Happy New Year! the 2022 edition

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2022 begins today, and looking back, the top post here was How I Make GIFs. That process has changed significantly, so I guess I’ll need to write an update. Maybe that will be the top post this year?

A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:

Consider sharing your voice and experiences with the world this year. If you don’t have a place to write yet, launch your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or if shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. Don’t know what to write yet? Join the Bloganuary Challenge!

May your new year be what you make of it.

Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition

For The Fellowship of the Ring‘s 20th anniversary this month, yes 20th, we sat down and rewatched The Hobbit Extended Edition and The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. We didn’t binge it, goodness no, but we rewatched one film a night. Originally, this was going to be a Rewatch review, but while watching, one particular thought kept gnawing at my mind.

I have seen both the theatrical versions and the extended editions many times (I love these films, ok?). The theatrical versions always felt too long, excessive even, a slog. But, the extended editions? The ones that add even more content (some almost an hour)? They feel just right, they’re enjoyable, the time spent watching practically flies.

I’m not going to list the new and extended scenes, because it’s not about them specifically, it’s about their context. They aren’t really meant to be noticed, but their absence can be felt, and I think that is overall why the theatrical versions feel longer than the extended editions. Sure, a lot of films get away with deleted scenes, it’s still a popular bonus feature these days, but these scenes weren’t cut because they were poorly done, unfinished, or didn’t fit. They were cut simply because there was too much material for the average theatergoing audience. When you cut apart films this big, you’re going to be cutting scenes that the rest of the film relies on.

Something a character does 2 hours into the film seems very out of place, but only because about 5 minutes were cut from the first hour that would have informed their decision. Little things that don’t make sense can build up and become a distraction. If you make enough cuts like that, your 3-hour film becomes a 2-hour confusing slog that feels somehow longer than the original version. If you take the time to give that context, everything makes sense, and you’re just along for an enjoyable ride.

By the way, I don’t blame Peter Jackson for any of this. He had an excessive amount of material to adapt, but he also had to consider the attention span of the average theatergoer. I’m just thankful that he released the extended editions in the first place.

If you weren’t a fan of the theatrical versions of these films, grab the extended editions, sit back, and enjoy. You can stream The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition on HBO Max, but you’ll need to buy or rent The Hobbit Extended Edition from your platform of choice. Hopefully you’ll notice the same difference I did.

Rewatch – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a 2008 animated Star Wars series, which takes place between Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. The series follows Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and his new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, as they navigate all of the action and politics that come with a war lasting 3 years.

Joining our heroes is an impressive and ever-growing legion of supporting characters, but perhaps the most interesting are the clone troopers. Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, many are given their own personality with slight vocal changes and various physical expressions. Perhaps the most iconic is Rex, who serves as Anakin’s second-in-command, and friend and mentor to Ahsoka. It’s hard to describe just how much justice this series did for the clones, but they really did. There are many who are just standard copies, but the show makes clear there some who strive for more individuality, and Dee Bradley Baker has his work cut out for him, sometimes leading whole episodes alone while voicing a variety of clones with slight differences.

Along with expanding the role of the clones, significant insight is presented not only as to how the Jedi train and operate, but also as to what the Force is and how it operates. A trio of episodes beginning with season 3’s Overlords expands on the mythology of the Force from the movies so much that it’s practically redefined entirely.

The show ran for 5 seasons, was picked up by Netflix who rescued its final canceled season, and then given yet-another final season by Disney+. 7 seasons in, is the show done? It’s anyone’s guess! But one thing is for sure, the animation improves dramatically every season.

If you’re new to Star Wars, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a great jumping on point. You’ll definitely want to check out the movies after, and I have a recommendation on the viewing order. Star Wars animation doesn’t end with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. There’s also Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance, both excellent as well. Ahsoka returns in Star Wars Rebels, and she makes her live action debut in season 2 of The Mandalorian. And, coming soon, don’t miss the continuation of Ahsoka’s story in her own series, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in his.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a fun and fulling ride from start to finish. You can stream Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Disney+, or buy all but the last season on Apple TV for $29.99 per season, so maybe just watch it on Disney+.

Rewatch: The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files is a 2007 supernatural detective series based on the book series of the same name. The series follows wizard Harry Dresden as he continues to get caught up in supernatural mysteries throughout Chicago, anything from finding a lost item to busting a necromancer’s life insurance fraud.

If you love noir-style detective stories and magic, this is a must-watch series! Narration throughout really makes things easy to follow, especially if you decide to just jump into the middle of the show or watch it out of order. There’s not much character growth, but the characters are all pretty much grown as it is, a benefit of jumping out of a well-established book series. The mystery starts, great characters resolve it, you have fun. What more could you ask for?

Paul Blackthorne stars as Harry Dresden, a talented wizard and noir-style detective type who works as a consultant for the police when they need a “difference perspective” on very unusual cases. Valerie Cruz stars as Lt. Murphy, the only police officer who can stand Harry, and thus often his only source of case work. Terrence Mann stars as Bob, the ghost of an ancient sorcerer cursed to spend eternity bound to his skull, and Harry’s teacher. Conrad Coates stars as Donald Morgan, one of the wizards in charge of policing other wizards, and one who isn’t particularly fond of Harry.

If you know the stories, the actors definitely don’t look the part, but they play their parts to perfection. If you go on to read the books, it’s easy to hear their voices delivering the lines, because they just are these characters. Blackthorne’s Dresden is sloppy, distracted, showy, and focussed and powerful when he needs to be. Cruz’s Murphy is curt, direct, and always focussed on the case at hand. Mann’s Bob is arrogant yet caring, a teacher anyone would be happy to have. Coates’s Morgan is the perfect mix of direct, powerful, and kind when he wants to be.

Sadly, the series only ran for 12 episodes before being canceled, which is a shame, because it’s an absolutely wonderful show to just sit back and relax with. Fortunately, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, and if you want more, you can always read the books.

You can stream the series for free on IMDB TV, or buy the whole series on Apple TV for just $9.99. If you’re looking for one episode to get you started, try “Soul Beneficiary,” but really they’re all great, and I hope you enjoy watching The Dresden Files as much as I do!

Earth Day, 2021

It’s Earth Day, a day to reflect on the planet we inhabit, the only one we can, and it’s a great day to start saving the environment for free, going carbon negative, donating to Trees for the Future, and taking even more action.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, some of us are now immune, and the rest of us hopefully understand how to safely be outdoors by now. Without us for over a year, nature has begun to bounce back in some very impressive ways. Hopefully, as we begin to re-engage outdoors, we’ll keep that in mind.

If you can, try to spend some time outdoors today, and make sure you do it safely if you’re not already vaccinated. If you can’t be safely outdoors today, or you’d rather not, please enjoy this video.