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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A poor endeavor
Jackson and company took such great pains to remain true to the books in their rendition of The Lord of the Rings, but apparently had no such attachment to The Hobbit. Making The Lord of the Rings (aka the Trilogy) as 3 films was a no-brainer, since it encompasses 3 books in most printed versions. The Hobbit is, in contrast, a single book, yet they're milking the project for every penny by stretching it out (and BORINGLY SO) to 3 films. The first half of this film is a complete snorer! Far, far too long with no action other than a bit of a food fight in Bag End. Next, while the Trilogy had lovable characters in Aragorn, who is noble, yet humble. The 4 hobbits in that film were all well-developed character-wise and thus became popular due to their love of the hero, Frodo, brave but reluctant. In this film, we're supposed to love a batch of dwarfs who are coarse, boisterous, and only after gold. There is nothing noble in their quest at all. Richard Taylor and company did a great job again with the props and the weapons, but I thought the animation, particularly some of the digital work, was below the standard set by the Trilogy. Once the pace picked up, the action picked up as well, with lots of fighting. Unfortunately, I found some of the fights to be too kung-fu movie like. Some of the falls, such as the fall of the bridge in the Goblins lair, would have definitely killed any living thing, yet the dwarfs all hop up and start fighting again without so much as a groan. Too many characters who shouldn't be in The Hobbit appear, I think to stretch the films length and because they were popular in the Trilogy. I was very disappointed in this film. I'm not certain I'll even bother with the next 2, but I probably will since I'm a huge Tolkien fan. But I won't spend any of my money to see it in a theater. I'll wait for the DVDs to come out.


May contain spoilers
Mark Wahlberg stars in yet another action flick.Ho hum, you say. But fasten your seat belts and hang on. This film will keep the viewer guessing what's coming next. There are plot twists and turn enough to satisfy anyone. There is a bit of romance with a very awesome lady (naturally!) And, if you want pyrotechnics, they're in this film in abundance. The action is nearly constant, and I was never tempted to watch something else. Once you start this film, you're in it until the end. I didn't see any plot holes, so I believe the script and screenplay were well-written. Acting and direction were great. Special effects (the aforementioned pyrotechnics, especially) were well-done as well. All in all, it's a sort of mindless entertainment action film, but this one stands above most, I think.


SPOILERS for a stinker of a movie
sci-fi meets world war 2 hardware flick. After defeating several modern us and Japanese warships, aliens threaten to wipe out Earth. the museum ship USS Missouri is humankind's last chance to defeat the aliens. the entire premise is completely preposterous. first, there's probably no fuel aboard the ship. second, there would be no live ordnance aboard the ship. third, the boilers have been cold for over a decade...they'd blow up if pressurized now. fourth, the fire control is old, world war 2 analog stuff...not accurate at all by today's standards. the acting is fair at best, the story laughable. I got this out of the $5 bin at wally world, so I'm not out much as far as money goes. it was, however, pretty much a total waste of a couple hours of my life. the special effects are overall pretty decently done, but not spectacular. i'm so not a fan of this film and I'm a huge navy movie fan, being a navy vet. drivel. tripe. junk. rot. whatever you want to call it. don't bother.

Transporter 2

Completely bad
Because the first film was half decent, I watched this drivel. The stunts are typical Hong Kong kung fu crap. The car stunts are, simply, impossible. The acting is fair in most characters. But the story is so poor that even decent acting can't carry it. The bad chick with the dual machine guns should have run out of ammo at least 2-3 times in the doctor's office sequence. There are several fight scenes with our hero against multiple takers. The bad guys come at him so obviously one at a time while the others do an obvious and really bad job of staying back until it's their turn to get hammered by Mr. Driver. I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone unless there is no other film available. And even then, it might very well be better to just read a good book instead of watching this worthless junk. I will not bother with Transporter 3. And you just know there'll be one.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A swashbuckling tale
This is a fabulous film in all respects. The actors are all and I mean ALL absolutely spot on with their performances. Russell Crowe, in particular, plays the part of the Captain perfectly, with just the right mix of the stern mixed with a good sense of humor. Paul Bettany, one of the worlds' most underrated actors, interplays perfectly as the ships' surgeon with Crowes' Captain. I'm not much of a sailor (especially when dealing with a huge ship), but all the seamanship type work was all done very realistically. Action? You want action? PLENTY! They're chasing a French privateer during the Napoleonic wars and they end up slugging it out very realistically, with splintered wood flying everywhere. There's close quarters fighting as well after boarding the enemy ship. Men were men back then! A very enjoyable action thriller!


Very well done WW1 film
I've seen some grousing about the fact that the characters in the film are all composites of several of the real American airmen. They tell us in the very beginning that the film is BASED ON facts, not that it's actually totally factual. I found the film to be an excellent quasi- historical film. The training of the pilots, their quarters, the aerial combat sequences were all very realistic, I thought. Yes, some of the aircraft were computer generated, but it's difficult to gather many actual aircraft of that era together to use in the film - there simply aren't that many flying anymore. The only thing that really hit me as not being true was the fact that nearly all the German aircraft shown in the film were the triple winged ones. They were never the only aircraft in the Luftwaffe and only about 300 were built. It was much slower than many other fighters of it's day, but more agile. I'm sure the filmmakers chose to use them because they're somewhat "iconic" of WW1 German fighter aircraft. In fact, most German aircraft were biplanes. But that's my only complaint. I found the acting, direction and cinematography were very good, editing was very good also. So the execution of the film was very good. There are some great films about WW1 out there and I think this film belongs with them


Main character miscast
Yes. Tom Cruise was miscast in this film. The story of the Valkyrie plot against Hitler has been told many times and there's pretty much no derivation from the actual events in this film. The problem arises with the casting of Tom Cruise. He simply did not or could not carry the powerful character of Claus Von Stauffenberg and the entire film suffered from it. Everyone else in the film did a creditable job and thus the film doesn't actually venture into the "bad" category, but it's close. I was expecting a powerful performance from Cruise but it just isn't there in this case. Heck, Cruise even bears a slight resemblance to Von Stauffenberg. Overall, I was quite disappointed in what should have been a good film. Perhaps others will see it differently, but I'd skip it if reruns of nearly anything else were on TV.

Red Tails

Underrated by most people
It IS difficult to review this film and NOT compare it with Tuskegee Airmen, but, without that comparison, I think this is a pretty decent film. The film is actually about the same group of airmen, facing the same odds and the same discrimination. But the approach to making this film is different and that's why it should be considered as a separate work. I have seen both films and I enjoyed each about the same as the other. It's good to see a subject from different perspectives sometimes. Occasionally, one film will actually help you understand the other. So I consider this film and Tuskegee Airmen to be complimentary to each other. The acting, direction, cinematography and editing are all very well done. I'd recommend watching both these films back-to-back or on successive evenings. You'll see what I mean.

Inglourious Basterds

WOW - what an action film!
To say this film is a good film is to completely understate how good it really is. The basic plot has been reviewed by dozens of reviewers before me, so I'll not bother to wear my fingers out typing it again. I think that the best sequence in the film is the somewhat long one in the bar when the SS officer joins the commandos. You just know that "it's" going to hit the fan any minute. It was drawn out just long enough to generate real tension yet not too long that the film drags. However, my favorite part was actually near the end, when the cooperative German officer gets his "punishment". Poetic, I'd call it. A great action yarn that will keep you entertained and that's a fact!

War Horse

An absolutely stunning film
I'm not a 'horse person', but I think horses are noble, beautiful animals. The story is ultimately one of the bond between a young man and a horse, separated by World War 1. There's a well-written story line behind the war action sequences and the cinematography is excellent. The cast all did their jobs admirably and the direction is very good. Edited well, the film has a very good flow and there's pretty much not anything to complain about (which, for me, is somewhat rare!). There's enough suspense to keep the viewer engaged, yet one just knows that young man and horse will ultimately find one another just as they need each other the most. This was an altogether completely enjoyable film and I believe that almost anyone would like it.


Pretty good, but...
This film is about the birth of unity within the new South Africa after the minority white government had been voted out and the nations' first black President took the oath of office. Everyone had to learn to work together, and they were having difficulty doing so. There was a predominantly white rugby team that had a dismal record, but was still followed passionately mostly by the white people in the country. The new President, Nelson Mandela, took the opportunity to get the team to play for the entire country instead of just for the white minority. Along the way, national pride swelled as the nations' black majority, who hadn't cared about rugby before, began to back the team. Look for some good acting, but, I must say that the performance I liked the least was Morgan Freemans as Nelson Mandela. They had him affecting a sort of accent and I believe it hurt his performance. He is usually by far the best actor in any film. But other than the fake accent, this is a very good film, directed well by Clint Eastwood.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Too much liberty taken with the book
J K Rowling really needs to have some stronger input into the screenplays because half of her HBP book is missing from the film version. This film just left me feeling ho-hum. I was expecting to see the big first "Battle of Hogwarts" going on while Draco Malfoy, et al, were confronting Dumbledore in the tower. Also, why was Harry cowering down below instead of under his invisibility cloak on the tower - I saw no point at all for that change. In the books, Harry is becoming more and more attracted to Ginny, but is fighting it because she's Ron's sister. In the film, it's as if he's loved her all along and Ron has always been aware of it. But the most glaring omission is the entire Tom Riddle backstory, told as a series of memories in the books and pretty much not told at all in the film. I really wanted to see the Marvolos and Tom's early years at Hogwarts (and, of course, a snake nailed to the door). And, while the book takes great pains to describe how dark Horcruxes are, in the film, there's no real sense that anyone thinks them all that evil. There's too much emphasis placed on the snogging of Ron and Lavender while Hermione can just stand by helplessly. All in all, a very poor adaptation of the book, almost ploddingly executed and a pretty dull film in contrast to a well-paced book. I sincerely hope the Deathly Hallows are better than this one.

The Informer

Can't judge it by today's standards
This film was made in 1935 and acting methods were completely different back then. This is the story of a down-and-out Irishman (weren't they all down-and out?) who, in desperation to raise the fare to America for himself and his girlfriend, informs on one of his friends. His friend is a member of the pre-IRA anti-British resistance. The British ultimately kill his friend. Then the organization wants to find out who informed on him. The poor sod who did has spent a lot of the reward money (which would just have covered the fare to America) in a night of drunkenness. Ultimately, he's found out and killed by the organization. The acting is, by today's standards, extremely wooden. John Ford's direction is first-rate, however. This film won't appeal to anyone who likes a lot of action and adventure. But for sheer grittiness, it's a good film.


Overly hyped
This film, initially, wasn't touted as much...then it won a couple of awards and all of a sudden, it was the "sleeper of the year". I thought it was decent, but overly hyped. The film was, apparently, an blend of live action with a computer-generated background. It's the background, I believe that really left me cold. There's plenty of violence, blood and death, even a little sex and toplessness. The major problem is that the background (excepting the precious few indoor shots, which, I guess were shot in a studio) doesn't look real at all. I'm talking completely UNREAL looking. I didn't realize how important a realistic looking background is until this film. The vast majority of the story takes place outdoors and it hurt what could have been a very good film. The actors are, for the most part, relative unknowns, yet they all did a very good job. I had hoped for something a bit better.

United 93

Well done
The events of 9-11 unfold in this film about one of the 4 hijacked planes that fateful day. While the other three aircraft hit their intended targets, the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the fourth plane did not. It did not because the passengers took matters into their own hands and prevented it. The hijackers apparently didn't make any attempt to stop the passengers from talking on the "air phones" and cell phones, and they learned from loved ones that America was under attack by hijacked planes. They (the passengers), of course, knew that yet another American target would be hit if they didn't act. They made the decision to attempt the wrest the plane back from the hijackers. Ultimately, the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, but it didn't attack an American target. The acting in this film is really good, and the story well-written for the screen. Of course, the screenplay really works on the emotions of the viewer and it succeeds. I found it to be a very well-produced and directed drama.

Flags of Our Fathers

Good, but.....
This film has good and bad points. First the good. It is pretty realistic. The horrors endured by these brave men are hammered home with plenty of very bloody combat scenes that justify the film's restricted rating. Clint Eastwood did a fine job directing this film. I didn't recognize the majority of the cast, but the acting was, overall, pretty decent as well. The one American Indian character had to put up with a lot of "white man stupidity" and plain old bigotry. The cinematography is also quite good. Now for the bad. I found the film is too disjointed for my taste. The film relies heavily on flashbacks, and the inter-cutting is, in my opinion, a detriment to the film's effectiveness. There are, quite simply, too many flashbacks. Each character seemingly has several flashbacks in the film and it results in a chopped-up, hard-to-follow, story. This film is absolutely NOT a waste and should be seen in order to appreciate what these brave American men did and the horrible things that they saw. Eastwood made this, obviously, as a tribute to these men.

Natural Born Killers

This film is both great and awful at the same time. The basic story is of two psychopathic killers who truly love killing people. There is enough violence to satisfy even the most voracious appetite. However, the film was put together more like a psychedelic LSD trip. I doubt that I even need to name the director, since this is sort of his trademark. Oliver Stone strikes again. However, underlying all that is the fact that we, all of us, know that there are people out there exactly like these two. Some people just simply enjoy killing. And that's what scares us. It's why some folks really like films like this. It reminds them that they might be someone's next random victim. I have really mixed feelings. I liked the story, but I found the execution (pardon the pun) a bit too weird. Again, vintage Oliver Stone.


SFX great, wish the movie was
The Special Effects in this film are really well done. I found the remainder of the story to be pretty poor. I wasn't enamored of any of the actors performances. The writing is mediocre at best. Ron Howard's direction isn't up to his usual standards, which are high. I'd heard so much hype about this film that I hit the Play button with the greatest of expectations. I was severely let down by the whole thing. I kept thinking "any minute now, this thing's going to take off", but it never did. There is a fair bit of tension and suspense, but none of the characters made you even want to drink a beer with them (and I'll drink a beer with dang near anybody). All in all, a disappointing, over-hyped yawner.

In Cold Blood

A true film classic
Brilliant writing and excellent acting set this film far above the average crime drama. The film shows the viewer exactly what it was like on a deadly night in Kansas in a remote farmhouse. The Clutter family was murdered by two men who believed Mr. Clutter had a safe containing thousands of dollars in cash in his home. There was no safe. In a rage, two losers killed a helpless family of four. Robert Blake and Scott Wilson play the two killers. But it's wrong to say they merely played them; they seem to become them. The book upon which it was based was written by Truman Capote, who interviewed both murderers before their executions. He extracted exact sequences of events from them and put them together. To add to the realism, the film was shot inside the actual house where the crimes occurred. I believe that this film is one of the true classic movies. It's shot in B&W also.


Super film
I avoided watching this film for a while because it had what I thought was a kind of stupid title. I now rate the film among my favorites. I should have known it would be a great one. Any film with either Cuba Gooding or Ed Harris is going to be good and this film has not one, but both of them. The film is based on a true story. Gooding is superb as the "town dummy", a mentally-retarded teen aged boy who is fascinated by a radio (hence the name) and the local high school football team. The kids on the team, being dumb teen aged boys, pick on him, eventually going a bit too far for the coach's (Ed Harris) liking. He disciplines the ringleaders and, to add insult to injury, gives Radio a job with the team. As time goes on, the team learns to accept him and he still does that job today, a couple decades later. I hate to use the word "heartwarming" since that usually means "sappy", but this one isn't at all sappy. All in all, a totally enjoyable film!

Grumpier Old Men

This is a rare sequel. Wait a minute, sequels aren't rare. Well, that's true, but a *good* sequel is rare. Most of the time, sequels aren't even in the same league as the originals. However, due to excellent writing, a superb cast and great direction, this film is every bit as enjoyable as Grumpy Old Men. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau made several films together and they worked together extremely well. The gorgeous Ann Margaret reprises her role from the first film and is now Lemmon's wife. A new lady hits town and Matthau is very interested. This lovely creature is played by Sophia Loren, who is still stunningly beautiful. Burgess Meredith is great as Grandpa. The stellar cast ensures great acting. However, this film is also written such that there is literally a laugh nearly every minute. I found the film to be highly enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone who needs a laugh.

The Vault

Holy cow. I thought the Poseidon Adventure was the worst movie ever made, but that was up until I saw this bad boy. This could have been a decent movie if they'd cast a single actor in it. However, not a person in this film is an actor or actress. The story was actually pretty decent, with the requisite suspense and action. The screenplay is even pretty fair. I believe this film was directed about as well as it could be. So it all comes down to the "acting". The acting in this film is awful - just bloody awful. The plot is that of a treasure in a museum sought after by two different characters. The characters are both thieves. One is very subtle, the other is brutal and takes the bull in the china shop approach. Both are in the museum at the same time and the bad dude manages to take over the museum. The subtle thief ends up almost playing the Bruce Willis from Die Hard role. He has to save his daughter and the Police Chief's son. See, it could have been good. But, unfortunately, there's that acting thing that gets in the way. Avoid this stinker. It ain't worth your time.

The Da Vinci Code

Excellently done
Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code is as good as an adaptation of a very popular book can be. Anyone who knows anything about film making knows that no film can achieve the depth of a book. There simply isn't time to establish all the little character nuances and idiosyncrasies that a book can. The job of the film maker is to keep the basic story as intact as possible, add as little as possible that's not in the book, and still make an entertaining, coherent film. Trust me, it ain't as easy as it sounds. I've read this book enough to know that the film makers left out some stuff. But, examination of what they left out reveals that it wasn't really necessary at all. So the screenplay, direction and scripting left adequate information for the viewer to know exactly what they need to know to follow and enjoy the film. The acting throughout the film was excellent. Tom Hanks is super as Professor Langdon. I'd not heard of the French actress Audry Tautou before, but she was great as his collaborator. This is a truly international cast, purposely cast as such since the film takes place in various parts of the world. Sir Ian McKellan portrays the expert Teabing. Paul Bettany is excellent as "the ghost" Silas. Altogether, this is a fascinating film. I'm not going into the plot, since it has more twists than a drunken snake. Enjoy it!

Cast a Giant Shadow

A wasted opportunity
This film is a decidedly one-sided account of the events leading up to the partition of Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel. Except for Topol, playing a sheik, there is no consideration given to the Palestinian point of view. But that aside, the film is poorly written but decently executed. The cast is stellar, containing Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Senta Berger and Yul Brynner. The story could be epic...the struggle of Israel, alone and lacking weapons, against most of the Arab world. But, as I mentioned, the writing is the film's weakest point. The dialog seems stilted in places. The writing just basically lacks the strength to keep the viewer interested. I also found the sound track quality on the DVD to be poor, or perhaps it wasn't properly mixed. But some parts of the film, particularly dialog, are difficult to understand. If you crank the volume up enough, you can understand the audio OK, but then the music will blast you out of the room. The actual events featured tremendous amount of heroism (on both sides, actually), a story that kept the world's attention riveted on Palestine/Israel for a long time and political wrangling that created the monster that is today's middle east. Yet most of that was left untold. Also unrealistic was the Arab artillery accuracy. It seems that nearly every shot was a direct hit on a moving truck. Nobody's that good. I enjoyed the film on a shallow "action film" level, but was terribly disappointed that it didn't show the true events of the birth of Israel.

The Wings of Eagles

John Ford - John Wayne = good
This film is an effort by famed Director John Ford to pay homage to a close personal friend of his. Ford knew Frank "Spig" Wead very well and, from what I've heard and read, the Director pulled no punches in his portrayal of his friend. Wead was very influential in making Naval Aviation a force before WWII. When the war began, he rejoined the Navy, having been medically retired several years before. He worked further with the marriage of planes and ships, also coming up with the idea for "Jeep" carriers. I've wanted to review this film in the past, but couldn't come up with a proper explanation of how Ford pulled it off. Another reviewer coined the perfect term - "warts and all". Wayne does a fine job portraying Wead. His long-suffering wife is played by Maureen O'Hara. Wead was married to the Navy body and soul, but to his wife a whole lot less, although he loved her. Wayne and O'Hara were, in my opinion, a completely compatible acting duo. They made several films together and they just seemed to work so well together. Ford took the time and made the effort to show his friend as the imperfect human being that he was. His foibles and failures are shown, along with his successes. This is an altogether enjoyable biography.

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