And so we come to it at last - the great sequel of our time. Concluding his monumentally successful and well-received run of the trilogy, Peter Jackson certainly goes out with a bang with his final offering. The Return of the King, winner of an astounding eleven Academy Awards, is his most ambitious and impressive cinematic offering yet. There is a reason that each Lord of the Rings film is in the top 20 of IMDb’s top 250 highest rated films with the third installment even breaking into the top 10 to rub shoulders with the likes of Pulp Fiction and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and that reason is simply that the trilogy is no less than a monumental and historical cinematic endeavour of unimaginably ambitious and daring scale executed faultlessly by a team of dedicated and devoted enthusiasts. There is little to fault in this mammoth achievement; Return of the King is, without question, one of the greatest films ever made.
Browsing: Rewind Review
Diving straight back into the juicy narrative, Jackson doesn’t leave us dying with anticipation in The Two Towers. Although deemed the worst of the trilogy, The Two Towers, with respect to its difficult position as the middle film, is possibly the best. To add some perspective, The Fellowship of the Ring had the easier charge of establishing the story and each of its characters. The Return of the King has the yet easier task of depicting the narrative’s natural, epic climax. But The Two Towers is lumped as the piggy in the middle; undoubtedly poised to fall dangerously into the realm of monotonous inter-bridges, Jackson superbly and masterfully molds this intermediate undertaking into a three hour masterpiece of stellar proportions. The narrative reaches a stunning climax in the final hour that feels natural and appropriate – nothing is forced or contrived. Furthermore, the scope of the story widens substantially, and nobody thought that was possible after the truly grand marathon that was the establishing installment. No longer are we confined to the quest and characters of the fellowship alone; trickily branching out across Middle Earth, the audience is lavished with multiple excursions to Rohan, Isengard, Fangorn forest and Osgiliath. We accompany pivotal characters on three colossal journeys, each as satisfying as the last. Nobody thought that The Fellowship of the Ring could be topped – but it just might have been.
If Crazy Heart is remembered for anything it will be the film that Jeff Bridges finally won an Oscar. Apart from that, it’s a well-crafted if predictable film that is satisfying if a bit too pat. I read when it first came out that it is the filmic equivalent to comfort food, as in it’s not a remarkable film but it hits all the right notes and does everything it needs to do.
The story is about alcoholic almost-was country singer/songwriter Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) as he tours low rent facilities, even a bowling alley, as he tries to cash in on his cult status. He’s plagued by the enormous success of a former sideman Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) and offers of a duet album with Tommy, along with loads of royalty money if he’d only write some new songs and give them to Tommy.
Little can be said about Peter Jackson’s trilogy of Tolkien-based fantasy epics that hasn’t already been heartily exclaimed since the release of the first installment almost ten years ago, but the impending release of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug requires a little reflection on just why Peter Jackson can do no wrong. J.R.R Tolkien, when writing various endeavours into his fantasy realm, fashioned an entire universe of characters, mythologies, worlds and even languages with his Middle Earth and, as reflected by the sheer scale of Jackson’s adaptations, the relatively unknown director has managed to capture and (fairly) accurately portray Middle Earth as if it were pulled from the very imaginations of the readers themselves. Though some would argue otherwise, Jackson has succeeded in going above and beyond in translating the depth, wonder and vision of Tolkien’s beloved trilogy from the pages of the book to the grandeur of the screen. Once deemed ‘unfilmable’, Peter Jackson and his vast team of talented associates have accomplished the impossible with The Lord of the Rings.
Every family has their holiday traditions, and this often extends to what movies get watched annually during the winter months. Roger Ebert once remarked that his family always watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Thanksgiving. Growing up in my house meant repeat viewings of A Muppet Christmas Carol, skipping over the boring love song but rewinding to watch Tiny Tim hack his lungs out again and again. Since leaving the nest and meeting my wife our tradition has been to watch Love, Actually every year, a film she introduced me to while we were dating. Like most family traditions, holiday movies can seem inscrutable to the outsider’s eye (I know many people love Planes, but I suffered my way through it with only a few chuckles). Love, Actually has certainly endured its share of critical hate over the years, and I can understand people’s reservations about the film, if not the vitriol with which they sometimes express these reservations. See Love, Actually is a bit like dinner on Christmas Day (or perhaps Thanksgiving): there’s way too much going on to savor each bite individually, and some of the component parts might be downright nasty (canned cranberry, anyone?); but if you let the experience wash over you as a whole, there is plenty to satisfy.
British director Steve McQueen (not to be confused with American Icon of Cool Steve McQueen, they are two very different people. First and foremost, the American Icon of Cool is dead and the British director is alive and well) made his directorial debut with 2008’s Hunger. The film is billed as being about IRA (that’s Irish Republican Army, not Individual Retirement Account) soldier Bobby Sands’ (Michael Fassbinder) organized hunger strike in a British prison in 1981, but that is only part of the story being told in the film.
My rewind reviews, especially when it’s been a few years since, tend to be a little more on the personal side. So, it’s with that in mind, I’ll give you my views on Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. In 2003, my children were about a year and a year-and-a-half old. Pixar’s Finding Nemo came out and it resonated for my husband and I as parents because we were both very overprotective. Both kids exhibited behaviors that weren’t considered “normal” at the time, and it wasn’t until they were both 4 years old that we got their diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Thus, Nemo resonated, because we had to let go at the playground, the park, and eventually at school so that they could discover the world for themselves. I bawled like a baby at the ending.
The team of James Wan and Leigh Whannel, who so famously gave us the first installment to what would later become the Saw franchise, had a rather different agenda this time around. They wanted to prove that they could terrify an audience without graphic violence, and rest assured, they succeeded.
The opening shots of The Chronicles of Riddick show a massive iron sculpture of a menacing face overlooking an evil army storming a planet. The idea was to show the scale of this sequel. The story is no longer contained to a small, backwater, desert planet. Instead, this film will show the scope and grandeur of the universe Riddick inhabits. The biggest problem with this introduction is that all it really demonstrates is how wretched the computer effects are going to be for the next two hours.
Independent and low budget science fiction films tend to suffer from a few ingrained flaws. The special effects aren’t convincing, the acting is stiff and the stories can be clunky and overburdened by the dogmatic vocabularies associated with the fantasy realms of science fiction. It’s a brave filmmaker who tries to do grand scale science fiction on a small budget. In 2000 David Twohy assembled a small crew, took a script by Jim and Ken Wheat, and got some pretty great actors, and headed out into the Australian desert to shoot Pitch Black.