The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Following close on the heels of the previous installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), the adventure picks up as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the dwarves – led by the king-to-be; Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) finally find themselves close to Erebor, which they must reclaim from the terrifying dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After Journey, I honestly didn’t have much hope for the second installment. While the first film was “ok” – it felt bloated and it was pretty boring overall, even though Jackson tried to spice things up by throwing bits from The Lord of the Rings in there. Thankfully, they amped up the action in this middle chapter (which makes total sense because the content in the film covers the middle, and most exciting, part of the book). This is a good thing in many ways, but I honestly felt like they could have summed up the first film with only a few scenes included in this second film (that was almost three hours as it was, I’ll give you that) and tacked it on, rather than Jackson making three films out of the book (which people seem to despise). This second installment really only covers five chapters worth of material, so the development still feels a bit thin in the big picture – just when the steam starts gathering, the film ends.

The other side of this is that Jackson introduced a new character, Tauriel, (Evangeline Lilly) in order to “expand the world of the Elves” and to create another female character in a mostly male-dominated character cast – which has been proven to be pretty controversial.

To be clear: I love Tauriel. Evangeline Lilly is great to look at, is very dynamic and kick-ass, and although her acting style hasn’t seemed to change much since her days on Lost, she brings another dynamic to the stuffy ways of the Elves. If you’re a Tolkien purist, you’re going to probably hate Tauriel – but in terms of cinematic enjoyment, she is the epitome. The true adaptation was lost in the first film, anyway, with lots of different aspects that Jackson introduced. As a separate entity that still pays homage to the original, I believe this film and the Tauriel character succeeds.

Still, the movie could have been a little shorter and on a side note: did Orlando Bloom look kind of puffy and weird in this film, or was that just me? Also, keep an eye out in Lake Town to see if you can spot Stephen Colbert! Yup. He’s in it!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Original Theatrical Release: July 22, 2011
Director: Joe Johnston

It’s 1942 and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants desperately to join in the fight for his country during World War II. The problem is, he’s too scrawny and sickly. However, Doctor Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees within Rogers something special and offers to change his sickly demeanor. Eagerly, Rogers accepts and changes his life forever as he is injected with the Super Soldier Syrum which enhances his strength, speed, stamina and agility. Steve then becomes Captain America, and must go up against the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) with the fate of America and the world hanging in the balance.

Overall, I think they did a good job with Cap in this rendition of his character. Joe Johnston directs something that feels appropriately pulpy and 1940’s-retro-nostalgic.

The supporting cast is amazing, with talents such as Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and others. Sometimes, I felt their individual talents were put to waste on such minor roles, but hey…it’s great that they’re even in the film to begin with.

I’m still not really sold on Chris Evans as Captain America, even after Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. I guess I’ll have to see what I think once Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out. I still really think of Evans as The Human Torch/Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four. He was perfect for that character, but Steve Rogers had a lot of good-guy charisma, where Evans has cocky-guy charisma.

The action was all pretty decent and the special effects were neat for the most part. Most notable was how they managed to work their CGI magic and camera tricks on Evans to turn him into the 90 lb asthmatic he portrays at the beginning of the film. It looked really convincing for a good portion of when they showed him onscreen, even while he was shirtless.

If you love Marvel movies, you obviously have probably seen this…but you can also get behind this if you like action flicks or war movies or are just curious. I don’t think it’s really as good as Iron Man was, but it can hold its own (and sadly, might be better than Thor in some ways).

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The First Avenger

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2012
Director: Peter Jackson

Before Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) ever set his hairy hobbit feet outside the Shire, Bilbo had an adventure of his own, and this was its beginning. Approached by the mysterious wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), Bilbo is enlisted as a thief and lockpick because of his diminutive size to aid in the reclamation of Erebor for the Dwarven war party that comes crashing into his home. Along the way, Bilbo and his party must overcome great obstacles before reaching the mighty dragon, Smaug.

Okay, so this is a Lord of the Rings/Peter Jackson movie. I had extremely high hopes, and I will tell you that I wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, the film kept me engaged. The visuals were the same great quality I came to know while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sweeping vistas, interesting creatures (especially a compelling encounter with Ian McShane as the Goblin King). We also got to see some neat tie-ins to the later movies, and I think when they’re all finished it will all fit together very nicely.

I know some purists will take issue with the content of the film’s story structure. That’s fine, but you must remember that the films and the books are still two separate entities no matter how close they get to the original source material.

The story moved a little bit slow, and I am not sure I liked the comedic aspect of the dwarves very much. Some of the dwarves looked like they were wearing prosthetic face applications while others looked like male models…not sure what the reasoning behind that was. Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) was also maybe a bit too silly, to be taken seriously as well. I know The Hobbit was more of a children’s tale, but it still had a serious heart. The dwarves were actually very unlikable in the film’s opening sequence, to be honest.

As the story unfolds, though, you are swept up in it and I think the coming sequels are going to be worth the wait.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey