly heady subject. The acting is great, the energy is abundant, and its attitude and positivity is irresistable. The dancing and choreography are top-notch. I dare anyone to feel depressed after watching this. Definitely recommended.

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TRAILER

“Hairspray” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 5, 2010 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Musical, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment