1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:
Big surprise, right? Before I start, for everyone who has read the book by J.R.R. Tolkien (I reread it before seeing this movie) the movie definitely...strays from the book. Quite a bit. Even more so than the first movie. However, I still managed to enjoy this movie immensely. It follows the basic outline of the book's storyline and adds quite a few interesting diversions. The entire film is both visually and audibly stimulating and the action scenes (of which there are many) are well-done and exciting. There is one scene towards the end that I found a bit unbelievable, but since I said no spoilers, that's all I will say and the viewers can decide for themselves. The cast is excellent (something which I will probably be repeating for every movie reviewed today) and Orlando Bloom reprises his role as Legolas from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm sure many viewers will have differing opinions regarding his presence in the film. Personally, I didn't mind too much, and that's not because I'm a girl and I find him attractive. Well, that's not the sole reason anyways. For those who are not familiar with the books and their legacy and have only seen the movies, his being in the film will probably do more to tie in The Hobbit films with The Lord of the Rings films. To those who become highly agitated when movies do not follow their literary counterparts verbatim, I say: deal with it. It's an all-to-common, albeit unfortunate, occurrence and try to keep an open mind. Three movies are being made out of a roughly 320-page book. There's bound to be differences and additions. Go see it. Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug is worth it.
*SPOILER ALERT* This song, "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran, plays during the closing credits. Enjoy.
I thought this Disney movie (as I think about most Disney movies) was delightful. I saw this with my sister, and as the movie centers around two sisters, it turned out to be a good choice. It was created by the same people who made Tangled, and supposedly in one of the scenes you can catch a glimpse of Rapunzel, but my sister and I both completely missed it. All of the usual Disney magic is intact and the film boasts some great talent, with theatre and screen alums such as Idina Menzel (Elsa), Kristen Bell (Anna), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), and Josh Gad (Olaf) lending their voices to the characters. The film is visually striking (especially all scenes involving Elsa's ice palace) and the musical sequences are lovely. My favorite songs in the film are "For the First Time in Forever" sung by Elsa and Anna and "Let It Go" sung by Elsa. "Let It Go" is probably my favorite scene in the whole movie because visually, it's beautiful, and the song is pretty powerful. Another version of "Let It Go" is sung by Demi Lovato and plays during the credits. Olaf, the lovable snowman, is easily a favorite and a scene-stealer, but for my part, I also really enjoyed Sven the reindeer. Despite its frigid title (you knew this line was coming) this is a true Disney movie that leaves you feeling warm and happy when it ends. If you enjoy winter, Disney, musicals, or all three, go see this movie. Below is one of the trailers.
3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:
This might be a bit lengthy. I love this film. My sister and I agreed that it is perfection. Remember how I mentioned before that I can be a little over-enthusiastic? This may be one of those times. Ben Stiller (who is also the director) is excellent as Walter Mitty, a worker at LIFE Magazine who fantasizes about adventures and romance to escape his as-yet unfulfilled life. The cast, including Kristin Wiig, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn, and Patton Oswalt, among many others, works together wonderfully. It was filmed on-location in New York City, Los Angeles, and Iceland, and some of the scenes are truly breathtaking. One of the aspects of this film that I really enjoyed is that Walter Mitty is working at LIFE Magazine during the time of the magazine's transition to an online-only format, a transition that actually occurred. The magazine's final print issue was April 20, 2007. The film is based loosely on James Thurber's 1939 short story of the same title and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of elements from the short story and the details of LIFE magazine's transition. I won't say too much more to avoid the risk of spoilers except that this film is powerful and heartfelt with humorous moments and a terrific soundtrack (which I will discussing in a future post). I heard from several people that they felt the beginning of the film went by too slowly but I didn't think so. The film progresses with purpose--if scenes go by in what seems to be a slow manner, I believe that is how it is meant to be. Go see this film (it's rated PG so kids can go too), check out the soundtrack and do read the short story. It's funny.
My favorite trailer:
4. Saving Mr. Banks
To keep things simple (since I have been a bit wordy in the above reviews) I think this Disney film is great. With both Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks in starring roles, how could it not be? In my opinion, this film is first and foremost about the difficult childhood of P.L. Travers, the rather particular author of the Mary Poppins books, and secondly about Walt Disney's efforts to turn Mary Poppins into the musical we know today. This film gave me an entirely new perspective on Travers and the making of Mary Poppins. I am currently halfway through a biography on Walt Disney so his character is more familiar to me. The rest of the cast is superb as well, featuring Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Shwartzman. Heartfelt, triumphant, and at times funny and sad, Saving Mr. Banks was again, great, although now I'm reconsidering the use of that adjective because it doesn't seem to quite fit what I'm trying to convey. There were moments in which I was brought close to tears but despite that I left the theatre incredibly pleased that I saw this film. Cheers to everyone involved.
The bio of Walt Disney that I'm currently reading is called: Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. It is by no means a quick read and I am only halfway through, but it is engaging and interesting.
This is a fun remake of the Jungle Book's "I Wanna Be Like You" that has been stuck in my head for days. Sung by Robbie Williams and Olly Murs. Enjoy.
Happy New Year and Namaste!