Monday, December 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Over ten years ago, Peter Jackson made a trilogy of movies based on the best-selling series, The Lord of the Rings.  The movie broke almost all known records, both based on money and awards.  After that, any additional entry into the series pales in comparison to the originals.  The Hobbit follows the story of Frodo’s uncle Bilbo who joins a group of dwarves as they go to take back a dwarf city that was taken by a dragon.

The book is short, the movie stretched out to its very limits.  The story begins before the Hobbit novel begins, with a history lesson of how the dragon came to be in the city of Erebor.  Soon after, the recap from the beginning of the Lord of the Rings begins, with a lovely cameo from Elijah Wood and Ian Holm.  Holm then concentrates on his book, beginning the story and depicting himself as a younger hobbit.

The story of the hobbit is not new, most kids are exposed to it in grade school.  The fantasy aspect of the story begins with the description of the hobbits and the dwarves and continues on from there.  Bilbo hosts the dwarves in an amusing episode in his house, they clean his pantry out and he decides he does indeed want to go on an adventure.  The dwarves journey across Middle Earth, being sought after by various goblins and orcs, finding refuge, briefly with the elves.  Another few cameos appear here, with Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel, playing by Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett.

The story continues on and at varying points I kept thinking, is it over yet.  And, to me, that sums up the movie.  While the movie was graphically great, better than the originals, the story, as it was when I read it, was not nearly as interesting as the Lord of the Rings.  In many ways, to me, the Hobbit has always paled in comparison to the trilogy and this is no exception.  The dwarves are played comically, as they should be, and while the idea of retaking their home is affecting, it is executed more towards a child’s attention than an adult’s.  That isn’t to say that you won’t enjoy it, but as with any kid’s movie, you may wonder where the story is going or when it’ll be over.  I applaud Jackson for returning to Middle Earth, but I do wish he’d chosen the Silmarillion over the Hobbit.  Give me elves any day over dwarves.

Also of note, I did see the High Frame Rate version and did find it both distracting and not adding much to the overall viewing experience.  The 3D was nice, but not worth the extra money.  I'd say if you do see it, see it as a regular movie and you won't miss anything!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie Review: Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Edition

If you’ve never met me, only know me in passing online, then you may not know this, but Lord of the Rings really changed the way I looked at literature and movies, the story moving and affecting in a troubling time for me.  I won’t go into details, in retrospect, it wasn’t really all that bad of a situation, but to watch the story come to life, it was just amazing.

I can’t say I’m as excited to see ‘The Hobbit,’ which comes out next week, but I will, of course see it.  What always astounds me about the Lord of the Rings is that the scope of the story is massive – just a behemoth of a story, on par with War and Peace.  With countless characters and storylines, Peter Jackson brings it all together. I do wonder, ten years later, if Jackson wonders if he could have had six movies and not three, given the breaking up of the finales for Harry Potter and Twilight.

I couldn’t help but notice countless ‘movie mistakes’ in this latest viewing.  There are so many instances where people switch from left to right, a clear example of the frames being flipped.  I mean, if Aragorn is holding a torch in one hand, a sword in another, and yet, miraculously, the items switch hands in seconds.  These are the things that are unearthed after too many viewings.

I can’t begin to distil the girth of the story, suffice it to say, it lets you escape the realities of our lives and live in another world, in another time, see good sacrifice greatly to triumph over evil.  Well worth the watch and has stood the test of time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

In this adaptation of Cogan’s Trade, Brad Pitt helms a fantastic cast through the ups and downs of the hard economic times of a seemingly illegal sub-community.  When a card games goes south, a second similar hold-up, the obvious suspect is found guilty, as are the actual culprits.  What starts off as a simple heist spirals into the criminals being held responsible for their actions by yet another criminal, a law among thieves, so to speak.  Two ne’er do wells, Frankie and Russell, go in on scheme to hold-up a known card game that the host had already held-up.  Their leader, Squirrel, advises that the host will be held responsible.  The scheme goes off without a hitch, but as is the case with most criminals, neither are terribly bright and soon reveal their heist to others, thus admitting their guilt.  When the enforcer arrives, he is forced to hire another enforcer, but this enforcer has a mental breakdown, leaving the job to be handled by the one enforcer.  The dialogue between the two enforcers, played by Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini is well worth the price of admission alone.  The story comes to a climax once Pitt’s Cogan finishes the job, ensuring the group he works for is protected from being discovered.

At times, the story-telling was heavy-handed. The movie is set with the backdrop of the 2008 Election, campaign rhetoric from President Bush, future President Obama and Senator McCain, amongst others are interspersed with the main story.  The concept of the story comes fully into focus as Pitt’s Cogan rails at his contact that the President claims many things, but America is a business and he deserves to be paid for the work he has done.  The down-trodden characters like Frankie and Russell are the prototypical representations of Romney’s now famous 47 per cent, people who expect the government to bail them out, that owe them.  The contact for Cogan, Driver, seemed to represent the government intermediary to the faceless committee he serves.  The overt tone of government bureaucracy is doubled as Driver refuses to pay Cogan the rate promised to Mickey, played by James Gandolfini.  His character is also troubled, representing the expectation that he should get paid for doing little to nothing.

I may have seen more into the movie than was implied, but the thoughtful narrative with the graphic violence and unrelenting ending makes for a worthwhile two-hour investment.  Pitt leads the story through various twists and turns, that at times slow the pace down, the payoff not realised until the end.  The movie may not be a superficial indulgence as most Hollywood movies are, well worth the watch for the thoughtful movie-goer.