Archives for March, 2012
Directed by: Pal W.S. Anderson
Starring: Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Waltz, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Matthew Macfadyen
It seems that half the movies released are reboots, remakes or re-something or other, but it’s nothing new. Movie makers have been recycling material from the beginning. The first Three Musketeers movie that Wikipedia lists is a French production from 1903. It goes on to list twenty one other live action adaptations, six animated adaptations and seven sequels. So Paul W. S. Anderson is really just continuing a grand tradition.
The Three Musketeers movies may be a grand tradition but is Anderson’s version worth a look? It is. The screenplay by Andrew Davies and Alex Litvak take plenty of liberties with the original tale, another movie making tradition, but they come up with a fun mash up of buddy, heist and swashbuckling elements. Combine this with a rousing score, spot on casting and absolutely gorgeous sets and locations and you end up with fantastic justification for purchasing your Blu-ray player.
The movie starts in Venice with an action set piece a la James Bond. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers played respectively by Matthew Mcfadyen, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans are joined by Milady de Winter, embodied by Milla Jovovich and between them steal the three keys necessary to open Leonardo da Vinci’s vault. Which they proceed to raid for plans for an airship. After a dramatic escape the Duke of Buckingham, Orlando Bloom, shows up and with the help of a little betrayal relieves the Musketeers of the plans.
One year later D’Artagnan, Logan Lerman, is fencing in a beautiful green field with his father on their farm in Gascony. They are having one last practice session before D’Artagnan leaves for Paris to fulfill his dream of becoming a Musketeer. D’Artagnan’s father presents him with his sword,the sword that he wielded serving in the King’s Musketeers during his own youth. With his father’s sword, a small bag of gold and a long in the tooth horse called Buttercup D’Artagnan makes his way toward Paris. At an inn on the way he manages to insult and challenge to a duel Rochefort, Mads Mikkelsen, Cardinal Richelieu’s Captain of the guard. Rather than bother dueling the young and impudent upstart, Rochefort is just going to kill him, but Milady who is now in the employ of the Cardinal orders Rochefort to spare him simply because she likes the look of him.
Shortly after D’Artagnan arrives in Paris he spots Rochefort and chases after him. In the ensuing chase he manages to insult and challenge to a duel Athos, Porthos and Aramis separately in the span of a few minutes. He does seem to have a talent for getting into trouble and to his frustration he never catches up with Rochefort. Cockily he schedules all three duels in the same courtyard one after the other. When the Three Musketeers all show up to duel the same young man they are taken with D’Artagnans ability to create so much havoc in so little time. Still there is business at hand and just as D’Aragnan and Athos square off Richelieu’s guards show up chomping at the bit for the opportunity to arrest all three of the Musketeers at one time, the Musketeer’s loyalty to the King stands in the way of Richelieu’s ambitions. While the Musketeers wisely accept that they are about to be arrested D’Artagnan charges the guards. When he is not immediately struck down, the Musketeer’s decide to even the odds. Since the title of the movie isn’t Richelieu’s Guards it’s not that big a leap to guess that the four manage to best the guards. After the fight the Three Musketeer’s take D’Artagnan under their wing and the story really gets going.
From here the four get tangled up in a Richelieu’s plot to discredit the young Queen and tie the King even closer to his counsel. The Duke of Buckingham and Milady of course show back up again as well as the airship that was in the plans from the beginning of the movie. And of course D’Artagnan does finally get his duel with Rochefort.
The plot gets a mite thin in places and there is one big heist piece that makes my head hurt a little bit if I think about it too much, but it doesn’t really matter. The story is presented with such boldness and panache I didn’t care. The Three Musketeer’s is fun, it’s also truly gorgeous. I mentioned it before and it’s worth stating again; the sets and locations are incredible. The costumes are magnificently ridiculous in all of their 17th century poofiness and pomposity. Miraculously Bloom, Jovovich and Freddie Fox, who played the young King Louie, bear the brunt of the silliest of the costumes and manage to pull it off and make it work. The score alternates from light and playful to stirring always complementing the onscreen action. The Three Musketeer’s is not going to change anybodies life but it’s a superb way to spend an evening.
The video is presented in 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it looks fantastic. The amount of detail is amazing and the colors are deep rich. I never noticed any aliasing, moire or any other digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in English and Spanish in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. There are English and Spanish subtitles. The dialog, foley and score are always well mixed the one never stepping on the other.
The Packaging and Bonus Features:
The Blu-ray disc comes in a standard blue tinted Blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcase. The artwork is a bit contrived but honest. The animated menu’s are great. There is an audio commentary with the film makers which is worth a listen, a bunch of extended and deleted scenes along with a handful of featurettes. There is also something called Access: Three Musketeer’s which is sort of a supercharged pop up video feature which manages to stream featurette style material along with trivia into the flow of the movie.
Overall (not an average) 9/10
Your always going to offend someone adapting something as beloved as Dumas’s The Three Musketeer’s. So I think Anderson’s taking the right approach. Take the heart of the story, the friendship between Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan, and then just go for broke. I loved it.
The Movie: 9/10
The Video: 9/10
The Audio: 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 8/10
Overall (not an average): 9/10
A blast from the past joins the show this week to talk Batman getting pulled over, Netflix TV, Avengers vs X-Men and much more!
Leonard Nimoy will reprise his role as Mr. Spock on this Thursday’s episode of The Big Bang Theory; but he won’t be playing the role by himself. Instead, Nimoy will lend his voice to an 8-inch, cloth costumed Mr. Spock figure from Diamond Select Toys’ Star Trek Retro Cloth action figure line! An exact replica of the classic 1970s Mego figure. Mr. Spock has a conversation with Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in a dream, and convinces Sheldon to open up a rare, mint-in-box Teleporter Playset (released in the U.K. by Palitoy in 1975). This episode sounds like it might be along the lines of the Lord of the Rings episode of BBT and that’s a really good thing.
Many items featured on the show have become fan favorites and are readily available, most notably many of Sheldon’s t-shirts. Even the t-shirt folder that Sheldon uses is out there on Amazon (Yours truly proudly uses one every week! The geeks will rule you all!). Unfortunately Diamond Select Toys tells us that this particular figure is sold out but a Mirror Universe version of Spock will be available later this year in the Retro Cloth line, along with Mirror Kirk, Captain Picard and a Borg!
How about a clip from The Big Bang Theory to get you excited for the episode?
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield and Frank Cox
Starring William Hartnell, Carole Ann Ford, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill
This early Doctor Who adventure features an alien species that hangs around in pajamas all day. That’s not very alien to this reviewer.
The TARDIS crew find themselves in a ship adrift in space, with its three-person crew under mental imprisonment from the Sensorites, an isolationist species of a local planet who try to protect their people and world by keeping everything secret. Now that the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara are also unable to escape, they must combat the Sensorites’ prejudices in order to broker peace and stop the disease ravaging the Sensorites… and one of their own.
The meat of the show is pretty solid. An alien species is as mistrusting of us as foreigners as we would be of them. Only the wiser, calmer heads of the Doctor and friends on both sides can overcome the fear-mongering of those wanting to eradicate the other. Everyone learns the dangers of blind anger, as well as blind trust, and that people must be open and try to learn about one another so we can get along. Always a good lesson and usually always topical.
The actors do a good job conveying their emotions of fear and anger, as well as earnest hope and understanding. Unfortunately conveying their lines is a separate matter, as several stumbles should have underwent another take.
The main drawback to the show is its length. Six episodes already sound like a lot, even with being a half-hour instead of the hour episodes of modern Who. However, this could have been done in five or even four. The characters take too long to piece together the machinations of the main anti-foreigner Sensorite faction, which the audience already knows. The audience is left impatiently waiting on the Doctor and friends to finally catch up.
A rough barrier of entry will also be William Hartnell’s Doctor. This isn’t the manic and dashing hero of modern day. Hartnell’s Doctor is a temperamental old man. The show in general more subdued and talkative, which will probably be too slow for some. The black and white footage and cheap affects may also turn away some, but they don’t detract from the story. In fact, the black and white probably helps cover for the cheap effects and costuming (although nothing can help the Sensorites’ pajama uniforms)
It’s a decent show with a good story, but it drags too long and probably won’t be what newer fans are looking for.
The Video and Audio
This is an old TV show that simply hasn’t stood up to the test of time. Shown in original 4:3 fullscreen and black and white, the footage will occasionally have a cloudy haze and even motion blur. The mono audio as well isn’t well recorded, sounding muffled and unclear.
The soundtrack is sparse for background and mood music, which seems to be on purpose. Commentary with actor William Russell (Ian) actually mentions a trend at the time against mood music. It almost works given the in-story weakness the Sensorites have against loud noise, but there is still often too much quietness.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This one-disc feature is in standard packaging, with a Sensorite on the cover looking a bit more life-like and alien than they do in the actual footage.
The bonuses add educational trivia about early television production, and most of it is pretty good. From the cast and crew commentary to interviews with the vision mixer, it’s neat to learn about how shows were produced then versus now.
The one that falls flat is the well-produced documentary on writer Peter Newman, which really doesn’t detail anything about making the show, instead simply explaining about the man who otherwise isn’t very interesting.
Overall (Not an Average)
Even remastered, The Sensorites suffers as a product of its age, both in the quality of the actual production (hazy video and muffled audio), and the ideas of production that don’t hold up today (drawn-out plot, little background noise). It’s a worthwhile story, and most of the bonuses are decent enough, but there are simply better shows and even better Doctor Who stories in specific. Unless you’re a completist or a student of ‘60s television production, this one can be passed over.
The Series 6/10
The Video and Audio 3/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
Take an exclusive virtual tour of The Captiol now at TheCapitolTour.PN to explore never-before-seen areas and characters, created in partnership with Gary Ross! The Captiol Tour is a personalized extension of the film and book that will provide a new world for Hunger Games fans to explore. Lionsgate worked with Microsoft to create the Capitol Tour, which is optimized for Internet Explorer 9.
Enter the Capitol by train, just like Katniss and Peeta, to begin your tour at the Welcome Center. Get a firsthand glimpse of the Capitol couture and learn more about your favorite characters. Consult The Guide to help you get around and learn more about the tributes of the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Access the Control Room for a behind the scenes look at the games, where the events are plotted out by the infamous gamemakers. You can even get an exclusive, never-before-seen scene from the Reaping by typing IVOLUNTEER in the Control Room!
1. Enter the Capitol the way Katniss and Peeta do – with the train! You may recognize that exact scene from the trailer – many of the places you’ll experience on the Capitol Tour are pulled directly from the movie, giving you early access to the land of Panem before the 23rd.
2. The tour begins at the Welcome Center, where you can get a firsthand glimpse of the Capitol couture you’ve read so much about. Look for tiny touches that bring Panem to life – a dress sparkle here, a dog tail wag there. The more time you spend on the site, the more you’ll see the movement of the city – including the airships in the background!
3. And there’s Effie! Hover over your favorite characters to learn more about them – you’ll find them all over the site; even Katniss and Peeta show up! In addition, if you’ve registered through Facebook like the Capitol asked, you’ll recognize a few other familiar faces – you’ll see as your friends arrive at the train station to prepare for the Hunger Games, and they’ll join you in each location as you visit Panem – you can even monitor their vitals from the Control Room. With this seamless interaction between the site and Facebook, fans can feel truly part of the Capitol.
4. All the Hunger Games content you need is in one place: The Guide. Here you can look at posters and images from the movie, watch the trailers, and learn more information about each District’s Tribute. It’s also your one-stop shop for getting around the different tour locations.
5. At the Avenue of the Tributes, you can hover over the crowd to find more details about what the Capitol fans of the Hunger Games are wearing as they wait for the Girl on Fire to arrive. Hover up to the stars for a hidden IE logo!
6. Also at the Avenue of the Tributes, you can hear the official address from President Snow – the first time fans will get to hear his full speech to the tributes from each District.
7. Click back through the Guide to the Control Room, and see a scene that’s central to the movie – this is where the gamemakers plot out each Hunger Games – from fireballs to muttations. Scroll to the left and you’ll see they’re eagerly counting down for the 23rd – get the minute by minute countdown for the movie’s release!
8. Here you can also see the arena – when it’s in the center, you can drag it around to see it from all angles, just like Seneca Crane sees.
9. If you volunteer – by typing “IVOLUNTEER” – in the control room, you’ll find an exclusive, never-before-seen scene from the Reaping!
Take the tour right now by going here:
Directed by: Alex Stapleton
Interviews with: Peter Bogdanovich, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, Ron Howard, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and many more
Roger Corman is known as King of the B’s. He’s built a reputation producing an unbelievable number of extremely low budget films that always make money. Along the way almost by accident, or as Jack Nicholson put it “by mistake he actually made a good picture once in a while”, he’s managed to make a few cult classics. But Corman’s World is not about the movies, its about the legacy.
While you can’t make a doc about Roger Corman without delving into movies like Intruder, The Wild Angels, The Trip, Death Race 2000 or Rock ‘n’ Roll High School that’s not the focus of this doc. Corman’s World concentrates on Roger’s immense impact on Hollywood. Along the way he has given half of Hollywood their start in the business. Francis Ford Coppola , Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, John Sayles and Joe Dante, to name just a few, all got their start with Corman. . If the sheer number of careers he’s started isn’t amazing what is astounding is that they all like him and thank him while in the same breath fondly remember the man pushing them to their limits. Perhaps even more important than who he worked with is how he worked. Corman has nearly always done it on his own. Corman’s World makes it plain that the few times Corman was tempted into working with bigger production companies there has always been something that drives him back out to just working for himself.
The doc is roughly chronological. It starts with the beginning of Corman’s career and culminates with him accepting a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Corman stared at the bottom, in the mail room at 20th Century Fox he worked his way up to reader and after plowing through mountains of sub mediocre material he finally found a script that he thought deserved attention. So he forwarded the script along with his notes up the chain and Fox eventually came out with The Gunfighter. Corman became upset that he received no recognition for his contributions so he left. He decided he was going to make his own movies and amazingly enough he did.
Since he was financing the first films with his own money or what ever he could borrow from friends and family the budget was low. On top of this Corman had never directed, but he got the hang fast. His second film The Fast and the Furious is entirely watchable and he got better. Corman knew the trick to making low budget films was in the cash flow so he arranged his deals so that he got paid for a film as soon as he finished it. This left him free to immediately roll anything left over into a new film. So Corman cut his teeth producing and directing low low budget movies. With these movies it wasn’t about the quality but the quantity. But then Corman found a book with a message that was particularly important to him. The name of the book was Intruder. It was a story about a northern agitator coming into a southern town and riling the populace up to defy court ordered integration of the local high school. This was a subject that no body wanted to finance so Corman and his brother did it themselves. Corman at one point had even morgatged his home. The film might be Corman’s best. It features a searing performance by a pre Star Trek William Shatner but like no one wanted to finance it nobody wanted to see it. Corman proudly claims it as his one financial flop.
Corman was one of the first to recognize teenagers as a distinct market and he made movies for them. Movies that showcased rebellion, independence and distrust of authority. This wave culminated in movies like The Wild Angels and The Trip which paved the way for what became known now as New Hollywood. Without Corman there likely would never have been an Easy Rider, Mean Streets, or Chinatown. Corman’s World continues discussing Corman’s career and addresses how he adapted to the birth of the summer blockbuster in the late seventies when essentially the studios started making big budget B movies and going after his audience. You hear how Corman distributed Bergman, Truffant, Fellini and Kurosawa films in the States just because he though they should reach a larger audience. The doc itself is put together pretty well, maybe it’s a little to dependent on interviews but when you’ve got this many fantastic potential interviewees how do you not take advantage of that. The composition of the interview shots are usually interesting and the old tv talkshow footage used really drives home just how long Corman has been doing his thing. This is a better than average doc and the subject matter puts it over the top.
The video is presented in widescreen, a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p. The detail is amazing, possibly too detailed. The color in some of the interviews is a little flat, but its never bad. I never noticed any aliasing or moire of any other sort of digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with English and Spanish subtitles. The audio is fine, the dialog is always clear no mean feat for a documentary assembled from a bunch of interviews filmed at different times. The doc is also blessed with a driving score that never over steps its bounds.
The Packaging and Bonus Features:
The disc comes in the standard blue tinted Blu-Ray case. The insert art is a striking collage of Corman characters and creatures and the theme is continued through to the disc menu which is a real treat, a kinetic montage of images and clips from the films that make Corman an icon. The only extra material are some extended interviews and special messages to Corman along with the ubiquitous trailer or two. The extended interviews are worth a watch but make sure you watch the special messages, they range from amusing to touching and are a great compliment to the doc.
Overall (not and average)
There are many Corman movies that I really enjoy, but even if I hated every one of them I would still find the man fascinating. Anybody that can have such a long and successful career playing on the outside and on their own is worth a little admiration and imitation.
The Movie: 8/10
The Video: 8/10
The Audio: 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10
On this special edition of the show every news item (other than the opener) and topic of discussion revolves around super heroes whether it be TV shows, movies, or comics. We also share our expectations for the upcoming big three films this summer; Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-Man, and The Avengers!
Battle Royale The Complete Collection Blu-Ray
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Starring:Tatsuya Fujiwara,Aki Maeda,Taro Yamamoto
The Hunger Games, the uber popular book and upcoming film, has been accused of being a washed out PG rip off of the classic Japanese film and novel Battle Royale. Honestly the accusers might be right because the plots and underlying social commentaries are just so damn similar. That though, is the subject of a completely different article. We’re here to take a look at the new first time on blu-ray ultra-special edition of Battle Royale and Battle Royale 2.
It’s a nihilistic future in Japan where unemployment rates are through the roof and schools are a disaster. The government approves the Battle Royale Act to try and quell the rampant criminal activities and general misbehavior of the country’s youth. A random group of 9th graders are chosen by lottery to be dropped on an island with a bag of weapons and some rations. Their goal? They have three days to kill or be killed. The last student standing wins his/her life as a prize. If no one fights then everyone dies. Each student is also fitted with a collar that will explode if they choose to break a rule or try to escape the island. The proceedings are overseen by the class’ overly excited teacher.
Some of the students accept their fate with a shocking level of zeal, other students simply give up, and still others try to play the hero and protect the ones that they care about. A small group of the 42 students focuses on surviving long enough to try and figure out a way to escape the island. The problem for this group is the overall number of students still alive is quickly dwindling so their time to fight and kill is quickly approaching.
Battle Royale hit theaters in 2000 to much critical acclaim and vehement hate and fear from more conservative groups. Few films prior to this one, and after it, have seen so much violence perpetrated on children. The violence caused the film to be banned in many countries including certain areas of the United States. Beyond the violence the film has a lot to say about the political and social atmosphere of Japan and it mirrors the generational gap globally. It’s smart and conversation inducing along with being an adrenaline rush. The teacher is played by Japanese super star actor Takeshi Kitano and he brings a level of dark humor to the film that keeps the film from burying itself in the darkness and allows a breather to take in just what the story is trying to say. Comparisons to A Clockwork Orange are well earned here.
Battle Royale 2 Requiem
The sequel to Battle Royale was directed by the son of the original film after that director died part way through the making of BR2. The sequel saw the introduction of more CG based blood fx that were just distracting. This film focuses on a new group of students that have been chosen by the government to pay for the acts of the country’s youth with a side plot about a group from the previous film planning a terrorist act to make a statement to the world of their own. The new group of students has a different goal than those of the first film though. Their job is to kill the leader of the terrorists.
The whole concept here doesn’t make any sense. The terrorist group has been blowing up buildings and killing people ever since the last Battle Royale. The government has shown a willingness to use trained and fully armed military troops against the terrorists yet they choose this group of poorly armed children to do the dirty work. Had the plan been to get these kids to go under cover and infiltrate the terrorist organization and kill the leader from within the group the story would have made more sense. The problem is that story wouldn’t have been a battle royale.
Battle Royale 2 is a mess of a movie with odd pacing decisions, dumb story, poorly executed drama, and bad CG fx. It’s a real shame that the first film had to be tainted with this sequel. It would be easy to blame this on the loss of the original director but he did start the film before passing away so you have to imagine that this path was already set and his son just steered the ship to its conclusion.
Battle Royale has never been considered a good looking film and previous releases were riddled with grit on the screen, poor contrast, weak color representation, and big detail shifts in darker scenes. This blu-ray release helps a little by being the highest resolution version of the film released yet but overall the issues with the DVD releases are all still here just in HD. It’s an ugly presentation, partly due to the lower budget shooting, and also due to poor film source material used to bring the film home.
Battle Royale 2
Battle Royale 2 looks much better. The success of the first film allowed for a better shooting budget for this sequel. Detail is much higher and contrast and color are more consistent. The presentation does feel shallow overall and there is noticeable dirt from the print and some scratches here and there. This is far from a perfect presentation but it’s a huge step up from the orginal film.
Like the video the audio here is pretty basic. Now with that said the quality on blu-ray comes off better for the audio than the video. The surround mix is basic and there are times you have to ride the volume up and down but for the most part the dialogue is clean and listenable. Both films feature lossless audio which is about as good as it’s ever gonna get and overall it’s really satisfying.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging of this 4 disc set is fantastic. The 4 disc set comes packaged in a thick book resembling a school book, well other than the really gritty cover that’s also extremely effective. Each thick page inside the book features stills from the film and houses a disc. This is the way to give us a special edition!
The biggest of the bonus features in this package is a second extended director’s cut of Battle Royale. This version is really only 8 minutes longer and honestly the extra 8 minutes crushes the pacing in a few places of the film. The extra time doesn’t actually add much to the story either. If you’re a completest and you want to see exactly what the director intended to release then here you have it. Honestly, his second shorter cut, the one everyone knows, is much better.
So, all of the bonus features in this set are provided on a standard definition DVD, the fourth in this set. The first two blu-rays are the first and second film and the third is the extended cut of the original film. This leaves the final DVD, not blu-ray, for bonuses. Additionally all of these bonus features came from the previous release of the first film and there are no extras for the sequel.
There’s a making of featurette that runs nearly an hour. Within the featurette there’s rehearsal footage, behind the scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, and much more. This is a solid documentary even though it’s a little scatter shot in its assembly.
There’s a marketing press conference call featuring the cast and filmmakers. Nothing big here just your typical sound bite style information about the film.
There’s a short video taken from the film done as a gag to celebrate the director’s 70th birthday. There are brief audition videos, A special fx featurette shows how the cgi blood fx were created for a few scenes in the film (meh). There’s a completely useless on stage interview from the International Tokyo Film Festival, poorly done. Tthere are TV spots, trailers, on the set footage, and a short compilation of the best of sound bites from longer interviews with the cast and crew, also unnecessary.
Some of this material feels like filler but the majority of it is interesting and it does offer great insight into the making of the film. It’s a shame that there’s no substantial new material though.
There are a few truly important Asian genre films is in a member of that very exclusive club. Battle Royale continues to spur controversy and conversation the world over and it is influencing a new generation of filmmakers nad artists. The second film tarnishes the first but if you’re a completest then this is truly the best way to own both films.
The Movie 9/10 2/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Diamond Select Toys is celebrating its third year of crafting officially licensed Universal Monsters Toys by bringing on a new monster to the minimates line as well as resurrecting a classic one from the vault. Not familiar with minimates? These are tiny highly stylized blocky figures that are perfect for a display shelf or just to add some character to a desk in an office.
These figures come in two and four packs. The first 4 pack the company is releasing from this line is based on Universal’s film interpretation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The 1925 film starred Lon Chaney as the abused bellringer Quasimodo, a mute, half-deaf hunchback who lives in the famed Paris cathedral. Along with the Hunchback himself the set will include other characters from the film Phoebus, the set-exclusive Esmeralda, and the “King of Fools” Quasimodo version of the Hunchback.
The follow up 4 pack will feature characters from the classic Universal film from 1932 The Mummy. The Mummy starred Boris Karloff as the resurrected mummy Im-Ho-Tep, who was entombed alive
for attempting to revive a deceased princess. This set includes Im-Ho-Tep, his Sarcophagus, Princess
Anck-es-en-Amon and the set-exclusive Helen Grosvenor.
Also from the official press release:
“There will also be an assortment of Universal Monsters two-packs
available at Toys “R” Us, featuring some of the characters from these
sets, as well as some exclusive characters. One two-pack will pair
The Mummy’s Princess Anck-es-en-Amon with an exclusive figure of
archaeologist Henry Whemple, and another will present the stars of both
films — Lon Chaney as Quasimodo and Boris Karloff as Im-Ho-Tep — in
Back in the 80’s it seems toy makers were doing some special drugs and came up with some of the strangest ideas ever. Case in point, M.U.S.C.L.E. What was M.U.S.C.L.E. you ask? Well M.U.S.C.L.E. stands for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere. They were 2” tall non-articulated pink plastic toys that were intergalactic wrestlers. Yes, wrestlers. From outer space. I couldn’t make this up.
In the first wave there were 236 figures available and were packaged in three different ways. There were blister packs containing four figures, ten packs in clear plastic trash cans and boxed twenty-eight packs. Also available was a wrestling belt that also doubled as a carrying case and a wrestling ring. The second and third wave of figures were repaints of the existing figures which added new colors to the mix besides the pink fleshy color of the earlier toys. One of the cool accessories from this toy line was a mail-away poster that had a picture of every available figure. This is where we learned that there were two named characters, Muscle Man and Terri-Bull.
And since M.U.S.C.L.E. was based on a Japanese toy there was a crazy back story about Muscle Man leading the Thug Busters and Terri-Bull leading the Cosmic Crushers in a battle for intergalactic dominance through wrestling. Granted it’s not as crazy as some other toys (I’m looking at you Sectaurs) but who comes up with this stuff? I had a ton of these things but never quite completed my collection. And some of the sculpts were pretty insane.
M.U.S.C.L.E. was only distributed through Mattel and were only available from 1985-1988 but they did become very popular during their short run and even had a video game on the NES. Like I said, I had a ton of these things as well as the wrestling ring and I enjoyed many hours of playtime. Sadly, most of my M.U.S.C.L.E. figures disappeared over time and I now just have one but I do have a special place in my heart for these unusual small creatures and I like to think they are still battling for intergalactic dominance. Where ever they lurk.
As a side not, JAKKS Pacific has a new line of toys coming out later this year called S.L.U.G.S. which they have openly admitted are inspired by M.U.S.C.L.E. I cannot wait to start my collection!!
I did this with LOST. I tried to wait for a while to give everyone time to watch the finale and to give those of us who are hardcore fans time to soak it in before discussing it. So obviously there will be spoilers aplenty here. If you haven’t watched it yet, if it’s collecting digital dust on your DVR you may want to wait to read this article. If you haven’t watched the series at all then this article may not make much sense to you because I will be writing from the position of assuming that you’ve watched the show. In other words I will not be taking 500 words to synopsis the plot of the series.
Chuck is the little show that should rather than could. Chuck should have been a bigger success. Chuck should have gotten more episodes and more seasons. The fact is the show just never made a mainstream connection. It should have made that connection though. Chuck wasn’t nearly as fanciful as something like LOST or even more so something like Once Upon a Time. Chuck was also really funny, the romance was generally handled with a lot less melodrama than you’d expect, and the show was filled with some of the best subtle little moments on TV on any show during its run. Oh and there was tons of humor and the action was generally very exciting and well executed. It’s just one of those shows like Firefly that just never finds a large enough audience to push it over the top. With that said NBC has to be given a lot of credit for keeping the show around as long as the network did because the audience was extremely small. The showrunners did find creative ways to pay for the production though; not the least of which was the Subway sponsorship. Chuck had some of the funniest product placement of any show on television ever.
Chuck was a fairly light hearted show but the character of Sarah had a good bit of darkness around her. She is one of the best agents the CIA ever had. Part of the reason she was so good as an agent was because she just had no family or friend ties to drag her down. For years she simply immersed herself in being a badass. When she gets assigned to Chuck an almost Moonlighting style romance begins. As much as you eventually feel like these two characters will be together you almost feel like this sort of regular relationship just isn’t in the cards for Sarah. It’s with that in mind that the creators brought us a really solid two hour season finale. The last two hours of the show should be watched back to back to properly tell the final story of the two characters. The two hour block begins with Sarah assigned to kill Chuck by the show’s last super villain. Her use of the damaged intersect took her memories so the villain took advantage of that and convinced her she was working for the CIA again and her current gig was to take out the man that was responsible for destroying many parts of her life.
Zachery Levi (Chuck) and Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah) had fantastic chemistry throughout the run of the series and that chemistry is really put to the test in these last two hours. One key scene finds Sarah ready to kill Chuck and Chuck refusing to fight her almost insisting he’d rather her kill him than hurt her. The emotional beats from Levi were fantastic TV drama and more impactful than you’d expect from a comedy. Chuck does have one opportunity to save Sarah by using the last remaining intersect to restore her memories. There are some aspects of this cure that are a little too extreme and really force the suspension of disbelief but it’s obviously a tool to progress the emotional story arc that’s being cultivated in these last two hours. In classic Chuck formula Chuck has to use the final intersect to save the day pretty much guaranteeing that Sarah will never get her memories back unless Morgan’s plan is right. Morgan insists throughout the final hour of the show that if Chuck would just kiss Sarah that the chemistry between them would restore her memories. It is very fairy tale and sweet but unrealistic. At the same time in Morgan’s eye’s he’s seen a lot of unrealistic things sense he was finally brought into Chuck’s spy world. After defeating the final bad guy the team splits. Morgan moves in with Casey’s daughter, Casey leaves to find the woman he loves (played by Carrie Ann Moss), Chuck’s brother and sister get great jobs in Chicago, and Jeff and Lester get a record deal in Germany. Everyone leaves Chuck home alone because Sarah also leaves to find herself and to try and figure out who she is now that she truly has no memories.
Even though her memories are gone Chuck knows just where Sarah will be and he finds her weeks later. Finally she asks him to tell her the story of their lives from the last five years. One of the best tools in the toolbox of this show is the use of random sounds or songs to cover up important conversations. These audio divergences leave the actors to tell portray what’s happening simply with facial expressions and body language. In this conversation the two obviously reconnect and the showrunners take advantage of the opportunity to show a few quick scenes from the last five seasons of the show. Finally Chuck tells Sarah about Morgan’s plan. Her reply is for Chuck to kiss her. At the point of the kiss the show fades out. The decision to not show the results of the Morgan plan was a brilliant one and absolutely fitting for this show. As I said early in this article it always felt obvious that these two characters would end up together but based on Sarah’s track record it couldn’t happen easily or in anything close to a typical way. If the kiss worked, then fine things would happen normally, but if it didn’t the two characters were already reconnecting. They’d just have to start all over, this time not as secret agents though because they have left the business.
Not all of these last two hours is perfect, just like the series overall there are bumps in the road but the chemistry between the characters makes it all very watchable. The series ended as perfectly as it could have ended and the closing of the two main characters was absolutely perfection. Chuck should have been more popular than it was but at least now there are five seasons of fantastic fun to be had and a series ending that is absolutely satisfying. Now at the end of all of this Chuck has the final remaining intersect inside him, Casey is still in the CIA and even with her memories gone Sarah still has her skills as they have become instinctual. Wouldn’t it be great if NBC took advantage of their other network, Syfy, and gave us an occasional Chuck movie? What’s Chuck gonna do with that intersect in the meantime take out the garbage and paint the house? Well why not I suppose….
Yes that’s right, sometimes us pasty geeks do get outside. There are those freakish times when no one wants to play a board or video game and there isn’t a Babylon 5 rerun to be found on television. So at those magical moments someone will inevitably say “we should go outside”. When that happens we need something to do. The pocket disc just might be an option.
Pocket disc is essentially a Frisbee but what makes it stand out is its construction. The disc is fabric, made of yarn. It’s due to the construction that the disc is a “pocket” disc. It can be folded easily and shoved into a back pocket. Now, walking around with it sticking out of your back pocket isn’t exactly going to enhance your ability to meet girls but it does allow you to go hands free until you’re ready to play. Outside of the construction pocket disc is a standard Frisbee, or to keep from breaking copyright law we’ll say “flying disc”.
It’s weather friendly, even if it gets wet, which is surprising since its fabric. If it gets wet just let it dry and you’re good to go. If it gets dirty just toss it in the wash like you would a scarf or other similar piece of clothing. The disc is a bit heavier than other similar toys but that’s really the only difference once you’re playing with it. It flies as good as any other disc we’ve tried and if it hits you it’s a lot less painful that the aluminum trash can lid we previously played with (I’m sorry Mike it was just a mild concussion).
The discs have a real sort of organic hippie vibe do the construction and tie-dye color schemes. Again, not a bad thing per se, just an observation. These are also fair trade toys if that’s something you pay attention too. If you’re looking for a new “flying disc” and you feel the need for hands free prior to play then why not give this a go?
Construction and Style
The fabric is tough and tightly assembled giving the disc a solid and strong feel. The Pocket Disc will probably outlast you and your buds on any given Sunday. The only thing I wasn’t able to test is how much abuse the disc can take when it comes to playing catch with a dog. So let Chompers dig into this one at your own risk, I make no promises in that department. It is fabric so it’s bound to come unbound at some point but the Pocket Disc should last you long enough that you’ll feel you got more than your money’s worth out of it.
It flies straight if you have the ability to toss it straight that is. The Pocket Disc may actually be easier to catch than other solid plastic options because it is flexible. It’s simple and fun.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Toy 8.5/10
Construction and Style 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Directed by Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne
How do you play a cultural icon? More importantly, how do you play a cultural icon without being torn apart in the press? Michelle Williams knows.
Few people achieve the level of fame and the title of icon the way Marilyn Monroe has. My Week With Marilyn tells a story about the actress that few of us have heard. It is based off the memoir of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) while he was working on The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Banagh). Over a week during production Clark claims that he and Monroe formed a friendship and he helped her maintain her sanity after her husband playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) returned to America. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the story. But there is so much more to this movie.
My Week With Marilyn is a biographical period piece, true. But the real meat of this film is the acting. More importantly it is the portrayals of historical icons. Kenneth Branagh is amazing as Sir Laurence Olivier, of course Kenneth Branagh is amazing in everything. And supporting roles from Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh and Dame Judi Dench as British stage legend Dame Sybil Thorndike are superb and are not to be missed. Emma Watson even gives a good performance that proves she can play more grown up roles. But the true story of this film is Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. Playing a cultural icon and legendary sex symbol is not an easy undertaking and credit has to be given to Williams for having the guts to take this role, and she shines.
I have been a fan of Michelle Williams’ going back to Dawson’s Creek but playing Marilyn Monroe is a giant leap. Needless to say I was a bit skeptical going in. I had seen the promotional photos and all I was seeing was Michelle Williams dressed as Marilyn Monroe. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t see Marilyn. Even in the beginning of the film I kept seeing Williams. Sure she had the look and she was doing a facsimile of Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms but it just wasn’t Marilyn. Then it all changed. There is a point in this film where Michelle Williams disappears and Marilyn Monroe comes to life. From that point on Marilyn Monroe is alive again and I realized that Williams wasn’t playing Marilyn Monroe the iconic sex symbol, she was playing Marilyn Monroe the person. And for all her efforts Williams’ earned her Golden Globe win as well as her Oscar nomination.
It is hard not to fall in love while watching My Week With Marilyn and there is plenty to fall in love with. Of course falling for Marilyn is a given but Eddie Redmayne is excellent as Colin Clark and his journey from pampered rich kid to unpaid director’s assistant to Marilyn’s rock is both innocent and heartbreaking. We the viewer can see that this relationship will end badly but Colin is young and full of ideals. Even though he can see the real Marilyn he cannot see the cliff just ahead. In one of the most poignant scenes in this film Dame Sybil Thorndike tells him, “First love is such sweet despair, Colin.” No truer words have been uttered.
Widescreen presentation 2.35:1 in 1080p. Of course the picture is stunning to watch. The English countryside and Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe are things of beauty that high definition brings out in full. This is why blu-ray was invented.
Presented in Blu-Ray: 5.1 DTSHD-MA and DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1. I found at certain points in the film I could not understand what was being said. The sound mixing was very low on many scenes with Michelle Williams and I had to turn on the sub-titles so I knew what was going on. You would think that digital sound would afford better audio.
The Packaging and Special Features
The packaging and special features are very scarce here. The blu-ray clamshell case is to be expected but the bonus features are minimal. Of course there is an audio commentary with the director but the only other bonus feature is the featurette The Untold Story of an American Icon. And to tell the truth it’s a little light on the substance; it’s really only a glorified reel of the actors praising each other. I was very disappointed.
I don’t know what more I can say about this film? After I finished watching My Week With Marilyn I looked down at the blu-ray case and I no longer saw Michelle Williams on the cover, it was all Marilyn. I cannot think of higher praise to give.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Special Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
R.I.P. Terra Nova, Channel Netflix, and film ball throwdown on U Stream!
Created by Hasbro Studios
Starring: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Jeffrey Combs, Ernie Hudson and Steve Blum
The age-old battle between Autobots and Decepticons continue with old favorites and new graphics, but does it hold up without the nostalgia?
Autobots and Decepticons are at it again. The complete first season covers the opening miniseries “Darkness Rising” (Overall 8/10 at CineGeek) and goes from there, covering the exploits of the Autobots and their new human friends as they try to protect Earth from the hidden Decepticon threat.
This series is dramatic and action packed. While it has its humor to keep the whole show from being super dark, the show generally takes itself seriously. All the threats feel credible, and the suspense is really solid. While some of the stories are the general race between Autobot and Decepticon to find energon/Cybertronian artifact/MacGuffin of the week, others are more character and plot based. We learn back story of several of the Transformers, and the show runners did their research. From new interpretations of Unicron to the Orion Pax back story and more, franchise fans will be more than pleased by this new yet familiar territory so well fleshed out.
The human characters are bearable and even likeable at times, not all too common with humans in a Transformers series. Still, the kids are too prone to follow when told not to, which ends up causing more problems than they solve. I’m still not a fan of the smarter-than-his-age-group cliché that is Raf, but at least he doesn’t tend to cause as many problems as the far-too-impulsive Miko. The more surprising aspect would be the human villains, a techno-terrorist unit called M.E.C.H. that actually provides a serious opposition to the Autobots (and a thankful break to Starscream’s constant whining about energon and his inferior superiority complex).
All around though, the characters are well acted. Thankfully, there’s no one I find annoying to listen to as I wait for the combat to commence. Obviously, you can’t go wrong with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprising the wise and fearless Optimus and maniacally evil Megatron respectively. Everyone else does a stand-up job, from Jeffrey Combs’ Ratchet, Ernie Hudson’s Agent Fowler, Steve Blum’s Starscream, Gina Torres’ Airachnic, Clancy Brown’s Silas, to the kids and more.
I would like to see more Transformers, or at least more Autobots. The only new addition out of the main five is the one-episode appearance of Wheeljack. The Decepticons do a much better job fleshing out their lineup. I’m much more a fan when this war is on a much larger scale, and there are Autobots and Decepticons everywhere, but obvious limits in CG models makes this difficult.
With good storytelling, good acting, and great bot-on-bot action, Transformers Prime is an excellent show for any mecha enthusiast.
The Video and Audio
The video is presented in 1080p anamorphic widescreen, and the audio comes in both 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo English tracks. The CGI is crisper and more detailed than I recall from the miniseries DVD release. While I still can’t get used to Bumblebee’s Groucho-Marx-styled eyebrows or Optimus having a mouth, the animation in general is still really impressive. From the fluid action, down to the dinged metal and scraped glass, with the dramatic soundtrack to accent it all, the series shows that a lot of work went into this series.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The whole season comes on a four-disc set in a Blu-Ray case, packaged with an IDW graphic novel in a cardboard box. The graphic novel is a prequel telling how Arcee and Cliffjumper came to be partners. It’s decent enough on its own, but it works well in making this a complete collection.
The discs themselves are packed with select episode commentary with cast and crew (even the voice of Bumblebee, so think about that), a trailer for season two, a making-of video, and a toy featurette video. The toy featurette is more of a making of than the actual making-of, discussing the franchise legacy, making the toys to match the series and so on. Plus, unlike the making-of video, the toy featurette is obviously made after the series, so the Hasbro cast gets to discuss aspects throughout the series. Overall, the toy featurette is a neat piece about what goes into a Transformers series beyond just the technical show making, and the making-of has interviews with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, so it’s all a win-win.
The minor complaint comes from the packaging, with the flip cover in the Blu-Ray case lists the episodes starting at #1 on each disc, instead of episode numbers in terms of the full season (Example: episode 4 on disc 3 should instead be episode 17).
Overall (Not an Average)
I’m glad to see my high opinion of the series maintained throughout this first season. If these robots in disguise have been a part of your childhoods at all, Transformers Prime does your nostalgia justice. Definitely check it out.
The Series 8/10
The Video and Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10