Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher - Farewell to an Icon

I recently heard the news that Carrie Fisher, most known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, has passed away at the age of 60. She had a massive heart attack four days ago on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Even then, I feared the worst for the iconic star who unfortunately would not live another week in this world.

Like many Star Wars fans (and sci-fi fans), the first time I saw Ms. Fisher was in Star Wars: A New Hope. Of course, it would not be until years later that I discovered this movie was actually the 4th in the planned storyline George Lucas had envisioned. She had since gone on to rise into massive stardom as one of the most iconic women in science fiction. There have been several depictions and dedications to her now legendary character. Indeed, Princess Leia, like all of Star Wars, has become very much a part of the global sci-fi consciousness. And with at least three more films on the horizon over the next three years, it shows no signs of stopping.

It is with much sadness that I write this eulogy to an amazing actress who touched the world with her portrayal of one of the most enduring characters in sci-fi. She will be greatly missed. May the Force be with her.

US Magazine


USA Today

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Goodbye, Willy Wonka

I would be remiss if I didn't write about the passing of a great actor and legend, Gene Wilder. He died on Monday, August 29th at the age of 83. According to his nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman, Gene Wilder passed away due to complications with Alzheimer's disease. He also had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Though he is gone now, I and many others remember his great comedies that showcased his talent for the genre.

Many remember Gene Wilder in the Mel Brooks comedies, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. He was also in other classic comedies such as The Woman in Red with Kelly Lebrock and See No Evil, Hear No Evil with comedy legend, Richard Pryor. However, one of his greatest roles was that of Willy Wonka in the classic movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That movie premiered in 1971, but it was constantly rerun on television throughout the 1980s, when I saw it. I remember it fondly, especially for how well he fit the role. Gene Wilder brought a genuine wittiness to the character that made it his own.

Gene Wilder was married four times, to Mary Mercier, Mary Joan Schultz, the SNL comedienne, Gilda Radner and finally to Karen Boyer, who he leaves behind. He also leaves behind one daughter, Katherine Wilder. My prayers go to the Wilder family. Gene Wilder became a legend in the world of comedy and acting. He will be greatly missed.

NY Times   Variety

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Star Trek A Shocking Loss

As a Trekkie (or Trekker), I would be remiss for not mentioning this on my blog. I recently heard about the untimely death of Anton Yelchin. He was the actor who portrayed Henson Pavel Chekov in what many know as the New Trek. The role was previously held by prolific actor, Walter Koenig. Mr. Yelchin didn't get to play the role of Chekov for very long, though he managed to do so in three movies, the third one (Star Trek Beyond) upcoming. I was shocked to hear this news and can still hardly believe he's gone. I thought he did a fine job in the role and I am very certain the cast of New Trek and even the casts of all Trek are deeply impacted by this tragedy. I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Anton Yelchin. He was a part of something great, and he will be missed. Star Trek Beyond, Yelchin's final film, will be out in theaters on Friday, July 22nd.

Anton Yelchin dies in freak accident

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Greatest of All Time

Two days ago, Friday, June 3rd, the incomparable former boxer, activist and humanitarian, Muhammad Ali passed away in a Phoenix hospital. He was taken there for respiratory problems. He was 74 years old.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky (January 17, 1942), was a man like no other. He rose to prominence as a heavy-weight boxer who soon became a champion. However, he was not just a champion, he was a performer, often known for his brash talk and taunts of his opponents. He had some epic battles with the likes of other legendary boxers such as Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Muhammad Ali backed up his big talk and then some both in and out of the ring. He took a stance against the Vietnam War and often voiced his views, regardless of who was listening.

Muhammad Ali is survived by 9 children, one of whom is Laila Ali, a boxing champion in her own right. Like her father, she is also retired, but she has the distinction of being undefeated at 24 - 0. She is but one example of the great boxer's contribution to the world that includes a legacy that will live on long after his passing.

As it has been with many people, I have admired Muhammad Ali as a boxer and as a person. He was a champion in life as he was in the ring. And so it is with my deepest condolences and highest respect that I wish the great Muhammad Ali well on his journey beyond this world. Rumble, young man, rumble.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America Civil War

I recently came back from seeing Captain America's third and final installment in the MCU. I thought it was epic, one of the best comic book movies ever made, much as how I felt about Batman V. Superman and Cap's previous installment, The Winter Soldier. I went to the movie theater, fully on Team Cap. It was a great experience with so many fellow comic fans, many in Captain America shirts or sweaters like I was that night. It's amazing how big some of these movies have gotten in recent years. It wasn't just a night out; it really was an event. I had the same experience when I went to see BVS. But as for my review, let's get to it.

I'll start off with the bad things about Civil War, as I'm trying to be more objective in my reviews. I said before that Batman V. Superman was not without its flaws. There were a few editing issues here and there and more than a couple of leaps of logic that has become so cliche in many movies. Civil War suffered from some of those same shortcomings. The editing was fine, one scene went to the other seamlessly. However, there were a few leaps of logic that didn't make much sense. The real antagonist seemed to know things he shouldn't have known or have been able to find out in any realistic fashion. A rich guy who is usually the most rational guy in the room at one point gives in to rage for no really good reason. Huh, sounds like another certain flick I reviewed. heh

And with all that, there was just one thing that I loved in the movie that was also a bit of a knock, and sadly, that was Spider-Man. Oh, he was all right, for the most part, but anyone who goes to see the movie will say he seems a bit too much on the young side (Here comes the Spider-Boy?) and I felt the look into his home life with his now super hot Aunt May came a bit early in Spidey's introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It wasn't that big a deal. After all, there were other movies that introduced certain things rather early as well, so I can't come down too much on this movie for the same thing. The biggest issue I suppose is how unlike this new Spider-Man is from the two previous incarnations. Both of those guys were formidable. This third version? Well, I'll let anyone who has yet to see the movie judge for themselves. All that aside, it was great to see the new Spider-Man and he was quite amusing at times.

I was looking for Spider-Man to really steal the show, but I'd say between Black Panther and Ant-Man, that particular job had been taken. Both of those characters left a huge impression on me in this film, especially the former. Black Panther brought it, just like any comic fan would expect him to. His parts in the film were easily as memorable as Wonder Woman was in Batman V. Superman or Quicksilver in X-Men Days of Future Past. He was definitely a play maker, as one would say in sports terms.

The overall story, while based on a plot that stretched about as much as Mr. Fantastic, was pretty solid and stood strong enough to support the characters playing in the movie. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Falcon, Black Widow, everyone played such an integral part to the tale. I was also happy with how much more Agent 13 was used in the movie compared to the last Captain America. I liked seeing General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, played again by William Hurt from Incredible Hulk. He is Secretary of State Ross now, and he does a fine job establishing part of the movie's plot. Moreover, I liked how the dynamic between Steve and Tony was played out. Many criticized the bits from the early trailers, wondering when those two were ever truly friends. But in the movie, I'd say they were good friends, even if they weren't as close as Steve and Sam or Steve was with Bucky or Tony with James Rhodes. The two men were very different from each other, but they had a respect for one another. It made what happened by the climax of the movie so touching, a testament to how well Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. have consistently done with their respective characters. In conclusion, I'd say this movie brings back an old saying first coined by Walt Kelly, "We have seen the enemy, and it is us." If that doesn't get you hype for this movie, I don't know what will. Excelsior!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Day We Lost a Prince

I am saddened by the recent news of the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson, known to the world at large as the artist who shall ever be known as Prince. Prince was a musical genius who went on to become an icon in music. Few artists have ever come close to matching his creativity in human history. That is how highly I regard Prince. He was up there with the likes of Michael Jackson, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and so many other greats in music.

I first heard his music during the early to mid 1980s. Songs like Little Red Corvette and 1999 were very popular on the radio. These hits were from his fifth studio album, 1999. That's pretty much where I started in his long line of amazing music. As good as 1999 was, he outdid it with the follow-up album, Purple Rain. To this day, it is one of the most iconic albums ever made with the title track becoming an eternal ballad most people who knew of Prince could never forget. Other tracks like When Doves Cry and I Would Die for You also stayed with me. My following of his music continued with the absolute best soundtrack ever made for a movie. And, of course, I am pleased it just so happens to be for a comic book based movie, Batman. Never before had I heard a movie so well-ingrained with the sound of an artist. The video he made for the song, Batdance, was insane, though my favorite track was Scandalous. Both the movie and the soundtrack were smash hits. And that's something you would keep on hearing in conjunction with this artist, hits.

I can't forget the movies he appeared in as well. Prince was a decent actor. What mostly made those films was, of course, the music. Purple Rain was highlighted quite well in the movie of the same name. In fact, this is where many first heard of Lake Minnetonka, the now legendary scene in which he got his real-life stage girl, Apollonia, to jump in a lake of very cold water. I still remember that movie vividly as a film I regard as a classic.

Even when he became a symbol, I agreed with Whitney Houston when he was presented an award at a ceremony I watched many years ago. I kept calling him, Prince, regardless. In fact, everyone did. He was just that legendary by that time. And it all brings me back to this day, the day I heard one of the greatest musical artists in our time or any time had passed away. He was truly one of a kind and he will be missed.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman V. Superman Dawn of Justice - The Critics...Were Wrong!

I just saw Batman V. Superman Dawn of Justice tonight. It was, in one simple word, epic! It could also be described as awesome! I promised a friend he’d read about at least one person calling it that, and by George, I stand by my promise.

The hype and anticipation I had for this movie was all rewarded. Obviously, I couldn’t know what was going to happen aside from what I saw in trailers, but what I saw was pretty well done. The writing was on point throughout the movie. To say this movie was a worthy successor to Man of Steel is an understatement. Much of what occurred in Man of Steel was brilliantly woven into this movie, which was not just Superman’s follow-up movie, but a movie that served as introduction for Batman and Wonder Woman. In general, in addition to some great action, that’s what I was expecting and that’s exactly what I got.

I’ve heard from others about their disappointment with the film. I will say that can always happen when one goes in with certain expectations, even if they seem not to have any. This was all too apparent in last year’s, Fantastic Four. While that movie was far from perfect, it wasn’t the terrible black mark on cinema or superhero films many other critics made it out to be. To be truthful, they all just went in with certain expectations and were soundly let down when, tada, the movie was a total re-imagining, just like it said it was. Batman V. Superman is no different. No one should be going into the theater expecting Batman and Superman to knock some villain out with the combined power of their fists. This isn’t Batman – The Brave and the Bold. The movie is, however, a very good retelling of World’s Finest aka DC’s greatest story ever told put on the big screen.

Granted, there are obvious adaptations from other stories such as The Dark Knight Returns as well as some possible inspiration from the mmo game, DC Universe Online. At least here, unlike in DKR, we don’t have a clearly old and degraded Batman. Speaking of which, I loved Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne aka Batman. He brought a great deal of depth to the character not seen since Christian Bale in the Nolan films. I believed in his motivations even up to the moment when it became clear there were a lot more reasons for Bruce to be mad other than a super powerful god-like super being that could burn the whole place down. Jesse Eisenberg proved to be absolutely diabolical as Lex Luthor. I was firmly convinced he was a bastard by the time the movie drew near to its climax. Meanwhile, Diana’s scenes were short and sweet, which also fell under my expectations. We’re not going to get a full story featuring her until next year, but what I saw was very, very impressive. All the haters of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman should definitely step off, in my humble opinion. She did the role well and I have much faith in her in terms of carrying that same role in the first ever big screen movie for the great Amazon.

A few things were off in the movie. A little dialogue by Perry involving a helicopter didn't seem to make much sense. Other bits of dialogue here and there were equally confusing. This is likely due to cuts that were made to the movie that unfortunately meant a degree of context was lost for the later scenes. Some of the scene changes were a bit stilted. And other things happened that seemed to be totally random, though this is likely also due to the cuts. Batman V. Superman was not a perfect movie, but its good points well outweighed its flaws for me. And I'm certain we'll all get the director's cut when the Blu-Ray comes out. And yes, I'm getting it.

Without going into too much detail, I will only say again how good the writing was for the movie. Zack Snyder is a great director with some intriguing titles under his belt ala Watchmen, Sucker Punch and 300. I loved those films, so I suppose it is of no surprise, I enjoyed the hell out of this one too. However, I wasn’t the only one clapping at the end of the movie. Take that, critics. PS. You don’t need to stay to the end of the closing credits. DC will apparently reserve any footage for any following films for the trailers. I’m hyped all over again.