Friday, July 29, 2011

Alien Terror Times Two: Prometheus and Aliens: Colonial Marines



It looks like next year is going to be a doozy for Alien fans:

* News of a Ridley Scott-directed Alien prequel, entitled Prometheus, has been in circulation since 2009. During the last few weeks, a plot summary of Prometheus appeared online and Scott himself made an appearance via teleconference at an SDCC panel devoted to Prometheus. Each of these instances gave Alien fans broad hints of what to expect from Scott's next contribution to the franchise. According to what has been released about the prequel so far, we'll learn much more about the origins of the derelict, biomechanical alien spacecraft that was first encountered on planet LV-426 by the Nostromo crew in Alien. Prometheus is slated for release in 2012.

* On the video game front, rumors of a first person shooter game called Aliens: Colonial Marines have also been in circulation for years. During the recent E3 conference that was held last month, Sega unveiled a few minutes of demo footage of Colonial Marines to provide an idea of what players will see in the next major Alien game. According to the press release and interviews with game developers, the game will be released in 2012 and will feature missions that take place in the adrift Sulaco spaceship, on LV-426, and in the derelict alien spacecraft itself.

What could these two upcoming releases mean for the future of the Alien franchise? Read on for a few ideas. WARNING: There are some minor spoilers ahead, most of which have to do with Prometheus. If you want to avoid knowing anything about the Alien prequel at this time, stop reading now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Star Wars Flashback: A Naboo Starfighter Lands at the Smithsonian


Many franchises such as Jaws and Transformers have made appearances in museums as exhibits, but I'm convinced that few have done it as much as Star Wars. I've seen two exhibits devoted to Star Wars at the Smithsonian in Washington DC: Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, which was on display from 1997 to 1998, and Star Wars: The Art of the Starfighter, which was on display in 2001. Both exhibits went on tour to other museums after their initial runs in DC.


I went with a friend to see the opening of the Art of the Starfighter exhibit, which featured a full-scale, 35 foot model of the Naboo starfighter that was used in the making of The Phantom Menace. The starfighter was flanked by two interactive kiosks. One kiosk featured a documentary video from Lucasfilm about the history of starfighter designs in the Star Wars franchise, while the other kiosk featured a preview version of the Star Wars: Starfighter video game that was later released for Playstation 2, Xbox and PC. I got an autograph from one of the starfighter special effect folks who was present at the opening (see above), although I don't remember his name and his signature doesn't provide many clues. (I think it was John Goodson, Model Shop Project Supervisor at ILM, but I'm not sure.)

Of course, plenty of Star Wars fans were at the exhibit's opening; click below to see some of the photos we took of the exhibit and the costumed fans. You can also go to TheForce.Net, Clevescene.com and The Stanford Daily for more information about the Art of the Starfighter exhibit.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Review of Captain America: The First Avenger



Captain America: The First Avenger, the last superhero movie for this summer season, made its box office debut last weekend. It was worth the wait, because it is hands down the best superhero movie of the summer, and a great way to keep Marvel fans in a state of eager anticipation for next summer's Avengers movie.

Like Thor before it, Captain America incorporates the title character's rich history of comic book tales into the movie's plot and visual design. Perhaps the most inspired creative decision behind this movie was not only to depict the origin story of one of Marvel's oldest characters but to also serve as a tribute to the Golden Age of superhero comics, an era where every superhero from that time (including Superman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Batman) was enlisted to fight the Nazi menace and sell war bonds as part of their comic book adventures. Read on for the complete review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Look at Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon



I may be a devoted geek, but I'm also a cheap geek. Thus, when Nintendo announced that they'll be winding down their support of the Wii to work on their upcoming Wii U, I was kind of happy because that meant that the prices for Wii games will drop to my level of penny-pinching. Among the Wii games that I have purchased during the recent price drops has been Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon.

I didn't know what to expect from this game, but I heard enough positive things about it to encourage my purchase of it. Now that I've finished playing it, I can say that Fragile Dreams is one of the best games made for the Wii, as well as the most spellbinding game I have seen in a long time. Read on for my complete review of this unfairly overlooked Wii gem from 2010.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Go, Go Godzilla! Introducing Bandai's S.H. Monsterarts Toy Line


Action figures have evolved significantly over the last few decades, from figures that featured limited details and articulation points to those that are almost flawless replicas of popular characters and feature articulation points in the double digits. One of the lines that has faced many challenges in updating its designs has been the action figure line of Godzilla and his various kaiju allies and enemies. While many of the recent Godzilla action figures are very detailed and movie-accurate in their appearances, they often feature a limited range of articulation.

Solving this problem is Bandai, which just announced the upcoming November launch of their S.H. Monsterarts toy line. According to the Infinite Hollywood site, this new line will be a spin-off of Bandai's S.H. Figurearts line and it will be devoted to the Godzilla franchise. The first release from the new line will be a six-inch figure of Godzilla himself that will have 29 points of articulation--a first for any Godzilla figure--and it will include bonus "heat effect" parts.


The second figure that is scheduled for release in December will be of MechaGodzilla, and it will feature die cast metal parts and bonus "Mega Buster" effect parts.


Unfortunately, these figures will be far from cheap: Godzilla will go for $75 and MechaGodzilla will go for $90. So you can either start saving your money now, or you can satiate your kaiju cravings in the meantime by picking up Revoltech's super-poseable (and slightly cheaper) kaiju figures that include Anguirus, Gamera, Gigan, Mothera and Rodan.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Mini-Review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2



In spite of my hazy, crazy summer schedule, I did see the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, on opening weekend. The theater was packed, which is a very impressive feat for a 9:45 a.m. IMAX 3D showing on a Saturday morning. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is one of the best summer films I've seen this year, and it looked absolutely stunning in IMAX 3D.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 chronicles the final confrontation between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), a confrontation that inevitably involves Hogwarts itself--the castle, the faculty and the students. This sequel picks up immediately after the previous movie, so viewers who haven't seen Deathly Hallows Part 1 yet should see that first before watching Part 2. (Then again, with all of the cameos of people and places that were seen in the previous films, anyone who decides to make the last Harry Potter film their first will be completely lost.)

Deathly Hallows Part 2 is epic in scope, both in terms of narrative structure and visual composition, more so than any of the previous Harry Potter films. Further aiding in the astonishing grandiosity of this adaptation is the direction of David Yates, whose previous experience in this franchise (Yates directed the last three Harry Potter films) clearly aided him in providing the right tone and pacing for this final chapter. In between the action set pieces are a few quiet, thoughtful, character-driven scenes--including a few noteworthy moments involving Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), Harry himself, and a goblin named Griphook (Warwick Davis)--which emphasize the quality of the film's cast and Yates' thorough understanding of the source material.

As with any other Harry Potter movie, quite a few subplots from the books are missing in the movie. For example, the tragic story behind Ariana, the late sister of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), is nowhere to be found; she makes a cameo appearance as a portrait in a scene with Albus' brother Aberforth (CiarĂ¡n Hinds), but nothing more. While the omission of this and other back stories doesn't keep Deathly Hallows Part 2 from being a great movie, their absence stand as reminders of how the movies' set running times cause them to fall short of the narrative richness of Rowling's books--even when one book is split into two movies, as is the case of Deathly Hallows. Nevertheless, I don't know how the ending of the Harry Potter saga could have been portrayed any better on the silver screen than what Yates and company produced in Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Furthermore, if there's one film to see in 3D this summer, it's Deathly Hallows. The already impressive action scenes in both Gringotts and Hogwarts gain an extra level of almost immersive depth in the 3D format, which further enhances the multitude of thrills that this sequel provides.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

SDCC 2011 Exclusives: The Wish List



It's that time again: The 2011 San Diego Comic Con will be held this month from the 21st to the 24th. There has already been some press coverage when the movie studios withdrew their involvement from this year's SDCC, an unexpected shift from previous years when studios used SDCC to promote upcoming films. The good news, though, is that the SDCC will still have tons of exclusive merchandise, and this post will highlight some of the more promising pieces of geek goodies. Read on....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mimic: The Director's Cut Blu-Ray Arrives in September


Attention all big bug movie lovers! Guillermo del Toro's cut of Mimic, his first Hollywood-produced movie, will be released on Blu-ray on September 27.


I've heard that del Toro ran into quite a few creative conflicts with Miramax Films while he was directing Mimic and rumors have been circulating for years that there was some footage from the cutting room floor still out there waiting to be seen. Presumably, this Blu-ray will incorporate the cut footage back into the movie so we can finally see del Toro's official version of Mimic. Read on for more details, as well as some thoughts regarding the additions to this big bug classic.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mini-Review of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team


It's tough being a working geek. While I have time to work at my day job and write for my blog, I don't always spare time left over to do other geek-related things, such as keeping up with the latest blockbuster movies. I didn't have time to see the new Transformers movie last weekend or this weekend, which means that I probably won't have time to see it before it leaves the theaters. Thankfully, a friend of mine helped me out with this situation by letting me borrow his copy of the Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team miniseries.


I've heard plenty enough about the Gundam franchise over the years to know that it's the equivalent of Dr. Who and Star Trek in terms of longevity, but I don't know much else about it. Such lack of knowledge didn't keep me from enjoying The 08th MS Team at all, which speaks highly about the quality of its story.

The 08th MS Team tells the story of the titular military unit stationed in the jungles of Southeast Asia during the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. Even though this miniseries latest for only twelve episodes (eleven episodes with an additional episode that serves as an epilogue of sorts), it is populated with distinct, well-developed characters and features enough plot twists to keep you guessing what will happen next. In fact, because I'm such a big Robotech fan, many of the characters, stories and themes in The 08th MS Team reminded me of elements found in all three of the anime series that made up the first Robotech saga.

Overall, if you love epic big 'bot battles but can't stand Michael Bay, The 08th MS Team miniseries is a more than capable of meeting anyone's cravings for rock'em sock'em giant robots.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

R.I.P. Sym-Bionic Titan, We Hardly Knew Ye (UPDATED)


Why am I always the last person to know about these things?


I just heard that Genndy Tartakovsky's latest Cartoon Network series, Sym-Bionic Titan, was cancelled last March. According to the source I've read, Sym-Bionic Titan was cancelled by Cartoon Network executives because "it didn’t have enough toys connected to it". For those of you who are keeping score: The third Transformers live action, feature-length toy commercial topped the box office last weekend and other 80s-era cartoons/toy lines such as Thundercats and Voltron are getting reboots, but Tartakovsky's big 'bot series, which was an exemplary combination of wit, action, and gorgeous hand-drawn animation, gets canned because Cartoon Network executives don't think that they can sell enough merchandise from it. Jerks.

Tartakovsky has gone on to Sony Pictures Animation since the cancellation and he's currently directing an animated film called Hotel Transylvania, a film that will feature a cast of classic monsters such as Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, and the Mummy. Regardless, I'm still hoping that he can return to Sym-Bionic Titan someday to continue (and perhaps finish) the story. Show your support for this prematurely cancelled cartoon by checking out the Help Save Sym-Bionic Titan! site and the Sym-bionic Titan Facebook page, and by picking up a complete Sym-Bionic Titan series set whenever it becomes available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Five Fun G1 Transformers Playsets



With the third Transformers movie transforming multiplexes across the country into money-printing machines, I thought that now would be a good time to look back at a five of the early Transformers robots that demonstrated just how fun and imaginative these toys could be. Even without the cartoons, video games and movies that have been produced throughout the years to boost the popularity of the Transformers, many of these toys are quite amazing in their own right and provided countless hours of fun for kids.

The main reason why I selected this particular bunch to transforming 'bot toys for recognition is that all of them are almost the same scale as my personal robot toys of choice: the Zoids and their various spin off toy lines. This is also the reason why I'm referring to these particular toys as "playsets": Due to their size and features, these Transformers robots were both action figures on their own and provided playset-like backgrounds for other smaller figures. Read on ...