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Jackson Finds His Hobbit, and a Couple of Dwarves Too

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Deadline broke the story Thursday about Peter Jackson officially casting actors for his two Hobbit films. Martin Freeman has been officially cast in the lead role of Bilbo Baggins. Freeman is probably best known for starring in the British version of “The Office,” and films like “Love Actually,” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

There is still no official confirmation of Ian McKellen as Gandalf or Andy Serkis as Gollum. Deadline also reports that Stephen Fry, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Nighy, as the voice of the dragon Smaug, may join the film.

Peter Jackson has also cast several other actors to play dwarves in the films. Now, I have no idea who any of these actors are, but I’m optimistic that they are all talented actors. Ain’t It Cool News has a great rundown of the new Hobbit cast with pictures. I wish I read “The Hobbit” novel, but as you readers know, I can barely read or write.

Jackson and the studio still haven’t decided where they will film the two Hobbit films. The actors’ unions in New Zealand and Australia were threatening to boycott the production of the films. The guilds have backed down, but the experience has left a sour taste in the mouth of the studio and Peter Jackson.  You can watch this clip from New Zealand TV to see how pissed off Jackson is over this. Warner Bros. will have to decide where to film the two-part “The Hobbit.” The first film is scheduled for release in December 2012, and the second is set for December 2013.

The Hobbit Finally Getting Made!

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The New York Times reported earlier today that a deal had been formalized for Peter Jackson to direct two films based on J.R.R Tolkein’s “The Hobbit,” beginning in February 2011. Late this afternoon, the studios involved with the production, MGM, New Line and Warner Bros., issued a press release officially confirming this news. You can read the official press release here.

The project has long been delayed because MGM, the studio that co-owns the rights to the Hobbit, is going through bankruptcy and has to deal with billions of dollars of debt. The Times reported that MGM, partnering up with Warner Bros. has come up with their share of the production cost for the film, which may reach somewhere around 500 million dollars.

Deadline has some casting news to report. Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis have long been expected to reprise their roles as Gandalf and Golum. Martin Freeman, who starred in the British version of “The Office,” is supposedly the lead candidate to play the lead role of Bilbo Baggins. Freeman is an extremely funny and talented actor, I think he’ll be good fit in the role. The other big piece of casting news that Deadline is reporting, is that Michael Fassbender is being pursued for a role in film. Fassbender is a fucking great actor, and his mere presence classes up any film he is in. This line of thinking doesn’t apply to Fassbender’s role in the disastrous “Jonah Hex.” The exception proves the rule.

I would have loved to have seen how Guillermo del Toro would have handle this material, but he left the project after the many delays it encountered. I just hope that Jackson can wipe the stink from “The Lovely Bones” off him and deliver some of that “Lord of The Rings” greatness to “The Hobbit” films.

The Lovely Bones Ain’t Lovely

December 27, 2009 1 comment

I can at least call this film an interesting failure. Based on the novel “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, the film is about the murder of a young teenage girl Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) and how her murder impacts those close to her. Set in the 1970’s Susie narrates the story from a heavenly purgatory. She witnesses her father (Mark Wahlberg) not being able to cope with her death and watches his ongoing obsession into finding her killer. Her father ends up neglecting his wife (Rachel Weisz) who can’t accept that Susie is gone. Susie also keeps watch over her killer, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who on the outside appears to be the Salmon’s harmless next door neighbor.

I read the book over a year ago and remember liking it a lot. I’m not a die-hard fan who demands that director Peter Jackson absolutely stay faithful to the novel. I was curious to see what he would do with the film, especially the heaven sequences. While Jackson creates some really intriguing visuals when the film shows us Susie in heaven, the film is empty emotionally. The book left me feeling very emotionally affected. The film has none of that. Jackson has a hard time balancing the visuals of Susie’s heaven with the drama occurring on earth.

I found the emotional drama between the Salmon family seriously lacking. The loss of the daughter and each member of the family’s reaction to it comes across as just barely hitting the surface. I wanted to see more of the family dynamic and see how it destroys their lives. Seeing the two parents just crying wasn’t satisfying enough to represent their pain. Rachel Weisz’s character gets shafted in the film. Her character in the novel has a much more absorbing character arc. Her actions in the film and it’s impact on the family is totally ignored in the film. Mark Whalberg almost borders on “The Happening” type acting here. The only two very good performances in the film are Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci as the killer. Tucci is appropriately disturbing as the child killer.

The visuals that Jackson uses to represent heaven are the film’s most fascinating moments. I remember in the book the heaven was very vaguely described. Jackson gives us a heaven that is full of big colors and images that are metaphors for what her family is going through back home. Some of imagery in alluring, but at times it comes across as distracting and at time ridiculous. One sequence has Susie being the star of her own fashion show. This comes across as very silly. But I guess a dream of a young teenage girl is to be in a fashion show. Jackson does an interesting thing where he will intercut major scenes taking place on earth with Susie experiencing the same thing in heaven. He lets the visuals speak for themselves. This is an intriguing way to let important scenes play out but it’s not always successful in getting his point across.

Jackson and his screenwriters, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, needed to omit some of the novel’s storylines from film. Trying to cram in all these different plots robs them of any poignant impact they might have had. Characters, like Susie’s sisters, are not properly developed. I found Susie’s voice over in the film to be very annoying. The information that she tells the audience is redundant and at times unnecessary. Some of the film’s suspenseful moments are handled effectively well. I only wish the emotional scenes were handled with the same care. In the end, the film’s two narratives never come together in a satisfying way.

2 Stars