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!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Star Wars Day 2014: Top 10 Favorite Things About Star Wars!

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You! To Celebrate this year's Star Wars Day, I thought about why I love Star Wars and how it is so much a part of my life. I'll admit it: I am obsessed with Star Wars! I can't imagine my life without it, just sitting here typing and I look around me and I realize just how much Star Wars stuff I have and what it means to me. So this year in honor of Star Wars Day, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG PRESENTS: TOP 10 FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT STAR WARS! Enjoy!

#10 Toys - Star Wars changed the face of toys and action figures forever. Back in 1977 before anybody had ever heard of merchandising for movies, George Lucas capitalized on the licensing and merchandising rights for his new movie franchise and made a fortune. When the movie first came out there wasn't much in the way of toys until Kenner produced the "Early Bird Certificate Package" which gave kids the chance to send away for the action figures before they were ever released. With the success of the Star Wars, Kenner produced thousands of toys, action figures, vehicles, and play-sets for Star Wars and many other franchises until the company closed in 2000 and merged with Hasbro. As an only child of the 1980's, I was deeply into Star Wars toys along with G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Masters of the Universe. Of course, my collection of Star Wars toys grew in large thanks to the "spoiling"  of my parents and grandparents.

#9 Role-playing Games (RPG) - With the success of book/table-top RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons during the 1980's, in 1987 West End Games produced a series of RPG books set in the Star Wars Universe which included several source books and adventure guides. Later in 2000, Wizards of the Coast received the licensing to produce a new series of RPG books until 2012 when Fantasy Flight Games produced a new version called Edge of the Empire.

#8  Board Games - Star Wars has inspired some of the best board games over the years starting with the classics 'Escape from Death Star Game', 'Jedi Master Game' and 'Battle At Sarlac's Pit Game'. Over the last few decades there has been an increase in many different licensed board games such as Monopoly, Risk, Stratego, Trouble, Battleship, and even Operation! My personal favorite is the Trivial Pursuit Star Wars Classic Trilogy Collector's Edition with R2-D2 timer!

#7  Art - The art of Star Wars is what really gave it's universe meaning from the first design sketches to the fully painted designs of artist Ralph McQuarrie. His paintings and designs made Star Wars what it is today and not to mention all of the other artists and designers of Lucasfilm who have added to his legacy. Also credited for much of the Star Wars poster art is artist Drew Struzan, who is also known for more than 150 famous movie posters including Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Rambo.

#6  Video Games - Video games have always been a big part of Star Wars with the very first classic arcade game in 1983 to the Star Wars Trilogy arcade game in 1998. Other games have included many different titles on both video game consoles and PC including popular titles as Dark Forces, The Force Unleashed, Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront, even LEGO Star Wars and my current favorite (and addiction), Star Wars: The Old Republic (a.k.a. SWTOR)!

#5 Television - Star Wars have been featured on TV in several spin-offs and series starting with the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978 to the short-lived Droids and Ewoks cartoon series from 1985 to 1986 during my childhood. To promote the release of Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Cartoon Network produced a series of shorts entitled Star Wars: Clone Wars from 2003 to 2005, created by Genndy Tartakovsky. Recently there was a huge following for the Emmy Award winning Cartoon Network animated series The Clone Wars which ran for five seasons from 2008 to 2013, prompted by a 2008 full-length CG animated movie. Currently the sixth season dubbed "The Lost Missions" are now available on Netflix. Next fall, Disney XD will be premiering a new series Star Wars Rebels, set between the events of Ep.III and IV featuring new heroes and villains!

#4 Comic Books - The Star Wars comic books have been around almost as long as the movies, first with the Marvel Comics series from 1977 to 1986 and lasting 107 issues. In 1991 Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise and began a long run of titles featuring many different story lines within the Extended Universe. I remember reading several of the original comics and especially as I got into comic collecting more of the Dark Horse titles, particularly Dark Empire, Tales of the Jedi and Shadows of the Empire. As the Dark Horse Comics era comes to an end, it was announced in 2013 that Lucasfilm and Marvel Comics were reuniting and will begin publishing new comics in 2015! See Timeline of Comics

#3 Books - The first novelization of Star Wars was published in 1976 as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker although credited as written by George Lucas, it was actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster from Lucas' original script. Foster would later go on to publish the first Extended Universe novel in 1978, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. As the popularity for Star Wars books increased a book series featuring Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in their own adventures. In 1991, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn was published beginning the immensely-popular "Thrawn Trilogy". Since then, the Star Wars legacy has continued with hundreds of novels featuring stories from the ever-expanding universe with new books.

#2 Music - Without the music of John Williams, the Star Wars films would be an entirely different experience! When director Steven Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas to score his 1977 film Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope), who knew how much of an impact a musical score would have on the reception of the film. Both the film and it's soundtrack were incredibly successful and it remains to this day the highest grossing music recording of all-time, earning Williams an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Williams also scored Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) completing the original trilogy. Both scores earned him Academy Award Nominations. Then in 1999, Williams was asked to score all three of the prequel films including Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). While Williams' musical legacy continues in other popular films, other composers have credited his influence for their own music including composer Kevin Kiner for his work on the themes for Star Wars: the Clone Wars.

#1 Movies - On May 25, 1977, the world of movies changed forever with the premiere of Star Wars (also later known as Episode IV: A New Hope)! Creator/writer/director George Lucas took his influences from the films and serials he loved as a child and his studies in film-school to create a new, epic, space-opera. Star Wars broke box-office records and became one of the first modern blockbuster films and remains one of the most financially successful films franchises of all time! I consider myself a 2nd Generation Star Wars fan as I was born shortly after the initial release of the first film. I can recall seeing the first two movies at home either on TV, early VHS and Laserdisc. One of my favorite earliest memories is seeing Return of the Jedi at one of the few remaining local Drive-In theaters around the age of four and I have been obsessed with Star Wars from then on. I watched, played, read, slept on (sheets), ate (Star Wars cereal) and basically lived Star Wars my whole life! I was not overly-excited to be present at the opening of Episode I as so many of my fellow fans were and much to my dismay, shared in their disappointment. My original preconceptions of the prequel trilogy have changed over time and I have learned to come to terms with my love/hate relationship with the Special Editions of the original trilogy as well as the prequels. As news of Episode VII continues to increase, my thoughts and feelings are conflicted as to the future of my beloved Star Wars. As I'm not very fond of director J.J. Abrams due to his questionable reboot of the Star Trek franchise, however, when Episode VII is released I will be there waiting with millions of fans despite my expectations.
Thank you! "May the Force be With you!"

LINKS: Star Wars Official Site