Holiday Flicks In Review

It’s the holiday time. Time for food, fun, family, friends, and FILMS. About a decade ago, the film industry realized that they could really gain some funds at the box office during the holiday season. Once fully recognized they began to utilize it and push out hopeful blockbusters during the month of December. This December proved one of the biggest box office turnout ever!

Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” still tops the box office at $36.7M. Opening this week, Christmas day to be exact, the star studded musical “Les Miserables” ($18.1 M) and Quentin Tarantino’s slave-era Western, “Django Unchained” ($15 M) came in as the second and third best Christmas openings of all time! My movie viewing did not add to these numbers because I was lucky enough to go to an advance screening of “Les Miserables” on December 19 and didn’t see “Django Unchained” until December 26. But that won’t stop me from giving you my quick review of three completely different movies. Trust me when I say that one of these will fit your fancy and all three earned over 4 stars in my ratings book.

“THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY”

Prequel to Director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, this new flick takes you on a journey back to Middle Earth. Prequel to LOTR, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is the first of three films based on ONE book, “The Hobbit”, that is only around 300 pages in length. Jackson decided that one film wouldn’t be enough.  Even two is pushing it a bit much. This film series will become another Tolkien based trilogy, with the final film due in theaters December 2014. Only time will tell if the three long flicks will be worth it in the end.

The purpose of this film is to reveal the back story on Bilbo Baggins, aka “the hobbit”, and explain how the “one ring” came to be in his possession. Persuaded to join a company of 13 dwarves, and one wizard, Bilbo leaves the Shire for the first time to embark on a life changing journey.  The first in the series, “An Unexpected Journey”, was a great adventure. But it was slow to start, and some deliberately drawn out scenes were used to fill out the full length film. I love most of the characters, even if I haven’t yet memorized the names of all 13 dwarves. I know enough to tell you Kili (Aidan Turner), Fili (Dean O’Gorman), and Dwarf King Thorin (Richard Armitage) are very nice to look at. Martin Freeman (Watson on BBC’s “Sherlock”) does a FANTASTIC job as Bilbo. In the two times I’ve seen this flick, I can’t help but smile at what a great choice it was to cast him in this role. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf and Andy Serkis returns in a wonderful performance as Gollum. I enjoyed once again seeing the gorgeous scenery of New Zealand through the Middle Earth filter. But two things bugged me about this flick. One, you could tell that they worked hard to stretch it out. Too many unnecessary, long staring contests between characters. Just cutting those scenes out would have shaved 15 minutes off the 169 minute film. My 2nd issue, the CG special effects. It looked cartoonish and unrealistic. Part of what makes me love LOTR is the feeling that these creatures looked like they could come out the screen and attack me. “The Hobbit” CG made me feel like I was looking at video game creations instead of the realism I came to be familiar with LOTR.

This film comes in so many formats it’s ridiculous! I was able to check out two: regular 2D and Real D 3D. I really wanted to see this film in IMAX but  was not willing to do so with 3D High Frame Rate, which I heard was making viewers sick to watch. So I opted for 2D for my first venture and regular 3D (no HFR) for my 2nd. I really enjoyed the 3D. It enhanced the film just enough to make it worth it. If I see it again in theaters it will be in real IMAX at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, without the high frame rate. Overall, if you were a fan of LOTR, you will really like this film. If you weren’t, this is a great place to start.

Aisha Rating: ★★★★

“LES MISÉRABLES”

Film adaptation of a famous, and one of the longest running, musical. Escaped prisoner skips parole and makes a life for himself. An abandoned child seeks a normal upbringing and caring parent. A slighted police officer seeks to deliver retribution. A love story. A broken heart. And the French Revolution. Add in a star studded cast and you have this month’s release of “Les Miserables”. Hugh Jackman is fantastic and his Broadway skills shine on the big screen. Anne Hathaway is phenomenal. Though not the strongest singer on board, it’s worth checking out this movie for her performance alone. Not so exciting to report on are Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried. Both had mediocre performances, in both acting and singing, that forced me to drop a half a star in my rating.

Having never seen the musical, I had nothing to compare it to. I knew may of the songs from my childhood, but never in full context. Overall I think this was a fantastic and strong film adaptation. Yet, I still look forward to finally making it to a stage production.

Aisha Rating: ★★★★.5

“DJANGO UNCHAINED”

Simple story: Slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) gets opportunity to become a bounty hunter and search for his wife (Kerry Washington) who is currently owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Supreme execution of story via Quentin Tarantino.

What can I say other than, I liked it a lot (a bit biased since I’m a Tarantino fan) and great cast (still biased since Leonardo is my favorite film actor). It’s got the Tarantino humor we’ve come to know and love. But it is gritty and deals with slavery in a not so bright and shiny time in US history. Don’t take your kids to see this bloody feature. Overall, I was glad to add this to my holiday flicks list.

Aisha Rating: ★★★★

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That’s all for now folks. Hope you get out there in the next week or so and check one of these bad boys out! They are sure to top the box office for some weeks to come.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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