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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Stephen Fry

The Look of Love (2013)

The Look of Love (2013)

At one point in his life, Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) seemingly had it all. He was a Soho adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur that seemed to have all of the money, all of the drugs, all of the women, and all of the fancy people around him to help him out. However, it wasn’t always like that. In fact, before he got on top, Raymond started with just a few adult burlesque houses, where nudity and sexual innuendo was a constant cause for controversy. Eventually, it all came to work out for him, because not only did people want to see naked women, they also wanted to be in the company of them, as well as Raymond, who was, in all honesty, a charming chap. And while he was closer and closer to becoming one of Britain’s wealthiest men, he had some issues to deal with, mostly those in his personal life with wife Jean (Anna Friel), who he can’t seem to stay faithful to, or his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots), who seems to be taking all of the drinking, sex, and drugs a little bit to hard and may prove to be her ultimate undoing.

Life is good when you have Anna Friel on your arm.

The Look of Love is one of those glossy, glammy, and glitzy biopics about rich people having all of the fun in the world. It doesn’t really try to inform or educate us, nor does it ever really set out to change the nature of biopics as we know it; it has a subject, it has a story, and it has a sort of hook. That’s all we need.

But for some reason, coming from director Michael Winterbottom, something seems to still be missing. See, it isn’t that the Look of Love can’t be entertaining when its living it up with all of the excess of drugs, sex, booze, and partying, because it does, it’s just that when that is all said and done, it doesn’t have much else to offer. A good portion of this can have to do with the material just not working and Winterbottom’s rather lax-direction, but it may all just come down to the fact that Paul Raymond himself just isn’t all that interesting of a fella to have a whole movie about.

Or at the very least, a movie in which he is shown as a flawed, but mostly lovable human being.

And it’s odd, too, because Raymond definitely gets the whole treatment; everything from his success as a businessman, to his failure as a family man is clearly shown and explored. But for some reason, it still feels like the movie is struggling with what to do, or say about this man. Sure, he brought himself up from nothing, to become more than just someone, or something, but is that about it? What did he do to get to that? Who was he with? What was the rest of the world like? Any sort of conflict?

And above all else, why do we care?

Truth is, we sort of don’t.

It’s even better when you’ve got a fine ‘stache.

That isn’t to say that Winterbottom and Coogan especially, don’t seem to try here, because they do. As Raymond, Coogan gets a chance to be light, funny, and a little dirty, which is something the man has always excelled in. But when it does come to the movie showing us more to Raymond behind the lovable and wacky facade, the movie stumbles a bit and Coogan’s performance can’t really save things in that department, either. We see that he loves his daughter and is fair to his ex-wives and lovers, but does that really give us a total reason to have a whole hour-and-a-half-long movie about his life and successes?

Once again, not really. It helps that Anna Friel and Imogen Poots are good in supporting-roles, but even they feel a bit underwritten. Friel’s ex-wife character is gone for such a long stretch of time that we almost forget about her, until she shows back up, gets naked, gets drunk, and has some fun, and Poots’ daughter character, while initially promising at first, turns into a convention that biopics like these love to utilize. Granted, she was a real person and the movie isn’t taking any narrative short-cuts in this respect, but still, it just doesn’t wholly feel right.

Was there more to her? Or her mother? Or even Raymond? Once again, we may never know.

Consensus: At the very least, the Look of Love is an entertaining, if also by-the-books biopic of a man we probably didn’t really need a whole movie dedicated to in the first place.

5 / 10

And when you’ve got plenty to drink and snort. But that’s obvious by now.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The galaxy is vast, wide, and apparently, very British.

Everyday British dude Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is currently battling a bunch of contractors who literally want to build a bypass right where his house is. He’s sad about it and constantly rebels in any way that he can, but when he’s not even thinking about it, he’s taken aside by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who informs him that not only he’s an alien, but that the two have barely a minute left to live on planet Earth, as it is set to be destroyed any time now. And well, that’s exactly what happens – Arthur and Ford are then left to roam about the galaxy, until they’re then picked up by a random ship, holding Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy, his kind of, sort of, quite possible girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who Arthur had feelings for initially, and Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman), who seems incredibly depressed about everything around it. Together, the group must face-off against the Vogons, aka, those who were familiar for destroying Earth in the first place and don’t seem to be done just yet.

It's okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

It’s okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a piece of cult pop-culture that’s survived as long as it has, based solely by the fact that people still don’t seem to understand it just yet and are still, as we speak at this moment, trying to make sense of all the crazy, madcap and wild adventures that the countless stories had to offer. That’s why a movie made of this source material is already troubling as is – especially when you’re working on such a big budget and have to, essentially, please not just the fanboys, but everyone else who may seem interested in seeing a madcap sci-fi flick for the hell of it. And it’s also why Garth Jennings, try as he might, just feels kind of lost here.

He gets some stuff right, but for the most part, Hitchhiker’s unfortunately seems like another case of where a lot of people had to be pleased and because of that, the movie itself ends up muddled, somewhat disjointed and yes, even messy.

Still though, there’s some joy and pleasure to be had in the messiness.

For one, Jennings does keep the movie moving at a fine, efficient pace, to where it feels like we’re getting a whole lot of story, but it’s always constantly going. The movie also doesn’t just focus on the one plot in particular, as there are some truly weird, yet humorous sidebars that come in, bring in a little flavor to the proceedings, and leave soon so that they don’t get in the way of the movie. While it may be a little close to two hours, surprisingly, the movie breezes by and may actually sneak up on you with how quick it’s going.

At the same time, though, being quick and swift doesn’t make your movie good, or even hide away all of the issues that may be troubling it in the first place. And if there’s a huge problem to be found with Hitchhiker’s, it’s that it’s just not as funny as it think it is. Sure, bits and pieces pop-up in this one adventure and on the side that could be considered “humorous”, but honestly, they don’t always connect; most of the time, it feels like the movie’s just trying to out-weird itself, throwing another wrench at the screen and seeing how they could go any further. A bit involving a character’s two-heads is supposed to be played for laughs and shocks, but is a gimmick that gets old real quick and honestly, doesn’t even seem like a joke, but just a character trait.

Yup. Just one of those days.

Yup. Just one of those days.

And it’s a shame, too, because there’s clearly a whole lot of ambition here coming from Jennings and everyone else, but the movie ends up being about its plot a lot, its odd sense of humor, its even odder sci-fi, and yet, not much else. It is, essentially, an adventure, for the sake of being an adventure, but we never get a clear understanding of anything that’s going on beforehand, so that when we’re told of what’s going to happen and what the clear goal of this mission is to be, it just doesn’t connect. The movie takes a whole lot of time to set-up its weird puns and sight-gags, but forgets to actually build a comprehensible plot that makes the whole adventure, well, feel like an actual adventure, that doubles as a ride we don’t ever want to get off.

But we kind of do, just so that it would chill out and take some more time with itself to figure things out.

The cast are really the ones who save it, as it seems like everyone came ready to play, for better or worse. Martin Freeman is, as usual, perfect as our every man; Mos Def fits in perfectly, showing his goofier side for once; Zooey Deschanel plays it as a ruler and it kind of works, although you’d sometimes wish she would just crack a smile or something; Sam Rockwell goes way overboard, even though that’s probably what was called on him in the first place, so it’s hard to make sense of whether or not it was a good idea; and the voices of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, and plenty of others all show up, adding a little bit of zaniness and fun to the overall proceedings, almost making us wish we got to actually see them here, as opposed to just hearing.

Because seeing is believing, as all sci-fi lovers know. And Catholics.

Consensus: Odd and goofy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has its own style of humor that doesn’t always connect, making the over-packed story feel even a little more straining to comprehend or keep up with.

5.5 / 10

What a gang. Now why weren't they more fun?

What a gang. Now why weren’t they more fun?

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Never have hallucinogenics been so dull.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl who dreams big, beautiful and often times, crazy things. So often so, that the real world surrounding her just doesn’t do anything for her. That’s why when it turns out that she’s set to wed a British chump, she can’t help but run away to her own world of extravagant and out-of-this-world beings. However, in this world, Alice does’t know if she’s dreaming it all, or if it’s really happening. Either way, Alice is thrown into a whole new world that she’s just getting used to. In this world, Alice meets all sorts of colorful and wild characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and then, there’s mystical characters like the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and most importantly, the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). All of whom are characters that Alice has at least one or two interactions with in this world, but mostly of all whom make her wonder if she’s in a dream that she needs to wake up out of, or a world that she needs to escape from. Either way, she needs to do something, and quick!

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

It’s an honest surprise how bad Alice in Wonderland turned out to be, because you’d think that this would be something in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. Alice in Wonderland is the kind of oddly strange, but endearing story that benefits from an extra bit of weirdness, as well as visuals, and considering that Burton is quite solid at being both “weird”, as well as “visual”, it’s almost a no-brainer that he’d be chosen for this.

So why oh why did everything go so wrong?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the script Burton may have been working with here was probably really, really bad. For one, it never knows if it wants to be overly-goofy, or just plain weird, but with a darkening and serious tone. Burton himself never quite figures that out, either, but it seems like the script is going to battle with itself over whether or not it wants to set out and scare people, or if it wants to just be a silly old time, where colorful things and characters do crazy, over-the-top things.

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with the later, because Burton himself has proven, time and time again, that he’s more than able to handle all of that and make it fun, even when it can get brooding. Here though, it never fully comes together. Burton always seems as if he’s trying to settle on one style, but instead of sticking to one in particular, he goes back and forth so often, that we never know what to expect with the movie, nor do we actually care. It’s just such a mess in its own right, that the time it takes to figure its own identity and mood out, it gets to become too late and we already don’t really care.

And that’s a shame because Burton is obviously way better than this here, and it’s clear that he took the visuals very seriously. Sure, some will complain that there’s an over-reliance on CGI and special-effects here, but honestly, what did you expect? It was a live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, in the year 2010 – how could it have not been mostly all CGI? The visuals themselves do look quite impressive and it’s clear that certain details from the original flick are here as well, except on a greater scale, but there gets to be a point where you wonder for how long can pretty colors and things make you forget that a story is clearly lacking?

In the case of Alice in Wonderland, not long.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

It’s clear that a lot of this story is plodding along, introducing its zany characters one by one, but never really giving them any arch or sustainable personality that makes us want to see them, again and again. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter may have been perfect casting, in hindsight, but in the movie, it’s a typical Johnny Depp performance: He over-acts a whole lot, switches up accents half-way through for some reason, and seems like he’s just making everything up as he goes along. Helena Bonham Carter is at least fun to watch and listen to as the Red Queen, if only because her gags are the only ones that land; Crispin Glover plays her right-hand man and is suitably creepy, although, maybe not creepy enough, given that it’s Crispin Glover we’re talking about here; Anne Hathaway is pretty as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska seems like she’s interested in doing so much more than what she has here, but instead, has to do a lot of looking around and staring into space; and the voice talents all come in and add another level of charisma to the CGI-creations.

But really, do any of them even matter?

What ends up happening by the close of Alice in Wonderland is that the story goes from point to point, without ever really caring about anyone, or what’s happening. We’re told that the Red Queen is out to take over Wonderland and is this evil, ruthless Queen who doesn’t care about anything that exists, but are we supposed to take any of it seriously? Or, are we supposed to just laugh at her big head? The movie never knows what the answer is and that’s a huge problem.

Eventually, there’s a big battle that comes into play and seems absolutely random, even by this film’s standards. There’s no rhyme, reason, or understanding of what’s happening, for what reasons, and what is to be accomplished; all we do know is that Tim Burton wants his characters to battle it out with one another, for one reason or another. Which maybe would have been fine in any other Tim Burton movie.

Just maybe not in Alice in Wonderland. Sorry.

Consensus: As messy as you can expect a Tim Burton movie to be, but for all of the wrong reasons, Alice in Wonderland never makes sense of its tone, its character, or even its plot, but knows that it’s pretty to look at and only focuses on that.

2.5 / 10

Bobblehead! A ha!

Bobblehead! A ha!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Love & Friendship (2016)

Jane Austen was pretty catty.

Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) has just become a widow and needless to say, she needs a little help in life. She doesn’t have much money, many friends, or even all that much security in life to where she can feel safe and comfortable for the next few years of her life. That’s why, through her seductive and manipulative ways, she concocts a way and plan to charm the shorts off of the eligible bachelor Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). But trying to win the heart of Reginald will be a whole lot harder than she expected, mostly because some people know what she’s up to and let him know of it. While Reginald refuses to believe her sinister ways, there’s no denying that Lady Susan may be up to no good. And then, of course, her oldest daughter (Morfydd Clark) comes into the picture and seems to shake everything up involved with Lady Susan’s plan. What was once going to be an easy, but sneaky task of winning one man’s heart, has now turned into something a whole lot harder.

Friendship1

From the disco, to the ball, these gals are inseparable.

Period pieces aren’t necessarily my thing. Being a dude in his early-20’s, this may come as no surprise to anyone. Though I give them a try and, on the rare occasion, come away liking what I see, for the most part, period pieces just don’t always work because there’s a stuffiness to almost each and everyone of them that make me happy I’m seeing them by myself, and not my grandmother, so I don’t have to hear her jabber on and on about “how exquisite it all was.”

And while I’m at, Whit Stillman movies aren’t necessarily my thing, either. While his movies are mostly hit-or-miss for me, what bothers me the most about his flicks is that there seems to be so much of an investment in the catchy and clever wordplay between his characters, that he almost forgets about the characters themselves. Metropolitan is the rare exception where he combines both aspects quite well, but ever since then, it almost seems as if he’s forgotten about character-development and just tried his hardest to think of a neat way to get people laughing and leaving it at that.

That’s why I’m surprised that Love & Friendship was very much, my thing.

For one, it’s not a typical period piece like you’d expect. Sure, it’s source material is from a Jane Austen novella, but there’s something funny and brash about it all that it makes you think differently about all of the constructs/rules/guidelines that these societies seem to have held. In a way, Stillman sort of looks at the fake politeness and mannerly way everyone in the 18th century was, and decides to turn it all on its head. That means that, yes, people are made fun of, to their faces and are mostly shown that their silly ingrates.

And even though a lot of that same old clever wordplay is occurring here, it actually works in this world that Stillman puts us in. Since everyone is talking in such a plain and formal way, it’s almost refreshing to hear some of these characters talk in a slightly goofy manner, making the odd dialogue work and hit more effectively than you’d expect. While every so often there’s a line of dialogue that doesn’t quite work, or feels stilted, there’s another one that’s funny, and/or smart that you grow a greater appreciation for Stillman.

Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t stand some of his dialogue, but hey, at least he didn’t annoy me too much here.

Yeah, somebody needs to make fun of these stiffs.

Yeah, somebody needs to make fun of these stiffs.

But where the real pleasure and beauty of this film lies is within Kate Beckinsale’s wonderful performance as Lady Susan, someone who should actually be a whole lot more villainous than she is actually seen as in this movie. Beckinsale was great in the Last Days of Disco, which is why it’s no surprise that Stillman brought her back here, where it seems like she not only has the right ear for this dialogue, but knows how to make it funny and biting, even when you don’t expect it to be. Because Lady Susan is a sometimes cold woman, who doesn’t really care about anyone else’s feelings but her own, we’re left with the impression that she’s a bad person who we shouldn’t like, trust, or want to see happy by the end. However, Beckinsale is so charming in the role, that it’s kind of hard not to think the opposite.

For example, Lady Susan says and does a lot of things that everyone around her, given the time period, would not do or say. It’s like I said earlier about how polite and mannerly everyone in this society is; everyone’s thinking bad thoughts about the people around them, but they don’t want to create too much of a ruckus, so they keep quiet and let everything simmer inside of them. Lady Susan is not like that and it’s great to watch Beckinsale do dressing-downs of almost everyone around her, and not give a single care about it one bit.

In a way, it makes me wish Beckinsale would do more movies that challenge her like this, as opposed to the awfully boring Underworld flicks.

That said, everyone else does a terrific job here, too. Chloë Sevigny shows up as Lady Susan’s pal, Alicia Johnson, and the two engage in conversations that makes it appear like they’ve known each other for years; Stephen Fry briefly shows up as her husband and is fine, although, you can never really have enough Stephen Fry; Xavier Samuel is charming and handsome as Reginald, but also shows that there’s a little something more to him, like a heart and soul; and as Sir James Martin, the resident goober of the whole film, Tom Bennett steals every scene, earning laughs every time he says something. All of whom are good at Stillman’s dialogue, even if they do lapse into sometimes getting flustered and not knowing how to deliver it in an intelligible way that’s supposed to work.

But such is the case when you work with Whit Stillman, I guess.

Consensus: Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship makes good use of its 18th-century setting by making something of a smart commentary on it, while also offering laughs and interesting characters to keep it all worth watching for those out there who may not already be fans of period pieces.

7 / 10

"Girls. You could never look this stylish."

“Girls. You could never look this stylish.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Cinema Romantique

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)

It’s over. So pipe down, nerds!

After having left his precious castle, Smaug roams free and is killed. This leaves many happy and feeling safe for once. This also leaves Thorin (Richard Armitage) to go back and take back what was rightfully his in the first place: His throne. Problem is, word spreads pretty quickly that he’s sitting in his high chair and this does not make Thranduil (Lee Pace). So, like any good elf would do, he wages war against Thorin, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and the rest of their band of trusted misfits; a war which Thorin and co. could definitely lose, but they don’t seem to be turning away from. However though, the war takes a turn for the worse once the Orc’s get involved in the shenanigans, making it harder for this war to be won, but decide who is on who’s side, and why. It’s all so wild and crazy, but at the center of it all is Bilbo, who just wants to get that precious ring of his back to his comfortable, lovely little life in the shire.

So far, the Hobbit trilogy has been an okay one. Maybe that’s just from my standpoint, but for the most part, I haven’t seen myself incredibly upset about there being three Hobbit movies released over a three-year period. Sure, it’s a bit obvious and manipulative of Peter Jackson to stretch a 300-page book, into nearly eight hours of footage, but for me, the movie’s never got so offensively made that they were just downright terrible. They were fine for what they were, and that’s how they’re supposed to be viewed as, I feel. Even if, yes, the Lord of the Rings franchise is a whole lot better in hindsight.

"Aw damn."

“Aw damn.”

With that being said, it was nice to see Jackson finally end this trilogy on a note that was not only effective, but seemed like it was a return-to-form for his own true-self. The past two movies have been fun, adventurous and chock full of all the medieval exposition nonsense we expect from a movie such as this, but they haven’t really been too exciting to where you could tell Jackson was really just letting loose and having a ball with this material. In a way, one could almost view it as another lame attempt at Jackson just trying to hold onto this name-brand he loves and adores so much.

But regardless whatever the reasons may have been, Jackson brings back all of the excitement he showed in the early part of his ambitious career and it’s what makes the Battle of the Five Armies a good time. Because there’s so much action firing around on all cylinders, with numerous characters coming in and out of perspective, you get the general sense that Jackson is literally taking all the pieces of his puzzle, shuffling them around, and just letting them stick and stay there, for them to do their own thing and see how we respond. And, well, for the most part, it works well; it brings a certain level of tension to a franchise that, quite frankly, needed plenty of it.

However, like with the other films, Jackson still seems to get bogged down in not knowing where to go with his stories, or whom exactly to focus on the most.

What I mean by this is that while this is clearly Bilbo’s story first and foremost, Jackson pays plenty of attention to nearly everyone else around him. Thorin, Gandalf, Legolas, Tauriel, Thranduil, Bard, and even Saruman, all get plenty of development in the first hour or so of this, whereas we don’t really get much of a simple glance or two at Bilbo and just what the hell he’s up to. Sure, I get that Jackson doesn’t want to keep his scope limited and much rather focus on the ensemble at hand, but when you’re film is literally named after the main character and you give him maybe two or three paragraphs for the first hour, it makes me wonder just who the hell you really care about when all is said and done.

That’s not to say when Martin Freeman is given the chance, he isn’t willing to work his arse off whenever Bilbo’s on-screen, because he totally does in that lovably charming, yet sly way of his that always seems to work no matter where he’s at. It’s just that a part of me thinks Jackson didn’t seem to care about any more development for him and instead, just lingered towards the rest of the cast of characters who aren’t nearly as interesting, nor as fun to watch as Bilbo. Everybody’s fine in their roles, but seeing as how this is Bilbo’s own story, it seems only right that we focus on him the most, and allow Freeman to just work his magic. Almost as if he’s in whole other different universe completely, but it doesn’t matter because he’s so much fun to begin with.

"For freedom! I guess?"

“For freedom! I guess?”

Just wish there was more Martin Freeman to go around. I guess you can never get too much of that tiny fella.

But despite all of my moaning and complaining, the movie still entertained the shorts off of me (not literally, sadly). Once again, we see Jackson in a state of mind that shows, despite his story-telling elements being a bit off, he still packs enough punch to make his action excite nearly anyone watching it. It doesn’t matter if you’re invested in the characters or not, if you have a clear idea of who the good guy is, and who is the bad one, then all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy as the fist-a-cuffs come out and everyone starts duking it out. A part of me wishes the other two movies were like this, but I’ll take what I can get, whenever I get it. Even if, you know, it is a bit pleasing to see this franchise done once and for all. Hopefully it will allow for Jackson to go back to his old school roots and try something smaller, and possibly even go back to doing horror.

Let’s just hope he stays the hell away from another Lovely Bones. Please, anything but that.

Consensus: With enough action-packed sequences of swords, sorcery, and stones, the Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies is the kind of Middle Earth movie we wanted from Peter Jackson, except not nearly as epic as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say, "don't do it", but we already know he's far too gone. Wait? Was "the Ring" a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody's informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

I would say, “don’t do it”, but we already know he’s far too gone. Wait? Was “the Ring” a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody’s informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Where’s the precious?

Picking up right where the last one left off, we see the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) still on the run from the orcs that are pursuing them. Halfway through their journey however, Gandalf decides to break off from the rest of the group, fearing that this rumored Necromancer will take over the whole land, and infect it with its pure venomous evil. As he’s gone off to do his own thing, this leaves Bilbo with the rest of the pack to venture off to the Lonely Mountain where they meet plenty of fun, exuberant, and yet, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. However, standing at the end of their journey is none other than the vicious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is the sole foe standing between them and retaking the mountain. So it only makes sense that Bilbo have to go up there and settle the peace, right?

Despite all of the problems people had with the first movie and the whole 48 fps ordeal, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that bad. It was definitely a drawn-out movie that felt a bit unnecessary, especially considering that there was supposed to be two more movies for this said 100-page story. However, for what it was and for what it was worth, it was fun when it wanted to be and best of all, brought me back to the good old days of when I used to rollick to the movie theaters, just to place myself back in Middle Earth, even if that meant wasting half of my day doing so. So it sort of had a little bit of a nostalgic thing going on for me, which is why it didn’t kill my insides as much as it may have done to others.

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

All that aside though, now that we’ve got the first movie out of the way, which also means that all of the awkward plotting and setting-up of the story is with it, we finally have a sequel that should hopefully do what most sequels do: Tell the story, give us new characters, while still building ones that the homefronts have already been built for, but also, not forget about giving us the goods that usually make people happy with the movie in the first place. We get plenty of story and plenty of new characters, but what about the goods? The movie doesn’t totally shy away from giving us all of the fun, exciting and energetic bits of fantasy action and adventure we’re so used to having with these movies, but it also still feels like there’s something else missing here that was missing from the last movie, but was totally there, front-and-center with the original trilogy, and that’s an actual amount of tension and terror to be had.

Throughout the whole movie, I couldn’t help but feel like the wheels were spinning for this movie once again, but this time, without much surprise added to the mix. We get most of the same characters, doing the same things, for the same reasons and no sense that any second, these characters could be taken away from us at any moment. Now, that’s not saying that I’m some rabid animal who wants people to be dead at the drop of a hat, but there’s also nothing here that really felt like it got me over that hurdle to where I really felt like this was a story I could get involved with. Instead it just felt like a story I could watch as it played-out, but without any of the heart or emotion devoted to these characters or the actual proceedings themselves. You could practically say the same thing about the first movie, but I think that’s a tad different because we’re sort of used to that with first movies in a planned-trilogies. It’s sort of like learning how to ride a back and all for the first time after all of these years, in that you don’t actually need the training-wheels to assist you, but you may need a buddy or two to stand behind you just in case you go plummeting down.

Them, or a firm and trusty helmet. But you should have had that on already!

Anyway, back to what I was saying, basically, this movie didn’t really offer me anything new I didn’t already see with the first flick, with the exception of maybe a few new sights to see, characters and set-pieces. Fun set-pieces nonetheless like, for instance, the sequence in which we follow the dwarves as they are in a bunch of barrels, flowing down the river stream away from the orcs, but at the same time, also battling them in any which way they can, with some assistance from the elves as well, but still nothing really new or inventive to where I felt like Jackson really got back into his old school, Lord of the Rings mode. Nope, this is the Hobbit’s trilogy, or better yet, Bilbo’s, and his is a whole new breed of storytelling, if you will.

Even if that is the case though, and this is all about Bilbo Baggins, his adventure, his story and his splendid life and times with “THE RING!!!!!”, it’s sort of strange considering how only gets about fifteen or so minutes to where it’s just him and nobody else. But even stranger is the fact that it’s practically at the rear-end of this whole flick, and it’s easily the best part. Of course he had some help from his fellow Sherlock star (that bastard) but it’s still the most tense, most exciting and only time where I really felt like all of these different threads of story-lines were coming together, even though the part itself focused on one, which just so happened to be the main story we’re supposed to care about in the first place. Though Freeman’s great too, as he usually is, he still barely gets enough time in front of the screen to substantiate the fact that he is indeed who this story is all about, and he is the one we’re supposed to be rooting for and thrusting all of our emotions into. However, you just never feel that because Jackson’s got a hundred-million-bajillion other story-lines going on, none of which really seem to catch any real fire.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Same thing that I’m saying about Bilbo’s treatment, goes the same for Gandolf’s as well, which is an absolute sin since we know that Ian McKellen’s portrayal is absolutely the heart and soul that keeps these movies moving. Instead, we get introduced to a new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, Luke Evans’ human character with the least human name, Bard, Lee Pace playing Legolas’ daddy-o, Thranduil, and the always pleasant and charming Stephen Fry, who shows up as the corrupt and lazy Master of the Laketown in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves hanging around in for some time. They all do fine and bring enough to the story to where I could see them having bigger roles in the next film and being fine additions. Yet, I also see myself not really caring too much, either. Once they took Viggo away from me and replaced him with some dude named “Richard Armitage”, then I knew I’d just never be the same.

With all of that said, and I now I’ve said and awful lot to really beat and batter down this movie, it’s still somehow a hair better than the first, if only because it now actually feels like we’re getting somewhere with this story and where it’s supposed to take us. Sure, there are some mishaps here and there that definitely got in the way of what could have been a very compelling and well-told story, had there been more focus placed on Bilbo and his fellow band of dwarves, but with the way they end it, it’s hard not to get a bit jacked-up for what’s next to come. The ending is very abrupt and along with what the consensus seems to be with Catching Fire’s, most likely people will be up in arms and upset; but to me, it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with this trilogy that should have never been. However, if Peter Jackson wants to indulge himself a bit, then hey, I won’t stop him. Not like he’d listen to a two-bit, movie blogger from Delco anyway, but still. It’s the idea of power that counts.

Consensus: Just a tad bit better than the first, yet, still feels like there’s plenty room of improvement to be made with Desolation of Smaug with the cutting-down of its run-time, exposition and endless list of characters that don’t really seem to mean much, except that they’re just big names filling in the roles, and who doesn’t love that?!?!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I know! ONLY one movie left! Shocked, right?

He’s as shocked as we are that there’s only ONE movie left. However, it is Peter Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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.

"What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?"

“What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?”

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.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

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.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

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.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Next season's cast of Whisker Wars. It's gonna be a close one.

Next season’s cast of Whisker Wars. It’s gonna be a close one.