Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nerd Rant: DVD and Blu-Ray Rental Nazis Say, "No Extra Features For YOU!"

Something odd happened to my wife and me the other day. We were watching a DVD movie from Netflix and after we watched the movie, we liked it enough to want to see the extra features that were listed on the DVD's menu--the deleted scenes, the production features, and so on. All of the menu links appeared on the screen, so there was no reason to assume that we could not access these extra features. Yet no matter what feature we selected, a black screen would appear with a message that said that the DVD we rented was for rental purposes ONLY and that we'd actually have to buy the movie we watched to see the extra features.

This is the first time that I've encountered this problem, and I don't think that it's all-encompassing (yet). After all, we later watched another DVD from Netflix and we could access the extras on that disc with no problems whatsoever. Yet to have a rented DVD forbid us from watching the extras and explicitly tell us to buy the movie if we wanted to learn more about it was a bit of a shock after almost a decade of renting DVDs and the extra features that came with them without a single hassle. Read on ...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bait 3D: I Need a Price Check on Tiger Sharks in Aisle Six

For fans of 3D sharksploitation movies, it looks like Christmas is coming early this year. In September, not only we see the release of Shark Night 3D here in the US, but Bait 3D will also be released in Australia at roughly the same time.

Bait 3D is about a group of people in a coastal Australian city who are trapped in a flooded supermarket after a tsunami, and a handful of tiger sharks are trapped in the store with them. This film has been written and directed by Russell Mulcahy, the same guy who brought us Highlander, The Shadow, Resident Evil: Extinction and Razorback, another Australian Jaws knockoff. You can watch a preview video on YouTube here, which gives an early look at the production of Bait 3D, and you can watch the first official trailer here.

Of the two monster shark movies, I think that Shark Night 3D will probably be the better film but I'm not completely dismissing Bait 3D just yet. Like Shark Night 3D, Bait 3D will also be using both CGI and animatronic sharks, so we could still get some effective, realistic scares out of this movie that would satisfy any monster movie fan. Regardless, now would be the perfect time for Universal to restore and re-release Jaws 3D on 3D Blu ray, so that it can later be combined with the 3D Blu ray releases of Shark Night 3D and Bait 3D for the ultimate 3D sharksploitation box set.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shark Night 3D Teaser Poster and Trailer--It’s Jaws 3D: The Revenge!

With the recent waves of 3D films hitting the multiplexes these days, I'm glad that the horror genre--particularly the monster movie subgenre--hasn't been left out. Last summer, we had the Piranha remake in 3D; this September, we'll be getting Shark Night 3D. The teaser poster (as seen above) was just released the week, and you can see the first official trailer here on YouTube.

It's been almost 30 years since Jaws 3D, so I think that it's about time that we got another 3D monster shark movie that uses the latest 3D technology. It would've been nice if someone at Universal took the initiative to convert Jaws 3D from anaglyph 3D to high definition field sequential 3D for distribution on Blu-ray but that will probably never happen, so Shark Night 3D is the next best thing. Read on for more thoughts about this upcoming 3D deep water fright flick.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Avengers Have Been Assembling on Disney XD

Boy, is my face red. I'd like to think that I'm up to date on most geek-friendly entertainment, but somehow this one escaped me: Since last Fall, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has been airing on the Disney XD channel.

In retrospect, I can see how I missed this. It seemed that during the rise of niche channels on cable TV, almost all of the cool animated shows have been going to the Cartoon Network--Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Young Justice, Venture Brothers, Symbionic Titan, and so on. So, to find out that one of Disney's cable channels has been running the latest animated version of one of Marvel Comics' premiere superhero teams really caught me off guard.

Finding Captain America, Iron Man and Thor on a Disney channel does makes sense, actually. Disney bought Marvel back in 2009, so naturally Disney would play a key role in deciding when, where and how any Marvel properties are marketed to the public. Furthermore, with Marvel laying the groundwork in its live-action movies such as Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor and the upcoming Captain America movie for a likewise live-action Avengers movie in 2012, it's logical that Marvel would also put an Avengers cartoon on the airwaves to build additional interest in this particular title and the Marvel universe in general.

I've been catching up on the episodes I've missed and from what I've seen so far, the show does justice (no pun intended) to its source material. The team's roster has a selection of both popular and less well-known heroes, and the show accurately portrays the personalities and prior histories of each of the main characters. Even though DC also has its own selection of popular superhero characters, Marvel has often done a better job of placing its characters in a single, consistent narrative universe. That trend continues in the current Avengers show: Characters from all over the Marvel universe appear in each episode, from episode-length guest roles to fleeting, momentary cameos. The only thing that I think this show could improve is its overall quality of animation, which looks somewhat awkward and uneven in comparison to its closest thematic counterpart, the Justice League TV series.

For more information about this series, go to the Avengers page on the Disney XD site.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Star Tours, Episode II: Revenge of the Star Tours

Star Wars has been in the news quite a bit lately. First came the announcement of the upcoming September release of all six Star Wars movies on Blu-ray. Then, this weekend marks the opening of the updated Star Tours ride at the Disney theme parks.

The updated Star Tours ride looks like a really sweet upgrade. All of the video footage shown in the ride will be in 3D, thus making the ride much more immersive than its previous version. The updated ride includes planets and characters from all six movies; in fact, the planets and characters appear in different sequences during each individual ride, with up to 54 possible combinations. Go to the TheForce.Net, Mouse Planet and Entertainment Weekly sites for more details about this amazing theme park experience.

The last time I was on the original Star Tours ride was back in June 2007, and we were lucky enough to be there during one of Disney's "Star Wars Celebration" weekends. Click below to see some of the pictures that I took of theme park staff who dressed as Star Wars characters as part of this event, as well as some pictures of the original Star Tours ride.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nerd Rant: A Sequel Sins Survey

Hey, franchise lovers! Check this out: Blogumnist and Hell House: The Awakening co-author Ryan Dixon outlines the seven deadly sins of sequel making over at the Fierce and Nerdy site. Dixon couches the seven deadly sequel sins in a mock memo to a newly promoted president of production at a major movie studio. It's a funny read, and he outlines the seven deadly sequel sins as the following:

  • A new leading actor
  • A sequel that’s a “prequel”
  • Released four or more years after the previous sequel
  • Ignored the franchise’s previous timeline or character arcs
  • Incorporated a radically different tone
  • Copied the plot of the original and pasted it in a new location
  • Lack of involvement from original creative team
To further emphasize his point, Dixon includes a list of twelve of the most notoriously bad sequels ever (including my own personal object of ire, Jaws: The Revenge) and providing the following data for each sequel on the list: domestic box office, average box office of franchise predecessors, and--perhaps the most important item--sequel slide percentage.

Being a horror and sci-fi fan, I've had more than my fair share of experience with sequels--the good, the bad, and the ugly. (After all, where would many horror and sci-fi icons and franchises be without lots and lots of sequels?) Of the list of sequel attributes that Dixon presents, I think that only two of them unmistakably qualify as "sins"--namely, ignoring the franchise’s previous timeline or character arcs and incorporating a radically different tone. Those two sins are hard to remedy, no matter what kind of creative team is at the helm, once they have been implemented into the production of a sequel.

The other five attributes are more of symptoms than sins, indicators that the sequel might be horrible but are by no means conclusive by themselves. For example, the sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead both feature new leading actors, were released four or more years after the previous movie/sequel, and copy the plot of the original and put it in new locations; however, both of these films are fitting continuations of the zombie story that George Romero started in Night of the Living Dead. I thought that the prequel-as-sequel Paranormal Activity 2 added a backstory to the first movie that further enriched the overall story. I also think that many of the stories and concepts introduced in the Terminator sequels that were not written and directed by James Cameron (and did not feature Arnold Schwarzenegger in a starring role) are some of the best stories and concepts that the Terminator franchise has to offer.

On the other hand, I think that there are two sequel sins that should be added to Dixon's list, sins that I've seen committed by movie studios way too often: the direct-to-video release of sequels (be it on VHS, DVD, or as a TV movie) and the lack of commitment to telling a sequel with meaningful plot advancement. Read on for more thoughts on the sinful thinking that had plagued horror and sci-fi franchises for decades.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shock Theater Book Review

I recently read a book titled Shock Theater: An Illustrated History by Jim Clatterbaugh, the editor and publisher of Monsters From The Vault magazine. I actually got this book from a friend shortly after its initial publishing in 2001, but it became lost among my tons of stuff during two successive moves around the Washington DC/Maryland area.

When I first looked at this book, it didn't sink in to me exactly what Shock Theater was and what it meant to the horror film fan community during the early years of TV and before the arrival of technologies such as VHS tapes and DVDs. However, upon reading Clatterbaugh's book, it became very clear just how important "horror hosts" and the wide distribution of horror movies on syndicated television during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s have been to the horror fan community. Read on for a complete review of this eye-opening book, which provides a detailed retrospective of a key moment in horror movie history that ensured its successful transition from the silver screen to the living room.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thor Review: A Fable of a Fallen God

I saw Thor this last weekend. Of all of the Marvel superheroes that have made it to the big screen, I know less about Thor than the others. Nevertheless, the Thor movie is a big thunder blast of fun, a superheroic feat for one of Marvel’s less popular characters. Read on for my complete review.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nerd Rant: Fast Five and the Highway Wreckage of Movie Criticism

As a dedicated movie fan, I really have to know. How the heck did THIS happen?:

I'm not asking this question as a criticism of Fast Five or the Fast and Furious franchise--they're not my kind of movies, but far be it for me to criticize anyone who finds these kinds of movies to be entertaining. However, the 79% approval figure shown above comes from Rotten Tomatoes, the percentage tally of the number of film critics who liked the film as opposed to those who didn't. For the fourth sequel in a franchise, Fast Five's scoring an 79% approval rating is almost unheard of among the critics, the segment of the general population who suffer much more acutely than others from the clinical condition known as "sequel fatigue". Unless a franchise involves Star Trek or James Bond, it's inevitable that critics will bring ever increasing levels of snarkiness and skepticism to their reviews of each successive film in a series. Read on for the full rant about why modern film criticism appears to be running in circles.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do You Love Horror Movies? If So, Thank a Teacher!

In case you didn't know, tomorrow is National Teacher Day. This may seem like an unusual reminder to post on a blog such as this, but there's a method behind my madness. It's been my experience that public schools and educators are never too far away from the heart of the storm whenever there is some kind of national controversy or public funding crisis, and our country's latest wave of financial woes is no exception to this rule. Thus, in honor of National Teacher Day, I've decided to show my appreciation of public educators in a way that's fitting for a horror movie maniac like me. Read on for why horror fans everywhere should be tipping their hats to the public schools and educators who played a vital role in shaping their damaged and deranged minds.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

John Brosio: Beautiful Disasters, Space Adventures and Bloody Bridal Horrors on Canvas

I first saw the above painting on the 3-D Monsters blog, which told me the name of the artist who painted it: John Brosio. I initially thought that the painting was a tribute of sorts to the giant monster movies of the 50s and/or the stop-motion animation work of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien. After doing some more research on Brosio, it turns out that I was kind of right but there's more going on in this painting--much, much more. Read on for more information about this unique artist, his influences, and some additional examples of his work.