Prose Lullubies are not for the Fainthearted

My sister is six-and-a-couple-of-months-old, and we’re on page 194 of The Hobbit.

I bought a copy filled with some of the many drawings and paintings of the talented Alan Lee, with the intention of trapping her one day, while she was strapped in the car and unable to escape, and start reading. The first couple of times I tried to force books upon her as story-time reading were unsuccessful, she claimed that Gerald Durell was “boring”, despite her immense enthusiasm for animals, and declared Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone just as bad. However, she has maintained interest in The Hobbit for approximately a month now, and we both enjoy the experience, though sometimes she asks what words mean. And fair enough, Tolkien uses some rather advanced vocabulary for a year 1 student!

I love the fiction genre, and when I was younger, my parents read me a lot of books – they steadfastly continued throughout my entire primary schooling – till I was 11! – and almost the complete Anne of Green Gables series was narrated to me, night after night, in Hebrew. I derived great enjoyment from the experience, and have very fond memories of my mother, muddling words and nodding off as her voice grew hoarse, with me poking her awake gently and demanding that she finish the chapter, though I, at the time, had formed and enforced some very stubborn, weird views on what I was allowed to read in English. I love passing on my enjoyment and seeing my sister drop off to sleep.

But I have to wonder, should I have started with something more benign? The Colour of Magic, perhaps, or The Spiderwick Chronicles, or even renewed the Anne of Green Gables tradition? Because The Hobbit has some pretty gory images, some rather gruesome, violent scenes, and a lot of talk of beheadings and enemies and evil. And I don’t want my sister gaining a binary perspective of the world, seeing everything as direct oppositions. On the other hand, she’s interested, and I want to foster that – because isn’t her interest an indication that she is ready to be read these stories? Although, possibly I should be waiting until she can read them herself…

 

What do you think?

-Let’s call me Lily

Reviewing Thor’s Dark World

I’m so glad that I didn’t watch this in a cinema, because they would have kicked me out 🙂 Watching Thor: The Dark World for the first time a couple of days several weeks about a month ago (er, yes, apologies, and this is the one where I gripe, so you can skip it if you don’t want to read that), I was struck by an inexplicable urge to laugh. Especially in the first act of the film.
Thor has always been an outlier in the Avengers; neither enhanced by science in some way, nor gifted with a preternatural ability which has been transformed into a weapon, he is a literal god. Asgard, with Yggdrasil and the nine realms, is vastly different from the rest of MCU and its distinctly recognisable, human, heroes. I suspect that the purpose of the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy is to expand upon the notion of other worlds, other cosmos, and will act as another way of integrating the two distinct sensibilities of the futuristic and the mythical together. In saying that, however, when setting the foundations of Asgard in Thor, director Kenneth Branagh cleverly made the decision to humanise his gods; creating a scenario not unlike Greek mythology, wherein gods are sometimes foolish and scandalous, just like human beings. Marvel has expanded on this in Thor: The Dark World, imparting new knowledge, including the fact that these so-called immortals can, and do, die.
When I first heard the subject matter of Thor: The Dark World was ‘dark elves’, I thought “uh oh”… because I have read Lord of the Rings, I have read The Silmarillion, I have read about Lord of the Rings through (some of) the History of Middle Earth series, and I have watched the films. And while the LOTR trilogy does not encompass the development of Middle Earth and the separation of the different strands of elves, it was still structured upon this knowledge, and directly adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, which are heavily reliant upon Norse mythology. Thus, to use characters such as the ‘dark elves’, when there is already such a strong visual trend which has remained ever since the LOTR trilogy was screened, and which continues in The Hobbit trilogy, was somewhat of a risk, in my opinion. I was prepared for some similarities, I figured that they wouldn’t matter too much in the main scheme of things. However, I was still apprehensive.

Dark Elves – a cross between cybermen and space-knights?

And rightly so. Not only did the ‘dark elves’ of Thor look similar to the elves of Lord of the Rings (with their cybermen masks off, that is), they also spoke in the same-sounding Elvish tongue, which was subtitled, as in LOTR and The Hobbit, and used script which, again, was very similar to the script which Tolkien invented. I was expecting a magnificent villain; the dark elves depicted as having been denied the right to rule by the Aesir, and now dispossessed and living in darkness while they waited for the right time to strike back and reclaim their homeland. This could have been nurtured some wonderful ambiguity and caused a degree of sympathy for them. There was not. Additionally, the dark elves were not fleshed out in the least. This is something which I could have passed off without more than a slight pause, usually – after all, elves do tend to be quite static in their various interpretations over the years. However, in combination with their other deficiencies, it simply emphasised an overall lack of depth. I thought I would be watching something with a vaguely original premise and realistic characters, rather than flexible cybermen. I was hoping for rich detail and history and a culture. At the very least, I was expecting a convincing performance from Christopher Eccleston as Malekith.
I was to be disappointed. The entirety of the dark elves component of the film was pushed to the background – I’ve heard that several Christopher Eccleston scenes were cut out of the final film product, and thus reduced the audience’s knowledge of the dark elves and their engagement with them. They were simply two-dimensional fighters who existed to only to put Asgard at risk and fight some battles in a way that would reunite Thor with Jane Foster. What’s more, the plot was ridiculous. Hello, LOTR, anyone? Did the first 20 minutes not ring a bell for you? For me, it was like watching the start of Fellowship of the Ring all over again – there is a voice-over, there is a battle epic in scope as the fate of the world is decided, there is a Macguffin (which possesses people and corrupts them just like the One Ring, and moreover, is not as pretty), there is the victory at a great cost, there is the question of what to do with the Macguffin, and the answer “we must bury it where no one will ever find it!” (I told the screen to throw it in Mount Doom, but apparently they didn’t hear me). Then there is the inevitable, oh, oops, our plan didn’t work, here it is again (very conveniently) for Jane to encounter. Overall, the first part was unexciting and felt rather unoriginal. And then, times passed …. and we were thrust into a Star Trek fusion! I swear, that was really what I thought! Star Trek: Into Darkness just popped into my head, with Khan and the last of his race on this spaceship, except here they were all alive wanting vengeance. There were several other moments where I was unexpectedly thrust into what seemed to be another movie. For example, I was vividly reminded of Stardust when all the windows were blown out, where I felt it had been used to a greater effect and was more dramatic, because it was the first time I’d seen it happen.
To sum things up, I agree with what critics have said – Thor: The Dark World was a very unbalanced film. There were parts that I liked (and I shall talk about them in due course), but the aforementioned were not those.
What did you think about the villains of Thor: The Dark World? Do you agree that the opening sequence lacked originality, or are you all bristling in defense of the director, Alan Taylor?
Do let me know!
Let’s call me Lily

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Moi

Sorry this took ages. Here’s the gorgeous end-credit song “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran to make up for it 🙂 (and it’s long)

Very early this morning yesterday morning two days ago on the 11th of December 2013, I saw the premiere (premieres are ALWAYS fun, even if the movie isn’t that great) of the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy; The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (The Hobbit: DOS) in 3D and High Frame Rate (HFR) with a few of my friends. After spending half a day lolling about in bed and musing about the film, I finally caught up on reviews and have now sat down to write my own. Like last year, when I reviewed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I will be doing footnotes for spoilers which will discuss things in more depth behind the cut, and won’t be doing a film summary like other reviews usually do.

I have to admit, not having seen any of the trailers and avoiding spoilers like the plague also meant that I was disadvantaged in that I couldn’t remember anything about the first movie for the first couple of minutes. Luckily (or unluckily), there was a malfunction with the film, so after having sat through the 1/4 of an hour of ads in anticipation, the audience had to wait a while longer for everything to be sorted out, which irked me, especially as I’d already had it happen in the HPDH7 Part 2 premiere.

“So, at this point I’m wondering whether Beorn will be central to the second film, as he was quite important in the novel, and how much more embellishing Peter Jackson will do. Also, how the film turned out in 48FR, which I didn’t see because I thought it would be too much of a risk for the first time watching a movie…”

That’s what I thought after watching the first Hobbit film. Well, here are a couple of quick answers!

1. Beorn? I was waaaaaay off with that. Really. [1] What about you – any hypotheses proven or unproven?

2. This time I watched the film in both 3D and HFR. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference! Yes, at the start it takes a few moments to adjust, but it seemed just as vivid as watching it only in 3D had…Sometimes you end up focussing on the wrong thing, as I mentioned in my previous review, but that’s caused, again, by the 3 dimensional aspect of the film as well. So 48FR didn’t end up mattering too much to me. Could any of you tell the difference?

The film opened with a flashback scene from months before Bilbo’s journey began, re-acquainting the audiences with the general thrust of the plot in a lovely little sequence, and then moved straight into action which would be typical of the next 2 hours and 41 minutes. You can read Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit: DOS here. Meanwhile, I shall start with the positives (the few I could find. Feel free to point out more!):

Desolation-of-Smaug-Movie-Dragon

Smaug the Stupendous, Smaug the Impenetrable, Smaug the Magnificent, Smaug the Terrible…Yes, Smaug is indeed all these things and more! With “armour…like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” (The Hobbit), Smaug casts a terrific shadow over the dragons to come in future films, with amazing reality and expression, in part from the CGI and motion capture work of Weta Digital, and in part from the magnificent voicing by Benedict Cumberbatch. This is what a dragon should be, not the pathetic attempt that Eragon made back in 2006. (Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have known it was Cumberbatch voicing it if I hadn’t already known….and how on earth did he do motion-capture for that??? ) The Bilbo/Smaug scene was by far the highlight – the best part of the film, similarly to the Bilbo/Gollum confrontation in The Hobbit: AUJ. Both CGI and 3D were used to great effect here, and the acting was just brilliant.

The visual effects, while sometimes a tad over-the-top in their attitude towards the sometimes disorienting angles and quick-cut panning, were incredible, creating the right atmosphere for every scene, with vistas of Mirkwood, with its spiders and Elves, Laketown, the ramshackle town in the centre of a lake, as well as the Lonely mountain itself. There was an especially glorious snippet of Bilbo enjoying the sunlight for a few moments in Mirkwood. The score of the film was up to par with the previous films – I especially appreciated how they continued to incorporate aspects of the LOTR trilogy.
Character development could have been better, in my opinion, but I felt that the writers did include was very well done: namely, the demise of Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins, as well as the role of Balin.[2] Whilst the movie was nowhere near as humorous as The Hobbit: AUJ, it still retained a bit of light-heartedness, for which I was glad, and the acting in general was very, very good. Luke Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman, was fleshed out nicely and added to the film considerably, although he was hauntingly similar to a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and William Turner. It may have just been the facial hair and my imagination, though. 🙂 You can read an interview of him here.
I think that personally, the film let me down quite a bit. I am definitely going with my original thoughts back before any of the hobbitsses were released and claiming that 2 films would’ve been better than three.
Yes, some of the scenes were good, such as the initial Lonely Mountain sequence and the Barrel-Riding scene (Which, you’ve got to be kidding me. But… sort of great.). Similarly to The Hobbit: AUJ, I think Jackson could have cut right back and made it a much shorter, tighter film. They definitely could have done less on Laketown – three chases in one small city means nothing new came across – and the deviation of the last half an hour with the dwarves in Erebor seemed superfluous to me, like they were just trying to stretch the action…whereas I think they could have done more character development, which Jackson mentions that he tried to bring into The Hobbit: DOS. Or expanded on a couple of scenes which I personally would have found more entertaining [3] than the original added sequences.

The purpose of the journey also seemed weak to me, as I found the task of sympathizing with the dwarves plight rather more difficult when they were relegated to background of Elvish fighting. However, I think that it was also to do with the tone of the film – The Hobbit is definitely a lighter book than the LOTR trilogy, and the first film really reflected the almost mischievous nature of the dwarves adventure, rather than the doom-defying quest to destroy the One Ring. The Hobbit: DOS seems to try for more gravitas than its predecessor, but to me it made the resultant film less successful and more of LOTR try-hard copy (to be crude).

Bilbo enjoying the fresh air

Pretty, pretty mini-scene of Bilbo enjoying the fresh air

As for the new supporting/main characters introduced apart from Bard: Thranduil, King of the Mirkwood elves, and his son, Legolas (gasp – We weren’t expecting that!) It was odd, because Thranduil looked the part, but from my perspective he wasn’t regal enough, instead acting cruel and, in some cases, a bit petty. As for Legolas, well, I have to say that I never saw that particular ‘fan favourite’ appeal, so to bring him into The Hobbit: DOS seemed a bit pointless to me unless he had an important character arc, which so far he hasn’t. And his lines! Well, to be fair, not only him. There were so many melodramatic, cliché, cheesy, or over-the-top lines that it just felt ridiculous at times.

What was especially disappointing was the character of Tauriel, Chief of the Guards for the Elvenking. As someone who is not what you would call a ‘purist’ – i.e., I can enjoy scenes that are original, or adaptations that work well if you ignore that they don’t match up to the books (not if they destroy the whole concept of the book, though. Or if there is terrible acting/plot) – I was overjoyed that there’d be at least ONE female character in The Hobbit: DOS. In fact, I figure that if they had really wanted to show some parity, they could have gender-swapped some of the dwarves, so there’d be some main characters that were female, rather than a singular secondary character (It could have made for a more interesting dynamic of ‘brotherhood’ and friendship between the 13, as well!). Thus, I was completely dismayed when I watched the film and realised that rather than create a character with depth, the writers had done something (in my view) atrocious: they had relegated Tauriel to a couple of flashy action scenes (because that totally shows the audience how she’s a strong woman, right? Because violence does that; violence apparently, in our society, gives the impression of muscular strength and skills, and disobeying orders to go kill some orcs shows independence, which, when spun together, creates an image of a brave elf doing what she thinks is right to the audience. Apparently this is what violence is meant to show. As if a woman can’t be strong unless she is bearing arms.) and, even worse, formed a love triangle surrounding her. This is how I saw Tauriel; as something meant to appease females all around the world in the hopes that it would garner more viewers who felt that at least they’d now have someone of the same gender to identify with. As a female, I didn’t identify with Tauriel at all. Tauriel as envisaged by Evangeline Lilly here, would have been better to see, but I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t there.

In short, I feel that they shouldn’t have created Tauriel at all. It’s like with the TV show Elementary – if you’re going to do something like that, change the gender of a character, or introduce as female character, at least do it well? Make Sherlock Holmes a woman, not Watson (there are even wacky theories out there which state that Holmes was a woman, you could have backed it up with genuine Sherlockian and Holmesian thoughts on the matter!).

But, hang on, I think I’m being too harsh on Tauriel. In her defence, Lilly played the character as well as she could, given the circumstances, and Tauriel does have a high position in the Elven kingdom. She does speak with ‘the voice of reason‘ and show wisdom at times, as well as being skilled at her job, which is inherently violent. I think that it’s just – we had one character to hang all of our hopes on. Just the one female character. So if she lets us down in any way, because she is all that is there to represent females in the entire film, we are going to judge her and critique her more.

While many critics seem to be approving of the increase in action, I actually found these less enjoyable, as while the site changed, and the sequences themselves looked to have been meticulously choreographed and practised, there were simply too many to allow the full appreciation of the skill expended by the many participants. Additionally, a significant amount of fight scenes were mainly focussed on the elves against the orcs, which I found repetitive, especially as the fighting styles didn’t change.

After reading my review of the first film, as well as from what I remember, I am certain that I was more entertained by it than by The Hobbit: DOS, its sequel, contrary to most others. May the third film be better than the first two put together!

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on the comparison between the two, as well as any other comments you have to offer.

Continue reading

I Solemnly Swear

I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it!!!!

I still haven’t written down what I thought about the Day of the Doctor. Or the Hobbit, which I watched at the Premier on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

I am going to do this. (I discussed it out loud so I still haven’t summoned the motivation to do so in writing, as it feels like I’m repeating myself)

I am going to do this. (before the year is out :))

Seriously, I’ll do this soon. They will be long reviews. It takes me ages to type them. I will do this.

Sorry,

Let’s call me Lily

The (First) Final Battle Between Good and Evil

As in, I’m posting about the Auckland Armageddon Expo 2013 at last.

This is late partly due to exams, which start on the 12th for me, partly due to laziness, and partly due to a misplaced camera and cord (oops).

But now procrastination is over (i.e. I’m procrastinating something else by doing this, yes, I have an entire system, be ashamed), and I will regale you with not so amazing tales of my First Expo Experience.

I seem to be feeling quite chatty (and brackety), so sorry if this isn’t very formal (though, really, am I ever? I try to maintain a semblance; I think I fail). Also, I’m sick, and my first exam is tomorrow (ARGH!!!!!!!!!!) so I’m not too great at coherency.

Saturday:

The highlight of that was the Billy Boyd panel, which my friends and I got really good seats for. One of my friends, Kate, actually got up on stage and sang Edge of Night in front of the hundreds strong audience (and the people watching on live stream) and got a hug from Billy. Lucky thing! My video of it isn’t able to be downloaded onto here as it’s the wrong format for some reason,  but you can hear her here anyway!

And here is the original, in case you’ve forgotten what it sounds like:

So, I thought she did an amazing job: did you???

Apart from that, which made me really REALLY excited for her, the panel itself was also very amusing. I wish I could remember it all, but I have a terrible memory…(here goes)

  • It was someone’s birthday – Hannah – so we all sang her happy birthday, of course. She also wanted a photo, clearly having not read her booklet, which stated that there were photo sessions! Also, she stated that “I can kiss you if you want” as an exchange. This did not lure Billy off the stage, surprisingly enough 😛
  • Billy Boyd has a band called Beecake. He would love to bring this band to visit New Zealand. “You can go online to a place called you-tube” and watch him and his band perform, apparently.
  • There was a question about Dom Monaghan, and Billy retold a story where he had to go out of the room because he thought he’d die of laughter. An audience member, dressed as Sailor Moon (I think) and who used to be a teacher, stood up and related that you can die of laughter, as on 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King’s Lynn, had literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies – Kung-Fu Kapers – which features a Scotsman. His widow had written the producers of the show a thank you letter. The woman spoke with such a clear voice (with an awesome accent) that it prompted Billy to say “I’d like you as my butler” to which she replied “call me!”.
  • When putting their Hobbit feet on in the wee hours of the mornings, the lads would take turns choosing music. Mostly it would be something calm and classical; Beethoven or Mozart, and then Elijah Wood would put on some Death Metal band – “at 4:30 in the morning, you know”
  • When Billy broke his pinky on his day off (he never did on set), he had to go to the prosthetics department so that he wouldn’t have to “fence like an English Lord” , and they made him a pinky splint that looked like a pinky, so he had an oversized pinky for a couple of scenes and mostly just tried to keep his hand in his pocket as much as possible.
  • There were a couple of inevitable kissing questions – the hotness of Orlando Bloom, which was, according to Billy, simply phenomenal (he told us how they were on the same flight to NZ, and he’d been told that he’d meet Orlando at the airport, and that he’d seen him on the plane and thought, “he looks like an elf” and then it turned out that he was going to be playing Legolas the elf), as well as the time when Billy was kissed by Viggo. He prefaced this by saying “I think I’ve kissed…at least 6 of the members in the Fellowship” and then went on to say that kissing Viggo was a bit like kissing a horse.  You can watch this to hear the whole story (I am laaaazzy! And not good at all with anecdotes – I figure you’ll find this more amusing)

and that’s all I can recall (there was lots more; it was a great hour!)

The Doctor Who panel featured  Catrin Stewart – Jenna, Dan Starkey – Strax, Ian McNeice – Winston Churchill, and Simon Fisher-Becker – Dorium. I can remember way less here, but it was also quite good. Simon especially recited a lot of his lines, which was great – he did his infamous “the first question will be answered” speech and a couple of others, and there was a Strax-imitation competition, which I seem to recall Dan Starkey winning (no surprises there, as he plays the character 🙂 ). They all talked about how nice and lovely and generous and how amazing Matt Smith was as an actor. (It was a bit like they’d been hired as a personal chorus to sing his praises! Although to be fair, a lot of questions were stuff like “how was it working with Matt Smith?” etc) None of them know anything about the 50th – in fact, Jenna regaled us with how, until she’d read the script where Lady Vastra says “I am a lizard from the dawn of time and this is my wife!!“, she hadn’t known that her character was married!

Favourite lines to say were:

Churchill – “KBO – Keep Buggering On”

Jenna – “I think I’ve just been murdered”

Strax – “I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid!”

Dorium – “Doctor Who?”

 

To be continued for Day 2 of my experience here!

Cliched as a Girl in the Flower Dress

I have been neglecting this blog a bit.

Sorry.

(I had lots of excuses here, but they were all clichéd and useless and really, who wants to read those anyway?)

However, as the Armageddon Expo is this weekend, and I am attending for the first time ever, I will definitely be blogging on how that goes, after the whole event is over. I promise 🙂

November is almost here, and with it comes Thor: The Dark World (expect for in France, which gets it on October the 31st) and, on the 23rd, The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special; The Day of the Doctor.

December brings, on the 11th, The Hobbit:The Desolation Of Smaug,

January the 19th is the newly announced Season 3 Sherlock premiere date.

There are also the weekly previews of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.

Then there’re The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Antman, Guardians of the Galaxy and so forth…

I have decided not to watch any of the trailers that have been released, which is kinda why I’ve been a bit silent – if I’m not watching them, I can’t very well write about them, now can I? But I am very much looking forward to them, especially since Thor: The Dark World is meant to be very promising since Joss Whedon fixed some problematic scenes. I very sincerely hope that Jane is going to be a stronger character than in the first film, not just a besotted damselish scientist who gets the buff guy unexpectedly.

And all off my friends have been going on and on about the wondrous growly voice of the magnificent Cumberdagon – Smaug – who speaks in the new trailer. I haven’t seen it, but you can below 🙂 I think that I want to wait and see if the anticipation is worth it. That way I will have tried both methods; the wait and see, and the watch all you can beforehand, so I will know exactly what to do for the final installment in the trilogy.

However, I did recently see the Iron Man 3 blooper reel and how they did the ‘barrel of monkeys’ sceneit is absolutely incredible – the amount of people who worked on that scene to get everything to match up what with all the layers of CGI. And the fact that it’s REAL! Real skydivers doing the action sequence! REAL!!!!!! (yes, I am very impressed, can you tell?)

Also, on my quest for an identification card for Coulson, I discovered the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D website, which has some other handy accessories and a bit of info on the characters so far.

However, I have to say, I am not convinced with the show itself. Really, this is what we’re doing, Whedon? Really? Inserting a bundle of clichés into every episode and not even making them well-executed clichés? The internet told me that The Girl in the Flower Dress is the best episode yet. I will have to respectfully disagree with you on that point, internet. I am not seeing the show increase in quality, let alone in the bounds and leaps described by others. It’s okay. It has a couple of characters that I like, it has a plot line that I find intriguing because of the Project Centipede thingy (not because of Skye), and I’m trying to like it because it might have promise. Hopefully this will be revealed before the penultimate episode.

Also, I really want to know how Coulson lives.

What say you?