this is great -
I love this so hard.
Iron Man is falling.
this is great -
I love this so hard.
Iron Man is falling.
Reviewed in both 2D and 3D HFR
Tonight I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (AUJ) for the second time and at last, I can finally review it properly. You see, to me at least, to review a film in the right fashion you kind of need to see it in the original format the director intended.
While that isn’t always possible due to a number of reasons such as the age of the film (see: original Star Wars) or the rarity of the format it was shot in (see: Paul Thomas Anderson’s, 70mm version of The Master), for AUJ I had to make an exception and seek out both available formats.
Just before the New Year, I saw AUJ in ‘normal’ 2D at my local cinema, The Everyman. I was unsure at first; if you know anything about Tolkien’s The Hobbit, you’ll know that it is not only a children’s story that takes place before the events in The Lord of the Rings, but also a short story at that.
How they were going to stretch it out over THREE films was hard to imagine so, with the sound of money pouring into Warner Bros’ pockets echoing in my ears, I entered the cinema with much trepidation.
And I must say overall, it wasn’t that bad a film. The first half an hour or so is super self-indulgent (and entirely unnecessary), but once the journey in question gets underway, the pace picks up and you’re reminded of what it is to visit Middle Earth once again. Like Fellowship of the Ring before it, this first part of a trilogy combines a lot of character introductions with a lot of running and not really much plot development at all. One hopes that, again like The Lord of the Rings, things will get really interesting come part two.
That said, Martin Freeman is excellent as Bilbo and I would gladly sit through The Hobbit over and over again solely to watch the fantastic game of riddles set-piece with the scene-stealing keeper of the precious, Gollum (Andy Serkis, again proving he’s the best there is at mo-cap).
Speaking of seeing The Hobbit again, tonight I did just that. Thanks to some hardcore client work we delivered in the run up to Christmas, my team and I were treated to a private screening at Warner Bros – in full 3D and HFR.
‘What’s ‘HFR’?!’ I hear you cry. Well, sit down and I’ll tell you.
HFR stands for High Frame Rate, which is the very latest innovation in modern cinema. Basically it means doubling the frame rate from 24 to 48 frames per second which in turn results in a cleaner, more real (aka SUPER High Def) moving image.
But I don’t care about what others have said (and this is why I felt I had to see it in both formats before I could pass judgement), the addition of HFR really is quite fantastic. In short: I absolutely loved it. Although it can be quite jarring at first, you really can see this being the future of where cinema goes next.
Yes, it’s jarring at first – ‘it looks like a made-for-TV film!’, said some – but once you’re over the initial shock, it just works. In this instance. For this film. 99% of the time at least, it works.
What I mean is, for a film such as The Hobbit (where director, Peter Jackson, has meticulously created as much of the real world of Middle Earth against the backdrop of New Zealand and all/most outdoor scenes are just plain gorgeous to look at) shooting in HFR really brings home the sumptuousness of the scenery, of the characters placed in that scenery, and then the story that they tell together.
The 1% when it doesn’t work? When a format is built to show every minute detail, CGI sticks out like a sore thumb. This much I can forgive as, as with any new technology, there are teething problems and, given how far CGI has come over the past ten years, it won’t be an issue that much longer.
What that means is where effort is made to create the universe in question, HFR cinema can win – brilliantly.
I’d like to see a Ridley Scott film in HFR, I thought to myself mid-way through. His eye for detail and commitment to real-world creation would be perfect for this new format.
But I digress.
I’ve seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey twice and I enjoyed so much more seeing it in 3D HFR. Therefore I recommend that you seek it out, enjoy the latest evolution in cinematic entertainment, and settle in for another chapter of Tolkien’s Middle Earth masterpiece.
Ps. I have some other films to write up soon, so watch this space.
In lieu of rebooting Five things on Friday (not happening), here’s a round-up of some of the more interesting things I’ve been reading on the web this year -
1. Magic pickpocketry
Apollo Robbins is the world’s best pickpocket. You’ve never heard of him but, within magic circles and beyond, he is somewhat of a legend. Neuroscientists, the military and anthropologists have all worked with Apollo to try and discover how he creates his particular form of distraction and extraction – this New Yorker piece is a great read.
On an encounter with Penn Jillette (of world-renowned double act ‘Penn & Teller‘) at a recent Las Vegas magician’s convention -
Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.
“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
“F***. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.
2. Wi-Fi on the Underground
This year it’s pretty much free to use for Orange, Vodafone, EE and T-Mobile customers. Except, no one seems to have told T-Mobile.
‘Hey left hand, what you up to?’ – ‘Sorry right hand, can’t tell you’.
3. What three completely unrelated movies can you put together that if the story lines continued would make a good trilogy?
The above is one of the best questions I’ve seen on reddit this week, my favourite response so far?
‘Home Alone / Saw / Cube. It’s the story of a boy who takes booby trapping his house to more and more ridiculous extremes.’
4. More Blues Brothers
After MEETING JOHN LANDIS at the tail end of last year, I’m even more into my Blues Brothers than ever before. Big love to Terence Eden for shooting this Vanity Fair article – ‘Soul Men: The Making of The Blues Brothers‘ – my way.
With quotes such as -
It is 1979. Rare is the actor who doesn’t snort, pop, or guzzle. Landis, a teetotaler, misses the bigger picture. “We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for night shoots,” Aykroyd says. “Everyone did it, including me. Never to excess, and not ever to where I wanted to buy it or have it. [But] John, he just loved what it did. It sort of brought him alive at night—that superpower feeling where you start to talk and converse and figure you can solve all the world’s problems.”
Three months later, Belushi’s first movie opens. This is Animal House. Belushi, having played Bluto, the gluttonous rascal who rallies Delta House to glory, becomes a Major Movie Star.
This is good. During an out-of-town car trip, Belushi asks Aykroyd to stop the car, saying, “Watch this! Watch this!” Aykroyd recounts that “he gets out of the car and starts knocking on the ground-floor windows of this primary school, knowing he’ll get a reaction. By the time we left, all the windows are up and the whole school is chanting, ‘Bluto! Bluto!’ ”
It really is a fantastic read and worth at least 20mins of your time.
5. The Basement
‘Somewhere in Portland, there’s a very old building, and that very old building has a very, very old basement. An incredible basement, a video-game-level basement, a set-decorator’s dream basement.’
It’s a short story, in a way. More of an exploration… of history. The clues, the stories, and the secrets. It’s quite the photo journal and, again, well worth your attention.
That’s all I got.
And it was more awesome than you could possibly imagine…
So I arrive at Sadler’s Wells theatre, about to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, and I spot a grey-bearded man who reminds me of one of my heroes. As I pay for my cab, I catch a hint of an American accent and I think – ‘Actually, that’s got to be him! It is him!
I tell the girl, she doesn’t get it. I’m freaking out (quietly) inside. I don’t get starstruck, but John Landis? Come on!
Once we’re seated I nip out to get a programme and he’s still outside, chatting away. I check my phone, google his face; yup – that’s DEFINITELY HIM.
Everso politely I interrupt and explain I’m a huge fan and that, while i don’t want to disturb his day, I’d love to get a photo because – and I quote – ‘…Blues Brothers is pretty much on repeat in my house’.
‘We were just talking about that!’ he replies, and then goes on to tell me about how they organised the chases, the crashes, the number of cars they used, how they shot certain scenes, what techniques they had to employ, what permission they did (and didn’t get). He was just so warm and giving… I was speechless.
One of my all time top directors, explaining to me the details and background to one of my all time favourite films.
Writing this up on my phone quickly, before the curtain raises, I’m dumbstruck and welling up with tears of happiness.
What an amazing moment and what an amazing guy.
EDIT: I’m home now and still in total and utter glee. Awesome things I learnt from John Landis this afternoon include:
And then he started talking about Batman… I actually died.
All of that in a five minute conversation. I could’ve stood and talked with him for hours.
I love you John Landis, you just made my year.
WALL-E with guns, innit –
I’m actually well up for this.
I mean come on, even the poster is pretty ace -
Well, it’s better looking than Star Trek anyway.
What do you think? Up for Oblivion?
*Not only sci-fi, but also a whole bunch of other genres too. Yes. That’s right. I am a [closet] Tom Cruise fan. I think he’s ace. I couldn’t give a monkey’s about his apparent oddball personal life, he makes great films and should be celebrated as one of the best actors of our time. Go on, I dare you to argue with me.
Watch this –
A few things…
Look, I’m fairly sure STID will be fairly awesome; JJ Abrams is a more than competent director (whose last STAR TREK couldn’t have been any better*) but in a world where fans drool over mere FRAMES of their favourite franchise, I think the trailer could’ve been a lot stronger.
And while some of you might already be cowing about the complete lack of originality in Hollywood today full stop, ‘how can anything be classed as ‘original’ these days’? I have two answers for you.
All of the above aside, there’s still Benedict Cumberbatch – who, to be frank, will be amazing. In closing:
Bring it on…
…but please make the next trailer a little more original, yeah? Please?! And show me something new, too. I mean, even the new poster (above) looks like it was borrowed from elsewhere.
*Aside from one teeny tiny issue with evolution, obviously.
Lovely to look at, arresting to experience, The Master ticks a whole load of dramatic boxes but ultimately leaves you empty and feeling a little bit like you’ve missed something.
As I said to a friend recently [after seeing said film], I feel like I’m the guy at the back of the room asking ‘Hey, is that Emperor actually wearing any clothes?’
Don’t get me wrong, visually The Master excels and if the two leads, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, aren’t up for best and/or best supporting actor come Oscar time, then there’s clearly something wrong in the world – they’re both at career-best level and push each other brilliantly. It’s just such a damn shame that director, Paul Thomas Anderson (someone whose work I have admired for a long time) forgot to add any kind of story.
Like I said from at the outset, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe those new threads are really quite shiny and beautiful…
Or maybe you should just go see ARGO instead.
Tell me in the comments below -
It’s been five months since I first blogged about Bond’s latest outing and back then I said the following:
‘Already this looks like quite possibly the most gorgeous Bond film to date… with the tonality of Craig and the emotive & visual depth of Mendes, the third of this generation’s Bond is set to be the best one yet.’
Having just got home from catching up with Bond at London’s BFI IMAX I am ridiculously happy to report that I was 100% correct with my prediction:
SKYFALL is magnificent.
Historically, I like to keep my film reviews spoiler free. This review is no exception; there’ll be no giveaways here.
So, where do I begin? With Bond, of course.
Daniel Craig is perfect.
On form, settled in and completely existing within James Bond, when people cross him and damage the things that matter to him most, you feel his anger and his vengeful determination. The darkness (that must exist for Bond to be true) is present, but coloured with a dark humour. A flash of a wink, a half-smile – this is the 007 that has been stirring underneath Fleming’s pages since he was first committed to paper back in 1958.
It’s true: Bond has never been better.
For this to work however, our excellent hero needs an equally brilliant villain – and in Javier Bardem’s ‘Silva’, we have just that. Flirtatious, dangerous, enigmatic, and bizarrely sexually charged, Bardem delivers a performance that is reminiscent of Christopher Walken as Max Zorin (in 1985′s View to a Kill).
At first I thought it was the hair, but not so. With Silva there’s that same sense of wild destruction, that flair for the theatrical, that reminds me of Walken so. And yet, whilst Bardem never reaches the sinister heights of his career-defining turn in No Country For Old Men, the character of Silva doesn’t really demand it. He’s cunning, meticulous and driven – and a superb foil for our lead protagonist.
However if this film was ever to be defined as a two-hander, it would not be Bardem who would take the co-starring role next to Craig. No no. That role would go to Dame Judi Dench: giving us (and Bond) the most active and versatile ‘M’ we’ve ever seen – allowing her professional veneer to only just cover the maternal pride and instinct she hides throughout, Dench excels as the head of British intelligence.
In fact, I would go so far to say that SKYFALL is more about Bond’s relationship with M than it has ever been (in more ways than one).
As is standard procedure, the supporting characters are also given their fair share of the limelight. Ben Whishaw as Bond’s new Quartermaster plays it with just the right amount of humour that is fitting for the role (ie: not too much, with a distinct air of competence and respect for what is his domain and what is not). I look forward to where this goes, much.
Ralph Fiennes is surprisingly good as governmental envoy Gareth Mallory, as is Naomie Harris as Bond’s agent support, Eve. However, I think a special mention should go to Rory Kinnear, whose ‘Tanner’ is understated, under-played and every bit as believable as he should be.
Which brings us to Mendes. Sam Mendes. It has to be said:
Bond is beautiful.
Several times throughout I audibly gasped at the images thrown in front of me. From the rooftops of Istanbul through to the casinos of Macau, the splendour of Skyfall really has to be seen on the BIG screen to be appreciated (I mean it, if you can see it at the/an IMAX then do so), a fist fight in front of an electric jellyfish is a stand out.
As I type, I’m listening to the Skyfall OST on Spotify and being reminded of just how awesome and lifting it is. Reflecting backwards, and at the same time springing forward – the score is as every bit a celebration of 50 years of Bond as the film.
Visiting the world of Bond through the eyes (and ears) of Mendes is a gift. I said it before and I’ll say it again: the colours, the composition; all of it is just so visually sumptuous you can’t help but be drawn to this film.
It enraptures and snares, it casts all of what you know aside and starts again all over without fear and without folly.
This is not the Bond you used to know, but in a way – it’s the Bond you’ve always known.
Skyfall is incredible.
When the final credits roll, you’ll wonder how the 50 years of Bond on film have passed so quickly and yet you’re left kind of knowing exactly how the next 50 years are going to roll.
Well done, 007.
Very well done indeed.