The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis

Synopsis: Based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien and prequel to The Lord of the Rings, this film is the first in a trilogy covering the exploits of a much younger Bilbo Baggins (Freeman).   Gandalf (McKellan) introduces Bilbo to a band of thirteen dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage).   They are on a quest to reclaim their home of Erebor, The Lonely Mountain, which is now the realm of dragon Smaug.

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Great Treasures at Gametraders – 22nd December 2011

This is the last Great Treasures at Gametraders post prior to Christmas… so it might just be the place to look for those last-minute Christmas gift ideas!

Replica James Bond Walther PPK

There are five primary franchises that I really hold dear.   Previously, the main ones for which Gametraders has catered towards for me is The Lord of the Rings, with the delightfully sculpted blades from these films in the weapons cabinet, and of course their wide range of Doctor Who merchandise.   They now cater towards the second of these, with this beautiful framed replica of James Bond’s Walther PPK.   Upon my reaction, I was told that rarely can a grown man be seen to react in such a way.   I picked one up immediately!!   Now all we need is some Star Trek and Harry Potter merchandise, and I would never leave the store!

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Great Treasures at Gametraders – 30th November 2011

On Friday just passed, there was a huge delivery of collectibles received in store.   Some of them have already sold out, but there is still a lot of awesome stuff left, with yet more due early next week.   Lets take a peek.

Doctor Who goodies

The items pictured above have both been in stock before, but they make a welcome return after being sold out for a while.   I already own both the Disappearing TARDIS Coffee Mug and the TARDIS cookie jar, and can personally vouch for their sheer awesomeness.   (Doctor) Who can refuse having a TARDIS dematerialise before their very eyes on their own mug, let alone a cookie jar that lights up and makes the dematerialising noise when you close it.   No it is NOT bigger on the inside, but hopefully that development is just a few years away.

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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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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???

30 Day Film Challenge Day 1 – Favourite Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Rationale:

It may seem a bit of a cheat choosing an entire trilogy on the very first day of this challenge, yet I feel extremely justified in my choice.   Divisions in the LOTR saga can be considered purely arbitrary, and this assertion is documented as being shared by Tolkien himself.   It was his publishers that determined his six book saga would be released in three volumes.   For Peter Jackson also, the trilogy was filmed in the one extended shoot, giving the trilogy a cohesiveness that may not have otherwise been afforded to it.   As for me, the end credits of each chapter is little more for me than a convenient bathroom break.

Choosing a favourite film for me is a difficult task.   Being a self-taught student of cinema, I love movies in every shape, genre, and theme.   To choose a film for me would be like having to choose a favourite child.    I pondered how to respond to Day One’s question with great difficulty, even trying to define exactly what the word favourite means in this context.   The definition I came up with was which film has had the greatest and most lasting impression of me out of all I have seen.   This immediately cut me down to the franchises that have for a long time at least partially defined my personality; Star Trek, James Bond and LOTR.    The former two both had high points that were contenders (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Casino Royale).   However no world has as fully absorbed my attention as Middle Earth has.   In December 1999, a valued high school teacher and friend raved to me that reading LOTR for the first time was like seeing Star Wars for the first time.   In December 2000, I got around to reading the novels.   I was so enthralled that as soon as I finished The Two Towers I continued on to and finished The Return of the King in one sitting.   Then December 2001, 2002, and 2003, Jackson had the vision and imagination to translate the images from my mind onto the screen perfectly.

Since then, I have become a student of not just cinema, but Tolkien also.   I have read The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin.   I have read The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkein and Tolkein biographies.   I have read Christopher Tolkien’s 12 part History of Middle Earth, where he has published all of his father’s early drafts of anything even remotely related to this world of Elves, Hobbits and Dwarfs (that is not a mistaken spelling on the plural, it was Tolkien’s preferred way to write the plural!!).    Followers of this blog will also be aware I convinced my Bride that New Zealand, Middle Earth on Earth, was the perfect honeymoon destination!!

North Island Adventures

South Island Adventures

So clearly, Jackson’s 11 hour epic had to be my top choice.   As I write this, I have also finally found an Australian release date for the Extended LOTR trilogy on Blu-Ray; 29th of June, 2011!!    I will be there, cash in hand, and setting aside 11 hours straight to marathon what is for me the finest offering cinema has ever provided.

For my reviews of the individual films, see below;

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Two Towers

The Return of the King

Armageddon Videos

Due to a few requests from friends and fan sites, I am in the process of uploading videos I took from Armageddon last weekend.    This post will be updated over the next few days until I have all videos uploaded.   The first and most extensive is my video of John Rhys-Davies, whose panel I tried to record all of, however my camera battery sadly did not last.

John Rhys-Davies

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tVLXH0MREo]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1JpSMDrPXc]

Hudson Leick & Renee O’Connor

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ffj_rl6Nw0o]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNkSj7O2Brs]

David Anders

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

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU0WmotX2yc]

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

Karen Allen

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAiBHyHH4dw]

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Ian Holm, Bruce Spence

Synopsis: The final instalment, and our heroes each have great challenges to face.   Pippin, after being unable to resist the temptation of gazing into a Palantir, and hence being identified by Sauron as the ring-bearer, departs with Gandalf for Gondor, where he meets the somewhat unbalanced Steward of Gondor, Denethor.   Merry remains with the Rohirrim, and volunteers to become a knight of Rohan.   Legolas and Gimli stand by Aragorn as he accepts the burden of his heritage, and Gollum seeds doubt in the friendship between Frodo and Sam.

A review by Film Nerd.

Of the entire trilogy, this is my favourite film, and has been since the first viewing.   The Extended Edition added footage stretches the running time out to a full 4 hours, and for me these additions are overall improvements to the story, even if they were deemed extraneous for the theatrical presentation.   All the elements that worked so well for the first two films are present and correct, with the added characters, as well as the city of Gondor itself, all adding fresh scope and depth to the established world.

All performers are brilliant yet again.   Wood has come full circle with Frodo, becoming almost unrecognisable as the innocent young hobbit who left the shire in Fellowship.   He successfully captures the damage the ring has done to him psychologically.   Wenham’s Faramir, who had limited time to shine in Towers, is here given a full history, motivation, and Wenham somehow succeeds in making him simultaneously vulnerable, yet noble.   John Noble, as his father Denethor, has a brilliant arc that begins as clearly becoming deranged under a noble exterior, before finally snapping.   What makes this performance all the more powerful is the juxtaposition of this character with Theoden, whom is apparently of less noble birth, yet clearly of more noble character, despite being unable to see it himself.    This is further highlighted from the start of the extended edition, as evidenced by the insults that Saruman hurls at Theoden.   As I said, a scene not necessary for the theatrical release, yet it adds depth to the overall proceedings when viewed this way.   All the other leads of course perform their roles well, but for this film these are the performances of note as being a step away from what has been seen previously.

In my reviews for the previous films, I have selected some element of what makes these films great, and reflected upon it, despite these elements being true for all the films regardless.     I do not break from the formula here, selecting to examine how the use of scenery and music has aided the story telling.   I select this film to reflect on these elements as one scene aptly depicts for me both of these elements wonderfully.   It is perhaps my favourite scene in the trilogy, despite the fact it represents a comparatively minor plot point.   The scene I refer to is the Lighting of the Beacons.    All that happens in the scene is we observe Gondor’s call to Rohan for aid, a message sent by lighting a number of pyres along a range of mountains to indicate aid is required.   The natural beauty of New Zealand’s Southern Alps is captured wonderfully here, and when combined with Howard Shore’s score, I often find my fist pumping in the air and my heart soaring.   Jackson was able to capture the essence of Middle Earth with the locations he selected in his home country.   It is a true land of beauty, with many different landscapes to choose from.   Having been there myself now, these films only capture a fraction of that beauty.

In his score also, Howard Shore created themes for each race, and for each realm examined.   The hobbits have a wonderfully whimsical theme, the elves are much more regal and austere, in Rohan we here violins and tones that just scream cavalry, Mordor’s sounds are all grating and harsh, and Gondor is rich and bombastic.   And all these elements still add to a cohesive whole.   My copies of the soundtracks are now well-worn (I played them all in the car in NZ, Bride of Film Nerd will Kill me when she next hear’s Annie Lennox’s end titles tune from Return), and I still cannot get enough.   The soundtrack for Return is my clear favourite, with the Lighting of the Beacons, the theme for Aragorn’s sword Anduril, and the aforementioned end credits song.

Some say the films impact was diminished by the multiple endings.   My only complaint personally was in the first viewing, I thought the film was over, my bladder got that signal, so for the next 20 minutes I was in some deal of pain.   Prepared for it now though, I cannot see how the film could have been completed without the multiple endings.   There are many threads to this story, and they all deserved a conclusion.   Okay sure, the story line from the end of the novels, The Scouring of the Shire, was absent, but given what these films achieved, it is an element of creative license I am willing to forgive.

As I hope you all forgive me for the following rating….

10 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7YllAOqpF4]


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif

Synopsis: The Fellowship has broken, and we follow the remaining members now in three separate groups.   Frodo and Sam continue the trek to Mordor, a journey which has them finally meet Gollum, former bearer of the ring.   Merry and Pippin manage to escape the Uruk Hai, and meet Treebeard and his fellow Ents.   Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are on their trial until they meet an unexpected friend.

A review by Film Nerd.

With our hiatus over, I now have a bit more time to complete my trilogy review, and I feel it is appropriate to get this done as a refresher for our readers before we put up the relevant New Zealand and Lord of the Rings Tour reviews.   The Two Towers is an especially important review, as many of the sites my Bride and I visited were in this film.

This is perhaps the hardest of the three films to review as a fan of both the films and the original novels, as this is the film that takes the greatest liberties with the source text.   As mentioned in my Fellowship review, once again Jackson has been successful at making changes that at least keep the feel of this world alive, and are true to the spirit of Tolkien’s work, but when I was first watching it in the cinema, I did find myself at times disappointed.   Where is Shelob??   I have to wait until the next film???   And Faramir, that upstanding character of honour, so tempted by the ring, to the point of stealing it from Frodo?

Yet, the changes mentioned above, and others, do make more sense than what was originally there, at least in a cinematic sense.   Changing Shelob’s appearance to the next film was at the very least chronologically accurate, if a timeline of events was to be drawn, and for Faramir being so ready to reject the ring on-screen does diminish the efforts made earlier to emphasise its power (all explained by Jackson himself in the extended edition commentary).   So with the passing of time, The Two Towers is now for me a superior film to Fellowship.   The action not only starts to take off, but character arcs are allowed room to truly develop.

This is especially true of the new characters added in this instalment.   Rohan had not yer been officially introduced, and as a realm, it adds more colour and depth to Middle Earth.   Bernard Hill’s portrayal of King Theoden absolutely blows me away with each viewing.   He is a great man who nis convinced of his own inadequacy in the overwhelming events that are occurring around him, and despite this he proves himself a man of true character and humanity.   His performance after the death of Theoden’s son is perhaps the one moment in the trilogy where I could not hold back the tears, and his recitation of the “Where is the Horse and the Rider” poem as he prepares for battle absolutely resonates.

In addition,other prominent members of his court also bring a welcome change to the mix.   Otto’s Eowyn is much less annoying than I found her in the book, and is an amazing combination of power and independence with frailty and vulnerability.   Her brother Eomer brought Karl Urban to my attention for the first time, so when he was cast as the new Doctor McCoy in Star Trek, I was absolutely delighted.   Then Brad Dourif, a character actor I have loved for some time, was perfectly slimy, but with some hidden depth, playing Grima Wormtongue.

In my fellowship review, I was discussing the success of the adaptation, and all the elements that gave Middle Earth authenticity.   This remains true for Two Towers, but another element that remains true throughout these films that I would like to reflect on here are how character is developed throughout.   I have already spent some time discussing Theoden, but this is of course also the film that introduced us to Gollum, and it also examines the effect Gollum has on the Frodo/Sam relationship.   Sam in particular really excels as a character, ever the optimist, and even Frodo reflecting by the end of the film that he would have gotten nowhere without that support.   This also of course follows Sam’s brilliant monologue, which aptly summarised the events and the point of this middle feature.   If Jackson had not had such a strong focus on character development, then the reality established by the amazing settings would have crumbled, and these would have been little more than visually brilliant cookie-cutter films.   Showing that these characters are fighting against the odds, and showing strength in great adversity, is perhaps a universal story, but it is one that keeps interest of the audience.   It leaves the viewing public actually caring about the fate of these heroes.

My final rating for this film should of course be no surprise!

5 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wek5UClasY8]