I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug the other day. I had been disappointed with much of An Unexpected Journey, and after seeing the sequel, I now realize that there is an underlying problem with these two movies.

This problem has been highly detrimental to the success of The Hobbit films: Simply put, Peter Jackson is telling the wrong story.

I think this can be proven in the philosophy of the script. In the behind the scenes interviews for The Lord of the Rings, Philippa Boyens, one of the screenwriters, says that there was one simple thing that drove them in writing the script. This was that The Lord of the Rings is at its bare bones the story of Frodo carrying the Ring to Mordor, and hurling it into Mount Doom.

Because they had this simple goal in mind when they wrote the script, it helped them cut away things that didn’t aid to the plot. Perhaps more crucially, it stopped them from adding unnecessary original material to the movies. The Hobbit movies lack the necessary bare bones plot outline, which should really be quite simple: Bilbo goes on an adventure to help reclaim The Lonely Mountain, during which he discovers his true mettle.

That’s it. Done. We have points A and B. End of story. The book was called The Hobbit for a reason. Yet Peter Jackson wanted this to be so much more than The Hobbit. He wanted this series to be a prologue to The Lord of the Rings, which is never a healthy way to go about writing movies (cough *Star Wars episodes 1, 2, and 3.* Cough), and it created splintered plot lines which instead of stopping at B, mosey along to plot lines C, D, E, etc.

Because of this, much of what was added to the movie failed. Gandalf’s fight with the Necromancer/Sauron was particularly unforgivable as it really does not make sense if you are not familiar with The Lord of the Rings. The fight is not built up to at all, and relies upon cheap movie tropes to explain – Gandalf is super good and awesome, and Sauron is super bad and evil. So let’s have them duke it out, and it’ll be awesome! – Though perhaps what was most egregious was the oh so unsubtle “light vs. dark” visualization of the battle.

Another flawed addition to the movie was Tauriel the elf, a character who could have been really great, but was weakened by a silly love triangle. The filmmakers felt that it was important to add a strong female character since it is such a male driven movie, and they were completely right. What they got wrong however, was putting in a love story.

Let’s imagine Tauriel sans Legolas, and Kili. She’s a vicious fighter who’s not afraid of orcs, or (perhaps more impressively) Thranduil, and who is one of the few elves unwilling to sit by and let the world burn. Put back in Legolas and Kili, and what we get is a series of coy and shy glances, and a jumble of confusing motives. Is she chasing the orcs to kill them, or to save Kili? Not that they have to be mutually exclusive, but why can’t she simply want to save Kili because he doesn’t deserve to die, not because she has feelings for him?

The additions to the storyline that worked did so because they enhanced that bare-bones story and the characters. For instance, in the scene where Bilbo viciously attacks the spider, and then realizes that he did it for the Ring, he is horrified and rightly so. It is a wonderful wordless moment that shows much about his character. We also get a longer interrogation scene between Thranduil and Thorin than in the books. The dialogue and acting was great, and it exposed us more to Thranduil, who becomes very important during the Battle of the Five Armies.

Unfortunately, the effect (and cause) of this inconsistency of added material was an inherent marginalization of (what should have been) the movie’s basic plotline. Peter Jackson was essentially saying, “look, some stuff in here is pretty cool I guess, but you know what’s even cooler? THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Lets play with that some more!”

No Peter. I love The Lord of the Rings too, but Tolkien did not tell us the story of Sauron in The Hobbit because that story belongs in a different book. And even though yes, The Hobbit is technically a prelude to The Lord of the Rings, it is very much its own stand-alone entity, and deserves to be treated as such.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 brings the L.M.D. storyline to a truly wild end. Here’s what to expect from “Self Control”!

You don’t know what’s coming

Yeah, there’s a synopsis for “Self Control” — “Suspicion turns to paranoia when the team doesn’t know who can be trusted as more LMDs infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D.” But that’s the equivalent of saying that Iron Man is about a goateed man who can fly.

Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 answers a lot of questions about who is and who isn’t a robot. More profoundly though, the episode goes in for a final knead and punch of the ideas that have been floating around all season.

Free will and humanity. Sacrifice and love. The nature of reality — and even of life itself. Beneath the plot, surprises, and pain, that’s what’s really going on in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spring finale.

That, and the characters who get caught in the middle.

Jed Whedon is Not. Playing. Around.

Executive producer and showrunner Jed Whedon is the man behind the pen and the camera in “Self Control,” and he’s there for a reason. Whedon’s first try at the director’s chair on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is operatic, incisive, and perpetually gut-clenching.

Yes, there are lovely and disturbing vistas, an artistry that comes from a deliberate and careful eye. But more important is the unshakable Whedon impulse that animates Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, that builds through the episode like a cresting tide.

You know that unmistakable sense that someone is laughing behind the scenes? Yeah. That’s why Jed Whedon is here.

What’s next?

Well, that’s a very good question. “Self Control” leaves us with a few razor-like possibilities, all of which lead down spiky corridors of questions. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15 is here to leave us thirsty for the season’s final seven episodes, and that’s exactly what it does.

Oh, and to answer your next question…

Cliffhanger?

Uh, yes. Cliffhanger.

Oh boy, cliffhanger.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, “Self Control,” airs Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

What are your top theories for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 4×15?

Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

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Have President’s Day off? Here are some movies, TV shows, and soundtracks with which to celebrate President’s Day.

‘Hamilton’


Even if you were somehow lucky enough to have already seen the musical, you might as well celebrate today with another listen to the soundtrack. In case you have been living under a rock, Hamilton is a hip-hop, rap, musical about Alexander Hamilton. Yes, Hamilton never became president, but the musical does include multiple would-be presidents. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even birthday boy himself George Washington are heavily featured in Hamilton. Based on the biography by Ron Chernow, you can get a history lesson while you listen to great music.

‘Liberty’s Kids’


Liberty’s Kids aired in the early 2000s on PBS. Liberty’s Kids follows three teenagers from varying backgrounds throughout the American Revolution, mentored by Benjamin Franklin. It is geared for children but is still pretty enjoyable for adults. In each episode, the teenagers encounter a significant person or event from the revolution, giving a concise and entertaining history lesson. The show features many important figures throughout the revolution, showing even more presidents than in Hamilton. As one can imagine, Washington is among these.

‘Lincoln’


Lincoln is a 2012, Oscar nominated movie, directed by Steven Spielberg based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Instead of a biopic of Lincoln’s entire life, Lincoln is specifically about his passing of the 13th amendment. Essentially directed between each of his science fiction blockbusters, Spielberg also made many significant historical movies, Lincoln among them. Lincoln not only shows his power as a president, but also humanizes him through an Oscar winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.

‘1776’


Hamilton is not the first musical about American history. Thankfully, though, because this way there are other options, one of which is 1776. Even more conveniently, the musical 1776 was adapted into a movie in the early 1970s. Heavily implied by its name, 1776 is about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 1776 definitely has a more classical musical theater vibe than Hamilton. The strange combination of American history and musical theater allows for a humorous yet educational experience. However, as reflective of the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Washington is not a character in the musical; yet, it obviously includes many other significant historical figures.

‘The West Wing’ or ‘The American President’


Unlike the other items on this list, these two are about fictional presidents. But it would be nice if they were real. Of the many politically charged movies and television shows by Aaron Sorkin, these two are specifically about presidents. If you have the day off and want to attempt to binge watch seven seasons, then you may want to check out The West Wing. The West Wing follows President Bartlet and his staff and advisors during their time in the White House. If you want a movie to help you transition between Valentine’s Day and President’s Day then The American President is worth watching. It is a romantic comedy about President Shepherd, who falls in love with a lobbyist.

How else will you celebrate President’s Day?

The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

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The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

Favreau tweeted the news Friday evening:

According to a statement from Disney, The Lion King “will build on the groundbreaking technology used in The Jungle Book to bring the story of Simba to photorealistic life.”

A release date for the film hasn’t been set. Favreau also helmed the live-action Jungle Book for the studio.

So far casting is off to a great start!