Every Friday that we can manage, we intend to do a short review of films that have come out/are coming out on that week on DVD as well as any potential box-sets that people should be on the lookout for if they need a new show to follow or to watch. My mother always had a saying about films that were easy to get into, and easy to leave, which entertained without challenging or breaking down any barriers; she used to call them 'lemonade' films. Or close to it; translation isn't always easy! 'Lemonade' films are those films that aren't classics, but are just plain fun to watch and there's no real letdown when it doesn't turn out to be the next Godfather, and it doesn't break you down or break your heart like Philadelphia. And that's the beauty of films like that; they aren't trying to be anything more than a good story to just dive into and enjoy an evening with. Part 2, looking at the release of Being Human - Complete Collection and Wild At Heart Seasons 1-8 will be released sometime over the weekend.
Without further ado, let's get straight to the feature film releases;
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Released April 8th 2013
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Connolly, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ken Stott, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Graham McTavish, Manu Bennett, Barry Humphries, Sylvester McCoy, Lee Pace
This week's biggest release, without a shadow of a doubt. Peter Jackson's latest epic installment in the Middle-Earth universe split critical opinion, both on technicalities (as he filmed the film in a faster rate than the industry standard of 24 frames per second (fps) at double; 48 fps) and with regards to the film itself. The 48fps experience at the cinema was less than stellar as the hyper-realism that resulted from the film being shot in 48fps was only useful, at best, for action sequences. The film itself has garnered over $1 billion in revenue already and is only on the rise.
The first in a three-part installment, the Hobbit charts the tale of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) sixty years before the beginning of Lord of the Rings, as he is convinced, or rather cunningly persuaded, by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to journey with a band of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim the old dwarven home of Erebor from Smaug the Dragon. The film also depicts how the Ring of Power comes into Bilbo's possession and how his somewhat self-deceptive relationship with it begins.
The film's pace is tepid at best, lacking at worst. Despite a strong backstory, the decision to split the Hobbit into three movies instead of perhaps two, (or dare-I-say-it) even one, means that it takes a long time for, well pretty much, anything to happen. It's roughly 20 minutes into the film before the famous first line from the book is even uttered. And it feels slightly wrong; the set is absolutely stunning, the cast put in committed and focused performances, the script is well written and the direction is, as usual with Jackson, forever moving forwards and has an outright epic feel to it. The film itself looks stunning, especially on HD TVs. So why does it feel wrong? That question is answered with another question; why did this have to be split into three parts? Sure, financial reasons aside, there's no reason why the film should be in three parts. The story, despite all the detail and stunning work that has gone to produce this film, feels slow. At times, it can even feel like a history lesson in Middle-Earth (and that's probably because Jackson chose to use information from the appendices of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and you can find yourself losing focus with the tale on screen. All grumblings aside from a big fan of Tolkien's work - Jackson has done it again. If you haven't seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy or this film, I'd immediately recommend getting a copy of it. Not only is it beautiful, but it is a fantasy epic of which the scale is almost incomprehensible; Tolkien created and populated a universe, Jackson brought it alive for everyone to witness. There are some brilliant moments in the film that will be remembered for a long time; the classic Three Stooges like trolls and the game played between Bilbo and Gollum, for a few examples.
Despite the issue with pacing; the film itself is wonderful and it would be a shame to miss out on this epic tale if you haven't already seen it - if you have, I'd still recommend buying a copy.
Directed by: Philipp Stölzl
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Liana Liberato
This is the second review that I get to do this week that involves the lovely miss Kurylenko. In this case, she plays a CIA chief as opposed to a crash survivor, which is an upgrade (of sorts). The film has all the trademarks and trimmings of a top-notch stylish thriller, and is embellished with strong performances, a fast paced script and beautifully archetypical action sequences. As good as most thrillers of recent years. For a small(er) film, this movie has done well; it enjoyed top rankings in the iTunes chart before release and ,for a short time, was the number one most pirated movie of 2012. It was shot on a budget that may seem a pittance compared to what some Hollywood feature films get budgeted for (like the film above!), but has turned out quite well.
Aaron Eckhart plays Ben Logan, a former CIA agent, who is targeted suddenly by the CIA for termination and who goes on a thrill-a-minute run for his life with his estranged daughter (Liana Liberato), Amy Logan, when all records of them are erased and he realises that they are part of a much wider cover-up.
If you're looking for an easy-to-watch film with a few twists for an interesting movie night, I would recommend this film. However, if you're looking for something deeper or more of a 'classic'; this film is not it.
That's the beauty of it though; it takes all the classic elements of a stereotypical thriller and conspiracy film and plays them to a tee; it's a perfect lemonade film. The reason why I recommend it is because it's not trying to be the next Bourne; but it takes good elements from there, from other films such as Taken and Unknown, and amalgamates them into a 90 minute journey that does what it says on the tin. It's no The Usual Suspects or the Bourne Identity, but it work as what it is, and it doesn't want to be anything more.