October 17, 2019

The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit Coming to 4K

Image result for lord of the rings 4K

A few days ago, the news broke that in Europe there is a listing for The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit film trilogies coming to 4K.

The date mentioned was June 2020, however 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring.

The article mentions that both theatrical and extended editions would be arriving.

Now, what would I like these release(s) to be like?

Here are some thoughts on how I'd like to see these released on 4K blu-ray (or UHD blu-ray):

- HDR & Dolby Atmos, possibly Dolby Vision as well
- both extended and theatrical editions to be included in the same set: not one set for theatrical, and one for extended.
- 3 releases: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, and a set with both
- the packaging for The Lord of the Rings to be nearly identical to the 12-disc extended DVD trilogy set from 2004. The Hobbit extended trilogy on DVD also had similar packaging. The blu-ray release had some elements carry over, though it's not quite the same. Replicate the packaging, like how Rhino did in comparison for the complete recordings soundtrack, from the original CD+DVD release to the limited edition vinyls.
- no ads of any kind at the start of any of the discs
- Use a consistent colour tint. Some may have noticed that only the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (on blu-ray, and some digital avenues) featured a different palette and colouring than the DVDs did. Please get rid of any colouring or tint issues, and possibly use the same company/team that worked on the extended DVDs. There have been some great 4K transfers done by WB lately - the Middle-earth films should be no exception.
- include all the special features, from both previous extended and theatrical sets. If possible, on blu-ray or 4K blu-ray discs, as opposed to DVDs (like what the special features were on for the extended Lord of the Rings boxed set)
- keep the same menus (and design style) that was featured on the DVD and blu-ray editions: very classy.

The 12 disc DVD set from 2004 was the crown jewel in my DVD library. The blu-ray - yes, The Lord of the Rings extended in HD is nice, but the packaging left a little to be desired, as well as the 'forced' ads in front of some of the discs. If the same care goes into the 4K release that went into the original DVD set, I'll be very satisfied.

I truly hope that Peter Jackson or Warner Bros reads this.

October 4, 2019

Hunger Games prequel Novel Officially Announced

The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes (a Hunger Games Novel) by Suzanne Collins

Earlier today, the prequel novel to The Hunger Games trilogy, titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was announced.

Here is the official - as of now - description:

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel) will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.
It is to be published on May 19 by Scholastic, and will be 624 pages.

I imagine many book retailers are now offering pre-orders, so providing an ISBN won't be needed - especially given the popularity of the series.

October 3, 2019

Letters From Father Christmas: Deluxe Edition Details Revealed


Earlier today, details from the forthcoming deluxe edition of Letters From Father Christmas have been revealed.

Here's the info:


ISBN: 9780008327729

"This beautiful, deluxe slipcased edition of Tolkien’s famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children includes for the first time every letter, picture and envelope that he sent them, reproduced in glorious colour. The perfect Christmas gift for Tolkien lovers of all ages.

This classic festive book of Tolkien’s amazing Father Christmas letters written to his children between the 1920s and the 1940s has been reworked into a sumptuous, new deluxe edition. It contains brand new high-quality digital reproductions of his wonderful letters and pictures, including a number them that have never been printed before, a revised introduction by Baillie Tolkien, and a special full-colour, foldout frontispiece.

‘My dear children, I am more shaky than usual this year. The North Polar Bear’s fault. It was the biggest bang in the world, and the most monstrous firework there has ever been. It turned the North Pole black!’
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.
They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole:

• How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place.
• How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining-room
• How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden
• How there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house!

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories. From the first note to Tolkien’s eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition. No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas."

Looks lie pretty nice. I like how it's a "Christmas-ized" version of the deluxe edition format. For instance: the icicles, the silver and white lettering, the silver ribbon-marker, etc. Also given the style of the slipcase, it looks like it'll fit, height-wise, with the other titles (The Facsimile Hobbit (book from 2016, and the gift set from 2017), The Lord of the Rings 60th anniversary illustrated edition, and the deluxe edition of Jemima Catlin's Hobbit don't go with the rest of the deluxes, in terms of height.

It is highly unlikely that I'll get this edition, though: the paperback (my edition says 2015 on the copyright page, but the release date on some retailers says 2009...) edition will do me just fine :) Though I'd love to get the audio CD narrated by Jacobi.

This looks to be the finalized or definitive edition, as it'll have everything related to Tolkien writing as father Christmas that he ever made, as well as it'll combine all prior releases into one set. I do not believe that the art will be removable though - could be wrong.

I'm also curious which image will be used as the foldout frontispiece they mention: "...and a special full-colour, foldout frontispiece." I think it’ll be two images side by side: “Dressed for the Snow and the Cold” with ‘my house’ (sometimes as one image, but two “panels"). If those are next to each other, than those as the frontispiece could easily be foldout. Or, perhaps, the wider version of "The North Pole" :

September 12, 2019

Looking Ahead to Tolkien in 2020




So what do you think will be the next major Tolkien book? The Great Tales have now been completed, with the recent releases of Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin by way of their own dedicated books.

Future anniversary editions (70th / 75th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings for instance) are expected as are new illustrated editions (while The Hobbit isn’t “new” Jemima Catlin’s illustrated edition is). There’s also collector’s editions, like the edition of Letters From Father Christmas to be released in a few months.

Those out of the way; what could possibly be ‘the’ Tolkien book for 2020?
There is The Book of Ishness, and I doubt enough material exists (though I’d welcome its release) for The Tale of Earendil as its own dedicated book.

Then there’s the Amazon Middle-earth series: while no doubt tie-in books will come out (pertaining directly, and only to the series – like Weapons and Warfare for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy). I would not be surprised if there will be a collected edition (dedicated book) comprised of material from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and possibly The History of Middle-earth dedicated solely to The Second Age as a “tie in, but not really….” type book.

Who knows what’s in the pipeline for the future? Many weren’t expecting, and thus, surprised – by publications of such works as The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin. There was always mention of the Three Great Tales, but the gap from The Children of Hurin being to published to when Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin were was large enough, many didn’t really consider it or think that they would come.

Then there's the 2021 Tolkien Calendar - I am curious to just find out who will be the artist, and what the theme will be. Usually, the calendar that comes out the year of a major book will be the art for next year. Example: The Children of Hurin came out in 2007. The 2008 calendar (which came out in 2007) reflects that release. I have a feeling that it will be John Howe's,  possibly featuring art from his book, A Middle-earth Traveller.

So who knows what can – and could – come out next year, either completely new or re-packaged or re-edited? It’ll be interesting to see what the next “Tolkien publishing event” will be. Was The Fall of Gondolin truly the end?

Myself I have a few more Tolkien (and Tolkien related) books to get:

- The Hobbit Sketchbook
- A Middle-earth Traveller
- Author of the Century
- A Secret Vice in paperback

August 24, 2019

The Best Translations?



One of the things about great classic works from centuries past (or hundreds of centuries) is that, because they've been around for so long; and the original tales are so good, is that we have numerous translations from the original languages into English. Everyone has different tastes, and some may be in 'verse' or 'prose.'

First up, would Robert Fagles. Fagles has given us amazing translations of 'the three great epics in Western literature.' These would be The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid. The first of those two are by Homer, and The Aeneid is by Virgil. Due to the immense success of these stories - separate or together - once the Fagles translations came out; it was quite the publishing event. Many people (from general or casual readers to full-fledged scholars) quite enjoyed these. Now, I'm not saying that the Fagles versions are the only good ones because that simply isn't true. However, it appears that Penguin has adopted the Fagles translations as their current standard; though others may be available. Worthy of note is Fitzgerald's, and for prose, Butler's isn't too bad either. There are a vast amount of them. Another name I keep saying come up is Lattimore.

Moving on to other stories, Michael Alexander, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Jesse Byock also offer some great note-worthy versions of the Old Norse stories and myths and Icelandic Sagas. Be sure to check out anything with those names on it.

I should also add that for some of the epic poems, there are 'verse' translations, and 'prose' translations. The format, as well as the translator, is entirely up to the reader's preference. After all, you are the one reading, and should therefore enjoy what you read. Some specific versions may be studied academically - in which case, a particular edition is outlined in the syllabus.

Moving on, Hugo's magnum opus, Les Miserables, finds it's best, and most thorough English translation by way of Charles E. Wilbur. Again, that's not to say that others are bad; just that one is quite good.

Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky also offer up some terrific translations of some classic Russian literature, such as War and Peace (and other titles by Tolstoy) as well as works by Dostoevsky.

Umberto Eco's versions of the works of Dumas is also said to be a great joy to read.

So which of these is the best translation I've mentioned? And, the ones I've listed, are they the best translation of the original works? That is entirely up to you; though the names I've provided - of translators and works they've translated - are quite good, in many aspects and quite appealing.

In closing, I want to mention that you really can't go wrong with anything offered by Penguin, Oxford World Classics, Everyman's Library or Modern Library. When picking out a version, read some samples by randomly flipping the book open, and Amazon also offers the 'look inside!' feature. Though with Amazon, the 'look inside!' may not match the product you're actually viewing.  

August 14, 2019

Wheel of Time Amazon Series Casting Announcements



The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

Big news day for those looking forward to Amazon's Wheel of Time series - myself included.

We've got our main Two Rivers characters. I'll run through them again, and add the casting of Rosamund Pike.

Rosamund Pike as Moraine:



Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara:



Zoe Robins as Nyanaeve al'Meara:



Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon:



Madeleine Madden as Egwene al'Vere:



Josha Stradowski as Rand al'Thor:

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Seems promising!

Since that I am not overly attached to the books (I own them (in paperback), I read them, and I enjoyed them) I suppose that means that I'm looking forward to the adaptation. Whereas with Amazon's Middle-earth series, I am attached (quite strongly) to Tolkien's works, so my interest in the adaptation is fairly low as of now. I am looking forward to Netflix's Narnia, and HBO's His Dark Materials for the same reason. However of the series I've mentioned, I'm attached to His Dark Materials the most. And its trailer was fairly impressive. And it will be 3 seasons (one per book).

But back to The Wheel of Time.

It will be impossible to make everyone happy, and this casting announcement of proof of that. I believe it will be impossible to faithfully adapt 14, 600 page-plus (in mass market paperback) books to TV. Even striving for as much accuracy as Peter Jackson's extended Lord of the Rings trilogy will be a stretch. In terms of accuracy (if we're going by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation) expect it to be the same level of accuracy as The Two Towers theatrical edition. Or, some of the Harry Potter films (I'm thinking Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Because of the complexity of the books, challenges of turning one medium into another, the characters, plots etc that run through the series, I expect; if you add everything up, that half of the books will be faithfully adapted. The main thing, though, is that I hope it does well, and catches on. Let;s face it - however The Wheel of Time books may be, they're only really known in the fantasy genre, not 'mainstream' like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones....

I am also looking forward to seeing what type of merchandise comes out. HBO didn't really have much merchandise before Game of Thrones came along.

I've got high hopes for this one, but as ever, I'll reserve judgment until after I've seen the trailer.

I'll close by recommending specific editions of the books which offer the best value for the cost: http://insurrbution.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-editions-for-wheel-of-time.html

July 31, 2019

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Sketchbooks Limited-Edition Boxed Set Announced



Earlier today, this limited-edition, numbered, slipcased signed edition was announced. Only 3,000 will be printed! Official description follows below:


Presenting two richly illustrated books in one elegant slipcase, this deluxe, limited edition boxed set celebrates in words and pictures the beautiful work that award-winning artist Alan Lee has created for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Sumptuously bound in full cloth, with a miniature colour image embossed into the front board, each large-format volume overflows with hundreds of delicate pencil drawings and conceptual sketches, and dozens of haunting watercolour paintings, including many brand-new Hobbit paintings and drawings that take us deeper into the magical world of Bilbo Baggins.

This very special set unlocks the secret of how Alan creates his own Middle-earth magic and provides a fascinating insight into the imagination of the man who breathed new life into Tolkien’s vision. It is limited to a worldwide printing of just 3,000 numbered copies and each copy of The Hobbit Sketchbook has been personally signed by the artist.

The ISBN is 9780008367435

At present, only Amazon UK is offering pre-orders. And, since only a specific number are being printed, you might want to grab this while you can. Elsewise, they may be gone.

There is also A Middle-earth Traveller by John Howe worth checking out. Here's hoping in the future there will be a 'Great Tales' set (featuring Alan Lee's art from The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin). Also would be great if a Ted Nasmith Silmarillion Sketchbook were made....

June 26, 2019

Farewell, Dear Friend



Today was a slightly sad day....perhaps I am being overly dramatic, but it was slightly sad.
Today I packed up and boxed my wii u and its games.
I do not yet have a Switch (I most likely will at, or by, Christmas), so it wasn't done to 'make space', but rather because I played the wii u literally to its death. I got it in Sept 2013, and now (June 2019) - it's finished.

What had happened, is that the GamePad can no longer hold a charge. It can charge, but it lasts approx 45 min - 1 hr 15 before The Red Light of Doom comes on, then starts flashing. The problem is, because the wii u 'failed' we got the Switch. Because of that, Nintendo stopped supporting it in 2017. That means no more GamePad battery replacement packs. I wish I had known of the 'extended' battery pack made by Nintendo which gives longer life (both to 'extend' and get a new battery for it.) There are sellers on Amazon, etc but the reviews have been mixed: from "it works!" to "it doesn't." It also doesn't help that the companies that make them aren't Nintendo. This isn't getting a third-party controller, but rather a component of the system.

So the wii u is packed away in storage (there are 'workarounds' with the GamePad issue, but with me getting a Switch sometime soon-ish, it would need to get packed away anyway.) Someday that box may be opened again...
However, not everything from the wii u got packed away: I'm still able to use the HDMI cable (will do so for The Switch's dock) and The Switch supports amiibos. So those are still 'out.'
I still remember the day that I got it. It was the Wind Waker bundle, and I got it in September of 2013. My work contract was going to expire, and if I got renewed or extended, I was going to buy it. Once I found out, I phoned FutureShop, and put it on hold for pick-up that day. Once I was finished work, I headed there, picked it up, and headed home. Over the course of the console's short life, I got some decent games and play time out of it: Mario Kart 8, Smash, Mario Maker some downloaded games, Mario 3D World, and the 'grand finale', The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There were others too, but those are the highlights for me.

It's unfortunate that the wii u died - it had potential, but it just didn't 'catch.' Even the name: most people thought it was an accessory or add-on to the wii, not a whole new console. Then there was how the Gamepad factored in for multiplayer games: for some it can be used as a controller; not so the case others. In that aspect, New Mario U was frustrating multiplayer wise: the controller wasn't a 'controller' but to add blocks. The option to use the GamePad as such in that game should have existed. Plus, as per usual, Nintendo didn't get a lot of support from other developers for it.
With The Switch, Nintendo corrected themselves: no discs, it has a wide array of controller options (though you still need the JoyCons for certain games, so you can't go 100% ProController dedicated; but most games support it. Should be "all" but anyway...). The name isn't 'confusing' like the wii u. Nintendo is marketing and pushing the console, and it's getting tons of support. And it's working. I think within the first year, more Switches were sold than wii us during the wii u's life.

I was initially skeptical when The Switch was announced. I wanted to wait a bit ("hey our older console was a flop. Buy our new one!") but now, my faith is restored. There are a few games I'd 're-buy' on The Switch (hey if my wii u gamepad is truly on its way to the grave, at least I can still play some of the games...) such as Mario Kart. My Mario Kart reasoning is, Nintendo may not make one for The Switch (Mario Kart 9) because it already has one on it - Mario Kart 8 (Deluxe)

So farewell, wii u - you gave me a lot of great time play time, and memories; even. You had a good, loving home; but now it's time to say goodbye. Also, thank you for getting me through a few tough times here and there. over the years.    

June 2, 2019

Thoughts on The End of Game of Thrones



Since the show ended, I've been thinking and re-thinking about the series on the whole, the final season, and the final episode.

The final season has left the internet in an uproar. Most people seemed to have enjoyed it, however those that did not were very vocal about it.


Our ‘current’ Ssn 7 and 8 were good - problem was, they were too ‘crammed.’ HBO offered more episodes / seasons, D&D should have taken and followed that plan. Or, at the very least, make Ssn 7 and 8 10 episodes each, each at least 70 min.

Here’s how it should have been structured:

Season 7: 10 episodes, about the Night King
Season 8: 10 episodes, about ‘The Last War’ against Cersei
Season 9 (final season): 10 episodes (each being 70 min at least) about the rebellion against the Queen of the Ashes.

The final two episodes alone had enough potential for two seasons.

Of course, that would probably be another three years; however I'm speaking strictly of formatting of the story that was told, and how to flesh it out properly - not in regards to actually producing a TV series - an area of which I have no experience in.

As much as I loved Game of Thrones through the years, my biggest issue is that after Season 1, the story changed too much from the books. I get that books and TV/film are different mediums etc, but I noticed this in general: the Harry Potter films started off staying pretty close to the books. Heck, even The Lord of the Rings changed considerably, even with the extended editions of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

This is a general statement: for some reason, fantasy adaptations start out closely and faithful to the source material, and then for some reason, the story changes in the adaptation. I wish it would be kept with the same quality, (in terms of being an adaption) as it is when it first begins.

I frequently state if one did not like Season 7, they probably would not enjoy Season 8. I'm not talking about plot or story, but rather the pacing. People often say that towards the end (Season 7 and 8) it's "rushed." I don't quite feel that's the case....or perhaps I am misunderstanding. I didn't find it 'rushed' but rather 'crammed.'

Ideally, I would have loved to have gotten 9 full, 10-episode seasons that followed the books, and had similar pacing as the very first season did. Consistently, throughout the years, I've always enjoyed Game of Thrones.

Was every episode perfect? No. Was every season perfect? No. But I've always enjoyed the ride, start to finish.

Before I go further, I wish to add that I enjoyed Lost (including the final season and final episode), though I did not enjoy the finales for Battlestar or Dexter.

I re-watched the entire series leading up to Season 8, then it was 'one episode per week, every week.' What I need to do, is re-watch Season 8 (or possibly the entire show, start to finish.) I've found that with Game of Thrones, as fun as it is speculating what will happen between episodes, 'wait times' negatively affects the show. I think that's where most of the disappointment sets in.

I give Game of Thrones on the whole a very solid 8.5 / 10 for the entire series.

I give Season 8 a 7.5 /10.

I give the final episode a 7 / 10. It did what it needed to do, it made sense (though in my scenario mentioned earlier) it could have been the last two, maybe even three, episodes of Season 9) and, for me, it didn't 'ruin' the series.

Even though Game of Thrones is finished, I still look forward to reading The Winds of Winter, A Dream of Spring, more Dunk and Egg, and other Seven Kingdoms-related content by Martin. If the Thrones prequel / spin-off series look good, I may check those out as well: though I'm not 'blindly' interested in them.

March 12, 2019

Warner Bros. Drops the Ball on "The Crimes of Grindelwald" Extended Cut

Today The Crimes of Grindelwald is out on blu-ray and 4K, and the set includes an extended cut.

Don't bother with the extended cut portion of the set.


The extended cut is not on a disc. Which is pretty freaking stupid, considering that the product is physical media. To get the extended cut, they give you a code to redeem it! It's not even on a disc, even though you're buying a disc! THAT is lazy and stupid, I think. I watched the extended cut, the added stuff does nothing to further the story or offer background info, character development... I wasn't expecting stuff like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings level of difference, but the new scenes are 20 seconds - 2 minutes long each. We're talking less than what was added to extended version of the first Hobbit movie. Not only did they drop the ball on how to access that version of the film, but I would like to add the following points:

1) the opening title where you see the name of the movie, in the movie, they slapped "extended cut" right there.


2) every time there's new footage it says "deleted scene" hardcoded in the bottom corner of the screen. So the way they handled the extended cut is very lazy and stupid.

3) not all of the deleted scenes are included in the extended cut.
In short, the extended cut is a waste. Don't go out of your way to see it, is what I mean.

Another reason why I'll wait for 5 movie set, or if there is none, get them all at once (or if all at once is cheaper). If that set doesn't include the extended cut, no big loss.

Sometimes an extended, director's, or alternate version of a film can save it from disaster, or improve on an already excellent film. Some notable examples of this include: The Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, Blade Runner (The Final Cut), and The Hobbit to name a few.

Please note, I'm not saying that The Crimes of Grindelwald is a bad movie (it's not, I liked it - I'll do a review someday soon) and I'm not telling you to not get the blu-ray or 4K version (personally I'm waiting for the boxed set and wouldn't be surprised if some are too) but rather, the way that the extended cut was handled and packaged was extremely stupid on Warner Bros.' part.

Another way to think of it, is imagine if you buy a vinyl record, and some extra content is promoted and marketed to be inside the release. Instead of putting that material onto an LP, they give you a download coupon for it...which defeats the purpose of buying the physical product to begin with. (I'm not referring to them giving you a code to download the album you also have a physical copy of)