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by Moe - 3 Comment(s)

Like a lot of rabid fans I am counting the days to the release of Prometheus on June 8th. This is Ridley Scott’s—SIR Ridley’s that is—highly anticipated latest movie and it looks epic. It may or may not be a prequel to his iconic film Alien---they---as in the actors, the Studio, and almost anyone associated with it are playing it pretty close to the chest. Alien was the first instalment of the Aliens quadrilogy and the movie that launched Sigourney Weaver’s career, made kick butt heroines acceptable, and upped the ante for filmmakers for years to come.

Scott got his start 35 years ago working as a high powered ad-man. He then tried his hand at movies and had just finished making a feature film called The Duellist (actually pretty good) that hardly anybody saw because they were all lined up to go see another new release – Star Wars. Scott’s next release was to be a retelling of Tristan and Isolde, but after he himself saw Star Wars, he is quoted as saying “this changes everything – it’s time to get down to business”.

6 weeks later he signed on to direct Alien—he was actually 20th Century Fox’s fifth choice. With its wonderful tag line 'in space no one can hear you scream' it was a phenomenal success. The franchise had a total run of 4, with the first sequel, Aliens (directed by another developing heavy weight – James Cameron) being even slightly better than the original. Unfortunately 3 and 4 ran out of steam. Out of all his movies since, Scott says that Alien is the one that has called to him over the years as unfinished business.

He has had a hugely successful career and any movie with him at the helm is an event. Here are some of his titles which are available at CPL: Thelma and Louise; Gladiator; Kingdom of Heaven; Robin Hood; Body of Lies; American Gangster; Blade Runner.

Prometheus features an excellent cast including Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class); Noomi Rapace (Dragon Tattoo trilogy – original Swedish version); Charlize Theron – currently having quite a resurgence in her career with another big draw having just opened – Snow White and the Huntsman (here's the trailer). Check out this excellent teen zone post from earlier; Idris Alba (Luther) and Guy Pearce (Mildred Pierce).

Next on Scott’s plate – a prequel --- or maybe a sequel --- again, he is not saying, to his other cult classic—Blade Runner.

The Bible and the Epics

by Maureen May

For many years when looking for a sure fire hit, film makers turned to the Bible. As a result a lot of truly classic films were born, with great casting, wonderous sets and stunning live action sequences. There were also some epic mistakes- serious miscasting and barely recognizable interpretations. Now I know you can find these perennial favourites on t.v. espcially as Easter approaches but why not watch them commercial free, and at a time of your choosing. And if you have a large screen with surround sound you're in for a treat.

Grand daddy of them all - Ben Hur. This is one of my favourite movies of all time and I would not be exaggerating if I said I have seen it 30 times (at 3 hours and 32 minutes that's a lot of Ben!). And I've had the joy of seeing it on the big screen. The sets are real- no CGI's here and the chariot race really is Chuck and Stephen Boyd tearing around the track. Still considered one of the greatest action sequences ever captured, the race took 3 months to film and used 15000 extras on the largest set ever built (see the picture- that's a set - with real people- and I can't get the whole thing to fit!). It won 11 Oscars, equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy- and think of all the CGI in those films. It is a brilliant movie.

Spartacus- Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons (not the lead singer of Kiss- the other Jean Simmons!). This was made the year after Ben Hur as compensation to Douglas for being turned down in favour of Heston for Ben Hur (Kirk was offered Messala in Ben Hur but did not want to play second banana). Again a cast of 1000's (10,000 plus for the battle scene). Co-produced by Douglas, he got so many great actors to appear in smaller roles by showing them each a different script that emphasized their character over the others.

 The 10 Commandments- again with Charlton Heston- this time playing Moses, and Yul Bryner as Ramses. This is a movie that has so many truly epic scenes-parting of the Red Sea/erecting the giant obelisk- it is hard to count. This is also one of the most financially successful movies ever made- adjusting for inflation its North American box office revenue is around $977 million. It is grandiose. We have over 20 new copies coming shortly.

We also have a good animated offering of the Moses story. From 1998- Prince of Egypt. And while we are on animated stories there is also 2000's Joseph, King of Dreams. Also the charming Veggie Tales, which convey moral themes based on Christianity.

The Robe- Richard Burton and Jean Simmons again, in the imagined tale of the Roman centurion who comes into posession of Christ's robe after His crucifixion.

Quo Vadis- Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov doing a wonderfully mad Nero.

The Passion of The Christ- this is Mel Gibson's bloody, violent and to my mind over the top re-telling of the crucifixion. Of course crucifixion was bloody and violent and most movies do sanitize it, but Gibson seems to relish it. I recommend it with reservations and mostly because it was so popular and controversial at the time of its release. Heads up- for authenticity Gibson has everyone speaking Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew with English sub-titles. Completly financed by Gibson (at around $30 million) it made him a fortune-best estimations are around $580,000,000.00.

Greatest Story ever Told- anyone who was anyone in 1965 seems to have been in this movie. Not the best retelling, but worth a look.

Jesus Christ Superstar---is one of the very first rock operas by the wonderful team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. First staged on Broadway in 1971 it too was highly controversial. A musical about the crucifixion-what were they thinking? I think it works.

Jesus of Montreal- by Canadian director Denys Arcand and on Mel's must have list when stranded on a desert island.

by Moe

Bridge on the River Kwai

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

If you took my recommendation and saw Ben Hur at the theatres back in November when it was re released in digital, you know how amazing these epics look on the big sceen.

So try not to miss The Bridge on the River Kwai which is playing at Crowfoot and Scotia Centre on Wed Jan 11 at 7:00. Winner of 7 Academy Awards in 1957 including Best Actor- Alex Guiness, Best Director- David Lean, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Writing, and of course you couldn't win all of these and not win Best Picture.

This is on every 'best list' you can imagine (including my own) and has been for over 50 years. It is a magnificent movie- self sacrifice, madness, obsession, heroism. Oh man I love this movie and although I have seen it 40 plus times (that's another list of mine it is on- movies I have seen more than 25 times!) I have not yet seen it on the big screen. I know what I am doing on Wed the 11th.

Take me with you!

- 1 Comment(s)

Moe is on holidays right now, so she's asked a few other Movie Maniacs to step in and write some guest blogs for her while she's away. I was totally fine with this prospect until she revealed exactly where it was that she'll be vacationing.

Hint: It's New Zealand.

Now! This is a pretty excellent destination to choose at any given time, but it just so happens to be the BEST destination at THIS given time.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Clearly you're not as big of a fan-girl as I am (neener neener)...

The reason why New Zealand is the place for any Movie Maniac to be right now is because Peter Jackson is currently working on the second leg of his new Tolkien epic, "The Hobbit" in that glorious country as I type.

Now what you have to understand, is that we're still AGES away from the release of this movie. The first phase of it JUST got into post-production, and they've still got loads of editing and tweaking and awesome-ifying to do yet, and everything else is in pre-production. This is ALSO only the first half of the journey -- they're splitting the novel into two films, like any smart adapter does these days.

Which means, my friends, that they are filming RIGHT NOW, in all their dwarvish make-up glory, in beautiful locations all across the land of the Kiwis. And I couldn't be more jealous of Moe for getting to be there.

If the set production vlogs are anything to go by (which I'm hoping they are, even though Jackson is not releasing them NEARLY as often as he should be...) this second leg of shooting will carry on well into December. And even though the sites and sets are a very closely guarded secret, this makes me hopeful that Moe might just stumble across a hobbit or an elf or a dragon here and there. She has told me they love drivng down back roads just to see where they come out, so with a little luck... At any rate, I've told her it's probably best to bring her lady-dwarf costume (beard and all) and some speedy running shoes for dodging the security guards.

As a tribute to the epicness that is Jackson's work in New Zealand, I've decided to include a couple of OTHER movies shot in this locale. Click on the titles for links to the Calgary Public Library catalogue!

Whale Rider, possibly the biggest film to actually focus on Kiwi culture and life, revolves around a young Maori girl and her search to fulfill her destiny. Beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, this one was up for an Oscar and 28 other awards. It won most of them.

King Kong and Lovely Bones (both directed by Jackson) are not set in NZ, but do use its gorgeous locations as backdrops. Both are written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, two collaborators of Jackson's on LOTR. Both also have all-star casts, and one of them has Jack Black. What more can I say?

If you're into horror, 30 Days of Night (originally a graphic novel series) is a terrifying, and R-rated, Vampire flick... I promise these blood-suckers don't sparkle. Almost half of the cast is either Kiwi or Aussie, but you can't tell, because they're all pretending to be from Alaska.

I swear, New Zealand must have the most diverse climates and landscapes of any country... where else could pass for Pennsylvania, Alaska, Middle Earth... or Pandora?

That's right, James Cameron's epic Avatar was shot there too. Wanna know why? Check out this article from "Film New Zealand".

Other epic NZ-based movies include The Chronicles of Narnia,The Bridge to Terabithia (starring The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), and Spielberg's highly anticapted Tintin movie, out this Christmas.