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The Hobbit or There and Back again November 30, 2010

Posted by oldboy in : Books, Fantasy , add a comment

This review is of the second edition edit of the Hobbit which links it closer to the Lord of the Rings.

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins. He is taken on an adventure by a Wizard and some Dwarfs to fight a deadly talking Dragon called Smaug. Along the way they encounter trolls, Goblins, Elves and a strange creature called… Gollum

It reads like a children book and is definitely something able to be read by adults. What I mean to say it is written with a view to children and just by reading it you can sense it’s a classical fantasy story from the 20th century written to appease the appetites of young minds before the Internet came along. Reading it is like wearing a familiar old glove. It closely matches the earlier fairy tales from my child hood and it’s like something I have read long ago but in actuality it isn’t. It’s due to Tolkien’s rich knowledge of fairy tales of times past that he was able to create something new but familiar while at the same time drawing on his own experience in that of the first world war (although he himself has stated the hobbit and LOTRs are not an allegory for the real world).

This is my first book by Author JR Tolkien and my first taste of “The Lord of the Rings” adventures in writing. What a pleasing experience it is and an addictive one at that. Having already seen the Lord of the Rings movies I find this story to be on a smaller scale to that story but of the same structure except bigger and far more complex. One might consider this the proto-story of what came later.

Bilbo comes across as a somewhat stuck in his ways person, comfortable with his life and with no interest in the outside world, the experience of this trip makes the character far more of a mature and noble creature but also one who can never go back to the person he was. Gandalf seems to know this adventure will change Bilbo for the better. Gandalf seems to have a sixth sense of most things beyond others but still is a wandering wizard of sorts and when he leaves the group on his own errands I started to truly feel the threat and serious danger Bilbo and the Dwarves faced.

The creature they are on the way to steal and possibly revenge on is Smaug the dragon. A fierce,witty and arrogant, which makes him of the the more interesting characters in the Hobbit.

The attack of Smaug on the village is so delicately describe as it is with Tolkien’s writing you get a real sense of the event happening and I think this is a big help when filming and visualizing it. I can’t wait to see Peter Jackson bring it to life.
The battle of the Five armies is quickly passed over in the story when Bilbo is knocked out but it’s of minor detail to the main themes of the story. I imagine it will be expanded upon in the forthcoming movie.

Favorite Quote: “Victory after all, I suppose! Well, it seems a very gloomy business.” - Biblo  Baggins

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 November 24, 2010

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Fantasy , add a comment

Harry Potter has transformed from a children’s movie into an adult movie and I don’t think I’ll ever look at the characters in the same way again. Gone is the cuteness of the characters replaced by raw emotion of teenagers becoming adults. This is without doubt the darkest movie yet. It’s scary. Everything is going from bad to worse and I kept worrying throughout the movie who was going to die next. For some reason I’m reminded of the 1985 animated Transformers movie where major characters were killed off.

I missed seeing Hogwarts and Dumbledore in this movie and their absence plus the darkness and maturity makes this unlike any other harry potter movie from before. Harry, Hermione and Ron’s journey holds up the movie well which shows the finer acting skills of the main cast.

The opening action is fantastic and a real thrill ride during the chase. It’s like nobody is safe anymore and between this movie and the half blood prince the bad guys have won out. Hogwarts run by Snape. The ministry of Magic under control of dark wizards. Harry Potter a wanted wizard and the rise of a fascist regime wizard state where muggles and half blood wizards are a lower class of citizen. This time I feel Umbridge fits in very nicely with this crowd. It just gets darker and darker, the visually bleak film and framing (parts remind me of ‘The Road’), the soundtrack, the Heroes, the villains.

Again I’d like to mention the similarities of this and Lord of the Rings. 1. We have our heroes go on a journey to find the Horcruxes and the weapon which can destroy them. 2. The Locket, worn around the neck seems to have the same dark effects on the character as the “One Ring” does to whomever wears it in LOTRs. 3.Destroying all the Horcruxes will destroy”he who shall not be named” as it does destroying the One Ring and Sauron in LOTRS. My only guess is (and I stress this is a guess having not read the books) that Harry might be one of those Horcruxes from Voldemort’s attack on him as a baby. Also I think this because of the way the Horcruxes reacted to Harry in “The Half Blood Prince”.
Speaking of “The one who shall not be named” I was wondering why Harry was now using this to describe Voldemort when during the previous movies he unafraidly said his name.I learned that it is because in the books Voldemort has set up a magical tracking spell on anyone who uses his name which would enable his death eaters to locate them. It’s little details like this that makes me interested to read all the books after I finish the movies.
Loved the animated segment and the story of the deathly hallows, it adds a further level of mythology to the series beyond Harry and Voldemort.

The Hero of this movie is Dobby! Not only does this CGI character look amazingly real he also has some funny scenes and pretty much saves everyone’s asses a few times. Not annoying at all and it was a very pleasant surprise to see him return. I’m glad they gave his scene the top billing in terms of death. If they had showed other characters of importance dying onscreen I think it might have detracted from the impact and emotion of this one. It’s quite beautiful and heartbreaking in a way. The beach itself reminded me of the beach in my hometown.

So now Harry Potter has broken his wand, then Voldemort doesn’t need any super wand to use against him. Well Harry’s pretty screwed at this point and it’s going to be a blooming long wait I tells ya. 8 months. But undoubtedly part 2 is going to rule next summer.

Favorite Quote: “Such a beautiful place..to be with friends. Dobby is happy..to be with his friend…Harry Potter.” - Dobby

Harry Potter Movies 1-6 November 19, 2010

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Fantasy , add a comment

Back in 2001 the Fantasy craze hit the cinema and it started with two movies. Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter. The Former was the one I went to see, Harry Potter didn’t quite interest me, it didn’t seem to hold the epicness of LOTRs and also I wondered what was the whole craze about? I didn’t get it. Harry Potter the boy wizard. In my youth I’m sure I’ve read similar stories and concepts of wizards, witches and so forth so I couldn’t fathom why this exploded in popularity. It was over popular, I even remember coming home one day to find my Grandmother reading a Harry Potter book. I think that was around the time the forth book was released and the rumblings of an ever growing fan base shook the planet to get hold of the next story. To tell the truth the popularity might have been what put me off in the end. As for the movie itself I might also say that the trailers of the first movie looked as if it were aimed towards children.

Down through the years I proudly proclaimed I had never seen a Harry Potter movie nor read a Harry Potter book to sometimes the shock of others who tell me I should and if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. In 2009 a lot of hype (as usual) surrounded Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”. Critics remarked how dark the Harry Potter movies had become and that this instalment was reaching levels of “The Dark Knight”. Interesting I thought, I had expected Harry Potter to be a more cheerful fellow but apparently he has had a tough old time of it. This “darkness” appealed to me. Let’s just say I’m not a morning person. Wizards, witches and magic ‘do’ interest me with the right take on things. Preternatural, supernatural and the occult are fascinating subjects even if you don’t believe in them.

With this in mind I decided to give in and planned to one day sit down and watch all the Harry Potter movies back to back once they were all out on DVD, I had this idea in the back of my mind before cos it was starting to look interesting but these days I don’t have time to enjoy the simple pleasure of movie marathons. Also I thought it might be quite fun to watch at least one movie at the Cinema to experience Harry Potter on the big screen.

With the near release of “The Deathly Hallows” I started watching the Harry Potter movies from last month, usually one a week. I tried my best to space my viewings of them but was eager to see where the story was going (the addiction has started).

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

Or sorcerers stone. The first Harry Potter movie must have been a challenge for Director Christopher Columbus (the explorer?!). Having to establish a style and cast actors that would carry these films to their eventual conclusion. The whole success of the franchise rested on this first one doing well. It’s a bit cutesy. I imagine fans of the books were going mad in love for this movie. It’s a nice start and a nice introduction to Hogwarts. The acting is a little rough with their being child actors, but Radcliffe does his role well. watching his character grow I felt there’s a natural progression in his acting too, I didn’t feel their was a jarring difference between Harry Potter of the first film and most recent, however Ron and Hermione do change a lot more as Rupert Grint and Emma Watson matured as actors and played their characters with more feeling.

One thing that bugs me a little with the movie is that their isn’t really a coherent story. I haven’t read the books so it’s probably following the line of storytelling quiet closely but the macguffin “The Philosopher’s Stone” and “He who shall not be named” might have made for a stronger final in the movie had the elements being introduced earlier in the film and fleshed out more rather then some brief encounter and exposition in the forest. I sometimes feel we are just watching the Daily Life of Harry Potter. As someone who bases his knowledge of Potter solely on the movies I thought we needed more meat and looming threat to the film, more momentum.

Favorite Quote: “It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.” - Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets.

I liked this, here we have a mystery that is discussed and puzzled over throughout the movie leading to an exciting reveal and confrontation at the end thanks to the build up of tension. Tom Riddle and his diary provide a glimpse into the past of Hogwarts and some of it’s darker events. The film itself is a little bit darker too and the storyline reflects that. The film also reveals a little more about Harry too and I like that each film is pulling off a lair from this character revealing Harry to be far more complex and troubled compared to the earlier instalments. As his character grows he too is becoming more of an outcast with his school mates.

Chamber of secrets gave me a few more laughs this time about. The flying car scenes were fun, as was the annoying Dobby. Less annoying than Jar Jar binks. More than Gollum.As a CGI character he isn’t in it much at all.

How is it that Draco Malfoy and his father, Lucius can openly praise ‘he who shall not be named? These guys should be kicked out on their butts for such praise of an evil wizard. Yet poor Harry who was attacked by ‘he who shall not be named7 when he was just a baby gets far more stick for that very fact. The world really does seem so backwards at times. But it just goes to show that heroes are often ridiculed and looked down on.

Did anyone else think Moaning Myrtle beared an uncanny resemblance to Harry in this movie?

Favorite Quote: “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” - Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A big visual change takes place, the setting of Hogwarts is in a more realistic looking location due in part to it being filmed in Scotland. The colors in this movie are duller, and slightly blander. The theme is more serious and we start to see a character in Harry Potter who is filled with anger over what happened to his parents. The Dementors too are quiet chilling to behold.

It’s nice to finally see Harry have a close mentor to him on his side in that of  Remus Lupin and a rather competent dark arts teacher for once. Lupins is like family to Harry because he knew his parents before. However the mystery of the dark arts Teacher is running a little old is it not? It’s a plot element in ever movie. Can’t we have one that sticks around longer than a year?
Gary Oldman is in this but unfortunately not nearly enough. As the only family Harry has left it’s nice to see the character have someone who is really on his side for once and whom supports his studies and gives hope for Harry’s future.

Michael Gambon takes the role of Albus Dumbledore and this is where I feel the character really comes into his own. All due respect to the fine portrayal by Richard Harris but Harris’s Dumbledore was older, a little more dithering and reminded me more of the atypical Wizard as portrayed in stories featuring the likes of Merlin. Gambon does his own take on the character and respectfully does not try to copy Harris. Gambon’s Dumbledore is full of energy and sarcasm, a darker more brooding type. Human. I like it, I like it a lot. Gambon has made Dumbledore my favorite Character of the Harry Potter Movies.

Favorite Quote:A child’s voice, however honest and true, is meaningless to those who’ve forgotten how to listen.” - Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Perhaps my favorite of the bunch so far. This was thrilling, it had the Triwizard tournament that held up the main plot of the film nicely. The opening scenes of the film with the Death Eaters attack at the Quidditch World Cup, it reflects something akin to a terrorist attack on the wizard world.

The ending is simply devastating and changes the game of the movies forever. We get a glimpse once more into the past in rather cool fashion and we get a villain David Tennant and Brendan Gleeson as Mad eyed moody who teaches the three forbidden curses.

Harry has to out think and out play the other wizards of the tournament facing off Dragons and saving his friends. The final challenge leads to a most unwelcome outcome. Voldemort is back and he and Harry Duke it out. Again, how does Harry hold his own against such a powerful dark wizard when he is kicked around by others of lesser standard. The blast of wand against wand is just awesome and reminds me of something out of dragon ball.

We are also introduced to the pensive for the first time. A very useful thing for seeing into the past and it’s these little gimps to Hogwarts past which I love as they tease by revealing little details to the backgrounds of important characters.

Favorite Quote:No spell can reawaken the dead, Harry. I trust you know that. Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” - Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Brilliant, brilliant opening. Fantastically shot and chilling as Harry and his cousin are attacked by the Dementors,
The Order of the Phoenix is good but less impressive than the Goblet of Fire. Firstly the Order themselves. Where the heck were these guys before now? The purpose they seem to serve for this movie is for the melee at the end of the movie. However it is nice to see so many excellent cast members. The talk over Voldemort not actually returning seems to reflect politics of today. Ignoring the truth of something and confiding in ones own ignorance. Embracing the comfort by ignoring dangers.

The storyline involving the new Dark Arts Teacher Umbridge was less interesting, I felt this was something of a misstep. After introducing Voldemort in the previous film the threat level for Harry has shot up ten fold. Yet here the looming darkness and visions Harry has of Voldemort take a back seat to the year under Umbridge’s rule. Not that I disliked the storyline but I took up too much screen time. Her character is more comic relief than threat and I couldn’t wait till they got her out of the way.

The macguffin of the movie is the prophecy. Not much else interesting about it except that it leads to a thrilling battle between Harry and Voldemort and Dumbledore and Voldemort which was pretty darn cool. Voldermort looks a little different in this movie. A little less scary, he seems to be growing a bit of a nose.
Favorite Quote:  Harry… It’s not how you are alike. It’s how you are not…” - Albus Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Things are shaping up pretty nicely. Harry seems to be truly alone this time at the beginning of the film. Dumbledore’s relationship to him grows closer as he reveals more about his past and his need for Harry’s help. I like how the relationship has grown between the two over the past few movies and finally Dumbledore has taken harry into his confidence and has asked for his help. Some scenes between the two characters are truly heartbreaking and hard to watch, particularly as harry feeds bad potion to Dumbledore.

The most interesting part of the movie was the back story to Voldemort’s character, told through the memories viewed in the pensive . I liked these scenes a lot as I have liked in previous movies where Harry views parts of the past. I was a little disappointed more scenes from the past weren’t included as I have heard the book features a lot more exposition on this. Draco Malfoy too might have been more interesting if there was a little more exploration into the workings of this character as a parallel to Voldermorts journey into darkness in his youth.

The Horcruxes are a cleaver concept and are a little similar to the idea of ‘The One Ring’ from Lord of the Rings. Voldemort uses these to safeguard himself from total destruction and these tie in nicely with the events of previous movies in particular The Chamber of Secrets.
The ending of this film leaves us asking how worse can it get. I have a feeling I’m going to find out very soon.

Favorite Quote: Once there was a young man, who like you, sat in this very hall, walked this castle’s corridors, slept under it’s roofs. He seemed to all the world a student like any other. His name: Tom Riddle. Today, of course, he’s known all over the world by another name, which is why, as I stand looking out upon you all tonight, I’m reminded of a sobering fact: Every day, every hour, this very minute, perhaps, dark forces attempt to penetrate this castle’s walls. But in the end, their greatest weapon… is you. - Albus Dumbledore

The Expendables November 16, 2010

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema , add a comment

The Expendables is the kind of Movie that gets you in the mood for pumping some iron in the gym, coming home and putting your feet up with a cold beer in one hand and a Cigar in the other. Stallone has an impressive line up of hard men, most from the glory days of action movies. The biggest driving force behind this film is without doubt the cast. A little more semblance might have made this a stronger movie. While the action is balls to the wall the good guys come out of this with nothing but a few scrathes. I was hoping for something a little more raw, like “The Wild Bunch” with a handful of the cast making it back.

The scene between Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone is cute and too short. We can only dream of a movie with these guys together in their prime, but i’ll sure as anything take this over nothing. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

If this film had been made a few years earlier we may have seen these 3 go at it. Quentin Tarantino had stated before his idea for Inglorious Bastards was to cast Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis in main roles. But his plans came to fruition too late. Stallone’s Expendables brings us the closest to that dream.

Jason Statham is alongside Stallone for most of the film and I feel as if Stallone is in a way passing his torch on to Stathman. The thing with Statham is that while he is a hard b*stard I don’t buy him as a skilled martial artist, but rather an actor who learned the moves for the role. He got this image from the Transporter movies and has taken on the persona of action Hero in U.S. movies which I find a bit hard to fathom. I find him to be far more menacing in British Gangster movies and is far more threatening with his words and appearance than any of his martial art moves. All due respect to the guy but I think his real qualities are being overshadowed by these types of movies.

Stunning Steve Austin is in this and I was a bit disappointed he didn’t have a bigger speaking part. After seeing him in the Film “The Condemned” I thought he was rather suited to being on the side of the good guys. I didn’t realise he would be playing a henchman. I dare say he could have carried the main villain role himself.

The action here is crazy and bloody like that of Rambo, a small nit pick I have with it are that the cuts in this film are too fast, from scene to scene, angles/shots change rapidly barely giving you time to seethe action happening before it changes again. A bit too fast and furious. I would hope Stallone might have taken a page from his co-star Jet Li whose films often have longer shots showing the full glory of the action and dynamics of the fight.

Speaking of Jet Li, his role isn’t too large either and he gets tossed around a little too much for a Martial Arts Champion, I don’t really get the “I’m small” conversation, are we trying to express the moral value of size doesn’t matter? But wait, this film is for adults, not kids.

Stallone himself is wicked as usual and a total bad ass, his role and the action reminds me of Rambo in a way. Micky Rourke is coolness defined but it’s a shame he didn’t come along for the ride to redeem his character’s haunted past. Dolph Lundgren plays a character with a drug problem and I get the feeling the movie has another message, “don’t do drugs”. He might have made an interesting main villain than the business man like Villain of  Eric Roberts. Honestly, you need hard men against hard men. I hope Dolph has a bigger role in the next movie and yes there will be a next movie. Lets have Van Damme, Seagal, The Rock, Mr. T and every other bad ass muscle action hero the world can muster.

Nit Picks, why is it that after they ignite the fuel they dumped by plane onto the docks that the plane itself doesn’t explode since they don’t stop the fuel dump until after the docks are blown to bits? According to the action of “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (which also features Willis) the escaping plane explodes due to it’s fuel being ignited and the flame following the fuel trail up into the air. Ok I understand it’s a movie and it doesn’t have to follow real world science but who didn’t watch that and think “Die Hard 2″? Ho-hum. I was screaming in my head “turn off the fuel before the plane blows!”
It was a nice touch to have the names of stuntmen at the start of the end credits. These guys don’t get enough credit in most movies.

Favorite Quote: He wants to be president.- Barney Ross

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