Star-Lord and Rocket

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

30th Anniversary of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK



Aw yeah. My favorite of all the Star Wars films.I can't believe it's been 30 years. Time has flown by. I just recently re-watched the original trilogy a few months ago and yes, they still rock. They make the prequels look very lame. So what if the new films have all the nifty new special effects and gadgets, they can't hold a candle to the originals. Star Wars just blew the doors off everyone's idea of an exciting new kind of sci-fi film and then The Empire Strikes Back went all dark with the rebels on the run, Vader chasing Luke, Han being wanted by Jabba's relentless bounty hunter Boba Fett. Empire also introduced some great new characters to the Star Wars universe like Yoda, Lando, The Emperor himself and the aforementioned Boba Fett. Also had the terrific battle scene on the ice planet Hoth. The pursuit of the Millenium Falcon by Imperial forces through an asteroid belt. The back and forth banter between Han and Leia. Luke's training under Yoda and then his eventful face off with Vader. A lot happens in this movie and it actually improves on A New Hope in every way. It's ironic that Lucas didn't even direct Empire, that task fell to Irvin Kershner, who did one hell of a job. And the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan is epic worthy. Empire manages to combine elements of drama, romance, adventure, humor and more into a satisfying science fiction film. Empire is one of my Top 5 favorite films of all time. From the very first time I saw this as a teen-ager it has been that way, and I don't think that will ever change. No matter how many times George Lucas wants to change or edit his films, he can't mess over what is a true classic. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Recently Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on the 30th anniversary of the film and previewing a new book called The Making of The Empire Strikes Back due in stores October 2010. Check out the cool previously unseen pics here in this post.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hero Worship in June

June promises to be my best month yet. Why you ask? Because my star of the month is none other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Sarah is one of my favorite actresses of all time and Buffy is my favorite show ever. I will post pics and fun stuff about Sarah all month long, and breakdown Buffy season by season over the course of the year. I will start with season 1 next month. So if all the Twilight fans think their series is the cat's meow, then they need to check out Buffy and it's equally cool spin-off Angel. And also to keep in tune with the vampire theme, will do a spotlight on my other favorite show that is returning in June...True Blood. Can't wait to see how this new vampire queen, Sophie, mixes things up.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Retro Goodness - The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) is old school fantasy

Just re-watched this fantasy film and it still holds up today. Some may scoff and call it a cheese fest, but it's one of my favorites. I remember seeing this movie for the first time at age 13 and I thought it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. A swaggering hero, a totally evil bad guy, a  hot princess, a bad ass weapon called the Tri-Sword equals awesomeness! Released at the height of sword and sorcery popularity of the 80's alongside Conan, Krull, and The Beastmaster. While Conan is more loved by the fans, The Sword and the Sorcerer is a fun filled fantasy adventure with a style all it's own.

Popular screen baddie Richard Lynch is wonderfully wicked as King Cromwell, who raises the sorcerer Xusia (a heavily made up Richard Moll) from the dead to help him defeat his enemies to become the one true king of the known civilized world. Cromwell does succeed in killing King Richard and his wife but their young son Talon manages to escape. Now as the one king, Cromwell betrays Xusia and tries to kill him before the sorcerer leaps to his apparent death off a mountainside. Cut to years later as Talon, who has eluded Cromwell's soldiers, returns to this land for some payback. Talon is played terrifically by 80's TV star Lee Horsley and he comes across as a medieval Han Solo. Talon carries the awesome weapon, the tri-sword. It fires detachable blades from it's handle which comes in handy on several occasions during the movie. It's such a cool weapon. Talon rescues a princess named Alana from some of Cromwell's soldiers. Alana is played by the American born but exotic looking Kathleen Beller. Alana has a special knack for getting out of situations involving unsavory men. Let me just say it doesn't feel good to get hit in this area if you're a man. Alana recruits Talon to rescue her brother Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale from TV's Manimal) who is held prisoner in Cromwell's dungeons. Talon accepts and does free Mikah but is captured himself after a frenetic chase and battle with Cromwell's soldiers and then Cromwell himself. This scene has much derring do that will remind you of those days of Errol Flynn.

In the meantime Xusia makes his move on Cromwell seeking much sought after revenge. Oh and Alana is captured herself and is forced to marry Cromwell. Everything will come to a thrilling climax with sword fights, damsels in distress, magic, a prisoners escape, tongue in cheek humor and a final battle between Talon and Cromwell that is pure bliss. Topped off with a rousing music score. The main negative is that this is a low budget film and it shows in several scenes, but I think most people will bypass that and still enjoy this film. The entire cast is great, especially Lynch and Horsley. Their characters despise each other so much that it makes for a wonderful conflict. Horsley gets to do all kinds of heroic things even though he is a bit of a scoundrel ala Han Solo. He also gets to spout some cool one liners. Lynch is in full scenery chewing mode but doesn't go over the top. He relishes the part of the villainous Cromwell. Beller is also good as Alana and quite fetching. In fact there is plenty of eye candy on display with several scenes of scantily clad women and some all nude. It's never gratuitous though. And the violence while exciting is never graphic or excessive like the first Conan film was. A special shout out to actress Anna Bjorn who plays the servant girl Elizabeth in a memorable if all too brief role. She is a woman worth dying for as she comes across so compassionate and understanding. Also look out for Joe Regalbuto(from TV's Murphy Brown) as Darius, Talon's second in command. He oozes sarcasm throughout the whole movie, but he is also handy with a battle axe.

The Sword and The Sorcerer is a cool movie with no pretensions or delusions of grandeur. Just good escapist and thrilling fun.
B

Side note: There was supposed to be a sequel called Tales of the Ancient Empire almost immediately after this one came out. But it never happened, which is strange since Sword and Sorcerer actually earned more money than Conan the Barbarian upon it's release. But original director Albert Pyun has recently done a straight to DVD film finally coming out sometime this year. I saw the preview the other day but it doesn't look good at all. They have added vampires to the mix now. Probably due to all the Twilight hysteria. Anyway, we fans still have the original film to look back on and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Blade

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The one that brought a new kind of comic book hero to the screen. Wesley Snipes is awesome as Blade, a vampire hunter who is half vampire himself, wiping out each and every vampire he comes across. His main adversary is Deacon Frost, played by Stephen Dorff, who also happened to be the vampire that killed his mom while she was pregnant with Blade. So it's payback time. Lots of blood and gore and gunfire and hand to hand combat make this an extremely entertaining movie. Co-starring wily Kris Kristofferson, Donal Logue, Traci Lords and N'bushe Wright. Look for the awesome opening scene at a vampire rave club where Blade just goes ballistic. Two more action packed sequels would follow.
B+

Blade: "There are worse things out tonight than vampires".
Karen: "Like what?"
Blade: "Like me."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2



 *Just saw Iron Man 2 for the second time and I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the first time. I can only reason that the expectations were so high for this film, that may have caused me some slight disappointment upon the first viewing. But I can fully say now that Iron Man 2 is one of the best comic to film adaptations yet. Very close to the original film, and definitely ranked in my top 10 favorite comic book movies of all time. Which will lead to me finally posting my fave comic book movie list next week. So I will keep the original rating of B+ for the time being while I gave the first Iron Man movie a A.

 The 2010 summer movie season has officially kicked off with the highly anticipated sequel, Iron Man 2. Does it deliver the goods? For the most part, yes. It meets all the requirements of a big comic book movie despite some shortcomings. The story picks up immediately after the events of the previous film when Tony Stark announces to the world that he is Iron Man. Cut to Russia, where a revenge minded man named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke who is not used nearly enough) works on a hi-tech suit of his own with pulsating energy whips. He plans to exact some payback on Tony for what he believes to be justice since Tony's dad stole designs from Ivan's father. While Vanko prepares to travel and make life hell for Tony, our golden boy is busy opening the Stark Expo in New York City to throngs of rabid fans, who treat him like a rock star.
Tony makes one hell of an entrance as he is dropped from an airplane and flies down to NYC with about 20 hot to trot red and yellow clad cheerleaders to back him up. Got to be one of the best film openings ever just for that scene alone. And while Tony still exudes tons of charisma, he is facing all kinds of personal issues. The arc reactor technology that is keeping him alive is also killing him. So he is searching for a substitute energy source. He also has to deal with a rival competitor named Justin Hammer (terrific performance by Sam Rockwell) who struts all over the place, looking to knock Tony down a peg or two. And Tony also has to deal with the U.S. government who demands that he hand over his Iron Man suit to them. He is called in for a senate hearing and goes toe to toe with a tough senator (played by Garry Shandling). So with all this going on, when his sponsored race team has a race in Monaco, he is off to have some fun. Of course Whiplash (Ivan) shows up and turns the racetrack into a memorable slug fest, which is the best scene in the movie.
After this skirmish Tony and his assistant Pepper Potts (once again played winningly by Gwyneth Paltrow) head home for some R&R. Tony ends up making Pepper his CEO and Pepper hires a new assistant named Natalie (Scarlett Johansson) who is actually a SHIELD agent code-named Black Widow, working for main man Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, rocking the eye patch and leather coat and more screen time). A lot more story is emphasized in this sequel, maybe a little too much. Because there are only three main action sequences, which all well done. Just could have used some more.
Don Cheadle who replaces Terrance Howard as Rhodey, Tony's best friend gets to suit up as War Machine and gets in on the action and definitely adds to the value of the film. I was a little wary about Johansson when she was picked to play Black Widow, but that lasts for about 2 seconds. From the time she appears on film, she more than holds her own with Downey, Paltrow and the others. And her big fight scene at the end, where she just rips through about 20 guys is just bad ass. Even director Jon Favreau gets physical in this one as he gets to rough up a bad guy. Of course it's Robert Downey Jr who drives the film and he doesn't drop the ball. He is just as good as he was in the original, maybe even better. The special effects are top notch once again. And there are so many little easter eggs that any die hard Marvel fan will catch immediately.
Like I said the main problem is not enough action and once again the main bad guy turns out to be another guy in an iron suit just like Tony's. That's get old pretty quick. They need to go through Iron Man's rogue gallery and bring on The Mandarin. They mentioned his connection in the first film, now they need to deliver on that. It was cool seeing the interaction between Stark and Fury, talking about SHIELD and The Avengers Initiative, which the Iron Man films have set up brilliantly. Can't wait for next year when Thor and Captain America hit the theaters. So all in all, Iron Man 2 gets the job done despite some minor flaws. But as a film in it's own right, it'll do. Oh and the soundtrack which has all AC/DC songs on the CD only uses two in the film. I was expecting the film to use way more than that. They do go old school with a couple of jams that rock and are featured doing Tony's birthday bash that gets a little out of hand. And said bash has Tony smashed in his suit having a good time. His struggles with alcholism is played up a little in this film, but too a comedic effect with some dramatic overtones. His antics will remind you of Will Smith from Hancock.
B+

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

This is my original review for The Dark Knight when I saw it back in the summer of 2008:
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Just saw Dark Knight for the second time, but on this viewing it was at an IMAX theatre. And it blew me away. It comes close to being a masterpiece. There a few little issues to talk about. But let me get to the good stuff first. Christian Bale returns as the masked hero and is solid once again. He is supported by one of the best casts in film history. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all return for their respective roles and are very good. Newcomers Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, and of course Heath Ledger join the mix wonderfully. The story has pyschopathic terrorist Joker (Ledger) leading a crimewave through Gotham City that Batman, Lt. Gordon (Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Eckhart) team up to contend with. Also they have to deal with the rival mob gangs who threaten to overrun the city. Simple enough story that takes a few twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. The action scenes are truly mind blowing, especially on IMAX. Everyone should see a movie on IMAX at least once. And you couldn't choose a better movie than Dark Knight. Ledger is simply amazing as The Joker. One of the best performances I've seen in awhile. He becomes the character so much that you really forget about him as an actor and focus on his portrayal of the Joker. The effects, music score, and look of this film are all amazing. It's truly an amazing piece of work. The only negatives would be Bale's voice as Batman. It's raspier and at times sounds comical. And I really thought Ledger could have had a few more scenes. Other than that I thought this film was one of the year's best. From the thrilling opening bank robbery scene to the final confrontation between Batman and Joker. And Dent's transformation from Gotham's white night into Two-Face. This is truly epic film-making. A must see.
A-

Monday, May 3, 2010

Comic Book Movies All week long

In anticipation of Iron Man 2 coming to theaters this Friday, I plan to watch nothing but comic book movies all week long. The X-Men films, Spider-Man 1 & 2, Fantastic Four, the original Superman (1978), The Dark Knight and whatever else I can squeeze in. I just watched Wolverine, as a friend let me borrow his copy. I know it was not perfect, but they did get some things right and for the first hour, it was pretty good.

Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man (2002) Photos

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Star of the Month - Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman PhotosThe star for the month of May will be Wolverine himself, Mr. Hugh Jackman. The perfect choice to play one of the most popular comic book character ever created. I will post the usual reviews and photos and facts about Hugh all month long.