Muster the Rohirrim and get thee to the theater!
At long last, it’s time to return to the Shire with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel. Set before The Lord of the Rings, the film traces the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman of TV’s Sherlock; the BBC Office) as he joins the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and a band of trolls to reclaim stolen treasure from the dragon Smaug. Other familiar faces include Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, and, most enticing, Andy Serkis as Gollum. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy; Pan’s Labyrinth) was originally set to direct, and though his distinct imaginative style would surely have been impressive, he opted out of the project (though he maintains a screenwriting credit). In swooped Peter Jackson, in need of some time in Middle Earth after the dreadful Lovely Bones. His take on this magical realm firmly established, there’s the comfort and danger of familiarity in him revisiting Tolkien, but Jackson has employed plenty of new tricks to keep things fresh. In addition to filming in 3D, there’s his revolutionary 48 frames per second approach, a sped-up visual style that’s polarized critics so far. Will it be stunning or too much to handle? I’ll find out Friday night.
Anthony Hopkins has been in dire need of a quality role. Relegated to psychologically torturing young male protagonists for far too long, he’s found what seems like a wonderful fit as the lead in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock. The film focuses on the master of suspense and the difficulties encountered while bringing Psycho to the screen. Helen Mirren plays Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville, with Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Reviews have been lukewarm, but even if it’s awful, Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Lincoln) has a supporting role, and if he can save Men in Black 3 and Hugo, he can save Hitchcock. I’m also thrilled to have viewed the film’s trailer for the last time, which quickly supplanted Lincoln as the fall’s ubiquitous preview. Look for my review on Friday.
Fleeing the Scene
If Smashed had lasted more than a week, it would have been a minor miracle. Check it out by Thursday night if you get the chance. I don’t, however, recommend straining yourself for Wreck-It Ralph, The Sessions, Red Dawn, or The Collection (which I actually did see and may or may not post a predictably scathing review).
Though it breaks little new ground, The Bourne Legacy delivers plenty of high-quality action. I can’t vouch for Ted, though I’m no fan of Seth Macfarlane’s comedy and the film will probably be named worst of the year by my colleague Justin Souther. For the kiddies, there’s Ice Age: Continental Drift, and as the week’s wild card, there’s Why Stop Now, a comedy with Jesse Eisenberg and Tracy Morgan, of which I know little other than the appealing cast.
On Netflix Instant
Apparently, Ice-T”s well-reviewed hip-hop documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap snuck under the wire last week, which I consider excellent news. Likewise notable is Farmageddon, about farmers who battle to provide safe, natural food for public consumption. Other 2012 titles newly streaming include Sarah Polley’s pretty good Canadian adultery drama Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman; the quirky sperm donor comedy Jesus Henry Christ, with Toni Collette and Michael Sheen; Fernando Meirelles’ (City of God) latest film, the interconnected narrative 360, with the likes of Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, and Jude Law; and Hoop Dreams director Steve James’ documentary about concussions in youth sports, Head Games.