[Early Review] The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renee Elise Goldsberg, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan

Screenplay: Eric Kripke

104 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor, and language.

 

I never would’ve expected Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Death Wish) to direct a family film. I did expect him to cameo in it.

The House with a Clock in its Walls is based on the 1970s book of the same name, and it is set in 1955 after Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro, Daddy’s Home, Fun Mom Dinner) is sent to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, School of Rock, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) at his home in New Zebedee, Michigan. Uncle Jonathan’s home is considered to be one of the strangest in town, and Lewis quickly learns his uncle is a warlock, and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett, Carol, How to Train Your Dragon 2) is a witch, and a year earlier, a very tortured warlock named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan, Inside Out, TV’s Twin Peaks) died in the house. As Lewis begins training to become a warlock like his uncle, he struggles with the task of not revealing his new powers to a popular boy in school named Tarby (Sunny Suljic, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot), and Lewis makes a grave mistake that risks the lives of not just his newfound family, but all life on Earth.

Let me tell you about the things I didn’t like in The House with a Clock in its Walls because overall, I rather enjoyed myself. I think Owen Vaccaro really struggles to play the leading role here, and most of the best scenes in the film are based around Black, Blanchett, and MacLachlan. His performance tends to fall back on back theatrics and disappointing crying and screaming. I understand that may be how he is portrayed in the book, but it just doesn’t work here.

The pacing is a little chunky as well, particularly in the middle of the film. There’s a lot going on, but most of the scenes at Lewis’s new school simply bog down the film and should’ve been drastically trimmed to keep the pace going.

All that being said, I had a grin on my face for a large portion of the movie. I was reminded of children’s horror from the 1990s like the Goosebumps TV show and films like Hocus Pocus, Casper, and The Witches. The movie was actually rather creepy and discussed some gruesome things, and I saw kids in the theater with me covering their eyes and keeping two fingers split so as to keep watching. Some kids really love being scared, and I’m glad that Hollywood is recognizing that again. Eli Roth does a fine job of mixing the horror with the fun, aided by a nice screenplay from Eric Kripke (Boogeyman, TV’s Supernatural).

Most of the scenes outside of the school actually left me wanting more mythology. Lewis keeps bringing up a character from television called Captain Midnight and I feel like we only barely scratched the surface. I wanted more Captain Midnight, I wanted more creatures and spells in the house, I wanted more backstory from Izard. I just wanted more. Learning that the book is part of a series makes me really want to see this become a franchise.

The House with a Clock in its Walls stumbles a bit here and there, but I still had fun watching it. It’s the kind of film that you can bring your kids to and still have fun. It feels like it could be the Hocus Pocus of this generation, staying with youths as they grow up and show their kids, and I hope you give it a try. I mean, they are releasing it with Thriller in 3D (something I did not get to see last night), so go for that at the very least.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

130 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.

IMDb Top 250: #207 (as of 12/22/2017)

 

I think I was one of the few people in the world who wasn’t worried a bit about Thor: Ragnarok. I just had a good feeling about the whole production, and considering that the original Thor is my favorite MCU film to date, I overall didn’t worry in the slightest. So I guess it comes down to it. Was I right not to worry?

Things haven’t been going well for Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, Star Trek) lately. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island, TV’s The Night Manager) is believed dead. His father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Transformers: The Last Knight) has seemingly gone off the deep end. But when Thor discovers that he has a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, How to Train Your Dragon 2), who has broken free of her captivity, he finds himself zipped across the galaxy to a strange planet where he must fight for his life against intergalactic gladiators to appease the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park). Thor must band together with a ragtag group of friends and old foes to get back to Asgard and prevent Hela from unleashing Ragnarok, the Norse Armageddon.

I wanted to try and avoid some spoilers with Thor: Ragnarok, but they are inherently in the film’s plot. That being said, Ragnarok is by far the most unique MCU film to date and most definitely the best one of 2017. Bringing on Director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) was an absolutely inspired choice, one that set up this installment for success from the very beginning. It is the kind of space film that deserves the term “rollicking.”

As always, Hemsworth and Hiddleston have excellent chemistry, but it is the addition of all the new characters like Goldblum’s Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as the Valkyrie, Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Pete’s Dragon) as Skurge, Hela’s commander, and Waititi himself as the alien Korg that make the experience as tremendous as it is.

Thinking about faults in the film, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of concern about Ragnarok at all through the film. Sure, it’s the Flash Gordon of the MCU but I wasn’t really concerned for any of the players. Also, classic characters like the Warriors Three are tossed aside and mishandled. As for Lady Sif, she is nowhere to be found, and I think the film suffers by not addressing it.

Treating Thor: Ragnarok as a space road trip movie and teaming up Thor with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) is the crowning achievement of the film, and being the third in a tremendous group of 2017 MCU films only steepens excitement for where this franchise is going as a whole. Ragnarok falters a bit when addressing the overall momentum of the franchise but it stands by itself as a singularly enjoyable experience that rivals that of the first Thor film for entirely different reasons. It’s my favorite superhero film of the year.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon

Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Screenplay: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio

90 mins. Rated PG for action and mild humor.

 

Despicable Me 3 opens with Gru (Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, Café Society) losing his job at the AVL (Anti-Villain League) for failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, Team America: World Police), a child-star-turned-villain bent on stealing the world’s most expensive diamond. Now Gru, Lucy (Kristen Wiig, The Martian, How to Train Your Dragon 2), both jobless, are invited to meet his long-lost brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), a successful, rich, and slightly better looking twin who wishes for Gru to train him in the family business: villainy. Gru decides to utilize his brother’s impressive cache of expensive technology to capture Bratt and get back into the AVL. Also, there are minions.

If you were looking for anything new or shocking in Despicable Me 3, take this as a warning. For the most part, you won’t find anything that rockets this franchise to the next level short of the excellent voice work by Parker, who is mostly known for his foul-mouthed presence on the popular Comedy Central series South Park. That being said, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (The Secret Life of Pets, The Lorax) asked themselves, “What is this franchise missing?” and answered in unison “More Gru!” Sadly, the Gru/Dru story fizzles out. It’s rather cliché and doesn’t really add anything new.

On that note, I also felt like the film was rather overstuffed with plot threads. Gru has Dru, Lucy has a uninteresting arc of a new mom learning to become a new mom and it doesn’t really surprise and interest. The three girls gets short little arcs that kind of work but feel underdeveloped. At least the minions have a lot of fun on a somewhat solo adventure after leaving Gru when he chooses not to return to the life of villainy. Their plotline feels similar to Scrat from the Ice Age films when Scrat actually worked.

You might think I hated the film, but I didn’t. In fact, I rather enjoyed myself for one exemplary reason. I love these characters. And while I hate on Gru quite a bit, it’s because he works better when played off another, and that’s why his story with Dru might have worked better if they hadn’t been twin brothers and it someone other than Carell had voiced him. I also enjoy Lucy and the girls even if they  don’t have enough to do. I was sad at the absence of Dr. Nefario from the previous installments but I felt like the minion sections of the film learned a lot from the experiment spinoff feature that they had a few years ago. They are given enough screentime to really play around without the film relying too heavily on them.

But I must return to the impressive work Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt. His role was so much fun as an over-the-top villain obsessed with his past (a nice parallel to Gru’s journey) and addicted to the 1980s. A big win for me as I was unimpressed with the villain of Despicable Me 2.

Now it sounds like Despicable Me 3 may be the last of the official series with Steve Carell said in an interview that he may not return as Gru outside of another Minions cameo, so if this is it, it ends on an okay note. Again, the finale of the film is nothing original, but I’m also thinking I’d rather end it there rather than see what happens next. Overall, Despicable Me 3 was a lot of fun and I did enjoy myself. This is the entry that gets closest to the original with some big wins and a few classic sequel misses, but if you’ve enjoyed this franchise so far, I see no reason to miss this one.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 1 – This is the End (2013)

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Director: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson

Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

107 mins. Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.

 

Here we are yet again. Another year has gone by and we arrive at my favorite month: October. I love celebrating my favorite genre with you all and I’m so excited to continue the tradition. This year, I thought we’d start off a with a lighter fare and take a look at the horror-comedy This is the End.

L-r, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen in Columbia Pictures' "This Is The End," also starring Jonah Hill.

In this film from directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (The Interview), each actor portrays a fictionalized version of himself, so know that going in.

Seth Rogen is very excited to see his best friend, Jay Baruchel (TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby), who has just flown in for the weekend. As the two trade stories, get high, and play video games, Seth suggests a party over at James Franco’s (TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) house. There they meet up with Seth’s other acting partners Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Danny McBride (Your Highness, Aloha), Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine 2), and Michael Cera (TV’s Childrens Hospital, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). As they party away inside, outside a cataclysmic event begins as the world ends all around them and they are forced to survive in the house as demons and death surround them, attempting to kill them all.

What a strange setup for a film, and surprisingly enough, it works better than most comedies that dip their toes into the supernatural. The film playfully uses elements and staples of a film like this such as possession, cannibalism, sin, forgiveness, insanity, paranoia, and death so carelessly (in a good way) that I can see why this offensively hilarious look at the end of days doesn’t garner as much love as other films from this cast.

I love that the cast here is able to poke fun at themselves, either playing against type (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) or playing exaggerations of themselves (Danny McBride and James Franco). The most important part is that they respect the conceit and the material and embrace it for the comedy.

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Directors Rogen and Goldberg take some big risks in the film and it pays off gloriously. It isn’t a slight on the these kinds of movies but an homage to them and a critique of fame in today’s society. And it’s really freaking funny. The cameos alone make this film a worthy comedic gem, but the way the movie is structured give it something wholly unique: a style like no other. See this movie before the apocalypse actually happens.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview, click here.

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

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Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Michael K. Williams, Matt Walsh, Chris Hemsworth

Screenplay: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor.

 

Yes, it’s that Ghostbusters film review.

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Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, TV’s Gilmore Girls, The Boss) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, The Martian, How to Train Your Dragon 2) were once partners, true believers, and friends, but that was a long time ago. The two have grown apart due to Erin’s attempts at unbelieving in the paranormal that brought the two together in the first place, but a rogue copy of the paranormal research book that Abby and Erin wrote years earlier surfaces and causes them to reunite alongside Abby’s new colleague Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon, TV’s Saturday Night Live, Finding Dory) and…uh, the one who drives the car, Patty (Leslie Jones, Trainwreck, Top Five). Together, the Ghostbusters must use their tools and expertise to stop a maniac trying to create an otherworldly invasion.

After watching the “Most Disliked” Trailer Ever on Youtube (yeah, it holds that distinction) and seeing one of the worst marketing campaigns in film history, I was extremely nervous. After all, I’ve been a fan of this franchise since I’ve known fear (that Vigo the Carpathian painting still unnerves me) and I’ve been frustratingly watching as hopes of a third film slowly dwindled into nothingness all because of Bill Murray. Yeah, I put all the blame on him. So, I was very judgmental of this reboot from the very beginning. I paid no attention to the gender-swapping in the movie because it didn’t really bother me. I just didn’t really care. What I did care about was a fun and frightful adventure that stayed true to the original but forged its own path.

For the most part, I actually really enjoyed Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. There were so many great elements and the fact that it wasn’t a straight remake really won me over. The Paul Feig (Spy, The Heat) comedy  was really funny and even though it missed the frights, it didn’t completely take me out of the experience.

There was a glaring issue that, for some, might not be a big deal. For me, it really was. This glaring issue was the decision to ignore the previous two installments. Instead of a brave decision, it felt like a slap in the face, especially with so many of the original performers returning for stupid cameos. Not a single cameo in this film made me happy except for the return of Ernie Hudson. Why Feig and fellow screenwriter Katie Dippold didn’t make this a passing of the torch I’ll never know. All it would have taken was one scene of Dan Aykroyd handing the equipment over to his neice or something. It wouldn’t even have had to been a good passing of the torch to be better than the complete retconning of the franchise. A true miss that is really the one major problem I had in an otherwise mostly enjoyable film experience.

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Perhaps one day we will get the extended cut we deserve with the original 4-hour cut that Paul Feig originally ended up with. For now, we will have to settle with a pretty fun film that pays homage and walks its own path. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the laugh-out-loud work from Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek) as Kevin the receptionist. Now, I don’t know if we are getting Ghostbusters: Answer the Call 2 down the road (the box office numbers aren’t exactly screaming for it) but I can only hope to see more adventures from this crew.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So have you seen Ghostbusters: Answer the Call yet? What did you think? And what is your preferred horror/comedy of choice? Let me know!

 

 

For my review of Paul Feig’s The Heat, click here.

Deadpool (2016)

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Director: Tim Miller

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

108 mins. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.

IMDb Top 250: #86 (as of 3/17/2016)

 

I’m almost in shock that I’m writing a review to Deadpool. I honestly never thought this film would even get off the ground, and many times, it actually didn’t, but due to the nerd-filled world we now live in, we somehow have been blessed with a Deadpool, and not only that, but the Deadpool that we deserve.

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Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern, Self/Less) is a mercenary and an asshole, or perhaps a Merc with a Mouth, who falls for the beautiful and damaged Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, TV’s Homeland, Batman: Bad Blood) after literally boning for a year. Their love has been sealed, until fate, in the form of cancer, begins knocking on Wade’s door. He enters into a secretive and risky program run by Ajax (Ed Skrein, The Transporter Refuled, The Model), a mutant scientist weird guy. Soon, Wade is bestowed mutagen powers in the form of regeneration which gives him some terrible side effects. He pursues Ajax, the mutant responsible, by killing all of his henchmen, and dons the moniker Deadpool. Also, there are X-Men in the movie.

Oftentimes, when I review a film, I ask myself, what should this film be? How should it feel? How should it look? How should I leave it? Deadpool has the distinction of being almost exactly how this movie should be, a veritable knock-out of a film. Ryan Reynolds is the perfect embodiment of the Merc in just about every way, and what’s better, he cares about the source material, which matters.

Morena Baccarin is hot. She is portrayed as hot. And her chemistry with Reynolds is wonderful. Add to that the perfect casting of T.J. Miller (Cloverfield, How to Train Your Dragon 2) as Weasel, essentially the comic relief sidekick no one asked for but everyone is glad to have.

I also enjoyed the cameo-like appearance of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) as members of the X-Men, though in future installments, I feel like the connective tissue between Deadpool and the X-Men can be deeper (this will require great care as the two have very different styles). I was disappointed to find that there was no mention of Wolverine’s DNA and its connection to Wade. One of the few problems I had with the film was that it felt like it was trying to distance itself from the X-Men universe while also sending up references to the MCU. Being a general nerd here, I can ascertain that these are two different franchises, but I don’t think the general movie audience can completely separate the two.

The screenplay, from duo Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) is mostly solid, with the exception being that without the interesting flashback structure, the “origin” story is rather one-dimensional, very much a paint-by-the-numbers tale. Thankfully, structure and style had this fact, but they can’t entirely hide the fact that the villain is rather one-dimensional (Ed Skrein really should’ve thought harder about leaving Game of Thrones).

Lastly, I feel compelled to point out the success of the fourth-wall breaks (they work really well), and note that the Stan Lee cameo in Deadpool is perhaps the best he’s ever had.

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Deadpool: the little Marvel property that could. It survived horrible butchering in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and made it all the way to success in a new timeline thanks to X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it was all worth it. Deadpool is loads of fun, really cool, and it elevates itself above the level of a normal superhero movie. Why haven’t you seen it yet?

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

200 Posts! Many thanks!

Hey everyone!

Earlier this week, I crossed the 200 post mark, and I just wanted to take a minute to thank all my faithful readers for tuning in for all the craziness as I get used to this again. Below, you will see links to my Top 10 Posts of the last 200 posts. Thanks again! Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!

  1. No Xenomorphs in Prometheus 2? What has all this been for?
  2. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  3. Horrible Bosses (2011)
  4. Leprechaun (1993)
  5. 2012 (2009)
  6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  7. Monkey Shines (1988)
  8. The Lego Movie (2014)
  9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

 

Lastly, I want to hear some feedback from my readers. Let me know what you want to see. I’m always looking for new ways to spark discussion!

[#2015oscardeathrace] How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

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Director: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Screenplay: Dean DeBlois

102 mins. Rated PG for adventure action and mild rude humor.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

How to Train Your Dragon was a film that needed to have a sequel. Two, in fact. The first film had a very SAGA-like feeling to it. It had some more story that needed to be told. And it was, in last year’s How to Train Your Dragon 2.

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Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby) and his dragon Toothless have come a long way in their relationship, and their home Berk has changed along with them. Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300, Olympus Has Fallen), has learned to respect him as a son and a man. Hiccup’s girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera, TV’s Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez) has furthered her affection for him. Everything is going just great for Hiccup, until he discovers a dragon army led by the terrifying Drago (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son) and comes face-to-face with Valka (Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Knight of Cups), his missing mother in this sequel from director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch).

How to Train Your Dragon 2 excells in almost every way further than its predecessor. Visually, it is stunning. Emotionally, it resonates. The above developed relationships are tested further and further as the film progresses. Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington (TV’s Game of Thrones, Pompeii) are great additions to the voice cast.

DeBlois’ sequel is a tightly-knit thrill-ride, with beautiful music, and gorgeous set-pieces. It also has the distinction of being the first animated film to contain an openly homosexual character (I won’t say who, but it shouldn’t really matter). For that alone, the film deserved praise.

The flaw, and there is a big one, comes at the end, when the film takes a fairly mediocre and cliché turn developing in an underwhelming finale. Hiccup and Toothless have a respect that is stretched to its lengths, yet the plotholes near the end make one question what it was all for.

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The ending aside, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still a massively successful sequel and well worth the viewing. I only hope the open threads are continued throughout the future installments.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ How to Train Your Dragon, click here.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the work that Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) and his creative team has accomplished. Six films, two trilogies, and hours upon hours of extended editions have comprised the Middle-Earth Saga.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) and the company of dwarves have just let the diabolical Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, Penguins of Madagascar) loose on Lake Town. It’s up to Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Fast & Furious 6) to stop the evil dragon and reclaim their lives. Tempers soon flair up as the treasures of Erebor are up for grabs and Thorin (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm), consumed by greed, has decided not to honor the agreement made with Bard and his people. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) continues his battle against the dreaded Necromancer.

The finale to The Hobbit trilogy is a far different film from its predecessors, and with a very simple plot, revolves entirely around the Battle of the Five Armies, one of the biggest battles in Middle-Earth history. It is very similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where the entire film revolves around the climactic ending as opposed to standing on its own. It is definitely my sixth favorite Middle-Earth film.

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Ian McKellan is a torn Gandalf here, caught between his allegiance to the Company of Dwarves and his commitment to reason and peace. McKellan continues to impress.

Evangeline Lilly (TV’s Lost, Real Steel) is great as Tauriel here, the elf who has developed feelings for the poisoned dwarf Kili. Her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers) and his father Thranuil (Lee Pace, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy) are further delved into in this film and helps to increase her internal and external conflicts as the story progresses.

As far as the Company of Dwarves, we get more great but wholly underutilized work from Ken Stott (Shallow Grave, One Day) as Balin, the dwarf who will one day claim Moria, and James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point) as Bofur, the dwarf who, above all else, just wants his home back.

I also loved the continual references to future events and foreshadowing from The Lord of the Rings, like the cameo appearances from Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Ian Holm (Ratatouille, Lord of War), Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). My only major issue was that I wanted more. Tolkien fans will know that Balin ends up in Moria with Oin, we know that Gloin has a son named Gimli, we know Saruman’s fate, but I wanted to see more in this film.

Director Jackson continues to prove he can handle action and large-scale battle sequences, the action here is incredible. His cinematography mixed with the amazingly well-put-together sequences, and Howard Shore’s deep and thunderous score.

It took me a while to really enjoy Billy Boyd’s final song, “The Last Goodbye,” but once I did, I really felt it tied together not just this film, but the trilogy and in fact the entire saga.

If you get the chance to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance capture for Smaug and the Necromancer, do it. He is incredible to watch even without the CGI placed over it.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t Jackson’s best work, but it certainly is a perfectly fine finale to an epic series. I feel like the theatrical cut of the film is missing some key details, and I hope that the extended cut has the ability to expand this on the film and show us some more connective tissues.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

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