Tag: Ian McKellen

MOVIE REVIEW | Mr Holmes (2015)

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“Because when you’re a detective, and a man comes to see you, it’s usually about his wife.”

In the last few years, we’ve had two blockbuster Sherlock Holmes / Robert Downey Jr movies, the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and the US series with Johnny Lee Miller as the legendary detective. Add to that the century or so of adaptations, reimaginings and rip offs, and we should all well and truly be suffering from severe Sherlock Holmes fatigue. But I guess it’s a sign of what a compelling , timeless character he is, that when I heard about Mr Holmes, I knew I’d be seeing it sooner rather than later.


It’s the mid 20th century, and a 90 odd year old Holmes (Ian McKellen) has been retired for a couple of decades. With the early signs dementia, he returns to his English countryside farmhouse from Japan, where he’s been trying local remedies to help his failing mind. Realising that his memories are getting less and less reliable, Holmes decides it’s time to finally write his own version of events, to counter the fictionalised versions written by his friend John Watson years earlier. Specifically, he wants to write about his last case, which he tackled 20 years ago. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #50. The Lord of the Rings: They Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
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“It all began with the forging of the Great Rings.”

In the last few years, Peter Jackson has become the guy who decided a 285 page kids’ book needed to be an eight or nine hour epic, spread out over three movies with, The Hobbit.  That sounds nothing short of ridiculous.  Why would anyone insist on stretching a story to its breaking point, adding new aspects to a beloved classic and potentially giving fans more things to hate?  Well, the answer to that goes back to the turn of the century, when a then shclockmatser director from New Zealand was given the keys to an even more beloved book.  Peter Jackson redefined his career and what was possible with digital effects, with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.


The hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) is getting ready to celebrate his 111th birthday with a massive party, then leave his quiet home town forever. Leaving everything to his nephew Frodo (Elija Wood), he is about sneak off into the night when his old friend, the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) confronts him about one item he is yet to surrender to his nephew, a magic ring found years earlier that gives Bilbo the power of invisibility.  It turns out, that power is nothing compared to what it could do if in the wrong hands.  Bilbo reluctantly leaves the ring and leaves the Shire. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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I was a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.  If I didn’t see all three on opening day, I saw them opening week.  There were a few liberties taken with the source material that I didn’t like (I still really want to see Pippin and Merry kick ass in the Scouring of the Shire), but the overall result more than made up for those few, small things.  Yet, for some reason, when last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out, I couldn’t muster up any interest.  Months later, I saw it on the small screen at home and immediately regretted not seeing it in a cinema.  So when the next installment came around, I made sure I was in front of a big screen, in full blown High Frame Rate, to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The first movie ended with Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finding the magic ring that grants him invisibility, and his dwarf comrades, lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), finding respect for the little, hairy footed fella.  It also ended with Ian McKellen’s wizard Gandalf, discovering a great evil had returned to Middle Earth.  But the central story is still that of the dwarves and Bilbo, headed for the Loneley Mountain, filled with stolen dwarf gold, and the stealer of that gold, the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

The first obstacle is the dark and foreboding Mirkwood Forest, home of giant spiders and some not so friendly elves, both of who have a crack at imprisoning the Hobbit and his dwarf mates.  Here’s where a little story adaptation and franchise crossover liberties are taken to not only shoehorn in Orlando Bloom as Lord of the Rings sharp shooting elf Legolas, but also a completely fabricated for the movie character played by Evangaline Lilly as a smoking hot elf and one corner of a love triangle between her, Bloom, and Aidan Turner as the controversially dreamy dwarf, Killi.

As someone who generally thought there was no reason to blow the small source book out into three bloated movies, I was surprised by how much I liked this addition.  Lilly makes a great, ass kicking lady elf, and Bloom is back in one of the only roles I’ve ever liked him in.

Gandalf leaves his travelling friends early to go face the growing evil, and beyond Mirkwood, the dwarves and Bilbo have an adventure in Laketown (with Stephen Fry cast perfectly as the pompous, corrupt leader) before reaching the mountain and confronting the dragon.

That’s a whole lot of story and there’s a lot I haven’t even mentioned.  But I found The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to be a rare example of quantity adding to the quality.  It’s long.  Really, really long.  Yet the nonstop momentum means it’s never boring.

Having missed An Unexpected Journey in cinemas, The Desolation of Smaug was my first experience with the controversial and polarising High Frame Rate.  Some people say it looks too much like cheap video, that it highlights the sets and makeup and that it just looks weird.  I agreed with all of that for about the first 20 minutes.  Then my eyes adjusted and I liked it more and more as the movie went on.  Sure, some things look like cheap kids’ adventure dramas I used to watch on telly in the afternoon after school, some of the sets look overlay artificial, and the CGI characters look worse than ever, but when it looks right, it looks amazing.  I don’t think the problem is the 48 frames per second.  I think the problem is that it’s such new technology, Jackson doesn’t quite know how to use it yet and get the most out of it.

Like the first installment, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks a great place to end makes sure you’re excited for the next part in the series.  Like I said earlier, I thought expanding one small book into three epic movies was overkill, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  When I read The Hobbit as a kid, I thought it was amazing.  When I re-read it, after having also read The Lord of the Rings, it felt inconsequential and childish.  Since Jackson began with the Rings trilogy, there’s no way he could have stayed completely faithful to the preceding book, without it too coming off as inconsequential and childish.

I’m no longer a skeptic and am officially pumped for a year from now when I get to see the final chapter, in all its High Frame Rate glory.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Directed By – Peter Jackson
Written By – Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro