Genre: The Hobbit – Fantasy.  The Returned – Supernatural (TV Pilot)
Premise: (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. (The Returned) A group of people who died in a horrific accident in a remote town, begin to reappear four years later.
About: Reviewing TWO things today. The Desolation of Smaug is part 2 in Peter Jackson’s never-ending Hobbit six-tology. The Returned is a French TV show that was brought over here to the states via The Sundance Channel. It’s being heralded as one of the best shows (some even say THE best) of the year. I’m talking some people believe it’s better than Breaking Bad, folks.
Writers: The Hobbit – Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro (based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien). The Returned – Fabien Adda
Details: The Hobbit (149 minutes) – The Returned – 52 minutes

Edit: I’ll put up a post about the Black List tomorrow – so save your thoughts until then. :)

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-2

There are very few people in this world who can pull off reviewing a giant fantasy blockbuster sequel AND an obscure French horror TV show, and tie it all together. I am not one of those people, unfortunately. So you’ll have to endure a very confusing Monday post.

You see, the plan was to review The Hobbit 2: Older Legolas’s Return. Problem is, the movie bored me so much that I didn’t know if I had anything constructive to say. So disinterested did I become with the film that I had to come up with things to occupy my brain in order to stay awake.

I noticed, for example, that Evangeline Lilly (Kate from Lost) was in the film. I then remembered that Lilly once dated Dominic Monaghan, another cast member on Lost, who also happened to be… you guessed it (or probably didn’t) a hobbit (in the form of Merry) from the Lord of the Rings trilogy! This odd connection swam through my head for a good ten minutes as I wondered if Peter Jackson auditioned her as just another actress, or if she was on set for the previous movies because of Dominic and THAT’S how she got the part.

But back to the story (I guess). My issue with this movie was two-fold: Too much talking and too much plot. Starting right out of the gate, we get a 7-8 minute scene (not positive on this but that’s how long it felt) of a hobbit sitting in a bar talking to Gandalf.

Now I understand WHY this scene was here. Jackson had to remind the audience (or explain to those who hadn’t seen the first film) what our main characters were going after. But see, this scene highlights one of Jackson’s key weaknesses as a writer. Straight up telling the audience, in a boring manner, what the characters are after is not the only way to do it. There are more entertaining ways to convey info.

Such as doing it on the move!

Start with our characters continuing forward from the last movie and figure out a clever way for them to remind the audience what’s going on. It could be as simple as a dangerous villain-like character stopping them and demanding to know where they’re going (which ends up happening later in the movie anyway). That way you don’t have to waste 7 minutes (7 OPENING minutes – some of the most precious minutes of a film) on something you can slip in in under 60 seconds while we’re hopping along.

And you want to know the funny thing? That opening scene didn’t even achieve what it set out to do! It was supposed to clear up what the goal was, but because there was SO MUCH TALKING, all the important stuff we were supposed to hear got lost in the noise. That’s actually a common beginner mistake – believing that lots and lots of explaining will lead to clarity.  It’s always the opposite.  The less you say, the more impact the words will have.  It’s sort of like a beautifully written song whose lyrics are drowned out by 5 electric guitars, two sets of drums, a synthesizer, a trumpet, and a tambourine. How are we supposed to hear the lyrics with all those instruments hiding the voice?

This became a theme throughout the script. Talktalk talk talk talktalktalk talk talk talk talk. So much freaking TALKING. If that Elf King guy had one more endless conversation with one of the other elves, I was about to stab myself with Orlando Bloom’s chin. Whatever happened to DOING??? Whatever happened to SHOW DON’T TELL?? Isn’t that what makes cinema great? I mean, sure, if we’re watching a Woody Allen movie, talk all ya want. But this is a freaking blockbuster about elves, orcs, bear-men, and monsters! Leave the damn talking to the radio jockeys.

Think I’m being too harsh? Consider this. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is based on 3 books. The Hobbit trilogy is based on 1 book. Yet each Hobbit movie is just as long as its Rings counterpart! Why are we adding 40-some minutes to a typical run-time if the source material is 1/3 the size? It makes zero sense. Which brings us back to WHY it’s 40-some extra minutes. BECAUSE OF ALL THE DAMN TALKING! If the characters did more DOING and less TALKING, this film would actually play out at an acceptable 2 hours.

Anyway, once we got to this Venice-like fishing village, I mentally checked out. I was so bored. I had no idea what was going on anymore (too much talking – I lost track!). And it just verified what everybody said about these films when they were first announced – that they’re not needed. They’re superfluous in the worst way. They’re smaller versions of the original films. If you’re going to make a sequel trilogy, it needs to be bigger and badder than the first one! Or else what’s the point?

tv-les-revenants

Which brings us to The Returned. My favorite new show! I feel really good about trumpeting this one because I was pretty nasty to the French during my “French Week.” Mon amis, all that has changed! Whereas everything about the Hobbit world was tired and familiar, everything about The Returned feels fresh and different.

The opening pilot takes place in a remote mountainous French town where (big spoiler) we see a school bus lose control and shoot over a cliff. Everyone on the bus is killed. However, four years later, a mother and father, still grieving the loss of their child, are shocked when their daughter walks in the house like nothing happened. Naturally, the parents are beyond freaked out, and are so scared that this hallucination is going to end, that they do everything in their power to pretend like nothing’s changed (not easy since the parents have since divorced).

Also returned are a young man looking for his girlfriend (who has since married someone else and had a child) and a young freaky-ass boy, who follows a lonely woman home and convinces her (without saying a word, mind you) to let him stay with her. To round matters out, a young woman with no connection to the bus is murdered inside an underground walkway.

While much of what carries The Returned is the creepy melancholy directing style, the writing is just as stellar. Just like any good television pilot, the show starts out with an amazing teaser (spoiler). You are not expecting that bus to go shooting off that cliff. The writer then knows how much power there’ll be behind each “returned” character, so they milk each one, allowing your anticipation to grow as each “dead” kid is reunited with their loved ones.

That’s a nice trick every screenwriter should know. The amount of time you can milk a scenario is directly proportional to how big that scenario is. The dead coming back to their non-expectant families after four years? – that’s big enough to milk the shit out of (the long walk home home, the approach to the house, hanging out in the kitchen and getting food – screenwriter Adda really takes his time reuniting the family members). We’re dying as we can’t wait to see how the parents will react to seeing their kid again.

The script is also a great reminder of how important the “remote” scenario is to a story. I mean, it’s not for every story, but putting your characters in the middle of nowhere increases that feeling of helplessness that can really unsettle an audience. It’s a big reason Lost worked so well, and why movies like The Shining, Let The Right One In, and The Thing were so good. Cut your characters off from the rest of the world, and you add a heightened sense of fear.

I also loved how interesting the choices were. Remember that tidbit in my “Voice” article from last week? How a big part of your voice is reflected in your choices? (Spoilers) Here, they could have done the obvious and had people from the bus crash start coming home left and right. But then we learn the weird kid WASN’T on the bus. He was standing in the road and made the bus crash. So then who is he? We also have a murder in the middle of the script from two characters who had nothing to do with the bus. That also throws us off guard. These are the unexpected things that keep audiences tuning in every week.

I could keep going but instead I encourage you to go watch this show right now. It’s the first truly exciting thing to hit TV in years.

Desolation of Smaug rating:

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

The Returned

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth watching
[xx] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Too much dialogue can dilute your point. When having your characters convey key plot points, don’t over-state them. Keep them simple. Tell the audience the information they need to know, then move on.

  • Citizen M

    Google translates the French poster as

    THE GHOSTS
    the past has decided to resurface

    • Illimani Ferreira

      The literal translation of Revenant is what/who comes back, returns, but it’s also a less used word for ghost. I guess it was intentional.

  • Murphy

    I loved Le Revenants, fantastic show. Although I think it did lose some steam towards the end there was enough great writing early on to keep me watching.

    Hard to discuss without dropping spoilers but there is one moment early on when we first realise the exact nature of the relationship between the sisters that I will never forget. It was simply done but I consider it top drawer writing and an excellent reveal. Gave me very high hopes for the rest of the series.

    I believe that there is a U.S. remake in the works, not a surprise. Best to watch this and there will be a season 2 soon as well.

    I have just finished season 3, the final season, of Borgen. It is a Danish political drama which I would highly recommend for anyone who dare watch foreign TV. It is also a very decently written show.

  • Murphy

    Just to add something that your review made me think of.

    You mentioned Lost when talking about The Hobbit. In many ways this show reminded me of Lost, it began in mysterious circumstances and kept piling the mysteries up, giving us question after question.

    But the difference here is that they were not afraid to answer questions too. I think that is ultimately what was wrong with Lost, they didn’t answer the questions quick enough and began to rely on the mystery to drive the narrative. In the end that is why Lost lost me, I got really bored of that approach.

    I think what Le Revs does better than Lost is that the writers seem to have more confidence in themselves. They are happy to provide us with answers and not let the mystery dominate the story. The narrative is, as in all good drama, still being driven forward by character and conflict, not just unanswered questions.

    Even better than that every time they give us an answer they then ask another question, almost like peeling an onion, there is always another layer there to discover.

    I hope this makes sense? maybe not, I’m tired and off to bed.

    • Illimani Ferreira

      Makes lots of sense, Murphy. I just watched the pilot, I’d compare Les Revs with Awake instead of Lost. Great premise nicely developed. What I really liked was the plurality of ways the characters deal with the returned and how all of them seem so human, hence understandable. Even Mr. Costa (SPOILER), when he burnt his house with his daughter (?) inside, we felt pity for him since it was pretty clear that he cracked psychologically.

  • AlanWilder

    Thorin, the “hobbit” you mention from the opening scene, is not a hobbit. He’s a dwarf. Which is of gargantuan importance to the story, with him going on a quest to reclaim his dwarven homeland and all. I can’t understand how anyone would be able to see all of Desolation of Smaug and still not get that. While I agree that Desolation of Smaug had it’s fair share of problems (I was actually disappointed after beeing pumped up from all the good buzz) but missing stuff like that reflects a lot more on you as an audience than on how good a job the screenwriters did.

  • grendl

    I saw the movie last night and was thoroughly bored by it, but I found the action just as boring as the incessant talking. Both. Fighting onscreen can be boring. It’s not always interesting even though there are a lot of idiots in this world who can suspend disbelief and believe its real.

    They also think pro Wrestling is real. Or they want to believe it with all their hearts.

    Just because someone pulls a gun and points it at an actors head, or someone chops off an Orcs head , that doesn’t make a movie interesting. Fake movie deaths are just that. No one’s dying onscreen people, this is all fabrication, all the illusion of movies.

    This film could have easily been an hour shorter and made as much money. Easily. I don’t know how many millions it wouldn’t saved the studio but I’m guessing a lot. And drawing this tale out to three movies is a cynical cash grab move and its evident for anyone familiar with movies or storytelling, that they were padding this thing out beyond all reason.

    Looking for drama, looking for a way to make it compelling, but it just was empty spectacle. You can’t feel for silly pointed eared elves, or hobbits, or whatever. Stop trying to make these things palatable to everyone. These are for Comic Con geek fanboys and children.

    If I were editing it, I’d keep the spider scene because that was great, but it went on too long, and when the elves showed up it was made even longer, and there were too many spiders. YOU CAN HAVE TOO MANY THINGS IN YOUR MOVIE.

    More doesn’t make it better. That’s the problem with the Star Wars prequels, filling up the screen with a bunch of CGI shit doesn’t make it better. Bombarding our sense into submissions doesn’t make it better.

    Movies have to have changes in pace. Slowing things down. But when this slowed down with talking scenes it stopped dead in its tracks. It was like being stuck on Its a Small World ride in Disneyland. I don’t want to hear hobbits and elves and munchkins or whatever the fuck the writer invented talking about nonsensical geopolitical topics. Kids don’t either and the adults who do should be taken in and euthanized.

    Not that other kinds of movies can’t have a lot of talking. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was on television the other night and that was nonstop talking. People on this board would probably criticize that film and the play itself for not having GSU. Because there are a lot of morons on this board who can’t tell the difference between action movies, and dramas.

    But that’s another topic altogether.

    There’s something maddening about this movie. None of the good guys gets killed. Like EVER. They face armies of Orcs, or goblins or Lake people, ( I can barely figure out whos who )and all come out totally unscathed EXCEPT for the guy who gets a poison arrow in his leg. Really? All those Orcs and no deaths.

    At what point does the Orc general or leader get reprimanded by the higher ups. “Uh Look, we just lost seven hundred Orcs to a bunch of dwarves dude. Maybe we’re not as badass as our reputation suggests”.

    At the end even the mighty Smaug didn’t kill anyone. What kind of mamby pamby universe is this with such lame villains? Where’s the stakes ? Its like the Matrix fights where no one gets killed. It’s just choreography. Orlando Blooms elf character is superman basically, along with Evangeline.

    Look in “Star Wars” a bunch of rebel fighters lost their lives trying to blow up the Death Star and no little kid walked out of the theatre morning their deaths. “Mommy whats going to happen to Luke’s buddies families? ” was never uttered by anyone. They’re collateral damage. But at least some of them had lines.

    I think these Lord of the Rings movies are victims of overthinking an audience’s sensitivity. Coddling us. Did everyone have to make it out of the spider cocoons? all those spiders and not one death there? Come on.

    It rings false. When you have such powerful villains acting so ineptly, it diffuses the tension after repeated scene after scene of escaping dangers that aren’t that dangerous. Bilbo facing Smaug at the end and taking off the ring? Why? In the book he kept invisible and talked to Smaug, giving him riddles.

    In this he takes off the ring. Because they thought it would create more tension if he did. Making their protagonist seem dimwitted. Even the dumbest kid in the movie theatre was asking ” Why the hell is he taking off that ring Mommy?”

    ‘Because, honey, he’s in more danger if he does. ”

    “He is? And what evidence do you have to support that contention?”

    ” Shut up and eat your milk duds. Or I’m going to tell your father you used his razor to shave the dog !”

    Whoa. Maybe I took that too far.

    Anyway get this. Bilbo sees the chink in the dragon’s scales AND HE DOESN’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT.

    Which thankfully has no repercussions because none of the good guys are in any jeopardy of being killed anyway. Why wouldn’t he tell them about the chink in the armor? Because that’s being saved for the third installment.

    It’s all about the money. Watching the actors onscreen, they know full well how silly it is, but the bank doesn’t question narrative logic thankfully.

    • ChadStuart

      “This film could have easily been an hour shorter and made as much money.”

      Actually, it might have made more because it would have one or two more showtimes per theater per day. If there were any, people wouldn’t have been turned away from sold out shows.

      • garrett_h

        I was just about to say this. I don’t understand the love for these bloated run times in Hollywood.The more shows you can fit in, the more tickets sold.

        I know people want their “money’s worth” so to speak and don’t want to be in and out in an hour or else they can just watch a 60 min show on TV. And they want some of the films to feel like “event” pictures. But it’s not always necessary. And The Hobbit series so far is a prime example of that.

        • ChadStuart

          As is Jackson’s own “King Kong”, which stretched a simple story into a three hour behemoth. It was incredibly padded with unnecessary nonsense. I don’t mind length when there’s three hours of story to support it, but filmmakers such as Jackson really need how to edit movies down to their bare essentials, and to say more with less.

          • garrett_h

            Yeah, I mentioned King Kong in my comment below. I was working at a theater in L.A. when it came out and people would ask me how long it was. I’d tell them it was 2:45, 3 hours with trailers. A lot of folks said no thanks, and others groaned when buying their ticket. No way that movie should have been more than 2 hours.

    • http://brockchandler.com/ Brock_Rox

      Despite all of it’s flaws, I probably enjoyed the film more than many did. I think you make a great point especially with the invincible characters in the film. I was just talking to a friend about the fact that you have a dozen dwarves and yet we only ever even get to know maybe five of them. The rest of them should just be red-shirts. Kill ‘em off. Granted, it won’t be as emotionally impactful as if one of the better-known characters die, but if throughout the course of this series their numbers keep dwindling, it ups the stakes even more.

    • John Bradley

      At what point does the Orc general or leader get reprimanded by the higher ups. “Uh Look, we just lost seven hundred Orcs to a bunch of dwarves dude. Maybe we’re not as badass as our reputation suggests”. That was an amazing rant! Made my morning.

    • fragglewriter

      You summed up the majority of films in the last decade especially the absence of consequences. I think we’ve become so PC that in order to please everyone, consequences must not happen and just merely a slight hinge of danger.

      If that is the case, then fine. Have a pillow fight and continue the movie. But as writers, I think you should be true to your character and not your bottom-line.

    • Auckland Guy

      Grendl, I agree with your point about none of the ‘good guys’ ever getting killed – rather takes away from them being in jeopardy if you know that no matter how many orcs/goblins come against them, they’re never really in danger. Legolas in particular seemed to be just invulnerable. At one point he got a bloody nose. Wow, what a concession. He can be hurt. Slightly.

      But this raises the question of how far you can depart from the source material. Because Tolkien is a master storyteller and this novel worked well in the thirties when it came out and for subsequent generations, but as a film in 2013, does the story actually work?

      Purely as a film, I agree, it would have been more interesting to see a number of the dwarves get killed along the way and maybe a few elves as well. Then there would have been real jeopardy. There are so many dwarves that we never really get to know more than a couple anyway (Balin, the wise head, and maybe Fili). As a film, it would have benefitted from them being culled as they went, not only for reality’s sake, but so the remaining characters could be better defined. Frustrating to see a great actor like James Nesbitt in a role where he gets maybe three or four insignificant lines in a nearly three hour movie. And I think he came out to New Zealand and basically spent a year and a half of his life here and moved his family here. But he’s not given anything to do, because there are just TOO MANY dwarves for them to be delineated. Yet that is the book.

      So I guess my point is that the HOBBIT is far less filmic than LOTR, where you actually got to know the characters in the Fellowship, and there were some actual casualties… Boromir, Haldir the elf, Faramir etc.

  • JW

    I’ll check out the new show, but C, tomorrow I want a conversation about how they ruined Homeland. Talk about having a diamond in your hand and turning it into a piece of shit. Maybe the headline could be, WHY PRO WRITERS DECIDE TO BECOME AMATEURS.

    • garrett_h

      I was just about to dive into Homeland. Then I heard the backlash from seemingly everyone about how terrible it has become. Think I’ll pass on it and just keep catching up on Sons of Anarchy instead.

      • JakeBarnes12

        It’s well worth watching season one, the only season based on the original Israeli series.

        Season one works fine as a standalone.

        • garrett_h

          Thanks for the recommendation! Might check it out!

    • Nate

      I’m about halfway through season one of Homeland and my idiot friend spoiled the season three finale for me. I think it’s fair to say I wanna slap the shit out of him. Don’t wanna spoil it for others but that particular character (and actor I might add) is the reason why I watch it.
      I have heard it gets pretty bad after season one though.

      • JW

        Yeah, unfortunately after season 1 it took a dive. I’m sure Showtime is already looking for a replacement.

  • garrett_h

    This is the same problem I had with the first Hobbit movie. I mean the first hour or so is basically the dwarves hanging out at Bilbo’s housing taking, and eating, and breaking things, then cleaning it up while singing like animated animals in a Disney fairytale.

    I must have fallen asleep 5 times during that one and kept having to rewind it. I was glad I didn’t go see it in the theater because I figured it’d be padded out with filler and I was right. I think I’ll wait for cable for this one.

    The thing is, this isn’t the first time Peter Jackson has done this. As everyone who has seen Return of the King knows, that thing is so freaking drawn out in the end people started walking out the theater.

    Which begs the question: is Peter Jackson the new George Lucas? He basically has his own studio and free reign to do whatever he wants to do. He goes pretty much unchecked, leading to these long drawn out movies. King Kong is another one. Did that movie really have to be 3 hours long? The only good scenes are when Kong fights the T-Rex’s and the finale. Half that movie could have been cut out.

    When I have to plan my entire day around seeing a movie because it’s going to take 3-4 hours to drive, park, get popcorn, watch trailers, then finally watch the movie and go home, it better be a damned good movie. Not a bunch of filler to stretch out the running time for no good reason.

  • Alex Palmer

    I lost faith in The Hobbit when I first heard they were splitting the movie into two parts.

    I’d rather a two (MAYBE closer to three) hour film with aggressively trimmed fat to this. Sure, Tolkien die-hards would complain about the absence of the troll scene, or whatever, just like they did when Peter Jackson didn’t include Tom Bombadil. Personally, I didn’t miss the guy.

    I love The Hobbit as a novel, but it’s too dense (in terms of action) and episodic for a traditional adaptation. Splitting it into three films (and throwing a whole Necromancer subplot in too) may solve the first problem, but the other? Nope.

    My take? Cull some of the less iconic sequences. Set-up the battle of the five armies just as much as Smaug (one of The Hobbit’s structural quirks is that the merry group’s main goals, defeating Smaug, is taken care of by the end of act two, and thus the climax sorta comes out of nowhere).

    Did anyone see the adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events? Probably not, but that’s beside the point. That was also an adaptation of a children’s book. The astute among you may also work out it was a SERIES of books.

    In narrative terms, the books are rather episodic and reliant on a fixed formula. So what does the screenwriter do? Condenses the first three books into one, and borrows the climax from book 1 (because it had the best one). Watch it. It’s a good example of how to write a great adaptation of a children’s book.

    Although it bombed in the box-office. *Sigh*

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    The only negative about this review is that I could only read the part about the Hobbit (since I ain’t watching it, for sure,) but skipped The Returned to avoid the spoilers because I am definitely watching this. :)

  • fragglewriter

    I think Peter Jackson created The Hobbits based on the success of Lord of the Rings.

    The Returned, I thought of watching, but since you said that it’s more to the story then the dead coming back to life, it seems interesting.

    I think everyone is so hung up on snappy/punchy dialogue, exposition and plot points that we’ve given action a backseat.

  • ThomasBrownen

    I’m about to go see The Hobbit in another hour, so I’ll hold off on Carson’s review until later. But I’m probably going to love the movie. Loved the books. Loved Jackson’s LOTR. Carson’s a bit off on these kinds of movies…

    But I was really excited to read The Returned review! I’ve been hearing some really great buzz about this show, so I’ll be sure to check it out, if I can!

  • drifting in space

    Somewhat off-topic, but she was cast because she loves the books and Peter Jackson wanted to get her in elf ears. As absurd as that sounds, it’s the truth.

    My problem with these type of movies is I can’t get over the feeling of being had. I get that it’s a cash grab but at least entertain me.

    • Midnight Luck

      Whenever you hear something has been extended from one to two movies, or god forbid, one to threeee movies, all I can tell about it is, it’s a cash grab.

      One Hobbit, two Hobbit, three? definitely a cash grab.
      The Twilight forever Saga that they kept breaking up movies into pairs to make it go on forever and keep raking in amazing amounts of dough…. definitely a cash grab.

      GI Joe movies, where there shouldn’t have even been one, but they now have, how many? 3-6 I don’t know, never seen them, all cash grab, I will let the first one go as a stupid movie, the rest, just cash grabs.

      Same thing for The Fast and The Furious and Transformers, both movies that were totally one-note and had no earthly reason for more, except pure Cash Grabs. How many part 2 and 3 movies do we need about a car chase? And while they like to tell us there is a story behind the Transformers, really, all we needed to know (did we really need to know it) was contained in the first movie.

      The only movie that I can think of that was split and I am unsure about if it was necessary or not was KILL BILL. It still feels like it was a cash grab, though, I haven’t really decided about it still. And from Tarantino, did he need to cash grab? or was it the Producers who forced it to be broken up because of running time or something?

      99% of the time, the divide is all about money, not about story.

      • garrett_h

        I dunno if I’d put the last two Fast & Furious films in the cash grab territory. They completely revamped the franchise into a pretty entertaining heist style. And they were actually pretty good as far as popcorn flicks go.

        As for Kill Bill, Tarantino’s first cut was something like 3 or 4 hours long. No way the studio was putting that in a theater. So they split it up. Probably the best choice. The running time of his and Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature kept a lot of folks away.

        • Midnight Luck

          Yeah I remember a bunch of talk about the running time, and I am pretty sure Tarantino wanted to keep it as one film, but everyone freaked out about the crazy running time. I understand, watching a 4 hour movie could be hard. That is why I wasn’t sure if it would be considered a money grab or not. I am sure the Producers were happy to be able to release it as two movies and get double the ticket sales, but from my memory it didn’t fall under the typical, divide one movie into two and make double the money, that we are seeing today. It wasn’t an obvious rewriting of a story to turn it into a double or triple feature. I just remember it seemed when the Kill Bill thing happened it was the start of this kind of thinking. People were questioning if what is happening now was going to happen.

          I know I am mostly talking out my ass about the Fast Furious movies, as I haven’t seen a single one of them, but then again, I have no interest at all to spend a second watching one. However, I do know the storyline, and I do know enough about them, that, I still feel most of them were pointless and just a money grab from an extremely popular franchise.
          Of course you could say that about ANY movie where they have added part 2′s and 3′s. Take Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. Did we really need part 10 or 11 of those? No, but then they brought them back and revamped them also. Bringing in Jackie Earl Haley to play Freddy Krueger with Rooney Mara.

          Oh well, it is Hollywood, EVERYTHING is about a Cash Grab. I just hope, occasionally, there can be some art involved also.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            I definitely wouldn’t call Kill Bill a cash grab. As one film, it was 4 hours long. Not to mention, that wasn’t a cheap film to make. So while box office was certainly a big factor in the decision, at least it was an understandable and reasonable decision. A 4 hour film can only be shown like what? Three times a day max per screen. Probably more like two. Combine that with the fact it’s a big budget… can’t blame them for wanting to at least make some money.

            Not to mention, a 4 hour film can scare people away, and I’m sure Tarantino didn’t mind if splitting it up meant more people would see it.

            Plus, it worked great as two films.

            On the flip side, GRINDHOUSE was a cash grab on its DVD release. It made shit at the BO (I was fortunate enough to see it before it left the theatre, because that was an AWESOME theatre experience). But then it came to DVD and they released the films separately, and in so doing, lost some of the fake trailers. The only reason they did that was to make up for the poor BO. Although now, you can buy it in its original theatrical form as one movie, but it took like two years for that to happen.

          • Midnight Luck

            yes that is why I was saying the one divided movie I wasn’t so sure was a cash grab was Kill Bill. I agree, it seems more of a logistical choice, but I remember reading many articles where they were worried that by dividing it, it would lead in the future to Producers and movies being chopped arbitrarily so more money would be made, EXACTLY like they have done with the Twilight movies for no reason, but to carry it on longer and make more money. Now it looks like they are going to do the same thing with the Hunger Games franchise. I mean come on. There is no reason they need to do that, except to extend their huge amounts of money pouring in. How much money do they need to make off a movie? (I know this is a ridiculous question, as everyone on here, and in Hollywood has one answer for it: AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE). I guess I am an Indie writer, filmmaker, and lover at heart. I just want to be inspired. I want to watch good work. I want to be surprised. I want it to be new and inventive. Not boring bullshit repetitiveness. I don’t give a shit about making piles of money. I care about inspiration.

            I also was fortunate enough to see Grindhouse in the theater. Saw it in an awesome, grungy Second Run theater, which aside from seeing it in a Drive-In, is about as authentic as it could get. It was out there, and aside from Tarantino and Rodriguez, it never would have gotten made. Love that they take chances. I so wish more people in Hollywood would as well. We have moved into Homogenized City 101. Pretty soon they might as well just have one script they pass around and use one trailer to represent every movie coming out.

            I have seen so many movies it is insane. Which only makes the movies coming out now seem even more uninspired and uninteresting. I long for the early to late 90′s when we had Sundance and Tarantino. Shit was real, and fun, and crazy. I mean, could a movie like CLERKS explode today? no, no one would give a shit. SEX, LIES, and VIDEOTAPE? never. Pushes the limits too much. Too scary and not PC enough for the average Suburbanite.

            Now it is antiseptic, monotone, average, nothingness. And a TON of it. Hoping we have a revolution soon, or I might have to move to France. At least there (many on here would disagree) they try different things.

      • Nate

        ”GI Joe movies, where there shouldn’t have even been one, but they now have, how many? 3-6 I don’t know, never seen them, all cash grab, I will let the first one go as a stupid movie, the rest, just cash grabs.”
        There’s been two G.I. Joe movies. Hardly a cash grab. Or are sequels bad now? And not for nothing the sequel was miles better than the original.

        • Midnight Luck

          No, I just hate stupid movies. And especially stupid premises for stupid movies, even more. What a waste of money and time.

          as I say in my post below, yes HOLLYWOOD by nature is just a cash grab no matter where you look. I just hope there is some art and skill thrown in here and there.

          Sequels aren’t necessarily always just cash grabs, but usually they are, and that is it. It is the nature of a sequel. Hollywood realizes a movie did well, so they come out with another, not because they see how they could do another that will be an even better one. Better written, acted and directed, no, it will be an even better Cash Cow. Usually they make a second for a movie they didn’t even realize would be a hit. Can’t think of a movie that was a flop, that they then did 2 or 3 or 4 more of. No, it is a hit, that they want to cash in on. So, changed my mind, yes, Sequels are always cash grabs. Not saying they are bad, I really enjoyed Lethal Weapon 2, and maybe 3, but not 4. I loved Aliens, maybe even more than Alien, but none of the other 5. And yes someone out there is sure to come up with a failure of a movie that I’m not thinking of that someone made a sequel to. There is always an exception.

    • garrett_h

      Same here. Makes me not go see it in the theater on general principle alone. The only cash grab I went for was Deathly Hallows 1/2 just cause it was Harry Potter.

      • drifting in space

        I’ll do the Hunger Games only because I am unhealthily infatuated with those books.

        But THAT’S IT HOLLYWOOD! YOU HEAR ME?!

        • garrett_h

          I forgot, Mockingjay is gonna be split up. Sheesh…

          I’m on board for that one too. But like you said, THAT’S IT! After that, I’M DONE!

          • TruckDweller

            I’m of the opinion that Mockingjay, the book, should have been split up. But then, I’m not the books’ target so what do I know.

  • GeneralChaos

    .

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Carson,

    Do you understand the appeal of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”? It is a slower brand of storytelling where the audience gets emersed in the world of Middle Earth. It is not supposed to be fast-forwarded. It is meant to be savored. Details are meant to be seen. As opposed to a movie like “Transformers” where the action and cgi affects seam to blur everything.

    Thanks for the review of “The Returned” sounds a lot like Steven King’s “Pet Semitary”, which I loved; very creative premise. Sounds like they’ve got a lot to work with there. Good to know even in today’s world some writers can breakout with some real imaginative stuff.

    • Jonas E.

      The “details” of a basillion computer generated Goblins struck down by equaly cgi’ed Dwarves who jump around as though they where in a video game in the first film for an instance? To me Jackson made as much violence upon the Middle Earth universe with the Hobbit films as Lucas made with the Star Wars prequells.

  • Midnight Luck

    Totally off Hobbit topic,
    Here are some Nicholl Academy scripts to read:

    http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/fellows/25thscripts.html

    SHORT TERM 12 is in there as well as more including Arlington Road, etc…

    • tobban

      Thank you for posting that link ! I downloaded all of them ! Very cool because some of those scripts were actually made.

      • Midnight Luck

        no problem.
        Happy to help.
        I post in case anyone is interested in reading some of these indie scripts. everyone here is so focused on the crap big blockbusters. I want to read SHORT TERM 12 and FRUITVALE STATION or The IMPOSSIBLE, and other awesome more Independent movies.

  • Auckland Guy

    Carson, I totally agree about the beginning. Terrible way to start a movie, the worst. Six or seven minutes of bare exposition. It would have been much better handled on the run, in jeopardy and in a short exchange of dialogue.

    I loved the movie overall, the action sequences, the incredible animation, and there was some very nice dialogue, particularly the exchanges between Bilbo and Smaug. But I have serious reservations about the writing from a structural point of view. I too checked out after about two hours on my first viewing. On the second viewing I understood things a bit better but it was no less disjointed and uninvolving.

    Aside from the slow and unnecessary start (something which hampered the first Hobbit film in a big way too), there was the fact that Bilbo, our main character and the heart of the film, went missing for about half an hour in the middle of the film (not exactly missing, but relegated to the background). Also, that our second main character Thorin is just not particularly likeable. He just seems to be so one-note and never develops, he is just a seething mass of resentment the whole time which I found really annoying.

    Then there was the jumping around between three storylines in the third act. Terribly frustrating and distracting. You can get away with two, if one is the A story and one the B, but not three A stories, each given equal importance. It was frustrating just getting started on one, then cutting to another. For me, the A storyline was the dwarves in the mountain, the B storyline was Laketown. The whole storyline with Gandalf in Dol Guldur was really overplayed I felt, should have been dealt with once and then left alone, not repeatedly come back to in the climactic scenes. As I recall the Necromancer was only a small part of the Hobbit anyway, but you can see they are trying to build up the beginning of Lord of the Rings by explaining Sauron’s rise. Completely unnecessary in my view, most of it should have been cut. Elevate the dwarves under the mountain storyline and go to the Laketown storyline every now and then. Would have hung together far better.

    Still, I’d give it a 7 out of 10. Frustrating seeing the bad writing choices though when everything else, performances, animation etc, are so superb.

    • garrett_h

      Haven’t seen Desolation, but I couldn’t stand Thorin in the first one. He’s supposed to fill a similar role as Aragorn did for the LOTR trilogy but it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if it’s the casting or characterization or what but I don’t like him. Aragorn was cool. Thorin just whines and sulks.

      • Auckland Guy

        Yes, I would say Thorin is really the second major character and it’s problematical when your sort of ‘co-protagonist’ is really unlikeable. I haven’t read the book in a while so don’t know if they’re hamstrung by his characterization there, but even if so, they could have added a few nuances to make him more likeable or less one note. He just seems to be carrying this huge grudge that he can never let go and this whiney and sulky demeanor as you say, is annoying to watch.

  • Brainiac138

    The Black List has been announced, is there going to be any commentary this year?

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Where Angels Die made the list

    • J•E•B

      not to brag, but I made the list. First timer.

      • wlubake

        Congrats! Which script?

      • klmn

        CONGRATS!

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        Not to brag, but I’m gonna brag…. ;-)

        Haha, kidding. Congratulations!!

        • J•E•B

          Haha. Yeah okay, I’m gonna brag a little. I’m allowed to right? ;-) It’s been a thrilling day.

          • Stephjones

            Wonderful! Congrats!

          • Midnight Luck

            absolutely brag, that is an amazing accomplishment, big congrats!

      • Midnight Luck

        wow, that is just awesome. Way to go!

  • carsonreeves1

    I’m going to put up a post about the Black List tomorrow. So save Black List comments until then!

    • drifting in space

      Does anyone have Section 6?

  • ispunaweb

    I have to be the one that points out that Thorin is a dwarf and not a hobbit, but I do agree with your overall concensus. It’s such a short book and it’s been dragged out into three 2 and a half hour films. For the first five minutes I was struggling against a feeling that the film wasn’t exactly ‘real’ and I’m not exactly surprised after watching this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-25388672.

    • klmn

      You can toss dwarves, but what do you do with hobbits?

      • Citizen M

        I recommend smacking them with the flat part of a spade.

  • UrbaneGhoul

    I tried to watch The Hobbit on HBO and I just couldn’t. I don’t even like the first LOTR trilogy and I’m a fantasy fan and every other fantasy piece has some influence from Tolkein. I was kinda okay with ROTK but then the Green Ghosts killed those elephant monsters for the heroes and it turned me off.

  • wlubake

    You know how studios release a Blu-ray director’s cut with extra footage? Maybe New Line will run a non-director’s cut that trims the 3 Hobbit movies into a single 2.5 hour movie. Fingers crossed. That’s the only way I’m watching any of these (and I loved LOTR movies).

    • Hadley’s Hope

      I have the answer…

      WILLOW

    • ispunaweb

      HAHA – I wish. ;) Fingers crossed.

  • blueiis0112

    I thought the original trilogy was entertaining. But, then I saw “Master and Commander” afterwards and thought it rated oscars more than LOTR. I committed sacrilege when I told a friend that I did not think LOTR deserved all of its oscars. Peter Jackson loves to tell stories in grandiose form. But, I got to the “oh boy, not another battle” point.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      “Master and Commander” and “The Return of the King” are both great flicks. Darn, that’s a tough one. I suppose RotK is handicapped a bit by the fact that it relies so heavily on the other two entries in the trilogy.

      “The Two Towers” is my favorite of the LOTR trilogy, if I had to pick one.

  • Midnight Luck

    Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR just released the first teaser Preview:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816692/?ref_=nv_sr_3

    • wlubake

      Pretty bare bones.

      • Midnight Luck

        yeah, just a teaser. doesn’t illuminate anything about the story.

  • Graham

    On ‘The Returned/Les Revenants’ – this is one of the few occasions where those of us on the European end of the pond are ahead of the curve on a great TV show – it was shown over here quite a few months ago and I was recommending it to as many of my friends as I could.

    As Carson has pointed out, there’s a great recipe here: great performances, great directing and real creativity and intelligence in exploring the potential ramifications of a what is a pretty simple premise. No spoilers of course – but I’ll be fascinated to see where season 2 goes, because the final shots of the first season left things in a REALLY interesting place.

    Also – special mention for Scottish band Mogwai who provide the beautiful score for the show. In fact it’s worth posting a link to the opening credits just to give people who haven’t seen it yet a flavour of how the imagery and music combine to provide something pretty unique:

    (I’ve noticed from my Twitter feed that Stephen King has been praising the show so that’s a pretty good recommendation if you are inclined towards ‘supernatural’ material).

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