Lord of the Rings

"Hail Hydra." (HBO)

It’s October, and we’re a little more than six months past the Season Four premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and therefore less than half a year away from the Season Five premiere. We just have to make it through Winter. Which is coming, the Stark meteorologists have assured us. October is also the month terminated by the holiday of Halloween, with all the attendant ghosts stories, zombie hordes hunting brains (or candy – one of those), and the appearance of other undead creatures too ornery to quietly stay dead. A fine time to talk about Game of Thrones. And resurrection. Heads up, I’ll be talking Season Three details, so if you’re behind, Spoiler alert. Game of Thrones is a fantasy, but in general magic isn’t heavily emphasized. Sure, we’ve seen a magical assassination and some Penn and Tellerstyle shenanigans from the Warlocks of Qarth, but usually swords are more reliable than spells. That is, until Season Three, when the Hound’s sword only mostly killed Beric Dondarrion, who came back to life as he had six times before. Resurrected by badass priest Thoros of Myr. Critics were quick to complain that if resurrection in Game of Thrones is possible, then the dramatic stakes are lost. Death, where is thy sting? and all that. This was particularly relevant for a show that two seasons before had highlighted the deadly serious stakes when Ned Stark, the literal poster boy for the series, had his life cut short. But is the example of Beric Dondarrion’s resurrection really a negative game-changer for the story’s […]

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Film scores

Film series are a great way to tell a story that cannot be contained to a single film. Successful films usually end up getting sequels, but series are stories intended to be digested over the course of several films. The cast will (usually) stay the same throughout a series, but there is another important element that should remain consistent to help link each film to the next – the music. While it is not a requirement to stick with a single composer throughout a series (and sometimes you have no choice but to change things up due to schedules and prior commitments), having a singular musical voice working on a film series helps keep a consistent feeling from film to film. Most film series have kept the same composer throughout the series, and the few that have changed composers from film to film had it fit the story or ultimately ended up returning to the original composer.

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Andy Serkis Smeagol Hobbit

When the biggest movie of the calendar year is a nearly three-hour festival of noise starring automotive robots, it’s easy to fear that the human element of filmmaking is slowly being lost to digital effects and bottom line corporate interests. But the career of Andy Serkis provides a powerful demonstration as to how the human capacity for imagination and feeling can work with, not against, the utilities of motion picture technology towards groundbreaking ends. Serkis considers himself an actor first and foremost, but he occupies a unique and privileged place across so many film properties that could otherwise easily be bereft of inspiration, content to live in the uncanny valley of requisite CGI. Serkis’ work requires his presence during all levels of production, and in so doing he operates as a medium between a filmmaker’s vision and their collaboration with cast and crew both in front of and behind the camera. His body is, in summary, the place in which the material and immaterial aspects of 21st century filmmaking play out. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who only sometimes plays a human being.

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Columbia Pictures

There’s much to be mocked about sidekicks, one of the easier targets in film. We’re set up to picture a simultaneously meek and booming catchphrase-machine clad in a matching uniform, seemingly created solely to follow our protagonist around and hype them up on their journeys. While plenty of that variety exist, there’s a different and far more interesting breed of sidekicks who prove to be so much more — valuable assets who, really, are so much better than the leads in the first place. Here are seven sidekicks who are smarter and more capable than the heroes they’re supporting.

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Bechdel Test

All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell applies the simple, ever-relevant Bechdel Test to a number of high profile movies…  The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter. Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film. In fact, the example Bechdel gave as a film that passed the test was Alien, simply because Ripley and Lambert have a brief conversation about the alien. (Let’s ignore the fact that the alien was a walking penis-monster, as this was before the Xenomorphs had established sexes – the Queens weren’t introduced until 1986’s Aliens.) But it’s still surprising to find out that some of the […]

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IntroResurrections

Because Jesus. Also, The Walking Dead hit its season finale on the same day everyone celebrated the most famous resurrection, so it seemed like the right subject for this week’s list. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and there’s no bigger obstacle to overcome than death, right? Coming back from the dead is a hell of a trick, and while there’s the usual reasons like a witch doctor or vampirism or converting into some kind of stupid blue ghost, sometimes an idea will come along that stands out from the norm – mostly because it’s a little silly in concept. That isn’t to say it’s bad. No, it’s just… not very profound. For example:

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Mondo LOTR

“Does anyone have any questions about Flipper?” Front and center, Mondo chief Justin Ishmael isn’t fooling anyone. Next to him is Elijah Wood, the star of the 1996 Alan Shapiro-directed Paul Hogan vehicle Flipper. But we know this can’t be Flipper. Not for the highly anticipated tenth Mondo Mystery Movie, a series that has spanned across shows in Austin and Los Angeles, each better than the last and each packaged with an amazing work of art that attendees have the exclusive opportunity to purchase. Even though Justin and Elijah insist that we’re all about to watch Flipper, this crowd of true believers — a crowd that, when asked who was in attendance for the last Mystery Movie, saw about 80% of hands raised — was having absolutely none of it. “So you guys are just going to shit on this event?” said Ishmael in a faux tiff. “Okay then, lets roll the movie.” And so began our screening of Flipper.

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Culture Warrior

It’s difficult to think that something as definitive of modern-age movie-watching as DVD special features could become a thing of the past, but there are plausible scenarios in which that could happen. DVD and Blu-Ray sales have slowed in the past few years as viewers become more and more accustomed to streaming services as their go-to means of watching movies in the home. However, when viewers streams a film via Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, or Hulu, more often than not, they receive the film itself and nothing else. The attraction for audiences who use streaming services is exclusively the film and the film alone, not the film in conjunction with other supplementary materials that immerse the viewer further into the creation of that film. The film – for the first time since the days of VHS – now speaks for itself. After DVDs first became popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, the value of the DVD could be determined (and often manipulated) by how much material the discs provided for outside the running time of the film. The appeal of buying a DVD of a particular film did not lie in owning the film itself, but having access to that film in connection to a web of information related to it. Documentaries, commentaries, and deleted scenes provided a DVD experience that felt definitive – these discs made available the notion that herein was everything to know and understand about a particular film. The Lord of the Rings Extended Trilogy, […]

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Merch Hunter - Large

This week, in place of the usual triptych of found items and a T-Shirt of the Week, Merch Hunter is dedicated entirely to the mighty tee, the single most versatile member of the wardrobe family. Why 12? Well, science has proven that 12 is the magic number in terms of tee ownership (don’t look it up, it was published in a science journal you probably won’t know of…), allowing the owner to rotate nicely across two weeks, while taking a three day slot for whichever design is the Featured of the Week. After a few months of this rotation, throw in a few wild cards, thanks to supplemental purchase, and you’ll have a winning formula for T-shirt success. And yes, it really should be that mathematical. I seriously had to resist the urge to just make a list of the 100 Star Wars T-Shirts You Need To Own Now, but that will no doubt appear in the future, given how many incredibly impressive designs there are out there (and hardly any of them lining George Lucas’s pocket). For once, my inane wafflings are not needed at all to sell the inclusions below, just look at the pictures and see how many of them you can resist. I’d advise buying them all obviously: but try to only wear one at a time.

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Merch Hunter - Large

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so you might have expected something here dedicated to the merchandise of romantic films. But until you can get an official When Harry Met Sally orgasm sandwich, there’s very little overlap in terms of those films and the collectible world. Unless we’re talking Twilight. And I can assure you right now, we bloody well aren’t talking Twilight. So instead, this week’s column is once again dedicated to the finest things in collecting life, including a further addition to the Mr. Potato Head film co-licensed products. You can’t see it, but I can assure you that the excitement radiating from my every orifice is tangible. There’s also even more Lego – almost a weekly addition to this column you’ll note, but a wholly justified one in this case – and a book that would make Crime & Punishment blush for being so rubbish. It might also be the most expensive book I have ever recommended people buy, but who cares really – the only way out of recession is through frivolous, short-sighted spending. Probably.

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There’s not much one can really say about this first trailer for the much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As with Peter Jackson‘s three previous Lord of the Rings films, the project looks gorgeous, meticulous, epic, stirring, just plain wonderful, and true to its classic J.R.R. Tolkien source material. So, yeah, I love it. With The Hobbit, we again return to Middle-earth and the Shire, and to a much younger Bilbo Baggins (a very well-cast Martin Freeman), to learn (the first half of) the epic tale that started all this ring business to begin with. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes complete with an all-star cast, including Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage. It’s a testament to the world that director and co-writer Peter Jackson has created that so many of his Lord of the Rings cast came pack for this next go-round, journeying back in time to recapture some of that old magic. After the break, check out the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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The Holiday Gift Guide: DVD and Blu-ray

Merry Christmas movie/TV/goat-cheese lovers! As part of our week-long gift guide extravaganza thingamajig we’ve put together a list of Blu-rays, DVD and a few other ideas for you to use when shopping for others or for putting on your own Christmas list. Or both. Some of the films below are from years past, but they all hit Blu-ray and/or DVD this year so they totally count for this gift guide. Click on the links to be magically transported to Amazon, AmazonUK and other places where lovely things can be found.

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collective of links and thoughts breaking down all the news and great essays from around the movie blogosphere. A celebration of quality programming, if you will. Thus, it becomes quality programming in and of itself. In short, it’s worth however long it takes you to read to the end (where we’ve strategically placed a Christopher Nolan-themed video as your reward). We begin this evening with the internet’s story of the night, Daniel Day-Lewis’ awesome Abe Lincoln beard, as shot by Virginia local Michael Phillips. He snapped a shot of the highly method actor in a Richmond restaurant (not far from where Steven Spielberg’s film is currently in production). Basically it looks like Abraham Lincoln with jeans on. So yes, that works. Also worth noting: It’s being reported that Day-Lewis has not dropped his Lincoln accent since March. That’s one hardcore mother-effing emancipator, right there.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column that combines movie news remainders and interesting links, but at the moment it’s a column that can’t remember what day it is. Is it Thursday? How about Saturday? It’s had a rough week, and that’s putting it lightly. Anyway, lets do the news. After months of posturing, casting and even getting us all worked up over the prospect of Armie Hammer riding on ole’ Silver, Disney has put a bullet through The Lone Ranger. According to a Deadline report, the Mouse House didn’t like the $240 million dollar budget turned in by director Gore Verbinski, nor did they appreciate that 43% of it was to be used for Johnny Depp’s eyewear. With any luck, the project will get re-shopped, re-chopped and still happen. I did like the idea of that Winklevoss guy in the lead.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of movie news and interesting links hell-bent on staying up with the times. Therefore, tonight it will feature a slew of Planet of the Apes-related content… Even though everyone is doing one, I’m going to point you in the direction of the Planet of the Apes primer over at IFC, written by the very talented Matt Singer. Why? Because it’s good, it’s mostly words and I found it insightful. Sorry it’s not an infographic.

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Culture Warrior

That the final Harry Potter film became the biggest opening weekend of all time seemed only natural and inevitable. Something so monumentally culturally pervasive could have only gone out with a loud bang. After all, it is – as I’ve been repeatedly reminded – the most successful movie franchise of all time, adapted from a series of books whose sales history rivals that of The Holy Bible. Yet unlike some head scratch-inducing huge opening weekends of the more uninspired entries of blockbusting franchises who rival Harry Potter in their monetary intake but not their longevity (Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) and the former reigning champ whose buzz was accompanied by fascination with the untimely death of a star (The Dark Knight), the mass participation in the cultural event that was the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2 won’t likely be rivaled anytime soon. The Harry Potter films simultaneously represent the inevitable logical extent of franchise filmmaking as much as it is exceptional and anomalous in this same regard.

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We’ve been through all of this before, have we not? Dear Blu-ray obsessed friends, I hate to have to say it, but when I’m right, I’m right. And in the case of The Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray, I was right all along. In April of 2010, Warner Bros. released their Lord of the Rings trilogy on Blu-ray. At the time, reviewers like myself made the not-so-bold prediction that it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see this epic trilogy on the highest of definition formats. Chief among our reasons, the multiple dipping DVD releases Warners has put out over the years, from “limited edition” box sets to extended edition collector’s sets to extended editions in boxes that looked like those big talking trees. Lord of the Rings is perhaps the most re-released home video franchise in history, and the reason they can do it is because they know we’ll buy it — every time. It’s sad, but oh so true. Look around your own DVD and Blu-ray collection. How many copies of Fellowship of the Ring do you own? I have 3, and as you’re about to see, I’m not even that big a fan of this trilogy. With that in mind, what are we to do about this new, Extended Edition Blu-ray set? Should we pick this one up and add it to the Middle Earth-sized pile in the center of our home video collections? Or should we pass and continue to play the waiting game, with […]

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Culture Warrior

A very strange thing happened at this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. Somewhere between Ricky Gervais’ biting monologue/critique and Robert De Niro’s uncomfortable lifetime achievement acceptance speech, an epic international arthouse film won the award for Best Made for Television Movie or Miniseries, beating out the other nominations in the typically HBO-dominated category. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos is, from an American perspective, quite difficult to classify. We first heard about it when it was met with rave reviews at Cannes and other festivals, then it was distributed theatrically through IFC (in its original 5 ½ hour run time) while it had a three-episode “miniseries” run on the Sundance Channel just as it had done in France when originally commissioned for French television. Now, before an explicitly planned DVD release (though there is some certainty that the film will be the latest IFC release to get the Criterion treatment), it’s available streaming in its three-part miniseries form via Netflix (which is how I eventually saw it). All this is to say that it’s quite a task to say with any certainty precisely what Carlos is and in which medium it belongs. The film was financed by French television, yet it’s shot in a widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1) typically reserved for theatrical cinema, and its 3-episode structure doesn’t follow the expectations of brief closure at the end of each segment typical of, say, an American television miniseries (it comes across more like a necessary break for exhibition and an arbitrary break in storytelling). Now […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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I have to start this post off with an admission: I have yet to see the new Harry Potter. I’m saving it for Thanksgiving weekend when I can return to my home state and see it with loved ones, so hopefully next week I’ll have a post on something more appropriately Potter-specific. But what I want to talk about today is not something related to Deathly Hollows specifically, but what it represents, which lies somewhere in the film’s critical reaction. While heaps of praise have been given to the newest installment of one of the biggest movie franchises in history based on one of the biggest book franchises in history (many calling it one of the best entries in the series), the biggest voice of detraction has been the notion that Deathy Hollows pt. 1 is not a “complete movie” per se – that it abruptly stops in medias res, that it has no “third act.” Whether or not this is how I will feel when I see the movie this week is unimportant, but what this movie – and its subsequent reaction – represents is of great importance.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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