Saturday, December 20, 2014

Have a Merry Mummy Christmas!

This December has seen the release of two movies that evoke the imagery and symbolism of ancient Egypt: the Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings and the found footage horror film The Pyramid. Such releases are a very rare occurrence for U.S. movie theaters during this time of year, but it puts horror fans like me in a mummy state of mind—and just in time for the holiday season! In honor of this embalmed state of yuletide bliss, here’s a look back at some memorable mummy merchandise that have been released over the years, merchandise that may still be available so that you can put some cursed undead mirth under your Christmas tree for your special someone. Read on ....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Loving the Alien Ornament from Hallmark

I'm sure that most Alien franchise fans have this item by now, but I'll say it anyway: the Alien ornament from Hallmark is fantastic!

Dozens upon dozens of Alien statues, model kits, busts and action figures have been released during the last few years, but this is the first collectible that has been made for your Christmas tree. The ornament's design is based on H.R. Giger's original "Big Chap" costume from Alien and the amount of detail on the ornament is extremely impressive for its scale--it even includes the semi-transparent dome that masks the creature's skull-like face. Furthermore, the creature is sculpted in a hunched position, making it look somewhat like a gargoyle perched on the edge of a cathedral.

For as impressive as the ornament is, the Alien uber-fan side of me would have preferred to have the creature depicted in a slightly different way. In the director's cut of Alien, there's a brief glimpse of the Xenomorph hanging motionlessly among a series of chains, like a praying mantis waiting patiently for its next meal, seconds before it descends to attack Brett (Harry Dean Stanton). Sculpting the Xenomorph in that position would've added an extra layer of menace to the ornament, as if it were hanging motionlessly among the other tree decorations until an unsuspecting Christmas elf wanders by.

An artist's depiction of the Xenomorph,
as seen in the director's cut of Alien.

Personal gripes aside, the Alien ornament does have another benefit outside of adding parasitic, biomechanical horror to your holiday festivities: It is also close to scale with the dioramas that that McFarlane Toys made for the 2004 Alien vs. Predator (AVP) movie. So, once you're done displaying this movie monster on your tree, you can put it alongside the AVP dioramas for display with the rest of your Alien merchandise collection during the rest of the year.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Future Familiar: The New Trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Unless you decided to take a vacation under a rock over the weekend, you'll have heard by now that the first trailer for the next Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens (a.k.a. Star Wars: Episode Seven) has arrived at both movie theaters and on the Internet. It's been met with great fanfare--within hours of its debut, the 'net was swamped with new updates, analyses, and complaints about this 88 second bit of film. There's even a stop-motion remake of this trailer that's been made purely with Lego toys. How fanboy-ish can you get?

The new trailer is a teaser in the most literal sense. It doesn't give any hints about the film's plot; instead, it gives us fleeting glimpses of what this era of the Star Wars universe looks like. What I think most critics, commenters and curmudgeons have missed it how the trailer emphasizes familiar aspects of Star Wars, details that fans will instantly recognize such as vehicles (X-Wings, TIE Fighters and the Millennium Falcon), technology (an astromech droid and pod racer engines) and uniforms (Stormtrooper armor and someone dressed in the Sith fashion ensemble of a black Sith hood and red lightsaber accessory). Some of these things look slightly different in order to suggest a passage of time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens--the Stormtrooper armor looks more streamlined, and the astromech has a different body than the standard barrel-shaped model--but the trailer doesn't stray into anything that fans wouldn't recognize in some way. (While we're on the subject, the same emphasis on familiarity has been part of the advertising and marketing of the new Star Wars: Rebels animated series, with lightsabers, TIE Fighters, Stormtroopers and two-legged Imperial walkers making very frequent appearances.)

Star Wars' new astromech droid, although I hear that only
goalies are allowed to pick it up with their hands.

I'm assuming that the purpose of leading this film's marketing campaign with the familiar is to get fans excited for episode 7 before easing them into aspects of the new trilogy that will be significantly different from the previous six films. With a title like The Force Awakens, I think we'll be seeing a few startling revelations about how the Force works, how the revelations relate to the "balance in the Force" prophesy, and what it all means to both Jedi and Sith alike. Personally, I'm hoping that the new trilogy will revisit some of the stranger aspects of the Force that were introduced in The Clone Wars (such as the story arcs that involved locations such as Mortis and Moraband), since these aspects have the potential to make the new trilogy the epic conclusion it was always meant to be. I can't wait!

Here's the trailer, in case you haven't seen it yet: