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Merlin

Year: 1998
Production Co: Hallmark Entertainment
Director: Steve Barron
Cast: Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, Isabella Rossellini, Martin Short, John Gielgud, Rutger Hauer, James Earl Jones, Miranda Richardson
This was originally a TV movie and it shows. Taking the now-fashionable approach of second-tier character stories (think the book Claudia, about the wife of Pontius Pilate, or Mary Reilly, the film about Professor Jekkyl's maid), it depicts the life and times of Merlin, the magician instrumental in the legend of King Arthur.

Neill is the titular mage who grows up struggling with his newfound powers, falls in love with a woman he can't have, helps a young king found a court with a round table and battles the evil spirit goddess that's also his mother.

An all-star cast comes together for a TV-standard script and TV-standard special effects, by turns ham-fisted and dourly underplayed. But, bankrolled by greeting card company Hallmark, I guess we're lucky it wasn't more full of tear-jerking moments and short poems.

Directed by Steve Barron, none other than the auspicious visualist behind 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles .

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