Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Hobbit The Desolation Of Smaug


Warner Bros. presents the second of three-parts of The Hobbit film adaptation by director Peter Jackson on a Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Combination. 

Bilbo and his fellow travelers: the wizard Gandalf and the Dwarves continue their perilous journey and quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain Lost Kingdom of Eredor from the gold-hoarding dragon: Smaug.

Along the way they encounter many a perilous danger including meeting Gollum, the magic ring holder.

In the last film Bilbo pilfers the ring from Gollum and in this film, determined to get it back, Gollum braves the sun and the outside world to get his 'Precious' back.

The motley crew of journeyers meet up with the skin-changer Beorn, a swarm of giant Spiders, the Wood-elves and ultimately their face-to-face encounter with Smaug!

Included with the film are several 'extras' that include a visit to the set of the latest Hobbit film, production videos, a trip to the movie's filming location: New Zealand, a music video and more.

Witness the wonder and magic of Middle-Earth with spectacular visual effects, thunderous music and incredible creatures.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meanderings

I have a few things on my mind I'd like to share about web publishing.

It's not easy publishing a website and blog-especially in today's climate of super hype and the hunger for audiences.

I do my level best to deliver honest and to-the-point reviews.  I may not have the largest audiences for my website and blog but the numbers are honest.

I find it very difficult to believe the number of visitor claims of some 'other' review websites and blogs.  

Honestly, when a website posts maybe one or two reviews a day (at most) and claims to have in excess of 100,000 visitors per day and most of them 'unique' visitors-the numbers simply do not add up.

To me it isn't the number of new visitors you get on your site or blog, it's the number of 'returning' visitors to your sites.  It's called a loyal audience.

I know why so many false visitor numbers are posted.  One-more visitors-more ad revenue and review material.  Two-ask any IT guy worth his salt he will tell you-software is available to make it seem like there are huge numbers of visitors when all it is is that the software fakes IP addresses.  Some websites even set up programs to visit their own sites repeatedly in automatic mode-again software.

People in manufacturing and publishing businesses need to know that numbers (unique visitors included) can be faked.

Here's another tidbit.  Some websites make links to other websites and every time other websites are visited it counts as visits to the linked website.  Hits do no necessarily mean visitors.  I would rather have a smaller numbers of real visitors that ten times that amount of hits.

To be sure there are some good review sites out there, run by honest people.  But, unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there.

It's easy to set up a website, fake some reviews (some people even plagiarize them) and claim they have large audiences.  Anyone can fake numbers and make it appear they are legitimate.

I guess my point is-web browsers beware.  If the numbers look too good to be true, then they probably are.

Me, I'll stick to loyal readers and an honest growth in visitor numbers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Pirate Fairy


Actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor and The Avengers) is just one of the famous actors and actresses to provide voices for the computer animated Disney Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Collection strait from the world of Peter Pan: The Pirate Fairy.
 
They all-new movie features Tinker Bell and her friends after they pursue their friend Zarina after her fascination with Blue Pixie Dust manages to get her in trouble.

Fleeing Pixieland, Zarina joins forces with the pirates of Skull Rock, who make her their captain.

It's a funny, somewhat familiar, fantastic and sometimes frightening fairy tale of pixies, pirates and a cabin boy who grows up to be one of the most infamous pirates of all time.

Join Tinkerbell, and the others, as they embark on some swashbuckling fun and flights of fancy.  It's magic and high seas shenanigans all wrapped into one.

Extras include featurettes on Never Land, a Crocky commentary, deleted scenes and songs.  Aye mateys! It's a pirate treasure trove of fun!

Real Heroes #1


I love it when a comic book story (or any story for that matter) completely hits me off guard. Real Heroes #1 is one such story.
 
Author/artist Bryan Hitch presents what appears at first look as a superhero team book with superheroes facing off against a world-threatening group of super bad guys.

The 'ultimate' fight finds our heroes 'avenging' the world-shattering destruction of Brainchild and his fellow super villains. Appearing as if defeated the good guys (led by Olympian) rally and attack!

Cut to a movie theater and the premiere of the Olympians 2 film. All of the actors are there as are the press.  After the usually banter, press interviews and public appearance the cast begins to disperse.

Suddenly one of the robotic bad guys from the film appears (a publicity stunt?) and fires live energy bolts at the crowd.  

Fleeing the scene, the acting entourage quickly ushers out to the parking garage.  Only it's not the parking garage.

Confused and scared the actors discover a devastated city outside.  They meet a man called Smitty who explains that the world imagined in their Olympian movies is real and its heroes are all dead.

They have been chosen to take their place!

As always Bryan Hitch provides stunning art and a real brain twister of a tale. Real Heroes #1 from Image Comics looks to be a sure winner.  Better get a copy fast-they'll disappear in no time. 

A Beautiful Defeat


Have you ever been totally, completely honest with God?  Have you assumed that you can hide things from God?  Have you forgotten that God knows everything, exists everywhere, created everything  and since you are part of his creation there is nothing, NOTHING, you can hide from God??  So why hide things-it's impossible to do so from God.

Author Kevin Malarkey's new book: 'A Beautiful Defeat' from Nelson Books, challenges readers to come clean with God, to trust him totally and to obey him without question.  Despite life's ups and downs God never changes and he is interested in every aspect of your life-of everyone's lives, saved or not.

God wants to develop a close personal relationship with people.  It isn't God shutting out people.  It's people shutting out God.

Kevin challenges readers to open up to God and in return God promises to develop, to those that do, the full potential of their lives.
 
Face it, God called people sheep for a reason.  Sheep are slow-witted, prone to make bad choices and tend to follow the wrong path.  Being called sheep is not a compliment-but it is the truth.

If you're tired of defeat, frustrated at life and struggling just to survive, take Kevin's advice offered in his new book: trust god, lay your burdens on him and remember-you are never alone.

Mr. Malarkey shares his own personal trials and tribulations and reveals a few hidden low points in his own Christian walk, by doing so he hopes to inspire people to live a surrendered life to God.

Sounds like good advice.  I'm game, are you?  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

300, Rio, Castlevania, Titanfall and Thief


Those of us fortunate enough to see the transition in movies and video games to visual spectacles created courtesy of computer animation and special effects, it is a time of wonder.
 
Long gone are the days when video games consisted of 8-bit characters with slow refresh rates and movies that depended on actual sets and physical effects.

Today's video games, animated movies and blockbuster films are parts of a renaissance in visual entertainment.

Not only have visuals progressed but sound effects, music and editing have evolved to the point that our sight and hearing can barely keep up.  

Imagine what is in store in the next decade(s)!  All of our senses will be assailed and the fine line between fantasy and reality will almost disappear. 

Titan Books has just released five new books that spotlight movies and video games steeped in digital imagery.

All of the books feature conceptual art, digital renderings, 3D marquettes, character designs, background and environment development and much more.

First up is 300 Rise Of An Empire The Art Of The Film, directed by Zach Snyder.  Peter Aperlo assembles an impressive collection of stills and scenes from the upcoming movie that continues the 300 film based on the Frank Miller mini-series from Dark Horse.

The spot varnished front cover of the oversize hardbound book offers a tantalizing hint as to what readers can expect inside...and they won't be disappointed.

Full page and double-page spreads showcase the spectacular vistas seen throughout the film.  Up close and personal photo montages and portraits examine each and every character and the actors and actresses that portray them.

Behind the scenes photos of the actors' physical preparations, set pieces and battle scenes give readers a real sense as to the massive undertaking that is required to make such a blockbuster film.

Every costume, set piece, weapon, set dressing and setting were meticulously researched and recreated. No detail was left to chance and it shows in each composite photo.

The Art Of Blue Sky Studios Rio Featuring A Carnival Of Art From Rio And Rio 2, written by Tara Bennett, examines a visual effects movie of a different sort.

The computer animated Rio films have pushed the boundaries of computer animation with their spectacular settings, ground-breaking pace and effects and their memorable characters.  What looks smooth and polished on the screen took month-years-to accomplish.

Every facet of each films from character designs, color selection, environments and each and every object seen in each film to the simplest items like posters books and appliances were created for scratch by Blue Sky artists, programmers and designers.

As a cartoonist myself I found myself particularly drawn to the various character designs that included series of sketches, marquettes, computer vector wiring and specific color selection.
While both films are easy, breezy fun, the effort put into making both was anything but easy or uncomplicated.  Whoever said, "Art is easy." was sadly mistaken. It takes an incredible amount of talent, patience and technical know how to pull off such films.  Kudos to Blue Sky!

Video games.   Gone are the days of simple vector 8-bit  flat character animations and scrolling flat backgrounds.  Today's video games are complex, imaginative and visual masterpieces of art, design and computer programming.

Titan Books offers readers a choice of three books about popular games (why choose one, get all three).

The Art Of Castlevania Lords Of Shadow is a complete re-imaging of a classic video game by MercuryStream.

Incredibly complex character and environment concept and final art fill each page.   Beautifully rendered color studies, costume designs, weapons, accessories, pivotal scenes and environments and lighting and visual effects are showcased in vibrant color.

Full page (complete with small inserts) photos allow readers to soak up the details and appreciate the craftsmanship and artistic talent to pull off such imaginative art.  

The hardbound book comes complete with a dust jacket.  High gloss interior pages and high resolution photos provide clean crisp images..

Set in a city of an undetermined time era (possibly the Middle Ages, the Victorian Era-it has the look of both and neither, The Art Of Thief delves into the world of Garrett, the master thief as he plies the dark allies and hidden corners of The City in search of ill-gotten gain. Best beware, should Garrett enter the halls of the Baron's abode the danger quotient gets knocked up a notch!

Clever traps and puzzles impede Garrett as he seeks to steal items of worth.  Hidden enemies and dangers lurk in every nook and granny and enemies of Garrett wander the streets looking for any opportunity to stop The Thief.

The book, inspired by Eidos' popular video game, is lavishly illustrated with characters, weapons, environments and accessories designs rendered in full color.  

Documents, room furnishings, city streets, back alleys, dark and dangerous rooms and corners are rendered and designed in the finest of detail.

Game mechanics and sequences are also showcased as key scenes, traps, tricks and puzzles.

It takes considerable talent to transform a dark and dank era of the past into a vibrant, intriguing and mysterious city filled with danger and surprises.

The Art Of Titanfall showcases the world of the future with its spectacular high-tech imagery, futuristic weapons, vehicles, mobile armor, cities and mechanisms.

Ripe with huge industrial complexes, planet-spanning cities, bizarre alien creatures and intriguing characters the Titanfall video game from Respawn Entertainment has up the ante for all future science fiction based video games.

I am especially impressed by the mech armor, weapons and spacecraft.  The city visas are breath-taking and the complexity of the design make each component of the game look as if they are real and functional.

The book lays out the game, provides developer commentaries and breaks down each component of the game as to make them understandable to non-video game players and designers.

I highly recommend each of the five books reviewed.  If you or anyone you know has aspirations to be a digital artist these books make excellent resources (and inpsirations0 to any up-and-coming designers or artists.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Little House On The Prairie



40 years!  Can you believe it! It’s been 40 years since Little House On The Prairie premiered on TV!  How time flies!
 
Straight off his stint as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza, Michael Landon starred as Pa Ingalls in the TV adaptation of the much beloved novel.

As producer, director and writer (of many of the episodes) Michael brought back wholesome, family-oriented entertainment to TV.  Little House had a huge following and even today the TV series is replayed in reruns all over the world.

Exactly how did it get started?  The Pilot movie is included in this Blu-ray Collection of the entire First Season of remastered episodes.

Five discs make up the collection that includes the Pilot movie when the Ingalls first moved to Walnut Grove.  All the drama, humor and family togetherness are present, as are several Special Features.

Included with the Pilot and First Season episodes are featurettes on the cast screen tests, a 40th Anniversary Documentary and much more, all courtesy of Lionsgate.

Daredevil #1



Let’s be honest.  I’ve never particularly cared for Marvel Comic’s Daredevil.  He always came across as a second-rate Spider-Man in my opinion.  Sure, he’s had he’s stellar moments: Frank Miller’s run. Gene Colan’s Silver Age work, Joe Quesada’s Marvel Knights and the recent revelation of Daredevil's secret identity.
 
 I have nothing personal against Daredevil, he’s just not my cup of tea-until now.  I’m excited.
Daredevil #1, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Chris Samnee, has brought back the ‘fun’ in Daredevil. Yes, Daredevil is still gritty, introspective and haunted…but ..there is an element of fun.  Case in point-when Daredevil is trying to outrun twin flying villains in San Francisco-not his stomping ground.

Look for plenty of wit, wild acrobatics and Daredevil banter.

Here’s the story; Daredevil has moved to San Francisco, his identity is known; he assists the police with crimes and dons his Daredevil persona when necessary.

Someone has kidnapped a little girl, Daredevil locates her, rescues her and proceeds to avoid the bad guys in one of the most clever and convoluted chase scenes ever seen in comics.
Here’s the bottom line-I really enjoyed ready Daredevil #1.  Give it a shot-you will too!

The Art Of Ian Miller



Creepy, eerie, disturbing, unsettling, and unconventional: these are just a few of the words that describe The Art Of Ian Miller from Titan Books.


Ian Miller and Tom Whyte have compiled the ultimate book of Ian Miller’s art containing super-detailed pen and ink and color work from the unconventional artist.


Fantasy, horror and sci-fi all get their due in sections covering Dragons, visually jolting Maelstroms, Men, Monsters, Machines, Castles, Kingdoms, Dreams and Nightmares.


Each and every piece of art invites viewers to spend literally hours perusing them.  Ripe with detail and minute ink lines and color washes Miller’s artwork delves into the dark, dank corners of the human Psyche and rips them out of their confines into the light of day.


These are images that stay with you, permeate your mind and pop up in the most inopportune times.  There’s something both attractive and repulsive about them.  I couldn’t take my eyes off them.



Technically precise and masterfully executed, The Art Of Ian Miller is like a magnet of the Bizarre.