Rapid Eye Reviews: The Hobbit, Into the Woods, The Imitation Game, and Annie (2014)

Following what I did for my last post, I wanted to include another set of Rapid Eye Reviews for four movies I saw in 2014 . . .

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

With the lowest of expectations, I walked into the theater seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. And while the film may not be worthy of the score I am giving it, I couldn’t help but praise this part of The Hobbit for being more than what I found the first two parts lacking in: an actual story. I could spend this entire rapid review easily complaining about Peter Jackson destroying Tolkien’s classic novel by dividing it into three overly long films, but instead, I’d like to point out what did work in this final offering. A driven plot, a shorter film, a score that brings fans of the Lord of the Rings films back to the best moments, and a cast who delivers their best work (Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, and Luke Evans) kept me fully engaged during the entire screen time. Of course, I had several issues with the addition of characters, major plot points rewrites, and the poor decision to change too much of the source material, which gave viewers three underwhelming films that could have made one incredibly compelling and worthwhile movie. But I felt like The Battle of the Five Armies‘s greatest boo boos were made in the preceding two films, allowing this third chapter to not be overshadowed with the blatant errors An Unexpected Journey (2012) and The Desolation of Smaug (2013) suffered from.

I realize I set myself apart from the majority by claiming The Battle of the Five Armies delivered more than the first two films, but I cautiously award the last chapter of The Hobbit with

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ON SCREEN.

 

Into the Woods

Into the Woods worked on a musical level, because the talent hired to sing did exceptionally well. A well-rounded cast led by Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, and Anna Kendrick made Into the Woods better than your average stage-adapted-to-screen musical. And while the story is a bit weird, it wasn’t until it hit clunky territory in Act 3 (of what I deem to be a musical divided into three parts) that I really started to lose faith in the production. Without explanation, a couple of characters seem to experience bi-polar disorder, and the witch disappears . . . but is she really dead, or just gone? A secondary plot takes over the story near the end, and the story doesn’t bother filling in some pretty glaring blanks. While viewers can handle a sad ending, the way by which the story reached its conclusion felt oddly unsatisfying, breaching a territory that makes you almost not care. From what I’ve talked about with friends more familiar with the musical, certain songs were cut from the film adaptation, while the narrator, the protagonist, and perhaps a few plot points were changed. Into the Woods missteps at the climax of the story, leaving no possibility of coming back.

If I were judging on the casting, music, subtle sense of humor, and costumes alone, I’d consider bumping the score up. But the script issues leave me no choice but to give Into the Woods 

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

 

The Imitation Game

If I had time, I would have written a double review on both The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, considering all the similarities the two films share. A lot has been said for Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of Alan Turing. For those familiar with his more popular work, one would expect him to played a tortured genius, channeling his inner-Sherlockian methods and falling back on his experience from playing Julian Assange in 2013’s The Fifth Estate. Turing, however, is an altogether different type of genius, and I can only imagine producers picturing Cumberbatch as the perfect actor to fit the stereotype the writers developed in their version of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Research shows how far from the civilization the film’s writers traveled when penning a screenplay that doesn’t mirror the person of Alan Turing, the circumstances that surrounded Bletchley Park, and the actual story of how Turing creates his machine. But if you can pardon all of the serious liberties taken in telling the story, then you can probably enjoy The Imitation Game. The supporting performances from Kiera Knightly and Matthew Goode ought not to be overlooked in a review that praises the film.

Wishing it could have decoded a little more, but still impressed with the results, I found it necessary to rate The Imitation Game with

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ON SCREEN.

 

Annie

It’s a hard-knock experience for those who venture to enjoy themselves during the abominable remake of Annie. I struggle to admit I was actually excited for this film when it was first announced, given my love for Jamie Foxx, whom I was convinced could do very little wrong on screen. It is not his, nor little Q’s fault for why Annie struck out at every curve. Music should breathe life into a musical, not suffocate and torture its viewers/listeners. Even if most of the actors have decent voices, the songs are bogged down by over-editing, forced pacing, heavy beats, and an overindulgent hip-hop/remix vibe that utterly destroys the classic songs that defined the original film, earning its beloved seat in musical history. Had I been offered a reprieve from one disastrous number to the next, I may have appreciated a small percentage of the changes the writers and producers applied to the remake. By the end of the film, it seemed not like the modern-day Annie that could have introduced an entirely new generation to the story, but a confused film that felt so grossly out of its own league. And don’t get me started on Cameron Diaz’s over-the-top acting . . .

I give my lowest score of 2014 to this sad, sad version of Annie, a disappointing

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ON SCREEN.

 

What did you think of these movies? Would you have rated them any higher/lower?

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24 thoughts on “Rapid Eye Reviews: The Hobbit, Into the Woods, The Imitation Game, and Annie (2014)

    • Hey Abbi! Yeah, Into the Woods just felt all over the place for me. I couldn’t keep up with why certain characters kept changing how they felt or what they did. I imagine the stage production probably addresses those issues.

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  1. Fun reviews. I have only seen Into the Woods and I agree with you that last act is such a bummer. Up until Cinderella’s wedding I was loving it and then it all went to pot. I know that is the way the play is but with an intermission a change in tone and whole new story doesn’t feel so off putting. I guess it is one instance where they shouldn’t have been so faithful to the source material. I can’t imagine taking kids to it.
    I’m bummed about Annie because like you I was sort of excited. The trailers had won me over and the girls did a performance on Dancing with the Stars that was charming. But everyone I know and respect who has seen it hated it. Too bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Kris, great mini reviews here. I haven’t got a chance to review Imitation Game yet but I agree w/ your assessment. It’s a good film but nothing spectacular or groundbreaking despite the excellent cast. I still like it enough that it’d end up in my top 10 but not good enough to make it to my top 3.

    Into The Woods is just awful in terms of script, it only has some memorable parts but overall it’s just boring to me. I have ZERO interest in Annie. Never seen the play either but I prefer things like Phantom of the Opera or Les Miz anyway, so for sure I’d avoid the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Ruth! Yeah, I totally feel ya with The Imitation Game. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t so blown away by it like I was expecting to be. It was really good, but not great, if that makes sense? Haha.

      What’s sad to me is that I think with the stellar cast, they could have done more with it, and I think they could have done better!

      Haha, well, Annie was terrible. I actually do like the original Annie film. There are much better musicals out there to check out, two of which you mentioned!

      Liked by 1 person

        • TBH, I imagine it’s come down to marketing and push. The Imitation Game is just gaining more traction than Gone Girl right now, it seems. I really wonder if Gone Girl will get any other nominations aside from score and best actress.

          It’s funny – I enjoyed The Imitation Game more than Gone Girl, but I really do think Gone Girl was a much better film. I think we’re all reminded how much these awards ceremonies are political and popularity contests, not to mention subject to such subjective taste.

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    • Hey Katy! Thanks! I’ll be curious to see what you think of both. I loved Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly in The Imitation Game (Matthew Goode is great in it too!).

      The entire cast is pretty awesome in Into the Woods. The story didn’t do it for me as much (and I think there were a decent amount of rewrites from the original), but I thought the music was pretty good too. Look out for Chris Pine in it . . . he is hilarious!

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  3. Agree with much of what you have to say regarding Hobbit 3 and The Imitation Game. For what it was, I enjoyed The Battle of the Five Armies and there’s no denying Martin Freeman’s tremendous turn as Bilbo Baggins across all three films. Cumberbatch is also really excellent in The Imitation Game, but the film left something to be desired for me. Great reviews!

    Adam.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Adam! Thanks so much for your kind words. I think the way you worded it – “the film left something to be desired for me” – is exactly how I felt. TIG was really good, but it felt incomplete, like some major thing I was supposed to get out of it was missing.

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  4. I rated The Hobbit much lower…didn’t like that one very much. No character development, hardly any story and not enough actual hobbit.

    As for The Imitation Game I think that if you start comparing movies to real events most of the biopics won’t work. Just looking at it as a movie it was excellent and the most important message reached its audience: How smart Turing was and how important his work was and that society should be ashamed on how it treated him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Nostra! Ya know, I can’t really blame you. It was for more sentimental reasons that I rated The Hobbit higher. As a film, I don’t think it was great, but I connected well with it in comparison to how I felt about the previous two Hobbit films. But you do make a lot of good points, and I also agree that the storytelling was NOT good in the film.

      I totally get what you’re saying, but for me, I felt like The Imitation Game took one too many liberties by saying that Alan Turing committed suicide when he didn’t. For me, the overall tone of the movie is smeared when they dishonor the person they are portraying with that big of an error. The film itself worked great – I thought it was one of the stronger movies of the year, for sure. But the other major reason I didn’t rate it higher is that I felt slightly unsatisfied at the end of the film, like something was missing. And I can’t quite put my finger on what IT was, but there was something that made the movie feel like there was something to be desired.

      I do think you’re right that the overall message of the movie gets across to the audience, and that was why I gave it a 3/4 score. Good thoughts, Nostra!

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  5. Some great reads over here!

    I’m skipping Annie. No reason to watch it. Well, I love Bryne and all, but even she cannot sell it to me.

    I am going to wait until a box set of The Hobbit is out on Bluray and catch up since I haven’t watched any of them!

    As for Imitation Game and Into The Woods, I”ll get around to those soon. I’m so behind on Oscar shit. I think it is because they all look so manufactured for Oscars and the plots don’t appeal to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, TCM! 😀

      Haha, great choice on skipping Annie. It is sooooo not worth your time.

      I’ll be curious to hear what you think of The Hobbit films. I am a huge fan of LOTR, but The Hobbit films mostly disappointed me.

      Lol, well, it’s difficult to keep up on all the big movies during Oscar season, especially when so many of them are released in limited areas, and then they don’t show up in your area until a couple weeks before the awards. I agree that multiple films this year seem to be Oscar-baitish. It’s a shame.

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