Let the Haunts Commence & Droids in the Hood: CFQ’s Black Hole Ultra-Lounge 2:38.2

La Llarona swallows a victim at Halloween Horror Nights.

Following their discussion of DREAM HOUSE, Steve Biodrowski and Dan Persons took a few minutes to discuss this year’s Halloween haunt at the Universal Studios theme park and the upcoming, STAR WARS-themed photo book, Dark Lens. Also, Dan sends a personal greeting to one of our far-flung listeners.


Star Wars Re-Re-Redux & The Infectious World of Biothrillers: CFQ's Black Hole Ultra-Lounge 2:35.2

After discussing the goods & bads of Steven Soderbergh’s CONTAGION, Lawrence French and Dan Persons take a few minutes to debate George Lucas’ motivations for constantly revising his STAR WARS saga and continue to explore CONTAGION’s place in the highly virulent universe of biothriller films. Click the player to hear the conversation.


La-La Land: 'Yesterday Was A Lie' CD

DVD Cover
DVD Cover

LA-LA LAND Records sent us the following about the sountrack CD for the independent sci-fi/psychological (literally) Noir thriller YESTERDAY WAS A LIE.
Songs are performed by Chase Masterson (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE).

Music by Kristopher Carter
With Songs Performed by Chase Masterson
Limited Edition of 1000 Units
ORDER “YESTERDAY WAS A LIE: LIMITED EDITION” FEB. 15th at www.lalalandrecords.com and get your CD autographed by composer Kristopher Carter, writer/director James Kerwin and star Chase Masterson. Autographs are while supplies last and are not guaranteed.
Presenting the original soundtrack to the acclaimed motion picture YESTERDAY WAS A LIE, starring Kipleigh Brown, Chase Masterson, John Newton, Mik Scriba and Peter Mayhew, written and directed by James Kerwin. Composer Kristopher Carter is renowned for his work with his Dynamic Music Partners team, who together composed the scores to the BEN 10 TV SERIES, BATMAN BEYOND, BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD, YOUNG JUSTICE, and TEEN TITANS among others.
Here, Carter fashions a sumptuously dark musical atmosphere for this inventive noir, perfectly complementing the film’s unique cocktail of intrigue, thrills, and earth-shattering cosmological secrets.
Cast member Chase Masterson brings heat to the spellbinding sonic mix with scorching vocal performances on the title song, as well as “He Won’t Forget You.” Also featured is “City Talks,” performed by Simon Shapiro. Produced by Kristopher Carter and James Kerwin, and mastered by James Nelson, this limited edition release features liner notes comments from writer/director James Kerwin.
1. Dream Time (5:08)
2. Nice Set (3:12)
3. Half-Deserted Streets (1:22)
4. Cat State (0:59)
5. Trauma Creates Ripples (3:22)
6. Yesterday Was a Lie (2:16)
Performed by Chase Masterson
7. Achromatopsia (2:43)
8. Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068: II. Air (1:42)
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
9. Backdoor Research (1:33)
10. 6.626 x 10^-34 (3:56)
11. Ajna (1:51)
12. Fenestra Aeternitatis (2:24)
13. Synchronicity (1:32)
14. Aker (5:09)
15. Distillation (4:12)
16. Getting a Message Through (2:04)
17. Why Do You Keep Coming Back Here? (3:25)
18. Where Do You Start? (4:36)
Performed by Chase Masterson
19. He Won’t Forget You (4:35)
Performed by Chase Masterson, featuring  Simon Shapiro
20. Anima in an Elevator (2:28)
Bonus Tracks
21. Can You Help Me? (1:31)
(deleted segment from “Aker” – not included in motion picture)
22. City Talks (4:21)
Performed by Simon Shapiro
Total Time (65:22)
“FEBRUARY $19.98 ACTION SALE!!!” Close out February with a bang! These 2CD-SET limited edition titles are only $19.98 each at www.lalalandrecords.com : INDEPENDENCE DAY, ALIEN RESURRECTION and THE FLASH.
Sale price starts 2/15/11 at 1pm (PST) and is good thru 2/28/11. Only at www.lalalandrecords.com

Irvin Kershner, R.I.P.

irvin_kershner_YodaIrvin Kershner, director of perhaps the best of the STAR WARS films, passed away last Friday, November 27th, 2010. He was 87.

Kershner began as a documentary filmmaker, first for the U.S. government, then for the TV series CONFIDENTIAL FILE.  In 1958, he made his feature film debut with STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET, a crime thriller he co-wrote with Andrew J. Fenady, backed by Roger Corman. Produced on a low budget,  it was sold for a nice profit to Warner Brothers for distribution.
With Fenaday as producer, Irvin Kershner would shoot multiple episodes of the Nick Adams starring Western THE REBEL.
Equally adept at drama and comedy, Kershner would direct films such as 1966’s A FINE MADNESS (starring Sean Connery), THE FLIM-FLAM MAN, and the Barbara Striesand starring UP THE SANDBOX (1972), which featured surreal fantasy sequences.
In 1978, Irvin Kershner directed the ESP/Horror thriller  THE EYES OF LAURA MARS, based on a screenplay by John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN).
George Lucas, who was a student of Kershner’s when he taught at the University of Southern California, chose him to direct the second STAR WARS film, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Irvin Kershner was able to give the film both a sense of continuity with the previous installment and a darker, more sophisticated visual touch. 
NeverSayNeverAgainKershner was reunited with star Sean Connery again on the non-series James Bond film NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983, an updated remake of THUNDERBALL.
In 1990 he directed ROBOCOP 2, an action-packed sequel to the original, quite competent but not as satisfying as the first in the series.
After directing an episode of SEAQUEST DSV (aka SEAQUEST 2032) in 1993, he retired from the film business.
Picking up the nickname “Kersh” during EMPIRE, Irvin Kershner was apparently a well-liked man among his fellow filmmakers, and certainly a memorable director for genre fans.

'Star Wars' Saga to go 3-D

StarWars_HildebrantWe all knew it was coming. George Lucas has mentioned the idea a number of time over the years.
Now, StarWars.com is carrying the story that the STAR WARS films are being digitally converted to 3-D, begining with THE PHANTOM MENACE. 
John Knoll will supervise the project with Industrial Light & Magic.
Knoll said “Getting good results on a stereo conversion is a matter of taking the time and getting it right. It takes a critical and artistic eye along with an incredible attention to detail to be successful. It is not something that you can rush if you want to expect good results. For STAR WARS, we will take our time, applying everything we know both aesthetically and technically to bring audiences a fantastic new Star Wars experience.”
STAR WARS: Episode I – THE PHANTOM MENACE  is expected to be released theatrically in 2012.
As mentioned above, George Lucas has been interested in the conversion process for some time, and it would appear that he thinks the technology is mataure enough to suit his standards.
I’m actually glad they’re starting with the “prequel” trilogy, as that gives them plenty of time for trial and error before getting to the original trilogy.
An interview with John Knoll can be found HERE

Mark Hamill Never Shot the "Jedi" Lightsaber Deleted Scene

STAR WARS fans were delighted over the weekend when George Lucas took the stage at STAR WARS Celebration V to reveal a deleted scene from RETURN OF THE JEDI that will appear on the Blu-Ray release of the saga sometime in 2011. (Check it out here if you missed it!)
The scene shows Darth Vader attempting to communicate telepathically with Luke Skywalker while Luke builds his iconic green lightsaber. But an interview with Mark Hamill at last year’s San Diego Comic Con indicates that it may have been a stand-in who portrayed Luke in this lost scene.
What do the fans think? Does that take the shine off of this uncovered gem?

Deleted 'Return of the Jedi' Scene, From Blu-ray

This clip, cut from RETURN OF THE JEDI, shows Darth Vader calling telepathically to Luke Skywalker, and reveals the new Jedi completing work of his new lightsaber.
Shown at the STAR WARS Celebration V in Florida, it will be included in upcoming the RETURN OF THE JEDI Blue-Ray release.
Enjoy it while it’s up.

Gary Kurtz on Star Wars

Gary_KurtzDid STAR WARS take a very different path than it might have, primarily because of  merchandising concerns? Producer Gary Kurtz says that is indeed the case, confirming (or re-confirming) many fan’s suspicions.
This year  is the 30th anniversary of  THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and Kurtz will be a guest at the LucasFilm sponsored  STAR WARS Celebration V in Orlando, Florida this weekend. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the effective end of his personal involvement with the fantastically successful film series. 
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Gary Kurtz — who was the producer of the original STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. said he eventually left the franchise because: “I could see where things were headed.”

“The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.
The first film and EMPIRE were about story and character, but I could see that George’s priorities were changing… The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse.  If it wasn’t for that, the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder all the time.”

Check out the link above forthe rest of the interview, including details of how RETURN OF THE JEDI might have been a very different film in tone, and what had been initially planned as the ultimate fates of the main characters.

'Star Wars' TV Series On Hold

StarWarsTVMaking it’s way just now across the internet are remarks from George Lucas from May, indicating that his proposed STAR WARS TV series is on indefinite stand-by.

“The live action TV show is kind of on hold because we have scripts, but we don’t know how to do ’em. Because, they literally are STAR WARS, only we’re going to have to try to do them…a tenth the cost. And, it’s a huge challenge…lot bigger than what we thought it was gonna be.”

The statement was made to a select group of viewers at a 30th Anniversary screening of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK held at Chicago’s Field Museum.
As I recall, back when the series was first announced, George Lucas and Co. said they planned to shoot the series using mostly off-the-shelf high end “prosumer” 24P video cameras, equipment, and software. One must imagine that Lucas has backed away from that idea, appealing as it might be to his indie-filmmaker sensiblities.
Lucas also said at the function that he wasn’t going to make a a seventh STAR WARS live action film, suggesting that the questioner watch the GGI CLONE WARS.
See Rebelscum.com for the original item.

Sense of Wonder: Was Hollywood ruined by Star Wars and Jaws?

Star Wars (1977)

A couple days ago, R. Patrick Alberty weighed in on the subject of whether JAWS (1975) ruined the modern Hollywood blockbuster. The inspiration for Alberty’s piece was this editorial by Ross Douthat, defending JAWS and STAR WARS against charges made by John Podhoretz and David Edelstein. I wanted to weigh in on the subject, not to cast my vote for who is right or wrong but to “take the bull by the horns” – in the old fashioned sense that logicians use to mean navigating a narrow course between two opposing options. In my view, debating about whether STAR WARS and JAWS should be faulted for the current state of the cinematic arts assumes there is something to be faulted for – an assumption I take issue with.
First off, I can see both sides of the argument: You may like STAR WARS and JAWS but still believe that their influence on Hollywood was a net negative; on the other hand, why hold films from the 1970s responsible for the current state of cinema? My objection is that, whatever their disagreements, all sides in the blockbuster debate accept the underlying premise that there is something seriously wrong with today’s movies. Podhoretz, who comes across like a bitter old man, laments the lack of “seriousness of purpose…and adult themes” in current Hollywood fare. Edelstein, who comes across equally old and equally bitter, fondly recalls an earlier era of films like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, EASY RIDER, and BANANAS. Ross, who is not old and is only slightly bitter, merely opines that “blockbusters were arguably better in the 1980s, and they’re arguably worse now.” Even Alberty, the youngest and in no way bitter member of the debate, cites a move “away from the basic foundations of good storytelling” and a “lowering of quality.”
More or less, everyone agrees: “Today’s Hollywood movies – or at least big-budget summer tent-pole movies – really suck.” The only disagreement is about how much they suck, exactly when they started sucking, and who is to blame for the suckage. For me, this is the old Golden Age Theory rearing its ugly head once again: once upon a time, things were great, and now they’re not. After sitting through something like JONAH HEX, I can certainly understand why some would think we’re living in the cinematic equivalent of the Dark Ages, but as someone who was old enough to see it first hand, I can tell you that the earlier “Golden Age” was not that golden.
Basically, franchise film-making has been around since the silent era. Long before almost every sequel had a number after its title, there were countless movies about Ma and Pa Kettel and Francis the Talking mule – not to mention durable characters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and James Bond. Not only that: big-budget blockbusters have been with us forever, and not all of them turned out as successfully as GONE WITH THE WIND. (CLEOPATRA, anyone?) In short, just about every complaint you could make about today’s Hollywood (recycling, overspending, glitz over substance) could have been – and has been lodged – for decades.
So, am I saying that nothing has changed since JAWS and STARS hit big in the 1970s? Of course not. Release patterns, as Podhoretz rightly points out, have changed from the days when Hollywood opened its movies in exclusive engagements and gradually rolled them out over the rest of the country. But I suspect this change would have occurred whether or not Universal had struck gold by debuting JAWS in wide release (on 400 screens – miniscule by today’s standards). The reality of home entertainment options like DVD and VOD have pretty much seen to that.
I think what really has Podhoretz and Edelstein riled is not so much bigger budgets and wider release patterns; it’s that genre films, once relegated to the low-budget ghetto, now receive prestige treatment. Once upon a time, a critic at a major outlet could ignore horror, fantasy, and science fiction films; they would be handed off to a second-stringer, if they were reviewed at all. But when IRON MAN 2 opens in thousands of theatres, there’s a certain obligation to assess its merits, for good or bad.
What’s funny about this is that JAWS and STAR WARS do not represent Hollywood’s first love with genre subject matter elevated to big-budget status. Back in the early ’70s, when young directors and writers were implementing the lessons learned in film school and trying to make artistic statements, William Friedkin was winning Oscars for THE FRENCH CONNECTION – a gritty police shoot-em up that became 1971’s Best Film of the Year. Unlike a filmmaker of today, who would probably feel some kind of obligation to justify that success by following up with some kind of serious “message movie,” Friedkin instead brought us a film version of THE EXORCIST, a big-budget horror movie, which also minted box office gold and earned multiple Oscar nominations.
In a sense, Steven Spielberg (with JAWS) and George Lucas with (STAR WARS) were following in Friedkin’s footsteps: taking genre material and giving it the lavish Hollywood treatment, with all the craftsmanship and artistry of a prestige production. I suspect this is the real crime in the eyes of critics like Podhoretz and Edelstein – critics who believe that art isn’t worth examining unless it comes wrapped in a blanket of heavy-duty seriositude, who believe that conventional, down-to-earth subject matter is somehow inherently superior to the amazing flights of imagination that can be achieved in the realm of cinefantastique. In short, critics who have allowed their Sense of Wonder to atrophy.
Seen from this perspective, I don’t think Ross Douthat is much of an improvement. Sure, he is not ready to pin blame on STAR WARS and JAWS for the current blockbusters that he dislikes (who can argue when he cites TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN and PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN: AT WORLD’S END?). But still, like Edlestein and Podhoretz, he yearns for a return to a Golden Age; the only difference is that for Douthat the Golden Age is not the ’60s and ’70s but the ’80s.
For myself I would argue that our current era, despite its obvious lapses, need make no apology to the Hollywood of the past. Last year’s STAR TREK movie was as much fun as STAR WARS. The first IRON MAN was as good a movie as SUPERMAN (1978). AVATAR may not be perfect, but it pushes the envelope on film technology and uses that technology in a genuine effort to tell a story with some kind of thematic resonance, however heavy handed. Everyone seems to agree that Pixar’s animation blockbusters, like the current TOY STORY 3, deserve the millions of dollars they make.
Lastly, Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) belies every argument one could make against the Hollywood blockbuster. It fits the formula we are supposed to hate (a talented filmmaker wasting his time on a summer studio franchise flick based on an old comic book), yet it emerges not only as a great piece of summer entertainment; it is also a complex, dark, and thoughtful meditation on themes as profound as any you will see in a “serious” drama (which I explored earlier here).
Yes, STAR WARS and JAWS taught Hollywood that they could make a galaxy full of money during the summer months, and many bad movies have been made trying to replicate that success. But the silver lining to this allegedly dark cloud is that horror, fantasy, and science fiction films are no longer trapped in the low-budget ghetto, and some amazing, truly wonderful films have been made as a result.