The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a pretty tough story to screw up. The book was written as a simple children's adventure tale told from a singular point of view, and that is what it is loved for. Peter Jackson doesn't seem to understand what he's trying to do with the film adaptation. The movie struggles just to figure out what it is trying to do and tries so hard to pad itself with irrelevant Tolkien lore that it eventually starts to fall apart cinematically.
Not content to simply tell the first-person (well, technically "second person") account of Bilbo Baggins' adventure to The Lonely Mountain and back again, this Hobbit film tries to incorporate other plot threads from the complex tapestry of Tolkien's extended Middle-Earth lore. This creates two problems:
- The story loses its narrative focus and suffers cinematically from poor pacing and confusing scene transitions,
- The movie's tone shifts wildly from light-hearted fantasy to overly-serious forebodence.
If only you hadn't been blinded by your fanboyism, Stephen; you could have warned us!
I had the opportunity last night to attend the Fathom Events Celebration of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event. I attended the first season event as well, but wasn't terribly impressed with what I saw other than the simple nostalgia factor. I'm not a huge fan of the first two seasons of Next Gen, but I was really looking forward to the season 2 event because Fathom and Paramount chose my two favorite episodes from the season: "Q Who" and "The Measure of a Man".
In addition, the version of "The Measure of a Man" being shown was actually an extended cut of the episode. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette, the original script was very dialogue-heavy, and the producers underestimated how long the episode would end up being. The original version ended up being too long for network TV and was cut in editing by about 13 minutes. The full version of the episode, however, was retained on a VHS cassette given to the writer, and is going to be included on the Season 2 blu-ray.
"The Measure of a Man" is easily (in my opinion) the single, best episode of the first two seasons of Next Generation, and is arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series. It marks the point at which the show really started to turn a corner and elevate its storytelling and presentation. Seeing an extended cut (that I'd never before seen) on the big screen was a real treat!
I was very ambivalent about purchasing the Next Gen blu-rays. I had initially expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the packages, but was later informed that some special effect shots were replaced and/or augmented with CGI. I purchased the blu-ray sample disc, and was not terribly impressed with what I saw. The visual quality didn't seem all that much better than watching the regular DVDs on my PS3 (which has a pretty good upscaler). The only real positive points for the blu-ray sample disc was that colors were a bit more vivid, and sound quality had increased dramatically. So I wasn't totally sold on the new blu-rays, especially since I already have the full DVD collection and seasons one and two don't impress me all that much anyway. I was kind of in a position of waiting to see if seasons 3 and 4 would impress me.
But then I saw the extended cut of "The Measure of a Man", and now I am considering picking up the season two blu-ray. [More]
I'm really not sure if I should be cringing at the news that Disney is buying Lucasfilm. Apparently, they have already started planning for "Episode 7" to be released in 2015, and for a new Star Wars film to be released every 2 or 3 years after (probably indefinitely, until they stop making money).
George Lucas is being retained as a "creative consultant", but it is yet to be revealed just how involved he will be.
This could be very good news or very bad news for Star Wars fans. On the one hand, Disney seems to be intent to milk the franchise for all its worth and could very likely drive it into the ground with the inevitable straight-to-dvd released (see Bambi, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast). This could be good news for the more feeble-minded fans who happily eat up anything with the words "Star" and "Wars" and the Lucasfilm logo on the box.
But can we really say for sure that Disney will further tarnish the franchise any more than Lucasfilm has already done with the prequel movies? After all, Disney has a track record of making pretty good movies. Their handling of the Marvel film licenses has been respectful at the very least. Sure Captain America and Thor didn't blow critics away, and Iron Man 2 received mixed opinions. But considering that all those movies were really just feature-length teasers for the exceptionally-well-executed Avengers movie, they turned out pretty well. [More]
The Dark Knight Rises' opening scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene of Dark Knight and put a bad taste in my mouth, as if this movie would end up being just a bigger version of Dark Knight and that Bane would feel too much like the Joker.
Fortunately, the movie ended up going in a different direction. Dark Knight was all about the Joker setting up his master plan, but never being able to follow it through (since he never fully breaks the spirit of Gotham's citizens, and Two Face gets covered up by Gordon). This movie, instead, focuses on the villain's master plan actually working! In essence, this movie follows up on Dark Knight by essentially establishing the version of Gotham City that Joker was striving for. Bane succeeds where the Joker failed. Bane throws Gotham into total isolated anarchy and breaks the spirit of its people the way that Joker just couldn't do. Rises offers apocalyptic spectacle that actually works! So many movies try to make the villain's plot too grandiose, and make the threat so immense, that the movie sort of falls apart and gets silly. In this case, however, the apocalyptic vision of Gotham works exceptionally well. [More]
I have to say that I was impressed with how quick a 2 hour and 16 minute movie could feel. The Amazing Spider-Man is slightly shorter than The Avengers, but it is just about as well-paced. Despite being stuck with another telling of Spider-Man's origin, the movie manages to keep things moving along without getting boring. It does this by offering a very different version of the characters and events leading up to Peter's transformation into Spider-Man. But it lacks the same emotional impact that the first movie had and ends up feeling a bit more sloppy.
First and foremost, Andrew Garfield is not your father's Peter Parker. He's much more confident and outgoing, as well as being tall and handsome. I would even go so far as to say that he comes off as being cocky. As such, he doesn't quite live up to the socially-outcast-nerd identity that most fans assume. Garfield's Peter Parker does, however, express his techie, intellectual side much better than Tobey's previous interpretation of the character. Even before Peter is spider-bitten, we see him inventing unique tools and gadgets, manipulating photos for the school paper, and offering Uncle Ben suggestions for fixing a leaking washing machine.
A major point of the movie's early plot is the mysterious disappearance of Peter's parents. Richard Parker's work in genetics is something that apparently got him in trouble with some unreputable individuals, and he and his wife Mary had to leave Peter with Ben and May and run away. When Peter learns that his father used to work with Curtis Connors at Oscorp, he sneaks into Oscorp in order to find out what they were working on. It is here that he wanders into a room containing the experimental spiders that give him his powers. Despite his intelligence, and fondness for science and technology, he just starts playing around with stuff in the lab. You'd think a smart guy like him would know better, but whatever. [More]