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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What’s Your Number? – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Mark Mylod

Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Zachary Quinto

Synopsis: After discovering that women whom have slept with more than 20 men never find a life-time partner, Ally Darling (Faris) sets out on a mission to see if any of her exes have improved with time, as she has already reached that magical number.   She enlists the help of her neighbour Colin (Evans) to track them down, in return for letting him hide out in her apartment when he wishes to escape the previous night’s exploit.

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30 Day Film Challenge Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: Love Actually

Rationale:

Easiest of easy choices.   Not being a big fan of chick flicks or romantic comedies, the list was quite immediately narrowed.   So of course, I would go for the film that was mainly comedy, minimal middle of the film bulls*** keeping the protagonists apart, and with Alan Rickman to boot.   With multiple intertwining storylines, it becomes difficult to get bored with any single one.   As such, it is the only romantic film I can watch end to end on multiple occasions.   Given the setting of the film, it is not a bad Christmas Eve option either.

For my full review, click right here!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Reviw by Film Nerd

Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren, Bill Bailey, John Malkovich

Synopsis: A story adapted from the first of the series of books written by Douglas Adams.    Arthur Dent (Freeman) escapes Earth moment before its destruction with the aid of his best friend, Ford Prefect (Def), whom as it turns out was an alien all along.   Ford writes for the renowned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (voiced by Fry).   Their travels intersect with the those of Ford’s cousin and President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Rockwell), and his travelling companion Trillian (Deschanel), who is the only other remaining survivor of Earth.

 

A review by Film Nerd.

I was quite a fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide as a series of books, the infamous trilogy in five parts.   It was a series that was all about the ridiculous, and not to everyone’s sense of humour.   I was often quite tickled by it, so the prospect of a movie to me was quite a thing of anticipation.   The fact that Adams himself had contributed a lot of the screen play before his passing was promising, the fact he had taken so long to get it successfully off the ground was not.

But on the surface of things, there were a lot of smart choices made with this film.   Freeman has always made the perfect “every man”, and was ideally cast as the always bathrobe wearing Arthur Dent.   Mos Def I was unfamiliar with, which concerned me, and though there is nothing wrong with the performance it was not necessarily brilliant either.    My love for Deschanel is well on record, once again in the type of role she has made her own, the independent woman who is more quirky than harsh.   Rockwell is let off his leash in full crazy mode, and can be a true delight in this film.   Then just look above at a lot of the rest of the acting talent, including Rickman voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Fry’s dulcet tones filling in for both Narrator and the guide itself.   So really, the casting in most cases could not be more spot on.

The film also opens brilliantly, taking Adams’ record of the last communication from dolphins to humans; “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, and making an opening credits song out of it, is just what is needed to break the audience out of normality and into the realm of Adams mind.   And yet from that point on, the film is somewhat lacklustre.   Adams comedy does not always shine through, with some of the less famous lines from the novel feeling somewhat flat on delivery.   Despite all the brilliant individual performances, they somehow do not add up to a whole that is entirely enjoyable.   It is hard to pin-point where things go wrong, yet somehow they do.   There are moments that are great, breaking up a rather ordinary film.    It is a real shame, as this had the potential to be gut-bustingly funny, and yet it is just a pleasant time-waster.

My recommendation?   If you are unfamiliar with the books and curious, give it a look, but at your own peril.   This makes some of Adams’ work look kinda boring, so you could unfairly pre-judge the books before reading them for yourself.  If you have an open mind though, there is enough here to enjoy.   If you are already a fan, it perhaps is more entertain knowing the source material, and yet you will be disappointed knowing what this film could have been.

2.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on IMDB

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbGNcoB2Y4I]

Love Actually – Alan Rickman Week

Director: Richard Curtis

Cast: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Martin Freeman, Martine McCutcheon, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson

Synopsis: An ensemble film set in the weeks leading up to christmas with multiple story threads all based around the concept that “love actually is all around”.   Though a large part of this focus is on romantic love, affection between father and son, an d brother and sister are also canvassed in this piece.

A review by Film Nerd.

Richard Curtis is the absolute king of this genre.   The modern Brit rom-com largely is a result of his pen, as well as Hugh Grant’s dominance in this field.   His screen writing credits include both Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hill.   For this outing, he has also stepped into the director’s chair, for what I feel is his most satisfying film to date.   More than this, despite seeing the flaws in the film, it has true heart, and I can’t help getting carried away.   So much so that my colleagues and I named this blog in homage to the film, selecting this is one film loved by us all despite our different interests in film in general.

For me, part of this success stems from the fact that with so many story lines occurring, you never get bogged down in the usual third act will they/won’t they tragedy element.   In a film with a primary storyline, this device is often used to introduce the final scene act of absolute love to win over the object of desire.   Unfortunately this often feels contrived as the script in most cases slows in these instances.   Rather than get stuck though, we get enough to indicate the hurdles that must be passed before moving to the next story, so there is no element of dragging to reach a 90 minute or 2 hour running time.

This is not to say that this the cause of the film’s success.   Pacing is fine but you need a story(ies) to keep you interested.   Though some are a little contrived or over the top, they are generally all heart warming.   For some added realism though, not all story finishes well, sometimes showing the mistakes one can make in a marriage (Rickman and Thompson, both sympathetic in difficult roles), the self-sacrifice we sometimes go through for family responsibilities (Linney, brilliant as ever, and this film’s Curtis American muse, following Andie MacDowell and Julia Roberts), and even the simple, pure, unrequited love (Knightley, Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln.   These scenes, though upsetting in comparison to the others, add a dose of realism and depth to the proceedings, which is not found in many rom-coms of the modern era.

Three brilliant stories dominate, however.   Grant’s newly elected Prime Minister falling for his catering staff member, Firth as the recently jilted author falling for his Portuguese house-keeper in his French villa (as you do), and Neeson establishing his relationship to his step-son following the death of his wife.   The first two on paper sound a bit twee, and all three have an almost outlandish crescendo of an ending, but at this point the characters have been likeable enough to barrack for, and to be honest, to not have a crescendo ending would feel like the audience was being robbed.

This is not a film for the romantically cynical, but if you believe in romance, this is a great film to share with a partner (Bride of Film Nerd, it is on our re-watch list!), or to enjoy by yourself with a lot of popcorn and chocolate.   This film convinces me of its unifying concept.    Love actually is all around.

4.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

Love Actually on IMDB

Love Actually on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYCkFTyADJ0]