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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents a considerable improvement on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Some of the same problems still lurk at the edge of the frame: the pacing needs a bit of work; the movie is about half-an-hour too long; it feels a little too consciously like one extended prelude to The Lord of the Rings. And yet, despite all these flaws, The Desolation of Smaug accomplishes a lot of what it sets out to do.

This is very clearly the same Middle Earth that viewers remember from The Lord of the Rings. Even the least obsessive viewer will still recognise the occasional familiar landmark or setting from the early film. It’s not just the New Zealand locations that shine through; great care has been taken to establish a geography of this fictional landscape. Viewers who have yet to memorise the names and routes on Tolkien’s meticulously-prepared maps can see that this is the same world.

It’s just being seen from a different perspective. The Hobbit isn’t really an adaptation of that much-loved adventure tale, at least not exclusively. It is instead being crafted as a companion piece, with the heroes’ quest providing a handy travelogue of a world in turmoil.

The gold standard?

The gold standard?

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Non-Review Review: The Fast & The Furious 6

The ideal The Fast & The Furious film could only properly be summated with hand gestures and poorly improvised sound effects. “Rrrrrrr….” and then (wavy hand movement) and then “smack!” and then (index finger jams into opposite palm), followed a “bb’tccccch…” and (outward gesture of hand indicating explosion). Fast Five came close to being that perfect macho car chase film, one less concerned with plot and performance than a riveting high-octane spectacle treating its human cast as much like props as the vehicles they drive.

The Fast & The Furious 6 backs away a great deal from the charm of the previous film. There’s the same dumb action set pieces delivered in a charmingly intense manner by Justin Lin, but the script feels over-plotted. There are lots of big emotional moments between an ensemble that really wasn’t built to give those sorts of performances. There are lots of shocking revelations from events several films earlier. There are lots of personal conversations where Lin has no idea what to do with the camera but circle around his actors and hope that the audience doesn’t get too bored.

Not so fast...

Not so fast…

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