Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

TV Shows We Lost in 2011

[via TV.com]

 

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December 26, 2011

CC2KOnline: A World of Adventure Lies with Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn

TLDR: If you’re looking for a family film this week (and you didn’t catch it over the holiday weekend), Tintin is a good bet. Verrry close to being Indiana Jones, Junior. My fourth review for CC2KOnline (another great nerd culture site – check it out!). –Daron

2011 can boast another brilliant children’s movie. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a delight, a roaring adventure full of the excitement of exotic travel, sea faring and sword play. That said the film certainly has the deck stacked in its favor. Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin is beloved the world over, not to mention the pedigrees of the movie’s director Steven Spielberg and it’s producer Peter Jackson. Tintin also has some solid talent in its writers Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced, director of Scott Pilgrim) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). It may be a surprising list of writers credits for a Spielberg animated family film such as this one (without zombies, aliens or alien time-travellers), but Moffat, Wright and Cornish have crafted a lightening-paced story true to its roots in action and adventure comics, realized expertly by Spielberg and Jackson.

Tintin’s adventure begins somewhat unassumingly when he gets a good deal on a model ship in an open air market. It’s a replica of the great sailing ship the Unicorn, and immediately we discover that it’s more than it seems. Two men approach Tintin (Jamie Bell), including the sinister Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig), trying to persuade him to sell but Tintin wont have it. During a fight between Tintin’s (smarter than your average) dog Snowy and a neighbor’s cat, the ship’s mast is broken and a small roll of parchment slips out. This is what Sakharine has been looking for. We follow intrepid, and seemingly extremely well paid young journalist, Tintin as he teases out the clues surrounding that parchment, meeting a motley cast of characters along the way. Including down on his luck Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and one unfortunate man whose only raison d’être is to warn Tintin that he is, in fact, in danger in every scene he pops up in. Other than this one strange character, the supporting crew is surprisingly entertaining and well drawn. Scenes with the two bumbling policemen, Thompson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), feature downright inspired physical comedy never mind that we’re watching pixels and not people.

That is to say, the use of 3-D in Tintin is the best I’ve seen yet. The 3-D is so successful in part because it is understated. So many movies use 3-D as a gimmick, something akin to smell-o-vision in the way it’s used to draw moviegoers in like a carnival barker. In Tintin, 3-D is used simply to give the animated characters another layer of depth, making Tintin’s world that much more vibrant. Spielberg gleefully plays with the medium, creating expansive action set pieces that only occasionally descend into the ridiculous. One exceedingly long action sequence sends Tintin, Snowy and Haddock racing down a mountain on a motorbike in an exotic locale, staying one step ahead of a racing flood from a broken dam. It’s a spectacular scene, but one that sags from being a little bit overlong. On the other hand, the retelling of Captain Haddock’s seafaring ancestor’s final bloody battle is completely riveting and is full of the wonder and joy of imaginary play, and I found myself wanting to see more.

The Adventures of Tintin is really a work of love on the part of its director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson. And it is chock full of the old simpler-times goodness about which certain adults love to reminisce (He does research at the library! He’s into model shipbuilding!). And it is wonderful to see a male role-model who not only does his homework, but who can handle himself in a fistfight. In that way the character of Tintin has a wonderful boy scout charm. No doubt he knows how to tie a mean half-hitch.

I have to admit that I’m unfamiliar with Hergé’s original Tintin. Beyond having to translate a few panels in high school French class I haven’t had much more exposure than that. Which will, I believe, put me firmly in the majority of American audience members for this film. But even though I watched Tintin as a ‘newbie’, the character, the story, and the action is exceedingly familiar: The Adventures of Tintin is exactly what a young Indiana Jones adventure should be. Secrets discovered, goofy and elaborate action set pieces, characters standing appropriately in awe of history and legend, explosive punches; these are all par for the course in both franchises. Although it would be difficult to see Henry Jones Jr. as played by River Phoenix in Last Crusade musing aloud to his plucky dog companion. The line separating the two seems to be drawn at the normative intelligence of animals (or maybe, in Tintin’s case, the ability of an alcoholic’s burp to power an engine). Spielberg himself reportedly said that he saw Tintin as an Indiana Jones for kids. If that is true, then Spielberg has very much succeeded to that end and adults who harbour nostalgia for all things Indiana Jones will be satisfied enough that this is the prequel we wish we had when we were younger. While today’s younger crowd will be thrilled by the epic swordfighting and Snowy’s adorable yips and grumbles. With such quality children’s entertainment like The Muppets, Hugo and now The Adventures of Tintin, how can any parent subject their child to another Chipmunks movie?

December 23, 2011

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

Charles Schulz’s ‘Peanuts’ characters have become timeless classics, thanks to their long-lasting presence in newspapers and their many animated TV specials. (“It’s Arbor Day Again, Charlie Brown!”) A big part of the characters’ success is thanks to the classic ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ TV special.

Since it first aired in 1965, the beloved special has practically become required viewing for families celebrating the holiday season. Its message of anti-commercialism and good will towards man mixed with Schulz’s trademark humor of caustic kids in a cynical world is a perfect remedy for the holidays that can get sappier than your aunt’s homemade egg nog.

At the time of its airing, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ received rave reviews, record ratings and an annual presence on television and home video for decades to come. And yet 46 years later, few fans know about its rocky beginnings that were fraught with much frustration and cynicism by the network executives who commissioned it and the producers who fought so hard to preserve Schulz’s humor and pathos. In celebration of the special’s annual TV airing, here are some things you might not know about ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’

1. Most of the voice actors were cast from kids in the director’s neighborhood

Charles Schulz (known to friends and colleagues as “Sparky”) wanted to bring believable voices to the characters he created, so the producers cast real children to give life to the ‘Peanuts’ gang instead of adult voice-over artists. Professional child actors were cast in the roles for Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy since they were required to recite most of the dialogue. The rest came from children who lived in director Bill Melendez’s Southern California neighborhood, most of whom had zero experience in acting or voice-over work.

2. Some of the child actors were so young, they couldn’t read the script

Melendez and Schulz wanted to cast children in the special in order to preserve their innocence and voice because they believed it would not only make the cartoon more realistic, but also funnier and edgier. Their idea hit a snag when the production team realized that some of the children were so young that they couldn’t read the script that was sitting in front of them. Melendez said in an interview for the book ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition’ that he had to recite the script line by line for the children who couldn’t read, including Christopher Shea who voiced Linus.

3. Charles Schulz refused to let CBS executives insert a laugh track

Since this was the first time Sparky’s ‘Peanuts’ would be represented in an animated cartoon to a national audience, he had a strong hand in the production process and fought hard to preserve his creation by not letting the “suits” tinker with it. Schulz insisted that the cartoon not have a laugh track, something that was a standard for TV comedies at the time. Producer Lee Mendelson recalled in Schulz’s biography that he was just as adamant that the special not have a laugh track to “help keep it moving along.” Sparky said at a staff meeting during production that the network should “let the people at home enjoy the show at their own speed, in their own way” and promptly walked out of the room ending the argument. Sounds like Schulz had a little bit of Lucy in him that day.

4. Schulz actually hated jazz music

Musician and composer Vince Guaraldi’s ensemble of holiday infused jazz for ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ became just as famous and as much of a yuletide favorite as the cartoon that popularized it. Sparky, however, wasn’t a big fan of the catchy tunes. In fact, according to his biography, Schulz told a reporter two months after the special aired that he thought jazz music was “awful.”
Guaraldi’s involvement with the ‘Peanuts’ dates back to before production started on the Christmas special. Mendelson had been working with Schulz on a documentary called ‘A Boy Named Charlie Brown’ that featured a soundtrack of jazz music composed by Guaraldi. Despite his feelings about jazz, Sparky insisted that they use Guaraldi’s music again for ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with a mix of traditional Christmas hymns because it created the perfect “bubbly, childlike tone” for the show.

5. Linus’ “True Meaning of Christmas” speech was almost cut

Sparky was also a religious man and, according to his biography, “the life of Jesus remained for him a consuming subject.” He also insisted in the early days of production that the script feature some religious overtones, particularly a passage from the St. Luke gospel about the birth of Jesus Christ, to bring some meaning to the holiday that “had been lost in the general good-time frivolity.” The producers agreed to include a Nativity scene to represent Sparky’s feelings, but by the time the script was finished, Mendelson realized he had included an entire minute-long speech directly from the New Testament. This led to the biggest arguments between Sparky and the producers, with Mendelson insisting that the special was an “entertainment show” and the speech would scare off advertisers by narrowing its audience. Thankfully, the now iconic speech survived the final cut and has aired in the special every year since.

6. The network execs and sponsors hated the special and wanted to bury it

Linus’ famous speech was just one of the complaints the network executives and Coca-Cola, the special’s chief sponsor, had with the final cut of the cartoon. They expected a TV comedy with a laugh track, and got instead a wry, melancholy commentary on the holiday season. (The network also objected to real children voicing all of the characters.) The brass was particularly wary of the religious overtones that Sparky insisted the special carry on the air. According to Mendelson, the executives agreed to air it “once and that will be all.” Of course, we all know what happened next.

7. The producers thought it would be a flop and that they “ruined Charlie Brown forever”

If the network executives were a tad bit too hard on their first screening of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ the show’s producers were downright cynical. Mendelson and Melendez were more pleased with the final product than the network, but they feared the public would not embrace it, let alone watch it. They also thought it would forever tarnish Sparky’s characters and comic strip. Mendelson said in an interview, “We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room – he had had a couple of drinks – and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy.”

8. Snoopy got all the action scenes because he was the easiest to animate

Both Mendelson and Melendez (who passed away in 2008) grew to appreciate the applause the special has received over the years despite their initial misgivings about the final product. They’ve also acknowledged some tiny animation mistakes that are still noticeable, even after all these years, such as the changing number of branches on Charlie Brown’s scrawny tree. One of the biggest obstacles was transferring Sparky’s comic strip characters into an animated form for the first time. The distinctive giant heads of the ‘Peanuts’ gang made them hard to animate in any kind of fast-paced sequence, so most of the action went to Snoopy, the most cartoon-like character of the group.

9. Some earlier runs of the special included product placements for Coca-Cola

Despite its anti-commercial message, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ wouldn’t have come together without its initial soft drink sponsor. Coca-Cola wanted to produce a Christmas special and ‘Peanuts’ stood at the top of their list. The first version of the special that aired on CBS not only included a brief announcement of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship in the closing credits, but it also carried a product placement in the show’s opening titles. As Charlie Brown and Linus are being tossed around by Snoopy while ice skating, Linus crashes head-on into a sign advertising the popular soda. The scene has since been cut due to expired advertising contracts and the sign was replaced with one that read “Danger.” (Check out the original ending with a message from Coke on the left.)

10. It is the second longest-running Christmas special of all time

The drunken animator turned out to be the smartest person in the screening room. The first broadcast on Dec. 9, 1965 garnered more than 15.4 million viewers, received rave reviews by almost every major television critic and earned Schulz and Mendelson an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program. CBS immediately commissioned more ‘Peanuts’ specials. Since then, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ has aired every year during the holidays on CBS and ABC, who scored the rights in 2001. The broadcasts still earn the highest ratings in their time slot. Even more impressive, it has become the second longest-running Christmas special of all time behind ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.’ Poor Charlie Brown never comes in first.

[via ONTD]

December 22, 2011

DC Comics Holiday Cards

[via GeekTyrant]

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December 21, 2011

Star Wars Christmas Art

Artist Scott Park sent us over a link to his site with these two Christmas inspired Star Wars art pieces, and they are seriously the best Star Wars Christmas art I’ve ever seen! I love that the AT-AT’s are pulling the Star Destroyer like a sleigh! These would make an awesome Christmas card. What are your thoughts on this Star Wars Christmas art?

[via GeekTyrant]

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December 21, 2011

Star Wars Nativity Scenes

Christmas is just around the corner now, so in the spirit of the season here are some pictures of the nativity scene.


By Ben Northern

Photo by Larry Lars


By JP Puerta


By reape78704

[via GeekTyrant]

 

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December 20, 2011

‘The Hobbit’ Post: TRAILER and Stills!

We recently found out that the teaser trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be on the trailer pack before The Adventures of TinTin. But, for those nerds who just can’t wait to watch it on the big screen, you can watch it HERE!

Here are some new stills of the movie as well.

[via GeekTyrant]

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December 20, 2011

Handheld Game Consoles: PlayStation and Nintendo

PS Vita

The Japanese launch of the PlayStation Vita has been a moderate success, with the new handheld console from Sony pushing 321,000 units in the first two days.

To put it in perspective, the rival Nintendo 3DS sold 371,000 units in the first two days. While the Vita lags behind the 3DS in terms of launch sales, the original PSP was wildly popular in Japan, so time will probably be the test as to whether the Vita’s feature set will push it ahead of the 3DS.

The North American launch of the PlayStation Vita isn’t until February 22, 2012.

 

Wii U E3 2011

Gamers will get another early look at the Wii U as Nintendo brings the hardware to CES 2012. Announced at E3 2011, the Wii U is the next generation console from Nintendo that features a touchscreen controller, as well as full 1080p high-definition graphics.

While a prototype was shown at E3 2011 in conjunction with the announcement, we still haven’t had a chance to see the full capabilities of the device, and hopefully what’s show at CES 2012 will give us some more insight into exactly what the Wii U can do.

CES is in full swing on Jan. 10.

[viaG4TV]

#NerdGirls will try to post as much as we can and as quickly as we can dealing with CES in Jan. So keep an eye out.

December 20, 2011

How BSG Can Ruin Your Life

This video from IFC’s Portlandia shows exactly how I am not the only one who sat for hours a day watching the entire series of Battlestar Galactica.

Check out an exclusive clip from the second episode of the upcoming Portlandia season, fittingly entitled “One More Episode.” This is just the first sequence in a storyline that continues throughout the whole episode.

The whole episode will air on January 13 at 10 PM EST, and you can also watch a sneak peek of the whole episode over at the Portlandia Facebook page from January 2 through 5. Portlandia‘s second season starts January 6.

December 20, 2011

Upcoming Superhero Movies Stills

The Avengers

 

Dredd

 

The Amazing Spider-Man