The Lord of the Rings

Warner Bros.

I don’t know what your movie news feed looks like, but mine tends to be painfully predictable. Over the past few months, with rare exception, it’s pretty much been a non-stop barrage of Star Wars, DC, and Marvel updates. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good franchise. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and am eagerly awaiting the release of Episode VII. Likewise, I love me some Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be first in line to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. I’m still a bit cautious about Batman vs. Superman: Courtroom Drama and the upcoming Justice League slate of films, but that’s a whole ‘nother article. A friend of mine recently echoed the ridiculously common complaint that Hollywood has lost its creative edge and is no longer making original movies. Instead, it’s obsessed about remakes, reboots, sequels, and other adaptations of previous source material. My knee-jerk cynicism aside, he seems to have a point. Sure, there are some interesting original films that show up now and then, but the studios seem to be focused greatly on retreading the past. This got me thinking: Can’t we go back to the good old days when Hollywood wasn’t all about remakes, reboots, sequels, and franchises?

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The Warriors Baseball Furies

We all feared that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was going to have too many villains. But the number of bad guys in the new sequel isn’t really a problem. You’ve mostly just got Electro (Jamie Foxx), who is the most powerful and most prevalent, and then there’s Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) who joins him in the third act. Rhino (Paul Giamatti) is basically only in this movie for isolated scenes, and I’ll just keep the mention of him to that, so nobody thinks I’m spoiling too much (he’s in the ads, so his very appearance shouldn’t be a surprise). Oh, and there’s also that mysterious man seen at the end of the first movie doing whatever he’s doing somewhere in the background. It’s not that there are too many of these guys so much that they’re handled rather sloppily, though that’s par for the course of most elements of the movie. When fans worry about the multiple villain issue, what they’re really worried about is yet another movie that handles the idea badly. We’ve seen this before, in Spider-Man 3, Batman and Robin, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand, Iron Man 2 and The Dark Knight Rises. The last one is an interesting criticism from people because the entire Christopher Nolan series has multiple villains for each film, with The Dark Knight championed (by us, six years ago) for being one the rare great movies to do it right with the balance of The Joker and eventually Two-Face. 

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smaug questions

Plot holes aren’t the biggest issue with the Hobbit movies. Like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug is plagued more by heavy narrative bloat and a dragging pace. But there are details that niggle in the mind once the movie is over. I’m sure that Tolkien fans will be able to answer for every single one of them with a thorough explanation that comes straight from the text. For someone who last read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many years ago, however, these questions are cause for puzzlement. And some may indeed be unexplainable, at least definitively. Maybe some or even all of these will be answered in the last installment of the trilogy. I somewhat doubt it, but given that it will likely approach three hours in length, it will certainly have the time to do so. We’ll have to wait for There and Back Again to find out. It should be obvious, but because we discuss the entire plot of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re hereby warned that SPOILERS are abound after the jump.

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superman-the-movie-1978-marlon-brando-as-jor-el-sentences-general-zod-non-and-ursa

It’s only a coincidence that I’m writing this on the day Man of Steel hits home video, and it has nothing to do with the approaching 35th anniversary of Superman: The Movie. Rather, it’s something I’ve been wondering during the discussions of the latest Marvel movie post-credits “stingers.” Thor: The Dark World finishes with three separate teases. The first (not a stinger) comes before the credits and hints at something that will presumably be dealt with in Thor 3. The next comes midway into the credits and introduces a character and teases plot that is part of the larger Marvel/Avengers franchise storyline. And the third is just a funny post-credits scene that I expect to be the vaguely reported link between the film and an upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Personally, I have no problem with these or any stingers. The midway scene in Thor 2 is pretty goofy, though, and has been met with the usual confusion that, hopefully for Marvel’s sake, translates into curiosity instead of annoyance. And perhaps the way they’re done is a little tired, so maybe it is time to try something different. Like a prologue stinger. I don’t know if that phrase makes sense (I’m not totally sure of where the term stinger comes from), but here’s what I mean: set up the next film before the latest even begins. For the one and only example, as far as I know, look to the opening of the first Superman, which features the trial of […]

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IntroEffects

Sometimes the best solution is also the easiest. When it comes to making movies, however, nothing tends to be easy. Then again, there have been a few instances where the solution – while still not anywhere close to easy – was at least simple. Cheap, even. Check out the following big budget effects that you could theoretically recreate in your own basement.

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IntroSpheres

Circles are surprisingly menacing – it’s just hard to trust something that doesn’t have corners. The film industry seems to know this, because it’s given us some of the most ominous villains out there in spherical form. I know it’s weird; I don’t care. And sure, triangles are pretty shifty too – and let’s not forget the kind of shit rectangles have pulled in the past as well. But for today, here are some movie spheres that you just wouldn’t want to cross.

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Drinking Games

After a lot of gnashing of teeth about splitting it into three parts, complaining about the 48 fps presentation, and debating whether it would make a billion dollars, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now available on 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and DVD. So it’s a fine time as any to tune your HDTV to your favorite settings and enjoy the film in the comfort of your own home and the control of your own image. If you have the love of Middle-Earth (and the tolerance for alcohol) to make this a marathon of Tolkien movies, you can play our Lord of the Rings drinking game from last year as well. However, Peter Jackson’s three-hour first installment of The Hobbit should give you plenty of reasons to knock a few back as if you were a dwarf at Bilbo’s table. Enjoy the first third of this Lord of the Rings prequel with your favorite blend of Middle-Earth-inspired brew.

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bakshi last days still

Tired of animation that makes you happy and stupid? Then return that ticket for Escape From Planet Earth and spend that $10 on a new, comeback effort by Ralph Bakshi, famed animator behind Fritz the Cat, Wizards and the 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been more than 20 years since his last feature, the hybrid Cool World, but a new series of shorts in the works could wind up leading to another. The series is titled Last Days of Coney Island, a noir-ish political toon set on that edge of New York City during the ’60s. The $10 you could put towards the crowdfunding campaign will get you an pre-release look at the result online. That’s if the first installment is fully financed. And with less than half the goal reached at the half-way point, that might not happen (the deadline is March 3). It does seem that $165,000 is a pretty steep amount for a seven-minute product, but this isn’t just anyone’s project. Bakshi is a legend. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of his work, but I love that he exists. And I want to see his animation continue to exist because it’s bold and different and, as he implies, we need artistic entertainment that might bring us down and should make us think, especially about ourselves. Is it weird to want to put money into something I don’t like? Why not, I pay my taxes every year…

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Remake Star Wars

If you already have low expectations for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, you might not be interested in seeing the first film by Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola. It won’t exactly do much for your interest in the new action-infused fairy tale. But if you’re like me and are fascinated by the calling card short films of Hollywood moviemakers, you’ll want to check out Remake. Anyway, it’s under seven minutes, so you’re not wasting too much time. The short was produced in Australia in 2006, and Wirkola shares helming duties on the film with Kit McDee (who has his own action feature with the word “hunters” in it out this year called The Hunters Club Movie). They both also co-star as hotel desk clerks (or owners?) who offer guests homemade Betamax videos featuring cheap remakes of popular movies (Titanic, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Scream and Deep Throat are among the titles we see). Basically these movies have been “sweded,” although Remake was made before Be Kind Rewind, which coined that term and popularized the concept.

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Drinking Games

By now, you’ve probably seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and you may have stumbled out of the theater, feeling drunk from the effects of the HFR projection. Regardless of what you thought of Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-earth fantasy epic, you might be tempted to watch all or part of his previous trilogy The Lord of the Rings. This is a marathon session to endure, especially if you opt for the extended editions of the films, which totals close to twelve hours of movies. In short, you can start one movie with breakfast (or second breakfast, or elevensies) and be drinking your nighttime spirits by the middle of the second film. So whenever you plan on drinking during this batch of movies, there’s always time for this drinking game.

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Mondo LOTR

While some might think that the best way to celebrate the release of a new film is to perhaps craft some art based on said new film, the folks over at Mondo have decided to use their poster celebration (posterbration?) of Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to honor Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy instead. Sounds good to us! Everyone’s favorite poster shop (and the official collectible art division of the Alamo Drafthouse) will release the Olly Moss-made posters tomorrow, December 13. The posters each measure 15″ x 36″. The regular edition (as shown up top) is limited to 580 posters (priced at $50) and the variant edition is limited to just 285 (priced at $90). Make sure to follow @MondoNews on Twitter for the exact sale time for these Hobbit-celebrating LOTR posters. Check out the variant after the break!

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Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings

We can all hoist accolades on the filmmakers found in this series, but there are few who are as transparent about their process and actively engaging when it comes to including fans on set (at least via video) than Peter Jackson. Not just a minimal-effort chore for marketing, Jackson seems to relish with childlike abandon in making the Making Of videos and taking audiences behind the scenes of movies while they’re being made. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising for a details-oriented storyteller who has built entire worlds for us to visually visit. But he wasn’t always sitting on top of Middle-Earth. Before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it was more likely you’d catch him with a lawnmower in hand and a bucket of fake blood close by. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from someone who fought in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

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Sometimes you just have to punch a wall, or perhaps a car door, or a ceramic cat – really, it’s whatever is closest. Whether it is rage, retribution, or legitimate hatred, sometimes an inanimate object just has to go down. In the moving pictures this is especially fun to watch. Much like a movie death is often more dramatic than reality, a little inanimate destruction goes a long way.

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Gollum in the Wellington Airport

As we’ve learned from Flight of the Conchords, one of the only things that New Zealand is known for these days is Lord of the Rings. And they seem to be quite proud of it. As evidence in this new art installation by Weta at the Wellington, New Zealand airport. Opening this week, the massive statue of Gollum reaching out to catch a juicy sweet fish will now greet travelers as they enter the terminal. As you will see from the images below, it’s both awe-inspiring and terribly frightening.

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

As we get closer and closer to Halloween, the industry is doing its part to help with great holiday-themed content. We got a trailer for Iron Man 3 to either remind the kids of that superhero as a costume idea or to provide fresh suggestions. Who wants to be so antiquated as to go as something based on this year’s movies when you can leap frog into 2013 ideas? Are Mandarin and Iron Patriot hot last-minute costumes now? And then we got the news about Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the Conan franchise, which should give many elderly folks encouragement to dress up as a character they’re way too old for. Come on, grandmas, “sexy ___” outfits are for you too. Oh, and Cloud Atlas is out this weekend, which may well inspire some last-minute blackface, whiteface, yellowface and zombie Willy Wonka face costumes. Speaking of the film, before we round up this week’s best features, I need to remind you of the latest reviews of new releases (Cloud Atlas, Pusher, Gut, The Thieves). Also this week, we saw new trailers for Holy Motors, the next Die Hard, the remake of Evil Dead and a seemed remake of Kingdom of the Fairies that would make Melies crap himself called Empires of the Deep. And we continued our new weekly recap reviews of TVs The Walking Dead while also reviewing American Horror Story: Asylum and 666 Park Avenue. Now, check out our biggest and best stories and original content from the past week after the […]

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Remaking a movie is a tall order, and transitioning a story from another medium to film is even tougher. So it’s no surprise that details frequently get changed to accomodate a new era of filmmaker or the different “beats” associated with a feature-length movie. It becomes a problem, however, when one of the things cut to accomodate an extra action scene turns out to be vitally important to the plot, leaving the movie with a scene or detail that only makes sense if you’re familiar with the original. Things like…

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It’s one thing when a series is based around several generations who are actively seeking adventure – treasure hunting and Nazi-punching and all that. That’s not what we’re here to discuss. Don’t expect to see any Corleones on this list, either. This is about those hapless, generally well-functioning families in films who for one reason or another keep falling into bad times. These are the families that trouble follows. These are the truly unlucky ones.

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Jurassic Park Mosquito

Movie trailers are one of the few things in the industry that you really can’t improve upon with technology. It’s just editing – that’s it. Nothing else can make a trailer better besides skill. This is also why it seems like they generally get better every year (not always the case though). It’s difficult to nail down exactly what makes a teaser trailer effective, which is why we’re going to focus simply on intensity. It’s the best part, especially when a film is already anticipated from the start due to being an adaptation or a sequel. So here we go – fifteen movie teasers that have your heart pounding before the feature presentation even begins.

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Are the eleven hours and twenty-two minutes of Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings series just not enough for you? Do you require (what will most likely end up being) another ten- or eleven-hour run of J.R.R. Tolkien cinematic adaptations? Don’t care about shelling out the cash for three movies dedicated to telling the story of, in case you’ve forgotten, just one book? Have we got news for you! Following last week’s rumors that Jackson would ultimately end up splitting his already two-part adaptation of The Hobbit into three films, the filmmaker himself has now confirmed the news on his Facebook page (via ComingSoon), saying: It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie – and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’

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There’s nothing more American than cylindrical projectiles. After all – fireworks are loud, volatile, and smell like ash – much like us. While the whole exploding part is pretty gosh darn boss, really the true wonder comes from the pure act of launching something as goddamn far as we possibly can into the air. We like to know that we can conquer all three dimensions. So in the spirit of good ol’ American propulsion lust, here are some of the more excellent tubes that movies have shot into the sky.

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