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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TRON Legacy: A New Generation

10-Mar-10 12:00 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on TRON Legacy: A New Generation

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.

Now for Some Real User Power

10-Jul-07 6:13 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 5 comments.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Tron, a film that is so many things to so many people: a milestone of computer animation; a staple of any geek's library; an element in the film studies curriculum I developed; another Jeff Bridges box office bomb. My love affair with this film spans multiple media:

I had to commemorate the anniversary of this cult hit with more than just a marathon session of lightcycling. After reading IGN's interview with Steven Lisberger, Tron's creator, I felt there must be better interview subjects out there.

So I instead got ahold of John Knoll, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic. ILM was created by George Lucas for the original Star Wars films and has since gone on to become a powerhouse in visual effects. Mr. Knoll has worked on several of their best films, including Willow, The Abyss, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek: First Contact, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. And somehow, during all that, he found time to invent Photoshop.

On very short notice, Mr. Knoll generously donated a half-hour of his time to speak with me on the subject of Tron, computer graphics, and the industry's evolution over the last quarter of a century. The end result is a very satisfying transcript, even if some notable, general observations didn't make the final cut:

"Even today … filmmakers rely on the special effects to be the only appeal in the movie, and they don't try so hard on the movie because they figure the visuals will carry the film … For those of us who work in the industry, that's not something we encourage. It's just as hard to do the effects on a bad movie as it is the effects on a good movie, and we'd all rather have worked on a good movie."

Continue on to Computerworld.com to read the full interview.

A huge thanks to old LucasArts and ILM colleagues Tom Sarris and Ellen Pasternack, without whom this interview would not have been possible.

Update: the above article has been Slashdotted!

End of line.

11-Jan-07 8:27 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 3 comments.

TRON comic book cover

A TRON comic book! It's an original story set six months after the events of the TRON 2.0 computer game. I almost missed this book, and chances are I'm not the only one. Be sure to visit your local comic book shop to pick up the third issue, hitting stands on January 17th.

The original TRON is a must-have in any geek's library, such that I included it in the curriculum of the film class I taught, to ensure its legacy is not lost upon the next generation of geeks. I shan't waste time preaching to the choir, waxing its clearly evident values — but I will share my two favorite tangential memories it inspired.

I once got to see this classic film presented on the silver screen, "enhanced" by a pre-scripted, MST3K-style commentary written and performed by the crew of The Truly Dangerous Company, makers of fine Star Wars spoofs. I've asked many times if the script is available for public presentation, but no dice thus far.

Better still was when I attended the (now-defunct) Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2003. I knew Bruce Boxleitner would be on hand to promote TRON 2.0, so I brought my 20th anniversary TRON DVD set for him, Cindy Morgan, and Steve Lisberger to autograph. (As I waited in line, even at this nerd Mecca would passersby would ask me what TRON was. Isn't that grounds for expulsion?) Though I never watch television, my hotel suitemate had the news on as we got ready for the show that morning, and the marquee at the bottom of the screen displayed among that day's top headlines: "Bruce Boxleitner's birthday!" Why the continued existence of a relatively obscure actor was deemed noteworthy, I'll never know. But after Mr. Boxleitner signed my DVD, I shook his hand and sincerely wished him, "Happy Birthday!"

Upon hearing this, Ms. Morgan, sitting next to him, stopped signing my disc, turned to her former castmate, and punched him in the arm: "It's your birthday?! You didn't tell me that!" To Mr. Lisberger: "Hey, it's Bruce's birthday!"

I embarrassed an icon. How cool is that?