Saturday, December 27, 2014

What would J.R.R. Tolkien think about The Hobbit?

               By Trina Boice

Now that the final installment of the Hobbit has been released in the movie theaters, the final cinematic tale by J.R.R. Tolkien goes full circle.  What would he have thought about how his literary masterpieces were portrayed on the silver screen?  

Below is a review from my movie review blog called Movie Review Maven.  
How would you have reviewed this last film in the trilogy?


PG-13, 2 hours 24 minutes

Grade:  A-

In a Nutshell:
Fans will be mostly satisfied with the way the end is handled and how introductions are made to step viewers into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as we go full circle.  I think J.R.R. Tolkien would have been very proud of the way Peter Jackson has presented both of his stories, and especially impressed by how Peter Jackson was able to squeeze 3 entire movies out of his Hobbit tale.  

I didn't think The Hobbit movie trilogy wasn't quite as awesome as the Lord of the Rings trio, but it's still a fine companion in the storytelling and worth the visit to CGI Middle Earth.  Easily the most violent of all of the films in the series, the battle of five armies includes the army of fans who will see the final installment and make Peter Jackson's movies go down in history as one of the most beloved cinematic stories.

Uplifting Theme:
·         “You should never underestimate dwarves.” – Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage)
·         “Don’t underestimate the evil of gold.” – Gandolf
·         What is your true treasure?
·         Cowardice vs. true bravery
*    "Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? I don't know. Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage."   - Gandolf

Things I liked:
·         The action starts exactly where it left off in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug .  If you missed Part 2, then the beginning of this movie and subtle plots and characters will probably be confusing for you. Better to start from the beginning.  To see my movie review of the previous Hobbit movie, click here.
·         The cliffs in 3D are magnificent and scary!
·         The landscapes are stunning.  The aerial views are just beautiful.
·         Smaug is magnificent.  I love it when his belly glows before he hurls fire at his enemies.  Did you see him as a guest on The Colbert Report?  Hilarious.  While you’re at it, watch the recent Saturday Night Live skit of TheOffice: Middle Earth., hosted by Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins). Super funny.
·         FINALLY, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) actually runs out of arrows.  Ha ha
·         I can never get enough of seeing the gorgeous, majestic elves with their silky long hair, and elegant poise.  The moose that Thranduil (Lee Pace) rode was awesome.  Watching the synchronized army in battle was cool too.
·         The IMAX 3D version of the film offers incredible clarity.  If you’re a big fan of this trilogy, it's worth it to pay extra for it.
*    Aiden Turner (Kili) is so cute!  Former heart-throb Orlando Bloom (Legolas) is starting to look old because of the odd CGI work they did on his face.
*    Two words: Benedict Cumberbatch.

Things I didn’t like:
·         I hate looking at Alfrid’s zit face.  He’s such a greasy little weasel that you love to hate.
·         Gandolf is such a helpless wizard.  Seriously, he rarely uses his wisdom and power until after suffering peril for a long time.
·         Remember the fake CGI scene in the last Hobbit movie when Legolas was jumping on barrels in the river?  Well, there’s some more of that awkward action, but this time there are rocks that are crumbling and falling down mid-air as he unbelievably climbs up them.  There are a few other times when the CGI looks more like a video game than cool imagery.  Whatever.  The movie is still visually amazing.
*  Considering Bilbo is THE hobbit that this trilogy is named after, he played a somewhat minor role in this last film.
*   While it's always lovely to see Cate Blanchett, that green, psycho look on Galadriel isn't becoming on her.  ha ha

Funny lines:
·         “I may be a burglar, but I like to think I’m an honest one.” – Bilbo
·         “Not every man is brave enough to wear a corset.” - Alfrid

Interesting lines:
·         “What is it you know?” – Thorin
“Nothing for certain.  It is what may come I fear.”  - Legolas
·         “It is your king’s command.” – Tauriel  (Evangeline Lilly)
“He is my king, but he does not command my heart.” – Legolas
·         “If this is love, I do not want it.  Take it from me.  Why does it hurt so much?” – Tauriel
“Because it was real.” – Thranduil
·         “If more people valued love above gold, this would be a far more merry place.” – Thorin
·          "I will not hide when others fight our battles for us."  - Kili
*     "You started this.  You will forgive me if I finish it."  - Thranduil

Tips for Parents:

·         The title of this movie includes mention of five armies…let that be a warning to you…there are a lot of battle scenes, violence, and gruesome death scenes, including decapitation and burning bodies....kinda icky and scary stuff for young children!

Check out these fun Hobbit products for Christmas:

Monday, April 21, 2014

How much would you pay for Birds of America?

By Trina Boice

As a writer, I obviously love books, so I wanted to share a special one with you today.  It's a copy of John James Audubon's The Birds of America that was sold at an auction in London for $11.5 million!  To date, it's the most expensive book ever sold.  Why?

It's one of the best preserved editions of the 19th century masterpiece and includes 435 hand-colored illustrations.  Only about 120 complete sets of these illustrations are believed to exist in the world.  Richard Davies, a rare and used books specialist, explained the interest in this book: "Aside from being famous in the rare book world, The Birds of America has also immense historical and ornithological importance.  Some of the birds John James Audubon painted are extinct and he also discovered new species."

Measuring over three feet in height, the book was created between 1827 and 1838.   The author was insistent that The Birds of America be made up of life-size illustrations that showed all the known species of North America.  He hunted the birds down and shot them so that he could prop them up on wires to paint.  Each drawing took about 60 hours to complete.  Sadly, and ironically, many of the birds in his book are now extinct, such as the Labrador Duck, Great Auk, Esquimaux Curlew and Carolina Parakeet.

It takes two people to pick up the book...and they do so very carefully since the book costs more money than they will ever earn in a lifetime!

Check out this video that shows some of the beautiful artwork in this famous masterpiece!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game flies into theaters and your store shelf on DVD

                                By author Trina Boice

I always thrilled for LDS authors when their popular books are made into movies!   Congratulations to Orson Scott Card for making it on to the big screen with his beloved   Ender's Game

Here is my review of the film I posted on my movie review blog.   I thought it would be good to share here since the movie is now out on DVD!

Movie Title:  Ender's Game
PG-13, 1 hour 53 minutes

Grade: A-

In a Nutshell:  This sci-fi tween thriller deserved to be made into a film, as the book has been popular with kids since 1985.  Congrats to Orson Scott Card for making it on to the big screen!  Most of the source book fans have been very pleased with the movie adaptation, although they admit that a few interesting aspects were rushed or necessarily left out because of the time constraints. The battle scenes feel like you’re watching someone play a video game, but the special effects are pretty amazing.  You’ll feel like a 12 year old kid again and wish you could float around in the battle simulator.

Things I liked:   
  • I love Harrison Ford, even if I have to see him as a grumpy, aging man. 
  • I’ve also adored Ben Kingsley ever since he won an Oscar for Best Actor in Gandhi many years ago.  The design on his face was very cool and supposed to represent a way to speak for the dead.  His father was a Maori.  I have a friend whose ancestry is Maori.  He plays the ukulele and sings songs in Maori for his students.
  • You feel like you get your money’s worth because the film is long, but moves quickly.  
  • I thought Ender’s squeaky, pubescent voice was perfect because it constantly reminds you that he is still just a boy.  Asa Butterfield does a terrific job.  I loved him in Hugo.  Ben Kingsley was in that movie as well.  It was simply stunning in 3D.
  • I liked the cadets’ white casual wear and would like one for myself to wear at home when I’m just kicking around.
  • I hadn’t read the book, so I had no idea what was going to happen.  I love twists.
  •  The zero gravity room looks super fun!  I went Indoor Skydiving in Las Vegas recently and had a blast…literally!  A giant fan blasts air at you so that you float.  I highly recommend it!  This is a picture of my husband, son, and I after our indoor skydiving experience, which is probably the closest we'll ever get to a zero gravity feeling:   

Things I didn’t like:
  • So, it only takes 3 adults to run that entire spaceship? 
  • I was surprised at the amateur-looking credits at the end of the movie.
  • It takes itself a little bit too seriously and could have been improved with more peppering of humor.

Uplifting theme:
  • The way we win matters.
  • “Let us train our soldiers so they can be gifted at war AND peace.”

Funny lines:
  • “This is basic rocket science, people!”  - teacher
  • “Game over.” - Ender

Interesting lines:
*  When you truly understand your enemy, you love them.”

Things to look for:
  • The button on the back of their necks that is used to monitor them reminded me of The Matrix .
  • Hailee Steinfeld plays a character whose name is Petra.   Petra means rock in Latin.  She becomes Ender’s rock throughout their experience in the training experience in the International Fleet.

Tips for parents: There is a lot of violence, some bullying, and a repeated use of the word “A**hole” in Spanish by a character named Bonzo.  There is no other profanity, other than mean name-calling by bullies.  There are some interesting moral dilemmas that could provide interesting dinner conversations for your family.

If your tween loved the movie, you can find the box set of the book series here:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Popular books made into movies

I write a LOT of movie reviews on my other blog, but when it pertains to writing and books, I like to share them here on this author blog!  If you're having Hunger Games or Twilight withdrawals, you may want to check out the Divergent book series or movie...

Movie Title:   Divergent

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:   
This planned trilogy is starting off with mixed reviews, despite its popular book by Veronica Roth.  The Hunger Games and Twilight fans will enjoy another heroine who can kick butt and fight the system while finding time for romance.  Shailene Woodley has been successful in supporting roles, but this is the first time her performance carries an entire film.

I think the ideas are interesting and Director Neil Burger creates a dystopian setting that has holes, yet is still intriguing.

Uplifting theme:   Tris declares “Don’t try to define me.”  The movie is about independent will and finding ourselves.  Jeanine Mathews (Kate Winslet) explains “The system removes the threat of anyone practicing their independent will.  Divergence threatens that system.  It won’t be safe until they’re removed.”  Teens often question where they belong, as if there is only one place that they have to find to be “home.”  This film takes a stab at showing we are multi-dimensional creatures that need to dance on many floors in order to find balance.

Things I liked:
  • I’d love to play Capture the Flag with that glow-in-the-dark flag.  How about playing PaintBall with those guns that shoot darts that make you feel like you’ve been really shot?
  • This movie is full of dangerous stunts that make you want to stand in line to try.  For example, I love that gigantic zip-line that goes through the city.  Do you think Universal Studios will build one if this movie does well enough?  I won’t be jumping onto moving trains any time soon though.
  • I thought it was interesting to watch the fears some of the characters had.  Four explains that most people have 10-15 really bad fears.  When Tris can’t run away and her feet move slowly in mud during her “fear evasion” sequence, it reminded me that I had that same recurring dream when I was a little girl.  It’s a terrible feeling to not be able to move forward, whether trying to escape danger or making progress on a goal.
  • I thought it was an interesting concept that when people in the movie were injected with a certain serum that their thoughts could be controlled.  Isn’t that called alcohol? 
  • I love Shailene’s thick, beautiful hair.
  • Cool double infinity mirrors and other special effects.
  • Who doesn’t love Ashey Judd?
  • I’d like a blue jacket with the stylish neckline that Jeanine Mathews wears.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The ending was disappointingly predictable, but I haven’t read the book, so I’m hoping there are more interesting things to come.
  • Many of the characters were one-dimensional.
  • Those in the Dauntless faction run during most of the movie, yet they’re never out of breath.
  • Tris tells Four “I don’t want to go too fast.”  The very next thing you see is her in bed near him.  Huh?

Interesting lines:
  • “My mother says there’s an art to losing yourself.” – Tris
  • Tris sees the fear in Four’s eyes as they climb up and states “You’re afraid of heights.”  He reveals “Everyone is afraid of something.”
  • “Are you even human?” – Four says to Tris as he watches her climb a tower with ease.
  • “This isn’t real.”  What an empowering sentence you can say to yourself when you have fear.  Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  One of my favorite quotes by Franklin D. Roosevelt is “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Later, Tris says “Don’t think.  Just jump.”  I’m wondering if we’ll see that tagline on basketball shoes soon?
  • “I think human nature is the enemy.”  Jeanine Matthews   What a terrible thought.  Human nature is what makes us all fantastically flawed, interesting, and wonderful.
  • “There is a certain beauty in the resistance, but it’s a beauty we can’t afford.” – Jeanine Matthews
  • In Divergent , kids who leave the nest aren’t allowed to go back.  In this troubled economy, we’re seeing an increase in “Boomerang Kids” as college graduates return home while trying to pay back student loans.  How wonderful that families can pull together and embrace returning kids who return home to get support.  On another level, it’s a great thing that we CAN reinvent ourselves and not be pigeon-holed into one thing in our lives.
  • “We train soldiers, not rebels.” – Eric
  • “Trust the test; it will tell you where you belong.” – Tori  

Tips for parents:  The language is clean, but there are a lot of dangerous stunts you may need to remind your kids NOT to try.  An interesting dinner conversation with your family might be to ask everyone which faction they would want to join if they had to choose.  Check out this fun Infogram MTV made and check out the Harry Potter comparisons.

In case you need to catch up on reading the series...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hunger Games book fans can now get Catching Fire on DVD

                                                by Trina Boice

If you’re a Hunger Games fan, then you’ve probably already seen this, but if you haven’t, it’s now in stores on DVD for rental or purchase!

Grade: A

In a Nutshell:  This movie franchise has all the odds ever in its favor.  The gritty books are best-sellers and the intense films don’t disappoint.  The special effects are great and you really find yourself enveloped in the dark world of these compelling characters.  The games feel familiar from the first movie, but they take on some new twists that engage your sensibilities and heart.  As Haymitch Abernathy states “Last year was child’s play; this year you’re dealing with all experienced killers.” The fans and the smart storyline mature with this second movie in the successful trilogy.

President Snow announces “On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, the male and female tributes will be reaped from their existing pool of victors.”  And then it begins.

Uplifting theme: 
  • I liked the speech Peeta gave in District 11: “Our lives aren’t measured in years, but in the lives we touch and touch us around us.”
  • “We don’t need to destroy her – just her image.  Sew fear.  It doesn’t work as long as they have hope” counsels Plutarch Heavensbee.  Hope is a very powerful thing.  When you’ve lost everything, hope is everything.  Primrose tells her sister that she notices something different about her world now.  Katniss asks “What can you see?”  Her answer:  “Hope.”  Katniss becomes the mockingjay herself, the image of a new hope to her people.
  • The grim violence is physical AND emotional, deepening the layers of imprisonment and drama. 
  • There is a weighty theme of cultural and personal revolution that could begin an interesting dinner table conversation in your home.
  • Simply surviving is not the end-game, but creating a meaningful life that blesses those around you is.  Primrose Everdeen says to her sister “You saved my life.  You gave me a chance.”  Katniss confirms “Yes, to live.” Primrose corrects “No, to do something.”

Things I liked:
  • I loved the FANTASTIC wedding dress-turned mocking jay gown visual effects!
  • The cast is terrific: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and Woody Harrelson.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was a national treasure and will be missed.
  • The “lethal lovers” Katniss and Peeta twist their lives together in a new way that may become a new prison of sorts, even if they’re able to pull it off.

Things I didn’t like:
  • I thought the yucky blisters caused by the fog were pretty gross.  I definitely felt relief when they were able to wash away the pain in the water
  • The film is almost 2 ½ hours long, but ends abruptly.  Dang it!  Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long to watch the rest of the story.  The third movie installment in the trilogy is expected to release on the big screen November 21, 2014.   Like the Harry Potter franchise, the final part of the story is going to be split into two movies: Mockingjay 1 and 2.  The very last movie will hit theaters November 10, 2015.
  • Love triangles are a bit tired.

Interesting lines:
  • “That’s how the friend thing works…you have to tell each other deep stuff.”
    • President Snow: While you and Peeta are on tour, you need to smile, you need to be grateful, but above all, you need to madly end it all in love. You think you can manage that?
    • Katniss Everdeen: Yes.
    • President Snow: "Yes" what?
    • Katniss Everdeen: I'll convince them.
    • President Snow: No. Convince me.
  • “Don’t look so cute.  We’ll kill you anyways.”  - Johanna Mason
  • “Say good-bye and forget them.  I do my best, thinking of them one by one, releasing them like birds from the protective cages inside me, locking the doors against their return.”  - Katniss Everdeen
  • “No wonder I won the Games.  No decent person ever does.” – Katniss Everdeen

Things to look for:
  • You only seem them for a few seconds, but I adore Effie’s super cute gloves at the party on the last night of their tour.
  • Effie’s outfits in this movie are fantastic.  Look at the details on her butterfly outfit.
  • Katniss hangs the model of Seneca Crane in an act of defiance during the judging. 
  • Did you know a spile, the tool Katniss uses to get water out of a tree, really works?  It’s used to get sap out of sugar maple trees to produce maple syrup.
  • You can learn more about Tap My Tree Maple Spile and Hook
  • Did you know that Effie’s last name is Trinket?  So appropriate, don’t you think?  I love that her character deepens in this installment in the story.

Tips for parents:
There is some violence (mostly bloodless) and a cold-faced attitude of murder that should begin an honest discussion of humanity in your family. There is some profanity, but the Capitol itself bleeps out two F-bombs.

If you missed the first one and need to catch up, here are some links to the books and movies:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Enjoy a FREE Gift of Love for Valentine's Day!

                                                           By Trina Boice

Just in time for Valentine's Gift of Love eBook version is FREE today through Friday!

Thank you for reading this blog! On behalf of all the authors here at Writing Fortress, we LOVE you, our readers! Have a LOVEly Valentine's Day!