JOHN LUI AND YIP WAI YEE RECOMMEND

Film Picks: The Hobbit, Paddington, Life Itself and Big Hero 6

A still from The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, starring Orlando Bloom. -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS
A still from The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, starring Orlando Bloom. -- PHOTO: WARNER BROS

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (PG13)

144 minutes

***1/2

In the concluding part of the trilogy, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the band of dwarves have awakened Smaug the dragon in their quest to find the Arkenstone, the jewel that will usher the return of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain under the rule of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

If the first part was all introductions and singing around the dining table, and the second was about one long camping trip, this chapter will be remembered as the one with the mother of all battles.

There might be more to this film than dwarves fighting elves, including Orlando Bloom's Legolas, fighting men and everybody fighting orcs, but it just feels that that is all there is here.

The final chapter of the last J.R.R. Tolkien book is left to director Peter Jackson and crew to dramatise. They have not saved the best for last - the story padding has softened its edges too much - but somewhere, and soon, someone will edit all three films into one and it will be a winner.

John Lui


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PADDINGTON (PG)

95 minutes

***1/2

All too often, when classic children's picture-book characters are brought to the big screen, they succumb to commercial movie studio interests and lose their original charm in the process.

This film adaptation of Paddington, however, makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as the original 1950s stories by Michael Bond did for so many children at the time. Much credit is due to the quick-paced script, which, although geared towards younger kids, never dumbs itself down so completely that parents are left out.

Finally, here is a family movie adaptation done right.

Based on Bond's children's books, this movie follows the life of a bear named Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who travels from his hometown of Darkest Peru to London in search of a new home. He is taken in temporarily by the kind Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin), who set out to find a permanent abode for him - hopefully, before a sinister taxidermist, Millicent (Nicole Kidman), gets to him first.

Yip Wai Yee


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LIFE ITSELF (M18)

Roger Ebert with co-host Gene Siskel gained fame for their movie review show At The Movies, which spawned the signature thumbs up or down rating system.

But this 120-minute-long documentary, based on Ebert's memoirs of the same name published shortly before his death last year from cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands, points to the side of the critic who could be cranky and who championed unpopular work - he backed the now-classic Bonnie And Clyde (1967) when many critics at the time loathed it for its violence. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 1994) followed Ebert as he went about his business, his tempo never flagging despite massive surgical excavations to his face and jaw. The work is backed up by interviews with friends such as Martin Scorsese, showing why one film fan, through talent and personality, became a national figure.

Where: Golden Village Suntec City MRT: Promenade When: Tomorrow, 7pm & Sun, 4.30pm Admission: $13 (public), $9 (members of the Singapore Film Society) Info: Tickets from the Golden Village box office or gv.com.sg

JL


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DISNEY'S BIG HERO 6 (PG)

108 minutes

***1/2

In the future city of San Fransokyo, engineering genius Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), much to the annoyance of his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), prefers to waste his talent on illegal robot street fights than in anything productive.

Soon, Hiro will be forced to put his skills in robotics to good use when he and the blimp-like robot Baymax have to fight a mysterious new evil.

Disney will say that this film is all-ages entertainment, but it lacks the references, sophistication and ironic distance that such a work requires.

Everything is there on the surface - the emotions, the dramatic conflicts and the resolutions. There is nothing here that could be remotely construed as satirical.

But what it does very well is serve sweetness and sentiment with class, thanks to its relaxed, confident pacing.

JL