Posts Tagged ‘fantasy movie’

Fourteen short men traverse a forest and see wondrous things in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

December 31, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2013

Director Peter Jackson’s latest take on the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This, the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy based on The Hobbit, begins with a brief prologue setting up the quest at the heart of the story: The wise, powerful and quirky wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arranges a meeting with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the heir to a dwarven kingdom that the dragon Smaug has conquered, dispersed and occupied.

Gandalf tells Oakenshield what he told the dwarf’s father: Rally the seven dwarven armies and drive the fire-breathing lizard from its roost in the dwarven-carved caverns beneath the Lonely Mountain. Oakenshield is willing to try this, but he has a problem. His people’s armies will only unite under the command of he who wields the Arkenstone, and that gem is among the jewels and precious metals that Smaug is lounging upon right now. Gandalf smiles upon hearing this, for he knows a thief that might be able to spirit away the Arkenstone… 

Cut to the present moment. Gandalf, Oakenshield, a certain Hobbit thief (Martin Freeman) and a company of 12 dwarves are working their way toward the Lonely Mountain whilst being hunted by a band of powerful, bloodthirsty orcs. Gandalf leaves the group just before they enter the foreboding Mirkwood Forest. The short-of-stature travelers are captured first by hungry spiders and then by irate elves. Heroism by the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins by name, is required in both cases to extend the quest.

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Feather-light entertainment is all that animated ‘Heavy Metal’ can offer

December 26, 2012

The bizarre animated anthology Heavy Metal is something of a cult classic. Unfortunately, my recently viewing of the 1981 picture (my first time watching it) clearly showed that the film has not aged well.

That’s not entirely the fault of director Gerald Potterton and the film’s writers, led by Dan Goldberg and Len Blum, who scripted the frame story as well as two of the segments. Since Heavy Metal appeared, special effects have advanced far beyond the state of the art in 1981. (Which this film likely does not reflect, with its estimated budget of $9.3 million, per the Internet Movie Database. Compare with The Fox and the Hound, an animated picture released one month earlier, which IMDb says costs $12 million.)

Moreover, since this film’s debut, popular entertainment’s restrictions on showing nudity, sexuality and graphic violence have loosened significantly. As a result of these changes, Heavy Metal offers views of material that, far from being forbidden, now qualifies as rather routine. The film’s decidedly juvenile mentality isn’t helpful, either.

The movie loosely revolves around an intelligent glowing green orb possessed of a malignant magic and a megalomaniacal mentality. In the wordless opening sequence, a space shuttle deploys a 1960 Corvette convertible manned by a spacesuited figure, which enters the Earth’s atmosphere, drives across a desert landscape, navigates a twisting road and parks in front of a hilltop mansion. Inside, the astronaut is joyously greeted by a roughly 14-year-old girl, presumably his daughter, who asks what he’s brought. “You’ll see,” the grey-haired man says with a playful wink.

Indeed. When he places his case on the table and opens it, the green orb inside reduces him to bones and goo and corners the girl. This is the Loc-Nar, a floating, talking sphere, and it demands that the girl look into its depths. The bulk of the anthology plays out as stories that the orb shows its terrified prey.  Read the rest of this entry »

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