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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: John Bell

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)

It’s over. So pipe down, nerds!

After having left his precious castle, Smaug roams free and is killed. This leaves many happy and feeling safe for once. This also leaves Thorin (Richard Armitage) to go back and take back what was rightfully his in the first place: His throne. Problem is, word spreads pretty quickly that he’s sitting in his high chair and this does not make Thranduil (Lee Pace). So, like any good elf would do, he wages war against Thorin, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and the rest of their band of trusted misfits; a war which Thorin and co. could definitely lose, but they don’t seem to be turning away from. However though, the war takes a turn for the worse once the Orc’s get involved in the shenanigans, making it harder for this war to be won, but decide who is on who’s side, and why. It’s all so wild and crazy, but at the center of it all is Bilbo, who just wants to get that precious ring of his back to his comfortable, lovely little life in the shire.

So far, the Hobbit trilogy has been an okay one. Maybe that’s just from my standpoint, but for the most part, I haven’t seen myself incredibly upset about there being three Hobbit movies released over a three-year period. Sure, it’s a bit obvious and manipulative of Peter Jackson to stretch a 300-page book, into nearly eight hours of footage, but for me, the movie’s never got so offensively made that they were just downright terrible. They were fine for what they were, and that’s how they’re supposed to be viewed as, I feel. Even if, yes, the Lord of the Rings franchise is a whole lot better in hindsight.

"Aw damn."

“Aw damn.”

With that being said, it was nice to see Jackson finally end this trilogy on a note that was not only effective, but seemed like it was a return-to-form for his own true-self. The past two movies have been fun, adventurous and chock full of all the medieval exposition nonsense we expect from a movie such as this, but they haven’t really been too exciting to where you could tell Jackson was really just letting loose and having a ball with this material. In a way, one could almost view it as another lame attempt at Jackson just trying to hold onto this name-brand he loves and adores so much.

But regardless whatever the reasons may have been, Jackson brings back all of the excitement he showed in the early part of his ambitious career and it’s what makes the Battle of the Five Armies a good time. Because there’s so much action firing around on all cylinders, with numerous characters coming in and out of perspective, you get the general sense that Jackson is literally taking all the pieces of his puzzle, shuffling them around, and just letting them stick and stay there, for them to do their own thing and see how we respond. And, well, for the most part, it works well; it brings a certain level of tension to a franchise that, quite frankly, needed plenty of it.

However, like with the other films, Jackson still seems to get bogged down in not knowing where to go with his stories, or whom exactly to focus on the most.

What I mean by this is that while this is clearly Bilbo’s story first and foremost, Jackson pays plenty of attention to nearly everyone else around him. Thorin, Gandalf, Legolas, Tauriel, Thranduil, Bard, and even Saruman, all get plenty of development in the first hour or so of this, whereas we don’t really get much of a simple glance or two at Bilbo and just what the hell he’s up to. Sure, I get that Jackson doesn’t want to keep his scope limited and much rather focus on the ensemble at hand, but when you’re film is literally named after the main character and you give him maybe two or three paragraphs for the first hour, it makes me wonder just who the hell you really care about when all is said and done.

That’s not to say when Martin Freeman is given the chance, he isn’t willing to work his arse off whenever Bilbo’s on-screen, because he totally does in that lovably charming, yet sly way of his that always seems to work no matter where he’s at. It’s just that a part of me thinks Jackson didn’t seem to care about any more development for him and instead, just lingered towards the rest of the cast of characters who aren’t nearly as interesting, nor as fun to watch as Bilbo. Everybody’s fine in their roles, but seeing as how this is Bilbo’s own story, it seems only right that we focus on him the most, and allow Freeman to just work his magic. Almost as if he’s in whole other different universe completely, but it doesn’t matter because he’s so much fun to begin with.

"For freedom! I guess?"

“For freedom! I guess?”

Just wish there was more Martin Freeman to go around. I guess you can never get too much of that tiny fella.

But despite all of my moaning and complaining, the movie still entertained the shorts off of me (not literally, sadly). Once again, we see Jackson in a state of mind that shows, despite his story-telling elements being a bit off, he still packs enough punch to make his action excite nearly anyone watching it. It doesn’t matter if you’re invested in the characters or not, if you have a clear idea of who the good guy is, and who is the bad one, then all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy as the fist-a-cuffs come out and everyone starts duking it out. A part of me wishes the other two movies were like this, but I’ll take what I can get, whenever I get it. Even if, you know, it is a bit pleasing to see this franchise done once and for all. Hopefully it will allow for Jackson to go back to his old school roots and try something smaller, and possibly even go back to doing horror.

Let’s just hope he stays the hell away from another Lovely Bones. Please, anything but that.

Consensus: With enough action-packed sequences of swords, sorcery, and stones, the Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies is the kind of Middle Earth movie we wanted from Peter Jackson, except not nearly as epic as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I would say, "don't do it", but we already know he's far too gone. Wait? Was "the Ring" a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody's informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

I would say, “don’t do it”, but we already know he’s far too gone. Wait? Was “the Ring” a metaphor for drug-addiction? All this time and nobody’s informed me on this? What the hell?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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Wrath of the Titans (2012)

No Kraken? Booo!

A decade after kicking some mighty and fine Kraken-ass, Perseus (Sam Worthington) settles down into a life that’s relaxing, full of joy and happiness, as he teaches his son the ways of the world. Everything’s going fine too, until he finds out that his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), needs to be saved from his long-lost, rogue brother (Édgar Ramírez) and asshole-uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes). As strong and powerful as Perseus might be, he can’t do it alone so he recruits Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to join him as they fight through thick and thin, limb-from-limb, and even battle a Minotaur. Aw yeah! Maybe not as awesome as the Kraken, but aw yeah!

Even though I didn’t mind it, I can get why a lot of people hated the hell out of Clash of the Titans. It was dumb, a bit long and had CGI done in a way that makes me wonder if we’re still using MACs or not. However, I still can’t understand why the hell we needed a sequel to it, let alone, one that starred the same lead, nor featured the Kraken; because let’s face it: The only reason people waited around in the first movie, was just to see how awesomely cool and epic the appearance of the Kraken would be. Which it was, but does all of five minutes, make an-hour-and-a-half seem worth it?

I can’t quite come to answer that question because, as I said, I didn’t mind the first one but I can totally see and understand the disdain of hearing the news of a sequel. However, you have to think about Hollywood here for a second and realize that not only did the first one make a shit-ton of millions and millions of dollars in the States, but overseas, it made a ton more. So, therefore, you have to realize that of course Hollywood is going to do a sequel for the sake that the first made a bunch of movie, whereas also hoping that the people who ventured out to see the first one, however many times it might have been, will see the second one and probably be just as pleased. That’s exactly who this flick is made for, and that’s the only way this flick could really work.

"No please! Don't squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or so sequels!

“No please! Don’t squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or six sequels!

That’s why I sort of liked this one a bit more, which isn’t saying too much but is better than what I can say for a movie that’s still on my list for “Most Unnecessary Sequels of the Past Decade”. Even though I didn’t hate Louis Leterrier’s approach to the first movie, producers felt like it was time to re-vamp the series and give it a darker look, feel, touch and story, so therefore, they brought in Jonathan Liebesman to shake things up a bit and see where he could go with this. Liebesman is a welcome addition to this series, mostly because he knows exactly how to get this story off-and-running, right from the beginning.

As soon as we get introduced to what Perseus has been doing for the past couple of years, action just erupts out of nowhere, and we begin to see the old-school Perseus come back in full-form by tangling with a two-headed beast (three, if you count the mouth they have on it’s tail). Right after this fun beginning, the movie jumps right into the story and continues to pile and pile on the exposition, as if all the stories and legends we remembered from Greek History 130 and Herc’s Adventure, was all bullshit.

As mean-spirited as that may sound, the movie still doesn’t show much improvement over the first one in terms of it’s story and script. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a life-opening screenplay about what it means to be a father in the day and ages of Gods and evil forces running amok, but at the same time, at least give me something to hold onto when the action isn’t slamming me in the face. I can only handle so much subplots, stories about Gods, what they can do, and all sorts of philosophical speeches about the after-life that’s supposed to have a deeper-meaning than just, “I don’t want to die”.

That’s where the action comes in and take over what was already a pretty dialogue-heavy movie. Not much better, but slightly in the way that everything looks more polished, feels more thought-out and definitely has more fun with itself, even if it’s a tad too serious for it’s own good. I liked the first one for knowing that it was dumb, loud, and stupid, as if you were watching a B-movie on cable when you and your buddies were high, drunk, bored, or a mixture of all three. This one, however, drives itself down the darker, windier-road that’s all about showing emotions and sad things that not only bring you down, but try and make you feel like there’s more at-stake here when two people are going toe-to-toe in a scrap. It doesn’t work, and it feels like the movie’s trying a bit too hard. All that being said, the movie still has enough fun with itself to the point of where the dark-approach isn’t numbing or bothersome, it’s just more noticeable than it should be.

Nary a scratch and yet: she's in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she's doing half of the killing.

Nary a scratch and yet she’s in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she’s doing half of the killing. Inspiration to women all over the globe.

The only real improvement in this flick that’s actually noticeable is that Sam Worthington does feel a bit more “in-his-mode” than he did with the last one. Here, he seems to actually enunciating the horrendous-dialogue he’s been given and seems to really throw himself into the action-sequences that call for more than just heavy panting and staring. Even though there seems to be little to no personality with his take on Perseus, at least Worthington shows us that he wants to be here because maybe all of those wads of cash that he was getting from four years ago, are finally running out and he needs whatever he can take.

Yup, that movie about those blue aliens was released four years back. Funny how time flies.

Returning with Worthington from the first movie, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having a bit more of fun as Hades and Zeus respectively, even if they too, do feel like they are slumming themselves down to really fit in with the pure-dumbness of this movie. Can’t complain about that too much, since it is a dumb movie, but a little bit more time and effort would have been greatly appreciated. Hell, if this dude can give us that, why can’t you, Oscar-nominated actors?!?!?

Since everybody from the first movie practically died in it, or re-thought their movie careers, there are new faces and names to be seen and heard which are more welcoming than I expected. Rosamund Pike is a nice addition as the sexy, fiery lady-warrior that isn’t taking anybody’s crap, yet, doesn’t have a problem showing that she can still flaunt it like the boys as well; Toby Kebbell brings a bunch of wit and charm to his role as Agenor, Poseidon’s human son; and Bill Nighy shows his bearded-up face for a wee bit as Hephaestus and has fun, makes his wisecracks, and goes on his own way, probably collecting a hefty paycheck or something, and making us all wish that he would just come back and give us more fun and entertainment. Can never get enough of Bill Nighy, now can ya?

Consensus: To say that Wrath of the Titans is better than its predecessor is stating the obvious, but the problems with that first one still do lie within the cracks and creeks of the script here, and are only ignored when there’s loud, hectic stuff happening on-screen, which makes it at least entertaining to sit-through, even if you sort of wish somebody would crack a smile or two.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Two dudes who played Germans during the Holocaust unite!!

Two dudes who played Germans during that Holocaust movie unite!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Citizen Ruth (1996)

CitizenRuthNever would have happened if the people involved weren’t silly, and just wrapped their willies. Or, I guess just “willy”.

Poor old Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern). Not only is she homeless, addicted to huffing paint on a regular-basis, and not able to see her kids, but now she’s pregnant with her fourth child. And trust us, four is enough for her, and lord, even she knows it. That’s why she plans on having an abortion as soon as possible, that is, until the “Baby Savers” get ahold of her and try to make her keep it, all in the good lord’s name who don’t really seem to care about her or the baby, they just want the publicity that somebody is listening to their ways and not thinking otherwise. But Ruth knows that she wants to get rid of the baby, so she then gets taken in by the pro-choice group that actually had a spy (Swoosie Kurtz) in the pro-life group. At first, things with the pro-choice group seem all fine and dandy, with Ruth getting all sorts of lovely treatment in hopes that she’ll get rid of the baby and stick to their side, however, things change around once the pro-life group offers her $15,000 to keep the baby and let it live. And then, the whole deal gets changed around again once pro-choicers offer her the same amount, if not more to get rid of it. What’s poor old little Ruth to do when she has all of this money being waved around in her face, and a baby still in her stomach? My oh my, questions, questions, questions.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen just about all of his movies that Alexander Payne sure does love to poke fun at people. But already in the year 2013, we know this. Back in 1996, nobody had a clue what this guy was capable of doing, or even what his name was. All that they knew was that there was a movie out, that dealt with abortion, starred Laura Dern and that was basically it.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I'm not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I’m not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

And over 17 years later, that’s all people still know of it as and quite frankly, rightfully so.

While I can’t get on Payne’s case too much considering that this was his first movie, I will say that he does go for the gull when it comes approaching the topic on-hand. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, the abortion debate will always be one up for much discussion and controversy, and it’s how funny Payne turned that on its side in a satirical way, highlighting both sides to the best of his ability. Of course it’s easy to poke fun at the heavy-duty Christians that pray to the lord, hail him as the almighty and banish all those who decide to kill their babies to hell, but it never seemed so easy to poke the same type of fun at the liberals on the other side of the coin, which is what really shocked me here. Rather than showing which side he’s on more, he sort of just lets them both speak for themselves, with them both seeming greedy and ill-tempered, yet well-intentioned, as if what they are doing is what they truly believe in as the right way to go about things in your daily-life. Their only problem is that they don’t know how to go about it in a nicer way.

That said, the movie definitely doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know about the subject of abortion, the people that get them, perform them or support them as an action. Mainly, the movie just gives us a story about a girl who gets caught in the middle of this whole media-frenzy where she and her baby are the center of attention, and the topic of abortion is lingering over it. While I do, once again, give Payne credit for spinning this in a way to where it plays both sides view-points in a sympathetic, fair manner, the movie itself just never got over that hurdle for me to where I was totally, and utterly involved.

Plenty of food-for-thought if you think about how far we’ve come as a society in discussing the topic of abortion, but that’s all it is: A thinking piece. Sure, we have characters, character-development, a witty script and even some heartfelt insights to the way humans interact, think and get their points across, but they all just feel like filler for the real attraction of this whole movie: Abortion. I know it sounds terrible to use that as a selling-point for a movie, but it seems like that’s what the creators behind this movie did, which doesn’t matter it any better. It just makes it a smart decision in order to get your movie seen and noticed by dozens of people, which is why I have to give more credit to Payne.

Good job on the advertising, bud. Not-so good job on the final-product itself. Oh well. You picked yourself back up in the years to come, so all is forgiven.

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that's done me!

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that’s done me!

But where this flick really feels like a total disappointment is in the way that it wastes a very talented cast, giving them material that feels like a bunch of ham-handed speeches that do have a point, but are shown to us in the wrong format. For instance, you have great character actors like Kurtwood Smith, Swoozie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place and even M.C. Gainey showing up, looking like they’re going to bring some of their miraculous personalities to the script, but in reality, all they do is become victims of Payne’s preaches. They all do what they can to make the material worth more than just a series of thought-provoking lines, speeches and discussion-starters, but overall, they just succumb to the problems and are left with nothing else to do.

And then of course we have Laura Dern as Ruth, and as talented as this gal may be, she too can’t help but become a victim to the weak-material, if not even worse due to how annoying her character can be at times. I get that Ruth is supposed to be a despicable piece of a white girl trailer-trash, however, there could have been more substance to her than what we got. Once again, Dern’s performance is another case where we have a terribly talented actress, given this piece of material that has reaching for the stars, but ends up coming down empty-handed with nothing to show. Well, except for maybe a spot on her resume that shows she’s got those indie-chops.

Consensus: Payne never chooses a side to stick with in Citizen Ruth, and is the smartest decision he makes throughout the whole entire movie, which brings up a lot of smart, thought-provoking points about the abortion debate, but ends up being just that, no substance added or involved.

5 /10 = Rental!!

Like I always say, "Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has his 'stache."

Like I always say, “Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has the ‘stache.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB