Monday, May 31, 2010


     In recent years, movies based on video games have usually not gone over very well. Since such bombs in the '90s like "Super Mario Bros." or "Mortal Kombat" and even in more recent years with "Tomb Raider" and "Resident Evil" which were somewhat faithful but with others like "Doom" and don't get me started on "Bloodrayne", will we ever see a video game movie which lives up to namesake? Amazingly enough it took the producers of the highly successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and Disney to do it! "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" the movie is based on the 2003 Ubisoft video game which is part of the "Prince of Persia" series created by Jordan Mechner in 1989. Directed by Mike Newell ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, "Sands of Time" aspires to equal Disney's previous Action-Adventure hit, the "Pirates of the Carribean" trilogy. Although it may not live up to "Pirates" status "Sands of Time" is a solid fantasy story with some impressive action. "Prince of Persia" stars Jake Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko", "Brokeback Mountain") as Dastan, once an orphan living on the streets who is adopted by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and raised by the king's brother Nizam (Ben Kingsley). Dastan, along with his brothers Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle), attack the holy city of Alamut, who are suspected of selling arms to their enemies, they encounter the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who is the guardian of the "Dagger or Time" which controls the sands of time. When the King is mysteriously murdered, Dastan is falsely accused and he escapes with the princess only to discover the secret of the dagger which is the key to the conspiracy in finding the King's killer.
    The amazing stunt work of Dastan leaping from building to building was inspired by the martial arts of parkour (the art of movement). The Dagger of Time, made its appearance in the "Sands of Time' video game and is the central plot point in the movie as well. This isn't the first time Disney has addressed a Persian/Middle East setting as one of its most famous animated movies "Aladdin" is set, however the biggest problem both critics and fans have is none of the cast is even remotely "Persian"! It seems Hollywood is returning to the old trend of casting foreign characters with usually very-white British or American stars such as Yul Brynner as the King of Siam in "The King and I" (1956) or even John Wayne staring as Genghis Kahn (No kidding!) in "The Conqueror" (1956) or Ben Kingsley (who coincidentally stars in "Sands of Time" also) playing "Gandhi" in 1982! As with most of the cast who is either English/British or American, the lead Jake Gyllenhaal even adopts an English accent (i.e. Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean") which really makes no sense at all! Despite the "racial" inequities of the movie, "Prince of Persia" is still an exciting adventure in the style of "Pirates of the Caribbean" with a little "Indiana Jones" action thrown in. For those like myself who doubted Jake "Bubble-boy" Gyllenhaal could grow up to be an action star, we were sorely mistaken!
Official Website:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

IN MEMORIAM TOP 10: Dennis Hopper (May 17, 1936 - May 29, 2010)

#10 "True Grit" (1969) - Hopper plays an outlaw to John Wayne's hero, movie trivia has it Wayne chased Hopper around the set with a loaded gun!
#9  "Blue Velvet" (1986) - I was really creeped out when I first saw Hopper sucking on oxygen and going down on Isabella Rossellini! Yikes!
#8 "My Science Project" (1986) This was a low-budget 80's Sci-Fi, Comedy kind of like "Back to the Future" with an interesting story and Hopper plays a crazy science teacher, Mr. Roberts!"
#7 "Super Mario Bros." (1993) - I know, but when I saw this as a kid I thought it was awesome! Hail King Koopa!
#6 "Speed" (1994) - Hopper as one of his craziest villains, mad with revenge and a freaky looking hand, Keanu Reeves owes him a lot!
#5 "Easy Rider" (1969) - This is the one that started it all! Hopper as a scruffy buckskin clad Hippie! Groovy!
#4 "Apocalypse Now" (1979) - This is the one man, the one he is the most noted for and imitated, man! The crazy photojournalist who found himself stuck on Kurtz's island.
#3 "Land of the Dead" (2005) - Hopper said he based his performance of Kaufman on Donald Rumsfeld! A great yuppie-type villain.
#2 "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" (1986) - This is the most hilarious of all the TX Chainsaw's movies with Hopper as Lieutenant 'Lefty' Enright fighting Leatherface with dueling chainsaws! Awesome!
#1 "Waterworld" (1995) - As the Deacon, he is one of the most sinister and funniest villains ever, he has some of the greatest lines in this movie!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

TOP 10 BIRTHDAY SPECIAL: VINCENT PRICE (May 27, 1911 - October 25, 1993)

Vincent Price is one of the greats of the modern horror film, with his voice and elegant/suave style he rivaled Bela Lugosi in presence. To celebrate his birthday here is the Top 10 Best of Vincent Price:

#10 "Edward Scissorhands" (1990) - Even though he was only in this for 5 minutes this was his last and still a memorable performance. Especially his death scene!
#9 "The Fly" (1958) - This is an old favorite, although Price isn't the main character he remains a focal point through the story.
"Madhouse" (1974) - Opposite another great, Peter Cushing, we have an old horror movie star whose character is committing murders independently!

#7 "
Diary of a Madman" (1963) Price plays a judge who visits a murderer possessed by an evil spirit, awesome!
#6 ""House of Wax" (1953) - This is one of his best, although a remake of "Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933) and in 3-D! Price's makeup is frightening and the movie features a young and thankfully mute Charles Bronson!
#5 "
House on Haunted Hill" (1959) - The original, the amazing! The incredibly campy and hokey! But wonderful!
#4 "
The Abominable Dr. Phibes" (1971) - PHIBES! Need I say more? He didn't, he doesn't "speak" a word the whole movie!
#3 "
The Last Man on Earth" (1964) - Before Will Smith! Before Charlton Heston! This is the original adaptation of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend", very faithful, although they changed the title and the main characters name too. Oh well...
#2 "
Pit and the Pendulum" (1961) - One of many of Vincent Price/Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. The torture sequences are intense!

#1 "
The Masque of the Red Death" (1964) - My favorite of all and Poe story too! This is Vincent Price at his most evil of characters!

Friday, May 21, 2010

30th Anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back"

On May 21, 1980, the most anticipated sequel to THE greatest Sci-Fi epic was released: "Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"! Considered by most Star Wars fans to be the best episode in the Original Trilogy, Episode V remains one of the darkest and most revealing in all of the trilogy. When the first Star Wars movie was released in May 1977, no one, not even its creator George Lucas could imagine the impact on popular culture as well as the influence on modern filmmaking the Star Wars franchise made. If you have never seen the original trilogy and even if you have only seen the more recent prequel trilogy you are completely missing out. On a personal level Star Wars has made a significant impact on my life since I was very young. I admit truthfully that I was born 2 years after the original movie was released and too young to even enjoy the initial release of Episode V. However I was able to enjoy the earlier films on the newly emerging video market, and I thank my Dad who was working in the electronics industry who allowed me to see those movies in the comfort of our own home. Already a fan by the age of 3, I had amassed a collection of Vintage Star Wars Toys that would make the modern collector weep. I still have many of my original toys also. One of my first Star Wars memories is getting to see Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi in the theaters when I was about 4 and even at a one of the now extinct drive-ins. Ever since then I have been and always shall be a Star Wars fan. I would spend my childhood playing, acting out, wearing costumes, spending countless hours watching the videos. I am not as obsessive a fan (although I'd like to be!) No matter how much Star Wars stuff I have or how much I quote it on a day-to-day basis, BUT I am not a member of the 501st Legion, I do not own Stormtrooper armor or a Jedi costume, I don't even own one of those fancy lightsaber toys. I am very much a purist Star Wars fan. I have many issues with the re-released "Special Editions" from 1997 (i.e. Greedo shoots first!) as well as the 1999 release of the first prequel "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (Don't even get me started) but that is not what this blog entry is about... It is hard to imagine it's been 30 years since the Empire Struck Back and even longer since the original Star Wars, I hope to post here in the next 3 years for the 30 year anniversary of "Return of the Jedi" which in my heart is still my favorite. I hope fellow fans are reading this and share my love of Star Wars! So to put it simply: Happy 30th Anniversary "Empire Strikes Back" and "May The Force Be With You"! Also be sure to check out Star Wars Weekends at Disney World this month, it is quite an event for any Star Wars fan young and old alike!
Star for more!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farewell to Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

     Ronnie James Dio was truly a Heavy Metal god! After a long battle with stomach cancer, Dio passed away today, he was 67. Born Ronald James Padavona on July 10, 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to an Italian-American family, he possessed a unique and powerful voice. Originally the singer for bands like Elf and Rainbow, Dio revolutionized 70's power metal with elements of Dungeons & Dragons-like sword and sorcery that would influence many 80's metal bands. In 1979 he replaced Ozzy Osbourne as the vocalist for Black Sabbath for a short time and helped to revitalize the band with albums such as "Heaven and Hell" and "The Mob Rules". In 1982 Dio started his solo career with great albums like "Holy Diver", "The Last in Line' and "Dream Evil". During the 1990's Dio would return to Black Sabbath briefly and back to his solo projects until in 2006 when he rejoined Black Sabbath and then began touring as "Heaven and Hell" with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler. Dio's greatest claim to fame is his alleged creation of the trademark "devil horns" hand sign used with most heavy metal bands and fans alike. While this fact may be under debate, Dio would claim that the sign came from his Italian grandmother, known as "the Malocchio" or the evil eye. Despite the controversy, Ronnie James Dio has been a widely popular figure in heavy metal music with a devoted following from many personalities in the heavy metal scene and even actor/comedian/musician Jack Black (Tenacious D). Metal has lost one of its most important figures but he leaves behind a legacy of followers (i.e. Killswitch Engage's cover of Holy Diver) and will have a special place in the pantheon of Metal Gods!
ee NY Time article on Dio:
"Between the velvet lies,
There's a truth that's hard as steel,
The vision never dies,
Life's a never ending wheel."
- Dio, Holy Diver

Friday, May 7, 2010


  "I AM IRON MAN!" After 2008's Summer Blockbuster, being the first in a long line of movies to emerge from Marvel Comics new studios now comes the most anticipated super hero sequel since "The Dark Knight"! "Iron Man 2" has the unlikely honor of being the first Marvel Studios release after the controversial $4 Billion Walt Disney Co. buy! Director John Favreau returns most of the original cast of the first "Iron Man" including Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) all except for Terrence Howard as 'Rhodey' who is replaced (oddly enough since Howard recently told E! Online he helped Robert Downey Jr. get the lead in "Iron Man"?) by Don Cheadle, which creates an unusual continuity problem as two different actors play the same character in two consecutive movies!? Three new additions to the cast includes Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler" (2009) as new villain Whiplash, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Sam Rockwell as competitor Justin Hammer. As Don Cheadle takes on the role of Rhodey, he also has the opportunity to literally step into the armored suit as War Machine, (which was so delightfully alluded to in the first movie when Rhodey sees the prototype and says "Next time!", sorry Terrence!) Even Samuel L. Jackson reprises his now fanboy-famous role as the new Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., for those who stayed after the credits in the first movie for the little hint of future Marvel movies with the "Avengers Initiative"!
  Despite all the cast changes and extra characters "Iron Man 2" is a satisfying sequel with a deeper insight into the character of Tony Stark, who remains even more of the eccentric, rich-boy, alcoholic, genius he IS! With the first movie/origin out of the way the film is free to explore a darker side to Tony's armored alter-ego as his innovative arc--reactor in his chest which powers the Iron man suit is essentially killing him slowly and  on top of that we have Ivan Vanko (Rourke) a.k.a Whiplash, bent on revenge, leading to a showdown between two protégés both with mechanical genius, advanced weaponry and not to mention, daddy issues!
    The biggest problems come from the fact that this movie juist has way too many characters for its own good. Not only do we get ANOTHER Iron Man with Rhodey as War Machine, but there is Jackson's Nick Fury who until now, has only been an ancillary character watching in the background, and Scarlet's Natalie Rushman a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow, who remains merely eye-candy in all her tight, black, leather! (OK wait, I changed my mind!) For fans of the comics they will know she is obviously Black Widow but nowhere in the movie do they ever actually CALL her that?! Rockwell's Hammer character is an unnecessary antagonist and is just plain annoying at times as he tries to unsuccessfully compete with Stark at every turn. Essentially you have 2 villains and 2 heroes. on one hand you have Iron Man and War Machine, then on the other you have Whiplash and Hammer. I suppose one way of looking at it is Whiplash is there to compete with Tony's technical side, whereas Hammer is there to compete with Tony's business side. So then how do you explain all the extra allies like Black Widow and Nick Fury? Where's Mandarin when you need him?! Maybe in "Iron Man 3"...?
    SPOILER ALERT! In the meantime, like the good fanboy I am, I will be looking forward to future Marvel movies in the years ahead as they all connect to each other in a bizarre way with their extra after-credit epilogues with Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers! "Avengers Assemble! Soon...I hope!"
Official Website: