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By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2018 07:24AM

The Return of the Ring (2018)

Directed and written by AR Ugas

“Enough teaching about our history. It’s time to fight for our future”.

High fantasy and enduring myth reach the Midlands in a brand new 22-minute short from AR Ugas who brings Tolkien’s tales and epic themes into a contemporary setting with his new film The Return of the Ring.

Described as a fan-film with a title that could elicit groans, don’t let that fool you as the short shouldn’t be dismissed as an amateur production but one which condenses the novel’s rich themes and ideas into a uniquely local idea.

The story follows a young female Elf (Rhi Hardman as Illyandra) who sets out to reclaim the ring after it is told that it was never originally destroyed. This was followed by The Race of Man eradicating Middle-earth which ensured any trace of its history was to become a fairy tale.

Opening with a foot chase involving a mysterious hooded-man in black, the film wears its love of not just the novel but of Peter Jackson’s infamous trilogy on its sleeve. Illyandra escapes from this Nazgûl – the immortal beings bound to the power of the One Ring – and director Ugas, who also writes, scatters some archaic Tolkien language to his script too.

The ring ends up with a barman (Sam Malley as John) and Illyandra makes contact with him at a nightclub. And despite using “orc magic” to get her hand on the powerful item, the Ring Wraith is soon back on their tail. The film balances its extreme fantasy ideas with a suburban realism and the use of potions and pointy ears is subtly ingrained in the film’s modern narrative.

Technically the short suitably aims for the epic with drone shots over the city giving a cinematic feel to the proceedings. Director of photography James Alexander Barnett excellently mixes lens flare with well-chosen locations that give a sly wink to the source material. A conversation in a park against a tree harks to fantasy forests whilst a neon lit water feature in a nightclub echoes a mythic waterfall of sorts.

Sadly, the apartment location– acting as the characters’ main sanctuary – feels a little ‘flat’ but its cramped space seems to represent their confinement – hiding from their enemy in a metaphorical dungeon. But again, its low-budget roots don’t affect the great creativity at work. A clever panning shot, some suitably intense music and well composed colour grading gives the ‘other-worldly’ illusion of the ring-bearer’s scary visions.

Dominic Thompson portrays Alatar the Young (also credited as “The Wizard”) and unfortunately I felt the actor went a bit too far with a slightly pantomime performance. However, his well-delivered monologue to fill in backstory was effectively utilised and the actor nicely incorporated hints of Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from Jackson’s movie.

Woven into the film was also some excellent, but subtle, updating of ancient costumes. The leather jacket clad Nazgûl, a hooded advisor and the earthy tones of a wood Elf were fantastic and heck, even a white t-shirt embodied John’s naïve innocence to the events unfolding.

Nisaro Karim as Amdir arrives towards the end and the film moves swiftly between locations and characters and flashes of humour keep it light-hearted at times as well. With the power of the ring continuing to corrupt the heart of men, the film shows expert dexterity in technique and cinema skill with its innovative spin of the traditions of Middle-earth whilst still making it accessible and understandable to a modern Midlands audience.

A perfect ending that has a literary nod to Tolkien was a brilliant surprise that will leave you wanting more and the story’s present-day setting blends tones well. With great craftmanship, AR Ugas’ film therefore ends up being not just token Tolkien, but a fully-fledged and ambitious homage that throws in its own satisfying twist on legends with amazing precision. There are some good films in this world and shorts like The Return of the Ring are worth fighting for.

Mike Sales

Watch the full short here:

By midlandsmovies, Oct 9 2017 08:16AM

Midlands Movies gets an exclusive first look at the new film from Abdulrahman Ugas who has a unique take on the world of Tolkien set right here in the region.

Abdulrahman Ugas has 'gone epic' in his new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’, a regional movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved from its fantasy world of horses and swords to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership.

With the film planned to be released in Autumn 2017, Abdulrahman explains the story of his distinctive film concept.

“After the events in “The Return of the King” in which the Ring was destroyed and Sauron’s empire collapsed, we know that peace was spread throughout Middle Earth. But this peace was not destined to last long”.

He adds, “We’ve proposed that incursions and raids by wild bands of Orcs and opportunistic land grabbing by the Dwarfs sends Middle Earth into a spiral of violence. A worn-out Aragorn decides to take drastic measures to cleanse Middle Earth of anything non-human. Destroying any sign of their civilizations so thousands of years later there are no more traces to be found”.

“And that’s when our story starts!”

Abdulrahman goes on to say that their protagonist is a young Elf called Illyandra who discovers that the Ring has made an unexpected return. Setting out to find it, we discover The Ring was sent to John, a young man who will have to make a choice that will decide their fate.

As both the director and writer of the film, Abdulrahman Ugas already has a feature script optioned with Julian Holmes (Strike Back, MI-5, Law & Order) attached to direct. Elaine Granger from Clash of the Titans, London Has Fallen and The Autopsy of Jane Doe is attached to cast for it.

He decided to make the leap into directing and will launch his career behind the camera with this short.

Amongst the multitude of support is Director of Photography James Alexander who is a talented West Midlands cinematographer. Having worked on music videos, corporate videos and commercials Abdulrahman says his eye to detail is impeccable.

With a cast featuring Rhianne Elizabeth as Illyandra, Sam Malley as John Frisby, Dominic Thompson as Alatar the Young, Theo Johnson as Frank Simms, Nisaro Karim as Amdir and Thomas Compton as Nazgul, this exciting new project is close to completion and promises to bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands.

To stay up-to-date with the project follow the film and director here:




By midlandsmovies, Apr 19 2014 08:02AM

With the release of The Desolation of Smaug, I thought I’d head back to look at some of my favourite scenes from Peter Jackson’s original and humungous Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Straight off the bat I have to say I am a huge fan of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, which to my mind had the best story, the hardest job to do (setting it all up) but also has the best execution resulting in it having (in my opinion) the most memorable scenes. That said, with 6-7 more hours after that film to follow the journey there are some tremendous sequences throughout the sequels that just cannot be ignored no matter how much I enjoyed that first trip to Middle Earth.

I’m going to look at 12 of my favourite outstanding sequences from across the trilogy but of course with such a small number there is going to be a huge number of brilliantly inventive scenes that have not made the cut including Aragorn and the dead, Saruman’s speech, the Prancing Pony, Legolas versus the Oliphaunt, dwarf tossing, the Black Rider, the White Wizard, the final coronation, the Ent Attack and the Black Gate. These are all visually spectacular and to not include them only serves to highlight how good the other sequences are as well as showcase the general high quality across all three movies. In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of the Special Editions – the original movies are more than fine without the extras – so you won’t see the Mouth of Sauron on this list either and some sequences (the final siege at Minas Tirith) are so large and all encompassing that they take up half the movie and seem to be made up of smaller sequences, some of which are included below. So without further pause, let’s see who takes their place as the rightful heir to the top of the throne!

12. Bilbo’s birthday (The Fellowship of the Ring)

The longest sequence in the list is this set of scenes that show us the party that is thrown in The Shire for Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday. Right from the start we see everything that Jackson is going to tease us with going forward from the intimacy of the relationships, the “jokey” Merry and Pippin, the first glimpse of the Ring and the realisation that this homely town is what is truly at stake as the journey plays itself out. A masterful director of the large action sequence, Jackson shows us that we won’t forget the characters and what they are fighting for throughout their epic quest.

11. The Helm’s Deep Battle build up (The Two Towers)

After the forest fight and loss of Boromir to the “army of Orcs” in the first film, Jackson goes large in this finale to the second movie as the men of middle earth call upon the Elves to help them protect the final bastion that is the stone-walled Helm’s Deep. As Jackson cuts between the Orcs getting closer, the women and children in the catacombs below and the masterful use of humour (Legolas lightens the mood by asking if he can get the diminutive Gimli a box to stand on so he can see over the wall) before the tension is ratcheted up as they stand off against each other. The orcs begin their spear chanting (an off-the-cuff action made up by bored extras apparently) as the rain begins to pour which gives the whole scene an ominous atmosphere. Then finally, we see THAT arrow from an inexperienced elderly soldier which slips from his bow and takes down the first orc. It’s only then, when the tension is unbearable does the battle begin, itself a great sequence, but for me its effectiveness is all in the subtle build up.

10. Ride of the Rohirrim (Return of the King)

Another battle beginning right here but this time it’s already deep into the fight when the Rohirrim show up and are shocked to see the largest war-torn conflict of the war yet and despite their trepidation, a rousing speech from Théoden reminds the audience what they are fighting for. Then after a call to “ride for ruin”, the riders’ spears are ceremoniously hit by the sword of Théoden as he rides down the line of horses before leading his cavalry of men to their destiny. Actor Bernard Hill’s voice is all bombastic shouting which is perfect for the scene and then Jackson shows that despite the thousands of hardened orcs, the will of men on horseback will always be a force to be reckoned with as the real/CGI horses head into the fray.

9. Shelob (Return of the King)

A scene that I knew was coming after friends kept saying this will be something special and although Frodo’s first encounter through the webbed caves is a solid chase sequence as he finally realises he’s been tricked by Gollum, it is the follow up episode involving her stinger and Sam’s return that cements this part of the film for me. Jackson is renowned for his rollercoaster camera moves and it is the almost silent shot of Frodo being hunted by Shelob, who straddles some rocks above the unwitting protagonist, that is possibly my favourite shot in the whole movie. After the endless noise of battle and fervour, to take the movie back to a personal moment of one-on-one with such a majestic tracking shot is a masterstroke of confidence and allows us to remember that Frodo is (mostly) alone on his quest and that the support of Sam is crucial to the success of the task they’ve been given. This is a scene of remembrance also as we earlier hear Galadriel’s voice followed later by a brilliant cut as Frodo is paralysed with venom and falls down to the floor and “dreams” of the Shire. With some great CGI providing some real “weight” to the spider and its “pincers” as she fights with Sam the sequence is a wonderful web of filmic tricks.

8. Saruman vs Gandalf (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Dear George Lucas, there’s more brilliant action between these two old codgers fighting it out with their magical staffs than a million CGI’d Gungans/droids ever could. Even with Christopher Lee, Lucas just isn’t the filmmaker that Jackson is and this sequence has echoes of the Sidious vs Tyranus battle but has so much more flair. We finally realise that Saruman is not an “old friend” but has been using his palantir (glowing orb/crystal ball) to align himself with Sauron and as Gandalf goes to leave we get a supernatural smack-down before he sends the Grey wizard spiralling up the Tower. Showing how a fight sequence can go beyond mad-fast-cutting and/or ludicrous CGI, the battle between these two elderly gents has some serious importance to the story which is why we care so much about its outcome.

7. Lighting the beacons (Return of the King)

Jackson mostly avoided sentimentality and used the beautiful landscape of his native New Zealand as the backdrop for his vision of Middle Earth and whether augmented with CGI or miniatures, the natural scenery was never bettered in the photography of this sequence. Gandalf tasks Pippin with starting a fire on the beacon at Minas Tirith that creates a chain reaction across huge vistas to get a message to Aragorn/Théoden that Gondor needs the help of men and assemble the Rohirrim for battle. Peter Jackson’s skill again lies within the fact that amongst the chaos and multiple story strands he can place panoramas of various terrains in a musical montage and let the stunning environments speak for themselves whilst not ignoring this all important plot-point.

6. Sméagol talks to himself (The Two Towers)

The now legendary motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis sits at the half-way point of my list and it was the conversation between the two warring inner-personalities of the creature Sam and Frodo meet on their way - the ring-obsessed Gollum and the more sensitive Sméagol - that showed how brilliant both the emotion came across as well as the excellent CGI that captured all the nuances of Serkis’ facial features. Debating the acts of the sneaky Hobbitses and their “false” ways, the angry Gollum attacks the friendless Sméagol and tries to get him to admit to how he stole the Ring in the first place and that he shouldn’t listen to “Master”. After standing up to him, Sméagol wins out and we see some respite for the poor creature – albeit very briefly. Mainly focusing on the performance of Serkis, Jackson’s great cutting shows the audience what otherwise would be in the character’s head and Serkis would forever be remembered for this amazing role which he reprised in Jackson’s prequel The Hobbit.

5. Council of Elrond (The Fellowship of the Ring)

This is a beautiful sequence which shows the diversity of kingdoms in Middle Earth and allows Jackson to showcase each of the main characters’ motivations whilst at the same time turning an essentially boring discussion meeting into a fiery ring-obsessed shouting match. A great shot of the characters arguing in the reflection of the ring itself and Sean Bean’s Boromir summing up the huge task ahead (“one does not simply walk into Mordor”) is followed by Frodo finally volunteering to take it and an amazing Ian McKellan reaction shot as Gandalf shows his sorrow, pride and relief all at once to the inevitable. The Hobbits join in and Elrond himself names the group the “Fellowship” and Jackson raises a heated conversation to a crucial acknowledgement of the official journey.

4. Prologues (All three movies)

A bit of a cop-out as I choose three sequences for one entry but I think the intros to each of the films are tremendous works of mini film-making themselves and incredibly underrated so let me take you back to the release of the first film and its initial impact on me. Firstly, having not read the books and not being a huge fantasy fan I had big doubts about the film as I headed to the cinema on a very cold night in wintery Leicester. However, within 5 minutes I had been witness to a whistle-stop history tour of Middle Earth, action sequences, introductions to many characters and an understanding what was at stake from the outset and I was immediately hooked. Fast forward one year and the release of the sequel and similar doubts arose again as I took my seat in the cinema. As we again witness Gandalf and co in the mines of Moria I thought Jackson decided to remind the audience of the film’s crucial part again – not bad I thought as it had been 12 months since the previous movie had been out. However, when the camera followed Gandalf over the edge of the bridge this time and the fight with the Balrog continued as they fell I was blown away as we saw the same event from a different viewpoint. Again, I was hooked as Jackson had switched my expectations. What could he cook up for a third and final film with even greater expectations? Well, with the praise heaped on Andy Serkis as Gollum, what better way to showcase the actor than portray where and how Gollum came to be in possession of the Ring. As his Sméagol murders his cousin Déagol to get hold of the “precious”, it was a great finale to all three very different but entirely memorable intros to each epic movie.

3. All Shall Fade (Return of the King)

What easily could have been an embarrassing misfire (no doubt some think it is) again shows how Jackson used every cinema trick in the book in his magical movies. This time, we get Pippin, who has offered his service to Denethor, singing to the Steward of Gondor as his surviving son Faramir rides out to almost certain death to try and take the enemy-captured Osgiliath on horseback. Cutting between the disgustingly gluttonous eating habits of Denethor with the simple melodic refrain of Pippin’s folk song, Jackson uses these quiet moments to punctuate the big battle sequences and we don’t need to see the massacre that’s about to occur as the breaking of bones by Denethor during his meal along with teary Pippin’s melancholic ballad symbolises all we need to know. “All shall....fade”.

2. Balin’s Tomb (The Fellowship of the Ring)

“They have a cave troll”. Small words uttered without seeing a single evil enemy, it is after Gimli’s mournful laments to his long lost brethren that Pippin trips an orc trap by dropping a mummified set of bones down a well. After admonishing the accident-prone Hobbit (“Fool of a Took. Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!”), Gandalf realises he has set in motion a chain reaction that leads orcs to their door with Frodo’s blade Sting glowing blue in their presence. As they attempt to get in we see our first action scene as the amazingly animated CGI cave troll comes in swinging and the group fire arrows, axes and swords in its directions before Frodo’s Mithril vest saves the day as he almost comes a cropper to a thrusting trident. An amazingly frantic and exhausting action sequence with brilliant camera shots and editing, the scene propels the group further into the mines to face an even greater foe...

1. You Shall Not Pass (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Not a very original choice but an iconic piece of cinema lore as Gandalf’s final stand against the fiery Balrog over the Bridge of Khazad-dûm is as famous a quote as “Here's looking at you, kid” and “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn”. The culmination of an amazing set of scenes following one after the other, this film was cemented in my list of best films of all time from this point onward. All told, from the unsuccessful attempt to cross Mount Caradhras in winter, through the entrance to the mines, the conversation about Gollum (Jackson’s favourite scene apparently) all the way to the exit of the group onto the rocky mountain outcrop with Boromir defending the grieving Hobbits as Aragorn pushes the forlorn group onward, the totality of this hour of cinema is one of my favourites of all time and is up there with the most breathtaking moments in the history of the movies.

Thanks for sticking with me and as I said at the start, everyone will have their favourite sequences and with over 12 hours of film to chose from I have barely scratched the surface here and with two more films to come in The Hobbit trilogy we hopefully will be spoilt for more exemplary movie moments from Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien’s rich world.

Midlands Movies Mike

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