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26 years ago today, the Griswold family cemented their place in the pantheon Christmas movies. The third installment of National Lampoon’s “Vacation” comedy series features plenty of holiday hijinks ensuing — including a squirrel in the Christmas tree, a sled ride made dangerous by an experimental substance, and a bit of kidnapping — as Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold tries to keep it all together in front of his siblings. Fun fact: “Christmas Vacation” was one of two Christmas movies released in 1989, the other being John Hancock’s “Prancer.” Johnny Galecki, a.k.a. Rusty Griswold (now better known as Leonard from “The Big Bang Theory”) appeared in both of these holiday movies. Other notable December 1 happenings in pop culture history: • 1887: The first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet,” was published in “Beeton’s Christmas Annual” • 1903: “The Great Train Robbery,” notable for many firsts in filmmaking, had its »
- Emily Rome
You make sequels to make exponential profits. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ made $869.3 million worldwide, its follow-up ‘The Two Towers’ grossed $923.3 million globally, and the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ finale ‘The Return of the King’ took home $1,119.1 billion. This is the ideal studio trajectory. And you extend your franchises, split a finale into two films, a la “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and “The Hobbit," so you can keep audiences shelling out more money. But brand over-extension can hurt: “The Hobbit,” which split one already-thin book into three films, was less successful with each subsequent film. Or in the case of the ‘Hunger Games,’ brand over-extension can leave audiences with deep fatigue or even indifference. To wit, the final ‘Hunger Games’ film, ‘Mockingjay: Part 2’ did open to #1 at the box-office with $101 million (well under the $120 million projections), but it’s the lowest debut of any film in the series, and by a significant margin. »
- Rodrigo Perez
Welcome to today's edition of Nerd Alert, where we have all the quirky, nerdy news that you crave in one convenient spot. What do we have in store for you on this phenomenal Friday? We have a new breakdown of discarded movie twists, a supercut of all the limbs lost in the Star Wars franchise and all of the Easter Eggs found in Spectre. But wait, there's more! Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets a homemade trailer and The Hunger Games' Katniss squares off with Harry Potter's Hermione in a new Princess Rap Battle! Sit back, relax and check out all that today's Nerd Alert has to offer.
Princess Rap Battle: Katniss vs. Hermione
Whitney Avalon is back with another long-awaited installment in her Princess Rap Battles YouTube series, which pits The Hunger Games' Katniss against Harry Potter's Hermione. Whitney Avalon, who portrays Katniss, »
The long road to rebellion finds a surprisingly satisfying close in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, that rare blockbuster that finds a compelling middle ground between thoughtfulness and big, splashy spectacle. Longer and a little more dour than it really needs to be, Francis Lawrence’s final segment of the saga that re-launched a thousand second-rate dystopias manages to achieve something the imitators have largely floundered at: poignancy and pathos. Those qualities are almost exclusively products of Jennifer Lawrence’s tremendous performance, who continues to wear this particular post-apocalypse extremely well.
Opening with Lawrence’s Katniss physically and emotionally battered, the new picture never wavers from the dark path its heroes—youthful revolutionaries for whom war is the only freedom from subjugation—must tread, and it does a better job of honing on the precious cost their actions hold than its somewhat slight source material did. There are some »
- Nathan Bartlebaugh
Tie-in video games are nothing new in the moviemaking or televisual world. Through these spin-off products, we can play out adventures featuring our favourite characters without having to leave the house.
Most of the time, though, said characters don’t sound quite right. For financial reasons, you’ll often see a different voice cast step in to replace the overly expensive stars from the original film or TV version. Admittedly, these stand-ins do a very good job from time to time. But you can always tell the difference.
Sometimes, though, providing a rare treat for fans, actors can be convinced – by money, passion or a good script - to reprise their iconic film or TV characters once more for a video game adventure. Here are 32 games that featured instances of this incredibly fun phenomenon… »
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Directed by Francis Lawrence
The anticipation that comes with the release of the final installment of a massively popular and beloved film franchise is always palpable. The Return of the King, Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars fans, at the very least, were still excited in 2005, and they are numerous), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2; each franchise had the respective studio behind it bombastically announcing the arrival of the final chapter. How would the storyline conclude? Where would characters that audiences had come to love see their journeys end? Here we are once again, this time with the concluding episode of the Hunger Games series, one that has, it should be noted, proven to be refreshingly consistent with respect to the quality of its entries. »
- Edgar Chaput
Exclusive: Disney has set Philippa Boyens to script an adaptation of The Merlin Saga, based on the series of books written by T.A. Barron. Life Of Pi‘s Gil Netter is producing. It’s a coup for the studio to land Boyens, who hasn’t really worked outside her long collaboration with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, with whom she shared the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2002 for the Best Picture winner The Return Of The King. She has teamed with Jackson and Walsh on The Lo… »
61 years ago today, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” continued with the release of its second volume, “The Two Towers.” That November release followed that summer’s debut of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which came nearly two decades after “The Hobbit” hit shelves in 1937. Tolkien’s epic tale of Middle-earth continued in this second volume, introducing readers to Treebeard and his fellow Ents, to the realm of Rohan and to Gríma Wormtongue. The third “Lord of the Rings” volume, “The Return of the King” was released in October 1955, so fans had to wait nearly 12 months to find out what happened after the cliffhanger of “Two Towers,” which ends with Samwise realizing that Frodo had not been killed by Shelob’s venomous sting, as it had appeared, but merely drugged. “Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy,” the book ends. Rayner Unwin, the books’ publisher, later said, “For »
- Emily Rome
As the author of the beloved Game of Thrones novel series A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin is a regular on the convention circuit, or at least he used to be. The writer revealed in March that he plans to cut back on his convention appearances, including Comic Con, so he could focus on finishing the sixth book in his series, The Winds of Winter, which doesn't have a publication date as of yet. Earlier this week, though, George R.R. Martin returned to his alma mater, Northwestern University, where he received the school's Hall of Achievement alumni award, and held a Q&A session. During the Q&A session, the author reiterated his thoughts on how his beloved novel series will end, telling fans to expect something "bittersweet," like J.R.R. Tolkien's ending in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King.
"I think you need to have some hope. »
George R.R. Martin, author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books that inspire HBO's "Game of Thrones," spoke about his epic fantasy series this week at his alma mater Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
In an interesting revelation, he says readers can expect his series to end with something rarely seen in it to date - hope: "I think you need to have some hope. We all yearn for happy endings in a sense. Myself, I'm attracted to the bittersweet ending."
Martin has previously indicated the plan of the series is to end along the lines of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the book which saw Frodo and his fellow Hobbits return home and discover it had been ransacked by war.
Rumors continue to swirl that Martin's next book "The Winds of Winter," the sixth in the series, will »
- Garth Franklin
Last week marked the 60th anniversary of The Return of The King's first publication, J.R.R. Tolkien's final novel in his beloved Lord of the Rings novel trilogy. Just a few days after this anniversary passed, Blackwell's Rare Books in Oxford made a surprising discovery, a map of Middle Earth with handwritten annotations from author J.R.R. Tolkien himself. The map was found in illustrator Pauline Bynes' copy of The Lord of the Rings, who had worked with the author on a color map of Middle Earth that was published in 1970.
Blackwell's is selling the map for 60,000 British pounds ($92,118), with the company calling this discovery, "perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least." The author's hand-written notes reveal that Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, which is fitting since J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at the prestigious Oxford University. »
In its fourth weekend at the box office, The Martian has once more claimed the number one spot. The Matt Damon-led sci-fi film reclaimed the top position after a short stint at number two last week and has been as well received by critics as it has been with audiences.
With best picture hopes, director Ridley Scott has the possibility of having the first major commercial hit win the award since Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004.
In recent years, there has been a growing divide between what is considered artistic gravitas in a film and its success at the box office, according to the Academy.
In the old days of the studio system this schism between artistic films and big studio hits was not nearly as evident, with most best picture winners »
- Patrick Shanley
IMDb is a dangerous place, full of knowledgeable people packing hella big opinions. Now, the Internet Movie Database - to use its full title - has unveiled something extraordinary: what its users think are the best films from the past 25 years.
To be clear, these are the top 25 films from the last 25 years, as voted for by millions of IMDb-ers on an individual basis. So these, in effect, are the highest-voted films on IMDb, each year, for the past 25 years.
2013: The Wolf of Wall Street
2012: Django Unchained
2009: Inglourious Basterds
2008: The Dark Knight
2007: Into the Wild
2006: The Departed
2005: Batman Begins
With the calendar year winding down, some are already looking ahead to figure out what movies might be up for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. While most of the big awards-season movies don't hit theaters until November or December, some fans are hoping that this summer's blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road will get some Oscar love when the nominations are announced in January. The film was both a critical and commercial hit, earning an impressive 97% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while taking in $153.6 million domestic and $374.7 million worldwide, from a $150 million budget. As it turns out, Warner Bros. is giving Mad Max: Fury Road an awards campaign, with critic Mike McGranahan spotting the studio's "For Your Consideration" ad.
Nowadays, it's hard to image that Nicolas Cage would turn down any movie, let alone one guaranteed to be a massive blockbuster success. Especially when he's taking jobs in such dreck as Left Behind and Season of the Witch. But as it turns out, he passed up a key role in what is one of the biggest series of all time. Yes, he could have been Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For the past few years, Nicolas Cage has had a rough go at choosing projects. He's appeared in one flop after the next, many of them going straight to VOD or home video (which isn't a bad thing in this day of streaming media, but in his case it has been). He won raves for his indie thriller Joe, and had a great cameo turn in Kick-Ass, but there hasn't been anything too memorable on his resume for sometime. »
The Lord of the Rings movies aren’t perfect, and everyone who pretends they are is simply kidding themselves. Whilst it’s true that Peter Jackson’s films are to be treasured and praised ’til the cows come home (they are, for the most part, awesome works), there are a good number of issues inherent to all three films that lots of folk just try to ignore – issues that, approached head-on, show up the trilogy in a more candid and thus fallible light.
There is, after all, a kind of relentless positivity that surrounds Jackson’s trilogy, as though he managed to craft three lengthy, intricate motion pictures without putting a foot wrong. It’s safe to say that revisiting Middle-Earth in the present day shows up Jackson’s world as a flawed one; combing through the saga reveals a surprisingly high number of very questionable inclusions- everything from characterisation, »
- Sam Hill
I’ve written a fair amount about The Martian already this year, and still have more planned in advance of its release next week, but having seen the film now, I have more to say. First of all, it’s a terrific movie, one of my favorites of 2015 so far, and a legitimate Academy Award contender. Where exactly will depend on a few factors, but what I want to focus on today is how it can score a Best Picture nomination. Essentially, it will have to be a big financial hit and be the blockbuster nominee of the group. Can it do it? Believe it or not…I think that it can. I mentioned that this will need to make money, and by that I mean that often Oscar will have a financial hit or two in its Best Picture lineup. Honestly, they almost always need to have made some money, »
- Joey Magidson
Cate Blanchett is no stranger to the Oscars. The Australian-born actress has two statues already, as well as three other nominations, and is hoping to add to that award season resume this year with buzz surrounding both Carol, a 1950’s-set period drama about a lesbian relationship between a department store clerk (Rooney Mara) and her relationship with a married woman (Blanchett), and Truth, the story of Dan Rather‘s (Robert Redford) dismissal from CBS’ 60 Minutes following investigations into president George W. Bush‘s military service.
Though she plays the titular character in Carol, the argument could be made that Blanchett was more of a supporting player, as Mara actually has more screen time and even beat out Blanchett for the best actress award at Cannes earlier this year. Truth, however, is Blanchett’s film and she could possibly push to get nominated for the lead »
- Patrick Shanley
Riding into battle armed with only a crossbow and a sword is a concept that is completely unimaginable to the majority of us. In fact, the concept of war is something that a lot of us cannot understand, but you know that if you were ever in a position where you had to fight for your country, you’d want either Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli standing by your side when it happened.
Maybe even Boromir because you know that he dies first anyway.
But Peter Jackson created cinematic history with his trilogy and it’s probably the best book-to-film adaptation to date; even if he does concentrate a little too much on the battle scenes. But those scenes are what made these films so entertaining and he wasn’t shy about leaving out the gory deaths either.
Unfortunately, you’ll only be able to see a few »
- Sara Weir
Why not Rivendell? Just asking. A bunch of J.R.R. Tolkien fans in the United Kingdom have launched a fund-raising page called "Realise Minas Tirith" to create "a beautiful, inspirational and fully-functioning replica of Peter Jackson's depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films." Minis Tirith is the capital city in Gondor, as featured in "The Return of the King."
They acknowledge they have no rights to the name "Minis Tirith" and will "happily cancel this project should any dispute arise over such." They also tell fellow fans "Please only donate within your means, and in the knowledge that this project is a light-hearted venture with virtually no chance of succeeding." They add that if they don't reach their goal of £1.85bn, aka around $3 billion, the pledges will be canceled. So the stakes are bargain basement low, and maybe it's impressive (or sad?) that anyone has pledged anything at all, »
- Gina Carbone
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