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Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyHobbits, wizards, dwarves, New Zealand….we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Peter Jackson decided that 3 Lord of the Rings films wasn’t enough and proceeded to decide that neither one or two movies would be able to adequately cover J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The result is An Unexpected Journey, the first in a trilogy taking place 60 years before the events of the LOTR trilogy. Nothing wrong can happen when doing three prequels to an already adored trilogy, right George Lucas?

The Hobbit is the tale of 12 dwarves, 1 wizard, and 1 hobbit attempting to reclaim the homeland of those dwarves at the Lonely Mountain. The reason this isn’t easily done is due to a dragon named Smaug. A lengthy intro explains all of this, so don’t worry. Of course then we get shot into Fellowship of the Ring territory, with Ian Holm’s Bilbo Baggins and Frodo (Elijah Wood) only to get sent back to the time when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) asks the young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to join in on an adventure. An hour or so of the movie passes by and we finally get on our way. Of course, the group led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), has plenty of hurdles to overcome, including rock giants, cave trolls, and those pesky Orcs. With the decision to make this a trilogy we only get the beginning of the journey, but there is plenty more to come.

My chief concern going into the theater was that each scene would drag on forever. After all, this was originally going to be one movie. Combine that with the fact that An Unexpected Journey is 170 freaking minutes long, I would say that I was warranted in my concern. For the most part, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Yes, most scenes tend to run a tad too long, but the beautiful imagery is enough to keep you distracted. And what beautiful imagery it is. Rivendale most stood out to me, and we get several camera shots that we haven’t seen before. And Gollum! I could watch that creature forever. It is absolutely stunning how much they have improved him since the original trilogy. Absolutely mind boggling. My finally verdict however eventually comes down to this: haven’t we all seen this already? Yes, the story and most of the characters are new. But it just seems too familiar. Hopefully it can improve along the rest of the way.

My Rating: B+

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Review: King Kong (2005)

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I’ve heard of the 1930’s classic King Kong before. My view of it, however, only included the climatic Empire State building showdown featuring the giant ape and the airplanes. Man, I apparently missed a lot. Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake shows us just how much more there was to the story.

Depression-ridden New York City in the 30’s brings a brilliant writer (Adrien Brody), a cash strapped performer (Naomi Watts), and a director with visions of grandeur (Jack Black) and his assistant (Colin Hanks) together on a boat to film a movie. What they don’t realize is the strange island that they just landed on contains not only the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, but also a slew of other prehistoric beasts never thought to be alive. After losing Watt’s Ann, the crew stops at nothing to return her to the ship and back to NYC. Well, that’s the first half at least.

Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts, and Jack Black might be a bit of a strange combination, but the casting in Kong is no doubt, near perfect. Brody plays the silent genius thing perfect, Watts could be a dead ringer for a 1930’s starlet, and Black very well could be a person in showbiz on the verge of insanity. The thing is, though, acting doesn’t really play all that big of a role in Kong. The amount of action in Kong is right up there with Michael Bay. And as Transformers can tell you, that would normally be the kiss of death in a review. However, there is still plenty of emotion in that big ape’s final scene. Hats off to Peter Jackson, fresh off of Lord of the Rings to bring the action hammer down, but also to bring down a second, more tearful, emotional hammer on the viewers. Truly a spectacular homage to the 1933 classic.

My Rating: A

Review: The Prestige (2006)

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I am proud to say that The Prestige was the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s filmography for me to watch for the first time. And once again, Nolan left me wanting more.

Like alot of Nolan films, The Prestige is hard to put in a certain genre. It’s a drama, period piece, mystery, and thriller all in one. The story is that of two rival magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). Their rivalry spreads to more and more dangerous acts, until murder is committed, or so it seems. Like Memento and Following before it, it is edited in a way that you have to figure out what the chronological order of things is. By doing this, the movie is presented just like the magic tricks in the movie: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige.

There were moments where the big reveal on Borden’s side of things is obvious, but you question that revelation by asking “did they purposely try to get me to think that?”. But the very fact that it has you guessing, and concocting theories in your head while watching is the genius of it. The only problem I had with the Prestige is on Angier’s side of things concerning Tesla’s machine. True, it may lie completely on the sci-fi side of things, but if you suspend your belief enough, It really works well with the plot, and the framed murder of Angier. Per usual, the final “prestige” is the big payoff of the whole movie, and you simply want to dive right back in, and watch again with your new found wisdom.

My Rating: A

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