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Jun 042013
 

I can remember Flash Gordon the intergalactic hero. Apparently, he is nothing like the Flash from The Super Friends. (I used to think they were one and the same.) Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) is a football star, who was sent off into space along with Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), a lovely travel agent, and scientist Dr. Zarkov (Topol). They all wind up on the distant planet Mongo, which is ruled by the wicked tyrant Emperor Ming the merciless (Max Von Sydow), only to get captured among other beings.

While defending Dale, there’s an exciting fight scene when Flash takes on a group of guards like a football player would. I always thought football was a rough sport, but here is where the roughness really pays off.

After that fiasco, Flash gets recaptured and executed. Shortly after, Ming’s daughter Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) brings him back from the dead and leads him to safety. I had a feeling that Flash couldn’t have been killed that easily, especially this early in the movie.

Princess Aura likes to use seduction to get men to do what she wants. She even uses that method on Flash while trying to help him, but Flash’s heart is devoted to Dale. Whose side is Aura on anyway?

Soon, Flash and Aura fly to Aboria to find help from Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton, who is also well known as James Bond). Aboria is a swamp world with large trees, dangerous creatures, and unusual method of initiation for manhood. Barin refuses to help Flash and captures him. I don’t see how Flash’s football skills are going to get him out of this peril.

Dale shows some fighting skills while trying to escape from Ming’s palace when she takes out several armed guards and still remembers to bring her shoes.

The hawk men led by Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) capture both Flash and Barin and bring them to their kingdom, along with Dale and Zarkov. Now Flash and Barin have to duel in combat for their lives. “This place is a lunatic asylum.”

The duel is on a circular platform over a pit and Flash and Barin fight with whips. It becomes even more intense when Vultan uses a remote control to make the platform tilt in random directions and add raising spikes to the battle.

Flash’s act of chivalry wins over Barin and the hawk men. Now they all team up to battle Ming. Even Aura joins them, but not until after Dale fights with her. The other slave girls do nothing because they enjoy watching a good cat fight.

Flash Gordon is also among the displays featured at Comic Book Land in Universal Islands of Adventure.

This was a pretty good film overall. What I remember best was the title sequence, which shows comic book images and music performed by Queen. “Flash! Ah-ah!” That’s such a catchy tune.

Apr 112012
 

I remember seeing an animated series based on this superhero team during the 90s, but it was the Fantastic Four movie that actually helped explain how they came to be. A team of four astronauts and their sponsor Dr. Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon, who I remember best as Cole Turner from Charmed) head off into space and observe high-energy clouds in a cosmic storm. They all come in contact with the radiation within the storm and whammo. Oddly, each person obtains a different super power from the same source.

Physicist Dr. Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic has a stretchable rubber body. Reed’s love interest Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) the Invisible Woman can turn invisible and make invisible barriers. Susan’s brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) the Human Torch has a flammable body and can fly. And their best friend Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) the Thing is one big orange rock of a man.

Dr. Doom was also affected by the meteor and now has metallic magnet power. Unlike the others, the power triggers him to become a super villain. One thing I didn’t understand was that Dr. Doom could have any woman in the world, but he only wants Susan because she resists him. Sounds kind of pointless, don’t you think?

Although the group eventually master their powers and win the respect of the people after an exciting rescue on the Brooklyn Bridge, Reed looks for a way to reverse the effects of the cosmic storm because having these powers also leads to personal problems. For instance, the Thing has the least enjoyable superpower. A strong bulletproof body is great, but he can’t change his appearance like the others can. Ben totally got ripped off, especially when his fiancée Debbie (Laurie Holden) dumps him only because of his appearance.

Meanwhile, Johnny loves his powers because he thrives on the glory. He even came up with all of the superhero names himself, without permission from the others.

I never realized before that the blue outfits were more than just matching superhero costumes. It turns out that their clothes don’t match their powers. Johnny’s clothes keep getting incinerated and Susan has to strip down when she becomes invisible. Oh, yeah. That’s hot.

Soon, trouble heats up as Dr. Doom takes his revenge on the Fantastic 4. He finds a mask to go with his persona, which reminds me of the Green Goblin’s mask from the first Spiderman movie. It’s not as corny as the Green Goblin’s mask, but effective nonetheless. That’s when the Fantastic 4 completely accept their powers and become the superhero team they were meant to be.

The Fantastic 4 were also featured in Comic Book Land at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, as a pizza place.

I think this movie has a good combination of action and humor that mostly comes from Johnny’s overconfidence and Ben’s awkward struggles with his super strength. If only everybody would stop discriminating against the Thing just because he looks different.

Feb 062012
 

There have been many versions about Spiderman over the years. The first original cartoon series was Spider-Man – The ’67 Collection (1967-1970). We all know the story. Scientific minded teen Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and it gave him amazing powers like super strength, the ability to cling onto any surface, and web slinging.

As a superhero, Spiderman protects the streets of New York by fighting dangerous, but colorful super villains like Dr. Octopus, Scorpion, Rhino, Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, and the Green Goblin. What’s also neat is that Spiderman can turn his webbing into anything and he sure can swim.

The action level and story lines are kept simple with hardly any detail on the characters’ back stories, which was typical for superhero cartoons back in the day. I find this series more enjoyable that way.

Of course leading a double life is never easy. Although Spiderman is a hero, not everyone sees him that way, especially Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson. He only sees Spiderman as a criminal and there are often times when Spiderman ends up framed for criminal activity while he goes up against the real villain. Other times Jameson thinks Spiderman is working with the villain(s). It seems like he’ll look for any excuse to get rid of Spiderman and expose him as a menace to society.

I couldn’t help but notice that whenever Jameson slams the door, his picture on the wall keeps tilting and is constantly focused upon. I wonder if that’s a sign meaning that even though Jameson is the head honcho, he’s not always right. Of course Jameson would never admit that. He’s too stubborn.

As Peter Parker, Spiderman works at The Daily Bugle as a photographer. It’s actually convenient that Peter can get his photos of the action even as the wall crawling hero. I can only imagine if Peter were a paparazzi with Spiderman’s powers.

No matter how much good Spiderman does, the only way to convince Jameson that he’s good is to show him the captured villain with a note saying, “Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spiderman”.

Mary Jane Watson does not appear very often on this series. Peter’s love interest is his coworker Betty Brant, but after the first season, Peter is featured as a loser of love. I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

This was a good cartoon series with adventure and excitement. Spiderman is as smooth and witty as ever. One last item: At Universal Studios Islands of Adventure last year, I had a photo with Spiderman, which was made to look like a comic book cover. That was sure a unique experience.

Sep 162011
 

I remember first hearing about the X-Men from the X-Men animated series (1992-1997). As much as I enjoy watching these assorted mutants in action, the story lines are still difficult for me to follow because the pacing is so different. That soon changed when I saw the first X-Men (Widescreen Edition) movie.

As it turns out, mutants live among the human race and are discriminated against just for being born differently. To help the mutants feel safe and learn to control their powers, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) the powerful psychic runs a mutant academy, teaching them all they need to know for the good of mankind.

The faculty includes Cyclops (James Marsden) who has optic lasers, Storm (Halle Berry) who can control the weather, and Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) the telekinetic psychic.

The newest mutants to join the school are Rouge (Anna Paquin), a young girl who can absorb energy from living things just by touching them, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). He has sharp claws and can heal easily, which makes him a strong fighter. But never kick him in the groin, or he will take it personally.

As helpful as the academy is for the mutant community, it’s not enough for the humans to accept them as equals. That’s why there are also mutants that have turned renegade, led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) a very powerful mutant who can control anything made of metal. It’s a shame since Magneto and Professor Xavier used to be friends.

One of the main humans who is against mutants is Senator Kelly (Bruce Davidson) who only believes that all mutants are dangerous. Magneto captures Kelly and uses him as a guinea pig for an experiment he plans to use on the human race. Now Kelly is a mutant, but an unstable one. At least he now sees the error of his ways.

In order for Magneto’s master plan to work, he sets out to capture a powerful mutant to help him. For awhile Professor Xavier believes that Wolverine is the one, but he was wrong. Rouge is the primary target and Magneto successfully captures her.

With Senator Kelly’s help, Professor Xavier discovers that Magneto’s plan is to turn all humans into mutants and use Rouge to power the machine. Now it’s up to Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, and Jean Grey to go stop him and rescue Rouge. Together they are the X-Men.

After arriving, the X-Men must fight their way to Magneto by getting past some tough foes. They include Toad (Ray Park) a frog-like mutant with a whip tongue, Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) a roaring beast, and Mystique (Rebecca Romjin) a smooth model-esque shape shifter who can also copy any voice at will.

The battle scenes are real smooth. After getting past those tough mutants, the X-Men go to confront Magneto, but end up captured. As Rouge powers the machine with absorbed power from Magneto, it seems hopeless, but not if Wolverine has anything to say about it.

I liked this movie, not only for its smooth action, but also the gags with Wolverine. As for his relationship with Cyclops, it’s more than just the love triangle with Jean Grey. Cyclops also annoys him, but Wolverine gets even by always taking his motorcycle without permission.

The X-Men have also been featured among other Marvel superheroes in the Comic Book Land area at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. Here are some photos of the characters.

 

Feb 282011
 

Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends (1959-1964) may be a really old cartoon series, but I still remember growing up on this show when it was on syndication early weekday mornings right after The Alvin Show, which is also an oldie but a goodie.

The basic story lines for the series feature Rocky the sensible squirrel and Bullwinkle the unintelligent moose as honorary government agents out on unusual adventures while going up against enemy spies Boris and Natasha, who are under the leadership of a military commander simply named Fearless Leader. However, Rocky and Bullwinkle never knew their foes on a personal level because Boris and Natasha only interact with them while in various disguises, which Rocky and Bullwinkle fall for every time.

Each episode starts with five minutes of the story, then several different segments that are reoccurring, and ending with another five minutes of the basic story. No wonder it takes at least 6 to 40 episodes to show the whole story. It used to be difficult for me to follow because it changes so quickly and the constant narration takes away from the story’s impact when exciting things happen. I also don’t understand why there were always two possible titles for the next episode and then never reveals which one is being used. When the episodes backtrack, the story isn’t entirely accurate, but still keeps it on the level.

After the first part of the basic story comes a fairytale or a folktale told in its own comedic way called Fractured Fairytales. Sometimes Aesop and Son tell the tale. It all depends on the fable.

Then right before the next part of the basic story, is a segment of other characters. It’s either Peabody’s Improbable History, where Peabody the dog and his boy Sherman use a time machine to meet historical figures, or Dudley Do Right, who is an unintelligent Mountie.

And let’s not forget Bullwinkle’s individual acts in the middle of the show. He presents poems, which come out hilarious at times. He also occasionally has a segment called Mr. Know-it-all. Knowing Bullwinkle, I figured he wouldn’t be that much of a know-it-all. However, Bullwinkle did graduate from two different colleges, MIT (Moose Institute of Tap Dancing) and Wossa Motta U, but did he really learn anything?

What I remember best was Bullwinkle’s attempts to pull a rabbit out of a hat. He ends up pulling out the heads of a bear, a tiger, a rhino, and a lion. I used to wonder how he was able to push them back into the hat so quickly. I figured those wild animals would maul him. At least it’s safe when Rocky is pulled out. “Well, I’m getting close.”

At Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, there is a section with some of the Rocky and Bullwinkle characters.

Despite that The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle movie wasn’t very good, I still find this old series a classic.