10 Things I learnt from watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies back to back

I have recently found myself with 7 glorious weeks off work and whilst I could have spent that time crafting home made furniture or learning a foreign language, I have instead decided to sit on my sofa watching endless television, surrounded by empty ice cream containers. It was during one of these ice cream induced stupors that I hit on an idea. Imagine a world where I could watch all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back. So I promptly went ahead and did just that. Here is what I learnt:

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Maleficent – 6/10.

Evil old woman shuns societal norms.

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So after the perplexing success of Alice in Wonderland Hollywood has now decided that ‘dark re imaginings’ of much loved fairy tales is the order of the day. Maleficent follows Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel And Gretel: The Witch Hunters and Snow White and the Huntsman and like those films it has varying degrees of success.

Angelina Jolie has always had a bit of melodrama and panto about her so it is no surprise she is perfect in the titular role – Possibly still smarting from the enormous failure of The Tourist she really does put everything into her performance here and she carries the film throughout.

Sam Riley provides solid support despite being inexplicably Irish but there is little else to love about Maleficent. To be fair at just under one hour and forty minutes it never outstays its welcome and some of the visuals and effects are nice but the problem with all these films is that they say they are dark but they are not really are they?

Maleficent is no darker than Sleeping Beauty was. Thankfully Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) is at the helm for a new version of Pinocchio so that should raise the bar a bit.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 7.5/10.

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A bunch of dwarves, a hobbit, a wizard and a dragon do things.

There is so much good stuff on show here but I still left feeling disappointed. Peter Jackson’s biggest task with this trilogy is justifying stretching a 300ish page book over three films and he just has not done that with either instalment. The theatrical version here already feels like a directors cut as there so much padding and unnecessary material. Having said that there are still many breathtaking moments in part 2, particularly in the last hour when Smaug shows up. It is quite refreshing that with the recent clamour for dark fantasy this film owes a lot more to Indiana Jones than it does to Game of Thrones (although seeing penis’ flopping about everywhere would not really suit the tone of the The Hobbit series). The unlikely moments in the Indiana Jones saga are still enjoyable because of the humour and knowing nod and winks throughout. Jackson has just made Middle Earth too stern and serious. It looks like a terrible place to live. Men with beards look off in to the middle distance. It always seems to be cloudy. My final point is that while there are definitely parts of this film that look incredible there are also quite a few scenes that looked like they were filmed at Disneyland or Alton Towers. It just didn’t strike me as real, certainly not in the same way as the rings film did. Overall I really enjoyed most of this film but compared to the rings films and (by all accounts, I haven’t read it) the source material, The Desolation of Smaug just doesn’t stand up.

Jack the Giant Slayer – 6/10.

Bryan Singer brings a fresh take on the classic fairytale.
Giant budget. Average film.
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Impressive, mostly British cast, featuring Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Ian McShane and others are mostly wasted in a forgettable fantasy by numbers yarn.
Jack the Giant Slayer has something for both children and adults but is more suited to the former hence the low rating. Nowhere near in the same league as Stardust or the indomitable The Princess Bride but better then toss like The Golden Compass, Singers latest is an enjoyable and fun movie.
Crucially the giants look great, with the CGI maintaining a high standard throughout which just about holds things together.
If you are really into this kind of swashbuckling adventure fun then you could do worse than Jack the Giant Slayer.

Snow White and the Huntsman – 7/10

Not another dark re-imagining.
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‘A grown up take on the classic fairytale’ is the kind of vague tagline you will see attached to this and a thousand other rehashes of ancient ideas and Snow White and the Huntsmen does little to stand out from the crowd.
The acting however is actually pretty solid. Kristen Stewart continues to throw off the the twi-shite shackles with another decent performance and Chris Hemsworth again impresses following his good work as Thor – expect him and his beautiful golden locks to be in pretty much every fantasy or period film of the next ten years.
On the scale of recent fantasy offerings this is not as good as Stardust but better than the Golden Compass and ten times better than the disaster that was Red Riding Hood.