The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis

Synopsis: Based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien and prequel to The Lord of the Rings, this film is the first in a trilogy covering the exploits of a much younger Bilbo Baggins (Freeman).   Gandalf (McKellan) introduces Bilbo to a band of thirteen dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage).   They are on a quest to reclaim their home of Erebor, The Lonely Mountain, which is now the realm of dragon Smaug.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton

Synopsis: This film is a re-interpretation of the origin story for The Planet of the Apes (1968).Rather than creating a causality loop in Caesar being the child of two time-travelling apes from the future, this version of the story sees Caesar as being the result of a lab experiment, resulting in him having an elevated intelligence.   It does not take too long for this intelligence to perceive injustice against his own kind at the hands of humans.

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Spielberg Double Bill Part 2 – The Adventures of Tintin

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Toby Jones

Synopsis: Herge’s most famous creation is brought to animated life with the latest motion capture techniques.   In this adventure, the simple purchase of a model ship leads Tintin on a mystery for sunken treasure, an adventure which introduces him to long time friend Captain Haddock.   Based on the Tintin graphic novels “The Crab with the Golden Claws” and “The Secret of The Unicorn”.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Ian Holm, Bruce Spence

Synopsis: The final instalment, and our heroes each have great challenges to face.   Pippin, after being unable to resist the temptation of gazing into a Palantir, and hence being identified by Sauron as the ring-bearer, departs with Gandalf for Gondor, where he meets the somewhat unbalanced Steward of Gondor, Denethor.   Merry remains with the Rohirrim, and volunteers to become a knight of Rohan.   Legolas and Gimli stand by Aragorn as he accepts the burden of his heritage, and Gollum seeds doubt in the friendship between Frodo and Sam.

A review by Film Nerd.

Of the entire trilogy, this is my favourite film, and has been since the first viewing.   The Extended Edition added footage stretches the running time out to a full 4 hours, and for me these additions are overall improvements to the story, even if they were deemed extraneous for the theatrical presentation.   All the elements that worked so well for the first two films are present and correct, with the added characters, as well as the city of Gondor itself, all adding fresh scope and depth to the established world.

All performers are brilliant yet again.   Wood has come full circle with Frodo, becoming almost unrecognisable as the innocent young hobbit who left the shire in Fellowship.   He successfully captures the damage the ring has done to him psychologically.   Wenham’s Faramir, who had limited time to shine in Towers, is here given a full history, motivation, and Wenham somehow succeeds in making him simultaneously vulnerable, yet noble.   John Noble, as his father Denethor, has a brilliant arc that begins as clearly becoming deranged under a noble exterior, before finally snapping.   What makes this performance all the more powerful is the juxtaposition of this character with Theoden, whom is apparently of less noble birth, yet clearly of more noble character, despite being unable to see it himself.    This is further highlighted from the start of the extended edition, as evidenced by the insults that Saruman hurls at Theoden.   As I said, a scene not necessary for the theatrical release, yet it adds depth to the overall proceedings when viewed this way.   All the other leads of course perform their roles well, but for this film these are the performances of note as being a step away from what has been seen previously.

In my reviews for the previous films, I have selected some element of what makes these films great, and reflected upon it, despite these elements being true for all the films regardless.     I do not break from the formula here, selecting to examine how the use of scenery and music has aided the story telling.   I select this film to reflect on these elements as one scene aptly depicts for me both of these elements wonderfully.   It is perhaps my favourite scene in the trilogy, despite the fact it represents a comparatively minor plot point.   The scene I refer to is the Lighting of the Beacons.    All that happens in the scene is we observe Gondor’s call to Rohan for aid, a message sent by lighting a number of pyres along a range of mountains to indicate aid is required.   The natural beauty of New Zealand’s Southern Alps is captured wonderfully here, and when combined with Howard Shore’s score, I often find my fist pumping in the air and my heart soaring.   Jackson was able to capture the essence of Middle Earth with the locations he selected in his home country.   It is a true land of beauty, with many different landscapes to choose from.   Having been there myself now, these films only capture a fraction of that beauty.

In his score also, Howard Shore created themes for each race, and for each realm examined.   The hobbits have a wonderfully whimsical theme, the elves are much more regal and austere, in Rohan we here violins and tones that just scream cavalry, Mordor’s sounds are all grating and harsh, and Gondor is rich and bombastic.   And all these elements still add to a cohesive whole.   My copies of the soundtracks are now well-worn (I played them all in the car in NZ, Bride of Film Nerd will Kill me when she next hear’s Annie Lennox’s end titles tune from Return), and I still cannot get enough.   The soundtrack for Return is my clear favourite, with the Lighting of the Beacons, the theme for Aragorn’s sword Anduril, and the aforementioned end credits song.

Some say the films impact was diminished by the multiple endings.   My only complaint personally was in the first viewing, I thought the film was over, my bladder got that signal, so for the next 20 minutes I was in some deal of pain.   Prepared for it now though, I cannot see how the film could have been completed without the multiple endings.   There are many threads to this story, and they all deserved a conclusion.   Okay sure, the story line from the end of the novels, The Scouring of the Shire, was absent, but given what these films achieved, it is an element of creative license I am willing to forgive.

As I hope you all forgive me for the following rating….

10 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7YllAOqpF4]


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif

Synopsis: The Fellowship has broken, and we follow the remaining members now in three separate groups.   Frodo and Sam continue the trek to Mordor, a journey which has them finally meet Gollum, former bearer of the ring.   Merry and Pippin manage to escape the Uruk Hai, and meet Treebeard and his fellow Ents.   Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are on their trial until they meet an unexpected friend.

A review by Film Nerd.

With our hiatus over, I now have a bit more time to complete my trilogy review, and I feel it is appropriate to get this done as a refresher for our readers before we put up the relevant New Zealand and Lord of the Rings Tour reviews.   The Two Towers is an especially important review, as many of the sites my Bride and I visited were in this film.

This is perhaps the hardest of the three films to review as a fan of both the films and the original novels, as this is the film that takes the greatest liberties with the source text.   As mentioned in my Fellowship review, once again Jackson has been successful at making changes that at least keep the feel of this world alive, and are true to the spirit of Tolkien’s work, but when I was first watching it in the cinema, I did find myself at times disappointed.   Where is Shelob??   I have to wait until the next film???   And Faramir, that upstanding character of honour, so tempted by the ring, to the point of stealing it from Frodo?

Yet, the changes mentioned above, and others, do make more sense than what was originally there, at least in a cinematic sense.   Changing Shelob’s appearance to the next film was at the very least chronologically accurate, if a timeline of events was to be drawn, and for Faramir being so ready to reject the ring on-screen does diminish the efforts made earlier to emphasise its power (all explained by Jackson himself in the extended edition commentary).   So with the passing of time, The Two Towers is now for me a superior film to Fellowship.   The action not only starts to take off, but character arcs are allowed room to truly develop.

This is especially true of the new characters added in this instalment.   Rohan had not yer been officially introduced, and as a realm, it adds more colour and depth to Middle Earth.   Bernard Hill’s portrayal of King Theoden absolutely blows me away with each viewing.   He is a great man who nis convinced of his own inadequacy in the overwhelming events that are occurring around him, and despite this he proves himself a man of true character and humanity.   His performance after the death of Theoden’s son is perhaps the one moment in the trilogy where I could not hold back the tears, and his recitation of the “Where is the Horse and the Rider” poem as he prepares for battle absolutely resonates.

In addition,other prominent members of his court also bring a welcome change to the mix.   Otto’s Eowyn is much less annoying than I found her in the book, and is an amazing combination of power and independence with frailty and vulnerability.   Her brother Eomer brought Karl Urban to my attention for the first time, so when he was cast as the new Doctor McCoy in Star Trek, I was absolutely delighted.   Then Brad Dourif, a character actor I have loved for some time, was perfectly slimy, but with some hidden depth, playing Grima Wormtongue.

In my fellowship review, I was discussing the success of the adaptation, and all the elements that gave Middle Earth authenticity.   This remains true for Two Towers, but another element that remains true throughout these films that I would like to reflect on here are how character is developed throughout.   I have already spent some time discussing Theoden, but this is of course also the film that introduced us to Gollum, and it also examines the effect Gollum has on the Frodo/Sam relationship.   Sam in particular really excels as a character, ever the optimist, and even Frodo reflecting by the end of the film that he would have gotten nowhere without that support.   This also of course follows Sam’s brilliant monologue, which aptly summarised the events and the point of this middle feature.   If Jackson had not had such a strong focus on character development, then the reality established by the amazing settings would have crumbled, and these would have been little more than visually brilliant cookie-cutter films.   Showing that these characters are fighting against the odds, and showing strength in great adversity, is perhaps a universal story, but it is one that keeps interest of the audience.   It leaves the viewing public actually caring about the fate of these heroes.

My final rating for this film should of course be no surprise!

5 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wek5UClasY8]

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)- A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler

Synopsis: The first part in Jackson’s popular adaptation of the classic tale by J.R.R. Tolkien.   For the few who have not seen it, this is a story of many threads, but predominantly the tale of a young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who finds himself on a journey to destroy the One Ring, the source of power and life force for the Dark Lord Sauron.

A Review by Film Nerd.

This is one of those films I have long desired to review, but stayed away from simply due to my inability to show impartiality.   Given that Bride of Film Nerd and I will have the opportunity to observe filming locations for ourselves in just over a week’s time, it felt appropriate that I should review the trilogy in advance.   I am sure most of you do not need to be told these are good films.   Box office and an armful of Oscars for the trilogy is evidence enough of this fact.   Being personally a Tolkien fan, however, with an entire shelf of his written material in my bookcase, I felt like commenting on the films from this particular perspective.   As such, I will go for broke, so be warned, there will be more than one spoiler ahead!!

Sometimes films can be big, have massive effects and the like, without actually providing any substance.   The effects in this film alone are of a large scale, yet I cannot accuse the film of one needless or overly extravagant shot.   The Halls of Dwarrowdelf, the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Rivendell… the list goes on.   These massive settings are each effectively used not just in the sense of “big things”, but also in achieving what Tolkien managed himself so well in words… a sense of history.   More than that, these effects give Middle-Earth a sense of reality, making it possible to forget that this is only a realm of fiction.

This is also achieved in plot and little added elements, some only present in the extended editions of these films.   A great example in Fellowship is the added scene of Aragorn singing the Lay of Beren and Luthien.   This was present in the novel itself, and though the reader may have been unfamiliar with the mythology, it is clear that this is a tale from before this story, from the history of this reality.   This was part of Tolkien’s skill.   All these stories he had already written, he had a full mythology already developed for this world, the work of his own lifetime, and he has mined these rich stories to expand the canvas on which he was working.   Similarly, for Jackson, all this material Tolkien had worked on was available for him to read and to use in his adaptation.   The beauty of this adaptation is that in making things more cinematic, he never truly took any artistic liberty, relying on the groundwork provided to fill in what was needed for the script.    As such, this was more a historical than a fictional adaptation, and the research which Jackson, and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens committed themselves was nothing if not comprehensive.

So far what I have commented on could be applied to the entire trilogy, so what about Fellowship itself??   It is actually the film of the trilogy I go back to less often now, but that is more a mark of its successors than it is of the film itself.   I remember after seeing it at the cinema, that I downloaded it to help fill in the time until the DVD release, which subsequently had me purchasing the extended edition.   It is a brilliant first chapter, with the innocence of Hobbiton being a wonderful starting point.   For one thing, we are introduced to Middle Earth, and an idyllic existence, so it is possible to comprehend exactly what was at stake,   In addition, we meet our four hero hobbits, and can identify that their story arcs will take them well beyond this point.   The hobbits are all well cast, dare I say their round faces and youthful appearances being very appropriate.   It is nor secret however that my favourite is Sean Astin’s Samwise Gamgee, who really succeeds in making his character both comical AND admirable.

This opening also introduces us to McKellen’s Gandalf, a perfect transposition of character from page to screen.   I read a newsletter recently also commenting that McKellen’s soft eyes and sonorous voice make it impossible to see anyone else wearing the rubber nose (in this case referring to recent confirmation he will be appearing in Jackson’s The Hobbit, reprising the role).   Leoglas and Gimli have comparatively little to do in this film, yet enough is established of Elf-Dwarf animosity to clarify the significance of their later relationship.    To round out the Fellowship we have Mortensen’s Aragorn, a character that can be somewhat separated here from the books more than any other character.   In Tolkien’s trilogy, Narsil was already reforged at the stat of the story as Anduril, and Aragorn had accepted his burden.   Making the shift of him coming to accept that burden over the films was a significant step, and an intelligent choice.   Admit it, a hero in conflict is much more intriguing on-screen then someone who is flawlessly brave and kingly.   Finally we have Sean Bean’s Boromir, a character I hated in the novel.   Though his story arc was little altered, Jackson put enough depth for the character in the script for his conflict to become a much more sympathetic one.   Case in point, I cheered his death in the book, and was wiping away tears in the movie.

As you may already tell, I could spend a lot of time discussing this trilogy.    I have not started on the characters around the fellowship, but all deserve similar praise.   One comment I need to make though is concerning the most significant change in transition from novel to film… Arwen.   Prior to viewing the film, knowing the story of an Appendix to the story had been lifted and shoved in to the narrative, and that this character was played by someone who had not impressed me up until that point, filled me with trepidation.   However this is another case of Jackson’s research and fondness for the source material comes to the fore.   Yes, Arwen did not take Frodo to Rivendell, and she does not appear anywhere near as regularly in the book as in the films, yet her insertion was nothing if not respectful, and Tyler’s performance (and beauty) blew me away.   Absolutely incredible, and to boot, we have a reason for which Aragorn will fight.

I could comment still more, and if there is any request for me to do so I can oblige.   For now though I will confine my next general trilogy rambling for the next Lord of the Rings review.   Until then, those that are curious, the only news of Fellowship coming out on Blu-ray is that it will either be mid-2011 or 2012.   Booo!!

5 stars out of 5


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pki6jbSbXIY]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!