'The Hobbit: An Expected Journey' - Dir. Peter Jackson (12A)
The wikipedia entry for The Hobbit (book) sums up the difference between Tolkien and Peter Jackson beautifully: "Beorn never actually shape-shifts between man and bear-form during the narrative of The Hobbit book: he is encountered in both forms, but his actual transformation appears "off-screen", away from the point of view of the main characters. Comments made by [special effects company] Weta Workshop indicate that in the adaptation, Beorn's transformation from man to bear will be a major special effects sequence." And probably one lasting twenty minutes accompanied by soft-focus and pan pipes and Enya set in the idyll of a cheese ad and filmed on top of a mountain, as captured by a 2nd unit helicopter crew.On the positive front, Martin Freeman makes for an appealing Bilbo Baggins and does a very good (and subtle) impression of Ian Holm - who plays the elder version of the character, in the previous films and at the beginning here. Much like Ewen McGregor in 'The Phantom Menace'.
NOTE: I wasn't able to see the film in the higher frame-rate that's attracted so much negative criticism, so I couldn't possibly comment on that. However, I think the 3D is pretty good, for whatever that's worth. Clearly shot with stereoscopy in mind and never gimmicky.
'Alps' - Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos (15)
Speaking of directors coasting of memories of their previous films, Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos channels a lot of what made 'Dogtooth' so great into his follow-up, which follows a group of people who impersonate deceased loved ones in order to aid the grieving. The strange, stilted style of dialogue, phrasing and delivery continues here, as does his clinical, cold and detached aesthetic. Yet it doesn't work so well a second (or third, for those who saw the risible copycat that was 'Attenberg') time, perhaps chiefly because the sterility of 'Dogtooth' seemed entirely appropriate in the context of a story about adult-children who had never left the house and consequently had been unable to socialise in a normal way. Watching that film you could imagine that outside the gates of their sheltered family home you'd find a normal, recognisable world. Yet 'Alps' makes that stylistic choice feel like an affectation rather than commentary. So it's a follow-up that not only borrows heavily from a previous work but also diminishes it by association.
Whereas 'Dogtooth' seemed theme-rich and entirely clever, 'Alps' feels aimless and hollow: all style. There are moments where it really works - where the disconnected protagonists with their monotone voices say and do things which are really funny - but it's difficult to care overall. I'm at a loss for what it's about, to be completely frank. It might be saying something about acting as a profession: positing the trite idea that actors are all lost and shallow people without identities, who perform out of a desire to become somebody else and to please people. In this case becoming not only someone other than themselves, but doing it to please another and in doing so live vicariously off that affection.
Or perhaps, with its repeated a theme of dominant male characters (like 'Dogtooth', 'Alps' has a few violent patriarchs), it's saying something about the role of women in society? Pressured into conforming into various roles and so forth. A reading supported by the opening scenes which focus on female characters whilst disembodied male voices bark instruction. But in either case, it isn't effective or particularly thought-provoking, since it's hard to care at all when the characters themselves are so remote and unaffected.