WE’VE GOT A TERRIFIC GROUP OF ACTORS VERY, VERY SKILLED AT COMEDY
confronting than the original children’s tale; Cate Blanchett, who reappears as the elf-queen Galadriel in scenes not in Tolkien’s original, admitted that her four-year-old son Iggy didn’t see the film at its London premiere, though her two older boys — Roman, 8, and Dash, 11 — lapped it up.
The comedic scenes are as well played as Jackson hoped. When they’re not fighting deadly battles against goblins and wargs, the crew of 13 dwarfs — whose adventure Bilbo is dragged along on by the wizard Gandalf — engage in what some reviewers have called a ‘‘ Middle- earth frat party’’ and Barry Humphries is deliciously wicked as the goblin king. Sylvester McCoy, best known to date as the seventh Dr Who, appears here as Radagast the Brown, a wizard who didn’t make the transition from Tolkien’s Rings books to Jackson’s first three films, but is reinserted into The Hobbit as a foil to Gandalf. According to McCoy, he’s also a character whose significance will develop during the next two instalments. And as to the vexed question of whether The
Hobbit really can sustain being broken down into three parts — the second is due in the middle of next year and the third in mid-2014, with a total estimated budget of $US500m — Jackson has promised plenty of backstory and detours that follow appendices written by Tolkien as he fleshed out the narrative during the years spent constructing his Rings world. On the evidence here, you can expect at the very least a very grand — as well as unexpected — journey. AMONG other blockbusters hitting Australian screens this holiday season, Spielberg’s Lincoln is the must-watch for anyone interested in history, civics and the question of whether today’s leaders are up to the tasks demanded of them — particularly in the wake of calls this week for Barack Obama finally to deal with the stranglehold the gun lobby has on everyday American life.
Daniel Day-Lewis is the hot tip for a best actor award at the Oscars for his portrayal of the 16th president of the US, who prevailed against a largely hostile congress to have slavery outlawed. Lincoln has already chalked up seven Golden Globes nominations — the most of any film for the 75th annual awards ceremony — and while Day-Lewis pulls off the central role with effortless poise, an ensemble cast including Sally Field as Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as the Republican Thaddeus Stevens is also outstanding.
Lincoln opens locally on February 7. Another pick of the crop — and a relatively family-friendly entrant to the list — will be Ang Lee’s much awaited Life of Pi, based on Canadian author Yann Martel’s Man Booker prize-winning (and bestselling) novel of the same name. Released here on New Year’s Day, it tells the story of Indian schoolboy Pi Patel and the menagerie his family is attempting to transport from its Pondicherry zoo to a new life in Canada. The action takes place between the adult Patel’s living room, as he recounts the tale of disaster that befell him on the journey and in the aftermath of the storm that sank the freighter on which he was travelling.
Lee is a masterful filmmaker and the piece is lush; the shipwreck scenes are genuinely terrifying and Richard Parker, the tiger with whom Pi must share his lifeboat, becomes as real a character as you could imagine. That, of course, is the conceit of the story but you can see it for yourself to decide which version of events — as Pi himself puts it — you prefer.
Les Miserables is British director Tom Hooper’s follow-up to his enormously successful The
King’s Speech, and it is likely to present the strongest challenge to Day-Lewis’s chances for a best actor Oscar in the form of Australian songand-dance savant Hugh Jackman, who plays the rags-to-riches hero Jean Valjean. The piece is almost entirely sung, having been adapted from the stupendously successful Cameron Mackintosh musical, and even has a new song written especially for Jackman (which is in itself going to win him gongs). Anne Hathaway is certain to add to her trophy cabinet for a devastating performance as Fantine and Russell Crowe, while not a singer of the same versatility as Jackman, Hathaway or others in the cast (including the stunning Eddie Redmayne, finally also being seen on Australian TV screens in the brilliant The Pillars of the Earth, an adaptation of the Ken Follett fantasy novel of the same name) will please fans.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty has been attracting criticism for its apparently positive portrayal of the torture methods used by CIA agents to extract information from terrorists; Even ahead of its world premiere, it also has attracted overwhelming praise from critics.
Opening here on January 31, it is a big film with a single focus: the hunt, across a decade, for the al-Qa’ida leader, which ended with his killing in a secret Pakistan residential compound, despite many false turns in the investigation along the way. It’s not for the squeamish but Jessica Chastain’s nomination for a Golden Globe for best actress as the CIA investigator Maya, who refuses to let go of the threads of evidence linking captured terrorists to bin Laden, is solid evidence of the film’s quality.
Australian brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton play members of the elite Navy SEAL squad that takes out the terrorist leader, and former Australian TV actor Jason Clarke as the CIA torturer-in-chief is unflappable. Others to add to the must-see list include The
Impossible (January 27), Anna Karenina (February 7) and Brendan Cowell’s entertaining Save
Your Legs (February 23), about a suburban Australian cricket team’s triumphant tour of India. But more on that one nearer to the date.
Clockwise from main picture, Martin Freeman, left, and Ian McKellen in The
Hobbit; Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi; Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark
Thirty; and Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln