Posts Tagged ‘Ian McKellen’

On revisiting Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ fantasy epic

June 23, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 23, 2020

Although I haven’t left the house to socialize since March 15, I have not spent a lot of my abundant free time watching TV or movies. I have devoted a lot of hours to playing Boggle, and I have squandered time watching short videos.

I made an exception earlier this month, however, when I devoted five evenings to rewatching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed in one go and released in December of 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively. I own the special extended editions of the first two movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and I wasn’t willing to sit through either one in a single night. I wound up doing that for the finale, The Return of the King, of which I own a regular-edition DVD (never opened until last week, incidentally); the finale is three hours and 12 minutes long, so even that was a significant investment of time.

I loved these movies when they were first released. They look great — elaborate sets and lavish costumes and props were supplemented by a great cast, led by Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Moreover, the special effects were excellent for their time. And the production utilized literally dozens of striking New Zealand spots in to stand in for the vast fantasy realm of Middle-Earth. (Indeed, hundreds of thousands of tourists annually flock to Jackson’s native land to visit filming locations used in his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.) Howard Shore’s tremendous trio of scores rounds things off.

The scripts were penned by the director with two regular collaborators, Fran Walsh (his wife) and Philippa Boyens; another Jackson colleague, Stephen Sinclair, is also credited for the screenplay of The Two Towers. To someone like me, who was and remains very casually acquainted with J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal fantasy novels, they capture the spirit of the source material while making it fairly accessible to the viewer.

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‘To sleep, perchance to dream’ — ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ remakes history with a not entirely entrancing extended catnap

June 28, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 28, 2014

In the year 2023, the new movie X-Men: Days of Future Past informs us, virtually everything is dimly lit, computer-animated or both. More to the point, plot-wise, giant shape-shifting robots are waging a deadly war against mutated humans and anyone sympathetic to them. The remnants of the X-Men, a group of superpowered mutants, fight a losing battle over and over: Time and again, the robotic Sentinels discover and breach their hideout, slaughtering the mutants one by one, until they reach the inner sanctum and find that…nothing has happened.

The extermination of the heroic X-Men is repeatedly undone because of the duo of napper extraordinaire Bishop (Omar Sy) and psychic Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page). She’s able to project Bishop’s consciousness into the mind of his younger body, some hours or days in the past, which allows him to warn his colleagues of the impending danger and go elsewhere ahead of the Sentinels’ arrival. History changes at the very moment Bishop wakens, meaning that each deadly assault is completely lost to the universe but for Bishop’s memory of it.

Now Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the leader of the X-Men, has conceived a daring plan to end the war before it begins, to use the movie’s haughty phrase. Pryde will send Logan, code-name Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), into his younger body in 1973. His mission: To round up allies who will prevent the mutant Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, frequently wearing a blue bodysuit and heavy makeup) from committing the murder that triggered the destructive Sentinel-mutant war.

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Fourteen short men traverse a forest and see wondrous things in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

December 31, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2013

Director Peter Jackson’s latest take on the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This, the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy based on The Hobbit, begins with a brief prologue setting up the quest at the heart of the story: The wise, powerful and quirky wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arranges a meeting with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the heir to a dwarven kingdom that the dragon Smaug has conquered, dispersed and occupied.

Gandalf tells Oakenshield what he told the dwarf’s father: Rally the seven dwarven armies and drive the fire-breathing lizard from its roost in the dwarven-carved caverns beneath the Lonely Mountain. Oakenshield is willing to try this, but he has a problem. His people’s armies will only unite under the command of he who wields the Arkenstone, and that gem is among the jewels and precious metals that Smaug is lounging upon right now. Gandalf smiles upon hearing this, for he knows a thief that might be able to spirit away the Arkenstone…

Cut to the present moment. Gandalf, Oakenshield, a certain Hobbit thief (Martin Freeman) and a company of 12 dwarves are working their way toward the Lonely Mountain whilst being hunted by a band of powerful, bloodthirsty orcs. Gandalf leaves the group just before they enter the foreboding Mirkwood Forest. The short-of-stature travelers are captured first by hungry spiders and then by irate elves. Heroism by the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins by name, is required in both cases to extend the quest.

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