Review: THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Smaug


Watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I had a full moment of clarity about why the people who don’t get these movies just don’t get these movies. An elf was talking to a dwarf in a dungeon under a palace carved out of a tree. It all seemed perfectly sensible to me, even the somewhat taboo elf/dwarf romance that was budding, but taken from the outside it’s outright madness in a lot of respects. It was madness made perhaps more digestible by the wartime pomp and circumstance of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but this new, lesser trilogy is, in its own, around-the-corner way, more like mainlining both Tolkien and Jackson in equal measure. There’s no on-ramp for the uninitiated here.

Which is a long way of saying that those who didn’t like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (or, heaven forfend, The Lord of the Rings) won’t find anything in The Desolation of Smaug to curb their distaste. It’s long as fuck. It’s a wholesale embellishment upon a relatively slender tale. It lacks the clear(er) narrative thrust of, well, a trilogy made out of an existing trilogy. And to an even greater extent than the first Hobbit film, Desolation has trouble locating Bilbo – the titular Hobbit going on an unexpected journey across the desolation of Smaug – as its main character. He disappears for what seems like days at a time.

Desolation has, roughly, twenty principal characters. It can’t successfully juggle them all, or even most of them. (For love or points, name a single scene in which Ori or Bifur are featured. In fact, name a single time Bifur even speaks.) The action centers for the most part on Gandalf and Bilbo and to a greater extent Thorin, and at least in the latter case, this is an improvement; Richard Armitage’s sullen dwarf hero is a dab more compelling this time than last.

Much of the film seems like a reaction to the reaction to An Unexpected Journey. The day-glo cartoonishness of the first film’s troll encounters and Temple of Doom runs through Goblin Town have been replaced by a muted (nearly to the point of black and white) visual palette and grisly goings-on. There are no songs. The story carries us from the Beorn episode through the gang’s first encounter with Smaug in the Lonely Mountain, and it does so rapidly. I was strongly reminded of the theatrical cut of The Two Towers, which also seemed to skip over niceties like character beats and breathing space in favour of hitting its running time. I expect the Extended Edition blu-ray of The Desolation of Smaug to be a belter.

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Cinecast Episode 311 – As The Furious Turns

A the fifth Fast and Furious sequel speeds into the multiplex, Kurt and Andrew go deep into the nuance and complex character interactions that have defined the last 12 years of this franchise. OK, not so much. Instead we ask questions about Spanish airport design, what becomes of the 100 commuter funerals after the credits roll, and just how well one can control London surveillance cameras these days. It’s easy to pick on the story inanities of the Furious Franchise, but we do take time to admire the 2nd unit elements of the film, and the editing of parallel action which are excellent. Andrew talks the new Arrested Development season up on Netflix, Kurt is all over the map in trying to parse the motivation and execution of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven. Frank Capra gets some show time with Arsenic & Old Lace and the cultural impact of It’s A Wonderful Life.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Teaser for Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring

I know that two movies does not a trend make, but doesn’t Sophia Coppola’s youth driven heist film remind one a lot of Spring Breakers? I know that Korine and Coppola are miles apart stylistically, but, at first blush, they seem birds of a feather at least spiritually. Emma Watson, Leslie Mann and Gavin Rossdale star in a plot inspired by actual events involving a group of fame-obsessed teenagers who use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

In the ‘real’ story, not only was was Paris Hilton robbed, but also Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox. Is there a healthy dose of schadenfreude to be injected into the proceedings, or is it empathy for the privileged elite? It could go either way.

Review: New York, I Love You

Directors: Natalie Portman, Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Sheekhar KapurFatih Akin, Joshua Marston, Randy Balsmeyer
Writers: Emmanuel Benbihy, Tristan Carné, Hall Powell, Israel Horovitz, James C. Strouse, Shunji Iwai, Israel Horovitz, Hu Hong, Yao Meng, Israel Horovitz, Scarlett Johansson, Joshua Marston, Alexandra Cassavetes, Stephen Winter, Jeff Nathanson,
Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman
Producers: Marina Grasic, Emmanuel Benbihy
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, Bradley Cooper, Maggie Q, Hayden Christensen, Christina Ricci, Andy Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Blake Lively, Anton Yelchin, Shu Qi, Carlos Acosta, James Cann, Justin Bartha, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachm
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 103 min.

Three years ago one of my favorite films of the year, Paris Je’ Taime was released to theaters and I was actually taken aback at how much I liked the piece. It was a series of vignettes, each directed by a famous director (from Gus Van Sant to the Coen Brothers to Wes Craven) with a whole slew of great, character actors and A-list stars. Each vignette was a cute little story examining a relationship somewhere within the great culture of Paris. Not necessarily lovers either. There were fathers and daughters, sisters, elderly couples and even a vampire tale amongst many others. Within months it was announced that a follow-up to the film would be coming soon that would take place in New York. So I’ve been waiting the better part of three years to see the sequel of sorts to one of my favorite films of 2007 with another set of great stories told by world class film makers and actors. And finally it is here in America showing to a fairly wide audience.

There had been some grumbling that New York, I Love You wasn’t quite the film its predecessor had been. Quite honestly I can’t fathom that notion as this film is at least the former’s equal; if not superior to the “original.” If you liked Paris Je’ Taime (or loved it as much as I did), there’s no reason to steer clear of this reimagining. It’s got the same amount of heart and inspiration and should capture your heart just as quickly and steadfast as the stories did threeyears ago.
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First Look at Andrew Niccol’s The Cross


Few filmmakers make an entrance the way Andrew Niccol did. Gattaca may not have broken box office records but the film was widely loved and for me, remains one of the most beautiful and favourite films about the near-future.

Niccol hasn’t exactly been slipping but his offerings since that 1997 classic have been few. I found S1m0ne a miss but loved Lord of War and yet, I found myself hoping that perhaps Niccol would return to sci-fi. My hopes were lifted when earlier in the year it was announced that he was working on a new project, a sci-fi project titled The Cross about “a man seeking to cross a mysterious border, something no one else has achieved.” Vague stuff but intriguing none the less.

The film starts Orlando Bloom in the lead as the man on the run and the fantastic Vincent Cassel as the guard every foiling his plans. Olga Kurylenko also stars in the film likely as some sort of love interest. The original announcement of the project was very vague but our good friends at Quiet Earth have uncovered both an expanded synopsis for the film and some concept art.

First up, what’s it about?

Mylar (Bloom) and his younger brother Castro come to a town to cross the border in search of a better life. The two travelers, full of hope, all too quickly realize that their journey leads them to an inescapable world full of doom. The enigmatic border is strictly enforced under the command of a guard, Guideon, who prohibits anyone from ever leaving. Castro doesn’t make it alive past two weeks, but Mylar defies all odds and becomes the first to successfully cross the border. And he also becomes the first to come back… all for the love of a woman, Vera. Mylar must now devise a plan not only to set himself free, but all of his fellow citizens as well. But perhaps crossing the border is not the answer. Perhaps the key lies in altering the border and whatever it may represent…

If it sounded promising before, it sounds even better now and taking a look at these images, I can’t help but get all giddy.

Images tucked under the seat!

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New York, I Love You Trailer

New York, I Love YouI knew that at some point we’d posted a trailer for the anthology film New York, I Love You what I didn’t realize was that that trailer was posted a year ago.

The film premiered at TIFF last year and Kurt foresaw the film would open early in 2009 but for some reason, reviews perhaps?, it was shelved and forgotten until today when a sexy discombobulated new trailer appeared. With acting and directing contributions from a long list of talented folk (Park Chan-Wook, The Hughes Brothers, Faith Akin, Mira Nair, Yvan Attal, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston, Andrei Zvyanginstev, Brett Ratner, Shia LeBeouf, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Anton Yelchin, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Chris Cooper, Kevin Bacon, Robin Wright Penn, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, John Hurt, Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Olivia Thirlby) this is bound to have a little something for everyone.

The trailer is not exactly eye popping but it certainly looks nice and I have love for much of the talent involved so I’m game. I still haven’t seen Paris, je t’aime but I may have to check it out before being sucked into this one.

New York, I Love You is scheduled for limited release on October 16th.

Now, who’s working on a Vancouver, I Love You?

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Law of Diminishing Returns

Pirates of the CaribbeanOur good friend Richard over at Filmstalker just directed us to several sites that have been reporting the following news about Pirates of the Caribbean 4 from Disney’s head of production:

“We’re going to shoot ‘Pirates 4’ in April and May of next year…We are going to release it hopefully in 2011 is the plan.” He said that this time they would only be doing one movie this time that would “hopefully be the first of another trilogy.”

I was a huge fan of the first movie and was mildly let down by the second and while I really got a kick out of Jack in the Underworld bit I found the rest of the third movie to be fairly painful. I am totally hoping that the Law of Diminishing Returns does not continue and that Pirates 4 manages to reboot the story with more focus on characters and less on the special effects and having Jack be so amazing that he can do anything and everything. I hate to be negative but I seriously doubt they will recapture the magic of the first one ever again in this series.

Franco Out, Bloom In; Ruffalo’s Directorial Debut

I think I speak for everyone here in the RowThree offices when I say we’re big fans of Mark Ruffalo. He’s been real smart with the films he chooses to appear in and so far… so great.

He’s great enough that I was pleased when I learned he was going to take a shot being on the other side of the camera, directing a dramedy entitled, Sympathy for Delicious. Even better yet is the cast he managed to sign on to the project: James Franco, the great Laura Linney, Juliette Lewis and of course Ruffalo himself.

Today though I was dismayed to learn that Franco is out of the production and someone new is taking his place: Orlando Bloom. Well, unless Linney really carries the film or Ruffalo somehow manages to get something out of Bloom we’ve not seen before, huge demerits are earned with this casting (un)development.

a brief synopsis:

The story, written by Christopher Thornton, follows a paralyzed DJ, struggling to survive on the streets of LA, who turns to faith healing and mysteriously develops the ability to cure the sick — although not himself. The DJ then decides to cash in on his gift in exchange for his rock ‘n’ roll dreams.

Bloom, taking over for Franco, will play the frontman of a tough-as-nails rock band. Linney plays as the band’s manager working hard to stay relevant in a 21st century musical world.

So Bloom is to play a “tough as nails frontman for a rock band” instead of Franco? Whatev dude. Ah well, I still really look forward to seeing what Ruffalo can do from the director’s chair. The film is scheduled to start shooting next week.

Bloom Goes Indie

Orlando BloomOrlando Bloom seemed to come out of nowhere in 2001 when Peter Jackson cast him in the role of Legolas in the first Lord of the Rings film. Bloom had little chance to really act but that didn’t stop girls from fawning over the handsome Brit. It’s fair to say that when Bloom popped up again in 2004, people were disappointed. For the most part, Troy was considered a disappointment and outside of a few good performances, one of which was not Bloom, the film is forgettable trash.

Among the other disappointments (Haven, Elizabethtown and his flat performance in the Pirates films) there have been a few minor successes. Granted, he may not be a great actor, but Bloom does have a little talent that goes further than just a few sultry looks. The low budget Australian film Ned Kelly, which also starred Heath Ledger, was much better than I had anticipated in large part due to the performances from both actors. And then there’s Ridley Scott’s much disliked Kingdom of Heaven. The final cut of the film was a disaster but it did showcase strong performances, including one from Bloom, and the director’s cut of the film really is worth a look.

Regardless of the good, Bloom is generally considered a poor actor and though that could mean career suicide for some, Bloom isn’t ready to sit back and let Hollywood cast him as the pretty boy. It was recently announced that Bloom would be stepping away from Hollywood and focusing on smaller productions, namely a new film by the talented Andrucha Waddington who impressed me with 2005’s House of Sand. The film is based on Bill Carter’s “Fools Rush In” which tells of Carter’s experiences living in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during the 1992-95 siege.

It will be interesting to see how this project turns out. Waddington is a visionary director and I have no doubt the film will look fantastic but I’m on the fence as to whether Bloom’s acting abilities will meet the director’s talent. It’ll be a while before we see if he’s more than just a pretty face and until then, I’m happy to visit Legolas.