The year of waiting is over and now my fellow Middle Earth disciples and I may at last experience The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The second in Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien trilogy, the film continues the dwarves of Erebor’s quest to reclaim their homeland from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) with wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in tow, the group is again pursued by Azog the Defiler’s merciless orc army, whose clutches they barely escaped in their first encounter. Along the way, our heroes link up with the Wood-Elves, including Legolas (Orlando Bloom) from The Lord of the Rings, who much decide whether to reform their alliance with the dwarves. Meanwhile, Gandalf and fellow wizard Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) return to the crumbling fortress of Dol Guldur to confront the evil entity known as the Necromancer (also voiced by Cumberbatch).
If you want to see the film in its intended 48fps 3D presentation, the Biltmore Regal Grande is the only option in WNC. I wrote about that technology for today’s Asheville Scene and will be checking out the film in that format this afternoon.
There have been many firsts in this, my first year as a “see everything” critic, and today I will take in my first Madea film. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas features the eponymous writer/director/star in his go-to drag, bringing Madea’s distinct form of holiday spirit to an unsuspecting rural town. Based merely on scuttlebutt, in my mind that means some combination of loving sass and well-intentioned shenanigans, but since I have nothing concrete on which to base that assessment, I could be way off. As usual, I will report back.
Fleeing the Scene
Despicable Me 2 remains in my top 3 animated films of 2013…not that there’s been much competition. We also get Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely, which just made me wish I was watching the director’s Your Sister’s Sister instead, and the miserable Fast and Furious 6, whose James Wan-directed sequel is being delayed due to co-star Paul Walker’s recent death.
On Netflix Instant
After paying his mysterious Apatow debts with Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter, David Gordon Green blessedly returns to his beloved art film highs with Prince Avalanche, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a two-man road crew cleaning up a Texas forest after a fire. I can also mostly vouch for Blackfish, the orca doc and Sea World criticism piece that many reviewers embraced to a greater extent. Surprisingly less exciting is Lovelace, the porn star biopic that fails to be as daring as the material suggests.
Appealing unseen films include the acclaimed Berberian Sound Studio, in which a timid sound engineer (Toby Jones) works on an Italian horror film; the 2013 Sundance alum C.O.G., based on a short story by David Sedaris and starring Glee and Frozen‘s Jonathan Groff; The Short Game, Netflix’s original documentary about grade-school golfers competing at Pinehurst; the star-studden YA favorite Holes; Lady Gaga & the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular, which, despite appearances by Elton John and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is apparently one elaborate advertisement for the singer’s new album Artpop; and, most promising for me, season two of American Horror Story.