THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES*** Ends with a Bang not a Whimper


FREE AT LAST! Free at last!

After about seventeen hours in dark cinemas, over a span of thirteen years, and with a body count of about at least a million dead Orcs, dwarves, elves, humans, hobbits and other random creatures, Peter Jackson’s massive, exhaustive reimagining of Tolkein’s Middle Earth has finally ended.

“The Battle of the Five Armies”, the final of the Hobbit trilogy, ends with the massive treble-underlined moral that has knitted the series together: GREED IS BAD.

We begin almost mid-sentence where the last one ended. (Has it been a year already?) Bilbo and the dwarfs are in Smaug’s treasure-filled cave and the Benedict Cummberbatch-voiced dragon has flown into the night’s darkness with menace on his mind and fire in his belly. The residents of a nearby village are the unlucky victims of the awakened dragon’s anger as it swoops down and rains upon them fiery hell and fury.

Jackson’s technical wizardry is awesome; the sheer imaginative spectacle and visionary scale of the production hits its high-water mark in this the final fling of the series: Smaug’s sinuous swoop into the stricken village and the resulting conflagration of homes, bridges, fragile towers and unlucky people is a visual masterwork.

It’s an exciting, well crafted first chapter, as it sets out the thematic and narrative journey that’s to follow: The Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) tries to sneak away from his burning village with as much gold as his laden barge can muster. In his gluttony for wealth, he’s prepared to kill anyone who gets in his way. At the same time as this storyline is unfolding, we’re reintroduced to his moral opposite: Bard (Luke Evans, “Dracula Untold”, “Fast and Furious 6”), the selfless, principled father figure who takes it upon himself to plunge into the flaming danger even as the Master flees it, in order to battle the odds and take down the dragon.

Greed and goodness.

In Jackson’s simple morality play, it is the toxic opposites of such greed and goodness that wrestle for supremacy. It’s not so much a battle of five armies but a battle of those two.

And they’re both at war for the soul of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), leader of the dwarfs, who, when we meet him, is sinking under the spell of Smaug’s limitless treasures. Whereas the ring was the object of dark and dangerous temptation in “Lord of the Rings”, here it’s simply gold. Thorin’s degeneration epitomizes the evils of greed, this fearless leader having become petulant, suspicious, inhuman and domineering.

It’s up to Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the good-natured, naive, brave little hobbit to rekindle Thorin’s intrinsic decency and free him from his gold-drugged dependency.

This moral journey is set in a landscape of fragile alliances as armies battle to save Middle Earth from Sauron and the Orcs. In the midst of all this war is the briefly sketched – doomed – love story between a dwarf (Aidan Turner as Kili) and an elf (Evangelina Lilly of “Lost” as Tauriel). The elves are basically a snobby superior (and stunningly well dressed) species who won’t tolerate the purity of their blood-line being sullied by too much fraternization with dwarfs. Even in Middle Earth, inter-species/inter-racial relationships are infradig.

But, love will out, even amidst the anger of war.

And oh what a lovely war. The serried ranks of armoured men clash violently against each other, like metallic waves. Brave elvin and dwarfish heroes ride into bristling thorns of lances and slashing swords, lopping off arms and heads with daredevil impunity. Huge monsters charge and shatter fortifications as if they were mere children’s blocks; swift footed archer, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), fells anyone in his way; booming voices issue stentorian martial commands, “Fall back!” “Cut them off at the pass!” etc.

All very jolly and bloodless and epic and meticulously well staged.


And we’ve seen it all before. There’s certainly a sense of déjà vu in the entire proceedings: if you didn’t really like any of the others, this last outing certainly won’t change your mind. But if Mr. Jackson kept dragging you back time and again to see his latest reiteration of basically the same old story with the same old cast, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is a fine note to end on.

And it ends as it began all those years ago. The shire’s undulating valleys are bountifully green and cheerful. Bilbo is at home, now an old man, fingering a ring when there’s a knock at the door.

“Who goes?” he asks

“It’s your old friend,” comes the reply from without, “Gandalf”

And we all know what comes next.



WHAT’S REMARKABLE ABOUT “Paddington” is not only the extraordinary CGI rendering of the bear, but the fact that it’s a joyfully funny, good-natured movie without a trace of schmaltz.

The writing (by Michael Bond who created the original character) and directing (by Paul King who co-wrote the script) is solidly aimed at what’s marketed as ‘family fare’… which is enough to run away from as fast as you can. But in this instance, the few tartly directed adult jokes and the pro-immigration, anti UKIP/Conservative sub-text are only there to fool the adults in the audience and lull them into their voluntary submission of adult-ness in exchange for regressive childhood fun.

Indeed, there’s a stand-out scene where Paddington is trying to find his way around the mysterious tools (toothbrushes) and equipment (the loo) of a modern bathroom. His clumsiness and curiosity result in the kind of hilarious chaos that the makers of “Horrible Bosses 2” strove so hard and earnestly to find and never did.

We saw the movie in a theatre-full of delighted kids, all of whom I guarantee will be seeing this again and again and again over the next year or so (I myself might)

The story centers around a young Peruvian bear with a love of marmalade and all things British. As is usual with kids’ stories, a sad parental loss precipitates the action: he’s forced to leave his ancestral homeland and stows away to London in the hope of reuniting with an explorer who had stumbled upon and befriended his family many years ago. Alone and abandoned in Paddington station, with a label around his neck that reads, “Please look after this bear. Thank you”, he’s ‘discovered’ by the Brown family who take pity on him for one night only.

Hugh Bonneville of Downtown Abbey is the stern, accident obsessed father, Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) is the mother, Samuel Joslin and Madeline Harris are the kids. They’re all there as foils for Paddington’s wild, anarchic introduction to a forgiving, accepting life in multi-cultural London. But, despite a stellar cast that reads like a who’s who of British film: Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Imelda Staunton, Ben Wishaw – as the bear’s voice – Michael Gambon and Peter Capaldi, the CGI animated Paddington is the absolute star of the show. There’s nothing about the CGI effects of the bear (executed with mind-boggling skill by –mainly- Framestore, the company who brought us “Gravity”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Edge of Tomorrow”, “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Sorrows”) that allows you for a moment to think that you’re seeing anything other than a real bear.

Indeed, the range of expressions the bear displays: bewilderment, innocence, heroism, bravery, stoicism and what have you, are considerably more real than the range of expressions Nicole Kidman’s Botox allows her.

Nicole is Millicent, the daughter of the explorer who’d stumbled into the bears in the Peruvian forest. But she’s a taxidermist with a mean axe to grind and an eye to Paddington as a stuffed prize. She’s also the only figure in the film whose plastic animation makes her seem like an animation. She’s the only one whose acting looks like acting.

Paddington is of course an illegal Latin American alien (though a remarkably English sounding one at that). And, as we noted, the narrative has great fun with this. Because in the movie, so unlike the present mood of the country, Paddington’s accepted and after a pause of British reserve, fully welcomed as one of the family. The pro-immigration point is underlined by a brace of calypsos that bookend the film, and that act as a nice time displacement of the setting, which is part ‘now’ and part 1955 (the time when UKIP wants us all to regress to).

Paddington’s arrival is heralded by a calypso fresh from the Empire Windrush (that was the steamship that brought the first generation of West Indian immigrants to England in 1948) with the lovely lyrics, “I was never told that London could be so cold”.

Maybe we’ve been fooled all along. Paddington is no Latino from Peru. He’s really a Trinidadian.


The Twitter Antidote to Right Wing Press Attacks: A flood of tweets sends #CameronMustGo viral and rattles the agenda of the powers that be


Another excellent post highlighting the media’s bias against Labour

Originally posted on ladiesdefendinglabour:


Over the past month hundreds of thousands of social media users have taken to Twitter to boost Ed and Labour (#WeBackEd) and denounce the rule of Cameron and his cronies (#CameronMustGo).

#WeBackEd trended well at the start of November as tens of thousands tweeted their support for the beleaguered Labour leader. It has since developed into an excellent way to promote Labour’s policies (especially useful since the majority of the media skirt over these in favour of bacon sandwiches and the like).

Now #CameronMustGo is being used as a vehicle for Twitter users to vent their anger about the debilitating and cruel policies of Cameron and his government.

The first tweets went out on Saturday 21 and by Monday 24 had reached 250,000. By the end of the week, that figure was up to 645,000 on UK trends.

This has clearly upset the plans of the…

View original 564 more words

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2:* Horrible Movie


FIRST THE GOOD news: Jennifer Anniston. She simply steals every scene she’s in. She’s a fine comic actor, who, dressed in dominatrix spandex looks a treat, and she has the acting chops to make a puerile script (for which the idea of funny is to repeat the word, “cock”) sound funny. The bar isn’t high. Any scene featuring Jennifer Anniston wearing little and the uncomfortable updated three stooges around whom the story is set, (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) is bound to come out in her favour.


Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), now in prison, is still evil, exuding venomous malice, and a surprisingly sharp-witted turn by Chris Pine as Christopher Waltz’ son also add some sparkle to this lackluster affair.

Beyond that, Sean Anders’ dumb reprise of the first, and quite funny version of three hapless men suffering from the tyranny of horrible bosses, is tiresome, tawdry and torpid. But how much can you expect from the director (along with writer David Caspe) who brought you “That’s My Boy” with Adam Sandler.

Bateman plays his usual role as the dull, straight man. It’s a role that works well when it sets off and highlights the madness all around. It worked spectacularly well in Hancock, when his character’s perplexity represented us (the viewers)…how we’d feel. His response to the discovery that his wife was immortal was an exaggerated and funny interpretation of how any of us would have reacted.

And this is essentially what’s missing in this show that strives oh so hard to be funny: for slapstick to work, it has to make you identify with the characters to such an extent that you feel as though you’re in the same uncomfortable situation they’re in. You need to willingly suspend your disbelief and identify with the mourners when the corpse falls out of the coffin or parts of the stage collapses etc.

And part of what made “Horrible Bosses 1” work was that we can all identify with horrible bosses. But HB2 switches the game from horrible bosses to the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. We’re now we’re being asked to identify with three bickering idiots. Bickering can be fun with its cleverly written and the repartee zings with wordplay or thought-play (see Shakespeare). But here the bickering is part of that genre of American comedy that features grown up men acting like children (see “Grown Ups” and “Grown Ups 2”). Perhaps its Hollywood’s infantilization of the American male that makes him feel the need to arm himself and proclaim his adultness and masculinity.

I’d simply suggest you arm yourself against paying for this humourless dud. If you feel you must see it (and, hey Jennifer Anniston, I can understand), wait until it appears on TV (probably in about a month’s time)