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Tag Archive: Hugo Weaving


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Review by Art Schmidt

Peter Jackson’s final installment of his screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel The Hobbit is a breathtaking piece of film which aspires to the almost insurmountable heights that his masterpiece The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King achieved.  The goal is a worthy, if almost unrealistic one, and Jackson spares no expense in trying to soar to those heights where he took us ten years ago.

I’m of two minds about this movie, and have been struggling to combine them into a single piece for you, our faithful readers.  But like Jackson with this trilogy, I am not quite up to the task.  And so, like Jackson, I will split something that should be in a single piece into multiple pieces, and although I am aware that they will likely not equal the sum of what a whole, single review should, I will try nonetheless because I have too much to say on the subject and am utterly unable to edit myself.  Much like a certain director we all know and admire.

Review by a fan of fantasy cinema

The Battle of the Five Armies is a really good film.  Is it great?  Well, that will be up to each viewer, honestly.  It is big and bold, and gives good screen time to the multitude of characters we have come to know over the course of the last two films in the trilogy.  The movie opens where the previous film left off, a different approach from other films in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, which tended to open with flashbacks or clever recaps to bring the viewer back into the world of Middle-earth which may have faded slightly since the previous film.  Not so here, as the audience is plunged directly into the story right where we exited it last year.

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The dragon Smaug, scary and crazy in the second Hobbit film which bears his name, is magnificently rendered and feels vibrantly alive in the dark theater, the screen aglow with dragonfire and the air electric with his howls of rage and vengeance.  Benedict Cumberbatch captures the right amount of menace and vanity, bringing the drake alive in ways that superb CGI just could not do on its own.  The poor people of Laketown would surely stand in awe of Jackson’s creation if they were not fleeing for their very lives before it.

Martin Freeman knows how to play the everyman, which is essentially what Bilbo Baggins represents.  An everyday man who is snatched up from his comfortable if boring life and thrown headlong into the exciting, unpredictable and oft-times dangerous unknown.  His subtlety and good humor shine through his portrayal of the Hobbit and it is to Freeman’s credit that he can simultaneously stand up to the chiefest and greatest of calamities and also stand up for himself to Thorin, pointing out the sickness that everyone else can see but dare not mention.  The dwarves are also a humorous, entertaining lot, but far too much time would be required to provide the multitude of them a lot of individuality or backstory.  The few who are selected for the spotlight are well worth the time.  Lee Pace, Richard Armitage and Luke Evans play three leaders of different races whose loyalties lie to their people but with widely different styles and personalities.  As with the previous films, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond and even Christopher Lee as Saruman himself all put in appearances, though not in a way most might expect!

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Hobbit still

By C.J. Bunce

Director Peter Jackson could have sat back with his Academy Awards for the brilliant The Lord of the Rings trilogy and relished in what he had done.  Instead he took on the risk of conquering Middle Earth again, and in doing so he did something I’ve never seen anyone do before, make a fourth entry into a major movie franchise that surpassed all prior films.  And that’s a hefty feat considering what The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is being compared to.  But in end-to-end storytelling, cinematography, casting, acting, adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s source work, spirit and heart, this first installment of The Hobbit trilogy can’t be beat.

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins presents a Hobbit in goodness on par with Samwise and with a strength of purpose on par with the King of Gondor.  You cannot rave enough about Martin Freeman’s facial expressions and movements as the put-upon Hobbit.  Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield pulls together the best of Faramir and Aragorn, yet his characterization is fully fleshed out in its own right with a brilliantly laid out character arc that took Aragorn three movies to achieve.

Merry band

It is hard to believe that someone can take a band of 13 dwarves and make most of them individually compelling.  You may get lost in Ken Stott’s wise old dwarf Balin and forget he is a dwarf–this wise soul and sturdy character speak loudly throughout the story.  Aidan Turner’s cocky and plucky Kili will make you laugh at every turn in the way we saw Merry and Pippin in the LOTR movies.  And the nature of The Hobbit story targeted as a younger audience vs the themes of The Lord of the Rings books means many more comical moments here, despite a dark and eerie adventure.  Peter Jackson’s film looks so good that he makes it all look so easy.

Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Grey is back, and you only wish we could see ten more adventures featuring the best wizard ever presented on-screen.  We also meet a friendlier Elrond of the Elves played again by Hugo Weaving.  An “epilogue” featuring Elijah Wood and original Bilbo actor Ian Holm at the movie’s beginning bridges The Hobbit right up to the scene before Frodo first meets up with Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring.  We also meet Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel again.  Although it is likely these LOTR characters were not needed for this movie, it’s a fun reunion for fans of the earlier films, and it also allows us an excuse to see the splendor and hear the sounds of nature at New Zealand’s Hobbiton.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The 3D imaging and cinematography surpass any film to date in pretty much every way.  Where CGI characters in all past sci-fi and fantasy franchises never quite got right the realism of key characters or at best “almost” got it right, you will not see the same odd movements or doubt the believability of these unreal creatures, especially Barry Humphries’ (Dame Edna!?) Great Troll.  And Andy Serkis’s Gollum looks even better than he did before.

Classic scenes from the original novel, like the arrival of the dwarves at Bilbo’s house and the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum are just simply perfect.  Special effects and new film wizardry present too many examples of incredible cinema to list, but even something as simple as feeling like you’re sitting across the table from a bunch of dwarves is better than the effects of most other films.  Then there are other scenes, like the delicate carrying across a canyon of a wounded dwarf by a giant eagle’s talons, that reflect a fillmaking magic act in and of itself.

Balin

Although some may see the beginning half of the movie as slow, the measured pace will be savored by others, and the pace allows you to see every axe swing in each action scene instead of the blurred battles in most recent action movies.  You can also admire the stitches and buttons and armor of the costumes, the excellent crafted props like smartly forged swords and a key to a hidden door, as well as the stunning environments, including a return to the beautiful waterfalls at Rivendell.  The story then propels at a breakneck pace to the end, including overhead scenes of the band of dwarves as they move through mountain passes, and we meet a quirky and noble new wizard named Radagast the Brown played by Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor!) and his speedy team of sled rabbits who lead a mercenary pack of trolls and wolves away from the story’s heroes on their quest.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo

Two singing numbers by the elves are surprisingly good, one upbeat and one not, and the filmmakers use the more somber, reverent tune by the dwarves in a more upbeat version for the film’s end credits–and it’s a great song.

You’ll want to see this first of three installments of The Hobbit again and again.  The only negative:  the next installment, subtitled The Desolation of Smaug, is not out until December 13, 2013.

Just in time for the new Avengers movie premiere, Marvel Studios and Profiles in History will be auctioning off screen-used Captain America costumes and shields, an Iron Man suit and Thor’s hammer at its Captain America: The First Avenger auction on April 14, 2012 at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.

Profiles in History is offering the catalog for the auction for sale for $39.50 and a digital auction catalog is also available online at the company’s website.  The auction will also be available live to online bidding.

Featuring primarily props, costumes, and set pieces from the 2011 release Captain America: The First Avenger, the auction also will be featuring a few lots from Iron Man 2 and Thor.  The auction features four recognizable Captain America supersuits, as well as several other costumes worn by Chris Evans and 11 shield variants.

Supersuits

The key item up for bid is Lot 154, the Steve Rogers Captain America hero costume and shield worn by Chris Evans in the movie, which served as his final superhero suit in the film and is the suit used in all the Marvel posters and marketing. It carries an auction estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

Chris Evans’ Captain America USO costume and shield has an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.

The Captain America costume worn by Evans in the POW rescue scene has an auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000. The lot includes a early style Cap shield.

Evan’s Captain America distressed rescue suit also has an auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000.

Shields

One early style Cap shield from the Hydra factory scene carries a $2,000-$3,000 estimate.  A separate shield of the same design is estimated to sell at $2,000-$3,000.  A similar shield with distress marks from the “Invaders” scene has the same auction estimate.

An unpainted silver prototype shield from Howard Stark’s laboratory has an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

One shield offered is the frozen in ice version, which has an auction estimate of $4,000-$6,000.  Lot 177 is a classic, traditional Captain America shield, expected to sell for $4,000-$6,000.  Yet another battle damaged shield from the final showdown with Red Skull carries an auction estimate of $4,000-$6,000.

A distressed stunt shield of the same type from the show’s final showdown carries an estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

Motorcycles

Do you need a Cap-cycle?  Steve Rogers’ hero modified Harley Davidson motorcycle has an auction estimate of $12,000-$15,000 and a second hero motorcycle from a different scene has an auction estimate of $10,000-$12,000.

Red Skull and Hydra

Various Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt/Red Skull SS costumes are expected to fetch $6,000-$8,000 each. Weaving’s bright red “Red Skull” facial prosthetics—3 in all—are expected to sell for $2,000-$3,000.

A Hydra non-functional mini-tank is expected to fetch $12,000-$15,000. Various Hydra motorcycles carry an auction estimate ranging from $3,000-$6,000. Several Hydra soldier uniforms have an auction estimate of $1,000-$1,500.

Iron Man

The original full-scale Mark II silver Iron Man suit from Iron Man 2 is incredibly detailed and impressive. It has an auction estimate of $60,000-$80,000. Despite its incredibly realistic paint detail, it is not actually made of iron, but it is composed primarily of fiberglass resin.

Thor

Finally, two stunt Thor Mjolnir war hammers are offered at the end of the auction from the Kenneth Branagh movie Thor, each expected to sell between $3,000-$6,000.

As with most Profiles in History auctions, expect the actual hammer prices to exceed the auction estimates.  Usually for entertainment memorabilia auctions of late the hammer prices vastly exceed the estimates.  The bonus of this auction is that there are plenty of costumes, shields, props, heck–even motorcycles–to go around for the die-hard Marvel Avengers fans.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

Everyone I know who beat me to Captain America: The First Avenger, recommended this movie.  Of all the summer releases, the trailer seemed a bit ho-hum, so I wasn’t in a hurry to see it.  As for the character, I read back issues of Marvel Comics’ Captain America as a kid and liked it.  His nemesis, Red Skull, was always a great villain.  But since the 1960s for some reason Hollywood has trouble making good World War II movies.  Captain America is not only a good comic book movie, it’s a good World War II movie.  Its basic, good story, solidly bridges the real-world comic book hero character from the 1940s with a modern Marvel mythology and the result is a character we’d all be proud to know, successfully played by Chris Evans.

Just like the lack of a good modern Western movie, we haven’t had a lot of modern World War II movies that give us a real sense of time and place.  One interesting recent film that comes to mind is Quentin Tarentino’s over-the-top Inglourious Basterds, a quirky, dark, humorous, revisionist bit about an elite unit trying to take out Hitler.  Next to that, Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie, based on a true story, made for good movie watching, but both of these didn’t re-create the feel you get from tried and true contemporary war films like Captain America does, such as Back to Bataan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Great Escape, or Stalag 17.  Even giant, modern epic war films like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List–mainly because they cover the darkest periods of the war but also because they seem to have tried too hard—fail to reflect the unswerving patriotism of the “greatest generation.”  As of today, you really have to go back to the often overlooked but brilliant Memphis Belle from 1990 to see a movie that reflects the American spirit that won the war.  Captain America isn’t better than any of those films.  But it is worthy of comparison, and for a film about a comic book superhero to deserve such comparison is a great achievement.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a skinny everyman, with health issues that result in his “4F” status, meaning he is ineligible for military service.  Subtle state of the art special effects, which would go unnoticed by viewers unfamiliar with Evans more “built” status, show Evans as a puny fellow at first.  (He looks like the star of Superbad and Scott Pilgrim).   He tries five times to make it past the military entrance tests and only on the fifth try does he meet up with an expatriated German scientist played superbly by Stanley Tucci, looking for a few good men as candidates for a “superman” project that only Stan Lee could create.  Here the director lays out a fictional character that borrows from the real lives of soldier heroes Audie Murphy (To Hell and Back) and Gary Cooper in Sergeant York–good, peaceful guys that don’t want to kill anyone, but just want to defend their families from bullies, and end up tougher than the rest.  Captain America, more than anything else, has heart.  For its adapted story to harken back to Frank Capra films but with a more subtle delivery as to his propaganda themes, the writers deserve serious accolades.

   

Several movies come to mind that Captain America borrows from, in ways you want a movie to borrow from great movies of the past.  A siege on a train by Steve Rogers and friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has the feel of Von Ryan’s Express, a motley but tough multicultural band of tough fighters is reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen.  And the overall mission to take out evil German organization HYDRA, led by a psychotic Nazi turned into the Red Skull, played perfectly by Hugo Weaving, feels like Guns of Navarone.

   

As superhero movies go its treatment is up there with Watchmen.  As to comic characters coming to life, Captain America is right up there with Chris Evans’ other superhero performance for Marvel as Johnny Storm, the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four.  This Captain America will easily hold his own in next year’s The Avengers among Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, or anyone’s rendition of the Hulk.  Evans showed again, as he did as the star of Cellular, that he is up to the task for leading roles.

Other supporting actors of note include Tommy Lee Jones as a crotchety general cut from the same cloth as Patton.  Neal McDonough (Walking Tall, Minority Report, Star Trek: First Contact, Timeline) comes right off the comic page, maybe more than anyone, as the Scottish, larger than life, handle bar moustached Dum-Dum Dugan.  J.J. Feild plays a British member of the team straight out of Bridge on the River Kwai.  Kenneth Choi and Derek Luke are refreshing additions, showing a Japanese- and African-American taking the fight to the Nazis.  The film does its best to avoid a standard romantic subplot, but for those that need it, Hayley Atwell fills the part well (but why again we have another superhero story needing a European-accented leading woman makes no sense to me; she’s an American officer after all).

With all the new composers on the scene this summer, it is also welcome to have a tried and true master like Alan Silvestri (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Predator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Abyss, Forrest Gump, Eraser, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) with a lively musical score.  Along with the music, the costume design was dead on, and the art and set design was great–including creating futuristic machines of the day that seemed to be derived from World War II airplane engines and parts.

As for the villains, Weaving’s Red Skull and Peter Lorre-inspired Doctor Zola, played by Toby Jones, are the perfect villains we love to hate, straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  For taking a tough sell and turning it into a good story–a 1940s era comic book character with a loud supersuit and trash can-shaped shield, putting him in a modern comic book universe, staying true to the mythos, appealing to a modern audience’s scrutiny, for filling a theater a month after its release, and making us care about the character’s plight–Captain America:  The First Avenger gets 4.5 of 5 stars.

Captain America: The First Avenger is in theaters.