Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray – A Review by Film Nerd

Created by: George Lucas

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Alec Guinness, Ewan McGreggor, Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, Liam Neeson, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp, Warwick Davis, Sebastian Shaw

Synopsis: This is a review of the Blu-Ray release of the most popular epic saga in cinematic history.   Star Wars routinely tops lists of the best film ever made in many polls.   For this release, fans get what they desire by seeing this pair of trilogies upgraded to high-definition, as well as having a raft of extra features, delving into the archives of LucasArts.

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Birthday Boast Post

Last week, I celebrated my 30th birthday, and for this milestone I decided against the big party, opting instead for some major geeky gifts.   Here I share my horde with our readers, hopefully giving some like-minded pop-culture fanatics a few ideas for when their next birthdays roll around.

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Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Console: X-Box 360, PS3, Wii, DS

Developer: Tt Games, Lucasarts

Synopsis: Play through the entire Star Wars saga, from the Phantom menace to Return of the Jedi… in Lego!!   In addition to story mode, there are a lot of other playable side games, as well as extras to unlock by playing the levels again after the original run.   There is even a surprise guest character or two!!

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Diary of a Lord of the Rings Marathon

We have finally done it.   All three films, all extended editions, all in HD.   All in one day.   Here is a bit of a blow-by-blow, with passing thoughts, events of importance, and other elements of the most enjoyable endurance test I have attempted.

8.00:   Woke up with my alarm.   Bride of Film Nerd was still dead to the world, so fed the cat and got some breaky.   Surfed online for a bit.

9.00:   Bride of Film Nerd now alert, so we worked on morning chores.

9.51:   Snack pile put in place at the ready.

9.57:   Hit “Play” on Disc 1, Fellowship of the Ring.

9.58:   Bride of Film Nerd already distracted… suggesting decoration ideas for a party we are throwing next week.

10.06:   Bride of Film Nerd declares “I don’t remember this…”   We were watching the first extended edition only scene.

10.10:   Bride already up for drinks.

10.11:   Film Nerd is inspired by this act… starts attacking the banana bread.

10.14:   Film Nerd now regrets not visiting Hobbiton when in New Zealand.

10.29:   Bride jumps at first appearance of the Eye of Sauron… Film Nerd is amused.

10.37:   Bride realises that for all intents and purposes that the Ring is a Horcrux… the first of many Potter parallels.

10.39:   Bride now appreciates the context for favourite Film Nerd saying, “Don’t tempt me Frodo!”

10.43:   Music reminds Bride of chip sessions on the highway in New Zealand… when the only music Film Nerd would play was LOTR soundtracks.

10.50:   Wizard fight prompts the pun “My staff is bigger than yours!”

10.51:   Memories trying to get photos of the location for “A Shortcut to Mushrooms”.   None turned out as the bus was going too fast.

10.56:   Frodo declares he must get to Bree.   Film Nerd starts thinking about cheese (but does not succumb).

10.59:   “It comes in pints?”   Film Nerd decides it is still to early for a pint himself.

11.14:   The clarity of Blu-Ray… Bree looks amazing in the background as the Hobbits leave with Aragorn.

11.28:   Film Nerd regrets not stopping at Arrowtown (Rivendell) on the way to Queenstown.

11.30:   First appearance of John-Rhys Davies!!!   Did I mention I have met him????

11.44:   Disc 1 over.

11.54:   Starting disc 2, Fellowship of the Ring

12.06:   Film Nerd remembers to buy squid later this week to try the deep fryer (Watcher in the Water at the doors of Moria time).   Also he starts to wonder if he is half-hobbit given a number of his musings during the film so far have been about food.

12.16:   Bride is frustrated with Pippin… to a similar degree that Gandalf is, really.

12.23:   Death of a cave troll.   Potter parallel #2.

12.30:   YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

13.03:   First look at Amon Hen… we drove past there too!!

13.06:   NOOOO!   Phone interruption 1… Sydney Uni looking for Alumni donations.   Now is so not the time!

13.19:   “Be at peace, Son of Gondor”   (wiping away tear)

13.25:   End credits of Fellowship start.

13.35:   Fan club special thanks credits start

13.53:   Fan club credits finish.   Fish and chips for lunch… appropriately we are eating New Zealand Hoki.

14.10:   Press “Play” on disc 1 of The Two Towers.   Open the Allens Retro mix.

14.25:   “He can’t take his grog!”   Hmmm, not too early to drink now, but not yet in the mood.

14.35:   First time in Edoras… we were there!

14.55:   Dead Marshes, or a cave full of Inferi??   Potter parallel #3.

15.22:   Finally, Edoras from the exact perspective we got photos from!

15.31:   “I know your face”

15.49:   Always loved the classic Gollum vs Smeagol scene.

15.55:   Disc 1 over, bathroom break time.

16.05:   On to disc 2…

16.15:   Eowyn clearly got her stew recipe from Gourmet Traveller magazine.   The recipe was supposed to be a Shepherd’s Pie…..

16.58:   Long distance view of location of Helm’s Deep.   I have that photo from standing on top of Edoras.

17.15:   Film Nerd catches his Bride napping just as te battle for Helm’s Deep is about to begin.   He opens the Burger Rings and grabs a beer.

17.21:   BOOM!   There is now a breach in the defences….

17.45:   The Ents break the Dam, we saw where that was with Dart River Safaris!

18.03:   End credits for The Two Towers.   Did not stick around for the fan club credits this time.

18.20:   Pressed “Play” on disc 1, The Return of the King.

18.25:   Pizza from Eagle Boys arrives.

18.35:   Phone interruption #2… Film Nerd’s mother.

19.03:   FIGWIT!   For the uninitiated Figwit stands for “Frodo is great, who is that?”… Played by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie.

19.07:   Minas Tirith long view that we say for real.    Okay, same spot as the Helm’s Deep long view, but still counts!!

19.45:   An approximate time… I was too caught up in the crescendo of lighting of the beacons to note the exact time it occurred.

20.00:   Another approximate time, as I was caught up with Elrond revealing “Anduril, Flame of the West, forged from the shards of Narsil!”

20.26:   Bits of Gondor itself catapulted at the orc army.   So cool!!   Film Nerd opens another beer.

20.32:   End of disc 1 of Return of the King.

20.40:   We start on the final disc of our journey.

20.45:   Shelob, or is that Aragog?   Potter parallel #4.

21.15:   We hit the Ben and Jerry’s  Triple caramel chunk.

21.46:   Film Nerd experiencing onset of food coma… hits the Mylanta.

21.55:   BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

21.58:   Bride beats Film Nerd to saying “I love this scene” as Samwise Gamgee intones “…But I can carry you!”

22.10:   Frodo claims he is “here at the end of all things”.   Apparently, all things does not include the film itself.   Multiple ending time.

22.35:   The words “The End” on-screen.   Film Nerd begins typing this diary.

22.56:   Credits finish rolling on the screen in the next room.

23.22:   Film Nerd completes the rough draft of diary.

23.26:   Film Nerd clicks “Publish” button on this post.

The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition on Blu-Ray

It is about time!!

Those that have followed my Lord of the Rings obsession on this site know that I am more than just a casual fan.   In particular, one of the reasons I was ever interested in Blu-Ray was to upgrade these films to watch them in the best quality possible.   The theatrical releases of the trilogy have been available on Blu-Ray for some time, but I avoided those for the main event…   For avid fans, the extended editions of the films are the ultimate, true versions.   This is basically the mini-review before I watch all the discs.   This is the set I got through JB HiFi, and I wish to share my initial impressions.

The packaging is beautiful, and this is not just external.   Opening the main box gives you another decorative box containing the discs, and a box containing a replica One Ring, as shown below.   The One Ring here is identical to the one I purchased from Hassle-Free Tours on my trip to Edoras, though I will say the chain I got from the tour group was less chunky, and in my opinion nicer.   Still, I kinda lie that as well… one can be a hobbit costume One Ring, and the other an adult costume One Ring… Sweet!!

The set contains 6 Blu-Ray discs and 9 DVDs.   Yes, my fears were confirmed… the films are still split over two disc, despite them being Blu-Ray discs.   I was hoping for one uninterrupted cohesive film, but that is not to be.   I am intrigued by the 9 DVDs of special features though.  Each film has 3 special features DVDs… clearly, more content then ever is on offer here.   The original DVD releases had two extra discs of “Appendices” per film, and it appears those are intact here.   The third disc for each film is a Behind the Scenes disc.   I shall view each of these and report back at a later date.

Yes, I am most disappointed that the films will be split again, but this looks like an amazing set.   Regardless, I will over the weekend enjoy a LOTR marathon, with all possible added content and in HD.   When that is the offer made, who can possibly resist, regardless of packaging and extra enticements???

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)- A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler

Synopsis: The first part in Jackson’s popular adaptation of the classic tale by J.R.R. Tolkien.   For the few who have not seen it, this is a story of many threads, but predominantly the tale of a young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who finds himself on a journey to destroy the One Ring, the source of power and life force for the Dark Lord Sauron.

A Review by Film Nerd.

This is one of those films I have long desired to review, but stayed away from simply due to my inability to show impartiality.   Given that Bride of Film Nerd and I will have the opportunity to observe filming locations for ourselves in just over a week’s time, it felt appropriate that I should review the trilogy in advance.   I am sure most of you do not need to be told these are good films.   Box office and an armful of Oscars for the trilogy is evidence enough of this fact.   Being personally a Tolkien fan, however, with an entire shelf of his written material in my bookcase, I felt like commenting on the films from this particular perspective.   As such, I will go for broke, so be warned, there will be more than one spoiler ahead!!

Sometimes films can be big, have massive effects and the like, without actually providing any substance.   The effects in this film alone are of a large scale, yet I cannot accuse the film of one needless or overly extravagant shot.   The Halls of Dwarrowdelf, the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Rivendell… the list goes on.   These massive settings are each effectively used not just in the sense of “big things”, but also in achieving what Tolkien managed himself so well in words… a sense of history.   More than that, these effects give Middle-Earth a sense of reality, making it possible to forget that this is only a realm of fiction.

This is also achieved in plot and little added elements, some only present in the extended editions of these films.   A great example in Fellowship is the added scene of Aragorn singing the Lay of Beren and Luthien.   This was present in the novel itself, and though the reader may have been unfamiliar with the mythology, it is clear that this is a tale from before this story, from the history of this reality.   This was part of Tolkien’s skill.   All these stories he had already written, he had a full mythology already developed for this world, the work of his own lifetime, and he has mined these rich stories to expand the canvas on which he was working.   Similarly, for Jackson, all this material Tolkien had worked on was available for him to read and to use in his adaptation.   The beauty of this adaptation is that in making things more cinematic, he never truly took any artistic liberty, relying on the groundwork provided to fill in what was needed for the script.    As such, this was more a historical than a fictional adaptation, and the research which Jackson, and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens committed themselves was nothing if not comprehensive.

So far what I have commented on could be applied to the entire trilogy, so what about Fellowship itself??   It is actually the film of the trilogy I go back to less often now, but that is more a mark of its successors than it is of the film itself.   I remember after seeing it at the cinema, that I downloaded it to help fill in the time until the DVD release, which subsequently had me purchasing the extended edition.   It is a brilliant first chapter, with the innocence of Hobbiton being a wonderful starting point.   For one thing, we are introduced to Middle Earth, and an idyllic existence, so it is possible to comprehend exactly what was at stake,   In addition, we meet our four hero hobbits, and can identify that their story arcs will take them well beyond this point.   The hobbits are all well cast, dare I say their round faces and youthful appearances being very appropriate.   It is nor secret however that my favourite is Sean Astin’s Samwise Gamgee, who really succeeds in making his character both comical AND admirable.

This opening also introduces us to McKellen’s Gandalf, a perfect transposition of character from page to screen.   I read a newsletter recently also commenting that McKellen’s soft eyes and sonorous voice make it impossible to see anyone else wearing the rubber nose (in this case referring to recent confirmation he will be appearing in Jackson’s The Hobbit, reprising the role).   Leoglas and Gimli have comparatively little to do in this film, yet enough is established of Elf-Dwarf animosity to clarify the significance of their later relationship.    To round out the Fellowship we have Mortensen’s Aragorn, a character that can be somewhat separated here from the books more than any other character.   In Tolkien’s trilogy, Narsil was already reforged at the stat of the story as Anduril, and Aragorn had accepted his burden.   Making the shift of him coming to accept that burden over the films was a significant step, and an intelligent choice.   Admit it, a hero in conflict is much more intriguing on-screen then someone who is flawlessly brave and kingly.   Finally we have Sean Bean’s Boromir, a character I hated in the novel.   Though his story arc was little altered, Jackson put enough depth for the character in the script for his conflict to become a much more sympathetic one.   Case in point, I cheered his death in the book, and was wiping away tears in the movie.

As you may already tell, I could spend a lot of time discussing this trilogy.    I have not started on the characters around the fellowship, but all deserve similar praise.   One comment I need to make though is concerning the most significant change in transition from novel to film… Arwen.   Prior to viewing the film, knowing the story of an Appendix to the story had been lifted and shoved in to the narrative, and that this character was played by someone who had not impressed me up until that point, filled me with trepidation.   However this is another case of Jackson’s research and fondness for the source material comes to the fore.   Yes, Arwen did not take Frodo to Rivendell, and she does not appear anywhere near as regularly in the book as in the films, yet her insertion was nothing if not respectful, and Tyler’s performance (and beauty) blew me away.   Absolutely incredible, and to boot, we have a reason for which Aragorn will fight.

I could comment still more, and if there is any request for me to do so I can oblige.   For now though I will confine my next general trilogy rambling for the next Lord of the Rings review.   Until then, those that are curious, the only news of Fellowship coming out on Blu-ray is that it will either be mid-2011 or 2012.   Booo!!

5 stars out of 5


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pki6jbSbXIY]

The World of Oz – The Wizard of Oz

The final instalment on this theme for now (unless I can get my hands on a copy of The Wiz).    I finish with the most recent seen again, and that is the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.   On a personal note, thank you Bride of Film Nerd for her Wicked review.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton

Synopsis: Dorothy Gale is whisked off in a tornado to the land of Oz, whizzing from sepia to Technicolor, meeting any number of interesting characters, killing witches, but all along just trying to get home.

A review by Film Nerd

I write this review with the caveat that though seeing this film and loving it in my childhood, my other more recent ventures into Oz must have had an effect.   I read many reviews before this one praising not only this film but its transfer to Blu-Ray.   Fed by Tin Man and Wicked, I revisited this classic, and frankly, the original is NOT the best.

I am not saying it is a bad film, I am not saying it does not deserve its place in film history.   Far from it in fact.   The sheer transition from sepia to colour still amazes today, the make up effects are actually quite amazing, and the music is infectious.   The iconic moments still resonate, perhaps none so much as those first bars of  “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Garland’s performance capturing that yearning we all have occasionally to be in a happier place.   Amazing really for a girl of only 16 at the time.   No one can refuse following the Yellow Brick Road.  The Wizard of Oz is a great film in its own right, and its reputation will rightfully only continue to grow.

But for me, Blu-ray helped me notice a lot of unfortunate elements too.   Plants are clearly plastic.   The image quality is increased, and though the effects were brilliant for their time, the age of them i feel were emphasised by BD clarity.   For instance, a house in a tornado would not spin like a top, no matter how fast the twister is blowing.   These are all minor points, I know, and I picked on Tin Man from the point of view of visuals too, and as such this can only be considered a minor criticism.

So I now get to my real problem… This version seems to me to lack depth.   The updates provided by the more recent adaptations were quite frankly needed.   Today, the fact is we demand more from story.   A simple of good versus evil is still great for kids, but today’s grown up audiences do ask for more.   We ask for moral ambiguity from both heroes and villains for the drama to feel real.

If you haven’t seen Tin Man or Wicked, you may feel this is all the point of view of a self-important blow hard.   But if you have seen either, take pause before taking these re-imaginings as an impetus for trying on the Ruby Slippers again.   You will still love all the colour in the visuals, but the story just feels too black and white.

3 stars (out of a possible 5)

The Wizard of Oz on IMDB

The Wizard of Oz on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFpVsTuOpK8]