Super Megafest 2012: Superman, Hercules & TRON

31-Dec-13 1:29 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

Super Megafest 2013 was held last month, and I've not yet posted my report from the 2012 event. Today being New Year's Eve, this is my last chance to not fall two years behind.

Super Megafest is held every November the weekend before Thanksgiving in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's an odd panoply of minor celebrities, comic book artists, former pro wrestlers, and nostalgia. This was my sixth time attending Super Megafest, with previous shows having brought encounters with Larry Storch, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Christopher Lambert, and Sean Astin, among others. Personalized autographs from each year's attractions are sold for anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the celebrity's star power, but the one-hour Q&A panels are what really draw me to the event. Some celebrities (like Patrick Stewart) are better in a crowd than they are one-on-one, and it's fun to share in the knowledgeable yet zany questions an audience can ask.

The first panel I attended in 2012 starred Dean Cain, best known as Superman from the television series The Adventures of Lois and Clark. When I asked, he debunked the myth that Gerard Christopher, who'd previously played Superboy, had originally been offered the part. In fact, the final two candidates for the role of Clark Kent were Cain and Kevin Sorbo, who was also in attendance at that Super Megafest. Fortunately, there was no animosity between the two, as Sorbo not getting that television role in 1993 made him available a year later to star in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Unfortunately, a throwdown between Superman and Hercules was also not on the agenda.

Cain talked about the good fortune he'd had in life, from signing with the Buffalo Bills football team after college to a knee injury that led him to his successful acting career. Despite joining the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 two years after the show's launch, the cast made him feel welcome, an experience for which he is forever grateful.

Even when his acting career has encountered resistance, he's taken it with good humor. When he was cast as Superman, some critics decried his one-quarter Japanese heritage, saying, "We wanted Superman, not Sushiman!" Cain roared with laughter when recounting this tale, saying, "I love racial jokes!"

For those pursuing an acting career of their own, he recommended having a thick skin and not taking things personally. "You'll hear 'no' a million times; just assume they're wrong every time," he coached. Often, the decision isn't even a reflection on an actor's skill: "Nepotism is alive and well" in Hollywood, he said. The only slack he cuts his own family is in World of Warcraft, which he plays with his then-12-year-old son.

The next panel starred Bruce Boxleitner, who held the title role in TRON and was John Sheridan on Babylon 5. A sci-fi actor whose career spans decades, he recounted being on the set of TRON Legacy and pulling aside actor Garrett Hedlund, who played Sam Flynn. This movie's title is no coincidence, he warmly reminded Hedlund; it's what he and Jeff Bridges and will be remembered for. "TRON will live on long after us," he said. Then, turning cold, he warned: "Don't f*$% it up." Expect more TRON movies to come.

Boxleitner also commented on films that had come out that summer, such as the Alien prequel Prometheus, which he described as "a lot of promise and no delivery." For lack of better options when stuck on an airplane, he watched the in-flight showing of a Twilight movie. "Thank God [that series] is over."

Boxleitner has tried his hand at a variety of genres and media and continues to flex his creative muscles. When asked if he prefers comedic or dramatic characters, he replied, "I don't prefer. There's comedy in every character, and drama in every character." He did some voice acting for the video game Spec Ops: The Line, which he thought would "be much bigger and make me much richer." (Nonetheless, I was humbled when he recorded a segment for the Open Apple podcast, which can be heard at 5:40 into our June 2013 episode.) He's currently developing a steampunk television series called Lantern City, which so far has only a graphic novel prequel. He has also tried his hand at writing novels — he autographed my copy of Frontier Earth — but would says that his 2001 novel Searcher will be his last, saying that he is "not a natural-born writer."

Other stars I got to meet at Super Megafest 2013 included Kevin Sorbo and John Wesley Shipp, the latter having starred as the DC superhero The Flash in the 1990 television series of the same name. Both Sorbo and Shipp recorded Open Apple bumpers for me, free with their autograph, which I much appreciated. At an unhurried moment, Shipp also reflected on how fortunate he's been in Hollywood. Though he doesn't necessarily believe in a deity that favors him — that would be unfair to the actors who didn't get the parts for which he was cast — he does marvel at the fortune that has brought him steady work, both large and small. I appreciated hearing from Shipp, Cain, and others that actors, who themselves are often deified by pop culture, can still be humble and grateful.

Finally, I got Stan Lee's autograph, but he did not have a panel (at least one I attended), nor did he offer personalized autographs.

Super Megafest continues to offer a unique cast of celebrities with which to entice geeks a city 20 miles west of Boston. As you'll find in my 2013 report, it has its growing pains, but to which I am happy to contribute. In the meantime, enjoy the below photo gallery. I attended the event with my former co-worker Gene; visit his blog for more details and photos!

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Duck Tape TRON

22-Aug-11 9:04 PM by
Filed under Humor; Comments Off

This TRON video came out just today and is sure to be a viral hit — so I'm doing my part and sharing it with Showbits readers, my favorite Internet denizens.

Has TRON's light cycle scene ever been so masterfully recreated than by this work of TRON Guy? I met Jay Maynard at ROFLCon a few years ago, and this advertisement for Duck-brand duct tape is the perfect amalgamation of his stereotyped perception and actual personality. Besides, what genius is it to advertise a specific brand of tape? It's like comedian Steven Wright has said: you never see an advertisement for string. All it takes is one ad to put your product ahead of the competition. I'd say Duck Tape just soared well past the other brands on the grid.

(Hat tip to 8 Bit Weapon)

Reimagining TRON 1.0

21-Apr-10 9:52 AM by
Filed under Films, Trailers; 1 comment.

In the eight months before the release of TRON Legacy, fans are whetting their need for new media by reinterpreting the franchise's origin. TRON, now 28 years old, reflects the era in which it was crafted: crude CGI and evil supercomputers aren't as much en vogue now as they were when both fields were nascent. What if it had been made thirty years later … or earlier?

Trailers have also changed a great deal over the decades, having once been more verbose, lackluster, and narrated, as evidenced by this 1982 preview for TRON:

Now let's take that same source material and recut it into something a bit more exciting:

A drastic improvement, no? The new trailer even runs the same length as the original, showing how much more effectively one can use an equal amount of time. But imagine how disappointed it would be to have been enticed into the theater by such a stunning an action-packed film, only to witness these opening credits:



These credits are designed in the style of Saul Bass, the graphic designer and filmmaker whose credits include North by Northwest, West Side Story, and Love in the Afternoon. As stylistic as TRON itself was, I don't find it's one that meshes well with this colorful intro.

How much of these design aspects can we expect to see in TRON Legacy? Will it be a successor in aesthetic as well as plot? Its first trailer bodes well; it's not long until we'll know conclusively.

(Hat tip to 8 Bit Weapon)

TRON Legacy: A New Generation

10-Mar-10 12:00 PM by
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The fervor is mounting as a well-orchestrated hype machine continues to dole out details about this December's release of TRON Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic about a game programmer transported to the digital realm he created. Building on a previous proof-of-concept and then the same scene recreated as a teaser trailer, a full-length trailer for TRON Legacy has now been revealed.

Whereas the TRON 2.0 video game and subsequent comic book starred the son of Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), TRON's programmer, TRON Legacy appears to focus on the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges).

This trailer reveals more than just an apparent replacement of back-lit animation with CGI. The plot indicates that, by the time his son comes looking for him, Flynn has been lost in the world of TRON for at least two days. Consider the implications! In the 28 years since the original TRON, advances in technology have produced computers that run at 3 GHz and can perform ten petaflops (1015 floating point operations per second). For one's consciousness to exist at that rate for 172,800 seconds would seem an eternity (a concept previously seen in such sci-fi as Star Trek: Voyager). After such a long separation from humanity, Flynn Jr. would understandably find his father older, wiser, and possibly far more sinister. As much as I hate to see heroes become villains — I'm looking at you, Hal Jordan — I recognize that such a plot device can make for excellent narrative. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner obviously have faith in the script to have signed on to reprise their roles; we shall know in just a few months whether that faith is well-placed.

As with the original film, look for a simultaneous video game tie-in, TRON Evolution, on Windows, Sony PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360. And to further explore the concept of life inside your computer, check out the television series ReBoot.

(Hat tip to ComingSoon.net)

TRON's Legacy Revealed

07-Aug-09 11:38 AM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

While I was hanging with geeks in Kansas City, other geeks were congregating at Comic-Con, a veritable explosion of all things sci-fi. Many exciting announcements and previews came out of the event, not the least of which is a trailer for TRON Legacy, heretofore known as TR2N:

Although this trailer contains original footage, its script is almost identical with that of the proof of concept video released this past fall. In fact, Apple brands this new trailer as a VFX concept test. I've never known a studio to stick so closely to the same demo. Whereas the film was previously scheduled for a 2011 release, we're now looking at December 2010 — so shouldn't we be seeing new scenes, not rehashing old ones?

Regardless of its originality, the above trailer is beautiful and worth watching several times. Accompanying it was the launch of several promotional sites, such as Flynn Lives and Home of TRON. These are just two of many outlets to tide you over until the 1982 film gets the sequel it deserves. Play the game. Read the interview. Watch the RiffTrax.

Whatever your choice, I suspect that in a year, we'll learn that it's not so easy on the other side of the screen.

RiffTrax on TRON: It's Hard to Overstate My Satisfaction

22-May-09 1:03 PM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

I love TRON. I love RiffTrax. Combine the two, and I'm in heaven.

I was witness to this union five years ago at a now-defunct local arthouse cinema, when comedian Chris Hanel and his troupe arrived for a live riffing of the film, MST3K-style. Just a few years later, RiffTrax was born, and then iRiffs, allowing independent parties to publish their riffs. So Hanel & Co. dusted off their script, brought it up to date, and published the first TRON iRiff:

If there's one thing I love as much as movies, it's video games. well before I actually played the Xbox 360 game Portal, I was enamoured with its end credits song, masterfully written by Jonathan Coulton. It's an admiration I share with Bill Corbett, who actually performed on stage with Jonathan, Paul, and Storm one lucky night last year.

That talent was recently reunited when Bill invited the musicians to the RiffTrax studios:

The end product of this grueling training: yet another riff on TRON!

I'm such a fan of Jonathan Coulton and his many varied works that I was a bit surprised to not find his RiffTrax sample as amusing as Hanel's iRiff — but it's hard to judge a 90-minute project on just a two-minute cut. One can never have too much TRON paraphernalia, so both groups will be getting my financial endorsement, regardless. Look for the final release of the Coulton riff on May 26.

(Hat tip to Satellite News)

TRON 2: More Than a Game

08-Oct-08 7:23 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 3 comments.

You don't need to be a dedicated Showbits reader to have observed my passion for TRON. It was upon its 25th anniversary last year that I reflected: "Computers and electronic games were both still new media back [in 1982]… These nascent industries could've been horribly misrepresented to the unwashed masses, and there surely was a degree of artistic license on [TRON's] silver screen, with its AIs, lasers, and whatnot. But the way its digital society was structured and how software interacted with each other and with their users worked on both digital and HCI levels."

It was at that time that rumors started to circulate of a sequel. I was of course hesitant at the prospect of some disrespectful director cashing in on the brand by rehashing the plot using modern technology and context. Fortunately, the last few months have alleviated my concerns, starting with a trailer for TR2N, as its called. The preview seems to contain no actual film footage, but its debut at Comic-Con revealed the cooperation of a key franchise figure. Watch it before Disney's lawyers yank it off YouTube yet again:

Like WarGames 2, TR2N is not a remake, update, or reboot — it is a true sequel. Its awareness of present-day cyberspace harkens back to when I asked visual effects specialist John Knoll "Do you think a Tron movie could succeed nowadays?". He responded:

I don't know! Whatever made [TRON] not successful in the first place would probably still be present in a remake, if they went with the same story. The fundamental plot devices are anachronistic now, so it'd need to be updated to be Internet-aware, with much less emphasis on mainframe computers and a much higher emphasis on personal computers and small portable devices. You could go in the Matrix direction, where some aspect of his personality is transferred over into the computer and they're linked in a way.

Another good sign: IGN recently interviewed Jeff Bridges, who seems genuinely enthusiastic about the project. As Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward told me, "It's neat that he sounds so excited to be doing this. It's not like he needs the money or anything."

The IMDb lists TR2N for a 2011 release. I hope that gives the cast and crew time to produce a final product that we, too, can be excited about.

It Looks Like Worcester's Day

06-Sep-07 12:02 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 3 comments.

Here's a post of limited geographic appeal — but as I suspect many of my readers are concentrated in my area, here goes:

Worcester Living, a bimonthly magazine of Central Massachusetts, recently printed an interview with Templeton native and resident Richard S. Kendall. The article is a fascinating look at not only Mr. Kendall's story, but also the films, stars, and visual techniques he encountered in his years as a special effects artist. His credits are far more numerous than his IMDb profile suggests, including TRON, Fantastic Voyage, the original The Poseidon Adventure, Planet of the Apes, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among others. The picture of him being fed by Marilyn Monroe is one any red-blooded American would kill to be in. Unfortunately, since Worcester Living is an entirely print publication, you'll find no trace of the interview or its assets on their Web site.

A few weeks later, Worcester Magazine ran an interview with Kaz Gamble. Besides being part of the team behind the oft-delayed local independent film We Got the Beat, Mr. Gamble is also working on a documentary of my current stomping grounds of Worcester, Massachusetts. Here's what scene from his own life he would incorporate to epitomize Worcester:

We're on Richmond Street, getting out of St. Mary's — and that block itself looks like urban vibe — and some kids have a bus pass, so we leave there, take the bus downtown, hang out there, go to the Midtown Mall arcade, eat there in the mall, then the girls would try to flirt with us, and we leave, take the bus back out to the neighborhood, and going up to Holy Cross hill, all the houses there, the nice lawns, not like all the three-deckers, and in the evening, I would call dad to pick me up.

There are some pretty dull documentaries out there that consist of little more than pointing a camera at someone and presenting what they have to say, if anything; then there are fantastic documentaries that use that model as a base, but incorporate extensive editing and special effects to create a cohesive narrative. I hope Mr. Gamble has the wisdom to present this unique city as effectively as its rich history and unique culture deserve.