Well happy late Merry Christmas to everyone! The past few days have been relatively nice and relaxing, which has been an excellent diversion from the norm as of late. One of my family's Christmas traditions that I partake in yearly aside from watching Ernest Saves Christmas is when we go to the theatre on Christmas day to watch a film. This year we watched Into the Woods, which I was very excited about. After watching Sweeney Todd I decided to familiarize myself with Stephen Sondheim's other work, and thus I listened to Into the Woods although I didn't really care for it at first that much until I watched a performance of it on Netflix. After that I was sold, and as soon as I heard that they were making a film adaptation, I was looking forward to it very much so, even though Disney was behind it, which I thought was odd considering some of the dark subject matter at times, but I suppose it really does fit overall considering the fairy tale aspect. So needless to say, I enjoyed the film, and thought that it actually works perfectly more for the screen than the stage due to the fanciful nature of the story. Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife was beyond perfect; she had an excellent singing voice, great acting of course, and fantastic chemistry with everyone she interacted with, especially with the Baker, James Corden, who delivered an equally great performance, although his voice wasn't quite as polished. Both were funny, excellent levels of drama, and were believable as their characters. Meryl Streep as the witch needs so description as how well she did; utter perfection as usual. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella was in my opinion perfect (although my sister disagreed); excellent singing, great acting with the character, it was lovely. Those cast members who played other roles such as Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf (Johnny Depp), the Two Princes (Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine) Jack's Mother, Cinderella's stepmother, and Rapunzel all did an excellent job both singing and acting...although Chris Pine could have used more voice lessons, but it wasn't painful at least. The adaptation was fairly accurate and well done. Only some chorus pieces were left out and some story angles, but nothing major. Cinematography was stunning, the Wardrobe design by Colleen Atwood was of course equally stunning, Stephen Sondheim of course was a master composer and those who adapted it did quite well. Rob Marshall as the Director (Chicago) seems to be a master with musicals thus far, hopefully he continues the trend if he does anymore (here's hoping he does Wicked). I would encourage everyone to see the original Broadway performance starring Bernadette Peters (it's on Netflix I believe); they did a fantastic job paying an homage to the Broadway show throughout the film. It was a very enjoyable film, one I will definitely own and see many times, and I would encourage everyone to see it as well. Very humorous, interesting, exciting, and filled with some very interesting ideas and philosophies. Oh, and in other news; don't mock and ridicule a powerful man in charge of a powerful government with the largest standing army in the world unless you're prepared to face and ride the consequences through the end. End of story. Have an excellent weekend everyone!
After 13 years of Lord of the Rings it all (most likely at least) comes to a close with The Hobbit: The Battle of the 5 Armies. Well, it was much better than the 2nd film in the trilogy at least. Honestly though, there was something missing about the whole film. I enjoyed it, but it seemed like something was lacking from the narrative. First of all, visually it was stunning; Peter Jackson remains superior in his ability to film cinematography that is stunning, and create such a visual feast. Areas he seems to be improving upon are his action sequences; they're becoming much more dynamic and interesting, but he still does over the top things that come off a little ridiculous at times. This the 3rd Hobbit film came across to me as one very large, and expansive action sequence, much like the final Harry Potter film. All of the performances were excellent, though the ones that stood out of course were Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin; they were of course the best characters to watch interact with others, and more importantly with each other, although Lee Pace as Thranduil was pretty awesome to watch (I really enjoyed his character). I could have done without Luke Evans as Bard and everyone else from Laketown; if all of them would have been eliminated from the film I would have loved it more (I thought it took away from the main narrative, and the people were just so boring, obnoxious and just not interesting). Cate Blanchet, Christopher Lee, and Hugo Weaving all had a nice part in the film, which was part of one my most favorite scenes (see preview below). The writing/screenplay was better this time around than opposed to the 2nd film, but still not as good as the first film, and the same goes for Howard Shore's score which was good, but the music from the 1st film in my mind was far more superior. There can be no complaints about the special effects which were amazing, but the 3-D could have been much better; not a lot of things popped out of the screen, there was mostly just depth to the scenes in general. As for accuracy to the book....it's been a while since I've read the book, so I'm not entirely certain, but it seems relatively accurate save for the liberties they took with some characters and the timeline. All in all, it was a very entertaining film and I think I would watch it again, possibly even own it, but was it amazing and breathtaking......no. I left the theatre thinking "eh, that was nice." It should be interesting to see what Peter Jackson does now with his time and energy. I would personally like to see him direct a historical epic and give Ridley Scott a run for his money, or the same idea but do science fiction. Winter begins today apparently, and there are only ten days left of 2014, and four days until Christmas. Have fun celebrating the rest of the year, until 2015 begins. And think about this, only 85 years more until 2100.
Documentary Overview on The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings
So thankfully after a very long and busy week I am finished with school for the 2014 year, and I only have three terms remaining for my masters program! It is such a relief to not have to worry about school while also working for the time being, and hopefully work begins to slow down as well. People have been extraordinarily mentally ill lately for some odd reason, I think it is because of the fluctuations in temperature, but my co-workers believe it is the holidays which are making the people a little more crazier than usual. It's hard to believe there are only approximately 15 days left of 2014; how time flies, regardless if it is pleasurable or not. So today I went to see the new film Exodus: Gods and Kings which is the new adaptation of the Moses story from the Hebrew historical book of Exodus. Several film adaptations of the account have been done, but none so famously as Charleston Heston in The Ten Commandments as the lead character Moses, and Yul Brenner as Ramses. This adaptation starred Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses, both of which delivered excellent performances. Now according to what I heard about how Ridley Scott wanted to design the film, he wanted to take the miraculous out of equation and instead take a more rational approach. Like traditional Ridley Scott, he was able to capture the period perfectly, and have relatively good epic action, though I still think that Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven are amongst his finest work. The cinematography was exquisite, the costume design sumptuous, and the music by Albert Iglesias was actually pretty good, and although I love choral music, I think that Latin should not have been utilized. I was even impressed by the usage of 3-D in the film; Mr. Scott used it very well, although still not to the degree that he could have. So Christian Bale as Moses, who would have ever thought, and I thought it was going to be a dreadful decision, but it actually worked fairly successfully; he gave Moses a more real look and feel rather than something overly Puritan and fantastic. The same thing goes for Joel Edgerton as Ramses, although so much of him was heavily westernized unfortunately, but that went for most of the film as well. The supporting cast like Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, and Sigourney Weaver did very well. My main complaints were rather academic. First of all, the film was heavenly westernized in terms of values, morals, perspectives, and cultural norms which was rather aggravating. This came in terms of the relationship between Moses and Ramses, Moses and his wife, Moses and his son, and the role of religion and spirituality during that era. Perhaps the screenwriters should have read Joseph Campbell's work on mythology. Another problem I had with the film were the historical inaccuracies regarding the account of Moses, particularly with what is in the book of Exodus. Lastly, how God was represented was kind of odd; He was manifested as a young boy and spoke with Moses as if the two were on the same level, and Moses showed no reverence towards Him. I forgot to mention the screenwriting which was okay, but not great and it could have been far better. What the film did was make the account of Moses much more realistic and something that you could relate humanly to; that he did very well. With the exception of a few moments, I enjoyed the film; the plagues were done well, although he skipped the fire and brimstone one. If you like epic films, or the historical genre of film as I do then you will like it. I tip my hat to Herr Director Scott, but I still wish he would make a film about the rise of Babylon.
So, yes this is about a week after the fact, but hey did you know that the teaser for Star Wars Episode VII was released? Well, it has and is slated for A 2015 December release for some odd reason; not sure why Disney wants to release it in the winter months (so much for people camping out and waiting in lines like they did for Episode 1). I'm going to over analyze the trailer just review highlights that peaked my interest. First of all, we have the dessert, followed by a stormtrooper, an R2 unit, someone on an ugly speeder, more stormtroopers, and X-wing fighter, and then we get to some dude walking through the woods and ignites a t-shaped red lightsaber, and then we have the Millennium Falcon and Tie Fighters. So, aside from the shape of the lightsaber, none of that other stuff was original; all of it essentially came from the original trilogy. That did not impress me. There was no scope or depth to the cinematographic shots in the trailer. And there was no hint to the storyline of the film whatsoever. Now granted, it was exciting and interesting, but I came away unimpressed; I am merely curious to see how J.J. Abrams is going to pull this off. Thank God John Williams is scoring the film, otherwise the film would have issues. As for all of the ridiculousness over the lightsaber, well educated Star Wars fans should know that specific lightsaber shape and form has its roots in ancient galactic history with the early Sith and Jedi, especially Sith Lords like Naga Sadow, Freedon Nadd, and Marka Ragnos....yes I know too much about this world. Well there you have it. In other news. I hope that everyone's Thanksgiving was lovely. I hosted and cooked for my family gathering this year and it was quite delicious. I made the pies, the turkey, bread, prepared the table and most of the other dishes; it was all awesome. The turkey was so juicy and tender; it was the best Turkey I've ever made. I actually ate too much food and slipped into a food coma for the rest of the day. I just began doing Tai Chi earlier this week, and have been trying to do it every night with good success thus far. I haven't gotten down a lot of moves yet, but the one I'm working on is "Parting the Wild Horse's Mane." The moves aren't too hard, but rather it's the fluidity and sequence of them that can be the challenging part. I definitely encourage people to try it; good for the mind and good for the body. Well there are essentially only 20 days left until Christmas. Tis the season. Have an excellent day everyone.