The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

There will be spoilers, there will be…

I’m going to start out by saying that broadly speaking I enjoyed it and in terms of studio blockbusters this still feels a cut above the norm, however there’s no escaping the fact that this is by far the most problematic of Jackson’s forays into Middle Earth, making significant changes to the structure of the book and potentially painting themselves into some difficult corners come the third film. Having sat and re-watched An Unexpected Journey over the Christmas break, this feels like it belongs in a different film series altogether, the change in tone is so noticeable.

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Gravity - Warner Bros. Studios

gravity; noun. 1 Physics the force that attracts a body towards the centre of the earth, or towards any other physical body having mass. the degree of intensity of gravity, measured by acceleration 2. extreme importance; seriousness: crimes of the utmost gravity 3. solemnity of manner: has the poet ever spoken with greater eloquence or gravity?

Alfonso Caurón’s Gravity arrives on a wave of hype and critical applause that for once justifies the end result – Gravity is a genuine masterpiece, not in the urgent, timely manner that many modern ones take but in its commitment to the bolting the old fashioned principles to cutting edge technique. What’s more surprising it this is the first film where the 3D is not an additional tool in the filmmaker’s toolbox but an integral part of the narrative, not enhancing the story but telling it. The 3D does not add to the viewing experience, the 3D is an essential part of the viewing experience. Gravity is a genuine game changer, visually astonishing, thematically relevant, a rare film led by a woman with mass appeal, a film by adults and for adults. That last fact alone means it is worthy of your time, but it’s genuinely more than that.

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Thor: The Dark World

Thor’s back, but he’s pissed because someone’s forgotten the plot.

Okay that isn’t completely fair, but Thor: The Dark World (henceforth T:TDW) spends much of its slim running time getting by on the Hiddleston factor, using a hugely charismatic actor to do the emotional heavy lifting when there isn’t much else to do. The film noticeably improves whenever he’s on the screen, and the director realises that he’s both the star and the villain everyone wants to see, effectively reducing Christopher Ecclestone (clearly in “Cheque Please!” mode or being given very short shrift by the director) to a series of walk on cameos as he tries to progress the meagre plot.

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Rush - Studio Canal

(This in no way constitutes a return to normal service – I saw this nearly a month ago now and have only just gotten around to writing about it…).

Somewhere along the line, Ron Howard seems to have developed a career in telling stories where we already know the ending (but making us not care that we do). Here he adds a further complication to the equation by choosing a subject that a good chunk of the population finds as dull a dishwater – Formula One – and two protagonists that do nothing to elicit audience sympathy. Despite all of this film is a minor triumph, unlikely to worry anything outside of the technical categories (more of which later) but decent enough to be respected.

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The World End

The Worlds End - Universal Pictures

The final part of the supposed “Cornetto Trilogy” finishes off what the earlier two films managed to do, and hopefully shows that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was just a blip on the landscape in terms of Edgar Wrights direction (it remains one of the most disappointing films of the last few years). Once again its success is down to a mixture of script, cast and direction rather than a single factor, and its rare to see a film as well constructed as this (and so well constructed that it doesn’t feel constructed – a rare feat).

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Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim - Warner Bros

Normally my tolerance for big, stupid, virtually plot-less movies is somewhat limited. Whilst they can be enjoyable, ultimately they’re not really satisfying because they lack all of the things that I’ve begun to expect as I get older and grumpier. By normal standards then Pacific Rim would be off to a bad start – big, stupid and virtually plot-less just about covers all of the essentials in this film, but somehow it’s all done with enough style & wit to make you forget about the fact that you can feel your brain dribbling out of your ear.

It also helps that it’s one of the prettiest movies for a long time.

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Man of Steel

Man of Steel - Warner Bros

After the almighty travesty of celluloid that was Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder had to make some serious amends for me to begin to give Man of Steel the time. Slowly the adverts drew me in, the involvement of Nolan & Goyer on scripting & conception suggested this would be something different, something possibly worth the time. Whilst Man of Steel isn’t anywhere near perfect, it’s certainly a vast improvement over Sucker Punch and possibly his best film since he remade Dawn of the Dead.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness - Paramount / Bad Robot

Warning, here be mild spoilers (and I’m writing this from the memory of having seen it about a month ago – work picking up again equals less on blog…). A couple of years ago I commented that the first of the Star Trek reboots was a close to perfect summer fodder as possible. The directors follow up – Super 8 – was even better, a glorious throwback to summer films of old (and the film-making values of old as well). So expectations for a Star Trek sequel were high, could Abrams live up to his previous efforts again?

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Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 - Marvel Studios

Now this is something a little different, a second sequel that is not only significantly stronger than the second (and also possibly better than the first film), but also ditches the tried-and-tested formula for something different, and in doing so injects new life into a franchise whilst simultaneously capping the first trilogy off. Sure, at the end of the day it’s still aimed at being a crowd pleasing summer blockbuster rather than anything meatier, but it’s also at the top of its game in delivering quality entertainment.

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Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas ~ Warner Bros Studios

I saw this a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten around to commenting on it yet (see previous entry), but Sj and I had a nice night in Manchester as she wanted to see it having read the book and I was interested based on the directors back catalogues (multiple directors, hence the plural). At this point I’ll note that I haven’t read the book, but based on Sj’s comments it follows the plot and feel close enough (but with one interesting diversion) that it feels like a proper adaptation. That’s pretty much all I can comment on with regard that aspect.

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