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This is another one of those movies where people tell you it’s a romantic comedy but literally zero funny things happen in it. It is also so 90s. And not just because it has Joe Fiennes in it.

Martha (Monica Potter) leaves somewhere in the midwest in desperation on the first flight anywhere. Daniel (Tom Hollander) is a record executive on her flight to London, and falls for her, setting her up in a fancy hotel and sending her flowers. Frank (Rufus Sewell) is a failed actor and alcoholic who runs into her by chance the next day and as far as I can tell mostly just creeps the living hell out of her for several hours. Laurence (Fiennes) teaches rich women how to play bridge, and Martha falls for him.

The twist? Daniel, Frank, and Laurence are childhood friends. Daniel and Frank fight over Martha like children; Laurence actually likes her and she actually likes him, but because Laurence is the only person in this movie who isn’t a complete sociopath, he feels bad about stealing her from his friends, and hies himself to a psychiatrist (Ray Winstone).

That’s the movie. It’s insane and terrible. Martha is dumb, irritating, and badly dressed (even by the standards of 1998). Her sad past is underdeveloped but actually kind of alarming. It goes nowhere, obviously. Frank isn’t a cute troubled artist, he’s just the worst. Daniel has even worse clothes than Martha, and is a pushy jerk. Laurence seems like he might be all right, but doesn’t speak enough for you to tell. See? The 90s: bad blond dye-jobs, unexplained grittiness, and dudes who are supposed to come off as sensitive but instead are clearly emotionally stunted. Moodiness is not the culmination of personality.

There are no laughs, and my favorite parts were spotting a young Stephen Mangan at Frank’s audition and Rob Brydon driving a bus(!) at the airport.

Director: Nick Hamm
Rating: R
Length: 98 minutes
Score: 1/5

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This movie is definitely shading into “old favorite” territory, but I’m not sure it’s there yet. And I’m quite aware that the 4/5 rating is going to be controversial, because even I can’t really allege in good faith that this movie is actually a fine piece of cinematic art. It is probably, however, the best existing movie about Roman Britain (compare Centurion, or The Eagle, or The Last Legion, all of which are…desperate). And it might have been better if it had just been a movie about Roman Britain, instead of trying to shoe-horn it into an Arthurian mold. But again, it does that wayyy better than The Last Legion did.

It is around 450 CE. The Empire, in the west, is teetering or has teetered its last, depending on whom you ask. Christianity is doing some weird stuff. It still gets super cold in the British Isles. Arthur (Clive Owen) is a battle-hardened Roman soldier, who grew up in Britain and has served there all his life; his mother was a Briton. He leads a band of famous knights from Sarmatia on the Black Sea: Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Bors (Ray Winstone), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson). They spend most of their time keeping blue-painted, trousered people firmly on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. They want to go home.

But they can’t go home, until they go on One Last Mission. Beyond The Wall.

Complicating matters is an army of invading Saxons, led with hilarious menace by Stellan Skarsgård and Til Schweiger (I have no idea what their characters’ names are). Also then Guinevere (Keira Knightley) shows up with a bow and a shirt made of a surprisingly small amount of string. She lectures Arthur about his loyalties and makes Lancelot feel things. It’s not really clear what, though, because what Lancelot mostly does is stare awkwardly.

And here’s my biggest problem with the movie. If you name people “Arthur,” “Guinevere,” and “Lancelot,” you have to commit to the love triangle. Especially if they’re all stupid hot. That’s one of the key things about Arthur. If you don’t want to do that, name them something else. You had to explain how this dude was Arthur anyway; why not just spend that time telling us about someone entirely new?

Stray observations:

  • Clive Owen was 40 when this came out and Keira Knightley was 19, which is surprising and possibly weird.
  • Lancelot’s two knives are just as hot as Legolas’s two knives, which is very.
  • For some reason this movie commits to caring about the Pelagian heresy, which seems like a weird thing to care about.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes
Score: 4/5