A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.
This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.
It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.
For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.
However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.
Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.
There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.
However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.
A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.
Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.
There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.
Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.
Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.
Made me really want to watch ‘Bad Boys II’. I never want to feel like that again.
Police Constable, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is good at his job, so good in fact, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, his superiors at the Met have decided to sweep him under the carpet. So it is that London’s top cop finds himself in the sleepy West Country village of Sandford, where everything is a little too nice…
That synopsis doesn’t sound like anything too special but trust me, when you have the creative minds of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg working together, special is what you get.
The film is an obvious homage to all of the fun-loving buddy cop films of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, but it also seems like it has a lot of love for the genre too. What’s so funny about this movie is that almost every scene features something goofy going on whether it’s a slight visual gag, recurring joke that seems to pop up everywhere, and in-jokes that will test your movie geekdom to it’s full limits. You’ll hear somebody utter a phrase or line-for-line dialogue from another flick or you’ll even see a scene from another recreated here and if you don’t get it right away, it’s not that funny, but if you do get it (like I did), you’ll be laughing your ass off the whole time. What was also rare about this comedy was that almost every jokes stays here in this flick and somehow finds it way of popping up later on in the flick and tying altogether with the plot.
Everybody knows how a cop movie goes but this film loves to toy around with that idea and just make it even more fun to actually watch them. Of course they mess around with the cliches and conventions that usually come with these types of films but it’s not all about that, these guys really do love these films and show how much fun they can be even if they are referring to such “classics” as ‘Point Break’ or ‘Bad Boys II’. If you don’t get the joke with that last statement then this surely is not the film for you. Then again though, a lot of this humor is very British in its own way, which I usually don’t understand but other times I do and laugh my ass off at so it’s sort of strange with me.
My only problem with this flick is that when the action comes around here, and it does come around big-time, they over-do the whole “shaky cam” element a little too much. I get that this flick was obviously trying to make a little joke about the constant zooming in-and-out and the shakiness of the action movie cameras, but the action would have been so much better if they didn’t feel the need to resort to this and just give me a head-ache. It’s a minor complaint but a complaint none the less.
Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, but not in a Simon Pegg-ish way though, he’s actually very much the straight guy and let’s everybody else do the humor which was a very smart idea. Pegg does have an occasional few moments where he lets loose just a bit but he’s not the usual, cheeky guy we all know and love him for in other flicks. He may not be the easiest to like here but that provides a lot of love for Nick Frost as his likable cop-buddy, Danny. Frost is such a joy to watch here and brings home the laughs just about every opportunity he gets and the chemistry between the both of them are always great no matter what flick they’re in and that’s no different here. These guys are pure comic gold when they are with each other no matter what it is that they do and I hope they never stop at it either.
The rest of the cast is also a lot of fun and features a lot of familiar faces playing against type. Former 007 Timothy Dalton was absolutely hilarious as the dude who owns the local supermarket, and drops down the lamest but funniest puns I’ve ever heard considering they go so well with everything else that’s going on here; Jim Broadbent is very goofy, as he should be with his performance here as the Sandford’s chief of police; and there are so many others here that make this flick work and I honestly don’t want to spoil them but you’ll see what I’m talking about once they pop-up.
Consensus: Hot Fuzz is a lovable, entertaining, and very funny homage to the buddy-cop genre with plenty of in-jokes and hilarious performances and cameos that will just make the film better and more impressive as it goes along.
And Jack Sparrow thought he was witty.
With the “Pirate of the Year” awards around the corner, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of scallywags take to the high seas to find a bounty worthy of entering the awards. Instead they find a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who informs them that their beloved parrot is in fact a rare dodo, a discovery priceless in the scientific world.
This is the latest flick from Aardman Animation, aka the witty Brits from ‘Wallace & Gromit’, and ‘Chicken Run’, which means, in terms of comedy, this film has a whole lot to live up to. But when you touch something like pirates and try to make them goofy, it more or less just comes off as being another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick, except in stop-motion form.
What I can say about this flick is that even though it’s not as hilarious as previous efforts done by this gang, the film still stands on its own two feet and made me laugh quite a number of times. The film brings out plenty of pop-culture references (such as a very memorable about ‘The Elephant Man’) but it doesn’t feel like overkill because these Brits have such great comedic timing. So many animated films, ever since the days of ‘Shrek’, have all tried to incorporate a bunch of dumb pop-culture jokes into their stories just for a quick joke but have usually come off as annoying and cheeky. Here, we get a good amount of that but it’s used in a way that seems like it’s actually moving the plot forward and keeping the laughs moving. Hell, we even get a funny montage played to the tune of “London Calling” by The Clash, which is always great to hear in any movie but it’s used to good effect here.
This is more of a film that centered towards little, American kids which means there is still plenty of fighting, action, and cool things for the kids to go “oooh” and “aaah” at. Since this is Aardman, you can pretty much expect that the stop-motion animation will be in top-shape, which it is, but the real bummer here was that they do sort of get away with using some CGI here as well. I know it sounds like something dumb to point out but these guys are the last things that stop-motion has left (unless Wes Anderson decides to give ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox Part 2′ a try) so I think it would be a huge shame if these guys just walked out on it now.
Also, with a comedy that is actually just about 86 minutes long, I was expecting a lot more of it to be filled with jokes and plenty of that dry British charm that we all love so nearly and dearly to our hearts. Instead, a lot of it starts to run dry by the last act where everything comes together in another, predictable fight where pretty much every character shows up to drop a funny line here and there. I don’t want to say that this bothered me completely, but if you have already seen the trailer as much as I have, I would like to let you know that a lot of the funny parts from this movie are already in there. So if you haven’t seen the trailer (and if you’ve been to the movies within the past month, it’s got to be pretty damn hard) don’t watch it and check this out because you’ll probably be laughing a lot more than I did.
It surprised me, but I couldn’t really tell right off the bat that it was Hugh Grant voicing The Pirate Captain here, but when I did notice it, I thought it was a great role for him considering this guy never does such a kiddie thing like this. Grant still sounds very Grant-ish with a whole bunch of nervous stammering as the usually, less-than-bright kind of character he usually plays in these flicks. I also have to say that it was pretty cool to see Grant not try to be all goofy as Captain here and try to do what Johnny Depp. Instead, he goes right back to the good old days when pirates were a bit goofy but still cool deep down inside.
There’s a whole bunch of other big British names like Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and plenty more doing great jobs with their voices here even though Jeremy Piven seemed very miscast here as another pirate. His voice is so distinct and so deuchy that this character almost comes off as too serious and too obvious that it maybe didn’t clash well with this light tone that the film was giving off so much. In any other film though, Piven would have been fine to have.
Consensus: The British charm of these Aardman flicks may not be as strong here as it is with so many of their other flicks, but there is still a lot of fun, adventure, and dry humor to hold not only the kids over, but the parents who bring them to this film as well.