Sir Christopher Lee dies!


DraculaI was saddened today to hear of the passing of one of the true legends of cinema.  Sir Christopher Lee had been one of those actors that commanded the screen throughout his career, most notably playing Dracula for Hammer films in the sixties.  In recent years he became a go-to actor for big name franchises such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, and his presence and powerful voice always made his roles memorable.

At 93 years of age, he was working almost up to his death and will be remembered I’m sure as one of the true greats up there was Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas and the like.

Sir Christopher Lee

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1922 – 2015

R.I.P.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Viewed – 16 December 2014  Cinema

Although with mixed feelings over this trilogy compared to the seminal masterworks of The Lord of the Rings, I was still optimistic walking into this final entry in director Peter Jackson’s fleshed out (and fleshed out) adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s classic novel.  We join Bilbo and his merry band of Dwarves, headed by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) housed up in the misty mountain following resident dragon Smaug having broke free and now laying siege to the nearby city of Lake Town.  With riches beyond compare and the search for the Arkenstone underway, Thorin has become corrupted by the greed and lust to take his place as King, and only Bilbo has the power to help having stolen the stone in case it made the dwarf leader even worse.  Meanwhile with the mountain now dragon-free, armies begin to approach for their share of the gold, and war looms.

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Immediately this is a more dramatic and action-packed entry in the middle earth cannon and things are kicking off pretty much from the start, with the lead up to conflict pretty tense.  However the corruption of Thorin and the Dwarves hanging around the mountain is a tad drawn out and I was eager for something to happen – and oh, did it!  A massive,  immense battle with legions upon legions of elves, orks, humans and dwarves all fighting … yet it was also pretty difficult to care all that much when it seemed like everyone was just out for a bigger piece of the pie – battle for middle earth (or helm’s deep for that matter) this was not.  So then I was beginning to really find the dwarves annoying and wishing they’d never gone on their fabled journey, pissed off a dragon, causing countless deaths as a result.  The whole quest as I’ve said before just not really seeming as necessary as what we see in LOTR.  Are we really meant to care?  No, and not even the director does it seems when the much sort after Arkenstone gets forgotten about entirely in the final act (but will no doubt re-surface in the extended edition…).

That being said this was still a real treat for CGI fans and does boast excellent fight sequences (the showdown between Thorin and the Ork baddie especially) and good turns from Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Sir Ian McKellen as the always excellent Gandalf.  Martin Freeman’s Bilbo remains solid for the lead, yet still lacks the personality or depth of the likes of Elija Wood’s Frodo Baggins or Viggo Mortenson’s Aragorn.  As a conclusion, this had plenty of energy and spectacle but lacked some of the wonder, diversity of locations and the sheer fantasy appeal of the other movies in the series … and for me remains the weakest of the trilogy.

Verdict  3 /5

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…

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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

2013 and the year ahead


Been an interesting year (so far) and with 2014 looming on the horizon, I got thinking about some of the interesting things I have been able to experience in 2013.  Three quality pieces of technology immediately spring to mind … firstly my Sony Xperia SP smart phone, which I really enjoy.  Slick functionality, with none of the slow down of my previous phone (the Sony Xperia U) and it’s great for emails, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  Oh and it makes calls, takes very good pictures with it’s 8mp camera – can see me sticking with Sony for a phone in the future too. 

Windows-8

Next up was my Windows 8 PC … now I was as sceptical as the next person regarding Windows 8 but I really like it.  The implementation of Apps, the new Start screen, and general slickness of everything makes it feel like a really state-of-the-art piece of kit on my humble budget.  This carried over nicely into the XBOX ONE, which visually borrows a lot from Windows 8 and is proving to be a great machine … even if at the moment the games only hint at what the console is capable of.

Movie-wise 2013 has been pretty good and highlights include Tom Hank’s movie Captain Phillips, Park Chan-Wook’s english language debut Stoker and Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  My yearly Top Ten will follow on New Year’s Eve and I think it’s going to be interesting selecting the best movies and choosing what order to put them in.  I am sure everyone has their favourites so I will be browsing and commenting on those that I discover on other blogs … look out for me!

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This year has also been interesting for TV shows, with highlights including the Kevin Bacon thriller The Following, even with the final season of Dexter proving disappointment.  Yet I discovered Breaking Bad this year too, and was the reason I subscribed to Netflix.  Boardwalk Empire, in it’s fourth season seems to show no hint of letting up on it’s quality either. 

2014 for me, aside from life, work, family, bills etc will be all about the XBOX ONE … with big hitters coming next year like Metal Gear Solid 5, The Division, Watchdogs and Quantum Break.  Should be very exciting.  We should also start to see true next gen graphics finally being showcased.  I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t taken a lot of interest in movies coming out next year … is there an Avenger’s sequel?  Oh and what about that rather worrying sounding Batman Vs Superman??  At the moment I am trying to cram in as many movies as possible before the end of the year, with the likes of Iron Man 3, Kick-Ass 2 and Monsters University all scheduled to be reviewed in the next fortnight.  Oh and let’s not forget a little movie by the name of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.

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Plenty to think about and watch in the coming days, and hay it’s Christmas too – so I will report back as usual on what I have gratefully received on the day.

Craig.

Del Toro walks from The Hobbit!


This is bad news.  Arguably the most anticipated movie(s) of 2011 / 2012 J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the earlier book from the same world visited in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, was going to be produced by ‘rings director Peter Jackson and helmed by Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth genius Guilermo Del Toro.  This was something that COULD NOT FAIL.

Well after legal ramblings over the rights with MGM and delay after delay to start shooting, it seems Del Toro has signed off the project.  Sad sad times!!  Now unless Peter Jackson himself takes over – this whole project could be dead in the water.  EPIC FAIL!