10 Favorite Things about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Much has been debated about whether or not it’s a good idea that The Hobbit gets the same trilogy treatment as The Lord of the Rings trilogy when there is only one book being adapted. Now, I actually didn’t mind it and given how much I adore the Middle Earth universe, I welcome the extended film adaptation.

My interest in these movies increased tenfold when the casting was announced. It’s chock-full of my favorite actors, with Richard Armitage topping that list, then Lee Pace, Luke Evans, the BBC Sherlock duo Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, and of course the LOTR veteran Ian McKellen back as Gandalf. All of them did a wonderful job bringing their respective characters to life. Heck I even like Orlando Bloom as Legolas, I’m not fond of him as an actor but I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.

So here are 10 things I love about the second part of The Hobbit trilogy:

10. The livelier pace
Right of the bat, the film feels more energetic as we finally get to the quest in question. There’s a bit of a flashback scene with Thorin and Gandalf that sets everything up, and since it features my favorite Brit Richard Armitage, I certainly welcome this intro ;)

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There are half a dozen major action-packed sequences that really genuinely thrilling, so despite some slower moments, the 161-min running time still feels like a breeze. There is even more sense of urgency to get to Erebor and it definitely makes me even more eager to finally get there myself.


9. The fantastic special effects and set pieces
The technological wizardry is what you’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson movies. As I’ve posted the film production trivia a few days ago, you’ll see that it took a bazillion production workers nd extras, as well as props, prosthetics, sets etc. to bring the Tolkien universe to life. But it’s the endless imagination of PJ and his crews that really makes these films such a fun escapist experience. Ok so there are some sequences that look digitally animated but with a fantasy film like this, it certainly comes with the territory. I’ve also gotten used to seeing it in 3D High Frame Rate(48Frames/Second) and I have to say I enjoyed it even more this time around.

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I even enjoyed the Spider attack scene in the forest though the amazing details on those giant spiders did give me the heebie-jeebies! There are so much details to creating each character and creature, as well as the new settings such as Lake Town and the dwarves kingdom of Erebor that virtually transport you to Middle Earth.

8. The adventure in Lake-town
The addition of Luke Evans as Bard definitely adds more excitement to the story and there’s more adventure in store for Thorin & co. even just getting into the fictitious community of Men upon the Long Lake.

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They took a chance with Bard, not knowing if he’d betray him, so it adds to the suspense. It also features one of the funniest bits of the movie, which is a great continuation from the wine barrel escape (more on that later). There’s also some fun scene with always amusing Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, as well as some action packed sequence involving the Orcs and Elves. The town itself is beautiful to look at, apparently Peter Jackson and his crew built about 40 buildings on caster to make up the town.

7. The strong link to the Lord of the Rings story
Gandalf is separated from Bilbo and the Dwarf group this time around, working with his fellow wizard Radagast to get to The Dol Guldur. Inside the ruins is the creepiest sequence of all the film as Gandalf had to confront the Necromancer (once again voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

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The terrifying eye of Sauron once again makes an appearance, establishing just what is REALLY at stake beyond the quest involving the Dwarves getting their gold back from a dragon. The duel between Gandalf vs. Necromancer reminds me a bit of the scene where he fought the Balrog creature in an epic battle in which he fell down the Bridge. There’s something so sinister seeing an imprisoned Gandalf watch the Orc army marching off towards the Lonely Mountain and he can’t stop them.

6. The awesomely bad-ass Elves
I always like the elves from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but here, led by Legolas and the Woodland Elf Tauriel. She’s not in the book so I think purists might have a different opinion about her (and Legolas appearing in The Hobbit), but I quite like Evangeline Lily as the warrior Elven princess. As the head of the Elven guard, she’s definitely as bad ass as Legolas, who’s even more swift and agile with his bow and arrows. They both move at breakneck speed as they fight the Orcs, yet there’s something so graceful and elegant about their moves that are so fun to watch. There’s an interesting dynamic between Legolas and Tauriel, hinting at a romance between the two (though seems like Tauriel has more of a thing with Thorin’s nephew Kili, played by the gorgeous Aidan Turner, in this movie).

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One of my favorite scenes from the LOTR trilogy are those set in the ethereal Rivendell, now in this sequel, we’re taken to where the Wood-elves and its leader Thranduil live. I always enjoy the long shot of the lush and beautiful vista of the Elves’ dwelling place. Lee Pace‘s Thranduil has a bit more to do in this sequel, as there are memorable exchanges with Thorin as well as with his son Legolas.

5. Finally getting to Erebor
At the end of the first movie, when everyone was at the top of the large rock and saw the Lonely Mountain in the distance, I remember how I couldn’t wait for the gang to finally reach it. Well, it was so worth the wait!

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There’s something so emotional about the sequence when they finally reach that abandoned palace. It’s apparent that Bilbo and the band of Dwarfs are so weary after such a long journey, both physically and emotionally, so it’s such a huge joy to see them finally reaching their destination. Bilbo once again saves the day and we get to live vicariously through him as his REAL adventure begins as he reach the mountain of gold and jewels… and finally having to face the Dwarves’ arch nemesis!


4. Thorin! Thorin! Thorin!
It’s no surprise that I have a special fondness for Richard Armitage‘s character, but really, can you blame me? It’s one of the best casting choice in The Hobbit, a close second after Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Armitage has even more to do here (yay!) and he sure delivers with stately gravitas. Armitage didn’t sing again here, but he gets to showcase his thunderous deep voice of his in several occasions,  especially in the scene in Lake-town when he appeals to the Master and the people of the town about his quest. I also love that he gets to show his range here as an actor, obviously displaying leading-man charisma but also a certain vulnerability and even tenderness.

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There’s an emotional scene as the gang reaches Erebor, starting with indescribable joy that soon turns to grave disappointment. Thorin displays one of his rare smiles, he’s actually grinning ear to ear at the possibility of finally entering his palace once more, but within minutes we see how his high spirits quickly leaves him. It’s all on display on his expressive face as the camera zooms in on him. His humanity is palpable, here we really see Thorin as not just a leader on a mission, but a man on a very personal journey that means everything to him and the people he loves.


3. The Wine Barrel scene
There’s been many discussions of this escape sequence in many interviews and boy, it definitely lives up to the hype!! If you don’t remember anything about this film, you’d likely remember this one. The scene of getting into the barrel itself is a hoot, which was big enough to fit a couple of Dwarves (well one for the extremely obese Bombur). Once they get to the Celduin river, all hell break lose!

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It’s such a huge rush to watch this scene, no wonder filming this seems to be the most memorable for the cast involved! Not only do they have to survive being bounced around in the river, which runs from the Lonely Mountain south through the Long Lake with some fierce streams, they also have to battle the ugly and vicious Orcs (or Goblins as known in the Hobbit books). The fight scenes involving the three different races (Goblins, Elves and Dwarves) along that river are relentless and exciting, definitely one of the most exhilarating action sequences of the year.


2. Bilbo the hero
What I appreciate most about this film is that each challenges Bilbo, Thorin and the gang encounter built on their character. I think Bilbo’s character arc is even more fleshed out. He told Gandalf that he’s found his courage and though it was told as an alibi, he’s certainly not lying as he’s evolved to be a brave fighter of his own right. The way he rescued the dwarves from the giant spiders show his growing strength and deftness with the sword, but my favorite part is his scene in Erebor.

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He still has his whimsy intact, which makes me love Martin Freeman‘s casting even more. The way he moves and all his nervous gestures are part of his charms and why it’s so effortless to root for him. His zany-ness makes for pure comedic gold, even when he’s literally surrounded by gold trying to find the Arkenstone, which is like finding needle in a haystack!
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1. Smaug
The mythical dragon is everything it’s cracked up to be and more! When Bilbo inevitably wakes him up with all the ruckus, it turns out the lonely dragon is one chatty giant lizard. I guess he’s been all alone for so long with nobody to talk to that he simply can’t shut up, ahah. Benedict Cumberbatch did some motion capture on top of just providing the voice of Smaug, which gives it such a lifelike realism to the creature.

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We get to see every bit of Smaug in its glorious detail from head to toe, which is all kinds of awesome. He’s slithering about tormenting Bilbo with his enormous presence, but it’s the banter between the two that I enjoy the most. It’s dramatic as well as hilarious that I wish the Smaug sequence could’ve been longer! Nice to see the BBC Sherlock duo together again, Cumberbatch’s wit and that iconic voice certainly creates enough of a presence that it was fun to see him interact with Martin Freeman.

The final confrontation with Thorin & co. is thrilling as they’re trying to outwit and outmaneuver the sly Smaug. With Gandalf being away facing off against an even darker power of evil, Bilbo and the Dwarves are pretty much on their own. “If this is to end in fire, then we will all burn together,” Thorin proclaims defiantly, and the fight in Erebor is certainly a fiery one.

I really enjoyed the Smaug sequences that when he flew away and the closing credits came on, I felt like it was a tad too soon!


Kili (Aidan Turner)

Kili (Aidan Turner)

Now, I wish I could give this film a 5/5 but there are some REALLY slow moments that I feel grounds the film to a halt. One scene in particular is the lengthy flirty banter between Tauriel and Kili. Now, as Tauriel isn’t even in the book, I can”t imagine that scene is crucial to the story. It’s also odd given that there was much talk about Tauriel & Legolas romance that we barely see. Kili gets a lot more screen time in this film, so I’m curious about his character arc in the final installment.

Overall, it’s a great follow-up of an epic journey. The ending promises that even more lives are at stake in Middle Earth with Smaug being unleashed. Boy I’m even more eager to see the final film.

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4 out of 5 reels

So what do you think of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Counting down to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Finally the wait is almost over! The movie opens here next Friday but I don’t have to wait much longer as I’ll be seeing it tomorrow night! :D

I quite enjoyed the first movie [read my top 10 list why I think it was a worthwhile journey] and I’m one of the few people who actually don’t mind seeing The Hobbit extended in three films as I just love the Middle Earth universe, especially filled with my favorite actors! Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, oh my!

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Some of the ensemble cast at the L.A. premiere earlier this week

Well, just for fun, here are some interesting trivia and fun marketing campaign:

BY THE NUMBERS

1 Hobbit – Bilbo Baggins

1 Dragon – Smaug

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1 Crew member whose sole job on set was to look after prosthetic hands

1 Elvenking – Thranduil

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2.5 Number of years the textures department at Weta Digital worked on Smaug’s skin

2 Wizards – Gandalf and Radagast

3 Number of children belonging to Bard

3 Films in the Trilogy

4 Inches that 15-year-old actor John Bell (Bain) grew over the length of production

4 Tons of silicon used to generate the facial prosthetics

5 Hours to complete hair, make-up, prosthetics and wardrobe for each of the 13 Dwarves

5 Average number of doubles used for each main character, including scale, stunt and riding doubles

6 Number of weeks it took to build Beorn’s house

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7 km Length of toupe tape used to attach beards to faces

8 Legs on the giant Spiders infesting Mirkwood Forest

9 Weeks of location filming on the Trilogy

10kg Human hair for wigmaking

104 Average days it took to renew a studio with a new set

13 Dwarves – Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Bofur, Bombur, Bifur, Oin, Gloin, Dori, Nori and Ori

13 Empty wine barrels in which the Dwarves escape Thranduil’s Realm

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14 Tons of silicone used to mold all of the armor and weapons for all cultures

26 Average days shooting on a single set

32 Polystyrene trees, used in various configurations, to make the Mirkwood set

40 Buildings on casters that make up the Lake-town set

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48fps Higher frame rate used for the Trilogy

60 2nd unit studio crew

65 Number of people it took—including actors, doubles and stunt men—to portray 13 Dwarves

80 The age of the oldest vintage microphone used to record the score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

88 Microphones used in the film’s scoring session

91 Wigs created for the Dwarves

94 Set models created for the Trilogy

95 Number of musicians in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recording the film’s score

99 Number of studio sets built for the Trilogy

100+ Hobbit feet for Bilbo

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Even Smaug couldn’t resist Bilbo’s feet! [Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman on set]

Check out this hilarious Yahoo! video Guess the Feet, too bad I can’t embed it directly to this post, but trust me, it’s a hoot!

100 Total 2nd unit location crew

100 Total costume department crew

115 Number of drivers needed to transport the cast and crew to New Zealand locations

250+ Approximate population of the Trilogy’s art department

263 Beards made for the production

300 Bottles of spirit gum used in the production

350 Off-set crew

400 Costumes created for Lake-town

450 Main unit studio crew

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547 Traveling weapons for the 13 Dwarves

800 Crew traveling on location between two units

860 Bottles of isopropyl alcohol used to remove prosthetics

752 Wigs. Nearly everyone in the film is wigged

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1200 ‘Extras’ that needed to be cast for the Trilogy

2000 Hand-spun goblets created for Smaug’s Lair

3000 Props recorded in the furniture catalogue for Lake-town

5000+ Approximate population of Lake-town

8900 Approximate number of continuous hours the art department worked to build, decorate, and tear down sets. This involved different crews working 24/7

11,862 Prosthetics made for the Trilogy

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140,000+ Cups of coffee made by craft services throughout production

170,000 Punched aluminum gold plated coins trickled over Smaug’s Lair

Air New Zealand

This was released in mid November along with a contest to win a 5 night trip for two to Middle-earth itself! Oh man, that would’ve been sweet! That’s one of the dream places I’d love to visit, hopefully someday I could make it there as well as visit my dear aunt in Sydney, Australia!

Here in Middle-earth, everyday tasks can reveal out of this world surprises and before you know it everything can turn a bit Hobbit-shaped.

And one of my favorites about Peter Jackson‘s films are the plethora of video blogs and behind-the-scenes footage he readily share to his fans. Here’s the latest Production Diary which focuses on filming with Smaug the Dragon. Now I could watch an entire video just on Benedict Cumberbatch on set:


And here’s a 13-minute video of filming, I wish there are more specifically on the Barrel escape scene!

Well, the reviews I’ve been reading so far has been positive, so I’m even more excited about it than ever. I LOVE the world of Middle Earth so I really can’t wait to go back and be immersed in that universe once again!


Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Thoughts on The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug?

Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi thriller ELYSIUM’s Poster & Trailer Spotlight

Boy oh boy! I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite some time now. In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge fan of District 9 which was a surprise to me as I didn’t even know much about it when I saw it on the big screen. Well, it’s been over three years since I saw that film and finally, South African director Neill Blomkamp and actor Sharlto Copley are re-teaming for another sci-fi thriller.

I was kind of hoping that Copley would have the leading role this time around, but I understand that with a much-bigger budget, they’d need a movie star. So we’ve got Matt Damon in the lead instead. Check out the awesome poster of him with all that robotic stuff attached all over his body!

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I originally thought this was a follow-up to District 9, as I’ve outlined on my Upcoming Flix Spotlight post a year ago. But now it’s clear that this film has a new storyline that’s not related to D-9 universe, though it still carries a similar social issue theme. Now, this film was first scheduled for release in March before being pushed back to August. I don’t think it’s a sign of trouble though, I think that’d give Blomkamp to release some viral marketing for it like he did for D-9 which was a smart move.

Now finally, a trailer!!


WHOAH!! I’m even more intrigued now after seeing this. I really like the look of this and the apocalyptic story looks very promising and thought provoking, with all the visual and thematic elements every sci-fi lovers would love. Blomkamp is working again with Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital so it’s to be expected that the special effect is going to rock! Even right off the bat, I like the stark contrast between the perfect world of the Elysium space station and the left-behind slum that is the Earth. I read that Blomkamp shot the Earth footage in Mexico City, and everything on Elysium in Vancouver.

Per IGN, like Blomkamp’s previous film, this one has a similarly impoverished and segregated society, but this time along economic lines rather than species. Where District 9 was a sci-fi allegory for racism, Elysium is about economic disparity.

In the year 2159, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes, a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

Here are four more details I learned from this HitFix article, which summarized the SONY press preview event in L.A. with Blomkamp, Copley and producer Simon Kinberg:

  • Damon’s character is Max, an ex-con who’s working a factory job on Earth. A radiation leak prompted him to be cast off by the authoritarian government. He knows the only way to get rid of the toxic radiation is in Elysium, and he has to find a way to get there.
  • The robotic stuff on his body, and that data port on his head is the result of self-modification Max did as a mechanism to hijack security information from an Elysium citizen.
  • Sharlto Copley plays the bad guy, Kruger. He is an Elysium operative who lives on Earth, waiting to be activated. When an attack on an Elysium citizen occurs, he gets the signal.
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  • Jodie Foster plays a Senator, as Foster herself described in Movieline as “… the person who controls who gets to come in [to Elysium] and who doesn’t. She’s methodical, her antagonism has a point.” She also mentions that Elysium is an international place, as its residents comes from all over the earth.
  • Blomkamp said that 2/3 of the film would take place on earth and 1/3 in Elysium to emphasize further that the space station is truly a fantastical place every human being aspire to live in.

Elysium is out in theaters on August 9, 2013. I can hardly wait!


On a related note, two years ago, I wrote this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama pitch where some humans live in another planet whilst the remaining earth population struggle to survive.
Check it out and let me know what you think :D


Are you as stoked as I am about this one? What do you think of the trailer?

10 reasons The Hobbit is a worthwhile journey

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I saw The Hobbit twice already, the first time on an advanced screening before my vacation and the second time this past weekend. I enjoyed it both times, perhaps a bit more the second time around. Despite the 2 hrs 44 minutes running time, I find it to be thoroughly enjoyable. That’s not to say that I didn’t think the length was perfect, I think there are indeed some scenes that could’ve been edited out, especially some of the battle scenes. But no, I did not find it to be as problematic as critics made it out to be. It’s worth noting that I have NOT read the book so I have no complain about the extra scenes, either.

So here are ten reasons why I’m glad to be back to Middle Earth once again:

1. The world that Tolkien built... and the classic tale of good vs. evil. I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed this movie so much is that I LOVE this fantasy world, the story and its wisdom. There’s an underlying message of hope, courage and love that’s worth revisiting again and again. I’ve loved the characters in the Lord of the Rings, and I also feel a connection with the main characters of The Hobbit. (See #9)

2. The dazzling visuals … The technological wizardry enables us to experience the journey as if we’re actually there inside Bilbo’s house, or in the woods spying on Thorin & co. I saw this movie both times in the High Frame Rate (48Frames/Second) Digital 3D format (NOT the IMAX version) and I have no qualms about it. Yes it’s so crisp that it looks like watching a show on HDTV but after a while, your eyes adjust to it and I’ve come to appreciate the clarity of every little detail and the smoothness of the fast-moving action scenes. It’s such a meticulously-crafted universe, from the interior of Bilbo’s house in the Shire to the ever-so-ethereal Rivendell, which was as majestic as I had remembered it in LOTR.

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It’s obvious this movie is a labor of love for Peter Jackson and it shows. The sweeping cinematography is one to behold, it was a welcome return to the visually mesmerizing world of Middle Earth.

3. Martin Freeman as Bilbo … I’m so glad that PJ was set on casting Freeman, even to the point of reworking the entire shooting schedule (due to the BBC’s Sherlock‘s scheduling conflict) for the Hobbit films to accommodate him. I think his casting is integral to the success of the movie and his personal journey is a joy to watch. Freeman is exactly what I’d imagine the young Bilbo would be. His bumbling mannerism, the way he constantly doubts himself, and his lack of vanity are all what I love about this character. Freeman plays the heroic ‘everyman’ so perfectly, I absolutely can’t imagine anyone else in this role.


TheHobbit_Thorin4. Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield… I was thrilled when I first heard that one of my favorite Brits got a major role in The Hobbit! The English actor definitely has the right look (despite his 6’2″ stature) and sensibility as the Aragorn-like leader of the pack. As the son of the slain Dwarf king and heir of Erebor Kingdom, he’s naturally got a sullen demeanor and a fierce determination to take back his stolen homeland destroyed by Smaug the Dragon. Armitage’s got a mean (read: irresistible) glower which PJ made the most of throughout the movie. Even underneath all that beard and dwarf costume, he’s still so darn hunky. Oh and that deep voice! I sure hope there’s another singing sequence in the 2nd and 3rd movies ;)

5. The Lord of the Rings nostalgia … It’s a good thing that PJ came back to direct this movie as it’s got all the ingredients and the vibe I’ve come to appreciate about the LOTR franchise. I also LOVE seeing the characters from the trilogy reappearing here, Frodo, Lord Elrod, Saruman and especially Galadriel and Gandalf. I’ve missed seeing Cate Blanchett on screen so it was nice to see her even in her brief scenes. Ian McKellen is fantastic as usual as the wise Gandalf the Grey. His chemistry with Bilbo is especially heartfelt, Gandalf truly believes in him despite what Thorin thinks about having him around in their quest.

6. The riddle scene of Gollum and Bilbo … Easily the main highlight of the movie for me. Andy Serkis is such a mo-cap virtuoso and Gollum is even more life like than ever before. His bulging blue eyes are ever-so-expressive, it’s especially amusing when he’s frustrated trying to come up with an answer for a riddle. He’s terrifyingly creepy but yet you can’t help but feeling sorry for the poor soul when he lost his ‘precious’ one. An iconic character that never wears out its welcome.

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7. Howard Shore’s gorgeous music … it evokes the lush sound of LOTR and I love that it plays the same theme when certain scenes are revisited, such as when the ring shows up. But yet it’s got its own distinct theme that is unique for The Hobbit. The melody from the song played in Bilbo’s house you heard in the trailer is played throughout. It sounds so beautifully melancholic as a song, but it’s got a lively energy when played during some of the dynamic action scenes.

8. The merry band of dwarves (I purposely use the Tolkien spelling here)The Hobbit is decidedly more lighthearted than the LOTR trilogy, though it still carries a profound message of good vs evil. In the first viewing I felt that the introduction of the Dwarves and the huge dinner party at Bilbo’s house went on a bit too long. But on second viewing I actually enjoyed it a lot more. Their colorful personality offers a stark contrast to the reclusive Bilbo and their angst-y leader Thorin. Radagast the Brown, one of Gandalf’s fellow Wizards, is amusingly quirky as well.

9. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth – Matthew 5:5

Galadriel: Mithrandir, why the halfling?

Gandalf: Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That’s because I am afraid and it gives me courage.

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I LOVE Gandalf answer. Bilbo is not of noble breed, nor does he have certain superpowers, in fact, he’s chosen because of his small stature and humility. In the midst of superhero movies out there, it’s nice to see a ‘regular guy’ who does heroic deeds motivated by love and empathy for others. The initially-doubtful Bilbo finally comes into his own towards the end, realizing his worth and his place in the journey to the Lonely Mountain. His speech after he escaped Goblin Town is moving and inspiring, delivered so effortlessly by Freeman without even the slightest bit of trite.
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10. Movie escapism at its best…I went in expecting to be swept away in a world so unlike my own and live vicariously through Bilbo as he goes about on his adventure and that’s what I got. Yes some of the scenes are perhaps a bit too cartoon-ish, I mean we’re talking about these dwarves falling down a cavern as the bridge they’re on breaks into fragments, and once they fell hundreds of feet below, a 500+ pound goblin king falls on them. Yet they all survive perfectly with no major injury! I suppose we don’t know the exact genetic makeup of a dwarf so their bones could be a heck of a lot stronger than humans. What else would explain Thorin survival after being whacked by the giant pale Orc Azog with a big mace with spikes on them! It’s all part of the ‘fantasy’ bit folks, so I don’t see a point in nitpicking on that front.

As for Azog as the main villain in this film, I heard some people complain that he’s a ‘weak’ villain. Well naturally he would be if you compare him to Sauron and his evil watchful eye, but the pale Orc is just one of the evil ‘minions’ if you will, employed by the powerful dark force that Thorin & co. would eventually have to face.

All in all, it’s a wonderful start of an epic journey. I really care for the characters and the quest for them to take back their homeland. I was caught up in the adventures and for me and now I can’t wait for what happens next!


So what do you think of The Hobbit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Random Thoughts: The agony & ecstasy of [film-release] anticipation

Yuu huu… it’s raining trailers this week isn’t it? First we’ve got the final Batman saga The Dark Knight Rises from Christopher Nolan, I’m sure y’all have seen the epic trailer by now. Well, I was watching The Artist [a flawless movie, review to come] on an advanced screening last night so I missed all the festivities around The Hobbit trailer release, but as soon as I get home I just had to fire up the trailer… see it below if you haven’t already:

Before I go on, here’s my two-cents on this trailer:

This beautiful trailer brings back memories of why I LOVE Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in the first place. The trailer captures the visual style and mood of the trilogy that we’ve come to love, but this time there’s one cast member I’m SUPER excited about… Richard Armitage! I announced his casting news in October of last year, so I kept waiting for Gandalf to announce the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield… Whoa, he still looks hot under the dwarf make up, and boy he gets to sing, too!! One of the things I love about Richard is his deep baritone voice (just like Gregory Peck, he’s truly got the whole package on top of being tall, dark and handsome!). I REALLY hope this will bring more Hollywood roles for him. Come on, more casting agents ought to see BBC’s North & South already. Mr. Thornton FTW! Sorry, I just have to get that out of the way…

The rest of the ensemble cast is nothing short of phenomenal as well, on top of the original LOTR cast like Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, etc. I’m thrilled to see Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans and of course Martin Freeman as young Bilbo Baggins. By the time the Howard Shore score comes on, I’ve got goosebumps all over again, I’m so ready to be transported to Middle Earth right about now!

Man oh man, there’s too much cinematic excitement this week I could spontaneously com-bust! I’m still recovering from the awesomeness of The Dark Knight Rises, and now this! My pal Terrence @ ScarletSp1der just had a mind-boggling poll asking us to do the impossible… that is to choose between Batman 3 or The Hobbit. Oh man that’s like Sophie’s Choice. I can’t, I can’t… and I won’t! I am excited for both equally despite those being two very different films. Fortunately, we don’t have to as they’re released a half a year apart!

With 2011 coming to a close, surely more trailers are to come as studios are hoping to build up the hype for their 2012 movies. Now, as a film lover, the contrasting emotion of agony & ecstasy of anticipating movies can be unbearable! With every joy we get of seeing a movie trailer/clip/featurette what have you, it’s always followed by the agony of waiting for its release! I mean, I’m already complaining about the 7-month wait for The Dark Knight Rises but The Hobbit won’t be out until next December 2013, a stinkin’ FULL YEAR from now!! Oh Mr. Jackson, the agony….

And that’s just two of them, there are a whole slew of movies I’m anticipating next year, here are just a shortlist I can think of right now (release date is for USA).

  • The Avengers –  May 4, 2012
  • Great Gatsby – December 25, 2012
  • Prometheus – June 8, 2012
  • Skyfall (Bond 23) – November 9, 2012
  • Total Recall – August 3, 2012

Not including other ones which release dates haven’t been announced yet such as All Things to All Men and two of Gerry Butler’s sports-themed movies Of Men and Mavericks and Playing the Field. As you can see, the earliest movie to be released on the list is The Avengers, and that’s almost a half a year wait.

As I’ve just seen The Artist, it makes me think people’s attitude about upcoming movies back in the day in the pre-Internet and social media era, before movie marketing constantly bombards us the way they do today. I mean, the average moviegoers probably didn’t know a movie was coming out until like  a month before. The only ‘hype’ the movie’s got is only through newspapers, radio and occasional TV spots. Back then going to the movies were such big events, people got dressed up and line up to see the new marquee film playing in their local theater, waiting to ‘escape’ into the world of the movies, forgetting their troubles for a couple of hours. Unless they’re the film critics, I bet they weren’t picking apart each scene or fuming that so and so sequence they saw on the trailer wasn’t included, etc. Today, we often come with certain preconceived expectations about a given movie long before the opening credits roll, so for better for worse, our experience of movie-watching is undoubtedly very different.

Anyway, that’s just an observation I just want to share with you. I guess it’s up to us to keep our excitement and anticipation in check, which is getting harder to do given the increasing ferocity of social media marketing. The studios certainly are making the most of ‘em as my Twitter feed is abuzz with film updates almost every minute!!


What are your thoughts on this topic, folks? And while you’re at it, what are the top five films you’re anticipating next year?

Happy Birthday to one of my fave directors – Peter Jackson!

I know today’s Halloween but I really don’t care for this pagan holiday and horror flicks aren’t my forte, so I’d rather wish one of my fave directors, Peter Jackson, a happy 50th birthday instead.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the actress I featured yesterday made her debut in his film, Heavenly Creatures. I haven’t seen that one but it’s Jackson’s later films that really left a lasting impression for me.

I’ve updated my sidebar with Peter Jackson’s trivia today, who’s born as an only child in a small coastal town near Wellington, New Zealand. Apparently his love for film-making started out when he was only eight years old when a friend of his parents bought him a super 8mm movie camera. It reminds me of the Spielberg film Super 8 (perhaps Peter was the inspiration for the chubby kid Charles? :D)

I love a lot of Peter Jackson’s films, and I’m also thankful for his technological contribution to the film industry. His company Weta Digital is behind the technology that has created the new generation 3D special effects used in groundbreaking movies like his own Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So here are five movies I’m thankful for having Peter Jackson’s involvement. There’s a reason why he’s one of my 15 favorite film directors ever!

The Lord of the Rings

I was gonna list one of the best scenes, but really, that’s impossible. Besides, I’ve kind of done it in Viggo’s post not too long ago. So instead, I thought it might be fun to post this one of PJ doing a cameo in one of the LOTR movies, dressed like someone out of Battlefield Earth? I didn’t notice him in the battle scenes, well there’s always a reason to re-watch those LOTR movies!

King Kong

It’s a bummer that this film wasn’t as commercially-successful as they had hoped. I saw this on the big screen and was blown away by it. It’s technically-impressive — the SFX, the art deco look & feel, and of course, with his muse Andy Serkis embodying the giant ape with even bigger heart, we’ve got quite a monstrous epic of a film. Anyone who did not at least get a lump on their throat watching this ending really need to check their pulse!


District 9

Ok so PJ didn’t direct this one but he was one of the executive producers. In fact, if it weren’t for Jackson giving newbie director Neill Blomkamp $30 mil to make the movie he wanted, this movie might not have seen the light of day. I saw this on the big screen and was utterly blown away by it. It’s a gritty sci-fi that stayed with me long afterwards (read my full review). I was impressed by Sharlto Copley’s performance and I look forward to him teaming up w/ Blomkamp again for Elysium. This is by far one of the most heart-wrenching scenes from the film:


The Adventures of Tintin

As a big fan of the comics, I’m thrilled to see two directing legends are adapting this to the big screen! Yes I have high expectations for this one, but I do hope Spielberg and PJ won’t disappoint! So far the film has been quite successful overseas, earning about $55 mil in its first week. I wish it’d open sooner here, you’d think sometime around Thanksgiving would be perfect as a family-friendly feature. In any case, though I’m not typically a big fan of mo-cap technology, what I’ve seen so far gives me hope that there won’t be any ‘dead eyes’ syndrome in this one.

And last but not least … to the most-anticipated movie of 2012:

The Hobbit

Really, the worst thing about this LOTR prequel is the long wait! But I reckon it’ll be worth every second as PJ will take us back to the journey to Middle Earth. Forget The Avengers, I’d say The Hobbit won best ensemble cast in my book, what with the mix of LOTR alums: Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Elijah Woods, etc. and new cast members that include some of my favorites: Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, and James Nesbitt. Oh man, I told my friend Claire that if I had all the money in the world, I might just move there for the entire time they’re filming The Hobbit. I’ll even work for free! :D These video journals definitely get me salivating even more!



So happy birthday Peter Jackson! What’s your fave film(s) from this directing genius?

The Flix List: Four Best Film ‘Making-Of’ Documentaries

As a film lover and also a filmmaker wannabe, I love watching behind scenes stuff. It’s probably the closest thing for anyone to see what’s it like to be part of a film crew. Spike Lee once said in an interview, ‘had DVD existed when he was younger, he probably would never attended film school.’ He said you can learn so much from these behind the scenes documentaries that he recommended any film students to watch as much of them as possible.

My list contains the most in-depth look at how films were made and they’re at least 2 hours long, so you need to set some free time aside if you want to watch them. I’ll highlight the best part of each documentary.

1. The Making of Alien 3

This is probably the Holy Grail of behind the scenes docs, for years Fox kept it secret from the public because they didn’t want anyone to know what went on behind the scenes while Alien 3 was being filmed. The film was a box office disaster for them back in the early 90s and it almost destroyed David Fincher’s career.

You can find this documentary on the DVD version of Alien 3 or Blu-ray. I recommend you get the Blu-ray version because on the DVD, Fox edited out some of the segments where Fincher was bad mouthing their executives, while the Blu-ray version was uncut. It’s probably my favorite behind the scenes docs I’ve ever seen. They interviewed everyone who was involved in the project except Fincher, he disowned the film. Fox even invited him to come back and tell his side of the story but he refused since he didn’t want to re-live those ugly moments of his career.

Now if don’t have time to watch this documentary, you can read my earlier article of what went on behind the scenes of Alien 3.

2. The Making of Star Wars (Episode 4-6)

I assume if you’re a big Star Wars fan you’ve probably already seen the making of these films. Again I thought this was one of the best behind the scenes docs ever made, some of the highlights include:

  • Believe it or not, most of the Fox executives wanted to shut down the film because George Lucas was behind schedule. The film was set to come out in Christmas of 1976 but Lucas and his crew couldn’t finish it on time. Luckily for Lucas and film lovers everywhere, the president of Fox studios at the time was on Lucas’ side and told him to keep going and finish the film. Of course the rest is history but just think about how we came that close to never have seen a Star Wars film.
  • George Lucas had a heart attack during the shoot and he was only about 32 or 33 years old! He was so stressed out that Harrison Ford and the rest of the cast members tried to cheer him up every time they’re done shooting a scene. Lucas was constantly being pressured by the studio to finish the film and also had to deal with the harsh conditions of shooting in the desert.

    You can see some more behind-the-scenes pictures here.
  • The special effects team had to come up with new ways to shoot the space ships battle sequences. One of them said since there didn’t have stores like Best Buy, Dell or Apple back in those days, they had to build their own computers. Lucas hired a lot people right out of college, many of them graduated from MIT or Cal Tech.

Those are some of the good stuff you’ll see in the documentary, so if you have some free time I highly recommend you watch it.

3. The Making of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

Another great in-depth look at how these mega budget films were made. You can find these documentaries on the DVD Extended Editions or Blu-ray. Some of the highlights were:

  • You get to see how Peter Jackson and his crew working together on the script and finding the cast for each roles in the films.

    Peter Jackson directing Viggo Mortensen

  • Jackson directed hundreds of people during the big battle in The Return of The King.
  • You can see how Gollum was created by the geniuses at Weta Digital.
  • My favorite part of the doc is when they showed Howard Shores score the films. I love the music of The Lord of the Rings films so to have seen how they created the music was so amazing. Below is one of the five-part video of the scoring process you can find on YouTube:

4. The Making of The Social Network

Another of David Fincher’s film made the list, only this time he was a willing participant. The Social Network was my favorite movie of last year and I thought for sure Fincher would finally win an Oscar for directing but he didn’t. Hopefully he’ll get the golden statue someday. This is probably the shortest documentary on the list but it was still an in dept look at how the film was made. Film students everywhere, I urge you to watch it. Here are some of the highlights you’ll see on the disc:

  • Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin had a couple of heated discussions about the motivations of certain characters in the film. They mostly fought about the relationship of Zuckerberg and his former best friend Eduardo Severin.

  • You’ll see Fincher directing his cast, it’s quite amazing to see how he listened to his actors and didn’t act like a dictator on the movie set. Usually a director of his status tends to be quite a mad man on the set and would tell his actors to do what he says or they’re fired.
  • The special effects crew showed how they placed Armie Hammer’s face over Josh Pence’s so they could be appear to be twins in the film.
  • Justin Timberlake talked about how he prepared to play the role of Sean Parker, even though he’d never met Sean Parker in person.

Well those are what I considered the best making of documentaries, have you seen any of them? Feel free to add any other documentaries that you have seen.

The Hobbit cast shapes up … hurray for Richard Armitage!

I have been following The Hobbit movie news rather casually the past few months, having loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The production seems to have hit a bunch of snags. First the director musical chairs (which I’m glad it finally goes back to Peter Jackson) and lately there’s the actors’ strike that may threaten the filming location to be moved from New Zealand to the UK or Eastern Europe.

But this week Warner Brothers finally revealed the cast of the movie (you can check out the various sources on its IMDb page), which got me jumping up and down with glee. As you probably know from various mentions in my blog, that I adore British actor Richard Armitage! Remember the best kiss and favorite couple meme post? He’s also my choice for Robin Hood when there was rumors they’re developing a futuristic version of the medieval hero. Those in the UK might be familiar with him as he’s currently starring in MI-5 and Strike Back series (when I visited London back in May, the poster of the later show was plastered all over the city with his face on ‘em). Ever since I saw him in North & South and the Vicars of Dibley Christmas episodes, I’ve been wishing this talented actor would get a major role in a substantial Hollywood or UK production. But The Hobbit?? Oh my, this by far exceeds my expectation!

Richard will portray Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the Company of Dwarfs (The fan art of what Richard would look like as Thorin is courtesy of theonering.net). Here’s what Peter Jackson himself said about the 39 year-old actor:

Click to enlarge

“Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield… We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle-Earth is in such good hands.”

Interesting that they pick someone standing at 6’2″ to play a dwarf (I’d think he’d make a fabulous Aragorn), but then again, John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli was taller than Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen at 6’1″. But according to his IMDb bio, Rhys-Davies’ height was exactly the right proportions to those of his hobbit co-stars and no body doubles were used in their shots together. The hobbits are supposed to average about 3′ 6″ (2 feet shorter than the actors who played them) and Gimli, at just over 4 feet tall, is about 2 feet shorter than the real Rhys-Davies. It’s fascinating to learn about the various technique of ‘dwarf’-ing the actors, Wikipedia lists the complicated use of scale doubles and forced perspective to achieve that effect.

English actor Martin Freeman

By the way, I apparently missed the fact that Richard will also have a small part in Captain America: The First Avenger as the hero’s Nazi nemesis Heinz Kruger, but his role is much more prominent in this LOTR prequel project. Not to mention a chance to work with prominent thespians such as Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Andy Serkis who are reportedly back (per IMDb) to reprise their roles from LOTR. The rest of the new Hobbit cast include: Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz, Sherlock TV series) as Bilbo Baggins (Frodo’s uncle), Aidan Turner (Being Human) and Rob Kazinsky (EastEnders) will play Kili and Fili, members of the Company of Dwarves. Graham McTavish (Secretariat) will play Dwalin, John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury) will play Oin; Stephen Hunter (All Saints) will play Bombur, and Mark Hadlow (King Kong) plays Dori, while Peter Hambleton (The Strip) will play Gloin (per Deadline).

Are you all anticipating this movie? We’ve got a long way to wait though until the first part of The Hobbit is released in December 2012.

Tintin film will be released late 2011 in 3D

This probably isn’t as huge a news to most American moviegoers. But as someone who grew up reading The Adventures of Tintin comics, I’ve been curiously following this 3D adaptation project for some time now.

The cast of Tintin comic strips

The hero of the comic strips created by Belgian artist Hergé is Tintin, a young Belgian reporter with his fox terrier Snowy (Milou in French). Though it didn’t quite catch on in the US, Wikipedia noted that the series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century, with translations published in over 50 languages and more than 200 million copies of the books sold to date. Its fun, captivating and even educational plots would span various genres from swashbuckling, fantastical adventures, political thrillers, to science fiction. The whisky-loving & eternally grumpy Captain Haddock, the genius but hearing-impaired Professor Calculus and the blundering twin detectives Thomson & Thompson never fail to deliver the laughs in various colorful predicaments.

Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg are teaming up in an effort to bring Tintin to life in a motion-capture animated 3D film. Here’s a brief history of how the project came together. According to the movie page on Wikipedia, Spielberg’s a fan of the series since 1981, and that even Hergé himself thought Spielberg was the only person who could ever do Tintin justice of bringing it to life. The Belgian author died the same week of their scheduled meeting in 1983, but his widow decided to give Spielberg the rights. Fellow comics fan Jackson, who had used motion capture in The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, suggested that a live action adaptation would not do justice to the comic books and motion capture was the best way of representing Hergé’s world of Tintin.

“We’re making them look photorealistic; the fibers of their clothing, the pores of their skin and each individual hair. They look exactly like real people – but real Herge people!” Jackson said of the film’s look.

Spielberg is in charge of directing and ‘capturing’ the actors’ performances, which include Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as Tintin, with regular Jackson collaborator Andy Serkis (The Lord of The Rings‘ Golum) as Captain Haddock. Per Guardian UK, Jackson said that Spielberg has finishing filming. Whilst promoting his movie The Lovely Bones, Jackson told BBC: “Tintin is great. It’s made. The movie is cut together and now [we] are turning it into a fully-rendered film. So the movie, to some degree, exists in a very rough state.” However, it will be another two years before anyone sees the film, due to the amount of post-production work Jackson would have to do to convert all the data into a 3D world.

Photo courtesy of EMPIRE magazine

Spielberg directing Bell and Serkis as Jackson looked on

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, the first in a proposed trilogy, will also feature the voices of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Craig, Cary Elwes. It’s been reported also that the initial plan was for Spielberg to direct the first movie, with Jackson taking the second and another unannounced film-maker the third, but studio Universal passed on the project last year, leading to a downscaling. The film will now come out under the auspices of Paramount and Sony. It is based on three Tintin books: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.

Can’t wait to see what the creative genius behind two of the finest Hollywood filmmakers will do with this beloved comics. Alas, December 2011 is a really, really long time to wait!

It’s inevitable, District 9 sequel chatter has begun

Please put your scrawl here ...

Please put your scrawl here ...

Death and taxes aren’t the only things certain when it comes to the movie industry. Sequel is a sure bet as soon as a flick recoups at least the same amount it takes to produce. So now that District 9 already made more than its modest 30 million budget, it’s no surprise the sequel buzz has started swirling. Heck, the buzz was already so high even before the movie even opened. At the San Diego Comic Con last month, after Peter Jackson had only previewed the movie for the first time, people were already asking him about its future. Wisely, he said he would rather wait how the movie does and go from there.

Now, I’m torn with this. I REALLY like this movie that it should almost be left as it is. Sequels rarely do justice to the original, and a lot of flicks hardly ever merit a follow up. But by the same token, the movie also left me curious to see more of this new world, or mythology if you will, that Neill Blomkamp has created. Do I even dare to call this the next Star Wars? I wouldn’t go there as I for one wouldn’t want any George Lucas groupies to be all over me like a ton of bricks. But one thing I can assuredly say is that District 9 ends in such a way that made a lot of moviegoers go, ‘now what?’ So it seems that although the film makers weren’t exactly planning for District 10, or whatever else they’d end up calling it, they weren’t opposed to it, either. It also didn’t hurt the fact that, according to actor Sharlto Copley, the very nature of the production — its improvisatory dialogue, the filmmakers’ decision to shoot tons of material and see what developed — left nearly enough video on the cutting room floor for another installment. “There were a lot of exciting avenues to want to go down and you really [have to fit it all] into a small block of time,” he said.

Thus, with so many angles and back stories Blomkamp can explore and the biggest question will be which one should he take?

The folks at Cinema Blend has crafted some interesting ideas. For those who haven’t seen the movie, I’d rather you skip it as it contains some major spoilers. I personally don’t have a preference as to a specific angle, but just like Batman 3, I’d only be interested if the original brain behind the terrific film—in that case Chris Nolan—were involved. Similarly, Blomkamp has done something really special with District 9, and Cinema Blend’s writer Josh Tyler nailed it here with his suggestion of what NOT to do: Please, Mr. Blomkamp don’t go Hollywood. You’re going to get a bigger budget for the sequel, a much bigger budget I’ll wager. Don’t turn it down. Use it. Use it to make something even bigger and better. Spend it on special effects and wicked cool sets. Don’t use it to buy yourself an over the top sports car, move to LA, and turn the thing over to Hollywood’s never ending cadre of mega-producers. We don’t need to see Sharlto Copley replaced by Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. You don’t have to bring in Jada Pinkett Smith to be Wikus’s sassy, tough as nails sidekick. Don’t step back into a supervising role and allow Michael Bay to take over. For that matter don’t even go to Hollywood. Stay in New Zealand, with Peter Jackson, and make your film.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, I guess I’ll just keep an eye on this one and see what they’ll do. Whatever route they’d take, I’m somewhat rest-assured by Peter Jackson’s response to MTV news in regards to the sequel buzz:

“I believe movies should come from the heart, and if there’s any sequel or continuation of District 9, it should only be because there’s a good idea involved, not because it’s a money-making venture,”

For that reason alone, it’s all the more imperative that nobody else should helm any follow-up to this soon-to-be-a-classic scifi flick.