Films featuring
Brian Blessed

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

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In my last review, 3:10 to Yuma, I lamented the casting of two non-Americans, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, in the lead roles for a Western. I suppose, however, that would be our just desserts for movies like this, which retells an English legend with four Americans in the lead roles. The most visible British actor is stuck playing the villain, making this, I suppose, sort of an unofficial Star Wars film. To add insult to injury, the entire story is refashioned as a generic action movie, raining down clichés like flaming arrows.

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Much Ado About Nothing

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Between the mud-stained medieval warfare of Henry V and the emotional operatics of Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh, dipped his toe in one of Shakespeare’s lightest and airiest comedies and produced one of the most accessible and genuinely delightful versions of the Bard’s plays to reach the big screen. Its plot, boiled down to its essentials, will probably seem familiar to fans of modern romantic comedies, proving that the genre is one of oldest, and most durable, in English literature.

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Henry V

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Just 29 when he made this, Kenneth Branagh fired a shot across the bow of no less a figure than Laurence Olivier, who had, forty-five years earlier, also directed and starred in his own adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play. Olivier’s version, made in wartime, was intended as a patriotic rallying cry for a weary nation. Branagh’s grittier, more ambiguous version is no less accomplished, although it could stand to be slightly better paced.

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Hamlet

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When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.

One might call this the Spinal Tap adaptation of Shakespeare’s greatest play, because everything about it most definitely goes to eleven. The first film of the unabridged text of Hamlet and the last film shot in seventy millimeter as of today, Kenneth Branagh’s brazenly, foolishly ambitious project will be the shortest four hours you ever spent in front of one movie. A broad cast of both veteran Shakespearean actors and many who you would not expect in this kind of film wring both drama and raw emotion out of words often calcified under the dreary mantle of “literature.”

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Flash Gordon

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This is the kind of movie that Ed Wood would have made if he’d ever had the budget. It has everything: bad writing, bad acting, bad special effects and bad music. Is it cheesy? There’s enough cheese on screen to keep every restaurant in France supplied with sauce for a year. Is it campy? It goes beyond camp. This is an entire Boy Scout Jamboree. Is it corny? Like Iowa, baby.

Okay, Mr. Smart Alecky Movie Reviewer Guy, stop beating around the bush. Did you actually like it?

Um… yeah.

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