The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

dos4The blogs been a bit rejected of late, due to a hectic final few weeks of term but what better way to get things back up and running than with one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Part two of Jackson’s prequel trilogy takes us right to the climax of Tolkien’s book but opts to change much of the story in favour of a more action packed, crowd-pleasing adventure that can be stretched out to three two-and-a-half-hour films. I was pleasantly surprised with the first offering, An Unexpected Journey, and had every reason to believe that The Desolation of Smaug would be even better. Unfortunately, though I found it to be a much more flawed affair.

One of the main issues with the first movie was the sheer amount of dwarves none of which we had a long enough time with to get to know and understand, this issue remains throughout this second movie the only dwarf I can remember the name of is Thorin and then there’s James Nesbitt and the handsome one, which brings me to my next point. The films worst moments came from ‘the handsome ones’ love story with the new female elf, Tauriel, an entirely new character invented by Jackson and his team to make up for the lack of women in the story. Tauriel herself isn’t a bad character but the corniness of the pairs romance reaches levels of corniness that the original trilogy never even came close to (OK, maybe the original’s did come quite close, but it was a bit acceptable when they weren’t major parts of the plot). I was sceptical going in about the return of Legolas, who also doesn’t feature in the book in order to give the film some sex appeal, but I was pleasantly surprised by his role, very few lines for Bloom and lots of stunningly choreographed fight scene which inject the movie with some much-needed adrenaline. It did seem a slight cop out, however, that whenever Bilbo and his gang found themselves in trouble it just so happened that their pointy-eared friend was just round the corner to come and save them. Legolas’ prominence in the action scenes also means that we see very little of Gandalf, something that could well be fixed in the extended version, but nonetheless left me feeling like there was something missing here. The films strongest moments come in the final half an hour or so when Bilbo confronts Smaug, the effects used to design the formidable dragon are simply astounding, by far the most impressive CG rendered creature you’ll see this year and the film picks up some pace and really starts to hit stride in any scene the dragon is involved in.

Overall, I may be being slightly harsh about The Desolation of Smaug and perhaps after repeat viewing the film will grow on me somewhat. But after first viewing it must be said that it was a slight disappointment. That said it certainly sets up the final part well, and my buzz for the series is still flickering away inside.

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Maniac

Maniac-Elijah-WoodSo this week the film that grabbed my attention in the biggest way was Maniac, a remake of an eighties horror of the same name this version had been stuck in development for a long time before it finally got its release this year. Starring Elijah Wood and written by horror veteran Alexandre Aja the film is shot almost entirely from the protagonists point of view, the only times we see Wood’s face are in reflections, with the exception of about two shots.

If you’ve watched the red band trailer that I posted in my weekly update you’ll already have quite an idea of what the film is like. Its gruesome slasher that puts you in the shoes of the killer. The unique feel that the POV gives you is what stops Maniac from being you’re run of the mill slasher flick, it gives it its own edge. Elijah Wood is perfect in his role too, a million miles away from Bag End he manages to bring a soft and innocent edge to his deeply disturbed character who enjoys scalping his victims after killing them. The plot is not particularly exciting, Wood’s character has flashbacks of a horrific past giving which has turned him into a maniac, and all he wants to do is fall in love forming the central relationship of the movie, it leaves you thinking if it weren’t for the very clever POV idea there wouldn’t be much here at all.

To summarise though, this is a devilishly gruesome horror movie that has a unique feature setting it apart from the regular dross we’re normally served up these days. Wood gives a great performance and overall the film deserves the cult status I’m sure it will eventually hold.