Year End Round-Up

Things That Everybody Liked

Here’s a look at the ten images that received the most clicks this year. A few of them have consistently been in my Top Ten each year, but a few newer images cracked the list as well. Following the photo list is a brief look at my blog’s performance for the year. I want to thank each and every person that has visited my blog, commented, liked, shared, or clicked links or images in my posts. I hope to make even more posts in 2021 and I hope that all of you continue to follow my meanderings!

The most clicked image on my blog this year: the Batman logo. This was the first year that this particular photo cracked the Top Ten, and it went all the way to number one.

The second most clicked photo of 2020 is this wallpaper from Star Trek Continues. It has consistently been a Top Ten photo since I originally posted it five years ago!

The first newcomer to the Top Ten list is this photo of Ivy Doomkitty which was published last month!

Coming in at #4 on my list is this photo from five years ago of the women of Star Trek Continues. It has consistently been in my Top Ten since I originally posted it.

Screeching into fifth place is a surprising newcomer, a photo of an Arzon action figure from a Visionaries post I made in 2018!

Published earlier this month, this photo of Remi d’Arda landed in the sixth spot on my list. Her sister made the list as well.

In seventh place we have this pair of Chernabog reference photos from October of this year. Wilfred Jackson gives us two reference poses for the legendary Disney villain.

In eighth place is Noelle d’Arda as Supergirl. Her sister, Remi, and the Chernabog reference photos beat her by three and two points, respectively.

Also from earlier this year, this photo of Superman flew to the nine spot on my list.

Showing up for a second time on my list is the wonderful Ivy Doomkitty. She rounds out the Top Ten for 2020!

I had a record 123 posts this year. That’s twenty five more posts than last year, which was my previous record and is the third year in a row that my post count increased. I hope to keep that streak going! December of this year was also my biggest month for views with 863. That’s not a very big number for most folks, but for me it’s absolutely awesome! I hope to reach 1,000 views in at least one month in 2021! My most viewed post for this year was actually a post from 2018 about 3-2-1 Contact! That post has slowly built up an audience over the years. My most viewed post actually created in 2020 itself was a shocker, as my Wizards of Waverly Place post from October saw a huge jump in views throughout November and December and became my biggest post blogged this year.

This year saw me add a few new features to my blog. One last minute addition that has proven to be very popular was Dime Store Reads. Despite being only two days old, my The Predator post has proven to be very popular and has received many views and likes. Look for more Dime Store Reads in the near future. My Cosplay Break posts have also proven to be very popular and I’ll be doing more of them next year as well!

Photo by Vapor Photography

I truly do appreciate each and every one of you for checking out my blog. My views have steadily increased over the years and my content output directly correlates to the number of views that I receive. That means that with more posts come more views and I don’t want to disappoint any of you by backing off of my content production. Please share my posts, comment on them, and like them if you feel compelled to do so. Not only does it widen the reach of my posts, it fuels me to write more for all of you. I am considering taking the plunge and starting a legitimate pay blog where I won’t be limited on what I can do in my posts. I may pull the trigger on the idea in 2021.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. Despite some crazy things happening in my life this year, this has been my blog’s most successful year and I really appreciate all of the support that you have all given me. I’ll see you in 2021!

Dime Store Reads: The Predator: The Official Movie Novelization

In reverse…..

Welcome to the first entry in a new category that I’m testing out: Dime Store Reads. In this category I will be reviewing books that I purchase at stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Ollie’s, and other bargain outlets. None of the books that I review will cost more than five bucks unless they come in an omnibus edition. For each book I’ll give a brief review, the price that I paid, and the store in which I purchased the book.

The first book that I decided to review is actually a movie novelization of 2018’s The Predator. I saw the book on the bargain rack at Dollar General one day and after two trips to the store, I decided to nab it. For three bucks, I didn’t really care if it was a good book or not, I just needed something to fill the fifteen minute increments that I get for breaks during the work day. In that regard, the book did its job.

I haven’t actually seen the film that this book is based upon, but I am very familiar with the franchise. I saw the original Predator film way back in 1987 and its 1990 sequel as well as Predators (2010) and both of the Alien Vs. Predator films. This book’s tale doesn’t stray too far from all of the previous films’ formulas of a collection of heroes squaring off against a superior alien hunter or hunters.

In the story, U.S. Army Ranger Quinn McKenna has a run-in with a Predator in the jungle. He manages to acquire the creature’s helmet and forearm band and ships them both to his home. He believes that the government will cover up any and all information that he reveals and wants physical proof just in case the U.S. attempts to discredit him. Soon enough he ends up incarcerated and on his way to what he believes is a military prison. The Predator that McKenna encountered is being held at the military facility and just as McKenna and his newfound friends, a ragtag bunch of military mental patients, arrive, the creature breaks out. It goes on the hunt to get its stolen gear back, heading straight for McKenna’s autistic son.

An evolutionary biologist joins up with McKenna and his pals as they attempt to prevent the Predator from harming McKenna’s son. A second, larger Predator enters the fray, intent on recovering the lost mask and arm band and to eliminate the first Predator. Government agents, Predator pooches, and tons of action follows as McKenna and company battle two Predators.

The book is pretty good. It is very fast-paced and reads just like a pulp novel. McKenna’s buddies are all given brief backgrounds that provide just enough information for the reader to like them and, as is the case in any Predator movie or book, they get killed off with one heroic act after another. The book actually makes me want to see the film, but I have a feeling that the novel is actually a bit better than the movie. I’ll probably see the movie soon, and I’ll be sure to review it. The book was written by Christopher Golden and Mark Morris and based upon the screenplay by Shane Black and Fred Dekker. If you like sci-fi action, this book is for you.

I paid three dollars for this book at a local Dollar General. It was definitely worth the price.

Thanks for checking out my quick review. If you’ve read this book or watched the film that it is based upon, let me know if you enjoyed either of them. I’m thinking about reviewing all of the films in the Predator franchise. If you’d like my opinion of them, let me know in the comments!

The Mandalorian Chapter 16

The Rescue

Merry Christmas! Since most of you will probably be unwrapping presents tomorrow morning, I decided to post my review of the season finale of The Mandalorian a day early! Please be aware that there are a few MAJOR SPOILERS for this episode in this post following my general review. Don’t worry, though, as I’ll give you a warning before I hit any spoilers. Also, if you haven’t seen the last couple of episodes, there will be spoilers from those episodes mentioned as well. Those spoilers will be found in my general review.

Din Djarin is intent on finding Grogu and putting an end to Moff Gideon in Chapter 16, The Rescue. The episode finds the Mandalorian and his group of allies, Cara Dune, Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, Koska Reeves, and Bo-Katan, in hot pursuit of Moff Gideon. Capturing an Imperial Shuttle and taking Dr. Pershing as a prisoner, the group comes up with a daring plan to gain entry into Gideon’s cruiser and save Grogu. Do they make it? Watch The Rescue to find out!

The episode is light on plot and heavy on action. To be honest, though, there’s no real need for a lot of plot since it is essentially a desperate rescue mission. The action is well choreographed, especially the battle between Din and a key character and one of the surprise arrivals on the cruiser versus a ton of enemies. Many people claim that this episode reminded them of classic Star Wars and that it was the best episode of the season. In my opinion, Chapter 12, The Siege, was the episode that reminded me most of classic Star Wars and it was also my favorite episode of this season. I think a lot of people got caught up in the emotional ending and the surprises that showed up at the end of the episode. While I loved those surprises, they didn’t blow me away as much as they apparently blew away other folks.

In all, this was a very good episode with a nice surprise ending and mid-credits scene. That’s the end of my general review, get ready for SPOILERS BELOW!!!

Spoilers Below!!! Major Spoilers!!!

This episode was loaded with not one, not two, but three surprise appearances. It also featured a ton of CGI Dark Troopers. The CGI was fairly good, but the Dark Troopers moved choppily and were reminiscent of the lacking CGI Centurion Cylons in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I was really impressed with the battle between Din and Moff Gideon. I also enjoyed the massive battle featuring a character that I’ll mention in just a little bit.

The Dark Troopers prove to be a formidable opponent for Din and become the final great threat to the Mandalorian and his allies. Luckily help arrives in the form of a lone X-Wing fighter (and, no, it isn’t Carson Teva). Of course, the X-Wing is a dead giveaway to the first surprise appearance but I kept telling myself that it couldn’t be THAT character. Then we see the ignition of a green lightsaber by a character in a very Return of the Jedi looking costume and it’s pretty obvious that Luke Skywalker has arrived on The Mandalorian. Luke tears through the Dark Troopers with ease, appearing to relish the destruction of each of the troopers. It’s a scene that is very reminiscent of Darth Vader’s glorious arrival at the end of Star Wars: Rogue One. After a tearjerking moment between Luke, Din, and Grogu, it doesn’t seem like the little guy will leave the Mando’s side….until the second surprise cameo happens: R2-D2!

The episode ends with Grogu agreeing to go with Luke and R2 to continue his Jedi training. It’s a heartfelt moment that really got to me. The credits roll and halfway through we are given the third, albeit brief, appearance by another classic character. Mirroring Luke’s arrival at Jabba’s palace in ROTJ, Boba Fett and Fennec Shand storm into the palace where we see Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s former aide, sitting atop a throne. He’s quickly dispatched by Boba Fett and Boba takes his place on the throne. We are then teased with The Book of Boba Fett, which will be a new series next year. There were also a few other familiar faces in Jabba’s old palace including some Gamorrean guards, Weequays, Rodians, and other alien races already seen in previous Star Wars films and stories.

The episode was one of the better ones of the second season. It does a fine job of tying the series into the fabric of the Star Wars films and other properties. It was nice to see Bib Fortuna, R2, and Luke in the episode as well. It will be interesting to see where season three goes now that Grogu is gone. We’ve got a year to figure out what’s going to happen!

Thanks for reading my post and I hope that all of you have a merry Christmas! I’ve got a few other reviews up my sleeve and I’ve already received a few books that I plan on covering in later posts. See you again real soon!

Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal

Pages dripping with blood-soaked tales….

I’ve been meaning to read Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal for weeks now, but between two hurricanes and an ongoing onslaught of overtime at work thanks to said hurricanes, I’ve only recently completed the book. It’s an informative read with plenty of humor laced throughout. Skal does a great job of giving readers, from hardcore vampire fans to casual cinema goers, a plethora of facts, figures, legal fights, and other twisted tales as Bram Stoker’s beloved book takes its journey from the page to the stage and eventually to the silver screen.

The first half of the book covers Stoker’s creation of the novel and then its arrival on the stage and all of the issues that come along with such things. Skal talks of Stoker’s struggles with publishers, contemporaries such as Oscar Wilde, and other colorful characters. He also goes into a great deal of detail on the many difficulties that writers faced while attempting to transition the book to the stage.

Bram Stoker.

The second half of the book is roughly split into two sections: One covers the production and release of Universal’s 1931 classic film (and its Spanish language counterpart) and the other rushes through later cinematic and theater productions of the story and/or variations of it. Much attention is given to Bela Lugosi, as is expected, but Skal also talks about Carlos Villarias (the Spanish language version of Count Dracula) and the contrasting directing styles of Tod Browning and George Melford (with a few nudges from Paul Kohner). From there, Skal rushes somewhat through later versions of the film including the Hammer Horror productions starring Christopher Lee, Francis Ford Coppola’s over-the-top film starring Gary Oldman, and eventually ends with films and plays produced in the early 2000’s.

Skal also includes some great photographs from the history of Dracula and all of the films and plays that it spawned. Many of the photos come directly from Skal’s own collection. Also included are images of posters and advertisements. Skal also includes two appendices. One covers the release of films and the other covers a number of the plays that have been released over the years that are either adaptations of Stoker’s story or a variation of it.

Skal’s book is an informative and entertaining read. You’ll gain a new appreciation for people such as Florence Stoker, Horace Loveright, and Carl and Junior Laemmle. You’ll also learn of the fallout after the release of Dracula and the way that it destroyed some careers and lifted others. My only complaint is that the last quarter of the book feels rushed. It has been revised and hopefully Skal will add more to later editions of the book. Until then, consider Hollywood Gothic to be the best source for all things Dracula.

Thanks for reading my review. I’ll be posting more later this week.

A Different Christmas

2020 Has Not Been Kind

Christmas is only a few days away. Normally I would be excited and well into a month full of classic Christmas films, newer Hallmark Christmas films (yes, I know, leave me alone), and purchasing a couple of cool new ornaments. Instead, my family and I are staying with my parents and waiting for our home to be restored after being destroyed by Hurricane Laura. I’m staring at my mom’s Christmas tree wondering if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ornaments that we’ve had for a few years now survived the hurricane because they, along with a ton of other nerdy Christmas ornaments, were stored in our attic which was flooded by the rains from both Laura and Hurricane Delta. I haven’t been able to get up there long enough to check on the few boxes that we have left up there. I lost both an aunt and an uncle during all of this mess as well.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music since before Thanksgiving hoping that it would somehow brighten my spirits. I’ve only recently been able to return to church now that work is finally starting to allow us to take off a day or two a week yet I sit in the pew distracted. I’m completely detached from Christmas this year. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do in order to right this ship.

Despite all of this, I know that there are plenty of other people out there struggling with much bigger problems than mine. Yes, I’ve been working twelve hour days since Hurricane Laura hit, but at least I’m working. My family has a roof over its head. We have enough money to provide presents for ourselves and others. We aren’t starving. We aren’t desperate for any immediate needs.

Still, I’m very depressed this year. Normally I would make a nerdy Christmas list around this time, but this year I’m going to say only one thing:

I love each and every one of you and I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas. If you are going through tough times, call or reach out to someone. Talk to them. Cry if necessary. Get your issues out in the open.

Thank you for reading this brief post. May God bless each and every one of you now and in the coming year.

Mulan (2020)

My “reflection” on this film

1998’s animated Disney film Mulan is one of my favorite films. It managed to blend brilliant action sequences (that awesome avalanche scene) with an engaging and inspired tale. The 2020 version of the film attempts to do something similar with a few changes, additions, and removals and, to a degree, it succeeds. I enjoyed the film as I watched it, but I kept feeling as if something was missing. Read on to get my opinion on the film. There are a few spoilers in my review, but nothing too major.

The film’s plot is essentially the same as the animated film: Mulan, a misfit in her community, disguises herself as a boy in order to take her injured and aging father’s place in the Emperor’s army as it wages a defensive battle against a sinister invading force. Along the way she learns to be true to herself and shatters cultural barriers for women in the process.

There are also quite a few changes to the story, especially when it comes to the supporting characters. Most notably, there is no Mushu, Cri-Kee, Shan Yu, or Li Shiang. Instead, Bori Khan, a Rouran warrior determined to avenge his father’s death, replaces Shan Yu as the primary threat and, at least according to numerous sources including the production team, Li Shiang is replaced by two characters, Commander Tung and Chen Honghui. Shan Yu’s falcon from the animated film is replaced by a shapeshifting “witch” named Xianniang who joins forces with Bori Khan to overthrow the emperor.

Perhaps the biggest change of all was the addition of Mulan’s chi giving her superhuman powers. There are plenty of other reviews and critical lists about this film where you can see why the treatment of chi was disappointing to many, so I’ll let those people discuss that aspect of the film.

In all honesty, these changes didn’t bother me one bit. I viewed the film as its own movie and not as an adaptation of the animated classic.

I enjoyed this film. Director Niki Caro did especially well with character development. She quickly established the roles of the secondary characters and used the bulk of the film to develop Mulan. She hinted at the romance between Mulan and Chen without having it get in the way of the main plot. The action sequences were very good but could have been better. I’ll go more in depth on that topic in a minute. The music by Harry Gregson-Williams, a composer I have grown to love over the years, was epic when necessary and subdued when it aided the plot. Cinematographer Mandy Walker really shined with this film. There are many breathtaking wide shots (both real and CGI) that pop with color throughout the film.

The cast was excellent as well. Liu Yifei does an excellent job as Mulan. Donnie Yen’s performance as Commander Tung is very good as are the performances of Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan and Yoson An as Chen. Of special note is Gong Li as Xianniang. Her character could have easily become an unintentionally funny character, but she made the “witch” both fierce and weak at the same time. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing a film focus on her character. The rest of the cast, which includes Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao, and Ron Yuan, all did admirable jobs in their roles. Of special note is a brief cameo by Ming-Na Wen, who voiced Mulan in the 1998 animated film.

My biggest gripe with this film is the action sequences. Yes, many of them were grand, but all of them seemed to be missing something. With nods to Wuxia films, the fight sequences included wall-walking, superhuman jumps, punches, and kicks, and excellent swordplay, but all of them just seemed to be too short. Just as things start to get going during the fighting sequences, the action swiftly ends. Sure, this is a Disney film so I don’t expect it to be full of blood and gore, but I would expect the fights to last a bit longer. In fact, the battle sequences in the animated film are superior to the live action movie in my opinion. With stars such as Yifei, Yen, Li, Lee, and more known for doing many and/or all of their own stunts, I believe that this movie missed out on a great opportunity to bring Wuxia to a large audience.

Had the film done a better job with the fight sequences, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As it is, though, it’s still a very good film. I can’t comment on the cultural aspects of the movie as I’m not well versed on Chinese culture. The film was beautifully shot, had excellent pacing, and had a great moral of being true to oneself. If you enjoy war epics, this film might fall a bit short, but it’s still a very serviceable film. I liked it.

Thanks for reading my review. Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments section. I’ll have another film review coming soon!

The Mandalorian Chapter 15

The Believer

Last week’s episode of The Mandalorian brought back one of my favorite characters, the mouthy sharpshooter named Mayfield. The character was teased in Chapter 14 and returned in all of his sharp tongued glory. In the episode, Din needs the coordinates to Moff Gideon’s ship where Grogu is being held captive. In order to get those coordinates, he needs access to an Imperial terminal. To get to the terminal, he needs Imperial credentials. That’s where Mayfield comes into the picture. As a former Imperial sniper, Mayfield can acquire the information that Din needs. Cara Dune, now a New Republic Marshall, gains the release of Mayfield from the Karthon Chop Fields where he is serving his sentence. Along with Fennec Shand and Boba Fett, the group go to a rhydonium refinery on Morak in order to access an Imperial terminal. A train caper follows when Mayfield and Din commandeer a rhydonium transport in order to get into the refinery but end up biting off more than they can chew. Do they survive? Will Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and Cara Dune be able to help them? You’ll have to watch the episode in order to find out.

This was an excellent episode. The train caper was fun and reminded me of every old fashioned train fight that you see in classic western films. There are also hints of Speed (1994) in the scene as the transport can’t go too fast or it will trigger the rhydonium and destroy Mayfield, Din, and anybody else in the vicinity. The episode also shows how terrible things were under the New Republic. Sure, things were improving, but the world after the fall of the Empire was still in the early recovery stages and it was ripe for picking by Imperial sympathizers and hangers on. Bill Burr’s Mayfield gives an excellent explanation of how things aren’t necessarily better under the New Republic and an old acquaintance that he runs into later in the episode reveals just how easily the Empire can return to its glory.

Director Rick Famuyiwa, who has directed two other episodes in the series so far, kept things interesting while still expanding the story as a whole. Both Mayfield and Din are given more depth, especially Mayfield, and Famuyiwa uses the camera perfectly while shooting the interactions between the main characters and others. This was a solid episode and definitely worth watching.

Spoilers Below!!!!!

Bill Burr was amazing in this episode. He went from a likeable jerk to a true hero in a matter of minutes and by the end of the episode, Mayfield became possibly more respectable than even Din or Cara Dune (Gina Carano). Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), and Cara Dune didn’t factor heavily into this episode and stayed in the background while Pedro Pascal and Burr gave two of the best acting performances in the series so far.

The pirate sequence featuring the transport hijacked by Mayfield and the Mandalorian could have easily become boring, but it managed to stay interesting, surprisingly fresh, and oddly familiar all at the same time. Once the duo entered the refinery, Burr delivered a tour de force performance as he went from cool head to nervous wreck and then lethal killer. Richard Brake did a superb job as Valin Hess, Mayfield’s former commanding officer. He triggers Mayfield’s rage and suffers the consequences. I also loved the interaction between Din and Mayfield whenever the Mando removes his helmet. Mayfield’s show of respect by turning slightly away from Din spoke volumes!

It was also pretty cool to see Slave I firing a seismic charge. It brought back memories from the space battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Jango Fett with a young Boba (Daniel Logan) in tow in Attack of the Clones. I also enjoyed the blunt threat that Din delivered to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) at the end of the episode. It promises a huge battle between those two and I can’t wait to see it.

Thanks for checking out my review. I’ll have another for the next episode on the next Friday! Let me know in the comments how you felt about this episode and what you hope to see in future installments of the show!

Jeremy Bulloch, The Original Boba Fett, Has Passed Away

Rest in peace, Boba Fett

I am sad to report the passing of Jeremy Bulloch, who portrayed Boba Fett in the original Star Wars Trilogy. Here is an article that verifies the sad news. We lost David Prowse, the actor who portrayed Darth Vader in the original trilogy (voiced by James Earle Jones), last month.

I met Mr. Bulloch at Comicpalooza a few years ago in Houston, TX. Both he and his wife were extremely kind to me and all of the excited fans that were lined up to meet their favorite bounty hunter.

I’ll be watching The Empire Strikes Back this weekend. You should watch it as well. If you are a Doctor Who fan, look up the classic First Doctor story, The Space Museum, and the Third Doctor story, The Time Warrior. Bulloch appeared in both of those stories. He also appeared briefly in other roles in the Star Wars films, including one appearance in the prequels as Bail Organa’s pilot, Colton.

Bulloch was seventy-five years old. He will be sorely missed by the Star Wars fan community.

Thank you for reading this post. I will be posting my review of last week’s episode of The Mandalorian tomorrow morning.

Star Wars The Black Series: Phase I Clone Trooper

From Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Despite being my least favorite Star Wars film of all, Attack of the Clones has a few things going for it. There’s the introduction of Jango Fett and a young Boba Fett, the brief appearance of Zam Wesell, and some of the best Obi-Wan Kenobi moments in all of the trilogies as a whole. It’s also the film that gives us our first good look at the Republic’s clone army. Fully CGI, the clones still managed to look cool and were fleshed out with perfection in the animated Clone Wars film and animated series.

Hasbro recently released a ton of new The Black Series figures, and one of them quickly caught my eye: The Phase I Clone Trooper. Sure, there have been other clone figures released in this line, but this one was different. Seeing various reviews of the figure, I decided to take the plunge and grab one of these figures. I’m glad that I did.

The figure comes with excellent articulation for the most part. As is almost always the case with clones and Stormtroopers, though, the armor does hinder the figure’s movement in a few places, most notably at the hip. The shoulder pieces, knee guards, and elbow guards are all soft plastic, though, and don’t get in the way of movement. The head is hindered somewhat when trying to tilt the head up due to the helmet, but overall, I can’t complain at all about the articulation of this figure.

The details on the figure are excellent as well. The paint application is done nicely with the exception of around the back of the knees on my figure. The hands hold the included weapons (DC-15A Blaster Rifle and DC-15S Blaster Carbine) securely and thanks to the awesome articulation, the figure can be posed in a number of cool ways.

I hope that you enjoyed this brief look at the newly released Phase I Clone Trooper from The Black Series by Hasbro. Let me know in the comments if you have this figure and what you think of it. Also, I have quite a few older Black Series figures, and if you’d like me to review any of them, just let me know!

Thanks for reading my post. See you again real soon!