Monday, December 23, 2013
I haven't blogged, for me at least, in a while. There are a few reasons. One, since Thanksgiving, other than a movie review or two, I've been taking a break. I've also taken a step back and have watched very little news, occasionally only checking the occasional wild meme or seeing who posts the Daily Currant, The Onion, or some other satire site as real news. I've stayed away from the political sites and the incessant talk on the "War on Christmas" and "Obamacare."
Instead, I've been watching reruns of The Supernatural, Bones and Castle. I've been watching things like Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, A Christmas Carol, and Holiday Inn.
And you know what? The world has not ended.
No, instead, since the lighting of my Christmas tree and decorations, I've been remembering a time that may have never actually existed, but it is nice to think it did. I am remembering a time when we didn't know so much about the people on TV nor did we want to. I am remembering a time when the Grinch had his heart enlarged while the voice of Tony the Tiger sang "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" and Boris Karloff narrated the story, and that was a good thing. I am remembering a time when Charlie Brown hung a single ornament on a sickly tree as Linus quoted from the New Testament Luke. I am remembering a time when people read O. Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi" and a gruff newspaper man named Francis Pharcellus Church wrote the immortal lines "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
Is it all a bit Pollyanna? Perhaps. Sometime in the next couple of days, I will watch George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life. On Christmas Eve, I will have dinner with my family, go to the Candle Light Service and spend a few moments alone at home videoing this year's Christmas decorations. After the service, I will sit with my wife and various family members and watch, as we have for the past several years, White Christmas. On Christmas morning, we will gather and open gifts, and I will miss not having small children who we must stuff back in bed at 4 AM because Santa has arrived.
So, here it is. No matter what celebration you follow at this time of year, I hope that you too have some special memories and moments you share and remember. I hope you "have yourself a merry little Christmas."
Monday, December 16, 2013
To be fair, Jackson clearly wants to take the children's story and make it more along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. I still recall when LOTR came out someone asked Jackson about doing The Hobbit and his response was why would they do the children's story when he had done Rings? The answer was apparently money and the right to take the innocence and humor of the original story and place it on the level of his Lord of the Rings. I do miss the dichotomy of the two different stories so the question is did Jackson go too far?
Smaug is awesome. The fight sequences are fun and exciting. It is an easy movie to enjoy and watch. You don't feel the need to check your watch. Still, it seems to me to be missing something. The sets are as always stunning as are the effects. The acting, as always, is believable. Perhaps, now five films at 2hours and 45 minutes on average we've become too familiar to the wondrous and magical world created from Jackson's native New Zealand. The magic has worn off, but to me it's more than this.
Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie a lot. The added material from the appendices answers questions like where does Gandalf go when he just disappears for chapters at a time in the novel and how are the characters from The Hobbit related to those in the LOTR story? Some things though are just out of place.
The other issue I have is a small one in terms of plot, but an important one in terms of character and the universal theme of becoming a hero. In the novel, Bilbo's greatest battle is with himself in the tunnels of Lonely Mountain before he first faces Smaug the dragon. He must find his courage to face the unknown danger for in that moment, he is truly alone. In the movie, however, Gandalf turns to Bilbo and simply says he has changed. Bilbo is tempted to tell the wizard of the ring he found, but instead he announces that in the goblin tunnels he found his courage. It is hardly the defining moment in the book. I had to wonder how Jackson who had so brilliantly captured Frodo's moment of decision to go alone, breaking the Fellowship, could miss such a defining moment Bilbo's character.
Did I mention that Smaug is awesome? As an action captured CGI, just as Andy Serkis as Gollum before him, Benedict Cumberbatch breathes life into the mighty and egotistical worm. While when Bilbo removes the ring so Smaug can see the burglar, I had to wonder why he didn't kill Bilbo then and there. This was not something Bilbo did in the book, just in the movie. I do get that Smaug is toying with Bilbo and that it sets up another sequence for a battle that did not occur in the book between the Dwarves and dragon. Again it was an amazing sequence, just more Jackson than Tolkien.
While neither Hobbit film has measured up to the wonder and accuracy of The Lord of the Rings movies, the second is a good movie and easily holds the audience's attention. With a few walk on characters like Stephen Colbert as a Lake Town spy and even Jackson in the opening sequence, the movie is a fun watch. Perhaps I am being too much of a purist, since I know that people who have not read There and Back Again have no idea about the changes and additions Jackson has made, or perhaps it is the attempt to make a much lighter story into a much heavier equal that affects the movie, but overall, it is still worth the time and ticket. And yes, please, more Beorn in the extended edition. I will buy the DVD.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Anna and Elsa are sisters. Elsa has inherited her father's curse/gift to cause the world around her to become frozen. Anna is normal like her mother. Mom and Dad die. In order to protect the world and keep Elsa's secret, she is locked away, but it is eventually revealed. Elsa flees. Anna sets off on a quest to bring back her sister with the loveable rogue, Kristoff and his reindeer and a snowman named Olaf, and then she intends to marry the charming Prince Hans.
During the course of the story, there will be fun and predictable turns, some songs and the classic Disney fairy tale ending. In other words, the Disney formula of princess on a quest with a lovable scalawag and an unusual side-kick is alive and well. What is more, it still gets us right where our heartstrings are. Frozen is classic Disney "happy ending" storytelling with magic and music.
I will buy the DVD.