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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AEOS Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

If you’re looking for a family-friendly, entertaining and fun movie, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is the movie to go see this summer.

I have to admit, when I first heard of it, I wasn’t super excited to see it. This isn’t because the trailer didn’t look intriguing, because it looked funny enough to me. I now love the song “Hooked on a Feeling” because of the trailers. But a movie with a tree and a talking raccoon and green, pink, and blue people . . . I wasn’t sure if there would be too big of a learning curve to understand the terminology, characters, and places within the Guardians of the Galaxy universe. I wasn’t sure if I were geeky enough to be a fan.

The movie opens with a young Peter Quill Star Lord, who awkwardly watches in terror as his mother dies. We don’t know anything about his father, other than that he will eventually arrive to take care of him. Then suddenly, little Peter runs outside, and a space ship sucks him up. And then we’re somewhere brand new.

Introduce a whole new space world where it’s normal to be blue or green or probably any other color for that matter. Twenty-six years have passed. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has grown up, and he’s on a mission to retrieve an orb. After he duels it out with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and escapes, Korath reports back to Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) that Peter has made off with orb. Ronan assigns Nebula (Karen Gillan) the task to reclaim the orb, but Gamora (Zoe Saldana) proposes she go instead.

Meanwhile, Peter’s partner, Yondu (Michael Rooker), wants the orb for himself, but Peter decides to sell it to another buyer. Everything seems to be fine until Peter mentions the name “Ronan,” and the buyer suddenly loses all interest in the orb.

Quill, however, doesn’t have much time to decide what he wants to do with the orb, because others are interested in it. Enter Gamora, who doesn’t bother flirting for more than thirty seconds before snatching the orb and making a run for it. Enter one crazy, gun-toting raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), followed by his tree partner, Groot (Vin Diesel), who handles the heavy-lifting end of their team. They’ve discovered the bounty for capturing Peter Quill, and they’re out to retrieve him, while Gamora and Quill are fighting over possession of the orb. Soon we have four characters in a tangled mess, while we still are not exactly sure why the orb is so important.

Unfortunately for the four thieves, they are captured and thrown into a space prison by Nova Headquarters, headed by Nova Prime (Glen Close). In prison, we meet Drax (Dave Bautista) who has a score to settle with Ronan, who murdered his wife and daughter. Drax has it out for Gamora, who he believes is in league with Ronan. Peter, Rocket, and Groot team together to break out of prison. Gamora strikes a deal with them, offering up money to let her join in on the prison break. We learn that Gamora has her own plans aside from Ronan’s, and seeks to get out from under his heavy grasp. Drax eases his way into the group, also wanting to be released and gain vengeance for his loved ones by killing Ronan. The five fight together to break out of prison, and we start to learn each of the character’s goals, their desires for what each would like to do with the orb, and the importance behind the orb.

While I feel like the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy is a little convoluted, involving a lot of strange new characters and places, I do feel like the film picks up speed, gets to the point, and has such a fun time doing it. I recently read a very helpful article over at EW that answered some questions and explained some of the terminology and overall storyline regarding the purple infinity stone and the infinity stone belt. I’d recommend it to anyone, like me, who isn’t very familiar with the universe.

During some of the space fights, I felt like Guardians was inspired a little by the original Star Wars films, and I couldn’t help but think of them as they were flying around. Bradley Cooper does great voice work as the snarky, sarcastic Rocket Raccoon. Plus, I think it’s the first and probably only time I thought a raccoon could be cute. Chris Pratt, instead of needing to rise to the challenge, seems to naturally fit the role to play a silly, meaningful leader in the film. It’s as if he’s discovered the role he was always meant to play. Both the villains and heroes were played by a strong cast proven to be fully devoted to the film’s script and tone. For me, the writing seemed to get sharper as the film continued, and the humor seems universally-appealing to a large scope of viewers. The line “finger to the throat means death” made me laugh, followed by Drax’s explanation that “nothing goes over my head!” The editor inside of me is glad he eventually learned what a metaphor is.

Aside from the humor of the film, I felt like it touched on some deeper ideas, balancing the film with action, emotion, and humor, with some intentional deep thought throughout. I was caught off-guard to hear Rocket bitingly respond that although everyone’s lost people, it’s not an excuse to give up. It’s true that everyone has lost someone. That fact doesn’t make a person exceptional, nor should it exclude one from moving on in life. I appreciated the emotional lesson of his line, although his lack of compassion seemed more balanced by Drax’s character, who admirably fought Ronan, quickly learning that although he couldn’t defeat him, he would die trying if necessary. Even Peter revealed his softer side, risking his life to rescue his walkman with the “Awesome Mix,” which is, by the way, awesome.

And speaking of the Awesome Mix, one of my favorite parts, and perhaps one of the best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy is its soundtrack. Some of the people who attended the movie with me mentioned they had never heard any of the music before. I guess that says something about my age, considering that I knew most of the music already. It’s a great soundtrack, and I’m sure it will boost sales for the oldies that haven’t been bought in a while.

The Marvel cinematic universe has launched another successful film. I give Guardians of the Galaxy

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Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!