[Movies of the Month] April

April

NEW RELEASES
High-Rise – Bizarre but fascinating (and scarily realistic) take on life and culture within a high rise block of flats. ★★★½

1ST TIMERS
A Room for Romeo Brass 
– Very much a character piece; Considine shines in his feature film debut. ★★★½

REWATCHES
The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers – Still my favourite of the trilogy; epic battle, more beautiful music, more stunning scenery . ★★★★★
The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King – A fitting conclusion to an incredibly strong trilogy. ★★★★½
Blue Crush – Three stars awarded for the stunning scenery and girl power ethos rather than the borderline acting and weak love story. ★★★
The World’s End – First rewatch and still plenty of laughs. ★★★½
Shaun of the Dead – Probably my favourite Pegg/Frost collaboration, this never fails to put a smile on my face. ★★★★
The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey – Several rewatches later and I still get the same goosebumps as the music begins and we return to Middle-earth. ★★★★
The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug – Bilbo comes into his own, revealing himself to certainly be (in mine and my boyfriend’s opinion) the most brave and strong of Tolkien’s hobbits, and actually one of the courageous of all Tolkien’s characters. ★★★★
The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies – The extended scenes were particularly noticeable in BOTFA and added a lot more atmosphere to the film. ★★★★
Snow White and the Huntsman – Still a stunning film visually but my enjoyment is going down on each rewatch. ★★★
The Italian Job – First rewatch in many, many years; an absolute classic that I appreciate more now that I have owned a classic Mini. ★★★★

Total: 12

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 4
1st timers: 35
Rewatches: 27
Total: 66

Extended edition TH – AUJ: 5 things I’ve learnt

Like any other devoted Ringer, when the extended editions of Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King were released I immediately watched them and then spent hours going through the bonus content.

Director and producer Peter Jackson named this bonus content the ‘appendices’. He was following in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps; Tolkien placed a huge amount of background material at the back of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that he called the appendices.

Now that I’ve finally got my hands on copies of the extended editions of the three The Hobbit films courtesy of my friend Ben, I’m attempting this feat again. It really is a feat, as all together there is around 27 hours of bonus material.

Here are five of the things that I have learnt from watching the appendices in An Unexpected Journey.

Sir Ian McKellen contemplated quitting acting due to the difficulties of green screen filming

As Gandalf (McKellen) is 25% larger than the dwarves and Bilbo, a lot of McKellen’s scenes were shot on green screen while the dwarves and Bilbo were shot simultaneously on the main set.

Hidden earpieces and faces on illuminating tennis balls meant that McKellen knew when to say his lines and who to speak to. It sounds easy enough but, as McKellen points out, part of being a successful actor is reacting to those around you. Very hard to do when your counterpart is an inanimate object.

The podium that Bofur dances upon in Rivendell is the same podium that the One Ring is placed onto during the Council of Elrond

I am, quite frankly, ashamed that I missed this.

When Bofur (James Nesbitt) seeks to liven up the atmosphere during the company’s dinner with the elves he jumps onto the same podium that would later hold the One Ring.

For me, this is a defining moment.

During the events of An Unexpected Journey, 60 years before the events of Fellowship, the majority of Middle-earth was in full bloom. While darkness was slowly creeping back into the world, it most certainly hadn’t reached Rivendell.

Elrond and the elves of Rivendell were thriving. They opened their doors to the company and we saw a Rivendell that was full of life. At that point, that podium was merely a podium, with nothing special about it.

Fast forward 60 years and that podium became something quite different. It held the most dangerous artefact within Middle-earth, and the reason that Sauron was able to return.

I doubt Elrond was ever able to look at that podium in the same way, the memory of dancing dwarves long forgotten.

Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole into one of the branches in his house

One day, hundreds of years ago, an acorn fell out of Radagast’s pocket and began to grow. Radagast, the sensitive, nature-loving wizard that he is, didn’t have the heart to remove the seedling so it continued to grow until it came up through the house.

Over the hundreds of years since, Radagast has worn a hat-shaped hole in one of the lower branches from walking back and forth.

It is these kind of subtle, delightful touches that make the Rings and The Hobbit films so captivating.

Set decorator Ra Vincent commented during the appendices that 90% of the work his team does within the films isn’t noticed. The 10% that is, is what makes it worthwhile.

Sadly, the hat-shaped hole is one of those things that I missed. The Academy didn’t, though, as Vincent and colleagues Dan Hennah and Simon Bright were nominated for Best Achievement in Production Design for An Unexpected Journey.

The One Ring was previously missing from the Isildur mural in Rivendell

Perhaps it can be explained that the passing of time has worn it off, but in The Fellowship of the Ring, the mural that depicts the moments before Isildur cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand is actually missing the One Ring.

When we see the mural again in An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo is taking a look around Rivendell after the company has arrived, you see that the One Ring is there, in all its bright golden glory contrasted again Sauron’s black metal gauntlet.

This correction is courtesy of Tolkien artist and conceptual designer Alan Lee. Howe actually painted the mural for Fellowship of the Ring, and, as such, simply painted the One Ring on when An Unexpected Journey began filming.

Ori was potentially the dwarf that fell down the well in Moria in FOTR

While you are able to physically distinguish between the 13 dwarves, there is not time in the three films to get to know them all individually.

With some of the dwarves, notably Thorin, Kili and Balin, you do get a strong flavour for their personalities, but with the rest there are only a few glimpses.

The appendices are able to fill in the gaps and provide this background information.

Oin, for example, is the alchemist and healer of the company; producer Fran Walsh joked that with all his lotions and points Oin coined the term ‘ointment’.

The appendices also reveal that because Ori keeps a journal, he may well have been the dwarf in Moria whose diary Gandalf reads from and who Pippin accidentally causes to fall down the well.

This is a sad thought but it encourages you to think about what happened to Thorin’s company following the events of the three films and imagine what their lives were like.

[TV Focus] Reign and OUAT

Every now and again, I stumble across a TV series that has me well and truly hooked. As I rarely watch TV and don’t have a Sky subscription I’m usually two or more series behind, meaning that I’m able to binge-watch the new found favourite.

While I may have seen the odd episode, I’ve never followed the likes of ‘Lost’, ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Heroes’. I’m yet to see ‘Breaking Bad’ and though I’ve read every book, I gave up on ‘Games of Thrones’. My brother bought me the boxset but as it has taken permanent residence at his house, I don’t think I’ll start watching it again any time soon.

My TV choices echo my go-to film genres: fantasy and sci-fi. My favourite series continues to be ‘True Blood’. From pretty much the first 10 minutes of s1 ep1 I became totally immersed, finding this drama-fantasy series where vampires have ‘come out the coffin’ to be unmissable.

I’ve also read many of the books on which the series is loosely based, ‘The Southern Vampire Mysteries’ by Charlaine Harris. Harris created a vivid world that HBO brought to the screen magnificently, embellishing it and creating new storylines that held your attention.

Courtesy of Netflix UK, I’ve recently been watching ‘Reign’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’. The latter I’ve been watching for some time while the former I’ve managed to devour all of its 51 episodes in a matter of weeks.

Both series appeal to my passion for fantasy. ‘OUAT’ brings your childhood fairy tale characters to life, pitting them against each other in fairly genteel storylines that usually last for half a series. Snow White and Prince Charming go up against the Evil Queen while Peter Pan, Robin Hood and Enchanted’s Elsa and Anna have also made an appearance.

‘Reign’, on the other hand, takes inspiration from history books, loosely following the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Epitomising the term ‘historical fantasy’, it takes artistic licence, creating love triangles against a backdrop of modern day music and haute couture costumes.

Netflix UK will hopefully continue airing the two series after they have aired in the States. It’ll be interesting to see how successful the ‘Reign’ in particular continues to be, as one of the main characters met a very sad end at the end of season 2.

[Movies of the Month] March

March

NEW RELEASES
Eddie the Eagle – Exactly what I thought it would be – a feel good Brit flick with several laugh-out-loud moments. ★★★★

1ST TIMERS
Angels & Demons 
– Superbly shot but lacks the same energy as The Da Vinci Code. ★★★
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Enjoyable but not as delightful as its predecessor; too many subplots create messiness. ★★★
The Inbetweeners Movie – Entertaining and will surely be remembered as very much ‘of its time’ in the same way that Eighties films are. ★★★½
Philomena – A sensitive subject that is portrayed very well; Dench gives a powerhouse performance. ★★★★
Legally Blonde – Sweet, upbeat romcom that proudly shouts ‘Girl Power!’ ★★★½
The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 2 – As events come to an end, this is the weakest film in the series. Released four years after the first film, and bearing in mind that I’ve read the books, I found myself barely invested in the characters any more. ★★★½
The Heartbreak Kid – At 1hr 59, this is far too long for a comedy. Stiller’s character is hugely unlikable too. ★★
The Help – Absolutely stunning film. Chastain and Spencer were my standout stars. ★★★★½

REWATCHES
Chocolat – There’s a huge amount to like in this film, from the all star cast to the subject matter itself. Always an enjoyable watch. ★★★★
The Martian – Second time around and just as enjoyable as the first. Damon was perfectly cast. ★★★★½
The Wipers Times – I had fond memories of this from when it first aired but, sadly, I did not get the same enjoyment on the rewatch. ★★★
In Bruges – Darkly comic and wickedly brilliant, always a pleasure coming back to In Bruges. ★★★★
The Adventures of Tintin – A very enjoyable film but one that’s apparently quite forgettable – it wasn’t until logging this watch on Letterboxd that I realised I’d already seen it… ★★★★
Pitch Perfect – An original and entertaining glimpse at American campus life that hasn’t really been touched on before. ★★★★
The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring – Like the favourite jumper you come back to year after year, FOTR holds a very special place in my heart. ★★★★½

Total: 16

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 3
1st timers: 34
Rewatches: 17
Total: 54

[Movies of the Month] February

February

NEW RELEASES
Spotlight – Tense and understated, this is a great ensemble piece that tackles an important and controversial subject excellently. ★★★★

1ST TIMERS
Divergent 
– A new version of a dystopic future, this lacks Lawrence’s star power that The Hunger Games has but is a fascinating look at a different version of society. ★★★½
Insurgent – As more of this new society is revealed, the more interesting it gets. ★★★★
Romantics Anonymous – Typically French; off-beat, sweet, enjoyably predictable. ★★★★
Frankie and Johnny – Pfeiffer and Pacino have great chemistry, and this is an enjoyable, low key romcom that feels very true to life. ★★★★
Legend – Hardy does a fantastic job, though I personally would have preferred less focus on Reggie and Frances. ★★★★
My Afternoons with Margueritte – I absolutely adored this film: a unique love story. ★★★★½
Gallipoli – In hindsight, it was the title of the film that put me off so I was pleasantly surprised when the Gallopoli Campaign is only a small part of the story. ★★★½
Mr Morgan’s Last Love – Poesy does a fantastic job but Caine seems more lecherous than endearing in parts. His American accent is appalling too. ★★½
Last Vegas – The geriatric version of The Hangover, this does provides a few laugh-out-loud moments. ★★★
The Voices – A very dark comedy  but well thought out; Reynolds was a great choice. ★★★★
The Terminator – After nearly 28 years of being alive on this planet I’ve finally gotten around to watching The Terminator. Predictable in places but very enjoyable nonetheless. Rightly an Eighties classic. ★★★★

REWATCHES
Liar Liar – Classic Carey at his best. ★★★★
Ladies in Lavender – Dench and Smith are a great double act, and this is a gentile look at the generosity of strangers. ★★★★
Love, Rosie – A new guilty pleasure; sweet, light-hearted romcom. ★★★½
Mrs Brown – Dench and Connelly are a great pairing. ★★★★
The Man in the Iron Mask – Young Leo impresses, as does Gabriel Byrne, and the costumes are wonderful. However, the mish-mash of accents is irritating. ★★★
Serendipity – A lovely romcom film that tiptoes the border between sweet and sugary very well. ★★★★

Total: 18

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 2
1st timers: 26
Rewatches: 10
Total: 38

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