Top Ten Unsung Movies

If you’ve listened to my podcast for any length of time you’ll know that I’ve wanted to get back to the geek in ArchGEEKologist for some time now. I wanted to do list of top ten films, but not just my top 10 favorite films, which I may get to at some point. This list is of ten films that I love that aren’t necessarily my very favorite ten. Some of my very favorite films are series films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Lord of the Rings, or other blockbusters like Jurassic Park, or action flicks like The Bourne Identity and Taken, or dramas like Dances With Wolves. I also have many favorite films that just aren’t often mentioned in the zeitgeist, if at all. These are my 10 favorite unsung movies–films you may not have seen, or films that people rarely discuss among their favorites.

10 – Oblivion

A Joseph Kosinski film. His Credits include TRON: Legacy, his first feature, and the 2017 release, Only the Brave. The film stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Andrea Riseborough, who has performed mostly in small or arthouse films. You may know films such as Birdman with Michael Keaton, Waco and The Death of Stalin, but she also won a Broadcasting Press Guild Award in the UK for Best Actress in the TV film Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, for which she was also nominated for a BAFTA TV Award. The film also features Olga Kurylenko, for whom notable films include The Room, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with Adam Driver, and The Death of Stalin alongside Andrea Riseborough, but as an Eastern European model she got dangerously close to being typecast as a femme fatale, playing in action thrillers like Quantum of Solace, Hitman, Max Payne, Erased with Aaron Eckhart and The November Man with Pierce Brosnan. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau also has a small role, who viewers would recognize as Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones.

The premise of Oblivion is that Jack and Victoria are the last two humans on earth, overseeing the final extraction of the last resources from the planet in a post-apocalyptic future. Jack is the scout who repairs the drones out in the field while Victoria provides visual and technical support from the outpost where they live. Trouble starts when a couple things happen. One, Jack is having flashes of memories he can’t explain, which point to a New York we recognize and a woman Jack doesn’t and two, a craft crash-lands on the surface carrying human passengers. I won’t go any further than that because it really is worth watching yourself.

Oblivion doesn’t fit in with the current crop of Sci-Fi action flicks which seem to rely on a frenetic pace, over-the-top visual effects, explosions and violence, and scores with bombastic synthesized Hans Zimmer type kettle drums and heavy metal string sections. This is a film that takes its time. It’s as much a sci-fi epic as it is a visual art piece with stunning cinematography by Claudio Miranda, an Academy Award winner for The Life of Pi, a Nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and was cinematographer on Disney’s Tomorrowland, as well as all of Kosinski’s other films. The film was also recognized by the Art Directors Guild as a nominee for its Excellence in Production Design Award in 2014. The soundtrack also stands out, with a score by the group M83.

Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough effectively carry the drama of the events in the film, while Cruise gets to practice his ever-present action chops–and ride a motorcycle, which Tom Cruise seems to do in almost every film. While the plot seems to borrow liberally from the Science Fiction oeuvre of Heinlein, Clarke or Asimov, it executes on it beautifully. One of the writers of the film was Michael Arndt, under a pseudonym, who has worked on many high-grossing and well-recognized films, most notably the Toy Story franchise as well as a preliminary screenplay for The Force Awakens.

9 – Les Miserables (1998)

A Bille August film starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, Geoffrey Rush as Police Inspector Javert and Uma Thurman as Fantine; featuring Claire Danes as Cosette, with a score by Basil Poledouris. 1998’s Les Miserables is not a musical, but a dramatic adaptation, following pretty much step-for-step with the events of the musical. The film does not spend as much time with characters such as Thernardier and his wife, who basically make a passing appearance, nor does it have very much to do with the student revolt, but chooses instead to focus on three things: Valjean’s love for Fantine and Cosette, Javert’s obsession with capturing Valjean, and Cosette’s romance with Marius. The most sublime part of this film is the way Geoffrey Rush portrays Javert. He comes off as an extremely sympathetic villain, and by the end of the film it’s easy to say that Valjean won, but not so much that Javert lost–Only that he lost himself along the way, and it is a loss the viewer finds most unfortunate.

Basil Poledouris you may know from such films as Conan the Barbarian, Red Dawn, Lonesome Dove, Quigley Down Under, Robocop, The Hunt for Red October and the list goes on. His score is magnificent, if understated. Where the musical leaves you singing those magnificent songs, the overarching theme from Poledouris permeates the score of the film, which at the end lifts up the viewer with its overall sense of hope that reflects the message of One Day More, if not its epic tone and grandeur.

8 – Van Helsing

When I think of Van Helsing I can’t help but think of my friend Tee Morris, Author of the first podcast novel, Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana, co-writer of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels, Podcasting for Dummies, Twitch for Dummies, All a-Twitter… you know who he is (and if you don’t, you should!). But one of the criticisms he had for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels follows what made Cutthroat Island a bit of a disappointment (you may realize we both love pirate movies). The people in it forgot they were making a pirate movie! They forgot to have fun! Not so with Van Helsing. It is clear the filmmakers had loads of fun making this! 

When I think of monster movies I think back to the old black-and-white monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, etc. When I think of Stephen Sommers monster movies, I think of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser. Much of the criticism surrounding Van Helsing, in my opinion, comes from people who wanted a more serious or darker interpretation. When you think of Van Helsing in the vein of The Mummy, with its over-the-top action, campy humor and–in the case of The Mummy Returns–Alan Silvestri’s epic score, you know how to view it.

The film stars Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale and Richard Roxburgh as Dracula, featuring David Wenham, Alun Armstrong, Kevin J. O’Connor and Robbie Coltrane–Harry Potter’s Hagrid–who appears unrecognizably as Mr. Hyde in the beginning of the film. Hugh Jackman is of course brilliant as the titular character, while Kate Beckinsale not only gets to use her Underworld action chops but also show her personality, charm, beauty, sexy Bavarian accent–I digress. But the one who really steals the show is Richard Roxburgh as Count Dracula. He was the Duke in Moulin Rouge, Hugh Stamp in Mission: Impossible 2 and Professor Moriarty in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In Van Helsing, his Dracula takes on a personality suitable for the most diabolical of Super-Villains, attempting to use Doctor Frankenstein’s technology–and his monster–to bring life to his own horde of vampire children.

The film is full of other colorful performances, such as Kevin J. O’Connor–who played Benny in The Mummy–as Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant forced into helping Dracula with his nefarious scheme. And David Wenham, who played Faramir in The Lord of the Rings series, but also the very colorful role of Audrey in Moulin Rouge. His role as Carl the friar is at turns hilarious and heroic, and at first I barely recognized the same brooding, rejected son of the Steward of Gondor.

7 – Pocahontas

Much criticism and mockery has been leveled at Disney’s Pocahontas, much of it unjustified. The first thing said, of course, is that “it never happened that way!” Then again, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinnocchio, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins are, perhaps, fiction. Walt Disney films are about fairy tales, and Pocahontas is as lovely and magical a fairy tale as any of them. What the story does beautifully and tastefully is show the dichotomy between those of the English who wanted to explore the New World and live peacefully with their new neighbors and those who wanted nothing but the riches the New World promised. It also illustrates the level of fear which led to so many conflicts between the English and the Natives, and of course, many of the natives had just as much fear and hatred of the white man. We at least see an effort on the part of the main characters to bridge that gap and get past the fear, an effort that–despite what some armchair historians may say–actually took place between white Europeans and the Indigenous tribes. Here we just have it related in a form that children can understand.

Clearly the best thing Pocahontas has going for it is the music. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz won an Oscar, Golden Globe, ASCAP and Grammy Award for the song Colors of the Wind, performed in the film by legendary Broadway actress Judy Kuhn, and Menken won an Oscar, BMI and ACCA award for best score that year. The Orchestrations by Danny Troob, who has worked on countless Disney films, are some of the best you will ever hear. What sets it apart is its blend of what we might consider classic Colonial Americana like you might hear in John Williams’ score for The Patriot, with traditional Native American musical styles and instrumentations. The use of Native American chorus and chants gives it that necessary flavoring, and the songs…oh the songs! As a musical, Pocahontas is simply brilliant. Even with Mel Gibson’s less-than-natural singing voice, the songs just work. Throw in Broadway, TV and Animation legend David Ogden Stiers (Major Winchester from M.A.S.H., Dr. Jumba from Lilo & Stitch, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast), and you have one of the best singing casts since The Little Mermaid.

6 – The Patriot

This is a film directed by Roland Emmerich, who is known for his work with partner Dean Devlin, and films such as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C. and other special effects-driven epics. The Patriot is a bit of a departure for Emmerich, reliant here much more on practical effects and the emphasis on the human drama of a family caught up in the events of the American Revolution, rather than the epic scope we’re used to.

Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a veteran of the British Army haunted by his violent past in the campaign to hold the Colonial frontier. Martin is a widower who just wants to farm in peace, and as the Revolutionary War kicks off, he is torn between his duty as a member of his community and a parent to his six children. We see this tension illustrated by his relationship with his eldest son Gabriel, who joins up with the Colonial Army against his father’s wishes. But his effort to remain peaceably neutral is ruined by Colonel Tavington, a ruthless British cavalry officer played by the deliciously evil Jason Isaac. In the ensuing events, Gabriel’s commitment to the cause draws Benjamin into the fight. In the Martins you have a man drawn by the nobility and rightness of the cause of liberty, and a man who wants to exact vengeance and justice for the deadly impact on his own family. This highlights that sometimes the motives for joining a just cause vary from person to person, but it doesn’t make the cause any less just. 

Devlin and Emmerich, known for their ability to bring high-caliber actors to bear in a project, The Patriot is a veritable acting exhibition with stars like Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson and Jason Isaacs, to well-known character actors like Chris Cooper as a veteran Colonel leading a division of the Colonial army, Tcheky Karyo as a French national helping to train the raw Colonials, Rene Auberjonois as a Reverend who feels the call to “defend the sheep from the wolves”, Tom Wilkinson as General Cornwalils, and a staple of Devlin and Emmerich projects, Firefly’s Adam Baldwin. The film also features a script by Robert Rodat, known for writing on such films as Fly Away Home, Saving Private Ryan, Thor: The Dark World and The Catcher Was a Spy.

Topping it all off is an incredible score by John Williams, who channels as much Aaron Copland as he ever did, with a feature performance by Violinist Mark O’Connor, a mainstay of the Nashville music scene, and a virtuosic bluegrass fiddler. The violin solos in The Patriot are hauntingly beautiful yet still uplifting. In the end, Benjamin Martin takes up the colonial cause as his own when he takes up the American flag that Gabriel was putting together from scraps, in an iconic and wonderful moment underscored perfectly by Williams’ music. The Patriot makes you feel good about the cause of American Liberty, and even confronts the issue of former slaves becoming free in a touching and beautiful way as diverse men are brought together through common cause. 

More than just a vehicle for Mel Gibson to do his Braveheart thing and get covered in stage blood, The Patriot reminds us not only of what it took to break away from Great Britain, but also that the fight for Liberty is not easy, and we will always struggle to make men and women free. We are not perfect but what sets this country apart is that we keep working at it. We have never gotten it perfect as a nation, no nation ever has. But as long as good-hearted men and women keep fighting for what is right, in the spirit of brotherhood, we will continue to be the United States of America.

5. The Mask of Zorro

Director Martin Campbell made a name for himself with action films like GoldenEye, Vertical Limit, Casino Royale, two versions of Edge of Darkness and 2011’s ill-fated Green Lantern. If you can imagine the legendary Zorro from the time of Spain’s concession of California to Santa Anna up until the Gold Rush, filmed like a James Bond flick, then you know what you’re in for here. Likely you’ve seen it, but if not, as remakes of Legendary icons go, The Mask of Zorro is one of the best.

Starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and featuring stellar supporting performances by Stuart Wilson as Don Rafel Montero, Matt Letscher as Montero’s henchman, American Army Captain Harrison Love, and longtime staple of Westerns and TV Action dramas, L.Q. Jones as the lovable outlaw Three-Fingered Jack. Anthony Hopkins is Don Diego de la Vega, formerly the original Zorro, but his life was destroyed by Montero. When Montero returns from Spain, de la Vega wants revenge on Montero for the death of his wife and the theft of his only daughter. When he realizes his daughter is alive and in California rather than Spain, de la Vega turns from regular revenge to an elaborate scheme to not only stop Montero’s effort to buy California from Santa Anna with gold from his own mine, but humiliate Montero and reclaim his relationship with his daughter. He takes under his wing a washed-up hopeless thief and scam artist Alejandro Murietta, played by Antonio Banderas, who becomes a vehicle not only for the resurrection of Zorro, but also the effort to destroy Montero. For Murietta’s part, his only focus is on revenge against Captain Love, who killed his brother Joaquin. The two must work together to accomplish both goals, and deal with the ensuing romance between De la Vega’s daughter Elena, (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Murietta.

It’s a wonderful action film, tightly wound and perfectly paced, with arguably James Horner’s best and most underrated score. It’s certainly my favorite of his, and the one film in which that dang Shakuhachi flute actually seems to fit just right.

4 – The 13th Warrior

A John McTiernan Film starring Antonio Banderas, Dennis Storhoi and Vladimir Kulich, and featuring some fantastic norse actors and beautiful British Columbia, with a score by Jerry Goldsmith. When I first heard of The 13th Warrior I had seen the first trailer for the film, and at first it was called Eaters of the Dead, after the Crichton novel of the same name. It was advertised, “From the Director of Die Hard and the author of Jurassic Park.” The director in question is, of course, John McTiernan. After test audiences deemed the film unwatchable, Crichton took over the project, renamed it The 13th Warrior, reshot many scenes and made some significant changes. Among these were toning down some of the violence, changing the Mother of the Wendol from an old woman to a younger woman, and adding a final duel between Buliwyf’s warriors and the remaining Wendol. He also rejected Graeme Revell’s original score for the film and brought in Jerry Goldsmith, and if you hear any similarities between this score and his score for The Mummy, it should be no surprise, they were released in the same year.

The film had been criticized on many levels, and roundly so as a flop. Most estimates have the budget at $160M, though the producers claim it only cost $90M before marketing. The film only grossed $61M worldwide, a resounding flop for Disney’s Touchstone PicturesIt’s an action flick, a mystery thriller and a horror story, but the most intriguing aspect of the film is similar to my number one film on this list. Much like the source novel, the film parallels many events in the epic norse poem Beowulf. The premise of the story, imagining real historic events that, due to superstition and legend, became the tale we know as Beowulf, is one I find profoundly interesting.

Like Oblivion, the cinematography of The 13th Warrior almost single-handedly makes this film endlessly rewatchable. With great performances not only from Banderas, but also legendary Norwegian Actor Dennis Storhoi, and Czech actor Vladimir Kulich, known these days for such roles as Eric in Vikings, The Swede in Smoking Aces, and as Vladimir Pushkin in The Equalizer with Denzel Washington. Add a handful of some of the greatest norse actors you’ll ever watch (and a Scotsman thrown in for good measure) and you have an enjoyable popcorn flick that leaves you satisfied, if ultimately disappointed in what could have been.

3 – The Three Musketeers

It’s a Stephen Herek film, who directed–among many others–Critters, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Mighty Ducks, 101 Dalmatians, Mister Holland’s Opus, Life or Something Like it and CBS action shows like the new Hawaii Five-O and MacGyver. The Three Musketeers was Disney’s answer to Warner Brothers’ Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, released two summers prior, and a bit of a spiritual successor to that film.

Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again, they even brought in Robin Hood composer Michael Kamen, who then worked with Bryan Adams again, who penned another hit end credits song, All for Love, performed with Sting and Rod Stewart. Featuring two alums from Young Guns in Sutherland and Sheen, Oliver Platt, one of Sutherland’s costars in Flatliners, and the up-and-coming Chris O’Donnell, fresh off School Ties and Scent of a Woman, the film never caught on with audiences at large, grossing only $53.9M at the box office, but on a budget of $17M, I don’t think Disney was complaining.

It’s a fun adventure comedy romp with zero French accents and very little resemblance to the Dumas novel. What they get right, however, is exactly what Cutthroat Island got wrong: they remembered to have fun with it! As a PG-rated family film, the violence lacks any real blood or any real stakes to the characters, but that’s not the point. The point is how Tim Curry, Oliver Platt and raspy-voiced Michael Wincott chew up every scene with relish. The dialogue features modern in-jokes, expressions that were not accurate to the time period, and place names that wouldn’t exist until centuries later–but honestly if this bothers you I question your sense of humor and you take life too seriously. The Three Musketeers is peak 90’s Action Comedy with a swashbuckling flair.

2 – The Court Jester

The Court Jester is one of the greatest musical comedies ever made, and outside of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, may be the greatest display of Danny Kaye’s enormous talent. It was directed by Melvin Frank who, along with screenwriting partner Norman Panma, wrote such classics as My Favorite Blonde, Road to Utopia, It Had to Be You, White Christmas and The Road to Hong Kong, and Frank would provide the story for 1966’s Not with My Wife, You Don’t!, featuring a score by a young Johnny Williams.

The songs were penned by Sammy Cahn, a long-time Hollywood songwriter and award winner for songs such as Three Coins in the Fountain, Love and Marriage, High Hopes, and a little-known song titled Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow. Joining Cahn in the songwriting process was Sylvia Fine, married to Danny Kaye for 47 years, who is famously quoted saying, “I can’t say what Danny Kaye is like in private life. There are too many of them.”

That quote alone tells you all you need to know about Danny Kaye. He was a crooner and entertainer for three decades, and in a time when men like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin experienced relationship troubles and personal drama, Danny Kaye was one of the good guys. His comedic instinct was top-notch and he often ad-libbed a lot of material in his films. He was a bit like an early Robin Williams in that regard, though perhaps without the borderline insanity. In fact he is known to have caused a lot of retakes during the filming of White Christmas with his antics.

The Court Jester is a bit of a send-up of The Adventures of Robin Hood, with the comic sensibilities of The Man Who Knew Too Little. Danny Kaye plays Hubert Hawkins, a minstrel employed by The Black Fox, our Robin Hood character, and his job is to do two things: entertain the men in The Black Fox’s struggle against the usurper king, and act as a nanny for the infant who is the true heir to the throne. In the course of events Hawkins takes on the identity of a traveling entertainer who also happens to be a skilled assassin, and inadvertently convinces the scheming Sir Ravenhurst (played by Basil Rathbone) that he is The Black Fox. Hilarity ensues. 

The Court Jester is a family classic on par with The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and other iconic films. It is one of those films worth making a family tradition of watching at least once a year.

Honorable Mentions

In the honorable mentions category, these films didn’t quite fit. I fully plan on getting to the Star Wars films at some point, and of course of the unsung films in Star Wars, no film is perhaps more unsung than The Phantom Menace. I was tempted to include it in this list, but as a part of the Star Wars saga it stands apart. This film is another one of those that suffers from people taking things way too seriously, and almost no fan base does that to the degree that Star Wars fans do. The best way to enjoy this film is to put yourself in the shoes of an eight-year old kid who loves lasers, robots, spaceships, lightsabers…and fantastic epic scores by John Williams. Forget what you think Star Wars is or wish it to be, and The Phantom Menace is a better sci-fi film than 90% of what Hollywood puts out in the genre.

White Christmas is another Danny Kaye vehicle, pairing him with Bing Crosby as the lead. The song White Christmas actually first appeared in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby with Fred Astaire. I’ll have more to say about White Christmas in a future Christmas movie episode around the holidays. Another Honorable Mention goes to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie whose existence and inclusion in the series is denied by some, but not here. Indy 4 is a fun pulp adventure and, despite the swinging with the monkeys scene, Shia Lebeouf does just fine as Mutt Williams. Yes it was a product of the whimsy of George Lucas, who wanted to pair his Indiana Jones with 50’s Sci-Fi sentiment. To me it works on the same level as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and for that, I enjoy it. Another that is very similar to entries on the list is The Princess Bride, and while it certainly has its fans, it also has its detractors who simply just don’t get it. While it may have taken on cult status with us nerds, it still remains relatively unsung by the general populous. However, it is popular enough that it didn’t quite warrant inclusion on the list. Look for its appearance on a future episode.

Twelve years later Astaire was supposed to star alongside Crosby in White Christmas, but Astaire was temporarily retired. His replacement, Donald O’Connor, contracted Q-Fever while on another film, and ultimately that role went to Danny Kaye at the last minute. The song gained its legendary status when Crosby introduced it to the troops on Armed Forces Radio shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, eliciting a flood of requests from the troops. Crosby also famously noted to his nephew Howard that the hardest thing he ever had to do in his career was singing White Christmas in Northern France with 100,000 G.I.’s in tears without breaking down himself. Many of those troops would die in The Battle of the Bulge a few days later. The song would again gain legendary status when it was used to signal the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam in 1975. It is recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the best-selling single of all-time.

1 – First Knight

While Jerry Zucker may have been known for directing Airplane!, Police Squad!, and Top Secret!, and writing and producing The Naked Gun films with his brother David, he also directed Ghost, and produced films like A Walk in the Clouds and My Best Friend’s Wedding. Terence Young was originally set to direct, who had directed Sean Connery in Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball, but he died early in pre-production. And so, Zucker was called on to direct his considerable range of talent at a pseudo-realistic take on the Arthurian legend. This goes back to what I said earlier about The 13th Warrior. What if King Arthur was an actual king in an actual Camelot? What would that look like?

While Sean Connery and Richard Gere are too far apart to be contemporaries, and Julia Ormond is too young for either of them, the nature of the love triangle fits with the dynamic of an actual love triangle in that time period. An older King with a proposal of marriage, to a young woman of nobility with a considerable land holding. Given Guinevere’s position, one of the benefits is the protection of her land of Leonesse from Prince Malagant, one of Arthur’s former knights. In Lancelot’s case, a man experienced and skilled enough with the sword to be of his caliber would be an experienced soldier, a survivor of many conflicts, and likely be a man somewhere in his 30’s as Gere seems to portray, rather than some younger–perhaps more appealing actor. In fact, instead of Gere it might have been Mel Gibson, who is similar in age, had he not decided to direct and star in Braveheart that same year.

Everyone in the film has an English accent except for Gere, and it seems to effectively emphasise his position as an outsider. It’s much the same as Costner in Robin Hood, and the Three–no four–Musketeers mentioned earlier. His accent or lack thereof is hardly of importance. It’s a King Arthur movie, not a movie about some actual King who actually existed. The original appeal of this film for me had everything to do with Connery and Gere. Obviously Connery because he’s Sean Connery, a legend, playing arguably the greatest English legend written by a Frenchman who ever existed. But honestly seeing Richard Gere in an action movie had a strange sort of appeal to me. It’s obvious he got into incredible shape before filming, he knows his way around a horse and was an excellent student of swordplay, and if any man can play the creepy “I’m too sexy for my hair extensions” vibe, it has to be Richard Gere. However, no discussion of the actors is complete without mentioning Ben Cross (Sarek in the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek), who absolutely steals the show, eating up his role as the villain on the same level as Tim Curry in The Three Musketeers

This film has everything I love about movies: beautiful cinematography, exciting action, actors at the top of their game and a brilliant score, this one by Jerry Goldsmith. Maurice Jarre was initially hired to score the film, but faced with an original three hour cut of the film and only four weeks in which to do it, he declined. Jerry Goldsmith was hired once again to do a score in a rush, and finished writing it with three and a half days left to record. Goldsmith is famous for being hired to do replacement scores, and he is so good that you don’t even notice. His score for First Knight evokes all the grandeur of Camelot, and fuels all of the emotion behind Guinevere and Lancelot’s love story. Hs epic latin choral underscoring of the final battle makes you think you’re watching a sword fight in The Omen and it’s totally worth it.

I think the beauty of First Knight lies in its simplicity. It’s not asking a lot of the viewer. It’s entertainment and nothing more. The costumes are not outlandish, the special effects mostly practical, and though Gere is playing a role in which he’s not typically cast, it never seems like he’s trying too hard to be something he’s not. He’s just really comfortable being himself. While it could have been any random pseudo-medieval adventure story without the King Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere/Camelot milieu, I think it gives the story a familiarity that it would otherwise be missing. Would it still be enjoyable to me? Absolutely. Is it better with? Undeniably, in my mind.

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