Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Plot: Bard (Luke Evans) dispatches Smaug (a dragon) at the beginning, and then the five armies show up to battle for the dragon's treasure for the duration of the movie. That is the whole plot -- aside from "reimagined material" to link up to the sequels.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review:  The Five Armies makes me sad. The Hobbit could have been a wonderful movie, because it is the best book: charming and kid-friendly.*  Instead, we get a nice dragon battle followed by endless scenes of dwarves arguing & fighting and an hour-long battle scene.  Once Smaug died, the movie dragged and dragged. The biggest emotion I got was disappointment, so disappointed with the lost opportunity that I was sad.

The cinematography sucked. The close-ups, the slow scenes and the landscapes looked like a cheap TV show. The dwarves looked like stuffed animals. Jackson obviously put his money in the CGI fighting scenes were on-target.

There were a few good scenes. I liked the (reimagined) Wizard battle with Sauron though it was not integrated with the plot at all. Luke Evans' Bard was a character with emotion and feeling, and a more contemporary attitude about family and war. The CGI battle scenes are as good as any, and some of the fighting was clever. There were so many orcs that I couldn't keep track of who was where and why. It didn't help that Dwarve King Thorean (Richard Ermitage) was such a jerk, because he was hard to sympathize with.

Cast: Martin Freeman (He does a great job), Richard Armitage (Lots of screen time, but he never seemed like a real madman), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel's is a reimagined story that worked), Luke Evans (Bard is good throughout -- a highlight), Lee Pace (Doesn't he show up everywhere? He plays a selfish elf with subtly). Many other actors including some big names.

Directed by: Peter Jackson: he is wrecking his reputation with this crap.

Soundtrack by: Howard Shore: it was top notch. Billy Boyd's closing credits ballad, which give voice to Bilbo's thoughts on completing the journey, is a highlight.

Rating: 1.5 stars: Not recommended. It is so bad, that it makes me appreciate how hard it is for Marvel to crank out their comic book films.  
More: In the 21st Century, people don't bleed when they are cut by swords -- although in Five Armies, heroes do get blood spots on their faces, but not their clothes. Also, men do not rescue women in the 21st Century because the women rescue themselves -- in the 20th Century the women weren't so competent. In both centuries, one hero/ine can kill hundreds of nameless baddies.

*Even More: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books is not kid-friendly unlike The Hobbit. The former is a mediation on WWII like a lot of 1960's British literature and art: it is all about war. You see some of that post-war mentality in the uncalculable high body count of Five Armies. All the characters kill as many bad guys as possible, quickly and with great skill, without an remorse or regard for the personal stories of their dead victims. (With the exception of Bard, mentioned above.) In the post WWII period, Britain was feeling guilty about the industrialized killing of millions of people,  -- these fairytales about mythic heroes killing legions is part of processing that. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Into the Woods

Plot: It's a musical mashup of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rupunzel, woven together with plot line involving a witch and an infertility spell. After Cinderella's blissful wedding, there is a dark plot twist and the character's struggle together to survive. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Into the Woods is a lot of fun. The lyrics are clever, and the plot is fast moving. I had not seen the stage play, and I thought it was clever and enjoyable.

I liked how the familiar fairy tale stories were adapted for a single plot, because they were familiar and still fresh.

This is an adaptation of a beloved Broadway musical, so the songs are in the Broadway style.

They were developed for the stage to be witty, flirty, to advance the story. I liked the music, so I really enjoyed the movie. Someone who did not enjoy the music would not have been kept interested by the plot or the action. Some of the scenes is deliberately campy or self-satirical to be funny, especially in the fairy tale, first half.

Some of the actors were fun. I liked Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. Cinderella is a sympathetic underdog. Emily Blunt & James Corden, as the Baker & his wife, are the heart of the movie because they link the stories together. They have married-couple banter that is asynchronistically from the 21st century. Chris Pine's Prince Charming is deliberately campy and full-of-himself in a funny way. He says, "I was raised to be Charming, not sincere." I was not a fan of Meryl Streep, so always looked like Meryl Streep playing a witch. Young Daniel Huttlestone as Jack was great.

I liked the movie after the plot twist because is shows that "Happily Ever After," isn't real, and that there are still problems. It also shows that people continue to die, get hungry, and fight wars. I liked how they abandoned their fairy tale goals to work together.

Low lights were places where the scenes were made for a stage rather than freshly reimagined for the movie screen. For some reason I did not like Lillia Crawford's Red Riding Hood -- she was a kleptomaniac zombie.

Cast: Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Lilla Crawford, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Written by:  James Lapine; composed by Stephen Sondheim

Rating:3.5 4.0 stars:. I enjoyed watching it a lot. Whether you like it depends on whether you like Broadway-style songs and the stage-play style.

More: Red Riding Hood: "It is nice to know a lot,  . . . and a little bit not."