Ian McKellen

Movie Issues: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Movie Issues: X-Men: Days of Future Past

One of the most anticipated movies of this summer would be the new installment in the X-Men franchise: X-Men: Days of Future Past. In this new chapter, the future of humanity is a dark and desolate place. Humans created a new weapon to hunt mutants, The Sentinels. Things look pretty bleak as the mutants are on the edge of extinction. But the X-Men have once last hope, they send Wolverine back to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. With a mix of the original cast and new cast, this becomes one epic adventure and race against time for all.

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Movie Issues: The Shadow

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Movie Issues: The Shadow

This week the guys watched the 1994s The Shadow. The story of pulp hero Lamont Cranston who learns to “cloud men’s minds,” a form of mystical, psychic hypnosis that allows him to influence others’ thoughts and bend their perceptions. With his new power he becomes The Shadow and hero from 1930s New York. But wouldn’t you know it, last descendant of Genghis Khan wants to take over the world and it’s up to The Shadow to stop him. You know….like one does. So please download and listen as we discuss The Shadow, The Oscars and all sorts of geeky stuff!

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Ian McKellen to Reprise Role as Gandalf

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Ian McKellen to Reprise Role as Gandalf

It’s hard not to be excited for the upcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit.  After Peter Jackson’s wonderful direction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the bar is set pretty high.  But before the events that set the story into motion can hit the big screen, there is one important element that needs to be ironed out.  Thankfully, for those of you worried about the possible recasting of pivotal roles, you can rest a bit easier; Ian McKellan has officially signed on to reprise his role as Gandalf the Grey.  Following news that Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, and Cate Blanchett would reprise their roles as Gollum, Frodo, and Galadriel, news broke Monday, January 10th that Ian McKellen had finally signed on.

Still in negotiations to reprise their roles for the film are Hugo Weaving as Elrond and Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  The film is scheduled to begin shooting on February 14th in New Zealand.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]

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Gods and Monsters

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Thank goodness this movie was nominated for some Oscars (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay) so that it was expanded from 11:50pm once a day to a full day’s run so I could see it finally! Gods & Monsters is not the kinds of movie everyone would think to pay full price for – but it’s also an extremely emotional, dense, fascinating movie. The film is based on a book about James Whale, most famous for directing Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Show Boat, and the Invisible Man. It portrays the dwindling life of a truly fascinating person, and a potentially fictional friend.

For the record, Ian McKellen is a god.

The title of the film comes straight out of the month of Dr. Frankenstein, and as the story twists through Whales famous creation and he infamous creation it depicts, it peels away layers of the labels “gods” and “monsters.” It’s quite beautiful.

Now, as of this writing I have not seen Blast From The Past, so I hope I don’t eat my words when I say that Brendan Fraser is increasingly more and more impressive. Outwardly, he seems to have been cast only for his imposing, even hulking physique – but he’s outstanding as Whale’s friend and gardener. Lynn Redgrave has a showy role as Whale’s housekeeper – she’s very good but next to Ian she’s practically Juliette Lewis. Did I mention that Ian is amazing?

I can’t remember the last time I was so emotionally pounded (as was my companion) by a film – oh, yes I can, it was Life is Beautiful. Before that it was….well, it’s been a while.

Some folks may bristle at the frank discussions of Whale’s life, loves, and lifestyle – but those who don’t have deserve a movie like this. I don’t know how anyone with a heart could condemn this tired, gentle, soulful director.

Kudos to the casting folks for reproducing the actors of Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein so eerily. The actress playing Elsa Lanchester is truly divine. Carter “Yummy” Burwell provides an unusually understated score – I’m not sure if I noticed it but he’s also king of his trade so…I would also like to mention that if the Academy continues to fail to recognize guys like Carter Burwell and Danny Elfman they will continue to devolve into writing bland and unmemorable music, thinking that since Randy Newman is getting all these undeserved Oscar nominations, that’s gotta be the way to go. Stop the devolvement of genius!

Gods and Monsters is a really lovely movie, eloquently written and deftly performed. Do go, won’t you?

MPAA Rating R for sexual material and language.
Release date 11/4/98
Time in minutes 106
Director Bill Condon
Studio Universal

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Apt Pupil

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Every review of a film adaptation of a written piece of fiction says that “it was not as good as the book.” Unfortunately, this holds true for this movie, but for none of the same reasons that Stephen King novels don’t make good movies. Or anyone else’s books, really. Apt Pupil is from the same novella collection that spawned the excellent films Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, from the same author that kept cinemas vacant with Thinner and Maximum Overdrive. It’s about a young student (Brad Renfro) who gets entangled in a strange cat and mouse Catch 22 relationship with a former Nazi criminal, each mentally brutalizing each other until…well, until something happens that I am not going to tell you about. It’s a story that has taken 10 years to get to the screen at least (River Phoenix was the first Todd Bowden considered), but what kept it from the screen for so long was lost when it was finally filmed.

Consider King’s also-excellent Misery, another mutual psychotic codependent relationship. It’s twisted, it’s disturbing, it’s fascinating – *but it doesn’t involve glorifying the Nazi atrocities.* So, friends and neighbors, to get this on screen, we have to cut out most of Renfro’s transformation as a human being, most of the sick pathology below the All-American Valedictorian, and we have to concentrate on Herr Dussander’s remorse and self-loathing. This is more palatable, sure, but it utterly robs the characters of their motivation, the drama of its bite, the horror of its essence. What’s left is a (thank goodness) above-average production of a castrated script. Ian McKellen (Sir Ian) is perfect, he’s seedy and old and wily and hiding from his past. Renfro is intense; he the actor wants to get into all the “gooshy stuff” (quote from the book) but he is held back. Neither actor is afraid of the subject matter, and perhaps the screenwriter is not afraid either – I suspect a lot of gooshy stuff is on the cutting room floor or typed on discarded multicolored script revision pages.

Just to watch Renfro hold his own with McKellan is worth the price of admission, and it is an interesting concept, but it forces you to go read the source material. So, here’s a shameless plug: Pick up a copy of Different Seasons, and you will get three movies in one book, and one more. The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it is one of the best book to film adaptations (besides Sense and Sensibility) I can think of. Bryan Singer directs with more heart than he did on Usual Suspects, but ultimately I have to blame the fraidy cats in the studio system.

Oh, I have to warn you – David Schwimmer is also in this movie. I love him on Friends, but he is like a death knell to the movie. I was hoping he was cast to inject a little Jewish-Nazi style tension into the otherwise bland fascination that WWII atrocities hold for Renfro, but they skipped that as well. An actor at the end gives a nakedly painful performance, the only indication that the Reich targeted any actual people. Of course we all know what happened, and maybe the filmmakers were assuming we were filling in the lines there, but the crux of the story is how in love child and elder secretly are with the horrors they revisit together. Take away that love – no, lust – and you got bupkiss. Except for some seriously hotshot acting. Check it out.

MPAA Rating R for scenes of strong violence, language and brief sexuality.
Release date 10/23/98
Time in minutes 112
Director Bryan Singer
Studio TriStar Pictures