Scottish actor/singer Billy Boyd struggled to find the right words to bid a fond farewell to Middle-earth as he sat down to write the song which will play over the end credits of the final movie in The Hobbit trilogy. The star, who portrayed the hobbit Pippin in the Lord of the Rings films, teamed up with director Peter Jackson and writers/producers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens to pen the fittingly-titled The Last Goodbye for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack, but he reveals it took them some time to get the lyrics and tune just right as it not only marked the end of The Hobbit sequel, but also the conclusion of the entire fantasy series based on the books by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Boyd, who fronts the band Beecake, explains to EW.com, "We had to get the song just right, to send the audience out of the movie theatre in the most perfect way we could...
"A lot of ideas took us to dead ends or we found the tone wasn't just right. I think we discovered very quickly this wasn't just a song to end The Battle of the Five Armies - it was a song to say goodbye to Middle-earth."
And Boyd admits he was really flattered to be invited to tackle the project.
He adds, "The Lord of the Rings films were such a special time for me in many ways - working with Pete, Fran and Philippa, being in New Zealand, being part of Professor Tolkien's work or even just the incredible friends I made. And being asked to go back to that, to work in that wonderful fantasy world again and to be singing the song that says goodbye to Middle-earth for everyone involved and the fans who took this beautiful journey with us is truly a great, great honour."
Boyd's efforts have been warmly received by The Hobbit stars Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood.
The veteran British star shared a link to the song's video with fans on Twitter.com on Sunday (23Nov14), alongside the message: "The Last Goodbye makes a perfect ending", while Wood writes: "This is truly beautiful and a fine farewell to Middle-Earth and our friends and family. So proud of @BillyBoydActor".
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is due to open in movie theatres next month (Dec14).
Hit series Breaking Bad went out with a big bang on Monday night (25Aug14) after dominating the drama categories at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Bryan Cranston earned his fourth Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series trophy for his portrayal of chemistry teacher-turned-drug lord Walter White, while his co-stars Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn were named Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama Series.
Creator Vince Gilligan also triumphed at the ceremony after Breaking Bad, which wrapped its fifth and final season last year (13), beat Mad Men, True Detective, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Downton Abbey to take home the prestigious Outstanding Drama Series title. In addition, there was a writing honour for Moira Walley-Beckett for the episode Ozymandias.
Modern Family was another multiple winner - the show continued to reign over the Outstanding Comedy Series category for the fifth year in a row, while Ty Burrell walked away as the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, the first prize of the night, and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series went to Gail Mancuso for her Las Vegas episode of the show.
BBC series Sherlock landed a trio of trophies for writer Steven Moffat and its stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, while Jim Parsons (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Veep), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and Allison Janney (Mom) scored big, too.
Singer Sara Bareilles performed a touching rendition of Nat King Cole classic Smile for the event's traditional In Memorium segment, which included nods to Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peter O'Toole, Lauren Bacall, Paul Walker, James Garner, Maya Angelou, Bob Hoskins, Mickey Rooney, Harold Ramis, Elaine Stritch and Shirley Temple, among others, before concluding with a snap of Robin Williams and a special honour from his close friend and fellow comedian, Billy Crystal.
The main list of winners at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by comedian Seth Meyers, is as follows:
Outstanding Drama Series - Breaking Bad
Outstanding Comedy Series - Modern Family
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series - Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series - Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series - Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - Allison Janney, Mom
Outstanding Miniseries - Fargo
Outstanding Television Movie - The Normal Heart
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie - Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock episode His Last Vow
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie - Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie - Martin Freeman for Sherlock episode His Last Vow
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie - Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Outstanding Variety Series - The Colbert Report
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program - The Amazing Race
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series - Joe Morton, Scandal
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series - Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series - Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series - Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series - Moira Walley-Beckett for Breaking Bad episode Ozymandias
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series - Louis C.K. for Louie episode So Did the Fat Lady
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series - Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series - Gail Mancuso for Modern Family episode Las Vegas
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special - Sarah Silverman, Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special - Steven Moffat for Sherlock episode His Last Vow
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special - Glen Weiss, 67th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special - Colin Bucksey for Fargo episode Buridan's A**.
Bosses behind Doctor Who have based the British sci-fi show's new title sequence on graphics put together by a fan. Graphics expert Billy Hanshaw from Leeds, England made the sequence as a training exercise for his job and uploaded the clip on video sharing website YouTube.com.
The piece caught the attention of the TV show's boss Steven Moffat, who decided to use Hanshaw's work to create the new official version.
Moffat says, "Hanshaw created this title sequence, put it up on YouTube. I happened to cross it, and it was the only new title idea I'd seen since 1963. We got in touch with him, and said, 'Okay, we're going to do that one'."
The sequence will air when the new series, starring Peter Capaldi as the latest incarnation of the Time Lord, begins on 23 August (14).
Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel
There's a pretty good chance you had heard of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and for certain the Hulk prior to their big screen debuts in the Marvel cinematic canon. But the Guardians of the Galaxy are a more esoteric lot. Only those well versed in the publishing company's history will approach this weekend's feature film with any familiarity with Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), or Groot (Vin Diesel). But rest assured: they've been around. And if you dig them in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy (which we sure did — check out our review), you'll have the opportunity to check them out elsewhere.
Granted, James Gunn's film does do its share of reinventing in regards to its central fivesome. Well-read fans might notice a new take on Peter Quill's backstory or Drax's species, and newcomers could discover some inconsistencies upon pursuing extracurricular material in light of their blossoming love affairs with the Guardians. But the spirit of the heroes is very much alive in Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, ditto many of the features and TV series listed below. As such, embrace your affection for the oddball quintet and check out any and all works that will allow you more time with the gang. Here's where to begin:
Planet HulkStar-Lord and Gamora both appear in the 2010 direct-to-video animated film (which has been tossed around the Internet discussion boards as viable source material for upcoming Avengers movies), but without speaking parts.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest HeroesAiring on May 6, 2012 (funnily enough, the same weekend that The Avengers hit theaters), the animated series' episode "Michael Korvac" featured Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot as temporary foes of the series' heroes — a league including, at this point, Iron Man, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel — when a battle is waged over the capture/safety of the mysterious titular individual. In the episode, voice actors Steve Downes, Greg Ellis, and Troy Baker voice Star-Lord, Rocket, and Groot respectively.
Ultimate Spider-ManThe entire gang banded together (and with a pretty impressive team of vocie actors) for the animated series' aptly named July 2013 episode "Guardians of the Galaxy." The aforementioned Korvac returns as an intergalactic menace with an army of Chitauri, forcing Spider-Man to seek the assistance of the Guardians in the interest of his defeat. Star-Lord is voiced by Marvel regular Chris Cox, Gamora by comedian Nika Futterman, Drax by David Sobolov, Rocket by Billy West (the voice behind Doug Funnie and Futurama's Philip J. Fry), and Groot by the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
Avengers AssembleJust this past April, we got to see all five Guardians take center stage on this animated series' episode "Guardians and Space Knights." Iron Man leads the rest of the Avengers to a distant planet, where they and the Guardians of the Galaxy join forces to stop an impending attack from Galactus. Voice actors Chris Cox, Nika Futterman, and David Sobolov return; meanwhile, Rocket earns the familiar voice of actor and geek icon Seth Green, and Groot is portrayed by Kevin Michael Richardson.
Hulk Agents of S.M.A.S.H.An upcoming episode of the animated series will feature the whole gang back together again, with returning voice actors Cox, Futterman, Sobolov, Green, and Richardson.
And, for a bit of a throwback...
Silver Surfer Gamora makes a few appearances in this late '90s animated series, the first of which being in the two-part episode "Learning Curve," which also featured Drax the Destroyer... albeit a very different version: he was an android, and the servant to the Titanian leader Mentor. Together with Silver Surfer and his pal Pip, Drax helps to stop Thanos (hey, he's in the movie too!) from taking over the universe. Gamora would later show up in episodes "Antibody" and "Radical Justice." In this series, Drax is voiced by Noam Spencer and Gamora is voiced by Mary Long and Alison Sealy-Smith.
But before you check out any of these entries, see the film in theaters now!
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Despite being nowhere near the announced cast list for Judd Apatow's upcoming comedy Trainwreck, Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei were revealed to be a potential part of the film by way of some curious set photos from the New York City shoot. In the photos, Radcliffe and Tomei are seen covered under a blanket of poodles. Radcliffe is also shown walking a big group of dogs solo. If the two actors are, in fact, part of the movie they would join a seriously odd and wondrous cast that including the likes of Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller John Cena, and Barkhad Abdi.
Since we doubt that Mr. Radcliffe has morphed into some sort of crazy dog person in the ensuing years since the Harry Potter went on permanent recess, we're just going to ignore this little tweet from director Judd Apatow denying Radcliffe's involvement and assume that he's in the film, albeit in a small cameo role. Whatever Radcliffe's role in the film turns out to be, it looks hilarious, and the images of the actor corralling a half dozen dogs at a time are all so wonderfully caption-able, we couldn't help put take a stab at them with our best one-liners.
Getty Images/Steve Sands
“No, it’s okay. You just have to sing to them and they’ll calm down. I saw it in a movie once.”
Harry Potter had to take up dog walking after earning that useless Philosophy of Magic degree from Wizard State University.
“I don’t know why you expect me to control them; I think a few of these dogs are bigger than me!”
“I’m starting to rethink this whole ‘quit showbiz to become a dog walker and search for your inner happiness’ thing.”
"I'm not sure, but one of these may be my uncle."
“Get some dogs, they said. It’ll help you recover from the trauma of losing Sirius, they said. Don’t worry, they almost never trample you to death, they said.”
“…And then the spell must have ricocheted off of something, because everyone in the Gryffindor common room turned into a dog and Ron keeps terrorizing the hot dog carts and I don’t know what to do.”
Getty Images/Steve Sands
“What, you think I’m scared of a few dogs? I conquered the Dark Lord. I am invincible.”
“I mean, once you learn how to ride a dragon, other animals just don’t seem that intimidating anymore.”
"Lean Parseltounge at Hogwarts, they said. You'll never need to know Poodletounge, they said. The poodles will never attack… "
“Could Cripple Billy do this? No. No he could not.”
“You wanna start something? I’m Harry Potter, I will curse you into next week. I will command these poodles to lick you to death.”
“What? Have you seen rent prices recently? That Harry Potter money doesn’t cover everything.”
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
A long way from their little watched but brilliant animated MTV comedy Clone High, Phil Lord and Chris Miller have risen meteorically over the past few years, and have quickly become the brightest comedy duo in Hollywood. The two have been working together for nearly 20 years and have become masters of taking seemingly soulless adaptations and crafting smart and hilariously self-aware comedies. Only a few months after the release of The Lego Movie, the duo's latest, 22 Jump Street, is set to hit theaters on Friday. We got a chance to sit down with this symbiotic comedy writing/directing machine as they discuss the struggles of having two people and only one director's chair, how their particular college experiences made it into the film, and why the best jokes are the ones that not everyone gets.
Lord and Miller discuss the challenges of having two directors working on one film:
Phil Lord: "We’re both creative people. We both have a vision of how it should be. Things can’t always be exactly the same, and you have to have the humility to let it be the other guy’s idea sometimes."
Chris Miller: "It’s a big fear for an actor, that one of us is going to say one thing in one ear while the other is going to say the opposite in another and their brain is going to explode. We develop the scripts for a while, and we talk about the scenes a lot and we have a similar sensibility and the same goal for the movie. So when we come into a scene we’re pretty much aligned in what we want to get out of it. In the times where we have a disagreement about what we want to get out of a scene, that’s why you have multiple takes."
Lord: "It takes just as long to do another take [as] it does to argue about whether you should do another take. Just do one. And I trust this guy if he has something that he wants to do, we should just do it."
Miller: "Yeah, if one of us wants to get a sweeter version or a real wild version, you can figure it out in the editing room."
But sometimes there's trouble in paradise:
Lord: "We’ve had those moments, like, 'I’m going to lunch with someone else.'"
Miller: "We’re like brothers, where we fight and love each other and respect each other. We’ve had such a long history together. We’ve known each other for 20 years."
Lord: "Like many men, our strategy of working out our conflict is: get pissed off, walk away, and then never speak of it again."Miller: "Avoidance. It works!"
The directors discuss how they infuse their own personal brand of humor into their work, even if not everyone gets it:
Miller: "We find that we’re trying to make ourselves laugh. Some of that stuff that only a small percentage of the audience gets, it’s kind of fun if you’re one of the people that gets it. You’re part of the club, and if it goes by quickly and doesn’t sit there like it’s a big swing, then you can sort of get away with it. Sometimes we’ve tried things that are too obscure but were clearly attempts at jokes. And the audience didn’t respond, so we [took] them out ... It’s been our philosophy to not talk down to the audience."
The duo discusses their shared comedy touchstones in college:
Miller: "When we met, we had Harold and Maude, The Jerk, Billy Wilder, Young Frankenstein. We bonded over the same movies."Lord: "You don’t like Howard the Duck as much as I do."Miller: "This is true. See, there you go. We’re not exactly the same."
And how their own college hijinks inspired a party scene in the film:
Lord: "Well, we have the best pong-playing [scene] in the history of cinema. Or the most accurate, I should say. We had to teach Channing [Tatum] and Wyatt [Russell] how to play..."Miller: "Dartmouth style."Lord: "Very specific Dartmouth rules. Lob only, you gotta use paddles. None of this Beirut throwing nonsense. So we’re just off-screen playing in those shots."
Lena Dunham and Lord Of The Rings co-stars Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan have joined the stars paying tribute to Mickey Rooney after waking up to the news of his death. The TV and movie veteran passed away on Sunday (06Apr14), aged 93, and celebrities have been flocking to Twitter.com to pay their respects.
Girls star and creator Dunham writes, "Mickey Rooney got all the best babes despite being short as hell. #RIP beautiful man," while Wood adds, "A legend has passed. Rest in peace, Mickey Rooney," and Monaghan calls Rooney "one of the true originators, a trail blazer".
Other Hollywood stars waking up to the sad news on Monday (07Apr14) include Chloe Grace Moretz, Frozen star Josh Gad and Mia Farrow, who writes, "We can only be awed and grateful for so many great performances."
Alec Baldwin, Anne Rice and Billy Crystal were among the first stars to acknowledge Rooney's passing.
Flowers will be placed on one of his four Hollywood Walk of Fame stars at 11am local time in Los Angeles.
Lord Of The Rings stars Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd surprised tourists during a recent visit to New Zealand by serving up drinks at an inn inspired by the popular book series. The pals spent years in New Zealand filming the blockbuster trilogy, and decided to take a nostalgic trip back to Matamata, where locals have turned the movie set into a Lord of the Rings Mecca.
In an interview on U.S. talk show Big Morning Buzz Live on Monday (24Mar14), Monaghan admitted that he and Boyd decided to take advantage of their visit to the area, now dubbed Hobbiton, to play a trick on unsuspecting tourists.
Monaghan recalled, "We went back to New Zealand and had a great time. They have a legitimate Shire now, with Bag End and the Party Tree and you can go walk around and stuff.
"So we snuck into the Prancing Pony, which is the pub where all the hobbits drink, and we were serving behind the bar. So they like stopped all the tourists from coming in to set us up and then they came in and they were like, 'Wait, how is this working?' and we were like, 'Yeah, we just live here.'"
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
Cate Blanchett recently won her second Academy Award for her brilliant performance in Blue Jasmine , which means that a younger generation of moviegoers is becoming familiar with her work for the first time. Prior to this, Blanchett has been relatively absent from the film industry, devoting her time instead to the Sydney Theatre Company which she co-directed with her husband for six years. Moreover, most moviegoers recognize Blanchett for her brief appearances as Galadriel in the beloved The Lord of The Rings trilogy, or for her performances in more mainstream films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and The Aviator (2004), for which she won her first Academy Award as legendary actress Katharine Hepburn. All of this is fine, but Blanchett’s greatest performances can be found in lesser-known, independent films that mainstream audiences tend to overlook. Below is a list of 10 of these performances to remind us once again why Blanchett is one of the most captivating screen actresses of our time.
1. Jude in I’m Not There. (2007)
In Todd Haynes’ wildly inventive “biopic” of Bob Dylan, Blanchett owns the film as a version of the musician during his electric years. Since the film isn’t told in a linear fashion, audiences didn’t bother to see it, but within seconds it becomes clear that Blanchett is the only performer — male or female — who could have played this role.
2. Philippa in Heaven (2002)
Blanchett is a revelation as a woman who is arrested for terrorist acts and subsequently falls in love with the officer (Giovanni Ribisi) who is supposed to look after her while in a holding cell. Heaven begins as a thriller and ends as one of the most romantic films ever made, with Blanchett taking the audience on this riveting journey every step of the way
3. Sheba Hart in Notes on a Scandal (2006)
Blanchett goes toe-to-toe with acting legend Judi Dench in this taut psychological drama about a teacher (Blanchett) who has an affair with a student and is found out by one of the senior teachers (Dench) at the school. Few films are as impeccably acted as this, and during the film’s intense, climactic showdown, Blanchett shows a side of herself that audiences haven’t seen since.
4. Cate and Shelly in Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
Coffee and Cigarettes is an anthology film by Jim Jarmusch, and in one of the vignettes entitled “Cousins,” Blanchett stars opposite herself as both Cate and Shelly, two wildly different cousins who reunite over a cup of coffee. Not much happens here, except that we are shown Blanchett’s incredible range as she inhabits both of these characters with equal skill. Who else can pull something like this off and yet make it so watchable and believable?
5. Tracy in Little Fish (2005)
Blanchett is riveting as a drug addict struggling to rebuild her life in this excellent Australian drama. Those who marveled at Blanchett’s ability to confront addiction head-on in Blue Jasmine might be surprised to find that she’s just as fierce in Little Fish, a film that might have earned her a Best Actress Academy Award if it were more popular in the United States.
6. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray (2001)
Blanchett is lovely as a young Scottish woman who joins the French Resistance during WWII to find her boyfriend who is lost in France. Director Gillian Armstrong is known for her beautiful restraint, and Blanchett matches her with a performance that feels so authentic we almost forget she’s acting at all.
7. Kate Wheeler in Bandits (2001)
Who knew Blanchett could be so funny? Bandits is a ridiculous caper that stars Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis as two bank robbers who kidnap Blanchett and fall in love with her. Unlike Heaven, which is somber and serious, Bandits is a playful romp. For those who admired Jennifer Lawrence’s “Live and Let Die” moment in American Hustle, remember that Blanchett did it years ago while dancing to “I Need a Hero” in this film.
8. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin (2003)
In this true story, Blanchett plays Veronica Guerin, an Irish journalist who was murdered by drug dealers when she exposed their crimes in her articles. This is a heartbreaking tale about an ordinary hero, and Blanchett’s riveting turn pays proper homage to Guerin while simultaneously allowing her legacy to live on in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to who watch this courageous film.
9. Petal Barr in The Shipping News (2001)
The Shipping News isn’t a great movie, but it is worth mentioning for Blanchett’s scene-stealing turn as Kevin Spacey’s reckless lover who leaves him in the beginning of the movie. Her part is small, but she makes an undeniable impact, and shows how she can make the most of even the slightest roles. For the few scenes she’s in, Blanchett makes us feel like we’ve been with this character forever.
10. Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth (1998)
One of the biggest injustices in Academy Awards history is when Gwyneth Paltrow won the Best Actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in the same year that Blanchett gave us her rendition of a young Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth, one of the finest lead performances in the history of cinema. Paltrow is fine, but Blanchett’s work in this film is in a class by itself. This is the one that started it all.
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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