Peter Jackson has unleashed The Hobbit Trilogy in a similar fashion to George Lucas's quest to make the first three Star Wars films. Unfortunately, they too don't live up to the former glory of the original trilogy. While many were quite skeptical about Jackson splitting the adaptation into not two, but three chapters... for the most part, he's managed to pull it off.
We're immersed into J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth one last time as Bilbo and Company are forced to keep the terrifying Smaug from obliterating a town and engage in a war against an array of combatants to protect a kingdom of treasure and preserve the fragile peace. You get the impression that the film-makers have taken a page from Game of Thrones in the way the multiple factions help nest a layered war drama.
To Jackson's credit, the trilogy ends on a high note. He's treated the climactic battle, which makes up the bulk of the film, much like The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers did at Helm's Deep. Epic siege action, fantasy adventure and dazzling visual effects artistry create a realistic world where Orcs, Elves and Dwarves converge to fight over a mountain of riches, after the powerful dragon Smaug decimates a small village.
It's a grim, dark and wondrous tale of politics, greed, might and magic, which certainly helps if you watched the first two chapters. We're drawn in by the beautiful imagery, epic vistas and array of intricately adorned and made up characters, who are engaged in a dangerous stand-off between five forces.
"I'm looking for Brienne of Tarth... anyone?"
Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage return to power the main characters. McKellen is slightly subdued but still good as Gandalf, the Middle Earth figurehead for the sixth time in the series. Martin Freeman seems to be the most comfortable in his skin, giving Bilbo a curious charm and quizzical nature as the troubled go-between. Then Armitage has the dark task of playing a good dwarf, bewitched by greed and megalomania.
The film-makers have gone with visual technology over hordes of extras for The Hobbit Trilogy. The CGI and sound is first-rate and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is bound to get some technical awards and nominations come awards season, considering the weight of dazzling visual effects and aural environments in this film.
While enthralling, it does land some unintentional laughs, especially when it comes to some of the incredulous action stunts involving Legolas. While Jackson has focused on the 300 battle sequences, the script still feels stretched, making it entertaining at 2 and a half hours, but not in the same league as The Lord of the Rings.
Fans will be appeased as Jackson rounds off the trilogy with his head held high. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies's visual artistry is compelling, the fantasy action is relentless, the detailed wardrobe/make up enhance the realism and the solid cast keep us invested in a relatively simple story, which ties up most of the loose ends and bridges The Lord of the Rings.
With only December standing in the way of 2015, Spling rounds up the best releases of 2014.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a true original masterpiece and something never before witnessed at the cinema. Filmed over 13 years, the film functions as a docudrama time capsule, tracking the life journey of a character and actor.
Linklater’s intuition and the cast’s performances are enhanced by the progressive aging of the actors and the natural environment they find themselves in. We bear witness to a “home video” adaptation that resonates so strongly that we hardly noticed the 3-hour run time. Boyhood cements Linklater as a visionary director and Ellar Coltrane as a (former) child star.
It’s so good you’ll… feel like you know these people when the credits roll.
The Lego Movie
“Everything is AWESOME.” The brainwashing refrain from The Lego Movie theme song will stay with you for hours if not days. Undoubtedly, one of 2014’s biggest surprises, we watched as what could have been a feature length toy commercial was transformed into an incredibly funny and imaginative piece of pop culture art for all ages.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs writer-directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller made the blend of laugh-a-minute inside jokes, a stellar comic cast and curious “stop-motion” animation seem effortless. How can you resist an entertaining, hilarious animated adventure comedy that combines The Matrix, Back to the Future and Wreck-It Ralph?
It’s so good you’ll… consider becoming a parent just to play with Lego again.
Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow met and exceeded our expectations. This futuristic military thriller stars Tom Cruise and dials into a Source Code predicament as Major William Cage becomes locked in a cycle, appearing at a futuristic army base and dying on a battlefield again and again.
Edge of Tomorrow is fresh, funny and wildly entertaining, despite being “recycled” from a Japanese light novel, All You Need Is Kill. Tom Cruise is in fighting form, Emily Blunt kicks ass and director Doug Liman has balanced the dopamine-inducing insurgent action and “Live, Die, Repeat.” dark comedy to create a fast-paced, intelligent and thought-provoking sci-fi thriller.
It’s so good you’ll… forgive Tom Cruise for his real-life eccentricities.
Guardians of the Galaxy
James Gunn blew our minds with Guardians of the Galaxy, a superhero sci-fi comedy that captured the imagination, lived up to the “Space Avengers” hype and released its very own mix tape. While it starts off slow, Guardians of the Galaxy’s biggest asset is its tone, delivering a mix of nostalgia and laugh-out-loud comedy with plenty of fun and wink-wink action.
Just like the mischievous Starlord, it never takes itself too seriously and gives the audience permission to be entertained by the A-Team style camaraderie and The Fifth Element action-comedy, all wrapped-up in an epic Star Wars sized adventure.
It’s so good you’ll… forget about The Avengers, at least until Age of Ultron.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a well-balanced, smart and imaginative sequel that builds on the franchise’s already solid foundations. Bryan Singer returns to harness a stellar cast, refreshes our views on the most fascinating X-Men and transplants us in an unplugged time in history.
The character-driven time warp features solid performances from a phenomenally cool cast, dazzling special effects, quick pacing and taut direction on the back of an entertaining thrill ride. The real superpower is Singer’s direction, managing to bridge the old and the new in a fresh, rich, layered, varied, epic and compelling time travel sequel.
It’s so good you’ll… try and figure out how to sequence an X-Men marathon.
Close but no Doughnut!
Captain America: The Winter Solider, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Belle, Locke, Hard to Get, Wish I Was Here and Calvary.
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THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies concludes The Hobbit Trilogy as Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.
Why you need to see it: Stunning fantasy visuals, epic battle sequences and colossal action make this star-studded closing chapter exciting and breathtaking.
WALKING ON SUNSHINE
Walking on Sunshine is a musical romance starring Giulio Berruti, Greg Wise and Annabel Scholey. After a whirlwind romance, Maddie is preparing to marry gorgeous Italian Raf, and has invited her sister Taylor to the wedding. Unbeknownst to Maddie, however, Raf is Taylor's ex-holiday flame, and the love of her life...
Why you need to see it: Walking on Sunshine features toe-tapping popular hit songs from the '80s and a beautiful Italian coastal village setting.
Lily Collins and Sam Claflin star in the romantic comedy Love, Rosie. Based on the young adult novel by Celia Ahern, we're introduced to Rosie and Alex. They've been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn’t possibly be right for one another... or could they? They're their own worst enemies when it comes to love, life and making the right decisions.
Why you need to see it: Vibrant visuals and buoyant performances make this "romcom" cheerful and enjoyable, especially if you liked 27 Dresses.
The Longest Week is one of those movies that is so caught up in trying to be something it's not, that it loses its audience in the process. This is the work of Peter Glanz, whose admiration for Woody Allen and Wes Anderson have turned into the unwanted love child that is The Longest Week.
The story follows the affluent and aimless Conrad Valmont (Bateman), whose wealthy estranged parents left his upbringing to the hotel staff. In the space of a week, he's disinherited, evicted from his life of leisure and falls victim to that little thing called love.
The lead character's story is dangerously close to The Grand Budapest Hotel and while it could be sheer coincidence, the parallels thicken as Glanz tries to imitate the world of Wes Anderson. While beautiful and elegant in style, it lacks the small world details, off-beat comedy and quaint tone of a Wes Anderson film.
Anderson's fuzzy films have their own camp charm and old world fashion. While heartwarming-to-twee, his films are somewhere between an ant farm and a wedding cake, operating at a delightfully superficial level while simultaneously drawing a feeling of adorable nostalgia from its audience. Trying to mimic this state without coming across as phony is difficult if you are Wes Anderson, and even more so if you aren't.
"Go on, pinch me... I promise I won't cry this time."
Yet, Glanz isn't only making a bad copy of a Wes Anderson film, he's also attempting to replicate the quirky New York romantic comedy of Woody Allen. It's intermittently amusing, but not nearly as funny, charming, quirky or smart as a Woody Allen film. Instead it's detached, superficial and lost in a hollow chasm as it toys with dysfunctional and unlikable characters.
Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde and Billy Crudup make up an accomplished cast, but they deliver mostly insincere and distant performances. Bateman doesn't have his usual knowing twinkle, Olivia Wilde is flat-footed and Crudup works hard to generate some steam. You get the impression that The Longest Week jinxed itself by leaning so heavily on its copycat intentions from the get-go.
To alienate us even further, the dialogue is vapid, pawing at philosophical quips in an attempt to add substance. While technically proficient, you don't care for the characters, whose selfish motives keep us at an arm's length. Apart from one or two promising moments, The Longest Week is a dull style-over-substance slog and feels much longer than its 86 minute run time.