Baby, it’s cold outside. Yesterday it never even got above freezing, which is highly unusual where I live, and this morning it was 18 degrees! I suppose I could’ve walked out there belting, “Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway!” But I didn’t. I looked more like Luke Skywalker on a tauntaun.
Anyway–in spite of these chilly woes, I’m very excited to make my first 2014 post! Here’s the dual movie review I promised a couple of weeks ago.
We’ll start with Saving Mr. Banks, since I saw it first, and with my whole family.
Saving Mr. Banks is the story of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney trying to reach common ground where her story Mary Poppins is concerned. Mrs. Travers doesn’t want to sell the story rights to Disney, fearing he’ll make a movie full of trite musical numbers and corny cartoons. She’s desperate to hold onto the character she created, thus making herself something of a puzzle to the warm-hearted Mr. Disney.
Mrs. Travers’ attachment to Mary Poppins, however, runs deeper than anyone thinks, with roots that can be traced all the way back to her childhood . . .
I’ll go ahead and say now that I highly recommend Saving Mr. Banks. My only quibble with it was that it was VERY, VERY LONG. It’s rated PG-13 but honestly, I thought that was ridiculous. PG would’ve been much more appropriate. My little siblings sat through that whole film and enjoyed it, even the four-year-old. It’s a delightful family-friendly film.
Emma Thompson (Mrs. Travers) is a phenomenal actress. In some ways I could relate to her character. The idea of someone mangling and changing my characters into people I never intended them to be would be repulsive to me, too. But I thought Mrs. Travers went overboard, and I went back and forth between agreeing with her and being mad at her. It’s neat to see how she slowly warms to Walt Disney’s genuine desire to keep a promise to his own daughters.
An interesting aspect of the story is her relationship with her father, shown in flashbacks. At one point, he tells his daughter that “the world is an illusion.” This destructive, irresponsible, unbiblical philosophy ends up wreaking havoc in their home as her father’s alcoholism worsens and her mother’s sanity weakens under the stress. (These scenes are a little disturbing, but we just covered small ears and eyes and had no problem.)
Tom Hanks–oh my, he was fantastic as Walt Disney. He was definitely the best character, with Paul Giamatti as Mrs. Traver’s kindly chauffeur coming in at a close second.
Recommendation: If you’re going to see this film, brush up a little on your Mary Poppins. I saw MP numerous times when I was little, but my littlest siblings have probably seen it once or twice. My mom said she regretted not showing it to them before we went to the theater because Saving Mr. Banks was full of little nods to songs and quotes from Mary Poppins.
And now, the review many of you have been waiting for . . .
I’d heard so many mixed reviews about this movie. One friend hated it, this friend loved it, that friend thought it was okay, nothing spectacular. So I tried to go into it with a completely open mind, aware that there were going to be major inaccuracies and changes from the original story, aware that I might very well hate it, but hoping that I would find things to like about it.
Actually, I ended up loving it.
The Desolation of Smaug is much, much better than An Unexpected Journey. Yes, there were inaccuracies and yes, I have my quibbles, but the pacing was so much better and there was a definite Lord of the Rings tone that the first movie was missing and that I loved. I know some people took issue with that, but I felt like this one flowed perfectly with the LOTR trilogy.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo was wonderful, as always. My favorite Bilbo moment was when Smaug wakes up and poor Bilbo just plops down and puts his chin in his hand, with a “Of course this would happen to me” look on his face. I also loved the scene where he found the keyhole in the mountain. The Burglar proves himself yet again!
My new favorite characters in the Hobbit trilogy are Bard the Bowman and Tauriel. Bard is a canon character and I thought the film fleshed him out beautifully. He’s an honorable man, loves his children, and is obviously trying to form some kind of resistance against the tyrannical city government.
Tauriel, the red-headed Silvan Elf, is a non-canon character. I was prepared to hate her. I ended up really liking her, and here’s why. For the first time we got to see an Elf who wasn’t all dreamy and breathy and ethereal. We got to see the Elf-maiden that Arwen could’ve been if she’d kept to her Flight To The Ford persona. Tauriel has personality. She has depth. I also liked how they hinted at the higher Elves’ contempt for the lesser, Silvan Elves (which, if I recall correctly, is an element in The Silmarillion).
From what I’d heard, I expected the “romance” between Tauriel and Kili to be dreadful. In my opinion, it didn’t become a romance until the end, and even then it was pretty mild. Before that point it seemed to me that Tauriel and Kili found common ground, became friends in spite of their racial differences, and had genuine concern for each other. Tauriel defied the callousness of her king to save her friend. Besides, we already got the impression that she’s really in love with–with–well, with a much older Orlando Bloom who nevertheless provides some pretty cool Elf-stunts.
The most heart-stopping scenes were when 1) the Necromancer shows up, and 2) when Smaug shows up. Just stop reading here if you don’t want spoilers because I’m about to go beserko with them here.
Oh, and real quick: can we all acknowledge what these two scenes have in common?
Benedict Cumberbatch, AKA Sherlock Holmes, does the voice of the Necromancer and Smaug. I have to say, his voice is very impressive and it’s just cool to realize he’s in the movie–and with Martin Freeman, who also plays alongside Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as John Watson!–but please don’t fall in love with Sauron and the dragon because you like the actor, okay? 😉
Gandalf fighting the Necromancer brought up memories of Gandalf fighting the Balrog. I thought it was amazing how the black shadow just swirled around the Necromancer, as if he was trying to conceal himself, but Gandalf’s light just penetrated further and further until finally he unveiled the Necromancer for who he really was: SAURON. Sauron, in the same silhouette as we see at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, but also–The Eye! The foreshadowing for the Lord of the Rings trilogy was beautiful. And that’s what I loved about this movie: there were so many tie-ins for the LOTR films. Tolkien movie marathons are going to be great fun.
And Smaug the Stupendous? The computer animation was spectacular. Smaug was so believable. He had personality, both in his voice and his facial expressions–and I hadn’t expected the facial expressions. You can feel his seething hatred for Thorin and his condescension towards Bilbo.
I did feel like Bilbo revealed himself way too much to Smaug, though. There were so many moments where the dragon could’ve destroyed my dear Hobbit. He’s a highly functioning psychopath, you know–he would do it! 😉
So in conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised–I really, really liked this film–and whereas I still haven’t seen the first movie since we saw it in the theater, I can see myself re-watching this one when we get the DVD.
Some of the trailers I saw and my reactions (for real, I’m not making any of this up in front of my computer–these WERE my reactions)
Son of God (coming out in February): WOW. That looked exceptional! I hope it proves to be as biblically-accurate as the trailer made it out to be.
300: Rise of an Empire: Gross. Except when “from the director of Man of Steel” flashed across the screen and Emmy and I grabbed each other’s hands.
Divergent: Seriously, another dystopian movie involving teenagers? It’s not getting old yet?
Godzilla: I just giggled. Really, Godzilla?
Interstellar: Hmm, that could be interesting. Not enough detail to the trailer though.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
Me, Emmy, and Anna. ‘Nuff said.