The Hobbit: An Unexpected Low

I have been living in Korea for almost six months, and I have only seen two movies in theaters. The first was Step Up Revolution (because my young impressionable host sister wanted to). It took me three months but I finally got that wretched taste out of my mouth by seeing the Hobbit.

After the wild success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Hobbit has been one of the most awaited films this year. An avid LOTR fan myself, I have been waiting just as eagerly. The Hobbit is based on the book that came before the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the story of how Bilbo Baggins discovered the Ring.

Having read the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I knew to expect a different flavor. While LOTR was dark and depressing and full of death, the Hobbit was pretty much a children’s story that foreshadows the doom that approaches Middle Earth. These stories are very different, so I’m trying not to compare the two, but that’s kind of impossible. I didn’t exactly hate the Hobbit, but I didn’t enjoy it near as much as I did any of LOTR.

First, the bad. What I loved about LOTR was that when I watched, it never felt like I was watching a fantasy movie. It was so rich in detail and artistry that nothing felt fake. It was more like watching a historical documentary, but much more entertaining. As I was watching the Hobbit, I knew I was watching a fantasy movie.

For more specific complaints, I had a huge problem with a scene in which two giant men made of stone were ripping mountains apart. During this sequence, Bilbo and his party of Dwarves are split up and have to jump across a huge rift. Sound familiar?  Almost the exact thing happened in the Fellowship of the Ring when the Fellowship was in the Mines of Moria, but that was better done. Come on Peter Jackson, get a little more creative.

I hated the Goblins. The monsters in LOTR were awesome. In my head, I knew they had a lot of make up and CG, but they were still scary and real. They were believable.  The goblins were not. The Goblin king was also given a few zinger lines that were supposed to be funny, but they weren’t.

The Hobbit was also filled with too many very cliche moments. I know LOTR had moments with cliche ideas in them, but they were done in a subtle enough way that didn’t make you want to groan. There were too many times in the Hobbit when I was being clobbered over head. Okay, Thorin is going to go battle his arch enemy. I get it. He doesn’t have to run through flames for 15 minutes. Yes, the Hobbit was brave and the Dwarves are surprised. Guess who isn’t?

I also think the beginning of the movie took too long. I know the introduction of The Fellowship took forever, but at least it was entertaining and interesting. In The Hobbit, not so much. I understand why Jackson brought back Elijah Woods and Ian Holmes. That was a great nod to the fans. However, it wasn’t really needed, at least, not as long as it took. A lot of that could be cut and no one would miss it.

Okay, now to the nicer part. Regarding the Dwarves. In LOTR, you only really get to know one Dwarf: Gimli, and he only serves as comic relief. Good comic relief, but I enjoyed how in the Hobbit, you get to see more of Dwarvish culture and get to understand them more.

And somehow, Jackson was able to make Dwarves sexy. I don’t know how he did it, but Legolas who?

The bits of the Dragon that you see were done very well. I am so glad Smog was not revealed completely. Viewers saw just enough to want to come back for more.

By far, however, my favorite part of this movie was the Riddle in the Dark scene, or the scene with Bilbo and Golem. That scene was straight from the book, and it was great seeing such an iconic moment from the book come to life. Golem was one of my favorite parts of LOTR, so seeing him again was great. Andy Serkis made an interesting acting choice here. We saw a different Golem, kind of. His Smegol side and his Golem side were more divided, as if the Ring hadn’t taken complete control over him yet, which added a whole new depth to his character, or characters depending on how you think of it.

As a huge LOTR fan, what I really loved was getting to go back to Middle Earth one more time, and see characters I fell in love with and meet new ones. However, had this movie been made before the Lord of the Rings, I am not sure I would have become such a huge fan. I give The Hobbit a 6. Although I do not regret seeing it.

Star Wars Strikes Back!

Who was prepared for this? I just found out today that a new Star Wars trilogy is in the making, and this time it is headed by, wait for it, Disney. I never envisioned Mickey Mouse using light sabers, but you have to admit the visual is an interesting one.

 

I am a longtime Star Wars fan. When I say fan of Star Wars, I mean I love the original trilogy, and not the crap that Lucas gave birth to most recently. Nor do I approve the modern CG changes he has made to the original trilogy. As far as I am concerned, Hayden Christianson is not David Prowse. So when I first discovered new Star Wars movies were being made, I instantly felt an uncomfortable weight in my stomach. Until I found out that George Lucas will neither be writing nor directing it. I guess he’s either too old or has gotten tired of Star Wars fans sending him hate mail. Possibly both.

 

As of now, no one knows who the writer/ director will be. All that is known is that the people being considered are experienced with big budget action movies. Names that have been speculatively thrown around include Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon. Whoever it will be, such a job will be a tall order after the critical bashing the most recent Star Wars trilogy received.

 

Since there is very little information available at this point, I do not know how this new trilogy will turn out. I only hope that whoever makes these movies understands that they will live up to fans if they remember to actually write a story rather than just putting in action and special effects, as Lucas seemed to do.

 

It seems strange that the original Star Wars trilogy was so wildly successful and the last one… wasn’t. Well, I guess that depends on what you call successful. True, they made a lot of money, but so did Twilight. As far as quality, the newest trilogy does not cut it.

 

 

The disparity between the two exists for one reason, and that reason’s name is George Lucas. When Lucas was making the first trilogy, he was still kind of a nobody in Hollywood, so he wasn’t calling the shots. Thus he was reigned in. Then he became famous and made it to the top of the totem pole. Then he could make all the decisions. No one could tell him “You know George, this character Jar Jar Binks is really annoying. Don’t you think we should cut him?” Or, “George, don’t you think having Darth Vader scream “No!” like that is a little over the top?” And we all know where that got us.

 

But if this next trilogy still sucks, the original trilogy still remains. Well, actually, you have to pay quite a lot of money for the very original untouched ones because Lucas is a greedy prick. 

Tree of Life: Can You Say Epic Fail?

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So yesterday, I had a few free hours even though lately I have been wildly busy preparing for my year in Korea. I took this free time and said, “okay, I will watch a movie. Why not the Tree of Life?” Little did I expect what horror was awaiting me.

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I only got through 45 minutes of this movie, so for your plot summary I will rely on Wikipedia. Tree of Life is an independent drama released in 2011 directed by Terence Malick. The movie begins with a family in the 1950’s with three sons. One of the sons dies. Because of this, the ill-tempered father (Brad Pitt) puts too much pressure on one of his other sons, Jack (Sean Penn) and despite his deep love of music, Jack ends up becoming an architect. Reflecting on this, Jack fights to realize who he really is.

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Apparently, that is what the movie should have been about. However, there was so much random shit in Tree of Life that it didn’t seem to be about anything. For 95% of what I saw, my reaction was, “What the hell does this have to do with the story?” Pretty much, the entire 45 minutes that I watched were a bunch of abstract images plus some video footage of the actors thrown in and over-the-top whispered voice-overs saying stuff like “When did you first touch my heart?…And even then I knew my life held no meaning…And then I was aroused, but I wasn’t quite sure why…I became determined to live my life as a fish…”  I didn’t mind it for the first few minutes and thought it was just setting the tone, and soon stuff was really going to start happening. 45 minutes later, I realized that the entire fucking movie was going to be that way. And that is why I turned it off, because having to ask questions like “How does showing me a picture of The Horse-Head Nebula have anything to do with your son dying?” just pissed me off.

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It would be easy for someone to point out, hey you didn’t see the entire movie, so how do you know it’s utter crap? Quite a valid point. However, a movie has to keep the viewer’s interest. And this movie obviously didn’t if I had no problem turning it off. If that happens with a movie, it has utterly failed.

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What’s frustrating is that I usually like artistic movies, films that try new things and experiment and aren’t completely conventional. However, I feel as if Tree of Life was just so avante guard and abstract that it was completely inaccessible. If you can’t connect with a movie, with the story or the characters, you might as well be watching a slideshow of the vacation taken by someone you hate.

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If I had to say one good thing about this movie, it would be that the images I did see were beautiful. They made no sense, but were in fact stunning. Completely uneccesary, yet pretty to look at. Very much like Paris Hilton.

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Considering how angry this movie made me (I want those 45 minutes back!) I give it a 1. Try again Terence Malick. Better yet, don’t.

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IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!!!!!!!

Dear Squids,

I have really enjoyed working on this blog, grand standing, forcing my opinions on people, and placing myself on soap boxes. However, very soon a new chapter of my life is opening up. In a week and a half, I will be going to Korea to teach English on a Fulbright grant. I don’t foresee having much time to work on this blog, or even see movies for that matter. Thus, for the next year my number of posts is going to go way down. Sorry to disappoint all 12 of my faithful readers. Although there is a chance I find random pockets of time, so maybe I’ll post every now and then. You never know. However, during my teaching experiences and my traveling throughout Asia, I will be writing another blog: anamericangirlinkorea.wordpress.com. So if my movie blog gives you your reason for living, or you just want to check out what I’m doing, you can read that blog instead. When I come back to America a year from now, I fully intend to first eat a bunch of American junk food, and then resume my squid leader duties.

Miss you!

Allison

Results of Joss Whedon Poll: And the Winner is…

My poll on the best early Joss Whedon creation has closed. The real battle was quite obviously between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Dollhouse, Angel, and Firefly never had a chance. And with a margin of one vote, the winner is…

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I’m not that surprised since Buffy has such a big cult following (including myself) but I really thought Firefly was going to get more votes. It’s great and there was an uproar of disapproval when Fox canceled it. Oh well.

I want to find the one person who voted for Angel, sit them down, and bitch slap them. Just kidding. If you’re out there, kudos for going against the grain! Really against the grain.

So I’m going to create a new poll. Check it out!

The Iron Lady

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Watching this movie was an interesting experience for me. When I watch a movie for the first time, I usually prefer to do it alone, because some people like to talk during movies (like pretty much my entire family). And then I ask them to stop and then of course they just do it more because it annoys me. I swear, I could be watching  the most intense, important scene of a movie, and suddenly my Dad would say “Who is that actress?…Is she still alive?…Why is Bruce Willis holding a Samurai sword?…I think John Travolta secretly wants to be a woman…” I love my father, but seriously, I don’t watch movies to have conversation. But of course a couple of days ago I have to be nice, and when we didn’t have anything to do I just had to mention that I had a copy of The Iron Lady. And of course, the movie had been playing not ten minutes before “Is that Glen Close?” Happy Father’s Day Dad :).

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Yet despite the unwanted disruptions, I really enjoyed this movie. The Iron Lady is a British film released in 2011 and directed by Phyllida Lloyd about the life of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The movie begins with Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) as an old woman suffering from dementia. As you continually watch her struggling with old age and dealing with her hallucinations of her dead husband Denis (Jim Broadbent),Thatcher has flashbacks to when she was a young woman (Alexandra Roach) trying to become a politician in a world of men, and eventually the wife and mother who becomes the first female Prime Minister in a western country.

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There are so many great things about this movie. Although I might be biased as someone who majored in English and history, making me always up for a historical film. I’d say one of the best things about this movie is the artful way in which it was put together. This includes the inspired choice to not have a consecutive storyline but use flashbacks. This choice really gave more power to the tragedy of Thatcher’s aging as she reviewd her life.

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The Iron Lady also has one of the best casts I have ever seen. Meryl Streep was amazing no doubt. Some critics were quoted saying something along the lines of she had more iron than the real Margaret Thatcher did. She was completely transformed. But I also loved seeing Anthony Head, the actor who played Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is currently playing King Uther in the show Merlin, pop up in a huge movie like this. And Jim Broadbent who played Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis, did an astounding job, especially the scenes in which he was Margaret’s hallucinations.

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However, best of all, this movie had probably one of the most subtle yet poignant endings in film history. It ends with the elderly Margaret Thatcher washing a tea cup. Which of course sounds ridiculous by itself, but becomes increasingly powerful when I tell you that early in the movie, when Denis proposes to her, she tells him “I will not die washing a tea cup.” But what’s so beautiful about the ending is that Thatcher cleans the cup, puts it on a shelf, and goes on about her day. She didn’t die washing it, she continues to live. Despite her dwindling mind, she will continue to remain a strong female figure in history for all time. Sorry, did the English major in me just wax too strong?

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I think I only have one complaint about this movie. I felt it got a little repetitive, which I know is inevitable when it is constantly going back in time. However, I got tired of all the images of angry Englishmen tapping on her car window. After seeing it five times, I wonder, was the writer of this film not able to come up with another way to display the country’s outrage?

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I would describe this movie as beautifully tragic. It is tragic in the way that Thathcer is fighting so hard to retain her sanity, in the way that she desperately misses her husband, and in the way that as Prime Minister, she finally understands that even she can go too far. I give the Iron Lady a 9. And after seeing it I should probably add Meryl Streep to my list about my favorite actresses: http://hereslookinatyousquid.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/my-favorite-top-ten-actresses-13-2/.

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Scary Movies That Aren’t Really Scary

I was going to do this list for Halloween, but I will be in Korea then teaching English so I foresee being quite busy. But it was a list a really wanted to do, so I’m doing it now. As I have expressed in many previous posts, I am quite possibly the biggest scardy cat alive. I do not watch scary movies. I can’t, because my over-active imagination will keep me awake for weeks, and a girl needs her beauty sleep. So it’s really frustrating when Halloween rolls around and all of my friends want to watch horror marathons and I can’t join them. However, over the past few years I have discovered movies that have either a Halloween theme or scary topic so you can legitimately watch them on Halloween with friends while they aren’t actually scary at all. So anyone else out there who also cannot tolerate scary movies, this list is for you. These are ten movies that will make for a perfect Halloween or scary movie marathon without actually being scary.

10. Stardust

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Yes, this is more of an adventure movie, but Michelle Pfieffer pretty much disintegrates into a corpse before your eyes. And it is a really fun, entertaining movie, and you get to see Robert DeNiro be a cross dresser. What more do you want?

9. Twilight

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Okay, before you yell at me, let me explain. Twilight or any of its sequels is quite fun if you have junk food, booze, and friends to make fun of it with. And the presence of vampires ties it to Halloween enough to go on the marathon list without scaring you. No, it probably will scare you, but not the kind of way that will keep you up at night.

8. Hocus Pocus

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I have never actually seen Hocus Pocus, but I know of enough people who like to watch it every Halloween that I’m confident it would work. Considering that I think its mainly oriented toward children, I don’t think it’s that scary. So if anyone watches it on my advice and ends up having nightmares…oops.

7. Cannibal the Musical

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The title of this movie alone should suggest how it connects with scary subject matter. People eat each other. Not exactly zombies, but close enough. And it is quite hilarious.

6. The Corpse Bride

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This Tim Burton flick was made in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas (hey, guess what else is on the list?). It didn’t make a huge impression on me when I saw it, but it’s creepy enough to work but not too creepy.

5. Practical Magic

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This movie about witches living in modern society starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman is actually a lot of fun, and deceptively creepy at some points. It will make a good addition to any Halloween or “scary” movie marathon.

4. Teen Wolf

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I’m busting out a classic. This fantasy comedy from 1985 will have you rolling on the floor with its badly done, well, everything, its over the top contrivance, it’s cheep tricks, and 80′s hair styles.

3. Dracula: Dead and Loving It!

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Another vampire movie for you! And this one is made by Mel Brooks, so you don’t have to make fun of it to enjoy it. It’s hysterical.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

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We all know about this movie. I think it is the only bi-holiday movie. It can be watched for Halloween and Christmas. While it is a children’s movie, it’s a Halloween classic and fun.

  1. Young Frankenstein
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Ever since my junior year at college, I have tried to create a tradition of watching Young Frankenstein every year for Halloween. I love this movie so much. And it is perfect for those of us who like watching movies on Halloween but not being scared out of our wits. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder are a perfect combination, and this is them at their best.

Honorable Mention

Shawn of the Dead: I didn’t include this movie because it scared me half to death. But it is very funny, so if you happen to have a somewhat higher tolerance for fear than I do, it will make a perfect addition to your marathon.

The Brother’s Grimm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Birdemic: Shock and Terror