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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

She Is One With The Force. The Force Is With Her.

Rest In Peace, Carrie Fisher. While we lost a lot of amazing people this year (David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Florence Henderson, Kenny Baker and other wonderful folks), the tragic news that came in this morning hit me the most considering my all-out passion for Star Wars and how iconic Leia Organa was. Trying to hold back some tears right now... I'm serious. Other beloved individuals will leave us next year, but 2016 really needs to end. Sunday can't come soon enough.

Rest In Peace, Carrie. The Force will be with you, always.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's Black One! Happy Holidays...

A model kit of Poe Dameron's X-Wing fighter (dubbed 'Black One') from STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS that I received for Christmas today.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I'd share these pics of an X-Wing model kit that I received as a gift today. This is the Resistance fighter, dubbed Black One, that's piloted by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was considering donating this model kit unopened to Goodwill considering the fact that I've outgrown model-making as a hobby, but this vehicle looks so awesome that I couldn't resist the urge to see it assembled. Unless I get a replica of the TIE Striker or U-Wing fighter (from Rogue One) next year, I'll be sure to give whatever model I received as an XMas present to charity a year from now. Sorry for sounding like a jerk here, but this ain't high school... I moved on. Have a pleasant evening!

The model kit of the 'Black One' X-Wing fighter that I received for Christmas today.

Friday, December 16, 2016

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY - Movie Review

From left to right: Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

So last night, I went to my local AMC Theatre to watch an advance screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and needless to say, director Gareth Edwards indeed put the "war" back into Star Wars with this installment! The film started off pretty slow, but once it picked up, there was no slowing down as Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO (voiced and motion-captured by Alan Tudyk) and their merry band of Rebels set out to find and retrieve the plans to the Empire's dreaded Death Star. Rogue One had amazing cinematography, visual effects (even though there's still work to be done to make CGI humans look convincing; more on that later), action pieces, acting and stirring music by Michael Giacchino! Disney is off to a great start in regards to expanding the Star Wars cinematic universe with this spin-off movie.

K-2SO (motion-captured by Alan Tudyk) confronts Jyn Erso on Jedha in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

In regards to cinematography and visual effects, Rogue One looked beautiful. From the opening shot of Director Orson Krennic's (Ben Mendelsohn) shuttle flying over the ringed world of Lah'mu and landing on that planet to capture former Imperial scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to the amazing space battle above Scarif and the ground war on the tropical planet's surface, director of photography Greig Fraser (who also worked on the 2012 Oscar-nominated film Zero Dark Thirty) did a tremendous job capturing the realistic, lived-in look of the original Star Wars trilogy...while at the same time adding the grittiness that Edwards wanted to make Rogue One a true war film. VFX-wise, Rogue One had amazing special effects—once again thanks to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and other FX houses employed on this spin-off movie.

Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry) watches as the Death Star's superlaser weapon is installed in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Edwards and his writing team were bold in giving considerable screen-time to Grand Moff Tarkin (played by the late Peter Cushing in 1977's A New Hope, and Guy Henry in this installment) and featuring Princess Leia (portrayed by Ingvild Deila in Rogue One). Story-wise, the inclusion of these characters was what made Rogue One a true prequel to the original Star Wars movie. Effects-wise, however, ILM did the best it could (which was still remarkable) in superimposing Cushing and Carrie Fisher's face onto those of Henry and Deila, respectively. Seeing Leia appear on screen was the biggest payoff of the movie (though she looked too happy considering the events that literally transpired a minute earlier), with Tarkin's action aboard the Death Star in the final minutes of Rogue One making the third act end in both a spectacular and tragic note. However, Disney still has ways to go before it's bold enough to put young, CGI versions of the Big Three (Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker) in a future 'Saga' or spin-off flick.

Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) stands before a Death Star monitor in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

In terms of the action pieces, Edwards succeeded tremendously in creating amazing fight and battle scenes in Rogue One. From the skirmish on Jedha [including that cool fight scene between Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and the Stormtroopers] plus that Rebel aerial attack on Eadu, to the final battles above and on the surface of Scarif, Edwards indeed delivered on his promise to get down and dirty in regards to showing the Rebel Alliance fight valiantly to the death against the Empire. The climactic space battle, in particular, had very cool moments that I only experienced playing the classic X-Wing video game on my computer! Namely, a specially-made Corellian Corvette (a.k.a. the Blockade Runner being chased by Darth Vader's Star Destroyer at the beginning of A New Hope) being used to ram a disabled Star Destroyer and cause it to collide into another Imperial flagship above Scarif. So awesome! Though in X-Wing, the Corvette actually sliced into not one, but many Star Destroyers at that point in the game. Well, we don't always get what we want!

The Death Star orbits Jedha in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Acting-wise, Rogue One had tremendous performances that Star Wars fans wished were in the other prequel films more than a decade ago. Unsurprisingly, Oscar nominee Felicity Jones did a wonderful job portraying Jyn Erso...with one emotional moment being as she watches a hologram of her father Galen (who she hasn't seen in person for 15 years) on Jedha. Galen himself was portrayed as an honorable but tragic figure by Mikkelsen, with Valene Kane doing a nice job playing Lyra Erso, Galen's wife and Jyn's mother, in the brief but heartwarming moments that Lyra shared with her family. Diego Luna was commendable as the conflicted but heroic Captain Andor, though it's unfortunate that his scenes weren't exciting to watch till Jyn and K-2SO arrived on the spot. K-2SO himself is definitely one of the most memorable droids in the live-action Star Wars movies—thanks to the amazing motion capture performance by Alan Tudyk.

Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) has seen war for far too long in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen were both great as the Guardians of the Whills...with Jiang playing the loyal Baze Malbus, who did everything he could to protect Chirrut Îmwe (who's blind) in the heat of battle. Riz Ahmed was terrific as Imperial pilot-turned-Rebel Bodhi Rook...though at the beginning of the film, I couldn't understand most of what Rook was saying as he spoke took fast due to his panic being captured by Saw Gerrera's (Forest Whitaker) forces on Jedha. Ditto with Whitaker, who seemed to over-dramatize his lines with Ahmed, but gave a more modest performance once Saw reunites with his long-lost friend, Jyn.

Darth Vader (once again voiced by James Earl Jones) approaches Director Krennic in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Finally, in regards to the main actors, Ben Mendelsohn gave an interesting performance as the conniving and narcissistic Director Krennic. If you read the Rogue One prequel novel Catalyst, you'll see that Mendelsohn's portrayal of Krennic was faithful to how this character was in the book. The fate that Krennic receives at the end of Rogue One was very deserving of this character. In terms of the other characters in this movie, it was great to see Jimmy Smits back as Bail Organa, and Genevieve O'Reilly's Mon Mothma finally on the big screen...after being relegated to the deleted scenes feature on the Revenge of the Sith DVD. Anthony Daniels was back as C-3PO (albeit briefly) while James Earl Jones returned as the voice of Darth Vader...who was truly memorable in the two major scenes that he had in Rogue One. One of those scenes, without giving anything away, was epic! Let's just say, Vader is still the angry person that he was in the third act of Revenge of the Sith—and his actions in the climax are things that you can replicate in the Star Wars: Battlefront video games! Rogue One definitely showed us why Vader is still the most iconic villain in the Star Wars universe.

Imperial Shoretroopers and Stormtroopers fire at Rebel forces (off-screen) in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

And lastly, Michael Giacchino's music in Rogue One was amazing. Considering the fact that he only had four weeks to write and compose his score, Giacchino (who got to play a First Order Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens) did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of John Williams' music. Heck, I'm listening to the score on CD as I type this review (the music for Vader's final scene in the film, to be exact)! I couldn't get Jyn Erso' theme out of my head as I drove home from the theater last night...because of this amazing musical piece, and the memorable and tragic character that this piece honors in the movie. I read somewhere online that Felicity Jones actually has a clause in her contract to play Jyn one last time; here's hoping that she uses it! Rogue One was an outstanding flick— It took a while to get up to speed, but once it kicks into high gear, well, you have a flick that did a triumphant job expanding the Star Wars lore. Thanks to Rogue One, that galaxy far, far away just got bigger. Most notable line in the movie: "I'm one with the Force. The Force is with me." Carry on.

8 out of 10 stars.

Rebel forces approach the Imperial fleet above Scarif in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Photos of the Day #2: Pics from the ROGUE ONE Red Carpet Event...

Checking out the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

So last night, I drove back down to Hollywood to check out the red carpet event for the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere. It was cool to take pics of the full-size X-Wing model without having to use my selfie stick (though I used it anyway to get some nice high-angle shots). In terms of taking (really blurry) photos of the cast members, I managed to get snapshots of Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic), Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook), Diego Luna (Captain Cassian Andor) and Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe). I also spotted Rogue One director Gareth Edwards on the red carpet, but was unable to get a pic of Jyn Erso herself, Felicity Jones...since I was posting the Ben Mendelsohn pic on Twitter just as Jones walked past the X-Wing and was about to enter the red carpet tent. Darn it. In terms of other celebrities in attendance, I also spotted Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews, Firefly's Nathan Fillion, well-known educator Bill Nye the Science Guy, TV talk show hosts Chris Hardwick and Aisha Tyler (didn't take pics of them though), and Kevin Smith himself at the premiere. Very awesome. Of course, you could've just scrolled down this entry and see the blurry photos for yourself!

A close-up of the full-size X-Wing prop at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

I definitely need to do this again next year for Star Wars: Episode VIII and in May of 2018 for the untitled Han Solo flick. What better way to make up for not getting a snapshot of Jyn Erso than to get a horrible photo of the beautiful Emilia Clarke on the red carpet less than two years from now? Carry on.

LINK: More photos I took at the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story red carpet event

Checking out the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Stormtroopers stroll down the red carpet for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Death Troopers stroll down the red carpet for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Alan Tudyk (K-2SO) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Bill Nye the Science Guy at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Diego Luna (Captain Cassian Andor) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE's Terry Crews at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe) at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

FIREFLY's Nathan Fillion at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Kevin Smith at the red carpet event for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 10, 2016.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Photos of the Day: Prepping for the ROGUE ONE Premiere...

A full-size X-Wing prop is set up on Hollywood Boulevard for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 8, 2016.

Earlier today, I drove down to Hollywood to check out the progress being made on setting up the red carpet tent that will be the center of attention for the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere this Saturday. The newest Star Wars film will be screened at the Pantages Theatre...which is several blocks away from the Dolby Theatre (home to the Academy Awards), the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly known as the Grauman's Chinese Theatre...where The Force Awakens' premiere took place last year) and the Hollywood & Highland Center (where I parked this morning). It was cool seeing the red carpet where Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen and company will walk on two days from now, but what got me to drive all the way to Hollywood in the first place was seeing the full-size X-Wing prop that is situated right across the Hollywood Blvd/Vine Street intersection from the tent!

The full-size X-Wing prop is set up on Hollywood Boulevard for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere...on December 8, 2016.

It's a good thing that I had a selfie stick with me; otherwise, I couldn't get those shots of the X-Wing above. Tall chain link fences and black barriers currently surround the starfighter prop... It remains to be seen if those fences will be removed before the red carpet event on Saturday evening. I'm currently thinking about going back to Hollywood on December 10 to see if I can get photos of Felicity Jones and/or the other actors as they enter the tent to walk down the carpet. Not bloody likely—but it's worth a shot. But one thing's for sure, if the chain link fences are removed, you can be sure that I'm gonna get more pics of the X-Wing on Saturday night! And if they're not, well, whoever invented the selfie stick needs a pat on the back and offered a free beer at the local bar (or, in the spirit of Star Wars, a cantina). Happy Thursday!

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere is set up near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

The red carpet tent for the ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY premiere continues to undergo preparations on Hollywood Boulevard...on December 8, 2016.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Transformers: The Last Knight... The First Trailer Is Here!

The frozen body of Optimus Prime floats across deep space in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Check out the first official preview to Michael Bay's fifth installment in the Transformers franchise at the bottom of this entry! With Mark Wahlberg returning as Cade Yeager and Josh Duhamel making his first appearance as Lt. Colonel Lennox since 2011's Dark of the Moon, The Last Knight looks to be the biggest movie yet in the giant alien robot series. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Sir Anthony Hopkins will join Stanley Tucci, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich as the latest Oscar nominee/winner to mingle with the Autobots and/or the Decepticons on the big screen. And of course, Megatron returns while Optimus Prime looks to have been affected by his trip into deep space at the conclusion of 2014's Age of Extinction. Don't hurt Bumblebee, Optimus... He's your friend! Check out the trailer below to know what I'm babbling about (and to see the scenes that were shot in the IMAX format). The Last Knight hits theaters nationwide on June 23, 2017.

Megatron returns in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Laura Haddock will play the latest human ally of the Autobots in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Josh Duhamel returns as Lt. Colonel Lennox in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Megatron swings his sword at a human in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

The remnants of a planetary body (Cybertron? Unicron? Probably not that last one) passes by Earth's Moon in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) pleads to Optimus Prime (off-screen) not to strike down Bumblebee in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.

Optimus Prime prepares to lunge at Bumblebee with his energon blade in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2...

Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the rest of the Guardians return to the big screen in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2...on May 5, 2017.

"I aaaammm Groooot!" Assuming that this trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 makes its big screen debut on December 15, what better way to prepare for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story than to see a preview to what looks to be one of Marvel's best films yet in front of it? Baby Groot looks like he'll steal the movie, but that final trailer scene showing Drax (Dave Bautista) laughing hysterically at Star-Lord's (Chris Pratt) expense might make this a tie. Either way, it appears that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have another winner on its hands come May 5, 2017. Now when will we see footage to next July's Spider-Man: Homecoming?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's Finally December!

A promo pic of Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Can't wait to watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story two weeks from today! As mentioned in this earlier entry, I'm going to a 7:00 PM 2-D screening at the local AMC Theatre on December 15. Happy Thursday...and may the Force be with you! Yea, I just said that.

Grand Moff Tarkin(?) watches as the Death Star's superlaser weapon is installed in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bad Santa 2...

Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) watches as Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) mingles with Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks) in BAD SANTA 2.

Last Sunday, I watched the sequel to the 2003 sleeper hit Bad Santa, and needless to say, Bad Santa 2 had its moments. Billy Bob Thornton was back to playing Willie Soke, the hilariously repulsive alcoholic who disguises himself as Saint Nicholas to commit heists, with Tony Cox reprising his role as Marcus Skidmore, the disgruntled and conniving elf assistant. Brett Kelly didn't miss a beat playing the happily oblivious and naive Thurman Merman once more, while Kathy Bates was game at sporting tattoos as Sunny Soke, and calling Willie (her son) a "sh*t-stick" in almost every other line in the film. Of course, while Bad Santa 2 had lots of funny moments...it was also a lot more raunchier and irreverent than the 2003 original—which isn't necessarily a good thing. Case in point: Reference to the Immaculate Conception as the Ejaculate Conception... I'm not a devout Catholic, but yea, other Christian folks may have rolled their eyes to that one. Assuming, of course, that die-hard religious individuals actually went out to see this movie. If its opening weekend box office gross is any indication, then no—they did not.

Just like his younger self in 2003's BAD SANTA, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) is as happy and naive as Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates) is conniving in BAD SANTA 2.

Bad Santa 2 basically fell victim to the pitfalls that prevented 2014's Dumber and Dumber To from being as successful as its 1994 predecessor...those pitfalls being that the sequels were released far too long after the first movies came out in theaters, and the sequels having to resort to very raunchy gags in an attempt to re-capture the humorous feel of the originals. A long gap between a hit film and a sequel is okay when it comes to animated flicks and action or sci-fi epics [case in point: Pixar's Finding Dory (a follow-up to 2003's Finding Nemo) and the new Star Wars trilogy (seven uber-successful live-action movies in 39 years and counting), but sadly not Independence Day: Resurgence (the follow-up to the highest grossing film of 1996)], but this seldom applies to comedy flicks. Moviegoers' tastes in comedies evolve over time. The humor in American Pie was game-changing back in 1999...but that sort of comedy is now commonplace in today's TV shows such as the CBS sitcoms 2 Broke Girls and The Big Bang Theory.

Diane Hastings runs a Chicago-based charity organization that is the target of a heist by Willie Soke and Marcus Skidmore in BAD SANTA 2.

If there was one reason to re-watch Bad Santa 2, it would be due to the charm of Christina Hendricks. I've never seen the now-defunct AMC TV show Mad Men, but yea, Hendricks' character Diane Hastings is sweet and delightful in one scene and um, romantically voracious in another. "Romantically" isn't the actual word I wanna use here, what with her moments with Willie Sokes capturing just how bad Bad Santa could be (I'm referring to Soke himself). I just wished that Bad Santa 2 overall was closer to being as memorable as the original film. Maybe it would've been if Bernie Mac and John Ritter were still here to reprise their roles as Gin and Bob Chipeska, respectively. Well, maybe not Gin—since Marcus killed him in the first movie, but Bob. Rest in peace, Mr. Mac and Mr. Ritter... Carry on.

Willie Soke goes postal on another Santa in BAD SANTA 2.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

ROGUE ONE Tickets Are Now On Sale!

I can't wait to go to my local AMC Theatre on December 15 to watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story! I secured my ticket only minutes after tix officially became available (at 9:01 PM, Pacific Standard Time) on AMCTheatres.com, Fandango and other movie ticketing websites tonight. I'll be going to the 7:00 PM 2-D show on the 15th...the IMAX 3-D screening(s) will come later. Less than 18 days till we see how Jyn Erso and company stole the plans to the Death Star!

Artwork for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.