Friday, August 11, 2006

Star Wars Time, tra la tra la...

Editor's Note: Ok, this article is really really long, but it's also really really fascinating. (To ME, at any rate).

Building Felucia
Editor's Note: Is it just me, or does that sound not's just me?
Growing an Alien Jungle
Fans witnessing the tragic demise of Jedi Knight Aayla Secura in Revenge of the Sith also got a brief yet exciting glimpse at the colorful world of Felucia. As a world covered with fungal life-forms and immense primitive plants, the planet's humid landscape overgrown by forests of magnificent plants stood out as one of the most vibrantly colored planets of Episode III.

Initially filmmaker George Lucas envisioned Felucia as a "kelp planet," but after the Episode III Art Department took a crack at creating their own version of a new bizarre and lush landscape, the idea of the alien jungle took hold.

"George Lucas's early direction was that he wanted a wide variety of planets for the Clone Wars to be happening on," Concept Design Supervisor Ryan Church says. "I did a bunch of different types of planets and my idea for Felucia was one of the last I came up with. I thought it would be neat to see a planet that wasn't based on an Earth location -- one that was truly alien. I also thought it would be neat to see something without any technology -- like an alien jungle look (a lush and vibrant place but without anything really recognizable). Here was something that would really contrast with the clone armor and technology."

The idea of the alien jungle concept came from a mesh of ideas revolving around the latest ILM technology and of all things, a song by The Beatles. "I wanted to push the look of things into a direction not seen before, and I knew ILM was just recently able to do CG renders involving transparency. They call it 'subsurface scattering.' I wanted to push this as far as I thought possible and that was how the idea of the translucent plants came about. Believe it or not, I was also inspired by a Beatles song. A co-worker kept listening to the song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and there's that line 'Cellophane Flowers of Yellow and Green, Towering over your Head.' This was an interesting image to me and so that's what served as the muse for my first Felucia painting, featuring giant translucent flower-plants." Editor's Note: Always nice to have new and DIFFERENT songs stuck in our heads!

When Lucas decided to move forward on the idea, all the concept artists tried their hand at coming up with the ultimate look for Felucia. While some artists concentrated on various species of animals and plants to populate the planet, others created elaborate storyboard-type illustrations to show action. "I stuck with mainly wide shots that showed what different locations could look like, the detail of the plant species, and what different lighting and atmospheric conditions could do to the look," Church says. "I also art directed the final shots down at ILM and did very detailed schematics of the plants so the ILM modelers could build them and get the look right, which was tough."

On first glance, the looming vegetation may seem like a visual tribute to exotic carnivorous plants that dwell on our own planet, however Church felt it was more important to draw inspiration from other sources from nature. "I tried to avoid the pitcher plant thing, despite the obvious superficial similarities," Church explains. "I also looked at a lot of animals like jellyfish and ctenophores. But if you look closely at the Felucia plants you will see structures that look more like fish musculature and even the texture of elephant ears. That was a problem trying to make these translucent plants look big and realistic in addition to actually supporting their own weight. Some of these plants would be 30 or 50 feet tall! I ended up figuring out a liquid-filled approach with internal supports that makes sense."

While translating the visions of Felucia from his imagination to the sketch pad, Church wanted to make sure the planet's atmosphere and landscape were not only believable, but beautiful. "I really wanted to steer clear of anything that people had seen in movies before," Church explains. "I wanted it to feel like a Vietnam War location with these high tech soldiers surrounded by a completely alien location. When you look at alien planets in almost all other movies, they are all based closely on whatever Earth location is chosen for filming. Either that or the alien planet is so dark and stormy that you can't see what's going on really. I wanted to show audiences something that might exist on another planet, not some desert or cave but a real place with an alien ecosystem and was in fact as beautiful as any forest or jungle on Earth, but completely different looking. The beauty aspect of the design was very important." Editor's Note: So the Jedi could be betrayed and murdered someplace NICE!

From Animatics to Modelmaking
As Church began to flesh out the plants even more, the concepts Lucas approved were then given to the Animatics Department to bring the planet to life. "Initially I was doing pure concept work, to show what the planet might look like and who might be there," Church says. "As Felucia was incorporated into the script and animatic I began to help George and the animatic guys think of interesting shots and scenarios to tell the story. In the end all of our work was condensed into a seven or eight-shot montage.

Animatic artist Joshua Wassung worked closely with George once he and I had built a few parts of Felucia in his computer," Church continues. "Josh would take a painting, a 2-D representation of the location, and build a set in the computer that looked like the painting but was something he could put CG actors and vehicles in and animate them into shots. Then George would sit with him and shoot a scene, for instance stage a fight between clones and droids. The next while was spent with George actually shooting the action on this virtual set -- just as any director would do on location. The process was very cool to watch. At the end of a few days George would have this little action sequence shot and edited into the larger animatic of the entire film." Editor's Note: Like playing with dolls or computer games except for big bucks?

After the animatic was complete, the model makers and other craftspeople from Industrial Light & Magic were then asked to undertake the real-life construction of Felucia's plant life. ILM Senior Model Maker Danny Wagner worked closely with a team to build the exquisite set. In addition to Wagner, the ILM crew members involved with the project included Richard Miller (sculptor), Louren Vogt and Gritsada Satjawatcharaphong (painters), and Michael Jobe (molder and caster).

Wagner also constructed 3-D representative concept models of various other new environments for Episode III which included maquettes for the Wookiee Tree and the Command Center on Kashyyk, the Utapau sinkhole walls, grotto cave and landing platform, and the magnificent volcanoes on Mustafar.

"Felucia was actually one of the first things I did for the film at ILM," Wagner says. "I was responsible for the ground terrain sculpt and the small vegetation and plants. I also worked as stage support shooting the final miniature. It took about a month to build the set miniature with the crew and about a week shooting it."

As the model making team began to build the Felucia set, they used various ingredients from both nature and their art supply cabinets. "The dressing consists of a lot of green sphagnum moss, some finely-crushed walnut shells, different grains of sand, and ground foam," Wagner reveals. "We also used special clear crystal beads that were ideal for shiny organic matter to dress the ground." Editor's Note: Hey, OddBob! Instead of artsandcraftsy stuff that you and are making from beads, we could be making alien PLANETS!!! Oooooooo.....

"To start things off I sculpted the ground terrain out of Y-2 clay, then sealed it with shellac and primed it," Wagner continues. "The small plants were sculpted out of Y-2 clay. I did a variety of them so ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll could pick which ones he liked. When the final choices were made, casting specialist Michael Jobe molded the parts along with the other plants. To give the various plants and flowers that special translucent glow, he used a clear urethane, WC-20, which was carefully cast in special platinum silicone mold that can only casts clear parts. Some of these molds were extremely complex. We had to make sure that the casting was clear so we could add another piece inside the plant to give it more of an inner growth look. The plant sculptures were then placed in an airtight vacuum chamber to remove any air bubbles. Some of the castings were also given a special clear urethane ink to give the plants an appearance of a soft membrane of colored tissue. Then painters and I used a combination of colors from a variety of paints such as FW inks, Tamiya clear colors, Dr. Martin watercolors and some pearl essence powders and inks. There were also a few more special craft paints we used for certain parts of the plants."

Welcome to the Jellybean Planet
The plants weren't all made from traditional materials; in fact, Wagner and the team discovered that tasty treats could easily double as vibrantly-colored plant parts. "For some parts of the plants I used a special GummiBear-type candy that was clear and orangey in color, as well as those wax cola bottle candies for one of the small leaf-like plants," Wagner says. "It was so hard to not eat all the candy before I finished the model!" Editor's Note: Yeah, working with beads is less fattening. (Although I DO sort of like fondling them......TMI?)

Keeping the plant models out of their stomachs wasn't the only obstacle the team came across during their project. "Keeping every plant clear so light could shine though and not adding too much paint to the models was a huge challenge," Wagner recalls. "You always needed to hold the plant up to the light after painting it to see if it looked good. Plus we had to always keep in mind that these models would be under stage lighting and not our fluorescent lights in the shop."
At one point during the construction process, the action figure of Aayla Secura was placed amongst the plants as a frame of reference. Wagner, who also was responsible for applying the blue makeup to actress Amy Allen who plays the Jedi Knight, was able to show the actress her character's last destination in miniature form.

"That action figure was for reference on scale at one point and a useful tool for the Director of Photography to tell the story where the lead characters are going to be during certain parts of the scene," Wagner says. "When I started to prep for Amy's makeup I had an opportunity to give a little tour of the set. Lucky the miniature was still there and I was able to show her. It was a Kodak moment: Aayla and her planet! She loved it and I'm glad she was so impressed."

As last group to touch the Felucia sequence, ILM's digital artists had the heavy task to combine the work from the animatics team and the model makers and polish it into the final product. Working with Knoll, ILM Computer Graphics Supervisor Patrick Myers took on the shading and look development of the sequence, focusing mostly on the lighting and creature rendering elements.

"The main objective for us was to use this as an opportunity to give a new planet a unique look from the other planets we had done so far," Myers explains. "We initially wanted to have Felucia be otherworldly, and then it settled down into a cross between an underwater look and microphotography. The maquettes the model shop created had a weird, resiny kind of look to them, and we wanted to retain those characteristics."

"The process started out with us looking at the maquette work that had been done and the lighting reference they had shot for it," Myers continues. "It's always a challenge with these projects to balance what look we want to achieve with reasonable rendering times. When you get involved in creating transparent or translucent objects you can run pretty quickly into very expensive methods for doing it. That was my big concern doing it -- how can I get out my cheat book to do things and keep it looking cool, and make everyone happy with it?"

Originally when Myers and his team got hold of the raw animatic, the Felucia sequence was quite longer. "The first animatic was three times as long with three Jedi getting killed on Felucia. Then it kept getting trimmed back a little bit more and more, and so by the end instead of doing something very complicated with a lot of shots we ended up doing it a lot less shots."

Myers spent much of his time working via trial and error on the lighting of the various plants to make their translucency believable. "I did a lot of work on the whisker plant and some of the other plants as far as trying to get that kind of translucent quality that we saw in the maquettes," Myers explains. "These days you hear a lot about subsurface scattering that they use for flesh simulation and that's sort of where we started and tried that. We were already using that to show light through Yoda's ears. But then it became apparent that when we actually applied it to the plants, we were dealing with a different characteristic -- not so much with what you get with translucent silicone or marble where light hits the front surface and sort of glows around it. I kept referring to Felucia as the jellybean planet at some level because you can't necessarily see through everything but you can kind of discern the shape on the far side of objects. So we took a different page out of the rendering handbook and went for that effect. Once we started actually doing that, we were able to discern the back sides of objects through stuff, then the objects had more of a jellybean gelatinous characteristic that we were looking for." Editor's Note: Jelly Bellys! Dweeb food of the Gods!

Shedding Light on the Landscape
To keep expenses down, Myers tried various lighting tricks with the sequence. One shortcut is what digital artists refer to as "baking in" the lighting, rather than have the computer "ray trace" or calculate how each ray of light would bounce or behave. The problem with "baking," however, is that it tends to be limited only to static shots where lighting does not change from frame to frame.

"You can't necessarily 'bake' the lighting -- so we baked different angles of lighting and then blend between them to get an animated look so we could replicate hundreds of objects in a scene," Myers explains. "If we did a full-blown retrace calculation for all that stuff it would have been quite expensive."

In addition to lighting, Myers also played with the movement of the plants and added floating pollen elements. "The plants were always kind of moving a little bit and that was a simulation thing," Myers says. "When we originally simulated them we had to slow everything down because they would simulate too fast and that sort of broke the scale. Also the floating pollen was a really nice touch to give you a sense that you were submerged in something, so it would look a little like you were underwater in the atmosphere."

Once the sequence was completed and edited into the final film, Myers says he still found himself happily surprised with the finish result. "The funny thing about these kinds of projects is that you spend quite a chunk of time working on them then they just rip rocket by in the actual film," Myers laughs. "But we had a chance to see how the components were working really well like the intimate shots where you're kind of down in the environment. My favorite part of the sequence was one of the shots where the walkers are going along and stepping on the plants. We were excited to explore what exactly would be inside the plants so we added a gooey syrup element -- which implied that these things would be pretty disgusting if you actually stepped on them."

Another element that Myers had fun adding to the sequence was the flying creature that caught Aayla Secura's eye right before she was shot by the clone troopers. "Late in the development of the sequence George decided he wanted to add the equivalent of a flying bird into the sequence," Myers says. "We ended up recycling a creature from one of the other sequences -- a peko peko. We then took a Felucia glass/GummiBear shader and applied it to the bird's geometry so we would have this gelatinous flying bird thing. You're still using the same textures but with a weird translucent characteristic on top of it."

Since the fans only got a brief glimpse at Felucia's breathtakingly beautiful landscape, Myers says he would have liked to give them an even closer look at the unusual plants and their delicate structure. "I would have liked to showcase a more dynamic lighting change," Myers says. "One of the things you get to see when you're just looking at the raw elements -- the part of the scene where Aalya Securra is blasted by the clones -- we did an interactive light pass with that so you're seeing all these laser flashes go through and light up all these little weird glassy ground cover and it was really neat looking. It would have been nice to have some moment where you could see the sun behind something to really see what's going on. Because when the lighting moves you really get to see the odd resiny look of the plants."

Wagner also admits that if the planet had a larger presence in Episode III, he would have been happy to add more miniatures. "It would have been great to add even more variety of styles and shapes of the flowers and plants," Wagner smiles. "It was such a beautiful planet you can go crazy on. It's an amazing opportunity to add all shorts of interesting organic forms."

Equally enamored with the planet, Church says that he wishes that fans had the chance to explore Felucia further in Revenge of the Sith. "I actually really liked the longer sequence that George shot with Joshua," Church says. "It's basically a few scenes of clones marching through the forest, finding the enemy droid encampment, and then a battle breaks out. You also get to see more of the planet with additional wide shots and details alike. I would have enjoyed seeing what it was like for these poor clones to try and deal with that alien environment. There were also a lot of animal species designed for the planet that were never developed further that would be interesting to put in. Felucia was a favorite of mine and it was a real joy to be able to be involved with it from first sketch to seeing it on the big screen. I hope viewers like how it turned out and maybe one day they get to see some more of it!" Editor's Note: All that amazing detail and labored artistry, and those planets where the Jedi are shown being slaughtered were a blur....from my the reality of Order 66 hit home.

Star Wars Characters Begin Summertime Road Trip
It's a summertime tradition whose origins date back to a long time ago: the road trip.

This year, residents of a galaxy far, far away are taking part in the quintessential American experience.

From August 22 to September 11, three favorite characters from the Star Wars saga will visit 11 cities throughout the U.S.

Along for the cross-country ride: Chewbacca, Han Solo's faithful Wookiee co-pilot; Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith; and Wicket, the fierce-yet-cuddly Ewok. They'll meet fans, see sights and celebrate the simultaneous September 12 release of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on DVD, from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and the LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy videogame, from LucasArts and TT Games. The DVDs are available for a limited time -- only through Dec. 31.

Editor's Note: Here's hoping they brought along enough snacks. Cause I'm thinkin Wicket would start to look mighty tasty mighty quick if either Chewbacca or DV get the munchies.

The journey kicks off August 22 in Miami and ends September 10 in San Diego. During the road trip, characters will visit Niagara Falls, take in some Major League and AAA baseball, attend a Las Vegas wedding and get a glimpse of the Johnson Space Center -- among a host of activities. They also will take time out to spend time with patients in children's hospitals in many of the cities.

"We receive countless letters and e-mails from people who tell us how much they love Star Wars, and we wanted to give fans a chance to meet their favorite characters and get a unique kind of Star Wars experience," said Tom Warner, Senior Director of Marketing for Lucasfilm Ltd.

Throughout the 11-city road trip, Star Wars fans will want to keep their eyes peeled and their cameras ready: By submitting their best pictures of the characters and themselves (or family members) to, they could win a trip for four to the ultimate Star Wars event -- Celebration IV, to be held in May 2007 in Los Angeles -- or copies of the DVDs and videogame.

(Full details of the Star Wars: Bringing it Home contest and official rules, click here.)

Scheduled cities and dates* are:

Miami -- Aug. 22
Louisville -- Aug. 24
Charlotte, NC -- Aug. 25
Columbus, Ohio -- Aug. 26
Portland, Ore. -- Aug. 27
Seattle -- Aug. 28
Houston -- Sept. 3 Editor's Note: !!!! Of course I will be flying back from my parents' surprise party and going straight to REHERSAL that day, but just knowing I will be in the same CITY with the boys..........!!!!!
Kansas City -- Sept. 4
Buffalo, NY -- Sept. 6
Las Vegas -- Sept. 9
San Diego -- Sept. 11

As the road trip progresses, full plans for each city will be available here at Keep checking back!

* As with any summertime road trip, unanticipated events could cause changes in the schedule; keep up to date at

Editor's Note: And now, the weekly Star Wars Pictures, WOOOOHOOOO!!

Another cool 2007 Sneak Peek. And this one comes with some kind of plot/dialogue.

"It was a storm... there was no other word to describe it. It was like a sick joke, since we were supposed to be the stormtroopers..."

"This is every home video release of the Star Wars saga ever put out in the U.S. It even contains over 75% of those from the U.K and a fair amount from Australia and Japan."
Editor's Note: I so very much want a whole room just neatly displayed with dweebing like this! (Then again, I guess the argument could be made that I have a WHOLE HOUSE full of dweebing?)

Preliminary Podracers: This early collection of Terryl Whitlatch Podracer pilot art reveals changes in names and design; Dud Bolt here is named Bozzie Baranta, Ody Mandrell is named Boles Roor, Mawhonic and Teemto Pagalies look quite different, and Ody Mysturall and Slide Paramita would not make it to the finished film.

Read or I'll shoot you?

Hot Stuff: This unattributed illustration for Return of the Jedi features magma creatures to possibly inhabit the fiery lair of the Emperor, as originally envisioned in the early draft scripts for the movie.

Dark Lady of the Sith: Iain McCaig's creepy illustration of a female Sith Lord developed yet ultimately abandoned for Episode II.
Editor's Note: I think I have found myself a new (and yet still unattainable) diet goal. Next Halloween's costume, dweebpals? (Slave Leia was getting old, eh?)

Disney Restoration

How Cels and other unique Disney art are brought back to life
It looks like a cross between an artist's studio and a scientist's lair: dozens of tiny bottles of multihued paint share table space with an iron, several blenders, color meters, and a microscope. And this is indeed a place where art and science meet: All this equipment is being employed in the service of a sheet of nitrate, bearing the hand-painted image of a motley-clad lute player.

Once again, the fairest of them all -- meticulous restoration has returned this "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" cel to its full glory

That transparent sheet is an original hand-painted cel used in the creation of the Disney masterpiece "Sleeping Beauty," one of about 400,000 created for that film alone - each one showing a different moment in the story, and each one unique. And saving it from disintegration is the task of Ron Stark, Director of S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center. The Disney Insider visited S/R Labs, the only animation conservation laboratory in the world, to learn what goes in to preserving and restoring these unique (and highly collectible) works of art.

Ron gestures at the art hanging on the walls in the S/R hallway - lush watercolor backgrounds from "Pinocchio," oil paintings created to help visualize "Bambi," sketches of mermaids made when planning "Peter Pan," and original cels from "Fantasia" and a score of other Disney films.

"None of this was intended to last," he explains. The Walt Disney Studio focused on creating a movie, not cels and sketches for their own sake. Art was created, photographed by the animation cameras, and then tossed or sent to storage. Preliminary sketches were not done on acid-free paper, and the inks used were often prone to fading. Drawings were sometimes pasted over other drawings on the same backing board.

Over time, however, appreciation has grown for the beauty and unique nature of animation cels and other art produced by animators - like maquettes, the plaster sculptures created so animators can envision a character from every side, and the beautifully detailed paintings that form the background for the animated action. Collectors treasure them, and the Walt Disney Studio recognizes the value of these priceless pieces of its own history. Editor's Note: Not to be crass or cynical.....umm...but Disney sees a potential profit motive here, TOO, right?

Enter S/R Labs, a "search and rescue" team for animation art. Originally founded in 1978 as a volunteer project to save vanishing pieces of animation memorabilia, today S/R is private business that restores and preserves animation art of all kinds, for studios, museums, galleries, and private collectors alike. Although concept drawings, background paintings, and production paintings are subject to the same restoration techniques as conventional fine-art pieces, animation art does pose some special challenges.

"Cels are tricky to preserve," Ron explains. "The pencil outline is done on one side of the clear background sheet (nitrate for older cels, acetate for more recent ones) and the paint is done on the other, so if the cel itself breaks down there's no way to remove and preserve the art."

And Ron demonstrates just how fragile aging nitrate can become, running a thumb across a brittle edge that explodes into tiny glassy fragments. Aging nitrate can also buckle, crack, become cloudy, or turn brown, and the paint often flakes or fades. After seeing the condition of older pieces before restoration, the beauty of the restored cels can be almost startling - the colors brilliant, the details sharp, and the surface clear and flat.

To accomplish this magic takes a mix of chemistry and artistry -- the conservators use thousands of paint tones, painstakingly following the original Walt Disney Studio color keys for the era when a particular piece of art was produced. Even the pen nibs used to refresh damaged ink lines are Studio originals, provided to S/R by a former Disney staffer. Restoring a single cel or drawing may take weeks. Maquettes, made of soft plaster, almost inevitably arrive chipped and dirty, and often broken as well, to be restored to their snowy original glory.

All of the colors made at S/R Labs are mixed and matched under three different light sources in order to assure accuracy.

Although many restorations are done for the Walt Disney Studio itself, most are commissioned by private collectors who want to preserve these pieces of the Disney legacy. Ron stresses that collectors who buy pieces in good condition will find it easier and less expensive to take steps to preserve them before they are damaged, rather than restoring them after deterioration has occurred. On the other hand, pieces that are already in a deteriorated condition can sometimes present a wonderful bargain for the purchaser - refurbished with care they can realize a spectacular increase in value and beauty.

Returning to that little minstrel cel, hanging in the restoration lab, Ron says "This is it - the real painting that represents one 24th of a second that audiences actually saw onscreen in 'Sleeping Beauty.' These are the brushstrokes that created that movie. And you can hold it in your hands."

Nothing could better sum up the magic of animation art - and thanks to the efforts of the conservators of S/R Labs, it's a magic that will always be with us.

Friday HUZZAH Huzzah!

Editor's Note: Ah sweet mystery of the work week....Friday, blessed Friday.

A few more mishmashed dweeb items----

Adamson to write and direct VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER
Andrew Adamson has signed on to write and direct the third film in the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series. Adamson wrote and directed THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE and is currently gearing up to begin shooting on PRINCE CASPIAN. Mark Johnson will produce one again for the studio.

The filming for PRINCE CASPIAN is set to begin sometime in January in the forests of Europe. The film is expected to be released summer of 2008.

Hayden Christensen to star in JUMPER

Editor's Note: STILLLLLLL so dreeeeeaaaammmmmy....

Earlier rumors prove true as Hayden Christensen officially signs to star in the upcoming film JUMPER.

He will join Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Sturridge, Jamie Bell and Teresa Palmer in the cast. Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) is attached to direct the sc-fi thriller for the studio.

JUMPER is based on a Steven Gould novel and follows a kid from a broken home who discovers that he has the ability to teleport. In his quest for the man he believes is responsible for the death of his mother, the kid draws the attention of the National Security Agency and another youth with the same abilities.

Jackson will be playing an NSA agent who tracks the jumper. The budget is rumored to be in the range of $100,000,000.

Mark Dindal to helm SHERLOCK'S SECRETARY
Mark Dindal (Chicken Little) will make his live-action directorial debut with the upcoming film SHERLOCK'S SECRETARY for Walden Media.

The film is based on the little-known fact that real letters are being sent to the fictitious home of Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous detective and one of the 19th century's great literary creations.

Holmes famously resided at 221b Baker St., and the address -- now the Sherlock Holmes Museum -- has been receiving letters from people seeking Holmes' help in solving real crimes. The film will center on the person living at that address, whose world is turned upside down when he gets one of these letters and decides to take on a real case.

Julie Golden (The Calligrapher) is attached to write the script.

Editor's Note: And on the heels of the news of the DVD release of the Prisoner TV series, more info on the MOVIE ----

Nolan in negotiations to direct THE PRISONER
Christopher Nolan is in negotiations to direct the upcoming feature version of the classic TV series THE PRISONER.

The TV show lasted only 17 episodes in 1967 and followed a government agent who resigns, is kidnapped and placed on an isolated island known as the Village. He's then given a new identity -- Number Six -- and interacts with an island staff trying to get him to reveal why he resigned.

Janet and David Peoples (Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner) are attached to write the script.

The plan is apparently for Nolan to helm this film after he finishes THE DARK KNIGHT, the sequel to BATMAN BEGINS.

Marvel updates upcoming films

Marvel's senior executives recently revealed their agenda and goals for the upcoming slate of Marvel comic book movies.

Their plan is to self-finance two movies per year starting in 2008. They currently have 7 projects in development.

Some of the updates:
- Zak Penn (X-Men) will write a script for the live action feature film version of THE AVENGERS. Penn is also writing a script for Marvel's THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

- Marvel plans to release IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK in 2008, with IRON MAN coming first.

- Louis Leterrier will direct THE AVENGERS.

- ANT-MAN will have two versions of the Marvel character, with small time criminal Scott Lang stumbling upon a supersuit once worn by Dr. Hank Pym. Edgar Wright will direct the film.

- THOR will have the Norse god of thunder banished to live as a human amongst mortal men. Mark Protosevic (I AM LEGEND)is writing the script.

- CAPTAIN AMERICA and NICK FURY are in development. David Self is writing CAPTAIN while Andrew Marlowe is writing NICK FURY. Editor's Note: My head is swimming. SO many superheroes, so little actual saving-the-universe actually happening. (Where are our REAL superheroes?!!!)

Weinstein Co. snatches PREY

The Weinstein Co. has acquired the North American rights to the Darrell James Roodt thriller, PREY.

The film stars Bridget Moynahan and Peter Weller as the parents of a American family that visits a game reserve in Africa. Their holiday takes a deadly turn when they become lost in a game reserve and find themselves hunted by lions. Editor's Note: GOOD kitty! NICE kitty! OUCH!

"We are delighted to have concluded this deal for 'Prey' with the Weinstein Co.," Distant Horizon president Anant Singh said. "It marks a continuation of our relationship with Harvey and Bob Weinstein which began 15 years ago. We believe that the Weinstein Co. is the perfect distribution company for 'Prey' in the U.S."

Scott joins The Great Buck Howard

Gotta love Adam Scott. The young actor can seemingly do it all - and he's getting better by the film. He was superb in his short and sweet, but memorable, role in "The Aviator", thieved scenes from Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd in "High Crimes", and had us rolling about in laughter - as he got into Jane Fonda's garb - in "Monster-in-Law". And despite how wonky the film was, he was pretty damn cool - playing against type as a rogue, too - in the actioner "Torque". Possibly the best thing in that movie, in fact. Editor's Note: Despite the fact that he looks only VAGUELY familiar to me.....

Tom Hanks obviously thinks he's a talent worth bothering with too. The actor, serving as producer, has cast Scott in "The Great Buck Howard", a new film that teams Hanks with his son, Colin.

Written and directed by Sean McGinly, the story revolves around a luckless magician and his assistant who struggle to reinvigorate his career. Blunt will play a self-assured publicist hired by Buck Howard (John Malkovich) to publicize an event that will put him back on the map.

Scott next appears in "The Return" opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar.

MI3 to hit DVD October 30

According to the USA TODAY, Paramount's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III will hit shelves on October 30 as a special collector's edition DVD. Interesting to note that the release date is a Monday, and not the typical Tuesday. The studio is calling it "Mission Monday."

The DVD will release simultaneously on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray disc formats. Each two disc set will include four behind-the-scenes featurettes and various deleted scenes.

The HD DVD comes with extra enhanced commentary by Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams. Editor's Note: Oh goodie....commentary by Tom Cruise. (eek). I really enjoyed this movie. I just wish it starred someone else besides freakboy.

And speaking of J.J.Abrams (the REAL reason, I'm betting, that MI3 was so much fun despite weirdactors) ----

J.J. Abrams talks LOST and STAR TREK XI
TV Guide posted an interview with J.J. Abrams in which he talks about the upcoming season of LOST and his upcoming film STAR TREK XI.

TV Guide: What can you tell us about the new season?
Abrams: A lot of the season's already figured out, and it's incredible. The stories are amazing.

TV Guide: Will you have time to be involved in Lost's third season?
Abrams: I definitely look to be more involved this season, certainly more than I was last season [when directing Mission: Impossible III]. I look forward to directing an episode, and I'm planning on writing some.

TV Guide: C'mon. Give us something.
Abrams: Desmond will definitely be back. He's not dead.

TV Guide: How exciting is it to find yourself in charge of resuscitating the Trek franchise?
Abrams: It's sort of surreal but wonderful. I'm producing and may direct.

TV Guide: It's been reported that the film will focus on Kirk and Spock's early days and include their meeting at Starfleet Academy. You've said that was not entirely accurate. What parts are?
Abrams: I think we have an incredible story, but we've sort of promised each other we wouldn't talk about the specifics yet. But I can say that we're actively working on it, we're in the middle of breaking the story, and it's coming along great. I'd be happy to start sooner than Paramount thinks, but not a moment before it's ready.

TV Guide: Why the shroud of secrecy?
Abrams: It's way premature. Anything I say, people will read into it and make assumptions. But we have an incredible beginning of a really dramatic story, and it very much honors the canon of Star Trek. On the other hand, it won't be like anything you've seen before. Editor's Note: All good news. Canon good. The way things have been done before (at least RECENTLY) bad and in NEED of a good swift kick in the pants. All this teasing, however, VERY MEAN!

And speaking of TREK ----


Editor's Note: Yeah, Kirk, the cruel aliens MADE you do it, but you KNOW you wanted to from the first moment you walked on the bridge and saw the cute way her very manicured nails fiddled with her communications ear-piece!


According to Zap2It, TV Land has acquired the rights to the original STAR TREK series. The show will be added to the network's regular rotation starting on November 17.

The network will also air four episodes on September 8 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the show's premiere on NBC.

The episodes aired will be: The Man Trap, the episode that began the series, City on the Edge of Forever, The Trouble With Tribbles and Plato's Stepchildren, which featured the first interracial kiss, between Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), on television.

Greenwood boards pilot from Milch

Bruce Greenwood is in final negotiations to star in David Milch's pilot "John From Cincinnati," which Emmy winner Mark Tinker has come aboard to direct.

Written by "Deadwood" creator Milch and author Kem Nunn, "John" is a drama set in the world of Southern California surfing. Greenwood will play the patriarch of the surfing family at the center of the show. Editor's Note: Sometimes....just SOMETIMES....I hate being old(er). Here is this very sexy, very charismatic actor who is relegated to the patriarch role. And they will no doubt hire interchangeable, unintersting twinkies...and yes, they're pretty in a vapid sort of be his kids. And the storylines will be predominately about the tedious twinkies, and here's this MUCH more interesting, lovely guy on the sidelines.

Old, and CRANKY. SIGH.......

'Moon' rising with Forlani, Bisset, Hudson

Claire Forlani, Jacqueline Bisset and Oliver Hudson have been tapped to star in the Lifetime original movie "Carolina Moon," based on Nora Roberts' best-selling novel.

"Moon," from Mandalay TV and Stephanie Germain Prods., is one of four adaptations of books by Roberts that Lifetime plans to run back-to-back on Monday nights in February. The other three -- "Blue Smoke," "Angels Fall" and "Montana Sky" -- are in preproduction.

Editor's Note: And on a much more intriguing note ----

'Kushner' has seat in Balcony

NEW YORK -- Balcony Releasing will bring "Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner" to U.S. theaters in the fall.

Kushner is the Tony-winning writer of the Broadway play-turned-HBO miniseries "Angels in America." The feature from Oscar winner Freida Lee Mock ("Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision") will reach select cities in a platform release in October and November.

"I'm unspeakably embarrassed by it," said Kushner, who said he loathes seeing himself onscreen. "I had to be led kicking and screaming to watch the finished movie." Editor's Note: Giggle. Atta boy!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A few Quick Dweebings on this fine Thursday

Editor's Note: Chuckin out a few Dweeb items in between chore and duty....

Brett Ratner to direct THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
Brett Ratner has signed on to direct a contemporized remake of 1978 thriller THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL for New Line. Richard Potter and Matthew Stravitz will write the script.

Based on the Ira Levin novel, the original film fit the mode of 1970s paranoid thrillers, with Laurence Olivier uncovering a diabolical plot by Nazis in South America to revive the Third Reich through the use of cloning. Gregory Peck played Dr. Josef Mengele, the plot's mastermind.
The writers pitched a take that sticks close to Levin's novel but sets the action in the present day.

THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL will be produced by Rob Green of Granada, along with Rat Entertainment partners Ratner and Jay Stern.

The hope is Ratner will make Boys his follow-up to Rush Hour 3, which New Line puts into production in late September for an August 10, 2007, release. Editor's Note: Reserving judgement. But the original "Boys from Brazil" is pretty close to a classic and doesn't seem to NEED the update. IMHO.....

'Last King' to open London film fest
LONDON -- Oscar-winning documentary director Kevin Macdonald's first feature, "The Last King of Scotland," will open the 50th edition of the Times BFI London Film Festival, organizers said Wednesday.

Billed as a European premiere, Macdonald's movie will unspool Oct. 18 in the event's opening gala slot.

Based on the award-winning novel by Giles Foden, the movie stars Forest Whitaker as the tyrannical Ugandan President Idi Amin, alongside a cast that includes James McAvoy and Gillian Anderson.

Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock adapted the book for the screen.

John C Reilly Goes For A Walk Hard
A musical biopic comedy

Since his success in Talladega Nights, John C Reilly has clearly gotten the taste for broader comedy.

Not only will be reunite with Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay for their next collaboration, Step Brothers, but he’s also planning to star in Walk Hard.

It’s a comedy biopic that apes the style of Ray and Walk The Line, featuring the crazed life and times of fake muso Dewey Cox (Reilly).

Jake Kasdan and Talladega Producer Judd Apatow are writing the script and Kasdan will call the shots next year.

"It's an idea Jake had after seeing one too many musical biopics and feeling it was time to have some fun with that," Reilly told Variety. "My character is an amalgamation of a number of classic musician stories, tales of excess, highs and lows and bad behaviour." Editor's Note: It might end up being more like "Best in Show", where funny as it is, the REAL thing is (unintentionally) funnier.

Piven enters "The Kingdom"
Fresh from the latest season of HBO's "Entourage", Jeremy Piven has landed himself a brand new role with his "Very Bad Things" director, Petre Berg, in the upcoming thriller, "The Kingdom", reports "Variety".

Piven will play a Diplomat, who gets involved with an FBI team investiagting the bombing of a U.S. facility in Saudi Arabia.

With a story from Michael MannEditor's Note: Michael Mann writes STORIES? I thought he just blew things up and played loud music. (not that there's anything WRONG with that....), Piven joins the already impressive cast, which includes Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman & Jamie Foxx. Editor's Note: Oooo...excellent cast!

Berg most recently worked on the TV pilot for "Friday Night Lights", based on his 2004 film of the same name, and both Berg & Piven will be seen in Joe Carnahan's upcoming "Smokin' Aces".

Eric Balfour and Carlo Rota return to 24
According to TV Guide, both Eric Balfour and Carlo Rota will be returning to 24 for season six. They also report that Alexander Siddig will play a bad guy in the upcoming season.

Editor's Note: Siddig, in his Trek drag. (He was in "Syrianna" and he has aged REALLY nicely....FYI...)

TV Guide writes, "Just got off the phone with my 24 mole and he/she informs me that Eric Balfour has signed on to reprise his Season 1 role as independent CTU contractor Milo Pressman. My spy wouldn't say how Milo would be re-introduced, but he'll be sticking around for awhile: Balfour will be credited as a series regular.

"In other 24 news, former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine doc Alexander Siddig is joining the cast as one of the evil-doers behind the big Season 6 plot. Additionally, Carlo Rota (aka Mr. Chloe O'Brien) will be back as a series regular."

You can expect to see 24 back on your TV this coming January on Fox.

Hopkins nabs 'Vanished,' 'Brothers'
Josh Hopkins has landed recurring roles on two high-profile new drama series, Fox's "Vanished" and ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," while Linda Hart has been tapped to co-star on Fox's midseason comedy series "The Winner."

"Vanished," from 20th Century Fox TV, chronicles the disappearance of a senator's wife. Hopkins will play an old flame of the missing woman.

"Brothers," from Touchstone TV, is a family soap about adult siblings starring Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths and Sally Field. Hopkins will play a love interest to Flockhart's character.

Sci Fi Channel to air recap of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

The SCI FI Channel and its sister NBC Universal networks will air a one-hour recap special of the original series Battlestar Galactica in advance of the show's October third-season premiere.

It will incorporate footage from the original SCI FI miniseries and the previous two seasons of the series. The special will be narrated from the point of view of Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), the resistance leader on Cylon-occupied New Caprica.

According to Sci Fi Wire, the special will be broadcast as follows:
Aug. 13 at 10 p.m. on NBC West Coast,
Aug. 28 Free On Demand via SCI FI's cable affiliates,
Sept. 15 at 12 a.m. on USA Network,
Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. on Universal HD,
Sept. 18 at 9 a.m. on USA,
Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Universal HD,
Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. on Sleuth,
Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. on Bravo,
Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. on Bravo,
Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. on Universal HD,
throughout the month of September on SCI FI Pulse
and Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. on SCI FI.

Throughout September, it will also be made available for download via iTunes and XBox Live and will be distributed at Best Buy as a bonus DVD with the Battlestar Galactica season 2.5 DVD set and other genre titles from Universal Home Video.

The DVD will also be distributed to visitors to the Universal Studios theme parks, and snippets of the special will be available on, Google Video and other video portal sites.Editor's NOte: Time to get all caught up on this and get my head back into the BG universe, I guess. Nice of them to enable this task! (You'd think the scifi channel actually CARED about us?)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nope, still only Wednesday

Editor's Note: Sigh....not Friday yet?


William Shatner sponsoring online talent search

Editor's Note: Not a recent photo. (snicker...)

William Shatner is sponsoring an online contest to find the most talented SF personality in the USA. Editor's Note: Being one of the orignal SF 'personalities' hisself, I guess he ought to know.

To enter, contestants must create a short video clip that shows why they are the heir apparent to the original Capt. Kirk and upload it by Sept. 30. Finalists will be chosen by the public, and the top 10 highest-ranked entrants will be named finalists, and given a chance to win William Shatner's Sci-Fi Challenge.

Seven judges will each select an additional finalist (for 17 finalists total), and Shatner himself will pick the winner. The judges include representatives from, Ain't It Cool News, Planet Magazine, SCI FI Wire, the Slice of Sci-Fi Podcast, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast member Chase Masterson. Editor's Note: Chase Masterson....she makes me giggle. She has parlayed six and a half minutes on-screen and very perky....ummm....'attributes'......into a long-term, low-level career. Bless her heart.

The grand-prize winner will receive a large cash award and will be named the official spokesperson for the William Shatner Science Fiction DVD Club.

You can find the contest here.
Editor's Note: or HERE, if that link doesn't work -

Neal McDonough joins HITCHER remake

Editor's NOte: There's a reason you don't know who the woman is; that's his wife.
Neal McDonough has signed on to join the upcoming remake of THE HITCHER. He will join Sophia Bush, Zach Knighton and Sean Bean in the cast.

The script for the film was penned by Eric Bernt and follows a young couple (Bush and Knighton) driving across the country who become prey for a serial killer (Bean). Editor's Note: Sean Sean Sean...always the mouth-breathing lunatic. Poor baby. The killer blames all of his murders on the young man. McDonough will play a career lawman who tries to aid the distressed couple.

Platinum Dunes' Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller are producing the film.

McConaughey and Hudson team for FOOLS GOLD
Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson will star in the upcoming film FOOL'S GOLD for Warner Bros.

The adventure comedy evolves around a husband and wife who have spent eight years searching for a lost treasure and are on the brink of bankruptcy and divorce when a clue to the payday surfaces, forcing the couple to reunite to find their fortune.

Andy Tennant has signed on to direct the film. The script was written by Kenneth Lonergan from an original screenplay by John Claflin.

Paul Giamatti to play Philip K. Dick

Paul Giamatti is in negotiations to star in an upcoming untitled biopic about sci-fi author Philip K. Dick.

Dick, who died in 1982, wrote more than four dozen books and numerous short stories, with at least seven being adapted for the big screen, including Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. A Scanner Darkly is in theaters now. Editor's Note: Or NOT, depending on how quickly it tanked where YOU live.

The nontraditional biopic will interweave the prolific author's life with his fiction and incorporate elements of his last unfinished novel, "The Owl in Daylight."

Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) has signed on to write a screenplay for the film. Giamatti's newly launched Touchy Feely Films will produce along with Anonymous Content and Electric Shepherd Productions. Editor's Note: By the way, in case you are having a case of Deja Vu (as I was when I read this item), this is SECOND movie based on some aspect of the life of Philip K. Dick. There is ANOTHER flic in the hopper with Bill Pullman tagged to play the weird/prolific author.

Leaving the movie universe.....

'Betty' moves; Noxon exits 'Sisters'
ABC is moving its promising new one-hour comedy "Ugly Betty" from Friday to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, Marti Noxon, the executive producer/showrunner of another new one-hour ABC series, the drama "Brothers & Sisters," has stepped down. Editor's Note: Hmmmm....and Marti Noxon was one of the key reasons I was interested in that one. Not good....

"Betty," from Touchstone TV and executive producers Salma Hayek, Jose Tamez, Ben Silverman and Silvio Horta, has emerged as one of the buzzworthy new series after receiving a warm reception at the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour. In its new, high-profile position, "Betty" will open Thursday night for ABC, leading into the network's new Thursday anchor, the hot medical drama "Grey's Anatomy," at 9 p.m.

'Five Days' links HBO, BBC
HBO and the BBC are co-producing a miniseries titled "Five Days," a drama that revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a young mother in a family-friendly British suburb and the inexplicable circumstances that leave her children abandoned far from home.

The five-part miniseries, an HBO Films presentation in association with the BBC, features an ensemble cast including Nikki Amuka-Bird, Hugh Bonneville, Charlie Creed-Miles, Phil Davis, Patrick Malahide, Janet McTeer, David Oyelowo, Sarah Smart, Penelope Wilton and Edward Woodward.

Filming has begun in Hertfordshire, England, on the project, which focuses on the day of the woman's vanishing and four random days that follow. The story traces the ripple effects felt by her family, the police and the media during the course of the 72-day investigation.

Baldwin cast in 'Sopranos' Hollywood arc
Daniel Baldwin Editor's Note: He's the kind of shlubby, unattractive Baldwin, right? has been tapped for a potential recurring role in the final episodes of HBO's Emmy-winning mob drama "The Sopranos." Baldwin will play the star of the horror movie that aspiring filmmaker Christopher (Michael Imperioli) has been working on. Described by Christopher as " 'Saw' meets 'Godfather 2,' " the project centers on "a wiseguy with a big mouth and bigger dreams," as Christopher introduced it to potential investors in an episode this year.

Messing takes USA 'Wife' role
Emmy winner Debra Messing has signed on to star in USA Network's limited series "The Starter Wife," based on Gigi Levangie Grazer's best-selling novel.

The six-hour series, from NBC Universal Television Studio, centers on the quest of a divorced woman (Messing) to redefine herself after years of marriage to a Hollywood studio head. The project is set to begin production in Australia in the fourth quarter.

"Debra Messing is both a superstar talent and America's sweetheart," said Jeff Wachtel, executive vp original programming at USA. "Her incredible range and comedic brilliance made her our first and only choice for this role." Editor's Note: zzzzzzzzzzz I think I have PR Flack Narcolepsy; they speak, I snooze.

HBO plans more 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
HBO is bringing back "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Larry David's Emmy-winning comedy series is finally on the books with the premium cable channel for a sixth season, which will begin production as early as September. All principal cast members including Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, and Susie Essman are expected to return for an airdate sometime in 2007.

HBO confirmed "Curb" is returning, but did not indicate that the coming season is necessarily the last one. "Curb" last premiered in September 2005, and David has publicly waffled on whether he was interested in bringing the series back. Chris Albrecht, chairman and CEO of HBO, told reporters in July at the Television Critics Assn. press tour that he was close to re-signing David.

"Larry was very unsure after last season," Albrecht had said. "He needed to be inspired."

First introduced in 2000, "Curb" is produced by HBO Entertainment. The series earned five nominations at the upcoming Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy Series.

Editor's Note: Odds-n-ends..........

BAFTA/LA to fete Poitier, Minghella, Weisz
Sidney Poitier, Anthony Minghella and Rachel Weisz have been added to the list of honorees who will be feted Nov. 2 at the 15th annual BAFTA/LA Cunard Brittania Awards at the Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts/Los Angeles, headed by chairman Peter Morris, said Tuesday that Poitier has been selected to receive its award for Lifetime Contributions to International Film. Minghella will receive the John Schlesinger Brittania Award for Artistic Excellence, while Weisz, an Oscar winner for "The Constant Gardener," will be recognized as Artist of the Year. The group already announced that Clint Eastwood is on tap to pick up the Stanley Kubrick Brittania Award for Excellence in Film.

Canterbury Tale/ Prisoner

Bottom line: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "truly strange" and wonderful propaganda film comes to the States, long overdue.

The English mainstream loves its eccentrics, but purveyors of the strange had better watch their step.

British director Michael Powell saw his distinguished career shredded in 1960 with the release of the psycho-voyeur study "Peeping Tom." Reviled in its day, "Tom" found respectability of a sort in the decades since.

The director flirted with a similar fate 16 years earlier with the far-gentler but certifiably weird "A Canterbury Tale," one of several World War II-era efforts from Powell and his screenwriting partner Emeric Pressburger (aka "the Archers").

Just released in the States by the Criterion Collection, the stealth propaganda film is long overdue for consideration by U.S. film fanciers, most of whom have never heard of it.

"Canterbury" remains "a truly strange film," says film historian Ian Christie, who provides outstanding commentary on the double-DVD set (retail $39.95). The movie "sets about its propaganda in an almost perverse and certainly playful way."

"Canterbury" contains no Churchill speeches, no demon Nazis, no fiery images of the blitz. Instead, its strategy seemed to be to unfurl a vision of a rural Britain so stirring that the citizenry could only get swept up in the war effort -- as their soldier boys do in the heart-swelling finale, marching off to the sound of a celestial "Onward Christian Soldiers."

Critics and audiences of 1944 weren't saluting. So poorly received was "Canterbury" that Powell quickly came to doubt one of his finest works, cutting out a half hour and adding dumb bookend scenes so American moviegoers could relate to it (they didn't).

Powell said it took years for him to appreciate "Canterbury" as one of his best.

"Mickey (Powell) was very saddened by the reviews," says Sheila Sim, who played the heroine. "Who wouldn't be."

"Canterbury" finally was restored to its original running time of 124 minutes in the late '70s; today, the movie is a regular on the British film fest circuit with its many Archers tributes. The "Canterbury" video footprint in the States barely exists -- an old VHS release on Home Vision, but apparently no Region 1 DVD.

The film begins with Chaucer's jolly 14th century pilgrims making their way to Canterbury in search of blessings. Time does a jig as a falcon in flight morphs into a Spitfire warplane (a transition that almost surely pleased young Stanley Kubrick).The film's trio of World War II pilgrims -- two soldiers, American and British, and a Women's Land Army girl -- meet in the middle of the night at a train station outside Canterbury. They're introduced in film noir-style lighting, a scheme that comes and goes throughout the film.

The twilight zone creeps in as the young travelers encounter a boogeyman who dumps glue on the hair of Kent's young women. Motive? To make them afraid of dating soldiers, especially the Americans.The Glue Man's low-rent B-story turns sublime, in time.

"I don't think the critics could fathom what it was about," says Sim, who goes by Lady (Richard) Attenborough these days. (The boogeyman started out as a dress slasher, but the sexual overtones were a bit much even for Powell.)

Outside of sporadically trying to unmask the Glue Man, our pilgrims don't do much, really; most of the film concerns the countryside, hardworking villagers, the old ways living on, animals and insects, modest hopes and personal sorrows. Think Terrence Malick: "Canterbury" viewers must come equipped with patience.

The final scenes follow the soldiers, the girl and the elegant glue suspect (Eric Portman) to Canterbury, which was heavily damaged in the bombing but still is possessed of its towering cathedral, home of miracles.

Few propaganda films outlive their conflicts. What makes this one a robust time traveler, Sim speculates today, is "the connection with history and the people who've gone before." And, of course, "the countryside."

Amateur actor Sgt. John Sweet gives the film much of its sense of wonder, playing the simple but wise American. (One of the film's missions was to humanize G.I.s for local audiences.) Six decades later, the amateur actor returned to Canterbury for its Powell film fest. His visit is captured in a 2001 short film that is included as a DVD extra. He marvels at the town's transformation from a "quiet kind of bleak place" to a humming tourist attraction. "It was fun to be a 15-minute celebrity," the old man says of his brush with movie fame.

Sweet and Sim regard Powell as a good but difficult man.

"He ruled by fear," Sweet recalls. Like "a steel spring coiled."

Sim says Powell "could be very tough on actors. ... He didn't know how they ticked." Still, she calls him "a man of immense charisma."

Years later, Sim discovered her role had been written for Deborah Kerr, Powell's lost love. "It must have been very hard for him," Sim says.

Another short film looks in on "A Canterbury Tale" day in Kent, a summer tradition since 1997. Powell- Pressburger fans wander about sites used in the film, reading from the script and catching rays.The bookends Powell added for U.S. release are included as well. They feature Kim Hunter as the G.I.'s young wife.The DVD extras conclude with a piece of video art built around a loop of Sim as she beholds the fields of Kent, sensing its ancestral ghosts. Best experienced as a museum installation, or not at all.Criterion's presentation of "Canterbury" looks divine, in silky black and white. Damage such as scratch lines and flashing do little to dull the effect of Erwin Hillier's landscape cinematography -- or of his powerful, noirish lighting. Allan Gray's music, a treat, sounds pretty good in the mono audio.* * * * *

Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner," another fine oddity from England, never seems to go out of style.The show, which first confused and delighted viewers in 1967 and '68, enjoys a "Star Trek"-like following of those dedicated to its rat's nest of mysteries and intrigues.

"Prisoner" tells of a secret agent who resigns in anger, then finds himself velvet-coffined in a Kafkaesque seaside resort where people are known only by their numbers. Escapees are hunted down by what seems to be a giant marshmallow. "I am not a number!" McGoohan bellows. "I am a free man!" Hear, hear.

A&E has rereleased "The Prisoner" in a "40th Anniversary Megaset" (retail $139.95) sporting all 17 hourlong episodes. A&E's previous DVD release, from 2000, was spread across five volumes, sold separately or in a box set.

Alas, owners of the previous DVDs have no reason to upgrade: A&E has simply improved the packaging (dumping the clamshells for slim cases), throwing in a map of the Village and a nicely done 60-page episode guide. The DVDs' numerous but mostly unexceptional extras are ported over.The original discs looked OK, but it's a bloody shame this imaginative and colorful series didn't get the first-rate restoration it deserves. What's up, A&E No. 1?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We really can't make this stuff up!

NBC Developing 'Grease' Reality Show
Contestants to Vie for Part in Show

NBC is developing a midseason reality series with BBC Worldwide Productions that will allow Broadway hopefuls to compete for the leads in the latest revival of the musical "Grease."

The series, called "You're the One That We Want," Editor's Note: You will now have that silly song stuck in your head for the rest of the day. (Shall we perform the Gilligan therapy?) will select newcomers to play the roles of Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko in a production of "Grease" that is scheduled to open in June 2007.

The new "Grease" production will be directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall ("The Pajama Game"). Paul Nicholas and David Ian Associates, Nederlander Presentations and Phoenix Productions will produce. Jim Jacobs, the co-creator of "Grease," along with Ms. Marshall and Mr. Ian, are set as judges on "You're the One That We Want."

"Grease," written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, first premiered in 1971 in Chicago before moving to a Broadway run in June 1972. The production ran for 3,388 performances, which was then the longest running show in Broadway history. Made into a 1978 feature film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, the movie version of "Grease" is still the highest-grossing film musical of all time. Editor's Note: I'd say this is another sign of the apocalypse if "Cats" hadn't run even longer.

A high school drama club staple, "Grease" had a successful 1994 Broadway revival, while a U.K.-based production launched in 1993 still tours internationally.

"You're the One That We Want" is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. The BBC's Paul Telegdy and David Ian are executive producing. Editor's Note: And I'd say they should feel ASHAMED of themselves, except that there is so much drivel on tv already, what's one more bit of wanton foolishness?!

Dweebpal PlanoKevin has some great SCOOP

Editor's Note: Fine and fabulous scoopage from intrepid dweebreporter PlanoKevin!

Lucas approves 20-minute Star Wars
LONDON, England (AP) -- U.S. director George Lucas has given permission for the "Star Wars" saga, which lasted for over 13 hours, to be shortened to a production of just 20 minutes, officials from the Reduced Shakespeare Company said Tuesday.

The company is famous for staging the Bard's 37 plays in just 97 minutes and has also staged "The complete history of America" and "The Bible: the complete word of God," among other abbreviated productions.

"This is my boyhood dream, in the space of 20 minutes I'm going to be Jabba the Hutt, Jar Jar Binks, Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker," said the company's Adam Long, who will write and direct the piece and star in it, with two other performers. "Everyone loves Star Wars but I love it more than anyone on the planet."Editor's Note: He's very excited, so we'll let him have that one for now. (But most of us could argue the point, yes?)

Long has promised to include every plot point from the Star Wars epic, from Anakin Skywalker's move to the Dark Side, Princess Leia's rescue from the Empire and the construction of the new Death Star.

Lucas' production company Lucasfilm has approved the reduced comedy version, which will be broadcast in Britain in the last week of August.

It will be filmed during a one-off performance at London's Criterion Theatre on Aug. 17. Editor's Note: Filmed! So that means maybe there will be a tape we can buy/steal/bootleg! Woohoo!!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday Buffet

Editor's Note: No, we haven't suddenly gone to "Margaritaville". But we need to post a little this-and-that, and it isn't quite ENOUGH for a cornucopia. So. A buffet? (ooooo....Maybe it's that INDIAN buffet dweebpal drewster was talking about last night.....mmmmmmm)


Universal has bought the rights to NIGHTMARE ACADEMY, the first installment of a trilogy of fantasy novels written by Arrested Development co-executive producer Dean Lorey.

The books follow a boy who realizes that bad dreams open portals allowing various creatures into the world. Editor's Note: Bad dreams being a euphemism for elections?

Stephen Sommers (Van Helsing, The Mummy Editor's Note: Stephen "pay no attention to the movie on the left; MUMMY, GOOOOOOD!" Sommers?) is attached to produce the film.

Jim Broadbent Is Hairspray's Dad/Joins the musical cast

After the last casting announcement for the new Hairspray musical, we really thought we were done reporting it until the trailer arrived, or John Travolta strained a thigh in a bizarre fat suit accident. Oh, how wrong we were.

The cast of Adam Shankman’s version of the musical based on the John Waters film just went up by one. Jim Broadbent has agreed to play Wilbur Turnblad, father to the lead character Tracy (newcomer Nikki Blonsky).

The shooting starts on September 5 and the film will arrive in December 2007.

Ryder and Six Other Thesps Join The Ten/Ten Commandments comedy grabs cast

Editor's Note: Did Winona Ryder always have....umm...THOSE?
And lo, it came to pass that The Ten, a comedy poking fun at the Ten Commandments, added seven more cast members to its line-up.

Their names, according to scripture were thus: Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, Liev Schreiber, The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry, Ron Silver and Oliver Platt. Already on board the previously announced comedy are Jessica Alba, Adam Brody, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux.

Lo, the film is already shooting in New York in Mexico, directed by David Wain (who did deliver unto us Wet Hot American Summer) from a script co-written by him and Marino. Editor's Note: Hope the fun-making of the movie is funnier than the bilbical punning here?

Kiele Sanchez joins LOST

Editor's Note: Here's hoping this anorexic monster is the first one eaten by Vincent the dog! (yes, I'm old and bitter...and chubby...but that doesn't mean this vixen shouldn't be a puppy happy meal, right?!)

Kiele Sanchez has signed on to the hit ABC show LOST. The new castaway will play a woman named Nikki.

Sanchez joins Rodrigo Santoro and Elizabeth Mitchell as newcomers to the cast in season three.

According to Variety, Sanchez's character may be the love interest of Santoro's character.
Sanchez was most recently seen in the WB's RELATED. Editor's Note: Which confirms my theory about all those preternaturally thin, puckered-lip whippersnappers on the's a mad scientist experiment gone horribly wrong. It's why they were forced to change the name of the network and merge with the less-attractive people at the government didn't discover their diabolical schemes!

Reichblum is 'Dailies' planner
Former "Good Morning America" executive producer Bob Reichblum has been tapped to oversee the movie news program "Dailies," which will be the signature show of the new movie-themed network ReelzChannel.

Reichblum has been named executive producer of the daily program, which will focus on contemporary movies in every window of release, including theatrical, DVD, video-on-demand, pay-per-view and premium cable, as well as those in various stages of development or production. It also will feature content about the moviemaking process and the decision-makers behind the films, among other items of interest to moviegoers.

"Bob is a proven executive producer with fantastic credentials, having been the executive producer of 'Good Morning America,' which is a day-and-date show," said Rod Perth, president of television at ReelzChannel. "Most importantly, (his hiring) should make a statement to the studios and to the community that we're very serious about making 'Dailies' a quality show that becomes an entertainment authority on movies." Editor's Note: So they're not even all that concerned if he shows up to WORK regularly, as long as he gives them 'credibility'?

The Nutty Professor Gets AnimatedJerry Lewis reclaims his creation
It was a classic Jerry Lewis comedy. Then it was remade – and franchised – by Eddie Murphy. But now Lewis is back to claim his creation.

Yes, The Nutty Professor is going all cartoony. Editor's Note: wasn't alREADY cartoony?

The Weinstein Company will produce a direct-to-DVD version with Lewis lending his tonsil talents to his old role and at least one other part.

It only seems fair, since he wrote, directed, starred in and produced the original in 1963. With the rights having reverted back to him, he was free to shop a version around the studios.

Evan Spiliotopoulos is scribbling the new ‘toon version, which will see a younger, modern-day version of the story, focused on the grandson of the original Prof (Lewis’ Julius Kelp) cooking up a similar tonic and creating a cool but dangerous alter ego.

Actors get more for commercials
SAG/AFTRA and an ad industry committee have agreed to extend their current commercials agreement two years -- with a 6% pay hike -- to allow the unions time to hire outside experts to review how its members are compensated for such work.

In addition to the boost in actors' basic compensation, contributions to SAG/AFTRA pension and health plans will increase from 14.3% to 14.8% under terms of the extension. The agreement must be ratified by a joint national board and union memberships as well as by industry boards.

"Because of the tremendous growth of the Internet and digital technology, the unions have agreed to a two-year extension to conduct a comprehensive joint study that will allow us to determine whether existing pay structures should remain the same or be modified," SAG chief negotiator John McGuire and AFTRA chief negotiator Mathis Dunn Jr. said. "This agreement also means that actors will have achieved increased opportunities for work and better wages and benefits. In a rapidly evolving media environment, our agreement demonstrates that performers and advertisers can work together to deal with change and build a stronger partnership that benefits us all." Editor's Note: So now 5 of them will be employed instead of 4, and 2 of those 5 will be able to actually SUPPORT themselves at it. Yay.

Survey Said!
For readers of, If you are a Star Wars fan, Editor's Note: Me me me!! Pick me!!! you may be curious about how fans like yourself feel about the series.

John Tenuto, a sociology teacher at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, whose classes include Sociology of Star Wars would like to ask you to share your opinions about the Star Wars phenomenon. Your answers will be reported in summary form only, along with the answers of others taking the survey. Your name or other identifying information will not be asked.

The results will be compiled and shared with students in sociology classes at the College of Lake County and elsewhere.

If you would like a copy of the report, please send an email during the month of December, 2006 to: jtenuto@clcillinois.eduI

f you are under the age of 18, please do not complete this survey. It is designed for those 18 years of age and older.

Thank you for agreeing to complete this questionnaire.

The website for the Star Wars questionnaire is:

The website for the Superman questionnaire is

The website for the Star Trek questionnaire is:

Confirmed: HBP movie release date
Editor's Note: yes....that says HBP (Half Blood Prince.....despite the fact that we haven't even gotten number FIVE out yet)
Box Office Mojo is reporting that the sixth film, Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince, is set to be released on November 21st, 2008.

WB has confirmed to us that this is indeed the actual release date. Let the countdown begin!

Steve Kloves will return to write the screenplay for HBP. A director has yet to be chosen. The fifth film, Order of the Phoenix, will hit theaters July 13th, 2007.

Editor's Note: And let's close out the day with some whining....

M. Night Shyamalan On Lady In The Water
Exclusive: He didn't want his name on it
After a revelatory ghost tale, a supernatural comic thriller, a crop-circling tale of invasion and a mystical, creature-infested village, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie – Lady In The Water – has been noted as something of a departure from the Director/writer’s more calculated “scary” storytelling efforts.

Was this cartwheeling ‘family’ tale a deliberate attempt to confound the expectations of his audience?

Speaking at a press conference in London today, the auteur discussed some of the ways he’s tried to avoid being “put in a box”.

“The Sixth Sense was the first one of my movies that everyone got to see and it was a scary film – that was part of the subject matter. So when Unbreakable came out, I felt like everyone thought it was a mistake, but it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be scary…I didn’t realise I had been set in that vein already. However, if I worried too much about that I wouldn’t be able to write. I’d love it if everyone could look at Lady In The Water as a lyrical parable, but there will be people that won’t get it because they are coming at it with a certain lexicon of what to expect already in place”.

So, I seriously thought about taking my name off [the film]. When I was thinking about doing Life Of Pi, I was very worried about putting my name on the project. It's an amazing book that has a twist ending, but if I put my name on it, it would immediately lose the balance of the novel. So it’s something I struggle with. I said to my wife that 'Lady...' may have benefited from my name being removed. At least then it would have signaled to people to look at the movie with a new language in mind".
Editor's Note: I've heard that "Lady in the Water" is not a good movie. But not from people who would go into a M. Night movie with limiting expectations. It is possible that the movie has gotten bad reviews cause it isn't very good? Just possible?