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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review


Excellent

This first chapter of Peter Jackson's new Tolkien trilogy takes us back to the familiar settings and characters, inflating a simple journey into an epic adventure in the process. This film also looks strikingly different, shot both in 3D and 48 frames technology, double the definition of film. But it's the story we're really interested in.

The events take place 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, when Bilbo (Freeman) is a younger Hobbit enjoying a quiet life. Then he meets the wizard Ganfolf (McKellen) and everything changes. Suddenly he's invaded by 13 riotous dwarves led by Thorin (Armitage), who has decided to lead an expedition to reclaim their homeland from the sleeping dragon Smaug. Bilbo reluctantly agrees to help them, and their journey kicks off with a series of adventures as they are chased by wolf-riding orcs, captured by greedy goblins and terrorised by gigantic mountain-monsters. They also call in for help from the elf leaders Elrond and Galadriel (Weaving and Blanchett), and try to convince the sceptical wizard Saruman (Lee) to back their quest.

The film opens with familiar characters as the older Bilbo (Holm) chats with Frodo (Wood) before we flash back to the start. And Jackson continues to link the two trilogies like this, with connective characters and events as well as developing the simple novel into a much bigger epic, complete with tenacious villains. All of this is hugely involving, with tense moments that are nerve-shredding as well as scenes of dark emotion and broad humour. The best sequence is Bilbo's encounter with Gollum, which vividly reveals the progress in performance-capture technology over the last decade. We can even more clearly see Serkis in Gollum this time, and it gives the film a real kick.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Trailer


Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, who lives a quiet life in The Shire. His peace is interrupted one day when Gandalf arrives on his doorstep, persuading Bilbo to hold a party in his home. Bilbo refuses but has no choice but to agree when Gandalf pesters him.

Continue: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Trailer

One Day Review


OK
Following a relationship on one day a year over more than 20 years is an interesting idea, and this film features a solid cast and some genuinely moving situations. But it's ultimately too slushy and dreamy to really resonate.

On St Swithin's Day, 15th July, in 1988, Emma (Hathaway) meets Dexter (Sturgess). Both are university students in Edinburgh, and there's a clear spark between them, but circumstances prevent them from becoming a couple. The years pass. Dexter moves from being an annoying TV host to a chef and has a daughter with Sylvie (Garai). Meanwhile, Emma has a career as a teacher and maintains an unsatisfying relationship with Ian (Spall). And they keep running into each other along the way, wondering what might have happened - and may yet happen - if they got together.

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One Day Trailer


Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet at Edinburgh University and graduate on July 15th, 1988. On the same day, they spend a chaste night together and begin a friendship that will last for the rest of their lives.

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Ken Stott - Wednesday 9th January 2008 at Empire Leicester Square London, England

Ken Stott
Ken Stott

Fever Pitch (1997) Review


OK
Yoiks! Not long after High Fidelity, Nick Hornby wrote another book about the perils of romance -- this time because a guy (Colin Firth) can't seem to let go of his soccer mania long enough to give any heed to his girlfriend (Ruth Gemmell). Sounds like it could potentially make an interesting romantic comedy, but never mind the half-naked girl on the cover of the video, Fever Pitch is about as exciting as being trampled at the World Cup. Immediately snoozy, Hornby explores the origins of Firth's insance fandom -- trying to explain why a grown man is so obsessed with a small, local soccer team winning the big championship. The failure for the explanation to make sense is as much the fault of the story as it is the British accents, so unbearably thick they might as well be Russian. For a much better, wacky look at British romance, check out When Brendan Met Trudy or even Bridget Jones's Diary.

Plunkett & Macleane Review


Good
In 18th century Britain, they sure did have a lot of fireworks and loud rock 'n' roll music...

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Shallow Grave Review


Essential
The biggest favor you can do your senses this week is see Shallow Grave, a slick British thriller cut with the blackest comedy to hit theaters since Reservoir Dogs. Utterly hilarious in that British way, Shallow Grave is the tale of three roommates, Juliet, Alex, and David, in search of a fourth.

From the get-go, this film begins to close its fingers around your neck and never lets go. The eerie feeling that something is just not quite right is present from the beginning, even before things take a turn for the worse. Of course they inevitably do, when the trio's newly found roommate, Hugo, suddenly dies in his room. Lo and behold, next to the body the three find a suitcase containing a million pounds, and after some debate, they decide to keep it and bury its previous owner in--you guessed it--a shallow grave.

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The Girl In The Café Review


Good
Underneath this cute, awkward romance is a movie with an agenda. The story concerns a befuddled, senior civil servant (Bill Nighy) and the quiet ingenue (Kelly Macdonald) he happens upon in a cafe. Things start popping when he lets her tag along to the G8 conference -- causing the sleepy financiers to get angsty when she makes inappropriate remarks about children dying in Africa. Strangely out of nowhere, Macdonald's diatribe makes only slightly less sense than Nighy's tolerance for it. Their love affair is tender and heartwarming, but the political bent (with closing tagline telling us about starvation in Africa) is a singular buzzkill.

Plunkett & MacLeane Review


OK

A swashbuckling, bodice-ripping, 18th Century romp with a dance club pulse, "Plunkett and Macleane" is a slick, modern, action-comedy dropped daringly into the ambiance of a costume drama.

Based very, very loosely on the criminal career of two English highwaymen who became notorious hijacking the wealthy in London's Hyde park, the film stars hip, hot, "Trainspotting" alumni Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle as the pair of gentlemen thieves, something akin to Butch and Sundance fused with Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Miller plays James Macleane, a scam artist and aspiring blue blood, determined to buy his way into 1700s high society. He finds his ticket in an unlikely place -- in the company of Will Plunkett, a former apothecary who turned to street-level petty crime after going bankrupt. Their scheme: Put the polish on Macleane and send him into the most posh parties, where he'll scope out who's worth robbing on their way home. The duo then don masks and stage hold-ups, Macleane being so seductively polite to his prey (especially the ladies) that he's dubbed "the Gentleman Highwayman."

Continue reading: Plunkett & MacLeane Review

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