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