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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dark Trooper... Just thought I'd end this month with yet another Star Wars-related post...this time showing the image that immediately got me hooked on Star Wars back during my first year in high school. This illustration was part of an advertisement that was published in an early 1995 issue of Cinescape magazine (which has long been out of print). It promoted the newest Star War video game, Dark Forces, that was gonna be released on PC consoles later that year. I myself didn't play Dark Forces till 1997—when one of my brothers bought it for his Playstation 1 (oh yea) console, but this rendition of a so-called Dark Trooper got me pretty darn excited for the Star Wars prequels (which Lucas announced in the summer of 1994 and got theatrically released in...well, you know the rest of the story).

I immediately thought the Dark Trooper was gonna be a character in the then-untitled Episode 1 (the Super Battle Droid introduced in Attack of the Clones kinda reminds me of the stormtrooper-on-steroids). Boy, was I wrong. Anyways... To defeat this Imperial monstrosity when you confront him in the final level of Dark Forces (um, 17 year-old SPOILER ALERT), you need to do three things to beat this guy:

1.) Make sure all your weapons are available and full of ammunition...and your health level is at 100%. (Duh.)

2.) Madly fire your guns at the Dark Trooper while simultaneously running around the chamber the Trooper trapped you and himself in. He unleashes a swarm of missiles that will follow you around the room.

And

3.) Possibly use cheat codes.

That is all.

An artist's concept of the Imperial Dark Trooper from the 1995 STAR WARS video game, DARK FORCES.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Duality... Check out this awesome Star Wars fan-film that was posted online more than 10 years ago. The music was changed for this Youtube version (the original video borrowed its score from The Phantom Menace), but the awesome lightsaber battle with its visual and sound effects remain unchanged. As mentioned in this earlier entry, Duality is a perfect example of Star Wars fans treating this science fantasy franchise with the utmost respect...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in the 2012 Best Picture nominee, MONEYBALL.

84th Annual Academy Award Nominations... Not surprisingly, Jonah Hill got a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as an Oakland Athletics numbers-cruncher in Moneyball. Former co-stars Michael Cera and Seth Rogen are either happy for him or fuming right now. As for Moneyball (which landed Brad Pitt another Best Actor nomination), it turns out this baseball biopic is the only film out of the nine Best Picture nominees that I saw at the theater. I'll possibly watch War Horse, The Descendants and/or Hugo at the cineplex before the Oscars air on TV next month. Other highlights from today's announcement include Rooney Mara getting a Best Actress nomination for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (which was as disturbing as The Social Network was insightful about Facebook's creation... Kudos, David Fincher) and Gary Oldman a Best Actor nod for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. If Gary Oldman ends up winning the gold, this would be the second time in two years a major cast member from Christopher Nolan's Batman films takes home the statue from the Academy Awards. Christian Bale was recognized as Best Supporting Actor last year for his role in 2010's The Fighter.

2012 Best Actress nominee Rooney Mara in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

In terms of the technical categories, Transformers: Dark of the Moon earned the same amount of nominations that the first Transformers film received in 2008, and two more than what Revenge of the Fallen received in 2010. Like TF1, Dark of the Moon earned nods in Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. (Revenge of the Fallen was only recognized for Visual Effects, which was eventually awarded to James Cameron's Avatar.) Of course, if it's anything like TF1 at the 2008 Oscars, Dark of the Moon will lose out in all three categories...most likely to Hugo or War Horse for Sound Editing and Design, and maybe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 or Hugo for Visual Effects. Since Hugo is leading all 2012 contenders with 11 nominations, I say that this Martin Scorsese flick will be the one that usurps Dark of the Moon at the Kodak Theatre on February 26...thus completing the trifecta of disappointment for the Transformers movie franchise at the Academy Awards, and becoming the second 3-D film since Avatar to dominate the Oscars (despite the fact The Hurt Locker won Best Picture instead of James Cameron's sci-fi epic in 2010). For those of you who'd wish this 3-D fad would just go away, Hugo probably made that even unlikelier. Carry on.

Optimus Prime stands tall in the 2012 Best Visual Effects nominee, TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Tuskegee Airman is ready for combat in RED TAILS.

Red Tails... I saw the film earlier today, and it was pretty entertaining. Overlooking the historic racial aspects of its storyline, Red Tails is what 2001's Pearl Harbor should've been if it wasn't deliberately treated as Titanic set during World War II (and if you briefly set aside the obvious calamity that took place at the U.S. naval base). The movie, produced by George Lucas (who also directed some scenes during reshoots) and Rick McCallum (who produced the Star Wars prequels for Lucas), definitely wasn't perfect... The red-colored font (and even the design of the title itself) for the opening credits made it look like they were typed using Final Cut Pro (not that I have anything against FCP—I love this editing program), and it was pretty noticeable that Red Tails was shot with a digital camera. I'm a celluloid-lover, FYI. Leave the digital camera to TV sitcoms, thanks.

A U.S. B-17 Flying Fortress is attacked by German fighters in RED TAILS.

In terms of casting, Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard were respectable in Red Tails, and it was amusing to see Bryan Cranston (of TV's Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad) play a racist U.S. Army brass in this flick. Never heard of Daniela Ruah until today, but she looked gorgeous playing the Italian love interest of hotshot pilot Joe "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo). Ne-Yo, who I remember from last year's sci-fi film Battle: Los Angeles, played Andrew "Smoky" Salem. As for the rest of the cast, some of them look familiar but not familiar enough for me to mention in this review. Not to be rude or anything.

Dozens of P-51 Mustangs, piloted by the Tuskegee Airmen, are ready for a dogfight in RED TAILS.

One last issue that I want to point out about Red Tails was the ending. Not to spoil it for those of you planning to see this flick, but I found it clunky: The Tuskegee Airmen were mourning the loss of one of their best pilots after a major sortie over Berlin, but suddenly cheered when another pilot—who had to bail from his damaged aircraft and was taken prisoner by Germans on the ground earlier in the film, and later presumed dead—abruptly showed up at the airbase to celebrate and declare a new random nickname for himself. Apparently, this guy didn't get the memo that a memorial for a fallen flyboy was taking place at the time. (This moment may have happened in real life, but still, it was clunky.) Anyways... Other than that, if you want to see awesome World War II aerial combat, then Red Tails is the movie for you. Industrial Light & Magic worked on the visual effects, so you can be sure that you'll be watching a lot of cool (computer-generated) dogfights in this action flick. Carry on.

The Tuskegee Airmen in RED TAILS.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Star Wars artwork.

Star Wars: What Could've Been... I'm sure this dead horse doesn't need to be re-beaten, but this recent MSN.com article states that the reason why George Lucas isn't going to make any more Star Wars films (RE: Episodes VII, VIII and IX) is because of the amount of backlash he received by numerous fans and critics over the prequels.

Note to Mr. Lucas: It wasn't the critics who killed the Star Wars series, it was your self-indulgence (the pod race in The Phantom Menace, the numerous changes made to the Original Trilogy since 1997 as well as the upcoming 3-D re-releases, the simple fact that the Star Wars films are constantly being re-released over and over on DVD and at the theaters, and treating the prequels as mere testbeds with which Lucas could experiment with digital cameras instead of shooting on celluloid—thus ruining the visual continuity between the prequels and the Original Trilogy) and poor decision-making (Jar Jar Binks and bad dialogue in the prequels—particularly in Attack of the Clones). The critics gave credit where it's due...just look at the 80% Fresh rating for Revenge of the Sith on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

While Star Wars is obviously your property, Mr. Lucas, you didn't treat the franchise with the same kind of seriousness and reverence that fans gave to the saga until it was pretty much too late (Episode III). The Lord of the Rings films shouldn't have been called the Star Wars trilogy of the 21st century...the movies that came out in theaters in May of 1999, 2002 and 2005 should have. Obviously, again.

Even though it's unfortunate that there will no longer be any more Star Wars films (at least flicks written and directed by Lucas himself), fans always have the books and video games—such as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic for PC consoles—to make them relish that Galaxy far, far away...

And they don't have to put up with scenes featuring Jar Jar Binks or Anakin feeling "intoxicated" about Padmé to do so.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The starship Enterprise.

Star Trek 12... For those of you who are Trekkies or at least huge fans of the critically-acclaimed film that was released in 2009, the next J.J. Abrams-directed installment—which will also be the 11th sequel in the Star Trek movie franchise—has recently begun production in Southern California. Star Trek 12 is currently filming in Los Angeles, and is set for a theatrical release (in 3-D) on May 17, 2013. Benedict Cumberbatch, who was in the recent film War Horse and will lend his voice as Smaug and the Necromancer in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: There and Back Again (also due to be released at the cinemas in 2013), will have a lead role in Star Trek 12. Other newcomers to the sci-fi film series is the venerable Peter Weller (of Robocop and TV shows such as Dexter, Fringe and 24) as well as the lovely Alice Eve, who will be in this year's Men in Black 3. Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Bruce Greenwood will be back in Star Trek 12.

The crew of the USS Enterprise.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation... In case you haven't seen this yet, check out the new trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation—which judging from this preview looks to be a considerable improvement over the original 2009 film. For starters, no cheesy visual effects (like the green ooze that brought down the Eiffel Tower in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) are shown in this trailer. And in place of Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols (too bad with the last two) are Joes played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Adrianne Palicki and...Bruce Willis.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION.

Channing Tatum returns as Captain Duke Hauser (though the trailer makes it look like he won't last for long in Retaliation), while Ray Park reprises his role as Snake Eyes, Byung-hun Lee is back as Storm Shadow and Arnold Vosloo is still Zartan. Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn't back to play Cobra Commander (I guess he'll feel bad about this while watching his character, John Blake, mingle with Batman, Catwoman and possibly Bane in July's The Dark Knight Rises)...who'll instead be played by Iron Man's Faran Tahir.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation will be released in theaters nationwide on June 29.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A U.S. Navy cruiser fires away at a giant alien spacecraft in BATTLESHIP.

Battleship... Check out the newest trailer to this May’s sci-fi action film, which stars Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker and R&B singer Rihanna, and directed by Peter Berg (who helmed 2004's Friday Night Lights and 2008's Hancock). If it wasn’t for the fact this flick is based on the classic Hasbro board game of the same name and features aliens who resemble Master Chief from Xbox’s Halo, I’d say that Battleship looks pretty darn interesting. But that’s just me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Artwork of the Day... Let’s hear it for books written by a British professor born in South Africa (J.R.R. Tolkien) and adapted into movies directed by a Kiwi filmmaker (Peter Jackson) and shot in New Zealand to have some relevance here in the United States...

Sauron and millions of his employees, err, soldiers gather near Mount Doom at Mordor in this artwork from THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor and company watch as a floating extraterrestrial ball of light approaches them in THE DARKEST HOUR.

The Darkest Hour... I saw this sci-fi horror flick last weekend, and unsurprisingly, it could’ve been much better. It was just like the 2010 sci-fi action film Skyline...the only difference is; instead of being a derivative thriller with a no-name cast but awesome visual effects like Skyline had, The Darkest Hour was a mediocre movie with a no-name cast [with the exception of Emile Hirsch (who was in 2008's Speed Racer and the Oscar-nominated film, Milk) and Rachael Taylor (who was in 2007’s Transformers and several episodes of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy last year)] and shoddy special effects. Did the filmmakers even try to approach veteran FX houses like Industrial Light & Magic or Digital Domain to work on The Darkest Hour? Or even Weta Digital...which was utilized on such Peter Jackson flicks as The Lord of the Rings and District 9. Probably not.

I saw The Darkest Hour in 2-D, but I would have to assume that the aliens still looked like cartoon characters in 3-D when they’re revealed at the climax of the film (see pic below). Whatever. It’s clearly obvious if you watch the movie that most of its budget went to shooting on location in Moscow...and casting predominantly Russian actors. Of course, if I ever want to see the Kremlin on-screen again, I’d go and re-watch Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol at the theater. That is all.

Emile Hirsch confronts a not-so-real-looking alien invader in THE DARKEST HOUR.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Lion King Rises... Just thought I’d join the viral bandwagon and post this nicely-edited mash-up trailer combining audio from The Dark Knight Rises' newest preview with footage from Disney’s 1994 hit film. The Lion King Rises was put together by Brad Hansen, who is a video editor at CraveOnline. Awesome work.

Expect more Youtube parodies of Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film to be posted here in the months leading up to and following The Dark Knight Rises’ theatrical release on July 20...the same way I blogged about videos spoofing The Dark Knight in 2008 (here, here and here). Carry on.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year, Everyone! Bring on the Batman...

Bane (Tom Hardy) confronts Batman (Christian Bale) in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Photo scan is from the January 2012 issue of Empire magazine.