Monday, April 8, 2013

FILMonBLU-RAY: Hobbit An Unexpected Journey (Review)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
2012 - New Line Home Video
Released on Blu-Ray/DVD on March 19, 2013.

# of Discs: 3 (2 x Blu-Ray, DVD)
Runtime: 169 Minutes

Before the tale of Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring, there was another journey involving a Baggins from the Shire. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself drafted into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

Introduced by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo joins a crew of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their trek takes them through the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo crosses paths with the creature, Gollum (Andy Serkis), and its precious ring.

It is only the beginning of their journey, but this motley group face many dangers that seek their end.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY continues the outstanding visuals of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, using prosthetic and CG work combined with the stunning vistas of New Zealand in the background to create a masterful image for this prequel story.

The return to this fictional universe gave director Peter Jackson a chance to improve on what was done before and that is immediately seen with the time spent in the Shire. Many more wide shots, as well as from overhead to really give the feel of a living, breathing village.

One of the most memorable character introductions in cinematic history happens when Bilbo's meal is interrupted by the gathering of dwarves instigated by Gandalf. The dumbfounded Bilbo is treated to repeated unexpected guests that invade his kitchen, and raid his food in their rowdy dwarf manner. Then before they get down to business the dwarves burst into song while they do the dishes.

And of course the battles are a wonder to watch, whether it be the dwarves against the two trolls, the goblins in the tunnels or the orcs in the woods, each was unique, exciting and dangerous, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat.

The extras that are included on the Blu-Ray is where my ire is drawn. How much of it is due to the odd production of filming all 3 films at the same time but I found the minimal content to be lacking. Yes, there are the fantastic behind-the-scenes production videos by Peter Jackson but as most if not all of them were previously released online during the making of the film they did not make for something new and unique for this first film's disc release. I pray that there is not going to be extended editions in the future that are the reason for the minimal extras.

There is a challenge in trying to follow a series of films that were a wide success and THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY does an admirable job to match the feel of adventure and danger that THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy had except with a much more noticeable slower burn to the story. If you were a fan of the previous films, you should love this one as well, and seeing it on Blu-Ray only accentuates the visual wonderland Peter Jackson has put on film.

You can buy the THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Blu-Ray on Amazon for $19.99

Friday, April 5, 2013

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Fairest #14 (Review)

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Barry Kitson & Inaki Miranda
Cover: Adam Hughes

Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

Taking nearly a year away from reading and reviewing monthly comics has left me a tad clueless on most storylines outside of the scant few books that I followed due to their overwhelming quality, and FAIREST was on that list. The latest issue #14 stayed true to my expectations and did not disappoint, making it an easy selection as the top book of my weekly comic stack.

Writer Bill Willingham is the mastermind of this title and the book it spun off from, FABLES, that is well over 100 issues published and is still going strong. I had always heard good things about that title but was intimidated by the huge amount of issues already in place. So when FAIREST started, it seemed like the perfect way to jump into his universe of characters and not feel completely lost.

And this latest issue is proof and point of that, as not having read the last few issues I had no problem jumping into the story. This seemed to be a standalone tale featuring the tree nymph, Princess Alder, and her frustrating time attempting to have a social life. She has an avid listener in Reynard the Fox, who wishes nothing more than to help the nymph and gives a try at solving her dating woes personally with some embarrassingly results!

Even if you have never read an issue of the series, the decision to have Adam Hughes do covers was such a brilliant move and it is rare that you will find a book with a more gorgeous front the week FAIREST comes out. The interiors by Barry Kitson and Inaki Miranda are equally amazing, between the look of Reynard the Fox and the little details to Princess Alder, like her leaves and the wood-like texture to her body.

With a wonderful combination of story, characters and art, FAIREST never disappoints and is always one of my favorite books to look forward to reading every month. Whether the series is easy to jump into I will find that out next month most likely, but for anyone curious about the series and Willingham's tone for the world, this issue is definitely a perfect chance to try it out and see if it is something you like. And I think you will.

You can buy FAIREST #14 digital comic on Comixology for $2.99

Monday, April 1, 2013

FILMonBLU-RAY: Wreck-It Ralph (Review)

Wreck-It Ralph
2012 - Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Released on Blu-Ray/DVD on March 5, 2013.

# of Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray, DVD)
Runtime: 108 Minutes

When Litwak's Arcade closes for the night, the video game characters are free to leave their arcade game roles and travel to other games and meet up with other characters.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is part of the arcade game, Fix-It Felix, Jr. in the role of the building wrecking bad guy, but has grown dissatisfied with the lack of appreciation given to him by the game's citizens.

Taking it upon himself to reinvent his image and prove he can earn a hero's medal of his own Ralph goes game jumping, unaware of the consequences his journey would have on his game and the games he visits.

Along his journey Ralph crosses paths with a no-nonsense Sci-Fi space marine, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), and an annoyingly cute candy racer glitch, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) all the while his arcade game counterpart, Felix (Jack McBrayer) desperately seeks to bring Ralph back to their game.

This mismatched crew of characters find themselves working together to save the entire arcade in this fun and charming family animated film.

The different worlds of WRECK-IT RALPH are some of the most visually stunning locations to see on Blu-Ray, whether it be Calhoun's dark dystopian bug-infested world on Hero's Duty, Vanellope's bright and colorful made of candy world of Sugar Rush, or Ralph and Felix's old school building world in Fix-It Felix, Jr.

There are also the ample amount of references/cameos of authentic video game characters besides the ones originally created for the film. Bowser from Super Mario Bros., Doctor Eggman and Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog, characters from Q*bert, Pac-Man & Street Fighter and many more.

Besides the deleted scenes and commercials made for the film, there are some really fun extras included on the disc that surpass expectations. First, Disney paired with WRECK-IT RALPH the newly Academy Award winning animated short, PAPERMAN. Second, there is a lengthy featurette going into the creation of the film and the worlds and characters in it. And thirdly, there is a fun segment hosted by Chris Hardwick where he points out gamer related things in the movie that you may have missed during your watching of it.

Disney has hit another home run with WRECK-IT RALPH. Reincarnating the fun and wonder that Pixar first introduced to toys with TOY STORY into the video game world and taking the stereotypical villain character and turning him into a genuine three dimensional character that can carry the responsibility of being the protagonist in the story and win over your heart in the process. A must see film for animation, Disney, and movie fans everywhere, the visuals take it to a whole other level on Blu-Ray.

You can buy the WRECK-IT RALPH Blu-Ray on Amazon for $27.49

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SPORTS: NFL 2012 Predictions

After taking the summer off of blogging for a little R&R, September has arrived, fall is right around the corner and the itch to write has returned just in time for the new National Football League season and another year of predictions.

Last year, the site predicted correctly the AFC champion, New England Patriots, the league MVP, Aaron Rodgers, picked 3 AFC division winners (and the AFC Championship game matchup) & 3 NFC playoff teams.

Now, this year's picks, starting first with team projections:


Divisional Round: TEXANS over RAIDERS, RAVENS over PATRIOTS
AFC Championship: TEXANS over RAVENS


Wildcard Round: BEARS over 49ERS, SEAHAWKS over PACKERS
Divisional Round: BEARS over FALCONS, SEAHAWKS over 49ERS
NFC Championship: SEAHAWKS over BEARS


Individual Awards:
MVP: Matt Schaub (TEXANS)
Offensive Player of the Year: Tony Romo (COWBOYS)
Defensive Player of the Year: DeMarcus Ware (COWBOYS)
Coach of the Year: Pete Carroll (SEAHAWKS)

Friday, May 11, 2012

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Avenging Spider-Man #7 (Review)

Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Cover: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Returning to review comic books from week to week has let me learn things about myself I had forgotten about. Like deep down I have this innate want to enjoy Spider-Man that got buried after the One More Day event years ago.

Yet I am rediscovering my like of the wall crawler because when I read this week AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #7, I had so much fun it nearly blew away all of the other competition for the top of my stack.

I did not realize that writing the issue was Kathryn Immonen until I had finished and looked at the credits and then my joy made sense. One of my favorite runs over the last few years was the 2008 five issue mini-series, PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT, which had been written by Immonen as well.

This was my first issue reading AVENGING SPIDER-MAN, but the team-up aspect of the series is very appealing and makes it easy to jump on and read. And when I saw that She-Hulk would be the one crossing paths with Spider-Man, I knew I had to read the story, SHE-HULK being one of my favorite solo books to read back during Dan Slott's run on the title.

The one positive to take away from the Spider-Man marriage retcon is making stories like this possible, where Spider-Man can be harping on She-Hulk to be her date to a Museum exhibit opening and it not being weird.

While everything did not go smoothly, I did love the interaction between the two, where She-Hulk brought the brawn and seriousness and Spider-Man had the brains and wit. I think it will take more than one night to win her over, I definitely hope they get to team-up again.

Whenever there is a female character that is going to be in a dominant amount of pages in a book, I pray that there is a good artist around to properly present her. And there are few better than Stuart Immonen, who I greatly enjoyed his run on Ultimate Spider-Man and here he was able to do wonderful panels of Spider-Man action along with keeping She-Hulk her statuesque self.

Two things I love are one and done stories, and team-ups, so having a title with someone so flexible as Spider-Man being put together with other characters really calls to me. Of course it will be hard to beat a creative team like the Immonens but I am open to seeing who else can bring it to the AVENGING SPIDER-MAN plate.

Look to buy the AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #7 digital comic on Comixology for $3.99

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FILM: New Images from Disney Pixar's Brave (News)

If the past 15 years is any indication, a feature-length animated film release from Disney Pixar is almost certainly to be a critical success. Yet before this year I had never been truly excited by a Pixar film prior to its release.

That has changed with BRAVE, which looks fantastic and amazing and made it a necessity to share these two images that have hit the web.

Princess Merida is the focus of both images and you can get a real sense of depth the film has with a fun moment between her and her father and then a much more serious point in the film.

BRAVE journeys into theaters on June 22, 2012.

Monday, May 7, 2012

FILM: Mass Effect: Paragon Lost Teaser (News)

The video game franchise MASS EFFECT from Bioware/EA is slowly spreading its wings outside the realm of just gaming. There have been novel and comic book releases over the years and now they are stepping into the world of animation.

Titled MASS EFFECT: PARAGON LOST, the animated film comes from Funimation and serves as a prequel of sorts to MASS EFFECT 3 in that it focuses on the early career of Alliance Marine James Vega, one of the main squad members of the last game.

Vega leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against a mysterious alien threat known as The Collectors. Stationed at a colony in a remote star system, Vega and his soldiers must protect the civilians from a ruthless invasion determined to capture the population for unknown purposes.