Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Build Your Own Replicator?

Rapid prototyping and parts production in the comfort of your own home (or starship). “Rapid” being a totally subjective term, however. But, whether you’re conducting experiments with slime mold colonies, mixing CAD with fancy cake frosting, or maybe doing an epoxy prop replica, this is probably as close as you’re gonna get to having your own Replicator. It’s called “Fab@Home” and it’s an open source project that will run you around $2500 in parts (as opposed to the $100K for an industrial model). Too bad nobody is replicating the replicators with their replicator. . .yet.

Want a REAL Tricorder?

Ok, so it’s a bit more clunky than even TOS era tricorders, but maybe they’ll have this one scaled down a bit in 300 years: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070227104038.htm

Of course it’s not the first attempt to make a real Tricorder. A Canadian company made the TR-107, which offered even more Tricordery features, such as an EMF Meter, Light Meter, Weather Station, Color Analyzer, and just for good measure a “Stardate” clock/calendar function. I seem to recall reading somewhere, however, that the TR-107 is no longer in production - maybe you can find one in a dealer’s room at a Con though.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Answering the Call of Cthulu

I discovered H.P. Lovecraft when the 1985 “Re-Animator” film came out on home video, followed the next year by “From Beyond.” Sure, they were low-budget films with bad acting and crappy effects - but I’ve been a longtime fan of “Doctor Who” and one thing that show taught me is this: you can forgive just about anything about the production quality so long as you’ve got a great story. I’m amazed at how pervasive Lovecraft’s ideas are in the modern horror-fantasy genre - yet his actual stories tend to be made into lackluster films. That’s probably because he wrote more about ideas than people. Heck, some of his characters don’t even get names!

I heard someone say a long time ago that his “masterpiece” work, the “Call of Cthulu,” was never going to be properly adapted to film. First of all it jumps all over the world and through time, so there’s the production cost issues of just getting the scenery right. The other problem is, well, it’s an H.P. Lovecraft story. Film makers and goers tend to like “character” stories, and Cthulu really isn’t one. So they stick a bunch of human-interest sub-plots onto Lovecraft’s story and Viola! You’ve turned it to crap and missed the nihilistic point of Lovecraft.

So I recently heard of a silent film adaptation of “Call of Cthulu” that I’m now quite interested in seeing. Granted, I’ve probably seen more silent films than your average film goer, thanks in part to my Film Studies courses in college, a friend who was majoring in Cinema, and the fact that I had rented pretty much every “talkie” at my local video store, and when I first got broadband I found a number of places online where I could watch all the old public-domain movies I wanted. I have to say, too, that Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” is still among, not just my favorite silent films, but all-time favorite films. I’m not a purist about it though, I also like the Georgio Moroder version with the rock soundtrack. I’m all for anything that makes classics more attractive and accessible to a modern audience, lest they otherwise become forgotten entirely.

Well, it appears that “silent films” haven’t been forgotten. WIRED recently did a piece on the resurgence in production of silent films as a challenging sub-genre of film production. I also recently saw a silent sci-fi film made by Iowa college students that aired on my local cable access channel. Normally I don’t stop on cable access, but when you see a b&w film without any dialogue featuring a woman with a ray gun shooting at some kind of evil probe - well, I don’t know about you, but I just HAVE to see how that turns out! Unfortunately I never did find out what that project was called since I caught it after the opening credits. Well, back to the H.P. Lovecraft thing, a group in Chicago has now adapted “Call of Cthulu” to the silent film genre. I’ve only seen the trailer, but it looks like they got the feel of a 1920’s era silent movie down pretty well, and the film-makers claim that they were able to stay more true to Lovecraft’s story by not having to deal with character dialogue.

If you’d like to check it out, info and the trailer are on the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society web site.

On a related note, I was sad to see that Cthulu Coffee is closing up shop. I remember them at CONvergence 2003. You can still download PDF files of their MANY convention posters with clever slogans, as well as buy Cthulu logo goodies from their cafe press shop. Perhaps they’ll find someone who also loves Lovecraft and worships the “bean of darkness” to continue it?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shorting "Hobbit"

I have to say I’m not surprised that New Line Cinema uses questionable accounting practices to make sure their films aren’t profitable - thereby screwing the actual CREATIVE people involved in those films out of money. Peter Jackson made a series of films that are clearly cinema masterpieces, and they obviously made a pile of money bigger than Orodruin. Of course, studios screwing talent out of money is “business as usual” in the entertainment industry, as is gutting the creative integrity of projects. I mean, yeah, there’s a reason George Lucas prefers to work outside of the studio system. So Peter Jackson sues New Line, New Line’s Robert Shaye rips on Jackson as being too difficult to work with, Jackson bails on the “Hobbit” project, and Shaye is unapologetic.
So the “Hobbit” movie, which I’m sure would have been done brilliantly by Jackson, now is up in the air. Then I saw this today on SCI-FI Wire:

“Shaye also declined to comment on reports that Spider-Man director Sam Raimi has been asked to direct The Hobbit. He said, however, that although there was no workable script yet for the film, he intended to release it in 2009.”

Ok, so Sam Rami would probably do justice to the material - he hasn’t steered us wrong with Spiderman (yet). Though I’m sure Rami’s take on the story would be quite different from Jacksons, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be bad. No, it’s the second part of that quote that makes me expect the “Hobbit” is going to suck - they have no workable script, yet it’s slated for a 2009 release?!? Um, you mean to say that this project, which is already a book, has already been made into an animated film, and most likely has a bunch of script-adaptations floating around Hollywood, doesn’t have a “workable” script yet? I find that hard to believe, but if true it means this film is going to a rush-job and probably LOOK like it was slapped together by a money-grubbing studio with no more interest in the story than how much money they can squeeze from Tolkien fans, who they know will go see it no matter how bad it is.
As long as they keep Joel Shumacher, Micheal Bay, and Barry Sonnenfeld away from it! Think Rami thoughts. Think Rami thoughts. Go to your happy place.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Get Your Trek Fix!

Ok, so maybe not everyone can watch the DS9/TNG/Voyager re-runs on SpikeTV or catch the Enterprise re-runs on Sci-Fi Channel. Maybe not everyone can wait for the next Trek movie or DVD box set release. Well, if you’ve got a broadband connection you’re in luck! Just because Paramount doesn’t think we need any new Trek series doesn’t mean fans had to accept that line of reasoning (since it was “highly illogical, Captain”). It has come to my attention there are some Star Trek fans out there who have heard of all the buzz regarding Star Wars fan films, but were unaware of the fan films (and ongoing SERIES) set in the Trek Universe. So, regarding this blog post as a public service, here is a list of the ones I know of (these are the “serious” ones, not parodies):

USS Justice “Tales of the Seventh Fleet”

Live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. I haven’t actually watched any of these yet, but the uniforms indicate it is set in the “Wrath of Khan” era or later.

Starship Exeter
Live action shot on sets and locations. I think this one really captures the look and feel of TOS. Only one completed episode so far, though.

Star Trek: Hidden Frontiers

Live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Set in the ST:TNG/DS9/Voyager Era. There are SEVEN SEASONS of episodes to keep you busy for a while. They've finally decided to wrap up the series as well, so you might want to go watch them while they still have a web site!

Star Trek: New Voyages

Shot on sets and locations. Not just set in the TOS era, it is intended to be the “next season” of TOS - with fan actors playing Kirk, Spock, et al. Personally I think “Exeter” is doing a much better job because “New Voyages” tries to cram too much into the episodes, detracting from the story.

Starship Farragut

Shot on sets and locations. TOS Era. They’ve only got 2 episodes done, which I haven’t watched yet.

Star Trek: Dark Armada

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Set around 2380 (TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era), I’ve only seen the trailer.

Star Trek: Horizon

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Another one set around 2380 (TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era). They’re doing a mini-series of 45 minute episodes they hope to have done sometime this year.

Star Trek: Excalibur

Set in the TOS era it is live action shot on sets and locations, or at least it will be. These poor folks apparently had a landlord who destroyed their sets and now they’re in a legal battle over it. Now you know why so many fan films use chroma-key and CGI sets!

Star Trek: The Legacy

live action shot on sets and locations. TOS & TNG Eras. You may have seen Denise Crosby visit them in “Trekkies 2?

Star Trek Aurora

computer animated film about merchant ships. Set in 2270 (between TOS & TMP)

Borg War

Machinima animated (view it @ http://www.machinima.com/films.php?series=Borg%20War ). I haven’t watched all of it yet. I’m not a big fan of “machinima” animation.

USS Intrepid

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era. I’ve only watched their trailer so far.

Star Trek Pioneers

TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era (circa 2380). Audio Drama

Star Trek: Section 31

TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era (circa 2380). Audio Drama

Star Trek Unity

Still in production, but based on their teaser trailer I think it’s set between ENT & TOS
Their site indicates they’re planning Audio and Video episodes.

And if you like “Star Trek: The Animated Series” you might also enjoy:http://startrekanimated.com/tas_comic_main.html

Okay, so it’s not particularly animated (it’s a web comic), but hey! It’s MORE Trek, right?