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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+

Review: The Aviator (2004)

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I read a review one time before watching The Aviator, comparing it to Citizen Kane (one of the highest if not highest regarded piece of cinema in history). Well I don’t know about that, but no doubt about it Leonardo DiCaprio is a superb actor.

The Aviator is a biopic about the eccentric and insanely rich/successful Howard Hughes (DiCaprio). We start things off with his attempt to break into Hollywood and the long process to direct and fund “Hell’s Angels”. After the success of the film, Hughes goes into the flight business, designing, creating, and flying all sorts of planes, breaking records, and working for the military. Besides his successes we also get a look into his sometimes OCD like behavior, and his unsuccessful relationships. The result is a sad look at one of the most powerful persons in the world.

The Aviator presumes you have at least heard the name Howard Hughes. I’ve heard the name before but couldn’t tell you who he was. While it took me a little bit to gain my bearings, I soon began to understand Hughes. It seems to be every bit as epic as Gone with the Wind or Citizen Kane. It has the same kind of grand scope. I was a bit worried half way through, but once Hughes started to break down mentally, I was hooked. The courtroom scenes seemed especially great placing Alan Alda against DiCaprio (made me want to see J. Edgar). My one big problem was Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn. She just seemed really annoying and a bad imitation of her. Not to mention there wasn’t much chemistry between her and Hughes. The fact she won an Oscar for best supporting actress is beyond me. But looking past that, it was a great movie.

My Rating: B+

Review: Hanna (2011)

As I stood by a Redbox machine, attempting to tell someone what Hanna was about, I realized that doing so requires some expertise in explaining. The best I could come up with was Kick-Ass meets Taken. But make no mistake, Hanna is its own movie and shows us a side of Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Way Back, Lovely Bones) that we haven’t seen before.

Hanna is raised by her father, Erik (Eric Bana). Well, the better way to describe would probably be ‘trained’ instead of ‘raised’. Along with some serious fighting and combat training, she also knows several languages and studies the encyclopedia intensely. For as much as we know, they’ve been at this for ever. Finally, her father allows her to push a button allowing the CIA to find their whereabouts, capturing Hanna, and letting Erik escape. At the opposite end of things is mysterious CIA agent Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who needs both Erik and Hanna for some unknown reason. Cue some kick butt action scenes and enough of an air of mystery to make you scratch your head.

While the characters are pretty much bland, minus Blanchett’s wolf-like hunting aspect, Hanna excels at alot of other moments. For one, the soundtrack is amazing and fits in perfectly. The electronic Chemical Brothers show that the Daft Punk + Tron connection wasn’t a fluke. The pulsing beat made the chases ten times more exciting, and even had me contemplating buying the soundtrack. Secondly, Hanna doesn’t shy away from leaving things from the viewer. Some might hate the being in the dark and having things slowly revealed, but I find it as a breath of fresh air. While Hanna is far from perfect, there are glimpses of a great movie far different than most movies on the shelf right now.

My Rating: B-