Hobbit update

Titles and release dates have been released for the upcoming movie trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit.

As announced last month, The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s long awaited adaptation of the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, will be made into a trilogy rather than the two-parter originally announced. Yesterday, the new title of the second instalment was announced, with the intended title going to the final instalment, and the expected release date of the final instalment also being announced.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be released on December 13th, 2013; whilst the third and final instalment in the series, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, following on July 18th, 2014. The first of the trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released at the end of this year, on December 14th.

Jackson, who directed the LOTR trilogy, announced the news that the series will be extended into a trilogy through his Facebook page early last month. On The Hobbit Jackson will be rejoined by LOTR cast members such as Sir Ian Mckellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood, who will be reclaiming their former roles. Meanwhile, stars such as Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch will join the cast, taking on the roles of Bilbo Baggins and the voice of The Necromancer respectively.

via Second The Hobbit Instalment Title Changed, Thrid Movie Release Date Announced | Contactmusic.

Spike Lee on fatherhood & the black church

Filmmaker Spike Lee has a new movie out, Red Hook Summer, about a middle-class black teenager from Atlanta who spends the summer with his grandfather, a no-nonsense preacher in poverty-stricken Brooklyn.  Both comedy and social commentary ensue.  The movie sounds quite good and very pro-church.  In an interview with Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, Lee himself does some preaching:

TWP: Bishop Enoch fulminates against a number of ills that plague the black community — from violence to coarsening pop culture to gentrification. In one pivotal conversation, he and Sister Sharon (Heather Alicia Simms) speak candidly about the pressures on African American parents trying to bring kids up, often alone. Those sequences felt like very personal statements from Spike Lee.

SL: Three out of four African American families are headed by a single mom. That’s 75 percent. And I will put my left hand on 10 Bibles and my right hand to God and say that’s the main correlation to the highest drop-out rate and the highest prison rate, and it manifests itself ultimately with these young brothers killing each other with this insane pathological genocide that’s happening, whether it’s in D.C., New Orleans, Brooklyn, Chicago. It all comes back the fact that — and I’m not trying to demonize these single moms, they’re doing the best they can, working two or three jobs to keep it together. But these young boys, and young women, with no father in their lives, how can that not affect their relationship with black men? It’s the domino effect.

I feel for these single moms and I feel for the children of single moms because they’re crying out for help and they need their daddy and Daddy ain’t around. Daddy ain’t been around. So where are these daddies? A lot of these guys are locked up or just out on the street. It’s not a good look, okay? All I’m saying. It’s not a good look.

via Spike Lee talks about ‘Red Hook Summer’ – The Washington Post.

I judge the superhero movies

Well, to celebrate our anniversary and to catch up with our fast-disappearing summer, my wife and I constructed a “double feature” (anyone remember those?) by seeing BOTH Spiderman and Batman:  The Dark Knight Rises on a single Saturday, with a late lunch in between.   We had a good time despite the Batman movie.

The Dark Knight Rises is pretentious, ponderous, ludicrous, and lugubrious.  It makes me miss what I thought I was tired of–namely, irony.  The movie was so serious, so full of itself, even while its main characters were putting on silly costumes.  A super-hero movie can be philosophical or angst-ridden, but it needs to have at least some element of fun.

As the Spiderman movie shows.   (Normally, one waits several weeks or months between superhero movies, so seeing them side-by-side makes the comparisons stand out.)  The best part of that movie was the part I didn’t expect to like, yet another version of the origin story.  But this time the origin made much more sense even than in the comic book (I write and criticize as a fan), picking up on the motif of interspecies genetic engineering.  What the movie did especially well was in showing high school nerd Peter Parker gradually learning about his new superpowers.  What science fiction and fantasy can do at their best is give us a sense of wonder.  Juxtaposing the spidey powers (super strength, agility, ability to climb and hang upside down and swing on webs, sticky hands and feet) with the ordinary routines of school and family life was an effective way to stimulate the imagination.  Later we get to the obligatory and conventional friend-turned-monster, but that’s all right, given the genre.

So what about any political themes in the Batman movie, as we discussed on this blog?  It does pick up on the Occupy Wallstreet threat of an uprising against the wealthy and privileged, such as millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne living in stately Wayne Manor (to use the comic book language).  And it comes out decisively against the mob.  (The best scene was the sight of thousands of police officers coming out of the ground to restore social order.)  So the movie managed to be pro-rich, while still blaming the wealthy for  economic and social disintegration.  It presents the point of view of the wealthy-but-guilt-ridden-over-their-wealth.  That is, the new base of the Democratic party.

(That’s not why I disliked the movie.  That’s a perfectly defensible position and appropriate in many cases.  I disliked the movie for the reasons given in the second paragraph.)

The Hobbit as another trilogy?

The Hobbit movie will be released on December 14.  That is to say, the first installment will be released.  The plans have been for the story to be told in two parts, with the second movie coming out in the following year. But recently it  has been reported that director Peter Jackson, who gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film, wants to turn the Hobbit into a trilogy also.

Tolkien fans have been worried that stretching the rather slender plot of a pretty short novel over three motion pictures would distort the tale.  Lord of the Rings consisted of three separate novels, so three separate movies did them justice and corresponded to the trilogy’s epic scope.  The Hobbit, though, is in a lighter key, a simple story, in the words of the sub-title, of “there and back again” that could be ruined by an overblown Hollywood treatment.

But it appears that the third movie will not involve slicing the Hobbit novel into three pieces.  Rather, Jackson is thinking about making a third movie about the back story to the rest of them based on Tolkien’s extensive notes and appendicies, which are included in the movie rights that Jackson holds.

I say go for it, and also get the rights to the Silmarillion.  There is material for lots of movies there.  We need one on Beren and Luthien.  The Children of Hurin.  That road goes ever on.

Peter Jackson Clarifies ‘Hobbit’ Trilogy Talk; Third Movie Based on Tolkien’s Notes.

Anthony Sacramone is back and making fun of Batman

The blogging maestro Anthony Sacramone, who used to be Luther at the Movies, is back, after one of his intermittent long blog vacations.  Read his notes on the new Batman movie.  Read them all, but here is a random sampling:

Ah! Some real action. Finally. Selina Kyle, aka Cat Womyn, played by Anne Hathaway, granddaughter of Miss Jane Hathaway, late of The Beverly Hillbillies, a true fact I found on Wikipedia after I cut-and-pasted it there, puts one in mind of what a young Sean Young would have done with the role had she not gone batcrap crazy. With legs long enough to make a crane fly cry and a freakishly narrow skull, Hathaway is both terrifying and strangely alluring, a wastrel who cat burgles in order to “feed herself,” although her 14-inch waist would lead one to believe she’s not very good at her job. Desperate to wipe the criminal-record slate clean and start again, this time as a medical transcriptionist in Scarsdale, Cat Person is obviously seeking both redemption and a spinoff movie to make us forget Halle Berry’s calamitous effort. Coming in at a weight of 125 pounds, Selina is nevertheless able to kick several 6-foot-6, 350-pound gangsters unconscious in a matter of seconds, when it took the 135-pound Bruce Lee a good while to take out Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Must be something in those Flintstone vitamins these gals take nowadays. . . .

Lionized by the conservative press as something of an anti-Occupy movie, The Dark Night Mooneth does demonstrate in vivid color what a revolution really looks like — a lot of show trials, explosions, hangings, and an added 45 minutes to everyone’s commute. Makes one feel sorry for Michael Moore and other Hollywood socialists, who I’m sure will be accosted on the streets with copies of Hayek and Burke after young libertarians leave the theaters on fire for counterrevolutionary activity.

(Progressive commentators, however, have bemoaned Citizen Bane’s failure to implement a “green” policy that would have demanded the purchase of carbon credits before setting off the big bang-bang. If you’re going to hold a city hostage, a la certain public-worker unions, you must at least have a recycling plan in place for all the attendant debris.) . . . .

This film is very loud. I tried signaling the projectionist with a sign (PROJECTIONIST: THIS FILM IS VERY LOUD) I always keep on my person, but my efforts were met with catcalls and boos from my fellow auditors. One even got up and screamed, “Sit the eff down you effing eff or I’ll effing eff you up!” That’s literally what he said. Must be a Baptist . . . .

Why is it that filmmakers love to blow up New York City? It must be the skyline, or maybe Mayor Bloomberg has decided to ban something again, like Mentos or something.

via A Strange Review: The Dark Knight Stinketh « Strange Herring.

Mr. Sacramone also posts about an upcoming movie about Hell, that guy who texted as he drove off a cliff, and much more.

You should bookmark his blog, Strange Herring, and visit it regularly.  I have been doing so for five months, just to see if he might have started posting again.  He finally has.

Violence according to pop culture

Part of Victor Davis Hanson’s thoughts about the Batman killings:

When Alien, Predator, or Terminator slice up or rip apart dozens, life just goes on. Bodies fly all over the screen and we are onto the next scene. Wondering about who actually was the 11th poor soul who had his heart ripped out by the Terminator is far less interesting than watching the latter utter some banality. The same is true of everything from Die Hard to 300—lots of real-life, graphic killing, but almost no pause and bewilderment over the staggering loss of life or the consequences of Target 12 or Victim G leaving life at 12 or 56. Killing is so easy not just because of robotic arms, RPGs, and computer simulations, but also because there are almost no emotional consequences from the carnage—a fact easily appreciated by the viewer, the more so if young or unhinged or both. The killer usually smiles or at least shows no emotion; the victims are reduced to “them,” anonymous souls who serve as mere numbers in a body count. Will Kane’s victims, in contrast, were known—evil, but still not anonymous and not mere sets for the sheriff’s gunplay.

For the diseased mind that is saturated with such modern imagery, there is fascination aplenty with the drama of killing, but no commensurate lesson gleaned from its sheer horror—at least in human terms of the devastation that such carnage does to humans, both nearby and in the larger community. In the awful mind of the rampage killer, he always must be the center of attention in the manner of his homicidal fantasy counterpart, his victims of no more account than are those decapitated, dismembered, or shot apart by Freddy Krueger or Arnold Schwarzenegger. How odd that we rush to the emergency room for a cut finger in the kitchen—stitches, tetanus shot, pain killer, bandages, a doctor’s reassurance—only to matter-of-factly watch horrific wounds on television that night with no thought that a .38 slug to the shoulder entails something more than our split forefinger.

And there is a further wrinkle to these hyper-realistic cinematic rampages. The killer, be he an evil “Joker,” the horrific Alien, or a hit man in a mafia movie, has a certain edgy personality, even a sick sort of intriguing persona—at least in the sense that his evil is sometimes “cool” in a way that his plodding victims, who simply got in his way, are not. In the abstract, we sympathize with the good, who became his targets; but in the concrete, the film focuses more often on the killer’s emotions, his language, his swagger.

The Joker spits, he puns, he acts disengaged and “cool,” while his victims scream and panic; we want to know why he acts so, and are supposed to be fixated on his strange clothes, face, and patois, never on the series of Joe Blows that are incinerated by him. Is it any wonder we know all about the orange hair of the suspected killer, but very little about the hair colors of any of the poor victims?

via Works and Days » The Demons of the Modern Rampage Killer.


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