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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Review

30 Dec

Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen. Since 2001, I’ve enjoyed taking my theatrical trips to Middle Earth and seeing some of the most amazing fantasy adventures ever brought to life onscreen. That may seem cheesy, but it’s true. Now we have the last film of the entire saga of Middle Earth, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This is the big one. This is what everything in the last two movies has been leading up to, and this is also the bridge that takes us into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so this movie has some pretty big boots to fill, Hobbit feet sizes to be exact.


Picking up right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, the movie begins with the evil dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacking Lake-town, but upon his defeat the kingdom under the mountain, Erebor, and all of its riches are up for grabs. Thorin (Richard Armitage) claims it, and commands the dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to obsessively search for the Arkenstone that he and Smaug so coveted. Meanwhile, Bard (Luke Evans) and the elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace) begins moving on Erebor to get their share of the treasure, while Azog (Manu Bennet) and his army of goblins, orcs, and trolls get ever closer to attacking the mountain, themselves, and ending Thorin’s bloodline once and for all.

What’s great about the title of this movie is that it really is one of the more accurate titles to a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s called The Battle of the Five Armies, and that’s pretty much exactly what the movie is: one enormous battle. You can kind of see similarities with The Return of the King, that movie also pretty much being one huge battle, but that one did it far better. There are a lot of small problems that find their way into The Battle of the Five Armies that don’t quite ruin the experience, but they really stand out when I think about the movie. Still, this is a superb fantasy film that was a satisfying last trip into Middle Earth.



Here’s the thing. This movie is almost non stop and at times, that began to wear on me. At a point it is just a battle with scene after scene after scene of fighting. Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie is epic and the battle scenes are great, but there seems to be so much going on that the special effects go completely haywire. There’s one character in particular who looks like Jackson grabbed him from The Polar Express, put dwarf armor on him and just threw him into the movie. It was distracting as all hell and pulled me out of the movie on more than one occasion. Another issue is that this movie feels like a log flume with no splash. The entire movie, hell the entire trilogy, is building up to that big splash at the end, and it just isn’t as impactful as it should have been. Now, I’m sick of being negative here. Let’s look at the positives.

As always, everyone in this movie is great. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage (playing an almost Shakespearean character), and Benedict Cumberbatch all knock it out of the park. They’re characters we love, or characters we love to hate so it’s always a blast seeing them all again. I said before that the fighting started to wear on me, sure, but it is an epic battle nonetheless. Seeing dwarves and elves working together against orcs is just breathtaking to see, but add a hobbit with a ring of power and a wizard with amazing abilities, and it all equals exactly what I want to see when the lights in the theater go down and I’m transported to Middle Earth.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies may not be the best in the entire saga, but after some thought, I think it might be my favorite of the Hobbit trilogy, with The Desolation of Smaug giving it a run for its money. Hell, they might even be tied. There are flaws with the special effects, a boring love triangle, and some odd pacing (and I don’t mean Lee Pace and his elk), but that’s not to say that this isn’t a great experience. To see how these movies and the Lord of the Rings movies come together and all of the battles that went on before the real Battle for Middle Earth began is just awesome. These movies, this one included, will never be as recognized or appreciated as Jackson’s previous Middle Earth films, but this is still a really great movie, nonetheless.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Review

7 Aug

It almost feels like Christmas when a trailer for a new Marvel movie comes out. Following the first viewing comes months of speculation on how the movies going to be and what might possibly happen based on our knowledge of the universe, the comic books, and the characters. When I first saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, a title which I knew next to nothing about, I immediately began preparing and even went out and bought some of the graphic novels so I could learn the characters. My hopes were high going into this film and were raised even higher when I left the theater. This is a spot on Marvel film that nearly earns perfection.


As a young boy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by an alien ship and turns into one of the more underestimated space pirates in the galaxy. After finding a priceless orb, Quill, now calling himself Star Lord, becomes the bounty if his former mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker). Not only is Yondu after him, but so is a trained assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is apparently working for the evil Kree Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a genetically engineered raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his bodyguard, a humanoid tree named Groot (Vin Diesel). These unlikely future heroes soon collide and end up in a prison with the vengeful Drax (Dave Bautista), who is hell bent on finding Ronan and killing him for the atrocities done to Drax’s family. With the band of misfits finally formed, they begin to realize the power that the orb really has and who is the puppeteer who has his eyes on it as a weapon of macrocosmic destruction.

As soon as the trailer was first revealed, it was obvious that this was going to be a movie that isn’t even really in the same ball park as The Avengers. Yes, there are major connections to the previous films that are going to be important to the overall story, but the feeling of this movie is completely different. This is an excellent conglomeration of super hero action and science fiction wonder. There’s space travel, dogfights, aliens all in the universe of all the other Marvel heroes. Needless to say the universe that has been created already just got a whole lot bigger with Guardians of the Galaxy what with all the new characters and plots. This was a big project that was successful because of all the people that were involved and the intelligence with which it was produced.


First of all, I have to commend the writing of this movie. Not only is it really cool science fiction, it’s also hilarious. The one liners in this movie are enough to make a Vulcan chuckle with mild delight. It’s mostly on point, but there were a few times where some of the jokes dragged on a little bit and lost the luster it never really had. It’s not good if a joke falls flat, but it’s bad if they keep running with the dead joke. This happens only once or twice in the movie so it isn’t even that big of a deal. But with the comedy and the action comes really good scenes of drama. The opening scene is dramatic enough to carry the entire movie, but when the Guardians are at their lowest, the audience feels it, and that’s due to the work of the writers, the director James Gunn, and the perfectly casted group of actors.

These characters are very distinct in their own way, and to nail them each perfectly isn’t an easy task. Pratt is the obvious choice for Peter Quill with both the way he looks and his personality, and anyone who saw The Iron Giant wouldn’t be surprised to see Diesel as the role of Groot. The only person who gets a little awkward at times is Saldana as Gamora, even though she evens it out with some terrific acting towards the end. The real scene stealers, however, are Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Dave Bautista as Drax. I was expecting Cooper to knock it out of the part as the wise cracking raccoon, and he did, but Bautista delivered some of my favorite lines in the movie. His completely serious attitude was perfect for Drax’s moments of being unintentionally hilarious.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great looking movie, a well acted movie, and also expertly written and directed. Marvel took a gamble on this one. This isn’t the most popular comic book they ever created and it would’ve been easy to stick with the heroes they’re already using. Instead, they went out on a limb and made this film which has proved to be the definitive blockbuster film of the year, in my opinion. It has action, laughs, heart, and characters who are easy to love. This is an excellent film that I can’t wait to see again and again and again.

The Fall – Review

2 Aug

Speaking as someone who was a child, it’s easy for stories and imagination to blend into the real world. This combination of fantasy and reality for children has been beautifully captured in movies, with my go to prime example being Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Fortunately, as of a few days ago I can add another go to film that explores this theme, but also a film that is one of the most beautiful exercises of cinematography and editing that has ever been used in all of film history. Not only is this a beautiful looking film, it’s story is beautiful. The entire movie itself can only be described as beautiful.


In the early 1920s when the world of film was evolving, stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) finds himself in a European hospital after severely injuring himself for a particular stunt. He soon finds company in a little Romanian girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), who he begins telling an epic, swashbuckling story of a group of heroes out for revenge on the evil Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone). What Alexandria doesn’t know is that this is all a distraction and a ploy for Roy to earn Alexandria’s trust and convince her to steal morphine from the hospital so that he can commit suicide after losing the love of his life and possibly ruining his career. As Alexandria hears more of the story and risks more than she knows trying to steal the morphine, employees in the hospital begin weaving their way into Roy’s story more and more while evils from the story are finding their way into the hospital.

Before I started watching The Fall, I had a concern that this movie was pretty much just going to be about the visuals and the locations. Pretty much I just thought that this movie was going to look nice and lose some points in terms of story. I was happy to see once again that my assumptions were wrong. This movie has a wonderful story that is filled with hallucinatory moments, wonderful moments of childhood, and an imagination that would do Hollywood a lot of good. The Fall was one of those movies that slipped through the cracks, which is really unfortunate since it has so much to offer. I was also surprised to see how little awards were given to this film, especially in terms of cinematography and editing which are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. It’s like walking into a museum and seeing the paintings come to life.


One of the best things about this movie is the relationship between Roy and Alexandria. It’s one of the most touching and genuine friendships and really makes you feel the emotional impact when something good or bad happens to either of them. The performances by Pace and Untaru are both really great, and at the risk of sounding redundant, they feel very genuine. This is especially true for the young actress Catinca Untaru who gives a startlingly impressive performance. I’ve never really seen a child actor give a performance that felt so real. Apparently the director Tarsem Singh has Catinca believe that Lee Pace was actually paralyzed, a move that he felt made the performances more real. From what I can see, it actually did work.

Finally, the themes of this movie are very heavy and true to life, much like the ones in Pan’s Labyrinth, which I consider to be the fraternal twin of The Fall, being as they both were released in 2006 and share much of the same thematic material. In The Fall, however, the themes concern self worth, suicide, and childhood innocence and naïvety in both children and adults. It’s so interesting to see the scary adult world filled with violence and self loathing through the eyes of a child who has lost so much, but still doesn’t understand the real meaning of loss. Both characters have suffered loss, but only one seems to be really affected by it while the other is still lost in her own world of innocence. This is a very sad movie, but it also leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction and hope for the characters, and possibly even life itself.

The Fall is really a beautiful movie to look at, listen to, and understand. It has swashbuckling adventure, unbelievable visuals, and a core story that is as real as we made out favorite heroes out to be when we were children, ourselves. The way fantasy and reality begin to become one was so interesting to see, and made me think of this movie as another reminder why I love movies as much as I do. It was a perfect combination of talent, idea, and dedication especially since it took four years to film on so many different locations. This is an intelligently executed work of art that would be a sin to miss out on.