Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review: Dracula Untold

DRACULA, a name that has haunted popular culture ever since author Bram Stoker published his gothic-horror classic in 1897. Since then, Dracula has appeared in over 200 films beginning in the 1920's. The latest incarnation of the immortal vampire comes from Universal Pictures, the same film company who produced the classic Dracula (1931) film starring Bela LugosiDracula Untold presents a much different view of the Dark Prince, based (somewhat loosely) on history rather than any literary or film source. Starring Luke Evans as Prince Vlad of Transylvania, who is forced to pay a hefty tribute in exchange for a shaky peace with the Turkish Sultan, Mehmed (Dominic Cooper). When the Sultan demands one thousand boys for his army, including Vlad's own son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), Vlad defies him, thus incurring the wrath of the Turks! Desperately seeking the means to defend his family, including his wife Mirena (Sarah Gordon) and his people from the invading Turks, Vlad encounters an ancient Vampire (Charles Dance) who offers him great power, but at a terrible price! Although cursed to become a vampire, Vlad possesses great, dark powers, but if he can resist his blood-thirst for three days, he will return to normal, if not he will be cursed for all eternity. Although he now has the power to defeat the Sultan's army, he is in danger of not only losing his humanity, but his soul as well. Will Vlad be able to control the darkness within him, or will it consume him forever?
Dracula Untold presents moviegoers with a much more sympathetic monster, with Dracula depicted as a dark, anti-hero. Welsh actor Luke Evans (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)) seems an interesting choice to play Dracula, having appeared in several big budgeted fantasy/action movies and has even portrayed two Greek Gods: Zeus in Immortals (2011) and Apollo in Clash of the Titans (2010). Instead of the suave, tuxedo-clad, Dracula audiences have come to know over the years, this Dracula is a seemingly young and handsome, similar to previous incarnations such as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) played by Gary Oldman, or even the sexy Dracula 2000 (2000) played by Gerard Butler. Although there have been past attempts to depict the more historical figure of Dracula, such as in the prologue to the 1992 Dracula or even in the made-for-TV movie Dark Prince (2000), Dracula Untold gives us a much kinder and gentler Dracula, even as so far to show him as a dedicated  husband and father. Despite all the blood and violence, the movie surprisingly retains a PG-13 rating. Also much of the movie is in the perspective of his young son, as he is featured as the narrator of the story.
The real historical figure of Dracula, known as Vlad Tepes, aka "The Impaler", was a 15th century Romanian prince, infamous for his brutal reputation for extreme cruelty. His father Vlad Dracul, II, was a member of the 'Order of the Dragon', a group of knights dedicated to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. The real Dracula was in fact NOT a vampire; merely a "bloodthirsty" despot, yet he is revered as a hero in many parts of Romania. There has been much speculation over the years in  separating the legend from history and although Stoker's novel did little to dispel the myth, Dracula, will forever be synonymous with vampires.
Dracula Untold presents a fresh, new perspective on the Dracula legend, turning the bloodsucking vampire into a rock star, complete with a tragic back-story and a somewhat believable reason to become what he is destined to become: DRACULA!

Monday, September 29, 2014


Possibly one of THE most anticipated TV shows of the Fall, GOTHAM premiered this week on FOX to a mixed reaction from fans. While DC Comics' characters have been successful in recent years from the highly popular Smallville (2001-2011) to the current series Arrow (2012-) , even more shows from DC will premiere this Fall including The Flash (CW) and Constantine (NBC). Set in the Batman universe and loosely based on the short-lived DC comic books series Gotham Central (2003-2006), Gotham is basically a cop show set around the events of Bruce Wayne's (David Mazouz) parents murder, but the future Caped-Crusader is not the main character. Instead, the show focuses on Police Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as he works with his partner Detective Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) as they try to clean up the streets of Gotham as organized crime and corruption plague the city as two rival crime bosses vie for control.
In the style of Smallville (Superboy/Superman), Gotham is essentially a prequel in that it tells more about the origins of the hero we have all come to know so well, namely Batman. While focusing more on the cop drama in the city and less on the origin story, the show has a lot of work to do in getting fans to follow it. While trying to desperately include plenty of fan-service (albeit too much) the show includes cameos from several other Gothamites and characters from Batman's would-be rogues gallery. Aside from the usual characters such as Gordon, Bullock there is of course Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee), Bruce Wayne's loyal butler. Along with a few familiar (and not so familiar faces) there is the criminals Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Carmine Falcone (John Doman), while Falcone has appeared in the Batman comics for years Fish Mooney is a completely original character created for the TV series, much like Harley Quinn who was created for the 1990's Batman Animated Series and was soon incorporated into the comics. One of the major would-be villains who make an appearance is Oswald Cobblepot, (Robin Lord Taylor) aka The Penguin, as a much skinnier incarnation of the Batman villain. Other characters who make an appearance and have some, if very little to the story in the beginning is Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Cory Michale Smith) and even a young Ivy Pepper/Poison Ivy (Clare Foley). While Batman as a character has one of the biggest cast of characters in the comic book it seems very difficult that the show will be able to address the origins of all these characters. The fact is, the show seems to have almost too many characters, especially those introduced in just the first pilot. While the show seems promising and hopes to draw in Batman and comic book fans alike, the show seems to be off to a somewhat rocky start, putting too much into the first show and insinuating tat the entire show will be focused on solving the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne in yet another re-working of the origin. Whereas the comics has its own origin, which has been changed and rewritten so many times, including the latest revamping of the character in 2011 as part of DC's New 52. The original character Joe Chill who was featured briefly in the Christopher Nolan movies seems to not be included in this shows story. All in all, Gotham seems to be less of a comic book based show and more of a CSI-like cop drama, complete with overly-melodramatic characters and action. As a Batman fan I was excited to see it, however after watching the pilot episode I was somewhat undecided to what the future of the show might hold and if the show will become as popular as Smallville or suffer the fate of previous Batman show attempts like Birds of Prey (2002-2003), only the fans and ratings will tell...GOTHAM airs Monday nights on FOX 8/7c.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary

In 1984, a film was released that would defy the boundaries of comedy and horror to become one of the most popular film franchises of the 1980's; that film was Ghostbusters! "Who ya gonna call?" To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, the original film has been restored and remastered in 4K resolution and will be returning to the big screen for a limited engagement starting on August 29th, in theaters during Labor Day weekend.
Ghostbusters was one of those movies that defined the 1980's and of course my childhood. When I first saw it when I was young, (possibly too young) it stuck with me for the rest of my life. I enjoyed the animated series ("The Real Ghostbusters") from 1986 to 1991, along with the action figure line from Kenner, several video games, and ultimately the release of Ghostbusters II in 1989. Although the movie is often categorized as a comedy, it's really hard to label its genre. It has elements of intellectual comedy, romance, science-fiction and of course horror. The film's story even borders on "Lovecraftian"-style with elements of ancient supernatural forces such as Zuul and Gozer. I've always loved the character of 'Slimer', who although he was featured i a short sequence in the movie gained a considerable fan following along with his constant presence as the comic relief on the animated series. A little bit of trivia: Dan Aykroyd always referred to Slimer as the ghost of John Belushi.
While the Ghostbusters have stayed alive over the last 30 years, uunfortunately, writer and actor Harold Ramis didn't live to see the 30th anniversary, but the rest of the Ghostbusters including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are still around to celebrate. For years, there had been rumors that Ghostbusters 3 was in development, but for now, it is still in the works. Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters was a truly original, frightening and hilarious movie experience!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fever has struck again! Since the resurgence of the popular franchise and animated series from Nickelodeon, the turtles return to the big screen after 20 years with a reboot from director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans (2012)) starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and William Fichtner.
Years after the death of her father in a lab accident, aspiring TV news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is hot on the case of a recent crime wave by the infamous Foot Clan. One night she happens upon a robbery at the docks and witnesses a battle between a mysterious vigilante and the criminals. The clan, led by 'The Shredder' (Tohoru Masamune), and his second in command Karai (Minae Noji), plan to drive the vigilantes out in a subway hostage situation. April stumbles on to their plan and sees not one, but four vigilantes take down the Foot and rescue the hostages! When she follows them to the rooftops she discovers, to her surprise, that the vigilantes are in fact Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! As April soon discovers their mysterious origin and meets their rat master, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub), she becomes involved in a plot by Shredder and the Foot to release a biological agent on New York City and the only cure is the green mutagen that flows within the blood of the turtles!
While the newest TMNT movie has little in common with the 1990 film aside from the central characters, the 2014 movie is much faster-paced, more action-packed with Michael Bay (one of the producers) style explosions, and overwhelming CGI special effects. Gone are the cute, cartoon-style turtles; the new turtles are bigger, stronger, and even disturbingly realistic. The new turtles also have much more personality than previous incarnations, with each one possessing their own personal accouterments that reflects their individuality. They range from random, found clothing, to various types of armor, decorations, even jewelry and gadgets. With the old turtles, the only way to distinguish them was either by their weapons of choice or their multicolored headbands (which were added in the 1987 animated series, whereas in the original comics, they all wore red). Their personalities however stay true to their origins (as featured in their famous and catchy original theme song) however on a much bigger scale. Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville) still remains the stalwart leader, whereas Michelangelo (voiced by Noel Fisher) is ever the goof-off, comic relief "party dude". Raphael's (voiced by Alan Ritchson) demeanor is just as rude ("but cool") and crass as ever, complete with a scarred face and chomping on a toothpick. Donatello's (("does machines") voiced by Jeremy Howard) 'nerdiness' is amplified with the addition of huge thick eyeglasses as well as various tech-gadgets  attached to his shell. Sensei Splinter plays a much more active role in this movie, no longer the kind and passive teacher, he becomes more of a harsh disciplinarian who can also kick-ass when he needs to. As for the choice of Megan Fox as the damsel-in-distress April O'Neil, (no longer a part of Michael Bay's Transformers franchise since the second film and their supposed feud) plays a less demure female lead, often portraying April as determined and often fool-hearty, willing to do anything for a story. Will Arnett plays her cameraman Vernon, who was also a supporting character in the original animated series. William Fichtner plays Eric Sacks, a billionaire scientist and socialite who worked with April's father.
Megan Fox as April O'Neil
Along with this new movie, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the TMNT. Back in 1984, comic book creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird formed an independent comic book company called Mirage Studios and produced a self-published, black & white, comic book entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleslittle did they know that their small independent comic would spawn even more comic books, cartoons, toys, video games, movies, and countless other forms of merchandise into what would become an immensely successful, world-famous franchise! With the initial "Turtle-mania" sparked by the 1987 animated series, (which would last through the late 1980's and into the mid-90's) the franchise has seen it's ups and downs over the years with a recent resurgence with the second animated series in 2003. In 2007 the turtles were given a face-lift and a fully-CGI theatrical movie simply titled TMNT. While the fans reception was mixed, it would soon spark a new revamped CGI animated series on Nickelodeon in 2012.
For many fans of the TMNT, this movie can be seen two ways, while some long-time, hardcore fans may be furiously disappointed about the drastic changes made to the characters that they knew and loved growing up; for the newer, younger fans, this is an enjoyable adaptation of the TMNT franchise. The movie is fun and entertaining and that's what the TMNT are all about. While these characters have grown and changed during the years, the spirit and fun of the turtles has never changed. The turtles themselves have always remained simple and lovable in their own rights.
There is a surprisingly sparse amount of down-time in the new movie for which usually allows for emotional or character development in most films. While the focus is definitely on the action and special effects, the story itself is somewhat predictable and cliche, right down to the stereotypical super-villain desiring destruction right down to a "Today New York City, Tomorrow the world!" mentality. The story moves fairly quickly and rarely slows down, the humor is witty and maybe even a little juvenile, thanks mostly to Michelangelo's cut-ups (I think they even managed to throw in a fart joke somewhere!), as well as their innate love for pizza!
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a fun and entertaining movie! Fans both young and old can enjoy watching it. I felt my own inner 10-year old crack a smile as they cried "Cowabunga!" and fought off a ridiculously, huge Shredder, who possessed enough blades to fill a dozen Swiss-Army knives! I haven't had this much fun at the movies in a long time. Of all the recent remakes of all my favorite childhood toys such as G.I. Joe and Transformers, I think for once, Hollywood got it right and finally gave the fans what they wanted: "TURTLE POWER!" Enjoy your pizza!
LINKS: Official Movie Website, Mirage GroupNickelodeon, Turtlepedia

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top 10 Favorite Robin Williams Movies

Robin Williams was quite possibly the funniest comedian I have ever seen. I grew up with many of his movies during the 1980's and 90's and now unfortunately, he's gone... I can remember watching reruns of Mork & Mindy with my parents and the first movie I remember seeing him in was Popeye (1980). I can remember thinking that he was Popeye. There are so many memorable roles he's played, from the incredibly zany, to the sympathetic, and also even a little dark and scary at times. He was a man with a singularly remarkable talent and the world is a sadder place without him. Although many celebrities, both young and old come and go, we have somehow become used to the idea of those who get caught up in the difficult life of a celebrity and often succumb to their demanding lifestyles and their lives tragically come to an, very often before their time. There are only a few of those who really, truly make such an impact on our lives and make us laugh more than anybody that we can scarcely believe it when they are gone. Although he is gone, we can still remember the great moments and characters he played. To celebrate the life and career of Robin Williams, I wanted to list some of my favorite movies to which he gave me and my family so much joy, happiness, and even tears. CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: Top 10 Favorite Robin Williams Movies...We will miss you.

#10 Night at the Museum (2006) - Although Robin Williams only played a supporting role in these movies, (Night at the Museum 3 to be released later this year) with his unique presence and energy, he managed to make one of my favorite U.S. Presidents: Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt come alive, even if he was only a wax statue!
#9 Toys (1992) - Robin as Leslie Zevo is one of his strangest and wackiest characters ever. The movie itself is a bizarre experience with a very childlike but also very poignant story.
#8 Jack (1996) - Often underrated and criticized, Jack is one of Robin's most hilarious and yet most sympathetic characters as Jack Powell, the boy with a strange illness that makes him age 4X faster than a normal person.
#7 What Dreams May Come (1998) - While one of his most unsuccessful movies, possibly due to the intensely deep and disturbing subject matter, Robin stars as Chris Nielsen, a man who dies in a car crash and searches the afterlife for his wife.
#6 Bicentennial Man (1999) - Robin stars as Andrew Martin an android who endeavors to become more human.
#5 Popeye (1980) - "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!" 'Nuff said.
#4 Hook (1991) - Robin plays Peter Banning, a grown up Peter Pan who has forgotten his life in Never Land until Capt. Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his children forcing him to return is one of my favorite movies of all time.
#3 Aladdin (1992) - With his voice giving life to the Genie in one of my favorite Disney animated features, Robin stole the show and created one of the most enigmatic and beloved Disney characters of all time.
#2 Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) - Quite possibly one of his most popular and memorable roles, Robin as Daniel Hillard, a divorcee father who disguises himself as an elderly woman is both incredibly hilarious and completely ridiculous at the same time...and that's what makes it his funniest movie ever!
#1 Dead Poets Society (1989) - This movie inspired me to become a teacher and also gave me a deeper appreciation for both literature and poetry. Robin Williams as John Keating will always be "Oh Captain, My Captain!"
LINKS: Robin Williams, Twitter, Facebook

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

Within the successful Marvel Studios, a remarkable collection of superheroes has been ingeniously brought together into what we now know as Marvel's The Avengers! As this group of heroes has now been firmly established into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a new, even more original team has been introduced into Phase 2 of Marvel Studio's movie projects with their 10th film: Guardians of the Galaxy
Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is a notorious outlaw and thief, who, while stealing a mysterious orb on an abandoned planet, is drawn into a plot of galactic proportions which jeopardizes the fate of the universe! While escaping from the forces of the megalomaniacal Ronan, The Accuser (Lee Pace); Quill is arrested by the Nova Corps and sentenced to an orbiting penal colony along with the bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) & Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana). While in prison, he teams up with this motley crew along with Drax, (Dave Bautista) The Destroyer, who has a grudge against Ronan, and escapes prison to find a way to stop Ronan from getting the orb and destroying the galaxy!
Guardians of the Galaxy is an epic, space adventure, which combines Star Wars-like Sci-Fi/Fantasy with swashbuckling action, and irreverent humor; combined with a bizarre soundtrack full of 1970's pop-music.
While characters such as Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor have earned their place in pop-culture for the last 50 years, this team is relatively "new" to the Marvel Universe. The original Guardians of the Galaxy appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, 1969 with heroes such as Major Victory, Starhawk, and Yondu. Although they remained a third-string team through much of their history, appearing alongside other major Marvel heroes such as The Avengers, they finally managed to get their own title in 1990 until it was cancelled in 1995. This Guardians however, is NOT that team! This newer Guardians of the Galaxy team first appeared in 2008 formed in the aftermath of the Annihilation: Conquest story-line in Marvel comics, shortly before the Disney acquisition of Marvel Comics. The current team in the comics includes Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon & Groot, along with Quasar and Adam Warlock. For the movie's sake, Warlock and Quasar, not to mention Nova, are not present, which leaves room for their appearance (no doubt) in Guardians 2? [Minor Spoilers]: This movie finally features a full (although brief) appearance from the cosmic villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who appeared in the end-credits of Avengers (2012), and also an appearance from The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) who made an appearance in the end-credits in Thor: The Dark World (2013). A few surprising guest appearances in this movie as other minor characters including Glenn Close as Nova Prime, John C. Reily as Corpsman Dey and Michael Rooker as Yondu. While it seemed unbelievable that a talking fully-CG Raccoon could convince an audience and become a fan favorite was a stroke of genius with the combination of state-of-the-art CGI technology and Bradley Cooper's comic talent. Also, despite Groot's three-word vocabulary: "I AM GROOT!", this seemingly one dimensional (or "wooden") character voiced by action-star Vin Diesel, is the source of much of the pathos in the team. While actress Zoe Saldana is often comfortable in Sci-Fi franchises (Star Trek) as well as colorful-skinned aliens (Avatar), she holds her own as a strong and complicated woman. While there are few differences from the comic book, one most crucial being that making Star-Lord a space-pirate and not the interplanetary policeman he was meant to be.
Full of Sci-Fi/Fantasy action, humor, and wonder, Guardians of the Galaxy is a new and impressive addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe which, although has been growing in popularity, has also been suffering from lack-luster sequels to make way for their bigger titles while still mired in legal mumbo-jumbo between Disney, Sony and 20th Century Fox on the rest of their comic properties. When Guardians was first announced, I admit, I was not very impressed; convinced that Marvel had finally reached the bottom of the barrel on characters NOT owned by other studios. And along with the controversy from Ant-Man (2015) director Edgar Wright dropping out of the scene, it seemed that Marvel had hit a huge speed-bump. Despite a lack of a clear plot, whether it is the unique combination of colorful characters, tongue-in-cheek humor, Sci-Fi action and special effects, Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly fun and entertaining movie, plain and simple. While Sony still clings to the Spider-Man franchise, and Fox runs the X-Men franchise into the ground, Marvel is still at the top of the blockbuster game, and until the fanboys (like myself) are satiated until Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out in 2015, Guardians of the Galaxy is number one (for now), having already earned $94 million in its first week!
LINKS:, Official Guardians Movie Website, Marvel Wikia

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Comic-Con 2014: Top 10 Upcoming Events

It's Comic-Con time again! The International Comic Con happened in San Diego this weekend and bringing with it even more previews and news of some of the biggest pop-culture events coming in the next few years! Hollywood and TV have dominated Comic-Con over the last decade and there is no lack of big announcements from movies and TV projects. Last year I posted about the upcoming events announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, so I thought I would follow up with this years events. CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: Comic-Con 2014: Top 10 Upcoming Events! Enjoy!

#10 Interstellar (2014) - Christopher Nolan directs a new science-fiction epic starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway where a group of explorers discover a wormhole in space that allows them to travel the furthest reaches of space.
#9 Godzilla 2 (2017?) - Director Gareth Edwards unveiled his plans for the sequel to this years Godzilla reboot and rumors circulate of the appearances of even more kaiju monsters!
#8 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - Director George Miller previewed his new Mad Max reboot/sequel starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
#7 Wonder Woman (2017?) - DC has announced that the Amazon warrior, played by Gal Gadot, will finally make it to theaters despite her failed TV series. Wonder Woman will soon join Batman and Superman in a rumored Justice League movie!
#6 The Walking Dead: Season 5 (October 2014) - The remaining survivors have made it to "Terminus" and it's not what they expected!
#5 Ant-Man (2015) - Director Peyton Reed brings the newest Marvel hero movie to the screen (after Edgar Wright dropped out), starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.
#4 Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) - Director Zack Snyder returns with a DC heroe extravaganza with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, also rumored as Aquaman, Jason Mamoa!
#3 DC Comics TV Series (2014) - While Marvel has dominated the big screen, DC has taken over the small screen with continuing their highly acclaimed Arrow series with Season 3, and announcing the premieres this Fall for three more DC inspired titles including Gotham, The Flash, and Constantine!
#2 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) - The finale to Peter Jackson's (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) Hobbit Trilogy comes to an epic conclusion with the dwarves battling to reclaim the Lonely Mountain as fending off all of Middle Earth from their home and Bilbo caught up in the middle of it all!
#1 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - Director Joss Whedon returns to direct the sequel to his 2012 superhero epic! The team lead by Nick Fury including Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye, with new additions Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), (and possibly The Vision!) reunite to battle Ultron (James Spader/Andy Serkis?)!

Monday, July 14, 2014

TV Review: The Strain

The horror/thriller genre is on the rise on prime-time Cable TV with the success of series like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. The newest series, The Strain, which premiered Sunday, July 13th on the FX Network, is based on the horror/thriller novel series written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.The Strain explores the age-old vampire genre with a modern virus-outbreak twist. It promises to be the newest Sunday night thrill, possibly even competing with the return of AMC's The Walking Dead in October.
When a Boeing 777 from Berlin to New York goes dark on the runway at JFK airport, the authorities contact Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the CDC team in New York City to investigate. Along with his partners Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro) and Jim Kent (Sean Astin) the team find all but four out of over 200 passengers alive on the plane that died from an unknown biological agent. The team also discover a strange, large, carved, wooden box in the cargo hold filled with soil. The only explanation come from the supposed ravings of an elderly pawn-shop owner named Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) with talk of vampires! In the next 24 hours Dr. Goodweather and his team will come face-to-face with the most virulent plague in the history of the world that threatens to destroy the entire human race!
Writer/director Guillermo del Toro and author Chuck Hogan serve as both co-creators, executive producers and writers for The Strain, also co-writing the pilot script for the show, which was also directed by del Toro. Emmy Award winning writer and producer Carlton Cuse (Bates MotelLost) serves as executive producer and writer. The Strain is a "high-concept thriller" based on the trilogy of books which have already gained popularity and even a series of comic book adaptations from Dark Horse Comics. Director Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to the vampire genre with his films such as Blade II (2002) and Cronos (1993) and bringing the new virology element to the vampire myth. So far, the show follows the books fairly closely however there are a few added elements to the characters as well as the plot and a somewhat lack of attention to the solar eclipse which occurs in the beginning of the first book yet has little to no mention in the first show other than a brief glimpse of an advertisement in the airport. The casting for The Strain compliments both their book versions as well as their comic book adaptations. While the surprising casting of Sean Astin as Jim Kent, a somewhat minor character in the book, may reveal a possible stronger role in the TV series. The major focus of the virus outbreak is on the mysterious "blood worms" which appear in much of the shows promotional material, which from a fan's point-of-view of the books, appear much bigger than they seemed in the books. The brief yet satisfying glimpse of 'The Master', the head vampire, is equally impressive and terrifying along with the character of Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) is a perfect match. With the modern setting of the series mixed with the fascination of vampires provides a fresh view on the vampire genre which has been redundantly dominated by the more teenage/sparkly variety of vamp from the popularity of the Twilight books and movies, as well as in TV with shows like The Vampire Diaries and it's spin-off The Originals. As a fan of the books and comics, I've been looking forward to the premiere of The Strain for quite a while now, and upon seeing the Pilot, I have no doubt that this series will soon take off and add a whole new level of terror and anticipation to Sunday prime-time! The Strain has spread...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review - Transformers: Age of Extinction

Just when you thought the Transformers franchise had come to an end with Dark of the Moon (2011), the master of slow-motion explosions, director Michael Bay, returns with Transformers: Age of Extinction! Longer, darker and with even bigger Transformers than ever seen before, Age of Extinction is the fourth in the franchise of Transformers movies which began in 2007. With the trilogy ended, so did the involvement of actor Shia LeBeouf, who starred as Sam Witwicky in the first three Transformers movies. Age of Extinction takes place several years after the events of Dark of the Moon, dubbed the "Battle of Chicago", where the Transformers have now become public knowledge and are now feared and hunted down by the government. Particularly one Black Ops team known as KSI, led by CIA Agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), is in charge of destroying both Autobots and Decepticons, having allied themselves with a group of ruthless Transformer bounty-hunters led by Lockdown (voiced by Mark Ryan). Along with the government's involvement, a wealthy techno-industrialist Joshua Joyce's (Stanley Tucci) company is developing their own Transformers reverse-engineered from the captured remnants of the Transformers to build Stinger and Galvatron (voiced by Frank Welker)! Meanwhile, in rural Texas, Cade Yaeger (Mark Wahlberg), an unemployed salvager and robotics inventor has found what is left of Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) after a battle which left him nonfunctional. As Cade tries to repair Optimus, the government becomes aware of Optimus' location and send the Black Ops team to destroy him. Now Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her boyfriend Jack (Shane Dyson) are on the run with Optimus to try and find what is left of the Autobots and stop Lockdown!
Along with Autobot favorite Bumblebee, there a few new additions to the Transformers roster including original G1 favorite Hound (voiced by John Goodman), the samurai-bot Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (voiced by John DiMaggio) not to mention this movies biggest surprise is the inclusion of the Dinobots, (fan-favorites from the cartoon/toys) including Grimlock! Despite all the violence, explosions, exotic locations (Hong Kong) and all-out Autobot-action, this movie seemed to be a much more satisfying successor to the last few Transformers movies, especially the disappointing sequel Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Aside from the obvious improvements, this movie however has a very ominous and darker tone than the other movies some of the humor that pervades the movies is lessened somewhat in favor of a much grittier feel as the Transformers, particularly the Autobots were regarded as heros in the others, now they are fugitives! Even Optimus Prime, whose character has always been the honorable, stalwart protector has been defeated both physically and in spirit that he has become an angry killer, bent on revenge for his fallen comrades. The dark/violent atmosphere is present in the more-violent battles, and the surprising repetition of lines like "I'm going to kill you!" and "Die!" from Optimus himself! While it is understandable how Optimus must feel after the literal genocide of his Autobot allies, it is to some extreme how his character has changed drastically. As for fan-service the inclusion of the Dinobots (which I myself have been looking forward to seeing ever since the trailer: Optimus riding Grimlock! Awesome!) is very satisfying as well as the inclusion of celebrity voices like John Goodman and Ken Watanabe in the cast. The biggest surprise was the return of famous voice actor Frank Welker to the Transformers cast who was the voice of Megatron in the cartoons (in the last three movies Megatron was voiced by actor Hugo Weaving) now as Galvatron, ironically played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1986 animated movie, who voiced in Sentinel Prime in Dark of the Moon. While I am pleased to no longer have to see Shia's hyperactive screaming on screen I was not too excited to have Marky Mark be the new human star of the Transformers franchise for his former failures in movies like Planet of the Apes (2001), The Happening and Ted, he has more popular screen credits than Shia anyway. Overall Age of Extinction is an impressive, action-packed, special-effects nightmare, thrill ride! As a fan of the Transformers since my childhood in the 80's I can see these movies not as the over-budgeted, CGI-crazy blockbusters that they are and relish in the pure fun and excitement that my inner child and adult self can enjoy and have fun watching them.I still smile every time I see a Transformer transform, and I cheer quietly to myself when I see Optimus defeat a Decepticon. While the success of these films may vary from movie to movie and Michael Bay enjoys the mixed criticisms of his film franchise, I will still keep wanting to come back to see them. (unless he tries to kill off Optimus again!)

LINKS:, Hasbro, BotCon

Monday, June 23, 2014

25th Anniversary of Batman (1989)

Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic superhero/comic book movies ever made. Batman (1989) changed the way superhero and comic book movies were seen and started off a whole new era of "Batmania!" Batman (1989) was released on June 23, 1989 through Warner Bros. Pictures. Directed by Tim Burton, it starred Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger. Like Superman (1978) before it, Batman had a big budget, experienced director, Hollywood star quality celebrities and gritty, realistic edge that audiences could relate to. Gone were the 60's era campy action, Batman would return to his darker roots. I consider this movie to be one of my favorite movies of all time, as it would come to define my childhood and teenage years and inspire my already fervent love for comic books and superheroes. I had watched the Saturday morning cartoons (Super Friends, Super Powers) and watched reruns of the 1960's TV show of my Dad's generation. But when I first saw this Batman in the Summer of 1989, around my 10th birthday, from that day on, I was a "Bat-Fan" and this was MY Batman!
Joker & Batman
My family have always loved movies, already a fan of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek movies, and the like. To celebrate mine and my Mom's birthday (3 days apart) my parents and I decided to have a movie marathon at one of our local movie theaters. That Saturday we watched some of the biggest movies of the Summer all in one Saturday (at that time movie tickets were about $3 or $4) including: Ghostbusters II, Star Trek V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and of course, Batman!
Little did I know, I was already a fan of Tim Burton's films, having little awareness of director's and actor's involvement with movies. I had enjoyed his previous films Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988). I even recognized Michael Keaton from one of my parent's favorite comedies Mr. Mom (1983) however, I had not seen some of the more mature movies that Jack Nicholson was famous for like One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (1975) and The Shining (1980). I can remember before the movie was released, critics and people were talking how Michael Keaton was a poor choice to play the Dark Knight and it had been announced that Robin Williams was set to play the Joker.
I was engrossed in the dark tone of the story, the action, the excitement, Batman's cool gadgets, and of course: The Batmobile! The new Joker was scary and deeply disturbing, no longer the mustachioed and hyperactive Caesar Romero of the 60's, this Joker had a more sinister edge and made me wonder if there were really people like that who killed people for fun. Clowns already scared me and I admit to this day, I have never seen Stephen King's IT in it's entirety. The music was a big part of the experience, and with Danny Elfman's powerful and haunting, bellicose theme, I was drawn into to the action. I think the biggest reason this Batman still resonates today after 25 years is it's originality and timelessness of the movie. Although the additional 80's music by Prince dates it horribly, much of the movie seems to jump right out of the 1940's comic books. It has a noir feel to it as a lot of the characters, detectives and gangsters even wear suits and trench-coats. The city is dark and gritty, with a Gothic style of architecture to it, thanks to Tim Burton's style and production designer Anton Furst. While a lot of the technology Batman uses is also very dated, it remains a very small part of the movie. At the time I had no idea what liberties Burton had taken with Batman's origins and looking back, the choice to make Joker aka  Jack Napier, his parent's killer was interesting yet confusing. Batman (1989) still remains my favorite Batman movie, while the franchise declined after Joel Schumacher destroyed it, the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy has brought it back up to it's level, but in my opinion will never truly surpass the 1989 film.
"Batman is very extreme and I love extreme characters. A man who dresses up as a bat and his arch rival who is transformed into a clown are very popular images and one of the reasons why Batman remains so popular. Batman is not a super-hero, he's not a guy from another planet. So I like to take a straightforward approach and just present it." - Tim Burton

LINKS: Batman DC Comics, Batman Official Facebook, Batman on Warner Bros.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th: Top 10 Jason Voorhees

It's Friday the 13th and you know what that means...Friday the 13th Marathon! The Friday the 13th slasher-horror franchise has been scaring audiences (and murdering teenagers!) for the last 34 years! While everyone has their favorite movie or scene, only the hardcore fans have their favorite Jason Voorhees...and that's why this Friday the 13th CHERNOBOG'S BLOG celebrates the men (and boys) who portrayed the machete-wielding, hockey-mask wearing, (and possibly misunderstood) mass-murderer. CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: Friday the 13th - Top 10 Jason Voorhees!

#10 C.J. Graham - C.J. was the 6th actor to play Jason in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986). C.J. also appears in flashback footage in Part VII and a short entitled Jason Vs. Leatherface (2003).
#9 Ted White -As one of the many actors who played Jason in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) he was also uncredited and according to Fangoria magazine, the role made him feel "uneasy", thus he insisted his name be removed from the credits. He went on to appear in other popular 1980's movies Tron (1982) and Starman (1984).
#8 Richard Brooker -  Richard was discovered in a casting magazine called "Dramalogue" and became the first Jason to wear the iconic hockey mask in the originally 3-D, Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)!
#7 Warrington Gillette -  As the second actor to play Jason Voorhees, he originally auditioned for the roll of Paul in Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) but director Steve Miner was impressed with him and offered him the part of Jason instead. Although he is credited as Jason, he only appeared in the final scene when he jumps through the window.
#6 Tom MorgaFriday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985) Tom portrayed Jason (uncredited) during flashbacks and was also the stunt-double for Dick Wieand who played Roy, the copycat killer.
#5 Steve Dash (aka Steve Daskawisz) - While he is technically the third actor to play Jason, Steve appeared in most of Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) except for the final scene which was played and credited to Warrington Gillette.
#4 Derek Mears - The latest addition to the Voorhees brotherhood and 8th actor to portray Jason, Derek appeared in the 2009 remake/reboot Friday the 13th starring Jared Padalecki (Supernatural).
#3 Ken Kirzinger - In 2003, New Line Cinema pitted their two horror franchises against each other in the ultimate heavy-weight fight that is Freddy Vs. Jasondirected by Hong Kong action filmmaker Ronny Yu . At 6'5", Ken is the tallest actor to play Jason and rumor has it, appeared in full costume at a dentist's office to have dental work done. At the end of the film (among the many proposed alternate endings) Jason emerges from Crystal Lake victorious, holding the decapitated head of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), although he winks at the camera as a send off being his final performance as Freddy!
#2 Ari Lehman - Friday the 13th (1980) First in the Top 10 Jason's is the boy, who at the age of 14 played the role of the first Jason Voorhees whose brief appearance in the surprise ending of the film left the audience both in terror and wonder. As of 2009 Ari performs with his horror rock band "First Jason".
#1  Kane Hodder - The most popular Jason Voorhees, Kane has played Jason in four films including Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993) and Jason X (2001). Fun Fact: Kane also appeared as Jason on an episode of The Arsenio Hall Show in 1989.
BONUS: Jason Voorhees Body Count = 167 people!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Star Wars Weekends 2014

Another Summer, another Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios! This was my 5th time to experience Star Wars Weekends since my first in 2008. Every year seems to get better and better with more guests, more events, and even more surprises! This years' theme "Join The Rebellion" coincided with the announcement of Disney XD's newest animated series Star Wars Rebels, premiering this Fall. Leading up to Star Wars Weekends, Disney hosted an exclusive Rebel Rendezvous on May 15th to give fans an early preview of Star Wars Weekends merchandise available! Although Star Wars Weekends takes place from May 16 to June 15 this year, I was only able to go to the parks on May 23-25. Hosted by James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Clone Wars) this weekends guests featured Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ashoka Tano on Clone Wars), also Warwick Davis (Wicket (Ewok) Star Wars Eps. VI), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett, Star Wars Eps. V & VI) and Tiya Sircar (voice of Sabine Wren, Star Wars Rebels). I got to meet Jeremy Bulloch and got a picture and autograph from Boba Fett himself! Since the acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney has some big plans for Star Wars but it has very little affect on the already successful Star Wars fan event. If anything, we shall no doubt see even more additions and special events to future Star Wars Weekends. One of the biggest draws for Star Wars fans and Disney collectors alike is of course all of the exclusive merchandise available at "Darth's Mall". Some of this year's items included special pin lanyards that look like the medals Luke and Han (but not Chewbacca!) were awarded in Eps. IV. Also available at "Ackbar's Snackbar" were limited edition Darth Vader popcorn buckets and Stormtrooper mugs, (which unfortunately sold-out very quickly!). One of the most unique additions to this year's Star Wars Weekends was through the augmented reality app Aurasma where you can view special animations and videos just by scanning certain images on Star Wars Weekends merchandise.
Surprisingly, Disney added another weekend  to Star Wars Weekends which featured a VERY special celebrity guest: Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamil from June 6-8. Also appearing was Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Ray Park (Darth Maul, Eps. I) and Taylor Gray (voice of Ezra Bridger, Star Wars Rebels).
Unfortunately, I was unable to go to this weekends' event. The unfortunate thing about Star Wars Weekends is they don't announce the weekends where specific celebrities are scheduled to appear until only a few weeks before the event which makes vacation planning for those who live in other states virtually impossible and only the luck of the draw (or belief in the Force!) will you be able to see the celebrities you want. I had already met Warwick Davis in a previous events along with Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Ray Park. Star Wars Weekends has many events and special shows to see during the weekend including Legends of the Force: Celebrity Motorcade, the Padawan Mind Challenge, celebrity talk-shows, and more! Not to mention the other Star Wars events available year-round such as the Star Tours ride and the Jedi Training Academy. Possibly the best event for this years Star Wars Weekends was the addition of a nightly music and fireworks show called "Symphony in the Stars", which was an impressive and wonderful end to Star Wars Weekends!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Blockbusters: May Reviews

The Summer Blockbusters have arrived!!! Every month in Summer holds more excitement and hype that my movie reviews can't be contained in just one blog entry, so I've decided to give each month it's due with brief reviews of my favorites. Let's kick-off the Summer with May's releases: Enjoy!

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)- Directed by Mark Webb, this squeal to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man establishes the new franchise trilogy with Andrew Garfield as the new "Amazing" Spider-Man! This movie sees the return to the classic Spider-Man costume instead of the more "modern" costume in the last movie. As Peter Parker graduates High School, he is kindling his relationship with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) while still trying to be a superhero, while he's haunted by the death of Gwen's father Captain Stacey (Denis Leary) at the hands (or claws) of The Lizard, who Peter promised to leave alone! This new movie introduces a new villain Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, as Max Dillon, a socially awkward and eccentric electrical engineer at OSCORP, who's obsessed with Spider-Man, after being saved by Spider-Man from a speeding armored truck, he later falls in a tank of electric eels and becomes Electro, able to absorb and project large amounts of (blue) electricity! Thinking Spider-Man either tricked him or forgot about him in his deranged mind he goes on a rampage sucking power from New York City. Meanwhile, Peter's childhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns as his father Norman Osborn lays dying from a mysterious disease, and it just so happens that Harry is also afflicted with the disease that coincidentally Peter's father was working on a cure before he disappeared! As Peter and Harry both realize the only thing that can possibly cure Harry is Peter's spider-infected blood, Peter has to decide whether or not to risk his secret identity which may or may not save his friends life! With this movie we've started off the multiple villains angle way to early as we deal mostly with Electro throughout the movie we are introduced to new villains including the new Green Goblin and a few brief cameos (which I will not spoil) leading into the next movie. Overall Electro makes for a weak addition to the new Spider-Man franchise. While many fans including myself were disappointed with the Lizard in the last one, it seems the movies have begun to dig at the bottom of the barrel for Spider-Man villains, while Spider-Man has always been known for his colorful rogue's gallery, yet not too many of them could possibly carry an entire movie. That is why the next logical step would be to introduce many villains in the next movie, namely "The Sinister Six". While this seems promising for my fellow Spidey "fanboys" out there, it doesn't necessarily lend itself to a good movie. When is more villains, too many, when we introduce too many characters we become Batman & Robin (1997), lets not forget it hasn't been that long since the disaster that was Spider-Man 3 (2006).

GODZILLA (2014) - When news first came out of the new Godzilla movie, fans were both excited and skeptical, since the epic-failure of 1998's Godzilla directed by Roland Emmerich and the 2004 release of Godzilla: Final Wars, marking Godzilla's 50th Anniversary, it seemed that a new Godzilla would never be made. Through all the pre-production and production difficulties, it was finally announced that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. with rookie director Gareth Edwards (Monsters (2010) would bring Godzilla back from the depths. While the movie appears like a Godzilla reboot it actually draws upon previous Godzilla films and story-lines making it seem relevant to the long tradition including a reference to a discovery of a large creature in the Pacific Ocean in 1954 and the discovery of a colossal skeleton in a mine in the Philippines in 1999. While many Godzilla movies feature a seemingly unbeatable Kaiju monster, which no one can defeat except of course for Godzilla, who,  throughout his long 60 year history went from nature-avenging destructor to civilization-saving hero! The movie begins with tragedy at the Janjira nuclear plant in Japan where a supposed meltdown attributed to an earthquake is the cause of a area-wide quarantine. Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife in the disaster and feels guilty for sending her to his death. 15-years later, Joe is still trying to uncover the conspiracy of the disaster. After having been arrested for trespassing his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a Navy EOD now living in San Francisco with his family, goes to Japan to bailout his father. There Joe and Ford attempt to return to Janjira and uncover the truth. As they are captured (again), we also meet Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who studied the skeleton in 1999 and reveals that the disaster was caused by an unknown creature designated MUTO, now hibernating but coincidentally is awakened and wreaks havoc on Hawaii. Suddenly Godzilla appears and battles the creature however we learn there is yet another creature in Nevada, which destroys Las Vegas. The showdown with two MUTOs and Godzilla occurs in San Francisco Bay and if you've seen at least a few of the 30 Godzilla movies over the years, you know what happens. The initial appearance of Godzilla is somewhat anti-climactic and it seems as though the focus of the film is more about the MUTOs than Godzilla? If the producers of the film had gone with tradition and made just "another" Godzilla film it wouldn't have held up to the hype. More fitting it should've been called "Godzilla VS. MUTO" (or vice versa) and not just simply Godzilla. In the end, it remains just another mediocre Godzilla movie with very little originality besides the redesign of the creature and being an American production. While it is fun and entertaining to finally see a new Godzilla movie after waiting a decade, it remains somewhat of a disappointment. In the words of a good friend of mine: "Only Japanese people should be allowed to make a Godzilla movie!" (Thanks!)

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) - While the X-Men franchise has had it's ups (X2, First Class) and downs (X-Men 3, Origins: Wolverine) over the years, the franchise has finally come to it's ultimate apex with the original franchise along with the prequel franchise coming together in one explosive finale!  Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise after abandoning it for Superman Returns (2006) and leaving us with Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) Thanks (NOT!) "Loosely" based on the 1981 story-line written by Chris Claremont with art by John Byrne, Days of Future Past takes place both in the Past, Present and Future of the X-Men cinematic universe. In the near future, the world is a much darker place, giant robotic Sentinels hunt-down and destroy the last remaining mutants as they make their last stand to ultimately change the past and thus remake their future. With new additions to their fighting force Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Storm (Halle Berry), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) together again with Magneto (Ian McKellen) to fight a common enemy! The plan is to send Wolverine's mind (with the aide of Kitty's new and unexplained powers) back in time to 1973 to stop the assassination of Bolivar (Peter Dinklage) Trask, (a scientists who created the Sentinels) by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) aka Raven. Wolverine wakes up in the past and has to convince the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to help him stop the assassination. first they have to break young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) out of a highly secured prison under the Pentagon with the help of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). The fate of the past and future comes together in an epic battle for the ages! Some of the newer additions to the mutant menagerie in this movie (however brief) is Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (BingBing Fan),  Sunspot (Adan Canto) and Warpath (BooBoo Stewart). The newest mutant to create controversy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is of course Quicksilver, while having a small part in this movie is a big part of X-Men history, but who will also be appearing in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron (also the end-credits stinger at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier) played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)! Although not as faithful to the comic books, Days of Future Past functions as a proverbial reset button to the errors of the franchise. With the convenience of time travel, it causes major effects on the story and characters in the franchise which will be revealed in the end. Overall it is an impressive and intense turning-point within the X-Men movies (which remain a property of 20th Century Fox!). Be sure to stay for the end-credits for what could quite possibly be THE most epic moment in X-Men movie history, equal to the Thanos reveal at the end of Avengers!