There and Back Again: Remembering The Return of the King

The Return of the King… oh… I cried…

And I know people often complain about how many endings the film seems to have. Personally I was ok with that, because I never wanted to say goodbye to any of them. I never wanted to leave Middle Earth.

It was also recognized by the Academy as the Best Film of the year, but personally, I think like a lot of the fans, we see the Oscar as recognition for the work, the effort and the love that Peter Jackson and his fantastic cast and crew put into the gargantuan task of bringing JRR Tolkien’s beloved story to life.

As with the previous installments, I had to be there opening night, December 19, 2003, and spent a good portion of that weekend in the same seat as my companions changed on either side of me.

I really didn’t want to leave Middle Earth.

And after two epic films, this third one, brilliantly finished up the series, every one of the characters had more than a fair share of moments, Howard Shore’s score soared making souls cheer and hearts weep.

I love how the beginning of the film sees most of the heroes, but for Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood), back together, and celebrating the victory at Helm’s Deep, knowing that this us the last moments of joy they may have together.

lord-of-the-rings-return-of-the-kingAs epic as the first two films were, the third chapter just seems to blow the others completely out of the water, everything we’ve seen up to this moment has been nothing but prologue for everything that happens in this film, and it is still stunning.

I often forget how much I love it, until I sit and watch it, letting my heart soar with Howard Shore’s incredible score.

And it was because of John Noble’s performance as Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, in this film that I couldn’t watch him in Fringe for the longest time. He so completely became that character I could no longer separate the actor from the art. (Eventually though I was able to , and now quite enjoy Fringe).

This of all the films, speaks to me of loyalty and friendship… when Aragorn and company are standing a the Black Gate calling on Sauron, and Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) leads the charge, looking over his shoulder to quietly call to his friends… “For Frodo.” Chokes me up every time.

Course Sam’s line “I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!” My throat tightens just thinking about it.

The battle may be about fighting for all the people of Middle Earth and saving it from Sauron, but in the end it’s about fighting for those standing next to you, the people you’d be willing to die for. Your friends.

Perhaps that is why for the last quarter of the film, tears tend to be really close. Which is one of the reasons I was ok with the ‘multiple endings’, like I said, I didn’t want to leave…

gandalfThis film also contains one of my favorite shots, it’s just a quiet moment, with one of my favorite characters, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) – after the attack on Pelennor fields, and the White Wizard is sitting alone in the courtyard. It speaks of pain, loneliness and the weight of war and decision.

I’ll be the first one to admit though that Legolas (Orlando Bloom) surfing the Mumakil is a bit much.

For all that, it remains a truly great film, still taking me in, holding my attention, engrossing me in the same manner those films that shaped me as a child did and still do.

I know The Hobbit is going to be lighter fare, it’s just that kind of story, but I long to see The Shire again, to spend time in Bag End, to see Mirkwood, Beorn, and Smaug.

Will it be in the same level as these films? No, I don’t think it possibly could be, I do expect to enjoy it though.

I also can’t wait to hear what Howard Shore has cooked up musically for the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.

hobbitsThe Lord of he Rings film trilogy shaped a huge part of my life, and as I said a couple of days ago in my post about Fellowship, these films brought to life Middle Earth almost exactly how I saw it in my mind’s eye. It was as if someone, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens had poured the visual images of my mind onto the screen, and scored it with one of my most favorite scores ever (that wasnt penned by John Williams).

And as much as I would love to be more of an Aragorn, I’m definitely more of a Hobbit, content to wander about in bare feet, and enjoy the grass under my toes, to revel in the sun and friendship, and I do like a good meal…

“The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began…” and even if I’ve treaded some of those paths before, I can wait to rewalk them again.

My favorite book, made a beautiful series of films, and soon enough, I will be revisiting the lands I love (and I just reread my copy of The Hobbit as well).

What were your favorite moments in the Lord of the Rings? What are you looking forward to most with The Hobbit?


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Continuum – Meet Travis Verta

Travis Verta is one of the members of the terrorist organization known as Liber8 that made their escape from the year 2077 back to 2012, inadvertently dragging CPS Protector Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) with them.

Now, hiding out in the early 21st century, Travis and his fellows are recruiting, expanding, and planning to change their own future, seeking revenge on people and events that haven’t happened yet using his cunning intellect to persuade others to join him.

Will Kiera be able to stop them?

And as we’ll discuss this weekend in our review of episode 1, should we want her to?

Travis Verta is played by Roger Cross.

Cross is a genre favorite, he’s appeared in The Commish, Millennium, The X-Files, Stargate Sg-1, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Taken, X2, Enterprise, Fringe, Chuck, and played Curtis Manning on 24.

Cross was born in Jamaica, but moved to Vancouver when he was 11, and now resides in L.A.

Roger is always wonderfully intense in his performances, and it will be very cool to see what he does with Travis over the course of the 10 episodes of the series (hopefully if it does well enough we’ll get more than the 10).

Continuum debuts this weekend on Showcase, Sunday May 27 at 9pm.

How far would you go to save the future?


Film Scores – A Whistler’s Tale

I’m a whistler, and a dreamer… and “Binary Sunset” is one of my favorite thoughtful, hopeful and slightly sad things to whistle, especially when I’m thinking about my future, and watching the horizon.


I do it all the time, and I carry a huge repertoire in my mind, and on my ipod.

In the case of my whistling, film scores tend to be my default setting.

Since I was a child, they have been playing in my head. In point of fact, before I even owned my first LP or cassette tape I can remember playing in my school’s playground on a weekend. I had brought some of my Star Wars figures, and I can remember being on the edge of the merry-go-round playing with them, whistling a never-ending medley of themes and cues from a film I had only seen once at that point, whistling over and over music by a composer whose name I didn’t even now yet, believe Mr. Willilams (can I call you John?) I have more than made up for that slip.

When the 1980s rolled around and I got my first walkman as a birthday present (I think it was my birthday, it may have been for Easter). One of the very first cassettes I bought to go with it was the score from Return of the Jedi.

I wore that tape out.

I would listen to it over and over, I knew every moment of that score.

I also played my soundtrack LPs repeatedly as well, I introduced myself to John Barry through his fantastic score for The Black Hole, and James Horner through his stirring compositions for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and I would wear out my Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and Braveheart soundtracks.

But cassette tapes were my passion, before I had my own CD player, I had tons of them. Anytime my meager allowance came along, or babysitting money, or my small income from working as a stock boy at the CanEx I would find yet another soundtrack or score to add to it (or a pop tape, but more often a soundtrack).

It was during this accumulation of tapes that I discovered the wonderful compositions of Jerry Goldsmith. My favorite scores of his continue to be the soundtrack for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien. Both of these soundtracks just keep circling in my head.

I’m well aware that he has composed so many more other scores, and I even have some of them, but his work for sci-fi films seem to resonate the most with me.

John Williams of course, seems to have scored my entire life, and I think I actually have most of his collaborations with Steven Spielberg, and none of them disappoint.

For me, one of the highlights of knowing that there were new Star Wars movies coming out, when the rumors of prequels started, was that no matter what the films were like, there would be three new soundtracks filled with music from the Star Wars universe by the man who wrote the original music (specific tracks are Duel of the Fates, Battle of the Heroes, and the Main Titles & Revenge of the Sith – Williams is the man!).

That is saying nothing about the impact he had on me with the Raiders March, the piano end titles of E.T., the music cues mentioned in my Raiders of the Lost Ark post, the theme from Jurassic Park, any cue from Jaws, the ebullient tones from Close Encounters, Hedwig’s theme, the violin work in Schindler’s List…

It goes on and on…

I was also lucky to discover Alan Silvestri, who turned in fantastic work for the films of Robert Zemeckis including  Romancing the Stone, all three Back to the Futures and of course, the amazing score for Contact.

I especially love the cue/track, “Good to go.”

I have always loved films scores, and composers who use a full orchestra. It can give you huge sweeping moments, stirring strings, and then quiet tiny cues that can break your heart.

Howard Shore’s work on the Lord of the Rings films are great examples of that. He composes music that serves the film, and never over powers it, it simply enhances the viewing experience, and I do like when my brain just randomly cues one of those tracks in my head to whistle.

I can’t wait to see what he does with the Hobbit!

There are some composers who use a combination of synthetic and orchestral sounds, Hans Zimmer (whose score on Gladiator is his best in my opinion), Daft Punk’s score for Tron Legacy, the Chemical Brothers use of tones and electronica for Hanna.

But for me a score stands on whether I whistle it or not, and Silvestri, Williams, Barry and Goldsmith are for me, the titans in composing circles.

I have one more name to add to that list, and this compose seems to be the hardest working composer in film today. Or at least he seems to be, his name seems to pop up everywhere.

His name…

Michael Giacchino.

He’s everywhere, and he doesn’t keep his work merely on the big screen, he’s scored videogames, as well as TV series, most notably Fringe, Alcatraz, and Lost. He has a healthy working relationship with J.J. Abrams, and scores his films, amazingly I might add.

His standout scores for me currently, are his turns on The Incredibles, filled with homages to superhero films as well as a bit of an old school James Bond feel, and my favorite, his highly whistle-able score for Star Trek.

His brassy, up-tempo score for Trek simply sunk into my subconscious, even more than I realized. I had seen the film once, and purchased the soundtrack, loading it onto my ipod, and by the second time I saw the film in the theater, I was stunned to find myself whistling themes and cues from the soundtrack already.

I am constantly delighted now when I read a film’s credits, or am watching the opening or closing titles and see Michael’s name pop up. I always know I’m in good hands.

I know I don’t know as much about writing or composing music to talk tech about it, but I know what I like, and I am quite happy to welcome Mr. Giacchino into the ranks of Williams, Goldsmith, Barry, Silvestri, Horner and Shore. I can’t think of a higher compliment to pay than my continued whistling, so that’s what I’ll do…