The third Hobbit Film — a review

What do you  mean, the grand ball room is booked? Our party had it reserved since last year!

What do you mean, the grand ball room is booked? Our party had it reserved since last year!

One of the most impressive thing about the second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug, was Smaug himself. Director Peter Jackson did a great job at creating the central villain of the Hobbit, a murderous, psychotic dragon who was given voice by Cumberland Patchworks (you know, the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes in the really cool BBC series; Martin Freeman, who plays Watson in that series, stars in the Hobbit films as Bilbo). The second film ended on a cliffhanger, with Bilbo and the dwarves, after failing miserably in killing the dragon, watch with horror as Smaug flies off, hell-bent on smoking the floating hamlet of Lake-Town in devious revenge.

But when I saw the third and final Hobbit film, it would up being a massive disappointment for me. Smaug gets killed within the first ten minutes, and then we’re treated to another ’great war’ between the races of Middle-Earth, who are all fighting over the prized treasures within the Dwarf mountain. The problem is that the battle itself is not very spectacular, especially given that two of Jackson’s recent films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, both handle climatic wars in a much better and more satisfying way.

Yo, anybody here own a '02 Toyota? Your headlights are still on!

Yo, anybody here own a ’02 Toyota? Your headlights are still on!

Another problem for me with the third Hobbit film is that Smaug was such a potent villain who felt like he was so easily snuffed at the whim of bored screenwriters–much like how Boba Fett was largely wasted in the Star Wars films. One could argue that Jackson and his writers were working from a novel, and had to follow it faithfully. But they didn’t follow the Hobbit book that faithfully, or else they never would have invented Tauriel, a warrior elf played by Evangeline Lilly who’s a welcome sight in these movies since she’s the only female of note in the entire cinematic Hobbit trilogy (the dearth of female characters in SF and fantasy films as always been a pet peeve of mine, anyway).

So if the Hobbit filmmakers could make a big change like Tauriel, why not also shift the story line away from another pointless battle and towards something that we have not seen in The Lord of the Rings, a powerful dragon? For Tolkien readers, I may be suggesting blasphemy, but this isn’t rewriting one of his books, it’s changing a film adaptation of one of his books. It’s hinted at in one of the Hobbit films that Smaug is an ally of the resurgent Sauron. Why not play that up some more? Perhaps they could still have the Battle of the Five Armies, but with Smaug directly involved as the overall leader of the bad guys?

Face it, tiger, I'm the best thing in these Hobbit movies.

Face it, tiger, I’m the best thing in these Hobbit movies.

Having Smaug involved to the very end of The Five Armies would make the final conflict of the Hobbit far more challenging for the heroes with a dragon involved. But instead, as it is, the Battle of the Five Armies feels very stale and by the numbers. I’m not surprised to see the behind the scenes feature on the blu-ray, showing an exhausted Jackson struggling to find the muse to finish the Hobbit while filming was ongoing. The Battle of the Five Armies is not a terrible film (the R-rated Blu-Ray edition, with added and extended scenes, is recommended over the theatrical version), I just wasn’t satisfied with it. Watching it made me wonder what it could have been like had the filmmakers dared to think outside the box, instead of slavishly following the book. –SF

Warming up locks

The key to unlocking a cold lock is heat. Who knew?

The key to unlocking a cold lock is heat. Who knew?

According to the weather reports, we’re in for some snow this coming weekend. How much is still being determined. So I head out to my trusty shed to get the shovel and snow thrower, only to be flummoxed when I can’t open the lock because it’s frozen.

I check online, and the best advice seems to be to just heat up the lock enough to melt the ice inside. But heat it with what? I don’t smoke, so I don’t have any lighters (as one site suggested), and I don’t own a hair dyer.

Then I thought of the heating pack that I use on my neck and shoulders, whenever they get tense. I heated the pack in the microwave, removed the protective covering (I was wearing gloves when I handled it), and took it outside. I pressed the heating pack against the lock, until I was able to get the key inside and unlock it. Now I have access to my snow equipment, just in time for the storm.

Who knew the heating pad would work on tense locks, as well as tense muscles? 🙂

Gotham City just got more crowded

Scarecrow and Harley have arrived.

Scarecrow and Harley have arrived.

When I saw these figures coming down the pike, I just had to get them. I never had the Scarecrow figure as a kid because he wasn’t available. But I read about the character in the comics and would have loved to have him menace my Batman figure back then. I really like the detail work they put into the Scarecrow figure, here.

Harley wasn’t around at all when I was a kid. She didn’t make her debut until the now-classic Batman: The Animated Series in the 1990s. But I still had to get this figure for the Batman rogue’s gallery.

But Batman isn't happy.

But Batman isn’t happy.

Poor Batman, just when he thought he could take a break, more trouble shows up in Gotham City.

Bone Tomahawk — a review

I'm giving these sons a bitches 30 seconds, and then I'm coming in, and hell's coming in right behind me!

I’m giving these sons a bitches 30 seconds, and then I’m coming in, and hell’s coming in right behind me!

When the western town of Bright Hope suffers an Indian attack late in the nineteenth century, Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) rides out with a posse to rescue the people who have been abducted. They also stole a bunch of horses that had been kept at the corral, viciously killing the young livestock worker in the process. Sheriff Hunt’s jail has also been cleared out–his deputy, the local nurse (Lili Simmons) and a prisoner they had in a cell (whom the nurse was taking care of) are all gone. Examining the arrows and other weapons left at the scene, Hunt doesn’t recognize the tribe that attacked them. But when he consults with an expert (Zahn McClarnon), Hunt gets a nasty surprise.

It turns out that the town had been attacked by a group of backwards cave dwellers who still live as if they’re in the Stone Age. Shunned by the other Indian tribes, this group of cave dwellers are a bunch of savage cannibals–which is why they abducted the people; they are merely food to be eaten. Getting a location of the cave dwellers from the expert, Hunt quickly sets up a search party that consists of himself, his reserve deputy Chicory (well-played by Richard Jenkins), Arthur (Patrick Wilson, who gives another good performance), whose wife was abducted by the cave dwellers, and a gunman named Brooder (Matthew Fox, from Lost, who is superb here).

The sooner we deal with these guys, the sooner we can get our horses back, darn it!

The sooner we deal with these guys, the sooner we can get our horses back, darn it!

Bone Tomahawk is a fantastic blend of the old west with horror. As a kid I used to read such weird western stories as Jonah Hex, which offered a regular dose of the supernatural and cowboys, so this movie was right in my wheelhouse. And to add to the fact that it’s got a great cast, in addition to those already mentioned there’s also David Arquette and Sid Haig as a pair of deadly robbers who both shine in an early scene, as well as the always great Kathryn Morris (best known from the series Cold Case), who stars here as Hunt’s loving wife.

There's nobody here...let's get back to the card game.

There’s nobody here…let’s get back to the card game.

Gore-hounds expecting a blood-soaked horror flick may be let down, as Bone Tomahawk moves at a stately, slow-burn pace, letting you get to know its characters before the bloody confrontation with the cave dwellers. And on the flip side, western fans may well be turned off by the film’s extreme gore. But if you’re looking for a gripping, original story with fully developed characters that will have you on your seat for the better part of the film, then you may well want to give Bone Tomahawk a shot. It’s highly recommended.
–SF