Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) always gets what he wants in The Last of Robin Hood , another drowsy biopic that treats history as if it were a clear, linear timeline. Set in the late 1950s, the once classic Hollywood star seduces a 15-year-old actor, Beverly Aadland (Dakota Fanning), beginning a torrid love affair that's kept under wraps until Flynn's death a few years later.
Not quite salacious or prudish, the film resides in a strange tonal space somewhere in between. Familiar show-business themes of manipulation, ego and desire are explored with no ingenuity. Still, the actors manage to carve out an interesting (and sometimes dangerous) space for themselves. Fanning, in particular, stands out as a combination of youthful volatility and haggard grace. The once-sweet Beverly grows increasingly acidic as Flynn's promises of stardom turn out to be hollow. She's essentially a femme fatale waiting for her film noir to begin, to no avail.
Visually, The Last of Robin Hood is born from the same droll and safe aesthetic of 2012's Hitchcock . Every banal composition comes with its own complimentary soft lighting, as if the filmmakers were hoping to nab a primetime slot on the Lifetime Network rather than the big screen. I'm not even sure there's a close-up in the whole film.
By stripping the story of any and all psychology, the filmmakers do their actors and story a disservice. The seedy exploits of classic Hollywood deserve a lot better than paint-by-numbers cinema, yet it seems like that's all we're getting these days.
The Last of Robin Hood— which opens Friday, Sept. 5, at La Jolla Village Cinemas—never aspires to be anything bordering on complex; it simply leans on the Cliff's Notes of its potentially fascinating subject matter to appear substantial.
A Letter to Momo : After her father dies, a young Japanese girl moves to a seemingly tranquil island off the coast of Japan, where she encounters supernatural occurrences. Screens through Sept. 11 at the Ken Cinema.
Innocence : Boarding school turns out to be a horrifying experience for a traumatized young woman looking for solace after her mother is killed.
K2: Siren of the Himalayas : A group of mountaineers tries to climb one of the world's most dangerous mountains in this documentary about world-class alpinists Fabrizio Zangrilli and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Screens through Sept. 10 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
May in the Summer : A bride-to-be and her mother clash over the groom's religion, placing the looming wedding in doubt.
No No: A Dockumentary : Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates while high on LSD in 1970. This documentary explores his rise to stardom, drug addiction and eventual sobriety. See our review on Page 23.
San Diego International Kids' Film Festival: Enjoy the best in child-appropriate short films. Runs Friday, Sept. 5, through Sunday, Sept. 7, at the AMN HealthCare Theater in Carmel Valley. Get details at sdkidsfilms.org.
The Congress : In this psychedelic sci-fi film from Ari Folman, an aging actor (Robin Wright) preserves her digital likeness in order to retire from Hollywood forever. Screens through Sept. 11 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Identical : Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta star in this drama about twin brothers who are separated at birth, then reconnect as adults involved in the music business.
The Last of Robin Hood : Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline) begins a torrid love affair with an underage girl (Dakota Fanning) in the waning years of his life. See our review on Page 23.
The Remaining : A wedding celebration is suddenly disrupted by apocalyptic events that have religious implications.
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Rushmore : Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman) is the president of every club at school, but he's also the worst student. What gives? Wes Anderson's breakout comedy tries to find out. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at The Pearl Hotel.
Roman Holiday : William Wyler's classic romantic comedy stars Audrey Hepburn as a bored princess swept off her feet by Gregory Peck's American newsman. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, through Saturday, Sept. 6, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Short Films from Beyond: This collection of horror and sci-fi short films will surely take you out of this world. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center in East Village.
This is Spinal Tap : One of the world's loudest bands gets the mockumentary treatment by a nosy film director. Screens at midnight Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Ken Cinema.
After Tiller : Late-term-abortion providers are few and far between in America. This documentary examines those still left practicing the procedure after the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Breathe In : The arrival of a foreign exchange student in a small upstate New York town creates friction in a suburban family. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High : Spicoli and Mr. Hand: one of the great couples in cinema history. Check out their courtship in this classic high-school comedy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
As Above / So Below : Note to self: Don't venture into the underground catacombs of Paris. It's bad for one's health.
Frank : A fragile musician (Michael Fassbender) wearing a gigantic papier-mâché head leads an eccentric rock band all the way to the SXSW music festival, where all hell breaks loose. Screens through Sept. 4 at the Ken Cinema.
Love is Strange : Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been a couple for nearly 40 years. But when George loses his job, the two are forced to separate and live with friends in cramped New York City apartments, forever altering their relationship.
Manuscripts Don't Burn : Subversively shot in Iran, this drama centers on a desperate father who makes his living as a contract killer and a group of aging writers being harassed by the government. Ends Sept. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Dog : Documentary about John Wojtowicz, whose 1972 robbery of a Brooklyn bank inspired Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon . Ends Sept. 3 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The November Man : Pierce Brosnan returns to super-spy duty, this time as a top CIA assassin facing off against his best protégé. Opens Wednesday, Aug. 27.
The Trip to Italy : Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon gallivant around Italy, eating and yapping wise in Michael Winterbottom's new comedy.
War Story : Catherine Keener stars as a war correspondent who risks everything to rescue a young refugee from a battle-scarred country. Ends Sept. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
If I Stay : After a car accident, a young woman has an out-of-body experience that leads her to a life far different than she ever imagined.
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar : Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary follows Dr. Patricia C. Wright's mission to help the endangered lemurs of Madagascar.
Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For : Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with another noir mash-up about killers, corrupt politicians and gorgeous women.
When the Game Stands Tall : Jim Caviezel plays high-school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who took the De La Salle Spartans from obscurity to an amazing 151-game winning streak.
Calvary : One day a troubled Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) is threatened during confession, sending him into a downward spiral of sin and doubt.
Expendables 3 : The 1980s have officially reassembled for the third time to blow explosions into your face.
Let's Be Cops : Two goofball friends posing as cops for a costume party get sucked into a night of debauchery and danger.
The Giver : Lois Lowry's classic young-adult novel about a not-so-utopian future gets the big-screen adaptation starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.
What If : Young people sit around and talk about love and friendship and wonder why nothing makes sense. It stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.
The Hundred-Foot Journey : The proprietor of a famous French restaurant (Helen Mirren) clashes with the family running a new Indian eatery down the street.
Into the Storm : An onslaught of unprecedented tornados touches down and causes havoc in the Midwest. Global warming is a real bitch.
Step Up: All In : Get your grove on, again.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Watch out for Raphael. He's a party dude.
Get on Up : The James Brown biopic we've all been waiting for from the director of The Help .
Guardians of the Galaxy : American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his rowdy alien crew become objects of a manhunt after stealing a valuable orb that belongs to a diabolical space villain.
Magic in the Moonlight : Woody Allen's latest cinematic confection follows an English debunker (Colin Firth) brought in to unmask a possible swindle involving a wacky astrologist (Emma Stone).
A Most Wanted Man : Director Anton Corbijn ( The American ) adapts John le Carré's famous novel about a web of spies operating in the shadowy confines of Hamburg, Germany.
Hercules : Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson dons the sword, sandals and skimpy underwear to play the half-god at odds with his immortal brethren.
Lucy : Thanks to a drug-smuggling operation gone bad, Scarlet Johansson miraculously begins to use 100 percent of her brain and seeks revenge against the bad guys who put her on the spot.
Boyhood : Richard Linklater's epic drama follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, charting all the highs and lows in between.
Planes: Fire and Rescue : This sequel to the 2013 animated hit film finds lead race plane Dusty (Dane Cook) forced into working with a fire-and-rescue unit after his engine is damaged.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes : Ten years after a virus outbreak pitted apes against men, the two factions forge a fragile peace that's tested by fear and aggression. It's directed by Matt Reeves ( Cloverfield ) and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis.
Hidden Universe : Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 : Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless encounter new challenges while trying to bring their species together in harmony.
Chef : Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur. Ends Sept. 4 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.