No Ordinary Burglar

The Hobbit movie posterAny movie made from a book that means a great deal to a great many people will likely receive both ardent praise (if it has any merit at all) and ardent abuse (no matter what).  The Hobbit holds sentimental value for me since it happens to be the book my father read to my brother and me when I was roughly 7 or 8 years old and consequently, it’s the first book in which I can remember being entirely engrossed.  I knew Peter Jackson planned to make changes.  I’d heard he intended to take from other of Tolkien’s works and, of course, I assumed some details would be changed or omitted or entirely fabricated.  I had come to terms with the very idea of added/omitted or otherwise altered material before I even walked into the theater.

A lot of folks seem to think this first installment of Jackson’s 3 part adaptation ran much too long, was long-winded and unnecessarily drawn out.  Having recently reread the book, I walked into it feeling vaguely skeptical of the film’s length (especially considering it’s a trilogy) but trusting that Peter Jackson wouldn’t ruin it for us.  Two hours and forty-five minutes later I left, trust intact.  I’ll admit that there were a couple of scenes I could have done without, compiling no more than a half-hour or so, but otherwise the film worked and the things that mattered most to me as a longtime fan of the novel on which it’s based, Jackson got perfectly right.

Truth be told, as long as he managed to nail the segment that correlated to the chapter titled “Riddles In The Dark” I knew I’d be all right with Gollumthe rest of it.  (As long as it didn’t totally suck, that is.  Which it didn’t.)  Andy Serkis deserves a new award, something made up entirely for him and his creation of the motion-capture CGI that has brought Gollum to life.  I am enamored.  “Riddles In The Dark” is one of my most favorite and beloved pieces of literature ever written and seeing it acted out onscreen with such detail, with a picture so clear and crisp, made me feel as joyous as a five year-old on Christmas morning.  The cave, the glow of Gollum’s orb-like eyes in the dark, his silent paddling over the black water in search of his prey – it was PERFECT.

Speaking of perfect, Martin Freeman’s embodiment of Bilbo Baggins is a transformation so wholly accurate, I don’t know that there currently lives (or has ever lived) another actor who could play a better Bilbo.  Ian McKellan is every bit as stoic and enchanting as Gandalf this time around as he was ten years ago in LotR.  And the dwarves!  Jackson brought them to life in a way I could never have envisioned.  Fili and Kili, who happen to be my favorites, look perfectly jovial and Bomber, adequately plump.  Naturally, the only ones whose visual translation seemed absolutely critical are Balin and Thorin himself and there isn’t even the slightest discrepancy there.  And for the record, I enjoyed the extra segments dedicated to Thorin’s back story.  I’m not sure why Jackson felt it necessary to include Azog the defiler.  Tolkien did write about Azog in other works, but he never showed up in The Hobbit.  And it isn’t like there weren’t plenty of obstacles along the way without being stalked by the The Pale Orc.

I can’t say I loved Radagast’s appearance, either, but the only addition that truly irked me was the scene in which Gandalf held a brief meeting of the minds with Galadriel and Saruman.  What did this add to the story?  Not a damn thing.  In fact, it accomplished nothing but stalling the narrative for 10 minutes or so.  It may prove itself valuable later in the trilogy but for now, I can’t see its relevance.

the great goblinI saw it not only in 3D but on a screen that supported the high frame rate, as well.  If you plan to see The Hobbit and there is a theater within 30 miles of you that offers both 3D and the hfr, I assure you: it’s worth it.  The picture is so crisp, so clear and vivid, it’s as if you could reach out and tug on Bomber’s beard or touch Bilbo’s hair.  And the scenes in the goblin’s caves are nothing short of stunning.  Some have claimed that the picture is too clear, giving it an unreal, animated appearance.  Or that it’s obvious when the scene is filmed on set rather than on location.  Honestly, there are just a rare couple of moments where these criticisms hold water.  But the multitude of breathtaking shots more than make up for it.

Whatever The Hobbit may mean to you, I recommend it.  It isn’t perfect nor is it the best movie 2012 gave us.  But it is exceptionally good, so entertaining you won’t check the time even once, and more visually stimulating than anything since… well, Lord of the Rings.

~Nikki

Whispers In The Dark

Just finished re-reading The Hobbit – the first chapter book I remember reading as a child.  My dad read it to my brother and me when we were in single digits and even then, I fell in love with Gollum and all the darkness he represented.  Riddles In The Dark is one of the finest pieces of writing ever written and I am tweaking like a meth-head in anticipation of seeing it up on the big screen courtesy of Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis.  As a kid, I was fascinated by Gollum; I wanted to know how he’d come to live in that mountain and why he’d stayed there.  Why did he speak of himself in third person and call himself “precious”?  Why did he ask himself questions as if some other part of him would answer and what was the deal with his sick obsession with that ring?  Much later, in college, I read The Hobbit again and marveled at Tolkien’s skill in creating a creature so wholly vile and repulsive yet worthy of pity.  A creature whose behavior and mannerisms, whose thoughts and physical attributes coincide so perfectly with a being who’s lived in nearly complete isolation and darkness for decades or more.  A cave-dwelling creature whose one friend is this precious ring, which has served him well, allowed him success as a hunter, thereby saving him from starvation or capture (by the goblins) but which has also caused a level of destruction from which there is no return.  Reading The Hobbit as an adult, Gollum reminds me of a heroin addict living in the sewers, thieving and mugging enough to maintain but never getting even half a step ahead because the need and the absolute love of that which is killing him is too strong to fight.

I feel such gratitude to Peter Jackson and the brilliant Andy Serkis (and anyone else who was involved) for making the CGI version of Gollum in their fantastic adaptation of the LotR trilogy every bit as sad, disgusting, insane and pitiful as Tolkien intended.  I was nervous, scared even, as I walked into the theater back in 2001 to see The Fellowship of the Ring that Gollum would be misrepresented, that they’d have neglected some detail or exaggerated others.  But the Gollum I saw made me fall in love with the character all over again – a perfect visual translation of the creature Tolkien created.

Now, less than two weeks away from the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I feel no trepidation.  Only eager excitement to see Gollum again and to watch that most beloved sequence of events that compiles Riddles In the Dark, my favorite chapter in the whole tale (from The Hobbit to The Return of the King), unfold onscreen.  I cannot wait.

~Nikki

I Just Can’t Get Enough

I admit there are many movies that I love so much, I’ll watch them over and over and over.  I’ve probably seen Pride & Prejudice more than a hundred times.  Dances With Wolves used to be practically a yearly event in my house.  Every time I happen to see The Shawshank Redemption on TV, I will watch it, even though I own it and have seen it countless times already.  There are some flicks I just can’t get enough of.  Which is why I understand those people out there who will pay theater prices to see a previously released movie again, now re-released in 3D.  Unlike my co-blogger, Titanic isn’t one such film for me, but I thought I’d share with you one film I adore so much, I wouldn’t think twice about paying to see it in the theater again, even without the added 3D visuals.  For me, each of the Lord Of The Rings films was so magical, so awe-inspiring up on the big screen, I’m sure I’d pay $10 to experience each of them all over again.  In particular, The Fellowship of the Ring.  I remember so vividly sitting in the theater, watching the Uruk-hai (those orc/human hybrid things) coming down that leaf-covered hill in the woods and literally sinking in my seat.  They were fearsome, so intimidating, I felt like if I’d have been standing beside Pippin, I would have dug a fucking hole in the earth just to make myself disappear.

And how I all but choked on the emotion following the fall of Gandalf, watching as the hobbits cried atop those mountainous rocks amidst the gorgeous backdrop of lush green forest – Jesus, that was intense.

More than anything, I loved the brief glimpse of Gollum, nothing but his humongous reflective eyes in the shadowy cave.  Gollum may just be my favorite character ever written.  I got chills at that little glimpse and could not wait for The Two Towers to get a good, proper look at him.

I feel that same anticipation now for The Hobbit.  In fact, at the end of the first teaser trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when I heard Gollum’s hissy voice, chills ran up my back.  I. LOVE. GOLLUM.  I doubt I’ll ever get to see The Fellowship Of The Ring on the big screen again, but it’s hard to feel too bad about that with Jackson’s upcoming adaption of The Hobbit looming ahead.  Seeing Riddles In The Dark adapted on screen is sure to be one of the greatest moments in cinematic history, especially with Martin Freeman playing Bilbo and Andy Serkis reprising his utterly perfect version of that wicked little creature.

~Nikki

Game of Thrones Excitement of MYTHIC PROPORTIONS

ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG *commence psychotic freak out*

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

!!!!!!!

Saw this last week, promptly shat myself, and then realized yesterday – WHY HAVEN’T I MENTIONED THIS HERE YET?!

To combine Florence + the Machine, Game of Thrones, GOOSEBUMPS, a killer montage – it’s all too much for my brain and psyche to take.  Especially since I’m currently reading book 2 in the series upon which this season will be based, A Clash of Kings.  Also, this time around I get the chance to imagine a character’s appearance in my head before seeing them on-screen, and the glimpse I got here of Melisandre (and Davos Seaworth in an earlier, less-epic trailer), basically matched what my cerebrum conjured up.

Who made this?!  Can I kiss you?!  Sitting around making brain-gasm-inducing trailers for ridiculously awesome things would basically my dream job.  Should have tried to become an editor, instead of an allied-health lackey/tortured human servant. *shakes fist*

I highly recommend this series, in both its written and television form, to anyone who has ever enjoyed Lord of the Rings, fantasy, action, or adventure.  April 1st is SOOOO CLOOOOSE AND YET SOOOO FAR!!!!!!!!

~Annie

EDIT:  ZOINKS!!  This is my 100th post!  Will celebrate by vegetating.. because that’s how I roll.

A Warning to the People, the Good and the Evil…

… This is War.

To quote 30 Seconds To Mars, of course. ;)

Cover of "A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ic...

Cover via Amazon

It most certainly is, in the freaking masterful epic A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice, #1), by the nerdly (it’s a compliment, people!) George R.R. Martin (I’m gonna assume the R.R. is to make the masses immediately think of Tolkien, which is a cheap trick, and actually made me initially think LESS of the series, but no matter).  This is the first in an ongoing fantasy series that will potentially contain seven volumes, with five already published.  I say potentially because apparently there are a lot of people who think Martin won’t live to finish the series.  Yikes.  To say this series has some passionate fans, is putting it mildly.

I would say I’m a admirer of the fantasy genre, even though I’ve never read the pinnacle – The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I did read The Hobbit as a pre-teen, which I enjoyed, but it was more due to the pictures than the story (I had THIS awesome, fully illustrated version), and when I attempted to read The Fellowship of the Ring, my brain just gave out.  I’d get to the bottom of a page, not remembering what I had just read.  Listen, I ADORE the films. ADORE.  And one day I plan on tackling the series (it’s in my to-read list!), but as of right now, I am giddy with excitement to continue reading this one.  Like, giddy.

Maybe you watched season 1 of the HBO adaptation.  Maybe you’ve never heard of this series at all.  Either way (unless, of course, you HATE fantasy stories), I highly recommend picking this up.  It’s like LOTR, but much easier to digest, and with much more gore, violence, a splash of sex, and layers of treachery unlike anything I’ve ever encountered.  The story revolves around an absolutely ASTRONOMICAL quantity of characters and storylines, in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  There are kings, queens, knights, supernatural beings, families, prostitutes, dragons, castles, awesome wolves, and somehow, everything is connected.  I think that’s what sets this series apart from others:  The scope is far larger than I could have even imagined, and it all still ties together.  Until you’re reading it, you won’t get it.

Martin may be a shut-in geek, but he gets human beings really well.  Like, even women. The series boasts some seriously awesome, strong, flat-out inspirational female characters. Two of the more major players are young sisters, and I can’t get over how fully fleshed out each girl is.  They don’t feel like stock girl characters written from an unknowing male brain – they feel like REAL girls.  And Daenerys Targaryan Fire and Blood (Game of Thrones)(obviously, being an “epic fantasy”, everybody’s got whacked out, mostly unpronounceable monikers) is a fan favorite – her story will absolutely blow you away.

With such a massive cast of characters, I don’t know how he keeps everyone straight, let ALONE give them all unique personalities.  Characteristics also line up with whole families: the Starks are loyal, the Lannisters conniving, to name a couple, out of hundreds.  I found a quote online where someone said something to the effect of they know more about the history of this world than our own.  If I had one complaint, I guess the large quantity of characters would be it.  It can get crazy damn confusing keeping all the Aemon’s and Aegeon’s and Arryn’s and about 50 other 5-letter A-names straight.  There are AT LEAST 150 characters in the first book.  And from what I hear, the scope only explodes outward as you go on.  But this is a minor complaint, because I’ve never read anything like this before.

English: George R. R. Martin at the 2011 Time ...

Another unique and one of my favorite aspects of this book is how each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character.  This allows you to keep up with everyone, everywhere.  There is truly no main character, just a huge list of very prominent ones. But knowing from each chapter title (the character’s name) who you’re going to be hanging with for a half hour or so is a nifty way to tell a story, and really aids in keeping you invested in the grand scheme of things.

I kind of can’t say enough good things about this series, so I’ll shut up for now.  I just hope that if you’re interested in any of the above items, even remotely, you’ll pick this up.  I’ll leave you with one of many flippin’ awesome quotes:

“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave.”

~Annie

Suddenly I See

An audience views a film using 3D glasses

Image via Wikipedia

Went to see Martin Scorsese’s Hugo tonight (review to come!) and we opted for the 3D showing.  I’m not a lover or hater, really, of the medium, but there have certainly been times I loved it, and hated it, depending on the film.  So the news of certain ginormous films being re-released in the next coming months and years in the format has me filled with both excitement and trepidation.

The trailers at Hugo were for a variety of upcoming 3D films, mostly things like The Lorax and The Adventures of Tin-Tin.  But suddenly, a murky, underwater image of a sunken ship appeared on screen and before my “thinking” brain knew what hit it, my “emotional” brain imploded with all the love and intense feelings I have for James Cameron’s Titanic, along with every explosive emotion that came with being 16 and 17 years old, and remembering what I was doing and thinking and saying and smelling when I went to see

Cover of "James Cameron's Titanic"

Cover of James Cameron's Titanic

that flick (NINE times in the theater, no less. It might be a record, just sayin’.).  No lie, when that soaring theme was flooding my ears and a montage of the film was flashing before my eyes, I immediately started crying – I couldn’t help it.  Do I think 3D is going to help this film?  Not really.  To be honest, every time I catch this on TV, I am loath to admit that the special effects haven’t held up, and the acting is cheesy as all get out.  I don’t think retrofitting it to 3D is going to look all that great.  What I AM way pumped for is the opportunity to see this again in a theater.  Some films are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much more fucking magical in an auditorium, surrounded by a screen, darkness, and however-many watts of sound.  I’m not necessarily pumped for the 3D, but I’m stoked into a fire of absolute JOY thinking about it being in an actual theater again.

Tron: Legacy

The same can be said for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the Star Wars films – all being re-released over the next couple of years.  The movies that have blown me away with their 3D-ness were films that were SHOT  in 3D.  Not converted to, after the fact.  Avatar is obviously, and rightfully, the standard, but the under-appreciated Tron: Legacy was a feast to the senses, as was How To Train Your Dragon (whose flight sequences were far more exhilarating than Avatar‘s).  Converting movies gives you Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (or Clash of the Titans, Transformers, we could go on).  A mediocre film that was quite visually interesting, but when you throw in the post-production 3D, it looks so muddy and stupid, it ends up taking away from whatever you were trying to attain.

I know for a fact that I’ll pay to go see these most (if not all) of these again, they can have my money – I WANT to give it to them.  But not for the 3D.  Just for the enjoyment of having the all-encompassing, immersive, blast-from-my-past adventure of seeing them again on the big screen.

~Annie

Every Color Illuminates – November favorites by Annie

I’m feeling loads of passion for some new (and old) things this month, and I must share.

  1. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin – I’ve jumped on the Thrones bandwagon after watching the stellar season 1 on HBO.  I have to say, this is not disappointing.  In fact, I am loving every page.  The show closely followed the first book, but (obviously) everything is so much more fleshed out and detailed, and things make more sense.  It’s like The Lord of the Rings, minus the intense descriptions and ancient-sounding prose, plus a little bit of sex and a shit ton of treachery.  I am sooo looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
  2. Florence + The Machine – “Ceremonials” – I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release

    photo from stupiddope.com

    of Florence Welch’s second album, and my dear sweet LORD did this live up to my expectations.  I’m completely obsessed with her building, anthemic wails and just cannot get enough.  “Shake It Out” is hands down my favorite song of hers, period.  It just blew my brain out, from the first moment I heard it.  Other tracks melting my grey matter:  “Only If For A Night“, “All This And Heaven Too“, “Leave My Body“, “No Light, No Light.”

  3. Spotify – Spotify rocks.  It’s Pandora, if you could listen to exactly what you wanted, on demand.  For FREE.  It’s also a fantastic way to share music with friends – you literally send them the track and they can listen to it at their leisure, in its entirety.  I HIGHLY recommend checking it out.
  4. Enlightened, HBO – This is quickly turning into one of the shows I most look forward to watching each week.  I love the dreamy vibe, Luke Wilson’s soulful, pain-filled eyes, and people that actually kind of act like real people.  Laura Dern is great, and although her character is not someone I actually like, it’s not deterring my enjoyment – she still conveys enough truth and pain that I do care about what happens to her.
  5. M83 – “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” – OMFG I discovered this candy-coated,

    photo from seizurechicken.com

    shimmering, twinkling, bonanza of happiness two days ago, and I’m already madly in love.  “Midnight City” is going to be the soundtrack of my upcoming vacation.  I can’t stop listening to it.  (It’s currently on a new Victoria’s Secret ad as well).  This album sounds like what would happen if MGMT or The Naked & Famous time-warped back to the 80s, f***ed the Tron soundtrack, and had an experimental baby.  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

  6. David Guetta ft. Sia – “Titanium” – DANCE DANCE DANCE DANCE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.  Not much else I can say except that this song is thrilling, and inspires me to be a strong survivor of whatever comes my way, AND dance my face off.
  7. Happy Endings, ABC – Fast becoming one of my favorite shows.  We’ve talked about this before, here and here.  But as each episode goes by, the cast develops even greater chemistry and the laughs just get harder and crazier.  Loving every minute.
  8. THIS – Makes me want to go get hammered just so I can have a hangover and lay on the couch all day in my pjs with a spot ‘o tea and watch as many of these as humanly possible.  I LOVE THIS LIST.  I WANT TO MAKE SWEET, SWEET LOVE TO IT.

~Annie