Austin Wintory talks about scoring video games like “Journey” and the concert “Mythos”

Austin Wintory is a composer known best for his scores to the acclaimed video game titles “flOw” and “Journey”. His score for “Journey” was the first video game to ever be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Austin is currently taking the role of conductor for the upcoming concert called “Mythos”, which is a 70 minute continuous musical presentation played by a 15 piece classical ensemble performing live the music of composers for Film, TV and Video Games. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Austin about the concert and what can we expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with conducting the concert “Mythos”?
Austin Wintory: “Mythos” is a concept I first had in 2011, which I conducted as part of a fundraiser for my non-profit Education Through Music – Los Angeles. The idea behind it was to mix together some of the most interesting, engaging music in today’s scene, totally regardless of the media from which it came. I was approached by Peter Sachon about performing video game music during New York Comic Con, and pitched back the idea of reprising “Mythos.” And here we are!

MG: Having done scores for video games like “flOw” and “Journey”; was this a natural transition for you?
AW: Yes I’m fortunate to have lots of conducting opportunities, which I love taking advantage of in the midst of composing commissions. I grew up conducting in concert, but eventually my primary outlet for it was in the recording studio for films or games, so the onslaught of concerts lately has been a joyous return!

MG: When you did the score to “Journey”, did you ever think that this would become a Grammy-nominated score and the only video game every to be nominated in the “Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media” category?
AW: Needless to say, not in the slightest. And now, almost two years later, it’s not really sunken in. It’s no less surreal than it was that day.

MG: What is the video game(s) that influenced you to do what you do?
AW: The infectious and witty nature of Tim Schafer’s games was a big part of my early gaming, and the music Peter McConnell wrote for them was basically the first game music I truly loved. It all culminated in Grim Fandango, which I think is one of the greatest games ever made, and with a score to match. It’s such soulful, passionate music and all around brilliant game.

MG: Why do you think that 8-bit music has stood the test of time and still resonates with fans?
AW: Chiptunes, those authentic early 8-bit hardware-based scores, were a huge musical contribution. There was nothing really like it before then. Electronic music was, before then, an extension of either the classical or rock scenes, using analog synths and tape manipulation and such. This, in games, was something now totally different. I think a big part of why it still resonates today is that the music was forced to distill a lot of dramatic intention into a very narrow bandwidth. But also a lot of game developers AND gamers alike are nostalgic to the games – and game scores – of their childhoods. So it’s gotten a revival as children of the 80s now enter the mainstream of professional game development.

MG: Can you tell us about little bit about what we can expect from upcoming game “ABZÛ”?
AW: Only that it’s still very early, and a massive delight to be re-teaming with Journey’s art director Matt Nava. I’m very very excited about this one!

MG: What can you tell us about your project “Our Curiosity”?
AW: This was a really special and wonderful experience. I’m a die-hard about NASA and scientific literacy in the general public, and this opportunity emerged to pay tribute to the Curiosity Mars Rover. An old friend, astrobiologist Jeff Marlow, had been working directly with the Curiosity team and so were able to get green lit to produce the tribute. We co-wrote the script, and then recorded our two narrators, actress Felicia Day, and acclaimed science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson. After that I wrote the score around the VO performances, and recorded it with a fantastic orchestra in Nashville. We co-directed the film and tossed it back to NASA who put it on YouTube. I like to think of it as an officially-sanctioned fan love letter.

MG: What else do you have in the works for the rest of the year and 2015?
AW: Lots and lots! But I will say, *hopefully* more Mythos performances!

Film Review “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Starring: Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, Om Puri and Charlotte Le Bon
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom
Rated: PG
Running Time: 122 minutes
Walt Disney Studios

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

In a summer that’s already been delighted by Jon Favreau’s “Chef”, it’s hard to be charmed once again by the same feel good concept featuring an abundance of food porn imagery. “Hundred-Foot Journey” is definitely treading in paths already traveled, but as we begin to exhaust what’s left of new summer movies, it’s hard to dislike something that tries to be so uplifting.

While the advertising for this movie has gladly slapped Helen Mirren’s face on every single promotional inch of poster, the real main dish to this movie is Manish Dayal. He plays the shy, yet astute Hassan who seems to have a natural curiosity for food from a very young age. He learns quickly from his mother that food is more art than science, although much later in the movie he’s somewhat forced to believe the opposite. Her spiritual connection to food is some of the best writing in the film, but sadly it’s short lived. An unexplained, violent revolution leads to the death of his mother. Escaping what I can only assume is persecution or certain death, he and his family trek towards colder and more northwestern territories.

Britain’s a bit too cold for their liking so they quickly relocate to one the lushest parts of France. They must have found the one town in France where residents aren’t buried into their smartphone screens since everyone chats over tea and coffee and take in Mother Nature’s surroundings. I legitimately had no idea what time period it was until someone pulled out a cell phone. While in town, his father (Puri), through some odd non-visible premonition, decides that their family will open a restaurant across the street (100 feet) from a much celebrated French restaurant. Something about that dust covered building enchants him, much to the dismay of the French restaurants proprietor, Madame Mallory (Mirren). So begins a choppy and misguided rest of the movie that never replicates the exquisite flare that we see in different spicy dishes throughout the film.

The main problem with “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is it’s glaring predictability that knows how to throw out a hook, but forgets to attach any bait. A simple mislead here or there would have added a level of uncertainty to everything that transpires. Even once we meet Marguerite (Le Bon), one of the lovely young cooks in Mallory’s restaurant, we know she’s the obligatory love interest. After two hours, this movie outstays its welcome like an uninvited dinner guest.

Obvious dramedy clichés aside, it’s still very heartfelt with its material and I have to admire a passionate group of actors and actresses who are willing to add a little zest to a dry story. While I wasn’t quite wooed by some of its more comedic moments, I did enjoy some of the cultural clashes, no matter how false they were. Despite my negatives I have to reassure myself that not everything has to break new ground and it’s always beneficial to have some optimistic escapism in your life.

While I may not have the acquired taste to sit in an air conditioned theater and enjoy this movie to its fullest, I can see why others would need this much needed break. If you’re tired of superheroes, raunchy comedies and looking for a peaceful way to wind down in front a movie screen, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is your best bet…unless “Chef” is still playing near you.

Win a Blu-ray of Stephen Chow’s “Journey to the West” [ENDED]

You a fan of “Shaolin Soccer” or “Kung Fu Hustle”, well if so then you are in luck because the guy behind that movie Stephen Chow has a new film called “Journey to the West”. To celebrate the release on Blu-ray, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) Blu-ray of the film to our readers. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite film martial arts film. This giveaway will remain open until May 30th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one’s self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them must embark on a journey to the West that’s full of challenges.

Murray Langston talks about his new book “Journey Thru the Unknown”

Here’s my Murray Langston story. When I started out in the theatre business one of my responsibilities was to put the new films together and watch them to make sure they were ok. One Friday morning I came in to assemble and screen a film called “Night Patrol,” that Mr. Langston not only co-wrote but starred in, both as Officer White and the Unknown Comic. As the film started I began to panic, as the opening credits were in French and subtitled. After a few moments I ran to the office and called the film company, screaming at them that they had sent me a French print. Thus began a scramble at New Line which ended when one of the film people in the office, who had seen the film, notified his bosses that the filmmakers intentionally put the opening credits in French and assured them, and me, that the film was in English. And it was. Ha-ha on me! And the many people that would come out of the theatre wanting their money back because they didn’t know “Night Patrol” was a foreign film.

Born in Canada, Murray Langston always had a knack for being funny. After entertaining his fellow sailors while working as a disc jockey in the Navy, Langston ended up in California, where he made his professional debut on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” doing his impression of a fork. He eventually earned a gig as part of the supporting cast of “The Sonny and Cher” show. But he shot to fame when he put a paper bag over his head and appeared as the Unknown Comic on “The Gong Show.”

In the almost four decades since he slipped that bag over his head he has not only continued to entertain but has helped nurture some of the greatest comedians of his, and our, era. To promote his new book, “Journey Thru the Unknown,” Mr. Langston sat down with me to talk about his career, his influences, and his two beautiful daughters, of whom he is immensely proud. After I regaled him with the above “Night Patrol” story, which he enjoyed, the questioning began in earnest. I should add hear that Murray Langston is always “on” and never misses an opportunity to make you laugh.

Murray Langston: Where are you calling me from?
Mike Smith: Kansas City.
ML: Oh…I’ve heard of it.
MS: I’ve got four or five questions whenever you’re ready.
ML: I tell you what….you’ve got six. And you can’t ask me what the capital of Ohio is.
MS: That was actually my follow up to the first question.
ML: (laughs). Good one. Don’t ask me the distance from the sun to the moon either. Don’t know it.

MS: For those who haven’t read the book yet, tell us a little about what led you into show business.
ML: Two words. Jerry Lewis. He’s what led me into it. Sitting in the theatre as a kid and watching those movies. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I think he also inspired Steve Martin. He inspired a lot of people. And I’m so grateful because I’ve had a wonderful life…and am still having a wonderful life.

MS: That’s all that matters.
ML: Exactly. I’m enjoying every minute of every day.

MS: You are originally from Canada, which has also given us great comic minds like Dan Aykroyd, Mike Meyers, Jim Carey. What is it about Canada that makes people so funny?
ML: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the cold weather. We just wanted to get out of there and comedy was a good way to do it. You know, when you do shows in Canada the people aren’t really applauding, they’re just trying to keep warm.

MS: I can’t think of anyone that has an appreciation of comedy that doesn’t know of the Unknown Comic. When you would do your live shows you would open as the Unknown Comic and then, after a break, would return to the stage as Murray to finish the act. Were there any bits you felt more comfortable doing as the Unknown Comic rather than as Murray or vice versa?
ML: Not really. The Unknown Comic was more a visual act. I’d do impressions with the bag or magic tricks. Really, except for a few one-liners all of the jokes as the Unknown Comic were related strictly to the bag. Once I took the bag off it was a completely different show because I would talk about things that were happening in my own life.

MS: The book has a great collection of photographs. I think a lot of the people that read it are going to be shocked because they’re going to recognize you instantly by your moustache and realize you entertained them on many, many sketch comedy shows. Do you have a favorite guest star that you worked with on these shows?
ML: Obviously a huge moment for me was when I got to work with Jerry Lewis on “The Sonny and Cher Show.” That show was four and a half great years. I mean I got to meet everybody. From Ronald Regan to O.J. Simpson. All of the great musical acts that came along back then. “The Sonny and Cher Show” is definitely a highlight of my life.

MS: You mention often in your book the influence Jerry Lewis had, not only on you but on so many other comedians. Is there another comic actor around these days that you think could be referred to as having achieved “Jerry Lewis” status?
MS: You know who almost did that…Jim Carey, who I worked with a couple of times in Canada. I would say that he came pretty close to it for a few years. I’m one of those guys that, whenever somebody can get up on a stage and make people laugh for 45 minutes or an hour, I’m going to appreciate them because I know what it takes to do that. I really like Louis C.K. In fact, someone told me that he’s said he only became a comedian because of the Unknown Comic…because of watching me in his early years. I love his work. I love a lot of people’s work. Like I said, anybody that can do it I’m a fan of.

MS: I’ll understand if you can’t answer this one. Did you ever go on a secret mission with Chuck Barris when he was with the C.I.A.?
ML: (laughs loudly) Yes. No, Chuck told me that when he was writing the book he thought it came off as boring so he paralleled his true life story with a fictional one just to make the book more entertaining. And it certainly worked. It made for a good movie. But none of that stuff was true. And I hope people know that now.

MS: Finally, as you approach age 70 you’re still going strong. What do you have coming up?
ML: I just finished a play. And I’m getting ready to perform at the Wolf Trap Theatre. Is that in Vermont?

MS: Virginia. It’s very nice.
ML: I have a couple more joke books coming out, plus I currently doing the audio verison of “Journey Thru the Unknown.” I’ve got a joke book about Donald Trump and another one about the Kardashians, so I’m always busy. Plus I’m always looking out for my two daughters. (NOTE: Mr. Langston has two daughters: Myah, a singer/songwriter and Mary. Mary has Down Syndrome and is truly the light in her father’s life) My oldest daughter (Myah) just signed with Capitol Records and has a record coming out soon. They’re going to be HUGE! Her band is called My Crazy Girlfriend. And it’s really interesting. I wrote in my book how my influence was Jerry Lewis and the next thing I knew I was working with him. From the time Myah was 8 or 9 years old she was a huge fan of Brittney Spears. She idolized her. And now she’s been a back-up singer on her last three albums. That’s an interesting parallel, I thought.
MS: How is Mary?
ML: Mary is doing great. She’s the joy of my life. I’m picking her up from school and she’s spending the weekend with me.

MS: She’s an angel.
She is my angel. She makes my life worth living a hundred times more.

Book Review “Journey Thru The Unknown” by Murray Langston

Author: Murray Langston
Paperback/467 Pages
Publisher: BearManor Media
Publishing date: November 19, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

If you were alive in the 1970s you invariably were a fan of the Unknown Comic. Best known for his appearances on Chuck Baris’ “The Gong Show” television program, the Unknown Comic took a simple prop, a paper grocery sack, placed it on his head and never looked back. “Journey Thru the Unknown” tells the story of the man under the paper sack, a very funny man named Murray Langston who, in his almost 70 years, witnessed and, more importantly, helped shape the modern world of stand-up comedy.

Langston tells his story in a unique way, highlighting every year since his birth. That being said, the first chapter, entitled June 27, 1944, is the shortest, with his main recollection being that it was very hard for him to find work. This is the style Langston employs throughout the book. Whether recounting a meeting with his idol Jerry Lewis, or expressing a father’s love for his two daughters, Langston manages to add a little humor just when it’s needed.

From his early days in the Navy, where he entertained his fellow sailors as a radio DJ to his debut on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” to “The Sonny and Cher Show” and beyond, there doesn’t seem to be a time when Langston wasn’t making someone laugh. And along the way he met, or worked with, some of the greatest names in comedy, including Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Ruth Buzzi, Tim Conway, Jim Carey, Ted Knight and so many others. The book is also packed with photos – a virtual who’s who of comedy. As someone who enjoyed the various variety shows of the time, including “Sonny and Cher,” I was thrilled when I instantly recognized Langston’s mustached face as someone I had thoroughly enjoyed watching. Reliving his stories with him made me enjoy him all over again!

DVD Review “Journey to the Christmas Star”

Starring: Agnes Kittelsen, Jakob Oftebro
Directed by: Nils Gaup
Studio: Vertical Entertainment
DVD Release Date: November 5th, 2013
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 77 Minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Journey to the Christmas Star” caught my eye since I noticed it was made by the Norwegian chapter of Disney. That’s right Walt Disney. Obviously this film is dubbed in English over the original language but kids aren’t going to notice that aspect. The story is so sweet and it really is a beautiful holiday film. Even though it is quite short, I will look forward to adding to title to our must watch each Christmas.

Official Premise: A courageous girl sets out on an epic journey to find the Christmas Star, free the kingdom from a curse and bring back a long lost princess. With an evil witch attempting to stop her completing her journey, the little girl must overcome great adversity. A Christmas adventure for the whole family set in a magnificent winter wonderland.

One cool fact that I found about about “Journey to the Christmas Star” is that when it released in Norway during Christmas 2012 it sold 450,000 admissions and had become the second best-selling Norwegian film in 2012 only beaten by “Kon-Tiki”, which was also huge in the U.S. This film has some decent visual effects and some very impressive scenery. Sadly, there are no special features included on this DVD besides a trailer. I would have loved to seem some production featurettes.

Blu-ray Review “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition)”

Actors: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Graham McTavish
Directors: Peter Jackson
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: New Line Home Video
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Run Time: 183 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” series then you should be no stranger to Peter Jackson’s famous extended editions. Before “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was even released in theaters there was already talks of an extended edition that would be released. Obviously, the extended cuts of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are a must if you are a fan of the films. “The Fellowship of the Ring” had an extra 30 minutes included in it’s extended cut. “The Two Towers” was 42 minutes longer and lastly “The Return of the King” was 50 minutes longer. Even though they are longer, I have always preferred the extended cuts. So why I saw that the new cut of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was only 13 minutes longer, I was a little taken back but overall I still enjoyed it very much. I didn’t feel like it any better than the theatrical cut but it certainly wasn’t any worse either. It does deliver some great new scenes but in exchange the pacing issues are still at hand.

If you are a fan of this film I would recommend checking out this new cut but more importantly though the main draw for me is the fact that this extended edition Blu-ray actually includes an additional nine hours of new bonus features, which was not on this film first Blu-ray release. If you were like me, I was pretty pissed with the lame lack of extras in the theatrical cut Blu-ray release. So I was very pleasantly pleased to find this new release to be jam-packed with new goodies. This is a must for any fan of the series, especially if you didn’t race out back in March for the theatrical cut. All I know for one thing is that I was excited for the December 13 theatrical release of the second film of the trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”…and now I am very excited for this film and so is my wife who didn’t even originally want to see the first film in theaters.

Official Premise: The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

Like the theatrical cut the the 1080p transfer is just outstanding. It is stunning whether it is presented in 3D or not. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track is also flawless like the theatrical cut my walls were shaking during the action scenes. Warner Bros delivered this film as a combo pack including a Blu-ray and UltraViolet Digital Copy. There are three BD-50 discs included for this release. The 183-minute extended cut fills one disc and the other two Blu-rays include the massive amounts of special features included.  Kicking off the special features there is a must listen audio commentary track with Peter Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens. Not a shock that this track is very engaging and very informative. They cover just about everything possible about the production.  Next up we have a short feature called “New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth” in which Jackson talks about the shooting locations that were transformed into Middle-Earth. This extra is the only one that was included on the theatrical cut Blu-ray release since the 127-minute, ten-part Video Blog series is not included here.

“The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey” includes over four f hours of extras covering the production from end to end. This 14-part chronological history of the filming of “An Unexpected Journey” covers everything from pre-production to working on the digital effects. The featurettes included are “The Journey Back to Middle-Earth”, “Riddles in the Dark: Gollum’s Cave”, “An Unexpected Party: Bag End”, “Roast Mutton: Trollshaws Forest”, “Bastion of the Greenwood: Rhosgobel”, “A Short Rest: Rivendell and London”, “Over Hill: The Misty Mountains”, “Under Hill: Goblin Town”, “Out of the Frying Pan: The Forest Ledge”, “Return to Hobbiton: The Shire”, “The Epic of Scene 88: Strath Taieri”, “The Battle of Moria: Azanulbizar”, “Edge of the Wilderland: Pick-ups and the Carrock” and “Home Is Behind, the World Is Ahead”.

On the third disc, we get “The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth” which includes another four plus hours of bonus features. There are a bunch of additional featurettes focusing on the film’s production including “The Company of Thorin”, “Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member”, “Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves”. “The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-Earth”, “Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town” and “The Songs of The Hobbit”. I think that Peter Jackson realized that the March Blu-ray for the theatrical cut wasn’t up to par in terms of extras and he really set it right with his fans with this release. Hopefully though, they will still be willing to make the purchase and double dip for this extended edition release since the extras are worth the price of the Blu-ray alone.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition arrives on Digital Download October 22nd and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on November 5th!

Get your copy here: http://bit.ly/HobbitEE

Book Review “Journey” by Aaron Becker

Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: August 6, 2013

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Kids have the best imaginations. I remember when I was a kid, I used to dream up the craziest stuff and wish that it would all come true. I would give anything to be back in that world. When I saw “Journey”, I felt that connection. “Journey” is a wordless picture book about self-determination and unexpected friendship. I wasn’t blown away by the illustrations but I enjoy the encouragement for kids to follow their own adventures.

Official Premise: A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire?

I thought the line work and colors usage was interesting, I wasn’t completely in love with it but it did sort of draw me in. This book was inspired by Author/Illustrator Aaron Becker’s own traveling to various places including Kenya, Japan, Sweden, and Tahiti, which fed his imagination for “Journey”. This was his first book and I am curious to see what he is going to come up with next.

Blu-ray Review “Magic Journey to Africa”

Actors: Eva Gerretsen, Raymond Mvula
Directors: Jordi Llompart
Rated: Unrated
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
DVD Release Date: April 23, 2013
Run Time: 49 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Every year when Earth Day comes around, I always find myself in the mood to watch documentary films like “Magic Journey to Africa”. I never had the privilege of seeing this film in theaters, where it was made for giant-screen format theaters and presented in 3D. Unfortunately, The Blu-ray does not included the 3D transfer of the film. You can tell that this film was shot with that added depth and feels like it is lacking that magic on this Blu-ray release. Nonetheless, it is still fun for the whole family to enjoy, it runs less than an hour so you might want to consider that as well.

Official Premise: A magical and extraordinary world opens before your eyes in this dazzling giant-screen spectacle. On the wings of imagination, an adventure-loving young girl finds herself exploring the mysteries and amazing wildlife of untamed Africa! Spectacular aerial photography captures lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras and a multitude of strange and magnificent animals. The breathtaking landscape pulses with life – the lush rainforests, untouched coastline, ancient red sand dunes and even the culture of a remote native village. A fantastic journey awaits your whole family in a place like no other, a place where dreams and magic come alive.

Image delivered the Blu-ray release in 2D only but it still packs a very sharp 1080p transfer   I sure that this would have looked amazing on the big screen since it was film in that format but still very impressive for a Blu-ray. The audio included is a very nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.  When it comes to these nature documentaries, the score is always very important to drive the story and it succeeds here.  In terms of special features, there are three  making of documentaries with bonus behind-the-scenes footage and trailers included. It may not be a lot but it is still quite impressive in terms of quality.

Book Review "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II: Creatures and Characters"

Author: Daniel Falconer
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Harper Design
Release Date: April 9, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Last year when I reviewed Harper’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles – Art & Design”, I was blown away.  It was easily one of the best film companion book I had the privilege checking out last year. Click here to see our review. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II: Creatures and Characters” is another amazing book from WETA Workshop designer Daniel Falconer. My wife’s response was “Another one?” but from the moment I picked up the book, I was unable to put it down. There is so much amazing content in here that I can spend hours and hours looking it over. If you are a fan of “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings” series, this book is really a dream come true.

The first “Chronicles” focused broadly on the “Art & Design” from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” with over 1,000 images of every aspect of the production from concept artwork to photographs and development paintings.  “Chronicles II” hones in a little bit and focuses specifically on the aspects of the “Creatures and Characters”.  Easily there is no stretching of content here there is enough to fill two books on these topics.  Here we get an additional 500+ previously unpublished photographs, behind-the-scenes photographs, digital renders and film stills, which are absolutely breathtaking. We get a chance to go through “The Hobbit” species by species and character by character. If you like the Hobbit’s then you will enjoy the sections on everything from their accents to their feet to their ears were created.  Literally, every aspect is covered in this book. We don’t get stop as the Hobbit’s though, we get chapters on the Wizards, Dwarves, Trolls, Elves, Stone Giants, Goblins, Orcs, Beasts and of course we can’t forget Gollum.  Along with that we have exclusive interviews with the designers, cast and crew to accompany and describe these beautiful photos. 

I should also point out that “Chronicles II”, comes with a great send off from Andy Serkis.  He is so extremely talented and his work on this series, should be awarded. By the time you get to the end of the book and you think you are done…there is still more goodies including a special fold-out Character Size Chart. This chart takes a look at all the major creatures and characters of the film ranging from Radagast’s hedgehog friend to the towering Stone Giants! Like in the first “Chronicles”, Weta Workshop designer Daniel Falconer has access to these wonderful collection of images and really leave you just starring at the pages. You really get an inside look at how much work and hard labor really went into this film. It makes you have a new appreciation for the talented people involved. Harper really delivered these images in the highest possible quality as well as complete book presentation. I hope that they are planning the same thing for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”, because I will be first in line.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Blu-ray Combo Pack Giveaway [ENDED]

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J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an amazing quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Blu-ray Review "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Actors: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott
Directors: Peter Jackson
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: New Line Home Video
DVD Release Date: March 19, 2013
Run Time: 169 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” series.  They are easily some of my favorite films that if I see them on, I just lost a day since I can’t not watch them. “The Hobbit” was also quite amazing and one of my favorites from 2012.  There has been much speculation on whether it is up to par with the film’s that it follows and I believe that it is.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is the beginning of another trilogy with Peter Jackson behind all three.  This film is followed by “The Desolation of Smaug” and “There and Back Again”, which will be in theaters respectively in 2013 and 2014. So basically if you know J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, which only runs just over 300 pages, that their is a little bit of embellishment here in order to span three films.  I like to look at “The Hobbit” as a way to lure us about to Middle Earth and get you ready for the following three films.  Is it as good as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy…no, but did you really expect it to? Don’t forget what the power of a film earning a BILLION dollars will do! Stand alone, this is an amazing well-made film and I will be first in line for the next two and fingers crossed for an Extended Edition release in the future.  Be sure pick up this this first installment and begin your Hobbit collection! Keep ’em coming Peter Jackson!

Official Premise: The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

This edition from Warner’s comes as a Blu-ray combo pack with a Blu-ray disc, a DVD copy and also an Ultraviolet digital streaming copy. When this film was released, there was a lot of focus on the 3D, since it was the first film to be released theatrically in the new 48FPS 3D (double the projection speed of regular 3D).  I had the privilege of seeing this film in 3D and I have to say it is really the way to go if you have the option.  Peter Jackson really sets up the Middle Earth to look amazing in the third dimension. Easily add a half a star to the film’s rating for the 3D added in. Nonetheless, the 2D version still works, it is just missing the added depth. I have to say Warner still delivers easily one of the best Blu-rays of the year in terms of audio/video.  The 1080p is stunning and absolutely crystal clear.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is a real beast.  Get ready to write that apology letter to you neighbors since this shit is going to break the windows and shake the walls.  The action and score are perfectly balanced and will blow your speakers if you are not careful.  You have been warned.

Now on to the special features, which are very disappointing for a release of this stature. There majority of these extras aren’t even new since they have been available online. I am assuming that they are either holding out for the extended edition or the inevitable trilogy collection.  “ew Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth” is a short look with Peter Jackson and the production crew of New Zealand being turned back into Middle Earth. Next is ten “Video Blogs” from Jackson that were available previously that were made to tease us during the production. They run about an collective two hours and are very fun and informative still but as the only main extra included, I am a big taken back. Here is a breakdown of the blogs “Start of Production (April 14, 2011)”, “Location Scouting (July 9, 2011)”, “Shooting Block One (July 21, 2011)”, “Filming in 3D (November 4, 2011)”, “Locations Part I (December 24, 2011)”, “Locations Part II (March 2, 2012)”, “Stone St. Studios Tour (June 6, 2012)”, “Wrap of Principal Photography (July 24, 2012)”, “Post-Production Overview (November 24, 2012)” and “Wellington World Premiere (December 14, 2012)”. There are also a few film and game trailers included as well. Lastly there is a sneak peak access code included for an exclusive online sneak peek at “The Desolation of Smaug”, hosted live by Peter Jackson on March 24th at 3pm EST/12pm PST.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey available on Blu-Ray 3/19/13 at WB Shop http://bit.ly/WzQwcw


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"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" Gets Officially Dated for Blu-ray

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
  
  
  
  

“THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” A PRODUCTION OF NEW LINE CINEMA

AND METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER PICTURES, ARRIVES ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD ON MARCH 12 

AND ON BLU-RAY COMBO PACK, BLU-RAY 3D™ COMBO PACK AND 2-DISC DVD SPECIAL EDITION ON MARCH 19 FROM WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Unlock a Sneak Peek of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” on March 24 When You Purchase the Movie on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download at Select Digital Retailers

Burbank, CA, February 5, 2013 – From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), arriving on Digital Download on March 12  and on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and 2-Disc DVD Special Edition on March 19  from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. All disc versions feature UltraVioletÔ and more than 130 minutes of bonus content. The first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which is nominated for three Academy Awards*, is an epic adventure that immerses audiences once again in the fantastical world of Middle-earth. The March 19 home entertainment release will be followed by an Extended Edition available just in time for the holidays.

In addition, Peter Jackson will host a live first look at “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy, on Sunday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/Noon Pacific. Content will be streamed live and an edited version will be archived on the Trilogy’s official website. Access to the live event will be limited to holders of an UltraViolet code available by purchasing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack or 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. Select digital retailers will issue access codes upon purchase of the film.  Visit www.thehobbit.com/sneakfor more information.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the character he played in “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Also reprising their roles from “The Lord of the Rings” in “The Hobbit” Trilogy are: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Ian Holm as Old Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; and Andy Serkis as Gollum. The international ensemble cast also includes James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Manu Bennett and Conan Stevens.

The screenplay for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a WingNut Films Production, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” All three films in “The Hobbit” Trilogy, also including “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and the final film, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was released on December 14, 2012, with the second film, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” releasing December 13, 2013, and the third film, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” slated for July 18, 2014.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will be available on 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99, on 5-Disc Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $44.95, and on 2-Disc DVD Special Edition for $28.98. The Blu-ray Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in hi-definition on Blu-ray, and the theatrical version in standard definition on DVD. The 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in 3D hi-definition on Blu-ray, the theatrical version of the film in 2D high definition on Blu-ray and the theatrical version in standard definition on DVD.  The Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and the 2-Disc DVD Special Edition all include UltraViolet, which allows consumers to download and instantly stream the standard definition theatrical version of the film to a wide range of devices including computers and compatible tablets, smartphones, game consoles, Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players.*

SYNOPSIS

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and DVD Special Edition contain the following special features:

  • Full Suite of Peter Jackson’s Production Videos. Enter Middle-earth of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” as Academy Award-winning Director Peter Jackson takes you behind the scenes, on location and amidst the star-studded cast in a series of video journals that puts you in the forefront of latest in filmmaking with more than two hours of additional content. Highlights of the journals include:

o   Start of Production

o   Location Scouting

o   Filming in 3D

o   Post-production Overview

o   Wellington World Premiere 

EST Release Date:  March 12, 2013

Standard Street Date: March 19, 2013

DVD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Parisian French

BD Languages: English, Latin Spanish,

DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French

BD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish

Running Time: 169 minutes

Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images

DLBY/SURR   DLBY/DGTL   [CC]

CD Review “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Special Edition)

Composer: Howard Shore:
Original Release Date: December 11, 2012
Number of Discs: 2
Format: Special Edition
Label: WaterTower Music

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” scores, then I am sure that you do not even need my thoughts for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.  This fits right in line with the past Middle Earth adventure scores from the master composer Howard Shore.  When I saw this film in theaters, I was literally blown away from the score and I am one to keep an eye out for a good score.  I love the blend that this score has between the action and the drama from the film.  I think it really captures the film very well and should leave any fan very satisfied.

The Special Edition of the soundtrack includes six bonus tracks that are not on the regular version. I have to say these tracks actually add quite a bit to the overall score and even include an additional track sung by the Dwarfs – “Blunt the Knives”. Also what is a Peter Jackson film, without an Extended Version? This soundtrack includes seven extended tracks as well. They really add to the scale of the film, especially on the first disc including “An Unexpected Party”.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” sounds unique from “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy while still visiting certain cues that hang on to that special feeling. I found myself smirking and repeating the certain tracks that had that aspect. I have to admit though, ever since watching the trailer over a year ago and hearing the Dwarfs singing “Misty Mountains” in Bilbo’s house. I have been obsessed with that song. It is literally my favorite track on the album that is not a orchestral piece. If you go with this album I highly recommend this Special Edition release for sure!

TRACK LISTING:
Disc 1

1. My Dear Frodo
2. Old Friends (Extended Version)
3. An Unexpected Party (Extended Version)
4. Blunt the Knives (Exclusive Bonus Track) – The Dwarf Cast
5. Axe or Sword?
6. Misty Mountains – The Dwarf Cast & Richard Armitage
7. The Adventure Begins
8. The World is Ahead
9. An Ancient Enemy
10. Radagast the Brown (Extended Version)
11. The Trollshaws (Exclusive Bonus Track)
12. Roast Mutton (Extended Version)
13. A Troll-hoard
14. The Hill of Sorcery Howard Shore
15. Warg-scouts Howard Shore

Disc 2:
1. The Hidden Valley
2. Moon Runes (Extended Version)
3. The Defiler
4. The White Council (Extended Version)
5. Over Hill
6. A Thunder Battle
7. Under Hill Howard Shore
8. Riddles in the Dark
9. Brass Buttons
10. Out of the Frying-Pan
11. A Good Omen Howard Shore
12. Song of the Lonely Mountain (Extended Version) Neil Finn
13. Dreaming of Bag End
14. A Very Respectable Hobbit (Exclusive Bonus Track)
15. Erebor (Exclusive Bonus Track)
16. The Dwarf Lords (Exclusive Bonus Track)
17. The Edge of the Wild (Exclusive Bonus Track)

Book Review “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles – Art & Design”

Author: Daniel Falconer
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper Design
Release Date: December 14, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

If you are a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” franchise and what Peter Jackson has done to the series, then “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Chronicles” is definitely for you.  The book focuses the art and design of the first film in the new trilogy “The Hobbit”. With Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson behind this film you know that it is going to hold the same charm that he brought over 10 years ago. I have to admit that Harper Design delivered here my favorite making-of film adaptation of the year. This is sure to leave every fan of the series literally drooling for more and counting down the days till next December for “The Desolation Of Smaug”. Perfect gift for the holiday season!

When you hold this book you just feel like you are holding a map of Middle Earth.  The cover is edged with a lot of detail and overall quality. Inside the book is jam-packed with over 1,000 images of every aspect of the production from concept artwork to photographs and development paintings.  Amongst the images is commentary from their artists including the concept art directors, Alan Lee and John Howe and others from the Art Department and Costume Department at Weta Workshop. I also need to point out that the book also has a very cool bonus fold-out map printed in glow-in-the-dark ink and a giant four-page fold-out of Bilbo’s contract. I mean that is worth the purchase alone.

I feel like the this book acts like a visual special features in book form. The detail of these pictures are just amazing.  We get to meet and learn about every aspect of the film’s characters, especially those awesome dwarfs. You see everything from costumes to hair to make-up etc.  Since this book was put together by Weta Workshop senior concept designer Daniel Falconer, you know that that means quality. This is official and guarantees that this book comes back with insider information and the top notch visual imagery. If you are a fan of this movie, then this book is a perfect companion and will hold you over until the extended Blu-ray release in 2013…or until you see the film again in theaters.