Take An Unexpected Journey With The Hobbit!


Thanks to my HBO Go, I got to stream one of the bigger movies of last year The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I of course saw this movie when it came out in theaters last year, but I thought it would be a good time to revisit it due to the impending release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  The film was once again directed by Peter Jackson and produced by New Line Cinema and MGM.

The Story follows a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) from the Lord of the Rings as he is roped in to an adventure by Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen).  He is trying to help thirteen dwarves lead by Thorin (Richard Armitage) take back their ancient home land The Lonely Mountain.

Tolkien purists are hard on this film because it differs from the book a lot.  They also add in a lot of things from the appendices and other works like The Lost Tales to try and pad the running time.  I quite liked the changes because it fleshes out the movie and gives it all more context.  After seeing the trailer for the new movie , I can tell that they added bunch to it as well.

The story is weakest part of this movie because it doesn’t stand on its own.  We all know that it will be continued this Christmas, but it doesn’t help this movie.  It is three hours long, and lot of things happen, but nothing really amounts to anything.  That may sound harsh, but it is true.  Luckily for us it gets better from there.

The actors are all fantastic, especially the three leads.  Freeman, McKellen, Armitage all breath life in to their characters and play off one another well.  The rest of the cast do what they can with their characters given their much smaller amount of screen time, and they all work great together.

The special effects are wonderful.  From the dark caves to the valley of Rivendell.  It all looks fantastic.  Some have complained that it looks a little too cartoony in places, but I think it works well with the lighter storyline of The Hobbit.  I also like all the random touches that must have been added by Guillermo del Toro.  Like the little goblin that sends messages, or the piece of ax stuck in a dwarf’s head.

It may not be The Hobbit we read as kids, but it is a good interpretiation of it, and bringing in all the random side information makes the story more complete.  Once we get the whole story that is.  This movie suffers from not telling us enough, but I am sure it will be a great part of a whole once the third film rolls.

Anna Karenina


Anna Karenina is a film by Joe Wright released in 2012, and it was nominated for four Oscars and it won one for Best Costume Design.  The film is based of the Leo Tolstoy book of the same name, and from what I hear they cut a lot of the book out, but in this movie’s case that may have been for the best.

The movie starts with the titular Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) traveling to Moscow to try and get her brother’s wife (Kelly Macdonald) to forgive him (Matthew Macfadyen) for his unfaithfulness.  Her unaffectionate husband (Jude Law) warns her against it because people were meant pay for their sins.  She is successful but her brother doesn’t change his ways.  While in Moscow she meets Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) who becomes infatuated with her.  He chases her and after awhile is successful and they have an affair.  Victorian era drama ensues.

This film gorgeous to look at.  It is filmed as if the whole thing is a large stage play, and the actors move around the stage as if it is a city with the upper gangways taking the place of city streets.  It is fantastic, you keep waiting for them to break in to song.  Sadly they never do.  The actors are wonderful and Keira Knightley has once again proven why she is the go to lead for Victorian costume drama’s, but whoever wrote the script forgot to make it engaging.

It is like taking a long walk with beautiful people in a beautiful place, but they keep droning on and on about something horrifyingly boring like the tax code or something.  It feels like it is at least an hour longer than its two hour and ten minute run time.  I am not sure Tolstoy would have been happy with the way it was adapted.  The film still had some interesting things to say about gender inequality, but it said it over and over, and Anna really did choose her own horrible fate.

I wanted to like this film since it was so darn nice to look at, but it dragged on and on.  I, believe it or not, am usually a fan of this genre because of all the witty banter, and the social engineering the characters do, but in this case they took all that out and you are left with a long hard slog of a film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild


Beasts of the Southern Wild is film from 2012 directed by Benh Zeitlin.  It was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress for Quvenzhané Wallis who was the youngest girl ever nominated at nine.  This movie could be a little hard to follow at times due to the fact it was filtered through a six-year-old’s mind, but it also gives the movie a unique perspective.

The movie is about a young girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) that lives with her alcoholic and neglectful father Wink (Dwight Henry).  They live in a Louisiana bayou community called The Bathtub on the other side of the levy.  She and her father live off the land and the water, and enjoy the wild life of their community, but it all changes when hurricane Katrina hits, and they have to survive in the flood waters, and the Aurochs (Pig Beasts) in her mind.

This movie is pretty much just about Hushpuppy and Wink, so without the stellar performances of Henry and Wallis this movie would have fallen apart.  Wallis in particular is great in this film especially since she was only six at the time. Henry in his first major film role does his job extremely well, and it is a shame he didn’t get a nomination also.

Behn Zeitlin shot this movie completely on 16mm film, so it gives the whole movie a grainy and surrealistic look, and it is a good change of pace from the clarity of today’s HD Digital cameras.  It is good see a filmmaker go back to the basics of film making once and a while.

I like this movie a lot, and it is good to see something different every now and again.  Wallis just got selected to be the new Annie, so I am sure we will see much more of this delightful young actress in the future.


Don’t take a Flight with Denzel Washington!


Flight is a 2012 film by Robert Zemeckis, and it was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor (Denzel Washington), and Best Original Screen Play (John Gatins).  For me, it did not scare me to fly, but it did try awful hard to put me to sleep.

The story starts off with Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) drinking and taking cocaine, and then jumping in the cockpit and flying a plane.  As the plane nears its destination it starts to fall apart, and Whip through some amazing maneuvers is able to crash land the plane in an open field and save most of the people, but since there was a crash there will be a toxicology report, so will he or won’t he get blamed for this and go to jail.

I have to start off by saying Denzel is great in this movie, and it is easy to see why he gets an Oscar nomination for it, but the movie is two hours and eighteen minutes long, and the plane crash is over in the first thirty minutes, so then you are forced to watch Denzel drink and lie about it for an hour and forty-five minutes.  They needed an editor to cut this down by at least a half hour, but as it is it just a way to see that Denzel can act, and see if the audience can stay awake.

I wanted to like this movie because I like most of the people in it, and that made it, but it is just too long for the subject matter, so I would say pass on it unless you are an Oscar movie buff and just want to see Denzel’s role.

What Do We Learn From The Life Of Pi?


Life of Pi is a 2012 film from acclaimed director Ang Lee based of the novel of the same name.  It was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Director.  Did it deserve all the accolades? I think so, but the story itself left me a little cold.

The film starts out with a writer asking Pi Patel to tell him his story, so that perhaps he can turn it in to a book.  The writer hadn’t heard the story before, he had just been told by Pi’s uncle that it would make him believe in God.  Pi then begins to tell him his life story, and of course how he survived a trip across the Pacific Ocean in a life boat with a tiger named Richard Parker.

This film is beautifully shot, and the special effects are amazing.  It makes you believe that Pi is indeed in a boat with a tiger.  Which he was not because putting a kid in a boat with a tiger I am sure would brake more then a couple laws, and there a ton of just great show piece effects shots in this movie besides the boy and the tiger.  If you have a Hi-Def TV then you need to watch this movie just to see some of the things they bring to life.

The actors all do a great job in this film, especially Suraj Sharma as the Pi on the boat.  He conveys the loneliness and the resilience of the stranded young man, and since he is most of the movie, his acting is just as important as the effects are, if not more so.

Which brings me to the part of the movie I am not so sure of.  We were promised that this story would make us believe in God, and as a believer in God I don’t need much help, but reason to believe is lame. <Spoiler> The real story is that he was on the boat with people, and the cook brutally murders a sailor and Pi’s mother, and Pi kills the cook, but since the story Pi made up was better, then we should believe in God.  I Think that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.  God is able to get you through real hard times, not just help you cover up the truth with an amazing lie </End Spoiler>.

This movie is still an amazingly filmed piece of art even if the thesis behind it is deeply flawed, and if you have a good Hi-Def TV it is amazing to watch.  Ang Lee proves once again that he is among the industries current greats.