Posts Tagged ‘Lord of the Rings’

HALLOWEEN WEEK 2021! When sci-fi and horror come together in film

Sci-fi and horror rarely mix, but when they do it can result in classics like Alien, a near perfect fusion of scientific fiction and terror. Or, when the blend isn’t right, you get flops like The Mole People.

Dark Skies tries to hit the right balance with a story about a suburban couple, an ET disguised as a human and some good old-fashioned alien abduction.

Dark Skies did OK at the box office, but horror stories about outer space creatures have succeeded in the past.

The premise of Species is pure sci-fi. Scientists discover that alien and human DNA can be combined. Of course nothing bad will happen when you create a human with alien traits, right? A-listers like Ben Kingsley added some cache, but it was the horror of the H.R. Giger-designed alien and Natasha Henstridge’s flicking frog-like tongue that made the movie memorable.

Years before Peter Jackson hit it big with Lord of the Rings, he made a film that mixed sci-fi, horror and a big helping of humour. Bad Taste sees a small town taken over by aliens who harvest humans as ingredients for their fast-food restaurants. Über low-budget, the movie was called a “deranged, bloodthirsty heir to the Marx Brothers’ slapstick kingdom” by a BBC film reviewer. Its best joke may be on the DVD cover. The film title’s font looks like the logo of the U.S. takeout restaurant Fatburger.

It Came from Outer Space (one of the first alien invasion films), The Blob and giant ant movie Them! all combine the best elements of sci-fi and horror, but not all movies are as successful. The title Robot Monster promises some futuristic scares, but earned the title “Baddest of the B-Movies” in Michael Sauter’s book The Worst Movies of All Time mainly because the robot was actually just an actor dressed in a gorilla suit topped with a diving helmet.

The name Bela Lugosi conjures up images of horror to anyone familiar with his portrayal of Dracula, so a sci-fi movie with the genre legend should be both speculative and spooky, right? Wrong. The Golden Turkey Awards dubbed Plan 9 from Outer Space “The Worst Film Ever,” but it wasn’t Bela’s fault. He died before the movie was actually shot, but director Ed Wood Jr. used test footage of the actor in the finished film; hence the video box tagline, “Almost starring Bela Lugosi.”

Metro In Focus: Going ape over Andy Serkis’ latest motion capture performance

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Despite critical raves and big box-office success, Roddy McDowell wasn’t nominated for his work as the sympathetic chimpanzee Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes. Unless things change radically in the next few months Andy Serkis, star of War for the Planet of the Apes, won’t be either. He’s getting the best reviews of his career for playing chimpanzee Caesar, leader to a tribe of genetically enhanced apes in the new film, but the Academy refuses to recognize his style of acting.

Unlike Serkis, McDowell wore a rubber mask that took hours to apply, even for quick promotional appearances like his 1974 spot on the Carol Burnett Show.

Burnett introduced McDowell as “one of Hollywood’s most familiar faces,” then feigned shock as the actor came onstage in a tuxedo, but in full Planet of the Apes facial makeup. They launch into a spirited version of the love ballad They Didn’t Believe Me. By the end of the tune the audience roars as Burnett warbles, “When I told them how wonderful you are, They didn’t believe me,” as she mimes picking a bug off his lapel.

Later she thanked Roddy for undergoing the three-and-a-half hours it took to put on the makeup for that bit of funny business.

It’s not likely you’ll see Andy Serkis partaking in the same kind of promotional monkey business.

Times have changed since McDowell had to endure untold hours in the makeup chair, then smoke using an extra long cigarette holder so as not to light his faux fur on fire. “It’s about a foot long and makes me look like the weirdest monkey you ever did see,” McDowell told Newsday.

These days Serkis, who is best known for his motion capture performances of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and The Force Awakens’ Supreme Leader Snoke, performs on a soundstage in front of multiple cameras that film his performance from every angle. He wears a body suit dotted with spots that allow the computers to register even the slightest movement. Serkis calls this “a magic suit” that “allows you to play anything regardless of your size, your sex, your colour, whatever you are.” Later, in post production the “digital makeup” adds in the costume and character details.

It saves hours in the makeup chair, but is no less a performance than McDowell’s more organic approach. “I’ve never drawn a distinction between live-action acting and performance-capture acting,” Serkis says. “It is purely a technology. It’s a bunch of cameras that can record the actor’s performance in a different way.”

Which raises the question of why the Academy refuses to acknowledge the work of Serkis and others who specialize in motion capture? The Independent calls him one of the greatest actors of this generation and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films recognize his work but the Oscars have steadfastly ignored his specialty. It’s a slap in Serkis’ face that The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers won an Oscar for Visual Effects in part because of the genius of his performance.

Whether included in the Best Actor category or another, new grouping for Best MoCap Performance, it’s time Serkis and others were recognized for their work.

RICHARD’S “CANADA AM” REVIEWS FOR JANUARY 30 WITH MARCIA MACMILLAN.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.05.58 PMRichard reviews “SpongeBob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water,” Seventh Son,” and “Outcast” with “Canada AM” guest host Marcia MacMillan.

Watch the whole thing HERE!

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.05.30 PM

SEVENTH SON: 1 STAR. “a case of imitation as a sincere form of ripoff.”

maxresdefaultThey say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but in the case of “Seventh Son” it’s a case of imitation as a sincere form of ripoff. Borrowing liberally from “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones,” the new wannabe epic starring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore is seventh rate fantasy film fare.

Based on the first book in the “The Wardstone Chronicles” series by Joseph Delaney, the story is a tale of good and evil, set in a world “where legends and nightmares are real.” Bridges is Master Gregory, a knight specializing in what knights do—slaying “creatures of the dark.”

Centuries ago he imprisoned Mother Malkin (Moore), a malevolent witch now on the prowl again. When she does away with Greg’s apprentice, the aged knight must recruit a new helper. Trouble is, the new guy must be the seventh son of the seventh son.

As rare as a Starbucks barista who can actually get the names on the sides of cups right, after a search the seventh son of the seventh son presents himself in the form of Tom Ward (Ben Barnes). “Keep him safe,” yells Tom’s mom (Olivia Williams). “Alas dear lady,” slurs Gregory, “that is a vow I cannot make.”

To save the world from Malkin’s devilry Gregory has only until the next full moon to train his new apprentice, who, as luck would have it falls in love with Alice (Alicia Vikander), one of Malkin’s witchy sidekicks. Bet he didn’t mention that in the job interview.

“Seventh Son” gives you an appreciation of how accomplished “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” are. The story borrows elements from each of those stories but hangs them on a framework so rickety it threatens to collapse under the weight of all the pilfered ideas. A dragon battle or two does not a genre movie make. Context and compelling characters do and the lack of either is just one of the many ways “Seventh Son” lets the audience down.

If you get past the Halloween supply store props and masks you’re left with am a-list cast doing b-movie work. Bridges hands in a strange what-the-heck-is-he-thinking-performance, complete with an almost unintelligible accent and scruffy facial hair that does more actual acting than he does.

Moore fares better, but should have taken a page out of Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” handbook. Let’s hope nobody from the Academy sees this or it could become her “Norbet.”

As for Ben Barnes, at one point the former “Narnia” star says, “I wish I was the sixth son.” He’s not the only one. If only Donald Trump were around to fire this apprentice.

At least “Seventh Son” offers up one useful piece of advice: “It is near impossible to battle demons with wet feet.” It’s also near impossible to enjoy this movie without visions of “lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” dancing through your head.

Metro Canada: Hobbit actors (and others) who pilfer props!

Ian-McKellenBy Richard crouse – Metro In Focus

The release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings Peter Jackson’s trilogy to a close, and marks the end of a life immersed in Middle Earth for the actors. For several of the cast it was a years-long journey, and like any trip it’s nice to pick up a souvenir as a keepsake.

According to director Peter Jackson the actor who played the exiled dwarf king Thorin stole “the most boring thing in the world to steal,” from the set of the penultimate film, The Desolation of Smaug, socks.

“I did steal every single pair of costume socks,” said Richard Armitage, “because we were given a brand new pair every day.”

As production on The Battle of the Five Armies wrapped Armitage was gifted with some more interesting props including the deadly goblin cleaver Orcrist, which he keeps in an umbrella stand, “cause I want to be able to pick it up.”

Martin Freeman, who plays head Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, says he doesn’t miss making the films—“I’m really proud to have done it,” he says, “and I’m really glad to have done it, but I rarely miss jobs.”—but kept his sword and prosthetic ears as mementos.

Unlike Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen does get sentimental when he reflects on making the movies because, “a lot of the audience seeing The Hobbit part three wouldn’t have been born when we started filming it.” After spending thirteen years playing wise wizard Gandalf the Grey he took two priceless props from the set, “Gandalf’s staff, which I keep with umbrellas and walking sticks, and Gandalf’s hat, which I keep in the basement.”

Many actors have pilfered props from their movies. Keira Knightley walked off with Elizabeth Bennet’s striped socks from Pride & Prejudice. Elijah Wood has the One Ring from Lord of the Rings and Daniel Radcliffe liberated two pairs of Harry Potter’s famous round glasses, even though there was a strict policy about taking props from the set.

‘The ones from the first film are absolutely tiny now,” he says, “but they are very sweet.”

Kristen Stewart kept the engagement ring Edward Cullen gave her at the end of Twilight: Eclipse and Zachary Quinto took the ears he wore as Spock in Star Trek: Into Darkness but the strangest cinematic souvenir may belong to Mark Wahlberg.

The Academy Award nominee kept the prosthetic penis he wore as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. “I used to keep it in my desk drawer,” he said, “and I’d take it out and slap my friends in the face with it. I don’t keep many things from my movies, but that just seemed to have personal significance.”

 

Peter Jackson thrilled to finish LOTR adventure with final Hobbit film

460230336By Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

Thirteen years, six movies and more than 1,000 minutes of film later, Peter Jackson is ready for a break.

“You can’t believe how much we don’t want anything to do,” he says.

With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the journey that began with 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring has come to an end for the director and his wife, producer and screenwriter Fran Walsh.

“We haven’t had a day when we’ve woken up and there hasn’t been a deadline,” he says of the last 13 years.

“Even if you go on vacation and they say, ‘You finished the first Hobbit movie and you can have three weeks off over Christmas,’ but we have to come back and start work on the next one on January 6, so it has always been this sort of looming thing.

“Now we get to wake up and it is done, finished, nothing left to do. We deliberately haven’t taken on any other work because Fran and I wanted so badly, for once in our professional lives of 30-odd years, to not have anything to do. That doesn’t mean that six weeks into our holiday we’ll not be so bloody bored that we’ll immediately start another project. That would be fine. At least we’ll do it for the right reasons.”

The new film 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 Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s adaptations. In the chronology, however, it is midway, the film that sets up the Lord of the Rings pictures.

“To me it has significance because it is the moment in time where a six-film series finally comes into focus,” he says.

“We are only four or five years away from a generation arriving who will have no memory or knowledge of how these films were released when they came out. All they’ll have is a six-part box set and hopefully they’ll start at the beginning and go through to the end. To me, until this movie actually existed there were these parts that were floating out there that can now be together.”

He may be done with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies — “I have other things I want to make. I think it would be a terrible sad thing to spend the rest of my life going back over these films and trying to make them better” — but he’s not done with the cast he built over the years.

“We’ve just got such a wonderful collection of actors of all different types, and we’re friends now,” he says.

“I would be a happy man if I could make movies for the rest of my life using the cast we’ve used to date. I love it when directors have relationships with the same actors in film after film. It’s a fantastic thing.”

Metro In Focus: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ digital make-up

andy-serkis-caesar-in-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apesRoddy McDowell’s 1974 appearance on the Carol Burnett Show was something a little different. How often do you see a big TV star singing a love duet with an ape?

Burnett introduced McDowell as, “one of Hollywood’s most familiar faces,” then feigned shock when the actor came onstage in a tuxedo, but in full Planet of the Apes facial make-up. McDowell starred in four of the Planet of the Apes films and in the TV series.

For the next few minutes they engaged in some tomfoolery—McDowell says he’s been working on his tan in Palm Springs and when asked which of his movies has had the most profound effect on him he sidesteps the obvious and recites a soliloquy from Cleopatra—before launching into a spirited version of the Jerome Kern love ballad They Didn’t Believe Me. By the end of the tune the audience roars as Burnett warbles, “When I told them how wonderful you are, They didn’t believe me,” as she mimes picking a bug off his lapel.

Later she thanks Roddy for undergoing the three-and-a-half hours it took to put on the make-up for that bit of funny business.

It’s not likely you’ll see Andy Serkis, star of the latest slice of simian cinema, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, partaking in the same kind of promotional monkey business.

Times have changed since McDowell had to endure untold hours in the make-up chair, then smoke using an extra long cigarette holder so as not to light his faux fur on fire. “It’s about a foot long and makes me look like the weirdest monkey you ever did see,” McDowell told Newsday.

These days Serkis, who is best known for his motion capture performance of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, performs on a soundstage in front of multiple cameras that film his performance from every angle. He wears a body suit dotted with spots that allow the computers to register even the slightest movement. Serkis calls this “a magic suit” that “allows you to play anything regardless of your size, your sex, your color, whatever you are.” Later, in post production the “digital make-up” adds in the costume and character details.

It saves hours in the make-up chair, but is no less a performance than McDowell’s more organic approach. “I’ve never drawn a distinction between live-action acting and performance-capture acting,” Serkis says. “It is purely a technology. It’s a bunch of cameras that can record the actor’s performance in a different way.”

MALEFICENT: 4 STARS. “A winged Angelina Jolie is a formidable force.”

maleficent-wings“Let us tell you an old story anew,” says “Maleficent’s” narrator ((Janet McTeer), “and we’ll see how well you know it.”

The new Angelina Jolie film takes some liberties with a time-honored story, but doesn’t stray too far from the necessary fairy tale elements. There is some grim stuff—treachery and de-winging—but there are also traditional themes about good and evil and the redemption of evil becoming good.

This reimagining of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” begins with Maleficent as the pure-hearted fairy protector of the enchanted Moors, “where no man goes for fear of the magical creatures who live within.” When Stefan, a greedy, ambitious human whose betrayal turns her colder than the Polar Vortex, breaks her heart, she vows revenge.

Later, when Stefan (Sharlto Copley) becomes king Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) exacts her vengeance by cursing his baby daughter named Aurora (Elle Fanning with the words, “Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will fall into a sleep-like death!” To seal the deal, she adds, “This curse will last until the end of time. No power on earth can change it!”

For the next sixteen years Maleficent is a ghostly presence in Aurora’s life. When they finally meet instead of fear, the young princess welcomes her. “I know who you are,” she says innocently, “You’re my Fairy-Godmother!”

The two hit it off, but to no avail. Maleficent’s curse is irreversible and even though the evil-fairy-turned-surrogate-mother begins to feel protective of Aurora she is powerless to change her fate.

Archly theatrical, “Maleficent” harkens back to everything from vintage Disney, to “Lord of the Rings” to the ”Addams Family.” It’s a beautifully rendered film, visually rich, from the Moors’ creatures that look like they escaped from Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth,” to Maleficent soaring through the air, drifting above the clouds. A winged Angelina Jolie is a formidable force.

Like all good fairy tales it is simply told. It’s a familiar story, with a twist, but unlike its spiritual cousins, the “Lord of the Rings” movies or “Snow White and the Huntsman,” it clocks in way under two hours, moving at a deliberate but brisk pace.

The leads are wonderfully cast. Fanning conveys the sugar and spice and everything nice of the innocent princess, while Jolie is a striking screen presence. He extraordinary looks are made even more otherworldly with the addition of cheekbones that would make Kate Moss green with envy. Beyond the superficial, she brings to life the complexity of a fairy scorned; a kind-hearted, loving creature turned to stone but with a glimmer of good burning deep within.

“Maleficent” may be too intense for very young “Sleeping Beauty” fans, but is a fine addition to the Disney collection.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: 4 STARS. “big handsome movie to get lost in.”

movies-the-hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-dwarvesIf the title “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” immediately conjures up images of hairy footed hobbits and fearsome dwarves battling a fire breathing dragon, then this movie is for you. It beautifully captures and continues the world Peter Jackson began with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and followed up with “The Hobbit” films.

If it doesn’t mean anything to you then maybe you’ll want to brush up on your J. R. R. Tolkien before shelling out for a ticket. It took a lot of backstory to get to the fifth film based on Middle Earth and its inhabitants and you don’t want to go without knowing your Shire from your Sauron or your Skin Changers.

Picking up where “An Unexpected Journey” left off, hobbit-burglar Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) join with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his army of twelve fearsome dwarves. Their goal is to traverse Mirkwood, Esgaroth and Dale to locate and battle the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch in fine serpentine voice) who hoards the wealth of the Lonely Mountain. On the way they battle giant spiders (a sequence that will certainly make arachnophobes grin), make a deal with Bard the bowman (Luke Evans), the descendant of the original Lord of Dale, and some helpful and not-so-helpful elves (including a good lookin’ and deadly She-Elf played by Evangeline Lilly).

Got it?

Wait! There’s more, something to do with the White Council and the Necromancer but I’m still reeling from plot overload from actually watching the movie let alone trying to unfurl the complicated story in print.

But despite the sense of mild confusion I felt as I tried to piece the story together, I really enjoyed “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Peter Jackson has crafted a great action adventure movie that fits in perfectly with the preceding films. There’s a remarkable consistency of tone, style and spirit that runs through the “LOTR” and “Hobbit” movies. They feel like story shards chipped off the same block.

There’s a Richard Attenborough old school epicness about them. They are about good and evil without troubling nuance or antiheroes. Perhaps because Englishman Tolkien penned these action adventure stories during the Second World War when evil was clear-cut, his books are ripe with allegory but straightforward in their approach to morality and good vs. evil.

And luckily the films work because they fully embrace Tolkien’s vision. There’s no shortage of story threads, of hard to remember names but Jackson weaves it all together seamlessly—with some “Walking Dead” style battle scenes… lots of arrows in the head—and has made a big handsome movie to get lost in.