It was very sad news yesterday when it was revealed that Christopher Lee had passed away. The iconic actor had more than 280 roles to his name in a career that spanned 67 years with parts on TV, in movies, and for video games. Part of Lee’s continued popularity in recent years was his appearance in Middle Earth films directed by Peter Jackson, in which he played the wizard Saruman the White, so you can imagine that the filmmaker would have a very emotional reaction to such an important key to his films succeeding passing away. Indeed, Jackson posted a very touching tribute to Lee, and how much the actor’s involvement in the Lord of the Rings series meant to him over the years. (more…)
For the record, Christopher Lee was a tall guy. At an imposing 6’5″ frame and with a hypnotically basso voice (and naturally accented as British), this was a man born to make horror movies. That was Lee’s bread and butter for much of his career, but the actor will be fondly remembered for so much more than playing Dracula for years and years. As you may have noticed, we are now talking about Christopher Lee in the past tense because he passed away from respiratory problems and heart failure while hospitalized Sunday (the delay was so that his family would not find out through the news_. For movie geeks the world over, Lee defined intimidation and regality in equal measure, and continued to be very much in demand and working well into his 93rd year. But to quote Edwin Stanton when he remarked on the massing of another tall man, Abraham Lincoln, now he belongs to the ages. (more…)
It can help you evade goons and save damsels in distress across three centuries, but it won’t go for less than $25,000 at auction. The hoverboard prop used by Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II is one of hundreds of Hollywood props up for bids in what’s been called the largest auction of its kind in U.K. history. (more…)
The first, second, and probably eighth word that comes to mind when thinking about, discussing, or writing about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson‘s long-awaited return to the Middle Earth, is, to put it bluntly, “bloat.” Clocking in at two hours and fifty minutes, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey suffers from an under-motivated central character, poorly defined supporting characters, a meandering, unfocused first hour, and a sporadically engaging quest narrative in the second and third hours. The visual effects are variable and occasionally cheap-looking and they are made all the worse when viewed in Jackson’s preferred format of 48 FPS (frames per second), which is less a technological leap forward than it is a probable dead end.
Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.
Jackson gives us not one, not two, but three prologues, beginning with an elderly Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), recounting the events that led to the fall of the dwarf kingdom at the center of the film before segueing to a pre-Lord of the Rings encounter between Bilbo and his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood), before segueing again to a younger Bilbo (the wisely chosen Martin Freeman).
The Bilbo we meet has little taste for adventure or risk. He prefers his materially comfortable life in Bag-End to the potential dangers of the outside world. It takes Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), an itinerant wizard primarily known for his fireworks displays, to spur Bilbo from his provincial complacency by forcefully introducing him to a company of twelve dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the deposed heir of the dwarf kingdom. Thorin, of course, wants to reclaim his kingdom, but a dragon by the name of Smaug stands in his way.
Even after a reluctant Bilbo decides to join Gandalf, Thorin, and the other dwarves, the narrative pace doesn’t so much pick up as go sideways, filling the next hour with episodic encounters with, among others, Radegast the Brown, (Sylvester McCoy), a minor, forest- dwelling wizard who plays a marginal, tangential role. Naturally, he also encounters orcs, man-eating trolls, stone giants, and goblins — including a grotesque, repellent Goblin King whose singular design reflects Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in pre-production.
Familiar faces makes an appearance in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey thanks to a side trip (they’re all, ultimately, side trips) to Rivendell, the elf kingdom home to Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), along with Saruman (Christopher Lee). familiar faces three, before not one, but two extended battles, one below ground and another above. Another familiar face, Gollum (Andy Serkis), appears as well. With more than a decade’s worth of motion-capture developments to draw from, the Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is noticeably more expressive than the Gollum moviegoers met eleven years ago. He’s also less the wretched, woeful creature we met a decade ago. He’s far more dangerous, far more treacherous, and far more unpredictable. This Gollum is a cunning, conflicted sociopath willing to bet his life against Bilbo’s in a game of riddles. The encounter, of course, proves key for another reason: Gollum loses and Bilbo gains the ring (and object of desire) at the center of The Lord of the Rings.
Unfortunately, Gollum’s appearance proves to be short-lived. Once Bilbo and Gollum part company on less than friendly terms, the CG monsters, CG backgrounds, and CG- heavy set pieces take over, to increasingly mind- and body-numbing effect. By the time the characters in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey near the end of the first part of their destination audiences will be just as exhausted as the characters onscreen. The promise of two more films to round out another trilogy doesn’t feel like a promise at all. At best, it feels like a challenge. At worst, it feels like a chore. It’s probably more of the latter than the former.
Mel Valentin is a prominent film critic based out of Northern California. You can find his film reviews on NextProjection.com, SFStation.com, and VeryAware.com.
Nerdy Bits: Serenity Gingerbread, Delorean Cab, What if JGL Was Batman in ‘Justice League’, The Hunger GameRs, and MOAR!
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Christopher Lee has always been great to his fans, replying to letters and such. Sir Lee, (Knighted by Prince Charles back in 2009) likes to make video recaps of his work to insure fans know about his upcoming appearances in movies and film. Almost 90 years old and you can see how sharp Lee still is. That wonderfully full voice and his story telling skills will drag you right into his living room.
The great British star has no less than four films that he’s appearing in this year. One, Hugo, is already released, while The Wicker Tree—the follow-up to the 1973 horror classic The Wicker Man—(NOT A REMAKE and not the Cage movie thank the Lord) is still awaiting a release date.
Lee also had a small role in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, which comes out on May 11, but his most eagerly anticipated appearance has to be in December’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in which he reprises his role of Saruman the White.
The actor reveals that he’s completed his work for An Unexpected Journey and the second part, 2013’s There and Back Again, both of which, he says candidly, “I hope I live to see.” Lee admits that at his advanced age he only takes small parts requiring just a few days of shooting.
Perhaps for the benefit of his fans who are not familiar with The Hobbit, Lee adds:
“What is extremely important is that in these two films, which of course are long before Lord of the Rings … Saruman, who I play again, is indeed still Saruman the White, but he is a good and noble man, and the head of the Council of Wizards, as he always was.”
After you take a look at these videos check out some of Lee’s other videos from the link above. He is a very engaging speaker.
The official site of Christopher Lee just posted that the actor has been in talks to be in the project and as long as he is in good health, we’re likely to see the wizard Saruman in the film. At the moment, it is not known what health issue that Lee is facing but it’s good to know that the actor still wants something to do with the project.
Once again, the internet find itself another David Tennant rumor. This time, Tennant is being rumored for the role of Legolas’s father, Thranduil. The rumor started with an IMDb listing of the role show up out of no where. Until we have some sort of official statement, I say the rumor was started by someone wanting Tennant to have some sort of Hollywood stardom.
With shooting set to start next month, expect more casting news to be announced in the coming weeks.
In case you missed it Christopher Lee A.K.A Count Dooku/ Count Chocula has been knighted. The Ceremony held on October 30th at Buckingham Palace, the legendary actor was knighted by Prince Charles of England on behalf of his mother, the Queen of England (duh!) The 87-year-old, has appeared in over 250 films stretching over 61 years. Side note: So this guy was old when most of us where born but holy hell he’s not looking to good. We may have to start a celebrity death pool.