Michael Wincott

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Year: 1991
Directed By: Kevin Reynolds
Written By: Pen Densham and John Watson

RYAN’S REVIEW

Now to a more serious Robin Hood film. One I am quite fond of despite how much fun Mel Brooks had with it in his comical rendition. I enjoy Men in Tights as much as anyone but I don’t think it bears any credence to the merit of this film. I was an imaginative seven year old when this movie came out and it was an instant hit with me. I loved the chivalry and swordplay. I was specifically taken with the forest village and the battle with flaming arrows. Maybe it’s the kid that still lingers in the back of my mind but I still love this movie.

This is such a fun and exciting chapter in the never ending Robin Hood saga. There are already countless films dedicated to the character and yet another due in the next year or so. This one is far and away my favorite though. I never saw the Russell Crowe version in 2010 despite how much of a fan I am of Crowe. I think the reason was I didn’t want anything threatening my opinion of this film, because this is the one I know. This one has Morgan Freeman wielding a scimitar, this one has exceptional battle scenes, and this one has a bad guy that doesn’t get enough credit.

I was deeply sadden to hear the recent news of Alan Rickman‘s passing. He was such a talented and incredible actor. My favorite of his roles is undoubtedly that of Dr. Lazarus from Galaxy Quest, a silly movie but one he gave me plenty of laughs with. Personally, I think his Sheriff of Nottingham is a close second to one of his best roles. He kills it as a bad guy and he carries this movie on his shoulders. Yes Hans Gruber and Professor Snape are the popular choices for naming his best work and I would never challenge those roles. Yet, I love him in some of the overlooked things. In this movie he plays a great bad guy. The type of bad guy that cuts your heart out with a spoon, because it would hurt more. The type of bad guy that kills his number one henchman and cousin, because he is tired of hearing him bitch. The type of bad guy that uses gory torture punishments as flirtatious small talk when trying to woo a Lady. He’s the type of bad guy that demands your respect because you never know what he might do next. That’s Alan Rickman and if you give this movie nothing else you should give his performance your respect because that man knew how to be pull off bad guy.

It’s worth mentioning that said number one henchman and cousin was played by none other than Michael Wincott. That guy was born to play bad guys and has an evil and sinister facial structure that makes him perfect for such parts. I’m not going to ramble on about Wincott I simply think it is worth mentioning he is perfectly cast in this film in the henchman role and his presence makes Rickman an even better bad guy.

I suppose I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t discuss Kevin Costner. He is Robin Hood after all but while Rickman is sinister and legit I think Costner comes off as kind of cheesy. I like Costner in this part but I think he is easily overshadowed by many of his costars. As Robin Hood in this film he didn’t speak with an English accent but he did teach guerrilla warfare to the homeless and outlawed. That’s pretty cool if nothing else, and it obviously worked out well because they built a magnificent tree village.

Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood is cooler in fact because his right hand man is Azeem, played by a much younger but still old Morgan Freeman. As the sage of wisdom and wielder of the intimidating scimitar Freeman is as badass as he ever was throughout his career. Azeem can fashion tools and weapons, deliver babies, and scare witches before dispatching them. Is there a better man to have at your side whose sworn an oath to you? Achoo may have been pretty cool with his backwards Robin hat but he could never hope to have any validity in mocking Azeem. The man was just too much of a badass.

My brother and I play golf rather often, though neither of us are really any good. When we slice into the wooded area the same line is screamed by one of the two of us regardless who is at fault. “Too the trees!!!” is said multiple times on every outing and it’s this film that inspires that line ringing in my mind on a regular basis. It is fitting though because I appreciate a regular reference to such an awesome scene. The battle at the tree village is so ahead of its time and it came before so many others you must understand. This movie preceded Braveheart, as well as plenty of other films that offer great medieval warfare.  If there is no other reason to get behind this movie it is this battle. The one that rushes a wave of fur clad warriors on foot and follows with a volley of flaming arrows into the tree village. The only thing I remember being half so cool as a kid was Madmardigan in Willow and He-Man.

The early 90s were a time when it was the cool move to cast Christian Slater in a supporting role. I get it because there is a time and a place for nearly everything. I tend to think his role has always been a bit too much though. This movie does a really good job actually of depicting life during feudalism, but Will Scarlett’s opinions just sully the whole thing. He’s the bastard of House Locksley and thinks this entitles him to something. Nobody likes a guy who doesn’t know his place in the world.

I was a history student in college but admittedly never studied much of medieval history. I have always found it fascinating and the era has made for some of my favorite movies both as a kid and as an adult. I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the books not the butchering show, and I have read them multiple times in anticipation of the next installment, The Winds of Winter. Having read these stories so much I have become very acquainted with the customs of the time period. Even though the series is fiction it is so historical in itself that I trust plenty of it when it comes to the customs and style of the time period. In this movie without going into explanation it accurately depicts many of the same customs and practices that can be found in Game of Thrones. With the exception of Will Scarlet and his whining. The audacity this illegitimate son has to consider himself a rival of the true born heir would make the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms shudder.

This movie has a special place in my heart, as all movies that influenced my fledgling imagination as a child do. This one is way up there because in my mind I would recreate that battle in the tree village over and over again in different scenarios. As a kid my imagination was the only escape I had from the family that was dramatically breaking apart around me. Movies were what got me through those troubling times because they inspired the world I created to hide away in. That makes this movie especially more important to me but I think it is good enough for anyone regardless. If you haven’t seen this movie then it is easily worth your time. Audiences love the Robin Hood story and this one was as good as any of the adaptations have been.

NEXT MOVIE: Robocop (1987)

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Doors

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: J. Randall Johnson & Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Ten years ago this was one of my favorite movies and I watched it all the time.  In hindsight, that was probably part of my problem in my late teens. I haven’t seen this movie in several years since I took a ride with it and it led me to a dark place.  This is a great movie made by a guy that was really really high when he put his vision together.  You can be stone cold sober and still feel like you are tripping when you watch this movie, but that’s part of what makes it exceptional. The soundtrack is also noteworthy.  I am still a fan of The Doors and their music plays throughout the entire film.

Oliver Stone has always been one of my favorite directors and he made many great movies in the 80s and 90s.  Stone has never been any stranger to drug use and I think that is more than obvious in nearly all of his films.  Even in the beginning of his career he was writing the screenplay for Scarface and basing it partly on his own personal experiences.  He was getting really high while making his Academy Award winning film Platoonalso based in part on personal experiences in the war.  He has been busted numerous times over the years for using drugs as well.  I don’t think there is really any problem with an artist finding his creative motivation with drugs though, especially if he is making something great.  I do think he made something great with this film too, but at the same time I must admit it didn’t do me any favors in my youth and I consider it a disruptive influence for anybody young.

Stone was a fan of The Doors and he put a lot of effort into this film.  He did a lot of research when writing but took many liberties with the story nonetheless.  Stone does that; he makes an effort to tell the truth but inevitably deviates from the plan in order to tell the story he wants to tell.  Jim Morrison‘s real life girlfriend Patricia Kennealy served as an advisor on the film and even played a small part as the priestess in the Wiccan wedding ceremony.  Yet she still had a problem with her portrayal in the film and Stone later admitted that he wrote her as a combination of many women and should have renamed the character.

Stone was initially reluctant to cast Val Kilmer in the role of Jim Morrison.  Kilmer was persistent in his efforts to get the role and personally financed the recording of him singing songs by The Doors.  He played a tape for Stone saying that some of the songs were him and some were Morrison singing.  When Stone couldn’t tell them apart Kilmer got the job and what a job he did.  This is easily one of the best performances of Kilmer’s career and he did a great job of looking and sounding just like Jim Morrison. Meg Ryan may have had the leading female role but I actually think Kathleen Quinlan played a better and more significant part. The film also has a great supporting cast including Michael Madsen, Kevin Dillon, and Michael Wincott.

I don’t watch movies about musicians and bands very often because they all seem to tell the same story.  The musicians that get films made about them are all self-destructive and arrogant people that don’t look so good in the feature.  I’m thinking mainly about Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in addition to this film about Jim Morrison. These men were all heavy drug users who took advantage of others around them and I think the movies about them actually tarnish their memory instead of honoring it.  I don’t like watching films that I feel like I have seen before so I specifically didn’t like Ray or Walk the Line. I’m afraid I only have room for one film about a self-absorbed and out-of-control musician in our collection and this is the one that got my attention early. It has ruined me on all the other films like it.

This is a great movie but it does drag out a bit too long at two hours and twenty minutes.  There are only so much drugs and alcohol you can watch Morrison ingest during that time and it gets to be too much at times.  If you are a fan of the music made by The Doors then you should definitely see this film because most of their best songs are played.  Otherwise I don’t know that there is much point to seeing this film.  I think it’s a good one and I still like it but it is only in our collection as a relic from our youth.  This one takes us back and reminds us of times when we lived a wilder life but we are different people today. So I will only tentatively recommend this film and warn you of its well deserved R rating, this film is good but buyers beware.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Gah, I don’t want to even write about this movie. It takes me back to college and the days I don’t talk about anymore because, well I am a mother now and moms don’t talk about their crazy college days. This movie is by the great Oliver Stone, and I am sure Ryan expressed his undying love for above. It is beautifully made and captures a time in history of chaos while following the life of Jim Morrision. I love the way they played the music throughout the film. It had all of the iconic songs and more of the ones you know if you are a Doors fan. This is a really cool movie, and it was obviously made for people who are on drugs. It is really trippy, just like the time, the person and the music.

NEXT MOVIE: Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)