I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (especially The Fellowship of the Ring) but I didn’t feel a big rush to return to Middle Earth. I was preparing to give The Hobbit a chance when I first heard it was being released, but felt my interest waver when I heard about it being split into two films. That was pushing it. Then came the news that The Hobbit was to become a trilogy. My reaction:
I give up.
I’ve never read the book but I’ve seen the size of it, how would there possibly be enough content to fill up three films. This is just film studios trying to take more money out of us surely? I was determined not to succumb to it.
Then a friend of mine came up to visit and wanted to go to the cinema. We’d both already seen Skyfall and I couldn’t bring myself to watch Twilight so the only film that sparked a little interest from both of us was The Hobbit. So I brought my popcorn and made sure I was sat comfortably as I was sure to be in for a long, somewhat repetitive journey back into Middle Earth.
To my surprise it was worth revisiting the Shire. Despite being nearly three hours long there was only a few moments where my attention wavered and even then I amused myself by playing-guess the British actor under the dwarf beards. The fact that this film succeeds is mostly down to the ever reliable direction by Peter Jackson, making sure Middle Earth looks outstanding as always (I especially like the stone giants), and leading man Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Freeman has already had great roles in tv shows like The Office and Sherlock (if you haven’t seen the tv series please do so-it’s fabulous!) and he continues his trade in likeable, exasperated characters. Here he is the calm, not naturally heroic hobbit who decided to take the journey even if he doesn’t know if he has what it takes to make it. His scenes with Gollum (Andy Serkis)being the highlight.
There are flaws. I’m not sure if the film really needed much of the opening narration or if the cameo from Elijah Wood really added much to the film. The main issue was that with so many dwarves (thirteen in the end I think) it was hard to remember them all and only a few really stood out, James Nesbit as Bofur and Aidan Turner as Kili (mostly because he’s sexy Mitchell from Being Human).
But as someone who didn’t think they’d make the journey to Middle Earth again, I’m now excited to see where the next two films will take me, although I still don’t know if they have enough material to cover another 6 hours of adventures.
3/5- maybe not quite the classic like The Lord of The Rings but it has the potential to be part of a series that can become one.
Oscar season is now on the way and Silver Lining Playbook is a strong contender to pick up a few awards this year.
The film follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just come out of an institution after beating up his wife’s lover into a bloody pulp. Pat still wants to make his marriage work while dealing with a restraining order, his well-meaning parents (including an OCD Robert De Niro), and his bi-polar. Thrust into his life is newly widowed Tiffany-who deals with her grief by sleeping around.
This sounds like it could be some wacky Hollywood comedy about some oddballs, and it kind of is in a way, but the film is also serious at times. Pat and Tiffany’s mental illness are not brushed away or there to be an entertaining quirk to the lead characters, they are treated seriously and the characters are shown to be deeply flawed and in need of help. The fact they are also likeable comes down to the great performances by Cooper and Lawrence, in any other hands these characters could have been unsympathetic and irritating. Bradley’s Pat is someone struggling to get his life-and marriage back on track and it is shown to be a struggle for him. You are willing for him to get better and turn his life around. It’s a great performance by Cooper who we’ve seen mostly in broad comedic roles. It’s still a comedy but there are tough edges to his performance.
Lawrence is also on brilliant form as Pat’s new friend Tiffany. It’s a wonderful performance that could easily have fallen into the annoying, “kooky”, girl role, but Lawrence restrains from allowing her character to fall into that trap. It’s a three dimensional character who is hurting deep inside and has dealt with her grief badly at times, but she is also trying to build her life back and throws herself into a dance competition, blackmailing Pat into helping her.
It’s a film which also shows the difficulty families have in dealing with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness, while also showing us that maybe everyone has a bit of craziness inside them too. It’s probably one of the better portrayals of mental illness I’ve seen in mainstream Hollywood film.
Maybe some will feel the cheesy ending is too much, but having been on this journey with the characters I was rooting for them the whole way, and as Pat says why can’t there for once just be a happy ending?
A comedy that deserves to do well come Oscar time, and Cooper and Lawrence deserve all the nominations going.
Ben Affleck has been through a rollercoaster in his career. With high praise and awards for his screenplay in Good Will Hunting, then the career lows of Pearl Harbour and the Bennifer disaster that was of Gigli. However going into directing has given Affleck a new lease of life as his two previous films Gone Baby Gone and The Town have both been intelligent thrillers and new film Argo carries this on.
Moving away from Affleck’s home town of Boston, Argo is a political thriller following the 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran. Militants stormed the U.S embassy holding them hostage while six U.S. diplomats managed to get out undetected and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador. However as it won’t be long until the militants discover they’ve disappeared it’s up to the CIA to try and get them out of the country. This leads Ben Affleck’s Tony Mendez to come up with the craziest idea. Invent a fake sci-fi film-Argo- and pretend the 6 Americans are Canadian filmmakers and exit the country without the Iranians noticing.
It’s an idea so crazy it would seem Hollywood has come up with yet another implausible plot, but this film is more outstanding for the fact that it’s true. The CIA did create a fake film called Argo to rescue the Americans in Iran and for once Hollywood were the heroes, helping Mendez to make his cover story sound credible to the Iranians.
Argo is a tense and gripping thriller, and its success is mainly down to Affleck. From the tense opening scene of the militants invading the US embassy to the nerve wracking moment that Mendez and co try to leave Iran the energy never flags. We are constantly kept on edge wondering how they could possibly pull off this plan. Affleck seamlessly go from the funny, more light-hearted scenes of Hollywood to the frightening plight of the diplomats hiding in a cellar in Iran with aplomb. Of the cast, John Goodman ( as Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers-whose work includes Planet of the Apes!) and Alan Arkin( as film producer Lester Siegel) get most of the best lines, and Bryan Cranston is great as Mendez boss trying hard to make the plan goes smoothly over in America, however it’s Affleck who shines here. His character may be quieter, less flashy than the other parts but he brings a strong centre to the film, grounding it in case we all get too swept up by the amazing lengths they went through to create this cover. Mendez is stoic, quiet, he never forgets that there is people relying on him to get this right, and his own life will be at risk if they are discovered.
A great film, lead brilliantly by Affleck. Gigli seems like a faint memory in comparison to his recent achievements.
Rumours of Oscar nominations for Affleck are well founded in this grown-up thriller that proves Affleck is better when he has creative involvement in his films.