Tag: tolkien

Fourth-Grader Suspended for ‘Threatening’ LOTR Magic on Classmate 1

Fourth-Grader Suspended for ‘Threatening’ LOTR Magic on Classmate

A 9-year-old boy brought his one ring to school on Thursday Jan. 29. But after placing it on another classmate’s head and claiming it could make him invisible like Bilbo Baggins, was suspended from his west Texas school.

Kermit Elementary called it a threat, and one parent allegedly referred to it as a “terroristic threat.”

The child’s father, Jason Steward, told the New York Daily he didn’t understand why the school didn’t send a letter home rather than pull his child out of school and mentioned the family had been to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the weekend before.

He insisted his son didn’t mean anything by it, and in a later e-mail to the NY Daily said, “I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence … If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

The school’s principal, Roxanne Greer, declined comment when the Odessa American Texas newspaper got in contact, referring to confidentiality policies.

The boy has attended Kermit Elementary for only six months and has been disciplined with in-school suspension twice already. Once for referring to another classmate as black and a second time for bringing a children’s encyclopedia to class that had an image of a pregnant woman in it.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (Movie) Review 1

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (Movie) Review

 

It all comes down to this. After nearly six hours of set up, The Hobbit has finally been allowed to climax. By now, it’s safe to say that viewers already know what to expect from the concluding chapter of Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien trilogy. The biggest flaw of the series to date has always been the ill-conceived decision to split a story into three movies that’s too slight to sustain that running time. There’s no fixing that for the third movie. That flaw is baked into the series and unavoidable. However, the film is pure payoff to everything that’s come before, both the good and the bad. The excitement lacking from the first movie is front and center in this third entry. It might be a little exhausting, but it is certainly an impressive accomplishment. The Battle Of The Five Armies is likely the strongest and most entertaining of all the Hobbit films. Even if you’ve been disappointed with the series to this point, it’s safe to say that this one will be more satisfying. This isn’t a Star Wars prequel situation where the series went so far and so spectacularly off the rails from the start that there was no saving it. Nope, The Hobbit trilogy has always been deeply flawed, yet successful in its aim of bringing Tolkien’s genre-defining fantasy universe to the screen in the most spectacular and expensive ways possible. They’ve all been worth watching even if they didn’t quite match the majesty of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and this one is no exception. If Jackson’s second crack at Middle Earth has never been quite as successful as his first, that’s likely because you can only break ground in blockbuster filming once. In other words, once you’ve been there, it’s hard to go back again.

hobbit3insert4
The Desolation Of Smaug ended on one big fire-breathing dragon cliffhanger, so this sucker picks up with the peddle to the metal. There’s no need to set things up. A dragon is flying towards a city with plans for incineration. Now, we get to sit back and watch the fire hit the fan. After a thrilling dragon-beating opening, the movie slows down once more for long speeches setting up a titular battle (with five armies, natch). Once the dwarves that Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has followed for two movies have finally found their legendary riches, greed immediately consumes them in a particularly Tolkien way. Specifically, Richard Armitage’s Thorin becomes possessed by greed and refuses to share beyond all reason. As word spreads throughout Middle Earth that Smaug has been slain and the great treasure sits unprotected, factions start to arrive to lay claim to the riches. Elves appear (led by the always bland Orlando Bloom and some equally bland others), as do humans (led by Luke Evans’ dragon slayers whose people now have nothing following Smaug’s attack), dwarves (led by Billy Connolly in a spectacular bit of stunt casting), and of course some goblins n’ orcs. There will be a battle. There is a battle. It lasts over an hour. Then things wrap up and the movies weaves towards a conclusion that ties directly into the opening of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. The circle is complete.

The film is undeniably thrilling and satisfying in a way that a concluding chapter to a trilogy ought to be. Ian McKellan and Richard Armitage are able to conclude the arcs they started two moves ago and do so to varying degrees of success (see their names to figure out who does the better job). Everyone else concludes their tiny arcs with little heft, while sadly Bilbo ends up shoved aside for much of the running time, despite Martin Freeman offering easily the finest performance of the trilogy. The plots that didn’t work also conclude and stop the movie dead in its tracks, especially Evangeline Lilly’s interspecies love story with a dwarf that ends on a line so cheesy that it should be booed. New additions to the cast don’t get much time to register in the rush to the finish line, but seeing Billy Connolly appear in full dwarf make-up calling goblins “buggers” is an undeniable joy. Everything comes together with a minimal number of story-padding digressions. The one major glaring addition that feels out of place at least involves both Cate Blanchett’s elf queen and Christopher Lee’s White Wizard, so it’s hard to complain too much. The film is even the shortest of the entire franchise at a merciful 2.5 hours, so it feels like a proper movie and less like endless Tolkien fan service. There are grand, sweeping battles to inspire “aws,” magic enhanced fights to inspire “ooos,” and some final confrontation fights to provide closure. Yep, there’s a great deal to enjoy, not the least of which is the work of a brilliant filmmaker given near limitless resources.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Peter Jackson is one hell of a director of special effects and spectacle and this movie is a chance for him to play with all of his favorite toys. As a work of pure spectacle and imagination, there’s no denying the incredible achievements on display. It’s a gorgeous movie to behold and the hour-long battle at the center sustains enough excitement to avoid tedium. However, there’s also no denying that we’ve been here before. When Jackson delivered his original Rings trilogy, he genuinely revolutionized fantasy filmmaking. Audiences had seen nothing like it and were enthralled. As impressive as the climatic sequences are, they feel expected now (perhaps even a little complacent). It’s nice that Jackson was able to return to Middle Earth and complete the Tolkien cycle with these Hobbit movies, but it’s far more exciting to know that he’s finally finished with this chapter of his career. Jackson used to be an exciting, unpredictable, risk-taking voice in genre filmmaking with titles like Bad Taste, Dead Alive, Heavenly Creatures, and The Frighteners. The Lord Of The Rings was a fantastic cap off to his growth as a filmmaker. King Kong was wheel-spinning. The Hobbit movies were regression. Now he needs to move on and I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

When The Lord Of The Rings trilogy ended, it was an emotional moment. The movies felt like a genuine cultural event and it was sad to see something so special conclude (so much so that Jackson couldn’t stop ending his own movie). When the credits roll on the final Hobbit movie, it feels more like a relief. That’s not to say that this trilogy was a mistake or a disaster. It just wasn’t a masterpiece. It started at its lowest point with a film that wasted an hour on a dinner and thankfully over the next two increasingly improved movies the trilogy has ended well. These movies aren’t masterpieces like their predecessors, but at least they play as a pleasant appendix for those who aren’t willing to leave Middle Earth after the first twelve hours. Had Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro been allowed to make The Hobbit as one or even two films as initially planned, we might have gotten a franchise extension to be proud of. That didn’t happen, but at least we didn’t get a disgrace. These movies were fun and effective, probably what was expected of the LOTR trilogy before it transcended all expectations. Perhaps the big mistake was the viewers expecting more. The Hobbit was always the cute preface to the full Lord Of The Rings meal. Eating an appetizer second is never good idea, but that doesn’t make it bad on its own. I’m certain the whole series will play better when consumed in the right order and without the burden of expectations that were always impossible to fulfill.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (Movie) Review 2

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (Movie) Review

Last year the geek community swooned in anticipation of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth. The very Hobbit-like director’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy had been the millennial Star Wars trilogy that both George Lucas’ prequels and The Matrix series promised and failed to deliver; a new fantasy epic that pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible in filmmaking without losing sight of the compelling characters and story that set up the sexy FX shots. Then An Unexpected Journey came out and all of the fansboy fears came true. The film was overlong, needlessly stretched out to facilitate an epic trilogy structure. It relied far too heavily on digital effects and the much-mooted new frame rate proved to be a headache-inducing, eye-poisoning disaster. It wasn’t a bad movie, just a deeply disappointing one. Now it’s a year later the second chapter The Desolation Of Smaug has finally arrived. Thankfully, the sequel rights many of the wrongs perpetrated last time even if the flick still fails to live up to the impossible standards set by the masterful Lord Of The Rings trilogy. This new series should have been a single movie and could have been great one. That didn’t happen and will never change. However, at least some stuff actually happens in the sequel and it proves to be an entertaining fantasy adventure romp without a proper climax. I suppose that’ll do for now.

 hobbitSinsert1

The plot picks up instantly after the “really, it’s over?” finale of An Unexpected Journey. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and a collection of Time Bandits-lite dwarves are continuing their endless quest to that mountain with a dragon and this time they actually get there (spoiler! Unless you’ve read the book of course). The film stays pretty close to the narrative Tolkien weaved many moons ago, with a few new additions that thankfully don’t just feel like padded running time in this chapter. A visit to the Woodland Elves realm introduces the first original character that Jackson and his screenwriters have introduced to the Middle Earth landscape. Her name is Tauriel, she’s a bad-ass warrior elf played by Lost’s Evangeline Lilly who Orlando Bloom’s returning Legolas (who was not in the book) pines for, but she actually falls for Adrian Turner’s pretty boy dwarf. The subplot reeks of Twilight-style soap opera, but thankfully works thanks to strong writing and stronger acting from Lilly. Elsewhere, Bard The Bowman (Luke Evans) is transformed from a plot device into a noble warrior feuding with Stephen Fry’s amusingly corrupt Lake-town dictator. Thankfully, both additions to the story actually add intrigue and action to a sagging middle act and then all roads lead to a dragon. Yes, Smaug finally appears, and between the gorgeous Guillermo Del Toro-inspired design and soothingly evil Benedict Cumberbatch voice performance, the big guy with fire breath doesn’t disappoint. It all ends in a cliffhanger, but at least this time you’ll leave the theater excited to see what happens next rather than disappointed that the film stops short of the punchline.

 hobbitsinsert4

Watching The Desolation Of Smaug, it’s clear both that Jackson was sensitive to all the complaints launched at the last chapter and that he also had a plan all along. There’s no endless meal sequence this time around. The first 25-35 minutes drag a bit, but after that the director ensures there’s at least one massive action sequences every few minutes. The story is ramping up as well, so it’s not like its forced spectacle either. But at the same time every extended plot and new character builds to an additional action scene and that’s not a coincidence. Beyond injecting a little estrogen into the all-male tale, Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel is actually an intriguingly conflicted character who gets a chance to cut loose in the best action scene of the series so far (she’s also dressed like Link in a few scenes, which should fuel some fanboy fantasies). That barrel-bobbing chase feels like a sequence from a Hobbit spin off videogame and Jackson’s digitally-liberated cameras swoop all over the action like a cinematic rollercoaster. The actors are also consistently wonderful. The dwarves may still feel like stock comedy players, but that’s as much a fault of Tolkien as the filmmakers. However, Martin Freeman continues to work his light comedy magic as the burgeoning hero Bilbo, Ian McKellen gladly returns to his iconic portrayal of Gandalf, and even Orlando Bloom’s limited skills are suited perfectly to the emotionless Legolas. Then of course there’s the dragon.

 hobbitsinsert5

The last 40 minutes of the film are dedicated almost exclusively to Bilbo’s confrontation with Smaug and it doesn’t disappoint. The Weta wizards crafted a stunning CGI representation of the character. He has mass and scale beyond most digital creations and the unique design of the creature feels like a leftover contribution from original Hobbit director Guillermo Del Toro in the best possible sense. Cumberbatch’s slithery vocals give the character the refined sense of evil he needs and the whole sequence is such a magical mix of characterization, effects, and action that the entire Hobbit series finally hits his stride once the character hits the screen. The biggest problem with An Unexpected Journey was that it was all labored set up and now that the films are starting to pay off in chapter two, those problems are starting to vanish. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect film or an equal to the LOTR trilogy. The flick is still too long and suffers from the typical second-part-of-a-trilogy issue of existing without a proper beginning or ending. However, the goods news is that the flick is entertaining and even magical this time and is well worth the price of admission. Seeing the series finally hit its stride, it’s more clear than ever that it should have been a single movie. The last flick would have been a perfectly acceptable first act and this movie could have easily been sheared at least in half as well. Had Jackson been able to make a single Hobbit flick, it could have been an equal to The Lord Of The Rings. Sadly, we’re always going to be stuck with this bloated trilogy, but at least it’s finally starting to come together into something entertaining, if not instantly iconic. The Desolation Of Smaug is a thrilling fantasy epic worthy of the Tolkien brand and with a massive battle and dragon city-smoldering yet to come, it’s safe to say part three will be just as good if not better. The worst of this series is over people. It’s all fantasy fun from here on out and actually worth sacrificing three hours of your Christmas vacation to experience.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Movie) Review 3

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Movie) Review

Ten years ago a pleasantly plump New Zealand filmmaker (who had earned cult fame off of a trilogy of bad taste splatter comedies, a dark teen girl serial killer drama Heavenly Creatures, and the still deeply underrated The Frighteners) shocked the world by being given a then unheard of $300 million budget to film J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfilmable Lord Of The Rings. The result was an instant box office and cultural phenomenon that broke $$ records, swept up Oscars, and provided those who had been heartbroken by the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels with the new holy geek trilogy they craved. It was inevitable The Hobbit would follow. There was too much cash too be made and a great story to tell.

Continue reading