Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Welly-moot 1.6 (Dec 29, 2012) - International Lunch

For Welly-moot 1.6, the last meeting of 2021, we enjoyed a shared international lunch at Jack & Alex’s place. We had asked for members to bring food from their own countries, and so, the yummy meals and desserts came from seven different nationalities. A big thank you to everyone who brought nice meals, especially thanks to Noei who brought three different Thai meals and thanks to Alex for preparing and organising this occasion.

A selection of the food. All of it was great!

We enjoyed the meal as much as the discussion on “Hobbit: Unexpected Journey”. Noei has seen the movie the most times, five times both in 2D and 3D formats. She gave us her views, and we talked about the difference between 2D and 3D, and 24fps and 48fps.

Comparing the story of The Hobbit movie with the original book, we were impressed and enjoyed Sir Peter Jackson’s Hobbit. The original story is of course only a single book, and aimed at children. Peter Jackson has expanded the story by inserted some characters into the mix, like Radagast the Brown, who is not in the original Hobbit book (but is in LOTR). We were also surprised at how rabbits were so useful for escaping from Wargs...

We went around the room for everyone’s favourite characters. Thorin, Gollum, Gandalf, Balin, Nori, Kili, or even “all of them” were mentioned. Unlike in the book, all of Jackson’s thirteen Dwarves have distinct characters and their hair styles and faces are well-designed, and easy to distinguish from one another. One comment came back - the ladies like Thorin (Richard Armitage) because he is good looking, of course :)

(Most of) the group - Counter-clockwise starting at Bilbo (yes, we listened to the soundtrack) - Hanne, Warren, Kris, Noei, Ryan, Jennifer, Hawk, Mrs & Mr Rasmussen, Heike, and Jack. Missing: Alex (photographer), Erika (getting more food, probably)

Both Heike and Alex mentioned the scene where Bilbo encounters Gollum for the first time in the cave, where Gollum is talking to himself and tells himself to “Shut up”. The group really liked Andy Serkis’ performance of Gollum. Gollum looks younger, and is both more evil but also more childlike at the same time. Andy Serkis (and the digital team behind him!) did a great job of the physical and virtual performance of Gollum.

Lastly, we discussed our expectations for the second Hobbit movie - The Desolation of Smaug. Some of the Welly-moot’s members are Extras in the Hobbit movies, and they are expecting they will be in next movie. One of the most anticipated creatures is Smaug. We can’t wait to see more of him, and expect that we will finally see the whole Smaug in action!

Plans for the group in 2013

We will gather as usual every two months. The first meeting will be on 24 February 2013. We will keep informed in this website (and via the usual Facebook and Twitter etc).

The big project this year will be “Riventroll”. We will set up a separate website for this project and start fundraising in 2013. We will keep everyone informed.

The other project we’re going to try and get involved in is the “Mount Tolkien” project that was begun by Aaron Nicholson from Manapouri in Southland. The group is right behind him in his efforts to honour Tolkien with his own New Zealand mountain. The mountain is currently (officially) unnamed, so this is not before its time!

Two minor but significant events this year - the DVD/Blu-ray release of “Hobbit 1” will be along shortly, and hopefully there will be Extended Releases, like LOTR’s.

And of course December 2013 will be another Hobbit Release month, so there will be lots of excitement again for that. Stay updated by following the blog, our the Facebook, or the Twitter feed. Subscribe so the information comes to you and you don’t have to go searching for it every time.

2012 - the year in (brief) review

The year 2012 has been extremely successful year for Welly-moot. It was our first official year. It was the year we became officially affiliated with the UK’s Tolkien Society. We now have official T-shirts, a Welly-moot banner, the committee members have business cards, and there's even a rubber stamp!

We had 6 great meetings, hosted some fantastic guests, and discussed Tolkienish background information. We lined up for Premiere Tickets, almost missed out, got saved by Sir Peter Jackson himself, then attended the Hobbit Premiere, had the World’s Best Ever Second Breakfast on a Red Carpet, and finally watched the world’s first showing of The Hobbit movie.

We have been visited by other Tolkien Society members from overseas groups, as well as individuals who were previously not part of any other Tolkien groups.

So a great big “Thank You” to all the great members of Welly-moot who made it all happen this past year, with all your good conversation, your amazing knowledge, and all your unbridled enthusiasm!

Also a big “Thank You” also to all our friends, our wonderful visitors, and to all the organisations who helped when we needed a hand, with a special thank you going out to Sarah Meikle and Helen Player from Absolutely Wellington Tourism, for all their help in getting us into the first screening of the movie, and for providing all those goodies, both on the red carpet, as well as at the Cinema later.

And of course to Sir Peter, Matt Dravitzki, and the entire team for taking us to Middle-earth one more time!

Now let 2013 begin!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Welly-moot 1.6 : The Hobbit 1 - An Unexpected Journey

By now I expect that most (if not all!) of us have seen the new movie - I hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did. Personally, I can't wait for the next installment, although I guess we'll have to. :)

Currently I'm sure you've all had the same problem as me - there's a bit of a transitionary period between my first viewing, and that of a lot of people I've spoken to who haven't yet seen it. I keep having to bite my tongue and not talk in too many spoilers!

The next Welly-moot is coming, and due to my work commitments, I've changed the date from the usual Sunday (30th of December) to the Saturday before (29th of December). I thought it might be nice to go into the meeting not having to worry about that, so we can all discuss the movie to our heart's contents.

The start time has also changed for this meeting - we'd like people to come at 1:00pm (instead of the usual 2:00pm).

Finally, since a number of our members are only in New Zealand for a limited time, and may have missed a "proper" Christmas get-together, we thought we would offer our home for this meeting.

NB - Not the Embassy Cinema this meeting!

As such, we would like to keep control of how many people are coming, so if you could drop me a quick line with approx numbers, that would simplify things hugely. My email address is

We would like to make it a similar event as our Second Breakfast event at the red carpet premiere, so I'm asking everyone to "bring another plate" please. That seemed to work exceedingly well, and I think everyone enjoyed that on November 28th!

What we would like people to bring though, is something home-made. Perhaps something traditional from your home-country? We will make it an International Lunch!

So, the details:

  • Where : Our home. Details via RSVP (email me)
  • When : 1:00pm, Saturday, December 29, 2012
  • What : International Lunch, bring-a-plate (home made/cooked/baked please!)

So, email me, and I'll give you the address to come to!

  - Jack

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: The Hobbit 1 - An Unexpected Journey

Bragging rights: it's now the evening of the day of the release of the first Hobbit movie, and I've seen the movie twice already. I cheated - I somehow managed to get red-carpet tickets last week and watched it in 24fps already. Last night though (or more accurately, early early this morning at 12:01am), I watched The Hobbit 1 - An Unexpected Journey in (almost) all it's glory - 3D, 48fps, and ATMOS sound system, at the theatre where it opened last week, the Embassy Cinema in Wellington (the only technical format missing was IMAX, which isn't available in Wellington).

Before I start my review though, I should point out a few biases of mine - a full disclosure, if you like. On the Tolkien front, I read the Hobbit when I was a teenager. Personally, I don't mind a few changes from one medium to another. The LOTR movies deviated from the books in significant ways, and I, for one, am glad of them. I actually hope The Hobbit movie will be different from the books as well, in more than a few places.

To film a book exactly like a movie will always be impossible, and so film makers are faced with either making a movie closer to the book (and upset movie fans), or making a better movie (and upsetting book fans). Given the choice, I'd far rather see a better movie than a faithful movie. I don't particularly have any problem reading a book after seeing a movie, and seeing where the movie came from.

Now, I say that as one of the founding members of this New Zealand Tolkien fellowship. Some changes are warranted. That doesn't mean that I think the professor was wrong, just that he wasn't a script writer.

Next admission - I hate 3D movies. If you've been paying attention to my NZ Noldor blog over the years, this shouldn't come as a shock. I have yet to see a 3D movie where the 3D aspects of it weren't just designed to try and impress me. I'm totally fed up with the old "throw stuff at the camera, that will be cool" school of 3D movies. In the opening scenes from Avatar 3D, it was very quickly obvious that the setting of the movie was designed to show off the awesome effects, and James Cameron lost me as a fan the moment that 3D blob of water was floating in mid-space. It was a cool effect, sure, but how was that part of any story?

On a related note, I walked out of Avatar with the biggest headache I've had in the last 10 years. I don't think that's an overstatement, either. It wasn't particularly entertaining, and I haven't watched Avatar again since the first time (on yet another unrelated note, I have since watched Fern Gully again).

Ok, that all said, let me start by stating that I LOVED this movie. I used to judge how good a movie was by what was in it - I don't do that anymore. I prefer to judge it by how it makes me feel. The Hobbit had me sitting there mesmerised by the beauty of the landscapes, even as the film's story danced around the one in the book. Tolkien's Hobbit book was never more than a children's story, and as such skimmed over or even skipped entire events that must reasonably have happened. The book works as a children's book, precisely because of that. Some of the book's sections are silly and whimsical and fun, and would have made the movie unbelievable.

In the first chapter of the book, we are told that the thirteen dwarves show up to Bilbo's door. This troupe of dwarves have apparently lost all their belongings, and are now wandering around Middle-earth in search of a good burglar. Their temporary home is far away, and their quest will bring them across many miles of wildlands, woodlands, rivers, and mountains. Are we seriously expected to believe that they would bring an orchestra's worth of musical intruments to this great trek? Two fiddles, three flutes, a drum, two clarinets, two viols "as big as [Dwalin and Balin] themselves", while Thorin himself apparently goes to war carrying a golden harp. The Misty Mountains song in the book isn't set to specific music, but what Howard Shore has done with it, had the hairs in my neck stand on end. No instruments were used in the movie but it worked much better.

Other things were also removed - the talking purse belonging to one of the trolls for instance. I had hopes that their names would also be changed from the uber-english Bert, William and Tom, but Peter Jackson has made it work, by giving them uber-english villain characters, even more so than Tolkien himself did. It may be cliched but it works. The problem of three big, noisy, bumbling trolls somehow sneaking up on 13 cautious and suspicious dwarves has been resolved by taking the problem seriously, something Tolkien didn't have to do in the child's book.

Throughout the movie, there are extra incidents and other seemingly superfluous additions to the book's plot, all designed to bring the Hobbit movie into line with LOTR. I think it will give the final series, once completed, a more coherent feel, which is totally lacking in the reading of LOTR after reading The Hobbit.

I won't go into the plot details too much, to avoid too many possible spoilers, but overall I have to say I was thoroughly entertained by the story, and also by how much extra story I was being told. A lot of this story is straight from Tolkien's other works, with some embellishments and dramatisations.

I predict that Peter Jackson's Hobbit will work precisely because of this. His inventions are relatively minor, but he manages to do what Tolkien never finished - to create a version of the Bilbo's story aimed squarely at an older audience.

I briefly wanted to mention the new technologies behind the story. I mentioned my dislike of 3D as a story-telling tool. So far I've not seen any movie that has used it as a secondary device after "plot". There have been many other 3D movies, and although I've not seen most of them, none appear to have resisted the urge to simply throw stuff at the audience. Peter Jackson tells us a good story first and foremost, and uses 3D as one of many different tools. The 3D I saw last night was subtle in some places and understated impressive in others. The 3D rain was a thing of beauty - it made all other movie rain seem fake. The rain was all around the characters, and it felt more real than anything I've seen before.

One other nice 3D device was the subtitles - when more than one character was speaking in non-english, the subtitles were brought back further depending on who had been speaking. This worked so intuitively that nobody I spoke to had even noticed it.

The other new thing of course, is the higher frame rate of 48 frames per second. To achieve this, the Embassy has had new projectors installed a few weeks ago, capable of brighter projections, and at higher framerates. Obviously a huge screen like the one at the Embassy needs a fair amount of energy to get the best results, and last night the movie was hair-sharp, and incredibly easy on my eyes at least.

One previous issue I had about 3D movies is the level of darkness. Essentially, you're sitting in a dark room with sunglasses on. This can cause eye-strain, which in my case has lead to massive headaches. However, with the new brighter projection at twice the framerates, coupled with what seemed to me to be lighter shaded glasses, this appears to have been solved. I watched the movie last night at 48fps, and I felt I could easily have watched it again straight away, with no ill effects.

The common complaint I keep reading online about the 48fps is that it looks "too real". I can't quite understand this - how can this possibly be a bad thing? Yes, it looked "realer" than anything I've ever seen on a big screen, and I loved it! Surely that's the point of going to the cinema? If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that 48fps is here to stay. We will all get used to it, and in ten years time we won't be worrying about frame rates, motion blurs, and other problems long-since solved and forgotten.

Having seen the Hobbit in both 24fps and 48fps formats, I can confirm that the higher fps was far easier on the eye, especially in the panning landscape scenes, and the fast chase sequences. During the Goblin Mines sequence it was far easier to get a sense of what was happening, and I had a better chance to look around the huge caverns and see more detail. As Peter Jackson is so fond of reassuring us, 48fps is a more submersive technology - it really takes you down there as an active participant, something which I did not expect to happen but did.

If I have any complains, it's this - The Hobbit wasn't long enough. The movie seemed all-action, all-of-the-time. There was little time to relax. The LOTR's plot took us to Rivendell and we relaxed when Frodo slept, and slowly the Council scene got us back into recovery mode. There was no such reprieve during The Hobbit - the conflict merely chances from Dwarf vs Orc, to Dwarf vs Elf, and then to Dwarf vs Goblins, and back to Dwarf vs Orcs again. I'm really hoping the extended editions (as promised by Peter Jackson during this year's San Diego's ComicCon) will address this. As a long time "marathoner", I would like to be able to watch The Hobbit as a whole story in a single day as well. The way it stands, it might be too much of a good thing if all three parts move as fast as this one. There's plenty of time for pausing every so often - but I guess there's so much story to tell we can't afford that luxury in this Cinema Edition. Bring on the 4 hour versions, I say! :)

All in all this movie is a very worthy addition to the Middle-earth saga. The dream-team was brought back together - the same scriptwriters, director, special effects houses, and the same actors as much as possible. The results are obvious, and impressive.

I think The Hobbit 1 - An Unexpected Journey will stand the test of time, like LOTR has done. I can't wait for the blu-Ray box set, I guess around Christmas 2014 or so.

In the meantime, I think I'll go see it again at the cinema, in 48fps again. For the third time in two weeks.

  - Jack Machiela

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Second Breakfast on Nov 28 (Red Carpet Day!)

One week to go, and the new Hobbit movie will have its premiere! To say we're mildly excited about this would be a bit of an understatement!

Welly-moot has decided to celebrate the day with a very good hobbit habit - Second Breakfast!

So, on the day of the Premiere (Wednesday, November 28th), if you're a member of Welly-moot - now or in the past - or if you just want to meet up with fellow Hobbit-fans on The Biggest Hobbit Day Ever, then come and join us here in Wellington!

In keeping with our usual meetings, the Second Breakfast will be a totally chaotic affair - we start at roughly 10:00am, and finish when all the food is gone. The picnic will be held underneath the Tripod at the Embassy Theatre end of Courtenay Place.

Remember to bring your own food and drink - Welly-moot doesn't have any budget (or even a bank account), so we rely on everyone to pull their own weight.

We're expecting a few other people to come and join us - travellers from other lands - so let's make them feel welcome! (Travellers from other lands intending to join us - "bring a plate" applies to everyone!)

Oh, and costumes are encouraged, of course!

Click on the banner above to make it bigger, and feel free to pass it along to other interested people. The more the merrier!

One final thing - TVNZ will be there on the day with cameras, so let's make it count. See you all there!

  - Jack

PS - there will be an announcement about the First Public Screening tickets soon, so please be patient!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Again - PWT was NOT to blame - more info

Just to take the blame off PWT - the Hobbit movie was originally supposed to be released on the 13th, uptil about 2 or three weeks ago, when the studio decided that NZ should get it one day earlier.

That means PWT had bought the tickets when it wasn’t open to the public (8 weeks ago), and it would indeed have been filled as a special private “preview” session. So that’s in all likelihood why they got permission to buy all the tickets to the midnight session, and most likely because they had to commit to actually giving the tickets away in competitions all over the world. For instance, the Fabric Softener competition (that was advertised on Wellington buses a few weeks ago) mentioned the date of the “preview” as the 12th, and not as the 13th.

So I don't think that PWT is to blame. They had a deal, and the deal was changed on them halfway through.

And as for PWT spending a meager $14000 on giveaway tickets to Hobbit fans all around the world? Come on, that's really not that much considering the usual council spending.

And there's a good payback for that. $14000 divided by 600 people coming into town, is less than $25 to get people to come into Wellington. Do you think they'll spend more than $25 each while in Wellington, on food, hotels, transport, other entertainment, etc? I'd consider that money incredibly well spent.

  - Jack

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We have tickets (but it was a difficult road)!

It's been an interesting 24 hours.

This time yesterday we were getting ready to go to the Embassy Theatre to wait in line for the Hobbit Premiere tickets for the 12:01am 12/12/12 session. It seems Fate had different ideas.

We were pretty stoked - the brand new Welly-moot banner had been delivered early that day, and also the Welly-moot T-shirts had come in, and so we handed them out to those members who had made it to the Line-party.


It was also nice to meet up with some other familiar faces - Barry from Stansborough Clothing was there, and a few people I have hosted on a LOTR tour - Erin & Erica for instance.

We had originally agreed to meet at 11:30pm, but apparently the first people were already queueing by 5:30pm or so. Alex and I came in about 9:00 or so, and by 11:00 most people had arrived.

There were a lot of very excited people there. I guess all up there would have been around 50-60 people or so. One estimate had it at 200 but I actually took a rough count at one stage, just before midnight. Still a good turnout, I though - especially considering that the Embassy staff had only just announced one day before that the line-party was "on". We had less than 48 hours to announce and prepare. Quite a number of people were wearing cloaks of various descriptions, and a few people were in full Middle-earth costumes. Around 11:30pm, the atmosphere was buzzing.

That all started to change, around 11:45pm. Two guys behind us in line had been online and on the Embassy's website, hitting the "refresh" button to see if tickets were on sale yet. About 11:45pm, one of them noticed that tickets were available to some of the sessions. Odd, we thought - tickets weren't supposed to be on sale until midnight. But, you know, the main Auditorium seats 800 people, so plenty of time.

By 11:52pm, the call went up from the laptop guys that the tickets had sold out.

We still weren't called up to the ticket lines though. Around 11:58pm ((gotta love Facebook and the digital age - all this stuff is so accurate now)), we went to the line. Alex and I were the 4th group in line, and we were asked "which session would you like?". Um, the first one? Obviously? Isn't that why we came? No, they weren't available anymore.

That's roughly where the party ended.

We ended up having to settle for midnight tickets but in the (much) smaller auditorium, which does not have 48fps or the new Atmos sound system currently being installed in the building's main screening room. The prices were the same though. I bought six tickets, also some for a few absent Welly-moot members. The people behind us were told that session had also been sold out now. Some people bought tickets for other sessions, at later times or even dates. In other words, we weren't going to see it together as a group, or as the first country in the world.

There was a newspaper reporter there, interviewing a few people about how they felt, and what we thought may have gone wrong. I answered a few questions fairly bluntly, I think. On the way out we were photographed on his iPhone camera since the DomPost didn't think it would be a big event so hadn't sent a photographer along. Still, at least they showed up, unlike TVNZ or TV3, who I'd also called ahead of time.

Credit: Michael Forbes, Dominion Post

I thought the picture captured our mood pretty perfectly.

So what went wrong?

I've been on the phone most of the day today. I've lost track of the number of radio interviews I gave today. Radio NZ, RadioLive, Newstalk ZB. Other reporters as well. The Dominion Post suddenly decided they did need a better photo after all. One of the first messages this morning though, was a text message from Sir Peter Jackson's spokesperson, Matt Draviztki, to get in contact with him as soon as possible.

Apparently Sir Peter Jackson had heard about the fiasco, and wanted to get involved. Matt extended an astounding offer to the group - if I could get the whole queue back together, Sir Peter would ensure that we would see the movie in its full 48fps glory, come hell or highwater. I spent the better part of the morning trying to get in contact with 60 people who's names I did not take down last night. Luckily everyone seemed to be on Facebook, and there were a lot of photos taken.

NB - if you were there last night, and I haven't yet contacted you - please drop me an email on "", giving me your name, your email, and your approximate place in the queue, and a photo of yourself there if possible.

I also got a call from Sarah Meikle, who works for our city council-sponsored organisation, Positively Wellington Tourism (PWT). She told me what had happened. Apparently, about eight weeks ago the PWT had booked the entire first "public" session. They had asked for permission to do so, and had received it (so, the fault of this is NOT with PWT, or the Wellington Council).

The reason they booked the session was so they could arrange for a huge party, and they intended to give away tickets via competitions etc.

And so, it was decided to donate 120 seats to the Hobbit Line Queuers, and to the Welly-mooters.

So a MASSIVE "Thank You" goes out to Sir Peter and Matt Dravitzki for their initial offer of assistance, and to the PWT's Sarah Meikle for clearing up a mess that they did NOT create, and had no real reason to clean up.

Who's fault was it then? The Embassy Theatre? Not entirely, no. Certainly not the staff in the Wellington building. I've visited them this afternoon to disperse any "bad blood" and find out what went wrong. From what I can figure out, the staff in Wellington were expressly forbidden to talk about Hobbit screening times and sessions. They all knew, apparently, but were prevented by the Embassy's owners (Event Cinemas Ltd) from telling us about it. It's pretty messed up. It must have been pretty depressing for them to watch us for hours, knowing the party wouldn't last. Perhaps that's why they didn't approach us doing our stay? Nobody wants an angry horde of Hobbits on their back.

Elly, the manager from the Embassy and myself have sat down and talked briefly this afternoon. She knew nothing about this debacle until this morning, when all hell broke loose. I think she was telling the truth - certainly she looked pretty distressed while talking to me, and apologised for the whole situation many times.

So of the management of Event Cinemas I would ask this - please remember who pays your wages. It's the people who buy the tickets. And The Hobbit will be the three biggest movies in the next three years. Just sayin'. All we're asking for is some respect.

From here we move forward again. I'm waiting for the final arrangements from the PWT to come through, and I still need a number of names, and email address. So if you were there last night, again, please do tell me where you were sitting - I have a pretty good idea of how many people were there. Send me emails to "", with photos if possible. Once my team of experts is ready, we'll try to hand out the tickets as fairly as possible. This does mean we won't be able to cater for large numbers of extra tickets though, so expect one or two tickets per person, and I reserve the right to the final say over it.

If you know other people who were there, get them to mail me also if they haven't already.

One more thing - if you've already bought tickets, and don't need them anymore because of this - the Embassy has said they will happily refund tickets bought last night.

More information about the event will be posted here as it comes to hand. Stay tuned!

Some relevant articles on stuff today:

Hobbit fans disappointed at ticket debacle

Sir Peter saves Hobbit fans' day

And especially:
Hobbit fans pipped by tourism booking

[UPDATED 8/11/2012] And the next day, also on page 3 in the DomPost:

Hobbit tickets secretly sold months ago

Monday, November 5, 2012

YES! Embassy Theatre Box Office has agreed to open at Midnight!

Breaking news! The wait is over!!

We've just heard that the Embassy Theatre has agreed to open up their Box Office for ticket sales, tomorrow midnight - at 12:01am, EARLY Wednesday morning.

So let's make it worth their while; if you are able, turn up to the Embassy around 11:30pm on the evening of Tuesday the 6th of November, ready to purchase your HOBBIT Tickets for December 12th!

This information was posted on their Facebook page:

**Due to a lot of expressed interest we will be opening our onsite Box Office sales at midnight on the 7th Nov (Tues night/Wed morn). The Box Office will be open for a limited time on this night and we will re-open at 9am on Wed morning**

Online tickets will be available from midnight on Wednesday (Tues night/Wed morn).

Phone sales will be available from 9am on Wednesday morning.

Information about screening times will be avaliable on Wednesday at midnight.

384 7657 or or 10 Kent Terrace

Some Ticket pricing information was given as well:

Main auditorium 3D is $18.50 (adult) $14.50 (child/senior) $17 (student) - doesn't include glasses, which are $1 each pair (brand new-you get to keep them or you can bring your own Real D pair)

Alex and I will be there with our brand new Welly-moot banner, and hopefully we'll have the finished Welly-moot T-shirts as well, so we should be easy to spot!

Perhaps we should draw a few Dwarves on it, or a Dragon maybe?

It's all coming together nicely! Spread the word, and see you at the Embassy tomorrow night! Come in costume if you can/want!

And I would like to extend a BIG "thank you" to Elly from the Embassy for making it happen!