March Madness

I hereby declare March 2012 Fantasy Movie Month!

John Carter comes out on March 9. I’ve read the book and really liked it, hopefully the movie will be just as good.

Then, on the 23rd, it’s The Hunger Games! I still haven’t read the book, so this isn’t one I’m personally looking forward to. But there are lots of fans out there and most likely there will be huge crowds for the midnight showings.

Next, on the 30th, we’ve got two movies to choose from! Mirror Mirror and Wrath of the Titans are both released this weekend.

Mirror Mirror I am very excited about because it’s going to be gorgeous. It’s a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale and there aren’t too many ways this could go wrong. Unless the acting is just terrible, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

And finally, Wrath of the Titans. It’s essentially a big, loud, summer-blockbuster of movie that’s being released in March. I’m guessing lots of explosions, lots of monsters, lots of cool fight scenes. Will it be a good movie? Probably not. But it will be a fun one.

Also in March: It’s not a movie but HBO is finally releasing Game of Thrones Season 1 on DVD! It’s being mailed on March 6th so there will be just enough time to catch up with last season before season 2 starts.

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Casting The Hobbit

Update: I’ve written a more recent post about the dwarves with lots more pictures. Read it here!

Less than 10 months until The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out! I’m pretty excited, if you hadn’t realized that yet. It’s been about 2 months since the trailer was released; I think it’s about time Peter Jackson released something else. I’d be happy with a teaser with the same scenes in the trailer, just reworked a bit. And some new music.

Well I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. So I guess I’ll just look at the casting decisions since everything is now finalized.

First off, I have to say that I am the teeniest bit disappointed that Guillermo del Toro is no longer directing. Don’t get me wrong- I think Peter Jackson did an amazing job with the original trilogy and it is only fitting that he provide the necessary continuity between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But after seeing Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy I and II, The Devil’s Backbone, and The Orphanage, I became very curious to see what del Toro would do with The Hobbit. I suppose it’s better with Jackson though, as I’m fairly certain I would have been outraged if anyone besides Jackson had dared to direct something that he had made so thoroughly his own.

So on with the cast!

Up first, the returning players:

Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf

Hugo Weaving as Elrond

Cate Blanchett as Galadriel

Ian Holm as Old Bilbo

Elijah Wood as Frodo

Andy Serkis as Gollum

Orlando Bloom as Legolas

Christopher Lee as Saruman

If I remember correctly, Galadriel and Saruman do not show up in The Hobbit (the book) and it is generally assumed that Peter Jackson will be including bits of The White Council. Frodo was not in The Hobbit either, so I’m guessing that Peter Jackson is really trying to make the movie The Hobbit accessible to fans who only watched the trilogy. Old Bilbo will most likely be telling Frodo (pre-trilogy events) of how he came to be possessor of the One Ring. And I think it’s pretty clear that the White Council bits have been added in to provide some background on where Sauron came from. And Gollum! How exciting it will be to see Bilbo finding the Ring and the riddle contest.

Next, the dwarves:

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield

Adam Brown as Ori

Jed Brophy as Nori

Mark Hadlow as Dori

Aidan Turner as Kili

Dean O’Gorman as Fili

William Kircher as Bifur

James Nesbitt as Bofur

Stephen Hunter as Bombur

Graham McTavish as Dwalin

Ken Stott as Balin

John Callen as Oin

Peter Hambleton as Gloin

What we’ve seen of the dwarves so far is fantastic. Visually, these guys look like they came straight from under a mountain. A lot was said early on about how these guys were too good looking to play dwarves but I really don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Rounding out the main company with the dwarves and Gandalf:

Martin Freeman as Bilbo

If the little we’ve seen in the trailer is any indication, Martin Freeman is going to own this role.

Next, the elves:

Lee Pace as The Elvenking Thranduil

Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel

Very little detail is given about individual elves who show up in Mirkwood. We’ll see Thranduil there and also at the final battle, although it isn’t until Lord of the Rings that we actually learn his name. Tolkien’s silence about the elves has opened up a lot of room for Jackson to play around; Tauriel will most likely be one of the elves in the dwarf-capturing party (since there is no mention of her in the book), as will Legolas. Elrond will be seen during the stop at Rivendell and Galadriel is a member of The White Council.

Finishing up with some supporting characters:

Billy Connolly as Dain Ironfoot

Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman

Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn

Stephen Fry as the Master at Laketown

Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown

Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug

Some of these characters probably won’t be seen until There and Back Again comes out in December 2013. Getting to see Mirkwood and Smaug will be incredibly exciting.

I really can’t wait to see what Peter Jackson does with The Hobbit. I think it’s so expected that he’ll do a fantastic job that I’m not really worried about it, but I do want to see it as soon as possible! Be sure to check out the amazing fan site TheOneRing.net for up to date casting info. And the imdb page has good information as well for the movie.

Space: The Final, Deadly, and Very, Very Scary Frontier

Last night I watched the movie Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle (the same one who directed 28 Days Later) and starring Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Rose Byrne, among others. The movie was good (with beautiful music) but about a fourth of the way into the movie I realized that I don’t like space movies. At all. Setting a movie in space has become the equivalent of putting a cornfield in your movie. Nothing good is going to come of it. My proof? Here goes:

WARNING: To make my point fully, there will probably be some spoilers in here. So if you haven’t seen the movies I mention and don’t want to know what happens, you’ve been warned.

First the movies set on a spaceship:

Sunshine: It’s 2057 and the sun is dying. The solution? Fly out there and send a nuclear bomb into the sun. The resulting explosion will create a new star and warm up Earth which is in the midst of a very long and very cold winter. The ship loses contact with the Earth early on in the movie (uh-oh!), then they discover the distress call of the previous failed mission and decide to alter their course to check on the old ship (oh no!) and then they split up to try and find out what happened to the crew (aaah!). It’s not too hard to figure out things are going to end badly.

Event Horizon: The spaceship Event Horizon was sucked into a black hole on its maiden voyage. Seven years later, it mysteriously reappears and the Lewis and Clark is sent out to discover what happened and whether anyone survived. They find the ship and discover that the Event Horizon was pulled into an alternate dimension of pure evil, which is now somehow contained on the Event Horizon. Oh, and did I mention the crew of the Lewis and Clark has been forced onto the Event Horizon due to catastrophic damage to their ship? Right. I think we all know how this is going to end.

Alien (and the sequels, spin-offs, etc.): A mining ship lands on a deserted planet after receiving an SOS signal. While exploring the planet, the crew finds a whole bunch of eggs, one of which attacks a crew member and knocks him unconscious. They bring him back on board (baaaad idea guys) and then realize the SOS signal was not actually a cry for help but instead a warning to stay away (oops!). The parasite hatches and runs wild over the ship.

Movies where bad things come from space:

Armageddon/Deep Impact: Big rocks from space are on a direct course with Earth. Oh no! Armageddon has a crew of rough and tough men flying straight to the asteroid to blow it up. Sacrifices are made, lives are lost, but in the end Bruce Willis saves the day. Deep Impact stars a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood and that’s really all I remember about that one. Oh, and there’s a really big wave when the comet hits. Lots of people die in this one, since apparently in the Deep Impact world, the comet can’t be blown up. The poor Earthlings are stuck trying to hide in underground shelters.

War of the Worlds: This is actually really creepy. Originally a book written by H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds tells the story of a Mars invasion. I’ve seen the more recent movie starring Tom Cruise (a pretty good adaptation, actually) but not the older one from 1953. There was also the famous radio adaptation from Orson Welles that supposedly caused widespread panic. The scariest thing about this story? We lose. We lose bad. No weapons or skills we possess are able to make the slightest effect on the Martians. Not until they breathe our air and our germs, do they show weakness.

Independence Day:  Now that I think about it, this one is clearly based on War of the Worlds. Aliens in high tech ships come from outer space and make it pretty clear that they aren’t here to make friends. There are so many side stories in this movie it’s hard to keep track of them all, but its got Will Smith in it. And Bill Pullman as the President. And eventually that scientist guy from Jurassic Park (Jeff Goldblum!) realizes that a computer virus can take these guys down.

And the general bad stuff just happens away from Earth movies:

Serenity: Based on the really popular Firefly series, Serenity was made to tie up some loose ends from the story and provide a bit more closure. Throughout the movie and the series the cannibalistic Reavers are a constant threat, plus the ruling government is hiding some pretty nasty secrets of its own. And there is the mystery surrounding two of their passengers.

Red Planet: Mars again. And a stranded crew struggling to survive in a hostile environment. I don’t really remember this one that well except that I think I kinda freaked out my new friends in college when I suggested we watch it on the SciFi channel. (Or was that Event Horizon? Hmm…) Anyways, people die. In ugly horrible ways.

Apollo 13: Scary because this was based on a true story! Yikes! Astronauts on a routine flight to the moon develop a problem with their spaceship and then desperately try to return home. Sure it ends well, but that movie is about 2 hours of stomach turning tension. I can’t handle it.

Some honorable mentions: Mars Attacks! where we get pummeled by the Martians again and Doom where a pre-Eomer Karl Urban plays a Space Marine sent to a research facility to investigate strange happenings. Gruesome killings ensue.

Well, that’s a pretty good sampling of how scary space is I think. Although perhaps I’m not being entirely fair to Space. Sure, there really aren’t too many space movies where good things happen, but most horror movies happen in remote, isolated areas like heavily wooded mountains, empty deserts, etc. So I suppose film makers just love the fact that space provides them with the perfect isolated environment for humanity to go absolutely crazy.

I’ll leave you with the scariest thing I’ve ever seen to come out of space.

The stuff of nightmares.



Valentines in Fantasy

Well, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and hopefully it was a good one for you. Or at least a good Tuesday if you’re single. A little late but here are some funny Valentine’s cards I saw:

So…character appropriate.

Love it.

This got me thinking about some of my favorite fantasy/scifi romances.

EOWYN/FARAMIR:

Sure Aragorn and Arwen get all the screen time, him being the King of Gondor I guess, but if you want a truly heart warming romance, this is your couple. Eowyn’s at a make or break point in her life when she first meets Faramir but his tenderness and care see her through and earn him her respect and love in the meantime. It’s a beautiful little side story in The Return of the King and one of my favorite parts of the entire trilogy.

Runner-up: SAM/ROSIE:

Barely mentioned in the movies (understandable- they can’t put in everything), but Rosie Cotton provides a tie to the Shire for Sam that Frodo never has. Rosie heals Sam’s heart so that he, unlike Frodo, can live wholly in the Shire, even after all he has gone through.

RON/HERMIONE:

Apparently, it’s near impossible to find a good picture of just Ron and Hermione without getting into creepy fanfic stuff. So just ignore the dark haired one in the middle.

I’m not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and it’s one of the few instances where I like the movies better than the books (more on this later). But Ron and Hermione are a very a sweet couple. They’ve grown up together and have seen the best and worst of each other. It takes them a while to figure out (or at least admit) that they love each other, but they end up having a really solid relationship.

EVE/WALL-E:

The most sweetly romantic movie I’ve ever seen. And that’s really all I have to say about that.

WILL/LYRA: (Spoilers in this one, careful)

Will and Lyra are the main characters in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. There are very strong religious connotations in the trilogy and Will and Lyra end up as a new Adam and Eve. They go through so much together and forge such a strong bond based on each others strengths. The series ends with their entrance into adulthood and a heartbreaking return to their separate worlds.

HAN/LEIA:

He might be a stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herder, but even Leia couldn’t resist Han Solo’s roguish charm. And there was no way Leia’s strength, confidence, and feistiness could fail to win Han over.

I’m not really much of a romantic person, so this is all I can think of at the moment. But I will say that romances are always best when accompanied by parallel worlds, life-or-death situations, and a bit of magic on the side.

A Wookie never hurts either.

The Avengers

The Super Bowl was on a few days ago. Did I care? Not really. I went to a party for it though. Because the house was big with nice TVs and there were friends there. I’m still not entirely sure who won. (It was the Giants, right? The team without pretty boy Brady?)

Anyways, this caught my eye during the commercials:

I only saw a glimpse of it and didn’t hear any of it then (due to the aforementioned friends), but I checked it later. Pretty exciting! I’m not particularly a fan of comic books, and something tells me that it is probably better that way. Comic book characters usually have long back stories with numerous opponents and villains. How could all that story be smushed into a satisfying 2ish hour movie? Or even a trilogy? I don’t think it could. So being a fan of just the movies (which I am for the most part) means that I don’t have to worry about things like: Which villains will they choose?!?! How will they make it work?!!?

Back to The Avengers. Marvel has been preparing for this for a long time. And preparing well. The Avengers group is made up of Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Brought together by Nick Fury, director of S. H. I. E. L. D., The Avengers movie will have the heroes saving the world from the villainous plots of Loki.

Like I said, Marvel has been planning this one for a while. Each hero has been given their own origin movie, except for Hawkeye and Black Widow. The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton (replaced with Mark Ruffalo for this film) came out in 2008, as did Iron Man where we first met Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 came out in 2010 (where we first saw the Black Widow), followed closely the next year by Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. I have seen all of these movies at this point except for Thor, which I’m bit nervous about because I’m scared it will be so different from the actual mythology that I’ll have a hard time just enjoying the movie.

I’m not sure when Marvel first decided to do The Avengers movie, but if I remember correctly, Iron Man was the first time we saw Nick Fury in an after-credits clip. I suppose the success of the origin movies only ensured the production of this one.

The official details: Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Tom Hiddleston is the villain Loki. Directed by Joss Whedon (yay!), The Avengers comes out on May 4th. I’ll leave you with the official trailer.

Matched

I recently read Matched by Ally Condie. Matched tells the story of Cassia Reyes, a seventeen year old living happily as a member of the Society.

When the book opens Cassia is on the way to her Matching Banquet, where she will learn, along with other seventeen year olds, who her Match is. Her Match has been chosen for her by officials in the Society based on personality and genetic characteristics. Turns out, her Match is her best friend, Xander. But when Cassia goes to enter the microcard they give her with Xander’s picture and information, a different name comes up- Ky Markham, another friend that she has known since childhood. This “mistake” causes Cassia to start questioning the Society where every little part of a person’s life is planned by officials, even down to how many calories someone consumes during the day.

I first picked this book up because of the arranged marriage aspect of it. I am absolutely fascinated by the idea and was hoping for a story about that. Alas, it was not meant to be. Matched does have good things to say about arranged marriages (Cassia’s parents have a very loving relationship, as do most of the other adults in the story). But ultimately, this story is just another YA dystopian romance.

That does not mean that I didn’t enjoy the story. Condie presents a Society that is not inherently evil. People have happy lives, they are healthy and they live long lives. But there is no choice. Spouses are assigned. Food is distributed directly to individuals based on caloric need. The amount of children a couple can have as well as the time period to have them is restricted. Careers are assigned based on abilities and skills. So it was interesting to read that Cassia is not rebelling simply for the sake of rebelling. She rebels because she comes to realize that she wants something. Something that the Society has chosen not to give her.

It’s a shame that this story did end as you would expect. And it was a bit heavy on poetry for my taste. I’m not a huge fan of romantic stories so there has to be something else to grab my attention in the story. And seeing as how this ended by being a fairly traditional romance, I guess I’ll have to keep looking for a good story of an arranged marriage.

Game of Thrones: Season 2 Trailer 2

Clash of Kings is where the series really starts to get complicated. New characters are introduced and old characters are split up and sent away to far away locations.

This trailer is notable to me mostly because of the glimpse of Melisandre and the small bit we see of Arya. There’s a lot of King’s Landing in this teaser and King’s Landing has never been my favorite. The first teaser is much more exciting to me because of how Stannis/the Wall is the main focus. Still looks great though.

April 1st!