Friday, March 22, 2013

Top 10 Best G.I. Joe Episodes

I was a child of the 1980's, and while there were many popular cartoons and action figure properties like Transformers, He-Man and Thundercats, there was one that I was particularly obsessed with and that was G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. By the time I was seven years old I had just about every G.I. Joe action figure and vehicle (I even had the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Flagg!), not to mention an avid collector of the Marvel comic books! With the release of the popular Hasbro action figures and the Marvel comic book, Sunbow and Marvel Productions developed a 95-episode series (1983-1986), to follow the success of the toy line. When the show premiered in 1983, it began with the 5-episode mini-series in which Cobra developed the M.A.S.S. device to steal a satellite. With the second mini-series in 1984: "The Revenge of Cobra", Cobra creates the Weather Dominator and wreaks havoc on the world. With the success of the two mini-series, they began production with the first season of G.I. Joe with 55 episodes. They began the second season in 1985 with the 5-part "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" which introduced the Cobra Emperor: Serpentor. As the series was coming to a close, in 1987 they produced G.I. Joe: The Movie which was a direct to video release which was syndicated later on TV hosted by non-other than Sgt. Slaughter himself! While DIC Entertainment tried to bring the cartoon back in 1989, it lasted only 2 short seasons until 1991. In celebration of the March 28th release of the film G.I. Joe Retaliation next week and as this year also marks the 30th Anniversary of the premiere of the animated series, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG proudly presents: Top 10 Best G.I. Joe Episodes, "Yo Joe!"

#10  "Cold Slither" (Ep.#151) - Destro and Cobra Commander gets Zartan and the Dreadnoks to form a rock n' roll band called "Cold Slither" to perform music with subliminal messages in an attempt to take control of the minds of the masses. But G.I. Joe puts a stop to Cobra's plan by forming their own band called "The Average Joe Band" to counteract Cobra's message!
#9 "Lights! Camera! Cobra!" (Ep.#119) - Cobra infiltrates a Hollywood studio where they are filming "The G.I. Joe Story"!
#8 "Memories of Mara" (Ep.#145) - G.I. Joe finds a nuclear submarine called the Nerka, and rescue a crew being held captive by Cobra. Also Shipwreck falls in love with Mara, a woman with blue skin who has been genetically modified by Cobra to be the first of many "aquatic commandos".
#7 "Cobra's Creatures" (Ep.#111) - Cobra uses a special weapon called "Hi-Freq", a mind control device to take over the minds of all animals in the world, including Mutt's dog Junkyard!
#6 "The Traitor" (Ep.#s 146-147) - G.I. Joe designs a new armor treatment that's impenetrable to laser fire and missiles. Dusty is accused of being a traitor and selling secrets to Cobra!
#5 "Nightmare Assault" (EP.#224) - Doctor Mindbender invents a machine that turns the Joes' dreams into nightmares, but Lowlight is the only person who can help them overcome their fears.
#4 "The Viper is Coming" (Ep.#129) - Barbecue keeps getting phone calls from a man who calls himself "The Viper", which sends the Joes on a wild goose chase to find this mysterious man.
#3 "Sink the Montana!" (Ep.#208) - At the decommissioning ceremony for a battleship the U.S.S. Montana. Cobra recruits retiring Admiral Lattimer, former Captain of the Montana and betrays the Joes!
#2 "There's No Place Like Springfield" (Ep.#s154-155) - Shipwreck passes out trying to escape after a Cobra assault and wakes up six years later in a place called Springfield, with Mara as his wife and a daughter named Alfea but soon discovers they are synthoid copies made by Cobra!
#1 "Worlds Without End" (Ep#s 136-137) - Cobra steals a matter transformer which sends the Joes into an alternate reality where Cobra rules the world!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Clone Wars: Canceled...

What began in 2008 as an animated feature film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars sparked a phenomenal TV series that has lasted for five action-packed seasons on Cartoon Network! Sadly, after the season five finale, it was announced that Lucasfilm canceled 'Clone Wars' thus ending the epic story that took place between the Star Wars films Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While the Clone Wars has become a big part of the Star Wars prequels storyline, the most significant aspect of the show has always been the relationship between Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and his new padawan Ashoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). Female fans both young and old had gravitated to this headstrong, young heroine as she became one of the most popular Star Wars characters in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The biggest problem, however has always been the question of: what happened to Ashoka before the events of Episode III? Although considering what happened at the end of the series (No Spoilers!), it is still unclear what her fate is to be. Unlike previous attempts to bring the episodic nature of The Clone Wars to TV, like in the short lived 2003 Clone Wars maxi-series created by animator Genndy Tartakovsky, the latest Clone Wars animated series featured a new level of detailed computer animation along with a cast of exceptional voice actors like James Arnold Taylor, to bring the show to life. 
Shortly after the shows 100th episode, it was announced via a recent Google+ live video podcast with director Dave Filoni and voice actors Ashley Eckstein and Matt Lanter that season five would bring some major events and big changes to the story. With the return of Darth Maul as well as deciding the fate of Ashoka Tano, the end of season five brought many surprises. While The Clone Wars show has always appealed more to younger Star Wars fans even old-school fans like me have enjoyed it. Within it's first season I knew this show was something special and I enjoyed it every Friday night on prime time and then later on Saturday mornings. With the recent purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney Corporation, along with the news of new Star Wars movies directed by J.J. Abrams, as well as Disney's involvement with the annual Star Wars Weekends which the Clone Wars has been a big part of since 2008, it is unclear what the future will hold for the Star Wars franchise. With rumors spreading about Episode VII and the possibilities of a Star Wars live action TV show it seems as though a new chapter in the Star Wars franchise is just beginning but in the words of Master Yoda: "Clouded, the future is..."
See: A message from James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi) about The Clone Wars and interview with Dave Filoni

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

The Oz books by  L. Frank Baum have been a major force of 20th Century pop-culture. Originally published in 1900 the first book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is part of a fourteen book series that spanned 20 years. To many, the iconic 1939 musical film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland, (despite it's inaccuracies to the books) has been the definitive adaptation of the Oz series for over 70 years. Although this was not the first attempt to bring Baum's Land of Oz to life on the big screen. The first was a 1925 silent version of The Wizard of Oz directed by . While there have been a number of popular plays based on Baum's works including The Wiz in the 1970's and the 2003 musical Wicked, as well as several animated features and movies such as the 1985 Disney sequel Return to Oz, this is the first time audiences have been presented with a kind of prequel to the Oz story with the latest release of Oz the Great and Powerful.
Directed by  (The Original Evil Dead Trilogy and the Spider-Man Trilogy) and starring James Franco (Spider-Man Trilogy, 127 Hours) as Oz, Oz the Great and Powerful tells the story of how he came to the Land of Oz and how he would come to be known as "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (James Franco) or just 'Oz' for short, is a struggling magician/con-man, working at a small, country carnival, when one day he is swept up in a violent tornado while riding a hot-air balloon. He soon finds himself in the magical Land of Oz where people believe he is the "Wizard" that has been prophesied would save them from the Wicked Witch. When he first arrives, he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), one of the witches of Oz and she takes him to The Emerald City and meets her other sister/witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Oz finds out that in order to prove himself as The Wizard, he must defeat the "Wicked Witch" and destroy her wand (although it becomes painfully obvious which witch is which!). As he and his loyal flying-monkey bellhop Finley (voiced by Zack Braff) set out down the "Yellow-Brick Road" they find China Town, a little village where the houses and people are actually made entirely of Porcelain. They find one tiny, injured survivor known only as China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and bring her along as well. Upon entering the Dark Forest they encounter Glinda (Michelle Williams) and realize who the true enemy is, and with the help of the people of Oz, including the Munchkins, they plot to stop The Wicked Witch's reign of terror forever!
Although this film is supposedly based on the "Oz" books and not the 1939 musical (for legal reasons as the Oz stories are in the public domain and the 1939 film including the Ruby Slippers are owned by Warner Bros.), the movie is clearly inspired by many of the images and iconic elements from The Wizard of Oz for obvious reasons. Much like the 1939 film, Oz the Great and Powerful opens up in a sepia tone and even a shorter aspect ratio, but then, upon Oz's arrival to Oz, the film changes to color and wide-screen. Other similarities to the 1939 version include the fact that The Wicked Witch of the West is in fact stereotypically green, and wears all black and a pointy black hat, uses fire and even rides on a broom. Other similarities to the film are scenes where Glinda travels by bubble; we see the "horses of a different color" in a field outside the Emerald City, and not to mention those lovable (and incredibly annoying) Munchkins even perform a musical number (although thankfully cut short by Oz). There is such an overwhelming aspect of sensory overload in Oz the Great and Powerful, with the extremely bright colors, overused CGI effects and the added and cliche use of 3D technology in several noticeable scenes.
As for James Franco, who is the main character of the movie, we get so tired of his lies, fake grin and overacting that the only characters who are even remotely likable aren't even human: that of Finley and China Girl! The sibling rivalry between Theodora, Evanaora and Glinda become such a huge part of the plot elevating to almost "soap-opera" levels that when The Wicked Witch is finally revealed in such an over-dramatic sequence; the only part that tries to present itself as actually scary, becomes laughable. As Mila Kunis' witch character is prominently featured in the movie, she actually comes across as very dull and emotionless, with the confusing hint that she may actually be falling in love with Oz is not very convincing. Knowing this is directed by Sam Raimi, who got his start in combining campiness and horror (which I have always been a fan of), I feel his vision does not really fit the World of Oz as well as it should have. There are many elements in the movie which seem very Raimi-like, from the quick cuts and extreme close-ups during action scenes to even the design of Evanora in her final form reminds me very much of the witches in Army of Darkness (1992) and Drag Me To Hell (2009). Another Sam Raimi trademark is the casting of Bruce Campbell (Ash himself!) in a cameo role as an Emerald City guard! As with the recent Disney version of Alice in Wonderland (2010) I half-expected Tim Burton to do this and even Johnny Depp to play Oz (not surprising that he was actually offered the role)! The addition of the film score by renowned composer Danny Elfman, who was the most obvious choice regarding the world of Oz. Yet while Elfman's music is featured in several of Raimi's movies (Darkman (1990), A Simple Plan (1998), Spider-Man Trilogy) he is also featured in many of Tim Burton's movies as well, which makes it seem that Burton (Wonderland) and Raimi (Oz) are almost becoming interchangeable. Overall Oz the Great and Powerful is a fun and entertaining movie, but had very little substance to all it's overdone CG/3D craziness. For those old-school fans of the original 1939 Wizard of Oz musical, you may be in for a disappointment, but if you prefer the more "hip and modern" take on on Oz such as Wicked, then you might find it enjoyable. As for me, I love Disney movies as well as Sam Raimi's films, but halfway through this movie, I wished I had my own pair of ruby (or silver) slippers to click together wishing "There's no place like home..."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Movie Review: Dark Skies

Every few years or so, a movie comes along which perpetuates the popular notion that "we are not alone!" For several decades, it has been strongly suggested that extra-terrestrial aliens are in fact among us and frequently abduct people. This phenomenon has been explored in many real-life accounts ever since the famous abduction case of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. Since then, alien abduction has become a popular subject in books and movies including: Communion (1989) starring Christopher Walken, based on the book by Whitley StrieberFire In The Sky (1993) starring D.B. Sweeney, based on the story of Travis Walton, and was also recently featured in the film Signs (2002), directed by . This highly controversial and disturbing subject is explored again in the recent release Dark Skies, directed by Scott Stewart (Legion (2009), Priest (2011)) and starring Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.
Lacy and Daniel Barrett are a struggling, modern, suburban family. While Daniel searches for a job in an architectural firm, Lacy works as an overly-honest real estate agent. Their two boys, Jesse and Sam are relatively normal and share a close relationship. While the family has to deal with the usual suburban troubles such as overdue bills and mortgage, suddenly, strange things begin to happen in the house that threatens the safety of the family. First, it seems like mere harmless pranks as their kitchen is raided, doors are left open in the middle of the night, and then all of a sudden flocks of birds bombard their house with no explanation! When the Barretts install a security system and cameras in the house, they slowly realize that they are being "visited". As strange occurrences and behaviors happen more frequently, the Barrett's begin to fear for their lives and seek out help and the means to defend themselves against this "other-worldly" threat!
Like most alien visitation/abduction stories, the victims involved usually do not realize they are being visited or taken until it's too late. Consumed by doubt and disbelief, the Barrett family is no different and although a number of strange and unexplainable events occur they never fully accept the truth in what is happening to them. Dark Skies is an interesting story full of tense and surprising moments but ultimately comes to a predictable end. After everything that happens, you actually feel for the character of Lacy the most as she ultimately comes to the improbable, however correct conclusion, although she finds it impossible to convince her husband of the truth. The fact that children are involved, especially their young son Sam makes the situation even more terrifying and unsettling.
The aliens in Dark Skies as it has been revealed are somewhat different from the typical "Grays" that have been depicted in almost every case of alien contact, popularized in the book/movie Communion, however as these aliens start out somewhat playful and curious, even benevolent beings, it is not all together unexpected when they turn into a malevolent threat towards the climax of the movie.
While Dark Skies seems original there are some very noticeable similarities to 's film Signs, particularly towards the end as the family prepare for the final visit from the aliens by boarding up the house and afterwards have a solemn dinner while reminiscing about happy moments with their children. There are some genuinely terrifying scenes in the film as you only see the creatures for split seconds and often in dark, unexpected moments. There are also a few convincingly suspenseful parts of the movie that successfully achieve the "jump out of your seat" effect. With a somewhat unpredictable twist towards the end, followed by a final, yet disturbing revelation at the end, Dark Skies is a decent thriller that will certainly give you a few goosebumps and may make you want to sleep with the lights and TV on tonight.
LINKS: Dark Skies Official Website,, Dark Skies on Twitter, Dark Skies on Facebook