Category Archives: Movies

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies Review

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Join Bilbo, Thorin’s Company of dwarves, Legolas, Gandalf, and Bard as they face a Dragon, orcs, goblins, trolls, and everything else Middle Earth can throw at them One Last Time! Starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellan, and Luke Evans, and many more. Huge Banner, click to see full image.

Review By Skylar Stone. Scores by Skylar and Javin Stone

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Biggest detriment to the score here is that this is third movie that starts off with how the second one should have ended. It does not even backtrack like the previous film as this is literally the next part after The Desolation of Smaug. No time is lost between the two films making it hard to see with knowing at least how the previous film went. Other than this issue the movie does progress in an organic manner and much the like the previous movies tries to balance all of the main characters, which as you can tell from the poster is a large cast. The movie ends wrapping up The Hobbit Trilogy and sets up the Lord of the Rings, which is exactly how you want a franchise to end.

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So many dwarves, so little time for development. Only a few of the Dwarves feel like main cast members and this movie does not do much to change that. Given that this movie takes place 60 years before The Lord of Rings trilogy it has given a chance for some of the characters like Saruman (Christopher Lee still casting spells at 92!), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and even Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) to show off their skills. This is a highlight for this movie as the endless warfare in the majority of the movie is rather underdeveloped as it does not show anything not previously in The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. The role of the Necromancer introduced in The Desolation of Smaug does not really develop much in this movie making the role a bit odd given how his involvement is resolved. Bard (Luke Evans) and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) are probably the only characters in this movie that felt like a improvement from the previous film giving them both their due and cements their impact on the Universe.

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The first “Visual” I saw for this movie was in the music video for Billy Boyd’s “Last Goodbye“, since I had already planed on seeing the movie I did not watch many trailers until they aired on TV after Thanksgiving. This music video kind of framed how I saw the movie; reverent and bittersweet. From the snow covered battlefields to the ruins and empty halls both in Erebor and in Bag End, solidified that victory and adventure against the odds come at price. This symbolism provides a lot for movie goers that have made the journey with the Dwarves or Hobbits to show that this is the end of one trilogy and the beginning of another. New Zealand once again provides the perfect backdrop for a world lost in the past of endless forests, massive battlefields, and rolling hillsides filled with wonder and magic. I personally had some issues with the differences in the look of the Trolls (and Wargs but that was obvious in An Unexpected Journey), I wrote off the 3 in the first movie as they were Mountain Trolls but in this movie they have slave Trolls just like in Lord of the Rings and they barely look the same. I know it sounds a bit nit-picky but for a film franchise that pioneered Motion/Performance Capture and special effects, this seemed like an easy thing to keep consistent.

Overall, we give The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies 3 and 1/2 Rings out of 5.

Since I saw The Fellowship of the Ring 13 years ago, I have been mesmerized by the Medieval, fueling interest in Renaissance Festivals and even Dungeons and Dragons so to see the end of that franchise is sad for me as I know that Peter Jackson‘s New Zealand based Middle Earth will never again light up my imagination as I have now see everything there is to offer from it.

Regardless If you have journeyed with just Martin Freeman‘s Bilbo or started back with Elijah Wood‘s Frodo, be sure to finish this epic saga by watching this movie as it is definitely the end.

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2014 Summer Blockbusters: Rent, Buy, or Skip

Another summer brings another slew of supposed “Blockbusters”. Which ones made the cut? Which ones fell short?

Votes by EAO, reviews by Skylar Stone

Amazing Spider-Man 2: Skip

At least the suit looked good. (Picture from facebook.com/theamazingspiderman)

At least the suit looked good. (Picture from facebook.com/theamazingspiderman)

Marc Webb returns to the director chair for the second outing of Sony’s Rebooted web-slinger. While some of the first film set Andrew Garfield as the awkward teen turned hero with a smart mouth, much of this film convolutes his backstory and loses much of his character development. Emma Stone‘s Gwen Stacy has a focus in the film which is more than any of the villains have. Jaime Foxx, Dane DeHaan, and Paul Giamatti make up the villain roster any which of one could have been the focus but sadly this sequel fails from the same issue that many faulted Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 3. If less time was spent on Gwen Stacy and setting up the Sinister Six spin-off supposedly in the work, the screenwriters may have crawled their way to the rent mark but sadly Amazing Spider-Man 2 is squashed at Skip.

Godzilla (2014): Skip

Better than the '98 Godzilla (Picture from impawards.com)

Better than the ’98 Godzilla (Picture from impawards.com)

The King of Monsters returns…or does he? America’s second attempt at the Japanese icon, had about 20 minutes of screen time for the title character but yet had time to introduce Ken Watanabe as Godzilla expert Dr. Serizawa, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen as the Brody family. This misappropriation and imbalance of the film harkens to the Cloverfield model of monster making. While the film did win over new fans and finally washed out some of the bad taste from 1998 Godzilla, it fell buildings short of matching the atomic thunder that the Toho creature has had for decades. Awkwardly jumpcut away to Battle LA if you want military/alien action or to Pacific Rim if you want Kaiju carnage because Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 Godzilla is a definite Godzilla happydance Skip.

X-Men:Days of Future Past: Buy

The combined cast!

The combined cast! (Picture from entertainmentwallpaper.com)

After being dumped by DC for Superman Returns,  Bryan Singer returns to first big screen Superhero team the X-Men. The X-Men cinematic continuity was seemingly mangled beyond recognition, with differing spin-offs First Class, Origins: Wolverine, and The Wolverine creating their own universes. Despite this Singer signed on to try to make the Fox franchise jump onto the Avengers method of interconnection. First step was to include a combined cast and introduces newcomers Peter Dinklage as Dr. Trask, Evan Peters as the Fox version of Quicksilver, as well as Comic Book favorites Bishop, Blink, Hotspot and Warpath played by Omar Sy, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, and Booboo Stewart respectively. This step tries to weave a “true” continuity and still create a unique story based off a landmark run from the comic. Much like Captain America: Winter Soldier,the film uses the comic basis to engage fans and shape the universe into a hopefully long lasting future. X-Men: Days of Future Past has passed our test, and as such is a buy. We look forward to X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016!

Transformers: Age of Extinction: Rent

Trans4mers (Picture from superherohype.com

Trans4mers (Picture from superherohype.com)

Optimus Prime returns to save the Earth from another Micheal Bay explosion plot but brings in more the 80s cartoon feel then any of the other films previous. Yes I know its the 4th in a series that was weak to begin with but hear me out. The 1986 Transformers animated movie established a story that spread the universe over, showed the death of a main character, and even cursed! This dark gritty nature against the bright toy-ad that was the TV series was shocking, and now is found in any blockbuster movie. The first Transformer movie saw far too much exposition with Shia LaBouf‘s and Megan Fox‘s characters in a fashion that fits with summer movies but this film created a very different atmosphere. The removal of LaBouf and Fox does a lot to the focus to the true stars of the franchise Optimus Prime and the Autobots. The film deals with the consequences of the previous movies and in the wake introduces much more serious characters Harold Attinger played by Kelsey Grammer, Hound voiced by John Goodman, Drift voiced by Ken Watanabe, and Crosshairs voiced by John DiMaggio. The Grammer character seems to be the character that John Turturro‘s Agent Simmons was parodying  while the latter three make a edgy mecenary like autobot team that has now become the standard in the aftermath of the 3rd film. All of these characters are confronted by the addition of the new villianous Transformer Lockdown voiced by Mark Ryan which is neither Autobot nor Decepticon but is more of a space pirate complete with a giant interstellar ship and crew. Overall this movie still suffers from the Bay-ism and summer Blockbuster fever but it is far better than Revenege for the Fallen or Dark of the Moon. We say Roll on Out to your local Redbox or online rental since this is worth a Rent.

Hercules: Rent

Beard, Muscles and somewhat godly (picture from imdb.com

Beard, Muscles and somewhat godly (picture from imdb.com)

Not to be confused with the January release The Legend of Hercules, this film brings the muscle bound Grecian superhero to life using the well cast Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson. Joined by Ian McShane‘s Amphiaraus, Aksel Hennie‘s Tydaus, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal‘s Atalanta, and Rufus Sewell‘s Autolycus; Hercules wanders as a member of a sword for hire group given his demi-god status and troubled past. The plot is sorted and would have worked better if not using the moniker of the famous hero but still holds together as an okay premise.  In the end, The Rock out lifts, out sells, and out beards the puny Kellan Lutz for the Herculean title. Put “Renting Hercules” as one of your 12 heroic tasks.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Buy

Space Pirates ahoy!  (Poster from Forbes.com)

Space Pirates ahoy! (Poster from Forbes.com)

Marvel continues its Cinematic domination with the craziest comic fueled space opera Marvel had to offer and managed to not only to build buzz but delivered. James Gunn‘s love for space, and the 80s is well documented in the film and is a welcome breather from the modern reboots and alien on earth craze. Chris Pratt excels as Star-Lord aka Earth-man Peter Quill, framed by crazed space alien mercenaries Zoe Saladana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and the now viral monosyllabic Groot voiced by Vin Diesel. While the film tapped into a source long believed to be too crazy for movie-goers, the movie never once tied into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before you complain, yes Thor:Dark World had Benicino Del Toro‘s the Collector and yes The Avengers had Thanos but nothing in this film connecting outward to those, or even mentioned those. In fact this movie uses a brand new version of Thanos complete with Josh Brolin‘s voice and its after credit scene only comically included a character thought gone from the Marvel cinematic universe instead of prepping us for Avengers: Age of Ultron next Summer. This combined with the one dimensional nature of some of the secondary characters makes it one of the weakest movies in the new Marvel collective in terms of plot driven impact. According to our group however the Guardians of the Galaxy need your help to continue there quest for cash, women, and oh yeah justice as they have voted that it is a Buy.

DragonBall Z: Battle of Gods: Buy

Finally a DBZ battle on the Big Screen! (Picture from dbzmovie.com)

Finally a DBZ battle on the Big Screen! (Picture from dbzmovie.com)

Never once in the heyday of the 90s Anime fever caused by Pokemon did the super successful DragonBall series ever make it on the big screen, that is until now. This past summer the Toonami tentpole DragonBall Z had an American theatrical release with its latest full-length movie Battle of Gods. Now this is a different animal than the rest of the movies in this list as it was actually produced back in 2012 and even released in Japan in 2013 but was lost in distribution limbo until about May of this year. The film creates Beerus, the god of destruction, voiced by Jason Douglas and Weis voiced by Ian Sinclair. These characters are some of the most powerful, if  not the most powerful characters ever in the history of the series and they show it off. While the movie combined elements of DragonBall Z’s action driven nature the movie felt more like the light-hearted DragonBall series.This movie did not have the impact of the more noted DragonBall Z movies such as Broly: the Legendary Super Sayian so  the Buy vote in this case is in favor in enjoy-ability and to hopefully further the franchise in America.  Do not take this too harshly as the movie is great, it is just not the best DBZ movie.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(2014): Rent

Cowabunga! (Picture from imdb.com)

Cowabunga! (Picture from imdb.com)

Micheal Bay takes the helm of another noted 80s franchise with his trip down the NYC sewers. Initial reactions to the CG lizards were not unwarranted as the new visible nostril/lip combo is creepy no matter the art style. Once you can look past this though the story really is not too bad, granted it is not a well executed as it could have been better. The balance of seriousness and teenage humor from Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, and Johnny Knoxville playing the iconic color coded turtles Raphael, Michelangelo, Donetello, and Leonardo respectively is spot on with the color comic series. Use your Ninja skills to find it on RedBox, Tohoru Masamune‘s Shredder alone is worth the rental cost and maybe you can fast forward through the Megan Fox and Will Arnett portions, we sadly could not.

There it is, our rundown to guide you through the RedBox list, Netflix que, or the Blu-ray racks in the near future. Did we get something wrong, miss a movie, or did you take our advice? Tell us at eao.cumberland@gmail.com

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Marvel Studio’s second stand alone Captain America film starred Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Redford.

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Marvel has spent years building continuity between their films. Everyone fretted when Disney stepped in, but as a comic and movie fan this may have been a match made in heaven. Marvel’s The Avengers has been written multiple times in the box office record books and its multiple tie-in have nearly washed James Cameron’s Avatar away from people’s minds. Disney and Marvel films bring their “A” game with this sequel. As an audience member you can feel the chemistry and genuine background of the universe present in this film.

The Winter Soldier is a comic run from the masterful Ed Brubaker which has become a modern classic. Directors of this film knew that in order to re-create that epic on film would take the help of the industry and who other than Ed himself joined to help them craft this story and it shows. The comic and cinematic universes began to merge with this powerful sequel.

Anyone listening to the radio, watching the news, or in a class about political science knows about the current climate of American security policies, most of all terrorism and cybersecurity. With things like Snowden and Heartbleed flooding the news media everyday we are uniquely prepared for this type of plot. Captain America both as a character and as a film deals with those issues and how we, the citizens, fit into that equation.

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Chris Evans returns in spades to relive the star spangled boyscout. His torment and struggles with the ghosts from his past as well as the deadly secrets of friends place this performance the best of his tenure in the role and perhaps of all of the characters in the 8 other Marvel films.

Scarlett Johansson makes her third appearance as the “sidekick” Black Widow, but this time played second fiddle rather than fourth or fifth a la The Avengers. This spotlight however brought to light some flaws in her characterization that had not been evident. These flaws worked very well in the film but would detract from future films if not addressed.

Anthony Mackie makes his first outing in the Marvel Universe an interesting one. His character, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, is introduced organically. Much about this character is left out or held off, but unlike many characters in this film and in that case any other Marvel film, he could not survive in a stand alone feature, even just a Marvel One-Shot or one of the upcoming Netflix serials. He hopefully will get more focus in the films to come, as he seems like a good addition to the team.

The Winter Soldier quickly dominates the film as he becomes the primary antagonist. His performance mainly toward the climax of the film is one of the driving reasons the film works as both as a great Marvel movie and a good political thriller.

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Robotic arms, bird flight suits, and shield tossing in combat all sound like crazy ideas on their own, but all look perfectly normal in this film. Chris Evans and the special effects team, Lucas’s ILM (another Disney acquisition), clearly have learned from their previous outings as the shield wielding avenger. No one makes it look odd, even attaching it to his back or retrieving it during combat seems seamless. Winter Soldier’s robotic limb moves like a well oiled machine in every scene it is used in. Falcon’s top secret flight suit was the hardest to swallow but it flew here because honestly we have come up with stranger stuff for the military.

More so than anything else the visual effects department excels in fight choreography. The fight scenes in this film make even some martial arts movies look slow and pre-planned. Don’t trust commercials, they have slowed some scenes down and have cut up others as to not spoil the film. This is a feat of fight-filming at the very least, and hopefully this will carry over into the future Marvel studio films.

Dat Knife Flip!

Dat Knife Flip!

Overall EAO gives Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier a solid 4.5 stars and stripes out of 5!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will never be the same.

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2013 Summer Blockbusters: Buy, Rent, or Skip

2013 saw a lot of Summer Blockbusters or did it? With many of them now coming out of Theaters and going on to DVD/Blu-ray, we want to help you find the jems and miss the flops. 

Picture from comicsbeat.com

Picture from comicsbeat.com

Iron Man 3: Skip 

Tony Stark in his first outing on his own since the widely successful Avengers falls short of being anything new or exciting. Many of the villains feel like retooled versions of past Iron Man villains. Disney’s new Marvel Movie Empire is surprising bare in this movie, and not in a good way. The surprise character bait and switch was the third strike therefore making Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 a definite Skip. (Don’t worry nothing Thor, Captain America, or even Avenger related happened in the whole movie)

  Star Trek Into Darkness: Rent

  J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek universe was shaped in the first film and is explored in the sequel.  BBC Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch excels as a cold and calculated villain. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest of the returning cast feel much more at home compared to the first film. While suffering only mildly to some plot hiccups and attempting to re-brand a classic villain, this sequel does not really disappoint. Overall the film should be seen by Trekkies and non-trekkies alike, a definite Rent maybe even a buy.

picture from http://geekmom.com/

picture from http://geekmom.com/

Man of SteelSkip

Henry Cavill bears the crest of the larger than life Superman in Zach Synder’s Man of Steel. Synder’s DC universe is a dark one void of heroes and that does not change with the appearance of the Man of Steel. Several plot elements feel rushed and many aspects are left strangely open. If you are wanting to watch a better Superman movie than Superman Returns, then go elsewhere because as the name indicates this is not a Superman movie. If you want to try it out don’t waste money on it wait for it to come on Netflix.

 

Picture from firewireblog.com

Picture from firewireblog.com

 Lone Ranger: Rent

Johnny Depp side kicks Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger out of the leading saddle, making Tonto the lead role. Contrary to popular opinion the switch is a good one, it builds a literal narrative in an organic way. This re-imagination of the folk hero minimizes romance and builds on an American mythos with supernatural intrigue. No way is it the movie of the century and no I have not watched/listened to any Lone Ranger series nor have I seen The Legend of the Lone Ranger but I feel its at least worth the Redbox rental.

Pacific Rim: Buy

Guillermo Del Toro blends multiple fandoms and exposes an inner childhood dream through cataclysmic robotic and alien titans brawling for supremacy. Pacific Rim’s cinematic universe breaks through many of the recent American giant monster film flops. The film gives a unique perspective and is a visual masterpiece, one that definitely should be seen over and over!

The Wolverine: Rent

Hugh Jackman is The Wolverine and this film really shows that. Wolverine gets a much better shot at a focus than the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine. With 5 other appearances Hugh does not have to convince us of anything and director James Mangold knows that and instead uses that time to show a plot that speaks to the inherent character and sets up future Wolverine appearances. While it all sounds great it is still not entirely a new idea but worth seeing. The mid-credit scene alone is almost worth the rental cost. Overall it seems that we will not be breaking our piggy banks open to buy DVDs. Our suggestion to the movie industry is that to win over at least this fan group, keep the plot simple and direct,while telling a unique story someone wants to hear.

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