J.R.R. Tolkien

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A dwarf named Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) sits in a pub on the cusp of trouble when a grey-bearded wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen) joins him. Words are exchanged, and Thorin is convinced of a plan to lead an expedition to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon in its bowels and restore it as home to the dwarves. Twelve months later, per onscreen text (and a wink from director Peter Jackson showing viewers that he can make expeditious cinema when he sets his mind to it), we rejoin Thorin, Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and a handful of unimportant dwarves right where we left them at the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The gang takes refuge in the home of a bearish man named Beorn, and the next day they enter the incredibly dangerous black forest on their way to the mountain. This is Gandalf’s cue to wish them luck, say he’ll meet them on the other side, and then leave the little bastards eating his pony dust. Typical dick move by Gandalf. The void left by his absence is filled with near death by way of giant spiders, moody elves, angry orcs, petty humans, and one eloquent but very ornery dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The end.

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Tolkien

If you were looking at the upcoming slate of Hobbit films and thinking “that’s a sizeable amount of Tolkien material, but I am not satisfied with this ride ever ending,” the universe is throwing you just a little bone to tide you over until another facet of the LOTR series is probably announced. Fox Searchlight and Cherin Entertainment are currently working on a J.R.R. Tolkien biopic that will span the author’s life and target the moments that led him to write “The Hobbit” in 1937 and begin “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in 1954. The tentatively titled Tolkien, written by David Gleeson (Cowboys and Angels) focuses on the parts of his life that proved formative to creating Middle Earth, like his days at Pembroke College and as a soldier during World War I; the author, who was born in South Africa in 1892 and raised in England, was deeply affected by his experiences in the Great War and channeled much of what happened to him and his friends into his writing. Tolkien’s adventuresome life also included serving as a code breaker during World War II and being a member of a very Skull and Bones-sounding writing society with C.S. Lewis — though it’s not clear at this point how much the biopic will dive into these aspects of his life.

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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Shire, Warner Bros. has released the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.The movie, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide is getting its second home video release in the course of the year, meant to prime the pump for the upcoming sequel in December. Director and all-around Tolkien movie guru Peter Jackson joins with his production partner Philippa Boyens to dissect the first installment in The Hobbit trilogy. It’s a long one, clocking in at just about three hours, the commentary was recorded in the summer of 2013 while they were in post-production of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This commentary track is exclusive to the extended edition of the film, and there is none available for the theatrical version, which came out in March of 2013.

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Drinking Games

After a lot of gnashing of teeth about splitting it into three parts, complaining about the 48 fps presentation, and debating whether it would make a billion dollars, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now available on 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and DVD. So it’s a fine time as any to tune your HDTV to your favorite settings and enjoy the film in the comfort of your own home and the control of your own image. If you have the love of Middle-Earth (and the tolerance for alcohol) to make this a marathon of Tolkien movies, you can play our Lord of the Rings drinking game from last year as well. However, Peter Jackson’s three-hour first installment of The Hobbit should give you plenty of reasons to knock a few back as if you were a dwarf at Bilbo’s table. Enjoy the first third of this Lord of the Rings prequel with your favorite blend of Middle-Earth-inspired brew.

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Lord of the Rings Slot

According to Variety, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is filing suit against Warners, New Line and the Saul Zaentz Company for what they claim is a breach of their original 1969 licensing agreement. The estate is seeking $80m. At issue here is the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit-flavored slot machines and online gambling games that the estate claims violate the limited use terms of their agreement (they probably couldn’t have anticipated internet gambling or video games in 1969, and the contract apparently doesn’t cover rights for media not yet devised at the time of signing). The good news here is that this scrape between partners shouldn’t at all affect their ability to make movies together. They have a symbiotic business relationship that creates vast amounts of money, so it’s easy to imagine that even if this creates some soreness, both have a vested interest in continuing to mine for gold together.

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Reading J.R.R. Tolkien‘s “The Hobbit” and processing its myriad characters can be confusing enough for kid brains (I remember, quite vividly, making a cheat sheet of all the names within the book, a list that I stuck in the back of my paperback copy and would refer to frequently), and few of those names are more interchangeable (and confusing) than that of the thirteen dwarves who accompany Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf on their (unexpected) journey. I mean, the rhyming, while sweet, is just not helpful when trying to differentiate between Thorin and Gloin and Oin, but that’s just how things are in Middle-earth. Of course, now we have three whole films to look forward to, and a massive cast of talent to finally put faces to (a multitude of) names. So why not use a handy dandy banner to brush up on all the dwarves we will soon meet in Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Heck, even Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellan) are there! Take a look at the banner after the break. How many dwarves can you name before you look at it?

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Are the eleven hours and twenty-two minutes of Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings series just not enough for you? Do you require (what will most likely end up being) another ten- or eleven-hour run of J.R.R. Tolkien cinematic adaptations? Don’t care about shelling out the cash for three movies dedicated to telling the story of, in case you’ve forgotten, just one book? Have we got news for you! Following last week’s rumors that Jackson would ultimately end up splitting his already two-part adaptation of The Hobbit into three films, the filmmaker himself has now confirmed the news on his Facebook page (via ComingSoon), saying: It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie – and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’

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Audiences expecting more of the brand of large maturity found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy might be surprised when they check out The Hobbit. Especially people who’ve never read the books. Same director. Same world. Different style. Talking to Total Film, director Peter Jackson had a lot to say about his journey back to Middle-earth. He’s been kind enough to update fans through production video diaries, but here, he explains that his forthcoming flick will be “more playful” than the previous ones featuring Frodo and his merry band. “The Hobbit is very much a children’s book and The Lord of the Rings is something else; it’s not really aimed at children at all. I realized the characters of the dwarves are the difference. Their energy and disdain of anything politically correct brings a new kind of spirit to it. And that’s why I thought, ‘Okay, this could be fun!,”‘ said Jackson. Not to be a pessimist, but this is Jackson thinking it would be fun after thinking he didn’t want to do it. Still, it will be invigorating to see such a talented director capture the scope of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s book and funnel it with a children’s film sensibility. There’s still room for pessimism, but this project has potential to be phenomenal in a totally different way than what the LOTR faithful are used to. That alone is worth the price of admission and the curiosity. Plus, it’s Jackson and Hobbits. What could go wrong?

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There’s not much one can really say about this first trailer for the much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As with Peter Jackson‘s three previous Lord of the Rings films, the project looks gorgeous, meticulous, epic, stirring, just plain wonderful, and true to its classic J.R.R. Tolkien source material. So, yeah, I love it. With The Hobbit, we again return to Middle-earth and the Shire, and to a much younger Bilbo Baggins (a very well-cast Martin Freeman), to learn (the first half of) the epic tale that started all this ring business to begin with. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes complete with an all-star cast, including Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage. It’s a testament to the world that director and co-writer Peter Jackson has created that so many of his Lord of the Rings cast came pack for this next go-round, journeying back in time to recapture some of that old magic. After the break, check out the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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It’s long been rumored that Orlando Bloom would be reprising his role as the elf Legolas for Peter Jackson’s upcoming two-parter The Hobbit. Giving the whispers, a lot of people have been quick to point out that Bloom coming back wouldn’t make any sense, as Legolas appears nowhere in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. Regardless of mutterings from the purists, the news is now official, as Jackson has used his Facebook Page to confirm: “Ten years ago, Orlando Bloom created an iconic character with his portrayal of Legolas. I’m excited to announce today that we’ll be revisiting Middle Earth with him once more. I’m thrilled to be working with Orlando again. Funny thing is, I look older — and he doesn’t! I guess that’s why he makes such a wonderful elf.” When you add this news to the fact that Ian Holm is also confirmed to show up somewhere in this production as Bilbo (who will also be played by Martin Freeman), it becomes clear that Jackson’s films are going to link The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings trilogy much more closely than Tolkien’s books did. What we’re going to see will either have to be a flashback structure where the characters we met in the first three films are looking back on the events of The Hobbit, or new material that will create a bridge between the two stories.

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Once upon a time, it was Harry Potter, The Doctor, and that guy who helped out Idi Amin that were rumored for the main role in The Hobbit. Those names have all fallen away to the history books only to leave the true Bilbo Baggins – Martin Freeman. Freeman was first propelled to our cultural conscious in the original version of The Office and since then has nakedly thrust himself in Love, Actually and carried a towel hitchhiking across the Galaxy. We reported last month that he was possibly out of the picture because of a scheduling conflict, but then possibly back in again, and it looks officially to be the latter.

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