Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Welcome once again my readers. Today I will be reviewing this excellent movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. As I have missed almost two weeks due to finals and other things, I have tried to write a much more developed review, and I hope you will enjoy.

The opening scene of The Two Towers is an amazing, but brief action scene, only surpassed by the grandiosity of the final scene. The events of the third hour of The Two Towers are undoubtedly the centerpiece of the film. Though the first few hours serve as story development, they primarily build anticipation for the final hour, which mostly depicts the battle of Helm's Deep. 

The road to the battle of Helm's Deep can be gruelingly long and painful for any viewer aware of the breathtaking scenes that await towards the end of the film. The Two Towers' biggest mistake is in its own accomplishments; the first two thirds of the film are spectacularly shot, well paced, and they necessarily and adequately progress the storyline. But when compared to the marvelous final hour, the first two hours seem uneventful and insignificant. 

The Two Towers obviously begin where The Fellowship of the Ring left off. The majority of the film follows four groups and their story lines. Frodo and Sam, who are later accompanied by Gollum, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, Merry and Pippin, and Saruman and his army, all go through important journeys. The performances live well up to the first film, with a particularly notable performance from Mortensen as Aragorn, whose role is significantly larger in The Two Towers. Gollum also shines in a large role, due to extremely realistic computer animation, and a great performance from Andy Serkis, upon which the animation was modeled. In Fellowship, it was appropriate to consider Gollum one of the many great special features of the film. However, he is more of a main character and his convincing dual-personality, harsh voice, and well-developed body movements make him consistently the center of focus of nearly every scene in which he appears.

As was The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers is a visual phenomenon. Those who have seen the first movie are no doubt familiar with the beauty of the landscapes of New Zealand. The cinematography is one of the best aspects of the film. The camera movements that follow the armies and horsemen throughout the fields are extremely satisfying. The shots of the walls being attacked in the battle of Helm's Deep are terrifying and chillingly gorgeous all at once. While the visual effects in the previous movie were outstanding, the battle of Helm's Deep provides for the best application of CGI from the beginning of the series. The battle of Helm's Deep features absolutely awesome and flawless integration of acting, stunts, and computer animation. Each orc appears to have its own personality, demonstrated in its movements and visual features. The multitudes of armies fight with strategy and true character.

In the Fellowship of the Ring, I was slightly disappointed with the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely amazing, but I felt it lacked the ability to capture all of the emotions conveyed throughout the movie. However, Howard Shore steps it up in The Two Towers, with a riveting score, making up for the previous faults of Fellowship.

If not the picture itself, there should be a way to recognize and award the battle of Helm's Deep. Alone, the battle sequence represents successful filmmaking in its highest form. The visual effects, the pacing, acting, cinematography, 
 the choreography of the battle, and the music, all work together in perfection to achieve incredible filmmaking which is as entertaining and enjoyable as film can be. For this very reason, I give this movie a 9.5/10. This series has so far proved to be one of the best, both in story and the quality of the movie.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Hello everyone! This will be the first part of my 3 part review on the amazing Lord of the Rings series. I'm a big fan of the books, but never watched the movies seriously because of their drastic length. But over the course of three days, I watched the first two movies, and I got to say: they were great!

Well, I was lucky enough to be able to watch a Blu-ray version of this, and see it in its 1080p grandiosity, which brings me to my first point: cinematography. This movie's cinematography was excellent. The pans over mountains and woodlands were spectacular. Seeing every beautiful landscape and every imperfection in the characters' faces made this movie so many times better. Of course I already knew the story, and I have to say, this is probably one of, if not the best, book to movie adaptations every made. Obviously it did not follow the book even close to 100%, but overall it was still magnificent. The acting was also excellent. Almost all of the characters were cast very similarly to what I thought they would have looked like. I always thought Saruman would look like a more pointy nosed and evil version of Gandalf, and I was right. The only characters that came off strange to me were the hobbits, but I didn't know what to think when reading the book, and after a while, they came off very naturally. Aragorn was perfect, a long haired sword wielding adventurer with a bit of a strong but silent vibe. Gimli and Legolas were also great, but after watching Game of Thrones, Boromir seemed out of place. And for its time, Gollum was perfectly animated. The soundtrack was also outstanding. It brought emotion the movie, which many other soundtracks fail to do.
I give this movie a 9.5/10. It has become one of my favorite movies, but it has its faults. I highly recommend this movie to anyone, even those who have not read the books.

Monday, May 07, 2012

In Bruges

Welcome everybody. This is my first post in a couple of weeks because I have been busy, but I am here to bring you another long-awaited review. This is the movie In Bruges, directed by Martin McDonagh and released in 2008.

In Bruges. Two Irish hit men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) are sent into hiding by their British boss (Ralph Fiennes) in Bruges, Belgium after a botched job only to learn that the most damning job awaits one of them just around the corner. Bruges is a picturesque tourist trap built around the oldest and best maintained medieval city in Belgium. Director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh bleeds the setting and the material for all its worth and makes his feature film debut in superb style.

The dark comedy built around the existential quandaries of hit men has been done to death over the years. If last summer's "You Kill Me" was the relentlessly dark and relentlessly sitcom-y take on the genre, then "In Bruges" is the hipster art film take on the theme. McDonagh deserves all the credit in the world for breathing life into the stale story by texturing the tonal shifts with crisp digital camera-work (that is surprisingly haunting), deep character development, and by creating a wonderful sense of place. Imagine a Graham Greene novel ("Brighton Rock" specifically comes to mind) modernized by David Mamet. The dialog is super smart and wickedly un-PC while the comedy parts are as gut-busting as the crime thriller parts are suspenseful.

McDonagh has also brought together an outstanding cast who thrive in the material. Farrell defies all odds and manages to be as sympathetic in the dramatic parts as he is charmingly sarcastic in the comedic parts. Brendan Gleeson gives a fantastically nuanced portrayal as Farrell's mentor and friend. Meanwhile, Ralph Fiennes channels the scary-as-hell energy he's used previously in "Schindler's List" and the recent "Harry Potter" films in a limber subversion that is a frighteningly fun to watch. The supporting cast is to die for, with Jordan Prentice spot-on as a coked-up dwarf actor shooting an abhorrent art film on the streets of Bruges, and Clemence Poesy coyly seductive and unforgettable as Farrell's unlikely local love interest.

Ultimately "In Bruges" meanders down too many cobblestone paths, and one scene near the end involving a bell tower stretches credibility but adds necessary dramatic effect. Certain plot elements will turn off a large segment of the viewing audience. However, those with the right mindset will be greatly rewarded. "In Bruges" is hilarious, contemplative, sometimes scathing, often nihilistic, but marked by a shockingly hopeful undercurrent while tones shift and the colors of the human condition undulate in McDonagh's insightful light. The arrival of a commanding talent has been Bruges.

Sorry for the long delay of posts. I will soon be reviewing two great series, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, as soon as I finish watching them.