Tis the season to Die Hard

23-Dec-12 2:53 PM by
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When folks ask me what my favorite Christmas movies are, I turn to a stable of reliable hits: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation; Jimmy Stewart's It's a Wonderful Life; and … Die Hard.

Yes, Bruce Willis's violent defense of Nakatomi Tower from Hans Gruber and his personal militia is indeed a holiday film, set as it is on Christmas Eve. The sequel occurred in the same season, but the second and fourth Die Hard films moved away from that synchronicity — with a fifth film, A Good Day to Die Hard, set to do the same. In fact, it mixes up not only the time but also the place by being set in Russia, in much the way the seventh and final Police Academy film went to Moscow. Certainly that series didn't jump the shark…

If you're missing your annual dose of holiday havoc and can't wait for Valentine's Day for Bruce Willis to tear up the screen, look no further than Tom Ridgway to give you your dose of festive fight scenes. TomSka, creator of the silly "asdf" animations, goes after St. Nick himself in Christmas Destruction:

Happy holidays!

Bill Corbett's Super-Powered Revenge Christmas

30-Mar-12 10:12 AM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

Bill Corbett (whose birthday is today — happy birthday, Bill!) is a writer who knows no bounds: his comedic stylings have defined both RiffTrax and MST3K; the best parts of the Eddie Murphy film Meet Dave were his work; he even contributed to the animated short Max the Hero.

Television, film, live performances, animation — what remains? A graphic novel, of course! And that's exactly what Corbett has envisioned with his Kickstarter project for SUPER-POWERED REVENGE CHRISTMAS!.

The artwork will be drawn by Len Peralta, who formerly did the Geek a Week trading cards.

Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing platform that solicits pledges from the mass market to fund a project. This approach allows artists like Corbett to retain control of their creative vision without sacrificing it to meet the demands of a publisher. Perhaps that is why the final book will be made available as an e-book only and not in a dead trees edition printed for $100-level donors only. The project has until April 28th to raise a minimum of $23,000, or else no money is collected and the project doesn't happen, so pledge at least $15 to guarantee your copy of the finished novel this Thanksgiving!

Animal's Holiday Guide

24-Dec-11 9:30 AM by
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Happy holidays from Showbits! The site turned five years old this month, and though the posting isn't as prolific as it used to be, I'm still glad to share this outlet with you, especially in so demanding a season. We often need to remember to take a breather and enjoy this time of year. With some tips on how to do so is The Muppets cast member Animal:

The Muppets are long-known for their festive spirit. Be sure to join them for a chorus of bells, too!

See you in 2012!

Filming the holidays with iMovie trailers

21-Dec-11 11:35 AM by
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When I first saw Apple's iMovie '11 demonstrated, I knew I had to have it. Even though I don't do much video editing, I had to play with this edition of the popular movie-making software's exciting new feature: a trailer-making workflow. By choosing a film genre and dragging and dropping predefined types of shots (wide, group, action), anyone could effortlessly make a coming attraction for the movie of their lives.

My first outing with this functionality was a promotional video for an annual fundraising event. Since the fundraiser had already been held by the time I got my hands on iMovie, I didn't have any footage of my own to work with. I instead downloaded existing YouTube videos and recut them for my purpose, using the "sports" genre of film. When I showed the final product to the original videographer, she responded, "I just saw your movie trailer and I LOVE IT!!  You created a great, professional quality, energetic piece. I might bug you to do this again with what we['ll shoot next year]!"

My most recent trailer is the only one I've shot for fun. On June 12, 2011, two friends joined me in my annual ascent of Mount Monadnock, the world's most-climbed mountain. It was a last-second impulse to bring my video camera, a Kodak Zi8, and I got several candid and staged shots throughout the state park. I originally tried casting it as a horror film, but in the end, it worked best as an adventure.

But the trailer that was most meaningful is the one I made as a gift. I spent Christmas 2010 with friends, and I wanted to show my appreciation for letting me into their home to share this special holiday. Over the course of a week and as innocuously as possible, I shot several clips of B-roll. Most of them were no longer than five seconds, though one, a Christmas pageant, was fifteen minutes. Altogether, I ended up with about thirty minutes of film, which I whittled down to a brief trailer.

When I debuted a rough cut to the friends, they were extremely moved, immediately wanting to watch it again — and again — and again! They shared it with everyone in their immediate and extended family, and I could tell from my online analytics that the video was viewed every day for at least a month. As its audience was not computer savvy, they had no idea that the quality of what they were seeing wasn't the result of me being a professional video editor. Thanks to iMovie, I was able to keep my secret!

Just in time for me to re-create this gift for my own family this year, Vimeo, my video-hosting service of choice, has offered these tips for shooting great holiday video. Their suggestions are simple yet effective and will give you plenty of grist for later editing.

Happy holiday filming!

Tom Servo's Christmas Concern

24-Dec-10 9:30 AM by
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Happy holidays from Showbits! As is tradition, I would like to celebrate the season in classic, comedic style with the residents of the Satellite of Love. This collection of MST3K performances has three skits, but I've limited it to the most passionate and my favorite:

This is Showbits' fifth annual Christmas greeting from MST3K and harkens back to the first, when the site was less than two weeks young and run by someone who was recently out of a text-based environment and still unsure how to use multimedia.

May our holidays be rich with humor and cheer!

Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas

24-Dec-09 9:30 AM by
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We are about to close what has been a difficult year for the acting community — not in terms of low box office sales or a lack of acting jobs, but due to the loss of many storied performers. Ed McMahon, Karl Malden, Dom DeLuise, Bea Arthur, Majel Roddenberry are among those who we lost.

As always, we here at Showbits send holiday greetings in a musical style perfected by the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love. I'd like to use that tradition to honor one of the great actors we lost this year, Patrick Swayze:

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!

RiffTrax Live's Holiday Shorts

14-Nov-09 11:48 AM by
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In August, RiffTrax brought their Mystery Science Theater 3000-style humor to the big screen with RiffTrax Live, in which their mercilessly mocking of Plan 9 From Outer Space was streamed to theaters nationwide. Unlike their webcasts, which often buckled under unexpected popularity, the theatrical experience was nearly flawless — and apparently a financial success, given their rerun of the same show (obviously no longer live) two months later.

Now, RiffTrax, with guest star Weird Al Yankovic, is getting into the spirit of the season with a reprise that puts various holiday specials under the scrutiny. RiffTrax Live Christmas Shorts will perform the evening of Wednesday, December 16th, with a recorded repeat the following night. Judging from the trailer, the lineup appears it may be a mix of both new material and old, such as the public domain short "A Visit to Santa":

I ordered my tickets at $11 each, which is pretty standard for a moviegoing experience nowadays. RiffTrax offers a better value for the money than any other film, though, as the two-hour showing sends you home with a code good for the download of a RiffTones holiday song, two of the evening's shorts, an autographed photo of the riffers, and a holiday desktop wallpaper.

So get into the holiday spirit with this family-friendly evening of comedy!