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

Found Myself In The City Near Piccadilly

I still have not seen the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes brought to us from the mind of Guy Ritchie but I did see its sequel, SH: A Game Of Shadows and thought it entertaining enough, especially the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, the film’s best aspect.  But now, after finally seeing the British television series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, I think the film a mere shadow of what it could have been.  The British series, also aired in the states on PBS and available on Netflix, has more charm and just as good, if not better, acting than the film and more charisma, depth and interesting plot developments as well as the added excitement of being adapted for a modern-day London.  I don’t mean to diss Ritchie’s efforts or the fantastic performances given by RDJ and Jude Law.  I simply mean to say that Sherlock is infinitely superior.

Being a long-time fan of Martin Freeman, I first became interested in seeing this series after learning of his being cast as Dr. Watson.  He and Cumberbatch have the most wonderful chemistry and each, singularly, plays their role with utter perfection.  Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a genius but also somewhat arrogant, irritating to everyone but too valuable to be discarded.  Cumberbatch captures all the idiosyncrasies of the highly functioning and brilliant sociopath so perfectly it’s hard to imagine him in any other role.  And Freeman is my favorite part of the show, every bit as adorable as always, and an equal partner to Holmes, not quite as extraordinary in his powers of deductive reasoning but extremely intelligent and with far better developed social skills.  Holmes may be the one to ask the “right” questions and solve the mystery, but it’s Watson who ultimately saves the day.

The predictable pitfalls of setting this story in modern day London- the hindrance of forensic technology gumming up the old-fashioned reasoning and investigatory skills needed to solve a mystery- are entirely avoided here.  The new technologies and the problems that accompany them are seamlessly worked into the story right alongside all the old details, Holmes’ complete dedication to his work at the expense of personal relationships and/or friendships, the love/hate dynamic between Watson and Holmes, the strained relationship between Holmes and the local law enforcement, even Sherlock’s nicotine addiction, now satisfied by one (or more) nicotine patches rather than the old-fashioned tobacco pipe.  Die-hard fans of the novels, fans of the countless film adaptations and newcomers to the antics of the eccentric detective all will love this series.  In fact, I defy anyone, any living person, to watch this series and not enjoy it.

~Nikki

Red Alert! TRAILER ALERT!

I was gonna write you a review of the new Diablo Cody flick, Young Adult, but it’s gonna have to wait till next week, cause serious awesomeness occurred yesterday:

The first official, proper trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was revealed, and ohmygodddddddddddddddddddddd!  *dies, dies, dies*

The music, the landscapes, the dwarves (including the hot one, played by the smoldering English stud Richard Armitage) – it’s just way too much to take in.  So many beloved characters, returning!  I got a thrill hearing little Gollum’s voice and seeing the fucking majesty that is Ian McKellan’s Gandalf.  What a gift to get to spend time with them all again!  And also a first REAL look at Martin Freeman as Bilbo.  Sweet Jesus, was he was BORN to play this character or WHAT?!  I mean, it’s like, all is right with the world.  Everything about this trailer is perfection – the fact it came into being (after so much original turmoil with the rights and locations and directors, etc., etc.), with the only person alive who could helm this tale, with the best possible cast imaginable, looking EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD – well, yes Virgina, maybe there IS a Santa Claus (or God) after all.

~Annie

PS:  Don’t forget the fucking EPIC Dark Knight Rises trailer that premiered last week as well.  Oh my god, 2012, please get here :)