Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Final Post of the Year...

Just thought I'd end 2013 by sharing this cool fan-made suit depicting the Crimson Typhoon...one of the Jaegers featured in last July's Pacific Rim. According to the Facebook page of Legendary Pictures (which produced the movie with Warner Bros.), it took 550 hours to build this 'exoskeleton,' 10 months to acquire the parts for it, and the full costume weighs 152 pounds! Nicely done!

A home-made costume depicting the Crimson Typhoon from PACIFIC RIM.
Peter Kokis

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty...

Venturing around Iceland, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is about to ride a skateboard down a mountain road in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.

I watched the movie directed by and starring Ben Stiller earlier today, and this is a fun flick that is sure to strike a chord with folks who are looking to discover themselves and explore the world. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty started off a bit slow, but things started to pick up once Mitty decided to leave his comfort zone in New York City to find a seasoned photographer (Sean O'Connell, played by Sean Penn) and ask him for the whereabouts of a film negative whose content the folks at Life magazine (where Walter Mitty works) are depending on to keep their jobs. Mitty finds himself in such locales as near a volcano in Iceland, the mountains of Afghanistan and even the shark-infested waters off the coast of Greenland. His motivation for such trips? Finding that negative, and wanting to post a list of life experiences on his eHarmony.com page so he could impress a girl (Cheryl Melhoff, played by Kristen Wiig) that Mitty likes at work. Trying to woo a co-worker... How many of y'all can relate to that? I could.

Walter Mitty wants to win the affection of his co-worker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.

Another great thing about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is its soundtrack. I like listening to alternative rock music...and to finally hear Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up' on the big screen and Of Monsters and Men's 'Dirty Paws' play while Mitty is skateboarding down that mountain road in Iceland is awesome to hear and see. But what's cooler than this is the fact that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a feel-good flick—and Stiller should get credit for helming a movie that speaks to those who are stuck in pedestrian jobs and want to bring new excitement to their lives. As I asked before, how many of y'all can relate to that? Anyways, Happy Holidays everyone!

A mysterious photo taken by Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) sets in motion the adventures that Walter Mitty will go on in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

H.A.L.O. jumpers descend upon Godzilla as he lurks within the smoky remains of a decimated city in 2014's GODZILLA.

Just thought I'd celebrate the holiday by posting this trailer to next year's newest Godzilla flick. There is no Mothra and definitely no Jaeger-type robots (a la Pacific Rim) shown in this preview, but there is that cool opening scene showing H.A.L.O. paratroopers jumping out of an aircraft over the decimated remains of what looks to be San Francisco...and that awesome final shot of Godzilla as he emerges from a cloud of smoke. All I can say is, this movie looks like it will be a major improvement over Roland Emmerich's 1998 tale of a giant iguana (and its derivative Velociraptor offspring) that attacks New York City.

Godzilla gets released into theaters nationwide on May 16, 2014.

H.A.L.O. jumpers prepare to deploy over a city decimated by Godzilla in 2014's GODZILLA.

Elizabeth Olsen stars in 2014's GODZILLA.

Ken Watanabe stars in 2014's GODZILLA.

Bryan Cranston stars in 2014's GODZILLA.

Godzilla emerges from a cloud of smoke in 2014's GODZILLA.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug...

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) confronts the dragon Smaug in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

I saw the second installment in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy today, and considering the fact that I didn't watch the film in the dreaded High Frame Rate format like I did with last year's An Unexpected Journey, this movie was awesome. In regular IMAX 3-D, there were so many great scenes to remember from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug...from the Spiders lurking in Mirkwood forest, the Orcs chasing the dwarves down that river (who would've thought a dwarf in a barrel can kick so much arse?) after being captured by Elves to Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) himself flying through the halls of Erebor trying to incinerate Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and company. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) makes an appearance in The Hobbit, and just like in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was a total bad-ass as he dispatched Orcs left and right throughout the film. Ditto with Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly)—who despite the fact wasn't featured in J.R.R. Tolkien's book is sure to leave a mark in next year's final Hobbit installment, There and Back Again. Since The Desolation of Smaug (slight spoilers ahead) concluded right where the book ended as well, one wonders how Peter Jackson will fill the rest of what will most likely be a two-and-half hour running time for the third flick. Sauron is beginning to rear his ugly head in Middle-earth... Gandalf (Ian McKellen) should know. Have a good evening, everyone!

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his fellow dwarves take a ride down a river as Orcs  pursue them in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) come to the dwarves' rescue in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is the first to officially discover that Sauron is back in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Peter O'Toole (1932–2013)

Rest In Peace, Mr. O'Toole... I remember how amazed I was when I watched Lawrence of Arabia up on the big screen during a film festival held at my college (Cal State Long Beach) twelve years ago. Peter O'Toole obviously worked on many movies since then—ranging from 1967's Casino Royale (actually a spoof of James Bond) to the 2007 Pixar animated flick, Ratatouille. But it will be his role as T.E. Lawrence in 1962's Oscar-winning World War I epic that O'Toole will be best remembered for. The accomplished actor passed away at Wellington Hospital in London today. He was 81.

T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) and Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) wage combat in the Middle East during World War I, in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Paul Walker (1973-2013)

Rest In Peace, Mr. Walker... The Fast and the Furious films (the last three sequels, to be exact) wouldn't have been the awesome, high-octane action flicks they were if he wasn't in it.

Walker was 40-years-old before today's tragic car accident (which also claimed the life of one of his friends who was riding in the vehicle as well) in Valencia, California.

Paul Walker in 2011's FAST FIVE.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Transformers: Age of Extinction

In tradition with the first two Transformers sequels, Optimus Prime is the first Autobot to officially be revealed as his redesigned robot mode graces the cover of Empire magazine's January 2014 issue. Director Michael Bay wrapped filming on Transformers: Age of Extinction about three weeks ago...but it remains to be seen when we'll get a glimpse of Optimus, Bumblebee, Nicola Peltz (oh, and Mark Wahlberg) and company confronting the Decepticons in a teaser trailer. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug looks like a great flick to give us our first big screen preview of Age of Extinction before this year is over, but there have been no ramblings online as to whether this is close to being the case. If it's anything like Revenge of the Fallen, the first time we'll see Bayhem—TF4-style—will be during Super Bowl XLVIII next February. Carry on.

Optimus Prime, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz and Mark Wahlberg will grace the cover of Empire magazine's January 2014 issue...which features an article on TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire...

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) are surrounded by Peacekeepers in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE.

I watched the latest action-adventure flick starring Jennifer Lawrence earlier today, and in the same vein that The Dark Knight was an improvement over Batman Begins (which was still very good) and The Empire Strikes Back was a worthy successor to Star Wars, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was more intense and cerebral than its 2012 predecessor. As Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence did a great job conveying the anguish that the character experienced throughout the majority of the film...especially after President Snow (Donald Sutherland) was so bent on eliminating Everdeen that he had all former winners/survivors of The Hunger Games (who were previously exempted from taking part in the barbaric competition ever again) participate in another savage battle royale one last time. Philip Seymour Hoffman added intrigue to Catching Fire as Plutarch Heavensbee...President Snow's Head Gamemaker who wasn't all that he's cracked up to be by the final scene of the movie. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was apparently the Han Solo of Catching Fire; you'd have to watch The Empire Strikes Back and the finale of The Hunger Games sequel to know what I'm talking about.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) discuss the fate of Katniss Everdeen in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE.

Other noteworthy aspects of Catching Fire were the redesigned suits of the Peacekeepers, who looked like a cross between the competitors of Tron (Tron: Legacy to be exact) and Imperial Stormtroopers. The aircraft that the Capitol used to send participants to The Hunger Game arena (and retrieve the corpses of unlucky warriors during the death match) looked pretty cool—and were definitely reminiscent of the ships you'd see in Star Wars and Star Trek. I'm looking forward to how the revolution against the Capitol begins in The Hungers Games, with Part 1 of Mockingjay getting released in theaters next November and Part 2 being unleashed in cinemas during the Year of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII. I'm referring to 2015, of course. That is all.

Katniss Everdeen is ready for another battle royale in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gearing Up for Star Wars: Episode VII...

There is no visual clue in the photo below as to what he has in store for Star Wars fans come Christmas time in 2015, but it's nice to know that J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and company are hard at work in preparing for Episode VII's production shoot—which starts around spring of next year. The fact that R2-D2's presence in this image showing that he should be making another appearance in the seventh Star Wars live-action flick is cool... The fact that there is no sign of a maquette or artwork depicting a Jar Jar-like character for this movie is awesome. I'm well aware that this could change soon.

STAR WARS: EPISODE VII director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and two staff members pose with R2-D2.
Photo courtesy of Bad Robot - Twitter.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thor: The Dark World...

THOR pokes fun at the old CBS TV show, CSI: MIAMI.

I saw the latest Marvel comic book flick yesterday, and it was just as enjoyable (moreso, actually) as the 2011 installment. Tom Hiddleston as Loki steals the show (along with Kat Dennings—who amusingly channeled her character Max from the hit CBS TV sitcom, 2 Broke Girls), Natalie Portman gave a much more commendable performance in Thor: The Dark World...it didn't look like she was phonin' it in like in the Star Wars prequels or something. Though the question remains: Who was Benicio Del Toro playing in that scene during the end credits? (Just Googled it right now, and he is The Collector.) And will he show up in the third film? Carry on.

Thor and his fellow Asgardians do battle in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), despite missing Thor's presence, goes out on a blind date in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is amused as Asgard falls under attack in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Thor and his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) endure a family tragedy in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston) and his Dark Elves search for a weapon that will bring Asgard and other worlds to their knees in THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII Gets A Release Date!

A fan-made poster for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.

December 18, 2015... That's the date that Disney and Lucasfilm have officially penciled in as the day when the newest installment in the Star Wars saga will make its debut at theaters nationwide. While the casting of Episode VII actors has not yet been announced, the unveiling of the release date is good news. Based on reports that I read online last week—where Disney originally wanted a Spring 2015 release for J.J. Abrams' upcoming movie, and Lucasfilm wanted to push the debut back to 2016 to give Abrams more time to shoot the flick and work on what will most assuredly be extensive visual effects sequences during postproduction—it is nice to know that George Lucas' former company and its new owner reached a compromise on when to roll out the sequel trilogy to the public. The final Hobbit film, There and Back Again, comes out at theaters in December of next year; what are the chances that Abrams will create a Star Wars flick that will at least be as critically and artistically received as any of Peter Jackson's newest Tolkien films...let alone the original Lord of the Rings trilogy? No need for Episode VII to fall victim to what one of my (former) friends labeled The Lord of the Rings when The Fellowship of the Ring was released back in late 2001: A "Star Wars killer." Carry on.

STAR WARS creator George Lucas confers with STAR WARS: EPISODE VII director J.J. Abrams.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo...

IRON MAN maquettes on display at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Just thought I'd share these cool pics that I took of the costumes and props used in the Iron Man trilogy at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo yesterday. Speaking of costumes, a lot of other fans showed up in the coolest home-made disguises I've ever seen at a comic book convention (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but these get-ups were still really kick-ass). Of course, the fact that there was a costume contest during the expo was a pretty good reason why this was the case. Anyways, click here to see photos that I took of some of the celebrities—including Stan the Man himself—at the L.A. Convention Center yesterday. Hopefully there will be just as many awesome celebs and movie exhibits at Comikaze next year!

Posing with the Mark 45 and Iron Patriot from IRON MAN 3...at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Iron Monger (from the first IRON MAN movie), the Mark 45 and Iron Patriot on display at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

War Machine (from IRON MAN 2) on display at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Darth Maul and a Jedi Knight whose name I forgot strike a pose at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

A Stormtrooper and...a character I've never seen before (in STAR WARS or anywhere else) strike a pose at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

The Ecto-1 from GHOSTBUSTERS at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Even fake Bumblebee can get the girls (with the one to Bee's right looking KINDA like Megan Fox) at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier...

Check out the new teaser poster for next year's sequel to the 2011 film starring the first Avenger. Judging from this promo, we'll get to see the awesome helicarrier in action once again. Of course, this is Captain America we're talking about here...so why wouldn't Nick Fury allow the shield-welding superhero travel aboard S.H.I.E.L.D.'s signature flagship (especially considering that Steve Rogers can't fly like Iron Man and Thor could)? Captain America: The Winter Soldier gets released in theaters nationwide on April 4, 2014.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Star Wars: The Interdictor Cruiser...

An illustration of the Imperial-class Interdictor Cruiser from the STAR WARS Expanded Universe.

No— The Interdictor Cruiser is not the title for an upcoming Star Wars video game or novel, but the name of an Imperial-class warship that was capable of pulling other vessels out of hyperspace through the Interdictor's four powerful gravity well projectors in the Expanded Universe (EU). The reason why I'm posting this in my Film Notes section is because 1.) I miss playing the old X-Wing CD-ROM video game (the Strategy Guidebook for this game featured a small article on the Interdictor) on my PC in the late 1990s, and 2.) It would be cool if this cruiser was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII. While it has been stated numerous times online that director J.J. Abrams doesn't intend to defer to the EU for any major plot points in the upcoming sequel, it would at least be interesting if Abrams featured some vehicles from the EU...the same way that George Lucas featured Dash Rendar's ship Outrider (from the 1996 Star Wars multimedia campaign, Shadows of the Empire) in the 1997 Special Edition of Star Wars: A New Hope. I'll cross my fingers that the Interdictor (and even the Imperial-class Assault Gunboat from X-Wing CD-ROM) shows up on the big screen in 2015.

An illustration of the Imperial-class Interdictor Cruiser from the STAR WARS Expanded Universe.

An illustration of the Imperial-class Interdictor Cruiser from the STAR WARS Expanded Universe.

An illustration of the Imperial-class Assault Gunboat from the STAR WARS: X-WING CD-ROM video game.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Machete Kills...

Machete (Danny Trejo) welds a machete in MACHETE KILLS.

Last weekend, I watched the sequel to Robert Rodriguez's 2010 grindhouse flick...and I have five words to say: What the hell was THAT? With the first Machete, Rodriguez intentionally set out to make a bad flick that ended up being very campy and entertaining. With Machete Kills, there were still campy and entertaining moments—but just like George Lucas (who either should be flattered or embarrassed by the random Star Wars references), Rodriguez let the success (so to speak) of the first movie get to his head and added even more cheesy and self-indulgent scenes to the latest Danny Trejo pic. As mentioned in the parentheses above, there were a gripload of Star Wars moments...obviously the "sneak preview" at the beginning of the flick showing Trejo welding a lightsaber against the Man with the Silver Mask (not necessarily played by Leonardo DiCaprio... An inside-joke in Machete Kills), the landspeeder-looking golf cart that Mel Gibson used to drive around his company's floor and (spoilers ahead) Michelle Rodriguez being encased in (not-)carbonite by the Man with the Silver Mask in the sequel's climax. If Machete Kills was as wacky and disjointed as The Empire Strikes Back was dark and awesomely epic, one wonders how Machete Kills Again...In Space (assuming it gets made) fares against Return of the Jedi. Oh, and Machete Kills also made a reference to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove...but how many folks who aren't Kubrick fans or die-hard movie aficionados get that reference?

Machete and Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) get cozy in MACHETE KILLS.

Considering how twisted and misogynistic Machete Kills was, it's probably safe to say that the only reason why this film was worth watching was because of all the gorgeous actresses in the movie. From Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba (whose fate in this flick is another reason why this film should be hissed at) to Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens and Sofia Vergara, Machete Kills clearly had a lot more femme fatales in it than the first movie did. I never saw Spy Kids, but I'm sure fans of this film will be jaw-dropped at how much Vega has grown since that 2001 flick, while Vergara goes from being Al Bundy's wife in the hit TV show Modern Family to a brothel-owning "man-eater" (her character's exact words in Machete Kills) who wears armor-plated boob guns and a strap-on that also...fires bullets. Lady Gaga shows up in the flick, but mostly to give an excuse to have Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Antonio Banderas (who played Vega's dad in Spy Kids) join this movie's cast as well.

Machete and Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) drive around in a landspeeder in MACHETE KILLS.

I didn't think my review for Machete Kills would be this long (I'd be ashamed of myself if it ended up being longer than my latest entries for Gravity and Captain Phillips), but I'll end this by saying that Machete Kills could've been better. A lot better. In another randomness for this film, entrepreneur Elon Musk and his SpaceX aerospace company made an appearance in Machete Kills (not so randomly, SpaceX's role is actually integral to the story). I wonder how much Musk was paid to make a cameo in this flick...which, unlike in Iron Man 2 (where Musk appropriately had a run-in with his fictional equivalent, Tony Stark), came out of nowhere. Seeing as how Machete Kills Again...In Space is supposed to happen in um, space, we'll see if more prominent figures in the aerospace industry show up in the second sequel. This is assuming that it gets made; Machete Kills flopped big time on opening weekend. To which Danny Trejo's character can retort, "Machete don't check box office grosses." But I'm sure that Robert Rodriguez does—and the future's not looking bright for our blade-welding Latino antihero... 'Nuff said.

KillJoy (Alexa Vega) strikes a pose in MACHETE KILLS.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Captain Phillips: Movie Review

From the stern of the USS Bainbridge, Navy SEAL snipers monitor a lifeboat carrying Captain Richard Phillips and four Somali pirates holding him hostage in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

I watched Paul Greengrass' cinematic take on the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama yesterday, and two things come to mind: God bless America...and Go Navy! Captain Phillips is the latest true-story flick to depict the heroism of U.S. Navy SEALS (right after last year's Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty) as they take on four Somali pirates who kidnapped Captain Richard Phillips and held him hostage aboard a hyperbaric lifeboat for several days. I don't know how much creative license Greengrass took to dramatize this ordeal (I never read in the newspaper that Phillips briefly escaped from the lifeboat and tried to swim towards the USS Bainbridge nearby...only for the pirates to recapture him from the water)...what I do know is that he got the one major detail of this event right. That one detail is the fact that three SEAL team snipers simultaneously fired their rifles and took out the pirates (three were left aboard the lifeboat while the fourth was lured aboard the Bainbridge by a fake deal made by Navy officers, and later arrested) just as they were about to harm Phillips. Even being towed by the Bainbridge, the lifeboat was still rocking drastically in the ocean—and for the snipers to nail their targets from the stern of the Navy destroyer hundreds of feet away was remarkable.

Aboard the bridge of the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) confronts the Somali pirate leader Muse (Barkhad Abdi) in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

Just as remarkable as the real-life way that the Navy SEALs ended this crisis are the performances of Tom Hanks and the four actors who played the Somali pirates. Hanks' superb acting is to be expected, but the performance of newcomer Barkhad Abdi—who played pirate leader Muse—was memorable. I read online that Abdi mistimed his speaking cues when he acted with Hanks during that scene where the pirates stormed the ship's bridge (which is the first time the two actors met in-person when the movie was being shot... That was an intentional move on Greengrass' part to prevent the first-time Somali performers from being intimidated by Hanks during filming), but that confrontation came off very intense on the big screen. Abdi needs to bulk up if he wants to work in other Hollywood flicks where he won't play a "skinny rat" marauding the high seas, but as far as Captain Phillips is concerned, he was a shoo-in for this role. And don't be surprised if he gets a Best Supporting Actor nomination at an awards ceremony early next year.

Aboard the MV Maersk Alabama, Muse and his gang of Somali pirates search for Captain Richard Phillips' crew in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

Following on the heels of Gravity, Captain Phillips is another well-made flick that should make the 2014 awards season very interesting. From Best Adapted Screenplay (since the movie is based on a book written by Richard Phillips himself), a Best Actor nomination for Hanks, a potential Best Supporting Actor nom for Abdi to Best Film Editing and other nods in technical categories, Captain Phillips has the makings of a movie that should make the 86th Academy Awards next March worth watching. The Oscars will be even more fun to watch when you include Alfonso CuarĂ³n's hit space disaster film in the equation. Either way, as long as both films receive the kudos that they deserve in late winter, everything is—as the pirate Muse would say—"gonna be all right." That is all.

Standing at the hatch of the hyperbaric lifeboat, Muse confronts a skiff team dispatched from the navy destroyer USS Bainbridge in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.