APRIL 8TH, 2014

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG // Where Peter Jackson had a distinct vision and fleshed out story with an appropriate ending point in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, he somewhat loses that vision with the sequel, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”. We all wondered how Jackson would make this short children’s story by J.R.R. Tolkien into three films and now we know, by padding the second (and most likely the third) film with enough filler to give it the girth of an almost three-hour long adventure. Not to say “The Desolation Of Smaug” isn’t a great film, because it most definitely is, it simply does not pack the epic punch that first film contained. So many camera shots and action sequences feel extraneous in “Desolation”, creating that strong sense of filler, whereas a sequence could easily be handled in a few minutes, now becomes ten to twenty minutes. Where a simple introduction of the already established character Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace) could have been handled within seconds becomes a much more labored delivery. And by the time the film is coming to its conclusion there are so many different storylines and so much cutting between them that all suspense and sometimes understanding of the plots, are lost in the constant cut.

All is not lost, however, as the addition of character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is a nice addition, connecting the elven world to that of the dwarves with a love triangle. She and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) make a nice team and with Bloom in play, makes for some great foreshadowing of what’s to come in “The Lord Of The Rings” tales, besides Legolas taking on a complete character change in this prequel. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and the entire dwarf company continues their solid turns, especially with Freeman as Bilbo, who continues to grab hold of this role and make it his own, bringing out much of the humor in the film, without being blatant, especially when facing the sleeping dragon, Smaug. Kudos to the CGI team and Benedict Cumberbatch in bringing to life this monstrous dragon, who lives up to everything you dream him to be from the book and can only truly be experienced in full form on the big screen. Other great bits of the film include Luke Evans as Bard and the spectacular down river barrel ride that had me laughing hysterically. With most of the book out of the way, we can only expect that most of the third film will be climax, and epilogue, along with the conclusion to Gandalf’s tale in Dol Guldur. Although I enjoyed the first film more, I still found parts of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” quite enjoyable, eventually what will make this like “The Lord Of The Rings”, in which together as a whole, they will make an amazing trilogy, but separately, they will falter.


AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY // Not surprisingly adapted from a stage play by Tracy Letts, who also pens the screenplay, “August: Osage County” is a character piece if ever there was one. Set in the Oklahoma home of Violet Weston for most of the run-time, the characters are simply allowed to blossom and mold in front of our eyes. Pulling away the layers and showing the true raw nerves of the inner workings of a family unit, the characters interact in such a believable and natural way, you’re amazed this isn’t an actual family. Meryl Streep dominates the film as the matriach, Violet, whose sharp tongue and unyielding demeanor are equally matched by her willingness to invoke pity and sympathy from her daughters, played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Julianne Nicholson. Plagued ironically with mouth cancer and an addiction to prescription medications, Violet is unabashed to point out everyone’s faults in front of the entire family regardless of whom she offends and Streep harnesses this role with a vigor I’ve never known from her, owning the role and hopefully garnering herself some Oscar attention.

Roberts also steps down from her normal fanfare roles and plays the level-headed sister, Barbara, who resembles her mother Violet to a fault. Roberts gives a calm and collected performance, even when she is wrestling Streep to the ground during a dinner or throwing her plate of fish to the floor in defiance. Streep and Roberts together is the best pairing of the year, allowing the writing to flow through two veterans who make the dialogue as intense as it can be. Unraveling with family secrets, every character has their role to play, each projecting different emotional states throughout the course of the film. Most of the supporting actors are given their time in the spotlight and though most of them remain quite standard in their performances, like Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Cooper, many of the stars shine in their roles, like Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, and even Sam Shepard in his short lived performance. “August: Osage County” feels real to me, bringing one of the most believable representations of a family ever to the screen, and with Streep and Roberts at the helm, this could easily become a classic.


PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES // To sum up “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” into one word; derivative. Copying just about every horror and possession device in the book, this detour in the franchise adds basically nothing to the narrative yet tries to attach itself desperately to the previous installments. Once again we meet new characters who are simply living their lives until their downstairs neighbor ends up dead and turns out to have been a Satan worshiper with a basement (who has basements in California?) filled with plastic sheets and pictures of the upstairs tenant, our main character Jesse. As Jesse devolves into a mindless demon drone, the audience is taken through the steps of the average found footage, shaky camera horror film, begging the question, how many times can one be scared of fast camera movements revealing unexpected objects off screen? Relying heavily on the camera to provide the scares and never even really delivering on most of the suspenseful moments, I questioned the legitimacy of this even being considered a horror film. Bringing back many of the moments that actually worked in the other films, like a coven of witches and sudden rooms displacing all of its furniture, I wanted to like “The Marked Ones” but felt it was trying too hard to reach the Hispanic audience and, in the end, does nothing but further the general disinterest in this franchise, which is really too bad considering where it began. With another sequel on the horizon, I am praying that the creators learn from their mistakes and deliver something fresh and revolutionary, rather than bland and recycled.

New Releases
August: Osage County
Grudge Match
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug  
Justin Bieber’s Believe 2-denied2-small
Nurse 3D
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

TV Box Set

  • The Big Valley: Season Two
  • Cracked: Season One
  • Doctor Who: Season Two, Part One
  • Earthflight: The Complete Series
  • Holliston: Season Two
  • Mayberry R.F.D.: Season One
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • 513 Degrees
  • A Horse for Danny
  • Act of Faith
  • Ambush at Dark Canyon
  • Artaserse
  • Back in the Day   
  • Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses
  • The Bamboo Saucer
  • Bastards    2-denied2-small
  • Bayou Blue
  • Best Night Ever   2-denied2-small
  • Black Coffee
  • Cry Danger
  • Dangerous Obsession
  • Everyday
  • A Field In England   2-denied2-small
  • Heart Like a Wheel
  • Holy Ghost People   2-denied2-small
  • Lizzie Borden Took an Ax
  • Lust for Freedom
  • Mad About Men
  • Marilyn and the Senator
  • My Name is Paul
  • Norman
  • Ray Harryhausen Special Efects Titan
  • Sheriff of Contention
  • Snake & Mongoose (2013)
  • Todd Oliver: Funny Dog
  • A Touch Of Sin   2-denied2-small
  • The Virginian
  • Voyage to Agatis
  • Young at Heart
  • Zero Charisma   2-denied2-small

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