Cate Blanchett

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2001
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel) Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I will never forget the first time I saw this movie.  It was probably one of the most awesome experiences I have ever had as a film viewer and I didn’t even see it on the big screen.  In fact this film had been available on video for some time before I rented it.  I had somehow made it eighteen years in life without having read the books. I also managed to work in both a theater and video store without having seen this or even paying it any attention despite how big it was.  I was young then and my choices in film had a lot to do with either who starred in the film or who had directed it.  I didn’t know Peter Jackson and there was no name in the cast that jumped out at me.  Had I even known of the books I might have felt differently but I specifically remember feeling I was above this silly movie about wizards and trolls that was based off some old book.

I had recently graduated high school when I rented this movie one day in the late summer of 2002, and I can’t express enough how much I had no idea what the movie was about.  I took it over to a friends house one day to watch it while we got high.  Shameless I know, but I was eighteen and times were different.  Amber was with me (yes, we are high school sweethearts), she was only my girlfriend then and the friend whose house we went to is one we are still close to today.  I specifically remember telling him, “I don’t know if this is going to be any good, if it sucks we can just watch something else.” Now maybe it was the weed, maybe it was the special effects, or maybe it was just that the movie was THAT damn good but I remember seeing it for the first time as practically magical.  I was interested in the movie immediately but once the wizard fight began between Gandalf and Saruman I specifically remember my jaw dropping and I don’t know that my mouth closed for the next two and a half hours. I do not know how I managed to make it so long and be so into movies and not know anything about this film before that day.  I had a good friend I worked with in the projection booth at the theater and I remember he would prattle on and on about this movie.  We usually had great conversations about films but for whatever reason when he talked about this one I would simply nod my head and work while he talked about it. Whatever the reason I am thankful for my ignorance on that day.  Not knowing what was going to happen next made this movie so incredible.  I was on the edge of my seat for the entire film and exhilarated by the experience.

I may have had a special experience watching this movie but I am not special in feeling that connection to it.  This trilogy was one of the greatest undertakings in film history and it was very successful.  It no doubt means something to millions of people and has influenced countless viewers. The book this movie is based on was published in 1954 and already had a huge fan base before gaining a new audience through the film. To this day I have still never read the books despite how much I love the story, and it’s specifically because I love these movies so much. Books are always better.  There is just nothing a film can do to literally put you inside of the story with the thoughts and feelings of the characters.  The greatest movies find ways to convey that feeling to you, to a lesser extent, but it cannot be matched. I ruined Game of Thrones on HBO by reading the book series and I would hate to do the same to these films.  As I understand it, as far as film adaptations go, the Special Extended Cut for these movies is about as good as they get.  I hope so but will never risk finding out for sure, these movies mean too much to me.

I have always felt this movie was a glowing example of the possibilities offered by the future of film making. It was released so soon after the turn of the century when seemingly everything in the world was changing rapidly and this film was above and beyond practically everything that came before it.  It was a classic and well loved story brought to the screen with some of the greatest production work and special effects any of us had ever seen.  In some ways I don’t think it would be out of the question to put this trilogy next to Star Wars in what it did for the movie industry.  Animation used with motion capture suits was new at the time and the great lengths the production crew went through to design costumes, sets, and props were really exceptional.  The locations chosen to film in also went a long way in making the movie feel so real.  I know it has become a common dream vacation spot but for most every day people at the time New Zealand was a place many knew nothing about.  It sports incredible landscapes that really brought to world of Middle Earth to life in a way that probably couldn’t have been done anywhere else.

As great as everything looked in this movie, and as great and exciting as the story already was there is still no end to what can be said about the cast that brought the characters to life.  Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan were all great as the hobbits and became more and more likable as the series progressed.  Hobbits can seem pretty lame at just a glance because they’re just these little people who keep to themselves.  I  have always maintained that the hobbits are the most awesome of all the people of Middle Earth though.  The Dwarves are always bitching, the Elves are all high and mighty, the Men have a displaced sense of pride and arrogance while the Hobbits are simply happy go lucky little people who are content to eat,smoke, and drink their lives away happily.  These four Hobbits we see are the ones who get thrust into action and prove their people are more than meets the eye.  I don’t know that there was anything more uplifting in these films than seeing these Hobbits rise to action every time shit hit the fan.  These are seemingly little and defenseless people but every time the action gets going they are right there in the middle of it and throwing caution to the wind with acts of bravery that are nothing short of inspiring.

While the Hobbits might be the most unlikely badasses of all time there is no mistaking Ian McKellen as Gandalf for anything but the baddest of all badasses.  He has such a wise and grandfatherly quality to him until he throws down.  Whether he is dropping bridges with the banging of his staff or he is wielding a sword that suddenly came out of no where he is straight up the biggest badass in this movie. His battle with the demon before seemingly falling to his death is one of the most awesome scenes I have ever seen. When he stands his ground and screams “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!” you can practically feel his intensity straight through the screen.  It convinced me right there and then that Ian McKellen was and is one of the most awesome actors out there. I knew before seeing this movie that Gandalf didn’t die because I had waited so long to see it I had already seen him in previews for the next film, but the weight of that scene was still impossible to miss. So much changes when Gandalf decides to send them on without him and nothing is lost in the power of the scene by knowing that it’s coming.

I knew absolutely nothing about Viggo Mortensen prior to his role in this series and I would argue that without this series his career offers very little.  I think he was great in A History of Violence and he has made a couple other noteworthy movies but without playing Aragorn none of that would have ever happened. This was probably the best it will ever get for him but there is nothing wrong with that.  These movies will live on forever in popularity and he was absolutely incredible in all three of them.  The same can be said for Orlando Bloom although his efforts to make more of himself didn’t come with any lack of opportunity.  He got more roles thrown his way than any of the other actors yet still manages to be unsuccessful outside this franchise.  You can say that he had something going with Pirates of the Carribean, but I won’t. I attribute the success of that franchise to the child audience that loves pirates and it did nothing to prevent him from being typecast into that type of sword weilding character.  In truth I cannot stand Orlando Bloom but I never see Orlando Bloom in this movie, only Legolas, and Legolas was awesome. I like John Rhys-Davies and have since seeing him in Raiders of the Lost Ark as a child but I never really cared for him in this role.  He plays the Gimli the Dwarf, and as I mentioned in my review of The Hobbit, Dwarves blow.  They might bring their A-game to battle but otherwise all I hear them doing is bitching about everything under the sun.  

My favorite character in the film, after Gandalf of course, is that of Boromir.  Boromir was a man, altogether different from the kind of man that Aragorn was because Aragorn was a Dunedain.  Borormir could help but fall victim to the problems that plague regular men, being greed and arrogance.  He faltered a bit at the end and spend most of the journey under the suspicious eye of Gandalf and others but he was a man without fear.  He lost it altogether when he tried to take the ring from Frodo but the ring had managed somehow to poison his mind.  All that meant nothing when he joined the climactic battle and fought as bravely as any man in the entire series.  All these guys had great moments in battle but Boromir put his life on the line to single handedly take on a never ending assault from Uruk-hai warriors. He wasn’t just fighting off orcs to protect the Hobbits, he was fighting the biggest meanest enemies in the world and doing it despite taking arrows to the chest and stomach.  Boromir’s final fight to the death has always been one of my favorite scenes of the movie because it captures what so much of what this movie is about, being bravery and heroism. This all makes Boromir an awesome character, but I think what made him so great in the movie was the fact that he was played by Sean Bean.  Bean is a great actor but is really at his best in this kind of role.  He was exceptional as Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones

I have gone on forever about this movie that…well goes on forever but there are still a few to cover.  It would be unfair to discuss this movie without mentioning some of the great performances in smaller roles.  Christopher Lee is like a machine when it comes to acting, continuing to act into his 80s without slowing down at all. He was a perfect fit for the villainous wizard Saruman and it is probably the role I will most remember him for when his career is finally at an end.  I have never thought Liv Tyler was a very good actress but she just looks the part so well for this movie.  She actually has really elvish features and the role didn’t call for her to really do too much acting.  Cate Blanchette on the other hand is a terrific actress and brought skills as well as beauty to her part.  She has a very graceful and angelic look.  Hugo Weaving was a rising star around the time this movie came out because he was part of The Matrix franchise.  When this movie hit the screen The Matrix had not yet destroyed its popularity with those horrible sequels.  I have liked Weaving in nearly everything I have seen him in and I think he was great as the most powerful Elf in this movie.

This is a great coming of age film that I watched during a time when I was coming of age.  It had a significant influence on me during a time when significant influences had the greatest impact.  From this film and series I learned about honor, bravery, and perseverance.  I consider the lessons I learned from these movies to be invaluable and I try to keep them close to heart at all times. I think this is the type of movie that touched many people in a similar way and will continue to do so for years to come.

This movie kicked off an incredible adventure that gave viewers three years worth of excitement.  I think this movie is far and away the best complete film of the series.  I think there is plenty to enjoy from both of the sequels but the intensity isn’t there throughout as it is in this one.  The second film has an incredibly long retarding point in the middle as it takes them forever to reach Helm’s Deep.  The third movie might have been the greatest but it just took so long to reach that epic battle in the end, and then the movie drags on forever afterwards.  This movie might have left us all hanging at a critical juncture but when all these films are put together I think it stands above the others.

These are incredible films that were popular all over the world. The adventure all started with this one and I think it started everything off perfectly.  I think this is an awesome movie and even though it demands so much time to watch it I think it is worth every minute of that time.  If you haven’t seen these movies then you have missed out and have a lot to look forward to. If you somehow missed these movies then I would suggest watching the special extended cuts.  They add about three hours to the series collectively but that extra time makes the story so much better and more complete.

AMBER’S REVIEW

The first time we ever watched this I was in a fun, teenager state of mind and I was absolutely blown away. I never even wanted to watch the movie originally. I thought it looked uninteresting to me from the trailers. One day at a friends house we all got completely sucked in and watched the entire thing. It was also one of those first movies that really took cinematography to a whole new level. Remember this movie was before Avatar. I think I still really like this movie, because as much as I dreaded watching it for the blog (only because it is a never ending movie) I found myself getting re-sucked into it. It is a good movie about perseverance for the good of people you don’t even know.

lord_of_the_rings_the_fellowship_of_the_ring_ver4_xlg

NOOOOOOOOO! Group shot. Let’s see how many characters we can fit on the poster! I will say this is the best job I have seen at putting this many people on a poster, but I do not like it. The fade is seriously abrupt at the end of the photography where the title starts. And also, Frodo is like a deer in headlights on this poster. And it just makes me mad. More at Tolkien, because the real hero has and always will be Sam. Not a fan of the poster, but I do however like the typography of the title. It is recognizable and you know what movie this is just by seeing it. That’s what makes the title so strong. Otherwise, boo. They broke my poster code so I can’t give this one my praise.

NEXT MOVIE: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Year: 2004
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RYAN’S REVIEW

Wes Anderson has only made a handful of movies to date and I love nearly all of them but this one is without doubt my favorite.  His movies tend to be slower and have a very subtle type of comedy to them that just gets me every time. The film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and was made as both a tribute and caricature to his films. In this film we see Bill Murray in the lead role playing an apathetic and disheartened rival to “Cousteau and his cronies” that is on a mission for revenge of all things. Somewhere out there is the mysterious Jaguar Shark, that may or may not exist, who killed his right hand man. Things have fallen apart for him and he just flat out doesn’t care anymore.  As he goes on this adventure seeking revenge he encounters financial difficulties, pirates, a small mutiny, and a tragic loss along the way.

I am a huge fan of Bill Murray and think his performance in this film is one of the best he has ever had.  As Steve Zissou he plays a man who was once on top but has fallen from the limelight and is now laughable.  He has lost his drive and now lives carelessly and without inhibition. I love his “scientific purpose” for killing this Bigfoot of the sea. Revenge, a ridiculous notion to take out on a sea creature that may or may not exist, but it jives perfectly with the personality of Steve Zissou.  When Ned approaches him with the possibility of being his son he simply drifts away for a moment and smokes a joint on bow of the ship then returns to immediately pick right back up with the conversation.  The way he treats Ned is hilarious too.  When they sit down to have a drink together he treats this grown man as if he were a child, “no that’s mine, he doesn’t know anything about wine.” Paired with Zissou’s apathetic style is an arrogance that only a man who was once great can have.  I love when he renames Ned Kingsley Zissou and just goes forward with it even after Ned’s reservations. Zissou may be kind of a dick but he is ballsy and that makes him a badass. The scenes when he breaks free to fight the pirates and leads his crew in the rescue of the bond company stooge are awesome.  One of my favorite lines from the movie comes right after he fights off the pirates when he yells “you left your dog you idiots!” Yet Zissou later leaves the dog behind himself after rescuing the bond company stooge. All and all I love this guy; he’s like “The Dude” of the sea only not a pacifist and a lot crazier.  He is an awesome character and I don’t think any other actor out there could have brought him to life in quite the same way as Bill Murray.  Murray is truly a one of a kind artist and person. We must cherish every film he has left in him and with hope there are many more to come.

Wes Anderson uses so many of the same actors on a regular basis that he has practically developed his own troupe.  Owen Wilson is one of his regulars and turns in a great performance as Ned, who may or may not be Steve Zissou’s son.  I think his accent in the film is perfect, it has a draw and twang to it that really adds humor to the things he says.  I’ve read that he modeled the accent after that of Will Patton.  I can see how he tried but there is still a nasally sound to it that makes it sound altogether different from Patton.  Willem Dafoe plays the part of Zissou’s most loyal crewman Klaus, who struggles with the relationship developing between Steve and Ned possibly because he is a closet homosexual.  I think Klaus is awesome and I love the scene in which he confronts Ned and smacks him across the face. Willem Dafoe was everywhere for a while right at the turn of the century but I haven’t seen him in anything significant in quite a while.  That’s disappointing because I think he is a great actor.  He has a role in Anderson’s next movie and I look forward to it.

I am not a big fan of Anjelica Huston but Wes Anderson obviously is because he casts her in everything.  I don’t know this but if I was a betting man I’d put money on the notion that she probably reminds him of his mother as that is the role he usually casts her in.  She has a look that conveys intelligence and dignity and she brings that quality to every role she plays in his films.  As Eleanor Zissou, Etheline Tenembaum, and as the estranged mother Patricia from Darjeeling Limited she is always a strong, wise, and independent woman.  I’m not a big fan because personally I have always thought she looked kind of evil but her roles in Anderson’s film have really made me come around to liking her more.

I’ve also never been a fan of Jeff Goldblum, at least not as a leading man anyway.  I do like him much more when he plays a secondary character like he does in this film as Zissou’s rival Alistair Hennessey. I think Goldblum has plenty of great scenes in this movie but my favorite is when he meets Zissou on the deck of his ship.  When he casually asks the dogs name before walking over and smacking the shit out of him is so funny.  I like the way asks its name before hitting it and the way he points at it as he stares it down afterwards.  It conveys power from a man who has succeeded so much more than his rival has financially.  Cate Blanchett is a fantastic actress and has a very interesting role in this movie.  Blanchett hadn’t even met her co-stars when she walked onto set and filmed her first scene with them on the beach looking at the glowing Man-of-wars.  She is that talented of an actress though, she’s a pro who can show up and drop a great performance just like that.

It was made out to be a big deal that Bud Cort was cast in the movie but I don’t buy it.  Now I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job because I thought he was excellent as the bond company stooge.  I love the scene after the rescue on the Belafonte when Hennessey asks how they got all his equipment and Cort replies “we fucking stole it,” hilarious.  I simply won’t give Cort any additional credit because I specifically hated the film he is most famous for.  I hear all the time about how it’s a classic and what not but I can’t see it.  As far as I am concerned Harold and Maude is a bleak and demented movie.  Its dark comedy on suicide never really appealed to me and I think the relationship between the two title characters is gross.  You can say love holds no bars but screw that I’m telling you there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to age difference as it pertains to sexual relations.

The ending to this film is so powerful.  When everyone finally sees the Jaguar shark it proves that Zissou wasn’t crazy, and even he himself questioned that at times.  Throughout the entire film he never seems certain that there is actually anything out there but finding it validates him as a person.  He gets emotional for the only time in the film because he realizes he isn’t crazy and he still has the talents he thought he had lost.  I think in that moment he finally allows himself to feel the loss of his best friend Esteban and of his possible son Ned.  It is touching to see this stoic and apathetic character actually feel something. Following that scene is the Zissou sitting outside alone as the audience applauds his newest film.  As he is joined by his crew he walks away triumphantly to whatever new adventure lay before him.  It is an incredible ending to an awesome movie.

This is a movie I usually hesitate to recommend to people because I never know how other people will take Wes Anderson.  I love his films and wholeheartedly look forward to every one he makes but most of the people I talk to don’t really like his films.  Despite that I’m going to say this film is without doubt worth your time because it is one of my favorites.  If you have seen it before please leave a comment to share your own thoughts, I am always interested to hear what other people have to say about a film I don’t know many who have watched.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is absurdly ridiculous in all the right ways. Of course by now you should know, and understand that we really like Wes Anderson. He has an original style and look and I don’t think any other movie carries it as well as this one. It was such a strange, strange film yet so interesting you can’t look away. And furthermore, I will watch anything that has Bill Murray in it. (Side note about Bill Murray. Have we ever mentioned we live in North Carolina? Every year we go down to SC around Folly Beach and vacation and visit some friends. Guess who also vacations around the area? That’s right Bill Murray. And legend has it that he is extremely nice in real life.)

lifeaquatic

This is probably the best I have seen where the designer tried to fit the whole fucking cast in there. I still hate it. But at least there are no floating heads in the ocean surrounding the pod. I have to say I am really disappointed with this poster. I think that they had such an opportunity to do something really cool because of the design and style of Wes Anderson. Boo, I am not impressed with this poster at all. One of my least favorites simply because of the opportunities lost on it.

NEXT MOVIE: Life of Brian (1979)