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!

Rock the Galactic Vote

04-Nov-08 10:05 AM by
Filed under Humor, Star Wars; Comments Off on Rock the Galactic Vote

Today, the United States will elect its next president. For months, if not years, we've been subjected to the back-and-forth attacks between two opposing parties. If you haven't yet cast your vote and are still feeling indecisive, Showbits, in a bipartisan fashion, offers this last-minute roundup of campaign pleas:

And to anyone who tells you not to vote today… it's a trap!

(Hat tip to TheForce.net)

Fanboys' Rebellion

03-Nov-08 10:35 PM by
Filed under Star Wars, Trailers; 4 comments.

Star Wars has inspired some fantastic fan films, from Chad Vader to Ryan vs. Dorkman. As artistic and engaging as these creations are, they are usually limited in their budget and scope; few are more than a few minutes in length. Meanwhile, more ambitious projects, such as Heart of an Empire or 5/25/77, never see the light of day.

Finally, a feature-length film inspired by Star Wars will get a nationwide theatrical release — thanks in no small part to a cast that includes Kevin Smith, William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen, Ray Park, and Superman Returns' Jimmy Olsen, with Kevin Spacey producing. The first trailer for Fanboys brings to life every geek's hopes and dreams:

Although I'm not always a fan of either Seth Rogen or Kristen Bell, this star-studded film looks like a ton of fun for anyone who knows Star Wars and Star Trek as well as the typical Showbits reader. A healthy dork is one who can laugh at himself, and I suspect I won't be alone in counting myself among that crowd come Fanboys' opening night of February 6, 2009.

(Hat tip to ComingSoon.net)

Casualties of the Clone War

03-Sep-08 11:00 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 2 comments.

A new Star Wars movie used to be a thrice-in-a-generation event. This summer's The Clone Wars has broken that tradition, and no one seems too happy about it. With only a 20% rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes. It continues a trend of anti-Star Wars sentiment that began in 1999 when young Anakin Skywalker first debuted as a podracing slave who, with a battle cry of "Yahoo!", miraculously saved the day.

I've not seen George Lucas' new animated entry into this storied series, but I do wish to take exception with those who suggest it's the fourth consecutive instance of the distant galaxy's creator flushing the franchise down the drain. Sure, the bar was set high, with Episodes IV and V earning an average rating of 96%, again on Rotten Tomatoes. But Return of the Jedi sunk to 74%, which provides good company for the three prequels, which garnered 63%, 66%, and 79%, respectively.

Even without comparing the prequels to their older siblings, there's still much to like. I won't dispute the obvious, like Jar-Jar's presence making light of a trilogy that, by its very subject matter, should be dark. But too often, the hate that is harped on these brilliant examples of all that is wrong with Star Wars overpowers the moments that truly shine.

Take Attack of the Clones which ends with a battle that's worth the previous two hours. Before then, we'd only ever known the galaxy's oldest Jedi as a shriveled Muppet on his death bed. Here, we learn Yoda is a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with on so many levels.

That is one of only several jaw-dropping lightsaber battles to grace the trilogy. Whereas Jedi were scarce in the original films, Episodes I-III brought them out en masse. The Phantom Menace gave us the excellent music and choreography of "Duel of the Fates". Not only was the battle set to a song I always wished to be in the choir for, but it was the first battle against a prequel-exclusive Sith lord — and one equipped with a heretofore-unknown variation on the light saber! Now that's how to kick it up a notch.

Revenge of the Sith

Remember this? I thought so.

Compared to that single struggle, Revenge of the Sith was a smorgasbord of skirmishes, with at least five lightsaber battles among the greatest heroes and villains of the entire six-episode epic. In the prequel's conclusion, not only had Anakin Skywalker grown up, but so had Hayden Christensen, with a portrayal of young Vader that was less whiny and more ambitious than we'd previously seen. It makes his perfect manipulation at the hands of Darth Sidious all the more painful to watch. Watching Revenge of the Sith was like watching Titanic: a tragedy that you knew couldn't be averted, but you hoped would nonetheless be derailed and fail to play out. I took me days to realize the extent of Palpatine's machinations, and at least a week to recover from my depression over his success. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who laughed, saying he'd never considered the possibility that someone could be depressed over a movie. But taken in the larger context of what these three movies did to the Star Wars universe and the stage they set for Episodes IV-VI, I can conceive of no other response. To this day, I can't bring myself to endure that experience again.

We've already commemorated the impact made by the original trilogy's simple yet stellar tale of good vs. evil. The prequels are more complex, in where they were coming from, where they had to get to, and audience reception and interpretation. I submit that among those variables are many kernels of quality. Another site offers 11 concrete reasons for that supposition; I encourage you to rewatch the films and come up with your own.

(Hat tip to TheForce.net)

Stars of Sea and Space

11-Feb-08 9:59 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 2 comments.

Sadly, I am again reporting a pair of notable passings.

Roy Scheider, star of such aquatic hits as Jaws and SeaQuest DSV, passed away this Sunday at the age of 75. The news struck me by surprise, as though I had a vague recollection of his being treated for multiple myeloma, when it came to his health, I took the lack of recent news to be good news. Though I'd never seen him in either of the roles he was most famous for, he was nonetheless instantly identifiable in any other work to which he applied himself. I saw him last year in Marathon Man and Blue Thunder, and I regret that these weren't bigger and better roles, respectively. I'll rectify that soon — better late than never.

The second passing has not been so well marked, though artist John Alvin, a native of my own state, did not long remain bound by that terrestrial origin. His many Star Wars posters over the last decade have captured the wonder and legacy of this awesome galactic series, with his portfolio including the posters of other significant and eclectic works: The Lion King, Blazing Saddles, E.T., Blade Runner, and The Lord of the Rings, among others. One rarely considers the talent behind these posters — but observe how beautiful and memorable these paintings are and how rare and collectible they become, and it's a wonder names like John Alvin aren't better associated with such art. He passed away from a heart attack last Wednesday at age 59.

Thank you, sirs, for your creativity and craftmanship: you took us to new heights and depths and piqued our imaginations in the process. You are fondly remembered.

Son of Dorkman

01-Oct-07 11:18 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on Son of Dorkman

After stumbling across the excellently-choreographed Ryan vs. Dorkman Star Wars fan films, I started watching for more from the dynamic duo of Ryan Wieber and Michael Scott. Hearing their interview on Geekza was cool, but I wanted to see more.

I found it when I subscribed to Scott's YouTube channel, as shortly thereafter, he posted this teaser trailer:

It's a live action adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book The Descendants, which doesn't seem to be a widely-distributed publication; the best source of information I've found about it is its MySpace page. We can gather more from watching the trailer, though.

First and most important, it features Ray Park, who deserves any role he wants after his enjoyable performances as the short-lived Darth Maul and the evil mutant Toad. Second, the trailer exhibits some great special effects, but something about their nature that I can't put my finger on suggests homebrew — like that of a high-quality fan film instead of a professional studio. Backing up that intuition is the fact that many other sites are reporting this venture is intended to be a Web series. But from co-director Scott himself comes the admission that its ultimate format is to be determined:

We're trying to get funding for the full project, but we don't know yet what form it will take. At this point in the negotiations with certain groups, it could become anything from a theatrical feature to a TV miniseries to a collection of webisodes posted right here on YouTube. It's up in the air at the moment.

So there remain many questions about this project, but based on the directors' portfolio and what I've seen of this latest collaboration, I hope the answers are positive. IMDb suggests we won't be seeing the fruits of their labor until 2009, which should be enough time to get The Descendants the green light it deserves.

Pink Five FX

05-Sep-07 4:38 PM by
Filed under Star Wars; Comments Off on Pink Five FX

Over on Chris Hanel's blog is a nifty video showing before, during, after shots of one of the Star Wars fan films known as Pink Five. The montage shows what a difference a green screen and some hard work can make on independent films, and how much talent went into this particular one.

Over My Dead Body

02-Aug-07 6:40 PM by
Filed under Star Wars; 1 comment.

From IndianaJones.com's video entitled "Indy Arrives", dated 07.11.2007, I took this shot of Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas:

Spielberg Ford and Lucas on Indiana Jones 4 set

Compare Lucas' shirt to this one:

Han Shot First shirt

WTF is George Lucas doing wearing a "Han Shot First" shirt?! He's the last person I ever expected to be seen in such a thing… It's further proof that his assault on Star Wars canon was just a scheme to make more money by releasing the unremastered trilogy on DVD.