Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Year: 2014
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Cate Blanchett

Plot: After reclaiming Erebor, Thorin Oakenshield is threatened by the same madness that drove his grandfather mad, and refuses to listen to reason as elves, men and orcs descend upon the Lonely Mountain to take its treasures.

Review: So we can finally bid goodbye to Middle Earth. Or can we? Peter Jackson has stated he wants to do more, but then again he may not.

The fact remains though, The Battle Of the Five Armies is epic as it should be, despite not running longer than the previous two Hobbit films. The battles are huge, intense and yes, even personal, as the best battles here are not the ones involving large scope and numbers, but raw one on one scraps.

As the story goes, Smaug the dragon has left Erebor and goes straight to Lake Town, where he faces off with Bard the Bowman. This leaves Thorin and his fellow dwarves to finally reclaim their home and with it, its large wealth. But with it comes a price: Thorin grows more and more paranoid that everyone around him will betray him, and outside forces will take away his home again. Meanwhile, the people of Lake Town, elven King Thranduil and a massive army of orcs come knocking at their door.

We all know Peter Jackson can do the massive epic stuff he's done five times before, so it goes without saying that as far as cinematography, visual effects, set design and other technical aspects are concerned, they all come together seamlessly to make this film as thrilling as possible. Thus, it will be the other things that matter, namely script, acting and characters that decides how well this film actually fares. In this regard, I'd say it's mostly top notch.

As in the previous trilogy, where we saw Frodo and Aragorn become the heroes they didn't think they'd become, here we see Bard, Thorin and Bilbo do the same. Luke Evans is exceptional as Bard, who becomes the reluctant hero that stands up for Lake Town against Smaug, even as we notice that he only really wants to keep his family safe and protect his fellow townsfolk. Bilbo as usual, finds the courage to do the right thing and save his friend Thorin from himself, and Martin Freeman does well in the role. However, once again it is Richard Armitage that impresses the most as Thorin, who goes from vulnerable king to determined leader of the dwarves. His final one on one fight with orc leader Azog is one to remember. Other cast members such as Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and the men who play the dwarves (especially Aidan Turner as Kili) do their parts well too.

The film has a few hiccups though, like the annoying Alfrid, deputy to Master of Lake Town, who spends every single second of his screen time being a useless jerk, or the appearance of the Eagles being too brief, since they are one of the five armies after all.

But after all's been said and done, this film is truly a fitting end to the Middle Earth saga, with a couple of nods that connect it to the LOTR trilogy before it. Jackson and company have done a great job indeed, and it does make me want to revisit LOTR all over again. (8/10)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gone Girl

Year: 2014
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Neil Patrick Harris

Plot: When a man's wife disappears, the resulting media reaction turns his life upside down and he suddenly becomes a suspect. But there is more to it than meets the eye.

Review: This film reminded me of a repeated line from Hugh Laurie's Dr House: Everybody lies.

But to David Fincher's credit, Gone Girl is a lot more than a mystery and more than just about people lying. Based on Gillian Flynn's novel which she also adapted for the screen here, Gone Girl shows how the power of media and public perception can play a key role in determining if someone is innocent or guilty. Basically speaking, if it looks bad, it's gonna be bad, and vice versa.

The story begins with Nick Dunne, who comes home one day and finds his wife missing, with signs of a struggle in his living room. The police check it out, and upon further investigation, they and the audience discover that Nick isn't a stand up guy that we're supposed to believe. Then halfway through, Fincher and Flynn throw a twist into the story and changes the status quo. It gets more twisted as more facts are revealed, and that's all part of the appeal.

Fincher wisely keeps the story moving and making every scene count, so that despite its 149 minute running time, you don't feel it dragging. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gives an unsettling feel throughout (another wise choice by Fincher for using them again) and Donald Graham Burt's production design adds to it with its dark and mostly dim lighting in every scene. 

Ben Affleck puts in a subdued but effective performance as Nick, whom we suspect isn't as good as we'd like to believe, but eventually sympathise with. Rosamund Pike is perfect as the missing wife Amy, who seems like the perfect woman, but is holding a ton of secrets of her own. Pike isn't the best actress there is out there, but her acting style is actually perfect for the role she got here, and deserves plenty of credit for it. The supporting cast are also solid, with Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister Margo, Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's former lover, Tyler Perry as Nick's lawyer and Kim Dickens as Detective Boney all putting in sterling work.

Now, despite its near flawless storytelling, Fincher once again moves a tad too fast at times, switching from one scene to the next quickly or not allowing a scene to stay a few seconds longer for dramatic impact. He did this before in The Social Network, Zodiac and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, though to be fair, it's less noticeable here. And without giving anything away, I felt that the biggest lie in this whole story isn't as perfect as the filmmakers would have you believe. It can be explained if someone looked much closer.

That being said, Gone Girl is still undeniably a solid film all around. Back to what I said above: everybody lies. Here, we ask ourselves: how good are they at lying? Recommended. (8/10)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...