Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Is This (Finally) The Beginning Of Ender’s Game?

by Lon S. Cohen

Ender’s Game is a great freakin’ novel. It rocks. Others may disagree with me but I actually found Speaker For The Dead to be a superior novel to Ender’s Game. Regardless (or irregardless?) I have been hearing about the movie version to Ender’s Game for almost ten years now, if not more. If I remember correctly, Orson Scott Card once speculated that Jake Lloyd (Young Anakin Skywalker) might play Ender. Obviously that’s not going to be a possibility anymore, thanks be to the gods.

i09 is reporting that Wolfgang Petersen is now no longer attached to the project. The production company hopes to begin shooting the film next year but haven’t we heard that before. They better start before Card runs out of Shadow Of The… titles for his sequel/prequels.

Not to knock Card though. He’s probably one of my favorite Science Fiction authors of all time. I loved the Ender’s series (except the very last book), the Seventh Son books and the Homecoming series.

Read the i09 post at light speed.

I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing

by Lon S. Cohen

Ain’t It Cool News reports that the Lucasfilm panel at the New York Comic Con was less than spectacular. Ever since the prequels, Lucas’ company has lost some luster in the PR department. They’re getting about as interesting as the Yellow Pages. Too bad because with a little spin and some actual teasers, they fans would be rabid again instead of just tempered. Rehashing the same crap and actually making the Comic Con in New York a platform for announcing that Lucasfilm is releasing another Young Indiana Jones DVD at exorbitant prices and yet another Indy release on separate DVD’s is not only annoying and unimaginative but it’s an insult to the fans’ intelligence.

I am still a Star Wars/Indy nut, but I think Lucas could use some new blood in the Marketing Department. Maybe his kids will find a way to infuse new life into the franchise and actually take some risks, someday. Sometimes I feel that the best I can say about the PT is that they were safe. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Some fantastic CG was accomplished but it overshadowed the story arc, which lent almost nothing to the OT. I remember when Lucas announced the PT that he specifically said he would not do them unless they changed how people viewed the OT in some dramatic way. All jokes aside, he did not accomplish this goal as a screenwriter and moviemaker.

Anyway, read the AICN report on the Lucas panel (plus more) at New York Comic Con at AICN:

This panel was, for the most part, lame. I don't know if it was quite "prequels lame." But it was close.

Ludicrous Speed.

Of course they were not the only ones. Hudson Valley Blog Party was disappointed too.

TechCrunch Almost Crushed By Iron Man Screening

TechCrunch, a blog that according to it’s web page is “dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies” and co-edited by Michael Arrington and Erick Schonfeld tried to hold a special event preview of Iron Man on April 30th.

From their site announcing the event:

CrunchGear and TechCrunch are hosting a special event tomorrow, April 30 (Wednesday) in San Francisco - a special screening of the movie Iron Man, two days before the official May 2 release.

Then I started hearing on the Twitter-Vine that the event might be cancelled. (Not that I was going since they are on the West Coast and I am sitting in an office in the New York Film Academy in Union Square right now.) I went to their site to find out the deal.

On the site they posted that:

Marvel has sent us a cease and desist letter demanding that we cancel the Iron Man event tomorrow at the AMC Metreon in San Francisco. We are not canceling the event yet - stay tuned as our lawyers work this out.

Man, I wish I had a team of lawyers! I do movie reviews for the British Science Fiction Association’s webpage, The Matrix, a very old and respected association in the UK and I couldn’t even get an advanced screening from the Paramount PR team to do a review. I have no juice in this town, I tell you. It took like five emails between US and UK public relations people at Paramount for them to give me a big fat “no.”

Anyway, by about 4:00pm EST or so the crisis was over.

From TechCrunch’s post:

Drama over. The CrunchGear/TechCrunch Iron Man screening, which Marvel tried to shut down yesterday for no good reason whatsoever (more on that below), is back on.

Good for TechCrunch. Apparently Oracle was also promoting the screening of Iron Man and they whined to Marvel, setting off a chain of events.

TechCrunch reported that:

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened, but Marvel is now saying that Oracle, which is promoting the movie, complained about the event. From our attorney: “He said this all arose from a misunderstanding. Paramount had not informed Marvel about your deal. Oracle had booked the theatre for a different screening at the same time. People at Oracle were upset thinking that their event was turning into a TechCrunch event and that there would be too many people, conflicts over who would get in, etc.”

Most surprising of it all is that TechCrunch has an extra two grand laying around for just such an emergency:

Marvel also apologized, and we accept. I’m not annoyed at all that we incurred an extra $2,000 in legal expense on top of the ticket price.

On a Tweet, TechCrunch even said that they thought that “…one might even say that Oracle was being somewhat villainous”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Farscape: Frickin', Frackin' & Frellin' Still Waiting...

Last year, Scifi.com ordered the 10-Part webisode series of Farscape. Can't wait to see the women of Farscape in all their horny blue skinned glory again. See the landing page on scifi.com for the tease.

Still waiting to see the Jim Henson company's brilliant SciFi series back again, even if it's on the small(er) screen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Xen Zil - Report From ICON 27

Geek-at-large, Xen Zil, reported from the ICON at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Xen reported that this year’s ICON seemed to have been revitalized with such high-profile guests as Ray Park, Billy West and Michio Kaku. Here are some sample quotes fed to us as he wandered around the campus shooting pictures, video and “wearing my SciFryGuys shirt and a Farscape hat.”

First off, Xen said that podcasting is virtually nonexistent at the ICON once again this year. “Gotta start podcasting again,” he said of our joint venture that pod-faded. “They REALLY need a podcast track at the ICON.”

He also gave his unscientific assessment that “at least 30% of the people there” were wearing costumes. “Holy cow... more costumes than ever,” he said.

He posted his digital photos on Flickr.

Among the highlight, he saw:

“Ray Park teach someone to do Darth Maul lightsaber moves. (Video to follow.) Billy West giving advice on how to become a voice actor along with a woman who was discovered at a past ICON! (Video to follow.) and Michio Kaku recite a Robert A Heinlein Story (All you Zombies) to illustrate the time travel paradox - but didn't give the author credit! (v to f.)”

Of all the promised videos, we have exactly one already up on YouTube.



He also said that he saw “some VERY big model rockets and Tim Russ (Tuvok) being very boring (no video - why bother?)” and he felt that “the dealer’s room was dying the last few times I was there, but now it's more crowded and active than ever.”

Xen closed with a story about Ray Park’s visit:

“Funny - Ray Park was late, and they had the guy who was supposed to hold Mic and roam the audience stall for 45 minutes. Fortunately, he was a Podcaster (the only one who was there as a guest) AND a long time ICON organizer, so he did a real good job of stalling. (Doctor Who podcast). I think he missed his own panel because Ray Park was late - really late - days late. Didn't get there until 2pm on Sunday. Said the director wanted one more shot on Friday, and he got it. Playing Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe Then had airline troubles on Sunday. All in all, it was lucky for the fans that he even came.”

He also had breaking news: ICON moves to Suffolk Community College, Brentwood next year!

Finally he had this last one thing to report:

"I saw the Brobdingnagian Bards too."

Thanks Xen, and we look forward to that Ray Park video.

Warrant issued for 'Darth Vader'

The force is called for as 'Darth Vader' fails to appear in court . Some things are so good that I have to be lazy and Blog them right from DIGG!

read more | digg story

Making of the Computer Graphics for Star Wars (Episode IV)

A 1977 Documentary outlining how the effects for some effects for Star Wars. It's like a home made movie with long periods of staring at a computer screen but if you're Geek enough, you'll find it interesting, especially if you ever tried to animate the Death Star on your Radio Shack or Atari computer in the old days. The best I ever did was using ASCII characters to construct Tie Fighters.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Box office flop: Ben Stein shows he's no Michael Moore

I'm glad this flopped. From DIGG.com: Stein's Expelled. No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary which makes an argument for intelligent design, made $1.2 million on Friday in 1,052 theaters. By comparison, Michael Moore's 'Sicko' raken in $23.9 million its opening weekend from just 441 theaters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 did $23.9 million from only 868 venues.

read more | digg story

Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled Heats Up DIGG

My rant on DIGG 's commentary for the Bad Astronomer's post on why he thinks NPR and History Channel are wrong to run the Expelled movie's advertisements.


I'm sorry but I think Expelled is right-winged, pseudo-scientific crap. They don't even give the Flying Spaghetti Monster equal time, who everyone knows is the REAL designer of the Universe. BTW, the Theory of Evolution is a set of explanations based on observation, which in its simplest form is the definition of a scientific theory as opposed to Intelligent Design, which is a hypothesis (a guess) and, by the way, untested. Of course, in a place of worship, ID is not even a theory, it’s a belief, which is not the same as a scientific theory. The two are mutually exclusive.

People who attend church (or temple in my case) are not dumb. People (like Mr. Stein) who try to take what they hear in church and try to cram it into science, now those people are dumb.

Read the DIGG comments and the Bad Astronomer post.

DIGG THIS: NBC Still Mad At iTunes

My friend Xen shared this Digg(ed) article with me.

I am channeling John C. Dvorak here:

DVORAK>

This is the stupidest guy on the planet right now. (George Kliavkoff, NBC Chief Digital Officer?) DRM is going to be a dead issue in a few years (or sooner) for movies. Even with "Apple's fairly liberal DRM scheme" as the article professes. It's almost dead for music now that Amazon sells DRM free music. I think this guy's the type to drag the Movie/TV industry down the way Music Execs did to music industry. It's not Apple's fault people download music illegally. I did it before I ever heard of apple or an iPod. (Did I say that? I mean people I once knew who I do not associate with anymore did it.) What a nincompoop. Doesn't he realize that it's bandwidth and fast Internet connections that have made movie piracy possible? Doesn't he realize that you can't beat people who want to download music and movies illegally? Just offer consumers a realitic price point with a variety of access points and they will do the right thing. Someone told me that people don't steal music and movie to get money (as opposed to say, bank robbers and subprime mortgage investors) they just want to listen to music and wtch movies. They want the damn product. Stupid people run the business word.

< /DVORAK >

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anyone? Brains? Ben Stein? Anyone?

Mostly famous to Generation X for his role as a monotone teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and known to this new generation of whatchamacallits as the voice of a Pixie in the great cartoon, "The Fairly OddParents," Ben Stein is pimping a film that basically blames Charles Darwin for the Nazi's disregard for life, and wants America to continue to give ID a chance as an alternate theory to Evolution. WTF? I always thought he was crazy but now I see that he's nuts.

The more I learn about Ben Stein, the more I just want him to be some two-bit actor in some 80s movie--oh wait he was. I never realized how the role in Ferris Bueller was a parody of himself. I used to read his column on Yahoo Finance but now I can't because the more I read the more I disliked his views. What's worse is I used to love "Win Ben Stein's Money."

Now with the movie Expelled, supposedly an intelligent discourse on why ID has been kept out of the school system in favor of Darwinism is a travesty. I can't believe we are still having this conversation.

The movie uses a tagline that reads, "Big Science has expelled smart ideas from the classroom. What they forgot is that every generation has it's Rebel!"

What it should read is: "Big Science has expelled smart ideas from the classroom. What they forgot is that every generation has too many Right Wing Nut Jobs!"

Bleech!

Read all about it in an article called, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Scientific American's Take." or this one here about six things Ben Stein doesn't want you to know. Or "Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reading Sir Arthur

(Apologies for the length.)

In high school, a friend turned me on to a book he had read called Childhood’s End. If my memory is reliable at all, I believe he had to read it for a class assignment. Knowing that I was a fan of science fiction movies, he suggested I read it, for he had enjoyed the story and was eager to talk to me about it. I wish I could say that it changed my life or made me into an Arthur C. Clarke fan for years afterward. But it didn’t.

I remember it as a bit of a disappointment to my young mind. Talking about the book with my excited friend, I just didn’t share his enthusiasm for the material or the irony of the shape of the alien visitors. Perhaps I was used to the whiz-bang of Terminator and Star Wars, not fully able to grasp the literary merit of the book at that age.

But, what happened surprised me. For years the story stayed with me, and how could it not? Once in a while, images of alien ship appearing over the major cities of earth were recycled from Childhood’s End, for example in the Eighties science fiction miniseries, “V” and I was reminded of the novel written in the early Fifties. Of course at the time, few of my friends could share my holier than thou statements of how Clarke did this first and better in print. Same with the disguised alien race that comes to earth and brought with them peace and prosperity, only to turn the deal upside down when their true motives are revealed (also done by Clarke in Childhoods End.)

I visualize the aliens and think of the story in its ironic terms. How mankind envisioned its ultimate end in the form of the Overlords’ true form, humanoids with wings, horned heads, and tails, like the devil. Humankind’s racial memory—foreknowledge implanted on our collective memory—preceded the arrival of the aliens who would bring about the end humanity, absorbing us into the collective hive existence of the Overmind.

I also distinctly remember a scene where a human character flies around with one alien and marvels at the architecture of a race of winged beings. Then there was the title, Childhood’s End, which seemed gothically tantalizing (I still wonder when the movie adaptation is going to be produced.)

Some years later, and quite by accident, I stumbled upon another of Sir Clarke’s books. In an English class in ninth grade I was given a few choices of books to read for a report, and one of them was none other than Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I hadn’t yet seen the entire movie by that age, only clips, but I knew it was one of the most celebrated science fiction movies of all time. When I was in elementary school, the father of a buddy of mine had it on videotape (a big, big deal back then). I watched parts and pieces of it but never really got into it or probably more like, never understood it.

Despite that frustrating experience with Kubrick’s movie version (which I expect many people also share) I picked up the soft cover novel, all white except the still frame from the movie of Dave’s eyes peering put of his helmet. I read the entire thing during lunch periods between hardened Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Friday Pizza.

I don’t remember my book report in its entirety but I do think I had some trouble with it, especially explaining the end. I also vaguely remember my teacher having pity on me and probably giving me a better grade than was called for, simply for the sake of having tackled such an esoteric story to write about. My strongest memory is struggling with the conclusion, though I remember for the first time rereading the words "The thing's hollow — it goes on forever — and — oh my God! — it's full of stars!" repeatedly, not struggling with understanding, but attempting to decipher my mix of emotions ranging from awe at the power of words and the regret that it was over. Dave had become the Star Child and he achieved a new level of evolution.

At the time, I never knew that the book and the movie were more entwined than simply one being the inspiration for the other, as is usually the case. In fact, it was Stanley Kubrick who, after finding a short story by Arthur C. Clarke called "The Sentinel," urged the author to expand the story into a script. The script was jointly developed by Clarke and Kubrick; Clarke’s book varies from Kubrick’s movie, though that was not the original intent. In the end, both film and novel stand as individual achievements that have only increased in complimenting one and other over the years.

The book can’t be said to be a novelization of the movie and the movie can’t exactly be categorized as an adaptation of the book. Ironically, for a work of science fiction, both exist symbiotically, one never able to really separate itself very much from the other. Without the book to provide support and narrative elucidation for the movie’s visual abstraction it may fail; yet without the movie to provide us with a startling and stark futuristic interpretation of Clarke’s words, the book’s themes may have lingered as an obscure short story.

Mirroring the journey of Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey, first from animal to man and then man to something else—gods? I had reached a new plateau in my life. Youth affords one the time for long periods of reflection and mood. At the time, I was in puberty, a real era of evolution in a boy’s life. Taking the step from boy to man is a long one, fraught with uncertainty.

Probably more than any other time in my life, I think that moment, that book, ignited the spark that would eventually become a life long love of books and a writing career. Words, simple words, made me feel that way! Not moving images. Not music. Not love. But little words put in a particular order. From then on, not only was I hooked on books, but science fiction books and the real universe above my head. Despite all that, the book did not make me a Clarke fan—which I think was more from my own fear of never understanding another of his books and ruining the balance of mystery in meaning behind a phrase or paragraph and capturing the gist of the entire story.

In between that experience and the next time I picked up another Clarke book, my mother –a rather big science fiction fan and probably single handedly responsible for me becoming one myself—took me to see the movie version of the sequel, 2010 starring the recently departed Roy Schieder as an American hitching a ride to Jupiter with some Commies. At the time I thought that the movie was merely a sequel to that “other science fiction movie.” I didn’t know until years later that there were more books in the series.

For years after, I’d spy other Clarke books in libraries and book stories but because of my childhood experiences I refrained from picking up another. As I grew, I partly knew that I wanted to mature before reading more Clarke, not wanting to put another of his books down without understanding them.

Finally, as an adult commuting to my job by train, I found that I had more than enough stagnant hours between work and home to finally catch up on some serious reading. I picked up Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and even Kurt Vonnegut, but nothing by Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed my eyes for a long time. Then it happened. My friend and fellow commuter bestowed upon me a crate of old books he’d read on the same commute that I was then taking and thought I’d enjoy reading them. Again, mostly Science Fiction stories. Buried among them was a paperback copy of Rendezvous With Rama, another of Clarke’s classics, one I’d heard of, seen and avoided like the plague.

I read it straight through in a few days. It was a simple story of astronauts investigating a vacant space ship as it passed through our solar system. Exciting an event though it was for being the first contact with an alien species (or its abandoned vessel), the story, set against the backdrop of a populated solar system, had no direct conflict with the aliens.

Rama was by far one of Clarke’s most sincerely hard science fiction stories, involving little in the way of grand transformations of mankind or hinting of a next stage of existence in the universe. And even though Clarke had said he never intended to produce the sequels that he eventually co-wrote, there is a hint of such a thing in the passage at the end of Rama:

“And on far-off Earth, Dr. Carlisle Perera had as yet told no one how he had woken from a restless sleep with the message from his subconscious still echoing in his brain: The Ramans do everything in threes.”

So years again passed, never once have I picked up an Arthur C. Clarke book. But funny things happen in vacuums. Like empty space seething with virtual energy, the mind sometimes spontaneously fills with the most random thoughts. Having absorbed no less than three of Clarke’s seminal novels, I inevitably stirred to recall bits and pieces.

What I have realized since then was that Clarke’s unassuming style had more impact than a laser beam to the solar plexus. I found myself mulling the irony of Childhood’s End, more and more frequently. The power of the slow conflicted crawl across the solar system in 2001, A Space Odyssey constantly crept into my mind. More often or not I pondered the further consequences of the significance of three in Rama.

Clarke is one of the few writers to be able to merge heady, philosophical themes often associated with fantasy and religion (evolution beyond the need for technology or physicality) with hard science. Through the years, I was affected by Clarke’s stories and vision, by the immense shadow he cast on the world of science fiction literature and in movie themes. I realized, after his death that his books had been with me all this time, sitting in my subconscious, affecting me, rooting themselves so that they could never be disengaged. That is the profound effect Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s writing had.

One of the greatest products of a really good science fiction writer is to be able to balance the nature of man with the realities of science. Most of my favorite authors in the genre are able to do this without tipping the balance in favor of either but still posing poignant questions about both. Carl Sagan did this in the novel Contact, Robert J. Sawyer did it in Calculating God and Arthur C. Clarke did it in his classic novels, albeit in a much less overt manner.

I would love to have heard what Clarke said when he peered into the darkness at the end. I am inclined to predict that it was the same as his astronaut creation, Dave, when he peered into the monolith. I can only hope that beyond the veil there is more than what we see, perhaps the next place really is “full of stars.” If so, then with the passing of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, there is but one more in that place, shining among the rest.

End?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Will Voyagers Ever Come Back Again?

Don’t you wish they would remake Voyagers? For a series that ended too soon because of the tragic death of star Jon-Erik Hexum, it has stayed with me for well over 25 years. According to Wikipedia the series premiered on NBC, October 3, 1982.

My memory is not as good as I believe it to be. I remember the reason the show was cancelled was because of Hexum’s accidental death, shooting himself with a prop gun on the set. He did die of a self inflicted gunshot wound playing with a prop—according to reports he jokingly held the gun up to his head and pulled the trigger—but it was on the set of his new show, Cover Up, not Voyagers, as the earlier show had already been cancelled.

During a break in filming, Hexum was fed up with long delays and as he was known to do, was careless with his prop gun. He held it up to his temple in a mock gesture and pulled the trigger. The wound killed him, but not instantaneously. While the wading in the blank that comes out after the gun is discharged did not actually enter his brain, the force was enough to break off pieces of his skull, which resulted in his death after six days in a coma and being declared brain-dead.

So while my memory of events that led to Hexum’s death was screwed up, I do remember the actual show as being quite good. Hexum played Phineas Bogg, member of a time traveler society. He “accidentally” leaps (wait, wrong time-traveling show), no his malfunctioning Omni takes him to the room of one Jeffrey Jones where after a series of zany events results in Bogg loosing his Guidebook and taking Jones with him in time. The “accident” was that Bogg traveled into 1982, past the Omni’s limit of 1970.

With no Guidebook (a time-traveler’s bible in that it tells him how events are supposed to go throughout history) and no way to get Jones back, the two become traveling companions. Jones’ late father was a history professor. Surprisingly, he was an attentive son with a photographic memory who remembers the exact events in history, while Bogg is a womanizing, roguish, card playing, time traveling, surrogate male role model.

What was great about the series was the fact that the Omni, the lack of a Guidebook, Bogg’s womanizing or some time-traveling enemy managed to screw things up every episode. It also had some good costuming (from what I remember) and Hexum made for an appropriately costumed, former pirate, recruited to a career in time leaping. Also, at the end of every episode they encouraged you to find out more about the time period of great historical figure featured in the show by taking “a voyage down to your public library. It's all in books!"

Also, the Omni was this great, pocket watch type of device. It looked like it was straight out of some Jules Verne tale (hinted at by Hexum’s character’s name being derived from Phileas Fogg, Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days), all brassy and very authentic looking. It was designed to fit in almost every time period and under the cover—inscribed with the words "Time Waits For No Man"—was a clockwork-like fa├žade of a globe and dials and such. It glowed red when history was askew and green when all was right once again, usually right before the credit or, not if it was a cliffhanger. And of course there was the missing Guidebook, with all of history written down, as it was meant to be.

With the way things are going for them in the remake and sequel department, I think Steven Spielberg should attack this one right after Indy 4 and Transformers 2 comes out. It has that child-like sense of wonder and history that Spielberg excels at and I always thought of Bogg as a pseudo-Indiana Jones anyway.

Now hurray! The 20 original episodes of Voyagers were released in 2007 as a 4-DVD set. If I can find it, I’m snatching it up. One can only hope that Voyagers lives up to the test of time.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Everywhere Its Star Wars!

For the past few weeks I have been seeing these posters all over the city. On busses, subways, taxis, and billboards. Starting April 4th Spike will be showing the entire six episodes of Star Wars, I assume, in order. I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that this will be the first time that a cable channel has played all six movies in a row.

While the idea of sitting through all of the Episodes on commercial television is painful to me personally—not because I don’t love them, it’s just that I already have them on DVD so who needs the commercials—perhaps this will get others excited about the films.

I remember not too long ago one of the cable channels showed the Lord of the Rings trilogy endlessly. It seemed that every time I turned on the T.V. one of the movies was on. Despite the fact that I owned those movies and the extended editions, I still used to sit through major chunks when they were on.

So I am not sure. I may tune in to see the Star Wars episodes on Spike. Maybe not. Who knows? Sometimes getting people excited about an event—even one as rehashed as a Star Wars marathon—is more about the advertising and marketing than anything else. I’d like to think this, being that I am in the marketing field. Half of advertising is simply repackaging the same thing in a new and different way.

Two brands that come to mind are Energizer and Absolut. In both cases the advertising is what people think of first. In the case of Energizer, all I can think about is a little pink bunny that “keeps going and going and going and going…” In essence, a battery is a battery is a battery. How much longer can Energizer last than another brand, a few percent? But because of this amazing advertising, we all think Energizer is a superior brand because of the inventive framing done by the ads. We think Energizer and we think, “…and going and going and going…”

Absolut Vodka is a pretty good vodka. It’s not amazingly different or going to grow hair or get you laid in a way that is far, far superior to say Grey Goose or Smirnoff. So what’s the real difference? Sure, some people may call it crap or call it gold but that’s subjective. The reason why Absolut is so popular is a phenomenally successful and creative ad campaign that holds up better than almost any other in the history of advertising because it’s so simple yet powerful and versatile.

So when I look at the advertising done by Spike, I get a sense that this is just the same old Star Wars but repackaged in a cool way. Taking out essential points, even ridiculous and laughable ones like calling Anakin Skywalker—the baddest Mother F-er in the galaxy—“Annie.” Or calling Chewbacca—the ever-faithful sidekick to loveable rogue, Han Solo—the original wingman.” Or my favorite, the gold bikini that “never goes out of style,” which plays up millions of young boy fantasies that we men folk have carried with us for many a year. (Who didn’t want Princess Leia in a gold bikini to show up at their birthday/barmitzvah/bachelor party?)

Whether it works or not, we’ll let the ratings decide. I do know that even if they don’t draw a big crowd to the boob tube the way other television events have done in the past, it’s not for a lack of trying. They have very successfully made the entire trilogy very, relevant and cool again, at least for a little while.

One thing is for certain, I’ve enjoyed my walks to work while staring at slave Leia on the sides of busses and on top of taxi cabs. Know what? They’re right. A gold bikini never does go out of style.

On another note, the website /Film has an entire post dedicated to Star Wars graffiti. It’s pretty cool. I’ve featured a few of the images here to go along with the whole, Star Wars art outdoors theme of this post. /Film is an alternative movie news and review blog.

This is a prime example of the dream of every single marketer (you know who you are) in the entire world: Free viral marketing. Imagine people co-opting your image and brand as artwork in a very visible and respectful way. Star Wars has the unique property of built in marketing in the hearts of millions of people all over the world, more than anything else. (Except maybe Hello Kitty in Japan, which I do not understand the fascination with in the least, except for Tween girls!)

Marketing is about spreading the message in the widest possible fashion. Star Wars graffiti is what we in marketing want in our own little way for whatever brand it is we are trying to gain awareness of in the marketplace. This graffiti embodies the penultimate in viral marketing—it’s creative, quirky, very visual, positive and best of all, free! We’ll ignore the part about defacing public property, that part is probably not very desirable, so let’s assume the art was either commissioned or accepted.

In both cases, Star Wars as a property is taken off the screen and put into the environment. The amazing part is that this phenomenon of Star Wars is so pervasive and ingrained into our collective culture that without explanation these icons can be twisted in to riddles, puns and quirky jokes, with out a narrative background having to be served. It is as if everyone intrinsically understands why a hairy ape is a good wingman or a guy can snap when called Annie too many times. Or why an AT-AT would make a great pet.

The mythology of Star Wars is something that has been going on for more than thirty years now and never stops. It just keeps popping up all around us. It’s going and going.

“…and going!”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wash And Dry Gets A Hero In Laundry Warrior

This is the first I am hearing of this but it looks interesting. Variety reports that the producer from Lord of the Rings, Barrie Osborne will be joining Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and a star from Korea, Jang Dong-gun in the new fantasy/action flick, `Laundry Warrior,' being filmed in New Zealand. Newcomer Sngmoo Lee has written the script and will direct the movie. As of now, ‘Laundry Warrior’ has a budget of $45 million but it seems that this ambitious project will need more cash, though it is said to be a “green screen” filmed movie so most of the work will probably be done in a computer.

According to reports, the story is about a fugitive Asian warrior (Dong-gun) who hides out in the badlands of America. Another fighter, posing as a town drunk (Rush), and a circus performing knife thrower (Bosworth) join forces in this Samurai/Western. The look of the film is said to have the same style as “300” but brighter, more like anime.

Personally, I am very excited about this project. Some of the recent pseudo, half live-action, part-CG films have left me flat, looking too dark and dreary—perhaps on purpose considering the forced limitations of the technique. Perhaps “Laundry Warrior” will put this genre of moviemaking onto a new path.

One of the producers, Michael Peyser said that he and Osborne are looking to make “non-Amerocentric, world-scale movies.”

He went on to say that:

With 15 set-piece action sequences and use of every kind of weapon from swords and machine guns to dynamite, plus 50 carnival tricks, 'Laundry Warrior' lends itself perfectly to the downloading and gaming environments.

Post-production will be done at Weta Workshops, famous for their excellent work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the upcoming Hobbit movies, among other shops in Korea, India and the U.S.

If you are wondering about the title, it’s called “Laundry Warrior” because the fugitive warrior played by Jang Dong-gun takes a job as a laundryman. And proving that dreams really do come true, Sngmoo Lee’s debut comes after teaching film school at the New York Film Academy in New York for five years.