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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII...

STAR WARS music composer John Williams poses with C-3PO.

For those of you who didn't hear the awesome news last weekend, John Williams will be back to compose the music for 2015's new installment in the Star Wars saga. While it isn't imperative that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and/or Harrison Ford (and even Billy Dee Williams) reprise their classic roles in Episode VII, it is a must that Williams return to conduct the score for the sequel trilogy. It is inevitable that Disney will make so many new Star Wars movies in the future that other talented composers will need to be brought in to do the music for those flicks. However, the next film is called Episode VII for a reason—and it wouldn't sit well if this one aspect of the Star Wars franchise lost continuity...even if the Alfred Newman-scored Fox logo at the beginning of the movie will most likely be replaced by the Disney Castle, and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions will share opening credit with Lucasfilm. Carry on.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Wolverine...

Logan (Hugh Jackman) confronts Yakuza and other Japanese foes in THE WOLVERINE.

On the same day that I watched The Conjuring at the theater (this past weekend), I also saw the latest installment in the X-Men series that focuses on Logan (Hugh Jackman) and more of his adamantium exploits (clever wordplay, I know). An improvement over its 2009 predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine focuses on Logan getting caught up in a web of death and deceit after saving the life of a Japanese soldier during the destruction of Nagasaki by an American a-bomb in 1945. In a storyline that's similar to Batman Begins (but not in bad way— I'm referring to Bruce Wayne saving Ra's al Ghul's life even though it would haunt the Dark Knight later), Logan must deal with the repercussions of saving this soldier's life...seeing as how the soldier wanted Wolverine to share his healing powers, at any cost, after witnessing the future X-Men slowly turn back to normal upon being virtually incinerated by the a-bomb's blast. Won't talk about the rest of the story, but The Wolverine features lots of great action sequences showing the mutant using his adamantium claws against Yakuza swords [and stabbing (in PG-13 fashion) Yakuza as well], dodging arrows flung by ninjas, and even defending himself against the adamantium blade of none other than the Silver Samurai himself. And in case you're still unimpressed by these plot points for The Wolverine, I'd also like to mention that Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor Xavier (yep, still played by Patrick Stewart) also make an appearance before the credits end. Won't say where in the movie though... Marvel is a pro at adding awesome moments during the end credits. Oops, I spoiled it. Logan rocks.

Logan takes on the Silver Samurai in THE WOLVERINE.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Conjuring...

Sitting on the lap of Bathsheba the Witch, Annabelle the Doll turns to greet an unsuspecting visitor in THE CONJURING.

Seeing as how I like horror movies that use good old-fashioned scare tactics (RE: Little to no use of computer-generated imagery) to spook the audience, The Conjuring was definitely an enjoyable film to watch yesterday. I'm also a fan of stories about ghost hunters, fictional or otherwise (which is why I still watch the CW Network's long-lived TV show, Supernatural), and was interested in the true stories of Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) as they explored paranormal events throughout New England and other parts of the United States. Perhaps what makes this flick truly frightening is that Annabelle the Doll and the witch named Bathsheba actually existed. Of course, I'm sure that director James Wan took some creative license when he depicted the final scene of Bathsheba about to claim her final victim (played by Lili Taylor) inside the Perron household. Embellished or not, that climax was terrifying...which is why The Conjuring will stand out as one of the best horror flicks to date. To heck with Saw or Hostel (even though there hasn't been a sequel to either of these movies in a while, thank God)— Though I'm a fan of the Paranormal Activity series. Again: Good ol' fashioned scare tactics for the win.

Bathsheba the Witch is about to claim her next victim in THE CONJURING.

Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and their team attempt to exorcise Bathsheba's demonic spirit from her latest victim in THE CONJURING.

Annabelle the Doll sits locked up inside a glass case at the Warren household in THE CONJURING.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

DC's "World's Finest" Coming to the Big Screen!

The logo for the upcoming Superman-Batman movie.

"I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you."
-From Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns

And with those words, Henry Lennix (who played General Swanwick in Man of Steel) revealed to a packed audience at San Diego's Comic-Con yesterday that Batman and Superman will finally unite on the big screen in 2015. While this will not be DC's long-awaited Justice League movie, this film (not officially titled World's Finest, by the way) will pave the way for Warner Bros' answer to Marvel's The Avengers...despite the fact its sequel, The Avengers 2 (a.k.a. Avengers: Age of Ultron) theatrically gets released in 2015 as well. (Along with Star Wars: Episode VII, Independence Day 2, Avatar 2, etc...)

Superman (Henry Cavill) takes on a worthy foe in MAN OF STEEL.

I hope the new Batman will look as awesome as the one played by Christian Bale in THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy.

It has also been confirmed yesterday that Christian Bale will indeed not be the one who faces off (and then teams up) with Henry Cavill in director Zack Snyder's next installment of the Superman franchise. It will be interesting to find out who gets cast as the new Bruce Wayne (though PLEASE do not show his origin story again... Wayne's parents can be shot only so many times on the movie screen), though I'm more fascinated to see how the Batsuit, Batmobile and even Batwing will be re-imagined for the upcoming flick. Will the Batsuit look like the high-tech armor in Christopher Nolan's films, or the more simple latex design from Tim Burton's flicks? Will the Batmobile be similar to the sleek auto that the Caped Crusader rescued Vicki Vale with in 1989's Batman? Or will it be another cop car-smashing tank like the Tumbler? Will the Batwing— Ah, you get the point. Can't wait to see the next reincarnation of the Dark Knight as he helps the Man of Steel finally usher in the age of the Super Friends at the cinemas. Woohoo.

An illustration for the video game INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Dark Knight...

Five years ago today, one of the best (comic book) flicks of all time was released in theaters nationwide. Just thought I'd honor Christopher Nolan's monumental film by posting this image of the late Heath Ledger as his Oscar-winning persona from The Dark Knight. "This city deserves a better class of criminals... And I'm gonna give it to 'em." Indeed you did, Joker.

A promo pic of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim: Movie Review

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) pilot the Gipsy Danger in PACIFIC RIM.

Ignoring the fact that the movie lost to an intelligence-numbing flick by Adam Sandler at the box office this past weekend, Pacific Rim freakin' rocked! Giant ass-kicking robots (a.k.a. Jaegers)... Giant ass-kicking monsters (a.k.a. Kaijus)... Both courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic... Oh, and Rinko Kikuchi (of 2006's Oscar-nominated flick, Babel)... Guillermo del Toro did not disappoint (at least critically and artistically) in conveying his own brand of Godzilla-type mayhem. Story-wise, Pacific Rim is no different from said Gojira film—and even borrows from Independence Day, The Matrix and of course, a boatload of Japanese anime titles to make the plot move along. Action-wise, those of you wanting to see giant robots going on a rampage and can't wait for Optimus Prime to return in next year's Transformers 4 will not be let down by the sight of Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon and other Jaegers taking on the Knifehead and other Kaiju that emerged from the Pacific Ocean to wreak havoc on hapless humans living in Manila, Seattle and other coastal cities of the world. And to see these gigantic monstrosities duke it out on IMAX 3-D (which I did yesterday)? Well, that's double the icing on the cake.

A Kaiju attacks the city of Sydney in PACIFIC RIM.

As mentioned above, Industrial Light & Magic rightfully had the honor of realizing del Toro's vision of monsters vs. robots on the big screen...which was definitely the right move by the filmmaker. Sure, FX houses like Double Negative (which worked on The Dark Knight trilogy), Weta Digital (founded by Peter Jackson to work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as well as District 9 and Iron Man 3) and Digital Domain (which worked on Apollo 13, Titanic and Oblivion) have all created awesome visuals for major Hollywood hits over the past decade or so, but it's only fitting that the company that started it all (by George Lucas to work on Star Wars) would be the one responsible for making sure that Pacific Rim looked as exciting at the cinemas as possible. Music-wise, the film score was awesome. Ramin Djawadi, who composed the music for 2008's Iron Man as well as such successful TV shows as Game of Thrones and Prison Break, created an action-packed tune that also paid homage to the music of classic monster flicks. (Case in point: The percussive beat that plays when the 'Category 5' Kaiju emerges from the breach at the bottom of the Pacific in the movie's climax.) Djawadi's music didn't blow me away as much as Steve Jablonsky's work on the first Transformers film did six years ago, but I'll definitely download or buy Pacific Rim's score on CD in the near future.

Mako Mori shows off her Kendo skills in PACIFIC RIM.

Acting-wise, I didn't notice any performance that was even remotely worthy of being considered for an Oscar nomination next year. Which is pretty much why some critics call Pacific Rim the 'Star Wars for a new generation' (which, amusingly, was what Independence Day was called back in 1996)... Mind-blowing special effects, a great music score and—wooden acting. Idris Elba was respectable as former Jaeger pilot Stacker Pentecost, Charlie Hunnam was to Pacific Rim what Casper Van Dien was to 1997's Starship Troopers, Charlie Day was the same goofball (a compliment) that he was in 2011's Horrible Bosses, Burn Gorman was a lot wackier in this movie than he was as one of Bane's lackeys in The Dark Knight Rises, and Ron Perlman was cool as Kaiju black market dealer Hannibal Chau. Last, but most definitely not least, is Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. Despite the fact that Pacific Rim is yet another Hollywood film that pervades the whole White Guy/Asian Girl romance bit, Kikuchi was great as the Gipsy co-pilot of Charlie Hunnam. And just as awesome as seeing 300-foot-tall (most likely bigger than that) robots battling 2,500-ton monsters is watching Kikuchi take on Hunnam in that entertaining Kendo fight scene. Is it a surprise that Kikuchi would know martial arts in real life? Um, no. Is it still a pleasure to see a beautiful actress show that she has some nice combat skills to display on the big screen? Definitely.

Ron Perlman as black market dealer Hannibal Chau in PACIFIC RIM.

All-in-all, here's hoping that Pacific Rim will end up being a financial success this summer. Most definitely, it should become a cult classic the same way that Starship Troopers and Blade Runner did before it. Guillermo del Toro is a pro when it comes to creating fanciful creatures and monsters on the big screen...with the ability to effortlessly depict huge brawling robots added to his resume. Considering the fact that Sandler's Grown Ups managed to get its own stinkin' sequel, it would be an injustice if the Jaegers (and Mako Mori) don't return to the big screen again to rid this world of giant leviathans who emerge from the depths of the ocean to threaten all of humanity. Pacific Rim is the most visually-spectacular movie of this summer...and it should be rewarded as such with its story continuing for a sequel or two. If Grown Ups 2, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions can be made, then so can Pacific Rim 2. That is all.

PACIFIC RIM Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. ****1/2

The Gipsy Danger is ready for combat in PACIFIC RIM.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Amazing Spider-Man 2...

Spidey (Andrew Garfield) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) face off in a promotional image for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Meet Maxwell Dillon, a.k.a. Electro (Jamie Foxx), who along with Rhino (Paul Giamatti) will be the main villains of next year's second installment in the rebooted Spider-Man franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets released in theaters nationwide on May 2, 2014.

Jamie Foxx as Maxwell Dillon (a.k.a. Electro) in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.

Electro is Spidey's newest foe in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.

Electro attempts to blend in with the crowd in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gravity...

A screenshot from the upcoming sci-fi film, GRAVITY.

Check out this trailer for the upcoming sci-fi film that's directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Gravity looks interesting...overlooking the fact that it already feels dated seeing as how the space shuttle is now retired. And unless the tagline was referring to that shot of Clooney and Bullock working on the Hubble Space Telescope (which is more than 340 miles above the Earth), the International Space Station is orbiting around 220 miles above our planet—not 372. I'm a geek when it comes to this stuff.

Oh, and would NASA approve of this flick?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Transformers 4...

Bumblebee will be disguised as a 2014 Concept Camaro in TRANSFORMERS 4.

Happy Independence Day, everyone! (To those of you who also live here in the U.S., that is...) Just thought I'd mark the holiday by posting photos of additional awesome vehicles that we'll be seeing in next year's Transformers 4. Nice to see that Bumblebee will be sporting a spiffy new Camaro as his vehicle form after all, and that a Lamborghini will finally make an appearance in Michael Bay's giant alien robots franchise. As an Autobot or Decepticon, we shall see...

A 2014 Argosy cab-over truck that will be featured in TRANSFORMERS 4.

A 2013 Pagani Huayra that will be featured in TRANSFORMERS 4.

A 2013 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Coupe that will be featured in TRANSFORMERS 4.