About a year ago, the much anticipated film, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released. Although I vastly enjoyed the first installment in the Hobbit movies, it was met with fairly mixed critical reception. That was quite a surprise considering the massive critical praise (and numerous awards) for Jackson's Lord of the Ring's movies. Just reminding you, I had very little problems with the first Hobbit movie. It wasn't up to par with the Lord of the Ring's films, but it was pretty good. With the newest Hobbit movie, I think it's safe to say Peter Jackson is back on his A game. Sure, it may not be Return of the King, but it's still pretty awesome. This time around, Bilbo Baggins and The Dwarves (Is that a band name?) continue their unexpected journey of trying to reclaim The Lonely Mountain where the dwarves once resided until it was taken over by Smaug the dragon. Meanwhile, Gandalf the Grey goes off to find out more about the mysteriously evil being called The Necromancer. First off let me say, this is a much more exciting and well done film than the first. That's coming from a guy who liked the first. Pretty much everything about it is better. I saw this in 3D. I've only seen a few movies in my lifetime, like Gravity and Avatar, that have been worth seeing in 3D. The Desolation of Smaug is one of those movies. The big sweeping shots of these beautifully CGI-ed fantasy landscapes really pop with the 3D. It makes the whole thing seem so real and exciting. That's another great thing about the film everything seems very wonderful and fantasy-like, yet I was so drawn into the story and visuals that I didn't notice the preposterously fantastical element of it all. I was there with Bilbo, trying to run away from Smaug. I was with Gandalf and Radagast, climbing up and old enchanted fortress. It all is so enthralling. Not to say the movie doesn't have it's problems. I thought the CGI in the beginning was a little shoddy and strange looking, but it only increased in quality after that. A whole lot of people were complaining about the film's three hour running time. First of all, it's only about two hours and forty minutes. Second, with the fast moving and exciting plot plus Jackson's nice direction, i barely noticed the time pass. Some movies, I'll use Lincoln as an example, make their running time feel stretched out ten fold. It feels like you can barely sit through it! The Hobbit make it's running time feel necessary. I don't think this movie'd be the same if it was shorter. I think the three hours are all used to their full extent. The actors aren't really the showcase here, but they do a good job. Martin Freeman, (coming off a nice turn in The World's End) plays his courageous and small hobbit quite well and Ian McKellen is good as always as the wise wizard, Gandalf the Grey. Benedict Cumberbatch does some deliciously evil voice over work for both Smaug and The Necromancer. Luke Evans shows up for a bit as some guy named Bard. He really didn't do anything that he hasn't done in any of those crappy period flicks he's been in recently (The Raven? Ugh.). Orlando Bloom comes back as the very awesome Legolas. I know Bloom can act, but he doesn't really show it here. He's not bad, but he's not great either. He does kick some serious Orc ass though. Most middle-of-the-trilogy films almost always falter and almost never live up to the first one. The second installment in The Hobbit trilogy completely the first in so many ways. Overall, The Desolation of Smaug is an exciting and entertaining film that I can definitely recommend. In a season of movies trying too hard for Oscars, it's good to have a well made blockbuster like this to break everything up. I give The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 4.1 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing! As always, you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.