Monday, 5 October 2015
Saturday, 21 December 2013
After a brief prelude we start right at the point where the first film ended where the eagles had left them. The orcs are still on their trail but as Bilbo sneaks back to check on who’s following, he spies a giant bear added to the mix though Gandalf doesn’t seem too upset by this. He advises they head for the house of Beorn as fast as possible though. Unlike the book (and BBC radio adaption for that matter), there’s no attempt to introduce the dwarves in small groups. Instead they hit the door at full tilt and barely get it shut before the bear gets them. They do actually get to meet Beorn in human form but he’s less of a character in the film, though in the book Beorn’s place is more of a stopping point than a film could afford. As before, Gandalf buggers off when the dwarves reach the edge of Mirkwood. The journey through the wood was suitably spooky though the dwarves manage to lose the elf road on their own before being attacked by the spiders and the whole party is taken prisoner however temporarily; Bilbo getting free fairly quickly and while he does free the dwarves he doesn’t interact with the spiders after stabbing one and gaining a name for his sword. It takes the intervention of a hunting party of elves to drive off the spiders and then the dwarves are taken prisoners deep inside the Sindaran Elven halls with Bilbo making it in just in time. There’s a bit of faffing around as the elves search the dwarves for weapons and Legolas makes fun of Gloin’s family… Apart from Kili finding himself rather attracted to the elven warrior maid and some interplay between the elves high command on whether they should keep out of the world’s troubles this section remains fairly faithful to the book but is intercut with Gandalf travelling to a hidden grave along with Radagast to find it empty and their realisation of just who it is they’re facing. Meanwhile we’ve still got the orcs on the trail of the dwarves and planning an assault on the elves to get at them. Bilbo rescues the dwarves in the expected fashion. Also in the elven halls, Thorin starts his downward spiral as he throws back Thranduil’s offer of an elven army to accompany him to the Lonely Mountain. Now, in the film history Thorin’s got good reason to doubt the elven lord’s offer but this was a rather violent rejection all things considered. Just in case the dwarves journey down the river in their barrels wasn’t already exciting enough the orcs harry them from the bank and Tauriel and Legolas follow the party downstream – the orcs were a distraction in the first film and they intrude even more here. The dwarves finally make it to the lake where they’re picked up by the bargeman from Lake Town. In the book there were a couple and these were never named. Here it’s Bard, grandson of the former king of Dale, destroyed by Smaug, in much reduced circumstances. To fair to Peter Jackson Bard’s position in the book is rather ambiguous while this does give him a proper job. Thorin’s obsession continues to grow as the dwarves are forced to hide out in Bard’s as Kili’s wound grows worse. After a botched raid on the town’s armoury most of the dwarves are brought to the Master of the town where Thorin makes the sort of promises that you should know wouldn’t be kept. Bard shows a bit of the naysayer he was in the book but the Master and the people let themselves be bamboozled and the dwarves and Bilbo resume their journey to the Mountain – well, most of them anyway, four of the party remain at Bard’s where the orcs finally catch up and things look bleak until Legolas and Tauriel join the fray. Meanwhile Gandalf and Radagast travel to Dol Guldur to find it apparently abandoned. Gandalf is clearly not going to make the rendezvous by the remains of Dale and Thorin is getting ever more irritable as it looks like they’ll not get to the right place by the end of Durin’s Day (the time scale in the film, rather unlikely, has been somewhat compressed at this point).
Bilbo and the dwarves find where the hidden door should be but as the sun disappears below the horizon and nothing happens, they lose heart except for Bilbo who realises that the sun is not the only source of light that night (in the book it was the sun but the thrush was there in both). When it comes to searching the dwarven halls, the dwarves are a lot more active here, while they do eventually go underground in the book, it’s in response to an attack by Smaug. Here they follow on pretty promptly though it’s still Bilbo, fulfilling his contract, who enters the main hall, and I hope-to-ghu that most of that hoard was CGId – even as base metal or plastic you’d be talking an awfully large amount of coin. And then Smaug makes his appearance. Smaug was truly amazing and if his presence in the original book was a defining point for literary dragons I hope that his screen outing becomes the defining point of screen dragons though it did feel a bit cartoonish at times (here I ought to mention I saw the 2D version). The conflict between Smaug and the dwarves was pure film invention and the ultra-purists may object but while I do feel it went on too long I liked the way the production team used it to take a look at the industrial dwarf and the pure theatre of the gold statue in the final confrontation was (unlike the metal!) way cool. Throughout the latter part of film, the effect of Thorin’s obsession with the arkenstone in particular and the treasure in general was nicely effected.
Overall, this was a recognisable film and most of the expansion details added things to the film, especially in a universe where the Lord of the Ring trilogy exists. They use the Hobbit as a background and the original book of The Hobbit was written way before them with no thought of it being part of a continuing story. As a 12A, we got quite a few younger children (under 10) with their parents and the girls were well behaved while a couple of boys behind me got a little restive. My brother didn’t want to bring his girls (both in that under 10 range, just) due to the rating and the sheer length – two hours forty-one minutes for the film plus advert meant that the actual run time went to just over three hours (ouch!) giving me just enough time to get to my swimming lesson (thankfully the swimming pool’s just across the plaza from the cinema).
Sunday, 16 December 2012
Sunday, 25 November 2012
Monday, 19 March 2012
Once the ads and trailers were over we finally start into the film with an attack on the Helium aircruiser with the baddies' hellish new weapon then a meeting of Helium's Council to discuss the terms of the city's survival. As this involves her marriage to the enemy Jeddak, Princess Deja Thoris is somewhat unhappy with this. The film then breaks to Earth where we meet a youngish Edger Rice Burroughs being presented with his uncle's journal of the strangest gold hunter's dream ever. We then go back in time to the start of the Great Adventure. This bit we've seen in the trailers but John Carter is on Mars soon enough wondering just how come he can leap mountains and jump miles in a single bound...
Eventually Carter is found by one of the two main races on Barsoom, the lizard like tharks and after impressing their Jeddak with his strength he's sort of adopted and sort of taken prisoner. Of course being chained and unable to speak the lingo is no barrier to escape though shaking off the 'watch dog' might prove trickier. As Carter is about to be punished for the escape attempt, an attack on a Helium airship by their enemied diverts the attenton of the tharks and Carter meets Deja Thoris...
It was fairly easy to see where Disney had spent the money on the effects and if you can see homages to other films its also fair to recognise the debts their stories owe to the ERB originals. Of course, given modern knowledge of conditions on Mars, there are some serious suspension of disbelief issues to overcome but the story does largely do this IMO if not necessarily in terms of world sales figures - indeed Disney are looking to post a group loss after this.
You can read the originals as digital dowloads from Project Guttenberg.
Thursday, 27 January 2011
The premise behind this show is that the presenter gets various members of the audience to propose various laws they would like to see voted in. These tend to run from the deadly serious to the arcane (abolish Wednesdays anyone?) and with some of the most likely Thomas will take the proposal to an expert to get an opinion.
Given the political apathy shown by most people at actual elections the enthusiasm of the audience is rather startling and rather uplifting - perhaps it's (cynically) because these particular proposals have no chance of actually being enacted or (less cynically) because here the people are actually putting forward their own ideas rather than selecting from a set of canned party proposals that almost inevitably suffer from the exigencies of office should the Party in question actually get into power.
Although I doubt I fully share Thomas's sense of humour the zaniness of the show raises it to a whole new level!
Sunday, 9 January 2011
The film opens with the then Prince’s disastrous speech at the close of the 1926 Empire Exhibition but quickly jumps forward eight years to 1934 and a dingy consulting room in Harley Street with the Duchess of York visiting a speech therapist in order to help her husband, under the pseudonym if Mrs Johnson. When advised that her husband ought to find a new job, ‘Mrs J’ tells him that this wasn’t an option and the therapist comes back with a quip about the job being related to indentured servitude. Mrs J’s response is heart-felt agreement.
We then get to see the Duke make a start on overcoming the impediment, reluctantly at first and certainly not without many setbacks as the situation evolves; at first the Prince is going through the therapy in order to better fulfil his duties as a royal but as his older brother, the Heir, becomes increasingly infatuated with his married American, it becomes increasingly likely that Bertie will become the King, a thought that (quite rightly!) terrifies him.
We have the death of George V and the succession of Edward VIII and some very unbecoming behaviour of the not-yet crowned King and his paramour Mrs Simpson (honest, it’s not that she was American, just that she was a twice divorced American) and we have Edward VIII signing the abdication papers (1936) and the coronation of Bertie as George VI and the unmasking of his speech therapist as an apparent charlatan – we’ll give Archbishop Lang the benefit of the doubt and that he really did care that the King had been conned and after an emotional confrontation the King and the speech therapist declare peace. The newsreel of the coronation was followed by a piece on a Nazi rally – a nasty comparison between the leaders of the looming confrontation.
The final section is the King’s speech of the title – the speech that the King gave to the Nation and the Empire warning of the potential horrors to follow on the day war was declared, which while not necessarily the smoothest speech ever, managed to capture the mood of the nation with montage images of those he had been involved with including his brother in exile.
Playing a person with a stammer must be an actor’s worst nightmare but Colin Firth was up to the task and Helena Bonham-Carter appeared to manage to capture the spirit of his wife, Queen Elizabeth and there were plenty of emotionally affecting scenes, one of the more surprising when his daughters greeted him with curtsies just after he had acceded to the kingship. However, there were elements of humour as well – the King and Queen accidently meeting Mrs Logue and her husband’s reluctance to let the King meet her.
The film did not really deal with the politics of the situation, the abdication crisis being basically a few moments and the lead up to war being largely ignored too, but these were not the foci of the film. The focus of the film was on the relation between ‘Mr Johnson’ and Logue and while I guess most of this would have been made up, it certainly felt like it captured the nature of the nature of the relationship.
As a side point, the fact that the Harry Potter franchise is coming to an end has released some senior actors for a number of roles in this; Michael Gambon was George V and Timothy Spall played a passable Winston Churchill and there’s Helena Bonham-Carter herself, as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.