Friday, January 31, 2014

Movies of 2013, Superheroes, pt1, Iron Man

Science Fiction (Superhero)
            Considering how much Science fiction stuff there was this year I tried to spread it out with Apocalypses, Superheroes, and Other Science Fiction...  And one of them wasn't science fiction at all and is really a parody of superheroes and should have really been in the crime section but whatever, shut up.  I see a lot of Genre movies and even some other stuff could be considered Sci-Fi and is kind of arbitrarily slotted.

Iron Man 3, or "Thank god they did something else with the bad guy."
Overall: 8/10
I'm Falling to Pieces...
            This is actually a very well structured movie thematically, though I don't know if people will believe me when I say that because it does have a big plot hole and I disagree with the ending a good bit.
            These movies, by which I mean Marvel films make money from Action figures.  Much like Star Wars created the quintessential ensemble adventure film where in everyone has their own look and weapon, the Marvel movies have very distinct characters with variant weapons, costumes, attitudes, and tone.  This is why Thor has 75 Space-Viking side kicks, it is why Captain America lead the multi-ethnic Commandos (and why none of the bad guys wear swastikas, because you can't sell an action figure in Europe of a Nazi, even as the bad guy), and it is why this movie has 40 Iron Man armors, a repaint of the War Machine Armor, numerous bad guys.... What I am trying to say is, this movie is a toy commercial.
            All that aside, and back to my original point, this is a well structured movie.  Tony Stark nearly died fighting space aliens in "The Avengers", combine this with all the other stuff in his life and he has collectively become the Superhero poster boy for PTSD.  How does he cope with this?  He builds a stockpile of weaponry, like you do.  What is more his main suit in the movie is literally falling apart (like Stark) and trying to pull itself together to fight the bad guys throughout.  That is called a METAPHOR.  A lot of this can be attributed to writer/director Shane Black who made one of my favorite films of all time, "Kiss Kiss,Bang Bang" and is a master of fitting a lot of things together on the screen.
            Beyond that the movie continues to demonize the defense industry.  The first movie's villain was a defense contractor trying to sell weapons to the US to make a lot of money.  The second film's villain was sponsored by a defense contractor who wanted to put Stark out of business and make a lot of money.  This movie is about a Defense contractor using disaffect veterans and a lot of showmanship and lies to try and create terrorism and make a lot of money.  I love what they did with the Mandarin.
            In the comics the Mandarin is a boring character by today's standards, he made sense when he was made, he was a displaced noble from China who wanted to use his magic/alien technology to reestablish the dynastic system he had come from... But nowadays that doesn't make sense.  I don't think there is a person alive today that could claim conscious memory of China before the Communist party.... So to change him to a Modern Terrorist makes some sense, but he couldn't pose a real threat to Iron Man.  In the first movie Iron Man kills goons who wield conventional weapons with ease.  Giving Mandarin alien technology would be feasible... but that was already done with Red Skull.  So instead lets just make it a lie.  The terrorist boogey man is just a construct used to scare up more business for defense contractors.  Holy shit: ANOTHER METAPHOR, this time for the war on terror.  It is almost like this movie has resonant themes.
This is a reference to "1984" a book that I don't think of as all that good prose-wise, but has a lot of good ideas.
            A good companion to this movie is (sort of) "Star Trek Into Darkness" which has a supposed terrorist being used as justification for a military build up.  But while that movie has a labyrinthine plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, "Iron Man 3" keeps things clear, and its twists are clever.  No one was surprised that Khan was the bad guy in Star Trek, everyone was surprised by the Mandarin, and that surprise made things a lot more interesting, it made it a lot more resonant.
            Another good contrast is with Malekith the Accursed in "Thor the Dark World" (lot of Darkness this year).  Malekith had a plan to cloak the universe in darkness and end life as we knew it, had an army of super powerful and creepy space elves, and required Space-Vikings to be defeated... Malekith is barely part of that movie, nearly excised completely for more time spent with Loki around whom most of the character of Thor is greatly bolstered by contrast.  Malekith is what the Mandarin would have been played completely straight, a very typical bad guy with chaos and destruction as his goals.  Mandarin would have been boring without the twist in "Iron Man 3", he would have been Malekith.

            Also, the ending is the part that I mentioned disagreeing with.  At the end Tony blows up all the suits, signifying that he no longer needs his stockpile of super weapons to feel safe from the threats of the world, the he (not the suit) is the hero of the story (METAPHOR)... I wanted a post credit sequence of Nick Fury screaming at someone that Tony just blew up Earth's best defense against alien invasion.  Hell, they could have added that to "Thor the Dark World" which has an alien invasion that if not for Thor and his plucky science pals would have ended the universe... Having a legion of Iron Man armors would have been hella' helpful in that situation.  In universe, Tony destroys the Earth's best defense against super villains, true there are not a lot but the fact that no one calls him out for this is kind of insane.

HE DID WHAT!?
            There is also the fact that the Legion of Iron Men (automated Drones fighting terrorists... METAPHOR... Wait, no, that is just sort of literal)... would have fit better as an end to "Avengers 2" because their main bad guy is going to be a killer robot, and the first instance I know of in a comic book that Tony controls dozens of suits at once happens in an Avengers comic book.  (The reason this is in here is the aforementioned toy commercial, and they were unsure if they could get Downey back as Iron Man in anymore movies and needed to tie up the franchise with one big hurrah... And I must say that considering how Iron Man has been a character for 50 years I actually kind of think Downey is really over paid and that much like Christian Bale as Batman, Downey was made a star from the role more than they contributed to the success of the role.
            Aside from all this the movie has any number of things to like as a dumb action movie, is has action scenes that are dynamic in environment, capabilities, and are well paced throughout.  I still am on the edge of my seat when watching the Air Force 1 rescue.  It is so exciting.  The film is also funny and fun, with cute moments with sidekicks and friends that make things a lot more fun and light hearted breaking up the dark message of the film (that war is a business and we are disposable assets).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Movies 2013, Action, pt2

RED 2, or "I didn't see the first one and still thought this one was pretty good, and able to stand on its own."
Overall: 6/10
I am not sure this is an actual poster cause it looks kind of shit.
Though I guess if it were fan made it would look cooler, cause they would actually care.
            The ever ballooning genre of, "Old people kicking ass".  When did this become such a thing?  I understand where the market is coming from, people who were 20-40 in the 80's who liked action movies and never really stopped.  Those people got older.  They like the idea of people their own age having agency and impact in the world, and a lot of really good actors and Bruce Willis are willing to be in these things because they like being big action heroes.
            That being said this movie is pretty good.  It has good pacing, though you can tell it is a rather direct translation from a comic book, I can practically hear a page turn when you reach the end of each issue and the next one starts.  Set up, joke, action, cliffhanger, and repeat.  Actors are good, even Willis who I guess took some uppers or something to help him get out of whatever funk he was in for "GI Joe Retaliation", and there is a lot of set up and pay off in the script with gadgets and gags.
            All of the characters are very distinct, Malkovich is the highlight being the funny crazy one; Mary Louise Parker also doing well as the audience stand in character, asking questions and trying to keep pace with the heroes.
            Best compliment I can give: I never saw the first one, and I had no trouble following this one... Though I suspect that since Morgan Freeman was in the first one's marketing a lot and is not in this one he is probably dead (the character, not Morgan Freeman) so I guess I will be less shocked than I otherwise would have been when I go back and watch the other one.  Regardless, the fact that this movie works on its own without the barrier cost of having to watch number one makes it better.
            All of those compliments out of the way, the doomsday weapon of this movie is a glorified suitcase nuke, but they talk it up a lot and it is not worth the fanfare.  Aside from the heroes, the intelligence agencies are not good at their jobs... at all.  And I am treated to yet another scene of a young world class hit man getting his ass kicked by an ever more elderly Bruce Willis, who is more than a decade older (though their ages are closer than those in "Only God Forgives").

White House Down, or "The other 'Die Hard' in the White House movie that happened this year."
Overall: 6/10
This poster is the most awesome looking, but ironically is not at all accurate.
The ones with just Tatum and Foxx are probably more on the nose.
            Much like "Pacific Rim," if you know what this movie is about and still decide to go see it then you have no right to complain about how fucking stupid it is.  That being said it is really fucking stupid.
            There is a coordinated attack in Washington by an alliance of ex-black-ops soldiers, disgruntled government security and tech people, and domestic terrorists.  The ultimate goal of each group is to either kill the black President, subvert world peace, steal tons of money (because getting away with tons of money is totally going to happen), or... something.
            The movie is a little strange in that pre-established data is retarded.  For instance, at one point the people at the Pentagon are going to destroy the White House because a super-hacker is going to seize control of weapon systems (that would be bad) but earlier in the movie it is established that blowing up the White House would be meaningless to the bunker that has the weapon control systems in it, that a direct hit by an atomic bomb would be necessary to stop it.  The only thing bombing the white house itself would do is kill the hero who is trying to stop the bad guys.  And the corniness of how that attack is resolved borders on a parody of how this sort of uber-patriotic crap usually goes (I am actually half certain that this movie is a parody of other action films).
            It is pretty funny, though James Woods is miscast, he is too old at 66 to be playing a Secret Service Agent.  The secret Service like almost all Federal Law Enforcement have a required retirement at 57, ironically Bruce Willis would have been better for the role and might have been less an obvious villain.  Tatum and Foxx are okay as a buddy team.
            Small thing: there is a minor character in this who is a tour guide in the White House and I identified with him a great deal, he mostly just spouted trivia and did his best to mitigate the situation.  I liked him.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movies of 2013, Action, pt1

Action
GI Joe Retaliation, or "Why is the destruction of London and the murder of millions taken so in stride?"
Overall: 5/10
Also, all of the posters are awful.  They look like the covers to a generic shooter video game, this is the best one and it looks like it is advertising a discotheque.
            This movie is about as good a film as we could have possibly expected considering how shit the first one was.  And since it ties up all but one loose thread it will serve as a decent end to this current era of GI Joe on the big screen... Probably.  They might make another one.  I don't really want them to.
            The first one suffered(?) from throwing in a lot of goofy stuff that I guess would have been cool if the movie had not been about GI Joe and instead had just been about super soldiers fighting some massive corporate-terrorism scam... Even though the plot was stupid, the universe needlessly small, and the bad guys were badly executed... Come to think of it this series shares a lot of issues with the new "Star Trek" franchise but consistently has poorer direction (though better than the first one).
            Actually there are plenty of fun things in the movie, there is a massive cliff side ninja battle that is a lot of fun, if the Ninja Turtles had shown up to lend a hand and this had all been a giant set up for a shared universe between GI Joe and their future movies it would have all but redeemed the thing.  The Rock is fun, though the movie somewhat contradicts itself with his skill level and unloads (rather than fires) Chekhov's gun, the movie shows his ability with a massive firearm at the start of the film and during the climax his skill fails to hit a much larger target, I actually watched a review online that said they should have just had the Rock play himself in the tradition of real life pro-wrestlers and fictional athletes being GI Joe's (like Sgt. Slaughter and Rocky).
            But there is so much needless crap in this movie, they have Cobra Commander in it and he does nothing, they kill Destro without having ever had him standing outside of a cage.  They have Storm Shadow, who was run through in the last movie back alive without any explanation.  The climax of the film has the entire city of London totally annihilated by a space based weapon... Millions are dead... Beautiful to look at... Totally unnecessary, and actually really pissed me off because it marks the second time a major city outside the United States has suffered either near or total obliteration and it is not treated with the gravity it should.
            The film cheapens itself, cheapens its characters, and makes less and less sense in its own universe, mostly because it is just starting from a really bad place, the first movie which knee capped any chance this thing of really functioning.  Let's just let this series quietly expire in the corner, and do something else with it later, cause it isn't working.

The Lone Ranger, or "This is a really uneven movie... Which averages out in my opinion."
Overall: 6/10
There is maybe too much going on.
            Wasn't all that bad.  This movie is making a lot of, "WORST MOVIE EVAR!" lists because it has a white man playing an Indian, the titular character won't stop sucking, it is overly cynical, and the tone is all over the map.  Yeah... Can't really argue with any of that, but I am reminded of something from Shakespeare (yes I am mentioning the bard in a review of "The Lone Ranger").

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream, -Puck

 If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts,
Just repeat to yourself "It's just a show,
I should really just relax
For Mystery Science Theater 3000. -MST3K

             This entire movie is told from the perspective of an aging, doddering, traumatized old man... Tonto.  The framing device of the movie is Tonto telling the story of his first adventure with his friend the Lone Ranger to a young kid in a Wild West show attraction.  And you know what happens in stories told by old or silly people?  They have a hard time keeping things on track.
            Tonto throughout the story talks about things that are clearly too dark to be talking to children about, (in one scene his entire race is slaughtered in a suicide charge against the villain, and Tonto gets away, only to watch as bits of feathers and native regalia wash down a river, his society is being washed away.  Then they make a joke about how the Lone Ranger's horse acts funny... He does this because the old man Tonto is telling this story and if he dwells too long on the sad parts either he or the kid he is telling the story to is going to cry, so he breaks the tension with a joke).
            There is also the issue of the "main character".  The Lone Ranger is a naive overly optimistic fool.  At numerous opportunities he is confronted with the man who killed his brother (a man also responsible for killing a lot of Tonto's people), and rather than letting Tonto kill the guy, he fights Tonto and takes the guy in to face trial... While knowing that the system is corrupt and there is someone helping the outlaw from the inside.  Of course the Ranger gets betrayed and nearly killed.  Actually, it could be said that this movie's message is teaching one young attorney to chose the path of violence and revenge because justice is a lie constructed by the rich so as to more easily exploit those who are different from us... I can kind of get behind that message... but then they frame it as, "I used to think that you were the Wendigo (cannibal) but now I see you are just a white man."  Really, Tonto?  I know the movie could be saying that you no longer believe that some supernatural evil is to blame that regular old greed is to blame, but it makes it sound like white people are the problem rather than say... That guy who did the crime...  That kind of pissed me off, we are supposed to be past that level of liberal guilt.
I also liked the bird hat and the mystic weirdness.  It was certainly memorable.
Rather than ANOTHER iteration of these characters, they had their own iteration of these characters.
            There is also another scene in which a military commander who was tricked into killing a lot of innocent people refuses to believe that he was tricked, and just up and decides to be a bad guy (metaphor for American military?)  I guess they could be saying that rather than admit that killing Indians is wrong we all just bought into the idea that they had it coming?  This movie throws a lot of stuff out there with themes and ideas, but it does so in the context of some old guy talking about how shit people were/are.
            Could have cut some stuff to make it work better, it was too long, really the whole framing device of old Tanto was stupid and overly cynical, and the bad guys make lots of bad decisions. But, there were a lot of fun gags, a lot of good action, the costuming was good, and the dialogue never felt forced or unrealistic. The movie was okay. Solidly okay... So long as you take it on its own terms.  It certainly was not one of the worst films of the year. Nor was it nearly as bad as people led me to believe.
            Basically, whenever the theme kicks in, I felt myself getting caught up in the action and excitement.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movies 2013, Crime, pt4

Crime
Pain and Gain, or "Did Michael Bay just do something kind of awesome?"
Overall: 7/10
This was the first poster and nobody knew what the hell this movie was going to be about.
Fitness?  Body Building competitions?  You don't look at this and think Dark Comedy Crime Drama.
            I think Michael Bay has been unfairly demonized by an ungrateful movie audience.  He has a distinct visual style, knows what to imitate from other directors, and tends to have really strong casts for the movies he is making.  I find people bitching about "Transformers" to mostly be simpletons.  "Transformers" was always garbage, and I say that as a huge fan on the original series, and I would go so far as to say "Beast Wars" is one of my favorite cartoons ever in spite of the aged computer animation from the 90's.  Michael Bay took a toy commercial, and made a schlocky, immature, alien invasion disaster movie and it became one of the most commercially successful franchises of all time.  That being said the man has the sense of humor of a 6 year old who just discovered adults laugh when he says the word, "Poop."  He is not really an artist, he makes movies that are 'effective,' easy to market, easy to consume, he is the $200 Million McDonald's trip for 100 Million people.  Very tasty garbage.
            "Pain and Gain" is exactly the kind of movie Bay should be making, it is about psychopathic emotionally retarded meat heads committing violent crimes.  It in no way glorifies what they are doing, but you definitely understand their motivations.  It moves at a good clip.  It is funny.  It has a lot of color and action that keeps each scene visually interesting.  In different hands this movie could have been totally different, I can easily imagine the Coen Bros doing this sort of thing in the style of "Fargo" or "Burn After Reading".  It also has stuff taken right from the "Inglourious Basterds" style guide, as quick asides through the story inform you of what is happening and why, or text appears on the screen to clarify something.  The best moment of the film happens when the most outrageous aspects of this whole criminal enterprise have hit new levels and text pops up reminding the audience, "This actually happened".
            Dwayne Johnson is a head case that is slow to violence and needs to be pushed the whole way, which considering he looks like a gorilla covered in tattoos adds a level to his character.  Marky Mark is surprisingly good in this, far better than his turn in "2 Guns" using his charisma to nefarious (or as nefarious as a thug can be) ends, rather than being the character getting taken for a ride for nearly the whole movie.  Not as many tits as I would have expected.  Especially compared to "The Wolf of Wall Street", but I am guessing that Scorsese has a lot more clout to get such things put on screen without an NC-17 rating getting slapped on, Bay would probably get burned at the stake by the MPAA.
            This movie is definitely worth seeing.  It is retarded fun.

The Wolf of Wall Street, or "I think they went a little far in some places."
Overall: 8/10
Lot of microphone felatio in this movie too.
            This movie and "Pain and Gain" have a lot in common.  Based on actual events, happens in roughly the same era (the early 90's), and the protagonists are drug addled psychos.  The difference here being these monsters are not low class violent thugs taking what they want through force, instead they are slick conmen getting rich to the point of godhood via exploiting the painfully broken game that is the American financial sector.
            Let me be clear, if I were a murderer, these are the people I would kill.  I had, unironically, a serious conversation 4 months ago about how capitalism is great at producing TV, media, and lots and lots of cultural flotsam, but is plagued by middlemen and money managers that do not in anyway produce, build, or create anything but have huge sums of money from moving columns of hypothetical numbers.  This movie starts with the flipside of that conversation, with the mentor of evil telling the main character that stock brokers get rich and contribute nothing.  The movie explicitly tells you these people are evil.
            Leonardo DiCaprio continues to be my favorite actor, able to yell, laugh, narrate, and be on drugs convincingly.  And Jonah Hill, while getting way too much time to adlib, is really good in his role.  The supporting cast all gets good scenes, and there are too many very quotable lines to mention, though my favorite is, "I AM NOT GOING TO DIE SOBER!"
            Actually this movie could have been a 10/10 but there are a lot of scenes that had me going, "cut... cut... CUT".  There are scenes with powerful speeches that go on past the point of them being powerful.  Scenes of slapstick that are hilarious, but could have been cut in half.  There is one Jonah Hill scene in particular that I could tell was a metric shit ton of improv and needed to be cut down, it went on and on with increasingly annoying bullshit... Like an Aristocrats joke.  The movie is really long and scenes that are too long make you feel the length of the movie.  Should also make note of the truly herculean amounts of nudity in this film, full frontal of multiple women, the most notable of which is Margot Robbie... Maybe the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in a movie (she is also 5 years younger than me, so I feel incredibly old).

            Also totally worth seeing.  Might have worked better if I had watched it in two parts, or if it had been an HBO series, like an amped up "Mad Men".

Monday, January 13, 2014

Movies 2013, Crime, pt3

Crime
            These are the more mysterious and intriguing movies I saw, so not a lot of plot details, more just me giving the premise and whether or not I liked it.

Side Effects, or "Jude Law doesn't get enough work."
Overall: 6/10
These are the actors you will be watching.  You may experience sleeplessness and diarrhea.
            You will start off thinking this is a movie that is trying to decry the pharmaceutical industry.  And who wouldn't want to decry those people?  Slight incremental changes to patents, lobbying doctors to keep patients on more expensive medicine, lobbying the government on very murky topics.  They are not the bad guys, they are being exploited.
            This is a mystery film so I can't go into detail with it concerning the plot but all of the actors turn in good performances, especially Jude Law as the one trying to figure things out.  He is put upon, and scared, angry, and ultimately confident.  I wonder if any other actor would have been right for the role, but he did well enough that I feel no need to mentally recast him.
            It has its slow bits, and is visually rather dull and dark, but that fits the mood, and theme of being medicated into a haze.

Trance, or "Somebody watched 'Inception' and 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' back to back and then made a decision"
Overall: 6/10
MORE COLOR!  I suppose you could add "Only God Forgives" to the mix of films this takes some influence from.
            This was done by Danny Boyle, a director with a lot of clout in regards to making very pretty movies, with a lot of flashbacks to explain intricate plot developments.
            This is also a mystery film involving the medical industry, ironically it has an American woman Doctor treating an Englishman without pills in complete juxtaposition of "Side Effects" setup.  This movie is about hypnotherapy, art theft, and trippy plot structure.  It has a very engaging premise, that a man double crosses his partners during an art heist and sustains a head injury that keeps him from remembering what he did with the painting they stole, or why he stole it from them, and they try to use hypnotherapy to pull the memories out of his head.
            Big memorable thing about watching this movie, there is a lot of nearly-nude sequences for many of the actors, a lot of James McAvoy's butt.  I saw this with 4 other people and one of them left the room to take a call, during his exit we got full frontal female nudity from Rosario Dawson, holy moly pretty.  This is when he came back from the call and asked, "did I just miss a lot more near nudity?"  And hardly believing us when we told him full frontal.
            The movie is gorgeous to look at because of the lighting and color they use, very much like you are in a dream.  If I have one issue that kind of killed it for me was the false ending that happened which would have been a better ending for a lot of it, instead there is an attempt at an "Inception" like ending that had the film going too long... it just didn't work after a certain point.
            Also, very odd music choices, with a lot of very light pop music at very dark moments.  Very strange.

Welcome to the Punch, or "James McAvoy and Mark Strong should be bigger stars."
Overall: 7/10
Conversely, this film is shot almost entirely in silver, blue, and a light aqua green.
With the notable exception of one scene at the very end of the film.
            Unfortunately I have not gotten to see, "Filth" which is also a James McAvoy film that was well received by critics and look like something I would like to watch.  McAvoy is one of the best actors doing stuff right now and has not gotten the level of success he deserves.  Mark Strong serving as the criminal side of this movie is another actor who does not get enough credit in spite of being an excellent performer who has hit the mark on every bad guy I have seen him play.
            This is yet another mystery film set in England.  When a young police officer nearly catches the most notorious thief in all of the UK and gets shot in the leg for his trouble the cop becomes an embittered and hotheaded asshole, and the thief becomes a wealthy recluse.  Then the massive spike in gun violence in London kills the thief's son and draws him back to London, in turn causing the cop to gear up and try to catch him.  This movie is very well paced with corruption, cat and mouse, detective work, conspiracy, political intrigue.  And the violence in it is a lot more real than in most movies.  People get shot and you say, "well, they're dead as shit."  Which is a nice bit of realism.
            I can't say the movie touched me deep inside or was truly classic, but it was really good and one of the easier to recommend films I saw last year.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Movies of 2013, Crime, pt2

Crime
            I have actually been dragging out posting these reviews, because I got to the "Crime" section and I was going to go see "Wolf of Wall Street" to finish it off, then I missed the show time so I have been taking my time so I can tack it onto the end.  Anyway, on to talking about how Ryan Gosling made a lot of shit movies.
            From what I saw, Ryan Gosling had one of the weakest movie careers all year.  I did not enjoy anything with him in it.  A massive step down from, "Drive", "Ides of March", and "Crazy Stupid Love" which built up a lot of good will.  I guess it wasn't totally squandered, but it is near the E on the gauge.

Gangster Squad, or "Why even try to pretend this is based in reality and instead just go full blown stylized action farce?"
Overall: 4/10
This is all the brown that appears in the movie.  Everything else is mostly blue and white.
            This movie has some visual style, and the occasional cool scene, like one in which Gosling pours acid on a man's crotch, acid that the guy was going to throw in a woman's face.  There is also some interesting action with cool punches, explosions, and chasing.  If this had been full blown cartoony action with Josh Brolin playing Dick Tracy and Ryan Gosling playing the Shadow I probably would have eaten this movie up.  But as is the thing purports to be based on actual events and somehow tied into reality, a ludicrous and stupid bit of pretentiousness that takes a lot of fun out of it.
            Either make "The Untouchables" or make "Dick Tracy", don't unevenly mix them like a McDonald's parfait.  I guess it could have worked if the fictionalizing had yielded interesting character arcs, or if the reality had shown some real depth to mob warfare, but as is neither does much of anything.

Only God Forgives, or "BORING.  But... I guess pretty to look at.  And the music is cool."
Overall: 4/10
Conversely, this movie seems to have fallen into a vat of hot violet gel.
            This movie brings together the director and star of "Drive", my favorite movie of 2011, which was the timeless story of a high functioning psychopath falling into whatever passes for love in his violent robotic brain with his neighbor.
            "Only God Forgives" takes the artistic gloss of "Drive" and only does that.
            The movie is very pretty, with reds and shadows, interesting music, an exotic local.  And a lot of long... Long... Long shots of all of that.
            There is also a lack of likable characters.  Apparently it is okay for Policemen in Bangkok to kill or maim criminals if they see fit, at various point limbs are hacked off or metal pins driven into a person's body in graphic detail... But the "good guy" is the one doing it.  Again, to compare to "Drive" there were numerous characters who had hopes and aspirations beyond being violent criminals and crime was an unfortunate part of their lives, this movie has the violent battering of numerous women, and the rape and murder of a teenage girl as the starting point, and from there it goes down.
            No character with a spoken line is at all likable.  Wall to wall lingering shots of awful people and mild gore.  It also has a scene that is undercut by the fact that Gosling cannot seem to yell at someone convincingly, he sort of sheiks like a sweet 16 princess... definitely takes away from the menacing demeanor.
            There is also a preposterous scene in which a 54 year old man beats Ryan Gosling to unconsciousness (Gosling plays a career criminal who runs a Muay Thai gym and has murdered before with his bare hands).  I don't care if you know martial arts, Gosling had 20 years and 40 pounds of muscle on the guy, he would have won the fight.

The Place Beyond the Pines, or "BORING.  BORING.  BORING."
Overall: 3/10
I am betting this movie was a nightmare to market, because all the press makes this look like a love triangle between the straightlaced Cooper and the bad boy Gosling fighting for the affections of Eva Mendes.
            Jesus Christ this movie pissed me off the first time I watched it.  I actually apologized to my date for having taken her to it, and said that if she was not with me I probably would have left and asked for my money back.
            It is effectively 3 short films that are all connected by some characters and events.  And while each part might work a little on its own, together they are just dull.
            The first third is about Ryan Gosling being a motorcycle stuntman in a traveling circus who finds out he is a father and wants to provide for his bastard.  He does this by robbing banks, and it is cool.  I could have watched a full 90 minute movie about Gosling robbing banks.  And when he is confronted by Bradley "Rocket Raccoon" Cooper at the 45 minute mark I think I said aloud in the theater, "is the movie already over?"
            This is when part two begins, Bradley Cooper becomes a hero cop for catching Gosling and getting shot in the confrontation.  It ruins his cop career, but luckily he has a law degree and leverages his knowledge of police corruption into becoming a public prosecutor.  Again, this is an interesting film, I would have watched it.  It is almost totally divorced from the first part of the movie except for a running subplot about cops taking Goslings ill gotten goods from Gosling's Baby Mama.
            Then 15 years go by.  No shit the movie stutters forward and Cooper is now running for State Attorney, and his son and Gosling's son are friends... troubled kids doing drugs and unaware that their father's lives were linked by one prominent moment.  Again, this is a whole movie done in 40 minutes and is so weirdly connected that it just doesn't work.
            I don't mind that the movie is really contrived and that the role of Protagonist is handed off every so often, but each break in the narrative kills the momentum.  And the last third being anchored by two teenage actors who are just not as good as Gosling or Cooper means that the movie ends on a low note.  Maybe if the 3 stories were told in reverse order, which might be a bit confusing to uninvolved audience members, but would add some intrigue to the affair, and would end on a high note, Gosling being confronted by Cooper.  As is the movie peaks at 40 minutes and just keeps going.  Boring.  Boring.  Very boring.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Movies of 2013, Crime, pt1

Crime
            Really these are more buddy cop movies that revolve around organized crime and corruption, and they go about it in very different ways.

2 Guns, or "Male buddy cop movie number WHO KNOWS ANYMORE"
Overall: 5/10
Also, continues the god awful trend of advertising the stars, rather than the movie.
Though that is all this film has going for it.
            This was a mediocre film at best.  While Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington are great acting against each other and there is a good amount of violence, boobs, and interesting set pieces (I really like the masks they use when robbing a bank), the fact is that the intrigue is not all that intriguing, and the bad guys don't have a very good plan.  Backstabbing too quickly, leaving behind obvious clues, or just not being ruthless enough.
            One of the real lead weights on the movie casting wise is Bill Paxton as a southern CIA agent.  For whatever reason the few scenes he plays off of a stronger actor he just does not keep pace.  Denzel Washington takes Bill to school when it comes to playing the "I am way too cool with the situation at hand", and when he goes against Edward James "I could give a fuck" Olmos Paxton seems like an out of place SNL character.

The Heat, or "Female buddy cop movie number... well, number one, I guess"
Overall: 5/10

This poster is a lot more action packed than this movie.
            This may shock people to hear, but this movie really is not that funny or amazing, people just give it more credit because women are in the lead roles.  Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd made pretty much this exact same movie in the 80's, it was called "Dragnet".
            All that being said it is a perfectly workable script with plenty of laugh out loud scenes and surprisingly effective tiny bits of action (I don't know why there was not more action in this, it could have used it, often building up to an anti-climax... which I guess is a joke in and of itself.)  It also seems to be taking a lot from "21 Jump Street" including the last action joke of the movie.  Actually this movie could easily take place in the same universe as "21 Jump Street" or "The Other Guys" (a movie I recommend over this one by the way) but it would lose out in the comparison.  If this script were acted out by two guys it would be as forgettable as "2 Guns".
            Sandra Bullock is fine, I am sure compared to "Gravity" this movie will not have the biggest impact on her life this year (though I guess this movie is likely for sequels...)  And Melissa McCarthy is funny by being loud and rude, just like she always is.  It is fine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Movies of 2013, Fantasy, pt3

Fantasy
... And a bit of an emphasis on Romance... To wildly different levels of success.

Oz: The Great and Powerful, or "My expectations... They've all been blown away."
Overall: 8/10
It is a movie that really emphasizes "fun".
            One of the best movie going experiences I had all year.
            I did not think James Franco was going to work... Turns out he really worked he had good timing, clearly has mastered working with every manner of blue screen and special effect in the industry as he talks with and handles CGI characters easily and acts wowed at all the gorgeous visuals the movie offers.  But Mila Kunis was... a less fitting match... Something about her laugh didn't work for me.
            I really liked the visual change going from Kansas to Oz, not only from black and white to color, but also from a narrow square screen to wide screen.  I liked the goofy slapstick, and I liked the supporting characters.  Not a lot of problems in this as it does everything one might want with a movie set in Oz.  It actually does something I wish they would do with "The Hobbit" telling a story that is for the most part original that ties into known events but mostly just does its own thing in the universe.

Beautiful Creatures, or "Twilight, the Good Version.  Admittedly, not a high bar to clear."
Overall: 6/10
Watch and marvel, as a film nearly makes up for its shortcomings.
            "Beautiful Creatures" was picked up with the lowest possible expectations.  I thought this was going to be nothing, another movie given the go because of the Supernatural romance genre being a thing.  It was slightly more than nothing.  The male lead is interesting and I can identify with him, he goes out of his way to be more interesting than the people around him, reading banned books, targeting distant universities to go to after graduating, and generally being up his own ass about how he is better than the hicks that surround him (I am frequently up my own ass about how stupid the people who surround me are).
            The female lead is pensive, as one would be knowing that there is a count down to her either becoming a supervillain or not... I can imagine that being stressful.  Even though I will freely admit that the idea that men in this universe get to chose whether they are evil while women are slaves to their passions... Whatever.
            The real prize in this movie is Jeremy Irons walking around like gods gift to hammy acting and there are really potent scenes in which he makes the male lead see how his life will go nowhere and for all his blustering and pretentiousness he is still just a hick with delusions of grandeur (again, I can relate to the male lead).  Irons also has an acting competition with the whole town and then the main antagonist of the film in a massive southern style assembly hall, like somebody said that Jeremy Irons was going to call everyone out on their horse shit and everyone showed up...  Irons is great and makes the movie worth seeing... And that scene I mentioned in which he bawls out the main villain and the whole town, the central figure of evil in the movie is played by Emma Thompson, who is a Southern "holier that thou" possessed by an evil witch... WHICH MAKES ACTING HAPPEN.
            I went in expecting nothing and instead got a ham sandwich.  Mind you I had to chew through some of the lame aspects to get to the good scenes, but they are scenes worth watching.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (turned off), or "Trite Modern Fantasy"
Overall: 1/10 (One of the worst movies I saw all year)
This movie can go fuck itself.
            I turned this shit off.  There are good ideas certainly, I like that the protagonist is suddenly seeing a mysterious symbol she can't stop drawing.  I like that she starts seeing magical and even horrific shit.  I like that she calls her Mom out on friend zoning her would be step dad, and the Mom calls her out on friend zoning the nerdy guy who follows her around (I actually found that to be hilarious, "Who taught you how to emotionally string along boys?"  "YOU ALRIGHT!  I learned it from watching you!").  Though I will say that the Mom is well cast, Lena Headey is a good actress and looks a lot like the young protagonist (very expressive eyebrows on both of them).
            But then the whole thing starts to turn to shit.  The problem is that the whole thing could be wrapped up pretty quickly if the magical blonde pretty boy would just explain to her what is going on instead of demanding answers and obedience from a teenage girl who is obviously confused and scared.  He is a dick... and thus is immediately a love interest.  I had been marathon-ing "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" the gold standard in supernatural romance/action, and I kept thinking back to how Buffy would handle the various situations, she would get answers, gather her resources, create a plan, and then act.
            Even when outmatched and without a lot of information Buffy would take possession of the situation and have agency in the story, the main character in this seems totally out of her depth at the best of times and surrounded by people who will not give her even the most basic of information.  The whole point of having a fish out of water protagonist is so that they can have things explained to them... and in turn the audience can too.  Logically as she encounters new layers to the  mystery that surrounds her she should ask simple logical chains of questions that help the audience keep pace with the narrative... But since nobody will tell her anything in a coherent or non-confrontational way nobody knows what the fuck is going on.
            There is a point in which she is in a room with a witch that knows her back story, and a demon hunter that knows a lot about the world, perfect time for a quick set of explanations to what has been seen without cryptic bullshit muddying the waters.  If you can't make the mystery engaging without people being intentionally obtuse then your story is boring.

            I gave this movie a chance mostly because of "Beautiful Creatures" and "Warm Bodies" being alright.  This reminded me of what this sub-genre is about and why I will continue to not bother watching "The Host".

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movies 2013, Fantasy, pt2

Fantasy
            These are the more "action" oriented fantasy films outside of "The Hobbit" franchise.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, or "Fuck.  Witches am I right?  Fuck."
Overall: 7/10
This movie apparently made about 4 times its budget, a lot more than I thought, so here is hoping for a bigger sequel.
            If you liked "Army of Darkness" you will like this.  "H&G" has a lot of fun gore, make up effects, goofy over the top fight scenes, and is exactly what it was advertised to be.  The script ties together well, they set up and pay off on ideas that make perfect sense (like Hansel having diabetes that weakens him during a crucial point, or why spells don't work on them properly).
            My only real complaint is that Jeremy Renner is about 12 years older than the actress playing his sister, Gemma Arterton, when they are supposed to be around the same age.  It is odd to me that this sort of lopsided age casting is so common (like in "Oblivion"), and I guess it is a silly thing to notice and complain about, but if they had cast Charisma Carpenter for Gretel, or Zac Efron for Hansel then there would have been no difference in age to notice.
            I had no expectations at all and was blown away.  I would really like a sequel set in a more exotic location.  Maybe they could have them fight a genie or a some kind of fey creature to mix it up.

Jack the Giant Slayer, or "Why was this not set up as the beginning of a franchise?"
Overall: 7/10

The movie has a great sense of scale and a lot of cute little visual cues to signal to the audience that the situation is getting out of control.  A good example as to why Bryan Singer is a really good director.
            Great costumes, great monsters, cool looking sky world, classic simple protagonists, and a nice little ending.  I liked it a lot and recommend seeing it.  The only issue I have is that they kind of killed all chance at a sequel.
            Spoiler time discussion: the end of the movie has a flash forward to show the magical artifact that defeats the giants is now part of the royal jewels in the Tower of London, rather than this being an alternate Earth with a lot of the same kingdoms and look, but being magical and distinct.  So they have kind of tied it off.  There will be no, "Jack and the Magic Carpet" or "Jack and the Singing Sword".  It is just over with.
            There is one other thing, there is a point in the movie in which it could end, the heroes have escaped the land of the giants, the main villain is defeated, and the giants are stranded... you could have wrapped the movie, and gone on to one of the many potential sequels I just suggested, but the movie continues and it is sort of unnecessary, there is a cool big battle that is a lot of fun, even if it probably shouldn't have happened.

RIPD: Rest in Peace Department, or "Ryan Reynolds is pretty good when he is playing the reserved straight man rather than the boisterous clown... Who knew?"
Overall: 5/10
If the script had gotten another pass (or one fewer) then this would have worked a bit better.
            A lot of the appeal of this movie comes from a very cynical wit, good special effects, quirky acting, and some cool action.  I like the look of policeman purgatory, I like how the number of people living and dead all over the world is overwhelming the celestial inbox of "shit to sort out".  When it gets going the movie really is fun... But it often hits bad notes.
            There are a lot of problems, like the idea that monstrous undead are all over the place and none of it shows up on the news with any regularity when it should be.  They don't have a memory erasing device, or some elaborate media conspiracy which would allow what they do to stay under the radar.  There are scenes that seem to be from a much earlier draft of the script with needless trust issues and horseshit thrown into it for no reason.  There is way too much CGI, way too god damn much CGI.  Why not just more practical effects like "Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters", this movie has a lot of tone and over the top violence in common with that movie, in fact it would have worked better with an R rating, emphasizing the undead monsters exploding into bloody chunks rather than vapor.

            So yeah, it is alright.  Lacks a bit of an edge that would have made it work better, a little clunky, not as bad as people are saying.  It is "watchable".

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Thoughts on the movie "Kick Ass" (the First One)

(This is an old post of mine from before I was on blogger.  It is about the movie "Kick-Ass" and is far more of a summation followed by critique rather than the trimmed down criticism I mostly do now, I am posting it here because I will be talking about "Kick Ass 2" shortly and want to refer back to this.)
Okay, the movie Kick Ass has generated some controversy for some things that I will address along with my comparison between the film and comic book adaptations of the story.  Considering that they were created simultaneously I see no one work as an interpretation of the other, nor do I see one as inherently superior to the other for various pluses and minuses that each have been awarded by my own mental predispositions.  This little rant contains numerous spoilers for the film and comic and if you have a desire to remain untainted in that regard feel free to not read this as it will most certainly have some impact on how you see the movie or comic (whichever you choose to personally imbibe).

It is an okay movie.
First up I am going to explain the plot of this little yarn.  In the comic a teenage comic book fan who is socially awkward and unremarkable chooses to spend his free time as a costumed superhero, on his first venture out he is stabbed and hit by a car as he wanders into traffic, while he manages to ditch his costume and gets medical treatment, he nearly dies and suffers permanent damage to his skull which has to be treated with plates that deaden blows to his skull, making it difficult to knock him out or cause him great pain through head trauma.  After recovering he returns to the streets and actually manages to successfully save a man’s life against a group of thugs, this action is caught on camera and broadcast to the world which sets of a wildfire of people dressing as superheroes as a fashion statement, the teen dubs himself “Kick Ass”.  Other heroes then appear, killing criminals with great skill, these heroes are Hit Girl, an eleven year old sword fighter, and Big Daddy, a massive man who uses snipping to support his daughter Hit Girl as she takes the more hands on approach.
Later on Kick Ass finds a friend in Red Mist, another Geek hero who has been stealing a lot of Kick Ass’s spotlight recently.  They decide to join up with Big Daddy and Hit Girl with their quest to take down the city’s mafia.  But surprise, surprise Red Mist turns out is working for the mafia being the geeky son of the main man in town.  After torturing Big Daddy and Kick Ass Big Daddy reveals his origin: he is an accountant and comic book collector who sold off his collection and kidnapped his daughter (telling her that her mother had been murdered by the mob) so that he could run off to be a superhero, have a sidekick, and have a bad guy.  The main man blows Big Daddy’s brains out, and commences to stomp Kick Ass into the floor (he resists because of the plates in his skull).
It is at this point Hit Girl (previously thought killed) appears and commences the slaughter of the mafia in mass while Kick Ass arms himself and goes after Red Mist.  Kick Ass confronts Mist, beats him with some sticks, takes his gun and runs back just in time to find Hit Girl overwhelmed by mob.  The main boos tells Kick Ass he doesn’t have it in him to take a shot, then gets shot in the penis by Kick Ass, and then his head cut off by a now free Hit Girl.  With the bad guys dead Kick Ass comforts Hit Girl as she mourns her father tearfully.  The story ends with Hit Girl going to live with her mother, and Kick Ass returning to his pathetic life having been downgraded to social pariah.  The comic ends with Red Mist vowing to take revenge saying “What till they get a load of me.”

The comic is rather intentionally cynical and mean spirited.

Analysis
The movie follows that outline strongly with a few key divergences: 1) Hit Girl’s mom really is dead, and Big Daddy is a former cop, disgraced for having been framed for a crime by the central mob boss.  2) Kick Ass gets the girl in the end and becomes significantly less of a social outcast by the end of the film.  And 3) The criminals are vastly more developed as guys who deserve to be taken out rather than just being the bad, but mostly just unlucky, targets of a vigilante madman.  Also, Kickass uses both a mini-gun touting jetpack and a bazooka (both originally Big Daddy’s) to kill people in some rather over the top action sequences.  But that has more to do with movie spectacle than story and theme.
My thoughts on a straight comparison between the two mediums: I like that Kick Ass gets the girl in the movie as opposed to whacking-off to a picture of the girl blowing some other guy, a picture gets massaged at the end of the comic as a hateful little fuck you buy her friends who hate him for reasons I can understand.  I like Hit Girl as a character more in the comic because she reacts much more human to her father’s death, crying and asking for a hug, as opposed to the movie in which she basically just lets it drop after having gotten revenge along with Kick Ass.  I dislike Big Daddy a lot in the comic, and really think of him as a villain as much as any other character in the story, because he kidnapped and brainwashed his daughter into a murderous vigilante because of his own sick need for wish fulfillment, whereas in the movie he is trying to give his daughter a part of the catharsis he needs to settle the crimes done to the both of them.
Aside from direct comparisons let me tell you my issue with the Comic that exudes from the story and characters: Mark Millar (the writer) hates you (the reader) for living in the dream world of comics, and he hates you (the reader) for wanting to be a superhero.  His entire point in writing this story seems to have been to underline the inherent insanity and stupidity that comes with wanting to be a garish crusader for hope and justice.  Let cops be cops, let firemen be firemen, and let superheroes be fantasy.
Let me tell you what the overall message of the movie seems to be: “This shit is gruesome fun isn’t it?”  that is it.  The movie wants you to fantasize, and it wants you to feel the heat of your face as the blood rushes to the bruises, but it wants you to also say: “hell yeah, and I’d do it again.”  But it also has a message to it that is underlined by the character when he says this: “Am I willing to die for someone I don’t know?  You think it’s right for three guys to lay into one while everyone stares on and watches as it goes on and does nothing?  Yeah, I’m willing to die.”  It wants you to get mad at the world’s blank stare at everything that is tragic and evil, and that is a good message.
I suppose the clearest way to say this would be to put it thusly: the comic is the cynical one, the movie is the childish (albeit more naively noble) one.
The last thing I'll talk about is the most interesting character in either work: Hit Girl.  I have read (specifically the article “Intermission” by Moviebob Chipman on “The Escapist” online magazine) that Hit Girl presses several buttons that individually cause panic and anger in people, violence to an by children and women being too tough and not simply damsels in distress.  I would also add another and more uncomfortable insight, the movie has one of Kick Ass’s friends say that he is in love with Hit Girl after she has a particularly thrilling action sequence, this is a very big spoof that I think most people will ignore because it  is really weird: Hit Girl is the sexy action girl before the sexy action girl was even old enough to be interested in boys.
If the character of Hit Girl was played by a 19 year old actress who was the love interest of Kick Ass (the normal guy she gets to save but later comes to rely on when her dad dies) then she would be the hottest thing in fiction right now not for being controversial but because people would find her hot.  She would be the new and exceptionally vulgar Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  But instead she is the undercutting of all that, with pink hair and a schoolgirl outfit and being 11 she makes fun of Manga, and the Japanese’ sexualizing of cartoonish women who look far to young in their respective animation styles to be sexualized.  That I think is the real message of her character, that violence has become sexualized and can create a false aura of maturity that shouldn’t exist, an unhealthy coupling of sex and violence even when personified by a character that shouldn’t be personified as such.  That is a weird statement for a movie to make, but it’s in there.
This is Rikku, a very fetishiezed Final Fantasy character... She is supposedly 15.  Is there any reason in the story for her to be labeled as 15?  No.  In fact her being so young is a strain on everyone's suspension of disbelief.

Movies of 2013, Fantasy, pt1, Hobbit

Fantasy
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, or "They really should have changed more things rather than just adding stuff"
Overall: 7/10
I would just like to note that the amount of gold in this movie is hundreds of times the amount of gold found in all of the real Earth combined, and would make for a totally unworkable standard for money.
            I like this movie.  Just to get that sentiment out of the way.  It is fun, moves at a good pace, has a lot of visual variety, ice, forest, dungeon, mountains of gold, cliffs... It is beautiful.  The costumes, sets, makeup, and visual effects are all amazing emerging you in a massive world of magic, legend, and big ideas.  All that being said I am going to go against the popular opinion on this film and say, "they didn't change enough."
            "The Hobbit" is a short, comedic book mostly aimed at a young audience.  It serves as a simple jumping off point for the events of "Lord of the Rings" which had a much (much, much, much) more developed narrative with more description and bigger climax.  But a movie is not a book.  In the book most of the Dwarves are blink-and-you'll-miss "characters".  Often they are one note jokes that are interchangeable.  Thorin and his quest for his gem are background, my brother read the book and didn't even know that in the climactic final War of Five Armies that more than one dwarf died, that is how little an impact they made.  But in the movie that doesn't really work.
            Having more than a dozen "characters" running through dangerous situations without any of them dying undercuts the threat (again I am saying "characters" sarcastically because while each has their own look they don't all get lines or development, I'm a nerd and can't name them all).  In the first film they are taken hostage by Trolls, and run through a goblin city squaring off against thousands of potential opponents before confronting the Orcs who have been hunting them all movie.  Logically someone should have died.  Pick one of the dwarves who is most visually engaging and has had a lot of lines (I would have picked Dwalin... Very few people will know who that is without a picture... So here is a picture.)

Also, a noble sacrifice would help to inform the audience as to why Gandalf thinks the Dwarves are worth helping.  It shows them to be commendable in courage, and even worth imitation.
            Dwalin was the first dwarf to show up in the movie, he is the most warrior like of those present, he has numerous lines, and thanks to his tattoos he is very visually memorable... He should have died heroically fighting with the albino orc.  Think about it, the orcs have them all cornered on trees, on a cliff.  Gandalf has called for help to the eagles but unless someone buys time the Dwarves won't be able to escape, one of the Dwarves jumps down from the tree and stands fast.  Gandalf looks apprehensive, Thorin knows that Dwalin is the one to do it and orders him to save them (showing he can make tough leadership decisions) and Dwalin yells at the Dwarves, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS."  And fights.  And dies.  Much like Gandalf and Boromir in "Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring".  It shows that this quest is dangerous, and that people will die while on it.  It changes from the book, but the book was a simple story for kids, the movie has to do things differently to work better.
            All of that was from the first "Hobbit" so let me point to an instance in this movie which was both good and bad.
            Spoiler time discussion: Not one damn dwarf dies fighting Smaug.  The biggest, most powerful being in the whole world, not one dwarf dies during the whole fight.  Smaug goes from huge, looming threat (beautiful to look on, and very tense when interacting with Bilbo) and is downgraded minute by minute as he fails to kill any of the dwarves in his lair.  THIS IS BULLSHIT.  You are de-balling the character.  Kill some dwarves.  Seriously, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur should have all bitten it.  Each killed fulfilling part of the Dwarves' attack against Smaug.  As is the movie's climax is an incredible let down.
            I do like that they made Bard an actual character, and that Lake Town was a real place with people, politics, and style all its own.  I like that the Elves were characters (dicks as they are) and that they have their own concerns in life as to why they are not trying to get tangled up in some crusade against evil.  I like that they added a cool female elf commando and that she wants to bang the Dwarf Prince Fili, and the Elf Prince Legolas... Kind of star fucker now that I think about it... But she is good at what she does, killing orcs and doing healing magic.  I also like that the Dwarf group breaks up a bit, half going to fight the Dragon, the other half staying behind to care for the sick and get ambushed by Orcs, that is a lot of fun and breaks up the action for each.
            Really, everything that was an addition worked for me, and all the most faithful plotting to hold to the book disappointed me... I guess what I really want is just an original story told in the Middle Earth universe, rather than just an adaptation of the books.  Tell me about the Blue Wizards, what happened to them when they left so long ago that Gandalf has forgotten their names.  Give Radigast something to do.  Show me some minor Elrond adventure.  Do something that isn't so hung up on an existing book, because I am tired of people complaining that this isn't enough like the book.  If you want the book, read the book.  I did.  I liked it a lot.  It is really short and fun.