Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. You’re welcome. This week Lord of the Rings.

JRR Tolkien’s mammoth fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has for a long time been considered unfilmable. Ralph Bakshi tried in 1978 but that was a cartoon and so doesn’t really count as a movie. John Boorman wanted to adapt the film but made Excalibur instead. Finally, at the end of the century Peter Jackson, a New Zealand filmmaker famous for gore fests like Bad Taste, decided the time had come. He gathered Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Salah from Raiders, the guy who married the hot gal from Lost and Viggo Mortensen and together embarked on an epic adventure.

They would brave orcs, trolls and big spiders as they sought to return the ring of power to Mordor where they would destroy it.

‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’ a meme once said, and so it proved. Many problems beset the making of the film, but are now shrouded in mystery because mysteriously no interviews or behind the scene footage survives. Famously Andy Serkis’ Gollum character didn’t work at all and his performance was so poor, CGI was used for the first time to replace him. Similarly, Orlando Bloom’s Elf Legolas required digital enhancement to add vitality.

Only one ring to rule them all?

It is a miracle what came out is so good. Jackson grounds the fantasy in a realistic setting and uses his kinetic storytelling to push Tolkien’s tale on. He also manages to imbue it with some emotional content. Also, he does well to get rid of the songs. Though it is regrettable that Jeff Bridges as Tom Bombadil hit the cutting room floor, this moves the quest on at a clip. The special effects are amazing and the music by Howard Shore recalls a classical Hollywood orchestral score.

Unfortunately, Harvey Weinstein pulled the plug on the projected sequels. And so like the Bakshi cartoon the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring is an anti-climax. The road goes ever on apparently. There are reports that Jackson would like to complete the trilogy, but more recently he has renounced the whole idea of returning to Middle Earth, saying ‘Why would you need more than one film?’

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MR HOLMES – REVIEW – Gandalf retires to the English countryside to play an older Benedict Cumberbatch where his amazing skills of deduction takes him 90 minutes to find a wasp.

Sherlock Holmes is of course one of those iconic roles that never seem to go away. From books, to illustrations to the cinema to TV and back again, the appeal of the illustrious inhabitant of Baker Street is apparently timeless, an Edwardian Superhero and crime fighter, whose superpower is brainy-ness. Ian McKellan stars as them aging sleuth in Bill Condon’s lovingly crafted film adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel. By the way such is the popularity of Holmes that there is another novel based on the aging detective by Michael Chabon called The Final Solution which is well worth a read. Holmes is living in the countryside with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker).  He has recently returned from Japan when he sought a plant, the prickly ash, which has herbal properties that help slow the progress of the dementia from which Holmes suffers. His faltering memory is aided by Roger as he tries to piece together his last case so that he can finally face the end with something like equanimity. And herein lies the problem of the film. In a novel such an internal quest can be rendered effectively, showing the drama of the flailing mind, but on screen we have a bunch of flashbacks which don’t actually have any particular consequence to the action of the present. Its thematic similarities to McKellan and Condon’s earlier collaboration Gods and Monsters also means that anyone familiar with the earlier film will see this as a bit of a retread. Ian McKellan is wonderful of course, but one can’t help but wish that he had been placed in a story of a little more consequence. Like Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution for instance.

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NEW ZEALAND –  An Unexpected Entry: The Sex Lives of the Hobbits: a new kiss and tell memoir by Sam Gamgee actor Sean Astin looks set to blow the lid off the night time doings in Hobbiton.

The Lord of the Rings and Goonies actor has already written one book about his experiences of making Peter Jackson’s epic three film saga: the incredibly whiny and self-deluded There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale. But his new book looks to be an altogether different take. Among the many sizzling scandals, Astin reveals:

  • How one Hobbit was famous for using his Mines of Moria ‘GANDALF!’ scream at the point of climax.
  • How another pair of Hobbits had a competition to bag as many elves as they could in one night.
  • How Peter Jackson organised orgies between the principal actors and their body doubles, which Andy Serkis would participate in via motion capture technology.
  • Where the name ‘Gollum’ really comes from. 

Many have suggested that Astin has fabricated everything as an act of revenge at not being gifted a role in Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit films, but Ian McKellen has said that “Every word is true. We had a lovely time and what the hell else were we supposed to do. We were in New Zealand for goodness sake!”

An Unexpected Entry: The Sex Lives of the Hobbits is available from Amazon and all good book stores.


LONDON – Gandalf, Magneto star and occasional actor, Sir Ian McKellen has angrily denied that he is Andy Kaufman (For the original story click here). ‘For a start I’m about ten years too old,’ yelled the Thespian.

He went on to remark:

I know what you arseholes are up to. You’re just spreading rumors and fake news to get cheap laughs. You’re a bunch of parasitical bum cracks. 

But Ian?

 SIR Ian! You jumped up little turd. I’m a respected f*cking theatre actor, I’ve played Lear, I’ve played Richard the Third, I was in Apt Pupil. I’m not the funny immigrant from Taxi, you twat! 

Keep your hair on, Gandalf.

Oh you want to dance, fart face? Is that what this is? You are in dangerous territory. Already Patrick Stewart was like, let’s just go and stomp their bullshit faces to hummus, let’s just tear them new effluent holes, but I was like we’re respected men of the theatre and the X-Men universe, Patrick, some decorum. He was in Dune, you shit stain! 

Okay, we’re sorry. If you want we’ll print a denial.

The mini-f*cking-mum.  

So you’re not Andy Kaufman?

No. Well… Not legally.

What do you mean ‘legally’?

What? No! The line is breaking up… sorry. I’ll call back. 

The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug will be amongst us Xmas-y.


HOLLYWOOD – The world of show business was in tatters last night as it was revealed that Andy Kaufman had in fact faked his death and had been living ever since under the assumed name Sir Ian McKellen as part of an elaborate prank.

Kaufman’s death in 1984 from cancer was reported and widely believed though rumors that he might have staged his death were even referenced in the Milos Forman biopic starring Jim Carrey Man in the Moon. A few months later Ian McKellen, a previously unheard of actor, stepped for the first time onto a stage in London’s West End and took the world of acting by storm. His meteoric rise took many by surprise including Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Tate:

McKellen sprung forth from the very loins of theatre-dom fully formed. His Richard III, his Lear and later his Gandalf and Magneto were the product of a prodigious talent. Now we finally can see that this was actually Kaufman who had honed his acting chops on the set of Taxi

IMDb are currently retrospectively reapportioning film credits over the next few days. When asked about his motivation for pretending to be the British thespian, Kaufman said:

I thought it would be funny. Then I just got carried away. 

A director’s cut of Man in the Moon featuring a 3 hour long alternative ending will be released in 2014.


LONDON – Michael Fassbender has been linked to the Dune reboot currently planned by Len Wiseman.

The announcement came as a surprise as most of the main roles have already been cast, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Paul Atreides, Ian McKellen playing his father, Jonah Hill as the evil Duke and Johnny Knoxville playing the role sting played with the underpants and the hair.

Fassbender was a bit coy when we spoke about it earlier this week.

‘Well to be honest it’s really a bit part,’ said the Guinness advertisement star. ‘I don’t actually have any lines and you won’t necessarily be seeing the whole of me on screen.’

Fassbender’s part

News will come as a special treat though for anyone who enjoyed him in Shame.


HOLLYWOODTom Hanks follows in the footsteps of Will Smith, Sir Ian McKellen and Jamie Foxx in being the latest actor to try to make the crossover from cinema to music with the release of his album HANX A MILLION.

In a sudden change of direction, Forest Gump has loaded up with bling, surrounded himself with some big ass mommas and gone all pimp. Although famous for his roles as a white bread American hero in the style of Jimmy Stewart, Hanks has long lived a double life, mixing with Method Man and Eminem. The track list however does hint at his cinema work.

Tracks include: Pole Dancer Express, I’m gonna Forest Hump, Forest Hump ya!, Deserve this mother fucka! Cloud Asslas, Fill-a-Delphia (Then Fill Another One), and Big (You Betta Believe it).