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The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (#110 of 6)

15 Famous Beautiful Creatures

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15 Famous Beautiful Creatures
15 Famous Beautiful Creatures

This weekend, the young-adult freight train that kicked off with Twilight and kept a-rollin’ with The Hunger Games makes some room for Beautiful Creatures, a supernatural romance (natch) based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who has some fine scripts under his belt, but is also responsible for the Hilary Swank stankers Freedom Writers and P.S. I Love You, the new film is indeed packed with handsome specimens, like Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons, and newcomer Alice Englert. The whole thing got us thinking about beautiful creatures of movies past—characters not quite human, but quite easy on the eyes.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Makeup and Hairstyling

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Makeup and Hairstyling
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Makeup and Hairstyling

Last year, when The Iron Lady’s Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland stole the makeup trophy from the team behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the win not only hinted at Meryl Streep’s eventual semi-shock of a Best Actress victory, it affirmed that one needn’t be the flashiest comer to claim this award. In the recent past, the Oscar here has gone to The Wolfman, Star Trek, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but it’s also been bestowed on Frida and La Vie en Rose, proving biopic metamorphosis can out-putty the extreme and the fanciful (the latter film beat out Norbit and Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End). Such is good news for Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, and Martin Samuel, the trio of nominees who swelled Anthony Hopkins to twice his form for Hitchcock. Opinions of Hopkins’s transformation have been largely varied, with some hailing it as the suspense master’s resurrection and others finding the whole thing rather gross, but what’s certain is that the actor is all but gone beneath the makeup, which voters may see as a win-worthy feat.

Critical Distance: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Critical Distance: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>

The critical response to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part in Peter Jackson’s new film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, suggests that it’s bloated and deficient of the propulsive energy that typified the Lord of the Rings films. The likely cause of dissatisfaction stems from Jackson’s approach toward adapting the book. Whereas Jackson and his writing team condensed each volume of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy into its own film, with The Hobbit they’ve opted to adapt a considerably more straightforward narrative into three films. Thus, An Unexpected Journey only represents a small portion of the book. Critics have seized on this and critiqued the nearly three-hour film for being padded and flabby. While not necessarily untrue, these charges have fueled an abundance of banal commentaries bereft of any real insight into or about the movie. What’s most discouraging about this is that An Unexpected Journey, though certainly vulnerable to criticism, is a more layered film than we’ve been led to believe.

Back There Again: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Back There Again: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>
Back There Again: <em>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</em>

Once the distinct, familiar sense of wonder took hold, I felt a sharp pang of guilt watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, part one of Peter Jackson’s long-gestating Lord of the Rings prequel. Here’s a movie that so many, myself included, regarded with great prejudice, sizing it up as a cute jaunt that had to be seen along with the other year-end contenders, yet reeked of folly, diminished stakes, and outright opportunism, its attachment to a trilogy making excess seem like one more strike against it. But, then, as Jackson’s camera began scanning New Zealand’s topography, with majestic Howard Shore accompaniment, this arrogant miscalculator (and ardent Rings fan) sat humbled and corrected. Jackson may not boast a sterling track record post-Return of the King, and The Hobbit may have suffered a heap of development hell, passing from Jackson to (eventual co-writer) Guillermo del Toro like a certain burdensome bauble, but shame on all who doubt the enduring, enveloping power of Jackson’s Middle-earth, an immersive and comprehensive filmic world if ever there was one. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought me right back to a place I didn’t realize I was missing, a widescreen realm that seems to exist to widen the eyes.

The Lord of the Rings: Moments Out of Time

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<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time
<em>The Lord of the Rings</em>: Moments Out of Time

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy has earned wide recognition as one of the most significant accomplishments in the modern age of cinema. The films translate J.R.R. Tolkien’s prose through popular filmmaking tropes and cutting-edge technology into a stunningly visceral travelogue of brotherhood, grief, sacrifice, and storytelling itself, enlivened by the panoramic vistas of New Zealand where they were shot. However, there’s a caveat to the retrospective glow that has steadily amassed around the trilogy since The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004. Perhaps due to the epic scope of the project, which forms an almost 10-hour opus when connected together, the long view of director Peter Jackson’s accomplishment deemphasizes the minutia tantamount to its success.

Therefore, as we await Jackson’s latest foray into Middle-earth with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the time appears ripe for a fresh look at The Lord of the Rings films. However, rather than focusing on where and how the pieces fit into a broader mosaic of the trilogy, an inside-out approach to these movies would make for a more worthwhile account of their riches.

For this piece, I’ve appropriated the concept of Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy’s “Moments Out of Time” annual look-back at a given year’s cinematic offerings. My hope is to highlight individual moments, disconnected not just from the trilogy’s story, but also from the generally accepted account of its collective achievement. Thus, the “Moments Out of Time” concept applies beyond merely the format of highlighting specific excerpts from the movies. These moments—some of which are individual shots, others extended sequences—aren’t necessarily the best or most pivotal within a certain context for evaluating the films.

Each of the following 10 moments illustrates a slightly different shade of the films’ fluid realization of a complex visual, thematic, and emotional spectrum. They encompass moments large and small, every one offering a distinct flavor of Jackson’s interpretation of Middle-earth, and all magnifying the larger accomplishments of the trilogy as a whole. I’ve limited my list to 10, though dozens more could arguably have been featured.

5 for the day: Authority and Subordination

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5 for the day: Authority and Subordination
5 for the day: Authority and Subordination

D.A. to Callahan: “Where the hell does it say you got a right to kick down doors, torture suspects? Deny medical attention and legal counsel? Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda? I mean, you must’ve heard of the fourth amendment!”

Back in school, my friends and I routinely joked about making compilation videos of certain formulaic scenes that appear in movies, so you would have, for instance, a four hour video of episodes where the good guy cop visits the captain’s office to get his orders or a (new) partner or an ass chewing. That’s more or less where this 5 for the day topic starts: the relationship between an authority and its subordinates - police chief and beat cop, captain and sailor, lord and vassal - there are infinite manifestations of this relationship expressed in countless genres beyond cop thrillers. Each picture has something a little different to say about authority and the people below it—though invariably, when discord between the authority and the individual develops, sympathy goes to the the individual, never the authority.