Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Lee’


HobbitBattleoftheFiveArmies-01“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the end of an era, and the beginning of one of the biggest movie franchises in history. As the third part of the Hobbit trilogy, it brings to an end the Peter Jackson movies inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. In the chronology, however, it is midway, the film that sets up the “Lord of the Rings” movies.

The action picks up seconds after the Dwarves evicted greedy dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) from the gold filled Lonely Mountain in “The Desolation of Smaug.” With the wicked worm gone exiled Dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) has now reclaimed his homeland and all the gold and power but wearing the crown has made him paranoid. He trusts no one, not even his loyal warriors and won’t listen to Bilbo Baggins’s (Martin Freeman) attempts to make him see reason. His irrational behavior leads to the epic showdown mentioned in the title. Legions of bloodthirsty Orcs (complete with their giant, hard-headed War Beasts) face off with Dwarves, Elves of the Woodland Realm, King Dain II Ironfoot of the Iron Hills and the Men of Laketown. The fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance as alliances are made and skulls are cracked.

At least I think that’s what happens. There is so much going on, so many characters struggling for power and survival it’s sometimes hard to keep track. Jackson wraps up the series with a movie that tries to close every door it has opened which leads to a cluttered film short on story but long on characters and action scenes.

Big themes abound—greed, power, love, loyalty, family, all cloaked in a story about dragons, halflings, wizards, ill tempered Orcs and a struggle for a mountain filled with gold but the one thing, by and large, missing from the story is a strong presence from the title character. That’s right, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” treats Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) like a supporting character.

Baggins bookends the action and appears sporadically throughout, but the spotlight is fixed firmly on the other characters, rendering the “Hobbit” part of the title a tad superfluous.

The “Battle” part, however, is bang on. The movie is essentially a series of combat scenes stitched together and within those bruised and bloody sequences are some of the film’s highlights. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) running atop bricks, Mario Brothers style, as they fall through the air from a disintegrating bridge is a striking visual image and a scene where Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) thrash away at evil spirits will entertain the eyes.

Jackson’s grey palette infuses “The Battle of the Five Armies” with an ominous air as the dozens of characters breath life into the fight scenes. Heroes and villains abound, and while there isn’t quite enough actual story to justify the two-hour-and twenty-minute running time, the battle between good and evil is so primal, so elemental you can’t help but let it get your blood racing.

The many faces behind movie monsters In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA April 30, 2010

haleyfreddy1Bela Lugosi is the actor most closely associated with Count Dracula, but he is certainly not the only one. More than 200 others have played old toothy over the years including mister tall, dark and gruesome Christopher Lee, who played the blood sucker eleven times.

Ditto Frankenstein’s Monster. Boris Karloff owned the role in 1931, but 60 other actors have tried to fill his size fifteen platform shoes in subsequent years.

The point is, no actor has total possession over a role, no matter how well known they are for playing it.

Just ask Robert Englund.

For 26 years, he has been Freddy Krueger, purveyor of bad dreams, in The Nightmare on Elm Street series. In seven films and the television series, Freddy’s Nightmares, he played the evil offspring of a nun and one hundred maniacs. His take on the character is so loved some people even pay permanent tribute to it.

“I saw an entire magazine of Freddy Krueger tattoos,” he says. “There are thousands of people walking around America with my tattoo on them!”

He’ll always be associated with Freddy, but as of this weekend his run as the most hated man in Springwood, Ohio comes to an end when Jackie Earle Haley makes the iconic role his own in the reboot of the series.

Ironically, Haley auditioned for one of the teen roles in the original film in 1984 but the part went to his friend Johnny Depp.

As for taking on the role, Haley says, “A lot of people wish it was Robert and I get that. He’s made this character iconic and he’s iconic as well. It’s a tough thing, and hopefully when the movie comes out people will dig it.”

Haley is just the latest to fill in for a famous face. Recently, Benicio Del Toro donned the lupine face mask of the Wolf Man, but Lon Chaney Jr. (who had yak hair glued to his face during his 1941 transformation scenes) originated the role 70 years before.

Chaney is best known as The Wolf Man, but he was also one of those actors who stepped in to sub for some of the most famous monsters of filmland. In fact, he is also the only actor to have played all four of the classic movie monsters: The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Mummy in The Mummy’s Tomb and Count Anthony Alucard, Dracula’s son, in the appropriately named Son of Dracula.


Johnny-DeppI wonder if Tim Burton has a monkey butler at home. I ask this because I think anyone who can come up with the kind of flights of fancy he puts on screen probably has a monkey butler and other strange and wonderful things kicking around the house to feed his imagination. His latest film, a retelling of “Alice in Wonderland,” benefits from his rich visual style.

Using the original Lewis Carroll stories as a stepping stone, in this reimagined version of the classic tale Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) is 19 years old. She’s a dreamer in a world of pragmatists who, on the advice of her late father, tries to imagine six impossible things before breakfast each day. This sets her at odds with almost everyone, including her family who think marrying her off to the churlish and haughty Lord Hamish will settle her down. At their engagement party she flees his very public proposal, disappearing into the garden and falling down a rabbit hole into Underland. It’s her second trip to the place she calls Wonderland. Ten years previous she been there but has no memory of it. On this visit she meets an odd assortment of characters including the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Absolem, the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) and the strangest one of all, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). They convince her she needs to help them overthrow the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) by slaying the terrifying Jabberwock (Christopher Lee).

Burton has always made films about outsiders—think Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood Jr. and Willy Wonka—and in Alice he has found another one to focus his camera on. As a headstrong young woman who doesn’t quite fit the mold of Victorian England she a perfect character for Burton. Like his most famous characters she lives in a world of dreams but unlike his best realized characters she isn’t nearly as interesting. As a result, despite the beautiful visuals and the eye popping 3-D, “Alice in Wonderland” is a bit of a flat line.

Sadly much of the problem lies with Wasikowska. She is delicately beautiful in a way that would very likely leave Lewis Carroll weak in the knees and after her stint on the television show “In Treatment,” we know she can act, but she rarely looks really engaged with the character. Perhaps it is that she spent the entire time acting against a green screen and didn’t get to actually interact with her co-stars very often, but she’s a little too low key to be at the center of a large, fanciful film.

It’s not a complete wash, however. Burton overloads the screen with eccentric and interesting visuals and has succeeded in creating a dream-like version of “Alice in Wonderland.” Unfortunately, like most dreams, when it’s over it’s quickly forgotten.