Archives for posts with tag: Ian McKellen

Grade B

Part 3 of “The Hobbit” trilogy shows the fate of the dragon Smaug, Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman), dwarf king Thorin and his band of dwarf followers, the “lonely mountain” and the enormous treasure hidden within it, and the five armies that will do battle for the mountain fortress and its riches.   But more things are unexplained.  Perhaps in the extended cuts more will be revealed; but it’s still inexcusable for a theatrical cut to omit so many answers to so many questions.

Multiple storylines play out in rapid fire sequence — this movie has probably the shortest running time of all six “Hobbit” and “LOTR” movies — resulting in a very fast paced movie that sometimes feel a bit rushed.   Of course, the usual shenanigans are here: characters that defy the laws of physics — or maybe physics are different in Middle Earth — and able to take a great amount of battle damage without being truly harmed.  Hey, if a character is fairly invincible, it kind of takes away the element of suspense that he or she may be killed.  Granted, a few of the characters get killed after killing millions of the enemy, but at this point it becomes a bit silly and the impact of those deaths are greeted with a shrug and another bite of the hotdog.

Now, my most memorable movie moment of “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies”: the scene when Thorin (played by Richard Armitage, who looks a lot like Mel Gibson’s Braveheart in his dwarf look) has an internal struggle, realizing what his greed has done to him and the choice he has to make if he doesn’t want to follow the dreadful path his ancestors took.

Although full of problems that would be deserving of a much lesser grade, “…The Five Armies” was still an enjoyable, entertaining feast for my eyes.  Although I wonder if my forgiving nature is the result of having watched this movie for free (thanks, Library!).

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Part 2 of “The Hobbit” trilogy leaves part 1 in the dust with faster pacing, more interesting characters (Legolas, Galadriel, and Tauriel — played by Evangeline Lilly), more character development, better action sequences, and what we’ve all been waiting for…the dragon Smaug in all his evil and crazed glory.   Whereas “An Unexpected Journey” was like an old man wheezing his last breaths, “The Desolation Of Smaug” felt like a youngster getting his second wind during a race.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug” is the scene when Smaug is awakened and his gigantic, fearsome body is fully revealed.   This movie suffers from the usual shenanigan found in the previous four Tolkien movie adaptations: characters who can kill dozens of enemies per battle and never seem to get harmed; they fall from great heights, get hit very hard by giant creatures, and they dust themselves off and keep fighting as if they were made of steel.  Yes, these movies are fantasy, but there is a limit of how much b.s. people are willing to put up with.

— M

Grade B –

Manny’s Movie Musings: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has a young, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) reluctantly going off on a great adventure with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a bunch of dwarves to reclaim the home and treasure of said dwarves.  The problems: a giant, bodybuilder orc is after the leader of the dwarves, and he isn’t alone; the trek is a long way off and filled with enemies big and small; and the dwarves’ home/treasure are guarded by a dragon that can incinerate armies.  My most memorable, movie moment of this first part of the trilogy: the riddle challenge scene between Bilbo and Gollum.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” unexpectedly did not live up to the standards “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy had established.  The music is good, the special effects are amazing, the scenery is incredible…but the characters are…eh.  Freeman, McKellen…no problems there.  But the majority of the dwarves are forgettable and irritating.  Except for the king dwarf and the old dude dwarf, they were filthy and disgusting creatures, like teeny Klingons.  I really didn’t give a damn whether they lived or died or got their home and treasure back.  To make things worse, most of the dwarves were introduced so fast it’s hard to tell many of them apart, and virtually no time was given to get to know most of them.  If it wasn’t for Freeman and McKellen being part of the group, I would’ve rooted for the dragon to incinerate them all.

— M

The best X-Men movie I’ve seen: “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

The future of mutants and the humans who help them fight to attain their freedom and equality is very dark.  Under the guidance of a scientist played by Peter Dinklage, robots called Sentinels have the ability to adapt to mutant powers they encounter, thereby allowing the Sentinels to be very effective in killing mutants.  The only hope the few remaining mutants have is to send the consciousness of Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) to his body decades in the past in order to alter an event that is crucial to how the future of mutants plays out.

Jackman’s mission is almost an impossible one.  For starters, his future body is under threat of being killed by Sentinels.  If his future body is killed, his consciousness will leave his past body; and if that happens before he accomplishes his mission, his chance to alter the future is over.  Second, the “past” X-Men that Jackman encounters is a broken group.   James McAvoy (playing a young, professor X) is suffering from depression, anxiety, and is addicted to a drug that allows him to walk but takes away his mutant powers; Michael Fassbender (playing a young Magneto, and whose help Jackman needs) is in a non-metallic prison;  Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Mystique) is out there somewhere, about to commit the act that will solidify the nightmare future of all mutants, and neither McAvoy nor Fassbender knows where she is.  Third, many of the X-Men from “First Class” have been captured and experimented on and killed by the U.S. government, so Jackman won’t get any help from these corpses.  Last, Jackman’s past body is pre-adamantium, so his bones are regular bones that can break.  That last part leads us to…

One of my most memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Jackman’s future consciousness wakes up to his past body and gets into a beef with a couple of big gangsters.  Jackman unleashes his claws, only to see that they are not the razor-sharp, virtually indestructible, adamantium claws he’s used to seeing.  Oops.  Ever carry a weapon on a regular basis, and then trouble happens and you reach for that weapon and realize that you forgot to bring it with you?  Yeah, I know how Jackman felt in this scene.

My most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the first battle scene at the opening of the movie.  It’s set in the future, the Sentinels have found a few X-Men, and the mutants put up a vicious fight to stay alive as the robots absorb the mutant powers and use it against their targets.  No longer are mutants at the top of the food chain.  They are now flyweights fighting heavyweights, and a knockout is imminent.

Director Bryan Singer (who failed at the screenwriting level of “X-Men”) and the screenwriters of this movie did an amazing job of raising the stakes from the previous X-Men movies and giving the mutants a worthy enemy; and by doing so they have given the audience a movie worthy of our time and money.


This was unexpectedly not that great as compared to “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy.

“An Unexpected Journey” takes us 60 years prior to “The Fellowship of The Ring.”  Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) gets caught up in a dangerous adventure with the wizard Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen) and a group of dwarves.  The dwarves seek to reclaim their land and the vast treasure within their mountain home that was stolen by a creature named Smaug.  The problem for Freeman, McKellen, and the dwarves is that Smaug is a dragon who can destroy armies faster than a person goes to the bathroom after a very spicy, Indian meal.

The music and special effects in this movie are top notch.  The story and characters…not so much.  Freeman plays a likeable enough character, and I was sympathetic to the problems of the leader dwarf played by Richard Armitage.  If the previous sentence sounds like a compliment to this movie, it is not.  For a movie of this magnitude, I want characters that I will deeply care about at some point in the movie, characters who — if they should die — I would feel a sense of loss.  No such character existed in “An Unexpected Journey.”

This movie also suffers from following at the heels of the great “Lord of The Rings” trilogy.  It’s like driving a Ford Mustang GT after you’ve driven a Porsche 911 Turbo.  Now, if “An Unexpected Journey” came out first, the outcome would be different.  Hopefully the next two parts of “The Hobbit” will be much better.

One reason why this movie wasn’t that great?  The dwarves suck.  I found them annoying, filthy and crude.  But they are brave; and one scene that depicts their bravery in battle is my most memorable, movie moment of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”  That would be the scene when three Ogres capture Freeman, and the dwarves rush in and fight to save their friend.   The Ogres are about ten times the size of a dwarf, but the dwarves fight like crazed Vikings.  As a little guy myself, I always find it inspiring to see other small guys fighting bigger guys when there is no other choice but to fight.

Should you watch this movie?  Of course, especially if you are a fan of the “LOTR” movies.  You’ll get lots of backstory about who Bilbo Baggins was when he was younger, how Bilbo got hold of the sword named “Sting” and the ring of Sauron, why dwarves have beef with Elves, etc.  Just don’t expect this movie to be on the same level with the previous three movies based on Tolkien’s books.


The war between the mutants and the humans peaks when the humans discover a mutant boy with the power to turn any mutant into a normal human.  Having synthesized a “cure” for mutation through experimentation with the mutant boy, the humans go after Ian McKellen (Magneto) and his growing Brotherhood of Mutants who have stepped up their attacks against the humans.  As always, Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and his X-Men stand in the way of McKellen’s efforts to end the lives of all humans.

While we see a new crop of Stewart’s students becoming full fledged members of the X-Men, all is not well at the mansion.  Famke Janssen, who plays mutant Jean Grey, is thought to be dead; and some of her students and X-Men teammates are still grieving over the loss, especially Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).  But apparently Janssen had survived, and the near death experience has brought out the repressed personality called Phoenix which has become the most powerful mutant on Earth.  Naturally, the X-Men want her back because they love Janssen.  Naturally, McKellen wants her to join the Brotherhood so he can have a nearly unstoppable force in his war against the humans.   Which group does Janssen choose?  It doesn’t really matter, as Janssen’s mind is so unstable and her power is so great that the entire world is in danger of being destroyed by her.

In this 3rd movie of the series, gone is director Bryan Singer, replaced by Brett Ratner.  Since there are many talents involved in a Hollywood movie, I’m not going to say “X-Men: The Last Stand” is better than the previous 2 movies just because of the director change, but “…The Last Stand” is better then the previous 2 X-Men movies.  The stakes are higher, there are more mutants, more fighting, the pace is faster, and there is more drama.   And Storm (played by Halle Berry) shows more of her power, and looks scary when she does it, which is a far cry from the weakling  she was made out to be in the first movie.   I’m sad to say that this movie is rated PG-13, so there’s not much gore and blood when people die.  It’s a sanitized way of showing what should be gruesome deaths, and gruesome deaths is what I want to see when Wolverine takes the claws out and cuts through the flesh of his enemies.  (sigh) Maybe one day someone will have the balls to make a rated R X-Men movie.

One of my memorable, movie moments of this third part of the X-Men movies is the scene when we see Stewart (Prof. X) walking.  It’s a scene that takes place about 20 years in the past.  So, that would mean the scene takes place in the 1980s.  Big problem here.  In the movie “X-Men: First Class,” Professor X become paralyzed at the end, and that movie takes place in the early 1960s.  What’s up with that?

Another memorable, movie moment of “…The Last Stand” is the scene when a boy mutant named Angel is cutting off his wings with scissors and knives, leaving bloody stumps on his back, and the beautiful, white feathers of his wings on the floor.  He does this because he doesn’t want to be a freak, he just wants to be normal.   When I saw this scene, I imagined all the boys and girls out there who are not considered “normal,” and who suffer daily because we still live in a world where intolerance of people’s differences is a “normal” thing.  Oh, and for those who consider Angel a funny, gay looking mutant who looks like he should be in a gay pride parade in the Village: in the comics, he is transformed by a bad character into a very mean looking, powerful mutant whose wings are now made of metal, and the feathers can fly off like razor blades to kill his enemies; and he’s got beef with Jackman.  We’ll see if this plays out in the future X-Men movies.

My most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men: The Last Stand” is the scene when McKellen gives a passionate speech to mutants as to why they should fight humans.  McKellen’s character was sent to a Nazi, concentration camp as a boy, and his speech is clearly based on his experiences during those frightening times.  A time of people denying what the government was doing, hoping for the best; and then in the middle of the night, the attacks begin, ending in the murder of millions who were considered different and/or unwanted.

Always keep your eyes open, people.   Yes, the world does overwhelm sometimes, and it’s so easy to plunge ourselves into mindless entertainment to decrease the stress levels.  But once in a while, stick your head out of the sand, and watch closely what is happening around you.  And the more powerful someone is, the less he should be trusted.



The “X-Men” are mutants who live and/or work with another mutant named Charles Xavier, or Professor X (played by Patrick Stewart).  In this world, mutants are feared; and anything or anyone that people fear, they like to concentrate in one area where they can control and/or destroy them.   This story deals with issues such as prejudice, xenophobia, the struggle of being different from most people, and the right to be left alone and simply live one’s life.

On one end of the mutant spectrum, we have Stewart and his group of heroic mutants.  They band together for safety and spiritual and moral support, and try to educate regular humans on peaceful co-existence with mutants.  On the other end of the mutant spectrum is a powerful mutant named Magneto (played by Ian McKellen), who believes humans will never accept mutants; and that humans will continue to pass laws that will force the mutants into concentration camps where they will be destroyed.

As an X-Men and Wolverine fan for decades — I’ve read my share of those comic books — it’s surprising for me to write that in this movie, McKellen’s character is the most interesting one.   The reasoning behind McKellen’s actions (going to war with humans, and protecting his kind by any means necessary) are clear-cut and understandable.  In the first scene of the movie, which happens to be one of my most memorable, movie moments of “X-Men,” we see McKellen when he was a boy, being slowly marched into a Nazi, concentration camp with his parents.  When separated from his parents, McKellen’s powers emerge, forcing the iron and wooden gates to bend as he tries to get back to his mother and father.   A guard knocks him out, ending the boy’s attempt to reunite with his parents.   Fast forward into the movie’s present, and we see McKellen with a serial number tattooed on his forearm.   So, when McKellen realizes that the U.S. is moving ahead with the Mutant Registration Act, you just know what’s going on in his head: “never again.”

“X-Men” is a movie that could have been much, much better had it been given to a director who was a huge fan of The X-Men and Wolverine characters; but director Bryan Singer, as far as I remember, had been unaware of these characters until he was told of the movie adaptation that was being planned.   Singer did a great job dealing with the issue of people being afraid of others whom they know not much of, something that has been going on for thousands of years, and still going on today.  As for the X-Men characters…not such a good job.  I give him a C-, and I’m being kind here.

First, Rogue.   She was made much, much weaker than in the comics.  Rogue should be about as powerful as Superman, and yes, she can fly.  Now let’s go to Storm.  Again, she’s made much weaker than in the comics.  In “X-Men,” Storm is constantly getting her ass kicked before she finally uses her power to control weather and strike back.  Storm can create tornadoes and hurricanes and lightning, so why does she usually hang back to let other mutants do a job that she can easily handle?   As for Wolverine…first, when I found out that he was going to be played by an actor who is about a foot taller than the character — yes, Wolverine is short, about 5′ 4″, hence the name Wolverine, which is a small, ferocious animal — I flipped!  But over the years, Hugh Jackman has done a terrific job portraying him, so I let that go.  But…Singer has reduced Wolverine’s extremely violent/psychotic tendencies (probably due to the studio’s concerns for keeping the PG-13 rating) to the point where I look at his character in this movie as “Wolverine Light.”   Also, in “X-Men,” Wolverine is having a hard time fighting off the mutant Mystique.  Are you f@$%&ng kidding!   Mystique would’ve been mauled in a heartbeat.    Well, what do you expect from a non-fan director?

Well, let me calm down and tell you of my most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men.”  It’s the scene when Hugh Jackman (who plays Wolverine) comes into a room where fellow X-Man Cyclops is in.  Cyclops doesn’t know if it’s really Jackman, or a mutant pretending to be Jackman, so Cyclops is about to blast him with his eye.  Jackman tells Cyclops that it’s really him.  Cyclops says “prove it.”  Jackman says, “you’re a dick.”  Cyclops accepts that proof.  Ha ha!  Singer got one part of The X-Men correct: the animosity Cyclops and Wolverine have for each other.

I will end this piece by telling you people of an article I recently read about a filmmaker involved in “The Wolverine”, and how he was influenced by Roger Ebert’s take on the Wolverine character.  Ebert stated that he doesn’t care about Wolverine because how can you care about a character who cannot die and doesn’t feel pain.  What the hell?  Huh?  Wolverine does feel pain.   Even in “X-Men,” there’s a scene when Anna Paquin (who plays Rogue) asks Jackman if it hurts when his claws come out.  Jackman replies, “every time.”  Also, in the comics, Wolverine’s powers do not involve him being impervious to pain, so yeah, he does get hurt.  And he can die.  His healing factor can only do so much, and when it’s overwhelmed with injuries that are too great and fast, my favorite comic book character will die.

Soooo, Roger Ebert, if you were still alive, I’d slap you.  But I shall wait until I’m dead, then I’ll find you in the spirit world, and then I’ll slap you!   That’s right, Spartacus, I said it.


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