Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ironic Tie of Fisher/Reynolds Deaths to Star Wars Movies

RIP, Carrie Fisher and
Debbie Reynolds

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed this yet, but I did, and as far as I know, I'm the first to come up with it. If someone else did before today, no plagiarism was intended. Anyway, I'm a little emotional as I write about this striking example of life mimicking art. 

This will be a short post, and here we go. What happened with Fisher and Reynolds, who if you don't know were mother and daughter. They had a very close relationship. When Carrie died, the very next day, Reynolds died after suffering a stroke. One of the last things Reynolds said was "I want to be with Carrie." And, its been said through the media that she died of a broken heart.

Now, in Star Wars: Episode 3, at the end, when Padme was giving birth to Luke and Leia, she died shortly after childbirth. The droid doctor said (paraphrasing) "I cannot explain it. She has lost the will to live.She died of a broken heart" 

Reynolds was Carrie's mother. She died the day after her daughter (Leia) died. Leia's mother (Padme) died giving birth to Leia. BOTH died of a broken heart. I know the conditions are different, but the similarity is ironic, especially when Episode 3 came out more than a decade ago. And, when you look at it that way, Carrie/Leia lost 2 mothers, one fictional, one real to a broken heart. 

That blew me away when I made that connection. Yeah, I am a sci fi nerd. I've admitted it many times on this blog. I avoid spoilers to movies like the plague, but I did see something suggesting that all of Carrie Fisher's scenes in Episode 8 have already been filmed. I hope this is true.

I also hope that Leia gets to
take out a bunch of stormtroopers
in Episode 8.

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were loved, and will continue to be loved. Carrie is now one with the force, and will be with us always as we rewatch these beloved movies for years to come. Once again, RIP, and Fuck You, 2016!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One

The question is...
Is the best Star Wars film 
of all time??

Holy crap, people! Rogue One is incredible. Its better than the prequels, the original trilogy, and it blows The Force Awakens out of the water. Is it better than The Empire Strikes Back? I haven't decided yet, but I am leaning that way. Truth be told, it is amazing, and you need to see it in the theater. Now, that's done, let's get down to the review. Ready? Here we go!!

                                         Warning: Spoilers!

The movie starts slow. For about 20-25 minutes, its giving a back story, which is necessary because the film is introducing you to characters that you've never seen before. But the remaining 90+ minutes is nothing but gripping action.

There is no text crawl at the beginning of the movie, and I was ok with that for a couple reasons. One, it is a Star Wars story, not an actual Star Wars movie. Two, you already know what was going on, especially if you've been watching Star Wars: Rebels, and The Clone Wars. The word gets out that the Empire is building a doomsday weapon, and they have to find a way to stop it.

Rogue One answers several questions that Star Wars fans have had for years. One, How did the design flaw in the Death Star get there? Two, Does the Death Star have a hyper drive? And, Three, Can Darth Vader fight as well in the suit? Well, the design flaw was put there by a scientist, Galen Erso who was forced to work on the project. He put it there as revenge on the Empire for forcing him to work on the weapon, which does have a hyper drive. And, yes Vader can fight in the suit. He is absolutely brutal. So brutal and deadly that it is now obvious that he was just toying with Obi Wan in Episode 4, and with Luke in Empire. Not so much in Return of the Jedi though.

Years after Erso was kidnapped, his daughter, Jyn Erso is liberated from an Imperial work camp by Cassian Andor, a rebel captain, and taken to Saw Gerrera, a rebel that even the rebellion doesn't like because of his crazy ways. You may remember him from The Clone Wars.

Jyn Erso in the final battle

He has a message for Jyn from her father. The message states that he did in fact put the design flaw in the Death Star plans, but before he could explain exactly how to exploit it, the Empire arrives with the Death Star, and obliterates the city. Gerrera stays and meets his fate, but the others are able to escape to Yavin 4, where the rebel base is. The rebels actually decide to surrender because of the power of the weapon, but Jyn, Andor, and a group of rebels, including an Imperial pilot who has defected take a captured freighter to go and infiltrate an imperial base to steal the Death Star Plans. When they arrive at the base, and are able to get in, the rest of the rebellion shows up and the fight begins. The rebels ultimately get the plans, and a familiar ship blasts its way out of the system in the nick of time.

Right off the bat, the Death Star in Rogue One is down right terrifying. You get a chill the first time you see it with its weapon being installed. And, its appearance at the end of the movie is spine tingling as well. 

That's no moon!

This movie is extremely well done. The characters are brilliantly developed, and you actually care about them, especially knowing they are on a suicide mission. The story is riveting, and you're on the edge of your seat the whole time. There is some comic relief, that comes from a droid, K-2SO, an imperial droid that has been reprogrammed to serve the Rebellion. His lines are pure sarcasm, yet genuinely funny. It isn't forced, annoying, and childish like another character who shall remain nameless. There is nothing for kids in this movie. 

K-2SO..Possibly my new favorite talking droid

The CGI is damn near perfection. In fact, there are 2 characters from Episode 4 that are in the film, and they are completely 100% CGI, and you'd never be able to tell the difference. The landscapes are spectacular, and everything looks dirty and gritty, as it did in Episode 4. The point of view is incredible as well. You see the AT-AT walkers as if you're on the ground, looking up at them. The battle scenes? Spectacular. The space battle scenes are not only the best in Star Wars, but likely the best in all of Sci-fi. And, the point of view from the Death Star? We see the blasts from the planet instead of space.

It also follows the theory that the Empire was using the Death Star in secret. After the first city was destroyed, they made mention that the propaganda story was that the city was destroyed as a result of a mining accident. Although, it won't be secret much longer!

Since the Jedi are gone, we also see a force user who isn't a Jedi, but he uses the force in other ways. He's blind, but can see. He's also a master at martial arts. There are so many great characters in this movie. 

Not a Jedi but can wield the Force as well as any

There are also plenty of Easter eggs in Rogue One, but they aren't out in the open and obvious like they are in Episode 7. You see the 2 jerks who were giving Luke a hard time in the Cantina. You see the Hoth monster, and come to the conclusion that the one on Hoth must be a hermit that chooses to live in seclusion. There are others, but they are used sparingly. Even Darth Vader is used sparingly. Everything is done just right.

Speaking of Vader, I have to tell you about Vader's fight scene. At the end, his star destroyer captures a Rebel cruiser. A captain gives an order to form a boarding party. We see the rebels from their side of the door, and as it is broken down, we do NOT see a bunch of storm troopers. We see Darth Vader in the doorway, and nobody else. He then activates his light saber and mows down about 20 rebel soldiers like they were nothing. Intense!

The movie ends literally where if it kept going, the very next scene would be the opening scene from Episode 4. This is the best movie I've seen in a very long time. Is it the best Star Wars movie? I don't know if its better than The Empire Strikes Back, but it is definitely better than Episodes 1,2,3,4,6, and 7. It blows Episode 7 out of the water.

So, Gareth Edwards, you hit a grand slam! Thank you! You owe it to yourself to go see this movie. And, if this is what we can expect from Disney owning Star Wars, and from Episodes 8,9 and the upcoming spinoff movies, then SIGN ME UP!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Album Review: Greek Metal Gods, Wardrum: Awakening

Forward never homeward 
On and on towards vast horizons 
Giving life a meaning 
Forming words through enlightened thoughts 
Till the road that he's onto leads to the dream

I've waited for this for several years. Since 2013 in fact. After being blown away by Thessaloniki, Greece's masters of power metal, Wardrum, and their last album, The Messenger, I have wanted to hear more. MORE! Well, I got it. The Awakening continues the band's lesson to all of us about what power metal is. Its a natural progression from their previous works and it shows growth in every aspect of the band from song writing, musical ability, and vocal ability. That's what happens when a band that is rock solid and tight keeps doing what they do best, and get along as a brotherhood. Something that is missing in lots of bands these days.

Have you ever heard double bass accompanying classical acoustic guitar? You will at the opening of this great album. The first song, The Unrepentant begins with a beautiful interlude from guitar virtuoso, Kosta Vreto. Its playing, then a machine gun barrage from drummer, Stergios Kourou blasts you into the song. Its a heavy blast that will get the pit moving in an instant. The vocals from singer, Yannis Papadopoulas are especially brutal. High, aggressive, and unforgiving unrepentant. And, like on the previous album, the incredible opening song is just the tip of the iceberg. 

The second song, Right Within Your Heart is another assault on the senses. Fast, and aggressive, but we get to hear the melodic side of Yannis's vocals as well, and of course his sky high vocal range. We are also treated to a twin guitar harmony solo from Vreto and guitarist, J. Demian. That's actually in most of the songs, done to perfection.

Like big vocal harmony? Virtues of Humanity is for you. I love BIG vocal harmonies, and this song has them in the verse progressions, as well as the choruses. The harmonies in the verses are dark and haunting. 

While all the songs showcase the elite rhythm section of Kourou and bassist, Kostas Scandalis, it is featured prominently in Medusa. Scandalis is machine gun fast, right along with Kourou's drums...and Vreto's blistering guitar....and Yannis's vocals....I could literally say this about every song. However, this song shows a side of the band that I haven't heard in their music yet. Its a blend of thrash metal, with Boss caliber leads that will remind you of names like Malmsteen, Vai, Gilbert, etc. The song's rhythms are more intricate than some modern mainstream band's entire leads. Not to mention another wrinkle of different styled backup vocals.

Yannis Papadopoulas, Kosta Vreto, J. Demian, Kostas Scandalis, Stergios Kourou

In a kind of departure from the power and aggression of the album, On Skies of Grey starts off with a ethereal guitar and vocal duo. We hear a the softer side of Yannis's voice, but its an intro. It shifts into a driving and anthem like ode to the 80's style of metal...done in Wardrum's unique style, with a blistering guitar solo. 

All the songs are heavy, aggressive, and the album as a whole will captivate You won't be able to stop listening to it. I know I won't be able to!

I'm hesitant to say that this album is better than their previous works because I still after 3 years listen to The Messenger at least 2-3 times a month. Its a great album. But, there is a very noticeable leap in the cohesion of the band. Its heavier, and more technical, but the songs are every bit as memorable. Like Nigel Tufnel said in This is Spinal Tap, where do you go after 10? You go to 11. The Messenger is 10, Awakening is 11. I don't think there's a power metal band out there anywhere that can hang with Wardrum either. They are the total package both in the recording studio and live in concert. While they are not progressive metal, as in epic 10 minute songs with 6 different progressions, they are extremely talented, and their songs display that talent in grand fashion. At the same time, someone who isn't musically inclined will enjoy them as well. They are the true definition of power metal in my humble opinion. If there's a better band out there, I haven't heard them. 

You NEED this album. Buy it here:

Just a random note...This album cover has a phoenix rising from the ashes. Is the phoenix a representation of the previous album transitioning into this new masterpiece? There is a song on the previous album called Phoenix. Things that make you go hmmmm....

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Crimson Glory Reuniting With New Singer?

"When we live to die fighting

for all the things we believe

wishes come true" 

You may have just read the quote above, and thought to yourself "What is that? Those aren't Crimson Glory lyrics!" Well, you're absolutely right. They are not Crimson Glory lyrics. I'll get to who those lyrics are in a minute. Just bear with me.

We all know that replacing Midnight, the legendary singer of the incredible metal band, Crimson Glory is not an easy task at all. He was arguably one of the greatest metal singers of all time. After his death, the band struck gold with Todd La Torre. He could sing Midnight's vocals perfectly, from the stratosphere blistering high notes, even down to the soul striking and haunting beauty of the voice, which made Midnight unique. But, unfortunately, the band went on hiatus, leaving La Torre to seek other work. We all know the end of that story, where La Torre went on to replace yet another metal legend, Geoff Tate of Queensryche.  The band hasn't done anything really since. There have been rumors of them finding a new singer, but nothing concrete. 

That all changed last week. Yannis Papadopoulos, the incredible singer of Greek metal superstars, Wardrum announced that he had been contacted with a proposal from none other than Crimson Glory about recording an album with them. I reviewed their previous album, The Messenger a few years ago, and I had Yannis as a guest on the radio show, then called The Will and Thunder Show. Yannis is a truly gifted singer who could easily step into the role of singer with Crimson Glory.  Don't believe me? Check this out. Its Yannis covering Eternal World.  And, here's another of him singing my favorite Crimson Glory song, Masque of the Red Death. Does he sound exactly like Midnight? No. Not exactly. But, close enough. But he is a better singer than Wade Black, who sang on the band's album, Astronomica. His voice is also a little more on the aggressive side. But, like I said, he is close enough, and he has the power to perfectly hit those notes that Midnight is famous for. With possibly even more power than Todd La Torre had, and that is saying ALOT.

Here is a screen shot of Yannis's announcement:

That quote at the top of this page? Its from the title track of Wardrum's previous album, The Messenger. I have been hoping for not only a Crimson Glory reunion and new album/ tour, but I ALSO wanted the band to recruit Yannis. That wish came true. Hopefully, they actually do it!

Of course, now the elephant in the room is Wardrum. I would hate to see that band break up, get put on the back burner, or for them to replace Yannis. So, I have a solution! When Crimson Glory tours, bring Wardrum on the road with them, as the opening act. That would be an EPIC concert. And, yes, Yannis would be opening for himself, but if any singer is good enough to pull it off, Yannis is. And, it would be a dream concert for me personally. 2 of my favorite bands together? Sign me up. Plus, the United States needs to have a chance to meet Wardrum! They are INCREDIBLE!

Looks good to me!

This needs to happen, folks!  Hell Yeah!