The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit - Warner Bros / New Line Cinema / MGM

Note: This is based on my second viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey rather than the more usual first due to the already mentioned issues with the Higher Frame Rate presentation. I won’t be commenting on that particular technical aspect here, but others may be raised. Suffice to say, many of the comments I make with regard technical issues produced the contrary opinion when I viewed the HFR version of the film, as far as I’m concerned it was a different film.

So, nearly ten years after we last left Middle Earth, Peter Jackson has once more dragged us back. Not it seems to merely adapt The Hobbit into film, but to present it as a means of foreshadowing the events of The Lord of the Rings instead. The result is a film that lacks the tight, cross-country pantomime plotting of the book, but in the process possibly deepens the relevance of certain events based on what will come. The results aren’t always successful.

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The Bourne Legacy

Now here’s an oddity. It’s not a remake, a reboot or strictly a sequel, but rather a branch from an existing movie franchise. It clearly exists in the same world, taking place at the same time as the latter half of the third film – and there are connections – but in many ways it feels like an attempt to shoehorn a new story onto an existing franchise to capitalise on brand recognition. It’s still a fun film, but somewhere along the way it doesn’t quite sit right meaning that it’s firmly middling in quality rather than a high point in the year that the last one was.

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The Dark Knight Rises

(There may be slight spoilers – you’ve been warned).

So, let’s get the inevitable aspect of this on the table to start with; The Dark Knight Rises is not as good as its predecessor – however, it remains a top flight summer blockbuster, the (minor) failings of which can perhaps be laid at the door of the scale of its ambition. In these days of the identikit summer blockbuster, tailored to tick every aspect of the possible audience demographic it feels odd to complain that a film tries to break the mould may not do so as comprehensively as it would like, that the sheer scale of what is being attempted may occasionally be too much, but this is the only complaint that can be levelled here. Sure, there are the requisite action sequences, the sheer aplomb of the effects – and no film based on a comic is ever going to stray too far into unknown territory – but below all of this Nolan seems to be trying to wrestle the most extreme logical conclusion to his Bat-trilogy, upping the sense of scale whilst remaining fixed within the universe of his construction. It’s a film that will probably reward a second viewing to decipher how well it holds together (as a film and as a trilogy), almost too much is happening to pick up all of the clues and references that I feel sure are littered throughout it on the first viewing. Nolan & Co. aren’t burning the franchise to the ground as they exit, rather closing it off for someone else to come along and make their mark on it in a few years – although whoever takes up that challenge is going to have to radically re-interpret it to stand a chance. There’s the sense that this is their last chance to play with this toy-box and they’re making sure every idea they’ve had gets its airing. The result is a success, and apart from The Hunger Games perhaps the only flagpole movie this year to actually try to inject a modicum of intelligence into the studio blockbuster.

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Is Prometheus the most disappointing film of the summer?

(Warning: Lots of spoilers for the film Prometheus, you have been warned!)

So, has there been a more disappointing summer film than Prometheus? Ridley Scott’s much anticipated, much hyped return to the Alien universe has arrived more with a damp squelch than the anticipated thud, with many criticising the shaky plot and characterisation as the worst offenders. The truth is, no film would have been able to live up to the hype, but even with that caveat Prometheus emerges as such a gigantic mess that’s difficult to argue that it’s even half the film it promised to be.

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The Raid

Now this is refreshing, a B-movie proud of its origins, offering no social commentary, nor a desire to be anything other than pure schlock cinema. In accepting its limitations rather than fighting against them it instead delivers in spades – this is by far the most thrilling, visceral film for years, an absolute roller-coaster of a film that sets it stall out early and then continues to push the limits of common sense and decency in a way we just don’t normally see. It’s the sort of film you watch mouth open at the sheer balls of everyone involved, but with a hand over your mouth to stifle the comments you’ll inevitably make at the toll that it must have had on the stunt men involved.

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Lockout – so bad it remains bad…

Bad script, flat direction, terrible (bordering on appalling) pacing, bad effects and sheer stupidity throughout, Lockout may have been competing for the worst film I’ve seen at the cinema (it certainly is the worst thing I’ve seen at the cinema this year, but there’s still time for worse) were it not for one small sliver chink of light – Guy Pearce.

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Avengers Assemble

First out of the traps in the start of the traditional silly season, Avengers Assemble is pretty much everything you could want from a summer blockbuster – a snappy plot, enough characterisation to keep things interesting and plenty of spectacle. After a week of deliberation I’m not quite sure that it’s at the top of the game – but that’s only because the very top now needs something else – but it’s certainly snapping at the heels and a worthy contender in the summer stakes.

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The Hunger Games

Well here’s something we don’t get everyday, a big budget adaption of a wildly popular book that is not only intelligent but also realises that it’s working in a different media and adapts accordingly. The result is a film that cannot really be called entertaining (it raises some fairly uncomfortable issues along the way) but certainly is thought provoking and treats its audience with the understanding that occasionally we like to think.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Cut Salmon Fishing in the Yemen in two, and written straight through it would be the words “A BBC Film”. This isn’t a criticism, but rather an indication of the sort of gentle, moderately sized and well intended film that it is. It’s never going to set the box office alight, nor win awards – indeed its likely fate is to end up being shown on a Sunday afternoon as a reminder about what the BBC does best.

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The Cabin in the Woods

Having sat on the shelf for eighteen months whilst the troubles of its former studio played out, The Cabin in the Woods arrives to moderate fanfare; the involvement of geek hero Joss Whedon overshadowed by his far greater involvement in the forthcoming Avengers Assemble and an industry move away from the genre it is targeting. That it is a moderately successful comment on the state of modern horror is good, but it’s far from being the game changer it has been advertised as.

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