TV Tropes and Michael Dawson

 

TV TROPES AND MICHAEL DAWSON

While reading the TV TROPES site on Heroic BSOD for Live Action television series, I read this passage about the Michael Dawson character from “LOST”:

“Let’s face it, Michael’s death was the best thing that happened, because, well, his character wasn’t all that useful, other than being an in-universe joke on why some people really shouldn’t be parents.”.

The article earlier made this comment about the fans’ reaction to Michael:

“While we’re on the subject of Lost, let’s mention Michael who might be the show’s punching bag as he goes through the entire series stuck this way because of his son Walt… after all, he spends half an episode calling “Walt!” in several different screams and shouts.”

Apparently, the author of this particular website (or page) had decided to make Michael a punching bag, as well. Not only did the author declared Michael as “useless” because he “shouldn’t be a parent”, that person also continued that asnine and never ending joke about Michael calling out the name of his kidnapped son, Walt Lloyd. Yet, TV TROPES also claimed that Kate Austen had “adopted” Claire Littleton’s son Aaron. Adopted . . . instead of . . . say, KIDNAPPED, which is what really happened. Kate had kidnapped Aaron, by claiming to be his natural mother and deliberately kept him from his blood grandmother for nearly three years. Why? Because she selfishly wanted to use Aaron as comforting blanket for the trauma she had suffered during the Oceanic Six’s departure from the island.

But TV TROPES never revealed this about Kate. Yet, at the same time, condemned Michael as someone who should not be a parent, because Walt ended up kidnapped (at gunpoint) by the Others. Or was he condemned as “useless”, because he spent several episodes calling out Walt’s name – something that the average parent would do if his or her child had been kidnapped in that fashion.

I cannot help but wonder . . . if Michael had been portrayed by a white actor, would he have been labeled as the series’ punching bag and running joke by the fans? Or would they have brushed aside or make excuses for his flaws and mistakes, as they tend to do for fanboy favorite, James “Sawyer” Ford? Does this mean that the site authors for TV TROPES are racists or simply hypocrites?

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“ANT-MAN” (2015) Review

 

“ANT-MAN” (2015) Review

When Marvel Studios first announced that its new movie about the comic book hero, Ant-Man would be the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) second stage, I found myself scratching my head. Why would a solo effort like “ANT-MAN served as the end of Stage Two? Why not the epic “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”, which had been released two-and-a-half weeks earlier?

Needless to say, I had no idea what was going through the mind of MCU show runner, Kevin Fiege. So, I sat back and watched how he and the filmmakers for “ANT-MAN” would handle this. And I must say . . . I found myself more than pleasantly surprised. This surprise, along with the actual movie also taught me another lesson about making assumptions. One day, this lesson will remain with me and I will stop making assumptions for good. Hopefully.

As for “ANT-MAN”, the movie created a small controversy when the Marvel and Disney Studio bosses decided to fire British filmmaker Edgar Wright and replace him with Peyton Reed as director. They also dismissed the screenplay that Wright co-wrote with collaborator Joe Cornish and allowed the film’s star Paul Rudd and Adam McKay to re-write the script. A good number of critics and moviegoers believe this move may have harmed “ANT-MAN”. Others are contemplating on how the movie would have turned out if Wright had remained the film’s director. After seeing “ANT-MAN” and recalling that 2007’s “HOT FUZZ” was the only Wright film I have ever truly liked, I realized in the end that I could not care less about how Wright and Cornish would have done the film. Yes, I enjoyed “ANT-MAN” that much.

The movie begins in 1989 when the recently widowed Dr. Hank Pym resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D., after discovering their attempt to replicate his Ant-Man shrinking technology. Believing the technology is dangerous, Dr. Pym refuses to release the technology to S.H.I.E.L.D. or anyone else. The story jumps twenty-six years later. Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne, and former protégé, Darren Cross, have forced him out of his own company. Cross is close to perfecting a shrinking suit of his own, the Yellowjacket, which horrifies Pym. Fortunately, Hope realizes the danger that Cross’ new invention poses and decides to help her father destroy it.

At the same time, convicted burglar Scott Lang is finally released from moves in with his old cellmate, Luis and the latter’s two friends – Dave and Kurt. After making a surprise visit to his daughter Cassie’s birthday party, Scott is dismissed by his ex-wife Maggie and her police-detective fiancé, Paxton, for not providing child support. Unable to hold a job because of his criminal record, Scott agrees to a burglary job that Lang agrees to a burglary job that Luis has discovered – one that involves breaking into an expensive Victorian manor. Only the house belongs to Hank Pym and the only thing Scott was able to find inside Dr. Pym’s safe is the Ant-Man suit. Scott tries on the suit and accidentally shrinks himself. Terrified by his experience, he tries to return it to the Pym manor and is arrested by the police. However, Dr. Pym pays the jailed Scott a visit and helps the latter break out of jail, using the suit. Then he recruits Scott to help him and Hope pull a heist on Darren Cross’ new Yellowjacket suit before his former protégé can sell the technology to dangerous people.

Following the over-the-top action fest of “THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON”, “ANT-MAN” proved to be something of a respite for me. Not only did the movie proved to be a respite, but also quite enjoyable. But before I go into why I enjoyed the film, I have to point out its shortcomings. The worst thing I can say about “ANT-MAN” is its pacing. There are a few moments in the film in which director Peyton Reed nearly rushed the film. This was especially apparent in the montages that conveyed Scott Lang’s training as Ant-Man at the hands of Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne. And I cannot help but wonder why Hope had snitched on Scott to the police . . . a day after he had broke into Dr. Pym’s home and taken the Ant-Man suit. Unless she was unaware of the actual date that Scott had planned to make the original heist. The movie also suffered from two abrupt endings. One ending featured Luis’ revelation that Sam Wilson aka the Falcon was searching for Scott. The other abrupt ending was scene in the movie’s second post-credit scene in which Sam revealed his discovery of the missing Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier to Steve Rogers aka Captain America.

“ANT-MAN” had its usual set of flaws, but I cannot deny that I found it very entertaining. More importantly, I found it to be one of the more unconventional entries in the MCU. On one level, the movie is an origin tale about the comic book figure, Ant-Man. On another level, the movie began with the Ant-Man character already established. This is due to the fact that the movie’s main character, Scott Lang, is the second person to become Ant Man. The superhero’s first origin happened back in the 1970s or 1980s, when Hank Pym assumed the role and his wife, Janet van Dyne became the Wasp. There has never been a Marvel film before in which a second person assumed the role of a particular superhero or superheroine. If one really looked at the movie from a certain perspective, the role of Ant-Man revolved around three people – Scott Lang, Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne. “ANT-MAN” told how Scott became the superhero. In the case of Hank and Hope; the movie told how the “hero” affected the lives of both father and daughter. Hank’s role as Ant-Man had eventually led to the death of Janet van Dyne, which affected their relationship. And Scott becoming the new Ant-Man eventually not only led to their emotional reconciliation, but also helped him reconciled with his ex-wife and her fiancé, which allowed him to spend more time with his daughter. Even the villain, Darren Cross, seemed to have some kind of emotional tie to Hank. The latter had not only considered the former as a protégé, but also a son. Yet, Cross’ growing obsession with the Pym Particle and Hank’s refusal to tell him about it, led to resentment on Cross’ part and coldness on Hank’s. I have never come across a Marvel film with that scenario. Come to think of it, I have never come across a Marvel film in which family ties had such a strong impact . . . with the exception of 2003’s “THE HULK” and 2010’s “IRON MAN 2”.

As I had earlier pointed out, “ANT-MAN” is not the usual “superhero/heroine” origin tale, due to the lead character being the second person to assume the role of Ant-Man. The movie is also unusual, due to the fact that it is basically a heist film. Remember that following the death of his wife back in 1987, Hank had concluded that the Pym Particles, which powered the Ant-Man and Wasp suits, was too dangerous to be used . . . by anyone. This is why he had resigned from S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place . . . to ensure that the government agency would not develop something similar. Unfortunately for Hank, Cross finally managed to create his own shrinking technology (called Yellowjacket). And this forced Hank to recruit Scott to become the new Ant-Man and steal Darren’s technology. Scott’s past as a professional thief and Master’s Degree in Engineering proved to be two of the main reasons why Hank recruited him in the first place. One last aspect of “ANT-MAN” that made it so unusual for me was the offbeat humor that surrounded the characters of Scott, Luis, Dave and Kurt; along with the film’s bizarre action sequence in the last twenty minutes.

The technical aspects for “ANT-MAN” seemed pretty solid. But there are two aspects of the film that I found very impressive. One aspect focused on the movie’s visual effects created the team led by Allison Gainza. Not only was I impressed by their work in scenes featuring Scott’s interactions with many insects, but also how they shrink and inflate both the Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket characters at will. This was especially apparent in scenes featuring Scott’s encounter with the Falcon at the Avengers facility and his fight against Cross in the film’s final action sequence. Ironically, the visual effects were enhanced by the editing from Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr. that made that fight scene so memorable for me. I had never seen such a bizarre action sequence in a Marvel film, since 2013’s “THOR: THE DARK WORLD”.

When “ANT-MAN” was first in the development stage, the producers had two actors up for the role of Scott Lang aka Ant-Man – Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Paul Rudd. However, Gordon-Levitt dismissed the matter as a rumor and Rudd became the frontrunner. To be perfectly honest, I would have been satisfied with either actor in the role. But I have to give kudos to Rudd to making Scott Lang a plausible professional thief, but also providing the film’s emotional backbone. More importantly, Rudd did a superb job of combining both his sardonic style of humor with the emotional desperation that drove his character’s actions. I used to believe that the character of Tauriel from “THE HOBBIT” films was actress Evangeline Lilly’s best role. Then I saw her portrayal of Hope van Dyne and completely changed my mind. She was exceptional as Hank Pym’s embittered daughter, who finds herself willing to work with her father and prevent Darren Cross’ plans to sell the Yellowjacket technology. I had read somewhere that Edgar Wright had plans to make Hope a femme fatale character. And while that may have been interesting, I found this new version of Hope equally interesting. Lilly did an exceptional job of expressing Hope’s resentment and anger toward her father, while keeping her feelings barely under control. Rounding off this trio is Michael Douglas, who was excellent as the very complicated Dr. Hank Pym. What I enjoyed about Douglas’ performance is that not only did he manage to effectively portray the role of mentor, but also revealed certain negative traits in Pym’s personality that made him so difficult for both Hope and Cross to deal with.

What can I say about Michael Peña’s portrayal of Scott’s closest friend, Luis? Some have complained that his character is basically a comic stereotype of the Latino-American male. I would agree . . . superficially. However, between the screenplay and Peña’s energetic performance, Luis turned out to be quite an exceptional character who not seemed to be very verbose; but also a lover of fine wine, abstract art and video games. He also proved to be very proficient with his fists. And thanks to Peña’s performance, he nearly stole the show. Come to think of it, Corey Stoll was equally effective as the film’s main villain, Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket. Of all of the wealthy industrialist/scientists (good or bad) that permeate the Marvel Universe, Cross was one of the most interesting and scariest I have seen. And I have to give kudos to Stoll for making Cross both scary and a bit vulnerable at the same time.

The movie also featured first-rate performances from T.I. “Tip” Harris and David Dastmalchian as Scott and Luis’ fellow crew members, Dave and Kurt, who somehow managed to form quite the little screen team by the end of the film. Their discussion of the 1997 movie, “TITANIC” had me rolling on the floor with laughter. “ANT-MAN also featured fine performances from Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, a very funny Wood Harris, and a very charming Abby Ryder Fortson, who portrayed Scott’s daughter Cassie. Rounding out this cast was Martin Donovan, who portrayed a former S.H.I.E.L.D. top official/HYDRA mole Mitchell Carson. Although his appearance in the movie was not as long as the others, Donovan did a great job in setting up the malevolent Carson as a future threat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the way, Donovan had worked with Paul Rudd in the 2000 movie, “THE GREAT GATSBY”; and with Michael Douglas in the 2006 political thriller, “THE SENTINEL”. To ensure the movie’s tie-in with the MCU, “ANT-MAN” featured cameos from Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), John Slattery (older Howard Stark) in the prologue; and Chris Evans (Steve Rogers) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes). But for me, the real thrill came in the form of Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka the Falcon. His surprise appearance, along with that crazy fight scene between his character and the lead proved to be one of the movie’s highlights for me.

“ANT-MAN” is not the type of Marvel film that would strike anyone as mind blowing or epic. And there are those fans who are still castigating it for not being written and directed by Edgar Wright. I personally do not care. I enjoyed the movie very much. Thanks to Peyton Reed’s direction, a great cast led by Paul Rudd and a very unusual screenplay written by Rudd and Adam McKay that featured a strong, offbeat humor; I enjoyed the movie very much. In fact, I would go far as to say that “ANT-MAN” was one of the most unusual Marvel productions I have seen. Probably the most unusual. And that makes it unique for me.

“LOST”: “Kidnapping a Child”

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“LOST”: “KIDNAPPING A CHILD”

I was reading this ARTICLE about the girl who had been kidnapped at 11 and found, 18 years later. And it made me think of the numerous child kidnappings that have occurred on “LOST”:

 

 

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*Ben Linus’ kidnapping of Alex Rousseau, Danielle’s infant daughter. Ben had kidnapped Alex when she was an infant, against Charles Widmore’s orders. He pretended to be her father for sixteen years. Eventually, mother and daughter were finally able to reunite. But they were never able to enjoy their reunion, due to them both being killed by Charles Widmore’s hired thugs within a few days.

 

 

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*Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by Tom Friendly, at Ben’s orders. We all know the circumstances that resulted from that particular kidnapping. Walt’s father, Michael Dawson, disappeared for a while to search for Walt. Once he found the Others, he made a deal with them to free Ben, who had become the Losties’ prisoner. In order to free Ben, he murdered Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidentally killed Libby. Then he made a deal with the Others to lead Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, James Ford and Hugo Reyes to their camp. Upon leaving the island, Walt forced him to tell the truth about his deal with the Others and his shooting of Ana-Lucia and Libby. Father and son became estranged. And later, Michael returned to the island to atone for his actions . . . and ended up deal in a freighter explosion. All because Ben Linus had ordered Walt’s kidnapping.

 

 

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*Kate Austen’s kidnapping of Aaron Littleton. Upset over Sawyer’s decision to jump from a rescue helicopter and return to the island; and traumatized by the events of their departure from the island; Kate decided to claim Aaron Littleton, the infant son of missing castaway Claire Littleton, as her own. She convinced Jack to help her. And both of them convinced Sun Kwon, Sayid Jarrah, and Hurley Reyes to pretend that Aaron was Kate’s son. Kate kept Aaron from his grandmother, Carole Littleton, for nearly three years; despite knowing that the woman was alive. And I cannot help but wonder if Carole Littleton would have ever learned about her grandson if Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend, Clemmentine, had not convinced Kate to give him up or Kate had decided to do so on her own.

 

Ranking of Movies Seen During Summer 2015

Usually I would list my ten favorite summer movies of any particular year. However, I only watched ten new releases during the summer of 2015. Due to the limited number, I decided to rank the films that I saw:

 

 

RANKING OF MOVIES SEEN DURING SUMMER 2015

1. “Jurassic World” – In the fourth movie for the JURASSIC PARK franchise, a new dinosaur created for the Jurassic World theme park goes amok and creates havoc. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, the movie starred Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

 

 

2. “Ant-Man” – Convicted thief Scott Lang is recruited to become Ant-Man for a heist in this new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Peyton Reed, Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily and Michael Douglas starred.

 

 

3. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” – Guy Ritchie directed this adaptation of the 1964-1968 television series about agents for the C.I.A. and KGB working together to fight neo-Nazis in the early 1960s. Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill and Alicia Vikander starred.

 

 

4. “Tomorrowland” – Brad Bird directed this imaginative tale about a a former boy-genius inventor and a scientifically inclined adolescent girl’s search for a special realm where ingenuity is encouraged. George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Hugh Laurie starred.

 

 

5. “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are forced to prevent an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner from destroying mankind. Joss Whedon wrote and directed this second AVENGERS film.

 

 

6. “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” – Tom Cruise starred in this fifth entry in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” film franchise about Ethan Hunt’s efforts to find and destroy a rogue intelligence organization engaged in terrorist activities.

 

 

7. “Mr. Holmes” – Ian McKellen starred in this adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel about the aging Sherlock Holmes’ efforts to recall his last case. Directed by Bill Condon, Laura Linney and Milo Parker co-starred.

 

 

8. “Fantastic Four” – Josh Trank directed this reboot of the Marvel comics series about four young people whose physical form is altered after they teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe. Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell starred.

 

 

9. “Entourage” – Doug Ellin wrote and directed this fluffy continuation of the 2004-2011 HBO series about a movie star and his group of friends dealing with a new project. Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara and Jeremy Piven starred.

 

 

10. “Terminator: Genisys” – Alan Taylor directed this fifth movie in the TERMINATOR franchise, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline when Resistance fighter Kyle Reese goes back to 1984 in order to prevent the death of leader John Connor’s mother. Arnold Schwartzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke starred.

“THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” (2014) Review

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“THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” (2014) Review

When New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers first released the news that Peter Jackson would adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, “The Hobbit” into three films, I had not been pleased. I thought the novel could have easily been adapted into two films or even a single film. Now that Jackson’s third film, “THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES”, I realized that my feelings had not changed.

I still believe what I had originally stated . . . an adaptation of Tolkien’s novel could have easily been limited to a single film. I believe I would have enjoyed it, considering my feelings for Tolkien’s tale. But you know what? I do not regret that Jackson had spread the story into the three films. A single movie or a trilogy, I enjoyed Jackson’s take on the story about Bilbo Baggins and his involvement with a group of dwarves under the leadership of one Thorin Oakenshield. But when I learned that this third film would feature a long, detailed conflict known as “the Battle of the Five Armies”, I found myself not looking forward to the story’s conclusion for the first time, since the release of the first movie. The problem is that I still had memories of the battles featured in the last two movies of Jackson’s adaptation of “THE LORD OF THE RINGS”trilogy – “THE TWO TOWERS” and “RETURN OF THE KING”. I did not enjoy watching them over a decade ago. And I felt certain that I would not enjoy watching the “Battle of the Five Armies”.

There were aspects of this third HOBBIT that made it less enjoyable for me than the first two films. First of all, Bilbo and his traveling companions reached their destination in the last act of the previous film, “THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG”. Which meant that the story ceased to be a road trip. With the exception of a few scenes that featured Gandalf the Gray at Dol Guldur and Smaug’s destruction of Laketown, the majority of the film was set at the dwarves’ kingdom of Erebor and the nearby town of Dale. A bit disappointing. I also found the movie’s limited focus on Thorin’s company of dwarves rather disappointing as well. With the exception of Thorin and one of his nephews, Kili, the screenplay focused less on the dwarves and more on the other characters – especially Bard the Bowman and King Thranduil. Another aspect of the plot that disturbed me, was that it made a big deal of Thorin’s greed in the form of “dragon sickness”. Yet, it barely focused on King Thranduil’s willingness to go to war against the dwarves for an elven necklace of white gems inside Erebor. Worse, the movie’s plot brushed aside Laketown resident Bard’s own greed. Yeah . . . I said it. I believe Bard had developed his own greed for some of the treasure inside Erebor. During the movie’s first half hour, he made it clear to Alfrid Lickspittle that he had no interested in the Erebor treasure (which he had regarded as cursed) and only wanted aid in the form of food, shelter and medicine from Thorin. Yet, within another half hour, he was demanding some of the treasure for himself and other Laketown survivors. What led to this turnabout in Bard’s demands? Why did the screenplay fail to explain it?

Remember when I had predicted that I would not like the battle sequence featured in this movie? Well . . . I was right. I did not like it. Let me correct myself. I did not like most of it. I found the majority of the so-called “Battle of the Five Armies” ridiculously long and overblown . . . just like the other battle sequences in “THE TWO TOWERS” and “RETURN OF THE KING”. Now that I think of it, the movie’s battle sequence also reminded me of “the Battle at Hogwarts” featured in the 2011 movie, “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART II”, with the constant number of interruptions that allowed the battle to last longer than necessary. It is only by the grace of God that I was able to tolerate the “Battle of the Five Armies” a bit more than the Helm’s Deep, Pelennor Fields, Black Gate and Hogwarts battles. And I will tell you why.

What made the Battle of the Five Armies a little more tolerable for me? One, it had began under unusual circumstances. Instead of a battle in which the Erebor Dwarves fought side-by-side with Men of Dale and the Woodland Realm Elves against the Moria Orcs, Goblins and Wargs; the battle nearly became a conflict between the dwarves and an alliance between the Dale men and the elves over the treasure inside the Erebor mines. But the appearance of an army of orcs, goblins and wargs led by Orc chieftain Azog quickly led to a shifting of alliances. I found that rather interesting. The Battle of the Five Armies may have began with rather odd circumstances, it ended with a good deal of poignancy and tragedy that left me in tears. And I cannot say the same for the battles featured in “THE TWO TOWERS”, “RETURN OF THE KING” and “DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART II”.

I have never read “The Hobbit”, so I have no idea if J.R.R. Tolkien had any plans to write “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy around the time when he wrote the 1937 novel. But I have to admire the way Peter Jackson and the movie’s other screenwriters – Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro – set up the events featured in “THE LORD OF THE RINGS” movies, both in this movie and the previous two films. This was especially apparent in moments that featured Bilbo’s use of Sauron’s One Ring; his eventual reluctance to inform Gandalf about it; Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman’s encounter with Sauron, during their attempt to rescue Gandalf from Dol Guldur; Saruman’s doom-filled decision to deal with the fleeing and formless Sauron; and Thranduil’s post-battle suggestion that Legolas meet with a young Dunedain ranger named “Strider”. The movie even ended where “AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY” began – on Bilbo’s 111st birthday, setting in motion, the events of 2001-2003 movie trilogy. I have to say . . . good job.

However, what really impressed me about “THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” was how the screenwriters handled the political chaos that seemed to mark the story. I am not criticizing the story in any way. I just found it rather amazing at how Gandalf’s concerns over Smaug, Thorin Oakenshield’s past history with Azog and his bout of “dragon sickness” brought about so much political chaos in this story. And I must say that Jackson and the other three screenwriters handled it so well. The continuing romance between Thorin’s younger nephew Kili and the Silvan elf guard Tauriel is also handled well in the movie. Their time together seemed less than it was in “THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG”. But thanks to Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly’s performances, there were two scenes featuring the pair that really impressed me – Kili’s plea to Tauriel that she follow him to Erebor and their efforts to save each other from the Orc called Bolg. Aside from Kili and Tauriel, one of the most interesting relationships in the movie was that between Bilbo and Thorin. In fact, their relationship has been interesting since the moment Bilbo first rejected Gandalf’s suggestion that he join Thorin’s companay as a burglar in “AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY”. Thorin’s bout with “dragon sickness” came close to seriously undermining the pair’s friendship that had thrived since the company’s escape from Moria in the first film. Which is why I found their reconciliation and final scene together so poignant, thanks to Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage’s performances. But the one scene that really left me in tears featured Bilbo’s final good-bye to the dwarves that were part of Thorin’s quest. I felt surprised by how much I truly grew to like these guys. Even more so than the members of the Ring Fellowship from “THE LORD OF THE RINGS” trilogy.

“THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” only earned one Academy Award – namely a Best Sound Editing for Brent Burge and Jason Canovas. One technical nomination? One? That was it? No nominations for special effects, costume designs, or editing. There was not even a nomination for Andrew Lesnie’s outstanding cinematography, as shown in the following image:

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I discovered that “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING” received eleven Academy Award nominations . . . and won all of its categories. And I am appalled. Why? Despite its flaws, I still hold “BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES”in a higher regard. Now I realize that I am not the last word on the quality of any movie. But I am entitled to my own opinions. I am sorry, but I simply have a higher opinion of “BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” than either the second and third films in “THE LORD OF THE RINGS” trilogy. And I cannot take the Oscars seriously if the only nomination they could give this film was for Best Sound Editing.

I certainly had no problems with the performances featured in the movie. Although I was slightly disappointed by the decreased presence of most of the dwarves in Thorin’s company, they still managed to give first-rate performances . . . especially Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Dean O’Gorman as Fíli, and Ken Stott as Balin. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee reprised their roles as Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman the White and gave solid, but not particularly earth-shattering performances. I could also say the same about Ian Holm, who returned as Old Bilbo in the movie’s final scene and Sylvester McCoy, who briefly appeared as Gandalf’s fellow wizard, Radagast the Brown. Two performances in the movie struck me as particularly funny – Ryan Gage as the greedy and imaginative Laketown official Alfrid, and Billy Connolly as Thorin’s loud and sardonic cousin Dáin. Lee Pace gave a colorful and fascinating performance as the complicated and not always likable Elvenking of Mirkwood, Thranduil. And Benedict Cumberbatch continued to send chills down my spine, thanks to his exceptional performance as the voice for the malignant dragon, Smaug.

Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly continued to generate sparks as the two star-crossed lovers, Kili and Tauriel. I found them especially effective in two scenes I had earlier mentioned. Both Orlando Bloom and Luke Evans gave excellent performances as Elven prince Legolas and Laketown archer Bard the Bowman. For the first time, I also noticed that the pair could have easily portrayed cousins. Honestly. Ian McKellen was excellent as usual portraying Gandalf the Grey – especially in his scenes with Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman. I like to think that the latter made his mark as the reluctant adventurer, Bilbo Baggins. Freeman did an excellent job of developing his character from the prissy homebody to the clever and brave Hobbit. But my vote for the best performance in the movie would go to Richard Armitage for his complicated and fascinating portrayal of the Erebor Dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield. Actually, I feel that Armitage had been knocking it out of the ballpark since the first film. But in my opinion, two scenes in “BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” featured his best performances as the ambiguous Thorin – namely the latter’s final struggle with “dragon fever” that I found absolutely brilliant and the poignant farewell between his character and Bilbo.

I cannot deny that “THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES” is my least favorite of the three films based upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel. But despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy it very much, thanks to Peter Jackson’s energetic direction, excellent production values and some superb performances from a cast led by Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.11) “The Hunting Party”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.11) “The Hunting Party”

I may be a bit picky about my tastes in television viewing. But I must admit there have been a few television episodes either dismissed or lambasted by critics and fans alike, but which I have come to like. One of those episodes is the Season Two episode of“LOST” called (2.11) “The Hunting Party”.

This eleventh episode from the series’ second season picks up not long after the previous episode, (2.10) “The 23rd Psalms” left off. In the previous episode, Michael Dawson believed he had managed to contact his kidnapped son Walt Lloyd, while using the twenty year-old computer inside the DHARMA Swan Station. He also recruited the help of fellow castaway, John Locke, to teach him how to use a rifle. When “The Hunting Party” began, Dr. Jack Shephard found an unconscious Locke on the floor of the station’s armory. Before he could do anything, Michael appeared with a gun trained on Jack and in a desperate tone, revealed his intentions to find Walt. Michael forced Jack to remain by Locke’s side, before locking both of them inside the armory. When other castaways Kate Austen and James “Sawyer” Ford go to the station to have the latter’s bandages changed, they free both Jack and Locke. Jack immediately reaches for a rifle and state his intentions to find Michael and bring him back. Both Locke and Sawyer volunteer to join him. Kate also volunteers, but Jack curtly orders her to remain behind and be ready to punch in the numbers for the station’s computer. The three men leave without her. Despite Jack’s refusal of her help, Kate recruits Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and Charlie Pace to monitor the station’s computer for her, while she heads out into the jungle to join the hunting party.

The episode’s flashbacks start with Jack and his father, Dr. Christian Shephard, diagnose a middle-aged Italian man with a spinal tumor named Angelo Busconi. The two Shephard surgeons inform Signor Busconi and his daughter, Gabriela that his tumor is too far gone and that he is not eligible for surgery. However, Signor Busconi and Gabriela insist that they are interested in recruiting Jack’s help. They had learned of the miracle he had achieved after performing surgery on his wife, Sarah Shephard, before their marriage. Much to Christian’s dismay, Jack agrees to perform the surgery on Signor Busconi. The older surgeon also notices the attraction between Jack and Gabriela. And Jack also continues spending more time at the hospital, either ignoring or evading Sarah’s company at home.

Despite the opinions of other “LOST” fans and critics, I have always liked “The Hunting Party”. I found the plot regarding the Losties’ hunt for Michael very interesting. And believe it or not, I rather enjoyed the flashbacks regarding Jack’s attempt to save Angelo Busconi and his troubling marriage to Sarah. But for the likes of me, I have always had difficulty making the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks. Exactly what is the connection? Was Jack’s difficulties in his relationship with Kate and her attraction to Sawyer a reminder of Sarah’s infidelity and the end of his marriage? Was his decision to embark upon a near impossible task – finding Michael and bringing him back – similar to his decision to accept Signor Busconi as a patient? Did I hit the mark regarding the episode’s main plot . . . or what? After eight years, I am still confused.

But I still like “The Hunting Party” . . . very much. It is one of my favorite Jack-centric episodes. The hunt for Michael showcased an aspect of Jack’s personality that has been problematic – his inability to let go. The problem with Jack was he lacked a real instinct on whether to give up on an impossible task, or to continue it. On one hand, he never realized that Locke was right about letting Michael go. The choice to leave the Losties’ camp and go after Walt was up to Michael, not Jack or any of the other castaways. I think Jack took his “live together, die alone” mantra a bit too far in his determination to get Michael back. However, it seemed a pity that he and the other Losties never extended that mantra to Walt. In the case of the flashbacks, I suspect that the Busconis’ stroking of Jack’s ego led him to accept Angelo Busconi as a patient. Even though the Italian father and daughter were grateful toward Jack’s willingness to take a chance on the former, I cannot help but wonder if that was a chance Jack should have ignored.

Both the on-island plot and the flashbacks also featured Jack’s problematic relationships with the two women in his life. Two episodes ago in (2.09) “What Kate Did”, Sawyer unconsciously expressed his love for Kate, while Jack was tending him. This bedside confession conjured feelings of jealousy within Jack, who must have recalled the kiss that Sawyer and Kate had exchanged in the Season One episode, (1.08) “Confidence Man”. In “What Kate Did”, Kate kissed Jack in a confusing moment and ran off into the jungle in tears. Between her action and Sawyer’s confession, I suspect Jack found himself wondering if Kate ever loved him. This so-called “love triangle” must have reminded him of his previous marriage. The problems in Jack’s relationship with Sarah proved to be more straightforward. Flashbacks in an earlier Season Two episode called (2.01) “Man of Faith, Man of Science” revealed how Jack and Sarah first met – she was a victim of a car accident that eventually killed Shannon Rutherford’s father, and Jack was the surgeon that prevented her from becoming physically disabled. In the Season One episode, (1.20) “Do No Harm”, flashbacks revealed that some time after Jack’s successful surgery on Sarah, they got married. I never understood why those two had married. Was it gratitude on Sarah’s part? Had Jack been caught up in the emotional relief over saving her? Who knows. But the flashbacks in this episode revealed that their marriage had slowly deteriorated to the point that it led to Jack spending most of his time at the hospital . . . and Sarah committing adultery and later, leaving him. Some fans had complained about the quiet manner in which their marriage had ended, despite the erotic moment between Jack and Gabriela Busconi. Actually, I found it very realistic . . . and very common among relationships.

There were other aspects of the episode I found interesting. Locke revealed to Sawyer and television viewers, the latter’s real name – James Ford. This revelation proved to be a mild shock, considering that viewers had already learned back in Season One that Sawyer was an alias. This episode also saw the return of the “Bearded Man” aka Tom Friendly, who had kidnapped Walt in (1.24-1.25) “Exodus”. Tom and his fellow Others had trapped the hunting party before convincing them (actually through coercion) to return to their camp. Not only did the Losties’ encounter with Tom provided another bump in the road for Jack and Kate’s relationship; it also reminded viewers that Sawyer blamed Tom for shooting him (one of the members of Tom’s party had shot him, when he reached for his gun). For the first time, Sawyer declared his intentions to seek revenge for what happened to him, proving that of all the series’ characters, he was a master at combining revenge with murder in order to alleviate his pain. There was one aspect of this episode that I found . . . perplexing. Throughout most of the episode, Locke questioned Jack’s decision to go after Michael, spouting free will as an excuse. And yet . . . he had decided to accompany Jack on this expedition, anyway. Locke was also not above enforcing his own will upon others. So, why did he join this hunting party in the first place? Even the state of the Kwons’ marriage ended up affected by Jack’s hunting party. When Jin learned about Michael’s flight into the jungle, he considered joining the hunting party, until Sun stopped him. For the first time, Sun truly got her way since the beginning of the series. In a marvelous scene, she put her foot down and revealed her opposition to Jin’s intentions. She also revealed how she had felt about his past controlling behavior toward her. The Kwons’ marriage took a new step above the resentments, anger and lies that marred their relationship in the past.

“The Hunting Party” featured some solid performances from cast members such as Terry O’Quinn, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly and Naveen Andrews; and guest stars that included Julie Bowen, Ronald Guttman, Monica Dean and M.C. Gainey. But in my opinion, the best performances came from guest star John Terry, Harold Perrineau, and especially, Matthew Fox. It seemed a pity that Perrineau never received any nominations for his outstanding work. And I find it laughable that Fox had to wait another four seasons before the Hollywood community was even willing to nominate him for his work on “LOST”. But if many of us are truly honest with ourselves, acting and production awards are usually based upon popularity contests, not upon any worthy endeavors.

I wish I could say that I consider “The Hunting Party” to be one of the best episodes that aired on “LOST”. The narrative written by Elizabeth Saranoff and Christina M. Kim allowed for strong characterizations and some interesting subplots. Unfortunately, I found the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks rather weak. Even worse, the episode ended with Jack proposing Tail Section survivor Ana-Lucia Cortez that they create an army to deal with the Others. And this potential subplot never went anywhere, in the end.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.94) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

Unless I am mistaken, Season Two of “LOST” is not very popular with the show’s fans. This season expanded on the Hatch (DHARMA Swan Station) subplot that was touched upon in the second half of Season One. This season introduced a tiresome running joke surrounding the Michael Dawson character. And it also featured the introduction of the survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section, which included the unpopular character, Ana-Lucia Cortez. In some way, the fourth episode – (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo” – seemed to be some kind of manifestation of Season Two.

Aside from the joke regarding Michael Dawson, “Everybody Hates Hugo” touched upon most of the topics I brought up in the previous paragraph. In the previous episode, (2.03) “Orientation”, the survivors of Michael’s raft (Michael, James “Sawyer” Ford and Jin Kwon) were captured by a mysterious group of people upon their return to the Island. “Everybody Hates Hugo” focused on their incarceration inside a deep pit. Before Sawyer could finish plotting their escape, the mysterious group revealed to be survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section. Despite some hostile conflict between Sawyer and the Tailies’ leader, Ana-Lucia Cortez, all agree it would be best to head for the Fuselage passengers’ beach camp. Claire Littleton stumble across the bottle of messages from Michael’s raft on the beach. She and several survivors worry over the fate of Michael, his son Walt Lloyd, Jin and Sawyer. Following the tiresome three-episode introduction of the Swan Station’s interiors, Jack and Sayid explore the hatch. They also order a very reluctant Hugo “Hurley” Reyes to ration the food found inside the station. The episode’s flashbacks reveal the consequences of Hurley winning the lottery . . . and his reasons for wanting to be in charge of food distribution on the Island.

I have to be frank. The episode’s main subplot involving Hurley’s job in the Hatch and his flashback did nothing for me. I found it boring. Well . . . I almost found it boring. Hurley’s reasons behind his reluctance to win the lottery and be in charge of the Losties’ food distribution clarified an aspect of his personality that I have always suspected. Despite some flashes of wisdom and common sense, Hurley is at heart a man-child who is reluctant to grow up. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of Hurley’s character I have never admired. In fact, I found it tiresome . . . over and over again. And I never could understand why fans have never noticed in past viewings. One could point out that Hurley became more mature as the series progressed. I find that hard to believe, considering the circumstances behind Hurley’s eventual fate. Hurley’s minor quarrel with Charlie over the secrecy of the Swan Station struck me as infantile. It did not help that Charlie’s constant rants about betrayal really irritated me. But I must admit that both Jorge Garcia and Dominic Monaghan gave first-rate performances. The only thing about this subplot that I found entertaining was Hurley’s interaction with Rose Nadler, portrayed by the very talented L. Scott Caldwell.

The second subplot regarding Jack and Sayid’s exploration of the Swan Station only seemed a step above the main subplot. The only reason I found it slightly more interesting was due to the mystery surrounding the Hatch. It seemed like a more mature subplot than one about Hurley’s man-child issues. That even includes Jack’s accidental encounter with a nearly nude Kate Austen, after she had finished taking a shower. What interested me was Sayid’s discovery of an electromagnetic energy within the Hatch’s walls. This discovery will end up being fully revealed by mid-to-late Season Five. The third subplot involved Claire’s discovery of the bottle of messages from the raft. This subplot struck me as irrelevant . . . period. Aside from giving Shannon Rutherford a moment to see a wet manifestation of Walt – an event that will have greater impact in a future episode – this subplot did nothing to drive the series’ main narrative forward. Instead, it involved some of the female survivors speculating on the fates of the raft’s passengers. And nothing more.

It was the final subplot regarding Michael, Jin and Sawyer’s experiences with the Tailies that really injected energy into the episode. It was not so much the mystery surrounding the raft survivors’ captors that made “Everybody Hates Hugo” so interesting to me. The three men discovered they had been captured by survivors from the Tail Section before halfway into the episode. But the psychological conflict between the more familiar characters and the newcomers crackled with a lot of energy that made me take notice. I especially found the conflict between Sawyer and Ana-Lucia, thanks to Josh Holloway and Michelle Rodriguez’s intense performances very entertaining. I realized that a good number of “LOST” fans disliked the Ana-Lucia Cortez character ever since this episode aired during the fall of 2005. I must admit that I had a different reaction. The powerhouse punch that Ana-Lucia delivered to Sawyer in “Orientation” had already thrilled me. Her continuing abuse of the always annoying Sawyer filled me with even more glee. I realize that most fans would probably be put off by my comments. But I do not care. I like Sawyer, but he was a real pain in the ass in this particular episode. At least to me.

“Everybody Hates Hugo” ended both on a mysterious and uplifting note. The Tailies led the raft survivors to another hatch that had been originally constructed by the DHARMA Initiative. Apparently, they had been using it as refuge from the jungle and the Others inside the nearly abandoned Arrow Station. So much for the mystery. What did I find uplifting about the episode? Certainly not the cheesy monologue featuring Hurley’s generous distribution of the food from the Swan Station. It was that moment when one of the Tail Section survivors approached the raft survivors and asked if they knew Rose. Thanks to a poignant performance by Sam Anderson, I nearly cried when he revealed himself to be Rose’s missing husband, Bernard. Great way to end an otherwise mediocre episode, “LOST”.