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Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis are officially returning to Middle Earth, and all I’ve got is this old thing…

To mark the news that both of these extremely fine actors would be reprising their roles as the wizard Gandalf and power-ring addict Gollum in the upcoming two-part epic version/expansion of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” I wanted to find some real cool video.

Maybe a great scene featuring both Gandalf and Gollum from the LOTR films. Except, I don’t remember any scenes like that. Do you? Anyhow, I couldn’t find anything online. Nor did I find anything with Sir Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis hanging out and exchanging funny banter or something. Nada.

So, instead I present this with great apologies to Leonard Nimoy and all of those who appreciate good music and fine production values. Spoiler alert!

Actually, I find “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” kind of catchy, even if the person who posted this video forgot to check how to spell Nimoy’s name.

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A capery, spy-ey, hobbity, clashy, ghosty midweek movie news

A sprained ankle and other unexciting matters sidelined me yestereday, but now I can use my imposed semi-immobility for bloggy purposes.

* THR is claiming an exclusive that a date has finally been set for the two-part Peter Jackson/Guillermo del Toro collaboration, “The Hobbit.” (That’s with an assist from the late J.R.R. Tolkien, of course.) There was some apparent confusion earlier in the day, but it now looks like the two films will be released in Christmas of 2012 and 2013. That’s a year off from the original plan for the LOTR follow-up/prequel (though LOTR is technically the sequel here). Though this article doesn’t mention it, at least part of the problem was widely supposed to be the decline and fall of MGM.

* I’m not at all sure how the “poison pill” actually works but it appears that a decision by authorities up in British Columbia — which is, like, part of an entirely different country than ours and everything — will make it easier for Carl Icahn to attempt his hostile takeover of Lionsgate.

* Does anybody really want a “Clash of the Titans” sequel? Well, we’re getting one anyhow.

Clash of the Titans

* Bill Murray is apparently bound and determined to be the proverbial turd in the “Ghostbusters 3″ punchbowl. It wasn’t a punch I had my heart set on, in any case, much as I liked the first one.

* Just the day before yesterday I was part of a press round-table with the affable, stylish French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie,” “City of Lost Children”). Someone brought up his adapatation of the acclaimed, fantastical Booker Prize-winning novel, The Life of Pi, a project which the vagaries of movie-making had apparently forced him to give up on. Today, Anne Thompson brings word that it appears that the project has been picked up by another strong directorial hand, Ang Lee.  And, guess what, it’ll be 3-D. Lee’s one of the movies’ great humanists still working, so I’m sure the film won’t be overwhelmed by effects.

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Blu Tuesday: The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy

While we all patiently await Guillermo del Toro’s big screen adaptation of “The Hobbit” (currently scheduled to be split into two parts and rumored for a 2011 release date), Warner Bros. has decided to whet our appetites by releasing “The Lord of the Rings” on Blu-ray. It’s certainly been one of the most requested titles since the format first arrived on the scene, but now that it’s finally here, the release has only been mired in controversy. Although a lot of fans have been aggressively vocal about the studio’s decision to only release the theatrical editions at this time (one look at Amazon’s product page shows an average rating of 1.5 stars), the reasoning behind the boycott is absolutely ridiculous.

It’s not as if Warner Bros. is trying to dupe consumers into buying two versions of the movies like they did with the DVDs. In fact, they were kind enough to announce fairly early on that HD versions of the extended cuts would be made available closer to the release of “The Hobbit” in theaters, namely because director Peter Jackson wants to produce all-new bonus material for that set. So why the outrage? Quite simply, because the only thing fanboys know how to do better than overhype a movie is complain about it. Sure, it sucks that fans of the extended editions have to wait so long, but to think that the studio has some kind of secret agenda is pure hogwash. Plus, some people actually prefer the theatrical editions to the overly long extended cuts (myself included), so it’s nice to see that Warner Bros. is offering that option from the get-go. If you don’t like it, too bad.

After all, you don’t hear fans of the theatrical editions complaining about the lack of new bonus material on this set, and that’s actually a more viable argument. You still get all of the special features from the original two-disc DVDs (with the exception of a new video game trailer in place of the old ones), as well as digital copies of each film, although it’s hard to imagine watching “LOTR” on such a tiny screen. It would have been nice if they had included a few new extras with this release, but that shouldn’t really affect whether you buy the trilogy on Blu-ray, because it’s really about the movies themselves, and they look and sound better than ever.

Each film is presented in full 1080p video (and in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio) and boasts a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 lossless audio track with a thunderous bass that won’t disappoint. The picture is also crisp and clean for the most part, although some might notice that “The Fellowship of the Ring” looks a little soft compared to the other two films. That’s likely a result of the way it was filmed as opposed to anything having to do with its transfer to HD, but I’m sure everyone will have their own theories. Still, even with a few minor imperfections, this remains a must-own for any fan of Jackson’s epic trilogy. Those who disapprove of the release can complain all they like, but after seeing just how awesome these movies look on Blu-ray, they’re going to find it pretty hard to resist.

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BAFTA nominations

The British equivalent of the Oscars has announced its choices. Since the BAFTAs include American films, it’s often somewhat similar to the Oscars though with a bit of an edge, not surprisingly, for UK fare. You can see the complete list at the BAFTA site.

This year’s Best Film list looks very much like the lists we’ve been seeing all along, with one major difference. The spot usually reserved for “Inglourious Basterds” has been taken up by the highly regarded coming-of-age/relationship dramedy, “An Education,” which makes it the token British nominee in a field that includes usual suspects “The Hurt Locker,” “Precious,” “Up in the Air,” and “Avatar.” As if to make sure no Hollywood feelings were hurt too hard, Quentin Tarantino was nominated for Best Director while Lee Daniels — whose direction has, in fact, taken its share of criticism from some critics and film bloggers — went un-nominated for his work on “Precious.”

“An Education” is also nominated in the “Outstanding British Film” category against “In the Loop,” “Moon,” the currently in limited U.S. release “Fish Tank,” and the upcoming John Lennon biopic, “Nowhere Boy.”

an_education_trailer_gawker.flv

In other tidbits of interest, the terrific Andy Serkis of LOTR fame was nominated for Best Actor for his work in the musical biopic, “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” which hasn’t been released here yet. There’s hope for a possible upset win for Serkis to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Jeff Bridges here, if the BAFTAs go by the usual acting award tendencies.Not only does Serkis transform himself into a fairly well-known entertainment figure as oddball rocker Ian Dury (that nailed Oscars for Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” and Jamie Foxx in “Ray“) but Dury was partially disabled by polio, so there’s that whole actors-playing disabled-characters-win-awards thing to deal with.

Some of you will also note that Sandra Bullock was not nominated for Best Actress. “The Blind Side” has not been released in the U.K. yet and therefore won’t be eligible until next year’s awards. Release patterns may also explain why the artful vampire tale, “Let the Right One In,” one of 2008′s biggest arthouse films in the U.S., was nominated for in the foreign language category this year.

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Mid-holiday week movie news report (updated)

Somewhat to my surprise, given how slow Monday and Tuesday was, we have some movie news to report. Sadly, the first item is a bummer.

* Our very sincere condolences to the friends, family, and avid readers of writer and horror/gore maven Chas Balun, who died of cancer on December 18th. Probably mostly because of my phobia of the kind of movies he championed, Balun’s name wasn’t immediately familiar to me before this, but clearly the author and longtime contributor to Fangoria and Gorezone was a writer whose work meant a great deal to genre fans as well as a very sincere film geek/cinephile, and for that he has my respect. The Fangoria blog has a very good obituary.

* Sony has not been including a screener DVD for Duncan Jones’ highly regarded science fiction film, “Moon,” in its pre-Oscar promotional package. The result: “Twitter storm“!

Moon

* It’s now Sir Peter Jackson to you.  Considering the positive impact his LOTR tour de force must have had on the New Zealand economy, they might have considered making him king. Okay, New Zealand doesn’t have one. Also, I gather it’s more of a British Commonwealthy kind of a thing.

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