What’s on My Bookshelf? Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition (Movie)

Movies and Video Games

I have two main types of Bookshelves–one for books and one for movies and video games.  I have multiple bookcases, but it basically breaks out into these two types.   This week I’m picking from my movie and video game bookshelf and I’ll probably alternate between the two each week.

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition is in my Top Ten Movies of all time.  This is very much the fantasy complement to Star Wars and is second only to SW as my favorite movie trilogy of all time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see the first two movies in the theaters, but I saw them on Blu-Ray later.  I actually didn’t see the theatrical release–but waited until the individual releases of the Extended Editions.  I’ve always wondered how I would have liked these movies had I saw them in theaters–the scale would have been epic, but I really like all the additional material that the EE brings to the story.  I think that Tolkien would have approved as he was adamant about history providing additional context and believability to his stories.

The Extra Stuff

While the movies are amazing and are a must see if you haven’t already, it is the extras on the disc that are really the reason why I like it.  These are the same extras as on the individual releases of the Blu-Rays, but I really like the extra information about Tolkien, about the construction of Middle Earth, about the construction of the movies, and about the way the movies came together.  The level of detail about the extras is astounding and has come to form the way I view extras in movie releases.  The nascent creator in me definitely approves–I always appreciate a look behind the “curtain” as it were.

Here’s hoping for a good week for all!


Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.



Updated Marvel Ranking Post with Black Panther



So, this is a super short post.  I had to go to the Driver’s License Center this morning to renew my Driver’s License.  For those not in America, your Driver’s License in America is SUPER-IMPORTANT!  We don’t have a “universal ID,” in America, but this is pretty close.  It functions as the ID for employment, for (obviously) driving, for banking, for home ownership, for voting, etc.  There’s very little you can do without it, so that’s where I was this morning.

I noticed that over the weekend, people were interested in the Ranking of Marvel Movies post, so I thought I’d fast track my ranking with Black Panther.  I should also note that I forgot that I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and while I didn’t have time to add it in, I will in fairly short order, so the only Marvel movie I haven’t seen is Thor: Ragnarok which I hope to see in May.  Well, that’s all I have time for today!


The Black Panther (Marvel)–Non-Spoiler Movie Review

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Wow.  Just wow!  I saw Black Panther over the weekend and I was absolutely floored by how good of a movie it turned out be!  Based on the traffic on the site over the weekend, it looks a fair number of people came to check and see what I though of it.  Apologies for not posting this review sooner, but I always like to take a day or two to think about my responses–positive or negative to reflect before coming online to talk about them.  I also watched several reviews (spoiler and non-spoiler) to get a feel for how other critics were talking about the movie (I only watch reviews after I’ve already seen something–too many “non-spoiler” reviews give away too much of the plot by focusing on the story.  And this is one story that you don’t want spoiled!  Sure, thanks to foreshadowing, you can see somethings coming in this movie, but still, it really, really works!

A Great Marvel Movie

One of the things that I want to stress is that this is an excellent Marvel movie.  Don’t think this is some cheerless dirge -like epic.  The filmmakers expertly crafted humor, drama, pathos, action, and suspense into the movie.  If you liked other Marvel movies, then you’ll like this one.  However, it also has a sprawling, epic feel to it.  The setting–Wakanda specifically and Africa, in general–is almost a character in itself and is very much a visual spectacle.  The colors really pop (esp. later in the movie) and I really like the way the filmmakers integrated the music into the narrative.  Really impressive stuff.

A Great Story–Plot

This is also where the movie shines.  Don’t worry, as this is a non-spoiler, I won’t talk about the specifics.  However, I will say, from a plotting standpoint, this is “aspirational” for me.  I would love for my stories to show this level of drama, suspense and action sequences.  The filmmakers–for me, at least–got the mix pretty much perfect.  I’ve seen a few reviewers ding it for not having enough action, but I think that, much like any other “origin story,” the filmmakers chose to focus on the introducing us to and developing the characters rather than on slam-bang action.  There are definitely action sequences, but they aren’t there at the exclusion of everything else and they make sense in the context of the story, unlike other movies that I could name.

Great Characters

This is where the movie truly shines.  The characters in this movie are awesome!  There isn’t a character who did not land in terms of characterization, motivation, or development.  I have to say that all the characters really exhibited a pathos that was interesting to watch on screen and really helped to engage me as an audience member.  As a writer, I saw the true power of characters to literally “pull” the audience into the story and then propel them to want to finish the story (again, aspirational for my own writing).  There are standouts of course, but I don’t want to highlight too many, for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that T’Challa has a sister and her banter with her brother is not to be missed.  Her lines are some of the best in the movie (humor-wise) and reminded me of the banter that my uncle and I shared before his untimely passing.


I’ve talked a few times about Afrofuturism on this blog in relation to school, but I’ve never really defined it.  Black Panther is probably the best representation of it that I’ve seen on-screen yet.  Afrofuturism is about the African/African-American experience, but rather than focusing on the past, it instead looks to the future.  Sure, there are references to the past, but rather than dehumanizing, the subject of Afrofuturism acknowledges that the past happened, but it looks to a brighter future with technology and with heart to note that a brighter path is open to all, if we only have the courage to embrace it.  While I may be reading the movie with an Afrofuturistic lens, it does have elements sci-fi that help to make it a movie that isn’t just stuck in the past retreading the same old ground.

Overall Grade: A+ (Excellent)

Really, this movie is an Excellent movie and does all that it sets out to do exceptionally well.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Again, some say it doesn’t have enough action.  I noticed that the very first mission (few scenes) are very dark (although my suspicion is that this is on purpose to make the colors pop when you first enter Wakanda, but it does make it hard to see the very first action scene).  However, I try to grade movies (or other media that I review) with the same grading scale colleges use and Excellent is used when there are either no blemishes or the blemishes are so minor that they don’t detract significantly from the overall experience.  I can’t decide if this is my favorite Marvel movie yet (although I think it might be), but I can safely say that it is in my Top 3.  I’m glad that the filmmakers and actors got a chance to make this movie and that I got a chance to see it!  I don’t usually make recommendations–but in this case, I’ll just say, if you’re at all interested in Marvel movies, or are just curious as to what all the fuss is about, to me, this one didn’t disappoint.


Super Bowl Trailer: Black Panther (Marvel) & Planning on seeing Black Panther Saturday

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Black Panther (Marvel Movie) Movie Poster Releasing on 2_16_18, Image Source: IMDB.com

Regular readers of the blog know that I am a fan of both Marvel and DC.  Yes, heresy I know, but unlike many who watch the comic book movies, I’m actually a fan of comics books.  I bought odd issues from Rite Aid stores (they were called Eckerds Drug Stores) back in the late ’70s and early ’80s from their round spinners that they used to keep near the checkout counter–or more accurately, I should my parents would deign to buy them for me when I saw one that really caught my eye (did I mention that my parents were big on reading?).  Later, as I grew up and received an allowance for chores, the bulk of my money went towards books and comics.  I generally had enough money for 2 paperback books (Sci-Fi/Fantasy, of course) and either 1 magazine or 2 comic books.  Sometimes, if the mag. was cheap enough, I could even squeeze in a comic.  So I have a pretty sizable collection (I had more, but traded about a third away).  The point is, I actually read and enjoyed comics, so I really like and enjoy the comic book movies–most of them, anyway.  So I am stoked about the upcoming Black Panther movie.

Going Saturday
I enjoy most Marvel movies and that I’m really invested in the Marvel Universe (however, because of AMC buying out the local Carmike theater, I missed the latest Marvel and DC movies.  While I wasn’t able to find a new theater, I went ahead and bought advance tickets for Black Panther to see on Saturday, so fingers crossed–I hope it will be good.



Planning on Doing a Non-Spoiler Review and Updating Marvel Ranking Post
If I do go and see it, I will, of course, do a non-spoiler review as I tend to do with the movies that I go see in theaters.  I will probably also rank it on the Ranking of Marvel Movies post as well, but I will probably need to add in the fact somewhere that I’ve missed a Marvel movie (Thor Ragnarok).  The listing won’t actually be complete until I’ve seen that movie and it might be a while based on school, in particular, and life, in general.

Anyway, I hope to be able to talk to you more about it next week and here’s hoping that it has some really strong plotting, characterization, and visuals (& a good dose of humor) as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for today–have a great day, everyone!

Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec


Super Bowl Movie Trailer: Mission Impossible – Fallout

I’m moderately excited for Mission Impossible – Fallout (MI:F) based on the strong Super Bowl trailer that they released for the movie.  While the MI series has been hit or miss for me (i.e., there have been some entries that I’ve not liked as much), the previous two, for me, at least, have been great!  I know Ghost Protocol might not get quite as much love as the latest one to date, Rogue Nation, but I STILL use Jeremy Renner’s character’s formulation when I’m behind or running late–“Well, maybe if I cut down this street, it only has two traffic lights,”  “Not enough time,” “Well, I shave a couple seconds if I take the stairs, and avoid the elevator,” “Not enough time,” and so forth.  That is probably one of the funniest lines in the movie and it is all based on the way Renner delivers the line–“practiced indifference.”  If Renner wasn’t already such a huge movie star, I’d be tempted to highlight him in the Great Actors in Small Roles just for that sequence alone–but I digress.

The point is, I really like the MI series.  My uncle turned me on to them when they were on TV in reruns (the original run on TV was before my time) during the height of ’70s James Bond mania.  The problem is, the episodes weren’t really syndicated well and I never really was able to find them on TV and watch them, so even though I know of them and have seen a couple to handful of episodes, it wasn’t until the Tom Cruise movies that I was really able to enjoy them and get invested in the idea of the IMF.

So far, for me, each of the past movies have topped themselves in terms of story and characterization, starting with MI 3.  This movie was the start of me recognizing the actual potential in the series.  I’d watched MI and MI 2, but I wasn’t as invested in those (although I did like the idea of the IMF “team” in MI), but that didn’t really go anywhere.  MI 3 had strong villain, MI: Ghost Protocol had a new “team” with Simon Pegg’s character providing much needed comic relief, and MI: Rogue Nation had Sarah Ferguson’s strong female “foil” to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.

I’m cautiously optimistic that they can repeat their success–but I’m a bit guarded.  I’d hoped that Matt Damon in Jason Bourne could continue the upward trend of the Bourne movies, but JB undid a lot the story and characterization of the previous three movies in trying to “pivot” the franchise into a new direction with new supporting characters and really was a bit of a letdown.  Hopefully MI:F can avoid this potential pitfall.  We’ll see this summer–hopefully, its a great movie!  Well, that’s all for me today–have a good one, everyone!

Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec



Super Bowl Movie Trailers 2018: Avengers Infinity War

So, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite Super Bowl movie trailers over the coming weeks.  I won’t talk in-depth about them, but rather will just give my general impressions of the trailer and my level of excitement for the upcoming movie.  This won’t be a “daily” feature (probably), but will rather be intermixed with things related to Writing and (for the next two weeks) the Olympics and any other topics that might come to mind.

Avengers: Infinity War
I fairly excited for this movie as the original Avengers movie is in my top 3 Marvel movies of all-time and was number 1 until it was supplanted by Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I really like the emphasis on team interaction in these movies.  I feel, based on this trailer, and the original one that they released earlier in 2017 that they are going for a slightly darker tone, rather than a humorous one.  While wanted to see that in the 2nd movie (Avengers: Age of Ultron), I’m not sure how much I want it in this one.    Regardless of what I want, it seems, based on this trailer, that the movie will feature a more “cataclysmic”/”apocalyptic” plot and more seriousness than previous films have exhibited.  Perhaps I’m wrong and the trademark humor will still be there, but based on the “worried” expressions of Black Panther and Captain America in the thumbnail for the trailer, it seems highly unlikely that the fun of the first Avengers will be there in large quantities–this seems like an entirely different type of movie based on the tone of the trailers.

Normally, I am super excited for any Marvel movie that comes out, but this has the feel of an era of change.  I’ve heard (don’t know how true it is) that the contracts may be up for a number of the actors, so there might be changes to the line-up in the future.  While I’m not how true that is, Marvel’s roster has expanded quite a bit since the days of the original Phase 1 heroes who helmed the original movies and the anchored the original Avengers movie.

Still, assuming AMC doesn’t do any of there normal tricks, I will hopefully see it when it releases May 4th, 2018 (in America).  Hopefully, my trepidations will be proven wrong and I can report back here on the blog how much of a “grand adventure” it is, rather than the “end of an era” that I’m currently fearing.

I remain cautiously optimistic for this one, however.

Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

Star Wars The Last Jedi Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

So, everyone’s in a tizzy about The Last Jedi.  I finally saw it on Saturday, but I wanted to get my head around the movie, the story, the experience, and yes, the controversy that is surrounding it.  My local theater showed it only in Imax 2D as has been there wont lately, so I can’t tell if 3D would have made an impact–I suspect not (as you’ll see below).  A note on Spoilers–there aren’t any (hopefully).  I tried to talk about more my impressions and be as oblique as possible, but that comes at the expense of really delving deeply into what I thought was right/wrong with the movie as I’d have to point out specific examples from the film to make the points that I wanted to and that would make this post far too spoilery–so I chose not to do it.  I may revisit this movie with a post in the future with full spoilers, but for now, this review is as spoiler free as I could make it.

In a nutshell, am I disappointed in the movie?  I’m ambivalent towards it.  There are good things to like and there are bad things to dislike.  In the original trilogy the good far outweighed the bad, while (for me) in the prequels, bad far outweighed the good.  So while I see these new movies as “okay,” I don’t really feel that they are close to greatness that the originals achieved.  I’d say these rank solidly in the middle for me–better than the prequels, but not nearly as engaging as the originals.  Now, on to a more nuanced discussion of The Last Jedi.

Strong Visuals
This is where the movie excels–say whatever you will about The Last Jedi (TLJ), but it has very strong visuals and visualization of the actions.  It is a very striking movie and looks very good in terms of how a “modern” Star Wars movie should look–even more so than the Prequel Trilogy.  I love the color scheme and the look of the characters and the integration of practical effects with CGI effects.  It all looks amazing and has a strong visual flair to it.  I think that perhaps JJ Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise is slightly more visually appealing than TLJ, but not by much although that’s a pretty subjective determination on my part.

Okay Story 
So this is where it begins to get a little dicey–yes, TLJ has a coherent story that has a beginning, middle, and end, but (without spoilers) it felt a little disjointed in places.  It is as if there were several different plot threads running through the movie, but none of them have a solid through line.  I once read/saw something that said after The Force Awakens there was nothing written (i.e. a roadmap) for the rest of the trilogy.  If that is true, that’s what this seems like.  A set of striking vignettes/subplots all rolled into one movie in which “moments” happen, but nothing “big or revelatory” happens.  The story just exists, but doesn’t actually “say” anything once its finished.

Not sure about the Characterization
So, the characterization feels off to me for some reason.  The characters are all there, but they don’t necessarily act in ways that I would expect them to do so having seen all of them, the infamous Christmas Special, the Muppet Show Episode with Mark Hamill, the animated Droids, and pretty much everything else (except the latest episodes of the animated SW show on Disney XD because of the hefty price tag).  The characters are sometimes on note and sometimes are way off.  I don’t want to throw the director under the bus (as many websites and fan review videos are doing right now), however, he wrote Looper, which was among my least favorite Sci-Fi movies of recent years–although it was (to be fair) critically lauded.  However, while he may be a good Sci-Fi writer that doesn’t immediately give him cred. for being a good SW writer.  Sci-Fi comes in different “flavors” and there was nothing in Looper that said that he would be a good fit for SW as a time travel story is much different than a science fantasy story.  Without spoilers, Finn lurches between cowardice and unrelenting heroism, Rey is sometimes really strong, yet really naive, and Po gets to be a “rebel” with a cause, but his plans never come to anything substantial in the story.  I won’t even get started on Luke’s character–suffice to say, many SW fans are not happy with the way he’s portrayed.  I personally felt ambivalence.  When a major thing happened in the movie, I just watched, but didn’t actually feel anything.  It was as if I was just watching someone move figures around on a chessboard–I didn’t engage/root for the characters and the story didn’t seem to make me want to care so it was as if I was just going through the motions.

Overall Grade: B-.  Hey, it’s a SW movie, so there’s a ton of nostalgia built up for the movie, but I look at it this way–when I was a child, the wait between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was interminable.  However, no matter what Episode IX will be called, I can wait for it–easily.  In fact, only the fact that my mother wanted to see it in the theaters and it is because of her prompting that caused me to buy tickets for it.  I was content to just watch it on bluray/streaming based on the weak trailer.  There are no burning questions/characters that makes me want to find out what happens to these characters right now.

Implications for My Writing
Twofold–1) practice at different forms of the genre and know my limitations.  While I like history, I’m probably never going to be able to write lots of strong Victorian Steampunk.  The Victorian era, while I know quite a bit about it, isn’t an area where I really find myself drawn to in writing works or reading various works.  So I’d have to do a lot of work to really make sure I hit my marks, knowing that there are other writers who could hit it out of the park far easier than I ever could.  2) Characters–Johnson’s visuals could only carry him so far, but in the end, the lack of affinity that he had for the characters really was distracting.  I wonder if what I feel towards Rey, Finn, and Po right now are what editors are feeling for my stories–just sort of ‘blah.’  I really need to work on characterization and truly getting awesome characters in order to combat this problem.