Thursday, July 12, 2018

Marilyn Manson releases song from The New Mutants soundtrack

80’s and 90’s goth kids rejoice (as much as a goth can!) The 90’s alternative scene icon, Marilyn Manson has released a new video for his song Cry Little Sister from the upcoming Marvel film, The New Mutants. If the song title looks familiar, it’s because it was originally recorded by Gerard McMahon for, arguably the best vampire flick from the 80’s, The Lost Boys. It was also redone by industrial artist Aiden. In a surprise move, Manson dropped a video for his version a few days ago. Technically it has been out since the middle of June, but only attached to movie a few days ago.

While Marilyn Manson may not currently be a household name, he was the center of the industrial music scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s along with stalwarts Nine Inch Nails and White Zombie.  Manson’s music spurned a national discussion on the impact of music on violence with the “new” phenomenon of school shootings starting with Columbine. He hasn’t released a relevant record since the start of the New Millennium, and was reduced to a laughing stock during an unfortunate appearance on The Walking Dead review show, The Talking Dead.  This isn’t Manson’s first foray with music for film. He submitted a redo of This is Halloween as a bonus track for the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.

So why Manson? Why this song? Why on a Marvel soundtrack?  The answer is the very nature of The New Mutants. The marketing for the film presents it as a hybrid superhero / horror film, with many horror elements evident in the recently released trailer. Let’s hope that Marvel’s gamble will pay off, and more horror elements can find their way in to the Marvel filmography. With the collapse of the planned Universal “Dark Universe” of classic movie monsters, the time is right for a Marvel Monsters film featuring the Marvel versions of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Living Mummy, and The Man-Thing.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy coming to Walt Disney World?

Disney Parks Blog  just announced two new Halloween themed overlays coming to The Magic Kingdom during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. The first is a new spooky experience at Pirates of the Caribbean including a new interactive experience where guests join the Pirates looking for a new character named Gunpowder Pete.
The second announcement is a new soundtrack and effects for Space Mountain for the Halloween season.  It can be speculated that the popular Ghost Galaxy overlay at Disneyland's version of Space Mountain will be duplicated in Florida. Ghost Galaxy features a loose narrative, scary soundtrack, and jump scare projections. No additional information regarding either update is currently available.

Seasonal overlays have been popular for years in Disneyland in the form of Christmas themed Small World overlay, and the hugely popular Nightmare Before Christmas themed Haunted Mansion Holiday.  Walt Disney World's first ever overlay was Jingle Cruise adding holiday jokes and props to the Adventureland classic ride, The Jungle Cruise. So why hasn't the Florida park had the same guest opportunities as California's Disneyland? The answer may be in the makeup of the guests themselves.  While Walt Disney World is the number one international tourist destination in the world, Disneyland caters to a more local clientele.  Whereas Disneyland guests may come to the park multiple times a year, typical non-Florida resident guests and international guests my only be able to visit Walt Disney World once in their lifetime.  Imagineers may be less likely to change the experiences for those who want to experience the original attractions.
That may be changing with the two new Halloween experiences and the announced addition of the Mad Tea Party, also transplanted from Disneyland.  One can assume that, based on feedback, more temporary changes may be on the horizon, especially with the 50th Anniversary just around the corner in 2021.  Could the EleTRONica experience be on the way for the opening of the new TRON coaster in Tomorrowland?  Here's hoping!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sabacc to the Future - Solo: A Star Wars Story

Okay, all cards on the Sabacc table. I entered the theater with tepid interest. In pre-planning for this review, I floated titles like “So Low” and “Smuggler’s Blues.” My friend, who invited me to the screening, echoed my sentiment that this may be the first “non-event” Star Wars movie. As the lights darkened and the familiar blue words flashed on the screen, I sat with apprehension, mostly due to the well-documented drama behind the camera as well as the vitriol being spewed on social media. A certain Sith Lord would have found my lack of faith disturbing. I did take solace in that I unequivocally trust the reliable direction of OG Star Wars fan Ron Howard, who took the Bantha reins from fired directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller due to “creative differences” with Lucasfilm’s Grand Moff Kathleen Kennedy.

What is abundantly evident is that Solo: A Star Wars Story is a love letter to the scruffy, Nerf-herding scoundrel, crafted by Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and son Jonathan. The first act of the film, set on the ship-building yards of Corellia, is where we meet young Han, played by Alden Ehrenreich, and his girlfriend/fellow thief Kira, played by Emilia Clarke. Full of exposition, the first third of the film seems to drag on in spite of a speeder chase and narrow escape in which Han elects to join the Galactic Empire as means to get off Corellia, leaving Kira behind. It’s when Han meets up with a band of smugglers, led by Woody Harrelson, that the film finds its footing and the pace quickens. Harrelson’s character Becket inadvertently sets up events leading to Han meeting Chewie, where they are forced into their first team-up. It’s a great scene that I won’t spoil. Han and Chewie then join Becket’s group with Westworld fan favorite Thandie Newton to pull off the Great Hovertrain Robbery. It’s the first of multiple thrilling heists with double-dealings that send Han down the path to scoundrelship.

Throughout the film, we are introduced to setting and characters that provide copious amounts of fan service while expanding the mythology of Han Solo. Some of the most exciting scenes involve events referenced in the original trilogy. Seriously, I wanted to be sitting at that fateful game of Sabacc where Han won the Millennium Falcon from fellow scoundrel Lando Calrissian, played to perfection by Donald Glover. Or who wouldn’t have loved to ride along during The Kessel Run, which, according to Han, made The Falcon famous?  Both scenes are a blast to watch, and are definitely worth the price of admission, as is a character reveal that caused an audible gasp across the theater.

Many fans will be split on the noteably missing references to both the Jedi and the Force, neither  of which have a place in this part of the galaxy.  Solo: A Star Wars Story delivers on all fronts with great casting, a stirring score, and thrilling action scenes. The film will surprise many fans who can put aside preconceptions and open up their hearts to a self proclaimed “terrible person,” who eventually makes good. Most importantly it answers the burning questions of how Han got his last name, or who gave him his signature blaster pistol. Okay, maybe not burning questions, but good to know!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Something Wicked This Way Comes: 35th Anniversary

Walt Disney Pictures’ 1983 film Something Wicked This Way Comes was released 35 years ago today. A product of Disney’s “Dark Age," it was a true horror film, based on the novel by the same name by legendary sci-fi author and personal friend of Walt Disney Ray Bradbury. Set in the early 20th century, a mysterious Autumn carnival arrives in the small midwestern town of Green Town.  The initial excitement shared by the 2 young chums William Halloway and Jim Nightshade is replaced by terror as the true nature of the carnival is revealed, leading for a battle for the very soul of their home town and its inhabitants. Moody and atmospheric, the film charted new ground for the studio, trying to target a more mature audience while shaking the stigma of being a “kiddy studio."
While poorly received at the time, the film, like many of the “Dark Age” films, now has a cult following.

Take a midnight journey on Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival Train with us as we tell the story of how the film came to be.  Published in 1962, the novel was an expansion of Bradbury’s short story “The Black Ferris." Part of Bradbury’s Greentown Trilogy, it is a tale of the dangers of longing, regret and vanity.  Early on, Bradbury expressed the desire to bring the story to the big screen, and began shopping a screenplay around. Dancer and entertainer Jean Kelly was looking for the film to be his directorial debut, but was turned down by all the major studios.  Eventually the rights were sold to Paramount Pictures with Director Jack Clayton and Bradbury attached. After languishing in years of development Hell,  Walt Disney Pictures bought the rights from Paramount, and kept Clayton on as director. After a disastrous test screening and five million dollars spent in rewrites, redone special effects, and a new score by James Horner, the film was released to a lukewarm reception. Bradbury even called it “not a great film.”

Something Wicked was released on DVD by Anchor Bay, and later by Disney in 2004, with both versions of the soundtrack released by Intrada Records. In 2014, a remake was announced with the author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith, attached as director. The Disney Company was very different 35 years ago than the Marvel/Star Wars juggernaut that is currently dominating the cineplexes. Chances were taken and mistakes were certainly made (looking at you, Condorman), but the period of experimentation and pushing the envelope gave us a creepy and disturbing period film that will forever have us looking over our shoulders at the approaching storm.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The MCU

It has taken over 10 years to get to Avengers: Infinty War, not that the film has been in development for that long. It is instead the culmination of 18 Marvel films (19, if you include Howard the Duck, which I do) and we might as well throw in ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. After sitting through the nearly 3 hour long opus, I can say that it's definitely been worth the wait.

There can be no doubt of the power and craft of the Marvel MCU films. It's in their uncanny ability to pack a deeply emotional character story and comedic moments in the middle of amazing special effects and fisticuffs. In this tradition of excellence, Avengers: Infinity War does not disappoint. The story picks up immediately following the events of Thor: Ragnarok as the Asgardian ship is intercepted by Thanos, played with conviction by Josh Brolin. All the familiar characters are reintroduced in subsequent scenes with team pairings that even a casual fan would salivate over. Most of the comedic moments are provided courtesy by the narcissistic banter of the Stark / Strange / Quill triad. It's as fun as you think it would be.

The film isn't just played up for laughs. There are genuinely heart-wrenching moments, especially in the final act, which can't be discussed without spoilers. Never did the run time of this film seem too long, and the pacing and action are tight. The film sets itself up nicely for a second chapter, which will be in cineplexes in a year.  Avengers: Infinity War is a visceral and gutsy thrill ride that will leave you thinking, "Oh no, they didn't!" But yes, Marvel did.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Disney announces chain of Barcades

The Disney Company is planning to build on the current nostalgia driven trend of blending bars with classic video arcade games (Barcades). The new Flynn’s Barcade concept is modeled on the classic video game arcade featured in the films TRON and TRON: Legacy. In 2011, Disney experimented with a Flynn’s arcade as part of their ElecTRONica section promoting the film. Due to the popularity of the site, and the success of barcades like Dave and Busters and 1983 popping up around the country, Disney has decided to capitalize on the trend.
Flynn's at ElecTRONica
Disney CEO Bob Iger has hand-selected Current Executive Vice President of Disney Stores, Paul Gains, to head the project. “We are proud to bring the Disney brand to the exciting arena of barcades.” said Gains. “We hope to benefit from the name recognition of Flynn’s to cater to Gen-Xers who miss the nostalgia of going to their local video arcade with a pocketful of quarters.” Gains also stated that all games will only cost one quarter to play and that change machines will be provided throughout the facilities. To make up for the reduced cost of the games, beer and alcohol will be provided at a premium price.
Artist Rendering
In a shift from current trends there will also be a smoking section of the arcade where patrons can rest their cigarettes on the player control consoles to create the authentic burnmarks so loved by millions.  To further enhance the experience, cast members will be roaming around the arcade wearing 80’s style clothes such as tube socks with shorts, parachute pants, and male cut-off shirts. “We will be the first barcade to incorporate patented Disney Smellitzer technology to recreate the smell of mildewed carpets and body odor that was synonymous with arcades in the 70’s and 80’s.” said Gains. Pilot locations will be opening in Yee-Haw Junction Florida, Blue Ball Pennsylvania, and Walla Walla Washington.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ready Player One: The Quest for IP.

Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg, is based on a dystopian novel by Ernest Cline. Cline also contributed to the screenplay. The events of the novel set in the near future center around a pervasive virtual reality landscape called The Oasis. It is basically an ARG on steroids where people, through the use of goggles and haptic gear, escape the bleakness of society to live out their days in a fantasy realm. The creator of The Oasis, on his death, creates an Adventure style hunt with the prize being full control of The Oasis. Many parties, including the ruthless corporate antagonist IOI, race to take control for their own nefarious designs.
In order to solve the riddles placed in the game by the creator, players have to be intimately familiar with 70’s and 80’s pop culture references. While the novel is ambitious in incorporating these properties, a regular film maker would find insurmountable barriers in securing the many licenses required. Only one man has the Hollywood clout to pull off such a win; Steven Spielberg. But even he struggled to get other studios to buy-in. A job made even more difficult with his unfortunate decision not to include his own many properties that were the focus of the novel. This isn’t Spielberg’s first trip to the licensing rodeo. As producer of the Touchstone Pictures animated classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Spielberg used his substantial clout to secure licenses for characters from Betty Boop to Bugs Bunny. Since Touchstone was an arm of The Walt Disney Company, securing Mickey Mouse and friends was a non-issue.

Fast forward to 2015. Spielberg decides to direct the screen adaptation of Ready Player One. He and his team set out to secure properties integral to the story, and have relative success with all except one; Star Wars. Arguably the biggest pop culture influence in the last two centuries, Star Wars figures heavly in Cline’s novel. Since Spielberg worked his magic so well for Disney on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and to add that he recently directed the modestly successful BFG film for Disney, one would assume that the studio would cooperate. In an interview, he stated that they weren’t able to get the ok to use Star Wars from the Mouse House. Ironically, Disney itself had a similarly frustrating experience getting IP for the many video game characters featured in Wreck It Ralph, and were unable to convince Nintendo to allow the use of a certain Italian Plumber. In spite of these experiences and their history with Spielberg, Disney was being stingy with Star Wars.  However, at some point after the interview was published, Spielberg reported that Disney relented, presumably to avoid more fan backlash than the Studio was already facing from The Last Jedi. The Star Wars references in the film are little more than brief flashes of R2-D2 and an X-Wing Fighter. In a possible jab at Disney, the script features a scene where an IOI bigwig dangles the Millennium Falcon as a carrot to entice a player to give up the solution to a puzzle. The player responds with genuine disbelief that getting the ship would be possible. Here’s to hoping for more inter-studio cooperation in future films.