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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Epic Rap Battles Of History: Season One (2010)

Epic Rap Battles Of History: Season One (2010)

Epic Rap Battles of History is a web series in which pop culture icons and celebrities and politicians are pitted against one another in a universe where everyone is fair game and everyone raps against one another – live or dead.

Season One (You can watch the entire season HERE) is the beginning effort of Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd, who portray most of the characters (including themselves in the season finale). The battles portrayed in Season One are as follows:

– John Lennon VS Bill O’Reilly
– Darth Vader VS Hitler
– Abe Lincoln VS Chuck Norris
– Sarah Palin VS Lady Gaga
– Hulk Hogan VS Kim Jong Il
– Justin Bieber VS Beethoven
– Einstein VS Stephen Hawking
– Genghis Khan VS The Easter Bunny
– Napoleon Dynamite VS Napoleon Bonaparte
– Billy Mays VS Ben Franklin
– Gandalf VS Dumbledore
– Dr Seuss VS Shakespeare
– Mr T VS Mr Rogers
– Christopher Columbus VS Captain Kirk
– Nice Peter VS EpicLLOYD

Most of the battles in Season One are sort of silly, without many guest stars. My favorite from the season was definitely Albert Einstein (MC Mr Napkins (aka Zach Sherwin) VS Stephen Hawking (Nice Peter) while some of them like Captain Kirk VS Christopher Columbus were good conceptually but didn’t hold water once performed.

Musically, the Epic Rap Battles have come a long way since this first batch, but there are some noteworthy beats and rhymes, for sure. Check it out. These guys and gals are sure to entertain.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Diablo III (PS3 – 2013)

Diablo III (PS3 - 2013)

On Sanctuary, a fantasy world constantly under attack and being saved by heroes in previous incarnations of the Diablo franchise, you must set out either by yourself or with friends to stop the advancing shadow of the demonic hordes. With the help of magical items and powerful allies, you will trek across the continent and lay waste to the evil armies of the Burning Hells…and get rich doing so.

Listen.

I have loved Diablo for years. I straight out REFUSED to play Diablo III when it came to PC because it a.) didn’t FEEL like Diablo to me – instead seeming almost like an auction-house simulator, with micro-transactions ruling the day and the gameplay, throwing everything off balance and b.) it required you to be online EVEN TO PLAY BY YOURSELF.

Once I found out they’d gotten rid of the auction house and the online-only requirement, I was sold on at least trying it, and let me tell you – I’m not super-disappointed.

There are plenty of classes to choose from like Barbarian, Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor and Demon Hunter (with optional male/female with different looks for each) and though most of the time you’ll be mindlessly slogging along through impossible-looking mobs of enemies there is a slight amount of strategy involved in most situations, especially when it comes to combo attacks with your friends.

Still, with other games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V out there which offer lots in the way of story and immersive gameplay, this game can seem tame in comparison (although those are completely different kinds of games) although the animations and the graphics are sort of flashy and colorful and reminiscent of World of Warcraft.

This console port exceeded my expectations by far and I’ve been able to play alongside my friends on the same console, which to me is the main draw. Online-only isn’t always the best option, so I’m really glad they decided to get rid of that feature. If you’ve played the PC version, you might hate it but maybe you should give the console version a chance. It seems to have been made more with the consoles in mind than with the PC. And if you’re like me and you didn’t want to touch this game with a ten-foot pole, try it out. It might surprise you.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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