Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Movies by Mercurious Dec. 23, 2012

I wanted to like The Hobbit. I really, really was hoping it would be fabulous, even while I worried it might disappoint.

And disappoint it did, but not quite as badly as I feared. I hoped that it would be on the same caliber as The Two Towers—the second installment of the LOTR trilogy that was actually considerably better than the Return of the King, the final installment of the original trilogy, which won Peter Jackson the Oscar for Best Picture. 

I feared, on the other hand, that it might be an abomination on the level of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, one of the most embarrassing, undisciplined, self-indulgent films ever made. There were signs that Jackson was beginning to lose his discipline in the last 45 minutes of Return of the King (holy Lord, has a movie ever taken longer to end?) and his next feature, the King Kong remake; and the The Lovely Bones caused us to fear that he had gone down the Michael Cimino path (who had the astounding The Deer Hunter many years ago, then never produced another good film, ever.) 

The reality is somewhere in between on this one. Visually, the movie is as much fun as LOTR, and in fact from a technical view is even better. There are apparently three different print versions in theaters: a standard digital print, a standard digital 3D version, and a "high-frame-rate" (HFR) 3D version, which was shot at 48 frames per second rather than the more standard 24 frames.

I highly recommend the super-deluxe HFR 3D version, if there is a showing of it near you (there are apparently only 900 or so theaters nationwide equipped to show it; in the Minneapolis area, there were only two). The visual difference is not radical, but still quite noticeable. Much the way digital movie projection was equivalent to the jump from standard definition TV to high-def, HFR is quite a lot like the difference between a VHS video movie and blu-ray.

It's especially startling in 3D, as the kind of artifice you normally spot in 3D movies tends to vanish in HFR, so you really are no longer aware that you're looking at a gimmick of any kind. It also tends to brighten a 3D movie, which is one of the few drawbacks up to now. This technology would have been truly amazing for a film like Scorcese's Hugo. It pretty clearly is something we're going to see a lot more of going forward. 

But back to the film itself. At one point, Guillermo del Toro was slated to direct the Hobbit—a move that would have been very, very interesting. Instead, Peter Jackson returned to direct this, and as a result the techniques are largely the same as in the first trilogy, though many of the special effects are smoother and more convincing. 

But the story, and the characters, are just plain weak. There are no portrayals that really grab you, and the apparent decision to try to extend the single Hobbit book into THREE films means that the pace of the movie languishes quite a lot in the effort to stretch one moderate novel into what likely will be 9 full hours of cinema. We see a lot of the same marvelous sets trotted out again, but there's not a lot that's really ground-breaking, other than the HRF filming technique. 

So go see the movie for the technical innovation, but don't expect an Oscar caliber film. And don't expect to find it on Mercurious' list of best films of 2012. 

Geezer quotient: 70/100

And as an afterthought, there's no real reason to see Barbara Streisand's new movie, The Guilt Trip. Annoying, irritating conversation occasionally broken up by moderately gentle moments. Geezer quotient on this one: 50/100.

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