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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (film)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy is concluded in the final film translation of Tolkien’s masterpiece. The surviving members of the Fellowship are scattered all across Middle-earth and Sauron is preparing an all-out assault on mankind. This was the first movie since Titanic to make over a billion dollars and it won eleven Oscars. Not too shabby.

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and the faithful Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) are slowly but surely making their way to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring. Their treacherous guide Gollum (Andy Serkis) is leading them into a trap.

Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli (Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and John Rhys-Davies) find Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) chilling in the flooded ruins of Isengard. After a brief and happy reunion, Pippin picks up Sauruman’s palantír and Sauron invades his mind. Gandalf is able to deduce that Sauron will attack Minas Tirith and that Sauron thinks Pippin has the Ring.

Gandalf and Pippin head out to Gondor and try to warn Denethor, the Steward of Gondor and Boromir and Faramir’s dad. Gandalf recommends that he asks Rohan for help, but he refuses because he is stupid and stubborn. Pippin lights a beacon and Aragorn, Theodan and his Rohirrim answer the call.

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) briefly visits Aragorn and presents him with his sword, Andúril, and Aragorn accepts his destiny as Isildur’s heir. He also realizes that they don’t have enough warriors to fight Sauron’s forces. His only chance to find the King of the Dead and get all his ghost fighters to join his side.

There’s a huge battle at Minas Tirith. There’s tons of orcs and men and massive oliphants and CG fighting. It’s not looking good for Gondor, but then the Rohirrim show up and the battle continues. And then when it’s not looking good for Gondor and the Rohirrim, Aragorn shows up with the Army of the Dead and they win the battle.

Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo closer and closer to Shelob the giant hobbit-eating spider. Gollum manipulates Frodo into thinking that Sam wants the Ring for himself and that he can’t be trusted. Frodo tells Sam to fuck off and go home. Frodo keeps following Gollum and enters Shelob’s lair. The spider gets him and it looks like he’s pretty boned, but Sam shows up and fights Shelob off, but it looks like Frodo is dead. Some orcs come along, find Frodo, and it turns out that he’s just paralyzed and they take him to Sauron’s fortress. Sam manages to free Frodo, and the two of them continue their trek to Mount Doom.

Aragorn and a ragtag army make their way to the Black Gate of Mordor with the intention of distracting Sauron while Frodo destroys the Ring. Just as Frodo is about to throw the Ring into the fire, he gets attacked by Gollum. They struggle and fight and Gollum and the Ring are briefly reunited as they fall into the lava pit. The Ring is destroyed but the movie is not over.

This movie has like 5 endings. You think it’s over when Sam and Frodo get rescued by Eagles. But it’s not. You think it’s over when Aragorn gets crowned King. But it’s not. You think it’s over when everyone bows down to the four hobbits. But it’s not. You think it’s over when the hobbits finally get back home to the Shire. But it’s not. You think it’s over when Frodo finally leaves Middle-earth with the elves. But you aren’t sure. And you are relieved when the credits finally roll.

This movie has a lot of differences from the book. All that business with Shelob takes place in the second book. Aragorn gets his sword in the first book. There’s a bunch of stuff missing. But it’s a movie and not a book and the movies left shit out but they did the books justice by capturing the feel of them. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy. It didn’t deserve all those Oscars though.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (film)

Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy continues with The Two Towers. All the key cast members of the original come back with a few new additions. The trilogy was shot back to back to back, so there is a definite sense of continuity.

The movie starts with a reprisal of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) fighting the Balrog and follows his descent into the earth before transitioning into our main story. Frodo and Samwise Gamgee (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin) are continuing their trek into Mount Doom, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli (Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and John Rhys-Davies) are searching for the kidnapped Merry and Pippen (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd).

Frodo and Sam are trekking along but they soon encounter Gollum (Andy Serkis), a creature who will do anything to be with the Ring. Frodo makes him swear an oath to take him in to Mordor to the Ring. Merry and Pippen have been kidnapped by a gang of Uruk-hai who were slaughtered by the Riders of Rohan. Merry and Pippen manage to escape into the Fangorn forest and they meet an Ent named Treebeard.

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are hot on the trail of the Uruk-hai who captured the hobbits. They run into Gandalf, who has been reborn into Gandalf the White following his epic battle with the Balrog. Now that Gandalf is back, he is able to free King Theodan of Rohan from a curse case by Saruman (Christopher Lee). Theodan is revived just in time to fight in an enormously one-sided battle that he is totally unprepared for.

Frodo and Sam are making decent progress with their trusty tour guide Gollum. But then Faramir (David Wenham), the younger brother of deceased Fellowship member Boromir, captures Frodo and Sam and decides to take the Ring back to Gondor.

Aragorn and Elven and Dwarven companions join King Theodan and the rest of the remaining Rohan warriors even though they face impossible odds. A few Elves show up to help the men against the orcs, but they don’t do much to prevent the inevitable onslaught of goblins. Just when all seems lost, Gandalf shows up with reinforcements.

Merry and Pippen have been chilling with the slow acting Ents and don’t make much headway. When all seems lost, they trick the elves into walking by Saruman’s pad and they see the destruction that he’s caused on the forest. They join the war and tear shit up and defeat Saruman.

Faramir has taken Frodo and Sam way out of the way and realizes that it’s not conducive to the plot and releases them. They continue their weary trek to destroy the one ring.

There is a lot going on and a lot of it strays from the novel. This is when Peter Jackson starts to take events from the second and third installments and use them interchangeably. Helm’s Deep is a major event in the movie and it’s just a plot point in the book. Frodo and Sam getting kidnapped by Faramir is tacked on for drama and to move key plot elements into the third movie.

The best part about the second movie is the addition of Andy Serkis as Smeagol/Gollum. He might have been CG, but he is a crucial supporting cast member. He could have been Jar Jar Binks, but he became a cinematic icon. Little kids are still spitting out their Smeagol screeches and Gollum growls.

This is a satisfying sequel. It sets things up perfectly for the final chapter. Because all the movies were filmed back to back, this has a definite transitional feel to it. This is a great movie and it made it cool to geek out.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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X-Men: The Last Stand

The X-Men are back on the big screen for the third time and Brett Ratner does everything he can to ruin everything that Bryan Singer tried to accomplish with this trilogy. Most of the main characters from the first two movies reprise their roles, but there are way too many characters to give anyone a decent amount of screen time. The end result is a bunch of mutants running around fighting each other but you don’t give a fuck about who is fighting or why.

The movie starts twenty years before the events of the main story, a middle-aged Charles Xavier and Magneto meet with a Class 5 mutant named Jean Grey. They have a brief discussion about how powerful Jean in, and whether or not she will control her power or if it will control her. The movie jumps ahead another ten years to a young Warren Worthington III as he tries to hide his mutant wings from his disapproving father.

The movie jumps to the present day as Worthington Labs announces a cure for the mutant gene. This causes a huge rift in the mutant community. Some mutants want the cure and others view it as a form of extermination. Magneto uses it as a chance to recruit more mutants to join his side. He recruits Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega (who should be named Quill, but whatever, details aren’t important).

Meanwhile the X-Men have lost Jean Grey from the events of the second movie, and Cyclops still hasn’t gotten over losing her. Shadowcat (Ellen Page) and Colossus have bigger roles on the team, and Beast (Kelsey Grammer) also joins the X-Men. Cyclops is all emo and goes to Alkali Lake and Jean reappears and the two are reunited. The joyous reunion is short-lived because Jean Grey is no longer Jean Grey, now she is the Phoenix.

Magneto keeps on recruiting more mutants to his cause. When he frees Mystique from her mobile prison, he also frees the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) and the Multiple Man. They join the Brotherhood of Mutants without any persuasion, as soon as they are introduced they are recruited. How convenient. When Magneto and his posse go to recruit the Phoenix/Jean Grey, they bump into Xavier and a few X-Men who have the same idea. Magneto and Xavier both try to persuade her to join their side and Xavier ends up getting disintegrated.

The X-Men are without their leader and Magneto gets ready for an assault on Worthington Labs to destroy the cure. The remaining X-Men (Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Iceman, Colossus, and Shadowcat) form their last stand and try to defend the island. There is a mutant battle and mutants fight and mutants die. Jean momentarily regains control of herself and asks Wolverine to kill her and the Phoenix and he does even though he doesn’t want to.

There’s a scene after the credits where it’s hinted that Xavier has transferred his consciousness to a comatose guy. If genes are responsible for mutation, this new body shouldn’t have any powers, just throwing that out there.

There are a lot more mutants in this movie than in the previous two. They add mutants without establishing who they are. Callisto, Kid Omega, Psylocke, Arclight, Multiple Man, and the Juggernaut are all new mutants and they don’t waste anytime trying to establish their characters. They literally come onscreen, say their name and mention their powers and pledge their allegiance to Magneto. Super lazy writing.

The  X-Men are also treated like an afterthought. Cyclops is barely in the movie. Rogue’s character is completely wasted. She never even obtained the ability to fly like she did in the comics… she voluntarily gets the cure and stops being a mutant. Xavier dies simply for shock value. Colossus is on the team for the whole movie, but he has fewer lines than he did in five minutes that he was in the second movie. And where the fuck is Nightcrawler? Adding Beast was a nice touch, but you couldn’t have another blue mutant on the team?

The worst addition to the franchise was Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel (Ben Foster). They introduce his character in the beginning, he has a dramatic escape from being forcibly given the cure by his dad, he comes to the mansion for sanctuary, and he saves his dad from falling. That’s his arc. He doesn’t join the X-Men. He doesn’t fight. He just wastes screen time and keeps other characters from getting developed.

The first two movies balanced action who deeper themes of acceptance, of tolerance, of being proud of who you are… this movie is just noise and fireworks. Ratner takes all the characters that Singer established and ruins them. He takes all the care and thought and attention to detail and casts it aside. He doesn’t care that the first two movies were foreshadowing something great, he wants explosions and meaningless special effects. And he delivers. This movie looks awesome. It’s just not coherent and the story sucks and any decent performances by the actors are lost in the chaos. This is a terrible way to end a great trilogy.

Critically Rated at 8/17

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings is the gold standard for epic fantasies. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first installment of the trilogy and introduces us to Frodo Baggins and the other occupants of Middle-earth. Peter Jackson cares a lot about the source material, and even though a lot of stuff is left out, the film captures the tone and feel of the book.

The movie begins with a little crash course in Middle-earth history. Back in the day, the Dark Lord Sauron made himself a ring that would give him the power to take over the world. There’s an epic battle with men and Elves and Prince Isilidur manages to defeat Sauron, and Isilidur decides to keep the Ring for himself. The Ring betrays him and he dies. The ring gets lost and forgotten for a few thousand years before the creature Gollum finds it and eventually a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) gets his hands on it.

He has it for sixty years before he leaves it to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) finds out that the Ring is the Ring of Power, and that Sauron’s forces are trying to get it back. Frodo must take the Ring and leave the Shire. He sets off on this journey with his loyal gardener Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). Gandalf goes to consult with his wizard pal Saruman(Christopher Lee) where he learns that Sauron has dispatched the Nazgûl to find Frodo. He also finds out that Saruman is also working for Sauron and Gandalf gets taken prisoner.

Frodo and Sam are trying to make their way to Bree to meet up with Gandalf. They are joined by Merry and Pippen (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd). The four hobbits are being perused by the Nazgûl, but manage to make it to Bree safely. Gandalf isn’t there to meet them, since he’s all captured and stuff, but they meet a ranger named Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). Aragorn is an ally of Gandalf and he leads the hobbits to the Elven city Rivendell. Along the way the Nazgûl attack Frodo and stab him with a morgul blade. That’s bad. And if Frodo doesn’t get to Rivendell as soon as possible he will turn into a wraith. That’s bad. Luckily Aragorn’s Elf girlfriend Arwen (Liv Tyler) shows up to save Frodo’s life.

Frodo and his companions finally make it Rivendell. Gandalf is there and he explains how he escaped Saruman’s clutches. Uncle Bilbo is there too, and they get to have a little hobbit bonding time. Elrond the Elf (Hugo Weaving) puts together a council to determine what to do with the Ring. They decide their only course of action is to destroy the Ring by throwing it into the fires of Mount Doom, right in the heart of Sauron territory. Frodo puts it on himself to take the Ring, He is joined by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippen and Aragorn. And Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, and Boromir the guy from Gondor decide that they want to join the Fellowship of the Ring too. Orlando Bloom plays Legolas, John Rhys-Davies plays Gimli, and Sean Bean plays Boromir.

The Fellowship embarks on their journey, but Sauron and Saruman aren’t making it easy for them. They have to worry about spies and orcs and trolls.  Gandalf tries to fight a Balrog and ends up dying a little bit. The Fellowship keeps moving on, but the Ring corrupts Boromir and he goes a little crazy. He attacks Frodo and tries to steal the ring but Frodo escapes. And then the Fellowship gets attacked by the Urik-Hai. Boromir dies, Merry and Pippen get snatched, and the Fellowship is in shambles. Frodo decides that he must take the Ring to Mount Doom by himself. He sneaks away from the group, but Sam tracks him down and Frodo lets him tag along. It’s always better to bring a friend when you have to do something alone.

The movie does the book justice, but the book is better. The film leaves out a lot of characters (no Tom Bombadil?!?) and events. Everything gets condensed and simplified. There are a lot of differences between the book and movie, but this is more faithful to the source material than the second and third installments.

This is a great start to a great trilogy. A lot of stuff might be missing, but Peter Jackson takes you to Middle-earth. What he does show you is amazing. Tolkien’s world comes to life and it feels real. There is a sense of history, it makes the unbelievable believable.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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Actors in Multiple Movie Franchises

Some movies make a lot of money. And people like money, so they decide to make a sequel to make even more money. And if that sequel makes money they might make a third movie. And three movies in the same series makes a trilogy, and (for the purposes of this article) a trilogy is a film franchise. So if an actor appears in three or more movies in the same franchise and three or more movies in another franchise, then they will appear on this list. Unless I forgot about them. Sorry forgotten celebrity.

Harrison Ford starred in the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy (and that shitty fourth movie that I try to forget about). He’s also rumored to come back in the new Star Wars movies.

Tim Allen starred in the Toy Story trilogy and the Santa Clause movies.

Michael J. Fox went Back to the Future three times and voiced Stuart Little three times.

Matt Damon was Jason Bourne three times and was in Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.

Eddie Murphy was Donkey in four Shrek movies and Axel Foley three times as a Beverly Hills Cop. Mike Myers was Shrek in the Shrek flicks and Austin Powers and Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

Shrek And Donkey - Shrek The Final Chapter Desktop Wallpaper

Orlando Bloom was Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he’s reprising his role in The Hobbit movie. He was also in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies too.

Sir Ian McKellen has saved the world as Gandalf in three Lord of the Rings movies and will do so again in The Hobbit trilogy. He’s also threatened the world three times as Magneto in the X-Men franchise.

Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard four times on the big screen and played Charles Xavier in three X-Men movies with a cameo in the Wolverine movie.

Crazy anti-Semite Mel Gibson has been in four Lethal Weapon Movies and was Mad Max three times. You know he hates Jews right?

Warwick Davis was in six Leprechaun movies (about half were direct-to-video) and was also in all eight Harry Potter Movies playing duel roles as Professor Flitwick and Griphook.

Sylvester Stallone was Rambo four times and Rocky Balboa six times. I have a feeling he might be Expendable three times too.

Vin Diesel sucks a lot of balls, but he’s been in four Fast and/or Furious movies (one of them was just a cameo), and he will play Riddick again in 2013. I’m sure that there are at least four people who will pay to see that shit.

Ben Stiller has played Gaylord Focker in three movies and loaned his voice to three Madagascar movies.

Gary Oldman played Sirius Black in Harry Potter 3, 4, 5 and 7.5 and has been James Gordon three times in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

Bruce Campbell has played Ash in the Evil Dead movies and had cameos in all of Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies. That might be a stretch, but it still counts.

Antonio Banderas has been Puss in Boots in three Shrek movies and one spinoff and was in four Spy Kids movies (his scene was cut in the fourth one. Yes, there are four Spy Kids movies). He was played El Mariachi in two out of the three El Mariachi movies, so he doesn’t get any points for that.

John Cho has hung out with Kumar three times as Harold, and he was in American Pie, American Pie 2, American Wedding, and American Reunion. Cameos count. Right, Bruce Campbell?

Samuel L. Jackson was Mace Windu in Star Wars Episode I-III. He also played Nick Fury in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers, which are all part of the same universe, so he gets included.

Jackie Chan has three franchises under his belt. Three Rush Hour movies, four Police Story movies, and he’s loaned his voice to two Kung Fu Panda movies with a third coming out in 2013.

Christopher Lee played Fu Manchu three times, he was Dracula in a bunch of movies. He was Count Dooku in Episodes II and III and the animated Clone Wars movie. He was in Lord of the Rings too.

Hugo Weaving has also been in three franchises. He threatened Neo three times as Agent Smith in the Matrix trilogy. He loaned his voice to Megatron in the Transfomers movies. And he was Elrond in the Lord of the Rings movie and will reprise his role again in one of the upcoming Hobbit movies.

So that’s my list. I think it’s pretty complete. If you see anyone that I’m missing leave a comment. And I’ll either correct you or add it to my list. I don’t know how to rate this so I will just settle for something like this:

Critically Rated at 12/17

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