The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage - Dir: Peter Jackson
Everyone criticised the first Hobbit flick for being a bit long and boring, but the second one certainly makes up for it.
Not by being shorter but by stuffing almost every minute full of action. It’s so quick and exciting that you hardly notice there is only the barest of stories: dwarves travel to find a dragon in a big mountain; they find it. That’s yer lot.
But Peter Jackson keeps it all good fun. The middle third is one long chase as the company escape some irksome elves and are chased by orcs and elves along a river. Everything that didn’t quite work about the Brontosaurus stampede in King Kong has been fixed – the pace and sheer complexity of the running battle is exhilarating.
Martin Freeman’s Bilbo also comes into his own in this film, no longer as irritatingly prissy, he starts to show true grit and gets more interesting.
And there are new additions in the form of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, who has abandoned the idea of acting and simply glares with his eyes opened wide, and a female Elf – since there are no girls in Tolkien – who they try and shoehorn into a relationship with a dwarf (isn’t inter-species sex, like, illegal?). There’s also Luke Evans and Stephen Fry and lots of Benny C’s dragon. What’s not to like?
On The Road, Howl and others have given the beat poets a cinematic work-out recently. In Kill Your Darlings it’s Allen Ginsberg’s turn again, with cameos from William Burroughs, Kerouac and others. The nascent poet (a very good post-Potter Daniel Radcliffe) heads to WW2 Columbia University where the old conservative world is clashing with rising modernism. He falls for a classmate, thus upsetting another. Burroughs (a very funny Ben Foster) looks on and comments sardonically. Jealousy and murder ensue, neatly inspiring Ginsberg to write. It’s a vivid gay coming of age story – first drinks, cigarettes, drugs, sex – but will mean less if unfamiliar with the protagonists.
Who would have imagined when Jackass first appeared on television back in 2000 that it would have such enduring (box office) appeal. In fact, Jackass presents: Bad Grandpa is their biggest-grossing (move right along - no puns here) big screen outing yet. It’s something of a stylistic departure from previous efforts. This time lead Johnny Knoxville dons old man make-up to revive the titular TV show character. Then he heads across America with an irritating kid in tow, enacting Borat-like stunts upon unsuspecting members of the public. Some gags hit, some miss.
If it seems like a long wait until Peter Capaldi takes over as the latest incarnation of Dr Who you could do worse than take a diversion with spin-off series Torchwood. John Barrowman was introduced to Who fans during the David Tennant years, a roving bisexual space ranger who accidentally becomes invincible (like Captain Scarlet!). He leads the titular agency, protecting earth from aliens. It’s not nearly as silly as it sounds – the second series is particularly smart - and at times can even eclipse its parent show. Out now are Torchwood Series 2 , Torchwood: Children of Earth and Torchwood: Miracle Day .
In The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman our eponymous hero (Shia LaBouef) travels to Bucharest on the advice of his mother’s ghost (Melissa Leo). There he falls for a troubled Romanian cellist (Evan Rachel Ward) after her father dies next to him on the plane. Yes, really. Magical realism and misadventures ensue, more Kafka than comedy, and taking a darker Something Wild turn after the appearance of her gangster ex (Mads Mikkelsen). Director Fredrick Bond keeps a sure and very European tone for what is essentially pretty preposterous material.