Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Batman's Pal, Dick Grayson

After getting a heads-up from friend-of-the-blog Jason Newhouse about director Chris Nolan's plans to shoot part of The Dark Knight in IMAX - read about it here - my mind free associated a short distance to this "little" fan film/trailer that was produced a couple years back. Yes, some of it's a bit goofy and, yes, even Green Lantern makes an appearance. And, yes, I'm sure plenty of you have already seen it. But, I still feel that it shows that some really nice and inventive stuff can be done on a minimal budget. Inspiring and entertaining.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Not So Long Ago...

I read a little something earlier today wherein a guy said that the original Star Wars was his generation's "Sgt. Pepper". I think that's a fair assessment. Just as the Beatles' album was at the forefront for a change in rock music, so to was Star Wars with regard to Hollywood filmmaking. For better or worse, it's near impossible to deny.

Thirty years today. I still remember seeing the TV commercials for Star Wars back in '77, specifically Chewbacca and a bunch of space ships. Look, no matter what Lucas did with/to the series in the last ten years, those first three have stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Enjoy them for what they are and don't let anyone bait you into a debate over the merits of anything marketed as Episode Whatever.

And now... some deleted scenes....

Luke's first scene

Luke and Biggs

Luke and Biggs 2

And a couple compilation clips that showcase different edits and what might have been...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Vader Sessions

This video has been around the block for nearly a year, but I thought I'd share it here, too. For the uninitiated, some inspired soul has redubbed nearly all of the Darth Vader scenes from the first Star Wars - fine, fine, A New Hope, for you uber-geeks - using audio clips from various James Earl Jones films. Good times.

The Star Wars Photoshopping Project

Stumbled upon this website today. It's worth more than a couple chuckles. Apparently it's been around for a few years, but this is the first I'd seen of it. Seemed like a fun thing to add to the blog in recognition of tomorrow's anniversary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Long Time Ago...

A couple weeks back I stumbled upon a new soft cover, coffee table book The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. Yes, I know, there are numerous of these out there. But, this one has a certain charm in that it not only includes remembrances from both the know and virtually unknown participants in the film, but also contains many photos only recently unearthed when Lucasfilm relocated to the Presidio here in San Francisco. Oh, and it only bears a $35 cover price - surprising, when so many of these items go for $50 or more these days.

The true geek in me must point out that this recent publication - it came out last month - coincides with the 30th anniversary of the start of the Star Wars franchise. That's right, this Friday, May 25, it will have been 30 years since the original picture was released. Granted, I and many others can easily grumble about what George has done to whither the value of his empire, but the fact remains that those first three films hold up really well. And, you know what? I can even tolerate the Ewoks. I said, tolerate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Waving the Wikipedia Flag

(This is actually a re-post from a now defunct blog o' mine. However, I feel it's important enough to replicate here.)

Okay. This isn't really about me, nor is it about Boston. It's really just a rant in support of what I find to be one of my most favorite sites on the net: Wikipedia.

Over the last year or so, much has been made of the accuracy of the entries on Wikipedia. For the uninitiated, the site is an immensely popular online encyclopedia, whose entries are created and updated by... well... anyone. And this last bit is the point of contention.

Numerous high schools and universities across the country - and, one suspects, around the globe - have forbidden students from citing Wikipedia entries as source material. On the surface, this seems sound - if anyone can change any article, a student writing a report about Abraham Lincoln could find out that he was born in 1925 and married a horse named Phyllis. Furthermore, how is a teacher supposed to reliably double-check a student's source material when said material can be completely overhauled between the time that the student conducts the research and the teacher evaluates the work? (Teachers actually do this, right?)

The problem with such rigid ban on Wikipedia is that such malicious and mischievous editing of the site - You mean he didn't marry a horse?? - is incredibly rare. While certain high profile occurrences have been reported by mass media - the John Seigenthaler controversy, Stephen Colbert's frequent references - the vast majority of Wikipedia's 1,743,092 entries (as of April 17, 2007) are free from such tampering. More to the point, the site has a solid system of checks and balances in place. Each entry has a History tab at the top of its page; clicking on this shows who changed what and when. Also, Wikipedia's dedicated visitors are ever vigilant, quickly tagging any sentence wherein the author does not cite a source. In this respect, the site itself is not unlike the term papers whose accuracy learning institutions seek to protect. With this in mind, why not allow pupils to use Wikipedia, while instructing them how to evaluate the entries? Students would learn not only about their research topic, but also how to apply critical thinking skills.

Why the bother, you ask? Why use controversial Wikipedia when there are other online encyclopedia out there? I'll give you two reasons. One, it's user-friendly. The search function is great, there are no pop-ups, and most entries contain links to various related items both within Wikipedia and without, allowing one to fluidly conduct research. Two, due to the fact that anyone can hop online and update the site, most information is as current as it can be. The moment that virtually any announcements are made in the general media, someone somewhere is busy adding or updating the news on Wikipedia.

So, that's my pitch. I'm standing here on the hill, waving my flag in support of Wikipedia, and I am highly dubious that I can be dissuaded or otherwise lured away. I just wanted to share that tidbit. But, perhaps I also wanted to provide a tiny bit of damage control on behalf of the site. It doesn't deserve the corporal punishment it's received in the media. I suppose if I can turn even one person on to Wikipedia, then this flag waving has been well worth it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Last Season for Galactica?
Not Quite...

Actor Edward James Olmos was quoted on May 10 at IESB as saying that the forthcoming fourth season of Battlestar Galactica would be the last. However, one day later, executive producer David Eick disputed the claim on SciFi.com:
Contrary to comments by Edward James Olmos (Adm. Adama) at the Saturn Awards on May10, no end has been announced for the award-winning show. Battlestar Galactica is preparing to film its fourth season, one that will include 22 episodes, rather than the previously announced 13.

"For those of you who have been paying attention over the years, this is not the first time Eddie has made an announcement about the possibility of the show's end," chuckled Eick. "I promise you that when [executiuve producer] Ron [Moore] and I make a decision about Galactica's future, we'll let you know."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

O Brother, Where Art Thou Indeed?

I read the following on IMDB just moments ago....
The CBS News website has decided not to allow comments from the public concerning presidential candidate Barack Obama because many of them to date have turned out to be racist in nature, the CBS blog Public Eye reported Friday. It quoted Mike Sims, director of news and operations for CBSNews.com, as saying that the website has often deleted racist comments about Obama; however, "the volume and the persistence" of them made them difficult to handle.
The sad thing is that I'm not overly surprised. I suppose I had hoped that "the volume and the persistence" would be fairly low. Criminy! How many e-comments does a news empire like CBS need to receive in order to prompt it to take such action? *shudders*

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Fount of Fonts

Discovered this page thanks to del.icio.us. It's a gathering of over 300 free fonts, all themed to movies, music, and television. Some are so-so knock-offs - Dynasty, Mars Attacks - but most are perfect - Dark Crystal, Predator, The Shining. Also, while all are good-to-go for Windows, only a handful are Mac-ready. Not sure what - if anything - I'll do with these, as I don't do much graphic design these days, but the site is certainly worth knowing about and sharing.

Friday, May 4, 2007

All of This Will Be Set to an Orchestral Score by John Williams

Stumbled upon this website yesterday. The authors have deconstructed nearly 200 films into the (in)famous Hero's Journey outline, pioneered by Joseph Campbell, made the touchstone of all things film by one George Lucas. Not only does the site include the various readings, but also explanations of every stage of the Hero's Journey, citing examples from two or more films. Depending upon your point of view, it's either an amazing reference piece, or a grand monument to squandering time. Personally, I dig it.

No, this isn't how the breakdowns look. They just had this posted on their home page and it made me grin.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Iron Man in '08

This pic has surfaced on the web and apparently appeared in Entertainment Weekly - so I'm guessing it's not a fake. Iron Man hits theatres next Summer with Robert Downey, Jr. donning the suit. I know next to nothing else, aside from the fact that it's directed by Jon Favreau, which - combined with Downey - gives it some cred. Happily, Warner's The Dark Knight doesn't hit theatres until a good six weeks later, leaving plenty of room - and screens - for both.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mr. Strangecage:
Or, How I Learned to Stop Bitching
and Love Nicolas Cage

First off, I don't know anything about the origin of that picture. (Yes, he was once going to play Superman for Tim Burton, but I suspect this was Photoshopped.) I just found it on the internet and it seemed funny and ludicrous and appropriate for this post.

Throughout the '80's and '90's, I was a Nicolas Cage fan. I jumped on board early with the likes of Valley Girl, Rumble Fish, and The Cotton Club, where his performance as a crazed hitman tells of things to come. He cut a bizarre yet memorable career path that included Birdy, Raising Arizona, and Wild at Heart, where his personal love for all things Elvis got to play out bigtime. Then, he seemed to stall out in the early '90's - (don't) see, Amos & Andrew, Guarding Tess, and Honeymoon in Vegas. Like many, I was confounded and a bit miffed when - after winning an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas - he seemed to grab his career and willfully jump off a cliff.

After The Rock or Con Air - I can't recall which - Sean Penn referred to him as a "sellout hack" or some such. I must confess that I agreed - and continued to do so for nearly a decade. With the exceptions of Adaptation and The Weather Man, I found nothing appealing about his work, though I did occasionally check out some films, hoping against hope for a spark of the former eclectic star. It wasn't until late last year that I finally got it: Nicolas Cage is the William Shatner of our time.

Well, maybe not Shatner. But, Nic can sure chew some scenery like ol' Bill. My point is that Cage has morphed into the ultimate B-movie actor. Actually, I could argue he's always been that, it just took quite a while for some folks to catch on - myself included.

This perspective began to take hold of me when I went to see The Wicker Man last Fall. I am a huge fan of the original and knew it would be butchered and atrocious, and that's specifically why I went. This was on the heels of the over-hyped piece-of-crap that was Snakes on a Plane. I wanted to see a real B-movie, not a poseur, and felt that The Wicker Man just might fit the bill. And, boy, was I dead on. It was so bad that it actually made my ten best list for 2006. I laughed hysterically through lines like "Step away from the bike!" and "Killing me won't bring back your honey!" Did I mention the sight of Cage running around in a bear suit? And this is all played seriously.

With the start of 2007, I opted to test my theory. Ghost Rider fit dead-on. A really bad superhero flick, starring Cage and Eva Mendes' chest. The effects were ho-hum, but Cage sold it - he was clearly having a blast, and that's what made the movie for me. Today I went to seal the deal with Next, where he plays a guy who can see two minutes into his own future and make changes as needed. I ran into one problem: Next is actually a pretty good movie. Yes, the multinational baddies are one-dimensional and poor Julianne Moore just seems pissed that she's even there, but there's some inventive and entertaining stuff going on. It's not an A-movie, but it's not quite a B-movie either. Maybe call it a B+movie.

What this all comes around to is that I feel people like Sean Penn and me were too hard on Nic Cage. He's just a big geek - he named his son Kal-El, for chrissakes! - who wants to play fun parts in fun movies. (See also, Grindhouse below.) He doesn't care about accolades or being an actor's actor. He just wants to have a good time and hopes you'll get a kick out of it, too. With this in mind, I'm happy to say I can look forward to his forthcoming films yet again.