Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another Star Wars Story: Rogue One review

By, Michael Goldtrap

After watching Rogue One last weekend, I anticipated writing a review about how much I love the new direction this film was to take.  Originally conceived by writers John Knoll and Gary Whitta as  an espionage story; with studio re-shoots and writer changes, we are left with another X-wing / TIE fighter battle at the film's climax. Now I love a good fighter battle as much as the next fanboy, but we've all seen it before. Add in two dimensional characters and forced laughs, and I found myself longing for the film we were promised: a spy thriller set in the Star Wars universe.

From the in-your-face fan service references that scream "Hey, remember this from the movies you liked?" to the lack of any chemistry between the characters, I had no emotional investment in the characters or plot.  That is the film's biggest crime, because a lot of bad happens to the characters that I just didn't care about in the first place. Don't mention the not-so-funny reprogramed Imperial droid voiced by the very funny Alan Tudyk.

That's not to say that Rogue One doesn't take risks.  One of the most striking is the exquisitely rendered CGI likeness of the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin.  Far from the "uncanny valley" version of a young Jeff  Bridges from the 2011 film, TRON Legacy, this doppelganger for 1977 Cushing will fool anyone who is unaware of the actor's passing in 1994. Slightly less impressive is a young Princess Leah shown toward the end of the film. Also, I think it is safe to say that Rogue One is a bloodbath of major characters, solidifying its place as a stand alone film and justifying it's PG-13 rating.  For all the parents taking their little girls (and boys), with Jyn Erso figure in hand, to this film, be aware that all doesn't end well for our heroine or her friends.

I liked Rogue One for the risks it took, but I wonder what the original version would have looked like before the studio suits got their way. Here's hoping that there will be a alternate version available in the near future, but Disney typically doesn't so that sort of thing.  Rogue One reveals details and fills out the Star Wars narrative well for the events leading up to A New Hope.  Expect that, and you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Strange Magic: Doctor Strange Review

By: Michael Goldtrap

Marvel has a knack for making blockbuster films using relatively unknown characters from their catalog.  Some of the most well received films in the MCU are outside of The Avengers, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Antman.   Doctor Strange, relatively unknown to the casual, non-comic book reading fan, is the latest hero to grace the screen.  The good doctor was created by artist Steve Ditko in 1963, and has been featured in comics and in a forgettable 1978 live-action made for TV movie.

The latest iteration stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Steven Strange.  Cumberbatch plays to stereotype as an arrogant, egotistical neurosurgeon (they aren't really like that, are they?) who, due to a spectacular auto accident, suffers a debilitating injury to his most prized possessions; his hands. With no options available with western medicine, Steven travels to Kathmandu (leading to a hilarious Bob Seger reference)  to find The Ancient One portrayed brilliantly by Tilda Swinton. Under the tutelage of mystic Mordo and stoic librarian Wong, Doctor Strange is reluctantly drawn into an age-old conflict between the mystical forces of good and evil. The main antagonist, a rogue former student of The Ancient One is played by the reliably devious Mads Mikkelsen.

Director Scott Derrickson brings a decidedly surrealistic element to the MCU with his experience directing the supernatural in films like Sinister. Writer Jon Spaiths brings science fiction cred from his involvement in Promethius. Together they deliver a visually stunning piece of surrealistic eye candy with fight scenes set in environments reminiscent of Inception and The Matrix.  This is a film that really pops in Imax 3D especially during Doctor Strange's travels through multiple universes.

In a world weary of big overblown final battles ( I'm looking at you Ultron), the film chooses instead to go in a much more cerebral direction.  This is a film that will please hard-core and casual fans alike, and nicely sets up a sequel with well-done end credit easter eggs. With steady pacing, brilliant casting (with a grossly underused Rachel McAdams), and mind-bending visuals, Doctor Strange will no doubt be a major blockbuster for Marvel and will lead the MCU into new, mystical directions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Once Upon a Nautilus

In a promo for next week's Once Upon a Time, the elegant captain Hook meets the infamous Captain Nemo!  ABC /Disney have been hinting at an appearance by the vengeful captain, played by Faran Tahir, and his steam punk submarine/sea monster, the Nautilus.

Writers have also said that there is some history between the two captains, although it appears in the promo that they are meeting for the first time.  Also of note is the look of the Nautilus.  From quick shots, it is clearly the same ship as in the 1954 Walt Disney classic.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Elon Musk's Nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Elon Musk, the head of Space-X announced earlier this week that his private space launch company is planning to send human colonies to Mars in 2023.  If that wasn't cool enough, Musk will be naming the first ship "Heart of Gold", after the ship commandeered by Zaphod Beeblebrox in the Douglas Adams novel, and Walt Disney Pictures sci-fi comedy film, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. 
The fictitious ship is powered by a "Improbability Drive" resulting in hilarious side effects.  Musk relates the propulsion system, to the improbability of his company's continued success as a private space launch company. Fans will also appreciate that the Space-X craft will be powered by 42 Raptor engines.  The number 42 figures heavily in the novel/film plot as the answer to the Ultimate Question: What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?  This isn't the first time that a real life space ship was named after a famous science fiction starship. NASA named the very first Space Shuttle "Enterprise" after the famous ship from Star Trek.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Rocketeer sequel, and Del Toro’s ‘Haunted Mansion

By CHRIS GOLDTRAP - September 6th 2016

Earlier this week Digital Trends recently interviewed veteran Disney executive producer Brigham Taylor about a few other projects he, and Walt Disney Studios, currently have in the works. Here are a few paragraphs from that interview about a few of our favorite Sci-Fi movie rumors.

Digital Trends: You’ve had a new movie based on the Haunted Mansion attraction in development for a while now, with Guillermo Del Toro attached as a writer and director. Is that still in the works? Is Del Toro still involved?

Brigham Taylor: Guillermo is still very much attached and involved. It’s just been going at its own pace, because it’s a movie that I think will eventually get made, but should only be made when it’s absolutely ready to be made. There’s no reason to put a rush on it or back into a date. I’m happy to say we’ve been steadily working away to hone the right story for it. We’re still doing that. Guillermo is a very talented filmmaker who’s always been active with it, so once the right version of the material marries up to the right window of time for him, I think that’s when the movie gets made.

There was a report a while back that Del Toro wasn’t going to be able to direct it. Are you still planning to have him do so?

That’s always going to be a function of his schedule, but in the best version of this scenario, he will.

There was some recent buzz about a sequel to The Rocketeer that’s in development. Given the popularity of comic-book movies these days, it makes sense to return to that world. What can you tell us about the film at this point?

I’m terribly excited about it. I feel that The Rocketeer is one of the great comic book movies, and one of the great Disney live-action films that was a bit unheralded when it was first released, but has stuck around as quality films do and remained relevant to a lot of film fans. We’re just at the earliest phase of launching the draft, so we’ve hired the writers and they’re settling in. That’s where it has to start, and hopefully we can deliver on the promise of this take that they’ve helped hammer out. If so, then hopefully we can move it forward. I’m just happy it’s in the mix, because it’s such a rich world, and I think it still feels unique. I’m a fan of Marvel and all those films, but this film feels like something very different, and that makes it feel very important.

So the film is being envisioned as a sequel, and not as a reboot?

Yeah, that’s how we’re considering it now, and I think that the greatest tribute you can pay to the amazing 1991 film is by not pretending it didn’t happen. I love that and I love that if we’re lucky enough to make another film, it’s one that you could come to fresh as an audience member and also direct your attention to the ’91 film if you haven’t seen it, and have that film exist in the same canon.

The initial report indicated that the film will feature a black, female lead. Is that indeed the case?

That is the story we’re centered around, yeah. There was a very specific logline that was shared, but I think it’s fair to say we’re at an early phase where so much can wonderfully happen in the story development, so I don’t know which things we’ll hold on to and which things we won’t. But I love the notion of that character, and it’s a very foundational idea for this take.

You can find the original interview which also features The Jungle Book Here:  The Jungle Book’ producer on talking animals, ‘The Rocketeer’ sequel, and Del Toro’s ‘Haunted Mansion’

Also here is a tour of Del Toro's "Bleak House" which features a Haunted Mansion inspired room:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Marvel Announces Monsters Unleashed

Marvel announced yesterday that a comic book series featuring the popular Marvel versions of classic Universal Monsters will be released in January 2017! Included are expected to be Dracula, The Mummy, Werewolf By Night, Frankenstein's Monster, and Man-Thing.
Fans of the previous iterations will be excited to see these classic fiends together again!  No further details have been released. There is speculation in the fan community, especially those "Monster Kids" who grew up in the 70's, as to whether the monsters will be evil or good.  A few years ago, the monsters teamed up on Disney XP's Spider Man series as Blade and The Howling Commandos (not to be confused with Captain America's Howling Commandos), fought with Spidey against Dracula and his minions.  A link to the episode commercial can be found here:
Ultimate Spiderman: Blade and The Howling Commandos

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Legacy of Condorman!

By Michael Goldtrap.

Be it known that we here at LightEars LOOOOVE Condorman!  In departure from the good reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes (who give a generous 25%) we appreciate the 1981 Disney film for what it is; pure camp. From the bad acting by former phantom Michael Crawford, to the hit and miss special effects (Miss: Flapping condor wings fail, Hit: can you say laser gun boat chase?) While not Disney's biggest hit, it found its way into the hearts of many HBO and Disney Channel watchers of the early '80's.   Calling it a "cult classic" may be an overstatement, the film did leave a sort of legacy in it's small impact on pop culture.
Disney released a minimum of merchandise including posters, comic books, and a novelization in support of this film.  


Within the last few years, Disney has released the DVD of the film, as an exclusive to the Disney Movie Club, and a CD of the soundtrack on Intrada Records.

In the Pixar short film, Small Fry, Director Angus MacLane included a discarded Condorman kids meal toy, citing himself as a fan of the film.
Possibly, in response to the Pixar reference, and renewed interest in the film, Disney has quietly released a Condorman Vinylmation and Disney Infinity Condorman Winged Glider disk.

Art by Francesco Francavilla
Fans of the film have also been busy creating their own style of Fan art for the film. 
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the film's release, and it quite honestly hasn't held up.  Possibly since the film was cheesy even in the 80's. Although it may not  be fully appreciated by moviegoers raised on a steady diet of CGI,  Condorman can still be a guilty pleasure and reminder of a simpler time of Disney film making. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Disney Announces Sequel to The Rocketeer

By: Michael Goldtrap
The Hollywood Reporter revealed today the Walt Disney Studios has hired Max Winkler (son of Fonz) and Matt Spicer to pen a sequel to the 1991 Joe Johnston directed film based on the comics by Dave Stevens.

The new film is set six years after the events of the first film.  Cliff Secord has disappeared and a female pilot has taken the mantle (and rocket pack) to thwart a Russian rocket scientist's plans of using the Rocket pack as a Cold War weapon.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Star Wars SDCC 2016 Exclusives

The official blog for San Diego Comic Con revealed this year's exclusive Star Wars collectibles to fans lucky (or willing) enough to stand in long lines, dressed as a Wookie! Here are a few standouts.

Funko has a limited BB-8 POP giving the thumbs up (or another finger).

Or this farm boy Luke fig from..Return of the Jedi?!

Finally a Meisho Movie Realization Teppou Ashigaru Sandtrooper!

Friday, July 1, 2016

The BFG Review

By Taylor Goldtrap

LightEars Teen Critic, Taylor, reviews the new Disney / Amblin epic fantasy adventure, The BFG!

I recently saw Steven Spielberg’s movie The BFG, and was very pleased with how it turned out. It follows the adventures of a small orphan girl named Sophie and her unlikely 24-foot tall friend, the Big Friendly Giant (or the BFG,) as they plot to rid the world of nine “rotsome” man-eating giants responsible for the disappearances of children from boarding-schools across the world. Mark Rylance does an exceptional job while portraying the titular character through motion capture, perfectly reflecting the conflicting wiseness and childlike aspects of the BFG’s personality through his expressive facial and body language. Ruby Barnhill, a newcomer to the movie industry, made a stellar debut as Sophie, capturing the curiosity of a 10-year old girl suddenly exposed to things that she could’ve only dreamed of before.

I  was (happily) surprised to note that the movie wasn’t a far cry from the original book by Roald Dahl, a book I’ve had the pleasure to read. Instead, the few small changes made (such as adding an additional child who was in the BFG’s care before Sophie, expanding  on the reasons behind his fatherly caring for Sophie), enhanced the movie and helped to drive the plot along better. The movie also had its fair share of laughter-inducing moments, such as the frobscottle party in the Queen of England’s palace that had everyone “whizzpopping”.

The special effects, supervised by Joel Whist, were also stunning and truly brought the  giants to life. They shaped and contorted the actors into believable towering behemoths, demonstrating  an expert level of digital/real merging. The dreams of Dream Country were also shrouded in the perfect level of mystery, and it was hard to take my eyes off of their beautiful forms as they told silent stories to Sophie from inside the jars in the BFG’s cave house. The nightmares, or “troggelhumpers,” as the BFG called them, combined the effect of a dream with something truly horrifying. This created the shapeless beings which thrashed against the walls of the jars like angry prisoners violently trying to escape.

I think this movie was an excellent one. It combined fantastical characters and ideas with morals that could be useful in real life, such as to never give up. Regardless of how small you are, you can make a big difference. It also added just the right amount of fun to keep the younger audience engaged and laughing, however themes of giants kidnapping and eating children (although not depicted on screen) may upset the youngest moviegoers. I highly recommend this film!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

35th Anniversary of Dragonslayer

By: Michael Goldtrap

As we celebrate the 35th Birthday of everyone's favorite "unclean beast", Vermithrax Pejorative, LightEars looks back at the 1981 masterpiece, Dragonslayer.
The 1980's was a period of experimentation at the Walt Disney Studios.  Over ten years separated  from the "What would Walt do?" period after Walt Disney's death, and prior to the purchase of the adult minded Touchstone and Hollywood Studios brands, Disney studios was searching for a way to tap into the teen and young adult markets.  It was during this period that Disney scared the heck out of kids with dark fare like The Black Hole, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Watcher in the Woods, and the animated adaptation of The Black Cauldron from The Prydain Chronicles. It was also the decade that the company released Dragonslayer, a dark epic fantasy quest film that was it's most un-Disney release to date. The film contained such "non-Disney" troupes as virgin sacrifice, gore, partial nudity, and dismemberment! Out of the desire to achieve a more diverse audience, and possibly the fear of releasing a film with such dark tones under the Disney label, the film was released as a coproduction with Paramount Studios. 
The film, while not performing well in the theaters, has achieved cult status mainly due to its main antagonist, a scary as Hell dragon names Vermithrax Pejorative. The effects genius behind this dragon was ILM alum Phil Tippet who utilized the animation technique called "Go-motion" in order to give the dragon more fluid movements. The film was directed by Mathew Robbins who is reported to be involved in the upcoming Guillermo del Toro Haunted Mansion film.  While obviously not a boon for Disney merchandising, the film did result in a Marvel comics adaptation, a novelization, and a board game. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bob Iger on "Why TRON?"

By Michael Goldtrap

Disney company CEO, Bob Iger, was asked in a recent interview why Shanghai Disneyland designer Scot Drake chose TRON for the inspiration for their newest high speed attraction.
IGER: "People have asked about that. Our Imagineers [theme park designers] were developing a new ride technology: motorcycle-like vehicles on a track. We were really blown away by the technology but had no idea how we would use it. Then the “TRON” movie came out and the light cycles reminded us of how cool those vehicles were. When we were thinking of what we would anchor Tomorrowland with here, the lightbulb went off.  It’s not just about bringing the best [intellectual property] here, it’s about building the best experiences." (Source: Wall Street Journal, Photo Source:Walt Disney Company)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Iron Man Ride Tests to Begin at Hong Kong Disneyland

By Michael Goldtrap

Disney Parks Blog reports that Imagineers will begin ride tests on The Iron Man Experience in Hong Kong Disneyland's Stark Expo section of Tomorrowland. The blog reports that the storyline for the new ride centers on Tony Stark showcasing his new Iron Wing flying vehicles for expo visitors.
A video preview was featured as part of the D23 expo in 2015(courtesy of Inside the Magic).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TRON Run/r Original Soundtrack to be released on May 31

By: Michael Goldtrap
The TRON Run/r soundtrack, composed by Giorgio Moroder and co-composed by Raney Shockne, is getting a release date of May 31st.
In a statement by Christopher Nicholls, executive producer, he says "TRON spans several decades of really innovative music, whether it's Wendy Carlos in the first film or Daft Punk. So we wanted an artist who could really span those generations in a legitimate way. If you go back to the sound of original electro disco in the '70s, Giorgio is right at the heart of it. He's been pushing electronic music his whole career. We wanted to nod to the first film as well as the later incarnations of the series."

TRON Run/r Original Soundtrack track list:

01. RUN PROGRAM – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
02. RUN PROGRAM (BIBIO REMIX) - Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
03. RECURSION – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
04. INVALID PATH – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
05. INVALID PATH (DARKSTAR REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
06. DELTA ANTLIAE (INVALID PATH revisited - NICHOLLS REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne DELTA ANTLIAE (PATTEN REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
07. 611 TIME OUT – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
08. 611 TIME OUT (AUTECHRE REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
09. DECRYPTED – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
10. MEMORY STRING – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
11. MEMORY STRING (PLAID REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
12. PARTIY ERROR – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne
13. PARITY ERROR (RUSKO REMIX) – Giorgio Moroder and Raney Shockne

Source: Billboard

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Breaking: Disney Interactive announced the discontinuation of the Disney Infinity

Breaking: Disney Interactive announced the discontinuation of the Disney Infinity toy/game line. In a statement on the official Disney Infinity site, General Manager John Blackburn stated that it was a "difficult decision" and thanked the public for supporting the game. There will be 2 additional play sets; Alice Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory. 
"By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. From the beginning, Disney Infinity was built for you—our fans—and I wanted to take a moment to thank you not just for your support over the years, but for creating a community that made Disney Infinity more than just a game.
UOur goal for Disney Infinity was to bring the best of Disney storytelling to life in homes around the world, and with your support we accomplished that. We hope you had as much fun playing the game as we had making it.
So what’s next for Disney Infinity? We have two final retail releases coming, including three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month, and the Finding Dory Play Set launching in June.
And as we turn to the next chapter in our story, I want to thank everyone who helped bring Disney Infinity to life, particularly Disney’s Glendale-based production and publishing teams, our external development partners, and of course the incredible Avalanche team for their tireless dedication to this project.
But most of all, I want to again thank you for making Disney Infinity a part of your lives—and for adding to the Disney legacy by being a part of this community."