The Battle for Middle Earth’s Ultimate Badass

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In most films, you’re lucky to have one or two characters that, irrelevant of whether they’re good or evil, simply impress. In the final chapter of The Hobbit trilogy – The Battle of Five Armies – nearly every main character has their moment of epic glory. Of ultimate badassery that is undoubtedly worthy of applause and admiration.

First, there’s the ruggedly handsome Bard who takes down the stupendous and tyrannical Smaug by firing a black arrow off his son’s shoulder into the dragon, through a tiny chink in its scaled armour. Impressive? Undeniably so. Not to mention, he then goes on to save the people of Lake Town, implores Thorin to negotiate a peaceful resolution, fights off countless Orcs and protects his family.

From the hair to the costume to the facial expressions, everything about the Bard and Thranduil screams badass.

From the hair to the costumes to the facial expressions, everything about the Bard and Thranduil screams badass.

Then we’ve got the Elves and it’s not only good looks that are passed down the family tree. Horses are too mainstream for Thranduil who rides a giant elk and at one stage, beheads six Orcs in one swing. He proves he’s more than just a pretty face when the battle begins but is just slightly bested by his son, Legolas.

Orlando Bloom did an incredible job learning his fight sequences because it’s not through brute force or iron weaponry that Legolas wins his battles. He’s lithe, swift, surefooted and deadly with a bow and arrow. It’s almost graceful the way he fights, making Legolas the perfect mix of strength, speed and agility.

And then there’s the leader of the Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield whose hair is more luxurious than Galadriel herself. There was always a degree of pride within Thorin but his character became unlikeable and just plainly annoying, in this film.

There was an obvious amount of foreshadowing in the first two Hobbit films that reclaiming Erebor and the treasure would drive Thorin to dragon-sickness. Predictably, we see Thorin fall into this downward spiral that ostracizes him from the rest of his Company, become absurdly paranoid and turn on his friends.

o-THE-HOBBIT-facebook

Rather than step up to his role as King under the Mountain and stay true to his word, Thorin becomes a greedy, selfish man, throwing what can only be likened to a tantrum. Then he has a strange, hallucination scene, figuratively drowns in a pool of gold and somehow is back to his regular old self.

His transition through the mental struggle seemed rushed and disjointed though, disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Given the length of the film, it could have developed at a more reasonable pace  and something more striking and less obvious than hallucinating about drowning in gold, could have been used to bring Thorin back to sanity.

It does pass however and so ensues the badassery of Thorin Oakenshield that we’re accustomed to. He joins the battle, fights his way to Ravenhill and finally battles it out with leader of the Orc army, Azog.

Their fight was impressive but after already having watched about an hour of various battles, was nothing different to what we’ve seen before. There’s only so many times you can watch two weapons clang together, the steel singing out, before it loses impact.

Inevitably, in the culmination of the Hobbit trilogy, characters were going to die. It was infuriating however, that Kili’s death was turned into a sappy romantic cop out. The inclusion of Tauriel in The Desolation of Smaug was justified and it was refreshing to see a strong female character fight with as much strength and gusto as her male counterparts. She held her own quite impressively in The Battle of Five Armies, until Kili died.

Hobbit-Screencaps

She so effortlessly but unjustifiably crumbles into a weeping mess, fulfilling every cliché female character trope about lost love, even though she had a grand total of maybe four conversations with Kili. It’s a huge letdown to see something as sad as the death of arguably one of the most popular dwarves overshadowed by something as trivial and overused as the tragic “star-crossed lovers” angle.

When the movie title tells you there’s going to be five armies involved, it should come as no surprise when three quarters of the movie is men/dwarves/elves/Orcs charging at one another, innocent people running and screaming and battle cry’s. But this film utilises the remaining quarter so well that it manages to keep the audience entertained and engaged for two and a half hours.

There’s humour, friendship, drama and betrayal, all backed by an epic score that make this movie a solid ending to a truly wonderful trilogy. Truth be told, it was worth it just to see the look of pure bliss and relief on Bilbo’s face upon his long awaited return to The Shire. 

On the eve of war: Mockingjay Part 1

The-Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part-One-Poster-HD-Wallpaper

The third instalment of the Hunger Games films shifts the entire franchise onto a whole other playing field. We’re no longer talking about a Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle or some shaky, guerrilla style footage of kids murdering other kids.

Mockingjay Part 1 reveals delves much deeper into the sinister, brutal element of war, setting it apart from many other Young Adult franchises. While there are some witty jibes, a few sporadic comical lines of dialogue and a dash of romance, it’s absolutely thrilling to see this film take a darker turn and establish the framework for Part 2 to be an epic war film.

Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy, said in an interview that the idea for her books came from watching television and flicking between stations of reality TV and actual war coverage. It’s clear that Mockingjay Part 1 aligns much more closely with the latter than the first two films in the franchise.

With confronting execution scenes, bombings, references to prostitution and torture, the violence that is evident within the pages of the novel hasn’t been toned down for a younger film audience.

We see people kneeling with bags covering their heads, shot point-blank in front of a crowd of onlookers, we see rows of dead, rotting corpses in a makeshift Hospital in District 8 and we see our Tributes Peeta and Joanna looking gaunt, bloody and beaten after being held captive by the Capitol.

mockingjay-part-1-peeta-beaten-620x318

The first look at Peeta after being rescued from The Capitol.

 

 

 

The intensity of this film is almost palpable, which is why splitting the novel into two films is an ingenious decision. Yes, Part 1 had scenes that felt sluggish and drawn out but it has set the framework for Part 2 so well, that we’re willing to forgive such minor misgivings.

Undoubtedly though, this will pleasantly impress mega fans of the novels because it means that barely any scenes from the book were culled from the script.

We get to see Finnick and Annie’s achingly beautiful reunion, the inclusion of Effie into the plot despite her absence from the entire Mockingjay novel and a transformation within Katniss that doesn’t feel remotely forced or rushed.

Effie-Stylin-in-13

Elizabeth Banks returns as the beloved Effie Tinket.

 

 

The filmmakers had time to show Katniss’ hesitation, reluctance, fear and finally, acceptance of becoming the Mockingjay and this cycle is definitely a testament to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting skills. When she delivered the first propaganda speech in District 8, the extraordinary emotion and energy produced an atmosphere of intensity that just elevated the entire film.

It continuously builds and then we’re left with a cliffhanger and forced to wait another 365 days to see the Rebels finally make their move against the Capitol in Mockingjay Part 2. It’s incredibly frustrating but like I said, an ingenious marketing move. Touché Lionsgate.

Running through Reapings and Factions: the rise of dystopia

First it was the vampire phenomenon which I’ll unashamedly admit, I was sucked into, pardon the pun. Now, it seems the books topping the bestseller list and the films that have people flocking to the cinema all have one common thematic setting – dystopia.

Characteristically unpleasant, brutal and harsh, dystopian societies are generally what develop after an apocalyptic-type disaster. Something goes so horribly wrong that society as we know is collapses and a new one takes its place. The rapid rise of this genre and our eagerness to see worlds that parallel our own yet are so dissimilar, raises one rather pressing concern – are we genuinely dissatisfied with our current society?

Do we long for a world where society is divided into factions? Are we secretly enthralled by the idea of the Hunger Games? Is it no longer too far-fetched to believe we are not alone in the universe? Or does seeing a group of boys (plus one girl) confined to the centre of a maze make us actually cherish the mundane and regular civilisation we live in?

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 7.57.27 pm

Then again, that is quintessentially the appeal of the entire fiction genre. It’s interesting because it’s different but that doesn’t mean we would choose to live in those fantasies over our own reality. Unless of course, it’s Hogwarts. So yes, sitting in peak hour traffic on the way to my nine to five job is horrible, boring and excruciatingly time-consuming, but it’s still better than having to face a Reaping or risk becoming Factionless.

The latest dystopian book-to-film adaptation to land at the Box Office, is The Maze Runner, based off the trilogy written by James Dashner. While it was exciting to see a new fantasy world with a maze, robotic monsters and memory loss, I would be lying if I didn’t say half of the appeal of this movie was Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien.

Will Poulter (right) in We're The Millers.

Will Poulter (right) in We’re The Millers.

It was strange to watch Will Poulter play the arrogant bully, given how epically he performed a comedic role in We’re The Millers. It’s not fair to cluster actors into a single genre but when an actor plays a part, especially their first breakthrough role so perfectly, it tends to happen subconsciously. O’Brien on the other hand, totally exceeded my expectations and adapted amazingly well to his role as Thomas – a character that’s the polar opposite to O’Brien’s character Stiles Stilinski on Teen Wolf. We see fear, curiosity, anger, bravery, humility and compassion from Thomas and O’Brien masters every emotion effortlessly. For his first full length motion picture, he most definitely deserves an applause.

As with most book-to-film adaptations, there are plans for sequels to turn the film into a franchise of epic films that demand a mass following and billions in revenue. But usually the first movie has some kind of ending, a conclusion to satisfy the audience and wrap up the immediate storyline, just in case the film is a flop and a sequel doesn’t come to pass. Herein lies my biggest complaint about The Maze Runner. The story doesn’t make sense without a sequel. There is no conclusion, no loose ends are tied and we’re left wondering what the hell is going to happen.

Yes, that’s the whole idea of a film franchise but let’s compare it to The Hunger Games, for example.The first film ends with Katniss and Peeta surviving the arena and Haymitch explaining that The Capital isn’t happy with her surviving the Games. This suggests to the audience that a sequel could be made and that the plot could continue. It is obvious, given that we know there are three books but nothing in Hollywood is set in stone so there’s always the potential that plans for a sequel will fall through and THG accommodates for this.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 8.07.39 pm

The problem with The Maze Runner is that it felt like there should be another 20 minutes added to the end of the movie to find some kind of conclusion. Even if it’s not a finite ending to the entire film’s concept, we still could’ve been given more information to conclude at least the first part of the story arc.

Nonetheless, now I am absolutely enthralled by the idea of a sequel, so the filmmakers have aced their job. No doubt, the movie producers are basking in the knowledge that despite their film being only one month old, it’s going to be the next big Hollywood franchise. And I have absolutely no problem with that!

Suave, sexy and spectacular – The Justin Timberlake 20/20 World Tour

JT

To lump Justin Timberlake’s music into the “pop” genre is a serious oversight of his talent. The degree of quality, finesse and utter class of his music is unparalleled in the industry at the moment, especially with the likes of Miley Cyrus, 5SOS and Pitbull flooding the radio.

It’s been seven years since JT toured in Australia and judging from the squeals of joy and the roaring applauses that stunned even the singer himself, we’ve been eagerly awaiting his return.

From the moment the dashing singer stepped onto the stage, everyone was in a state of constant awe and bewilderment throughout the 150-minute show. Everything from the songs, the band, the dancing and stage that moved over our heads in the mosh pit, literally left fans with their mouths agape in admiration.

The setlist included a perfect mix of hits from The 20/20 Experience and his older music which induced a welcome wave of nostalgia. Interestingly, it was the hits from his album Justified that received the loudest reaction, proving his fan-base remained loyal in his long absence.

Image: Juliana Mare

Image: Juliana Mare

With an aura of 1920’s class and glamour, the Tennessee Kids looked incredibly dapper on stage and provided an entertaining element of theatricality. Having never seen anyone play a trombone, trumpet or tuba live, the 15 Tennessee Kids had that cool jazz vibe that I envision the musicians of the clubs in New Orleans to have.

JT’s dancing is a sublime hybrid of modern Hip Hop popping and locking, Michael Jackson-esque moves and a dash of the swinging classics of the early 20th century. It’s a completely unique style that was equally as impressive as the music.

Even though the dance moves were quick and intricate and his music requires a mix of falsetto, some fast verses and a smooth tenor, JT makes it look easy, never missing a beat. As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, he also played a stunning white grand piano during Until The End of Time.

I don’t think the word excellent is good enough to describe JT’s 20/20 World Tour. Usually after surviving a mosh pit, I find my throat is sore and my voice is scratchy the following day – the result of my screaming in admiration. The morning after the Justin Timberlake concert, not only did my voice creak and rasp, my cheek muscles felt tired and worn which I can only assume is a result of having a constant, gigantic smile plastered on my face for over two hours. Make of that what you will.

Guardians of the Galaxy: The not-so-cool younger sibling of The Avengers

Earthlings, aliens, exuberant villains, an abundance of leather costumes and incredible mass of testosterone, tend to make for a good superhero movie. While Guardians of the Galaxy had the potential, it fell short, especially when compared to the high calibre of Marvel’s other films.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy...Milano..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2014 The_Avengers_posterIt’s practically inevitable that audiences are going to compare Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers as they’re two superhero movies in which the world is saved by a semi-dysfunctional band of unlikely heroes. And of course, when you’ve got the tree trunk arms of  an Asgardian king, the witty genius of Tony Stark, the incredible badassery of Natasha Romanov and well, a Hulk, an animated raccoon with anger issues is seriously lacklustre.

The leader of the Guardians, Peter Quill, a.k.a Starlord, is a likeable character and Chris Pratt deserves an honourable mention for his performance. While still delivering humorous one-liners, this role was a far stretch from his role as the witless but endearing Andy Dwyer in Parks & Recreation. Not only was his physical transformation for this role impressive (hello muscles!), but he adapted well to the drama, action and slightly romantic scenes within the film.

Not the pudgy Andy Dwyer we're used to.

Not the pudgy Andy Dwyer we’re used to.

The most prominent flaw with Quill though, was how ridiculously quickly he changed his mind about Gamora (Zoe Saldana). His decision to trust her developed so quickly and with only the tiniest amount of justification, it almost gave me whiplash. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching their relationship develop throughout the film and admired that Gamora was a strong willed female protagonist who could hold her own in a fight, which is a relatively rare sight in modern cinema. And hallelujah, there wasn’t a kiss! I can’t remember the last movie I watched that featured a heterosexual couple who didn’t stop to make out at some point, so it was refreshing to not have the romantic element take over and dilute the adventure and fantasy elements.

The actual plot of the film was interesting but rather plain and straightforward. Our hero team finds an object that has the potential to destroy the universe, the bad guys want the object and an intergalactic hunt/race/battle ensues. Yes the fighting is cool, as to be expected but there was nothing spectacular about it. It’s an interesting movie to watch but somewhat predictable so seeing it once at the cinema was enough and I’m not in any rush to see it again or pre-order the Bluray.

Zoe Saldana rocks the Starfleet uniform better than the burgundy leather jumpsuit she dons in this movie and I would’ve preferred to see Bradley Cooper rock a leather jumpsuit than just hear his voice coming out of the mouth of a raccoon.

Zoe Saldana's character, Gamora.

Zoe Saldana’s character, Gamora.

Obviously, fans of Marvel will watch this film, and rightly so because does have its moments and it’s always exciting to see comic book characters come to life. Ultimately, it feels like Guardians of the Galaxy is just a simpler, less impressive version of The Avengers that is more likely to appeal to younger kids more so than any other demographic. There is a talking tree after all.

Liebster Award

The fact that I thought it was spam when I was tagged for the Liebster Award (an award passed on by bloggers to other new blogs with less than 200 followers) just goes to show how removed my blog is from the world of blogging. While I enjoy recording my thoughts, opinions and ponderings on the internet as much as any blogger, things like page views, comments and likes have never been at the forefront of my mind when I publish a post, so the fact that someone actually paid enough notice of my blog to nominate me, is a real honour. So thank you Ponderings of a Cinephile, if you’re ever in Melbourne, I’d like to buy you a coffee!

liebster2

11 Random Facts about myself

I have never watched nor do I even have the tiniest sliver of interest in watching the Star Wars movies.

I cringe to think about how much money I have spent at pop culture events and exhibitions. That being said, I’ve met Misha Collins, Jim Beaver, James & Oliver Phelps, Zach Roerig, Steven McQueen, Malese Jow, David Anders, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dean O’Gorman, Stan Lee, Jason Momoa and Kat Graham.

I love smooth and whipped peanut butter. And mum’s meatloaf. Would gladly eat either of those two foods every day for the rest of my life.

I love Christmastime and I really enjoy wrapping presents. Choosing which wrapping paper to buy every year is a big deal to me.

Unlike most people, both my brother and myself have never had chicken pox.

I love running, but only on a treadmill. Rarely do I go running outdoors.

I am a master of bargain shopping. I can’t remember the last time I paid full-price for anything.

I’m a big foodie and when I travelled around Europe last year, I made it a priority to taste the most popular dishes of every country I visited. With 100 per cent certainty, I can say that haggis is overrated and frog legs look discouraging but are darn tasty.

Delicious Cuisses Grenouilles (frog legs) from L'entracte Opera restaurant in Paris.

Delicious Cuisses Grenouilles (frog legs) from L’entracte Opera restaurant in Paris.

I cannot stand the idea of wearing matching pyjama sets.

I have always wanted to spend some time working abroad in London. Not only am I highly fond of British culture, the Monarchy and tea, the Tube is the most efficient transport system I’ve ever used.

I HATE coriander. So much.

11 Questions from the Nominator

Why did you start your blog?
First year of Uni, I completed an Online Journalism unit that required us to have an online portfolio. I continued with it throughout my degree mainly for the convenience of prospective employers, to have all my published work in one place. Since finishing my degree and starting a full time job, I now use this blog to publish reviews and ponderings, which I’ve come to realise, I enjoy much more than strict news reporting.

If you could have dinner with one fictional character who would it be and what would you talk about?
Recent events in my life have put me in quite a negative, cynical mindset so for some refreshment, I’d dine with Peter Pan to try and regain that sense of fun and carefree nature that comes with being young. And we would discuss the Pirates, Mermaids and Indians that live in Neverland of course!

If you could have dinner with one historical figure who would it be and what would you talk about?
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who spoke out against the Taliban and fought for girls to have the right to education. Hers is the only autobiography I have enjoyed reading and I would love to discuss her thoughts on how gender inequality is still prevalent, even in Western society and what she thinks of her newfound international stature.

ad036bc6e452ea33f4d6331c0b6da8e3

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in life?
Travel to every single location on my bucket list so when I’m old, I can look back with fond memories, incredible photos and no regrets.

What accomplishment are you proudest of so far?
I’m 22 and have completed my Degree, travelled to Europe and landed a full time job in an industry that I was repeatedly told, would only be freelance work until I got more experience. And I think that’s a testament to my determination, which makes me feel quite proud.

What’s a work of fiction that has changed your life and how?
This is a really tough one. I read a lot of young adult fantasy novels and I think this genre as a whole has a lot of fantastic female role models that haven’t necessarily changed my life, but have probably – consciously and subconsciously – impacted the type of person I’ve become. Characters like Hermione Granger, Tris Prior, Katniss Everdeen, they’re not stereotypical Mary Sue characters and I love the fact that so many young girls have these types of women to look up to nowadays.

What’s a movie from your childhood that you still enjoy as much as you used to?
Heart & Souls (1992) is a heartwarming movie about a man who helps his imaginary friends – the ghosts of four people who died in a bus accident – complete their unfinished business. I wanted to rent this movie all the time from the video store and I remember being so completely overjoyed when I found it on DVD years later.

If you had a superpower what would it be?
Teleportation, without a doubt. Ever since I read Jumper by Steven Gould, I have spent countless hours wishing I had the ability to (1) teleport to work without driving in peak-hour traffic and (2) holiday anywhere in the world without an expensive and long flight.

If the world was going to end in 3 weeks, how would you spend those last 21 days?
I’d try to organise a big Farewell dinner, invite everyone important in my life and just spent time together. It wouldn’t even be doing anything in particular but just having everyone together in the one place. And binge eat anything and everything.

If you had to pick now, what song would you listen to on your death bed?
Be Still – The Fray.

If you could go back and talk to your 12 year old self, what advice would you give?
Don’t get so caught up in trying to fit in because surrounding yourself with the wrong people isn’t better than being alone. Become healthier sooner. Stand up for yourself when people treat you like crap and go to the Doctor sooner rather than later.

11 Nominations

The Pin Up Curl http://thepinupcurl.com

Hungry Cookie http://hungrycookie.net

The Girl in the Little Black Dress http://natalieslovelyblog.wordpress.com

My Humble Reflections http://myhumblereflections.wordpress.com

What Killed the Dinosaurs? http://whatkilledthedinosaurs.wordpress.com

Dear Kitty. Some blog http://dearkitty1.wordpress.com

Empty Screens http://emptyscreens.com

Godspeed to a Mighty Balloon http://mightyballoon.wordpress.com

Road Essays http://roadessays.wordpress.com

Todd Pack’s Messy Desk http://toddpack.com

Delistrary http://delistraty.com

11 Questions for Nominees:

1. In a fruit salad, what piece of fruit do you always choose first?

2. When you travel, do you prefer planning every detail or just seeing where the road takes you?

3. Fill in the blanks. If I can accomplish _____ by the time I’m ____, I’ll die happy.

4. If you could go back in time and change one event in history, what would it be?

5. What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?

6. If you had to pick one outfit to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?

7. What’s your favourite episode from your favourite TV show and why?

8. Describe the best concert you’ve ever been to.

9. What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

10. If you were to face a boggart from Harry Potter, what form would it take?

11. If the Queen of England was invited to dine at your house, what three courses would you cook?

Recipients of the Liebster Award must:

  • List 11 Random facts about yourself
  • Answer the questions that were of you by the blogger that nominated you
  • Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and link to their blogs
  • Notify the bloggers of their award
  • Give the award winners 11 question to answer once they accept the award

 

 

Positively Emerald!

From the lobby bar cocktails to the costumes, the Regent Theatre has been painted green in honour of Wicked: The Musical which I had the pleasure of seeing last weekend!

The gravity defying musical Wicked has rolled back into Melbourne for another season at the Regent Theatre and there’s just something about that green skinned, broomstick-riding Wicked Witch of the West that I really seem to connect with.

New-Wicked-Logo-5x5

While I am neither green nor a broomstick rider, it’s Elphaba’s fierce determination to firstly, succeed and secondly, fight for a worthy cause that make her character incredibly admirable. While her “the-ends-justify-the-means” persona and her decree that no good deed goes unpunished, categorise her into the villain trope, I maintain that Elphaba is a worthy role model, more so that Wicked’s other protagonist Glinda the “Good Witch” whose thoughts and actions are all driven by vanity and popularity.

Don’t get me wrong – Glinda has her moments, she is after all, the good witch. She’s fiercely loyal and has an unwavering determination like Elphaba to succeed although her vision of success seems so much shallower and egotistical. Nonetheless, I have unashamedly had the chorus of Popular stuck in my head all week.

I love musicals there’s no denying, but Wicked is undoubtedly a favourite of mine. Yes, the storyline, songs and characters are phenomenal but it’s the smaller things, perhaps the things that go unnoticed by the masses that really impress me.

The extraordinary costumes are some of the best from any musical I’ve watched. The citizens of Oz in their quirky frocks, all embellished in that beautiful emerald green colour, nearly out-shadowed the main cast. Of course, this is complimented by a very cleverly designed set. Despite having seen Wicked before, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when thousands of tiny green lights lit up the stage upon our first glimpse of the Emerald City!

Gina Beck and Louise Dearman as Elphaba and Glina, respectively.

Gina Beck and Louise Dearman as Elphaba and Glina, respectively.

And then there’s those clever, witty connections to The Wizard of Oz. Knowing that story like the back of my hand, it’s easy to be impressed with the script of Wicked that mentions that annoying dog “Dodo,” and explains the origins of our beloved Scarecrow and Tin-Man.

Wicked is a world-class production that impresses on all fronts. Diehard musical theatre fans will be blown away by the soundtrack, fashion lovers will swoon over the costumes, children will love the theatricality and humour and adults will surely appreciate the ingenuity of the parallels to the original Oz story. There is quite literally something to impress everyone.

If you’ve only ever thought of the Wicked Witch of the West as the nasty woman who tormented Judy Garland, Wicked will bring a whole new side of Elphaba to light and truly help you see that there are two sides to every story, and both deserve to be told.