My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three more films from the Sword & Sorcery genre.



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

John Boorman’s adaptation of the Arthurian legend is a visual feast. The picture is filled with jaw-dropping cinematography and set design. It’s also stacked with head-scratching performances and narrative decisions.

The acting in EXCALIBUR is so over-the-top and corny at times, there’s no way it was done by intention from the director who guided great, subtle performances in DELIVERANCE, POINT BLANK, and many other films throughout his career. The cast, specifically Nigel Terry and Nicol Williamson, play it so large you’d think they were at Carnegie Hall. A few lead performers rein it in, like Gabriel Byrne as Uther and Helen Mirren playing his evil (sexy) spawn, but the actors whose work should carry the picture end up spoiling its gravity, making the work silly and dated. For this reason, side players like Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart end up being the highlight of the movie’s ensemble.

The best of these is Paul Geoffrey as Perceval. Boorman’s other mistake is trying to bite off more than he can chew and the crammed movie doesn’t get really good until the last forty-five minutes when Geoffrey appears. Instead of trying to do the entire Arthur story, Boorman would have been wise to start with the sword and then pick back up with the quest for the grail (perhaps with a few flashbacks in between) because it’s Geoffrey’s journey that saves the film. Though he doesn’t play in most of the picture, the actor’s performance is its heart. I was finally glued to the screen as he searched for the holy cup, kicking off EXCALIBUR’s last act which is ten times stronger than anything that came in the hour plus that preceded it.

There are some unforgettable moments, especially images, in Boorman’s movie but it is a super flawed attempt at the Arthurian legend, not the definitive adaptation.

Watched on Amazon.



Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

I had to re-watch LADYHAWKE, not only because of my interest in the genre but also because I’ve recently visited some of their filming locations.

I certainly appreciated the film more this go around compared to my reaction as a teenager. Matthew Broderick’s light performance carries the picture, though I wish they’d dropped the accent completely. It is one of those rare films where the comedic relief works as the lead. And especially after his death, it’s always a pleasure to see Rutger Hauer on screen.

The film is quite grounded compared to other Sword & Sorcery entries, only leaning into fantasy with its animal shape shifting but otherwise existing as a semi-realistic medieval adventure. What doesn’t work for me is the fight choreography and the character development of the script. The former feels so staged in every action sequence; I can sense the blocking in every move and it does not play out in a natural way at all. The latter is most evident in Hauer’s character. His entire reason for dismissing Leo McKern’s claims is not believable and therefore most of the conflict in the third act doesn’t work. It’s one of those instances where you can hear the screenwriters coming up with a character’s action just to move the plot along rather than following the natural path that character would take.

It feels like an odd entry in Richard Donner’s career, unlike any of his other pictures, but overall LADYHAWKE is a fun Sword & Sorcery romp, worth a viewing or two.

Watched on Amazon



Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

How is it that this muscle-man fantasy adventure has captured my imagination for so many years? Was it the VHS cover I spotted in Hollywood Video decades ago? One day I had to see THE BARBARIANS and satisfy my curiosity. My recent study of Sword & Sorcery films meant that it was time.

Somehow, this film works. Led by the dumbest pair of steroid-enhanced heroes, THE BARBARIANS is low on the intelligence scale. However, the filmmakers’ embrace this quality instead of working against it, playing into the low IQ of their leading men (or at least the characters they portray) in what amounts to the DUMB & DUMBER of the genre. The goofy performances are truly outlandish at times but also surrounded by great production design and cinematography. The world created is vibrant, full of interesting characters and stunning use of color.

It’s wild to say this but THE BARBARIANS might be one of the best looking films in the Sword & Sorcery genre. The movie is dumb, fun entertainment that doesn’t take itself too seriously and happens to have been made by skilled craftsmen.

Watched on Tubi.