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Tag Archive: Lord of the Rings


Strategic Operations Bureau

If you aren’t watching this season of Major Crimes, last night you likely missed the best episode of television this year, which made us do a double take as to whether this was a midseason finale special cliffhanger ratings booster.  It wasn’t.  Likewise, it was the best TV pilot we’ve seen in ages (more on that later).  And add to that one of the most satisfying conclusions that The Closer and Major Crimes writers James Duff and Mike Bercham have concocted yet.

Directed by The Closer, Major Crimes, Dallas, and NYPD Blue director Michael M. Robin, the episode “Two Options” took an almost Dragnet approach to a police procedural and crammed more drama into an hour of TV than we thought possible.  And the climax might have caused someone to claim it as the best stand-and-cheer moment since Eowyn killed the Witch-King at the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Reviewers write about new seasons and finale episodes all the time, but it takes a great hour of regular programming to cause you to stop in your tracks and tell everyone about it, especially in the week full of press briefings leading up to Comic-Con.

Major Crimes Two Options and SOB

For regulars of the series who haven’t watched the episode yet, we’ll just note that everyone gets his and her moment–Sharon, Louie, Andy, Mike, Julio, Buzz, Amy, Taylor, Rusty, Dr. Joe, Cooper, and even Fritz.  Although if we worked in the actual district attorneys’ office in Los Angeles we’d probably not be too happy with the portrayals of last years’ Deputy D.A. Rios or last night’s D.D.A. Gloria Lim.

That brings us to our prediction.  Allow us to summon the ghost of Carnac the Magnificent.  (Drum roll, please).

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Gimli axe

This past December we discussed here at borg.com a fantasy film auction to end all auctions –Julien’s The Trilogy Collection Auction, which included the sale of an item that sold for the highest price–a screen-used axe wielded by John Rhys-Davies as the dwarf Gimli.  The final price?  $180,000.

Today, Julien’s has one Lord of the Rings prop in its Hollywood Legends auction.  It’s another Gimli axe, but this one has the fortune of the provenance of being part of John Rhys-Davies’ personal collection–one of those props that each of the Fellowship of the Rings actors was given after filming.  Considering the December sale of a Gimli axe without such a great provenance record, Julien’s has listed a conservative estimate range, $125,000 to $150,000.

Gimli axe number 2

The first bid is already in, at $95,000 plus auction fees.

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Juliens LOTR auction

We previewed this week’s Julien’s auction here at borg.com last month.  It could go down as the best auction of The Lord of the Rings props and costumes ever sold at auction simply from four of its offerings and it may be the only chance this decade to get your hands on props from the Academy Award winning films. Called “The Trilogy Collection–Props and Costumes from Middle-Earth,” Julien’s is offering several items on the auction block this Thursday, December 5, 2013.

The key items being auctioned belong to a group of screen-used props that were given away as part of a Hasbro Toys/New Line Cinema contest to promote the release of the third LOTR installment, the 2003 Academy Award winning best picture The Return of the King.   Described as “one of eight main character props used heavily in The Lord of the Rings,” look for Aragorn’s sword, Frodo’s “Sting” sword, Eowyn’s sword, and Gimli’s battle axe, each expected to fetch prices ranging from $30,000 to $70,000, with Frodo’s sword expected to sell between $100,000 and $150,000.

Faramir helmet

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Elysium-The-Art-of-the-Film

Art designers or aspiring art design students will want to pick up Mark Salisbury’s new look at creating sets, costumes and props for a world of the future in Elysium: The Art of the Film Incorporating commentary from the up-and-coming science fiction director of the geo-political sci-fi thriller District 9, Neill Blomkamp, this new large format hardcover delves into the creative process from early ponderings to the imagery that made it to the final film cut.

Like listening to the first demo tapes of your favorite band or scanning the rough sketches of your favorite artist, taking a peek at the development of Hollywood magic through various aspects of a film can teach you a lot about a designer.  Watching the development of a cyborg exo-skeletal costume from inception to final crafted piece challenges the reader to agree or disagree with what is cut and what isn’t.  What physical elements, like utilitarian tubes and pipes, plastics or metals, make us think of the visual “future”?

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

The Midsummer Classic, baseball’s All-Star game, takes place on Tuesday and to help out you non-baseball fans, here are some cool things to keep in mind as you watch.  I’ve tried to frame the game in ways that I hope will make it easier for non-fans to understand.

Centerfielders Abound Just Like The Simpsons Episodes!

In the third season of The Simpsons (a season that I love for my favorite Halloween episode “Treehouse of Horror: II” because the frogurt is cursed) they had a baseball crossover episode called “Homer at the Bat” that starred the biggest baseball stars of the age, including Ozzie Smith, Mike Scioscia, Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry.  At the end of the episode, you hear a revised version of “Talkin’ Baseball” by Terry Cashman called “Talkin’ Softball.”  The new version replaced the signature “Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” with “Homer, Ozzie and the Straw.”  The original song commemorates the city of New York and the three great centerfielders that played there at the time, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider.  Today, a couple of new centerfielders, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, have drawn comparisons to these celebrated players of the past.  Add to them the great defensive centerfielder for the Braves, Michael Bourn, and you have a new part to the song, “Michael, Harper and the Trout.”  As the linked articles say, we’ll be seeing these guys for a while, and you’ll be lucky to catch glimpses of them both in their first All-Star Game.

The Fellowship of the Championship Ring

In baseball when you win the World Series, each member of the team now gets a championship ring.  To win the World Series, a team must win four games.  To get to play four games at home, the league must win the All-Star Game.*  So, think of it this way – the players for each team in the All-Star Game are like the league’s Fellowship of the Ring.  Nine members of the fellowship, nine players start for a baseball team. They are there to protect the interest of their league in procuring rings in October.  Here’s your guide to what person in each league equals each member of the Fellowship.

Frodo Baggins – Mike Napoli, AL;  Buster Posey, NL

Frodo was the guy that was modest but really in charge, and that just screams the position of catcher to me.  I put catcher Mike Napoli here because he looks like he would have hairy feet and Buster Posey because he has a baby face like Elijah Wood.

Samwise Gamgee – Derek Jeter, AL;  Yadier Molina, NL

Samwise had to be the most loyal person in the history of literature.  So, for his position, here are two players that have been with the same team for their entire career.  Derek Jeter with the Yankees and Yadier Molina with the Cardinals.  The fact that Molina also looks like he has hairy feet is just a bonus.  Since Molina won’t be at the game due to being on the bereavement list, I think Carlos Ruiz makes a great substitute as he has always been a Phillie and also looks to have hairy feet.

Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took – Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera AL;  Rafael Furcal and Jose Altuve, NL

If hobbits were ever to play baseball, they’d have to be middle infielders, generally the smallest players on the diamond.  Jose Altuve, the 5’5” second baseman for the Astros, makes this list as the slightest of all the players.  Elvis Andrus joins him because not only is he a middle infielder, he has hobbit power with only 1 home run.  Add to them shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera and Rafael Furcal and you got some serious small and quick guys (small being relative as Elvis and Asdrubal both stand 6’0”.)

Gandalf the Grey – Joe Nathan AL;  Chipper Jones, NL

When I think grey, I think older, as in, “I keep getting older and keep getting more grey hairs.”  So, for Gandalf, look no further than the two oldest players on each team that I didn’t select for another character.  Joe Nathan is just a little bit younger than Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones is the oldest player on both teams at the ripe old age of 40.

Aragorn – Robinson Cano, AL;  Matt Kemp, NL

I think of Aragorn and I think of a strong leader.  So, for Aragorn I choose the Home Run Derby Captains, Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp.  If we were just judging it on dreamy guys, because I think all fan girls swoon at the sight of Viggo Mortensen, then I think Matt would still easily make this cut. (He dated Rihanna.  Don’t worry, you probably don’t know her because you didn’t see Battleship.  Trust me – she’s very pretty.)  We’ll give Robinson Cano the benefit of the dreamy doubt as well.

Legolas – Curtis Granderson AL;  Andrew McCutchen, NL

I think Legolas, I think lithe.  Yes, both Andrew McCutchen and Curtis Granderson can hit a lot of home runs, but watching them cover ground in centerfield harkens back to Legolas running through the woods without getting winded.

Gimli – Prince Fielder, AL;  R.A. Dickey, NL

Prince Fielder is an easy choice as he is easily the most bearded guy on the field, and if there is one thing that dwarves can do, it’s grow a beard.  R.A. Dickey might not be as bearded as Prince, and since he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, he may be closer to Frodo or Sam climbing Mt. Doom, but I wanted to be sure to include him on a list because he is cool.  He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  If you want an NL player with the same physique as Prince and Gimli, the Kung Fu Panda (yes, that is his nickname) Pablo Sandoval is pretty close.  If I had to name a fourth dwarf, David Ortiz of the AL would easily make the list.

Boromir – Josh Hamilton, AL;  Joey Votto, NL

I think Boromir, I think of a big, strapping, huge guy ready to take on all comers.  As far as hitters go, you can’t get much bigger and stronger than Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto.  (If you think of Boromir as a traitor, put a little more Sean Bean as Ned Stark in your viewpoint.)  Right now, Joey and Josh are 1st and 3rd in wOBA, a stat created by Tom Tango to measure the whole picture of a player’s offensive contribution.  What does that mean?  They are the first and third best hitters in the game right now.

Now, you can watch the game, look at all these players and see if you agree with me.  If nothing else, it will keep your mind occupied in between the action on the field.  To make it simpler, just look at the big screen on each player and ask yourself: hobbit, dwarf, elf or man?

*Is it a good rule to have the home team of the World Series determined in this way?  Probably not, but I have much bigger complaints in the world and all the griping I hear now should have been as loud for alternating years back in the 80s.  Weee!  It’s an even numbered year and that means NL home field advantage!  Weee!  Do I sound bitter for being a fan of the Cardinals who made the World Series in the odd numbered years of 1985 and 1987 when I actually paid attention?  Yeeessss!

Pitchers pitching as fast as a Tron Identity Disc

Yes, Tron and Flynn can throw their identity discs with the speed of a starship, but wait until you see what these pitchers can do with a baseball.  Because the radar gun in Kansas City is “hot,” the readings will regularly look to be near triple digits, but even if you know that ahead of time and adjust down two miles an hour, you’ll still have plenty of chances to see guys that can throw a baseball at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour.  Here’s a list of pitchers and their average fastball velocity, but to simplify it to those on the All-Star roster, here are the All-Stars with their average fastball speed:

Stephen Strasburg – NL – 95.9 mph
David Price – AL – 95.5 mph
Justin Verlander – AL – 94.0 mph
Gio Gonzalez – NL – 93.3 mph
Clayton Kershaw – NL – 93.2 mph
Yu Darvish – AL – 93.0 mph

That’s just the starting pitchers.  These relievers can also throw very, very fast:

Craig Kimbrel – NL – 96.8 mph
Joel Hanrahan – NL – 95.9 mph
Fernando Rodney – AL – 95.6 mph
Jim Johnson – AL – 94.3 mph

If you look beyond the speed and just want to see pitches that move in crazy directions, check out R.A. Dickey and his “angry” knuckleball.  Yeah, that’s off the point, but I wanted a chance to mention R.A. Dickey again.

Hope that helps non-baseball fans to enjoy the game.  Happy viewing!

Most reality TV and competition shows aren’t worth watching when compared to all the great TV writing available these days.  Two weeks ago in our Spring TV Wrap-up, we discussed the best of this past season, and you’ll notice there are no reality shows listed there.  Why?  The reality TV formula got old fast as the past decade moved along, as did competition shows generally.  Sure, American Idol and Top Chef still get big viewership numbers, and we drift back for an episode of Iron Chef once in a while, but at some point even their fans will dwindle.  Let’s face it, there’s something for everyone and we won’t knock it (it’s why having several hundred channels to choose from seems to be a very “American” thing) and fans of reality shows probably aren’t also watching our sci-fi, fantasy, and other genre programming.

That said, one of the more fun reality-esque shows because if its unique subject matter is starting its second season this week: the Syfy Channel’s Hollywood Treasure, which airs on Tuesday nights.  I was impressed that they changed up the show a bit for the season two premiere, and offered a lot of content anyone can enjoy.  Three key things make the series work.  First, although Hollywood Treasure has the obligatory formula for reality shows, including the repeated scenes that straddle each commercial break and make you race for the fast forward on the remote, the plain coolness of the subject matter of the show outweighs any reality show annoyance factor.  Second, the show focuses on the guys who run Profiles in History, consistently the entertainment memorabilia auction house that pulls in the highest sales of any auction house in the world, and items they sold at auction in the past year.  These guys run into all sorts of neat props and costumes from Hollywood and occasionally an actor or show creator.  Third, the guys who run the auctions and are featured in the show, Joe Maddalena, Jon Mankuta, Brian Chanes, and Fong Sam, are actually fans of genre films and comic books as much as they are businessmen.  I’d dealt with these guys in the past and they are always great to work with.  Some of the scenes are formulaic and more than a bit contrived, but their passion and excitement for memorabilia always shines through.

The highlight of episode one of this new season, and what will certainly keep watchers coming back for more if they can keep bringing in similar guests, is a segment where actor Sean Astin discussed movie props he owns (and used to own) from Rudy, Goonies and The Lord of the Rings.  Astin always has such an aura of authenticity that you can ignore all the theatrics and just enjoy seeing this guy simply talk about making movies.  The personal items he retained from playing Samwise Gamgee are certainly treasures any LOTR fan would love to get his hands on.

Astin kept his screenused backpack and pans, his Elvin pin, his bread pouch, and leather wineskin from The Lord of the Rings films.

Other sequences in this episode were an attempt to auction one of the four original sets of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz for $2 million, which Profiles was only able to sell after the fact by direct sale, still attaining the $2 million the owner wanted as a minimum reserve price.  In this sequence Profiles also revealed that they actively solicit buyers after sales for items that don’t meet the minimum reserve price–buyers that kick themselves later for not bidding, thinking the sell price will be out of their range.  In reviewing the slippers they got to visit what seemed like a private collector’s own Fort Knox lockdown facility.  Another segment featured Joe Maddalena buying a Jim Carrey hat and cane from Batman Forever, then trying to flip them at auction for profit.  And Maddalena also visited the Dreier collection of costumes and props, which is being auctioned off over a few years.

Profiles in History is the same auction house we discussed here last year that made all sorts of records selling off the Debbie Reynolds movie costume and prop collection, including the famed Marilyn Monroe Seven Year Itch subway vent scene dress and an Audrey Hepburn My Fair Lady dress, among millions of dollars in other sales, and the Captain America auction last month.  And these are the guys we caught up with last year at Comic-Con showing the Back to the Future III DeLorean.  Their auction website is www.profilesinhistory.com.  We hope they can keep up the momentum started in their first episode of season two all season long.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By Art Schmidt

For my top five list of stories I’d like to see turned into motion pictures, I have tried to be somewhat realistic.  Some of my favorite stories, whether novels or games or comic books, I have left off as just being beyond realization.  The wish of their being turned into a movie is, in itself, a fantasy, due to various factors.

For instance, since I was a teenager, I’ve been dying for someone to make a movie from Grand Poobah Dungeon Master Gary Gygax’s original storyline thread from the first D&D modules: “The Village of Hommlet” modules (T1-T4), the Slaver series (modules A1-A4), the “Against the Giants” series (modules G1-G3), and the “Drow of the Underdark” series (modules D1-D3 & module Q1 “Queen of the Demonweb Pits”).  Of course, this would be for the die-hard gaming geeks almost exclusively, and at twelve modules (adventures) it would be difficult to pack into a motion picture trilogy or quintology (!), even if anyone would be so crazy as to provide the funding for it.

I’m stoked for a movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s recent novel, Ready Player One, but I’m not including it because it’s already in pre-production at Warner Bros.  No need to wish for that which is likely to already happen.  Then there’s the Wheel of Time series, which isn’t quite over.  The final book, currently titled A Memory of Light, is scheduled to be published in January of 2013.  And as the fifteen-volume series will clock in at an estimated 11,000 pages, it could never conceivably be condensed down to make any real sense in a few motion pictures.

Trivia:  A series of three books is called a trilogy.  A series of five books is called a quintology.  A series of seven books is called a heptalogy.  What is a series of fourteen books called?

Answer:  Too damned long!

Note:  No offense to Robert Jordan, may he rest in peace, the series is great, but it could have probably ended after eight or ten novels.  I really enjoyed the first ten Wheel of Time books!  And all of your Conan novels were great, too!

So, too, would I love to hear of a big screen adaptation of some of R.A. Salvatore’s  Drizzt Do’urden novels, especially the Icewind Dale Trilogy, but alas, it is not to be.  I could name some Star Wars and Conan novels that I’d like to see adapted, but those subjects have already been masterfully done on the big screen, so there is no use wasting our time.

Same goes for the less well-known but equally awesome Deathgate Cycle heptalogy from the great fantasy team of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  Too many books in the series (few of which really stand entirely on their own), and likely too hardcore (i.e. small) of a fan base.  Anyhow, the powers that be (being in power, as they are), would most likely take a run at Dragonlance (ho-hum) before considering Deathgate.  Too bad.

In the “slightly unrealistic” column, however, I have included the Elric of Melnibone saga in my list, despite the main character being an anti-hero and thus a difficult win for a motion picture, even with the hard-core fantasy crowd.  Strangely enough, this may be the one wish that I am granted (read more in my Elric entry, below).

A lot of fantasy, I know.  I’m a fantasy kind of guy.  There are a lot of good horror, sci-fi, and other fiction out there crying to be made into films, but really, we get a lot of good stuff from those genres already.  But there is a dearth of good fantasy films out there, and they come along so rarely; The Fellowship of the Ring came out over ten years ago, after all.

Man, I’m getting old.  Somebody please make a couple of these before I croak.

Other honorable mentions.  I’d love to see something done with Gaiman’s Sandman series, but probably too difficult and definitely niche.  Same goes for Marvel 1601, one of my favorite graphic novels (also Gaiman).  But niche.  The books of Michael Crichton have been done (and done, and done) as they are so interesting and have such strong plotlines, but my favorite novel of his is one of his non-fiction works, Travels.  He chronicles some of his real-life travels had some great insights into his own life from them.  But again, probably too tight of an audience for something like that.

Neuromancer would totally rock, but the conventional wisdom is that cyberpunk is way over.  I’m no good at conventional wisdom, though.  Maybe it’s so over that it’s ready to be hip again?  Disco and bell bottoms keep coming back, after all.  On second thought, maybe not.

Anyway, on with the real list.

#5 – The Gaean Trilogy (Titan, Wizard and Demon) from John Varley

A mix of fantasy and sci-fi, this is the first thing I thought of when I saw Avatar.  And I wasn’t alone.  Space farers explore a foreign planet where magic seems to happen in nature, strange creatures abound, and some of them are intelligent/sentient.  Then humans come along and really muck it all up.  That’s the Gaean Trilogy’s premise (not the plot) in a nutshell.

Of course, there is much more to it than that.  There are far more significant differences between these novels and the movie Avatar than there are broad similarities.  The combination of sci-fi and fantasy is what would make this appealing, and the titanides and eventual revelation of the Gaea intelligence (and what follows) would make for a great movie.

#4 – Fallout: New Vegas (video game)

My favorite game in recent years (besides Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I’m itching to play even now while writing this), FNV was a great game because of the amazing, engrossing storyline.

In a nutshell:

In the late twenty-first century, America and China fight a prolonged war over resources that ends with a nuclear exchange.  The nuclear warheads and subsequent fallout kills most everyone except a chosen few who retreat to underground ‘vaults’ to ride out the Earth’s recovery from global fallout (hence the title of the series).  Life as we know it ends.

Some two hundred years later, people begin to emerge from the vaults, and find some still living humans, along with irradiated creatures, mutants, and all sorts of crazy stuff living in the burnt-out shells of our former civilization.  Las Vegas was spared from direct nuclear attack by the defenses of wealthy industrialist and casino owner, as was the nearby Hoover Dam.  People died, but the core of the Strip survived (what irony).

A lone traveler enters the area, gets shot in the head and buried, but survives and is nursed back to health, although with amnesia from the wound.  He sets about trying to learn about himself and his assailants, and in the process discovers that Las Vegas (dubbed “New Vegas” by the current residents) is being contested over by a growing civilization from California (the New California Republic, or NCR), an army of brutal slave-owning tribals calling themselves Caesar’s Legion, and the wealthy citizen who kept Vegas from annihilation (or is it him?) who runs New Vegas with an army of killer robots and calls himself Mr. House.

The story is compelling, and locations are fantastic, the inhabitants are diverse and interesting, and there are stories aplenty for the traveler to encounter and deal with on his way to the game’s climactic battle between these competing forces over who will control Hoover Dam, the one source of electricity and life-giving water amidst a world of death and dust.

A great movie that would make.  We’ve seen shades of this with The Book of Eli (a great movie, but more of a morality tale than a straight-forward action/adventure flick) and The Road (a great example of how really good books can be terrible movies), but nothing like the tale spun in New Vegas.

#3 – The Elric of Melnibone novels by Michael Moorcock

An island of anemic sorcerer kings who rule the world.  A savage world of monsters and heroes who strive daily to survive.  Magic that allows people to cross into other dimensions and sail through space to other planets.  Stormbringer.  What an absolutely epic fantasy movie that would make!

Of course, the main problem is that Elric is an anti-hero.  In fact, Elric is the very embodiment of the modern-day anti-hero.  He’s not a nice guy.  He’s not even rough-around-the-edges-but-basically-moral-in-an-immoral-world (like Conan) kind of guy.  He’s a self-important, selfish, power-hungry elitist.  At times, he’s a murder, though he does begin to show some humanity and regret after a while.  But he has a goal, and purpose, and oh, the adventures he has, the places he goes, and the things he sees!  All fantastic, and all while wielding what can easily be called the most powerful magical sword in all of fantasy (save perhaps for Shieldbreaker from Fred Saberhagen’s Swords novels, but I digress…)

I would absolutely love to sit in a theatre and watch the albino sorcerer-king travel the planes swinging the Black Sword of legend.  Ever since I saw Conan the Barbarian, I have longed for someone to make movies out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Elric saga.  One down, one to go.

Apparently, I am a little late to the party on this one.  Director/Producer brothers Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass) and Paul Weitz (American Pie, Little Fokkers) were reportedly in “pre-production” on a movie trilogy based on Moorcock’s dark, brooding novels about my second-favorite anti-hero (see #1, below, for my fave), but that project has been side-tracked and is lately talked about by the brothers in wistful terms of ‘someday’.

Here’s hoping that “someday” actually comes.

Side Note: I’m not 100% certain, but I believe “Pre-Production” is a fancy Hollywood term for people emailing and texting back and forth about great ideas for a movie, then meeting in coffee shops and chatting about how great it would be to make said movie, before moving on to work on real movies that are actually being made.

#2 – Justice League / The Dark Knight Returns

DC Comics is sitting on a goldmine, but they have had some trouble translating the shiny stuff in their mine into coin of the realm.  The Batman movies of late being the obvious exception, DC Comics has not enjoyed the great success of Marvel in translating their characters to the big screen.  Superman was ground-breaking back in the seventies, and the first couple of Batman movies of the late eighties / early nineties paved the way for what was to come.  And then there is Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (of course), and this summer’s Dark Knight Rises.

But taking the long view, that’s maybe six or seven hit movies over a thirty year span.  Not horrible, but not that great.  But compare that with Marvel’s run in just the last twelve years, and you can pick twice that number of successful movies based on their characters.  The X-Men movies (at least two of them), the Spiderman trilogy (again, at least two), The Fantastic Four, X-Men: First Class, and the movies leading up to and including this summer’s The Avengers (Ang Lee’s Hulk and Iron Man 2 notwithstanding).

I’m not bashing DC here, don’t get me wrong.  Their characters are iconic, to say the least.  And maybe they don’t value movies as much as Marvel does, which is fine.  There is certainly more money to be made in movies, but money isn’t everything; no movie is better than a bad movie, when the protection of a brand is essential to the company’s success.

But DC has such a wealth of great story that it’s hard to fathom that there hasn’t been more translation from the inked page to the lighted screen.  Just imagine this movie trilogy, my friends…

The Justice League – A movie centering on the core of the League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash (possibly also Hawkman and/or the Martian Manhunter, depending on the ability to introduce the movie-going public at large to these characters), coming together to form the group to thwart Prometheus along the lines of Justice League: A Cry for Justice, except using the central characters rather than a competing alliance / ideology, with internal group conflict as to how to deal with the situation as would be natural.  Prometheus is murdering foreign superheroes, then planning to destroy cities of the League’s superheroes (maybe limit it to three key cities, rather than the sprawling destruction in the mag).  After being defeated he negotiates his escape, proving he’s not bluffing by detonating one bomb as in the book.  In this adaptation, Superman is the negotiator and Batman (along with Green Arrow) wanting to make him pay no matter what.  End with the Green Arrow scene (no spoiler here), with the barest hint that Batman helped him (but didn’t necessarily know what he was going to do).

The Justice League: Legion of Doom – The League battles the formation of the Legion of Doom.  The Legion is forming along the lines of the backstory from the Justice series in 2005-2006, with Brainiac (and Lex Luthor) fooling even his fellow baddies and planning to get the League to wipe out his ‘competitors’ of evil.  But unlike in Justice, their motivations are to take over the American government (as depicted in Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again).  The League wins the apparent victory against the facade, but Brainiac and Lex succeed behind the scenes with their real master plan.  At the very end, the League is disgraced and talks of disbanding.  Superman is called away on an emergency he won’t discuss… (Lex has Kandor and is going to blackmail him, but don’t reveal that until the last movie in the trilogy).

The Justice League Returns – The movie everyone wants, Superman vs. Batman, pull out all of the stops.  This movie would basically blend The Dark Knight Returns with a little bit of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, blending the emancipation of Batman’s fellow Leaguers a-la DKSA into the main storyline of DKR (yes, it might be sacrilegious, but this is Hollywood we’re talking about)The Justice League disbanded after their failure in The Legion of Doom, and Brainiac and Lex have taken over America and put a computer President in place.  With Kandor held hostage, they have forced Superman to help capture or banish the other League members (similar to the backstory of DKSA and DKR both: “Diana returned to her people; Hal left for the stars…”  Leave Shazam out, he makes things too complicated).  This bit could be the prologue to the movie itself (before credits).  Batman is the bitter retiree in DKR and follows that storyline back from retirement to defeat the Mutants gang and/or the return of Two-Face, then sets about freeing his fellow Leaguers (DKSA), which leads to the confrontation with Superman as the puppet of the Braniac/Lex regime (weak not from the DKR nuclear missile but from the faux ‘catastrophes’ that Brainiac/Lex cook up for him in DKSA; the asteroid, the volcano in Hawaii, etc.) along with Batman’s fellow Leaguers (similar to Green Arrow in DKR, but with Hal Jordan and Barry Allen also assisting as in DKSA).  No Kara, though, and no Dick Grayson craziness, and take out all of the future media “super babes” hype and whatnots.

Ok, I’m done geeking out.  And I realize that the fanboys would cry FOUL (and worse) and this kind of hacked together plot from what may be their favorite series(es).  Me?  I’m not a purist, I just like good story.  Perhaps that’s why I seem to be one of the small minority who absolutely loved both the Watchmen comics and the spectacular movie equally.

Hollywood can ‘just’ make DKR and I’d be ecstatic.

I know there was (is?) a JL movie in the works, announced as being in “pre-production” (oh, boy) last year by Warner Bros., but couldn’t find anything recent on the subject.  Anyone have any fairly recent scoop on where that one is at?  Still in pre-production?  Man, those guys drink a lot of coffee.

#1 – The Chronicles of Amber novels from Roger Zelazny

This would make a great movie trilogy, no question.  The great thing about this story and why it would translate to the big screen is the beginning: the hero is a seemingly normal human being on planet Earth in the current day.  He awakes in a mental institution, not knowing how he got there, but it’s apparent he’s being kept sedated and held against his will.  He escapes but has amnesia (I know, it’s a tired plot device, but here it absolutely works).  He finds out he has a sister, goes to her home to investigate, and finds some things that are… weird.  He confronts her, and then meets more family.  And things get a bit weirder.

As his journey progresses, the audience learns things as the protagonist does; bit at a time, little by little, slowly building up this incredible picture of the hero as a long-lost prince of a magical kingdom in another dimension.  Sound like a book for young adults?  Hang on to your britches, cause it’s anything but.  Don’t let the terms “long-lost prince” and “magical kingdom” fool you.  This is hardcore fantasy at its absolute finest.

Once the hero, Corwin, loses his amnesia, he finds that he is a talented swordsman, a gifted military leader, and a cunning strategist.  He’s also an able sorcerer and in line for his absent father’s throne.  However, his family is currently vying against each other in cabals and alliances for the crown, and there are as many of them as there are books in the Wheel of Time series.

It has the fantasy swordplay of Conan (the original), the magical flair of The Matrix (if you haven’t read the books, it’s hard to explain that reference, but believe me, it’s apropos), the political in-fighting of A Game of Thrones, the gritty war drama of Braveheart and Platoon (again, the reference works, trust me) and the narrative genius of the multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning author, Zelazny.

Yeah, it’s that good.  At least to me.  That’s why it makes the top of my list of stories I’d love to see made into movies.

Come back tomorrow, and Jason McClain will give us his take on adaptations and being true to the source material.

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you ever had an inkling to go to film school, if you are going to film school or if you teach film courses, Richard Rickitt’s Special Effects: The History and Technique should be required reading.  Not only is it a comprehensive work about the history and craft of special effects, it is a detailed account of the history and progress of film, and could serve as a college textbook to a master class in film technique.  And it is also a history of science and technology in its own right.

Rickitt’s Special Effects is a well-reviewed work, which is why it was purchased for me as a gift.  It is used as a college text in film schools and for good reason.  It has seen several printings since its first printing in Great Britain in 2006, including a reprint as recently as 2011, and it is as current as a nearly 400-page volume can be, including new effects technologies employed as recently as the Lord of the Rings films and X-Men 3.

Because of its price, Special Effects may not be for the casual movie enthusiast–but only because of price–as it can cost $40 for older editions and up to $230 for the most current edition.  Yet if you are really interested in behind-the-scenes cinema, it is probably worth saving for, and if you’re a college student, just slip it into your current semester’s $800 book purchase (at least that’s what I spent on each of my last few semesters for books and I can’t imagine prices have dropped–plus this book is actually a fun read you’ll hold on to).  It’s breadth is enormous, with both general and detailed coverage of landmark people and technologies from George Melies to Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen to Industrial Light & Magic to Pixar and Weta.  Although it purports to cover merely Special Effects, in truth it covers the beginning of film and every technology that was created since, building upon each discovery and new invention to bring us to the complex CGI technologies of today.

This is far from a quick read, and will likely serve as a reference work or one you pull off the shelf from time to time when you need something exciting to read of the non-fiction variety.  I mentioned college text–Rickitt is a good teacher, clearly explaining in terms anyone can understand not just the “what” but the “why” and “how” of benchmarks in film with visuals and diagrams, including explanations of the role and use of technologies like the zoetrope, the parts and functions of the modern movie camera, the history and types of film recording materials, matte film, blue-screens, film printing, optical and digital compositing, the A to Z of film projection, post-production techniques like image interpolation, the use of mirrors, forced perspective and miniaturization, pyrotechnics, cloud tanks, models, motion-control photography, digital and procedural modelling, texture mapping, special effects animation, rotoscoping, 3D technologies, motion blur, digital skin, performance capture, particle systems, high dynamic range images, match moving, rendering, the A to Z of matte painting, props, make-up, prosthetics, animatronics, sculpting, inner mechanisms, performance systems, digital make-up, atmospheric effects, breakaway effects, sound recording, sound effects mixing, foleying, dialogue replacement, and the future of film technologies.

A diagram from Rickitt's Special Effects: The History and Technique

The author uses hundreds of photographs and provides real-use examples from movies to explain techniques.  Detailed analysis is used for movie benchmarks Rickitt has identified, including The Abyss (1989), The Birds (1963), Aliens (1986), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Citizen Kane (1941), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), Destination Moon (1950), Earthquake (1974), The Exorcist (1973), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Forbidden Planet (1956), Forrest Gump (1994), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Jurassic Park (1993), King Kong (1933), King Kong (2005), The Last Starfighter (1984), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), The Lost World (1925), The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003), Metropolis (1926), Mighty Joe Young (1949), 1941 (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), all six Star Wars films (1977-2005), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), The Thief of Baghdad (1940), Things to Come (1936), Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Tron (1982), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The War of the Worlds (1953), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Willow (1988), and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985).

You’ll learn about ambient occlusion, beam splitters, cannon cars, color separation, depth of field, diffuse reflection, dissolves, dubbing, edge detection, emulsion, extrusion, fluid dynamics, go-motion, introvision, the Lydecker technique, morphing, NURBs, plates, ray tracing, squibs, time-lapse and time slice photography, wipes, zooms and zoptics.

An early edition of Rickitt's book--note that earlier versions will not have the most up-to-date coverage of current technologies. The version shown at the top of this review is the most recent edition.

And along with the “what”  and “why” Rickitt profiles a “who’s who” of landmark film creators, including Georges Melies, Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith, James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, Roger Corman, Irwin Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, Dennis Muren, John P. Fulton, Linwood Dunn, Richard Edlund, Dennis and Robert Skotak, Arnold Gillespie, Theodore and Howard Lydecker, Gordon Jennings, John Dykstra, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson, Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippett, John Lasseter, Norman O. Dawn, Albert Whitlock, Peter Ellenshaw, Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce, Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Ken Ralston, Cliff Richardson, Michael Lantieri, Jack Foley, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom, and the Carboulds.

But you don’t need to look at Special Effects: The History and Technique as a dense book of facts.  Pick it up now and then and enjoy reading the book in 4-5 page stints and you’ll become an expert in film in no time, or just be amazed at how the magic of film works.

Special Effects: The History and Technique has a forward by Ray Harryhausen and an appendix, including a glossary of film terms and awards.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When we decided to do a list of the Top Ten Fantasy Movies for each of the borg.com authors, the definition of “fantasy” became very simple – it had to have magic in it.  I thought, no problem. That’s easy – and I was right.  I had more than enough movies to make the list work without including super-hero movies or science fiction.  (Though, there is one movie that could be seen as a super-hero movie.  Technically.)  Then, I came to a realization.

Of all of the movies that I found, there are an overwhelming number of romantic comedies.  When I think fantasy, I think Game of Thrones, the Dragonriders of Pern, Xanth, Tasslehoff Burrfoot and many other series.  It surprised me that love, true love, also has a fantasy aspect to it.  Maybe it’s because finding your true love has turned out to be one of those ultimate myths like unicorns or white wizards.  Maybe it’s because in order to find true love, you need a little supernatural push.  Maybe I’m just being overly analytical and love itself is a kind of magic.  (At this point, I’m sure you could be singing “Magic” by The Cars, “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News or any number of pop love songs and convince yourself that love is magic because the bards say so.)  No matter what the reason, there are more love stories than adventures in my list.  If I read the other author’s lists and see more adventures, well, then I will assume that I’m a hopeless romantic.  If they have romances as well, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and think that my brain is not love sick, just good at finding magic in the everyday where relationships, not dragons, need to be shot out of the sky with large weapons.  Wait…oh, never mind, on to the list.

10.  Hawk the Slayer

This one is pure nostalgia.  I could have put other, better movies that this one on my list like Big Fish, Stardust, Spirited Away, The Prestige, Stranger than Fiction, Ella Enchanted, Last Action Hero, The Fall, Kung Fu Hustle,* Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium on this list**, but I still remember staying up late and watching this movie a few different times with friends while I was in grade school.  I look at the trailer (part of a site which may make a sequel!) and nostalgia makes me want to watch it again, but my mind tells me that I’d rather keep it unsullied in the memories of 10-year-old me.  My favorite moment occurred outside the movie because my friend Russell and I would “play” Hawk the Slayer and fight over who got to be the elf.

*This is the movie that I think blurs the line between “fantasy” and “super-hero” but because it isn’t technically in my top ten list, I’m ok with it.

**Consider that the rough draft of my 11-21 movies, though not necessarily in that order.  Bill and Ted is the nostalgic one in that list.  Mr. Magorium could just be oxygen infused airline viewing and Natalie Portman that made it wonderful.

9.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail

See #10, except this listing is for junior high/high school nostalgia and I still watch it occasionally, especially for the opening credits.  Llamas will never cease to be funny for me.  My favorite moment in the movie is always the anticipation of the first “wik” in the credits.  If you’re looking for a fantasy moment, the whole scene with Tim is pretty darn great.

8.  Midnight in Paris

My favorite movie of 2011, as I’ve posted before, and I think it belongs on this list.  I still remember smiling and filled with such happiness when I walked out of that theater.  My favorite moment happened when Owen Wilson waited for the car to pick him up a second time.  He had found magic and he got lucky.  The fear of that being a one-time shot made that moment exquisite in anticipation.

7.  L.A. Story

Before I moved to L.A., I really liked this movie a lot. (I seem to place it, Last Action Hero, Hudson Hawk and Quick Change into the same place in my mind, probably due to release dates and also because I seemed to like them much more than anyone else.)  The presence of this movie on my list made me look at the rest of the movies and that’s how I came up with my introduction.  My favorite moment is the scene where the showers can change to slow motion.

6.  Shallow Hal

Yes, the message hits you over the head like a +5 mace of creaming.  Still, from both sides of a romance, don’t you want the person you date, you marry, to be able to see all the things that make you who you are, that make you beautiful?  It’s a great concept, taking the parts of us in our heads and hearts and making it visible to everyone as abs or perky breasts or a full head of great hair or legs that go all the way to the ground.  My favorite moment is the first time Hal (Jack Black) goes dancing in a club with his new sight and is just so happy.

5.  Big

Yes, this has a lot of funny parts and there is a sweet kind of romance to this one, but I always have considered it to be one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.  Not because of arc of the Elizabeth Perkins character, but because of Josh Banks not being able to live purely as a child again once he has become big.  There’s no way to make his innocence magically return.  He’ll forever be an adult.  My favorite moment, “I get to be on top.”

4.  Groundhog Day

Andie MacDowell is gorgeous and I think I could see how a man would spend eternity trying to woo her on her looks alone.  Bill Murray is not as pretty and definitely not that cool in his role as weatherman Phil Connors.  By the end of the movie though, Murray is definitely the one that is so obviously a catch as he seems to have so much more depth. However, this could just be my Murray Man Crush*** speaking.  My favorite moment, out of many, is “Don’t drive angry.”

***I think it is a definite diagnosis for men from 20-50 that have seen Caddyshack, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation, etc.

3.  Scrooged

This cements the fact that I have a Bill Murray crush.  If Frank Cross made my favorite character list, then his movie should be a part of my favorite fantasy movies, right?  My favorite moment is my guaranteed Niagara Falls, “You forgot God bless us everyone.”  But, a close second is, “Did you try staples?”

2.  Fellowship of the Ring

Here is the truest of true fantasy adventures.  A call to arms and heroes emerge to pursue the quests that need their help.  (Just writing that last sentence makes me want to read some Joseph Campbell.  The awkward construction was part of my plan to make the reader think of Joseph Campbell.  Failing that, I’m just going to ram the name Joseph Campbell down your eye sockets.)  I think this may be the best adaptation of a book that I have ever seen.  Great visuals, great casting, great writing.  My favorite moments in the movie involve the Nazgul.  I love the dream glimpses of their human forms.  I love the chase of Frodo and Arwen.  Such awesome imagery actually might have beaten the visions I had in my mind from the books.

1.  The Princess Bride

One of my favorite movies of all time, as soon as C.J. mentioned the list, I knew this would be at the top of it, the tough part being how the rest of it would look.  I have two favorite moments amidst a movie filled with quotable moments and great scenes.  “I do not think it means what you think it means,” and the moment Peter Falk turns back toward Fred Savage and says, “As you wish.”  Ok, that settles it.  I am a hopeless romantic.

By Art Schmidt

I have a few Honorable Mentions that I am going to list first, rather than sticking them at the end like after-thoughts.  Since I didn’t include them in my actual Top Ten list, the least I can do is put them first so they aren’t entirely skipped over.  These made my initial rough list but, for one reason or another, just didn’t make the final cut: Heavy Metal, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Dragonslayer, Shrek, Time Bandits & The Wizard of Oz.  (Note: Starting at number one, since #10 is the ‘top’ of my list)

#1 – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

A favorite of my youth, and one of the Ray Harryhausen classics.  Dynamation doesn’t hold a candle to the powers of today’s CGI engines, but in its day it ruled the cineplex, at least as far as fantasy went.  Sinbad’s voyage across the seas to find the Fountain of Destiny was fun and exhilarating and awesome in its day.

Of course, this is more a sentimental favorite than a real ‘All-time Top Ten’ winner, but it works for me.  And of course, there was Caroline Munro…

#2 – Willow

“The power to control the world is in which finger?” the High Aldwin asks the young apprentice hopefuls, holding out his hand.
“I was going to say my own,” Willow later admits, after first choosing poorly.
“That is the correct answer!” Billy Barty’s High Aldwin exclaims.  “You lack faith in yourself.”

Willow is one of those movies that just makes me smile.  It’s funny and different and has quirky characters, but the fantasy element is strong and Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Heat, Wonderland), Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, the Harry Potter movies) and Joanne Whalley (Scandal, The Man Who Knew Too Little) are all great.  Especially Kilmer.  Davis’ Willow gives the movie its heart and soul; Kilmer’s Madmartigan gives it the proper excitement and humor.

What I like about Willow most is that it avoided all of the Conan rip-offs of the day.  No muscle-bound hero, no comedic side-kicks, no supreme magical spell/artifact/being/weapon (unless you count Princess Elora herself).  It was an honest tale in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, about simple people trying to thwart evil.

#3 – The Frighteners

One of my favorite movies, The Frighteners is a little bit horror movie, little bit comedy, little bit fantasy, little bit love story, and a whole lot of cool rolled into one hundred-and-ten-minute roller coaster ride.  Michael J. Fox (The Back to the Future movies, Family Ties, Spin City) is funny and believable as Frank Bannister, a self-proclaimed ‘psychic investigator’ who claims to be able to rid the living of the mischievous spirits of the dead, when in fact he’s a psychic con man who sends in the spirits to drum up business in the first place.  Until he runs into the Grim Reaper, taking a deadly toll on the small coastal town Frank inhabits, at which point he begins to use his powers for good in an inhuman man-hunt.

Bannister’s ghost side-kicks are hilarious, the sight gags are funny, and the scary parts have the right amount of creep in them.  The whole movie is fast-paced and fun, and while some bits of the storyline are fuzzy, it’s a blast right up until the end credits roll to the tune of ‘Don’t fear the reaper’.

#4 – Conan the Barbarian (1982)

This pick needs little explanation.  I’m a life-long Conan fan; the Howard stories and novels, the Marvel comics, the movies, the ongoing novels by various authors, the Age of Conan MMO (though that was short-lived), and of course numerous toys and other stuff.  And Conan the Barbarian is one of the pinnacles of barbarian culture there is.  The original, that is, though the recent remake was a fairly decent movie.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hero, James Earl Jones’ villain, Mako’s gritty narration, and Sandahl Bergman’s fiery Valeria come together in what might have otherwise been a terrible movie.  Many still think it is, but I beg to differ.  Conan came forth in the era in-between Claymation and CGI, after Clash of the Titans but before Jurassic Park, but the effects were good enough.

#5 – Shrek 2

Disney was the king of all things animated for seventy years, and lately Pixar has ruled that roost.  But Dreamworks Animation absolutely nailed the animated fantasy adventure with the Shrek series, and the best one by far is the second installment.  This is one of the few sequels that surpassed the first.  The clever twist on fairytale standards begun in Shrek goes crazy in the sequel, with Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, the frog turned prince (and then king), and the fairytale land Far, Far Away all getting a well-deserved skewering as Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and the whole troop make a joyous wreck of everyone else’s plans and schemes.

The tongue-in-cheek references are just the icing on the cake; Shrek 2 is a movie I can watch again and again and never get tired of seeing Pinocchio getting jiggy wit’ it chanting “I’m a real boy! I’m a real boy!  I’m a…” *poof* “Awwwww…”

Color me tickled pink.

#6 – The Princess Bride

What can be said about The Princess Bride that hasn’t already been said?  Nothing, nothing at all.  Why do people love this movie so much?  You mean, you don’t?  Inconceivable!  Ok, lemme ‘splain.  No, there is no time.  Lemme sum up:

It’s not a kissing book, but there is some of that in there.  And the hero is not left-handed, but he is the dread Pirate Roberts.  Sort of.  But give him a break, he’s been mostly dead all day.  And the other hero’s name is Inigo Montoya; someone killed his father, and they better prepare to die.  You still don’t know what the story is about?  Inconceivable!  It’s about true love, of course.  And perfect breasts.  And having fun storming the castle.

Wow.  That makes me want to watch the movie again.  What’s that?  You still don’t know how that movie is on my Top Ten list?

Inconceivable!

I know, I keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

#7 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I won’t bombard you with movie quotes from this one, the most quotable of all movies ever made, whether by the Python troop or not.  Holy Grail is, quite simply, the Holy Grail of all comedies.

What is your favorite movie?  The Holy Grail!  No, wait, The Lord of the… AHHHH!!!!!!!

#8 – Sleepy Hollow

Tim Burton is a great director (Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland (2009)), and his ongoing collaboration with Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) has given us some great fantasies over the years (did Edward Scissorhands really come out more than twenty years ago?  Sheesh, I’m old…)  To me, almost all of Burton’s work is great in its geeky, off-kilter, out-of-the-box way, but none shines like his take on Ichabod Crane.  The plot elements from Washington Irving’s original story, the screenplay by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker, the atmosphere Burton creates, the innocent beauty portrayed by Christina Ricci, and the superb fish-out-of-water academic played by Depp, is a perfect storm of fantasy creativity.

The Headless Horseman is especially well-conceived, with Ray Park (The Phantom Menace, X-Men) performing the combat acrobatics and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, True Romance) giving ‘the Hessian’ ghoulish life when his head is in place.  The curse, the old tree, the vengeful witch, the sleepy town, the foggy woods, they all come together in the perfect blend of fantasy, horror and, thanks to Depp, humor amidst the gore.

#9 – Excalibur

John Boorman’s masterpiece tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is my kind of fantasy movie.  It’s dark, gritty and foreboding.  It pulls no punches and doesn’t candy-coat.  Arthur is the boy hero but he’s also fatally flawed, Merlin is the all-knowing but equally-flawed magician, and of course the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot is passionate, compelling and tragic.  Combat is harsh and cruel and down-in-the-mud filthy, and not many of my friends came away from that movie wanting to swing a sword for a living.  Boorman’s hallmark was always his ability to set a mood, dark and deep, that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go.  And Excalibur is all of that, and Boorman’s finest work.

“Good and evil,” Merlin says wisely.  “There never is one without the other.”  Indeed.

#10 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Whose blood doesn’t start pumping faster at the rousing opening notes of the theme to Indiana Jones?  Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re probably thinking “Wait a minute!  This isn’t a fantasy film, at least not in the truest sense of the word.”  But hang on, it does contain magic.  At the very least it contained religious paranormalism, which is pretty darned close even if you don’t think of it as real ‘magic.’  But let’s not get into a debate about that, shall we?  Inevitably, no minds would get changed and it would only spoil the mood.

Raiders was and still is one of the greatest classic adventure movies of all time (fantasy adventure movies, that is!).  And besides, I could not allow myself to have a Top Ten Fantasy list without a Spielberg movie on it.

#11 – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Duh.

I assume that you wouldn’t be reading this article unless you were interested in fantasy movies yourself, so there should be no need to explain this at all.  In fact, it almost goes without saying.  As in I almost didn’t even list it, since almost any Fantasy Top Ten Movie list would in reality go up to an understood Eleven, and Eleven would be The Lord of the Rings.

But if you are aren’t a fantasy fan, reading this for some other reason (I have no idea what that might be), let me educate you as to why The Lord of the Rings is the most awesome fantasy ever.  It’s the chicks.  All those elven chicks running around in leather halter tops with bare midriffs, and the scenes where they make out with the heroes (that rules!).  And all of the dragons, the ones rampaging across the skies and waylaying all those armies of trolls and skeletons, yeah, that’s what it was.  And the big, strong hero guys in cool-looking armor on horseback with the huge magic swords cutting all of the bad guys’ heads off, those guys rule.  Oh, and the awesome sorcerer combat scenes where the wizards are hurling fireballs and lightning bolts and vorpal bunny swarms at each other.  These movies totally rock!

Of course, all those common tropes of hum-drum fantasy movies are not in LOTR, and that’s what makes it so awesome.  Years ago, a friend of mine summed it up perfectly.  “In most fantasy, the heroes are questing for all-powerful magic that’s central to their success and will make them famous.  In The Lord of the Rings, the heroes are striving to destroy the great magic so they can return to their normal lives.”  Fantastic.

Turn out the lights, this discussion is over.

(OK, not really, tomorrow… come back for ten more of our favorite fantasy movies).

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