Friday, September 13, 2013

Lightsaber Rattling is moving: Please Update your Bookmarks

Lightsaber Rattling is getting a makeover.  Transitioning from Blogger to Wordpress over the coming weeks.  I will be leaving a redirect in place on the old blogger site (, but please bookmark and visit that URL going forward.

Thanks for reading and spread the word of Lightsaber Rattling's new look.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Black Angel Coming to Mill Valley Film Festival 36

The California Film Institute is holding it's annual Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) October 3-13, 2013. The event will feature some interesting Star Wars and Star Wars related content.

On October 7th their will be a special 30th anniversary screening of Return of the Jedi.  The pre-show events for this screening will begin at 5:30 pm while the screening itself will start at 6:30 pm.  Tickets are on sale now and priced very reasonably at $14.50 for adults, $13.50 for members and $10 for children 12 and under.  If you do attend any screenings at this festival ensure that you arrive 15 minutes early to secure your seat.

Cosplay is encouraged by the festival for this screening at it will feature prizes and giveaways as well as special guests for a question and answer session.

This will likely be very much like Entertainment Weekly's CapeTown film festival 30th anniversary screening which took place at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre on May 4th of this year.  As an attendee of the CapeTown screening, I can say that it was a lot of fun to see Return of the Jedi on the big screen and being there with hardcore Star Wars and film fans was a tremendous amount of fun.

On October 13th on the final day of the festival, there will be a screening as part of the 5 @ 5 Shorts section, of Black Angel and some festival favorites. This screening will begin at 8 pm and run 90 minutes.

Black Angel is a 22 minute short film written and directed by Roger Christian, a set decorator on A New Hope and Second Unit Director on The Phantom Menace. The short film was funded by George Lucas and packaged with the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back in it's foreign release in the United Kingdom, Australia and Scandinavia.

An August 12, 1997 profile of Christian on during the production of The Phantom Menace gives a bit of the back story on his career and how Black Angel fits into it.
It was his experience on the original Star Wars and his growing love for film that led to Christian's career change. "After Star Wars I art-directed the first Alien film, then I wrote a short film and went back to film school," he says. British theaters then almost always showed short films along with features and Lucas wanted something that would go well with The Empire Strikes Back. By chance Christian met a Fox Film executive and told him of his un-produced script for a medieval fantasy, The Black Angel, which was too expensive to do in film school. Lucas read the script, okayed it and Fox gave the money for it to be made. "And that's what kicked me off," Christian says.
One of the interesting things about Black Angel, which I haven't seen but would love to is that it was never released in any home video format and it was believed lost until a copy of the film was found in 2011 by a Universal Studios archivist. A digitally restored and remastered version of the film will be screened at the festival.

Sources: Arstechnica,, backup link) and Wikipedia

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Announcement: Rebels Report: The Star Wars Rebels Podcast: The Official Podcast of and

Temporary Artwork

I am happy to announce that I (Pete) will be starting and co-hosting my first podcast.  My co-host will be none other than Andy (@CanadianFanboy) one of the talents behind the @R2in22 Podcast, a great guy and great Star Wars fan.

The show will premiere before Rebels airs and leading up to Rebels' premiere we will feature news coverage and hopefully some interesting interviews.  Once Rebels premiers in the Fall of 2014 the show will feature news, interviews and a review of each weeks episode.

I hope you enjoy the show once we get it up and running and I look forward to hearing from you.

Follow us on:

Thank You A.C. Crispin

Author Ann (A.C.) Crispin recently announced over her Facebook page that she was nearing the end of a long battle with cancer. Cancer takes far to many people far to young and while the loss of a great author is sad the loss of the person that is the author is so much more significant. I don't know Ann personally but I have loved her writing. 

Fans may be familiar with her work in the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises or through her own original fiction. Her Star Wars work includes The Han Solo Trilogy as well as a pair of short stories in the "Tales from" series of short story collections.

I could say a lot about Crispin's writing, she gave Star Wars fans a great gift in her crafting of a back story for Han Solo, but I think the strongest praise I can give her is that in crafting the character of Bria Tharen she created a love interest for Han Solo that even rivaled Princess Leia.  As readers of The Han Solo Trilogy we all knew Han and Bria could not last, but I didn't want the trilogy to end because I didn't want that flame extinguished.

Thank You Ann.

Please visit A.C. Crispin's website to learn more about her works. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: The Companions (The Sundering Book 1) by R.A. Salvatore

In R. A. Salvatore's latest novel The Companions, he once again returns to the world of Dungeons & Dragons' Forgotten Realms. This latest story launches a new event called "The Sundering" which spans not only the fictional universe told in the novel but also across the Dungeons & Dragons games.  

Wizards of the Coast Description of The Sundering:
What is the Sundering?
The Sundering will reshape the Forgotten Realms, involving the whole pantheon of gods, many nations, countless individuals, and the fabric of the cosmos itself. Powerful forces both mortal and divine are set in motion, and will bring an end to the Era of Upheaval. Over the course of this huge story event, players will have the opportunity to help shape the future of Faerûn and make their story legend. 
Discover the ways you can experience the Sundering, including through tabletop roleplaying game adventures, store-based play programs, novels, accessories, and the first free-to-play D&D mobile game. 
The end of the Era of Upheaval is nigh!
The world of the Forgotten Realms has endured one catastrophe after another for the past century or so, from the Time of Troubles through the Spellplague. Time after time, upheaval has reshaped the pantheon, overthrown nations and rulers, and even altered the geography of the world. Now, the world is being shaken and reshaped once again—for the last time. 
The gods are thrown into chaos at the promise of a new reckoning of the pantheon, and they scramble and grasp at power in hopes of cementing their positions of authority. Their mortal agents in the world, the Chosen, are charged with carrying out their will in every aspect of life.
The Spellplague, the magical catastrophe that reshaped the world so dramatically, has come to an end. The Weave of magic is rewoven, and many lingering effects of twisted magic fade. The intermingling of worlds brought about by the Spellplague also comes to an end, as what belongs to Abeir returns to Abeir, leaving the Forgotten Realms looking much as it did before. 
Partly driven by the activity of the gods’ Chosen and partly arising from the turbulent political situation at the end of the Era of Upheaval, the nations and factions of Faerûn engage in their own maneuvers, manipulations, and acts of aggression. In particular, the empire of Netheril attempts to conquer the Dalelands, Cormyr, and Myth Drannor, setting off a war that engulfs the eastern Heartlands. The Harpers and the Zhentarim respond to the growing threats in the world by regrouping and refocusing their energies, slowly returning to their former prominence. 
Nations, geography, magic, and even the gods are changing forever, in the birth-pangs that herald a new creation. The world needs heroes to ensure that the new age dawns bright and full of hope, where good still shines as a beacon against the darkness. 
The Sundering series is a six book event, in order they are The Companions, by R.A. Salvatore, The Godborn, by Paul S. Kemp, The Adversary, by Erin M. Evans, The Reaver, by Richard Lee Byers, The Sentinel, by Troy Denning, and The Herald, by Ed Greenwood. For more information on The Sundering you may want to read interviews with R.A. SalvatoreErin M. Evans and Troy Denning and a post form Paul S. Kemp.

Review of The Companions:

Pardon the pun, but I always appreciate it when an author takes a novel approach to a novel. In The Companions R.A. Salvatore doesn't tell another adventure of Drizzt Do'Urden, even though Drizzt is the subject of the novel's cover.  While Drizzt isn't the star of the novel he is the essential heart of the story,The Companions focuses on the story of three of Drizzt's closest friends and allies, Regis the halfling, Bruenor the dwarf King, and Catti-brie, Drizzt's human wife and adopted daughter of King Bruenor. Together these friends along with Wulfgar and Drizzt formed a fellowship known as "The Companions of the Hall."

The Sundering fast forwards the world of the Forgotten Realms approximately 100 years in the future.  Many of the heroes and villains that have populated the novel world are dead and The Companions of the Hall are no exception.  While Drizzt has survived this leap forward in time his closest friends are all dead, but they don't have to be. Catti-brie presents her fellow companions with an opportunity presented to her by patron goddess Mielikki, Catti-brie, Bruenor, Regis, and Wulfgar if the so choose can be reborn, to return to Icewind Dale to come to the aid of their dear friend Drizzt.  But this rebirth is not without price, they will be reborn as infants and have to live a new life until their appointed meeting some 22 years later.

The novel tells the story of Regis, Bruenor and Catti-brie as they are reborn, arriving in to new parents in new locations and meeting a host of new characters.  I loved the concept of having these mature heroes be forced to experience childhood and adolescence anew.  Salvatore's story features these character retaining their memories from their previous life and it was particularly fascinating to see the adult consciousnesses wrestle with the physical desires and emotions of their early childhood bodies.

Each character faces different challenges and takes different paths in their re-birth, though I would say Regis had the easiest time adapting to his new circumstances, Catti-brie was in between and Bruenor had the most trouble adapting.  I was particularly drawn to Bruenor's story as the humors story telling of little infant Arr Arr gives way to the story of an angry adolescent dwarf. Bruenor suffers a crisis of faith and regrets greatly his decision to return for a good portion of the story.

Each character develops new relationships or faces new situations that pull on them emotionally, for Regis it is the chance at a new life and a new love, for Bruenor it is the chance to reclaim his thrown and protect his realm from the imminent threat of Orc invasion and fix what he views as a mistake from his past life, and for Catti-brie it is a new familial bond with new parents.  Catti-brie's love for Drizzt seems to be her singular focus in life and provides her with more clarity of purpose than Regis or Bruenor who are much more conflicted in their reborn lives. I think that this spectrum of experiences paints a very nice picture and while the heroes of this novel all take different paths to fulfill their promise, they all do so.

The Companions is really all about loyalty, friendship and love.  There is no overarching villain that needs to be conquered, their are no grand battles, this is the story of three journeys, about three lives lived and the varied victories and defeats that occur along the way until these friends can reunite as companions.

Salvatore has a number of cliffhanger chapter breaks throughout the novel in which our heroes are left seemingly on the verge of death, this technique is used with each character and serves to heighten the dramatic tension.  While there is a number of fun action scenes in the novel particularly featuring Regis, there are also times where some of the potentially more interesting action happens offstage, particularly on Bruenor's final climb through the north to meet his friends and what occurred to Drizzt just before his appearance in the novel.

As a relatively new reader to the Forgotten Realms universe, my only previous experience being Paul S. Kemp's two Erevis Cale trilogies, there are some references I am sure I missed in this novel.  I didn't have the benefit of knowing the back story of Drizzt and his friends or knowledge of some of the other regions and history of the worlds.  All that being said, The Companions worked for me as a stand-alone novel, though I think my enjoyment was greatly enhanced by my previous reading that gave me at least a feel for the rules and realities of this universe.  By telling the story of the heroes being reborn Salvatore is able to use the perspective of each character through memories, internal and external dialogue and occasionally the discussions of third parties to give us a window into the shared history of these characters.

All that being  said, I really enjoyed The Companions, though it definitely is a story that begs for a follow up, what will the Companions do now that they are reunited?

For more on The Companions, visit Wizards of the Coast and to read a sample of the book visit R.A. Salvatore's website.

Author's Note: A digital review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for this review.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII Audition Rumors: Rachel Hurd-Wood and Alex Pettyfer

Fan created Poster Art via Joblo

Latino Review has a pair of names that it's "sources" claim have already been on auditions for roles in Star Wars: Episode VII.

British actress Rachel Hurd-Wood (Peter Pan and Solomon Kane) and British actor Alex Pettyfer (I am Number Four and Magic Mike) reportedly have gone for auditions on the film.

A cautionary note before we jump to any conclusions, just about every actress and actor that could fit the parameters of the casting call is likely to try to land an audition for Episode VII.  Hurd-Wood and Pettyfer were both born in 1990 making them both 23 years old.  Hurd-Wood could potentially play slightly younger and fit either of the two female roles. Pettyfer would fit perfectly age wise for the younger male role and possibly could play older as the late twentysomething male.
Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.
Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking.
A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident.
Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit.
A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.
Forty something male, fit, military type.
Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit.
Another factor to keep in mind with casting is that we could see actors and actresses cast such as Hurd-Wood and Pettyfer who have had some work but haven't had that breakthrough performance yet.  One reason for this is that any actor or actress that Disney wants to appear in all three films will have to be signed to a contract that covers all three films to prevent a rapid escalation of production costs.  It will be much cheaper and easier to fill these roles with actors and actresses who are less well known than to attempt to land an A-list actor or actress.

There are many steps between auditioning and casting.  For a reminder of that see below:

The Princess Leia Auditions:

Lisa Eilbacher

Terri Nunn

Cindy Williams

Amy Irving

Anne-Marie Martin

Linda Purl

and  Carrie Fisher

SOURCES: Latino Review and WishItWas1984

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Bonus Content Rumor: To Be Apple Exclusive? Via Jedi News

The Force seems to be strong with lately as they have been getting a number of news making rumors. The latest rumor regards the "bonus content" for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  This content consists of finished and unfinished episodes from the planned sixth season of the cancelled television show.

As recently as Disney's D23 convention, Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo has said that they are still trying to determine the best way to distribute this content.

According to Jedi News' source the following may be what is planned:
“A Disney branded app for Star Wars will launch on Apple TV devices, with plans to distribute the final Clone Wars episodes exclusively digitally only through the Apple TV device for a limited period of time. This will happen in this holiday season.
In 2014, plans are in an early stage to use the platform to deliver SW7 production news ‘live’ from the sets, followed with Star Wars Rebels in late 2014 taking us all the way through to SW7 release.”
iOS 7
“Distribution will only be on Apple TV devices capable of running iOS7 and there has been no confirmation if the same app will be available to other iOS devices such as iPad or iPhone."
Apple TV is a streaming device that attaches via HDMI to your television.  It features not only content through the Apple iTunes library and store but also stand alone content providing apps such as Netflix.  Apple TV is currently on it's third generation of development, I would expect a fourth generation release sometime in the next year but there hasn't been an official announcement yet.  There is also speculation that the device may be replaced ultimately by an Apple branded iTV that will include the Apple TV functionality in an HD Smart TV sold by Apple.

Apple iOS 7 is rumored to be released as early as September 10th. iOS 7 features a radical re-design of the operating systems graphics along with other features.

If the rumored Disney Star Wars App works on Apple TV as well as iOS 7 devices, then the following currently released devices may be able to use the App.

I wouldn't rush out today and buy an Apple TV, but as someone who already owns a Roku 2 and a Sony Blu-ray player with much of the same functionality a Star Wars App that was Apple exclusive would convince me to spend the $99 to get an Apple TV device.  I am not sure if the promise of The Clone Wars exclusive content would make the App a major selling point for the device, however I bet if there is Episode VII exclusive news and documentary content on the App that it would cause many to purchase the device and particularly could be the deciding factor in taking market share away from other digital streaming devices.

It is interesting to note that Lucasfilm and Apple have a relationship when it comes to movie promotion.  The reason that many of use visit or use the Movie Trailer App on iOS devices is because of a collaboration between Apple and Lucasfilm that was created with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I was not aware of this relationship until it was discussed at Pablo Hidalgo's D23 Star Wars 101 Panel, but here is a version of the story, basically Lucasfilm released a trailer on and the folks at Apple thought that it was very sub-par and that with their QuickTime software they could provide a much higher quality product.

The idea of a Disney branded Star Wars App seems a bit odd, though there is some inconsistency on Disney's part. For example the Marvel comics App is not branded as Disney-Marvel, but the Pixar Toy Story App is branded as Disney-Pixar.  

I have long decried the lack of a Star Wars App, and I would certainly welcome one.  It is important to note that Disney does have some new Apps launching both a Disney Channel and Disney XD App is now available on iOS devices.  This provides access to programming that airs on these channels, however you must have a cable or satellite contract and your provider must allow access to these channels for the App to work.

Stay tuned as we endeavor to learn more about the future of the unreleased Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes.

Source: Jedi News 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII Release Date: Why I Think It Will Be Released In April or August

The rumormongering surrounding Star Wars: Episode VII is in full effect and a recent release date rumor set the internet ablaze with the possibility that Episode VII could be pushed back until December 2015 instead of the announced Summer 2015 release window.

Big Shiny Robot editor Bryan Young posted a great dissection of why he thinks this rumor is false.

Traditionally Star Wars films have been summer fare, opening in May and extending into the early summer in theaters.  The summer blockbuster concept as we know it really kicked off with JAWS (1975) and the success of the first summer blockbuster was confirmed and expanded upon by Star Wars (1977).  The success of JAWS and Star Wars has lead to the summer movie season as being the landing spot for blockbuster films, or as has become a popular way to refer to them studio "tent pole" films.

Analysing historical box office results and release dates going back almost 40 years can be problematic. For example while both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back premiered in May, their initial release was limited and it wasn't until June that they saw a wide release.  There is also some issue with looking at the box office results from the Special Edition theatrical released for the original trilogy because of the monthly back-to-back-to-back release schedule that was employed in January through March of 1997.  

We may also take some guidance from the Disney/Marvel Studios films and some other resent blockbuster films as we consider potential release dates and box office half-life.  

Let's take a look at how 2015 is shaping up so far:

2015 Theatrical Release Dates via
January 16
- Beware the Night (Sony: Screen Gems) Paranormal thriller.
- Norm of the North (Lionsgate) Animated comedy.
February 13
- The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox) Drama, Romance.
- SpongeBob SquarePants 2 (Paramount Pictures) Animated comedy.
March 6
- Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox) Comic book, Action-adventure.
March 13
- Cinderella (Walt Disney) Fantasy.
March 27
- Chappie (Sony) Sci-Fi comedy.
- The Penguins of Madagascar (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D) (20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Animation) Animated Comedy.
March TBA
- Christ the Lord (FilmDistrict) Drama.
April 3
- Ted 2 (Universal) Comedy.
May 1
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Walt Disney/Marvel Studios), Comic Book Action-adventure.
May 29
- Monster Trucks (Paramount) Animation.
June 5
- B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D) (20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Animation), Animated comedy.
June 19
- Assassin's Creed (20th Century Fox/Ubisoft) Action-adventure.
- Inside Out (Disney/Pixar) Animation.
June 26
- Terminator (Paramount) Sci-Fi Action-adventure.
July 3
- Independence Day 2 (20th Century Fox) Sci-Fi Action-adventure.
- Untitled Illumination Entertainment 2015 Project 3D (Universal) Animation.
July 10
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Walt Disney) Action-adventure comedy.
July 17
- Superman/Batman (Warner Bros.) Comic Book Action-adventure.
July 25
- The Smurfs 3 (Columbia/Sony Animation) Family comedy.
July 31
- Peregrine's Home for Peculiars (20th Century Fox) Family fantasy.
September 25
- Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony Animation) Animated comedy.
November 6
- Ant-Man (Walt Disney/Marvel Studios) Comic book, Action-adventure.
- Bond 24 (Sony's Columbia Pictures/MGM) Action-adventure.
- Peanuts (20th Century Fox) Animation.
November 20
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Lionsgate) Sci-Fi drama.
November 25
- Finding Dory (Walt Disney/Pixar) Animated comedy.
December 11
- Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 (20th Century Fox) Action-adventure comedy.
December 18
- Inferno (Sony's Columbia Pictures) Action drama.
December 23
- Kung Fu Panda 3 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D) (20th Century Fox/Dreamworks Animation) Animated Adventure.
So Disney's 2015 slate so far is Cinderalla (3/13), The Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1), Inside Out (6/19),
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (7/10), Ant-Man (11/6), and Finding Dory (11/25). In projecting a release date or attempting to analyze Disney|Lucasfilm's potential box office strategy we not only have to look at Disney's slate but also what other studios are doing with their films.  The goal of any studio is to use each film to make as much money as possible, as such you may think your film will outperform another film but if both films share a common audience you may be better off avoiding this box office face off to maximize your profits.  

Examining the box office performance of some Star Wars films and some other recent films, can give us an idea of performance trends and tell us how big a release window Episode VII may need and what dates on the calendar are needed for Disney's other projects. In doing this analysis I will be looking at the number of weeks as the #1 film, as a top 10 film, in more than 1,000 screens, performance as a percentage of total box office at the four, six and eight week marks and overall performance. 

A note on my methodology, this is hardly a comprehensive review, greater time and resources would no doubt allow us to develop box office metrics much like advanced baseball statistics to help predict performance. Alas I don't have the time and resources of a major studio to devote to this research project, so this is the back of the envelop numbers I have to work with. 

Live Action Star Wars Films Box Office Stats

May 25, 1983: Return of the Jedi: 
Total Domestic Gross: $252,583,617. 
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 3, plus 6 of first 7 weeks.
Weeks as a top 10 film: 18
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 14
% of Gross after four weeks: 48%
% of Gross after six weeks: 62%

% of Gross after eight weeks: 73%

May 19, 1999: The Phantom Menace:
Total Domestic Gross: $431,088,295
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 3
Weeks as a top 10 film: 11
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 12
% of Gross after four weeks: 72%
% of Gross after six weeks: 83%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 90%

May 16, 2002: Attack of the Clones
Total Domestic Gross: $302,191,252
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 2
Weeks as a top 10 film: 6

Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 8
% of Gross after four weeks: 86%
% of Gross after six weeks: 94%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 97%

May 19, 2005: Revenge of the Sith
Total Domestic Gross: $380,270,577
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 2
Weeks as a top 10 film: 8
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 8
% of Gross after four weeks: 89%
% of Gross after six weeks: 95%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 98%

Conclusions: The Prequel Trilogy films all averaged 2.33 weeks as the top film in the box office, spent  8.33 weeks as a top 10 film, and stayed on over 1,000 screens for at  9.33 weeks. If you focus on Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith they averaged 87.5 % of their total domestic gross in the first month in theaters, 94.5% of their gross in the first six weeks and 97.5% of their gross a the eight week mark. So two months is basically their theatrical shelf life but by the fourth week they make the vast majority of their money and by the sixth week they make just about as much as they will make total, the rest is just scraps coming in.

Top 3 Performing Live Action Films of 2012 and 2013 Box Office Stats

May 4, 2012: The Avengers
Total Domestic Gross: $623,357,910
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 3
Weeks as a top 10 film: 8
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 10
% of Gross after four weeks: 85%
% of Gross after six weeks: 93%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 97%

July 20, 2012: The Dark Knight Rises
Total Domestic Gross: $448,139,099
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 3
Weeks as a top 10 film: 8
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 9
% of Gross after four weeks: 89%
% of Gross after six weeks: 95%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 98%

March 23, 2012: The Hunger Games
Total Domestic Gross: $408,010,692
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 4
Weeks as a top 10 film: 10
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 11
% of Gross after four weeks: 84%
% of Gross after six weeks: 92%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 95%

Conclusions: The top grossing films of 2012 were only able to sit atop the box office charts for an average of 3.33 weeks, spent 8.66 weeks in the top ten, and stayed on over 1,000 screens for 10 weeks. These three films made 86% of their gross in the first month, 93% in the first six weeks, and by the eighth week had made 97% of their totals. The Avengers and The Hunger Games both had long legs, but The Avengers was more top heavy while The Hunger Games as a percentage did better in later weeks.

May 3, 2013: Iron Man 3
Total Domestic Gross: $408,351,942
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 2
Weeks as a top 10 film: 5, and 6 of first 7 weeks.
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 7 weeks
% of Gross after four weeks: 92%
% of Gross after six weeks: 97%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 99%

June 14, 2013: Man of Steel
Total Domestic Gross: $289,875,976
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 1
Weeks as a top 10 film: 5
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 6
% of Gross after four weeks: 95%
% of Gross after six weeks: 99%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 99%

May 24, 2013: Fast & Furious 6
Total Domestic Gross: $238,546,400
Weeks as #1 Movie in Box Office: 2
Weeks as a top 10 film: 5
Weeks on 1,000 screens or more: 5
% of Gross after four weeks: 94%
% of Gross after six weeks: 98%
% of Gross after eight weeks: 99%

Conclusions: The top grossing films of 2013 were only able to stay atop the box office for an average of 1.66 weeks, spent 5 weeks as a top 10 film, and 6 weeks on over 1,000 screens.  They made 94% of their money in the first month, 98% in the first six weeks and 99% of their money by the end of eight weeks. The interesting thing is that two films were released in May 2013, this is something that we could once again see in 2015 if The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII are both released in May.  Iron Man 3 barely made more money then the third top grossing film of 2012 and perhaps the addition of Fast & Furious 6 only three weeks after Iron Man 3's release cut some of the legs out of Marvel's film.  

Concluding Thoughts:

The Avengers made $215 million more than Iron Man 3, and I have a hard time seeing Disney potentially costing itself $150-200 million in lost box office revenue by putting Star Wars: Episode VII and The Avengers: Age of Ultron too close together.

I think a good rule of thumb looking at the above box office numbers is what I am going to call the 85/95 rule. A true blockbuster film will make approximately 85% of it's revenue in the first month of it's release and 95% of it's money in the first six weeks.  If you believe your film is of this category, then you need to attempt to get as much uncontested box office during that crucial first month and if you are lucky favorable genre/demographic match ups in that week four through six period to attempt to give your film legs. 

The two hundred pound guerrillas of the 2015 box office season are Warner Bros.' Superman/Batman (7/17) and Disney/Marvel Studios' The Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1). The Avengers release makes it most implausible that Star Wars would release the same month.  The team up of DC Comics titans Superman/Batman means that the last weeks of July and the first few weeks of August are also going to be tough box office weeks for other films to premiere in.  

There are four months that would arguably fit in the announced Summer 2015 announced release window.  April, August, September and October are the months that I can see Episode VII fitting into the current theatrical release calendar. April would be earlier than would be considered part of the summer movie season and October would be later than what would be part of this movie season.  

April theatrical release dates: 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th.
August theatrical release dates: 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.
September theatrical release dates: 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th.
October theatrical release dates: 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th.

If Star Wars is released in April there are three films to think about surrounding it right now. Disney's new Cinderella film will be released March 13, the comedy Ted 2 will be released April 3rd and The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be released on May 1st. The potential hints to an April release are the timing of Celebration Anaheim April 16th-19th. If Episode VII were to be released in August, September or October, the mid-April convention date would drastically limit the content that could be presented at the convention and also would limit the promotional bounce and media attention that could be put towards driving more butts to the movie. 

If Episode VII is released on April 3rd it gives Disney three weeks for Cinderella to perform before it has intramural competition, and gives Star Wars four weeks before The Avengers comes out. Releasing on April 3rd would put it head to head with Ted 2, which is hardly a family friendly fare. 

If Star Wars is released in August then the July slate of films is something we need to keep in mind. Disney's next Pirates of the Caribbean film comes out July 10th, Superman/Batman will come out July 17th, and then there are two family films coming out at the end of the month in The Smurfs 3 on July 25th and Peregrine's Home for Peculiars on July 31st.

If you are Disney and want to release Star Wars in August, then the 14th is the date I would target. You give your own film Pirates of the Caribbean five weeks and you give Superman/Batman four weeks in the theaters.  The less appealing family films coming out at the end of July should fade after 2-3 weeks leaving a relatively open path for Star Wars to dominate the box office turnstiles. 

To my mind for promotional reasons April makes the most sense for Episode VII, but in terms of favorable box office competition August makes the most sense. I don't think we will get a traditional May release because the chances of box office cannibalization between Star Wars and The Avengers is just too great. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Star Wars Episode VII Rumor: Star Wars Cinematographer Named, To Use Film Instead Of Digital Cameras

Always at the cutting edge of cinematic technology, George Lucas was always trying to push the boundaries.  This included his promotion of digital filming and digital theater projection.  Star Wars Episode II and III were both shot on Sony CineAlta, high-definition digital cameras.

The hiring of J.J. Abrams to direct Episode VII foreshadowed a shunning of this digital film making and a return to the more traditional use of film.

In June at the Producers Guild of America, Produced by Conference, Abrams said the following about digital versus film movie making:

“I have not yet shot a movie digitally,” he explained. “Film is the thing I am most comfortable with. If film were to go away — and digital is challenging it— then the standard for the highest, best quality would go away...Also, with all the CG, it was important to me that it was as warm and human and analog as possible... "It may not be obvious to many of the people who saw it, but I think it is more important than people know."

Twitter user @bobafettfanclub posted the following tidbit of news today:

The ASC is The American Society of Cinematographers, an by invitation only group of just over 300 professional cinematographers with the Clubhouse located in Hollywood.

Cinematographer Dan Mindel has previously worked as director of photography with JJ Abrams on Mission Impossible IIIStar Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness and has previously worked for Disney on the recent John Carter film. Mindel is the man behind the camera for the next Spider-man film as well, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 due out May 2, 2014.

The ASC's magazine had some in depth interviews with Mindel in it's June 2009 issue regarding the shooting of Star Trek and it's June 2013 issue regarding the shooting of the sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness.  These comments may give us a window into how Abrams will shoot Star Wars: Episode VII and may fit with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy's statements at Celebration Europe.

At the Star Wars fan convention Kennedy discussed briefly the film making process that she envisions for Episode VII:

10:55: “Much like many of you, looking at all the Star Wars movies and getting a feeling of what the early films did in combination with real locations and special effects — that’s something we’re looking very seriously at. We’re going to find some really cool locations for Ep VII. We’re going to use every tool in the toolbox for this movie.” – Kathleen Kennedy
10:56: “It’s using artwork that you can touch and feel in combination with CG effects.” – Kathleen Kennedy

American Cinematographer June 2009 Interview:

Mindel, who previously teamed with Abrams on Mission: Impossible III (AC May ’06), recalls, “J.J. told us early on to use the original TV show as our key reference. He wanted us to pay attention to that young, go-get-’em, positive attitude.” 
Mindel was eager to employ the anamorphic format for Trek’s 23rd-century vistas. “I’m not interested in using Super 35mm,” says the cinematographer. “J.J. wanted me to convince him to shoot anamorphic, so he and I looked at every test we could do, and when he saw the 50mm Primo projected, with the falloff in focus, he was convinced.” 

American Cinematographer June 2013 Interview:

Mindel on filming:
 In the end, J.J. agreed we should use anamorphic combined with Imax. So, we set off down a road that involved 15-perf and 8-perf 65mm and anamorphic 35mm, and that allowed us to create a gorgeous movie.” (Some inserts and aerial plates were captured digitally with Red Digital Cinema cameras.)The basic breakdown involved shooting 35mm for all interior scenes and 65mm for exteriors. Abrams mandated long sequences in each format because he didn’t want the transitions to be distracting. “As the information changes, the mind goes with it if [the approach] is consistent,” he observes. “I think most people won’t be aware of the format changes.”
Abrams on 3D and filming:
Abrams is equally pleased that he was able to shoot Into Darkness on film and convert to 3-D. “I think film has the greatest look and the greatest resolution,” he says. “The studio wanted a 3-D movie, and [shooting film] became an easier decision once we realized we could deliver that with a quality conversion. We were lucky to work with stereographer Corey Turner, who did incredible work that adds to the thrill-ride aspect of the movie. My goal was to make as good a film as I could in 2-D and let it be converted to 3-D for those who wanted the ‘hot sauce.’ I think we achieved that.”
It is worth noting that Kodak has agreements in place with six major Hollywood studios to supply film for it's movies, these include Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., NBC Universal Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. The Walt Disney Company is now the parent company of Lucasfilm.

For more information on Kodak Vision3 500T (5219/7219) film visit

UPDATE: The Boba Fett Fan Club now has the story up on their website.

SOURCES: TwitterTHR , Star Wars Blog, ASC Magazine June 2009 and June 2013

Star Wars Celebration Fan Club Table and Fan Built Prop and Set Submissions for Celebration Anaheim

Are you part of a Star Wars fan club? Are you handy with a hydrospanner? If you answer yes to either question, then Lucasfilm has a way that you can be an active part of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

Star Wars Fan Club Table Information

Fan Club Table Application
There will be a limited number of fan club tables available at Celebration for unofficial, regional, and international fan clubs and similar fan organizations. These tables will allow clubs to promote their organizations to other Star Wars fans and to act as a central location for club activities at Celebration.
Clubs that qualify will be supplied with one approximately 8-foot table, two chairs, one standard electrical outlet, and a space approximately 10 feet wide by 10 feet deep at no cost to them. Clubs will also receive four exhibitor badges at no cost to them. Clubs will be responsible for costs for any additional booth furnishings and will be asked to make specific arrangements with the facility or the official decorator for further utilities or other equipment at the prevailing rate. The fan table locations are yet to be determined but will likely be part of a larger Celebration Experience Exhibit Hall.
Application Materials

Fan-Built Props and Sets

Fan-Built Props & Sets
Many fans show their passion by building incredible Star Wars props and sets that look as if they came right out of the galaxy far, far away, and we would like to include as many of these at Star Wars Celebration as space and budget will allow. To have your props or sets considered for inclusion at Celebration, please see the guidelines and application information below.
To have your props or sets considered for inclusion, please send the following information to Mary Franklin at Lucasfilm:
          Photos of each set or prop from front, back, and each side
Space needed for each set or prop, including length, width, and height
Weight of each set or prop
Address where each set or prop is currently located and will be shipped from
Any other special needs for your sets and props (electricity, special loading equipment, etc.)
Will you need help paying for shipping or transportation for your prop or set piece? If yes, then what is the preferred method of transportation?
Number of staff needed to set up and dismantle
Number of staff needed at all times during show hours
Whether or not fans can take photographs inside the prop or set or near it
Any other special information specific to your set or prop
Submissions should include your email address, preferred phone number, and other contact details.
Applications for consideration for fan-built props and sets must be turned in by 11:59 PM EST on July 15, 2014 to Mary Franklin at
Celebration will not start responding to fan table requests until August 15, 2014, and final decisions will be made by September 30, 2014.

Calling All Fans: Submissions for Star Wars Celebration Anaheim Fan Programming Now Being Accepted

If you are planning to attend Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2015, then you should take a shot at being a more active participant in the event and spread your love and knowledge of Star Wars with other fans.

Lucasfilm is now accepting initial proposals for fan programming at the event.  There will no doubt be a ton of interest in this convention, so I suggest not only that you get your idea in early (they won't be reviewed until early 2014) but that you take the time to craft a well thought out idea with as much information and specificity as you can.  I would also suggest that in the interest of Mary Franklin's sanity that you don't send the same idea multiple times or have absurd proposals.  Think brevity, specificity and clarity when crafting your proposal.

The Fan Programming Solicitation:

Fan Programming
It’s never too early to start planning for Star Wars Celebration!
Celebrations are created by fans, for fans, and we want you to start thinking of how you might contribute to the fun. At all Celebrations, Star Wars fans have the opportunity to become a very important part of the show. You, your friends, or your fan club can jump right into the heart of Celebration by submitting proposals and ideas for fan-sponsored events, entertainment, panels, or exhibits.
Please send a brief initial proposal (limit 500 words) to Mary Franklin at Lucasfilm. Proposals should include your email address and contact information.
Briefly summarize what you would do, time, budget, materials needed, number of people involved, and how the audience would participate, if at all. Initial proposals will be considered for final proposals but are not guaranteed scheduling during Star Wars Celebration.
Fan Programming Submittal Schedule: 
Fan programming proposals may be turned in starting now, but review will begin in early 2014.
First responses from Lucasfilm to Fan Programming Proposals will begin April 7, 2014.
All Fan Programming Proposals will be due by December 15, 2014.
Final decisions on Fan Programming Proposals will be made and communicated by February 1, 2015.
If you do submit a proposal, may the Force be with you and good luck.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller (Minor Spoilers)

Let's cut to the chase. Just go buy (pre-order) Kenobi now and thank me later.

Kenobi is not space opera, but it is Star Wars.  It is a story told on a much smaller scale that focuses on building characters, making and braking relationships.  Under the harsh and unforgiving twin suns of Tatooine, Miller tells the quintessential Obi-Wan Kenobi story.  

The Republic has fallen.Sith Lords rule the galaxy.Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . . Everything but hope. Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy. Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine. Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

I don't think it is a coincidence that two of the best novels in recent memory were also probably the two stories that were the longest in terms of development by the authors.  I put Kenobi on par with Darth Plagueis in terms of quality and what it adds to the grander Star Wars mythology.  While the two books are much different in tone and content, there is a quality and loving craftsmanship that shines through in both works. Plagueis was a book that was announced, cancelled and the subsequently brought back to life.  Kenobi is a book that originally started as a graphic novel story idea and was shelved and later developed in it's current form.

Kenobi also follows the recent trend in Star Wars publishing of genre hopping. This is very much a western told in the Star Wars universe.   The basic premise will be familiar to fans of the western genre. Mysterious loner drifts into town, trying to mind his own business.  Instinctual acts to protect a victim from an attack. The victim becomes a friend and the loner is put in a position that he has to protect this new friend against the threat. 

The story in Kenobi is told from a few point of views, we have Obi-Wan, a Tusken Raider warlord, a moisture farmer/militia leader, and a shopkeeper.  The story centers around a frontier community on Tatooine, the bright center of which is Danner's Claim.  The Claim is a one stop frontier shop, it features of mercantile, a saloon/restaurant, storage, offices and repair shops.

We meet Obi-Wan Kenobi early in his return to Tatooine at the beginning of his watchful self-exile.  The novel brilliantly balances the internal struggles that Obi-Wan faces as he tries to adjust to the new realities of his life with the external struggles that he faces in the novel.  

Fans of Superman will pick up on the very strong Clark Kent vibe that infuses the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi in this novel.  This fits nicely with the humor of Kenobi.  One of the reasons that Ob-Wan is one of my favorite Star Wars characters is his sense of humor.  A humor hinted at by Sir Alec Guinness in the original trilogy, given full form by Ewan McGregor in the prequel trilogy, and further refined by James Arnold Taylor in The Clone Wars animated series. 

Kenobi's humor stands in start contrast with the guilt and pain that the character of Obi-Wan is drowning. This humor provides an emotional grounding for the character and speaks to an underlying optimistic nature. 

One of the overriding themes in Kenobi is how relationships not only create bonds but create burdens.  The Jedi were bound to the Republic and thus had a duty to defend it in The Clone Wars, Obi-Wan was bound as padawan to his Master Qui-Gon and thus felt duty bound to fulfill Qui-Gon's dying wish that he train Anakin.  Obi-Wan was bound to Anakin as a Master and a friend and was thus duty bound to confront him on Mustafar and stop the evil that Anakin had become.  As a Jedi and as a friend of their parents, Obi-Wan was bound to Luke and Leia, choosing the burden of protecting the boy from the Emperor's clutches. From one simple relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, all of these events and relationships spring that shape the course of Obi-Wan's life.  

This theme of relationship created burdens is echoed in the experiences of the shopkeeper Annileen Calwell, the Tusken war leader, A'Yark, and the moisture farmer Orrin Gualt.  All of whom have relationships and duties that force them to make choices and take actions.  Sometimes these burdens become larger than the underlying relationship would justify.  This pushes our characters to their breaking points and we see their true characters revealed.

This brings me back to one of the other qualities that I love about the Obi-Wan character. Obi-Wan is a man of honor, he will always do his duty no matter the personal cost. At the same time he doesn't cut himself off from relationships and emotions but feels these choices. Life continuously takes it's pound after pound of flesh from Obi-Wan, yet he perseveres.  This makes the character at once both very human in his weaknesses and very super-human in his ability to overcome them. 

Miller crafts some truly enjoyable characters in this novel, the miserly and paranoid moisture farmer Wyle Ulbreck is an absolute riot.  Miller populates the Claim with a cast of characters that are unique and feel organically developed to the setting of the story.  Even some of these back ground characters that don't appear in the dramatis personae get character development.  

The beautify of the universe that George Lucas created is that it provides an immense canvas upon which other artists can craft stories. Star Wars has room for stories that range from the grand galactic space battles all the way down to the personal one-on-one relationship stories or those focused on the internal struggles of the individual. I cannot stress just how much I enjoyed this story and the loving craftsmanship that John Jackson Miller put into it. Every Star Wars novel shouldn't be written like Kenobi, but I am damn glad this one was. 

Editor's Note: An advance review copy of the novel was provided by the publisher for this review.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Read The First 50 Pages Of Star Wars: Kenobi NOW!

You will be getting my full thoughts on Star Wars: Kenobi next week in a review, but you don't need to wait that long to read the first 50 pages of the novel right now.

Del Rey as part of it's 50 Page Fridays has posted the first 50 pages of Kenobi on-line.

In terms of quality this book is right up there with the best recent releases such as Darth Plagueis and X-Wing: Mercy Kill.

Publisher's Summary:

The Republic has fallen.
Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . . 
Everything but hope.

Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.

Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.

Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

SOURCE: Suvudu

Friday, August 16, 2013

Retro Review: All Cats are Gray by Andre Norton

I recently came across this gem of a short story in a collection of science fiction stories on an audiobook compilation and I thought it was worth pointing out. Originally appearing in the August-September 1953 issue of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction, this short story was written by a female author, features a female protagonist and a heroic cat.

Andre Alice Norton (born Alice Mary Norton) wrote under the pen names Andre Norton, Andrew North, and Allen Weston.  Born in 1912 and dying in 2005, she had a long and successful career as a writer.  This short story was my first exposure to her work. I suggest you visit Andre-Norton.Org for more on the author.

This is really the story of Steena, Bat, Cliff Moran and the Empress of Mars, a story which is already a legend of the spaceways. And it’s a damn good story too. I ought to know, having framed the first version of it myself.
For I was there, right in the Rigel Royal, when it all began on the night that Cliff Moran blew in, looking lower than an antman’s belly and twice as nasty. He’d had a spell of luck foul enough to twist a man into a slug-snake and we all knew that there was an attachment out for his ship. Cliff had fought his way up from the back courts of Venaport. Lose his ship and he’d slip back there—to rot. He was at the snarling stage that night when he picked out a table for himself and set out to drink away his troubles.
However, just as the first bottle arrived, so did a visitor. Steena came out of her corner, Bat curled around her shoulders stole-wise, his favorite mode of travel. She crossed over and dropped down without invitation at Cliff’s side. That shook him out of his sulks. Because Steena never chose company when she could be alone. If one of the man-stones on Ganymede had come stumping in, it wouldn’t have made more of us look out of the corners of our eyes.
She stretched out one long-fingered hand and set aside the bottle he had ordered and said only one thing, “It’s about time for the Empress of Mars to appear again.”
As a Star Wars fan it was easy for me to picture this bar as a cantina not so unlike ones we saw on screen or read in the Expanded Universe.  The desperation of down on their luck spacers reminded me of many of those on the fringes of the Star Wars galaxy particularly the smugglers and independent freighter captains we have read about.  The idea of the Empress of Mars, a ghost ship and a way to get rich quick also reminded me of a ship few ships from Star Wars including Another Chance an Alderaanian ship and the Teljkon Vagabond.  Both of these Star Wars ships appeared in Michael P. Kube-McDowell's The Black Fleet Crisis trilogy.

All Cats are Gray is a very short story, the character of Steena is pretty well defined, there isn't a great deal of time for other characters to be developed other than her cat Bat.  What the story lacks in length in makes up for in flavor, it is science fiction but to my ear the dialogue sounded much like an old noir crime story.

It also plays with the concept of disability and how limitations in one area can lead to strengths in another.  The emotional resolution of the story is a bit rushed and could have benefited from being stretched out more.
On the whole Steena is the self-rescuing sort of female leading character who isn't objectified because of her looks that many clamor for even today and her cat and it's peculiar drinking habits was a lot of fun to read about.

I enjoyed this short story a great deal and I hope you give it a shot, it will only take a few minutes of your time.

You can read the complete story for free on The Project Gutenberg website.

Episode VII Rumor: Ewan McGregor Returning As Obi-Wan Kenobi For Episode VII?

The Episode VII casting rumors just keep coming.

Just the other day the hot rumor was that actor Ian McDiarmid would be reprising his role as Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious in some form in Episode VII. That rumor was first reported by Jedi News, a UK based fansite.  Subsequently the website Latino Review ran with a similar story.  Both the Jedi News and Latino Review stories cited anonymous sources, but it is not clear if the source was the same for both stories or not.  It sounds like Latino Reviews source is based in England so it may be the same person talking to both sites.
Now we have a report from Latino Review that Obi-Wan Kenobi will be showing up in the film as well and that Ewan McGregor may be returning to play the character.

"I have confirmed this with three close sources that are on the project and they all confirmed to me that Ewan McGregor would be back as a Force Ghost in the upcoming sequel trilogy."
"But that is not all! Check this out! The interesting part of the conversation I had with my source was that McGregor also wants a solo standalone film! Whether he gets one or not is still up in the air. The other question now is whether or not Hayden Christensen will return."
It sounds like Episode VII is starting to resemble the Hogwarts dinning hall with all these ghosts floating around.  So there really are three parts to this rumor;

  1. Ewan McGregor to return as Force Ghost Obi-Wan.
  2. McGregor wants a stand-alone Obi-Wan film.
  3. Hayden Christensen may return as well as a Force Ghost.

Let's take these rumors apart one by one.

1) Ewan McGregor to return as Force Ghost Obi-Wan

Lucasfilm has the technology to digitally animate Sir Alec Guinness if they wanted to for this film.  Older fans like myself who remember the controversy of the changed appearance of Anakin's Force Ghost probably would prefer them to take this approach if they were to include Obi-Wan in the film.  They could then have someone like James Arnold Taylor do a voice match of Guinness.  If Obi-Wan's role in Episode VII is small it is probably more time and cost effective to use a flesh and blood actor instead of going the CGI route.

I actually like the idea of a younger Force Ghost of Obi-Wan and let me explain why.  As Yoda explains to Luke, "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter," why should Force Ghosts be tied to the physical appearance of their body at their death? We know that Anakin's original Force Ghost played by Sebastian Shaw had all his limbs, yet we saw Anakin lose both legs and an arm in Episode III.

This is an opportunity to expand the mythology surrounding Force Ghosts.  The idea should be that when a Jedi learns how to retain his consciousness in the Force after death, that not only can he choose when to appear but also how to appear. A simple bit of exposition and even a joke perhaps Luke saying to Ben that he looks better than the last time he saw him and Ben retorting that Luke looks a little worse, could provide a humorous moment as well as a chance to explain more about Force Ghosts and Obi-Wan's changed appearance.

An example on how this deepening of Force Ghost mythology could retroactively fit is Obi-Wan appearance only as a voice in Episode IV. It can be explained because in these situations Luke was busy fleeing from Imperial troops in the hanger and later flying his X-Wing down the Death Star's trench.  If Obi-Wan had appeared physically it would have been a visual distraction for Luke.

So I think it can work story-wise for McGregor to portray a younger version of Obi-Wan as a Force Ghost.  Another thing to keep in mind is scheduling.  McGregor currently has three filming commitments lined up for 2014, Mortdecai, co-starring Johnny Depp and Gweneth Paltrow, Born to Be King, co-starring Kate Hudson, and Our Kind of Traitor, co-starring Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen.  So in addition to filming these three films McGregor probably has to do some significant promotional work next year as well. Scheduling may be tricky but if the role isn't extensive I would have to imagine they could find a way to fit him in to filming.

2) Ewan McGregor wants a stand-alone Obi-Wan film

McGregor's Episode III portrayal of Obi-Wan was so powerful and wrought with pain that it brought an emotional depth to the character that took it to a whole new level.  A film set featuring Obi-Wan set between Episodes III and IV is right near the top of my wish list for any spin off or stand-alone movies that Lucasfilm does.  For an idea of how awesome a story can be featuring Obi-Wan and set in this time period, I cannot suggest highly enough reading the soon to be released, Kenobi by John Jackson Miller.  The book due out on August 27th, deal with Obi-Wan as he first returns to Tatooine and begins his self-imposed exile to watch over infant Luke Skywalker.

3) Hayden Christensen may return as well as a Force Ghost

One possibility is that we see Luke in Episode VII learning the Force Ghost technique and we could see not only Obi-Wan, but Anakin, Yoda, and Qui-Gon all appear.  Christensen seems personally to be on good terms with George Lucas based on recently attending Lucas' wedding.  But I have no idea if Christensen would be interested in reprising his role as Anankin in Force Ghost form.

SOURCES: Latino Review

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Spoiled: Will You Embrace Or Avoid Spoilers For Star Wars: Episode VII?

As the rumor mill gets cranked into over drive for the next two years leading up to the release of Star Wars: Episode VII, I felt it was a good time to address the topic of spoilers generally, and the approach that I plan on following more specifically.

There is much debate regarding spoilers, in the age of serialized television, DVR's, binge watching and near constant social media use the avoidance of spoilers has become increasingly difficult.  TV watching in particular has become a communal event on social media.  Alas not everyone is on the same schedule, the differences between time zones or just the interruptions of daily life can lead us to consume our favorite media at times other than it's initial airing or release.

There are different approaches by different writers and publication on how they cover entertainment and how they handle the issue of spoilers.  The's Dan Kois proposed the following rules for writers regarding spoilers.

Unmarked spoilers allowed in text of articleSpoilers allowed in article headlines or in non-show-specific articles
Reality-TV showsAs soon as the episode is over.As soon as the episode is over.
Narrative TV showsThe day after the show runs in its normal time slot.Three days after the show runs in its normal time slot.
MoviesThe Monday after the movie opens.One month after the movie opens.
PlaysOne month after the play opens.Three months after the play opens, or when it closes, whichever comes first.
BooksThree months after the book is published.Six months after the book is published.
Operas100 years after opera's premiere.Never.

From my perspective the very concept of journalism embraces the transitory nature of events.  News is news because there are events that occur and must be highlighted within the shadow that those events cast. There is a never ending conveyor belt of events and as such if you don't cover the event with immediacy it becomes irrelevant or of greatly diminished relevance rather quickly. 

Spoilers and Star Wars:

Given the age of the original Star Wars trilogies and it's ingraining in pop culture we all know that the spoiler of Darth Vader being Anakin Skywalker and thus Luke's father is one that is ruined for almost everyone who was born after the films release.  But there are also other significant instances of spoilers such as the soundtrack for Episode I revealing that Qui-Gon would die in the film.  More signicantly we had the novelization of the original Star Wars film coming out in December of 1976 long before the film's release on May 25, 1977.  A New Hope was also spoiled by the Marvel Comics adaptation the first issue of which hit newstands in April of 1977. Star Wars and spoilers have a long history and the hunger of the modern fan community will only lead to more spoilers as media outlets seek to use the intense interest in Episode VII to drive viewership and readership.

What will this website's policy be?

I will approach Episode VII just like I approach other story telling that I cover on this site.  This site has no official ties to Lucasfilm and as such no fiduciary duty regarding information that may be revealed either to me or to others on the internet regarding Episode VII. As such I consider just about everything regarding the film fair game.  So in the lead up to the film, information such as setting, casting, plot synopsis, etc all will be discussed as news develops.  If a major plot twist or ending is leaked before the film is released I will almost certainly not discuss that on the website, just because I feel that that is going a step to far.

In any post that does involve story spoilers the headline of the post and the body of the post will both include spoiler warnings.  I will effort to keep headlines as vague as possible to avoid unintentional spoilers but I cannot promise that this effort will be 100% effective.

Once the film is released everything is fair game and I would anticipate a post as soon as I get home from the movie, followed by subsequent more in-depth posts to follow.

Testing the effect of spoilers:

Interestingly a 2011 University of California, San Diego research study by Jonathan D. Leavitt and Nicholas J. S. Christenfeld found that at least in literature spoilers don't ruin the enjoyment of the story, in fact study participants enjoyed the stories more when they were spoiled.

The experiment involved 176 male and 643 female test subjects in which they read three different types of stories, ironic-twist stories, mysteries, and more evocative literary stories. For each story the scientists crafted an introductory paragraph that briefly discussed the story and seemed to inadvertently include a spoiler of the ending of the story.

"Each experiment included four stories selected from anthologies. Each subject read three of these stories, one spoiled (with the spoiler paragraph presented before the story), one unspoiled (with the story presented without alteration), and one in which the spoiler paragraph was incorporated as the opening paragraph."

The results of the experiment:

The study found that in the case of the ironic-twist and mystery stories the study participants "significantly preferred spoiled over un-spoiled stories."  The evocative literary stories were still preferred in the spoiled condition but to a lesser degree than the other story types.

The authors of the study assert a couple theories that may influence these findings including the concept of "perceptual fluency" as well as "schema discrepancy theory."  The reach the conclusion that "In all these
types of stories, spoilers may allow readers to organize developments, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading." As a result of their findings the authors suggest that we are perhaps wasting our time try to avoid spoilers.

Now this study is focused on written story telling and doesn't deal with the visual story telling of films or television. The study also used short stories exclusively in their testing.  So I have some concerns that the spoilers my be less preferable in serialized storytelling in which there is a significantly higher time and psychological investment in the character, plot and their outcomes. On the other hand a film may be more analogous to a short-story than to a TV series, so this study may have more weight when discussing films.

What do I recommend?

I am not sure if I am the norm when it comes to spoilers or not.  I am not one to turn to the end of a book and read the last page before beginning. At the same time I don't fear spoilers and for stories that I love I want as much information about them that I can get as soon as I can get it.

As an example of why I don't fear spoilers, this past year I accidentally ran across an image of Robb Stark dead on a throne with his wolf's head in place of his own and the description that he had been killed.  Now this spoiled a rather significant plot point in the Game of Thrones TV series for me, but it didn't impair my enjoyment of the series a bit.  I didn't go any further, I didn't seek out how or when Robb was killed, but as season two progressed it became pretty clear that the end was coming soon.  The Red Wedding occurred in the ninth episode of season two, "The Rains of Castamere," is a delightfully gruesome episode and the shocking effect of the deaths in that episode were still startling and emotionally stirring for me.

As in everything in life I think you need to embrace what you enjoy and what makes you happy, if you prefer to stay spoiler free then you should try to do that.  I would argue that in the information age staying spoiler free is virtually impossible and that you shouldn't expect us to hold the spoiler train for those late arriving at the platform.  The voracious Star Wars consumer that I am will not be able to resist spoilers in most cases, what will you do?

SOURCES: Vulture, UCSD, Psychological Science, NPR.