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'The Hobbit': The story behind Neil Finn's dwarvish end credits tune, 'Song of the Lonely Mountain'

The films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy left its audiences on the note of three ethereal women’s voices, including Annie Lennox, who earned Return of the King one of its 11 Oscars. Now as director Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with the dwarf-packed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the voice of New Zealand musician Neil Finn serenades the audience when its final frame fades to black.

“The story is very much a dwarf tale as much as it is called The Hobbit,” says Finn, who sings “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” the majestic and epic yet intimate and warm ballad of the dwarves that closes out the first film of Jackson’s new trilogy.

“Song of the Lonely Mountain” shares its melody with “Misty Mountains,” a tune heard earlier in the film that the 13 dwarves bellow in solemn baritone before setting out on their quest with Bilbo Baggins. New Zealand artists Plan 9 and David Long, who wrote and performed songs in The Lord of the Rings, brought their talents again to The Hobbit, setting J.R.R. Tolkien’s verse to music for “Misty Mountains.” The melody also appears in Howard Shore’s score, where it is brought to even greater heights with a stately brass section. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'The Hobbit' breaks December record with $84.8 million weekend

Bilbo-Baggins

As expected, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, crushed the competition at the box office in its debut weekend, setting a new December record in the process.

The Middle-earth-set film grossed $84.8 million over its first three days, handily surpassing I Am Legend‘s $77.2 million bow, which has held the record for best December debut since 2007. The Hobbit earned that $84.8 million from 4,045 theaters, giving it a powerful $20,958 per theater average. Included in that theater count were 326 IMAX locations, which accounted for $10.1 million of the weekend gross, as well as 461 locations that showed the film in the controversial 48 frames per second rate — those screenings, thankfully, had no surcharge. About 49 percent of The Hobbit‘s weekend take came from 3-D showings.

All told, The Hobbit‘s debut weekend was obviously strong, but it must be said that it finished at the low end of pre-release expectations, most of which had the film earning more than $100 million in its debut frame. The Hobbit, the first in a trilogy produced by New Line and MGM (with Warner Bros. distributing) for a reported $600 million, earned $37.5 million on Friday, yet it only managed an internal multiplier (that’s weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.25 — a very low number that signifies front-loaded performance. Judging by The Hobbit‘s 25 percent plummet on Saturday, it appears that the Tolkien faithful rushed out for the film early in the weekend. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'The Hobbit' walks away with $37.5 million on Friday

UNEXPECTED-JOURNEY

We already knew that The Hobbit earned a whopping $13.0 million during midnight showings, but over the course of its first full day in theaters the film took in an estimated $37.5 million, the highest gross ever for a December opening day.

The next best December bow was also of the Middle-earth variety – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King grossed $34.5 million on its opening day, a Wednesday, in 2003. Notably, The Hobbit sold fewer tickets on its opening day than Return of the King, but its gross was higher because of ticket price inflation and 3-D/IMAX surcharges. Still, huge is huge — and The Hobbit is headed for a mammoth debut. READ FULL STORY

Movie Talk with Owen & Lisa -- A 'small movie' called 'The Hobbit'

In the latest edition of “Movie Talk with Owen & Lisa,” EW critics Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum discuss “a small movie called The Hobbit.” Back in the days of The Lord of the Rings, Lisa was the Tolkien devotee, and Owen the appreciative not-quite-a-fan. Have their perspectives changed with the latest cinematic return to Middle Earth? Watch their full discussion below. READ FULL STORY

Tolkien class at Marquette University proves popular

The vast collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts initially sold senior Joe Kirchoff on Marquette University, so when the school offered its first course devoted exclusively to the English author, Kirchoff wanted in. The only problem: It was full and he wasn’t on the literature track.

Undaunted, the 22-year-old political science and history major lobbied the English department and others starting last spring and through the summer and “kind of just made myself a problem,” he said. His persistence paid off.

“It’s a fantastic course,” said Kirchoff, a Chicago native. “It’s a great way to look at something that’s such a creative work of genius in such a way you really come to understand the man behind it.”

He and the 31 other students can now boast of their authority about the author who influenced much of today’s high fantasy writing. The course was taught for the first time this fall as part of the university’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit being published. And class wrapped up just before the film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was released Friday. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'The Hobbit' will make a very expected journey to No. 1

Bilbo-Baggins

After two dreadful weekends at the box office, Gandalf, Bilbo, and a whole motley crew of dwarves have come to the film industry’s rescue — and not even the dragon Smaug will be able to keep them from grabbing a whole lot of treasure.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first entry in a trilogy produced by Warner Bros. (and technically MGM as well) for a reported $600 million, arrives in theaters nine years after the original Lord of the Rings franchise concluded. Those three Lord of the Rings films opened over this same weekend in Dec. 2001, 2002 and 2003, grossing $47.2 million, $62.0 million, and $72.6 million in their respective debut weekends, and all three eventually earned over $300 million domestically. Because the series was so well-received from the very beginning, each subsequent release performed better than its predecessor, and the final entry, The Return of the King, topped out with $377 million domestically and $1.1 billion worldwide — not to mention an Academy Award for Best Picture.

After nearly a decade of waiting — during which the LOTR series was devoured voraciously on DVD — The Hobbit, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel to the LOTR series, is now poised to maintain the franchise’s box office vitality, at least on opening weekend. The Hobbit will almost certainly continue the trend of rising opening weekend grosses. The question is now how high it can climb. READ FULL STORY

Why is every superhero movie an origin story?

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The title of the movie might be Man of Steel, but the star of the latest clip from Zack Snyder’s franchise reboot isn’t actually Superman. It’s Clark Kent, the alien boy who grows up to be a (hipster-bearded!) man, learning along the way some tough lessons about power, responsibility, and the cost-benefit bottom line of using his super strength to save all his schoolmates from a submerged bus. Which makes it official: Man of Steel isn’t just going to be another superhero movie. It’s going to be everyone’s — yours, mine, Hollywood’s — favorite kind of superhero movie: an origin story.

Why exactly do we love watching our favorite heroes begin again (and again)? Do we get some kind of parental joy from seeing their tall-building-spanning baby steps? Were scientists right about the Twitterfication of our attention spans? Maybe, but there’s also a deeper-seated reason: creation stories show the exact moment when a normal guy goes from being Just Like Us to being somehow better, faster, stronger. It’s the bridge between the relatable and aspirational parts of the hero myth. It’s also a handy way for filmmakers to pay their dues to a brand’s fan base (“See? I know my stuff!”) before sending its character off on a splashy villain-fighting quest that might diverge wildly from anything in the sacred comic book canon.

And so, having found that origin stories are a handy narrative tool for kicking off a franchise, Hollywood decided that every superhero movie should be an origin story, dropping our spandex icons into a Groundhog Day loop of childhood traumas, first kisses, and clumsy jumps off high roofs. The intro portion that used to take 10 minutes at the beginning of a movie is now filling entire movies — franchises, even. READ FULL STORY

Judge blocks release of low-budget mockbuster 'Age of the Hobbits'

One hobbit will rule them all—for now, at least. A California federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring the release of Age of the Hobbits, a low-budget straight-to-video release from an independent film production company called The Asylum that was slated for release on Tuesday, just days before the opening of director Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Warner Bros., New Line, MGM, and Hobbit producer Saul Zaentz filed suit against The Asylum last month, charging that the company was trying to infringe on their copyrights and confuse consumers with its film.

In response, The Asylum contended that Age of the Hobbits has nothing to do with the world of J.R.R. Tolkien but is, in fact, an action-adventure film about the pre-human hominid species homo floresiensis, which has been nicknamed “hobbits” in scientific literature—an argument that, as he wrote in his ruling, the judge found “disingenuous.”
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First look at 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' -- EXCLUSIVE

With the Dec. 14 opening of the first installment of director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, subtitled An Unexpected Journey, only days away, rabid J.R.R. Tolkien fans are already looking ahead and speculating about how the story will play out over the two films that’ll follow. Well, here’s a big clue. In this exclusive first image from the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, in theaters Dec. 13, 2013, we see Bilbo Baggins going for the gold. To be more exact, we see Martin Freeman’s reluctant hobbit hero splayed out on a massive pile of treasure, looking up in hobbit-y alarm at what we can probably safely assume is an enormous and not very happy fire-breathing dragon named Smaug.
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First look at Orlando Bloom in 'The Hobbit: There and Back Again' -- EXCLUSIVE

When the second and third installments of the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug (out Dec. 13, 2013) and There and Back Again (out July 18, 2014), arrive in theaters, we’ll encounter some familiar faces as well as some new ones as Bilbo and the dwarves continue their perilous journey to the Lonely Mountain, home of the dragon Smaug. One familiar face will be Orlando Bloom’s elf Legolas (pictured here in a shot from There and Back Again — click to enlarge), a major character in the Rings trilogy but one not mentioned in the Hobbit book.

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