Category Archives: Tolkien

The Magicians – Review

The-Magicians-Book-Cover-e1317909429117In 2009, Lev Grossman, a writer for some of the most popular newspapers and magazines in the world gave us a new fantasy book. The premise, what if the Harry Potter series and the Chronicles of Narnia had a child, but that child turned out to be a vulgar, “adult” perversion of it’s parents. This is The Magicians

The Good

The was one thing that stood out as a positive. The innate depravity of human kind is on full display. Every character is lost in a hopeless cycle of searching for happiness and never being able to find it. They are trapped in a life were there is nothing beyond themselves and the material world, even their fantasy realm is just as mundane and morose as the “real word”. It is a fantastic representation of darwinian, atheistic belief and the utter despair that kind of worldview fosters.

The Bad

The Magicians stands on the backs of fantasy genius, Rowling and Lewis, yet it lacks any of the heart, depth or soul of either. The plot meanders for far to long, following pointlessly vacant characters doing aimless things. There is no driving force to the plot or passion in the story. It is the post-modern Harry Potter/Narnia and it suffers under the weight of it’s hollowness.

Another important issue is the amorality of the characters. This fits perfectly with the feeling that Grossman seems to be striving for. The problem is it never rises above feeling like Harry Potter: The College Years. Grossman seems to revel in the salaciousness and profanity of his characters. The whole time it just feels forced, as a way to cover up for his constant and blatant ripping off of Rowling and Lewis; it’s the book’s undoing. By leaning so heavily on these pillars of fantasy, Grossman’s story falters, coming up completely void and empty in comparison. Tolkien and Lewis both speak of the power in fantasy and myth to teach as well as mirror the great story of the Gospel, even George Lucas with Star Wars understood this. Myth can guide and teach in ways no other literature can. Yet as you read The Magicians, the lack of purpose gnaws on you, reminding you that Lewis, Rowling and Tolkien are all on your shelf with the ability to wash away ruinous, joyless fantasy such as this.

Although there are many problems with this book, the last I’ll mention is the lack of joy and fun. All of the characters are completely lost and lifeless, eking out, what can only be considered vapid, wearisome lives that no one reading would wish for. The hopelessness and purposelessness translates to the reader, a rain cloud following you everywhere. It is sad because just as much as there should be some fun, fantasy can also be a very serious work and regrettably here too, the book fails. There is just not enough self reflection for the characters or meat to the story for there to be of any redeeming value. Fantasy should have a sense of awe and wonder, like Harry in Diagon Alley for the first time or Lucy entering the wintered Narnia to find a lamp-post in the wood. Unfortunately all The Magicians has to offer is drunk, drugged miscreants with little worth living for.

Conclusion

Do yourself a favor, pick up Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, something by Le Guin, Riordon or Asimov and leave The Magicians to gather dust at you local bookstore.

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The 602 Club 10: They Didn’t Think This Through

downloadThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 

The middle movie of a trilogy has always been the hardest to do. It relies on the first film, has to set up the last film and try stand up on it’s own. Some movies have done this really well, such as The Empire Strikes Back andThe Two Towers. The Desolation of Smaug also had the distinction of being the film that had the most added to it when the duology became a trilogy. Peter Jackson clearly had his work cut out for him.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined once again by Megan Calcote of Educating Geeks to discuss the second Hobbit film. We dive into the difference in filming time Jackson had and it’s effect on the look of this new trilogy, the new locations we see, Bree, Beorn’s House, Mirkwood, the Woodland Realm, Laketown and Erebor. All this while talking about the new characters and themes from the film. Listen Here

The 602 Club 9: The Original George Lucas

TSC009-Thumbnail-SquareThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

After the monster success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy thoughts turned to making The Hobbit. After dealing with rights issues and a directorial change, Peter Jackson once again found himself in Middle Earth.

In this episode of The 602 Club, host Matthew Rushing is joined by Alice Baker and Megan Calcote from Educating Geeks to talk about the first film in this new Middle Earth trilogy. Together we discuss Peter Jackson being back as director, making three films out of two, additions from Tolkien’s other works, things we liked and didn’t from both versions of the film and the riddles in the dark. Listen Here

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My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth, and the Gospel

ring-tattoos-13Today is the day of my wedding.  And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike.  My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

When Gifts Lose Their Luster

giftThere are times I grow weary of good things. Things I love. Things I would not want to live without. Things that have the ability to make my heart beat a little bit faster and keep my mind racing when I ought to be asleep. They are good things, but somehow, through time or familiarity or neglect or something else, they begin to feel not so good. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it seems to be yet another cost of being a sinful person in a sinful world. Even the best things feel like bad things at times.

Advice to High School Graduates: ‘You Are Not Special’

graduation-hats1On a spring day in 2012, Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough, Jr., stepped onto the school’s football field, then covered in a sea of seniors dressed in identical caps and gowns. Clad in a blazer and striped tie, McCullough made his way to the podium, donned his reading glasses, and began his commencement speech. Nothing about the event seemed out of the ordinary. McCullough, after all, was participating in a ritual that happens hundreds of thousands of times across the United States each year. He had given graduation speeches before.

But compared to the countless other remarks given by comedians, journalists, and politicians that year, McCullough’s speech stood out for its blunt, four-word message: “You are not special.”

Kirsten Powers: Liberals’ Dark Ages

darkagesWelcome to the Dark Ages, Part II. We have slipped into an age of un-enlightenment where you fall in line behind the mob or face the consequences.

How ironic that the persecutors this time around are the so-called intellectuals. They claim to be liberal while behaving as anything but. The touchstone of liberalism is tolerance of differing ideas. Yet this mob exists to enforce conformity of thought and to delegitimize any dissent from its sanctioned worldview. Intolerance is its calling card.

Waving His Wand at ‘Beowulf’

packshotThere’s more to J. R. R. Tolkien than wizards and hobbits. The author of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” was also an Oxford University professor specializing in languages like Old Norse and Old English.

“Beowulf” was an early love, and a kind of Rosetta Stone to his creative work. His study of the poem, which he called “this greatest of the surviving works of ancient English poetic art,” informed his thinking about myth and language.

All Ready, Just Not Yet

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In the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there is a phrase that is repeated a few times, “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” It is a powerful statement that drives to the heart of human existence. There is a deep longing and desire for a happy ending. Instinctively we wait for things to get better even though empirical evidence does it’s best to quench any hope that better is just around the corner. Tolkien calls it eucatastrophe.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

In our minds there is this the idea that there has to be more to life. There must be a joyous “turn” at some point, good has to win, the boy has to get the girl, each of these is an expression of the heart’s desire for all to be set right. Hopelessness ends up leading to the mantra, “Meaningless, meaningless all is meaningless.” Without hope, without a belief that things can and will get better there is only the alternative of suicide; the life of Nietzsche illustrates this well.

The desire that there be more to life is subaqueously rooted in our souls. We look to many things for the answer; money, fame, power, sex, the list is endless. C.S. Lewis says,“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” The Bible’s answer to Lewis’ thoughts on desire and Tolkien’s idea of eucatastrophe are found in the Gospel. John tells us in Revelation, 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

There is coming a day when all will be made new, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Life is full of valleys and vistas and there will never be a time before the end that is completely “all right”. Yet the promise of the Scripture is this,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The process of refinement is at work. The joyous turn is coming and  “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end” when “the grey rain-curtain turns all to silver glass and rolls back, and we behold white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

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Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty‘s Torture Controversy:

zero-dark-thirty-posterPersonally, I’ve never had the federal government wage a highly visible veracity-campaign that led to an official Senate Intelligence Committee review into the CIA’s factual sourcing of my movie — but I can imagine it’s pretty uncomfortable! So hats off to Kathryn Bigelow for the smoothness with which she’s handled the debate over Zero Dark Thirty’s torture scenes: Whether it’s been on late-night TV or at critics’ awards, she’s managed to calmly reiterate her quite-convincing message that “depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.” In other words: Come on, dudes, you all know some torture went down on the hunt for Bin Laden, and that’s why it’s in ZDT. I’m not saying it was awesome. I’m just saying it happened. (Special Bonus Hats Off to Bigelow for cooly dealing with this whole HUAC situation while also shrugging off her Oscar snub). Now — whether because she felt the conversation just wasn’t going away, or whether she just felt now was the right time to do so — Bigelow has weighed in more expansively, with a piece in the L.A. Times.

Pain of the New:

2012TheHobbit01PR200912New media technologies often cause an allergic reaction when they first appear. We may find them painful before we find them indispensable.

I watched the movie The Hobbit. Twice. First I saw it in its “standard” mode. A day later I returned to see The Hobbit in 3D at a high frame rate of 48 frames per second, called HFR. HFR is a cinematic hi-tech that promises greater realism. It was amazingly real. And disturbing at first.

Because 48 frames per second is just above the threshold that a human eye/brain can detect changes, the projected picture seems startling whole and “smooth,” as if it were uninterrupted reality.

3 Ways to Live With Joy:

Last week I was captivated by a sunrise. I am one of those people who is “early to bed, early to rise” and have watched many sunrises. I love the dawning of a new day because every day is so full of promise and possibility. Every sunrise lays a new day before us and asks, “What will you do with this day? What will this day be?”

Men Like to Look At Naked Girls On The Internet. Here’s Why They Should Stop That.

I had a bit of a personal crisis when I saw this link from The Huffington Post titled, “Research Suggests that All Men Watch Pornography.” My first thought was that they could not have possibly talked to all men. I know this, because I do not watch pornography. This made me suspicious that the link was tied to a pornographic Web site designed to trick me, the last man standing, into accidentally seeing pornography in order to validate their research. (Or, more disturbingly, it could be that I am not actually a man because I do not watch pornography.)

 

Peanuts to make you laugh

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Mockingbird at the Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKIn David O. Russell’s newest film, Silver Linings Playbook, the clinical psychological and psychiatric issues abound: an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, sex addiction. Behind these, though, are the everyday varieties of guilt and self-contempt, delusional thinking and mixed-up love, and some classic rom-com dance competitions for good measure.

Concerning Christopher – An Essay on Tolkien’s Son’s Decision to Not Allow Further Cinematic Licensing of His Work:

9780618126989_p0_v1_s260x420Often, when a lengthy discussion of the Hobbit films takes place, someone asks “What about the other books? What about material from The Silmarillion, orUnfinished Tales? Will these be adapted to the big screen?”

The answer to this question is a simple one. As it stands, the literary executor of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, his son, Christopher Tolkien, has refused to consider any further licensing of his father’s work for cinematic purposes.

The Year in Television 2012:

51kAMZ85vBL._SX500_Since we’ve been talking so much about television this week, why not go all the way and do our annual recap? Truth be told, it was a slightly off year on the small screen, the first plateau in quality that I can remember in about ten years. A number of the top-drawer shows experienced something of a “downturn”, e.g. Justified and Louie, and new contenders were not quite as numerous. Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been plenty worth watching and commenting on. God no: (This is an interesting list, even though I am not sure I completely agree with all of them)

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Not Pro-Torture:

SUB-24ZERO-articleLargeThere are two ugly interrogation scenes in the opening minutes of Zero Dark Thirty that haunt the rest of the experience, and that have come to haunt critical reception of the film itself.

After we hear the terrified voices of Americans trapped on the upper floors of the burning towers on 9/11 against a black screen, the movie opens on a character named Ammar, suspended from the ceiling by chains attached to both wrists. It is two years later. Ammar is bloody, filthy, and exhausted. We learn quickly that he is an al-Qaeda middleman, and a nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammad, architect of the 9/11 attacks. Ammar is believed to know details of a pending attack in Saudi Arabia, and he is uncooperative.

TIME Sounds the Alarm: The Pro-Life Cause is Winning

1101130114_600The story – “What Choice?” – is written by Kate Pickert. The main point of the article is that Roe v. Wade hurt the pro-choice cause by delivering the movement’s main goal and by energizing a generation of pro-life activism.

Not surprisingly, the story is biased against the pro-life cause. Though the issue of “personhood” and “life” is alluded to (see below), Pickert never explores the reasons for a surge in pro-life activity. Had she sought to explain the pro-life perspective, she would have shown how this debate is really a showdown between reproductive rights and human rights, and which rights are foundational to freedom.

Can’t we aim higher than ‘Honey Boo Boo’?

No one forced me, but I finally decided it was time to discover what all the business was about Honey Boo Boo.

Even though I’ve made reference to the show featuring a former beauty tot, now 7, and her family, I’d never actually watched a full episode. I still haven’t, but I watched enough to need a jaw adjustment.

Alas, a few minutes with “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” confirms that even mindlessness has its limits.

Cover Art and Release Date for Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1 on Blu-ray

star-trek-enterprise-season-1-blu-ray-coverIt’s official. The first season of Star Trek: Enterprise will be released on Blu-ray on March 26th.

On Monday, Star Trek visual FX artist Doug Drexler posted the official cover art along with the release date on his Facebook page.

The chosen cover art for the hi-def release, is said to have received the most votes in a StarTrek.com poll, which we reported on back in November.

In addition to the 25 first-season episodes, the first season set will include new audio commentaries with Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Dan Curry, Mike Sussman, David Livingston, Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating. Plus a few bonus features, including a three-part documentary, entitled “To Boldly Go: Launching Enterprise”.