Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

One of the big things about making the Hobbit movies is that they're working from a book that's really hard to adapt. A lot of the changes and additions they made to the source material might seem extraneous and even downright blasphemous but the movie is working from a book that doesn't really have that much of a story. There is definitely a story in Tolkien's The Hobbit, but the structure basically amounts to...just a bunch a random stuff happening. In the book, it always seems like the Goblins and the Orcs show up just to be dicks about it, so maybe some credit should be given for making the villains a more essential part to the story. This is why An Unexpected Journey got off to a bit of a rocky start, even if I still really enjoyed it. In fact, maybe this whole experience has been a little rocky from the start as it was hard to see where all of this extraneous bloat would be going.

But, if the series has been anything, they have at least been entertaining and fun to watch as nobody seems to know their craft of big giant battle scenes as well as Peter Jackson. In fact, one could probably look at these movies as nothing more than Jackson seeing how much left he could throw into this fantasy world of Middle Earth. Of course the goblin cave sequence would be nothing but silly, yet awesome light-hearted action. Of course they would adapt a simple scene of the Dwarves escaping by way of barrel riding into a full scale action scene involving kung-fu and heads getting cut off. And, much in the same way here, yeah, what took a couple of pages in the book has been blown up into a full feature length movie involving a battle of five armies. The final result of The Battle of the Five Armies will depend on how much you've been on board since the beginning of the whole Hobbit thing, but I can't say that I haven't at least been enjoying these movies by a lot.

Since The Desolation of Smaug ended on a cliff-hanger, The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right where the last movie ended. The dragon, Smaug, is terrorizing the people of Lake Town only to be taken down by The Bard. This part literally happens before the title of the movie is shown and before the actual story starts. The real story has the Dwarves reclaiming their mountain after Smaug's defeat only to have the leader of the group, Thorin Oakenshield, be overcome with greed. A lot of this has to do with some sort of dark energy that Smaug had left in the mountain. While this sort of trouble is going on, the people of Lake Town attempt to settle in the remains of the destroyed town next to the mountain in hopes that Thorin will keep his word on helping them out. Unfortunately, even when Lake Town has an army of Elves to coerce him to keep his word, Thorin is being kind of a douche and is willing to fight in order to keep his treasure. This is all happening while there is a looming threat of Orcs to make things even worse.

So, yeah! Going back and trying to describe the plot of this movie shows how complicated the series has actually gotten. Everything to this plot is the pay off to everything that has been set up in the previous movies. Not that it has been difficult to follow even with their being about three different plots going on as it all comes together pretty nicely. The reason why these movies have gotten pretty dense is how they could lead up to this epic battle without it seeming like something that comes out of nowhere as it does in the book. There's a reason why they had scenes of Gandalf investigating the return of Sauron only to find out that this is directly involved to the start of this epic battle.

And once the battle does come, the entire thing hits really hard. Jackson throws in just about everything he could think of in order to make this a one big, exciting war. However, it is all backed by some emotional key moments that keep the story going. The Hobbit of the story, Bilbo Baggins, seems to drift in and out of the background and almost seems unnecessary to the plot, but he actually turns out to be the key guy that holds the dwarves together and the one who helps them on the right path through some pretty effective scenes. Even the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Killi really comes into its own by the end of this movie. And, while I'm even having trouble telling you which dwarf is which, the more important key dwarves in the group finally do get a good payoff by the end of it all.

I'll admit that having the last movie ended where it did pissed me off as much as the last movie I saw where it did that(Catching Fire), but, now that it has all come together, I'm having trouble figuring out where you could have ended The Desolation of Smaug in a way that would make it feel like a complete story. In fact, these last two movies could be viewed as being one long giant movie as there are a lot of callbacks and even minor payoffs that were setup in the last movie. Of course, this might make people think these films should have just been two movies in the first place but a lot of the additions to the stories from the books feel like they are needed in order to make it feel like an over arching story and not just something where a bunch of stuff happens which was the sort of feeling I got from the book. How well these additions were done is up for debate, but I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to do it while still retaining the iconic events from the original source material.

By the end of it all, no, these movies are not going to live up to the legacy of The Lord of the Rings movies that started it all. However, it has been fun and I'm glad I got a chance to see these made in the first place. I've seen this movie two times at this time of writing this and I have to admit that I think I actually liked it better the second time. This might not be my favorite of The Hobbit movies, but the conclusion is satisfying enough and the battle sequence is just down right fun. It's been a good run and I can't wait to see what Jackson has in store for the next Tintin movie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


If there was any movie that would benefit you from not knowing or knowing little about this movie before seeing it, Nightcrawler would be one of those movies. It's not because there are big twists and hidden secrets to this movie, but of how this movie just takes you on a ride and describing all of the things that happen in this movie would be a great disservice. The trailer, as usual, just goes ahead and shows you the whole damn movie, which means you'll know exactly where the movie is going and how everything gets to where it eventually does. With that said, I'm not going describe major events in this movie and I'm going to be as vague as possible, but you should just watch the movie before reading anything about it.

Anyways, that's your PSA announcement of the day, let's talk about Nightcrawler.

Have you ever been one of those unfortunate people who ever had to go through a job interview? You know the process: an interviewer will ask you seemingly arbitrary things like "What are your strengths and weaknesses", "How would you describe yourself with three words", and other stuff as they claim to find the one person who's "motivated" and "self-starting" and other stuff. Nightcrawler literalizes the kind of person that interviewers would claim to look for, so of course this kind of person would be introduced as killing a security guard after being caught stealing from a construction site only to ask for a job at said construction site.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, someone who could be handily described as a sociopath who seeks to move up on the metaphorical business ladder. The story to Nightcrawler is that Bloom is looking for a job and he finds an interest in being a nightcrawler, someone who captures footage of a crime scene or an accident without the consent of anybody. Bloom sells this footage to a news station and he hopes to expand on his business.

And, yeah, that's the entire story. The main character is just out to make as much money as possible doing this sort of thing. Of course, there is a lot more to this movie. Otherwise, why else would I be saying that this movie is awesome, unless some guy was paying me to say that?

The secret behind Nightcrawler is the protagonist himself, Bloom. He's a sort of fascinating specimen who doesn't blink, states his intentions clearly when he thinks it will benefit him, and will lie at times to get what he wants. He will backstab someone when it means he can further his own goals and he's really good at pressuring people and he knows which buttons to push on certain people in order to make them give in. He also claims to be a business enthusiast and can list off a lot of the tactics to help build on his own career, but tactics like being encouraging and making connections are not coming from someone who's genuine in that kind of friendliness. These tactics are used to further his own agenda.

Bloom's character is foiled by Rick, a character bloom hires because he has GPS on his cellphone to help him get from location to location. Rick is sort of a different character to Bloom as he even makes the mention that Bloom just "doesn't get people". Of course, Bloom understands people all too well, which is how Rick ends up working for him in the first place. Rick is a poor person and stays with Bloom just for the money even though everything Bloom does is questionable right down to the big business that Bloom claims he owns. But it doesn't matter that Bloom has a business, only that he is able to take advantage of Rick in the first place.

There's a reason I brought up interviews in the beginning of this review as this movie shows the stark contrast between a business world and the day to day world through the character of Bloom. We've all seen movies and know that you have to get your hands dirty in order to make it big anywhere. However, Nightcrawler takes it a bit further than that as it shows how inhuman and robotic the business world can be. Interviewers seem to always look for certain kind of people with specific traits, even though, most of the time, the people they hire usually just need money and they're willing to give up time and energy just to make said money(someone like Rick in this movie). Someone like Bloom would be exactly the kind of person an interviewer would be looking for as he states all of the things that make him a good worker, but, by the end of it all, most of the people working with him end up hating him as the traits for a good business person doesn't make for a good human being.

One of the best things about Nightcrawler is how funny it is. This is one of those movies where I think you can tell a group of people they're going to see a serious crime drama and another group of people that they're going to see a pitch black, hilarious comedy and the reactions would be completely different based on that. The humor in this movie is very subtle and, often times, quite tragic, but it all fits well with the context. Bloom wears all of his intentions on his face and, through out the majority of the film, it says "I'm lying to you". Yet, the way he talks and the way he does things make it particularly hard to pin the guy on his obvious evil-doings other than...well, just look at him.

Nightcrawler is thrilling, tragic, dark, and funny all at once, but what's amazing is how engaging and mesmerizing the experience is. This is seriously one of the best movies to come out this year and something I feel is going to be mentioned as a major highlight by the end of it all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The November Man

FOREWORD: It is December 5th of 2014 and nothing interesting came out that I can see right now. So, here's a review a I wrote back when this movie came out. The reason why I haven't posted it until now is because I wasn't entirely satisfied with how this review turned out, but it's a little better than nothing at this point. Enjoy!

So...not a lot has been coming out. At least, not a lot where I can conjure a whole essay on, but I guess that happens sometimes. So, here some quick bites of movies I saw recently.

Boyhood: I have pretty complicated feelings about this movie. There isn't a whole lot I can say that hasn't been said before. It features a very non-traditional story that shows the whole "in-between" moments of life. Ya know, all of the things that happen in-between our self-realizing big moments. Does it work? I'm not too sure. Is it worth watching to see a young, innocent boy grow up in front of your very eyes to be some sort of...philosophy...guy...type...guy? Eh...

Cantinflas: Hey! Remember that movie Saving Mr. Banks? Yeah, me neither.

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For: Haven't seen it yet, heard it was okay.

Expendables 3: Haven't seen it yet, but, in spite of all of the hate that me and others have put on the first two movies, I've been hearing that it's actually pretty cool. So...sure, I'll take it. that we've gotten that out of the way...oh god, why did I choose to write about this movie?

To be honest, I was secretly rooting for this movie. That might only be because Pierce Brosnan is in it and...well, look, I actually like the guy. Sure, he was in some of the stupidest James Bond movies ever, but he was also in a really good one(Goldeneye). When I read up on this movie that he was wanting to get this movie off of the ground right after Die Another Day(ugh...), it sort of seemed to me that he wanted some more fast paced, hard hitting, spy action. So, seriously, why not? I like Pierce Brosnan and I want him to succeed in a cool spy thriller. We've all been reminded by Jack Ryan, played By Chris PineTree, on how boring and cynical a spy actioner can get when nobody really gives a damn on what they're making, so why not a movie that somebody actually wants to make?

Well, it turns out that it can churn out the same kind of boring movie that Jack Ryan was, except now it gets into some weird places that somehow makes it a little worse.

The toughest thing about spy movies is actually coming up with a story that anybody would give a damn about. If you just played it straight and just had it where two organizations were against each other, you'd just have a boring villain of the week superhero movie...except without the super heroes. This is why so many movies go with the Mission Impossible format. When you have a secret agent who gets betrayed by the very people he is working for, it sets up that connection with the main character pretty easily. After all, I thought a movie like Haywire did this really well. But where as that is there to show off some slick fight scenes from an actual fighter, The November Man doesn't really seem to know what it wants to do.

So, Pierce Brosnan plays a spy who doesn't even resemble any sort of James Bond character. So, maybe the movie is setting itself up for something interesting? How about a subversion on the character? People still have Pierce Brosnan fresh on the mind as James Bond, especially after being in the sillier movies. Having him come back as being older, more crass, and sometimes even coming across as a scumbag would seem to make for some interesting commentary on the whole spy genre.

Unfortunately, even with an R-rating, which would seem to help give it an edgier take than usual, the movie just doesn't really want to do anything much except give a straight spy story while stuffing women in refrigerators(no, not literally, women just get the really, really short end of the stick on how they're treated in this movie). So, Peter, played by Pierce Brosnan, is on a mission with a hot-head recruit who does assassinations. Peter gives the guy a direct order and he doesn't listen, which causes the death of a kid. Cut to the future and Peter is retired while the hot-head guy is still doing assassination work. Peter gets called in on an assignment to extract a fellow spy, who is Peter's wife, because using someone else that the bad guy knows would blow the mission. Due to a misunderstanding, the hot-head guy kills Peter's wife because he thought she was being captured and Peter gets mad and some other plot stuff happens and...other stuff...ummm...eventually, the hot-headed guy learns not to be such a hot-head and the good guys win.

To be fair, it's not too bad in terms of plotting and structure, it just sort of leaves your mind the instant you walk out of the theater. Unfortunately, the movie can't help to bring in female characters as plot-devices in order to give the characters motivation to drive the plot along, and they get pretty scummy with it as well. We already see Peter's wife get shot through the head by a sniper, but, later on, Peter comes in to get revenge on the hot-headed guy by sending his girlfriend to the hospital by cutting a major artery. And then there's a daughter that appears at the last minute, because...well, why not? Gee, thanks for giving us the wrong reasons to talk about your movie!

But, above all else, this movie is just boring. It's amazing how a movie can have an R-rating, give some pretty gory action, and actually try to be something with something to say while also just being so dull. There really isn't anything you've already seen that's been done better by even the weakest of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. It's unfortunate that the movie also has to bring in some pretty scummy things that can hardly be justified, especially in the 21st century.