Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the origin of everything in eight minutes

Posted in Education,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

Via Cosmos and StarTalk, renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is able to wonderfully articulate the wildly compelling complexities of the universe. This month, YouTube channel MinutePhysics got Dr. Tyson to narrate in his trancing voice “A Brief History of Everything,” an 8-minute condensed tale of the universe from conception to modern day. The clip, embedded above for your viewing pleasure, is nothing short of fascinating. NDT’s words and descriptions for the layman are entirely digestible, Henry Reich’s stop-motion illustrations are perfect aids, and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” orchestration provides a deserving epic backdrop. Now, mash play and satiate your curiosity. And don’t forget to keep looking up.

This singing machine alleviates our inevitable A.I.-run future

Posted in Music,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

Artistic takes on artificial intelligence, such as Alex Garland’s excellent sci-fi film Ex Machina and AMC’s new synth series Humans, provide a glimpse into our not-so-distant future. A future where humans and robots co-exist and it is hard to tell where the “natural” line breaks. What you see here, an art installation by German creative technologist Martin Backes, is a primitive stab at the future of AI. And yet, this fully automated machine which endlessly sings classic ballads from the ’90s, manages to mimic real human emotion. Hit play and close your eyes; if you weren’t told this was machine belting out Whitney Houston and Celine Dion tunes, you might just think it was coming from a muffled human singer. It’s kind of frightening to think about, sure, but I also find the sound soothing.

“As the computer program performs these emotionally loaded songs, it attempts to apply the appropriate human sentiments,” Backes says on his website. “This behavior of the device seems to reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough to have its very own personality.”

Behind the scenes, Backes has a paired a computer with SuperCollider, a programming language used by musicians, scientists, and artists working with sound. The minimalist execution impresses: the screen, the stand, the mic, and the captivating graphical interface supplanting human eyes with lyrics and a mouth constructed of a fluctuating white bar matching note inflections.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve likely already accepted primitive AIs into your life. Siri and Cortana and Google Now are all proactive assistants on your phone that communicate with you and learn your preferences and habits. Imagine Siri going off and starting a band; Backes’ creation is just that. Can you imagine a future where Taylor Swift is competing against a machine for a Grammy? It’s strange, but I can.

Steve Jobs documentary examines the multifaceted trendsetter

Posted in Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

“Bold. Brilliant. Brutal.” That’s the tagline for Alex Gibney’s documentary focusing on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Gibney, who directed the critically-acclaimed HBO scientology doc Going Clear, picks away at Jobs’ sheen he accumulated over the years as he helped build Apple into a major technological innovating machine. By the end of the trailer you get a sense that Gibney aims to shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly surrounding Jobs’ rise to iconic status and yes, emotions run high. Apple exec Eddy Cue publicly denounced the film calling it “an inaccurate and mean-spirited view of my friend.”

Apple fanboys and fangirls will get their opportunity to conjure an opinion about Gibney’s doc when Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine hits theatres and digital platforms (including iTunes and On Demand) September 4.

“This is a story that’s amazing,” Jobs exclaims in the trailer. “Its got theft, stolen property, extortion, there’s sex in there. Somebody should make a movie out of this!” It’s already been done…and then there’s this doc…and coming this fall is another movie based on his life. Steve, whether or not you stand by them up there in the clouds, movies are being made about you and your wish is coming true.

Christoph Waltz steps out of the shadows in latest ‘SPECTRE’ sneak

Posted in Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

The first full-length trailer for Bond 24 aka SPECTRE has arrived. Sam Mendes directs Daniel Craig as the actor suits up to portray the British Secret Service agent 007 for the fourth time. All of the major players get some screen in this extended look at the action-packed movie, even Bond’s new getaway vehicle, the Astin Martin DB10. Christoph Waltz’ Hannes Oberhauser remains shrouded in mystery, but at least we get a better look at him here than before. “You came across me so many times and yet you never saw me. What took you so long?” And then: “It was me, James. The author of all your pain.” Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) has perfected playing sinister. The official film synopsis follows:

A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE.

Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of the Centre for National Security, questions Bond’s actions and challenges the relevance of MI6, led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper Christensen), who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of an assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot.

As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns of a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks, played by Christoph Waltz.

SPECTRE hits theatres November 6.

‘Wet Hot American Summer’ featurette takes you back to the summer of ’81

Posted in Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

We’re only four days away from the launch of the Wet Hot American Summer revival on Netflix! To celebrate this momentous occasion, travel back in time to 1981 in this nearly three-and-a-half minute Wet Hot featurette. In it you’ll go behind-the-scenes and witness the sheer excitement taking place during the first day of shooting when the entire cast from the 2001 cult comedy reunited for the 8-episode streaming series. Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and all the rest return to play younger versions of themselves since the new Wet Hot takes place during the first day of camp at Camp Firewood (the movie took place on the last day of camp). You’ll hear from the returning cast, as well as some of the newbies including John Slattery (Mad Men), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death), Jordan Peele (Key and Peele), and Lake Bell (Childrens Hospital).

“Working on this just feels like when we shot Wet Hot—it’s really cold, we’re moving really fast and, you know, everybody’s having sex with each other,” says Poehler.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is out this Friday, July 31. Watch the official trailer here.

Disclosure & Sam Smith drop new collab “Omen”

Posted in Audio,Music,News,Video by Scott Meisner on July 27th, 2015

Disclosure and Sam Smith are back with their second major collaboration. The followup to “Latch” is “Omen” and it features the rising crooner on top of moody Lawrence brothers beat. “Omen” is the second single off Disclosure’s imminent sophomore effort, Caracal. The steamy music video, featuring Smith in a Mexico City club, is the second of a four-part series directed by Ryan Hope. Last month, when Disclosure dropped “Holding On,” part one of the series, they laid out Caracal‘s initial rollout via Twitter:

“We wanted to create something very different with our music videos this time around…something unique that would connect all the songs from the album and the videos in a special way. This is the first of a series of four amazing videos directed by Ryan Hope that come together to create a short film… ‘CARACAL.’ As each music video comes out… The plot unfolds. Hope you enjoy!”

If you’re interested in following the trials and tribulations of Mariela, a rebel caught up in a heavily surveilled dystopian future, watch the video for “Holding On” first (featuring vocals from Gregory Porter) and then mash play on “Omen.” The synth-pop house duo will likely release the final two installments prior to Caracal‘s launch on September 25. Preorder Caracal today, and stream “Omen” on Spotify.

What do you think of the new Disclosure x Sam Smith collab? Think it’ll take over the radio waves like “Latch” did last year? When Disclosure released that Settle single in 2012, it took about two years for it to explode onto scene in the US. At the time, Smith hadn’t even released his solo debut In the Lonely Hour. Now, Disclosure is more of household name here in the States, and Smith has piled on the accolades since his first album dropped. In summation, “Omen” is destined to reach the top of the charts.

2015 MTV VMA nominations: Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” dominates the competition

Posted in Music,News by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards nominations were announced today on Beats 1, a major coup for Apple’s infantile Internet radio station. Too bad the station went down during the live feed. Anyway…

No surprise here: Taylor Swift, the artist who pushed Apple to pay royalties to all artists during Apple Music’s free trial period, comes out on top with the most nominations: nine. Her hit single “Bad Blood,” whose music video was directed by Joseph Kahn, earned seven nods total, including Video of the Year. Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé garnered six and five nods, respectively, thanks to their singles “Thinking Out Loud” and “7/11.” Those music videos join T-Swift’s “Bad Blood” in the Video of the Year category along with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”

The 2015 VMAs airs Sunday, August 20 at 9pm (ET), hosted by Miley Cyrus. Jump after the break for the full list of nominees. (Click here for more…)

Pixar forgoes dialogue to set the mood in its next adventure ‘The Good Dinosaur’

Posted in Movies,Video by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

Disney and Pixar pick up right where they left off in this first official trailer for the upcoming animated pic The Good Dinosaur. The June teaser ended with a heartwarming glimpse at a green dinosaur and his pet human (more on that in a second), and the new trailer comes to life with an elevated sense of discovery, trepidation, and adventure.

The Good Dinosaur asks this question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? The film follows an Apatosaurus named Arlo and Spot the cave-boy. Director Peter Sohn, a Pixar Story Artist who previously worked on films such as Finding Nemo and Up!, describes Dino as a boy-and-his-dog story, except here the roles are reversed. “Arlo himself is what we would have become, able to articulate and have certain emotions and connection to family,” says Sohn. [The dinosaurs have] become us, essentially… I’m trying to treat Spot in a very kind of animalistic way, where he doesn’t speak very much. He’s very feral.”

You’ll notice the trailer barely includes any dialogue, besides a few grunts and growls. Featured prominently is the song “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men, a sweet tune that succinctly sets the mood for Pixar’s latest adventure. I say, who needs dialogue in a trailer that so magically brings to life an alternate reality ruled by dinosaurs; the animation here is incredibly life-like at times and pushes CGI to new limits. What say you?

The Good Dinosaur hits theatres November 25.

ABC releases extended look at this fall’s ‘The Muppets’

Posted in Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

Excited for The Muppets to make their triumphant return to television? Today ABC released an extended sneak peek at this fall’s upcoming comedy starring your favorite furry puppets Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and the rest. It’s highly atypical for a network to leak a “first look presentation” to the public–it’s what the creators of a show put together to convince a network to pick up their project to series. Due to popular demand, and after screening it to audiences at San Diego Comic Con, ABC decided to let Bill Prady and Bob Kushell’s Muppets pitch loose to boost anticipation and awareness surrounding the sitcom.

The nearly 11-minute clip is essentially an extension of the original Muppets trailer ABC outed during the Upfronts. In it, Kermit rounds up the troops in a production office to announce that ABC wants to put on a primetime Muppets show; yes, it’s very meta. The pitch utilizes the mockumentary style camerawork found in many successful sitcoms today, including Modern Family; Gonzo calls it “so gimmicky” and yet I can’t hold back laughter. The crux of the drama involves Kermit trying to get Miss Piggy out of the movie biz (where she’s dating That 70s Show star Topher Grace) and onto the set of the new ABC series. She’s dismissive at first likely due to the fact that Kermit has moved on, too, and fell for another pig named Denise. Elsewhere, Fozzie the Bear is dating a human girl and her parents are concerned.

Whether or not any of this actually makes it into the pilot to air this fall, it’s a must-see for Muppets fans and all those who are eagerly looking forward to “a more adult Muppets show” in primetime.

2015 Emmy nominations: ‘Game of Thrones’ & ‘American Horror Story’ lead the pack, ‘Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany joins the club

Posted in News,Television by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

This year’s Emmy nominations are out and TATIANA MASLANY IS AMONG THEM! For years I’ve been drowning frustration that genre shows like The Walking DeadFringe, and Orphan Black aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. Today still, these shows aren’t up for Best Drama; in an alternate universe, Fringe did win the top prize and its star John Noble is a multi-trophy bearer. And yet, there is reason to celebrate because the leading lady of BBC America’s sci-fi clone frenzy, the one and only Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black, was finally recognized for her truly incredible performances on the Graeme Manson and John Fawcett-created conspiracy thriller. She only plays like 10 different characters, each with their own set of personalities, quirks, and flaws. It’s something that demands to be seen to be entirely believed, and now the actress that makes it all come to life is centerstage at the Emmys.

Of course, the competition is mighty fierce. Orphan Black‘s Maslany is vying for Lead Actress in a Drama against Claire Danes (Homeland), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), and Robin Wright (House of Cards). Danes starred in a riveting, refreshed season of Homeland. Davis gave a knockout, emotionally punishing performance in Shonda Rhimes’ HTGAWM. Henson wowed audiences as the no-holds-barred Cookie in Empire‘s debut season. Moss has one last shot to win an actor award for Mad Men‘s final season. And Wright continues to impress as the steely Mrs. Underwood in Netflix’s still red-hot series House of Cards. Good luck, Tatiana. Not that you need it. But still.

The seven series nominated for Outstanding Drama include Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, Mad Men, and Orange Is the New Black. Yeah, it was a great year for TV. Nominated Lead Actors include Kyle Chandler (Bloodline) Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards).

Over on the funny side, the following series are nominated for Outstanding Comedy: Louie, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Veep. Another tough category. Modern always wins. Parks ended its 7-year run on a (very) high note and deserves a series win. HBO’s Silicon Valley and Veep continue to conjure smart laughs. Transparent is a game-changer and put Amazon on the map with Netflix, and featured a tour-de-force performance by Jeffrey Tambor. And who could forget just how inherently fun and funny Kimmy Schmidt was in its breakout debut? Did somebody say Peeno Noir

Funny girls up for Lead Actress include Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Amy Poehler! (Parks and Recreation), Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), and Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie). Lead Actors: Anthony Anderson (black-ish), Louis C.K. (Louie), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Will Forte (Last Man on Earth), Matt LeBlanc (Episodes), William H. Macy (Shameless), and yes, Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent).

Elsewhere, John Ridley’s captivating ABC drama American Crime and Ryan Murphy’s FX fright fest American Horror Story: Freak Show dominated the Limited Series categories.

In total, HBO’s fantasy drama Game of Thrones racked up the most nods with 24, followed by AHS: Freak Show (19), Olive Kitteridge (13), Bessie (12), and the following three earned 11 nods apiece: House of Cards, Mad Men, and TransparentAmerican Crime and Boardwalk Empire nabbed 10 each, and rounding out the top ten is Veep with 9 nods.

With Tatiana in the race, it’s hard to nitpick this year. But I must, because there are plenty of worthy series and actors that got undeservedly snubbed this go-around. Showtime’s The Affair was completely shut out–not only is the drama worthy of most Outstanding, but its main stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson give gripping performances that whole-heartedly deserve much love. FX’s The Americans also demands to enter the race, but once again it’s only guest star Margo Martindale who earns a seat at the table. The same can be said for Showtime’s Masters of Sex; guest stars and on-screen husband and wife Allison Janney and Beau Bridges were nominated for the guest roles but the show and its stars Martin Sheen and Lizzy Caplan aren’t mentioned. Zilch for A&E’s Bates Motel. Other snubbed actors? Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), and the entire cast of The Walking Dead.

The 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards airs live, Sunday, September 20 at 8pm (ET) on Fox. Click here for the full list of nominees.

Microsoft launches Windows 10 marketing campaign with the world’s cutest babies

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

It’s easy to breeze past commercials when you’re watching TV. I’ve got a TiVo at home and it’s a rare thing these days to catch me ever sitting through an ad when I can simply sift through it with the click of button. Boy am I glad I didn’t miss out on this one.

With the release of Windows 10 just about a week away, Microsoft is launching its marketing campaign to push its first-year-free fresh OS unto the world. With taglines like, “The future starts now” and “A more human way to do,” MSFT is building a brand that highlights Win10’s new feature set and its focus on user accessibility.

The spot stars a number of the world’s cutest babies from all walks of life. “Imagine, these kids won’t have to remember passwords, or obsess about security. For them, every screen is meant to be touched,” says the voiceover. Essentially, Microsoft is saying that Windows 10 will transform the way we interact with our PCs today and it’s future-proof for the kids of tomorrow. ALSO HOW CUTE IS THAT WINDOW BABY!?

With Windows Hello, remembering login passwords is a thing of the past; built-in webcams will scan your smiley face and you’re in. Internet Explorer’s more secure and leaner successor Microsoft Edge allows you to draw directly on web pages and share with others. Cortana, Windows Phone’s personal assistant, is coming to the desktop and she’s there to answer your questions and learn your preferences. And course, the company’s pushing familiarity here. Gone is the “Metro” Live Tile interface; the classic desktop from Windows 7 is back with a modernized touch–helpful Live Tiles now live inside the Start Menu.

Windows 10 begins its rollout on July 29, starting with Windows Insiders (those that beta-tested the OS) and then getting to reservations. If you’re a Windows 7 or 8.1 user, Win10 is offered to you as a free upgrade for the first year of its existence. To learn how to reserve a copy, click here.

[Via Microsoft]

Apple reports 2015 Q3 results: $49.6 billion revenue & $10.7 billion net profit

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

On July 21, Apple reported its 2015 third quarter financial results. Apple posted a record quarterly revenue of $49.6 billion and net profit of $10.7 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $37.4 billion and net profit of $7.7 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook: “We had an amazing quarter, with iPhone revenue up 59 percent over last year, strong sales of Mac, all-time record revenue from services, driven by the App Store, and a great start for Apple Watch. The excitement for Apple Music has been incredible, and we’re looking forward to releasing iOS 9, OS X El Capitan and watchOS 2 to customers in the fall.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 47.5 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 35.2 million in the year-ago quarter); 10.9 million iPads (compared to 13.3 million); and 4.8 million Macs (compared to 4.4 million). As for iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the company stuffs these products into a single category called Other Products and unfortunately does not disclose how many units of each were sold. However, what we do know is that this division accounted for $2.6 billion of Apple’s revenue this quarter.

Interested in how Apple Watch performed out of the gate? The company’s not sharing exact figures, but in an interview with The New York Times, Apple CFO Luca Maestri says that “the watch’s sales in its first nine weeks exceeded those of the iPhone and iPad in their first nine weeks of availability.” Also, Maestri informed Engadget during the earning call today that the watch “was responsible for “over 100 percent” of the “Other Product” category’s growth in the quarter and offset any losses from iPod and accessory sales.”

Looking ahead to the fourth fiscal quarter of 2015, Maestri expects revenue between $49 billion and $51 billion.

[Via Apple]

Apple splashes a new coat of paint across its iPod lineup, beefs up the aging touch

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

It speaks volumes about Apple’s iPod division that Tim Cook’s company decided to roll out a new version of the iPod touch in a press release as opposed to dedicated stage time to it at a public event. The ubiquitous iPhone and its tablet counterpart the iPad play music and so much more, making the iPod touch, nano, and shuffle more obsolete than ever. Still, Apple is keeping its iPod line alive with refreshed innards and a splash of new colors.

First and foremost, the new, sixth-generation iPod touch packs the same A8 processor found inside the powerful iPhone 6. This boosts the music player’s graphics performance 10x and CPU performance 6x, it brings a 64-bit architecture to the device, and it supports Metal, Apple’s technology for developers that helps them make more immersive games. Additionally, the new touch also includes the M8 motion coprocessor for enhanced fitness tracking. *Note: TechCrunch reports that the A8 processor is slightly underclocked inside the touch (1.1GHz versus the iPhone 6’s 1.39GHz), likely to conserve battery life and keep prices down.

The cameras have also been upgraded on the touch. Around the back, the iSight Camera now sports an 8-megapixel sensor (up from 5 before). It supports slo-mo video recording in 720p HD at 120 fps, burst mode, time-lapse video, and high-resolution panorama shots. The updated front-facing FaceTime HD Camera also supports burst mode, plus improved HDR, face detection, and exposure control. Elsewhere, users will notice up to 3x faster WiFi speeds thanks to 802.11ac support; Bluetooth 4.1 is also on board.

The new iPod touch, which comes preloaded with iOS 8.4 and the new Music app with access to Apple Music, starts at $199 for the 16GB model. For another 50 bucks you can get it with 32GB of memory. 64GB and 128GB models are also available at $299 and $399, respectively. The largest model is exclusive to Apple retail and online stores. The new colors match the iPhone & iPad lineups; there’s space gray, silver, and gold, for starters, plus vibrants options in pink, blue, and (PRODUCT)RED. The 16GB iPod nano ($149) and 2GB iPod shuffle ($49) also received the same coat of new colors. All iPods are available to ship today.

Enjoy ’em while they last. As the iPhone, iPad and even the new gadget on the block, the Apple Watch, continue to cannibalize the market with their never-ending feature sets, the iPod’s future remains murky.

[Via Apple]

Nintendo pioneer Satoru Iwata rides the rainbow road into the sky

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 21st, 2015

The passing of Nintendo President & CEO Satoru Iwata affected me greatly the moment I learned about it. I was casually scrolling my Twitter feed when the news broke: Iwata, at age 55, passed away due to a bile duct tumor. And just like that, the video games community lost an innovator and an icon.

It was Iwata who pioneered Nintendo’s journey into the future of gaming, leading the development of the game-changing Nintendo DS handheld and the motion-controlled Nintendo Wii console. These devices went on to shape the current state of the industry. The DS eventually evolved into the 3DS, dominating the games portability market and rivaling what iPhones and Android sets have to offer. The Wii’s successor, the Wii U, continues to pump out grade-A first-party games that finally bring Mario and friends into the world of high definition. The motion control input which first debuted in the original Wii spawned intense competition from the likes of Microsoft and its hands-free motion capture camera, Kinect. Sony also offers a camera of its own, and soon it will take advantage of a virtual reality headset codenamed Project Morpheus. In sum, Iwata was the brains behind an originally outlandish concept that would soon take the industry by storm. Kinect, Morpheus, and even VR startup Oculus have Iwata to thank for his ability to properly gauge and cater to gamers with new modes of gameplay.

In addition to running Nintendo and coming up with brilliant innovations, Iwata knew how to connect with his company’s fanbase on a number of levels. He came up with “Iwata Asks,” a series of in-depth interviews he hosted alongside creators of major titles coming to Nintendo’s systems. He also put a spotlight on his incredible sense of humor, having fun when making big announcements at E3 and during Nintendo Direct web videos. All in all, he was a CEO with heart and a true passion for video games. And with that, I leave you with a powerful quote:

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” – Satoru Iwata, RIP.

[Image via PeachBunni]

Comic Con: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ brings together entire main cast & the fans get a concert (Behind-the-scenes video inside)

Posted in [experience-it-all],Images,Movies,News,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

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It’s a funny thing, really. Though little was divulged in terms of new announcements at the Star Wars panel at San Diego Comic Con 2015, it turned out to be the most amazing Con experience and one I will never forget.

A packed Hall H chants “Let’s go Star Wars!” and claps as if we were at a sporting event. Only at Comic Con, am I right? In time, moderator Chris Hardwick (the Talking Dead host and Nerdist leader was everywhere this year!) came out to introduce producer Kathleen Kennedy of Lucasfilm, director J.J. Abrams, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Abrams talked up Episode VII‘s reliance on practical effects over CGI, and he made a point by bringing out a new character named Bobba Joe. The creature, operated magically by five people, managed to walk across the stage twice without falling over or bumping into anything. The oversized puppet really impressed the audience with its finesse. Abrams says to expect many characters like this in the film.

“We aren’t ready to show you scenes from the movie or a new trailer, but we wanted to bring something that was as unique and unexpected as we could,” Abrams told the crowd. The behind-the-scenes reel shown to panel attendees brought tears to many eyes–it encapsulates the sheer force of the Star Wars franchise and does a great job of sharing the level of detail and blood, sweat, and tears that Abrams and co. are putting into this thing. Also, Simon Pegg pops up in a surprise cameo! You can watch nearly 4-minute clip after the break.

The cast came out next. Our three heroes John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey), and Oscar Isaacs (Poe Dameron) and then the villains Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), and Gwendolyn Christie (Captain Phasma) and then the legacy players Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). And yes, the crowd went more than wild at the sight of all this talent, especially when Mr. Ford entered the scene. He received the biggest standing ovation by a mile. Gleeson accidentally leaked the name of the villains’ base: Starkiller Base. Beyond that, nothing new was announced here. A handful of first-looks at practical effects characters were displayed, and you can see those in the gallery.

Just as the panel felt like it was wrapping up, Abrams said this: “Who wants to go see a live Star Wars concert right now? We only have room for all of you. We are literally all going to walk to a location together and experience a Star Wars concert tonight.” It’s hard to describe the rush I felt along with everyone else there. It was like a wave of excitement crashed into the crowd and all of sudden we were all high on life all at once. And with that, the entire Hall H–over 6,000 people–proceeded to collect their belongings and follow a procession of Stormtroopers to the Embarcadero Marina Park South where the San Diego Symphony was waiting to perform selections from the iconic Star Wars score. The walk took about 45 minutes or so, but that wasn’t a problem for anyone. With our exclusive lanyards we walked proudly behind the convention center and slowly made our way to the secret venue on the water. Once everyone was situated with free colored lightsabers, Abrams and the entire cast came out again to introduce the symphony. Composer John Williams wasn’t on hand, unfortunately, but he did pre-record a message wishing the fans a good time and “May the force be with you.” The sun set, the music played beautifully against a backdrop consisting of classic scenes spanning all six films, and just when we all thought it couldn’t get any better, fireworks exploded in the sky just as the Star Wars main theme kicked in at the end of the concert. A rainbow of lightsabers showered the symphony with love.

This was truly a shared experience to cherish for a lifetime.

(Click here for more…)

Comic Con: ‘The Walking Dead’ & ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ land premiere dates (Epic trailers inside)

Posted in Images,News,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

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The following post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 5.

The Walking Dead never fails to impress in San Diego every summer since creator Robert Kirkman and company always share the next season’s jam-packed trailer. The season 6 trailer, hanging after the break, previews the power struggle going on in the not-so-safe-zone known as Alexandria. With Lennie James’ Morgan in the mix, Rick Grimes has someone else to contend with. However, EP Scott M. Gimple states, “Things might not be as they seem…We sometimes play with the truth in trailers.” Interpret that as you will.

What else? After saying that there will be some “flashbackery” and time jumps coming soon, he later corrected himself and said, “A whole lot of flashbacks” are on the way; in fact, an entire episode will be a flashback. The Wolves are coming, as hinted across episodes in season 5; they will factor into the next season in “a way you might not expect,” teased Gimple. Casting announcements were made as well; Corey Hawkins is Heath from the comics, Nurse Jackie‘s Merritt Wever is also playing somebody from the comics, and Ethan Embry is featured in the new trailer.

In addition to Gimple, EPs Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Alpert, and Greg Nicotero were on the panel along with stars Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Michael Cudlitz, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Norman Reedus.

What was it like being there? Well… McBride walked onto the stage with a tray of freshly baked cookies (hello, Scare-ol!). Reedus disclosed the three things he needs to get into character as Daryl Dixon: Motörhead, coffee, and Candy Crush (he’s a level 275 and proud of it!). Cudlitz said of his character, “Abraham’s defining moment hasn’t come yet.” Boom. Do you miss Rick’s beard? So does he? Gimple says his facial hair will continue to serve as a barometer of where his head is at; so, if the proverbial shit continues to hit the fan, expect that beard to be meaner than ever. Kirkman and Lauren Cohan couldn’t make the panel so everyone on the panel wore shirts with the creator’s big head on it and Cohan texted Nicotero for Yeun to read a love note to the fans (it was very sweet and then very funny). Also, an entertaining season 5 blooper reel was shown; unfortunately it wasn’t made available online so you’ll have to nab the DVD to see it.

The Walking Dead premieres its sixth season on Sunday, October 11 at 9pm on AMC. The super-sized 90-minute episode, directed by Greg Nicotero, will be followed by a new installment of Talking Dead hosted by Chris Hardwick. It was also announced that the premiere will screen for fans at Madison Square Garden; details here. Jump into the gallery below to see pictures from the panel as well as first looks at newly decomposed walkers designed, of course, by Mr. Nicotero.

Jump after the break for scoop on companion series Fear the Walking Dead. (Click here for more…)

Comic Con: You Know Who was not resurrected at the ‘Game of Thrones’ panel, and other highlights (Audition reel inside)

Posted in [experience-it-all],Images,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

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This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 5.

Game of Thrones has finally caught up to the books. What did that mean for its panel at Comic Con 2015? Author George R.R. Martin was a no-show because he’s shackling himself to his typewriter to complete the next book in the Ice and Fire saga. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also were not present. So who did show up? Director David Nutter, EP Carolyn Strauss, and stars Carice van Houten, Natalie Dormer, Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, Hannah Murray, John Bradley, Maisie Williams, Conleth Hill, Liam Cunningham, and Gwendoline Christie.

Since Martin, Benioff, and Weiss are keeping season 6 plot details to themselves for now, the cast has absolutely no idea what’s coming next for them. The most tantalizing tidbit? Nutter, who directed the season 5 finale where beloved character Jon Snow is murdered, confirmed the death of the fan-favorite with an entertaining story. Apparently President Obama directly asked Nutter if Snow was really dead, and Nutter replied, “John Snow is deader than dead.” So there you have it. Also dead is Stannis Baratheon; although viewers weren’t privy to Brienne’s Oathkeeper chopping off the True King’s head, Nutter confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that “from the very beginning, and [through] the script process, that was the intent–he’s dead.”

Since there was no fresh intel to share with the crowd, how did they keep us entertained? Well for one thing, the infinitely adorable Maisie Williams shouted out an “Oysters, clams, and cockles” for the crowd when a girl dressed as Arya Stark holding a basket of foodstuffs approached the mic. And John Bradley, who plays Sam, shared this gem: “Before Gilly, Sam thought of sex as most people thought of space.” Moderator Seth Meyers went on to screen an audition reel showing early versions of many Thrones characters including Brienne and Ygritte; watch it after the break. Below, images from the panel; see if you can spot the Sons of the Harpy cosplayer sitting conspicuously close to the fan questioner.

(Click here for more…)

Comic Con: The Fannibals celebrate ‘Hannibal’ as Bryan Fuller continues the search for a new home (Red Dragon preview inside)

Posted in Images,News,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

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You already know my thoughts on Hannibal, so it was pretty much a sure thing that I found myself inside Ballroom 20 when Bryan Fuller, Marta De Laurentiis, Hugh Dancy, and Richard Armitage came on to celebrate the outgoing NBC drama at Comic Con.

The Fannibals came out in strong numbers with an incredible amount of love and passion at the Hannibal, um, pannibal. Prior to kick-off, fans were handing out “Fannibals Forever” posters to hold up in support of the recently axed show. Fans booed in unison when the moderator mentioned the cancellation, but Fuller was quick to thank NBC for allow him and his creative team to carry out Hannibal for as long as they did. “Hey, NBC let us do some crazy shit for three years, they deserve our applause,” Fuller said and as if a spell was put upon them the crowd’s boos turned into celebratory cheers.

Fuller shared the unfortunate news that both Netflix and Amazon passed on saving the series. Netflix because the show already has a streaming deal with Amazon (to air its back catalog of episodes) and Amazon because it demanded Fuller pump out scripts with immediacy and due to his busy schedule it made such a thing impossible (Fuller is working on Starz’ adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Americans Gods). Even still, Fuller tells fans the story is not over yet; “we are still looking” for a new home for Hannibal he reassured the crowd. And if a fourth season simply isn’t in the cards, he hinted at “the possibility of a feature.” Stars Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are committed to continuing the series in any form, so transitioning Hannibal back to the big screen is an option on the table.

The panel itself was such a joy and the fans are to thank for that. Fuller embraced the Fannibals with open arms, and they reciprocated by offering the panel ornate flower crowns (symbolizing the series’ passionate fanbase) and one audience member even gifted Fuller with a scarf to match his favorite suit! It was an all-around love affair and as an avid Hannibal Fannibal myself I will say it was so much fun to be apart of.

Opening and closing the panel was an extended sneak peek at the upcoming Red Dragon story arc starring Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde aka The Tooth Fairy aka The Red Dragon. The five-minute clip, embedded after the break for your viewing pleasure, reveals his full-body tattoo and goes on to preview Zachary Quinto’s guest spot in Bedelia’s storyline. Fuller explained: Francis Dolarhyde is a Hannibal that Will wants to save and Francis Dolarhyde is a Will that Hannibal wants to corrupt. Ah! Also, Fuller says the Dolarhyde rape scenes from the Thomas Harris novel will not be adapted for television; he finds such scenes to be “cheapening.”

Other tidbits: A three-year time jump is about to take place. Will goes on a domestic retreat and even elopes, but happy times, obviously, won’t last long. Music from Siouxsie and The Banshees will be featured in the season 3 finale, and Fuller promises James Bond-level epicness from that score. A couple quotables: Fuller “loves emotional plotting as opposed to plot-plotting” and “the music is psychological, not melodic.”

Days after the panel, NBC relocated Hannibal to Saturdays at 10. Look in the gallery below for fun stills from the panel!

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Comic Con: Seth MacFarlane leads Fox animated lineup including ‘Family Guy’, ‘American Dad’ & ‘Bordertown’ (‘FG’ preview inside)

Posted in Images,News,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

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Seth MacFarlane made a triumphant return to San Diego Comic Con this year where he sat on panels for all three of his Fox animated series: Family GuyAmerican Dad, and his new show Bordertown. Let’s dive in. Giggidy.

First off, let’s get this fresh piece of intel out of the day. When prompted by the moderator, MacFarlane revealed that he is “optimistic” about a second season of Cosmos. For fans of the Spacetime Odyssey, this should get you going. “There’s nothing official yet, but the talks are happening,” he added. As Peter Griffin would say, freakin’ sweet.

Speaking of Family Guy, that panel brought on executive producers Steve Callaghan and Rich Appel, as well as voice actors Alex Borstein (Lois), Seth Green (Chris), and Mike Henry (Cleveland). MacFarlane introduced a clip featuring scenes from upcoming episodes, and you can watch it after the break. What can you expect? The gang finds out that Quagmire was once a Korean soap opera actor and they travel to Korea to find an episode of his show…Chris becomes a registered sex offender…Brian and Stewie get addicted to Aderall “with interesting results”…Stewie encounters his first nightmare and Brian enters his mind to explore his demons hidden inside. Guest stars include Ed O’Neil, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Glenn Close, Kyle Chandler, Joe Buck, and Kate McKinnon (she’ll play Peter’s sister and she’s a pro wrester with the name Heavy Flow). Also, John Mellencamp will pop up and sing in an episode playing a self-depreciating character. Following these announcements, the cast did a live script reading, pulling from classic Family Guy sequences fans quickly recognized.

Next up was American Dad and to the stage came executive producers Matt Weitzman and Brian Boyle, as well as voice actors Scott Grimes (Steve) and Wendy Schaal (Francine). Again a clip was shown previewing scenes from the new season, but unfortunately Fox did not upload this one to the ‘Net. My descriptions will have to do: Steve and Snot’s future selves travel back in time to stop their present selves from throwing a party (if they peak in high school, they’ll become losers as adults is the argument)…Francine practices to be a widow when she learns that the family doesn’t have life insurance…A two-part episode features Stan having a “crisis of faith” and he feels compelled to become “the next Noah”…Steve joins the water polo team and Klouse uses his pubic hairs to control him, Ratatouille-style…With R. Kelly’s permission, there will be an episode where Steve belts out his own version of “Trapped in the Closet” (Grimes previewed a tune for the crowd and as we already know he can sing). Also confirmed: Hayley’s boyfriend Jeff will be featured in half the episode next season; his alien-hood won’t be a major point of discussion anytime soon.

The final panel promoted the next animated series that MacFarlane is executive producing and that’s the politically bent Bordertown. Creator and EP Mark Hentemann was joined by voice actors Alex Borstein, Missi Pyle, and Nick Gonzalez and they screened nearly half of the pilot episode for the Con crowd. The animation style certainly is different from Seth’s previous works, and the material at hand addresses the border situation across America and Mexico head-on. What they showed proved to be entertaining fair, but it will take time for MacFarlane’s following to jump aboard this wise-cracking political romp.

Check out the gallery below for a few pictures from panel. Family GuyAmerican Dad, and Bordertown premiere this fall on Fox.

(Click here for more…)

Comic Con: Emma embraces her dark side in ‘Once Upon a Time’ to become The Dark Swan (video inside)

Posted in Image cache,Television,Video by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2015

This post contains spoilers for Once Upon a Time season 4.

Meet The Dark Swan. That’s what Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, executive producers of ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon a Time, are calling Emma Swan, now that she’s carrying the darkness that once lived inside Rumpelstiltskin (formally known as The Dark One). The image you see above is being used as the official key art for the upcoming fifth season of OUAT and was featured outside the convention center in San Diego during the week of Comic Con. It’s certainly a bold image to use as it stylistically transforms Jennifer Morrison’s character into something sinister. It might be hard to see, but along the side it reads, “Evil isn’t born. It’s made.”

“Emma went through a lot in her life,” Morrison said at the OUAT panel. “She had a tough childhood. She’s had to overcome a lot of things. She’s tried to be the bigger person. Now that she’s tethered to the darkness, she’s free of that…She’s going to face the darkness in herself and figure out how to overcome it.”

In the first of three clips embedded after the break, you will witness Emma’s storied journey from bail bondswoman to Storybrooke non-believer to The Savior and her eventual decent into darkness. Emma lost her love from the “real world” when Neil met his maker last season, and more recently she found out that her parents–Snow White and Prince Charming–lied to her about her Savior origins. When all of this came to head in the season four finale, The Apprentice accidentally released the darkness living inside Rumpelstiltskin unto Storybrooke. Emma sacrificed herself and allowed the darkness to consume her to save the town from death and destruction.

In the second clip, you’ll get a first look at Morrison playing The Dark Swan: slicked back, bleached blonde hair, deep red lipstick, and shiny sparkles make up her appearance. And oh yes, she’s evil alright: locked inside a cage (did the darkness transport her to the Enchanted Forest?), Evil Emma rips the heart out of a jailor and crushes it to smithereens without flinching. Want a closer look at Morrison in character? Click over to EW for two stills.

The third and final clip released from the Con introduces a brand new character from Disney/Pixar lore and it’s Merida from Brave. Amy Manson (Being Human) plays the red-haired princess of DunBroch who happens to be a master archer. How she’s connected to the rest of the Once gang has not been disclosed.

The search for Merlin the Sorcerer and a way to save Emma from the darkness (herself!) begins this September when Once Upon a Time returns to ABC.

[Via EW] (Click here for more…)