Tag Archives: Andy Serkis

The Hobbit – What an unexpected journey that was!

11 Dec

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In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit… for two years JRR Tolkien never wrote further than those few lines, but when he eventually put more pen to paper, along with the consultation of his good friend C.S. Lewis, he drafted what was deemed by the 1954 New York Times as the “best childrens book of the Twentieth century.” Hoards of fans would agree with this statement, and when Lord of the Rings (LOTR) was drafted, Tolkien became one of the biggest literary figures in history.

So now, just over ten years have passed since its first cinematic offering and audiences once again can be looking forward to the dominating force of the only man brave enough to take on LOTR and win every award going. – well nearly but 17/30 Oscars isn’t bad! So you can only imagine the excitement of this early screener at 9am on a Sunday morning in Leicester Square. There was not only press in the audience, but a number of the British crew and cast who had helped bring The Hobbit to life, the pressure was on…

The Hobbit is the story of a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) a Hobbit, content in his hobbit hole, educated well enough to think he knows the Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 13.12.26world around him, without ever having to step further than Bag End. He is a Hobbit who knows what he likes, nothing more, nothing less. That is, until, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) greets him one sunny day and offers him an adventure. Politely refusing this offer, Bilbo retreats to his hole, but as of that night and the arrival of thirteen dwarves, his life will change forever…

Fans who have read The Hobbit will know that this story is far shorter than any of the Lord of the Rings books. Yet at 174 minutes on film, it’s a bum shuffling, watch checking journey in itself, to get only a third of the way through the book to the first appearance of the dragon Smaug. A little long winded you might think? Well, brace yourselves, as there will be two more installments over the next couple of years.

Having said that the narrative, although drawn out, is enjoyable and the acting is strong from all characters. Freeman is an excellent choice for Bilbo, charismatic, dandy-esq, but not an annoying buffoon, which is the balance any actor must strike with this character. Richard Armitage’s Thorin, Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 13.12.38leader of the Dwarves, is the biggest revelation and commands every scene he is in with brooding wonderment. It is also great to see some of the characters from LOTR too, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and a surprise cameo from Christopher Lee and Elijah Wood. The dwarves, although difficult to name individually, each have their own personality and James Nesbitt and Ken Stott perform particularly well in these roles. The absolute standout in everyway however, has to go to Andy Serkis’ Gollum – everything from the acting to the much more advanced visual portrayal of the character is breathtaking and award worthy. By far the most engaging scene from the whole movie, is the simple two hander by this character and Bilbo at the bottom of the Goblin cave.

No one is doubting Peter Jacksons vision and the world he has created, every place you visit from Hobbiton to the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor is beautifully mapped out and delivered, and from that point of view, viewers will not be disappointed. The problem of this film however, comes in the shape of how Jackson has tried to shoot it.

You may have seen lots of comments on the 48 frames per second (fps) issue since screenings in this country have begun. We now live in a post Avatar world, so the technical magic of LOTR now has to be upped in order to compete or seem innovative or groundbreaking. So you can see why Jackson took a risk in showing his audience something very different, but whether or not this is the right choice still remains to be seen. However, early reactions, including my own, is that this unfortunately proves to be more problematic than not. It is very apparent from the first quarter of the film that you will need to adjust to this dramatic change in format.  The more scathing reviews will tell you that it reduces what you see on screen to a bad 1980’s television fantasy. I can understand where this statement is coming from and it is utterly distracting.

Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 13.13.3448fps, is supposed to help not only with 3D eyestrain for the audience, but also to make transitions in the film much smoother as you’re taking in almost double of what you would normally watch. Unfortunately, the end result feels unfinished and too crisp to the extent that you feel as if you are watching on set, through a peephole as they are rehearsing some scenes. You also tend to notice the jump cuts and other transitions from scene to scene, which jars your viewing enjoyment and prohibits you from getting lost in the film you are watching. It also feels as if there is no grading at all carried out on the film, and it’s the brighter shots such as outside in Bag End that feel the fault of this the most. In short the cinematic quality is lost.

This along with Jacksons decision to split the film into a three part money making trilogy are the two biggest risks taken, and at this early stage does not feel like either have paid off.  Having said that, you cannot deny what a brilliant story this is to be told. Unfortunately the format in which it is presented takes something away from the adult who grew up reading this as a child, and feels more like something much suited to a child who needs to be pacified when their favourite episode on CBeebies comes to an end. A harsh final thought? Well unfortunately there are costly mistakes which have been made, and the army of Hobbit fans may feel let down unless they get to one of the far fewer screenings running the film in either 2D or standard 3D without the extra hassle.

The Hobbit hits cinemas on the 13th December.

Oh Spielberg sometimes you just blow my mind…

13 Nov

So what does one do when they’re exhausted, overworked and feeling downright lazy? Well many of my lovely friends probably turn to some retail therapy, however I have to say I’m glad I head to the cinema. This weekend was no exception. Firstly lets get some admin out of the way…

Huge apologies in the first instance for my tardiness this month in terms of blogging. Following my fantastic stint at the London Film Festival, I’m afraid exhaustion and lack of money somewhat took over and I’ve been back to the daily grind trying to pull in some pennies. Having a rare day off like today, I’m happy to report that in the last week I’ve been lucky enough to watch not one but two fabulous films: The Help (Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain) and The Adventures of Tin Tin – The Secret of the Unicorn. So where does one begin? Well after that turkey of a film A Dangerous Method, which was my last review, I’m happy to report that I have some uplifting content for you – the Hollywood studios haven’t gone completely to pot, even if David Cronenberg does seemed to have stumbled into a very large pot hole with that latest offering…lets move swiftly on shall we?

THE HELP

Its the time of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and where the class divide is at its most evident we follow the story of a tenacious young female writer (“Skeeter” – Emma Stone) as the unconventional middle class Jacksonville daughter who sees straight through the Stepford lifestyles of her friends and finds wonderful compassion in the stories of those who help make the households the show homes that these women and their families live in. Convincing the black community of maids to start telling their stories, she unveils the mis treatment, inequality and narrow mindedness of not only women but men in that period of time.

This film for me sits a staple piece of fantastic storytelling – much like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. It made me laugh, made me cry and most importantly it made me learn from the film. I would like to class it as one of those films which you would quite happily keep in your collection and refer back to year upon year for a pleasant watch with great performances and a morality tale for the last century.

The performances as I previously mentioned are wonderful, Emma Stone leads the pack with her ugly duckling heroine Skeeter who is not afraid to be who she really is and cross boundaries to allow other people to try and live a better life. I couldn’t think of a better actress than Stone to play this part. We also have the almost unrecognisable Jessica Chastain as Ceelia Foote, the outcast ‘hussy’ who really puts dumb blonde on another level. Her versatility in her roles demonstrates her to be one of the most exciting new actresses in Hollywood at the moment. The one who really stands out for me however, is Bryce Dallas Howard who plays the ‘villain’ of the piece Hilly Holbrook. So desperate to be the perfect wife she reminds you of the prettiest but meanest girl in school with her posse of dimwitted followers at her feet. Howard expertly portrays this character with such a fine balance that audiences really begin to hate everything she is and stands for (she throws her own mother ‘Sissy Spacek’ into a nursing home for laughing at her!) but at the same time you can’t help but warm to her lack of awareness and education and although her comeuppance is comedic, it still brings forth the overall messages of the film.

A wonderful film, great performances and if you haven’t yet read the book, I’m pleased to say that its not the be all and end all, you can still enjoy the film regardless and if you’re anything like me, make sure you bring a box of tissues for the second half of the film – its a weepy!

THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN – THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN

Where do I begin with this one? Well lets start with a bold statement – this film hosts possibly the best animation in a film I have ever seen!!! There you go, how d’you like them apples?! From start to finish I was gripped. I usually don’t like 3D movies a hell of a lot, my eyes start to hurt and I hate how the glasses make the screen just that tad darker. But never the less, I can safely say that I was lost with this film. Lost in a fantasy world where Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean and everything you’d want from a great family film adventure was handed to you on a plate… Oh if only it was real…wait a minute, it is isn’t it? I certainly got lost for a good few moments forgetting that what I was watching was an animation. Although different in form, whatever hype there was around the skills of Avatar, here Spielberg blows Cameron out of the water!!!

So the story follows the journalist Tin Tin (Jamie Bell), who by buying a model of a 16th Century boat (as you do) lands himself in the middle of an age old rivalry between a pirate (of course) and a Captain Haddock – (Andy Serkis, pure genius). On his quest to uncover the story of this rivalry and inevitable hoard of treasure, we follow Tin Tin’s journey around the seven seas as he pieces together the puzzle.

The detail in the animation is just phenomenal, my particular highlights are when one scene merges into the next and like a wave magicians wand we are transported to a flashback of a land far and wide! Now there are a few minor faults, it does take just a pinch too long to get going in the beginning, but you’ll quickly forgive that. This film is smart, funny, and the chase scene towards the end is just exquisite. Like the Goonies is for me now, if I was ten years old, this would be the film I would take through with me to adulthood as my keepsake. Its just an absolute gem, and without giving too much away I would urge you to see it on the big screen before it’s too late.

Oh and just one last comment – its quite clear from this film, that Tin Tin wouldn’t be half as famous as he is if it wasn’t for his genius dog Snowy! Why can’t all pets be that clever!!

Finally to help you on your way to the cinema, here’s my LSQTV colleague Michael Kern getting all the film’s gossip at the premiere of Tin Tin last month…enjoy!!