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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, and Lee Pace
About: There are some directors who will be forever linked to the material or film series that defined their career. You can’t think of Francis Ford Coppola without thinking of “The Godfather.” And you can’t hear the name George Lucas without thinking about “Star Wars.” For Peter Jackson, most people will rightly think of Middle Earth. Over the last 13 years, Jackson has offered six films based on J.R.R. Tolkien novels. His films have spanned nearly 24-hours and have made billions at the Box Office, even earning on Best Picture trophy. For the past three Decembers, Jackson has offered his take on “The Hobbit,” Tolkien’s prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” mixed with some pieces from the Middle Earth history piece “The Silmarillion” to give fans a complete picture of the world from the books. While the first two installments were, at times, criticized for being a lot of history and set up, “The Battle of the Five Armies” is all about action and resolution. There are a couple things to think about with “The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.” From the beginning I’ve argued that it was a mistake to stretch the book into three movies with a running time nearly equal to “Lord of the Rings,” which had more than three times the source material. With the first two films, “An Unexpected Journey” and “The Desolation of Smaug,” there has been some validity to that. Both of the first two installments established the world, characters and storylines. They were mostly set up with very little action or payoff. That left some audiences a bit unsatisfied. But with “The Battle of the Five Armies,” Jackson wastes no time in getting to the payoff, and he offers a satisfying resolution for all the characters and stories that began in the first two films. “The Battle of the Five Armies” is very much an action film. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for quieter character moments, humor and the drama that makes the world so rich. As he did brilliantly in the “Lord of the Rings” films, Jackson breathes life and depth into the characters during those quieter intervals between battle sequences. That’s what helps make this easily the best of “The Hobbit” films, and on par with the best of the “Lord of the Rings” films. The other aspect that’s been interesting is the way Jackson has used the “Hobbit” films as prequels and bridges to the world he created in “Lord of the Rings.” Like what Lucas did with the “Star Wars” prequels, Jackson has sought to establish connections and tie all six films together, telling different chapters of the same saga. That works well in “The Battle of the Five Armies.” The stories sync and the end of this chapter serves to set up the action from the first “Lord of the Rings” film. Familiar characters are set in motion and the plot moves along. It is both a fitting end to the stories he began with the first “Hobbit” film and a great bridge to his earlier work. Jackson clearly has a passion for the world of Middle Earth, and a great ability to bring that world to life. There is a lot to like here, visually, and I felt like the character interactions were richer and more satisfying in this film. “The Battle of the Five Armies” feels like a worthy conclusion to the work he began with “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001.
Rating:PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.

Upcoming Releases:
Friday, December 19 — "Annie," "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," "The Gambler"
Thursday, December 25 — "Big Eyes," "American Sniper," "Unbroken," "Into the Woods"


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