BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY
The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey ★★★
PREMIERE 7.00-10.15pm ITV
Director Peter Jackson has stretched one novel into three films, which does seem a touch excessive. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a single adventure and it would have been more exciting if filmed as one. Still, there is much to commend in this first episode, as an older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) remembers how his younger self (Martin Freeman) helped a band of dwarves, led by Richard Armitage, to win back their kingdom, which had been snatched from them by the dragon Smaug. Jackson’s visual flair and use of computer magic, so well employed in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, are strongly in evidence. There is humour, too — for instance, Bilbo’s dislike of adventures because “they make you late for dinner” — along with comfortably familiar figures such as Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Gollum (Andy Serkis). But what might have been a thrilling, light-hearted romp rather takes its time because, hey, there are two more films yet to come.
Alfred Hitchcock amps up the gothic atmosphere in this Oscar-winning adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, with a stunning turn by Joan Fontaine as the mousy new wife of grumpy widower Laurence Olivier.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ★★★★
The franchise comes of age, just like the boy-cum-teenage wizard, whose exploits take a decidedly dark and edgy turn in an adventure artfully directed by Alfonso Cuarón (later to win an Oscar for Gravity). Gary Oldman makes his scenery-chewing debut as Harry’s crazy uncle Sirius, who’s on the lam but desperate to get his hands on his nephew.
Julie & Julia ★★★★
Nora Ephron’s mouthwatering biographical tale stars Meryl Streep as the Delia of her day and Amy Adams as one of her disciples, cooking up a storm four decades later.
Torso-tastic Gerard Butler and his Spartans resist the might of the Persians in this stunning blockbuster adaptation of Frank (Sin City) Miller’s graphic novel.
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