Monday, May 20, 2013

The future of Star Wars - Part 1 - Animation

Since Disney's acquisition of the entire Star Wars franchise from George Lucas last year, there has already been and there will will be some interesting developments. The first I want to highlight here is something that was just announced, a new Star Wars animated series to take place between the prequels and the original trilogy.

Entitled Star Wars: Rebels, it will conceivably follow the saga of the genesis of The Rebel Alliance from the end of Star Wars, Episode II: Revenge of the Sith to the beginning of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope "an era spanning almost two decades never-before explored on-screen. Rebels takes place in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape."

Screenwriter/producer Simon X-Men: First Class Kinberg will be joined by Greg Young Justice Weisman and Star Wars: Clone Wars supervising director Dave Filoni as Executive Producers on the new series "scheduled to premiere in fall 2014 as a one-hour special telecast on Disney Channel" and then "will be followed by a series on Disney XD channels around the world."

Filoni himself did provide a tidbit of information, it appears that they will be working at least in part from the late Ralph McQuarrie's original concept art possibly for some spacecraft and environmental designs such as the painting he did of the Death Star battle above. It makes sense to use the ideas that evolved into the imagery that is known now the world over.

In March, Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars: The Clone Wars was winding down it's production on the series : "While the studio is no longer producing new episodes for Cartoon Network, we're continuing production on new Clone Wars story arcs that promise to be some of the most thrilling adventures ever seen." It's unclear at this time if these will be shown by Disney, if they will be Web-Exclusives or Direct to DVD/BD content.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I bought this for a dollar!

The RoboCop statue which I have personally partially crowdfunded through Kickstarter has reached a milestone in it's completion. Since the statue to be erected in Detroit achieved it's funding in March 2011, Fred Barton sculpted the cyborg which was 3D scanned and enlarged. Then it was physically fabricated and has now been assembled in foam, wax, clay and steel, standing 10-feet-tall.

Next it will be cast in bronze from this for it's final form. See more photos here.

Sadly the near-dystopian future Paul Verhoeven envisioned for Detroit in 1987 is almost a reality with the city itself insolvent due to decline in the car industry it was famous for, as well as mismanagement and corruption. Forbes named it the most miserable city in the US with 18% unemployment, a third of residents living in poverty and staggeringly high crime rates.

A damning report was published on Monday by bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to handle the ailing city's finances.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jack will Live Another Day

In 2002, I began watching 24, a new drama series centered around a pretty lethal secret agent-type Jack Bauer played by Keifer Sutherland. I felt it was certainly a bold move for Fox to deal terrorism on U.S. soil so soon after 9/11. The first season was a very interesting concept and paced well but despite enjoying it I wasn't 100% sure about preparing to commit to another 24 episodes of the same thing for another season. 

The first episode of season 2 had Jack ask for a protected witness against a terror suspect brought to the CTU agency. After some exposition which highlighted that the witness was into kiddie-porn, Jack draws a weapon and shoots the witness through the heart in front of his astonished superior George Mason. Jack then demands a hacksaw which he uses to decapitate the dead witness in the hope that the severed head will be used to gain favour with the terror suspect and infiltrate his organisation

Mason, is almost freaking out at this, more than a little skeptical of Jack's unorthodox methods, “That's the problem with people like you, George!" Jack tells him "You want results, but you never want to get your hands dirty. I'd start rolling up your sleeves.” 

From that moment on 24 was on the very top of of my TV watching list above all else until it's finale in May 2010. If nothing else and although being classed as entertainment, I saw it almost as a vindication of some of the reprehensible things I've had to do in the field myself. Jack and I have had at times to set aside morality in order to preserve the way of life you enjoy.

The problem is, in drama it works - but I can tell you it doesn't in reality [and believe me I've tried]. So it was probably a good thing in retrospect that 24 producers toned down the highly illegal torture scenarios after getting a personal visit from Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan who taught the laws of war at West Point. He told them that the popularity of 24 among the troops was breeding unhealthy ideas as well as damaging America's reputation abroad.

The policy shift and the writers strike forced the senior writers [including Star Trek franchise writers Manny Coto and Brannon Braga for season 7 and 8 and Homeland's Alex Gansa for Season 8] to focus more on political espionage and geopolitics and the result was actually much darker without the excessive illegal torture scenes and in my opinion, more enjoyable.

It has just been announced that Jack Bauer will return to TV screens, and not to the silver screen as was once presumed, in 24: Live Another Day, a 12-episode miniseries to air on Fox in the summer of 2014. Colour me thrilled.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy 69th Lucas Day!

Today we once again celebrate the Birthday of the visionary film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur, George Walton Lucas, Jr. who created Star Wars and Indiana Jones

While he has in his 68th year signed away all his creations to the Walt Disney Corporation - which is probably not a bad thing, we must nevertheless celebrate and acknowledge his true genius.

Thank You George.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Iron Man 3, extreme Extremis

There was never any doubt in the universe that there would be a third outing for my favourite super-hero of all after the success of the previous instalments coupled with the cinematic phenomenon that was The Avengers. With the loss of Jon Favreau however, who favoured Cowboys and Aliens [how did that work out Jon?] over bookending one of the greatest trilogies of cinematic history, it meant the quality was uncertain. Even when Fav’s replacement, Shane Black was announced it was met with excitement and trepidation. Black was a very unlikely left-of-field choice to take over as director of something as rich in super-hero lore as Iron Man. The man wrote Lethal Weapon, the excessively dark original movie where Martin Riggs was mentally unhinged and had suicidal tendencies. Black previously directed Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so as potential candidates lined up for the job, Downey pushed for Black to take the reins and got him.

For Iron Man 3, Black took the best 'Armoured Avenger' saga from the 2000’s and seamlessly melded it with Marvel-style humour not seen since the 'Bronze Age' of comic books - and it worked! He managed to prevent everything from appearing silly somehow, especially the ideas that could never work in a live action semi-realistic universe. Even I was apprehensive about how Iron Man’s comic book arch-nemesis The Mandarin would be manifested considering he was both personification of pure evil as well as the wielder of 10 magic alien rings! Favreau had earlier avoided The Mandarin citing that the villain was “too fantastical”. Rather than being dismissive of the character outright, Black found a uniquely unorthodox way of dealing with this and the result is nothing short of pure genius - once you get over the initial shock! Black’s own signature wacky white-guy and straight-laced black-guy team-up even made an appearance here as Stark and Rhodey had a shootout with some bad-guys. For a couple of minutes it was like being in a cross between Lethal Weapon and Black’s other masterpiece The Last Boyscout.

Robert Downey Jr. obviously returns as Tony Stark, becoming the oldest actor to play a superhero in modern times. At 47, Downey showed no signs of slowing up and actually had far more action sans-suit in this instalment than any other. Stark’s debilitating issue this time is not the shrapnel near his heart or his over-fondness of fermented vegetable drinks, but instead nightmares and panic attacks borne from his experiences in The Avengers. Additionally, despite his personal growth, he is still a rich asshole who delivers some tactless home-truths to a young boy who helps him on his way. Once again Downey delivers a superb performance as the perpetually flawed Stark, a man who must now regain that which is so easily lost: confidence in oneself.

Stark is backed up by his ever-suffering girlfriend Pepper Potts [Gwyneth Paltrow] and Don Chedle as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, no longer the sinister-sounding War Machine but the flag waving, Captain America-inspired Iron Patriot! Guy Pierce, someone who up to recently avoided these types of movies turned in a credible performance as a version of Dr. Killian from the Extremis comic-book storyline but it is Sir Ben Kingsley’s mind-fuck performance as the nefarious Mandarin that should net him his most deserved accolades since Ghandi. Supporting this grand adventure are Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan, The Pacific’s James Badge Dale portrays Savin, William Die Hard 2 Sadler appears as the POTUS and Paul Bettany’s vocal tones are once again lent to J.A.R.V.I.S. who certainly has more dialog than before.

The action here is probably more infrequent than in previous instalments, with little of note happening until the end of Act 1. However this paves way for more thoughtful character development which many said was lacking in Iron Man 2 in favour of “brainless action”. On the other hand, while it’s easy to understand some individuals disappointment with slower-paced second Act, I can’t fathom why the finale’s extraordinary finale, a true example of classic spectacular super-hero adventure film-making couldn’t turn the most staunch nay-sayer into a true believer unless… …unless they’re dead inside!

It’s far to say Iron Man 3 is more of a direct sequel to The Avengers even though it’s a bookend to an impressive trilogy of movies that are close to rivalling the sheer perfection of The Dark Knight trilogy. We have been with Tony Stark on his incredible journey and while there will likely be another appearance in The Avengers 2 and speculation is mounting on Iron Man 4 considering the phenomenal box-office success of this movie, the chapter in Iron Man’s book that was opened with the first movie in 2008 is now closed. If a new one is opened it should be something unique but bookended in it’s own right so we’re not left hanging when Downey Jr. finally says “I’m too old for this shit” – a distinct possibility considering how tight he rolls with Black who wrote that line before.

Final Verdict: This is a classic end to an explosive adventure and as a true fan of Iron Man I couldn't be happier with this finale. It is easily best written of the trilogy, certainly the darkest and most dramatic and it has the best score - this time from Brian Tyler. It's sagging second act and lack of Scarlett Johannson prevent it from achieving the rating exemption granted to Iron Man 2 however, but it undoubtedly deserves every star of the highest rating possible.

Colonel Creedon rating: *****+

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

UFO hearings in Washington nothing but cry for attention

That 100 seconds of madness was brought to you by The Citizen Hearing on Disclosure [CHD], a week-long event that began on April 29th at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. with the aim of gaining traction for a movement demanding that the U.S. government come clean about Extra-Terrestrials. The $600,000 event which was free and open to the public, took the form of a simulated congressional hearing just like those conducted a few blocks away on Capitol Hill. Interestingly the “hearings” were presided over by some who have a wealth of experience - six former members of congress!

Former U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and five of his former colleagues, former Senator Maurice Gravel and former representatives Lynn  Woolse, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Darlene Hooley and Merill Cook presided over 30 hours of testimony delivered by about 40 individuals associated with the Paradigm Research Group, which works "to advocate in all ways possible for an end to a government imposed truth embargo of the facts surrounding an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race." Bartlett doubts we have Extra Terrestrials among us bet he said he’s keeping an open mind and would consider people quite “arrogant to assume we're the only intelligent life in the universe."

Colonel "Whopper" Creedon, UNETIDA's Director of Intelligence said that the conference initially had concerned his organisation due to the fact that some "witnesses" may be interpreted as credible and the fact that it's location and members may spark "unhealthy" media interest. Creedon lamented the fact that as a UN representative he had to uphold Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because often "free speech is more trouble than it's worth".

UNETIDA need not have worried however, for all intents and purposes most major news outlets completely ignored the event with only The New York Times delivering a bland report and British leftist rag The Guardian treating it derisively, paying more attention to the $20k the committee members were paid for their appearances than any of the "evidence". Additionally, Yahoo News all but laughed out loud. What's worse is that even conspiracy-nut haven sites like Ghost Theory were just as dismissive of "the CHD’s futile attempt at legitimizing their mission. They seem disorganized, ill-equipped, and without a clue as to what they really want from the government." 

Of particular note Ghost Theory also highlighted the testimony of once-esteemed Canadian Defence Minister Paul Hellyer who laid out "a litany of charges including accusing the US Government of harbouring two living ET.s". This was also the man who in 2005 accused President Bush of plotting an "Intergalactic War". "That's utterly ridiculous" added Colonel Creedon who served a tour in the White House as Military Assistant to the Deputy National Security Advisor for Extra-Terrestrial Defence during the Bush Administration "VP Cheney never involved President Bush in the Intergalactic War plans".

Source: Bruce Russell via Huff Post
Additional: The Guardian / The New York Times / Ghost Theory