Posts filed under ‘Movies/TV’

Movie Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (4 of 5)



Quick Update:  I just saw The Hobbit for the second time and enjoyed it immensely.  I stand by my original criticism of the movie, but did not find it nearly as bothersome during the second viewing (I still don’t expect/want an extended edition of this movie).


For once I am glad that I only have a few dozen visitors per day.  I can be honest without being tracked down and boiled alive for posting this review.  I plan to address generalities and avoid specific spoilers.

I adore The Lord of the Rings.  I am not a fanboy that complains about the changes that Jackson made to bring LOTR to the screen.  Tom Bombadil is still there in the books whenever I want to visit with him and Liv Tyler did a fine job with the expanded role that Arwen played.  I was a bit miffed with Giimli being made the butt of many jokes, but not so much when Jackson did the same with Merry and Pip.  After all, the changes also allowed Pip to redeem himself by persuading Treebeard to go to war when that wasn’t in the book.

But this review is for The Hobbit (part 1 of 3).  As many others, I was happy to hear that Jackson was going to split the book into 2 movies, but grew concerned when he announced it to be a trilogy.  There is a wealth of material in Tolkien’s other writings to embellish the story, but sequels to successful movies tend to attempt bigger and more impressive than the originals, usually resulting in outrageous silliness.

The Hobbit suffers from sequelitis.  Almost everything was turned up to 11.

Not to say the movie is bad or unwatchable.  I took the family to last night’s midnight premiere and we enjoyed it (except my wife who slept through part of it – she is not a night owl).  The cinematography was lush and beautiful, the acting was splendid (Martin Freeman is perfectly natural in everything I’ve seen him in), and the special effects are dazzling.  When the LOTR was released, each movie left us wanting more, and a multitude of fans spent a sizable chunk of change purchasing the extended versions.  I don’t expect that to be the case with The Hobbit (at least, not part 1).

The movie starts with the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) that we all know, just as he begins to write the book detailing his adventures.  Elijah Wood is back briefly, and the pair ease us into the story.  It’s nicely done and gently brings us back home to Middle Earth.   LOTR began with a prologue introducing us to Sauron and the Ring.  In the Hobbit, Bilbo tells us about the Dwarf kingdom and the dragon, Smaug.

And then, the story begins with Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and a host of dwarfs.  The movie follows the book fairly well, but not religiously.  We get a flashback of Thorin Oakenshield for character development and it introduces my first complaint, but the problem isn’t that the scene wasn’t in the book.

In LOTR, the treachery of Saruman included the creation of the Uruk-Kai, an orc hybrid that is stronger and able to withstand direct sunlight.  They are presented as something new and uniquely dangerous.  But in Thorin’s flashback we see a giant albino orc that’s the size of a troll.  Not to mention the CGI wasn’t as convincing as Gollum in the original trilogy.  Later in the film is another giant orc, though that CGI was better.

Orcs cannot abide direct sunlight, except for when they can.  At one point, Gandalf actually states that they need to move into sunlight to escape from the orcs even though they had previously been attacked in broad daylight.  Another thing; I’ve only seen it once, but it seemed like the movie went from day to night and back again as the plot dictated.

Geography was also confusing.  At one point, the company is on a plain of rolling hills with a few mounds of rocks.  They descend into a cave below one of the mounds – about 20 feet below the surface.  In the back of the cave is a tunnel that they follow and the camera pulls back to watch them pass single file through a chasm that is at least 50 feet deep and then exit into a mountain pass.

Do you remember the WTF moment in The Two Towers where Legolas uses a shield to surf down a set of stone steps?  It was a very over-the-top moment that broke the spell and pulled you out of the movie.  There are about a dozen similar scenes in The Hobbit.

Rotten Tomatoes is currently giving The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a 66% critic / 81% audience rating.  As you can see, I feel about the same.

Recommended, but keep your expectations modest.

I told my family where I thought Jackson would end the first movie and I was exactly right.


December 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm 2 comments

I Might Be A Gun Nut

I took my wife to see Skyfall last night (Minor Spoiler).

During a scene where Bond and his companions assess their stock of weapons just before being attacked by the bad guys, we see one rifle, one shotgun, one pistol and one hunting knife.

My wife (who doesn’t like guns) leans over and whispers into my ear:

“They should have come to our house.”

November 10, 2012 at 9:13 am

Told ya so


August 18, 2012 at 12:15 am 1 comment

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (4 of 5)

This isn’t going to be a detailed review.

I saw The Dark Knight Rises alone because neither my wife nor daughters wished to see it, even though my girls love Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  They weren’t excited by the trailers and after the Colorado shooting, weren’t even willing to see it just for dear old Dad.

It’s a very good movie.  Not as good as The Avengers, I’d rank it about the same as The Amazing Spider-man except that I’m more interested in seeing Spidey a second time in the theater.  I not sure exactly why, except that I had lower expectations for Spider-man and he exceeded them while I had high expectations for TDKR and he didn’t quite meet them.

Now I loved The Dark Knight.  I saw it a couple of times in the theater including once in IMAX.  But TDKR has no one to match Heath Ledger’s Joker.  I also think there were too many characters in TDKR and we didn’t get to spend enough time with them.  If you read my review of The Amazing Spider-man, I explained how less is more.  Few characters means we get a better feel for them.

In The Dark Knight Rises, we have:  Bruce/Batman, Alfred, Gordon, Selena/Catwoman, Bane, Fox, Blake, Miranda, Foley, Daggat, Stryver and the two guys in the pit.  Each of these characters had significant dialogue and multiple scenes.  They could have dropped Foley, comgined Daggat and Stryver into a single character and combined the two guys in the pit into a single character without changing the plot one bit.

There were also several scenes that pulled me out of the movie which is never a good thing.

So I do recommend it, but not as highly as I would have liked.

August 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

Mary Jane, You Ignorant Slut!

In my review of The Amazing Spider-man, I mentioned how I didn’t like Sam Raimi’s version of Mary Jane (MJ) Watson.  In the past week, I’ve watched Spider-man, Spider-man 2 and most of Spider-man 3 (I turned it off after Spidey blows up Harry Osborn and before his song and dance number).  Through the course of just the first movie, I realized that I didn’t like MJ and felt that Peter could do much better, and after each additional movie my dislike grew.

In Spider-man, we first see MJ on the bus sitting next to Flash Thompson (she dates the school bully).  Yes, she does defend Peter a little, but not much.  She lets him take her picture on the field trip, but it appeared that had more to do with getting her picture in the school paper than anything to do with Peter.  Then we find out that she lives right next door to Peter and has for over 10 years!  They talk when Peter’s taking out the trash, but she ditches him when her boyfriend pulls up in a new car (MJ is very excited by this).  She breaks up with the jerk after graduation for no discernible reason, but then dates Peter’s best friend Harry (who is very wealthy).  While dating Harry, she gets the hots for Spidey and shares a passionate kiss while he is inverted (important later).  She breaks up with Harry only after Norman belittles her and then can’t decide between Spidey and Peter until the movie’s end where she confesses true love for Peter which he denies because he doesn’t want to endanger her.

Then we come to Spider-man 2:

MJ has a successful acting career (good for her) and is dating astronaut John Jamison, son of Daily Bugle editor, J. Jonah Jamison.  She tells Peter that she’s writing him off as a friend since he can’t make it to one of her performances (admittedly, it seems like Peter’s missed numerous opportunities).  Next thing you know, she’s agreed to marry the guy (but won’t invite Peter to the wedding).  Peter tries to change her mind, but to no avail.  Then once he gets his head on straight and knows what he wants to do with his life, she meets him for coffee and tries to make him admit that he loves her – even though she’s engaged to another man (what the hell did John Jamison do to earn himself this kind of crappy karma?).  After the final confrontation with Doc Ock, MJ learns the truth about Peter/Spidey and Peter explains to her that he won’t be with her because it is too risky.  Then her FIANCE shows up, worried sick about her.  Does she tell him that she’s having second thoughts?  Hell no, she waits to dump the guy at the alter – in writing! – by having her bridesmaid deliver a note, not even bothering to dump the guy in person!  Sure, Peter gets her at the end of the movie, but why would he want her?

Spider-man 3:

A lot can be said about this movie.  It wasn’t a total disaster.  Much of the first 1/2 – 2/3 of the movie is great fun.  But this post isn’t a review of Spider-man 3, it’s about what a horrible person is Mary Jane Watson (as presented by Raimi).

When the movie starts, everything is going great for both Peter and MJ.  NYC loves Spider-man and MJ has a lead role in a musical (it takes 3 movies before we find out that she sings?).  She gets horrible reviews for her singing and optimistic Peter tries unsuccessfully to cheer her up.  Now to be honest, this scene was very realistic.  Any married man knows that when his wife is upset, he should just nod and KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT!  He can’t solve her problems and she’ll resent him if he tries.  Which Peter tries and MJ does.

Then MJ gets fired from the show in a cold brutal fashion, but doesn’t tell Peter because it’s Spider-man’s big day (good for her).  But during the public recognition ceremony, he allows the presenter, Gwen Stacy, to kiss him while he’s inverted (like MJ kissed Spidey in the first movie as noted above).  MJ is furious that Peter shared THEIR KISS with another woman, though from Peter’s reaction he never realized the importance of the inverted kiss in their relationship (and there were no scenes in any of the movies where she tells him so prior to this).  Peter plans to propose to MJ, but she arrives at dinner clearly upset and things go downhill from there (understandably, MJ is not to blame here).

Yet, what does she do next?  She goes to visit her rich old boyfriend Harry.  He tries to cheer her up … they dance … and she kisses him.  WHAT THE HELL?  In the last movie, she loved Peter so much that she left a famous astronaut standing at the alter and after losing one lousy job, she’s making out with Peter’s best friend!

Well, Harry gets his memory back and decides to take another shot at Spidey, so he ambushes MJ at her apartment and threatens her so that she’ll do what he wants.  And that is?  Break up with Peter and lie to him that she’s in love with another man.  Uh, what?  Your boyfriend is Spider-man, yet you allow some jerk ex-boyfriend to blackmail you into dumping him?  ARE YOU NUTS?


July 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man (4+ of 5)

Tobey who?

I took the family to see The Amazing Spider-man last weekend.  Everyone of us thought it was great, even my wife who’s getting kind of burnt out on superhero movies.  Both of my teenage daughters loved it and want to see it again, and I concur.

Yes, the Sam Raimi Spider-man is only 10 years old and Spidey 3 was just 5 years ago, but the reboot provides a different take that is as every bit as good as Raimi’s version and a bit better in one specific manner that I’ll get to later.  As a point of fact, I also re-watched Spider-man (2002) the day after seeing the new one in order to have a fair comparison.

I was initially biased against Spidey 2012 because I thought Andrew Garfield (from The Social Network) is too handsome to be nerdy Peter Parker, a role that Tobey Maguire seemed born to play.  Garfield is much better looking than Maguire, but he manages to capture the essence of Peter as the painfully shy science nerd nearly as well without being dorky.  He still gets bullied, but because he’s not one of the cool kids rather than simply because he’s weak.  And especially nice, Peter does the right thing and stands up against the bullies to protect a weaker kid even before the famous spider bite.  The new Peter Parker works.

We also get Gwen Stacy instead of MJ Watson and boy is that an improvement.  Not because Emma Stone is a better actress than Kirsten Dunst, but because Gwen is a more attractive character.  She’s smart and attracted to Peter for his intelligence and good character (she witnesses him standing up to bullies mentioned above).  By contrast, MJ is a pretty fickle and superficial character especially when all 3 of the previous movies are taken into account (an analysis of Raimi’s version of MJ is worthy of a post all by itself).

As to how it is an improvement:

We have fewer characters which allows Spidey 2012 to spend more time developing them and their relationships. We don’t have to meet Harry Osborn, so there’s no messy love triangle.  Norman Osborn is a background character that’s referenced only.  There’s no J. Jonah Jamison, Robbie Robertson or Betty Brant.  And no Mary Jane Watson.

Instead we get to know Peter as a lonely outsider.  Not a dork or a clutz, but not an obnoxious teenager either (John Connor in T2).  He’s smart, but uncomfortable talking to girls or pretty much anyone.  He’s socially awkward which makes him a prime target for bullies.  The introduction of Peter’s parents is weak and provides no real payoff in this film, but they do induce him to track down Dr Curt Connors (an old friend and coworker of his father’s).

Surprise!  Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider!

We still get a montage of Peter exploring his new powers, but we also get webshooters!

Uncle Ben doesn’t survive this movie either, but we avoid the wrestling match for a more realistic scenario.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field are good actors, but I really did miss Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.

And I have to say that I prefer the Lizard to the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe not withstanding).

So I recommend this movie wholeheartedly.

July 9, 2012 at 9:55 pm 1 comment

Movie Review: The Hit List (4 of 5)

We just watched this movie and were very pleasantly surprised.  When I think of Cuba Gooding, Jr., I think of his Oscar for Jerry MaGuire back in 1996 followed by Snow Dogs in 2002.  He actually made quite a few movies in between, but that had been the impression.  It’s a shame because The Hit List shows that he can be a dynamite villain.

The movie focuses on Cole Hauser, an engineer expecting a promotion at work and married to a wife he adores.  We also find out that he borrowed some money from the wrong kind of people and really needs the promotion in order to repay the loan.  Of course, if that had happened this would have been an entirely different movie.

Instead Hauser loses out on the promotion to a slimy coworker and arrives home in time to find his wife in a negligee and his best friend buttoning up his shirt.  It seems he’s been so focused on getting ahead in the world that they’ve grown apart.  She wants to talk, but he leaves for a motel.  On the way, he stops at a bar where he meets Cuba and gets drunk.

Cuba admits to our protagonist that he is a professional killer.  Hauser thinks its a joke and is persuaded to make a list of 5 people he wants dead:  his boss, his slimy coworker, his loan shark, his ex-best friend and his estranged wife.  He then takes a bathroom break and when he returns, Cuba is gone.

When Hauser arrives at work the next morning after sleeping in his car, he learns that his boss has been murdered … and the race is on.

Hauser is solid as the normal guy in over his head.  Cuba is amazing as the unstoppable killing machine and very reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Collateral.

I recommend The Hit List as an above average thriller and a chance to see Cuba Gooding, Jr. in a different light.

May 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

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