Holiday Big Openers

 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In this final installment of The Hobbit adaptation, the story is stretched way beyond the point of APphoto_Film Review The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armiesentertaining. Peter Jackson uses material from the various appendices by J.R.R. Tolkien himself  to pad the story and just plain makes stuff up.

Laketown must deal with the deadly dragon that was released in the second movie. This hassle is taken of quickly and the story moves on to the fight over the dragon’s treasure. The Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans each want a piece of the treasures held within the Lonely Mountain But the Dwarves, Human, and Elves have to band together to defeat the Orcs and save the legacy of their races.

The problem with this movie is that it is too long. The story suffers at the expense of expanding for three movies.  The entirety of The Hobbit could have easily been two movies while still expanding on Tolkien’s supplemtantal material.

Like the two before it, the movie looks good.  The effects are gorgeous and the make-up is effective. This go-around I did notice something: the two Dwarves we are supposed to empathize with the most  are the two that look the most human.  Quality actors help round out characters but even they can’t smooth over dodgy bits of exposition.

Honestly, I wanted more or the dragon and less of the endless battles. Hell, I just wanted the damn movie to be over.

Into The Woods

Into the Woods follows several well-known fairy tale characters as they try to obtain their greatestdepp-wolf1 wishes. It seems that to have each wish granted, they must enter the spooky woods that surround their homes. The characters find that they help each other achieve their dreams, but then, too late, they learn their wishes were not what they were cut out to be.

Unfortunately, the movie adaption of the Broadway show does not translate well. The story rambles on and changes focus. It becomes preachy and tries too hard to have a moral.  There were some interesting points with the highlight being Johnny’s Depp short appearance as The Wolf. This was the best musical sequence in the whole film.

The casting is the second issue.  James Corden and Emily Blunt are passable but Chris Pine can’t sing even though he’s great at being a charming jerk.  I also don’t understand why everyone loves Anna Kendrick so much, and she does not ever embody Cinderella for me. It seems like the casting was looking for big names instead of talent. But that’s not to say there isn’t some talent there. Meryl Streep was fantastic as was Lilla Crawford who played Red Riding Hood.

I’ll admit it looks good. Director Rob Marshall always manages to make his films look like the worlds they are set whether it is a Cook County Prison, pirate infested jungles, or creepy fairy tale woods.  Marshall does well with what he has, but the biggest issue is that he wasn’t given great material and actors to work with.

Jack Ryan Still Not On His A Game

Hollywood is obsessed with repeating itself. Chris Pine helped kick off a new reboot? Let’s put him in another one! Let’s take a franchise ruined by Ben Affleck and hope that Pine can do his magic again. This results in a very mediocre espionage movie.
Jack Ryan. That name should be familiar with to most. He is the star of a string of novels by Tom Clancy many which have been made into movie. Jack Ryan come to the big screen in Alec Baldwin’s shoes, but hit his peak with Harrison Ford. Then in 2002 Affleck stared in a reboot that removed itself from the chronological events in the first movies. This movie failed to bring Jack Ryan back.
jack-ryan-shadow-chris-pine-kevin-costner-bench-600-370Pine’s version in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit brings Ryan into our generation. He joined the military after 9-11 and was injured in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan which ended his military career. Ryan is brought into the CIA by Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner who is viscously trying to reboot his career. Ryan starts off in office work, tracing accounting and national security threats with in big money. When he stumbles across a grand scheme involving Russia, Ryan must go out to the field and see if he still has what it takes.
This whole movie is confusing. I am curious as why Russia was once again chosen as the villains in this piece when they are updating Ryan’s story. Russia figures prominently in earlier works especially during those during the Cold War. Are they just going from this or trying to make us see that Russia is still a valid threat while we are concerned with the Middle East and North Korea? Or is it simply, just an un-thought-out plot idea?
Then of course is the actual threat to the American government that only someone with a PhD in economics can understand and decode. When Harper says dumb it down, the script should have dumbed it down. Somehow, Russia is selling off American money and coordinating a terrorist attack so the American dollars sinks so low the Great Depression will look like drop in the bucket. Not that I understood any of that, but I nodded my head and went with it. There are various other things along the line, but let’s look at other aspects of the movie.jack-ryan-shadow-recruit
Ryan fiancée Cathy Muller is played by Keira Knightley with a horrible American accent. Once again, Knightly plays a rather bitchy female with no empowerment that seems to have become her staple character. Not all of the horribleness of this character is her fault though; she is written horribly and in a very ant-feminist way. She thinks Ryan is cheating on her throughout the movie though he is begging her to marry him so he could confide everything to her. Cathy is moody, week, and unrealistic.
Pine does attribute something positive to the movie. Ryan is given some very complex emotions. While these do not last long, Pine actually makes the audience feel how upset Ryan is with having to kill someone. His Ryan is not all swaggers. This is probably his best role to date.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit leaves a lot to be desired. Kenneth Branagh dos double duty playing the villain and directing the film. I think it may have gone better, if he had chosen one role. But I do have to admit Jack Ryan looks really good up on that IMAX screen.

This Means More War

This Mean War now on:

DVD, Blu-ray, Combo Pack with Digital Copy

McG directs a homourus talel about two spies vying for the love of one woman. More hilarious and touching than the previews suggested, FDR and Tuck are best friends/brothers who work the CIA. When Reese Witherspoon’s Lauren Scott enters the pictures, the men’s friendship is put in jeopardy. The two make a “gentleman’s” bet to see who Lauren really wants to be. This agreement quickly changes as they pull out every weapon in their arsenal to sabotage each other. The two must get over their differences as a Russian mobster not only puts their lives at risk, but Lauren’s as well.

McG directs with that a quirky style of humor and action. Like the web series Aim High he produces, the move is at the same time funny and thrilling, and it stars really hot guys. The opening sequence is outrageous and rather unbelievable, but the scene is meant to be so. The outrageousness quickly translates into the two men being grounded gving background and moving the plot along. The other actions sequences are toned down to movie believability.

Your heart aches for the sweet Tuck who truly wants a lasting relationship but can still kill a man with his bare hands. Hardy handles these paradoxical sides easy, and Tuck easily becomes my favorite character. Chelsea Handler is hilarious as Lauren’s best friend. She’s the perfect inappropriate friend who says everything you’re thinking but afraid to say. Through no fault of Pine, I never took a liking to FDR even as love begins to change him from the promiscuous playboy. I think my womanly bias comes out every time.

 

Extras

The Blu-ay comes with the theatrical version as well as an extended version. Unlike many movies, the extend version ads longer than 30 seconds. A whole sequence involving Tuck’s “family” has been included. While the scenes are hilarious and I will never complain about having more Hardy, the sequence itself detracts from the story and really puts Tuck in a bad light.

Standard extras include the standard variety of special content. There is a gag reel as well as Commentary by McG as well as deleted scenes. The majority of the deleted scenes were wisely cut as they slowed down the movie and took away from the over all humorous feel. The pre-viz for an alternate scene is a bore.
The most fascinating extra is the alternate endings. With this movie, alternate ending doesn’t just include the same resolution just filmed differently. There is an ending for all of Lauren’s options. Viewer see how the movie would have ended if she had chosen Tuck or FDR and there is even an ending where she chooses herself over them both. Also included is an alternate sequence where Lauren is kidnapped by the Russian mobster and taken to a warehouse. This version is much darker and would have changed the overall tone of the story.

 If you missed This Means War, catch it on DVD, Blu ray or Combo pack. Once you’ve watched and laughed, check out the alternate ending to see what might have been.