Sunday, December 15, 2013

Short Movie Reviews: The Counselor; Catching Fire; The Desolation of Smaug

Once in a while I will use this space to write short movie reviews. While I used to go to the movies about once a week, after we moved to Albany our weekends have been dedicated primarily to three activities: working on the new house, exploring the Albany area, and visiting relatives who are now much further away than they were when we lived in State College. Things are starting to settle down a little and we've been getting out a bit to local theaters. Although we haven't been out to the movies much, our Netflix viewing has continued as usual, and we've managed to watch about 40 movies from Netflix this year (so far).

The Counselor. With Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt, how could a movie go wrong? Directed by Ridley Scott, this movie is fast-paced and keeps the viewer guessing about what's going to happen next. It made me cringe as I watched Michael Fassbender's character, the counselor, make one bad decision after another. I'm a big Ridley Scott fan, but this didn't feel like a Scott film; to me, it seemed more like a Quentin Tarantino film, with tricky dialogue and bizarre asides. Some of the action was over-the-top violent; the film could have been just as good with a lot fewer grisly scenes. I still liked it, though, and would give it a B.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy was just as good as the first. I loved these books by Suzanne Collins, and the films have both done the books justice. While they may have changed a few details, or left a few minor scenes or characters out, the films have been just as I'd imagined the books. All of the actors have done a wonderful job with their characters, and remained true to the vision expressed in the books. Some YA literature, when made into films, comes across a little cheesy or campy (e.g., Twilight). Catching Fire is a thrilling fantasy adventure that would be appealing to both adults and a YA audience. The director, Francis Lawrence, has made an excellent film. I give it an A.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. For the record, I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, both the books and the movies. I also love The Hobbit (the book); it was my first introduction to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, and I've re-read them several times. Peter Jackson's decision to turn The Hobbit into a trilogy was a colossal mistake. I've read interviews in which he defended this decision and described how he included story lines from other works by Tolkien, etc., but I don't buy any of it. The Hobbit is a short book; shorter than any of the individual volumes in The Lord of the Rings. It should have been made into one action packed film. Stretched into three, it's bloated and slightly boring. I can't believe I'm even saying that, because I couldn't wait for this film to be made, and made specifically by Peter Jackson. It's a real shame. To be fair: the CGI is great; the actors are quite good; the scenery is beautiful. Smaug's design and portrayal is truly wonderful. Nevertheless, I can only say that I'm disappointed by this (and the first) film in the trilogy. I give it a C.

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