Review – What? You Again? (“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”)

In Part 2 of Peter Jackson’s directed three-peat, this Hobbit sequel picks up right after Part 1 where those giant eagles dropped off Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), and the gaggle of dwarves a good 50 miles from the Lonely Mountains where they COULD have flown to but decided, nawww, that would be too easy!
After a brief backstory, we are led by the perpetually pissed-off dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Gandalf, and his band of goofy dwarves to the edge of the Mirkwood forest, thanks to the help of a skin-changer, Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). As a giant bear he’s feared, as a giant man, he’s pretty frighting too.

Gandalf, fearing there is dark magic afoot, leaves the others for the evil ruins of Dol Guldur. The gang enters the forest and are nearly spider sushi, except for Bilbo who saves them all, thanks to the One Ring. But they’re soon captured by elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and taken before Elfen King Thranduil (Lee Pace), who ain’t exactly keen on dwarves, especially the arrogant Thorin. But good ‘ol Bilbo helps the dwarves escape prison once again via some empty wine barrels (in a wild escape scene with rampaging Orcs) until they meet a bowman named Bard (Luke Evans). For a price he’ll ferry them to Lake-town where they meet the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) and his slimy little toadie, Alfrid (Ryan Gage).

Hailed as heroes, Bilbo and the dwarves travel to the Lonely Mountain where they find the secret hidden door into the mountain where Bilbo enters, charged with finding the Arkenstone, Thorin’s family heirloom and source of his power and birthright. But in doing so, he awakens the gigantic dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and then the fun really begins!

Meanwhile, Gandalf discovers that the Necromancer (Cumberbatch voiced again) at Dol Guldur has amassed an army of Orcs and has assumed a new name: Sauron! The all-seeing evil eye from the LOTR films. Gandalf is defeated and imprisoned as he watches the Orc army move out. Doubling-back, the dwarves try their best to outsmart Smaug and kill him, but that’s not gonna be as easy as it sounds. They almost succeed, but the movie ends with Smaug deciding he’s through toying with puny dwarves and leaves the confines of the mountain to destroy Lake-town as Bilbo watches in horror.

Clocking in at almost 2 and 3/4 hours, the pace is quicker than the first Hobbit movie and filled with more surprises and plot complications. There’s more comedy, pathos, growth in characters, and an abundance of subplots to keep straight in your head. The CGI never looked so good, especially with Smaug, who looks particularly nasty and evil. With four screenwriters (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Bovens, and Gulliermo Del Toro), the liberties with the original J.R.R. Tolkien book are plentiful with many purists taking note that Tauriel is a made up character. As far as sequels go (okay, so this is a really just a commercial for part three), this is a genuinely enjoyable one that stands on its own with great action and a satisfying storyline, even if it does ends abruptly and leaving you wanting more – which is what the director wanted in the first place anyway. Don’t blink or you’ll miss director Jackson in the first seconds of the movie leaving a pub and munching on a carrot!

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Probably the single most copied movie plot in all of movie lore, this benchmark movie is actually a copy itself! Borrowed from the grand master himself, acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, this is a western-themed remake of his 1954 film, “Seven Samurai“. It has been redone and remade SO many times (from the “Simpson’s”  to a “Star Trek: DS9” episode!) that it’s become almost comical. Watch “The Three Amigo’s” for a real treat.

Starring a impressive cast: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz, and Eli Wallach. This movie features the stirring score of Elmer Bernstein and the classic directing of John Sturges. You can’t go wrong here.

The plot? Well, they’re NOT attacking a dragon or reclaiming a kingdom, but it’s close. . . A small Mexican village is constantly harassed by marauding bandits for their food and whatever supplies they have. Calvera (Wallach), the leader of the band of bad guys, promises to return more booty and to loot the village again. Well, enough is enough and the village leaders take what meager goods they have and ride to a town just inside the American border hoping to barter for weapons to defend themselves. There, they encounter Chris, a gunslinger for hire (Brynner), who suggests that the village just hire gunfighters instead. It’s cheaper and they can be paid with food. Agreed, the villagers hire six more: Hotheaded, inexperienced Chico (Buchholz), Chris’s friend, Harry Luck (Dexter), a drifter and gambler named Vin (McQueen), gunfighter Bernardo O’Reilly (Bronson), cowboy Britt (Coburn), and an on-the-run gunman Lee (Vaughn). Calvera and his banditos soon come back, but are run out of town by the gunmen and the villagers working in conjunction with other. Calvera plans to return and raid the village again (this guy doesn’t take “GET OUT!” for an answer!) because he is desperate for the food. Another gunfight ensues, lives are lost on both sides, and the classic western of the little guy standing up for their rights by hiring bigger, badder guys is born.

So popular was this movie, it sparked three sequels (“Return of The Magnificent Seven“, “Guns of The Magnificent Seven“, and “The Magnificent Seven Ride“) and a TV series, not to mention countless parodies and inspirations. Part of the Americana “Essentials” movies, this is a classic western film that should be on everyone’s list as a must-see movie, so put it on your Netflix list today!


One thought on “Review – What? You Again? (“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”)

  1. Pingback: Desolation of Smaug was amazing! MASSIVE SPOILERS – Smart Stunning Searching

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