Thursday, September 16, 2010

Robin Hoods That Don't Suck

Posted By Liberty Valance

Ok, so every few years it seems that a Robin Hood movie or TV show takes up our valuable viewing time, and with tons of fantasy TV duds it’s like navigating a veritable minefield out there; you don’t want to step on a landmine. Enter the good folks at Turning Down the Suck to save your brain from the migraines caused by shitty entertainment. It’s our job to sort through all the crap, so you don’t have to. And so I present to you; Robin Hoods That Don’t Suck.

Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, William Keighley - 1938):

Considered the definitive version, The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the great swashbucklers. Robin is again portrayed as the Earl of Huntingdon, this time outlawed for standing up for the common man and Flynn brings his own brand of devilish charm as well as a lightness of touch no other actor has ever managed to bring to the role. The Adventures of Robin Hood also features a ravishing Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) and a superbly choreographed showdown between Flynn and veteran actor Basil Rathbone playing Sir Guy of Gisbourne. If you know anything about Errol, his off-screen passions; drinking, fighting, boating and sex, made his film escapades pale in comparison. His love life brought him considerable fame, three statutory rape trials, and a lasting memorial in the expression "In like Flynn". Later in life serious roles eluded him, his lifestyle had eroded his youthful good looks, his career declined. Few good roles came his way late in life, usually aging alcoholics, almost mirror images of the man himself. This is a chance to see him at his prime.

Richard Greene in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-58):

Richard Greene starred in this popular 50’s TV series, this time as Robin of Loxley. Robin returns from the Crusades to find his land has been stolen from him. After preventing the Sheriff’s men from gouging a poacher’s eyes out, Robin is framed for the murder of a Norman aristocrat. Taking refuge in the forest, he seeks out the outlaws hiding there. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was one of the very first British productions to grace American airwaves and ran from 1955 to 1958 on the CBS network. A total of 143 episodes were produced. This Robin Hood was more wholesome than Flynn’s and used humorous skits to break up the somber subject matter. I still remember waking up early on Sunday and watching re-runs of this show, while eating my Cocoa Puffs. Great for the whole family.

Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964):

Called the “Rat Pack Robin Hood” Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack portrayal of gangster and racketeer Robbo in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Teaming up with Dean Martin as Little John, Sinatra becomes a hero after donating cash to a local orphanage run by Bing Crosby. The sheer hilarity of setting the Robin Hood story against the prohibition era Chicago gang wars as a musical makes it a must see. Sammy Davis Jr’s song “Bang, Bang” always make me laugh every time I hear it.

Sean Connery in Robin and Marian (Richard Lester - 1976):

Great date movie here, fellas. Though the story told in Robin and Marian is unfamiliar to most audiences, it is actually quite faithful to several of the ancient Robin Hood legends. During the Crusades, Robin (Sean Connery) is still loyal to King Richard the Lionheart (Richard Harris), but even he has trouble adjusting to the monarch's ever-increasing paranoia and lunacy. After Richard's death, Robin returns to England, his first visit to his home turf in 20 years. He looks up his beloved Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn, last seen in 1967's Wait Until Dark). The performances are hugely affecting. Connery has rarely been so fragile, while Hepburn matches him as Marian, now an Abbess and still angry with Robin for leaving her behind. Nicol Williamson is a wonderfully deadpan Little John, none so gentle, or as fierce, while Robert Shaw is a pragmatic Sheriff.

John Cleese in Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam - 1981):

Gilliam’s fantasy sees a boy called Kevin travelling through time with a group of dwarves. They arrive in Sherwood Forest to find a frightfully posh Robin Hood (Cleese) meeting the poor as if they were the guests at a Royal Film Premier. John Cleese is brilliant in everything. Need I say more?

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kevin Reynolds 1991):

Popular 90’s blockbuster enhancing Kevin Costner’s box-office standing, but turning him from a cool leading man admired by men and women to the epitome of loser almost overnight. Director Kevin Reynolds and Costner had a prior collaboration on the underrated Fandango (1985), but their relationship soured during the filming of Prince of Thieves when Costner shut Reynolds out of the editing room. This marked the beginning of the end of Costner's career. The supporting cast is awesome, and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham is still, in my opinion, the best sheriff. His death scene is pure cinematic gold. I think everyone who grew up in the 90’s remembers the Bryan Adams hit (Everything I do) I do it for you. It was even spoofed on Family Guy.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves essentially reprises the opening of Richard Greene’s television show with Costner as a disinherited Robin of Loxley. Alan Rickman’s pantomime Sheriff steals the show and the gifted but abused Reynolds orchestrates some stirring action sequences.

Russell Crowe in Robin Hood (2010):

Ok, so I don’t really know a lot about this new Robin Hood, mostly what I could piece together from reviews on the net and press and how the actors promoted the film. I’m not a big stickler on historical accuracy when it comes to folk tales like Robin Hood or Camelot so when I’m reading a review and the writer's biggest critique is that they used anachronistic horse bridles or the wrong arrows, it really pisses me off. The last decent medieval film I saw was Pathfinder. When a guy rents a film set in the middle ages he wants two things, girls in plunging necklines and guys loping other guy’s heads off. Hopefully Ridley Scott's “Robin Hood” delivers in both categories. I’ll be watching it this weekend and will post a full review next week.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why M. Night Shyamalan’s Movies Don’t Suck.

Posted By Liberty Valance

Now I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding this guy but hey, isn’t a little controversy once in a while a good thing? That’s right, I’m talking about Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan or M. Night Shyamalan as he is known professionally. Love him or hate him, one thing you must admit is that you’ve probably seen or at least heard of one of his movies. I mean, “The Sixth Sense” was nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. As of late, Mr. Shyamalan’s success has been less than stellar. None of the movies he’s been associated with since “Sixth” have even come close to reaching the mainstream success it did. Does that mean M. Night’s day is done? Is he forever banished to the land of suck? NO! M. Night’s movies do not suck. Here's why.

Color Pallet

M. Night Shyamalan has an amazing way of immersing us into the world of his movies. While watching, you feel less like you’re on the outside looking in, and more like you’re a silent member of the cast, standing just out of frame. One of the ways I think he accomplishes this is by his use of color.

In his classic The Sixth Sense, he intentionally inserts bright red objects to symbolize that something ominous is about to happen.

In “Unbreakable” it was neon green and purple...

And in “The Village," colors again play a major role, with red attracting the monsters, and yellow keeping them away...

He Writes His Own Stuff And Sticks To His Guns

In 2006, in spite of Disney (the studio for which he had made his biggest previous films) rejecting his script over content issues, M. Night commented that they "no longer valued individualism... no longer valued fighters." He released “Lady in the Water” on July 21st with Warner Brothers Studio. All predictions indicated to M. Night that this movie was going to bomb; in fact, The New York Post wrote that the film was "dead in the water", criticizing Shyamalan as a "crackpot with messianic delusions." But he went ahead and did it anyway, following through on a promise he made to his children, that he would make their favorite bedtime story into a movie to share with other children. And for thumbing his nose at the industry and doing something to make his kids happy, he doesn’t suck.

His Scripts

Despite what you think about his skill as a director or an actor, you have to admit that his script writing skills are second to none. Despite whether or not the films received critical success, they were all superbly written. Aside from the “twists” he’s become famous for, M. Night has a way of creating characters that you can identify with. Whether it’s the security guard who knows deep down that he was meant for something more, the Father who loses his faith in the face of a horrible accident or the town leader who must reveal a hidden secret in order to save the man his daughter loves, something about his characters make us take a look inside ourselves and ask, what would I do in that situation, would I do the “right” thing?

The Cast

Love him or hate him, M. Night gets the best of the best to work with. From Hollywood royalty such as Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson to Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo, it seems that Mr. Shyamalan has an uncanny way of assembling amazing people to work on his movies, even pushing actors out of their comfort zones ala Adrien Brody in “The Village," who plays a mentally handicapped man, or Bruce Willis stepping out of his tough guy persona to play a sensitive therapist in “The Sixth Sense." (Not to mention the fact that Bryce Dallas Howard is drop dead gorgeous and kind of looks like Christina Hendricks!)

So like I said earlier, whether you love him or hate him, most people have an opinion. Which, in a society where apathy seems to be spreading faster than Bird Flu, gives him a plus one in my Column. After a few not-so-successful trips to the box office, I have no doubts that “Devil” (the newest treat from Mr. Shyamalan) will be a hit. The story revolves around a group of people trapped in an elevator who realize that the Devil is among them. “Devil” is shaping up to be a who’s who guessing game filled with intrigue. Just watch out for the guy in the horns with the pitchfork and pointy tail. (SPOILER ALERT!)

Think you know who the Devil is? Put your clairvoyance to work and vote for your choice in the Poll on the Facebook page.

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