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Monday, September 18, 2017

Photos of the Day: The New TOMB RAIDER Is Revealed...

The theatrical poster for 2018's TOMB RAIDER.

Just thought I'd share these new pics revealing Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in next year's Tomb Raider. The Oscar-winning actress (who appeared in such movies as Ex Machina, The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) will officially fill in the shoes of fellow Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie—who played the pony-tailed, gun-toting adventurer over a decade ago—when the reboot debuts in theaters on March 16, 2018. Based on the poster above, Ms. Vikander looks like she's trying to give Linda Hamilton and Gal Gadot a run for their money by toning up as much as Hamilton did to portray Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Gadot as Wonder Woman, respectively. Much props to Vikander, her fellow actresses, and the ass-kicking heroines they played on the big screen!

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in 2018's TOMB RAIDER.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in 2018's TOMB RAIDER.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in 2018's TOMB RAIDER.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

J.J. Abrams Will Return to Direct STAR WARS: EPISODE IX!

J.J. Abrams directs Daisy Ridley (Rey) on the set of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS in 2014.

Earlier today, it was revealed by Lucasfilm that J.J. Abrams will return to the director's chair to helm 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX. Much like with The Force Awakens, which was originally slated for a May 2015 theatrical release but was pushed back to December of that year (at Abrams' request), Episode IX will now bow in theaters nationwide on December 20, 2019...the initial release date having been on May 24 of that year. Today's news comes exactly one week after the previous director, Colin Trevorrow of Jurassic World fame, was booted from the job by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy over creative differences.

In the Disney era of Star Wars, Abrams, The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson and Rogue One's Gareth Edwards seem to be the only ones who have a grasp on what makes a true and enjoyable Star Wars movie. (Ron Howard replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller as the director of the currently-untitled Han Solo spin-off flick.) Though in Johnson's case, he deserves much props since he is the sole screenwriter and director of The Last Jedi...and that film has avoided any post-production controversies as it marches on toward its theatrical release 93 days from now. Abrams, of course, co-wrote The Force Awakens with Lawrence Kasdan (with some notes by former Episode VII scribe Michael Arndt). And Tony Gilroy was largely credited for directing last year's reshoots that saw a considerable amount of footage for Rogue One re-shot.

Directing upheaval aside, I can't wait to see how J.J. Abrams will end the new Star Wars trilogy. Here's hoping it's as fun and successful (both commercially and critically) as Abrams' first Star Wars installment less than two years ago. And let's hope that there won't be another Starkiller Base or similar Death Star-type superweapon in Episode IX as well! I don't mind seeing these cool guys back on the big screen in 2019, though...despite the fact I've yet to see them in action in The Last Jedi. That is all.

Supreme Leader Snoke's elite Praetorian Guards will appear in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Film Review: SIR NOFACE...

The poster for SIR NOFACE.

Two days after I watched the hit horror flick It, I saw the ghost documentary Sir NoFace by Chad Calek...at the City National Grove of Anaheim last night. To put it succinctly, I found the film convincing. Despite the documentary starting off pretty slow (and Calek somewhat shamelessly plugging in his previous flick A Blood Red Sky), things got a lot more interesting once Calek and his team head off to Australia to ghost hunt at the haunted Cockatoo Island. Calek spends a commendable amount of time going into the process and evidence showing that a certain house on the island is home to the paranormal...until he finally gets to the money shot of the documentary that proves ghosts are real: A freaky glimpse of a full-bodied apparition, dubbed Sir NoFace, peeking out from behind a door.

In regards to proving that Sir NoFace was not a hoax, Calek—with the help of Digital Domain visual effects artist Dan Patterson (who worked on such films as Transformers, The Avengers and Real Steel)—thoroughly proved that Sir NoFace was not a work of computer graphics. In regards to the ghost being the result of practical effects, Calek stated many times in the documentary that the closet space the ghost appeared in was a tight fit (Craig Powell, a 6-foot-tall ghost hunter and former rugby player who was the one who brought Sir NoFace to Calek's attention, could barely fit inside that closet himself)...meaning that it would've been extremely difficult to fake Sir NoFace if he was the result of anything other than CGI.

There is no way that NoFace was a dummy or a prop—since the person controlling its movement wouldn't be able to fit inside that closet along with it. (My answer to the prop possibly being operated via remote-control: YEA, RIGHT!) And that doorway the ghost appeared in was the only exit from that room... The would-be conman/woman would have to step right in front of the camera to enter that closet space to pull off the hoax. (And from what I recall, Sir NoFace appeared about 4 hours into that video recording. That is one patient con artist to wait that long to pull off their deception.) Also, assuming the audio recording presented by Powell's team wasn't a fake (or taken from other footage), Sir NoFace didn't make any noise as he emerged from behind that wall. Powell and his WSPR (Western Sydney Paranormal Research) team stated that their footsteps made it sound as if they were walking on gravel whenever they entered that room (and the rest of Sir NoFace's place of residence for that matter). Sir NoFace was completely silent in that recording.

Chad Calek said that he is heading back to Australia this November to obtain further proof of Sir NoFace's appearance on Cockatoo Island. Unfortunately, the Aussie government closed off the island to the WSPR team (despite the fact Powell offered direct evidence of ghost sightings that originally prompted the government to propose having public ghost tours on Cockatoo)...but I'm hoping that Calek will somehow find a way to gain access into NoFace's residence. But as I stated at the beginning of this blog entry, I already found this documentary convincing. Ghosts are real!

Posing with SIR NOFACE director Chad Calek and producer Justin Holstein after the film's screening at the City National Grove of Anaheim...on September 10, 2017.

PS: In case you're wondering what Sir NoFace looks like, he definitely isn't a dude in a suit and tie as shown in the poster at the top of this film review. Watch the documentary when you can...the true identity of this ghost will surprise you.

PPS: Chad Calek and Sir NoFace film producer Justin Holstein are pretty cool guys in person. Calek stated that there are other spirits in Australia that Craig Powell had a direct interaction with...but Powell requested that Calek only focus on Sir NoFace for this project. Here's hoping that Calek obtains footage of those other apparitions for future documentaries! Carry on.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Movie Review: IT...

Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård) lurks in the sewers of Derry, Maine, in the big-screen adaptation of the Stephen King novel IT.

"Hiya, Georgie." So earlier today, I watched the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King's bestselling novel It...and needless to say, it was both funny and intense. It was a mixture of The Goonies and Stand by Me (which, of course, was based on Stephen King's earlier novella The Body), with a hungry, demonic clown as the main antagonist. Speaking of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (portrayed here with a sinister playfulness by Bill Skarsgård), this shape-shifting, child-eating creature is definitely the stuff of nightmares. From his opening scene where he greets 6-year-old Georgie (played by Jackson Robert Scott) from inside that sewer drain, to a moment later in the film where he reveals his true physical self to the Losers' Club (the group of kids who would ultimately defeat him—for the time being) inside that wellhouse, Pennywise didn't waste a moment to terrify his victims before dismembering them within the sewers of the small town of Derry, Maine.

The Losers' Club is determined to defeat Pennywise the Dancing Clown in IT.

It was funny in that all of the kids who comprised the Losers' Club shared witty banter that was definitely realistic of what kids joked about during the 1980s. Most of the zingers came from Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard), who went from remarking that only the virgins in the group (which apparently was everyone in the Losers' Club but Richie himself) could see Pennywise when others couldn't, to him commenting that Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor) was "leaking hamburger helper" after Pennywise slices the portly boy's stomach with his claws during that wellhouse scene mentioned in the previous paragraph. And prior to entering the wellhouse, the Losers had to draw straws to see who would be the lucky one to wait outside while everyone else headed into Pennywise's dreadful lair. Richie drew the short straw, but commented that things would've been different if they "measured the size of their d**ks" instead. Aw, juvenile humor.

Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) is about to have a fateful encounter with Pennywise the Dancing Clown in IT.

In regards to It's intensity, not a single moment goes by when the Losers' Club isn't harassed by Pennywise or a fellow citizen of Derry. Along with the monstrous clown, the Losers are also tormented by Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his high school band of bullies...to the point where Bowers and his gang also find themselves on a collision course with Pennywise himself. The heroine of the Losers' Club, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) also has to deal with being slut-shamed at school as well as going home to an abusive father who may or may not be having an inappropriate relationship with her. And Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer) thinks he's ill when his mom was giving him placebos to make him feel sick just so he would stay home with her most of the time. Clearly, the Losers are in no position to win as long as they're living in the small, messed-up town of Derry.

Another kid goes missing in Derry, thanks to Pennywise the Dancing Clown in IT.

Overall, It was more emotional than it was terrifying. It revolved around Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) and his quest to find out what happened to his little brother Georgie after he went missing a year earlier. And the moments between Beverly and Ben were sweet...even after she found out that he was a fan of New Kids on the Block. (BTW, with most of It taking place in 1989, I liked how it featured references to Tim Burton's first Batman movie, Lethal Weapon 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5—which all came out in theaters that year.) Director Andy Muschietti and his writers were definitely mindful of having us care about the Losers before having them get bloodied up by Pennywise in the film's finale.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown makes his presence known outside a Derry wellhouse in IT.

All-in-all, It was a commendable flick. This movie is actually 'Chapter One' in the horror story, with Warner Bros. yet to approve the production of Chapter Two (though I'm sure that will be a sure thing after the box office results for this opening weekend come in). In Chapter Two, the Losers' Club will be grown-up...with its members returning to Derry in the present day to confront Pennywise for the final time. I can't wait to see which adult actors will be cast to portray Bill, Ben, Richie, Eddie, Beverly and company...and how Pennywise will use modern technology to further his reign of terror in the hapless city of Derry, and maybe elsewhere. But in the meantime, I recommend watching this current installment of the It franchise if you're a horror movie buff. I saw the film mostly because I'm a fan of villainous clowns—hence why Heath Ledger's Joker makes The Dark Knight my all-time favorite Batman flick (Jack Nicholson, you're still awesome), and why that zombie clown in 2009's Zombieland was hilariously badass—and wanted to see just how delightfully frightful Skarsgård's Pennywise would be. Sure enough, he delivered. Please greenlight It: Chapter 2, Warner Bros. Thank you.

See ya, Georgie.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown confronts Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) in IT.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

STAR WARS - THE LAST JEDI Update: The Spoils of "Force Friday II"...

A STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI deluxe figurine set that I bought at the local Disney Store on September 2, 2017.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi merchandise that I bought from Toys"R"Us after midnight on "Force Friday II" (yesterday), as well as earlier today. The collectibles that I set out to obtain were the um, toys for Kylo Ren's personal starfighter and AT-M6 walker, as well as figures of Rey (Daisy Ridley) in her new Jedi outfit and Supreme Leader Snoke's elite Praetorian guard (which definitely looks a lot cooler than its predecessor...Emperor Palpatine's Imperial Guard from the Original Trilogy and Rogue One). And, as a tradition that began with The Force Awakens two years ago, I purchased the deluxe figurine set (shown above) that is exclusive to Disney Stores only. Can't wait to obtain the sets for the untitled Han Solo flick and Star Wars: Episode IX in the next two years!

The local Target store prepares to display STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI merchandise for 'Force Friday II.'

And let's not overlook the fact that, assuming Disney is aiming to score a huge opening weekend at the box office this December (duh!), advance tickets for The Last Jedi should go on sale sometime next month (as was the case with The Force Awakens in 2015). Plus, John Williams' music score for Episode VIII should also be available for pre-order in October as well. I'm officially falling victim to the Star Wars hype machine of 2017! Arg!

A line gathers outside the local Toys'R'Us store for the midnight opening of 'Force Friday II'...on August 31, 2017.

Waiting outside the local Toys'R'Us store for the midnight opening of 'Force Friday II'...on August 31, 2017.

Checking out the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI cardboard displays promoting 'Force Friday II' inside the local Toys'R'Us store...on August 31, 2017.

A cardboard marquee featuring the elite Praetorian guard from STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI...on display inside the local Toys'R'Us store for 'Force Friday II.'

The free STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI poster that I got from Toys'R'Us for 'Force Friday II'...on September 1, 2017.

The three STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI merchandise that I bought from Toys'R'Us for 'Force Friday II'...on September 1, 2017.