History class aside, 'King Arthur' is summer fare

Posted: Thursday, July 08, 2004

There's no Camelot, no Excalibur. There is a table, and it's round, but nobody really sits at it for too long. And nobody ever, ever bursts into song though it might be sort of fun if they did, if only to break up the intensity of the battle scenes, and to brighten the literal and thematic sludge through which the film's warriors valiantly slog. Supposedly, this is the story behind the legend set in the Dark Ages, not the Middle Ages with the half-Roman, half-British Arthur (Clive Owen) leading a seemingly outmatched band of Sarmatian knights, including his best friend, Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), against the invading Saxons. Although he's torn ethnically and struggles to maintain his religious faith in the face of cynicism and hypocrisy, Arthur somehow finds time to get it on with Guinevere (Keira Knightley), who is not the fragile flower you've seen before, but a buff warrior princess. Despite its pretenses otherwise, "King Arthur" still is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie: a summer blockbuster, full of cliches and sexed-up details. PG-13 for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language. 130 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

'Riding Giants' offers

images, if not insight

The hyperbole is as bodacious as the 50-footers themselves in Stacy Peralta's documentary on the history of big-wave surfing, "Riding Giants." The film is Peralta's follow-up to ''Dogtown and Z-Boys'' from 2001, about the rad Southern California skater dudes who defined the sport in the 1970s. As a skateboarder and surfer himself, the director obviously has a deep fondness and respect for both subjects. And as in his first film, he entertainingly combines spectacular ocean footage, archival photographs and interviews, and connects them with an awesome, eclectic soundtrack including Dick Dale, the Stray Cats, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and, in its more peaceful moments, Moby. But ''Riding Giants,'' which as a whole is more peaceful than its predecessor, also lacks that film's sense of context.

We repeatedly hear about ''the greatest spot ever,'' ''the greatest wave ever'' and ''the greatest ride ever,'' but we never really understand why these guys put their lives in danger for their sport. Featuring Greg Noll, Jeff Clark and Laird Hamilton. PG-13 for brief strong language. 101 min. Three stars out of four.

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