Movie review: “They Shall Not Grow Old” (2018)

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“Mostly, they were just boys, as we were. They seemed to be glad to be captured. They were out of it.”

What struck me most as a viewer were the faces, the procession of almost invariably smiling faces – the assembled weight, minus any pretense of pageantry, of an entire generation of British youth girding themselves, steeling up their courage, gearing up for war. The images, seen faraway, largely lack distinguishing features yet are familiar, static black and white, grainy, jumpy, degraded in spots, over or underexposed in others, confined within a comparatively meager square occupying the dead center of a massive IMAX screen. In that square, smiling face after smiling face, looking around in a mixture of bemusement and anticipation, not entirely ignorant of the horrors they have yet to confront but, to a man, nevertheless outwardly unconcerned. Continue reading “Movie review: “They Shall Not Grow Old” (2018)”

Movie review: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (2014)

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“Farewell, Master Burglar. Go back to your books, and your armchair…plant your trees, watch them grow. If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place…”

The enduring popularity (and usefulness) of those gargantuan “Extended Editions” of director Peter Jackson’s celebrated Lord of the Rings adaptations – which graft between thirty and fifty minutes of exposition, exploration, and effects onto epic films that already pushed (and punished) the three hour mark theatrically – isn’t difficult to surmise. LOTR is an existential, near-apocalyptic, struggle, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a dense, fairly miraculous setting for a film, full to bursting with hidden treasures and wonders to behold, populated by many distinct races, each with its own obscure motives and ancient grudges to nurse, facing half a dozen or more delicious varieties of increasingly hearty evil, from giant spiders and undead bounty hunters, to treacherous sorcerers and impossibly vast armies of genetically-enhanced butchers, to the wellspring embodiment of darkness itself, to the heartrending corruption of the mortal soul. Continue reading “Movie review: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (2014)”