Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug

Hobbit

Starring: Ian McKellen & Martin Freeman

Rating: PG-13

Time: 161 minutes

I am definitely a Lord of the Rings convert.  Growing up I never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy so I wasn’t that excited when the The Fellowship of the Rings was released in the theater.  After finally seeing it I was hooked.  I really enjoyed the first two installments, The Two Towers especially, and I enjoyed about the first two hours of The Return of the King (got a little long).  In between watching The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers I read all the books and loved them.  I thought the world Tolkein created was amazing and felt that Peter Jackson did a wonderful job bringing them to screen.  That leads us to The Hobbit, a book I had read as a kid.  I don’t really remember reading it, I remember I didn’t like it, and that my brother loved it.  So I was a little shocked when I heard that Peter Jackson was going to make a trilogy off of a single 300 page book.  Seemed a bit excessive but if there is anyone who could make it work, it is Peter Jackson.

After the disappointment that was the first installment (An Unexpected Journey), I wasn’t expecting a lot from the second film.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.  The Desolation of Smaug improved greatly on the faults of the last film, and was filled with a lot more fun and action.  Where An Unexpected Journey left me bored and counting the minutes, I found myself enjoying Smaug and looking forward to the third and final film.

Jackson improved the second film by focusing on some areas that really lacked in the first film.  First off there is way more action.  It seems like the movie doesn’t go ten minutes without an orc jumping out of somewhere, a dwarf chopping someone’s head off, or an elf shooting something with an arrow.  There is just a ton of action in this film, and it really shortens the run time of 161 minutes. Next the special effects and graphics are amazing.  While this is expected from a Peter Jackson film I really feel like this installment took it to a whole different level.  There is one scene where Bilbo emerges from a forest and looks out over the horizon that is absolutely stunning.  Lastly there is the growth of the characters. As this is the second film we get to know them more and enjoy their individual personalities.  There is also the edition of a new character Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly) who is not in the books.  It is good to see Evangeline Lilly acting again.  Since the final episode of Lost I have only seen her briefly in The Hurt Locker and Real Steel.  She is a good actress and obviously she is easy on the eyes.

There are still some weaknesses unfortunately that keep this film from being anything more than good.  The first is the romance between one of the Dwarves and Tauriel.  It is okay to bring in new characters, but to create a love story that never existed is a bit over reaching, even for Peter Jackson.  Also, the love story is distracting and doesn’t add to the movie in any real way.  The other major weakness is Smaug himself.  While the dragon looks phenomenal on the big screen he is a bit of a chatty Cathy.  I understand he has been sleeping for a hundred plus years, but he talks and talks and talks.  Just seemed like a bit of overkill.

I don’t want to spoil the ending but you will love it or hate it.  I heard people in the theater catcalling and booing, but I was grinning.  I thought it was a fantastic way to end the film and sets up the last one perfectly.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is worth a shot, it is entertaining, fast paced and visually stunning.  It does not live up to the Lord of the Rings trilogy but it is still a good movie.

Grade: B- (Worth a shot)

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPVWy1tFXuc

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Philomena

Poster

Philomena 

Starring: Judi Dench & Steve Coogan                  

Rating: PG-13

Time: 98 Minutes

I begrudgingly went to see Philomena about a week ago.  I had planned on going to see 12 years a Slave but was talked into going to see Philomena instead.  As someone who looks forward to seeing movies I absolutely can’t stand it when I am forced to see a film I didn’t plan on seeing.  So I did not go into the theater in the best frame of mind.  Another reason I did not want to see Philomena was because I had studied the Irish Diaspora in college and knew the sad story that I would be watching.

I walked into the theater annoyed and not looking forward to what I was going to watch and left the theater knowing that I had just seen one of the best films of 2013. 

Philomena is a true story based off the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith.  Judi Dench plays the title role and Steve Coogan plays the role of reluctant journalist Martin Sixsmith.  Philomena deals with the awful practices of Irish Catholic convents selling unwed mothers’ children to foreign couples in the middle of last century.  The woman suffered physical and emotional abuse while at the convents and were forced to work as slave labor during the length of their stay.  Their children were then sold without their permission to couples who were not able to have children of their own.  Many mothers died at the convents and few ever found out what became of their children.

Philomena tells the story of one mother who attempts to find the son that was taken from her 50 years prior.  After decades of searching that has resulted in nothing she comes into contact with a down on his luck journalist (Martin Sixsmith played by Steve Coogan) who reluctantly agrees to help her.  The story keeps you on the edge of your seat as Philomena and Sixsmith follow a barely there trail that leads eventually to America and Washington D.C. 

This movie is both heart wrenching and inspiring at the same time.  Judi Dench completely disappears into the naïve and deeply religious role of Philomena Lee, while Steve Coogan embodies the role of the secular, arrogant, and sarcastic journalist.  In a time of big budget blockbusters Philomena shows how a powerful story can be told through dialogue and emotion.  The fact that this is a true story makes Philomena even more powerful and a must see. 

Despite its depressing plot, Philomena will not leave you sad at the end.  Her struggle to find the truth will leave you inspired and glad that you spent that past two hours watching her story.  Judi Dench truly shows why she is one of the greatest actors of her generation.  This is a must see.

Grade – A (Must See)

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DBPqcp6Hc4

Welcome to my blog!

Most of you who will be reading this blog know me.  If you know me you know that I absolutely love movies.  There are few things I enjoy as much as going to see a movie.  Some of my fondest memories as a child are of me going to the Stanford Theater and watching old movies with my Dad.  Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart were my favorite actors as a kid.  Then came Star Wars and that changed everything.  After Star Wars I really began to believe in movie magic, I believed that movies could take you to places you would never go and no matter what was going on in your life they could give you two to three hours away from all your problems and worries.  As I have gotten older my love of movies has not faded, it has only grown.  I find myself going to 3-5 movies a month and renting the ones I did not see in the theater.

This blog is an attempt for me to share that love with my friends and family.  I will be reviewing the movies I see and hopefully these reviews will either inspire you to spend your time seeing a particular film or will save you from seeing a flop.  Full disclaimer:  I have very weird taste in movies.  My two favorite movies are Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Roadhouse.  I also think that Black Dynamite was one of the best films of 2009, a year that included Up, Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds, The Hurt Locker and Avatar.

I hope you enjoy my reviews…