The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson   
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, J.R.R. Tolkien
Production Companies: New Line Cinema, MGM, WingNut Films, 3Foot7
Stars: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans
Genre: Adventure / Fantasy

What It’s About: The final installment in The Hobbit trilogy. We pick up after The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

How I Watched It: Alone in the theater. Evening.

Thoughts: Okay. So…be forewarned that I’m slightly biased since I’ve read the book. That being said, there will be a few SPOILERS about the initial setup. Alright, so we leave the last film with Smaug (Cumberbatch) leaving the mountain and heading for Lake-town. He goes on a major rampage in the town as people scatter for their lives. Lucky for the townspeople, Bard (Evans) is determined to do his best to save the town.  Bard the bowman takes his place atop the highest tower and starts shooting arrows at the dragon. SPOILER: he defeats Smaug with the black arrow right in the weak spot in his armor.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this scene was badass. I’m still so amazed by the CGI awesomeness they accomplished with Smaug. My only problem: IT’S OVER SO QUICKLY! The Lake-town battle seriously takes up about 20 minutes of the entire 244 minute run-time. Sad Teri is sad.

After this, the people of Lake-town head to the mountain to claim their stake of the gold in the mountain. What they don’t know, is that several other armies have the same idea.

Annnnnnnd then we proceed to watch over two hours worth of battle scenes. This is what I have the hardest time with. In the book, the battle at the mountain really isn’t that extensive. Also, the armies that come to fight total maybe in the single-digit thousands. I understand having the capability to multiple masses of elves or dwarves or orcs with the click of a mouse–I get it.  It looks cool, and it makes the battles much more epic. But….but….this just gets plain ridiculous. **Super-biased. Sorry**

Aside from the *cough* ridiculous *cough* battles in this film, the other glaring issue to me….is that the film doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Maybe this is because there really isn’t much plot in this movie. I guess that’s something that you risk when you split a 300-some page book into three epic films. Not that I’m complaining about getting to see more of Peter Jackson’s epic on-screen battles (definitely not complaining about that), I just wish the plot had a little more meat on it’s bones.

Visually, this movie’s stunning. Great effects all around. Some of the CGI effects may have taken me out of it every once in a while, but overall they seemed to blend well. One of my favorite additions to this movie was Billy Connolly as Dain, the cousin Dwarf of Thorin. He’s hardly recognizable, but that voice is unmistakable.

As far as the acting goes in this film, I think Lee Pace’s portrayal of Thranduil is my favorite. He comes off as such an ass in this trilogy, which must have been an acting/directing choice, because I don’t think he was that outspoken in the book. He cracks me up.

I can’t believe I’m gonna give this rating to a film in the LOTR universe, but…..
My Rating: Meh.

I saw someone call this film the Phantom Menace of the LOTR movies….and I kind of have to agree with them.  I still love it because it’s a new epic by Peter Jackson, but it really failed to compare to the others for me.

Where Can I Watch It?: Well, unless you catch a really late screening of it on the theater circuit, there’s not anywhere legally that you can find it.  It looks like the ETA of the video release is sometime in April 2015.

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Wicker Park (2004)

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Director: Paul McGuigan
Writers: Gilles Mimouni, Brandon Boyce
Production Companies: MGM, Lakeshore Entertainment
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Diane Kruger, Matthew Lillard, Rose Byrne
Genre: Drama/ Mystery/ Romance

What It’s About: A young Chicago advertising executive believes a woman he sees in a café is his long-lost love. His conviction leads to obsession, as he puts his life on hold to trail her. (From IMDB)  A remake of the French film L’Appartement from 1996.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.

Thoughts: **The following review will contain spoilers!!**
I don’t feel that bad about spoiling this one, considering it’s 10 years old.  However, I managed to not have it get spoiled for me, so I’ll extend you a warning.

A young up-and-coming advertising exec, Matthew (Hartnett), is about to take off on a business trip to China, however, while out for a farewell dinner he thinks he spots a long-lost love.  So, instead of taking off on the plane like he’s supposed to, he basically starts stalking this girl. Instant creep factor. He hears her talking on the phone, and (even though he doesn’t really see her) he assumes it’s actually her.  He investigates the phone, and finds a hotel key…and he TAKES it.  Then he actually goes to the hotel room and lets himself in.

What the hell, man!?  Why would you do that?  Even if this is some long-lost lover, wouldn’t you be worried about creeping her the fuck out?!  He ends up passing out on the hotel bed because he had taken some pills to relax for his flight.  Then we get flashbacks of the estranged lover, Lisa (Kruger). Turns out, their relationship started out by him basically stalking her, so maybe she wouldn’t be creeped out by his most recent actions. Weirdos.

He wakes up, steals a compact and a newspaper clipping from her hotel room, then he’s off to consult with his good buddy Luke (Lillard).  After Matt explains the previous night, I don’t know why the hell he doesn’t stop him. Seriously. Friends don’t let friends stalk. Buuut anyway, Matt continues on trying to find Lisa.  He goes to pretty great lengths. Eventually, he thinks he finds her apartment.  He sees a man (the one in the article he found in the hotel room) leaving a note and rose at her door. Turns out the note also had a key to her place in it, and he just slid it under her door…within reach of any crazy person who happens to come upon it.  Smart.  So, of course, Matt retrieves the key and just lets himself into the apartment.  He leaves a note for her to meet him at their usual spot the next day.  He goes, no one shows up.

So, then he goes back to the apartment.  While trespassing, the homeowner walks in.  He goes to approach her only to find that….GUESS WHAT?! It’s not her!  It’s another Lisa (Byrne). Then, instead of beating him upside with the statue she armed herself with, or calling the police, she eventually invites him to stay…then she sleeps with him. What. The. Fuck. Just. Happened.  This isn’t real life.

Well, after a bunch of crazy, unexpected twists and turns, we come to find out that it’s not real life. The movie just begins to unfold in completely mind-fucking ways.  Completely caught me off guard. To summarize very quickly: Rose Byrne’s character is actually named Alex. That’s not her apartment. She actually lives across the way in a building that faces it.  Turns out, that she’s friends with the real Lisa.  The real Lisa has been staying in Alex’s apartment because some guy (the one who left the note and rose) won’t leave her alone.  At first, I just thought that Alex got caught up in this at the end of the story.  Turns out, she was in love with Matthew before Lisa and him ever even met, and she’s been plotting and stalking him ever since.  Holy shit.  Basically, she kept these two apart for nearly two years.  Oh, and there’s also the twist that Alex is dating Luke/using him to get to Matthew.

In the end, everything is revealed to everyone, and Matthew and Lisa have a touching reunion in the airport while Coldplay plays in the background.  XD

Wow.  This movie really surprised me.  Had no idea what I was in for.  I will say that I knew something was wrong with Rose Byrne’s character right away.  Before she meets Matthew at the apartment, there’s a scene where Luke goes to see her at a play rehearsal. She’s got stage makeup caked on her face and hair, but I knew it was her right away.  Had I watched this movie when it came out (and wasn’t familiar with Rose Byrne), I might have been even more surprised at that reveal later on.  But even then, I didn’t know the extent of the deception.

If I had one complaint about this movie, I would say that I wish this movie edged more toward a horror movie, as opposed to the creepy romantic movie it turned out to be.  Not to say that I didn’t enjoy it as it is, but I just tend to be drawn toward those types of movies, and really had a feeling that it was going in that direction. Only slightly disappointed that it didn’t.

Great casting all around.  Hartnett was excellent.  He really walked the fine line between creepy and romantic very well.  Byrne was phenomenal in this.  But really, I think I’m so drawn to her character because of the way she was written/directed.  Just great storytelling.  The way they show all of the times that she was there, but overlooked in flashbacks was wonderful.  Makes me wanna go back and re-watch and try to spot her.

My Rating:  Huzzah!!

At first, I was just creeped out and confused, but once the pieces starting falling into place, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.  Great movie.  Wish I would have watched it sooner.

Where Can I Watch It?: Available on Netflix instant, Amazon Instant, Showtime Anytime, iTunes

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, J.R.R. Tolkien
Production Companies: MGM, New Line Cinema, WingNut Films
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry
Genre: Adventure/ Fantasy

What It’s About: Bilbo, Gandalf, and the band of dwarves continue their journey to Erebor to reclaim the land that is rightfully theirs.  Sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment.  Evening.

Thoughts: There are so many adventures in this movie, and I don’t really wanna COMPLETELY spoil them for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. I’ll just pinpoint my favorite/least favorite parts.

**THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Okay.  Now, I’m probably a little biased when it comes to these movies, because I’ve read The Hobbit. And let me tell ya, there are so many differences….I could go on a rant, but I’ll try to avoid it.

If I look at this film in an objective way, I can tell you that it was one fun ride.  Yes, it’s different from the book, but it still retains enough of the core story to make for one hell of an adventure.  I really enjoyed the battle with the spiders in the forest.  That part was one that I remembered most clearly from the book, and it was excellently portrayed on screen.

The elves come into play at the end of that battle.  I will point out that Legolas (Bloom) was never in the book.  Nor was the lady elf, Tauriel (Lilly), so a lot of the Elven storyline was altered to accommodate the weird love triangle with them and Kili.  But, it did make for an interesting watch.  I definitely found portions of it pretty awkward, but still somehow touching.

Another scene that I loved was the barrel scene in the river.  In the book, the dwarves are merely sealed into the barrels and smuggled down river.  Peter Jackson took the entire scene to the next level….and then some.  Not only are they not sealed in–heads sticking out, bobbing about–but they’re being chased by the orcs from before….and the orcs are being chased by the elves.  What a fun scene, though!  This scene is so action-packed, but it doesn’t lack humor.  I found myself giggling several times throughout it.

Then we make it to Lake Town, where the dwarves are smuggled away by Bard (Evans). The dynamics in this scene are quite a bit different from the book, but still enjoyable. Eventually the dwarves make themself known to the town leaders, and they’re shipped off to continue their journey to the mountain.

Okay.  Enough of the jibber-jabber.  Let’s talk about the real star of this film:

Mother. Fuckin’. Cumberbatch.

Now, I can’t even imagine how the audition for this role went.

“Hello, Mr. Cumberbatch.  Today, you will be auditioning for the role of Smaug. He’s a mother fucking dragon.  You set?”

I mean, come on!  This guy was A FUCKING DRAGON.  He embodied it, and his voice is so, so good.

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The scenes with Smaug, really stole the film for me.  CGI?  Yes. Brilliantly done?  YES. I’m a sucker for dragons, though.  :3

My Rating:  Huzzah!

Like I said, quite a few differences from the book, but still an awesomely fun ride.  Peter Jackson is a master storyteller.  Always a fan.

Where Can I Watch It?: This movie is available on Amazon Instant.