Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Unexpected Review

So we had the pleasure of seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the midnight showing last Thursday. After 9 years off Peter Jackson has returned to Middle-earth to tell us the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with the one ring before Frodo's adventures in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Before we get into my thoughts, Spoiler alert! I'll probably end up talking about some specifics of the movie.

First things first, I love Kevin Smith's work and he has one of the funniest reactions to the LOTR trilogy ever. In case you haven't seen it here you go:

Now this is a very satirical look at the films, and I'm not knocking the quality of the trilogy as they are cinematic masterpieces and deserved every award they received. Bring this up, not only because it's a hilarious look at the trilogy, but because I was afraid that the Hobbit was going to also be more walking. So immediately when they got their quest and Bilbo agreed to be their thief and they ride off on ponies, I thought it would be a movie about riding instead. Thankfully, there were plenty of action sequences. The way they managed to get a trilogy out of the shortest book is by using stories from other stories and appendices to fill in some things that happen off page from the book and provide more backstory as to the rebirth of Sauron that leads to the LOTR trilogy.

Anyways, the premise is Bilbo writing his story into the book, which serves to tell the background needed to get the story rolling. They show the dragon Smaug desecrating the town of Dale and overtaking the kingdom of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain. There's an unnecessary cameo of Frodo as Bibo finishes writing for the moment. He runs off and we flash back to Gandalf arriving to get young Bilbo to go on an adventure. The interplay between Gandalf and Bilbo is fantastic at this intro scene. Several dwarves show up to Bilbo's house for a meeting and they eat all of his food and discuss their journey. They plan to trek to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim Erebor in the name of the dwarves. Bilbo contemplates and eventually decides to go along.

As they journey, they tell some tales of others and provide some of the extra story. We meet an eccentric wizard Radagast, who serves to bring the bad news of the Necromancer, a mysterious being that has brought the wicked witch king back from the dead. The group manage to get away from a trio of trolls and find some good weapons at their hoard. They get chased by a pack of orcs led by an albino Orc lord with a grudge against Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the group until they find themselves in Rivendell. They leave there and get captured by some Orcs in a cave under the mountains. Bilbo gets separated and finds Gollum, and manages to steal the One Ring and meet up with the group after they make their escape. After a showdown on a cliff, Gandalf calls on Galadriel for help and they fly off on Eagles. The movie ends at the top of a mountain as they look off to see the Lonely Mountain in the distance.

The opening scene showing the background story was brilliantly done. They pull a bit of Jaws by not showing the Dragon fully as we catch glimpses of him as the fires rage and destroy the town. It was beautifully done and I applaud them for their selective reveals. The Frodo cameo was a nice touch as it gives context to put it in the same world as the trilogy. However, it was about twice as long as it should be and the only purpose it serves are the cute nods to the trilogy with Frodo hanging the sign on the gate and then going to meet Gandalf on his way into town. Being introduced to the Dwarves is amusing as they are frantically running around and eating and all around fun, jolly folk.

The scene with the Trolls is one of the strongest story telling moments due to the physical humor and the characterization of almost all the characters. The first hour or so of the movie was pretty stale as it's just starting the journey, but also it is just them riding along then stopping to tell a tale and so on. It works to break it up a bit, but gets repetitive. Mostly this movie works to set up the world of Middle-earth and give back story to the original trilogy while setting up for the next 2 films. That being said, the action scenes were pretty well done and exciting enough to keep me awake until 3 in the morning.

In this movie we get a cameo of the hilltop where Frodo gets stabbed in Fellowship, as well as the the origin of the elf/dwarf rivalry. When the Dragon was decimating Erebor, the Dwarf king looks up to a hill where the Elf king turns and walks away with the army, offering no help.

The scene between Bilbo and Gollum is a battle of wits where they try to trick each other with riddles. It is really well done all around, but I was pretty burnt out on Gollum as a character from the trilogy.

Now the biggest problem in this movie is that the group escapes on some giant eagles after being cornered and backed to a cliff edge. The eagle then drops them off at the top of an odd mountaintop, within sight of the lonely mountain! Why didn't they just fly them to the Lonely mountain! It was right there!!! The only part of this movie that I think wasn't up to par was the use of CG to create all the orcs. The trilogy had a lot of make up on actual characters and only used CG to fill in the huge battle scens and such. It was definitely noticeable that the orcs were CG and not actually there.

All in all this was a very well done movie as expected. The performances are great, especially Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellan as always. I'm excited to see the latter two films and hope they get better as they go. My final thought is this: I'm glad this was a movie not about walking, but rather about running as the group is continually running from the orcs. Definitely a great movie and you should all go see it in theatres.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marvel Vs. DC movies

Now this is going to be an interesting post. I came across this image yesterday over at

This got me thinking about all the problems with this statement. I see what they're trying to do, but I didn't trust the result so I did some of my own calculations. Now, this doesn't take into account several factors. The biggest of al is that all of these DC movies were produced by Warner Brothers, while the Marvel ones are divided. Universal Studios has Howard the Duck and Hulk, while New Line has the Blade movies, Fox has the X-Men franchise, Daredevil, Elektra, and the Fantastic Fours, Punisher belongs to Lionsgate, and The Spiderman and Ghost Rider Movies are with Columbia. After Disney bought Marvel, then Marvel Studios had the Money to make their own films starting with Iron Man and leading up to the Avengers. So is it fair to compare the 19 films put out by Warner Bros. for DC with the 28 movies put out by the 6 different studios?

I don't know the answer, but I did figure out what I could. I went over to to get all the domestic lifetime grosses of the movies. I went over to to convert the grosses to what it would cost today. I then used those figures to come up with the averages. The averages (just the movies above) I came up with overall are DC: $211,266,988.82 and Marvel: $203,904,841.47 which matches their claims. 

Now, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, hey what about those other, less popular movies. Why aren't V for Vendetta, or Road to Perdition, or Men in Black on the list? Well maybe not, but I was thinking that. Here's where it got a bit trickier. The Men in Black movies and Kick Ass are based off a comic that is now owned by Marvel. On the DC side they also have Road to Perdition, League of Extraordinary, History of Violence, Constantine, V for Vendetta, Stardust, The Spirit, The Losers, and RED.  Factoring these in we get averages of DC: $165,287,168.47 and Marvel: $204,546,738.69.
Interesting that DC drops so low on the average. One could argue that only Constantine, V, and the Losers were produced by Warner Bros. Using the average from all the Warner Bros. DC movies we get an average of $183,156,576.28 per movie.

Anyways, let's take a look at which Studio on the Marvel side is winning. Lionsgate only has the punisher movies and is struggling at $25 million per film. New Line Cinemas has their Blad films averaging around $90 million. Who knows if that will continue once Snipes serves out his jail time for tax fraud... Universal, with their Howard the Duck and Hulk films average around $100 million. 20th Century Fox with their X-Men franchise, Daredevil, Elektra, and Fantastic Fours average around $175 million. Spiderman is holding up Ghost Rider to just below the $300 million mark at Columbia. Marvel Studios managed to learn from all the others and are sneaking by just above a $300 million average. Just out of curiosity I averaged the Spiderman movies alone, which came out to a little over $400 million. Interesting that the best franchise in Marvel is not done by Marvel Studios. The Men in Black movies are averaging just over $200 million.

Over in DC the Batman Franchise is averaging about $315 million while the Dark Knight Trilogy alone is at $420 million and Superman as stuck at $230 million.

As to who is making better movies, DC has 7 films over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and 13 over 70%, and 13 under 60%. Superman and The Dark Knight are the only 2 to break 90% at 95 and 94 respectively.

Marvel has 8 over the 80% mark, 14 over 70%, and 15 below 60%. Spiderman 2 (93), Iron Man (94), The Avengers (92), and Men in Black (90) all broke 90%.

Who's the winner? Hard to say. Well not really. Both companies are kicking ass in Box office numbers with a combined domestic total over $11 billion. I'm sure the worldwide numbers are similar and probably wouldn't change them too much. If somebody wants to compile the list of Worlwide grosses for me, I'll do the analysis again. I'm too burnt on the topic to go look them up.

Side note. DC also had Swamp Thing and Return of Swamp thing, but I couldn't find any box office for the former, so it didn't seem right to add the inferior sequel without the original.

Here's my notes on the subject:

Now onto my thoughts on the films. Really Dan? All that and you're just now getting to your thoughts? Hey, you're the one reading it. 

DC. I definitely love the Dark Knight Trilogy the best. While I do have a great respect for the first 2 Superman and Batman films, I don't think they are as quality as Nolan's iteration. Low on the scale of ones I've seen are the Steel movie and the latter two 90s Batmans. I think Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and The Losers are all solid movies and underrated by most. 

Marvel: I tend to stand out over here as my opinion often varies from other people. I like the Blade movies pretty well. I think Spiderman was the best of the original trilogy and that the Amazing Spiderman is better than that. Loved the X-Men movies, but they went downhill after one, until First Class came out. I love the Men in Black movies, as they are right up my alley. Once we get into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I like all of the movies. Incredible Hulk is the least favorite and Avengers is right at the top. 

Pitting my favorites against each other I would have Dark Knight, Superman, and V For Vendetta versus Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman, and X-Men. I think that DC has the better movies, but I would easily choose to watch several of the Marvel movies, depending on the day. Basically, they all have merit (arguably) and I am really glad I don't have to choose between Marvel and DC. Well that's enough of a post for now. Who do  you guys think has the better movie selection?

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Back to your regularly scheduled program. I'm sure very few of you have ever wanted to know what goes into podcasting. That being said, I'm still going to do a post about it. Now I'm not an expert as I've only been doing this for 3.5 months or so, but I've been doing it for 3.5 months so I have some idea of what's going on.

Step 1: First things first, you need a subject. Usually it's something you enjoy greatly and wouldn't mind talking a lot about. For example, I love the 90s cartoon ReBoot, so that was the first podcast; I've been looking for an excuse to watch all the DVDs I have, hence the Cinemasters; and after watching the pilot episode of Arrow, I decided we needed to do one on that show.

Step 2: Now that we have the what, let's get to the why. Why do you need to do it? Hopefully it is something you will enjoy doing as you will run into problems. That's the nature of the beast of technology. You will hit some speed bumps such as your feed not working, randomly losing data that you just recorded, or running out of space and bandwidth. So if you want to start a podcast, look into it  and learn as much as you can about it.

Step 3: Finding co-hosts. Now this isn't a necessity as I have heard some podcasts with one host that are actually very well done, but most of the time it just leads to a boring, one-sided show. Exceptions that prove the rule are the Bailey's Batman Podcast where Michael Bailey doesn't always have a guest host, but he's done enough podcasting to know how to keep it interesting by himself; and Taking Flight where Tom Panarese manages to keep it short and sweet while he talks about the adventures of Dick Grayson during his time as Robin and Nightwing in the comics. Now if you still want cohosts the easiest way to do that is ask your friends. My friends are nerdy so it was easy to find people interested.

Step 4: Plan your first episode. Get some notes on what you're going to say and how you're going to say it. If your show calls for it find what segments you can use. Set up your website/blog, an email address, and whatever social media you want and have them at the ready so you can send your audience there to leave you feedback. (It's important to talk about your feedback as it shows the audience you care about them and also encourages other audience to leave their thoughts as well. It's always nice to have open communication with your audience.

Step 5: Whew! Already 5 steps in. Why don't we get to the actual recording? Once you have an idea of how you want to go about doing the podcast and you have everybody, it's time to do the recording itself. Now there are several ways to go about this and it depends on location. If all your co-hosts get together to record in one room, then all you really need is one condenser style microphone with a cardioid or omnidirectional pattern. Using a usb microphone you can then record into the free program Audacity, which is super easy to use and completely free. If they are not in the same room, you can do it over skype or Google+. Skype has a plugin that's not horribly expensive that will record the conversation for you so you can download the mp3 and then edit it from there. Likewise Google+ can do the same thing for free with Hangouts  on air and Youtube. Those are two easy, and inexpensive ways to do the recording. I went and bought a Pro Tools system that allows me to record 2 tracks at once so I record my voice on one track and Everyone else I'm in a Google+ Hangout with. If you want to talk more about this stuff, let me know and we'll make it happen.

Step 6: Editing. Now is where you want to go through the file and put in any clips from the show if you want or to add announcements, tags, or commercials. I usually add a clip or two to separate the segments from each other and enhance the listening experience. Depending on how in depth you go, this process could take a few minutes to a few hours. Once you are finished and have it how you want it, you'll have to convert it or "bounce" it to a different format, usually .wav. Then it's smart to convert to mp3 to take up less space and make it quicker up/download time. This is easily done with iTunes.

Step 7: Once you have the mp3 file finished, it is now time to find a site/server to upload to. This was the most tricky part for me. There are a lot of things to pay attention to. Some sites have a limit to how much data you can store each month and others are even more annoying and limit the bandwidth as well. This is particularly annoying as it limits how many people can listen to and download the podcast. If you are trying to do 1 podcast with only one or two episodes a month, then is a good place to start, but they limit the bandwidth for you. What I am currently using is hipcast which does cost, but the interface works quite nicely and it's easy to use. I've heard the best one to use is, but it does cost more than hipcast so I went for the other option.

Step 8: Now that you have the mp3s properly hosted on the web we can get started with the blogs and the feeds. Most shows have a companion blog to go with them where they can put pictures and other notes about things they talk of, so definitely think of doing that. For some examples you can check mine out in the links on the right side of this page. Feeds on the other hand, are necessary. They are essentially the links to the media that you then subscribe to. A lot of podcast hosting sites have a way to set up this feed by themselves. However it is smart to send it through a site like so
if you need to change hosting sites for whatever reason, it is quite easy to do so.

Step 9: Time to get the word out. Publicize your podcast by submitting it to iTunes, Stitcher and all the other big podcast libraries to get some more viewers. Then send links to all the friends you have to get as many listeners you can. Send feedback to other podcasts and network with them so you can reciprocate some promotional materials with them. Have them give you a shout out and in turn you can shout out to them for theirs.

Some things to remember: Podcasts aren't really a competitive medium, especially at the lower end of the spectrum. Probably the best way to gain audience is to find a podcast with a good number of listeners and have them shout out to you. Podcasting can be addicting, so get settled in your podcast before starting more. I tried to start three at one time after the first one, which almost made me stop them all, so I stepped back and slowed down a bit and now I'm getting into a good rhythm with all three that I currently have.

Anyways, the point is that podcasting is stressful, and sometimes overly complicated, but also quite fun and exciting. So yeah... Podcasts. Check them out on the right. Thanks for reading!

-Daniel Janes

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rise of the Guardians

Devon and I went to see Rise of the Guardians yesterday, and I think that every one of you should go see it. This movie follows the induction of Jack Frost into the elite group of Guardians whose purpose is to protect the children of the world and consists of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and of course Santa Claus.

From here on out there will be a few SPOILERS so go see the movie first then come read this.

The movie starts with Pitch, the avatar of fear, taunting Santa at the North Pole. Santa gathers the Guardians to discuss what to do when the moon tells them to find Jack Frost who is off playing with kids on a snow day.

Anyways, Pitch turns kids' dreams into nightmares and after stealing all the teeth from the tooth fairy's lair, manages to wipe out Sandy completely. After a cat and mouse chase throughout the realms of all the Guardians, they enlist the help of the last child who believes and his friends to defeat the Boogeyman and save the day.

It is an all around great movie. The animation is fantastically beautiful, the story is complex enough to be interesting, while still being geared toward children and understandable for them. There are a whole lot of things that are awesome about this movie. There is an inherent dislike shared between the Easter Bunny and Jack that eventually gets resolved as they go through the movie. The interplay between the characters is wonderful. On top of Easter Bunny and Jack's bickering, we also have the tooth Fairy's little minions who flit around joyfully and they along with Tooth are very fascinated by Jack's teeth as they are white as snow. This minor plot point is extremely hilarious and not over done, even though it would have been super easy for it to get to that point.

Throughout the movie you find yourself caring more and more for each of the Guardians and hoping that Jack will be believed in as he starts as being invisible to humans since they don't typically believe in him.

As it is a kids movie, everything turns out alright for a happy ending. However it is easy to get lost in the action and enjoy the action and the characters as they progress. The take on the North Pole is fantastic. It is almost a steam punk masterpiece of a fortress with tons of yetis around making toys and elves wandering around and getting in the way. The elves are a great source of comedy throughout as they are almost the same as the minions from despicable me, though much less annoying.

The voice acting is brilliant throughout. While most of the characters are voiced by very well known actors (Minus the voiceless Sandy), their voices are in character enough to not be distracting. The Easter Bunny being Australian is a great touch that makes you think why it hasn't been done before. While the plot is actually quite dark when you think of it, Pitch turning children's dreams into night mares.

The path of Jack is that he needs to find his center, his motivation, what drives him to do what he does. After a dark origin story where he finds his teeth and "Baby Tooth" helps recover the memory from it, he realizes he used to be a kid and fell into a frozen pond while saving his sister from the same fate. He distracts her from the fear by having fun, which is what becomes his center just as Santa's is wonder and Pitch's is fear.

This movie takes you on a roller coaster of excitement and keeps you intrigued throughout. I believe it will become an instant classic and I am perfectly happy with that. I think it is the best children's movie since Toy Story. I would have to give this movie a 10 out of 10 as there weren't any problems I had with it on the first viewing. I'd love to hear what other people thought. Leave your reviews below. Thanks for reading!

-Daniel Janes