Sign in using your account with
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Lofty Expectations, No Magic
This is the first and opening film in a planned trilogy; a narrative that actually predates The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, The Hobbit falters under pressure and fails to deliver the magic.
The very thin plotline, taken from Tolkien's three-hundred page novel, opens up with Frodo (Wood) and an older version of Bilbo Baggins (Holm) talking about an autobiographical story that Bilbo has been secretly working on; a story that ultimately takes us back sixty years to its very beginning.
Young Bilbo Baggins (Freeman), a hobbit who enjoys the comfort of the Shire, doesn't do much socialising. His pipe-smoking alone- time is very precious and he doesn't appreciate or welcome company. So when he receives a visit from Gandalf (McKellen) – who insists on enlisting Bilbo on an expedition to the Lonely Mountain along with a dozen of other dwarfs – Bilbo is not pleased and initially hesitates towards the invitation. The dwarfs' plan is to reach the mountain and try to reclaim the Kingdom of Erebor; the land which was taken from them years before by the evil dragon Smaug. Despite Bilbo's many excuses of why he is not cut out for the voyage, Gandalf insists and eventually convinces him to join.
Of course, the trip to Lonely Mountain is not easy. The group encounters all types of creatures along the way; including weird looking Trolls, greasy Goblins and a pack of stern-faced Orcs. They eventually run into a few familiar faces from the 'past'; Elf King Elrond (Weaving), his ghostly telepathic Queen Galadriel (Blanchett) and even Wizard Suruman (Lee) makes an appearance. Furthermore, Gollum (Serkis) also makes a comeback and ends up sharing quite a bit of screen time with Bilbo in the second half of the film.
Jackson's beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy enjoyed a great amount of success, mainly due to the complex and multilayered story. He also had enough material to work with; Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels were just over 1600 pages long, combined. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of The Hobbit. The novel is pretty slim in comparison and Jackson plans to release the already filmed trilogy over the next couple of years. How he proposes to do this with the story still remains to be seen.
The pitfalls are endless. The boisterous dwarfs , who burst into not just one song, but two at the beginning of the film, bring an unintentional infantile element. The group entangle themselves in a few, rather slow-moving battles that always result in a last minute save, usually by Gandalf. However, Gollum, who doesn't appear until the second half of the story, is the only invigorating factor of the entire story.
What makes things worse, and some might disagree, is Peter Jackson's decision to shoot it in 3D. The film is shot at a frame rate of 48fps as a pose to the standard 24fps and the result is a bit of a mixed bag. The crystal clear picture of every single shot makes The Hobbit look like a Spanish soap-opera. Giving it that 'studio' feel, doesn't really work for this type of storytelling and although it does manage to work for some scenes, they are very few.
As Bilbo Baggins, Freeman withstands the ridiculousness that surrounds him. As does McKellen, who is still a perfect fit for the wise and caring Gandalf. Blanchett, Weaving and Lee collectively fail to register; their brief roles in The Hobbit barely skim the surface, and one wonders whether their appearance was at all necessary.
Taken as a whole, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is disappointing. There is nothing 'unexpected' about it and one can only hope that Peter Jackson pulls out all the stops in the upcoming releases.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.