Pixar's Up Floats to Life

07-Mar-11 3:37 PM by
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Pixar films wonderfully meld the familiar with the fantastic: whether it's a childhood spent with favorite toys, or an incredible family that bonds over a shared challenge, the stories create characters and scenarios we recognize and to which we relate.

But what if, instead of taking the realistic and making it magical, we took the fiction and made fact? That's what some engineers were inspired to do after seeing the 2009 film Up. As part of a new National Geographic television series called How Hard Can It Be?, they set out to make a house fly:

If a house is designed to be lightweight enough to fly, then it's not all that surprising that it should be able to fly. That realization does nothing to diminish the smile brought to my face at the sight of an actual house floating across the sky.

(Hat tip to Alexa Lash)

Super Bowl Trailers

02-Feb-09 12:13 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

So I guess there was some sort of game on television last night, and it was supposed to be a big deal. Or something. I must've missed whatever it was — but when I woke up the next day, I found a bounty of newly-released movie trailers. Let's take a look at a few of the geekier ones.

First up is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Though I'm encouraged to see one of my favorite actors, Dennis Quaid, the team he's leading does not have much chance to shine in this particular trailer. We see too little of the colorful heroes and villains like Snake Eyes (played by Ray Park) or Destro that made the cartoon so memorable.

Next up is the return of G.I. Joe's Eighties contemporaries, those robots in disguise, in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Readers to Showbits will recall that I absolutely loathed the original film, and nothing in the sequel's trailer indicates a departure from that model — though the scope of the new robots piques my interest:

Finally, there's yet another adaptation of a television show, this one a live-action series from the mid-Seventies: The Land of the Lost. With few exceptions, almost anything Will Ferrell stars in is going to be a silly spoof, and this film looks to be true to that trend. Though the original series could definitely be described as campy, it was no Gilligan's Island, which this version appears to be:

The above movies are just three of the many upcoming films being adapted from television shows. Other trailers that debuted yesterday and are now available online include a mix of new and old:

NASA and Pixar: Life Imitates Science

19-Nov-08 9:01 AM by
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This may seem a tangential topic to Showbits, but bear with me as I share this fascinating interview with Veronica McGregor of JPL. Ms. McGregor had a very important responsibility in the recent Mars Phoenix mission: she maintained the lander's Twitter feed, writing several daily updates to appear on the microblogging site.

Ms. McGregor took this media venue as an opportunity not just to disseminate factual information, but to engage her readers by presenting the Lander's discoveries from a first-person perspective. She describes how Twitter's 140-character limit motivated her to shorten prefixes such as "The Phoenix Lander" or "Data is not coming in suggesting" to simply "I am doing this" or "I found that".

Moreover, over the course of these many reports, the tweets took on a distinct voice, furthering the anthropomorphizing of the Phoenix Lander. It even wrote back to its followers, establishing an interplanetary dialogue. In response to public reaction to the discovery of water ice was the tweet, "Thanks for the congrats! & yes, I've seen water ice before but this is big news because it's 1st time EVER H20 has been collected/measured." And as the project neared the end of its life, it pondered, "Many questions about next Martian summer and will I wake up? It is beyond expectations. But if it happens you'll be among the 1st to know." Ms. McGregor explained the thought that went into these exchanges:

It's funny, when I sit down to write something for Phoenix I feel like I have to get into my "Phoenix character." I've been writing some other things for Phoenix, in first person, and I had to explain to somebody that it takes me a little while because I have to actually start thinking, well, "how would Phoenix look at this?"

The Phoenix and WALL•E

The Phoenix and Wall-E — not all that unlike.
Image courtesy Gizmodo.

In this way, the Lander became not unlike WALL•E, the mechanical hero of Pixar's summer hit. Though the Lander's virgin tweet on May 7 predates the movie release on June 27, it's likely not a coincidence that two optimistic robots captured the public's imagination simultaneously. Movies like WALL•E and Star Trek prompt humanity to look to the future and the stars, and NASA is helping us get there. Even the slightest glimmer of hope, no matter how whimsical or fictional, is something we're hungry for.

Phoenix's success on Twitter has led other projects have followed suit. The Mars Rovers, which turn five years old in January, joined Twitter in August, while the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan started tweeting in July. NASA's next expedition, the Mars Science Laboratory, which won't launch until September 15, 2009, at the earliest, already has a over 3,000 followers — despite having not yet published a single tweet! And if these aren't enough for you, NASA has indexed its many other Twitterers.

Someday, we'll be looking not up to the stars, but back to the Earth. Until then, we can count on entities like NASA and Pixar to bring the universe to us.

Ooh, Shiny

16-Jan-07 11:35 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films, Television; 3 comments.

The Golden Globes winners were announced last night. I'm surprised at my inability to offer commentary on the nominees and winners, as I'm apparently not as familiar with the 2006 film scene as I thought I was. The movie-going experiences provided by the likes of X-Men 3, Superman Returns, and Snakes on a Plane seemingly do not lend themselves well to elite and critical acclaim.

The only award with which I can strongly agree is Cars for Best Animated Film. Happy Feet was fun, but extremely schizophrenic (in the popular, not literal, sense): part musical, part action, part comedy, part political commentary… Cars, OTOH, is right up there with The Incredibles as my favorite Pixar flicks (sorry, Nemo fans).

With which winners do you agree or disagree? And with which nominees am I unfamiliar that I shouldn't be? It's never too late to catch a good film, so if the Globes can bring not only acknowledgment but also visibility to a title, the awards will have served a useful purpose.