Movie Review – Tolkien – Biography of the Master of Middle Earth

Movie Review - TolkienI don’t normally watch biographies. We don’t usually get Peetimes for them either, but this was TOLKIEN. The author of my favorite novel, movie, and world: The Lord of the Rings. So it wasn’t just any biopic to me, and Tolkien wasn’t just any author. Lord of the Rings (or LOTR) is a magnificent 1000+ page work of high fantasy, penned by JRR Tolkien as a sequel to the shorter, more youth-oriented The Hobbit.

With The Hobbit published and successful in 1937 (which the movie gets around to in a fantastic end moment that made me literally weep with joy), Tolkien was tasked with creating a ‘hobbit sequel’. This is a case where the sequel outshines its original by a great magnitude, and is literally Tolkien’s life’s work. (Let’s not discuss The Silmarillion here.) [/CanOfWorms] 😉

A new form of world-building fantasy

According to the Wikipedia, LOTR was “written in stages between 1937 and 1949, and is one of the best selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.”

LOTR also established the groundwork for nearly every novel, series, and film franchise in the fantasy genre to follow, introducing readers to a form of world-building never accomplished before. Tolkien invented entire languages and thousands of years of backstories, timelines and genealogical histories for his handful of mythological races, which he called the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth.

Before Tolkien, we had ancient ballads, plays, and operas to give us fantasy worlds, yet works like Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Beowulf, Shakespeare’s plays, The Iliad and the Odyssey, and the collected stories in Greek/Norse Mythology are very grandiose and quite a bit remote.

LOTR gave readers a story about fallible, often funny individuals who weren’t princes or warriors. In fact, the two main heroes of LOTR are a bookish young man and a gardener. The warriors, kings, and even wizards and dragons appear, of course (it’s still a high fantasy saga), but mostly as supporting characters. You didn’t need a professor to explain the plot to you. You could relate to the heroes. No one had seen anything like this before.

Legacy of the Lord of the Rings

There wouldn’t be any Harry Potter without The Hobbit and LOTR. The Star Wars Saga, Game of Thrones, modern Disney, Pixar and even the 23+ movie spanning Marvel Cinematic Universe owe a huge debt to Tolkien. Name any memorable work of fantasy or space opera, and you’ll find roots buried deep in Middle Earth.

Tolkien – the LOTR author’s biographical movie

Okay. So, I just went off on a long, rambling tangent, not unlike the super long novel in question, and the great films of Peter Jackson that finally paid justice to the source. But was Tolkien, by itself, a good movie?

Yes, very much yes. You have to be a Middle-Earth fan to appreciate it, but I loved seeing JRR — Ronald to his friends — in his early life, full of experiences that informed his creations. Tolkien has said he “cordially despises allegory in all forms”, but it’s hard not to see Mordor and the works of Sauron in the No Man’s Land of World War 1. Ronald is a sort of proto-Frodo, with a young Sam, in the trench scenes. Flames, ash, and great black clouds recall the fumes of Mount Doom.

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the horror of The War to End All Wars before. It must have felt like the end of an Age. And in many ways, it was. (Compare: World War 2 offered a modern battle tableau, although it wasn’t long after WW1.)

One movie scene in particular, where Ronald lies unconscious in a hole full of the dead by a pool of noisome toxicity, recalls almost precisely Frodo’s fretful sleep before the Black Gates of Mordor.

Other ways The Lord of the Rings is hinted at in Tolkien

What else? Edith has an otherworldly personality and intellect — clearly the basis of Arwen Evenstar. The ‘Cellar Door’ courting scene is exquisite, and Ronald waited as long for Edith as poor Aragorn did for Arwen.

The pastoral countryside of England is very like The Shire, and Ronald’s passionate literary friends had obvious nods to The Fellowship  of The Ring (as explicitly noted in the trailers).

One of Ronald’s buddies had an immortal line where the audience barked in laughter: “It shouldn’t take six hours to tell a story about a magic ring.”

He was talking about Wagner, but Tolkien must have took that as a personal challenge. I’d love to know if his friend actually said that. (In another note, I did attend a showing of Wagner’s Ring Cycle Opera in Vienna once, and it IS incredibly long. Too long. Especially if you don’t speak German.)

A trip to Oxford, and The Inklings

The Oxford scenes had especial meaning to me, as I lived and worked at Oxford University in a post-college internship, and personally wandered through many on-location settings in the film. It was a vast treat to return there cinematically, making me long for an extended visit these many decades later. I even frequented The Eagle and the Child, a pub where Tolkien and The Inklings — who are fated to only appear after the movie ends — sat and shared literary chapters as they wrote them. It thrilled me to quaff a pint at the same table where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis discussed Lord of the Rings and the Narnia stories, working out the kinks of their epics.

Summarizing Tolkien as a movie experience

So, I’m a total geek with an encyclopedic working knowledge of Tolkien…but I think this biography is accessible to anyone who’s ever read the books or seen Peter Jackson’s movies. I was engaged, moved and thrilled, and though no Hobbits nor Rings of Power appear, Tolkien the film is still a very good time. I’m glad I expanded my horizons enough to look at the author as a real man, and not just a random shadowy figure recording the journeys of Frodo, Gandalf, Strider, Gollum, and Samwise Gamgee.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This was a hard movie to find Peetimes for. The movie cuts back and forth between war action, “Fellowship” character building, and important scenes at Oxford University. Both Peetimes center on the romance in Tolkien’s life: while they are nice, they are the least crucial bits building up to Tolkien’s masterpiece. The 2nd Peetime is recommended. Note: There are no Peetimes in the second hour, so plan accordingly.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Tolkien. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some sequences of war violence
Genres: Biography, Drama, War

Are Modern Movies Too Long?

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong

Quiz – Viggo Mortensen – Actor, Musician, Painter, Photographer, and Poet

Viggo Mortensen has been nominated for 3 Oscars, including his current nomination for Green BookCould this be Aragorn’s golden year? [quiz-cat id=”14625″]

Thanks for stopping by and taking my quiz. How about sharing it with fans of The Lord of the Rings, or any one else who comes to mind? Mortensen is so underrated and talented. He deserves some attention! 🙂

Movie Review – Green Book (It will touch your heart)

Best Movie MacGuffins Explained

Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins. Can you name them all?

A MacGuffin is any object that drives the plot and motivates the characters in a movie. You might have seen the name “MacGuffins” over bar bistros in the lobbies of many AMC theaters. That’s an industry in-joke.[pullquote] It sounds like the name of an Irish pub, but it’s really a nod to a long standing film tradition, coined by Alfred Hitchcock himself, for an object that’s an excuse to make characters do things, have a quest for, and usually fight over.[/pullquote]

MacGuffins can be almost anything, but the point is, it is a “thing.” Sometimes a MacGuffin can be a person-as-thing, but that’s a bit more rare. Another crucial point about MacGuffins — they’re usually quite fungible. [pullquote position=”right”]It really doesn’t matter what the thing is, so long as the characters spend their narrative trying to get it (or, in some cases, lose it). [/pullquote]

Here are some well-known movie MacGuffins that you probably never thought about: 

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark — this whole flick is about finding the Ark, protecting the Ark, using the Ark, and finding a safe place to store it. I’m not sure an FBI warehouse is the safest place, but it’s probably as good as keeping it under the sands of Tanis. Note that for all Indy’s efforts,  nothing he does actually helps the cause in the end. He’s just lucky he knew enough not to die from it. And as we saw in the subsequent Indiana Jones films, there’s always some kind of MacGuffin driving the plot, including the Holy Grail. This is a case-book example of MacGuffins in action. (And yes, the holy grail in Monty Python’s Holy Grail counts too.)
  • Titanic – The Heart of the Ocean. Awwww.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl – the last coin of the cursed gold qualifies, and so does Will Turner himself. I think each film in this increasingly bizarre series centers in a MacGuffin of some sort.
  • Most of the Mission Impossible series has a MacGuffin driving the plot, which really is just an excuse to see Tom Cruise pulling off his own wild stunts.
  • The Necronomicon in Army of Darkness qualifies in a super fun way. Have you seen this movie? (Go find it. Bruce Campbell is the best B actor in the business.)
  • A Fish Called Wanda has the bag of money, and a whole lot of tomfoolery involved in getting it, including an actual fish named Wanda. (Haven’t seen this? It’s one of the world’s funniest movies and stands up to the test of time.)
  • The Project Genesis in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. But you knew this, right? Even the whales in The Voyage Home count.
  • Unobtainium is kind of a jokey name, but certainly qualifies as a MacGuffin in Avatar. The natives of Pandora need it to survive, and the invading humans want it. They also kind of get it. Bummer.  It all works out in the end, mostly.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is all about MacGuffins. You could make a case for each of the current 20 films having some kind of MacGuffin. Most of them have to do with Infinity Stones, and who has them, and who tries to protect them from Thanos (or Ronan, or Loki, or the bad guy in Dr. Strange, or that dark Elf in Thor 2). Remember the stones go by all kinds of names, like the Orb, the Aether, the Tesseract, and so on. But it’s not always about the stones: Vulture just wanted alien technology. The Iron Man trilogy was about arc reactor tech. Killmonger wanted the power of Vibranium. Thor sought a replacement for his hammer, so Stormbreaker was the latest MacGuffin. Ant Man is about Quantum Tech and Pym Particles. Name me one MCU movie NOT about a MacGuffin, and you’ll win ten points to your Hogwarts House.
  • Speaking of Harry Potter, I don’t think a single entry in the 8 movie pantheon is MacGuffin-free. Look at the Sorcerer/Philosopher’s stone, the Tri-Wizard cup, the orb of prophecy, the Horcrux search, the quest for the Sword of Gryffindor, and the Deathly Hallows. Since Harry turned out to be a horcrux himself, he qualifies as a personified MacGuffin.
  • Like with the Sword of Gryffindor, swords are common themes to base a quest around. Look at the King Arthur movies: we even have two swords! The sword in the stone is one, and the one the Lady of the Lake tossed at Arthur. (“You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” <— recognize this quote? If you’re a true cinephile, you should.)
  • The Lord of Rings is a great exception to the ideal of questing FOR an object. In this case, the fellowship is about destroying something: the One Ring of Power. It’s a self-proclaimed fool’s quest, but somehow, the good guys win. (Although not without great cost along the way.)
  • The Lord of the Rings does the sword thing too, with the shards of Narsil being forged as a great flaming weapon, to be reforged and wielded only by a descendant of Isildur. So we can check that box too.
  • In the Hobbit, it’s the Arkenstone.
  • The Wizard of Oz has the Ruby Slippers.
  • In the various incarnations of Dune, the Sandworms are an unusual MacGuffin, which, like Harry Potter, are also in the form of a living being. The spice itself is a HUGE MacGuffin — without it, space travel would simply cease. And this relates right back to the Sandworms. Lost yet? Ignore David Lunch and the SciFi versions; re-read the novel. I hear there will be yet another filmatic attempt at Dune soon…so we can hope it’s the definitive version.
  • In a less fantasy mode, we’ve got Pulp Fiction. What exactly was in the magically glowing briefcase? Was it Marcellus Wallus’ soul, as many fans speculated? We never find out, although it actually doesn’t matter in the end.
  • Fantastic Beasts also featured a magical suitcase that all characters sought. In this film, however, we definitely saw what was in there.
  • Star Wars is usually about MacGuffins, which are often force-users (ie – people). In Solo, look at how Coaxium drives the plot. The Millennium Falcon  qualifies too. In The Force Awakens, Luke himself is the MacGuffin (and so is his lightsaber). A New Hope and Rogue One have the stolen Death Star data tapes. Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins, including R2D2 himself. Once you start noticing these, you can’t stop. (Kind of like eating Pringles.)
  • The Maltese Falcon – an obvious one, from a classic-era film. Hmmm, also Rosebud in Citizen Cane.
  • All heist, thriller, and caper movies are about finding a thing. Often a tech thing, and sometimes just money — as in Die Hard. I dare you to name a caper that isn’t about acquiring something. Look at the Ocean’s films for a start. Everyone’s after something, and the whole plot hinges around that thing.
  • Apollo 13 and even First Man are about similar MacGuffins, be they the moon itself, or just finding a way to get home from said moon.
  • Are you a Buffy fan? Remember her Axe of Power? MacGuffin. The entire series is loaded with MacGuffins, including Buffy herself.
  • In the X-Files, aliens from space qualify as MacGuffins. And I’m not sure this was ever resolved. At least Scully learned to believe. 😉

Clearly, this is an ongoing list. I can’t sit here all day naming every flick with a MacGuffin. But feel free, absolutely, to name your favorites in the comments. It’s good geeky fun!

MacGuffins Bars at AMC Theaters

Movie Theater Review – AMC Fashion Valley in San Diego

LOTR: Fan Film Short of The Hobbit – An Unexpected Parody

Who the hell are you? Gandalf, what’s with these Dwarves?

I think Peter Jackson should have opened The Hobbit with this fan-film feature. It’s that cute. Even if you don’t like drinking shots, you’ll find this short amusing. I can see this (in my personal head cannon) as what actually happened that fateful night at Bag End, and why Bilbo joined the Dwarves’ expedition to The Lonely Mountain.

This musical one-off (to the tune of Shots, by Lil Jon) has good production values — I’m impressed. Some of the Dwarves look just like their movie counterparts, and leads me to wonder if some reprised their roles for this.

Alert: If you don’t like scenes of people drinking and getting wasted, this might not be the video for you. It depicts an alternate version of the Unexpected Party chapter in The Hobbit.

My Opinion: Jackson did an amazing body of work in the Lord of the Rings. We can’t deny that. But for various reasons, he made The Hobbit — one slim novel — into a full feature trilogy. It didn’t turn out well. The Hobbit’s best scenes are with Gollum, Smaug, and Gandalf. And, of course, his scenes with the Dwarves at home in Bag End. The Hobbit leads directly into The Lord of the Rings, showing us how the epic all began.

That’s kind of why I enjoy this spoof of the “unexpected party “at Bag End. I totally buy that it went this way, and NOT what was recorded Bilbo’s Red Book (his memoirs). After all, history has always been written/interpreted by the winners, who were not necessarily sober at the time.

Altogether, this is really cute if you’re a Middle Earth fan. Otherwise, skip it. I’d give An Unexpected Parody an A grade myself,  from the perspective of a life-long Tolkienphile.

Sorry YA movies that never finished their franchises

Where fighting becomes foreplay!

I’m the member of the RunPee family who LOVES the YA (young adult) Dystopian/Fantasy genre. Harry Potter is still an obsession for me (and I’m 50). I re-read The Hunger Games every year, and watch the franchise even more. I even think Twilight was decent, although The Host was better.

So, what’s the deal with this post-millennial spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to YA series? Do the studios really think every dystopian and fantasy series is worthy of the full big screen treatment? And if they do put out an origin story on spec, do they care about following through with the series? And what happens when the young actors age out of their roles?

Am I just barking down a well, here? Woof, woof — does anyone care ?

I ask right now because I just watched The Darkest Minds (2018). It was…okay. Was it good enough to follow through to the end of the franchise? I’d probably say no. I’ve been burned a lot recently.

Here’s a list of YA series that will probably never see completion, for better or worse:

A Wrinkle In Time (2018) — This was just awful; totally incomprehensible. The company spent some money on it, but somewhere along the way it devolved into a hot mess. I don’t expect any of the sequels will be forthcoming.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) — There are so many childish books in this series that kind of sucked — I lost interest early on while reading them. How many of these books came out? I can’t say. I couldn’t be interested enough to watch any of them onscreen. Remarkably juvenile writing, IMO. (Looking it up, three movies of the 13 books actually made it to the theaters.)

Maze Runner (2014-2018) — I recently rewatched Maze Runner, and I have my opinion — it’s an okay version of an actually quite decent book. The sequel was middling, and the third film was frankly awful. Is there more to come? Do I care? This is ridiculous. Nothing made any sense in the 3rd film, and my Peetimes probably reflected this.

Divergent (2014-16) — I’m not sure how many books made it through to the screen. Three? Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant? All I have to say is that the first movie hewed close enough to the book to be worthwhile, and things fell apart quickly after that. I think I turned off Insurgent halfway through, and certainly didn’t bother with the third. Is there more? Do I care? (Note: Ascendant is supposed to follow soon as a TV series, but Shailene Woodley isn’t bothering to appear.)

The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-10) — This one hurts. As a child, waaaay before I picked up The Lord of the Rings (best book ever penned), this was my absolute favorite novel series in the world. In the universe! I believed if I had enough faith, when I died that I’d go to Narnia. I even had a special role — I was a forest nymph. My best friend and I made up stories about our lives in a magical meadow in Narnia…and as grownups, we re-met to hold our hands and hold our breath, trembling with excitement, and watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the big screen. And you know what? It was kind of lame. Prince Caspian was about the same, while my favorite book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was only a little bit better. Not better enough to save the series. If they ever do The Silver Chair, they’re going to have to hire newer, younger actors in a sort of soft reboot. Oh, well. I’ll always have The Lord of the Rings to rewatch.

The Golden Compass (2007) — to be honest, I tried to read the book and stopped pretty early in. I would love to give this series the full shake, but it seemed so…well, dark. It’s called His Dark Materials, so I guess that is to be expected. From the photos and the trailer, it looks really pretty, but it flew so far under the radar that I kind of can’t be bothered. One case where riding a super cool polar bear just isn’t enough.

I am Number Four (2011) — I did like this movie. I like the science fantasy aspects, and the story was well supported by both cast and narrative. Not enough to save it, however. Next.

Eragon (2006) — I didn’t bother with this one, so I’d love to hear if anyone enjoyed it. Dragons and fantasy sounds right up my alley, but all reviews say this was the pits, and there’s no news for keeping the saga going.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2010 and 2013) — These were pretty good! So why the silence? Good novels, decent films…and crickets. I would have stayed with this one. Bummer.

The Black Cauldron (1985) — Well, hmph. The Chronicles of Prydain is an underrated classic, and I’d love for some studio to try this again. The seven-novel YA series was my second youthful favorite adventure tale after the The Chronicles of Narnia, and since this one kickstarted so long ago, a reboot might do well. I mean, they did this one in the 80s! I doubt anyone has anything to hold against this poor attempt to get Taran’s saga going. Disney owns it, and they might be ready to option it again. Please, somebody give this excellent series a fair chance.

Vampire Academy (2014) — This sounds great on paper, sort of like a Harry Potter/Buffy match up. I’d watch that. Except somehow this was so bad I’d never even heard of it. Someone must have really screwed the pooch to mangle a really cool premise like this.

Ender’s Game (2013) — This one is truly a bad deal for us all. The book is magnificent. It was only a middling movie. You could watch it, and even sort of enjoy it, but Orson Scott Card’s literary masterpiece didn’t manage to move people in the theater. Maybe they can reboot it sometime and get the entire series done right. Or better yet, leave it be. Just re-read the novels.

The Mortal Instruments (2013) — Another one that slipped under my radar. There’s six books in this one, and people say the novels are fine. That doesn’t mean it translated well to the cinema, since it slid quietly into dust.

There’s more. I can delve further into the failed classics and promising franchises, but it’s frankly too depressing to keep going. Feel free to discuss what I missed and what I’m wrong about in the comments.

As for me, I’ll still keep the flame burning. I’m a believer in the genre, and I know there’s some good ones yet to emerge. Besides, someone has to watch these films and get the Peetimes for RunPee. 🙂

Related: 

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds

Movie Review – A Wrinkle In Time

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Movie Review – The Mockingjay, Part 2

Movie Review – Maze Runner, The Death Cure

Movie Review – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Movie Review – The Vampire Academy

Movie Review – Twilight Eclipse

Movie Review – Twilight New Moon

Movie Review – Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Prettiest Live Action Movies

Here’s a fun topic, a list of the “prettiest” ever live action movies. They have to be gorgeous on their own merits, plot aside. I’m looking for outstanding visuals. [pullquote]What qualifies as pretty? Lots of color, slick visual or computer generated effects that stand up through time, creative set-pieces, stylish direction, and lavish location scenery.[/pullquote] If you leave a theater thinking, “Wow! That was stunning,” then it’s a contender.

You’ll notice that most of the following are in sci-fi and fantasy genres, which is a viewing bias some of us at RunPee have. Help out in the comments so I may add more to this ongoing list. NOTE: Linked titles go to our movie reviews.
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Well, there’s our short list, ready for you to add your opinions to. What are we missing? Where do you disagree?

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

I enjoyed the movie. Not a lot, but enough. There was some decent humor — most of which revolves around Barry Allen/Flash. The action/fight scenes were fine. A few awesome moments here and there.

The actors all did a good job. I’d say Ezra Miller, as Flash, stood out as the best. Ray Fisher, as Cyborg, was good, but his character is so basically unemotional that it’s hard to mess it up. Jason Momoa, as Aquaman, was almost great. He brings some power, and not just the physical type, and he handled few humorous scenes well.

That being said, there’s a LOT that I don’t like about the movie.

First, why is DC in such a hurry to create the Justice League? I can understand that the studio/producers probably feel like they’re light years behind Marvel, but who cares? They have all the time in the world. There were five stand alone(ish) MCU movies before we got to the first Avengers. But the DC team just skipped over at least three standalone movies: the origin of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Each one of those could have been a movie by themselves. Plus, a few more to introduce the mythology in the DC universe. Oh well.

My biggest gripe is that the villain is honestly plain horrible in this movie. Basically, he’s a big bad god type thing, bent on destruction. There’s absolutely no lead in. And all I could think after seeing the one minute of exposition of the villain’s origin was, “Hello, Lord of the Rings much?” Really, he’s a big bad thing bent on total domination, because he has united these three boxes. And after the three armies of Amazons, Atlantians, and men defeat him, they divide up the three boxes so they can’t be reunited again.

Besides all that, the villain is basically a prop for our heroes to crush, after an appropriate amount of struggle.

My last gripe is a potential spoiler. So scroll if you want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Superman is the single worst superhero ever. He’s just too strong. Once he enters the fight at the end, it’s like playtime for him. Where’s the fun in that?

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong

Peter Jackson, coming off the high of his fantastic Lord of the Rings saga, was permitted to make a really, really long love letter to Kong, King of Monster Mammals. His big ape movie went on and on and on…for 3 hours and 7 minutes. Dan and I sat there, holding it in…and talked about how we wanted to tell the waiting queue to pee during the vile, unnecessary Valley of the Bugs scene (you know the one, with the Andy-Serkis-slurping slugs. Seriously: gross, man).
    It was so agonizing to sit through this film, that we thought it would be great if there was a website telling people exactly when to run and pee in long movies, so no one would miss the good parts. Thus, the idea for RunPee was born. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter Jackson and King Kong.
    But, is this a good movie?
    We’d have to say, cautiously, yes. It is assuredly an epic, often capturing the emotional spirit of the 1933 original. Aside from being wildly overindulgent and often tedious, it’s a credible ride. There are some moments of real heart, and the production values are top notch: Jackson clearly spared no expense. When things weren’t busy being disgusting, the island was super pretty. The dinosaurs were cool, and Kong himself looked amazing. Finally, a Kong that looked real, with expressions and nuance.
    The ape scenes with the girl are the best – sensitive and funny, well-acted and well-written.
    The Skull Island scenes, however, are uneven – while everything with Kong was great, the explorers lacked spark or likeability. In New York we get the same thing – the Central Park scenes with Kong and his girl are adorable, but the finale on the Empire State building is laborious. We wanted the giant gorilla to get it over with and die.
    In the end, it’s a bloated movie. The stuffing was overbaked, and the actors (besides Naomi Watts) didn’t bring anything to the buffet. Jack Black was a muddled mess, and Adrian Brody barely made a showing. No one else was memorable at all.
    It’s been my opinion that Jackson needed a firm editor with his material, to pare things down and keep the pacing tight. This was overkill – like no one wanted to be the one telling the successful Lord of the Rings director when to stop. There’s nothing wrong with a long movie – *Titanic* shows us how it’s done – but there wasn’t enough excitement or depth to fill out the running time. There is plenty of spectacle, and you can feel the loving hand behind this remake, but it’s basically a two hour film padded out to an excessive three. ‘Tis a pity, because this easily could have been an A film. But if it had been, there’d be no RunPee.
B-

Movie Review – The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug

Desolation-of-SmaugI’m torn between feeling that Desolation of Smaug sometimes feels like a visit to an amusement park, where you spend all your time either riding a roller coaster or waiting in line for the next ride to start, or it feels like a fresh interpretation of a classic fantasy.

Note: One thing Desolation of Smaug definitely doesn’t do is make a faithful recreation of the original story. The introduction of a totally new character, Tauriel (the female warrior Elf), is hardly the only modification of the original story. If you’re a purist, you’re going to insist that the tag line for the movie should be, “Based on the characters and events in J.R.R. Tolkien’s *The Hobbit*.”

For example, Peter Jackson completely changed the way everything went down at Dol Guldur – home of the Necromancer. To quote my wife, “It didn’t happen like that. The White Council decided to throw down the walls of Dol Guldur together. It’s the last act they do as a team. Did Jackson even read Tolkien?”

Personally, I enjoy a retelling of a story. I’ve read *The Hobbit* a few times, and would like the movie to offer something fresh. Whether Peter Jackson goes too far is a topic of debate.

The movie is certainly not lacking for action scenes. Nothing much happens between spider attacks, barrel rides, fighting Orcs, and dragon antics. If you haven’t noticed, it’s fairly rare for us to have 5 minute-long Peetimes, but there are two such events here, between escaping from the Elves, and arriving at the hidden gate of Erebor. In fact the first 5 minute Peetime could easily have stretched on for another minute or two, without sacrificing anything noteworthy.

Lack of plot development is the missing ingredient in Desolation of Smaug. The movie is essentially a quest to get into the Lonely Mountain, which we already knew from the first Hobbit movie. Desolation of Smaug offers little more than adventure – and spectacular, sometimes comical, fights along the way.

Movie Review – The Hobbit

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong

Movie Review – The Hobbit

The Hobbit

The HobbitIt’s such a pleasure to return to Middle-Earth. Peter Jackson and his team have masterfully recreated and expanded the universe according to Tolkien.

I know from the production diaries, created during the filming of *The Hobbit*, that the undertaking was massive. Not just in the technical challenges of filming at 48fps IMAX 3D but also getting the story right. *The Hobbit* isn’t a terribly long book. How in the world can they create three *long* movies? Truth is that originally they planned on it being a two part movie and then realized that there was too much material to cover.

Visually the movie is amazing. The costumes, makeup, sets, and special effects are perfect.

I was surprised by how good the acting was. We all know that Ian McKellen is among the best actors of our time, and he doesn’t miss a beat as the Gandalf that we love.

Martin Freeman was a perfect choice for Bilbo. When the series is complete I believe Freeman’s performance will become iconic. His facial expressions, mannerisms, comic timing are surprisingly good. I can see why Peter Jackson bent the filming schedule around Freeman’s availability to make sure he could play Bilbo. (They had to take a 2-month break during filming so Freeman could honor a previous commitment for *Sherlock*. )

I was also impressed with Richard Armitage’s performance as Thorin – the Dwarf king. Another perfect casting.

The rest of the cast does a fine job which I think is a testament to Peter Jackson’s directing skills. The best actors in the world can’t do a good job without good direction. And average actors can do a masterful job with great direction.

It’s hard for me to judge the pacing of the movie since I already know the story so well. I believe a large percentage of the casual movie goers will find the pacing a little sluggish at times. To be sure, there were a handful of chase scenes went on a bit too long. On the bright side, they make for excellent Peetimes! 🙂 As I waited for the movie to start, I was concerned if I would be able to find adequate Peetimes. I was happy to discover it wasn’t difficult to pick out 4 of them, and I think 3 of them are very good to use.

And finally, I think the music was pretty good. The central motif of the movie theme works well for dramatic and action scenes.

My biggest disappointment is that I have to wait another whole year to get to the next story. I can’t wait for 2014 when I can watch all three movies back-to-back-to-back.

Grade: A-

Movie review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong