Top Five Trilogies – #1 The Lord of the Rings

Earlier this week, I posted the fourth blog in my Movie Trilogy Series, detailing my #2 choice of all time, the Original Trilogy from Star Wars; A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The oldest trilogy on the list, Star Wars is a sight to behold for all generations.  To read that entry, head over to this link:  https://mayeronmovies.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/top-five-trilogies-2-star-wars-original-trilogy/

Finally, we come to today’s blog, the final in the series and the #1 choice on the list, which should be of no surprise to anyone that knows me:

#1 – The Lord of the Rings

The three films that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy are of coursed based on the same three books written by the late J.R.R. Tolkien and published in 1954-55.  I had read these books while in Grade 8, something that was apparently quite rare to my English teacher at the time, who advised books of a lesser degree of difficulty.  That was way back in 1992, long before the movies were ever in production.

The books that I read where my Mother’s, published back in the 1970’s, and along with an illustrated coffee table version of The Hobbit, were my first introduction to the characters.

When the first trailer for The Lord of the Rings was released in January of 2001, I was completely shocked by what I was seeing.  I had been completely unaware that they were even filming a Lord of the Rings movie, let alone three, and that we were going to get them in three consecutive December’s, something that still rarely happens to this day.

The trailer literally sent a shiver down my spine, and was all I could think about after seeing it for that first time on a Sunday morning.  The show I saw it on repeated Sunday afternoons, and I had the pleasure of having my parents watch that show with no knowledge as to why, and my parents responded in an equal fashion as I had.

That December saw the release of the first film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  This movie blew me away, and by the end of January, I had seen it a then record four times in the theatre, including a rare family outing with my parents and my two brothers.  The sheer scope of the film was awe inspiring.

December of 2002 saw the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and this film raised all the standards from Fellowship with the Battle for Helm’s Deep.  Unbelievably awesome, this film garnered five trips to the theatre, the first film to hit that number for me.  Another full family jaunt accompanied Towers as well.

The climax of the series was with the release of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in December of 2003.  This movie also garnered five trips to the theatre, becoming just the second film to reach that number, and only one has reached that number in the nine years since.  I try not to throw around words like ‘epic’ too much, but Return of the King gets that word.  Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, this film stands out for the Siege of Gondor and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, simultaneously the most epic sequences I have ever seen in any film ever.

Be it the great jobs by Ian McKellan as Gandalf or Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn, to the wonderfully evil Saruman played by the incomparable Christopher Lee, or the amazing turn by Andy Serkis as Gollum, The Lord of the Rings is filled with great acting, great action, stunning visuals and wide arching panoramic shots that are copied in films today.

To understand how much I love all three of these films, you need to know that I personally have bought each movie four times over the past ten years, twice each on DVD and Blu-ray.  You also need to know that I watch them on average four times a year, and the fact that in the last couple of weeks my 4 and 6 year old sons have both asked to watch them fills me with pride that they enjoy things that I do as much as I do.

While there are no 3D releases currently planned for The Lord of the Rings series, what we are going to be getting within the next two years is a brand new trilogy of films based on The Hobbit and other information gleaned from the Appendices in The Lord of the Rings books.  I for one cannot wait for this coming December and the return to Middle Earth.

For all this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

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Top Five Trilogies – #2 Star Wars Original Trilogy

On the weekend I continued the series on my personal top five movie trilogies of all time with the #3 entry on the list, the first three Indiana Jones movies.  Yes, I’m aware that it is no longer a ‘true’ trilogy, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t including the fedora wearing Indy on my list.  To read that entry, go to this link: https://mayeronmovies.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/top-five-trilogies-3-indiana-jones/

Today’s blog will be looking at the #2 choice on the list:

#2 – Star Wars – Original Trilogy

 

Many will argue that this should actually be in the top spot on my list, as the trilogy in my top spot can be classified as one long continual movie, but as I am clearly looking at a series of three movies, the Original Star Wars trilogy slots into spot #2 on my list.

This trilogy, containing the oldest movie out of the 15 on this list, is a series of movies that have been beloved by three generations of Mayer’s, beginning with my father, then myself, and now my children.  The idea of running around with a sword made out of pure energy is one every child should be infatuated with.  So much so, that my favourite Halloween costume of all time was when I dressed up as a Jedi.

If you have never seen a Star Wars film (honestly, are there still people that haven’t) the level of joy and entertainment you will get from the Original Trilogy is astounding.

Starting with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, or as it was titled when it was released in 1977, simply Star Wars, we are introduced to one of the greatest villains of cinematic history in Darth Vader.  His all black against the sheer white of the ship in the background is simply the best way to introduce a villain ever.

The introduction of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Force and the redemption of the Jedi’s and the Skywalker name are a clear overriding story arc throughout the trilogy, as is Luke Skywalker’s eventual attempts at redemption for his father, the fallen Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker.

As you watch the trilogy, the shock at the destruction of an entire planet in a brief moment can disorient a youngster, the destruction of the Death Star to save the Rebellion, the escape from the Empire on Hoth, to the dark tone of the Empire being in control at the end of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is almost too much to handle in sheer awesomeness, but finding out who Darth Vader is, is quite possibly the biggest shock I have ever had watching a movie in my entire life.

Honestly, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is the weakest of all three films in the Original Trilogy, and the introduction of the Ewoks, or as I used to call them, the mini-Chewies, was a definite low point, the success for Luke Skywalker in finding redemption for Darth Vader is enough to move passed that and enjoy the movie.

If you have the ability to watch the original theatrical versions of the movies, before George Lucas decided he was going to mess with them, do yourself a favour and do it, do it in one sitting, and try and do it with a young child with you to see the awe in their eyes.  Nothing quite like showing future generations just what epic film making looks like.

In the coming years, we will see another theatrical release of the Original Trilogy, this time in 3D, and I for one cannot wait to see them once again in theatre.

For all this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Top Five Trilogies – #3 Indiana Jones

In yesterday’s blog, I talked about my fourth ranked trilogy of all time, Jurassic Park.  Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  I know I do, as I regularly promote Raptor Awareness: https://mayeronmovies.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/top-five-trilogies-4-jurassic-park/.

Today, we are going to continue on with the list, with the #3 choice.

3. Indiana Jones

Yes, I know there have been four Indiana Jones movies, but for the basis of this countdown, we are going to go with the original three films: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade.

While this trilogy includes admittedly my least favourite of the fifteen movies that I am going to talk about, the sheer fun factor of seeing Harrison Ford carry a series by himself, away from Star Wars, and seeing him kick all kinds of Nazi ass more than make up for what Temple of Doom is lacking.

Steven Spielberg, who was Executive Producer on all three Transformers movies, and directed two of the Jurassic Park movies, is back as director for all three Indiana Jones movies in this trilogy.  Just something about Spielberg apparently that I love his work.

The first movie, simply titled Raiders of the Lost Ark, introduced us to the character of Dr. Henry (Indiana) Jones, an archaeologist who travels to remote places around the world in search of rare artifacts to be preserved in museums.  We also see Indy in a classroom environment as a professor of archaeology.  As the movie progresses, we see Indy travel to Egypt to try to find the famed Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.

This movie was designed as an old 30’s serial movie by writer George Lucas, and what better enemy for that time period than the Nazis.  The joy of this movie was seeing Indy and friends outsmart the Nazis, and also gave us one of the more memorable scenes in cinematic history when Indy simply shoots an adversary instead of fighting him.

Raiders is commonly listed as one of the best movies of all time.  The same cannot be said for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  This is my least favourite film not only of the trilogy, but all of the Indiana Jones movies.  Filmed as a sequel to avoid overuse of Nazis, Temple gives us some funny scenes, but is definitely a darker movie, reflecting the minds of Spielberg and Lucas who had both just recently gone thru divorces.  The pulling of a still beating heart from a man’s chest is still a tad too much for me to this day.

Finally, we have Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  This movie introduces us to Indy’s father, Henry Jones, Sr., deftly played by Sean Connery.  Crusade also brings back Nazis as the films villains, which is perfect, as everyone loves Nazis as foils.  Once again borrowing from Christian beliefs, this film centres on finding the Holy Grail.  This film had a much lighter tone to balance the darker one from Temple and is commonly listed as the second best film of the series.

While not religious, I find it amusing that my favourite two films are the ones that deal more with common Christian ideas than the other films do.  The reason this series sits in the #3 spot for me is because the enjoyment of Raiders and Crusade far outweigh the darker tone of Temple and spark the history lover inside of me.

Of course, the series continued with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which I really enjoy, and the rumour persist of a possible fifth instalment in the next couple of years.  I only hope this happens before Harrison Ford no longer feels comfortable with the fedora and bullwhip.  Also, who the hell doesn’t love a good fedora?

For this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Top Five Trilogies – #4 Jurassic Park

In my blog the other day, I talked about my fifth ranked trilogy of all time, Transformers.  The newest trilogy on the list, having just been completed last year, you can read about it here: http://mayeronmovies.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/top-five-trilogies-5-transformers/.

Today, we are going to continue on with the list, with the #4 choice.

4. Jurassic Park

To understand my love for Jurassic Park, you first have to understand one key thing.  Young children, especially boys, absolutely love dinosaurs.  They are enthralled with the thought of these giant monsters and how they aren’t around anymore.  Dinosaurs were a key part of my childhood, and they are a key part of the childhoods of my two young sons, as they both love, and I mean LOVE, dinosaurs.

I had read Jurassic Park before Steven Spielberg brought it to the big screen, and I credit it with introducing me to the wonder of seeing blockbusters in theatres.  This movie wowed me.  From the T-rex chase scene, to the hunting of the Velociraptors, and the frightening surprise of the Dilophosaur, the original Jurassic Park was so much and more to a not quite 14 year old me.

The sequel, The Lost World, is the #1 watched movie in our household, as both boys regularly choose it to watch.  While not perfect, seeing an adult T-rex rampage thru San Diego is amazing, and once again, the hunting of the Velociraptors is frightening, and to this day, I have a thing against long grass at night.

Jurassic Park III brought back Sam Niell as Dr. Alan Grant, but some other poor casting choices hurt this movie, and when watched with the first two movies, shows how current depictions of dinosaurs, like the Velociraptor, had changed, and sometimes can take you out of it.  While not my favourite of the three, I can sit down and watch it on its own and get more enjoyment out of it.

While not strictly a trilogy in one continuous storyline, all three movies utilize material from Jurassic Park and its book sequel The Lost World to give us three entertaining movies, and with the possibility of a long awaited fourth movie still out there, a return to Jurassic Park will always be in our hearts.

Not to be outdone, watch for Jurassic Park to be released in 3D in the first half of 2013.

For this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Top Five Trilogies – #5 Transformers

I watch a lot of movies.  I haven’t seen all of the classics, as I have not seen the Godfather trilogy, although that should finally be rectified in the next week or two.  That being said, I have a strange feeling that when it comes to ranking trilogies of movies, it more than likely won’t be able to break into my top five list.

The following blogs will go over those series of movies.

5. Transformers

As much as some rip apart the Transformers movies, I enjoy all three of them, and the looks of excitement that my two young sons get watching them remind me of how excited I got watching the cartoon back in the 80’s.  No movie based a toy line from the 80’s is going to be perfect, but Michael Bay managed to craft starting back in 2007.

Admittedly, Revenge of the Fallen in 2009 suffered from the Writers’ Strike during production, but it still entertains me, and the boys would probably say it is their favourite.  The movie, which pays homage to the 80’s animated movie, was tough on me with the death of Optimus Prime.

Dark of the Moon falls prey to the normal tendencies of all trilogies, trying to tie together plot lines from the first two movies.  Unfortunately, when that happens, sometimes other plot holes open up, and that happened with this movie.

All in all, I love all three movies, I grew up with the cartoon, and Optimus Prime was, is, and will forever be one of my favourite characters of all time, and getting Peter Cullen, the voice of Prime in the cartoon, to voice Prime in the movies just completed everything for me.  I love that we got to see giant ass, kick ass robots on the big screen, and I love that it’s something I’ve been able to pass on to my sons.

Check back in the next day or two for #4 on the list.

For all this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

The Expendables 2

Yesterday I sat down and watched The Expendables to get ready for when I went to the theatre later that day to see The Expendables 2.  Once again, I was taken aback at how bad the CGI blood was in the first movie, and how, personally, it took me out of the movie at times, and that’s never something you want to have happen if you are a film maker.  Aside from that, I do enjoy the first one, so was excited to see the sequel.

I’ll tell you this: The Expendables 2 blows the first movie completely out of the water.  It is what the first movie could have and should have been.  Better story, more comedy, action was awesome, and yes, the CGI blood was much better this time around.

The addition of Jean-Claude van Damme and Chuck Norris really helped the movie flow better this time around, and having the ability to utilize both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger really added to the overall enjoyment of the movie.

Sylvester Stallone continues to defy his age in these movies, and I love it.  He does grow the character a bit this time around, but his action scenes are still awesome.  However, once again stealing the show is Jason Statham.  Statham continues to show why he is this generations greatest action star, growing the comedic value of Lee Christmas in this movie.

All in all, if you enjoyed the first one, or thought it was slightly lacking, The Expendables 2 is definitely for you. 3.5 out of 5, almost a 4 though, it was that close.

For all this and more, follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Star Wars Alternate Viewing Order

When people talk about Star Wars, they are invariably talking about the Original Trilogy.  Beginning with what became Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, continuing thru Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and ending with Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983, the Original Trilogy tells one of the best stories in film, and is listed as one of the best trilogies of all time.

Watching the Original Trilogy was one of the highlights of my youth.  Sitting down as a family on a single Saturday afternoon and watching all three movies for the very first time will be a memory that always stays with me.

However, the same will not always be the same for future generations, and that is because of the Prequel Trilogy.  The PT takes away most of the shock value that is inherent in both Empire and Jedi.  We already know that Luke and Leia are brother and sister after watching the PT, and we know that their father, Anakin Skywalker, has become Darth Vader.  One of the single greatest lines in all of film loses all of its surprise if you have watched the PT before watching the OT.

But story wise, should you not watch Episodes I thru III first?  I say no, and on the recommendation of a friend of mine, that is what I didn’t do this week.  I watched the films in such a way as the shock and surprise of the OT is still viable.

By starting with A New Hope, you still get to experience Star Wars the way it was first intended (of course, this is not taking into account new footage added thru the years, but such is what we have today), meeting Darth Vader for the first time, the story of Luke Skywalker, out to avenge the death of his father at the hands of said Darth Vader, the full “love triangle” of Luke-Leia-Han, and the full beauty of a badass Vader as well.

Following this up with The Empire Strikes Back, we still get the unsuredness of meeting Yoda, who doesn’t admit to being Yoda at first.  We also get our first passing view of the Emperor, and the seeming control he has over Vader.  We also get the full benefit of one of the best lines to ever appear in a film when Vader lets Luke know what became of his father.

Is Vader really Luke’s father?  Is he really Anakin Skywalker?  This is where two of the three parts of the PT come into play.  For the greater good of the story, we can completely eliminate A Phantom Menace from this and just go right to Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  Here we get to see a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi training Anakin Skywalker to become a Jedi.  In this movie we get to see Anakin fall in love with Padme, we see the introduction of the Clone Wars, which is mentioned in A New Hope, and we actually get to see that Yoda is one helluva badass Jedi.

From here, we go to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  In this movie, we see the unveiling of Chancellor Palpatine as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, the mastermind behind the Separatist Movement that causes the Clone Wars.  We see the fall of Anakin to the Dark Side of the Force, and his eventual fall to becoming Darth Vader.  We get to see the birth of Luke and Leia and the confirmation that Vader is in fact the father of Luke and the realization that Luke and Leia are brother and sister (Dude, you kissed your sister).  We see the rise of the Galactic Empire, the destruction of the Jedi, and the exile of Yoda and Obi-Wan.  We also get to see the wonder that was the briefly alluded to lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan.

Finally, Return of the Jedi, the culmination of this watch list.  We see the “passing of the torch” from Yoda to Luke, we see Luke struggling with the lure of the Dark Side.  We also get to see Luke and Leia’s reactions to finding out they are brother and sister.  We also get to see the Emperor in action in back-to-back films this way, and we finally get the pay-off of Luke winning his father back over when Vader, or maybe even Anakin, throwing off the Dark Side and throwing the Emperor down a shaft to save Luke.

By watching the five films in this order, you get two films about Luke growing to become a Jedi.  At the end of this arc, we get the shock of Vader saying he is Luke’s father.  We then watch two films about Anakin and his fall to become a Sith, and we get to see that he is the father of not only Luke, but Leia as well.  And then we get the final film, which ties everything all together and pays off all the story lines.

George Lucas likes to say that all six films chart the fall of Anakin and his retribution at the end, but by watching only five films and passing on Episode I, we get parallel stories about a son and his father and how they save a Galaxy from Evil together.  And in all honesty, that sounds pretty damn awesome.

For this and more, follow me on Twitter @kymayer.  Today brings Expendables 2, so check in later for a quick review.  Cheers.