Photo: Courtesy Sundance Film Festival
Photo: Courtesy Sundance Film Festival

Elijah Wood’s film “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore,” won the Sundance Grand Jury prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the just concluded 2017 festival.

It was one of 16 films in the category that included “Crown Hights” that won the Audience Award.

The film is summarized like this:

Ruth, a depressed nursing assistant, returns from work to find dog shit on her lawn and her house burglarized, the thief having made off with her silverware and laptop. Losing faith in the police (and possibly humanity as a whole), Ruth starts her own investigation, joining forces with her erratic neighbor–and dog shit culprit–Tony. Upon locating the laptop, they trace it back to a consignment store, leading them to a gang of degenerate criminals and a dangerous, bizarre underworld where they’re way out of their depth.

Macon Blair’s outstanding debut feature has an exuberant storytelling style that’s full of personality, visual inventiveness, idiosyncratic characters, and wildly unpredictable turns. Its dark tone, deadpan humor, and increasingly blood-soaked foray into a twisted moral universe evoke the Coen brothers, but most captivating is the deeply unsettling journey it takes Ruth on, through human vulnerability and escalating violence. Once brought to tears by the notion of an infinite universe, her quest isn’t for her laptop, but for a way of processing a world that no longer makes sense to her.Elijah Wood in I don't feel at home in this world anymore

On the same night, last year’s big Middle-earth alumni film of Sundance 2016, “Captain Fantastic” featured Viggo Mortensen and the cast appeared at the screen actor’s guild where it was nominated but didn’t win. For that film TheOneRing was able to talk with Mortensen about the film, but despite repeated efforts, had no luck speaking with Wood for his film.

But, Wood wasn’t the only Middle-earth actor to show up in a film at this year’s Sundance. Actor Stephen Hunter, who played Bombur in the three films based on “The Hobbit,” appeared in Australian thriller “The Killing Ground.” The film received a warm reception and has a good chance to be seen in theaters. I saw it and think it’s a gripping thriller that handles its violence well. It deserves to be seen but will disturb some because of its violence.

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Hunter plays a key supporting role that the Sundance festival described like this:

When young couple Sam and Ian escape the confines of urban living for a weekend getaway at a remote campsite, they arrive to find a neighboring tent set up with its inhabitants nowhere in sight. As day turns to night and then to day again, the young couple becomes increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of their unknown fellow campers. When they discover a toddler wandering alone on the campground, things go from bad to worse, thrusting them into a harrowing fight for survival in a place miles from civilization, where no one can hear them scream.

Teeming with dread and unnerving tension, the debut feature of writer/director Damien Power draws heavy inspiration from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, utilizing the film’s sparse locations to considerable effect. As jagged pieces of the puzzle are carefully revealed one by one, Killing Ground evolves into a brutally violent thriller that will force you to think twice the next time you dare venture beyond the city’s bright lights

Wood also appears in another film, this one a documentary about the classic Alfred Hitchcock “Psycho.” The film, called “78/52,” breaks down the historic and absolutely groundbreaking shower scene in the film that is credited with launching the horror genre of film in a new way. He is seated with other actors sharing his perspective, especially insightful when examining the performance of Anthony Perkins. Guillermo del Toro also is featured and is a delight.

The film has been purchased and will likely get a new or extended title and will be released in major film markets. The festival title refers to the number of set ups and film cuts the master of suspense used in the scene. For anybody interested in film, I absolutely recommend it. Actually, I recommend it for anybody who has ever watched a film.

Film 78/52 features Elijah Wood

The festival describes it:

“In 78 setups and 52 cuts, the deliriously choreographed two-minute shower sequence in Psycho ripped apart cinema’s definition of horror. With a shocking combination of exploitation and high art, Alfred Hitchcock upended his own acclaimed narrative structure by violently killing off a heroine a third of the way through his film, without explanation, justification, or higher purpose. Psycho played out like a horrific prank, forcing audiences to recognize that even the most banal domestic spaces were now fair game for unspeakable mayhem.

With black-and-white film-geek reverence, director Alexandre O. Philippe breaks down this most notorious and essential scene shot for shot, enlisting the help of film buffs and filmmakers alike—including Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Eli Roth, and Peter Bogdanovich. 78/52 examines Janet Leigh’s terrified facial expressions and the blink-and-you-miss-it camera work, not just within the context of the film but also with an eye toward America’s changing social mores—revealing how one bloody, chaotic on-screen death killed off chaste cinema and eerily predicted a decade of unprecedented violence and upheaval.”

Not to sound as alarmist as Fredegar Bolger rousing the Hobbit-folk in the wee hours of a peaceful Shire morning, but perhaps the time has come for fans of Howard Shore’s scores to sit up and reconcile themselves to a very dismaying possibility – that the unheard music of Middle-earth might well in fact never be heard.

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It’s Earl, your soundtrack-obsessed TORn-staffer, and the reason I’m venturing to make this statement is because of the recently announced Limited Collector’s Edition of the movies, which makes it almost excruciatingly clear that the Warner Bros studio is so very, very far removed from knowing what fans really, truly want, and are willing to pay for.

Continue reading “Awake! Fear! Fire! Foes! or What Does the Limited Collector’s Edition Portend for the Unheard Music of Middle-earth?”

moneyThe marketing campaign of #OneLastTime for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” might have been a little short-sighted as now that most readers of TheOneRing.net and other rabid Tolkien fans have seen the film (sorry Australia friends, paddle over to New Zealand) studios are probably thinking they should have gone with #OneDozenMoreTimes.

But the Sting can’t be too great, because the film is creating liquid gold that is flowing from consumers around the world. Rentrack, that tracks such things, shows that it has a robust domestic box office, so the little film from New Zealand has earned $90 million in Yankee coin. That is a more than solid five-day total and while it could have optimally earned closer to $100 million, that number is far from disappointing. In fact, the studios should use it to pour a floor like the one in Thorin’s hall of madness to, you know, impress the other studios.

The film has such white-hot, world-wide appeal however, that unlike some films that rely on U.S. consumers, this film hardly needs them in its march to $1 billion. Now, to be clear, that billion with a “B” sounds pretty nice but should the movie “only” make, say $900 million, all but inevitable now, that is still a pretty incredible figure. Our consumer brains like to hear the “B,” but the movie is a hit either way and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUGGlobally, it is on fire, doing great business in virtually every territory, sucking up a figure of $265 million since its open. Both the previous Hobbit movies earned more than $700 million internationally and this film is ahead of those in virtually every market. Domestic tracking would put it at $250 million plus for a conservative total of $950 million. My gut tells me the sentimental “last chance for Middle-earth in the theater” (you are welcome movie studio marketing departments) will give this film a little extra run. So the real question is: Will the Hobbit make more than the last Transformers movie? That shows at Boxofficemojo.com with a total of $1.08 billion. One of those two films is destined to be the biggest financially of the year. I generally dislike movie vs. movie comparisons, but I am both cheering for WB’s fantasy flick and against Michael Bay’s painful, loud snooze fest.

TOTALS: Domestic: $ 90.6 million + International: $265 million = Total worldwide: $355.6 million.

It is funny how big hits like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “The Lego Movie,” both fall well short of that $1 billion mark and are praised as giant successes — which they are. But, anybody remember some of the negative buzz with last year’s “Desolation of Smaug” being “disappointing?” It only made $958 million. Before that, some folks tried to say “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” was “doomed to failure” and then when it obviously wasn’t doomed or a failure, it was then termed as “not quite so bad, but still has no shot at $1 billion.”

First, that is just an arbitrary mark that looks good on a resume but it did cross that arbitrary mark despite the cries of “failure.” Bad buzz, even when it is fake, can hurt the box office. I got mad and wrote Death of ‘Hobbit’ at box office greatly exaggerated. I will not lie, punching holes in absurd journalism made it one of my favorite pieces I have ever put together for TORn. Also, it is relevant to how BOTFA is kicking some trash. So yeah, I had to link to it #OneLastTime.

PJ_Carrow_Bruno2Guardians will out-earn Hobbit in the U.S., but can’t touch it internationally. Marvel/Disney’s world-wide total will be approximately the same as Hobbit’s international-only money. Warners could have let everybody in the U.S. watch it for free and it would have earned the same as Guardians. #NotAFailure

The latest Hunger Games flick, “Mockingjay: Part 1,” is sitting around $640 million for its world total. Great numbers, but not Hobbit numbers. And Lego, as great a success as it is (and a great movie), isn’t half Hobbit 3’s final — even with Gandalf in it. In fact BOTFA is closing in on it fast.

BONUS TEASERS: While we are here, I will take a second to tease a pretty incredible Ian McKellen interview coming in the next day or so. That sounds immodest of me to say since it is my piece, but it is the journalist getting out of the way and letting Sir Ian talk. I really think it will connect with readers. He spoke at length about a lot of things including who else he thinks could have played Gandalf in The Hobbit films if he decided not to return. We also have some exclusive set photos of Peter Jackson coming in a day or two, one of which I included here in a small version. And if you haven’t heard, we are throwing a party! Details below.

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Join us in Los Angeles in February at The One Last Party

one last party logo We’re hosting a Party of Special Magnificence next February — a toast to all SIX movies, both LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit.

Visit our Indiegogo campaign page to grab your tickets and help make it happen — so we can all celebrate Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies together!

You know, that crazy dwarf – king-to-be character – who was supposed to make an appearance in The Desolation of Smaug – but clearly didn’t. Upon seeing the first two films in The Hobbit trilogy, Thráin II (son of Thrór, father of Thorin Oakenshield) appears to be a rather key ingredient in the whole narrative – despite his lack of participation in the story.

Continue reading “Will Thráin be in the Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition? And, if so, what will he do?”

ATLANTA — Prompted by Hobbit actor John Bell, Jed Brophy took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge while a guest at this year’s DragonCon in Atlanta. Jed was there as part of the “Tolkien’s Middle-earth” programming track and along with Craig Parker, Adam Brown, Manu Bennett and Billy Boyd, served as celebrity guest for the show.

As part of his efforts, he visited the swimming area at the Marriott Marquis and took the icy plunge to raise money and awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He also challenged Parker and Brown to accept the challenge.

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“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Just that happened to my sister and me exactly a year ago, however we never even stepped out our door! One June 11th, 2013, the first The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer hit the internet in the U.S. and since we didn’t have time to write up our responses for TheOneRing.net, we decided to film our reaction to the trailer (watch here).

We never expected more than our 15 “hardcore” fans to watch our reaction video at the time, much less ever thought that PJ and the cast and crew would not only see it, but film their own response (watch Happy Elves)! For two young women who didn’t even know that posting trailer reactions was a “thing,” getting launched into the international news was even more unexpected, but it has been such an amazing unexpected journey. To be rewarded for being our unrestrained, embarrassing selves (see just how so in our reaction to the cast’s reaction here) is a boon to not only our little show, but to our souls.

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We are forever grateful to Jackson and his team. As a result, we celebrate the support our Facebook page has received (3k likes!) and that of our YouTube channel (5.5k!) by sharing this video that is a compilation of the “deleted scenes” from our reaction videos that we had cut out at the time. Enjoy!

A year after that fateful night, we are now packing and preparing to leave for Denver Comic Con, not as attendees, but as panel participants. We will have our own Happy Hobbit panel and fan table and are so excited to meet as many of our viewers as possible. This path has led to San Diego Comic Con 2013 where we got to meet Evangeline Lilly and Manu Bennett and to the DOS World Premiere in Hollywood in December where we had a blast chatting with the cast and crew.

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People always ask us what it feels like to live a Middle-earth fan’s dream, and the answer is simple: It hasn’t sunk in yet. One year later, it all still feels so blissfully surreal.

We wouldn’t have had this adventure of a lifetime without TheOneRing.net, our viewers, and of course, Peter Jackson, Weta and their team. As Gandalf says in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” What was a small act of kindness from Peter Jackson’s team and the cast sent ripples of joy through our lives and by extension, through the lives of the thousands experiencing the adventure alongside us through our videos.

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Happy Hobbit is still going strong and we have many episodes planned for this summer, including our first ever Happy Hobbit movie! While fandom has given us uncountable joys, one of the greatest is building a community with our fellow Tolkien fans and knowing that, even if only for a moment, we have made you smile. I’ve lost track of how many messages we’ve received from people saying that the best cure for a bad mood is to watch Happy Hobbit! Perhaps our fan Ian McDermott summarizes it best:

‘Happy Hobbit’ has become a haven for me, a gentle and caring respite for the jaded, world-weary traveller; a place where good cheer and whimsy rule for no better reason than to bring happiness to others. Hannon le, ladies.

Please note we will also be participating in TORn’s panels at Denver Comic Con throughout the weekend, including the big party Friday night at the Dino hotel (the Best Western Southwest), so keep your eyes peeled for our coverage on Facebook and Twitter! I will also be participating in several writing panels, including one about the making of my book Darkling.