Category: Reviews

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Overview: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is sent on an adventure with a company of dwarves looking to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Warner Bros. 2012. Rated PG-13. 169 Minutes. Store Brand: After seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey three times in theaters (once opening weekend, once to experience Peter Jackson’s ill-advised High Frame Rate 3D experiment, and once with my sister on Christmas), I’d had my fill of the trilogy. I had trouble expressing my dissatisfaction without comparisons to the Lord of the Rings films, so I thought I was being too hard on it. The problem is...

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Overview:  In the second installment of the Hobbit trilogy, Bilbo, Gandalf the Grey, and their merry band of dwarves continue to face endless obstacles as they journey to reclaim their home, the most daunting of which is a gold digging dragon with some serious anger issues. 2013, Warner Bros. Pictures, rated PG-13, 161 minutes. Living in the Shadows:  Sometimes, I wonder if the reaction to the Hobbit trilogy would be different if it had been released prior to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.  As I watch these Hobbit films, I can’t help but make mental comparisons along the...

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Overview:   Frodo and Sam are led by an unusual guide while everyone else begins to choose a side and prepare for the inevitable as the battle for Middle Earth continues in the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  2002, New Line Cinema, rated PG-13, 179 minutes. I remember sitting in the theater watching The Two Towers for the first time like it was yesterday.  Although I enjoyed my first journey to Middle Earth in Fellowship of the Ring, particularly it’s breathtaking visuals and wide array of equally engrossing cast of characters, I wasn’t entirely sold on investing so...

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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Overview: The Lord of the Rings trilogy comes to an emotionally gratifying conclusion. New Line Cinema; 2003; Rated PG-13; 201 minutes. The End of All Things: The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the great cinematic accomplishments. As a collective society, I’m not sure we deserve movies this good. But given the state of the world we live in, we need them. The series takes some heavy flack for extended run time and the presumption that the film revolves around people walking with no greater purpose. You can strip down any movie to a simple action the characters...

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Days of Heaven

Overview:  An ill-tempered worker accidentally kills his boss, flees to the Texas Panhandle with his lover, and convinces her to partake in a scheme that results in a lethal love triangle.  Paramount Pictures; 1978; Rated PG; 94 Minutes. Form:  Many great film directors make you squint to find the story.  Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Jim Jarmusch, Christopher Nolan– all directors who make you hunt the details microscopically.  True auteurs of film, without argument.  But Terrence Malick  has no interest in that ambition.  Malick holds sole occupation on the other end of the spectrum.  He seeks to make the audience’s...

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Spider-Man 2

Overview: Peter Parker must choose between having a normal life and being Spider-Man in this superior sequel. Columbia Pictures; 2004; Rated PG-13; 127 Minutes Past, Present, Future Spider-Man: Spider-Man 2 wisely starts off with opening credits that recap the original movie. A lesser movie would have suffered the burden of awkward expositional dialogue. Peter Parker is now struggling to balance his normal life with the extraneous crime fighting. It’s not working out well. Whether it’s his friends, teachers, or bosses, Peter is disappointing everyone around him. This is where the character of Spider-Man is at his best. When Peter...

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The Amazing Spider-Man

Overview: The Amazing Spider-Man is a decent reboot that took itself (and its title) too seriously. Columbia Pictures; 2012; Rated PG-13; 136 Minutes. The Average Spider-Man: Retreading an origin story seems unnecessary for such a popular character. Is there anybody who doesn’t know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man? The problem isn’t that the plot beats are similar. The second manifestation just adds nothing new to the story. Pivotal moments in Spider-Man’s origin feel more like a checklist of events rather than fleshed out character moments. There’s also an attempt to introduce a dark and gritty feel to the Spider-Man universe.  But...

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Mulan

Overview: During an impending Hun invasion in China, a young maiden secretly takes her father’s place in the army. 1998; Buena Vista Pictures; G; 87 minutes Disney’s Heroine: Mulan breaks away from the Disney norm by showcasing a strong female character doing most of the heavy lifting, setting her apart from most Disney princesses. She really isn’t interested in finding true love or chasing her dreams. Heck, the only reason she attends a matchmaker at the start of the movie is to make her family happy by bringing them honor. She’s a compelling and complicated character because of her inner conflicts of honor and identity. Disney breaks down the gender barrier here. Mulan, spurred by love and compassion for others, actually goes out to make a difference, and it’s her intelligence and strength that saves the day. She’s more defined by the things she accomplishes than her desires, and that makes her one of the best characters Disney has ever produced. Family Tradition: Several recognizable Disney staples are seamlessly woven into the film, such as the use of an animal sidekick. In Mulan, Eddie Murphy is a stand out as Mushu. He provides entertaining comic relief, but his character has a surprising story arc of his own that runs parallel to Mulan’s. Disney put extra care in handling supporting characters whom viewers would normally dismiss as stereotypes. They do...

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Minority Report

Overview: Based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report follows “Precrime” cop John Anderton (Tom Cruise) as he navigates his way through a dense mystery to try and prove his innocence of a crime he did not commit. 2002; 20th Century Fox; PG-13; 145 minutes. “You dig up the past, all you get is dirty.”: When we first see Tom Cruise’s character, a cocksure and talented DC cop, he’s running around solving cases with a skill and precision that only comes standard to the main character of an action film. Later...

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Once Upon a Time in America

Overview: After years of solitude, an ex-gangster reflects on his long and tumultuous career when he returns to his old stomping grounds in Manhattan. 1984; Warner Bros. Pictures; Rated R; 229 minutes. Time Is An Ocean: Once Upon A Time In America is predominantly told through flashbacks. The past we are witnessing is the past as remembered by Robert De Niro’s character, David “Noodles” Aaronson. Filtered through tears and cataract-stricken eyes, it is displayed in a fragmented manner, cutting back and forth and not always showing the whole story until the end. The film weaves in and out of...

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