The Music Man (1962) — My daughter’s junior high recently put on a production of the shortened version of this (she played Amaryllis); we watched this afterward so the best-ever production of it wouldn’t make her feel bad. There’s something about Robert Preston’s iconic performance as Professor Harold Hill; sure, he’s a conman, and sure, he’s an obvious conman, but he’s so endearing at it that you get the feeling that half of the characters (like Marian’s mom) sorta know he’s hoodwinking them but want to get taken in anyway. This falls behind Hello Dolly on my list of “Most Uniformly Enjoyable Musicals Ever Made” because of Marian’s song “My White Knight” — not only does it seem out of character for her, but it’s the one non-catchy number in the whole musical.)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) — When exactly do you think Peter Jackson jumped the shark? My own vote is for the scene in The Return of the King in which Legolas gymkatas onto the Oliphaunt, cuts off the harness, kills the jockey, and slaloms down the trunk to Gimli’s “That only counts as one!” (A case could be made for the skull avalanche scene earlier in the same movie, but I don’t count that because it didn’t appear in the theatrical version.) Point being, Jackson got too drunk on the power of evil computers to put anything on the screen, and started putting anything and everything on the screen.
The first Hobbit movie was good to the degree that it followed the book; amazingly enough [he said sarcastically], it faltered in every occurrence of additions, expansions, etc. (I always contended that the Special Edition should be shorter, not longer: “Now with 85% less Radagast!”) And in Desolation, Jackson apparently needs to put his “special mark” on every single plot point, adding so much unnecessary crank-it-to-11 Hollywoodisms tha you already know exactly how the inevitable videogame tie-in will play before the movie finishes.
Point being, I think Jackson went from being an adapter of Tolkien for the LotR trilogy to thinking of himself as a collaborator — and frankly, he’s not even close to being up to it. I saw An Unexpected Journey in the theater, and bought the DVD. I saw The Desolation of Smaug on a Redbox rental. I can’t imagine circumstances under which I’ll watch the third one.
(For a longer, more detailed review/critique/well-deserved decimation, see here. Much more rewarding to read than the movie is to watch.)
- The titular creature design — that of a T. Rex re-adapted for an aquatic life, with a webbed dorsal ridge-fin and feet, and forelegs shaped like a penguin’s flippers — is nifty, however poorly it’s used.
- If you’ve ever thought, “The Asylum has got to be the most shameless in their concept-to-execution dropoff,” you now have a corrective. Thank you, Titan Global Entertainment!
For me, the most unbelievable part wasn’t the creature (since that’s why I wanted to watch the movie), or the blonde bikini-babe marine biologist that makes Denise Richards look like an entirely plausible nuclear scientist in The World Is Not Enough, or the popular vacation hotspot Caribbean island which is also simultaneously dominated by drug lords with no fear of the police, or the dubbed-in radio dialogue during SCUBA-diving scenes despite the fact that their mouthpieces clearly permit no speaking. No, the real kicker is that the third act revolves around an American military base abandoned for decades which nevertheless has a fully stocked but unlocked armory, and a working airplane just sitting in an unlocked hangar.