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Archive for the ‘Ian McKellen’ Category

Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Extended Edition among best home video editions — ever

Extended Edition national Blu-ray 3D

Extended Edition national Blu-ray 3D

The home video market is dead or dying — so they say.  The digital age has brought on massive changes on how we view movies and in a relatively short time.  The ways we consumed the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is vastly different from how we tackle “The Hobbit.”

Many consumers actually jumped to the DVD format from VHS tapes with “Fellowship of the Ring.”  But in the digital revolution, that was ages ago, back when everybody bought movies for home use and there was seemingly ever growing stacks of money to be made from that market.

Studios once had a cash cow in DVDs but the milk has dried up now.  Once, extravagant DVDs and box sets ruled store shelves while today we visit Red Box and Netflix.

So when a Blu-ray like “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Extended Edition,” comes to market it is going against the grain, against conventional wisdom and against market trends.  It’s also the best home release of 2013.

The film is still the film.  If you loved it you will love it more.  If you had problems with it, you will still have problems with it.  The added time didn’t fix what people say is broken.  But if you haven’t seen the film, for the home experience, I do recommend the Extended Edition.  The length includes some character moments that make the film more a little more satisfying but not in a major way.  A bathroom break is close to mandatory and while you can’t pause a theater, its easy from your own couch.

But while many think about the movie, make no mistake, the real prize here are The Appendicies content; Those who are only looking at this for the film are missing the point entirely.  In fact, this collection, is itself a tremendous film that would be worth buying even without the cinema release.  The movie itself is essential in the package, but what launches these discs into rare air is everything else that comes with it.

Prone to exercise laudatory caution because I write for TheOneRing, and I realize too much praise causes readers to become dismissive and classify the writer as a fan boy, I still proclaim with no hesitation that this is among the finest home video releases in history.  It sits on a shelf in rarefied air with a very few discs that can even compare.  Among those are the Extended LOTR editions, of which this is a companion piece.

While we are here talking credentials, let me fully disclose that I was on set to witness “The Hobbit,” being filmed for five weeks and I know (and like) many on all sides of the camera.  More than that, I also interned for a couple of weeks with the producers of the behind-the-scenes content.  I am even credited for extra interviews, so take my perceptions as you wish.

Even if you didn’t love the movie, the exploration of the process is a wonder to behold and the whole is a triumph.  And, this triumph comes with WB and MGM financing this content behind-the-scenes content.  This level of excellence doesn’t just happen and it isn’t cheap.  It takes financial commitment, planning and time.  With rumors of late delivery circulating, creating a shortage of discs in some places, I believe I speak for many fans who emphatically say, “So what?  The wait is worth it.”

Despite all the greatness on the discs, there are a few things that are disappointing, so lets start with those.

PACKAGING

Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

There is nothing about these covers that are exceptional or especially tasteful to tell consumers that these aren’t just another release on a store shelf.  For some reason, with few exceptions, the marketing at Warner Bros. insists on slapping a bunch of floating character mugshots in a college for these films at every opportunity.  More isn’t better and especially when even the casual audience knows what “The Hobbit,” is.  Nobody is saying, “What? Gandalf is also in this movie?!”

A cover with a central visual idea would be a vast improvement and for these discs, there should be a graceful, classic cover, not a garish collection of floating heads.  Better still would have been a style match with the LOTR EEs. The back of the 3-disc Blu-ray is actually great and would serve as a nice cover.

While we are here, the Bilbo in front of Erebor “Desolation of Smaug,” poster was infinitely more powerful that the nightmare LSD trip of Middle-earth’s usual suspects in the latest one.  Boo.  Very much related, if the Hobbit home video release couldn’t be a stylized match with the LOTR releases, at least we could have had a strong central character instead of a collection of them that says nothing.

Gollum and Bilbo exchanging riddles in the dark might be a place to start.  The film’s strongest sequence, virtually perfect even, highlights a key moment in Middle-earth, sells us a familiar character and gives us an absolute iconic moment from literature.  If things were right in the world, WB would issue an inexpensive replacement slip cover for a couple of dollars that ties this release back to the LOTR EEs.  Seriously.

The art on the discs are quite good.

COMMENTARIES

The commentaries with Philippa Boyens (writer, producer) and Peter Jackson (writer, director, producer) are good, but again, this is meant to be a companion disc and viewers really want more commentary perspectives as they were given in the LOTR discs.  Obviously the filmmaker’s take are essential but including cast or key figures like Dan Hennah or Richard Taylor might be expensive, and not financially viable by the studios, but they are sorely missed.  An unrealistic dream commentary might be to have all 13 main dwarf actors on one track or two tracks with half on each.  Careful sound editing would be needed but Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Graham McTavish, John Callen and William Kircher and all the rest, would be brilliant.  There are two movies left to get this right.

I am sure there are many who will take exception to comparing the discs but for certain, many consumers are doing it. These are intellectually built to go together.

But, lets move on to the good (great) with a look at what is included on most versions of the film.  It is worth noting that there is a Wal-Mart version of the Extended Editions available with minimal extras. (Hate to call them extras because they are main featured content.)  Even if consumers think they want to save a few dollars and get that version, they actually don’t.  There is no circumstance where that option is a wise choice.  Any viewer willing to commit to a three-hour Extended Edition deserves to have the story of the film as well for a few dollars difference.  Friends don’t let friends buy foolishly.

Cate BlanchettDISC 1

Extended Edition of the film with filmmakers’ commentary and
“New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth”

The commentary is mentioned above but the video feature sounds like it might be a commercial for New Zealand.  It is actually, with celebrity endorsements.  Newsflash: New Zealand is amazing.

DISC 2

The Appendices Part 7: A Long-Expected Journey -

This is a timeline of the movie that breaks down into parts how it was made, more or less, following the chronology of the film.  Of course films aren’t made chronologically, but following the organization of the film is helpful.   And the docs aren’t strictly about “how we did this,” as much as they highlight interesting stories from a particular segment of the production.

The beefiest is the first, “The Journey Back to Middle-earth,” which also happens to be excellent.  It follows the almost absurd series of roadblocks that threatened to keep this film from being made.  Viewers who followed TheOneRing will recall those days when it seemed time and again, fate had conspired to kill the film.  This is excellent content that wouldn’t be included on many DVDs of other films.

The studios bravely allowed the team to tackle subjects like the financial problems that almost derailed the films and the hiring and departure of Guillermo del Toro.

It would have been much safer to sanitize these events and it happens on many Hollywood “extras” projects but here they are addressed head on — an impressive inclusion.  That first documentary is a definite highlight but every single one of them holds up high standards of storytelling and visuals that feel as though the essential moments were not only talked about but captured.

Christopher LeeIt is in fact the best big-story view on this topic available in either print or film.  To better understand sitting down and watching “The Hobbit,” in the cinema, this is essential viewing.  It is also great not to start with the first day of pre-production but to have a wider view of the whole works.

One of the best segments, perhaps my favorite, is “A Short Rest: Rivendell and London.”  The fact that the production went to London to film Sir Christopher Lee and Ian Holm is common knowledge.  A lesser documentary might spend its time making just the fact of traveling from New Zealand to London to shoot the focus of the story.  Instead, that is established and then the focus is placed on something far more interesting than it just happening: Lee and Holm.

Jackson and Lee are on camera holding up production so those gathered around can listen to Lee remember parts of his life that are legendary on the silver screen.  He also gives Jackson some good-natured crap and it is respectfully returned.  Graham McTavish and Adam Brown are also on hand, despite not filming, to listen to Lee and help the storytelling by putting his presence in perspective.  It is gold and in fact, it is a pity somebody doesn’t produce an entire film based on the man behind Saruman.

Included in the same section is a pretty incredible give-and-take between Jackson, Cate Blanchett, Fran Walsh on a telephone and Ian McKellen.  They discussed character motivations and all the bigger questions behind the dialog on the script page.  It is pretty incredible.  There are some excellent moments with Hugo Weaving.  It all felt intimate, rare and was fascinating.

There are a lot of bright spots here and in fact they are more or less all bright spots, or will be to somebody.   The producers and director Michael Pellerin seemingly pushed for excellence and achieved it.

HobbitEE_1400x2100_USChapters include:

  • The Journey Back to Middle-earth
  • Riddles in the Dark: Gollum’s Cave
  • An Unexpected Party: Bag End
  • Roast Mutton: Trollshaws Forest
  • Bastion of the Greenwood: Rhosgobel
  • A Short Rest: Rivendell and London
  • Over Hill: The Misty Mountains
  • Under Hill: Goblin Town
  • Out of the Frying Pan: The Forest Ledge
  • Return to Hobbiton: The Shire
  • The Epic of Scene 88: Strath Taieri
  • The Battle of Moria: Azanulbizar
  • Edge of the Wilderland: Pick-ups and the Carrock
  • Home Is Behind, the World Is Ahead

Jackson also appears on an introduction to promise more extended editions with DOS and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”

DISC 3

The Appendices Part 8: RePeter Jackson Laketownturn to Middle-Earth -

This disc delivers production details, some conspicuously missing from the film. For example:

The Company of Thorin -

The families of the dwarves are grouped together to give us more details and insights into these characters and actors. These associations are pretty tough to pick out on screen but are well presented here.  Knowing more about these characters will likely enhance view of “The Desolation of Smaug.”  Pity some of this wasn’t woven into the narrative. If you aren’t keeping score the chapters are, by family:

  • Assembling the Dwarves
  • Thorin, Fili & Kili
  • Balin & Dwalin
  • Oin & Gloin
  • Dori, Nori & Ori
  • Bifur, Bofur & Bombur

Martin Freeman enjoys telling the behind-the-scenes cameras they are number one, always with his middle finger or fingers. Here is another case of content many studios would shy away from, but a short collection of Freeman giving the one-fingered salute is part of the reveal of who this Martin Freeman is.

So in the next segment, and perhaps my favorite on this disc, we meet:

Software brought Gollum's skin to life for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," earning it an Oscar for technology and science

Software brought Gollum’s skin to life for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” earning it an Oscar for technology and science

Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member

Next we get more tasty features:

  • Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves
  • The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-earth
  • These are broken into chapters:
  • The Stone Trolls
  • Radagast the Brown
  • Goblins
  • Azog the Defiler

Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town — We spend an hour with locations, time well spent.

  • Hobbiton
  • Rhosgobel
  • The Misty Mountains
  • Goblin Town

The Songs of The Hobbit – A look at the realization of Tolkien’s songs in An Unexpected Journey.

This last item is another of my favorites.  It demonstrates that despite being last, it isn’t any less interesting that what came before.  There isn’t fat here to pad out the disc but instead highly polished, carefully produced, interesting, quality content.

TECHNICAL STUFF

wideDwarves0712The movie looks and sounds great, showing off how good Andrew Lesnie and his team are at shooting moving pictures.  How great does it look?  If you go to the audio, visual, home theater or electronics stores, bring the Blu-ray version of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” with you to test out the things you might buy.  The picture is lovely with great details in blacks (Riddles in the Dark) excellent color and all the rich details coming to life.  Hate to sound hyperbolic, but when it comes to audio and visual excellence, this disc is leading the industry.

The sound comes in 7.1 surround, meaning it can send seven sounds to seven speakers to create a sound atmosphere, if you home is equipped, showing off the genuine excellence in sound design through out the film.  This is a noisy movie with loud characters, loud animals and orcs, some dragon scenes, deep rumbling stone giants and lots of general chaos.

But, the dialog is always ready and easy to hear, including some pretty subtle Ian McKellen lines that come through just fine.  In fact, if you have the proper system in your home, sitting in the middle of the sound environment, closing your eyes and just listening is a real pleasure.

FINAL TAKE

This movie is worth owning a Blu-ray player for.  The film, no matter how much you like it or don’t, is technically amazing.  The extra scenes improve it slightly but just as importantly, there is a wealth of documentaries that are collectively and individually great and paint an excellent picture of what made “The Hobbit,” happen.  I meant it when I said it above, this is among the finest home video releases in history.  Minor quibbles aside, MGM and Warner Bros. did right by fans and this does stand alongside its LOTR EE predecessors.  While this film doesn’t extended as much or as importantly, its extras are as good and perhaps better.

 

 

DVD-Infographic_v2

Posted in Blu-Ray, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Director news, DVDs, Fran Walsh, Guillermo Del Toro, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Merchandise, MGM, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Production, Studios, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Warner Bros.

Watch TV Spot #6 for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

dos title A brand new TV Spot for The Desolation of Smaug aired tonight during FOX’s Series Premiere of Almost Human, and now Warner Brothers has uploaded it to their YouTube Channel in High Definition for all to see! The spot features some new (more…)

Posted in Benedict Cumberbatch, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, MGM, New Line Cinema, Richard Armitage, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Warner Bros.

Hobbit Family Bands Together to Help McKellen Through Greenscreen Difficulties

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEYA difficult time on the set of Bag End – or rather a duplicate green screen version – left Sir Ian McKellen to consider that perhaps he would rather not continue on with the shooting of The Hobbit Trilogy. However, what soon followed reacquainted him with the joy he had come to experience during his previous journey to Middle-earth. It was a reaffirmation that even with the massive scale of the production, and all the complicated technology used to craft these cinematic stories – at the end of the day, there was a family dynamic at work on this journey, as there so often has been on Peter Jackson’s many films.

For those who have not yet heard this tale on the Extended Edition release of An Unexpected Journey, it goes a bit like this (bring the kleenex). Director Peter Jackson and his crew had developed a new technique on this trilogy for showing the actors in different sizes. While the proportions for actor Martin Freeman and the dwarf actors worked well enough for them to act in the same room, Sir Ian was required to be in a completely different area for his part of the scenes. (more…)

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Peter Jackson, Production, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Sir Ian McKellen “homeless” photo causes a stir all over again

Ian McKellen homeless 2 sm Back in 2010, a photo of Ian McKellen in his Waiting for Godot get-up and apparently being mistaken for a homeless person as he sat on a bench outside a Melbourne theatre raised some eyebrows in the press.

McKellen was apparently sitting in his tramp costume taking a break when a passer-by gave him an Australian dollar.

Now, as he prepares to reprise Samuel Beckett’s famous absurdist play on Broadway, the same photo is causing a stir all over again on several news sites — with some seemingly unaware that the events in the photo occurred three years ago. (more…)

Posted in Hobbit Cast News, Ian McKellen, The Hobbit

Five Hobbit films that did not get made

Thorin_Oakenshield Fairfax entertainment reporter Giles Hardie visited the set of The Hobbit on the same two-day press junket that Dark Horizons, IGN and other media outlets went on.

His article is a bit of a fluff piece, and probably doesn’t divulge much that’s new to regular TORn readers, but the bit about McKellen preferring to not reprise his roles is certainly interesting.


Benedict Cumberbatch has had a bad week as The Fifth Estate bombed at the US and UK box offices, but his next film is as close to a guaranteed box office winner as they come. In fact, it might be said he will set the box office ablaze, as Cumberbatch voices the dragon Smaug in the forthcoming second Hobbit movie. (more…)

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

TORn chats with Conan Stevens

PJandConan Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful Conan Stevens (Bolg) about his life and career.

(more…)

Posted in Conan Stevens, Headlines, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, LotR Movies, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, TheOneRing.net Announcements, TheOneRing.net Community

New reports take us on-set for two days for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Tauriel and LegolasWe all like to keep some things secret (and keep them safe); movie studios are no different.  As we get closer to the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Warner Bros. are finally lifting embargos and allowing interviews and content to be posted, which reveal spoilers, and drop hints, about what we can expect when the next film hits the big screen in December.

Our own staffer MrCere spent three months on set last year; stay tuned for some exclusive reports from him, coming soon.  Meanwhile, here are several interviews on which the press embargo has just lifted, covering a two-day set visit for members of the press early last year.

Please note, there are movie spoilers to be found within. You have been warned!

(more…)

Posted in Director news, Evangeline Lilly, Guillermo Del Toro, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Hobbit Movie Rumors, Ian McKellen, Locations Sets, Luke Evans, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Peter Jackson, Production, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Warner Bros. full synopsis for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug provides some plot hints?

desolation of smaug poster I can’t recall if this has been previously revealed, but this official synopsis — more complete than the short version currently on The Hobbit website — actually has some really interesting implications if you have a read through and examine who’s listed and (more importantly), who’s not.

As folks observed after the debut of the second Desolation of Smaug trailer, Guillermo del Toro is back in the credits for his work on the screenplay. There’s a co-producer nod for the late Eileen Moran as well. Highlight the space below to read the key omissions, and some fairly hefty spoiler analysis of what those omissions could mean for the movie.

 


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. (more…)

Posted in Adam Brown, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dean O'Gorman, Evangeline Lilly, Fran Walsh, Graham McTavish, Guillermo Del Toro, Hobbit Movie, Hobbit Movie Rumors, Howard Shore, Ian McKellen, James Nesbitt, Jed Brophy, John Bell, John Callen, Ken Stott, Lawrence Makoare, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Manu Bennett, Mark Hadlow, Martin Freeman, Mikael Persbrandt, Peter Hambleton, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Richard Armitage, Stephen Hunter, Sylvester McCoy, The Hobbit, William Kircher

Win a copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion that has been signed by the cast members!

The Hobbit Visual Companion Our friends at Harper Collins — the publishers of Tolkien in the UK -– tell us that they’re running another competition in addition to their How do you see Smaug? that is on right now.

This new competition offers the chance to win The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion signed by four members the cast — Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Richard Armitage. (more…)

Posted in Books Publications, Cate Blanchett, Collectibles, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Merchandise, Richard Armitage, The Hobbit

Getting to know Jed Brophy

Jed-Brophy01Welcome to this months “Getting to know you” Q&A, this month we’re talking to the one and only, amazingly talented, and all round great guy, Jed Brophy.

(more…)

Posted in Adam Brown, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Fans, Graham McTavish, Headlines, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Jed Brophy, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Mark Hadlow, Martin Freeman, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, New Zealand, Richard Armitage, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, TheOneRing.net Community, Viggo Mortensen

See Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen talk Hobbit trailer on NBC Today!

Gandalf at Dol Guldur As you might recall, when the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug debuted during the week, actors Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen went on the Today show to have a chat about the filming, share exclusive sneak peek of the trailer itself. (more…)

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Trailer

Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen on TODAY show tomorrow, Tuesday

ian mckellenThe excitement just keeps coming! Sir Ian McKellen just tweeted as follows:

Time to set those DVRs, and catch Gandalf and Legolas on tv before you watch the latest trailer!

Posted in Events, Hobbit Cast News, Hobbit Movie, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Television, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Trailer