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Rating History

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
21 months ago via Flixster

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
Rated: PG-13

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 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."

Stephen King's It
21 months ago via Flixster

Starring: Jonathan Brandis, Richard Thomas, John Ritter, and Tim Curry
Directed By: Tommy Lee Wallace
Written By: Tommy Lee Wallace and Lawrence D. Cohen
Rated: NR

Based on the novel by Stephen King. Something is stalking the town of Derry, Maine. It takes the form of your deepest fears and preys on the children of the town. A group of friends thought they killed It when they were kids, but made a promise to return if It ever came back. 30 years later, kids have started to disappear again, so now they have to return and destroy the evil that haunted their childhood.

I've always heard that this is one of the scariest movies of all time. IT always seems to make onto numerous Best Horror countdowns. I've put it off for a while because I'm a fan of Stephen King and wanted to read the book before watching the miniseries. I finally got around to reading his second longest novel so it was finally time to watch the movie and....I was pretty disappointed. Maybe it's because I don't share the mortal fear many people have of clowns, but I still didn't find IT scary. There were a handful of unnerving parts, but otherwise I found myself waiting for it to be over with.

Obviously a lot of the weight of the movie rests on Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and is that aspect, the film doesn't disappoint. The scenes where he is used correctly result in some great creepy/funny moments.
The kids were also fantastic. The late Jonathan Brandis was great as Stuttering Bill (even when given some of the goofier King dialogue) and could be any childhood friend you might have had growing up. His stutter is realistic, he conveys believable emotion (something most child actors tend to stumble on), and it's easy to buy he naturally leads the other kids.
Seth Green, Emily Perkins, Brandon Crane, and Adam Faraizl also are fantastic, and the group has a strong chemistry as a group of kids who have been friends for a long time. Marlon Taylor and Ben Heller do alright, but didn't leave a big impression on me, but I chalk that up to their characters being somewhat underwritten.
The adults don't shine as much as the kids. I remember Richard Thomas' ponytail more than his performance. John Ritter and Tim Reid do a fairly good job, but they all end up being over-dramatic and almost soap opera like.

One of the biggest problems the movie has is in the flashbacks. Pennywise never seems to do anything but stand back and talk about how he is going to kill the kids and show them "how everyone floats down here", but he never actually tries to kill them. The worst moment is when the It-wolf "attacks" Ritchie in the basement and then, for some reason, just decides to let him go, turn into Pennywise and stand back and laugh. That's it. So why are the kid's so afraid of him? Sure he is killing off their classmates, but he sure doesn't seem to present any danger to them other than the occasional scare before quickly leaving or just stand there staring.
Now there are a few unnerving parts that were done really well, like the kids gathered around the photo album, Ben and Bev in her hotel room, the mini fridge at the library, but I never felt scared.
Tim Curry is great and steals the show when he's on-screen and is really what helps make the scenes with the adults not be completely boring. The movie just suffers from poor made for TV special effects, overacting, vague story elements that are never explained or don't even make any sense (Stanley and his bird book), and is just not scary.
IT is in desperate need of being remade ( if only Tim Curry could come back again) and this version needed to be about a half hour shorter. King doesn't always translate to the screen easily and Wallace and Cohen did a decent job of cramming over 1100 pages into just 3 hours and not lose much of the best parts of the novel. The film isn't a complete waste of time, anyone terrified of clowns will probably get a good scare and Curry's scenes alone are worth a viewing. Everything might float in the sewers of Derry, but unfortunately much of IT just doesn't hold water.

5 Reels Out of 10

"Kill! Me? Oh you are priceless Brat! I am eternal, child. I am the eater of worlds, and of children. And!"

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
21 months ago via Flixster

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Written By: Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Rated: PG-13

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!"

Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 (2014)
21 months ago via Flixster

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
Rated: PG

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."

Fright Night
Fright Night (1985)
21 months ago via Flixster

Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, and Stephen Geoffreys
Directed By: Tom Holland
Written By: Tom Holland
Rated: R

Teenager Charlie Brewster discovers his new next-door neighbor Jerry, is a vampire, but no one believes his warnings. Not even his girlfriend Amy, only friend "Evil" Ed, or Peter Vincent, host of the late night horror hour FRIGHT NIGHT. The three of them try to convince Charlie that it's all his imagination and the only way to do that is take him directly into Jerry's house, right into the monster's lair. There they will discover a very real fright night.

Fright Night was yet another movie that has been on my "need to watch" list for a while (okay only since 2011 when the remake came out, but still...) and Netflix came to my rescue once again. Naturally since I had seen the remake prior to this one I found myself comparing the two and I have to say, I enjoyed the remake a lot better as far as pacing and characters are concerned. That's not to say that there was nothing good about the original. Like I mentioned in my review of The Thing, most 80s horror have become mostly laughable with bad effects or even worse performances. Fright Night manages to toe that line, but never jumps it. It's great 80s nostalgia horror, but the acting is solid and the practical make-up is still fairly good after all these years, so it still makes for an enjoyable horror movie.

I'm having a tough time picking who is my favorite Jerry the Vampire. I liked Colin Farrell as the cool, modern movie vampire, but Chris Sarandon as the suave, old school vampire has a lot of appeal. He plays Jerry with the cockiness of Prince Humperdink, yet without the instant dislike from his underhandedness. He's perfectly menacing instead of brooding or whiny which is something I miss from movie villains these days (especially of the vampiric kind).
William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall are our heroes Charlie and Peter Vincent (whose name is taken from horror icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). One is played scared, yet brave, and the other is just cowardly. They both contrast each other well and are played strong by both actors.
The one performance I can't decide on is Stephen Geoffreys as "Evil" Ed. While he is wonderfully crazy, he just seems so out-of-place sometimes, even when he is just standing there delivering dialogue. His loud voice instantly overshadows anyone else's more subdued tones and comes off as a comic book villain. His performance is however instantly memorable and maintained during the whole movie, so I will give him that.

Even though the film hasn't fallen into complete cheesy territory, there were a couple of glaringly bad moments. Like after one character turns into a wolf, the animal was clearly a different one in almost every shot. This moment is also followed by one character being stabbed and taking a painfully drawn out time to die. While it is a shot that showcases some amazing prosthetics, it needed to say goodbye a lot quicker.
It's pacing moments like that where this one falters from the remake. This one also doesn't have as strong of supporting female characters in Charlie's Mom and Amy and like I said, Ed doesn't quite fit in either. If I had to pick the better, I would say the remake (although that one isn't without its flaws either). However Fright Night is still a fun movie and any fans of 80s horror will want to see it.

7 Reels Out of 10

"Back, spawn of Satan!"
"Oh, really? You have to have faith for this to work on me!"