Have you ever wondered how Herman and Lily Munster came to live at 1313 Mockingbird Lane?
That’s too bad, because Rob Zombie is going to tell you anyways.
Rob Zombie’s The Munsters is a prequel to the 60s sitcom of the same name. It shows how Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips) came to be created, how he became a Rob Zombie-style rock star, and how he overcame the opposition of the Count (Daniel Roebuck) and married Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie). It also shows how Lily’s brother, Lester (Tomas Boykin), tricked Herman into signing over the deed for the Count’s castle in Transylvania. There’s not much of a plot but there was never much of a plot when it came to the original sitcom either. Just like the show that the movie is based on, The Munsters exists to show classic monsters making corny jokes and freaking out at the prospect of dealing with what the rest of the world considers to be normalcy. Unlike the multi-faceted Addams Family, The Munsters have always been a one-joke family.
There have always been elements of satire and subversive humor in everything that Rob Zombie has done, as both a musician and a director. Those who claim that Rob Zombie does not have a sense of humor are mistaken. However, the comedy in The Munsters is deliberately broad and vaudevillian, like the show on which the movie is based. As a director, Zombie doesn’t always seem to know how to best present that type of humor. The Munsters is the rare movie that would have benefitted from a laugh track because the jokes are definitely sitcom-level. They were designed to be followed by canned laughter. Zombie’s affection for the material and the characters come through and the deliberately artificial production and costume design actually works better than I was expecting but, at nearly two hours, The Munsters often feels directionless.
Jeff Daniel Phillips and Daniel Roebuck do adequate imitations of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis, respectively, but its Sheri Moon Zombie who steals the show, bringing a lot of mischievous energy to Lily. Of the principle cast, Sheri Moon Zombie is the only one makes her character feel like something more than just a tribute to an old sitcom. The camera loves her and she convinces us that she loves Herman, no matter how childishly he behaves.
One final note: Sylvester McCoy — the seventh doctor, himself! — plays the Count’s assistant, Igor. McCoy doesn’t get to do much but it was still good to see him. Igor was the type of role that Tom Baker used to specialize in before he was cast as the Fourth Doctor. By casting McCoy as Igor, it almost felt as if Zombie was keeping the role in the family.
Paul McGann had the potential to be a great Doctor.
There’s a lot of negative things that can be said about the controversial 1996 attempt to reboot Doctor Who but I don’t think anyone can dispute that Paul McGann gave it his best. Released during the period between the end of the original series and the 2005 revival, the 1996 version of Doctor Who features Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor getting gunned down by a San Francisco street gang and regenerating into Paul McGann. McGann was a youthful Doctor, in the spirit of Peter Davison’s take on the character. He played the role with a lot of enthusiasm and optimism. If the 1996 film had led to the series getting revived, it’s easy to imagine Paul McGann making the role his own and becoming as identified with the Doctor as David Tennant and Matt Smith.
The presence of Sylvester McCoy was another praiseworthy aspect of the television film. Though the TV movie is rightfully criticized for rewriting a good deal of the show’s continuity, it was still smart enough to bring back both McCoy and the TARDIS. I wish McCoy had gotten a a more heroic death, though getting gunned down by a street gang is still more exciting than the bump on the head that led to Colin Baker turning into Sylvester McCoy in the first place.
The film features the newly regenerated Doctor trying to stop The Master (Eric Roberts) from using an artificial black hole known as the Eye of Harmony to destroy the Earth. For some reason, the Eye of Harmony is located inside of the Doctor’s TARDIS and the Master needs to access the TARDIS so he can access the eye. Meanwhile, the Doctor has just regenerated and doesn’t have all of his memories yet so he’s only fighting at half-strength. Actually, the less said about the plot, the better. The plot doesn’t make much sense. Though Eric Roberts might seem like the perfect choice to play The Master, he doesn’t bring much to the role. Roberts plays The Master as just being another generic villain, with none of the wit that Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainsley, or even Derek Jacobi brought to the role.
The most controversial part of the movie comes when the Master discovers that the Doctor is half-human, which is something that feels like it was forced on the production by an American television executive. They probably thought that the audience wouldn’t be able to relate to the Doctor unless he has some human blood but it actually robs the character of the mystery that made him so popular. Part of the Doctor’s appeal is that he’s an enigma but the television movie gives him an origin that seems like it was lifted from a comic book. I guess we should just be happy that the people who made the film understood that Doctor Who wasn’t actually the character’s name.
Doctor Who was meant to be a pilot for a revival of the show, one that would have been an American/British co-production. It didn’t lead to a reboot and I guess we should be happy about that because the weakest moments of the movie are the moments that were obviously designed to appeal to an American television audience, like the Doctor dealing with a very 90s street gang or sharing a kiss with an ER doctor. It’s easy to imagine that the film would have led to a series that would have had more in common with The X-Files than the original Doctor Who. With the film not leading to a series, Doctor Who would have to wait another 9 years before finally getting rebooted.
Still, it’s hard not to regret that Paul McGann didn’t get more opportunities to play the Doctor. With a better script, he could have been one of the great ones.
In the near future, the UK has become so polluted that people have to wear masks when they go outside. (Save your COVID-19 jokes, the villain here is pollution not a pandemic.) A mysterious corporation called Airzone claims that they have a solution but some are skeptical. Journalist Al Dunbar (Peter Davison) and environmentalist Anthony Stanwick (Sylvester McCoy) are determined to investigate on their own and discover what’s actually going on at Airzone. Unfortunately, Al discovers a bit too much and is murdered by the corporation.
However, Al is not prepared to let something like death get in the way of exposing Airzone. His ghost appears to both his mentor, Prof. Oliver Threthaway (Jon Pertwee), and to local weatherman Arnie Davis (Colin Baker). Freaked out by Al’s ghost, Arnie and his girlfriend, Ellie Brown (Nicola Bryant), launch their own investigation into the corporation and they discover that Airzone’s solution comes at a terrible cost.
This low-budget, straight-to-video production is best-known for featuring four actors who starred as the Doctor during the original run of Doctor Who. In fact, when this film was first made, it featured every living Doctor with the exception of Tom Baker. (Jon Pertwee would die just three years after the film’s release.) Nicola Bryant, who played Colin Baker’s companion on Doctor Who, plays his girlfriend here while Michael Wisher, who played Davros, shows up as a duplicitous politician. Even Alan Cumming, who was frequently mentioned as a possible Doctor should the series ever be renewed, has a small role. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, you almost have to watch this movie for the cast along.
But is the movie itself any good? The special effects are cheap, the story is full of plot holes, and there’s a lot of dodgy acting from the supporting cast. The movie never explains why Al Dunbar’s spirit appears to Arnie Davis instead of someone who could actually do something to stop Airzone. Jon Pertwee’s role was reportedly added at the last moment and his appearances feel random. In fact, the film is flawed in much the same way that Doctor Who was often flawed. And like Doctor Who, it’s often fun despite those flaws. It’s fast-paced and, despite its weighty environmental theme, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
All of the former Doctors acquit themselves well in their roles. Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy, who were probably the best actors among the original Doctors, are the cast stand-outs but Colin Baker is far more sympathetic and likable here than he ever was on Doctor Who. I’ve always felt that Colin Baker had the potential to be a good Doctor but he was sabotaged by some of the worst scripts and production decisions in the history of the series and The Airzone Solution? shows what Baker could have done with the role if he’d been given the opportunity. Jon Pertwee was obviously not in good health when he appeared in The Airzone Solution? but he still hams it up with an entertaining gusto.
The Airzone Solution? will be best appreciated by fans of the original Doctor Who. It’s not great but it’s worth it just to see everyone gathered together.
It seems kind of weird to do a quick review for a 144 minutes film that not only serves as the end of one epic trilogy but also as a prequel for yet another epic trilogy.
Well, so be it. I hate to admit it but I really don’t have that much to say about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies beyond the fact that I saw it on the day after Christmas, I enjoyed it, and I thought Aidan Turner was really hot. It’s not a perfect film but then again, The Hobbit has never been a perfect trilogy. As opposed to the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit told a story that could have easily been told in two films. As a result, whenever you watch one of The Hobbit films, you’re aware of all of the filler that was included just to justify doing three films.
But so what? The Hobbit films are fun. Despite the cynical economic reasons behind turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s love for the material always came through. In the title role, Martin Freeman was always likable. Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee made for properly enigmatic wizards. Though apparently his inclusion caused some controversy among purists, it was nice to Orlando Bloom as Legolas. I also liked Evangeline Lilly’s elf character, even if everyone else seemed to dislike her and her love story with Aidan Turner. And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch providing a perfectly evil and self-satisfied voice for Smaug.
I have to admit that, with the exception of Aidan Turner, I was never a big fan of the dwarves. They were all so surly and bad-tempered and it didn’t take me too long to get tired of Richard Armitage showing up as Thorin and acting like a jerk. However, in the final part of the trilogy, Armitage’s surly performance started to make sense. As Thorin grew more and more paranoid, I saw that The Hobbit was actually using both the character and Armitage’s performance to make a much larger point. Power corrupts and most conflicts are ultimately all about money and property. It was a good message.
When the Battle of the Five Armies started, I was shocked to discover how little I remembered about the previous two Hobbit films. It took me a while to get caught up on who everyone was and why they were all fighting over that mountain. As opposed to the LoTR films, it’s not always easy to get emotionally invested in The Hobbit films. But, Jackson is a good director and he’s a good storyteller and, even though it took me a while to get caught up, I was still often enthralled with what I was watching on screen. The images were so stunning and the battle scenes were so spectacularly done that I could handle being occasionally confused.
Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting end for the Hobbit trilogy. It’s not a perfect film but it is exciting and fun and that’s really all that matters. At the end of it, the audience in the theater applauded, not just for the film but in recognition of everything that Peter Jackson has given us over the past 14 years.
It was a good way to spend the day after Christmas.
It’s hard to believe that’s it’s been 11 years since Peter Jackson released The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on the masses in 2001. There were much trepidation from Tolkien fans that Jackson (who had been known mostly for low-budget splatter horror-comedies) wouldn’t be able to handle the monumental task of adapting what many consider the greatest novel ever written in the 20th century. Tolkien’s epic fantasy became the standard by which fnatasy epics would be compared to for decades to come and still do. To say that Jackson succeeded in this epic task would be an understatement. TheLord of the Rings trilogy would hoard awards from 2001 to 2003 and also box-office receipts to make any dwarf-lord green with envy.
It’s now 2012 and we finally have the release of Jackson’s next trip into Middle-Earth as he adapts another of Tolkien’s beloved novels. This time he tackles The Hobbit which for some Tolkien fans remains their favorite of the author’s works. It’s a novel that might not have the epic scope and breadth of The Lord of the Rings, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up in being a fun, adventure tale of a curious hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, a wizard named Gandalf the Grey and a fellowship of twelve dwarfs led by one Thorin Oakenshield of Erebor.
The Hobbit was originally written as a children’s book, but in later years Tolkien would retcon some parts of the novel to better fit with his magnum opus in The Lord of the Rings.It’s this revised version of that children’s story that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro would adapt for the big-screen. Initially a two-film set that would tell the story of Bilbo and his merry band of adventurers, but it has since been expanded to become a trilogy as Jackson and his writers take a page out of Tolkien’s bag of tricks and try to tie-in this latest trilogy to the Lord of the Rings which precedes it by a over a decade.
The first film in this new trilogy is called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and we begin by returning to sometime before the beginning of the first trilogy’s first film. We see the aged Bilbo reminiscing of his adventures 60 years hence and deciding to put it to pen and paper as a sort of memoir of that adventure to reclaim the lost dwarf-hold of Erebor. It’s in this opening that we get to see Frodo once more (played once again by Elijah Wood who doesn’t seem to have aged) prior to him taking up the One Ring.
Bilbo recounts to Frodo the realm of Erebor deep inside the Lonely Mountain east of the Shire to Frodo and how it’s wealth in silver, mithril, gold and precious gems became well-known throughout Middle-Earth. Yet, as Bilbo warns, it’s the very sickness of avarice by Erebor’s Thror the King which seals the dwarf-hold’s doom. We learn that hoards of wealth does more than light up the dwarf king’s eyes with greed but also brings the attention of one of the very last dragon’s in Middle-Earth. The arrival of Smaug to Erebor signals the death of not just that dwarf realm, but the surrounding human town of Dale. The surviving dwarfs of Erebor flee in a massive diaspora towards any safe haven willing to take them in. What was once a proud and powerful realm has now been sundered and it’s afterwards that we get to the meat of the film’s story.
Martin Freeman as a younger Bilbo Baggins was more than just great casting but one which the film needed if one was to believe that this young Bilbo would grow old to be the Ian Holm one fans of the first trilogy have come to know well. His performance as Bilbo Baggins of Bag End becomes the anchor from which the rest of the company would revolve around. When we first meet Freeman as Bilbo he’s not the adventurer that he would become, but a hobbit that’s respectable and one not for doing anything foolish like going on adventures. Yet, his lot in life changes as Gandalf maneuvers the situation so that he becomes embroiled in the quest by Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage) to retake his ancestral lands of Erebor and it’s massive wealth from Smaug who has taken it for his lair.
While many would think that a film called The Hobbit would focus on Bilbo I thought the way the film unfolded that this story was all about the dwarfs with extra focus on the single-minded Thorin who comes off initially as both condescending, superior and dismissive of poor old Bilbo. The film never fails to show how much Thorin thinks so less of Bilbo yet throughout the film’s two and a half and more running time we see cracks in Thorin’s ice-cold demeanor towards the young hobbit. By film’s end we see just how wrong Thorin has been of Bilbo’s worth and it makes for one of the film’s more emotional scenes when Thorin realizes this as well.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not just about a brooding dwarf prince and his motley band of dwarfs getting into one trouble after the next once they’ve left the Shire with Bilbo. The film also brings on a parallel storyline which tries to lay down the foundation that would tie this new trilogy with the first one. It’s the storyline of the Great Necromancer that Gandalf and a fellow wizard, Radagast the Brown, suspect might be the Great Enemy returned. We learn soon enough during the White Council in Rivendell (attended by Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman the White) that this so-called Necromancer might be Sauron looking to regain his former strength and gather an army to him.
It’s this second storyline that get’s sandwiched within the Thorin Oakenshield Fellowship quest that comes off a bit awkward in the film’s overall narrative flow. Where the film is all about fun adventuring and camaraderie when the dwarfs and Bilbo are on the screen, when they’re not and the film tries to tell us about Sauron’s eventual return the film slows down. These scenes are not uninteresting. On it’s own these sequences bring back the epic tone of the original trilogy and brings it into this film, but it’s that very grandiose theme that seems out of place in what is simply a “men on a mission” story.
Fortunately, we don’t spend too much time dwelling on this side-story. The final third of the film is all about Thorin and company needing to escape from one goblin lair and orc ambush to another. The last 45 minutes or so flies back swiftly after a very uneven first two hours that would make more than a few theater-goers look at their watch. The wait is worth it as we see that Jackson hasn’t forgotten how to choreograph and stage fantasy action scenes. While the use of CGI might be more evident this time around than the previous three films they’re still small compared to other blockbuster films of it’s type. It’s still all about WETA practical effects, make-up and costumes that combine to create a world that’s become familiar yet still have a sense of newness to them as we see new areas of Middle-Earth only mentioned in brief passing in the original trilogy.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a wonderful return to the world of Middle-Earth. It is not without it’s missteps and flaws, but it also gets saved by some great performances from the ensemble cast which makes up the dwarfs. The aerial shots of the New Zealand’s eclectic geography shows just how much cinematographer Andrew Lesnie has become such a major component of making Middle-Earth come alive. Even the return of Howard Shore as the film’s composer was a welcome that brought more than a few smiles.
There’s no way of talking about The Hobbit without bringing up the stylistic gamble Peter Jackson has taken in filming this film and the rest of the trilogy in 48fps instead of the traditional 24fps (frames per second) that filmmakers have been using for almost a hundred years now. It’s an aesthetic choice that gives the film a overly realistic look akin to watching a stage production live. Everything looks too perfect and the High-Frame Rate (HFR) takes away some of the cinematic look which many have grown up seeing every time they watch a film. This new filming style works in certain areas like wide shots of the outdoor scenes. Whether it’s the emerald green rolling hills of the Shire to the snowcapped Alpine peaks of the Misty Mountains, these scenes in HFR came out beautiful. It’s when the film switches over to a much more enclosed and personal space within rooms and halls that we get the unusual “soap opera” look some have complained about. It takes a bit of getting used to, but some make the adjustment quickly enough while others may never make the adjustment.
Yet, it is when the film shows a CGI-created sequence that the HFR fails. While the doubling of the frame rate during filming has made the 3D in the film come off smoothly it did make some of the CG-effects come off as too video game-like. A sequence earlier in the film where we see a flashback of Thorin and the dwarfs of Erebor trying to retake another fallen dwarf hold in Moria (Khazadum in dwarfish) looks like a cinematic cutscene as a dwarf army charges and battles it out with an orc and goblin force which had taken Moria as it’s own.
All the scenes where HFR fails to come off as believable turn out better when The Hobbit was seen in traditional 24fps. I actually think that downscaling the film from it’s original HFR to a more traditional film frame speed of 24fps gave the film an even more magical look than the original trilogy. Jackson and his team of filmmakers have two more films to release and hopefully take some of the criticism this first film has received about HFR that they tweak and work on making the new style much more believable instead of taking the audience out of the film’s narrative.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t come off as grandiose as the original trilogy and for some that might come as a disappointment. Yet, as an adventure film it more than does it’s job to fully entertain it’s audience while, at the same, time reminding it’s audience how much this film and this trilogy will lead into The Lord of the Rings. I recommend that people just see the film and decide on their own whether it’s a worthy addition to the Middle-Earth saga as seen through the eyes of Peter Jackson. I, for one, think it is and with two more films left we shall see whether Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth has been a triumphant one or not.
It just a littleunder 3 months before Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle-Earth with the first of three films that will make up The Hobbittrilogy.
There’s not much else to say other than this latest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyjust continues to whet the appetite for all things Middle-Earth. It’s much more action-packed with some nice new scenes instead of just rehashing what was in the original teaser trailer from year ago.
Enough words. Just watch the trailer below and decide for yourself whether another trip to Middle-Earth (before all the War of the Ring brouhaha of the first trilogy) is worth your monies.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeypremieres worldwide on December 14, 2012.
While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is the most anticipated summer blockbuster for this upcoming 2012 then it would be safe to say that the most anticipated film for 2012 for some would be Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
This is a film that has been years in the making and even more years in development hell as the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, was entangled through many different studios. Once those entanglements were finally resolved and the film set to be put into production the film suffered more setbacks as budget and script rewrites kept things from starting. The original filmmaker picked to helm this two-part prequel, Guillermo Del Toro, had to back out after years of delays though he still remains as producer and his ideas and conceptual art and design has become the foundation for the film.
The film finally got the greenlight to start filming once Peter Jackson stopped searching for Del Toro’s replacement and took on the role as director once again. While Del Toro was a great choice I think most fans of the original trilogy were glad that Jackson decided to just take up the director’s chair once more. Who else knew the world of Middle-Earth on film better than the man who made what was called the unfilmable novel into the new millenium’s iconic film trilogy.
Like the production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson and his geniuses at WETA have been pretty good with showing fans progress made on the films through video blogs released by Jackson himself. With just a year left to go before part one of this two-part prequel premieres we finally have the first official teaser trailer to the film and I must say that it’s great. Even from just snippets shown in the teaser one could see some of Del Toro’s more darker concepts and influence in the film’s look and tone. But then some of it also comes from Jackson himself whose early background as a filmmaker was all about dark, macabre subjects and themes.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set for a December 14, 2012 release.