Friday, June 29, 2012

Birthday Special: Top 10 Ray Harryhausen Films

Ray Harryhausen (b. June 29, 1920, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.) is one of the single most important names in film visual/special effects and stop-motion animation. An inspiration to generations of film-makers, monster-makers and movie-goers alike. His creations are featured in some of the most seminal sci-fi and monster movies of all time. Ray Harryhausen is particularly important to me and is responsible for my love of classic movie monsters, mythology and dinosaurs. Coincidentally, he also shares a birthday with me! So to celebrate both our birthdays, I thought it would be fitting to post a list of my top 10 favorite films featuring Harryhausen's creatures. CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents: Top 10 Ray Harryhausen Films, Enjoy!

#10 Mighty Joe Young (1949) - The original "King Kong" (1933) was one of Ray Harryhausen's  earliest inspirations. It is not surprising that one of the first films he worked on as first technician involved a giant ape. Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and starring Terry Moore as Jill Young, whose pet gorilla is sent to Hollywood and is exploited and mistreated, escapes and runs rampant in the city.
#9 One Million Years B.C. (1966) - Tumak (John Richardson) is banished from his caveman tribe and falls in love with Loana (Raquel Welch) as they face prehistoric monsters.
#8 It Came from Beneath The Sea (1955) - Directed by Robert Gordon. A giant octopus affected by an H-Bomb test terrorizes the California coast!
#7 The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960) - Based on the classic satirical book "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift and directed by Jack Sher, while on a ship to India, Dr. Lemuel Gulliver (Kerwin Matthews) is shipwrecked on an island inhabited by tiny people known as Lilliputians. Later on the island of Brobdingnag, he is considered tin in a land of giants. The movie version directed by Jack Sher features some impressive visual effects work by Ray Harryhausen with early miniature work as well as camera tricks to make Gulliver seem giant.
#6 Mysterious Island (1961) - One of the many adaptations of Jules Verne's classic, this version directed by Cy Endfield, features Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo. When Civil War P.O.W.S are stranded on an island in the South Pacific they encounter giant plants and creatures as a volcano threatens to destroy the island!
#5 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) - A Sci-Fi classic! Directed by Nathan Juran. When the first U.S. spaceship to Venus crash lands in Italy, a giant, reptilian-like creature known as Ymir attacks the city! Ymir is one of Harryhausen's most iconic creatures!
#4 The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) - Directed by Eugène Lourié, a huge dinosaur called a Rhedosaurus is awakened by an Arctic nuclear bomb test and rampages New York City!
#3 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) - Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant) is shrunk by the treacherous Sokurah the Magician (Torin Thatcher) and Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) must search the Island of Colossa, an island full of giant monsters for a magic potion. The first of many Sinbad films, this film features more iconic creatures by Harryhausen including the Cyclops, a fire-breathing dragon and a two-headed vulture!
#2 Jason and the Argonauts (1963) - Directed by Don Chaffey, the great Greek hero Jason (Todd Armstrong) leads a group of adventurers to quest for the Golden Fleece! Jason and the Argonauts features some of the most elaborate special effects by Harryhausen including skeleton warriors, a multi-headed serpent, harpies and Talos, a living bronze giant!
#1 Clash of the Titans (1981) - Desmond Davis directs the epic story of Perseus (Harry Hamlin), who with his trusty Pegasus, battles Medusa and the Kraken to rescue Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker). Among this star-studded cast is Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera and Burgess Meredith as Ammon. With brilliant and beautiful special effects produced by Ray Harryhausen, it is considered to be his masterpiece. The 2010 remake is nothing but a mockery to Harryhausen's genius!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Top 10 Pixar Films

Pixar Animation Studios have changed the face of computer animation for the last 25 years. Making popular and successful features and shorts along with their recent purchase by Walt Disney Pictures in 2006, Pixar has continued to make groundbreaking feature films. Pixar's films feature some of the most unique, memorable and popular characters within the ever expanding Disney universe. With the relese of Disney/Pixar's Brave this weekend, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG looks back at the best of Pixar with The Top 10 Pixar Films: Enjoy!

#10 Up (2009) - A delightful and heartfelt story about Carl Fredrickson, a widower yearning for lost opportunites of adventure. Along with his unlikely companion Russell, an obnoxious and naive "Wilderness Explorer", travel to South America in his balloon-house. This film took an unbelievable premise with a sincere and moving story to make it one of Pixar's most memorable and adventurous films yet.
#9 Rattatouille (2007) - A completely unique and delicious film. When Remy the rat has a love for food that he ends up helping a clumsy and inexperienced Chef, Linguini, into becoming a success.
#8 Toy Story 2 (1999) - The highly successful sequel to Pixar's first animated feature. Toy Story 2 introduced some new characters including Jesse, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete, characters from "Wooy's Round-Up", an old (fictional) TV show.
#7 A Bug's Life (1998) -  Inspired by Akira Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai and it's Western counterpart Magnificent Seven. Flik, an ambitious ant seeks "warrior" bugs to help defend their colony from Hopper and his grasshopper gang.
#6 Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Yes there ARE monsters under your bed and they need children's screams to provide their city Monstropolis, with power! When Mike and Sully encounter a human child in their world, their whole career and way of life is at stake!
#5 Finding Nemo (2003) - When Marlin's son Nemo is kidnapped by divers, he sets on a journey throughout the whole ocean to search for him. With help from the forgettful Dory and other seafearing friends he finds his son.
#4 WALL-E (2008) - Earth is covered in trash and only one solitary and eccentric robot is left to clean up the mess! When he meets another robot, E.V.E., who has been sent back to Earth to search for life he hitches a ride on her ship to the AXIOM, one of the last human spaceships waiting to go back home.
#3 Toy Story 3 (2010) - The final movie in the Toy Story trilogy. Andy's toys are mistakenly donated to Sunnyside Daycare run by the tyranical Lotso. The toy's must escape and get back to Andy before he leaves for college. Even I was moved by the climactic scene as the toys resigned themselves to their fate; slowly descending into the dumpfire.
#2 The Incredibles (2004) - After superheroes go underground following several tragedies, Mr. Incredible and others are forced into retirement. Stuck in a menial job, Mr. Incredible longs for the good old days. When he is lured by Syndrome as part of a nefarious plot, he and his family become superheroes again!
#1 Toy Story (1995) - The original and the first Pixar film. It was the first full-length completely computer animated feature film. With loveable characters and a compelling story, Toy Story will always be first on my list! "You've got a friend in me" Toy Story!

LINK: Pixar Official Website

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day: Top 10 Cartoon Dads

It's Father's Day! A day to celebrate fathers, fatherhood, barbecue and beer! For the last 100 years we set aside a day to honor Dad. In the world of cartoons and animation there have been many famous Dad's and despite how great or how neglectful they may be. We all see a little bit of our own Dad in them. From "The Flintstones" to "The Simpsons" and every Disney single parent, what would we do without them? To honor Father's Day CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents: The Top 10 Cartoon Dads! Happy Father's Day!
#10 Gepetto, Pinocchio (1940) Home: Italy - When puppetmaker Gepetto makes a wooden boy marionette and wishes upon a star to make him a real boy, the Blue Fairy grants him his wish and brings Pinoccchio to life. But it is only after he sacrifices himself to save his father from the hale Monstro that the Blue fairy turns Pinocchio into a human boy. Based on the 1883 children's book by Carlo Collodi it was adapted into Walt Disney's second animated feature film and became an instant classic.
#9 Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture, The Venture Bros. (2003-Current) Home: Venture Industries - The son of renowned super-scientist adventurer Dr. Jonas Venture. Rusty was a former boy adventurer and the inspiration for the 'Rusty venture' cartoon series. Now head of Venture Industries, and a single father, he lives with his two sons Hank and Dean Venture. The family used to live with Brock Sampson, their former bodyguard, they recently hired Sgt. hatred a former super-villain as their current bodyguard. Created by Jackson Publick, The venture Bros. is a popular animated series on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
#8 George Jetson, The Jetsons (1962-1963, 1985-1987) Home: Orbit City - The original Space-Age Dad, George and is married to Jane and has two kids, Judy and Elroy. With their dog Astro and robotic-maid Rosey The Jetsons live in in a floating apartment building called Skypad Apartments. George works at Spacely Sprockets and tries to deal with the hectic and fast-paced futuristic lifestyle. Produced by Hanna-Barbara, The Jetsons were the Space Age counterparts to The Flintstones.
#7 Hank Hill, King of the Hill (1997-2009) Home: Arlen, Texas - Hank Hill works at Strickland Propane and is married to Peggy and has one son, Bobby, they also live with Luanne Platter, Peggy's niece. A former high school football star, hank is fond of his propane grill and drinking beer with his buddies by the fence. Created by Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead) after 13 seasons, King of the Hill was the third longest running prime-time animated series next to The Simpsons and South Park.
#6 Fred Flintstone, The Flintstones (1960-1966) Home: Bedrock - Produced by Hanna-Barbara, this Stone Age family was the first prime-time, animated, family sitcom. Fred, a quick-tempered, accident-prone, caveman is married to Wilma, they have one infant daughter Pebbles, they have a pet dinosaur named Dino. Fred works at Slate stone quarry. The Flintstones live next door to their friends The Rubbles: Barney, Betty and Bamm-Bamm.
#5 Stan Smith, American Dad (2005-Current) Home: Langley Falls, Virginia - Stan works for the C.I.A. and is married to Francine. They have two children, Hayley and Steve. They also live with Roger the alien and have a pet goldfish named Klaus whose brain was transferred from a humans. Stan is a staunch conservative and patriot, prone to paranoia about terrorism. Created by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman it is currently in its seventh season.
#4 Peter Griffin, Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005- Current) Home: Quahog, Rhode Island - Peter and is married to Lois. They have three children: Meg, Chris and Stewie, they live with their dog Brian. Peter is an dimwitted, overweight, alcoholic, Irish-American who constantly endangers the lives of his family with his antics. Formerly an employee at the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory, Peter currently works for "Pawtucket Patriot" Brewery. Created by Seth MacFarlane, the show was originally featured as two short animated films called Larry and Steve (1997).
#3 Mufasa, The Lion King (1994) Home: The Pride Lands, Africa - King of the Jungle, father to Simba and mate to Sarabi. Mufasa was murdered by his brother Scar. Feared he would be blamed, Simba ran away only to return with help and reclaim the throne from his uncle. The Lion King is Walt Disney Pictures' 32nd animated feature film and remains one of its most popular and successful films remaining one of the highest grossing hand-drawn animated films of all time. It was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1997.
#2 Marlin, Finding Nemo (2003) Home: The Ocean - A not-so-funny Clownfish and single-father, Marlin lost his only son, Nemo, who was captured by divers off the coast of Australia. With the help of Dory, a Blue Tang and other aquatic friends he was able to find his son. Developed by Pixar Animation Studios, Finding Nemo was the highest grossing computer animated film until the release of Toy Story 3.
#1 Homer Simpson, The Simpsons (1989-Current) Home: Springfield, U.S.A. - The bumbling, overweight, alcoholic father of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, Homer is married to Marge. They live with their dog Santa's Little Helper and cat Snowball II. Homer currently works at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons have been the most popular prime-time, animated sitcom for the last 23 years.
"Remember as far as anyone knows, we're a nice normal family." - Homer Simpson

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comic Book Review: Before Watchmen

25 years ago, DC Comics published one of the most unique and controversial comic book series of all time: Watchmen. Written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen was released as a 12-issue limited series from September 1986 to October 1987. It changed the world of comic books forever and with the popularity of the 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder, it was only a matter of time before the characters would re-emerge into the world of comics again. Before Watchmen is a new series of comic books based on the seminal graphic novel, featuring new stories on the characters from the Watchmen universe.
With the release of Minutemen #1 last week which features the origin of the original masked hero team from the 1940's which included the original Nite Owl, Silk Spectre and The Comedian, Before Watchmen is comprised of seven titles with six issues each is set to be released this month. Along with Minutemen, the other titles include Silk Spectre, Comedian, and Nite Owl. Over the next few months other titles featuring Ozymandias, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan will be released. The series will also include some of DC Comics' hottest writers and artists including Darwyn Cooke, J.G. Jones, Brian Azzarello, J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, and Len Wein.
There has been some controversy over the years regarding the creative rights to the Watchmen ever since the debate for the movie rights was contested by creator Alan Moore, who refused to have any involvement in any of his creations, (including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) particularly Watchmen, being adapted into film. While both Marvel and DC Comics have been notorious in keeping the rights for their characters away from their prospective creators (i.e. Jack Kirby, and Todd McFarlane, just to name a few...), DC has also gone through many changes just in the last year. Back in September 2011, DC announced The New 52, where they relaunched and revamped their entire line of comic books. This created quite a stir in the comics world and made new all over the world making many fans both love and hate the changes. Among the other changes was the announcement that the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott was gay! The Before Watchmen series seems to the third and final blow for many fans who had already been dissident with DC Comics and some have even gone so far as to organize a boycott of the new series. I for one have been very disappointed with the recent changes, being a long time reader and fan of Batman and Green lantern titles. I have been a Watchmen fan since I first read it in the late 1990's and I especially enjoyed the 2009 movie although I always had lingering sympathy for Alan Moore's case. I decided to pick up the first issue of Minutemen mostly out of curiosity. I had enjoyed the art and story of Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier and found the first issue of Minutemen to be an interesting amalgamation of vignettes about some of the original heroes told by an aging Nite Owl (Hollis Mason, the original) in retrospect as he is writing his tell-all book "Under the Hood". The series also includes the side-story "The Curse of the Crimson Corsair", a pirate adventure very reminiscent of "The Tales of the Black Freighter" from the original Watchmen graphic novel. Before Watchmen will continue on throughout next year and will no doubt be another record breaking success for DC Comics as they try to compete for attention from Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men comics. It is unlikely that these prequels will be as ground-breaking or memorable as the original Watchmen. Perhaps it will gain notoriety and turn on more fans to read (or re-read) the originals. It certainly will not stop DC from reprinting it over and over again.

LINKS: Watchmen on Facebook

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

In 1979, director Ridley Scott gave us a unique and terrifying science-fiction/horror film that would spark a franchise spanning over 30 years: Alien. While the original film left fans and film-goers alike with many unanswered questions, after several sequels and spin-offs, it was time to start from scratch. 33 years later, Ridley Scott has finally returned to the world of Alien to answer those questions and bring us PROMETHEUS!
In the year 2093, a team of scientists travel to a mysterious alien planet to search for the origins of the human race. "They went looking for our beginning. What they found could be our end."
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are archaeologists who search all over the world for evidence that suggests humanity may have extra-terrestrial origins, searching for the so-called "Engineers", they join a scientific expedition on the science vessel Prometheus. Funded by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation run by the elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce), the ship's crew has a unique member, David (Michael Fassbender), an artificial-lifeform created by the corporation. Under the command of Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and Captain Janek (Idris Elba) the 'Prometheus' arrive on an unexplored planet to discover a strange structure. Inside they will discover wonder and horror beyond imagination as the secret of the "Engineers" is revealed!
It all started with Alien (1979) when the crew of the 'Nostromo' first spotted a strange alien ship and found inside what would forever be known as the "Space Jockey" and we all asked: "WTF is that?" From that very scene and set designed by artist H.R. Giger, the foundation of the Aliens mythos began. That one provocative, yet confusing scene is the one element that bridges the gap of over 30 years from Alien to Prometheus and seeks to answer (or tries to) the questions fans have been asking for years. Prometheus the movie is essentially a prequel but also a reboot/re-imagining of the Aliens franchise from the director that started it all. While it's sequel Aliens (1986), directed by James Cameron set the franchise off in a whole new direction Prometheus turns back the pages to the origins of the story as we see just how exactly the alien ship came to be there and what are the origins of the aliens and there horrifying cargo. If you are a fan of the original Alien film, don't go expecting all of your questions to be answered, but although it does provide some revelation, it will still leave you scratching your head.
Space Jockey Comparison (Top:1979, Bottom: 2012)
While Prometheus is a an amazing movie both in concept, story and visuals, it however does not deviate very far from the archetypal Alien plot line thus making it somewhat predictable. It has always been a trademark in the Aliens franchise to have strong female characters (i.e. Ripley/Sigourney Weaver), that is usually the sole-survivor of the alien massacre. With Prometheus and the main character Elizabeth Shaw, played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (from the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) trilogy) it has a similar outcome. With the inclusion of Michael Fassbender's David character as an android, who plays it much colder than his robotic predecessor Ash (Ian Holm) in Alien (1979), almost like a blond Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Prometheus, we are introduced to David very early and it is revealed rather plainly that he is in fact a "robot", however in Alien, the discovery of Ash as a robot is one of the terrifying plot-twists of the story. David's actions in the movie are another predictable element in the movie as he is the one who withholds information from the crew and is of course the instigator of the crew's troubles. The crew of the Prometheus is the typical motley crew of various scientists and experts, often with their own eccentricities or "does not play well with others" attitude who usually don't live very long. This dysfunctional teamwork aspect of the movie is even more apparent in the relationship with the Prometheus' command crew: Vickers, a very cold, by-the-book woman, who works for the company, and Capt. Janek, who merely "fly's the ship", a fact he makes very clear quite often in the movie. Prometheus is not without it's intense and gory moments, which is not uncommon with the Aliens franchise. Ever since the first chest-burster exploded out of Kane's (John Hurt) torso in Alien (1979), there has been an element of gore to these movies and Prometheus is no different but with an added twist, without spoilers let's just say it involves "extreme surgery"! The "Engineers" in Prometheus are the very same beings the crew encounters in the original movie, but their story is examined much more closely and in depth as we get to see them for what they really are. The other creatures, which are really the true threat in the franchise are very different from the familiar slime-drooling, acid-blood-filled, Xenomorphs we remember. Prometheus is an awesome film, full of sci-fi/horror intrigue and action! It is both visually stunning and mind-numbingly intense. If you are a fan of Alien or the Aliens franchise you are in for a treat. If you have never seen them, see Prometheus and then see Alien. It may not hold the same wonder and fascination as it did over 30 years ago when we first encountered the alien terror but the famous tagline still holds true: "In space, no one can hear you scream."
Be sure to visit the highly in-depth Official Website: Project

Personal Note: I was really looking forward to Prometheus, as a fan of the original Alien film and the Aliens franchise I couldn't wait to finally learn the origin of the aliens, and what the "Space Jockey" was all about. While the movie does not answer all the questions, if anything it poses more. I can't wait to see what else is in store for us if there will be a sequel. Also, I have always had an interest in the proposed theories of the alien origins of the human race, (I recommend reading Chariots of the Gods (1968) by Erich von Däniken or watch Ancient Aliens on The History Channel) while many may ridicule this idea it is a widely held belief. While this movie presents some interesting ideas related to this subject it is fictitious. But that is what science-fiction is all about, exploring new ideas and wondrous and exciting possibilities!
LINKS: Prometheus on Facebook

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Memoriam: Ray Bradbury - Top 10

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012) was one of the greatest speculative fiction writers of the 20th Century. A major figure in the world of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery; many of his works have been adapted into comics, TV and film. He was a strong advocate of books and reading and influenced generations of readers, writers and filmmakers. Among his many awards and honors include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The National Medal of Arts Award, World Fantasy Award and The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named the Ray Bradbury Award in his honor. While Bradbury was known for his famous and award winning novels, he was also a prolific short story writer as well as the writer of many plays, screenplays and children's books. In memoriam of his death, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS My Top 10 Favorite Works by Ray Bradbury...he will be missed.

#10 From the Dust Returned (2001) - A short-story collection of older stories featuring cover art by Charles Addams ("The Addams Family").
#9 Dandelion Wine (1957) - A collection of short-stories which take place in the Summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois reminiscent of Bradbury's hometown.
#8 Dinosaur Tales (1983) - A short-story collection about Dinosaurs. I shared the same love for Dinosaurs as Bradbury did as a boy and this was one of my first short-story collections I read.
#7 Dark Carnival (1947) - Bradbury's first short-story collection published by Arkham House (also responsible for re-publishing the works of H.P. Lovecraft)
#6 The Halloween Tree (1972) - A group of boys go out trick-or-treating which sets them off on a journey through time and space to rescue their friend. I read it every Halloween!
#5 The Illustrated Man (1951) - A collection of science-fiction short-stories that explores the nature of mankind revolving around a man's collection of tattoos.
#4 "There Will Come Soft Rains" (1950, also included in "The Martian Chronicles") - A short-story about a futuristic, fully automated, house which continues to operate despite the absence of the family, long dead, until it burns down.
#3 The Martian Chronicles (1950) - The classic science-fiction story collection chronicling the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing a doomed Earth.
#2 Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - Bradbury's classic dystopian novel of a futuristic American society where books are outlawed and burned. One of his most influential books which is both celebrated and banned in schools and libraries all over the world. Bradbury's admitted message in the book is not about censorship but about how TV destroys interest in reading literature.
#1 Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) - A sinister travelling circus comes to a small Midwestern town and terrorizes two young boys. This was the first novel of his I ever read, but I was first exposed to it from watching the 1983 live-action Disney movie adaptation with Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, which scarred the hell outta me too!