Review of JourneyQuest webseries

Long time readers of the blog will be delighted to hear that I have a new obsession. So instead of just hearing about how awesome the Emperor’s Edge books by Lindsay Buroker are, or why you should all drop everything and read Dorothy Sayers, you’ll also get to hear me talk about how much I love JourneyQuest, a fantasy comedy webseries free to watch on YouTube. It’s very unusual for me to find a tv show that resonates so thoroughly with me, but this one manages it. It’s absolutely hilarious. The characters are so interesting, you could just put them in a room for three hours and watch them interact and it’d STILL be worth watching. I recognize that it’s not for everyone – the language is definitely on the “creatively profane” side of things (strongly on that side of things), but for fantasy nerds who don’t mind that part, it’s pure gold.

JourneyQuest features an incompetent, cowardly wizard; a completely thick and reality-oblivious knight; an intelligent orc; a free-spirited bard constantly in trouble for breaking the rules; an elf who’s pretty much fed up with everyone; a priest who was accidentally-sort-of-turned-into-a-zombie (oops); and a barbarian king who’s forcing his heathen ways on his people (free education for everyone!). It’s mostly lighthearted poking fun at fantasy, though the zombie priest character’s story is (somewhat surprisingly) very emotionally compelling. He’s lost everything, and is still clinging to belief in his god’s mercy and forgiveness, in the face of rejection and temptation. They manage to balance the generally light tone while clearly showing his inner despair excellently.

The production values are surprisingly high for a budget internet show, and the world that’s been created is rich and multi-faceted. There’s action, romance, suspense, and long conversations about Orcish grammar in the midst of a fight. What else could you ask for? Watch it for free here.

Both JourneyQuest and The Gamers films (also great) are distributed by Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. As a crazed fan, I’m avidly watching to see when they’ll get the next season of JQ out. As an erstwhile economist, I’m avidly watching to see if their pricing/distribution model is going to work. This is an independent film company, and in the past they seem to have mostly funded their products through KickStarter (A program where you can donate in tiered levels to get varying rewards – e.g. when fully funded and created, your $10 donation gets you a digital download, $25 gets you a dvd, $1500 gets you a cameo in the film, etc.).

They’re currently running “Phase II” wherein they’re trying to move to a subscription model. Fans are asked to pay $10 a month, and the reward system is based on the total number of subscribers, not your contribution. I should note again that, by intention, all of their major productions are free to watch on the internet. This is somewhat similar to paying for a Netflix subscription, even if Netflix were offering all their films online for free.

I had a very long and boring article detailing why I think this won’t work, which I scrapped because it was, well, long and boring. It was fun to put on my Economist hat for a while and use terms like product differentiation, price discrimination, etc., but here’s the bottom line: they’ve set up a pricing system that caters to one rigid fan type – their model assumes all fans are interested in the same rewards, and willing to pay no more and no less than $10 a month for those rewards. This is a problem for fans who aren’t interested in these rewards in exchange for $120 a year, and also a problem because they’re not capturing fans who would be interested in spending more money, or who would be interested in spending $120 a year, but on different rewards/products, or even fans who would be willing to pay $60 a year.

The Kickstarter model as described above works well because it helps differentiate between these fans, and everyone is able to choose at what level to contribute, and in exchange for what.

If ZOE were to ask me (hah!) for some suggestions on increasing revenue without using Kickstarter, I’d suggest a) streamlining their website so you can find what you’re looking for more easily (content is spread out across several different websites, including some broken links) – i.e. make it easy to find things to purchase, and b) have more things to purchase.

Businesses make money by selling solutions to problems or products people want, not by giving away all their content. I do recognize some of the reasons they want to give content away, and I think it’s great. However, I think they should ALSO sell it to the people who would be interested in buying it. There’s no reason not to. Selling digital downloads of all of their content would be an easy step, and people who are tired of navigating episodes on YouTube (plus having to watch the intro/outros for every 10 minute episode) will happily spend $10 bucks to have it in one easy to watch format that can be transferred to their phones, tablets, ipods, whatever. As for myself, I couldn’t find digital versions of everything I wanted on their website (broken link for JourneyQuest, though I did buy The Gamers: Hands of Fate) so I bought the dvds of the first two seasons of JQ, and was happy to do so.

They’ve shunned ads and sponsors in order to keep their artistic integrity and maintain control over their products. That’s very noble, but I think there might be some level of ads/sponsorships that would have been acceptable and could have been a decent source of funding.

Also, I was shocked that there’s not more merchandise – they have some, but not much. It’s super easy to set up a CafePress or Zazzle store (I did find one of theirs that had some posters in it). These stores handle all the distribution, customer support, etc. and all you really need is some ideas and a basic ability to use photo-editing software. The hard part is the ideas, but they already have a ton of easily translatable ideas. I for one am generally not a t-shirt person, but I would love a “Bravery favors the Brave” t-shirt. It’s a line from an episode (and I think it’s the title as well). Or an “Onward!” shirt. Or maybe “Team Rilk”. That plus a JourneyQuest logo somewhere on it would provide revenue and more word of mouth advertising (word of t-shirt?). Nerds love nerdy t-shirts (see for example ThinkGeek – I buy a lot of Christmas/birthday presents on there), and the more obscure the better. It’s an easy win. It wouldn’t be a huge stream of money – the percentage royalties the stores give you aren’t huge, but if you couple it with an affiliate link it’s nothing to sneeze at, and once you have the ideas the amount of work to put it up once and then do nothing else is pretty small. I’ve been surprised that I’m able to cover the costs of running my site with the revenue from my CafePress store (/shameless plug). They could even let fans design t-shirts.

So anyways, I don’t think that the ZOE “Phase II” will be successful long term, but I hope I’m wrong, or at least that they’re able to find some way to fund JQ Season Three. Like yesterday. I can’t wait!

Do you watch shows on YouTube? What webseries are your favorites?

P.S. Guys, if you’re reading this, please can you make a “bravery” t-shirt? I will totally buy it. Here’s an idea:

Bravery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

 

 

Review of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990) (Jurassic Park Series)

Bottom line: A classic, both in paper and on the screen, that is worth the hype.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.

Until something goes wrong. . . .

Review:

I had not read Jurassic Park, nor seen the movie, until a few weeks ago. I’d read maybe one or two other of Michael Crichton’s work, so I was looking forward to getting into this classic – and not just so I could then watch the movie, which I’d been hearing about for years.

Jurassic Park did not disappoint. It’s certainly a Crichton: full of action, a sense of impending doom, slightly flat characters, and very engrossing. As the proud holder of a math degree, I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the jerk-mathematician-academic-rockstar. I thought it started out a little slow in the beginning, building up to the “hey, look, we made dinosaurs!” part, but the beginning pieces did help add to the tension and mystery surrounding the park.

The movie was a fairly stressful for me. I realized about halfway into it that it’s really a horror movie: things jumping out at you from the darkness to rip you apart. Knowing who was going to die and approximately when just made it more tense for me as I waited for the bad things to happen. I don’t think I could watch it again.

I will say that I was completely astonished by how well the twenty year old special effects have held up. Because they used a mixture of puppets/animatronics and CGI (according to my movie consultant/husband), it doesn’t feel as dated as say, the Lord of the Rings movies which are about ten years old and rely much more heavily on CGI, which were perhaps not quite up to the challenge.

The kids in the movie were much more realistic and less annoying than they were in the book, although I thought the lone female academic was wimpier in the movie version. I also enjoyed the book’s more detailed exposition of both the science being discussed and the steps that led to the massive failures of the park. In the movie it was easier to keep track of the different characters – at least for me, since I had a hard time keeping Crichton’s more supporting characters straight in the book.

In all, I’m glad I finally got around to watching such an iconic movie, even though (as usual) the book was better. It was a fun and engaging read, but I don’t feel drawn to the world enough to explore other books in the series.

Get it (Book): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Get it (Movie): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Bottom line: A movie that is 100% fun, and the book that inspired it.

Rating: Strongly Recommended for the movie, Recommended for the book

Blurb:

William Goldman’s modern fantasy classic is a simple, exceptional story about quests—for riches, revenge, power, and, of course, true love—that’s thrilling and timeless.

Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible—inconceivable, even—to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup, but the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you’ll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that’s home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.”

Review:

The Princess Bride movie version gets about 10 out of 5 stars from me. It’s sweet, funny, memorable, and might just be one of my favorite movies of all time. I actually had no idea it was based on a book until very recently, and I had a recommendation for it, so I thought I’d give it a try – not without some trepidation, as in my experience either the book is good or the movie is good, but generally not both, and I was afraid of ruining one of my beloved childhood classics if I hated the book.

The book is quite odd in some respects. It’s framed as an abridgement of (the fictional) S. Morgenstern’s “classic” story of the true history of the nations of Florin and Guilder.  It’s a fairy tale fantasy wrapped in layer upon layer of fiction. I’m a very literal person, and I like there to be a pretty distinct line between fiction and non-fiction. I’m ok with books being framed as “truth” when it’s pretty clear that we’re reading fiction (as in the Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy). But Goldman is telling you the story of his childhood, and about his life with his wife and son, presented as fact. Frankly, he’s kind of a jerk about both of them, and I was relieved to learn that that part was also made up. To me it felt like the difference between a practical joke at someone’s expense, and just a joke – Goldman’s fake narrative of his life feels mean spirited at times. He’s at his best when he’s actually telling the story of the Princess Bride, although I kind of hated that in the book, Buttercup is really, really stupid.

I feel like the movie (which Goldman wrote the screenplay for) kept all the great parts of the book, and smoothed out some of the rougher edges, so that the result is just an incredibly fun, swashbuckling fairytale movie that can make fun of itself. I think the book is worth reading if you were a huge fan of the movie and want to see where it all started, but I don’t know that I’d recommend it in and of itself. I’m still trying to sort through whether I liked it or not – when I finished instead of thinking to myself “Wow, I loved it!” or “That was terrible!” or any of the usual things I think when I’ve finished a book, I thought, “Well, that was different.”

Have you read the book? How much did you love the movie?

Get it – book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Get it – movie: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Movie Picks for Winter 2013

I’ll be honest: I don’t get out much. That’s true in general, but more specifically for movies. I don’t really enjoy the whole experience – ads, trailers, uncomfortable chairs, exorbitant prices, annoying seatmates, etc. and since I have a baby, if I’m going to get out of the house without him, I want to do something that I enjoy more.

However, I did see Catching Fire (Hunger Games 2) AND The Desolation of Smaug (The Hobbit 2) in theatres (courtesy Nana, babysitter extraordinaire – thanks, Nana!) a few weeks ago (which is two more movies than I’d seen all year) and was reminded that for some movies, seeing it on the big screen does add to the overall experience. It’s also a great thing to do when the weather is miserable, or if the kids are off school and already bored with their Christmas presents.

So here are my top picks for movies currently out.

1. Catching Fire – this was truly amazing. I didn’t have a single moment of wanting to scream, “They messed that up from the book! That’s not how it happened!” Also, the epic-ness of the action and arena and all that really lent itself to the big screen. Plus, we went on a Tuesday evening and there were maybe eight other people in the theatre. Score. (See my review of the first Hunger Games movie here).

2. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (i.e. The Hobbit 2). I saw this in 3D, and it was the first time I saw a feature film in 3D. I HATED it. I found it distracting and annoying. The technology isn’t quite there, and so much of the screen just looks blurry to me. Plus, they add in things, like bees flying at you or whatnot, to be like, “look how great we are! this is in THREE D!” Anyways, this was an excellent movie. I’ve pretty much stopped thinking of this series as “The Hobbit” and am just thinking about it as a way to spend more time in Middle Earth. It did make me want to reread The Hobbit, just to remind myself of how much it was actually changed from the book. For what it’s worth, my non-Tolkein-obsessed husband enjoyed it the most of any of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies. (See my review of the first Hobbit movie here).

3. Thor: The Dark World. I’ve heard mixed review of this, but I’m looking forward to it. I probably won’t get to it before it comes out to rent, but I’ve been really impressed with the whole rash of Marvel superhero movies that have been released in the recent past.

4. Ender’s Game. I know, I know. I’m like months behind on this. See the whole “baby” thing above. But I would still like to see it in theatres, though I realize the odds of that are dwindling – it’s down to two showings locally. (See my review of the book here.)

5. Frozen. I have a baby, ok? Plus it’s by the Tangled team (which Disney is REALLY pushing hard), and I absolutely loved Tangled. I almost certainly won’t get to see this one while it’s out, but it’s high on my rental list.

What about you? What’s on your holiday movie viewing agenda?

 

Review of Young Frankenstein (1974) Movie

In celebration of Halloween on Thursday, I’m going to review Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. For those of you who are familiar with Mel Brooks, those four words pretty much tell you all that you need to know. It’s Mel Brooks putting his classic touch on the Frankenstein story. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mel Brooks, I’m sorry for your difficult childhood, and please go watch Spaceballs immediately. The humor is crude, the acting is over the top, the lines are ridiculous – in other words pretty much everything you could ever want in a movie.

If you’re still not sure if this movie is one you’d enjoy, let me give you a hint: my female relatives are reading this and wondering where they went wrong with me, while my male relatives are reading this and thinking “man, it’s been a while, I need to watch it again!” It is certainly the type of movie that you need to be in the mood for – slapstick comedies don’t always fit the bill for an evening in, but it is really funny and showcases some greats: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Khan, and even Gene Hackman has a small bit.

My plans for Halloween are set: dress my baby up as Luke Skywalker, eat candy corn, and watch Young Frankenstein. I’m also wishing I could sedate our dog for the evening, as an anxious terrier plus trick-or-treating kids ringing the doorbell every five minutes is not a happy combination, but that’s neither here nor there.

Side note: It’s rated PG, which by today’s standards is probably technically accurate, but I’d call it more PG-13 lite. Apart from the rauncy bits, there are some parts that might be scary for younger children, so I’d definitely make sure you are very familiar with the movie before deciding whether or not to let your kids watch it.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What’s your favorite Mel Brooks movie? Can’t stand him? Anyone want to watch my dog on Oct. 31?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Firefly (TV Show)

Bottom line: Intense and yet often hilarious – a rare example of a good sci fi show.

Rating: Shiny (Strongly Recommended)

Blurb:

The blurb that follows is lifted from the Barnes and Noble page, and it’s a bit long, but it does a reasonable job of answering the question “but what is it about?

Joss Whedon, the executive producer behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, reached for curious new heights in the fall of 2002 with the Fox series Firefly, and the fruits of his labor are collected in this four-disc set. Set 500 years in the future, Firefly falls in the category of sci-fi space adventure, yet its flavor is rooted in the Wild West. Earth is pretty much spent, and a totalitarian government known as the Alliance rules the planets where most of its earlier inhabitants have spread. Nathan Fillion stars as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, who fought for independence from the Alliance in a civil war, and now captains the Serenity, a ship of outcasts. His crew includes his second-in-command Zoe Gina Torres, a pilot named Wash Alan Tudyk, engineering maven Kaylee Jewel Staite, and career soldier Jayne Adam Baldwin. Also aboard are Inara Morena Baccarin, a highly respected prostitute; a preacher known as Shepherd Book Ron Glass, of Barney Miller fame; and a mysterious pair of siblings — Simon and River Tam — portrayed by Sean Maher and Summer Glau, respectively. Although Whedon’s Farscape- meets- Bonanza concept clicked straight away with many fans, the series failed to meet Fox’s ratings needs, and crashed after 11 episodes, all collected here, in addition to a trio of unaired episodes. Fox could not permanently ground this crew, however; Serenity, a big-screen reunion movie directed by writer-producer Whedon, opened in theaters in September, 2005, drawing generally favorable reviews.

Review:

This show has many things that I would normally hate – there is lots of tension, drama, and unhappiness – but there is also excellent characters, strong morals, and subtly hilarious lines. Essentially, it is Joss Whedon (god of the nerds) at his finest. Shoot, it might be TV at its finest. It was cancelled after eleven episodes, and strong fan outrage prompted a follow up movie, Serenity, which is also amazing, but difficult to watch because there are so many sad moments in it. (Note: Firefly also has its very hard to watch moments. Don’t be scared off: I am a total wimp and want everyone to be happy all the time. Tone-wise it’s very similar to Castle – see my review here.)

So what is it that prompted such a small but incredibly intense following? Everything about it is done well. The casting, acting, writing, special effects, everything is just fantastic. The characters feel like real people and you root for them even when they screw up. Whedon developed the show after reading the book The Killer Angels (strongly recommended, even for non-history buffs, like myself) about the Civil War and wondering what happened to those who fought on the losing side.

This is the kind of show that you find yourself thinking about days, months, even years after watching it. I can’t watch it too frequently because, as I said earlier, it can be dark and there is definitely violence, language, and sex. Even with all of that, it still feels hopeful. Loyalty and family bonds are very strong themes throughout – family being those we are related to, those we gather around us, and those we somehow fell into it with. And if we have our family standing with us, we can face anything.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Are you a Browncoat? Does it sound like something you’d try?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Host (2008) by Stephenie Meyer

Bottom line: A fun science fiction story with great characters, action, and romance.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST
is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

Review:

Ok, I have to get this off my chest. Stephenie Meyer is not a terrible author. Please don’t flame me. I know it’s cool to hate on her, and a lot of very smart people have put a lot of creative energy and time into mocking her and her works. Much of which I have enjoyed. (I wanted to link to some, but I couldn’t find any that were solidly within this blog’s…ah…high ideals).

And no, I don’t think she is one of our age’s great literary talents. However, she is a great storyteller. She is actually pretty good at world-building, and her dialogue can be funny and clever. I don’t want to do an in-depth analysis of the Twilight series, but I will say that I’ve read the books, more than once, and I enjoyed them. It started with my sister-in-law, who is several years younger than me and in high school at the time. She had rented the movie, so I, my husband, his brother and his wife all watched it, basically so we could tear it apart. It was horrifically bad. The acting was atrocious, the dialogue was terrible, and I couldn’t think of any reason why ANYONE could possibly have enjoyed that experience. So after that, I had to read the books to see why so many people were passionately devoted to it. As a side note, I think the movies failed (I only saw the first two, then lost interest) because they took out much of the dialogue, which was one of the better features of the books, and the humor. And I will address one of the main points critics bring up: that these books don’t portray a healthy teenage relationship between Edward and Bella. Well, no. But it’s not like Meyer is the first person who has done that. Can you say “Romeo and Juliet”?

Anyways, like I said, I didn’t want to do a full in-depth analysis of the Twilight series here, but I did want to give some background as to how I got into the Host, and you can’t talk about Stephenie Meyer without mentioning Twilight. So, on to the main attraction:

The Host is a sci-fi romance. It’s a very clean romance, and the love story parts of it were handled well. But the world-building in The Host is VERY good. Meyer created interesting and believable species of aliens, and you get some very great details and stories of life on other planets without it feeling like she’s showing off this universe she’s made up (which I occasionally feel with some sci-fi or fantasy authors). There’s action and suspense and tension, and I think her skill as a storyteller really shines through with The Host. I even have, and this is my coup d’état here, a real life MAN who enjoyed it. My husband listened to it on audiobook and thought it was, and I’m quoting verbatim here, “pretty good.” High praise from an actual male.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side note: We just watched the movie a few nights ago (it’s now available to rent), and I thought it was a fairly good adaptation. They changed quite a few things, as they do, but they captured the main essence. They did leave out quite a bit of the world building that I had enjoyed so much in the book, but I can see why they did. The casting was pretty good, and I liked how they changed the opening. The last couple of scenes were handled much better in the book, but that’s life. It was a fun way to pass an evening. The only thing that annoyed me was that there was a LOT of kissing. If you took out all the kissing scenes, it would have been like a 45 minute movie. I felt like that kid from the Princess Bride movie, and wished we could just skip over most of them.

Movie available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Ok, confess. Any Meyer fans out there?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bottom line: It’s a deeply beloved classic for a reason. Read it!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

There are many types of nerds/geeks (also, I prefer the term nerd to geek, but that’s a topic for another post) out there in society – Dr. Who nerds, Star Trek nerds, Star Wars nerds, and so on. While there are many different ways that I am nerdy, I am a Lord of the Rings nerd through and through. Yes, it’s a billion pages long. Yes, there aren’t any female main characters. Yes, there are some plot points that rely too heavily on eucatastrophe (a word he coined). But it is SO good! Tolkien created a masterpiece of storytelling and world-building, an epic tale of how one small (literally) person can save the world (um – spoiler alert?). He certainly gets points for thoroughness, creating a complex history and mythology of his world, and at least one complete language. The Lord of the Rings was conceived as a sequel to The Hobbit, though that is a children’s book and this is certainly not – at least in terms of length, prose, and themes.

My favorite characters are Eowyn and Faramir, the former being one of the few women in the saga – and a pretty awesome one at that. Faramir is an overlooked son of a noble, and is strong in actions and character. In my opinion, both of these characters are pretty underrated, so when you read it, keep an eye out for them.

I recognize that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it is certainly an epic high fantasy quest, which means that the good guys have to get from point A to point B to complete a task while using magic, sword fighting, their wits, and help from strange creatures along the way to defeat the unspeakably evil bad guys and save the world – but it is worth reading, at least once (I reread it maybe every three years or so. In fact, writing this post has made me realize I’m due for another reread.) Though the setting is fantasy, the themes are incredibly relatable – friendship, betrayal, loss, good vs. evil, family, love, pity, and many more. If you aren’t really “that type of person” and only read one epic fantasy in your life, read this one. You won’t regret it! Also, I urge you to read it as a paperback, the experience is just so much better.

Books in order:

The Fellowship of the Rings (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Two Towers (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Return of the King (1955)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Side notes:

Though there are some hard things in it, there isn’t graphic violence, no sex, and the language is clean. You could share this with your kids as soon as they’re old enough to not be overwhelmed by the sheer length of it (there are some deaths of fairly major characters).

There were movie adaptations of the trilogy released in 2001, 2002, and 2003. On the whole I thought they were very well done. They (well, Peter Jackson) did manage to ruin Faramir almost completely, but other than that the quality was consistently high throughout the 10 hours or so of movies.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the series?

(P.S., if you have already read the LOTR and want to show your pride, you can always check out ThinkGeek. They have LOTR LEGOS, people! Also furry hobbit slippers. )

(P.P.S., After you’ve read the books and watched the movies, then you have my permission to watch How it Should Have Ended. Also, the Honest Trailers is pretty funny, but it’s very graphic (there is a montage of one of the characters dying in really gruesome ways in other movies), so it doesn’t get the Lector’s Books thumbs up.)

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Family Fridays – Avatar: The Last Airbender TV Series

TV Show: Avatar: The Last Airbender (this has nothing to do with the James Cameron Avatar movie)

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Anime

Ages: 8-10 on up, depending on the child

Synopsis:

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Only the Avatar was the master of all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless Fire Nation from conquering the world. But when the world needed him most, he disappeared. Until now… On the South Pole, a lone Water Tribe village struggles to survive. It’s here that a young Waterbender named Katara and her warrior brother Sokka rescue a strange boy named Aang from a cavernous iceberg. Not only is Aang an Airbender–a race of people no one has seen in a century–but they soon discover that Aang is also the long lost Avatar. Now it’s up to Katara and Sokka to make sure Aang faces his destiny to save the tribe–and himself. Did we mention he’s only 12?

Review:

My husband and I have watched all three seasons of this more than once. It’s a fun show that has great world building, some beautiful art, and interesting characters. I’m going to call the style “anime-lite.” I am not an anime lover (though I am an animal lover) – I’ve tried a couple of different shows and could just never get into any of them. This show has some of the overly stylized elements of anime, some episodes more than others, but they didn’t annoy me as they often do.

This is a classic “good vs. evil” saga, and there are some darker episodes (this is, after all, about a world war), but if your child is used to watching superhero cartoons, this is pretty tame by those standards. It takes the traditional four elements, adds a touch of magic, and then makes them into martial art forms. There are some really great themes explored that go beyond the usual friendship, love, loyalty, etc. For example, Aang, the main character, really struggles with how to bring peace to the world but still remain true to his nonviolent beliefs. Also there is a flying bison.

It is aimed at the younger generation, but if you are a fantasy fan, it’s definitely worth checking out at any age. It’s available at Barnes & Noble, and is free to stream from Netflix and Amazon prime.

Side Note: There was a movie adaptation, which looked terrible, so I haven’t seen it. Reviewers have not been kind to it. There is also a continuation of the series called “The Legend of Korra” which takes place a couple of generations later than the original series. This is much darker and has a steampunk edge to it. I found it to be too much stress for very little emotional payoff. I’m told that it got better a couple of episodes in, but life is too short to watch shows you don’t like.

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Family Fridays – Star Wars Edition

Ok, so today is May the third, which means that tomorrow is May the fourth. As in, May the Fourth Be With You, also known as Star Wars Day. (See CollegeHumor’s take here.  Since this is a Family Fridays feature, I’ll warn you that there is a “b-” word in there.) So for today’s Family Friday I’m going to celebrate Star Wars. I will spare you all a rant detailing George Lucas’s many sins after first releasing the original three movies…except to say that of all the horrible things he did to the original movies, I think the worst one is inserting random flashes of light during fight sequences. For those of us who tend to be headache-prone, this was not only completely unnecessary and distracting, but also potentially painful.

Anyways, the original movies are really fun family movies. Apart from the dialog they’re just great. Some of the effects look a bit aged now, and the splicing in of later technology was not done very well, but this epic, “Good Shall Triumph” saga is well worth sitting through a few bumps in the road. All three are rated PG, and the most risqué thing in all three films is Carrie Fisher wearing a metal bikini. There is fighting and death, but also some great themes of friendship, loyalty, redemption, good vs. evil, family bonds and so on. The newer movies seemed much more graphic to me than the original trilogy. When I did some research online, I saw that people were letting their kids watch Star Wars as early as five years old (or younger!), and some were waiting until ten years old. I wish I remember how old I was when I first saw them, but I do remember being very afraid of Darth Vader. Then again, I’ve always been kind of a wuss. I don’t know what we’ll do with our son – he loves the soundtrack; sometimes the Imperial March (Vader theme) was the only thing that would calm him down and get him to sleep (should I be worried that he has a natural affinity towards evil?). I personally would probably lean more towards waiting until he’s closer to ten than five, but my husband may have other ideas.

I haven’t read any of the adult books set in the Star Wars universe, but for Christmas last year my brother gave me a book called Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. It is absolutely genius. It’s a collection of one page cartoons (so it doesn’t follow a story line), exploring the theme of how Darth Vader would go about his business if he also was raising young Luke Skywalker. Many are laugh out loud funny, some are poignantly sweet, and if some make you tear up a little bit (hey, I was nine months pregnant!), just remember how the story ends. [As an aside, my other brother gave me “Goodnight, iPad”, which deserves its own post. It was an excellent Christmas.]

This weekend, treat yourself to a trip down memory lane and watch Star Wars. After you’ve done so, check out Darth Vader and Son. And whatever you do, remember: “May the Fourth be with you!” Force. I meant Force.