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Posts tagged “Star Wars

Burt Reynolds R.I.P

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Burt Reynolds, the mustachioed megastar who first strutted on screen more than half a century ago, died Thursday, according to his agent, Todd Eisner. He was 82.

The Michigan native, whose easy-going charms and handsome looks drew prominent roles in films such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Boogie Nights,” suffered a cardiac arrest, Eisner said. A call for an ambulance came from his estate in Martin County, Florida, 911 records show.

An iconic Hollywood sex symbol in front of the camera, Reynolds also tried his directorial hand behind it, and later earned a reputation for philanthropy after founding the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre in his home state of Florida. His roles over the years ranged and pivoted from Southern heartthrob to tough guy to comedy, notably in his role as Rep. David Dilbeck in the 1996 film “Striptease,” which flopped at the box office but earned him widespread praise for his comedic prowess.

But it was John Boorman’s 1972 thriller “Deliverance,” which cast Reynolds as outdoorsman Lewis Medlock, that is widely credited for launching his early career.
Reynolds called it “by far” his best film. “I thought maybe this film is more important in a lot of ways than we’ve given it credit for,” he said in an interview years later. The movie’s infamous rape scene may have helped the public — especially men — better understand the horrors of sexual attacks, Reynolds said.
“It was the only time I saw men get up, sick, and walk out of a theater,” he added. “I’ve seen women do that (before),” but not men.
He was recently cast in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino-directed “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” scheduled for release next year. Reynolds had not yet started shooting his appearance in the film.
Rest in Peace.

Batkid Begins – Poster and Trailer

The Make-A-Wish story that took the world by storm and turned San Francisco into Gotham City for a day premieres this month in Park City. Pint-sized Batkid (aka leukemia patient Miles Scott) has even pulled iconic poster artist Drew Struzan out of retirement as the feature documentary Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around The World prepares for its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival.

The crowdfunded Batkid Begins chronicles how then-5-year-old Scott got to live out his superhero dream on November 15, 2013 with the help of the city, President Obama, and thousands of supporters by playing sidekick to the Caped Crusader in a series of staged missions as onlookers cheered him on. The event culminated with Scott receiving the key to the city from Mayor Ed Lee and sparked media attention and more than 400K tweets in 117 countries, reaching over 1.84 billion social media users.

Struzan’s artwork for film in the 1970s and ’80s is the stuff of movie geek legend, and his breathtaking painted designs for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films in particular sealed his place in the hearts of generations of fanboys and girls. Despite officially retiring from the poster game in 2008, Struzan is rumored to be coming back for the new Star Wars films. But first he created this original poster for director Dana Nachman’s Batkid Begins, pro-bono… Awesome.

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Star Wars: the Force Awakens – In Lego

Well that was quick.. a Lego version of the new Star Wars trailer is already online. Made by Snooperking, here’s what he had to say: “I had nothing to do yesterday so I started once the trailer came out so i built the Falcon, The X-Wing, The speeder bike thingy, a mini tie fighter, tried to build all the sets, and get all my minifigures put together… then just filming took forever especially the special effects… i tried stop motion in front of the green screen and that was hard and by this time it was 3am so like more than 12 hours (it took a 3 hour break somewhere) and then finally gave up and used sewing string for the X-Wing and just kind of moved my camera around the falcon, I wasn’t as happy with the falcon shot but I cant work on it at all today so I had to finish it like 4 hours ago, but I just woke up to go to my grandparents house, and now you know everything about how it was made!”


The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph-McQuarrie_Archives_Star-WarsBest known for his instrumental contributions to the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, Ralph McQuarrie has inspired several generations of film fans and artists. While much of his Star Wars artwork has been reproduced in numerous volumes over the years, his non-Star Wars work has previously only been available in The Art of Ralph McQuarrie, a limited edition that Dreams and Visions Press published in 2007. That book is long out of print and now commands high prices on the secondary market.

With The Art of Ralph McQuarrie: ARCHIVES, Dreams and Visions Press will bring back into print a career-spanning retrospective of Ralph McQuarrie’s non-Star Wars artwork. At 13” x 9.5”, this 432-page volume is not only offered at a more affordable price point than the original 2007 release, one third of the content is original to this edition. That’s hundreds of Ralph McQuarrie illustrations spanning all aspects of his body of work.

The book will be available in two states: 1) a hardcover version with printed covers and 2) a deluxe cloth-bound individually numbered limited edition housed in a cloth-bound presentation traycase. Each copy will be smyth-sewn with head and tail bands to provide a sturdy binding that will last for years to come.

You can help get these editions made by supporting the guys on their kickstarter campaign HERE where they have some amazing rewards for backers…


Han Solo in Carbonite – Door Sticker

Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite Door Decal; a life-size $140 sticker that you place on your door… late Christmas gift. Available HERE.

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Drew: The Man Behind The Poster

Drew: The Man Behind The Poster is finally ready. The film will have its world debut at San Diego Comic-Con 2013. It tells the story of Drew Struzan, the prolific poster artist who made posters for the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films, as well as Back to the Future, The Goonies, The Shawshank Redemption, Harry Potter and many more.

Directed by Erik P. Sharkey, Drew: The Man Behind the Poster will open in New York August 16 at the Cinema Village before its rollout. The guys raised the remaining funds they needed through indiegogo last year, read story HERE. Also check out images of Drew drawing and painting the amazing Hellboy poster HERE


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The Ewoking Dead

The Ewoking Dead


J. J. Abrams Star Trek to Star Wars Internet Comics

JJ Abrams ‘defection’ to Star Wars from Star Trek has had the fan boys buzzing on the net…

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Famous Robots by Robert M. Ball

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John Dykstra

John Charles Dykstra, A.S.C (born June 3, 1947 in Long Beach, California) is an Academy Award-winning special effects supervisor and pioneer in the development of the use of computers in filmmaking.

After studying industrial design at California State University Dykstra landed a job working with Douglas Trumbull on Silent Running (1972) filming model effects.

When George Lucas was recruiting people for the special effects work on Star Wars, he approached Trumbull (who was working on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind), who pointed him towards Dykstra. Dykstra led the development at Industrial Light & Magic of the Dykstraflex motion-controlled camera, which was responsible for many of the film’s groundbreaking effects. The system was made possible by the availability of off-the-shelf integrated-circuit RAM at relatively low cost and second-hand Vision Vision cameras.

However, there was tension between Dykstra and Lucas, who later complained that too much of the special effects budget was spent on developing the camera systems and that the effects team did not deliver all the shots that he had wanted. These tensions would reportedly culminate with Dykstra’s dismissal from ILM following Lucas’ return from principal photography in Tunisia. Regardless, following the release of Star Wars, Dykstra secured his status in the industry with Academy Awards for best special effects and special technical achievement, and having completed a number of scenes which appeared in the final edit.

Dykstra had a Production credit for the television series Battlestar Galactica (1978), and contributed to the series’ effects. Around the same time, Dykstra was a target of Lucas’ legal ire. His fledgling visual effects house, Apogee, Inc., consisted of several ILM employees who did not want to relocate to San Francisco from Van Nuys, and used whatever equipment Lucas had left behind. Lucas attempted to get an injunction against Apogee to prevent the company from using what he considered to be his equipment to work on a project that was in direct competition to the Star Wars films. Several members of Apogee, including Richard Edlund and Dennis Muren, would return to ILM.

Dykstra also worked on the effects for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), with some of his effects being recycled in subsequent films. Dykstra’s next major achievement was the effects work on the Clint Eastwood movie, Firefox (1982). Here, he took on the same challenge that Lucas had set with The Empire Strikes Back of combining miniature effects with actual backgrounds and matte work on white backgrounds using reverse bluescreen. The film secured further awards but was only a modest box office hit.

Dykstra was worked on the effects crew for Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985), and Invaders from Mars (1986) before becoming supervisor for the special effects on My Stepmother is an Alien (1988), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). He was also Senior Visual Effects Supervisor for Stuart Little (1999). Dykstra was Visual Effects Designer on the first two Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man films, and was rewarded with an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his efforts on Spider-Man 2 (2004).

He also acted as Visual Effects Designer on Hancock (2008), Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) and X-Men: First Class (2011).

Check out this excellent article HERE from 1977, written by Dykstra for American Cinematographer.


Drew: The Man Behind The Poster

Drew: The Man Behind The Poster” is a feature-length documentary film highlighting the career of poster artist Drew Struzan, whose most popular works include the “Indiana Jones,” “Back to the Future” and “Star Wars” movie posters. Telling the tale through exclusive interviews with George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg and many other filmmakers, artists and critics, the journey spans Drew’s early career in commercial and album cover art through his recent retirement as one of the most recognizable and influential movie poster artists of all time.

However, the producers ran out of money in the final stages.  Says director Erik P. Sharkey: “We are currently in the final stages of our sound mix. So the film has already been shot and edited. But we have totally run out of money. That is where you come in. Your generous donation would help us finish Post Production, take care of legal fees as well as promotion for the film. We are so close to the finish line but need your help. Please help us finish a film that honors an amazing artist Drew Struzan!”

You can donate to the project at their indiegogo page HERE and also check out their website HERE


Star Wars released 35 years ago

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, or Star Wars, as it’s known in my house, is a 1977 American epic space western film, written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films complete the original trilogy, while a prequel trilogy completes the six-film saga.

Groundbreaking in its use of special effects, unconventional editing, and science fiction/fantasy storytelling, the original Star Wars is one of the most successful and influential films of all time.

Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film earned $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the nominal highest-grossing film and remained that way until being surpassed 6 years later by E.T. the Extraterrestrial in 1983. When adjusted for inflation, it is the second highest grossing film in the USA and Canada as of 2010. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture.

Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition, the 2004 DVD release, and the 2011 Blu-ray release, which have awful, modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes.


Peter Mayhew

Peter Mayhew (born May 19, 1944) is an English actor and comedian. He is best known for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars movie series. His peak height was 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 m) tall.

Mayhew was born and raised in Barnes, London, England. He got his first acting job in 1976 when the producers of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger discovered Mayhew from a photograph in a newspaper article about men with large feet, and they cast him in the role of the Minotaur.

When casting roles for his first Star Wars movie, producer George Lucas needed a tall actor who could fit the role for the beastly Chewbacca. He originally had in mind 6 ft 6 in bodybuilder David Prowse, but he was instead cast to play Darth Vader. This led Lucas on a search which turned up Mayhew, who says that all he had to do to be cast in the role of Chewbacca was stand up.

Mayhew has played part of Chewbacca in four Star Wars movies: the original Star Wars trilogy (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. He also played the role in the 1978 television film The Star Wars Holiday Special, as well as in an appearance on The Muppet Show. He also recorded dialogue as Chewbacca for the animated show The Clone Wars, in the Season 3 finale episode called Wookie Hunt.

Mayhew also plays the role in commercials and for hospital appearances for sick children. When cast in the role he studied the movement of large animals at the zoo to come up with an authentic sense of movement for Chewbacca. When Mayhew grew ill in the shooting of The Empire Strikes Back a similarly tall stand in was used, but the actor could not match Mayhew’s studied movement style and the scenes had to be re-shot upon Mayhew’s recovery. Mayhew did not provide the voice of Chewbacca; that was created by the film’s sound designer, Ben Burtt, by mixing together the growls of different animals.

Mayhew has made numerous appearances as Chewbacca outside the Star Wars films. Mayhew as Chewbacca was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards 1997.

Mayhew now lives in Boyd, Texas, and is the owner of his own business. He became a naturalised citizen of the United States on October 17, 2005. He has jokingly noted that he didn’t get a medal at this ceremony either, a reference to the Star Wars scene in which Luke and Han get medals but Chewbacca does not. Mayhew did state in an MTV interview that although he didn’t get a medal in the movie, he did get the last line: one of Chewbacca’s roars.


Alec Guinness

Sir Alec Guinness, CH, CBE (2 April 1914 – 5 August 2000) was an English actor. After an early career on the stage he was featured in several of the Ealing comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Guinness was also nominated for a further four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for what is possibly his best-known role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars movie. Other popular portrayals included Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia, and George Smiley in the original TV adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

His first job in the theatre was on his 20th birthday, while he was still a drama student, in the play Libel, which opened at the old King’s Theatre, Hammersmith, and then transferred to the Playhouse where his status was raised from a walk-on to understudying two lines and his salary increased to £1 a week. In 1936 at the age of 22, playing the role of Osric in John Gielgud’s successful production of Hamlet.

Guinness continued playing Shakespearean roles throughout his career. In 1937 he played Aumerle in Richard II  and Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice under the direction of John Gielgud. He starred in a 1938 production of Hamlet which won him acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. He also appeared as Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet (1939), Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and as Exeter in Henry V in 1937, both opposite Laurence Olivier, and Ferdinand in The Tempest, opposite Gielgud as Prospero.

In 1939, he adapted the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations for the stage, playing the part of Herbert Pocket. The play was a success. One of its viewers was a young British film editor, David Lean, who would later have Guinness reprise his role in Lean’s 1946 film adaptation of the play.

Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in World War II, serving first as a seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year. He commanded a landing craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the Yugoslav partizans. 

Guinness returned to the Old Vic in 1946 and stayed until 1948, playing in The Alchemist, King Lear, Cyrano de Bergerac and Richard II. After leaving the Old Vic, he played in An Inspector Calls, The Cocktail Party and the title role of Hamlet.

Guinness won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as poet Dylan Thomas in Dylan. He next played the title role in Macbeth opposite Simone Signoret in 1966, a conspicuous failure.

His final performance was at the Comedy Theatre on May 30, 1989 in the play A Walk in the Woods. Sandwiched between April 2, 1934, and May 30, 1989, he played 77 parts in the theatre.

In films, Guinness was initially associated mainly with the Ealing comedies, and particularly for playing eight different characters in the classic Kind Hearts and Coronets. Other notable films from this period included The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers and The Man in the White Suit

He won particular acclaim for his work with director David Lean. After appearing in Lean’s Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, he was given a starring role opposite William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai. For his performance as Colonel Nicholson, the unyielding British POW leader, Guinness won an Academy Award. Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship, Lean, referring to Guinness as “my good luck charm”, continued to cast Guinness in character roles in his later films: Arab leader Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia; the title character’s half-brother, Bolshevik leader Yevgraf, in Doctor Zhivago; and Indian mystic Godbole in A Passage to India. He was also offered a role in Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970), but declined.

Other notable film roles of this period included The Swan (1956); The Horse’s Mouth (1958) in which Guinness played the part of drunken painter Gulley Jimson as well as contributing the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award; the lead in Our Man in Havana (1959); The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964); The Quiller Memorandum (1966); Marley’s Ghost in Scrooge (1970); Charles I in Cromwell (1970); Pope Innocent III in Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972); and the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973), which he considered his best film performance, though critics disagreed. Guinness also played the role of Jamessir Bensonmum, the blind butler, in the 1976 Neil Simon film Murder By Death

Guinness’s role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, beginning in 1977, brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation, as well as Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. He was one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit; he negotiated a deal for 2% of the gross royalties paid to the director, George Lucas, who received one fifth of the box office takings. This made him very wealthy in his later life, and he agreed to take the part of Kenobi on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film. Upon his first viewing of the film, Guinness wrote in his diary that “It’s a pretty staggering film as spectacle and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warm-hearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.”

Guinness died on 5 August 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex. He was interred at Petersfield, Hampshire, England.


Star Wars Identities – Exhibition Posters

Cool new posters for Star Wars Identities: The Exhibition.


FLASH GORDON – The 1936 Serial

Guest Writer Mark Sonntag. With the release of Star Wars Episode 1 3D I can’t help but remember the time when there was only the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Like all kids I was hooked, but that’s all we had, that, comics and whatever old scifi movies were re-run on TV, plus the odd campy 70s scifi show. No video games and a multitude of high end CG movies like today… oh yeah and no internet.

Maybe it was because of Star Wars, but during the early 80s the Flash Gordon movie serials were constantly repeated on TV, they were already almost 50 years old at that time but I didn’t care I loved them and believe it or not it is pretty obvious now that they are a direct ancestor of Star Wars, from the cliffhanger format of film making to the opening title roll… George Lucas grew up on them.

Flash Gordon debuted on Sunday January 7, 1934 in the color comic section of the Hearst newspapers. Like Star Wars, it’s straight into the action with the opening panel showing a newspaper headline “WORLD COMING TO END” and it’s non stop from there with Dr Hans Zarkov kidnapping Flash Gordon and Dale Arden to save the world from the evil Ming the Merciless. Created by Alex Raymond and writer Don Moore it was King Features Syndicate’s answer to Buck Rogers, and very quickly surpassed Buck Rogers in popularity.

It wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling when in 1935 Universal bought the movie rights for a reported sum of $12, 000. At this point in time Universal was renowned for it’s horror films and movie serials, and still under the control of founder Carl Leammle.

Henry MacRae, head of Universal’s serial department allocated a budget of $350, 000, triple the amount normally allotted to a serial. Work began in 1935 with screen writers Frederick Stephani (who would also direct), George Plympton, Basil Dickey and Ella O’Neil assigned to adapt the comic strip to the screen. Unlike most Hollywood movies of the time the screen writers opted to follow the strip and the serial  that  was finally made is essentially a faithful adaptation of the first year’s continuity.

Paramount contract player and 1932 Olympic swimming champion Buster Crabbe was cast as Flash Gordon, dying his hair blonde for the part. He remembered visiting the Universal lot during auditions when Henry MacRae spotted him and offered him the part.

19 year old Universal contract player Jean Rogers was cast as Flash’s girlfriend Dale Arden and for some reason ordered by Universal to go blonde (Dale is a brunette in the comic strip). Frank Shannon was cast as Dr. Hans Zarkov.

As for the evil Ming the Merciless, the part went to character actor and sometime foil of Laurel and Hardy, Charles Middleton about whom Crabbe recalled “he strutted around like Ming (when in make up); he really did strut! He was a very nice guy, but he had to stay in character. The minute he put on his street clothes, he was a different person.” Priscilla Lawson was cast as Ming’s daughter Aura, Richard Alexander as Prince Barin the rightful heir to the throne of Mongo and John Lipson as Vultan king of the Hawkmen. Future Frankenstein monster Glenn Strange makes an appearance as a lobster clawed monster and as one of Ming’s guards.

In order to create the lavish fantasy sets required, Universal hired Ralph Berger as art director. Even with the higher budget, costs still needed to be watched in order to complete thirteen 20 minute films. Sets from previous Universal films were utilized, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy and Dracula’s Daughter to name a few. Even props were reused, the Egyptian idol from The Mummy became the great god Tao, the rocketship from Fox’s Just Imagine was purchased and used for Zarkov’s rocketship. Kenneth Strickfaden’s wild electrical devices from Frankenstein can be seen in Ming’s lab.

Special effects which look primitive today were created by propman Elmer Johnson and cameraman Jerome Ash using 2 foot long models made of wood and metal, hanging on wires with cigar smoke trailing from the exhaust.

As with most of Universal’s B projects the Flash Gordon score is reused from older Universal movies, The Invisible Man,  Werewolf In London, The Black Cat and Bride of Frankenstein.

Flash Gordon began production in October 1935 and took six weeks to shoot with cast and crew working from 8am to 10:30pm six days per week.

The 13 chapter serial premiered on April 1936 and was immensely popular, with theatres adopting the unusual practice of showing each weekly episode at night instead of just to the Saturday matinee crowd. It was re-edited later that year into a 68 minute feature version, unfortunately it’s success came too late for founder Carl Laemmle who sold his interest in Universal in May 1936 due to bad debts.

In 1996, Flash Gordon was included in the National Film Registry .

Of course with the serial so successful and the weekly comic strip ever popular what was Universal to do but make a sequel… TO BE CONTINUED.


Ralph McQuarrie

Legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie died on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012. Rest in Peace.

Ralph McQuarrie (June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012) was a conceptual designer and illustrator who designed the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.

Born in Gary, Indiana, McQuarrie moved to California in the 1960s. Initially he worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well designing film posters and animating CBS New’s coverage of the Apollo space program at the three-man company Reel Three. While there, McQuarrie was asked by Hal Barwood to produce some illustrations for a film project he and Matthew Robbins were starting.

Impressed with his work, director George Lucas met with him to discuss his plans for a space-fantasy film. Several years later, in 1975, Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from the script of the film, Star Wars. McQuarrie designed many of the film’s characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars, which became a huge success upon release in 1977. Neil Kendricks of The San Diego Union-Tribune stated McQuarrie “holds a unique position when it comes to defining much of the look of the “Star Wars” universe.” McQuarrie noted “I thought I had the best job that an artist ever had on a film, and I had never worked on a feature film before. I still get fan mail — people wondering if I worked on Episode I or just wanting to have my autograph.”

McQuarrie went on to work as the conceptual designer on the film’s two sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. 

McQuarrie played the uncredited role of General Pharl McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. An action figure in his likeness as “General McQuarrie” was produced. Action figures based on McQuarrie’s concept art, including conceptual versions of the Imperial Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3Po, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other characters have also been made.

McQuarrie designed the alien ships in Steven Spielberg’s films Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), while his work as the conceptual artist on the 1985 film Cocoon earned him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.He also worked on the 1978 TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, *batteries not included and Jurassic Park.

Rick McCallum offered McQuarrie a role as designer for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but he rejected the offer, noting he had “run out of steam” and Industrial Light & Magic animator Doug Chiang was appointed instead. He retired and his Star Wars concept paintings were subsequently displayed in art exhibitions, including the 1999 Star Wars: The Magic of Myth.

McQuarrie died aged 82 on March 3, 2012, in his Berkeley, California home. He is survived by his wife Joan.

Lucas commented after McQuarrie’s death: “His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘do it like this’.”


Steven Spielberg – Part 2

Rejecting offers to direct ‘Jaws 2’, ‘King Kong’ and ‘Superman’, Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss re-convened to work on a film about UFO’s, which became ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977). One of the rare films both written and directed by Spielberg, Close Encounters was a critical and box office hit, giving Spielberg his first Best Director nomination from the Academy as well as earning six other Academy Award nominations. It won Oscars in two categories (Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, and a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner). This second blockbuster helped to secure Spielberg’s rise. However, his next film, ‘1941’, a big-budgeted World War II farce, was not nearly as successful and though it grossed over $92.4 million dollars worldwide (and did make a small profit for co-producing studios Columbia and Universal) it was seen as a disappointment, mainly with the critics.

Spielberg then revisited his Close Encounters project and, with financial backing from Columbia Pictures, released Close Encounters: The Special Edition in 1980. For this, Spielberg fixed some of the flaws he thought impeded the original 1977 version of the film and also, at the behest of Columbia, and as a condition of Spielberg revising the film, shot additional footage showing the audience the interior of the mothership seen at the end of the film (a decision Spielberg would later regret as he felt the interior of the mothership should have remained a mystery). Nevertheless, the re-release was a moderate success, while the 2001 DVD release of the film restored the original ending.

Next, Spielberg teamed with Star Wars creator and friend George Lucas on an action adventure film, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘ (1981), the first of the Indiana Jones films. The archaeologist and adventurer hero Indiana Jones was played by Harrison Ford. The film was considered an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It became the biggest film at the box office in 1981, and the recipient of numerous Oscar nominations including Best Director (Spielberg’s second nomination) and Best Picture (the second Spielberg film to be nominated for Best Picture). Raiders is still considered a landmark example of the action-adventure genre. The film also led to Ford’s casting in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

A year later, Spielberg returned to the science fiction genre with ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982). It was the story of a young boy and the alien he befriends, who was accidentally left behind by his companions and is attempting to return home. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial went on to become the top-grossing film of all time. E.T. was also nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Between 1982 and 1985, Spielberg produced three high-grossing films: ‘Poltergeist’ (1982), for which he also co-wrote the screenplay; a big-screen adaptation of ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1983), for which he directed the segment “Kick The Can”; and ‘The Goonies’ (1984) on which he was executive producer and also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based.

His next directorial feature was the Raiders prequel ‘Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom’ (1984). Teaming up once again with Lucas and Ford, the film was plagued with uncertainty for the material and script. This film and the Spielberg-produced Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to the high level of violence in films targeted at younger audiences. In spite of this, Temple of Doom is rated PG by the MPAA, even though it is the darkest and, possibly, most violent Indy film. Nonetheless, the film was still a huge blockbuster hit in 1984. It was on this project that Spielberg also met his future wife, actress Kate Capshaw.

In 1985, Spielberg released ‘The Color Purple’, an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, about a generation of empowered African-American women during depression-era America. Starring Whoopi Goldberg and future talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey, the film was a box office smash and critics hailed Spielberg’s successful foray into the dramatic genre. Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best film of the year and later entered it into his Great Films archive. The film received eleven Academy Award nominations, including two for Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. However, much to the surprise of many, Spielberg did not get a Best Director nomination.

In 1987, as China began opening to Western capital investment, Spielberg shot the first American film in Shanghai since the 1930s, an adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel ‘Empire of the Sun’ (1987) starring John Malkovich and a young Christian Bale. The film garnered much praise from critics and was nominated for several Oscars, but did not yield substantial box office revenues. I’s one of y favourite Spielberg films and was one of the best films of the year.


Carrie Fisher

Carrie Frances Fisher (born October 21, 1956) is an American actress, novelist, screenwriter, and lecturer.
She is most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia Organa in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, her bestselling novel Postcards from the Edge, for which she wrote the screenplay to the film of the same name, and her autobiography Wishful Drinking.

Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California, the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. When Carrie Fisher was two, her parents divorced after her father left Debbie for her best friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, the widow of Eddie’s best friend Mike Todd. She attended Beverly Hills High School, but she left to join her mother on the road.

In 1973, Fisher enrolled at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, which she attended for 18 months. She made her film debut in the comedy ‘Shampoo’ (1975) starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn. In 1977, Fisher starred as Princess Leia in George Lucas’ science fiction film ‘Star Wars’ (later retitled ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope’) opposite  Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, a part she sarcastically claims  to have obtained by sleeping “with some nerd.” The huge success of Star Wars made her internationally famous. The character of Princess Leia became a merchandising triumph; there were small plastic action figures of the Princess in toy stores across the United States. She appeared as Princess Leia in the 1978 made-for-TV film, ‘The Star Wars Holiday Special’, a show that Lucas has tried to erase from everyone’s memory.

Fisher later appeared in ‘The Blues Brothers’  film in an unforgettable cameo role as Joliet Jake’s vengeful ex-lover, listed in the credits as “Mystery Woman”. She appeared on Broadway in Censored Scenes from King Kong in 1980. That year, she appeared again as Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ (which was also later changed to Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back). She made her third and final appearance as Leia in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ (1983), also later changed… for which she became a sex symbol due to her appearance wearing a golden metal bikini (the slave girl outfit which almost immediately rose to pop culture icon status).

In 1987, Fisher published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. The book was semi-autobiographical in the sense that she fictionalized and satirized real life events such as her drug addiction of the late 1970s. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Also during 1987, she was in the Australian film The Time Guardian. In 1989, Fisher played a major supporting role in ‘When Harry Met Sally’, and in the same year, she appeared opposite Tom Hanks as his wife in ‘The Burbs’.

In 1990, Columbia Pictures released a film version of ‘Postcards from the Edge’, adapted for the screen by Fisher and starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid. She also appeared in the fantasy comedy film ‘Drop Dead Fred’ (1991). In 1997, Fisher appeared as a therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’. During the 1990s, Fisher also published the novels Surrender the Pink (1991) and Delusions of Grandma (1993).

Fisher has publicly discussed her problems with drugs, her struggle with bipolar disorder, and her overcoming an addiction to prescription medication, most notably on ‘The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’ with Stephen Fry for the BBC. She discussed her new memoir Wishful Drinking and various topics in it with Matt Lauer on NBC’s ‘Today’ on December 10, 2008. While in Sydney, Australia, Fisher revealed in another interview that she had a cocaine addiction during filming of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and also survived an overdose. “Slowly, I realized I was doing a bit more drugs than other people and losing my choice in the matter” .


Star Wars told with LEGO by a 5 year old

Star Wars re-enacted with LEGO by a 5 year old. Better than anything George Lucas has done with the franchise for two decades. Check out the video clip at wired. “Ooohhh, I wonder when the bad guys are coming..?”


Mark Hamill

Mark Richard Hamill (born September 25, 1951) is an American actor, voice artist, producer, director, and writer, best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy. More recently, he has received acclaim for his voice work, in such roles as the Joker in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’.

However, he has made a few other notable (and some not so notable) appearances in other films of note. Here are a few of the better ones…

His first good non-Star Wars movie was ‘The Big Red One’, a World War II action movie starring Lee Marvin. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, it was released by United Artists in 1980. The film details the experiences of several US soldiers from The Big Red One (the nickname of the 1st Infantry Division), serving in an infantry squad as part of a rifle company and the effects of the war on them. Heavily cut on release, a restored print is now available on DVD and is well worth the effort.

His only other good non-Star Wars movie is Britannia Hospital, a 1982 black comedy film by legendary British director Lindsay Anderson which targets the National Health Service and contemporary British society. Britannia Hospital is the final part of Anderson’s critically acclaimed trilogy of films that follow the adventures of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) as he travels through a strange and sometimes surreal Britain. From his days at boarding school in ‘if…’ (1968) to his journey from coffee salesman to film star in ‘O Lucky Man!’ (1973), Travis’ adventures finally come to an end in Britannia Hospital which sees Mick as a muckraking reporter investigating the bizarre activities of Professor Millar, played by Graham Crowden, whom he had a run in with in O Lucky Man.

Sleepwalkers (also known as Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers) is a 1992 American horror film based on an original screenplay by Stephen King and directed by horror legend Mick Garris. Which isn’t very good but features the shapely Madchen Amick.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a 2001 American adventure comedy film written, directed by, and starring Kevin Smith as Silent Bob, the fifth to be set in his View Askewinverse, a growing collection of characters and settings that developed out of his cult favorite ‘Clerks’. It focuses on the two titular characters, played respectively by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith.

The film features a large number of cameo appearances by famous actors, actresses and directors. The major scene involving a long chase with studio security from a fictional ‘Scream 4’ in production, Jay and Silent Bob end up being forced into their comic alter-ego costumes of Bluntman and chronic and thrown on stage with a racist director (Chris Rock), they must engage in a duel with Cock-Knocker played by Mark Hamill.


Star Wars fan sites call for boycott of Star Wars Blu-Ray

LucasFilm has confirmed some very controversial changes in its upcoming 9-disc Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga with 40 hours of extras. To hardcore fans, even the concept of changes is hard to fathom. For instance, Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi specifically yells “Nooooo! Nooooo!” when the Emperor is trying to kill Luke. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Krayt Dragon howl is noticeably different in Star Wars aka A New Hope. (One Internet site said the new version “sounds like a pedophile getting his dick caught in a screen door”.) The Ewoks’ eyes have been CGI’ed and now blink. Yoda’s not quite the same Yoda of yore because of digitalized alterations.

As you know, this isn’t the first time George Lucas has released special editions, adding new scenes and special effects. But there are widespread online campaigns cropping up to boycott this new Blu-ray collection when it goes on sale September 16th. Hardcore fans, reacting to the news, are saying this is ”about film preservation and cultural heritage. Lucas has every right to make as many new versions of his films as he wants — fine, go crazy, George — but he has no right to replace the original versions of his films.” Actually, he can do what he wants with the last 3, just leave those originals alone. As Lucas himself, in 1988 testimony before Congress said:

“My name is George Lucas. I am a writer, director, and producer of motion pictures and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd., a multi-faceted entertainment corporation.

I am not here today as a writer-director, or as a producer, or as the chairman of a corporation. I’ve come as a citizen of what I believe to be a great society that is in need of a moral anchor to help define and protect its intellectual and cultural heritage. It is not being protected.

The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.

A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.

People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behaviour, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavour. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.

These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add colour to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.

In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.

There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.

I accuse the companies and groups, who say that American law is sufficient, of misleading the Congress and the People for their own economic self-interest.

I accuse the corporations, who oppose the moral rights of the artist, of being dishonest and insensitive to American cultural heritage and of being interested only in their quarterly bottom line, and not in the long-term interest of the Nation.

The public’s interest is ultimately dominant over all other interests. And the proof of that is that even a copyright law only permits the creators and their estate a limited amount of time to enjoy the economic fruits of that work.

There are those who say American law is sufficient. That’s an outrage! It’s not sufficient! If it were sufficient, why would I be here? Why would John Houston have been so studiously ignored when he protested the colorization of “The Maltese Falcon?” Why are films cut up and butchered?

Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.

I hope you have the courage to lead America in acknowledging the importance of American art to the human race, and accord the proper protection for the creators of that art–as it is accorded them in much of the rest of the world communities.”


Star Wars – New Zealand Mint Coins!

The latest ultimate nerd ‘must-have’… I want them. The New Zealand Mint is proud to launch one of cinema’s most enduring and beloved franchises, Star Wars, as a legal tender coin set. These coin series will be hugely popular for both Star Wars devotees and coin-collectors alike. This first series is a limited mintage and are quite simply out of this Universe. Don’t deny the Force within you, and get your set today.

The first series includes eight 1oz 999 Silver coins depicting the characters of the Star Wars movies packaged in two unique four coin sets. The coins feature a full coloured image of your favourite character duos of Luke Skywalker / Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi / Yoda, R2-D2 / C-3PO, Han Solo / Chewbacca.

Millenium Falcon coin set

The second set of four coins feature the dark side including Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Death Star, and a Stormtrooper.

Darth Vader coin set

Each coin in the Star Wars set is struck from 1oz of pure silver. No more than 7,500 of each coin will be issued by the New Zealand Mint. The coins are legal tender of Niue Island.

The silver coin series will be packaged as two unique sets of four coins. One will be the Darth Vader head, and the other the Millennium Falcon ship, representing the dark side and the Rebel Alliance. Open the Darth Vader case and hear authentic movie sound effects of Darth Vader breathing. Open the Millennium Falcon case and hear authentic movie sound effects of the ship’s iconic “jump to light speed”.

Each Star Wars set comes with an individually numbered certificate of authenticity issued by New Zealand Mint


Star Wars, Empire and Jedi – Poster Art