Thursday, December 11, 2014

Movie Trailer Thursday

EbbWorld’s Movie Trailer Thursday – The latest and greatest movie trailers on the Web.

Since last MTT was a bit girly, this week’s lot is for the boys everyone.  2015 is looking to be the new 1983 in cinema! :)

Star Wars (VII): The Force Awakens
                (For those that have been living under a rock the past 2 weeks and haven't watched it 10 times already)

What can you say?  Just plain ol’ Star Wars awesomeness that will allow us to forget that the prequels were ever made.  I mean when the Millennium Falcon shows up and the John Williams score kicks in…pure nerd nirvana. I think I’ll just leave this quote from the honorable Principal Skinner for this one,

“Why, it’s Luke, and Obi-Wan, and my favorite, Chewie! They’re all here...we have a winner!”


Terminator: Genisys
                I actually enjoyed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the psuedo-reboot Terminator Salvation.  Now we get another reboot, but retaining some characters and plotlines from the original trilogy?  My head s'plode just like all the things in this trailer.


Mad Max: Fury Road
                The first teaser trailer was insane, but awesome.  This trailer turns it up to 11 and is bat$@#% insane, and 10x awesomer.  This could be, nay, this will be the greatest post-apocalyptic cinematic experience ever.  Someone on one of the forums said after watching the trailer they felt as if they should’ve paid a fee to watch.  I tend to agree…it’s that crazy awesome.


San Andreas
                Come on…the Rock and a massive earthquake.  What’s not to like here?

The Walk
                Continuing the 80’s theme (even though the movie is set in the 70’s)…Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis is at the helm of this literal high-wire act.  Pretty amazing CG of the World Trade Center towers.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Movie Trailer Thursday (Friday edition)

Today's MTT (Movie Trailer Thursday) is a bit female-themed.  I think it's just coincidence.  Or I'm just getting more in touch with my feminine side.

Cinderella
                Actually doesn’t look half bad for a live-action version.  Sleeping Beauty remains my favorite old-school Disney movie but this seems to do its source material justice.  Casting seems right on and you could do much worse than Robb Stark as the Prince.
Into the Woods
                Disney's attempt at a fairy tale-themed musical.  Women love musicals.  Men just don't admit they like them.
Project Almanac
                Another extraordinary “found-footage” film involving hormonally unstable teenagers making terrible decisions.  Looks basically like a time-travel version of the 2012 film 'Chronicle'.  Not female-themed you say?   I disagree…it’s made by MTV Films…the channel that pretty much exclusively caters to females these days.
Age of Adaline
                My wife has the same name as this young time-conquering beauty (at least phonetically speaking) therefore this is the best movie trailer on the list…for the simple fact they utter the exquisite name multiple times in it.  Even Dr. Jones says it wonderfully!
Pitch Perfect 2
                Strangely I found the first movie…watchable.  I don’t suppose I’ll see this other than by downloading it on Redbox, but it’s worth at least a trailer post.
Jurassic World (Jurassic Park 4)
                Wait, you didn’t know there is a 4th Jurassic Park coming out next summer?  Geez, what’s wrong with you.  Or perhaps I’ve failed you with the lack of MTT updates the past year :/  You didn’t know Chris Pratt was starring in it either?!  Well now you know why the ladies are gonna be into this one ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My 'Top 10' 1980's Cartoons

Ah the halcyon days of children’s cartoons; the 80’s.  My little adventurous mind was set ablaze by these cartoons through my most formulative years (born late '79).   Have any of them not been made into terrible modern live-action versions?

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
                -A lesser known sci-fi/fantasy cartoon of the 80’s, the Wheeled Warriors cartoon was created to support the Mattel toyline of the same name.  It worked.  One of my favorite toy sets ever was my Wheeled Warrior “Mobile H.Q” toy set and accompanying customizable vehicles.
 
Silverhawks
                -Any cartoon with a kick@ guitar solo as part of the intro song is going to be kick@.  Silverhawks was basically a more space-themed version of Thundercats and though it didn’t have the same “aura”, it was just really “cool”.
Thundercats
                -What can you say?   Thundercats had everything a kid could want!  From the great animation and catchy intro theme to the iconic Sword of Omens and the eternally frightening Mumm-Ra, every episode was packed chock full of everything an 8 year-old kid hopped up on Bubble Tape could want!  Thundercats HOOOOOO!!!
Transformers
                -Before you read any further, the first thing you need to do is erase and purge any idea concocted by the modern live-action feature film abominations iterations.  Done?  Good.  So as I was saying…one of the greatest cartoons of all-time pitting two factions of sentient alien robots against each other across the galaxy only to become marooned on 80’s planet Earth.  What could be a better premise for a kids cartoon?  None…that’s the answer.  (Note: a toy tie-in gold mine!)
Voltron
                -I think the appeal to Voltron to me was that its leader’s name was Keith its ability to fuse old-world and new-world together in an overt good vs. evil space opera that even a child could understand.  Inherent in the Voltron Force were traditional moral qualities such as chivalry, honor, and courage.  Shoot, iconic 80’s cartoon voice actor Peter Cullen’s (voice of Optimus Prime also) intro narration sets the stage for a battle of good and evil that spans the cosmos…and puts chills on your back in anticipation.  I had a crush on Princess Allura.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
                -Only behind the premise of Transformers…what could be a better story for a kids cartoon then a group of teenage turtles turned into cowabungafied ninja super heroes?!  Yeah not much.  Representing everything cool a kid could want in a super hero, the Turtles never failed us until they came out with a live-action movie reboot.

G.I. Joe
                -Apart from the Bible and my family, the next best place I probably learned morality and common sense principles from was G.I. Joe, the real American hero.  A toy company’s dream as well.  I can’t tell you all the “battles” I had within my grand imagination using G.I. Joe characters.  I always wondered though, with so much artillery and destruction, no one actually ever died in the cartoon lol.
Inspector Gadget
                -I wanted to slap Inspector Gadget, Penny drove me insane with her Miss-Know-It-All attitude, and I always felt so bad for Brain getting caught up in Gadget’s shenanigans.  Yet I could not ever pull myself away from watching this cartoon.  It was just too exciting,  mysterious, and adventurous to not.   Was always on the edge of my seat wondering if Gadget was finally done for; he wasn’t :)
Ducktales
                -Any cartoon whose theme song a whole generation can recite verbatim on call 20+ years later deserves to be on this list.  Sure it was a Disney juggernaut cookie-cutter cartoon, but gosh darnit it was really enjoyable.  Just the variety of adventurers and hijinks they all got into was downright prolific.  And nothing beat the underlying premise of the episodic pursuit of fortune and glory Dr. Jones!
The Smurfs
                -Really?  Yes really.  Nothing says “Saturday morning cartoons” more to me personally than the Smurfs.  Every Saturday morning without fail, from about 1985 to 1992, the Smurfs were thee feature presentation on our family television on Saturday mornings.  Perhaps it was the influence of three older sisters on the remote controller, but gosh darnit I took a liking to those small little blue mushroom people who had no business persisting as a people in light of the constant genocidal attempts by Gargamel.


Honorable Mentions:
Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears
                -Perhaps a poor man’s Ducktales, but on par with other Disney favorites of this era like The Rescue Rangers, the Gummi Bears was just a fun show.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
                -I’m not exactly sure what was so appealing about his cartoon, but I remember watching it all the time.  Maybe it was those squeaky singing voices.
Muppet Babies
                -A very underrated cartoon of this era.  The Muppet Babies took the characters and personalities of the adult Muppet characters and threw them into a daycare-like prequel.  You wouldn’t think it to be that great a premise, but boy I fondly remember some great, funny, and exciting adventurers these little guys and gals’ imaginations created.  And let’s be honest, any cartoon with a Tie-Fighter in its intro is going to be awesome.



Omissions:
He-Man
                -He-Man was unfortunately banned from viewing in my household growing up because of its “magic and witchcraft” elements.  I’m pretty sure it’s mostly Skeletor’s fault, but regardless I never had a chance to embrace a near-and-dear cartoon to most of my peers.  I’d be remiss not to mention it though.  For what it’s worth, I never did like its “americanized” animation though.  I was much more into the Japanese style like Thundercats and Voltron.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Beer Identity Crisis: How Corona Lost its Way

                Often times it’s the drinks of hard liquor persuasion that are most closely associated with tropical beaches and equatorial trade winds; what with their pointy umbrellas and exotic fruit decorations.  Yet in America when you think of a beach beer, or at the very least summertime beer – almost everyone will first think of having a Corona with a lime[i].  

For years Corona and their iconic exclusively tropical beach-themed advertisements and taglines have been ubiquitous with laying back, digging your feet in the sand, and enjoying the beautiful coastal views.  

Lately though it seems Corona[ii] is trying to change their tune, if ever so slightly, by expanding their “Find Your Beach” theme into broader, relativistic meaning (i.e. “Your beach doesn’t really have to be a beach”) – and in my opinion at the expense of its marketing core competency.

                For anyone that’s ever watched a major sports event on network TV in the past 20 years, Corona’s beach themed commercials are very familiar.  My personal favorite is the one below, chalk-full of a life truths ;)
As a mostly beer neophyte myself, I almost always grab for a Corona if available primarily because of their commercials.  They’ve done such a good job associating the beautiful, care-free atmosphere of lounging on a tropical beach with their brand that I completely buy into the association…as if I will indeed be transported to that glorious place if just pop the top.  Which is why I was disappointed to see they’re really diluting that association nowadays (see below). 
A cold football game?  Come on Corona…nobody’s fooled.  Stop trying to redefine what a “beach” is.  When your brand is extrapolated way beyond its original intention at the behest of the bean counters’ desire to expand profits (see Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s M brands) – you open yourself up to full-blown identity crisis?  And that’s what Corona’s latest advertisement campaign seems to be doing.  

Sure I get the economic reasoning…it makes dollars and sense.  But for every markedly non-beach scenario you pimp yourself out to, you lose a little bit of what made your drink “lifestyle” so appealing and unique in the first place.  Soon you start to become just another behemoth beer brewer…not a tropical dream maker.  

Marketing this stuff is about transporting your consumer to a place they want to be instead of where they currently are – not keeping them there and tossing them a cold one.  

Maybe I’ll switch to Michelob Ultra… or maybe Corona NA needs to take a lesson from their colleagues down under.  From where I'd rather be indeed...



[i] In Tahiti, the beer of choice is Hinano
[ii] Corona Extra (Coronita in Spain) is a pale lager produced by Cervecería Modelo in Mexico for domestic distribution and export to all other countries besides the United States, and by Constellation Brands in Mexico for export to the United States. The split ownership is a result of an anti-trust settlement permitting the merger of Grupo Modelo with AB InBev. It is one of the top-selling beers worldwide.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_(beer)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Movie Trailer Thursday: Special Phoenix Edition

We've been gone for a while I know.  But three recent trailers have got me really excited enough (most trailers these days elicit a lukewarm "meh" from me) to motivate me to share them to the world.  Yes they're all sci-fi/fantasy related...but really let's be honest...those are typically the best kind of movie genres anyways ;)  

Mad Max: Fury Road
Max Rockatansky + Australia-only Ford XB Falcon Pursuit Special + perfectly diabolical post-apocalyptic dystopia = great sci-fi fun!


What a cool car!
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
What can I say..sort of the culmination of a 15 years of superior film-making coming to a dramatic crossroads/end/interlude, literally.  Using "Pippin's Song" as the overlay to the trailer just ads a certain gravitas...


Interstellar
Such stellar, pun intended, imagery!  To paraphrase a commenter, "Just enough to get me super excited for the movie...but nowhere near enough to know what the **** is going on."  Perfectly salient and how movie trailers should be!


If embed doesn't work...
http://www.indiewire.com/embed/player.jsp?videoId=00000147-8866-d7f0-a75f-bd7f65ec0000&width=480



Friday, April 11, 2014

“I saw death; but I also saw new life”: A ‘Noah’ Film Review

Before I actually review the film let me address the negative feedback this movie has received from the evangelical community in particular, mostly even before folks actually saw it.  If you think that a big-budget Hollywood epic helmed by an atheistic director based on Biblical source material is going to be 100% “evangelically kosher”…well then it’s not Hollywood or Darren Aronofsky that’s the dumbo…you’re the dumbo.



The breath of surprise and offense a lot of Christians (mind you many who haven’t even seen the movie) have exhibited against this movie is downright sad.  Attributing moral standards on folks in which were never meant to apply to is at best ignorant and at worst damaging to the spread of the kingdom of God – as Jon Stewart adroitly points out. 



Please stop propagating the stereotype that Christians are a bunch of judge-a-book-by-its-cover mindless judgers.  I understand avoiding products with known heretical elements (i.e. ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’) from personal conviction, but I’m sorry…using the name “Creator” in lieu of “God” most of the time does not count as blasphemy (see explanation below).

Knowing beforehand the movie would obviously expand upon the Biblical text creatively like any reasonable-thinking Christian would allowed me to enjoy the movie for what it was.  Of course I knew this would not be the same Noah story I was shown via 80’s flannel board cut-outs in Sunday school.  My hope was it would never venture into sacrilege territory though…and contrary to perhaps some peoples’ agendas, it never did (despite yes, grand creative liberties taken by the filmmakers).  Yes the movie does have thematic elements that may reaffirm some people’s mostly incorrect belief in a completely different Old Testament (vengeful) God and New Testament (loving) God[i], but I think it will motivate them to open up and actually read their Bible pique peoples’ interest in the actual Biblical story much more than it will give them ammunition to reject faith.  Now on to the actual review…

Minor spoilers…



Theology
                Apart from the discussion above, basically I will say that if you’re a Believer, this movie will not change that.  If you’re not one for faith, I doubt this will change your thoughts either.  In both cases I think, and hope, it will pique interest in the Biblical account though.   The movie retains the essence or core of the Biblical story, and though fantastical elements are involved, it doesn’t stray from the fact that God saw man’s wickedness had indeed reached a threshold deserving annihilation, that he chose a righteous, yet imperfect man, as his earthly vessel and mouthpiece, provided an “ark” of salvation for this righteous, yet imperfect, man and his family, and proved his love for them by saving them and providing new life for all.  Sound familiar doesn’t it?  ;)

Setting
                The first thing that struck me about the film was how foreign the physical environment seemed.  Yes it could’ve been filmed in any arid mountainous region around the world, but I believe the directors were trying to capture the assuredly different world that was after the Fall and before the Flood.  Yes there are some surprising fantastical elements in this pre-Flood world, but none of them necessarily contradict anything the Bible says about it – which is very thin if not silent on mind you.  That said, some of the creative liberties Aronofsky chose to implement almost seemed like they’d fit (some did not and only served as a moderate distraction IMO).  You must remember that during the time of Noah, they were still only a handful of generations removed from the Garden.  Yes folks lived many hundreds of years during that time, but oral tradition assuredly was potent and the residual effects of the Garden’s fallout surely were still remembered and felt.  The movie touches upon this residue in neat, speculative ways for the most part.

Creator
                Let’s set the record straight, the movie does utter the word “God” at least once.  Ham at one point says, “My father said there can be no king. The Creator is God”.   Why this is even an issue to people I’m not sure.  Not only are we talking about a time period where things like the Ten Commandments or the nation of Israel, let alone Christian buzzwords like “small group” and “backsliding”, are millennia off into the future, we’re dealing with a God that won’t even tell us his name when people asked.  I mean you can’t get any more brilliantly and ambiguously divine than the “I Am That I Am”.  Further when the Pentateuch was first penned, the Hebrews dared not even utter the name of YHWH out of reverence.


             To be honest I felt the constant reference to God as the “Creator”, interestingly by both the righteous and the wicked, to be pretty neat…almost endearing.  Considering what I said earlier about these folks still being relatively close to the 6th Day or Creation, it makes total sense they would know God less as the personal, approachable God that we have in Jesus today, and more as the sustaining, providing, creator God portrayed in the Torah as he begins to rebuild his relationship with his crowning creation.


Drunk Noah
                "Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent." -Genesis 9:20-21

                Not only was Noah drunk, he was a naked drunk lol!  I don’t get folks that make Noah out to be the first ordained saint.  Perhaps he wasn’t as “combative” as Russel Crowe’s portrayal (which was fabulous IMO), but if any other of God’s chosen vessels throughout the Bible are good indicators, chances are he had his fair share of issues like the rest of us.  Lay off the guy.

Acting
                Regardless your opinion on the context of the movie the acting was fine across the board.   Russell Crowe is his usual commanding, ideal-convicted film self that we all know and love about him as the lead protagonist.  The rest of the characters, even the child actors do a fine job.  There is a little bit too much melodrama towards the third act of the film, primarily by Jennifer Connolly and Emma Watson's characters, but it’s not overboard enough, pun intended, to derail the core story.
                God’s communication to Noah via dream sequences is an interesting choice for communication medium.  Again the Bible doesn’t specifically mention God talked verbally to Noah, but I think there was less ambiguity between them then the movie perhaps portrays.  That said, God speaking to folks via dreams is definitely not unprecedented in the Bible.

Not Your Sunday School Noah
                As I mentioned before, this is a much more action-oriented, fantastical, dark Noah story then we all learned as 1st graders.  And when you think about it with your adult mind, chances are the real story of Noah was probably darker then we were led to or care to believe.  I mean when the world has become so wicked even the long-suffering God of forgiveness and mercy’s hand is forced, you know it’s a dark time. 
                In addition, the special effects are top notch.  Never before except in the movie '2012' has any one, Christian or not, really been able to depict onscreen the massive catastrophe that the Flood event must have been, local or worldwide[ii], with the necessary gravitas such as this movie.

Eden
                As can be expected the Garden of Eden, and more particularly the Fall of Adam and Eve, play heavily into the plot of the story, as it does in the Bible.  The movie refers back to this infamous seminal event in mankind’s history numerous times.  At one point we’re visually taken back to symbolic moments of the Fall of Adam and Eve and how the filmmakers depict Eden is quite different than I’ve always picture Eden to be.  Of course any specific depiction is pure conjecture, but I figure it’d be a bit more “garden-y” then as shown in the movie.  If you start thinking about Windows XP after you see it, you’ll know what I mean lol.

Conclusion
I think my brother Derek said it best when he said that “God gave us the exact amount of information he wanted to regarding Noah and the Flood; no more and no less was necessary.”  That said, what was given is probably too little to make a full-length feature movie out of.  Aronofsky tried, and surely personally, and perhaps critically and financially, succeeded, but because the source text is fairly thin on a lot of the Flood account’s surrounding elements both before and after, much of the movie's elements are merely conjecture.  If you want to see a fairly entertaining action/drama set in a cool world and time period based loosely on the famous Bible story by all means go see it.  If you’re looking for an accurate rendition that gets to the point without 20 minutes of previews, check out Genesis chapters 5-9.

3 out of 5 stars




[i] Please read Psalm 103 in the OT or the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 in the NT to see some contrasting views to that theory.
[ii] For the record, I believe in the "Local Flood Theory".  See more info here http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-waters-of-the-flood

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sister sites

Please visit my sister sites!

www.gutlevellife.com
Faith...on a level we can understand

www.thevirginmanifesto.com
The endurance of volitional virginity

weather.ebbworld.com
All things weather for the DC Metro area!

www.krimeshare.com
"Because justice is universal"

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Console Living Room (play old console games in your browser!)

Archive.org has an awesome little project page that provides easy using emulation for some great old video game consoles in the comfort of your modern browser.  The emulation is lacking sound at the moment, but this is a great way to play these games from yesteryear without having to install and run clunky old emulators locally. Check it out!

The Console Living Room

The Internet Archive Console Living Room harkens back to the revolution of the change in the hearth of the home, when the fireplace and later television were transformed by gaming consoles into a center of videogame entertainment. Connected via strange adapters and relying on the television's speaker to put out beeps and boops, these games were resplendent with simple graphics and simpler rules.
The home console market is credited with slowly shifting attention from the arcade craze of the early 1980s and causing arcades to shrink in popularity, leaving a small percentage of what once were many.
Through use of the JSMESS emulator system, which allows direct access to these programs in your browser with no additional plugins or settings, these games can be enjoyed again. Simply click on the screenshot or "Emulate This" button for each individual cartridge, and on modern browsers the games will just start to run. As nostalgia, a teaching tool, or just plain fun, you'll find hundreds of the games that started a billion-dollar industry.

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ film review

              The Hobbit: TDoS is the “second” movie in the Hobbit trilogy story.  Right off the bat I would agree with you in that I don’t think there was a need per se to make another billion dollars stretch out the story into three long movies.  Whereas I think the length of the Lord of the Rings movies, a natural trilogy, fit them perfectly – I feel the artificial lengthening of the Hobbit has slightly worked against it as the original story is different from LoTR; and is better enjoyed as a more intimate affair.  Director Peter Jackson, understandable so, has chosen to broaden its implications though to help tie in The Hobbit's circumstances with the eventual “War of the Ring” stories we’ve already seen in LoTR.  Mind you he’s taking cinematic liberties yes, but he’s often (thought not always) doing so from authentic ancillary source material from Tolkien himself.  This said, I still very much enjoyed TDoS.  Neither Hobbit movie has provided me with the pinnacle high I got watching the first three LoTR movies, but I think that’s more because like a drug addict always needing more, I’m already taking for granted Jackson’s beautifully and wonderfully crafted Middle Earth.  It’s still superb filmmaking…it’s just I’m used to it more now.  I’m spoiled. 

Summary:
I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars.   As usual, Jackson’s Middle-Earth movies are leagues better than most "lowest common denominator" adventure movies Hollywood churns out.  I’m personally growing tired of comic book movies and good science-fiction fantasy is far too under-represented these days.  It’s nice to not only see such a classic come to screen, but to see it done mostly right.

I will save you any decision-making though.  If you did not enjoy the first Hobbit movie, you will probably feel the same way about this one…mostly because it basically just continues where the first one left off and involves many of the same fantastical elements.  That said, Smaug does add a bunch to the story you may find rewarding that the first movie doesn't contain.


SPOILER ALERT!!!


….


….


...


This is your last chance to turn back…

So basically this story picks up after the party of dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf escaped the pack of ravenous Wargs and orcs a bit east of the Misty Mountains...  

What I Liked:

Legolas
                -He's as bad@$$ as we remember him in the LoTR films, albeit a tad bit more stoic/arrogant.  I’ll admit though, seeing another familiar face in Middle-Earth is like having meatloaf your mom used to make that you loved when you were younger.  Maybe it’s just nostalgia…but for some reason, everything is better when Legolas is around.

Tauriel
                -I don’t envy the task of bringing a pretty important character into the story that just wasn’t really in the original text, but Jackson delightfully brought to life a vibrant, likable, and orc-killing machine in Tauriel.  Evangeline Lily does a great job with what’s she’s given, and easily takes the crown as most competent female in all of Jackson’s Middle-Earth (with apologies to Galadriel because she never really fought any orcs).  And as much as I liked Arwen, Tauriel makes her look like a whiny sissy.

Manifestation of Sauron
                -Truth be told, I thought the few seconds of that eerie manifestation of Sauron in human-like form was scarier than every “eye” scene of his in the three LoTR movies.   Despite Tolkien’s limited description of what the “Eye of Sauron” actually looks like, I don’t think the movies ever were able to do it justice (Though the “Mouth of Sauron” guy is by far the scariest looking character in all of Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth IMHO).  The form Sauron takes in this movie, albeit brief, and how they sort of integrated his original form with his eye form, was the coolest/scariest of them all.

Beorn
                -Perhaps a little out of place in the grand plotline of the film (for now), but I enjoyed the “otherness” Beorn brought to the story.  It reminded me how when Treebeard was introduced in LoTR and it added some freshness to the character slate. I appreciated his non-English European accent as well lol.

Smaug
                A “majestic calamity” indeed!  Smaug the Worm is so grandly terrifying it gives you no doubt how he could conquer cities in a matter of minutes.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s voicing of the beast only furthers his fearful persona.  You also get a great sense of his sheer size and power during the end scenes of the movie as he’s chasing down the dwarves inside Erebor’s depths.  He is such a massive creature of terrible power unlike we’ve seen in Middle Earth…save maybe the demonic Balrog.  If he lived to become a servant of Sauron during the events of the LoTR’s, I fear the age of man would have been wiped clean with ease.  He makes the fell beasts the Nazgul ride look like puppies with wings. 
Smaug has always been a rarity in fictional adventure literature as well; being an competent and intelligent villain.  For every Smaug or Khan or Darth Vader, we have a hundred paint-by-number idiot villains who always do the stupidest things to allow the “hero” to defeat them.  Smaug may be prideful (his eventual downfall), but he is not an idiot.  He may also be a tiny bit vulnerable, but he is mostly awesome in power and might.  Such a formidable foe both physically and mentally adds much more weight to severity, and hopelessness, of the quest to defeat him.  Maybe we should start coining the expression "12 dwarves and a hobbit vs. Smaug" instead of "David vs. Goliath".

Erebor (Lonely Mountain)
                -Speaking of majestic…what a sight and setting for a huge portion of the film
 to take place around.  This truly is one of the great places of Middle-Earth.





What I Didn’t Like:

Please note, there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like adamantly.  These were more annoyances, frustrations, or merely fluff/filler I didn’t think necessary.

Tauriel/Kili flirtations
                Just didn’t seem to fit quite right – not to mention the awkwardness when one considers the difference between Dwarves and Elves.  I appreciate the bridge-building it creates, but it just didn’t seem too necessary to add this little distraction.  Perhaps Jackson will use this down the road into a plotline, I don't know.  And I understand Jackson & Co. want to incorporate more female presence in the movies...I just don't think this is the way to do it.

Master of Laketown and his Wormtongue wannabe
                What exactly was the point of these two unlikable characters?  I don’t remember their significance in the book and that means I could care less to see them on the screen.  They could’ve thought of a plotline just as legitimate to send the dwarves on their way instead of involving these two in mostly forgettable scenes.


Epic travelling shots
                So those first few times we see the fellowship walking along rocky vistas and snow-capped mountains in The Fellowship of the Ring, whilst the bold score plays in the background, we were captivated by the sense of Middle-Earth adventure and awe.  This type of scene became a staple of Jackson’s LoTR movies.  I especially liked the one when Gandalf and Pippin leave Rohan with haste towards Gondor in The Two Towers as well.  Well Jackson tries to utilize this grand fashion of awe-inspiring filming again in the Hobbit movies and IMO it falls flat – especially in TDoS.  Perhaps it’s another case of me being used to something but I just felt these scenes in TDoS were shoddily put together.  One moment the group is trudging over rocks and thick brush, the next they’re in a huge open field…then they’re in a forest.  These scenes just don’t flow well in this movie IMO.


Sets, sets, sets
                In the same cinematographic-scope, was it me or did almost every scene feel like it was shot in a nice and cosy studio set?  It seemed to me that in the LoTR movies, most of the action took places outdoors in some of the most amazing locations in all of New Zealand, but in this movie I felt like even the "outdoor" scenes were mostly shot indoors.  I'm assuming this is because of the obvious reasons of environment control and predictability (and perhaps cost), but boy, the outdoor scenery is a big reason that scene in the Fellowship when Frodo drops the ring and Boromir picks it up in the snow is so powerful.  Don't get me wrong, Jackson's crew creates some amazing sets...it just felt like they were always in one it seemed.  Laketown especially felt very "setty".  It would've been cool if they built a huge set outdoors for this, ala Waterworld.

Mirkwood spiders
                I don’t know about you, but the Shelob scenes in The Return of the King were some of the most frightening arachnid scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  I was expecting Shelob x10 for this exciting part in the book.  Yes I know the Mirkwood spiders aren’t the same type as Shelob, but I just didn’t feel the same dread.  Perhaps it was because Bilbo seemed too adept at fighting/killing these spiders whereas Frodo was straight-up freaked out of his mind when Shelob came for him.  Perhaps Jackson created a greater sense of horrific suspense in the Shelob scenes than these more action-oriented ones.  I don’t know exactly what it was, but I just was hoping for something more.  I feel as if they could’ve replaced the spiders with say ROUS’s and it would’ve felt like the same scene.


Nondescript dwarves
                Same problem as the first movie (and it’s not an easy thing to deal with for any large group of characters), but once again other then of course Thorin (and perhaps Kili in this movie) we barely even know any of the other dwarves’ names.  The only other ones with any barely memorable time on screen were Balin (the wise older one), Bofur (the comedic guy late for the boat to Erebor), and maybe Dwalin because he’s the only bald one.  Nori, Fili (Kili’s brother), Dori, Gloin, Oin, Bifur, and Ori are all mostly forgettable.  Bombur’s only claim to fame is his obesity and a really silly, out-of-place, fight scene as they're barreling, literally, down the river.


                
Again, it’s a tough spot for a filmmaker to make 12 similar characters all memorable.  I guess the only thing I may have done is cut down a little on the “filler” stuff and added a few more character-development scenes between the more nondescript dwarves.   Perhaps the extended editions will include something like this.  That said, my favorite scene of the whole band together remains the sober “Misty Mountains” a capella rendition they give at Bilbo’s house by the fire.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, elicits the common purpose for all of them at hand, and adds serious depth that is sometimes missing throughout the rest of the movies.


Bard
                I’ve always liked Bard from the book, and I like Luke Evans the actor, but this Bard came off as sort of jerk-ish, as if he always had a pebble stuck in his boot that was bothering him.  I understand he took a big risk helping out the dwarves, but his “woe is me” attitude every second he’s on screen got a little annoying.

The Beginning
                Each LoTR movie and the first Hobbit movie had really cool opening sequences, usually recapping great events in the past.  This one starts with a flashback as well, but as cool as the Prancing Pony is (our first introduction to Strider smoking his pipe in the first movie is one of the coolest intros), I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by this beginning.  When we already have the intro to the second movie in the LoTR trilogy to compare to, in which Gandalf fights the Balrog in an epic battle…a mostly boring chat over a beer just doesn’t measure up.


Concluding Remarks:
                The Hobbit: TDoS is not a perfect movie and IMO I do not think the Hobbit movie series has lived up to the lofty precedent set by Jackson’s own LoTR trilogy (who could?!)…yet.  I think the third movie will have the best chance to really bring back Jackson’s LoTR magic (mainly because of the Battle of the Five Armies sequence in which he’s sure to milk for all its worth), but this second movie is no mulligan by a long shot.  Smaug, rightfully so, takes the main stage here and his appearance in the last third of the film makes up for IMO any missing pieces in the first two thirds.  Despite ending fairly abruptly, this movie forces you to want more…and that’s a good thing.  Here’s hoping Jackson has a barnburner, pun intended, for us for the third and final act of this Hobbit trilogy story.

*Postscript
                As great as Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Hobbit is…and as wonderful as hundreds of millions of dollars and super talented actors and filmmakers and artists are in bringing it to live-action life...  I must say that I still have a very special place in my film loving heart for the 1977 animated Rankin/Bass version.  Somehow I feel like the animation is spot on and even some of the cheesy 70’s ballads just fit in my mind.  It follows the story almost to a "T" and has some really great , memorable moments.  I’m not saying Jackson should’ve just made a live-action version of like it, but I will say as the years go by, my fond view of the animated film has not diminished.

The whole thing used to be on Youtube, but it’s yanked now looks like.  If you ever see it for cheap or streaming do yourself a favor and watch it.  Here’s a modern trailer for it.