Around sixty years before the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy a young Hobbit called Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) was whisked off for what became a life changing adventure. An Unexpected Journey is based on the first few chapters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit but contains almost all the highlights of the book I read as a teenager. After a tortured pre production that included a change of writer and director, problems with studio financing, the temporary loss of it’s central actor and location issues, An Unexpected Journey is finally here and even for a year which featured the likes of Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and So Undercover, this was the film that I’d been looking forward to the most all year. I saw the film close to a week ago now and am only just writing a review. Generally I’ll put pen to paper or rather finger to keyboard within twenty-four hours of seeing a movie but my experience of An Unexpected Journey made me put off writing in the hope of a second viewing. With Christmas around the corner and a trip back to my hometown looming I probably won’t get to see the film again until 2013 but will probably update my review once I have. The reason for wanting to see it again before writing a review is because the impossible happened; I didn’t like it.
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Monday, 3 December 2012
In December 2001 the film world was enthralled by the first part of New Zealand Director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not since Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical epics of the 1950s had filmmaking been seen on such a scale as Jackson’s Fantasy adaptation. Going on to make close to $900 million worldwide and the recipient of four Oscars and five BAFTAS including Best Film, The Fellowship of the Ring helped to shape the way films began to be produced in the early part of cinema’s second century. Shot entirely in the Director’s home nation over several years the Lord of the Rings trilogy soon became one of the most successful and critically acclaimed film trilogies of all time and eleven years ago I thought it was one of the best things I’d ever seen.
Featuring a large ensemble cast the plot of the first film focuses on the grouping of nine individuals who team up to destroy a powerful ring that threatens to destroy peace in Middle Earth. Hobbits Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippen join Wizard Gandalf, Dwarf Gimli, Elf Legolas and men Aragorn and Boromir as they set out from the Elven city of Rivendell on a quest to Mordor to ‘cast the ring into the fiery chasm from whence it came.’ Along the way their progress is halted by suspicion, in fighting, and Orcs, a vicious Elf like creature, bred for war.
Sunday, 21 October 2012
Winner of Best Picture at the 1981 Oscars, Chariots of Fire is set around the 1924 Paris Olympics and concerns two young British runners who are not only running for themselves and their country but for deeper, more personal reasons. Cambridge Undergraduate Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) has faced anti-Semitism throughout his life and wants to run and win to put that out of his mind and show he is not deterred by the hateful language and attention he receives. Scottish Christian Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) is devoutly religious and believes that his speed and determination is a sign from God that he should run. Both runners along with their friends Aubrey Montague (Nicholas Farrell) and Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers) enter the Paris Olympics with dreams of winning gold.
Chariots of Fire, though now over thirty years old has recently returned to the spotlight thanks to the 2012 London Olympics. The film’s famous opening has been repeated over and over and was even used as the basis for a comedy skit by Rowan Atkinson during the Opening Ceremony. Vangelis’ famous score also featured during medal ceremonies. I’d never seen the film before today and although I think it was worth seeing, I certainly won’t be in a hurry to watch it again.
Sunday, 6 May 2012
"I got you, you son of a bitch!"
With Prometheus just a couple of weeks away I thought it was about time I filled one of the most unforgivable gaps in my film history and finally watch Alien. The crew of the Nostromo are in stasis on a return trip to Earth, carrying a cargo of mineral ore. They are awakened early by the ship’s computer as it has intercepted a transmission for a nearby planetoid. Upon investigation, crew member Kane (John Hurt) discovers what appear to be eggs inside an unidentified ship. A life form hatches out of one of the eggs and attaches itself to his face. Returning to the Nostromo the crew try to detach the creature from Kane’s face but with no success. A short time later the creature removes itself from Kane and the crew find it dead. While preparing to go back into stasis for the return to Earth something extraordinary happens that unleashes an even greater threat to the ship and the crew.
My first thoughts were that the Nostromo reminded me of so much I’ve seen already. It is obvious how much influence the film has had on subsequent science fiction. The living quarters reminded me of the film Moon and in just about every other scene I said to myself “That’s just like Red Dwarf”. Everything about the film’s design was excellent. The ship felt large and real and the creature design was incredible. Considering the film is now over thirty years old, the latex or prosthetics that were used looked really good. Even now. Obviously some aspects of the film have aged noticeably. The computers for instance look as old as they are. This isn’t a major problem though as anything older than about five years or without a touch screen looks aged.
Sunday, 25 March 2012
From what I’d read of the plot beforehand I was hoping for a kind of Goonies crossed with Brazil but what I got didn’t live up to either of those films. While Terry Gilliam’s directorial style is all over the film with lavish and unusual sets and costumes and his distinct animation, it lacked the humour of the Python films and the drama and intrigue of the likes of
or 12 Monkeys. The film
is obviously aimed at a younger audience than those films and perhaps a younger
audience would have enjoyed it more than me. Brazil
Craig Warnock, playing the central character of Kevin was really annoying but I liked the gang of dwarfs. They each had their own little eccentricities and quirks and were sometimes amusing. John Cleese has an excellent cameo as Robin Hood in which he channels Prince Philip. His few minutes on screen were very funny. Sean Connery is another with a small cameo, playing King Agamemnon but a version of the King who has a passion for magic. He is fine, but like Cleese is under used. Co-writer Michael Palin has a couple of cameos and his small roles are the funniest of the film.
One of my main problems with the film is that it lacked the laughs you’d expect from a Palin-Gilliam co written piece. There is the odd subtle bit of humour laced here and there but they are few and far between. The film focuses too heavily on the adventure which isn’t actually that interesting. Maybe it isn’t meant to be that funny but I think the film would have been greatly improved had it been so.
There was one moment towards the end which I liked and thought was bold. This came when Kevin asks ‘the Creator’ why so many people had to die in order for him to carry out a little experiment. As an atheist, I liked this little question as it is something I personally would love to ask ‘the Creator’ did it exist. Why cause so much suffering when you don’t need to and can stop it? It’s a nice sly question which might have children watching asking their parents and priests the same thing.
On the whole the film is fine but lacks excitement and humour. The sets and effects are superb and the cameos good. I just expected a lot more from Gilliam, who is a fantastic film maker.