Monday, December 17, 2012

Movies: Antipodean Adventure Double Feature

People in the UK call Australia and New Zealand the "Antipodes," since they're on the other side of the planet. Here are two films that show off the scenery of this fascinating region:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Professional critics have not been kind to Peter Jackson's adaptation of "The Hobbit." Most take issue with the pacing: Jackson's stretching a 300-page children's novel into a three-part, nine-hour series of feature films. The first installment, "An Unexpected Journey," follows Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and a crew of dwarves attempting to retake a mountain (and its treasure) from a mighty dragon:

Despite being billed as a big-budget blockbuster, "The Hobbit" is really anchored by a strong cast. Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo, and the many returning actors from LotR (Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, to name a few) do a fine job. Things do sometimes grind to a halt when Jackson deviates from the plot of the book (there's a positively snore-inducing meeting of the White Council), but the movie worked a lot better than I thought it would, considering all the padding in the runtime.

Like the LotR trilogy, "The Hobbit" benefits from being filmed in New Zealand - there are plenty of awe-inspiring, panoramic vistas. If you can swing the exorbitant ticket price, I recommend seeing it in high frame rate 3D. Everything's sharper and less blurry, like an HDTV broadcast, which in turn makes the 3D effect much more convincing.

Rating: 8/10 (6/10 if you're not a fan of the source material)

The Hunter

The cover art for "The Hunter" is pretty misleading. Based on the image - Willem Dafoe staring straight at the viewer, holding a rifle - you might think it's another Dafoe potboiler, in the "Daybreakers"/"Boondock Saints"/"Once Upon A Time in Mexico" mold. If you watch the movie, though, you'll quickly figure out this is no action flick:

Dafoe plays Martin David, a hunter who heads into the wilderness to find a Tasmanian Tiger believed to be extinct. It's a seemingly simple mission, complicated by the tensions between the local townseople, David's attachent to a single mother and her family, and the mysterious military biotech company that hired David in the first place. I think Dafoe gives his best performance in years here, and it's worth a watch if you have a spare night.

Rating: 7/10


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