Well, it turns out I got my nitpicking rant out of the way on the first page (mostly). This page will be more concerned with what I did find fun, because I am capable of liking changes.
Although it was jarring to me that Bilbo was narrating it, I really enjoyed the opening sequence. I had been longing for who knows how long to see the dwarf kingdoms in all their glory on-screen. (probably since the third time I read Gimli's description of the halls of Moria past). And I got what I wanted, big time. Also, Dale looked really cool and I felt it when it got destroyed by Smaug. (By the way, flying in 3D through Smaug's eyes was brilliant!).
The sequence of the Battle of Anzulibar (or whatever) was awesome. It is the best-looking Middle-earth battle to date, and the biggest and longest is yet to come in the middle of part 3. Epicness anticipation set to Sky-high. I never quite understood until I saw it on screen how an oak branch could be an effective shield. I still don't entirely, but it looked cool. I liked how he was carrying a branch during his "hero charge" at the end too. On the first of several side-notes, I really liked Azog "the defiler" too. I'm happy that he was bald instead of balding. Bald bodybuilders look so cool when they're entirely white...:). The only part that bothered me was that his facial war-cheiftan marks looked like he had had a waffle-maker pressed into his face. it wasn't the best look. It made perfect sense to me that he was out to get revenge, but I did have mixed feelings regarding whether he should have been alive in the first place.
Riddles in the dark was done brilliantly. It was another one that I had been waiting untold years to see played out, and it exceeded my hopes. Although I have to admit that as I watched it I wasn't seeing a shriveled creature, but a guy hopping around in a mo-cap spacesuit. Nevertheless, in that one scene, I would say Andy Serkis surpassed his performance in LOTR. I could see him going nuts.
On the subject of acting, I'll pause here to say I really enjoyed Thorin, even though they messed with his character. I find it impossible to say Gandalf was a weak point, because I don't understand the nuances of acting, and because everyone else says he was the high point. I'd only like to say he was grumpier than I hoped Gandalf the grey would be. They said he was fun to do?! I liked Bilbo too. What negativity I felt toward him was simply due to the fact that the way I read his lines was ingrained in my head. Though I think the writers botched the "and here's the burglar/hobbit" moment in the trees. What he wound up saying through his mumbling was "I'm with you because I have a home and you don't" which was a bit confusing and not at all what I expected. On a side note, he should have been more surprised at becoming invisible. It's like the writers simply forgot that he wasn't aware of the ring's power, or even that it existed before he picked it up. The writers gave us the impression that he was almost expecting to find an invisibility ring on a forgotten goblin trail. whoops.
I liked the whole Goblin town sequence, including the Goblin King, (whom fellow bloggers are now referring to as Goblin the Hutt.- great idea, James), who was a lot funnier than I expected, because I expected him to be dark and spooky and be covered in leathery scale-hide. Instead he's just "fat slob times ten" which works.
The two moments that nearly made me laugh out loud were seeing Thranduil riding a moose, and listening to Saruman monologue in the background about Radagast and mushrooms while Gandalf and Galadriel discuss the important stuff. The whole sequence of the dwarves' arrival was accelerated for length but I really enjoyed how they gave the first four different things to say which kind of introduced their characters. The sequence that shows all twelve companions raiding the pantry until there's nothing left was hilarious. It turns out 13 dwarves is just barely a small enough number to have a good-sized party. The five who got the most screen time were Balin and Dwalin, Fili and Kili, and Ori, I think. I can't tell him apart from Dori and Nori.
This film ended well, leaving me wishing they'd just make it longer. I was, however, bothered by the impression that Gandalf resurrected Thorin. What diid you think of that moment? Although in my opinion AUJ isn't a great movie in itself, it makes it's way through the slow part of the story well enough and leaves me wishing we could skip to next Christmas season already.
This is the end of my post. Merry Christmas.