Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Star Wars Pictures

A battered MSE-6 mouse droid prop from the original trilogy, found in the Lucasfilm Archives.

The Production Art Department crafted a charred black-sand surface for Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to writhe around in for the Episode III's finale.

This concept illustration by Doug Chiang shows the Trade Federation starfighters as disk-shaped, a design originally intended to mimic their larger battleships.

Christopher Lee returns as Count Dooku, photographed entirely against bluescreen to be composited into a stage environment built months later.

Jay Shuster illustrates a "big, big spaceship," a possible Separatist starship for the finale of Attack of the Clones. His notes indicates that there are cockpits on four sides.

ILM Modelmaker and Makeup Artist Danny Wagner transforms Katie Lucas in Senator Chi Eekway.

An early production sketch by Ralph McQuarrie begins to block out the duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Cloud City.

A soldier from the 2nd Airborne Company of the 212th Battalion, Parjai Squad with specialised armour and helmet for high altitude drops.

A close look at
Jabba the Hutt's anchor-shaped tattoo/brand.

Norman Reynolds illustrates Jabba the Hutt's indoor barbecue, tucked just behind his throne.

The last place any droid would want to see, the automaton dungeon deep beneath Jabba the Hutt's palace

An illustration of the Galaxies Opera balcony, based on matched perspective of the minimal bluescreen live action element.

A close-up of the Prop Department's
Wookiee staff, wielded by those with authority.


Another view of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) emerging from the crashed Trade Federation cruiser, a scene cut from Episode III.

Friday (the 13th, eek) Odds-n-Ends stuff


Hasbro in Licensing Deal with Marvel
Hasbro is welcoming such luminaries as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Captain America into its stable of action characters.

The toy marketer just secured a new, five-year deal with Marvel Entertainment for the rights to use Marvel's 5,000 characters for toys, board games, and puzzles in return for guaranteed royalty payments of $205 million. EDITOR'S NOTE: YOWZAH!

The first toys are scheduled to reach the market Jan. 1, 2007.

To cut the deal, Marvel canceled its licensing agreement with Toy Biz Worldwide Ltd. on Dec. 31, a year earlier than scheduled. It will book a cash charge of $13 million to $16 million in the fourth quarter of 2005 to cover expenses associated with the early termination of the Toy Biz deal


More pix, fewer bucks (B.O. down 5% from 2004)
HOLLYWOOD -- With the 2005 domestic box office race wrapped up, two things are clear: Warner Bros. and Fox can be glad they're in a virtual tie for first place, but nobody in Hollywood has much reason to smile.

Though the last few months of the year minimized the B.O. deficit (8% in August but down to 5% in December), hopes have been dashed that a strong holiday season could close that gap entirely.

For the year of 2005, B.O. looks to come in around $8.75 billion, down from $9.2 billion in 2004. As has been the trend since 2002, rising ticket prices hide an even sharper drop in admissions -- 11% to 1.32 billion from the 1.48 billion last year.

Even more bad news: 527 new pics were released in 2005 compared with 507 in 2004. Hollywood did less business with more films.

With the exception of blockbusters, nothing worked as well this year. While the top 15 films of 2005 -- those with domestic cumes over $120 million -- were on a par with the top films last year, every film below No. 15 in the top 100 did worse than the one with the same rank in 2004.EDITOR'S NOTE: UMM..YES, WELL.....ER...DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER?

Among studio rankings, the same trend applies. Top-ranked WB and Fox, both of which made a little more than $1.3 billion (Fox got a $380 million boost from the year's top grosser, Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" EDITOR'S NOTE: MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT FOX GETS VERY LITTLE OF THIS MONEY, THOUGH, SINCE THEY ARE JUST A DISTRIBUTER, AND HAVE A REVENUE CAP WHERE ANYTHING OVER A SMALL PART OF THIS GOES TO UNCLE GEORGE?), came in slightly ahead of 2004 pack leader Sony.

Final numbers will be released next week, but Sony is set to come in No. 3 for the year, with "Hitch" and "Are We There Yet?" its top earners. Universal, Disney, Par, DreamWorks (thanks mainly to "Madagascar" from its sister toon unit), New Line, Miramax and Lionsgate follow.

But most studios in the No. 3 through 10 positions scored tallies lower than the studios with the same ranking last year.

Among the year's top-grossing films, the same formula worked this year as last.

Most were sequels or entries in well-known franchises, such as "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" and "Batman."

Family-friendly tentpoles such as "Madagascar" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" were once again a good bet. And as with 2004's "Meet the Fockers," this year saw one $200 million-plus breakout comedy, "Wedding Crashers."

Of course, on their own terms, numerous low-budget pics hit big, including "Crash," "March of the Penguins," "40-Year-Old Virgin" and, if current trends continue, "Brokeback Mountain."

But on the whole, mid- and low-tier pics in 2005 did a little worse domestically than in 2004.

The bar was lowered this year. For instance, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" earned $50.4 million to land at No. 49. Last year, the mid-range earners were more successful and a $50.4 million tally would have put a pic at No. 64.

Some say the content simply wasn't as compelling this year, and it's true that 2004 saw a few unique hits such as "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." But high-minded pics like "North Country" and "Prime" earned less than $25 million and formulaic fare like "Fantastic Four," "The Pacifier" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" did well, so it's hard to say the problem is quality.

Most execs now admit the competition for Americans' leisure time is now even tougher, especially in the form of videogames, Internet and other digital options.

"It's a tougher battle for us to get the audience to come into theaters," said U vice chairman Marc Shmuger.

Clearly, people are still willing to venture into theaters for the year's biggest events like "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," as well as breakout fare everyone's talking about, such as "Wedding Crashers." And parents still want a few films to enjoy with the kids, such as "Madagascar."

But in other cases, auds are increasingly willing to wait for the DVD. Or, as the slowing DVD market indicates, simply concluding that the pic isn't worth it and renting a TV DVD or firing up the Xbox instead.

Nobody has the answer to turning around the trend of a slumping B.O. But most execs agree that upping the number of films in the market, as happened in 2005, doesn't help.



Of course, pics with worldwide appeal tend to have big stars and big effects, which can drive up the costs. With studio production budgets staying about even, that's another reason auds can expect fewer movies in theaters over the next several years.

Beyond focusing the content, Hollywood is hoping 2006 will be the year it draws more people into theaters by improving the experience. Starting in the next few months, thousands of movie screens will be going digital. Besides reducing print costs and making it easier to shift pics between screens, digital will improve picture quality and allow for new effects, like the 3-D process that debuted with "Chicken Little" and is expected to be repeated with several films next year. EDITOR'S NOTE: OK. THIS IS A START. THE 3-D THING...JUDGING BY THE 3-D IMAX "POLAR EXPRESS" ODDBOB AND I SAW....IS FANTASTIC. BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT PARKING. LET'S TALK ABOUT CONCESSIONS. WHAT ELSE MIGHT BE RE-THOUGHT AT THE THEATER LEVEL?

No matter the solution, the doldrums of 2005 have driven home one point to Hollywood: Despite the growing population and all the new production and marketing tools at studios' disposal, getting butts into seats is a tougher task than ever.


Spending on DVDs up 10% (Vid discs running on empty)
For the first time in more than a quarter of a century, consumer spending on homevideo declined this year.

Preliminary projections for overall spending on DVDs and videocassettes in the U.S. for the 52 weeks ending Sunday indicate a drop of less than 1% from the $24.1 billion last year, according to Daily Variety sister publication DVD Exclusive.

Among the factors for the overall decline to $24 billion:

The continued collapse of VHS -- down roughly 60% this year to about $1.5 billion, or just 6% of the overall homevideo market.

A 4% decline in the overall $7.7 billion rental market, which has been sliding since its peak of $8.4 billion in 2001.

Rapidly falling DVD retail prices. Unit sales are up but prices are as low as $1 per DVD.

The continued growth of TV DVDs whose many hours of content keep consumers satisfied longer between purchases.

Top titles not reaching the same heights. Only one title topped $230 million in 2005; last year, there were three, two of which exceeded $300 million.

Despite the overall decline in revenue, spending on all DVDs was up nearly 10% to more than $22 billion. Although the 10% growth rate in 2005 is only about one-third of the more than 28% gain in DVD revs in 2004, a majority of studios enjoyed notable homevid revenue increases this year.

Final results including the Christmas and New Year's weekends will not be tallied until mid-January, but there were no major new releases during the period that would exceed or even match the performance of holiday releases in 2004.

Top execs from several studios had, until the last couple weeks, fiercely and publicly defended their optimistic projections of a huge fourth quarter turnaround for the industry.

But harsh reality began to set in as the summer's top theatrical grossers, such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" ($207 million), underperformed on DVD, and none of the biggest box office performers, including "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" ($380 million) and "War of the Worlds" ($234 million), have generated more than 50%-60% of their theatrical gross on DVD so far. EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE, IN THE CASE OF STAR WARS, EVENTUALLY, WHEN UNCLE G RENEWS IT OR TURNS INTO 3-D, OR HOLOGRAMS, OR WHATEVER, WE WILL BUY MORE VERSIONS OF IT. THAT OUGHT TO COUNT FOR SOMETHING, HUH?

In the past, consumer spending on DVDs of the top summer theatrical hits typically reached 65%-85% of B.O. grosses in the first few weeks of release. Almost all execs reluctantly now concede that the fourth quarter will neither save the year nor even exceed spending during the same period in 2004.

Warner has strengthened its homevid market share dominance to about 21% with its powerhouse catalog and consistent string of new releases, led in the fourth quarter by the surprising opening week and legs of "Batman Begins," which will generate about 90% of its $205 million box office gross on DVD; "The Polar Express," which will soon match its $165 million box office take on DVD; and the studio's even more surprising February release from sister New Line, "The Notebook," which has more than doubled its $81 million B.O. gross on DVD. EDITOR'S NOTE: CAN'T THESE PEOPLE JUST GO RE-WATCH "TITANIC", OR TUNE INTO LIFETIME (TELEVISION FOR WOMEN)?

Despite Disney's projected decline of at least 6% due primarily to a weak slate of theatrical films capped by a vacuum of summer animated or live-action blockbusters to distribute on DVD this holiday season, the Mouse House remains in a fairly strong but distant second place finish with about 16%. That performance rests primarily on the strength of two releases in the first half of the year that held up as the industry's two top performers for all of 2005: "The Incredibles," at a whopping $355 million, generated nearly $95 million (35%) more in homevideo spending than its box office gross; and "National Treasure," the top rental title of the year, with about $75 million of its total of approximately $230 million, about 50% more than it made in theaters.

Although Paramount and Lionsgate enjoyed the biggest percentage gains in revenue and Sony remained flat at about 12.5%-13% despite adding MGM for the second half of the year, the real market share horse race is for third place. Fox, which was consistently strong from wire to wire in 2005, and Universal, which also suffered from a dearth of theatrical hits and is about to lose 5% of its market share as DreamWorks moves over to Paramount, are in a virtual dead heat near 14%.

Fox was strongest in 2005 in the sales market, led by "Revenge of the Sith," one of six homevideo titles to generate more than $200 million this year, as well as carryover sales of last year's "Star Wars Trilogy," overachievers like "Napoleon Dynamite" early in the year, a steady stream of TV product all year long led by "The Simpsons" and an original DVD movie version of "The Family Guy," and a string of theatrical hits late in the year from "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and "Fantastic Four" to the animated "Robots."

U started out strong with three titles in the first four months that wound up among the top 10 of the year -- "Meet the Fockers," "Ray" and DreamWorks' "Shark Tale" -- and then suffered a weak middle of the year before finishing strong with DreamWorks' top five finisher "Madagascar," mid-December release "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (nearly 5 million copies sold in the first two weeks) and more than 1 million copies sold of this week's straight-to-DVD movie "American Pie: Band Camp."

Without a "Spider-Man" movie, Sony ran its June release, "Hitch," to the top 10 of the year with DVD revenue that matched its theatrical gross, and a variety of programming including subsequent seasons of "Seinfeld" and original DVD movies in genres ranging from action and thrillers to the Christian pic "Left Behind 3."


Apollo & Starbuck White Uniform Exclusive 2-Pack

This special edition boxed set of 12” collectible figures of Apollo and Starbuck from the classic 1978 BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV series is limited to only 500 sets. The set is based on the “Experiment in Terra” episode in which the two main characters are enlisted by the “light of truth and good” that radiates from the “Ship of Lights” to save planet Terra from global destruction. EDITOR'S NOTE: GLOBAL DESTRUCTION IS SUCH A BUMMER. BESIDES, HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO THE PLANET TERRA WHEN THEY GIVE YOU SUCH COOL OUTFITS TO WEAR!?

The deluxe packaging features an embossed white on white flapped window box in a clear acetate sleeve. The sets are individually numbered and come with a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ personally autographed by actor Richard Hatch, who portrayed the lead central character, Captain Apollo.

The MSR price for the pack is $99.99. The item is expected to be in stock in March 2006.

Click here to pre-order.


Heightened unreality
(Tripping the light fantastic extends beyond the world of make-believe)
For a moment, let your mind drift back to the year 1902. You're in the famous Montreuil studios of the film pioneer Georges Melies, who has just hired you to be the cameraman on the famous fantasy film "Voyage to the Moon." EDITOR'S NOTE: SO...ODDBOB...WHAT WAS IT LIKE IN 1902? The former stage sorcerer proudly gives you a tour of the set, showing off the large-scale cannon that will "shoot" a spacecraft to the moon; the man-in-the-moon who will get a poke in the eye with that rocket; and the troupe of acrobats hired to be moon men.

And you have been hired to photograph it all.

Just as you're rubbing your hands, though, all set to light the trip fantastic, Méliès comes over, puts his arm on your shoulder, looks you straight in the eye, and says with earth-shaking seriousness, "Don't forget, bubby, keep it real." EDITOR'S NOTE: OR THE FRENCH EQUIVALENT (WHICH NO DOUBT INVOLVES NUDITY AND ABSINTHE)

This year, few cinematographers have been confronted with the problem of unreal reality -- or is it real unreality? -- more than Donald McAlpine, who shot "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

"It was to be a film based on a real world, a world that was part of Earth," he says of the film's conceptualization. "Narnia wasn't so much a mythical place but a place on Earth we probably hadn't discovered yet. It was supposed to be realistically part of the world we live in. Not fantasy at all."

Easy to say about a "part of our world" with talking beavers; less easy to realize.EDITOR'S NOTE: AT THE RISK OF CAUSING MANY OF YOU (ODDBOB, SAMANTHA) TO GO TO THE BAD PLACE......OOOOOOO! TALKING BEAVERS! (TALKING BEAVERS ROCK) For example, the film's villainess lives in a castle made of ice. Just because the idea of the castle was fantastic, though, doesn't mean the ice could be so.

"How I was going to shoot this ice was the really big problem," McAlpine says. "If you light it from the front -- and it's fiberglass molding panels in the shape of ice blocks -- it just looks terrible. If you start lighting from the back, all sorts of weird light goes through the set. It took three weeks of experimenting to find the key. I think I actually found it on a Sunday afternoon when we were to shoot there on the Monday. Panic is a great motivator."

Few cinematographers have found themselves in such an extreme position as David Tattersall, who has led the camera brigade on the most recent "Star Wars" films, including this summer's "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith."

Beyond deciphering George Lucas' complex universe of planets, creatures and otherwordly settings, Tattersall's biggest challenge was working on a bluescreen set on which the backgrounds -- and even some of the action -- were not visible.

Sometimes he caught a break: When filming a spaceship chase, he could shoot without the constrictions of a previously created background. He could set up his lights any way and let the animators create to its cues later.

But in simpler scenes, when the light had to evoke the mood of the characters -- when the light had to "act," so to speak -- there were difficulties. Showing two young lovers backlit by a window wasn't an easy job.

"Shooting against a bluescreen window, when the light is coming from where the bluescreen is, can be difficult," he says. "It's been a few years of us messing around, working on different techniques and different types of light to do that, how to squeeze in enormous light sources just off screen, right on the edge of the frame. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT TO EVER EVER EVER CRITICIZE OUR BELOVED UNCLE GEORGE...... BUT WOULDN'T IT HAVE BEEN EASIER JUST TO BUILD THE DURN SETS?

"It has to do with the warmth of the light or the coldness of the light or the intensity. You have to be generally aware of the acting mood in a scene and the intention of the sequence."

Of course, not every idea for an "alternate" reality calls for the creation of intergalactic warfare, as illustrated by many of the Technicolor collaborations between master d.p. Jack Cardiff and the filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (most notably, "The Red Shoes" and "Black Narcissus"). That saturated color effect -- more Maxfield Parrish than Caravaggio -- finds its way into "King Kong."

As cinematographer Andrew Lesnie notes, on the one hand director Peter Jackson's ideas were fantastical ("Peter's vision of Skull Island was so wild, primal and permeated with an ancient civilization that no one could think of an existing jungle that matched his ideas") and on the other completely grounded in nature. As such, the New Zealand filmmakers took advantage of what they called "Windy Wellington," reputed to have the cleanest air in the world.

"The script makes use of what I'd describe as 'fragile' times of day -- pre-dawn, dawn, dusk, twilight -- to represent certain emotional states," says Lesnie. EDITOR'S NOTE: THAT PHRASE 'FRAGILE TIMES OF DAY' IS REALLY A LOVELY IMAGE, ISN'T IT?
"These were extended sequences that were very complex to achieve, dictating all sorts of scheduling, design and lighting approaches so that we could allow Peter the maximum flexibility to find the dramatic truth of each scene in an organic manner."

Sometimes what's called for is the slow inflection of reality, as with David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," based on John Wagner and Vince Lock's graphic novel.

In this case, an almost idyllic vision of small-town America is gradually inflected until it is replaced with a nearly hellish view of survival. For Cronenberg's frequent collaborator Peter Suschitzky, photographing such an insinuating drama required responding to the creative moment.

It doesn't hurt, though, when you start off with a fair amount of film history, knowledge that reassures you that your task is -- and has been -- achievable. In this case, Suschitzky remembered another filmmaker who managed to blend the everyday and the violent into a roiling stew.

"In many ways (the movie) reminded me of a Fritz Lang film, in his American period," he says. "A character can't escape his past, his fate. But in no way did I decide to shoot it like a Fritz Lang film.

"Usually I discover how to shoot a movie by being with the actors, seeing the sets, the clothes and the locations, of course, and talking about the subject with the director. But I'm not the sort of director of photography who decides very clearly up front that it's going to be shot with such-and-such a lens or with a particular filter. I mostly discover a film through my gut."

Suschitzky disdained any formulations for the opening, small-town scenes ("It does have the atmosphere of an ordinary small town, but none of the slightly kitsch, heightened reality of Norman Rockwell"), but did duplicate the film's sense of insinuation when he used a filter to alter the colors of the film's lost-in-hell climax ("I had a red set and I suggested we might want yellow in it just because it seemed, at the last moment, that would be an interesting thing to do"). But flexibility remained his watchword.

Given the nature of "Violence," Suschitzky at least had the opportunity to shoot his exteriors outside. Getting consistent sunlight turned out to be a problem, but at least it was real sunlight.

In 2005, few if any cinematographers tackled the issue of quotidian and heightened reality so directly as did Andrew Dunn. The cinematographer on Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Dunn was confronted with a World War II-era backstage story that Frears said should be shot as if it were "six feet off the ground." So, as Dunn says, "It certainly was a real place, real people in a real time, but it has an unreality about it at the same time." EDITOR'S NOTE: I SURE WISH THIS MOVIE WOULD HURRY UP AND OPEN HERE!

London's old Windmill Theater is at the heart of the film, an establishment that skirted British anti-nudity laws by presenting undressed ladies in "living tableaux" behind backlit gauze. Dunn was able to duplicate these scenes literally, by employing "the old theatrical mechanics."

In other sequences, Dunn whipped together natural materials to evoke a theatrical set. For example, when the Windmill's producer discovers a new starlet, she's emerging from a dunking in a stream. In her drenched clothing, backlit by the headlights of the producer's car, she both reproduces and transcends the theatricality of the tableaux, bracing the stage's illusions with cinema's immediacy.

In discussing the specifics of his work, Dunn veers off into observations that might serve as a manifesto for all the cinematographers who try to graft the real and the unreal into a sustainable hybrid.

"As a cameraman, with the ego side of the human being, there is the need to do something to be noticed," he admits. "The other side is, of course, if somebody does look for your name in the credits, you haven't done your job properly because it has to be so much part of the whole that it should go unnoticed -- a sort of sleight of hand, a delicate maneuver that contributes to the texture of something without drawing attention to itself." EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL PUT. AND I THINK THIS SAME CAN BE SAID FOR ALMOST ALL CREATIVE ENDEAVOURS. (THE BEST ACTING PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE VISIBLE EITHER, YES?)
(Anthony D'Alessandro contributed to this story.)


Robert Altman to ReceiveHonorary Academy Award®

Robert Altman

Beverly Hills, CA — Director-producer-writer Robert Altman has been voted an Honorary Award by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Award, an Oscar® statuette, will be presented at the 78th Academy Awards® Presentation on March 5, 2006.

The Honorary Award will be given to Altman to honor "a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike."

Altman has received five Academy Award nominations for directing — for "M*A*S*H," "Nashville," "The Player," "Short Cuts" and "Gosford Park" — as well as two additional nominations as a producer of Best Picture nominees "Nashville" and "Gosford Park — but has never taken home the Oscar.

He has directed 86 films, produced 39 and written 37 of them.

"The board was taken with Altman's innovation, his redefinition of genres, his invention of new ways of using the film medium and his reinvigoration of old ones," said Academy President Sid Ganis. "He is a master film maker and well deserves this honor."

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Altman began his film career working there on documentary, employee training, industrial and educational films. While there, he made his first feature film in 1957, "The Delinquents," a low budget exploitation film which was distributed by United Artists.

He moved to Hollywood and found work directing episodes of television series such as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Bonanza." In 1969 he was offered the script of "M*A*S*H," the success of which galvanized his feature film career.

Altman's films include such additional titles as "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "The Long Goodbye," "Thieves Like Us," "Popeye" and "Prêt-à-Porter." His current film, "A Prairie Home Companion" is in post-production.

Altman's Honorary Oscar will be presented, along with other Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2005, on Sunday, March 5, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland®. The Oscars® will be televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST).

Friday (the 13th, eek) Star Wars stuff


Sith is Finalist for Three Oscar Nominations
For a number of categories in the 78th Academy Awards, before nominees are selected a list of seven candidates is selected to present their work before a committee of voters. From those seven, three candidates are then selected for a nomination.

Revenge of the Sith has been selected for recognition in three categories, meaning that the film is eligible for nomination in these categories.

Up for the honor of Achievement in Makeup are Creatures Supervisor Dave Elsey, his wife Fabrication Supervisor Lou Elsey, and Makeup Supervisor Nikki Gooley. The makeup award nominating committee has put Sith on the list along with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Cinderella Man, A History of Violence, The New World, The Libertine, and Mrs. Henderson Presents. Ten-minute clip reels from each of the seven films will be screened for the nominating committee Jan. 28.

In the category of Achievement in Sound Editing, the work of Supervising Sound Editors Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood shares the list with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Walk the Line and War of the Worlds. The sound editing award committee will screen 10-minute clip reels from each of the seven films before voting to nominate three.

In the category of Achievement in Visual Effects, Animation Director Rob Coleman, Practical Model Supervisor Brian Gernand, and Visual Effects Supervisors Roger Guyett and John Knoll's work is up for consideration. Episode III joins Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, King Kong and War of the Worlds in the list of candidates. EDITOR'S NOTE: THERE'S A TOUGH CATEGORY, EH? (UNCLE GEORGE KIND OF INVENTED THE NEW TECH, BUT THE OTHER GUYS GET MORE CREDIT IT FEELS LIKE. I THINK THEY TAKE UNCLE G FOR GRANTED).Fifteen-minute clip reels from each of the seven films will be screened for the visual effects award nominating committee on Wednesday, January 25. At this screening the members will vote to nominate three of the seven films for Oscar® consideration.

Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 31st.

People's Choice shows disconnect with critics
By Martin A. Grove
People's picks: They may not be the season's most coveted awards, but Hollywood can learn a thing or two from the big winners at Tuesday night's 32nd annual People's Choice Awards.

Say what you will about it having been an unwatchable program that's hard for insiders to take seriously, but the PCA points up the disconnect between industry awards givers and the public. It also hammers home the differing views the public and critics groups have of the year's best films. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH....I KNOW. THE 'PEOPLE' ALSO ELECTED THE GOOFIES CURRENTLY (MIS)RUNNING OUR COUNTRY. SO I PROBABLY SHOULDN'T LAUNCH INTO "DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING" FROM LES MIZ JUST YET, I GUESS.

Indeed, the PCA's best movie and best movie drama, Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," and its best movie comedy, New Line Cinema's "Wedding Crashers," haven't resonated with other awards groups and aren't likely to be on Oscar's best picture radar. EDITOR'S NOTE: SNIFFLE. SITH DESERVES RESPECT. (OR, IN THE CASE OF ODDBOB, SITH DESERVE RESPECT?)

Nonetheless, the fact that the public embraced these films in its PCA voting on the Internet from nominations by Entertainment Weekly editors and the show's producers suggests Hollywood can find some answers here to the question of why the ratings for its key awards telecasts have been eroding. The PCA winners are clearly films in which moviegoers had a real rooting interest.

By comparison, the films that have resonated with the critics groups this season are almost all low budget, R-rated specialized movies that for the most part audiences across the country haven't had an opportunity to see and, therefore, can't really be expected to care about. The common denominator of many of the night's acceptance speeches was just how much the public's endorsement matters to filmmakers who aren't accustomed to winning awards because the movies they make are meant to entertain people rather than win critical acclaim. These filmmakers and stars have a strong sense of connection to the moviegoing public that has made them rich and famous and continues to support their efforts by buying tickets.

George Lucas, in accepting the PCA for "Sith," observed, "This is a very, very important award for me. 'Star Wars' oddly enough doesn't really get that many awards and I'm not a big favorite of the critics -- but who listens to them? I'm not an industry favorite either, but of course they're a bunch of studio executives. The most important people for any filmmaker (are the audience). The reason that I make films is for you. The audience rules. Thank you very much."

Although "Sith" hasn't resonated as a best picture nominee or winner with the critics groups, its domestic gross of just over $380 million made it last year's top grossing film. You don't even have to do the math to realize that if you added up all of the grosses for the half dozen or so specialized films that have done so well with the critics this season you wouldn't have a total gross anywhere close to $380 million. Nevertheless, "Sith" is just not the type of film that gets honored these days as a best picture by any group other than the public! EDITOR'S NOTE: HE SAYS IT DOESN'T HURT, BUT I BET....WHEN HE'S SITTING IN HIS BANK VAULT COUNTING HIS BILLIONS...UNCLE G SHEDS A TEAR OR TWO FOR THE LACK OF PROPS GIVEN TO HIM BY THE INDUSTRY. (AND A SMALL SNIFFLE, PERHAPS?)

Another good example is "Wedding Crashers," whose director David Dobkin, in accepting his film's award, noted, "Most of the credit goes to Owen (Wilson) and Vince (Vaughn), but we want to thank everybody for packing the aisles and laughing with us this summer. We had a really good time. We took a risk making an R-rated movie (comedy). It looks like it's trendy now, but in our moment it wasn't. And thanks to New Line for backing us up."

"Crashers'" gross of just over $209 million made it 2005's fifth biggest grossing film. It, too, hasn't made much impact on the awards front aside from the PCA. It didn't get into the Golden Globes best picture musical or comedy race, where smaller upscale product (like The Weinstein Company's "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Focus Features' "Pride& Prejudice" and IDP's "The Squid and the Whale") and large but more refined product (like Fox's "Walk the Line" and Universal's "The Producers") prevailed.

"Crashers" did get nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics for best comedy, but wound up losing to Universal's "The 40-Year Old Virgin."

Sandra Bullock, who was voted Favorite Female Movie Star, told the cheering crowd -- cheering because real non-industry people were actually allowed in -- "I have to be honest, I'm very shocked. I'm certain that a couple people are going, 'What? Her?'...You put me in great company. I'm honored to be in the company (of the also nominated) gorgeous Angelina Jolie and the stunningly beautiful Nicole Kidman, who to me has always been the epitome of a movie star, but -- I think you picked the wrong person, but I'll take it."

Bullock would probably be the first to acknowledge that she's not on track to wind up in the Oscar or Globes best actress races. That, of course, doesn't mean anything to her fan base of US Weekly and People magazine readers across the country -- and that's how she got voted the favorite in her category.

The PCA's Leading Lady award went to "Walk the Line's" Reese Witherspoon, who explained in accepting that it was meaningful because, "You guys voted for us -- not the stuffy people in closed rooms" and added that the "people who voted actually go to the movies."

Witherspoon, of course, is something of an exception in that she has resonated really well with the critics groups and others this awards season for her much acclaimed work in "Walk the Line." Witherspoon won the Broadcast Film Critics' best actress Critics Choice Award Monday night. She gave a terrific acceptance speech and looked like a winner, which should enhance her potential in upcoming awards races. She's a Globes nominee for best actress - musical or comedy and I'm not the only Hollywood handicapper who thinks she has the best shot at winning Monday night. Witherspoon's also a Screen Actors Guild best actress nominee and is a very good bet to wind up with a best actress Oscar nomination Jan. 31.

"Walk" is a best picture - musical or comedy Globes nominee and is looking like a good possibility to win in that always competitive race. It also looms as the most likely major studio film to get into Oscar's best picture race.

Other PCA winners included Johnny Depp (Male Movie Star), Brad Pitt (Leading Man), Jennifer Garner (Female Action Star), Matthew McConaughey (Male Action Star) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Family Movie).

Depp is a best actor in a musical or comedy nominee in Monday's Golden Globes for his performance in "Factory." While the film isn't a Globes nominee, it was nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics in the best Family Film (live action) category, but lost to "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe."

Of the other winners named above, Depp is a Globes nominee for "Charlie" in the best actor musical or comedy race. Because Oscar voters tend to not give comedies the respect they deserve, Depp's unlikely to get an Academy nomination for "Charlie." His more serious film, The Weinstein Company's period piece drama "The Libertine," didn't gain traction with the critics groups and is unlikely to put Depp into Oscar play this year. On the other hand, his PCA fans don't reflect the critics' point of view and they named him their favorite male movie star of '05.

What this tells us is that the public is applauding one set of stars and filmmakers while the critics and other key awards givers are celebrating a very different kind of group. Neither of them are right or wrong because it's all a matter of taste.

Nonetheless, when awards show producers go looking for big ratings what they run into these days are problems tied to the fact that most of the films they're putting up for consideration aren't ones that the public's actually seen. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND, OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK AND LA, IT'S HARD WORK TO EVEN FIND SOME OF THE NOMINATED FILMS. Either they haven't played in wide enough release to reach people outside a dozen or so major markets or if they have gone wide enough they've failed to win big support from the public. EDITOR'S NOTE: BECAUSE MOST OF THEM ARE LONG AND/OR DEPRESSING, AND/OR FULL OF ANNOYING PEOPLE.

Whichever it is, it's not good news for anyone hoping for big ratings. Without a rooting interest in the films competing for Oscars or Globes, people are less likely to tune in and stay glued to their sets all night.

What the Globes has been doing quite well, however, for many years is conveying a sense of star-after-star-after-star being on the show. If you want to see glamorous Hollywood stars and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of them sitting at their tables half sloshed as the evening wears on and their champagne flutes keep getting topped up, the Globes is the best place to do just that. This year's lineup of star presenters and other celebrities is as good as ever and with the Globes making a smart move to Monday night that will take it out of competition from ABC's "Desperate Housewives," there could definitely be some ratings improvement over last year.

On the Academy Awards front, there are similar concerns, but because of the show's nature it's harder to convey the same sense of glamour that the Globes has. Instead of seeing crowds of celebrities mingling at the Oscars as they do at the Globes, what you see on the Oscar telecast are lots of people sitting in theater seats. In many cases, it's hard to tell who they are unless there's a very close shot of them.

Oscar's red carpet arrivals are, of course, covered extensively on television, but that's really a separate program from the awards telecast, itself, and people have been known to tune out when they think they've seen enough of it.

What can the Academy do to improve its ratings prospects? EDITOR'S NOTE: NOMINATE ROTS! (A QOTD CAN DREAM, CAN'T SHE?)If Oscar were to create a new category and a new non-Oscar award that reflected input from the public in terms of favorite films and stars, that could put mainstream commercial films like "Sith" and "Crashers" and their stars on the Oscar telecast.

The show, needless to say, is overlong as it is, so how you fit anything new into it is not an easy question to answer. Still, it could be a way to get movies on the telecast that would otherwise never be there and, by doing so, to attract viewers who like those films and want to see if they win.

Another possibility for Oscar would be to create the stuntmen's category that the Academy said no to last year. This, too, would add time to a show that should be getting shorter not longer. On the other hand, it would also add the type of films that moviegoers seem to enjoy most. After all, what kind of movies do stuntmen make? Action-adventures, sci-fi epics and fantasies are where you find great stunt work and, guess what, these are the kind of films that moviegoers are going to see and that they care about. It might not be a bad thing for Oscar to figure out how to get a stuntmen's category on next year's show and include clips and star appearances from five (or, perhaps, three) such movies that were very popular with the public.

Meanwhile, it's on to Monday's Golden Globes, which is always Hollywood's best party night of the year and has now evolved into an event that comes with its own weekend of built-in pre-partying a la the Oscars. It is, after all, a great way to focus industry attention on films hoping to get into the Oscar race.

A case in point is Lionsgate's party tomorrow at Morton's for several of its films, including Paul Haggis' excellent drama "Crash," which is on my own and many other insiders' short lists of likely best picture Oscar nominees. With "Crash" having opened early last May it's probably been seen by many Academy voters, but how well they remember how good it is is anyone's guess. Putting the film in the pre-Globes media spotlight is a great way to refocus attention on it and, perhaps, get Academy members to watch it again at screenings or on DVD. EDITOR'S NOTE: "CRASH" IS A GREAT FILM, BUT IT DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE ABOUT LOS ANGELES. I WONDER IF THAT MIFFED ANYONE IN HOLLYWOOD, HAVING THEIR HOME TURF DEPICTED IN SUCH A NEGATIVE WAY?

In the shadow of Evil

Although his career in theatre spans three decades, Ian McDiarmid is best known for his role as the Evil Emperor in the Star Wars films. He talks to Lindesay Irvine about running London's Almeida theatre and why the Dark Side resembles the Oval office

Lindesay Irvine
Monday November 7, 2005
Guardian Unlimited

With a face that manages to look both pinched and jowly, Ian McDiarmid was never going to be a matinee idol. But for the wilier character roles he can command a stage like few others with the sense of a subtle mind at work.

Such seasoned British - in his case Scottish - stage actors are always in demand in Hollywood to play the kind of villainous roles it's thought unseemly to cast an American in. But McDiarmid hasn't done very many.

"That's a pattern I'm very happy with. I mean I take theatre seriously and I am primarily a stage actor and every now and again a movie comes along and I'm happy to do it if the part's good.

"It just so happened that the one that came along for me was the biggest series of movies of all time."

This of course is no actorly exaggeration: His own name may not carry that much recognition beyond theatre nuts who've enjoyed his performances in canonical works by Shakespeare, Molière and Marlowe and his 13-year stewardship of Islington's Almeida Theatre with Jonathan Kent. But show his picture to more or less any small boy and if they don't run screaming from the room they will recognise him as Palpatine from the Star Wars movies, the Evil Emperor himself.

From a smallish role in the initial films, George Lucas's prequel trilogy has seen McDiarmid become a steadily more commanding presence in the films. In the final film of the cinema sequence - Revenge of the Sith - his portrayal of Palpatine, the Machiavellian senator and puppetmaster of intergalactic unpleasantness, he is by some distance the most interesting thing on screen as the cacophonous welter of CGI drowns out the wooden good guys. EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU KNOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BRING SOMEONE ELSE DOWN TO GIVE A COMPLIMENT. JUST SAYIN.....

Talking in a London club, the rather schoolmasterly McDiarmid is a courteous, if somewhat prickly interviewee. He's also clearly a little weary from a long round of promotional duties.

"Lucasfilm are very good to me ... I've been all over the world with the movie, and out to San Francisco with the DVD and talked to more people than I ever thought existed within the media - and I knew there were a few. It's been like a series of rather wacky improvisations and I've rather enjoyed it. But I don't think I ever want to do it again."

If it seems curious to be talking to one of the country's most intelligent actors about such a thunderingly populist spectacular, McDiarmid clearly doesn't see it that way.

"It may be curious but it's also strangely refreshing. I mean, to begin with, it was like being invited to play with a rich guy's train set."

He chuckles as he recalls being led on for an early scene in Return of the Jedi, more or less blind from the heavy prosthetic mask he wore (before his own face became Palpatine's disguise in the later films) to find RSC stalwart Michael Pennington kneeling before him on a giant soundstage surrounded by thousands of stormtroopers. "He got up and said 'Christ, is it you?' I said 'it was worth it just to have you kneel before me, Michael.' And it's been like that ever since."

"And then of course I thought Palpatine was a pretty good character. I like the notion that he didn't have any psychological subtlety or depth, that he was just solidly evil and the dirtiest word in his vocabulary was 'friend'. I thought that was terrific."

He also bristles at the notion that the Star Wars films are totally hollow entertainments. EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE HE BRISTLES.....HE'S ABOVE THAT SORT OF SNOBBERY!

"I remember when I sat there in the Evil Emperor's swivel chair and George [Lucas] said things like 'does it remind you of the Oval office?' And I realised that at that time Richard Nixon was in his mind.

"And I see that in the Guardian's review of the DVD - not favourable, of course - mention is made of the fact that there are lines that sound really contemporary. But the reviewer decided that was by chance: no, no, no, no. Entirely by design.

"George knew that eight-year-olds, for whom these films are primarily intended, are very impressionable, and he wanted to make the right impression. So the whole film is about the unnecessary rise of fascism. In other words: watch out, they're all after your freedom, particularly when they're talking about defending freedom. Without getting over-extended about it, that is at the heart of these movies."

He is also, clearly, grateful to George Lucas for the help he gave the Almeida when McDiarmid was still running it.

"When Phantom Menace came out, he suggested a special preview before anyone else saw it. He suggested we put it out to tender to large corporations so the Almeida could make some money to fix its roof.

"At the time he wasn't giving any interviews, but he said I'll come along and you can interview me. So of course people found that very attractive: and we raised £180,000 in one night. So there you go - he's a genuine patron of the arts."

On the subject of the Almeida, and his astonishingly successful term as joint artistic director with Jonathan Kent, McDiarmid - sadly for theatre fans - has no immediate plans to return to running a theatre.

"It's nice to be free and acting and also have the essential thing if you're going to continue to be an actor - a life. And you can't go back - it's Michael Attenborough's theatre now.

"But that doesn't mean that something else might not crop up, but it would have to be really good and challenging like that was."

In the meantime he's preparing to reprise his role in Brian Friel's Faith Healer, one of his final roles at the Almeida, in a production set to play early next year in Dublin and New York with Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones. EDIOTR'S NOTE: WOW. THERE'S A GROOVY CAST, HUH?!

He's also refining his skills at avoiding Star Wars autograph hunters, whose awe of the evil emperor is not apparently enough to stop them approaching. "They're a bit more tentative, but approach they do. A little more cowering would be fine. EDITOR'S NOTE: DON'T SCOFF TOO MUCH, IAN. IF THAT THEATER THING DOESN'T WORK OUT, YOU MIGHT FIND YOURSELF ON THAT 'BEHIND THE MASKS' DWEEBFEST TOUR, EH?

"Usually they phrase things in a negative way, so they say 'you're not him, are you?' Then I can say, in all honesty, no. I have an ability to move quite fast, and I plan to keep disappearing round the corner as fast as I can."

StarWarsShop Exclusive: The Lucas Family Set

Eagle-eyed fans watching Revenge of the Sith may have noticed George Lucas' first-ever Star Wars movie cameo as the blue-faced Baron Papanoida waiting outside the Coruscant Opera House. What some may not realize, however, is that the entire Lucas enclave -- Katie, Amanda, and Jett Lucas -- also made brief appearances in the movie, immortalized now for the first time as Hasbro action figures!

This exclusive four-figure set includes three brand new sculpts available only at StarWarsShop.

Included in the set are:

Baron Papanoida (George Lucas) -- A mysterious trader baron with connections across the galaxy. No one really knew which side he was on.

Chi Eekway (Katie Lucas) -- An influential Senator during the Clone Wars, Chi Eekway was rumored to have close contact with the mysterious Baron Papanoida.

Terr Taneel (Amanda Lucas) -- Taneel was a loyalist, and one of the receiving Senators who waited on the Senate landing platform following Palpatine's rescue from General Grievous' clutches.

Zett Jukassa (Jett Lucas) -- Bail Organa witnessed the death of this 10-year old Jedi student who valiantly defended the Jedi Temple before being cut down by an overwhelming barrage of clone trooper fire.

Collectors will recall how quickly the previous George Lucas action figure -- Jorg Sacul -- sold out when offered a few years ago. History is destined to repeat itself with this exclusive offering, which for the first time depicts Lucas as a character actually seen in a Star Wars movie. What's more, the entire cast of Lucas family cameos is here, offered for the first and only time by StarWarsShop!


2006 Hasbro Preview: Mos Eisley and Senate Skirmish
The first wave of Hasbro's Star Wars 2006 Saga Collection, with figures from the
Battle of Carkoon, has been spotted at some stores and should be widely available in the coming weeks. This will be followed by a Battle of Hoth wave, then a Battle of Geonosis wave.

The fourth wave, available in spring 2006 at retailers everywhere, consists mainly of characters present during Luke and Obi-Wan's search for a pilot at Mos Eisley.

Each figure comes with a base and a randomly-selected bonus hologram figure.

Momaw Nadon

This Ithorian sits quietly at a back table in the Mos Eisley Cantina and watches Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they enter to speak with Han Solo. Though peaceful by nature, he is ready to fight if needed. Comes with bar glass and staff.


Just as Owen Lars is about to purchase this astromech droid, its motivator blows a fuse. Owen demands another and chooses R2-D2 after a recommendation from C-3PO.


Spotting the two wanted droids, this spy follows R2-D2 and C-3PO to Docking Bay 94 where they board the Millennium Falcon along with Luke and Obi-Wan. Using his comlink, he reports their location to Imperial stormtroopers. Comes with comlink and blaster.


No stranger to trouble, Hem Dazon is nonetheless startled when an old Jedi Knight uses his lightsaber to disable two men at the Mos Eisley Cantina. However, after his initial surprise, he goes back to his own business. Comes with blaster.

Han Solo

This bold smuggler makes a deal with Luke and Obi-Wan to take them and their droids to Alderaan. Before he can celebrate, however, he is cornered by the bounty hunter, Greedo, who tries to take him back to Jabba the Hutt. Comes with blaster.


After the Empire's murder of his aunt and uncle, Luke Skywalker agrees to go with Obi-Wan Kenobi to Alderaan. He decides to learn about the Force and become a Jedi like his father before him. Comes with poncho and binoculars. EDITOR'S NOTE: BEFORE I GO AND SAVE THE UNIVERSE...AND BECOME A JEDI LIKEMYBLAHBLAHBLAH....I MUST HAVE MY PONCHO!


This weak-minded sandtrooper is convinced by Obi-Wan's Jedi mind tricks that "these aren't the droids we're looking for." While Luke looks on, amazed, the trooper allows them to move along. Comes with blaster and staff.

Darth Vader

Darth Vader is on a mission to capture Luke Skywalker for the Emperor. Although Vader is able to lure Luke to Cloud City, he fails to capture the young Jedi. During the ensuing battle, Vader reveals that he is in fact Luke's father! EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT????!!! Comes with lightsaber.

Movie-scene-inspired Battle Packs continue this spring with the Target exclusive "Skirmish in the Senate" pack.

In Revenge of the Sith, Jedi Master Yoda battles Emperor Palpatine culminating in the thrilling finale in the Senate chambers. Unable to defeat the Sith Lord, Yoda must escape leaving his cloak behind. The perfect-for-display or play pack comes with Emperor Palpatine, Yoda, two shock troopers and a Senate pod. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND WHAT'S LEFT OF YODA'S MANLY PARTS. DETACHABLE.

LEGO Sail Barge and Star Destroyer


Two of the Star Wars galaxy's most notorious vehicles are soon to be available in LEGO form -- Imperial Star Destroyer and Jabba's Sail Barge.

"The Sail Barge has been on the top of the fans' wish list for a long time and was a gaping hole in the LEGO Star Wars collection," says LEGO Global Partnerships and Alliances Director Jay Bruns. "We worked hard to ensure that the Sail Barge had a great visual appeal as well as a great play experience. There are tons of great features and surprises within the set."

Besides a generous 781-piece count, the Sail Barge includes a skiff, sarlacc monster, an all-new Lando figure with helmet, flesh-toned Slave Leia, EDITOR'S NOTE: ANYONE GETTING HOT UNDER THE COLLAR ABOUT A LEGO SLAVE LEIA NEEDS TO COME UP OUT OF THE BASEMENT A BIT MORE OFTEN, YES? Han, and Luke, and an R2-D2 fitted with a serving tray. Added figures include Jabba, Boba Fett, and Gamorrean Guard. The Sail Barge will retail for $74.99. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO WE WAIT FOR THE SALE (ON THE SAIL BARGE...OUCH).

Joining the Sail Barge is a new scaled-down version of the Imperial Star Destroyer, previously only available as part of the Ultimate Collector's Series. While the premium edition cost $299 when it was released in 2002, this latest version can be had for a $99.

Boasting a 1,366 piece-count, new figures included with the Imperial Star Destroyer are Grand Moff Tarkin, Imperial Officer, R2-D5, and a mouse droid. Additional figures include Darth Vader, two royal guards, and a pair of stormtroopers. Even the Emperor's hologram gets its own piece.

Jabba's Sail Barge makes its debut in July.

Sideshow Collectibles Announces Kit Fisto

Sideshow Collectibles just announced the forth figure in their already impressive Order Of The Jedi 1/6 scale figure collection. Just like the ROTS Obi-Wan EDITOR'S NOTE: SEE BELOW, this new figure is another 12" first

EDITOR'S NOTE: Available for preorder in about a week. Not sure when the toy itself is to be delivered.

Obi-Wan Kenobi 12-inch Figure



Sideshow Collectibles has released images of the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi 12-inch action figure.

The 12-inch Obi-Wan figure includes:
Authentic likeness of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Fully articulated male body with 30+ points of articulation EDITOR'S NOTE: OK. YEAH. SORRY. WHEN THEY MAKE IT THIS EASY, YOU ALMOST HAVE TO GO TO THE DARK SIDE.

Authentic costume including:Undershirt Vest Tunic Pants Sash Hooded Jedi Robe Boots

Accessories including: Detailed belt w/ opening pouches and lightsaber clip Jedi Aqua Breather Jedi Food Capsules Jedi Holoprojector Jedi Communicator Electro-binoculars Lightsaber hilt Lightsaber hilt w/ ignited blade

Interchangeable hands: Saber Grip right hand Saber Grip left hand Pistol grip right hand Force wield left hand

12-Inch Figure Display Base with Star Wars logo

The figure will ship in the 2nd quarter of 2006. It is priced at $49.99.


Friday (the 13th, eek) TV stuff

Sci-Fi Gives Go-Ahead for Spielberg's NINE LIVES Mini
SCI FI Channel has announced that it has given a greenlight for production of Steven Spielberg and Les Bohem's NINE LIVES.

LIVES centers on several characters who discover a way to reunite with dead loved ones in the afterlife through near-death experiences. Each journey to the other side brings closer an unknown evil. EDITOR'S NOTE: DRAT THOSE UNKNOWN EVILS, DRAT THEM ALL! Bohem will write all the installments.

Spielberg, Bohem and DreamWorks Television's Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank will executive produce the miniseries, which will air in 2007.

It's WHO for Sci-Fi
SCI FI Channel and BBC Worldwide Americas announced a major licensing deal for the first series of the latest DOCTOR WHO adventures.

The deal grants the SCI FI Channel the first run rights for series one with an option for series two. The series will premiere on SCI FI beginning in March, airing Friday nights at 9.00pm. EDITOR'S NOTE: EST. (NATCH)

Russell T Davies, Head Writer and Executive Producer told the BBC, "The Doctor's made all sorts of journeys in Time and Space, but this is one of his most exciting yet! I'm a huge fan of the SCI FI Channel, and I'm delighted that Doctor Who is appearing on a channel that supports and enhances the entire genre." EDITOR'S NOTE: I GUESS HE HASN'T WATCHED THE SCIFI CHANNEL LATELY? (YES. STILL BITTER).

In addition, BBC Video has moved the US release date of the DVD from February 2006 to July 4, 2006 to capitalize on the exposure from the TV broadcast. As part of the deal, BBC Video and SCI FI Channel have agreed to work together on joint marketing promotions to support the brand launch.


TCA Notebook: Sci Fi Unveils Nine Lives; Monk Reups
A.J. Frutkin JANUARY 13, 2006 - At NBC Universal’s cable portion of the Television Critics Association’s annual winter convention, the media conglomerate held three panels:

One on Bravo’s upcoming contest show Top Chef; one on Sci Fi’s upcoming scripted series Eureka; and one on USA’s critically hailed Monk.

Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick announced that despite sister network Trio’s dissolution as a cable channel, it would be resurrected as a broadband Web site, including a separate Web site for Trio’s most noteworthy series Brilliant But Cancelled.

Meanwhile, Top Chef, the latest show from Project Runway producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, will premiere March 8 at 11 p.m., following Runway’s finale. The self-explanatory contest series then will move to its regular 10 p.m. slot on the following Wednesday.

Acknowledging the obvious format similarities between the two programs, Cutforth suggested that the contest genre in reality programming may have reached exhaustion. So then why make Top Chef?

Food shows have been around for ever,” he said. “Food is universal. We all eat. We all have a relationship with food. Chefs are the new rock stars, and restaurants are so focused on--in the media. I just think there’s an appetite for a show that really gives you an insight into that world.” EDITOR'S NOTE: SO THERE'S AN 'APPETITE' FOR THE SHOW? WAIT. LISTEN. I THINK THE ROLLING OF MY EYES IS SO PRONOUNCED IT'S AUDIBLE.

USA Network and Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer introduced Sci Fi’s executive vp and GM Dave Howe, who announced production on several new series, including the 12-hour mini-series Nine Lives. From Steven Spielberg and Taken writer Les Bohem, the series looks at what happens after death.

Also on the docket is reality series Who Wants to be a Superhero?, EDITOR'S NOTE: OOO OOO ME ME ME!!! in which Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee will search for the next great comic book character.

Premiering this summer, Sci Fi’s Eureka was described as a cross between Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure and The Twilight Zone. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO....IT'S CREEPY, AND FUNNY (ISH)? Set in a small town in which the government has relocated all of the nation’s most brilliant minds for research purposes, the show stars Joe Morton (Terminator) as a former rocket scientist and Debrah Farentino (Get Real) as a woman who knows all of the town’s secrets. Let the hijinx begin!

Hammer returned to the stage to announce production on two scripted series for USA: One titled Psych, about a guy who lands a job as a psychic detective, with no prior experience as a psychic; and Underfunded, about a Canadian Secret Service agent, whose department is low on cash. She described both programs as “strong, smart dramas with a twist of comedy.”

On the Monk panel, series star Tony Shalhoub was asked whether he reads all of his fan mail. The actor, who won an Emmy Award for his role as a detective with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, responded, “It’s actually one guy writing the letter over and over.” EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE. (GOOD ONE, TONY!)

Another TCA member wondered whether viewers ever confused the actor with the character, to which he quipped, “I do get offered a lot of Handi Wipes. And I can tell you, after four hundred times, it’s a little hard to, you know, laugh, as if it’s the first time it’s ever happened. But people just think that is so funny.

Hammer announced a fifth and sixth season pickup of Monk. That news came in advance of the fourth season's second half debut this weekend, following a brief hiatus. Sound confusing? Well, Hammer defended the network’s somewhat erratic scheduling of the series, saying it was necessary to avoid competing with bigger draws on the bigger, broadcast networks. “It’s a puzzle,” she added. “You really have to take a look at what makes sense for the show, build up your audience, keep them, but not throw in repeat episodes, and hope they’re going to come back or remember that after three repeat episodes, there will be a brand new episode.”

Fuqua piloting Fox's 'Vanished'
Antoine Fuqua has come on board to direct and executive produce the Fox drama pilot "Vanished."

Meanwhile, ABC is reuniting with comedian Bonnie Hunt, ordering a comedy pilot starring the comedian. EDITOR'S NOTE: SUCH A FUNNY LADY. I HOPE THIS TIME THEY FIND A SHOW WORTHY OF HER GIFTS.

ABC has also picked up the drama pilot "Secrets of a Small Town," while NBC has given a pilot order to the comedy "Lipstick Jungle."

"Vanished," from 20th Century Fox Television, chronicles the disappearance of a senator's wife over the course of the season. On the pilot, Fuqua will serve as executive producer alongside writer Josh Berman through the director's exclusive deal with 20th TV. In addition to the pilot, Fox has ordered two more scripts.

Hallmark going back to 'Bagdad'
PASADENA -- The 1940 Oscar-winning film "The Thief of Bagdad" is getting remade at Hallmark Channel as a four-hour miniseries described as a movie "event."

In addition, the network is going into production on two telefilms: "Though None Go With Me," starring Cheryl Ladd, and a fourth installment in the "Love's" movie franchise.

Hallmark executive vp programming David Kenin made the announcements Thursday during the network's portion of the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

"Bagdad," from Robert Halmi Sr., also is going into production. Described as a movie "event," the length has yet to be determined, but the project could end up as a three-hour movie or even a four-hour miniseries EDITOR'S NOTE: HALMI DOESN'T TEND TO EDIT MUCH. I'M BETTING AT LEAST 4 HOURS.


AMC will start airing the UK series HUSTLE on Saturday nights at 10pm.EDITOR'S NOTE: YEP. EST. The series stars Robert Vaughn, Adrian Lester, Marc Warren, Robert Glenister and Jaime Murray. The program is already popular on the BBC, where it premiered in 2003. (This year it will start its third season in the U.K.)

Vaughn recently told the Associated Press that HUSTLE was already in production when he got the call at his Connecticut home that he was chosen to be Stroller. He was on the set two days later, which didn't give him much time to prepare for his character. Out necessity, he drew inspiration from his work on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., which ran on NBC from 1964 to 1968. (Vaughn's co-star was David McCallum.EDITOR'S NOTE: FOR THOSE OF YOU JUST EMERGING FROM UNDER ROCKS.....)

Vaughn said, "I imagined that Napoleon Solo had retired from U.N.C.L.E. — whatever U.N.C.L.E. was. What could he do now to use his talents and to supplement his government pension? I imagined Stroller as Napoleon Solo, The Later Years. That's basically who I'm playing."

HUSTLE follows the exploits of a group of London-based con artists who pull off daringly intricate stings to swindle money from "respectable" but despicably greedy marks. With plenty of suspense, style and humor, an occasional touch of romance, and always a series of unforeseen twists, each episode takes the viewer deeper into the hidden world of scammers and grifters to reveal the personalities and perverse artistry of the high-end confidence game.

AMC states, "during each episode, you'll delve into a world in which no one is what he or she seems - from bank managers to bellhops, cocktail waitress to CEO's - and everyone is working an angle."EDITOR'S NOTE: SOUNDS LIKE FUN! WONDER WHY IT'S ON AMC AND NOT BBC AMERICA (WHERE A LOT OF THIS SORT OF STUFF USUALLY TURNS UP). WELL....PROGRAMMING MY VCR STARTING TOMORROW NIGHT!

Friday (the 13th, eek) Movie stuff

Serenity 2 unlikely, says Whedon EDITOR'S NOTE: SOB. WAIL. MOAN. (SNIFFLE)

Seems that “Serenity” trilogy we’re drooling for is now nothing more than a dream. We got our feature-film (based on “Firefly”) and that’s all it looks like there’s going to be : screening at multiplexes anyway.

Buffy’s pop, Joss Whedon, tells Empire Online that there probably won’t be a sequel to “Serenity”, even though he did intend on doing one had the first film made a bit of bank.

A sequel’s unlikely”, a regretful Whedon told the site. "But it's amazing what permutations of something can happen." EDITOR'S NOTE: TEASING US WITH SLIM HOPES...

Whedon said there’s a chance that the Firefly gang might return to the small screen though, "As long as I was able to service the characters with integrity and had enough money so that I wasn't hampered, then I would love to return Serenity to TV. I love that universe; it continues and those characters live on. There could be a series, there could be a miniseries, there could be all sorts of things. I'm not ruling anything out. I'll let it simmer for a while and see if anyone calls." EDITOR'S NOTE: OR...YOU COULD CALL THEM!

A month or two ago, rumours surfaced that a “Serenity 2’ might take the form of a telemovie, airing exclusively on The Sci Fi Channel. That could still be the plan.

The good news is folks, “Serenity” has been dispatching in dozens and dozens from online retailers like, so I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see “the boat” cruise back onto some form of screen in the near future.

Sarandon Will Be Wicked in ENCHANTED
Walt Disney Pictures has signed Susan Sarandon to star in ENCHANTED. She joins a cast that already includeds Amy Adams and James Marsden.

As previously reported, the story centers on a princess-in-waiting who is banished from a classical animation world by a vainglorious queen and dumped into a modern-day, live-action Manhattan.

Sarandon will play a wicked queen intent on destroying true love. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH.....ALL THE QUEENS I KNOW ARE LIKE THAT TOO. (NOT NAMING NAMES.....)The film is being directed by Kevin Lima from a script by Bill Kelly.

Image in Media Joins MONSTER CLUB

Canadian independent producer Image in Media is joining up with Treehouse Film and Television Ltd. and China Film Animation Ltd. to produce MONSTER CLUB THE MOVIE.

The 3-D animated feature film will be based on Britain's AP Comics Monster Club created by Kit Wallis. EDITOR'S NOTE: 3-D IS OUR FRIEND! (I AM A CONVERT)

The story centers on Mia and her three friends, all agents for the Organization, as they attempt to stamp out a monster epidemic worldwide. EDITOR'S NOTE: A WORLDWIDE MONSTER EPIDEMIC! SEE, NOW, THAT WOULD EXPLAIN A LOT, WOUDLN'T IT?!

The project was first announced back in the Fall of 2002.

Bender, Barber Connect with FIVE ANCESTORS

Nickelodeon Movies has set Lawrence Bender and Karen Barber to produce a feature film adaptation of Jeff Stone's adventure book series THE FIVE ANCESTORS.

Set in 17th-century China, the series follows the adventures of five young monks, each of whom specializes in a different style of "Animal" kung fu. After a rebel brother monk leads an attack on their secret temple, the monks are forced to flee and must rely on their training and instincts to survive. EDITOR'S NOTE: I'M HAVING A "JACKIE CHAN ADVENTURES/ KID'S WB" FLASHBACK. (NOT THAT THAT IS A BAD THING.....)


Yun-fat & Li Will Wear GOLDEN ARMOR

In February, Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li will start filming Zhang Yimou's latest film WEARING GOLDEN ARMOR ACROSS THE CITY.

The story, which is based on Chinese playwright Cao Yu's classic play Thunderstorm, is set during the Tang dynasty, with the plot revolving around an emperor, an empress and a general. EDITOR'S NOTE: UMMM...AREN'T THEY ALL?

Cao Yu is regarded as "the Shakespeare of China". In 1933, when he was only 23 years old, he finished his virgin play Thunderstorm, which he followed up by Sunrise (1936) and The Wilderness (1937).

It is already being reported that battle scenes will involve an estimated 20,000 extras. Filming will take place in Chongqing.

Zhang Weiping will produce.

Ribisi and Dourdan Get STRANGER
Revolution Studios has signed Giovanni Ribisi and Gary Dourdan for PERFECT STRANGER. They will join a cast that already includes Halle Berry and Bruce Willis.

The psychological thriller centers on a woman who goes undercover both online and off to investigate a friend's murder. Ribisi will an IT wiz and hacker and Dourdan will portray Berry's on-again, off-again boyfriend.

James Foley will direct from a script by John Bokenkamp, which was rewritten by Frank Rinzulli and Todd Komarnicki.

Graff doing his time in 'Slammer'
Helmer Todd Graff is in negotiations to direct the Sarah Jessica Parker starrer "Slammer" for Revolution Studios. "Hairspray's" Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman will compose the songs and score for the musical-comedy.

Described as in the vein of "Private Benjamin," the story centers on publicist Maggie Ray (Parker), who is framed for theft and shipped to Sing Sing Prison in New York. In an attempt to polish the prison's image, she produces an inmate-led musical that could save her career. Sara Goodman penned the script, based on a story by Tim Metcalfe and John Slotnick

Fincher has stomach for 'Torso'
David Fincher is carving out room in his schedule for "Torso," a thriller based on a graphic novel written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andrey-ko, which he will direct for Paramount Pictures. Ehren Kruger is writing the adaptation, which will be produced by Pandemonium's Bill Mechanic, Angry Films' Don Murphy and comic artist Todd McFarlane.

"Torso" tells the true but relatively unknown story of Treasury Department agent Eliot Ness' time after his Al Capone days, when he moved to Cleveland to be the city's public safety officer. Torsos began appearing in the river, and Ness began receiving notes taunting him to catch the killer. Ness, who had no experience in police work, put together a team of ex-officers to apprehend the serial murderer.

The graphic novel was written by Bendis and Andreyko and drawn by Bendis in the late 1990s.

Bendis has since gone on to become one of the top writers in comics, with acclaimed runs on "Daredevil" and "Ultimate Spider-Man." Several of his creator-owned comics are in development around town, including "Jinx," which is set up at Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron attached

First Look nets U.S. release for 'Little Fish'
NEW YORK -- First Look Studios has caught U.S. rights to the Aussie drama "Little Fish," starring Cate Blanchett as an ex-heroin addict. The company's domestic theatrical division, First Look Pictures, will unveil the movie theatrically in March, while its domestic home video division, First Look Home Entertainment, will follow with a DVD release.

In Rowan Woods' dark film, Blanchett plays a woman struggling to rebuild her life while taking care of a junkie mentor (Hugo Weaving) who has been deprived of drugs by his dealer/lover (Sam Neill). Her world is further complicated when an ex-boyfriend (Dustin Nguyen) returns for a final drug deal, recruiting both her and her brother (Martin Henderson) in the process EDITOR'S NOTE: GREAT CAST! DOESN'T SOUND LIKE A VERY HAPPY FLIC, THOUGH. (WHY MUST ART BE SO DEPRESSING!???)