Movies

If You Haven’t Watched This Classic Fantasy Movie, You Should

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) - IMDb

Rating: 9.7 out of 10 stars

Intro

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is an old favorite of mine. I had the privilege of watching it recently with one of my sisters who had never seen it before.

Getting to watch the movie was a bit of an adventure. My dad, who I sometimes call “Tech Support,” tried to get our Xbox One to play the DVD, but the Xbox gave up on life and showed the black screen of death instead. We then tried to find it on Netflix and to see if it was included for free on Amazon Prime, to no avail. Finally, we hooked up the PS3, which we never use, and used it to play the DVD.

Background

One ring | Mythology wiki | Fandom

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001. It stars Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Sean Bean (Boromir), Billy Boyd (Pippin Took) and Dominic Monaghen (Merry Brandybuck).

It was directed by Peter Jackson. The film falls into the genres of Fantasy and Adventure.

Summary

Sauron - Wikipedia

The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is based around a ring. Nine rings were once forged and given to various rulers of the dominant kingdoms. Then an evil being named Sauron made a single ring that was more powerful than any of the others.

After a pivotal battle, the ring was lost and claimed by a human, and then was lost again. It was found by Gollum and then stolen by Bilbo, a hobbit, who would pass it on to Frodo.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo’s journey and that of others who seek to undermine Sauron’s power by destroying the ring.

Pros

  • Begins with low storytelling voice that encourages close listening
  • Gorgeous landscapes
  • Ornate architecture fitting the culture of each town
  • Phenomenal musical scores
  • Strong message of hope, courage, and purpose
  • Attractive and fitting costume design
  • Fascinating, insightful dialogue
  • Innovative CGI
  • Realistic orcs with prosthetics and make-up
  • Tolkien’s spoken elfin language is convincingly like a natural language
  • The written language on the ring is foreign and unique
  • Does not veer much from the book
  • Frodo, Boromir, and Aragorn have strong character development
  • Camera angles and movement increases immersion into the story

Cons

  • One scene with Galadriel is over-dramatic and looks fake
  • A lot of characters, but not much character development for most of them

Review

Beginning

The beginning of the movie starts with a low female voice telling the story of how the rings were created and the one ring came into existence. The voice is soft enough that I was tempted to listen closely, on the edge of my seat. It was a storyteller’s voice–one that promised a powerful, gripping, simple yet complex tale.

Setting

Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring | Film Locations

The landscapes of New Zealand where the movie was filmed were beautiful. Every landscape they traversed was stunning, like something out of a travel brochure. All the scenes of travel that made the movie longer were worth it because of the charming, idyllic land.

LOTR, Landscape and Settings, All Works on RowlingTolkienLewis ... | Lord  of the rings, Middle earth, Background images

The makers of the film paid great attention to detail, especially for architecture. This made settings like Rivendell not only attractive but also unique to the culture they represent.

Places of Fancy: Where Is Rivendell in 'The Lord of the Rings'?

Music

Fotrcd-cover.jpg

The music was composed by Howard Shore. In my opinion, the best song out of the lot is “Concerning Hobbits.” The music of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is both iconic and epic.

If you want to learn why the music of The Lord of the Rings has the power to captivate listeners, listen for yourself.

Message

The message is one of hope, courage, and purpose. This movie shows how there can be hope even in the darkest times and that courage can prevail against the powers of darkness. The story follows ordinary people who show tremendous bravery in the face of adversity.

Gandalf affirms that the ring that was found by Bilbo and passed on to Frodo did not fall into their hands by accident. All things happen for a reason, he insists. This gives the heroes a sense of purpose.

Costumes

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | George Eastman Museum

The costumes are well-made and fit the character. For the hobbits, capes and clothes perfect for work and relaxation–peasant clothes. For Gandalf, an old man who does not care much about appearance, a simple cloak and a hat that has much character. For others, clothes befitting their status and positions are used. The clothes do not look tacky.

Dialogue

Gandalf | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom

The dialogue of the movie is rich and includes many quotable moments. For instance, when the value of a character’s life is questioned, Gandalf says:

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?”

Gandalf

CGI

What do you think of Peter Jackson's depiction of the Balrog in Fellowship  of the Ring? - Quora

The CGI, especially for the Balrog and Gollum, was innovative for its time and has stood the test of time. True, it’s only 19 years old, but there are plenty of films from around that time that would look contrived and poorly done by today’s standards.

Language

The elfin language used in the movie sounds natural and flowing. It is not like the made-up languages in many movies and books that are usually based on English or Latin. It is unique.

The written languages also appear to be authentic and realistic.

Likeness to the Book

Most changes from the book were made to save time, such as removing the whole Tom Bombadil scene that was in in the book. The movie was very faithful to the book.

Character Development

Fellowship of the Ring (group) | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom

Frodo is a character who seems nondescript but is capable of great bravery when the situation requires it. He feels a responsibility for what happens in the world, even though he wants nothing more than to go back to the Shire.

Boromir is a character who desires the power of the ring but nonetheless is an honorable character. Throughout the course of the story, he makes mistakes and changes as a result.

Aragorn’s initial reluctance to take his rightful place on Gondor’s throne affects who he is as a character. He is noble, and his actions show that he is worthy of being a king even when he doubts himself. His romance with Arwen is also a testament to his worth as a character–she is willing to give up immortality for him.

Most of the other characters are not well-developed, however. The movie suffers slightly from having too many characters.

Camera Tricks

The crew for this movie used various tricks with the camera. For instance, they used fast camera motions to make the battle scenes seem more frenzied. They also made horse riding scenes seem quick through other camera movements. The angle of the camera made it seem like sometimes we were seeing from the character’s point of view, and sometimes we were seeing the action from a perspective outside of any character.

Galadriel Scene

History Reading 06: Graphics. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of… | by  David Mellitt | Medium

This scene looked contrived and overly flashy, looking more like it belonged in a film depiction of a campfire horror story than a Lord of the Rings movie. A minor con, but worth noting.

Conclusion

I must say, the trouble it took to set up was well worth it. The movie is very nearly three hours, clocking in at 178 minutes, but it is a movie in which every second counts and adds to the whole. If you haven’t watched it, you’re missing out!

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Board Games

Ganz Schön Clever: A Strategic Roll-and-Write Game

Board Game Review: Ganz Schön Clever

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my board game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Ganz Schön Clever is a competitive roll-and-write game for 1-4 players. The game takes about 30 minutes to complete and is recommended for ages 8 and up.

Gameplay (9 out of 10 stars)

Dice Rules

There are six colors of dice in this game that each allow you to mark off different parts of your game sheet (shown above).

The yellow die allows you to cross off the corresponding number in the yellow-bordered section. Completing a row or column in the yellow section gives the bonuses indicated on the sheet (for example, 20 points or the chance to add a 4 to the orange section.)

The blue die is added to the white die to cross off the corresponding number in the blue-bordered section. Once again, completing a row or column provides a bonus.

The green die must be greater than or equal to the number in each spot in the green-bordered section to mark it off. Green spots must be marked off from left to right. The bonus under a green spot is gained when it is marked off.

The orange die allows you to take the number on the dice and write it in the orange-bordered section. Orange spots must be marked off from left to right. The bonus under an orange spot is gained when it is marked off.

The purple die allows you to write a number in the purple-bordered section. Numbers do not have to be consecutive, but each one has to be greater than the last until reaching 6, after which you can start the cycle over. The bonus under an orange spot is gained when it is marked off.

The white die is a wild, standing for any color.

Player Actions

At any time in the game, each person is either an active or passive player.

Active players first roll all the dice. Then they choose a numbered die and mark off what they chose on their sheet. All numbered die of lower value are then placed in the Silver Platter (shown above). The remaining dice are then rolled, and the active player picks another die. Those dice of lower value go into the Silver Platter. This cycle repeats one more time.

Then the passive players choose one dice from those in the Silver Platter and mark the corresponding spot on their sheets. More than one player can use the same die.

If these actions are available, the players can use rerolls or add +1 to a die.

Scoring

The points from the blue section and the yellow section are calculated based on what columns and rows are completed.

The green section gives the amount of points indicated above the last marked spot.

The orange and purple sections both are calculated by adding the numbers in their respective rows.

Each fox obtained during the game is equal to the number of points in the lowest scoring out of all the categories.

Design (7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art is simple and minimal. The components will need replaced if used frequently because of the limited number of sheets and limited ink.

Paper sheets are fine, but it would have been better to have small dry erase boards instead of paper, such as those used in the game Wits & Wagers.

The markers running out is inevitable for this kind of game. Just buy more small markers if you run out, or use pens or even pencils.

The instruction manual was very well done. There are specific examples of what a turn would look like, as well as a chart to see how good at the game you really are. My whole family consistently scores in the lowest bracket–I can’t imagine how someone would make the highest bracket and qualify as clever.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

Sure, the game utilizes luck, but there is so much strategy involved. Luck is minimized anyway due to the actions such as rerolls and adding +1 to rolls.

Focus too much in one area and your foxes will be worth next to nothing. Generalize too much and none of your categories will reach their potential. The whole thing is a balancing act.

Even which dice you discard must be strategic because your opponents can use what you rejected to their advantage.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

Many consider this game to be one of the best roll-and-writes. The concept of the foxes is pretty unique, and so is the fact that passive players can use dice rejected by the active player.

Replayability (7 out of 10)

This game is fun and has a thick pad of sheets for gameplay, so it is conducive to replays. However, this is a game I would personally not want to play more than once in one day. It’s a good, light game to play anytime.

Links

To learn more, I recommend visiting Board Game Geek.

To learn how to play with a video, I recommend this video by Meeple University.

Shows

A Fiery Finale to My Favorite Childhood Show

Airbender-CompleteBook3.jpg

Show Review:

Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Intro

Avatar: The Last Airbender is my favorite childhood show, and Season 3 has always been my favorite season. I recently re-watched this show with my roommate and she really enjoyed it as well.

It includes my favorite episode of the whole show, Chapter 17: The Ember Island Players, when Team Avatar gets to see a play based on their own adventure.

It also includes my least favorite episode, Chapter Eight: The Puppetmaster, which is super creepy for a kid’s show. Nonetheless, it was a well-made episode that helped set up a concept that would later be important for The Legend of Korra.

Read on to find out why this is the best season yet.

(Quick warning–there are no spoilers for Season 3, but there are some minor spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2.)

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy. Season 3 was released in 2007.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Toph Beifong | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Toph Beifong

In Season 2, the earthbender Toph joins Team Avatar, the Fire Nation grows in power and influence, the heroes reach Ba Sing Se, and Zuko tries to establish his own identity.

Avatar: The Last Airbender | Netflix

Season 3 begins with Aang waking up in a Fire Nation ship confused–and with a full head of hair! The main point of Season 3 is Aang’s attempts to find a firebending teacher and master all four elements in order to defeat Fire Lord Ozai and end the war.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers
  • Wonderful animation
  • Pacing is better than first season
  • Intense fight scenes
  • Lingering consequences/lasting wounds from last season

Cons

  • Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is bizarre and over-the-top
  • Never learned how Hawky worked, but used him anyway

Review

Characters

Zuko | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Zuko has the biggest identity crisis of all the characters, so it is natural he gets the most development. At this point, his uncle is imprisoned, so he has to decide on his own path without Iroh’s help. He is at home with the life he has always wanted–will he finally be satisfied?

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

It is like this season is a reminder of who Iroh really is–a capable, wise man who is more than just a mentor to Zuko.

Azula | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

Azula is a truly terrifying character. Her callousness toward her own family and her intense ambition makes her especially frightening. This season also develops her as a person almost to the same degree as Zuko. We see her insecurities and her paranoia, ripples in the pool of her calm demeanor.

System of Elements

Map from the series

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang, Katara, and Toph continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Toph is unique as a bender, as her bending is based off the Southern praying Mantis Style.

Season 3 is definitely Azula and Zuko’s time to shine with elaborate bending as well. Furthermore, fire as an element is reconsidered as representative of life, not just destruction.

Culture

This season of Avatar: The Last Airbender focuses on Fire Nation culture. This includes their mythology (The Painted Lady), their education system, their forms of entertainment, and their way of life more generally.

Nature - Transcendentalism

Small towns and larger cities are visited throughout the season. This one is a village on a polluted river. Most people wouldn’t have thought a Fire Nation village would be situated on the water–that’s kind of like an earth bending city high in the sky. But the creation of the elemental system does not categorize and simplify people. The cultures in this show are complex, just like cultures in the real world.

The Headband | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

In the Fire Nation, education is propaganda, painting their own society as a heroic force of good in the world. The fierce patriotism of Fire Nation citizens is fueled by a powerful set of lies.

What’s also interesting is the difference between what Aang remembers of Fire Nation culture, and what it is like now. His outdated slang and long-forgotten Fire Nation dances are a source of humor and an indication of how society changes over time, for better or for worse.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

In Season 2, the show introduced Toph, who is blind. She remains a critical character in Season 3.

Balance

The balance of humor in this show with mature themes (war, imperialism, colonialism, corruption, propaganda) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults–the perfect balance.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well. Season 3 has more epic music for its fight scenes in the final episodes.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy.

Avatar's The Beach Is The Breakfast Club with Bending

Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Radar - TV Tropes

Intro

Who is the Earth silhouette in the intro to Avatar: The Last Airbender? -  Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and attractive. I can definitely see both the influence of anime and of American cartoons in the art style.

Pacing

The pacing, which I mentioned as a potential shortcoming in the first season, is not really a problem in the second season. Sure, there are filler episodes, but not as many.

Fight Scenes

Wow. Just wow. The fight scenes in this season blew me away. I can say literally nothing about them without spoiling something, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Consequences

History of Aang (Summer 100 AG) | Avatar Wiki | Fandom

The biggest consequence of Team Avatar’s failure in Season 2 is Aang’s lasting injury. I like that this is not something Aang just recovers from and everything is better. He has a permanent scar on his back and foot from the lightning strike.

Anyone know what the scar on aang's foot is? : TheLastAirbender

Bizarre Episode

Book 3, Chapter 9: "Nightmares and Daydreams" | Avatar airbender, Avatar  picture, Avatar images

Chapter Nine: Nightmares and Daydreams is basically about Aang trying to handle an immense amount of stress. It includes bizarre hallucinations and childish nightmares. It’s weird and unnecessary and doesn’t add much to the story.

The Last Airbender Book 3 Fire E09 Nightmares And Daydreams - video  Dailymotion

Hawky

Avatar Gave Sokka The Pet That Zuko Was Supposed To Have

None of the characters has any idea how to use Hawky, but by the end of the episode Hawky is sent to a deliver a message. There is no indication how it will get to its destination, it’s never shown how it’s done, and all they did was send it off. Sloppy, in my opinion, but it was most likely due to time constraint. Not a big deal, just disappointing.

Conclusion

This is my favorite season of my favorite show for a reason. This is not just some kid’s show. It’s worth watching if you are an adult. If you want to learn good storytelling, watching high-quality shows will teach you. This show can teach you something.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

This Fairy Tale Retelling Shouldn’t Be Rated PG

Once Upon a Time Season 1.jpg

Show Review: Once Upon A Time Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I watched Once Upon A Time for the first time with my sisters, and it was so good I was happy to watch it a second time with my roommate and suitemate. Most fairy tale retellings don’t impress me, but Once Upon A Time, especially Season 1, was able to tell the stories in a way that celebrated the old and emphasized the new.

After watching several episodes, I was shocked that anyone would rate this show PG. It is not appropriate for children–read on to find out why.

Background

Season 1 of Once Upon A Time first aired in 2011 and concluded in 2012. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and is an ABC television series now offered on Disney Plus.

Season 1 stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Jamie Dornan, Robert Carlyle, and Eion Bailey.

Summary

On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan is unexpectedly reunited with the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. After driving him back to his adoptive mother in Storybrooke, Maine, Emma’s concern for him makes her hesitant to leave.

Her son, Henry Mills, believes that the stories in his book of fairy tales are real. He thinks that the people of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped by a curse and have lost their memories of their past lives.

Henry tells Emma that she is their only hope for breaking the curse, but Emma does not believe him.

Season 1 tells the stories of various characters, alternating between their pasts in a fairy tale world and their current lives in Storybrooke. It also follows the struggles of Emma and Henry against Regina, Henry’s manipulative adoptive mother.

Pros

  • Clever foreshadowing
  • Consistent, well-crafted structure
  • Great acting
  • Subverting viewer expectations
  • Clever ways of connecting various fairy tales
  • Likeable, realistic characters
  • Impressive character development
  • In-depth backstories
  • Character names in Storybrooke chosen for meaning
  • Costume design reflects character personality

Cons

  • Occasionally overdramatic
  • The graphics in Wonderland were shoddy

Review

Foreshadowing

The title sequences always has a different shadowy sneak peak of what the episode is going to be about. Look for dark woods in the title screen to see the foreshadowing.

Structure

The structure of each episode includes flashbacks to a character’s past in the fairy tale world as well as glimpses of the character’s present-day life in Storybrooke.

The story that has happened in the past is usually linked strongly to what is happening in the present in any given episode.

Viewer Expectations

Viewers have certain expectations based on their knowledge of the fairy tales. However, the creators of Once Upon A Time use this to their advantage by making stories seem familiar before repeatedly subverting viewer expectations.

These are not the bedtime stories kids everywhere grew up with. These are new, refurbished, refined and stunning.

The way that fairy tales intertwine is particularly clever, especially the way the Beauty and the Beast tale works.

Characters

Red Riding Hood | Once Upon a Time Wiki | Fandom

Almost every single character has an in-depth back story, and many begin in Season 1. The story of Snow White and Prince Charming take center stage, but my personal favorite is the story of Red Riding Hood.

The characters develop both in the past and in the present. The most development is seen in Emma Swan, Mary Margaret Blanchard, and David Nolan.

The characters act realistically considering their personalities, and even though it is dramatic, the reactions of the characters are often reasonable considering their circumstances.

Once Upon a Time Favorite Character Moments: Snow White/Mary Margaret  Blanchard | The Girly Nerd

Character names in present-day Maine were chosen carefully for their meaning. For example, the name Mary Margaret Blanchard was chosen for Snow White because Blanchard is a French name meaning “white” and Mary and Margaret were names Snow used in her fairy tale past to conceal her identity.

Costume Design

7 Easy Halloween Costumes from Once Upon a Time | Once Upon A Time

The costume design fits the characters’ personalities perfectly. For example, Regina’s hair styles and costumes particularly reflect her flamboyant style and dark personality.

Drama

The drama is reasonable and understandable most of the time, but sometimes it is over-the-top. For example, when something terrible happens, the camera will often switch rapidly from shocked expression to expression in a way that seems overly contrived. People can be shocked, but not every character needs a close-up.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Once Upon A Time. I would recommend this series for teens and adults.

Despite its PG rating, I would not recommend Once Upon A Time for children due to violence, suggestive content, and dark themes. Seriously. Hearts get ripped out and crushed, there is an affair, people get turned into animals and stepped on, a person is mauled and eaten, etc.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.