Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast Headliners: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen

Release Date: December 14th, 2012

The Lord of The Rings has reached its conclusion, but that is not the end of this fantasy franchise. Before Frodo set foot upon his quest, there was a novel called The Hobbit. It is a prequel set in the same world but with mostly new characters and a lighter tone. Peter Jackson has an ambitious project on his hands. His goal is to both adapt the book and unite this world with the one he has already shown to cinema. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is for the most part very successful at this.
            The novel on which the film is based is shorter than any of the LOTR ones, and yet it is getting 3 films towards it. Each film covers a part, as the film reaches an indefinite but satisfying conclusion which leaves the viewer yearning for more. It is lucky that, like the first string of Tolkein films, the next ones are not far off. In this movie, the classic core tale has been accompanied by added action sequences and dialogues connecting this story to the larger world of Middle-Earth. The addition of a certain chase involving wolves in grassland is welcome as it adds more action, as does the side plot involving Radagast (a character rarely before seen in Tolkein works.)  Radagast is kookily played by Sylvester Mcoy, who through the power of cinema was able to make the character into a sort of medieval hippie. The plot involving a “Necromancer” is under-explained, but does allow some old friends like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) to appear. 
            As for the main quest, it is brilliant. Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman, is a great character. Bilbo is much more likeable and charming than Frodo ever was, from his early stubbornness to a later bravery and wit. He reluctantly goes along with Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who is just as wise and awesome as the character has previously shown to be. The gang of  dwarves are great as well, there are slight worries at first that they may just be “this movie’s Aragorn and Merry/Pippin and etc”, but soon they each provide distinguishing characteristics. It was a difficult job showing traits of all these characters and make the audience care, but Jackson pulled it off.
 The main difference from Lord of the Rings is that most of the characters are “likeable”, and this goes along with the film (and original book’s) tone. LOTR is a dark medieval epic, whereas The Hobbit is a fun and colorful adventure originally written for children. Because of that there is much humor, but after the original 3 film’s darkness it is a nice change of pace. Luckily, the humor is well written. That’s not to say that there is no action, of which there is plenty. Some have complained about the overuse of CGI, but it looks incredible here. This reviewer personally saw it in IMAX3D at 48 FPS, and it looked stunning. The framerate does indeed look different, but one quickly gets used to it and realizes it makes the film look crisper and modern.  CGI effects, also, are needed for the scale of what takes place in this film. Of particular note is a wrestling match between two mountains (this makes sense when seen) and the penultimate Goblin battle.  Nearly every moment is packed with awe-inspiring thrills. This movie also has the perfect incarnation of Gollum (Andy Serkis), whose role is as impressive, humorous, and frightening as always.
            The Hobbit “Part 1” is not a perfect film. The pace can get slow at times, and the tone is all over the place and a bit wonky because it may seem as if it’s not sure of a target audience. The added details and characters are a semi-drastic change from the original text. It is interesting to see a flashback battle between dwarves and orcs for example, but a character from that who re-appears as a villain is a bit mundane.  Overall however, this movie is exceptional as modern entertainment. Its sense of adventure, great characters, and action set piece make it a must see. Bilbo’s first cinema adventure earns  a 9.35 out of 10.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red Dawn Review

Red Dawn Review

Director: Dan Bradley

Cast Headliners: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Red Dawn is an example of a movie which doesn’t know what it wants. This is a reboot of the 1984 Patrick Swayze starring original. Like that film, the theme of this is that the foreign communist power of the day is invading. For the eighties, it was the Soviets. Now it will supposedly be the North Koreans as this movie proclaims.  
As in the original, the two protagonists are brothers Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and Matt (Josh Peck).  Jed is an ex-military, tactical and cold guy. Matt is the high school quarterback willing to take risks. They are the main characters of Red Dawn, and they are also the only actors with merit. Every person who joins their guerilla unit the Wolverines is un-remarkable. Little chance is given to see their characters and enjoy them. Josh Hutcherson’s character Robert is supposed to be “funny”, but the only slight chuckle is from him awkward and dweebish when fighting enemies. The brothers are decent as young men facing their homeland being invaded, but the movie lacks soul.
The movie lacks soul because it is not very entertaining. Unlike the old film, the North Koreans are not a scary presence. The main villain is rarely seen, and when he is all that happens is him shouting orders. Little is shown of North Korean killing people. The Soviets in the original were terrifying as the shot down anyone in their way, for example in the opening paratrooper scene. The same scene happens here, but the CGI effects do not impress and are a bit laughable. Most everything about this film feels half baked, and both action sequences and dialogue drag on. As a side note, why isn’t the US army seen fighting the attackers? An explanation is given later, but it is still hard to suspend one’s disbelief.
The only slight redeeming factors of this movie are some of the shootout sequences, they are quite cool. Some fancy explosions are used which luckily make up for the poor CGI everywhere else.  Hemsworth, usually a good actor, is not enough to save this film.  There are worse movies out there, but Red Dawn is a supreme example of mediocrity. More excitement can be gained from playing a video game like Call of Duty which this movie attempts to, but fails to cash in on.      I give it 6 out of 10