Monthly Archives: December 2013

Frozen Review

I can barely wait to buy Disney’s Frozen on Blu-ray.

“I laughed, I wanted to sing along…”

It was a great Disney film. The structure seemed as familiar to me as the cycles of the moon. It was a classic plot structure, with various ups and downs along the way to the ultimate climatic moment in the final ten minutes. There was an unpredicted twist (that I will not disclose) that was a pleasant surprise to the moviegoer in me who was enjoying the predictable plot structure. I laughed, I wanted to sing along, and I held my small companion’s hand through the final climatic scene (after the twist was revealed).

I was somewhat wary of Olaf – I thought he might be the Jar-Jar of the movie, but I was surprised at the small role he played in the movie. I think Disney used his character in the best possible way. He provided a little bit of humor, but also functioned as a portion of the back-story, and most of all he proved himself a true friend to Anna. He was not just a shameless plot device.

frozen review

I was also nervous about the movie having two lead princesses, not to mention male counterparts and the reindeer and snowman. I’ve been to quite a few movies that had way too much going on (yes, I’m looking at you Spiderman 3). However, the sequence of events balanced out the characters well, and I feel like I got to know the characters well enough to feel a sense of fulfillment at the resolution of the story.

I highly recommend seeing this film to every fan of Disney four years old and up. It will be joining my family’s movie collection as soon as it hits the shelves. I’m also considering buying the soundtrack before then, my favorite song is “Let it go”.

If you enjoyed this Frozen Review, check out the Frozen Non-Review!

Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2013

It’s that time of year again, the Holiday gift giving season.  Every year my family try to beat out of me what I really want for Christmas.  Some members insist that I keep my Geek street cred, and force me to be creative in what I ask for.  In keeping with that spirit, I gathered some of the guys together to help craft the Geek Gift Guide 2013.  There’s no specific order to this short list, but it’s our intention that it will let you know what to tell people.  Of course, you could always share a link to their Facebook wall and say “Anything on that list.” (see sharing links below)

Trey recommends the Jawbone UP

trey geek gift guide 2013 Jawbone UP

Trey: This little band measures your steps, sleep and eatting habits. Crazy right? Its $129 but its designed to last through the everyday things like rain and even showers. The best thing about it is they “help” you wake up vs scaring you to be awake. It does this by sensing your movements through the band and graphs a “best” time to wake up by vibrations. I’ve used this personally and I’ve waken with a lot more ease nowadays. I reccommend this gift to anyone seeking a fitness New Years resolution. Great time to grab it now versus later when its harder to find.

The Jawbone UP

Brock recommends the Pathfinder Core Rulebook

brock geek gift guide 2013 Pathfinder Rulebook

Brock: Brock’s a pretty big fan of the Pathfinder RPG system.  He describes it as Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 done right.  So, it’s no surprise that he recommends the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.  The play system of Pathfinder is much more open and variable than the overly simplified DnD 4, which actually makes it a great gift for a newbie to pen and paper RPGs.

Pathfinder Core Rulebook

Joe recommends Bose noise canceling headphones

joe holiday geek gift guide 2013 Bose headphones

Joe: As a geek who has the pleasure of working in an office environment, nothing makes the day go by easier or helps me stay focused more than being in my own world, lost in music.

Bose actually produces their Quiet Comfort headphones in three distinct styles:

Bose Quiet Comfort 15 – Around-the-Ear

Bose Quiet Comfort 3 – On-Ear

Bose Quiet Comfort 20 – In-the-Ear (Ear Buds)

Doyle recommends Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures

doyle geek gift guide 2013 funko pop

Let’s face it, these little guys are just so fun!  They are on the lower end of the price range, making them the perfect gift from a co-worker, 2nd cousin, or frequent acquaintance.  Most of them are small enough that they could find their adorable way into your stocking.  Franchises include Star Wars, The Walking Dead, Marvel, DC, and so many more.  I think they’re just so perfect because they represent something you love, take up almost no space, and cost very little money.  A clear winner in the gift department.  If you wanted to spend more money on a gift for someone, just buy them two or ten of these cute guys.

Funko Pop! Yoda from Star Wars

Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2013 – That’s a wrap…

Alright guys, that’s what we all came up with, but if you think something needs to be added, let us know in the comments below.  Also, all of the links to purchase these items take you to Amazon (specifically Prime eligible listings of these items) which assured me today that if you are an Amazon Prime member  and get your order in before midnight on Sunday December 22, your package will be delivered. (At least in the U.S.)

holiday geek gift guide 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug First Impressions

Having just finished a midnight showing of the latest Tolkien movie by Peter Jackson, and having smoked my trusty pipe of course, I’m ready to give you The Desolation of Smaug first impressions piece.  First, some background on my relationship to The Hobbit.  I love The Hobbit much more than The Lord of the Rings.  The story is a to-the-point adventure that the average reader could fully consume in one day.  I found a paperback copy in High School and immediately remembered reading an excerpt in a Grade School English book. (The particular excerpt was Bilbo and Smaug’s conversation in Erebor, which is featured in this latest movie.)  I faithfully re-read The Hobbit every couple years because it is just that good.  Knowing the story and its pacing so well, I thought that the original option for two movies was a good idea, but that the addition of a third might be stretching things quite a bit.  Well, that’s enough background, let’s get on to the real review here…

The Desolation of Smaug First Impressions … or

The main heroes have some funny misadventures (featuring The Legolas Show and Gandalf versus The Army of Darkness)

It becomes quickly apparent that the writers and director desperately wanted Orlando Bloom to be in this movie.  So, in pops Legolas, weighing about 75 pounds more than he did during The Lord of the Rings.  I am not convinced this was the best casting choice for the character.

Legolas Comparison

I’m somehow supposed to believe that Legolas is going to lose weight, look younger, and have a younger disposition over the next 60 years.  Right.  Don’t get me wrong, Legolas belongs in the movie.  He was definitely there during the events, but he didn’t need to try to steal the movie from the actual heroes and he didn’t necessarily have to be portrayed by Orlando Bloom.

Before I move on to Gandalf versus the Army of Darkness, I should mention that I was one of those whining fans irritated that Tom Bombadil and the Barrow Wight dens weren’t in the Fellowship of the Ring movie.  The excuses used for Old Tom were: “The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple narrative focus … the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it is difficult to justify the screen time.” – Peter Jackson and “Tom Bombadil is part of several false starts to Frodo’s journey, and you cannot have things happening quite so episodically; that’s not what storytelling is all about.” – Philippa Boyens  (I’ll come back to those statements)

Gandalf versus the Army of Darkness

One of the most distracting things about the second half of the movie was that we had to follow Gandalf’s story in addition to our main heroes.  You remember the main heroes, right?  Bilbo, Thorin, and his company of dwarves.  The Necromancer of Dol Guldur is in fact Sauron, but it is certainly not revealed in the Hobbit.  And yet, we get constantly torn away from the main story to find out that Gandalf is discovering and fighting Sauron.  The fight scene is one of those scenes where you just know that they put it in to show off some cool special effects.

So, despite those statements that Jackson and Boyens made regarding The Lord of the Rings, they seem to have overcome their adversity to episodic storytelling and thrown off the shackles of simple narrative focus.  Worry not, my review isn’t all negative.  Remember that Grade School connection to The Hobbit?  Well, that dialogue scene between Bilbo and Smaug was pure magic.  I was on the edge of my seat being washed over with emotion and memory.  Oh yeah, and Smaug?  Gorgeous!  Very well voiced too.  Other than Treebeard, Smaug may be the best of Tolkiens characters to come to life.

Bilbo The Desolation of Smaug

I highly recommend reading The Hobbit, if you haven’t already, before the next movie hits theaters next summer.  You’ll find a simple, straight forward adventure that isn’t confusing or riddled with several subplots.  As far as my The Desolation of Smaug first impressions are concerned, stay away unless you’re a Tolkien fan.  My family are pretty big Tolkienites and we won’t be seeing it in theaters again.  Instead, we’ll be waiting for some super extended blu-ray edition of all three movies next year for a marathon watching session.  If you’ve seen the movie, tell us what you think in the comments below.

The New Pathfinder Bestiary 4: A Review

Hey, gamers! It’s me with a review of a new gaming product! The product today is the new Pathfinder Bestiary 4 from Paizo. I don’t know how many of you are aware of this gaming system but this game is what Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition should have been and, considering the number of book supplements published over the last 4 years, many gamers agree. Anyways, ON TO THE REVIEW!

Pathfinder Bestiary 4

Pathfinder Bestiary 4

Just a quick glance through the book reveals a lot of creatures that scream “Use me in a horror base campaign!!!”

The Bestiary books are full of monsters, NPC’s, and alternate playable character options depending on your Game Master, a.k.a. the GM. And as in the previous three Bestiaries, Paizo has delivered another outstanding book full of nasties to add havoc for your players. Just a quick glance through the book reveals a lot of creatures that scream “Use me in a horror base campaign!!!” And do I want to do just that. The book contains many creatures that can be used in low level games. One such creature, and the name excapes me at the moment, dwells in the parallel dimesion in mirrors. It clones whomever glances in a specific mirror, copies them, then exits the mirror to kill them to take their place. Sounds uber nasty but it is actually just a CR 2 creature, CR means Challenge Rating as an FYI.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4

Another creature that has returned from 3.5 D&D is the Juggernauts. These are constructs that generally were used as guardians of some extreme well sought after treasure or to protect forbidden tombs of kings, warriors, or mages. They came from 2nd edition AD&D and were re-released in Monster Manual II for 3.0 to 3.5 D&D and still pack a major punch. I believe their CR is in the teens somewhere as standard in this Bestiary. In Monster Manual II they were a CR 18! But, like all monsters, creatures, and NPC’s you can tweak them for your games.

“THEY HAVE THE STATS FOR CTHULHU!!!”

But the biggest and greatest thing about this book… THEY HAVE THE STATS FOR CTHULHU!!! That is right kiddies, they have daddy Cthulhu and his buddy the King in Yellow, Hastur, in this book and their CR’s are up there, CR 30 for Cthulhu ALONE! Included within the pages of this beautiful tome you also get stats for the Colour Outerspace and Elder Things. Anyone who is a Lovecraft fan will love to use this book for his or her games… myself included… beware my players, your doom approaches!
Also included in this book are the clockwork creatures, including dragons.  Not quite sure how I like that since I’m not really a fan of the clockwork creatures. It seems too much like Steam Punk trying to enter into my idea of fantasy, which is one of the reasons I didn’t get into Eberron for D&D.  Also, the nasty Tooth Fairies (think Hellboy 2) and, another favorite of mine, the Nosferatu Vampires!

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Tooth Fairy

All in all, it is definitely a book I want in my collection even if I never get a chance to use any of the creatures within its tempting pages and I am sure many of you would feel the same. And if you have not had a chance to play Pathfinder, then I highly implore you to convince your GM to give it a try. Stay tuned for more product reviews from me!

Disney’s Frozen – A Non-Review

Let’s get these out of the way now.

“Disney’s Frozen is solid!”

“Disney’s Frozen is totally COOL!”

“Two princesses make for an ICE movie in Disney’s Frozen.”

 Disney's Frozen

Disney continues their Neo-Renaissance following The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and our family’s favorite Wreck-It Ralph with their latest animated feature, Frozen.  Verrrrrry loosely based (of course, it’s Disney) on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.  What follows is not really  a review, but more of a dialogue about the movie between my wife and I, and some of our feelings on the film.

David: So, is the moral of Frozen that parents are horrible?

Allison: Nah, just sometimes misguided.

David: Well, I think we all learned THAT lesson when King Triton had his little hissy fit wrecking Ariel’s grotto.

I suppose first and foremost, it’s noted how modern (er, post modern?) it is as a musical.  I mean, it’s doing for Disney musicals today what the 80’s and 90’s Disney Renaissance did then – bringing the style in line with current trends.

Allison: So you’re saying they’re doing a good job with keeping up musically with what’s current?

David: Sort of.  In some ways Frozen did feel at times like “man this really wants to be Wicked” – having Idina Menzel as a lead certainly invites comparisons.  But maybe that’s just my own bias with being really familiar with Wicked, and not so much other recent shows like The Book of Mormon (who’s song team, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, did Frozen’s music) or Avenue Q.  Like I said at the theater, I wonder how soon it’ll feel dated?  Then again, then only dated part of The Little Mermaid are those GIANT sleeves on Ariel’s wedding dress.

Allison: Speaking of older Disney films, I liked the visual influence of the traditional Scandinavian setting.

Disney's Frozen - Elsa

David: Right, because there weren’t enough blonde, white Disney characters before!

Allison: I mean the architecture and costume designs.  Even the fabric.

David: And the one guy wears elf shoes.

Frozen continues Disney’s streak of being subversive.  Earlier this year Monsters University taught kids “hey, you probably aren’t going to be the best, no matter how hard you try, but that’s okay” an anti-Disney message if ever I heard one.  Frozen’s moral is similar in tone, if much less subtle.  I mean, they literally have a character state the moral out loud to you, juuust in case you missed it.

Allison: I suppose on one hand, there’s generally a lot in kid’s movies focusing on cooperation, but not generally a great deal about self-sacrifice.

David: Do you think kids will really get that?

Allison: I’m sure some will.  I don’t know that they were counting on a child necessarily being able to tell you, but there is a foundation.

David: Hmm.  Maybe there is a good reason then for delivering the moral like a brick.

Allison: Children aren’t necessarily the masters of subtly.  “Did you bring me a present!?”

David: Still, there’s something to be said of Monster University’s nuance.  Though I suppose the frat parties could have clued me in to Pixar aiming for a slightly older audience that Frozen.

Allison: I suppose Frozen would draw a bit more of the princess crowd than Monsters.  Not that our daughter cares.  Though she didn’t come home wanting to pretend Mike and Sully, as opposed to tonight, where were have been scheduled to “pretend Frozen” tomorrow.

David: True.

Disney's Frozen