Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Review

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The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies

Time:
144 Minutes (Theatrical)
164 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian Holm as Old Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin II Oakenshield
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/Sauron
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Aidan Turner as Kíli
Dean O’Gorman as Fíli
Manu Bennett as Azog the Defiler
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Billy Connolly as Dáin II Ironfoot
Stephen Fry as Master of Lake-town
Ryan Gage as Alfrid Lickspittle
Director: Peter Jackson

Having reclaimed Erebor and vast treasure from the dragon Smaug, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) sacrifices friendship and honor in seeking the Arkenstone, despite Smaug’s fiery wrath and desperate attempts by the Hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to make him see reason. Meanwhile, Sauron sends legions of Orcs in a sneak attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, the races of Men, Elves and Dwarves must decide whether to unite and prevail — or all die.

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While I like The Hobbit movies, The Battle of the Five Armies has a lot of issues and is arguably the weakest of the trilogy. Despite many of the problems I have however, I’d say that it works well as a conclusion to the overarching Middle Earth story.

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Director Peter Jackson said that there was enough content to justify three movies, and having seen The Battle of the Five Armies I have to disagree. There are two main events, the battle at Laketown with Smaug and the whole final battle which fills the remaining running time. The narrative focuses on these two major events left in the story and how it bridges them. Smaug is dealt with in the first 15 minutes and while it was well handled, it’s pretty clear that it should’ve been put at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. So the movie is pretty much just about the titular battle and as you can tell, the whole movie is mostly this is one big battle. Leading up to that point, they are really building up this battle. However it doesn’t feel grand and important and epic like it was trying to be. It’s not a problem with the first two movies because those were smaller scale for the most part, but The Battle of the Five Armies is trying so hard to be something big, but it doesn’t work. You don’t care about the large scale stuff but the movie is definitely leaning more towards that than its characters. There is a bit of an emotional disconnect from the story and characters, it certainly doesn’t help that you can figure out most of what happens, it doesn’t actually feel like there are many stakes. When the camera shows a big battle with none of the main players being a part of it, you wonder what the point of it is. If Jackson really wanted to stretch the movies into three, along with the movie being largely about the battle, there’s other opportunities to add some other character building moments or something similar. Unfortunately, some of the characters that have been built up and introduced over the previous two films are squandered in mere cameo roles. It feels like a lot more of the runtime should’ve been spent with characters and their interactions, especially Thorin. Thorin’s madness and greed is a notable plotline, more scenes developing that would’ve been better, and it would suit the darker approach well. There was potential there, there’s some great scenes involving Thorin and Bilbo. Unfortunately, Thorin’s storyline of a man driven to greed is played oddly camp and over the top, and it loses any of its edge and effectiveness, you don’t even really take it seriously. When it does get to the third act, it focuses up a little more onto characters we actually know (as opposed to random CGI creations), and the conclusion was satisfying enough.

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By the time it gets to The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s even more clear that we aren’t really watching an adaptation of The Hobbit, it may bother some but as someone who never read the books I was fine with that. It does try to add as much Tolkien lore as possible. It does feel like fan fiction but with fiction from a fan comes passion, and you can feel the passion throughout. Hence why I’m not with the people calling the movie a cash grab. With that said, it can get a little silly at points, such as Gandalf’s first scene. The movie often tries to throw references to the LOTR trilogy which serves no purpose and felt cheesy and placed into the screenplay to get a reaction from the audience. They don’t really add anything and almost felt lazy at points. As someone who loves The Lord of the Rings trilogy and really likes the first two Hobbit movies, I do wonder what happened with some of the decisions made here. So much of this movie is over the top ridiculous. The Hobbit movies had that and even the Lord of the Rings trilogy had that, but some moments are so silly and goofy that it almost became fascinating, like Peter Jackson is actively trolling the audience or something. At a point I just sort of accepted it but it is beyond jarring. I wasn’t expecting so much stilted and awkward dialogue from characters, I’m not really sure what happened there. The comedy is kind of ridiculous too, I generally like the comedy in the other movies but it’s so over the top here. There’s even a comic relief character that the film keeps cutting to for some reason (and no he’s not funny). While I consider the extended cuts of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy to be the defining versions of these movies, The Hobbit movies are fine enough without them, especially the case with this one. I watched the extended cut, and like with the other Hobbit extended cuts, some new scenes are great, other scenes feel like filler.

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The cast from the past Hobbit movies return, and they are generally pretty good here. Of the characters, Bilbo and Thorin get the most focus, much of the other characters are neglected. Their dynamic is great, but I wish they got a lot more to do. Martin Freeman is good as always as Bilbo, but he doesn’t get to do a whole lot, especially compared to the past movies. Richard Armitage is great as Thorin, especially as it’s going towards the greed storyline involving him. As said before though, I wish the storyline was handled better because it had a lot of potential. Other actors like Ian McKellan, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom and Lee Pace are good in their parts, though don’t get much chances to shine. A distraction character is some side character named Alfrid, who pretty much serves as some random comic relief. He was the deputy of the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) in the last movie, and he was okay in his role. If they really wanted one of the two characters to be the comic relief in this movie, I wish it was Stephen Fry instead. Apparently the reason he is in this so much is because they liked the actor Ryan Gage, and I’m not sure about that reason, because he’s quite annoying in this movie. He’s fine for the first two scenes but they keep giving him scenes. He’s not funny, he doesn’t evolve or change over the course of the movie, and he doesn’t really add anything to the movie. He even dresses up in a corset to pretend to be a woman at a point, and by that point, you just really wonder what Peter Jackson and the rest of the writers were even doing at this point. He gets even more screentime in the extended cut, so if you wanted more reason not to watch that version, there’s that. One surprising addition to the last Hobbit movie was Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, who was quite good. One part relating to her that I didn’t like however was the romantic subplot with her and Kili, it wasn’t really convincing and was a bit of a distraction, but at least it was a small part. In this movie however they leaned even further into that melodramatic subplot, and the romance and the dialogue relating to it can get very soap opera-like, and not in any enjoyable way.

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I’ve generally thought Peter Jackson’s direction of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies have been great, and while I liked some of his work in The Battle of the Five Armies, it has issues. Something about the look of the movie is off, particularly here even when compared to the past movies. It’s got this overly glossy look to it. The Hobbit movies’ effects get worse with every instalment, which means it looks the worst here. Not that it’s all bad, some aspects like Smuag still look fantastic. Where you mainly notice the visual effects issues are in the action scenes, and that’s probably why some of the visuals of the film look quite off. The overuse of CGI and green screen really distracts and makes it a bit of a mess, with far too many sweeping shots of CGI landscapes, townships and castle-rubble. Those types of scenes stood out as looking a bit fake in the other two movies, but at least it wasn’t constant. This movie is mostly a big battle movie however, so they stand out a lot more. It already feels jarring with the past two movies not really being battle movies at all. The action scenes for the most part are good, there are some great set pieces like the opening sequence with Smaug. Each set piece tries so hard to top the next, with large environments being destroyed. A lot of it is really over the top and silly, even by Jackson’s Lord of the Rings standards. Stuff like Legolas jumping up on falling debris is straight out of a video game, in fact any action scene with Legolas takes the edge of the battle scene with his plot armour, though they are undeniably entertaining. A lot of the action doesn’t really have any impact and just feels like computer people attacking each other, mainly because it is. In fact, you could keep some action scenes in and remove others and it wouldn’t change much of the plot at all. The music from Howard Shore is unmemorable but fitting.

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I still like The Battle of the Five Armies but it’s by far the worst instalment in the Middle Earth series. It doesn’t do enough to justify the Hobbit movies as needing three films to deliver the story, and has multiple issues on writing and directing levels. If you didn’t like the previous two movies, you definitely won’t like this one. With that said, I do like it. It has some good moments, the action is gloriously over the top and entertaining, and I enjoyed watching it. I just wish it was much better than it was.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) Review

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Time:
161 Minutes (Theatrical)
186 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield II
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug
Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman
Lee Pace as Thranduil
Stephen Fry as Master of Lake-town
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Graham McTavish as Dwalin
Ken Stott as Balin
Director: Peter Jackson

Having survived the first part of their unsettling journey, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his companions (Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage) continue east. More dangers await them, including the skin-changer Beorn and the giant spiders of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood Elves, Bilbo and the dwarves journey to Lake-town and, finally, to the Lonely Mountain, where they face the greatest danger of all: the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

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As a big fan of The Lord of the Rings movies, I found The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be good but a little disappointing when I first watched it. However, after repeat viewings, I’ve been liking it more over time. Still, I’ve always found the sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, to be an improvement over the first Hobbit movie in some ways.

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First of all, what is immediately noticed is that this movie is a lot faster paced than An Unexpected Journey, mainly because it didn’t need to set up anything with the story or characters, it just heads right into it. At the same time, it does build on the already established characters over time. The tone is a bit all over the place especially with the humour, but it is still a lot better than the first movie’s tone. The movie does feel overstuffed at times but as I said earlier, it moves at a respectable pace, and it still feels less crowded than the last movie. There are worldbuilding scenes with Gandalf after he separates from the Dwarves early on for certain reasons, and I did like that plotline as it was linking into the past Lord of the Rings movies. However the main focus lies with Bilbo and the dwarves as it continues to follow their adventure, and I liked watching that. If you’ve watched the first movie, you can probably tell at this point that they are doing their own thing instead of just being a straight adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Peter Jackson is having these three movies as a prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings trilogy by using The Hobbit as a vessel. He’s taken liberties in deciding what to show, and for the most part I’m on board with them. These Hobbit movies are long but generally I prefer that they are longer than shorter. With regard to the extended cuts in all three movies in the Hobbit Trilogy, there are some great new scenes that add a lot to the world and characters, and there are also some unnecessary additions that weren’t needed. The Desolation of Smaug is darker than An Unexpected Journey, but doesn’t have the narrative weight of the LOTR trilogy, which is why I think these movies really suffer as their core. There are times where it tries to be as strong as LOTR but it just can’t reach those levels. The third act is pretty strong, though I’m not sure about the ending. At first I thought it was good, looking at Battle of the Five Armies though, it’s quite a wonder why they decided to end the movie where they did. There’s a whole major plot point that takes 15 minutes to end, and instead on concluding it here, they put it at the beginning of the next film. While it works as a cliff-hanger, it is a bit of a double edged sword.

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The cast all around are really good. As expected, Martin Freeman is once again great as Bilbo Baggins and he continues to do some great things here, even if he’s in the backseat sometime. Ian McKellen is once again great as Gandalf. The dwarves and their respective actors are good even if they are still lacking and aren’t quite fully fleshed out characters, they have more characterisation compared to in the previous movie. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his appearance seems unneeded especially as he wasn’t in The Hobbit book, but I liked seeing him here. A new character introduced into the Lord of the Rings world in Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. While the addition could’ve backfired, she was actually a welcome addition. I wasn’t such a fan of the romantic triangle subplot with her and Kili (Aidain Turner), it wasn’t convincing and doesn’t quite work but you can look past it. Other actors including Luke Evans and Lee Pace do well in their parts, and even Stephen Fry makes a brief but memorable appearance. Benedict Cumberbatch performs the voice and motion capture work as Smaug and everything about Smaug was great. His introduction scene with him and Bilbo and their conversation together was one of the best scenes of the movie.

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Peter Jackson once again has a great handle on this movie. There are some really good action scenes with some great creativity. One of the highlights was one involving a river and barrels in the first half of the movie. The action is unapologetically over the top for sure, even more so than the LOTR action, but is nonetheless enjoyable. Compared with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit movies have a much greater emphasis on CG than practical effects. For the most part it doesn’t bother me like it does other people, it’s just a little jarring at times. There are stunning visuals and I like the settings, whether they are made with practical sets, actual landscapes, or if they are CG created. Some special effects are great, Smaug in the last act for example looks fantastic. Some of the other effects can look a little iffy sometimes however. Not bad perse but it’s just sort of the issues that you would see in most modern blockbusters.

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The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t quite reach the level of the Lord of the Rings movies and has its problems, but is definitely the best of The Hobbit movies, and is pretty good on its own. It was directed very well, there’s some good visuals and action, and the cast are great in their roles. If you liked An Unexpected Journey it’s worth a watch, and I’d say it’s worth a watch even if you didn’t because you might like it a lot more.

Braindead (1992) Review

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Braindead

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Timothy Balme as Lionel Cosgrove
Diana Peñalver as Paquita María Sánchez
Elizabeth Moody as Vera Cosgrove (Lionel’s mum)
Ian Watkin as Uncle Les (Lionel’s uncle)
Director: Peter Jackson

Overprotective mother Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), spying on her grown son Lionel (Timothy Balme), as he visits the zoo with the lovely Paquita (Diana Penalver), is accidently bitten by the fearsome Sumatran rat-monkey. When the bite turns his beloved mother into a zombie, Lionel tries to keep her locked safely in the basement, but her repeated escapes turn most of the neighbours into the walking dead, who then crash a high-society party thrown by Lionel’s boorish Uncle Les (Ian Watkin).

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I have been meaning to watch Braindead (also named Dead Alive) for some time. The fact that Peter Jackson directed it was really the main reason, but it’s also quite a standout when it comes to horror movies, especially when it comes those with levels of gore. I ended up having quite a blast with Braindead, a strange, quirky and highly entertaining movie.

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Looking at the plot at first, it isn’t anything too special, but the script actually works really well for what it is. From the writing it is absolutely a kiwi movie (you can really tell if you’ve seen a lot of other movies from New Zealand), and is very quotable, with a rather funny script. It is a completely ridiculous movie and you cannot take any of it seriously, like at all. It’s got a dark comic feeling throughout, it’s satirical at point, and it is completely over the top and insane. The third act is where it all shines however, and somehow becomes even more insane than you are used to it being, even by most bloody and gory horror movie standards.

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The leads in Timothy Balme and Elizabeth Moody weren’t anything special and especially seem boring when you compare them to pretty much every other character in the film, but they were serviceable on their parts. The supporting cast on the other hand features some wonderfully wacky and silly performances, especially from Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkins, and Stuart Denvine, and they make the most of their screentime.

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Peter Jackson directed Braindead, and with this being his third film, he’s still in his early experimental phase in this point of his career (in the line of his previous movies in Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles). He’s very creative in the way he decided to film many sequences (especially with the camera movements), and the use of practical effects are nothing short of amazing. This has often been called the goriest movie ever made, and at this point I don’t doubt it. The first two acts are pretty over the top and violent as they are (not to mention rather gross and disgusting at points). However, it is the third act where it really pays off, and is truly a blood soaked masterwork. Even having watched so many over the top violent movies, and having glimpsed a couple of brief moments from the climax, I wasn’t expecting the level of gore that this movie delivered. Decapitations, gushing blood, limbs flying everywhere, faces being ripped off, it has it all, and ramps all of it past the expected level.

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Clearly, this movie isn’t for the squeamish or those easily grossed out, but for big fans of horror, it is definitely worth watching Braindead, especially if you are a fan of the zombie genre. Peter Jackson’s gorefest of a horror movie is hilariously dark and over the top, with a quirky and quotable script, and is directed creatively. Top that all off with a bloodbath of a climax, and it’s a must watch movie within the horror genre.

The Lovely Bones (2009) Review

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Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey
Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon
Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon
Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn
Michael Imperioli as Detective Len Fenerman
Director: Peter Jackson

After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) — and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.

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The Lovely Bones looked like it had all the elements for a great film. It had a great cast including Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, was based off a murder mystery book with fantastical elements, and was directed by Peter Jackson of all people. So it just was a shame that the movie didn’t turn out to be all that good really that good.

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I’ve never read the book of the same name, so I’m just judging the movie as it is. The setup is reasonably straightforward, lead character is killed by killer, and the lead character is in purgatory watching events happen. After that though, it all just sort of falls apart. First of all, the tone is pretty weird and all over the place. As I just said, murder plays a big part of the movie. At the same time there’s a lot of random comedy, for example there’s a particularly comedic scene with Susan Sarandon and it doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. Maybe it was aiming to be a dark comedy of sorts, but I was trying to even look at this it from that angle and that still didn’t work as that. The approach to the afterlife was even weirder, especially with how Jackson decided to portray it on a visual level. Aside from occasionally watching over her family and friends and trying to communicate with them, it’s just Susie watching from her place and not doing much. Not only that but the story too, it is approached with a family friendly sort of way, and that just doesn’t work. Even though it’s not shown on screen, the setup of the movie is that the main character gets raped and murdered by a killer, at this point one probably shouldn’t be trying to make that story a movie with a PG-13 approach. I just wasn’t all that invested with what was going on, not with the thriller and murder level, and not on the supernatural afterlife level either. It’s a shame because there was some potential. After the murder, it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the concept. The writing itself isn’t particularly good, the dialogue can be particularly bad. The ending was particularly weak, and without spoiling anything, the message at the end of all is more than a little questionable, whether it’s intentional or not.

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The cast is pretty talented, but the acting is a bit mixed, there are really two highlights that stand out among the rest. Saoirse Ronan’s acting as the lead character of Susie isn’t one of the best performances of her career, but she plays the role as best as she possibly can, and adds quite a lot to the movie. The highlight performance of the movie however is Stanley Tucci as the killer. This is one of those performances where a familiar and likable actor plays such a dark and different role from what they are used to, and they pulling it off seamlessly. Tucci’s character already shows early signs of being a killer and at times it gets a little silly, but at the same time there are many parts to him that feel creepily naturally. Mark Wahlberg’s performance here is a big of a mixed bag. Generally he’s at least okay enough at acting but his acting here reminded me a lot of his performance from The Happening, and it was just rather hard to take him seriously. Even in the more dramatic scenes he seemed really out of place. Rachel Weisz is a great actress but she does just okay here, honestly she doesn’t get a lot to do in the movie. The rest of the cast is mostly just fine, not bad by any means, but nothing above just decent.

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We all know that Peter Jackson is a really good director, but his direction of The Lovely Bones is a bit all over the place. Most of the work in the real world sections are filmed fine, if nothing spectacular. The visuals are quite large during the afterlife sequences, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily good, they were quite over the top. At times it could be cartoonish and really silly. I will say that as glossy and weird looking as the effects are, it is a good looking movie generally.

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The Lovely Bones unfortunately isn’t that good and is among Peter Jackson’s worst movies. I can’t comment on whether the book delivered these concepts better but whatever the case, the movie didn’t reach its potential with the ideas. Saoirse Ronan and particularly Stanley Tucci were great, and that might make the movie worth watching. Outside of that there’s really not that much. Watch it if you’re curious about it, but you wouldn’t be missing much if you chose to skip it.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Review

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Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

Time: 201 minutes (theatrical), 252 minutes (extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & fantasy horror
Cast:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
Andy Serkis as Sméagol Trahald/Gollum
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn Elessar
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Bernard Hill as Théoden
Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Miranda Otto as Éowyn
David Wenham as Faramir
Karl Urban as Éomer
John Noble as Denethor
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Sean Bean as Boromir
Director: Peter Jackson

The Fellowship divides to conquer as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), with the help and hindrance of Gollum (Andy Serkis), continue their way to Mount Doom. The members of the fellowship in Rohan are warned of the impending attack when Pippin (Billy Boyd) cannot resist looking into Saruman’s palantir and is briefly contacted by the dark lord. Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith to help defend Gondor when the dark lord Sauron sets his sights on Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, while Merry (Dominic Monaghan) remains with Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and the other Rohan fighters. The fate of every living creature in Middle Earth will be decided once and for all as the Quest of the Ringbearer reaches its climax.

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The first two entries of Lord of the Rings trilogy were really great, but it’s the conclusion with The Return of the King that’s truly outstanding, grandiose, epic and emotionally satisfying. With the performances, the writing, the direction, and some awe inspiring action, it’s a remarkable cinematic achievement and an excellent film over 17 years later.

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Like with the other Lord of the Rings movies, it’s very hard to review, they’re so ingrained in pop culture, it’s like trying to review the original Star Wars trilogy. This film successfully continues the story from the first two movies, and this one is the most engaging of the series. The first half is pretty good, but it’s the second half where it really shines, particularly the final act. I don’t have many problems with the movie, I guess it occasionally has its silly moments like the other movies, and there are some minor plot points that aren’t so clear and don’t work so well. However it doesn’t even come close to bringing down the experience. One thing that is made fun of a lot is the fact that the film has a lot of endings – the screen fades to black and continues on before fading to black again, etc. While I don’t like the fake outs, the actual endings themselves I do like, it ties up pretty much all the storylines and loose ends. The film is quite strong as its theatrical cut. However the extended cut is quite simply the definitive version of the movie, and provides so many great scenes that add a lot to the movie. An example is a certain scene with Christopher Lee’s Saruman, removing it leaves a pretty big loose end especially considering he was one of the main antagonists of the last film. While I’m not sure the movie feels butchered with the theatrical cut (I haven’t watched that version for a long time), once you see the added scenes from the extended cut, it’s hard to think of the film without it. I understand that it can be quite intimidating, instead of watching the 3 hour and 20 minute long version, watching a version that’s over 4 hours long. However, I do implore you to see the extended cuts of all 3 of the trilogies if you haven’t already, especially for Return of the King.

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The acting from its very large good cast is great as always. They’ve only improved further as the movies have progressed. The only character who got worse as the films progressed was John Rhys Davis’s Gimli. He started off alright in The Fellowship of the Rings, but unfortunately across the movies he just became goofier and goofier, and he’s worst of all in this movie. The rest of the cast on the whole with the likes of Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Bernard Hill, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett and others also brought it to their respective roles, giving some really great performances.

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Peter Jackson’s direction was excellent as usual, but The Return of the King really is his magnum opus. Everything from the production design, makeup, sound effects, cinematography, all outstanding on a technical level. There are a number of great action sequences in this trilogy, but The Return of the King has some of the most spectacular action in the series. They are all filmed greatly but it’s of course the big battle scenes which stand out, and they work really well. The visual effects are really good, some parts aren’t so great and are a little dated, but for a movie released in 2003, they mostly hold up well. The score by Howard Shore also works excellently, and is very memorable.

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While all 3 films are top notch, I’m pretty sure that The Return of the King is my favourite movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson and the cast and crew have improved over the course of the series, culminating in a fantastic final film. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of my favourite movies, particularly the third film, and they’ll continue to stand the test of time for sure.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) Review

Time: 259 Minutes (theatrical cut) or 235 minutes (extended cut)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Andy Serkis as Gollum/Sméagol
Bernard Hill as Théoden
Miranda Otto as Éowyn
Christopher Lee as Saruman
Liv Tyler as Arwen Undómiel
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
David Wenham as Faramir
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue
Karl Urban as Éomer
Craig Parker as Haldir
John Leigh as Háma
Bruce Hopkins as Gamling
John Bach as Madril
Director: Peter Jackson

The Fellowship has been broken. Boromir is dead, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) have gone to Mordor alone to destroy the One Ring, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured by the Uruk-hai, and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davs) have made friends of the Rohan, a race of humans that are in the path of the upcoming war, led by its aging king, Théoden. The two towers between Mordor and Isengard, Barad-dúr and Orthanc, have united in their lust for destruction. The corrupt wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), under the power of the Dark Lord Sauron, and his assistant, Gríma Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), have created a grand Uruk-hai army bent on the destruction of Man and Middle-earth. One of the Ring’s original bearers, the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis), has tracked Frodo and Sam down in search of the ring, but is captured by the Hobbits and used as a way to lead them to Mt. Doom.

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The Lord of the Rings movies are among my favourite movies of all time but reviewing them isn’t that easy. Talking about the Lord of the Rings movies is very difficult, it is so famous and well known that so much of it feels redundant talking about, and plus there is just so much that can be said about it. That can be clearly seen in my review of The Fellowship of the Ring from years ago, which is easily one of the worst reviews I ever written. Years later and after watching the Lord of the Rings movies more recently, I decided to review the rest of them the best I can. If you haven’t watched any of the Lord of the Rings movies, long story short just go and watch them. The Two Towers continues on the greatness of the previous film of The Fellowship of the Ring, and it even does a lot of things better than the first film.

The film jumps between characters’ perspectives and it does it well. It mostly jumps from Frodo, Sam and Gollum to Aragon, Legolas and Gimli as well as to Merry and Pippin. Some characters and storylines are more interesting than others but all of them are done rather well. It goes even darker than the first movie and you really feel the higher stakes throughout. I generally think that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is better with the extended editions, but that’s especially the case with The Two Towers and Return of the King. The extended cut is almost an hour longer but it is worth the extra footage. Sometimes I think about the scenes that were cut from the cut and I can’t imagine the movie without them. For example, one of the scenes only in the extended cut included a flashback from Faramir (David Wenham) to his brother Boromir (Sean Bean) and his father Denethor (John Noble) and it added so much his character and what is driving him to make the decisions he made. There’s much more examples like this but that’s just one of them. The third acts of each of the Lord of the Rings movies are usually the standout of each of them, and The Two Towers is no exception, with two great battles happening at the same time. As for how it adapted the original book, I haven’t read it so I don’t have much to say regarding that.

All of the surviving characters from Fellowship of the Ring are back. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are great as Frodo and Sam, they really do feel like best friends going on this journey. Wood also does a really good job at showing the conflict Frodo is experiencing having to bear the One Ring and with it changing him while they’re on their journey. Viggo Mortensen as Aragon, Orlando Bloom as Legolas and John Rhys-Davis as Gimli in their plotline are great, Mortensen particularly is perfectly cast as Aragon and brings a lot to his role. The only thing about Gimli that kind of got annoying was that after Fellowship of the Ring he gets cartoonishly silly and buffoonish. The same happens in reverse with Legolas, who is cartoonishly great at everything, to the point where he’s literally sliding down stairs on a shield while shooting orcs with arrows. It’s not movie breaking but it’s just a bit too much at times. There’s also a plotline focussing on Billy Boyd’s Pippin and Dominic Monaghan as Merry, and while it’s less interesting than the other plotlines, it is still done well enough. Both characters are seen as being comic relief, so it’s good that they get to have their part in what happened in the movie (though I guess it’s more of a credit to the book more than anything else). Ian McKellan is always great as Gandalf (even though instead of returning as Gandalf the Grey, he’s now Gandalf the White), flat out perfect in the role.

Christopher Lee as Saruman also gets more focus this time round as one of the main antagonists of the movie, ending up being more often than not the source of conflict in much of the plotlines here. Lee as usual is scene chewingly great as Saruman, having such a presence about him when he’s on screen. Other returning characters like Liv Tyler as Arwen, Hugo Weaving as Elrond and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel are good as always. The newer additions were also great, namely Bernard Hill as Theoden, Miranda Otto as Eowyn, David Wenham as Faramir, Karl Urban as Eomer and Brad Dourif as Grima Wormtongue. All of them did really good jobs of making themselves stand out amongst the cast. The stand out new character/performance though is from Andy Serkis as Gollum. Although it is motion capture and largely done through special effects, the way he moves, emotes and speaks all come from Serkis. They did such a fantastic job at making him one of the more complex characters in these movies, sympathetic in one scene and then treacherous in the next.

Its no surprise that Peter Jackson’s direction was great but I think he’s improved even more with his second film. The landscapes, locations and sets just feel all great, it all helps that almost all of it feels real. All the special effects are good as usual, what makes it so effective is that it mixes both practical and digital effects. Now given that its over 16 years old, some of the CGI don’t look completely fantastic and aren’t at the level of today’s CGI but most of it still holds up very well. Like Fellowship, everything feels like it’s on such a huge scale, and it feels somewhat authentic. As I said earlier when I was talking about Andy Serkis, I especially like what they did with Gollum with motion capture, it still looks seamless and real today. The action scenes are also well filmed and even better than those in The Fellowship of the Ring. The standout is the third act which consists of and cuts between the battle at Helm’s Deep and the Ents fighting against Isengard. Its just such a spectacle to watch and are amongst some of the best sequences of the whole trilogy. Directionwise, The Two Towers really was just a little better than The Fellowship of the Ring. Even little aspects are slightly improved, like I know it’s a minor thing to note but there aren’t as many awkward close up shots as in the first movie. Howard Shore’s score once again is just iconic and adds so much to the movie, I can’t imagine the Lord of the Rings movies without them.

The Two Towers is for me even better than The Fellowship of the Ring. Some of it as to do with preference with regard to the story and all that, not to mention the large scale sequences, especially the Helm’s Deep battle, are among some of the stand out moments in the movie series. However I also think that Peter Jackson’s direction has even improved, and would only continue to improve with Return of the King. Each Lord of the Rings movie is better than the last one, but all 3 of them are excellent.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review

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The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Time: 169 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Fantasy Violence
Cast:
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Martin Freeman as Young Bilbo Baggins
Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield II
James Nesbitt as Bofur
Ken Stott as Balin
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Andy Serkis as Gollum
Director: Peter Jackson

Once upon a time, the Kingdom of Erebor in the Lonely Mountain was taken from the dwarfs by the evil dragon Smaug. One day, the young Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is unexpectedly visited by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and twelve homeless dwarfs led by their former king Thorin (Richard Armitage) and decided to vanquish Smaug and recover Erebor and their treasure. Bilbo joins the company in an unexpected journey through dangerous lands of the Middle-Earth where they have to fight against Trolls, Orcs and other magic creatures.

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After 9 years after The Lord of the Rings franchise, Peter Jackson returns back to the fantastical world of Middle Earth. A lot of the good things from middle earth are here, the special effects, the soundtrack, the action scenes and epic story. However there are definitely some noticeable flaws in this movie: the story is a little slow and feels a little drawn out and a lot of the characters weren’t very developed. I still enjoyed the movie but at the time of release it was a little disappointing.

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The movie did seem to drag quite a bit, especially near the beginning in Biblo’s house. Once he leaves with the dwarves and Gandalf however the story picks up. Another problem I have, is the fact that I didn’t really find many differences with the dwarves. I felt that a lot of the dwarves weren’t that developed, with the exception of Thorin. They were more developed in the next movies though.

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Martin Freeman is really good as Bilbo, he’s very convincing as a younger Ian Holm from the original LOTR movies. Freeman has such wit and humor, making Bilbo a fun character. Ian McKellan returning as Gandalf the Grey was also really good, and had a lot of good moments. Richard Armitage played Thorin, the king of the dwarves was also gave a standout performance. It is hard for me to remember many of the other dwarves unfortunately, they didn’t really get many moments to shine individually, I didn’t even remember their names. However on repeat watches, I will say that all the actors here do a good job with what they had. There is a character in this movie called Radaghast, for some people he is the Jar Jar Binks of this movie, while others don’t really have that much of a problem with him. I’m sort of in the middle, he’s fine but it wasn’t a performance that I loved. A stand out performance was Andy Serkis in his motion capture work as Gollum. It was neat seeing Gollum return and his scene with Bilbo is by far the best in the movie.

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The special effects are as good as the previous movies. The designs of the creatures are great as usual. I previously mentioned Andy Serkis as Gollum but it really needs emphasizing how good the motion capture was, I would even go so far as to say that it’s better than in Lord of the Rings. The action scenes were done quite well as was the previous movies. When it comes to the 48 frames per second, the action scenes were made even better but whenever it is just people talking like at the beginning at Bilbo’s house, it feels disjointed because it feels like it is sped up, even though it really isn’t. Howard Shore returns to conduct the score and it was great as always. Everything definitely feels like it’s in the same universe.

Gollum, performed by ANDY SERKIS in the fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM.

Even if the film didn’t really keep my attention the whole time, it was great to return to middle earth. The sequel, The Desolation of Smaug was even better and even fixed all its problems that I had with the first. Out of all the Middle Earth movies it’s my least favourite but I still like it quite a bit.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring

Time: 178 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Battle violence and fantasy horror
Cast:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey
Viggo Mortensen as Aragon
Sean Astin as Samwise ‘Sam’ Gamgee
John-Rhys Davies as Gimli
Billy Boyd as Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Sean Bean as Boromir
Cate Blanchett as Galadrial
Christopher Lee as Saruman
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Director: Peter Jackson

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his power so that he could rule all others but the One Ring was eventually taken from him. After many ages it fell into the hands of the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. On his eleventy-first birthday, Bilbo (Ian Holm) disappears, giving the Ring to his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood). When the wizard Gandalf (Ian Mckellen) discovers the Ring is the One Ring of Sauron, Frodo is joined by him, Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davis), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir (Sean Bean) and his three Hobbit friends Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Sam (Sean Astin) in a quest to destroy it. They must journey across Middle-Earth and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

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It’s not uncommon for anyone to say that the Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of the best films of all time. Peter Jackson successfully brings the much loved books to life with much unrelenting energy. With the film being visually striking, an interesting story and having unforgettable characters make it a classic and an essential film for everyone, no matter who they are, or what age they are.

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Despite the movie being quite long (at nearly 3 hours), it is always engaging from start to finish. Helping this is the opening scene; the opening scene to this movie is one of the best opening scenes I’ve seen, it’s up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark; it’s exciting, it’s interesting and it sets up the tone for the rest of the movie. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read any of The Lord of the Rings books, so I don’t know what the movie shows which are shown in the book, but I do know that these changes are well done, such as Arwen being more involved with the story. The whole story is well structured so that the audience is always invested in what’s going on.

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All the actors play their roles very well, every character have personality and are distinct from one another; I am very satisfied with the casting in this movie. I thought that Elijah Wood was really good as Frodo and was really relatable. Sir Ian McKellan doesn’t just play Gandalf here, he IS Gandalf, and every moment he lives and breathes as his character in this movie, his best scene of course involving the Balrog of Mordor. Viggo Mortensen was also well picked as Aragon. Other actors like Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davis, Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin and Christopher Lee also do great jobs in their roles.

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Peter Jackson’s movies are always really good when it comes to special effects and this is no exception. The action scenes are very well done, the two that stand out are in the opening scene and another which is close to the end of the movie. Helping this is the editing which is absolutely perfect. The locations are also well chosen, New Zealand’s wildlife ends up being a great location for many of the locations. The soundtrack by Howard Shore adds incredibility to this movie, giving the film great moments, whether it may be action scenes or others. The costumes are also done incredibly and are impeccably designed. Everything makes you feel like you are in middle earth.

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The Fellowship of the Ring is a great starting point in the Lord of the Rings franchise. The look of the movie, the acting, the characters and the overall story are brought to life by Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson has brought the acclaimed books to the big screen to huge success. I love the Lord of the Rings movies, and The Fellowship of the Ring, kicked the franchise off with a great start.