Song of the Day: Theoden Rides Forth (by Howard Shore)

For my chosen song from Howard Shore’s orchestral film score for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers I picked the tune which starts off my favorite scene in from that film. This will be the latest song for “Song of the Day”.

“Theoden Rides Forth” begins with the scene of Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and what remains of the Rohan cavalry riding out for one last time out of the Keep at Helm’s Deep into the thick of the Uruk-Hai forces. The song takes the “Rohan theme” first heard in the early part of the film, but with a heroic flair that transitions to full brass blaring the theme to great effect. The song then segues into a brief appearance of the “Fellowship theme” as Gandalf, Eomer and the Rohirrim appear to save their king and companions. From there the song brings in the “Shadowfax theme” with child soprano Ben Del Maestro providing the solo chorus as the charge comes down the steep incline and into the ranks of Uruk-Hai waiting below. But the song doesn’t end there as it moves into the follow-up scene using the “Nature theme” to show Treebeard and the Ents make their final march to war against Isengard.

This track from the score finishes off the two parallel story lines of Helm’s Deep and Isengard. The transitions in the song from one story line to the other were flawless. The fact that Shore was able to incorporate and combine so many different themes not just from this film but from the previous one shows an artist who is definitely a master of his craft. There’s no denying why “Theoden Rides Forth” became the best tune from the The Two Towers film score and why so many fans of the film and the score wholeheartedly agree.

Scenes I Love: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Yesterday, I had chosen my favorite scene from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Today, I just finished re-watching the sequel to that film (though I think of it more as the second act of a 12-hour film), The Two Towers. From this second act I chose the one of the three climactic sequences in the film: Gandalf the White’s arrival and subsequent charge of the Rohirrim to break the siege of Helm’s Deep.

This second act had so many excellent scenes. From the last march of the Ents as they go to war against Isengard, to Gandalf’s descent and fight against the Balrog right up to the hour-long battle for Helm’s Deep. In the end, it was the charge by Gandalf, Eomer and the Rohirrim which sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t just the dramatic entrance of these characters to save their friends, but Howard Shore’s score which really added to the scene.

I love how just as the Rohirrim charge was about to smash into the front ranks of the Uruk-Hai spearmen the sun behind the charge peaked above the top of the incline and blinded the defenders at the bottom. For someone who has studied military tactics and maneuvers in battle this was a textbook use of the sun at a charging forces back to blind and confuse the enemy. Many who saw this film probably just saw it as just part of the scene, but not I. This is the major reason why this scene was my favorite in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Degrassi: The Next Generation (ep. 0611, Rock This Town)

So last night, as I fought insomnia and planned my upcoming road trip, I happened to watch an infamous episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Rock This Town.  This was the 11th episode of the 6th season and it’s probably inspired more YouTube music videos than any other episode of the show.

Why Was I Watching It?

Okay, so I’ll just be honest here.  Degrassi: The Next Generation has been one of my guilty pleasures ever since it first started airing here in the states.  And when I say guilty, that’s not necessarily a slam on the show.  As far as shows about teenagers dealing with every social issue under the sun are concerned, none can come close to Degrassi.  When I was younger, the pleasure of this show came from the fact that the characters were actually doing the same stupid stuff that I was doing in school.   Then, in college, Degrassi was the show that you’d get high and then watch.  And now that I’m technically an adult, this show just makes me nostalgic.  Either way, it serves a good purpose.  Or at least it did.  I hear that the more recent episodes kinda sorta suck but I only catch the reruns anyway.

What Was It About?

In this episode, Emma’s parents went out of town so every high school student in Canada showed up at her house to party.  She had been planning on having sex with her boyfriend Sean that night but unfortunately, she ended up getting so drunk that she instead ended up spending the whole night vomiting in a trash can.  (Been there, done that — no, you can’t quite recover from it but you can just get a new boyfriend.) 

Meanwhile, reformed class clown J.T. realized — while at the party — that he was still in love with his boring ex-girlfriend Liberty, despite the fact that Liberty’s kind of a pill and was always my least favorite character on the show.  J.T. went looking for Liberty to tell her that he loved her but before he found her, he ended up getting stabbed in the back by a kid from the rival high school.  Liberty comes across J.T. who dies without ever letting her know that he loves her. 

Seriously, that’s what happens.


What Worked

The thing I loved about this show is the way it always managed to embrace the principle of the worst possible thing that can happen will happen.  For all the controversy over the fact that the show regularly dealt with issues like teen sex and teen violence, few commentators seemed to notice just how reactionary this show usually is.  In the world of Degrassi, if you have unprotected sex, you will get pregnant.  If you try drugs, you will end up getting addicted and having a psychotic breakdown in front of someone who could have been very important to your future.  If you drink and drive, you’re going to total the car.  If you bully another student, you better believe that student is going to attempt suicide by the end of the episode.  And here, we learn that if you throw a party while your parents are away, the funniest, most likable student at school will end up getting murdered by a complete stranger.

Seriously, whenever I start to get annoyed with all of my Catholic guilt, I watch this show and realize that I’m right.  I am doomed.

What Didn’t Work?

Liberty was such an annoying character and the fact that J.T. died because he was looking for her didn’t serve to make her any less annoying.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

As I already mentioned, I couldn’t help but relate to Emma as her night of passion was ruined by the fact that she was busy throwing up in a trash can.  Luckily, she had someone there to hold back her hair.  Seriously guys, there’s an art to doing that.  I speak as someone who has had her hair manhandled by far-too-many clumsy good Samaritans.  I mean, don’t get me wrong — I love you guys but ouch!  Holding my hair back does not mean ripping it out by the roots.

Lessons Learned

None.  I’ve never been good at learning my lesson.

Film Review: Cars 2 (dir. by John Lasseter & Brad Lewis)

There was once a rumor that the major heads of Pixar – John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich (I don’t count Brad Bird because he came later) were afraid to let any of their staff take on directing any of their films. With such an illustrious track record, it’s understandable. Pixar has picked up quite a reputation as being one of the few production companies one can count on to have Supposedly, they felt that the quality wouldn’t be as great.

So, I’m certain that the Pixar Heads are eating their own pie when they realize how Cars 2 turned out. It’s a fun film that the kids will adore, but it really lacks the heart that many of the other Pixar films are known for. Mind you, I’m not blasting the movie and saying it should be avoided. Not at all. It’s just that this is more of a movie for the kids and less of one for the adults. I feel that’s the problem everyone’s having with it. This is a good thing. It reminds Pixar of what they need to do to keep winning Oscars, while still being entertaining for the kids. Hopefully, because one of the head honchos made a mistake, maybe the company may consider letting some of the new kids try a hand at it.

In short, the Kid in me loved Cars 2. The Adult in me felt “Well, at least the Kid enjoyed it.” It suffers from two problems – a great story that would have been better set in the world of The Incredibles and a forced moral to the story. This may be the first Pixar film since A Bug’s Life where I haven’t teared up, this coming from someone who couldn’t make it out of the first 15 minutes of Up without tissues.

Previously on Cars, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) won his very first Piston Cup after a pit stop in the small town of Radiator Springs, where he learned to slow down and relax. He also met up with Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), who may not be the brightest spark plug in the engine, but means well and manages to help when he can. Now, we find that McQueen has earned a number of Piston Cups and is one of the best racers in the world. After returning to Radiator Springs, he finds himself greeted by Mater – who’s been anxiously waiting for his best friend. Mater, being who he is, can’t help but be a little overboard in his fun, which ends up getting McQueen involved in a brand new race that’s sponsored by a clean fuel magnate.

Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) are also investigating what could be a dangerous situation. While meeting with one of their American contacts (a great cameo by Bruce Campbell), the contact passes on some special information to Mater. Mater, not realizing what he’s been tagged with, is mistaken for a spy by the duo and brought into the investigation. That’s basically what Cars 2 is. It’s “Mater becomes a Spy”, and for the most part it works, but only if you really like the character. Mater is finally given his time to shine and he pulls it off well. I myself don’t mind Larry the Cable Guy, so it’s okay for me. For the grown ups, it could be a Mater overload. The kids will eat it up. The parents may actually get a little annoyed at how clueless Mater can be at times.

I have to admit that both Michael Caine and John Tuturro (Francesco Bernoulli) were two of the strongest character voices in the film. Owen Wilson’s okay, but the story really is only about him in terms of his relationship to Mater. I really didn’t care too much about Lightning this time around. We know his story, he’s grown about as much as he can in my eyes. More or less, he’s playing second or third fiddle. Seeing Caine in this made me want to watch Harry Brown again, or The Fourth Protocol. The fact that he’s also playing an Aston Martin DB5 type Vehicle is a sweet touch for me. He ’s smooth with his lines and pulls off the British Agent role pretty well. Mortimer is also relaxed in her role. Tuturro’s Bernoulli is as over the top as he was in The Big Lebowski, and he was a treat here as McQueen’s main rival. He may have had more fun than the others working on this, from the way he sounds.

Visually, Cars 2 is as beautiful as the other Pixar films, but doesn’t really seem to break that much new ground. Toyko looks nice, Paris is perfect (right down to the Ratatouille reference, if you catch it) and Italy looks sweet, but we know Pixar can do that. The 3D, however is downright magical, and I’m one who honestly believes the medium is best served with Animated films rather than filmed ones. It’s not exactly How to Train Your Dragon, but it’s still good in it’s own right.

I mentioned earlier that the story could have been better set in the world of The Incredibles. It’s an interesting spy story (the reasoning behind why what’s happening was funny in the sense of cars and the like), but the idea that cars are actually doing all of this action kind of pulls away from the story. At least, the adult in me comes off with this thought. For kids, it’s cars doing cool stuff, and I doubt it’ll come across as boring. The other problem is that the moral of the story – accepting your friends for who they are, despite their quirks (because we all have them) – feels a little forced. It’s like someone concentrated so hard on trying to do it that when it does occur, you go..”Okay, I get it.”, But I didn’t walk away feeling anything. Ratatouille’s Remy had a passion for cooking, one so great that he even made the most wicked food critic believe that “Anyone Can Cook”. In Up, Carl Fredricksen learned to let go of what he was holding on to and found new adventures. Mater undergoes a change, but it isn’t quite a big or a substantial. Actually it doesn’t even last long. It’s just clean fun.

Overall, looking at Cars 2, it’s not the greatest Pixar film they’ve done – far, far from it, but it’s a kid’s film. It’s quite enjoyable, but it sacrifices heart for action, something that Kung Fu Panda 2 managed to hold onto this year. Your kids will love it and you’ll enjoy that they’ll love it, but just don’t bring any tissues. They’re not necessary. You really wont find your heartstrings pulled here too much.

6 Trailers To Go On The Road With

This weekend, I’m busy getting ready to go on a road trip with Jeff.  I’ll be away from home for two whole weeks!  However, fear not!  With the help of WordPress and my wonderful, beautiful older sister Erin, I will still be updating and posting even while we’re on the road.  I might even be able to convince my fellow Shattered Lens writer to spend the next two weeks watching the Lifetime Movie Channel and posting “What Lisa Would Have Watched Last Night.”  How about it, guys? *wink wink*

Anyway, while I deal with shopping and packing, why not enjoy the latest entry of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse And Exploitation Trailers.

(And by the way, just because I’m going to be out of town next weekend won’t stop me from posting six more trailers next Saturday.  Why?  Because I love you, silly!)

1) The Klansman (1974)

In this infamous little film from the 1970s, Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, and O.J. Simpson fight the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.  Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen this movie though the copy I saw was one of those public domain DVDs that I think was actually a copy of the edited-for-TV version of this movie.  (I say that because every time someone cursed, there was an awkward silence on the soundtrack.)  Even more odd is the fact that I’ve actually read the old novel that this movie is based on.  Anyway, this movie is pretty bad but the book is okay.  The film was directed by the same guy who directed the first James Bond films.

2) Beyond the Door (1975)

Okay, so this is pretty obviously an Exorcist rip-off but wow, this trailer freaks me out.  Needless to say this is an Italian film.  My favorite part of the trailer, to be honest, is the use of the Ryder truck.  It’s a moment that epitomizes Italian exploitation in that you can tell that the filmmakers really thought that displaying the one word — “Ryder” — would convince viewers that they were watching an American-made film.

3) 2020 Texas Gladiators (1985)

Speaking of Italian exploitation cinema, here we have another example.  I pretty much had to include this trailer because I live in Dallas and 2020 is just 9 years away.  That said, I’m not sure what part of Texas this film is supposed to be taking place in.  I’m guessing by all the shots of boots marching through grass that this is supposed to be up in North Texas but if you can find mountains like that around here then you’ve got far better eyesight than I do.  Add to that, the sudden indian attack seems more like an Oklahoma thing.  Not surprisingly, according to Amazon, this film was not only directed by Joe D’Amato but features both George Eastman and Al Cliver.

4) 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

Apparently, it didn’t start in Texas.  This is also an Italian film.  It was directed by Enzo Castellari and, not surprisingly, George Eastman is in this one as well.

5) Empire of the Ants (1977)

The is the trailer that  dares to ask — who are you going to listen to?  Common sense or H.G. Wells?  I’ll tell you, nothing freaks me out more than when I see  one of those ant lines carrying a dead cricket back to the anthill.  Ants are one thing that I will not allow in the house.  However, I kinda admire them.  They’re so neat and organized.  Plus, males in ant society know their place.

6) Mr. Billion (1977)

“20th Century Fox presents Mr. Billion …. starring Terence Hill, the 5th biggest star in the  world…”  I haven’t seen very many Terence Hill films but I always enjoy seeing him in trailers.  I can’t really say whether he’s a good actor or not because every time I’ve seen him, he’s been dubbed.  But he definitely had a very likable presence.  You wanted him to be a good actor whether he was or wasn’t.  That said, even if I had been alive at the height of Mr. Hill’s fame, it never would have worked out for us as I’m Southern Italian and Hill is quite clearly from the north.  That’s just the way it is.  Anyway, back to Mr. Billion — I’m including two trailers for this one.  The first is the “Prestige” trailer.  The second one is much shorter and features one of those odd little songs that gets stuck in your head.