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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Visually it is sometimes amazing, but it is a large troll step down from the last trilogy.
-Mark R. Leeper, Mark Leeper’s Reviews

Not all the scenes are necessary, and a great deal of the movie is set-up, with Jackson reveling in his own return to Middle Earth. But it’s an enjoyable experience.
Kevin Carr, 7M Pictures

The Hobbit  is really long. It feels great to return to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson, but this is overdoing it just a bit. Having fond memories of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I was initially a fan of stretching this book into 3 films. But after seeing the first one absolutely stuffed with backstory and unecessary tangents, I now think 2 films would have sufficed. Regardless, it’s an incredibly fun movie with some astounding visuals and great set pieces that brings back some of the joy I felt watching the previous entries.

The bulk of The Hobbit  consists of a pattern of journey/battle/escape sequences as the team of dwarves ventures across Middle Earth. Although fun to watch, it starts to become repetitive. But the repetitive nature of these sequences make the showcase scene of the movie even better:

Riddles in the Dark

Jackson gives us a break from all this adventure at the perfect time. Riddles in the Dark is the best part of the film and features what should be award-winning motion capture work from Andy Serkis. Gollum once again is a complete visual masterpiece; his interactions with Bilbo are captivating and hilarious. Jackson does do great work with the large scale action sequences, but you can tell his true gift behind the camera with small character driven moments like this.


Oh, we like goblinses, batses, and fishes, but we hasn’t tried Hobbitses before. Is it soft? is It juicy?

Oh! We knows! We knows safe paths for hobbitses! Safe paths in the dark!… SHUT UP!

And if he loses? What then? Well if he loses precious then we eats it! If Baggins loses we eats it whole!

There are a billion characters in The Hobbit, most of which aren’t entirely fleshed out given this story only tells the first third of a children’s book. However, there are a few standouts. Martin Freeman does a great job portraying the character arc that Bilbo experiences throughout the journey. Richard Armitage has the perfect screen presence and command as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield. The remainder of the dwarves were pretty unmemorable.

Bilbo: I know you doubt me. I know you always have. I often think of Bag End. That’s where I belong. That’s home. You don’t have one. It was taken from you, but I will help you get it back if I can.

Overall, The Hobbit is a visual feast and brings back some good old Middle Earth nostalgia from Jackson’s LOTR trilogy. It’s on the long side and can become repetitive, but it’s not enough to totally hinder your viewing pleasure. I can’t speak for the higher framerate version that was released in some theaters, but I would probably check it out because technology is cool.

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


This thought-provoking tale of survival on the high seas works on a variety of levels, but best of all it is a visual feast — brimming with wondrous, memorable images.
-Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

A thought-provoking religious parable. Profound, haunting and beautifully made.
-Fr. Chris Carpenter, Movie Dearest

Life of Pi, the latest from Taiwanese director Ang Lee, is an absolutely stunning piece of film-making that should be seen by everyone. Lee masterfully adapts the 2001 novel of the same name about a young Indian boy (Pi, short for Piscine Molitor, the name of a swimming pool complex in Paris he was named after) whose zookeeper Father takes the family on a voyage across the Pacific after deciding to relocate to Canada. What transpires isn’t exactly a surprise to anyone familiar with the source material, as the ship encounters high seas, floods and capsizes, leaving Pi as the lone survivor surviving human…

Stranded on a lifeboat…full of escaped wild animals.
As Pi explains later in life, “This is the story that will make you believe in God”.

Why you need to see Life of Pi:
  • A MUST-SEE in 3D.
    Done the right way and filmed with actual 3D cameras instead of a poor post-conversion to boost ticket prices (see: Clash of the Titans, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.), Life of Pi  has some of the most mesmerizing 3D imagery you will see in a theater. Other than possibly 2011’s Hugo, this is the very best use of 3D in a film to date.
  • SPECTACULAR VISUAL EFFECTS.
    The special effects in Life of Pi  are so life-like it’s incredible. There are a wide range of things happening in this film that couldn’t possibly be shot in real life with real cameras and it is impossible to tell. Wild animals attack, massive lightning storms surge, magical islands are discovered..and it all looks as genuine as practical effects.
  • IT IS SPIRITUALLY AND EMOTIONALLY PROFOUND.
    If all this sounds great so far, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Life of Pi  isn’t just a substance-less visual spectacle, it is a spiritual and emotional journey that manages to entertain while exploring the truths of religion. So much more than just bells and whistles, this film digs deep into heavy themes and ends with a very satisfying and profound thesis that blends perfectly with the spectacular action taking place.

  • Animals have souls… I have seen it in their eyes.

    If every unfolding we experience takes us further along in life, then, we are truly experiencing what life is offering…

    It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.

    All of life is an act of letting go but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.

    It was a time filled with wonder that I’ll always remember.

    Above all… it is important not to lose hope.

  • ANIMALS!
    There are tons of animals in this movie. Animals are fun and awesome to watch. However…if you have a weakness for this sort of thing, bring the tissues. These animals are wild and like to kill and eat each other. That’s what they do, and it can get kind of gruesome.
  • GOOD OLD-FASHIONED ADVENTURE.
    On top of everything else, it’s just a great high seas adventure tale. If you don’t want to find any deeper meaning in it, you don’t have to. It entertains on all levels. On the surface, it plays as a classic castaway-esque narrative of trying to survive at sea. And it is very good at it. Come for the adventure, or come for the spirituality. Your choice.

So, those are a lot of reasons to see Life of Pi. Here are a few more: If you want to see an astonishingly realistic bengal tiger snatch beautifully colored flying fish out of air from a lifeboat, or a breathtaking phosphorescent blue whale leaping over a sea of illuminated jellyfish in three dimensions, this movie is for you. It’s practically for everyone besides maybe small children and people who hate animals.

See it and see it in 3D. The glasses are annoying but that’s okay, it’s worth it. It’s rare that I would classify a film as an “event movie” that’s worthy of seeing opening night with the crowds in 3D, perhaps even multiple times, but Life of Pi  is one of them. An emotionally rewarding film that is also a staggering feat of technical genius. Don’t miss this.

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


A terrific supporting cast, especially the non A-list actors, make the dramatic license taken justified and redeem Affleck for miscasting himself in the hero’s role.
-Bruce Bennett, Mad About Movies

Let’s face it, Ben Affleck is a better director than an actor. Argo is an amazing story hindered only by the lead actor’s performance, and it’s a shame because casting a different actor could have brought much more to the role.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of Argo :

Pros

  • A large supporting cast that is excellent
    Bryan Cranston. Alan Arkin. John Goodman. Victor Garber. Kyle Chandler. Zeljko Ivanek. Titus Welliver. Richard Kind.
    All these actors round out the supporting cast and really elevate the believability of the events on screen.
  • Very tight editing
    From scene to scene, Argo never misses a beat. Every shot has a purpose and the film flows nicely, never allowing the audience to lose interest. The tension is at a perfect level throughout and does a great job keeping one invested in the events that play out.
  • Jack O’Donnell: They’ve got revolutionary guards going door to door. These people die, they die badly.

  • An intense and horrifying opening sequence
    To kick this movie off, Iranian citizens overthrow the U.S. Embassy in a violent and brutal manner. It is a heart-stopping scene of terrorism and very effective at setting up the crisis that plays out during the rest of the film.
  • It successfully depicts a historical event while satirizing Hollywood
    Argo maintains a humorous almost light-hearted take on the Hollywood system while the serious events of the main plot are taking place. And it manages to take nothing away from the grimness and severity of the situation, which adds a nice light undertone to the film. Also, it takes a pretty big shot at the legitimacy of film journalism.

Cons

  • Ben Affleck isn’t a good actor and is miscast. That’s it. Everything else about this movie is great.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


For all its good intentions and spurts of innovation, it never really comes alive as living, breathing history. Instead, it too often plays like an audio reading of the Congressional Record, with some unwieldy domestic scenes tossed in for good measure.
-Matt Brunson , Creative Loafing

I was disappointed with Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln. After last year’s very mediocre and overly sappyWar Horse, I expected somewhat of a comeback film for Spielberg and I had been anticipating Lincoln greatly. Then the awful trailer was released and I lost a lot of interest. The film is fine if expectations are kept low, but don’t expect a monumental piece of film-making that changes the way history is viewed.

Here is the basic outline of the story: politicians on opposing sides of the aisle argue vehemently over some topic and are so divided there is no hope for any resolution. Enter Abraham Lincoln who proceeds to tell a whimsical story that relates to the issue at hand that makes everyone laugh and smile and forget their differences. Rinse and repeat until the movie’s over.

I wasn’t enamored with Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Lincoln, it was played very low key and I didn’t feel it had enough gravitas for a movie centered around this character. Strangely, I think Lincoln himelself was probably my least favorite character in the movie. Tommy Lee Jones actually has the best scenes in the film, playing outspoken House representative Thaddeus Stevens:

Thaddeus Stevens: How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio? Proof that some men are inferior. Endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood. You are more reptile than man George, so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you.

The scenes of courtroom-esque drama and political maneuvering are done well and are very entertaining, but Spielberg for some reason tries to shoehorn terribly done family drama into the narrative that just doesn’t work at all. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows up out of nowhere as Lincoln’s son Robert in a poorly executed plot that goes nowhere. Sally Field does great work as Mary Todd but she is given virtually nothing to do other than whine and cry about the war.

There is probably enough historically interesting about Lincoln to warrant a watch but it is a definite disappointment. The politics are a lot of fun but that’s about it.

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms