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.”
“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
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.”
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.)
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.
In the trailer bin of late:
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.“
“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.)
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 Jedi “The 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.)]
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.
“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.
“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.
In the trailer bin of late:
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.
“…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.
“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.
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.
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.
…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…
Now bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympics (past the deadline), Hoth. That’ll never work. Even notwithstanding the wampa attacks, the tauntauns would freeze before they reached the first marker. (By way of Webgoddess.) Update: In very loosely related news, Landocalrissian Butler? (Via Cheesedip)
After the GOP co-opt the Star Wars universe for their own nefarious purposes, George Lucas makes an appearance with House Democrats (including his own congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi.) The Republican video (shown at CPAC) “depicted GOPers as the virtuous rebels, being pursued by ‘Darth Nancy’ and her imperial henchmen, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Democratic campaign chief Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).” Um, yeah, you guys own every branch of government, your boy in office is ignoring the law and desperately trying to wrest power from the Senate, and you’re the Alliance. C’mon now, at least the Yankees own up to it.
R.I.P. Phil Brown 1916-2006, who withstood the blacklist and is best remembered as Uncle Owen. (He joins Aunt Beru, who passed in 2000 (9/14).) And, also in unhappy news, farewell to the Bluths, who’ve gone the way of all good and tragically misunderstood television families…for now.
Stabilize your rear deflectors, watch for enemy fighters…Also in today’s movie bin is the trailer for 5-22-77, a low-budget paean to seventies fanboys in which John Francis Daley (a.k.a. Sam Weir of Freaks & Geeks, all grown up) must overcome all manner of obstacles in order to catch a showing of the original Star Wars. Can Haverchuck come? (Official Site.)
“You must feel the Force around you, here; between you, me, the treat, the squirrel, everywhere!…yes, even between the land and the frisbee.” Ok, I know this is wrong on a lot of levels, and I’ve even gone on record (4/9) as being opposed to dressing up animals like Star Wars characters in the past. (Caped crusaders, tho’, are another matter.) Nevertheless, my sister‘s boyfriend Ethan saw this particular outfit and thought it screamed Berkeley, and, well, he does look ready to lay a Jedi-by-way-of-Wookie smackdown, doesn’t he? At any rate, happy halloween out there, y’all, and be safe.
Update: In barely related news, Yoda channels Honey Daniels.
R.I.P. William Hootkin 1948-2005, a.k.a. Jek Porkins, Red Six. Between he and Michael “Ozzel” Sheard, it’s been a bad couple of months for Star Wars role players. Ken Colley, Richard Le Parmentier, John Hollis, Julian Glover, Denis Lawson, and John Ratzenberger: Take your vitamins!
AICN posts screen caps of the Episode III DVD’s deleted scenes, which seem to include an extended (and more grisly) opening and Yoda’s touch-down on Dagobah. Also on the fanboy front, Wired‘s cover story this month is a discussion with a svelte Peter Jackson on King Kong and KongisKing.Net, with accompanying photo gallery. Is Naomi Watts trying to make a run at Tilda’s Nico?
“The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities, some considered to be…unnatural.” Along those lines, Darth Vader has an uncanny knack for reading minds (with the aid of the Burger Moff) in this decent online version of Twenty Questions. (Via Tessa.)
“Watching the original ‘Star Wars’ movie as a mathematically inclined 11-year-old, Helen Greiner dreamed of someday creating a robot like the heroic R2-D2. After enduring plenty of lean years chasing that elusive vision as a co-founder of iRobot Corp., Greiner can now boast a product that whirs and chirps much like the character she to this day calls her ‘personal hero.’” The Globe profiles iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, whose company boasts Roomba, Scooba, and the Packbot, a military minesweeper that, if Greiner has her druthers, won’t be breaking Asimov’s First Law anytime soon.
Well, that was a happy surprise. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is by no means a perfect film. But, the reviews are right — this one’s miles above the other two prequels, and definitely can be considered in the same breath as Jedi. Sure, there’s a bad movie occasionally lingering in the shadows like a Sith, but for the most part this entry manages to capture some of that ole Star Wars feel, particularly in the opening rescue attempt and final hour. (And, unlike Menace and Clones, this one actually improves on a second viewing.)
So, what’s good? Well, while Ian McDiarmid gets in some choice scenery-chewing (particlarly once he goes Jedi) and Ewan McGregor steals the show with his canniest Alec Guinness impression yet, Hayden Christiansen is actually surprisingly decent this time around. The (mercifully brief) love scenes between he and a barely-used Natalie Portman are still stilted and sluggish, sure, but otherwise Christiansen acquits himself much better (It turns out the whiny-teenager schtick of Clones may have indeed been an acting choice.)
Whatsmore, barring a few hiccups here and there (Yoda really shouldn’t be used as Basil Exposition — It makes his syntax sound even more ridiculous), a lot of the “let’s take a meeting” scenes that so marred the first two prequels have a real dynamism to ‘em in Sith. In fact, dare I say it, I actually found the court intrigue somewhat interesting this time — With Anakin caught between the machinations of Chancellor Palpatine and the distrust of the increasingly intransigent Jedi Order, there’re no tears shed over the taxation of trade routes or somesuch, and hardly a Jar Jar sighting to be had.
Our old embarrassment Mistah Binks may be sidelined this go around (as are a lot of the other random, useless characters of the first two prequels: I’m looking at you, Captain Typho), but Sith takes pleasure in harking back to old friends from the OT, among them an extended cameo by Chewbacca, a brief shot of Wayne “Scorpius” Pygram as Grand Moff Tarkin, and several scenes set in the Tantive IV. I was worried these types of nods would seem blatant and graceless, but for the most part they were handed quite well, and, indeed, turned out to be definite fanboy crowd-pleasers.
Yep, there’s a lot to like here…the opening shot, General Grievous, the Coruscant opera, all the amazing design flourishes by the ILM guys. In fact, even stuff that has no business working, like Ewan riding that goofy lizard all over Utapau, somehow ended up being kinda Tauntaun-like and un-prequel-ish.
But…that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. I’ve already mentioned the love scenes, and they’re pretty egregious. And at times, frankly, the film still just goes slack. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s final conversation before the Big Duel (the one that’s being quoted for its obvious Dubya references) should be a climactic moment in the saga, but it ends up seeming kinda stilted and poorly written. (“My allegiance is to the republic, and democracy…and, and cheese!”) Similarly the mano-a-mano between Yoda and the Emperor should seem one for the ages. But it’s never quite clear exactly why Yoda chooses to pull a Bishop-from-Aliens at the end, and lines like “Not if anything to say about it I have” just stop the film dead.
And, as a fanboy aside: While there are plenty of amazing and well-realized new worlds in Episode III, they all seem like they’re 30 seconds away from each other, with people popping back and forth between Coruscant and the Outer Rim in mid-sentence. What the heck happened to technology in the intervening two decades between III and IV? For some reason, Artoo loses tons of functionality, the Death Star takes 20 years to build, and the Millennium Falcon spends long stretches of time traveling in hyperspace, when back in the day Jedi apparently just snapped their fingers to get from place to place?
Also, why would Padme get kicked out of the Senate just for having a baby? And, for that matter, why is prenatal care so godawful in the Republic? Even notwithstanding the surprise-twins thing, that birthing robot with the scoop-hands looked like a torture droid.
But, obviously, these are nit-picks, and the fact that I’m picking nits rather than huge tumescent tumors from Sith is a mark of how much better this outing is than Clones. Ok, the end of the film drags just a bit, and the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel isn’t quite as viscerally exciting as the Maul melee of Menace, but for the most part I sat through Sith — both times! — with a big fanboy grin on my face. He definitely whiffed twice, but on his third swing, Lucas at least hit a triple here…it’s just too bad he didn’t recapture his mojo earlier. To paraphrase Palpatine, “Old fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand…“