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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Month in Review: November 2014

Popular Posts in November

Fairy Tale Blogathan: Sabrina (1995)

Matinee Podcast: Big Hero 6 (2014)

Shame List #25: The Shining (1980)

Not a Review: Interstellar (2014)

AEOS Review: Whiplash (2014)

New Movies I Saw in Theaters

Big Hero 6

Birdman
Review coming soon!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Review coming soon!

Interstellar

Theory of Everything
Review coming soon!

Whiplash

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

Whiplash

While Whiplash probably made me more uncomfortable in a movie theater than what I’m accustomed to, I cannot help but praise this film as one of the best of the year. It’s a film I’d like to add to my collection, even if I watch it only once every couple of years. The performances do not carry, but rather complement a film that gives us great music, an interesting perspective on performance arts, and a great story to tell.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

 Theory of Everything

Now technically I saw Theory of Everything early this month, but since the film was released in November, and I’m a bit behind in posting November’s month in review, I thought it was safe to add to this month. Theory of Everything isn’t so much a bad film as it’s more of a “been here, done that” misdemeanor in film. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, or that I think it’s a bad film. I don’t. It just happens to come in last place for the new films I saw in theaters over the month of November.

Looking Forward to December

It is a little crazy to think we are nearing the end of 2014 this quickly. I, for one, have had an incredible 2014, having returned to blogging this July after a long year and a half hiatus. But I’ll save that talk for future posts. December boasts a LOT of big films, similarly to November. I doubt I’ll catch all, much less most of these films this month. But hey, that’s what January is for, right?

Because there are so many films I’m itching to see this month, I’m going to limit this list to my top five I’m most excited for.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (12/16)

I have so much love for the Lord of the Rings universe Peter Jackson created on-screen. While I have not been a fan of the first two The Hobbit offerings, I am still excited for this finale. We really haven’t gotten to see much of the actual material from the book unfold on screen, so I’m looking forward to what Mr. Jackson has in store for us.

Into the Woods (12/25)

I’ve been anticipating Into the Woods since a teaser first arrived online. Now while I haven’t seen the musical production of this, I think the premise is interesting, and I’m very excited to see so many of the actors and actresses I love grace the screen in a musical. My sister and I have established a tradition over the past several years to see a movie in theaters Christmas night. Since I met my hubby Matt in 2012, he has come along, making it that much more fun. Into the Woods is the movie I hope to see this Christmas.

Unbroken (12/25)

I know way less about Unbroken than I’d like, but I’ve read raving reviews for the book it is based on. I’ve also researched how Angelina Jolie came into contact with the man whose story is Unbroken, so I’m curious to see how Jolie’s latest return to the director’s chair will pan out. This movie promises inspiration for a story that looks devastating. It reminds me a little bit of 12 Years a Slave (2013) in the trailer.

Big Eyes (12/25)

I haven’t always been a huge fan of Amy Adams. Sometimes I love her, and other times I don’t care for her roles. But Big Eyes attracts me even more given that Tim Burton is the director. While Burton always dabbles in the unusual, Big Eyes doesn’t seem to be his usual fare. And with Christoph Waltz, I can’t help but be curious about this unusually appealing film.

Selma (12/25)

Selma will be a limited-release film that I probably won’t get to see until January. That said, this movie looks incredible from the trailer, and it’s full of huge actors. I’ve been seeing trailers for this only within the past month, so my guess is that the push will be around Christmas/New Years into January. I really think this movie is going to be nominated for a lot of awards.

Since December is such a huge month for films, here is a list of other films released in December I’m still excited to see, even if I don’t get to them until January/February next year:

Wild (12/3)

Inherent Vice (12/12)

Annie (12/19)

American Sniper (12/25)

The Gambler (12/25)

A Most Violent Year (12/31)

It’s your turn now. What were the best and worst movies you saw in November? What movies are you anticipating in December? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.