Movie Review: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit 3 - from New Line Cinema and others - movie poster - from

Lake-town is burning!

The final installment in the heretofore uneven Hobbit trilogy begins with a bang, keeps a powerful pacing throughout its surprisingly short running time, and for the most part makes for a highly, unexpectedly satisfying conclusion to both its own story and to Peter Jackson’s overall journey through Middle-earth.
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Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 - Walt Disney - movie poster - from

Are you satisfied with your care?

Absolutely fantastic!

Disney does Marvel at least as well as Marvel does, with this gift of a film proving itself hilarious, exciting, touching, sad, and inspirational all at once.

This adorable tale of a boy, his inflatable robot companion, and a team of super-friends isn’t just another genre origin story. While it nails that aspect, the movie deals with themes much more close to home that I rarely see in a children’s film–grief, and healing.

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Movie Review: The Book of Life (marked spoiler)

The Book of Life - Twentieth Century Fox, Reel FX Animation Studios, and Chatrone - movie poster - from

Technically the film came two weeks early.

This animated trip through the Mexican Day of the Dead, produced in part by Guillermo del Toro but directed by Jorge Gutierrez, is a movie completely at odds with itself from start to finish. The art style, in which the characters look like highly articulated wooden dolls and are surrounded by endless bursts of color, is incredible and is like nothing I’ve ever seen in a movie. The story is an unfocused mess, pouring father-child issues, animal rights, women’s rights, romance, personal maturity, and self-determination into one film whose central good-versus-evil plot is as multilayered as the setting itself. The story really is a gorgeous and well-meaning celebration of a culture viewers might be unfamiliar with, but ultimately its appeal will depend on how much you expect a movie’s logic to hold up under scrutiny.

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Mental Wellness in Movies: Reign Over Me

Sony Pictures, Relativity Media, et al. - Reign Over Me - movie poster - from

Of his films that I’ve watched, I never thought of Adam Sandler as a serious or skilled actor, yet here he is as Charlie Fineman, a man who still grieves years onward from the loss of his family in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Despite some missteps in other areas, the movie treats its setting and context with respect, and there are no jokes made at the expense of this disastrous day’s victims or even of the terrorists, who are simply referred to as monsters–“humans” would be better, but the word choices could have been and sometimes are much worse. Don Cheadle plays Sandler’s former college roommate Alan Johnson, a dentist who spends much of the film helping Charlie emotionally recover. (Adam is “Charlie,” and Cheadle is “Alan.” Don’t get confused.) Their friendship forms much of the core of this film, and on the whole, that story is something of a pleasant surprise.

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Movie Review: God’s Not Dead (marked minor spoiler)

Pure Flix Productions - God's Not Dead - movie poster - from


Kevin Sorbo (yep, Hercules) plays a smug, evil, atheistic college professor who belittles and antagonizes Josh Wheaton and anyone else who dares stand up for the idea that God exists. As a result, the young student Wheaton’s duty–which is literally forced on him by Professor Radisson–is to defend the existence of God or risk failing a philosophy class that rarely if ever discusses much philosophy.

God’s Not Dead has a few isolated but truly precious successes that keep the film from being a total waste, but they don’t outweigh the vicious and cliched writing, the mediocre acting (except from Sorbo, of course, and a few others), or the excessive running time of a story that ends well before its movie does.

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Dedicated Post: How to Train Your Dragon 2

DreamWorks Animation and Mad Hatter Entertainment - How to Train Your Dragon 2 - movie poster - from


DreamWorks Animation’s latest feature takes nearly everything that was great about the first How to Train Your Dragon film and expands on it. The characters are funnier, and none of them are nearly as annoying as they sometimes used to be. The setting was gorgeous to start with, but its scope now seems to accommodate the viewer’s imagination instead of feeling more restricted to what can reasonably be shown in a movie. Most importantly, regardless of the story’s remaining flaws, it does way too much right for me to call it anything less than excellent.

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Movie Review: From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli et al. - From Up on Poppy Hill - from

Studio Ghibli continues to overwhelm. From Up on Poppy Hill is a masterpiece of animation from director Goro Miyazaki, and it gives me great confidence that he will someday be able to carry on the legacy of his famous father Hayao, who co-wrote this Tetsurō Sayama-adapted screenplay with Keiko Niwa and was responsible for films such as Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso.

An artistically and emotionally beautiful period piece set in an early-1960s Yokohama, the film is incredibly moving both as a love story and as an ode to historical preservation and is easily one of the most spectacular successes I’ve witnessed in years.

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Movie Review: The Artist

The Weinstein Company et al. - The Artist - movie poster - from

Don’t let the name bother you–The Artist is not a complex work, and you need not be a film expert in order to appreciate it. A French, silent, monochrome production might or might not have been the most obvious choice to win the “Best Picture” Academy Award, but director Michel Hazanavicius and an excellent cast tell a classic if occasionally simplistic story of a cinema legend adapting to a bold and unfamiliar time.

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[NSFW – graphic imagery warning] Movie Review: The Passion of the Christ

Icon Productions - The Passion of the Christ - movie poster - from

Despite the poster and the film, Easter is a joyous occasion. Jesus is risen indeed.

I really don’t know how much I actually need to say. Mel Gibson’s blockbuster arrived to mixed reviews, made a boatload of cash on a small budget, and laughed at the face of any sort of “bad publicity” it may have gotten, earning a few well deserved Academy Award nominations for the effort. The story, though still slightly embellished, is a simple retelling of the final hours of Jesus Christ’s life and is relatively predictable compared to Scorsese’s own rendering of the event.

The Passion is not primarily about narrative, which for some viewers may serve to be its undoing, along with the sheer amount of blood and gore that literally fills most of the movie’s running time. Is it necessary to watch this, as an adult or particularly as a teenager, to comprehend and appreciate what Jesus went through? That’s not an easy question for me to answer, but the film has a macabre talent, and it shows it off all too well.

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Movie Review: The Last Temptation of Christ (marked spoilers)

Universal Pictures and Cineplex Odeon Films - The Last Temptation of Christ - movie poster - from  setiawan/lima-film-yang-pemutarannya-dilarang-karena-menyinggung-agama-  071819348.html

We are not off to a happy start.

“Is there a story,” I once asked myself, “where instead of an ordinary person being propped up on a pedestal and touted as a Christ figure, the reverse happens?” I’d long imagined Jesus and Mary Magdalene enjoying an evening in a corner diner, savoring life at its most mundane as any of us might do.

Director Martin Scorsese, who himself loves The Robe and introduces the fiftieth-anniversary edition, places on the screen a book adaptation that I must first describe as “riveting.” For better or worse, the story openly acknowledges and embraces its scriptural divergences, which it uses to create an original if sometimes reckless narrative that mostly remains powerful all the way through.

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