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For those who grew up on other cinematic versions of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, FIRST KNIGHT ($29) may leave them scratching their heads as they look for references to Excalibur, Merlin or Morgan le Fay, as none of them are part of this tale. FIRST KNIGHT places a decidedly different spin on the legend of Camelot in this highly romanticized retelling of the classic story. In place of sorcery, FIRST KNIGHT puts the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot up at the forefront. In addition to the romance, FIRST KNIGHT does treat its audience to Hollywood styled escapism, pageantry and battle sequences, which have nothing to do with reality.

Sean Connery makes for a terrific elder, war weary King Arthur, who decides to settle down and take a young bride named Lady Guinevere (Julia Ormond) from the nearby providence of Leonesse, which has come under attack from Prince Malagant (Ben Cross)- one of Arthurís former knights. On her way to Camelot, Malagantís forces attack the bridal party, but a wandering swordsman named Lancelot (Richard Gere) is able to rescued Guinevere. As you might expect, there is an instant attraction between the two, but Guinevere is promised to Arthur. When Malagant makes a second, and more successful, attempt on Guinevere, Lancelot come to the rescue yet again, and is rewarded for his deeds by being made a Knight of the Roundtable. Eventually, open hostilities break out between Malagant forces and Camelot, while at the same time; Guinevere is pulled in different directions by the two men that she loves. The cast of FIRST KNIGHT also includes Liam Cunningham, Christopher Villiers, Valentine Pelka, Colin McCormack, Ralph Ineson, John Gielgud, Stuart Bunce, Jane Robbins, Jean Marie Coffey, Paul Kynman and Tom Lucy.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made FIRST KNIGHT available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation looks fairly terrific for a mid-1990ís production. Image sharpness and detail are pretty great, but not to they hyper realistic levels of some newer blockbuster films. Still, fine details in the textures of fabrics, sets and even the actors skin can be gleamed, even if the misty-eyed cinematography is always a hair under true razor sharpness. Additionally, process shots are slightly softer than those without effects work. Colors can be rich and full-bodied, while the flesh tones are quite appealing. Blacks are true, as are the white. Contrast is very good, so is the shadow detail in most sequences. The elements from which FIRST KNIGHT was transferred are very clean. Grain is ever-present, but never excessive.

FIRST KNIGHT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is a very good quality track, rich and full sounding, with the music possessing excellent fidelity. The bottom end is deep, but the period setting doesnít lend itself to any ground shaking. Ambient sounds are well integrated during the numerous talky stretches, but the outlying channels invigorate during the battle/action sequences. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the filmís dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD soundtracks are also present, as are Spanish and Thai 5.1 channel tracks, plus a Japanese Dolby Surround track. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and Thai, Japanese and Arabic.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the discís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extras. Two running Audio Commentary tracks are present; the first is with director Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry, while the second Cory James Rushton, a professor of medieval literature who specializes in Arthurian romance. Featurettes include The Quest For Camelot (nineteen minute interview based making of), The Creation Of A Kingdom (eighteen minutes on production design) and In Shining Armor: Knights In Training (nineteen minutes on period fighting). Ten minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and Previews close out the extra features.

FIRST KNIGHT is a highly romanticized and heavily Hollywood influenced retelling of the legend of Camelot. The ladies will swoon for the two male stars, while the gents will find the swordplay and battles good fun. The Blu-ray Disc beautifully renders the intended look of the film. Fans will definitely want to add this to their hi-def collections.



First Knight [Blu-ray] (1995)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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