The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – Peter Jackson

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The last installment of Peter Jackson’s gorgeous adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel, The Lord of the Rings, is very welcome indeed on the 101 Action Movies list.

Lord of the Rings has always been my favorite book, since I first settled in at the age of 12 and read it. I still remember sprawling on my bed, losing myself in the lands of Middle-Earth, I remember my first encounter with the Watcher in the Water, the first time I accompanied Gandalf to Minas Tirith… I try to journey back, every couple of years, reading my way through the journey again and again, comfort food for the soul.

So when, in 2001, Peter Jackson put Middle-Earth in the big screen, I knew I had to see it. And from that moment when Gandalf as masterfully played by Ian McKellen drove his cart over the bridge into Hobbiton in The Fellowship of the Ring, I was hooked, in fact I had tears in my eyes because the little village looked as it always had in my mind’s eye.

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By 2003, the end of the journey was nigh, with the final confrontation with Sauron’s armies, as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) traveled to Mount Doom, deep in the lands of Mordor, with Gollum (Andy Serkis, via motion-capture) as their untrustworthy guide, in a last attempt to destroy the One Ring.

Meanwhile, the final war, the war on the peoples of Middle Earth are waged at the gates of Minas Tirith as Gandalf and Pippin (Billy Boyd) fight with Gondor’s army, while Merry (Dominic Monaghan) fights alongside Eowyn (Miranda Otto), Eomer (Karl Urban), and King Theoden (Bernard Hill) of the Rohirrim.

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) wrestles with his fate, and the mantle of leadership, as he, Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) seek out more men to face Sauron.

Wonderfully scored by Howard Shore, the music of the film adds a beautiful touch to an already gorgeously crafted film, winning 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, and bringing a colossal film effort to a close.

There is nothing I don’t love about this film, there have been those who have complained about the multiple endings of the film, I personally have no qualms with them. Every time the film hinted at ending, I was just like a little kid begging to stay up later, “just a little longer, please…”

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The visual effects are still top-notch and amazing to watch, even though you know that the actors playing the hobbits are nowhere near that small, the film is made so well, with doubles, in-camera tricks and effects that your suspension of disbelief easily engages.

I love this film, and the performances, this is a perfect rainy day film, something to curl up on the couch with and enjoy. This and the other two films in the series speak of friendship, loyalty, fighting for things that are truly worth fighting for, and sacrifice.

And yes, mush like Fellowship made me misty-eyed with the revelation of Hobbiton, there are easily a half-dozen moments in this film that make my eyes leak.

While I was happy to return to Middle-Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and am looking forward to The Desolation of Smaug this holiday season, nothing compares to the wonder that these three films gave me, and continue to give me, when I watch them.

What do you think of them?

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) – Peter Jeackson

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From the off Peter Jackson’s second installment in The Hobbit trilogy feels like a stronger, more confident picture than it’s still enjoyable predecessor, An Unexpected Journey. Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, the characters have already been established, as well as a large portion of the journey has already been undertaken. Threats have been established, and character motivations are understood, this time, we can jump right into the film and join Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Thorin (Richard Armitage) as the quest of the Lonely Mountain continues.

Jackson and his fellow screenwriters, including Guillermo del Toro, continue to expand the world of The Hobbit, tying it in more securely to the world Jackson already established with The Lord of the Rings. We see the One Ring taking more of a hold on Bilbo, we learn that an old evil has awoken – one with a familiar name, and something has been reborn, all while Thorin leads his companions onwards to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the Arkenstone, and drive out the dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) that resides there.

Along the way, Gandalf leaves the party to run down a mystery posed to him by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), which sees Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) joining him.

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The company of dwarves, with Bilbo in tow, must travel the dark paths of Mirkwood Forest, avoiding the threats there, both creature and elf, but inevitably falling afoul as both. The Mirkwood elves are presided over by King Thranduil (Lee Pace), father of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who is a little darker than some of the elves we’ve encountered on-screen before, and Pace exudes, not evil, but definitely a bit of a threat. He’s also not afraid to remind others of his and his son’s position, as he does with Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who apparently Legolas is fond of, but who may in fact have eyes for Kili (Aidan Turner).

The dwarves are still being pursued by Azog (Manu Bennett), though he and his fellow Orcs are called back to Dol Guldur, and we learn about some serious trouble growing there.

I love how the Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) sequence and Mirkwood is handled, with the heaviness of it, the sense of illusion and confusion as the company becomes lost in the forest. The silhouette transformation of Beorn was a great moment, though I missed the actual scene in the book, when the dwarves show up singly and in couples, slowly imposing on Beorn.

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I found myself really enjoying the river barrel sequence – it starts out fun, and even a little light-hearted, before becoming an all-out fight for survival. This is something I think can be applied to the whole movie, it starts out rather light, but by film’s end, it is a fight for survival, as Smaug rages, Gandalf is trapped, Darkness is rising…. and oh so much more.

Unlike The Two Towers, which I LOVE, this one is a much darker ending, making it The Empire Strikes Back of this trilogy. The final film will see Smaug vanquished but also the Battle of the Five Armies, as well as interweaving the expanded Middle Earth mythology Jackson is incorporating into the film series.

This is definitely the stronger of the two films, and was a welcome trip back to Middle Earth, with a beautiful score by Howard Shore, of course.

I love Gandalf’s showdown in Dol Guldur, watching the wizard work his magic is one of my favorite moments, because like a hobbit, sometimes I only remember him for his great dialogue, and his fireworks… He is undeniably my favorite character in this trilogy, and I love every moment McKellen is onscreen.

They finally reach Lake Town with the help of Bard (Luke Evans), which is run by the Master (Stephen Fry), with rumors of a prophecy about the King Under The Mountain, Laketown helps the dwarves out, as they make their final trek to the mountain, and Bilbo and company have a chilling confrontation with Smaug.

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Running at 161 minutes, this was one that I could have sat through with even more, I knew the battle of the five armies was going to be in the next film, but I was ready for it there and then.

If Gollum was the technical marvel of Lord of the Rings, the creature design and animation for Smaug must be the one for this film, because, honestly, I was worried about a talking dragon. But with the design, and the menace Cumberbatch imbues his voice with, Smaug totally works, and you get a sense of devious and wicked intelligence behind the creature’s eyes.

Richard Taylor and his folks do an amazing job again on costume and design, the world is real, it’s lived in, and each of the races we come across has a history and an existence within that world.

Freeman walks a fine line with Bilbo, knowing exactly when to play a comedic moment, and when to play it straight, he has very much made Bilbo his own character.

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Each of the dwarves have their own moments, though happily, none of them come across as goofy as some of the moments in the first film, particularly the stuff at Bag End. Gloin (Peter Hamblelton) gets to mention his wee lad, Gimli to Legolas, Kili and Fili (Dean O’Gorman) have some nice brotherly moments, but I felt Bofur (James Nesbitt) didn’t get enough time this time around.

I walked out of this one, so much more satisfied than I did the first film, which I did love, but was no where near the level this film reaches. This one welcomed me back to Middle Earth in a big way, and I cannot wait to see how things wrap up for our characters in the final installment (and I’ve even read the book countless times, and know what happens!).

This one, is well worth seeing on the big screen, especially in 3D and in IMAX if you can swing it.

Did you get a chance to get out there and see it this weekend? What are your thoughts?

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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

playeroneWicked Awesome (or wicksome as I like to say).

That’s what this book is. It’s absolutely bril, and a geek dream come true. What a fantastic ride. It’s like this book was tailored specifically for me, and all the kids I grew up with.

Just wow.

Wicksome.

I’m an 80s Kid, I was going through my teen years, then and it is that time that I look back on most fondly, the movies, the music, the television shows, the video games. With his first novel, Ready Player One, Ernest Cline evokes all the memories of my youth, and lets me have fun with them in an all new way.

I realize I’m a little late to this party, the book came out in 2011, but I can’t tell you how much I love it, and have raved about it to anyone who will listen.

Set in the year 2044, the world is kind of a sucky place. it’s rather rundown, and people are taking solace in a virtual creation called The OASIS. It incorporates every thing you could ever want to do, there is a Whedon-verse, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Trek, probably a Marvel and DC universes, there is geekery everywhere.

The system’s creator James Halliday has died, and somewhere within these massive worlds he’s left his coded signature… there are three keys to open three levels which lead to the ultimate prize, complete control of the stock and ownership of the OASIS. So people set out in search of this easter egg, calling themselves Gunters (egg-hunters). These are folks that specialize in knowing all about Halliday, and his endless fascination for the television, music, movies and video games that filled his favorite time of life, the 80s.

bookThe refs come hard and fast, little nods to dialogue, characters, vehicles, tons of amazing geekery, all interwoven into an awesome quest story!

Cline’s writing is crisp and engaging, and I flew through the book in record time, it just completely wraps you up, and you smile and shake your head at what his main character, Wade Watts comes up with next. In a universe filled with World of Warcraft characters, TRaSh-80s, pac-man, lightsabers, Dungeons & Dragons, anime, Rush, and Monty Python, how can a geek not find something to love in this book?

It was like I was reliving my childhood through the book, but seeing it in a whole new way. Cline also lets genres and fictional universes cross paths like I always did when I played as a kid, and some of the sequences are just amazing (especially the way I see them in my head!).

I don’t want to give any of it away, but the book does have two wonderful bits that I just read, and said this character is totally me!

The first was his first log-on, “you have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-dan armada.” As soon as I read that line, I knew I was going to love this book! And I do.

The second was a couple of lines that I can totally relate to… ” I watched a lot of  YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing 80s cover tunes on ukeleles.  Technically this wasn’t part of my research but I had a serious  cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukeleles fetish that I can neither explain nor  defend.

Yup. This book was so awesome, and it’s climax is brilliant, and was so filled with so many geekgasms! This novel is an absolute MUST for any geek, or anyone who grew up in the 80s!

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Soundtrack (2012) -Howard Shore

the-hobbit-soundtrack-specialOne thing I constantly said about the Star Wars prequels as they came along… Even if they aren’t great, it’ll give me new music by John Williams.

After Williams, and his countless scores that seem to be the soundtrack of my life, Howard Shore’s scores for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are perhaps some of my favourite musical pieces. So it was with that same prequel mindset (although I’ve read the book countless times, and in fact have just finished re-reading it, taking a momentary respite from Stephen King, whom I am now re-visiting with) that I donned my earphones and had a listen to what Mr. Shore has created for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and my much-anticipated return to Middle Earth.

The swelling strings welcoming me back to that world I missed immediately put me in the right frame of mind, and there intertwining amongst the new chords, was the familiar hobbit/Shire themes, and a smile broke out across my face first thing in the morning on the street car to work. Shore also interweaves the tune I already can’t get out of my head, The Song of the Lonely Mountain, throughout pieces of the score as well.

As the score progresses there is a familiar musical geography, there are choral which I associate with the elves, and the House of Elrond. There are the drums of the dwarves, the thrum and noise one associates with goblins and orcs, and then just a little further in, there is the resurfacing of Gollum and the Ring’s theme.

hobbitBut these are only the tiniest of signposts in a completely new musical landscape that is at once familiar, and new. It is very much the music of Tolkien and Middle-Earth, and you can tell, just from the score, that what we’re going to be seeing is going to be gorgeously epic, there is sweeping heroics, dark threats, towering mountains, fantastic vistas, old friends, familiar faces, and of course riddles in the dark…

My favorite track currently, in addition to the Song of the Lonely Mountain, is Over Hill, where you get to hear the familiar Shire theme, which gives way to a powerful instrumental version of the Lonely Mountain theme, and you can just imagine the shots that accompany it.

The film is going to be lighter than Lord of the Rings, and the music occasionally reflects that. Where as Rings was an epic battle between good and evil, this is more of a treasure hunt and adventure, so there are lighter cues in the music, but you can tell the dwarves are taking it seriously.

Shore has crafted yet another gorgeous score, which once again, helps bring the world of Tolkien to the screen.

As I write this, I’ve only had time to go through the soundtrack twice, and don’t know as much of it as I should, but I’ve already looped it into my Lord of the Rings play list, and I see me listening to it a lot, bouncing between this, and my Skyfall soundtrack… I do love a good score!

Have you heard it? What did you think? What are your favorite movie soundtracks and scores?

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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There and Back Again: Remembering The Two Towers

The Two Towers…

The thing I was most looking forward to in my return to Middle-Earth with this film was the rumor that the battle of Helm’s Deep was supposed to run for a good 40 minutes! That was insane, a single on-screen battle running half the length of most action films? Wow.

And of course, right before Towers was released, the Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring was released, and only built my excitement for the upcoming film.

So once again, I headed out on opening night, December 18, 2002, and was ready to spend the entre weekend the realms of Middle Earth.

If Fellowship set the standard of what to expect with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s immortal tale, then Two Towers met and exceeded it.

Front and center was the creation of a photo-real Gollum… Glimpsed only briefly in Fellowship, Gollum has a much more central role in Two Towers, and in Return of the King. Andy Serkis, through a brilliant motion capture performance, and a voice that must have strained his larynx something terrible, brings the pitiful and deceitful creature to life.

gollumThe Fellowship has been broken and there are now three story threads running concurrently, not counting all the subplots and character arcs, there is Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), accompanied now by Gollum as they try to find a way into Mordor, Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) are with the Ents leading an attack against Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard, and my favorite story arc follows Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) as they join with Theoden (Bernard Hill) to defend Helm’s Deep against an onslaught of orcs, as they await the return of Gandalf the White (Ian McKellen).

If Fellowship introduced us to the world, Towers opened it up, and showed us so much more of the world, the Golden Hall, the wreckage of Osgiliath, and the epic grandeur of the besieged Helm’s Deep.

I remember being simply stunned with the shot of Aragorn looking out over the parapets to see the landscape filled with Orcs, I remember just staring at it, and whispering, “Gods, so many…”

I throw myself into each and every viewing experience when I go to the theater, and I was stunned by this film each and every time I saw this film, and came to the conclusion that as much as Gandalf is one of my favorite characters, Aragorn is The Man!

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This world, these people, were and are so involving for me, that I lose myself in them whenever I see it on the screen, or on the pages of a book.

It’s easy now, looking back to discount them by saying they are only movies, but if you put them on your television, or see them on the big screen, or thumb through the pages, you can’t help but to be taken in by them. It’s a fully created and realized world, and while it may be rough and unhappy at times, it’s still a place I could see calling home…

And in just a few days, I get to return to it with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and I’ll get to visit Middle Earth for the next three Christmases.

I can’t wait.

What are your favorite moments in The Two Towers (theatrical or extended)?

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There And Back Again: Remembering The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book. I try to read it once a year, but lately have had to settle for maybe once every two to three. That doesn’t mean I love it any less. I love wondering the realms of Middle-Earth, visiting familiar places, seeing old friends, and singing songs. So I was so eager to see how they translated to the big screen…

I remember sitting at my desk in my grade 12 class thinking about film projects I would like to undertake when I became a famous filmmaker (that has not happened yet… And not sure if it will…), one of them was J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic. Apparently I won’t have to worry about making that one…

I remember watching the first teaser trailer for the Fellowship of the Ring on my irritating little laptop, which labored for minutes, on dial-up, to download the smallest file version of the teaser available, just so I could have a peek at what Middle-Earth would look like. And even in that tiny quicktime window, it looked amazing…

It was with great excitement that I went to the Cineplex in Kingston for the opening night show on December 19, 2001. I had already spent a stupid amount of money on the merchandise surrounding the film. I had a mug from the Green Dragon, I had a few of the action figures, and of course, for the show that evening, I had the One Ring on its chain around my neck.

I settled in to the packed theater, and prepared to lose myself in a world that I had only ever seen in my imagination (and Ralph Bakshi’s animated film).

I was stunned.

gandalfEverything came together for me in one moment, Gandalf, in his cart, comes over the hill, and we see the Shire laid out before him. It was EXACTLY as I had always seen it in my imagination. I had tears in my eyes. I was home, a home I had only ever lived in my mind, but there it was before my eyes, and I knew it, as I knew myself.

Everyone of the characters I had welcomed into my heart strode across the screen. The film cemented my opinion on my favorite characters… Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) and Peregrin Took (Billy Boyd) or Pippin as he’s more commonly known.

I had read the books so often that I knew lines, and wasn’t troubled when sometimes they came out of other characters’ mouths. I also wasn’t troubled by the loss of Tom Bombadil, the spirit of Tolkien’s work was all there.

I dragged everyone I could to see the film in the theater, I went countless times, and even knowing the books as I did, my throat would catch every time at certain spots in the film (“Fly you fools!”).

This was movie making and movie magic of the highest degree. I hadn’t been this enraptured by a film since Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and Jaws before it.

aragornI read all I could about the making of the film, the fantastic work of Peter Jackson and his incredible cast, the bigatures, weapons, armor and clothes designed by WETA – all of it combining to create a real, and lived-in world.

Howard Shore’s beautiful score was on repeat on my CD player at home, and then my ipod whenever I was out and about. I would hum, whistle, and even my dreams seemed to have the music of Middle-Earth running through it.

This was an event film. It was also an event in my life, and knowing that I had two more yet to come, two more Christmas presents coming over the next two years…

I couldn’t believe it.

These films, even now, continue to draw me in and Fellowship brought to life the world, and characters that I have longed to spend time with. I fancy having a little house somewhere on the edges of The Shire, taking my ease, and wandering as I wish amongst the Misty Mountains, the house of Elrond, the white walls of Gondor, and Lothlorien.

“The road goes ever on…”

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The Fly (1986)

It’s no real surprise that David Cronenberg appears again on the 101 Horror Movies list. And this time around it’s with his updated, and body-horror version of The Fly.

Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, a scientist on the verge of a brilliant discovery, teleportation via his creation of a telepod. He’s stuck on the reintegration of the flesh aspect, but inanimate objects are a piece of cake.

The socially awkward scientist shows his creation to a journalist, Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) who is working on scientific articles for a magazine run by her ex-boyfriend Stathis Borans (John Getz) (and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that both the male leads have the initials SB).

Seth shows her the telepods, and she knows she has the story of the century!

He invites her to shadow his life, and document everything, and he promises it will all culminate with his successful transport from one telepod to the other, which promises to revolution the concept of transportation once and for all.

However, on the eve of success Veronica goes to see Stathis, and Seth realizes they were romantically involved with one another, much as he and Veronica are now. He makes the drunken decision to use the telepod and doesn’t realize that a common house-fly has joined him in the telepod.

Terrifying consequences ensue.

The film is amazing, and has some truly chilling sequences, including Veronica’s pregnancy sequence which sees Cronenberg as her doctor delivering a larva. Ewww!

The fusion of man and fly is shown throughout the film as Seth slowly transforms, attempting to hold onto the shreds of his intelligence and humanity, even as his fingernails and teeth fall out, as his appetite and eating habits change (the regurgitation stuff is so gross, and yet you can’t stop watching).

The most terrifying bit occurs at the climax of the film as what is called the Brunde-fly is dragging Veronica to one of the telepods, the last of his human form is shed off, literally flesh sloughing off his body, dropping to messy chunks on the floor, as the final transformation to human/fly fusion is complete.

Cronenberg has never been one to shy away from showing graphic content on-screen, and this time around, the people who helped him create it, won an Oscar for Best Make-up. Deservedly so.

It’s amazing to watch Goldblum change, his posture, stride, speech, twitches all change, and this is an actor who tends to imbue his characters with a lot of individuality. For me Goldblum has always been a favourite, he acts as much with his hands and body as he does his dialogue.

Another bonus in a Cronenberg film is that more often than not, Howard Shore composes the score, and I always delight in hearing what music this composer creates (Lord of the Rings will always be my favourite score by him, but I do like seeing his name in a movie’s credits).

This film, like the John Carpenter remake of The Thing, shows that updates can be just as good as the original, in this case, this version of The Fly is the better one.

It’s wonderfully disgusting, and reminds us to be afraid, be very afraid…

Natasha Eloi (Part 2)

So this week, we present the second part of our awesome chat with with Natasha Eloi, and we talk about a lot of stuff in this second part – there’s toys, there’s movies, there’s interviews, there’s fries and there’s a lot of laughter.

Please join us, and have a listen as we geek out with Natasha Eloi (Part 2).

Fan Expo Day 1

Thomas Sullivan the Cat, thought 6:30 was plenty of time for a sleep in this morning and made sure I was up in lots of time to greet my favourite time of year – Fan Expo!!!

So after a quick prep, making sure I had everything I had, I hit the TTC.

I was off to meet up with two friends, Audrey and Marilyn, who had come all the way from France to meet the cast of one of their favourite shows… Lost Girl (I’m sure Saturday still seems kind of far away to them right now) and to enjoy Toronto, and this wonderful gathering of geeks and talent!

Making sure they were safe and secure in their line, I set to work documenting the day, and helping some friends get their booth set up.

The floor is abuzz with activity as exhibitors and guests prepare for what may be called battle. They are the armies of Helm’s Deep watching the army of geeks (of which I proudly count myself one) massing, knowing that there are four days of intense costumes, wacky awesomness and sheer fun coming their way before Gandalf rides over the hill with the Rohirrim.

Outside a ribbon-cutting ceremony is underway with the original Incredible Hulk himself Lou Ferrigno. This simply helps to build the excitement of an already giddy crowd.

Inside, a literal stillness seems to settle over the giant room when a disembodied voice announces that the Expo is two hours from ‘Doors Open.’ Even now, as final displays are settled into place the Metro Center’s maintenance crew is spiriting away garbage bins and checking with booth attendants that everything is going smoothly. Carpets are laid (that is not a metaphor), signs are positioned and you can see the full shape of the convention starting to form up. You can see a glimmer of the incredible event that is going to occur when exhibitors and guests meet those wonderful people waiting outside in the afternoon sun.

At the one hour mark, they’ve started letting people into the building to begin queuing up outside the sets of double doors that line the northern room of the wall. They’ve picked up their passes, tightened their wrist bands into place, Premium pass holders are checking the loot in their annual Fan Expo bag.

On the floor, the stillness has given way to organized chaos as people rush to finish  before the seemingly imminent toll of 2 o’clock. Final stock items are put out, wires taped down, prep speeches given to teams… you can feel the positive wave of energy building up in the room now, starting in your feet, sweeping up your legs, and nestling in your stomach as excitement.

And then…

It begins.

The floodgates burst, and people start to pour in, sparsely at first, but then more and more, filling the aisles, there’s laughter at a joke, delight in finding something unexpected or much-needed, it’s a fun and jovial atmosphere.

And it’s the sign of the beginning of a great weekend!

Right off the bat, a couple fo the con’s guests have already arrived, despite the fact that it’s a Thursday afternoon, and are already signing. Lou Ferrigno is smiling and greeting his fans, while Sean Patrick Flannery (Boondock Saints, Young Indiana Jones) is throwing his arms around a fan and posing for a casual picture. Both of them seem to be having a truly enjoyable time, meeting and greeting those fans who have already raced to meet them, lining up, jostling one another nervously as they wait for their moment to say hi.

Sue and I begin a leisurely meander through the displays, the comics, the toys, oh the toys!! There are some giant video game displays, and people are already lining up for their turn on the controllers, and even I know a lot of these games look awesome, though I’ll be honest, I’m waiting for Lego Lord of the Rings, and Lego Avengers!

We see friends and familiar faces everywhere, stopping frequently to say hi, trade stories, catching up.

We swing by the Toronto After Dark booth, and chat with our friend, Adam Lopez. He’s announcing the first 10 films of the film festival and they sound like winners! Make sure you swing by their booth to check out their program!

There’s also a wonderful little booth that first caught our attention at another convention, Baby’s First Boo. This is a great little booth, there are blankets, and shirts, and bags, not all of them for infants, made from bed spreads, sleeping bags, linens, and they all share a common theme, they are either sci-fi or horror. There are some fantastic and retro looking items at this booth.

We slip in to a presentation, and I hope this is the only misstep we make this weekend. The Warner Brothers Pictures Preview. Sorry Warner, but you dropped the ball on this. The room started out packed to the rafters, cause everyone in it thought we’d be seeing teasers and trailers for titles coming out later this year, or next (like say, the Man of Steel teaser), what we got was 5 trailers, on a loop, 3 of which were titles that had already been released. The room cleared out pretty quick.

Along the Southern wall, nestled between the brilliant Frankenweenie exhibit, and an equally awesome Lego display, featuring a lego Gandalf and Bilbo, a Hulk, and a Batman is a white, blood-smeared Ford camper.

It is here, that the director and members of the cast of the film Dead Before Dawn 3D have taken up residence for the weekend. It’s great to see our friends Tim Doiron and April Mullen again, and honestly, I love watching the movie trailer over and over again, because I’m in it! But in all honesty, this film looks so good, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Make sure you check their booth out over the weekend as Devon Bostick will be on hand for an autograph session.

Sue and I also made use of one of the new innovations of this year’s Expo, a booth where you can buy all your photo ops in one go, without having to wait through multiple guests’ lines. Nice work. And remember folks, there is one in celebrity alley, but there’s also one out in the hall next to the Fan Expo premiums table, and those lines were moving incredibly smoothly!

From there, we went to see our first celebrity Q&A session of the Expo, the darling Julie Benz. Here is an actress, who is gracious, self-effacing, wonderfully friendly, and incredibly funny. She shared some wonderful stories and anecdotes, including one about her second test for her role on Dexter that had the room in stitches. She also spoke about the presence of strong female characters in genre film and television. She’s a true delight, and I love that we have her for the whole weekend. (Sue and I are gonna see about a quick chat with her…)

Then, as the evening was getting ready to wrap up, Sue and I lined up for our last event of the evening… our photo op with the man who IS Marvel comics (and I don’t mean Tony Stark), the one, the only, the legend… Stan Lee.

Once again there had been some changes in the processing of the lines and, while there was a bit of an assembly line feel to it, it worked, because Stan’s line was huge. That line FLEW!!! Great work to the photographers, who, sadly, I’ve still to get their first names, we see them every year, and I tend to think that they’ve started to recognize me and Sue (I think we’re pretty jovial and friendly with everyone, and like to share our moment with people, to recognize them for the effort they put in – and this group of photographers hasn’t done us wrong yet).

We do a last round of the floor, and as the lights switch to dim, we join the waves of happy geeks heading for the exits, knowing, and reveling in the fact that we still have three more days of this…

What’s been your favorite part so far?