Theme Park Wars: Spider-Man Vs. The Transformers

Usually, theme park wars are between two different theme park companies. In this case, however, the theme park war is within the same company: Universal Parks & Resorts. The contenders are two of its rides: The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride-3D.

The former ride debuted in Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando back in 1999. It featured a revolutionary ride system that was part dark ride, part simulator that was developed by Universal Creative with vehicles developed by Oceaneering International. That system was so unique and kinetic that it wasn’t a surprise that the Spider-Man ride is still one of the most popular rides in any theme park.

The Scoop On Spider-Man

In The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man, riders donning 3D glasses board a vehicle called the Scoop that is used by the Daily Bugle newspaper company for newsgathering. Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man) boss J. Jonah Jameson assigns riders to board the Scoop to cover a breaking story concerning Doctor Octopus. The mad scientist is using an anti-gravity cannon to steal the Statue of Liberty with the help of other supervillains (Electro, Hobgoblin, Scream and Hydro-Man).

100_9890As these ride stories go, the Scoop and its passengers wind up getting caught in the melee between them and Spider-Man. Along the way, the riders are made to feel as if they’re actually in the pages of an animated comic book with huge screens that project 3D images as the vehicle constantly swerves wildly from scene to scene. Adding to the intensity of the experience are practical effects used that immerses riders into the adventure. The best example of that is where at one point Spider-Man is fighting with the Hobgoblin. First riders witness a large-screen 3D fight by a New York bridge between the two and the Hobgoblin tries to lob pumpkin bombs at the Scoop vehicle. Spider-Man catches one bomb and hurls it away before it can do any harm. But the Hobgoblin manages to throw one that explodes very close to the vehicle. Through the clever use of effects, actual flame erupts from part of a nearby wall which simulates the exploding bomb. The real heat from the blast makes elated riders feel like they’re part of the story.

It’s because of these immersions that the Spider-Man ride has remained so popular for so many years. Recently, the ride received an HD upgrade to make the 3D images sharper and more colorful. Part of that upgrade included slight changes to the characters, especially Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus who more resemble their cinematic counterparts. In addition, iconic comic book creator Stan Lee makes a few cameos in the ride itself as assorted civilians.

Ride The Transformers

The ride format from The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man was a unique hybrid that combined motion simulators, practical effects and 3D images into a wild dark ride. It’s so well thought of and successful, that it was only natural that Universal Studios would repeat the formula for another ride.

Transformers: The Ride-3D originally made its debut in Universal Studios Singapore in 2011 and later in Universal Studios Hollywood and most recently in Universal Studios Orlando. All three incarnations of the ride were instant hits with park goers.  Riders get to feel what it’s like to be in a high-octane Michael Bay special effects spectacular.

SAMSUNG

The ride follows the storyline and characters of the film series, where the good Autobots are allied with the people of Earth against the evil Decepticons. As with the movies, both robotic groups are after their MacGuffin, the AllSpark, a cube-like object that can bring ordinary mechanical and electronic objects to life. One of the Autobots called Evac first has to retrieve the AllSpark from Decepticons who have stolen it. Then after recovering the AllSpark, it’s up to him to protect the object while Decepticons like Megatron and Starscream pursue him throughout a city. Being that riders are inside of Evac, who is the ride used in the attraction, they’re given front-row access to Evac’s efforts to safeguard the AllSpark from evil Decepticons. Good Autobots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee aid Evac in his journey throughout the chaotic cityscape.

As the Evac vehicle zigzags throughout a city landscape to evade his enemies, the constant pitching, and jerking motions of the ride make the riders feel as if they’re actually being tossed about in the vehicle. Selling this illusion are the 3D effects from  large screens featuring gargantuan Transformers fights and the rough simulator motions from the vehicle. It can be said that being inside the Evac vehicle can be compared to being inside a vehicle that is undergoing a violent accident.

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Top 10 Episodes Of Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Few animated series have been as rich and complex as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Showcasing emotionally deep characters and thrilling story arcs, the show was beloved by many and has spawned the popular sequel The Legend Of Korra (its new season airs June 27), plus an ill-received live-action film. The following are ten of the best episodes from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

10 winter solstice part 1

10. “The Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1)” While the early episodes were entertaining it was this first season story that really began embellishing the show’s mythos with airbender Aang’s spiritual meeting with the previous Avatar.

9. “The Blue Spirit” Aang’s primary antagonist for the first season was exiled Prince Zuko who was wracked with anger and confusion. While previous episodes in the first season showed Zuko’s ambiguous nature, this one had him assume more of an anti-heroic role.

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8. “The Southern Raiders” By the time this third-season show aired, Zuko had reformed and joined Aang’s quest to defeat his own father and bring peace to the four elemental nations. While Aang had accepted Zuko, his companion and love interest Katarra had not. She hated the Fire Nation (Zuko’s tribe) for killing her mother and took it out on Zuko. In this episode she confronts her feelings and we learn about what happened to her mother.

7. “Appa’s Lost Days” Aang’s beloved flying bison Appa was stolen during the second season. This episode shows what happened to Appa after he was abducted by the sandbenders. Add extra points if you are an animal lover and hate seeing animal cruelty.

zuko and evil sister6. “The Crossroads Of Destiny” The final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s second season brings Aang and his companions to their most imperiled state. Their mission to protect the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation fails, Aang is mortally wounded by Zuko’s evil sister and Zuko does a heartbreaking about face and strays from his redemptive path by throwing his lot with his father’s forces.

5. “Sozin’s Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters” The second episode in the show’s final four-part arc has several popular characters encountered by Aang and friends throughout the series meet up with our heroes to defeat the Fire Nation. What really drove this episode were Zuko’s reunion with his kind Uncle Iroh and Aang’s torment over the idea that he has to kill Fire Lord Ozai in order to bring peace and freedom to his world. His spiritual meetings with previous Avatars were very illuminating into his nature.

4 black sun part 24. “The Day Of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse” In the show, there was a prophecy that the Fire Lord would be weakest during an eclipse (because firebenders derive their power from the sun). Aang, his companions and allies make an ill-fated attempt to attack the Fire Lord and his forces in this third-season episode. This one also marks the point where Zuko completely turns against his father and decides to aid Aang.

3. “Zuko Alone” Aang and his companions do not appear in this second-season episode which seems a lot like a western. By himself, Zuko arrives in an Earth Kingdom village as a mysterious stranger and assumes a heroic, lone gunfighter type of role against thuggish soldiers. Viewers also see flashbacks to his younger days and see his troubled family life. Though revered by villagers, the episode’s outcome is rather depressing for this anti-hero.

2 iroh2. “Tales Of Ba Sing Se” This second-season episode is really a series of vignettes about each major character. While the stories were amusing and presented interesting looks at the characters during quiet moments, the standout was Uncle Iroh’s tale. Throughout the series Iroh is shown to be a gentle, light-hearted, wise man who counsels Zuko and teaches his nephew right from wrong. In the story, Iroh travels solo around the city and humorously interacts with several citizens. At the end of the story, the mood changes dramatically as Iroh tearfully sings a song for his dead son during the anniversary of his son’s birthday.

1. “Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang” This is the final episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and it goes out in a blazing glory. Aang and his friends have a final battle with the avatar aangFire Nation and Fire Lord Ozai. The airbender embraces his destiny and mission and becomes a fully realized Avatar during his fateful, spectacular battle with Ozai. The animation was amazing, awe-inspiring and a bit frightening as viewers witnessed the true nature of an Avatar’s powers. Also many of the other characters confronted their enemies and most plot points were resolved except for one -what happened to Zuko’s mother; this seemed to tease viewers of another story (which was alluded to in the first episode of The Legend of Korra), which has yet to be told.

Waldermann Rivera

Summer Genre TV Watchlist

It’s very clear that the summer season has become the best time for genre TV shows. Maybe it has to do with there being less competition in the air waves, but in any case this summer has quite a selection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror TV shows either returning or debuting. Leaving out pure garbage like Under The Dome, these are the most anticipated TV shows.

defiance second seasonDefiance (June 19): Syfy’s ambitious TV series about aliens and humans sharing an uneasy peace in the future in the town called Defiance returns for its sophomore season. The first season was uneven in quality, but showed potential as the characters were fleshed out and compelling mysteries were explored. Hopefully Defiance can continue going up in quality.

Doctor Who (August): Peter Capaldi’s turn as the Twelfth Doctor begins this August. The long-running sci-series about a time-traveling alien and his adventures is as popular as it was when it premiered way back in 1963.

Dominion (June 19): A sequel to the 2010 supernatural thriller Legion, Dominion takes place in a future where angels and humanity are at war with each other. Legion was so-so, but based on the trailers and its premise, Dominion warrants a viewing or two.

Extant (July 9): Halle Berry stars in this Steven Spielberg-exec-produced sci-fi mystery. She plays an astronaut who after coming home from a solo mission may have brought back an alien life form. That’s because while in space by herself, she became pregnant. Expect lots of jaw-dropping revelations.

Falling Skies (June 22): The alien invasion saga is back for its fourth season. The ragtag humans continue their desperate war against the spider-like Skitters and now the tired sci-fi trope of young alien/human hybrids that age rapidly. Still Falling Skies in the past has been a generally well-done and exciting TV show, so it should pull it off again.

The Last Ship (June 22): Based on the last shipbook by William Brinkley, this post-apocalyptic drama focuses on a lone U.S. Navy ship and its crew. An important change from the book is that instead of surviving a nuclear war, the ship and its crew grapple in a world where a pandemic wiped out most of humanity. The previews make it look quite exciting and riveting.

The Leftovers (June 29): Former Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof presents this HBO series set in a world where the Rapture caused two percent of its human population to disappear. As expected, people go off the deep end as fringe cults and chaos comes to the fore.

Outlander (Aug 9): Noted showrunner, Ronald D. Moore executive produces this new STARZ  series about a World War II-era British nurse who winds up in Scotland in the year 1743. This romantic time travel drama is based on Diana Gabaldon’s popular books, and it looks like an epic book romance come to life.

strain

The Strain (July 13): This one looks scary! Based on director Guillermo Del Toro’s book trilogy, this FX TV show is about scientists trying to stop a virus that turns people into vicious, deadly vampires. Will this replace our summer vampire fix now that True Blood is ending?

true blood castTrue Blood (June 22): Coming back for its seventh and final season, the HBO vampire drama as expected wraps up its storylines about a world where vampires have come out and struggle to get along in society. Although True Blood isn’t as buzzworthy as in the past, its racy scenes, bloody gore and ever-twisting plotlines still deliver.

Annette DeForrester

Edge Of Tomorrow Leaves You On The Edge Of Your Seat

edge posterThe new Tom Cruise sci-fi action epic Edge Of Tomorrow turned out to be genuinely great surprise. Think Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers meets HALO and that is what you get with Edge Of Tomorrow.

Tom Cruise plays William Cage, a hapless, deskbound soldier who is part of a military campaign to rid Europe from aliens called Mimics that have established a foothold on the continent and are spreading out to the world. Being that he is inexperienced, Cage is killed nearly instantly in a failed invasion of Mimic-held territory. Yet, because he was doused in the aliens’ blood, Cage wakes up the previous morning and relives the day. As the movie progresses Cage goes through the landing on an infinite loop, but each time he dies and is resurrected, Cage gains more combat awareness. This not only makes him a better soldier, but able to decipher how to defeat the Mimics.

EDGE OF TOMORROW

Edge Of Tomorrow is based on the novel All You Need Is Kill (the film’s original title) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and is directed by Doug Liman. The director’s expert hand is clearly evident in the film as he keeps each repeated day from becoming tedious to watch. It’s actually kind of fun to see Cage dying from different ways and coming back. At the same time, the action scenes with the aliens are very intense and calls to mind the chaos of other war movies like Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles and even Saving Private Ryan. The mech suits that Cruise and his co-star Emily Blunt wear are kind of goofy looking, but in reality are deadly and formidable weapons and it makes viewers wonder how Starship Troopers might’ve been like if the soldiers in that movie were adorned with mech suits like in Robert Heinlein’s novel. Well, now we have a good idea. An added bonus is that for the most part Tom Cruise does his own stunts and it pays off since it adds intensity and realism to his role. With this and other sci-fi films like Oblivion and Minority Report, Cruise’s presence in them and any future genre film has to be considered as a sign that the film is usually exceptional. As for Emily Blunt, she is definitely a supreme badass warrior woman in this movie and helps carry it.

????????????????????The trailers for Edge Of Tomorrow don’t do the film justice, and makes it seem like another typical, mindless summer action film. But it isn’t. It’s very clever and a real joy ride with fantastic special effects. Sadly, based on expectations and the timing of its release, Edge Of Tomorrow might get lost in the crowded summer movie schedule that already is favoring chick flicks and youth-oriented fare. Regardless of its scheduling and marketing hurdles, sci-fans are in for a mind-blowing treat and should go out of their way to see this extraordinary film.

Waldermann Rivera

How To Fix The Spider-Man Movies

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been out in theaters for a month already. It’s made close to $500 million worldwide to date, so it’s a hit film. Yet, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has raked in far less money than the previous Spider-Man movie. Despite all the advertising and marketing, the movie has been largely forgotten in this crowded summer movie season. That’s unbelievable for a Spider-Man movie, usually they’re big hits. Something went wrong with the film, and the fans noticed and word of mouth probably has had a hand in keeping the box office numbers down. It’s sad to say but the franchise, despite being rebooted two years ago, seems tired and talk about sequels and spin-off films get yawns from everyone.

The film had its good points, but on the whole, it was a mess and killed any good will towards the franchise. What can be done? Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes around, rivaling Batman himself. The character is still viable, but the filmmakers have gotten away from what made Spidey work. If they want to win back the fans and more importantly for the execs, the big box office numbers, the following things have to be done.

Story First

What sunk The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was its sloppy script. The film was loaded with too many time-filler subplots that don’t go anywhere and needless characters. It reminded me of that equally dumb Spider-Man 3 with all the extra characters who didn’t add anything to the story (looking at you Gwen Stacy) and moronic plot twists (so Sandman accidently killed Uncle Ben).

?????????????????????????????????Does anyone care about Peter Parker’s parents? A few lines of dialogue and one or two scenes could’ve wrapped up that plot thread. Then there was the way they tried to convince us that Peter and Harry Osborn were best buddies even though Harry was never mentioned in the previous film. It was just one of too many plot lines in the crowded movie.

What was worst was that the movie felt like an ad for upcoming spinoffs and sequels and that harmed the narrative flow and pacing of this film. It was like director Marc Webb set up a revolving door on the movie set just to introduce new villains, which leads to the next point.

Improve The Villains

The  film execs clearly didn’t learn the lesson with Spider-Man 3. That film was weighed down with three villains ?????????????????????????????????who didn’t get adequate screen time to develop them. The same thing happened here, but worse. Electro was largely a one-dimensional joke, and reminded me of the Riddler from Batman Forever, only Jim Carrey did a better job of portraying a nutjob than Jamie Foxx. His portrayal of Electro before his accident was so over the top and he didn’t gel with the other people around him. I get they were trying to make him a goofy outcast, but it was too much.

spidey and doc ockSeriously, the last great villain in these films was Doctor Octopus and that was ten years ago. I’m not sure why they can’t come up with a worthy villain for Spider-Man, but jamming in a bunch of them to please toymakers isn’t working. It’s a damn shame because Harry Osborn/Green Goblin was pretty decent in this film thanks to Dane DeHaan’s performance, but his time was limited. If they would’ve dumped Electro, Harry would’ve had the needed screen time for his story. Instead, we get a rushed intro of the Green Goblin popping out in the end and briefly fighting Spider-Man. He’s supposed to be his greatest enemy, why relegate him to an extended cameo? The Green Goblin should be the top villain in these films. In this crowded film, he wasn’t the only character to get shafted.

Get Spider-Man’s Supporting Cast More Involved

???????????????????????????????Aunt May was largely wasted in the new Spider-Man movie and that’s an atrocity. The filmmakers went out and hired Sally Field, an Oscar winner, to portray Peter’s aunt and she just gets lost in this film. The few precious moments she has only point out how she was criminally underused. In the comic books, she was involved in major plot lines. Often, Spider-Man was out risking his neck to save her or worrying about her. This was better shown in the last film where Peter brought home organic eggs in the end after saving the city, it was a quiet moment that illustrated his love and responsibility and it worked.

jjj2But Aunt May isn’t the only neglected member of his supporting cast. Flash Thompson, Peter’s nemesis and Spider-Man’s biggest fan was absent this time around and where the hell is J. Jonah Jameson who brings a different kind of headache to Spider-Man? Our web-swinging hero needs a foil and Jameson filled that role perfectly in Sam Raimi’s films. It seems like the producers and Marc Webb couldn’t figure out who should play the newspaper publisher after J.K. Simmon’s act and gave up. Why not just bring him back? It worked for the James Bond flicks when Judi Dench played M with two different actors portraying the famous spy. Any Spidey film should have Jameson hounding him in the public eye. Continue reading