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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

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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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'The Hobbit' score: Howard Shore welcomes you back to Middle-earth -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

When fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy return to Middle-earth for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s earlier book, there will be plenty of familiar sights and sounds. Ian McKellen’s Gandalf plays a major role in this adventure, of course, and a few other favorite actors from LOTR return as well. But it’s the music that immediately washes over the audience like a warm blanket and reminds them that they’re “home” again. Composer Howard Shore, who won three Academy Awards for his work on the previous films, has weaved the now iconic “Concerning Hobbits” melody throughout the new film while expanding upon Middle-earth’s musical palette. “The Hobbit is a more gentle story than Lord of the Rings,” says Shore, in an exclusive video about the making of the film’s music, recorded by his wife, Elizabeth. “I always begin working with the book, the words, the most important thing.”

A lifelong Tolkien enthusiast, Shore revisits the books almost daily, and he often plotted the music as he read. That literary connection, in addition to his deep relationship with nature, helped create the musical fabric that has become so synonymous with Jackson’s films. “I just try to capture the spirit of each scene,” he explains.

Watch the clip below, which also shows him working with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at historic Abbey Road Studios. “More chaos,” he demands of his musicians at one point. “More, more terror. READ FULL STORY

'The Hobbit': Peter Jackson on Oscar chances -- INTERVIEW + 6 MOVIE CLIPS

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There’s a scene in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in which our heroes are swarmed by a goblin horde and carried away to face uncertain judgment.

That’s also what happened to Peter Jackson last night at one of the first major awards screenings of the film, with Academy voters, guild members, and press clawing and clamoring for his attention during a pre-movie reception at the Landmark Theater in west Los Angeles.

Soon afterward, the same group would be passing sentence on the film — both in reviews and the awards race.

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'The Hobbit' premiere: New Zealand fans get first peek at Peter Jackson's epic

Wearing elf ears and wizard hats, sitting atop their dad’s shoulders or peering from balconies, tens of thousands of New Zealanders watched their favorite Hobbit actors walk the red carpet Wednesday at the film trilogy’s hometown premiere.

An Air New Zealand plane freshly painted with Hobbit characters flew low over Wellington’s Embassy Theatre, eliciting roars of approval from the crowd.

Sam Rashidmardani, 12, said he came to see Gollum actor Andy Serkis walk the red carpet — and he wasn’t disappointed. “It was amazing,” Rashidmardani said of the evening, adding his Gollum impression: “My precious.”

British actor Martin Freeman, who brings comedic timing to the lead role of Bilbo Baggins, said he thought director Peter Jackson had done a fantastic job on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “He’s done it again,” Freeman said in an interview on the red carpet. “If it’s possible, it’s probably even better than The Lord of the Rings. I think he’s surpassed it.” READ FULL STORY

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