The Hobbit

January 7, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

RESURGENCE

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Resurgence

Two films down, one to go.  Peter Jackson’s second epic trilogy where he re-visits Middle Earth continues as Bilbo Baggins and his gang of dwarves travel ever closer to The Lonely Mountain and their encounter with the fire-breathing dragon, Smaug.  In “The Desolation of Smaug” you see glimpses of what Jackson did with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  There is a resurgence if you will, in this penultimate film that features some great action set pieces, and little more dwarf history, and the best performance by a dragon you’ll see all year.

“Smaug” is a vast improvement over the first film, “An Unexpected Journey” which was a slave to having to re-create a world where there was no fellowship, no imminent danger, and for lack of a better term, no real protagonist that you can relate to.  Granted, it might be hard to relate to a reluctant king, an elf princess, or a hard drinking dwarf, but at least there were recognizable characters that you could root for.  To be honest, I have a hard time remembering any of the dwarves in Thorin Oakenshield’s company outside of the aforementioned dwarf leader.

I think one of the traps this trilogy has fallen into is its reliance on fanboy love.  The beauty of “LotR” was the fact that even if you didn’t read the books, or knew little of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, the story was strong enough to bring moviegoers who were dying for an epic three-part adventure, that for my money, still can’t be beat.  “The Hobbit” trilogy lacks what made “LotR” magical.  At times it lacks any originality for the most part where you find yourself visiting many places you saw before, and the pacing is painful at times.  However, Jackson certainly learned his lesson from his first film in the trilogy, and while it might piss off die-hard fans of the book, he;s made “Smaug” a far more entertaining watch.

First of all, the action is pumped up quite a bit.  While the escape from The Goblin King and his minions might have been exciting in “Journey” it was the highlighted action piece.  In “Smaug” there is the wine barrel chase, a ton of hot Elf-on-Orc action, you get to see Gandalf be a bad-ass again, and of course all of the scenes with Smaug, voiced excellently by Benedict Cumberbatch.  The film also marks the “return” of Legolas and the introduction of a new character, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly.  People have been pissed about the addition of these two, but I’m trying to understand why.  Legolas brings something to these “Hobbit” films; nostalgia, whereas as Lilly brings a little sex appeal to the proceedings, and I might add, she does make a sexy elf and I wouldn’t be surprised if “female elf” is one of the top Halloween costumes in 2014.

The biggest gripe that many people have is the fact that Jackson strayed too far away from Tolkien’s material.  I’d respond with “Thank God!”  Without these additions to the film, I might go as far as saying these films are pretty unwatchable.  They are tedious exercises in exploiting a beloved book while trying to extort more money from nerds who can’t get enough of The Shire and Hobbit feet.  You might think, “Matt!  I thought you liked this film better than the first one?!”  I do like “Smaug” better than “Journey” but that still doesn’t make either one great.

All in all, “Smaug” is the shot in the arm the trilogy needed.  It finally introduced the aforementioned Smaug with all the bravado that it deserved, and it ended in a way that will FORCE people who have already invested over five hours of their time into investing another nearly three hours later this December.  “The Hobbit” films might have their problems and shortcomings, but at least Jackson got this one right, even if he had to piss some book fanboys off in the process.

Fun Fact:  Published in 1937,  many critics believe that Tolkien’s novel, “The Hobbit” was based on his experiences in World War I.   

December 1, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: November Edition

As Turkey Day draws to a close, the boys recap the month of November with Anime and Asian Cinema aficionado Neal DaSouza.  They talk about black films, black Kermit The Frog, and Blacklist.  Not necessarily in that order.

The boys also introduce an old game with a new twist.  A game titled with the infamous anagram K.F.M. (Look it up on the interwebs kiddies).  Remakes, Wolves of Wall Street, and Roadhouse throat rips.  Gobble up all that and more, pilgrim, on the Thanksgiving edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  Yes, that was a pretty bad use of word play.  So what?  Sue me.  Wait, don’t sue me.  I’m so incredibly poor.

Show Notes:

Kermit The Frog
Roadhouse
K.F.M. Game
The Blacklist
Sleepy Hollow
The Wolf Of Wall Street


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.

Click HERE to listen to podcast

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December 20, 2012

Crap/Happy Holidays: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Experimental

The hub-bub of the holiday season is “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.”  Yes, you get to return to Middle-Earth to see all of your favorite Middle-Earth friends, well, some of them, not the ones that you really care about however.  But this time around Middle-Earth looks a little different, of course that all depends on how much you intend on spending at your local cineplex, but more on that later in the review.  I digress, yes, “The Hobbit” is a movie that is nearly a decade in the making and while it does give fans of the books and the previous trilogy what they want, director Peter Jackson is still two movies away from the big payoff, and with his experimental new vision of The Shire and beyond, we are left to wonder if the experiment will change how we view movies in the future.  I hope this isn’t the case.

Onward and upward, let’s get into “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey” the first of three planned films to tackle the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel from 1937.  I’m not much of a reader, but I’ve attempted to read “The Hobbit” or “There and Back Again,” and the three “Lord of the Rings” books, I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it.  I would think it would be the same thing if I tried to read any of the “Game of Thrones” novels.  I much prefer something visual and I’ll stick with the Cliffs Notes versions of the books.

“The Hobbit” follows Bilbo Baggins, the uncle of Frodo, our hero in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  A younger Bilbo is commissioned by Gandalf the Grey and sets out with a company of 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, who is out for both revenge and to take back his family’s home in The Lonely Mountain.  The only problem is that a deadly dragon, named Smaug, had taken up residence in the mountain.  If you weren’t into the original “Rings” trilogy I don’t expect any new converts to this new “Hobbit” trilogy.  There is a lot of walking, a lot of fantasy-speak, and long dialogues of exposition.  That’s no indictment to the film, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, but I can see why people have problems with the “Rings” franchise.  Another thing that seasoned Middle-Earthers might find alarming is the lack of fighting.  There are a few scenes where you get to see that dwarves are formidable warriors, but they are mostly running away for their enemies, which include goblins, trolls, and orcs, especially Azog the Defiler (truly a bad-ass name).  The lack of hand-to-hand combat is a bit troubling, but I hope for more swordplay in the coming sequels.

Ashamed to say this, I was actually falling asleep within the first 45 minutes of the film.  It prodded along, many of the jokes fell flat, if they fell at all, and aside from the exposition in the beginning explaining the dwarves’ plight, there was no action to really speak of.  After I got a wake up call, right when Bilbo had decided to make a decision that would change Middle-Earth forever, I was able to finally get into the film. As I journey further into this review I feel like I’m forgetting the elephant, or troll, in the room; both the 3-D and 48 frame per second element of “The Hobbit.”

*A disclaimer:  If you haven’t seen “The Hobbit” yet, and decided to see it in the theater, deciding which version of the film to see in and of itself is an adventure.  There is a standard 2-D version, a 3-D version, a standard 2-D version in 48 fps, and a 3-D version in 48 fpsKnowing is half the battle.  Go Joe!

I’ll start with 3-D; no need for it in this film, or any film in my opinion.  In any type of fantasy film, you have to suspend disbelief, it’s a must if you are going to enjoy anything from the genre.  However, there are points where the 3-D really takes you out of your zone and you realize that the CG is poorly super-imposed over a real backdrop of clouds, valleys, and mountains.  Think anything at Disney World, EPCOT, or the former-MGM Studios park (ironically enough, MGM was one of the distributing companies for “Hobbit”).  I noticed this more near the end when the CG was obvious.

Now, the bigger controversy; 48 frames per second.  How can I describe this method of filmmaking?  I’ll hand it to Peter Jackson, he has balls of New Zealand granite to try this experimental method of filming.  It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, unless you own a TrueMotion TV at your house.  Tarantino was right, this is truly TV in public.  Benny Hill fans will appreciate some of the scenes where it looks like someone in the projection booth set the fast-forward button to x1.5 and forgot to turn it off.  It’s painfully obvious during scenes with a lot of action where characters are running or fighting.  You are left to wonder, what is the purpose of this technology?  Why do we need TrueMotion in movie theaters now?  We’re all aware that 3-D is a fad, but hopefully this doesn’t become the newest fad to hit our films in the future.

Aside from my gripes, I did enjoy “The Hobbit” once the paced picked up.  While the sword-fighting lacks, the action set-pieces are well done and keep you on the edge of your seat.  There were times during the movie that I had a hard time picking the CG from practical effects, including Azog the Defiler and his pack of roving orcs.  The return of Gollum is great, and is once again brought to stunning life by Andy Serkis.  The game of riddles segment is probably the best scene in “The Hobbit.”  It will take time to get used to the larger “fellowship” this time around, and the lack of a Legolas or Gimley-type character is hard to swallow, but with the sequels in the pipeline I’m sure I’ll gain an appreciation for my new dwarf friends.  Add in the plot line of a necromancer, Bilbo obtaining the One Ring, and Smaug the Dragon, and we have some wonderful adventures ahead of us the next two years.

Fun Fact:  Talk about a flip!  While both Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Necromancer) appear on a collision course in “The Hobbit,” they are quite the contrary in the BBC’s “Sherlock,” where they play Watson and Sherlock Holmes, respectively.

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