Films featuring
Ian McKellan

The Shadow

In the midst of the current boom of comic book movies, it’s easy to forget that was similar, but smaller Hollywood infatuation with the genre in the wake of the Tim Burton Batman movies. Most of the them were quickly and deservedly forgotten but this take on the old radio serials probably deserves to be remembered better than it has been.

The Shadow catches Alec Baldwin at the height of the leading man phase of his career, before his personal life became a bigger story than his acting. Continue reading

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I thought I had Peter Jackson figured. He took three novels volumes of the Lord of the Rings and pared them down to three completely coherent movies. Two years later, however, his King Kong took what Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoadstack did in an economical 100 minutes and ballooned it up to three hours. The Peter Jackson who made Lord of the Rings was, to be as polite as possible, a man of generous girth. The King Kong Jackson was skinny. It was as if he took all those excess pounds and poured them into the Kong screenplay.

The Hobbit was made by a once-again rotund Jackson, which gave me hope that it would be a story more leanly and efficiently told, but early signs were not good. As a novel, The Hobbit is barely long enough to qualify as a footnote in Lord of the Rings. Yet, Jackson found a way to turn the story first into two movies and then, as it turned out, another trilogy. I was afraid we would be treated to such DVD chapter names as “Bilbo Ties His Shoes.”

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


There’s little to say about Return of the King that I haven’t already said about the first two installments in Peter Jackson’s trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies. To my mind, it inherits the same virtues of the previous two movies while bringing the cycle to an epic and satisfying conclusion.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers



The middle entry in a trilogy often has the hardest job, picking up where the first story left off and leaving enough for the final part to build on. In other words, it has to hit the ground running, assuming you remember what you saw a year ago and then leave you hanging two or three hours later. I don’t count faux trilogies like the Indiana Jones movies, which are only called a “trilogy” because there just happened to be three movies. There was, however, no common narrative thread tying the films together, like there is for Lord of the Rings.

Like The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers successfully avoids the “middle movie” trap. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


The first film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy had a tall order to fill. It had to establish the complex fantasy universe of Middle Earth and the peoples who inhabit it, while putting the story of the Ring into motion and accomplish this in the amount of time you could reasonably expect an audience to sit still for a movie. It probably would have been no problem to make a ten-hour film out of the first book alone.

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