X-Men Review

Synopsis
There are people in the world called β€œmutants” who posses the x-gene, granting them superhuman powers. Two groups of mutants, one led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and one led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) are at odds with how to use their powers and co-exist with the humans around them.

ReviewX-Men movie poster
Let’s go back in time a little bit to the year 2000. In 2000, Batman’s film run in the 1990s had come to a halt after the Joel Schumacher films were not received well and Superman hadn’t been seen on the big screen since the late 1980s. As for Marvel comic characters, only a handful attempts in the 80s and 90s had been made to bring them to film, including Howard the Duck, the Punisher, Captain America, and Blade, with Blade being the most recent and most successful try two years prior. Enter X-Men. X-Men redefined what the superhero genre could do. X-Men showed that a superhero film could be filled both with action and character development. X-Men kicked off the superhero film boom that we are still experiencing today.

To start, X-Men boasts some impressive and spot-on casting. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magento respectivelyΒ are just the tip of the iceberg. Their chemistry is fantastic as the once-friends-but-now-enemies. Both actors are acting powerhouses and gave validity to a genre that many saw as niche. Famke Janssen, James Marsden, and Halle Berry all do good in their roles but they aren’t given much to do in this film.

Fox was not naive to who the star of the X-Men franchise is. Everyone knows that Wolverine is hands-down the most popular X character. When casting Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, they probably had no idea how defining he would become in the role. Here, though, we only see glimpses of what is yet to come. Jackman does great in the role but he hasn’t quite come into it yet. However, he looks spot on like the Logan from the comics. His entrance is exciting and Jackman’s performance leaves you eager to see him return again as the amnesiac mutant.

Besides Wolverine, only a handful of characters share the screen with him. They are Cyclops (Marsden), Jean Grey (Janssen), and Storm (Berry) on the X-Men and Toad (Ray Park), Sabertooth (Tyler Mane) and Mystique (Rebecca Romjin) in Magneto’s Brotherhood of mutants. The Brotherhood mutants don’t get much development since their purpose is to serve as antagonists. On the X-Men side, they get more development but since they all share screen time pretty evenly, it’s not enough. It is just enough, however, to get a feel for the characters and understand the dynamic and relationships between them.

When a film tries to balance as many characters as X-Men has, it can become convoluted. This film prevents that by keeping the plot simple. The X-Men are trying to stop Magneto. That’s it. There’s no major twists or reveals. It’s a good versus evil plot that is traditional but not unexpected from a movie based on comic book characters. There is another plot about mutant registration that is barely explored. It’s touched on but if developed a little better, this film could have had a great philosophical angle to it as well.

A hero is only as good as its villain. This movie’s simplicity also allows Magneto to stand out as a character that wants to do things far beyond typical bad guy reasons. He cares about his fellow mutants. Experiencing the holocaust, he has little faith in humans the way Professor X does. Magneto and Professor X are less adversaries and more two people approaching the same problem from two different ideological point of views. While Magneto may be a more campy villain this time around, he’s far from one-dimensional.

I thought X-Men was GOOD πŸ™‚ Excellent casting all around and a simple plot are by far this film’s strong points. This movie might not be the best superhero movie out there but it displayed what the superhero genre could be, setting the stage for the genre’s popularity to really explode.

Favorite Quote
Wolverine: [After putting on his uniform] You actually go outside in these things?
Cyclops: What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bryan Singer – Director / Story
Tom Desanto – Story
David Hayter – Screenplay
Michael Kamen – Composer

Hugh Jackman – Logan / Wolverine
Patrick Stewart – Professor Charles Xavier
Famke Janssen – Jean Grey
James Marsden – Scott Summers / Cyclops
Halle Berry – Ororo Munroe / Storm
Anna Paquin – Rogue
Ian McKellen – Eric Lensherr / Magneto
Tyler Mane – Sabretooth
Ray Park – Toad
Rebecca Romijn – Mystique
Bruce Davison – Senator Kelly

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies movie posterSynopsis
After dealing with the dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)), who had been living in the dwarf home of Erebor, Thorin (Richard Armitage), and his soldiers must now protect it from those who wish to take the vast treasure for themselves.

Review
I think it is interesting how much The Hobbit films have mirrored the Lord of the Rings films.Β  Each movie did a great job of building the characters and tension from the last. The second entry of the two series leaves each Baggins and their respective groups in interesting places for the third one to pick up.Β  Then the third film offers the biggest and best action sequences of the trilogies.

The Battle of the Five Armies picks up exactly where The Desolation of Smaug leaves off, with Smaug heading off the destroy Laketown.Β  I’ve compared The Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy before and I’m about to do it again.Β  Slight spoiler warning.Β  Smaug’s treatment in this film was like Count Dooku’s in The Revenge of the Sith.Β  They were both the big bad from the second film in their respective series, and then they don’t last past the first scene of the third film of their series. It’s slightly disappointing because he was the best part from the previous movie.Β  For Smaug to appear for such a short amount of time made him feel out of place. I almost wish they would have finished his portion of the story in his film.Β  I know that The Desolation of Smaug was already long enough but with the power of editing it could have worked.

Like many modern blockbusters with heavy action sequences, this movie piles on the CGI.Β  When dealing with something like five large armies, it is to be expected, but some things that could have been done practically (and would have looked better if done so) weren’t.Β  For example, the leader of the large dwarf army, Dain, is completely animated and it is very easy to tell.Β  There are several close up shots of him that would have looked several times better if Billy Connolly had been in a costume.

One scene I found particularly interesting was not even one of the many action scenes.Β  After Smaug is defeated and Thorin is consumed by the large treasure, he walks into a great hall where a vision-like sequence begins.Β  My friend was telling me that this scene seemed to divide fans but I thought it fascinating.Β  The symbolism of him being consumed by the gold and him falling victim to the same greed that befell his grandfather, something Thorin swore to never do, was apparent without saying a single word.

Just like The Return of the King, the action sequences are on a much larger scale than the previous two movies.Β  There is also little time for the characters, or the audience, to catch their breath.Β  After the short Smaug sequence, there is a little breather where we see Thorin and how he and his relationship with his friends have changed since they started on their journey.Β  But before two long, the titular battle starts and it consumes the rest of the film.Β  The sheer scale of the battle is impressive, and very action packed.

I thought The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was GOOD :-). Β Like The Return of the King, it gave the trilogy some of its biggest and best action scenes.Β  Although I think Smaug should have been confined to one movie rather than feeling stuck into this one and the CGI was overused.Β  But all in all, it gave a very epic and exciting conclusion to the series.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy:Β An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Ian Holm – Old Bilbo
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg
Billy Connolly – Dain
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug movie posterSynopsis
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen),Β  Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the rest of the dwarfs, continue their journey to Erebor, the dwarf homeland. Bilbo and the dwarfs come face to face with its protector, the dreaded dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)).Β  Meanwhile, Gandalf looks for the source of a mysterious, rising evil.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers is where the series really began to take off so I was interested to see if The Desolation of Smaug had the same affect for the Hobbit films.Β  I’d say it did a pretty good job.Β  Again, with all the set up out of the way in the first film, this one is able to keep up the pace. Outside of the elves, not many new characters are introduced.Β  One of the hurdles The Two Towers faced was introducing so many new characters throughout the movie. Since The Desolation of Smaug had very few characters they had to bring into the mix, it was able to keep the focus on Bilbo, Thorin and the rest of the dwarfs, as well as keep it moving.

Since the dwarfs were introduced last movie, this movie was spent building their relationship.Β  Their camaraderie was really fun to watch. The way they joke together, fight together, it was easy to tell that they are a family.Β  Since there are a lot of them, they don’t all get a ton of development, but they get enough that you can feel out the rest.

One thing this franchise hasn’t lacked is action.Β  And Desolation of Smaug is no exception.Β  This movie offered some of the most unique of the series so far.Β  One of my favorite scenes was the river fight sequence.Β  The dwarfs escape their capture buy going down a river in barrels.Β  As they go down the river, they are chased by both orcs and elves.Β  The way that the three parties were fighting is unlike anything I can think of in another film. Β I had a smile on my face the entire scene.

Smaug was hands down the best part of this film.Β  Everything from the animation of his sheer size to Benedict Cumberbatch voicing him was just spectacular.Β  I’m not overly familiar with Cumberbatch’s work, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of him as Smaug.Β  He nailed it.Β  I want to see him voice villains more often.Β  The character himself was pretty interesting, too. He knew his strength so he wasn’t afraid to toy with Bilbo.Β  He took up a good portion of the film so it was a good thing he was done so well.

I thought The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was GOOD :-). Β Like any good sequel, it ups the stakes and keeps moving.Β  The action is some of the most unique of the series and Smaug offers a significant threat to the characters.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy:Β An Unexpected Journey and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie posterSynopsis
When the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) shows up unexpectedly at the door of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Bilbo’s life is changed forever. Bilbo sets out on a journey with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of his dwarf crew to retake the dwarf homeland.

Review
The Hobbit films are to The Lord of the Rings as the Star Wars prequel trilogy is to the original trilogy so naturally I immediately began The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after finishing The Return of the King.Β  I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether it was going to be exactly like the last trilogy but with different characters or a similar story but different. Thankfully, it was the latter.

Right off the bat, I was happy that this is a very dwarf-centered story.Β  Other than Gimli in the previous films, there weren’t any other dwarfs.Β  With such a large group, there was a wide range of personalities among them. There was the quiet leader, the old councils, the experienced warriors, and the younger fighters.Β  Watching the early scene with them all at the table in Bilbo’s house really gives you a feel for who each of them are.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, there was a lot of set up before the group set out on their journey.Β  After the aforementioned scene at Bilbo’s house, which was relatively early in the film, the group’s purpose was given and they were off on their journey.Β  This made the movie move quicker and didn’t feel like the beginning was dragging like in Fellowship.

One thing The Lord of the Rings series have done consistently well is casting.Β  Martin Freeman did a great job as the young Bilbo Baggins.Β  I really liked him in the first season of Fargo and the little mannerisms he brought to his character.Β  He does the same thing here, bringing that extra nuances to Bilbo that not many actors can do.

Earlier, I compared the Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Other than the similarity of taking place before the trilogy that came before, The Hobbit also uses much more CGI that The Lord of the Rings trilogy.Β  Many of the characters, especially the orcs, are CGI this time.Β  I liked the makeup and costumes for the orc soldiers particularly in The Return of the King, so to see every single orc animated here was a little bit of a let down.

I thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was GOOD :-). Compared to The Fellowship of the Ring, it gets the heroes on their journey much faster and with less set up and exposition.Β  Other than seeing the orcs go from physical costumes to computer animation, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a good start to the trilogy.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy: The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Tory – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur /Β  Tom Troll
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin / William Troll
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori / Bert Troll
Adam Brown – Ori
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Barry Humphries – Great Goblin
Manu Bennett – Azog
Benedict Cumberbatch – Necromancer

Lightning Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingSynopsis
Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) finally reach Mordor. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) leads the World of Men against Sauron’s army in order to give Frodo and Sam an opening to take the One Ring to Mt. Doom.

Review
Now this, this is what I have been expecting out of this series. After two movies of moving pieces, everything finally all comes together. This movie hits the ground running, and it needs to because of the many threads it needs to tie up. I can’t think of many new things to say that I haven’t already in my reviews of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I do wish there was more Gimli because I absolutely loved all of his scenes in the previous movies and always enjoy watching him, especially with Legolas. The character makeup and costumes from the previous films were some of the best I have seen but wow does The Return of the King blow them both out of the water! My only complaint is the long run time. It’s nearly four hours long and has like five endings. Every time it would fade to black, it felt like a clean ending… then another scene would happen. It is great to see everyone’s stories wrapped up so it’s not too terrible, but it made a long film feel even longer.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was GREAT :-D. The action was the best of the trilogy, the costumes were the best of any recent movie I’ve seen, and every story thread gets wrapped up. I can see why this trilogy is well beloved. It may have even found its way to the top of some of my lists.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy:Β The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice) / Smeagol
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Marron Csokas – Celeborn
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Sean Bean – Boromir
Ian Holm – Bilbo

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie posterSynopsis
The Fellowship of the Ring has been separated. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) slowly make their way towards Mordor with the assistance of Gollum (Andy Serkis (voice)). Meanwhile, the rest of the fellowship helps defend the kingdom of Rohan from Sarumon (Christopher Lee) and his orc army.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, most of the movie was spent introducing the characters, the conflict, and the world of Middle Earth itself. Having much of that out of the way, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers begins to shift into more of what I was expecting out of this series.

There is still a lot of time spent with the characters on their journey, but the action isn’t saved until the very end (although the best action scenes are) like the previous film. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is absolutely stunning. It was big, it was bold, and it was beautifully chaotic. As thrilling as it was, it was even more exciting when the attack on Isengard begins and there are parallels between the two. Despite jumping back and forth amidst all the pandemonium of either battle, it was surprisingly smooth and not that jarring like I would have expected. Maybe because I was so enthralled by what was going on I didn’t care.

The cast is just as large as the previous movie and even grows. They are split into groups so there is a lot of jumping back and forth between everybody. This is where the run time begins to really grow. Trying to fit development for each of these characters’ story arcs is time consuming. Although it made the movie seem long, it was probably a good thing because then several characters would have gotten short changed and not developed very well.

One such relationship was the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. Dwarfs and elves have a shaky relationship in Middle Earth and it was clear in the beginning they were more reluctant partners than friends. By the end, they had this playful bond that was fun to watch bloom. The best moments were when they were competing to see who could defeat the most enemies.

Out of all the characters, Gimli is quickly becoming my favorite. I mentioned this in my review of Fellowship, but he is extremely funny. I’m not sure why but it took me by surprise. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting much in terms of comedy from this series. Regardless, the laughs are most welcome to take my mind away from the length of the film.

As this series goes on, I’m beginning to appreciate Sam more and more. He is Frodo’s rock. Where relationships like Gimli’s and Legolas’ were built during this epic journey, Sam’s and Frodo’s relationship is strengthened by it. Despite the darker tone, there is still a lot to feel good about in this movie.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was GOOD :-). Although it ran long, the time was necessary to continue building the characters and didn’t feel like it dragged on. The stakes were higher and the action was better. In most trilogies, the middle chapter usually is the one that stumbles the most but The Two Towers doesn’t and even stands taller than in predecessor.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy:Β The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Stephen Sinclair – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli / Treebeard (voice)
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Bruce Allpress – Aldor
Sala Baker – Man Flesh Uruk
Jed Brophy – Sharku / Snaga
Sam Comery – Eothain
Brad Dourif – Wormtongue