Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Major spoilers throughout!

And with this final installment of The Hobbit, it strikes me most interestingly how similar Peter Jackson's prequels-to-a-masterpiece are to George Lucas's. The only significant difference is that Jackson had a much bigger budget at his disposal. But I did manage to put aside the mental image of PJ rolling in his oodles of cash and giggling, and enjoyed this final Middle-Earth movie for what it was.

Sometimes it was beautiful.

And often, it was funny. I rolled my eyes with good humor at Bard riding that wagon down the hill, nearly killing his children in order to save them, and raised my eyebrows at the trolls that looked like grumpy old geezers. I definitely chuckled at the Catapult Trolls, and the one who had chains for eyes was amusing...ly disturbing.

Legolas, Captain of the Obvious and Ridiculous (Orlando Bloom) gets to one-up his Lord of the Rings era antics several times, like when he rides a giant bat in a scene straight out of Peter Jackson's King Kong. (He figured we'd all slept through that moment or forgotten it by now, but I remember!) "These bats were bred for a single purpose: so I can be awesome at no creative expense of the director!" But that was nothing compared to his fight with Bolg and how hard I laughed when Legsie lightly springs off stones as they fall, jumping to safety, and ignoring those pesky laws of physics.

"What are we doing here, Legolas?" "I'm not sure... making sure this movie really, really long, I guess." "Cool." "Let's be dramatic for a second and then head back to the action."

But at least Captain Obvious wasn't annoying. I spent the whole movie tolerating the scenes that Alfrid hijacks on the confidence that he would get his just deserts before then end. And does he? No -- so why again was he taking up all my beloved characters' screen time?
 
Additions were mostly laughable, but when it came to changes, indifference was the best I could manage. Two changes are worth mentioning because of the importance I put on them: Firstly, the deaths of Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his nephews. I was neutral for the most part on Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel's (Evangeline Lilly) romance, because while I thought it was a little silly I knew it couldn't come to anything, and figured it could do no harm. I was proved wrong when Kili's developmental focus was shifted from loyalty for his uncle to infatuation with an elf lady. In the end he died for her, not for Thorin, like he and Fili (Dean O'Gorman) nobly do in the book. Here Fili gets an even worse fate, as he hardly get any development at all, and then is killed as a taunt to spur the other two doomed dwarves on. Still, while I don't approve of the context, Fili and Kili's deaths were certainly affecting -- Fili's perhaps the most, so that's good for him -- and forgetting anything that had to do with ice, Thorin's death was good, and in fact quite moving as he makes his peace with Bilbo.

Why Tolkien, why?

And secondly, the death of The Dragon. (The Magnificent Benedict Cumberbatch) As you know, I had high hopes for this scene. It is my absolute favorite part of the book -- Bard, a regular man, takes his last arrow, a regular arrow, and with knowledge of the dragon's weakness fires that regular arrow from his regular, trusty bow, and it finds its mark and sinks in, "barb, shaft, and feather." And the Great and Terrible Smaug is brought down by such a little thing because of his carelessness, vanity, and pride. PJ's version becomes overly complicated for no clear reason, and all but destroys the power of the moment. Still, after the arrow sinks in (not all the way, I noticed with disappointment) the rest of the scene was exactly as it should have been, and therefore great.

I did like that they gave Smaug some more dialogue. He can have all the dialogue he wants!

In the realm of characters, the most compelling was the King Under the Mountain himself Thorin. The madness of King Thorin was a thing to behold, and handled well from all aspects. Richard Armitage really was, and proved himself to be a great choice for the king, from his distinctive voice to his expressive eyes and perfect nose, to his remarkable ability to be so convincingly violent, and then equally convincingly kind and affectionate.

On a totally different note, I suddenly feel a need to watch North and South...

Next, our hero Bilbo Baggins. And I will only ever have praise for Martin Freeman's iconic performance as the iconic Hobbit, but this film doesn't give him as much to do as the previous two. Still, obviously, what he does do never fails to add continuous sparks of life to a film that often borders on boring from being so drawn out. I loved his dilemma over the Arkenstone, and how all that played out so similarly to the book. The conflict between him and Thorin was probably the best thing about this movie, from the very beginning through Thorin's death scene, their relationship was nothing but quality.

The scene of Thorin gifting the Mithril mail to Bilbo was just perfect.

And then there's Bard, (Luke Evans) my favorite side character, and after he kills Smaug his role is only just beginning. Even though in the book he was in a position of power from the first, this Bard's transition from Bard the Bargeman, to Bard the Bowman, to Bard the Leader, and a man who can hold his own while counseling with a wizard and an elf king is as natural and believable as anything, because that's simply who the character is. He did rather disappear into the confusion of the climax though, which was too bad, and the plot line about he and the Lake Town people getting their money was left hanging.

Bard the Negotiator.

And speaking of elf kings -- Lee Pace. Thranduil's character development had some interesting drama in it. His final approval of Tauriel and Kili's romance was a bit too much and a bit too silly, but otherwise his conflict with Tauriel was interesting, and with Legolas even more so. He has such a striking appearance and cool, majestic presence; so that when he becomes confused or doubts himself it's done so subtly, yet is somehow jarring to see. He is also the first and only elf to really impress on me the weight of the immortality of the elves -- he makes it believable and a important part of him.

He's also the most fabulous elf-king in all of Middle-Earth!

All the dwarves besides Kili and Thorin are basically left alone for this movie, and as always, I wish some of the pointless action sequences had been traded in for more character for those on the sidelines. Fili and Balin (Ken Scott) get their tiny bit, and Dwalin (Graham McTavish) gets his second to show of fighting skills, but my favorite, Bofur (James Nesbitt), who actually had a part in the last movie is forgotten, along with Bifur (William Kircher), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Nori (Jed Brophy), Ori (Adam Brown), Oin (John Callen), and Gloin (Peter Hambleton).

And Bofur if that guy who hides behind someone's head in the group picture...

The dwarf king Dain Ironfoot (Billy Connolly) was a short but fun addition to the dwarf ranks though. I loved how Scottish he was, and how his beard looked like tusks. His ride -- well, I won't go there. Late-to-the-party Beorn was a sight for sore eyes, but his appearance was turned mostly to an excuse to see him turn into a bear whilst falling from the sky, which was quite a sight I admit, but seconds after he lands, we never see him again. As for Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the members of the White Council, and their adventures; Sauron was cool, because his name is Cumberbatch, as were the Nine, but overall nothing happened, and that plot line was useless.

Interestingly, I actually started liking Azog (Manu Bennett) in this one. Perhaps because this is where he finally fits in and has a part to play.

On the technical side it is definitely worth commending the CGI quality which was disappointing in An Unexpected Journey, but wasn't noticeably bad here, and therefore must have been good. Or maybe I got used to it. The cinematography was occasionally nice to look at, (like in the scene of parley between Thorin and Bard, which was great and a great scene besides) but more often, it looked tired, which makes sense. The directing and writing was tired as well -- there was a lot that was a bit too familiar. In the score's case though, the familiarity was a pleasant quality. I still love the Bard and the Lake Town themes, and enjoyed the variations on those, and a few others. And then of course there was Billy Boyd's song played in the credits, and it was fitting and lovely.

And so, I bid The Hobbit a very fond farewell. And I was fond of these new films -- mainly the wonderful, endearing, magnificent characters that populated them -- but the fondness of this goodbye is more out of my sentiment than a reluctance to see them leave.

Roads go ever ever on
  Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
  By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
  And through the merry flowers of June
Over grass and over stone,
  And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
 Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
  Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
  And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
  And trees and hills they long have known.

Friday, December 5, 2014

About Time

This review is spoiler-free.

I will refrain from puns -- it's about time I refrain from puns! After that one, after that one...

The day Tim turns twenty-one, his father takes him aside and tells him the family secret. Like most family secrets, it's not exactly the sort of thing you'd want to go blabbing to everyone, but that's where the similarities end. Tim even has a hard time believing it. "This is such a weird joke..."  he says hesitantly after his dad solemnly delivers the punch line of, "all the men in this family can time travel." Swearing revenge on his father for such a strange prank, he goes in search of a dark cupboard. Inside, he closes his eyes, clenches his fists, and thinks of the past -- yesterday's terrible New Years Eve party. When he opens his eyes again he's still in the cupboard, but he's wearing different clothes and music is blaring. Knowing what will happen, he takes the opportunity to fix a few things: not knocking over a table of drinks onto a couch full of the cool kids, and planting a kiss on the girl standing by him at midnight -- before returning to the present, full of questions.

On his father's advice, he opts not to use his abilities for the gain of wealth, but for the gain of happiness. In his words: "I'd really like to get a girlfriend." But even with time at your disposal, love can still be a very complicated thing to figure out.

In fact, the option of time travel can make it even more complicated.

My sister and I are currently in the middle of a long search for "the perfect classic rom-com." It's an elusive little critter, and I was tempted to end the search with this movie, but honestly, About Time is far too extraordinary to fall simply under the category of "rom-com." Although it is primarily made of romance and comedy, it is not at all formatted like a rom-com, and never comes close to the sugary fluff that defines the genre.

The most glaring difference to me is that this movie is all about the guy. Played by the absolutely adorable Irish ginger Domhnall Gleeson. You may recognize him as Ron Weasley's brother; you may recognize him in Star Wars 7 come May, provided he hasn't landed a part as an prosthetic-covered alien. I discovered him this summer when I found every single ginger actor in the UK in an attempt to figure out who the 12th Doctor should be/have been. Having seen him act now I think he'd be a fantasic Doctor... but I'm straying from the point. Gleeson is an exceptional lead here -- by any genre. The movie is about him (and time) and he is unquestionably the best of it. Tim can be awkward and dense, and makes mistakes, but we are always on his side no matter what. He is completely charming, kind, gracious, and caring, and downright hilarious in a wonderful, classic British high comedy sort of way. And that last bit goes for the whole movie too.

Romantic comedies with leading men always seem to be the best.

The supporting cast is brimming with talented faces. Like Bill Nighy as Tim's dad. Everything he does is, of course, masterful. Lindsay Duncan is quirky, or, rather, slightly off, and amusing as his mum. Lydia Wilson of "The Making of a Lady" is Kit Kat, the sister, and almost completely unrecognizable under the persona of a loopy and care-free hippie. The gorgeous Tom Hughes makes appearances as her troublesome boyfriend. And Tom Hollander is outrageous as the disturbed playwright uncle who hates everyone and everything. I laughed so hard at one of his scenes we had to rewind after we were finished as our laughing bled into the next scene. Every side character has the quirks to make them totally individual, and the natural portrayal to make them believably realistic.

Even the smallest side character is unique and smartly portrayed.

And then, and then, there is Rachel McAdams. She is technically the second main character, as the love interest, but she is one of two things (albeit the lesser of the two) that puts a slight damper of the magnificence of this film. It's probably all my fault; I'm just not a fan of McAdams. She just doesn't charm me. I like her considerably better when she plays... dislikeable people, like in Midnight in Paris, and here, her character Mary, the American living in London, insecure, sweet and sassy, only occasionally (and perhaps unintentionally) borders on... dislikable. But as far as her likable characters go, this is her best by my reckoning.

They were cute, but I did think she was a little out of his league -- opposite of the way we were supposed to think.

The bigger dampener is the R rating, and the content that caused it. The language exceeds a PG-13 by a count of about 4, and otherwise, there were two scenes left unwatched. Not the worst it could have been, but would the film suffer if it were tamed down a notch? I wouldn't think so, but that's not accounting for the butterfly effect. (It is a time travel movie after all.) If the maturity of the content had been brought down, perhaps the maturity of the message would have been dragged down with it. I can't see why it would, but I do know I've never seen a more appropriate rom-com with a theme equal to this one; in significance, or sincerity.

We and Tim go through life in this film together, and see the truth of real life reflected in its simple and honest artistry. He learns, and we are reminded -- that worrying instead of living through life is never profitable; that it's better to give out love than receive it, and that every day -- every moment -- is a gift worth appreciating. They are common themes, a dime a dozen in movies with no better ideas, but the true, sincere concept of Tim's tale. Through his eyes you see that these ideas may seem insignificant and frivolous until they are applied with powerful effect to one's own extraordinary, ordinary life.

No time travel necessary.

See you again a long time ago! (In a galaxy far, far away!)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Upcoming Movie Roundup - December

Happy December everyone! I hope all your Thanksgivings were full of joy and, well, thanksgivings! Last month, even though I was seriously considering going to the theater for three different movies, I only ended up seeing the one I knew I absolutely would; Mockingjay Part 1. We even went to the Thursday night premiere, which I was not a little nervous about, because I am afraid of teenaged fangirls when they are massed together and excited, but the audience was surprisingly mature, and it was a fun experience. Click here to read my review! And Big Hero 6 and Interstellar are still on my to-watch list -- in that order. December sees the next movie I've been excitedly anticipating for a year, and few others that could potentially make my list.

What movies did you see in November, and what are your plans for December? Let me know in the comments!

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Dec 12th; PG-13
It's been 16 years since the classic The Prince of Egypt, so I wouldn't mind another film version of this event, and it's looking very epic. But, then again, Noah looked pretty epic as well, and wound up being hands down the worst movie to masquerade as a bible story ever, so I won't let my hopes go too high before I can read some opinions on the film from a christian perspective. That being said, Christian Bale as Moses, and Joel Edgerton as Rameses are two very good reasons to get ones hopes up... and the trailer promising a huge epic battle and shying away from including God is good reason to remain wary. But man, does it look good...




The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Dec 17th: PG-13
We have reached the end of the journey -- there and back again, as it were (as it was, until it was changed). Even though I tend to nit pick these movies, and will probably never love them as much as I do The Lord of the Rings, I can't begin to describe how glad I am that these Hobbit movies were made (even if I don't agree with the way they were made %100). Martin Freeman's Bilbo is absolute perfection, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. Plus the individualizing character development for all the dwarves, (and other characters underdeveloped in the book) making them all unique and familiar. And Smaug the incredible and magnificent, the richest fictional character in history, is actually done justice, and that is mind-blowing. I am going to be very sad to bid all these characters, and this amazing world "a very fond farewell."

On that note, here's the music video for Billy Boyd's song "The Last Goodbye" to be played in the credits of BotFA. Here, with clips from The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, it is effectively saying goodbye to all things Middle-Earth, and it is wonderfully heartbreaking.



And here's the main trailer, in case you have a hanker to see it again (I hope you've seen it before!):




Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Dec 19th: PG
The third Night at the Museum movie gives The Hobbit as run for its money for "longest movie title of the month award," but comes up just short. In this one, the gang all goes to London to try and figure out what is wrong with the artifact that magically makes them come to life at night. My main interest in this comes from the fact that Dan Steven is in it... as Sir Lancelot no less! But even besides him, the film would still be on my radar. Ever since The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I've had considerably more respect for Ben Stiller's work, and the series so far has certainly been good enough to make a third seem like a worthy endeavor.




Annie
Dec 19th; PG
"It's the hard-knock life" -- remixed! Quvenzhane Wallis stars as Annie in this modernized remake of the classic musical. There's also Jamie Foxx as Daddy Warbucks (now Will Stacks), Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan, and Rose Byrne as Grace. Though I seriously anyone could match the amazingness of Alan Cumming's Rooster, and Kristen Chenoweth's Lily St. Regis in my current favorite version (if they even have the characters in this one) I'm definitely excited for the potential that this may be a very cute, upbeat, and modern version of the story.




American Sniper
Dec 25th (limited); R
And on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from Annie is Clint Eastwood's new movie about the real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper. And since I've been slowly becoming more and more of a fan of Cooper's after writing him off as a pretty-boy at first, that's the main reason for my interest in this. This appears to be his Oscar-grab attempt for the year, so that guarantees a good performance. And I also imagine that if anyone can make a good movie about a soldier other than Kathryn Bigelow, that person is Clint Eastwood.



[Update]
Into the Woods
Dec 25th; PG
Woah! I totally forgot about Into the Woods! And sure, I may not be as obsessed and excited for this as some of the people I know, but that's mostly because I've never seen it, and only heard a handful of the songs. But I am a fan of musicals... and fairy tales... and this is a musical fairytale, so... that's kind of a no-brainer. And with a cast list that sound like this: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp -- yeah, I'm definitely interested in this one, and it's looking very promising!



Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Spoilers are marked.

The Games are over; the fire has caught; now it's war.

And everyone's on board with it, except the most important one -- Katniss. Still traumatized from the Quarter Quell, the news that District 12 was completely obliterated (and that 13 wasn't), and the fact that Peeta was left behind when she was rescued, the last thing she wants to do is be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion, standing in front of more cameras, pretending again.

Further than that, it's hard to tell what of the plot counts as setup, and what is actual plot development. But it's not like you really need an introduction anyway -- it's the Hunger Games! So I'll just leave it there, and jump right in.

Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer is the lead, and she leads. We don't have to even think about it anymore; we know Katniss like we know ourselves. Even when she does stupid things that would make us dislike any other character, with her we understand. We know she's not prefect -- but she is perfect. When the film slows down and borders on boring, Jennifer's face, perfectly encapsulating the character, no tiniest movement out of character, even the blankest of expressions speaking volumes, keeps us from growing bored. It's been nearly three years since Katniss fully came to life, and we've still yet to cease being fascinated with her.

The Girl on Fire; The Mockingjay.

Who next? Katniss is so prominently the main character that everyone else is equally and significantly below her. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) would be, but his role is dramatically diminished for this installment, so, Gale. Liam Hemsworth's Gale finally gets some time unshared with Peeta here, but not as much as I expected. I always refer to him as "the lesser Hemsworth" but Liam shows no signs of being any less talented than his older brother, and has completely melded with Gale in my mind, just as most the other actors and their characters have. So I was surprised when his role didn't seem any expanded from the last two movies. Thinking about it, it was bigger; it had to be, but it didn't feel it. He had two or three scenes to show his acting abilities and develop character, but otherwise he was just there; being Gale of course, but in a stagnate way instead of growing.

Still, he's at his most likable in this movie.

Actually, I could say the same about almost every returning character here; they're all stagnate. And I guess we all know why. (More on that later.) Woody Harrelson as Haymitch continues to be sarcastic and sharp; Elizabeth Banks as Effie continues to be oblivious and stuck-up; the two share a funny "what in the world" moment. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch Havensbee amusingly appears to be slightly claustrophobic. Beetee (Jeffery Wright) is there, doing computer stuff and inventing things. Prim (Willow Shields) is still smarter than Katniss, and their mother quietly worries. Buttercup is happily present, and orange and grumpy. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is evil, cold, and creepy. New characters are topped by Julianne Moore as President Coin, perfectly cast, perfectly no-nonsense and authoritative. Also Mahershala Ali as Boggs, and the lovely Natalie Dormer as Cressida, my favorite addition. I love her hairstyle. And Pollux (Elden Henson) and Castor (Wes Chatham), off to a good start.

Yeah. She's cool.

Sam Claflin as Finnick manages some significant motion in character development, but it is easier for him since he was only introduced in the last movie -- where he kept a put-on persona. Here, Finnick's true self comes out in patches, as his newly-unnecessary cocky and suave self begins to melt away. And of course it only makes him all the more endearing. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing more screen time for this guy, though all the characters were overlooked by my standards.

I'm so glad my original doubts about Claflin's abilities to play the part went unfounded.

Like its predecessor, Mockingjay is magnificent to look at. Set mostly underground, the view isn't quite so magnificent, but it is filmed with authority and strong style to great effect. There also isn't much action, but the little there is is done expertly. There was one moment when the word "shaky-cam" came to mind, but it wasn't out of place and didn't last. And the suspense of the climax was so effective and brilliantly edited, that I felt it, and had to remind myself that I knew what happens.

I almost don't even need to mention adaptation because there's nothing more to say after I say that Francis Lawrence is very good at adapting accurately, and that is exactly what he did here. It's extremely rare for me to have no complaints when comparing a movie to a book when I read before watching, so mark this -- I have no complaints. Wait, I do -- why did they give Gale a crossbow? He can use a real bow you know! So change the above to "no significant complaints" and we're good.

Yep. We're all good.

Honestly, I would have been okay with some changes. Mockingjay was my least favorite of the books, and I thought it was possible for the film to improve upon it. And with the two parts, I thought it likely to succeed -- more time equals more time to expand the parts left wanting in the novel. Like character development; you can never have too much of that, and these characters are worth it. Or action. They did add two scenes of action, but they wound up as meaningless unexciting filler with no familiar characters being involved. This was this film's one falter -- compared to the other two, it was downright boring, and nothing happened. Sadly, nothing exciting could have possibly happened, unless they blatantly deviated from the novel to spice things up. Because it was only the first half of the novel, and remember the first two; the first halves were nothing but setup.

So should they have made it only one movie? It's a conundrum; to separate them was to destroy the structure (if you looks at the films individually, which for now, we must) but to put them together would have been to force the final battle into the small proportions of the Games, and that would have likely resulted in everything being rushed and squeezed in confusingly -- much like the book was, or even more. Personally, I would have gone with the three-hour Peter Jackson style movie, but since that wasn't an option, this is the next best thing: waiting a year to finish the movie I started last night.

As a stand-alone movie, it doesn't; it can't. But as the first half of the last of a trilogy, which is how I am judging it, it was exactly what I was hoping for.

So, it was half of exactly what I was hoping for.

MAJOR SPOILERS here to the end!

Here be all my thoughts on anything spoilery. Beginning with Peeta, who didn't get a paragraph above because everything to be said about him is a spoiler. Josh Hutcherson may not have had a lot of time on screen, but he had a ton to chew on with Peeta's complete and terrifying character change, which was handled like a pro -- perhaps because he is one. He makes us confused and worried and then creeped out, and by the end... total shock. I'm not exactly sure what to think of their digitally making him so thin, but I guess it would have been too much to do it the hard way, and unconvincing to let him look normal.

And the character only gets more interesting and complicated from here!

I also didn't mention Jena Malone's Johanna, partially for the same reason, but mostly because she gets all of about 4 seconds of screen time. Still, she's bald and crazy-looking and smiles perfectly and leaves an impression.

The part in the climax that I mentioned was brilliant was the immaculate way the raid to rescue the victors from the Capitol was cut in with Finnick telling his story in front of the camera, and Katniss looking on -- with a similar expression to ours as we feel the suspense. It was spellbinding for a while but it went on too long that way, and the spell broke before it was supposed to; but until then it was my favorite part of the movie.

Really, MAJOR end-of-the-movie SPOILERS now. Final warning.

I made two predictions concerning this film. First was that it would be better than the book, and for that we'll have to wait for full completion to see. The second was where Part 1 would leave off. I picked the right general time, but missed hitting it exactly by about 3 minutes. I guessed it would end right after Peeta tries to kill Katniss, and for a terrifying moment of blackened screen I panicked that I might be right. The last three-ish minutes were very nice of them to include, but the overall effect is the same; this film was stopped short smack in the middle; "cliffhanger" doesn't even describe it. The one in Catching Fire was where it was supposed to be -- this one... this was no place to end a movie. And a year from now we'll know whether it was worth it.

All I know now is that this is definitely the place to end this review.

Or maybe I should have made it into two parts.

Next movie -- last movie. Let's do this. We can. We can wait a year. A whole year...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cinderella -- New Trailer!

Lily James as the title princess.

Disney's live action Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring the adorable Lily James of Downton Abbey, Richard Madden of Game of Thrones, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, and Hayley Atwell, and many more recognizable faces. But what makes me most excited to see this film is that it appears to be a very classic telling of the story -- like Disney's animation, but in live action -- no twists or re-imaginings, because we've seen plenty of those already. Granted, there are plenty of the straightforward versions too, but in my opinion, there couldn't possibly ever be too many of those. And Branagh's rich directing style is sure to make it a thoroughly magnificent affair. This looks magical!



What do you think of the trailer? Are you planning on seeing the movie when it releases in March? And is this the way you prefer your fairytales, or do like the trend of giving them a modernized twist?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Doctor Who - Series 8

Paragraphs containing spoilers are marked.


Episode 1: Deep Breath

The Twelfth Doctor's first episode, and it wasn't a great start. For most of the episode I was with Clara (Jenna Coleman) -- confused by and wary of the new lead of the show. Peter Capaldi's Doctor started out crazy -- I mean complete bonkers -- and it was almost too much, though I finally decided I approved right around when he discovered he was Scottish, so he could complain about things. Still, at the end of the episode it didn't seem like he'd fully discovered himself yet, (though being a complaining Scottish grump seemed to be his defining characteristic) and I know now that was because this whole season was about his figuring out who (you know, WHO) he was.

(Mild Spoilers)

As far as the plot for this episode, it was convoluted and overshadowed by The Doctor's confusion -- or maybe the confusion rubbed off on it. The nod back to Ten's "The Girl in the Fireplace" and the Clockwork People was interesting though, and the gimmick of them having to hold their breath to hide from them made it sufficiently creepy. But I can't for the life of me remember what the dinosaur had to do with anything.

2 stars.

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

If the first episode didn't make it clear enough (which it didn't) then this episode's sole purpose was to establish that The Doctor doesn't really know himself. A Dalek tells him he'd be a "good" Dalek, and the look on his face clearly says he's considering it as a possibility. The rest of the episode was rather boring, as it all could have probably fit into 25 mins, instead of 45. Even Danny Pink's (Samuel Anderson) highly anticipated introduction was slightly marred by him and Clara hitting it off on the entirely wrong foot.

2.5 stars.

Episode 3: Robot of Sherwood

This one I was actually looking forward to, and hoping it would be the beginning of an upward climb for the series, but instead I felt it sink even further. Basically, this story, with all its potential, was completely uninteresting. The most enjoyable part was The Doctor sparring with Robin Hood (Tom Riley) at the beginning. Then there was way too much of the same two bickering, and Clara is again on our side wishing they would just stop and concentrate on the plot. Unfortunately, there wasn't much plot to focus on, and it was almost unbearably hokey (I'm thinking of the archery contest right now...).

3 stars.

Episode 4: Listen

(Spoilers!)

After all the wind going out of my sails from the week before, the terrifying premise of this episode was a wonderful surprise, and in the scary moments, I began to think that this may be the freakiest Who ever. But when the plot twisted, the number of holes matched the number in my newly sagging sails. I still don't understand what in the world they were thinking with this. If the villain was just The Doctor projecting, then WHO WAS HIDING UNDER THE BLANKET? And don't tell me some kid playing a prank -- that's baloney. Also who was the last-man-on-Earth dude who looked exactly like Danny? And Clara's part on Gallifrey was weird and also didn't make sense -- how was it possible for her to even go there? This whole episode twisted around awkwardly to try and develop The Doctor's continually confusing character, and it wasted a pretty cool and creepy idea. I've never been one to be afraid of "something" under my bed, but now, getting up in the middle of the night never fails to remind me of this episode.

3 stars.

Episode 5: Time Heist

Finally -- this episode I really, actually, properly enjoyed. It wasn't near perfect, but was significantly better than the previous four, with mind-bending, timey-wimey (if predictable) twists, and a nice, classic stand-alone (and timey-wimey) plot. What really set it apart for me though, was the addition of two characters (Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner). Both of them felt as fully developed as Clara and The Doctor and they fit in perfectly -- I even found myself wishing they could be permanent additions. It did revert back to slight triviality near the end, but it didn't keep me from happily concluding that "I liked it."

4 stars!

Episode 6: The Caretaker

(Mild Spoilers)

AKA, "The One Where Danny Finds Out About The Doctor." And this one was only bothersome because I really, really, REALLY wanted Danny to hit it off with The Doctor so he could start traveling with them, and then everything would be wonderful and hunky-dory. Instead they hate each other even more than Danny and Clara did at first, and Danny mean-spiritedly accuses The Doctor of being a soldier, something The Doctor despises. This was annoying, because Danny is mean for no good reason, and because I'm really tired of The Doctor hating soldiers. Otherwise the episode wasn't particularly memorable, but not bad either.

3 stars.

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

(Spoilers!)
 
THIS was the bad episode. The rest of them in comparison were downright masterpieces. I don't even want to get started because I'll take up too much space with explaining everything that was wrong with this episode. Let's count as many as I can: 1. Random little girl travels with Doctor and Clara instead of Danny. 2. Spiders -- what were they again? 3. The Doctor leaves. 4. Clara has two choices-- except she has three. 5. The Doctor had a (stupid) plan all along. 6. (And this is the killer) The moon is an egg. 7. Two seconds after hatching the moon-monster lays a new moon -- which is just as big as it is. 8. Clara tells The Doctor to "Leave! Now! And never come back!" (Actually, I rather liked that bit.)

1.5 stars!

Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Instead of leaving and never coming back, Doctor and Clara go on a farewell tour on The Orient Express -- in space of course. And besides the terrible drama and tension between the two of them, this was not at all a bad episode. It was nice and creepy, had a nice mystery to it, and I liked the gimmick of the countdown clock in the corner of the screen. The twist was a little hokey but worked, and it was all resolved simply and neatly. My only complaint was that with the title, I was expecting "The Unicorn and the Wasp" Part 2, with more Christie/Poirot references, and did not get it. The, "Are you my Mummy?" was good though.

3.5 stars.

Episode 9: Flatline

(Spoilers!)

This was the most consistently scary of this season, and an overall a very solid episode. The villains were very frightening and original, and actually had evil intentions, which is becoming rare for Who these days. Plus, the list of seemingly harmless things for Whovians to be scared of continues to grow with the addition of wall murals. Fantastic. I loved all the classic building suspense up to the "blam! this is super creepy and scary" moments. Like when you realize the dude is probably a mural with how still he is, but they make you wait for a second before panning the camera over.... and then you know. The stuff involving the miniaturized TARDIS was occasionally silly, but in a more fun way than typical. There was limited drama in this one too, and I appreciated the break.

4 stars.

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

(Mild Spoilers)

Another episode with an intriguing premise whose ending failed to live up to the promise. I suppose they painted themselves into a corner with this one, but the fact that the world being saved had almost nothing to do with the actions of The Doctor and co., after focusing the entire episode on their efforts was underwhelming and disappointing. Also there were a number of plot holes, mostly caused by time fillers, which doubles the offense. Also, environmental "morals" annoy me to no end.

2.5 stars.

Episode 11: Dark Water

(Spoilers!)

After a weird and falter-y beginning (seriously, what was it with the volcano stuff? Was that really necessary? No, it wasn't, and it was out of character for Clara, even if her one true love did just die. We all know he'll show up again.) This episode picked up in the middle which we all wondered where they were, where Danny was, what was going on, and what was the significance of those skeletons sitting in water tanks. And just after all those questions were answered it plunged back down again. I could talk about how disappointed I am at the identity of Missy (Michelle Gomez), or how even if she wasn't a woman how her trite and petty behavior would still annoy, but in won't. Instead, let me ask this: why in the world didn't they use the Dark Water more?? They used it to conveniently hide Cybermen, and then forgot about it? The Doctor should have used it in a twist to his own advantage!

2 stars.

Episode 12: Death in Heaven

It is amazing with how much I disliked the first part of the season finale that I liked the second part as much as I did. It did not start out well, with the climax of stupidity being (Spoiler) where Missy escapes on the plane SO easily. That was so contrived, oh my goodness. (End) But then, then ending made up for it all, and it surprised me into not only liking the finale enough to be excited for the Christmas Special, but it also made me look at the season overall with general approval; because The Doctor's character arc is finally resolved, and he remembers who he is. Even as I despised some parts of this season I never blamed Capaldi, or even his Doctor for the failings. I thought I could see a good (in both senses of the word) Doctor in there somewhere if only the writing would allow it to come out. Well, I say it was 11 episodes late, but better late than never.

Best of this ep:

(Spoilers)

When The Doctor and Clara are lying to each other to comfort the other, not knowing that telling the truth would bring the most comfort, but also seeming to find comfort in thinking that the other is happy...

"Love isn't an emotion, it's a promise."

"I'm not a good man, and I'm not a bad man! I'm not a hero, I'm definitely not a president, and, no; I'm not a officer. You know what I am? I am... an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver, passing though, helping out..."

"Never trust a hug; it's just a way to hide your face."

3.5 stars, sir!

Here's to the Christmas Special seeing Twelve continue along this upward-turned path with confidence and pizzazz! And complaining, and frowning eyebrows!

Here's how I rank this season, best to worst, with their ratings:

1 -- Time Heist (4)
2 -- Flatline (4)
3 -- Death in Heaven (3.5)
4 -- Mummy on the Orient Express (3.5)
5 -- Listen (3)
6 -- The Caretaker (3)
7 -- Robot of Sherwood (3)
8 -- In the Forest of the Night (2.5)
9 -- Into The Dalek (2.5)
10 -- Dark Water (2)
11 -- Deep Breath (2)
12 -- Kill the Moon (1.5)


Saint Nick Frost. Should be interesting!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Battle of the Five Armies -- Credit Song by Billy Boyd!

In perfect conclusion to The Hobbit Trilogy, Billy Boyd (who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) wrote and performed this beautiful song, "The Last Goodbye" for the end credits of The Battle of the Five Armies. They made the perfect choice in my book with this, as Billy reminds us of the beginning of this world being brought to life on screen -- that has now come full circle. Plus, he's just downright a great writer and singer, and the song is wonderful.

Click here to go and listen to it!

I can hardly wait to hear it in theaters, even though when I am it'll mean that the film and this trilogy is over.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberly

The only thing I felt like doing after watching this three-hour long adaptation of Jane Austen fan fiction was come here and write a scathing review. But, I also don't want to devote any amount of time to it. So I'll keep it short.

Basically, it's like this: Lizzy (Anna Maxwell Martin) and Darcy (Matthew Rhys) have been happily married for about six years now, and are in the midst of planning their annual ball when a murder on their estate throws a minor kink in the plans. But even worse is that the only suspect is the the bane (or one of many bane's) of Lizzy and Darcy's existence: George Wickham (Matthew Goode). Is the scoundrel Mr. Wickham at least innocent of murder, or will this fanfic by P. D. James take Austen's beloved tale and pull it to pieces for the sake of a dramatic plot? You'll have to see for yourself on the first count, but the second? Absolutely.

Turns out mixing Austen with a courtroom drama only sounds better than mixing Austen with, say, zombies. And at least with zombies there's no chance of taking it seriously...

I admit my curiosity is what pulled me into this. I've seen the fiction of Austen fans played out on screen before, and anything in them that has anything to do with Austen or her stories never, ever fails to make me at least annoyed. But for some reason, with the next one, I feel the curiosity again. Fortunately, I've never felt curiosity over Austen fan novels -- there are so many more of those to choose from!

My curiosity was piqued by two things. First I wondered at how the story would portray Mr. and Mrs. Darcy's married life. In this my disappointment was the most severe. Remember two paragraphs ago when I said "Lizzy and Darcy have been happily married"? Well, I may have used slightly the wrong word there. In fact I should have maybe used the exact opposite word. Even before the murder the two are on edge with each other, but after... good grief. Darcy is mad at Lizzy for trying to use sense around him (apparently) and Lizzy gets it in her head that Darcy regrets marrying her at all, and it seemed true. They yell at each other, and don't listen, then storm off to do rash things in their anger, and Darcy gets the worst of it -- at one point he childishly won't let her hold his hand -- he becomes like he was at the beginning of P&P, except worse because this characterization of him is way off base.

Am I wrong in assuming that these two were supposed to have a happily-ever-after? Or at least they they wouldn't digress back into the flaws of which they had cured each other?

Everything was so off, in fact, that there was no need to worry about the possibility of these characters and this story seep into my imagination of what happens after the last words written in Pride and Prejudice. While the fact that P. D. James wrote fan fiction seems to be great evidence for her being an Austen fan, I still have a hard time believing it with how botched all the characters were. The only two worth a mention of commendation are Lydia (Doctor Who's Jenna Coleman) and Wickham, and those I think must be mostly due to lucky casting.

The second point of my curiosity was the mystery; I wanted to find out if Wickham was a murderer or not (in the mind of P. D. James anyway). And rest assured that this point got its due disappointment as well. The mystery was... not engaging. Unspectacular. I've recently been watching and reading a lot of Agatha Christie, and it's hard to hold a candle to The Queen of Murder, but really, there are many mysteries better than this one -- and readily available in places other than Botched Up Austen Ave.

The talented cast share a hearty laugh -- in spite, or because of being involved in this unfortunate production?

I thought at first I disliked it because of my loyalty to Austen's work, but then I immediately realized that even if it was totally original, it would still be full of contrived drama and unfulfilled mystery. It did have the rare enjoyable moment though, usually in places where I could forget about its connection with Austen. I suppose now I should balance the trashing: The costuming was very nice; everyone looked great, (except in some cases if you were to look at their face) and I particularly liked Lizzy's gowns. The location and scenery were both fine and pretty; the cinematography also. Nothing was special, but was all quality.

But, unless you want to see this whole thing just for a glance at some dresses and a beautiful house, or unless cheap Austen-esque murder mysteries is exactly what you have a hankering for, do yourself a favor and save yourself a wasted three hours -- find some spoilers on the internet! I will even provide them upon request. You don't have to fall for it like I did.

I tried to keep it short; I really did.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Spoilers are labeled, and confined to the end of the post.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman. They were a semi-classic duo who had a spot on the Rocky and Bulwinkle Show. A dog and his adopted son who go time-traveling to the past where they learn about history, usually get involved in it somehow, come back home, and wrap everything up with a nice pun.

"Can I push the pun button now, Mr Peabody?" "No, Sherman, we save the puns until the end of the trip."

Now, the basics are the same, but they've been modernized and updated to be relevant in today's times. But no matter how hard you try, there's no way to squeeze depth out of a premise so one-dimensional. Maybe if they had just concentrated on fun, history and punning, it wouldn't have fallen so flat, and maybe if they'd winked back to the good ol' days, it wouldn't have felt so terribly, modernly empty. Or, maybe, bringing back this odd duo was just a bad idea, and they did the best they could with them.

So my opinion is that this little animation's existence is pretty much unnecessary, but I also probably made it sound worse than it really was in the preceding paragraph. When the plot was concentrating on what it should have been (you know, time-traveling, general adventuring, etc.) it was amusing and on the border of smart.

"On the border," mind.

The cast of voices was flawless without being at all outstanding either. Still, with an eleven-year-old kid (Max Charles, aka little Peter Parker) playing Sherman that's not bad. Ty Burrell as Peabody sounds very like the original too. And then there's cameo performances, including Allison Janney, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Colbert, and, Patrick Warburton, whose name you may not recognize, but whose voice you almost certainly would -- Kronk! Puddy! Hymie! The Tick! Buzz Lightyear of Star Command! You know -- the guy who can make anything sound funny.

Okay, let's see, what else... oh, the animation. The animation was... mediocre -- nothing special, nothing terrible. Really, the only outstanding thing about this movie was the jokes. That is, of course, after you filter out the potty humor. And then half of the remaining were used in the trailer, but you know what? When they hit the mark, they REALLY hit the mark -- therefore, the rest of this post will be dedicated to my favorite punchlines and puns; The Best Jokes of Mr. Peabody and Sherman!


Warning: Spoiled jokes from here on out!

Mr. Peabody: Sherman, don't you remember why I told you to stay close to me during the French Revolution?
Sherman: Because after the French Revolution, it was gonna rain?
Mr. Peabody: Close, I said after the French Revolution comes the Reign of Terror!

Paul Peterson (Stephen Colbert): When it comes to the safety of my daughter, nothing is more important than-- [cell rings] Sh-ello? Sure, I'll take a survey.

[inside the Trojan Horse]
Odysseus: [Holds a mini figure of the Trojan Horse] Someone left this for us!
Agamemnon (Patrick Warburton): A present? Nice! It looks just like our horse.
Odysseus: Should I bring it inside?
Agamemnon: It'd be rude not to.


Mr. Peabody: Thank you for taking care of my son, Agamemnon, but it is time for him to come home.
Sherman: Sorry, Mr. Peabody. I've joined the Greek Army.
Agamemnon: Shermanus is one of us, now. He's a brother.
Sherman: I'm his brother.
Mr. Peabody: He is my son.
Agamemnon: He took an oath!
Sherman: I took an oath.
Mr. Peabody: He's SEVEN!
Agamemnon: [Sherman whispers into his ear] AND A HALF!

Mr. Peabody: Sherman, I absolutely forbid you to fight in the Trojan war!
Sherman: That's not fair! All of my friends are fighting in the Trojan war!
Mr. Peabody: Sherman, it's dangerous.
Sherman: I'm wearing a helmet!

We are now at the end, so, PUNS!!


Mr. Peabody: [When a mummy arm falls to the floor] That's disarming.

Penny Peterson: I'm not Penny, anymore. Now, I'm Princess Hatshepsut, precious flower of the Nile.
Mr. Peabody: Precious, perhaps, but if you think we're going to leave you here, you are most definitely in de-Nile!

Mr. Peabody: And to think, Marie Antoinette could have avoided the whole revolution if she had just issued an edict to distribute bread among the poor. But then she couldn't have finished her desert. After all, you can't have your cake and edict too.

Mr. Peabody: You know what they say: If at first you don't succeed, Troy Troy again...

But, for the record, please don't Troy Troy again and make a sequel to this movie! -- Me

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies -- main trailer!

No more of Pippin singing "Home is Behind" and teasing, lingering shots of grandeur -- the full trailer for The Battle of the five Armies is here, and it's non-stop fantasy action:



First of all: "These bats are bred for one purpose: for war!" -- Legolas. Hahahahaha. That was so hammy I feel like PJ is just making fun of us fans now. He's already won; he doesn't even need to pretend to try to make this movie better than or even as good as the previous two. He knows we're going to watch it no matter what, and I so am.

But, anyway, looking past all the dreaded additions made apparent in this trailer, I am certainly excited for this. I know the battles will be epic, but I hope the drama is done well too. The conflict between Thorin and Bilbo has tons of potential. The trailer does look promising on that score, (wow, Kili) so that's exciting.

And I want to see what they do with added characters, particularly Tauriel.

And I want to see more of Martin Freeman being Bilbo, cause when he's being Bilbo, he's being Bilbo like no one else.

(Spoiler Warning)
Then, of course, there's the little matter of Smaug, which is, of course, NOT AT ALL A LITTLE MATTER, AND I'M DYING TO SEE IT. I seriously worry that after Smaug's death everything after will "savor of anticlimax" as Fitzgerald says. Actually, I have a prediction about this -- I predict that Bard will try to use the last Black Arrow on Smaug but will miss, then will use a regular arrow and the knowledge of his one missing scale to kill him. It'd be more similar to the book that way, and would make Bard look awesome. I mean, more awesome.
(End Spoilers)

Oh, I just want to see it now so I can stop worrying about it not being as good as the first two... even though when I think about it, it's unlikely that it'll be anything but just like them: a mixed bag of incredibly awesome realizations of the wonderful novel, and mildly annoying Jackson additions.

Can't. Wait.

Thoughts on the trailer? How excited are you for the final Hobbit chapter? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sunshine

This review is spoiler-free.

Yeah, that kind of sunshine.

The sun is dying. Earth is freezing over. Humanity is down to its final hope -- a spacecraft called Icarus II, manned by a crew of eight, on whose shoulders the fate of the world rests. It carries a huge bomb, the size of Manhattan, designed to kick-start the sun into shining again as brightly as before. An Icarus I was sent before them, but it disappeared, failing its mission, and there are not enough resources to make an Icarus III.

We find the crew of Icarus II already having endured all but the very last of the sixteen-month journey to the sun, but that long trip of slowly building tension is nothing compared to the final fraction of their mission.

The crew of Icarus II enjoy a view: Communications officer Harvey (Troy Garity) physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy) biologist Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) pilot Cassie (Rose Byrne) doctor/psychiatrist Searle (Cliff Curtis) navigator Trey (Benedict Wong) and engineer Mace (Chris Evans). Absent: Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada).

I don't know if this is a commonly unknown/overlooked/under-appreciated sci-fi film, but based on the un-enticing title ("Sunshine" makes me think of lighthearted comedy, something as far away from this film as its characters are from home) and the fact that I only just discovered it, I imagine it must be. And typically, when it comes to dark science fiction, the best of the best are the ones that fly their unique little spacecrafts subtly under the radar of the general masses of explosion-obsessed moviegoers. Moon and Gattaca for two examples. Sunshine is not an exception.

However, top-notch effects and explosions do have a significant share in the screen time, and is one of the two great and defining characteristics of the film. Icarus II is an amazingly thoughtfully designed ship, and director Danny Boyle makes fantastic use of its unusual shape (and its close proximity to the sun) to create some truly striking cinematography.

Being so close to the sun is breath-takingly beautiful, but also breath-taking in a less nice way...

He also has the patience required to build quality suspense -- the majority of the film is wonderful in that department, moving along with an intricate grace and saturating in suspense, but in the climax it turns more to action, filmed with closeups and quick-cuts, and intentionally blurred, which is too confusing and dizzying to be thoroughly engrossing for me. I found myself wishing it hadn't made that final twist, (though its reveal was absolutely, terrifyingly jaw-dropping (on that note: please do not watch the trailer!)) but I can't think of what I would have done instead.

Amongst the eight of the crew, there are two easily recognizable faces. Cillian Murphy, ever an antagonist in today's blockbuster, but this movie serves as evidence that he is also more than capable of being a compelling hero. He holds the film together, his character reflecting the film's tone. And, Chris Evans, before he escaped the typecast of the bad boy, and became one of the more famous boy scout-like heroes. Here he's no boy scout, but does have a Cap-like leadership quality about him.


Definitely my two favorite characters of the movie. Coincidentally, the other two here may be my two least favorite.

The other six all have their roles to play, and I have nothing bad to say about any performances, though Evans and Murphy left the biggest impressions. The characters' development is very understated, but they all develop well and individually and are very realistic. The different ways each of them deal with their stressful situation -- and the even more dire situations that arise from it -- is the second defining aspect of this film, and possibly the greater one. There aren't many questions posed that haven't been asked before, but they still make us think all over again.

This is a movie not for everyone. The R-rating conveys that message, although it's a very mild R as far as they go, but more than that -- enjoying this movie is not necessarily synonymous with thinking it's a good movie. Undoubtedly this is a well-made film; made thoughtfully in order to provoke thought; written well, acted well, and put together with a unique, artistic eye. It spends as much time musing on the nature of man as it does the deadly beauty of the stars, then leaves you in a dazed in its powerful wake, to wonder for yourself what exactly it all meant. And it is possible to see all that, and think all that, and still come up somewhat short in terms of "enjoyment" -- but that doesn't make it any less of a good movie -- and I enjoy good movies.

"So if you wake up one morning, and it's a particularly beautiful day, you'll know we made it. Okay, I'm signing out."