Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and Evangeline Lilly
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro
Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. With the help of Bilbo, the dwarves have reclaimed their kingdom, Erebor. Word quickly spreads of the wealth of gold that lies under the mountain and many groups are quick to lay claim to it. The men of Laketown and the Elves of Mirkwood all want their share, but the dwarves' leader Thorin's greed begins to grow and he desires it all for himself. Meanwhile an army of Orcs head for the city to take it for its strategic advantage for a secret war that has been brewing for ages. Bilbo must try to save his vastly outnumbered friends, prevent war from breaking out, and somehow make it back home.
If you thought certain scenes from the recent Hobbit movies were rather on the silly side then you probably won't enjoy much of the final installment. I found myself shaking my head quite a few times and left feeling disappointed that our final trip to Middle Earth ended on this note.
The acting is really the most solid thing the movie has going for it. Martin Freeman is still the best person they could have gotten to play Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen is the only man we could ever see as Gandalf at this point.
I know a lot of people hate Tauriel because she wasn't in the book, but the fact that she is well written and very well acted by Evangeline Lilly helps save the character. She is a lot like Legolas in The Lord of the Rings films, nicer and a lot less of a "holier than thou" Elf that Legolas is like now. Lilly captures the emotional turmoil the character goes through, while not over playing it.
Thrandruil is played with wonderful zealous by Lee Pace. He doesn't ham it up as much as he did in the previous film, but he still has the persona of a great stage actor giving it all with his commanding presence.
Luke Evans does all right, he's just kind of...there. It wasn't a bad performance, I just don't find myself remembering much of it in the mess of a dozen other characters.
I still have yet to figure out why Orlando Bloom looks like he was entirely layered in CGI. The guy hasn't aged at all in the years since The Return of the King, so it wasn't like Ian Holm's case where they were trying to hide his age. It also wasn't to give Elves a more "pretty" appearance because neither of the other elves, Lee Pace (Thrandruil) or Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), look to have gotten the same treatment. This is a problem with a lot the side characters as well. Dain the Dwarf, several Orcs, and some Trolls all look just off enough to make you go "that's CG" and stand out from everyone else.
As for the silly moments, Legolas seems to be the unfortunate character they've all gathered too. Now I know the "shield surfing" moment from The Two Towers or the Olyphant takedown in The Return of the King strained belief, but they were still believable (and pretty freaking cool). Some of the stunts would look perfectly at home if say, Jack Sparrow were doing them, but they didn't fit here. It might have been better if maybe they hadn't been over done, but in the final battle (which is the whole movie) it's just one moment after another.
Something that I was really looking forward to that they started building on in An Unexpected Journey was the friendship between Bilbo and Thorin. They started out strong, completely ignored it in Desolation of Smaug, and then tried to bring back up this time but it never comes across as feeling like Bilbo is great friends with Thorin or any of the dwarves. So when this "fellowship" of sorts goes its separate ways, I just don't buy that they were that upset about it. Sure they spent awhile together, but that doesn't mean they bonded. An Unexpected Journey did a great job of Bilbo having some small bonding with Thorin, Balin, and Bofur, but that got completely ignored in the last two movies for the elf and dwarf romance. There was a nice small scene between Bilbo and Thorin, but at this stage it felt more like a reminder for us that they are friends.
I really, really dislike the Graboids that show up. I can overlook the eagles being misused, but those earthworms...no. There were a million different uses for them and they didn't use any of the best ones.
There are also some connection problems to The Lord of the Rings. Where did Radagast go? What happens when Saruman chases down Sauron? You think someone would be a little concerned about whether or not he was taken care of correctly this time. Fool us once Mordor...
Did this movie leave me disappointed and sad for all the wrong reasons when I left the theater? Yes. Does it make me hate the franchise and everyone involved? Absolutely not. I've heard about all the drama and struggle behind the scenes and I'm thankful that Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, and others even attempted a production of this scale again. Just because one out of three films didn't work out in their favor doesn't mean I will never watch another Jackson film again. I still have yet to watch the extended editions so maybe that will answer some questions/complaints that I have. It may to be one of those movies that grows on me after a little while.
I'm glad I got to experience Middle Earth anew, and all the memories and feelings that has attached to it, one last time. The taste may have been more like maggoty bread than lembas, but there are five other good movies I can wash it down with.
6 Reels Out of 10
"One day I'll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad, those who survived... and those that did not."
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Written By: Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. Katniss managed to escape the games, but what she did there continues to haunt her. Meanwhile the rebellion who rescued her (made up of the survivors of District 13) try to mold her into the face of the resistance against President Snow and The Capitol who still hold Peeta captive. Katniss is determined to save him while dealing with being the symbol she doesn't want to be.
I can't say I'm a fan of The Hunger Games. I never read the books and didn't care for the first films (too much shaky cam and love triangle storyline, which I really dislike). However I ended being invited to see this film for a friend's birthday, so therefore needed to watch Catching Fire beforehand. I had heard good things, that it was a better version of the first movie, so I didn't mind giving it a second chance. I ended up liking Catching Fire and was somewhat impressed with how close this came to being a great film.
I do feel like Jennifer Lawrence is getting a little overexposed at this point between this series and the X-Men one. She is a very talented actress and with each movie she has impressed me even more, and I honestly do like her as Katniss more than Mystique at this point. She does a great job as a girl torn between wanting to just take her loved ones and run, or staying and doing the right thing.
The only other performance I would say left an impression was Elizabeth Banks as Effie, whose character was a potentially one-dimensional annoyance, and now has somehow become one of the characters who goes through one of the biggest internal changes.
Everyone else continues to do a good job with their characters that they've now had plenty practice playing. Woody Harrelson is great as always, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a great turn as Heavensbee, and you can't beat the menacing Donald Sutherland. Josh Hutcherson has little screen time in this, but thankfully he does more this time then look sad at Katniss or lay on the ground dying.
The movie has some truly fantastic moments, but it never quite makes it to being great. The one that was the best (and I'm sure you've probably heard about it) was the attack on the damn/The Hanging Tree scene. The song is great, and James Newton Howard's score is beautifully set to a powerful fog shrouded moment in the movie.
Thankfully the love triangle storyline scenes are no longer drawn out and annoyingly revisited every time the characters have a moment to themselves (their aren't completely gone though). This one finally feels different too, instead of a revisit of events we feel we already saw.Opposite of that, most of the scenes we have are mostly propaganda pieces from both sides playing against each other, or Katniss butting heads with the resistant leaders. The film doesn't quite seem like it goes anywhere, partially because we spend a lot of time underground in the rebellion's hideout. For a few people who aren't hardcore fans, the film will probably drag in a few places.
I enjoyed the movie and I imagine most fans of the series will enjoy it as well. The sets, costumes, the wonderful music score, The Hanging Tree song, and acting are all great. The moments it does right, it succeeds greatly at.
The studio's aim seems to have improved when it comes to making The Hunger Games series and I look forward to seeing Part 2.
7 Reels Out of 10
"I have a message for President Snow: You can torture or bomb us, blast our districts to the ground. But do you see that? Fire is catching...if we burn, you burn with us!"
Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, T.J. Miller, James Cromwell
Directed By: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Written By: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird
Based on the Marvel Comic. Hiro is a genius 12-year-old inventor and teams up with his brother's inflatable healthcare robot Baymax, to track down who is responsible for the fire that killed his brother. Hiro gives Baymax some upgrades in order to stop the mysterious masked figure responsible and the two end up creating their own team of heroes.
The last few years Disney as managed to be a pretty safe bet as far as its animated movies are concerned. I enjoyed Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, so I figured the odds are this one would be pretty good too. It turned out to be a collaboration of various other movies that have come out before it, which didn't result in anything bad, just not anything we haven't really seen before.
Scott Adsit as the voice of Baymax, is endlessly enjoyable and quotable. Adsit voices the gentle, inflatable giant with the calm and soothing voice you would expect to hear from a healthcare machine, regardless of the danger he might be in.
I always find T.J. Miller hilarious, and his voice as Fred was no exception. Fred is one of Miller's typical slacker characters and provides most of the laughs.
We also get some great work from James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr, and relative newcomer Ryan Potter as are hero Hiro
Hiro isn't a very original character. He looks, acts, and sounds almost identical to Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon. In fact Big Hero 6 borrows a lot of its style from Dragon. From Hiro himself, his relationship with Baymax, the flying scenes, to the gang of misfits that he ends up teaming up with, they both kind of follow the same formula. In the case of Dragon, the misfits served some purpose and provided help that Hiccup needed. In Big Hero 6, they don't serve much purpose other than to get in the way and act odd. Hiro could pretty much have handled the whole thing without them since he's so intelligent. However they aren't unlikable, they all will make you laugh, and in the big scheme of things, it's a minor thing I can overlook in a kid's movie.
Big Hero 6 manages to be an enjoyable, if not entirely original, ride. It has some strong characters, funny moments, beautiful animation, and voice work. Your kids will love it and you will probably have to listen to them saying "Hairy baby" in Baymax voice for a couple of weeks. Hey, I can promise it's defiantly going to be better and less annoying than Penguins of Madagascar. Oh and with all Marvel/Disney movies, there is a bonus scene after the credits featuring Fred.
7 Reels Out of 10
"Honey Lemon? Go Go? Wasabi?"
"I spilled wasabi on my shirt ONE TIME!"
"...Fred comes up with the nicknames."
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and Jessica Chastain.
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
In the future, earth has become a dust bowl and mankind is starving. Cooper, a former astronaut turned farmer, is recruited by NASA after he stumbles upon their secret plan to leave Earth and discover a new habitable world for the planet's remaining populace. He pilots a four person team into a wormhole in hopes to find humanity's last hope at survival.
I went in not knowing much about this film. I saw the trailer once a few months ago and tried to avoid any spoilers or hype for it after that. I kept it in the back of my mind until it came out and was lucky enough to catch it on an IMAX screen (not a genuine one, but one of the smaller screens that my friend refers to as Lie-MAX). I have to say it was an incredible movie experience, not just because it was in IMAX, but as a film itself. It has easily become one of my favorites of the year thanks to its great performances, beautiful visuals, and one of Hans Zimmer's best scores.
Sometime in the last few years, Matthew McConaughey has turned into an incredibly talented actor (yeah I didn't think I would ever type those words either). A lot of people scuffed at him playing an astronaut, but he works great in the world the Nolan's made. In this world, mankind doesn't need men to fly space shuttles anymore, but grow corn instead, and he fits in that mold perfectly as a pilot turned farmer.
One of the other people joining McConaughey on his journey through the stars is Anne Hathaway, an actress who continues to impress with each new role I see her in. She continues to do an excellent job with her role in Interstellar.
Another performance worth mentioning would be Bill Irwin as the voice of the robot TARS, whose simplistic design was fantastic and I like they didn't try to go to complicated with it. TARS is one of the few times you will get to chuckle in an emotionally heavy movie.
Despite how much I loved the movie, I do admit it does have its faults so I can understand where some of the people who disliked it are coming from.
The audio is incredibly loud, so much so that some of the dialogue becomes hard to hear (I didn't really have a problem because often the parts that were muffled were repeated later). I do like how those moments contrasted the silence of the exterior moments of the ship in space, so I didn't mind them.
The third act was a bit hard to swallow (which happens with Nolan sometimes). I found myself asking "Really? That's the answer" a few times, but it at least made sense and isn't something you'll see coming a mile away. It took a little bit to convince me, but I ended up accepting it because I enjoyed the movie so much.
Even with those problems, I still enjoyed it. It's a powerful film and I felt emotionally drained after watching it. Which, for me, feeling something so powerful is a sign of a fantastic movie experience. If you have the opportunity, I recommend seeing it in IMAX. The expansive space, planet, and landscape shots make the experience well worth the added money. It is almost a cliché description, but I can't think of any other way to describe Interstellar other than...breathtaking.
9 Reels Out of 10
"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."
Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, and Kate del Castillo
Directed By: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Written By: Jorge R. Gutierrez and Douglas Langdale
Le Muerte (The guardian of the Land of the Remembered) and Xibalba (guardian of the Land of the Forgotten), place a bet on two young boys, Joaquin and Manolo, over which will marry their childhood friend, Maria, to determine who will rule the Lands of the Dead. Years later, both boys live under the shadows of their ancestors and want to have their own successful lives. When Maria returns to their hometown, Manolo is determined to win her heart, but gets tricked into traveling to the Land of the Dead and must discover a way out to become reunited with his love.
I got intrigued by this movie's unique look from the first time I saw the trailer, and with Guillermo del Toro's name attached as an executive producer I decided it was worth my time to check out (even though most of del Toro's produced projects turn out to not be as good as the ones he helms himself). The Book of Life turned out to be a vibrant film that was full of, well...life, but is like a child hyped up on too many sugar skulls and spends the day running around faster than anyone can watch him at a relaxing pace.
Diego Luna does an excellent job in the lead, and Zoe Saldana plays her typical tough female persona that she has mastered over the years. They head up a solid cast with no real problems in it.
However, I do find it a little odd that Channing Tatum was cast since he doesn't have the same hispanic accent as the rest of the cast (and thankfully doesn't try for one). I'm guessing it was an attempt to get some kind of bigger name on the poster. It doesn't overly hurt the movie, it's just odd hearing his voice in the midst of so many characters he doesn't sound much like.
I certainly enjoyed Ron Perlman and Kate del Castillo as the two guardians and film's antagonist. They had some enjoyable banter and had a lot of untapped potential as far as their characters were concerned, but they still manage to do a good amount with the time they had.
My main problem with this movie is it moves so fast. Except for a couple of instances when Manolo sings, it never takes the time to slow down and give the audience a chance to pause and take it all in. The movie's original style is a breath of fresh air from your typical animation films and I would have loved some nice long shots of the beautiful Land of the Remembered or dismal Land of the Forgotten, but we zoom through it all. We move from joke to joke in seconds, barely leaving anytime to laugh. There is some conflict for Manolo, but it's all overcome in seconds so we never get any sense of peril. He passes through each challenge with ease, so why should we worry?
The movie is just under an hour and a half, so it's over quickly, which works great if you have kids with short attention spans or if you really end up hating the movie and long for it to be over.
The main characters are certainly interesting and the visuals are stunning, but we are never given a chance to enjoy either. If the movie had taken the time to slow down and enjoy the life it has then it could have been a lot more enjoyable experiencing.
6 Reels Out of 10
"Kids these days, with their long hair and not killing stuff."