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Star Wars

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Painter of Lightsabers.

“Artist Jeff Bennett has invaded the cloying world of Thomas Kinkade with the full might of the Galactic Empire. In a series Bennett is calling Wars on Kinkade, the Painter of Light’s ethereally bland landscapes come under the iron fist of Star Wars storm troopers, Imperial Star Destroyers and Hoth-crushing AT-ATs.” General Veers, prepare your men for a surface attack: The Empire Strikes Kinkade.

Storm of Sabers.

Sigh…nobody ever listens to Ser Akbar. This has been languishing in the bookmarks for a bit: The Star Wars v. Game of Thrones subreddit. That’s cute.

The Emperor’s Cabinet.

General Veers, prepare your men for a whiskey, neat. The Emperor’s Cabinet, a.k.a. an AT-AT wet bar, made of plywood, mahogany, brass, and glass. Hey, Skywalker, don’t be getting drunk and toppling this beautiful imperial machinery.

Red Bricks Standing By.

“This has been a wild and exciting project for us, and it’s taken an international team of designers, engineers, structural consultants, model builders, and logistics personal over a year to bring this model from a conception to reality,’ Varszegi said in an email. ‘In one respect, designing it was the ‘easy’ part, as we were creating a scaled version of an actual toy construction set.’”

It may not have the detail of Lego Hogwarts, but pretty cool nonetheless: A life-size Lego X-Wing is unveiled in Times Square. “The model…has a wingspan of 44 feet and comes complete with R2-D2 and a full range of sound effects…[It] was made with 5,335,200 Lego bricks. That, according to Lego, makes it the largest model ever built, eclipsing the Lego robot at the Mall of America by some 2 million bricks.”

Mighty Ray Young.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation.”

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” — George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie.’ Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.” — Peter Jackson

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” — Terry Gilliam.

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” — James Cameron

The Master stops motion: R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013.

The Empire’s Last, Best Skeptic.

“In a statement from his three children, they said he ‘is one with the Force’ and thanked their father’s fans and friends for their longtime support. ‘Every time we find someone’s lack of faith disturbing, we’ll think of him.’”

Somebody had to speak truth to power: Richard LeParmentier, best known as Admiral Motti, 1946-2013. “The Pittsburgh-born actor worked regularly throughout the 70s and 80s, appearing in such films as Octopussy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

No Stranger to Jedi.

I’ll be honest. This rather egregious plot hole has been bothering me ever since Episode III. Now, at long last, witness Artoo’s real message to Obi-Wan.

Farewell, LucasArts.

“‘After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,’ Disney informed Game Informer in a statement. ‘As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.’”

It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. As part of their recent acquisition of the Star Wars empire, Disney decides to close down LucasArts. (A solid appreciation of their middle period is here.) As one of the wags at Coming Soon well put it, this deal is getting worse all the time!

Granted there hasn’t been a must-play Star Wars game since Knights of the Old Republic in 2003, and that was mostly on account of Bioware. But give credit where due – in the late 80′s and early 90′s, LucasArts had an unparalleled record of excellent games: Maniac Mansion, Zack McCracken, Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grimm Fandango, Dark Forces, and, of course, the original X-Wing.

Throughout, the LucasArts sign was a symbol of quality craftsmanship, and in many ways, they kept the torch of adventure games aloft after Infocom had closed up shop and Sierra’s Quest line had faltered. (Today, that torch is held by Telltale Games, where Sam and Max and Monkey Island live on.)

Still Scruffy-Looking.

Latino Review scores big news from the emerging Star Wars empire at Disney (and many Bothans died to bring them this information): Harrison Ford is officially signed to return as everyone’s favorite Corellian smuggler in the next set of Star Wars movies. Presumably he’ll be joining Luke and Leia in the JJ Abrams sequel trilogy, not the rumored Han Solo spin-off movie. Either way, don’t blow this, Han.

FWIW, as a Star Wars kid, I’m mostly OK with this ginormous SW revival over at the Mouse. The prequel trilogy — especially Attack of the Clones — already broke the seal in terms of bringing bad Star Wars into the world. So, even if this all seems extremely commercialized even for a franchise that was always driven by toy sales, I’m still curious to see other diverse and talented filmmakers playing in the great sandbox Lucas made. But JJ Abrams? Eh. I already saw his Star Wars movie back when it was called Star Trek.

Update: Mark Hamill discusses the current situation.

Better Off Sith.

Haverchuck and Schweiber? Sorry, those aren’t the nerds you’re looking for. The Mary Sue points the way to Star Wars re-envisioned as an 80′s teen comedy.

The Snowtroopers in the Cupboard.

By way of Geek Tyrant, photographer Avanaut makes snow and sand-flecked cinematic art from Star Wars action figures. Considerably more impressive than the “underground rebel base” playset I once made out of an Ethan Allen book case.

Empire Calls.

As seen on He Geek She Geek, Star Wars propaganda posters. “They’re kind of from all over the web…Some are on shirts, some are prints, some are just fan art.

B-Movies Go A-List.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • If Contagion wasn’t enough for 2011, Steven Soderbergh has assembled an impressive cast for some straight-to-video-ish action in the new trailer for Haywire, with Gina Carano, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. It doesn’t look all that great, but with Soderbergh and that cast, you never know.

  • Speaking of A-list casts down for some B-movie action, Ryan Gosling is a stunt driver by day and wheelman by nightin the red band trailer for Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, also with Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks. This got great reviews at Cannes, and, like Haywire, I’m intrigued by the personnel involved. But Oldboy has already cornered the market on hammer shenanigans.

  • In the not-too-distant future, Justin Timberlake has time on his side — or does he? — in the Comic-con trailer of Andrew Niccol’s In Time, also with Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfriend, Olivia Wilde, and Vincent Kartheiser. The timestamp thing is rather goofy, but Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show) is usually good for a smart sci-fi premise. I’m in.

  • Luke constructs a lightsaber, Han shoots up a shield generator, and wampas and sandstorms attack in this preview of the Star Wars Original Trilogy deleted scenes, coming soon to a Blu-Ray player near you. Sorry, I think you have to buy the prequels as well to get these.

  • And, not a movie trailer per se, but Rick Grimes and the gang are as ready as they’ll ever be for another round of the zombie apocalypse in the new trailer for Season 2 of The Walking Dead. I’m more excited about S2 of Game of Thrones personally, but this’ll do until the trouble gets here.

“No Ball Left Unbusted.”

As part of the rollout for Cowboys and Aliens, director (and former Dinner for Five host) Jon Favreau kicks off a series of interviews by sitting down with one of his stars, Harrison Ford. (This is just one section above — click through for the rest of them.) Particularly given how ornery or bored (or worse) Ford usually seems when chatting to the press, this is quite a fun interview, especially for the fanboy/fangirl-inclined. There’s life in the old Corellian yet.

This Will Be a Day Long Remembered.

Obi-Wan Kenobi ‘s demise is a defining moment in the stormtrooper-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who turned against the Empire at the end of the Clone Wars. What remains to be seen, however, is whether it galvanizes Kenobi’s followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war against the Rebel Alliance and gives further impetus to Emperor Palpatine to step up Stormtrooper recruitment.

After twenty years, we finally got him: Obi-Wan Kenobi is dead. “When the end came for Kenobi, he was found not in the remote uncharted areas of Wild Space and the Unknown Regions, where he has long been presumed to be sheltered, but in a massive compound about an hour’s drive west from the Tatooine capital of Bestine. He had been living under the alias ‘Ben’ Kenobi for some time.

The Clown and the Ringmaster.

‘I am serious,’ Nielsen replies. ‘And don’t call me Shirley.’ The line was probably his most famous — and a perfect distillation of his career.” First dramatic, then comic actor Leslie Nielsen, 1926-2010. (See also Matt Zoller Seitz’s appreciation.)

I’d say he was probably the most successful versatile director in Hollywood. He could do just about anything really well, from science fiction to cult thrillers to domestic dramas to westerns to romantic comedies.” To, of course, Star Wars films. Director Irvin Kershner, 1923-2010. (The great Kershner pic above via Quint at AICN.)

Regrets of the Jedi.

The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.

Thirty years after Empire, and as “new” deleted scenes appear from the OT (just in time for the Blu-Rays), ousted Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz reveals his desired take on Return of the JediThe discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone ‘like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,’ as Kurtz put it.” [Pic via here (although I almost went with the Han Solo in carbonite desk.)]

AT-ATta Boy!

General Veers, prepare your troops for a surface…trip to the dog park. In case you missed this in the Twitter feed, the All-Terrain Armored Transport finally gets a day in the sun in a well-constructed short, AT-AT Day Afternoon. I get the sense Berk would prefer this companion to the old, now-defunct apartment droid.

From the Annals of the Rebellion.

WITNESS the battle for the ice planet! BEHOLD the invasion of the cloud city! GAZE upon fascinating outer space dangers!” As part of the recent 30th anniversary festivities (which even drew Harrison Ford out of his shell), Cinematical and Star Wars.com post this spiffy fan-made trailer for the Empire “pre-make.” [Insert your own snarky and/or wincing sigh over the state of the actual prequels here.]

Render unto Vader.

Aside from cleaner ships, a shuttle sequence, a meaner Wampa, and a makeover of Cloud City, The Empire Strikes Back: The Special Edition remains relatively unchanged from its 1980 cut, when the film unwittingly helped to launch the Reagan era. When Americans who saw the team who ended 1977′s A New Hope beaming in triumph now scattered, desperate, and pursued by a much more menacing Empire, the national mood sagged. With Luke Skywalker crashing twice and Han Solo as conspicuously absent from the final scenes as the hostages in Iran were from U.S. soil, the Dark Side must have seemed so much quicker, easier, and more seductive at the polls that November. It may have been easy to write it off as Morning in America, but people knew deep down that it was a dark time for the Rebellion, indeed.

The Force is with you, young Skywalker…but you are not a Jedi yet.” Today marks the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, pretty easily my most formative film, and one of the main reasons I still love going to the movies every weekend. (Two of my earliest very-vivid memories are seeing the Empire costumes on display at Harrods before the opening — who is this Boba Fett character? — and later going to see Empire near Piccadilly Circus, with a big Vader billboard overhead.)

The quote above is from my 1997 review of the Special Edition re-release, and what I said then stands. For thirty years now as of today, I’ve been aspiring to be a Jedi, Zen-master, and/or scoundrel, in the stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder sense. Eh, one out of three ain’t bad.

Coruscant Travel.

“I was inspired a great deal by the work of Simon Page and his astrology series. If anyone enjoys this style of art I would highly recommend they check out his work. I also drew ideas from old Art Deco style prints and vintage science fiction posters from the 1960/70′s.” The LA Weekly talks with Justin Van Genderen, designer of the spiffy minimalist Star Wars posters above.

The Journey is the Reward.

Corridors make science-fiction believable, because they’re so utilitarian by nature – really they’re just a conduit to get from one (often overblown) set to another. So if any thought or love is put into one, if the production designer is smart enough to realise that corridors are the foundation on which larger sets are ‘sold’ to viewers, movie magic is close at hand.” By way of Lotta, Den of Geek‘s Martin Anderson sings the praises of the sci-fi corridor. Lots of great eye-candy here.

Good Germans | Poor Little Rich Boy | Rusty Fan.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • Terrence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard and that scientology fella plot to kill Hitler in the latest trailer for Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie. (I think I can guess how the Fuhrer takes the news.)

  • Jamal Malik looks to win 20 million rupees and the girl of his dreams in the trailer for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, with Dev Patel and character actor Irrfan Khan. (Which reminds me, I tried out for Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? once in NYC — I got a perfect score on the pre-test and still didn’t make the cut, meaning I got axed by dint of my sheer, boring personality. Hmm, let’s move on.)

  • And, though it was withering in development hell for so long that it’s now woefully out-of-date, Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, and Kristen Bell — in a slave-Leia costume, no less — brave road trip woes, William Shatner, and the varied shocktroops and minions of Lucas the Hutt in the trailer for Kyle Newman’s Fanboys, also featuring Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams paying their respective mortgages. (Yes, this looks terrible, but it seemed somehow GitM-appropriate, and did I mention the irrepressibly cute Kristen Bell dresses up as Leia?)

  • Imperial Pretensions.

    You’ve probably already seen this making the rounds today. But since it’s definitely in GitM’s wheelhouse, The Empire Strikes Barack. A few inspired moments therein: the cantina, Admirals Ozzel (Penn) and Motti (Dean), Emperor Bubba, the media barrage, etc.

    A Great Disturbance…

    …as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” Scientists at NASA catch a glimpse of cosmic devastation on a galactic scale, as a “death star galaxy,” fueled by a black hole, destroys its neighbor with a beam of radiation. “The telescope images show the bully galaxy shooting a stream of deadly radiation particles into the lower section of the other galaxy, which is about one-tenth its size…Tens of millions of stars, including those with orbiting planets, are likely in the path of the deadly jet…If Earth were in the way — and it’s not — the high-energy particles and radiation of the jet would in a matter of months strip away the planet’s protective ozone layer and compress the protective magnetosphere.” And what does that mean? “‘You would basically render extinct all surface forms of life,’ Tyson said. ‘But it may be that subterranean life is…immune to this kind of violence in the universe.‘” You heard the man…start digging.

    Imperial Hubris…or Conspiracy?

    How could any pilot shoot a missile into a 2 meter-wide exhaust port, let alone a pilot with no formal training, whose only claim to fame was his ability to ‘bullseye womprats’ on Tatooine? This shot, according to one pilot, would be ‘impossible, even for a computer.’ Yet, according to additional evidence, the pilot who allegedly fired the missile turned off his targeting computer when he was supposedly firing the shot that destroyed the Death Star. Why have these discrepancies never been investigated, let alone explained?” By way of Triptych Cryptic, Uncomfortable Questions: Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job? True, it’s not as devastatingly on point as The Onion‘s recent Bush Refuses to Set Timetable for Withdrawal of Head from White House Banister (“I am going to finish what I set out to accomplish here, no matter how unpopular my decision may be, or how much my head hurts while stuck between these immovable stairway posts.“) Still, decently amusing nonetheless…I was sold on it by the pic of Palpatine reading My Pet Bantha.

    Steamwars and MechaElrond.

    AICN’s Moriarty points the way to these worth-perusing Star Wars/Steampunk mash-up sketches. And, also via AICN, Hugo Weaving will voice Megatron in Michael Bay’s The Transformers. Can’t say I’m all that interested in Transformers (or any other Michael Bay project. for that matter), but Weaving invariably adds a touch of class to sci-fi/fantasy proceedings.

    Peevishness, Palpatine, and Parselmouth.

    By way of other, more frequently updated blogs, some amusing links to wile away the hours: the Curb Your Enthusiasm soundboard [LMG], the Emperor takes an important call [DangerousMeta], and Your Own Personal Samuel [Webgoddess] Use ‘em at your own risk.

    Han Shoots First…

    …and don’t y’all forget it. In response to
    widespread fanboy outrage (and, ok, the chance to make more money), Lucasfilm announces they’ll release the unadulterated original trilogy on DVD this fall. As the AICN crew wryly put it, this will be a day long remembered

    Digital Empire.

    “It costs about $1,200 for a print and about $200 for a digital print. So what you do is charge the distributor the same $1,200 they would ordinarily be charged, and $1,000 of it goes into a pot that eventually pays for all the projectors and everything. In about five years you would basically reconvert the entire industry.” TIME‘s Richard Corliss discusses Indy 4, the Star Wars TV show, and the future of cinema with a “retired” George Lucas.

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