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RE: Empire Forum's Top 100 Fantasy Films! - 1/5/2012 8:42:55 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77525
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
11. Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich)

Yep, another one from 2010, and the best of a great trilogy, with the other two Toy Story films just missing out on my list. I reckon this one’s the best one simply because it takes what was good about the first two-quirky supporting cast, a brilliant sense of humour and tackling surprisingly deep themes-and turns it up to 11. In terms of the supporting cast, a bunch of characters from the last two films have been “killed off” in that they’ve been sold, leaving the core group of scene-stealers from the last two films left, which works as they have the most recognisable personalities and by now we know how they’ll act, so the film can get on with it. The new groups of toys met in the daycare and at Bonnie’s house are great additions, especially Ken and Mr Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton is a thespian hedgehog!), and Lotso makes for the series’ best villain. In terms of humour, the script is still packed with brilliant one-liners and visual comedy; in particular anything to do with Ken is an absolute riot.

But the real reason the film is great is the way it tackles deep themes-the sense of being unwanted and the fear of being abandoned. Everything in Toy Story 3 comes from that fear-the villain is twisted by it, and the heroes have to rise above it. Hell, arguments have been made that the various locations in the film represent the afterlife, with the daycare being purgatory, the dump being hell, and Bonnie’s house being rebirth. It’s a surprisingly deep movie considering its status as a “children’s” movie. And while the escape from the daycare is a brilliantly fun sequence, the attempt to escape from the dump is just heartbreaking, at least until the best callback joke in recent memory saves them.

BEST SCENE: While there are so many great bits in the film, I’m going to go for the image of Big Baby sitting on a swing at night while the heroes try to sneak past him. It’s a surprisingly arresting image, and the sight of it alone causes ungodly levels of tension.

Rebel Scum




10. Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise)

Disney, like any other studio, has proven itself to be perfectly capable of churning out crap film after crap film. Before Beauty and the Beast came out, they’d had a grand total of one good animated film in the past decade (Basil the Great Mouse Detective) and no great ones since 1973’s Robin Hood. But by building on the formula from the pretty rubbish The Little Mermaid, they made one of animation’s masterpieces.

Indeed, it’s tempting to view the film as Disney sending up itself, to a certain extent. The all-American, badass, epically-chinned guy is also the primary antagonist, and the monster that’d usually be wheeled out in the third act as some kind of minion is our romantic lead. The biggest change, though, is to have a heroine who isn’t a princess, or royalty, or wealthy, but instead is the daughter of a slightly eccentric inventor who loves reading-which helps make her one of Disney’s most likable protagonist, and certainly the best female role model Disney had produced up to that point. Never in the film does Belle look out over some lovely vista wanting some pretty boy to come find her, she’s perfectly happy with her lot and her only desire is success for her papa. This only serves to make the central romance all the more affecting, as this is a girl who wasn’t looking for love, who found it anyway.

That said, it does maintain some classic Disney values-a great support cast who provide comic relief (Beauty and the Beast’s being perhaps Disney’s best), and memorable musical numbers, the standouts being the title song and “Gaston”-primarily because it’s so wonderfully narcissistic. One other thing is pilfers from Disney tradition is great animation, with the ballroom scene being the best example, seamlessly blending hand-drawn animation with subtle CGI to beautiful effect. I love Ghibli and all, but THIS is animation at its zenith.

Not for nothing is this the only hand-drawn film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars-this was Disney in fine form, drawing in a streak of classics that encompassed almost all of the 90s and came to a dead stop at the turn of the century (One of which is coming up much later).

BEST SCENE: The ballroom scene, as already mentioned, is fantastic, but I’m tempted to give this to the moment where Beast gives Belle the library. The sense of wonder and the subsequent number about how the Beast is rediscovering his humanity is genuinely wonderful, and all too often gets overshadowed by the rest of the film.

Rebel Scum




9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, Terry Gilliam/Terry Jones)

In terms of Monty Python, Life of Brian is the most complete film, due to it having a plot that makes sense and actual characters. On the other hand, Holy Grail is by far and away the funniest, with every single scene having something in it that is absolutely hilarious. If you went up to a bunch of Python fans and asked them for their favourite bit, you’d get a lot of different answers-it’s one of those comedies where you question if they’ll ever top the previous scene, and then they do! So many iconic comedy moments are in here, from the Black Knight to the rude Frenchman to the Knights of the Round Table song to the killer rabbit and Holy Hand Grenade (a weapon so famous it turned up in Worms).

In terms of the story and characters, yeah it’s solely there as a device to carry the jokes along but it still works, with plenty of Arthurian legend tropes thrown in. One of the Pythons-whose name escapes me-was an expert in these kinds of myths, and there’s a surprising level of accuracy in the film in regard to that. And yes, the film ends abruptly, but consider: how else could it have ended? The alternate ending mooted in the planning stages sounds amusing, but the surreal nature of the ending given fits perfectly with the tone of what’s gone before. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because the reason any of it is there is so we can move on to the next joke, and the jokes are what makes the film great.

BEST SCENE: Bugger. If I had to pick one, probably the insane logic and eventual outcome of the witch trial. It also has my favourite line in the film-“She turned me into a newt...I got better.”

Rebel Scum


_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 31
RE: Empire Forum's Top 100 Fantasy Films! - 1/5/2012 8:48:19 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77525
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
8. Up (2009, Pete Docter)

I have a confession to make - when I first watched Up, I was strangely ambivalent to it. I knew there were moments of greatness within it, but I wasn't sure that I had witnessed one of Pixar's finest moments or not. Subsequent repeat viewings however, reveal that while it's not only of Pixar's best, it's one of the best animated films, full stop. Part of the initial ambivalence, I think, is because of the sheer surreal aspect to it - a grouchy old man, Carl (Ed Asner) in an attempt to escape from being moved into an old people's home, ties thousands of balloons to the house he shared with his deceased wife and floats off into the air. He lands at a far-off land with a young scout, Russell, who has stowed away on his porch unbeknownst to him and befriends Kevin, a strange bird, and Dug, a talking dog. Dug actually belongs to missing-presumed-dead explorer, Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), who has reared an entire army of talking dogs and now wants Kevin as a prize stuffed possession on his wall. It's Pixar's most wilfully obscure narrative yet, but once you assimiliate these various bizarre strands and let them coalesce, the rewards are staggering as you really begin to appreciate what Docter has done here. It goes without saying that the animation is wonderful, from the floating house casting a myriad of sun-dappled rainbow colours over homes and offices as the sun catches the light of the ballons, to the strange world of Paradise Falls that they land in and to magnificent images such as a silhouletted Carl dragging his house along by dusk. What is truly staggering, however, is the emotional depth of the story that they are telling here. As Carl drags his house along, aided by the balloons, we realise that it's not just the house that is important to him. It's his one last link to his deceased wife, Ellie, as all the memories of their time together are bound up in the rickety old place and it's a place that Carl is absolutely resistant to abandoning, despite the fact it's literally weighing him down throughout the film. The film is about grieving, the acceptance of loss and the ability to move on with your life without feeling guilty about it and it's amazingly profound at times - and all this in a kid's film. Yet it does, through the prism of an epic, hugely exciting adventure with a typically cranky buddy partnership at the heart of it (Carl and Russell are great together) and with some terrific jokes. Docter conjures up some wonderfully exciting images such as Carl and his friends escaping from Muntz's pack of howling dogs, jumping from plateau to plateau and zooming through tunnels with more and more of their vital balloons bursting; to the wonderfully conceived climax onboard Muntz's blimp, complete with dogs flying around in bi-planes. Pixar has rarely been as exciting as this and it's rarely been as funny, too. Great, inventive jokes abound, from the visual - Russell's lack of progress climbing a rope to the house just absolutely gets you - to yet another script brimming with wit and invention. The most credit, however, has to go to Dug, a character who instantly makes the leap into the pantheon of truly great Pixar characters. The key thing to Dug, is that he sounds exactly like how a dog would sound if you could gift it the power of speech. Boundlessly optimistic with a complete ability to lie or hide emotions and with an endearing lack of self-awareness, Dug more than deserves an entire picture just to himself - and he also gets to tell the best joke you'll hear this decade, too. Up is a film that is emotionally rich and textured, with stunning visuals and marvellous characterisation - films, not just kid's films, rarely get as good as this.

Key moment - obvious, but the wordless montage that follows on from Carl and Ellie meeting as kids, showing their courtship, marriage, their inability to have children, their constant scrimping and saving of pennies, their dream of travel and adventure that is never achieved and her eventual illness and death that leaves Carl lonely and alone is astonishing - simply sublime storytelling.

matty_b




7. Brazil (1985, Terry Gillam)

Two Line Synopsis: In the undisclosed future a bureaucrat attempts to correct an administrative error. It is not as easy as it sounds.

From one 80s fantasy, to a very different 80s fantasy. Where The Princess Bride was a straight story in an castle and magic type world, Brazil is anything but a straight story, in a very realistically portrayed alternative retro-future. It has imagination coming out of its very pores, and is one of the most visually inventive films I've ever seen. This is Terry Gilliam at the very top of a career that spans superb examples of film from the likes of Time Bandits, Twelve Monkeys and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The inspired mix of fantasy, science fiction, topical commentary, and Gilliam's own unique brand of weird allow for this, his masterpiece, to come into being.

Of course, as with the best films, there was a troubled production. Originally released in a very different edit, an hour cut from it, and a happy ending tagged on (I think there was some other SciFi film from the 80s that had a happy ending tagged on...) audiences were initially denied the true vision. I still haven't brought myself to watch this version, despite owning the Criterion Collection of the film, simply because it would be so radically different from the film I love so much. Brazil is Gilliam channeling Orwell. 1984, released the previous year was the film of Orwell's classic novel that spawned such phrases as Room 101, Big Brother, and so forth (such a shame those associations are now utterly different). But it was Brazil that made the more effective commentary on future society, with its authoritarian state, and endless bureaucracy. The Ministry of Information is a morally empty place where rules are rules, and there is no deviation from them. Enter Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) as our protagonist, an employee of Ian Holm's, who dreams of flying free of the oppression of the state. However, when a fly lands on a sheet of paper in a typewriter, and makes "Tuttle" read as "Buttle", it starts a chain of events that spiral out of control, and include a host of high quality British acting talent, and a cameo turn by Robert De Niro (it would appear that British Fantasy films are always good for a De Niro cameo, as Stardust proved!).

As far as Dystopian visions of the future go, I can only think of one film that beats Brazil. Brazil however, is a constantly inventive, entertaining, frightening, funny, prophetic, depressing, wonderful film.

homsersimpson_esq




6. Pan's Labyrinth (2006, Gullermo del Toro)

Set in 1944, in post civil war spain, during the Franco regime, Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl who, along with her pregnant mother, moves to the mountains to join her violent and cruel stepfather. Ofelia's stepfather, Captain Vidal, is a soldier in Franco's army who viciously hunts the rebel guerrillas who fight against Franco. He's a brutal and cold-hearted man, even willing to let his new wife die as long as his son survives. At her new house Ofelia meets the housekeeper, Mercedes, a kind-hearted soul who is conspiring with the local doctor to help the rebel soldiers. She also meets an insect she believes is a fairy who introduces us to the labyrinth of the film's title.

The movie opens with a fairy tale about Princess Moanna of the Underground Realm. She went above ground and died. Her father awaits underground, hoping her spirit will return to once more take its place as one of the rulers of the kingdom. In the overgrown ancient labyrinth, Ofelia encounters a faun who believes her to be the lost Princess. He gives her three tasks to complete before the next full moon so she can return to her father's realm. As life in the real world turns more sinister, the tasks grow increasingly darker. She begins having to retrieve a key from the belley of a giant toad. By the time she has to use that key to retrieve a dagger from the lair of The Pale Man, a horrific creature who manages to kill some of her fairy friends, we know we're in nightmare territory. In the real world, Vidal captures and tortures a rebel soldier, an event that leads to the death of the doctor and the discovery of Mercedes as a spy. Ofelia's mother dies in childbirth, but manages to deliver a son. Ofelia's last task, the darkest yet, involves her taking her newborn brother into the labyrinth, pursued by the enraged Vidal.

An obvious companion film to del Toro's earlier work, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth shows this excellent film-maker at the height of his powers. While this parable is obviously influenced by fairy tales, you can also see the influence of classic fantasy writers (and del Toro favourites) like Carroll, Machen and Dunsany. Arthur Rackham's darkly realistic illustrations for numerous fairy tales have long been an influence on del Toro, and they shine through in this film, along with the work of Spanish artists like Goya. An often cited inspiration for the film is Picasso's 'Guernica' with the chaos and suffering brought about by the bombing of Guernica being an obvious reference point for tone of the film. It also draws on classic cinema, in particular the fairy tale allusions of films like Night Of The Hunter and Cocteau's Orpheus trilogy, along with the film's most obvious cinematic touchstone, The Spirit Of The Beehive.

Del Toro has created something really powerful here, despite making a gothic fairy tale for adults that Tim Burton couldn't come near in his wildest dreams, and despite all of the phantasmagoria that del Toro presents to us, if the film has a deeper message it's about the power of basic humanity in the face of unspeakable brutality. When confronted with the brutality that humans are capable of, the idea of sacrifical love and selfless actions is what saves Ofelia, and it's a message that overpowers all of the mythological and political themes that the film offers us. A wonderful work from one of modern cinema's most interesting directors.

Rawlinson


_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 32
RE: Empire Forum's Top 100 Fantasy Films! - 1/5/2012 8:53:04 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77525
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
5. Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis)

One of the comedy greats. Endlessly rewatchable. One of the comedy greats. Endlessly rewatchable.

homersimpson_esq

-------

Bill Murray's career is filled with great performances and moments of comic genius. From Caddyshack and Kingpin to Stripes and Rushmore the man brings funny to any comedy role he inhabits. And whilst Ghostbusters is perhaps Bill Murray's most famous role and it's certainly the one that made him a star, Groundhog Day is his best. It's a film made for him, the film revolves around him, the role is more perfect for him than any other role in the history of film. The story of a man reliving the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day is not only a perfect vehicle for Murray but also a brilliant concept. Murray's weatherman Phil Connors is excceptionally selfish and dry as he contends with the same events every day for a long long time. He deals with it in every way possible; sleeping with women, stealing money, learning the piano, saving lives, finding out why, committing suicide, even trying to pull Andie MacDowell.

Bill Murray's career is filled with great performances and moments of comic genius. From Caddyshack and Kingpin to Stripes and Rushmore the man brings funny to any comedy role he inhabits. And whilst Ghostbusters is perhaps Bill Murray's most famous role and it's certainly the one that made him a star, Groundhog Day is his best. It's a film made for him, the film revolves around him, the role is more perfect for him than any other role in the history of film. The story of a man reliving the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day is not only a perfect vehicle for Murray but also a brilliant concept. Murray's weatherman Phil Connors is brilliantly selfish and dry as he contends with the same events every day for a long long time. Not only is the setup incredibly funny but it inspires the question of what we would do if we were in the same situation. A comedy that gets the viewer thinking is always a welcome bonus.

Bill Murray's career is filled with great performances and moments of comic genius. From Caddyshack and Kingpin to Stripes and Rushmore the man brings funny to any comedy role he inhabits. And whilst Ghostbusters is perhaps Bill Murray's most famous role and it's certainly the one that made him a star, Groundhog Day is his best. It's been described by some as a modern day It's A Wonderful Life and that's a fair comparison. Apart from being odes to small town Americana both delve into the darkness of a human mind, both the protagonists attempt to commit suicide and contemplate what is important in their lives whilst at the same time they accentuate the positives about our lives and surroundings. By the end both Phil Connors and George Bailey relinquish their notions about worthlessness and realise the happiness they can bring.

Bill Murray's career is filled with great performances and moments of comic genius. From Caddyshack and Kingpin to Stripes and Rushmore the man brings funny to any comedy role he inhabits. Groundhog Day is full of many of those moments. Of course he's not the only one who entertains, Stephen Toblowsky's Ned Ryerson is an absolute scene stealer whilst several other characters do a fine job of trying to match Murray. Even Andie MacDowell, a woman universally loathed, cannot spoil the fun. Of course the set up does a lot of the work, repetition is the key here, each day filled with the same elements that the writers and Murray could play around with. Most notably you won't ever listen to 'I Got You Babe' in the same way ever again, but also Murray plumbs the depths of despair and the heights of emotion on his way to discovering how helping others can make life an amazing thing. -- Rinc.


Occasionally, mainstream movies will come up with a great idea. Unfortunately, many of the same movies never take that idea and run with it, instead using it as a vague hope that it might grant them with the tag of "original". In other words, it's just a gimmick to sell what is otherwise a very run-of-the-mill movie. Groundhog Day is not that kind of movie. True, it has a clever idea, but it also knows how to handle it to create one of the most entertaining comedies yours truly has ever seen. I'm sure it is possible to debate over the film all day, connecting all sorts of theories to it, but that's not why this movie is on this list. It is simply one thing: a smart and entertaining ride that I would never hesitate to watch.

Bill Murray stars as weatherman Phil Connors, who, along with his producer Rita (Andie McDowell) and camera-man Larry (Chris Elliott) has to travel to the town of Punxsutawney to make a report on the annual Groundhog Day, where a groundhog is released to predict if there will be winter for another six months or not. Phil is not hesitant to show his disdain for the affair, both on and off-camera; he is an asshole, and everyone knows it (including himself). However, when a blizzard blocks the exit roads, Phil and his colleagues are forced to spent a longer time in Punxsutawney than what they had initially expected. For Phil, this proves to be one big nightmare, as he wakes up the next morning to find that it is still Groundhog Day. At first he is unable to understand and cope with this, but when he finally realizes his horrible fate (no matter how many time he goes to bed, he always wakes up to another Groundhog Day), he decides to make a change with his life.

The moral in the film wouldn't be able to call itself questionable even after 15 pints of beer. It is a feel-good film, and boy, does it feel good to watch it. The movie is like that montage you always get in comedies where the writers try to cram as many hilarious situations into as few minutes as possible, except that in Groundhog Day, every scene is like that. Much of that credit should go to Bill Murray, who could just stare into the camera and be hilarious, but for once I would like to give the extra credit to the smaller parts of the casts. Whereas Phil is a different person for every one of his days, the others are completely unaware of this fact, which means that the actors have to repeat the same performance a countless number of times (probably not as easy as it seems). Of course, they are supported by an excellent script that sees virtually every scene hitting the jackpot.

There is a darker side to Groundhog Day too. When trying to avoid waking up the next morning, Phil decides that the best solution would be to try to kill himself (it doesn't work). There's also the fact that director Harold Ramis has stated that Phil spends over 10 years repeating the day. I wouldn't mind watching Groundhog Day for the next 10 years. Well, maybe not for that long, but still a very long time. -- Dantes Inferno.

Phil Connors (Murray) is a Pittsburgh weatherman who every year journeys to the small town of Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day festival. Phil treats the assignment with a mixture of boredom and contempt, something that grows after they're snowed in and forced to spend the night in town. When Phil wakes up the following morning it's Groundhog Day again, and he's the only one in town that seems to know this. Every morning he wakes up only to find the same events repeating themselves over and over again. No matter what he does, including killing himself, every morning he wakes up to Groundhog Day. Phil alternates between finding this empowering by using his knowledge of events to manipulate things and people, to suicidal despair. Finally Phil realises that what he really wants is the perfect day with his producer Rita (MacDowell).

What could have easily been a one-note joke is turned into the greatest comedy film of the 90s, in fact there's only one film from the 90s as a whole that I rate higher. I think it's because it's because Ramis and Murray find so many different ways to play various scenes and scenarios. The scene where an endless variety of dates with Rita are played out, as Phil tries to find the right information and right lines to have the perfect day with her is an incredible example of the art of repetition to create comedy. There's also something incredibly touching about the film and you really believe in it, despite the fantastical nature of the plot.

Murray shows what a strong actor he is, making his redemption here far more believable than the one in Scrooged. His gradual attempts to change his ways and re-examine his priorities are subtle and Murray underplays beautifully. It's easy to see this film as the transition phase between his more sarcastic persona of the 80s and the slightly downbeat indie icon he became in the late 90s. Murray is one of my favourite actors of all time, he became a hero figure to me with the release of Ghostbusters and I can watch him in absolutely anything he does, but he has never been better, or shown greater range, than he does in Groundhog Day. It's not easy to like MacDowell as an actress, but she does her best work here, providing a strong foil for Murray, even if you never quite get past the feeling that he's way too good for her. There's also good support from Chris Elliott and Stephen Toblowsky.

I think there's something very profound about the film. There's a good reason why Ramis has received letters from people of a variety of religions claiming that he managed to capture everything they believe. I don't see the film as a religious one, but I think there's a great spiritual element and I think that's part of what makes it such a beloved film, there's something very pure beneath the one-liners. The events of the film are never explained, and I think it's all the better for it, especially given the idea of a voodoo curse that was in an earlier draft of the script. Groundhog Day is one of those little gems that deserves every bit of popularity and acclaim it gets.

Rawlinson




< Message edited by Gimli The Dwarf -- 2/5/2012 1:49:30 AM >


_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
Post #: 33
RE: Empire Forum's Top 100 Fantasy Films! - 1/5/2012 9:01:19 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


Posts: 77525
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Central Park Zoo
=4. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)

Ten year old Chihiro and her parents are moving home and travelling through the Japanese countryside. Chihiro is sullen and unhappy about the move. Stopping along the way they discover a deserted amusement park where her parents feed themselves on fresh food. Chihiro wanders off and meets a boy named Haku. Haku tries to warn her to escape but when she returns to her parents she finds they are turned into pigs as a punishment for their gluttony and a river blocks her way out of the park. The amusement park leads to a health resort for the Gods and spirits soon fill the grounds. Chihiro has to get a job in the bathhouse from the owner, the evil witch Yubaba. Chihiro enlists the help of the spider-like Kamajii in order to gain employment, but finds she is forced to give up her name so that Yubaba can keep her in slavery forever. Chihiro is put to work bathing the clients of the bathhouse, she has to come to terms with her new world if she is to ever save herself and Haku from Yubaba's clutches.

Spirited Away is often described as Alice in Wonderland reimagined, and I can understand the comparison. Both works use a rift between worlds as a metaphor for a young girl's journey to adulthood. The surreal, spirit-filled, worlds they enter are the transitional phase in their lives, a necessary rite-of-passage if they are to overcome their childish ways. When Yubaba steals Chihiro's name it's the symbolic death of her identity until that point in time. When Chihiro regains her name it's because she's suffered and matured. Miyazaki also takes on a recurring theme in his work, the pollution and destruction of nature, here personified as a river spirit who has been so heavily polluted that it's become a foul, stinking wretch. Chihiro's ability to cleanse the river spirit speaks to the faith that Miyazki still has in people, even though he acknowledges that it is people who first cause the pollution.

But beyond any of the film's deeper themes, it's an exhilarating tale. A work of dark fantasy that's multi-layered, beautiful, distressing, intelligent and has the ability to work on a number of different levels, meaning adults and children can take away different things, but still know they've watched something amazing. The supporting cast of characters, from the melancholy No-Face to the vile Yubaba are a testament to Miyazaki's imagination. Miyazaki deserves to be acknowledged not just as one of the greatest creators of fantasy currently working, but one of the greatest who ever lived. Spirited Away owes a debt to Carroll's Alice, but I think it deserves to stand alongside it as a work of equal brilliance and importance.

Rawlinson




=4. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003, Peter Jackson)


2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson)


1. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001, Peter Jackson)



Passed to him by his uncle Bilbo, young Hobbit Frodo Baggins becomes the unlikely and unwilling bearer of The One Ring of power, an instrument of unparalleled evil. And so Frodo, along with his three Hobbit chums, the wizard Gandalf and a swordsman named Strider, set out on an epic quest.

Ok this is my only Cheat but I feel these films are sufficiently joined up to consist as one entry. Although to be fair I've awarded it 3 spaces.
After I walked out of the cinema of this I said to my dad that all other film makers may as well give up as this is unbeatable as a trilogy. Ok so that was a Hyperbole, but either way this is an epic story and set of films with a very high bar.

shool

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Despite the fact that it hasn't quite taken the top spot in the decade, I'm still comfortable in saying that Jackson's fantasy trilogy is the bravest and most stunning accomplishment of the last ten years. He has taken Tolkien's wordy and near-impenetrable volume of three books, streamlined it without losing the texture and detail that has made it so beloved and turned in three towering epics that truly transport you to another world. Quite how the effort didn't kill him, I'll never know. I can't really pick a favourite out of the three, I find it impossible to view them as anything other than one entity now (in their extended forms, naturally) - but they work best when viewed alongside each other, where their storytelling rhythms complement each other, the plots and journeys become clearer and the number of endings the final film has all make sense and seem worthwhile. Innocent Hobbit, Frodo (ElijahWood) comes into possession of a ring that could either unite Middle Earth in peace or see it destroyed if it falls into the hands of evil entity Sauron. Protecting him on his journey to destory it by throwing it into a volcano, is Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen), the ranger and eventual king of men, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the elf, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the dwarf, Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and his fellow hobbits Merry, Pippin and best friend, Sam (Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin). The first film, Fellowship of the Ring, establishes just what we should come to expect from the rest of the trilogy. Opening with a flashback to a battle what was waged against Sauron centuries earlier, it's a jawdropping glimpse of spectacle and darkness that Jackson is confident enough to merely tease us with. What comes next is arguably even more impressive, as Gandalf visits Frodo and in an eye-popping bit of cinematic wizardry we see Wood sat happily alongside McKellen, but shrunk to less than half his size. It's utterly convincing and is key to how these three films work, by making the impossible seem logical and natural. After the first 20 minutes you forget that this is a camera trick and merely accept the existence of minute Hobbits alongside normal-sized men. Fellowship starts in a gorgeous, bucolic manner (I could happily have an extended cut of Hobbiton for hours on end) but gradually darkens as the threat to Middle Earth reveals itself. As they hurry along the roads to their rendezvous with Aragorn, the Hobbits are forced off the ride by a shadowy figure on a horse, which turns the very nature of Hobbiton itself into a wormy, disgusting mess. And this is exactly why these films work. Not just the casting - all of whom give convincing performances, with Mortensen in particular being spectacularly good - but because every film is littered with great moments and little scenes that resonate just as much as the spectacular battles. In Fellowship it may be Arwen's (Liv Tyler) escape on horseback with the injured Frodo as the Black Riders gain on her slowly but surely. It might be the psychedelic rest the Fellowship take in the realm of the Elves. Or it may be the final, bloody, brutal fight as Aragorn takes on dozens of Orcs single-handed to ensure that Frodo and Sam can escape with the ring.



In The Two Towers, the Fellowship are fractured, with several different journeys taking place and new characters such as King Theoden (Bernard Hill) and his warrior daughter, Eowyn (Mirando Otto) introduced. The stakes also become higher as evil wizard, Saruman (Christopher Lee, in a role that drips with malice) creates army upon army of Orc to wipe out mankind. The revelation of this army - and the single tear that rolls down the cheek of his subordinate, Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) as he realises what will happen to mankind - is another one of those moments. As is the clash between the escaping human tribe of Theoden's kingdom and the Warg Riders where Aragorn is seemingly lost to them. Or then, of course, there's the introduction to the most memorable character of the trilogy, Gollum (Andy Serkis) a former Hobbit twisted into an abomination of himself by the power of the ring. Agreeing to take Frodo and Sam to where they need to be, Jackson makes Gollum the most fully convincing CGI creation we've yet to see and Serkis' performance of both motion-capture and voice is a sibilant, hissing, malicious turn of conniving evil and spite (the end of the film, where Jackson drops the soundtrack down to an eerie, low hum as we hear Gollum outline his plans for the Hobbits to himself is a tremendous cliffhanger) and means that there are no plot strands less interesting than the other. Hell, even Merry and Pippin's adventure with Treebeard and the Ents have a trippy wonder to them. This all leads to the astonishing battle of Helm's Deep, a fortified castle where Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli try to rally mankind to one last stand against the forces of Sauron. Set in the dead of night, it's an intoxicating mix of Lean, Kurosawa and Kubrick and is truly a battle of blood and grit and Legolas sliding a shield down a flight of stairs, firing arrows as he goes which is the single coolest moment in action cinema this decade.



And this is just a prelude to Return of the King. The final battle of Pelenor Fields, is nothing less than biblical. The Fellowship are reunited as Aragorn's responsibilities as saviour of Middle Earth comes down to one last battle - and what a battle it is. As dragons assault city walls, elephants the size of sky scrapers charge into the fray, trolls smash their way through dozens upon dozens of soldiers and an army of the undead are summoned to tip the balance of the war in Middle Earth's favour it's a spectacle the like of which we've never seen before and have yet to see again. It is thrilling, jaw-dropping, astonishingly confident storytelling and the kind of thing that cinema was invented for. Return of the King is the film that ties up the loose ends and finally gets Frodo, Sam and Gollum to the goal of Mount Doom, after battling a giant spider to get there. And as Sam drags the dying Frodo to the lip of the volcano, it is clear just how much has been taken out of them along the way. Gone are the cheerful, cherubic Hobbits, with only wearied, gaunt and emotionally-scarred people in their place. Few epics achieve the effect that the Return of the King does here, which is completely convince you of the epic and daunting journey that the characters have gone through. It is a heroic effort that the characters go through, which makes the multiple endings all the more satisfying once you appreciate why they're there.

And through it all, Jackson takes us places we have never seen before. Not just the way that his camera swoops and glides through the battles and scraps in a way that is never bitty or incoherent. Not just the way that he utilises the natural beauty of New Zealand to conjure up a world both realistic and tangible, but convincingly otherworldly, too. But by the sheer detail that he invests in the world. The costumes, the armour, the weapon, the dirt and ash beneath the characters' feet as Middle Earth becomes progressively darker and darker. It's not just some of the most exciting cinema you're likely to see, it's some of the most beautiful too; and through it all, Jackson is clever enough to always make sure there's an emotional heart to every film. In Fellowship, you have Boromir (Sean Bean) sacrificing his life in battle to save the Hobbits and dying in the arms of his king, Aragorn. In The Two Towers, you have Gandalf riding to the rescue of mankind at the last minute. And in Return of the King, you have Gandalf comforting Pippin with a beautiful mental picture of the afterlife as they prepare to face their doom as the city falls around them. It is for these reasons that this trilogy is still the most accomplished piece of fantasy cinema not just this decade, but for decades before it, too.

Key moment - from Fellowship - the entire Mines of Moria sequence from battling a cave troll to the appearance of the Balrog and Gandalf's sudden drop. From The Two Towers - the amazing sequence where Gollum converses with himself, his good and bad side battling for control of his crazed mind. From The Return of the King - Aragorn, newly-anointed king of Middle Earth, bows to the Hobbits.

matty_b

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One Ring Synopsis: Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Back in December 2001, the world needed some escapism. The events of just three months previously had shaken the globe and people were reordering their priorities. Being offered the opportunity to escape the harsh realities of the world for three hours was a very appealing idea, and with the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, such an escape was offered. From the moment the first trailer was shown months earlier, with the release dates of each of the three films, I knew that what we were going to have was something very special, the likes of which would be hard-pressed to be repeated. It was a surprising excitement considering my ambivalence towards the books. I read them when I was younger and never made it past the middle of “The Two Towers” – I suspect it may have been the Ents that done me in. I tried again more recently having seen and loved the films, and didn’t make it much past Tom Bombadil this time. The films take the best bits of the book, and respectfully excise the rest. So it was that this was going to be more than a few films, but an event to mark the decade. Similarly, the films were filmed and thus presented as a single story – as Tolkien’s original book was, only split because of his publisher’s misgivings on a single-volume story – and as such it is as a single story that I view them, and am reviewing them. To me, the films are inseparable. They are indelibly linked, with each referring to, and building on, the previous film, taking the story to the next level. How can we forgo the joys of The Fellowship of the Ring with its Hobbit introduction and the Mines of Moria, or denounce The Two Towers as “the middle bit” when it has such jaw-dropping, seat-quiveringly amazing scenes as the siege of Helm’s Deep, or dismiss The Return of the King as “just the end” when we have the battle at Minas Tirith, and the Lighting of the Beacons? Simply put, these films are a law unto themselves. While I am reviewing them as a single entity, I am obeying the laws of these lists and sacrificing three places for them. Rather than look at each film separately, to avoid repeating myself where possible, I’ll instead concentrate on different aspects of production across the full three-film spectrum.

I think I have said previously that two things that draw me absolutely to a film are a strong visual element, and an effective, compelling soundtrack. From the opening montage mini-history of Middle earth, narrated by the mellifluous, mesmerising voice that matches in pure beauty the visual impact we later experience of Cate Blanchett, with the sweeping shots of mass upon mass of orc armies in hand-to-hand combat with the realms of men, we get a fairly impressive idea of what is to come over what would become nearly 14 hours of near-perfection. So, I will begin with the soundtrack. I am the proud owner of the complete Lord of the Rings recordings and in this, Howard Shore has composed his masterpiece, his magnum opus – when he dies, it will be the first line in his obituary. It is a work to rival Richard Wagner (his most clear influence with his use of leitmotifs) at his best. The score works as an accompaniment, but also as a work in its own right. The pleasure of listening to a good score on its own is how well it conjures the images that are irrevocably linked to it when one hears it. In this way, Shore’s score is perfect. Each tune is associated with a character, or a place, or an ideal, and the way Shore introduces them, reinforces them, harmonises, undermines, contrasts and compares them is outstanding. The themes range from the simple innocence of the Hobbit’s theme (which later on becomes something more maligned and twisted as the journey travels ever nearer Mordor) to the proud nobility of the Rohan’s theme. The music swells us up, it knocks us down, it carries us along and strikes us where we stand – it does all this without ever being overbearing nor unwelcome. Despite the wealth of memorable themes, perhaps my favourite musical sequence comes in The Return of the King, when against Denethor’s wishes, in a bid to unite disparate bands of men, Pippin scurries to the top of the beacon of Minas Tirith and lights it, setting off a series of beacons that stretch all the way back to Rohan. It’s a stunning scene the score to which makes it all the more magical. Music is often described as another character inappropriately – yet here it is truly the 10th member of the Fellowship.

Before 2001, Computer generated imagery, or CGI as it is now universally known by everyone, had never been used to quite the same extent as it would be in Lord of the Rings. There had been characters, places, times that had been created or recreated by CGI, but with these three films the bar was raised. But the genius behind the effects used in the trilogy was not its CGI creations, but the decision to use any and every type of effect possible (a decision sadly not replicated for 2005’s King Kong, an admirable if ultimately flawed production). Whether using CGI, or miniatures, or “bigatures” or forced perspective, the viewer never knew exactly how the effects were being produced, restoring some of the magic that is oft-times seemingly lost today – until we all watched how it was done in the comprehensive DVDs, that is. Remarkably, the knowledge doesn’t ruin the impact of the scenes – rather a newfound respect for exactly how much went into the production. (The level of detail for instance, that extended to things that would never be seen by the camera, such as the stitching inside Theoden’s clothing.) Knowing that detail is there enriches the visual imagery on show and helps to maintain the illusion of a fully fledged world created from top to bottom in its entirety. What is significant is that, despite the overt nature of the CGI (Gollum being the most obvious example) it never seems to be showboating, but is truly a tool to create the places and creatures sketched out by Tolkien half a century ago. The battle scenes are immense, using technology since used by vastly inferior productions like 300 (entertaining, but not much to it) and mixing this with live action fighting that brings grime and dirt to add to the CGI, a tool that makes films infamously “clean”. Interestingly the films chart points in my life. When I saw Fellowship of the Ring I went with my girlfriend. When I saw The Two Towers I went with my pregnant wife. When I saw Return of the King we booked a babysitter. But it was during the siege on Helm’s Deep, when the Uruk-Hai becomes Middle Earth’s first suicide bomber that we realised that maybe the cinema had its sound system cranked just a little too high, and the entire cinema itself shook. It was awesome for me, but next to me, my unborn son woke up and wriggled through the rest of the film, much to my wife’s annoyance. Whether we’re swooping above battles, drifting through Elven forests, dancing through Hobbiton, sleeping through the Forest of the Ents, trembling behind the gates of Minas Tirith, creeping across the plains to Mount Doom, scrabbling up those volcanic, firestruck rocks, the technology of today allows us to utterly lose ourselves in the film and be a part of that journey too.

Of course, while I see a grand score and fine visuals as a bonus, the meat of a film lies in the story itself, and those who perform it. Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens have produced a remarkable film script, distilling, reordering, compressing, finessing, and polishing the books into a form that works perfectly for the screen. Clearly I cannot make a direct book-to-film comparison, given that I have not read the trilogy in its entirety, but nevertheless I can comment on the vastly different reaction I have of the film to that of the book. Where the book (that portion of it I read) was overly detailed, forgoing information for plot, plodding along drawing little interest for the – literally – fantastic creations within, the film draws out the salient information and pushes them to the fore, revelling in the wondrous creations. While I cannot deny the impact of the book, of its importance on the literary landscape of today, and of Tolkien’s significance as the father of fantasy, I personally far, far prefer the films over the book, and I don’t often say that. To fully make the most of a good script, one needs a fine range of actors to breathe life into it. A then-little-known Elijah Wood, Sean Astin (the Goonie, and the weakest link of the film for me) Sir Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Sir Ian Holm, John Rhys Davies, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Hugo Weaving, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Dominic Monaghan, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Sean Bean, David Wenham, John Noble, Karl Urban, Marton Csokas, Brad Dourif… It’s a vast and diverse cast, and all of the main characters have a recognisable arc, some challenge to overcome. In a story spanning 14 hours, to give so many characters space to breathe and become real, and loved, and manifest, is an achievement.

Whether Peter Jackson, a director formerly known for gore-filled shock films, a fairly good ghost comedy, and a superb true-story drama, had intended to create an event of such magnitude is not known. Yet it is unarguable that The Lord of the Rings is a distinctly unique achievement. There is nothing that has gone before that has been on quite the same scale as this story. Certainly there have been multi-part films, or mini-series that deal with many and various themes, but budgetary limitations necessarily reduce their impact. With this trilogy there is such a conflux of talent – acting, musical, technical, artisan, technological, direction – that it was as if it was meant to be. It’s very hard to compare the trilogy to any other film. When considered as a single entity, little else comes close. But, while I have run these films consecutively, to give other films a fair chance I have considered them individually when compiling this list. Needless to say, The Lord of the Rings is one of those experiences that I am proud to have had as it happened. It is this generation’s Star Wars (as Clerks II so memorably compares them) – only it’s much, much better. It is, quite simply, perfection.

homersimpson_esq

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Yeah, not bad.

Gimli The Dwarf


< Message edited by Gimli The Dwarf -- 2/5/2012 1:49:52 AM >


_____________________________

So, sir, we let him have it right up! And I have to report, sir, he did not like it, sir.

Fellow scientists, poindexters, geeks.

Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!

Much more better!

(in reply to Gimli The Dwarf)
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