Friday, December 26, 2014

Movie Review - The Hobbit: The Battle fo the Five Armies (PG-13) - review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 144 mins

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the third and final film in The Hobbit trilogy based off the beloved, same-named novel by J.R.R. Tolkein, following 2012s An Unexpected Journey  and last years The Desolation of Smaug. When including the blockbuster Lord of the Rings  trilogy that The Hobbit serves as a prequel to, this film completes director Peter Jacksons monumental, six-movie, epic fantasy saga. Being an enormous fan of the Middle Earth films, I was absolutely ecstatic to finally see The Battle of the Five Armies. Heading into a packed premier, the series five other movies all found themselves extremely high up on my all-time favorites list. I can now say that I have had added yet another film to that prestigious group, completing my favorite movie series ever and perhaps the greatest saga in the history of cinema. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is easily on par with all of its predecessors and even better than them in several different ways. 

Picking up right after the cliffhanger ending to The Desolation of Smaug, this movie opens up with the incineration of Laketown by the devastating dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Although Laketown is completely destroyed in the end, local fisherman Bard (Luke Evans) manages to slay the beast. 

Meanwhile, the thirteen dwarves, along with title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) reunite at the nearby Lonely Mountain and finally reclaim their beloved homeland. However, the mountain contains countless treasures of unprecedented value and all the beings of Middle Earth desire some of the wealth. This soon leads to the massive war clearly described in the title that takes up the majority of the movie.
The Battle of the Five Armies is by far the most action packed and exciting film in the franchise. The many massive battle scenes are truly mind-blowing, containing breathtaking visual effects and unbelievable action sequences. On top of that, this film manages to perfectly conclude an epic trilogy while also connecting it directly to the beloved Lord of the Rings movies. Add an awesome soundtrack and completely phenomenal acting; what more could you ask for from this final chapter? As a massive Middle-Earth fan, The Battle of the Five Armies is my favorite of The Hobbit trilogy, one of the greatest in the six-movie saga and easily the best film of 2014.

Part 4 - Miracles and second chances - Fiction story - By Michelle Libby

Amaya smiled at her grandmother’s friends as they partied the night away. It was nine o’clock and the guest were still eating, drinking and being merry. There was no sign of them slowing down. Sarah, Amaya’s grandmother, was holding court with Tristan’s grandfather, Curtis, sitting right next to her on the couch. 
They’d cleared the room except for a few chairs and the couch. Tristan borrowed a few more chairs from his friend to round out the seating. She couldn’t stop her eyes from drifting toward Tristan. He stood near the front entry, collecting coats and older women. There were five gathered around him touching his arms and laughing at something he said. He was being a good sport. 

The lights looked amazing outlining the windows, across the garland on the fireplace mantel, and around the balsam pine tree standing in the front window. It had been decorated by the four of them, Amaya, Tristan, Curtis and Sarah. There had been no awkwardness, it was if they had been doing this together forever. 

“Amaya, come over here,” Sarah said, motioning with her hand. “You need to meet my friends.” Amaya pushed off the door jam and walking into the group of seniors. The fawned over her, telling her that she’d saved Christmas, what a perfect idea it had been to decorate her grandmother’s house. After being introduced to everyone in the room she hadn’t already met 100 times, she escaped the crush of people and walked toward Tristan. 

“Here, use this,” one woman said, shoving a plastic plant into Amaya’s hand. She glanced down at it and frowned. Mistletoe. 

Did she have the guts?

He saw her coming over the top of the heads of the women who crowded around him and he smiled. She was coming to rescue him, he knew it. Her light brown hair was pulled up away from her face and neck. He’d been thinking about her and about the column of her neck. 

“Did you see that new movie?” one of the women asked, pulling on the sleeve of his sweater. 

“Um, no I guess I didn’t.” 

“Hi Tristan,” Amaya said. The ladies scattered away. 

“Amaya. You look nice tonight.”

“I have something for you.”

He raised his eyebrows and waited for her to continue. She brought out mistletoe from behind her back.
It took no time for him to realize her intent. She touched her lips to his. They were soft and melted into his. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. She let out a little purr and that one noise was like a switch going off in his brain. He pushed her away and she swayed backward.

What was he thinking? He was still grieving the death of his wife? He wasn’t in love with her? He didn’t know her? He hadn’t created lifelong memories with her? His grandfather had probably seen them kissing. That was going to cause problems.

Her eyes snapped open and he knew he was in trouble.

“Amaya. I’m so sorry.” 

She put her hand up to his face, her lips pursed in disapproval. 

“Please. Let me explain.” He saw the tears in her eyes and his heart cracked worse than when his home burned to the ground. “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect…”

She spun on her heels and all but sprinted down the hall toward the kitchen. He hesitated, not sure if he should follow her or give her space. He touched his lips with his fingertips. He could see feel the pressure of her lips on his. And he could smell the scent of her shampoo, probably because he was still using it when he showered at her place. 

Tristan glanced around the room. Most of the partiers glance away before he could catch their eye. His grandfather, however, had no problem making eye contact and shaking his head. Sitting next to him glaring was Amaya’s grandmother. Oh...

His first thought was getting out of range of the angry grandparents. He didn’t do anything wrong, Amaya kissed him. She started this and somehow he wound up the bad guy. He’d have to make it right. He headed for the kitchen. 

When he got there, she was gone. Vanished. He looked out the back door, but didn’t see her in the yard.
Retreating back to the living room and the party, he dreaded talking to his grandfather. If Amaya was angry at him, then it might jeopardize his grandfather’s relationship with Amaya’s grandmother. Tristan knew they were getting closer every day. He’d be surprised if Curtis came home after the club house was rebuilt. 

“What did you do?” Sarah asked. 

“Nothing. She kissed me. She had mistletoe.” Tristan tried to stage a good defense, but he knew he didn’t stand a chance. 

“I told you not to hurt my granddaughter.”

“I know, Sarah. I didn’t mean to.”

“Did you find her?” Curtis asked. 

Tristan shook his head. 

“You need to find her and make things right,” Curtis continued. “That girl is a gem.” 

“I’ll talk to her, but later. I’m going to go get some air.”

Tristan rifled through the jackets on the banister looking for his. Once he found it, he was out of there. Amaya wouldn’t be gone forever. She’d help them clean up or he’d come back tomorrow to do the dishes and rearrange the furniture. 

The sounds of the paper grew quieter and quieter the further he walked away from the house. His thoughts were jumbled and he didn’t understand what he was feeling. It had been such a crazy four weeks since the fire. 

His grandfather was deliriously happy. Tristan on the other hand was…confused. He hadn’t kissed another woman since the death of his wife. He hadn’t realized that he wanted to until Amaya. When he realized she was going to kiss him, he felt elated, happy, giddy. Once it happened he felt guilt. That’s what had made him push her away. They had never spoken of his wife, never suggested that there might be more than a friendship. 

He stopped when he reached the golf course and the charred remains of his life with his wife. He had no more mementoes, no pictures. He sucked in a deep, cold breath and let it out slowly. 

Light over on the second fairway caught his attention. He hadn’t notice it before, but there in the middle of the property was a tree dressed in white twinkle lights, sparkling and saying “Merry Christmas.” Who had done this? Who had taken the time to run an extension cord from the neighbor’s house? He knew there was only one person who would be that thoughtful.

Movie Review - Exodus: Gods and Kings - review by Stephen Signor

To date, this has to be without a doubt the easiest review I have done. The announcement of a director/producer Ridley Scott film is usually enough motivation for me to attend. The only other encouragement would have to come from a stellar cast of veteran actors. With Exodus: Gods and Kings I got both for the price of one admission with Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley as headliners. What you just read was my mindset before I went into the theatre; a fantasy.
Now for the reality, I will dispense with repeating the familiarity of the religious impact and cut to the chase. This is a biblically inspired epic that interprets the familiar and written 1300 B.C.E exodus by the Hebrews from Egypt as led by Moses (Bale). I’ve never been a real fan of his and that shall remain. His character was lengthy in developing and didn’t reach maturity until the final 10 minutes. As for the remaining cast, it was obvious they were out of their element compared to previous roles. It was difficult, yet amusing to see Turturro (Seti) wearing makeup. I get it that it was typical for the time period but I just could not get past it. He couldn’t either.

A few battle sequences were impressive and Scott did bring new life to the story of the defiant Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), leading over a half million slaves on their escape from Egypt. The utilization of state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion was effective in demonstrating the terror of the seven plagues and devastating effects that followed. Yet there are a few other moments, that I cannot disclose but can relay, that fell short of moving me.

On a rare real bright side was the 5,000 plus character extras. I seemed more captivated by their movements, actions and when appropriate, dialogue. And then there was the boy called Malak, who serves as a representative of God and Moses’ guiding force. This role was convincingly done by Isaac Andrews who you may remember from this year’s Hercules.  All being said, I can only give this movie a rating of 2 1/2 stars which I feel is in some respect, generous.

Movie Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings (PG-13) - review by Daniel Kilgallon

 Run Time: 150 min

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a new biblically-inspired epic film from critically acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner). The movie has a pretty solid cast led by Academy Award winner Christian Bale along with Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Signourey Weaver and Ben Kingsley. I was really looking forward to this movie largely due to the star power of Christian Bale. He is one of my absolute favorite actors and I am a huge fan of all of his work, particularly his iconic portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, his Oscar-winning performance as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter, and of course, perhaps his most well-known role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolans Dark Knight Trilogy. If for nothing more than to hold me off until the release of the Middle Earth sagas final chapter this week, I think it is fair to say that I was pretty excited to see this epic.

Exodus is simply a modern retelling of the story of Moses from the second book of the Hebrew Bible, describing the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The defiant leader Moses (Bale), a former general and member of the royal family turned shepherd, rises up against the tyrannical rule of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Edgerton). Moses sets 600,000 Hebrew slaves free and leads them on an escape journey from Egypt and the seemingly constant string of plagues that devastates the country.

As expected, this film was incredibly epic and simply enormous in scale. I thought that director Ridley Scott did an exceptional job capturing the scope of Egypt, as well as a few big time battle scenes throughout the movie. All in all, this film was more than satisfying from a visual standpoint and that alone made the lengthy two and a half hour run time very thrilling for the most part. That being said, I think that Christian Bale really stole the show in the movie. Bale is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today and he proves it once more with his outstanding portrayal of the larger than life character of Moses. As with most biblical films, Exodus does have a few slow parts, however, in comparison, I thought this movie was better than the film Noah from earlier this year. Overall, Exodus: Gods and Kings is an entertaining, well-acted film that is truly epic.