Monday, February 14, 2005

Star Wars, the MUSIC



Post Notes: The Score Begins
February 03, 2005
When theater lights darken this May, and the rolling drums and fanfare of the 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm logos fade out, fans will brace themselves for that first triumphant blast of brass that signals the start of Episode III.

The famous main title theme is not what started off today's scoring sessions at Abbey Road Studios -- like the filming process, scoring is rarely ever done in movie-sequence.

The first piece of music recorded for Revenge of the Sith was instead something six reels into the story.

Composer John Williams has written over 40 distinct cues for the Episode III score, to be performed over the next few days by the London Symphony Orchestra. The recording order is delineated on an oversized printout, marking the title of the cue and the reel where it resides.

These titles are more for internal use -- they rarely ever make it to the liner notes of soundtrack albums since these cues are often combined and edited to make playable tracks. My guess is that cues like "Boys Into Battle" and "Palpatine's TV Set" will likely get renamed before readied for public consumption. EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE. YA THINK?!

Today starts with "Padmé's Visit," the music that accompanies a tense and dramatic encounter between Anakin and Padmé. The young lovers have shed the starry-eyed innocence of Episode II, worn down by witnessing years of warfare and deception. Though the love theme from Attack of the Clones appears in this cue, there's a sense of desperation behind it, of time ticking away. Anakin's troubled nature is signaled by the creeping approach of the Imperial March -- Darth Vader's theme from The Empire Strikes Back. The deep bass tones that lurk behind the love theme color the drama.

The next cue jumps to the early moments of film, to the first lightsaber duel in a movie packed with many. It's the three-way rematch that sees Anakin and Obi-Wan once again square off against Count Dooku. The frenetic on-screen action is accompanied by aggressive combat music devoid of any familiar character-based themes. The percussive music, accented with cymbal hits, underscores the lightsaber attack, but it isn't particularly timed to each hit. To do so would be impractical, given the intensity of the sound design that will accompany this lightsaber action.
An angry roll of timpani accompanies the fight's denouement, silencing the orchestra in its wake. Then come some tentative strings, exploring the uncomfortable silence that follows.

"Can the clicks be louder," asks Williams of the control room. The assembled musicians all wear headphones that play a "click track," a series of timed clicks meant to keep them all in the same beat. "They sound a bit wooly," says Williams. EDITOR'S NOTE: 'WOOLY'? A MUSICAL TERM?

Shawn Murphy, the Scoring Engineer complies. He sits in the control room, carefully listening to the orchestra as they are recorded. He makes notes on any irregularities in the music, citing measures that need to be revisited.

After each take, Williams comes into the control room along with principal musicians to hear what the microphones captured. From there, they can make adjustments for subsequent takes. Together, Murphy and Williams gauge each performance and determine how much to re-record. Rather than wear down the orchestra by re-recording entire cues, they often target specific trouble spots, prompting the orchestra to replay certain measures to be edited into the surrounding music. Still, sometimes the entire cue is re-recorded.

The next selection for the day is "Palpatine's Seduction." Even in the heavily soundproofed confines of the control room, I can still feel the low vibrations. The music covers a conversation between Anakin and Palpatine within the Chancellor's office. We in the control room hear none of the dialogue. The picture, played on a regular television monitor in the booth and on a relatively washed out screen on the scoring stage (projection in a fully lit room will do that) has graphical pops and streamers atop the image in sync with the click track.

Perhaps my ears are playing tricks on me, but I think I can hear a little refrain of Shmi's tragic last moments in this scene. A strong connection stirs between Anakin and Palpatine, as voiced by the strings. A bass drum is responsible for the tremors. By scene's end, the Emperor's theme rises -- played here without a choir -- with the luring strings continuing underneath, finally culminating in a growing cymbal roll that accompanies the scene-wipe that takes us to Utapau and Obi-Wan's continued hunt for General Grievous.

"I love the dark stuff," says George Lucas, relishing the tones prevalent throughout this score. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S THOSE QUIET ONES YOU HAVE TO WATCH OUT FOR, HMMM? TEE HEE......

Next up is "Heroes Collide," the much anticipated start to the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. A new theme, carried mostly by the brass section, follows the two Jedi as their duel takes them from an outside landing platform to the inside of an industrial facility. The music alternates between sweeping strokes and fast punctuation -- not unlike the lightsaber duel itself. As is common in the final reels of a Star Wars movie, the action intercuts from one story to another. Those concerned about the action being compromised by cutting away needn't worry -- what's playing opposite this duel is a confrontation just as big and anticipated, though it doesn't last as long, so the remainder of Obi-Wan and Anakin's battle plays through uninterrupted.

At one point in this cue, the music sounds almost exactly as it did in The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader begins pummeling Luke with equipment tossed telekinetically. In both that Episode V moment and this Episode III moment, we hear a grandiose presentation of the Imperial March with sharp brass accents.

Closing your eyes, you can still track the progress of the battle. The music holds to accommodate dialogue during the fight. When lightsabers lock and opponents stare at each other over crossed blades, the strings vibrate brilliantly, building the tension and drama. At one point during in the duel, Obi-Wan and Anakin are caught in competing Force pushes, outstretched hands locking a few centimeters apart. Here, the elegant Force theme emerges from the frantic fighting, but it sounds pained, echoing the struggle.

Shawn notes that the sound quality of the loud percussion affects that of the rest of the orchestra, so William conducts the next take without percussion. As it turns out, even this huge stage is too small to contain the powerful drums. They may be recorded later, under different circumstances.

Lucas points out that this portion of the fight seems to be lacking an expected ingredient: the Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace. "That comes later. In the big duel," says Williams.
According to the schedule, those were the only four pieces slated for today, but the orchestra continues, and four more cues are performed. "Another Happy Landing" is a short piece of music, the first cue to occur after the hectic pace of the chaotic space battle. Now, we can take time to peacefully introduce Coruscant and its skyline with a pageantry reminiscent of the first majestic introduction of the city-planet back in Episode I. "Yoda's Fall" is a very brief piece, less than a minute in length, that underscores a specific action.

Next is "Revisiting Padmé," which covers the reunion of the lovers, Anakin and Padmé, in the film. It contains the familiar love theme from Episode II, but there's an interesting juxtaposition in tone. Proof that music greatly affects the perception of a scene, I remember seeing this sequence un-scored and feeling one way about it. In the rough cut, creepy temp music was inserted to an otherwise tame scene of tender exchanges. Here, in the final score, it's not so much creepy, but there is an undercurrent of dark uncertainty. Padmé brings a purity to it, in the form of a unblemished woodwind recitation of the love theme that crescendos to the next wipe.

"So, people, what I'm proposing what we do for the remainder of today is 7M1," says Williams. It's title is, currently, unprintable for the sake of the spoiler-free majority that reads these reports. That's the case with almost everything that happens in the 7th reel. And, true to the film's end, it is tragic and emotional. EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU TEASE YOU TEASE.....

Disclaimer: Of course, a dozen people can listen to the same piece of music and come away with a dozen different impressions, but I can't think of how else to report what I heard than by expressing what I felt. Please keep that in mind when reading these Post Notes from scoring.

Spotted today: Hayden Christensen couldn't resist the opportunity to witness the scoring session -- a first for him. Also visiting today is Director and Jedi Master Frank Oz, who will soon return to the backwards-patterned speech to record some loop lines for Yoda this weekend.

Oh, another thing: The main title isn't part of the planned scoring sessions -- a pre-existing recording of the famous Star Wars theme will be used instead.

Recording "Revenge"
February 04, 2005

With each Star Wars film, composer John Williams has selected a particular composition to stand apart. It's removed from the context of the film, and generally has its start or end reworked so that it becomes a standalone musical piece.

In the past, these have become singles on the soundtrack, concert suites or music videos. Examples include "Main Title," "Darth Vader's Theme (Imperial March)," "The Forest Battle," "Duel of the Fates," and "Across the Stars."

For Episode III, a dramatic cue from the sixth reel gets that treatment. Called "Revenge of the Sith" -- or less colorfully, 6M9 -- it appears in the film during the thick of the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker.

The first half of the second day of scoring sessions consists of capturing this piece for both inclusion in the film, and as a modified version for the soundtrack release.

In the end, it will include moments of heavy percussion, as well as the emotional sweep provided by a choir. EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO...I LOVE THOSE CHOIR-ENHANCED PIECES. THEY ARE OFTEN THE BEST OF THE BUNCH, THE MOST EVOCATIVE AND POWERFUL. These elements will be layered in later -- today, it's the orchestral foundation that's recorded. The music carries a nine-note sentence that is a new theme that carries throughout the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan, memorable enough that I find myself whistling it later in the day.

As with most of the combat and action music, the timing and tempo are carefully controlled by the click track piped into the musician's earpieces. "We have clicks that will help things vertically," says Williams, "But, it doesn't always help pitch, because we don't hear ourselves so well. We made it through the first three Star Wars without click tracks, but we really need to use thse clicks in this."

At moments in the music, the Force theme emerges, accompany instances of dialogue between Obi-Wan and his fallen student. The duel's most shocking event is built up by a crescendo of drums that suddenly cut out, leaving enough room for the audience to gasp. Sure enough, when the principal musician crowd into the control room to listen to a take, and they see the video that's been playing behind them for the first time, they do gasp at the right part.

"It has energy. It has sound. If we can get more beauty to it," says Williams. "It's hard to do, because it needs to be big and energetic. It's a tough trade off."

"I can't wait to hear the chorus," says George Lucas. "It has a tendency to smooth things out and add a lot of emotion." EDITOR'S NOTE: SEE. UNCLE G LIKES THE CHORUS TOO! (GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE....)

"Even though it's large and somewhat military in its sound, find a way to add some nobility to it," Williams advises to the orchestra before another take. "Timpani and bass drums, rather than have it play angrily, do it with something that has a noble feel."

Other pieces scored today included "Good-Bye Old Friend," which starts by covering the departure of Obi-Wan from his assault ship, as he says farewell to his loyal clone officer, Commander Cody. The sound is full, heavy, militaristic. At first listen, I'm reminded of the opening refrains of "Belly of the Beast," one of my favorite compositions from the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade soundtrack. A stirring and proud rendition of the Force theme plays as Obi-Wan docks his starfighter to the six-engine hyperspace transport ring and blasts off on an important mission.

The opening of the piece is revisited later in the day, as Lucas has requested a change. He felt that a small moment of horns heard during the clone briefing was too light, too happy for the scene. Williams later recorded the pertinent measures sans that flourish.

What's truly amazing for me, watching the London Symphony Orchestra, is realizing that this is their first time seeing this music. There's no extended rehearsal to grow familiar with it. They play it through once, and then start recording. That first play-through is not accompanied by video, leaving me to imagine just what events might be transpiring in the film.

For instance, there's a part of "Good-Bye old Friend" that turns dark and surreal. The harp plucks away and there's the hiss of a cymbal. The violins hold a chilling chord, accompanied by an ominous rumble from the bass drums. There's an interesting rattle of percussion, signaling danger, like a serpent coiled, ready to strike.

When I see the picture that goes with this, I can't help but smile. Because, it's not a scene of terror, but rather, a scene of Padmé and Anakin, discussing things in her apartment. Without scoring, it could have played as an innocuous domestic scene. But with this music, it's so obvious that there's something terribly wrong with this picture, and the orchestra is foretelling the young lovers' fates.

Though I'm trying to steer clear of some of the material that appears in the 7th reel, there was one piece that really stood out today. "David said he's been waiting 25 years to play that," says Williams of one of the horn players.

With gentle harp accompaniment, we will hear graceful and beautiful quotations from "Princess Leia's Theme" in Episode III. EDITOR'S NOTE: PRINCESS LEIA'S THEME IS ONE OF MY ALLTIME FAVORITE PIECES OF MUSIC. I HAVE AN ORCHESTRAL VERSION OF IT, THAT IS SO INCREDIBLY LOVELY.

An Energetic Start
February 09, 2005

"This is going to be an energetic start," says George Lucas, looking at the list of the cues assembled today.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. 6M7 is the first of the day," says Composer John Williams, stepping up the podium with his baton. The orchestra members straighten in their chairs. The baton drops with the first downbeat, and a very familiar refrain plays -- not 6M7, but instead the last part of "Happy Birthday to You."

Williams smiles, as the orchestra offers their applause at a prank well executed. It is indeed a special day for John Williams. "I'm so happy to be sharing my 42 birthday with you," says Williams. "Thank you so much; that was very sweet."

That surprise aside, as Lucas predicted, it was an energetic start, with music from the heart of the duel. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi swipe at each other with single-minded determination in their heated struggle. So focused are they that they ignore the volatile landscape surrounding them. The Mustafar refinery that they clamber and leap through serves only as an obstacle to their combat. They seem oblivious to the setting, except when one can use a steam pipe or gantry as an escape route or an advantage.

Likewise, the music ignores the hellish geography, staying focused instead on the characters. That is, until it is too late. The energy shields that should be protecting the building have faltered. The fight stops for an instant as a swelling sheet of lava geysers up into the collection facility. The characters snap their heads back to look... and they are cued by a dramatic upswell of music signifying the danger.

Scoring Engineer Shawn Murphy listens to the playback, advising his assistants to reposition the microphones. "It sounds like the chimes are a mile away from the mic and the [suspended] cymbal is right on top of it."

"I'd like to think of those bars as tragico," Williams tells the orchestra. "Something very operatic. That should be the spirit of those few bars of tune."

A very different flavor of combat is scored later in the day -- the knuckle-dusting brawl between General Grievous and Obi-Wan Kenobi. To keep the orchestra in tempo with the music, a click track of quavers -- eighth notes -- ticks away relentlessly in the musicians' headsets.

The first run-through is energetic, a rousing rehearsal that Williams is reluctant to finish -- the sheet music ends without him. "Shawn, I got lost," admits Williams with a chuckle. "Now that is active."

Imagine the plodding of the AT-ATs, heard with heavy piano in "Battle in the Snow" from Empire, but played much more up-tempo. Grievous has the mass and speed to be dangerous -- it's like brawling a dexterous freight train. Obi-Wan barely holds his own, but when he lands his best punch, he has the weight of the orchestra behind him.

"I wish those drums weren't so recognizable as concert snare drum," says Williams. He suggests that the drummers turn the snare off. "What does a timpani mallet sound on that? Maybe felt here and wood there," Williams suggests. EDITOR'S NOTE: HOW EMBARRASSING TO BE A RECOGNIZABLE SNARE DRUM, HUH? GIGGLE.

Aside from these standout combat pieces, there were other, more atmospheric cues heard as well. Including a quiet refrain that accompanies what is probably Darth Sidious' only moment of compassion ever recorded, played on chimes.

"Think of it as church bells gone wrong," describes Williams. EDITOR'S NOTE: LOL! GREAT LINE.

I didn't hear much of the afternoon scoring sessions, as preparations were underway for an online chat with Producer Rick McCallum. At his insistence, I brought the webcam up to the producer's lounge above the control room, so that fans could spy on his digs. As usual, his chat proved popular, with our shared screen of questions choked so much by the incoming messages that we only ever saw six or seven at a time, leaving hundreds un-read. But McCallum spotted a few he wanted to field, including spontaneously inviting one lucky Hyperspace member to tomorrow's sessions.

The chat also marked the closest we came to getting George Lucas on a chat -- that is, about five feet. Rick would occasionally lob Lucas a question or two, but he was preoccupied in discussion with his guest to the recording, Grand Prix racing legend, Jackie Stewart. EDITOR'S NOTE: AH THE PERKS OF THE WEALTHY AND FAMOUS.....

February 10, 2005
I'm no musician, so I'm certain there are nuances to each performance and recording session that breeze past my amateur ears. Nonetheless, there are feats I suspect would impress me no matter what level of knowledge I possesed. I am continually amazed by the level of skill exhibited by the London Symphony Orchestra, particularly when the players perform a piece for the first time. I don't know what I assumed exactly, but I figured there'd be a more involved rehearsal. That the musicians wouldn't be tasked to play a piece cold, at first look, not having been previously acquainted with the sheet music.

There's no lengthy rehearsal. Upon turning to a new cue, the orchestra plays it once, without a click track, without video playback. Composer John Williams and Scoring Engineer Shawn Murphy listen for trouble spots. Williams revisits any troublesome measures with words of guidance or necessary modifications -- oftentimes, the music sounds different with all 110 musicians assembled within the studio space, necessitating a tweak here and there. And then, a take is recorded.

For the first cue of today, there was perhaps more familiarity with the music than with other pieces. "Good morning, people," says John Williams to the orchestra members. "We'll start with 7M8: the end credits."

As all Star Wars fans know, the end credits sequence follows a very specific structure. With the iris out of the last frame of the film, there's a triple-attack of brassy fanfare that kicks the music into the main title theme. The up-tempo rendition of the Star Wars theme -- Luke Skywalker's theme -- continues until it is overtaken by a new theme. Then what follows is a reprise of the main themes of the film, before fading out or ending triumphantly.

With the end of Episode III serving double-duty as a finale to the entire saga, but also the end of the first trilogy, the end credits are slightly different this time around. They contain a major piece of music that otherwise has no place in Episode III. EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOO....MORE GOOSEBUMPS......

After the fanfare of the main theme dies down, the glide of a harp segues into Princess Leia's theme, now indelibly associated with peacefulness of Alderaan, one of the closing worlds of Revenge of the Sith. It is, perhaps, the most passionate and emotional cue in all of the Star Wars saga. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEP. In the recording session, when it builds to its final crescendo, Williams finishes to a rousing applause and cheers of appreciation from the orchestra.

"It'll be another 25 years before we do this again," jokes Williams.

"That's my goosebump fix for the session," says Scoring Assistant Andrew Dudman. EDITOR'S NOTE: SEE...IT'S NOT JUST ME!

As the end credits are always a montage of multiple themes, this cue is not recorded as one piece. Rather, Williams isolates the sections. He picks up the piece around measure 58, where the new "Revenge of the Sith" dueling theme appears. This then segues into a surprise, and not an unwelcome one.

The stately "Throne Room" from Episode IV, the music that accompanies the Yavin 4 awards ceremony, appears in the End Credits. It's the unedited version of the piece, that is different from what appears in A New Hope. It's been recorded as a concert piece this way: instead of the iris out to Episode IV's end credits, it goes into a reprise of Princess Leia's theme.

"We haven't recorded it in this configuration here with this orchestra since the very first film," says Supervising Music Editor Ken Wannberg.

With each cue running over six minutes, Shawn Murphy describes the next two pieces as "monster cues."

"In the old days, when we were using those little reels, each one would have taken up a reel," points out George Lucas.

The first of the two, "Scenes and Dreams" starts off sweetly, with a violin playing during a tender exchange between Anakin and Padmé. It is night on Coruscant. She has changed into her nightgown and stands on the balcony of her apartment, while Anakin leans against the curving wall, admiring the beauty of his beloved wife. The "Across the Stars" love theme plays, and unlike some of the other Padmé and Anakin scenes, there's no nebulous threat lurking in the lower registers, no undercurrent of uncertainty.

This makes the contrast to the music's next turn all the more pronounced. Anakin experiences a chilling nightmare, played with shrill strings in an increasing crescendo that peaks with his sudden awakening. He leaves his shared bed with Padmé, dons a robe and heads outside, to the airy verandah to stew over his unsettling vision. EDITOR'S NOTE: HE'S PRETTY, BUT BEING MARRIED TO HIM SOUNDS LIKE A LAUGH-RIOT, HUH?

Padmé soon joins him, and the music brings up Anakin's innocent boyhood theme from Episode I. Very fitting as he notices the token of affection he gave her all those many years ago, the japor snippet Padmé wears around her neck. There's a fragile twinkle of bells to accompany the shot of the jewelry. The music is moody as Anakin explains his fears to Padmé.

These somber tones continue as Anakin next confers with Yoda about his vision. There's slight intonations of the Force theme on a bassoon as the discussion turns philosophical. An interjection of brass moves us away from the moody introspection to more objective issues, as Anakin arrives late to the Jedi briefing room, and then the cue ends.

The next lengthy cue, which ends the day's recording session, is named simply enough "Moving Things Along." It isn't very thematic -- mostly background music to establish mood, with flourishes to accompany establishing shots. With the visual introduction of fiery Mustafar, we're given a bellicose, percussive passage with blasts of hard brass. The camera glides in to the mountainside processing facility, soaring past platform-riding Mustafarians skimming the molten rivers for precious ores, past the flea-riding aliens that walk along the hardened surface of the lava flows.

The music gets more atmospheric and smoky as we cut inside the facility, and see Darth Sidious holographically communicating to the Separatist leaders.

Before the cue's end, we'll hear Darth Vader's theme and the Emperor's theme -- which is truly appropriate as it accompanies Palpatine's formal declaration of a New Order.

It's a satisfying finale for this leg of my personal Episode III journey. The scoring sessions will continue for another week -- including isolated percussion and choir sessions, but I am returning to the U.S. after today.

As I write this, there are less than 100 days before the world gets to experience Revenge of the Sith.

Let Peter Cavanna's once-in-a-lifetime experience prove the maxim: it never hurts to ask. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," he beams. "I've done that all my life: I've always asked for things that were sort of impossible."

During Rick McCallum's online chat on February 8th, a Hyperspace member with the screen name GazelleUK boldly ventured the following query:

Rick, I live just a few miles from those studios. Any chance of me coming down now and having a prevue???

The answer was classic McCallum, a shoot-from-the-hip, take-everyone-by-surprise response:
It's too late for today. But if you're here at 10:30 tomorrow, I'll let you have a little peek. Ask for John Singh. But if you tell anyone else, I will have you terminated.

Now, I typed that for Rick, and I wasn't a hundred percent sure if he was serious. John Singh, (LFL International Publicity) and I exchanged an incredulous look before asking Rick if this was for real. "Yeah, let's do it," he said. So, John made it happen by sending GazelleUK (a.k.a Peter) an email inviting him to the studios.

"I thought he was just joking," says Peter. "You can't just do that! Not on a forum, where everyone can read that. I mean, who knows who else will show up?"

As he recounts it, Peter wasn't entirely willing to believe it was real until he showed up at Abbey Road studios this morning. "I didn't tell my girlfriend or anyone anything about it, because I thought it wasn't going to be true." EDITOR'S NOTE: DISPELLING THE STEREOTYPE THAT DWEEBS DON'T DATE.......

John Singh met Peter, and took him upstairs to briefly meet Rick. From the Producer's Lounge, Peter got a bird's-eye-view of the orchestra as they performed the End Credits sequence for Revenge of the Sith. "I'll admit I was a little bit confused. I was trying to think how that particular music would fit in. In my head, I thought this a very familiar tune that will appear in a very unfamiliar place," he says.

"My eyes were watering just listening to that music," he continues. "Not only is this Star Wars, but they're great musicians as well and it just sounds fantastic. I thought, these people aren't making movies; they're making magic. And it was absolutely magic."


Yet MORE Star Wars News items

SITH happens again in March
New STAR WARS trailer in front of ROBOTS? website
is reporting that the second trailer for STAR WARS - EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH will arrive in theaters on March 11.

That also makes sense to us; it's the same day that 20th Century Fox, the studio that is releasing REVENGE, will release ROBOTS, its latest CGI movie.

REVENGE OF THE SITH opens in theaters May 19, 2005.

'Revenge of the Sith' Image in Entertainment Weekly

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly features an article on 'Revenge of the Sith' and a picture of Obi-Wan and Anakin from the movie.



Mark Hamill Talks Star Wars TV Series
IESB recently spoke to Mark Hamill about the Star Wars TV series he's rumoured to be involved with.

He explained that he has not heard an official word from Lucasfilm or even if Kevin Smith is involved. When asked if he would be interested in once again portraying Luke Skywalker on the small screen he quoted James Bond by saying "Never Say Never."

He also mentioned that a Star Wars TV series would be a good idea since it could concentrate on the story instead of the special effects. EDITOR'S NOTE: YES, MANY OF US AGREE. BUT STILL....OWIE, LUKE.

James Earl Jones Talks Vader in Nickelodeon Magazine
The February issue of Nickelodeon magazine has a page on actors who are 'so good at being bad' villains.

The feature includes James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, and here are the questions he answered:

Why is Your Character so Mean?
JEJ: It's about gaining as much power as possible- magical and psychic power. Darth Vader was angry as a young man, and he bought into the Emperor's Evil.

Has Anyone Ever Held It Against You In Real Life?
JEJ: My son was three when he saw the first Star Wars movie, and he hated that I played Darth Vader. He said 'Poppa, how could you contribute to an evil man like that?'

What is the Worst Thing Your Character Has Done?
JEJ: I thought the worst thing Darth Vader did was the trade off he made for power.

When General Grievous barks his orders, his minions scurry to carry out their tasks.

His is a commanding presence, and his fearsome demeanor leaves no room for questions. His implacable metallic skeleton gives him the aspect of a droid, but hidden inside the armored carapace is an unwholesome, living being.

To remind viewers of this inner Grievous, his words are occasionally punctuated with a hard, wet hacking cough -- suggesting that Grievous is literally rotten to the core.

Providing the voice of Grievous is Matthew Wood, whose history with Star Wars has been mostly behind-the-scenes. Though Wood is an actor, his contribution to the prequel trilogy has been primarily as Supervising Sound Editor.

His access to the Episode III production process may have given him a head's up that casting was underway for the part, but the use of a pseudonym ensured that insider status didn't factor into the selection process.

On set, Duncan Young read Grievous' lines for the benefit of the actors. His voice was never intended to make it into the final film, and it was edited out of the mix early on along with much of the production audio. Ben Burtt and others supplied temporary voices on the track, all heavily modulated to be appropriate for a cyborg general.

"We put out a casting package of those modulated voices, looking for voice actors," says Wood. "Chris Scarabosio processed each one, and we would play these for George for him to evaluate. We went through a lot of different people, and on the last package we sent out, I put my own voice on there, though I didn't put my name on it."

With the pseudonym "Alan Smithee,"EDITOR'S NOTE: SNICKER..... Wood's reading of Grievous was played for Lucas without introduction, and he selected it. "It was great, but then I thought, 'should I tell him that it's me?'" recounts Wood. "When George found out, he said 'Great, let's record him tomorrow.'"

In a three-hour recording session, Wood laid down all of Grievous lines. "He's definitely an evil character. He's the leader of the droid army, but not a droid. He feels things; he feels things extremely, I would say. It's a lot of yelling, and shouting out orders, so it had a lot of drill sergeant to it."

While studying acting at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Wood came across a website that offered samples of various accents to help actors hear and mimic patterns of speech from around the world.

"You could hear the same line of dialogue read in different accents," he says. "I liked the sound of the Eastern European and Romanian accents. Also, I had just come back from Prague, so I had that in mind for Grievous."

In the finished film, Grievous' voice will undergo some sort of processing. Currently, it is lowered in pitch and has a ring modulation to it. That may change as the audio mix is still being put together. Wood offers the caveat that everything may still change, having witnessed all the prequels being made. "But I did also record Grievous for the Episode III videogame. I did 125 lines of dialogue for that."

Hayden Christensen Talks 'Revenge of the Sith'
The online edition of The Times in the UK also featured a 4-page interview with Hayden Christensen on Saturday (January 29th).

What are your personal memories of the original Star Wars trilogy?
At 23, I'm a little young to remember when the first trilogy came out, but my older brother is 31 so he was the perfect age. He was fanatical about the films and had every action figure and item of memorabilia imaginable. I have very early memories of my brother pushing me away from his Millennium Falcon to ensure that I didn't break it.

How did it feel to be cast as the man who becomes Darth Vader?
It was really hard to grasp the concept of playing such an iconic role. I was over the moon about being offered the part, didn't hesitate for a second, and from there it was just a matter of how I was going to figure out doing it.

Why do you think Vader has become such an iconic character?
Because there was such a mystique there: the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. Nobody knew about the beginning of who this guy was, which is what makes this next film so exciting. It depicts the events that lead to Anakin Skywalker becoming the man we know him from the original trilogy.

What was it like donning the famous mask and suit for the first time?
The feeling is really hard to articulate. There was such a surreal, glossy quality to the two days when I got to wear the mask and the whole Darth Vader suit. It really capped what has been a very prominent part of my life.

The job I was given was to be the connective tissue between Jake Lloyd (young Anakin) and Darth Vader. Getting to put on the mask and everything, it was like, wow! The job is done.

You're four inches shorter than David Prowse, who played Vader in the original films. Is it true that George Lucas was originally planning to use another actor in the suit?
Yes, but I begged and pleaded and they were kind enough to build a suit that fitted me, and then they built on what was necessary to make my physicality the same as the original Darth Vader's. They had me in stilts under my heels to give me an extra four inches.

Are there any differences between your Vader and Prowse's?
Physically, because it's a brand new Vader suit, I think it's a little more symmetrical. My Vader is also a little more rigid - obviously he's brand new to the suit, so he's still getting acclimatised. There's a sense that he's finding his new skin, and not quite as comfortable with walking. Which was very important for me because - on stilts and with a twenty pound costume - I wasn't very graceful.

What's it like to be the fifth person to have played Anakin Skywalker, following Prowse, Jones, Sebastian Shaw and Jake Lloyd?
When I was given the role it was specified that I was to be playing Anakin at a very specific point in his life. This is not the Jake Lloyd role and this is not the monotonal Darth Vader that we know from the original trilogy. I had a very contained concept of what I was doing. There is some disconnection between the Vaders, because they're all played by different people.

But you've since been inserted, in place of Shaw, at the end of the Return of the Jedi DVD.
I got a real kick out of that. They told me, "By the way, you're in Return of the Jedi and sent me a copy and there I was! It was neat - there I am next to Alec Guinness and Yoda.

Some critics saw your performance in Episode II: Attack of the Clones as whiny and annoying. How did you handle that?
It's what you subject yourself to when you sign up for the profession. You take the good with the bad and all of it with a pinch of salt.

Did you agree with some of the criticisms?
Sure. It's not something I like to talk about too much, but I agreed with some of it and disagreed with some of it, and had a laugh at the expense of almost everything else. Ultimately, you're reading someone's opinion, which is valid, but you're making movies - you're there to have fun.

If anything, I think this film will put a lot of those criticisms to rest. They'll almost seem like necessities. Some of the criticisms, as far as my portrayal of Anakin goes, are of qualities that are essential to his downfall. The ambition, the sense that there's an injustice to life, wanting to right those wrongs, wanting to have that sort of control. That frustration lends itself to a whiny quality: why can't I get my way? Why aren't things the way I'd like them to be? That evolves, and matures a little bit in this film, but it's still very much present.EDITOR'S NOTE: EXACTLY! I KNOW THERE ARE THE 'IHATEHAYDEN' CLUB MEMBERS OUT THERE (REBECCA....), BUT THIS RATIONALE IS EXACTLY WHY I FIND NO FAULT WITH HIS PERFORMANCE.

So what can we expect from Episode III?
It's a much darker film. I think it really gets back to a lot of the roots of what made the films so successful and so popular. It's all built upon very basic, mythological concepts. The inner battle of good versus evil is very prominent.

After this one, the movies really become a generational story about wanting to right the wrongs of your predecessors. In this film you see all the decisions that Anakin makes and how similar his choices are to the choices that were presented to Luke, and how Anakin makes different choices, which lead him down another path. EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO...GOOSEBUMPS. THE PARALLELS. I BET WHEN WE WATCH ALL SIX, WE ARE GOING TO GET SERIOUS GOOSEBUMPS OVER THE RHTHYM AND PATTERN OF THE THING.

What is it that moves Anakin to the dark side
don't know if I can say that! It will be revealed in the movie. There are a few contributing factors. It all stems from an unhealthy lust for power which develops into delusions of grandeur. A desire to attain powers that will allow him to seek certain loves of his life. He's presented with an obstacle and, in trying to figure out how to overcome it, is seduced to the dark side.

A key figure in his fall is Palpatine, played by Ian McDiarmid.

He's the puppetmaster, if you will. He's pulling at all of the right strings behind the scenes, with such charming yet evil precision, that it really plays to the core of what Anakin is struggling with. That's when the seduction begins. Anakin, ultimately, is making a pact with the devil: I'll sell my soul if you give me what I'm asking for. There's a touch of the Dr Faustus about him.

The set piece the fans are most looking forward to is Anakin's long-awaited light sabre duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
There was an immense pressure to meet certain expectations, because there was such importance placed on that fight. It's an intricately choreographed fight that surpasses the longest duration of any other fight committed to film, in time and geography.

How much preparation did you do?
It was such an involved fight sequence that I was out in Australia for three months prior, trying to learn it. You want to get to a point where it becomes like muscle memory. It's so quick when you're doing it - adrenalin's rushing through your veins - that there isn't a cognitive sense of what you're doing.

After three months of repetition, you go on set, they call action, you do the fight sequence and your light sabre is swirling all around you. You're not really sure what the next move is, but somehow you seem to find it.

Did you and Ewan get competitive?
Oh yeah. But it was a shared competitiveness - we were each trying to get one up on the other, seeing how fast we could go. It was just so much fun. We had a real laugh with it.

How will it differ from previous light sabre battles?
We're taking it to another level in so many ways. It's longer for a start, the geography that we cover is so diverse: we're fighting in different environments that affect the way we fight. The fighting styles evolve throughout the fight, depending on where we are. It's also a bit of a throwback to the original trilogy, with some of the more epée-influenced fighting styles from the original Obi-Wan/Darth Vader fight in Star Wars.

There's a lot of one handed light sabre fighting. It's just a more fierce, emotional fight. I don't think, in any Star Wars film, you've seen two comrades having a fight to the death. It's all fuelled by really raw emotion, which makes everything that much more exciting. It was really thrilling for me, one of the more exciting aspects of getting to do the film.

This is your second film with George Lucas, following Attack of the Clones. What's he like to work with?
There's a bit of a misconception that George just hangs back behind the monitors, but he very much likes to be a part of things. He likes to get in there, especially because on this one as he was really excited by the story he was going to get to tell. You could see him being extremely passionate about certain choices we were making.

What was the most useful piece of advice he gave you?
That the function of my role is to make the entire saga work in a linear fashion, so that the people who see the film 20 years from now will believe that Jake Lloyd as a young boy grows up to be the Anakin that I played in the last film, who then is believable in this next film, then suffers the kind of downfalls that we know Darth Vader is consumed by.

We hear that you and Lucas had some animated discussions about the way Anakin would look.
There were a few different incarnations of Anakin's physicality, but ultimately it all lands on George. Every decision regarding every aspect of the film comes down to him. At the same time, he is aware of and appreciates that it's a collaborative process and he likes to hear other people's opinions and take thing on. But at the end of the day, it's his film and his story. We're there to help him realise that. That's all I can hope to do: show up and do my job and hope I keep them happy.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced?
The most difficult part was having to say my goodbyes; putting the boots and wearing the coat and being part of an environment that is so positive and pleasant, for the last time. It's such a massive production, a very complex organism at work, with everyone milling about and so much happening. But at the same time there's this common thread of contentedness. Everyone's genuinely excited by what they're creating - you go to the different departments and they all have something to show you.

Millions of people are hoping this film will be worth the wait.
I'm there hoping with them! I have faith, having been part of the re-shoot process and getting to see different parts of the film put together. I was over the moon. Aside from the fact that they've brought the technology to an even higher level, the story's there. The fundamentals of good storytelling are so prominent in every aspect of this movie. It's just a fun, thrilling ride. I really am confident in this one. I think it'll turn out in a way that we'll all be happy with.

Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, will be released in May


Episode III Release Dates
The saga concludes on May 19, 2005, with the theatrical release of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith in the United States and Canada.

For those outside of North America, here are the currently scheduled international release dates. Information on other territories may follow, so keep checking for updates as May 2005 approaches.

Argentina - May 19
Australia - May 19
Austria - May 19
Belgium - May 18
Bolivia - May 19
Brazil - May 19
Bulgaria - May 19
Canada - May 19
Chile - May 19
Colombia - May 19
Croatia - May 19
Czechoslovakia - May 19
Denmark - May 19
Dominican Republic - May 19
Ecuador - May 20
Egypt - May 19
Estonia - May 20
Finland -May 19
France - May 18
Germany - May 19
Greece - May 20
Holland - May 19
Hong Kong - May 19
Hungary - May 19
Iceland - May 20
India - May 20
Indonesia - May 19
Israel - May 19
Italy - May 20
Jamaica - May 19
Japan - July 9
Korea - May 20
Latvia - May 19
Lebanon - May 19
Lithuania - May 19
Malaysia - May 19
Mexico - May 19
New Zealand - May 19
Norway - May 19
Panama - May 19
Peru - May 19
Philippines - May 19
Poland - May 19
Portugal - May 19
Puerto Rico - May 19
Romania - May 20
Russia - May 19
Serbia/Montenegro - May 19
Singapore - May 19
Slovakia - May 19
Slovenia - May 19
South Africa - May 19
Spain - May 19
Sweden - May 19
Switzerland (French) - May 18
Switzerland (German) - May 19
Taiwan - May 21
Thailand - May 19
Trinidad - May 19
Turkey - May 19
UK - May 19
US - May 19
United Arab Emirates - May 19
Uruguay - May 18
Venezuela - May 19

Uncle George in VARIETY


Variety On Lucas
This week's Variety profiles George Lucas and though articles are typically available by subscription only, they have kindly enough provided us a free URL so you can read the story.

Is the force still with him?As 'Wars' end, Lucas empire is at a crossroads

Multihyphenate George Lucas has said he won't make another 'Star Wars' movie even with a gun pointed to his head.

An ad featuring Darth Vader graces the cover of Variety.

It's an entertainment empire, spanning 1,700 employees and seven divisions that notches up some $1.2 billion in annual sales. It encompasses movies, visual effects and lots and lots of real estate. In the next few months, it will release a film representing a $300 million investment, and will open a grand edifice that promises to change the face of San Francisco.

Yet it all comes down to one 60-year-old idiosyncratic billionaire whose tastes and moods defy predictability.

George Lucas. George Lucas answers to no man. Indeed, his autonomy is unique in the history of the entertainment industry: Even Walt Disney had to cope with his skinflint brother Roy. EDITOR'S NOTE: OUCH. WATCH IT; THOSE DISNEY FOLKS HAVE LOTS AND LOTS OF LAWYERS. EVEN FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.

Lucas turns 61 in May, the same month "Revenge of the Sith," the sixth and probably last "Star Wars" picture, makes its bow. But the visionary filmmaker has no clear plans to make any more films -- at least none of the obviously commercial variety.

And while he has started up several self-sufficient companies -- effects shop ILM, sound firm THX, etc. -- it's not clear that he will turn his focus to any of them. Instead, his peripatetic mind seems eager to blaze new frontiers.

The question is what that means for his corporate and creative empire.

Lucas says he wants to go back to the things he was exploring as a film director in his late 20s and making movies "that nobody wants to see." EDITOR'S NOTE: NAYSAYERS WOULD OPINE THAT HE'S ALREADY TRIED THAT WITH SW EPISODES ONE AND TWO. (NOT ME....I'M JUST GETTING IN THE LICKS BEFORE THE WHINERS JUMP IN).

He's referring to the moody sci-fier "THX 1138," his first feature. After that 1971 film, recut by Warner Bros., failed at the box office, he followed with 1973's "American Graffiti," a $777,000 ensemble piece that took in $140 million worldwide for Universal.

Since then, he's carefully tailored Lucasfilm to his own needs and desires, especially his desire for independence. It's no accident that Lucas and Lucas alone holds the fate of his company in his hands. That's exactly how he's always wanted it.

He doesn't report to shareholders, stock analysts or nosy financial reporters, and he funds his own movies, so he's not accountable to investors.

That is part of why Lucas left L.A. in the first place. Away from the Hollywood filmmaking community, which he shuns, he's been able to build his empire without constant scrutiny -- and gossip -- from the rest of the industry.

Even on the set, Lucas is noted for never taking "no" for an answer; he'll ignore counsel from his effects supervisors and tell them to fix the shot in post. If that means millions in extra costs, well, it's his money.

His personal fortune is estimated at $3 billion, with several hundred million more sure to flow his way from "Sith."

Money doesn't seem to be his focus, though. If it were, he could have earned a few hundred million more by taking his company public while retaining enough stock to rake in future profits.
He says he wants to make niche movies, but has artfully kept his options open. Not only has he avoided announcing any specific plans for himself or his company, he's taken no steps (like announcing an IPO) that would commit him to any course of action.

The company reorganized some months ago with an eye toward succession, but a spokesman says Lucas has no plans to retire.

Cool hand Lucas
"The mystery man remains as mysterious, unpredictable and exciting as he's always been -- once you get used to him," says former Lucasfilm exec Sid Ganis, who admits with a laugh that Lucas does take some getting used to.

Ganis was a senior VP at Lucasfilm before going on to senior posts at Paramount and Sony.
"Lucas is so intensely aware of what he's doing and everything he's doing. Every once in a while I'd scratch my head, even say out loud, 'Are you sure you want to do that?' But right or wrong, he's sure what he wants to do. It's in his nature to plan it all, even if he doesn't know how he's going to get there," Ganis says.

So where is he going?

Lucas says this is the end of the "Star Wars" movies, a franchise that has spanned six feature films with combined worldwide theatricaltheatrical gross, including rereleases, of $3.4 billion, with Fox as the distributor.

That's not counting revenues from homevideo, foreign and domestic TV deals, a TV specialEDITOR'S NOTE: AND THE LESS SAID ABOUT THAT, THE BETTER, EH?, an animated series, videogames and some $9 billion in licensed merchandise.

Fan sites are buzzing about a possible "Star Wars" TV series, but the feature films are ending.

Similarly, nothing is imminent for Lucasfilm's other pic franchise, "Indiana Jones." Paramount would love to distribute a fourth edition, but, despite the talk since No. 3 in 1989, there are no immediate plans.

A Lucasfilm spokesman says the company is developing projects in live-action, television and animation, but no outside projects. So don't look for Lucas to move into Hollywood-style acquisition and development.

"Never was he ever interested in doing that," says Ganis. "He develops, but he develops his own, specific, few, thought-out ideas."

There was a time, in the 1980s, when Lucas did lend his company's resources and his name as exec producer to several of his friends' movies.

The results: Jim Henson's "Labyrinth," Ron Howard's "Willow," Francis Ford Coppola's "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" and Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's "Howard the Duck."

He also put the "Young Indiana Jones" TV skein mainly in the hands of others, including Frank Darabont EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL, AND LITTLE RICKY (MCCALLUM).

The series failed, though, EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT FAILED. IT WAS VERY WELL DONE, IT LASTED A COUPLE OF SEASONS AND WAS WELL-RESPECTED, IF NOT HIGHLY RATED. (AND NEED WE MENTION HOW YUMMY YOUNG INDY WAS/IS)? and the films were box office disappointments at best, flops at worst. "Howard the Duck" was widely lambasted.

Since then, Lucas has personally provided the story, screenplay and/or direction for every film made under the Lucasfilm banner.

That's been frustrating for some of the company's top creative people in the years since. There's been a glass ceiling at Lucasfilm, and eventually some decide that if they want to make movies -- other than Lucas' own movies -- they need to move on.

ILM's former prexy Jim Morris, for example, cited his desire to get back into producing as a reason for leaving his job last November.

It didn't take him long to get another gig; Pixar has hired him to produce an as-yet-untitled project.

Pixar also snagged Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, who left Skywalker Sound to direct a movie for the toon giant.

Lucasfilm simply isn't making movies for them to work on.

However, there is still plenty of talent at ILM and Lucasfilm's other units, so Lucas could go off to make his movies and leave his company's other divisions, including ILM and Skywalker
Sound, to run on their own momentum.

But their record is mixed and their problems mounting.

Skywalker Sound, which will remain on the Skywalker Ranch, rules its niche in sound and needs only to keep its talent to continue.

Industrial Light & Magic, though still the top f/x shop, faces more competition and is being stressed by changes in the industry, labor problems and turmoil created by the move to San Francisco.

It also hasn't won a visual effects Oscar since "Forrest Gump" in 1994 (despite numerous noms). EDITOR'S NOTE: AS IF WINNING AWARDS IS A BE-ALL?

Gaming division Lucas Arts, according to industry tracker NPD, grossed just over $100 million last year, primarily from its successful "Star Wars" titles. That's just a fraction of what the year's top games like "Halo" took in on their own.

In August, the company laid off 31 of its nearly 300 workers as it decided to focus on fewer titles, making clear it isn't becoming a major industry player as many once predicted.

LucasArts went several months without a leader before last April bringing on CEO Jim Ward, who still serves as head of marketing and distribution for Lucasfilm.

Ward says he sees a healthy future for "Star Wars" in vidgames. Trends are pointing downward in other licensing areas, though.

Lucas Licensing is still profitable, and toy industry experts predict at least one "must-have" toy will come out of "Sith."

But the last two pics have not generated big toy sales among kids under 10. Some toymakers were so hurt by disappointing sales after "The Phantom Menace" that they walked away from "Attack of the Clones."

There are higher hopes for "Revenge of the Sith" because of the appearance of Darth Vader, who has been by far the most popular figure in the "Star Wars" toy market.

The iconic character has so beguiled fans that his presence is already ubiquitous in "Sith's" early marketing and media coverage. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH IS SORT OF A PITY....FOR THOSE OF US WHO A) ARE ALREADY A BIT SICK OF THE COLOR RED, AND B) WOULD PREFER NOT TO DECORATE THEIR LIVES WITH THE DARKSIDE. (WELL, NOT EXCLUSIVELY, ANYWAY...)

(By coincidence, his visage even dominates this week's Variety cover, in an ad for European cell phone company Orange.)

Lucas, who sold Pixar in 1986 to raise cash when his other units were struggling, got into the toon business in 2003 with the creation of Lucas Animation, and in August 2004, announced the creation of Lucas Animation Singapore. Neither shop has yet put out any product.

So will Lucasfilm make a comeback, as it did after its disappointments in the '80s, or will it fade away and become a bit of brand nostalgia, like Oldsmobile or Pan Am or RKO?

The answer lies in how closely Lucas remains tied to the company.

If he keeps ownership, the company's future as a movie production company is probably limited, as Lucas doesn't seem much interested in being a feature film player. He hates dealing with the Hollywood community, especially talent agents, and it's hard to see him turning over dealmaking authority to anyone else.

Even if he steps away from managing the company, he could return at any time, and it would be difficult for prexy Micheline Chau or any other management team to launch major initiatives.

If Lucas sells the company, or relinquishes control in some way that assures its toppers they can't be summarily removed if he changes his mind, then the company would be free to become more active in the movie biz.

As for the company's service businesses, they're poised for a long run, regardless of Lucas' personal plans.

"There's always an encouraged sea of creativity happening all around the company," says Ganis. "Lucasfilm will be moving into technology that you and I have only barely heard of, with George's commitment and money."

Ganis expects Lucas to continue his tubthumping for digital cinema.

"What he single-mindedly believes he should do, he does. That's a sign to me that he's going to continue in the movie business. He's not going to be a force in making it happen and then abandon the medium."

However, Dale Pollock, the Lucas biographer who is now dean of the North Carolina School of the Arts school of filmmaking, wonders if the public will ever see the films Lucas makes from now on.

"He might make movies and only show them to himself and his friends. That's as personal as filmmaking can get. That wouldn't surprise me."

So is it possible that Lucas will make movies that never get released and that Lucasfilm, though still active through ILM and Skywalker Sound, won't make any movies at all?

It would be a peculiar end for a man who has made some of the most popular films ever and for a company that has been, at times, one of the most lucrative and visible enterprises in showbiz history.


Still MORE toys and stuff


Decorate Your Pad Sith Style
Idea Nuova will be producing a few Revenge of the Sith items this year, mainly to decorate your living space, Sith style! From bean bag chairs to lava lamps there is something in this collection for everyone!

Bliss Out Star Wars Style With Idea Nuova
Ever wonder how Star Wars would have been merchandised if it had been released in 1967 rather than 1977? EDITOR'S NOTE: IF I SAY NO, CAN WE STOP THE MADNESS? (DIDN'T THINK SO.....)

Well wonder no more, because Idea Nuova is giving fans a taste of Star Wars psychedelica with beaded curtains, lava lamps, bean bags, and more!





For their new Revenge of the Sith line, Idea Nuova has plenty to offer fans looking to deck out their pads with some far out Star Wars flair.

Motion lamps, glitter night lights, butterfly chairs, and bamboo-style curtains are just the beginning of this ultra-hip line of décor.




Defined by fiery reds and oranges, much of the line is themed out on
Vader, making buddy pillows, mini lockers, and slumber sacks more like decorator pieces than household wares.


There's even a collapsible hamper that looks more like pop art than a bedroom necessity.


Get into the Star Wars groove this April with these great home furnishing essentials from Idea Nuova!

Photo Archives: Wookiee Water Blaster
The coolest item of all...the Wookiee Water Blaster!

This new Super Soaker is the weapon of choice for doing combat on Kashyyyk, with deadly results. I mean, have you ever smelled a wet wookiee? EDITOR'S NOTE: THE ITEM DOES THE QUIPPING FOR US. HOW NICE.

As the Dragon Flies
As we reported at the start of the year, there are a number of deluxe figures coming to the Revenge of the Sith range.

One such piece is Yoda on Can-Cell, an over-sized dragonfly that is either a beast of burden or is tamed by the dimunitive Jedi Master - but with no information on the Internet yet one can only guess the what, where and why's of this creature. EDITOR'S NOTE: I FEEL A TREMOR IN THE FORCE. UNCLE GEORGE, UNCLE GEORGE.....JUST CAUSE YOU CAN MAKE SOMETHING WITH CG, DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD. (COOL TOY, THOUGH)

M&Ms Collector Packaging
5 of the 72 M&Ms packages - collector packs 19, 20, 22, 23 & 24.


Cereal Box Collectors Eat Well
Kellogg's has the Revenge of the Sith promotional license for cereal and other food products this year. Frosted Mini-Wheats boxes featuring a free Episode I DVD offer are already on the shelves.

Other Kellogg's Star Wars cereals expected soon are Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, and Fruit Loops.EDITOR'S NOTE: I SEE A DIET MADE UP OF M&Ms AND JUNKY CEREAL.....

Vader's Medical Droid Reveals More Sith



ANGEL: SEASON 5 On the Way
In this must-see final season, Angel - cursed with a conscience and a soul - continues his quest to redeem himself and the rest of the world when the fifth season of “Angel” is reborn on DVD February 15, 2004 from Fox Home Entertainment.

Familiar faces, including Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Willow (Allyson Hannigan) and Harmony (Mercedes McNab), make their return in the climatic last season of this sexy, sci-fi action-thriller series that has left an indelible mark on the pop-culture landscape.

Nominated for six Saturn® Awards in 2004, “Angel” won for Best Network Television Series, as well as earning David Boreanaz the Best Actor in a Television Series award. The stellar supporting cast was also recognized at the 2004 Saturn awards when James Marsters (Spike) won for Best Supporting Actor and Amy Acker (Winifred Burkle/Illyria) for Best Supporting Actress.

The “Angel” Season Five DVD Collection is loaded with extras that will whet any Angel fan’s appetite including commentary by Joss Whedon, writer/director commentary for “Choreography of a Stunt” and seven jam-packed featurettes including “Angel: The Final Season,” “To Live & Die in LA: The Best of Angel,” “Angel Unbound: The Gag Reels” and much more for the suggested retail price of $59.98 US/$89.98 Canada.

Own the final season “Angel” Season Five DVD Collection before it slips away.

“Angel” Season Five Synopsis:
The City of Angels has proved to be the ideal address for a fallen vampire looking to save a few lost souls and, in turn, redeem his own. Now, in his new position at the head of Wolfram and Hart, Angel makes use of the firm’s state-of-the-art technology and the darkly tinted windows in his luxurious new office, stunning penthouse apartment and fleet of limousines. After more than 200 years spent hiding from the light, he will at last be able to move about during the day.
With Wolfram and Hart under new management, Angel and the gang will take on one supernatural cause after another. Their client list will be a mix of good and evil characters, including a werewolf, a necromancer who uses human bodies as vessels for demon spirits and a terrorist who threatens Los Angeles with a deadly virus.

“Angel” Season Five DVD Special Features:
All episodes of “Angel” are compiled on six discs (letter box: aspect ratio 1.78:1). The following is the breakdown for each disc:
Disc One: Episodes:
Conviction (10/01/03)
Just Rewards (10/08/03)
Unleashed (10/15/03)
Hell Bound (10/22/03)

Additional Bonus Feature:
Commentary for “Conviction” by writer/director Joss Whedon
“Hey Kids! It’s Smile Time” featurette

Disc Two: Episodes:
Life of the Party (10/29/03)
The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco (11/05/03)
Lineage (11/12/03)
Destiny (11/19/03)

Additional Bonus Feature:
Commentary for “Destiny” by director Skip Schoolnik and writers David Fury, Juliet Landau and Steven S. Deknight.

Disc Three: Episodes:
Harm’s Way (1/14/04)
Soul Purpose (1/21/04)
Damage (1/28/04)

Additional Bonus Feature:
Commentary for “Soul Purpose” by director/actor David Boreanaz and writers Brent Fletcher, and Christian Kane

Disc Four: Episodes:
You’re Welcome (2/04/04)
Why We Fight (4/11/04)
Smile Time (4/18/04)
A Hole in the World (4/25/04)

Additional Bonus Features:
Commentary for “You’re Welcome” by writer/director David Fury, Christian Kane and Sarah Thompson
Commentary for “A Hole in the World” by writer/director Joss Whedon, Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof
“Angel 100” featurette

Disc Five: Episodes:
Shells (3/03/04)
Underneath (4/14/04)
Origin (4/21/04)
Time Bomb (4/28/04)

Additional Bonus Features:
Commentary for “Underneath” by director Skip Schoolnik and writers Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain and Adam Baldwin
“Angel: Cheography of a Stunt” featured

Disc Six: Episodes:
The Girl in Question (5/05/04)
Power Play (5/12/04)
Not Fade Away (5/19/04)

Additional Bonus Features:
Commentary for “Not Fade Away” by co-writer/director Jeffrey Bell
Featurettes: “Angel: The Final Season,” “To Live & Die in LA: The Beset of Angel,” “Halos and Horns: Recurring Villainy” and “Angel Unbound: The Gag Reels.”

Price: $59.98 U.S./$89.98 Canada
Street Date: February 15, 2005
Total Running Time: 990 minutes
U.S. Rating NR
Canadian Rating: NR
Closed Captioned: Yes

Richard Kelly’s director's cut of DONNIE DARKO, which hits the stands on Tuesday.

Here is the scoop directly from Fox.

Fox Home Entertainment invites you to go down the rabbit hole to re-discover writer/director Richard Kelly’s sensational and disturbing cult masterpiece when DONNIE DARKO: DIRECTOR’S CUT arrives on DVD February 15, 2005.

Defying genre boundaries and simple explanations, the mind-bending film captures the darkness and angst of a disturbed teenager in a unique and dreamlike story. Boasting powerful performances by an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal (The Day After Tomorrow), Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels), Jena Malone (Saved!), Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) and Noah Wyle (“ER”), DONNIE DARKO has been hailed as “an engaging, time-tripping Holden Caufield” by the New York Post.

DONNIE DARKO: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT includes never-before-seen footage, audio commentary with writer/director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith, a Donnie Darko Production Diary with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster, “They Made Me Do It Too — The Cult Of Donnie Darko,” a storyboard to screen featurette, “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary” and the director’s cut theatrical trailer. The 2-disc DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $26.98 U.S./$41.98 Canada.

DVD Special Features
Presented with English Dolby Surround 2.0 and English Dolby Digital 5.1 in widescreen (aspect ratio 2.35:1), the DONNIE DARKO: DIRECTOR’S CUT DVD includes a wealth of bonus features including audio commentary with writer/director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith, a Donnie Darko Production Diary with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster, “They Made Me Do It Too—The Cult Of Donnie Darko,” a storyboard to screen featurette, “#1 Fan: A Darkomentary” and the director’s cut theatrical trailer.

During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) sleepwalks out of his house one night, and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. He returns home the next morning to find that a jet engine has crashed through his bedroom. As he tries to figure out why he survived and tries to deal with people in his town, like the school bully, his conservative health teacher, and a self-help guru, Frank continues to turn up in Donnie's mind, causing him to commit acts of vandalism and worse. In the tradition of Urban Legends and Final Destination, DONNIE DARKO is an edgy, psychological thriller about a suburban teen coming face-to-face with his dark destiny. Gyllenhaal leads a star-filled cast as a delusional high-school student visited by a demonic rabbit with eerie visions of the past – and deadly predictions for the future. A recognized industry leader, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is the marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming on VHS and DVD as well as video acquisitions and original productions for the U.S. and Canada. Each year the Company introduces hundreds of new and newly repackaged products, which it services to more than 70,000 retail outlets – from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce – throughout North America. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is a unit of Fox Filmed Entertainment, a Fox Entertainment Group company.

Street Date: February 15, 2005
Suggested Retail Price: $26.98 U.S./$41.98 Canada
Running Time: 133 minutes
U.S. Rating: R
Canadian Rating: 14A
Closed Caption: Yes

And a wee bit of Movie'ing on this fine Monday

Christensen to Star in "Decameron"
Hayden Christensen has been cast to play Lorenzo in Dino De Laurentiis' upcoming adaptation of the 14th century Italian classic

"The Decameron" by Giovanni Boccaccio. Mischa Barton will also star.

David Leland has written the script and will also direct. The story centers on a group of young Florentines who take refuge in the Italian countryside, amusing one another with stories of love and adventure, as the black plague devastates the city. EDITOR'S NOTE: SORT OF THE ITALIAN VERSION OF FIDDLING WHILE ROME.....OH, WAIT. THAT WAS SORT OF ITALIAN TOO, I GUESS.



First Sneak of BATMAN BEGINS?

Here's another breaking sneak peek from AICN. "TheMan," as he likes to call himself, EDITOR'S NOTE: SMIRK....AS IN, 'THE MAN WHO LIVES IN HIS MOM'S BASEMENT?' (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.......SMIRKAGAIN). apparently saw a test screening of the film in an audience of just twenty-five.

He had a lot to say about the movie but here are a few choice quotes (sans the bad punctuation & spelling)EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE.....:

"Now going into this I knew about Batman, but trust me, even if you've never heard of him, you'll walk out loving him. His cause is good, his look and moves badass, his girl's hot. He's the star and it's awesome. The overall tone of the film is much grander and bigger in scale and not as dark as I was expecting. It's made with lots style but not as much as there is substance. There are jokes too, which I wasn't expecting, that are actually funny, particularly by Alfred. I walked in expecting a blast and that's what I had." EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW, HARRY. DEEP. (ISN'T HIS 15 MINUTES UP YET?)

Also this,

"The action is great in this movie. Much better and larger then anything we’ve seen before. All the "little" fights make way for Batman to own. His first night out when he terrorizes some bad guys is awesome. The Batmobile chase will go down with the Matrix and The French Connection as one of the best ever. It’s so cool to watch. I mean literally SO COOL While some FX in it aren't finished, its just awesome. The Batmobile is a beast and wrecks everything in its path. The entire third act and second half of the second is all action."

The Wachowski Brothers Are Shown The Money
Portman to Star


The script by the Wachowski brothers is baseed on Alan Moore's graphic novel. Joel Silver is producing.

James McTeigue will make his directing debut on the film which starts Natalie Portman.


"Super" Hottie Kreuk in Partition
Kristin Kreuk has signed on to co-star in "Partition." The epic romance centers on the last days of the British Empire in India. She will play a 17-year-old who is traumatized by the events that separate her from her family as India is divided into two countries. EDITOR'S NOTE: UMM...WELLL.....I'M SURE SHE'LL LOOK PURTY. (HOPE NOT A LOT OF, ER ACTING IS REQUIRED).

Jimi Mistry will also star. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHO?

TV Dweebing on a Monday

Ominous news for funniest-show-on-television ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT this week: Fox has trimmed this season's episode order from 22 to 18.

Combined with the show's continued and frustrating lack ratings, as well as Fox's plans to drop AMERICAN DAD into AD's timeslot this Spring, it seems to suggest a troubled future for the Show…if any future at all.

On the other hand, at least it made it through two seasons rather than dying an even-more-premature death like similar off-the-wall Fox comedies like THE TICK or ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE. EDITOR'S NOTE: ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN, I GUESS, HUH BOB? (I MEAN.....IT'S ON FOX. SO YOU KNEW IT COULDN'T LAST, RIGHT?)

Landau at Crime Scene
Martin Landau and Orlando Jones have been signed to star in the ABC drama pilot "Evidence." Landau and Jones will play two homicide detectives who investigate murders by putting all of the evidence together and then constructing the crime.

The show will be produced by John Wells Prods. and Warner Bros. TV. EDITOR'S NOTE: MARTIN LANDAU RETURNING TO SERIES TV? NIFTY! WEIRD PAIRING, THOUGH.

Levinson puts weight behind '3 Lbs.' at CBS
Oscar winner Barry Levinson has come on board to direct CBS' drama pilot "3 Lbs."

In pilot pickup news, UPN has given the green light to two Touchstone TV comedies: "Friends in the AM," exec produced by Courteney Cox and David Arquette, and "20 Things to Do Before You're 30," based on the British series of the same name.

Meanwhile, CBS and ABC have ordered additional episodes of "Numbers" and "8 Simple Rules," respectively.

"3 Lbs.," from Paramount Network TV and writer-exec producer Peter Ocko, is a medical drama revolving around brain surgeons.

A Valentine for Harry Potter

New pics of GOF Legos
Some brand new pictures of the new Goblet of Fire Lego sets

New GOF photo in Telegraph Magazine

There is a new Goblet of Fire picture in yesterday's Telegraph Magazine.

Here's what the article says:

Nominated production designer Stuart Craig (who has won three Oscars for his work) has worked back-to-back on the series for five years and is in the middle of filming Goblet of Fire, to be released in November.

From the start, Craig and his set decorator Stephanie McMillan have created vigorously embellished settings - from the thousand year old school, Hogwarts, to the Weasley family home.

"There's nothing more elegant than adding detail to the point where you'realmost throwing it away. You almost feel there's more stuff beyond the edge ofthe frame."

For the new film, directed by Mike Newell, the main challenges for Craig are the ambitious new set-pieces - the arena for the Quidditch World Cup, complete with massive tented city which appears (via digital simulation) sunk into South Downs, and the graveyard where Harry and Voldemort are to have their final showdown.

"The gravestones bear the names of the crew, which is fun, in a rather macabre way. EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOO, THOSE WACKY BRITS! The lawyers are so concerned with copyright issues we had to use our own."

Although much Potter sorcery will be created digitally - even the dragon's egg Potter wins after duelling with a dragon has a resin body enhanced to create its magical interior - the film also incorporates extensive use of animatronics (the dragon)EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT A REAL DRAGON? SHUCKS..... and prosthetics, designed and coordinated by Bafta-nominated creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman.

He particularly enjoyed creating Timothy Spall's Wormtail.

"We're hinting at the rat he once was - with ears made from a translucentgelatine-like material, a bald cap to give him a scabby head, and a very thinanimal-like wig on top. It's all fake, but Timothy Spall just transcendsthat."

David Heyman reveals new info on Weird Sisters band

The producer of Goblet of Fire speaks to the Melbourne Herald Sun:

Jarvis is a great lyricist who imbuded the songs with wit and completely got thetone we were after.' he said. In the film you'll see the Weird Sisters playregular instruments that are a little bit strange, like bagpipes with reallylong pipes and guitars with three necks. And because there's no electricity atHogwarts, the sound system has to be powered by steam, so you see these burstsof steam coming out of the speakers.

Heyman goes on to say that he expects most of the cast to continue appearing in OOTP and beyond. EDITOR'S NOTE: WOOHOO!!!

EDIT: Digi tal Spy has reported that Rupert Grint "expects to stay" for the Fifth Harry Potter film."There's no reason, really, why we couldn't go on. I don't know about the others, but I want to go on."EDITOR'S NOTE: WOOHOO, CONTINUED!!!

POA wins Film of the Year at the BAFTAs

After recently being nominated, Prisoner of Azkaban has picked up the Orange Film of the Year award and Emma Watson and producer David Heyman were there to accept it.EDITOR'S NOTE: AND HERE'S A PIC OF EMMA WATSON TO KEEP DWEEBPAL SAMANTHA READING ALONG.....


Dogs in Harry Potter costumes
"Hairy Pawter and the Sorcerer's Bone" is the theme of this year's Mystic Krewe of Barkus Parade, which is a Mardi Gras event.