Monday, September 22, 2014

A Tolkien party and giveaway!

If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, head on over to The Edge of the Precipice, where Hamlette is having a really nice giveaway to celebrate Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!  Check it out.

And now for some questions and answers...

1.  Who introduced you to Tolkien's stories?  A friend.

2.  How old were you when you first ventured into Middle Earth?  I was in college.

3.  Did you read the books first, or see movie versions first?  Read the books first and wouldn't have it any other way in this case.

4.  A dragon or a balrog -- which would you rather fight?  I rather prefer a dragon!  I don’t think anyone but a wizard can fight a balrog!

5.  Who are three of your favorite characters?  (Feel free to elaborate on why.)  Aragorn – who is the character I most relate to and the one I most want to be.  Frodo – who is just amazingly determined and gets the ring all the way to Mt. Doom.  I admire that immensely.  And Boromir, because he is noble and honorable and looks after Merry and Pippin and takes out all those orcs. Sure, he gets tempted by the ring, but that just makes his redemption cooler.

6.  Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?  No, but the family was just talking about how awesome it would be to dress up as the fellowship for Halloween, since we all like different characters.

7.  If someone asks you to go on adventure, how do you respond?  When do we leave?

8.  Have you read any of the "history of Middle Earth" books?  Er, I've read the Silmarillion, is that what you're referring to?

9.  Would you rather drink a bowl of Ent Draught or a glass of Old Winyards?  Ent Draught.

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies. These are all from Fellowship, as that is my favorite, and the only one I watch when any regularity.  I don't think I actually know any lines by heart from any of the other movies.

"I would have gone with you to the end, into the very fires of Mordor." - Aragorn
"They have a cave troll." - Boromir
"What is this new devilry?" - Boromir
"What was that?" - Merry
"It comes in pints?" - Pippin
"Watch your feet." - Aragorn
"Men are weak." - Elrond
"Have you ever been called home by the clear ringing of silver trumpets?" - Boromir
"One does not simply walk into Mordor. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The great Eye is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire, and ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly."  Boromir
"What are you looking at?" - Haldir. Okay, he doesn't actually say this, but one day, we had the movie muted and my family each had a character and were providing the lines (this is a highly amusing thing to do on those movies you've seen a million times and think you know by heart... highly recommended for the amusement factor), and my sister said this when Haldir's looking at Gimli in the woods of Lothlorien, and... it stuck.  It is impossible to watch the movie without hearing that line.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cutthroat Island (1995)

This is my entry for Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon.  This oft-maligned movie needs a little love.  I saw this movie in the theater when it came out and quite enjoyed it.  Is it a great movie?  No.  Is it good?  That probably depends on what you want out of a pirate movie.  Treasure, sea battles, betrayal and mutiny, a little romance, walking the plank, the British navy, tropical islands, a monkey, swordfighting... Those are things I look for, and this movie has them all.  Is it entertaining?  For me, absolutely.

This is a straight-forward treasure hunt movie.  A pirate hid a vast fortune on an island (Cutthroat Island) and gave each of his three sons one part of the map that identified where the treasure was.  Only with all three pieces can you find the treasure.  The sons, Douglas (Dawg), Harry, and Mortecai, of course, don't remotely get along.  We start the movie with Morgan, Harry's daughter.  When her father is killed, she gets his portion of the map, and the race is on to get the other map pieces and beat Dawg to the treasure. Morgan has to prove herself as captain of her father's ship and men who are skeptical she can fill her father's shoes as their leader.  She also picks up a thief along the way who speaks Latin, William Shaw, when she needs her portion of the map translated.

The ships, locations, costumes, and sea battles are fantastic.  Actually, everything about this movie looks unbelievably fantastic.  I felt like I was back in time.  I wanted to own all of Geena Davis's costumes.  Ms. Davis was criticised as being miscast... and yet she really isn't.  You need a woman who's believable as leader of a bunch of pirates, and she fulfills that.  She's a tall, brawny lady -- taller than quite a few of the male members of her crew, and you need someone physically strong like that to handle the many fist fights, sword fights, climbing up ropes, swimming, etc.

What I think can make her seem miscast is not Geena Davis... but the dialogue in the movie.  The dialogue is one of the weakest points.  Not always, there's a lot of good dialogue mixed in there too, but they seem to have given the cheesy lines mostly to Morgan.  This does her character a grave injustice.  When the dialogue is good, she rocks this role.  When it's cheesy, it can pull you out of the movie. But despite those moments, I still really enjoy her, and it is always fun to see a woman get a role like this.

There's a bit of gender reversal between her and Shaw's character.  He's the one who ends up getting rescued by Morgan more than once, not vice versa.  It's very refreshing. And Shaw (Matthew Modine) is a cool character, even if he does keep getting into trouble.  Thief, liar, speaks Latin, wheeler dealer, but ultimately loyal to Morgan.  They're great fun together, each trying to outplay each other before they finally admit they're on the same side. I had a bit of a crush on him.  Maybe it was just the nice arms!

Frank Langella is perfect as Morgan's tough, villainous uncle, Dawg.

I really like how he admires Morgan and her courage and cunning more than he did his own brothers.  When he offers her a partnership, he means it because he recognizes that she's a good captain and pirate.  One of my favorite moments is when he sees her ship creeping up on his and realizes something is not right.  He very quietly goes to general quarters and takes action.  Morgan's doing the same on her ship, and it's just fun to watch them cat-and-mouse at sea before the ships erupt in full scale battle.

When I first saw this in the theater, I knew from the opening scene I was going to enjoy the movie.  Why?  The music.  Music makes or breaks a movie for me, and this film has one of the best action adventures scores ever.  John Debney's score is outstanding.  Let me say that again.  John Debney's score is OUTSTANDING.  That opening scene that sucked me in so much, with Morgan Adams galloping her horse across a partially submerged sand spit while John Debney's awesome theme soars.  That is just plain satisfying.  Cutthroat Island is one of my most-listened to scores of all times.  It never gets old, and even better, the complete score was released a few years back.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – A Conversation

As part of Hamlette’s Piratical Blogathon, Hamlette and I reminisced about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies while simultaneously listening to the soundtrack for POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl.  We both love the original Pirates movie and thought it would be fun, rather than either of us writing a review of it, to discuss the movie instead.  Our favorite scenes and characters, why the first movie was so great and the second and third failed to capture that same magic.

Hamlette:  I remember buying this album -- so desperate to just keep the piratey joy alive once the movie left the theater.  I have track 3 up on my CD and ohhhhhhhhhh, I love this song, this bouncy, poundy sailing theme.  I had a hard time finding this soundtrack, actually, and I would listen to the Gladiator soundtrack because it has a teensy bit that sounds somewhat like this.  I had to wait for like a week for it to be in, and then once I got it, I think it stayed in my CD player all summer.  Listened to absolutely nothing else.

DKoren:   awww

Hamlette:  I remember seeing the trailer for this like five times before it came out, and just being so crazy excited for a Johnny Depp Pirate Movie!!!!  There was that swooshy thing where he holds the rope and flies up onto the boat, and I was in looooooooooooove with that moment in the trailer.

DKoren:   I remember going back and seeing this movie four or five times.

Hamlette:  I think I saw it three times.  What's your favorite moment in the movie?

DKoren:   In the end finale, when Jack shoots Barbossa and goes all serious.

Hamlette:  I'm not entirely sure if I have One Favorite Moment.

DKoren:   With Jack, I absolutely love his serious moments.  When he goes serious, I swoon.  When he's his normal fast-talking self, he’s amusing, but not a character I really care about.

Hamlette:  "So there is a curse.  That's interesting."  That's another of my favorite moments.  I love how he says "in-tres-ting."

DKoren:    "This shot is not meant for you."  That's another one of mine.  It’s another serious moment, that pleading with Will to "please move!"

Hamlette:   yes

DKoren:    But that whole moment in the finale where he slices his hand with the coin, tosses it to Will, and shoots Barbossa... that is THE reason I watch this movie.  I wait and wait for that.  And then it's over in ten seconds.

Hamlette:  Well, that's the way of Perfect Moments.

DKoren:   There're plenty of other parts I love too, just not with that intensity.

Hamlette:  If you were writing it, it would've been your Scene of Scenes.

DKoren:   Yes, the ultimate carrot scene.  That first shot of him on the rigging (where he’s again looking serious)... totally amazing moment.

Hamlette:  I think now, after four movies, it's hard to remember just how Different his Captain Jack was -- I mean, I remember sitting in the theater thinking, "DUDE!  This is all so completely new!"  I never knew what to expect one moment to the next.  Which I loved -- because it wasn't just another actiony kid-oriented movie, it was clever and devious and tricksy and... yeah.

DKoren:   That's a good way to put it.

Hamlette:  I have to say, I think Elizabeth Swan is another of those roles I would love to play, or characters I'd like to be.

DKoren:   I can see that.

Hamlette:  I remember just going, "I want to do that!  And that!  And that!"

DKoren:   She's really cool.

Hamlette:  She's very collected -- she doesn't freak out easily.

DKoren:   She's a character I wanted to be friends with.

Hamlette:  She thinks on her feet really well:  I'm going to hide here, I'm going to ask for parley, I'm going to pretend I'm not the governor's daughter.

DKoren:   Yeah, she's very smart.  I love that about her.

Hamlette:  She's not a damsel in distress at all.  Which was also refreshing, along with Captain Jack's unpredictability.

DKoren:   "She'll be insufferable now."

Hamlette:  Indeed.

DKoren:   I wanted to be Will Turner.

Hamlette:  Well, we'd make a fine pair, then!  Okay, so what makes you want to be Will?  Cuz I honestly -- like Elizabeth -- get impatient with him at times.

DKoren:   He makes swords, he practices with them, he's willing to do anything to rescue Kiera, he breaks a pirate out of jail and yells at Norrington.  He figures things out and doesn't want to be Jack's leverage.  He does everything I would do, were I in his shoes.

DKoren:   The way he thinks... I relate to that.  Like figuring Jack would be his best bet for tracking pirates.  And, of course, rescuing Jack at the end from execution and being willing to die for his actions, conscious clear.  I would totally do that.

Hamlette:  I do love the ending.

DKoren:   The swordfighting scene in the blacksmith shop is probably my second favorite scene in the movie.

Hamlette:  Oh, it is splendid!  It might actually be my favorite overall scene.  It could go on another ten minutes and I'd be happy.

DKoren:   Yes, I can watch the two of them cross blades for hours.

Hamlette:  He's more cautious and... circuitous than Elizabeth, which is probably why I identify more with her -- I just want to confront things and be done.  As long as I have a plan, I'm good.  Even if it's not a great plan.  Let’s talk a little about why Curse of the Black Pearl is splendid and the others range from meh to okay?  I think the reason Black Pearl works and the others are silly is because of the writing.  Specifically, how Jack is written. They wrote him straight in the first one, and Johnny twisted him to his own ends.  For the others, they wrote him silly, and so he became a caricature.  That's my take, anyway.

DKoren:   They assumed because Jack was the most popular character that if they took his character and blew him up to larger proportions, it would be even better.

Hamlette:  Yes.

DKoren:   Forgetting that what made him work so well is what you said, he was written straight.

Hamlette:  I mean, he does have some silly lines, the whole thing about the sea turtles... But he delivers the silly lines straight, and the straight lines off-kilter, and so it's just... unbalancedly brilliant.  But if it's all written silly, then it's too balanced somehow, and it just gets ordinary.

DKoren:   Yes.  That.  He also worked so well because Will and Elizabeth counter his personality perfectly in the first movie.

Hamlette:  They're all earnest and he's -- deadly earnest, but hiding it.

DKoren:   There's also a decided lack of a good villain in the second and third.

Hamlette:  This is true.

DKoren:   Davy Jones... sorry, but he's just silly.

Hamlette:  I think, also, in the fourth one... Jack has dignity again.

DKoren:   Yes, quite a bit more.

Hamlette:  What makes him so funny in the first one is he is so dignified!  And in the most ridiculous moments!

DKoren:   But he has to clash with a much better villain in On Stranger Tides, so that helps.

Hamlette:  Yes, that helps too.  Worthy adversary is important.

DKoren:   Also, 2 & 3 had the most ridiculous action sequences.

Hamlette:  I haven't seen them since the theater either, so memory has faded.

DKoren:   I mean, I love action, but that stupid rolling wheel...

Hamlette:  Oh, yes!  I remember the wheel.  That was atrocious.

DKoren:   Nothing in the first one is really beyond the scope of reality.  They don't defy physics.

Hamlette:  Or, a reality where there are skeleton pirates.

DKoren:   Well, yeah.

Hamlette:  But yes, people can do those things.  Boats behave that way.

DKoren:   And then it goes all unbelievable and silly.  (But Norrington gets scruffy and demoted, and that's a bonus point for 2 & 3.)

Hamlette:  (True -- he got a lot more interesting.)

DKoren:   (And Stellan is a bonus.)

Hamlette:  (Stellan!  Yes!)  About the only thing I remember really clearly from 2 & 3 is the very end, the final stinger on 3, where Elizabeth and the son were on the island, ready for Will to return.  I loved that moment, and the rest of it was just... there.

DKoren:   I do remember when we saw 2 in the theater, my sister came out and said, "Wow, I can't believe how happy I was to see Barbossa show up."

Hamlette:  Lol!  Yeah, Barbossa was a breath of stale but refreshing air.

DKoren:   Because he was such a good villain in the first one, and there was nothing like that in the second one.

Hamlette:  It lacked a tree, as I recall -- no good structure.

DKoren:   And was very convoluted for lacking structure.

Hamlette:  Turns out that just More Jack Sparrow doesn't make up for Not Enough Good Writing.

DKoren:   yep, very true.

And that's it for our reminisces for today.  Don't forget to check out the blogathon for reviews of other pirate movies and books.