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?

Rapid Eye Reviews: The Theory of Everything, Wild, and Nightcrawler (2014)

I’ve finished posting about my resolutions for 2015. Before I wrap up last year by posting all of my best and worst lists, I wanted to post some Rapid Eye Reviews for three of 2014’s films that I ran out of time to review during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.


 The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything suffers from falling into the all-too-familiar territory of offering nothing more than an average film on the story of a famous person. What makes the film worth seeing are the performances. Eddie Redmayne is truly the star of the film, and I imagine it will thrust him forward in his career towards bigger and better gigs. Of course, I can’t leave out Felicity Jones, because as viewers, we often saw things from her perspective, whether they were for better or for worse, similar to the feelings that erupt from a confused and tired marriage between Stephen and Jane. You won’t find inspiration from the obstacles both Stephen and Jane overcome as much as you’ll contently sit and observe the lives of two adults struggling to cope with Stephen’s deteriorating health, which slowly drives a wedge between Jane and himself. Don’t be fooled by the title: The Theory of Everything is much more of a relational drama than a history of Stephen Hawking’s findings or belief system.

Thanks to some worthwhile performances, I think The Theory of Everything deserves

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ON SCREEN.

 

Wild

I read multiple reviews on Wild before seeing it in theaters, and after seeing it, I think I felt less assured about my own feelings on it. It’s one of those movies that I felt like missed the mark, but not so far that I would call it bad. It fits within the vein of 127 Hours (2010), but it doesn’t hit quite all the right notes like the latter. Yes, it is the story of one Cheryl Strayed, who strayed so far from the straight and narrow that she changed her last name. I can’t discount the film for my dislike of Cheryl, who ultimately tried to redeem herself by hiking over a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail instead of painfully facing her demons by confronting them rather than hiking to reflect over them. I have to give props to Reese Witherspoon, who admitted herself how difficult the filming was. She convincingly plays Cheryl, both in her older and her younger years. One of my biggest issues with Wild, however, is that it tends to jump all over the place, often forgetting where the focus of the film ought to be. Wild seeks to be in the inspirational hit of the year, but it fails, even with Witherspoon’s transformative performance.

Wild remains in good, but not great territory, earning

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

 

Nightcrawler

I’m grateful to everyone who urged me to check out rookie director Dan Gilroy’s noir night thriller Nightcrawler, because I consider it one of the best films of 2014. Nightcrawler, with its simple plot and focus on a singular character whose shades of gray fade to black as he accurately earns the title of a “nightcrawler,” both in career and literal terms, is a thrilling ride from beginning to end. Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal’s head-turning film that urges serious film fans and critics to take his acting more seriously in recent years. His changed appearance and his dedication to the slimy character of Lou Bloom makes for one of the most memorable performances of the year. Nightcrawler engages viewers from the beginning and doesn’t let go, similar to Bloom’s grasp on receiving confirmation and attention from others. What makes Nightcrawler barely lose it’s FOUR EYES ON SCREEN rating for me was the less-than-believable actions by Nina Romina (Rene Russo) throughout the film.

Both a thrill and a horror to watch, I’m glad to give Nightcrawler

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1/2 ON SCREEN.