Tag Archives: Movie

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Departure

First off, let me begin this by saying, ‘Go see the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.’ It was a very fun movie, and I can’t wait to see the Goblin Town sequence in a video game (hint hint, designers).

That said, there were a few decisions that the production team (writers, director, and producers) made that seemed out of place, strange, or just plain pointless.

Warning: Everything below is a spoiler.

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And All For Ray

Jennifer and I saw the new Three Musketeers movie on Sunday. It is interesting to me how each retelling of this story chooses to emphasize certain elements and utterly ignore others.

This is inevitable, of course. If every single scene in the book were filmed with utter faithfulness, the movie would be about as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a script writer and as a director, you have to chose what to include and what to leave out when adapting a book to a movie. I’m not explaining a great mystery here, anyone with half a brain can understand this. It is the choices that are made that I find interesting.

It gets even more obvious when you factor in things like changing social norms, and the desire to include a bunch of Steampunk stuff, because Steampunk is cool, right?

Actually, Steampunk is cool. And I can forgive the director, Paul WS Anderson, for wanting to include it. Cannon-mounted airships are cool. That honestly didn’t bother me. I feel fairly certain that if Dumas had ever heard of Steampunk, he would have included all those elements himself. After all, this is a book about guys called Musketeers who actually use muskets maybe once in the entire book (and never in the movie).

This is the first adaptation in recent memory that included the servants. Well, one servant. They sort of rolled them all into one guy. Probably because the movie already ran the risk of having too many people to keep track of. But still, the servant was there. And like the book, Our Heroes treated him like garbage. So that made it in, but the fact that Constance was married did not. I guess modern society can get behind verbally and emotionally abusing hired menials, but not adultery? Yes, the fact that they left the rape scene out surprised exactly no-one, but the adultery thing caught me off-guard.

And poor Aramis. No one knows what to do with him. Other than Jeremy Irons in 1998’s The Man in the Iron Mask, Aramis is usually treated as ‘oh and there’s him too. Isn’t he precious, with his quaint religious beliefs.’ For some reason, almost none of these movie adaptations show off the womanizing lech side of him. Again, I guess modern audiences can get behind the idea of a man leaving the priesthood so he can be violent, but not so he can have sex?

Porthos, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. For a world still trying to wash the mental images of Oliver Platt and (*SHUDDER*) Gerard DePardu out of their minds, Ray Stevenson’s Porthos was everything the character should be: A sensualist who plays the dumb brute, but is actually intelligent and devastatingly effective at fighting. Of course we ARE talking about Ray Stevenson, so much like Jeremy Irons as Aramis, there was almost no way this COULD go wrong.

The same, sadly, could not be said of Orlando Bloom’s Duke of Buckingham. And it is sad, because if you remove Bloom’s performance from the issue, you can see that the writers did him justice. The character, as written, was every bit as calm, smart, machiavellian, and deadly as the Cardinal. The scene where they just decide to ignore their respective kings and hammer out the peace treaty between them was just as it should have been. But then they turned Bloom loose on the role.

The thing is, he’s not a terrible actor. He really isn’t. He’s just comfortable in certain roles, and this, his big break into villainy and a ‘serious’ role, wasn’t it. He tried way too hard. Every moment on screen was either him playing “Look at Me! I’m EVIL!” or “Look at Me! I’m INTENSE!” and neither worked for the part. Contrast this with Christoph Waltz’ Cardinal Richelieu who was brilliant, and you see why we spent the majority of every scene he was in Rifftraxing his performance in our minds.

And someone, for the love of PETA, release that animal on his head back into the wild.

Amusingly enough, the two ‘big name’ Hollywood stars in the movie, (Bloom and Mila Jovovich as Milady DeWinter) were by far the most awkwardly cast of the ensemble. Everyone else was at least competent at their roles (even Mads Mikkelsen’s Rochefort was adequate if not great). D’artagnan was as bland as that role normally is, and Matthew MacFadyen’s Athos could have read the phone book out loud and we would have been utterly captivated.

I had to caveat “hollywood” stars in that last paragraph before people start telling me about how big a star Waltz is in Germany or MacFadyen is in the UK. They are awesome actors, and the fact that they are starting to break into American consciousness is wonderful (MacFadyen in Frost/Nixon and Robin Hood, Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Water for Elephants), and I look forward to seeing more of them. But so far, they are not household names in the States the way Bloom and Jovovich are. And oddly, I think the movie would have been better without those two, who seemed like they were cast just so there would be ‘known names’ to try to fill seats in US theaters.

So in all, it was a fun time, not very deep. You won’t remember it years later, and other than the one bit already famous from the trailer, no one will be quoting it decades from now. But it was entertaining, swords flashed, swashes were buckled fiercely, and there were airships. Was it worth the $6 we paid? Yeah. Was it worth much more? Not really.

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Marcus Nispel the Barbarian

I just returned home from lunch and a morning showing of Conan the Barbarian. The lunch was good.

That is, perhaps, unkind of me. Conan was half of a decent movie. The first half. It’s not high literature or anything, of course. It’s not War and Peace or Gone With the Wind. But for a movie about a guy who has no real aspirations in life beyond killing and having sex, it was about as good as you could expect. Reasonably well written, with an engaging cast. My only complaints through the first half of the movie were the sound mix being too heavily in favor of the generic action movie soundtrack, and the occasional continuity error (Conan’s sleeve changes Armor Class rather dramatically in one scene, and he seems strangely resistant to being cut, even by sword blows to the face).

But these are things you take with a grain of salt when dealing with a genre of movie typified by such titles as Krull, Deathstalker, and Ator the Fighting Eagle. We’re not here to see a realistic recreation of the heartbreak caused by war-torn France in the Great War, we’re here to see a guy with massive muscles and no shirt killing hordes of bad guys for some vague reason or other, and the first half of the movie doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, there are moments of brilliance. The love-interest Tamara, for example, played by Rachel Nichols, is an ass-kicking warrior-monk who racks up a body count only slightly smaller than that of the titular character himself during a couple of scenes early on. Her first introduction to Conan, in fact, involves her punching him square in the face. A good start, I should think.

Things are going well. The villain is properly villainous, his daughter (played by Rose McGowan who has never looked more creepy) is properly obsequious AND villainous, and Jason Momoa’s Conan flexes, growls, and glistens in a way that will have even non-sci-fi women looking up Stargate: Atlantis on Netflix.

Then there comes a scene where the badguys sneak aboard the ship Conan and Tamara are on. And from there, you can practically hear the Fonz jumping that shark in the background.

Caution: There be spoilers in the rest of this rant.

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The responsibility of critics

Do critics and reviewers have a responsibility to review the material objectively?

 

It is human nature to have an opinion about things, even before you know much about the thing. We call it prejudice, and leaving aside the negative connotations of racisim or sexism or what-have-you-ism, it is a practice that we all, to greater or lesser extents, perform. We judge books by their covers, we buy products based on packaging or word-of-mouth hearsay, we immediately run out to see movies starring our favorite actors or directed by our favorite directors. I am not faulting people for doing this. But I am asking, do critics (in particular, movie critics) have a responsibility on a professional level to either review the source material objectively or, if they find they are unable, to simply not review it at all?

By way of example, the Green Lantern movie opened this weekend here in the US. I haven’t bothered to look at the weekend takes to see how well it did, but judging by the number of theaters it was playing in at the cinema we went to and how crowded the 9 AM showing was, I assume it did at least alright business. This despite having gotten an abysmal 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I didn’t read ALL of the reviews (there are 180 professional reviews as of the time of this writing), but I did read a few. In particular, I read Maryann Johanson’s review at http:\\www.flickfilosopher.com.

Continue, but be warned. Here there be spoilers. Yar.

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Hanna – A review

A review

Often late to the party at such things, I only got around to seeing Hanna yesterday and thus this isn’t exactly the most timely of reviews. Chances are good if you wanted to see it you’ve done so already and if you didn’t want to, nothing I say here is going to change that. So instead of reviewing the movie like a normal movie review, I’m going to spend a little time here talking about the writing side of it. After all, this is a writing blog, right? So, I wont talk about the cinematography, the various visual continuity errors, or the generally terrific acting (with one wandering accent aside), or the sly, fun little  nods to the old Fritz Lang movie M. As a review of the writing side of things, there will be spoilers. In fact…

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