REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

 

CAST

Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity)
Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes)
Benedict Wong (The Martian)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Men In Black 3)
Benjamin Bratt (Traffic)
Scott Adkins (Zero Dark Thirty)
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal)
Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Stan Lee (Chuck)
Amy Landecker (Dan In Real Life)

In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his zealots enter the secret compound Kamar-Taj and behead its librarian. From the ancient and mystical texts, they steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One, a sorcerer who has lived for an unknown time and taught all at Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius, in the ways of the mystic arts. The Ancient One pursues the traitors, but Kaecilius escapes with the pages and some of his followers.In New York City, Stephen Strange, an acclaimed but arrogant neurosurgeon, loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Fellow surgeon and former lover Christine Palmer tries to help him move on, but Strange, firmly believing he can regain use of his hands, instead uses all his resources pursuing experimental surgeries in vain. After learning of Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who mysteriously was able to walk again, Strange seeks him out, and is directed to Kamar-Taj. There, Strange is taken in by another sorcerer under the Ancient One, Mordo. The Ancient One shows Strange her power, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. Amazed, Strange begs her to teach him, and she eventually agrees despite his arrogance, which reminds her of Kaecilius.Strange begins his tutelage under the Ancient One and Mordo, and learns from the ancient books in the library, now presided over by the master Wong. Strange learns that Earth is protected from other dimensions by a spell formed from three buildings called Sanctums, found in New York City, London, and Hong Kong. The task of the sorcerers is to protect the Sanctums, though Pangborn chose to forgo this responsibility in favor of channelling mystical energy into walking again. Strange advances quickly over several months, even secretly reading from the text Kaecilius stole from and learning to bend time with the mystical Eye of Agamotto. Mordo and Wong warn Strange against breaking the laws of nature, comparing his arrogant yearning for power to that of Kaecilius, who believes, after the deaths of his loved ones, that everyone should have eternal life.Kaecilius and his followers use the stolen pages to begin summoning the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, where time does not exist and all can live forever. This destroys the London Sanctum, and sends Strange from Kamar-Taj to the New York Sanctum. The zealots then attack there, where Strange holds them off with the mystical Cloak of Levitation until Mordo and the Ancient One arrive. Strange and Mordo become disillusioned with the Ancient One after Kaecilius reveals that her long life has come from her own use of Dormammu’s power. Kaecilius mortally wounds the Ancient One, and escapes to Hong Kong. The Ancient One tells Strange that he, too, will have to break the rules, to balance Mordo’s steadfast nature. She then dies, despite the best efforts of Strange and a bewildered Palmer. Strange and Mordo arrive in Hong Kong to find Wong dead and the Sanctum destroyed, with the Dark Dimension already engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye to turn back time and save Wong, before creating an infinite time loop inside the Dark Dimension that traps himself and Dormammu in the same moment forever. After killing Strange many times to no avail, Dormammu reluctantly agrees to leave Earth if Strange undoes the time loop, taking Kaecilius and the zealots with him.Disgusted by Strange and the Ancient One’s disregard for the consequences of defying nature, Mordo departs. Strange returns the Eye, which Wong calls an Infinity Stone, to Kamar-Taj, and then takes up residence in the New York Sanctum to continue his studies. In a mid-credits scene, Strange decides to help Thor, who has brought his brother Loki to Earth to search for their father Odin. In a post-credits scene, Mordo confronts Pangborn and takes the energy he uses to walk, stating that Earth has “too many sorcerers”.The Marvel Cinematic Universe shines again with manipulative sorcery and cognitive storytelling as this may be the strangest addition but still delivers some kick-ass entertainment.

 

REVIEW: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

CAST

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Ewan McGregor (Big Fish)
Margo Martindale (Orphan)
Sam Shepard (Swordfish)
Dermot Mulroney (The Grey)
Julianne Nicholson (Kinsey)
Juliette Lewlis (Natural Born Killers)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Newell Alexander (Sordid Lives)

The title designates time and location: an unusually hot August in a rural area outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic, once-noted poet, interviews and hires a young native American woman Johnna (Misty Upham) as a live-in cook and caregiver for his strong-willed and contentious wife Violet (Meryl Streep), who is suffering from oral cancer and addiction to narcotics. Shortly after this, he disappears from the house, and Violet calls her sister and daughters for support. Her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) arrives with husband Charles Aiken (Chris Cooper). Violet’s middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is single and the only one living locally; Barbara (Julia Roberts), her oldest, who has inherited her mother’s mean streak, arrives from Colorado with her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Barbara and Bill are separated, but they put up a united front for Violet.After five days, the sheriff arrives with the news that Beverly took his boat out on the lake and has drowned. Youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives with the latest in a string of boyfriends, Steve Huberbrecht (Dermot Mulroney), a sleazy Florida businessman whom she introduces as her fiancé. Mattie Fae and Charles’s shy, awkward son “Little Charles” (Benedict Cumberbatch) misses the funeral because he overslept and is met at the bus station by his father. Charles loves his son, whereas Mattie constantly belittles him. Ivy confides to Barbara that she is in love with her cousin, “Little Charles”, who plans to move to New York, and she cannot have children because she had a hysterectomy. She feels this is her only chance to finally marry.The family sits down to dinner after the funeral, fueled by Violet’s brutal “truth telling”, which results in Barbara pouncing on her mother. She decides she has had enough of her mother’s drug addiction and confiscates all her several kinds of pills. Later, after Violet has had a chance to sober up, she has a tender moment with her daughters and shares a story that demonstrates how cruel her own mother was when she longed for a new pair of cowgirl boots when she was in her early teens.As “Little Charles” sings Ivy a song he has written for her, Mattie Fae walks in and berates him. This exhausts Charles’s patience with his wife’s lack of love and compassion for her son, and he threatens to leave her if she keeps it up. Mattie subsequently reveals to Barbara, who unintentionally listened in, that she had a long-ago affair with Beverly, and Charles is in fact their younger half-brother and that is the true reason why Ivy and “Little Charles” cannot be together. That evening, Steve and Jean are playfully sharing a joint of marijuana. Johnna sees this and, sensing that he intends on molesting her, goes after him with a shovel. Barbara confronts Jean and slaps her. This impels Bill to take Jean back to Colorado, leaving Barbara. Karen also leaves with Steve.Later, Ivy tries to tell her mother about her love for “Little Charles”. Barbara tries to deflect the admission. Violet tells Ivy Charles is actually her brother, something she knew all along. Ivy leaves and promises to never come back. In the last confrontation between Violet and Barbara, Violet admits she was contacted by Beverly from his motel the week after he had left home, but did nothing to help him until after she removed money from the couple’s joint safe deposit box. By this time he had already drowned. This revelation leads Barbara to depart, realizing that her mother has slipped beyond help. Violet is left with only Johnna. Barbara is driving through the plains, stops, gets out of the car, cries then gets back in the car and follows signage showing highways and number of miles to Wichita, Salina and Denver.Fantastic film – see it if you enjoy witty, clever writing, a strong storyline and a first rate cast.

REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

CAST

Chris Pine (Into The Woods)
Zachary Quinto (Heroes)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Simon Pegg (Paul)
John Cho (Total Recall)
Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog)
Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit)
Alice Eve (Men In Black 3)
Peter Weller (Robocop)
Noel Clarke (4.3.2.1)
Nazneen Contractor (Heroes Reborn)
Amanda Foreman (Alias)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Heather Langenkap (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Sean Blakemore (Bones)
Nick E. Tarabay (Spartacus)
Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow)

In the year 2259, Captain James T. Kirk is removed from command of the starship USS Enterprise for violating the Prime Directive: he exposed the ship to the primitive inhabitants of the planet Nibiru in order to save them, and Spock, from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Admiral Christopher Pike is reinstated as commanding officer with Kirk demoted to the rank of Commander and first officer. Commander Spock is transferred to another ship. Shortly after, the Section 31 installation in London is bombed, perpetrated by the renegade Starfleet operative John Harrison (Cumberbatch). Harrison then attacks Starfleet Headquarters in a jumpship during the emergency meeting about the situation, killing Pike and other senior officers. Kirk disables the jumpship, but Harrison escapes by transporting to Kronos, the homeworld of the hostile Klingons.

Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) reinstates Kirk and Spock to the Enterprise with orders to kill Harrison. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott strongly objects to allowing untested torpedoes on board the ship, and when ordered to allow them resigns his commission in protest. Kirk assigns Pavel Chekov to replace Scotty. En route to Kronos, the Enterprise’s warp capabilities mysteriously become disabled. Kirk leads a team with Spock and Uhura onto the planet, where they are ambushed by Klingon patrols. Harrison dispatches the Klingons, then surrenders after learning the number of torpedoes aboard the Enterprise.

Dr. Leonard McCoy and Marcus’s daughter, Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), open a torpedo at Harrison’s behest. Inside is a man in cryogenic stasis. Every torpedo aboard Enterprise contains a human in stasis. Harrison reveals his true identity as Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered superhuman awakened by Admiral Marcus from centuries of suspended animation to develop advanced weapons of war against the Klingon Empire. Khan reveals that Marcus had sabotaged the Enterprise’s warp drive, intending for the Klingons to destroy the ship after it fired on Kronos, creating an act of war by the Klingon Empire. Khan also gives Kirk a set of coordinates. Kirk contacts Scotty on Earth and asks him to investigate. Scotty discovers they lead to a covert Starfleet facility near Jupiter.

The Enterprise is intercepted by a much larger Federation warship, the USS Vengeance, commanded by Admiral Marcus. Marcus demands that Kirk deliver Khan, but the Enterprise, with a hastily repaired warp drive, flees to Earth to expose Marcus. After the Vengeance intercepts and disables the Enterprise near the Moon, Kirk reveals Carol’s presence aboard the ship. Marcus forcibly transports Carol to the Vengeance before ordering the Enterprise’s destruction, Kirk offers Khan and himself for the lives of his crew, but Marcus rejects Kirk’s offer and orders Vengeance to fire when ready. However, Vengeance suddenly loses power, sabotaged by Scotty, who infiltrated the ship. With transporters down, Kirk and Khan, with the latter’s knowledge of the warship’s design, space-jump to the Vengeance. Spock contacts his older self, who warns that Khan is ruthless and untrustworthy, and, in another reality, Khan was only defeated at a terrible cost. Meanwhile, after capturing the bridge, Khan overpowers Kirk, Scott, and Carol, kills Marcus, and seizes control of the Vengeance.

Khan demands that Spock return his crew sealed in the cryogenic tubes in exchange for the Enterprise officers. Spock complies but surreptitiously removes Khan’s frozen crew and arms the warheads. Khan beams Kirk, Scott, and Carol back aboard the Enterprise, but betrays their agreement by critically damaging the Enterprise; however, the Vengeance is disabled when the torpedoes detonate. With both starships caught in Earth’s gravity, they plummet toward the surface. Kirk enters the radioactive reactor chamber to realign the warp core, saving the ship, but losing his life in the process.

Khan crashes the dying Vengeance into downtown San Francisco in an attempt to destroy Starfleet headquarters, destroying some of the city. Khan escapes the wreckage as Spock transports down in pursuit. McCoy discovers that Khan’s blood has regenerative properties that may save Kirk. With Uhura’s help, Spock chases down and eventually subdues Khan, who is consequently arrested and re-frozen, and Kirk is revived.

Nearly one year later, Kirk speaks at the Enterprise’s re-dedication ceremony. Khan is sealed in his cryogenic pod and stored with his compatriots. The Enterprise crew embarks on a five-year exploratory mission.I didn’t overly mind that the film is based on Khan, but I can understand how some people would have an issue with it. The first film so cleverly re-wrote the shows history and gave Abrams the opportunity to do whatever he wanted story wise so it was a little bit surprising to see he had embarked on somewhat of a `re-make.’ But all in all a very good film. Great action sequences and great CGI – even if you’re not a Trekkie this is still an enjoyable film.

REVIEW: ZOOLANDER 2

CAST

Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly)
Owen wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Penelope Cruz (Open Your Eyes)
Will Ferrell (Everything Must Go)
Christine Taylor (Tropic Thunder)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil)
Kristen Wiig (The Martian)
Jerry Stiller (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Zane (The Scorpion King 3)
Antonio Te Maioha (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)
Keifer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Fred Armisen (Easy A)
Andy Dick (Dude, Wheres My Car ?)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Christina Hendricks (Drive)
Willie Nelson (The Dukes of Hazzard)
Katy Perry (The Smurfs)
Sting (Dune)
John Malkovich (Red)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)

At Fashion Interpol, Valentina Valencia examines the expressions of recently assassinated pop singers’ last images and discovers they match Derek Zoolander’s trademark look, “Blue Steel”. A flashback reveals that the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good collapsed, killing Matilda Jeffries and injuring Hansel McDonald. Derek later lost custody of his son, Derek Zoolander Jr., and announced his retirement from modeling and subsequent reclusion.

Derek now lives alone in “extreme northern” New Jersey. Billy Zane visits and gives him an invitation to the House of Atoz fashion show by Alexanya Atoz, and persuades him to return to a regular lifestyle in order to regain custody of his son. In the “uncharted Malibu territories”, Hansel returns to his home after dinner and is informed by his orgy that they are all pregnant and that he is the father. He is later given the same invitation by Zane. After reuniting, Derek and Hansel are tracked down by Valentina, who asks them to help Interpol uncover who is behind the systematic assassinations.

At the fashion show, Derek and Hansel are surprised to find that the ever-changing fashion world is now dominated by the likes of Don Atari and the androgynous All. They are put on the runway in “Old” and “Lame” outfits and are doused by a large bucket of prunes. Afterwards, Alexanya congratulates them on their performance.

With Valentina’s help, Derek discovers his son is residing at a local orphanage. They find him, but Derek is distraught by his son’s obesity. After Matilda’s ghost asks him to protect their son, Hansel convinces Derek to accept Derek Jr. After meeting the Headmaster, Derek takes his son around Rome. However, Derek Jr. becomes disgruntled with his father and returns to the orphanage. Hansel receives an anonymous call, requesting that he travel to St. Peter’s Basilica at midnight. He, Derek, and Valentina go to the church and meet with Sting, who tells them the tale of Adam and Eve and the little-known Steve, who many rockstars have died to protect. It is said that Steve is the common ancestor of all models and that he and his closest descendant (Derek Jr.) hold the bloodline of the Fountain of Youth.

Derek returns to the orphanage, only to find it in disrepair and his son and the Headmaster gone. He travels to Jacobim Mugatu’s isolated prison, but is captured, while Mugatu escapes. Mugatu leaves on a helicopter while Hansel stows away by hiding on top of the propeller. Derek and Valentina swim back to Rome while Hansel infiltrates the House of Atoz. He witnesses Mugatu reuniting with Alexanya and killing Don Atari. Hansel finds Derek Jr. imprisoned and reunites with Derek and Valentina at the IncrediBALL. They enter a bathhouse through a rear entrance and witness Derek Jr. strapped to a table.

Mugatu and many of the world’s fashion designers prepare to cut out Derek Jr.’s heart and consume his blood, believing it to grant them eternal youth as it contains the blood of Steve. Derek, Hansel, and Valentina stop Mugatu from proceeding and he reveals that he brought together the world’s fashion designers to kill them as revenge for leaving him imprisoned. Alexanya, who is actually Katinka Ingabogovinanana, attacks Valentina, while Mugatu tells Derek that he was behind the destruction of his Center by hiring the construction crew to build a faulty base. He then throws an explosive towards the lava. Derek manages to stop it with “Magnum”, but he struggles to keep it suspended in mid-air. Sting arrives and reveals that he is Hansel’s father, and they, along with Derek Jr., successfully hurl the explosive back at Mugatu, killing him. Derek Jr. forgives his father for his mother’s death and Derek and Valentina confess their love for each other. Matilda’s ghost gives them her blessing and says that Mugatu live-streamed the event.

Six months later, Derek and Hansel have returned to modeling. Derek and Valentina have a daughter named Darlene, while Derek Jr. is now in a relationship with Malala Yousafzai. Hansel returns to living with his orgy and is now the father of 10 children.


Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell reprise their sillinesses from last time, and it is a pleasure to see Penelope Cruz being every bit as silly, and fully prepared to make herself look daft. A great sequel.

REVIEW: THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

CAST

Natalie Portman (Thor)
Scorlett Johansson (Lucy)
Eric Bana (Hanna)
Jim Sturgess (Across The Universe)
Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
David Morrissey (Basic Instinct 2)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

King Henry VIII’s (Eric Bana) marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) does not produce a male heir to the throne; their only surviving daughter is Mary (Constance Stride). Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) and his brother in law Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance), plan to install Boleyn’s older daughter Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman), as the king’s mistress. They hope Anne will bear him a son. Anne’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristin Scott Thomas), is disgusted by the plot. Anne eventually agrees to please her father and uncle. Anne’s younger sister, Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), marries William Carey (Benedict Cumberbatch), even though his family had asked for Anne’s hand.

While visiting the Boleyn estate, Henry is injured in a hunting accident, indirectly caused by Anne, and, urged by her scheming uncle, is nursed by Mary. While in her care, Henry becomes smitten with her and invites her to court. Mary and her husband reluctantly agree, aware that the king has invited her because he desires her. Mary and Anne become ladies-in-waiting to Queen Catherine and Henry sends William Carey abroad on an assignment. Separated from her husband, Mary finds herself falling in love with Henry. Anne secretly marries the nobleman Henry Percy (Oliver Coleman), although he is betrothed to Lady Mary Talbot. Anne confides in her brother George Boleyn (Jim Sturgess), who is overjoyed and proceeds to tell Mary. Fearing Anne will ruin the Boleyn family by marrying such a prominent earl without the king’s consent, Mary alerts her father and uncle. They confront Anne, annul the marriage, and exile her to France.

Mary becomes pregnant. Her family receives new grants and estates, their debts are paid, and Henry arranges George’s marriage to Jane Parker. When Mary nearly suffers a miscarriage, she is confined to bed until her child is born. Norfolk recalls Anne to England to keep Henry’s attention from wandering to another rival. In her belief that Mary exiled her to increase her own status, Anne successfully campaigns to win Henry over. When Mary gives birth to a son, Henry Carey, Thomas and Norfolk are overjoyed, but the celebration is short lived, as Anne whispered to Henry that the baby was born a bastard, which infuriates Norfolk. Henry then has Mary sent to the country at Anne’s request. Shortly after, Mary is widowed. Anne encourages Henry to break from the Catholic Church when the Pope refuses to annul his marriage to Queen Catherine. Henry succumbs to Anne’s demands, declares himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, and gets Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to annul the marriage.

Anne’s schemes drive Henry to the breaking point, and in a fit of rage, he rapes her. A pregnant Anne marries Henry to please her family and becomes Queen of England. Despite the birth of a healthy daughter, Elizabeth, Henry blames Anne for not producing a son, and begins courting Jane Seymour (Corinne Galloway) in secret. After Anne suffers the miscarriage of a son, she begs George to have sex with her to replace the child she lost, because if anyone found out about the miscarriage, she would be burned as a witch. George at first agrees, realizing that it is Anne’s only hope, but they do not go through with it. However, George’s neglected wife Jane witnesses enough of their encounter to become suspicious. She reports what she has seen and both Anne and George are arrested. The two are found guilty and sentenced to death for treason, adultery and incest. Distraught by the news of the execution of George, his mother disowns her husband and brother, vowing never to forgive them for what their greed has done to her children.

After Mary learns that she was late for George’s execution, she returns to court to plead for Anne’s life. Believing that Henry will spare her sister, she leaves to see Anne right before the scheduled execution. Anne asks Mary to take care of her daughter Elizabeth if anything should happen to her. Mary watches from the crowd as Anne makes her final speech, waiting for the execution to be cancelled as Henry promised. A letter from Henry is given to Mary, warning her not to come to his court further, and implicitly revealing his decision to execute Anne after all. Ten days after Anne’s execution, Henry and Jane are married, Norfolk is imprisoned, and the next three generations of his family are executed for treason. Mary marries William Stafford (Eddie Redmayne) and they have two children, Anne and Edward. Mary takes an active role in raising Anne’s daughter Elizabeth (Maisie Smith), who grows up to become Queen of England, and reigns for 44 years.

An interesting take on the story of the Boleyn sisters (who did both have a relationship with Henry), and if it encourages more people to find out about the real historical events then in my opinion that can only be a good thing. Henry’s relationship with Anne changed England through his break with the catholic church, and is both fascinating and tragic.

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES – EXTENDED EDITION

CAST
Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Christopher Lee (Lord of The Rings)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Ryan Gage (The Musketeers)
Reaching the finish line of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy is an accomplishment for both viewer and director.
 The film picks up seconds after The Desolation of Smaug ends: The great, fire-breathing dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) descends upon Laketown, bathing its residents in a sea of fire. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the dwarves watch in horror from Erebor, while Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) battles the dragon in Laketown, earning the respect of its people. Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) remains the captive of the Necromancer – aka Sauron (also voiced by Cumberbatch) – as Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) conspire to free him. Soon Thorin, like Smaug before him, becomes obsessed with the Lonely Mountain’s treasure, and incites a war with the elves, led by Thranduil (Lee Pace) and trailed by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Also approaching is Azog’s orc army, which threatens to overpower any one of the protagonist armies. If you’re counting armies, that’s the dwarves, elves, men from Laketown, orcs, and wild wolves, who also show up to claim the Arkenstone.
This extended cut adds approximately twenty minutes of new footage, much of which is incorporated into the battle sequences. This version actually earned an R rating, which again proves that the MPAA is scared of its own shadow. Other than some CGI blood splatter and an over-the-top scene where Legolas decapitates a couple of orcs while hanging upside down, this is decidedly PG-13 material. The opening battle at Laketown is the film’s most exciting, as the circling, taunting Smaug remains a visually and narratively compelling character thanks to Cumberbatch and some incredible visual effects.
 This extended cut does provide a few welcome character moments that improve the film. Jackson really underwhelms with the too-brief Gandalf/Sauron fight he previewed in An Unexpected Journey, but at least that is given a bit more screen time here.  Better are added moments between Bilbo and Bofur (James Nesbitt) and extended scenes where Thorin contemplates whether or not to engage in battle against the elves and men.  We also see the annoying Alfrid (Ryan Gage) die on screen, so there’s that to look forward to.
At the end of this epic, This film  stands as a decent conclusion to Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy.  the film is presented here with 20 minutes of additional footage. Fans will no doubt want to own this extended edition, which offers fantastic picture and sound quality and hours upon hours of extras.

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG- EXTENDED EDITION

CAST
Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Ryan Gage (The Musketeers)
 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3D Blu-ray delivers stunning video and reference-quality audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release.We Return to Middle Earth where the dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug.
 The 3D Extended Edition release of The Desolation of Smaug includes five BD-50 discs: two for the 3D version of the 186-minute feature film (with a break midway through the extended cut), one for the 2D version of the EE (with no breaks or disc swaps to be had), and two more discs devoted to more than ten hours of high definition bonus content. Thankfully, both the MVC-encoded 3D and AVC-encoded 2D presentations are virtually identical in quality; to each other and to their April 2014 Blu-ray counterparts.
 Similar to the palette shift that occurs when moving from The Fellowship of the Ring to The Two Towers, The Desolation of Smaug is a much darker, bleaker film than An Unexpected Journey. The same goes for Warner’s 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D and MVC-encoded 3D video presentations. Shadows are greedier, the cloak of night more oppressive, delineation less forgiving, and crush a bit more of a nuisance than before. Even so, the two transfers are excellent examples of the benefits high definition affords; each one rich in detail, lovely to behold, and utterly faithful to Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie’s dramatic digital color grading. Skintones are perfectly saturated (or desaturated, as is typically the case), black levels are satisfying (albeit a touch muted in Mirkwood and Erebor), and contrast is spot on, with very little in the way of distractions. (The few that do arise trace back to the filmmakers and/or the FX.) Clarity is also remarkable in both 2D and 3D, with crisp edges free from aliasing and ringing, refined textures that capture every last subtlety of the film’s production design and costumes, and a pleasing veneer of grain that doesn’t hinder the image in any way.
 In 3D, the experience is perhaps even more stunning, with a level of depth and dimensionality reserved only for the best of the best 3D releases. The aforementioned bleakness and darkness doesn’t take a toll on the MVC-encoded 3D presentation, nor does it muddle Jackson’s imagery in any way. Orc swords pierce the screen. Forests extend into the distance. Mountains spill back to the horizon. Rivers rage as barrels race to safety. Elves leap overhead. Spiders lunge at the viewer. Drawn bows point arrows beyond the bounds of the film. The streets of Laketown snake into the city. Dwarven monoliths tower above Bilbo and the Company. And Smaug looms larger and more menacingly above the fray. Then there are the veils of cobwebs, sea of trees, canopy of leaves and butterflies, crowds of onlookers, sheets of dragon scales, oceans of gold, and columns that allow one to sense the vastness of Erebor’s halls. All of it is convincing and oh so immersive, with wide vistas boasting as much 3D oomph as the most intimate close-ups. Add to that a lack of significant aliasing, shimmering, ghosting or other issues associated with 3D and you easily have what’s already one of the finest 3D releases of the year.
 Better still, artifacting, banding and other significant enemies of the crown are held at bay; again, both in the 2D and 3D presentations of the film. There are a few negligible instances of banding and artifacting, but nothing that takes a serious toll, and nothing that will be noticed by anyone who isn’t scanning the shadows, smoke and fog looking for something to overreact to. (A half-dozen unsightly, lower definition GoPro Camera shots pepper the barrel escape sequence, and irritate me every time I watch the film. But each one only appears for a split second and, again, should be laid at Jackson and Lesnie’s doorstep, not Warner’s.) All told, The Desolation of Smaug is gorgeous regardless of which version you choose to watch. Jackson’s rabid fans will be rewarded for their allegiance.