On the 19th January 2012 this collection of typo ridden blether celebrated its third birthday. The fact that I couldn’t write anything on the actual day is kind of a testament to how things have been going these past few months, but I also had an idea what I wanted to write about and needed to put some actual thought in to it.
The trilogy is a big deal in cinema. If you can get people hooked in enough from that first installment to wait a minimum of two more years to see the climax then you know you’re on to a good thing. Or are you? The propensity for making sequels over the last decade or so has led to a few well loved films being stretched out over three parts that maybe weren’t intended at first inception. It’s yet to be seen whether this blog is the series that can keep running or the plot that should have given up somewhere in the middle of part two, but in celebration of at least making the landmark, I bring you part three in cinema: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
This is where the proper trilogies live. The ones that had a big three part game plan and started setting up for it within the opening moments of part one. The best trilogies though are the ones where you didn’t think it could get any better and then the finale knocks you sideways. The Two Towers gave us one of the most epic on screen battles seen in Helm’s Deep, and then Return of the King came along with double whammy Pelennor fields and Cormallen and the whole concept of big screen battle changed. And no matter what your persuasion is on Ewoks, you have to admit that Return of the Jedi is a fantastic movie. What is quite unique for that film is that we’ve already had the big twist which is often the climax of the story, but now we get to see how our hero deals with it. It’s the what happens next that makes it interesting. If you’re like me, you probably count that two sets of Star Wars films as two separate trilogies, in which case despite the collection of crap that went before and the impossible comparison to its big brothers, Revenge of the Sith is a pretty cool movie and definitely a fitting climax to the prequels.
It’s not just the big trilogies that fit here though. Long running series Indy and Die Hard both had very strong third parts following on from slightly weaker second helpings. (Let’s not talk about Indy 4) And although a lot of people don’t realise it’s a trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a fantastic final showdown in the El Mariachi story.
So. The bad. This tends to be where we find the films that were probably never intended to run for so long. Pirates of the Caribbean was a game changing movie which made a lot of people (especially me) very happy. 2 more films could only be a good thing right? Um….
The problem is, they didn’t think Pirates would work, so they threw everything they had at the first film. It’s self contained, so trying to find things to stretch out for another 2 means it all gets a bit thin. I by no means dislike At World’s End, but it’s not even close to the magic they had with the first film. As much as I love Captain Jack, maybe you can have too much of a good thing. Of course that didn’t stop them, and On Stranger Tides came along. I still haven’t seen it (I’m scared to) but it’ll be a shame if an incredible orignal movie is tainted by weaker follow ups.
Which brings me on to: Matrix Revolutions. For exactly the same reasons really. The Matrix is a work of art. It’s just brilliant. When they announced two more movies being made I was excited to see where they’d go with it, but quickly realised that there wasn’t really anywhere. There are some fantastic fight scenes in that film, but even they don’t have the impact of when Neo first stands up and says “No.” Not to mention the fact that I still don’t understand how Neo had powers out of the Matrix, whether or not he died at the end and what the hell Zion is going to do now.
In the comic book world, hitting the third part seems to be the cue for a reboot, with Spiderman 3 (The EMO years) and X Men: The Last Stand springing to mind. I like both of these films, but they are definitely not as strong as their earlier counterparts (or the later films in the case of X Men). Often by part three of a series, we’re starting to run out of places to go, particularly if you brought out the big guns early, which leads to the common pitfalls. More often than not you get too many heroes or too many villains; trying to compensate for a less exciting premise by bringing in lots of new characters which can lead to characters feeling underdeveloped.
In other cases though, it can just be that we’ve seen it all before. As much as I love Jurassic Park, we probably didn’t need a third film about people getting eaten by dinosaurs, and fantastic though the first two Back To The Future films are, the third one does kind of go of the rails a bit (if you’ll excuse the train based pun)
I’m too nice to consign any of the above films to the “Ugly” pile, because even though they don’t live up to the expectations laid down by their predecessors, they do have some saving graces. In fact, when it came to thinking of truly terrible part threes, the only one that came to mind was Shrek the Third. The less said about that the better.I’m sure you can fill me in on some terrible trilogies I’ve missed.
It just so happens that it’s not just my little old blog that’s bringing out its third instalment this year. Christopher Nolan is delivering the much anticipated Dark Knight Rises, which is set to be a blockbuster success and quite probably a fantastic movie. We also have Sherlock Holmes 3 on the horizon, which is less of a dead cert, with a somewhat lukewarm reaction the sequel, but in my case that’s one part 3 I can’t wait to see. And while we’re thinking about RDJ (cos I know you are) Iron Man 3 hits the screens in 2013, this time with Shane Black at the helm instead of Jon Favreau. I really hope that works. Because I’m not sure how you do it without Favreau. And that is one series I really don’t want to see go out with a whimper.
And finally….this summer we have Men In Black 3, which is a pretty good example of not knowing when to quit after a crappy sequel. If in doubt, throw in some time travel. *sigh*Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I tried really hard to come up with a post other than a quote for today, but this morning I woke up with this in my head and it seemed far too perfect:
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“I’m old Gandalf.”
The ever-creative Andy has come up with another fantastic blog-a-thon idea and I’m determined to get in on the fun. The idea is to pick a favourite movie for ever year you’ve been alive. (I think it’s his sneaky way of finding out how old we all are.)
Notoriously indecisive as I am, this is probably going to be a tricky one for me…
That’s right folks, I reach the ripe old age of 23 this August
This is actually pretty tricky, putting aside such cinematic wonders as Crocodile Dundee 2 and Police Academy 5, this is also the year that brought us Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Big. The dilemma for me though is choosing between two of my favourite films: Rain Man and Die Hard.
In the end I’m going to have to go for Die Hard. It’s just everything I want in an action film.
This one is a bit easier. Although I’m sure that most of you who were around at the time will be picking Batman starring the fantastic Jack Nicholson as The Joker, I have to go for Dead Poet’s Society.
We’ll just gloss over the fact that this was the year that brought us Kindergarten Cop shall we? 1990 also saw the release of the final (and weakest) installment of the Back to the Future trilogy and the second (and weakest) of the Die Hard quadrilogy. Enough of the slightly dodgy though, there was also some good to ring in my terrible twos, including the surprisingly sweet Mermaids starring Cher and Winona Ryder, the quintessential Christmas film Home Alone and this year’s winner: Edward Scissorhands.
This might be an unpopular choice, but I’m going to pick Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It might involve a more American Robin than we’re used to in the form of Kevin Costner, but Alan Rickman as the sheriff of Nottingham more than makes up for it.
Here’s where I start to change the game a bit….As I was working through finding films that were released in each year, I came across a problem. There are films that came out in these years that I absolutely adored at the time, and still love now, but there are also films I’ve come back to as an adult that might edge out those childhood favourites if I’m asked to choose. So from here on I’ve kind of cheated a bit. Sorry Andy. Hopefully as well as being a massive cheat, it’s interesting for people other than myself to see what I was into at the time, and what I’ve come back to discover later.
So what was the 3-4 year old watching in ’92? Aladdin of course! Meanwhile the grown up (well, not really) version looks back on ’92 as the year that gave us Reservoir Dogs. Bit of a contrast there….
This was a good year for childhood movies. Not only did it see the release of my guilty pleasure movie Free Willy but also Mrs Doubtfire and Nick Park’s brilliant short film The Wrong Trousers. The best childhood movie of ’93 for me though had to be Cool Runnings. Some people say you know they can’t believe….
Coming back to the ’93 films and I’ve got a tricky choice, but in the end I’m going to pass over Philadelphia in favour of the more feel good Benny and Joon
This seems to be the year of Jim Carrey, with both Ace Ventura and The Mask showcasing his “rubber faced humour” as they love to call it.
There’s no question that the 5-6 year old me’s favourite film is The Lion King, I can still vividly remember going to see it in the cinema. It still a contender for my favourite film of the year , but faces stiff competition from a whole collection of films I love including; Pulp Fiction, Speed, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. In the end I’m going to have to go with the perhaps predictable choice, but outstanding film, Forrest Gump
1995 was a big turning point for animated movies. It was the year Toy Story was released, becoming my favourite film instantly and holding on to that top spot for a long time.
Also that year came Apollo 13, Braveheart, Desperado, Die Hard With A Vengeance and The Usual Suspects, but you know what? I still love Woody the most.
This is an easy pick in both directions. My favourite film at the time (and I still love it now, because I’m cool like that) was Muppet Treasure Island. Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Yes.
But the best film to come out of ’96 has to be Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. I’ve written about it on this blog more than once, but it really is a fantastically made movie and a clever adaptation of the worlds best known love story.
OK, don’t judge me, but as soon as I saw this on the list of ’97 movies I knew what my favourite film at the time was….George of the Jungle
*ahem* Moving on.
Lots of big Sci-Fi movies in ’97: The Fifth Element is an under-rated movie, sitting alongside Men In Black and GATTACCA. This was also the year the world went crazy for Jack and Rose in Titanic, but I’m going to pick a film that you might not know: Donnie Brasco. It’s a great look at what it’s like to infiltrate the world of organised crime, made all the more significant because unlike the many other gangster movies out there this one is true.
In the year I hit double figures I have another very clear early cinema memory; going to see A Bug’s Life. This time it was my little sister (then 5) who was in awe of the big screen for the first time. She stood up for the whole thing.
1998 was also the year of the battle of the killer Meteorites, with both Deep Impact and Armageddon coming up with different ways to prevent the apocalypse. I’ve gotta admit I prefer the ever so slightly cheesy but more fun version involving Bruce Willis and a giant oil drill.
As much as I love both these films though, I think my adult film of ’98 is going to have to be The Truman Show because not only is it a much unloved movie with a beautiful soundtrack that more people should see, but it also proved to me that even though I’d always been a fan of Jim Carrey because his dumb humour made me laugh, it turns out he can actually act too.
It’s 1999! The year I started secondary school and everybody started panicking that the world was going to end when the millenium came. Light relief form these two distressing issues came in the form of a year of great movies including Sleepy Hollow, The Green Mile, Dogma, Notting Hill, The Talented Mr Ripley and 10 Things I Hate About You. This presents both the young and old versions of me with a dilemma because it’s quite hard to pick.
11 year old Katie is torn between The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2. Both amazing films. Both still watched with regualrity. I think my life long love of Pixar will win in the end though.
Meanwhile 11 years older Katie is debating whether I love Fight Club more than The Matrix. I don’t think I do.
Ps. Just in case you were forgetting/mentally blocking/still recevinign counselling for it, this is the year that George Lucas decided three epic Star Wars films wasn’t enough…exit, persued by a Gungan
The world didn’t end. Confused computers didn’t bring civilisation to a standstill and (scarily) we have reached the halfway point in my life. Quite a lot of good “family” films came out this year, and despite being 12 at the time, I still had a soft spot for movies like El Dorado and The Emperors New Groove. Kids movie of the year has to go to Chicken Run, especially because it’s better than the classic its based on.
And while I can imagine a lot of you bloggers out there will pick Gladiator as your movie that kicked off the noughties, for me film of the year is the one that started my transformation from realtively geeky kid into Marvel comic super nerd. Because this is the year they brought out X Men.
And here’s where the split ends….by 2001 I’m 13 and my favourite movies of each year at the time tend to still be firm favourites. That probably has a lot to do with the release of a certain trilogy…There are still a lot of movies that I discovered later, but there’s less of a stark split in tastes as there was in the earlier years, so I’ll stop cheating and go back to only picking one movie per year.
I’m not going to pretend that the next couple of years picks aren’t going to be pretty predictable. I could deliberately pick other movies in the interest of variety, but then I wouldn’t be picking my favourite film, which kind of misses the point now doesn’t it? 2001-2003 was all about three films for me despite other great releases including Donnie Darko and Moulin Rouge in ’01. But there’s never going to be any question that my film of the year is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. If I hadn’t been to see that film, this blog would not exist. And that’s about all I can say that you haven’t heard a thousand times.
Not even the release of Spiderman can topple Tolkein in ’02.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
As one trilogy came to an end, Pirates of the Caribbean appeared to fill the hole. But the big finish was definitely worth the wait, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King delivered the epic battle scenes and final showdown we’d all been waiting for.
OK, no more LOTR, you can stop rolling your eyes now. ’04 is quite tricky for me because there are a lot of films I really like, but not one that stands out against all the others. There are some fun films like Spiderman 2, The Day After Tomorrow and Wimbledon but I think I’m going to have to go with The Motorcycle Diaries; a recent discovery that really surprised me with how good it was.
Even though one of my current favourites, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang came out in this year, I’m going to have to pick Brokeback Mountain because not only is it a fantastic piece of cinema, it was quite a moment in movie history, if only for showing us just how talented Heath Ledger was.
2006: I left school and set out for the big smoke to start my degree. 3 fantastic years of new friends and new movies followed.
Loads of great films came out this year, but I’m picking Casino Royale because it was the first film I ever saw on the big screen in Leicester Square, with 3 people who are still among my best friends. It also converted me on Bond films.
Lots of sequels in ’07: Spiderman 3, Pirates 3, Die Hard 4, but movie of the year for me has to be Stardust. Because its brilliant
I will never forgive 2008 for Mamma Mia. It still gives me chills. It does try to make up for it though with The Dark Knight and the possibly controversially picked, (but I am a Marvel girl after all) Iron Man.
The year I graduated from uni (the first time). The year I started this blog, and a big year for movies. No wonder I was inspired!
I find it impossible to believe that Avatar came out 3 years ago. I was also converted to the trekkie side by J.J. Abrams and got into endless fights with bloggers about why Wolverine should not be trashed all over the internet. It’s a tough choice, but I think I’m going to pick Sherlock Holmes as my film for ’09, because I can’t wait to see what happens next.
This gets easier as I’ve had less time to get to the cinema and so have seen very few of the films released in the last year. The ones I did see are all strong contenders though; Inception, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3…I’m going with The King’s Speech. Partly because it got me to finally forgive Colin Firth for the sins of 2008, but mainly because it did what very few films manage to do, it lived up to the hype.
And here we are. Although I still have trouble remembering it actually is 2011. Depressingly this post has made me realise that I haven’t been to the cinema yet this year (is it really May already?) However, with Thor already out, Pirates 4 coming out on May 16th and X Men: First Class hot on its heels in June, I’m sure it’s going to be a very good year.
And there you have my semi-autobiographical life in movies. I’m back at uni again, and struggling a bit to find time to get to the cinema or post on here, but getting involved in things like this reminds me why I started STRM in the first place. Hope you all enjoy having a read through my tragic taste over they years. Looking forward to being trashed in the comments.
Click HERE to see what everyone else has picked.
Way back when this blog was just a baby I wrote a post about the importance of movie music and how I thought we should hold the film composers up against the classical masters.
Continuing on that idea I thought I’d write a post about my 5 all time favourite pieces of movie music. I’m restricting myself to individual movements rather than whole scores, all of these being instrumental pieces that I think are simply fantastic. Narrowing down to just five was very tricky, so I’ve tried to pick a variety of music and composers. I doubt any of my choices will shock you, but I’m interested to read your comments and find out which bits of movie music do it for you.
The best way I could think of to get the music onto the blog was to provide links to the Spotify tracks, since that shouldn’t upset any copyright laws as the music is freely available. So hit the links to have the music playing while you read.
**I’m trying not to put spoilers in this, but it’s hard, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know then maybe skip that section.**
5. Father Kolbe’s Preaching-Burkhard Dallwitz-The Truman Show
I’ll forgive you for not having heard of this guy, ‘cos even I hadn’t. This particular piece of music plays right at the end of the film and is a perfect fit to what is happening on screen. The simple piano and strings are tragic but at the same time seem to have a kind of optimism and the slow processing rhythm is a great match for the semi-biblical dialogue going on between Truman and Kolbe.
4. Star Wars theme-John Williams-Star Wars
This man is the God of movie music. I have no idea how he does it. Everything he writes is an iconic masterpiece, but I think if I had to pick just one track to sum up the genius that is John Williams it would have to be the Star Wars theme. Every time that first brass note leaps from the screen I jump, even though I’ve seen Star Wars more times than I can count. It’s such a triumphant march, giving way to the more fluid strings of Han and Leia’s theme, which take on a fantastically ethereal quality as the flutes echo the main theme in the background. There are so many layers in that one piece of music it’s incredible. And I dare you to find me a single person on the planet who can’t hum it.
3. He’s a Pirate-Klaus Badelt-Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
I’ve never wanted to stand up and cheer at the end of a movie more, (in fact, me and my friends did the second time) and a big part of that is this awesome piece of music. It just has pirate stamped all over it. It works better when played through from the previous piece (One Last Shot) as the sudden drums and pace are an impressive contrast to the sweeping strings from before. It’s a great example of a piece of music being custom-made to fit a scene. In my head, the music always starts with the words, “Drink up me hearties Yo HO!”
2. Freedom/The Execution/Bannockburn-James Horner-Braveheart
I know I’ve been on about this piece of music a lot recently but it really is magical. The deep drum beat is symbolistic of death, and the strings are quintessentially tragic, but interweaved with the celtic pipes (I think it’s a chanter, it’s definitely not full bagpipes) we have a score which is both moving and able to transport you to a time and place in order to make the film seem more real. The fact that one movement takes us through three key moments in the films finale shows how each event influenced the next, and the tone of the music adapts accordingly. I particularly love the solo flute towards the end, and how it dissolves into what is essentially a roaring cheer in instrumental form.
One of only two pieces of music that will make me stop what I’m doing and just listen if it happens to come up on shuffle. The other is my next choice.
1. The Breaking of The Fellowship-Howard Shore-The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Infuriatingly the real version of this isn’t on Spotify so I’m forced to use a YouTube link.
I know nobody is shocked by this choice but this was the moment I fell in love with LOTR. I absolutely love this score. Howard Shore has this amazing ability to tell a story with music, which in a film like this is so important. You can listen to the score and know what’s going on without needing to see the images that go with.
For me, this is the perfect orchestral capturing of Hope. James Galway’s flute (I am a sucker for those things) is gorgeous and the understated horns are a great backdrop for the sadness after the loss of Boromir, but at the same time support the dialogue between the remaining Fellowhip members as they promise to stay true to eachother.
The piece moves from an achingly beautiful solo string to the dramatic revival of the Fellowship theme and then back to the restrained strings and flute as we watch the two hobbits picking their way across Emyn Muil. Ben Del Maestro’s vocal kicks in just as the credits begin to roll, using lyrics from Tolkien’s own hand. It’s both an ending and a beginning as we know that there is a whole lot more to come for the characters we have just been introduced to.
Here are some of the pieces that didn’t quite make it to the top 5, but I strongly suggest you check out.
Craig Armstrong: Love Actually
Alan Silvestri: Forrest Gump
Hans Zimmer: Gladiator
Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain
Stephen Warbeck: Shakespeare in Love
OK, I’m done with being artsy now. Your turn.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
Turns out twitter can sometimes be useful for more than just finding out what people had for breakfast.
Here’s the latest from @ianmckellen118:
“Hobbit” sets are ready, script ready and movie is casting this month. Fans are not to worry.
The films will get made. I suspect we’ll start shooting at end of this year.
Fiercely protective of Tolkien as I am, it’s good to know that the right people are getting involved. Bringing Ian McKellen back was always a must, and with rumours that Andy Serkis is in too, along with Jackson, Boyens and Walsh writing the screenplay, I’m starting to relax enough to get excited. The big question now is who will direct, after Guillermo Del Toro was forced to quit earlier this year:
“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director”.
I really hope this movie lives up to the almost impossible expectations it has riding on it. The fact that it’s being split into two parts already rankles me, because it seems like a studio that knows it’s onto a good thing trying to get as much money as possible, but that aside, there really is potential for another sensational film here.
All we need now is the casting of the right actor to play Bilbo. I’m actually campaigning for a relative unknown. Everyone dismissed Elijah Wood as a child actor who had no chance of carrying a film like LOTR. Let’s prove them wrong again.
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Yet another post inspired by channel hopping to films on TV. Back in October I told you about my Top 5 fight scenes, but today I want to get you thinking more generally about those moments that are just great pieces of cinema. The ones where the direction, the acting, the score, the cinematography, everything just comes together for a scene that makes you think “wow.” When I was thinking about what I’d put down, I realised that for a lot of these scenes, it’s the combination of the action and the music that really makes it a perfect scene for me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a great score can really make a movie.
Although I’ve called it Top 5, these aren’t necessarily in ascending order. It’s more 5 great moments.
1.Where does my allegiance lie if not here?
This is the scene that got me thinking. Now, we all know that I can rave about LOTR until the Orcs come home, but before you start rolling your eyes hear me out. This scene really is pure magic.
Howard Shore’s score is so perfectly matched it’s scary, building the drama and then breaking away for Billy Boyd’s (self-penned) haunting melody. What I think really makes this scene though is the foley work. As the score takes over, we lose some of the sound. The commands of the men and Orcs are silent screams, but the creaking of the bows remains, really hammering home the suicidal misson that faces the brave riders. It’s just epic. Add to that the juxtaposition of Denethor almost frantically eating while he tries to ignore what’s happening, with blood running down his chin, and you end up with an awesome movie moment that is just melodramatic enough without over doing it.
2. At the Moulin Rouge you’ll have fun!
I have written about this scene before but I just couldn’t exclude it when talking about my favourite cinematic moments.
Energy and colour are what Baz Luhrmann does best, so when it comes to Moulin Rouge that first scene when you’re taken on a rollercoaster ride through the dance hall is just mindblowing! In one 3 minute scene we get a mash up of no less than 6 songs culminating in a supercharged Can-Can. The best thing about the scene is that we’re seeing it from the same position as Christian, so we too are bewildered and enthralled by all the flashing colours (and flashing flesh!)
3. Welcome to Port Royal Mr Smith
Best. Entrance. Ever.
Before he even says one word we know eveything we need to know about Captian Jack Sparrow from his incredible entrance to Port Royal. Who else would stand so proudly on the top mast of a ship which was more than three quarters sunk? The best part is it doesn’t even seem to faze him.
As soon as he set foot on that board walk I knew I was going to love this film
4. He is The One.
Another great moment for movie music. This scene is slightly marred by all the crazy superman stuff we see Neo do in the two Matrix sequels, but when he first stands up and stops those bullets I always want to jump up and cheer! I love how effortless it all becomes for him, he just turns and says “No.” He even fights with one hand behind his back! It’s a great turn around having just watched him have the crap kicked out of him. The music is perfect here too, that great strings slide that runs through the film really captures the idea of being in a dream while still sounding artificial, but the addition of a choir brings back the human element, mirroring what’s going on on screen.
5. Oh Captain my Captain
I know it is incredibly cheesy. And I know that it is orchestrated to be a heart wrenching moment. But cynicism aside it’s still a great scene. Ethan Hawke makes it for me. It’s not so much the getting up on the desks that has the magic but the obvious guilt and pain of Hawke as everything he has been taught not to believe in is once more forced down his throat. And Robin Williams is a better actor than he lets on…(may have to come back to a post on that later)
Those are mine, what are your stand out moments of cinema?
**Disclaimer: thank you to all the YouTubers whose clips I’m borrowing.**Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )
If you haven’t been paying attention, like me, you may have missed all the fun that’s been going on in the movie blogging world over the last week or so.
It all started with Andy over at Fandango Groovers, who thought it might be an idea to play Desert Island Discs with DVDs. For those of you not from the UK, the game works like this: if you were stranded on an island for an indeterminate length of time, what 8 films would you take with you to keep you sane while you waited for the rescue boat?
You might have noticed that making decisions is not my strong point. Trying to list my favourite films is an impossible task as far as I’m concerned, so I’m taking a slightly different tack here. Yes, all the films I pick will be firm favourites, but, fickle as I am, I reckon if I was stuck on an island I’d need variety to keep me going.
Right, here goes.
My first choice isn’t going to shock anybody. I am, of course, going to pick a Lord of the Rings film. However, cruel fate means I can only pick one, and that’s a harder decision to make. I get asked a lot which is my favourite of the trilogy and I honestly don’t have an answer. I have a particularly soft spot for Fellowship because when I first saw it I had no idea what Middle Earth was or how I would react to the film. In this case though, I’m going to pick Return of the King, for two reasons. First of all, value for money! It’s the longest (and if I take the extended addition, it’s over 4 hours) so it would keep me more than occupied while I sat on my beach; and secondly, it’s got everything in there. Almighty battle scenes, heartbreak and laughter. And of course, I’m never going to get tired of watching it over and over.
Onto number 2. I’m going to need a guns-blazing action flick while I’m stranded and when it comes to action there’s only ever one real choice. Die Hard. Bruce Willis, British actors playing German terrorists, Enough C4 explosive to blow a hole in the world, what more could you ask for?
Round 3. This one has proved a popular choice, which I’m picking for much the same reasons as Ross McD. This is a movie I can (and have) start watching again straight away as soon as it’s done. It’s full of energy, colour, great music, humour and heart. It’s a story about Truth, Freedom, Beauty and above all things Love. It’s Moulin Rouge.
Halfway through now, time for pick number 4. At some point during my time in isolation I’m going to get a craving for some Disney magic. It was a tough battle between this next film and Toy Story, but in the end I had to go for The Lion King. The score alone is enough to make me want to take it with me and it’s probably the last truly great Disney film before Pixar came along.
It’s getting a bit harder now. I’m trying not to over think my choices and just go on instinct.
So pick number 5. Well, I couldn’t have a list that didn’t have some Johnny Depp in now could I? I’ve got to take Pirates of the Caribbean with me (the original and the best) if only to remind me that being stranded on a desert island might not be the end of the world. Unless the Rum is gone.
Time for a sweeping score, wide angle landscape shots and some patriotic passion. If only I was Scottish. Braveheart is my 6th choice mainly because I never seem to get around to watching it. I love the film, but it does make me hate the English and try and claim a larger proportion of Celtic heritage than I’m due, but if I’m stuck on an island I might as well have something that reminds me of home (sort of)
Number 7 I think is going to have to be Billy Elliot. It’s my go to film when I’m feeling down. Full of great British actors and even better British music, it’s a beautiful story that reminds you that even when things look hopeless they can still turn out OK. Think that might come in handy.
Right. The last one. This is really tricky…
I think what this list is missing is a comic book movie, and if I’ve got to pick my favourite, I think it will have to be X2. Close run thing with Wolverine, but I think the former just has the edge.
And that’s it. I think with those 8 to keep me company I’d be quite happy on my island for a while.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 21 so far )
A while ago I spent a number of unhealthy hours getting very angry about the new film adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper. Managing to suppress my rage, I got thinking about other novel adaptations and tried to separate the hits from the misses. Before I start, I should admit that reading has never really been my thing, much to the exasperation of my English teachers, but when I get into a book, I really get into it, meaning I get a bit protective over the adaptations.
Here’s my run down of the best and worst of the Book to Screen translations…there will be some obvious omissions, but I better not comment on things I haven’t actually read…
Oh and just in case you haven’t read the books, beware SPOILERS!
1.The Lord of the Rings- HIT!
Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way first shall we? It’s no secret that I’m more than slightly obsessed with this trilogy. For me, LOTR represents the best of screen adaptations, making a book which (I admit) is hard to get into, much more accessible. Tolkein doesn’t exactly make it easy to read, and even die hard fans like me can find it tough to wade through the history and fine detail given on every page. If you’re like me, this is the sort of thing that will put you off , but I persevered (after a short recess when I got mired in the “hoomming” of the Ents) because, like many out there, the film made me want to read the book. Literature lovers often tear their hair out over those who read books after seeing the film, but without Peter Jackson’s incredible storytelling LOTR would never have entered my radar, and who knows how I might have turned out?! For those who did read the books first (and between the release of Fellowship and Two Towers I was pretty well versed) Jackson is rigidly true to the books, only removing parts that would make the marathon films even longer and detract from the main story arc. As a fan of the books himself, and recruiting other Tolkeinites (stand up Christopher Lee) as well as Tolkein’s own family, Jackson made sure that the final film was as close to Tolkein’s own vision as possible. The result is a series of films which are able to live up to the incredible imagination of the author, including all of his fine detail and still capturing the main message.
2. The DaVinci Code/Angels and Demons-MISS! (but only just)
Before I start, please do not berate me for actually liking these books. I fully accept that Dan Brown is not exactly the cream of writing talent, and that the plot in these two books is basically identical with slightly different character names, but he managed to keep hold of me with the codes and the mystery and I figured it would translate to screen pretty well.
It almost did. Apart from taking out one set of codes to make the film a bit shorter, the plot is quite true to the book, and the fact that they bothered to actually film in all the famous locations mentioned scored points. The reason I’m forced to put it in the miss pile is for one simple reason: they completely destroyed my favourite character.
When I first heard that albino monk Silas was to be played by Paul Bettany I was really happy, since he fitted exactly with my mental picture of the character and is a good enough actor to play the part really well. Here’s what went wrong: in the book, Silas has a turn around at the end and saves the life of another character, redeeming him for the earlier murders and showing him to be a very sympathetic character who is left impressionable and easy to manipulate after a lifetime of abuse. In the film? He’s battered by a group of police snipers and left for dead behind a wall. I was not impressed.
I haven’t yet seen the sequel (well actually it’s a prequel but for the sake of argument…), and the fact that I haven’t read the book in a long while will probably make it easier for me to swallow. Since its predecessor got it so nearly right I’m willing to give it a fair shot, and the casting is still pretty good, so maybe this one’s a hit? Something tells me it wont quite make it though.
3. The Prestige-HIT!
This one is actually a rare example of where I reckon the changes they made to the book are actually better than what the author originally came up with. (The only other one of these I can think of is Wicked but that’s a musical and not (yet) a movie). Again, I saw the film first, which is the wrong way round, but what I found surprising is that novel and film seem to be at odds when it comes to whose side we’re supposed to be on. Watching the film, I was firmly on the side of Borden and really didn’t take to the privileged but unappreciative Danton. The book however, is told predominantly form Danton’s viewpoint, and paints Borden as the villain. Obviously a lot has been changed by the screenwriters, but I think this element of sympathy for Borden is necessary to build a contrast between the two magicians. The ending is also completely different in the film, and in my opinion much more dramatic. For starters, the big twist is revealed at the start of the book, taking all the impact out of a turn which, in the film, had me speechless. True, the way the opening of the novel (Borden’s diary) is written is very clever, but giving away the twist so soon means the impact of many later events is lost. Similarly, the side plot of the descendants of the two men (removed from the film) seemed slightly unnecessary and lead to an ending which actually really irritated me when compared to the drama of the film.
I don’t know what my opinion would be of I’d read the book first, but the film is so well written and performed that it would probably be much the same. Christopher Nolan has taken what is a brilliant premise from a novel, and re-designed it to be something more, leaving me slightly disappointed when I eagerly picked up the book. So in this case, my love for the film is not because it falls in line with the authors first ideas, but mainly because it doesn’t!
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. MISS!
In fairness, I don’t think anyone could’ve made this work because it’s the way in which Douglas Adams writes that makes these books so brilliant. The opening “Yellow” passage is pure comic gold which just couldn’t translate to screen, even with Martin Freeman, who basically is Arthur Dent, at the helm. Generally the casting is good, with Bill Nighy as Slartybartfast and Stephen Fry narrating, but Mos Def is completely wrong, and although Sam Rockwell is a great actor, he just doesn’t quite work as Zaphod. I think my main issue with that though is that in the book he has a lizard head and in the film…well he doesn’t. Not that I can really complain about that. It js bugged me.
Some other minor plot tweaks took some of the fun out of the film,but I think the main problem was they tried to make it logical, which Hitchhiker’s jsut isn’t. The whole point of Adams’ Trilogy in Five Parts is that it makes no sense at all and contains a series of events difficult to imagine let alone put on screen. Like I said, it was an impossible task, and credit to them for making the generation of a blue whale (voiced by Bill Bailey) and a bowl of petunias via the Improbability Drive actually work on screen. In the end though, the film just doesn’t do the book justice.
5. Dorian Gray-MISS?
I haven’t seen this one yet, but my early fears are being confirmed by poor reviews and I’m starting to think I might give this one a miss. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a tough read at times but it’s a book with a real meaning and a lot fo valid points to make. There’s more than a suggestion that the new film does well with the vice and debauchery of Gray’s life (which is alluded to but never really described in the novel) but has slightly missed the point. As I’ve said before, our only other incarnation of Gray on screen is in LXG which, although a great character, is just plain wrong in terms of the book, so Ben Barnes can only be closer, but I’m not holding my breath that this is the great adaptation I’ve been waiting for. Anyone who has seen it feel free to let me know.
I could probably write more but I think I’ll leave it there for now. Any comments on other adaptations more than welcome. I’m hoping to read The Time Traveller’s Wife soon, so that I can do the novel/film thing the right way round for once. I’m worried that one has gone that way of My Sister’s Keeper, so I don’t want to get the wrong impression.
PS. I’ve deliberately left out the Graphic Novels because that is a completely different list of films. Plus, if any type of book lends itself to a big screen adaptations it’s the comics, they’re pretty much storyboards ready to go.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 17 so far )
OK, first, right click here, open in a new tab, press play, and then read while you listen. I wanted to add the track myself but it was the wrong file type and I’m not clever enough to convert it. Hopefully they’ll appreciate the hits.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably have noticed that music is something of a big deal to me. When it comes to film scores, I’m becoming more and more convinced that composers like John Williams, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer are the new classical masters. Modern classical music (oxymoron?) tends to be the more contemporary Maxwell-Davies style, which is definitely not to everyones taste, while the great sweeping scores seem to be left more or less to the movie composers.
Movie scores are quite often beautiful and I would argue comparable to the greatest symphonies. (Before you start, I’m expecting to get shot down in flames for that, and I am fully aware that my classical knowledge is limited at best, but I do have some idea what I’m talking about).
Take Howard Shore for example. I’m a firm believer that a huge amount of the success of Lord of the Rings is owed to his breathtaking score. The orchestration mirrors the plot so perfectly that you could almost remove the dialogue and still understand what’s going on. Of course, it helps that he’s also got the stunning New Zealand backdrop to set it off. Shore’s The Breaking of the Fellowship the final “movement” of the Fellowship of the Ring (to which you are currently listening, I hope) is quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and I know that it forms a big part of why I love that film.
In the case of someone more prolific, John Williams has penned some of the most famous themes in history. Not every man on the street will be able to hum Beethoven’s 9th or Mozart’s Requiem, but ask him to sing Star Wars or Indiana Jones and he’ll definitely know what you’re talking about.
*Random trivial aside* The Indiana Jones theme is actually part of the Star Wars theme played backwards, an in joke by Lucas and Williams, go ahead, try it.
Williams is responsible for most of my library of movie scores, from Jaws, Jurassic Park, and even Home Alone to Harry Potter (which I hate but still love the score of). He’s the most famous movie composer of all time, and deserves the respect he has. In fact, I think he deserves more. Why shouldn’t he sit with Beethoven as a modern classical master?
Other composers I urge you to look out for are Hans Zimmer, the man behind Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean (along with Klaus Badelt) who has a particular theme he re-uses in all of his movies as a kind of signature (once you’ve heard it you can’t miss it, its even in Rain Man!) and James Horner, the genius creator of the heart breakingly beautiful score to Braveheart. Coming second only to LOTR in my favourite scores of all time, he magically combines traditional Scottish themes (and pipes) with sweeping orchestration which undoubtedly plays a major role in the effect that film has on me (read: unecessary floods of tears)
And it’s not just the original scores that can transform a movie. As Watchmen showed, the re-use of modern or even classical music can be just as evocative. The moment in Equilibrium when Christian Bale hears the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th is a perfect example. Layer Cake also springs to mind, with a soundtrack that brilliantly reflects the action, especially the Ordinary World scene. Billy Elliot is also one of my favourite films for soundtrack, with songs like Town Called Malice and London Calling perfect reflections of the rioting and conflict on screen, not to mention the iconic opening to Apocalypse Now (This is the End), or the perfect settings of Philadelphia, Good Morning Vietnam, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate…
I could carry on like this for hours. Believe me. I guess the point of this post is to make you listen as well as look. I remember once remarking on the beautiful strings in the final scene of Pirates while watching it with a friend, and she was surprised I payed that close attention to the music. So this is me asking you to open your ears. The underscore of your favourite film will have already had a big effect on why you love it, you just might not have realised it yet.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
There are movies which always turn up in these lists, and there are movies that should be there. Currently I’m working my way through my 1001 book and I’ll post reviews here as I go. At the same time, I’ll be writing a movies NOT to see section, a collection of what I believe are the most over-rated movies of all time.
These films have developed a bit of a geek status now, which I hope wont put people off seeing them. It was these films which first got me really interested in movies and how they were made, with much the same effect on my generation as Star Wars had on the previous.
It’s not just the epic plotline which makes Lord of the Rings so special, its the work which went into making the troilogy which means that the story of how the movie came to be is almost as epic as the film itself. Taking nearly two years to film, (I think the longest shoot so far) and a further five years in post production, its no wonder that they came out looking as spectacular as they do. The special effects are simply awesome; especialy in Return of the King where “big” no longer even begins to describe what you are seeing.
Special effects aside, the performances by the ensemble cast are also excellent, most notably Andy Serkis as Gollum, who was robbed of an Oscar on a technicality, and Elijah Wood, who caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst Tolkeinites when he was announced as the lead, but proves himself to be a very good actor. I can’t imagine anyone else as Frodo now.
I think what makes the film so powerful though, is its spectacular score penned by Howard Shore. The music is so perfectly matched to each scene that you almost don’t need the dialogue to understand the plot. The Breaking of the fellowship, the final movement of Fellowship of the Ring, remains the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard, probably just tipping the first of the trilogy ahead of the others as my favourite film of all time.