By: G. H. Harding

Orlando Bloom

HOBBIT POPS --- Last night we were at a SRO-screening of the latest Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug; the second in the eventual trilogy of adapted films from the enduring popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had never read this book, nor all that invested in the trilogy of Lord Of The Rings movie, but, that first LOR movie, directed by Peter Jackson, was nothing short of brilliant and established Jackson as a visionary director.

Truth be told, that first LOR-movie was every bit as compelling as the very first Star Wars movie; the comic-con crowd embraced the movie and a true classic was born.

The story, the actors, the effects … nothing short of astonishing. The first installment of the Hobbit movie was good, but to me, a little too slick and serviceable. Jackson showed all his tricks in the LOR epics, so at times it looked like I had seen it before.

The Hobbit-movies tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before LOR. This movie continues the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor …. got that?

I found this installment terrifically engaging (most likely due to the input of another-visionary director Guillermo Del Toro as screenwriter) and just loved the fact that the voice of the dragon Smaug is voiced by none other than my new favorite baddie Benedict Cumberbatch. Martin Freeman as Bilbo; McKellen, and Richard Armitage as just standouts as well. Orlando Bloom reprises as Legolas, and Evangeline Lily (Lost) is a newcomer to the series and is terrific. I also loved the frequent cues to LOR especially when Freeman’s character uses the One Ring’s invisibility powers. There are in fact, many references to LOR … to keep the mysterious intact I'm quite sure. There’s even a reference of the bad-guy Sauron … that no doubt will play a bigger part in the third installment.

This movie ends abruptly with at least a half-dozen plot points left hanging; and Freeman’s character asking rhetorically what have we done as Smaug flies off to create more havoc.

I also loved the fact that the closing theme – traditionally for the hot pop star of the moment- was written and performed by Ed Sheeran, “I See Fire.” It’s actually a perfect song for the movie; very atmospheric. No question this movie will be huge!

CS & N REDEUX --- Crosby, Stills and Nash will tour together once again starting this spring.

Along with their own solo tours and projects (Stephen Stills work with The Rides; David Crosby's new album Croz, and Graham Nash's autobiography Wild Tales), the trio has been regularly touring together in each of the past few years. This time, they have set March 24 as the kickoff of the tour which will run through the end of March. If past years are any indication, additional dates will be added throughout 2014.

Once again, CSN will be accompanied by its backing band featuring: Shane Fontayne (guitar), Steve DiStanislao (drums), Kevin McCormick (bass), James Raymond (keyboards), and Todd Caldwell (organ). They will also be donating $1 for every ticket sold to charity.

If you ever wanted to read one great rock-and-roll memoir … its Nash’s. Terrific!

CLASS OF 2013 --- We didn't listen to everything in 2013; so, in no particular order, here are our picks for the year: Lorde, Pure Heroine; Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience (Part 1); Icona Pop, This Is… Icona Pop; David Bowie, The Next Day; Paul McCartney, New; Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go; James Blake, Overgrown; Jon Hopkins, Immunity; The Lone Bellow, The Lone Bellow; Elton John, The Diving Board; Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork; Arcade Fire, Reflektor; Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer, Different Park; The National, Trouble Will Find Me; Haim, Days Are Gone; Daft Punk, Random Access Memories; and, Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City. It was a pretty good year musically!

CLOSING NOTES --- Time's Person of the Year, announced earlier today, is Pope Francis ... #2 is Edward Snowden. I would have picked Snowden ...

Did you know that Broadway-actor Donnie Kehr, who was in the original Broadway-production of Jersey Boys, is in Clint Eastwood's movie version of the play; due out next year? More on Kehr soon ...

We found out late yesterday that radio-maven Brett Winterble is changing his format next year ... to comedy? PR-pasha David Salidor, who was booking the show for the past 18 months leaves his post. Too bad as we always found Winterble as one of the most provocative radio-heads around. His interviews with the likes of Malcolm McDowell; Richard Belzer; Roger Friedman; Peter Max; Rudy Giuliani; and Steve Van Zandt were awesome. We've lost a great voice here ...

I just ordered a new printer from Staples ... received it, opened it up. No USB cord to be found. I called ... and, found out Staples doesn't supply them anymore. Next time, I'll call Office Depot. Merry Xmas!