The Wishgranter

10-Sep-16 10:30 AM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on The Wishgranter

Happy birthday to a special someone! May all your wishes come true.

Thomas the Transforming Tank Engine

08-Mar-12 7:12 PM by
Filed under Humor; Comments Off on Thomas the Transforming Tank Engine

I'm not trying to be hip when I say "I liked Transformers before Transformers were cool." Because the fact is that Transformers aren't cool — not since Michael Bay got his filthy paws all over them and turned Optimus Prime into a vengeful sociopath. Maybe it's not fair to have high standards for a children's cartoon based off a line of toys, but as an adult, I've revisited many of my childhood's fondest memories, and few have stood up as well as the original Transformers animated series. Even today, when political pundits write stirring calls for action and cite the Transformers ethos, they are referring to the source material, not Bay's adaptation.

But I understand that franchises must either adapt to the times or make way for new properties to ensconce themselves in a child's heart. Perhaps a combination of those two approaches is the way for Transformers to remain both relevant and beloved. Why not meld it with a proven entity? Thomas the Tank Engine has been around since 1946, but as my nephew demonstrates, he continues to be popular with kids.

An enterprising artist named James Farr sees this as a natural mashup and has created an entire series based on the idea. "Thomas the Transforming Tank Engine defends the Island of Sodor against a host of villainous engines bent on destroying the world" in… TRAINSFORMERS.

There are at present four videos, with new ones announced via Facebook and Twitter. My favorite is the second video, as it seems the most perfect amalgam with the least backstory needed — though the stories do seem to get darker and more violent as the series progresses.

How long before Michael Bay ruins this indie effort with a big-budget blockbuster?

See also the 2009 mashup, Transforminators.

(Hat tip to Alon Waisman)

Ice Age 4 begins breaking ground

14-Jan-11 11:21 AM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

Fox's Ice Age trilogy of films will become a quadrilogy on July 13, 2012, with the release of Ice Age: Continental Drift. The films thus far have successfully used CGI animation to present a family-friendly series of tales of slick action, witty dialogue, and heartwarming themes, courtesy the voice acting of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary. But Rotten Tomatoes shows a trend of declining ratings with each release, which isn't surprising when a series reaches so many installments. It seems inevitable that gimmicks that were once original will eventually be worn and tired.

Will the fourth film continue the slide into mediocrity? It's too soon to say, but I found its trailer — in essence, a stand-alone animated short — as cute and quick as ever. Well in advance of the film's release next year, it is now available for free online:

What are your hopes for this series? Did you already stop counting after the first or second film?

Summer Shorts: The Passenger

14-May-10 12:00 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Summer Shorts: The Passenger

Our inaugural entry in the 2010 Summer Shorts premiered in 2006 and was awarded Best Animation at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. Despite this sterling record, it is not one of the better-known shorts to have circulated the Internet. In my own effort to remedy the situation, I present to you The Passenger:

Many animated shorts eschew dialogue completely while nonetheless making impressive use of audio. The Passenger takes it a step further by incorporating sound as a central plot element. As for the visual inspiration, the titular passenger looks like an inhabitant of Oddworld, a video game published in 1997 by GT Interactive. That company was purchased in 1999 by Infogrames, a company this short's creator worked at until 2000. Coincidence? Probably.

The Passenger is available on DVD with multiple extras for $18.11. Though I believe artists should be rewarded for their work, $18 for a seven-minute film is a tough sell when you can often get a 90-minute production for the same value. But when you consider that, from conception to release, the film took eight years to craft, that's less than five cents a week to watch the film (and considerably more to render it). If you enjoyed spending seven minutes on this blog post, what do you feel is the best way to appreciate the artist?

Prelude to Summer Shorts 2010

13-May-10 12:04 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Prelude to Summer Shorts 2010

The recent release of Iron Man 2 heralds the beginning of the summer blockbuster season. With the likes of Robin Hood, Shrek Forever After, Toy Story 3, and Predators still to come, it will prove to be an expensive season for the avid moviegoer.

Last summer, I offered an alternative: Summer Shorts, a series of free, independent films. Every day for a week, Showbits presented a different video you could watch at home right here on this blog. Although lacking the budget and length of major film productions, these shorts offer a refreshing creativity that is seldom found in sequel-ridden Hollywood.

This summer, Showbits will again present Summer Shorts, but in a new format. Instead of one post every day for a week, we'll offer one film every Friday for the entire summer. If the blockbuster season can last that long, then so can we! This schedule will also allow us the opportunity to continue publishing on diverse topics between shorts.

The series begins this Friday — so sit back, relax, and kick off your summer shorts!

RiffTrax Live's Holiday Shorts

14-Nov-09 11:48 AM by
Filed under Humor; Comments Off on RiffTrax Live's Holiday Shorts

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!

Prelude to Summer Shorts

31-May-09 12:22 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Prelude to Summer Shorts

Summer blockbuster season is here, with many theatergoers flocking to the cinema to catch such big-budget films as Star Trek and Terminator. But, as the latter has demonstrated, financial backing is no substitute for a good script and a good cast.

Technology has progressed such that now anyone can make a quality film, and the Internet has provided these budding directors with the tools to get their films seen by the masses. Showbits has already featured many independent films worth watching, such as Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, The Blacksmith and the Carpenter, and variations on the superhero Batman.

To commemorate and promote these independent films, each day for the next week, I will be posting one such movie to the site. You'll see a variety of short films, ranging in length from ten to forty minutes and in topic from fantasy to science fiction to romance. Regardless of the theme, each film has elements in common: clever scripts, ambitious design, impressive production values, and free distribution.

So sit back, relax, and kick off your summer shorts!

Being John Stamos

29-Feb-08 12:48 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Being John Stamos

The trailer for the new Will Ferrell movie Step Brothers alludes to the undeniable magnetism of one John Stamos. Not being familiar with this actor's work, I did some research that revealed the titularly-named I Am Stamos.

I Am StamosThis short film's protagonist is one with whose situation I can empathize: a typecast "character actor", always the supporting actor but never the lead. In the tradition of "be careful what you wish for", everyman Andy Shrub blows out his birthday candle with the hope of looking more like a leading man… more like John Stamos. Lo and behold, his wish comes true in a most unexpected fashion: his real-life visage doesn't change, but his appearance on camera shows a John Stamos body double. When he uses this newfound talent to his public advantage, the real John Stamos finds out — and he wants his fame back.

It's an amusing and clever tale with some big names (John Stamos, Clint Howard, E.E. Bell) and a low budget. Shrub and Stamos are sometimes face-to-face in a shot framed such that we the audience can also see the perspective of the camera, giving us two takes on the action: Shrub vs. Stamos, and Stamos vs. Stamos. Since no on-the-fly image substitution technology was employed, the choreography necessary to synchronize these two shots must've required extensive rehearsals and takes. The final product is impressive.

The story also offers commentary on the politics of showbiz. Andy Shrub is precluded the opportunity to even audition for a major role based solely on his looks. Is that fair? Celebrity rags are littered with pretty faces who don't have the brains to put on a decent performance, which is certainly to the audience's detriment. There's more to knowing your craft than the shape you were born with. The irony is that, once Andy Shrub lands himself his dream role, he proves himself to have little acting talent. But now he has the looks, and that's enough to get him the part.

I could embed the video here, but it has six instances of the f-word. Though such vulgarity in the film is contextually appropriate — this is Hollywood, after all — I prefer to keep this site clean in deference to my anonymous audience. You can therefore watch it on YouTube, or as a non-downloadable QuickTime movie on director Rob Meltzer's site.