#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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#346- The Right Stuff

Quick recap: The mostly true story of America’s first astronauts. And Chuck Yeager, because why not?

Someday, someone will make a 3 hour tour de force about New Kids on the Block and that will be the day no other movie will need to exist.

Fun (?) fact: The astronaut suits were made of leftover fabric and pieces from Cher’s costumes.

fabulous.

My thoughts: I had every intention of loving The Right Stuff, but in the end I just couldn’t do it. What’s not to love, you ask. It’s historical, there are great performances, the music is spectacular and above all, JEFF GOLDBLUM.

I think what ultimately bored me was a lack of suspense. I know, it’s history, and I’m certainly glad director Philip Kaufman didn’t just add an explosion for the hell of it. But there has to be something more than:

a) John Glenn’s wife having a stutter and vice president Johnson wanting to meet with her

b) Gordo being the very last astronaut to go up in space

c) Alan Shapard really needing to pee

d) Gus’s hatch blowing off…..or did it?

John Glenn’s malfunction was the only heartstopping part of the movie, which lasted for 3 hours, mind you. It’s an interesting story, sure. But just not worth my time. Now, with the Chuck Yeager b plot, I have no idea why he was thrown in there but I’m glad he was. I would’ve gladly spent hours watching a biography about him, but only if Sam Shepard can play him. That man can do no wrong in my eyes. Aside from the Yeager throwaways, the movie felt disjointed as a whole. There were really silly comedic parts and avant garde camera shots that just didn’t match with the historical tone of the movie. Pick a lane and stick with it, Kaufman. Movies aren’t meant to be a buffet.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

 

#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold.

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord

#321- The Black Cat

Quick recap: Young lovers, Brad and Janet Peter and Joan, get caught in a horrible rainstorm and take refuge in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion Hjalmar Poelzig’s ultra modern fortress.

pretty sure this guy would break his neck trying to do the Time Warp

Fun (?) fact: Despite Edgar Allen Poe being credited as a writer for The Black Cat, this movie has nothing to do with his story.

The absolute opposite of terrifying for me

My thoughts: So, here we are, once again, at the end of Horrorfest. I’d say it’s been a wild ride but that’s not true at all. Having given up on scaring myself, I chose The Black Cat because one of my favorite podcasts, You Must Remember This, is devoting several episodes to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Seeing as how both of them star in this film, it seemed the perfect choice to close out October.

I’m going to go ahead and spoil an 80 year old movie by telling you it wasn’t the cat behind all the evil. I mean, that’s what they want you to think, but it’s totally the creepy guy everyone suspected all along. Then again, it’s hard to tell what is going on most of the time. Poelzig is some sort of sorcerer but also an ultra modern architect. He claims Dr. Vitus Werdegast’s wife died naturally but then he suspended her body and married her daughter so………….. yeah. Totally natural. Poelzig also has his sights set on Joan, the newlywed who wanders into his house. There’s a ceremony at the end when I think he tries to marry a whole harem of women, but then there’s also this scene which reminded me of Rocky and Dr. Frank-N-Furter:

Is this movie creepy? Totally. The accents alone paint an ominous picture but then you add in the score and weird house and you end up with a film that sticks with you longer than it should. On the other hand, the cat only appeared for less than 2 minutes and for a movie that bills itself as The Black Cat, I expected more.

Final review: This would’ve been a complete classic had it featured more cat. Because of this, I’m dropping it to a 2/5

Up next: Rear Window