The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug


Viewed – 20 December 2013  Cinema

I enjoyed the last film in this planned trilogy.  Although more light hearted and therefore seemingly light weight compared to the grandeur of The Lord Of The Rings, it was still a joy to return to such a richly detailed and magical world as Middle Earth.  We catch up with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of merry Dwarves in their quest to reach the lonely mountain and dethrone a sleeping dragon from their home.  A hefty task for sure, but as explained in the opening, the real reason these Dwarves are so desperate to reclaim their home and their gold is because it houses a powerful crystal that will enable lead Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to claim his rightful place as the Dwarf king.  Erm, could have done with that being said in the first movie, if you ask me…

The-Hobbit-Smaug

Once again this is a fantastic setting, full of grand locations, brilliantly conceived villages, castle ruins, vistas – its a real treat for the eyes, and New Zealand is again showcased to a stunning degree.  More serious in tone this time, with thankfully no Dwarf songs and surprisingly no Gollum (!) but what we do get is greater attention to individual characters, with better focus on each Dwarf rather than them blending into one another like last time.  Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is great as ever, and I warmed more to Freeman’s Bilbo this time.  Add to this a returning familiar face in the shape of Orlando Bloom’s Legollas, aided by Lost’s Evangeline Lilly as a warrior elf looking every bit the part (and scrumptious to boot!). 

Yet this movie’s undoing, unlike the previous one which seemed to fly by – is that it really does feel long and drawn out.  Many scenes are stretched, and you get the impression some could do with being cut entirely (the whole Legolas, Tauriel and Killi love triangle).  It’s clear to me that this is a story that could have been summed up in two movies more than three (which was the initial idea) but of course box office receipts mean lets get as much as we can out of this, even if the material just isn’t there … and that’s a fact that’s beginning to show.  However, the movie remains full of character and has great sequences (the dragon encounter especially) and looks amazing throughout – but regardless, two movies in and it still lurks in the shadows of ‘Rings – and seems unlikely to escape that.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Three Musketeers


Viewed – 31 May 2012  Blu-ray

The question that immediately springs to mind here is, do we really need another telling of the age-old Musketeers story?  Brought to the screen countless times with varying success, this is familiar and well trodden ground, and one may wonder just what a new adaptation can bring that we haven’t seen before.  Easy answer – lots and lots and lots of CGI.

Directed by the often underrated Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Event Horizon) this starts well with a welcome swashbuckling introduction to Porthos (Ray Stevensen), Aramis (Luke Evans) and Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), who are double crossed by Aramis’ love interest Milady (Paul W.S. Anderon regular Mila Jovovich) resulting in the three heroes falling from grace.  Yet when a plot is uncovered to bring about war, the Musketeers team up with an ambitious but reckless young man called D’Artagnon (Logan Lerman).

Now you may have noticed the lack of star names amongst the cast there, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  Thankfully we have Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterdz) on hand to offer villainous duties as the cunning Cardinal Richelieu and a very camp Orlando Bloom as the Duke Of Buckingham, preventing the whole thing from descending into Z-List territory.  Sadly though, the feel here is more Monty Python than true blockbuster cinema, and despite some stylish cinematography, great set-design and well shot action – I failed to engage with the often plot-hole laden story or personality-free characters.  The less said about the cameo by Brit comedienne James Cordon and the talentless actress (is pouting a talent?) playing D’Artagnon’s love interest … the better.

As it stands, this was still fun and had some pretty cool sequences (who can’t enjoy two flying boats battling it out??) but lacked anything beyond its garish visual-overload to make me recommend it.  The forgettable Take That end-credits song says it all.  One for fans of the Musketeers only.

Verdict:  2 /5