Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

10 Geeky Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

(I’m writing my Christmas post now because my next post is most likely to be my reaction to The Force Awakens)

This is a bit of my OCD talking: I’m a skeptic when it comes to mixing sci-fi and fantasy with Christmas.  I was raised in a family where the religious side of Christmas was always observed, and I’ve continued that in my adult life.  Mixing Christmas with Disney princesses or superheroes or so forth can make me a little uncomfortable.  Holiday specials featuring these characters can get a little on the cheesy side so I tend to avoid those.  Storm troopers in Santa hats?  I’ll have to tell you no.  If we’re talking fan art, I might be a little more receptive.  Yes, I believe that Christmas is “magical,” but I don’t like to mix it with other people’s definitions of that magic.  Christmas should be about Christmas! I’m not a total purist, I’m just really picky.

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Why Captain America Isn’t Perfect

This is part 3 of the 3-part Road to Civil War series.

WARNING!  SPOILERS FOR ANT-MAN BELOW.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The question everyone seems to be asking is why the Civil War installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a Captain America movie?  The truth is, we won’t have all the answers until it comes out.  However, here are some of my thoughts from what we’ve heard about the plot and based on my observations of Steve Rogers.

Captain America as a Leader

At the end of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see Captain America squarely in charge of a new Avengers team. The actions of this team under his leadership will lead to the debate over the regulation of superheroes. 

If you want to fight with Captain America, you better do it his way Marvel via Film School Rejects

If you want to fight with Captain America, you better do it his way
Marvel via Film School Rejects

Steve Rogers thinks of himself first and foremost as a soldier, but he has always been a leader. I f people expect Captain America to lead them, then he expects them to work like an army does. In Captain America: The First Avenger, he is the unquestioned leader of the Howling Commandos, and even the directors of the Strategic Scientific Reserve look to him to lead the fight against Hydra.  We don’t see much of the men who followed him aside from Bucky, but I think he had a good working relationship with these guys that probably set his expectations for similar experiences a little high.  

When Captain America goes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., the situation is far from ideal.  What Steve Rogers expects from those who work with him is trust.  He prefers to know what other people are doing and what’s going on, whereas Nick Fury thinks it’s safer to “compartmentalize” assignments and secrets.  Finding out that S.H.I.E.L.D. was controlled by Hydra is the last straw. From then on, Captain America doesn’t want to be in a position where he isn’t calling the shots. Being in control is Steve’s way of coping with the fact that he can’t trust other people’s motives.

Cap in the Age of Ultron

Steve decides to take out the remnants of Hydra, but it is unclear whether he asked the other Avengers for help or if they volunteered.  But destroying Hydra is Steve’s project, so they let him decide what they do.  To an extent they consider him the leader, and he may even think of himself as one.

Tony Stark referred to Captain America as “the boss” at one point during Age of Ultron, but Tony doesn’t treat him the way Steve expects he would if he really thought that. In The Avengers Tony is condescending and even resentful toward him.  After the two work together for some time, there’s a little more respect and even some liking.  Yet Steve expects that the other Avengers follow his directions and not do anything to jeopardize them or their mission.  Tony Stark does his own thing. And Steve mistrusts Tony for this.

Tony wanted to see Cap's dark side: well, he got what he asked for over the cradle. Marvel via Transparent Things

Tony wanted to see Cap’s dark side: well, he got what he asked for.
Marvel via Transparent Things

Steve is more concerned at first about preventing Ultron from causing more problems.  But then Wanda Maximoff warns Steve the being Ultron was creating with the Mind Stone could be put to use by Tony Stark—and Steve takes it very poorly. His only thought is to prevent Tony from creating another Ultron, and he’s offended that Tony’s attitude and behavior are hurting the team as well as the world.  Civil War as good as almost started over Vision’s cradle.

It would be wrong to say that Steve isn’t sad to see the breakup of the original Avengers.  But at the same time I think he’s looking forward to working with the new team that has come together, probably more or less at his invitation. He has an advantage with this new team because he can set new terms for their working relationship. He can teach them how to work together, trust each other, and rely on each other in ways that the original Avengers never could: the way he wants them to.

So one of the hard parts of Civil War will be watching all of Steve’s hopes and expectations for the new Avengers go down the drain.

A Product of War

Captain America was created to fight a war that, for the rest of the world, ended seventy years ago.  But the war never ended for Steve, and the best thing he can think of doing is continuing to fight.

The things we think are temporary may end up being permanent. Marvel via DarlingStewie.com

The things we think are temporary may end up being permanent.
Marvel via DarlingStewie.com

During World War II, all civilian resources—food, clothing, and even entertainment—were redirected to the military and to mustering support for the war effort. It was a time period when people ate, slept, and breathed war.  Cap went on the ice.  The rest of the world had time to transition, but Steve didn’t. So a part of him still eats, sleeps, and breathes war because he didn’t get to see it end.  And whatever closure he thinks he has—Hydra being vanquished, for instance—is an illusion.

When he got up, furthermore, he was asked almost right away to help save the world from Loki. Steve never intended to be Captain America for the rest of his life, but that’s what nearly everyone else wants him to be.  So he has chosen to be a superhero: that is “home” for Steve now.  And if it is his job to keep the world safe, then he will do whatever he thinks is right to get the job done.  His job from the war, stopping Hydra, was left undone, so he is going to finish it. And his mind, it is an army—in this case, the Avengers—that is the best chance of stopping Hydra.

Doing the Right Thing as a Weakness

A lot of people don’t see why Steve had to crash the Valkyrie at the end of The First Avenger.  My explanation is that Steve didn’t want the world to have access to the Hydra weapons or technology that was on that plane: Hydra was so evil that he wanted to destroy it and every evil thing it created.  And, of course, he held Hydra responsible for Bucky’s “death.” 

A good captain goes down with the ship, right? Marvel via cinemablend

A good captain goes down with the ship, right?
Marvel via Cinemablend

Steve does whatever he thinks is right at all costs, and if you disagree with him about what it takes to keep the world safe, then he is not giving you the benefit of a doubt. 

In Captain America: Civil War, Steve will encounter a serious barrier to his goal of fighting Hydra just as Hydra is regaining strength, and his attitudes and choices in that time will put him in conflict with Iron Man and other superheroes.  And then we have the Ant-man post-credit scene. From the dialogue and other inferences about the situation, we know that Bucky Barnes turning up again in this manner only complicates an already difficult situation.  But why did Marvel choose to show this scene in particular?  Steve wants to help his best friend, at whatever cost to himself, and if he has to break the rules—if he has to fight Tony Stark—to do so, needless to say it’s going to get ugly.

How far will Steve go to make sure he doesn't lose his friend again? Marvel via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki

How far will Steve go to make sure he doesn’t lose his friend again?
Marvel via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki

Bucky is the only thing Steve has from the life he used to know: before he was a soldier, before ANYTHING.  If Steve can save Bucky, then he will be able, in some small way, to “come home.” It isn’t right this time: it’s personal. 

But Steve, however, will put his personal happiness on the line to do what he thinks is right.  I am prepared at this point to accept the possibility that Steve might even die in Civil War.  What I am really worried about is, can Steve put up with all of this and still be a good person?  

That’s the best speculation I can give you for now.  But of course, it could all change the moment the trailer comes out.

 

The 10 Best Geeky Movie Franchises

Who doesn’t love a major blockbuster franchise? I think everyone does, especially the studios who make said films, and consequently make lots of money. These films have a tendency to be a huge part of our lives. We literally spend years waiting for the next one to come out, and then when it does come out we pick it apart with our friends and begin waiting for the next one. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t anticipating a new film. Granted, sometimes I was waiting for films that probably weren’t really coming out. That was before our magical information age, so I was relying on friends, who had no more information than I did.

In any case, I have taken it upon myself to seek out the 10 greatest geeky film franchises, and then to rank them from 10 to 1. Why? Because, obviously, I love starting arguments. You won’t agree with my list. That’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, however incorrect it might be. Just  joshing’ you. A list like this is absolutely subjective, so your list would definitely be different from mine, and that’s ok.

You’ll notice that the Marvel movies did not make my list. I love these films, for the most part, but I felt like a whole “Cinematic Universe” was too broad. Since I am the one making the list, I felt comfortable making the rules, like that one. I also did not include two franchises that were the same, like the 1990’s Batman and Nolan’s Dark Knight, or Star Trek and the new Star Trek. I picked one or the other.

This list is supposed to be anything ground breaking. Mostly it was just for fun, and to hopefully start a conversation or two. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. We love hearing from you.

10. The Spider-Man Trilogy

SpidermanThis trilogy seemed like the first big Superhero hit of the century. This thing was just massive when the first one came out. It was well done, as it brought Spider-Man to the big screen for the first time. It’s interesting because this was before Marvel Studios was really a thing, so they were more invested in this one. Go back and watch these films. They feel like the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, more than the recent Amazing series. Tobey Maguire was great as Peter Parker and was decent as Spider-Man. The suit was spot on. Everything was pretty good. It was a shame that it was rebooted so quickly after the third film was released.

The Best

By far, in my opinion, the best film of the trilogy was number 2. The story seemed to flow the best, and Doc Ock was fantastic. I think it worked because there was one, count ’em, one villain in the film. That just seems to work the best. It built on to what we saw in the first film, and had the classic moment where Pete decides to hang up the suit for good. As well as the classic moment where he saves the train and the people of New York finally really embrace him as a hero. Start to finish, this installment was the most watchable.

The Stinker

Number 3 is the infamous franchise killer. If this installment had just been any good at all, Tobey Maguire may be getting ready for his close up in Avengers instead of a new Spider-Man being cast. Start to finish, this film was just not good. Part of the problem? It was the opposite of what we saw in 2- it had too many villains. For some reason there always seems to be a desire with a superhero franchise to begin character cramming. It never turns out well. Ever.

9. Back to the Future

vmtcdyxThere were few movies that were as cool as Back to the Future when I was a kid. I loved these films. Each of them was one of my favorites growing up. I always dreamed of someday having a DeLorean of my own. It has yet to happen, but I am holding out hope. I loved watching the adventures of Marty and Doc, and I always get sad when number 3 comes to an end and it’s all over. Despite all the 80s references, it is still timeless in a lot of ways. My kids watched the first one a couple of weeks ago and really liked it quite a bit.

The Best

The best of the series was the original. It had the tightest story (notice I said tightest, not necessarily tight), and the fewest gimmicks. It seems like the second and third movie thrived on the gimmicks and the same jokes from the first one, just replayed in different times. The first one was just so original, it is hard to top. It is the main reason why the franchise has endured as long as it has.

The Stinker

Number 3. It was just too cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, number 3 is still a lot of fun, and out of nostalgia, I still love watching it, but it is just not the same quality of the first film.

8. X-Men

x-men-group-fox-is-creating-an-x-men-tv-show-what-will-it-be-likeWhere does the X-Men movie franchise end? is it 2 separate franchises, or just one? With Days of Future Past, it became one franchise. I grew up in the 90s watching the old X-Men cartoons, and I was in love with them just as much as any other kid alive at the time. It was just amazing when this franchise was launched, and seeing Hugh Jackman step into the Wolverine role for the first time was just incredible. He was born to play the part. As was Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. I remember thinking he would be a perfect Xavier if they ever got around to making an X-Men film. I was right.

The Best

My personal favorite was X-2. I always liked the story of how Wolverine becomes Wolverine. I have also liked the Nightcrawler character. I’m sure is has nothing to do with the fact that he is German. The second movie was a lot of fun from start to finish. Although, First Class is a close second for me. It was also very solid and enjoyable.

The Stinker

Easy. Last Stand. I am can’t tell you how happy I am that Days of Future Past basically retconned that Last Stand never happened. It should have never happened. I wish it hadn’t. Unfortunately, I do remember paying good money to see it in the theater.

7. Harry Potter

Harry-potter-filmsOne of the best modern book series became one of the best geeky movie franchises. There is a definite shift in these films as they transition from Chamber of Secrets to Prisoner of Azkaban, just like the books did. The young actors were not very good at first. They got by mostly on just being “cute,” but they grew into their roles and each one was pretty good toward the end. The movies may not have followed the books perfectly, but I think they did a great job capturing the feeling of the books, which is really almost the best one can hope for.

The Best

For me, I have to say, I really dig any of the movies from Order of the Phoenix onward. They are paced well, and pretty action packed. That’s saying something, because I did not enjoy the Order of the Phoenix book. It was one of my least favorites.

The Stinker

The Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for our British friends). The kids were just learning how to be actors and just developing their chemistry together. Plus, it was like a Disney version of Harry Potter. It was way family centric and almost kid focused. It started getting better with Prisoner of Azkaban.

6. Superman

publicity-photo-superman-the-movie-20409126-1600-1080Superman: The Motion Picture was pretty amazing for its time. I understand it doesn’t compare to what we see today as far as special effects, but it’s not bad either. Plus, Christopher Reeves will always be Superman in my mind. I admit that this is probably higher up on the list for me simply because I grew up watching these movies constantly. I’ll admit right here that Superman has always been my favorite, and I know I am opening it up for all the Batman and anti-Superman folks to send me hate mail or stop following my blog, but I’m proud of my love for Big Blue.

The Best

For me, none of the films in this series touches Superman II. That was always my favorite. I think the main reason why is because Superman actually had a real challenge on his hands with 3 other beings just as powerful to fight against. Then to top it all off, he had just given up his powers to be with Lois. Yes, the costumes definitely date the movie, but 30 years from now, some other blogger, or whatever they will be doing then, will be writing about how the costumes in Man of Steel date that movie.

The Stinker

Superman III. Out of all the stinkers on this list, this one is the one that I will say go ahead and just skip it. There is no reason to watch it, unless you have a couple of hours you simply don’t want.

5. Indiana Jones

indy_200s-c20eab301543d37f3db8f450889906c7fc72d1a6-s6-c30Indiana Jones was the reason I wanted to study History as I got older. I know, he was an archaeologist, but in High School, History was as close as I could get to Archaeology. Then I found out that archaeologists don’t have adventures like Indiana Jones, plus, in History class, I learned about how the Nazis were not really around anymore, so it kind of lost some of its magic. Not completely, though. Indiana did really teach me that there was value in the past and that it was worth studying. I credit him for my love of History. Plus, Harrison Ford was pretty much the coolest guy in the late 70s and through the 80s and early 90s. Who am I kidding, after walking away from that plane crash last week, he’s still the coolest guy around. Indy was so iconic, with his fedora and his leather satchel and jacket, and the whip. He was awesome. I loved this trilogy growing up, and I even have fond memories of seeing Last Crusade in the theater and thinking it was awesome. What a way to end the series. Let’s all pretend that’s how this paragraph can end.

The Best

Raiders of the Lost Ark is tough to beat. While Last Crusade will always have a special place in my heart because I remember seeing it in the theater and it started in Utah, Raiders is the superior movie. It is a classic in every sense of the word. This movie, along with Star Wars launched Harrison Ford from being a relative unknown to being a super star.

The Stinker

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Pretty easy choice, if you ask me. Maybe I need to go back and revisit the film, but it is just so hard. I left the theater thinking, “Why?!” Last Crusade was so perfect, this one just did not need to happen.

4. The Dark Knight Trilogy

dark-knight-this-dark-knight-rises-fan-theory-redefines-the-whole-damn-movie In an attempt to stem the thousands of comments I was sure to receive about how Batman is better than Superman, I have ranked Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy above the Superman series. It would be hard to rank it below. This was a very solid trilogy, and what I love most about it is that it was a trilogy. Nolan is not coming back to do another Batman film. He told his story, and now he has moved on. This trilogy really showed what Superhero movies could be. It’s no coincidence that this series is the highest ranking superhero franchise on my list.

The Best

Could there be any other choice? The Dark Knight is one of the most perfect films from start to finish. It was a masterpiece, from the storytelling to Heath Ledger’s Joker, it is hard to find a lot of fault with this movie. It has to be the best of the 3.

The Stinker

The Dark Knight Rises. It just didn’t flow as well as The Dark Knight, and Bane was a poor substitute for Joker, but for obvious reasons Joker did not return in this film. It wasn’t a horrible movie, so maybe calling it a stinker is unfair, but I had to pick one film to be a stinker from the trilogy.

3. Star Trek

hero_EB19791207REVIEWS905089998AR10 movies puts this franchise at the top of our list as far as number of installments. It is a testament to the endearing qualities of Star Trek that have allowed the franchise to last as long as it has and still be relevant. I selected the original, prime universe, franchise, and not the new rebooted universe franchise because of how long it lasted. I have always thought of Star Trek as the best of the best as far as Science Fiction goes, at least on TV and on film. Trek was such a big part of my growing up. I used to go through my house and pretend that there were sliding doors in every doorway, like my house was a starship. I would even do sound effects as I went from room to room. I mean I eventually grew out of it…when i got married and I was too embarrassed to let my wife know that I did that kind of weird stuff. Ok, fine, I do it when she is not at how and the kids are in bed. It’s really not that weird.

The Best

When you have so many films, it is hard to choose which one is the best. I have always been partial to First Contact because Picard is so awesome in it, but I think for the Best, I have to go with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is the movie that saved the franchise after the first Star Trek Movie was less than good. It is also the movie that set the pace of every even-numbered Star Trek being good, while each odd-numbered was typically not as good. Go ahead, look ’em up if you don’t believe me. It pretty much works out that way.

The Stinker

When you have this many movies, chances are there are a couple of stinkers in the bunch, but the stinkiest of the stinkers has to be Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. So much bad heaped into one movie. They almost had to make VI just to save the franchise and get it back on track. They couldn’t with this dung pile.

2. Star Wars

star_warsLet the arguments begin. How is this not number 1? I hear you, but I think it is indisputable that this belongs in the top 2 with my number 1, and the 2 franchises could be interchangeable, at least in my mind. So how did Star Wars end up at number 2? The stinker was just a little more stinker than number 1’s stinky. Star Wars has so many fond memories for me, but what I love is that the series remains pretty timeless. I know the prequels get a bad wrap, especially by people my age and older, but for my kids, the prequel are just part of the story, good or bad, it is the way it is. This and X-Men were the only franchises I had on this list that we know for sure are still going on. I will be eager to see how Episode VII turns out, even if it is a Christmas release. However, good news today as it was announced that Episode VIII will be end of May in 2017. That just feels right.

The Best

This comes down to A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back. For me personally, it is Empire Strikes Back. There was just always something great about this movie for me. The characters seemed more developed, more comfortable in their roles, and more complex. The story was also really good and flowed well. I love watching Empire Strikes Back, and the big reveal scene never gets old, even when I know it’s coming. I am right there with Luke shouting NO! Literally. I mean my wife usually has to calm me down and remind it’s only a movie.

The Stinker

A lot of people will say it Phantom Menace. I disagree. For me it is Attack of the Clones. I think part of the problem is the name. I could never get past the name. It just sounds stupid. I think the other part, and this is the bigger part for sure, was Hayden Christensen. Attack of the clones was painful for me from start to finish. This is the movie that is responsible for Star Wars at 2 instead of 1. This movie and Jar-Jar.

1. The Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit

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First of all, congratulations on making it to the end of what has ended up being a very long post. Congratulations, and thank you for reading and sticking with it. Yes, The Lord of the Rings is my number one. When you think about it, it has a lot in common with Star Wars. Both had very solid original trilogies,  followed up with prequel trilogies that were not as good. In my mind, the Hobbit trilogy, although obviously not needing to be a trilogy, is better than the Star Wars Prequels. Hence, it takes the number 1 spot. These movies are huge time commitment (much like this post), but they are always worth it. I can’t think of a time when I have been bored while watching these films, at least the original trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. The scene when Sam picks up Frodo and carries him up the mountain, it just hits me in the feels every time. So much so, that I won’t include the video here.

The Best

It is hard to say which of the Lord of the Rings movies is the best, and really they were all shot at the same time, and are all one continuous story, so the whole trilogy is the best, and should always be consumed in one sitting. Always.

The Stinker

The Desolation of Smaug. Just shouldn’t have happened. The Hobbit was too long by about one whole installment, maybe two. But definitely this one. And whoever heard of a romance between an elf maiden and a dwarf? No one, not even Tolkien.

Well, there’s my list. What did you think? Which ones do you agree with? And disagree? Let me know in the comments. I love hearing from you, and love talking about this stuff, so let me know. In any case, there’s a pretty good list of movies for you to watch, if, you know, you’re bored or anything like that.

My Geeky Christmas

Well, Christmas has officially come and is now gone for 2014.  Can you believe it?  This year felt weird in my part of the galaxy.  We normally have a couple of really good snowstorms by the time Christmas rolls around.  This year we had nothing until Christmas day, so it was harder to get in that Christmasy feeling.  Oh, well.  We managed alright.  I wanted to jump on here and share my Geeky Christmas with all of you.  For the first time in quite a few years, my wife and I agreed to get presents for each other.  Normally, we put all our efforts and resources into getting Christmas for the kids, but this year we felt like we could do something for each other.  My wife knocked it out of the park with her gifts.  Mine was a noble effort, but I think it missed the mark.  I wanted to share with you what my wife did this year for Christmas.

X-Wing and Millenium Falcon Prints from the Patent Office Etsy Shop.

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My wife knows  how much I love Star Wars, and wanted to find me something great this year for Christmas that is Star Wars related.  Specifically, she wanted to find something that I could hang on my “Geek Wall” in my office. It is a wall full of art from all the fandoms  I love. She read through my Star Wars gift list, but she wanted to find something on her own.  So she checked out Etsy an came across this little shop, called The Patent Office.  They have a bunch of Star Wars themed pictures like the ones pictured above.  I think they look really cool.  You have the option to get the print of your choice in vintage (an older looking off-white background), Blackboard (obviously, the one my wife chose, which shouldn’t be surprising when looking at my blog’s color scheme), or blueprint (it looks like it is on blueprint paper).  They have a ton of different ships, as well as other Star Wars tech like a lightsaber or Luke’s helmet.  They also have things like the Pulse Gun from Alien or Batman’s cowl.  I was really pleased when I opened these and they will make a great addition to the wall.

Tree of Gondor Print

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As another addition to my Geek Wall, my wife put together this little print of the Tree of Gondor.  I love this symbol for Lord of the Rings, and I was really excited when I saw it.  This print was only a 5×7, but that’s good, as my wall is running low on space.  Erica didn’t find this in any store online or anything.  She put this together on her own.  She put the tree on a background she found online, and then had the print printed out at Walmart.  She experimented with different backgrounds but settle on the grey background.  I think it turned out great.

Baby Groot

This picture will be coming soon.  I already took this in to my office at work, so i will need to take a picture later and add it to this post.  This gift I knew about because Jak, not knowing any better, mentioned to me that Mommy was making a baby Groot.  He didn’t know she was making it as a Christmas present.  It turned out great.  She found a pattern online and then crocheted the little guy, and then added him to a little pot.  The whole thing looks great, which you all will see someday.

That was my Geeky Christmas.  What about you?  Did you receive any geeky gifts for your holiday celebrations?  I hope so.  Feel free to share them in the comments.  I would love to hear about them.

Gifts from Middle Earth

As promised, here is my next Holiday gift guide. This time we will be looking at 10 gifts that are perfect for the special LOTR or Hobbit fan in your life. Just like the previous gift guides, if you see something you like, click on the picture and it will take you right to a site where you can purchase the item. I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of the sites, so I gain nothing from this, just here to help. So, let’s start our journey, our gift giving journey through Middle Earth.

1. The Precious

f27b_gold_plated_tungsten_carbide_one_ring

One gift to rule them all…

It’s a pretty hot item in Middle Earth. Everyone seems to want to get their hands on it. Now it can be yours. Granted, “One Ring” replicas have been around for a while, but if your favorite LOTR fan doesn’t have one, they probably want one. This particular one is available on ThinkGeek.com for $99.99 and is made of tungsten, plated in gold and available in various sizes. Beware: If you get this for a loved one, you may become only the second most important thing in their life, as this will obviously be number one.

2. Map of Middle Earth

f26d_hobbit_map_of_middle_earth

They don’t have GPS in Middle Earth, so make sure you have a map.

If you don’t know where you are going, you could end up anywhere. This map will help if you ever find yourself in Middle Earth and you need to find the shire. The truth is, one of the coolest things about fantasy novels is the maps that are almost always included in the book. Like everything else in the Fantasy genre, Tolkien set the standard for this. Now you can have a version of that map to hang on your wall at home. This particular one is available at ThinkGeek.com for $39.99 and is already mounted on wood, and would like nice on any wall.

3. The Lord of the Rings Card Game

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Card Game for the Ages

Folks who love fantasy books and movies are also usually folks who love board games and card games (not like Uno or SkipBo). When you can find a game that combines both, you usually have a hit on your hands. This is the Lord of the Rings Card Game. It is a cooperative game in which 2 players work together to win the game. A great game for game night when the kids go to bed. One where one side won’t feel bad because the other side is just so extremely smart and good at everything she does so there is now way I can ever beat her at any game, EVER!…I mean, generally speaking, and of course not from experience. This is available from Amazon.com for $31.95 and is prime eligible.

4. Gandalf and Saruman Salt and Pepper Shakers

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Because why not?

Nothing says “I am a really big fan” like having Salt and Pepper shakers modeled after what you love. These are great. The cooler schemes work out perfectly, because obviously this was when Gandalf was still the Gray (he’s the pepper) and Saruman was the White (Salt). They are also magnetic. I suppose this keeps them in this stance when not being used. These are available on Amazon.com for $19.50 and are Prime eligible.

5. Gandalf’s Pipe

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Make any cosplay complete

Now I don’t condone smoking of any sort, but if I did it would be pipe smoking. Quite a lot of people buy pipes online or elsewhere as they find something more refined about it, and it smells better. This is a fully functional pipe, so if you would like to use it for that, you can. It also makes a great conversation piece for any LOTR collector. This is available from ThinkGeek.com for $64.99, and Bilbo’s pipe is also available. If you don’t have access to that kind of money right now, you can find out how to make a homemade pipe on this website.

6. Lord of the Rings-50th Anniversary Edition

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One book to rule them all

Bringing the 3 volumes together into one volume, just as it is intended to be read, this beautiful edition of the Lord of the Rings would be ideal for any fan of the movies or books. This is a hardbound copy with a nice slipcover. It contains all 3 volumes of The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship, Two Towers, and Return of the King. It is available on ThinkGeek.com for $79.99 (which would include free shipping!)

7. LEGO The Hobbit Video Game

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LEGO + Hobbits= Awesome!

If you have not yet tried out the LEGO video games yet, then you are missing out. They are hours of good clean fun. Once you play through the story, then you need to go back and keep playing the levels until you have unlocked all the characters and secret sets and so on. It is a lot of fun. Plus, they are well-known titles like Marvel and DC and LOTR or Hobbit, so your kids will be into them too, and you won’t have to worry about too much violence or sex or language. This title is available on Amazon.com and ranges from $15 to $30 depending which platform you purchase it for.

8. The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition

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When you just can’t get enough of that Middle Earth goodness

You might think it is a little overkill to turn a single novel into 3 really long movies. If you think that, then you might think it’s a lot of overkill to then release extended version of those movies on home video. But for fans of the franchise, it is just more Hobbit to love. Just in time for the final installment, this extended edition comes out. It is available from Amazon.com for $19.96 and is Prime eligible. You can also get it through their video streaming.

9. Arwen’s Pendant

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A shining star

I always really liked this love story from Lord of the Rings. Aragorn needed Arwen and she needed him, and their love would out live either of them. This pendant symbolizes the love between them, as she gave it to Aragorn and he wore it proudly. Now you can give it to your loved one for Christmas and let them know that your love is as eternal as theirs. This is available at ThinkGeek.com for $199.99. To new fans of Tolkien’s work, these names may mean nothing and so they may wish to brush up on the characters and lore here on the Tolkien forums.

10. Thorin’s Key

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Give your loved one the key to your heart…or something like that.

Now you can have your very own key to adventure and treasure. This is a great replica of the key that started the whole adventure. If Thorin hadn’t had this key, he would have never gone after their treasure, so they would have never needed Bilbo, so he would have never found the ring, and then given it to Frodo, who would have never needed to go to Mt. Doom. This key is the key to the whole adventure. Available at ThinkGeek.com for $29.99.

That will wrap up our Middle Earth list. Join us again, later today for our next gift guide: Star Wars. Also check out our first list, Doctor Who. Share this list with others that might be looking high and low for some great geeky gifts.

Eine Kleine Geek Musik

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One of my favorite musical acts just came out with a new music video that I really enjoyed.  I first heard about Jon Schmidt when I was in high school. He was all the rage in popular Mormon Music.  It was him and Peter Breinholt.  His popular songs included Waterfall and All of Me.  Plus he could do a great Peanuts theme.  I remember going to a morning devotional at Seminary when he came and spoke and performed.  He was a piano god among teenage Mormons in the late 90’s.  I first heard about Steven Sharp Nelson later, after my mission at a Paul Cardall concert, where Paul brought Steven on stage and he played the cello on stage, and I thought it was pretty cool.  Who knew that the cello was cool?  I had no idea.

A few years ago, these two came together to do a few YouTube videos, and their careers have never been the same since.  They just took off.  They go by the name “The Piano Guys,” and they’re pretty good.  They like to mix some classical stuff with contemporary stuff, as well as doing some non-traditional covers of some old favorites, like “Happy Together,” covered on the cello.  It is some pretty fun stuff.  Now, I get that their stuff probably isn’t for everyone.  Some people reading this might think I am pretty lame for bringing this up on a geek-centric web site. Did I mention they have a pretty geeky side too?

It’s true.  In fact, the first song of theirs that I remember seeing (most of their stuff hits YouTube first) was their Star Wars song.  It was fantastic.  I have it on my iTunes, but the video is so much better than just the audio.  To prove it, let me share it with you here:

They have had other videos with a geeky twist to them.  For example they do a great version of the Mission Impossible theme:


And my personal favorite of theirs, The Lord of the Rings-The Hobbit medley:

Just recently, the news broke that different versions of the Batmobile were here in Salt Lake City to film a new music video.  I never heard what video it was, or why someone was filming a music video here, but it was fortunate that they were here on the same weekend as Salt Lake Comic Con, which meant they made an appearance at the convention.  Today, someone posted the newest Piano Guys video on Facebook, and all of a sudden it made sense.  They were shooting the video with the cars because they were covering the Batman music from the last 50 years.  Yet another geeky music video, released just today:

I think it is pretty safe to say that these guys are just a little bit geeky.  You can tell from the music that they have done that is geek-centric, that they love this stuff.  I think they might be fans themselves.  One of the great things about soundtrack music  is how quickly it brings back the emotions you felt during the movie or show.  These guys seem to enjoy what they do, and they pass that love on to their fans in the music videos they produce.  I love it.  Plus they’re local, here to Utah, and I love to local folks succeed and contribute something to geek culture at large, and I think these guys do.  Now, if they ever read this, I just have one suggestion, how about a little Doctor Who?  That would be pretty sweet.

If you like the music you have heard here, you can pick it up through iTunes and Amazon, or you can buy the CD (if people still do that) at thepianoguys.com.  They’re worth checking out.

 

 

My Salt Lake Comic Con Wish List

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Salt Lake Comic Con officially kicks off two weeks from tomorrow.  That means it is right around the corner.  It also means that the guest announcements are going to begin coming fast and furious over the remaining 14 days.  Just in the last 2 days, 2 Doctors have been announced, Paul McGann and Colin Baker.  I expect more major announcements coming.  That’s typically how it happens.  This is for a variety of reasons.  One is that it creates a lot of buzz right before the con begins.  Another is that a lot of celebrities can’t really confirm until right before because they have so much going on.  This is a good thing.  I like being surprised when I hear a guest is coming instead of disappointed when I hear a guest is coming, and then can’t at the last-minute.  Whatever the reason, this is the time when the big announcements are made.  Heck, Patrick Stewart wasn’t even announced until the first night of FanX. So if theta one guest you’ve been hoping for hasn’t been announced, just wait.  It could be coming.

Knowing all of this, i began to think about who my dream guests might be.  Who would I love to see show up to one of these?  Who would I love to go listen to for an hour or two?  The list is long, it’s true, but I  narrowed it down to my top 5.  I didn’t want to get greedy, and I fully anticipate that Salt Lake Comic Con is going to read my list and make it happen.  I mean, why not? I’m a fan, a paying customer.  I don’t think bringing in 5 A-list celebrities with short notice is too much to ask.

So, in no particular order, except numerical order of which I would like to see the least of these 5 to the most, here are my top 5:

5. Viggo Mortensen

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I love Lord of the Rings.  I know, that’s a shocker, a geek who likes LOTR.  We’re hard to come by. One of my favorite characters in the film and in the books was Aragorn.  He was just awesome.  Noble, royal, kingly, Jesus-like, there was just a lot to like about him.  That’s not why I want him to come.  I think it would be cool because i have heard he is quirky person, so I think it would be interesting to go to a presentation where he is the speaker.  Plus, I don’t think he does a whole lot of these conventions, so it would be cool if he came here and did ours.  It would also be very cool to hear about his experiences while filming the LOTR films. And about horses.  I hear he loves horses.  I heard that the horse he rode in the films was his own horse, in real life.  And he learned elvish just for this role.  Again, quirky, that would make a great panel or two.

4. Mark Hammil

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I mean, of course every geek out there would like to meet Luke Skywalker.  The whining, teenage moper who eventually became our favorite Jedi, but Hamill has done a lot more in the geek community.  Just think of your image of Joker, pre Heath Ledger.  I bet you’re picturing the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series.  That was Mark Hamill.  He did the voice, and let’s face it, the voice made that character.  He was incredible as the Joker, almost as good as Kevin Conroy was as Batman.  Wait a minute…I’m getting an idea…Mark Hamill/Kevin Conroy: A Batman Super Panel.  They could discuss their work on the series and how awesome it was, and maybe even do a reading for us.  It would be awesome.  I mean, I’m sure Hamill isn’t really doing anything right now…What’s that?  He’s filming a new Star Wars?  Wow. Who knew?

4B.  Mark Hamill’s beard

I know that typically lists like this don’t have extra entries like 4B, but this is my site, so my rules.  Look at that awesome beard he is sporting.  He is totally trying to pull off the older, wiser Jedi look, and it is awesome.  His beard could have its own booth and sign autographs.  I’d buy one.

3. Hugh Jackman

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Salt Lake Comic Con just announced that they would have an exclusive Death of Wolverine variant cover at the con from Marvel.  I think in honor of that, and since Marvel is “really killing off” Wolverine in the comics, we should have Hugh Jackman come.  Mr. Wolverine himself.  I don’t know what is going to happen when he decides to stop being Wolverine, but it will be sad. It would be great to hear his stories about filming each of the 300 X-Men movies he has been in.  He must have a ton of great stories.  Plus, let’s not overlook The Prestige and Van Helsing.  This, of course would be huge.  The biggest problem would be getting his claws past security.  Yeah, I’d like to see security try to stop him.

2. Chris Evans

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This one is mostly for my wife.  She loves Captain America.  She says it is the character, how he is so good and always stands up for the little guy.  She swears it has nothing to do with how dreamy he is.  It’s ok, I’m not jealous.  I have eyes, I can see how dreamy he is.  I loved Winter Soldier.  I thought it was faun film, and a good film.  It would be great to have him here, or anyone from the Avengers.  One of the panels is supposed to be on the Marvel Phase 3, wouldn’t it be great to have some of those actors there?

1. David Tennant/Matt Smith

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Either one, or both would be fine.  This would be great to have them there along with Baker and McGann and have a Doctor Who super panel.  These two are my favorite Doctors, so it would be cool if they came.  I think I would even pay money for their autographs.  If either of these two came, the place would be packed.  If both came, it would be madness.  Plus it would be just in time for Doctor Who’s 51st anniversary…err…

Who would be in your top 5, or is there just one special guest you’re hoping for?  Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

What Made Tolkien so Amazing

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The other day my family and I were at our local public library (if you don’t find yourself occasionally at a public library you need to examine your geekhood), and my wife was looking for a new book to read.  She is an avid reader, and has kind of taken an interesting turn in what she reads.  When she was growing up, she didn’t read any kind of fantasy or SciFi or anything like that.  If it couldn’t really happen, she wasn’t interested.  To the point that she refused, REFUSED, to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  In her mind there was no way that you could go to the back of a closet and end up in some fantastical land called Narnia.  She preferred historical fiction, grounded in reality and actual events.  Fast forward a few years, and somehow she ended up marrying the biggest geek she had ever met.  I only read fantasy and SciFi.  Ok, maybe not exclusively, but that is my first choice.  I have attempted to open up her world a little bit, and have made some promising progress.  I have gotten her to read the Narnia books, and she enjoyed them.  I think now that she’s older she understands more of the symbolism.  I also helped convince her to read the Harry Potter books, and she finished the sixth just in time to wait anxiously for number seven.  We almost had to buy two copies so we could read it at the same time.  Lately, she has been reading a lot of young fantasy- Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, etc.  I have been waiting for the right moment to try to get her into the hard stuff.  The good stuff.  I have been thinking a lot about that as I have been reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (I am only on the 4th book, which feels like an accomplishment, until I look at how far I still have to go). So, in this situation we find ourselves at the library and she is looking for a new book to read and she has no idea what to read. I jump at the chance and search high and low for the perfect book to introduce her into the world of Fantasy.  I know exactly what I am looking for, I just have to hope the have it and I can find it.  Don’t get me wrong, I can find my way in a library, but they try to classify everything so much nowadays.  At first I couldn’t find it, and I was disappointed, but then I looked in the “teen fiction” section, and bingo, there it was.  The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  There is no better way to introduce someone to the world of Fantasy Literature than Tolkien, the man who practically invented the genre.  I felt like The Hobbit was a good place for her to start.  It is a small book, not intimidating at all.  It’s not part of some extremely long series and can stand alone if she decides she does not want to read further.  More than that, it is well written.  It wasn’t written to be a bestseller, appealing to the lowest common denominator of any given group.  It was written the only Tolkien could write, as a masterpiece.

As I suggested the book to her, I was almost envious of her reading it for the first time.  Experiencing Middle Earth for the very first time.  It would be an amazing thing to find a way to recapture that.  Amazing, but impossible for me, so I plan to live now vicariously through my wife.  As she began reading it, she read part of the introduction aloud to me.  It was discussing how there are spelling errors in the book, like the term dwarves.  At the time, the correct spelling was dwarfs and dwarfish, but when describing the dwarves in his book, Tolkien purposely used dwarves.  My wife was confused by that.  “Isn’t dwarves right?”  It is now, because of Tolkien.  Think about, the best example I have pre-Tolkien is the Disney masterpiece, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. That’s the title. For your convenience, you can click here and go to the IMDB page and see for yourself.  I always thought that was funny to me.  Was Disney just trying to be cutesy?  Turns out, that was the correct spelling pre-Tolkien.  Now though, dwarves seems to be more common, if not more correct.  We say dwarfish, not dwarfish.  Was that all really started by Tolkien? Why not?  The man practically invented and cemented our modern images of dwarves, elves, orcs, hobbits, wizards, etc.  Where would we be without Tolkien?  I wouldn’t be in the middle of the Wheel of Time series, or really be interested in fantasy very much at all.  HBO wouldn’t have a huge hit with Game of Thrones, so they would have to find some other way spew forth gratuitous sex and violence (somehow, I think they’d manage).  Salt Lake would not have just had their first successful FantasyCon. Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom may still be waiting for their big breaks, while Elijah Wood and Sean Astin would be remembered only for the younger roles (like Huck Finn and Goonies respectively). No one would have ever heard of Peter Jackson or Weta or New Zealand.  I might even go so far as to say that the Fantasy Genre as we know it would not exist.

Why was Tolkien so amazing?  Why would his books be the first ones I run to in order to introduce my wife to Fantasy literature?  I think Tolkien did more than just tell a story.  He created a whole world.  A world full of history, full of ancient myths and stories, many of which have never been published, but he knew them.  A world full of languages.  Dwarvish, Elvish, the dark tongue or Mordor.  He created them all.  It wasn’t enough to just throw in an occasional word or rune here and there.  He made them real.  When you read his books, you find references to other stories and myths and characters and histories that may only be mentioned, but with such authority that you know that Tolkien has them written down somewhere.  He knows the legend or the myth or the story.  There is a completeness to his stories that aren’t found in many other series.  All of that makes Tolkien’s work superb and wonderful.

More than that, his stories were real.  Not real in a “they really happened” sort of way, but real in a “I really identify with what this character is feeling” sort of way.  That was the real genius of Tolkien.  I remember reading The Return of the King for the first time.  I remember the way I just felt hopeless, like there was just so much evil in the world and the men were so outnumbered, and Sam and Frodo were on their own, and there was just no way they would overcome everything and make it out.  How many of us feel that way personally sometimes?  How many of us can look at the world today and say, “there’s just too much, we can’t win.”  I heard once that that was the reason Tolkien set out to write what would become the Lord of the Rings series.  He wanted to define what evil was.  He and Lewis and others he associated with had all experienced darkness and evil firsthand as they survived WWII.  They all lived through the air raids and the constant fear.  The war that was fought in Britain was very different from what we experienced here in the U.S.  He wrote this story to come to terms with what he saw in the world.  I can imagine that there were times when it all seemed hopeless, like the light would never come.  Like Frodo and Sam would come so far, only to collapse at the foot of Mount Doom, and not make it any further.  But they did.  You feel the despair, but you feel the hope that is always there sometimes.  Even in the darkest of times, there is always a little bit of hope. And the hope wins out.  In the end, the darkness fails, light prevails.  I always loved Sam.  Merry and Pippin were funny and kept things light.  Frodo was all of us, the regular guy thrown into the middle of everything unexpectedly.  Aragorn was just really cool, and unattainable (he may have a little bit of a Messiah complex going on).  But Sam, Sam was my favorite.  He was the hope.  He was always there.  Even when he went away for a while, he was not really gone.  He is the embodiment of hope, and without him, Frodo would not have made it to the end.  I love the works of Tolkien, because I felt it all.  I know that we don’t live in a world of wizards and magic and giant eagles, but we do live in a world with Sams out there.  I want to be one.  That part was real, as real as anything else I have ever read.  Tolkien took this idea of Fantasy and elevated it above just fairy tales and made it real and deep and worth reading.

So I envy my wife.  I envy that she eta to experience all of that for the first time.  I hope she will understand why I love the realm of fantasy so much after she is done reading it.  I’m sure she will.  If Tolkien can’t win her over, no one can.