Lily (Loren Horsley) is a frumpy little weirdo working at a fast food joint who everyone makes fun of. But she may have met her soul mate in Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) a sarcastic constantly annoyed slacker. At a costume party where she comes as a shark and he as an eagle she wows him with her video game skills. They start dating but Jarrod becomes obsessed with fighting an old high school bully. His crusade tears them apart while Lily is stuck watching Jarrod’s train wreck of a life. The whole movie feels like a bad rip off of Napoleon Dynamite. It’s the idea of seeing weird characters in otherwise banal situations only it really is just weird and banal. These slackers don't say clever things. They just complain. The climactic fight pays off in a somewhat funny way but since the characters are so repulsive it's hard to muster any excitement. On the other hand the actors do their jobs well. It's not their fault they've been asked to play boring annoying losers. Horsley does her best to bring sympathy to Lily. She offers a loyal loving partner who just gets screwed by a loser guy. But she's so good at playing pathetic it overpowers anything else so you really don't care if she hooks up with him or not. Clement goes all out. His random outbursts seem to come from a real place though they are still utterly random. Perhaps with more inventive material these two could really do something. Jarrod’s family is filled with supporting actors who fill in other oddball traits making Jarrod's behavior a definite inherited condition. They're even a little more sympathetic than Jarrod because they at least know Jarrod is messing up his only chance for a good relationship. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by slacker characters who have profound observations about the world. New Zealand writer/director Taika Cohen is trying to emulate the oddball tone of a Napoleon Dynamite combined with the slacker attitudes of a Clerks but none of those films’ endearments or wry social commentary come through in Eagle vs. Shark. On top of it the film looks like a school project. Maybe it’s trendy for indie films to adapt this style but sometimes it draws more attention to the incompetence of the filmmakers. Cohen thinks he's clever and revels in his creation lingering on moments that just don't play. But honestly you won’t want to pay to spend 90 minutes with these people.
It all begins in the quiet village of Hobbiton where Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) comes to visit his old friend Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) on his 111th birthday and talk about the ring Bilbo found many years ago. Gandalf discovers the ring is indeed the One Ring of Sauron-the Dark Lord who once ruled Middle-earth with a terrible hand and has now risen to reclaim the Ring and rule again. Bilbo gives the Ring to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) who learns how it gives its possessor unspeakable power and why it has now put his village in danger. Suddenly Frodo is thrust into a treacherous mission. With his hobbit friends Merry (Dominic Monaghan) Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Samwise (Sean Astin) Frodo leaves his beloved home to travel to the Cracks of Doom and destroy the Ring before it falls into the wrong hands. The journey is fraught with dangers--from the evil Ringwraiths Sauron's henchmen to the powerful wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) and his army of horrible mutants called the Uruk-Hai. Luckily the hobbits receive help along the way from Legolas (Orlando Bloom) an elf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) a dwarf and the brave humans Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) who all join the Fellowship of the Ring to protect Frodo and help save Middle-earth. But can they escape the lure of the Ring?
The all-star cast does an admirable job bringing the vivid characters of Tolkien's books to life. They've all managed to personalize their roles while dealing with the responsibility of portraying fictional icons. The film belongs to Wood who has proven he can carry a film (even at the tender age of 11...remember Radio Flyer?). His Frodo is so wrought with emotion and gets kicked around so much you feel like joining the Fellowship yourself just to help him out. Yet the hobbit's strong resolve is also quite evident. As Gandalf McKellen seems to personify the kindly wizard as if Tolkien had written the part for him and as the hyper-kinetic Bilbo Holm tries on big hairy feet and brings something new to his repertoire of characters. Other worthy performances include Bloom as the ultra-cool elf Legolas Astin as the stalwart Sam and Bean an underrated actor as the tortured Boromir who falls under the Ring's spell and sacrifices all to break from it. Some of the other characters didn't have the same amount of screen time but will more than likely be getting more play in the sequels including Mortensen's heroic Aragorn the man who would be king and his lady love the elven princess Arwen played by the beautiful Liv Tyler. It'll be interesting to see how the cast will handle their characters in the sequels to come.
Lord of the Rings looks nothing less than spectacular. What is even more impressive is the fact that director Peter Jackson decided to film all three of the books at one time no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. He uses all the technology and wizardry available to filmmakers today and thrusts the audience deep within the treacherous and exciting Middle-earth. From the diminutive hobbits to the Elven city Rivendell to the dark Mines of Moira it's all there. The amount of talent involved in creating the film--the conceptual artistry the production design the costumes--should be recognized come Oscar time. The pacing of the movie is excellent with enough down time and heartfelt if sometimes stilted speeches to counteract the incredible action sequences. You hardly notice the three hours passing by and it leaves you at the end wanting the quest to continue. The only one deterring fact is that the film really is for its die-hard fans. Certainly in the literary world Tolkien's story is the mother of all epic fantasies and Jackson has remained faithful to the material. In that the movie doesn't necessarily have the universal appeal of say a Harry Potter. Nonetheless Rings is a breathtaking piece of filmmaking.