[Movies of the Month] June

June

1ST TIMERS
4th Man Out 
– Quite entertaining but ultimately forgettable. ★★½
Rain Man – Uplifting and thoughtful, I can see why this is considered a classic. ★★★★
L!fe Happens – Amusing and thoughtful in places. However, the stars go to Bosworth’s fantastic, bolshie character. ★★★½
Hackers – Entertaining and completely of its time. Is this ripe for remake? My friends say ‘yes’. ★★★½
The Hundred-Foot Journey – Enjoyable from start to finish. I have found an Achilles’ heel for the might Mirren, though: her French accent needs more work. ★★★★
Today’s Special – Very slow with uninteresting characters. ★★
A Walk in the Woods – Nolte does a great job as Katz but Bryson lacks intensity. Perhaps this was Redford’s performance. Perhaps it’s how Bryson is in real life. ★★★

REWATCHES
Scream – The original slasher film and best. ★★★½
X-2: X-Men United – Cox’s Stryker adds some gravitas to the canon, and this film certainly take a darker turn because of it. ★★★½
X-Men: The Last Stand – The grand finale puts a variety of mutant abilities on display. Special effects have certainly improved since then (2006) but this does still hold its own. ★★★★
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Action-packed from start to finish, I still think that the bringing together of the ‘classic’ X-Men actors with the new team worked very well. ★★★★½

Total: 11

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 9
1st timers: 43
Rewatches: 36
Total: 88

[Movies of the Month] May

May

NEW RELEASES
Special Correspondents – Plenty of laughs and while predictable in parts, ultimately very enjoyable. ★★★½
Captain America: Civil War – Action-packed from beginning to end, i particularly enjoyed that it answered the question of what happens after the baddies have been caught and the ‘heroes’ have left the scene. ★★★★
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Better than I was expecting! It stays faithful to (and enhances in parts) the overall plot with, of course, added zombies. ★★★½
Deadpool – Very entertaining and refreshing to watch a Superhero flick that doesn’t take it’s self too seriously. Very bloody, though. ★★★★
How to be Single – Entertaining and relatable; Dakota Johnson is a fairly likable but dull lead. ★★★

1ST TIMERS
I Am Love 
– Well acted and shot, but ultimately slow and dull. ★★★

REWATCHES
The Impossible – Moving and perfectly cast. ★★★★
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – A stellar cast but I still find my attention wandering. ★★★
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I’m still loving this film; entertaining, uplifting and leaves you wanting more. ★★★★½
Guardians of the Galaxy – See above. ★★★★½
X-Men – Still holds its own many years later; McKellen and Stewart make up for some fairly wooden acting in parts. ★★★½

Total: 11

Since 1st January 2016 

New releases: 9
1st timers: 36
Rewatches: 32
Total: 77

[Set visit] Once Upon a Time at Steveston, BC

In May, my boyfriend and I visited wonderful Canada. It had been a long time coming; we booked the flights back in July 2015.

We had planned the itinerary so that we would visit Vancouver and then catch a ferry across to Vancouver Island. Once back in Vancouver we would hire a car and travel to Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies.

Aside from the usual sightseeing activities in Vancouver like Stanley Park and Granville Island, there was one place in particular that I had on my agenda: a trip to Steveston, filming location for ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

We visited during one of the best days of weather that we had during the trip, which added to the already lovely atmosphere that the historic salmon canning town has.

Some filming was taking place, which I will explain in a later post, and it became apparent that Steveston is frequented by the film industry due to its location, accessibility and accommodating residents.

DSC00941

Recognising OUAT’s iconic clock tower – previously one of Steveston’s prominent fishing supplies store – I knew immediately that I was on the right road.

A large amount of OUAT filming takes place on Moncton Street. You recognise the gas station, the cannery a little further up and, of course, the real life café that is used as Granny’s Diner.

Several signs are still up, including Mr Gold – Pawnbroker and Antiquities Dealer and Dr Archibald Hopper, MD – Pyschiatrist, and the ice-cream shop featured heavily in season four, Any Given Sundae, is still dressed ready for filming. Apart from that, though, there is little else. The only overtly sign that the town is recognising the association is a merchandise display in the post office.

Steveston is a lovely town to spend a few hours walking around, and I was relieved to see that it hasn’t attempted to heavily ‘cash in’. It certainly has a rich heritage of its own.

[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.

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