#350- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Quick recap: There’s this ring, you see, that causes trouble and might ultimately bring destruction to Middle Earth. So it’s up to a Hobbit who has never stepped foot out of his village to destroy it and save everyone.

Fun (?) fact:

Fellowship of the Ring

Gimli the Dwarf is played by John Rhys-Davies, who is actually 6 feet tall. This makes him the tallest actor out of the fellowship.

The Two Towers

Gollum was actually biting a fish shaped lollipop instead of nomming on an actual fish.

Return of the King

Director Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the spider design on what he is most afraid of.

 

My thoughts: I’ve now spent a hellish semester in 7th grade reading The Hobbit, watching the trilogy when it first came out and then watching it AGAIN for this list. I guess the only real surprise is how come I still don’t love it yet. Are we through, Tolkien? Please release me.

Fellowship of the Ring

I haven’t watched the trilogy more than once for two reasons. 1) it’s long and 2) there are SO MANY CHARACTERS. I was also in high school when this movie came out so I’d like to think my movie tastes have matured since then. Nope. The movie still felt long, mostly because it’s tiring to see Frodo and his pals in constant peril. And speaking of pals, I was following when it was Gandalf and all the Hobbits but then everyone else showed up and I had no clue who anyone was. Fight me if you want, but Aragorn and Boromir look too similar. I won’t say I’m glad Boromir died but it sure made it a lot easier for me. As for everything else: plot, music, scenery, I was into it. I enjoyed it much more this time around, as did my kid, who walked out in protest when Gandalf died.

The Two Towers

This was my favorite of the three although now looking back, they do all sort of meld together seamlessly. I really loved the huge fighting sequence and I liked that there weren’t too many sappy moments (more on that later). Everyone is still in peril, of course, but the talking trees made everything seem like they would be alright in the end.

Return of the King

Peter Jackson went all out for this one so it’s no surprise it won so many Oscars. I enjoyed it as much as the others, but the neverending sap fest at the end got a little old. The movie would’ve been great had it ended with Frodo waking up and seeing that his friends are ok. But then the next scene was of Frodo finishing the book ‘Lord of the Rings’ which would’ve been an even better ending but NO, Peter Jackson’s reign of terror was far from over because then I had to sit through a gut wrenching scene between Sam and Frodo as he leaves them forever. Still not done yet, I’m subjected to seeing Sam head back to his impossibly cute family and live happily ever after. That being said, it really resonated with me how Frodo still carried the scars of his journey. Everything was back to normal but it was also completely different and would always be so.

So in the end, I think I can finally say that I’ve made peace with these movies. I found them boring back when I first saw them and the characters were overwhelming. I still feel that way a bit but this time around I really enjoyed the story and the little details that make the story timeless.

My thoughts: 5/5 for all three

Up next: La Dolce Vita

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#349- A Man Escaped

Quick recap: Based on a true story from World War II, a man escapes from prison.

Fun (?) fact: A Man Escaped is based on the story of Andre Devigny who served as a consultant because the director wanted everything as authentic as possible. Devigny even let the cast borrow the hooks and and ropes he made to escape. Oh, and SPOILER ALERT the man does actually escape.

 

My thoughts: Never have I felt so inadequate about myself than last night when I watched this movie. Math and Physics were never my strongest subjects in school and now I realize that if I’m ever locked up for a war crime I didn’t commit, I’m toast. This guy had the most complicated plan, most of which involved making everything on his own and it WORKED. I, on the other hand, would spend months tying knots in my bedsheets only to have them break apart in my hands once I tried to use them. And making my own hook? Forget it! I can’t even handle a pair of scissors without cutting myself. The fact that this story is all true makes it even more amazing.

Judging just on cinematography features and sound alone, this film has rightfully earned its place on this list. The shots are beautiful and capture the suspense and loneliness prisoner Fontaine felt throughout his internment. Throughout most of the film Fontaine is dressed in a simple white shirt and pants that have been splattered in his own blood. No torture scenes are ever shown as that shirt is the only reminder one needs. The same goes for the firing squad who are never shown but their gunshot echoes are some of the most chilling sounds I have heard in a film.

Normally in a blog post about war I’ll say ‘war is hell’ and although this is very definitely a war film, it is also very definitely not. It’s a story of survival and optimism and creativity and it’s also one of the most suspenseful movies I have seen on this list. Many scenes involve Fontaine using a spoon to slowly strip away wooden molding on the door and every single shaving dropped on the floor caused my anxiety level to go up. Even though I just watched the film it’s so hard to imagine that this actually happened to a real person and he survived. The character Fontaine faced the firing squad if he didn’t escape so the stakes were high either way. Still, most people wouldn’t have the courage he did or the perseverance to pull it off.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A special surprise for #350!

 

 

#348- The Five Deadly Venoms

Quick recap: 5 former martial arts students have become experts on specific moves that match to animals: the centipede,snake, scorpion, lizard and toad. Their dying instructor believes some of them may be evil and orders his current student to take care of them, even though he has no chance of defeating them.

son, you’ve got a toad on your head

Fun (?) fact: Power Rangers Jungle Fury had a group of enemies called the Five Poison Fingers, an homage to this film.

Mondays got me like…

My thoughts: I’m not beating around the bush for this one: it was awesome and everyone should watch it. It’s currently streaming on Netflix as of August 2018 so what are you waiting for?

So, why is The Five Deadly Venoms so amazing?

  1. It’s dubbed! On the sub versus dub debate, I’m squarely in the sub camp, except when it comes to films like this. Most of the dialogue is people telling how they want to kill someone else so dubbing is the way to go.
  2.  There is good versus evil afoot but also it’s fun to figure out who is actually bad. Right away the audience knows Centipede and Snake are bad news but the rest (and their identities) are rolled out slowly. It added an extra layer of complexity I really enjoyed.
  3. The five venoms were so much fun to watch! I know nothing about kung-fu and seeing people get beaten up gets old after awhile, unless you attach cool animals (and a toad) to the moves. I loved watching each master and recognizing who he was. It was like a Buzzfeed quiz but in real life. Name the Five Venoms to Reveal Your Worst Personality Trait.
  4. It’s campy as hell! The blood looks like candle wax, the sound effects are hilarious and the acting is subpar with a lot of grimacing. On the other hand, the torture scenes were so creative. Did you know you can murder someone with just 5 sheets of paper towels?

This movie didn’t change any perspective I had and it didn’t make me sympathize with a group of people. It was just fun and exactly what I needed at this time.

 

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Man Escaped

 

#347- Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Quick recap: A group of students navigate a year of high school without much regard to actual learning.

Fun (?) fact: Before he was the lovable scamp we know today, Nicholas Cage got on everyone’s nerves during the shooting of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He bragged about his famous uncle Francis Ford Coppola and declared he would be more famous than anyone else. He finally shut up when people started doing Apocalypse Now impressions around him.

My thoughts: As much as I’d like to say I was the Spicoli, Stacy or Linda of my high school, in all actuality I most closely identified with Brad’s friend, Arnold. He was the one listening to Brad’s problems and trying to be cool but instead  just ended up burning the hamburger patties and taking a restroom break at the worst possible time. Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High as a teenager, I never could shake the feeling that I was doing it all wrong. Not that I wanted to get pregnant or show up stoned to class, but there was a part of me that yearned for a quintessential high school experience American cinema had taught me was so important to have.

As an adult who has finally learned that there is no such thing as normal, I can finally embrace this movie for what it is: a teenage fairy tale. Maybe it’s not all that realistic, but it sure is entertaining and definitely captured the 80s spirit I pretend to know anything about. Thinking back on the various high school movies I’ve watched on this list alone, I think I’d much rather attend Ridgemont High than say the high school in Grease, American Graffiti or the Breakfast Club. The kids are just as nuts but at least they feel and talk like real teenagers.

In a way, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is kind of a depressing movie.

Stacy- loses virginity to guy much older than her and then gets knocked up by a guy who doesn’t care about her

Spicoli- constantly embarrassed by his History teacher

Mark- his best friend sleeps and knocks up the girl he is in love with

And the list goes on. But through a different lens, these are all seen as typical teenage problems and nothing to be too concerned with. After all, being an American teenager just means having the most traumatic things happen to you but it’s cool because summer is almost here! Maybe I made the right decision in staying out of drama after all.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Man Escaped