The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Posted on December 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Copyright Warner Brothers Studios 2014
Copyright Warner Brothers Studios 2014

Visually stunning, capably presented, and utterly unnecessary, this final in the six-movie Tolkien cycle is just for the fans.  I think even Tolkien himself would cry “no mas” at this point.  Remember how the third LoTR movie had about five or six endings because Jackson just could not bear to let go?  This whole movie is like that.

It’s not bad.  There’s just too much of it.

The second of the Hobbit movies remains my favorite because it had the most excitingly staged action scenes and the best characters.  And it left us with a heck of a cliffhanger as Smaug the dragon delivered on the promise of the title, leaving his lair to desolate the village of Lake-Town.  But that all gets resolved pretty quickly (and excitingly) and then, as this title makes clear, most of the rest of the time is not about the original quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain or the sub-quest to obtain the powerful Arkenstone.  It is about a battle of just about everyone, with shifting loyalties and heartbreaking losses.  If you are not a hard-core Tolkienite at the Stephen Colbert level, here’s the one key guideline to keep in mind: the worse the teeth, the more evil the creature sporting them.  The elves, dwarves, and men may have their grievances with each other and may even go into battle against each other, but as any crossword puzzle fan knows, Orcs are the bad guys, ugly cusses with terrible gnashy teeth, and nothing unites rivals and enemies quicker than the arrival of a much worse enemy coming after all of them.

Martin Freeman (television’s “Sherlock” and “Fargo”) returns as Bilbo Baggins, the heart and the moral center of the story.  While my mind wandered at times to consider such questions as who does all that intricate hair-braiding that the characters sport?  It must be like a middle school slumber party around those campfires, with everyone in a circle doing the hair of the person in front of them.  Isn’t that total turnaround by Thorin Oakenshield a little unbelievable? And I can never figure out exactly the scope of the powers and jurisdiction of characters like Gandalf and Galadriel. Plus, the snively traitor guy gets much too much screen time.

But I never stopped admiring the gorgeously imagined visuals or the subtle complexity of Freeman’s performance. As we see on “Sherlock,” there is no one better at showing us a thoughtful and deeply honorable struggle over how to respond to terrifying and complex challenges. There may be epic battles, shifting loyalties, elaborate stunts, and a lot of gnashing of very scary-looking teeth, but it is the part of the title before the colon that is what matters.

Parents should know that this movie has extensive and graphic peril and war violence with many sad deaths and some disturbing images.

Family discussion: What was the most difficult decision made by Thranduil? By Bilbo?

If you like this try: The other Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson and the books by J.R.R. Tolkien

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3D Action/Adventure Based on a book Drama Epic/Historical Series/Sequel War

Free Tickets to a Washington DC Screening of “The Hobbit!”

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 8:46 am

I am thrilled to be able to give away 20 pairs of tickets to a December 11, 2012 Washington, D.C. screening of one of the biggest movies of the year: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”   “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson is pioneering a new format with twice as many frames per second that will give J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic story unprecedented visual clarity and depth. And you can be one of the very first to see it — before it opens!

For your complimentary tickets to an advance screening of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY in the Washington, DC area on Tuesday, December 11 log onto and input the following code: BLFJPQC to download your tickets.

REMEMBER: Get there early!  Screening tickets do not guarantee admittance.  Seating is first come, first served.

The movie opens in Real D 3D, HFR 3D and IMAX 3D on December 14.




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Contests and Giveaways

The Lovely Bones

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Peter Jackson, whose film versions of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy could be a textbook example of how to adapt a literary work for screen, could find his latest film, “The Lovely Bones” as the example on the next page of how not to. His sincerity and artistry are there, but unlike Tolkien’s triology, Alice Sebold’s book-club favorite is not essentially cinematic. What made the book successful with critics and the public was not the story but the language. Jackson’s efforts to translate the graceful, lucid prose into images loses all of the story’s delicacy and becomes cloying and dissonant. Instead of a poetic meditation on life and the human spirit it becomes more like “CSI” if one of the detectives was dead.

As in the book, we know right from the beginning that Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan of “Atonement” and “I Could Never Be Your Woman”) is dead and telling us her story in a tone of calm, slightly distant regret. She was 14, the oldest daughter in a happy, loving family. She had a crush on a boy named Ray (Reece Ritchie). She and her father made meticulously constructed boats in bottles. And then, one night, walking home from school , a neighbor invites her to see a cool clubhouse he dug beneath the cornfields, filled with candles and snacks and board games. And he kills her.

In the movie’s best scene we and Susie both think that she has escaped the killer (Stanley Tucci) as she bursts out of the underground room and races through the streets. But then we realize just before she does that it is only her spirit that survives. Susie has been murdered. She will watch the rest of her story from a personal heaven, an in-between place for a soul that is not ready to let go.

But the lyricism of the book translates on screen into under-imagined images that look like stock photos used for screen savers or the discreet artwork of a mid-range hotel. Leafy trees, aquamarine skies, fluttering fields, and of course spa music (from Brian Eno) and quavery voice-overs.

Ronen is breathtaking, and Susan Sarandon adds some life as the boozy grandmother who steps in when the parents are devastated by Susie’s loss. The script softens the brutality of the story and irons out some of the sub-plots. But it gives us too much information about the less interesting parts of the story and not enough about what we really care about. But we are never sure whether we are there to see justice done or to put Susie’s soul to rest and by the time Susie meets up with her murderer’s other victims and returns to fulfill one last human longing, it feels more like a campfire ghost story than a meditation on love, loss and the enduring human spirit.

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Based on a book Crime Drama
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