Ep. 110 – Black Panther

February 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Marvel Studios’ mega-hit “Black Panther.” They also talk giveaways for “La La Land” live at the Majestic, a special deal for “Birdman” live at the Empire, and our 20th anniversary screening of “The Truman Show” at Alamo Drafthouse!

Click here to download the episode!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

December 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Directed by: Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”)
Written by: Fran Walsh (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Philippa Boyens (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Guillermo del Toro (“Pacific Rim”)

When “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was released in 2003, there was the sense of celebration, a victory lap for the trilogy as a whole capped off by a huge box office haul and Oscars for both the film and for newly-minted A-list director Peter Jackson. Here we were, right in the middle of a collective indifferent, angry shrug reaction to the “Star Wars” prequels, when along came a new fantasy trilogy to sweep us off our feet, selling enough extended edition DVDs to fill up Mount Doom. Fast forward 11 years, though, and Jackson’s own prequel trilogy based on the slim tale of “The Hobbit” has been greeted with a sense of resignation and, personally, relief that the whole thing is finally over.

Picking up where “The Desolation of Smaug” left off, the gold-hoarding dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is laying waste to Laketown. While others flee, Bard (Luke Evans) manages to fire the shot with the only arrow capable of slaying the dragon. Meanwhile, inside the Lonely Mountain, hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman, essentially wasted in this whole trilogy) and the other dwarves watch helplessly as their king Thorin (Richard Armitage) has caught “dragon sickness” from all of the gold and treasure and his search for the Arkenstone. At the same time, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is being rescued by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Sauruman (Christopher Lee), and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) as Sauron attacks. Back at the Lonely Mountain, armies of man, elves, orcs, and dwarves begin amassing at the gate, each looking for their share of the dragon’s gold.

Much has been said the last three years about the decision to extend the slight novel into a trilogy of nearly three-hour-long films, but by now the fatigue is real and it begs the question: “What would these movies look like if there were less of them?” The years spent bringing “The Hobbit” to the screen seem to have burned Jackson out. Where the “Rings” trilogy featured Jackson working at the top of his game, combining camera trickery and physical effects with state-of-the-art CGI, these “Hobbit” movies see a director willing to give in to shiny, physics-defying computer-generated effects, robbing the films of the handmade, visceral quality that made their predecessors so effective in the age of George Lucas’ misguided prequel trilogy and all its digital manipulation. Sadly, Jackson seems to be channeling the worst of Lucas here, filling the last film he’ll likely get to make in Middle Earth with grating, groan-worthy comic relief and endless fan service that does little more that connect the dots to the “Rings” trilogy that no one needed spelled out for them anyway. Thankfully the journey is over.

Fargo (TV) Review – How Does It Compare To The Film?

April 22, 2014 by  
Filed under CineBlog

With the word “cinematic” constantly being thrown around to describe television shows these days, it seems logical that TV would look to the world of film for ideas for new series. In a continuation of a recent trend, TV poaches another prominent film actor in Billy Bob Thornton for an adaption (but not really an adaption) of the 1996 Coen Brothers classic, “Fargo.”

Right from the start, it is important to note that this is not a direct remake or re-imagining of the story seen in ’96. It is, rather, a separate, limited-series that takes place in the same area of Minnesota, around the same types of people, with a similar mix of tone of the darkly funny and the violent. Sure, there are a few callbacks to the film. The logo of fictional town of Bemidji sports an image of Paul Bunyan like the statue seen in Brainerd in the film, there are plenty of “on account of’s” and “aw geez’s” and a certain scene in a later episode which fans of the film will instantly call back to the film.

As a pilot episode, “The Crocodile’s Dilemma” serves as a nice jumping off point for the series. We are introduced to Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) who is an insurance salesman who is constantly nagged upon by his wife. While he isn’t as frantic, funny and quite frankly as brilliant as William H. Macy was Jerry Lundegaard from the film, the characters are pretty similar in their construction. Freeman is pretty good here, able to portray Lester with a sense of built up frustration, but with a resistance to sticking up for himself. He occasionally has struggles maintaining the particular Minnesota accent, but its a problem shared with the rest of the cast who occasionally fade in and out of it. After a rather embarrassing run in with an old high school bully, Lester meets a drifter named Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) in the waiting room of a hospital. There, they have a conversation that leads to Lester’s life being turned upside down. It should be noted that Thornton is absolutely brilliant in his role as Malvo. He is sinister, cruel, calculated, and loves to stir the pot and mess with people. He is easily the best part of every episode, and especially fun to watch when he embraces an alter ego in Episode 4. While there is no real direct comparison to “Fargo” the movie, his character design is definitely more Peter Storemare than Steve Buscemi. What is impressive about the pilot episode is that it starts decently and unassumingly enough as a table setter and gets dark in a hurry. By the end of the episode, the audience is virtually blindsided with multiple brutal scenes in a row, setting forth the events of the rest of the season.

It is apparent by the 2nd or 3rd episode, however, that this is a massive cast of characters, and the show begins to feel a little overpopulated. We meet Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), who is the Maggie Gunderson counterpart from the film, and a host of other characters ranging from a supermarket king played by Oliver Platt and a police officer from another area of Minnesota in Colin Hanks. Still, the most interesting storyline presented to us in the first few episodes is the interaction between Lester and Lorne, yet they are both off doing their own things (albeit some of them amusing) and hardly interact in the back half of the four episodes that I have seen. Of course, I’m sure that at some point during these 10 episodes, stories will intersect and everything will become central, but if the beginning of the series is any indication, there will be some detours along the way to a crash course conclusion.

With a similar tone, setting, character design, and of course, name, it is difficult to not compare the TV product to the film, which is vastly superior in every aspect. While you won’t find the continued police adventures of Maggie Gunderson, “Fargo” is more of a spiritual cousin of the film that will bring you glimpses into the humorous and sometimes frightening environment, but ultimately make you pine for the Coen Brothers classic. It may not be the best thing currently on TV, but Freeman’s and especially Thornton’s performance and an interesting set up have me intrigued enough to continue watching.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

December 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Directed by: Peter Jackson (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”)
Written by: Peter Jackson (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”), Fran Walsh (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”), Philippa Boyens (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”) and Guillermo del Toro (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”)

With three “Lord of the Rings” films that have a total running time of over nine hours, Peter Jackson has the tendency to be a long-winded filmmaker. Of course, with the three “Rings” movies, Jackson was also adapting three separate novels into three separate movies, spanning an epic tale. But with J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Rings” prequel “The Hobbit,” Jackson made the decision to stretch one 300-page book into three films. With the first of the new series, “An Unexpected Journey,” opening last year, Jackson turned in an overlong, plodding and decidedly juvenile entry to the “Lord of the Rings” franchise. Looking to improve, the Oscar-winning director returns with the second chapter, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

“The Desolation of Smaug” follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and a band of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. When they reach their destination, a dangerous dragon named Smaug is awaiting them.

One of the most notable details of “The Desolation of Smaug” is the inclusion of the “Rings” trilogy favorite Legolas played by Orlando Bloom. Though he is nowhere in the actual “Hobbit” novel, the character injects a little bit of life into “The Hobbit” film series, adding to the most interesting fight sequences of the film. Though many of the scenes are occasionally goofy and overlong, one particular sequence involving Legolas that takes place on a river is among the best scenes in the film. Though Legolas is at least an entertaining character, he isn’t necessarily interesting, which is a problem throughout “The Desolation of Smaug.” There is a certain sense of separation from every character, not giving the audience any room or reason to become attached. Relationships such as the one with brand new elf character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and a dwarf are forced. Even the film’s protagonist Bilbo is relatively quiet and unmemorable.

“The Desolation of Smaug” also suffers from serious pacing and length problems. The first section of the film is filled with long conversations that are difficult to follow and keep attention, which is an odd choice when opening a film. Casual fans to the franchise might be well served to take a short refresher course on the events of “An Unexpected Journey” to avoid being a little lost. Beyond that, the film occasionally stretches itself too thin making it easy for interest to dwindle.

In a pleasant turn, the tone of “The Desolation of Smaug” is more serious and adult, a far cry beyond the silly songs and humor seen in the first. Still, “The Desolation of Smaug” remains a flat and dull entry into the “Lord of the Rings” franchise. Perhaps Jackson can turn in a final entry on par with the original trilogy, but with two subpar attempts and an outstretched narrative, he has miles to travel.

The Hobbit

December 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage
Directed by: Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy)
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)

Revisiting fanboy-friendly cinematic properties after an extended absence from theaters is always a tricky proposition. On the financial side, it’s an absolute no-brainer: you’re getting more proven product to sell to an already-existing audience. Huge box office numbers are pretty much guaranteed, not to mention sales of any ancillary products that might go along with it. Creatively, however, these endeavors often fail to live up to incredibly high expectations held by fans. I mean, spend a few minutes looking up what the internet at large thinks about “Prometheus,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” or, God help you, the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

See what I mean? Now you understand what any follow-up to director Peter Jackson’s mega-hit “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy has to deal with. Ever since the final film, “The Return of the King,” ended up raking in all the money and Oscars available back in 2003, audiences have been anxiously awaiting an adaptation of the trilogy’s official prequel, J.R.R. Tolkein’s more kid-friendly novel “The Hobbit.” Legal issues tied up the film rights for years, but the wait is over. Jackson’s first film of a new “Hobbit” trilogy, “An Unexpected Journey,” is finally here, for better or worse.

“An Unexpected Journey” begins 60 years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), happily puttering around his Hobbit hole,  is approached by wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and offered the opportunity to enrich his life by embarking on an adventure. Bilbo politely declines, but, undeterred, Gandalf volunteers the Hobbit anyway. Soon, a pack of Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) arrives at Bilbo’s door demanding food and singing songs. With the help of Gandalf, the Dwarves set out to enlist the reluctant Baggins in their quest to retake their home and treasure from the dragon Smaug.

While none of Peter Jackson’s previous adventures in Middle Earth were known for their brevity, at least those films had three huge books filled with pages and pages of source material to draw from. Not so with “The Hobbit.” Stretching one novel into three epic films is understandably worrisome, and the strain shows from the beginning. Kicking things off with a prologue featuring Ian Holm’s aged Bilbo Baggins writing a letter and Elijah Wood’s Frodo checking the damn mail is an exercise in padding. Plus, the dinner introducing the baker’s dozen of Dwarves is 45 minutes of “get on with it!” Once all of that is out of the way, though, the film slides easily into the groove that turned the “Rings” trilogy into blockbusters. Geared ever-so-slightly to younger audiences, the quest mixes the whimsical, like the goofy wizard with a rabbit-drawn sleigh and a trio of moronic cave trolls, with the terrifying, such as the hook-handed Orc bent on hunting down Thorin or the chilling duel of riddles Bilbo engages in with the pitiful Gollum played by Andy Serkis, once again in top form. By the time the latter scene comes to an end with Bilbo in possession of a familiar golden ring, Jackson’s magic is back in full force. Even the notoriously fickle fanboys should be ready to journey there and back again with the director. Whether he can keep it all going for two more bloated films is the real question.

One technical note: Jackson shot “The Hobbit” in a new format known as HFR, or high frame rate. What it does is double the traditional frame rate of film, 24 frames per second, to 48 frames per second. Select theaters are screening the film in HFR, which is how I saw it, and I can’t recommend this format at all. The difference is stark and distracting to say the least, with a look reminiscent of a cheap soap opera, and ends up unwittingly exposing the fakery of many special effects shots. Avoid HFR.