Episode 102 : Digital Barley

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Added on Wed, 23 Jan 2013 13:36:22 -0800.
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Increasing the last digit by one to show a progression seems to work for years, so we're co-opting this strategy at theOneliner. Thus, we present to you: Podcast 102. Yup, that seems to work. So, without further ado, let us tell you what we thought of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Life of Pi, The Impossible and Berberian Sound Studio.

A decade after his hugely successful adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth to tackle Tolkien's first book, the children's classic The Hobbit. The first part of three (and far be it from us to be cynical about the reasons for a children's book less than a third of the length of The Lord of the Rings being turned into three films), An Unexpected Journey sees Bilbo Baggins recruited by Gandalf to join a party of dwarves travelling to The Lonely Mountain to reclaim their ancestral home from an invading dragon. The expansion to 3 films has necessitated the addition of a lot of material, and these departures from the source are the weakest elements by far. It's not a bad film, though, and there's certain plenty to enjoy in the cast's performances. Martin Freeman engages as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis reprise their roles as Gandalf and Gollum with practiced ease and the dwarf ensemble are very entertaining. While it's not in the same league as The Lord of the Rings, if you like the world of Middle Earth we'd recommend giving it a watch, with the knowledge that's a qualified recommendation.

Yann Martell's Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, the tale of an unusual Indian boy named after a Parisian swimming pool, is brought to the screen by Ang Lee. Pi's parents decide to close their zoo and take the animals with them to begin a new life in Canada. A massive storm hits the ship they are travelling in and Pi finds himself stranded in a lifeboat with a few animals from the zoo, including a tiger. This mix of passengers creates some rather unique challenges for survival, beyond the obvious issues attendant to being in an unpowered craft in the middle of the ocean. Superbly-acted and a strikingly beautiful film, Life of Pi is also notable for being probably the only film we've ever seen for which an argument could be made that seeing it in 3D actually enhances the experience. Our strongest of recommendations. Also: tiger.

On Boxing Day 2004 a massive tsunami devasted huge swathes of Indonesia and South-East Asia, causing unimaginable destruction and massive loss of life. Out of this disaster, though, there also emerged truly remarkable stories of survival, and it is one of these stories that is the basis for The Impossible. A family of five holidaying in Thailand are separated after a massive wave sweeps through their resort, and in the aftermath they must find each other, a seemingly impossible task in a land swamped by water, with its infrastructure destroyed, unable to speak the local language, and seriously injured. While it may tug relentlessly on the heart strings, The Impossible is not sentimental or manipulative as all of the emotional beats seem entirely appropriate to the situation. Deeply impressive physical effects work sells the devastation caused by the tsunami and provides the foundation for a great performance from the whole cast, in particular an outstanding turn from teenager Tom Holland as the eldest son. Those more prone to crying may want to make sure they go with plenty of Kleenex, everyone else should just make sure they go.

Released last year and now available on various home video delivery vectors, Berberian Sound Studio stars Toby Jones as a sound engineer recruited to work on horror films who finds that his art starts to manifest itself in his life. Toby Jones is expectedly good and his slide into paranoia is compelling, but a ludicrous amount of time spent looking at audio gauges, ill-conceived Lynchian aspirations and a complete lack of a conclusion are much less so. Brought to our attention after having made many people's end of 2012 top ten lists, we're left puzzled as to why this is so. If you missed this in the cinema you can catch up on it now, but we wouldn't recommend you bother.

That's all for this episode. In an unexpected departure from the norm, in our next podcast we'll be talking about some more films. Until then, we'd welcome your ratings on iTunes and your comments via email, or Twitter, @theoneliner. Auf wiedersehen.