The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)


If This is to End in Fire, Then We Will All Burn Together!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)Fans of my reviews may remember that last year I was extremely upset by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I went into the movie unaware of the fact that Peter Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angered over the fact that nothing had been resolved by the ending of the movie.  Going into today’s movie, I was aware but was perhaps still a bit sore about the perceived deception.  We’ll see how that worked out for this movie as I review The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, adapted for screen by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, directed and co-written by Peter Jackson, and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aiden Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Manu Bennett, Cate Blanchett, Mikael Persbrandt, and Sylvester McCoy.

We still Hobbitin’, y’all!  Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) accompanies a group of Dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to try to recapture the Arkenstone from the Lonely Mountain where it’s kept by the dragon Smaug.  The Arkenstone will somehow help Thorin become a king again or some shit.  On the way, their time is wasted by a skin-changer named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), some elves named Tranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and some Orcs.  Also, they meet Bard (Luke Evans) when they go to the cleverly named Lake-town, led by Stephen Fry.

If Thorin decided that he wanted to share his kingdom and he wanted to divide the Arkenstone amongst the other Dwarves, do you know how he would cut the Arkenstone?  With an Arken-saw!  I thought of that joke during the movie and, though I have told many of the people that I know read these reviews, I just want it to be available to cause pain throughout the entire internet.  As far as this movie goes, I again found myself angered by my expectations for it, but that anger was tempered with the experiences I gained from the first movie.  When I saw the first Hobbit, I didn’t realize that Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angry.  I expected this movie to have me see Smaug desolated.  Turns out they mean the desolation CAUSED BY Smaug.  Youse is a tricky bitch, Jackson!  But going into the movie knowing the history of anger I had with the series allowed my expectations to compensate for it and I would say that I ultimately enjoyed the movie.  I still felt like there was a lot of wasted time with walking over mountains, stumbling through the woods, and conversations between Dwarves and Elves about the moon, and still don’t feel like there’s anything beyond a financial reason for this to be three movies, but it was still pretty entertaining.  Though he was a small part in the movie, I also appreciated the “skin-changer.”  Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say that I appreciated that they called him a skin-changer.  “Were-bear” would have sounded odd.

The look was good as you’d probably expect it to be, but there were some parts that didn’t feel like they held up as well.  Mainly parts of the white water rafting scene, and mainly just the parts of those scenes that appeared to have been filmed with a GoPro for some reason.  But I liked the scenes with Smaug.  Dragons are awesome.  And those scenes were visually spectacular.  Not just was the dragon awesome, but the constantly spilling gold coins added a level of difficulty to the rendering that I respect.  And Smaug looked scary as hell through most of his scenes, but I have to imagine that there was no way he looked anything but adorable when he was burrowing down into the gold where he was sleeping.  I imagine it looked like a little puppy burrowing into a pile of blankets with his nose.

The action was also pretty good in this movie.  I particularly liked the fat dwarf barrel fight because it was pretty funny and all of the fights involving Legolas and Tauriel because elven fighting is pretty awesome.  It’s like martial arts mixed with Hawkeye from Avengers bow and arrow action.

The cast also did find jobs in this movie.  I thought it was dangerous of this movie to add Luke Evans to the cast, though.  Not because I don’t expect him to be good, but because he is so easily confusable with Orlando Bloom, who was already in this movie.  Thankfully, Evans looks more like Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean and Bloom looks more like Legolas in this movie, so it was easy to keep them separated.  But his character didn’t give me any problems.  Other people in relation to his character did.  What the hell kind of logic is it to not pay attention to his ideas because his great great grandfather had a shitty aim?  Thank God no one that I know ever went to the gun range with my ancestors or I’d have even fewer people reading my reviews.

If the Necromancer in this movie had a puppy that needed to go to the bathroom, would it have to use the doggy door of Dol Guldur?  Sorry, that was another terrible joke I thought of that I wanted to punish you with.  The Desolation of Smaug was another good Hobbit movie whose greatest problem is the fact that I don’t feel that they need to be 3 (or possibly even 2) movies.  There is enough wasted time and side stuff that could’ve been cut out, but it still looks great, has some exciting action, and a great cast.  So I’m still going to recommend you watch this movie, but I personally won’t be purchasing a Hobbit movie until they come in one package.  I would’ve given this movie series enough money by then.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug gets “I merely wanted to gaze upon your magnificence, to see if you were as great as the old tales say” out of “I did not believe them.”

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)


Every Good Story Deserves to Be Embellished.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)I had a perplexing amount of trepidation when it came to choosing to see today’s movie.  I don’t really know what it was though.  I had very much enjoyed the other three movies directed by the director of this movie and based on the books by the same author, but seeing that today’s movie was released did nothing to inspire me to see it.  So how did I end up watching it?  Complete dumb coincidence.  I went to the theaters with an intention to make it a double feature and, when I left the first movie and checked the show times for the next movie, it happened to be exactly the time this movie was starting.  That either had to be a sign from the heavens or just some random coincidence.  Well nothing else really struck me as worth waiting around for, so I got my ticket and sat down to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, written for the screen by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro, directed by Peter Jackson, and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aiden Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Andy Serkis,  Ian Holm, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Elijah Wood.

The kingdom of Erebor is overrun by the dragon, Smaug, drawn to their kingdom by the gold they’ve amassed, and destroying the town of Dale on the way.  The king’s grandson, Thorin (Richard Armitage), is one of the survivors of the attack.  Later, the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) brings a party of 13 Dwarves, including Thorin, to the house of an unsuspecting Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in hopes of getting Bilbo to join their mission to reclaim Erebor.  He refuses at first, but Gandalf appeals to his adventurous side and the group embark on their quest.  Along the way, they encounter Trolls, Orcs, Elves, and tales of a necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the fortress Dol Guldur.

This movie made me very angry, but I suppose the bulk of it is my own fault.  I probably should’ve found out something about this movie before going in, but I went into it with no more information than I had before I even knew the movie was a possibility.  I had seen the cartoon a long time ago, and I guess I assumed that Peter Jackson was able to fit the entire story into one three hour movie.  The book was only 310 pages, and I figured one minute per page was not necessarily out of the question.  Peter Jackson, on the other hand, apparently felt that it needed to be made into its own trilogy somehow.  The other thing I knew about the original movie was that a big part of the movie was the dragon, Smaug, so I also figured this dragon would be in this movie at all!  When this long ass trudge of a movie was about 20 minutes away from finishing, I was wondering how they were going to complete the Smaug storyline so quickly, not knowing that it was not their intention to finish that story in this movie, or even to involve that story.  It wouldn’t have felt as bad if I felt they filled their movie appropriately, but a lot of it felt like wasted time.   The numerous side missions that they embarked on as they headed to the mountain made me realize why these Lord of the Rings movies are 12 hours a piece.  Also contributing to that is Jackson’s apparent love for scenes of people walking.  That joke from Clerks 2 now has some more ammunition after this movie.

All that being said, there were a pretty good amount of things that were done right in this movie.  It surprises no one to find that this movie is a visual delight.  We’ve seen that out of Jackson at least three times already.  I would say that it occasionally felt recycled as some of the scenes of the Dwarves running over mountaintops looked exactly like similar scenes of the Fellowship of the Ring running over mountaintops in the first three movies.  It’s generally completely epic in scale, but even the smaller details are impressive.  I thought the pale Orc’s prosthetic arm was too scrawny and not intimidating the first time I saw it, but then I realized that it was kind of badass when I realized that it was actually shoved all the way through the stump of his forearm.  And I liked one of the really epic scenes (that also technically had no real story impact at all) where they were going through the mountains and the mountains kind of got up and started punching each other (not a joke).  I liked this because it kind of felt like I was watching a God of War level.  The action (when it happened) was usually very well done.  I especially liked the Dwarves’ escape from Orc Mountain.  The humor of this movie was mostly lost on me, being mostly slapstick or as simple as, “This one Dwarf is fat!  Isn’t that hilarious?!”  They did have a couple of moments that worked really well, though, such as Gandalf’s story about the creation of golf.  I couldn’t blame them too much because this movie felt like it was almost trying to be a children’s movie, but it also felt like it was a little too slow and dark in parts for the younger audience.

The cast does a mostly fine job in this movie.  I really like Martin Freeman, and he was able to bring a good deal of comedy with small mannerisms in his performance.  He also got a few moments of true badassdom near the end of the movie, which I didn’t necessarily expect out of Bilbo.  Ian McKellen is Ian McKellen.  No point even bothering to say that dude is awesome.  I did think he was generally used as a sort of deus ex machina during the movie, disappearing for long stretches of time and popping in at the last minute to save the team when Tolkien may have written himself into a corner.  “We’ll just keep amping this scene up more and more until eventually everyone is at the mercy of a group of Trolls and there’s no hope for salvation.”  “Then what?”  “Uh…Gandalf…?”  “…It’ll do…”  I didn’t take issue with Sylvester McCoy’s performance of Radagast the Brown, but I did generally feel as if all of the time I spent with that character was a waste of my time.  If all parts involving him were dropped out of the movie, no one would notice.  And the movie would be about a half hour shorter.  And he did the shittiest job of leading the Orcs away from the Dwarves.  He brought them on nearly intersecting paths with the fleeing Dwarves like 20 times.  How about this?  If you want to lead a group away from another group, go in the opposite direction.  Try that out next time.  I also appreciated that they had reappearances from every character they could logically fit into the movie.  Elijah Wood is in this for a little bit, Hugo Weaving comes back, Cate Blanchett returns as that overly creepy Elf chick, Christopher Lee pops in for a bit, and Gimli is technically in this movie as well, but only because his father Glóin is one of the Dwarves and I assume Gimli was in his balls somewhere.

I found myself a little bit embittered by some of the things in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but overall I’d say it was a pretty good movie.  It’s way too long and it felt like they wasted too much time, even though they apparently felt that the story could not be contained to one (or even two) movies, but the epic scale and great action (when it happens) make it passable.  So long as you’re more patient than I am and go in knowing that the stuff you might know about the Hobbit don’t actually happen in this movie, you should be fine seeing it in theaters.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey gets “True courage is not about knowing when to take a life … but when to spare one” out of “A dark power has found a way back into the world.”

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Hanna (2011)


I Just Missed Your Heart

Still getting my delayed review requests out of the way, this time with one from my sister, I think. And if it was my sister, this time it wasn’t a painful chick flick like Sex and the City and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This time she requested a vaguely artsy action flick, so I was more than happy to oblige. The movie is Hanna, directed by Joe Wright, and starring Saoirse Ronan (whose name I have no idea how to pronounce), Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jessica Barden, Tom Hollander, and Michelle Dockery.

Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan) is a 16-year-old girl who lives with her father, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), in a solitary cabin in the middle of the wilderness of Finland. They live a perfectly normal life besides the small exception that he’s been grooming her to be an assassin since her youth. Erik’s plan is to send her after a CIA officer, Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), to have Hanna kill her for killing Hanna’s momma. When Hanna is ready, she activates a transmitter that let’s Weigler know where they are, then Erik and Hanna split up, leaving Hanna with only her training, an address for them to meet up at later, and a made up backstory. The CIA take Hanna into custody and Weigler sends in a double (Michelle Dockery) to speak with Hanna. Hanna kills the double and then ass kicks her way out of the facility. As she makes her way towards her father, she stows away with, and later befriends, a wacky progressive family of mom Rachel (Olivia Williams), dad Sebastian (Jason Flemyng), daughter Sophie (Jessica Barden), and son … what’s-his-name. Hanna starts learning about the world her father hid from her while making her way back to meet him. Shortly after the movie ends, Hanna realizes that there are more kids like her, setting up the sequel, Hanna and her Sisters. …That may not be true…

I had sort of expected I’d like this movie when going into it. I like a good action movie, even if they’re dumb. And this one didn’t even seem dumb. But I completely forgot about the movie when it was in the theaters and had even seen it in RedBox a few times but didn’t feel like checking it out, so it was a good thing that I was inspired to watch it by my sister’s request. After watching it, I would say it’s a solid movie with some good action but completely forgettable. Almost immediately after watching the movie, I was having a hard time remembering what happened. But I did like the story. It’s like Hitman if 47 was a 16 year old, genetically engineered girl and not Olyphantastic. And watching her try to understand modern technology and society was pretty interesting as well. The fight scenes were one of the best parts. Most of the time it was Hanna whooping ass on guys that are much bigger and older than her, and once or twice it was Eric Bana whooping ass on people of roughly equal age and height. These fight scenes were pretty well choreographed and great fun to watch. But sadly, the movie made no real impression on me. I’m not entirely sure why it fell short or what it could’ve done to make me love it. I usually have a good concept of what I didn’t like about a movie, but I liked pretty much everything about this movie but I left it with a thoroughly “meh” feeling.

The performances in this movie were all very good as well. Though I resent her for my inability to pronounce her name, Saoirse Ronan was very good. She was cold and in control when it was killing time – she whooped ass like a young female Batman – but she was also a cute, innocent young girl when she was introduced to society. She was always interesting to watch and did a great job here. Eric Bana was pretty good too. Nothing phenomenal, but good. Cate Blanchett’s accent was an interesting choice, though. It seems that, if a movie isn’t going to get her an Oscar nomination, she’ll still be in the movie as long as it’ll let her bust out a crazy accent. In Indiana Jones 4, she got to try out her Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. In Hanna, it’s some kind of fade-in-fade-out Southern accent. It’s there sometimes and gone a little later. I guess it makes sense since she probably is trained on dialects in the CIA, but it’s never explained what head trauma caused her to lose control of the various dialects she knows. Everyone else was fine and didn’t catch my attention. The guy from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 was in this too (Tom Hollander) as some crazy torturer guy that Blanchett hires, and he turned in a very creepy, weird performance. I guess it’s okay to have a bad character be off-putting, though.

So that’s that. I really have a hard time compiling words about this movie because it didn’t stick in my brain whatsoever. All I know is the story is fine, it looks pretty good, there’s some good fight scenes and some good performances, but it didn’t resonate with me. I don’t think anybody would have a problem watching this movie, but you should probably rent it first, otherwise this seems like the kind of movie you’d watch like 4 times a year because you can’t remember anything about it. Altogether I give this movie “I watched what?” out of “Did she turn out as you hoped?”

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