The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the exciting adventure of the hobbit Bilbo with 13 dwarves and Gandalf (although he left halfway to investigate an important matter) to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor, which happens early before the events of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
As a prequel to famous The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug proved to be an entertaining, engaging and enjoyable fantasy adventure epic, much better than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in terms of action, humour and CGI and makeup effects for the beasts and creatures of the lore. The scenery shots for the film were magnificient as well. It's nice to see an old character again, the fan favourite (for females), Legolas, the brief mentioning of Gimli and the resurgence of Sauron and his dark forces.
Although there are various subplots found in the film (introduction of a movie-only character, the meeting with Beorn and elves of Mirkwood, Tauriel and her brief romance with Kili, Gandalf's investigation and his eventual confrontation of an old and powerful foe, introduction of Bard and the people of Lake Town, the appearance of Smaug), Jackson managed them well by balancing the subplots with some exciting action scenes. Notably, the barrel chase, confrontation between Gandalf and 'Necromancer', Bilbo and Smaug scenes were well made enough to be considered the best scenes of the trilogy so far.
Tauriel, the silvan elf is a great new addition to the LOTR lore, proving to be a capable fierce warrior like Legolas. It's always interesting to see a strong, capable woman in a male-dominating story. On the other hand, the appearance of Smaug is truly a presence to behold as we don't often see dragons of this scale in films.
Despite its merits, it might be too far of a stretch to make a trilogy from a single book as it never feels as epic and grand as the LOTR trilogy...seemingly lacking a compelling central plot to move the story forward for a 161-mins film. The film also suffers from numerous contrivances, a common problem to many fantasy films...just to name a few: the spiders that manage to catch the group are not eating them immediately, Legolas & Tauriel seemingly always arrive in the nick of time to rescue the main characters, Bard the Bowman just happens to be around when they need help to cross the river, Smaug doesn't kill Bilbo immediately when he knows that he's there to steal the Arkenstone for the dwarves...
Although the film ends in a cliffhanger (and its shortcomings), which may upset some audience or fans, it's still proved to be a satisfying fun watch and I find myself excited to watch the last instalment of the trilogy, The Hobbit: There and Back Again next year.
Frozen is the latest successful animated musical entry from Disney after Tangled. The story is heartwarming, emotionally engaging, unpretentious and enjoyable to watch at the same time. It also provides a good plot twist before the climax. Much like Tangled, Disney managed to return to its old roots by recapturing the long lost Disney classic magic that enthralled the hearts of young and old.
The story's main focus is on sisterhood love compared to romantic ones in the past. However, it does redefine the meaning of true love and and provides a clear moral message to the current younger generation: know the person you fall in love with, not just based on looks and appearances.
The animation is top notch and stunning to watch. The soundtrack for the film is fantastic: the lovely songs "Let It Go", "For the first time in forever", "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?", "Love is an Open Door"...are all good in its own right.
Both princesses in the film are unique, independent, strong, brave young women which can serve good inspirations for many young girls out there. Young Elsa and Anna were so cute and adorable. Elsa is a very interesting character, it's quite rare for Disney to create a female character who is both complex and sympathetic at the same time. Sees herself as only a force of destruction, feeling that she doesn't belong in the Kingdom of Arendelle, it's actually quite heartbreaking to see Elsa forced to suppress her powers, withdraw all her emotions and tragically isolated from the outside world at a very young age just to protect her family and people.
Come to think of it, it's actually quite a shame that she's not paired with a partner who truly love and understand her other than her sister (Although the current plot is not bad, it's just that it would be better if Elsa have a loving partner and her sister as well. She deserves it.).
Overall, this film is definitely a worthy entry to the long line of Disney's greatest animated musical classics for the years to come. Finally, Disney returned to its former glory. Highly recommended to any family or Disney fans who loved the classics.
Animated short film - "Get a horse": Although it blends in the classic black and white look and modern 3D animation of Mickey, Minnie, and Pete, but nothing spectacular or worth mentioning here compared to Pixar's thoughtful animated shorts.
Based on the book "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea" written by Captain Richard Phillips, the film Captain Phillips tells the story of MV Maersk Alabama hijacking incident, which involves the captain's capture and hostage-taking by four Somali pirates in April 2009.
Although the film may be inaccurate (some of the crew members of the ship accused the film of being inaccurate in facts and does not tell the true story), but it's the most detailed and realistic hijack-survival films I've ever seen. The film successfully shows the constant struggle for survival in a life-or-death situation.
As usual, Tom Hanks delivers one of his best performances in this film, after realizing that the pirates are just poor and desperate Somali fishermen, he feels despair of his failure to convince them to surrender after knowing the inevitable fate awaiting his captors. In the emotional final scene, I find myself in tears during Hanks' powerful portrayal of a man experiencing post-traumatic stress.
However, the story is predictable, progressively slow and takes some time to build up to its climax. The details of the hijacking and subsequent hostage taking feels overly long and might put off a lot of audience. The shaky-cam technique, which is typically used in most Paul Greengrass' films in an attempt to make the film more realistic doesn't help much...even making it worst at times and hurt the film.
Overall, it's not the greatest drama film ever made, but it's worth a watch to those who want a realistic, detailed, emotional drama which is 'based on a true story' (we can never know how true it is, are we?). It's not for those who seeks simple hardcore Hollywood action entertainment (otherwise you'll be disappointed).
Despite from a young adult novel similar to Twilight, Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, or Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved to be a brilliantly made, well-paced, compelling sci-fi action drama thriller that's well surpassed the first film, and dare I say, even better than any of the recent young adult novel-to-film adaptations out there.
The film spends the first half of the film to explore and develop its thought-provoking themes: totalitarianism (more specifically fascism, extreme far right of the political spectrum), inequality and class warfare, oppression,the abuse of social media and political manipulation, eventual uprising and revolution, hope, courage and sacrifice, the psychological consequences of taking human lives. These are the thematic elements that make this film stand out among others.
Moreover, the film further addresses the personal feelings of the hunger games victors in the aftermath of the games in the first film...how they feel as a result of killing others. The film also takes time to further develop the love triangle relationship between Katniss, Gale and Peeta...Although Katniss' feelings with Gale (childhood sweetheart) remains unchanged, it is noticeable that Katniss really cared about Peeta and starting to fall in love with him as the film progresses. The entire film comes across as far more complex, heartfelt than its predecessor.
At the young age of 23, Jennifer Lawrence managed to pull out such a great performance to carry the film and letting the audience feel emotionally engaged throughout the film. Although the scope of the film is getting bigger, the film never ceases to focus on Katniss' feelings, about how she deals with the situation. The set (jungle arena) and costume designs were amazing this time around as they get a bigger budget (Jennifer looks good in the 'wedding' dress)
However, the film does have its flaws. most of the thrills of the tournament are left out in order to develop the story. We don't get to really know the contestants in detail (other than they're the previous champions of the games), they're just there to be eventually killed by others due to the tight-writing of the tournament. It is not further explained in the film either on why some participants willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save others whom they barely know (possibly for the greater good as they now become a symbol of hope for the districts?).Furthermore, the shaky-cam filming for some of the action scenes hurts the film as well.
As mentioned in the title, this film is truly 'catching fire', exceeds expectations and further promises an epic conclusion near the end of the film. Now, I'm really excited and looking forward to see how Mockingjay is going to be adapted into two films (Part 1 & 2) to provide a satisfying conclusion to the series.Highly recommended.
Stuck in Love is a heart-warming and satisfying romantic drama film about love relationships in a rather dysfunctional family of writers, each with different perspectives on love. The film jumps back and forth among three key storylines, explores the complexities of love - first love and heartbreak, loss, separation and eventual reconciliation, family relationships...that each character experiences without being overly melodramatic.
Sam's scepticism of love and her unwillingness to engage in a meaningful relationship due to her parent's broken relationship or Rusty's first love and eventual heartbreak makes this film worth a watch.The film shows that no matter how much you love a person, you can't fix that person, the only one that could do that is yourself (Rusty eventual breakdown after realizing how broken Kate is, and that he couldn't help her in any way).It's also about having faith and develop trust in others, accepting and face life's challenges and enjoy the love that we experience along the way (Sam's eventual opening of her heart and returning love with Lou after countless meaningless flings).
The story is a bit all over the place at times, but the good characterization and lovable casts make it enjoyable to watch. The actors, especially the young ones, managed to provide decent convincing performances, bringing depth to their own specific roles.However, it does feel a bit too superficial as all the actors chosen to be in the film are deemed too attractive to be writers.
Overall, it's a feel-good romantic drama that's worth your time. Recommended.
Quotes from Stuck In Love "For love, there are two kinds of people in this world: hopeless romantics and realists. A realist just sees that face and packs it in with every other pretty girl they've ever seen before. On the other hand, the hopeless romantic becomes convinced that God put them on Earth to be with that one person."
"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark." - What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver