Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Top 10 Futurama Episodes

It's been 14 years since Matt Groening's Futurama debuted on March 28, 1999. After being cancelled by Fox back in 2003 and following four popular direct to DVD movies, Comedy Central picked up the show in 2009 and has kept it running to it's 10th season. Sadly, this week is the  premiere of the Series Finale entitled “Meanwhile,” on Wednesday, September 4th, at 10:00pm ET/PT on Comedy Central. We'll all miss the wacky sci-fi-esque adventures of Fry, Leela, Bender and the rest of the crew of the Planet Express but you can be sure to see them on reruns and DVD for years... To celebrate the final episode CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents: The Top 10 Futurama Episodes! Enjoy...

#10 "A Fishful of Dollars", Aired: 4/27/99 - When Fry discovers he has over 4 billion dollars in his savings account he goes money crazy and buys a rare can of anchovies, now a rare and extinct delicacy. The evil Mom company conspires to steal it for use in cheap robot oil.
#9 "Fry & the Slurm Factory", Aired: 11/14/99 - Fry becomes addicted to Slurm, a popular soda and wins a contest (a la Willy Wonka) to tour the Slurm factory where he learns a terrible secret!
#8 "Reincarnation", Aired: 9/8/11 - 3 shorts feature Futurama in 3 different animation styles including old-timey cartoon. anime, and 8-bit video-game.
#7 "Bender's Game", 4-Part Episode/Movie, 4/26/09 - The Planet Express crew are trapped in a fantasy- game world created by Bender's mind.
#6 "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings", Aired: 8/10/03 - In an effort to win Leela's love, Fry makes a deal with the Robot Devil to become a gifted musician.
#5 "Parasites Lost", Aired: 1/21/01 - When Fry eats an egg-salad sandwich from a gas station vending he becomes stronger and smarter from ingesting "intelligent worms".
#4 "Less Than hero", Aired: 3/2/03 - Fry and Leela become superheroes after using a "miracle cream" from Dr. Zoidberg and form a crime-fighting team with Bender.
#3 "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", Aired: 4/21/02 - Fry and the crew are put on trial for traveling to the forbidden planet of Omega 3 to retrieve all 79 episodes of "Star Trek" with the heads of the original cast members (except for Scotty!) and battles a nerdy energy being.
#2 "Roswell That Ends Well", Aired: 12/9/01 - During a supernova explosion, Fry uses the Planet Express' microwave which sends the crew back to Roswell, New Mexico in the year 1947 where they are mistaken for a UFO!
#1 "The Luck of the Fryrish", Aired: 3/11/01 - Bad luck sends Fry in search of his boyhood good-luck charm, a seven-leaf clover, stirring memories of rivalry with his older brother, Yancy.
LINKS: Futurama on Comedy Central, The Infosphere: the Futurama Wiki

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Break

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, it's been a busy Summer and I took a month off from blogging. I saw Kick-Ass 2 and didn't bother to write a review. Overall, I liked it, but I hadn't been caught up on the comic book so I felt I couldn't give it a proper review. Plus, with the controversy regarding Jim Carrey (Col. Stars & Stripes) and his very vocal protest of the extreme "violence" in the movie (so conveniently after the Sandy Hook tragedy!). The violence in the comic is by far even more bloody and violent than the movie so I feel that his comments are unwarranted and he is merely trying to apologize for his portrayal of a character who in my opinion has to be the best character in the whole movie. His part in the movie remains brief but without him the movie would be devoid of any real interesting characters along with the otherwise over-the-top comic book parodies of their characters.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Wolverine

THE WOLVERINE...undoubtedly, the X-Men's most popular character ever! Having appeared in numerous comic books, cartoons, video games, even music videos since 1974; he finally achieved life on the big screen when Hugh Jackman portrayed him in the 2000 X-Men movie. Since then, his popularity has grown immensely, slashing his way to the top! Jackman, now #3 in Forbes’ Top 10 List of Highest Paid Actors, returns for the fifth time (sixth if you count his brief, but hilarious cameo in X-Men: First Class (2011)) on screen as the short-tempered, Canadian, mutant in The Wolverine!
We find Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), living like a hermit in the Yukon wilderness. Haunted by the death of Jean Grey, a.k.a. Phoenix (Famke Janssen), by his own claws (in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Logan seeks solitude. When reckless hunters attempt to kill a grizzly bear with a poisonous arrow, it draws Logan to a local bar where he exacts justice. Soon he is found by a forceful, red-haired, young-Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who offers him an ancient katana sword and requests he accompany her to Tokyo. Her employer, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), wishes to thank him for saving his life at Nagasaki during WWII. Reluctantly, Logan goes to Japan with her and he meets Yashida, now a powerful industrialist, who is dying of cancer. To thank him, Yashida offers to make him mortal, thus ending his "curse". Logan also meets his son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamato). With the death of Yashida, after Logan denies his request, he attends the funeral and becomes involved in a sinister plot by the Yakuza, to kidnap Mariko! As Logan becomes infected by the venomous-villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), he loses his healing ability. Although wounded, he tries his best to keep Mariko safe, soon realizing he has become even more involved in this twisted plot!
Yukio (Rila Fukushima)
With intense, fast-paced action and exotic, foreign-locales, The Wolverine is a beautiful combination of James Bond-like action, with a more subtle approach to the typical super-powered, comic book movie.
The story of The Wolverine borrows heavily from the height of his comic book popularity, particularly the storylines in Uncanny X-Men #s 172-173 (1983) and of course the 1982 Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. As reveled early on in the comic books, Japan has always been a big part of Wolverine's past, especially when it involved his future fiancée Mariko Yashida, who first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #118 (Feb. 1979). One of Wolverine's most admirable characteristics came from the time he spent in Japan. As he had long been attracted to the self-discipline of the samurai, he adapted the warrior code of Bushido as a means of coping with his animalistic tendencies. While the romantic elements in The Wolverine are not as strong as in the comic books, the love that gradually grows between Logan and Mariko is nonetheless powerful. Also, is the strong bond of friendship that forms between Logan and Yukio, who despite being very different from her comic book-counterpart, is also impressive. The image of Yukio with her deep-red dyed hair is particularly striking as her tiny, petite form serves as a disguise for her deadly abilities.
While the story in The Wolverine is not directly adapted from the events in the comics, (which include complex and often convoluted backstories) many of the characters also change for the benefit of the movie, especially the involvement of Viper and the Silver Samurai. While the character of Harada (Will Jung Lee) appears in The Wolverine, he is NOT the Silver Samurai, as he is in the comics, instead he remains a highly-skilled (non-mutant) ninja, part of the "Black Clan" (removing the connection to "The Hand" ninjas, as seen in Elektra (2005), who protect the clan Yashida. The choice to make the originally non-mutant character of Viper a mutant (like making Juggernaut a mutant in X-Men 3) is somewhat perplexing, but it gives her a fascinating snake-like power, as yet unseen in the X-Men movies. She plays the role of a lesser-villain and also the "catalyst" to Wolverine's predicament in the film. As the majority of the film takes place in Japan and it's major cities, the whole feel of the film has a very exotic James Bond-quality to it and it's intense sword-swinging action hearkens back to the western-inspired, samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. The fight scene on-top of Tokyo's bullet train is particularly exciting!
Although many fans were disappointed with 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the X-Men franchise was saved by the prequel X-Men: First Class (2011). The Wolverine marks a turning point in the franchise as it also sets up  the plot of the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014, see the End-Credits Stinger!).  As 20th Century Fox currently owns the rights to the X-Men, Fantastic Four characters as Sony owns the Spider-Man franchise, the Marvel Universe has been temporarily separated by corporate copyrights. As the Marvel Universe itself in the comics is all-encompassing, the Marvel movies has yet been able to merge or "team-up" characters as successfully as in Paramount/Marvel/Disney's Avengers. It will be several years before copyrights return to the original owners as we will no doubt see more films and franchises based on Marvel comic books. The Wolverine makes up for the disappointments that were X-Men 3 and Origins with it's highly-engaging story and successfully not overcrowding the movie with unnecessary, ancillary mutant characters as in Origins (i.e. Deadpool). With intense, fast-paced action and exotic, foreign-locales, The Wolverine is a beautiful combination of James Bond-like action, with a more subtle approach to the typical super-powered, comic book movie. The Wolverine is close to becoming the perfect Wolverine movie fans have waited years to see, exploring more of his roots, as well as his mysterious past. As Hugh Jackman has become the ideal image of the beloved character, it will be very hard to accept another actor portray him in the near future.
LINKS: The Wolverine Movie Website, Marvel.com20th Century Fox

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Comic-Con 2013: Top 13 Upcoming Events

COMIC-CON is this weekend! Specifically Comic-Con International: San Diego 2013, THE biggest convention in the world dedicated to all forms of entertainment including comic books, movies, video games, TV and more! Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture. Comic-Con began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Now over 40 years later it is the largest comics convention in the world, completely selling out every year since 2008. For those like me who aren't able to enjoy Comic-Con in person there are still plenty of websites, blogs and live video feeds covering the event from the comfort of your home. This weekend at Comic-Con, audiences can get their hands on tons of exclusive merchandise, and also attend many exciting panels with creators, artists, writers and celebrities of all kinds, and not to mention, see previews of some of the biggest events in entertainment coming up later this year and next year! CHERNOBOG'S always tries to stay on top of the latest entertainment news through my blog, twitter feed, and Facebook; so this weekend I thought I would post my Top 10 list of Upcoming Events featured at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Enjoy!

#13 Ender's Game (2013) - Based on the classic Young-Adult, Sci-Fi novel by Orson Scott Card, 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Starring Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield.
#12 Godzilla (2014) - Director Gareth Edwards' (Monsters) remake of the classic Kaiju franchise! A giant radioactive monster called Godzilla awakens from its slumber to wreak destruction on its creators!
#11 I, Frankenstein (2014) - Aaron Eckhart stars as Adam, Dr. Frankenstein's (Aden Young) creature, who finds himself caught in an all-out, centuries old war between two immortal clans.
#9 300: Rise of an Empire (2013) - New director Noam Murro's sequel to Zack Snyder's 300 (2006), The Greek general Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) battles an invading army of Persians under the mortal-turned-god, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro)!
#8 Riddick (2013) - Vin Diesel is back as Riddick, after almost 10 years since Chronicles of Riddick (2004). After he is left for dead on a desert planet, Riddick is up against a new alien, predatory species and a  group of mercenaries after his head!
#7 The World's End (2013) - Director Edgar Wright reunites Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and others in the third installment of "The Cornetto Trilogy"! A group of old friends go on a pub crawl in London when they come to the last pub, "The World's End", they find the town has been taken over by strange alien robots!
#6 Batman: Arkham Origins - The highly anticipated third part of the Arkham Asylum video game series features new villains: Black Mask, Deathstroke, Deadshot, and Copperhead!
#5 Kick-Ass 2 (2013) - Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) return with a few new allies including Col. Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey), to take on some new villains including formerly Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)!
#4 Vikings, Season 2 (March, 2014) - Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and the Vikings return to pillage and plunder in the new season on History Channel!
#3 The Walking Dead, Season 4 (October 2013) - Based on Robert Kirkman's award winning graphic novel series, the survivors led by Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) live on in the Zombie apocalypse after dealing with the onslaught from The Governor (David Morrissey)!
#2 X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Director Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise with Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) reprising their roles as "older" characters from the previous X-Men movies. Also featuring a few new mutants including Bishop (Omar Sy) and introducing a new threat: The Sentinels!
#1 Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Fall 2013) - The new TV series marks the return of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), leading a small group of agents from S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary.
Note: Unfortunately, it was announced by director Peter Jackson through YouTube that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug wouldn't be at San Diego Comic-Con!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top 10 Best Wolverine Stories

THE WOLVERINE...He's "the best there is at what he does, but what he does isn't very nice". When he first appeared in the last panel of "The Incredible Hulk" #180 in 1974, who knew that this short, Canadian-born, berserker would become one of the most popular mutant superheroes today! Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein and designed by John Romita, Jr., Wolverine had a fierce temper, a bad attitude, and claws to boot! Unlike any comic book hero before him, he had a mysterious origin to go along with his mutant powers. He also possessed an adamantium skeleton and claws which for the longest time, remained unexplainable. Later, appearing in "Giant Size X-Men" #1 in 1975, he became part of the new class of X-Men and soon rose to become a fan-favorite. Upon getting his own long-running comic book title in 1988, after a successful mini-series (1982) by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, his popularity grew even more!
Incredible Hulk #181
Having appeared in numerous comic books, cartoons, video games, even music videos, he finally achieved life on the big screen when Hugh Jackman appeared in the 2000 X-Men movie. Since then, his popularity has grown immensely, having his origin completely retold in the comics ("Origin"), getting the adamantium ripped out and put back in again, several lovers and marriages, learning he had a son (Daken), and not to mention dying and going to Hell! With the upcoming release of his fifth (sixth if you count his brief but hilarious cameo in X-Men: First Class (2011) movie appearance in The Wolverine (2013) and next year's release of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), I thought this would be a great time to look back at some of Wolverine's best stories over the years. Wolverine (a.k.a. "Ol' Canucklehead") has been one of my favorite comic book characters since I started collecting comics when I was about 10 years old. His attitude, ferocity and overall badass-ness is just a few of the reasons why he has endured for almost 40 years! CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: "Top 10 Best Wolverine Stories"! Enjoy, "bub"!

#10 Origin (2001-2002) Written by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins, and illustrated by Andy Kubert - One of the most controversial Wolverine stories ever, this six-issue limited series presented readers with the "definitive" origin of Logan/Wolverine as it is revealed he was born James Howlett in Alberta, Canada in the 1880's. A moving and dramatic story, it was a successful story-arc with it's final issue breaking sales records. However, to most fans and readers it only did more damage to the already convoluted and confusing origin of Wolverine.

#9 "Just Don't Look In Its Eyes", Classic X-Men #25, (Sept.1988) - As an obsessive hunter tracks down a feral bear in the frozen north, what he ends up hunting is Logan. This short story appeared in the back of the reprinted issue of The Uncanny X-Men. It also appeared in the booklet for the deluxe edition of the heavy metal album Entombed, "Wolverine Blues" (1993).

#8 The Uncanny X-Men #s 139-140, (Nov.- Dec. 1980), "The Wendigo Arc", Written by Chris Claremont, art by John Byrne - Wolverine reveals more of his origin as he returns to his home in Canada where he reunites with his old team Alpha Flight and an old enemy: The Wendigo!

#7 The Uncanny X-Men #268, (Sept.1990), "Madripoor Knights", Written by Chris Claremont, Art by Jim Lee - While in Madripoor (Logan's old Casablanca-like turf) with Psylocke, Jubilee and Black Widow they take down the Hand Ninjas and Logan remembers a similar situation in 1941 when he teamed-up with Captain America to take on the Nazis!

#6 X-Men Vol.2, #25- Wolverine Vol.2, #75, (1993), "Fatal Attractions", Written by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, larry Hama, art by Adam and Andy Kubert - In one of the most epic crossovers in X-Men history, the final confrontation between the X-Men and Magneto! In a fit of rage after nearly being gutted by Wolverine, Magneto tears the adamantium out of Wolverine's skeleton. Professor X, enraged by Magneto's actions, mind-wipes Magneto. Remarkably, Wolverine recovers from his injuries and reveals that his claws had always been made out of bone. As a result, his mutant powers cause him to revert to a feral state until his adamantium is later replaced by the villain genesis (Wolverine Vol.2, #100, 1996)

#5 "Wolverine Vs. The Hulk", The Incredible Hulk #340, Feb. 1988, Written by Peter David, art by Todd McFarlane  - Regarded as "one of the most intense, visceral and shocking savage Wolverine stories ever!" As the Gray Hulk accidentally brings down a plane near DFW, Texas, Wolverine and the X-Men barely miss it. As Wolverine investigates the damage, what begins is a knock-down, drag-out fight between Wolverine and Hulk!

#4 Kitty Pryde & Wolverine Mini-Series, (1984-1985) - One of the best stories in Wolverine's saga came from an  unlikely team-up with a 6-issue limited series. Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Shadowcat, was the X-Men's youngest member of the 1980's. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde struck up a deep kinship during that time and in the story while Kitty is trying to rescue her father from the yakuza but is captured by ninjas and the evil Ogun, Wolverine's former mentor, who brainwashes Kitty and sends her to kill Logan!

#3 The Uncanny X-Men #s 172-173, (Aug.-Sep. 1983), Written by Chris Claremont, art by Paul Smith - Logan invites the X-Men to Japan for his wedding to Mariko Yashida. When Markio is captured by Viper and Silver Samurai Wolverine and the X-Men must rescue her but soon after Mariko cancels the wedding telling Logan he is unworthy.

#2 "Weapon X" (1990) by Barry Windsor-Smith - Originally presented in the pages of Marvel Comics Presents (Issue #s 72-84), a long-running monthly anthology comic book, this tells the story of how Logan was turned into the ultimate human weapon in the "Weapon X" project under the direction of Dr. Cornelius. Subjected to experimentation and torture, Logan eventually fights his way out and escapes. An impressive "piece of work" (said writer Larry Hama), "Weapon X" is the most brutally violent, bloody and intense Wolverine story ever!

#1 "Wolverine" Mini-Series (1982) - Written by Chris Claremont and art by Frank Miller, Wolverine stars in his first solo-comic where he returns to Japan to find his one-time fiancée Mariko Yashida and winds up in a lot of trouble with Lord Shingen, her father. With the help of the assassin Yukio, Logan must challenge Shingen and win the hand of Markio.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

While this Summer has been so full of disappointing, special-effects driven, Sci-Fi blockbusters (Star Trek Into Darkness) and over-the-top superhero movies (Iron Man 3, Man of Steel), one of the most highly anticipated and original movies of the Summer brings audiences a greatly needed breath of fresh air (or a monstrous roar of excitement!), and that film is PACIFIC RIM! Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) and starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi, Pacific Rim features giant robots versus giant monsters, with epic battles never seen before except in Godzilla movies or anime!
In the near future, giant monsters known as Kaiju appear from a dimensional rift beneath the Pacific Ocean. As they wreak havoc upon the coastal cities of the Earth, the nations of the world come together and build giant fighting machines (mechas) called Jaegers (German; hunter) to defend the human race. Controlled by two pilots simultaneously through a neural link, only a handful of Jaegers and a giant man-made wall are all that stands between the kaijus and total annihilation!
One of the best team of pilots are two brothers: Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) Becket, who pilot the Gipsy Danger. When Yancy is killed during a battle near the Alaskan coast, Raleigh leaves the Jaeger program to help work on constructing the "Wall of Life". Five years later, Raleigh is approached by his former commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) to convince him to return to the Jaeger project, which is in desperate need of pilots. Along with a few highly-trained teams of Jaeger pilots from all over the world and new recruit Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Raleigh must prepare to defend against the oncoming onslaught of kaijus, each more powerful than the last!
Known for his highly imaginative yet dark/supernatural style, this is Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's first venture into the realm of the big-budget, Sci-Fi movie. With big robots and big monsters that defy believability, Pacific Rim brings a whole new level to a genre already popular among fans of Japanese kaiju movies (the Godzilla franchise), or robot vs. kaiju TV shows (Kamen Rider, Ultraman), and anime (Gundam, Neon Genesis Evangelion). While a large number of American movie goers are fans of the genre, most American audiences haven't seen giant robots on the screen since the B-grade Robot Jox (1989), or giant monsters, for that matter, since the awful remake of Godzilla (1998)! Writing the screenplay with del Toro was Travis Beacham, known for the special-effects nightmare remake of Clash of the Titans (2010). Full of ultra-destruction and violence, Pacific Rim is not without a bit of levity from it's huge international cast. Among these are comedy actor Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), who plays Dr. Newton Geiszler, an eccentric scientist obsessed with kaijus, opposite Burn Gorman as Dr. Gottleib, a stern, British scientist. Put the two of them together and they're like the Laurel & Hardy of kaijus. Also, it wouldn't be a del Toro film without Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, a flashy-dressed, black-market dealer, specializing in kaiju remains. As a fan of del Toro's films since Blade II and Hellboy, even his co-authored novels The Strain Trilogy, this is a bold, new, step in the right direction from a talented filmmaker who also contributed to new The Hobbit films.
Pacific Rim is in one word: AWESOME! But don't be too quick to dismiss it's over-the-top action, violence and destruction. While many critics have panned it's lack of character development and story, I see that there is plenty character and story for a movie this BIG! The Top Gun-like interaction between Raleigh and Pentecost is intense, as is the relationship with the incredibly sexy, yet vulnerable Mako. Even some of the other less-prominent Jaeger teams are both colorful and memorable. Pacific Rim makes no apologies for what it is, if you go expecting giant robots fighting giant monsters, then you're in for a treat, because that's exactly what your going to get! It is true how much of an onslaught to the senses in special-effects and mega-destruction there is, but that's what it is all about! It doesn't pretend to be anything else. Pacific Rim is a great, entertaining, action-packed Summer blockbuster and it is no doubt the BIGGEST movie this Summer! (Literally...)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Disney Double Feature!

I recently attended a special screening on the Disney Cruise Line's ship the Disney Wonder last week of two of the newest films from Disney: Monsters University and The Lone Ranger and decided to feature a double review of this Summer's biggest Disney releases!
Monsters University is a prequel to 2001's extremely successful  and popular Disney/Pixar film Monsters, Inc. Conveniently, Disney had recently re-released Monsters, Inc. on 3D earlier this year to prepare audiences for the prequel. Even though most Disney audiences and park patrons have gotten used to the idea that the lovable monsters had given up scaring in favor of laughter with the end of the movie and the popular (yet contradictory) Disney World attraction Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor®. With the prequel both Disney/Pixar and the monsters are essentially going "back to school" and returning to their scare roots. Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) has dreamed of being a "scarer" and attending MU since he was very young. Having studied hard all his life to get where he is, he soon finds out that the university's scare program is not as easy to get into as he thought. Along with the usual pressures of a college freshman such as difficult classes, deans, professors and competing fraternities, the biggest obstacle is fellow student James P. 'Jimmy' Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), who not only is a legacy at the university, but also has natural scaring talent which unfortunately Mike does not. Although he works hard to be accepted by his fellow monsters and the faculty, he realizes he just isn't "scary". So to prove himself, he joins up with the lamest fraternity on campus (Oozma Kappa) to compete in the annual Scare Games! Although the usual prequel stigma goes with MU, if we hadn't already enjoyed Monsters, Inc. the characters would not have as much pull. Although the whole "scaring" obsession permeates the plot, an element that audiences have already gotten over, it's a surprise that Disney didn't just continue the story with "Monsters, Inc. 2" like they've done with their other franchises Toy Story and Cars. While several recurring characters make appearances in MU like former nemesis and one-time roommate Randall (Steve Buscemi), sadly the one character which was the most beloved in the original: 'Boo', the little human girl who befriended Sully, is absent. However, MU introduces some new characters voiced by talented actors such as Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), Art (Charlie Day), and Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion) just to name a few. MU resonates more with an older audience with many college age young adults who no doubt enjoyed Monsters, Inc. 12 years ago when they were kids and also has a bit of a nostalgic Animal House (but kid friendly!) feel to it as well. Overall MU is a fun, entertaining movie, with some very sincere moments that only Disney and Pixar could pull off. This may be the start of a disappointing Summer for Disney however as it is currently losing in the box office to Despicable Me 2. Seems like kids are gravitating more to those annoying, yellow minions than to cuddly, not-so-scary monsters!

The Lone Ranger is basically Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Western! Produced and directed by Gore Verbinski, it stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. Although it is not surprising that Depp gets first billing as Tonto, when Hammer plays the title character. It just goes to show how much of a box office draw Depp is. Based on the fictional character created for radio in the 1930's then on film and TV during the 1940's and 50's, the character has remained a American-Western icon for 80 years. This is the first time the character has appeared in a full-length major motion picture. The story is told in flashback from the point of view of Tonto (Johnny Depp) now an ultra-aged Indian in a display at a 1930's Wild West Show imparted to a young boy who idolizes the masked avenger. Flashback to 1869, Armie Hammer plays John Reid, a lawyer who returns home to Colby, Texas and his brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and his family, wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) and son Danny (Bryant Prince). As soon as John arrives he is dragged into a posse to track down the escaped fugitive, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Betrayed and massacred by Cavendish's gang, John is the only survivor, who is found by the eccentric Indian Tonto (Johnny Depp) who believes John is a "spirit-walker". They soon join forces to track down Cavendish and to stop a greedy industrialist's involvement in a conspiracy to control a silver mine and the so-far unfinished transcontinental railroad.
While full of intense action and western-style adventure, this very modern take on the legendary masked-hero is far from the original. An unlikely, accidental hero, Hammer's Lone Ranger is more-often bumbling at times than he is heroic and Depp, as his certifiably-insane companion, almost single-handedly steals the show! A fan of Depp since his early Tim Burton days (i.e. Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), unfortunately he has yet to release himself of his typecast part as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Even so far as to play his character in Lone Ranger  almost like Jack Sparrow in war-paint! This isn't his first Western, having played the reluctant outlaw William Blake in Dead Man (1993). His antics and remarkable luck are so over-the-top that Armie Hammer, who has had some minor success in more serious films like The Social Network and J. Edgar, is borderline boring! The movie should have just been called "Tonto & The Lone Ranger"! Also the character deviates from the basic strict moral code that Lone Ranger has followed for years and comes off as more of a poor imitation. Just because you put on the mask and shoot silver bullets doesn't make you "The Lone Ranger", you might as well ride a wooden stick-horse. The movie even goes so far as to mock the Lone Ranger's beloved catchphrase "Hi-ho Silver, away!" but it does manage to include the classic theme song "The William Tell Overture" in the climax. As for a Western, action-adventure movie, and a Disney at that, The Lone Ranger suffers from the same over-the-top action and violence common in action movies today. For an action movie, it is exciting and entertaining but as far as being true to the beloved, classic character, it fails. So far, it has received mostly negative critical reception and performed poorly at the box office. Depending on it's outcome we may not see a "Lone Ranger 2" but we are definitely getting Pirates 5 and 6 so don't worry, Johnny Depp will continue to be his usual crazy and (not-so) unpredictable self until he is as old as Tonto.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

As the zombie movie has had a resurgence in the last decade, "zombie fever" is still going strong! And with the success of cable TV shows like AMC's The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman's acclaimed graphic novel series; the dead are still "walking tall"! The latest foray into the zombie craze actually comes from one of the forerunners of the genre, author Max Brooks (son of comedy legend Mel Brooks). Having first delved into the popular subject with his 2003 book The Zombie Survival Guide, at first, a seemingly humorous novelty guidebook, it sparked a new interest in zombies and apocalypse survivalists. With the immense success of the Survival Guide, (which even spawned a card game and a graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks), Brooks soon followed it up with the now immensely popular novel: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War in 2006. Being an intense, sprawling narrative combining fictional interviews and vignettes from supposed survivors from all over the world, World War Z was a huge hit for zombie fans and brought new literary acclaim for the genre as well.
Few even considered that this epic tale would eventually be turned into a major motion picture. Many fans were skeptical when it was finally announced in 2008. What was leaked on the Internet was the original script by J. Michael Straczynski, which was then rewritten by Matthew Michael Carnahan. This created controversy with many fans. Now that the movie has been released, the frequent rewrites have proven successful. World War Z is directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace (2008)) and stars Brad Pitt. The film focuses on the story of Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former UN investigator living in Philadelphia. He is forced into facing the zombie apocalypse head-on while trying to save his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and his two daughters. Reluctant to resume his former life, he must travel the globe to search for the cause of the zombie virus and hopefully find a cure. Beginning in South Korea, the violent pandemic spreads quickly all over the world and leads Gerry to various locations such as Jerusalem and the W.H.O. headquarters. A seemingly average person, Gerry soon presents himself as an exceptionally skillful (and incredibly lucky!) individual as he is thrust into even more dangerous locations and situations as the "zombie" plague spreads. Gerry is mostly alone in his search, he is occasionally accompanied by members of the scientific community (including one ill-fated virologist) and the military. He ends up with Segan (Daniella Kertesz), a young female Israeli soldier, as an unlikely sidekick who tags along with him. She soon proves herself to be a strong and helpful companion.
The movie is a fast-paced and action-packed story with exciting and exotic locales on a global scale. It is not necessarily a true "zombie" movie in the tradition of Dawn of the Dead (1978) or even 28 Days Later (2002). It is more like viral outbreak movies such as The Andromeda Strain (1971) or Outbreak (1995). The movie deviates far from the usual blood-and-gore type of zombie movie, to the point of being an almost entirely bloodless film. This doesn't detract from the action or its exciting subject matter. When it comes to zombie movies (and fans), there always seems to be a strong division between those that favor the slow-moving, traditional Night of the Living Dead (1968) type zombie or the faster, ravenous Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake) kind. This movie actually features both but more often the latter; especially when the zombies pile on top of each other and swarm over everything like ants. Later, when docile, the zombies are significantly slower (until stimulated) and can even appear less threatening and almost laughable (cue Dawn of the Dead mall music!). Although the movie doesn't have the same scope and originality of the novel, it does present an impressive and intriguing story set on a worldwide stage. Rumors of the original script presented a film that would have followed the book more closely, keeping the story centered on one main-character creates a more widely-accepted scenario.
World War Z (both book and movie) came at just the right time as the world is still reeling from the 2012 phenomenon hoax. The number of survivalist groups and our fascination and obsession of zombies continues to grow. Recently, the CDC even published an article on their website encouraging "Zombie Preparedness"!
As a fan of the book, naturally there was some disappointment the movie did not follow the book exactly but despite my reservations I was thoroughly impressed and I feel it is a worthy adaptation of the book. With box office totals already over $66 million, Paramount Pictures is supposedly in talks to develop a sequel that may focus on other stories from the novel.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

SUPERMAN has to be THE most popular superhero in the world! He has also been the most featured superhero in movies and TV since the 1940's. Since the beginning of the modern superhero movie with 1978's Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve, there have been many incarnations of Superman on both TV (Superboy, Lois & Clark, Smallville) and movies (Superman I-IV, Superman Returns). But, there has only been one Superman worthy of the silver screen...until now. While 2006's Superman Returns, directed by Bryan Singer and starring Brandon Routh, Hollywood tried (rather unsuccessfully) to reignite the franchise. It was both a critical and commercial disappointment (mostly due to early writing and directing issues), leaving many Superman fans wanting. With the success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, Hollywood and DC Comics have again tried to reboot the Superman franchise with Man of Steel. The film is directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), written by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Ghost Rider, The Blade Trilogy) and stars Henry Cavill (Immortals) as "The Man of Steel".
Man of Steel tells the origin story that we all know so well (or at least think we do?) of Kal-el, the last son of Krypton, who was sent to Earth from his dying home-world to eventually become Superman! It begins with the birth of Kal-El to parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) on Krypton. While their planet dying from the inside, the ambitious General Zod (Michael Shannon) has staged a coup to overthrow the council and set up a new world order. Even though Zod asks Jor-El to join him, he denies him as he prepares to send his only son to Earth, saving him from their fate. Zod is stopped by Jor-El, arrested, and sentenced to the 'Phantom Zone'. Krypton is destroyed! Kal-El arrives on Earth and is raised by Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent in Smallville, Kansas. Now named Clark Kent, he slowly discovers his powers and realizes he is destined for greatness and he wants to help people. He is conflicted in dealing with his ever-increasing powers and their limitations. So much so, that he eventually leaves home to find himself and his purpose.
Henry Cavill IS Superman!
While this all sounds very familiar, the particulars to the story of Man of Steel is very different to what we would normally expect. It's hard not to compare this one to the classic 1978 film, which for generations made us "believe a man could fly". The original Superman movie was told in a more linear style, this latest film is told in a series of flashbacks. As we begin with Superman/Kal-El's birth and Krypton's destruction, we are then brought forward 33 years (as we soon discover) where we see an adult Clark Kent working on board a fishing trawler in the middle of the ocean. We then find Clark working at an Arctic archaeological site where scientists have discovered a mysterious object buried in the ice. To cover this historic occasion, we meet Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who has a knack for getting stories in dangerous locales and as we soon discover, getting into trouble!
Through much of the second act of the film Lois is searching for the mysterious man who rescued her and has been spotted at several other locations. In the third act we find out that Zod has returned and is looking for Kal-El and if the people of Earth do not surrender him he will destroy the planet (which he will most likely do anyway)! Superman learns of Zod's true purpose, and begins is a non-stop battle for Earth's fate as he must stop his fellow Kryptonians (who now have almost the same powers as he does) from destroying the Earth and killing the entire human population.
Man of Steel is an impressive and fast-paced superhero movie that barely gives you any time to catch your breath! While it does have a somewhat darker tone like The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel retains much of the optimistic and hopeful themes to which the story has always been known. Although very special-effects driven with over-the-top action and especially intense fights and destruction scenes; Man of Steel is the Superman movie many fans have been waiting for but not necessarily the one they expected. Director Zack Snyder has been known for his involvement in several  recent comic book adaptations (300, Watchmen) including movies with heavy CGI special effects (Sucker Punch). He is well suited to direct Man of Steel.
Kneel before Zod?
The biggest character difference with Man of Steel is that while Clark/Kal-El deals with his powers growing up, he becomes conflicted with using his powers. When he eventually decides to use them, he has to face the moral question of when is it "right" to use his powers based on the (somewhat contradictory) words of his adopted father. This fact becomes apparent when Clark/Kal-El is faced with a situation where he has the ability to use his powers to save someone (No Spoilers!) but due to the actions of his father is forbidden to interfere. This choice also becomes relevant during the final epic battle between Superman and Zod when Superman is forced to do the unthinkable. Without giving anything away (although the Internet is already a buzz with spoilers of the films controversial ending) I believe his actions are completely justifiable despite what many have said. This version of Zod (played previously by Terrance Stamp in the original movie and Callum Blue in Smallville), seems much more of a threat than his melodramatic (Stamp) counterpart. No longer the power-mad despot, he is merely the unquestioning soldier with a single-minded purpose who lets nothing stand in his way. As for the support characters, many prove to be very bland and dull compared to Cavill's "Man of Steel". Amy Adams presents Lois Lane as a more headstrong and albeit "fiery" red-headed version of Superman's quintessential damsel-in-distress. As a strong and confident character, she seems somewhat wrong for the part given her previous parts in more "family-friendly" roles such as Enchanted and The Muppets and I half-expected her to break out into song at any minute. Others who are a necessity with Superman stories such as Perry White, played by a rather stout Laurence Fishburne, as a much milder incarnation to the more aggressive "great Cesar's ghost!" Editor-in-Chief. Characters such as Jimmy Olsen and Superman's traditional arch-enemy Lex Luthor are nowhere to be seen. One of Superman's lesser-known support characters makes an appearance in this movie, Professor Emil Hamilton, played by Richard Schiff, appears in a few pivotal scenes. Coincidentally, Man of Steel was released over Father's Day weekend, not surprising since the story revolves heavily around Superman's father figures: Jor-El and John Kent. Not so much in Costner's presence as his often cryptic fatherly advice is subverted significantly by Russell Crowe's stiff scenes.
While there are many differences with the original classic Superman, both in comics and movies, this version presents the audience with a much more realistic view of the Superman story. With its strong elements of science-fiction and fantasy, Man of Steel feels very grounded in reality, addressing what our world would be like if there was someone who had superpowers and how would he use them. Stylistically, the scenes of Krypton borrow heavily from the 1980's comic designs of John Byrne with a little bit of James Cameron's Avatar thrown in (Jor-El riding atop a 4-winged dragon into battle!). While the technology of Krypton has a much more "organic" style in this one as opposed to the original shiny, crystalline structure of the original movies.
As for the redesign of the costume; this has more in common with the new comics than tradition. His new, somewhat-darker and streamlined costume, sans outside underwear, has created a lot of controversy. Some issues with the movies over-the-top action and particularly with its over-use of the "shaky-cam" and featuring scenes of ultra-destruction have been panned. Some may criticize that Man of Steel has too much violence and destruction, most don't seem to realize that this IS what a super-hero comic book is all about! Finally, we get to see Superman in an all-out super-fight with an actual super-villain and all the chaos that comes with it! One of the oddest features of the movie comes from its obligatory usage of product-placement. Everything from Sears, 7-11, IHOP and U-Haul are featured in this film. In one of the major fight scenes between Superman and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue), Zod's right-hand woman, takes place primarily in an IHOP! This is not a new-concept in movies, or even superhero movies, as there has always been products featured in movies. Even the original 1978 Superman featured a very commercial-like scene with a box of Cheerios on the Kent's breakfast table. Man of Steel may not be the "best" Superman movie in the last 35 years, but it is better than the last attempt and it certainly tries harder than some of DC Comics previous attempts (i.e. Green Lantern) to bring super-powered superheroes to life.
Man of Steel is an impressive, equally entertaining and enjoyable movie experience. Unlike some of the other Summer superhero blockbusters like the inadequate Iron Man 3 and especially laughable special-effects driven disasters like Star Trek Into Darkness. Even after 75 years, Superman still manages to inspire and entertain each new generation. Superman lives on! Although he may change along the way, like in the comics with DC Comics' recent "New 52!" line, the basic spirit of Superman stays true as continues to fight for "truth, justice, and the American way!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Music Review: Black Sabbath - 13

BLACK SABBATH, the originators of Heavy Metal...are BACK! Returning after 18 years since the release of their last studio album, Forbidden (1995) and since the reunions with both Ozzy Osbourne  and Ronnie James Dio, also during their brief incarnation as Heaven & Hell (2006-2010, after the untimely death of Dio). Now, three of the original members have reunited (again!) to bring Black Sabbath "back from the dead" with their nineteenth studio album, 13! While many call this album a reunion (although Black Sabbath has "reunited" several times since 1997) this is not a full reunion since it is without founding member and drummer Bill Ward, who left Black Sabbath, saying that he "failed to reach an agreement regarding his contract" in February 2012.  Legendary metal producer Rick Rubin, who is known for his "idiosyncratic hands-off way of producing", wanted to create the same vibe as the first Sabbath record drawing upon the raw and natural sound of that album. 13 also features drummer Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. While the standard album only features 8 tracks, the special deluxe edition has 11 tracks included with a bonus CD. The album is also available in a "Super Deluxe Box Set" which includes a DVD and vinyl. There is little or no explanation for the name of the album since 13 is in fact the 19th studio album from Black Sabbath although some suggest because it was released in 2013, also coincidentally since Sabbath performed on the season 13 finale of CSI. As for the design of the album, the artwork was created by Zip Design in London who commissioned sculptor Spencer Jenkins to create an 8 foot tall "13" made from wicker, which was then set on fire in the Buckinghamshire countryside. The image was shot by photographer Jonathan Knowles. The first single from 13, "God Is Dead?", is a slow-paced, deep, yet somewhat thought-provoking song, which hearkens back to the early "War Pigs" style Black Sabbath. The second single and first track of the album, "End of the Beginning", a very old-school-like Sabbath song, was featured on a recent episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for publicity. With songs such as "Loner", "Age of Reason", "Live Forever" and "Damaged Soul", the signature Black Sabbath sound is apparent in both Iommi's accomplished guitar-work as well as Ozzy's well-known wailing vocals. The oddest song on the album would have to be "Zeitgeist" which uses a combination of acoustic guitar and bongos, which sounds an awful lot like "Planet Caravan" from Paranoid (1970). Another song which references an older Sabbath song is "Dear Father", while one of the heavier songs on the album, it has a curious outro featuring the sounds of a thunderstorm and bells, not unlike the infamous intro to their namesake song "Black Sabbath" from their first album. Also included in the deluxe version of the album are three extra tracks: "Methademic", "Peace of Mind", and "Pariah". Following the release of the album, the band will set out on a world tour beginning this summer in the U.S., followed by shows in South America and Europe later in the year.
Since their formation in 1968, Black Sabbath has been THE most original, influential, and yet controversial heavy metal band in the world!
Iommi, Osbourne & Butler

The original founding members included Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass guitar, Bill Ward on drums, and of course, Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. With their first two albums, their self-titled debut Black Sabbath, and Paranoid released in 1970, Black Sabbath immediately took the rock n' roll world by storm. Shortly after the release of their 1978 album Never Say Die, Ozzy was fired from the band and replaced by former Rainbow singer Dio with Heaven & Hell (1980), who then left the band in 1982, and respectively both singers went on to pursue  successful solo careers. Afterwards, former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan sang for Black Sabbath for the album Born Again (1983).
Throughout its tumultuous history, Black Sabbath has been through a number of lineup changes including singers, but one constant has remained, lead guitarist Tony Iommi, who has been the driving force of the band for over 40 years. This fact became an important factor back in May of 2009, when Ozzy filed a lawsuit over the trademarking of the Black Sabbath name and logo, which ended in June 2010. Many were skeptic when in 2011 it was announced that Black Sabbath would be reuniting yet again and recording a new album. However the tour and album was put on hold due to Iommi being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2012 and is continuing treatments. Knowing Black Sabbath's history, who knows how long this "reunion" will last. Evidence from Ozzy's recent troubles with his wife and his admitted re-addiction to drugs is a sure sign that we have not heard the last of Black Sabbath's troubles and it will only be a matter of time before they either disband completely or just get too old to do this anymore! Either way, 13 is an impressive album and a treat for any long-time Black Sabbath fan or even new ones who can have the opportunity to rediscover just what true heavy metal is all about!
 "I don't know what's down the road. I just do what I can and enjoy it while I can. No one knew if Sabbath would ever put out another record. So that's done. And now the next thing is to do a great show. We don't have to prove anything. We just have to go out, play our music and enjoy what we do. - Tony Iommi, Guitar World, July 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Comic Book Review: Astro City #1

After three years of "patiently" waiting, I'm happy to announce that one of my all-time favorite comic books has returned: ASTRO CITY! Now under the imprint of DC Comics/Vertigo, which specializes in more adult-oriented comic book titles, Astro City returns with an all-new ongoing series! After the end of the "Dark Age" (2005-2010) storyline and the Silver Agent two-parter (2010), the DC Comics/WildStorm imprint shutdown and unfortunately, writer/creator Kurt Busiek became gravely ill and had to have gallbladder surgery! Since that time, the creative team has been working on new stories Now under a new publishing imprint and as Busiek has almost fully recovered, the story of Astro City, it's heroes, villains and people can continue! With Astro City #1, "Through Open Doors, Part One", we are introduced to some new characters including: The Broken Man, who is our narrator for this particular chapter, a bizarre, David Bowie-esque, other-dimensional, being who guides us on our story. Another is the unusually, cute American Chibi (see Chibi), every anime fanboy's dream. Finally, there is Telseth, a Jack Kirby-like cosmic explorer, who appears off the coast of Astro City from a huge, Gozerian doorway!
Alternate Cover
Along with these new characters, there are also a few of our old Astro City favorites and regulars such as Samaritan, Winged Victory, The Confessor (my favorite!), and The Honor Guard. Like several Astro City stories, this particular chapter also focuses on the ordinary people who live and work in Astro City. One such individual is Ben Pullam, who also appeared in an earlier story during Astro City's Homage Comics years.
Astro City is written by Kurt Busiek, with covers by Alex Ross, and art by Brent Anderson. Since it's debut in 1995, Astro City has presented its readers with a world unlike any other. Astro City is not exactly a story of what superheroes would be like in the real world, but rather making a superhero world realistic. If you are new to Astro City, or even a long-time fan like me, be sure to pick up the first issue of this new series. I hope others will enjoy this unique look at the superhero-filled world of Astro City as much as I do and I also hope this series will be successful and will continue on "like the gleaming rocket icon on top of the 'Astro-Bank' Tower, Astro City is at the heart of America's hopes and dreams for a brighter tomorrow!" (Astro City: Life in the Big City)

 "ASTRO CITY is art, and it is good art. It creates something - a place, perhaps, or a medium, or just a tone of voice - in which good stories are told." - Neil Gaiman

Monday, June 3, 2013

Disney's Star Wars Weekends 2013

This weekend I had the opportunity to go to Walt Disney World for their annual Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios! This is the third time I've experienced this event (the first was in 2008 and the last was in 2011), unfortunately I was unable to attend last year, but this year's celebration was extra special since it was the 30th anniversary of Return of the JediStar Wars Weekends is a month long celebration of Star Wars featuring special guests, celebrities, characters and entertainment! This year's special guests included hosts James Arnold Taylor (the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo-Koon in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Also featured this year are: Ray Park (Darth Maul – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), Dee Bradley Baker (voice of Captain Rex – Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), Jim Cummings (voice of Hondo Ohnaka – Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), Sam Witwer (voice of Darth Maul – Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) and Tom Kane (voice of Yoda – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)!
Warwick Davis
As I was only able to attend the third weekend this time, I was however able to meet and get autographs from Tim rose and Sam Witwer. I have met other guests including Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, James Arnold Taylor and Ashley Eckstein in previous years.
Star Wars Weekends continues to grow not only in activities and special guests, but also in attendance. Many fans, both young and old, flock to Star Wars Weekends on regular basis. While some of the more interactive activities are meant for younger audiences, such as the "Padawan Mind Challenge" and the "Hyperspace Hoopla!", both hosted by Snig & Oopla at the Event Stage. The whole event starts off with the "Legends of the Force" Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome which features a parade including all the Disney/Star Wars characters, special guests and celebrities and also members of the 501st: "Vader's Fist", Florida Garrison and The Rebel Legion. One of the biggest draws at Star Wars Weekends is of course all the exclusive merchandise and collectibles available only at "Darth's Mall" along with photo opportunities with Star Wars characters and this year features an almost life-size Rancor! One of the most popular (and expensive) collectibles available at Star Wars Weekends is the "Carbon-Freeze Me" and a personalized Stormtrooper available at the D-Tech Me Experience Star Wars Weekends also features several entertaining shows for fans of the Clone Wars show from Cartoon Network including "Behind the Force: Star Wars Voices" hosted by Ashley Eckstein, along with "Obi-Wan and Beyond" and "Stars of the Saga" hosted by James Arnold Taylor. The most entertaining show at this year's Star Wars Weekends has to be "An Ewok's Tale-My Short Story" starring Warwick Davis. In it he tells his "short" life-story including how he got the parts as Wicket, the Ewok in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Willow and the Harry Potter series.
The Rancor!
As popularity for Star Wars never fails to grow even after 36 years, despite the recent controversy over Disney buying Lucasfilm from George Lucas, the upcoming release of Episode VII directed by J.J. Abrams in 2015, not to mention the cancellation of the immensely popular Clone Wars show from Cartoon Network and the upcoming new animated series Star Wars Rebels on Disney Channel XD in 2014! It is an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan and it is both a pleasure and a relief to have annual events like Star Wars Weekends and Star Wars Celebration where fans can come together and revel in all things Star Wars! I hope to attend next year's Star Wars Weekends and hope to see you there as well! "May the Force Be With You!" and See you next year!