A Knight’s Tale (2001)


The Moon, At Least.  Her Breasts Were Not That Impressive.

A Knight's Tale (2001)Going into the break room at work can be a dangerous thing.  Half of the time they’re doing something supremely boring like watching sports and other times they’re watching movies of varying quality.  When I walked into the break room a few days ago, they were watching a movie I was aware of but had no desire to see.  But what I saw of it piqued my interest enough that I decided I should give it a look.  So hopefully that will explain why I watched A Knight’s Tale, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, and starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, Laura Fraser, Mark Addy, and James Purefoy.

A squire named William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), along with his fellow squires Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), find their master Sir Ector dead while on the road to a jousting tournament.  In desperate need of money, William concocts the idea to compete as Sir Ector in his armor, regardless of the fact that he doesn’t have noble blood.  After winning some money, William talks Roland and Wat into continuing their charade to win more money, but they’ll need a forged patent of nobility to do it.  Luckily for them, they happen to encounter Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) walking naked along the road, naked from gambling debts and in need of money himself.  On his way to glory, William also encounters a standard love interest (Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon) and a standard rival (Count Adhemar, played by Rufus Sewell).  And then the standardness continues.

I didn’t really get this movie.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really see any appeal to it.  It’s very by the books when it comes to story.  The hero triumphs, he gets the girl, everything works out in the end.  But the lack of surprise doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad movie.  It’s just entirely predictable.  But that also can make it pretty boring.  I guess that could also have been the subject matter though.  Jousting just isn’t that interesting.  That’s why no one goes to Medieval Times or The Excalibur anymore … I assume.  I’m not researching here!  I’m just spouting off random nonsense.  But there’s nothing life or death about it; it’s just a game.  It’s practically a high school movie, replacing some boring sport with jousting and taking it back in time.  And since it’s basically a sports movie, we’re going to have to watch training montages.  I kind of understand the training montage.  It would be weird for him to just be untrained one moment and show up in the next scene saying, “Oh that was some good training,” but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a little boring too.  And they sometimes don’t make sense.  Some of the training scenes were of William riding at a device holding a shield, and then they show scenes of him trying to hit a shield held by Wat.  If you have that device, why are you risking Wat’s life?

The weirdest thing about this movie is the anachronisms in the movie.  It was innovative, I suppose, but also kind of weird.  It opens up with a crowd of people at a medieval jousting tournament singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”  To think Freddie Mercury has been getting credit for that song all these years!  People dress weird and use terms like “Foxy Lady” in the 14th century, having no knowledge whatsoever of Jimi Hendrix’ catalog.  “All Along the Watchtower” is a much better song!  William’s armoress, Lady JustDoIt, puts a Nike Swoosh on his armor after she apparently invents Vibranium (that would later be turned into Captain America’s shield) that is lighter and more resistant to damage.  It’s not bad that they made these choices in the movie, but it is definitely strange.

The cast of the movie was fine.  One of these guys would later be the best Joker in history, in case you didn’t know.  I can no longer tell if I like his performances in movies because he’s doing a legitimately good job or because I’m always thinking of the Joker.  Rufus Sewell plays a great dick.  He seems very easy to hate.  Alan Tudyk is always fun, even in the sometimes annoying comic relief role like he was playing here.  Paul Bettany was also entertaining throughout the movie, though I could’ve done with seeing his ass a few less times.  And maybe they could’ve balanced that out a little bit by showing us Shannyn Sossamon’s ass at some point, but they didn’t see the value in that apparently.  Despite her hotness, I found myself generally annoyed by her character.  She seemed a little too aware of her hotness, for one thing.  Granted, she’s aware of something that’s absolutely true, but being so aware of it kind of makes her seem conceited.  Also, what’s the deal with this “lose your jousting matches to prove your love to me” shit?  Will it prove that he values you more than he does winning at jousting?  Yes.  Could it get him killed or at least seriously injured?  Absolutely.  So he does prove his love, and he does get seriously injured, which proves that your love is pretty shitty.  Also, with her character sometimes coming off as unlikeable, and with how many other similarities this movie has with high school sports movies, I half figured they were setting up a hidden romance with Lady NikeSwoosh played by Laura Fraser.  All it would’ve taken is a few more bitchy moments out of Sossamon and a moment of Fraser taking a bath, letting her hair down, and replacing her paint-stained overalls with a pretty dress and this would’ve been Sixteen Lances over here.

I found A Knight’s Tale more strange than anything else, but it wasn’t bad.  The story was a basic high school sports movie with jousting instead of football and the performances were pretty good, but it was almost off-putting how odd it was for it to be so anachronistic in its presentation.  I thought this movie would be much dumber than it was, but I still don’t think there was anything spectacular enough to warrant a viewing, so I’d still say you may as well skip it.  A Knight’s Tale gets “You have been weighed.  You have been measured.  And you have been found wanting” out of “Change your stars and live a better life than I have.”

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L.A. Confidential (1997)


Off the Record, On the QT, and Very Hush-Hush

My roommate and I did two movies back to back, but thankfully the second one originally came out well within our lifetime.  It was one I knew about, but never really found myself that interested in watching.  But he got the movie, so I figured we might as well watch the thing.  While watching it, I found myself completely unable to stop thinking about a certain video game that I really enjoyed last year, but I’ll be mentioning that later.  For now, let’s get into my review of L.A. Confidential, based on a book by James Ellroy, written by Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson, directed by Curtis Hanson, and starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey, David Strathairn, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, and Simon Baker.

Detective Wendell “Bud” White (Russell Crowe) and his partner, Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel), are delivering alcohol to a policeman party, while periodically stopping so Bud can whoop on some guys abusing their ladies, something he has a big problem with.  At the police station, narcotics detective Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) shows up along with a group of Mexican guys rumored to have recently attacked and beaten some police officers, and they get turned over to the night’s watch commander, Sergeant Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce).  Alcohol and rumor make their way quickly around the office, inciting the police officers to go down to the cells and attack the Mexicans.  Reporters get some pictures of it and call it “Bloody Christmas”, which makes the LA Times and tarnishes the reputation of the LAPD.  District Attorney Ellis Loew (Ron Rifkin) and Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) interview officers to figure out who will testify and who will have this pinned on them.  White won’t testify, Exley is totally on board, and even suggests using the TV show that he works on to gain leverage on Vincennes and get his support.  This whole plan gets a couple of officers, including White’s partner Stensland, is expelled.  Exley gets promoted.  Shortly after, Exley is called to the Nite Owl coffee shop and finds a large group of people murdered in the bathroom.  One of these people is Stensland.  For the rest of the movie, we follow Exley, White, and Vincennes as they try to find out what truly happened that night in the Nite Owl, but what they find may go much deeper than they expected.

I really liked LA Noire … I mean Confidential.  This was a really good movie, but all I kept thinking about the entire time is how similar this movie is to LA Noire, which gained respect for this movie, but lost a little for LA Noire.  The movie had a really interesting story, but it was perhaps a bit predictable, and it was elevated by some really good performances and some really good action.  The story of the movie is fairly classic noire movie fare, with corruption and betrayal happening with the police that’s being battled by a few good cops, and there’s a little mob action going on to boot.  You can probably figure out who the bad guy is before the movie tells you, but it’s much harder to figure out why and how.  Either way, having guessed the culprit didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the movie.  A lot of the movie was just back to back intense scenes of puzzle solving.  It could not go without saying that the movie reminds me of LA Noire.  Not just the noire style and the LA setting, but there were some scenes of collecting clues, some pretty intense interrogation scenes, and even some entire plot points that were shared with the game.  They worked really well in both.  The movie is not one that I would call “action packed”, per se, but there’s a couple of scenes with good, solid action.  One in particular that stands out is the one that ends the movie in a giant shootout that was pretty awesome.

The performances are another great part about this movie, and I can scarcely think of one that did not hold up their end of the bargain.  Crowe was the bomb in this movie.  He was a total badass, but also put in some serious acting in parts.  His part of the final shootout in the movie was particularly badass, and a later scene with Basinger was particularly well acted, but he’s pretty great throughout.  Guy Pearce is a good contrast to Crowe in this movie.  As the movie moves along, we find that they’re both good cops, but in different ways.  Pearce is all by the book and Crowe is all about seeing justice served.  Pearce is Superman, Crowe is Batman.  Unfortunately for Pearce, him being the by the books cop made me dislike him until near the end of the movie.  I’m more of a Batman kind of guy.  Spacey is still a good guy, but he’s barely a cop until the end of the movie.  He’s more of a celebrity who does police work on the side.  Kim Basinger puts on a great performance as well, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing this chick looks and she was in her 40’s in this movie.  She’s almost 60 now, and I haven’t seen her in a bit, but I’d wager I would still smash.  James Cromwell did a great job as well, being very charming and likeable for the greater majority of the movie.

LA Confidential is a movie I’m happy that I finally watched.  If you’re not into games, but you heard good things about LA Noire, you can basically just watch this and get the gist of the game because they borrowed so heavily from it.  Good story, great performances, and some intense scenes and action make this a good watch.  I watched my roommate’s copy of the movie, but I would totally buy it myself as well, so it’s at least worth a rental for you.  LA Confidential gets “You look better than Veronica Lake” out of “Lookie here, the great jerkoff case of 1953.”

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