SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE 1922-2015
It is with a great sadness that I post the heartbreaking news of the passing of one of the greatest horror…and film in general…icons of all time, Sir Christopher Lee. Lee is better known to today’s film fans as Star Wars‘ Count Dooku and the wizard Saruman from Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. To older generation movie buffs and horror fans, though, Lee’s legacy stretches almost 70 years since his first film role in 1948. He came to the attention of horror movie fans when he became associated with the legendary Hammer Studios playing not only Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy, but, became renown worldwide as one of the greatest screen Dracula’s of all time…a role he played in a series of films. He also played Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, battled James Bond and starred in far too many classics to list here. His contributions to the movie world will never be forgotten, nor will his numerous classic roles and unique interpretations of classic characters…not to be left out, the multi-talented Lee also recorded a number of heavy metal albums when in his 80s and 90s. He worked almost until his last days. A true legend to whom MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse may partially owe it’s existence to. Farewell and R.I.P. Sir Christopher Lee!
Just a scant few of his classic roles! Farewell Sir Christopher Lee.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)
I’ll start off by saying that J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth are among my favorite books and, understandably, Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy are among my favorite films. That being said, I still feel there is no reason to take a single book and stretch it out into three movies despite how much I love the story and characters. And with THAT being said, there is no reason then for each of those three movies to be almost three hours long. And it is exactly that reason that I feel something’s missing from Jackson’s Hobbit films… or should I say there’s something too much as there is a lot of filler added to turn one book into three movies… and it’s obvious. And this filler, as well as, middle film syndrome is exactly what keeps The Desolation Of Smaug from shining despite some sumptuous production design and some really fun action sequences. There is a lot of filler in this middle installment and sometimes it’s tediously obvious as once it’s over, you realize the story hasn’t really gone very far. The film picks up where the last left off with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of Dwarves on their way to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the vile dragon Smaug. They are still being hunted by a band of Orcs and not only clash with them continually but, battle giant spiders and suspicious Elves as well. Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) goes off to investigate his fears of a great evil returning… and we know exactly who, since we have already seen The Lord Of The Rings… and even the Dwarf party are split as they near their destination and their showdown with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Can they succeed or shall they fall before the onslaught of the Orcs and the mighty dragon? Even if you haven’t seen The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this is a middle film in a trilogy so, it’s no spoiler to tell you to expect not only an open ending but, a cliffhanger as well. And it just leaves one a bit unsatisfied. The first Hobbit film at least ended at a satisfying point and while I felt it took way too long to get going (again, a lot of filler) it was really fun and moved very quickly once it did. Smaug feels like a 90 minute film stretched into almost 3 hours as there is just a lot of dialog sequences and scenes that really don’t advance the story… the sequences in Lake-town are especially tedious and accomplish little and even the sequences that do matter, seem drawn out. And the fact that the tone here is a lot more somber, also darkens the proceedings. But, there are some saving graces that elevate the film from being an outright disappointment. There are some really fun action sequences such as the battle against the giant spiders and a thrilling chase involving river barrels and pursuing Orcs and Elves, not to mention the climactic confrontation with Smaug himself. There is the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and with him a new character who is an invention of Jackson’s named Tauriel who is played with equal parts fire and foxy by the beautiful Evangeline Lilly. Tauriel is one of the film’s real treats and Lilly creates a very endearing and strong character. She caught this fanboy’s attention instantly. I have never seen Lost but, I am impressed now. Sadly, I cannot say the same for Luke Evan’s Bard whose character really doesn’t make an impression and hopefully the talented Evan’s has a bigger impact in the next film as Bard didn’t have much to do here but look dour. The same goes for Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) who’s appearance is barely… or should I say bear-ly… more then a cameo. The SPFX are spectacular as are the visuals, thought the 48 fps can look a bit off at times especially with the barrel chase sequence. Smaug is very impressive and is greatly aided by the vocals of Cumberbatch who also voices The Necromancer. Jackson gets good work from all his cast with Freeman making Bilbo as endearing as Frodo and Sam in the previous trilogy and Mckellan is a delight as always. Richard Armitage is strong and noble as Thorin and the rest of the actors performing the dwarves all do nice work giving their characters personality despite performing as a group with little spotlight on them individually. Bloom is welcome back as Legolas though he is a bit more serious here and, as stated, Lilly gives nice life to a character created solely for the film. The score by Howard Shore obviously evokes his LOTR score but, to be honest, I don’t think it has the same resonance in the Hobbit films as it did there. So, in conclusion, Smaug is plagued not only by the added and unnecessary filler needed to make this one book tale a trilogy but, also suffers from middle trilogy syndrome in that it doesn’t have a satisfying ending and comes across as exactly that, the middle part of a bigger story. But, it’s saving graces are some really fun and exciting action sequences, some stunning visuals and the continued good work of the cast and director Jackson at making the characters endearing… not to mention a sassy and sexy she-Elf who will be an instant fanboy favorite. I did like it but, didn’t love it as I wanted to.
3 Dwarven axes!
Evangeline Lilly’s sexy and deadly Turiel.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)
For this Sunday night’s entertainment, I’ve chosen to revisit the first in Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit trilogy!
I will start off by saying that there is no reason to spread a single book into 3 movies (actually there is, greed.) and since you are doing so, there is no reason for any of those 3 movies to be almost 3 hours long. And this overindulgence and it’s effect on the film’s pacing is the only problem I have with the first of this new trilogy of movies based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit as it would have been better served and better paced if kept well under 2 and 1/2 hours. That being said, I did enjoy the film quite a bit once we get past the slow first half set up and get to the adventuring. The film is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit which is set 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings saga and tells the story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman in younger days and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo) as he is given the task by Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) to aid a band of dwarves in retaking their kingdom from the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). It’s a simple story that would have made a great single film but, director Peter Jackson and crew have overindulgently chosen to pad the story and drag it out over 3 apparently long movies and the first half of this flick suffers for it. It’s 40 minutes before Bilbo even leaves his home. But, Jackson still packs the film with enough visual majesty and pulse pounding thrills to win us over, despite making a mountain out of a molehill. His Middle Earth is still a wonder to behold and we get to visit new places and meet a horde of new characters. The second half picks up speed and we get the action and adventure we came for and it doesn’t disappoint. The last act in particular never stops moving and has some spectacular action sequences as our band meet some of Middle Earth’s more fearsome inhabitants and make some nasty enemies. It’s all well staged and as with the last series of films, the special effects are spectacular and the visuals are breathtaking. Despite the negatives, there is still a lot to enjoy about this story which by nature is lighter in tone then the trilogy it precedes. There are also some appearances by now favorite characters and it was nice to see them back especially since we know where they are headed. Maybe now that the set up is over and the quest has begun, the pacing will be much more in line with the Rings trilogy for the next two movies. Overall I enjoyed the first segment of this Hobbit trilogy and anxiously await the next part, The Desolation Of Smaug but, hopefully Peter Jackson spends a bit more time in the editing room and cuts some of the overindulgent fat and sticks to the lean meat of this classic tale for the final two installments.
3 and 1/2 generous Dwarven war axes as the second half of this flick more then makes up for the slower pace of the first half!