Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Far over the Misty Mountains cold...

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - (5 Stars)

After bringing to life the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy around a decade ago (really?), Peter Jackson is now finishing the work he started by bringing to life J.R.R. Tolkien's original Middle Earth tale, The Hobbit, to life. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in a planned trilogy (originally planned as only 2 movies) adapting the book, padded up a bit with extras from the Lord of the Ring appendices and other works such as The Silmarillion. What results is a more epic version of the beloved tale better incorporated into the mythos of middle-earth than the book itself.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"The Hobbit" is visually and thematically in line with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book is definitely a simpler story than it's Lord of the Rings companions, but after writing, Tolkien did try to link them and Jackson is taking the next step by integrating the appendices and other source material to really make the Hobbit feel like a true precursor to the epic.

The film, apart from the fantastic visuals, also has excellent casting. Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo, the loveable, bumbling burglar. Although, for the sake of the movie (being part of a trilogy), Bilbo does step up his game a bit. Richard Armitage also shines as Thorin, the leader of the 13 dwarves that arrive at Bilbo's doorstep looking for the 14th member of their party. Of course, as usual, the returning cast also shine (such as Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo).

The main concern I had going into the movie related to the visual effects. For the previous movies, Jackson utilized lots of practical effects (extras and miniature sets). However in the Hobbit, the vast majority (if not all) of the creatures are CGI, as is most of the scenery. At parts, these effects are pretty obvious and slightly distracting, but the overall effect works.

Overall, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is a great start to the second trilogy of middle earth movies. Peter Jackson does a great job of tying the everything together and tries his best to make it feel like a single, contained movie, but it definitely feels more like part of a whole, long movie. Just like with his previous Tolkien movies, Jackson does take some liberties with the source material in order to adapt the book smoothly for the screen, but does so with the same keen eye that made the Lord of the Rings trilogy such a wide success.
(166 minutes - Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images - 2012)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Flashback Quick Reviews: "My Name Is Toxic"

My Name is Bruce - (3½ Stars)

My Name Is BruceWho do you call if an ancient Chinese god of war shows up and starts killing off townspeople? If you're the small town of Goldlick, Oregon you call Bruce Campbell since he has experience with this sort of thing (or rather, his character Ash, from the Evil Dead movies, does). Bruce Campbell plays himself (although a bit more self involved), but everyone in town treats him as if he's a character from one of his B-Movies.

The movie has a good mix of humor (some slapstick, some referential to Bruce's past movies). If you're a fan of Bruce Campbell and B-Movies, this movie is definitely for you. If not, then "My Name is Bruce" will probably not be your cup of tea.
(86 minutes - Rated R for language and some violence - 2007)

The Toxic Avenger - (2 Stars)

The Toxic Avenger
Regular schlub Melvin is the mop boy at the Tromaville gym until some bullies force him out a window and into a vat of toxic sludge. Melvin begins to mutate and turns into The Toxic Avenger, bent on dishing out justice to those who pick on the little guys and cause trouble in Tromaville, including those responsible for his transformation.

Troma was the king of low-budget B-movies in the 80's, starting with "The Toxic Avenger" and its various sequels. They're well known for plenty of over-the-top gore, low brow humor and general B-movie campiness. "The Toxic Avenger" is no exception. I'm generally a fan of this type of movie, but "Toxic..." was just too much for me. The gore was definitely ridiculous (in a good way), but apart from that, the movie as a whole is pretty shallow.
(82 minutes - Unrated - 1985)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - Why Do We Fall?

The Dark Knight Rises - (5 Stars)

After what most people dubbed one of the greatest Comic movies of all time in "The Dark Knight," Christopher Nolan has the challenge of coming up with an epic conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy. Apart from just the challenge of meeting high expectations, Nolan had to make a different movie than he probably initially would have planned with the untimely passing of Heath Ledger (The Joker). However, despite these obstacles, Nolan still manages to go out with a bang.

 "The Dark Knight Rises" picks up 8 years after the events of "The Dark Knight" and finds a Gotham almost free of crime due to the deal Batman and Commissioner Gordon make. However, both men are still haunted by what happened and the choices they made. Now, a new threat has come to Gotham in the form of Bane and the Dark Knight decides it may be time to come out of retirement.

The Dark Knight RisesNolan has brought together quite the cast, managing to fill even the smallest role with someone fitting.Tom Hardy is especially impressive and intimidating as Bane and the ensemble in general give great performance, along with several of the newcomers to the series like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, a by-the-books cop working under Commissioner Gordon, and Anne Hathaway as the mysterious Selina Kyle. The holdovers from previous movie continue their strong body of work: such as Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Christian Bale.

The movie is pretty large in scope (and running time), but it is surprisingly well paced for a movie nearing 3 hours. Probably helps in part due to the structure of the story, similar to the Avengers in that it seems to have three distinct acts to it (I've given them nicknames which may be spoilery: Broken, No Man's Land, Rise). There's a lot going on, but as is usual with Nolan he starts by laying out all the pieces of the puzzle before the movie begins to put everything together.

"The Dark Knight Rises" brings the trilogy full circle in terms of plot, themes and even the visuals with plenty of references or nods back to the previous movies as well as continuations of the themes. The movie brings a close to Nolan's Dark Knight story in a way only he could and really makes it feel like a truly epic three film character story arc.
(165 minutes - Rated PG-13 for  intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language - 2012)