LOOKING AT THE SPREADSHEET OF THEIR family tree, I noticed it was quite full. Their family tree showed generation after generation going back hundreds of years. If I would have mine done it would have a few gaps in it. With my deceased relatives who immigrated from basically three countries, I am aware of the ones who grew old here in the states. However, the ones who remained behind are only known to me by faded photographs lying in a drawer. None of my relatives were smiling in the photos. How I wish I knew more about them and the life they had growing up. There were a few photos of my relatives dressed in bulky winter coats with fur trimmed collars and elaborate embroidery down the front, engulfing the buttons and buttonholes. One of the photographs had three family members standing side by side with a small pony behind them. How I wanted to know what the story was about the pony; was it their pet? Were they at a farm or a zoo? What if they had survived and made the trip to the states, settling down and starting a family? I always thought about the relatives I would never have because of relatives dying before having children. A group of my relatives had died during the wars. I HAVE VERY FEW FAMILY MEMENTOS or keepsakes that were handed down to me. There are only 2 items that came from overseas, a small engraved silver wine cup and a gold coin. The cup’s story told to me was it only had been used during special family occasions. More than likely it would have held some type of wine. As for the gold coin, I never heard a story about it except how old it was, and some family members believe it belonged to a great, great, great relative of mine. All these deceased relatives can be traced down to me, yet I do not have any of their history. I so want to know what they did, what they ate, what they wanted in their lifetime. Imagine if I knew some of their stories and was able to trace them back to some type of historical event; wouldn’t that be awesome? Seeing the Eiffel Tower being erected, or the Winter Palace being built; I would so enjoy knowing the history of that time that cannot be found in any textbook. If you want to see history come alive and maybe spark a thought inside of you then watch this amazing documentary. WISHING TO FEEL A DEEPER CONNECTION to his deceased relative, director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings franchise, King Kong) and his team poured over thousands of decaying World War I film clips from Britain’s Imperial War Museum, hoping to bring some of them back to life in a way that had never been done before. Simply stated, this historical war film was extraordinary. I have seen movies and film clips about World War I, but I have never seen actual footage that looked so natural. Usually actual footage that old has scratches and light distortions; but, the path Peter painstakingly took created a sense of dialog and a sense of the times. The story to this film is the minor aspect of it; pretty much everyone has some familiarity to World War I. However, to see this actual footage enhanced to such a high level made me feel like I was seeing something brand new. Peter introduced this documentary and encouraged the audience to stay after the credits to listen and watch him explain some of the things they did to create this visual masterpiece. I highly recommend you stay afterwards to see what people did to keep this portion of history alive.
3 ¼ stars
It has been a long time; some people had relationships that were of a shorter duration. When we first met my eyes were dazzled by your beauty and my mind was tickled by your fanciful creativity. You showed me places I had only read about in books, never imagining I would see them come to life. I so enjoyed listening to your stories as the images you created appeared before my very eyes. You had this ability to sweep me away to a place where I could forget my problems and let the little boy inside of me come out to play. The years have been good to us. Like any relationship we settled into an easy comfort as we grew old together. Though my hearing and vision may not be as good as it used to be, I still looked forward to the tales you would tell me. After all this time I very much appreciated the fact you did not judge me if it looked like I was about to doze off during your storytelling; you know I never did. By the way, whenever I needed to take a bathroom break I always quickly ran there and back so I would not miss much. DIRECTOR Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lovely Bones) and I started our journey back in 2001 at the release of his first film from his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Twenty-three years later we meet again for the last movie of his Hobbit franchise. This film festival winning adventure fantasy was just as spectacular visually as the previous ones. I particularly admired Peter’s eye for detail when it came to the scenes. Besides returning cast members Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Gods and Monsters) as Gandalf and Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) as Bilbo Baggins, there was newcomer Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Quartet) adding a bit of life with his character Dain. Let me start by saying I enjoyed this film more than the previous one. Smaug the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imagination Game, Sherlock-TV), who ended the last movie began this one with a fiery blast. What it boiled down to for me (no pun intended) was the script could not match the visual technical achievements of the scenes. After all this time there was a tired feeling to the last couple of pictures. It seemed as if this final installment was repetitive, with added fillers. For me watching a nearly one hour long battle scene was a laborious undertaking; it lost intensity as it went on. There was a “let us throw everything at them” quality to it. I am, however, glad I saw this movie. Our relationship may not have been as fresh as it once was, but I could not stand Peter up.
2 2/3 stars
There is a certain beauty in nature’s untouched landscapes. Having traveled across the United States, visiting 47 out of the 50 states to date, I have been incredibly grateful for what I have seen. I felt I was on a different planet while trekking through Badlands National Park and when I was at Yellowstone National Park, I finally understood the line “purple mountain majesties” when I saw them with my own eyes. Without special effects or being touched by man, earth can provide us an unbelievable movie set. Sitting in the movie theater with my 3D glasses on, I felt I was watching a PBS special. Scene after scene after scene of fantastical landscapes filled with soaring mountains and unfurling waterfalls, I did not know where to look first. If this was only a travelogue then this would be wonderful in its own right. But this was a movie, so I wanted a story to connect the beautiful and exciting images before my eyes. It felt to me as if the special effects were thought of first and then the writers put a story to them. Starting a new trilogy, I understood there would have to be a groundwork of explanations laid down to get the movie audience on the same page; however, it made for a slow pace in the beginning. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz) played Bilbo Baggins, a hesitant Hobbit who went along with a band of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Richard Armitage (Frozen, Robin Hood) was the Dwarf King Thorin who with the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Stardust) lead their group through perilous lands filled with goblins, giant spiders and other deadly creatures. Where the beginning of this movie was disappointing, the last half of this 2 hour and 49 minute film came together for me. Director Peter Jackson and his special effects team did an amazing job, bringing a new and improved Gollum, played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Prestige) to the screen. The facial expressions on Gollum and the other fanciful beings were truly realistic. With the excitement ratcheted up, the steadier pacing and deeper chemistry between characters; I thoroughly enjoyed the movie by its conclusion. If only more attention had been given to the story as the special effects this would have been a masterpiece. As I was leaving the theater, if they had been selling postcards of the movie’s landscapes, I would have bought several to mail out to my friends.
2 2/3 stars