John Ryhs-Davies

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)

Advertisements

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Year: 1989
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, and Menno Meyjes

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s face it, Indiana Jones is at his best when he is fighting Nazis and I thought this movie really brought the franchise full circle and made it what it was. I think when your first sequel runs amuck you go back to square one and do things right the next time around.  That’s exactly what this movie did when it went back to fighting Nazis and brought back a couple of characters from the first film. Opening the movie with somewhat of an origin story was an excellent touch that went on to spawn a television series that I remember watching in my youth.  This was an altogether better film than Temple of Doom, and I will even go as far as to say that it rivals Raiders of the Lost Ark in the franchise.  Raiders is hard to top, but this comes as close as it gets and did plenty to create the marketability of the franchise.

I really think it is awesome that the franchise went back to the Nazis in the third film, being set in 1938.  It really disappoints me how the fourth film played out.  I have always thought that the greatest story line for a continuation of the franchise would go back to the Nazis again.  Sometime during WWII specifically.  I mean, what was Indy doing during “The Great War”? As a big time American enemy of the Nazis there should be little doubt there was a story line there.  Unfortunately we got something at a later date that ultimately settled around aliens.  Two thumbs way down on that. I can’t remember where I heard it but I remember being told George Lucas was to thank for the direction of the fourth film.  Another reason I despise the man that so many people love.

I think they really got back to the Indiana Jones roots in this movie, literally in fact.  River Phoenix was great as the young Indiana Jones.  This movie specifically is what I know the actor from and growing up knew his brother Joaquin much better.  I am a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix actually, despite his problems.  I expect nearly every day to find out he followed the same path as his brother and died from some kind of overdose but am always grateful when it doesn’t happen.  River Phoenix of course died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of twenty three with all the promise of a successful and fantastic acting career ahead of him.  His brother Joaquin shares his talents as well as his tendencies towards drugs unfortunately. His troubles are well known but I am a fan nonetheless, I think he is a great actor.  River could have been a great actor as well, and this movie as well as any he was in proves as much.  I thought he owned the role of the young Indiana Jones and I like how they explained the scar on his chin, a scar Harrison Ford got on his own that has been with him forever.

Harrison Ford again is great in the title role, he is the man that so many of us grew up with and idolized.  People will argue that Han Solo was a better role but I don’t think it got any better than Indiana Jones for Harrison Ford. It was the role of a lifetime and he was very good at it.  I really like that they brought back Denholm Elliott and John Rys-Davies for this movie. It made their characters more important to the franchise and I liked that.  Alison Doody served well enough in the female lead despite her name. She was beautiful and played her part well but it never took her anywhere.  I really liked Sean Connery in the part as Indy’s father, although it doesn’t make much sense for our ultra-American hero to have a father with an English accent.  Connery was one of the actors that proved age couldn’t slow down someone who was good at what he does and this movie played a big part in that. Harrison Ford plays a really strong character in Indiana Jones and it took a strong actor to play the part of the man that humbled him.  I think Connery did that in the deft fashion of a seasoned actor who knew his trade.  He brought a lot to the movie while not stealing the scene and I think it set the stage for all his roles to come over the following ten years.

For what Julian Glover lacks in the role of the lead villain Michael Byrne makes up for in spades.  General Vogel was evil and intimidating while Walter Donavon was just a weasel.  It was a bit of a twist when Dr. Schneider turned out to be bad but Indy should have been smarter than to fall for a beautiful blonde with a German accent. I do think it is weird that the movie implies that she had a relationship with both father and son but I suppose that was her job.

Indiana Jones jousts with a Nazi in this movie on motorcycles while he is armed with a flag against a machine gun and Indy wins, need I say more? This movie did as much as  Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Indiana Jones franchise and it is more than worth your time. I grew up with this as the completion of the series and it turns out that things would have been better off that way. I was really disappointed with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull despite how much money it made. There were parts that appealed to me as a fan but overall it was a disappointment and I wish the franchise had simply been left with this.  It is an awesome movie and proved to be incapable of being outdone twenty years later.

NEXT MOVIE: Inglousious Basterds (2009)

Raiders of The Lost Ark

Year: 1981
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay) George Lucas and Philip Kaufman (story)

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I was in college I wrote a fifteen page paper on this movie for one of my classes.  It was a very in depth critical analysis in which I praised Steven Spielberg as one of the greatest directors of all time and accused George Lucas of being a hack that only did one good thing and fooled millions of people into thinking he had talent.  I made an A on the paper and I still stand by those positions today.  Spielberg has continued to make incredible movies and George Lucas has continued to destroy his greatest creations and ruin their legacies.  Not even this franchise was safe from Lucas’ meddling but nevertheless he did play a large role in making this movie, and it is a legendary movie.  This movie is so iconic and so awesome that it remains relevant even after more than thirty years since its release and in time I think we will find it still relevant in yet another thirty year period.

I’m not going to spend too much time talking specifically about how good this movie is because everybody out there already knows that.  If you are young and managed not to see this movie growing up you should confront your parents and demand an explanation.  This movie is exciting, interesting, timeless, and action packed.  Indiana Jones is a total badass and true American hero. He made boys all over the world want whips they could combat anything with. I like Jones as the hero because he is a strong character.  He is educated, secular, practical, and brave.  He doesn’t give credence to superstition. He follows his mind and not his heart. He does what needs to be done, and he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.  The guy can fistfight with the best of them and still be in class the following day blowing off the doe eyed babes trying to hit on him.  He rocks the shit out of that hat too, and it makes his silhouette one of the most memorable ever.  Another thing that makes him a great American hero is his hate for Nazis.  Indy is great at beating up Nazis and how can any red blooded American out there not love him for that?

The character of Indiana Jones was in fact created by George Lucas, but he originally named the character Indiana Smith.  When he and Spielberg were discussing the film Spielberg told him he loved the story but he wasn’t crazy about the name Indiana Smith.  So Lucas came up with the oh so clever second attempt of Jones which was what stuck.  Lucas couldn’t use the most popular name in the nation so he went with the second most popular.  I think that, in a nutshell, sums up the capabilities of George Lucas as a creative writer.  I cannot explain Star Wars because he did create something exceptional there, in the beginning, but I maintain he is a hack despite Star Wars.  I think the success of this movie and franchise is 100% because Spielberg was behind the camera.  He is one of the greatest directors of all time and he is in his element making movies like this.  Spielberg has a great imagination for action sequences and nobody films them with such an exciting impact as he does.  

He has always made great use of composer John Williams as well to his great advantage.  Williams is an incredible composer and has created a number of memorable scores.  The score for this movie alone will live on forever and that’s only one next to several very successful films over the last 30+ years.  His music has played a significant role in setting the tone for Spielberg movies such as this one, E.T., Jawsand Jurassic ParkWilliams was also the key composer for all Star Wars films and The Harry Potter franchise as well.  He has had a career for the ages and will be remembered for all time.

Karen Allen was nothing short of awesome in this movie.  As Marion Ravenwood she plays such a badass woman who will drink you under the table and stab you if you underestimate her.  I was really hopeful for her return to the franchise in the fourth film because I thought it certified that the movie would be awesome and tie them all together.  I was really disappointed with the fourth movie though, which I still think had the potential to be everything all of us wanted it to be.  Naturally, I blame George Lucas for what was ultimately put on the screen but I am biased in that regard.  Paul Freeman played the part of the lead villain well enough but Ronald Lacey showed him up as a bad guy.  For the longest time this was the only movie I knew John Rhys-Davies from and was shocked when I realized he was the man who played Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Years ago I wrote so much about this movie that I found it difficult to do it this time because I hate to be redundant.  This is a movie and franchise really important to me though because as far back as I can remember I was watching Indiana Jones and loving every minute of it. These movies are timeless and I sincerely hope they are still being enjoyed by the rising generation today.  All three of the first three movies are worth your time but this one more than any other.  You have undoubtedly seen it already but if you haven’t I don’t know what you are waiting for.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is a classic. It’s almost blasphemous to say anything derogatory about it. Here is the poster:

raiders

Spielberg was obsessed with this style back in the day. This takes me right back to my Goonies review. I think what they are going for is this “adventurous” style so they make it all sketched out. I really don’t like it all. He has a super cheesy look on his face, the font for Raiders looks like it is bad word art (of course all word art is bad) and on top of that it is filled with a gradient! This movie may be a classic and this poster probably stands out in the minds of those who love it, but I hate this poster. It is definitely one of my least favorite.

NEXT MOVIE: Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984)

Movies By Request

The Great White Hype


Year: 1996
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Tony Hendra Roy Shelton

There are more movies made about boxing than any other professional sport.  I think there is a very good reason for that and it is simple.  Boxing movies are awesome, even if they are all the same. I have said as much before in my post on Cinderella Man but I think deep down we all have an instinctive desire to see fights. The men that choose to spend their lives as fighters always have interesting stories to tell as well.  Yet all boxing movies seem to follow a similar template, and this movie is no different.  It covers many elements of the boxing world that we see in others films, but the redundancy of boxing story lines somehow never seems to be a problem. I often find myself realizing this is the same thing I have seen before but still loving it in all boxing films, and or TV shows in the case of Lights Out. I was a really big fan of that show and disappointed to see it cancelled.  My main point here is that while they all might be so similar they are usually interesting in other ways.

This movie specifically makes fun of the racial element in the sport.  I despise racism but do enjoy the humor that can be found in stereotypes across the board.  We all fall into stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be about race, but it is funny so long as it is in good humor.  There is a big difference between making a joke about a stereotype and making a racist joke.  I think this movie made fun of racist behavior albeit in a crude manner at times.  One of the times I laughed the hardest was when Samuel L Jackson accused a reporter of being racist.  He responds by saying he is Jewish to which Jackson then accuses him of being an “Uncle Tom.” The reporter says Jews can’t be “Uncle Toms” and Jackson turned to look at his cronie Jon Lovitz playing a Jewish man and puts the question to him.  Lovitz defensively says “we can be!” and it is just such a funny exchange.  This movie is about race all the way through and I did think it was really funny, but these kinds of films watched by the wrong people always send the wrong message.  I have found in my experiences that racist tend to feel validated by comedies or tragedies about race when in fact they should be humbled by them.  I don’t understand the disconnection but it is a disappointing reality about some people.  Racism at the root is a product of ignorance and people who embrace it are often not clever enough to see the error of their ways.

I remember always wanting to see this movie during my Action Video days but somehow never getting around to it.  So I was pleased when a co-worker brought it in among a stack of other films the other day.  I had completely forgotten about the film altogether and was glad for the opportunity to see it.  I was even happier to have liked the movie as I anticipated I would long ago.  Samuel L. Jackson has a charisma that reaches out to everyone and I am no different.  I have thought he was awesome for almost twenty years now since I first saw him in Die Hard with a Vengeance as an eleven year old. I had yet to see Pulp Fiction, that one was off limits for me until I was old enough to seek it out myself.  Nevertheless I have thought he was great since then and he has done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion.  If anything he has only made his image greater in my eyes as he has now become such a key figure in the Marvel movies as Nick Fury.  As to this film he is what would easily be expected, awesome.  As the key figure of a really large cast he does great with a powerful and commanding presence at all times. He is funny in this movie while playing a really flamboyant and enigmatic boxing promoter; he is exactly what he should be in that role.

Of this large cast that includes many notable actors I think the best one playing a supporting role was Jamie Foxx.  He is another actor that is very charismatic and good in most of what he does.  He plays someone kind of stupid in this movie and pulls it off well.  As a big and lifelong fan of The Shield I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Jace in a movie. He played Julian Lowe on the show and I thought he showed great range as an actor throughout the series.  The rest of this cast is made up of other notable actors who do a great job.  Among them are Jeff Goldblum, Cheech Marin, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings), Jon Lovitz, and Damon Wayans (the first one).

I am glad that at long last I have finally seen this movie and I really enjoyed it.  It was a fun and funny movie that didn’t let me down after I had waited so long to see it I had actually forgotten about it.  I am grateful that my co-worker lent it to me to see and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a fun boxing comedy to see.