REVIEW: ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2016)

CAST

Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak)
Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd)
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Matt Lucas (Bridesmaids)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter)
Stephen Fry (Sherlock Holmes 2)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Barbara Windsor (Eastenders)
Timothy Spall (Vanilla Sky)
Matt Vogel (Muppets Most Wanted)
Hattie Morahan (Mr. Holmes)

Alice Kingsleigh has spent the past three years following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas. Upon her return to London from China, she discovers that her ex-fiancé, Hamish Ascot, has taken over her father’s company and plans to have Alice sell him her father’s ship in exchange for her family home. Unable to make a choice, Alice runs away, and comes across her butterfly friend Absolem, who disappears through a mysterious mirror on one of the upstairs rooms, returning to Underland.
There, Alice is greeted by Mirana of Marmoreal, the White Queen, Nivens McTwisp, the White Rabbit, the Tweedles, Mallymkun, the Dormouse, Thackery Earwicket, the March Hare, Bayard, and the Cheshire Cat. They inform her that Tarrant Hightopp, the Mad Hatter is in poor health because his family is missing following the Attack of the Jabberwocky. The attack occurred shortly after his father, Zanik, a hat retailer, seemed to reject Tarrant’s gift of a hat creation.
The White Queen persuades Alice to convince Time himself to save the Mad Hatter’s family in the past, believing her to be the only one who can save the Hatter. However, she cautions Alice about time, and that if her past self sees her future self, everything will be history. As Alice sets out, she ends up in a dreary palace, where Time himself, a demigod that is part-human, part-clock, resides. As Alice tries to consult Time, she finds the Chronosphere, an object that powers all time in Underland and will allow her to travel to any time in the past.

Alice ignores Time’s warning that the past is unchangeable, and steals the Chronosphere, shortly after finding Iracebeth of Grims, the exiled Red Queen, in the care of Time. Alice accidentally flies to the day of Iracebeth’s coronation, where a younger Mad Hatter/Tarrant Hightopp mocks the Red Queen/Iracebeth of Crims when the royal crown doesn’t fit on her abnormally large head. This causes Iracebeth to melt down and her father deems her emotionally unqualified to rule and passes the title of queen to her younger sister, the White Queen/Mirana of Marmoreal.

Alice learns of an event in Iracebeth’s and Mirana’s past that caused friction between the two and travels back in time again, hoping it will change Iracebeth’s ways and stop the Jabberwocky from killing the Hatter’s family. She learns that the hat that the Mad Hatter thought his father threw away was actually treasured by him. Meanwhile, she meets the White Queen and the Red Queen as sisters. Mirana steals a tart from her mother and eats it. When confronted by their mother, Mirana lies about eating the tart, and Iracebeth is accused, causing her to run out of the castle. Alice sees that Iracebeth is about to run into a clock, thinking that’s the event that deforms her head and personality. Alice prevents that collision but fails to change the past, as Iracebeth trips and slams her head into a stone wall instead.

A weakened Time then confronts Alice after relentless searching, and scolds her for putting all of time in danger. Out of panic, Alice runs into a nearby mirror back in the real world, where she wakes up in a mental hospital, diagnosed with female hysteria. As Dr. Addison Bennett, a psychiatric doctor, tries to inject her with a sedative, she escapes and returns to Underland via the mirror, where she travels to the Attack of the Jabberwocky Day. Alice discovers that the Mad Hatter’s family was captured by the Red Queen instead and never died. Returning to the present however, Alice discovers that the Mad Hatter is on the brink of death.

Alice, close to tears, says that she believes him, and Tarrant transforms back to his normal self. The Underlandians go to the Red Queen’s new organic plant castle, where the Mad Hatter finds his family shrunk and trapped in an ant farm. However, the Red Queen apprehends them and steals the Chronosphere from Alice. Ignoring Time’s warning, she takes her sister back to the day she lied about the tart. By the time the Mad Hatter and Alice get there, the Red Queen and her younger self have seen each other. Time becomes irrelevant, and Underland begins to freeze in rust. At a powerless Time’s pleas, Alice and the Mad Hatter, using the Chronosphere race back to the present, where Alice places the Chronosphere in its original place in time.
With the Chronosphere stabilized, Underland reverts to normal. The Mad Hatter reunites with his family and the White Queen and the Red Queen make amends while Time forgives Alice for the trouble she caused. Alice bids farewell to her friends and returns to the real world through another mirror. She finds her mother is about to sign over Alice’s ship to Hamish. Her mother decides to support her daughter instead. Hamish gets the Kingsleigh family home but not the ship. Alice and her mother set out to travel the world together with their own shipping company.A wonderful follow up to the first film, with all your favorite characters returning for the adventure and some amazing new ones too. A film the whole family can enjoy.

 

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REVIEW: STAR WARS – EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

CAST

Ewan McGregor (Cassandra’s Dream)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Jake Lloyd (Jingle All The Way)
Ian McDiarmid (Margaret)
Pernilla August (Search)
Samuel J. Jakcson (Jackie Brown)
Oliver Ford Davies (Johnny English)
Hugh Quarshie (Highlander)
Ahmed Best (Poolboy)
Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie)
Kenny Baker (Labyrinth)
Frank Oz (Sesame Street)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon)
Ray Park (Heroes)
Warwick Davis (Willow)
Celia Imrie (Our Zoo)
Dominic West (300)
Keira Knightley (King Arthur)
Peter Seafinowicz (Spy)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)

Supreme Chancellor Valorum, leader of the Galactic Republic, dispatches Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to negotiate with the Trade Federation leadership to end a blockade of battleships around the planet Naboo. Darth Sidious, a Sith Lord and the Trade Federation’s secret adviser, orders Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray to kill the Jedi and invade Naboo with an army of battle droids. The Jedi flee to Naboo, where Qui-Gon saves Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks from being killed during the invasion. Indebted to the Jedi, Jar Jar leads them to an underwater Gungan city. The Jedi try but fail to persuade the Gungan leader, Boss Nass, into helping the people of Naboo, though they are able to obtain transportation to Theed, the capital city on the surface. They rescue Queen Amidala, the ruler of the Naboo people, and escape the planet on her royal starship, which is damaged as they pass the Federation blockade.

Amidala’s ship is unable to sustain its hyperdrive and lands for repairs on the desert planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, astromech droid R2-D2, and Amidala (in disguise as a handmaiden) visit the settlement of Mos Espa to buy new parts at a junk shop. There they meet the shop’s owner Watto and his nine-year-old slave Anakin Skywalker, who is a gifted pilot and engineer, and has created a protocol droid called C-3PO. Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force within Anakin and is convinced that he is the “chosen one” of Jedi prophecy who will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon wagers Anakin’s freedom with Watto in a Podrace, which Anakin wins. Anakin joins the group to be trained as a Jedi, leaving his mother Shmi behind. En route to their repaired starship, Qui-Gon enters a brief lightsaber duel with Darth Maul, Darth Sidious’ Sith apprentice who was sent to capture Amidala.

The Jedi escort Amidala to the Republic capital planet Coruscant so she can plead her people’s case to Chancellor Valorum in the Galactic Senate. Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council to train Anakin as a Jedi, but the Council are concerned that Anakin is vulnerable to the dark side of the Force and decline. Undaunted, Qui-Gon vows to train Anakin himself. Meanwhile, Naboo senator Palpatine persuades Amidala to make a vote of no confidence in Valorum to elect a more capable chancellor to resolve the crisis on Naboo. Though she pushes for the vote, Amidala grows frustrated with the corruption in the Senate and decides to return to Naboo with the Jedi.

On Naboo, Padmé reveals herself to the Gungans as Queen Amidala and persuades them into an alliance against the Trade Federation. Jar Jar leads his people in a battle against the droid army while Padmé leads the hunt for Gunray in Theed. In a starship hangar, Anakin enters a vacant starfighter and inadvertently triggers its autopilot, joining the battle against the Federation droid control ship in space. Anakin ventures into the ship and destroys it from within, deactivating the droid army. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul, who mortally wounds Qui-Gon before being bisected by Obi-Wan. As he dies, Qui-Gon asks Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Subsequently, Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor and Gunray is arrested. The Jedi Council promotes Obi-Wan to Jedi knighthood and reluctantly accepts Anakin as Obi-Wan’s apprentice. At a festive ceremony, Padmé presents a gift of appreciation and friendship to the Gungans.I always felt it grossly unfair that many Star Wars fans are quick to denounce The Phantom Menace as the worst Star Wars film in the entire saga. I suppose in a certain aspect they are right: in every set of slightly different things, there statistically always has to be a best and a worst one. However “worst” doesn’t necessarily mean terrible. Each Star Wars film is still above and beyond in terms of budget, quality and entertainment, most other sci-fi films out there.  I can summarize that The Phantom Menace serves as a solid opener to one of the greatest sci-fi film series ever made, and does a good job setting the scene and introducing the characters who we’ll be spending a lot of time with and watching them develop over the coming films, while at the same time also serving as a workable and enjoyable film in its own right.

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.

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – 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)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars – Episode II)
Andy Serkis (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Barry Humphries (The Howling III)
Jeffrey Thomas (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Conan Stevens (Game of Thrones)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Jarred Blakiston (Power Rangers Dino Charge)
 The release of the three Lord of the Rings Extended Editions were something of a revelation a decade or so ago, particularly for J.R.R. Tolkien fans that wanted to immerse themselves even further in the cinematic landscape of Middle-earth. The nature of the LOTR novels dictated that the film adaptations would be packed to the brim with characters and locations while still excluding a wealth of material that couldn’t possibly be included in the movies, so introducing more material made for a fuller experience.
Peter Jackson and company have taken a similar approach with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray release, but the new cut of the film doesn’t feel like the definitive version that the LOTR extended cuts did. Instead, a movie that is already stretched too thin simply becomes longer, feeling like an indulgent director’s cut rather than a noteworthy superior cut.
All of that being said, An Unexpected Journey Extended as a Blu-ray release is still a worthwhile purchase for fans of the movie or the universe. The real selling point is the continuation of the Appendices, which even pick up the numbering from the LOTR Extended Editions so that this set holds Appendices 7 and 8. Spread across two different discs, the documentary material is just as rewarding to watch as the LOTR Appendices were, spanning about nine hours of in-depth production footage and interviews. The Appendices cover all aspects of building Tolkien’s world, from returning to the original LOTR sets to casting the new characters to developing the culture of the Dwarves to the score and even the early involvement of initial director Guillermo del Toro.
For fans of Middle-earth or just the process of making a film, these Appendices stand as the most thorough documentation of blockbuster movie-making in recent memory. But perhaps the most engaging part of the behind-the-scenes footage is the depiction of the friendships and bonds forged in the trenches of making a movie of this stature. For such a large scale production, seeing these relationships blossom in this footage is inspiring. The only downside to the Appendices is that unless you opt for the “Play All” option from the beginning, each segment will kick you back to the main menu after it ends rather than just continuing on from where you begin.
 The commentary track from Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens is insightful and entertaining, even if a lot of the same content is covered in the Appendices at various points. Still, their rapport was amusing enough to keep me engaged throughout the length of the movie. The other special feature included on the movie disc is the “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth” featurette that’s a holdover from the initial Blu-ray release of the movie.

The first Hobbit Extended Edition feels bloated as a movie, but the bountiful supplemental content and absolutely stunning audio/visual presentation

REVIEW: HANNIBAL – SEASON 1-3

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MAIN CAST

Hugh Dancy (King Arthur)
Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of The Titans)
Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls)
Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix)
Hettienne Park (Puppy Love)
Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Scott Thompson (The Simpsons)
Aaron Abrams (Take The Waltz)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Raúl Esparza (Pushing Daisies)
Kacey Rohl (Caprica)
Lara Jean Chorostecki (Beauty and The Beast)
Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)
Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit)
Eddie Izzard (Powers)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)
Cynthia Nixon (Igby Goes Down)
Fortunato Cerlino (Gomorrah)
Tao Okamoto (Batman V Superman)
Glenn Fleshler (All Good Things)
Nina Arianda (Tower Heist)
Rutina Wesley (True Blood)
Vladimir Jon Cubrt (Hollywoodland)
Richard Chevolleau (Earth: Final Conflict)
Chelan Simmons (Wonderfalls)
Cynthia Preston (Carrie 2013)
Molly Shannon (Scary Movie 4)
Ellen Greene (Heroes)
Dan Fogler (Fanboys)
Lance Henriksen (Aliens)
Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me)
Martin Donovan (Ant-Man)
Shawn Doyle (Big Love)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction)
Jeremy Davies (Constantine)
Daniel Kash (Bitten)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Julian Richings (Cube)
Joe Anderson (The Crazies)
Mia Maestro (Alias)


There was a lot of wariness of Hannibal initially. While the original source material were Thomas Harris’ books, the movies loomed so huge in the public’s mind. And going the prequel route? Not only has that not turned out so well in Hollywood in general, it’s already given us a disappointing prequel in this very franchise with Hannibal Rising.

But lo and behold, not only was Hannibal good, it was great. There was always a major reason for optimism, amongst all the naysayers, and that was Bryan Fuller. An amazingly imaginative and distinct voice in TV, Fuller’s previous shows like Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies had proven he was someone whose work was always worth a look. And it became clear that he had a true passion for the story he was telling with Hannibal.

It’s now a very daunting task for any actor to play Hannibal Lecter, thanks to how beloved and memorable Anthony Hopkins was in the role. But Mads Mikkelsen proved to be an excellent Lecter, giving the character an ever-cool, ever observational demeanor that conveyed both his intelligence and his danger while not behaving in such an arch manner that he would come off as too obvious a villain to those he interacted with.

As the true protagonist of the series, Hugh Dancy is also perfect as Will Graham, who goes far beyond the usual “eccentric but skilled” archetype of crime series heroes to portray someone with some genuinely traumatic issues – which only escalated through the season. Dancy managed the difficult task of portraying Will’s amazing skill set and his innate “goodness” while also showing that this guy has severe problems that would make him genuinely seem like he could be someone to keep an eye out for. If Hannibal was going to convince the world at large and possibly even Will himself that he was a killer, we had to see how that could sell, and Dancy’s performance did that perfectly.

When Hannibal was first announced, it sounded like the show would be about Hannibal and Will consulting together on killer-of-the-week cases, with Hannibal managing to keep the truth about who he was from Will for several seasons. All of which is to say, it sounded like it could be tedious. But Fuller quickly proved he wasn’t playing into our assumptions at all. Yes, Will’s job had him working several different cases this season, but it was hardly a bunch of one-off, unimportant stories. In fact, several of these cases would have repercussions in later episodes, or even the killers themselves (such as Gideon and Georgia) returning. The events in Hannibal were never self-contained. Will killing Hobbs in the premiere was a huge event that would haunt and shape Will through the entire season. The totem pole on the beach may have had no connection to the main story, but it would continue to resonate with Will as he began to hallucinate. The entire season felt like a well-constructed story where the majority of the cases Will worked contributed to the tapestry being completed.

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While Will and Hannibal’s relationship is the one at the core of this series, Jack Crawford – an integral character in Harris’ books – was hardly shortchanged. Laurence Fishburne, looking far more engaged than during his short time on CSI, was great as Crawford who had his own interplay with Hannibal occurring all season, while dealing with some huge issues at home. The story of Jack’s ill-fated attempt to use FBI trainee Miriam Lass (Anna Chlumsky) to help find the Chesapeake Ripper also was used to truly shape who Jack was and what was motivating him, rather than a bit of backstory thrown in and then barely touched upon.

Overall though, the supporting characters were strong. Caroline Dhavernas had a tricky role she pulled off well as a protégé to Hannibal and a colleague of Will’s whose close ties to both men made it all the more difficult to suspect either was up to no good. Tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) was equal parts vexing and amusing as she weaved in and out of the story – eventually seeing some truly depraved events occur while in the company of Dr. Gideon (Eddie Izzard). Despite only appearing a couple of times, Gina Torres brought a lot of power to Bella Crawford’s plight and rift with her husband. And it was a delight to see Gillian Anderson as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s own psychiatrist, as we tried to figure out exactly what she and Hannibal knew about one another.

Best of all was Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), the daughter of serial killer Garett Jacob Hobbs. On a lesser procedural crime series Abigail would have been a one and done character; the damsel in distress Will saved. But here, the psychological damage her father had put her through long before his death, not to mention the horrific day he died (and killed her mother) cast a big shadow on the entire season. Abigail’s own secrets and her growing bond with both Hannibal and Will made for a compelling through line, as so many possibilities lay before her with two surrogate fathers who could help shape her into someone who stops murders or causes them.

Regardless though, Hannibal has plenty to fuel its stories going forward. As I noted above, Fuller didn’t play into audience expectations at all – who would have guessed that Will would have figured out the truth about Hannibal by the end of the first season? But by having it occur in the manner it did, with Will disgraced, imprisoned and looking guilty of multiple murders, while Hannibal walks free, the entire dynamic has been upended in a very exciting way.

We went into this year with a huge change-up, as Will Graham was locked up, accused of the crimes he now realized Hannibal Lecter had committed. Bryan Fuller took this subversion of the usual Thomas Harris dynamic and used it to its fullest extent, as the early episodes involved Will as the genius, (perceived) killer who was still a valuable resource to the FBI.

At the same time, Fuller realized this was a storyline that shouldn’t go too far, and wisely constructed Season 2 in two distinct segments, wrapping up the “Will as prisoner” section in the first six episodes. These episodes found Will at odds with Jack and Alana while forging a closer, ill-fated bond with Beverly. There was also some excellent material for Dr. Chilton, whose own narcissism and instinct for self-preservation mixed with his intelligence and growing awareness of just what a threat Hannibal was.

It all culminated in the absolutely fantastic “Yakimono”, which was basically the first of two amazing finales Hannibal would deliver within one season. The excitement of Miriam (Anna Chlumsky) turning up alive turned out to simply be the next step in Hannibal’s twisted traps, as Miriam was a ticking time bomb of sorts – set to go off at just the right time, aimed at a perfectly-placed target in Chilton.

Yes, Hannibal’s rise to supervillain status was cemented in Season 2, and it was glorious and terrifying to behold. Hannibal had always operated on a level that was a bit bigger than life and that got pushed even further this year, as we learned just how intricate, complex and masterful Lecter’s plans were and saw how amazing his abilities were, as he manipulated people in ways both subtle and extreme. In the wrong hands, it could have all fallen apart, but the wonderful writing and directing, combined with Mads Mikkelsen’s confidant performance – always exuding intelligence – made it work.

Meanwhile, we got to see Will Graham in a much better place, at least as far as his own comprehension of what was occurring and willingness to make huge moves of his own. After seeing Will mentally spiraling throughout Season 1, it was very gratifying to see him now so much more in control and, even as Will was put through one terrible situation after another. Hugh Dancy again brought the right mixture of vulnerability and inner strength to Will, and he and Mikkelsen played beautifully off one another.

Opening the season with the flash forward to Jack and Hannibal’s brutal, nasty fight, with a potentially fatal turn of events for Jack, was an audacious and spectacular move. It put a ticking time clock on the entire season and let us knows, even in the quietest moments, that something very bad was going to occur soon.Image result for hannibal mizumonoIn the meantime, we met siblings Margot and Mason Verger, who had their own mini-arc over several episodes. At first, I wasn’t sure if Michael Pitt’s rather big, mannered performance fit in on a show that mixes grisly and shocking imagery with quiet, subtle acting. But I was soon won over, as we got to know Mason more and saw just what a monster he was – and how his “Look at me!”, repellant behavior purposely stood in contrast to Hannibal’s mask of kindness and gentleness towards those around him. Hannibal’s instant dislike of Mason was one of several times Fuller was able to inject humor into the macabre situations this season.

One of the only problematic aspects of the season as it progressed was Alana and her seemingly unwavering belief in Hannibal’s innocence and Will’s guilt. In the early episodes, it was actually very interesting to see her sympathetic portrayal as someone who was horrified to think her friend was a killer, but wanted to help him, sure he’d been pushed into his actions by Jack not heeding the consequences in Season 1. But the more the likes of Beverly and Jack began to believe Will and start suspecting Hannibal, the more frustrating it became that Alana just didn’t see it. Thankfully, Alana began to come around on her own, not due to a shocking moment in the season finale, and was firmly on Will’s side again by the time all hell broke loose at Casa Lecter in the finale…

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…And what a finale it was. As exciting as the Jack/Hannibal flash-forward was, there was some concern that it might deflate the actual finale a bit. After all, we’d clearly seen the biggest thing that would happen in the final moments of the season, right? What else could be bigger than that? The answer was dark as hell but also incredibly exciting, as it turned out Jack would only be the first character to have a possibly fatal encounter with Hannibal inside his home. Within just a few minutes, Jack, Alana and Will all lay bleeding and dying, while Hannibal Lecter walked free. Oh, and Abigail was revealed to be alive… and then had her throat sliced by Hannibal! And Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) was revealed as being Hannibal’s companion (and accomplice) at the very end!

Season 3 of Hannibal began on the heels of an incredibly audacious, jaw-dropping Season 2 finale, that left nearly every major character except Hannibal himself possibly dead, as the bad doctor fled the country accompanied by Bedelia. You couldn’t have a bigger “What’s going to happen next?!” scenario, which no doubt led to frustrations when the season began and answers were not exactly being quickly delivered. More so, while Hannibal has always been an unusual, often esoteric, dream-like series, all of those aspects were dialed up to the Nth degree in the first three episodes of the season.

It was still highly evocative, compelling stuff, delving into the frame of mind of characters like Hannibal, Bedelia and Will Graham and their new lives in Italy, more order includes – while slowly revealing who’d survived that night in the house. I have to say, the answer to that question being “Everyone except Abigail” did diminish what had happened to a certain extent, but still, these episodes were showing there was plenty of consequence and fallout from that oh-so bloody night in Hannibal’s house, beyond the injuries sustained.

The pace picked up considerably around episode four and then went into overdrive, as Jack had an amazing rematch with Hannibal and Mason Verger’s plan to get revenge kicked into gear. A high bar was set by Michael Pitt as Mason in Season 2, but Joe Anderson adeptly stepped into his shoes (and mutilated face) in Season 3, bringing his own take on Mason’s witty, macabre insanity.Image result for hannibal primaveraThe standout “Digestivo”, which wrapped up the Mason Verger story once and for all in a thrilling, intense hour of television. A lot happened here, to the point that this felt like a season finale – which was not coincidental, given the show was about to leap ahead three years and into an entirely different story.

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Given this ended up being the final season of Hannibal I am incredibly grateful Bryan Fuller decided to move up his plan to make Red Dragon the Season 4 storyline and put it into the second half of Season 3 instead. Not only did it mean we did get the show’s version of the original Hannibal novel depicted, but it also essentially meant we got two seasons in one this year. And wow, was this version of Red Dragon awesome. Yes, it streamlined some aspects – we didn’t get any of the Dolarhyde flashbacks (one tiny glimpse aside) and Will’s role was altered, to some extent. But this was creepy, intense storytelling through and through, with Richard Armitage bringing just the right mix of scary and semi-sympathetic as Francis Dolarhyde, a murderous, delusional monster who was at war with the potentially loving man somewhere deep inside him – a war amplified as Dolarhyde fell for the blind Reba (a strong Rutina Wesley), even as “the Dragon” was coming to life within him, compelling him to kill.

This storyline also allowed Fuller to bring characters like Jimmy, Brian, Freddie and Chilton back into the story, all of whom got nice moments – well “nice” may not be the right word for Chilton, but he sure got some riveting moments, as he came face to face (and mouth to mouth) with the Dragon in a horrific manner.

Of course, the center of this show has always truly been the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham and has given them a far more intricate, layered and complicated dynamic than they typically had in the Red Dragon novel (or other films), where Will met Hannibal a couple times, figured out he was the killer and was nearly killed while catching him. That meant this version of Red Dragon couldn’t help but feel different than others – even early on, when the story beats were pretty much sticking to the source material, what was driving Will forward felt notably altered thanks to all he’d gone through in this series beforehand. So yes, Will’s actual deductive skills are not used as much here as in the novel when it comes to tracking down Dolarhyde, and his relationship with Molly is essentially a hollow one he can’t really go back to – not because of anything wrong with her, but because of what he’s gone through. Yet the story still resonated so much because we were seeing how Will was affected by once more interacting with Hannibal and the simultaneous urge to join forces with him and determination to put an end to Lecter, once and for all.

In the midst of this, the rather obvious fact that Hannibal’s obsession with Will was a form of falling in love with Will was finally articulated – as was the idea that a part of Will returned those feelings, even while he knew Hannibal was a monster himself. This back and forth had long been fascinating and it felt appropriate to finally be upfront about it here. What was also great was that this Hannibal was a fully dimensionalized, multi-faceted character in a way no other version had been before – we saw so many sides of him, including the caring side that manifested with Will or even Abigail… even as he murdered Abigail and tried to kill Will!

We understood Hannibal better than ever, yet Fuller commendably never tried to redeem him. He was never going to change who he was. And that’s a big reason the ending was so satisfying, as Will pulled them off that cliff together. It was, on one hand, a culmination of the strange love story between the two – as the “murder husbands” were united, having killed Dolarhyde together. But Will also knew this was it. If he let Hannibal go, or live at all, he would kill again – he’d promised as much while threatening Alana. And Will might eventually cross even more lines in terms of the crimes he was willing to commit himself. So it had to end… which it did, in an emotionally stirring, “yes, this feels exactly right” manner that was, as always, perfectly played by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen.

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT 1,2 & 3

 

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)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars – Episode II)
Andy Serkis (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Barry Humphries (The Howling III)
Jeffrey Thomas (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Conan Stevens (Game of Thrones)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Jarred Blakiston (Power Rangers Dino Charge)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is Peter Jackson’s return to the land of middle earth, and it’s another epic adventure that is sure to delight moviegoers of all ages. The story of The Hobbit takes place before The Lord of the Rings. It connects some of the dots to Jackson’s earlier trilogy and it’s once again an adaption of the beloved writing of J.R.R. Tolkien as brought to cinematic life. This is one journey you are absolutely going to want to make because this is one of the most exciting motion pictures released in the fantasy genre since this film adventure began with The Lord of the Rings. The story takes place before the events that unfold in The Lord of the Rings. Things start to unfold in flashback style through the storytelling of a much older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), reflecting upon his earlier adventures as he reminiscences with Frodo. We learn about how a powerful dragon named Smaug destroyed much of the land where Dwarfs lived, and claimed their Dwarf Kingdom, leaving the dwarfs without a place to call home. Flash forward and onto the beginning encounter between young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) who informs the merry hobbit that he’ll be going on an adventure and that he needs to prepare. Before the evening is even over with, Bilbo is joined at his quiet home with the presence of thirteen dwarves, including the warrior leader Thorin (Richard Armitage). The company is quick to make themselves at home, feasting and celebrating, and all before Bilbo learns of their journey to reclaim the Dwarf kingdom known as Erebor. Reluctantly at first, Bilbo eventually joins the ranks of the team as their “thief”  and journeys with them on an adventure he never expected in the first place. Gandalf saw something in him that he couldn’t even see for himself.

As the perilous journey continues, they face great danger against Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, and other obstacles on their way to Erebor. What no one expects is that Bilbo will accidentally stumble upon a small golden ring, and that there would be a chance encounter between Bilbo and a creature named Gollum. The rest of the history of Middle Earth waits from here. There was so much anticipation for this film that it is nearly unparalleled in the history of film. It sounds like an exaggeration to state that there was that much hope and anticipation surrounding this film, but the fan-base surrounding this production is unlike anything else out there. The fan base is so dedicated and enthralled in the works of Tolkien and in director Jackson’s vision for bringing these stories to life. There is a lot of dedication from the fans and from those who are involved with making the films happen.


How many big-budget films are given a prequel treatment that is massively enticing to loyal fans and the masses at large? The only film to compare it to  is that of Star Wars’s prequel The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately, we know the results of that prequel film and series was disappointing for many fans. So the question soon centers upon whether or not fans felt the same way about The Hobbit on film. Luckily, the comparisons can end there, because while some viewers may quibble over sentiments that express disappointment that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn’t exactly on the same precise level of filmmaking found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy it’s clear this film isn’t underwhelming, even if for some it failed to live up to the built-up anticipation.

The Hobbit is also a revolutionary film that changes the game of filmmaking. This is the first production of films to be filmed with 48fps (frames per second) technology. The entire idea behind it was to make these films take full advantage of 3D technology so as to remove the effects of motion-blur commonly found and to increase the overall resolution and clarity. It wasn’t something the studio had in mind. This was all a part of Jackson’s vision for how to impact the future of filmmaking. Theaters projecting The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and future installments had to upgrade their theater equipment just to project these films in the best format possible and that still isn’t realistic as a possibility for many theaters. Yet consider the fact that this is the first film ever produced with 48fps. And it was all because Jackson wanted to do something even greater; something audiences hadn’t even had the opportunity to experience before.

The industry standard of 24fps won’t disappear anytime soon (especially considering the higher costs associated with the technology of 48fps cameras) but at least it seems Jackson wasn’t all alone in wanting to advance the filmmaking game as James Cameron has already announced plans to film his next motion-picture with the same 48fps frame-rate. This is really quite the accomplishment. Almost everyone involved with The Lord of the Rings films creation in prominent roles came back to work with Peter Jackson in making The Hobbit films. This is perhaps one of the most notable elements of the entire production. Howard Shore has crafted another score that is just essential to the backbone of the film. Although it is highly enjoyable it is also a bit repetitive compared to earlier outings, with the greatest accomplishment in this entire outing being the stellar Misty Mountains song. Director of photography Andrew Lesnie is also back to being brilliant as the official photographer of Middle Earth and New Zealand.

Speaking of returning individuals, not only does Andy Serkis return to reprise his legendary performance of Gollum but he receives a promotion to second unit director. He continues to prove that he deserves a special Academy Award for outstanding acting in an uncomfortable outfit and suit thingymagig. Of course, he’s also brilliant all around and a real asset to these films (and now apparently in several ways). While Jackson also keeps things interesting for the adults in the audience  he clearly seems to keep in mind that the story needed to be a more jubilant one and the results are the funniest and most simply enjoyable film in the series to date. It’s the kind of film you could simply put on and get lost within for a few joyful hours. The whole family can share in enjoying this adventure story. The journey continues with an unlikely team of heroes that have set out to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from the all-powerful Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is the hobbit that fits the role of the thief to steal from the living dragon. Little does the rest of his team know that he’s in possession of the mysterious and magical ring that he took from Gollum. The leader of their team, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) goes off course in order to fight the very darkness that threatens the world. They soon realize that they will need the help from every race, and more, if they ever hope to defeat the great darkness that will soon overtake all of the lands.

 

 

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 tales are still unravelling and a lot of the characters are still telling their backstories. However, Peter Jackson and co. don’t allow this picture to go without any action. The orcs continue to follow the protagonists from one place to the next, with the intention of killing each one of them. As this danger comes upon each village, audiences are introduced to a batch of insanely entertaining action sequences. One of the most impressive happening down the rapids of a fast-moving stream. Even through the more subtle scenes, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has a much better sense of pacing that keeps it moving. Gandalf explores numerous environments, as he ventures the darkness of the curses that threaten the entire world. This team of writers don’t need to have constant battles in order to keep their audiences engaged. While some of the dialogue is intentionally cheesy, the majority of it holds its own fairly well. As expected, the film is humorous when it wants to be. There are a lot of gags against the stereotypes of dwarves that will surely gain some laughs from moviegoers. This works extremely well in bringing a change of tone to the picture every now and then. While the team continues to fight towards the mountain in which Smaug is underneath, they encounter a wide variety of different people and creatures. It’s all a matter of being able to tell the difference between friend and foe. Of course, a lot goes wrong along the way.

Despite having Smaug’s name in the title, he’s the antagonist held for the third act of the feature. This dangerous dragon makes for a meaty portion of the running time, as Bilbo attempts to sneak around the beat’s chamber without being detected. Once the group is faced with the task of fighting off the dragon, they’re forced to draw deep inside themselves in order to find the bravery and courage needed to at least put up a fight. There’s plenty of running around and fighting here, but Smaug gets quite a bit of time to speak with Bilbo before things start spinning out of control. Not only is the dragon threatening in size, appearance, and name, but is actually rather witty in his dialogue. This makes for a great final act that pulls everything together.

 

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)

The Battle of the Five Armies proves to be an accurate title for the last entry in the series. This entry picks up directly where The Desolation of Smaug left off with the impending doom of Laketown because of the approaching dragon Smaug. The people of the Laketown struggle during their confrontation with Smaug and try to defeat the dragon. It is ultimately up to the heroic Bard (Luke Evans) to try and stop Smaug from obliterating everything in the path and save Laketown. Thranduil (Lee Pace) now seeks the sacred jewels of his people and arrives with the elves to get them back from the dwarf kingdom. The humans of Laketown seek shelter and gold so they can rebuild their town. The dwarves, having been without their home for so long, unite and fight to protect the reclaimed mountain kingdom. Increasing chaos ensues as the orcs arrive and bring with them bats bred for war and goblins. The threat of the rise of Sauron (the Necromancer) looms in the background.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear a war is brewing in Middle Earth between the dwarves, the elves, the orcs (under the separate commands of Azog and Bolg), and the men of Laketown (who are fighting alongside Bard). Gandalf (Ian McKellen) must try and prevent the battle that looms but is faced with escaping the grasp of the necromancer with the help of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Upon arriving outside of the dwarf kingdom before the battle begins, Gandalf tries uniting the men, dwarves, and elves as he senses the impending war approaching with the orcs and wants the armies strengths combined so they can defeat the orcs. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) also tries to unite the divided armies of men, dwarfs, and elves. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) continue to be an aid to the dwarfs as needed and are thrust directly into the ensuing battle.

Dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) has become obsessed with finding the Arkenstone: the heart of the mountain. It is kept by Bilbo Baggins as he dislikes the way that power and greed has overtaken Thorin’s mind. Bilbo tries to remind Thorin of his important duties to those in need. Thorin, blinded by gold and the rage of his past, has to overcome his demons to fight as a hero once more before the war has ended. Bilbo, a true friend to Thorin, remains by his side as he faces a inner struggle to regain his sanity and to fight for what is right.

Following An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of the Five Armies is easily the most action-packed of the three films. The entire film serves to act as a concluding act to the series. It concludes the story that was established in the first Hobbit film and brings additional closure to the entire six-film saga as it creates a bridge between series. With great adventure, action, and dramatic closure, The Battle of the Five Armies is another excellent experience in the cinematic land of Middle Earth.  The performances are impressive across the board in this film. Martin Freeman serves as a sort of anchor to the proceedings with his lovable performance as Bilbo.  Richard Armitage brings dramatic weight to the character of Thorin with his remarkable performance. As always, the great Ian McKellen makes Gandalf one of the series most beloved characters. Rightfully so. Evangeline Lilly does a superb job in the role of Tauriel. She brings her best to the part and makes an excellent action-hero. It’s a lot of fun to see Orlando Bloom bringing the character of Legolas back. Cate Blanchett is as good as always and Luke Evans brings something uniquely special to the film with his role as Bard. These performances mesh together remarkably well and help the film to succeed during both moments of spectacle and dramatic events occurring between the characters.