Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Non Spoiler-filled Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

We return to that galaxy far, far away with “a story about a boy, a girl and a universe.” Ads for the original 1977 Star Wars movie used that tagline, and as this latest Star Wars film cribs from, as well as pays homage to, its parent film, it is appropriate for this story as well.

The boy is named Finn, the girl is called Rey and the universe consists of several new planets,  creatures and many new interesting characters all setting up the story for a brand new Trilogy of Star Tales.

It pays homage to previous Star Wars movies with the little droid with information that everyone is looking for – here the adorable BB-8 instead of A New Hope’s trusty R2-D2 – and a planet destroyer called Starkiller Base substituting for the Death Star. A black robed, masked villain named Kylo Ren (a very good Adam Driver) following in the jack-booted steps of Darth Vader. We also get a new wise old ancient creature, along with familiar yet updated stardestroyers, stormtroopers, TIE fighters and X-Wings, fascist empires and resisting rebels, and a desert planet that many mistake for the earlier films’ Tatooine (it’s a new planet called Jaaku).

This is the first Star Wars movie without the involvement of creator George Lucas, and it shows. Director J.J. Abrams, who co-write the script with Empire/Jedi veteran Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, and his team have created a thoroughly modern Star Wars film. Yes, there are other nods to the original movies overseen by Lucas, like the dissolves and wipes, another rousing John Williams score, lots of practical sets and creature effects a la the Original Trilogy, rather than the CGI overload of the prequels and most recent fantasy blockbusters such as The Hobbit Trilogy.

The Force Awakens is more modern in having a strong, capable and likable female character in Rey, played by British up and comer Daisy Ridley. Abrams after all was the creator of the hit television series Felicity and Alias featuring strong female leads in, respectively, Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner. Other new characters, most prominently Finn the stormtrooper with a conscience - another Brit, John Boyega, who uses an American accent, in contrast to Ridley who keeps her British accent - and hotshot pilot (is there any other kind?) Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, are instantly likable.

I will admit my eyes misted up a bit when Harrison Ford’s Han Solo first appears alongside his constant companion Chewbacca the Wookiee (Peter Mayhew), and when Princess Leia’s theme was played over Carrie Fisher’s first appearance in the movie.

The movie’s story structure and pacing is more contemporary, which honestly was a little jarring at first. Lucas previously stated he had a very specific style in mind for his Star Wars movies: people spoke a certain way, major themes were repeated throughout the series, and he guided the movies he didn’t direct as producer and editor. The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie where Lucas had no involvement whatsoever, so naturally it will feel different, if not “off.” Abrams and crew used current film-making techniques and styles with camera cranes and helicopter shots which the original films never used.

Without giving anything away, I was thoroughly engaged by this movie. I embraced the new characters, loved seeing old friends again, and was swept up by this new story (the homages to the original film did not detract from enjoying this new tale). The visuals, such as seeing TIE fighters silhouetted against a blazing sun and the Millennium Falcon performing aerial acrobatics, are amazing. It is setting up a new story arc that should thrill us as did the older films.

Plus, we only have to wait two more years for Episode VIII (due out in May 2017), instead of three years like we had to endure between episodes of the Original Trilogy and the Prequels.

The Force is with us once again.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Riddick 3, Audience 0

In this edition of Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy (NOT!), io9 reports that Vin Diesel just. won't. let. Riddick. die.

Yes, Pitch Black (2000) was good - a lean, muscular lower-budgeted sci-fi action thriller where Diesel really had a presence about him as the convict Richard B. Riddick with the spooky see-in-the-dark eyes.

Chronicles of Riddick (2004) spent some big bucks to only go waaay overboard and create an ass-load of backstory and shit around Riddick, making a shady convict anti-hero into a mythological prophesied space god (or something).

Since Chronicles didn't do gangbuster biz, Diesel and writer/director David Twohy tried to go back to basics with the modestly budgeted Riddick (2013). Audiences everywhere shrugged - what was this movie even about?

Now that Diesel's profile has been raised by the admittedly fun Fast & Furious franchise, Vin wants to do ANOTHER Riddick movie for the six people still interested in the character, AND do a TV series tie-in set in the "Riddick Universe."

Come on Vin, you might have a small, and I mean small, cult following around the Riddick character, but after three movies that received wide releases over a 13 year period, and only managed to gross on average just over $46 million each - audiences has spoken: they simply don't care for this character.

The mercs didn't catch up to Riddick, but audience indifference surely did.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happy Back To The Future Day

Happy Back To The Future Day, everyone.

Though don't you think it's time to update that analog Flux Capacitor for a digital model? Just a thought.

(pic from

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Saturday Morning Cartoons (as we remember them) Are Officially Extinct

Kids growing up today have access to animated entertainment 24/7. They can get their favorite 'toons On Demand, off the web, or if they want to do it the old fashioned way, watch Cartoon Network or Boomerang for their all day cartoon fixes. They can not only choose the traditional network/cable fare but also Original Animated Video, anime, and webtoons  Additionally they can watch these 'toons on their various mobile devices.

Back in the day, a kid lived for Saturday mornings, when you'd get up early, pull out your favorite boxes of cereal, and zonk out to nothing but cartoons for several hours.

Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes cast, Superfriends, Fantastic Four, Spider-man, Herculoids, Smurfs (for the younger set), Tom and Jerry, Flash Gordon, Grape Ape, Wacky Races, Bullwinkle,  Scooby Doo, Where Are You, Thundaar, Young Sentinels, Space Ghost, and on and on and on.

Now, those days are offcially over. The CW, the last holdout of Saturday morning cartoon blocks, aired their last Saturday morning cartoons September 26 according to this article on Engadget.

Blog In The 80's has this cool chart showing the Saturday morning cartoon schedule from 1979 to  1990.

So, this Saturday, raise a bowl of your favorite sugarfied cereal to the days of olde, and maybe watch some Scooby Doo or Dungeons and Dragons on your iPad.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Upcoming Horror Film Will Show You The Way To Eternal Life!

There's a new fang in town, and his name is Stephenson.

If you like vampires, and vampire movies - let's face it, who doesn't - then check out "The Gospel According To Stephenson."

Writer/director/friend-of-this-blog John Schuermann is taking a new approach to the vampire mythos with his upcoming horror/thriller/satire in which a purported vampire uses our current pop culture obsession with all-things-fanged (see The Strain, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Being Human, The Twilight Saga quadrilogy, True Blood, the 30 Days Of Night multimedia franchise, Anne Rice novels) to literally start a new religion based on "eternal life - guaranteed!"

The movie's website reveals the film is "as much a social satire as a horror film, features substantial social commentary and comedy elements, with science vs. religion and the conflict between the skeptic and the believer as its central themes."

Here is the website where you can view the proof of concept trailer:

Beginning September 14, the filmmakers start a fundraising campaign through Seed & Spark to raise (in an undead fashion, no doubt) capital for the movie. If you like smart, independent cinema, consider a worthwhile donation and get some cool swag in return. It's a win/win for everyone.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Goodnight Mommy - Horror Movie Trailer Delivers The Creeps

Science fiction movies are my bread and butter, but horror movies can still totally fascinate me.

This movie, called "Goodnight Mommy," from Austrian filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, looks creepy as all get out.  It centers on a woman recovering from facial reconstructive surgery and her two young boys. The kids start to question if the woman behind the bandages is truly their mother or someone - or something - else.

I found the movie at The Playlist. It opens in theaters September 11.

Two words: bug eating! Ewwww.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

James Bond Returns in First Full Trailer for SPECTRE

"James Bond Will Return."

That sentence at the end of every James Bond film is always a welcome sight.

Now, James Bond is back in SPECTRE, opening November 6, 2015. Daniel Craig once again slides into 007's tailored suits and drives the newest Aston Martin, the DB10.

Familiar faces returning include Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Ben Whishaw as Q. They join newcomers to the franchise Dave Bautista as Mr Hinx, Monica Belluci as the beautiful Lucia, and the always incredible Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, the villain of the piece (rumored to be Blofeld - we'll have to wait and see). Sam Mendes who directed the previous Bond film, Skyfall, returns to call the shots.

Here's the first full trailer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad - Trailers For Both Movies Show Promise

Another San Diego Comic Con has entered the history books.

DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. got my attention with trailers for their two big movies for 2016.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (out March 25, 2016). Not a Man of Steel sequel, but more a preamble to the announced Justice League movies. Henry Cavill proved he has the chops for Superman in Man of Steel and Ben Affleck appears to be diving deep in his role as Batman. I just hope the filmmakers due justice (no pun intended) to this historic first-time onscreen pairing of the most well-known superheroes of all time.

Suicide Squad (out August 5, 2016) with Jared Leto stepping into the killer's smile and cackling laugh of the Joker. Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn looks like she might be the breakout star of this tale. And what a great cover of the Bee Gees' "I Started A Joke" to use in the trailer.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Man-Thing and Monster Energy Drinks - What they have in common

It used to be that when you wanted a quick buzz in the morning or a pick me up to get you through the end of your work day, you'd hit up the old coffee pot for that caffeine buzz.

Nowadays, energy drinks are - to borrow a phrase from Bounty paper towels - the "quicker-picker-upper."

Monster Energy Drinks seem to be a big deal out there, but ever notice something funny about the stylized "M"?  I think it looks just like the face of Marvel's Man-Thing swamp bog monster (tagline, "Whatever knows fear, burns at the Man-Thing's touch!").

Judge for yourself below.

 "Whatever knows thirst, quenches at the Monster's sips!"

 Images copyright their respective rights holders.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Works Network Airs The Weirdest Movies

There’s a new(ish) over the air channel called The Works.  A quick Google search shows that it’s another one of those “retro” channels (like Me-TV, Cozi, etc); for movies it pulls from MGM’s library as it is owned by that studio.

Now MGM is one of the oldest and most prestigious of movie studios; their inventory also consists of the libraries of such companies as Orion Pictures, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and United Artists.  From  all those companies, there's a lot of great, interesting movies to choose from.

So, why the hell are they showing Mr. Hercules Against Karate?  It’s a martial arts movie from 1973, directed by Italian Antonio Margheriti, where “Two Americans go to Hong Kong to rescue the son of a Chinese restaurant owner who is being held hostage by his stepmother and the sadistic owner of a kung fu school.”

In that one paragraph, it’s a virtual United Nations of moviemaking: Italian director, American cast, Hong Kong locations and Chinese kung fu.  So naturally the title includes “karate” which is Japanese, you nitwits! 

The Works had previously aired Jon Voight’s first feature film, a surreal superhero comedy from 1967 called Fearless Frank, written and directed by Philip Kaufman of all people.  It was heavy on the surreal and light on the comedy as far as I was concerned.  It was just too wacky for me.

If The Works is going to continue to air this kind of strange, off beat fare, they really need to showcase it by having someone like Joe Bob Briggs (world’s greatest drive in movie critic) or Michael J. Nelson (star/head writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000) host the thing.  If not, I suggest they rename the channel WTF, because every time I switch over to it, my first reaction is, What The F—k?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

So Long, David Letterman!

On May 20, 2015, David Letterman is signing off the late night airwaves.

Between his 11 year stint at NBC hosting Late Night and his current gig leading The Late Show at CBS, Letterman has graced us nighthawks with 33 years of late evening entertainment. The pop culture landscape was graced with Stupid Pet Tricks, fast food drive thru hijinks, Top Ten Lists, Velcro suits, and all sorts of things thrown off the tops of buildings (from TVs and bowling balls to full paint cans and a zillion bouncy balls).

But all good things come to an end.

To celebrate and commemorate Letterman's long tenure of late night greatness, here's an interview he did with none other than Max Headroom.  Yes, Max Headroom.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


In the tradition of weird/silly/stupid shit like Sharknado, Dinocroc, Piranhaconda and Mega Python vs Gatoroid (basically 99% of the flix The Asylum craps out), we present WASPATULA.

Yes, it is only a matter of time before some unthinking scientists - blinded by their own hubris and marginal cooking skills - tamper with Mother Nature to create GIANT WASPS WITH SPATULAS IN PLACE OF THEIR STINGERS.  (Suggested by friend of the blog Greg G.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Legacy Trailer

You know his name.


Mad Max.

The Road Warrior.

He's fueled up his V-8 Interceptor and is heading our way.

If you're up to no good, I feel sorry for you.

Mad Max: Fury Road opens May 15.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The X-Files and Breaking Bad - The Vince Gilligan Connection

Everything old is new again.

Fox is set on testing that adage by reviving the beloved once-cult-then-mainstream-hit series The X-Files by bringing it back to television as a limited event series in 2016.

Before we see if creator Chris Carter can capture magic in a bottle (the last X-Files movie simply wasn't very good) next year, put together a fun list of X-episodes that were written by Vince Gilligan, of Breaking Bad fame. Yes, before he got Walter White hooked on the meth business, Gilligan was putting the screws to Mulder and Scully in inventive and often funny ways.

So join me in boning up on some great X-Files episodes in anticipation of discovering that "The Truth Is (Still) Out There."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kubrickian Homages in Star Trek: TNG

Friend of the blog David O. has been catching up on Star Trek: The Next Generation while hitting the gym (who says all Trekkies are couch potatoes) and he noticed something that he passed on to me to pass on to you.

In Season 4, the episode "The Mind's Eye" Geordi LaForge is kidnapped and brainwashed by Romulans to assassinate a Klingon official visiting the Enterprise.

David noticed some homages to Stanley Kubrick's work in a few areas. One is when the brainwashed Geordi is walking down the Enterprise corridors; the tracking shot echoes similar shots in Kubrick's The Shining, with a similar creepy feel.

Also, the contraption the Romulans strap LaForge into to conduct the brainwashing looks like nothing so much as a 24th century Ludovico device used by the authorities to brainwash Malcolm McDowell's character in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Television productions, by their nature, are often rushed and chaotic, but anytime you can pay homage to a master filmmaker like Stanley Kubrick, as Martha Stewart was fond of saying, "That's a good thing."

Screencaps from Star Trek: TNG is a Registered Trademark and Copyright 2015 by CBS Studios, Inc.  No infringement is implied with this review.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Now He's Voiced EVERYTHING

The movie Virtuosity just ended.  That's the flick where a pre-Training Day Denzel Washington plays a cop who has to take down a virtual reality program which is a composite of notorious serial killers ( played by Russell Crowe) that has escaped into the real world (don't ask).

I spied in the end credits "Special Vocal Effects by Frank Welker."  Frank Welker, the voice of Freddie in Scooby Doo, the source of "Spock screams" in Star Trek III, and the voice of billions (okay, millions) of cartoon characters over the last 40+years.

Frank Welker: the John (he's been in every movie ever made) Carradine of voice over actors.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Leviathan - Acclaimed Short Film To Be Made As a Feature

"Admiral, there be whales here!"

Scotty's exclamation was referring to humpback whales in the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, however, sky whales look to figure prominently in the proof of concept short film, The Leviathan.

This recent VIMEO viral short by Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson has been optioned by veteran producer/writer Simon (X-Men franchise films: The Last Stand,  First Class, Days of Future Past) Kinberg and Neill (District 9, Chappie) Blomkamp.

The sky whale, looking like something from a Ralph McQuarrie concept painting come to life, soars through the thick cloud cover of some unnamed planet, and is given chase by futuristic whalers.

Here's hoping we seen the feature in a few years hence.

Found at

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Key Star Trek Producers Pass Away

Star Trek has lost three key figureheads in a very short span of time. 

Major media outlets picked up the passing of Leonard Nimoy on February 27, but not much press was generated February 24 over the death at age 75 of Maurice Hurley, a producer/writer of Star Trek: The Next Generation during it first two seasons.  Mr. Hurley will likely be remembered by Trek fans for his creation of the classic villains the Borg and co-creating Data's brother Lore.

If you watched sci fi TV in the 1970s, you owe a debt to producer/writer Harve Bennett, who passed away on March 4 at the age of 84.  He worked on series such as The Invisible Man, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.  But Star Trek fans owe Mr. Bennett a huge debt of gratitude for saving ST by producing 1982's Star Trek II, which is seen by many fans as the best of the ST feature films.  The popularity of the Trek films overseen by Mr. Bennett (ST II - IV) led to ST's re-emergence on TV with ST: TNG in 1987.

Mr. Hurley, Mr. Bennett, you will be missed.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy passed away this morning at the age of 83.

Growing up as a skinny kid who wore glasses, read comic books and did well in school, it is safe to say that Mr. Spock was my hero.

Thank you for all you gave us Mr. Nimoy, not only in your acting, directing and photography, but in your basic humanity and decency.

Live Long and Prosper.

Screencap from  Image copyright 2015 by CBS Studios, Inc.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Gun Fu Time - Equilibrium's Gun Kata Fight Scenes

The movie: Equilibrium.

The stuff: the Gun Kata fights. (You know you love 'em.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gary Owens, Voice of Space Ghost, Passes

"Spaaaace Ghooost!"

If you were a kid who watched Saturday morning cartoons in the late 60s and 70s, you recall the battle cry of the intergalactic superhero, Space Ghost.

The voice of Space Ghost, the great Gary Owens, who also found fame as the announcer on the classic Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In passed away on February 12 at the age of 80. 

Mr Owens had a long career as a disc jockey and voice over actor, lending his distinct smooth baritone to hundreds of commercials and TV series such as Roger Ramjet, Dynomutt and Ren and Stimpy's Powdered Toast Man.

More at

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day, Humans

Star Trek is a Registered Trademark and Copyright 2015 by CBS Studios, Inc.  No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Earth Star Voyager - Cheesy 1980s TV Sci-Fi

Hey, Internet. Here's Earth Star Voyager, the failed TV movie pilot from The Wonderful World of Disney that aired in 1986.  (I dare you to say Earth Star Voyager six times fast.)

The movie opens in outer space on a field of stars, so naturally the on-screen card reads "Outer Space 2082."  Disney wanted to make certain you knew where this was taking place. Disney also seriously stretched this thing out by running the credits first with the names of the characters and their positions, then listing the actors afterward instead of combining all that information, causing composer Lalo Schifrin to pad out his snazzy synthesizer theme music.

This is one of those shows assembled from the Sci Fi Buffet: one part dismal Blade Runner-esque future where our heroes walk polluted rainy streets (shot in what looks like an indoor mall with a lot of mist and open umbrellas); one part Soylent Green's dwindling resources, crowded streets and rationed food supplies; but mostly several heaping helpings of Star Trek. Or rather, "Teen Star Trek", with young cadet types who range in age from 16 to 24 holding down the usual Enterprise bridge crew positions of captain, science officer, navigator, communications officer, and engineer.  They are the crew of the titular spaceship Earth Star Voyager on one of those standard "Earth is falling apart, so we're looking for another planet to colonize" stories.

Writer Ed Spielman's script is very by the numbers with no surprises along the way. Instead of focusing on interesting character development it seems like Spielman spent more time coming up with the window dressing such as funny names for future food (veggie bio burger, nutra-shakes, thremo chips with amino sauce).

Despite being directed by veteran James Goldstone, who directed for the original Star Trek, and featuring the always engaging Duncan Regehr as a rogue space captain, this thing is a slog to get through: poorly acted by the pre-Disney Channel child stars, dull stock characters (some with goofy names like "Beanie" and "Huxley Welles"), and sub-par visual effects (that two foot long model spaceship shot in the dark at the beginning looks like a two foot long model spaceship shot in the dark). The main bridge set and several corridors look decent enough, so we know where they spent most of the budget.

Earth Star Voyager aired about four months after the syndicated premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and while the latter series certainly had its ups and downs in its first three years of production, the difference between the two shows is night and day. The Next Generation had better acting (none of these kids holds a space-candle to TNG's Wil Wheaton), more thoughtful stories, and a larger budget. Earth Star Voyager looks like a rebooted version of 1977's Saturday morning kid's show Space Academy compared to it.

Oh, and this cult gem has about the LONGEST plot write up I have ever seen on Wikipedia.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Star Trek 3 Gets A New, Yet Familiar, Writer

Star Trek 3 is getting a rocky liftoff from the launch pad.

First, novice director Roberto Orci, co-writer of the first two Trek films helmed by J.J. Abrams, was removed from the center seat due to "creative differences," only to be replaced by veteran Fast and Furious franchise director Justin Lin.  Orci was also working on ST3's script with new writers Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne.

Now, word came down that neu-Scotty himself, Simon Pegg, will be co-writing Trek Tres with Doug Jung (writer of Confidence).  We don't yet know if they are re-writing the Orci & company script or starting from scratch.

Pegg is a big fan of sci fi in general, and Star Trek in particular, so this hopefully is a step in the right direction.  He did some fine work co-writing Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz with Edgar Wright (I wasn't too crazy about their capper to their Cornetto Trilogy, World's End).  Pegg also co-created with Jennifer Stevenson the British cult series Spaced.

This just might be the bumpiest ride that a Star Trek film has taken to the big screen since all the sturm und drang of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That film was rushed into production with an unfinished and constantly changing script.  It made a ton of money at the box office and launched the film franchise, but it is not looked at fondly by the general public, or even most Trek fans.  It's the only Trek film I own on DVD, so I'm in the minority that loves this movie, warts and all.

We'll find out how this all plays out in summer of 2016.  This is the 50th Anniversary of the franchise - for Gorn's sake I hope they don't screw it up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sci Fi Movie Cinemagraphs Are Stunning

Cinemagraphs.  If you haven't heard of them, you aren't the only one.  Cinemagraphs are a cross between an animated GIF and a video; a still image where only a small element is given motion.

BuzzFeed showcases 24 science fiction movie cinemagraphs from films as varied as Alien and Metropolis to The Empire Strikes Back and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The image from The Fifth Element of the tear rolling down Leeloo's cheek is particularly affecting because the tear is the only moving item - the actress's face is rocky steady as in a still photograph.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Groove to Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy Tunes

It's a brand new year.

I'm going to have to put you on the Game Grid.

Or, maybe you'd rather listen to the Daft Punk soundtrack from Tron: Legacy.

Family Guy's Peter Griffin Roams NY Comic-Con

In the future (or at least during the annual New York Comic-Con) everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes. 

Just ask a man named Robert Franzese, who in his own words: "I'm like a nobody—I have a nobody job, making nobody pay—but I go to New York Comic-Con...I'm freakin' Brad Pitt. It makes me feel like a million bucks."

Well, he's not exactly Brad Pitt, but Franzese does don a white dress shirt, green pants and round eyeglasses to dress up as Family Guy head of the household Peter Griffin, complete with a voice impression that would do creator/star Seth MacFarlane proud.

Franzese looks to be having a great time, and the crowds genuinely seem to love him.  

The friggin schweetness was first found at AdWeek.