Monthly Archives: December 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (4 *’s) (2015)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies completes the story begun in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and continued in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The movie stars Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Luke Evans (Bard) and a whole host of other actors and stars including Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), and Christopher Lee (Saruman).

The story picks up where the last movie left off. Smaug is destroying Lake Town and only Bard the archer can hope to stop him with the last remaining black arrow. It is a tense scene, worth witnessing, but suffice it to say, Smaug’s screen time in this movie is probably less than five minutes. He’s in at the beginning, then he’s dead. Then the real challenges begin: for Bard, it is finding refuge for the survivors of Lake Town. For Thorin, it is keeping the Lonely Mountain in the hands of the dwarves. For Bilbo, it is being a true friend to Thorin and company, seeking the best for them, despite what they might think. Soon, there is an army of humans, and an army of Elves on the doorstep of the mountain. The entrance is walled off and fortified, but Thorin and company are only twelve in number. They send word to Dain of the Iron Hills via a thrush and shortly an army of Dwarves arrive on the scene. It looks like there is about to be bloodshed between the Elves and the Dwarves when an army of Orcs arrives. A foe everybody can hate. There is much bloodshed and chaos. Thorin has his final epic struggle with the pale orc, Azog. Some of the company die. The dwarf-elf love interest of the second movie is left unfulfilled and bittersweet as Kili dies. Then, the Eagles arrive, carrying Beorn with them. There is more blood and chaos, and the orcs are defeated. Oh yes, and all throughout this is interwoven Gandalf’s story. He is rescued by the combined efforts of Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman. Sauron is driven off, the ringwraiths are defeated. Then, Gandalf is off rushing to the aid of Bilbo, Thorin, and company.

Strengths: the acting was good, the special effects were good, the story kept my interest even though the bulk of it was about a battle and the build up to said battle. Tolkien purists might object to some of the liberties taken with the material, but I thought that all the modifications were still in keeping with the spirit of the tale. Weaknesses: Probably my biggest complaint was the fact that Smaug was killed in the first five minutes of the movie. If you’re going to keep the dragon around after the movie he should have died in (The Desolation of Smaug), then you should make ample use of him. Oh yeah, there also these things called werewyrms, or something like that, that showed up briefly, dug some tunnels, and then disappeared. I mean, what was that?

Anyway, I’ll give The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies four stars out of five.

Movie Review: Interstellar (4 *’s) (2014)

Interstellar is the latest film directed by Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us the most recent Batman trilogy. It is a long film (nearly three hours) that tackles the realities of interstellar travel, actually intergalactic travel to be more precise. It stars a number of big names: Matthew McConaughey (as Cooper), Anne Hathaway (as Brand), and Michael Cain (as the elder Brand). Cooper’s daughter, Murph, is played by three actresses: Mackenzie Foy (10 years old), Jessica Chastain (adult), and Ellen Burstyn (old woman).

The story begins on Earth in the not-too-distant future. A terrible blight has struck wiping out entire crops at a time. The only thing that grows is corn, and its future is uncertain as well. The situation is desperate. The elder Professor Brand works at a secret NASA station on a secret project. As a result of an apparent paranormal event (which is explained later in the film and which is probably the film’s biggest weakness), Cooper is given the coordinates where the NASA station is located. He sets off with his daughter, Murph, in tow and finds the station; whereupon he is captured by a robot. After a brief interrogation, Professor Brand actually offers Cooper a spot on the upcoming mission that NASA is preparing for. The goal is to find a suitable planet where humanity can start over. Cooper and four other astronauts (including Professor Brand’s daughter) are to be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to where a wormhole has opened leading to another galaxy. The explanation for the wormhole is somewhat mysterious: “they” are responsible—a mysterious alien race that has taken an interest in the Earth’s plight. So, Cooper and the others pass through the wormhole in search of a habitable planet. Will they find one? I’m not tellin’!

Strengths: the acting was superb, the plot was … stellar (just kidding)—the plot was really good, the special effects were great and always appropriate, and the music score was exceptional as well, kind of a mix of haunting melancholy at times and adventurous derring-do. The fact that they tackled relativistic time distortions effectively was a big plus. Weaknesses: I think the film’s biggest weak point was the explanation of the paranormal event I referred to earlier. It did succeed in tying everything back together again, but it struck me as a little cheesy. Other than that, I don’t think there were many big weaknesses. Although it was long; this film is definitely a major time commitment.

Overall, I enjoyed Interstellar quite a bit. I’ll give it four stars out of five.

Movie Review: Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay Part I (4 *’s)(2014)

Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay Part I is the latest instalment in the Hunger Games series, the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins that have been made into movies. It brings back the usual cast of characters: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, and Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin. A lot of big names for a big movie.
The story continues where the preceding Hunger Games movie left off. Katniss has destroyed the Hunger Games and has escaped the wrath of President Snow by taking refuge with the resistance housed in District 13. Her home, District 12, has been destroyed. She finds herself in the midst of a love triangle, torn between Peeta Mellark, her companion for the Hunger Games, and Gale Hawthorne, a young man she has known since childhood. At this moment in the story, she seems to be favoring Peeta. But there is more to her than budding romance. She finds herself the center of attention for a burgeoning rebellion against the Capitol and President Snow. With some reluctance, she agrees to be the symbol of this growing rebellion. Death and destruction are both becoming more prevalent throughout the Districts as sparks of unrest flare. President Alma Coin—the freely chosen democratic leader of District 12—knows that the rebellion needs a unifying figure. Katniss may be just what she is looking for, yet she has doubts. Katniss must first prove herself to this woman. Can they learn to work together and bring down President Snow? Or is Katniss destined to lose all she holds dear including both Peeta and Gale? Find out and see the movie.
Strengths: the acting was good, the plot was good, and the special effects were well done and realistic. The characters were well-developed; you really learned about the evil and ruthlessness of President Snow while admiring the tenacity of Katniss. It was a good flick. Weaknesses: there were a couple of points where I thought Katniss was kind of childish, but those were rare, and they may have been deliberate. She was a complex character (maybe). I thought a couple scenes and some of the dialogue was too predictable. For example, there was a scene with Katniss, Coin, and Plutarch where Katniss shows her spine that I thought was somewhat cheesy. But perhaps that is just me.
Anyway, I’ll give Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay Part I four stars out of five.