Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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I should probably own up and admit that I saw the second film in The Hobbit trilogy last month. Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that I didn’t publish a review of it, however, and may now be wondering why that is.

hobbitI did start to write one, but I ground to a halt midway through. I rather lost heart as well as interest in completing it – and I have to say, that mirrored my feelings toward the film as a whole. Having enjoyed the first film An Unexpected Journey more than I’d expected to (and more than the reviews of that instalment had suggested I would), my feelings about the second part proved significantly less upbeat. Even now with some distance I’m not entirely sure why that was: perhaps I didn’t manage my expectations properly going in and allowed myself to anticipate a better film than was possible in the circumstances; perhaps I was simply in a bad mood the day I went to the cinema. Or perhaps the film just wasn’t very good, despite the much better reviews it has received this time around.

In an effort to finally get through the review on the second attempt, I’ve broken down my problems with it to three general areas of concern. Read the rest of this entry »

King Kong (1933) [DVD]

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I caught a bit of Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the famous classic movie King Kong on one of the digital channels the other week, and it immediately made me want to watch more. More of the original 1933 version, that is, which I hadn’t seen in an age. So I duly sat down and unsurprisingly loved every minute of it, finding it as delightful and exciting as I ever did. Clearly there was no comparison with the overblown 21st century production which, while a labour of love for Jackson, nonetheless failed to recapture the timeless appeal of the first and best version.

And yet it quickly occurred to me that in almost every objective measurement, the 2005 version is clearly superior. Better written, better acted, and – with all due deference to the then-pioneering visual effects of the original that laid the basis for FX for decades thereafter – with vastly superior effects, I found myself having to ask: is my love of the original film just a product of rose-tinted nostalgia and not backed up by the cold hard reality?

Take the first scene of the 1933 original: it has two anonymous characters meeting by a ship’s boarding point to share some important scene-setting exposition for almost two minutes. Neither character plays any significant role in what’s to follow, so the whole thing is incredibly clunky – the sort of thing that even a film school student on his or her first day of study wouldn’t try to get away with. The acting is stiff and formal, as you’d expect from an industry still feeling its way with sound recording and daily having to import green talent from Broadway stages to replace the former star that looked good but had no way with dialogue for the talkies. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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hobbitOr an unexpectedly long journey, as the wags have had it ever since the film premiered back in mid-December. It seems slightly superfluous to post something about a film that’s already been reviewed by everyone in the known universe already, but I come late to the party having been put off going to see it at the cinema after hearing that the slender original book (less than half the length of any one of the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings) was to be pumped up to a three-film trilogy which seemed outrageously excessive.

One normal-size film should be sufficient, surely, or at a stretch two – but three? And the first of them already clocking in at 169 minutes? Ridiculous. Sure enough, almost all the reviews jumped on the angle that the film was too strung-out, and they criticised how slow the first hour was in particular. My worst fears appeared to be confirmed. But such is my residual fondness for the LOTR trilogy and for its steward Peter Jackson that finally this week I succumbed and went to see the film before it disappears from the local screens. And what I found was genuinely most unexpected indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) [Blu-ray]

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I’ve seen an article that reports that when Steven Spielberg was on the press tour in Europe for the Indiana Jones movies, a reporter put it to him that Jones was really just his grown-up version of Hergé’s Tintin, much like Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander was that author’s updating of Pippi Longstocking. Spielberg denied this on the perfectly reasonable grounds that he had no idea who Tintin was; but the comment made him go look, and a brand new Tintinologist was soon formed.

Many years later, and seemingly in a mood to get back to his Indiana Jones-era roots but now equipped with the best CGI and motion-capture rendering technology ever seen, Spielberg has teamed up with The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson (here serving as producer) to finally deliver his take on the teenage Belgian hero. Jackson needed no persuading: his Tintin fanboi credentials are firm and fast right back to his Kiwi childhood.

And since we’re presenting credentials, I should confess that I was never a Tintin fan as a kid; my only real exposure to them was the 1960s cartoon serial version, whose perpetually rerun five-minute instalments seemed to pop up anytime I was watching children’s TV during the school summer holidays and which was prefaced by the stentorian clarion call announcing “Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin!” But I never seemed to catch any two consecutive episodes, and I never tracked down the books – until a few weeks before the Spielberg/Jackson movie opened, at which point I felt that I should give one or two of them a whirl and found that yes, actually, they were really rather good. (So good, I bought more.) Read the rest of this entry »