By Shane Sellar
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
With its eclectic array of species, Middle-earth must have way more washroom options than just men, women and handicapped.
However, this fantasy film doesn’t deal much with loo classifications.
After Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) dispenses with the gold-hoarding dragon guarding Lonely Mountain, Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his followers reclaim the former dwarf stronghold.
Unwilling to share his riches, Thorin holes up in his keep as armies of Orcs, Elves (Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly) and dwarves amass outside.
Now it’s up to the Hobbit (Martin Freeman) to convince the crazed king to fight for Middle-earth.
The final instalment of The Hobbit trilogy, this third entry feels unnecessarily drawn-out and over digitized.
The final battle, although epic, is redundant in comparison to Lord of the Rings, which this prequel has referenced ad nauseam since the outset.
Incidentally, with the ingot-obsessed dragon gone the Middle-earth Olympic committee can award gold medals again.
The hardest part of finding a habitable planet is finding one that hasn’t already been ravaged by humans.
Fortunately, the astronauts in this sci-fi film are hominids so they know where not to look.
NASA approaches former employee Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to pilot a spacecraft carrying scientists (Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley) and robots that will enter a wormhole to recover lost data that could lead to a new home world.
Meanwhile on the expiring Earth, Cooper’s grown children (Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck) struggle with the realization their father isn’t returning for them.
From the remarkable mind of co-writer/director Christopher Nolan, Interstellar is a stunning space epic that perfectly balances heart-pounding action and cerebral stimulation.
A love story as much as a survival story, Interstellar travels light-years to find humanity.
However, telling your kids you’re going out for cigarettes is a less complicated way of ditching them than some wormhole excuse.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
With a reputation for creating colossus waves and world-ending floods it’s possible God is a surfer.
And while he doesn’t hang ten in this drama, he does materialize as a child.
Raised alongside the Pharaoh’s son, Ramesses II (Joel Edgerton), Moses (Christian Bale) has a privileged life unaware he’s a Hebrew like the slaves constructing the pyramids.
When this is divulged, he is cast out. But on the orders of God Moses returns to free the slaves, and escort them to the promise land.
The newly crowned Pharaoh, however, isn’t about to let that happen.
Hard to take serious but harder to hate, director Ridley Scott manifests a stark and bleak depiction of the Exodus.
As ostentatious as other adaptations but with modern pacing, enhanced special effects and refined acting, Gods and Kings is a well-intentioned successor.
Incidentally, after the Israelites left, the incomplete pyramids were contracted out to aliens.
The key to getting adopted from a foster home is dressing up like a sad puppy on visitor day.
Mind you, the foster kid in this musical doesn’t have to wear a furry get-up to get parents.
When 10-year-old Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is auspiciously pulled from harm’s way by cell-phone magnet and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), he convinces her to hang out with him as a means of boasting his public standing.
Strictly business at first, Stacks eventually warms to the new addition in his life.
However, Annie’s jealous den mother (Cameron Diaz) isn’t about to let her have any happiness.
Taking great liberties not only with the songs tempos but also much of the lyrics, this modernization of the 1930s radio heroin has been corrupted by political incorrectness and turned into a sterile, materialist, amateurish cash grab.
Besides, rich people only adopt orphans for their blood’s anti-aging properties.
Penguins of Madagascar
Penguins make terrible soldiers because they naturally want to hatch every enemy grenade they see.
Thankfully, there are no exploding penguin nests in this animated movie.
A pack of military inspired penguins, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights), are abducted by a highly intelligent octopus, Dave (John Malkovich), who is intent on transforming penguins everywhere into hideous monsters.
However, a legitimate group of animal agents (Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare, Annet Mahendru) are already on Dave’s trail and the bumbling foursome are only getting in their way.
A spin-off of the Madagascar series, this penguin-centric feature has more belly laughs than the mediocre trilogy combined.
Brightly animated, with endless chase scenes and lowbrow but entertaining zingers throughout, this madcap outing will only appeal to hyperactive children and immature adults.
Incidentally, the only way to defeat zoo penguins is with a panda exhibit.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Trapped in a museum that comes to life is only pleasurable if that museum is in Amsterdam’s red-light district.
Sadly, the lively gallery in this comedy is found in London, England.
When the enchanted Egyptian tablet that brings New York’s Museum of Natural History to life every night goes on the fritz, Larry (Ben Stiller), his son and some exhibits (Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rami Malek) go to the British Museum to speak to its architect (Ben Kingsley).
But a sentient wax statue of Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens) steals the tablet to impress King Arthur.
With a bevy of old and new characters to distract from the schmaltzy father/son moments, this final instalment of the amiable and awkwardly educational series is a fitting, and often funny, bookend to this middling franchise.
Incidentally, if you ever want to make out with celebrities just take the tablet to a Madame Tussauds.
The hardest part of being a celebrity is coming up with excuses as to why being a celebrity is hard.
Luckily, the movie star in this comedy has typecasting to blame from his arduous existence.
Disinterested in playing the character that made him famous, former stand-up Andre Allen (Chris Rock) stars instead in a drama about a Haitian revolutionary.
The week of its release, a writer (Rosario Dawson) accompanies him as he visits family and friends, revealing insight into his sobriety and pending marriage to a reality TV star (Gabrielle Union) along the way.
But a growing attraction between the interlocutors threatens the heavily publicized nuptials.
Written and directed by Chris Rock, Top Five is a respectable debut.
With non-stop cameos and off-colour commentary on everything, Rock mimics his onstage act with ease but overdoes it on deriding public sentiment.
Besides, being a rich stand-up comedian means you can bribe hecklers.
Being the drummer means being out of range of beer bottles the audience throws at your band.
However, the audience attending performances in this drama are more apt to lob wine glasses.
Determined to be a great musician like his idols, Andrew (Miles Teller), a freshmen drummer enrolled in the Shaffer Conservatory’s Jazz program, accepts a spot on the studio band.
But the ensemble’s abusive conductor (J. K. Simmons) abruptly dissolves any dreams Andrew had of glory.
Discouraged by his teacher’s exacting and insulting nature, Andrew is pushed to his physical and emotional edge.
The caustic couple later climaxes onstage where each humiliates the other in order to achieve their best.
With intense, inspired performances from both leads, breakneck editing, and an unrelenting rhythm permeating throughout, Whiplash is a fresh, in-your-face, approach to weary mentor/mentee movie clichés.
Furthermore, drum solos are the ideal time to go to the washroom.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The best business to be in during a rebellion is guillotine sales and maintenance.
Unfortunately, the rabble in this action movie can’t afford the extended warranty.
In the wake of her annihilation of the Hungry Games arena, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is escorted to District 13 where rebel leaders (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore) persuade her to become the spokesperson for the District-wide revolution her actions inspired.
With the Capitol in ruin, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in hiding, and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) imprisoned, Katniss – with help from the resistance (Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth) – plots her friend’s rescue and her enemy’s execution.
The first instalment of the final entry in the series based on the novels, Mockingjay is the bleakest chapter to date.
While it ultimately feels incomplete, the acting and modern warfare analogies are certainly noteworthy.
However, the mascot for social unrest is already Freddy The Firebomb.
The goal of wrestling is to hold your crotch in your opponent’s face until they relent.
However, this drama contends its true purpose is to win gold.
John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the du Pont dynasty, convinces Olympic medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to join his wrestling squad – with hopes of attracting his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) too.
While Dave holds out, Mark and the eccentric billionaire form a cocaine-fueled relationship.
When Dave does join the crew in their quest for World Championship gold, he’s stunned by du Pont’s inexperience and arrogance.
But Dave’s disrespect stirs something dark in du Pont.
Without a doubt Carell’s performance is Foxcatcher’s preeminent feature, followed by the other leads and hair and make-up.
However, the actual murder gets lost in the meandering artistry.
Furthermore, the only way to kill a wrestler is with a bullet made from a folding chair.
Big Hero 6
The downside to Japanese superheroes is they disembowel themselves after a super-villain disgraces them in battle.
Luckily, the Asian inspired group in this animated adventure all have their honour intact.
Upon his older brother’s death, 14-year-old robotics genius Hiro (Ryan Potter) uncovers his sibling’s last invention: a personal health robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit).
When a masked felon appears in town wielding Hiro’s microbot technology as a weapon, he and Baymax recruit his brother’s old associates (Damon Wayans, Jr., T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Génesis Rodríguez), outfits them in battle suits and assembles them into a super-squad.
An unstable time portable however may encumber their debut.
Loosely based on the Marvel Comic series, Big Hero 6 has been masterfully reworked by Disney Studios to become a touching tale of loss and friendship as well as an action-packed ensemble with eye-popping fight sequences.
Plus, when you’re on a super-team you can Groupon your cape dry-cleaning.
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