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Tag Archive: Ray Park


Scotty in kilt

That is, if you’re in Scotland.

Census records estimate that more than twice as many people of Scottish ancestry live in the United States than in Scotland.  Is it the destiny of Scotland to declare its independence from Great Britain?  If not now, then when?  At the beginning of the day everyone has been waiting for, polls show the likely outcome as a dead heat.  We’ll soon learn the answer we’ve all been asking:  Will they or won’t they?

Of course there are all sorts of implications to a yes vote, not the least of which is what kind of economic impact it will have on England, on the United States, and the world.  If Scotland wants to make a statement to the world this could very well be Scotland’s day.  So if you’re one of those Scots that are 16 years old or older and done voting or you’re in the States and can’t vote today, then what better than a brief celebration of all things Scottish?  As Mike Myers’ character Stuart Rankin, proprietor of the store “All Things Scottish,” said on Saturday Night Live, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Sean Connery

Scotland is well known for its inventors and their inventions.  You wouldn’t be reading this website or surfing the Internet at all without the communications technologies that sprouted from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  John Logie Baird would invent the first television.  Scots invented the refrigerator and the flush toilet, the kaleidoscope and the lawnmower.  And–shazam–James Goodfellow invented ATMs so we can get money to buy stuff on nearly any street corner.

Our future is defined in part by the adventures of a Scot in space–James Doohan’s Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek, an engineering miracle worker who exemplifies Scottish ingenuity.  And of course, there’s James Bond, the character, whose parents were Scottish, and Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, the most famous Bond, and a supporter of today’s “yes” vote.

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Heroes Reborn NBC banner

What we thought was going to be another ad for the DVD release of Gravity actually was a teaser for the return of Heroes to NBC.  NBC released a few details to the press before the Olympics Saturday night teaser premiere, revealing a new Heroes TV series will be returning in 2015.  NBC and creator Tim Kring will be holding the details close to their vests until Heroes Reborn draws closer, but we’re thinking there is no way to move the series forward and call it Heroes without at least Hayden Panettiere as invincible ex-cheerleader Claire Bennet, Milo Ventimiglia as power-borrower Peter Petrelli, Masi Oka as time traveler Hiro Nakamura, or the always awesome Jack Coleman as Claire’s dad, the horned-rimmed glasses guy.

NBC has ordered 13 episodes for the new mini-series, an entire season for any other property. Could this be a try-on that could be continued if the first year is successful?

“The enormous impact Heroes had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke.  “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment.  We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept,” Salke continued.  “Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”

Heroes Reborn - how about bringing back Jack Coleman as HRG

Masi Oka is currently on Hawaii Five-O on CBS, Hayden Penettiere is on Nashville on ABC, and Milo Ventimiglia is filming a series on the Crackle online network coming off of his Mob City mini-series in TNT.  Ali Larter, who played Tracy Strauss and her mirror twin on Heroes, last filmed a mini-series on TNT and continues her string of big screen movie projects, and ex-cop Greg Grunberg is making a string of movies.  Although he’s been seen on ABC’s Scandal, Jack Coleman also had a key role in the last season of USA Network’s Burn Notice last year.  USA Network is an NBC sister network.  Could that mean a possible connection to have Coleman’s character lead the new mini-series?  Something like Agent Colson on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Coleman is our top pick, and we think HRG is the most likely driver of a new series.  But why stop there?

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GI Joe banner

Half animated film come to life, half martial arts movie, in G.I. Joe: Retaliation look for one of the best action sequences ever to hit the big screen.  Darker and more grounded in the realities of today’s terrorism themed movies as opposed to the days of action war pictures centered on the Cold War, the sequel to G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is only slightly less fun than the first live-action look at the action figure-turned-animated show and comic book-turned-action figure again franchise.  Whereas Rise of Cobra was steeped in toy references and faithful action figure costume re-creations, Retaliation has a plot that could have been pulled from the 1980s animated series.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

After a disaster caused by a conspiracy between Zartan and the evil shadow organization called Cobra wipes out literally every active G.I. Joe but three, it’s up to new top ranking officer Roadblock, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to lead the charge to unravel the conspiracy and save the world.  He’s joined in a superbly created, fast-thinking survival maneuver by Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), who must then find their way out of a deep water well.  Despite being developed characters from G.I. Joe incarnations past, Flint comes off a bit like Hawkeye in The Avengers and Lady Jaye as the token female Joe in an era you’d think would be long past relying on jokes about women in the service.  Still, they both make the best of it and the trio, along with Duke (Channing Tatum), the squad leader of the Joes in Rise of Cobra, they share some good chemistry and laugh out loud moments in the film.  If there is any fault in Retaliation it is why the producers thought the plot required eliminating such a pantheon of other great Joe characters who were featured in Rise of Cobra, like Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Baroness (Sierra Miller), Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), or General Hawk (Dennis Quaid).  It’s also a bit disappointing Bruce Willis’s General Joe Colton didn’t have a few more scenes.  Willis, transitioning from action role to the wise general role, steals every scene and a partnership with Dwayne Johnson in another film, G.I. Joe or not, would be a fun thing to see.

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Wil Wheaton standing room only crowd at Planet Comicon 2013

The biggest and best pop culture and comic book convention in Kansas City’s history was held this weekend as Planet Comicon 2013 filled the Bartle Hall at the Kansas City Convention Center with thousands and maybe even tens of thousands of fans of everything from Doctor Who to superheroes, Star Trek and Star Wars, to video games and anime.  It’s first day downtown was a big success with lots of happy fans talking with their favorite comic book and fantasy writers and artists and TV and movie actors.

Here’s a photo gallery of what we saw from Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Booth on Artist’s Row and walking around today.

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Meeting Firefly’s Hero of Canton and Chuck’s John Casey–Adam Baldwin.

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Our favorite comic book legend, Howard Chaykin, at his first Planet Comicon appearance and first Kansas City show in eight years.

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With borg.com writer and author Elizabeth C. Bunce at Booth 545 in Artist’s Alley.

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With comics legend Neal Adams, artist on the best Silver Age comic book series ever–Green Lantern/Green Arrow 76-89.

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Ray Park as Darth Maul

Kansas City’s Planet Comicon announced today that actor and stuntman Ray Park will be one of the headliners of this year’s event April 6-7, 2013 at the Kansas City Convention Center downtown at Bartle Hall.  In his short career as actor he has amassed some key, iconic roles across major franchises.  And because some of his roles are behind a mask or make-up you might not recognize him at first.  But when he moves and performs has trademark wushu spin you just know this Glasgow, Scotland-born second degree black belt martial artist is behind the performance.  He’s been a lead contender to play Iron Fist in a future Marvel Comics project and on March 28, 2013 he will reprise his role as Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  Let’s check out his major acting and stunt roles so far.

Ray Park in Mortal Kombat Annihilation Continue reading

By Art Schmidt

I have a few Honorable Mentions that I am going to list first, rather than sticking them at the end like after-thoughts.  Since I didn’t include them in my actual Top Ten list, the least I can do is put them first so they aren’t entirely skipped over.  These made my initial rough list but, for one reason or another, just didn’t make the final cut: Heavy Metal, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Dragonslayer, Shrek, Time Bandits & The Wizard of Oz.  (Note: Starting at number one, since #10 is the ‘top’ of my list)

#1 – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

A favorite of my youth, and one of the Ray Harryhausen classics.  Dynamation doesn’t hold a candle to the powers of today’s CGI engines, but in its day it ruled the cineplex, at least as far as fantasy went.  Sinbad’s voyage across the seas to find the Fountain of Destiny was fun and exhilarating and awesome in its day.

Of course, this is more a sentimental favorite than a real ‘All-time Top Ten’ winner, but it works for me.  And of course, there was Caroline Munro…

#2 – Willow

“The power to control the world is in which finger?” the High Aldwin asks the young apprentice hopefuls, holding out his hand.
“I was going to say my own,” Willow later admits, after first choosing poorly.
“That is the correct answer!” Billy Barty’s High Aldwin exclaims.  “You lack faith in yourself.”

Willow is one of those movies that just makes me smile.  It’s funny and different and has quirky characters, but the fantasy element is strong and Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Heat, Wonderland), Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, the Harry Potter movies) and Joanne Whalley (Scandal, The Man Who Knew Too Little) are all great.  Especially Kilmer.  Davis’ Willow gives the movie its heart and soul; Kilmer’s Madmartigan gives it the proper excitement and humor.

What I like about Willow most is that it avoided all of the Conan rip-offs of the day.  No muscle-bound hero, no comedic side-kicks, no supreme magical spell/artifact/being/weapon (unless you count Princess Elora herself).  It was an honest tale in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, about simple people trying to thwart evil.

#3 – The Frighteners

One of my favorite movies, The Frighteners is a little bit horror movie, little bit comedy, little bit fantasy, little bit love story, and a whole lot of cool rolled into one hundred-and-ten-minute roller coaster ride.  Michael J. Fox (The Back to the Future movies, Family Ties, Spin City) is funny and believable as Frank Bannister, a self-proclaimed ‘psychic investigator’ who claims to be able to rid the living of the mischievous spirits of the dead, when in fact he’s a psychic con man who sends in the spirits to drum up business in the first place.  Until he runs into the Grim Reaper, taking a deadly toll on the small coastal town Frank inhabits, at which point he begins to use his powers for good in an inhuman man-hunt.

Bannister’s ghost side-kicks are hilarious, the sight gags are funny, and the scary parts have the right amount of creep in them.  The whole movie is fast-paced and fun, and while some bits of the storyline are fuzzy, it’s a blast right up until the end credits roll to the tune of ‘Don’t fear the reaper’.

#4 – Conan the Barbarian (1982)

This pick needs little explanation.  I’m a life-long Conan fan; the Howard stories and novels, the Marvel comics, the movies, the ongoing novels by various authors, the Age of Conan MMO (though that was short-lived), and of course numerous toys and other stuff.  And Conan the Barbarian is one of the pinnacles of barbarian culture there is.  The original, that is, though the recent remake was a fairly decent movie.  Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hero, James Earl Jones’ villain, Mako’s gritty narration, and Sandahl Bergman’s fiery Valeria come together in what might have otherwise been a terrible movie.  Many still think it is, but I beg to differ.  Conan came forth in the era in-between Claymation and CGI, after Clash of the Titans but before Jurassic Park, but the effects were good enough.

#5 – Shrek 2

Disney was the king of all things animated for seventy years, and lately Pixar has ruled that roost.  But Dreamworks Animation absolutely nailed the animated fantasy adventure with the Shrek series, and the best one by far is the second installment.  This is one of the few sequels that surpassed the first.  The clever twist on fairytale standards begun in Shrek goes crazy in the sequel, with Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, the frog turned prince (and then king), and the fairytale land Far, Far Away all getting a well-deserved skewering as Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and the whole troop make a joyous wreck of everyone else’s plans and schemes.

The tongue-in-cheek references are just the icing on the cake; Shrek 2 is a movie I can watch again and again and never get tired of seeing Pinocchio getting jiggy wit’ it chanting “I’m a real boy! I’m a real boy!  I’m a…” *poof* “Awwwww…”

Color me tickled pink.

#6 – The Princess Bride

What can be said about The Princess Bride that hasn’t already been said?  Nothing, nothing at all.  Why do people love this movie so much?  You mean, you don’t?  Inconceivable!  Ok, lemme ‘splain.  No, there is no time.  Lemme sum up:

It’s not a kissing book, but there is some of that in there.  And the hero is not left-handed, but he is the dread Pirate Roberts.  Sort of.  But give him a break, he’s been mostly dead all day.  And the other hero’s name is Inigo Montoya; someone killed his father, and they better prepare to die.  You still don’t know what the story is about?  Inconceivable!  It’s about true love, of course.  And perfect breasts.  And having fun storming the castle.

Wow.  That makes me want to watch the movie again.  What’s that?  You still don’t know how that movie is on my Top Ten list?

Inconceivable!

I know, I keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

#7 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I won’t bombard you with movie quotes from this one, the most quotable of all movies ever made, whether by the Python troop or not.  Holy Grail is, quite simply, the Holy Grail of all comedies.

What is your favorite movie?  The Holy Grail!  No, wait, The Lord of the… AHHHH!!!!!!!

#8 – Sleepy Hollow

Tim Burton is a great director (Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland (2009)), and his ongoing collaboration with Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) has given us some great fantasies over the years (did Edward Scissorhands really come out more than twenty years ago?  Sheesh, I’m old…)  To me, almost all of Burton’s work is great in its geeky, off-kilter, out-of-the-box way, but none shines like his take on Ichabod Crane.  The plot elements from Washington Irving’s original story, the screenplay by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker, the atmosphere Burton creates, the innocent beauty portrayed by Christina Ricci, and the superb fish-out-of-water academic played by Depp, is a perfect storm of fantasy creativity.

The Headless Horseman is especially well-conceived, with Ray Park (The Phantom Menace, X-Men) performing the combat acrobatics and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone, True Romance) giving ‘the Hessian’ ghoulish life when his head is in place.  The curse, the old tree, the vengeful witch, the sleepy town, the foggy woods, they all come together in the perfect blend of fantasy, horror and, thanks to Depp, humor amidst the gore.

#9 – Excalibur

John Boorman’s masterpiece tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is my kind of fantasy movie.  It’s dark, gritty and foreboding.  It pulls no punches and doesn’t candy-coat.  Arthur is the boy hero but he’s also fatally flawed, Merlin is the all-knowing but equally-flawed magician, and of course the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot is passionate, compelling and tragic.  Combat is harsh and cruel and down-in-the-mud filthy, and not many of my friends came away from that movie wanting to swing a sword for a living.  Boorman’s hallmark was always his ability to set a mood, dark and deep, that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go.  And Excalibur is all of that, and Boorman’s finest work.

“Good and evil,” Merlin says wisely.  “There never is one without the other.”  Indeed.

#10 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Whose blood doesn’t start pumping faster at the rousing opening notes of the theme to Indiana Jones?  Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re probably thinking “Wait a minute!  This isn’t a fantasy film, at least not in the truest sense of the word.”  But hang on, it does contain magic.  At the very least it contained religious paranormalism, which is pretty darned close even if you don’t think of it as real ‘magic.’  But let’s not get into a debate about that, shall we?  Inevitably, no minds would get changed and it would only spoil the mood.

Raiders was and still is one of the greatest classic adventure movies of all time (fantasy adventure movies, that is!).  And besides, I could not allow myself to have a Top Ten Fantasy list without a Spielberg movie on it.

#11 – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Duh.

I assume that you wouldn’t be reading this article unless you were interested in fantasy movies yourself, so there should be no need to explain this at all.  In fact, it almost goes without saying.  As in I almost didn’t even list it, since almost any Fantasy Top Ten Movie list would in reality go up to an understood Eleven, and Eleven would be The Lord of the Rings.

But if you are aren’t a fantasy fan, reading this for some other reason (I have no idea what that might be), let me educate you as to why The Lord of the Rings is the most awesome fantasy ever.  It’s the chicks.  All those elven chicks running around in leather halter tops with bare midriffs, and the scenes where they make out with the heroes (that rules!).  And all of the dragons, the ones rampaging across the skies and waylaying all those armies of trolls and skeletons, yeah, that’s what it was.  And the big, strong hero guys in cool-looking armor on horseback with the huge magic swords cutting all of the bad guys’ heads off, those guys rule.  Oh, and the awesome sorcerer combat scenes where the wizards are hurling fireballs and lightning bolts and vorpal bunny swarms at each other.  These movies totally rock!

Of course, all those common tropes of hum-drum fantasy movies are not in LOTR, and that’s what makes it so awesome.  Years ago, a friend of mine summed it up perfectly.  “In most fantasy, the heroes are questing for all-powerful magic that’s central to their success and will make them famous.  In The Lord of the Rings, the heroes are striving to destroy the great magic so they can return to their normal lives.”  Fantastic.

Turn out the lights, this discussion is over.

(OK, not really, tomorrow… come back for ten more of our favorite fantasy movies).

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