Cast of Star Wars VII Announced!

star-wars-episode-7Happy (early) May the Fourth everyone! This year, I thought I’d get on this fandom anniversary early by passing on some franchise news that was just released from Lucasfilm and Disney regarding the upcoming relaunch of the Star Wars franchise. After months of speculation, the cast for the upcoming Star Wars movie has finally been announced! The news came this past week in a post on StarWars.com, where  companies spelt it out for all the fans who have been eagerly awaiting the news.

In addition to Mark Hamil, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher – who will receive top billing as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia – Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker will also be reprising their roles as Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. Also, the movie will star several notable actors in new roles, including acting great Max von Sydow (The Tudors, Minority Report, Snow Falling on Cedars, Judge Dredd, Needful Things).

starwarsAlso, Adam Driver (Girls, Lincoln), Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, Sucker Punch, Drive), Andy Serkis (who brought Gollum to life in LOTR and the Hobbit franchises), Domhnall Gleeson (who played Bill Weasely in the Harry Potter series), and British television stars John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were announced, though has is not yet been announced what characters they will be playing. But since the upcoming movie will be taking place 30 years after Return of the Jedi, it’s fair to assume that the focus will be on these characters rather than on the original cast.

In a photo release this past Tuesday (seen below), director JJ Abrams is seen having a roundtable discussion with the cast at Pinewood Studios in the UK. Note the body of R2-D2 which sits unboxed behind them, having no doubt just been brought out of storage. JJ Abrams, identified by his spiky hair and glasses, can be seen sitting to the left of R2, with Harrison Ford to his right, Carrie Fisher two seats down, and Mark Hamil seated opposite to the far left of the photo.

star-wars-episode-7-cast-announceWhen news of the cast was released, Abrams was quoted as saying:

We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.

This, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, and is slated for a December 18th, 2015, release. In addition to Abrams directing, he is also collaborating on the screenplay with Lawrence Kasdan, the man who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

star-wars-prequelsI think I speak for fans and geeks everywhere when I wish them all luck! Lord knows we could all use a really decent Star Wars sequel, especially when so many of us felt so utterly let down by the prequels! However, I think it is fair to say that Abrams and the rest should not be too concerned about what the fans and expect. If this latest installment is to be a success, it must not be overly aware of itself or its legacy. Such was part of what brought the prequels down in my estimation, and like everyone else, I just want to enjoy what comes next!

Good day and May the Fourth be with you all!

Source: starwars.com

“Zombie Story”

Zombie_StoryCame across this video crossover not too long ago, and I have to say I was impressed. Drawing parallels between AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Toy Story franchise, creator John Wray uses video clips to illustrate how these two franchises – which could not be more different in terms of target audiences – really aren’t that different.

Rzombie_story1anging from the main characters (Sheriff Woody vs. Sheriff Rick), to the boy’s they love (Andy vs. Carl), to the conflict over who’s their primary caregiver (Woody or Buzz vs. Rick or Shane), to the dangerous hordes they routinely face (little kids vs. Walkers), the benevolent leader who turns out to be a psycho (Lotso vs. The Governor), there really are a lot of similarities to be found.

Granted, none of this is to be taken seriously, but it is very well made, right down to similar events in the story and bits of footage. Who knew Disney and Robert Kirkman could be of similar minds? Then again, ol’ Walt is rumored to be frozen somewhere, a living dead entity awaiting the day when he can be thawed and begin walking the Earth again.

Enjoy the clip!

The Future is Here: Augmented Reality Storybooks

ar_storybookDisney has always been on the forefront of technological innovation whenever and wherever their animation is concerned. Augmented reality has been a part of their operations for quite some time, usually in the form of displays put on at Epcot Center or their Haunted Mansion. But now, they are bringing their efforts in AR to the kind of standard storybook that you would read to your children before bedtime.

Thanks to innovations provided by Nintendo DS, the PSP, tablets and smartphones, books have become alive and interactive in ways that were simply not possible ten or twenty years ago. However, one cannot deny that ebooks simply do not have the same kind of old world charm and magic that paperbacks do. Call it nostalgic appeal or tradition, but reading to a child from a bounded tome just seems somehow more meaningful to most people.

disneyhideout-640x353And that’s where Disney’s HideOut project comes into play, a mobile projector is used to create an augmented reality storybook. How it works is simple enough, and in a way, involves merging the best of electronic and paper media. Within the book, certain parts will be printed using special infrared-absorbing ink, so that sentences and images can be tracked.

The mobile projector, in turn, uses a built-in camera to sense the ink, then projects digital images onto the page’s surface that are animated to interact with the markers. In this way, it knows to show certain images when parts of the book call for them to be displayed, and can turn normal pictures into 3D animated segments.

disney_argameAnd storybooks aren’t the only application being investigated by Disney. In addition, they have been experimenting with game concepts, where a user would moves a mobile projector around a board, causing a character to avoid enemies. In another scenario, a characters projected onto a surface interacts with tangible objects placed around them. This would not be entertaining to a child, but could be educational as well.

The applications also extend to the world of work, as the demo below shows. in this case, HideOut projects a file system onto the top of a desk, allowing the user to choose folders by aiming the projector, not unlike how a person selects channels or options using a Wii remote by aiming it at a sensor bar. And the technology could even be used on smartphones and mobile devices, allowing people the ability to interact with their phone, Facetime, or Skype on larger surfaces.

disneyhideoutAnd of course, Disney is not the only company developing this kind of AR interactive technology, nor are they the first. Products like ColAR, an app that brings your coloring book images to life, and Eye of Judgment, an early PS3 game that accessed CCG cards and animated the characters on-screen, are already on the market. And while there does not appear to be a release date for Disney’s HideOut device just yet, its likely to be making the rounds within a few years tops.

For anyone familiar with the world of Augmented Reality and computing, this is likely to call to mind what Pranav Mistry demonstrated with his Sixth Sense technology, something which is being adopted by numerous developers for mobile computing. Since he first unveiled his concept back in 2009, the technology has been improving and the potential for commercial applications has been keeping pace.

In just a few years time, every storybook is likely to come equipped with its own projector. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it quickly becomes the norm to see people out on the streets interacting with images and worlds that only they can see. And those of us who are old enough will think back to a time when only crazy people did this!

In the meantime, check out this demo of the Disney’s HideOut device in action:


Source: extremetech.com

What Would Hyperspace Really Look Like?

hyperspaceRemember those iconic scenes in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon made the jump to hyperspace? Remember how cool it looked when the star field stretched out and then the ships blasted off? And of course, every episode of Star Trek was punctuated by a jump to warp, where once again, the background stars seemed to stretch out and then hurl on past the Enterprise.

Yes, for generations, this is how people envisioned Faster-Than-Light travel. Whether it consisted of rainbow-colored streaks shooting past, or a quick distortion followed by a long, blue tunnel of bright light, these perceptions have become a staple of science fiction. But one has to wonder… in a universe where FTL was really possible, would it really look anything like this?

hyperspace3Using Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, four students from the University of Leicester produced a paper in January of last year where they theorized what a jump to light-speed would really look like. Based on the theory that the speed of light is the absolute threshold at which elementary particles can move in this universe, the four students – Riley Connors, Katie Dexter, Joshua Argyle, and Cameron Scoular – claimed that a ship that can exceed c would have an interesting view.

In short, they claim that the crew wouldn’t see star lines stretching out past the ship during the jump to hyperspace, but would actually see a central disc of bright light. This is due to the Doppler effect, specifically the Doppler blue shift, that results in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, shortening as the source of the light moves towards the observer.

Hyperspace. Nuff said?
Hyperspace. Nuff said?

As the ship made the jump to hyperspace, the wavelength of the light from the stars would shift out of the visible spectrum into the X-ray range. Meanwhile, Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), which is thermal radiation that is spread fairly uniformly across the universe and is thought to be left over from the Big Bang, would shift into the visible spectrum, appearing to the crew as a central disc of bright light.

What’s more, even a ship like the Millennium Falcon would require additional energy to overcome the pressure exerted from the intense X-rays from stars that would push the ship back and cause it to slow down. The students say the pressure exerted on the ship would be comparable to that felt at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

red-shift-03However, if the ship in question took its time getting up to speeds in excess of the speed of light, there would be some interesting visual effects. Given how light and the color spectrum works, as a ship continued to speed up, the stars in front of the ship would experience blueshift (shifting towards the blue end of the spectrum), while those behind it would experience redshift (shifting towards the red end).

But the moment the threshold of light speed was passed, background radiation would be all that was left to see. And once that happened, the crew would experience some rather intense radiation exposure. As Connors put it:

If the Millennium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable. On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation.

And as Dexter suggested, referring to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm for a cool $4.05 billion: “Disney should take the physical implications of such high speed travel into account in their forthcoming films.” I won’t be holding my breath on that one. Somehow, star lines look so much cooler than a mottled, bright disc in the background, don’t you think?

Hyperspace_HomeOneSources: gizmag.com, le.ac.uk.com

Star Wars News!

Star-Wars-Luke-Skywalker-TatooineEver since Mark Hamil announced that he would be returning to the Star Wars universe, courtesy of Disney and Lucas’ multi-billion dollar payout, fans have been wondering exactly how the aging star could reprise a role that occurred over thirty years ago. Well as it happens, Hamil had his own thoughts on the subject, and shared them during a recent interview with Comingsoon.net.

In essence, he believes that the new stories will be focusing on the offspring of the original cast, rather than simply picking up where the old stories left off. This would put Luke in a senior role, making him the sort of mentor figure that Obi-Wan was to him:

I’m assuming, because I haven’t talked to the writers, that these movies would be about our offspring — like my character would be sort of in the Obi-Wan range [as] an influential character. … When I found out [while making the original trilogy] that ultimate good news/bad news joke – the good news is there’s a real attractive, hot girl in the universe; the bad news is she’s your sister – I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to wind up like Sir Alec [Guinness]. I’m going to be a lonely old hermit living out in some kind of desert igloo with a couple of robots.

RS_fightHe was also keen to give some pointers to Abrams, the director of the new trilogy. Of particular interest was the fact that he advised that the new director steer away from a rather controversial aspect of Lucas’ newer films, which many fans felt placed special effects above substance and elbow-grease.

I said to George that I wanted to go back to the way it was, in the sense that ours was much more carefree and lighthearted and humorous – in my opinion, anyway….hope they find the right balance of CGI with practical effects. I love props, I love models, miniatures, matte paintings — I’m sort of old school. I think if you go too far in the direction of CGI it winds up looking like just a giant a video game, and that’s unfortunate.

Sage advice. In Hamil’s day, the sets were made to look like Franz Oz and Jim Henson were in charge, not a million computer geeks saturating every single frame with digital effects while actors spoke to tennis balls suspended from strings.

But most important of all, Hamil was sure to let people know that he hopes and intends to have all of the original cast back for another swing. Rumors abounded after he signed on to the project that others might be as well, which he quashed. However, he did let people know that he hoped they would:

Another thing I’d want to make sure of is are we going to have the whole gang back? Is Carrie and Harrison and Billy Dee and Tony Daniels, everybody that’s around from the original [returning]? I want to make sure that everybody’s on board here, rather than just one.

RJ_leiaAnd as it turns out, he may get his way yet. In a more recent interview with Palm Beech Illustrated, Carrie Fisher announced that she will be joining her “brother” as part of the cast and reprising her role as Princess Leia. In the course of a little QandA with the magazine, she was quite direct about what her plans were with the new movies. And she was more than a little cheeky about what it might look like:

Disney is going to continue the Star Wars saga, producing movies set to hit theaters starting in 2015. Can you confirm whether you’ll reprise the role of Princess Leia?

Yes.

What do you think Princess Leia is like today?

Elderly. She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home [laughs]. I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.

And still wearing the bagel buns?

The bagel buns and the bikini, because probably she has sundowners syndrome. At sundown, she thinks that she’s 20-something. And she puts it on and gets institutionalized.

Solid enough for ya? So if I’m not mistaken, that just leaves and aging Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz and a few extras to wear the Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2 suits, assuming the originals have retired. How hard could that be? Disney’s at the helm, not Lucas, and they’re sure to pay through the nose to get the old nostalgic-cast factor going. So c’mon, people, you got something better to do?

Source: Blastr, IO9

Barely Political Tackles Star Wars VII!

star-wars-complete-cast-20042One of my favorite band of comedians and spoof artists – “Barely Political” – posted this video on their Youtube site recently. Perhaps best known for their song parodies performed by the band “The Key of Awesome”, they took a different path this time and decided to make some rather hilarious, satirical predictions of what the new Star Wars movie would look like.

Beginning with a shot at George Lucas, whom they portray as a bit of an overeating tyrant, they go on to predict what the original characters would look like in this day and age, take a few hosts at the prequel trilogy for its long, drawn out scenes of political intrigue and the stupid antics of Jar Jar, and top it all off with a little spoofing on how a Disney movie can’t go five minutes without incorporating a musical number.

Yeah, its all around fun watching! So enjoy and let’s hope the latest addition to the Star Wars saga steers well clear of all this 😉

More Star Wars News!

Star_WarsIt’s been confirmed. Contrary to what Abrams said earlier when asked about the likelihood of him directing Episode VII, it now seems that the director of Star Trek and creator of Alias, Lost, and Fringe will be attached to the project after all. The news came just yesterday in a statement issued by Disney Co., putting an end to days worth of rumors that Abram’s involvement might be in the bag.

Kathleen Kennedy, the movie’s producer and president of Lucasfilm, had this to say in the release:

“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie. J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”

Personally, I still think they should have gone with Joss Whedon, but what do I know? Pitching movies is none of my business!

george_lucas02Another person who expressed approval was George Lucas himself, who said in a statement “”I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.” And last, but not least, was the man J.J. himself, who expressed excitement about being able to work on a franchise he loved growing up:

“To be a part of the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor. I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid.”

In addition, Michael Arndt, the writer of Toy Story 3, is slated to write the script, and will be getting some help from some rather qualified sources. Simon Kinberg, the screenwriter from Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is one such person. The second, and undoubtedly most qualified, is Lawrence Kasdan, the man who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the original trilogy.

Between these four people and the multi-billion dollar check Disney shelled out for the rights to this movie, its apparent that they’re pulling out all the stops! All that remains is casting… who will be the next generation of Star Wars actors who will take us back to the “Galaxy Far, Far Away…”? Mark Hamil is certainly expected to make an appearance, but who else are we yearning to see? And most importantly, are big bucks and big names going to translate into big quality with his next movie?

Source: IO9.com, Huffingtonpost.com