The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings an end to Peter Jackson’s second round of playtime in Middle-earth. If it feels like it’s been years that is because it has been. The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – a children’s book – has been in development in earnest since the mid-2000’s, and after close to ten years and three movies, it is finally complete. The first part of what became a trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a relatively satisfying film, showing the reluctant departure from his comfy home of titular halfling Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to help deposed dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reclaim his kingdom from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and concluding with Thorin’s acceptance of Bilbo as a member of the party. After the first film’s success, Jackson and New Line Cinema decided to split the sequel in half, leading to a second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, full of bloat and ending with a cheap cliffhanger. The third film looks to capitalize on all of that build-up with what is essentially a two and a half hour fight scene. Return of the King this ain’t, but it isn’t completely without merit.
“The Rooster Prince,” Fargo‘s second episode, finds itself in the unenviable position of establishing what the show will be. The show’s pilot was surprisingly self-contained in an emotional sense. What I mean is, I would not surprised if an actual Coen Brothers film ended in fashion similar to the Fargo pilot. Creator/writer Noah Hawley left enough loose ends to pick up in this episode, but several of the characters are in drastically different positions.
Fargo (the movie) is one of the Coen Brothers’ best films. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, sometimes tragic, and always deeply entertaining, it is an excellent example of the misanthropic, biting morality Joel and Ethan Coen are so fond of depicting. (Tasha Robinson wrote an excellent essay about this idea back in January, when Fargo was The Dissolve‘s Movie of the Week.) Fargo (the tv show) is an interesting novelty. On the one hand it is a clear attempt at grabbing the brand recognition of a previously established property, while on the other it is executive produced by the Coens for FX, a cable network that is currently killing it on the original series front. It is hard to say how involved the brothers are in the series, but whoever is in charge has managed to produce something that feels pretty true to their vision of the world.