Category Archives: Movies

Two film reviews: The Desolation of Smaug and The Desolation of Smaug

I’m just back from seeing The Desolation of Smaug with the family and I’m really not sure what to think. I enjoyed lots of things about it, but still left feeling very dissatisfied. I liked the Tolkien material very much; and I liked the comic barrels-and-dragons action-adventure lots, too. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what they’re doing in the same film.

The entrance to Laketown

The entrance to Laketown

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James Bond movies, part 6: Pierce Brosnan

[This series has been dormant for a while, but here is the penultimate part. To refresh your memory, see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.]

I have two confessions to make about Brosnan’s four Bond films.

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First, they all blend into one in my mind in a way that none of the others’ films do. It’s pretty easy to keep (say) Thunderball and You Only Live Twice separate; or Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only. But while I remember seeing Brosnan in a sequence where he’s chasing a nuclear bomb down the inside of an oil pipeline, I can’t honestly remember if it was Tomorrow Never Dies or The World Is Not Enough.

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My new bat-plan

My bat-sons and I are very fond of the 1966 bat-film Batman: the Movie (though my bat-wife is not so keen). One of the distinctive bat-features of this bat-film is of course Batman’s tendency to precede bat-nouns with the bat-prefix “bat-”. My new bat-plan is to adopt this verbal bat-tic in my own bat-speech, but using it before every bat-noun.

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G. K. Chesterton on Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films

Here’s what G. K. Chesterton had to say about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Wherever his film is bad it is bad from some extravagance of imagery, some violence of comparison, some kind of debauch of cleverness. His nonsense never arises from weakness, but from a confusion of powers. If the phrase explain itself, he is far more a great film-maker than he is a good one. [...] Mr. Jackson was in a great and serious difficulty. He really meant something. He aimed at a vivid and curious image, and He missed it. He had that catastrophic and public failure which is, as much as a medal or a testimonial, the badge of the brave.

Actually, Chesterton was writing about the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but the point stands. Jackson’s failures, and they are many, are the failures of over-ambition. For that reason, they are easy to forgive. All three films have moments where I want to scream at the TV in frustration. But they also all have moment of great beauty and real profundity. And that’s why, warts and all, they have so much more greatness than, say, The Bourne Identity, which I watched yesterday. That film is perfectly executed, but it’s not about anything. But Jackson caught a glimpse of Tolkien’s vision and reached for it. That he failed in part really seems neither here nor there.

A movie-piracy moral dilemma

We saw The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey in the cinema when it came out, and with reservations loved it. Today I get notification from Amazon that the DVD is available for pre-order, at £17.20. That seems a bit steep, but it’s definitely a film we’ll watch repeatedly so I might buy it.

Except that Peter Jackson has confirmed that there will be an extended edition (with 20-25 minutes more screen time, and hopefully a shedload of documentaries). So it’s a dead cert that I’ll buy that when it comes out. We love the LotR extended editions.

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My question is this: since the regular-edition DVD is a subset of the extended-edition DVD that I’m going to buy, is it morally acceptable to pirate the regular edition when it becomes available, watch that, and then buy the extended DVD?

A short post on Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings movie

Don’t ever let me hear anyone criticising Peter Jackson’s films again.

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That is all.

I wish Jackson hadn’t ruined Galadriel’s speech

I bow to no man in my admiration of Peter Jackson’s fine trilogy of Lord of the Rings films (and indeed his ongoing Hobbit). I may not be able to disagree with any of the specific criticisms Andrew Rilstone makes in his fine reviews (Fellowship, Towers, Return), but I am a million miles away from agreeing with his downbeat conclusions. Yes, all the films are flawed; but they are mostly flaws of ambition, and so they are easy to forgive. And they are overwhelmed by the huge amount of good stuff. In fact, the three LotR films are arguably my three favourite films of all time.

That’s why this pains me so much:

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No, Peter Jackson is not doing a George Lucas

I’ve read a couple of reviews arguing that Jackson is making the same mistake in the Hobbit that Lucas did in the Star Wars prequels — filling in details that the original only hinted at (“the Senate has been dissolved”, “the Clone Wars”, etc.) with concretised versions that aren’t as interesting as what we independently imagined. But in the case of Tolkien the exact opposite is the case, and the “back story” is actually the primary story that the well-known parts were made up to sit on top of and, if you like, act as an advertisement for. By foregrounding these, Jackson is arguably being more true to Tolkien’s original vision than J. R. R. was himself in writing The Hobbit.

Some thoughts on The Hobbit, part 1: An Unexpected Journey

I saw The Hobbit this afternoon with my family, and on the whole thoroughly enjoyed it. It certainly avoided the trap I’d most feared — that by being a two-and-three-quarter-hour film of the first third of a not-particularly long book, it would feel padded. Instead, the time was managed well and the slower-than-usual pace gave the film time to breathe.

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All eight Harry Potter films reviewed in 300 words

[I wrote this in response to a comment by Hal on my old review of the Percy Jackson movie. Decided it was worth airing on its own. You may or may not concur.]

I agree, Hal, that the Potter films can be stodgy and unimaginative in their literal-minded adaptation of Rowling’s prose. That can be particularly apparent in the adaptations of the longer and less well-edited books, and as you say the two-part Deathly Hallows really does feel like an exercise in grinding through every beat of the books. (Yet even then it manages to muff Neville’s big moment with the hat, which was pretty much my favourite part of the book.)

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