Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins.
Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story.
Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action.
But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more.
Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way.
Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth.
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Former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens has joined the cast of the new Night At The Museum movie. The Brit, who played Matthew Crawley on the period drama, will portray King Arthur's one-time sidekick Sir Lancelot in the third installment of Ben Stiller's hit film series.
Stiller and Robin Williams will return as security guard Larry Daley and Teddy Roosevelt, respectively, when the film starts shooting in February (14).
Four Chinese hopefuls have landed supporting roles in the new Transformers film thanks to a new TV talent search. Producer Lorenzo DiBonaventura and former Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences boss Sid Ganis were among the judges who vetted the contestants over the weekend (31Aug-01Sep13) via a Paramount and China Movie Channel venture, titled Transformers 4 Chinese Actors Talent Search Reality Show.
More than 70,000 hopefuls applied for the four available jobs in the film.
The successful applicants were actor and martial arts specialist Byron Lee, TV stars Austin Lin and Teresa Daley, and former Miss Bikini International Pageant China winner Candice Zhao.
Two established Chinese actors, Li Bingbing and Han Geng, have already been cast in supporting roles in the movie, which will star Mark Wahlberg and premiere next year (14).
Kanye West has scored his first ever number one on the Australian album chart after his label bosses demanded a recount. The rapper's new record, Yeezus, missed out on the top slot and debuted at number two Down Under on Saturday (22Jun13), prompting bosses at West's Universal Music label to call for an inquiry.
Executives at the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), the organisation behind the chart, recalculated the sales figures and discovered a "data error" had led to a chart mix-up.
In an unusual move, they changed the chart around and bumped West's record to the top, ahead of the former number one, Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey's The Great Country Songbook, which was moved down to number two.
A statement from ARIA reads, "Due to a data error discovered after initial publication, this week's ARIA albums chart has been recalculated. This has resulted in Kanye West moving to the No.1 spot and Troy Cassar-Daly and Adam Harvey to No.2."
Australian singer Mandawuy Yunupingu has lost his battle with kidney disease, aged 56. The indigenous star, who fronted the band Yothu Yindi, passed away at his home in Yirrkala in Eastern Arnhem Land on Sunday (02Jun13).
In 1986, Yunupingu helped found Yothu Yindi, which shot to fame with the release of 1991 album Tribal Voice, and went on to win eight Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards, while last December (12) they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in Sydney.
Yunupingu, a former school principal, spoke of his pride at receiving the tribute, insisting, "My heart is full of joy. I am so happy to see that in my lifetime indigenous music has come such a long way. To have these talented artists come together to honour the groundbreaking work of Yothu Yindi makes me proud beyond words."
The star was also named Australian of the Year in 1992 in recognition of his efforts to bring together Australia's indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Singer Troy Cassar-Daley was among the first to pay tribute to Yunupingu, tweeting, "Sad news with the passing of Yothu Yindi's Mandawuy Yunupingu, a true bridge builder... RIP Brother," while Midnight Oil frontman-turned-politician Peter Garrett added, "Can't believe he's gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu."
When the stakes are high — like, Armageddon high — the clean-shaven look won't really cut it: what you need in any apocalyptic adventure is a moustache. And lo and behold, Rob Corddry dons one hell of a nose neighbor in these new, exclusive pics from Rapture-Palooza. Corddry's character Mr. House teams up with his son Ben (John Francis Daley) and the film's heroine Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) to take on the formidable force of the Anti-Christ... played by none other than Craig Robinson, Corddry's Hot Tub Time Machine compadre.
These images depict Robinson in truly hellish form: covered in blood, sprouting horns, and spreading propaganda via cheap posters. Check out the pics, and catch Rapture-Palooza in theaters and VOD on June 7.
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The pair will don bikinis and head to the pool to perform synchronised stunts on the TV competition series alongside the likes of comedian Louie Anderson, The Cosby Show's Keshia Knight Pulliam and actor Drake Bell.
The reality show first debuted in the U.K. earlier this month (Jan13) with a variety of British stars trying to perfect the art of diving under the mentorship of Olympian Tom Daley.
The U.S. adaptation of the programme is due to premiere on 19 March (13).
The U.S. comedy, about a group of small-town high school misfits, was axed after just 12 episodes were broadcast but it subsequently gained a huge fan following and several members of the cast went on to find fame in Hollywood.
The actors have now re-grouped along with co-stars Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley and Jason Schwartzman in a photoshoot for America's Vanity Fair magazine, which was guest edited by the series' writer/producer Judd Apatow.
The stars posed in a gym for the school-inspired spread and, in an accompanying feature, Apatow opened up about casting undiscovered talents and chatted to the cast about their memories of filming.
Recalling his decision to hire Franco, Apatow admits, "We didn't think of him as handsome. We thought his mouth was too big for his face and he seemed perfect to be a small-town cool guy who wasn't as cool as he thought he was. When all the women in our office started talking about how gorgeous he was, me and (creator Paul) Feig started laughing because we just didn't see it."
Daley also recalls, "Franco went to Michigan for two weeks to get into character, and we were joking that he lived under an overpass for a few nights. He was always the one that had a (Albert) Camus novel, heavily dog-eared, and his car was so full of junk that it looked like he lived out of it."
Who watched the Olympics last night? I did! And then I had to stay up late to watch the Real Snoozecatchers of Pantomime Bluff and it just didn't live up to the glory of Missy Franklin taking the gold, the defeat of the men's gymnastics team shitting the pommel horse, or the impossibly skimpy Speedo on Tom Daley. Sure, the Housewives have golden hair, horse-like cackles, and equally skimpy bathing suits, but they just aren't the same. I'm sorry, they're not. Especially this current New York Olympiad which is winning a medal in snooze.
But they do have a sport of their own, and it is face yoga. It was taught by its inventor and only practitioner, Carole Radziwill's friend, the jewelry designer Rajana Khan. Look at her face, with its silly puddy skin stretched over it. Watch her move her tongue around the inside of her cheek. Watch her suck in her cheeks and tilt her head to the moon letting out a low grumble like a mating toad. Watch her work her wonders on the Housewives. Then watch Rajana go into her bedroom and laugh and laugh and laugh. This is like her game of Polish Arm Wrestling, where you have your opponent make a fist and try to get them to pull it out of your hand but while they're pulling, you let go and they end up punching themselves in the face. That is what Rajana — who, for her age, really does look absolutely amazing — does to the Houseyogis. She preys on their vanity and jealousy to make them want to look as good as her, but then she punks them and tells them to make all these awful faces for the camera. No, it's not a sport, it's a practical joke that one really rich Indian lady played on all of these harridans. Rajana wins the gold in awesome.
Also at the pool was Ramona. Oh God, once again we have to talk about how awful Ramona is. I am getting so tired of this. It's sort of like seeing Michael Phelps lose over and over again. Oh wait, I never get tired of that. Take that, you cocky son of a bitch! Maybe Ramona should train Michael Phelps. "Now swim. No, faster. You're doing it all wrong. Like this. Get out of the water. You're not listening to me!" That is what it would sound like. Ramona thinks she is an expert in everything. The first time she found out about ¡Que Viva!'s fake leg, she was completely astounded and behaved like an 8-year-old who just discovered chocolate — befuddled but very excited. Now, suddenly, she's like an expert in prosthesis. She tells ¡Que Viva! that she has to get out of the pool because she's getting her leg wet, and ¡Que Viva! is all, "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing." But Ramona insists over and over and over again until she gets out of the pool, embarrassing everyone, including herself. Don't tell a woman what to do with her own body, Ramona. Have you never seen a Pro-Choice rally?
Then, when everyone is back at ¡Que Viva!'s cloud palace, Ramona and Sonja are carrying on in the bathroom like a pair of teenagers who just got DMed by Justin Bieber (if you did not understand that last sentence, you are old and/or sane) and ¡Que Viva! wants to come in and join the fun. "Sorry," Ramona says. "This is only for Sonja and me. You're not allowed." That's right, Ramona just barred ¡Que Viva! from a room in her own house. Does she not know who the star of this Mexican soap opera is? Obviously not, because then, at dinner, Ramona goes into the kitchen and changes the menu around and starts ordering around the staff. I'm sorry, this isn't just messed up Housewives behavior, this is just messed up behavior in general. These are all real, awful things for a person to do to another person. It's not even fun to watch her behave badly, it's just tedious. It's like "I know you guys are all paid to hang out with her, but seriously, you need to stop. Quit the show. There is more to life than a bug-eyed jester caterwauling at you and trying to tell you how to live your life. No, I'm not talking about Dr. Phil, Sonja. I mean Ramona. There is more to life than Ramona."
The best part is ¡Que Viva! finally walks up to Sonja and is like, "Ramona is awful. How do you do it? What do you do when she gets all overbearing and screechy?" Sonja just sort of laughs and puts her hand on ¡Que Viva!'s shoulder and walks away shaking her head and holding her open hand up to her nose with the knuckle-side up. "Oh, that's funny," she chuckles. There is nothing you can do to stop Ramona. She's like a roller coaster, soaring and jangling and making you vaguely sick to your stomach, and you can't stop her. She is going to happen and she only has one track. You can't change the direction of the car, it just goes in the same way every damn time. This is going to happen and everyone is going to pretend like it's fun and awesome, but, in the morning, you'll wake up with your joints all achy and your back needs an alignment. The only thing you can do to feel right is to not get on the coaster.
The athlete received the cruel taunt after he and partner Pete Waterfield narrowly missed out on winning a medal when they finished fourth in a synchronised diving event at the London 2012 Games on Monday (30Jul12).
Shortly after the event, Daley reposted a message from a now suspended Twitter account, which read, "You let your dad down I hope you know that."
The defiant diver, whose father Rob died from brain cancer last year (11), responded, "After giving it my all... you get idiots sending me this..."
A 17-year-old boy was subsequently detained in Dorset, England "on suspicion of malicious communications" and faces a $3,920 (£2,500) if convicted.