The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A Touch of Sin

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. A Touch of Sin Four stories of everyday people caught up in the maelstrom that is modern day China. Violence infects their lives, sometimes as victims, sometimes as perpetrators, and none of them will ever be the same again. Zhangke Jia‘s film made my list of 2013’s best foreign language films, and it marks a rare instance where Landon Palmer and I agreed on that assessment. In his own ‘best of’ list he wrote, “A work of national cinema meant primarily for an audience outside of its home nation, A Touch of Sin is a disturbing mosaic of contemporary global China, depicting the excesses and injustices of a country growing through an unprecedented combination of organized labor and capitalist exploitation. A potent combination of genre play and political commentary, Zhangke Jia’s episodic film is as much a masterwork of a tightly controlled, discomfiting tonal range as it is a revealing micro-examination of uniquely 21st-century forms of economic injustice. I believe we’ll be talking about this molotov cocktail of a film for years to come.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Visual Effects

The horse race! The great question! The draw of history! Is there anything more exciting than the uncertainty of not knowing who will take home gold on Oscars’ big night? Of course there is. Lots of things are more exciting, and there’s no uncertainty here because Gravity is going to win the crap out of this award. So instead, let’s talk briefly about magic. Because that’s what visual effects are. Ever since the first days when a train scared people by pulling into the station, film itself was magic. The idea that you can capture the world around you and preserve it on a chemical strip has an air of sorcery to it, as it should, but we’ve had a century to get used to the mechanism, so visual effects have taken on the hefty mantle of casting spells. Like making us believe we’re in space, or fighting a dragon, or fighting an exploding foe, or fist-fighting on top of a train, or returning to space. Here’s a look at all five nominees with behind-the-scenes VFX videos to make up for my totally unsurprising predicted winner (which is in red)…

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2013review_scifi

This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012’s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]

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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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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 The Desolation of Smaug

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Smaug - The Hobbit

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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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: 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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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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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Poster

The first official poster for Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has been released this week via the film’s Facebook page. The posting not only shows us some rather stunning art — which promises that Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) may actually meet the titular dragon at some point — it also brings with it the promise of a first teaser trailer for the film. According to the posting, a Hobbit-sized teaser will be released Tuesday, June 11 at 10a PST. For now though, we’ve got this fancy poster. 

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Smaug the Dragon

So, yes, Peter Jackson and company have decided to extend their two-night Hobbit tour into an extra evening. Feel cynical about it or feel elated to have another trip into Middle-Earth, but know that it is coming with furious vengeance. According to Aint It Cool, the second second film in the newly minted trilogy will be called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It should be due out December of 2013. The third film, There and Back Again – which was the first second film (for those keeping score) – will be out July, 2014. From the general darkness and devastation of the title, and the fact that this is Jackson’s second big opportunity with a fantasy trilogy of this type, it’s easy to speculate that he’ll bring down the fire, leaving the second film on the brink of the big gloom. That’s pure speculation, but wouldn’t it be awesome if he went full dark, Empire style? Hopefully he’ll keep the Ewoks away from the final installment, though.  

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