Posts tagged ‘Movie Review’

Movie Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (4 of 5)



Quick Update:  I just saw The Hobbit for the second time and enjoyed it immensely.  I stand by my original criticism of the movie, but did not find it nearly as bothersome during the second viewing (I still don’t expect/want an extended edition of this movie).


For once I am glad that I only have a few dozen visitors per day.  I can be honest without being tracked down and boiled alive for posting this review.  I plan to address generalities and avoid specific spoilers.

I adore The Lord of the Rings.  I am not a fanboy that complains about the changes that Jackson made to bring LOTR to the screen.  Tom Bombadil is still there in the books whenever I want to visit with him and Liv Tyler did a fine job with the expanded role that Arwen played.  I was a bit miffed with Giimli being made the butt of many jokes, but not so much when Jackson did the same with Merry and Pip.  After all, the changes also allowed Pip to redeem himself by persuading Treebeard to go to war when that wasn’t in the book.

But this review is for The Hobbit (part 1 of 3).  As many others, I was happy to hear that Jackson was going to split the book into 2 movies, but grew concerned when he announced it to be a trilogy.  There is a wealth of material in Tolkien’s other writings to embellish the story, but sequels to successful movies tend to attempt bigger and more impressive than the originals, usually resulting in outrageous silliness.

The Hobbit suffers from sequelitis.  Almost everything was turned up to 11.

Not to say the movie is bad or unwatchable.  I took the family to last night’s midnight premiere and we enjoyed it (except my wife who slept through part of it – she is not a night owl).  The cinematography was lush and beautiful, the acting was splendid (Martin Freeman is perfectly natural in everything I’ve seen him in), and the special effects are dazzling.  When the LOTR was released, each movie left us wanting more, and a multitude of fans spent a sizable chunk of change purchasing the extended versions.  I don’t expect that to be the case with The Hobbit (at least, not part 1).

The movie starts with the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) that we all know, just as he begins to write the book detailing his adventures.  Elijah Wood is back briefly, and the pair ease us into the story.  It’s nicely done and gently brings us back home to Middle Earth.   LOTR began with a prologue introducing us to Sauron and the Ring.  In the Hobbit, Bilbo tells us about the Dwarf kingdom and the dragon, Smaug.

And then, the story begins with Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and a host of dwarfs.  The movie follows the book fairly well, but not religiously.  We get a flashback of Thorin Oakenshield for character development and it introduces my first complaint, but the problem isn’t that the scene wasn’t in the book.

In LOTR, the treachery of Saruman included the creation of the Uruk-Kai, an orc hybrid that is stronger and able to withstand direct sunlight.  They are presented as something new and uniquely dangerous.  But in Thorin’s flashback we see a giant albino orc that’s the size of a troll.  Not to mention the CGI wasn’t as convincing as Gollum in the original trilogy.  Later in the film is another giant orc, though that CGI was better.

Orcs cannot abide direct sunlight, except for when they can.  At one point, Gandalf actually states that they need to move into sunlight to escape from the orcs even though they had previously been attacked in broad daylight.  Another thing; I’ve only seen it once, but it seemed like the movie went from day to night and back again as the plot dictated.

Geography was also confusing.  At one point, the company is on a plain of rolling hills with a few mounds of rocks.  They descend into a cave below one of the mounds – about 20 feet below the surface.  In the back of the cave is a tunnel that they follow and the camera pulls back to watch them pass single file through a chasm that is at least 50 feet deep and then exit into a mountain pass.

Do you remember the WTF moment in The Two Towers where Legolas uses a shield to surf down a set of stone steps?  It was a very over-the-top moment that broke the spell and pulled you out of the movie.  There are about a dozen similar scenes in The Hobbit.

Rotten Tomatoes is currently giving The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a 66% critic / 81% audience rating.  As you can see, I feel about the same.

Recommended, but keep your expectations modest.

I told my family where I thought Jackson would end the first movie and I was exactly right.

December 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm 2 comments

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man (4+ of 5)

Tobey who?

I took the family to see The Amazing Spider-man last weekend.  Everyone of us thought it was great, even my wife who’s getting kind of burnt out on superhero movies.  Both of my teenage daughters loved it and want to see it again, and I concur.

Yes, the Sam Raimi Spider-man is only 10 years old and Spidey 3 was just 5 years ago, but the reboot provides a different take that is as every bit as good as Raimi’s version and a bit better in one specific manner that I’ll get to later.  As a point of fact, I also re-watched Spider-man (2002) the day after seeing the new one in order to have a fair comparison.

I was initially biased against Spidey 2012 because I thought Andrew Garfield (from The Social Network) is too handsome to be nerdy Peter Parker, a role that Tobey Maguire seemed born to play.  Garfield is much better looking than Maguire, but he manages to capture the essence of Peter as the painfully shy science nerd nearly as well without being dorky.  He still gets bullied, but because he’s not one of the cool kids rather than simply because he’s weak.  And especially nice, Peter does the right thing and stands up against the bullies to protect a weaker kid even before the famous spider bite.  The new Peter Parker works.

We also get Gwen Stacy instead of MJ Watson and boy is that an improvement.  Not because Emma Stone is a better actress than Kirsten Dunst, but because Gwen is a more attractive character.  She’s smart and attracted to Peter for his intelligence and good character (she witnesses him standing up to bullies mentioned above).  By contrast, MJ is a pretty fickle and superficial character especially when all 3 of the previous movies are taken into account (an analysis of Raimi’s version of MJ is worthy of a post all by itself).

As to how it is an improvement:

We have fewer characters which allows Spidey 2012 to spend more time developing them and their relationships. We don’t have to meet Harry Osborn, so there’s no messy love triangle.  Norman Osborn is a background character that’s referenced only.  There’s no J. Jonah Jamison, Robbie Robertson or Betty Brant.  And no Mary Jane Watson.

Instead we get to know Peter as a lonely outsider.  Not a dork or a clutz, but not an obnoxious teenager either (John Connor in T2).  He’s smart, but uncomfortable talking to girls or pretty much anyone.  He’s socially awkward which makes him a prime target for bullies.  The introduction of Peter’s parents is weak and provides no real payoff in this film, but they do induce him to track down Dr Curt Connors (an old friend and coworker of his father’s).

Surprise!  Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider!

We still get a montage of Peter exploring his new powers, but we also get webshooters!

Uncle Ben doesn’t survive this movie either, but we avoid the wrestling match for a more realistic scenario.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field are good actors, but I really did miss Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.

And I have to say that I prefer the Lizard to the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe not withstanding).

So I recommend this movie wholeheartedly.

July 9, 2012 at 9:55 pm 1 comment