Monday, December 31, 2012


Well, 2012 has come and gone, and even though the world didn't come to an end we still have to endure four more years of the same old...BUT, at least we saw some great movies! Back in January, I posted my list of The Top 12 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012! Of those 12, 2 were pushed back to 2013 (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, World War Z), and 4 were very disappointing (Underworld: Awakening, Resident Evil: Retribution, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Amazing Spider-Man). 2012 was one of the biggest years for movies and especially for comic book movies, with The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall earning more than $1 Billion worldwide! Before we start waiting in long lines and spending our hard earned money on next years blockbusters, let's reflect on 12 of the best movies of 2012!  CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents The 12 BEST MOVIES OF 2012!

#12 The Cabin in the Woods - Although technically filmed in 2009 before Chris Hemsworth became The Mighty Thor!, The Cabin in the Woods was released this April. This new take on an old story was one of the most fascinating horror movies in years!

#11 Dredd 3D - While I was originally reluctant to see this reboot of the Judge Dredd movie after 1995's Sylvester Stallone's campy flop. Even with the 3D and overly-used slow-motion effects, this move was surprisingly true to the original British comic character with Karl Urban playing the original bad-ass!

#10 John Carter - Although disappointingly unsuccessful box office wise, Disney's high-budget attempt to bring Edgar Rice Burrough's 100-year old, science-fiction, pulp-epic was phenomenally impressive.

#9 ParaNorman - Of all the Halloween themed computer-animated features this season including Dreamwork's Hotel Transylvania and Disney's Frankenweenie, ParaNorman stands above them all as a superior film. With a compelling premise and sincerely emotionally-driven story, I highly recommend ParaNorman for all audiences whereas the others sadly remain just kids stuff.

#8 Skyfall - Daniel Craig returns for a third time as Agent 007: James Bond, in the 23rd Bond film. Bringing a whole new dimension to a character that for the last 50 years has remained almost entirely without a backstory. With Javier Bardem as one of the most unique and also somewhat tragic Bond villains of all time, Skyfall was one of the most exciting Bond films since Goldeneye!

#7 Lincoln - In this Oscar-worthy depiction of one of the greatest Presidents in U.S. history, Daniel Day-Lewis portrayal of Abraham Lincoln was amazingly impressive and powerful.

#6 The Raven - John Cusack IS Edgar Allan Poe! As a huge Poe fan, I was worried that Cusack would not portray this author of the macabre right. But thankfully, The Raven did not disappoint and hopefully brought some renewed interest with the writer who even after over 200 years after his death still remains a strong force in popular culture.

#5 Prometheus - Director Ridley Scott returns to the universe of the original Alien (1979) film that explors the alien origins of mankind on Earth. While this film has met with much controversy and criticism, I considered Prometheus to be both visually stunning and intellectually fascinating.

#4 Brave - In Disney/Pixar's epic tale of a fiery, red-headed, Scottish princess, Brave brings the beauty and wonder of medieval Scotland to life in this both entertaining and emotional story of family and fate.

#3 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Director Peter Jackson returns to the Middle Earth to tell the original story that started it all: The Hobbit! This long-awaited and incredible new trilogy brings the world of The Lord of the Rings back to the big screen in a whole new way! With Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and a number of retuning cast members from the original trilogy I can't wait for the next two movies to be released!

#2 The Dark Knight Rises - The third and final chapter in director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy brings Batman up against one of his most dangerous adversaries: Bane! I believe Nolan's trilogy to be a perfect trilogy as it completes the story bringing all three movies together, coming full circle! Although there has been mixed reactions from both fans and moviegoers, as a life-long Batman fan I consider it to be one of the best Batman's ever!
#1 The Avengers - Director Joss Whedon brings the of the most powerful Marvel movie heroes together in what has got to be the greatest and most successful comic book/superhero movies of all time! The collaboration of Marvel Studios and Disney makes for a perfect alliance ensuring it's success and the promise of even more movies franchises (and not to mention the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show) in the future. In the words Marvel Comics co-creator and writer Stan Lee: "'Nuff said!"
What to watch in 2013!: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), Mama (2013), Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), Evil Dead (2013), Iron Man 3 (2013), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Man of Steel (2013), World War Z (2013), Pacific Rim (2013), The Wolverine (2013), Riddick (2013), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

THE HOBBIT, like the Lord of the Ring's, was originally believed to be "unfilmable". But in 2001, we were proven wrong as director Peter Jackson embarked on one of the most ambitious film projects ever and succeeded in bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece to life on the big screen with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. What began was a monumental trilogy of films followed by The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). After that, we thought that our trip to Middle Earth was complete. But fans and movie goers of course wanted more, and so we asked the question: "What about The Hobbit?" Originally, we thought it would never happen, and sure enough, almost ten years later we find ourselves back in that magical land full of elves, dwarves, wizards, and of course hobbits. After years of studios and directors tossing the production around, it looked as if our hopes and dreams wouldn't come true. For the longest time, director/producer Guillermo Del Toro was originally set to direct two movies based on The Hobbit, but after he left the production, it was obvious who the logical choice for the new director should be...none other than Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy himself. And not only do we just get one movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel, we get three! Now there is a whole new trilogy to appease Tolkien fans (like me) and box office returns all over the world! The first part of this new trilogy: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel The Hobbit. In this prequel to The Lord of the Rings, we see a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, originally played by Ian Holm) 60 years before the events in The Fellowship of the Ring as Bilbo sets off on an adventure that would change his life forever!
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..." Bilbo Baggins is quite happy in his quaint little hobbit-hole in Hobbiton, that is, until one day when the wizard Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen) comes to him with a proposition: to share in an adventure. Although he denies the offer at first, soon, a group of twelve dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), comes knocking at his door to offer him a contract as a burglar and of course, eat all his food. Although Bilbo is reluctant, he decides to join them in their quest to reclaim the dwarves ancient homeland of Erebor under the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. The journey is long and dangerous as they encounter a number of obstacles along the way including: trolls, goblins, orcs, and giant spiders! Soon, Bilbo is separated from the group and finds himself in the dark lair of Gollum, where he discovers a magic ring that turns its wearer invisible!
To anyone like me who grew up reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, we all know and love this story. And seeing The Shire and Middle Earth again on the big screen brings a wonderful feeling of comfort and familiarity. This feeling does not however take away from the experience, although many of the scenes in The Hobbit seem very reminiscent of those in Lord of the Rings, there are many new locations which brings much of the same wonder that audiences felt when they first saw The Fellowship of the Ring. This feeling of familiarity with the world and the characters is necessary in order to connect with the previous films. Not only are many of the same settings (even the music) used such as The Shire and Rivendell, but of course there are several characters who reprise their roles to return for this prequel. Among the returning cast members from the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy are Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and of course Andy Serkis as Gollum. This connection with the original trilogy is important for both the sake of the films and the story. Like in the novel of The Hobbit, which was originally published in 1937, its second edition, published in 1951, contained a significantly revised portion of Chapter 5 "Riddles in the Dark", which brings the story more in line with its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. Unlike the Star Wars Saga in which the prequels were made 20 twenty years apart and have little connectivity with the original trilogy. The Hobbit brings a certain ease to the story particularly with the opening prologue which reunites Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) as a framing device for the story. While there has been some speculation as to why Peter Jackson felt it necessary to stretch out The Hobbit into three movies, the extra scenes and characters that are included, I feel, are justified and add more depth to the story and backstories.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one of the most fantastic and enjoyable movie experiences I have had in a long time since I first saw Fellowship of the Ring. I admit my reticence in seeing The Hobbit, as a long-time Tolkien fan I was worried that this new trilogy of movies would hold up to The Lord of the Rings and that Peter Jackson could inspire and surprise us again particularly after such a "huge" disappointment with King Kong (2005). The biggest surprise was the fact that while the dwarves in the original novel often seemed humorous and laughable at times, in the movie they can appear often heroic, particularly Thorin. I completely renew my faith in Peter Jackson and I look forward to the next two parts of The Hobbit, particularly The Desolation of Smaug (2013)!

Note: As far as the controversial special digital format in the filming of The Hobbit with 48 frames per second as opposed to the standard 24 fps, this does very little to enhance the already brilliant movie experience. With all the latest advances and gimmicks in entertainment from digital projection to 3D it is refreshing to note that there are those filmmakers and special effects artists out there who are trying to improve on the quality of entertainment. There was a recent episode of Harry Knowles' Ain't It Cool with an interview with Douglass Trumbull on The Future of Cinema which I highly recommend you see!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Comic Book Review - Hellboy: In Hell #1

Back in August 2011, to put it simply...Hellboy died! After saving the world from a dragon in Hellboy: The Fury, Nimue's ghost plucked out his heart and of course, he went to Hell (not surprising)! Now he's BACK in "Hellboy: In Hell" #1 from Dark Horse Comics, which hopes to be Hellboy's triumphant return to comics! This new ongoing series also marks the return of creator, writer and artist Mike Mignola (with colors by Dave Stewart) as the artist on Hellboy for the first time since "The Conqueror Worm". Upon arriving "In Hell", or rather in The Abyss, Hellboy is confronted by some demonic, insect-creatures and an old, familiar face, who, of course wants to kick his ass! Guided by a mysterious warlock/spirit, Hellboy is led even further into The Pit. The first chapter of this new series is chock full of Hellboy weirdness, complete with elaborate, hellish scenes courtesy of Mike Mignola with and an odd reference to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Hellboy fans and readers have been looking forward to this for over a year. As comic fans know, you can't keep a good character down (i.e. Death of Superman) so it was inevitable that our beloved heavy-handed hero would return. Mike Mignola recently admitted that this will be an ongoing series that hearkens back to the original Hellboy series of which he now has complete control. Most of this story will be comprised of one and two-issue self-contained, story arcs with the first four issues released on a monthly basis. 
"A lot of what the first four issues are about is letting go of all the crap that he was dealing with for the last many years..." - Mike Mignola on
As this series progresses, Hellboy will venture deeper and deeper into hell and who knows what (or who?) he will encounter! Next Issue: Pandemonium! Also be sure to read B.P.R.D. - Hell On Earth: The Return of the Master!

Mike Mignola on "Hellboy: In Hell" @New York ComicCon
  Also check out: "Hellboy: A Christmas Underground" HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dethklok @ House of Blues, Dallas, TX

I was really looking forward to a very special concert event: DETHKLOK ON TOUR! Dethklok is the brainchild of writer/musician/producer/voice actor Brendon Small. While it exists as both as an animated/virtual band as well as an actual touring band, it is in fact one of the most unique musical acts on the heavy metal scene. The real Dethklok is composed of Brendon Small on guitar and vocals along with Gene Hoglan on drums, Bryan Beller on bass and also Mike Keneally on guitar. The world's first animated/virtual band from Adult Swim's Metalocalypse, was scheduled for a U.S. tour earlier this year along with co-headliners Lamb of God and Gojira. Unfortunately, it was cancelled in August due to the arrest and trial of Lamb of God's Randy Blythe for manslaughter in Prague. Now Dethklok joins The Black Dahlia Murder , All That Remains and Machine Head on a new U.S. tour which includes 30 dates throughout the Fall and Winter of this year. This Friday, I got to experience this very special multimedia  concert event at The House of Blues in Dallas, Texas. The venue is one of the largest clubs/stages in the historic downtown area of Dallas known as the West End. The House of Blues consists of two floors, upstairs is the dining and gift shop, whereas downstairs is the club area with stage and three bar areas.
The concert started at 6:30pm with first up: The Black Dahlia Murder, who played a seemingly short set. Next was All That Remains, whose set utilized the large screen that was set up behind the stage which featured their Skull and Crossed machine gun logo along with scenes of wartime-battlefield footage. Then came Machine Head who got a huge crowd reaction especially during their songs "Locust" and "Halo". Machine Head also took advantage of the multimedia element behind the stage as they embellished their set with stylized animations featuring Medeival-like illustrations along with their family crest logo. Before Dethklok took the stage, roadies dressed as the shows hooded "Klokateers", performed a sound-check. As Dethklok began their set around 9pm, the audience was treated to a multimedia experience featuring originally animated scenes from the Metalocalypse including music video footage and occasional comedic breaks from Metalocalypse support characters like "FaceBones", Dr. Rockzo, "The Rock 'n Roll Clown" and a PSA from Dethklok manager Charles Offdensen. The concert begins with an introduction from the mysterious priest (voiced by Werner Herzog) who summons Dethklok.
Pictured L to R: Keneally and Small

The whole set revolves around a story as the shows main antagonists known as The Tribunal, plan to take over the minds of Dethklok's fans using a "Fat Gas". Starting the concert with, of course, the "Metalocalypse" theme song then straight into the first track from Dethalbum III. The concert included both old favorites from Season One like "Thunderhorse", "Hatredcopter", "Murmaider", "Go Into the Water", "Awaken" and "Fansong", as well as songs from the latest albums including "Bloodlines", "The Gears", "Dethsupport" and "The Galaxy". The show ended with an impressive encore featuring "Crush The Industry" with several Klokateers marching up on stage!
Intro: "I summon Dethklok!"
The whole concert is like being IN the show! The use of the video screens makes the whole concert experience seem very interactive, not to mention the fact that the audience is actually seeing Brendon Small and the band play Dethklok's songs in person rather than their animated counterparts. If you are a Dethklok/Metalocalypse fan you cannot afford to miss this truly unique concert experience!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Special: Heavy Metal Gift Guide!

It's "Black Friday!" and you know what that means...SHOPPING!!! This infamous anti-holiday proves how shopping has become so insane (and its getting worse!), that people are willing to lose sleep, wait in line for long hours, even over-night for stores like Walmart and Best Buy to open their doors early just so they can trample their way in, scrambling for the latest bargains on those holiday gift must-haves! This is rampant commercialism at its worst and I for one, will have NO part of it! But...if you must search for those hard to beat bargains, either in a crowded store or online, might I suggest a few ideas for that hardcore metal fan in your family and pick up some of the "Blackest of the Black" Friday Heavy Metal Gifts! CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents...The "Black Friday" Special: Heavy Metal Gift Guide! HAPPY UN-HOLIDAYS! \m/
  • Check out these "Blasphe-Xmas, Sleigh-tanic" holiday items from Century Media!
  • Dark and Somber's Black Metal/Heavy Metal Greeting Cards - What began as an Internet gag, evolved into an actual greeting card company with the collaboration of photographer/entrepreneur Courtney Frystak and illustrator/designer/musician Farron Loathing. Make that metal fan in your life feel special with a metal greeting card this holiday season!
  • SLAYER Chirstmas Sweater (Jumper) from Backstreet Merch - Show your anti-Christmas spirit with your very own SLAYER Christmas sweater! No joke, this is for real! SLAYER RULES! \m/
  • Too Much Horror Business by Kirk Hammett - Metallica's lead guitarist gives us a look at his huge collection of horror/sci-fi movie memorabilia with his new book from Abrams books!
  • The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence & Darkness, by Gavin Baddeley with Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth) - it's been called "the boldest, most comprehensive guide to the realms of darkness and devilry ever published"! This book has every thing dark from music, movies and literature, to comics and computer games. A must have for anyone not afraid to explore the dark side!
  • Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal - VH1 Classic's That Metal Show's host and radio DJ Eddie Trunk, presents his first book, a guide for all things hard rock and heavy metal! 
  • Heavy Metal Box Set - This ultimate heavy metal collection Includes 4-discs and collectible book in a limited edition box set shaped like a Marshall amp. Filled with songs from over 40 years of heavy metal history, this is a must have for any heavy metal fan!
  • Metal Evolution - Limited Collector's Steel Tin DVD - from documentary filmmaker Sam Dunn, director of Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Iron Maiden: Flight 666 comes a new 11-episode series on 3-DVDs from Banger Films chronicling the history and evolution of heavy metal music!
  • Mastodon Horn Stein - Enjoy your favorite beverage while listening to Mastodon's new album The Hunter! The Hunter Horn Stein is made of porcelain and holds 16 ounces.
  •  Metallica Monopoly - What holiday would be complete without everyone's favorite board game: Monopoly...Metallica style! "The fast-dealing property trading game" just got faster! "Ooooh yeah!"
  • KISS Casket - Show your devotion to KISS: "The Hottest Band in the World" in this life...and the next with a KISS Casket! Made of 20-gauge steel, these caskets feature KISS images with a black interior fabric.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

This year, Daniel Craig returns for his third time as James Bond/Agent 007 in Skyfall! With the release of this, the 23rd James Bond movie, also marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. Back in 1962, the one and only Sean Connery starred as Ian Flemming's Agent 007: James Bond, in Dr. No! Spanning 23 films (not counting the original Casino Royale (1967) spoof) and 6 different Bonds, it has become the most popular and successful film franchise in the world! The newest installment to the Bond films will no doubt leave it's mark as one of the most anticipated and successful Bond movie to date.
Following a botched mission in Turkey, Bond, believed to be dead, returns to MI6 to track down a dangerous cyber-criminal known as Silva (Javier Bardem). While Bond questions his choice to return to the spy life, he also has some misgivings of 'M's (Judi Dench) orders, who despite her efforts to keep the world safe, is soon to be replaced by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). With the help of a new and particularly young 'Q' (Ben Whishaw), Bond must track down this sadistic hacker, who has a personal vendetta against 'M' and MI6!
The ever-popular credit sequence for this movie is particularly impressive with the theme song "Skyfall" performed by the artist Adele. Like any Bond film, there is of course a few new Bond girls (or women, per political correctness) including Eve (Naomie Harris), who also played Tia Dalma in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) a popular French TV actress. Under director Sam Mendes (American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002), Jarhead (2005), Skyfall is an intense and action-packed film worthy of the Bond name. Filmed at some of the most exotic locations including Istanbul, Shanghai, Japan, the film film also features several scenes within downtown London and even along the moors of the Scottish countryside. The Shanghai location is visually stunning with a floating casino made up of Chinese lanterns and dragons which includes live Komodo dragons in a pen! While Daniel Craig's Bond has established himself as the newest 007 since Casino Royale (2006), he has presented himself as a more serious, even darker and grittier secret agent. Also, since the death of Vesper (Eva Green), his character has become a brooding, reluctant hero. Another variation of the Bond character comes with this newest film, since many of the previous Bonds have never had much of a backstory. Always somewhat one-dimensional, many Bonds let their suave demeanor and one-liners carry through the entire film while many of them (particularly in the 1970's) were overly formulaic and predictable. With this Bond there is a little more insight into his character and his origins along with elements of him dealing with his insecurities and coming to terms with his age, a theme that has become common in recent action films like The Expendables (2010). Skyfall is unlike any previous Bond movie, with a unique twist on the age-old revenge story. The only disappointment in this movie (despite the numerous rumors online) is that it does not reference much in the previous film: Quantom of Solace (2008) and has little, if nothing to do with the elusive and mysterious antagonist group known as 'Quantum'. Along with strong overtones of the modern concept of terrorism and world in-security, it strikes a heavy chord within our modern, post-"War on Terror" age (particularly with the comments made by Judi Dench's 'M' towards the climax). Without spoiling any plot points, this movie begins a new era in the Bond franchise, which will be apparent in the ending, leaving it open for at least two more confirmed Daniel Craig Bond films.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

National Metal Day - Top 11 Live Metal Bands!

Last year, 11/11/11 was National Metal Day! A day to celebrate hard rock and heavy metal by turning it up to 11! Why?...Because "it's one louder" (Spinal Tap)! While promoted "heavily" in the heavy metal scene as well as an impressive all-day-long celebration on VH1 Classic, sadly, it remained a one-time-only event. As a metal fan, I hope that National Metal Day will continue to be celebrated on November 11th every year and I celebrate this day by blogging about some of the best live metal bands in heavy metal music today. More than any other genre of music, heavy metal lends itself to the grandeur and over-the-top theatricality live on stage. With bands like Black Sabbath, KISS, Metallica and Iron Maiden, hard rock and heavy metal bands undoubtedly put on some of the best shows ever! If you've ever been to a heavy metal show you know what I'm talking about. In honor of National Metal Day, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: The Top 11 LIVE Metal bands!

#11 GWAR - With elaborate, bizarre and often gruesome costumes and makeup, GWAR's graphic stage performances often feature humorous enactments of politically and morally taboo themes with everything from satirizing and mutilating effigies of current political figures and celebrities. Since 1984 the band has been inciting audiences with their extreme brand of shock rock and have appeared on a number of talk-shows during the 1990's. Despite the death of lead guitarist Cory Smoot a.k.a. Flattus Maximus, last year, the band continues to proudly shock and offend the heavy metal world.

Rammstein's "Fire-Suit"
#10 Rammstein - Innovators of German Neue Deutsche Härte/Industrial metal, Rammstein has a "flare" for the dramatic in utilizing a wide range of elaborate costumes, props and of course pyrotechnics! At times, Lead singer Till Lindemann wears a  metal "fire-suit" and sings while engulfed in flames. Rammstein gained world-wide fame and acclaim in the late 1990's with their 1997 album Sehnsucht which featured popular hits such as "Engel" and Du Hast".

#9 SLAYER- The most extreme heavy/thrash-metal band in the world, Slayer is known for their speed, intensity and aggressive style. Drawing from intense imagery and lyrics laced with violent and anti-religious imagery, Slayer has been known for their highly-controversial music. With screaming lyrics from frontman Tom Araya and Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's wild dual guitar solos, Slayer has earned it's place among thrash metal's 'Big Four' which also includes Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica.

#8 Rob Zombie - Formerly the lead singer for White Zombie (1985-1998), Rob Zombie (a.k.a. Robert Cummings) has been a major part of the growing industrial metal scene. Heavily influenced by horror and sci-fi movies and the music of Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie has become a highly successful musician, film/TV/animation director, producer and screenwriter. Rob Zombie released his first solo album in 1998, Hellbilly Deluxe and has since then released 4 studio albums, several remix and compilation albums and four major films including House of 1,000 Corpses (2003), The Devil's Rejects (2005) and the remakes of the Halloween franchise: Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009). His latest film, The Lords of Salem is set to be released in 2013.

Alice Cooper
#7 Alice Cooper - Since the late 1960's, Alice Cooper (the original band and the man, a.k.a. Vincent Furnier) has been terrorizing the world of rock music with their own unique brand of "shock rock". With elaborate stage shows, Alice Cooper utilizes a grand theatrical style featuring such elements as guillotines, electric chairs, blood, real-live boa constrictors, and dismembered baby dolls on stage! After Alice Cooper released his first solo album with 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare, began a whole new era of horror that would span the decades making Alice Cooper one of the most influential figures in hard rock and heavy metal today alongside Ozzy Osbourne.

#6 Black Sabbath - The originators of the Heavy Metal sound, four young men from Birmingham, England formed a band in 1969 and with the release of Black Sabbath (1970) and changed heavy metal music forever! Since their original lineup until 1979 which included Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Geezer Butler and of course Ozzy Osbourne, the band has gone through several lead singers in their 40-year history including highly-popular singer Ronnie James Dio, along with Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen and Tony Martin. While the band has reunited and broken up on several occasions including a reunion with Ozzy in 1997 and then with Dio in 2006 also forming the side-band Heaven & Hell, most of the original members have reunited (unfortunately except for drummer Bill Ward) yet again for another tour. Black Sabbath relied heavily on the energy and reaction from the crowd brought on originally by singer Ozzy's natural showmanship and then later with Dio's performance-centered presence. The band has rarely used much over-the-top stage elements aside from heavily-used crucifixes symbols and fire effects, Sabbath has always been more focused on the music and crowd-pleasing tactics. Black Sabbath will ALWAYS be the #1 metal band!

#5 KISS - The originators of theatrical "shock rock", despite their appearance, KISS has always been more of hard rock than a heavy metal band, utilizing a more traditional rock & roll style music, KISS relies heavily on their unique make-up designs, costumes and stage shows. Formed in the early 1970's KISS has been dubbed "The Hottest Band in the World!" Although the original lineup including Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Chris has changed over the years (with only Paul and Gene as the remaining original members), KISS has retained a huge following despite their decline in the early 1980's and their years without make-up until their reunion in 1996. With their use of pyrotechnics, fireworks, wire-work and not to mention Gene's blood-spitting and tongue. KISS remains the most popular rock band in the world with the highest commercial success thanks to their huge line of merchandising properties.

#4 Metallica - One of the most popular and successful heavy metal bands in the world, Metallica has been known for their energetic and crowd pleasing shows since their beginning in 1983. With sold-out shows and their knack for notorious year-long touring, Metallica has developed a huge fan base despite their decline in the late 1990's due to their changing image and developing music style. Though the band has been through a number of lineup changes; the most significant being the death of bassist Cliff Burton in 1986 and the departure of bassist Jason Newstead in 2000 and recruitment of Robert Trujillo in 2003.

#3 Motörhead - The LOUDEST band in the world! Motörhead has been turning up the volume since their debut in 1975. Frontman and bassist Lemmy Kilmister is the ideal rock star and is idolized by many in the rock community and whose band is regarded as one of the most influential of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands to emerge out of the late 70's.

#2 Ozzy Osbourne - The Godfather of Heavy Metal! Ozzy Osbourne is heavy metal personified, The Prince of Darkness himself has had a hugely successful solo career since he was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979. With some of the most virtuoso guitar players at his side like the late Randy Rhoads and until recently Zakk Wylde, Ozzy has brought heavy metal mainstream. Despite his crazier years in the 80's which was filled with onstage antics such as biting the head off a bat or wearing spangled-jump suits. From teenage-criminal to rock star, deadbeat to metal superstar, reality TV dad and metal god Ozzy Osbourne is the quintessential live metal show.

#1 Iron Maiden - THE most popular heavy metal band in the world! Iron Maiden was one of the first bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to make it to worldwide acclaim. With current frontman Bruce Dickinson at the helm and their ever-present mascot Eddie making crowds of thousands cheer all over the world, Iron Maiden is truly the #1 Best Live Heavy Metal Band! With Dickinson's natural showmanship and ability to please the crowd, Iron Maiden always puts on a great show! Don't believe me...just watch this trailer from the documentary Iron Maiden: Flight 666:
Happy National Metal Day! Rock on \m/
LINKS: National Metal Day on Facebook

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Top 10 Silent Horror Films

In the early days of motion pictures, films were silent; without sound, music or spoken dialogue, and there are millions of moviegoers today who have NO idea what they're missing! Back in the early 20th century until the late 1920's, film was truly art. Before the age of the "talkies" after 1927, synchronized sound was available during that time, but due to the technical challenges involved, they were very costly and impractical. Although many American film companies were producing silent films, some of the best examples of silent film came out of Europe. While most silent films focused on adventure or romance, filmmakers found that the silent film was perfectly suited to the horror genre. With the advent of the German Expressionism movement, films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922) set the standard of what silent horror films had to offer. If you consider yourself a horror movie fan and you have never seen any of these films than think again. Until you experience these films you have no idea what TRUE horror is! CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Proudly Presents: The Top 10 Silent Horror Films!
#10 Frankenstein (1910) - Directed by J. Searle Dawley, This Thomas Edison produced, one-reeler was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic novel. Only 16 minutes long, the film starred Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor's fiancée. This film features one of the most original creation scenes as Frankenstein makes the creature from a skeletal being in a vat of chemicals which was filmed in reverse.

#9 The Golem (1915) Directed by  Paul Wegener & Carl BoeseThe Golem was featured in a series of three films portraying the ancient Jewish legend of The Golem, an artificial man created by a rabbi to protect the Jewish people.

#8 The Monster (1925) - Directed by Roland West, The Monster is a film with an odd mixture of horror and comedy. An aspiring detective happens upon a mad scientist: Dr. Gustave Ziska (Lon Chaney), who inhabits an abandoned sanatorium, performs insane experiments on his patients.

#7 Faust (1926) - Directed F.W. Murnau, this was the first film adaptation of the legendary tale of  Faust, a man who makes a deal with the devil. Starring Gösta Ekman as Faust and Emil Jannings as Mephisto, the film was one of the most complex and expensive productions by the UFA. The "Bald Mountain" scene served as the inspiration for the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Walt Disney's 1940 animated film Fantasia (also the inspiration for Chernobog's Blog and my wbesite: Chernobog's Lair!)

#6 Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) - Directed by Benjamin Christensen - Häxan is a Swedish/Danish, pseudo-documentary about the history of witchcraft in Europe. Inspired by the director's interest in the occult and his studies of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century guidebook for witch hunters, the film features disturbing imagery along with graphic depictions of sex violence, and Satanic rituals. The film was censored and banned in several countries including the United States until it was re-released in 1968 with a dramatic narration by author  William S. Burroughs.

#5 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) - Directed by Robert Wiene and starring Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari and Conrad Veidt as the somnambulist (sleepwalker) Caesar who he uses to commit murder. The film has the most striking examples of German Expressionism in cinema with art direction by designer Hermann Warm.

#4 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) - Directed by John S. Robertson and starring John Barrymore as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, the film features one of the most unique transformation sequences in film history as it was achieved mostly with no make-up, only the ability of Barrymore to contort his face. The final appearance of Mr, Hyde is especially disturbing as he dons a pointed head. The film has been remade a number of times, most notably later in the 1931 version starring Fredric March.
Lon Chaney in London After Midnight
#3 London After Midnight (1927) - Starring Lon Chaney as a fake vampire. This film is considered amongst one of the many lost films of the silent era as no existing footage of the film is known to exist. In 2002, Turner Classic Movies commissioned restoration producer Rick Schmidlin to produce a 45 minute reconstruction of the film, using surviving production photographs.

#2 The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - Directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney Sr. as Erik, The Phantom. The original Phantom of the Opera is considered to be the most popular and most successful silent horror film of all time. Based on the French novel by Gaston Leroux, the production was plagued with problems from the start between the director and the cast. Later famed producer  Carl Laemmle assigned Edward Sedgwick as the director to re-shoot much of the film including a new ending. The highly original and influential make-up effects created by Lon Chaney himself (as with The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)) was inspired by the novel and wounded soldiers from the first World War. The film features a short scene where The Phantom appears as The Red Death which was filmed in two-color "Technicolor", which was revolutionary for the time. The film sparked a new era for Universal Pictures as hey embarked to produce some of the most iconic horror film monsters ever including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf Man. Lon Chaney was set to play Count Dracula, but due to his untimely death in 1930, the studio finally chose Bela Lugosi. The Phantom of the Opera has been remade many times including the 1943 Universal version starring Claude Rains and the recent 2004 version directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Gerard Butler.

#1 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (a.k.a. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, 1922) - Directed by F.W. Murnau, and starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Nosferatu is one of the single-most innovative and influential silent horror films today. Produced as an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, the vampire was renamed due to copyright laws. The film contains THE most visually shocking vampire in the history of cinema, which was also the inspiration for the TV movie adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979). The film was later remade as Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, a.k.a. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht) by director Werner Herzog, and starred Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula. The story of the original film's production was fictionalized in the film Shadow of the Vampire (2000) directed by E. Elias Merhige starring John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Shreck/Orlock.
Clips from Silent Horror films (I'd turn OFF the sound if I were you!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Music Review: Dethklok - Dethalbum III

Since 2006, there has been only one truly original virtual/animated metal band on prime-time TV...and that is DETHKLOK!!! The brainchild of musician, creator, writer, and producer Brendon Small, Metalocalypse/Dethklok has been bringing the blackest, most brutal metal ever since their premiere on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim six years ago. Since then, they have released three DVD collections, two music albums and ton's of merchandise (not to mention a string of promotional concert tours!). After this years conclusion of season four, Williams Street, (makers of Robot Chicken) has released the third album from MetalocalypseDethklok - Dethalbum III! This album comes in two different versions: the Regular Edition and the Deluxe Edition. The album contains 12 tracks and features music from seasons three and four of Metalocalypse. With the Deluxe Edition you get a special Bonus DVD with a 32-minute making-of documentary, music videos and also a special iron-on patch. Usually, the music albums coincide with the release of the DVDs whereas Dethalbum III was released on October 16th, season four is expected to be released on DVD ("Church of the Black Klok") on October 30th.
The third album has everything fans have come to expect from the virtual band Dethklok, and more! With all music written by Brendon Small, including vocals and guitars, the album features Gene Hoglan on drums and Bryan Beller on bass. For those who don't know who Dethklok "really" is: there is Nathan Explosion on vocals, Skwisgaar Skwigelf on lead guitar, Pickles the drummer, Toki Wartooth on rhythm guitar and William Murderface on bass guitar. The band itself, (although fictional) has become a notable band in the world of heavy metal/death metal music. While existing as more of a parody/farcical, Spinal Tap-like band, they are in fact, an actual touring band. Currently, the band with Brendon Small is on tour with Machine Head, All That Remains and The Black Dahlia Murder and as a fan since the beginning, I'm looking forward to finally seeing them next month at The House of Blues in Dallas. The tour was scheduled earlier this year but was cancelled and rescheduled due to the arrest and trial of co-headliner Lamb of God's Randy Blythe in Prague for manslaughter. Dethalbum III is an impressive album with a variety of tracks including such favorites as: "The Galaxy", "Starved", "Biological Warfare" and "Rejoin". My only criticism is that this is also to date this album contains some of the most explicit and vulgar lyrics yet, especially considering the name of the first track. And as far as the arrangement of the album goes, the first track should have definitely been "The Galaxy" as it is the most epic track ever! As of now, it has surpassed Dethalbum II (2009), peaking at #10 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 20,000 copies in the first week, thus making it the highest charting death metal album! I highly recommend it to any fan of Metalocalypse/Dethklok and pick up the Deluxe Edition ASAP!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dallas Comic-Con: Fan Days

This weekend I got to attend Dallas Comic-Con's Fan Days at Irving Convention Center in Irving, Texas! 'Fan Days' is a special event sponsored by The Dallas Comic-Con which has been running since 1994. The Dallas Comic-Con usually occurs in May along with the Sci-Fi Expo in February. Fan Days is a huge pop-culture event presenting celebrity guess from movies and TV along with comic book artists and writers and of course a huge dealers room with tons of comics and collectibles! Some of this year's special celebrity guests included: Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Robert Englund, Ray Park, Sean Astin, Lance Henrikson, Ralph Bakshi, Ian McDiarmid, David Prowse and Stan Lee! The 501st also made an appearance along with the U.S. Marivne Corps. Reserve to support Toys For Tots. I have always been a regular attendee of some of the major conventions that occur around the Dallas-Ft.Wroth Metroplex (i.e. All-Con, A-Kon, AnimeFest, Comic-Con, Texas Frightmare) even when I was younger I would attend Star trek conventions with my parents.
Stan Lee
As conventions get bigger and more popular (and more crowded!) prices go up as well as the quality of celebrity guests get better. I have enjoyed going to these for years but it seems like every year it just gets crazier and even more expensive! I am a devoted con-goer and celebrity autograph collector. While back in the day for the price of admission you could get autographs from whatever celebrity you wanted (on your item) with an occasional fee if you wanted to purchase any photos or merchandise they might have. But in recent years, celebrities have been charging more and more for their autographs, anywhere from an average of $20 to $30. Now the average price at Comic-Con is $40 with some celebrities charging more. The most expensive guests this years included Stan Lee who charged $50 for an autograph and Ian McDiarmid for $100! And that's not including the offered "Photo-Op" or even personalization. With the thousands of people attending and even more thousands who only come for the autographs this makes it increasingly hard for the average fan to acquire autographs from your favorite guests. Some events like Dallas Comic-Con are even offering V.I.P. tickets for amounts up to $100 which gives those lucky few who pay for it many advantages such as early admission, preferred seating and even autograph or photo op 'jumps’ which allow you to "move forward in front of any general admission badge customers in any autograph line or photo op line".
Bruce Campbell
When I pre-ordered my ticket for the convention I had one goal in mind: to meet Bruce Campbell! Star of such cult/horror movies as The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness along with a number of TV (Hercules/Xena, Brisco County, Jr., Burn Notice), movie cameo appearances (Spider-man Trilogy) and voice work. I was excited to meet Stan Lee as well, but I had met him at a very special event when I was younger. I was also hoping to meet Star Wars actors like David Prowse, Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park. I had purchased my autograph ticket for Bruce Campbell so that I would be guaranteed to get an autograph but I didn't spend on the 'photo-op' ticket. While the convention started on Friday, the biggest and busiest day is always Saturday. There were so many people at the con (which was possibly over-sold) that most of the parking was in the adjacent field that surrounded the convention center. When I arrived around 11am, I happened to pass by Steve Niles' booth who was nice enough to sign my trade paperback of 30 Days of Night with no charge! Then I headed to the 4th floor to the main stage for the Bruce Campbell Q&A at 12pm. The panel was fairly crowded with fans as Bruce appeared dressed in a bright, white-suit. The first thing he talked about was the remake of Evil Dead and even treated us to an exclusive view of the trailer! Bruce and director of the original Sam Raimi, serve as producers of the film directed by Fede Alvarez. Bruce apparently fully endorses the film and says it is really different than the original. Bruce also talked about his experiences as 'Ash' on the The Evil Dead trilogy as well as Man with the Screaming Brain, Bubba Ho-Tep, and My Name Is Bruce. He also talked about his views on Evil Dead: The Musical. After the Q&A ended at 1pm, I headed back down to the 3rd floor to see what time the autograph session would be. It wasn't until 3pm so I figured I had some time. Right across the hall was the line for Ray Park, famous for his martial-arts work as The Headless Horseman's stunt-double in Sleepy Hollow, Snake-Eyes in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and of course Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately, after I had waited in line for almost two hours for Ray, they cut off the line with me
Ray Park
While I now had to get in line for Bruce Campbell, I was impressed with the helpfulness of the con-staff and volunteers who assured me that I would be able to get into the next autograph session for Ray Park. I got in line for Bruce which had formed outside in a shaded walkway. I was waiting patiently with Group 2 with my ticket in hand and my Special Necronomicon Edition DVD of The Evil Dead! For anyone who follows my Twitter or Facebook feed knows, I was growing increasingly impatient in-line. While the weather was pleasant, the wind was very strong being under the outdoor, covered-walkway. Two hours later...I finally got in to see him around 5pm, he was very nice, signed my DVD/book with his flourished signature of Bruce along with 'Ash' and even added "P.S. Burn This!". Afterwards I was able to 'cut' in-line to see Ray Park, who was very approachable and easy to talk to, where I bought a nice glossy 8x10 of Darth Maul and later got to meet David 'Dave' Prowse who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars Trilogy. As he did sign a glossy picture of Darth Vader I bought, he seemed somewhat enfeebled and was rather curt with me as he was also preoccupied, talking to a young lady (in a Star Trek uniform no less!?). Despite my one disappointment, I was very happy to have met Steve Niles, Bruce Campbell and Ray Park. Although I spent most of my Saturday waiting in lines (for almost 5 hours!) and very little time enjoying the rest of the convention, I was however, able to pick up a few affordable items from the dealers room, along with a few pictures and some great memories of one of the largest conventions I have ever been too...unfortunately I probably won't be coming back to for a long, long time!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review: Frankenweenie

With Halloween just around the corner, there are always a few frighteningly fun films out around this time. One of the more "family-friendly" seasonal films comes from one of my all-time, favorite directors: Tim Burton! While I haven't been too happy with some of his recent movies (i.e. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010)), I have however, been a longtime fan of his earlier, darker films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, or Batman. This time, Tim Burton actually remade one of his own films, namely Frankenweenie! For those who don't know, the new Frankenweenie is actually based on Burton's 1984 live-action short-film, which Tim directed during his brief stint at Disney, which he was later fired from for "wasting their resources". It wasn't long before he would return to Disney/Touchstone Pictures and produce the highly successful The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) which remains one of the most popular titles and not to mention, successful merchandising properties for Disney today. Now Burton has re-envisioned his original idea, which almost 30 years ago, Disney had said was "too scary for family viewing".
Frankenweenie (2012) is a full-length, black-and-white, 3D, stop-motion animation film directed by Tim Burton, which, exactly like his original, is a dog-centred parody of Universal's Classic Frankenstein (1931). Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a young but odd boy, who likes to make his own monster movies. His only friend is his beloved dog, Sparky (voiced by Frank Welker). One fateful day, Sparky is hit by a car! Inconsolable despite his parent's efforts (Mr. (Martin Short) and Mrs. (Catherine O'Hara) Frankenstein), Victor becomes inspired by his new,  eccentric science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), who demonstrates how electricity affects the nervous system of a dead frog. That night, Victor goes to the pet cemetery and digs up his dead dog and attempts to reanimate him using the power of lightning! Although his experiment is a success, Victor carelessly confides in his creepy classmate Edgar E. Gore (Atticus Shaffer). Then all Hell breaks loose (literally!) when his other classmates learn of his triumph and try to replicate Victor's experiment on their own dearly-departed pets!
The original Frankenweenie, circa 1984
As a fan of the original Frankenweenie at an early age (which was my first introduction to the world of Tim Burton), I remember seeing the censored version on the Disney Channel many years ago. I still own a long out-of-print VHS copy of it, along with the uncut version, which is featured on the Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The new Frankenweenie retains much of the same dark, tongue-in-cheek elements of Burton's earlier work. While the plot remains virtually unchanged, there is the addition of more characters and even a love-interest: the shy Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder), niece to New Holland's over-bearing Mayor, Mr. Burgemeister (also Martin Short). The new movie delves more into Victor's character and we get to see more interaction between him and his devoted dog before his unfortunate accident. We are also introduced to some of Victor's more "unusual" classmates (actually their all a little unusual!) including: Nassor, Toshiaki, "Weird Girl" and Bob. The delightful way in which the characters are portrayed are very reminiscent of other famous horror movie actors and personalities. Mr. Rzykruski bears a strong resemblance to Vincent Price, Nassor is very much like Boris Karloff along with his signature lisp, while the hilariously-hunchbacked Edgar E. Gore seems like a cross between Dwight Frye and Peter Lorre. As for the wide-eyed "Weird Girl" and her creepy cat Mr. Whiskers (Dee Bradley Baker), she is pure "Burton-esque"! As for the seemingly "normal" characters who inhabit the little town of New Holland, there are Victor's parents who are so ridiculously oblivious to his activities that they only become involved when his mother accidentally discovers the undead pooch living in their attic. There is one particular moment later in the movie that I found both surprising and confusing where the townspeople confront Mr. Rzykruski (Inherit the Wind-style) about what he is teaching their children and instead of trying to reason with them or explain himself he simply points out very blatantly, how stupid and ignorant they all are! Although the movie is chock full of macabre madness and frighteningly funny moments, there is almost too much going on in the movie which takes away from it's original story of a boy who is unwilling to accept the death of his dog. I suppose Tim Burton and Disney made the agreement to downplay the whole doggy-death while keeping the kid's attention with a lot of crazy characters and creepy creatures such as a flying bat/cat, mutant sea-monkeys and a giant, Godzilla-like turtle! By the climax of the film, there are so many things going on that the original plot is lost and you forget that this all started with Victor and Sparky.
The original Frankenweenie short was very direct and was able to tell the whole story in less than 30 minutes. The final windmill scene as in the original Frankenweenie and it's inspiration, the original Frankenstein, is altered drastically. Without spoiling the end, I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed as I felt it lost much in the way of the emotional impact that I remember feeling when I first saw a boy bring his dog back from the grave. For anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet as a child, the story is very relateable. But as for all of the extra craziness brought on by the horrific hi-jinx, you begin to question why Tim Burton felt the need to remake it in the first place. If you are a fan of the original Frankenweenie, it might be fun to see, but lower your expectations. Frankenweenie is fun, visually and technologically entertaining but it lacks substance. As for other horror-themed animated films this year, I felt ParaNorman was superior.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Star Wars Reads Day: Top 10 Star Wars Books

October 6th is Star Wars Reads Day! On this day, fans come together to celebrate reading and Star Wars. Star Wars and reading have been a big part of my life for a long time. As a life-long fan of Star Wars I started reading very early and Star Wars books were my gateway to reading more. And as a reader, writer and teacher, I have always heavily advocated reading. Most of the Star Wars books and comics are part of the "Expanded Universe" in the Star Wars canon. These deal with stories and characters created apart from the regular cast of characters, some have even grown in popularity equal to that of the movies. To celebrate Star Wars Reads Day, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents: The Top 10 Star Wars Books! "May the Force Be With You!"

#10 Death Troopers (2009) by Joe Schreiber - the first horror story based in the Star Wars Universe since the "Galaxy of Fear" series in the 90's. A  deadly contagion infects the Imperial prison barge The Purge as survivors try to escape from legions of the undead!

#9 The New Jedi Order: Star By Star by Troy Denning - in the 10th installment of "The New Jedi Order" series, the Yuuzhan Vong have begun cloning voxyn, creatures capable of hunting Jedi through the Force and killing them.

#8 Rogue Squadron (1996) by Michael Stackpole - the first novel in the Star Wars: X-wing series. Wedge Antilles has gathered a group of pilots together to recreate the legendary Rogue Squadron, as a dual X-wing and commando squadron.

#7 The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime (1999) by R. A. Salvatore - the first installment of "The New Jedi Order" series this book features the controversial death of Chewbacca!

#6 "The Jedi Academy Trilogy" (1994) by Kevin J. Anderson - Part of a three-book series including Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice and Champions of the Force the series chronicles Luke Skywalker's early attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order after the defeat of the Emperor.

#5 Shadows of the Empire (1996) by Steve Perry - Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia project created by Lucasfilm in 1996 which included the novel, comic book series, video game and an accompanying soundtrack. The novel introduced Prince Xizor, an alien overlord of the largest criminal organization in the galaxy who's goal is to take Darth Vader's place at the Emperor's side. It also introduced another new character to the saga: Dash Rendar, a smuggler, who served as Han Solo's replacement.

#4 "The Thrawn Trilogy" by Timothy Zahn - One of the most popular book series in the Expanded Star Wars Universe, "The Thrawn Trilogy" includes Heir to the Empire (1991), Dark Force Rising (1992) and The Last Command (1993). The series introduced many popular characters, such as Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and of course Grand Admiral Thrawn! As the Rebellion is now the New Republic, the remnants of the Imperial Resistance have chosen Admiral Thrawn to lead an attack on the New Republic with a Dark Jedi at his side!

#3 "The Han Solo Adventures" (1979) by Brian Daley - a trilogy of novels set in the Star Wars universe two years before the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The novels include Han Solo At Star's End, Han Solo's Revenge and Han Solo and The Lost Legacy.

#2 Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978) by Alan Dean Foster - originaly intended as a sequel, it was the first original full-length Star Wars novel to be published after the release of the original Star Wars film, it is also the first novel to be included in what was to be known as the Expanded Universe. Luke and Leia find themselves on the swampy planet of Mimban in search of the fabled Kaiburr crystal!

#1 Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (1976) by George Lucas and Alan Dean Foster - While the book was based on the original screenplay of Star Wars written by George Lucas, the novel was actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and was published almost six months before the May, 1977 release of of the movie. The book differs greatly from the movie in several ways including changes in names and new characters not in the film, as well as the destruction of Alderaan is nonexistent and the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi is changed.

LINKS: Star, Star Wars Reads on Facebook, 501st Legion