The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Viewed – 16 December 2014  Cinema

Although with mixed feelings over this trilogy compared to the seminal masterworks of The Lord of the Rings, I was still optimistic walking into this final entry in director Peter Jackson’s fleshed out (and fleshed out) adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s classic novel.  We join Bilbo and his merry band of Dwarves, headed by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) housed up in the misty mountain following resident dragon Smaug having broke free and now laying siege to the nearby city of Lake Town.  With riches beyond compare and the search for the Arkenstone underway, Thorin has become corrupted by the greed and lust to take his place as King, and only Bilbo has the power to help having stolen the stone in case it made the dwarf leader even worse.  Meanwhile with the mountain now dragon-free, armies begin to approach for their share of the gold, and war looms.

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Immediately this is a more dramatic and action-packed entry in the middle earth cannon and things are kicking off pretty much from the start, with the lead up to conflict pretty tense.  However the corruption of Thorin and the Dwarves hanging around the mountain is a tad drawn out and I was eager for something to happen – and oh, did it!  A massive,  immense battle with legions upon legions of elves, orks, humans and dwarves all fighting … yet it was also pretty difficult to care all that much when it seemed like everyone was just out for a bigger piece of the pie – battle for middle earth (or helm’s deep for that matter) this was not.  So then I was beginning to really find the dwarves annoying and wishing they’d never gone on their fabled journey, pissed off a dragon, causing countless deaths as a result.  The whole quest as I’ve said before just not really seeming as necessary as what we see in LOTR.  Are we really meant to care?  No, and not even the director does it seems when the much sort after Arkenstone gets forgotten about entirely in the final act (but will no doubt re-surface in the extended edition…).

That being said this was still a treat for CGI fans and does boast excellent fight sequences (the showdown between Thorin and the Ork baddie especially) and good turns from Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Sir Ian McKellen as the always excellent Gandalf.  Martin Freeman’s Bilbo remains a bit tiresome however for the lead, lacking the personality or depth of the likes of Elija Wood’s Frodo Baggins or Viggo Mortenson’s Aragorn.  As a conclusion, this had plenty of energy and spectacle but lacked much of the wonder, diversity of locations and the sheer fantasy appeal of the other movies in the series … and for me is the weakest of the trilogy.

Verdict  3 /5

All next-gen’d out


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I say all, that is if you don’t count the Wii-U.  The other day I finally picked up a PlayStation 4.  Yes I got a PS4 to go with my Xbox One.  All kitted out for this apparent ‘next-gen’ of gaming platforms, and yes feel pretty good about it.  I hesitated for a long time over the PS4, not because I didn’t think it was a good console.  It’s very much a good console, but at the time I chose the XB1, it was the games, primarily the exclusives and well, familiarity and comfort with the brand that made my decision.  A year on, and well, it’s nice to have something new, isn’t it?

I was very much sold by the new ‘glacier white’ edition Sony had released in wake of Destiny, and thought it was a good a time as any to buy.  The games I feel are still not quite there for me, with exclusives like Uncharted 4 and The Order 1886 still scheduled for next year, and it lacks that killer-app compared to XB1 (Sunset Overdrive, to some extent also Halo: The Master Chief Collection) but I did pick the console up with Drive Club.  I also traded some games to get my hands on Assassin’s Creed Unity, one of the best looking multi-platform titles currently available, and that alone shows off my purchase pretty well.

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- direct capture using the ‘share button’ -

What do I think of the machine as far as how it works?  Slick and familiar are the words that come to mind.  The operating system isn’t as colourful or flashy as XB1, and goes for a somewhat clean and smooth version of PS3’s cross media bar which was never that appealing.  Sony haven’t tried anything radically new here but it functions well enough.  I haven’t got to grips with the ‘share’ button or the Share Factory feature, which is PS4’s version of XB1’s Upload and Record That features, and at first glance they look more clunky (but got to love the screen shot capture feature).  I am also quite disappointed that PS4 does not support external HDD’s for improving the storage space (you can use an external HDD but it only allows back ups and the storage of media, not for playing your downloaded games off …unlike XB1), which could be an issue, and I for one would rather not open up my PS4 to install an internal HDD.  It is very fast at installing games off the Blu-ray though…big difference compared to XB1.

Only the future and playing more games will really prove this machine’s value in comparison to the XB1, and I’ve still yet to see the value in the touch-pad or speaker on the controller (which does feel very nice I might add).  Early days but I’ll report more as I find it.

Glacier White PS4

This year’s disappointments


The end of the year is approaching and as always with this blog I will be posting my personal Top Ten, based on movies I have seen in the last twelve months.  It’s very difficult as a complete amateur movie critic as I am literally unable to watch every new movie that hits cinemas, so compile my list from the newest movies I have seen during the year, even if some came out the year before etc.FROZEN

Compiled below are a few movies that left me wanting, movies that although not a disaster, could have been much better – or were hyped to be much better.  You may or may not agree with my choices, and feel free to comment.  But for now these are my disappointments of 2014…

RoboCop

Remakes are never that great granted, but wasn’t this classic sci-fi thriller ripe for an update?  So what do we get … a re-tread of the original, but seriously watered down and completely devoid of both the violence and the social commentary that made the 1987 original so memorable.  Paul Verheoven must have been offended how much the director ‘didn’t get’ his vision, and even some pretty decent action and not-bad casting could not save this.

Frozen

When will I stop hearing about this pretty, fun but utterly generic Disney movie?  One memorable song, some fun comedy characters but typical Disney Princess fair that lacked ideas and originality.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie – but as good as EVERYONE goes on about …. no.  Give me Beauty & The Beast any day of the week.

Godzilla

This did a lot right, it did a lot wrong too.  A monster-mash that takes most of the movie to actually happen, and decent casting that is all but wasted.  Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston – that’s all I need to say, but nooo, let’s make Kick-Ass the star instead.  Wrong!  Great effects work aside and some nail biting moments, but overall this could have, should have been much more.

Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

Simple, how do you mess up a perfectly decent reboot of a popular franchise?  How about only one action sequence of any note and the casting of Keira KnightleyChris Pine, fresh off Star Trek does a good enough job, but this was mostly Bourne-light with a clichéd story and not enough boom for my buck.  Could have been superb, but was mostly ‘meh.

Wolf Creek 2

Rave reviews don’t mean a decent experience I am quickly realising.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of WC #1 but this promised everything that movie lacked, like a faster pace and tons more gore and violence.  Yet an overly tongue-in-cheek tone and way too many one-liners just killed this for me.  Could have been a first rate shit yourself slasher, but instead I got a second rate piss myself farce.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Still despite the best intentions this reboot of the blockbuster franchise still underwhelms.  I can’t get used to Andrew Garfield as Spidy/Peter Parker and even the casting of Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly poor.  The overly kiddie-friendly tone doesn’t help either.  Great special effects though.

The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli is always an event to me, and their animation style can never be faulted.  However with this rather personal swan-song for director Hayao Myazaki the subject seemed rather niche and the characters not overly compelling, and the whole movie despite being well done, lacked that spark that makes Ghibli great.  Stunning to look at but not that memorable, even more disappointing considering it’s the famed director’s final movie.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Another highly acclaimed movie, another one that left me feeling cold.  The plot was muddled, relied too heavily on you knowing what happened in all the other X-Men movies, and some fun time travel mechanics and a great cast of characters couldn’t save this fun, action-packed but ultimately confusing and messy movie.  Never get tired of Mystique kicking ass though.

There you go.  I may add to this list if December throws up any further disappointments, but with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Exodus: Gods & Kings and also Guardians Of The Galaxy all to come (hopefully), maybe that won’t happen.  Also expect my definitive end of year Top Ten around New Year’s eve.

Console exclusivity strikes again!


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Well have been reading this weekend about the somewhat unexpected announcement of Street Fighter V, and the fact it will be exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PC when it’s released.  Now I like Street Fighter and think it’s a good win for PS4, as their exclusives have been a bit lacking – but it’s also a series that has a very niche following.  I can’t play it online for getting my arse handed to me, and well beyond the art style it has very little to offer single player gamers (especially SF IV).  So not too peeved as an XB1 owner.  I intend to finally get a PS4 next year, but until then I’m happy with the games XB1 has, including exclusives like Sunset Overdrive and Quantum Break.

Now what does annoy me is that the huge backlash Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics got when they announced Tomb Raider would be a (timed) exclusive for their console, so far doesn’t seem to be happening with this announcement – showing how biased towards Sony the industry has got for a company whose last console was a bit over a slow burner – why the love?  why the unabashed support for it? 

Competition and exclusivity is good though, keeps things interesting, sells consoles but bias and fan boy outrage and backlash does not – get a grip people and just enjoy the games!