Movies


MGM and New Line have signed Guillermo del Toro finally to direct two films for the Lord of the Rings franchise.

Namely, the highly anticipated “Hobbit”, as well as a LOTR “prequel” of sorts, one that will fill in the gaps between “The Hobbit” and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Jackson will serve as executive producer on the projects.

Since Jackson did not wish to return to the director’s chair, del Toro is a nice choice. He’s a great director with spectacular vision. But, most importantly, he’s a huge fan of the material.

Personally, I would rather have seen “The Hobbit” turned into two films than the current plan of action. There is a LOT that goes on in that book that would be wonderfully served by two films. Still, I won’t complain too much…

With the all-important task of finding a director complete, now comes the equally daunting task of casting the epic first film.

Here are my thoughts on possible choices for the roles.

Bilbo Baggins – Ian Holm is simply too old to pull this off like he did in the short LOTR flashback. Another actor must be found, but one that can really pull off that whining factor. Remember in the original tale, Bilbo is a constant whiner and complainer, to a fault. That kind of acting needs a comedic hand. So, why not go with Ricky Gervais? He’s the best British comedic actor out there. He doesn’t resemble Ian Holm, but we’ll forgive that easily when we see him bitching about elevenses on the trail with the dwarves. Other possibilities – Elijah Wood (probably the popular choice, but I don’t think so…let his Frodo performance stand alone), Eddie Izzard, Simon Pegg (a dark horse choice; he’d be a GREAT pick for the role, but he might be too tied up with the new Star Trek franchise to be available (he plays Scotty in the new film)).

Ricky Gervais

Elijah Wood

Eddie Izzard

Simon Pegg

Gandalf – Ian McKellan. No-brainer. He’s all but come out (no pun intended) and said that he’s been signed to do it.

Thorin (leader of the dwarves) – John Rhys-Davies would be a nice choice (but he may be reluctant to return to that makeup he became so allergic to). Other than him, I’m really drawing a blank…I’ll think more on this one and update. UPDATE: If you don’t use Beorn in the film, use Brendan Gleeson here. He’d be excellent in this role as well.

John Rhys-Davies

Brendan Gleeson

Elrond (King of the Elves) – Hugo Weaving. Another no-brainer.

Beorn – This encounter with the shape shifter by Bilbo and the dwarves will more than likely be cut, especially considering the plot will be condensed into one film. Still, a guy can dream, can’t he? My pick would be Brendan Gleeson (aka “Mad-Eye” Moody).

Bard the Bowman from Lake Town – Strong rugged, trustworthy type. Christian Bale could do well here, as could Hugh Jackman, pick a 30-40 something actor (British or no).

Christian Bale

Hugh Jackman

Another good choice would be Gerard Butler (see picture below).

Gollum – Andy Serkis IS Gollum! Next!!!

Smaug the Dragon – Now HERE’S where it gets interesting…Smaug is present for only a short part of the story, but his presence is pivotal. Since he will obviously be CGI, you gotta find a VOICE. So, I’ve itemized a list for you.

Hugo Weaving
Hugo Weaving – He’d do a great job, no doubt. Problem is, his voice has become almost TOO recognizable. That, and he’s already performing as Elrond in the film (another short role) would probably preclude him from doing it, though he’d undoubtedly be a fan favorite.

Ron Perlman
Ron Perlman (aka “Hellboy”) – Ron’s got an excellent voice for this role. Deep, powerful, but with an edge that can do the comedic elements of it as well. Plus, he’s obviously got a great working relationship with del Toro throught the “Hellboy” franchise, so he might be the early favorite to land the role.

Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler (from “300”) – He spent most of “300” yelling, but in the quiet moments, you could hear a lot of power in that voice. He’s a possibility.

and my dark horse would be…..

Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman. He could seriously be the best choice out there. If you’ve read the book, you know that Smaug plays mind games with Bilbo for the most part, only exploding in anger at the very end. No voice would better encapsulate those mind games better than Rickman. He would be my #1 choice.

Other roles needing to be filled…Orc King, King of the Wood Elves, Lord of the Eagles, Spider Queen, the three Trolls,

What are your thoughts? Let’s get this thing going?

Variety magazine is reporting that director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy”) and star Matt Damon have committed to a fourth movie based on the reluctant superspy Jason Bourne.

The Bourne movies have been OUTSTANDING, the third in particular.

Now many have been reluctant to go with more films, notably Damon himself, as Bourne author Robert Ludlum only published three books. However, the films vastly differed from the novels and were still wildly successful.

In my opinion, “The Bourne Supremacy” was the best picture I saw last year, hands down. Here’s hoping they keep Bourne alive and kicking.

Word is that George Takei, aka Sulu, is in talks with JJ Abrams to appear in the upcoming Star Trek Film reboot.

Leonard Nimoy has already been cast to reprise his role as Spock, in what is assumed to be a movie featuring the ever popular Star Trek tool known as time travel.

What a pity Shatner had himself killed off in “Star Trek: Generations”. He apparently met with Abrams, but is not scheduled to appear in the movie (at least, the actor and producer claim that…I hold out hope that there’ll be a surprise for us come next May).

Kudos to George Takei!!! He is currently the announcer for the Howard Stern radio show on Sirius.

I hope you’ll forgive me as I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus with this little gem of a blog. The holidays, combined with building a new house, and resurrecting my opera career (yes, I’m a classical/opera singer) has left me less than motivated to keep the NIRV up and operating.

Also, in speaking with occasional NIRV contributor and Aiepathy for Technology blogger Wolfman, I’ve thought that perhaps my focus has been too broad. Covering all of entertainment is a daunting task for one guy, especially when I’m not particularly interested in ALL aspects of entertainment. Nor are you, I should think.

So, the idea here will be to focus. Dwindle the topics down to those I am truly interested, in the hopes of attracting readers and commenters of similar stripe. Simply put, entertainment geeks.

So, I’m gonna attempt to be your one-stop blog for the following subject areas and topics:

Movies: Sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero films
TV: “Lost”, “Battlestar Galactica”, and “Heroes”
Games: XBOX 360 news and reviews
Books: Sci-fi/fantasy genre

Along the way, I hope to add to this list (depending upon your interests), as well as occasionally talk about my personal life down here in sunny Houston.

I welcome and cherish each and every hit and comment I get here at E-NIRV. I think it has the potential to be a little something special, a filled niche for the genre lover in all of you.

Thanks for listening!

— RebRob, Editor-in-Chief

10. I am Legend – Will Smith’s post-apocalyptic thriller is a great character story

9. Knocked Up – Not as funny as “40 Year Old Virgin”, but still a hoot.

8. 300 – A visually stunning fictionalized war epic

7. Beowulf – Another retelling, yet this tale brilliantly uses CGI in unbelievably complex ways

6. 3:10 to Yuma – Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in an outstanding character study of what makes a hero and a villain.

5. Superbad – Too hysterical for words.

4. Ratatouille – One of Pixar’s best stories and best animation.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – The best Harry movie gives a remarkably poignant and interesting look at how different people perceive and combat evil.

2. American Gangster – Denzel Washington at his best.

1. Bourne Ultimatum – One of the best spy action films ever.

It’s over! The long-standing feud between New Line Cinemas and Peter Jackson has been resolved.

Today it was announced that Jackson would be producing two films about our favorite Middle Earth.

The first is believed to be “The Hobbit”, the second a bridge between “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”.

Just a couple of thoughts.

First off, I’m thrilled that Jackson will be involved. The look and feel of Middle Earth would be trusted in no one else’s hands but his. It would be great if he could direct as well, but perhaps letting someone else play in his sandbox (Sam Raimi, maybe?) wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.

Second, I love the idea of two films. However, there’s plenty of material in “The Hobbit” to make two films.

There are three great climaxes within the story. First, the escape of the Dwarves from the Goblin King. Leading up to the confrontation with Smaug (what a perfect cliffhanger!). Then you have the final act and the Battle of the Five Armies, complete with armies of dwarves, Men, goblins, Elves, and Eagles. What a finish! And all culminating a study in what greed and evil can do to the hearts of good and bad. It’s a great prequel to the events of LOTR, and something that could really be captured nicely in two films. I hope they go this direction.

Still, GREAT NEWS ON PETER JACKSON!!!

On Saturday, I had the privilege in watching the next phase in filmmaking, when I attended a screening of Beowulf.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s a song told of the hero Beowulf, a Geet warrior come to Denmark to rid the land and its king of Grendel, a horrific and tormented monster. Beowulf’s legend is as big as his ego, but as Babe Ruth said, “it ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And Beowulf can most definitely do it. For Beowulf though, the curse of Grendel reaches far deeper than anyone knows, a curse that threatens to consume his very soul and that of Denmark.

Although this tale has been told for centuries, I will leave the rest of the particulars to your viewing pleasure. And this film is sheer viewing pleasure.

First off, the acting. And although this film is done through animated motion capture CGI (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings), believe me when I tell you that the actors performed every bit of what you see on screen. First off is the title character himself, Ray Winstone as Beowulf. He brings a fierceness to the character that is of course necessary for such a larger than life figure, yet he portrays Beowulf’s false bravado and insecurities with amazing finesse. He comes to aid King Hrothgar, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Hrothgar is the stereotypical King asleep at the wheel, too drunk and too foolish to see his kingdom stands on the edge of disaster; all the while it drinks itself to death. Robin Wright Penn plays his queen Wealthow, a young beautiful woman, devoted to her king, but revulsed by his past. Crispin Glover voices Grendel, a misshapen, tortured beast who must destroy all that hurts him. Finally, Angelina Jolie plays Grendel’s mother, a mythical creature, beautiful yet terrifying. All do a great job here.

Next, the story. Zemeckis culls just the right amount of material from the legend, with changes a bit here and there. The alterations do well to make “Beowulf” more of a personal tale, balancing the action and violence (of which there is plenty). Zemeckis’ Beowulf is a tragic hero, full of bravado and tall tales, but inwardly inadequate and unsatisfied. As his stature as a legend grows, his emptiness grows as well (almost like a balloon inflated to bursting). He knows no other way, though. He must succeed, no matter what the cost. When he dispatches Grendel, his mother offers Beowulf a choice. Give in to her and be a hero forever, or pass out of knowledge and memory from her wrath. Herein lies the quintessential idea behind the film; what is the cost of being hero, both for the hero himself and for the society that champions him? Is it worth risking tragedy and mayhem in order to have something or someone to celebrate? In the end, it is not Beowulf who must decide, but all of those who believe in him.

Lastly, the special effects. I did not see Zemeckis’ holiday film “The Polar Express”, but I saw enough clips to marvel at the level of complexity CGI realism had. CGI has been around for more than a decade thanks to Pixar, but almost always as an extension of the cartoon world (Toy Story, Incredibles). Here, “Beowulf” strives to be as realistic as possible. The facial expressions are truly amazing. I often had to stop myself from believing that these weren’t the real actors performing live. Angelina Jolie’s first appearance on screen is SO real looking, I had to convince myself that it was still CGI. Anthony Hopkins gets the most subtlety out of his character, a tribute to the screen legend’s talent.

“Beowulf” is the first mainstream CGI film to be truly targeted for adults. The level of complexity and nuance opens a lot of doors towards making similar films in this genre. Interestingly enough, I found myself more willing to be sucked into this fantasy world than that of live action (Lord of the Rings included). This isn’t to say it’s a better movie, or better acted. The CGI simply wills itself to be more engrossing in its fantasy. It’s a remarkable achievement, and a very worthwhile film.

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