Midsummer Night’s Dream starring David Walliams and Sheridan Smith

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Even the mere mention of Shakespeare conjures notions of romance, tragedy, suave and sophistication. As a nation we are compelled to defend the English lexical genius despite not having a canker-blossoms as to what is going on. And admittedly, the initial excitement I felt when Sheridan Smith came on to the stage as Hippolyta was swiftly overshadowed by the complexity of ‘doth’, ‘thou’, ‘Sirrah’ and ‘forsooth’. Honestly though, there is no need to worry.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the penultimate play performed by the Michael Grandage Company as part of a 15-month season at the Noël Coward Theatre. It’s a comedy about four young Athenians in a massive love quadrangle. Helena (Katherine Kingsley) loves Demetrius (Stefano Brasachi), but Demetrius wants to marry Hermia (Susannah Fielding), and Hermia loves Lysander (Sam Swainsbury). Trouble is rife between the fairy King and Queen, Oberon (Pádraic Delaney) and Titania (Sheridan Smith), and after a little mischief from the fairy Puck, the story between the lovers become intertwined. And then there’s Bottom (David Walliams) and his theatrical group who are also accidentally tied in.

As predicted, Walliams steals the show, despite not being one of the focal characters. But that isn’t a bad thing. He is at his finest in the second half, taking the joke over the line and generally being a bit naughty. Bottom is a show off and an attention seeker who insists that he can act out all the characters in the show. Does this remind you of anyone? A Shakespearean Walliams perchance? There is one scene where Walliams is singing alone on stage, clad with ass ears and a tail. I couldn’t help but think it was based on a performance he’d judged during his time on Britain’s Got Talent. I’ve seen a few versions of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and Walliams’ Bottom is the best I’ve seen so far.

Grandage’s 60s take on the Shakespearean comedy is so not as naff as it sounds. It’s as far away from Hairspray as it goes. From the smoking, hippie fairies who live in the forest, to the grey suited Theseus and Hippolyta. BAFTA winner Smith is hot. Her performance gives elegant Titania a slightly mad twist, perhaps due to all the smoking, and her husky voice is irresistible. Her role is less ridiculous than Walliams, and her skills as an actor are challenged somewhat by the discomfort of Shakespeare, which caused her to be slightly awkward at times.

Through cuts in the text and a quick pace, the performance lasts around two hours and 20 minutes. To the more hardcore Shakespearean fans out there, this may come as a disappointment, but for the rest of us mere mortals it is just the right amount. Too much prose from a single character in Shakespearean English can rapidly leave the mind wondering and the plot forgotten. But in this version is understandable, naughty and just down right funny.

4/5, only because Shakespeare isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

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Man of Steel ★★

ManofSteelFinalPosterI was disappointed, but not unexpectedly so. It was predictable, overcomplicated and tried way too hard.

The last decade has seen a high demand for cinematic excellence, clad in skin-tight suits, accompanied by the perfect balance between complicated love and an appropriate degree of ass-kicking. And hasn’t it been delivered. I’m talking a trilogy of Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire, three Ironman films starring Robert Downey Jnr, and of course the Avengers Assemble throwing in Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. With the audience practically spoilt for choice of heroes, is there room for Superman? Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel would suggest there isn’t. Superman is just one too many.

Okay, so we have Krypton, we have Earth and we have a broody super hero who is trying to fit in. It sounds like all the other Superman depictions we’ve seen before. Don’t forget Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, was only released in 2006 and E4’s Smallville series ended in 2011. The story is still fresh in our memories.

The funniest moments in this film lie with a brooding Superman trying his hand at different jobs: as a waiter in a bar, and a hand on a fishing boat. But there isn’t enough of this. Out of the 143 minutes of running time, it feels like half of it is the final battle. The former half of the film seems dedicated to hurriedly explaining how Kal-El came to be Clark Kent and then to be Superman.

Don’t get me wrong, Henry Cavill who plays Superman is Incredibly easy on the eye. He definitely looks the part with his toned torso, tiny waist and chiselled chin. And he’s good at the part. My problem doesn’t lie with the quality of acting but with David Goyer’s screenplay. There isn’t enough humanity and too much CGI which unfortunately gives the whole film the ‘meh’ factor.

Russell Crowe is at his best when he plays the unshaven, brutish, hunky hero, like in Master and Commander, or in Gladiator, not the dad of a Superhero from an alien planet. I can’t take him seriously. And Michael Shannon as General Zod isn’t bad, but if someone can fill me in on exactly what his vendetta is, much would be appreciated.

As for Lois Lane – Lois Lame more like! In a day and age where an audience demands women to have a bit of spunk, Amy Adams (who was hilarious in Enchanted) is a persistent journalist who is not afraid to probe. But that’s as far as it goes. She’s not funny, slightly annoying and quite pathetic. And there is a definite lack of chemistry between Adams and Cavill, which is a shame. And her character also has this annoying ability to turn up in scenes unnecessarily.

And to top it off, New York gets destroyed. Again. It’s a lot less impressive and dramatic when you’ve seen the Manhattan skyline crumble for the umpteenth time! To be honest, I was just wishing for the fighting scenes to end. I was lost with the storyline and bored with the action. I wanted to see more of the man who balances the cape and tights with the glasses. Someone said to me that maybe that’s what the sequel will be. Sequel? I hope not.

This film will undoubtedly do well: it will probably make millions, smash the box office etc. but that will be down to the existing franchise and a good PR team, not the film itself.

This is an appeal to the film industry: please leave Superman alone for now. Bring him back in 20 years time, leave behind the cliché and make him epic.

Man of Steel 2/5

View the trailer below. Man of Steel comes to UK cinemas 14th June 2013.

The Great Gatsby ★★★

The Great Gatsby is out in cinemas on Thursday 16th May

The Great Gatsby is out in cinemas on Thursday 16th May

Many of us studied the novel at school and as a result, there is a grand divide when it comes to opinions on The Great Gatsby. There are those who studied it and love it because of its complex characters, its beauty, its flowing lexis. Then there are those who studied it and hate it because of its complex characters, its use of long and mundane sentences, its complicated word structure. Nevertheless, a film is something we can all identify with, and by simply dedicating 143 minutes of our time, we can decide if we should endeavor to read the book.

It’s a story of complicated love, of course it is. Set in 1920’s New York, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)) is a wealthy tenant of West Egg, who endeavors to throw epic parties weekend after weekend in the hope that his lost love Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) will just wander in, enticed by the wealth. Tobey Maguire (who also played Spiderman) is our narrator, Nick Carraway – the reliable keeper of secrets.

It’s messy. Nick is Daisy’s cousin and she is married to Nick’s friend, Tom (Joel Edgerton), from Harvard who is sleeping with his mistress Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher). Gatsby is hoping to win back Daisy and Nick’s just looking to fulfill his own American Dream. I wanted to feel sorry for Gatsby and Daisy, feel something for them, but the passion between the forbidden lovers is not really shared with the audience. Carey has got the sweet ‘butter-wouldn’t-melt’ look perfected but I still felt there was something missing. Perhaps it was because the plot dragged in places and the action felt rushed.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel has been adapted to motion picture on four previous occasions – once in 1927, again in 1949 and 1974, and a television film in 2000 – but this is the first version where a contemporary soundtrack has been applied to the 1920’s Jazz Age, and it has really worked. I’ll be honest, the last thing I expected to see were 1920’s flapper girls dancing the Charleston to the pumping bass of Kanye West rapping. Or even to hear Alicia Keys singing Empire State of Mind when a 1929 Duesenberg and a1930 Buick recklessly race in Long Island, but I take my hat off to the director, Baz Luhrmann. Getting Jay-Z on board as an executive producer was a wise move.

It is long though, so I strongly advise bringing a cushion to sit on. The dazzle and sparkle of Gatsby’s parties soon wears off and sometimes where the plot lies thin, I found my mind wondering “seriously, what is DiCaprio’s accent supposed to be? English? American? South African?”

Despite the accent though, I think DiCaprio nails it. However, my real issue lies with Macguire. There is just something about his voice narrating the story his character so epically titled ‘The Great Gatsby’ which makes the tale sound a bit sappy, a bit pathetic, a bit meh.

I think this film will have a similar reaction to that of the book: there will be those who are inspired by the amalgamation of contemporary music and period drama, juxtaposed with the classic theme of troubled love. And there will be those who will find it over-complicated, long and dull. I would recommend it to Gatsby lovers, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. 3/5.

The Great Gatsby is out in cinemas on Thursday 16th May. Watch the trailer below.

The Look of Love ★★★

Bits, boobs and bushes. These feature A LOT in Michael Winterbottom’s ‘The Look of Love’.

Anna Friel, Steve Coogan and Tamsin Egerton pose for photos at the premiere in Soho. Image © of Hollie Borland

Anna Friel, Steve Coogan and Tamsin Egerton pose for photos at the premiere in Soho. Image © of Hollie Borland

The film follows the life of the King of Soho, Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan), during his years as a strip club proprietor in London’s red-light district. Winterbottom’s latest project explores the development of Raymond’s strip clubs and pornographic empire. It begins in black and white 1958, where the law states that the girls could pose naked on stage but they must remain still, right up until the early 90’s where a certain seedy dominatrix feel takes over the classic beauty of the glamour models.

His story is focused on the three most important women in his life – his wife Jean Raymond (Anna Friel), his lover (Tamsin Egerton) and his beloved daughter, Debbie Raymond (Imogen Pooting). Told in a flashback style, Raymond reflects on the sex, drugs and lavish lifestyle that led up to the death of his daughter.

At the UK premiere in Soho (15.04.2013), Friel told me about how she had to pose naked on screen whilst reenacting a photo shoot her character took part in for Raymond’s pornographic magazine, Men Only.

“I remember when I was posing, I thought wouldn’t it be funny if all the men had to get undressed! But that didn’t happen. If all of the men had to get naked, that would be fabulous,” said Friel.

Anna wore a mustard yellow vintage dress whilst posing next to her co-stars Steve Coogan, 47, and Tamsin Egerton, 24, who play Paul Raymond and his lover, Fiona Richmond.

When I asked Coogan if he could imagine his daughter taking him out to party like Debbie does for Raymond, he replied, “that’s not going to happen!”

The film features a number of celebrity cameos, including Dara Ó Briain, Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, and Simon Bird.

Needless to say there is nudity. Egerton (St. Trinians) is naked, Friel is naked, Coogan is naked, lots of girls are naked – threesomes, foursomes, fivesomes. Not only do you see the development of porn over a couple of decades, but you also witness the changing fashion of pubic hair, from something quite full and impressive (or offensive depending on how you look at it) in the 50s and 60s, right through to nothing.  This film is definitely not for the prude! 3/5

Dara  Ó Briain, Chris Addison and Steve Coogan at the premiere of The Look of Love. Images  © of Hollie Borland

Dara Ó Briain, Chris Addison and Steve Coogan at the premiere of The Look of Love. Images © of Hollie Borland

The Look of Love is out in UK cinemas on 26th April 2013.

Life of Pi ★★★★

Life_of_Pi_2012_PosterBased on the Man Booker prize winning novel by Yann Martel, Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger) has brought the explosion of colour to our screens. With some stunning visual effects and a thought provoking finish, it lacked in movement with a slow start.

An adult Piscine Patel (Pi), played by Irrfan Khan, recounts his tale to a Canadian writer (Rafe Spall) who is seeking a story worthy of putting pen to paper. The film flits between the present day and flashbacks to Pi’s childhood and the unlikely events unto which beheld him.

Young Pi, a boy who lives on his father’s zoo in the centre of Pondicherry in India, finds God in three different forms which leads him to practice Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Belonging to part of a respectable family of four, Pi’s father decides to upheave his family and animals to Canada in order to escape political unrest. Aboard a Japanese cargo ship, a savage storm leaves the adolescent Pi (Suraj Sharma) stranded at sea in a lifeboat, with a wounded zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and Richard Parker, the fantastically CGI-ed Bengal tiger. This is the life of Pi for 227 days.

The only way to describe Pi’s story is a vibrant flare of colour that could only be made possible if it was a world created by one of Pi’s gods. It makes dreary grey London laughable.  Although the film would not have been made possible without CGI, it is still fairly believable. Less so when Richard Parker is in his habitat at the zoo, but the real beauty occurs when Pi is at sea. The amalgamation of exaggerated colour issues confusing pangs of emotion; of envy at the attractive scenic palate, and desperation on Pi’s behalf.

To be honest, I was expecting a story like Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and instead I got a slower paced ‘airy fairy’ fiction. That’s not to say it was bad, but it lacks grounded realism. I realise this is the point, but if you have the dirty, gang-ridden Indian slums in your mind, you will find Life of Pi perhaps less engaging. Pi Patel’s life is so very different to the life of Jamal Malik.

It is one of those films that is slow to start, brilliant in the middle, and then dips a little before offering a heart wrenching twist, so intense that it leaves you thinking about it for days (and luckily you sort of forget the slightly pants bits of the movie). Lee has executed a valiant attempt at producing the cinematic adaptation, but nothing can beat the great piece of literature that is the Life of Pi. 4/5.

Watch the trailer here.

BAFTA Award 2013: results

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

British Academy of Film and Television Arts 2013

Another year of fantastic film and cinematography celebrated by the British! Here’s a running list of the results so far, just incase you’re missing out on all the fun.

List of the Winners so far:

Best British Film: Skyfall

Best Short Film: Swimmer

Best Animation Short FIlm: The Making of Long Bird

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina

Best Makeup-Lisa Westcott: Les Miserables

Best Animated Film: Brave

Best Sound: Les Miserables

Best Editing: William Goldenberg, Argo

Best Cinematography: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi

Best Original Score: Thomas Newman, Skyfall

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarentino, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Outstanding Debut by a Bristish Writer, Director or a Producer: Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis, The Imposter

Best Special Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema: Tessa Ross

Best Film Not in the English Language: Amour

Rising Star Award: Juno Temple

Best Documentary: Search for Sugarman

Best Production Design: Eve Stewart, Les Miserables

Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo

Best Documentary: Search for Sugarman

Best Production Design: Eve Stewart, Les Miserables

Best Director: Ben Affleck, Argo

Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Best Film: Argo

The Fellowship Awards: Sir Alan Parker

Les Misérables ★★★★

Les MisérablesTom Hooper, the director who brought you the Oscar-winning King’s Speech, is the guy who dared to take the long reigning stage play and throw it at the big screen. The result is the visually stunning Les Misérables. You are either going to find it a musical marvel or your idea of a nightmare. It’s not for everyone, but those of you who like going to the theatre are going to love this.

Well, it certainly lives up to it’s name. It is one of the most miserable story lines ever, set in nineteenth century France, but that doesn’t make it boring. It’s compelling, despairing and heart wrenching in places. The story follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man living in post-revolution France convicted for stealing bread to save his sister’s son, who chooses to break his parole and begin a new life, walking the path of God. However, he is forever pursued by the law in the form of Javert (Russell Crowe), meaning Valjean is never safe. Preoccupied with his own fate, he inadvertently causes the life of an employee to take a turn for the worse; much worse. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who works solely to provide for her young daughter, Corsette (Isabelle Allen), is forced into a life of desperation and destitution. Her tale is so sad and distressing you just want to help her, but you can’t, so you end up feeling, well, miserable. The apex of the plot coincides with the uprising of rebels against the re-instalment of the monarchy.

It’s visually brilliant: it’s so dirty and filthy you can almost smell it – the whiff of poverty and desperation. It has a real feel to it, it’s believable. I wouldn’t say it is a passionate film, and it is long (a total of 158 minutes long), but you can feel the film persisting, heaving, despite the odds – just like Valjean. It’s not weak by any means, it just feels like, similar to it’s protagonist, it is battling against oppression, and winning.

The cast is fantastic. Obvious names feature in the film, like Amanda Seyfried, who plays the older Cosette, who first demonstrated her beautiful voice in Mamma Mia, and Hugh Jackman who previously played Elvis-sound-alike Memphis in Happy Feet. But Anne Hathaway has a surprisingly good voice and Russell Crowe is far from lacking in confidence. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are just fantastic at playing the disgusting M. and Mme. Thénardier. They’re thieving, they’re grotty, they’re vile human beings – you resent them so much, but you also can’t wait for them to appear on the screen. The ridiculously famous cast is juxtaposed with the unknown – Samantha Barks who plays Éponine being one of them – making the film real, authentic. Hooper had the cast perform live on set, with a piano soundtrack playing in earpieces, with the orchestra added later during production. This makes the performances raw and true, like the characters. For example, Crowe isn’t an amazing singer, but he’s unselfconscious and engaging.

It is long. There are moments where ten minutes of song here and there could have been cut – don’t get me wrong, I think it works brilliantly on stage, but for the sake of cinematic satisfaction I kind of found myself switching off a little bit. However, every time I found myself drifting, it would pull itself back spectacularly with a fantastically heart wrenching scene. It certainly doesn’t spare the audience’s feelings, and death is uncommon, but that doesn’t stop you from feeling attached to every character you meet. This sung-through musical features some classics, such as SuBo’s “I Dreamed a Dream”, and the terribly sad “On My Own”, but other than that here isn’t much you can sing-along to – then again I’m not a hard-core Les Mis fan. Having said that, after watching this film, I may well become one. Viva la France! 4/5

Les Misérables is released in the UK 11th January 2013.

Flight ★★★

Flight is released in the UK February 1st 2013.Well it’s not entirely what I expected it to be. Despite being directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump and Castaway), I thought it was going to be something like Snakes on a Plane, and we all know how that turned out. So, with my expectations already low, I was pleasantly surprised: it’s not just about a plane journey.

Whip Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, is a commercial pilot, an old-timer, who should be admired for his confident flying skills; applauded for his ability to land a plane, which has been damaged badly whilst airborne during a turbulent storm. Despite his heroics, involving flying the plane upside down and a crash landing that saved many, he is not treated as such. With high levels of cocaine and alcohol in his system, Captain Whip Whitaker is a drunk.

In this legal battle to discover the true responsibility for what went wrong, Whip tries to find himself – at the bottom of a bottle of vodka.

The plane crash is fantastic cinema. Refusing to give up, Whitaker manoeuvres the plane full of passengers in ways one dreads will ever happen to them. You feel your heart race and your stomach drop as the second engine gives up and the plane embarks in a nosedive. It’s graphic, gruesome and terrifying.

Hope is found in the almost hopeless drug addict, Nicole, played by Kelly Reilly (who, by the way, you cannot tell is English – her American accent is brilliant), when Whip endeavours to help her on the road to recovery, only for him to let her down with his own poor attempts. Humour is found with his old friend and dealer, Harling Mays (John Goodman), but there’s got to be some comedy in it because it’s such a sad and frustrating story.

There is a slight downfall: personally, I reckon it could have finished a good 20 minutes before it did. The image of a hotel room vodka bottle being snatched up is more harrowing and thought provoking than the actual finale, where good must conquer evil and a weak cliché must prevail. Bleurgh. Anyway, it must have worked for some people because the film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Washington has been nominated for Best Actor, for an Academy Award as well as a Golden Globe.

I’d recommend the watch. 3/5.

Flight has already been released in the United States on November 2nd 2012, but is not due for release in the UK until February 1st 2013.

Django Unchained ★★★★

Django Unchained. Released in cinemas on 25th December 2012.

Django Unchained. Released in cinemas on 25th December 2012.

I’m not going to lie; I’ve not really seen this kind of film before. I haven’t seen Pulp Ficiton, I haven’t seen From Dusk Till Dawn, and I haven’t seen Inglorious Basterds. In fact, I don’t think I have seen any of Quentin Tarantino’s films. My bad. But I can tell you now that I loved this one.

Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave-turned-bounty hunter, sets out to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from a notorious slave-trader in Mississippi (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Django is helped by German ‘dentist’, Dr. King Schultz (Golden Globe winner, Christoph Waltz) since he is the reason Django was freed: he feels “responsible” for him. Set two years before the American Civil War, Dr Schultz is considered abnormal in associating with a black man – a complete offence to society; unforgivable and life threatening in the Deep South.

It’s funny. There are so many scenes that has me laughing out loud, but at the same time, it deals with some graphic taboo subjects where I felt it was too much to even watch. You actually see a black slave set upon by dogs, to the point where you even see his limbs ripped from his body. I don’t know how it makes me feel; maybe responsible? Guilty? I don’t know, but I do like how it doesn’t shy away from the things that are otherwise left to the imagination. Plus, there is a fantastic scene completely ripping into the Ku Klux Klan.

In true Tarantino style, there is a lot of blood and over dramatic violence juxtaposed with laugh out loud comedy (I have now seen Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds). I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t like comedy through exaggeration or gory graphics, but I still give it a 4/5.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ★★★

Ticket to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Ticket to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It’s been almost ten years since the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended, so I’m really looking forward to this. I begin my own unexpected journey with a hearty meal: it’s a Peter Jackson movie based on a JRR Tolkien novel and I will break concentration to consume cinema food for no man, elf, dwarf or hobbit. I’ve been prepping my posterior for the 569 minutes of film for quite some time now – mastering the act of not sitting solely on my coccyx, aiming to avoid a numb bum. I’ve brought a small bottle of water and have measured out my ration portions – just enough to keep me hydrated, not enough to make me need the toilet. I’m not falling for that again Jackson. I learnt my lesson in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m looking fine in my green, fresh from the packet, The Hobbit 3D glasses. Okay, I’m ready. Take me back to Middle Earth.

So let’s start with the visuals. The emphasis on this movie is how Jackson has filmed it using 48 frames per second to produce a HD 3D fabulous filmy thing. I know, it all sounds a bit technical, but what this basically means is that the 3D effect is supposed to produce a sharper, faster and more in-depth picture. Which it does. However, some parts of the film are almost too fast, making some scenes seem a bit jolty, a bit staccato, forcing my eyes to send angry messages to my brain. Ironically, this seems to happen more at the beginning in the Shire, where things are supposed to be a bit slow. Having said that, I reckon it’s one of the best 3D movies I’ve seen. The depth was fabulously realistic.

Set 60 years before the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy begins, the older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) is setting about writing his book, whilst a pre-fellowship Frodo (Elijah Wood) pesters his uncle with RSVPs to Bilbo’s 111th birthday party. The return of Holm and Wood sets you back all those years ago when the story began. As Bilbo reminisces about his journey, we are taken back to Bilbo in his younger years, played by Martin Freeman. But I’m going to be honest with you: the Hobbit has a slow start. The first 45 minutes seem a little too animated, a little too false, a little too forced. The fields are too green, the dwarves are a too comical, their cheeks are too round, the blush is too red. It’s a scene far from the Middle Earth we know. And why does it get good after three quarters of an hour? Because there’s an orc attack. There’s swords, blood and near death experiences. Now that’s more like it. As soon as there is danger, a bit of nail biting tension it gets really good. We’re back in our uncomfortable comfort zones.

Some of the creatures in the Hobbit are ones we haven’t been introduced to before. There are trolls – a comedy trio of cooks – and Stone-giants who hurl rock at each other and goblins play a bigger part in this film. The creatures do seem a bit ridiculous, but you have to remember that this isn’t a story about a hobbit setting out to destroy the One Ring, it’s about a young hobbit with a small mind leaving the Shire and discovering the world beyond. Although the Hobbit is a story linked to LOTR, you have to bear in mind that it is a prequel. With this in mind, the creatures of legend are less farfetched. But then again, there is a weird wizard who rides on a sleigh pulled by rabbits. Father Christmas in Narnia springs to mind…

Where the characters of the films overlap, we are not disappointed to welcome back Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchette as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman,  the aforementioned Holm and Wood, and of course Andy Serkis as Gollum. On the other hand, we warmly welcome the newcomers, and the British plethora of actors is significant. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins the younger is brilliant. He plays the awkward, small-minded hobbit well, portraying traits anyone can relate too: the desire to remain put, surrounded by the things he knows.  Watching Bilbo loosing his innocence, turning darker seems more real. Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, King Under the Mountainis, has taken on an almost Aragon-esque persona. However, Benedict Cumberbatch’s transformation into dragon form makes him unrecognisable. James Nesbitt’s role as Bofur the dwarf is also a bit bizarre as we’re used to seeing him on ITV.

Keeping Jackson as the director and producer of Middle Earth has to be the greatest continuation. His ability to balance what we do know, with what we don’t know is brilliantly frustrating. Take Saruman for instance: he is in league with Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond in this film but you know that in a few movies time he will be working for Sauron. Or when Bilbo turns down the opportunity to kill Gollum, you know that Gollum will return with revenge. Also, Jackson has used the same music. A light windpipe melody for the Shire, a beautiful harp song for Rivendell, the dark, eerie string for the One Ring…

I would say that overall this movie is not quite as epic as the LOTR trilogy. This story is about the little people: the dwarves and the hobbit, who have a slightly smaller, less important task to fulfil. The plot sometimes comes across as complicated, as there is more focus on the sub-plot about the rumblings of the rise of Saruman. Sometimes I found myself concentrating on how the gaps are being filled in relation to the LOTR and forgetting about the task in hand. Honestly, I can’t quite fathom how Jackson is going to continue the trilogy, but I’m willing to find out.

It hurts me to say it, an I know you can’t put a fraction over a fraction, but I give it a 3/5

Middle Earth, it’s good to be back.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is released in cinemas on the 13th December 2012. Watch the trailer below.