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Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming Soon: February 2014

Hello for the second time this year, everybody! How about that month of January eh? Eh? Yeah...it wasn't that impressive. January's average was 7.5 at the time of writing this which is a surprisingly strong month and puts it 7% above the average score. So let's recap what came out shall we?

BUT BEFORE WE DO...be sure to go check out the Rath Awards for 2013. It's where I give out over 50 awards for Music, TV, Videogames, and of course, Movies.




Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: This wasn't nearly as bad/unnecessary as I thought it would be, but it was also nowhere near the highlight of the series. For me, it was the least scary of the bunch but it packed in a lot of mythology that the series has so desperately been needing to have explained. Not to mention that CRAZY twist ending! (Rath's Review Score: 7/10)

Lone Survivor: This is an update for a film that I had in my December Coming Soon post. Lone Survivor is a powerful film that will make you deeply appreciate what our men and women oversees go through. It's hard to watch, and even harder to accept the outcome but it's a story that needed to be told. That all being said, I highly recommend reading the book first. It's the superior version of this incredible story. (RRS: 8/10)
The Legend of Hercules: I skipped this one (and called it when I predicted it would be a dud last month) because it ended up being terrible. I'm sure it wasn't AS bad as the critics were hammering it, but still not worth your time or money nonetheless. If you want an epic Greek movie, just wait until the new 300.
Her: What a great film this was. Featuring some gorgeous cinematography and superb performances from Phoenix and Johansson, this is one of the best love stories to hit screens in a while...and it's about a man who falls in love with his computer's operating system. Despite a rushed ending and some overused awkwardness (mostly relating to sex), this film is an interesting look at the relationships we host in our life and why we do so. (RRS: 8.5/10)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: It starts off very strong to the point where I thought it was going to be special. But slowly over the course of its runtime it turns into an unexciting generic spy film. Not to mention there is next to no action. How do you have a spy movie with no action?! Having watched the balls-to-the-wall, near perfect Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol shortly after this, my mediocre score became even more solidified. (RRS: 6.5/10)
Ride Along: I was rooting for this one but it sounded like it turned out to not be all that great. A hilarious trailer led to quite a few audience disappointments and from the general consensus it sounds like the PG-13 script was the culprit. Oh well...at least we have 22 Jump Street to look forward to later this year!
I, Frankenstein: Ended up being worse than probably previously expected (and I'm two for two for predicting duds last month!) but again, probably not AS bad as critics were hammering it. Much like its trailers, it looked extremely forgettable and about as good as the actual title of the film.
That Awkward Moment: Since this came out on the last day of January, I don't have an update for you guys at this time. Assuming I still see the movie like I plan to, I will update this accordingly!

Most Disappointing: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Most Surprising: None
Worst Movie: The Legend of Hercules
Best Movie: Her

Now on to February! The month of love! Without a single romantic movie preview because they all looked terrible. Seriously, just go see Her on Valentines Day. I'd be willing to bet it's better than any of the other films that come out. And click the titles for their trailers!



Why It's Worth Seeing: February starts off with MY most anticipated movie of the month. Based on the strong, hilarious previews and excellent cast of voices, there is a very strong chance that this could turn out to be a classic much like Wreck-it Ralph was. As long as there are tons of Lego inside jokes and a strong comedic script, this one could be an immediate treasure.
What Could Go Wrong: Wreck-it Ralph succeeded on so many levels (as do many Disney movies) because they are kid AND adult friendly. They go deep emotionally and there are usually some adult-themed jokes throughout. From the trailers it doesn't seem like this would be an issue for The Lego Movie, but it could happen. And if it's all kiddie and doesn't have a more mature side it could be a huge bummer.



Why It's Worth Seeing: The cast of Clooney, Damon, Goodman, Murray, and Blanchett (among others) is pretty impressive for a February release. Not to mention it tells a story that most of us haven't likely heard before about a group of men trying to save artwork from Nazi destruction in World War II. It's also directed by Clooney who has proven to be rather talented behind the camera in past efforts.
What Could Go Wrong: I'm concerned as to why it was bumped from its December release all the way to February. It could have been because that month was super crowded or it could be hinting at a larger problem. I don't see too much going wrong with the film over its 118 minute runtime but it could just be forgettable.



Why It's Worth Seeing: Probably the most scrutinized film of 2014 so far and it hasn't even released. Ever since its announcement its had hardcore fans in a tizzy with moods ranging from excitement, anger, disgust, etc. I think if it pulls off the human element it so desperately tries to convey in the trailer than we might have something special as long as there is some great action to go with it.
What Could Go Wrong: It got slapped with a PG-13 rating recently and that seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for most fans. I tend to agree. Can you imagine the recent Dredd remake being PG-13? It just flat out wouldn't work. I have a feeling the same can/will be said about this when it releases.



Why It's Worth Seeing: Costner proved that he can play the spy game, most recently with his strong role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. As long as the movie is smart, this could be the birth of a second Liam Neeson.
What Could Go Wrong: I know almost nothing about the film, no thanks to the trailer. It looks generic as can be and what is with the crappy movie titles this year people?!?



Why It's Worth Seeing: It could be epic and the story of Pompeii is a tragic one, much like Titanic. If this film can make us care about the characters as much as Titanic did, then, despite knowing the outcome, we could be really invested in it. Given that its only 102 minutes long, it could be a short, awesome trip to the theaters.
What Could Go Wrong: The trailers indicate that it doesn't look to take that road. Again, it looks like it wants to be a 300-wannabe. And is it just me or do the effects look fairly "meh"?



Why It's Worth Seeing: We started the month off with my most anticipated and we end it off with my second most anticipated. Something about THIS Liam Neeson action film has got me excited and I think it might end up being truly awesome. Granted Taken 2 was a disaster, but generally his films before it (such as Taken and the 5th best film of 2012, The Grey) have been unique and special. Something in my gut tells me that Non-Stop will be another Liam Neeson hit.
What Could Go Wrong: A lot of movies that are "trapped on a plane" so to speak, get really boring really quickly. If the plot and script aren't there for Neeson to work with, then this one could end up being a snoozer for all of its scenes other than the climax.


FEBRUARY OVERVIEW:
Must See (in order): The Lego Movie, Non-stop
On My Radar: The Monuments Men, Robocop, Pompeii
Predicted Dud: 3 Days to Kill


February looks to be bringing the heat a little more than January! Enjoy your time at the movies and I'll see you guys again in March for what could also be another strong month in theaters! Be sure to come on over and follow me through Blogger at RATH'S REVIEWS and like me on Facebook HERE! I follow-for-follow 100%. Thanks again! 



If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Agents of SHIELD: Seeds Review

"Seeds" finally reveals Skye's secret and a new villain from the comic book universe has been introduced.
*Spoilers are ahead. If you have not seen the episode, you can watch it at this link.*
Well, that was unexpected, Skye might actually have superpowers of some sort, and she is certainly not May's daughter, which is good, albeit expected at this point. From what has been revealed, no other character in the Marvel universe matches her origin of being a 0-8-4 in China when she was a child. Of the reveals thus far in the series, this is, by far, the best. Her backstory was mostly explained and it surprisingly works. Good job writers this time for not making something predictable and actually giving us something! Despite being one of my favorite characters of the series earlier on in its run, she has dropped considerably from where she was previously. She has been kind of annoying, but I like the way the character handled her origin, and I hope we are given even more to think about in the next episodes. Even though Skye is said to be from China, the actress, Chloe Bennet, is half Chinese and half Jewish American. Will her heritage play into her origin at all in the show? I do not know. I wonder if she is the daughter of a supervillain like others have suggested.
As for the rest of the episode taking place at the SHIELD Academy. Getting to see more of Fitz and Simmons backstory was fun, and seeing how all the students look up to them was also cool. Now it is clear why they were chosen for Coulson's team. A young genius student at the academy, Donnie Gill, was introduced to the series. In the comics, Donnie Gill took the name Blizzard in the comics, and while I believe his frost powers came from some technology used, this version appears to have gained powers from his invention that malfunctioned, thus giving him the ability freeze things apparently.

Overall: 8.5/10- Overall, "Seeds" finally gave us some answers that we were hoping to hear about Skye's secret past, and it setup a new villain for the team to face.

Also, if anyone is unaware, the series has taken a two week break and it will return on February 4th.


If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fate/Zero Review

If you remember, Fate/Zero tied for my award for be best television series of the year, and in this review, I will explain why you should be watching it.

Fate/Zero is a critically acclaimed, contemporary fantasy series about the battle between magicians and their Servants, who are historical and legendary heroic figures from the past and mythology, for the ultimate wish granting device, The Holy Grail. While the premise is simple enough to explain, how the series executes this premise is more difficult to explain. 

The series is not pure battle; the series is much more about the strategy the contestants use, the intense suspense that results because of it, and the clash of the character's desire for the Grail. In addition, Fate/Zero is about the ideals of the chivalric code that the heroes of old follow, and how far will you go for the greater good. In the world of Fate/Zero, the Grail chooses each contestant based on their motivations for obtaining it, which adds a unique complexity that few shows delve into. The motivations of characters in many works of fiction is often not explained or given much thought, which makes Fate/Zero special.
Of the series that I have seen, Fate/Zero is probably one of the ones that would appeal to a broader audience than most. It is void of the typical cliches that are found in the genre like fan-service, being set in high-school, and over-the-top animation. If you do not mind a dark story with violence, Fate/Zero is a must watch. If you are a fan of shows like Game of Thrones, or any mature fantasy series, then Fate/Zero is something that would likely pique your interest. Something to note however is that the first episode, which twice the length of normal episodes, is majorly exposition heavy as it attempts to explain the premise and set the foundation for the characters. After the first episode however, the pacing improves. Since Fate/Zero is a prequel to the Fate Stay Night series, some parts are confusing at first, however watching the Stay Night is not necessary, especially since I did not watch Fate Stay Night beforehand. Basically, just go with it for the first few episodes until things are made clear. 
Aside from the intriguing ideals that Fate/Zero explores, the series has a lot of epic action and suspense, along with well developed characters. Fate/Zero does not have one central character; it revolves around the seven Masters and their seven Servants. Even though Arturia Pendragon, aka Saber, and her master Kiritsugu Emiya are given the most screen-time, they are not necessarily the protagonists. Almost all of the characters are well developed and many of the them have intriguing and often entertaining character traits. While one would assume the Masters are the best characters, the Servants and their respective outlooks on honor, kingship, and chivalry are one of the most fascinating aspect of the series. Since there are so many characters in the series, discussing each one, as I typically do in TV reviews, would take up most of the review. However, some of the historical/mythological figures that the series includes are King Arthur (with a twist to mythos), Alexander the Great, Lancelot, and Diarmuid Ua Duibhne.  
My only problem with the series is that I did not feel as captivated by it, in that I did not feel as though I had to know what happened next like a series like Death Note, which had me on the edge of my seat. However, towards the later half of the series, I was much more involved in it.


The Good: Intense and suspenseful, Well developed characters, Intelligent use of tactics and strategy, Void of typical tropes, Mature story, Epic battle scenes, Morally ambiguous, Visually stunning animation, Intriguing use of historical and mythological figures, Mostly strong English dub, Understandable motivations, Thought-provoking ideals of chivalry and heroism, Unexpected plot twists,

The Bad: Anticlimactic ending, Exposition heavy first episode (not a problem for me but might be for others), 





Plot: 9.6/10- Despite the early pacing issues, Fate/Zero's plot is full of great characters and plot twists. Some of the concepts presented are a little confusing during the first few episodes, but after enough is explained, the series becomes engaging and often intense. Occasionally, Fate/Zero can be a little dialogue heavy for some viewers, although I did not find that aspect a problem since the dialogue was interesting, but some might have that problem.

Action: 9.3/10- Fate/Zero combines exciting action with thoughtful strategy. Each Servant has a "Noble Phantasm" and that "Noble Phantasm" is a special power unique to each Servant that they can use to gain an advantage in combat. In addition, the Servants are very powerful and the battles that ensue are excellently animated. Also, the most of the Masters are powerful magicians and mage hunters, which results in some unique battles as well.

Acting: 9.5/10- Fate/Zero features a very strong English dub. Crispin Freeman gives the standout best performance, although that is not particularly unexpected since Freeman is one of the best voices actor in the business. Kari Wahlgren as Saber also gives an excellent performance and Matthew Mercer as Kiritsugu gives an equally fantastic performance. Jamieson Price as Rider is bombastic and hilarious, and I cannot imagine anyone else voicing the role any better than he did.

Art Style: 9.9/10- Fate/Zero's art style is somewhat unique, yet at the same time the animation style is rather subdued and realistic. The actually quality of animation is simply beautiful and stunning. You can take screencaps and frame them on your wall, they are that good. Ufotable is one of the animation studios in the business, and while nothing can match their previous work on the Kara no Kyoukai series, which I highly recommend, Fate/Zero's animation is overall amazing.

Soundtrack: 9.2/10- Two words: Yuki Kajiura. For those not familiar with Kajiura's work, she has composed the soundtrack for top series such as Sword Art Online Kara no Kyoukai. She is among the best in the business and, even though Fate/Zero is not her strongest work, it is very good. The tracks increase the epicness of the battles and add the right emotion for every scene.

Opening: 8.5/10- The first opening "Oath Sign" is very good, and the animation is fitting for the show. The second "To the Beginning" is almost as strong, however "Oath Sign" is my preferred opening to the series.

Humor: 7.9/10- Despite being a mostly serious series, Fate/Zero has quite a few moments of humor, which add needed levity. Most of the humor comes from bombastic Rider, aka Iskander, aka Alexander the Great. His character is a lot of fun to watch, particularly his opinions of modern society.  

Overall: 9.5/10- Fate/Zero is among the best animated series I have seen. While the series can be confusing at times, the action is epic, the characters are well developed, and the animation is stunning. 

Closing comments: Even though Fate/Zero is not for everyone, it is one of the few anime series that would appeal fans of darker fantasy stories and intelligent action shows. 

Recommended for: Historical fiction fans, Fantasy fans, Anime fans, Animation fans,

You can watch the first half of the series in English dub here, and you can watch the subtitled version here.

I have to give a thanks to Arvin Saints at Anime and Book Messiah for recommending Fate/Zero. Be sure to check out his review of Fate/Zero, which you can read by clicking here.



If you want to contact us or have any question please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse Review

Now that Sherlock has been officially released in America, here is my full spoiler review of the "The Empty Hearse."

After two very long years of waiting for return of the critically acclaimed and fan favorite series Sherlock, how could anything live up to the impossibly lofty expectations that nearly everyone anticipates?
*Major Sherlock Spoilers Ahead*

"The Empty Hearse" opens with a scene that answers our long awaited question: how did Sherlock survive the "The Reichenbach Fall," or does it? Well, not exactly. Next Lestrade calls "bollocks" on Anderson's theory. My first reaction when the scene started was: "Yes! We finally get to see how he did it!" and then after he used the bungee cord and kisses Molly I figured it was probably Anderson's theory, aka Moffat trolling us. On a side note, the tech music in that scene was great; I am listening to it while writing this review. In addition, we now know that Sherlock faked his death to take down Moriarty's organization, and seeing Mycroft, played brilliantly by co-creator and writer Mark Gatiss, again was good fun, especially the brotherly rivalry interaction between the two. However, I am a bit confused since Mycroft and Sherlock seem to agree that Mycroft is the smarter of the two. Isn't Sherlock suppose to the be the smarter one? Also, even though Mycroft does not like personal interaction, he does not seem to have the social ineptitude that Sherlock displays, considering his high position in the government.

Among all of the mystery of how Sherlock survived, why he faked his death, and exactly what happened at the end of the "The Reichenbach Fall," we all know what we wanted to see in this episode, the reunion of Holmes and Watson, and it really did deliver what we were hoping to see. Everything about that aspect was absolutely perfect. From John punching, headbutting, and tackling Sherlock to perfectly timed musical cues that add to the comedy of the situation, everything about the reunion was, well, perfect. Throughout the scene I nearly died of laughter multiple times. It was comedic genius and Watson's reaction was exactly what I was hoping to see.

The best and intended way to experience "The Empty Hearse" to its fullest degree is have watched the "The Reichenbach Fall" around the time it air, which is about two years ago, and then waited until for those two long years because "The Empty Hearse" caters directly to those fans, or at least the ones that have been eagerly anticipating Sherlock's return. Having the two back on screen together reminds me how much I have missed the show in its absence.

Having Andersen be the head of the "The Empty Hearse," a group of Sherlock conspiracy theorists, essentially mirroring the real life fandom was rather hysterical! Also, the episodes pokes fun at the absurd "fan" ideas that imply that Sherlock and Watson are homosexual in anyway, which was hilarious! Particularly with Watson proclaiming to Mrs. Hudson that he is "Not gay!"

Molly teaming up with Sherlock as a replacement for John was a lot of fun. She claims to have moved on from her crush on Sherlock since she is now engaged, however when we meet her fiance he turns out to be a virtual clone of Sherlock in terms of how he dressing and looks.

Not surprisingly, Freeman and Abbington have fantastic chemistry since they are a real life couple, although the best of her character comes in the following episodes.

We get to see Sherlock's parents, who are played by Cumberbatch's real life parents, which is kind of cool.

The Good: Cumbertach remains the best, Perfect character beats, Superb stylistic direction and camera work, Tons of fan-service and meta humor, Even better presentation of Sherlock's mind, Freeman is beyond excellent, Hilarious throughout, Watson's mustache, Perfect chemistry between the actors, Satisfying answers, Stunning cinematography, Memorable quotes,

The Bad: Less focus on mystery,

Mystery: 8.3/10- For my Sherlock reviews I have a new category to give a rating, the actual mystery featured in the episode. With the character development and fallout from last season's cliffhanger resolved, the quality of the mystery suffered. Even though it did have its merits, the actual mystery was lacking in clues for the audience to pick up, however the resolution of the mystery was satisfying.

Characterization: 10/10- "Characterization" is another new category where I rate how well effectively the episode progresses the characters since, in the end, characters are the most important part of almost any story. "The Empty Hearse" featured possibly the best character development and overall characterization of any episode of the series yet. Much thought and time was given to John and Sherlock's friendship and how the events of the previous episode effect that. The addition of Mary Morstan was more than welcome. Thanks to a strong performance by Amanda Abbington, Mary seemed like a realistic and believable character. Even though he is not featured heavily in the episode, Lestrade is given an excellent character moment as well.

Acting: 10/10- Benedict Cumberbatch is the definition of perfection as Sherlock and Martin Freeman continues to give a believable and likable performance as Watson. As stated previously, Amanda Abbington is a more than welcome addition to the cast and Rupert Graves' Lestrade is as great as ever.

Soundtrack: 10/10- Sherlock's soundtrack returns as brilliant as ever with many familiar themes that perfectly fit Sherlock Holmes and his endeavors.

Direction: 10/10- Jeremy Lovering's direction of "The Empty Hearse" was positively superb. There were so many intriguing stylistic choices, camera movements, transitions, and editing throughout the episode. While the previous episodes of the series has shown us, the audience, an inside look into Sherlock's brain through floating text and an occasional inner monologue, the presentation is even better in this episode than ever before.

Humor: 10/10- The first half of the episode made me laugh more than probably anything I have seen in a very long time. Also, the dialogue was witty and fast paced, and the actors delivery was spot on.

Relative Rating: 9.7/10- The relative rating compares the episode to the other episodes of the series, not television in general. For example, the worst episode of Sherlock, "The Blind Banker," which was still better than the majority of what is on TV today, would rate around a 8.2/10, and the best episode of Sherlock at this point, “The Reichenbach Fall,” would rate a 10/10. Therefore, since "The Empty Hearse" is not the best episode of the series, albeit it one of the best, it receives a rating of 9.7/10. Most likely, my explanation made absolutely no sense.

Overall: 10/10- Overall, "The Empty Hearse" serves its purpose brilliantly as it resolves the events of the previous episode as well as providing fans the needed return of everyone's favorite detective. The episode might not be the best Sherlock episode yet, but the pitch perfect characterization is more than deserving of a 10 out of 10.

Since I tried to avoid spoilers when the episode first came on, please let me know if you have written a review and leave a link to it in the comments if I have not commented on it yet!

If you want a chance to win a free copy of Iron Man 3 please click here to enter my giveaway.

Click here to check out more of my movie reviews.


If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reader's Choice

After a long hiatus, Reader's Choice has made its return! Because a few newcomers have followed J and J Production since my last Reader's Choice post, the basic idea is for you, the reader, to comment with what post of the ones below that you would like me to post in the coming weeks. Below I have various posts that I have written for you to choose from and they are sorted by categories like anime, old reviews, ect. Additionally, tomorrow I will post my spoiler review of Sherlock: "The Empty Hearse" since it was officially released in America last week, and my reviews for the other episodes will be released not long after the episodes are released in America. 

Lists:
Top 9 Novels

New Movie Reviews:
Pacific Rim
The Great Gatsby
Taken 2 Review
Trouble with the Curve Review 

Older Movie Reviews:
American Graffiti Review
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Review
Beetlejuice Review
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Review
Stranger than Fiction Review
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Review

Anime Reviews:
Akira Review
Cowboy Bebop Review (series and movie)
Ghost in the Shell Review
Interstella 5555 Review
Perfect Blue Review
The Melancholy/Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Review
Neon Genesis Evangelion Review
Spirited Away
Steins Gate Review
Summer Wars Review

Other:
Mass Effect 2 Review

Here is the projected posting schedule for the coming week.
Tuesday: Sherlock: "The Empty Hearse" Review
Wednesday: Fate/Zero Review
Thursday: Agents of SHIELD: Seeds Review
Friday: Coming Soon: February 2014 (guest post by Jordan)

Note: Sorry for the delay with the Top Dynamic Duos list. It has turned out to be much harder to write about, so it might have to wait until my summer break to figure things about it. 



If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past Instagram Teaser

Yet another super short teaser for X-Men: Days of Future Past has been released. While not a lot was shown again, we do get to see a better image of Michael Fassbender's new Magneto helmet, and a good shot of Jennifer Lawrence. I am not sure when the full trailer to this teaser will be released, but I am certainly excited to see more. As for the movie in general, I am incredibly excited to see it! It should be excellent, providing Singer can balance all of the characters. What did you think of the Xtermely short X-Men teaser? Please comment below.


If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Son of Batman Trailer

Son of Batman is DC Animation's upcoming film that adapts the recent popular Batman story "Son of Batman." If you are not familiar with modern Batman comics, the story is about Bruce Wayne meeting his son, Damian, that he did not know he had with Talia al Ghul. Damian was raised by the League of Shadows and he dons the title of Robin. Since he was raised by the League of Shadows, his methods and opinions of killing clash with Bruce's, which makes for an interesting dynamic. The voice actor for Damian Wayne is actually a kid, and while his voice is slightly annoying, casting a kid in the role might work out for the best. While I do not read modern DC comics because of the cost and my lack of time, I do know quite a lot about the character and what happens, and from what I know, maybe this DC Animated movie can live up to its best work like Mask of the Phantasm. Even though I am not overly excited for this new animated film, I am interested enough to watch it at some point. What did you think of the trailer? Please comment below.



If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2013 Year in Television: Part 2

 Here is the continuation of my 2013 Year in Television where I briefly discuss every scripted series that I watched last year. This is not a list and the shows are not in any order. For more details on this post series, click here to read the first part of it.

Doctor Who
As I have said many times, Doctor Who is my favorite television series of all-time; I love it and will never stop watching it. In 2013 we received only a few episodes in comparison to what we have previous gotten with the second half of 2012's season, plus the amazing Day of the Doctor special, and the Time of the Doctor, which gave us the saddening departure of Matt Smith's Doctor, albeit one without any logic whatsoever. Compared to previous seasons, season seven is not the best, particularly the second half. There were certainly great episodes like "Hide," and Clara was incredibly charming as the new companion, but it did not have the quality we have had in the last few seasons. Despite this, The Day of the Doctor was fittingly cinematic and absurdly fun.  


Almost Human
Almost Human is just fun to watch. You may recognize Karl Urban from movies such as the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek because he plays the main character Detective John Kennex. Almost Human is set in a future where all cops are teamed with an android, and Kennex is teamed with one of the rare models that has emotions named Dorian. By far, the best part of the series is the humorous banter between Urban and Michael Ealy that injects some fun to the normally cliched buddy cop formula. The sci-fi world the series is in set in Blade Runner mixed with the best parts of the recent Total Recall film, and it works surprisingly well. Considering that almost every science-fiction series that I watch, which is virtually all of them, is cancelled after one or two seasons, I have probably doomed the show just by watching it (that was a joke).


Person of Interest
Person of Interest's third season stepped it up in a big way compared to the slightly disappointing season two. We got to see more of everyone's favorite psychopathic computer wiz chick, Root, played brilliantly by Amy Acker, as well as the character introduced from last season, Shaw, had a lot more screen time, which made the series a lot better. The big three episode arc right before the mid-season finale had some of the shows best work, and while it would not rank in my top five, it was a very solid action series.

The Crazy Ones
Robin Williams returned to television last year in The Crazy Ones, a series about a father/daughter team that runs an advertising agency. Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) plays the daughter, and she is usually humorous. The show itself is sporadic to say the least. Some episodes are positively hilarious, and others have far too much sexual humor that make them almost un-watchable. However, Robin Williams proves that me is one of the funniest men on the planet because when he is given decent material, he is the best.


Sleepy Hollow
Despite a strong pilot, after the following unimpressive three episodes of Sleepy Hollow, I could not watch anymore. It was not bad by any means, I just never felt like watching more of it. Maybe it was because most of the other shows on TV were just better, and of course you cannot watch every show on TV.


If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Marvel Females Countdown (Guest Post)

Today I want to welcome a new member to the J and J Productions 1809 team, Ashley Tara from Livin' Free.

Hey y'all! I'm Ashley, and this is my first guest post here on J and J Productions! I've been a fan of this blog for a good long time and I'm excited to share my countdown for one of my favorite fandoms: Marvel. More specifically, I want to highlight Marvel's leading ladies in the recent cinematic universe. Out of the many fictional universes out there, I believe Marvel has done one of the best jobs of consistently creating and re-creating strong female characters in their movies, and this three part post series is counting down my top eleven favorite Marvel females who make it look good to fight like a girl!

My main focus is on the female characters associated with The Avengers franchise, but honorable mentions to the X-Men ladies, Gwen Stacey, and all the other fantastic characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

11. Skye

Every one of the females of Marvel are amazing in their own way, but I have to put Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at number 11. I thought her character was very interesting and funny in the pilot episode, and it went down hill for several episodes while she became part of the team and faded into the background a bit. However she never fails to be humorous and add a human touch to the seriousness of S.H.I.E.L.D, not to mention that her "super power" of hacking adds a unique and useful skill to the roster. In recent episodes she's really started to own up to the strong female character name established by the ladies before her. I'm looking forward to seeing her backstory unfold as she becomes a part of the team.


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10. Jemma Simmons

I follow an agent with an agent, but it's not to say Jemma Simmons doesn't have her own "super powers" to get her recognized on this list. Her scientific expertise mixed with her down to earth, innocent personality adds real diversity to the definition of strong. With her resourcefulness and passion for science, she's proven herself a valuable member of Agent Coulson's team. I also really love the chemistry (pun intended) she has with Leo Fitz; their relationship is quite adorable. See?

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9. Agent Melinda May

Agent May is undoubtedly the most "kick butt" agent since Black Widow. Her mysterious nature (and past) mixed with her quiet confidence, readiness to act, hidden sense of humor and kindness, and overall leadership makes her a very complex character that's interesting to see in action. Although my respect for her character dropped a bit after the affair with Agent Ward showed up in a recent episode, she's still someone I want to see defeat the darkness outside and within.

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Numbers 8, 7, and 6 coming your way soon!


Thanks Ashley for a fun post! Be sure to check back in the future for the next part of her list.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2 Review

Thoughts: After a strong critically and publicly acclaimed first season would you expect the executives to do? Fire the writers of the series. Yeah, no one expected that, which made fans skeptical for the show's return: did it live up to the hype? Both yes and no. While the series have more than twice as many episodes as the merger six of the first season, which is a plus, several of the episodes and one story arc were noticeably weaker than the previous season. However, that is not to say that season two is bad, in fact, season two has some truly amazing episodes and some truly disappointing ones that makes you wish the old writers were back. In the end, season two is still better than a lot of shows I have seen and certainly worthy of a viewing, even if it does not match the quality that the first season set.

Unlike viewers who watched the series from the beginning on a  week to week basis, my brother and I watched season two is a little less than two weeks, which is important to take into account for this review for several reason. For one, the lack of plot movement between episodes four and seven are not nearly as grueling when you can watch the next episode in less than a day. *Minor Spoiler* However, I can image many losing some interest in the Sophia story arc since even I felt those episodes dragged on unnecessarily. If you were watching them on a weekly basis, the arc lasted more than a month, but the conclusion was satisfying enough in the end even though it lose some impact due to the length of the arc. *End Spoiler* During those episodes, the weakest part of season two is displayed with some overly melodramatic moments. Don't get me wrong, the character interaction and drama is one of the things that makes the show great, but those episodes delved into "soap opera-y" bad. Despite those few weak episodes, the series takes off after episode seven and almost returns to its former glory with an excellent combination of action and character moments.

One thing to note about the accuracy of the setting is that one episode featured a Southern Baptist Church. For whatever reason there is a crucified Jesus statue, being a Southern Baptist myself, I know that Southern Baptist Churches do not have those in churches, or at least very few, if any, do. My thought is that it there to provide imagery for the scene, but it is an inaccurate representation of the region and the religion, however that minor thing will not be held against the show in the final rating.

The Good: More great character development, Epic zombie battle, Same great main theme, Several amazing episodes, Impactful deaths, Better zombie action, Characters struggling to survive, More Glenn, Likable new characters, Daryl Dixon is even more bada** than before, Better production value, Larger scale, More episodes, Epic finale and reveal, Shocking plot twists and moments, Fantastic premiere, Unexpected ending reveal,

The Bad: Sophia arc dragged on too long, A few noticeably weak episode, Some dumb moments, A few overly dramatic "soap opera-y" parts, Inconsistent character motivations,


Plot: 8.4/10- Season two has its ups and downs in terms of its plot. Some episodes have several dumb moments that take you out of an otherwise engrossing experience. Rick in particular goes through fantastic character development as he struggles with his morals in a world without morals. With the exception of T-Dog, all of the main characters receive more development and are fleshed out, along with several new characters that I liked a lot. Despite the generally well thought out character motivations and character actions, a few times a character's action were completely out of character. One of my favorite characters from season one, Glenn, is given a lot more screen time and I really liked his character. Daryl is another character that was fortunately given more screen time because he is a great character. My further analysis of the characters will come in a later post. Aside from a focus on the characters, the show had many utterly shocking moments that makes the show different from others. Additionally, the finale was actually what I wanted to see. *Major Spoilers* While I did know a few spoilers about who lives and dies, which are virtually unavoidable considering the popularity of the series, I was still shocked that Dale died and the way, in which Shaun died was also unexpected. Additionally, the big reveal about what Jenner told Rick at the end of season one was shocking and totally unexpected, but very original. *End Spoiler*

Action: 8.3/10- While the first season gave us a taste of the zombie action the series could deliver, season two took it to another level in a few episodes. Since the group learn different strategies to battle the zombie, the variety of the action is great and the more stealth oriented strategies that are utilized make things more interesting. The risk of the characters being infected by the Walkers makes for many suspenseful scenes, particularly during the close quarters combat scene. In addition to the Walker action scenes, there are some human vs. human shootouts to add more variety to the action. *Minor Spoiler* The battle in the finale is truly epic and equal to that of many movies, except with the added suspense of your favorite character possibly dying. *End Spoiler*

Acting: 9.4/10- Overall, the acting is top notch. While the material given the actors is not always that great, which makes the actors look bad, Andrew Lincoln as Rick was particularly excellent and portrayed his character's struggle perfectly.

Special effects/Productions Value: 9.9/10- Nothing matches The Walking Dead's special effects and production value. The Walkers are gruesome in appearance with believable prosthetics and attention to detail. The lack of CGI is applause worthy here with almost every effect being practical. Many movies are not this good (looking at you World War Z), and the lighting and directing is always spot on; shaky-cam is virtually nonexistent!

Soundtrack: 7.9/10- Although the eerie opening theme returns, the rest of the soundtrack is fitting but never memorable enough for me to listen to it on its own and recognize it.

Comedy: 4.5/10- While there are a few humorous comments like when Daryl hilariously refers to Glenn as "Short Round," Indy's sidekick in Temple of Doom, which is something that I thought of in season one, the series is mostly humorous-less but never dull or lifeless.

Overall: 8.4/10- Season two begins the show's biggest flaw, its overall inconsistency, which continues to plague the series today. However, if I were to take the best six episodes of season two and compare it to season one, season two is better in terms of character development, but when looking at both the strong and weak episodes of season two of The Walking Dead, it is not as good. Despite the dip in overall quality, The Walking Dead is still a very good TV series that I cannot recommend more since season three is far superior.

Closing comments: Even if you are not a zombie fan, The Walking Dead is a must watch show if you can handle the gore.

Note: With the exception of a few corrections and minor comments, this review was written by me directly after finishing season two and before season watching season three. I did this so that I could give an accurate opinion of the season without being influenced by the next season.

You can click on the link to read my review for The Walking Dead Season 1.
Recommended for *Mature*: Zombie fans, Survival fans, Drama fans, Action fans, Apocalypse fans, Fans of TV,

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 TV Awards: Part 1

Today marks the first annual J and J Productions Television awards! For my first TV Awards, I have many different categories ranging from Best Overall Television Series to Best Hero in the year of TV. For my awards, a tie in an award category is acceptable and it happens often due to the sheer amount of great television 2013 presented. Also, this is only the first part of my awards post.

To note, I have yet to watch Breaking Bad (I will eventually) and since I do not have subscriptions to any expensive movies channels like HBO and Showtime, do not expect to see any of those shows winning awards, even if they are of high quality. Also please remember that these awards are based on the episodes that aired in 2013, and most of this post was written in 2013, therefore Sherlock will not be winning any awards, however it is likely to win Best Series of 2014 unless something comes out that is incredibly impressive.

Best Television Series: "The Walking Dead" and "Fate/Zero"
One winner for Best Television Series of the year could not be chosen because 2013 was such an awesome year, therefore both Fate/Zero and The Walking Dead share the honor.
The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead had an excellent second half of season three in the beginning of 2013, and an equally strong second half of season four. Despite the disappointing season three finale, it was a strong end to the series' best season. The beginning of season four felt a little odd at times, but overall, it is a great first half to a season that had an amazing mid-season finale.
Fate/Zero: Many of you have probably never heard of Fate/Zero if you are not familiar with Japanese animation, but Fate/Zero is one of the few series that I believe would appeal to many that are not familiar with Japanese animation. The series has few, if any, of the typical cliches of the genre that often are a turn off for the casual viewer. No weird cartoony scenes, no fan-service, and it is not about a high school student. Fate/Zero is a series about a battle to death for a the ultimate wish granting device, the Holy Grail, by mages that use heroes from the past to battle. The series is comparable to the quality of shows that AMC. Sometimes the show can be a little dialogue heavy and the first episode is exposition heavy, but give it a try. You can watch the first half of the series at this link. Additionally, I believe TV critic Gigguk said it, if Fate/Zero on a channel like AMC or HBO it would become incredibly popular because of the quality the show demonstrates (paraphrasing).
Honorable Mentions: Doctor Who, Agents of SHIELD, Sword Art Online, Hell on Wheels, The Blacklist,


Best Actor: Sam Spader
When Sam Spader was cast as Ultron in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, my first thought was: "Spader? Why would he be a good villain" and then I watched The Blacklist. Sam Spader gives one of the best performances I have seen in a long. He has a menacing presence that instantly grabs your attention every time he is on screen. His presence and performance is so fantastic that almost anytime he is not an essential aspect of an episode, the episode suffers.
Honorable Mention: Norman Reedus, Matt Smith, Clark Gregg, Karl Urban, Andrew Lincoln,


Best Comedy/Action Comedy: Almost Human
Since I do not watch many comedies, I have decided to merge the action comedy and comedy genres. While not entirely an action comedy, Almost Human brings a fun 80s buddy cop vibe to a sci-fi world that is combination of Blade Runner and the good aspects of the recent Total Recall film. The show does not revolutionize the genre by any means, but Karl Urban and Michael Ealy's comedic chemistry make a show that could be dull and boring into something that is just fun to watch.
Honorable Mention: Last Man Standing, 


Best TV Sci-Fi Series: Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Being a major sci-fi geek that will watch almost anything science fiction, therefore seeing so many science fiction series in 2013 was awesome! From Almost Human to Sword Art Online, there were so many to chose from, but Agents of SHIELD takes it as my favorite. Although a comic book based series by the strictest of definitions, the series featured many trappings of the sci-fi genre.
Note: Since I wanted to have a show other than Doctor Who win the award for once, I have decided not to include it since only half of a season was actually aired last year.
Honorable Mention: Sword Art Online, Falling Skies, Almost Human


Show We Will Miss the Most: The Clone Wars
2013 featured a saddening, and unexpected end to one of the shows that has created an entirely new generation of Star Wars fans, and one that showed us just how much we needed Star Wars to be great again. Despite a rocky first half of season, The Clone Wars ended with one of episodes ever, not just of the series. At least we will have conclusion with the release of those final episodes in some format unknown format. The end of The Clone Wars, Young Justice, and a few other good animated shows marks the end of an era where American animation was actually good, now all we have are poorly written goofy kid's shows. At least the cancellation forced me to discover a substitute, the superior anime genre. 
Honorable Mentions: Young Justice


Most Anticipated Returning Series: The Walking Dead Part 2/Doctor Who Season 8
Even though most of these awards were written last year, I have updated my most anticipated series award, which was Sherlock, since I have already seen all of season three of Sherlock and the first episode of season three officially aired in America yesterday.
The Walking Dead Season 4 Part 2: After the shocking and intense mid-season finale, The Walking Dead's second half of the season will hopefully not disappoint. 
Doctor Who Season 8: With Peter Capaldi playing the new incarnation of the Doctor, my excitement to see the new Doctor is growing. Hopefully Steven Moffat will go back to a more classic Doctor Who format where not ever season has to be about universe altering plot devices and Moffat "Space Magic."

What were some of your favorite shows in each category? Do you agree with any of my choices? Please comment below and let me know.


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Monday, January 20, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

Thoughts: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the highly anticipated followup to An Unexpected Journey that fully lives up to, and exceeds my expectations entirely. Cutting right to the chase, The Desolation of Smaug is the best movie of 2013, hands down. Everything about it is better than the first Hobbit movie, and it actually lives up to the standard set by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie was fun, exciting, engaging, and delivered on the character development. The Desolation of Smaug manages to balance a much darker tone with excellent characterization and a lot of epic action. It is the first movie since The Avengers to give me a feeling of complete and total satisfaction. As soon as I left the theater I knew that this is a modern classic that I will watch and re-watch for years to come.

First things first, Holy Smaug! Wow, just wow, seeing the gigantic dragon in IMAX 3D might be the most awe inspiring thing I have ever seen on the big screen. Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the role perfectly, although a few of his lines were so deep that I could not understand them. Regardless, he is certainly going to be a villain for the ages after There and Back Again. Smaug might be the largest fully featured character I have ever seen in a movie. His size and the quality of effects was simply stunning! Just like Bilbo's dialogue with Sméagol in the first Hobbit was the highlight of the film, Bilbo’s dialogue with Smaug was the highlight of this film. During several parts of the scene, I literally had chills. While dragons have been adapted to the big screen before, none of them compare to Smaug’s stupendousness. He is the definitive dragon that all subsequent dragons will be compared to.

Second, Elves in general are cool, but the Mirkwood elves are particularly awesome. Seeing Legolas again was great, although he has certainly aged since filming The Lord of the Rings. He has gained a lot of weight or something, because he looks different; however he was no less awesome. Some say his eyes are different, but when comparing pictures side by side, there is not much desirable difference other than the higher quality of camera used for the recent film. Mirkwood looked amazing! It would appear that Peter Jackson used more sets for those parts of the movie than he did in An Unexpected Journey, either that or the CGI looked that much better. Now, here are my thoughts on the controversial addition of Chief of the Guards, Tauriel. Surprisingly, she was a good character that had some great scenes. She was not the annoying stereotypical "Miss Perfect" type female character, but she was more like Black Widow from the Avengers. *Minor spoiler* The love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas, and Kíli was actually handled unexpectedly well. Kili's line “Aren't you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers” was somewhat humorous, and so was Tauriel's line, "He's tall for a dwarf." *End Spoiler*

To be perfectly clear, An Unexpected Journey is one of my all-time favorite films, which is evident by its ranking 10th place on my favorite movies list, and even though I may reference it as being bad, that is only because The Desolation of Smaug is even better. Granted, An Unexpected Journey did have some noticeable flaws.

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Fantasy, Action Adventure,
Release Date: 13 December 2013
Running Time: 161 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13


The Good: Smaug was impressive, Darker tone, Epic scale, Perfect pacing, Strong character development, Elves!, Effective foreshadowing, Well choreographed battle scenes, Stunning special effects, No goofy humor, Impressive 3D, More practical effects, Good soundtrack, Epic decapitations, Cool new character, Spiders were major creepy!,

The Bad:


Plot: 10/10- Desolation of Smaug's plot played out similarly to The Two Towers in that it is the darker, Empire Strikes Back, middle chapter of the trilogy that takes the characters to an ultimate low. Bilbo's character showed a lot of development in the film from where he was in An Unexpected Journey. He is a much stronger character, and I wish he was not left out of the middle portion of the film as much. Tonally, the film nailed it perfectly! The darker, less humorous tone may not have exactly fit with tone of the source material, but it worked perfectly at making the film closer to the Lord of the Rings in all the right ways. Due to the overall epicness of the story, Desolation of Smaug comes very close to the Lord of the Rings in terms of quality, although actually matching or surpassing it is nearly impossible. The pacing was also excellent as it balanced characters, action, and plot. There was never a dull moment throughout the 161 minute run-time, and I fully engaged in what was happening on screen. While some have complained about the abrupt ending, it actually worked for me because it ended the best way it could have, and it reminded me of Catching Fire's ending.

Action: 10/10- The movie's action was skillfully executed throughout with impressive choreography and epic scale. Peter Jackson's action direction was nearly perfect. Almost all of the scenes were well lit and clear despite the often blurry and darkening effect 3D has on a film. The Elves' fighting technique during the action scenes was particularly impressive with fluid choreography and stun work. There was almost no annoying shake-cam, which is always a good thing. The often talked about barrel chase scene was a lot fun and it was a very engaging experience. The battle with Smaug was incredible to watch, especially since Smaug is such a large and imposing creature. Considering that he is fully computer generated, pulling those scenes off was an impressive feat. In addition, the early fight scenes with the spiders were creepy and suspenseful. My only minor complaint is that one or two of the shots during the scene with the water splashing on the camera looked odd and lower quality than the other footage.

Acting: 10/10- Martin Freeman was particularly on his A game in the movie. Even though he could have used more screen time, he owned every scene he was in. Richard Armitage gave a much improved performance compared to his last outing as the dwarf king. He portrayed the character's inner struggle excellently. Ian McKellen's role was limited this time around, although considering that he was basically the star of the last Hobbit film, making room for Bilbo, Thorin, Smaug, and a few new characters made his absent worth it, however he was of course fantastic as always as the old Wizard. Not enough can be said about Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug. Never before have I seen such an impressive and imposing creature and Cumberbatch's menacing voice adds so much to the character. The dialogue exchange between him and Freeman was a joy to watch. Orlando Bloom steps up his previous performance as Legolas, making his character a welcome addition to the already strong cast. Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel was surprisingly great, despite her character being added solely to provide a strong female lead. Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman was another impressive new character added to the franchise and Evans performance was much better than the previous roles that I have seen him in. Lee Pace as Thranduil also gave a fine performance. As before, some of the dwarves were noticeably good like Aidan Turner's Kíli, but they all did a fine job in their roles.

Special effects: 10/10- Aside from Smaug's stunning stupendousness and sheer size, the effects in The Desolation of Smaug are a vast improvement compared to the overly CGI heavy previous Hobbit film. Many of the sets appeared to be real and not green screened, and even if they were, they looked fantastic, particularly Laketown and Mirkwood. The spiders were incredibly creepy and literally made my skin crawl! Although making Orcs mostly computer generated is not preferred, they looked good in 3D. The only negative with the CGI was the melted gold that looked fake.

Soundtrack: 9.8/10- While generally epic and fitting for the film, Howard Shore's was lacking in some areas. For whatever reason, the exciting main theme from An Unexpected Journey was absent from the score. There was a slower rendition, but why not have the most memorable tune from the previous movie return? Despite this, the soundtrack was very good, particularly the ambient music that added to the atmosphere of many scenes. The end credits song by "I See Fire," by Ed Sheeran, was good as well.

Humor: N/A- Surprisingly, The Desolation of Smaug was light on humor, especially compared to the first movie. Some of Kili and Tauriel's interaction was rather humorous, and so were the few other remarks by the characters. However, this lack of humor actually worked out for the better in the film since it aided to the darker tone.

Would I Watch This Again: The Desolation of Smaug is the type of movie that left me wanting to watch it again as soon as I left the theater, which has not happened in a long time.

Overall: 10/10- Overall, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes close to matching the greatness of the Lord of the Rings with the darker tone, better characterization, more action, and an unforgettable villain. It is everything that a Middle Earth film should be.

Closing comments: If you have not seen The Desolation of Smaug and you can find a theater that is still showing the film, go watch it now! It is more than worth your time and money.

Recommended for: Everyone, Fantasy fans, Action fans,

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Note: If you hate the movie for the sole reason that it is different from the book, read this excellent post telling you why the movie needed to be different than the book. However, I have not actually seen anyone that truly hates The Desolation of Smaug for that reason, but I know that some are out there.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lady Sif on Agents of SHIELD

On the upcoming fifteenth episode of Agents of SHIELD Jaimie Alexander will reprise her of Lady Sif from the Thor films. Now Agents of SHIELD might finally deliver on the massive crossover potential that we expected from the series from the start. Hopefully she will not be a just quick cameo, but rather a central aspect of the story. So, if Sif sees Coulson and tells Thor that he is not dead, I wonder what will Thor's reaction be, although Sif has probably never heard of Coulson before. Hopefully the Lady Sif costume that Jaimie Alexander wore in Thor: The Dark World will be used again, because the props used in the show thus far have been terrible, particularly the Berserker Staff from last Asgardian crossover. Regardless, Lady Sif is the first step in the right direction that Agents of SHIELD needs to take if it wants to be successful, but it might be too little too late. What do you think of this news? Please comment below, and check back tomorrow for my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug



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