Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Unexpected Journey, an expected pleasure

A friend of mine typed the word “Aarg!” into a chat window during a DDO game in exclamation at the apparently startling revelation that I had never read The Hobbit. I gather it’s a common supposition to have read the book considering I’ve been playing the likes of Dungeons & Dragons with him for the best part of a decade, but I’d have told him if he had ever asked. I thought it best not to add I had never read so much as one of Tolkien’s short stories [and I’m confident his world would probably fall apart if I told him in truth I’d never actually read a single fantasy novel in my life, no not one]. I just want to be sure that I’m framing for you the fact that my sum total of knowledge of Tolkien’s work is entirely from watching all three Lord of the Rings movies several times [and a few of the DVD extras].


Needless to say I’ve already stated in the past that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the greatest movie trilogy of all time* so the news that they were adapting The Hobbit was expected and believed partly necessary to truly cement LotR in cinematic history. The production cycle however was quite tumultuous. Some of you may recall during the life cycle of 2IGTV that Mark and I discussed the status of what was presumed to be Guillermo Del Toro’s project that seemed to change seasonally. Eventually there was light, a green light, money flowed in and filming began - instead under the direction of Peter Jackson once again. Since then, anticipation was as palpable as it was for Fellowship of the Ring and finally ended for me on December 12th.


So knowing only for sure that I’d see the characters of Bilbo, Gandalf and “some dwarf who would become Gimly’s father,” I entered Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [in 3D**] with high hopes and even higher standards. I was not disappointed. Jackson literally re-created another chunk of Middle Earth upon the already magnificent landscape of New Zealand, only this seems brighter and more lush in every sense of the words. It can be easily thought of as a world which had yet to fall to the corruption of the evil witnessed in LotR. Frodo and Samwise’s epic walking tour through Middle Earth spanning three whole movies prepared my patience [and my arse] for yet another band of fantasy creatures to make another road trip but despite the preparation [and knowing that New Line had forced Jackson to stretch out a 300 page book to span 3 whole movies instead of two] I was still expecting to the shouting “Get on with it!” in Monty Pythonesque fashion at some point. Imagine my surprise when the credits began rolling just as I was beginning to get into it. I’ve been to many 2.5+ hour movies in my day but this is the first time I have never felt a single moment pass and was genuinely shocked to discover that hours had passed since I had opened my bag of Peanut M&M’s.


The dwarf's plight is told through similar flashback exposition to LotR’s ring origin and tells the story of a magnificent dwarf kingdom laid to ruin by a powerful dragon, exiling the dwarfs and scattering their civilisation. Martin Sherlock Freeman takes the reigns as Bilbo Baggins and with everyone’s favourite wizard, Gandalf [Sir Ian McKellan] and Richard Armatage as dwarf-prince Thorin Oakenshield, they lead a lively, hilarious yet heroic band of dwarfs through exotic locales, some familiar, some new as well as meet characters we both know or never before heard tale of on their epic journey of adventure. Sir Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Kate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sir Christopher Lee and even Elijah Wood all reprise their famous roles from LotR [although I’m lead to understand that half of that lot are playing characters that never even appeared in the original novel]. They make the transition to this new saga all the more memorable. Canadian composer Howard Shore returned to provide a rich melodic score to the soundscape of the movie reintroducing us to many of his original themes as well as creating a few new ones to highlight this “same but different” adventure. While the 3D was unusually perfect and not used as gimmicky as other movies I reckon I’d have been just as happy with the 2D, it’s an enhancement, not a necessity.


While we are led to understand that Sauron’s corruption is just beginning, the main tale here is one of simply going home rather than saving the world from evil – that will come later in history as we’ve already seen – but for now and the next two movies, we are to be content with our merry band of dwarfs evicting their unwanted house guest and keeping would-be orcish invaders off their front lawn. No the whole world doesn’t have to be under threat for a movie such as this to be exciting, just one little part of it.

Final Verdict: With lush visuals, superb CGI, world-class acting, a sharp script and a flawless score it was nothing short of excellent; so much so that I actually went twice!

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

* Just to reiterate - I consider Star Wars to be religion not a series of movies

** I did not chose 3D either time I went to it. Technical difficulty with the 2D presentation on the day of release and unmanageable 2D scheduling on the following Saturday necessitated the need to see the 3D presentation twice. My 3D rejection contract is not broken as these issues are covered under clause [E] force mejure..

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama sworn in to face first battle of new term

President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath of office for his second term as the 44th U.S. president and commander in chief on the steps of the U.S. Capitol today. More than 500,000 gathered on the National Mall to watch Obama and Vice President Joe Biden enter their second term.

“America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe,” the president said in his speech. “We will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation". The United States will support democracy around the world, “because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”

L-R - Jack Lew, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, John Kerry
The first battle of Obama's second term will be to have his choices for his new cabinet confirmed by the Senate. The president wants Jacob "Jack" Lew the White House Chief of Staff to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. Former Republican Senator and Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel has been nominated to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defence and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan has been chosen to fill the post of CIA Director vacated abruptly in November by General David Patraeus. These appointments are expected to face tough scrutiny if not blocked entirely by lawmakers. However, former presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry's nomination ito replace Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State is not expected to be contested.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

End of Watch

Do you like COPS? Bad boys, bad boys, what’cha gonna do when they come for you? etc. Well imagine if COPS was able to broadcast what the LAPD have to put up with every day. Under constant death threats from Colombian drug lords, getting beaten to a pulp until you’re unrecognisable, getting stabbed in the eye with a knife, getting shot at by gangs wielding military-grade weapons. Yeah then it wouldn’t be really COPS anymore would it? But it would be the new movie from David Ayer who wrote Training Day but directed Street Kings.

Ayer brought Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena together, sent them off to ride around with real LAPD cops for a few months and got them to present to us two distinctive police officers who know that this is a dirty job that someone has to do and it may as well be them. They look feel and talk like they may not be the #1 cops in the world but when the shit hits the fan you understand that to each other – they are - and as partners on the street that’s what you need most.

Ayer creatively used a multitude of camera sources to capture the story he wanted to show, it was part reality-show amateur hour, part steady-cam Panavision. It was a little strange going from one view to the other but I wasn’t on the level of the vomit-inducing Chronicle and the fact that portable cameras now can stream/record HD, the days of Blair Witch nonsense are long gone.

Ayer is the man who wrote the most historically inaccurate movie of all time, U-571. Following worldwide criticism for his historical distortion vowed he would never do it again. While this movie is fictional, I think we can say he's come full circle. It's too real. It’s difficult to actually review this as I do other forms of entertainment as it wasn’t so much entertaining as it seemed like the stark reality of what you read about in the news every day was unfolding before you. You were only now seeing what was happening between the lines of the those reports and it's far from pretty.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2012! - The Year In Review

Time to say goodbye to 2012. The year that was supposed to end it all, but we're all still here.

A year of a long freefall, a "zombie" attack, the iPhone 5, Pussy Riot, solar eruptions, Fifty Shades, Minecraft, Gangnam Style, the sale of Star Wars and an implosion in UNPASID.

A year of pain for those in Syria, Egypt, Aurora, Newtown and those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

A year of heroes in Avengers, a rising Dark Knight, a sky falling, Expendables and a furry-footed Hobbit!

It was a year of triumph for London and her Olympic athletes, Barack Obama's re-election but a year of failure for the Secret Service, Lance Armsrong and David Petraeus.

As always we must acknowledge those we lost in 2012, especially astronaut Neil Armstrong [82] the first person to walk on the Moon, actor Ernest Borgnine [95] , singer Whitney Houston [48], film director Tony Scott [68], science fiction and fantasy author Ray Bradbury [91], Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie [82], Bee Gees singer and songwriter Robin Gibb [62], and most recently, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. [78] the Desert Storm commander.

I would like to especially mention actor and former U.S. Army PFC Charles Durning [89] who during WWII took part in the D-Day landings and earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts and was granted the grade of Chevailier of the Legion of Honour by france. Never a leading actor his face and voice is nevertheless known to all who watched movies since the 70's. He was Lt. Snyder in The Sting and followed the role with more than 100 movie and TV credits including: Dog Day Afternoon, Tootsie, The Hudsucker Proxy, Spy Hard, Rescue Me, Everybody Loves Raymond and even voiced Francis Griffin in Family Guy. Among numerous Academy Award and Emmy nominations was one for portraying a Marine veteran in NCIS where Durning was able to draw on his first-hand knowledge of Combat Stress Reaction.

We also acknowledge the passing of the following individuals who made the history books: Rodney King [47] whose beating by police sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Richard Alf [59] the co-founder/chairman of San Diego Comic-Con and August Kowalczyk [90] Polish actor and last survivor of 1942 Auschwitz concentration camp breakout.

We mourn the loss of the following entertainers:
Norman Alden [87] American actor [Kranix in Transformers: The Movie / Lou Caruthers in Back to the Future]
Phillip R. Allen
Phillip R. Allen [72] American actor [Captain Esteban in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock]
Bob Anderson [89]  British fencer and fight choreographer [Star Wars / Highlander / Lord of the Rings]
Gerry Anderson [83] British producer, writer and director [Thunderbirds / Captain Scarlet]
R. G. Armstrong [95] American actor [Maj.Gen. Phillips in Predator]
Ian Abercrombie [77] British actor [Mr. Pitt in Seinfeld / Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars]
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE [76] English composer, musician and film scorer [Billion Dollar Brain]
Lucille Bliss [96] American voice actress [Smurfette in The Smurfs]
Frank Carson [85] Northern Irish comedian
Dick Clark [82] American television host and producer
Michael Clarke Duncan [54] American actor [The Green Mile / Armageddon / Daredevil]
James Farentino [73], American actor [Frank Chaney in Blue Thunder]
Ben Gazzara [81], American actor [Sgt. Angelo in The Bridge at Remagen]
Joel Goldsmith [54] American film and television composer [Stargate TV franchise]
Andy Griffith [86] American actor [Matlock]
Larry Hagman [81] American actor [J.R. Ewing in Dallas
Marvin Hamlisch [68] American composer [The Spy Who Loved Me]
Bob Holness [83], South African-born British quiz show host [Blockbusters]
Geoffrey Hughes DL [68] English actor [Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances]
Davy Jones [66] British actor and musician [The Monkees]
Alex Karras [77] American football player and actor [Mongo in Blazing Saddles]
David Kelly [82] Irish actor [O'Reilly in Fawlty Towers / Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory]
Jack Klugman [90] American actor [Quincy, M.E.]
Joe Kubert [85] Polish-born American comic book artist [Sgt. Rock]
Lance LeGault [77] American actor [Colonel Decker in The A-Team]
Lance LeGault
Herbert Lom [95] Czech-born British actor [Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movie series]
Richard Lynch [72] American actor [Wolfe in Battlestar Galactica / Baran in Star Trek: The Next Generation]
Sir Patrick Moore, CBE [89] British astronomer and broadcaster
George Murdock [81] American actor [Admiral J.P. Hanson in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Dr. 
Salik in Battlestar Galactica
Jerry Nelson [78] American puppeteer [Count von Count in Sesame Street]
Michael O'Hare [60] American actor [Commander Sinclair in Babylon 5]
J. Michael Riva [63] American production designer [A Few Good Men / Iron Man]
Hal Roach [84] Irish comedian.
Ken Sansom [85] American voice actor [Hound in Transformers]
Jean Wells [56] American game designer, writer, artist. [Dungeons & Dragons: Palace of the Silver Princess]
William Windom [88] American actor [Commodore Decker in Star Trek]

We thank them for their talents.

We also acknowledge the passing of those who dedicated themselves to military, science and public service:

Master Sergeant John F. Baker, Jr. [66] American, former U.S. Army NCO [Medal of Honor recipient]
Air Marshal Sir Alfred Henry Wynne Ball KCB DSO DFC [91] British, retired RAF Air Marshal
Colonel Van T. Barfoot [92] American, former U.S. Army soldier [Medal of Honor recipient]
Master Chief Hospital Corpsman William R. Charette [79] American, U.S. Navy NCO [Medal of Honor recipient]
First Lieutenant Lynn Davis "Buck" Compton [90] American, former U.S. Army soldier [inspiration for Band of Brothers]
Colonel William H. "Bill" Dabney [77] American, retired USMC officer [awarded Navy Cross]
Pádraig Faulkner [94] Irish, former Fianna Fáil politician [Minister for Defence 1979–1980 / Ceann Comhairle 1980–1981]
Florence Green [110], British supercentenarian, former WRAF [Last surviving veteran of World War I].
Senator Daniel Inouye [88] American politician and former U.S. Army officer [Senator from Hawaii / U.S. Army Captain during WWII, Medal Of Honor / Bronze Star / Purple Heart]
General Samuel Jaskilka USMC
General Samuel Jaskilka [92] American, retired U.S. Marine Corps Officer [WWII, Korea, Vietnam / Assistant Commandant 1975–1978]
Senator George McGovern [90] American, former USAAF pilot [U.S. Representative 1957–1961 /  Senator 1963–1981 / 1972 Democratic Party presidential nominee]
Command Sgt. Major Basil L. Plumley [92] American, U.S. Army NCO [Battle of Ia Drang 1965
"We were Soldiers"] 
Captain Alan G. Poindexter [50] American, U.S. Navy officer [retired NASA astronaut]
Rear Admiral James D. "Jig Dog" Ramage [96] American, retired U.S. Navy officer [Naval Aviator during WWII and Vietnam, major player in putting nuclear-capable aircraft aboard carriers]
Sally Ride [61] American physicist and astronaut [First American woman in space]
Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Sokolov [101] Russian, retired Soviet Army Officer [Minister of Defense of the Soviet Union 1984–1987]
Colonel James L. Stone [89] American, retired U.S.Army officer [POW and Medal of Honor recipient]
Janice E. Voss [55] American, former NASA astronaut
Flight Lieutenant William Louis Buchanan Walker, AE [99] British, former RAF officer [Pilot during Battle of Britain]
Admiral James D. Watkins [85] American, retired U.S. Navy officer [former Chief of Naval Operations 1982–1986 / U.S. Secretary for Energy 1989-1993

May they rest in peace.

And now we embrace the future of 2013! 

Happy New Year