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Ian McKellen

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST:

Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood

REVIEW:

A decade ago, Peter Jackson took us to Middle Earth and raised epic fantasy adventure to a high bar that all that followed in its wake would be hard-pressed to equal, let alone surpass. Ironically but probably inevitably, Jackson himself has fallen short of that herculean task with the first installment of the prequel trilogy, but while The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not as consistently enthralling as The Lord of the Rings, it is still an enjoyable adventure worth going on. Continue reading

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner

CAST:

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Rebecca Romijn, Ellen Page, Ben Foster, Vinnie Jones, Josef Sommer, Bill Duke

REVIEW:

X-Men 3: The Last Stand, the third installment of the original X-Men trilogy, is a mixed bag that veers from some of the best scenes in the series to a misjudged mess that desecrates some key characters and is crammed with more material than it can handle. Continue reading

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

CAST:

Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jürgen Prochnow

REVIEW:

Ron Howard’s film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code was preceded by an extraordinary amount of controversy over certain of its plot points which seemed to take on a life of its own, raising the movie and the theological and historical questions it raised into something greater than the film itself. Continue reading

X2: X-Men United (2003)

DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

CAST:

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davison, Kelly Hu, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford

REVIEW:

With the success of 2000’s X-Men, director Bryan Singer and cast and crew were free in this sequel to move forward without the necessary exposition and character introduction which took a large chunk of the first film. The result supplies a faster pace and a little more ambition, along with an even heavier helping of the original’s underlying social commentary. Fans of the first should be pleased by the second. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis

REVIEW:

New Zealand director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema took a big risk with 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of their colossal film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings.  Fortunately, not only did The Fellowship of the Ring pay off, it went on to become one of the biggest box office smashes in recent history and one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of the year, winning four Academy Awards (though not the coveted Best Picture) and setting a new standard for epic fantasy adventure.  But therein lay a new danger.  With the first film being deservedly acclaimed, what if the second didn’t live up to the now high expectations?  The first installment was one of the great films of 2001 or any other year, but even the most enthusiastic viewers had room for some doubt.  This would not be the first time a solid film was followed by an inferior sequel.  The Two Towers would also have the unenviable position of providing the middle act, advancing events from the first movie while leading into the third, incomplete on its own.  Fortunately, if it’s not quite as flawless a film as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers is no slouch, continuing to paint on an epic, immersive, and enthralling canvas, and builds to one of the most tremendous battle scenes yet committed to film. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis

REVIEW:

The origins of this epic film trilogy date back to the early 1930s, when a British scholar named J.R.R. Tolkien began writing an equally epic series of books.  The first to be completed and published was The Hobbit in 1937, but Tolkien had a more ambitious story in mind.  Originally setting out to write one enormous novel, he ultimately realized that such a tale as he was spinning was too vast to be contained in one book, and instead formed it into a trilogy.  Parts one and two, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were released in 1954, followed by the climax, The Return of the King, in 1957.  Together, the trilogy was known as The Lord of the Rings.  The significance of this fantasy series cannot be understated.  Tolkien’s books were adored by millions the world over during his time, and since his death in 1973, they have remained a beloved and integral part of the fantasy literature genre.  With such a following, it was inevitable that film versions would at least be attempted, but few filmmakers had either the inclination or the means to tackle such a daunting production.  Mediocre animated versions of both The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit were made—and flopped—in the 1970s, with the poor quality of the animation and various story omissions rankling fans.  Two more decades passed, and finally New Zealand director Peter Jackson has taken on the ambitious task of bringing Tolkien’s epic trilogy to the big screen with the backing of New Line Cinema’s investment of nearly $300 million for the package deal of all three installments.  Those worried about whether it is even possible to translate The Lord of the Rings intact to the screen can breathe a sigh of relief, at least if this first installment is any indication.  Jackson and his cast and crew have succeeded on every level, and the result is not only a definitive film adaptation of part one of one of the most popular fantasy stories ever written, not only a majestic, enthralling adventure in its own right, but itself a pinnacle in filmmaking, one of the most colossal film productions ever made, and raising the meaning of “epic filmmaking” to a whole new level.  In the future all epic fantasy adventures—including its own sequels—will have a high bar to hurdle. Continue reading

X-Men (2000)

DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

CAST:

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Ray Park, Rebecca Romijn, Tyler Mane

REVIEW:

Since the X-Men comic book series was first introduced in the 1960s, it has been one of Marvel Comics’ most consistently popular titles. It had already been an animated television series, and it was inevitable that it would be made into a feature film sooner or later. Now that it has been done, its loyal fans are probably a little divided over it. Some will appreciate writer-director Bryan Singer’s faithfulness to the source material and his serious effort to transfer it from page to screen as intact as possible. But with any large following, it is impossible to please everyone, with the most minor alterations leaving some outraged. Continue reading

Apt Pupil (1998)

apt pupilDIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

CAST: Brad Renfro, Ian McKellen, Bruce Davison, David Schwimmer, Joshua Jackson, Ann Dowd, Elias Koteas, Michael Byrne, Joe Morton, Jan Triska

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL “SPOILERS”

Apt Pupil is a morbidly engrossing psychological thriller crafted with enough professionalism and ability to sometimes persuade us to overlook its questionable taste, even if the bad aftertaste lingers.  An adaptation of a novella by Stephen King (a previous attempt at filming it was mounted in 1988, starring Ricky Schroder, but fell through), it uses that ever-convenient go-to-guy of villains—Nazis—as a launching pad for a psychological character study.  Those seeking a conventional “thriller” might be disappointed.  Apt Pupil is disturbing, sometimes chilling, but the horror is not of the “boo!” variety.  Apt Pupil is a slow-burn foray into the heart of darkness that resides within two seemingly very different men, and how they feed each other’s worst impulses. Continue reading

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