The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies reviews

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Re: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Dec 21, 2014 7:03 pm

Surprisingly, after strongly disliking the first two films in this series, I liked this. It starts literally in mid-action and keeps going from there without letting up. Unlike the first movie which included that endless sequence at the beginning where all the dwarves eat Bilbo's food, and then paused for a musical number, this one doesn't have anything approaching that kind of filler. You don't get that feeling that Jackson is spinning his wheels like he was too often in those first two movies. Jackson keeps it moving, it's even fairly moving in some spots (the ending is pretty well-handled), and overall, I don't really have much to complain about here.

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Re: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies reviews

Postby MovieWes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:32 pm

And a surprising positive review from Slant Magazine...

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: 3 out of 4 stars
By Richard Larson ON December 1, 2014 Go to Comments (2)

With a title as long as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, a plot description of the conclusion to this plodding and largely unnecessary trilogy isn't really required. There's a hobbit, there's a battle, and there are five armies. The economics of war are at the forefront of the dramatic action. Spoiler alert: The greedy dragon is killed in the first act, and now everyone—dwarf, elf, man, and orc—wants a piece of his treasure. Greed is deemed the "dragon's sickness," gold being imbued here with an evil power to corrupt, and no sooner is the Lonely Mountain liberated, along with the treasures hoarded therein, do the various armies descend upon it, everyone eager for their share. Greed comes close to bringing the good-aligned forces of Middle-earth into all-out war, if not for the appearance of a common enemy, and the battle that ensues is epic in every sense of the word.

But, you ask, "I thought there were five armies?" The fifth one that swoops in to save the day is a pack of giant eagles. If J.R.R. Tolkien weren't so famously averse to allegorical readings of his fantasy novels, one could be so bold as to suggest an "America as savior" reading of the conclusion to the titular battle, wherein simply the appearance of the eagles seems to imply that the enemy has been vanquished. And it could also be noted that the destruction of Lake-town by fire shooting down from above is reminiscent of London's experience of the blitz during World War II. But perhaps the comparison can so easily be made because Jackson's film makes the destruction and mayhem so realistically felt, the terror and helplessness on the faces of the fleeing residents being the focus, rather than the backdrop, of Jackson's depiction of Smaug's attack.

Other moments also captivate, most exuberantly a viscerally charged battle between the ring wraiths—which get much more play time in The Lord of the Rings—and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), who Jackson renders in the scene as a glowing, almost demonic force, the sequence far darker and weirder (shades of Ken Russell) than anything from the two earlier films. The bowels of the Lonely Mountain are hauntingly conveyed, the caverns seeming to descend forever into the earth, and a sequence in which a greed-mad Thorin (Richard Armitage) imagines a nightmarish descent into a quicksand-like abyss made up of his own treasure is particularly surreal, further representing the film's willingness to distort and embellish its already fantastical world. The cities of men, both Lake-town and Dale, are also shown as intricate and believably complex, especially when they're used as set pieces for major battle scenes. Jackson ultimately plays to his strengths, orchestrating dynamic action sequences that excite in their level of detail, but also dazzle in their aesthetic design.

But the obligatory romantic subplot, absent from the source material, plays itself out ploddingly, and the admirable effort to create a female character for the films to make up for the dearth of such in the book is undercut by the one-dimensionality of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), an elf warrior who seems motivated entirely by the pursuit of love. But these films, and Tolkien's entire oeuvre, are most affecting in their depictions of friendship, and the performances here represent platonic male intimacy in convincing, often moving ways. Bilbo's (Martin Freeman) goodbye to the remaining members of the band of dwarves is an emotional high point, heartfelt and uncontrived as he makes an invitation to tea feel like the world's most generous confession of love. And while the conclusion to The Battle of the Five Armies ultimately feels like a bit too much table-setting for Jackson's earlier The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the ending hits a lovely, bittersweet note when Bilbo realizes, as perhaps The Lord of the Rings fans did when they came to the first two meandering Hobbit films expecting more of what Jackson had offered in his earlier trilogy, that you really can't go home again.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Re: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies reviews

Postby MovieWes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:26 pm

Village Voice

Peter Jackson's Hobbit-Embiggening Project Hits Its Spectacular End
By Alan Scherstuhl Wednesday, Dec 3 2014

The biggest laugh I heard from the audience at my screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies came from seven words in the end credits: “Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.” Just picture that tweedy Oxford philologist nodding in pleased approval at this adaptation of his lark of a children's fable, especially the kabooming violence of the last hour, which shakes mountains and severs heads and plays like Middle-Earth Smash Bros.

The film builds to a series of boss battles against scarred and gum-fleshed orc chiefs Tolkien didn't even bother putting in the book. They're individually spectacular, staged with the full invention and brio of Peter Jackson, who is as good at this stuff as anyone in the history of movies. But they just keep coming, like frozen yogurt from a self-serve spigot a kid didn't bother turning off -- more and more in a relentless gush. The Hobbit is less a trilogy than it is a heaping mound of sugary goo.

Nothing wrong with froyo, of course, despite the freeze-headache danger. That too-muchness -- or is it generosity? -- marks this as the most crowd-pleasing of the series, even as this is the film that will most enrage the amateur Tolkien scholars who have always balked at Jackson's cheery vulgarizations. (Guys, these movies no more harm the prof's original world than did Terry Brooks's Shannara books.) And none of that's to say I didn't savor much of this last, stabbing-est Hobbit, the film that's something like hours 18 to 20.5 of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth masterpiece/folly/tech-demo/New Zealand tourism reel. This finale actually offers, for its first 90 minutes, Jackson's surest, sharpest storytelling since way back in The Fellowship of the Ring. The conflicts and relationships are clear enough that even folks who napped through An Unexpected Journey will follow along. (You are not expected to know the names/faces of the 13 dwarves.) There's none of the narrative ditches these movies routinely grind into -- nothing in The Hobbits is as goofy-dumb as Aragorn getting saved from a cliff-fall by the love of a nice horsey in The Two Towers.

Besides the usual pomp and scenery -- the goblets! the braids! the deflated soccer-ball faces of the orcs! -- there's some new wonders. The opening dragon attack is spectacular, shot with a clarity and power missing from The Desolation of Smaug's botched drown-the-beast-in-popcorn-butter climax. A haunted-city showdown between shivery ghost knights and the staff-and-hair-whipping superteam of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) proves almost as grand. It's sad that Hollywood filmmaking is so often about attempting to put the dreams of children onto our screens, but shouldn't it still be notable when someone actually manages it?

This installment benefits from the fact that there's finally a theme besides walking takes awhile. It's obvious but meaty: the corrupting power of greed, a topic about which, admittedly, it's a little rich for the third movie adaptation of a one-volume YA novel to get snooty. Richard Armitage, as head dwarf Thorin, gets to play the gold-mad Treasure of the Sierra Madre hardass, a stern Scrooge McDuck with a touch of Howard Hughes: He forsakes the world to hole up with his treasure. As always in Jackson, a stubborn king refuses to aid a world in need, and when he softens he's bathed in divine light with no real in-story source.

The local elves want their cut of the loot, as do refugees from the town destroyed by the dragon Thorin and company awoke in movie two, and then -- right on schedule -- there's one of those orc armies that continually surprise everyone in Middle-earth movies. And then there's another. And then there's the fighting. Spoiler: Jackson's dwarves and elves behead orcs with all the ease that young David gathered Philistine foreskins. Some heroes fall this time, but only the diehard fans will feel much. These Hobbit pictures are about spectacle rather than stakes, even during the somber wrap-up of the elf-dwarf-elf love triangle.

Somewhere in there is Martin Freeman, so endearing and resourceful as Bilbo in the first two films, saying, “I'll find myself a safe place to stand” and then getting knocked out for much of the last of the movies titled for him. The series' MVP is given the bench. Bilbo and the Shire get the final reel, of course, but the goodbyes aren't as protracted as they were in The Return of the King -- or as the hellos were in An Unexpected Journey. In fact, other than the overkill on the killing, this installment finds Jackson at last making concessions to bladders and theatrical running times. The Battle of the Five Armies wraps up in under two and a half hours, some 15 minutes shorter than its predecessor but still roughly the length of Bilbo's dinner party in part one. The resolutions of many plotlines have been curtailed, most likely to be added back in the eventual extended-edition home-video release.

The longer versions of all Jackson's Middle-earth films have played better (and made more sense) than their theatrical cuts, but this time he's trimmed out something absolutely vital, the one element that, besides his mad gore-minded grandiloquence, has kept everything together five films running: an attention to the emotional lives of his hobbits.

Finally, let's be honest, here. Reviewing any chunk of Jackson's Tolkien-flavored fantasy-combat-simulation project is like reviewing some holiday party or a possibly obligatory family get-together. You know whether you're going, you know who you'll see there, and you know that you'll either grit through it and be glad when it's over, or you'll lose yourself in it and miss the ritual when it's gone. Either way, consider this: Once the final version of The Battle of Five Armies hits Blu-ray, Jackson's full series will take almost a full day of your life to get through. And yet, even here, at the end of all things Middle-earth, the filmmaking and world-crafting and orc-decapitations are still brash and vigorous, still lavish, rousing, grating, wearying, and hilarious, both intentionally and un-.

When orc and dwarf spill through fog onto a silvery frozen lake, and then in that roller-rink moonscape gorgeousness keep their grudge match going both above and under the ice, you may carp that it's all just too much. But it's hard not to marvel at just how much too-much Jackson has whipped up -- and how much of it was inspired.

Caveat: The author is not opposed to swords and elves and shit.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies reviews

Postby MovieWes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 1:14 pm

First, from The Hollywood Reporter

'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies': Film Review
2:00 PM PST 12/1/2014 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
Third time's a charm for the mammoth screen version of Tolkien's little persons' odyssey.

Opens
December 17 (Warner Bros.)

Cast
Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly

Director
Peter Jackson

The final visit to Middle-earth is the most purely entertaining

After six films,13 years and 1031 minutes of accumulated running time (far more if you count the extended versions), Peter Jackson has concluded his massively remunerative genuflection at the altar of J.R.R. Tolkien with a film that may be the most purely entertaining of any in the collection (tellingly, it is also, by far, the shortest of the sextet).

Much as The Return of the King wrapped up the Lord of the Rings saga on an action-dominated high note, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies lives up to its mayhem potential by making maximum use of modern technology to create an abundant smorgasbord of wildly varied and sometimes mordantly amusing combat; this is an out-and-out war film, with gobs of trimmings. The film's multitude of teenage boy satisfactions, not to mention its position as Jackson's presumed swan song to this defining stage of his career, leaves no doubt that the Warner Bros. release will rake in the $1 billion worldwide that each of its predecessors' did.

One of the frustrations of the first two artificially carved out Hobbit installments, which individually took nearly three hours to cover a roughly 100-page chunk of the book, was that, while everyone knew where the story was headed, it was clear it was going to take a very, very long time to get there. If An Unexpected Journey was basically a leisurely paced walking-and-talking film and The Desolation of Smaug was a waist-deep immersion in a world of peril, Battle serves up a Middle-earth version of the bombing of Dresden as an appetizer and just goes from there as grievances are aired, allegiances are weighed, potential foes are sized up and preparations are made for the ultimate battle to be fought at the Lonely Mountain.

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What we're in for, then, and happily so, is far less of the interchangeable dwarves waddling around and far more of dashing guys like Legolas and Bard the Bowman making like William Tell and Robin Hood, the brooding Dwarf Lord Thorin heading to the dark side once the dragon Smaug is dispatched, the gruesome, born-to-kill Orcs marauding in all their grotesque glory and Christopher Lee kicking ass like no 92-year-old ever has before. It's doubtful many viewers will regret that the series has abandoned its more genteel and domesticated beginnings.

Liberated from his cramped lair deep in the nooks and crannies of Erebor, the stupendously malevolent Smaug spreads his wings and makes at once for Lake-town, a teeming bastion of desperate humanity he incinerates with a few well-aimed blasts of fire. But the dragon has an Achilles heel, which is found by emerging hero Bard of Bowman (Luke Evans), who then leads the attack's survivors to the vicinity of the mountain, where others converge as well. The elk-riding Thranduil (Lee Pace) turns up, as does his banished captain, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and his unerring marksman son, Legolas (Orlando Bloom). The dwarves are already there, of course, each hoping to collect a one-fourteenth share of the booty no longer guarded by Smaug, while Bilbo's main order of business is keeping secret his possession of the Arkenstone.

The latter is the particular obsession of Thorin (Richard Armitage), who, with power and riches now within reach, turns against nearly everyone who has supported him through the worst of times and welcomes the looming war that, if won, will install him on his hereditary throne. And naturally, no one knows the full picture as does Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who leaves the side of his benefactress, the Elf Queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), to help stave off the evil of the Dark Lord Sauron and his specially created warrior freaks the Orcs, giants resembling cretinous, muscle-bound mutant versions of Shrek who have been waiting for this moment all their miserable lives.

No matter Thorin's sudden turning on his loyal friends and the bickering among allies; what's clear is that, in the end, it's going to be all the good guys versus the Orcs who, with their oversized pro wrestler physiques, look invincible but, as we've seen before, fall over like bowling pins and, once they're down, stay down. It's never explained why. They're something like suicide bombers—they get just one shot at immortality. The first example of this is hilarious: One big oaf has been bred to be a human battering ram, his torso crowned with rock which he plows, to great effect, into the defenders' fortress, opening the way for his marauding colleagues. He does his job, and he's done.

There are other custom-designed Orc creatures, including beasts with catapults attached to their backs and a giant who swings an enormous rock and chain. The Orc leader makes a striking entrance, his blue eyes opening under a sheet of ice from which he then emerges. The lineup of villainous beasts here resembles a collection of best-of fantastical doodles by demented and talented high school students, all come to vivid and amusing life.

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As the significant characters come to face their life- and sometimes death-defining reckonings, it's mildly surprising that a measure of feeling attaches to their fates; surprising, in that these are all incredibly one-dimensional, superficial figures, all basically devoted to a single ambition and hardly what you would call emotionally accessible; they're no more "real" than cartoon characters. And yet, their steadfastness gives them a certain integrity, a grit that is backed up by the resilience of what variously defines them. The lack of such stability and reliability is what ultimately makes Prince Thorin such a comparative disappointment.

So even if we have not, over the course of eight hours, become "close" to these characters, they have been sufficiently amiable traveling companions to make for a tolerably decent odyssey, more so than one could have imagined during the first hour of An Unexpected Journey, which was excruciating enough to make you want to jump off the ride before it was too late. But the final stretch of The Battle of the Five Armies possesses a warm, amiable, sometimes rueful mood that proves ingratiating and manages to magnify the good and minimize the bad of the trilogy. Financial considerations entirely to the side, in retrospect one senses that the ideal screen adaptation of The Hobbit would have been a two-part venture, as planned by original director Guillermo del Toro, and not the overstuffed three-parter that ultimately emerged.

Read more Warner Bros. Prevails Over Weinsteins in 'Hobbit' Profit Fight

From their prominent position front-and-center in An Unexpected Journey, the dwarves slowly recede into the background during Five Armies, arguably to the story's benefit; in the pitched battle of the climax, they'd be of little use, and they collectively manage to survive the carnage largely by staying out of harm's way. The exception is their leader, Thorin, and the formerly little-known actor who plays him, Armitage, who emerges as perhaps the dominant actor in this very large ensemble. Evans, as the Bowman, also stands out from the pack, while Lilly, Pace and, as a comically sniveling opportunist, Ryan Gage have their moments. As Bilbo, Freeman is at his most engaging earlier in the story, and it can safely be assumed that McKellen has now donned Gandalf the Gray's wizard's hat for the final time. Talk about a plum annuity.

After all the initial fuss and bother about the 3D and 48 frames-per-second images, Jackson and his visual team made the necessary technical adjustments to smooth things out, the result being a strong, robust looking, CGI-dominant film with great detailing and gargantuan imagery.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
And from Variety...

Film Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

All's well that ends well as Peter Jackson rousingly brings down the curtain on his uneven but laudable 'Lord of the Rings' prequel.
Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm

This is the way “The Hobbit” ends: not with a whimper, but with an epic battle royale. True to its subtitle, “The Battle of the Five Armies” (revised from the initially more pacific “There and Back Again”), the final installment of Peter Jackson’s distended “Lord of the Rings” prequel offers more barbarians at the gate than you can shake an Elven sword at, each vying for control of mountainous Erebor. The result is at once the trilogy’s most engrossing episode, its most expeditious (at a comparatively lean 144 minutes) and also its darkest — both visually and in terms of the forces that stir in the hearts of men, dwarves and orcs alike. Only fans need apply, but judging from past precedent, there are more than enough of them to ensure that “Battle” walks off with the dragon’s share of the upcoming holiday-season box office.

“Third time pays for all,” the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is fond of saying in Tolkien’s novel, and much the same might be said of the “Hobbit” films themselves. After getting things off to a sluggish start with 2012’s “An Unexpected Journey” (complete with an interminable dinner-party sequence that was like a Middle-earth “Exterminating Angel”), Jackson quickened the pace considerably for last year’s “The Desolation of Smaug,” which built to a breathless, “Empire Strikes Back”-style cliffhanger, only with fire substituted for ice. Having finally arrived at their usurped ancestral kingdom, our band of intrepid dwarf warriors (plus one weary hobbit) found themselves face-to-face with the gold-hoarding dragon Smaug. Crankily stirred from his slumber, the great beast in turn winged off into the night to obliterate the (mostly) innocent human denizens of nearby Lake-town, punishment for helping Bilbo and company to reach his door.

“The Battle of the Five Armies” picks up exactly there, with Smaug swooping down in a blaze of fiery vengeance, while the panicked Lake-town locals disperse in various displays of cowardice and courage. It’s an exciting sequence, animated by a real sense of danger and by the nightmare figure of Smaug himself (one of the movie’s most special effects, again voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who exudes a kind of grotesque majesty even as he flaps his great wings for the last time and falls thunderously to his death. But the joy brought by the vanquishing of the dragon proves short-lived, as something far more sinister — namely, politics — soon rears its hydra-like head.

As has held true for promised lands of all sorts since time immemorial (and continues to do so), Erebor in the post-Smaug era becomes a contentious destination for various tribes who hold some real or imagined claim to the mountain and its vast store of riches, including large contingents of Iron Hills dwarves (under the command of Billy Connolly’s Gen. Dain Ironfoot), Woodland elves (led by Lee Pace’s Thranduil) and the displaced masses of Lake-town itself, reluctantly corralled by the dragon-slaying boat captain Bard (Luke Evans). It doesn’t help matters that the dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), presumptive heir to Erebor’s throne, is not long inside these hallowed walls when he succumbs to a familiar Tolkeinian malady — a lust for gold and jewels that renders its victims void of reason or empathy. And if “The Battle of the Five Armies” feels psychologically weightier than the previous “Hobbit” films, that’s largely a credit to Armitage, who plays Thorin with the paranoid despotic rage of a Shakespearean king, his heavy-lidded eyes ablaze with a private madness.

Even fair Bilbo, so skilled in negotiating with ruthless opponents like Gollum and Smaug, finds himself unable to speak truth to power, and thus spends much of “The Battle of the Five Armies” watching from the sidelines, a supporting character in his own eponymous narrative. But then, the battle’s the thing this time, and when Jackson gets to the nearly hourlong setpiece (commencing around the 70-minute mark), he stages it grandly even by his own Wagnerian standards. From all corners of the land — and the frame — they come: dwarves, elves, men and assorted forest creatures, initially at cross-purposes, but soon enough united against not one but two flanks of hideous, bulbous orcs on a mission from their god, the dark lord Sauron, who’s been hankering for a comeback.

This sort of scene, drawing on every available trick in the CGI paintbox, has become such a reliable staple of Jackson’s work (to say nothing of the many lesser films of the past decade that have worn his influence on their sleeves) as to risk seeming almost ordinary. But Jackson, who’s surely aware of this conundrum, invests his five-army rumble with such a visceral feeling for landscape and physical action, a sure eye for elaborate battlefield choreography and, above all, a sense of purpose, that he leaves most of the competition — including some of his own previous battle sequences — seeming like so much digital white noise. Like George Lucas before him, Jackson has unmistakably brushed up on his Kurosawa, and there is at least one image here — of elf warriors leaping over the backs of dwarves and into a head-on orc charge — that could pass as an outtake from “Ran.” Better still: a mano a mano dwarf-vs.-orc duel atop a frozen waterfall that is, shot for shot, one of Jackson’s very best things.

Intermittently, “The Battle of the Five Armies” takes time out to catch us up on the whereabouts of old Gandalf (Ian McKellen, with his usual hammy gusto), the star-crossed interspecies romance of Amazonian elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and lovestruck dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), plus flashy cameos for the ethereal Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and the white wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee, still spry and swashbuckling in his early 90s). On balance, though, this is the least episodic and digressive of the “Hobbit” films, and the one that shows the least evidence of the elaborate patchwork Jackson and his co-screenwriters have done (to disparate bits of Tolkein’s writing plus no small amount of their own invention) in order to transform the slender “Hobbit” narrative into something that might rival “Lord of the Rings” for sheer breadth and depth.

While that effort has ultimately proved only partly successful, it’s easier now to see the entire “Hobbit” project as a labor of love on Jackson’s part, rather than a descent into crass box-office opportunism. Where the first two films often felt like a marking of time by a director intent on fattening his own Smaug-like coffers, “The Battle of the Five Armies” contains a series of emotional payoffs and bridges to the “Lord of the Rings” films that work as well as they do for having been carefully seeded by Jackson in the previous episodes. And if none of the “Hobbit” films resonate with “Rings'” mythic grandeur, it’s hard not to marvel at Jackson’s facility with these characters and this world, which he seems to know as well as John Ford knew his Monument Valley, and to which he here bids an elegiac adieu. Indeed, it is not only Bilbo but Jackson too who returns to the safety of his Hobbit hole, weary and winded, with a quizzical grimace on his face that seems to say: “Where do I go from here?”

Set in a bleak midwinter, with nary a patch of Shire green to be seen until the closing frames, “Battle” sports the most austere and forbidding look of the “Hobbit” films (courtesy of series lenser Andrew Lesnie), entirely absent the overly bright, backlot feel that pervaded “An Unexpected Journey” and parts of “Smaug.” Howard Shore contributes another dynamically ranging (and ever present) score, from gentle Celtic melodies to speaker-rattling basso profondo bombast. Other tech contributions, repping at least five armies’ worth of set designers, costumers, armorers and VFX artists, once again give us the best that Hollywood (and New Zealand tax incentive) dollars can buy.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)


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