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Chief Justice Michael Stailey's Blog
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300 DVD Release Party
On Friday, July 27, at the height of Comic-Con hysteria, Warner Home Video commandeered PetCo Park, the beautiful home of the San Diego Padres, to host their release party for Zack Snyder and Frank Miller's 300 on DVD. While I try to avoid the red carpet at all costs (if you've ever worked it, you'll know why), I was somehow shanghaied into working the press line alongside some of LA's finest photographers (see legit papparazzi). It was certainly an education and I was grateful for having been welcomed into their unique little enclave. I also snagged a few nice photos in the process.
We original thought there was only one of these models cum Spartans, but it turns out that the entrance to the party, taking place on the club level concourse of the park, was crawling with them. If the males of our rather out-of-shape pack weren't feeling intimidated enough by Mr. Pectoral Leather Thong, to be surrounded by an entire army made one feel testoterone-challenged... at the very least. Thankfully, the celebrity guests started arriving quickly, so we didn't have time to dwell on our shortcomings.
First up were director Zack Snyder and his wife Deborah, followed closely by Frank Miller.
Next to arrive were Astinos the headless (Tom Wisdom; the dude is 33 and looks like he's 17), followed by Hal Sparks and his girlfriend?! We still don't know why he was there, but everyone was asking ridiculous I Love The '80s questions and he was giving it back as good as he got it.
And then came the parade of cast and crew from recent DVD release... Babylon 5: The Lost Tales stars Bruce Boxlightner, Tracy Scoggins; and Believers director Daniel Myrick...
...The girls from Joel Silver's Return to the House on Haunted Hill...
...and Bladerunner's Joanna Cassidy and Sean Young, with veteran character actor Joel Turkel in the background.
We waited around for almost half an hour being told that David Arquette (Tripper) was on his way, but eventually gave up and went into the party. Many of you have been to major league ballparks and know exactly what to expect. Imagine walking into this park and finding a Spartan den of debauchery and inequity, complete with costumes from the film, harums, and dancing slave girls.
Oh yeah, and then these guys showed up. You may recognize the face of one, but the guy in the skeleton suit is the one who kept us waiting earlier in the evening...
All in all, it was a fascinating evening, if only to experience what life is like as a freelance photographer (those guys hustle their butts off), and partake of the 300 experience in such a unique location.
FLASH GORDON Set Visit
During the last week of June, we were invited up to Vancouver, British Columbia by SciFi Channel to tour the set of their new series, Flash Gordon and meet with the cast.
Located about 45 min outside the city, the studio is actually an old farm which they've converted over to a production facility. The barn houses all the main sets. The horse stables double for hair and makeup. The acres serves as versatile exteriors. Operating on a shoestring budget, the production team has been forced to get creative, and the results are remarkable. Looking at what the costume designers have come up with is just one example.
The set designers faced similar challenges and created swing pieces that could be used for multiple interior locations, depending on what the script called for.
But, as with most shows, it's the writing and what the cast is able to do with it that will detemine its ultimate success. We had an opportunity to talk with four of the series regulars -- Eric Johnson (Flash), Gina Holden (Dale), Karen Cliche (Baylin), and Jody Racicot (Zarkov) -- about their involvement and experience working on the show. When we arrived, they were in the midst of shooting episodes 6 and 7 of their 24 episode season.
Listen to the Q&A session (57:16)
For those who didn't make it down to Comic-Con this year, we also have access to the cast and crew's panel which took place on Sunday, August 26.
Watch their panel appearance (48:02)
For a sneak peek at the series, SciFi has provided us with a behind the scenes promo, as well as several clips from the pilot episode, which premieres August 10 at 9:00p ET /8:00p CT.
Reunion of Flash and Dale -- Flash's ex, Dale Arden, returns to town as a television reporter, rekindling their friendship. Only problem is, Dale has moved on with her life, her career, and her relationships, while Flash is living at home, working as a grease monkey, and running marathons in his free time.
Flash questions his mom about Dad's work -- The premise of the series is that Flash's father, a physics professor, died in fire 13 years before. But what they come to learn is that he was doing work off the books investigating a rift in the space-time continuum, one which opens directly onto the planet Mongo.
Flash and Dale meet Ming -- Here's the potential deal breaker for me. With legendary actors like and Max Von Sydow breathing life into Alex Raymond's Ming the Merciless, seeing John Ralston in the role is a major disappointment. Granted, this is all based on my own personal expectations for the character, but first impressions are important and he just doesn't seem to cut it.
"Return of a Hero" -- A behind the scenes look into the updated legend of FLASH GORDON: the cast, the characters, the stories, and even the return of the theme song by Queen.
For as much as I love the rich tapestry of the FLASH GORDON universe that has been woven over the years, I'm approaching this series with trepidation. I do give showrunner Peter Hume and his team the benefit of the doubt and hope that they can pull this off, adding yet another campy, costumed jewel into the crown of this scifi fantasy legend.
Day 2 and 3
It's been a crazy couple days here in San Diego, with very little time between sessions to blog. However, here's what is coming your way throughout the week...
* Transcribed interviews with the BLADERUNNER design team
Getting LOST with Season Four
In what was probably the most attended presentation of the day (and I got there an hour early), showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof overcame microphone problems to tease, tantilize, and taunt the assembled masses as what we can expect to see in Season Four, which doesn't premiere until February 2008. Employing what they referred to as "failsafe bells," each of them had the opportunity to ring the other out, if they begin to give away too much information. Of course, it quickly became a running gag throughout the hour.
The hour kicked off with a video preview of Lost: The Videogame from Canadian-based Ubisoft. The tagline is "Survive the island and find your way home." While still in rough form, it will give players the same type of show experience, complete with mystery, intrigue, flashbacks, and more. The animation is reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto and the character designs are very faithful to the cast. Funny thing is, they had yet to record the actor's voices, so every one of the overdubs had French Canadian accents. The game will hit store shelves in Februrary, just in time for the new season.
With that out of the way, the boys dove right into audience Q&A, prefacing the session with Damon saying that "fan brutality" has helped significantly shape the direction of the show. Carlton added that if some fan comment doesn't wake Damon in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, he's not happy.
Topics that came up in discussion...
How has the end date changed the show?
Damon: It's "incredibly liberating" giving them an opportunity to put into place all the key plot points that have long been mapped out, but put on hold while they tap danced around other issues. Both added that the new 16 episode season format gives them much needed time to do their best work. We really owe you guys thanks for this gift, because we can now start to put things in motion that will reward fans for coming along for the ride. And just so you know, the Kate/Jack flash-forward is not the end of the story.
What was the thought behind the increased violence in Season 3?
Carlton: It was a final summation of the storyline between the Losties and The Others.
How much control do the various writing teams have in shaping the overall story?
Carlton: It's really a collaborative writing process. The storylines are broken down into beats, but the 8 member writing team has the opportunity to fill in some of the details.
Surprise guest Harold Perrineau arrives on stage to thunderous applause. While his return to series regular status for Season Four was spoiled on Wednesday at the Television Critics Association presentation in Los Angeles, Damon and Carlton wanted to make it known that Michael's story is a signification piece of the puzzle in the series overall story. His is the most compelling of all the redemption stories, They wouldn't give any details as to how, when, or why Michael will be returning, but did promise it would happen sometime in the early part of the season... and be quite shocking.
Will we see more flash-forwards?
Will Jack and Claire learn they are brother and sister?
Damon and Carlton: No comment
Will we learn more about the Dharma Initiative?
Carlton: Yes, and sooner than you may think... like within the hour. (Hmm...)
Will ABC re-run Season 3 in anticipation of Season 4?
No, but Season 3 will be arrive on DVD, December 11.
In Season 2, was Ben caught in Russo's trap by accident or by design?
Carlton: By accident, but there's more to that story which will be revealed in Season 4
Will we be treated to another "Lost Experience"?
Not during this hiatus. Mobisodes are in development, but they just didn't have time to create worthwhile content between Seasons 3 and 4. This stuff needs to be in canon, and not throwaway, which require a great deal of thought and effort. The new schedule allows them time to create new off-network content, which we'll see after Season 4.
Will Richard's story be told this season?
Carlton: Nestor has a new series on CBS with Jimmy Smits, which might limit their ability to use him this season. Time will tell.
What questions aren't we asking you that we should be?
Carlton: Who's in the coffin? Who else besides Jack and Kate got off the island?
Will Libby's story ever be told?
Carlton: We intend to finish her story this season, and her ties to Dharma might surprise you.
Will we ever get a Russo flashback?
Damon: Her story will be told, but it may be spread out between this season and next. Other elements need to fall into place first.
Will the shooting schedule remain the same and the network just hold back episodes?
Carlton: No. We are only shooting 16 episodes a season. The added time will be used to create stories.
What is the monster really? We know it's name is Cerebus.
Carlton: Cerebus is one of its names.
Just before arriving in San Diego, Damon and Carlton received a package from Norway. Apparently this 8mm film was discovered in an abandoned building scheduled for demolition and the people who found it knew it had to get into the hands of the LOST producers. The film itself was horribly damaged. They restored as much as they could, but still don't know what it means.
Much like the other Dharma films found on the island, this raw footage features the mystery Asian-American man, here referred to as Dr. Edgar Hallowax. Much of it is raw behind-the-scenes footage for the creation of a training film for Station 6: The Orchid. This is not a bio-station, but something else entirely. In his arms is a large lop-eared rabbit with the number 15 painted on the side. However, during the first take, a duplicate of this rabbit appears out of thin air on a shelving unit behind him, knocking things to the floor. Everyone in the room panics as alarm bells sound and the camera is shut off. When they return, everything is reset and the training film begins once again, this time Hallowax is apologizing to the station employees for having to deceive their families, making reference to the "Cashmere Effect," at which point the film deteriorates and ends.
Speculation amongst those sitting around me centered on rips in the space-time continuum, where the same person/animal could exists in the same place at the same time, traveling from one time stream to the next. Could this explain John's statement in the Season 3 finale, "It's not supposed to happen like this." Could he have died at the hands of Ben and the John we saw return been from another time? How does this relate to Desmonds time altering abilities? Check out the various LOST fan sites for more speculation between now and February.
Karen Allen plays Shia's mom (Indy IV)
While waiting for the LOST panel to start, one of my neighbors in this huge ballroom said Paramount showed a clip of Karen Allen and Shia LeBeouf together from INDY IV. So, if there was any doubt as to who gave birth to Indy's son, the answer is Marion Ravenwood.
So much for "No time for love, Dr. Jones." :)
Since I was shut out of the Paramount presentation, I headed upstairs to cover the Hanna-Barbera presentation. Having long been a fan of the studio and many of their series, I was greatly looking forward to this look back into their history. Unfortunately, I think my expectations were a bit too high.
The panel consisted of veteran animator Tom Sito, author Mike Mallory (The Hanna-Barbera Cartoons), producers Spike Brandt & Tony Cervone (Tom and Jerry: The Nutcracker), former HB casting director Andrea Romano, and legendary voice actor Gary Owens (Space Ghost, Blue Falcon).
The presentation started off with a mini-doc Hanna-Barbera: From H to B, and like every other presentation I attended today had it's share of technical difficulties. The film was a loving look back at the house that Bill and Joe built with fond remembrances of colleagues, from Iwao Takamoto, Gordon Hunt, and more. Bill & Joe met at MGM, where they created Tom & Jerry for theatrical shorts. When that business started to dry up, they realized, between the two of them, they had the skills and talents to run their own animation studio. With the help of MGM producer/director George Sidney -- who fronted the cash and negotiated syndication with Screen Gems -- they were off and running. And when the other studios animation departments started to fade out, Bill & Joe brought in a wealth of talent and built HB into a powerhouse. In their hey day, HB was affectionately referred to as the General Motors of animations, with as many as 14 series in production at one time. Andrea noted, "We were recording anywhere between 2 and 5 episodes a day, 5 days a week!" To maintain this breakneck pace, Bill Hannah -- a model of efficiency, drawing on his engineering experience -- built a streamlined process from concept to final print, including simplified character designs with limited movement, model sheets for every character, reusable backgrounds, animator quoatas (100 ft of film per week), and much more. While some industry folks called it a sweat shop, the HB veterans say it was envigorating environment to work in and they wouldn't trade that experience for anything.
Bill & Joe were like a married couple, thriving off each other's energy, finishing each other's sentences, and finding a balance that made the company successful. Joe was the creative guy who could sell a series to the network with one drawing, acting out every sequence, and duplicating every voice. Many of your favorite series were likely brought to life by a series of gags Joe would come up with and his writing and animation team would tie together. Bill ran the business side. Once the series was sold, Bill went into action and would let nothing stop his team from delivering their project on time and on budget. It was a partnership unparalleled in Hollywood history.
This is pretty much where the value of the discussion ended for me. I guess I was expecting them to talk a bit more in depth about the creation of some of the more memorable series -- Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Johnny Quest -- but there wasn't enough knowledge or experience on the panel to do so.
Gary spoke of his memories working with people like Iwao and Mel Blanc. Andrea talked of the thrill she had working with Daws Butler. Spike and Tony previewed a clip of Tom & Jerry: The Nutcracker (coming to DVD Oct 2 from Warner Home Video) and told what a pleasure it was working with Joe on his final project (he passed away during production), and Tom told jokes. That was about it. Although, admit the new Tom & Jerry project looks beautiful in a very Fantasia-esque way.
We'll get more HB stories from Alex Toth's sons on Friday.
Star Trek: TOS on HD DVD
Just when everyone thought Paramount had done all they could with the Trek franchise on DVD (after all, everything has now been released), producers Ryan Adams, David Grant, Cory Watson, and Jason Hillhouse have given the series new life on HD. Going back to the original source negative, they're remastering every Season One episode and enhancing them with updated effects, in-movie experiences, and much more.
When the idea was first brought up, the initial outcry from fans and industry executives alike was "NOOOOOOO!!!! Don't touch it!" But once the knee jerk reaction subsided, the creative team went to work knowing they had a huge responsibility to be faithful to the series while allowing it to be seen the way it was always meant to be, if Gene Roddenberry's team has the time, budget, and technology to do so. Gene's son Rod, who was on the panel but not involved in the project, said his initial concerns were not wanting to Lucas-ize the series with "the Star Wars effect." Driven by Trek veterans Mike and Denise Okuda, the production team had many late night battles over what should and shouldn't be touched. In fact, one of the bonus features on the Season One set will be a documentary on what they did and why. Jason mentioned "the word Greedo came up a lot." It be easy to say let's go back and redo everything, but the original series has a distinct camp feel they didn't want to lose. The goal was not to change, but enhance. Jason, "It adds another level of realism without taking you out of it."
The promo clip they brought showcased many of the things they are most excited about...
While some of the new CG looks a bit cheesy (I'm just being honest), for the most part they have done an amazing job at upgrading this classic series. I watched these shows at many times throughout my life -- as a kid, in college, as an adult -- and this looks to provide a whole new level of enjoyment and rediscovery. Jason mentioned that no matter how many times he works on or watches these episodes, he always manages to see something new.
When asked what the producers felt has been the most satisfying episode thus far, to a person everyone said "The Menagerie." From the colors, to the added depth in the matte paintings, to the dome fly-in money shot, this will no doubt be the crown jewel of Season One. But you can judge for yourself when Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One arrives on HD DVD November 20 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Work on Season Two starts on Monday (July 30) and there are talks about giving Star Trek: The Next Generation the same treatment, but no decisions have been made yet.
The insanity of Comic-Con
I'll share the Star Trek HD presentation with you a moment, but I wanted to touch on something else first.
This place is nuts! Keep in mind, I'm no convention newbie. At the risk of revealing my inner dork, I attended the Chicago Comic-con from the time I was 16 or 17 years old. But San Diego... this is a whole different world. The sea of humanity one must traverse to get around is mind blowing. I talked to one event organizer who admitted that they out grew this venue last year. To accommodate the rapidly increasing attendance -- the entire weekend is apparently already sold out (and it's only Thursady) -- they need to move it to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, they can't do that until 2012.
It's now 1:35p and I'm seated against a wall off the main drag. I was planning to attend the Paramount presentation at 1:30p and left Star Trek early to get in line... a line that snakes 3 deep from inside to outside and back inside again. This is the biggest event hall they have and there is no possible way everyone here will be admitted. Some people camped out hours ago to ensure they would have a seat.
The reason for this lunacy?
1) JJ Abrams. Not only are they teasing Star Trek XI which has yet to shoot a single frame of principal photography, but the hope is he will clue folks into a bit more of what to expect from his next producing project, which has been code-named Cloverfield, whose trailer has generated more interest than anyone thought possible.
2) Indy IV. Here, they may have something to share. We've already seen stills of Harrison Ford back in the fedora, but the lure of seeing him in action is almost too much for some convention goers. Don't worry, if they do show it, some blogger will have it up on YouTube before the end of the day. Catch it before the lawyers do.
3) Iron Man. Having been with Jon Favreau in Vegas last week, they've already wrapped principal and begun editing. From the few stills I've seen, this looks amazing.
Unfortunately, there is no reserved seating for press, which I completely understand. But to forsake covering two other events for the possibility of getting into one is just not worth it for me. I'll strive to get you the most up-to-date information I can, but I'd rather go through our studio partners than fight this horde, many of whom will turn on crowd control when they find out the hall has reached capacity. I'm taking the stealth ploy. Wait until it starts and sneak in as people leave. I can't guarantee it'll work, but it's worth a shot. If not, I'll gladly provide links over to some of our colleagues who did manage to get in.
Hopefully, this will be one of the few events to suffer this kind of interest. I'm guessing the other will be the LOST: SEASON FOUR presentation tonight at 5p. I'll keep you posted.
Yours in futility,
Blade Runner, Twin Peaks, and more!
Just left the panel hosted by our colleagues over at The Digital Bits. Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan hosted a standing room only crowd for special guests producers Charlie de Lauzirika, Javier Soto, Robert Meyer Burnett, and director Michael Davis.
While many not recognize the name of Michael Davis, you may know his work from our reviews of 8 Days a Week or Monster Man. Michael is previewing his new film Shoot 'em Up here in San Diego tonight, starring Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, and Paul Giamatti. Since most of his work has been direct-to-video, he had to work hard to sell this concept to New Line, and did so by hand animating all 11 action sequences on his Mac. It obviously worked. Michael screened a montage of test shots in which he was shooting himself in his basement with a Lyesol bottle, complete with impressive blood splatters. Quite impressive and very funny. I think we're going to be seeing much more of this Zack Snyder school of hybrid filmmaking in the years to come.
Robert Burnett, on the other hand, was the bitter cynical one of the bunch. His claims that DVD has become a wasteland and bonus material creation "is dead" prefaced his move into the production arena. He's now working with Media Blasters (a favorite studio partner of ours) on the creation of The Hills Run Red. He brought a trailer with to show, but the audio wouldn't play, so they scrapped it and moved on. A problem that would become symptomatic of the entire presentation.
Javier Soto, who has been a longtime collaborator with director Guillermo Del Toro, is currently working on Hellboy 2, which he calls "Pan's Labyrinth + Hellboy on steroids" with lots of cool new villains. Following up on Robert's comments, Javier feels the DVD medium is far from dead and that producers simply need to reinvent the type of material they are adding to films on DVD. He's excited about creating original content, such as shorts and new sequences. For example, he's also working on a director's cut of The 4400's Season Four finale, which will only be available on DVD. Also on his plate is the Guillermo produced Spanish lanugage film The Orphanage and a special edition release of the only del Toro film never available on DVD. Hmm...
Charlie was the highlight of the panel, showcasing clips from Twin Peaks: The Complete Series which will include every episode, both pilots (US and European) and hours of vintage and new bonus material, including deleted scenes, interviews with cast and crew (many of whom have never been interviewed about the series before), a new making of documentary, a 30 min roundtable between David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, and Madchen Amick, and much much more. He showed two clips, one of the roundtable in which David waxed nostalgic about his kissing scene with Madchen, and a montage of folks talking about what they knew about Laura Palmer's killer, including Ray Wise (Leland Palmer) who stated "I just hoped it wasn't me!" :)
But the end-all, be-all of the presentation was Charlie's tease for the Bladerunner megaset releasing from Warner Home Video on December 18. Here are just some of the things you can look forward to on this 5-disc set, for which he scoured over 1000 boxes of original source material to create...
* Five versions of the film, all anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Surround
During the brief Q&A, the most interesting question asked of the boys from The Bits was which format they like best. The answer -- Blu-ray. It's the one the most studios are backing.
Aside form the technical glitches, the crowd seemed to enjoy the presentation. Nice work, guys! Perhaps next year, we will more seriously entertain the offer of presenting our own panel.
NEXT UP: Star Trek HD DVD presentation
Greetings from beautiful Shelter Island in San Diego, CA. This weekend we will be bringing you live coverage (both blog and audioblog) from the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con, which has outgrown its comic book fanboy origins and become a massive pop culture phenomenon. All of the major Holywood studios will be represented here this weekend, teasing audiences with sneak peeks at upcoming projects and pimping out cast and crew for panel discussions and interviews.
On the schedule for today...
A full slate of non-stop action from 10a-11p. And if I have any energy left, I'll be heading over to screening of CASSHERN: DIRECTOR'S CUT.
My goal is to blog these events as they occur, so stay tuned throughout the day for updates!
All the best,
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