Archive for the 'Star Wars' Category

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas created a franchise that would invade pop culture like no other.

Rogue One is a one-hit wonder

24-Dec-16 9:30 AM by
Filed under Potpourri, Star Wars; 2 comments.

This holiday season marks several milestones, including the first standalone Star Wars movie. Rogue One debuted this month and is set immediately before the events of 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope, answering several of the questions raised by that movie. In many ways, Rogue One defies what we've come to expect from a Star Wars movie: there is no opening scroll, no Jedi, and no hope — this is a dark movie, more akin to a war film, and is inappropriate for children. That's all in stark contrast to the lighter fare of the original trilogy, which resulted in Kenner toys being popular Christmas gifts; I would be astonished and mildly horrified if any of Rogue One's cast were found under the tree this year.

For all those differences, I liked Rogue One. It belongs in the Star Wars universe and shows a different side of it, both establishing and emphasizing the enormity of the Empire and the desperation and necessity of the Rebel Alliance. There are plenty of hooks and tie-ins to A New Hope that longtime fans will appreciate — though I can't imagine that anyone not well-versed in Star Wars lore will even understand this "standalone" film.

To that end, I was surprised and disappointed that Rogue One had no apparent bearing on The Force Awakens. Last year's Episode VII raised many questions, and it seemed reasonable that the next Star Wars film to be released would answer some of those questions. After all, this franchise is now being developed by the studio responsible for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which practically requires you see three movies a year; I expected Disney to give us every reason to see every Star Wars film as well. But ultimately, the characters of Rogue One, while well-written and acted, are forgettable — I walked out of the theater not remembering almost anyone's names.

The story is co-written by John Knoll, Photoshop co-creator and ILM special effects maven. I interviewed Knoll nine years ago about the impact TRON had on the evolution and acceptance of computer-generated special effects. Knoll was already an industry luminary a decade ago, but I had no idea he'd go on to earn a writing credit for such a blockbuster film.

While Rogue One expands the Star Wars universe, it doesn't move it forward: the franchise was fine without it, and it's not required viewing for continued enjoyment of the new trilogy. I saw The Force Awakens twice in theaters and then bought the Blu Ray; by comparison, while I much enjoyed Rogue One and recommend it without hesitation to Star Wars fans, I doubt I'll ever see it again.

There are many good holiday movies in theaters this season, of which Rogue One is but one. But even Star Wars can get into the Christmas spirit, as seen by our favorite Wookie singing one of his favorite carols:

That's our obligatory Christmas Eve video — but there's still one more occasion to mark: this month is Showbits' tenth anniversary. It was ten years ago, on December 15, 2006, that the site launched, reviving a message board I'd previously operated on the Syndicomm Online commercial service. It was a member of that board, Peter Watson, who encouraged me to reimagine the bulletin board as a Web 2.0 blog. I chose the WordPress CMS with which to do so — a decision that has profoundly impacted my professional development and career.

While I may no longer blog often on Showbits, WordPress remains a tool I use daily to promote causes I'm passionate about. My thanks to Peter, who remains my friend to this day, for setting me down this path.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, and holiday season to all!

Darth Santa

24-Dec-15 9:30 AM by
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Tis the season to believe in the Force. Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrived in theaters last week and smashed all opening weekend box office records. I knew it was a cultural phenomenon, but it was a small thing that made me realize how deeply it had penetrated into our awareness: this sign on my state's highway.

The Force Awakens is a fantastic movie that made me have all the feels: I was exuberant, joyful, angry, anguished, and excited. I loved every moment I spent watching it. After having some time to absorb and reflect on the experience, I am a little disappointed in the direction they took the script. But that does nothing to diminish what a stellar film it is, and it leaves me eager to see if those decisions are followed through in the pending sequels.

Episode VII is the first Star Wars movie to be released in a month other than May. Does that make it a Christmas movie? Probably not, but certainly it's a holiday season movie, with families gathering to enjoy time away from work and school at the movie theater.

But the characters of Star Wars aren't necessarily people you want to be with on Christmas morning. In fact, I might rather a visit from Krampus than Darth Vader:

By the time of Episode VII, Darth Vader is well and truly dead — but true villainy is timeless, and no matter what comes of this new trilogy, we'll always remember our first Sith.

(Full disclosure: I support Corridor Digital on Patreon.)

Gandalf vs. Darth Vader

08-Dec-12 11:10 AM by
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It's less than a week to The Hobbit's premiere, wherein we see the One Ring fall into the hands of the unlikeliest person, setting into motion the last battle to come from the War of the Ring. These many evils were perpetuated by Sauron, the power-hungry lord of the rings who was defeated only through the combined forces of the good races of Middle-Earth, many of them led by the wizard Gandalf.

But what if Sauron was not the greatest foe Gandalf ever faced? Surely there is no more powerful evil on Middle-Earth — but what if we were to look to the stars? What if the Dark Lord that Gandalf the Grey faced was not Sauron — but Darth Vader?

The battle's outcome was decided by a popular vote, though I can't say I agree with the result. I feel we've witnessed more powerful users of the Force in the Star Wars universe, and even they were defeated. Of course, leaving Darth Vader as the ringbearer presents a far more interesting scenario: what now?

This video is, surprisingly, not from the same team that brought us Batman vs. Captain America. It seems celebrity superhero mashups are all the rage on YouTube. Which two powers do you want to see clash next?

Cello Wars

06-Dec-11 2:11 PM by
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Star Wars and John Williams' soundtrack for same have inspired many lyrical masterpieces that pay homage to the original while creating their own unique variation and atmosphere. The format and style has ranged from the faithful Star Wars: In Concert tour to a corny Star Wars: The Musical the interpretive Dancing with the Stars.

Adding to that eclectic body of work and currently topping the YouTube charts is what's sure to be an instant classic. Please enjoy Cello Wars:

And yes, that's the same guy on both sides of the duel. In the YouTube video description, artists The Piano Guys detail the investment in this production: "70 days later, more than 7,000 frames, 72 audio tracks, 24 hours of filming through the night in front of a green screen, the most props and costumes we've ever used, several broken bows and strings, and over 1,000 hours of editing and rendering". I'd say it was worth the effort!

You can download the MP3 version for free, though it features only 75% of the above video's soundtrack. Snagging this file (which has no ID3 tags) requires engaging in a viral marketing campaign by sharing a link via Facebook page or Twitter; far less obnoxious is subscribing to their YouTube channel — a pretty low price for such a quality product.

May the strings be with you!

(Hat tip to Jessica Kreutter)

Darth Vader's License to Intimidate

20-May-11 12:00 PM by
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Go to any science fiction convention and you'll see geeks sporting their hearts on their sleeves — or, more accurately, their license plates. Vanity plates reading everything from "X-WING" to "FIREFLY" are not uncommon sightings.

However, such a display was not something I expected to see in my own workplace's parking lot:

(Note that clicking on the thumbnails will result in loading some very large files!)

I eventually tracked down the Jeep Wrangler's owner to Computerworld's COO, whom I quizzed: "So are you a big Star Wars nut? Or were you just looking to intimidate folks?" His response:

My family has a tradition of having grandchildren call their grandparents some name other than grandpa or grandma. Nana, papa, grandma, granddad, etc. are some of names selected over time by various grandparents. I chose Vader pretty much just to bug my mother. So my three grandchildren are going to call me Vader — as soon as they can talk; all are under six months old at this point.

Courtesy this gentleman's vivid imagination, an entire generation will grow up unafraid of the Dark Lord of the Sith. How will they feel when they learn his true origin? Will they rebel against their seemingly loving grandfather? Will the Star Wars saga play out once again, pitting blood against blood? Only time will tell… Until then, he can at least be counted on for a lollipop or two.

Summer Shorts: Star Wars: Pink Five

13-Aug-10 11:00 AM by
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Spoofing Star Wars never seems to go out of style. From RiffTrax to Robot Chicken to Family Guy, many artists have used this theme for more than just an independent one-off, making it a continuing commercial venture.

But few have the history or duration of Pink Five, which debuted as far back as 2002 with sequels appearing in 2004 and 2006. This independent fan series presents an alternative perspective on the events of the original Star Wars trilogy (episodes IV–VI). Paralleling the well-known tale of a rebellious young moisture farmer, the audience instead follows a dim-witted but obstinate Valley girl. It may sound annoying as all heck, but stick with it, as the writing is actually quite clever — her landing on Dagobah will have you laughing out loud. The character even proved popular enough to have a cameo in the official Star Wars expanded universe. The shorts' special effects are also inspired, their many subtle touches effectively inserting our heroine into George Lucas' universe.

The official versions of all four shorts don't load as quickly as your typical YouTube video so are included after the break.

(more…)

Family Guy: Something Something Something Darkside

22-Dec-09 9:18 AM by
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Here's yet another TV preview, this time for Family Guy, which two years ago performed its own rendition of Star Wars: A New Hope with its animated spoof episode, "Blue Harvest". Faster than LucasArts can pump out sequels, you can already catch the Family Guy's Empire Strikes Back, "Something Something Something Darkside", released today on DVD. Here's the trailer:

The timing of this DVD release means it's already available as a stocking stuffer (and in Blu-Ray, too!).

A sequel parodying Return of the Jedi titled "We Have A Bad Feeling About This" is planned.

A Very Eighties Christmas

11-Dec-09 12:57 PM by
Filed under Star Wars, Television; 3 comments.

The holidays are upon us, and with them are a sleighful of television specials. The Eighties were a particularly good decade for the genre, presenting the season in schmaltzy but memorable vignettes, whether it be a one-off or a very special episode of a regular series.

If you long for that era and can't find your favorite special in this year's lineup, then check out A BeTaMaXMaS, a Web site that uses YouTube to aggregate various classic specials into a retro theme. Whether you're looking for Silver Spoons, Perfect Strangers, the Smurfs, or the Muppets, you'll find them all in this family den, complete with spotty reception. Play with the antennae to reduce the snow, or use the remote control as well as a TV Guide to access additional programming. It's a charming throwback to the days before 54" high-definition televisions, 5.1 surround sound, and other audio-video standards we now take for granted.

One of my favorite treats from that era was Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration, featuring the California Raisins. The entire 24-minute special has been posted to YouTube, including musical numbers such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Carol of the Bells", and "We Three Kings" (featuring the Caramel Camels!).

Wanting something newer but still familiar? The Muppets are always happy to accommodate:

If, despite all this cheer, you're still a Scrooge, then take off the rose-tinted glasses and see these holiday specials for how terrible they really are with a bit of help from RiffTrax:

Whatever your television preferences, may your season be merry!