Peter Jackson

Pacific Rim

One of the top-ten highest-grossing movies of 2013 will be nominated for Best Picture, and that’s something that didn’t happen in the past two years. The same movie, Gravity, will very likely be the sixth in a row to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects to also be a Best Picture nominee. If it wins the top award, it will be the first to win both those honors since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  I know a lot of people consider Gravity to be a science-fiction film, while I don’t quite qualify it as such. So I merely see it as the closest thing to a genre movie contending for Best Picture this year rather than a true representative. It’s more The Right Stuff than Star Wars. Wasn’t the allowance for more Best Picture nominees intended to accommodate those more popular choices? The first year the Academy returned it to a ten-title category was 2009, and then we saw Avatar and District 9 plus Up, the first animated feature to get a slot since 1991. The next year we had another animated feature in the bunch, Toy Story 3, as well as the sci-fi film Inception. In 2011, Hugo nearly counted as a fantasy picture while Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was a kind of time travel film, but they stretched the definitions of genre film. Last year, the same went for the fantastically dipped Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. […]

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

This week’s Short Starts column was already going to be different by focusing on the first film for a particular story’s adaptation rather than for a director or actor. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit‘s first time on screen was as a short film in 1966 from the team of producer William L. Snyder and director Gene Deitch (Popeye the Sailor). I wouldn’t exactly call it an animated film any more than I’d call a Ken Burns documentary animated. It’s more of a slide show of illustrations, some of them zoomed in on or panned across for some visual stimulation, plus an occasional spot of psychedelic effects. The short was kind of a throwaway work (an “ashcan” production), similar to Roger Corman’s 1994 Fantastic Four film in that it was only made, and in such half-assed fashion, to retain rights to the property. Simply pointing to this curiosity is not enough, though, especially because it was already included on a list of Hobbit adaptations here at FSR last week. But I still want to address it because it’s so fascinating that the same story can be told in about 11 minutes, in the case of the ’66 version, or closer to 11 hours, as could be the case for Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit trilogy (currently the three films are on track to run closer to 9 hours even after the extended releases come out, but down the line maybe a Blu-ray special edition will put it near 11, a la the LOTR trilogy). Both are […]

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singing ringing tree

After all the thrill and adventure of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re going to wish there was more to watch. Well, there is, only it’s not necessarily more of The Desolation of Smaug (not until the extended editions on video, anyway). Instead, it’s other movies that I’ve selected as necessary viewing for those who’ve seen the new Hobbit movie. It doesn’t matter if you liked Smaug or not, because many of these titles are preferred predecessors and alternatives, anyway. Others consist of early movies starring prominent members of the cast or just movies that I was personally reminded of and have now made the excuse to share. From the very well known to the very obscure, the long and the short, there’s bound to be at least one title here for you to enjoy in however much time you have leftover following another lengthy trip to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson. This weekend’s list includes 13 titles, one for each of the 13 dwarves in the movie — though not every selection is necessarily tied to a dwarf. That was just my idea of being clever, plus the fact that such a long movie with a lot going on naturally got me thinking of more movies than usual. Check out my recommendations below and share any others you believe are relevant to mention. There are plot SPOILERS for Smaug after the jump, of course, since many of these picks are relevant to various parts of the movie.

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smaug questions

Plot holes aren’t the biggest issue with the Hobbit movies. Like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug is plagued more by heavy narrative bloat and a dragging pace. But there are details that niggle in the mind once the movie is over. I’m sure that Tolkien fans will be able to answer for every single one of them with a thorough explanation that comes straight from the text. For someone who last read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many years ago, however, these questions are cause for puzzlement. And some may indeed be unexplainable, at least definitively. Maybe some or even all of these will be answered in the last installment of the trilogy. I somewhat doubt it, but given that it will likely approach three hours in length, it will certainly have the time to do so. We’ll have to wait for There and Back Again to find out. It should be obvious, but because we discuss the entire plot of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re hereby warned that SPOILERS are abound after the jump.

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Paul Walker - Hours

Paul Walker‘s performance in Hours is a different animal. In the film, he stars as a man who loses his wife during childbirth and must watch over his ailing newborn in a hospital evacuated by the threat of Hurricane Katrina. It’s high concept with a big beating heart, and we’ll speak with writer/director Eric Heisserer about the challenges of crafting it, and the contextual shift left by Walker’s tragic death. Plus, Eric Vespe (aka Quint) from Aint It Cool News will try to convince Geoff to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug regardless of how the dragon’s name is pronounced, and we’ve got a fundamental screenwriting question on tap for both Geoff and Heisserer. It’s our penultimate show, so we’re swinging for the fences. You should follow Eric Vespe (@ericvespe), Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #43 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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la_ca_1016_the_hobbit

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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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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District 9

This week’s Culture Warrior looks at District 9′s place amongst the very best of smart science fiction.

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desolation_of_smaug

If we’re in the mood to admit things, perhaps I should say that I found Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie to be a monstrous bore. How long was that musical number, anyway? 35-40 minutes? Moving on, we’ve got a new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second of three movies that Jackson and team are adapting out of one book and some supplementary material. And while the stretch is clearly still on for Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his new friends, this one is at least promising to have a great deal more in the way of action. Unless they’ve put it all in the trailer, which is entirely possible. Alas, I’ll stop being a Negative Nori and let you watch the trailer now. Plus, there’s some badass potential in the tale of Thorin Oakenshield.

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The Hobbit

Though the hobbits are a simple folk who are content staying in their shire and enjoying a meal or five, it turns out creating that shire costs a fortune. According to Variety, The Hobbit trilogy has already cost approximately $561m, marketing not included. That figure includes the 266 days of filming completed this year, but not the additional two months of pick-ups or post-production costs for the last two films. Lordy. To put it in perspective, Peter Jackson spent $281m total on the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Jackson and Warner Bros. are considering the Hobbit money well spent; the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, made $1 billion in theaters worldwide despite the decidely mixed reviews, and it’s likely that the second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, will do just as well, or even better. It has a Benedict Cumberbatch dragon –how could it not? (Check out the trailer here.) So what comprises half a billion dollars here? Jackson’s decision to shoot in both higher frame rates (48 rather than standard 24) and 3D in the hopes of providing better clarity for audiences added a “significant expense.” It also provided many viewers with headaches and really doesn’t seem like it should be highlighted as the only thing driving up production costs. Of course, staffing a small army of crew members and then costuming/styling (and paying) another boatload of actors adds some more expenses. Then pile on CGI and I think we have something close […]

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

I almost wrote The Lord of the Rings: The Desolation of Smaug, but can you blame me? Seeing Gandalf and Legolas again really secures the connective tissue in place alongside Peter Jackson and company’s palette. Readers will feel the padding here, but the first whole trailer for the second installment of the second franchise feels appropriately large and conspicuously gilded. Heroic action, bravery, grand bouts of honor (and a little pointy eared romance) should make for an epic tale. If they can get away from the dinner table this time, that is. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is coming December 13th, but you can check out Benedict Cumberbatch’s rasp right now:

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Tetra-Vaal-robot

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  Years from now (let’s say 2154), Neill Blomkamp’s significance in film history books will be that he was discovered through his short films. Specifically by Peter Jackson. And for a while he became a sort of poster boy for the situation where a young talented and economical filmmaker catches Hollywood’s eyes with a remarkable short film showcasing computer-generated special effects that make it look like it cost a million bucks. He will also be known for being part of the related trend of a new filmmaker turning his calling-card-functioning short into a debut feature. And as it turns out, another short of his is set to be adapted for his third feature. And another was a test for what was supposed to be his first (the famous failure of the Halo movie). Following film school and a short time working as an effects artist in Vancouver (he’s credited with animation on such things as 3000 Miles to Graceland and Smallville), the South Africa-born director made four notable shorts, one of which is really a commercial, before he moved into the big pictures courtesy of the mentoring Jackson. A fifth short was what originally came about through that partnership. You can watch all five below followed by links to watch six of his exceptional early ad works.

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district9-commentary1

Four year ago, Neill Blomkamp directed the surprise hit District 9, a speculative sci-fi film about the integration of aliens into human culture. Based in his home country of South Africa, District 9 was embraced by critics and audiences, earning three somewhat expected technical Academy Award nomination and a completely unexpected Best Picture nod. However, before the film was released anywhere, Blomkamp recorded his commentary on the film, giving a unique insight into its production with no knowledge of its eventual success. At the time of recording, Blomkamp had been present to show the film in public once, at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Com, and he was feeling pretty good about the movie based on the audience reaction. At least this time, the Comic-Con love translated into box office success and critical acclaim.

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26-siberia

Last night, NBC debuted yet another new series with a documentary style structure. The network is no stranger to the format, but this show is apparently more confusing for viewers than, say, The Office and Parks and Recreation. The difference is that this show, Siberia, is not a comedy. It’s a fictional show that plays like a reality game show. Any blurbs calling it “Survivor meets Lost” are unnecessary praise because that is literally what is intended. The premise is a more anarchic take on a Survivor-type show, dropping contestants in the middle of the notorious Russian region, while the pilot is nearly a play-by-play of a crash-less version of the Lost pilot, complete with a male version of Shannon (he even sunbathes while everyone else works together as a team) and an unidentified creature in the woods, a la “The Smoke Monster.” By the time Siberia starts to get deadly, the audience should be fully aware that this is not a real reality show. That is if they aren’t already keen enough to see the impossible camerawork (common to other doc-style fiction series) or haven’t bothered looking up the program on IMDb or NBC’s website. But why would they go looking if they believed it to be just another nonfiction show? There’s not much that indicates otherwise in the opening credits (no writers are listed and the cast is listed by first name only) and while the network isn’t necessarily trying to dupe viewers, its marketing of the show […]

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trailer hobbit 2

There are so many directions one could take an introduction to the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The obvious one would be to rail once again against Peter Jackson‘s (and the studio’s) at least partially greed-based decision to split a 350+ page book into three movies. Or we could simply remind people how underwhelming and dull the first film, An Unexpected Journey, actually was. Or we could make a joke about Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) actually being John Harrison. Or maybe we could find some thematic connections between Jackson and Smaug… both big, lonely creatures sitting atop mountains of gold earned off the efforts of so many others. But instead, we’re just going to acknowledge that The Desolation of Smaug looks to be a far more exciting ride than the first film, and that combined with Evangeline Lilly‘s elfen beauty may just be enough to make this one a must-see. Check out the first trailer below.

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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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Oscar Statue

You know how sometimes your favorite series will do a clip show, or how a popular radio broadcast might replay old segments that tie-in thematically in order to take a vacation? Well, I’m using the occasion of the Academy Awards to do pretty much the same thing. It’s sort of obvious that several of the directors featured in this column are also Oscar winners. It’s a veritable Hall of Fame. Doing an Oscar-themed entry is a little bizarre because several weeks feature a gold-owning alum anyway (so this isn’t a complete list of the Best Directors featured on 6 Filmmaking Tips), but it’s still worth packaging their advice as a kind of collective knowledge set held by people who have statues on their mantel. Which means, depressingly, an excerpt from our most popular entry won’t be featured here. Not to mention others like Kubrick, Cronenberg or PTA. Fortunately, there are some truly immense talents who have hoisted Oscar on high even if some towering talents never had that particular honor. So here are some filmmaking tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from an incredibly elite club of Best Director winners.

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Film-Jockeys-3-Goodnight-Peter-Jackson

Check out Derek’s porfolio His other webcomic “Northern Empires” And/Or the Film Jockeys Archive

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West_of_Memphis

Editor’s note: Nearly a year after premiering at Sundance, Amy Berg’s West of Memphis hit limited release this week. The following is a re-run of our Sundance review, originally published on January 29, 2012. At Sundance, the film notably included interviews that had been completed mere days before its festival bow. As such, the final product now appearing in theaters is slightly modified from the Sundance version, with more interviews and tighter editing. Not to worry, however, as our faithful Associate Editor Kate Erbland watched the film again, in its final form, and this review remains as applicable as it did in January. When Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis held its first Sundance screening on only the second day of the festival, audience members walked out stunned – not just because of the film’s emotional material, its often graphic crime scenes and autopsy photos and videos, or even because of how it squarely points to a singular perpetrator (one who is, of course, not part of the West Memphis 3), but because the film was undeniably fresh. So fresh, in fact, that two interviews that pop up in the film’s final third both came complete with a time stamp that indicated that they had been conducted the week before the film bowed at the fest – eight days before its opening. While the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) were freed in August of last year, their nearly twenty-year ordeal remains almost frighteningly of the moment.

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Drinking Games

By now, you’ve probably seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and you may have stumbled out of the theater, feeling drunk from the effects of the HFR projection. Regardless of what you thought of Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-earth fantasy epic, you might be tempted to watch all or part of his previous trilogy The Lord of the Rings. This is a marathon session to endure, especially if you opt for the extended editions of the films, which totals close to twelve hours of movies. In short, you can start one movie with breakfast (or second breakfast, or elevensies) and be drinking your nighttime spirits by the middle of the second film. So whenever you plan on drinking during this batch of movies, there’s always time for this drinking game.

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published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C
published: 04.18.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
A

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