Friday, 31 October 2014

The Desolation of Smaug - DVD review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The second part of the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, directed by Peter Jackson gains a DVD release on Monday 3rd November in an extended edition.

Carrying on from the underwhelming first instalment, An Unexpected Journey, the story continues with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of dwarfs (not the Ben Folds Five song) along with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company travels East, encountering along the way skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all–a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself–The Dragon Smaug.

Smaug is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, allowing a reunion of the successful Holmes and Watson partnership, making for dynamic dialogue between the two.  However, the film again suffers from much the same technical and narrative issues as the first part did.

Breaking down one book into three films means the film has long moments of pauses and lapses that stifle the film when momentum is established.  The film is infused with over-long fight scenes dependent on special visual effects belonging to spectacle rather than narrative importance with nothing close to rivalling the Orc battle in The Two Towers nor the climatic fight scene in Return of the King.

All in all, this second part of the trilogy is again justification of the trilogy as setting up for the final part The Battle of the Five Armies which is set for release in the UK on December 12, 2014.

The Extended Edition Features a 25-Minute Longer Cut and more Than Nine Hours of New Special Features. The nine-plus hours of new special features boasts audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film's director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, as well as “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. Complete special feature details are provided below.

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Friday, 10 October 2014

Gone Girl - review

 Gone Girl (2014) Poster

When it was put to me by my girlfriend to go see Gone Girl, truth be told I was a bit tentative.  I had not read the huge bestselling novel on which the film is based by Gillian Flynn, who writes the screenplay also.  As much as I am an admirer of David Fincher, the last film of his I saw in the cinema was The Game - his unheralded work starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn - the last film he did before he went stratospheric with Fight Club

Fincher's work is very much about mood and composition and the look, which whilst looks great the imagery can be lost on the big screen scale, this viewer preferring to wait for the Home Entertainment release.  However, something about watching Ben Affleck squirm was nevertheless pleasing to me but I also wanted to see Rosamund Pike succeed in the title role of Amy Dunne, married to Affleck's Nick.

The film like most of Fincher's work carries a bang and a twist that slaps you in the face with a cold hand.  As someone who did not read the book, the twist left me stunned and confused.  I remember seeing an interview with Affleck, where he has heard accusations that the film has been labelled misogynistic. Can a film/novel be such a thing, if authored by a woman?  Do not worry dear reader, I shall not ruin the ending or the twist.

What can be said though, is that Fincher has succeeded in creating a cyncial and satirical swipe at US media and the tabloid witch-hunts that go after fodder to fill up column inches and the constant 24 hour news cycle of hate and fear, as perfectly embodied by Missy Pyle in a cameo. The film is not only cynical of the media but also about that other institution, marriage; mocking it as an act between two players who cannot compromise and yet must do to co-exist.

When Nick and Amy meet, they are cute, the type of couple you want to slap for being so happy and Amy even says, 'I want to punch us, we are so cute'.  Yet following the recession and unemployment, the couple have to leave New York for Nick's hometown of Missouri to tend to his ailing mother.  This relocation leads to a relocation of feelings and emotions for the perfect couple, as arguments become longer and more frequent leading to the abduction of Amy where Nick is prime suspect.

The gloss of the film is very methodical as expected from such a visual director as Fincher, alas there is no coffee pot dolly shot for fanboys to cream over; this is a film where he allows his actors to hold centre stage and grab our attention by their movement and action. Fincher's camera is perhaps the stillest I can recall and yet his panache and flair is still so distinctive.

Whilst Affleck postures and breathes menacingly (in preparation for Batman no doubt), it is Pike who hits the home run of a performance.  A role of so many layers is given life by the beautiful Brit, allowing Amy to be homely yet icy; believable yet leave you guessing, sexy yet innocent.  Able support is forthcoming from Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister, Margo; Kim Dickens as Detective Boney, who wants to help Nick but must do her job; Neil Patrick Harris playing it straight as an old flame of Amy's and Tyler Perry brings some genuine warmth and mirth to the role of Tanner Bolt, a lawyer who helps defend Nick.

At times gripping and highly intelligent, the film has to succumb to the books conclusion and whilst the twist cranks up the necessary tension, the denouement leaves you a little bit unhappy as it is no conclusion at all.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. Although the use of Affleck's face to bookend the abduction hunt - one a misplaced smile, the other an unhappy frown - is a great use of performance and a swipe at Affleck's matinee looks.

Go and see it before this girl is gone from the cinema screens. I did you a disservice Mr. Fincher and you deserved my cinema going attention. You have it now, its been found.

Memphis Preview


With the first preview shows beginning last night, the countdown is on before the curtain rises on MEMPHIS debuting at the Shaftesbury Theatre on Thursday 23rd October.

Inspired by true events from the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, MEMPHIS follows the fame and forbidden love of a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break.

The West End production is a transfer of the hit Broadway musical of the same name, with a Grammy award winning score by original Bon Jovi member David Bryan and book by Joe DiPietro. Starring multi-award winning recording artist Beverly Knight (in her second West End role after The Bodyguard) as lounge singer Felicia Farrell and Killian Donnelly as DJ Huey Calhoun.

Here is a link to a video preview on YouTube:                         

And here are some images from the gruelling rehearsal schedule for the energetic cast. As the video and these images can attest to, there is a joyfulness and zest to the performers that will have people dancing in the aisles of London.

Opening night is on Thursday 23rd October

Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday & Saturday at 2.30pm
Ticket Prices £20 to £67.50            
Box Office 0207 379 5399