Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

I just got back from watching the film and I have to admit I have mixed feelings about it.  I’m fairly certain I even enjoyed the first one more.   It’s still one of the best films of the year, however, and certainly worth your money for its entertainment value.  As a huge fan of Tolkien and anything Middle-earth related, it was a joy to watch from a visual perspective and once again to see and become immersed in the stunning scenery and landscapes.  I just left the cinema with a few gripes and ultimately unsatisfied for the following reasons:

I didn’t like the start, as I felt it was a step back and slowed the film down.  We don’t need to see Gandalf and Thorin talking in Bree and then for it to say '12 months later'.  The Hobbit is a fast-paced, adventure tale where one chapter builds onto the next climaxing in the thrilling ending.  The first film ended with the dwarves and Bilbo being chased by the orcs, so the second film could have started with that straight away and worked, building on the breathless energy of the chase rather than making us sit through the pointless Bree scene.  The audience knows how the last film ended and why the party is heading to the Lonely Mountain – we don’t need reminding.

I thought Mirkwood lacked the atmosphere of Fangorn, while we didn’t get to see too much of the elven woodland kingdom either.  The spiders unimpressed and went on a bit long while there was also far too much Legolas time throughout the whole film.  Now I love Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn – they were the best three characters for me in the Lord of the Rings but this is the Hobbit – it should focus on Bilbo.   It is his story and how he transforms and constantly saves the day.    I got bored of watching Legolas – and Tauriel – easily slicing up orcs and firing arrows, while Legolas looked a bit fat in the face and frankly a bit weird.  

I was engrossed by the Bilbo and Smaug scenes, they are my favourite parts from the book and I thought the film did it well – just not enough! The final 20 minutes were a bit chaotic, with a lot of action but it was muddled, confusing and in the end pointless.  The dwarves go to a lot of bother and faffing around to create a gold statue, which drowns Smaug briefly before he flies away to seek revenge upon Laketown. I guess when you make three films instead of one this is the sort of thing you have to do to fill the time.  I’d have liked more Bilbo time rather than the focus on Tauriel and Kili’s little relationship as I just didn’t care about them.

I did like the film, despite my negativity.  As I said I thought Smaug was well done, and truly terrifying.  The barrel scene down the river was great and Laketown was superb.  Bard was excellent and also Beorn.

I hope the final film will be better, how can it not be?  The Battle of the Five Armies should be amazing to watch, as well as Bard taking on Smaug and the White Council kicking the Necromancer out of Dol Gildur. 

The ultimate difference for me is that I won’t be buying these films on DVD – I just don’t have any great desire to watch them again like I do with the Lord of the Rings. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Hobbit Part 2 - it's that time again!

December is fast approaching which means it’s that time of the year again:  The Hobbit Part 2 is almost out!  Watching Lord of the Rings was a unique cinematic event for me, as I’m sure it was for many others.  Waiting all year for the December release and then watching the trailers months just built-up the excitement.  It was like an early Christmas present, which made the Christmas season even more fantastic.

I did enjoy The Hobbit Part 1.  As a huge fan of Tolkien I was just pleased to be transported back into Middle-Earth.  The opening section with Smaug taking Erebor was mesmerizing and the visual effects of the dwarven stronghold were beautifully recreated.  I also thought the clips of where the dwarves fought against the orcs at Moria was very well done; a much more brutal, gritty battle scene than any in Lord of the Rings.    


Something just wasn’t quite right.  I didn’t have a problem with the higher frame rate, although sometimes it did make my head spin on the panoramic shots.  I thought it was just me but my friend next to me also felt the same spinning effects.  I did have a problem with the tone of the film, in trying to appeal to both children and adults, it failed at both.  A bit like the problem I have with my Super Spud books!  I didn’t find the humour particularly funny, it was trying too hard.  Whereas there are understated, not in-your-face humourous moments in Lord of the Rings which are done very well (the part where Eowyn hands Aragorn soup she made thinking he’d enjoy it, for example).  

Saying this, I think parts 2 and 3 will be much better.  The action will be thick and fast, Legolas is returning (though even he looks weird in the trailer) and there will be some epic scenes involving Smaug, elves, the Necromancer and the wizards kicking ass.  I’ll try and get tickets for the opening night, but if I can’t it won’t be a big deal to wait for the rush to calm down.  I hate packed cinemas anyway, I much prefer to go when the screening is almost empty and there are no idiots on their phones.

If I was scoring, I’d give the Lord of the Rings 10/10 – it was perfection for me; as a fantasy lover and Tolkien-enthusiast.  I could sit and watch the extended edition DVD’s all day. 

But I’d give The Hobbit Part 1 probably 7/10.  It was good, and definitely worth my money but crucially, I won’t be buying the extended DVD edition.  I just don’t think I could be bothered to watch it more than once a year and it could have been shorter.  I don’t have a problem with them making three films, but that doesn’t mean each film has to be a 3-hour epic!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Light and The Glass (Empyria, Book 2)

I'm pleased to announce that the concluding part of Empyria will be released in December 2013.

In the north, the Nimerians have reached Dunein and look to build a new city, unaware they are being watched by the Akuya – savage cannibals of the eastern marshlands.  Meanwhile the Sanghouls continue their relentless division of the land; Jaden, a hunter, is tasked with keeping track of them.

In the south, Prince Viro, Athmane and Bayoud travel to the Rainbow Kingdom, the elven stronghold, where King Amras instructs them to march on the Emerald Mountain to confront the dragon brothers, Gorlyx the fire dragon and Brelyx the ice dragon, and to recover the four remaining stones of light. 

But from outer space, a new threat arrives: Zerok, a war demon, who unleashes a million-strong army upon the land.  Before they can have peace, elves and humans must go to war and face the consequences which come with it. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Pencil Monsters

The Pencil Monsters

If you have ever wondered where your pencil has gone, after being sure you left it in a certain place, then it is highly likely it was eaten by a pencil monster.  Pencil monsters are persistently hungry, brown furry creatures no taller than an inch with big, round blue eyes.  They are very fussy eaters and pencils are the only thing they’ll eat – they love the crusty outer paint, the meaty wood and the crunchy inner graphite.  There is nothing a pencil monster enjoys more than sneaking off with his prize into the space behind the sofa and snacking on it all night.  Come morning, for pencil monsters are nocturnal creatures, nothing is left of the pencil and the pencil monster is fast asleep in the darkest and most secretive area of whatever building it is in.  

However, with all the modern gadgets of today – computers, tablets and fancy plastic mechanical pencils with refillable leads – poor little pencil monsters are dying off all over the world.  It began when the pencil manufacturers started to stick rubbers on the end of the pencil.  Pencil monsters hated the ghastly metal ring and the chewy rubber, plus the pencils were heavier to carry.  Then the plastic mechanical pencils with refillable leads arrived on the scene.  These peculiar devices confused the pencil monsters and with their two-fingered chubby hands they couldn’t get into the precious lead inside.  It’s a sad state of affairs for pencil monsters these days, in every house and office around the world they are starving to death.  So when you finish school or work today, please remember to leave a good old fashioned pencil on your desk – one you don’t mind losing!