As the legend of King Arthur evolved, it traveled east from Wales, the area of its first known appearance, and became Anglified, Christianized, and ultimately Frenchified. In updating the legend for American audiences he apparently hopes are clueless, director Jerry Zucker has transported the story even farther east—to the vicinity of Hong Kong. The result is not as funny as Airplane! (which Zucker co- directed), but can only be appreciated in a spirit of perverse levity.
Flamboyantly moronic, this shapeless, overlong flick doesn’t merely chop the Arthurian legends (admittedly already much worked over) into Hollywood hash. It also has laughable characterization and ludicrous dialogue (credited to scripter William Nicholson) and no sense of structure or pacing. The forbidden love of Lancelot (Richard Gere) for Queen Guinevere (pitiable Julia Ormond) doesn’t even attract the attention of King Arthur (Sean Connery) until the film seems to be over, and then serves simply as the pretext for another bloodbath. Meanwhile, Lance has rescued Guin twice from so-bad-he’s-boring Prince Malagant (Ben Cross) and his fetchingly black-clad hordes, both times in absurd scenarios.
As Zucker’s version of Lancelot, Gere talks with a contemporary American accent and has the moral code of a spaghetti-western hero. With his Zen master’s timing and swordsmanship so deft that it flirts with the comic, however, he resembles a kung fu flick hero more than the traditional exemplar of chivalry. (Indeed, Gere was more convincing playing Japanese in Rhapsody in August than playing Celtic here.) Cross gets to declaim “I am the law” with more clarity than Stallone’s Judge Dredd, but Connery’s brogue sometimes mutates into a lisp: Delivering a most un-Arthurian line, he storms that “I canna love people in thlices.”
The film also shares the Hong Kong “historical” action genre’s taste for modern technology in retro drag: The bad guys, for example, use mini-crossbows that actually function like nail guns, and Lance demonstrates his bravery to Art and his subjects by running a mechanical gauntlet more appropriate to Gotham City than Camelot. Among the other incongruities: Mal seems to live in an abandoned slate mine, although the story is presumably set in a period before mining became a significant Welsh industry, and that mine is somehow connected to a Pocahontas-style waterfall along an otherwise gently rolling section of the north Wales coastline.
Where the brutal and dumb Braveheart aped Kagemusha‘s combat scenes, the slightly less brutal but even dumber Knight nips the heels of Alexander Nevsky, setting the final slaughter to a Latin chorale that fails to convey any gravitas. Incredibly, Zucker and company have managed to make the year’s puniest hodgepodge of Celtic legend, bodice-ripping romance, and battlefield carnage. Two months ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a film that would make one yearn for the dignity of Rob Roy—or, for that matter, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, But Came Down a Mountain —but Ghost veteran Zucker has done it. Knight could hardly have been more ludicrous if he’d cast Whoopi Goldberg as Morgan le Fay.
During a period in which the United States was engaged in dirty little conflicts all over the globe, NASA sublimated the Cold War into an antiseptic technological Olympics, the race to the moon. No wonder that astronauts make such boring heroes—and that movies about them enlist such knee-jerk right-wing villains. In The Right Stuff, it was those stuffy bureaucrats; in Apollo 13, it’s those pushy journalists.
Apollo is one of director Ron Howard’s more effective non- comedies, but that doesn’t mean he’s mastered new territory. Indeed, with all its wide-eyed tots in need of reassurance and its cute vomiting scene, this is basically Parenthood in outer space. The danger to the three astronauts whose craft is damaged by an explosion (wholesome Tom Hanks, cocky Kevin Bacon, down-home Bill Paxton) is presented principally as a threat to the family, both nuclear and surrogate. As the people on the earth scramble to save them, the astronauts are uppermost in the minds both of their wives and children and of the brotherhood of NASA (especially Gary Sinise, in the film’s best performance, as the guy left behind at the last minute).
Working from a script adapted by William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert from Apollo 13 Capt. James Lovell’s autobiographical account, Howard has made an entirely functional, characteristically earnest docudrama. The problem isn’t so much that the outcome is known—if Lovell had flamed out in space, he wouldn’t have written a book about it—as that the depiction of it is so predictable. Though the film demonizes the reporters camped on the Lovells’ lawn, it inevitably uses TV-news chatter in place of narration—lots of Cronkite, of course—and hypes the events with melodramatic camera movements and James Horner’s syrupy score. Most egregiously, Howard teases the audience before finally revealing the actor playing NASA’s flight director: It’s Ed Harris, who was John Glenn in Stuff, and the portentous introduction is less dramatic than it is silly.
Still, the space stuff is serviceable until it comes time for reentry. Then, after more than two hours of only moderate sentimentality, Howard goes moderately nuts. He intercuts the events in space and at ground control with numerous ripe shots of family members choking back tears as they raptly watch the TV account, while Horner slathers the proceedings with TV-commercial-style choral music. It’s almost as stirring as the final scene of one of those movies where the underdog Little League team wins the crucial final game of the season.
The sexy young blonde is new in town and anxious to mate—so anxious that she starts pulling off her clothes in a crowded disco. “Her biological clock is ticking,” notes one Species character, and if the film had stayed on this puckish level it would have been diverting. But director Roger Donaldson and scripter Dennis Feldman want viewers to take their effort seriously as a sci-fi thriller at the same time they’re amused by its sociobiological spoofing and titillated by the sexy young blonde who pulls off her clothes. Species manages to spoof and titillate from time to time; thrill, however, it does not.
Essentially Alien in L.A., the film assigns an empath (Forest Whitaker), a free-lance assassin (Michael Madsen), and two academics (Alfred Molina and Marg Helgenberger) to track a bug-eyed monster in human guise. Sil (played mostly by fashion model Natasha Henstridge) was constructed from a human embryo and some alien DNA by the usual pack of federal-government nincompoops (led by Ben Kingsley); though she has the customary array of insect and reptilian aspects, Sil usually looks like a blond fashion model. That means she can cruise bars for a possible sperm donor at the same time that the feds are combing the city for her. Looking for Mr. Goodbar is still a chore, though, and Sil finds most guys to be inadequate breeding partners. (One is a diabetic, while another unwisely balks at her stated desire to become pregnant.)
Antipodean hack Donaldson has directed such passable studio fare as No Way Out and Bounty (just to shame him, let’s note that he made a good pre-Hollywood movie, Smash Palace), and this sociobio