Tolkien

Posted on May 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Some drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Scenes of WWI battles with disturbing images, characters injured and killed, sad death of a parent
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 10, 2019
Copyright Fox Searchlight 2019

If I had a time machine and an invisibility cloak, I would love to listen in on the conversations between two members of Oxford’s Inklings literary society, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as they discussed the importance of myth and fantasy and shared the beginnings of their great tales of adventure, darling, and the fight against evil, set in enchanted worlds: the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia stories. These stories, which prompted a revival of fantasy in literature and other media, are so timeless it seems as if we have always known them. And yet, they are very much 20th century books, written by authors whose own lives are fascinating stories as well. We have already had two very good feature films about Lewis and his wife, Joy Gresham, both called “Shadowlands.” And now we have “Tolkien,” the story of the early life of the man who would create not just the characters and settings of Middle Earth but also the languages and even the poetry of the world of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and dragons.

The film mostly evades the usual “how I wrote” biopic boobytraps. We only briefly see the author in the midst of creation, his pen just starting the first line on a blank page. And it does not try to excite the devoted fans by throwing in a lot of clues to various details in the books. The focus of this story is on Tolkien’s life, which is a worthy story itself, especially in the way it explores how even the greatest losses are made sense of through love, through friendship, through service, and through stories that provide context and meaning.

The film moves back and forth in time between Tolkien’s youth, adolescence, college years, and wartime, with one brief “many years later” section of him married and a father, as a member of the faculty at Oxford.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (called Ronald by those close to him) is played sensitively as a teenager and adult by Nicholas Hoult. Orphaned very young, Tolkien and his brother are sent to live in a boarding house by their guardian, a priest (Colm Meany). The cold, institutional setting of their British private school is very far from the lessons they had with their devoted, imaginative mother (Laura Donnelly). But Tolkien is a gifted student and a natural at studies and rugby, and he is soon befriended by three boys who form a club with him, devoted to having tea, to, yes, fellowship, and to dreams of changing the world through art, in spite of parental efforts toward more conventional careers. One loves poetry, one loves painting, one loves music. And Tolkien loved languages. He began creating whole languages, complete with verb forms and adjectives, when he was still a child.

The other orphan at the boarding house is Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), a gifted pianist who works as a companion to the lady who runs the boarding house to earn her keep. She and Tolkien are friends, then confidantes, and then, as they are becoming romantically involved, the priest tells Tolkien he must stop seeing her and go to Oxford.  He agrees.

Hoult and Collins made the Ronald/Edith relationship vital and romantic, as they spar over the sound and meaning of words or come up with a makeshift way to enjoy a performance of Wagner.  They bring life to what might otherwise might be a stodgy costume drama and to the idea of stories as a source of healing, meaning, and connection.

Parents should know that this film includes WWI battle scenes with disturbing images, including piles of bodies, sad deaths of a parent and friends, drinking and drunkenness.

Family discussion: If your friend formed a club, what would you call it? How can art change the world? Why was it so important to Tolkien to publish his friend’s poems? How did Tolkien’s experiences inspire his books?

If you like this, try: the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films and books

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Biography Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Extended fantasy violence and peril with swords and arrows, characters injured and killed, scary monsters
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 14, 2012
Date Released to DVD: November 4, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00E8S2JZ4

As the second in the Hobbit trilogy is about to be released, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition).  Director Peter Jackson returns to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth for this “Lord of the Rings” prequel, the adventure of young Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit we meet in the LoTR trilogy as the middle-aged uncle of the heroic Frodo.  We see many familiar faces, especially Ian McKellan as the wizard Gandalf, the sepulchral Christopher Lee as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as the ethereal Galandriel, Hugo Weaving as the regally gracious Elrond, and Andy Serkis plus CGI as Gollum, and the now-familiar but still marvelously eye-filling New Zealand locations.What is most different here is that Jackson has doubled the frames-per-second for a new hyper-clarity.  The 24 frames per second standard that has been in effect since the beginning of the sound era has been upped to 48, giving the film a depth of detail that is so fresh it can be a little unsettling.  We subconsciously associate the quality of light and focus with the video used for news programs and lower-budget sitcoms (think of the difference between the indoor and outdoor scenes in the old “Monty Python” episodes), so it can take a while to get used to it in a richly imagined fantasy, especially when close-ups reveal the pores of a character’s skin like a magnifying mirror at a department store makeup counter and the quality of light seems chillier and more sterile.  We get so much visual information that it takes a while to re-calibrate our ability to separate the meaningful from the superfluous.

It does not help that Jackson himself seems to miss the forest of the story for the literal trees.  Blowing out the shortest and most accessible of the books to a projected trilogy of nearly nine hours suggests that Jackson has fallen so in love with the project that he has lost touch with what it feels like not to be completely obsessed with it.  Of course, he is enabled by the intensity of the fans, who are famously dedicated to every leaf, twig, and Elvish declension.  But he seems to have lost track of the thread of the story and dulled his sense of how to communicate with those who are not as deeply involved with the story as he is. He glosses over the important discussion of Bilbo’s two competing heritages, one open to adventure, one devoted to home and hearth, which makes it hard to understand why he changes his mind about accepting Gandalf’s challenge.  Since it is a prequel, we are all familiar with the destructive power of the One Ring to Rule Them All, which makes it confusing when we see it 60 years earlier as a simple and benign invisibility ring.  Meanwhile, it takes all of 40 minutes before Bilbo leaves his house as what should have been a 10-minute scene about the unexpected arrival of a bunch of rowdy dwarves is expanded to include two different musical numbers.  And yet, it still does not give us enough of a sense of who the individual dwarves are.

The action scenes are filled with vitality and dynamically staged, but the film assumes a commitment and understanding on our part that it has not earned.  In a story about a quest of honor, that is an unexpected disappointment.

Parents should know that this film includes many battle sequences and scenes of peril, scary monsters, characters injured and killed, some disturbing images, smoking, drinking, and some potty humor.

Family discussion:  Why did Bilbo decide to join the adventure?  Why did Gandalf pick him?  Why didn’t Gandalf use his powers to help the dwarves sooner?

If you like this, try:  The book by J.R.R. Tolkien and the “Lord of the Rings” films

Related Tags:

 

3D Action/Adventure Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Epic/Historical Fantasy Remake Series/Sequel

Return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit and More

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

This week we return to Middle Earth as Peter Jackson goes back 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings” for the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventure with a brave band of dwarves who journey to a mountain to reclaim their home from a fierce dragon.  Peter Jackson, director of the acclaimed trilogy of earlier films, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, has returned and much will seem familiar, including the stunning New Zealand locations, the seamless integration of the fantasy characters and special effects, and of course the return of actors like Elijah Woods and Ian McKellen.  But there is something very new in this film, which has twice as many frames per second as standard films, bringing a new depth and clarity to the images.

It may come after the other movies, but The Hobbit is a shorter and more accessible way to enter the world of Tolkien.  I love the version with the Michael Hague illustrations.  And I have some affection for the the Rankin-Bass animated film starring John Houston and Orson Bean.

 

Related Tags:

 

Books For Your Netflix Queue

List: Inspiring Quotes from the Movies

Posted on March 23, 2009 at 8:00 am

Movies have enormous power to inspire us and some of their best lines stay with us long after we leave the theater. Here are some of the lines that always make me try a little harder, risk a little more, and hold on a little longer. And I’d love to hear some of yours.
braveheart.jpg“Every man dies, but not every man really lives.” Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart
“A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.” Maude in Harold and Maude
Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.
The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers
“Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin.” Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
“Life is not the amount of breaths you take. It’s the moments that take your breath away.” Will Smith in Hitch
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” The Emperor in Mulan
“There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.'” Reuven in The Chosen
“I believe a man is as big as what’ll make him mad.” Reno Smith in Bad Day at Black Rock
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Truvy in Steel Magnolias
clarence.jpg“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Clarence the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life

Related Tags:

 

For Your Netflix Queue Lists
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik