Sunday, November 30, 2008

Red Dwarf to Return?

After years of somewhat pretending to promise a possible movie, it looks like the Red Dwarf lot have settled on bringing the British sci-fi comedy back in the form of a one-hour special. Here is Robert "Wet Liberal" Llewelyn, who played Kryten in the series, speaking on what he knows about the special:

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Karl on the BBC

Karl Pilkington is a cult figure who exploded thanks in part to his appearance on Ricky Gervais' series of audiobooks and podcasts. He showed up on "Something for the Weekend," a daytime interview show (along the lines of "The View" or "Regis and Kelly") on the BBC, recently. Here's the interview:

The second half is pretty funny in a subtle way. Pilkington is seen rambling about whether one has control of their own brain or not while a chef cooks all sorts of complicating concoctions.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Rammstein Back in the Studio

Rammstein, one of my favorite bands of all time, has finally gotten back in the recording studio after three years of silence. They're doing so in my own back yard too:

After months of silence, the band has begun to surface! They have finished the preproduction of their sixth studio album in Berlin and are now gearing up to fly to meet in San Francisco where the band has rented a studio that they will be working in starting this Sunday. In fact, Schneider is already in Los Angeles to begin preparations for the drum tracks. They are working with producer Jacob Hellner (who has produced all of their albums so far) and his team, which currently includes Ulf Kruckenberg (who has worked with Clawfinger, Apocalyptica Emigrate, etc.) and Florian Ammon (Eminem, Elton John, Lifehouse, many more). Paul and Richard are set to fly there this week and I assume the rest will follow soon as they sequester themselves for the coming weeks.

So far, each Rammstein album has been progressively better, stranger and more experimental than the last. I hope they keep that trend going.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nova's Lights Burn Out?

The educational black hole that is Seattle's Nova High School appears to be closing down:

Students would be shifted to other schools. The district also proposes to close one alternative program — Alternative School No. 1 — and move three others, Summit K-12, Pathfinder K-8 and NOVA high school.

It seems the "alternative" programs will be moved to other schools, along with the students. If the building that once housed Nova ends up out of the hands of the Seattle Public Schools, maybe it will be used for something useful.

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Manga Enters "Dead Space"

There's something interesting going on with the new Dead Space franchise. While launching as a video game for Playstation, XBox and Windows, it is also launching as an animated film and a comic book. Usually the comic book or the film come a long time after the game has been successful.

The art for the Dead Space comic book, which was published by the Berkeley-based Image Comics, was great. I originally saw it when I met artist Ben Templesmith at WonderCon in San Francisco earlier this year.

The Dead Space animated film, which is put up by MANGA Entertainment, has just been released. It, too, looks great. The trailer reminds me a bit of an episode of the British comedy Red Dwarf, called "Psirens," in which the crew finds themselves trapped in an asteroid field where dozens of ships have had their crews murdered by blood-sucking aliens.

Take a peek at the Dead Space trailer:

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Wonder Woman DVD Trailer Released!

I'm not a very big Wonder Woman fan, so I'm not very excited about this. Given that, it does seem like there has been alot of improvement from Superman/Doomsday to JLA: The New Frontier to this. I'll definitely see it when it's out.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trailer for Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" Revealed

It looks like goth kids' wet dreams have finally come true. Neil Gaiman has teamed up with the director of Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick, to create a stop-motion film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novella Coraline.

Now that many of Gaiman's works like Stardust and Coraline have launched into theaters, how long will it be before we see a Sandman film?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Defense of Star Wars

Cartoon Network is currently airing an animated series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The series takes place in between Episode II: Attack of the Clones (AOTC) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (ROTS).

In honor of the release of this surprisingly stellar series, I felt it would be a good time to take a look at the three Star Wars “prequels,” which have been loved by some and hated intensely by many others.

Now that the entire prequels series is complete and has been for a couple of years, the question should now be asked: Are the films as bad as people say?

If we are to answer that question by box office sales, the answer is a resounding no. The first in the prequel series, 1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace (TPM), cost an estimated $115,000,000 to produce and grossed $431,065,444 in theatres. The trend continues with all three films, each of which made a profit over half the cost of production. That’s something that unsuccessful films obviously never do.

Of course, box office success doesn’t always mean success with critics and fans. Some of the most beloved films are ones like The Big Lebowski, which had only mild theatrical success but later became a cult classic.

It seems that the kind of viewers that make films into cult classics have had many criticisms in common toward Lucas’ prequels. Let’s go through them.

It’s said often that Lucas relied too much on computer animation and green screens for the prequels, hampering actors who need something real to interact with. This accusation fails to take into account that the original “Star Wars” was the genesis for modern special effects.

After the original trilogy was finished, Lucas developed Industrial Light and Magic in order to advance visual effects in cinema. Lucas dedicated 11 years to acting as a producer before he started writing the new trilogy in 1994. For Lucas to have gone back to just model shots and painted backgrounds in an effort in order to make his new trilogy appealing to retrospective nostalgists would have been bizarre given the history of his career.

Another criticism is that of a convoluted plot that was not as clear-cut as the original trilogy. The new trilogy is basically about the degeneration of a vibrant democracy into a totalitarian dictatorship. In the DVD commentary for AOTC, Lucas cites figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Julius Caesar as figures that squashed democracy. The confusing plot reflects history, as the descent of a free society into dictatorship and tyranny is almost never simple.

One criticism about the new trilogy that holds a lot of water is on the presence of Jar Jar Binks, an awful character that was fortunately put to the side after TPM. Lucas winked at his critics in AOTC by making Binks the one who proposes giving emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine, thus throwing the galaxy into the grip of the Sith.

It's also noted that the prequels lack the magic of the original trilogy. This I definitely understand, and in many ways the people who level this criticism are correct. There is far more computer animation in the prequels and the universe that Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme interact in is far more similar to Blade Runner or Neon Genesis Evangelion than the grimy, earthy universe of the original trilogy.

This is a result of two factors. First, Lucas used the prequels to experiment with computer animation and do things he was never previously able to do. Scenes in environments like Dagobah in Empire Strikes Back were replaced with scenes like the Mustafar duel in ROTS. Second, the story that Lucas told was completely different than the original trilogy. The prequels told the story of a Greek tragedy, with a promising young hero becoming a twisted executioner. The original trilogy, on the other hand, told a folk tale of a merry band of rebels confronting and destroying evil in the face of insurmountable odds. Because of the great differences in story, they should be judged differently.

The most common criticism is that Lucas wrote awful dialogue. Sure, it’s cheesy when Anakin says in ROTS “You are so beautiful” and then Padme replies “So love has blinded you?” However, many critics are missing the fact that the original Star Wars trilogy is riddled with corny dialogue. Luke Skywalker was a very whiney character as well, like his father, and if it’s not corny when he whines to his uncle “But I wanted to go to Toshi station to pick up some power converters!!” then I’m a giraffe.

Nostalgia has blinded many to the fact that the original trilogy too was filled with very slangy and awkwardly informed dialogue and lukewarm acting, much of which actually helped make the films enduring. Some fans seem to have expected Star Wars to be something it never has been.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Hitchens: The GOP will be "beaten very badly"

As is frequently so, I found myself in high agreement with Christopher Hitchens. While Obama is the clear best choice in the election, it takes alot to believe that his charismatic personality is going to result in an immediate repulsion of all of America's enemies, the credit crisis and global warming. Many in the Left could find themselves disappointed.

It's also clear that the Republicans are going to be in the wilderness. There's a chance for them to relaunch. Taking advantage of the few superstar Republicans left, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby Jindal and maybe even Dino Rossi and BJ Lawson if they win, would be a good idea.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Tainting of "Liberal" and "Conservative"

It's been said by many that the word "conservative" has been tainted by the last eight years of American politics. To many, conservatism is now associated with pre-emptive war, fear of terrorism, economic disaster, failed disaster relief and gigantic deficits.

I'd like to argue that "liberal" is equally tainted. Liberalism has been tainted, though on a far smaller scale, by the authoritarian behavior of cultural liberals. The authoritarianism of political correctness makes it next to impossible to break the ice in conversation with many liberals, as they'll always find something to be offended by. Racial quotas, affirmative action and diversity propaganda in our schools deliver a warped view to children that makes them view themselves by the color of their skin above anything else. The propaganda doesn't end there, as many elementary schools are showing overtly political films like An Inconvenient Truth to children, thus brainwashing children before they know enough to make their own decisions.

There are important aspects to being conservative. It is very important to be skeptical of cultural fads, to embrace family over society and to embrace what makes our culture different and successful. There are also important aspects to being a liberal. Thinking outside the box, advocating for the weak and disenfranchised and seeking social justice can all be important. We should reclaim the terms "liberal" and "conservative" or set them aside.

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John McCain on SNL

The old witty and smart John McCain that we all used to love was brought back to life for a pretty funny appearance on Saturday Night Live. The concept was great, with John McCain left with appearing on QVC while Barack Obama made his case on the major networks during primetime. Was this a satirical way for John McCain to acknowledge to the world that it's over? We'll see on Election Day.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

John Cleese on John McCain

Cable news may be widening its horizons beyond just pundits and politicians, as MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has just had comedy legend John Cleese on. Yes, the John Cleese of Monty Python fame! The guy who famously retorted, "Judean People's Front? Please....We're the People's Front of Judea!"

His laugh doesn't sound that great. That cough sounds as if he's swallowed an entire beehive. Hang in there, John!

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The Hulk's Fight Continues

The Hulk is not only appearing in a slamfest with an Asgardian god, but Marvel is also slated to release a slamfest between the Hulk and that adamantium-laced Canadian, Wolverine.

While scanning the comment section for this video, I saw a comment that said that the art here was really bad. To the contrary, I think it's wise that the animators cleverly made Wolverine and Hulk look alot different than the Thor and Hulk in the video I posted yesterday, making them look more brutal and cartoonish. The fight taking place is supposed to resemble the first appearance of Wolverine, which was in a showdown with the Hulk:

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