The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - All of the movies that I've been watching lately have been first-time watches, but this is a re-watch. I'll be watching the two follow-ups for the first time soon, and I thought I needed a refresher on this one to recall the story points and characters. This is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings films, coming 9 years after the release of the final, Oscar-winning installment of that series. This film had a torturous pre-production, with rights issues tied up with the legal woes of MGM, a process that dragged on long enough to see the exit of director Guillermo Del Toro, with LotR director Peter Jackson returning to helm instead.
Based on the very slight children's book by J.R.R. Tolkien, the story has been greatly expanded and elaborated on. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a homebody hobbit who is conscripted by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to join a group of 12 Dwarves, led by the hero Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the Dwarven city of Erebor from the clutches of the dragon Smaug. On their journey they encounter orcs, goblins, trolls and more. The cast includes Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Lee Pace, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, James Nesbitt, Andy Serkis, Sylvester McCoy and Barry Humphries as the Goblin King.
There's a lot of things to like here, from amazing fantasy landscapes and architecture, to beautifully done CGI creature creations. However, there's quite a bit that annoyed me, too, such as several terrible songs, and some irritating characters, including a few of the Dwarves, the Goblin King and the Mountain Trolls. And the 182 minute running time may be daunting for some. When I watched this the first time, I gave it an 8/10. After this re-watch, it drops to a 7/10.