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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: Captain America- The First Avenger (2011)

In a world filled with tech laden superheroes (from Iron Man to Batman) as an oddly identifiable character in the Marvel universe. The ‘kid from Brooklyn’ tries the difficult task, much like X-Men: First Class, to put some heroes in the past and make it not cheesy.

Yup, it’s another origin story, this time we go back to Hitler’s reign, and America is looking for a hero to match up with the newly formed Hydra, led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Enter Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) scrawny frame. Thanks to some nice effects, we get used to this peanut of a man, who despite constant refusal, keeps trying to enlist in the Army. His transformation to this mammoth of a soldier is truly startling. Soon enough we meet the trio of Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, and Hayley Atwell. Tucci, a German-born scientist takes Rogers under his wing and completely steals all of his scenes, while Jones plays his tailor made commanding officer. Atwell, does an adequate job as the love interest, although no crazy chemistry happens. Rogers transforms from a publicity figure who’s main concern is selling war bonds, to pretty much the best soldier of all time.

While it definitely has its moments of queso (Really former Nazi’s? The best salute you can come up with is just throwing up both arms instead of one?), Captain America is pretty settled in on reality. My biggest concern was the idea of a man in red white and blue with a giant shield in the middle of battle. To my surprise, I did not ‘zone out’ once during any scene to notice the absurdity of it all. Red Skull, who’s basically a glorified cartoon, while isn’t exactly memorable, he more than holds his own in the lore of superhero villains. My biggest problem with the First Avenger is that it got me more excited for another movie than itself. Right in the middle, I began to daydream of how Steve Rogers will interact with the likes of Tony Stark and Thor. So while it is a enjoyable movie, I think it to be more of a cog in the Marvel machine, than its own masterpiece.

My Rating: B+

Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

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The first Transformers movie, released in 2007, was one of my biggest surprises. I hardly expected anything of the movie based on a TV show based on a kid’s toy. Somewhere along the corners of Shia LaBeouf lane and Megan Fox road, I found myself very entertained. With the release of the second one (Revenge of the Fallen), my hopes were dashed with a confusing plot and bad acting. So here comes number 3: Dark of the Moon. Hopes: high, after some great looking trailers and losing Megan Fox. Things were supposed to be really good.

The plot, compared to the previous ones, was pretty straightforward: the Autobots actually landed on the moon before us, and our real reason to be the first on the moon was to find out what was going on. On that ship was a secret technology that would be able to grant the power to transport the entire world of the Decepticon down to earth, using the earth’s inhabitants as their slaves. So, to reiterate, once again we find the Autobots and the Decepticons battling for the future of the planet.

Right off the bat, I want to say the decision to replace Megan fox with Victoria’s Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a complete wash. Why would they waste an opportunity to change, what was clearly one of the bigger problems in the first two, with a good actress is beyond me. This key issue is what is the worst part of the movie: when things aren’t exploding. Any part of the movie that isn’t an action scene just struggles, even surprise appearances by John Malkovich and Ken Jeong couldn’t make it much better.

On the bright side of things, the action is once again amazing. The realism is extraordinary that you have to remind yourself that you are looking at a bunch of robot aliens fighting. The sounds of these imaginary creatures really had the opportunity to make it sound really cheesy, but once again, the sound was top notch. So, just to remind you of what you are getting into: A bunch of kick-butt action sequences filled in by a bunch of crappy dialogue and acting. Thankfully, the robot violence was good enough for me.

My Rating: B-