Movie News: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is it worth seeing in 3D?


Marvel Studios 10th feature film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is breaking on American shores this weekend, and the decision people have to make is… ‘is it worth seeing in theaters and more specifically, is it worth seeing in 3D?’

Well, dealing with the broader questions first, whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Movies, you really have to tip your cap to Kevin Feige and the whole Marvel Studios machine for really doing what seemed if not impossible, highly farfetched; namely creating a critically and commercially successful movie empire based on the shared universe approach of comic books.

It, in many ways, is the return of serial movies, the type popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but done on a massive scale, undreamed of by those low budget quickies of yesteryear.

And Marvel Studios films have managed to be not only popular, but entertaining, sometimes impressively so. I would list their movies from best to worst as:

AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
IRON MAN
HULK

IRON MAN 2
THOR
IRON MAN 3
THOR 2

And now their 10th film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is poised to carve out their place on the above list. I find myself largely uninterested in the film. Nothing about the premise, the characters, or the one trailer I’ve seen intrigues me at all. Add to that they have an unimpressive ‘Before the Window’ 3D rating from CINEMA BLEND, like all previous Marvel Movies, and it is no incentive to see this in 3D.

But what does stand out in opposition to all that disinterest is the director, James Gunn. James Gunn like many of the directors Marvel picks, lacks any pedigree in the action or blockbuster genre, but like other directors chosen, they have a personality to the films they have directed, and a way with actors and characters, they have glimmerings of potential.

I enjoyed James Gunn’s SLITHER and I do think Marvel Studios helmed by Kevin Feige have been nothing short of phenomenal in picking talent both in front of and behind the camera. For all the heat their choices engender prior to the film, their unconventional choices have proven movie after movie, to be great.

And it is hard to argue with great. I have no interest in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as a concept or as characters, but I am interested in seeing James Gunn do a big, fun, space hopping action picture.

So verdict: I’ll catch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on a matinee, or 2nd run, without 3D

Hopes this helps anyone on the fence, and feel free to chime in with your opinions. ENJOY!

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FLASH GORGON Trilogy Update

Quick update on the FLASH GORDON Trilogy:

Just finished all three of the Flash Gordon serials. While I praised the first one FLASH GORDON (from 1936, renamed FLASH GORDON SPACE SOLDIERS), and was kind of luke-warm on the sequels (1938, 1940), I have to say re-watching the last two, they are rocky (dressed as Robin Hood’s Merry men in a Space Opera?? Really?), but you get past the shaky openings and they really get pretty darn good. Well the third one gets pretty darn good, the comedy bits of the 2nd one, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS MARS still do not work for me, and it is the weakest of the trilogy, lacking the sexiness or action/intensity of either the first one or the third one, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE.

But that last one, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE, really builds to a kick-ass finale, every bit as good as the first film and a fitting end to the trilogy. A highly recommended box-set!

Flash Gordon: Box Set (Space Soldiers/Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars/Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe) (3DVD)

2013: DAY 48 – FIVE BEST CLASSIC MOVIE SERIALS!

2013: DAY 48 – FIVE BEST CLASSIC MOVIE SERIALS!

Well one of my passions in these first 50 days of the new year, has been classic movie serials. The inspiration for filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, to name a prominent two, movie serials were the pre-television answer to moving pictures’ sequential entertainment. Inspiration for films such as STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES.

raidersofthelostarkpolish

Unlike a standard big budget film,that offered a big complete story, the serials were about giving viewers bite-sized and tasty morsels of thrills and adrenalin inducing entertainment to keep viewers coming to the local movie-house on a weekly basis. And the hallmark of the serial’s formula of thrills was the cliffhanger. A formula that has only relatively recently been put to good effect on television in shows such as 24 and BREAKING BAD.

breakingbad2

But to see this formula at its best you have to experience it via the best of classic movie serials. Unfortunately given the formulaic nature of serials, and the challenges of strict deadlines, and limited budgets, movie serials could often fall into the rut of inane writing, insipid direction and repetitive and sloppy cliffhangers.

The majority of serials I have so far tried, fall victim to the foibles outlined above. However five that do not, that stand out as GREAT serials of the 20th century, that I find incredibly entertaining being introduced to them here in the 21st, are….

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ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL -Wow. Just wow. This is not your father’s Superman. This dude has no compunction about killing bad guys. And it is just a plain entertaining thrill ride.

SPY-SMASHER- Add World War II, A masked crimefighter against the Axis, and add some of the best fight scenes and most energetic cliffhangers and you have this serial. The best of the best.

MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR SATAN- How cool is this villain? So cool that he gets top billing in this serial over the costumed hero?!! A great serial.

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THE CALL OF THE SAVAGE- Tarzan eat your heart out! Some jaw dropping animal stock footage highlights a fun serial that imagines a different kind of jungle boy. Fun and entertaining with great cliffhangers!

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FLASH GORDON:SPACE SOLDIERS- The original 1936 serial (originally just called FLASH GORDON, followed by two sequels the 1938 MISSION TO MARS, and the 1940 FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE) has everything that later versions aspired to but never quite achieved. It is imaginative, fun, audacious, manic, sexy, thrilling and generally balls to the wall good.

Despite the limitations of the day as it relates to special effects, men in suits, lizards with bits added to stand in as dinosaurs, wobbly ships on strings, this serial has something that transcends all these glaring flaws, it is just popcorn chewingly fun! With Flash and his compatriots racing from one hair-raising, adrenaline inducing adventure after another. A combination of insanely imaginative and compelling writing, married to breakneck direction, and whole-heartedly embraced performances adds up to a whole that transcends the admittedly suspect sum of its parts.

And did I mention sexy? Flash at any given time has at least three gorgeous and scantily clad females vying for his attention. The most gorgeous of who appears but briefly in the abode of the Shark Men. Latin and clad in white, you’ll know her when you see her.

And getting back to the jab about men in suits. This serial has one of the scariest men in a monkey suit ever put to film! (and I’ve seen my share!:)) It really is awesomely impressive, and a hugely thrilling and memorable cliffhanger. If there was an academy award given for monkey acting, this guy should have got it. :).

All in all, I have to say one of the best things I’ve seen in this two thousand and thirteenth year of our lord, is this throwaway weekly serial from 73 years ago!! I highly recommend it!

So there you go. In no particular order five of the greatest movie serials ever!

These 12 to 15 part serials are some of the best examples of a medium, of a type of cinematic entertainment that the ascension of the age of television in the 50s brought to an end. However, much like Old Time Radio of the same period,the late 30s to the early 50s, these shows may be past, but thanks to the digital age they are not forgotten and more… are readily available (if you know where to look) so the lucky newcomer is able to sample these treasures of a bygone age at their leisure.

Sample yours today… here:

Flash Gordon: Box Set (Space Soldiers/Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars/Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe) (3DVD)

Adventures of Captain Marvel

2013: Day 1 – Reflections on SPY SMASHER serial

Random discoveries, oddities, recommendations:

I spent a portion of the first day of 2013, getting acquainted with a serial from 70+ years earlier. namely 1942s 12 part serial SPY SMASHER.

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Don’t let the cheesy poster art dissuade you. Generally regarded as one of the best of that since mothballed type of film, SPY SMASHER is filled with great action, superb stunts and fight scenes, wild and imaginative plots, and Sci-fi tinged weaponry, gadgets and of course… cliffhangers.

Indeed its first cliffhanger is regarded as one of the best, complete with a solution that does not disappoint. Though later cliffhangers did suffer from the bait and switch effect. That aside, a genuinely exciting and despite a plot that goes all over the map (from gold theft, to ships being mined, to pre-helicopter batplanes, and pre-EMP death rays, to name a few) enthralling and smart serial with a crackerjack ending!

spywithmachinegun

Unfortunately this historic serial is not available on any studio pressed DVD. Only a VHS was released, and that currently goes for relatively high prices. But thankfully you can get an excellent print of this serial pressed to DVD on the collector market. People who for the love preserve and share these joys from yesteryear.

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However be aware not every collector mom and pop shop is the same, nor is the quality of the DVDs they produce. Finding a good one can be a bit of trial and error. Thankfully for you when it comes to the SPY SMASHER serial I found a great one.

If you’re a subscriber to this blog, hit me up with a request for details in the comments section (they come right to me, and won’t be posted) and I’ll get that info to you. And you too can be enjoying a great DVD copy of SPY SMASHER complete with DVD art, Box Art, and chapter stops.

Okay that’s my first quirky item mention of 2013! 🙂

FAVORITE DOCTOR WHO DvD Commentary! THE POWER OF KROLL?!!

Recorded in 2002 (mere weeks after the death of Terry Walsh, one of Britan’s premier stunt-men, and a stunt man who had a visible role in many episodes of Doctor Who, most notably this one) the commentary by Tom Baker and John Leeson for the 4-part story THE POWER OF KROLL, first aired in 1978, is nothing short of great.

From tales of performing Sherlock Holmes, to a party for Sean Connery, to autograph seekers, to rumors of death, to Migraine Acting it’s just everything a commentary should be.

Tom Baker always a sharp, if at times distracted, speaker on commentaries, here manages to feel completely on… for this one, and delivers a really fun and funny commentary. And it helps that the episode of Dr. Who that this commentary adorns, is actually a very good story (starring Phillip Madoc whose performance elevated every Doctor Who episode he was in [including the 2nd movie]). So a fun story, with a must listen commentary.

And this story is part 5 in THE KEY OF TIME series, a 26 episode storyline. So rather than just purchasing this individual episode, I would recommend the 2009 Boxset that includes the entire KEY TO TIME storyline as well as extras that were not on the earlier individual DVDs (Including an interview with the aforementioned Phillip Madoc).

While this storyline is not in my best Doctor Who storylines (it has major flaws most notably the tedious and lackluster ending which basically made the whole storyline unnecessary) it does have some fun moments in the buildup, and THE POWER OF KROLL is one of those moments.

In addition it is something of a watershed moment in the Tom Baker years. After this his enjoyment in the series, and for the most part the quality of the series (while there would be some peaks, there would be far more often valleys) would be in steady decline, with the uneven John Nathan Turner years on the horizon.

So this is a great DVD to get a sampling of a time in a seemingly immortal series, when it glimmered… very bright… against the coming night.

Doctor Who: The Key to Time (Special Collector’s Edition) (Stories 98-103)! Price your copy here!!

The following breakdown is courtesy of Violin MD @ Amazon.com:

“The NEW 350 minutes-worth of special features details are as follows. All the making-of features are new and NEW commentaries are marked with an *:

I. The Ribos Operation: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 98 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker and Mary Tamm
2. A Matter of Time – A new 60-minute Documentary
3. The Ribos File – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making of
this story
4. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
5. Season 16 Trailer – BBC1 trailer for the forthcoming season
6. Photo Gallery

II. The Pirate Planet: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 100 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Bruce Purchase and director Pennant Roberts
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and script editor Anthony
Read
3. Parrot Fashion – Documentary that includes old and new
interviews, including Douglas Adams
4. Film Inserts, Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
5. Weird Science – A funny look at the science seen in The Key to
Time
6. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
7. Photo Gallery

III. The Stones Of Blood: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 95 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Mary Tamm and director Darrol Blake
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm, Susan Engel and writer
David Fisher
3. Getting Blood from the Stones – Cast and Crew Interviews about
the making of this story
4. Hammer Horror – Featurette about the influences of horror films
on Doctor Who stories
5. Stones Free – Mary Tamm visits the Rollright Stones location and
talks to local experts
6. Deleted Scenes
7. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
8. Excerpt from ‘The Model World of Robert Symes’
9. Blue Peter segment about the 15th anniversary of Doctor Who
10. BBC’s Nationwide news program segment about the 15th
anniversary of Doctor Who
11. Photo Gallery

IV. The Androids Of Tara: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 97 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and director Michael Hayes
2. The Humans of Tara – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making
of this story
3. Now & Then: The Androids of Tara – compares and contrasts
present day locations as they are now with how they appeared in
the story
4. Double Trouble – a brief history of ‘doubles’ in other Doctor
Who stories
5. Photo Gallery

V. The Power Of Kroll: Special Edition (1 DVD; 4 episodes; 90 mins)
1. Commentary with Tom Baker and John Leeson
2. In Studio – a glimpse inside the studio during recording of the
story
3. Variations – a BBC local news programme visits the story’s
location during filming
4. There’s Something About Mary – Mary Tamm looks back at her
single-season starring role as the Doctor’s companion
5. Philip Madoc: A Villain for All Seasons – Madoc looks back on
his numerous roles as a Doctor Who villain down the years
6. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
7. Photo Gallery

VI. The Armageddon Factor: Special Edition (2 DVDs; 6 episodes; 147 mins)
2 Audio Commentary Tracks:
1. Commentary with Mary Tamm, John Woodvine and director Michael
Hayes
2. * Commentary with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm and John Leeson
3. DVD-ROM: 1979 Doctor Who Annual in Adobe PDF format
4. Defining Shadows – Cast and Crew Interviews about the making of
this story
5. Alternative / Extended Scene
6. Directing Who – Michael Hayes looks back on his directing career
on Doctor Who
7. Rogue Time Lords – a potted history of errant Time Lords
8. Pebble Mill at One – Tom Baker interview from 1978
9. Radiophonic Feature – a Pebble Mill at One interview looking at
Radiophonic music and effects in Doctor Who
10. The New Sound of Music – Dick Mills talks about creating Doctor
Who sound effects
11. Merry Christmas, Doctor Who – a special Christmas sketch,
recorded on the set of ‘The Armageddon Factor’ for the BBC
Christmas Tape that year
12. Continuities – off-air continuity links from the story’s
original BBC1 transmission
13. Photo Gallery
14. Late Night Story – Tom Baker reads five spine-chilling stories
from this 1978 series:
a. The Photograph by Nigel Kneale
b. The Emissary by Ray Bradbury
c. Nursery Tea by Mary Danby
d. The End of the Party by Graham Greene
e. Sredni Vashtar by Saki (never broadcast)
15. Easter Egg

Adding up the running times gives us 627 minutes for the box set. All episodes are presented in full frame video, with the original English mono audio and with English subtitles.”

DVD REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO – THE HAND OF FEAR aka the SEXIEST DR WHO Villain?!!!?

Well that’s a strange heading for a blog post I admit, but I was re-watching the 1976 episode of DOCTOR WHO: THE HAND OF FEAR, and man is this a ‘rocking’ episode of Doctor Who!

Okay the following contains spoilers for the episode (as well as a smattering of risque adult themed humor :)), now you regular readers know I typically avoid spoilers like the plague, but there is no way to really sell this episode and not describe its reveals. And it is still a great episode, even when you know what is coming.

However, jump to the last paragraph if you want to avoid any spoilers (or avoid tasteless humor :)).

For the rest of you… into the mystery.

This 4 part episode works in large part because of the villain of Eldrad played by Judith Paris. A silicone rock based creature who is one of the first scifi gender-bending characters I’m aware of. This alien menace starts out off camera as a dude, becomes a dudette, and in the final episode returns to a dude form. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t see the whole serial as a kid, as my young mind may not have been able to compute all that. But as an adult I can appreciate the entire serial.

But yeah the first three episodes, and much of the fourth are just great, and again largely it’s because the villain of Eldrad is such a rich and complex character. Powerful, a bit violent, but also a bit vulnerable, it’s just a well written part, that Judith Paris I thought performed the heck out of.

It didn’t hurt at all that she was drop-dead gorgeous. Between her and Catwoman in the Adam West Batman reruns… I knew puberty had arrived. 🙂

Wait did I say that out loud?!!

What can I say that woman was frigging gorgeous. Okay there were slight problems, she was an alien menace, and she was made out of rock. Okay I see that being a minor hiccup, but hand me my ‘Ben Grimm’ condoms and cry ‘Clobbering Time!’, and I’m good.

(Heh, Heh! That joke is only for fans of the FF. Yes, I am evil! 🙂 )

Okay getting my mind out of the gutter (I’m telling you, I’m going to find that costume and put my girlfriend in it— wait… did I say THAT out loud?!! DOH!!) it’s just a great 4 part storyline, right up till the last episode, when Judith Paris’ Eldrad gives way to a male version.

Now, I’m not a sexist, and I’m not going to hate on the rock dude villain, because he’s a dude, but I am going to hate on him because… he is effing rubbish! Eldrad turns from a complex, intriguing, nuanced character, to this blustering, shouting, scenery chewing, mustache twirling stock villain… yeah.. it is just disappointing; a glaring combination of bad writing, and horrendously bad over acting.

But thankfully the screen-time of the male Eldrad is brief, and the episode ends on one of the pivotal scenes between the Doctor and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith. It was a good four part-er that really showed how well these two work together and what they mean to each other, which made the ending all the more… bitter-sweet.

All in all it is not a perfect episode of Doctor Who, largely because of dropping the ball with the demise of Eldrad, but that aside it’s a beautifully directed, and well performed episode that comes highly recommended. Plus the DVD offers a commentary with the cast, so it’s worth getting for that alone. Grade: B/B+.

Doctor Who: The Hand of Fear (Story 87)

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Movie of the Day/Free Download of the Day: LES VAMPIRES

http://www.archive.org/details/LesVampires-Episode1-

All ten episodes of this 1915 groundbreaking silent serial by acclaimed French Director Louis Feuillade are available on Archive.org.

One of the earliest serials and one of the best, this 10 episode 7 hour serial is available in a wonderful constantly changing tinted print, going from sepia to greens to blues, with a wonderful orchestrated score.

The story begins with a reporter on the trail of a murderous crime organization, their latest crime being killing a police inspector and stealing his head. Pretty insidious stuff by any standards.

The episodes are told, like any good silent film in mostly body language, so paying attention to details is of paramount importance. But if you do give it your attention, you’ll be rewarded with a fast moving, baroque, imaginative and compelling serial.

Initially banned by the French police (let’s face it when you start a serial by putting a police inspector’s head in a box, you’re liable to ruffle a feather or two) it was a huge success when finally seen, and has remained a hugely influential film on everyone from Fritz Lang to Alfred Hitchcock.

And just a few years shy of its 100th anniversary, it’s a testament to the film and the filmmaker that it continues to be riveting, fresh and surprising entertainment.

There’s a scene in episode 3 (Minor Spoiler so skip to the next paragraph to avoid) that I wasn’t expecting, where the obsessed hero mercilessly guns down suspected Vampire members Irma Vep and Dr. Nox, and even though that doesn’t work out like he thought, it’s the ruthless, no hesitation way he goes about it that took me by surprise.

And the serial sports humor as well, episode 4 sports an old codger hitting on a young lass
by trying to take her to the movies, saying “I’m a Film Fanatic!”. And considering it’s 1915, it would be like someone saying today “I’m a virtual reality video game fanatic!”. It’s just kinda cool, how hip the movie was for its day.

It’s good stuff, and but one surprise of many the serial has to offer. All DVD versions of this serial are out of print and fetching quite a bit on the secondary market. Though I do forsee it coming back in print in time for its centennial in 2015, You can price DVD versions here:

LES VAMPIRES Region 1 Price it here!

Les Vampires: 3 Disk Version!— This is a PAL version, and is pure B&W with no color tinting, and from what I can tell from the stills a sharper, clearer, more detailed picture than the US version.

That said I think I would miss the color tinting of the US version as that serves, I feel, to really keep you focused.

I love B&W but I can see it over the course of 7 hours getting monotonous, and the tinted version, with its rotating color scheme, I think helps a lot with that. Also I quite like the US score, and by all resports this PAL score is not as good. But I can’t confirm that. All in all I think you’d have a hard time going wrong with either disk. So feel free to check availability.

However till then, or to try before you buy, you can enjoy this great copy courtesy of Archive.org. Start with episode #1 here!

Highly, Highly recommended.