The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition (2001 - DVD)
I have to admit that when I first saw this movie in theaters years ago, I was completely blown away by it, probably because I'd never seen an adventure/fantasy movie quite on this level before. Compare it to something like DragonSlayer where the dragon looked fake and the swordfight scenes had no energy, and here you've got realistic monsters and intense battle scenes, even if the characters do seem to fight against impossible odds over and over again and always come out the victors. And even though the characters are basically running across New Zealand, it does feel like a grand epic adventure, with its exotic settings like the Elven cities of Lothlorien and Rivendell, and the dark Dwarven Mines of Moria, which reminded me a lot of Xak Tsaroth from Heroes of the Lance.
Seeing it again now that I'm older and have viewed the entire trilogy, a few things stand out to me that perhaps didn't bother me so much before. The first is that a lot of the dialogue is characters arguing over where to go. One character will say, "We have to go over the pass to Caradhras", and another says, "No! Let's go through the Mines of Moria", and another is like, "We must take the Pass of Rohan!", and on and on. And the audience, save for maybe those who have read and memorized the books, have no idea what these places are or what their significance is. There's that, and well, almost every single time they get into trouble it's because of Pippin Took's bumbling.
I know a lot of people who loved the books complained about the changes that were made and some go so far as to completely hate the film for them, and they're entitled to that I suppose, but I'm really not enough of a purist to care so long as what's on the screen is entertaining. The special features explain that if they had tried to make the movie line-for-line like the book, it would never have worked. The Council of Elrond scene alone would've gone on for half an hour. Despite being a very long film (and the extended edition even longer) it seems to go by quickly because new things are always happening. Although, sometimes I want to slap Frodo in the face and say, "Quit whining! Wake up and realize you're on an adventure!"
The extended edition adds a few new scenes, most notably some more about the Hobbits in the beginning, but it's been so long since I've seen the theatrical release that I'm not sure what else was new.
0800-Celebrity (2006 - Digital Album)
Artist: Cult of Celebrity
So, I'm taking part in a beta test of a digital borrowing service that hasn't quite gone public yet, and right now they mostly only have obscure music from obscure bands, like Cult of Celebrity here. (The company is currently working to sign on the bigger labels with the more recognizble artists, but until that time most of my digital music reviews will be of things you've probably never heard of before.) Apparently, this is the only album this band has so far released, and the main thing I want to say is that they're good enough musically, but seriously need to work on their lyrics. Almost every song on here is just the title of the song repeated over and over again. Why even have vocals, then? It's a concept album, but interludes of people talking on the phone really isn't adding much.
The band hasn't done anything since 2006 and I could find almost no info on them, but I wonder if they had just hired a better lyricist if they could have put out something more worthwhile.
Akumajo Dracula Famicom Best (1990 - CD)
This is an import CD that contains the soundtracks to Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. This set has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that you get some of the best video game music known to mankind on one CD. It even starts off with some remixes that are exclusive to this album. While the NES has a mono sound system, the tracks here have been optimized for stereo listening.
The disadvantages is that if you were expecting the US versions Castlevania II and III, you'll be sorely disappointed. They're the Japanese versions (of course, since this is a Japan-only release). Most people seem to agree that the Japanese versions of III's music is superior to the US release due to an added chip that enhanced the sound, but I'm one of the few who greatly prefers the US versions. I feel the Famicom versions sound homogenized, and less gothic and atmospheric. But less debatable is the Castlevania II soundtrack for which the opposite seems to have happened - the sound quality was beefed up a bit for the US release and the versions on here sound a little thin. So, owning this album does not automatically exclude one from having to acquire the music of II and III some other way if you want or prefer the US versions.
The original Castlevania benefits the most from the mastering, but why the heck did they put sound effects in "Walking on the Edge"? The whole point of having a game soundtrack CD is so that you can listen to the game's music without sound effects obscuring it.
Akumajo Dracula Best 2 (1991 - CD)
The follow-up to the above album contains the complete soundtrack to Super Castlevania IV, and the two Game Boy titles, The Castlevania Adventure and Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. Unlike the first album, this is a 2-Disc set with the SNES game's music on Disc 1 and the Game Boy games on Disc 2. As far as I can tell, there are no remixes or bonus tracks of any kind, this is just a straight-up port of the sound files with some amount of mastering.
The SNES game's score is the real highlight here and anyone who's played it has surely found something in its quasi-symphonic, pseudo-jazzy tracks to love. The ending theme and the revamped version of "Bloody Tears" from Castlevania II are the oft-touted Holy Grails. I may not be the world's biggest fan of the Stage 1 opener, "Simon Belmont's Theme", but it's here in all its gothic rock glory.
The Game Boy games, at the very least, prove that great things could be done with that little handheld's stereo 8-bit sound, especially "Battle of the Holy" from the first game. But listening to an entire disc of Game Boy music in one straight go can be a bit trying, though I suppose it's hard to complain about getting the exact soundtracks you paid for.
Cat Dreams: Relaxing Music For Cats & Cat Lovers Vol. 1 (2010 - Digital Album)
An album of New Age piano music that has cat-themed titles like, "Morning Stretch", "In Front of the Mirror", "Cat's Memories", "Afternoon Nap", and such. If you want relaxing piano music, here's 12 tracks of it. Nothing particularly memorable, but it might suffice for that purpose. However, if you're honestly expecting your cats to take notice of it, try not to look too surprised if they don't.
Cinemasonic (2003 - Digital Album)
Artist: All About Eve
Of all the digital albums I borrowed in April, All About Eve seemed to be the most talented group and had the most potential. The only problem is that I didn't realize this was a live album until I started listening to it and live albums are almost never the best way to be introduced to a band (not everything can be "Live Bullet", see below). It isn't just the normal issues with live performances that are apparent here, there's other hard-to-ignore bugs such as microphone feedback during a song, and too much throat-clearing.
Still, though, I would not mind hearing more from this band eventually. Would just prefer it in a studio recording next time.
Classics For Cat Lovers: Curl Up Classics For You and Your Cat (2000 - Digital Album)
Aside from the "Lion" portion of "The Carnival of the Animals", this album really has nothing to do with cats. In fact, it's more like a "Greatest Hits" of classical music, with very popular and commonly-known excerpts from classical works such as Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite", and Bizet's "Carmen". Here's what's really weird: I think this album is comprised of performances that are either in public domain or very cheap to license. Because I own almost all of these works on various other classical CDs and I swear that not only are they the same works, they are the same exact performances by the same exact orchestra, and I know I've seen that Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra listed on some of my CD's, so I don't think I'm crazy.
If you want a "Greatest Hits" of classical music, it's not a bad choice. But I'm of the mind that it's probably better to hunt down albums with the entire works.
Everybody Out! (2008 - Digital Album)
A self-titled debut album for a punk band called "Everybody Out!", and it's also the only thing they've ever released. The best I can say about it is that at least it sounded like they were having fun performing. Not much of it stood out to me and I'd like to say maybe repeated listenings would endear me more to it, but when so many of the songs sounded alike, it might get too repetitive to subject myself to that.