I’ve been dreading this moment but it’s time to face the music. The 18th of January marked the final Fringe Friday. Over the course of the past five years we laughed, we cried, and we believed in Olivia Dunham, Peter and Walter Bishop, Astrid Farnsworth, Phillip Broyles, Nina Sharp, September the Observer, and everybody else who came and went on this epic, far-out journey about what it means to be human. As expected the bald-headed baddies were destroyed (well, erased from time if you want to be precise) and our Fringe family went on to live their lives in peace. Even Walter who was forced to sacrifice himself and live in a distant future apart from his son and granddaughter–lord knows he’s having all kinds of fun with the scientists in Oslo, Norway talking them into accepting the “anomaly” Observer as an appropriate form of human evolution. What is humanity without the power of emotion beating inside it?
I’ll be short and sweet, just like the final season of the show. My thoughts on the series finale: It was all I hoped it would be. Intrinsically beautiful, exciting, emotional, poignant, satisfying. The series in general? One of a kind.
Over the years I shared my passion for Fringe in exactly 53 posts total including this one. From the intense teaser trailers to the unforgettable Comic Con panels to the nail-biting season renewals, Fringe has been an exhilarating roller coaster from shaky start to fantastic finish. From a mysterious plane crash to a portal aimed at the future, from The Pattern to The Plan, Fringe rose above its cult status and shined like a glimmer of hope.
After the break you can watch one last video featuring the main cast discussing the ramifications of the final episode. It’s time to say goodbye. Like family these characters will always remain in my heart. (Click here for more…)
On Wednesday night I attended Fringe Benefits, a special screening, panel, reception, and gallery exhibit hosted by the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles. The event celebrated the cult sci-fi series Fringe which airs its third-to-last episode tonight (the final two episodes air back-to-back next Friday). As a fan of the show from the day the pilot aired in 2008, this was a very special occasion for me to attend. What better way to celebrate five phenomenal seasons of such a memorable, mind-bending show than with an intimate group of similarly passionate fans. Entertainment Weekly senior writer Jeff Jensen was on hand to introduce the screening of episode 511 “The Boy Must Live” and afterwards he moderated a Q&A panel that included star Lance Reddick (Phillip Broyles) and showrunner Joel “J.H.” Wyman.
“The Boy Must Live” airs tonight at 9PM on FOX, so I certainly won’t spoil anything for you. I will say, however, that this episode is one of the most revelatory in the show’s history as it answers many Observer-related questions. Walter (played by the talented John Noble) volunteers to take a plunge into the famous water tank to relive the memories transfered to him by the child Observer in an attempt to locate September (played by a touching Michael Cerveris). In many ways the episode is humorous; dialogue from Walter and Olivia forced the audience (and myself included) to erupt in laughter more than once during the screening. And at the same time the installment is incredibly touching; Walter and Peter share a tear-inducing moment early on in the episode. Questions are answers, emotional connections are made, and the ball is officially rolling toward next week’s big finale.
After the screening Jensen moderated a candid Q&A session with Reddick and Wyman. Below I share with you my attempt at scrupulous note-taking that took place during the entertaining back-and-forth. (Click here for more…)
–Spoiler-free– (and yes that’s me)
Just got out of the THE HOBBIT. In a word, it was FANTASTIC. The story so far is really exciting and filled with the best characters. I can’t imagine anyone but Martin Freeman playing young Bilbo Baggins. Ian McKellen is back as Gandolf and he’s better than ever. And all 13 dwarves have their own distinct ways about themselves that I appreciate. The little men are led by Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage, and he’s already a favorite. It was great seeing old characters return as well–Ian Holm (old Baggins), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Bret McKenzie (Lindir). And who can forget Gollum; Andy Serkis has perfected the once-human creature here. He looks incredible (especially his giant blue eyes and sharp mouth) and the scene in which he encounters Bilbo has to be my favorite one. It’s a mix of fear, humor, and curiosity. An honorable mention goes to composer Howard Shore whose original score for the film borrows classic sounds from LOTR but also adds a new layer of epic proportions (if you don’t have the dwarf song “Misty Mountains” stuck in your head when you’re walking out then something’s wrong). In the end I felt fully satisfied (I never thought I’d be returning to Tolkien and Jackson’s Middle Earth) and yet I was left with a wanting feeling for more. One down, two to go. Bilbo is going on an adventure, and I’m all in.
I saw the movie in 3D in 48 frames per second, or what Peter Jackson is calling High Frame Rate (HFR). First off, 3D was effective on all accounts: the depth it added to the picture had me immersed the entire time. The HFR took some getting used to. When the film starts right off the bat you notice that something is, well, “off” with the picture. One, it’s as if you’re watching a super HDTV–the sharpness and crispness and vividness of the picture is starkly different than anything I’ve ever experienced before in theatres. But in a good way. There are many scenes in the film that take a birds-eye view of vast landscapes all around Middle Earth and the HFR injects a sense of hyper-realism into these shots. My jaw dropped more than once upon witnessing such beautiful scenes. However, this new technology can be jarring at times in a not-so-good way. In the opening scene, when old Bilbo is in his hole in the ground writing his book for Frodo, his movements are fluid but the 48 frames make it seem as if he’s speeding through the process. It’s as if someone pressed the “fast-forward” button on the remote. And this is noticable throughout the film, especially during fast-paced action sequences. When things slow down (or during the aforementioned birds-eye shots) this is not as noticable. Some critics argue that the 48 frames takes away from the mistique of the movie. THE HOBBIT is a fantasy and the hyper-realism removes the layer of mystery by attempting to make things that aren’t real (i.e. orcs, trolls, giant flying birds), look real. Friends of mine compared it to how video game cut scenes look. I’m not sure if I totally agree with that, however. All in all, I say if you have the opportunity to visit a theatre that’s playing the movie in 48FPS you should absolutely experience it for yourself. Though I never really got used to the effect–which has its advantages (super HD crystal clear picture) and disadvantages (the “fast-forward” effect)–I was truly mesmorized and found myself lost in Middle Earth until the credits rolled at the end. Is 48FPS the future of movies like Jackson predicts? It’s too early to tell. Is the effect too much for a movie with fantasy roots? Perhaps. But in the end it’s worth it because it’s always fun to try new things.
In the words of Mr. Ebert, THE HOBBIT gets two big thumbs up and I highly recommend you go on the wonderfully crafted journey.
Tomorrow (9/18) the highly anticipated G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer drops. Earlier this week the album became available to preorder, and if you eyed the official tracklist you surely noticed a featured artist’s name you might not have seen before. On the eighth track “Sin City” G.O.O.D. Music signees John Legend and Cyhi the Prynce headline with Malik Yusef.
A five-time Grammy award winner, forty one year old Yusef is a longtime collaborator of Kanye West’s, having co-wrote a whopping seven songs from West’s impressive 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He also dipped his creative hand in helping produce West’s Runaway short film, and he went on to co-write two tracks off West and Jay-Z’s collab album Watch The Throne (2011). With a youth literacy foundation under his belt and an eye for high fashion, Yusef is a philanthropic member of West’s G.O.O.D. Music team, and his sense of style, word choice, and ear for a solid beat make him a vital member of the formidable team ‘Ye built in the rap community.
Jump after the break to read experience-it-all‘s exclusive interview with Malik Yusef. In it the spoken word artist discusses what it is like working with Kanye West in the studio, what G.O.O.D. Music stands for, he’s asked about the Chicago rap scene, and hypes a new, up-and-coming artist by the name of Tyran Brown. (Click here for more…)
If you haven’t noticed, [experience-it-all] has undergone some cosmetic changes, including a fresh new logo up top and a revamped sidebar that makes navigating coverage simpler and faster. The sidebar also features a new section called Partner Blogs; recently I teamed with SpeakSonic so that I can feature the site’s bite-sized album reviews right here at experience-it-all.com. The concept is simple, really. On a regular basis SpeakSonic will review newly released albums in 200 words or less and I will inform you when new ones go up. So without further ado…
A relatively new destination, SpeakSonic currently has three album reviews up: Maroon 5′s Overexposed, Justin Bieber’s Believe, and Usher’s Looking 4 Myself. Click the links to read the informed reviews and don’t forget to bookmark SpeakSonic and check back for more album reviews soon.
This weekend I visited the Watch the Throne Retail Experience in the trendy section of Manhattan known as SoHo. To celebrate the release of their collaborative album, Jay-Z and Kanye West decorated Openhouse Gallery (201 Mulberry Street) with all sorts of Throne memorabilia. The outside of the store is dressed in the Riccardo Tisci-designed gold album art; it really pops. Friendly security holds the door open for you and keeps count of the number of people inside the store. When you walk inside the store is organized in two sections: the Maybach and the album listening experience. Jay and ‘Ye thought it’d be neat to show off the über-expensive Maybach they stripped, chopped up, and drove in the laid back “Otis” music video. The luxury car, which will be auctioned with the proceeds going to the East African drought disaster, looks really awesome up close. The doors are torn off, the trunk is home to the grill that’s normally installed on the front of the car, suicide doors stick out in the back and give the car wings, the seats have monitors inside of them, the engine looks mean, and there’s sticker on the bumper that reads “What Would Hova Do.” When I was there the security man allowed salivating attendees to snap as many pictures they could within a six second time frame. What I was able to capture sits in the gallery below.
Beyond the Maybach section of the store and down a very short flight of stairs the “Otis” music video plays on a giant wall in silence; a sound system loops the album throughout the store at a comfortable level. The listening experience section is very big; just a handful of people and I stood in the center of the large space and watched “Otis” on a loop. All around the space hefty projectors beam images from the album on the surrounding walls; the album art, the “Otis” American flag artwork, and other imagery that’s stuffed inside the deluxe version of the album are displayed. To the right an attractive woman sells the deluxe copies at $15 a pop. The small retail section consists of a table with the Riccardo Tisci artwork folded open to reveal the aforementioned album imagery. There is also a listing of the album’s tracks and production credits for attendees to glance at. On my way out I noticed DJ equipment set up in the left corner. This must have been used opening night when the pop up store was packed with celebrities like Swizz Beatz, Memphis Bleek, Beyonce, and Jay-Z himself. The store is scheduled to close its doors today at 6PM. I highly recommend you check it out before the limited run is over. On a more general note, I have to say that I love the idea of a pop up store. Openhouse Gallery is a great space in a prime location; hopefully more artists and companies choose to use it when they plan to release anticipated products.
Underneath the pop up store gallery you’ll find a collection of pictures I took while unwrapping the Watch the Throne deluxe album. The duo did a great job putting it together, and it’s no secret that Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy had a big hand in the creative direction. The packaging folds open in a cross-like shape; four of the five panels feature the same embossed pattern and the center one is unique. On the reverse side there are five unique images on each panel: the American flag image of the “Otis” single artwork, dark images of Jay and Kanye with giant fangs, an image of a winged angel with a star pasted on her face, and in the center (the sleeve that holds the CD) is a shiny visual that evokes a slab of wood. The CD is a special edition black colored disc and its face matches the wooden pattern that it’s stored within. Under the angelic imagery lives an 18-panel poster; on one side is colorful artwork that takes design cues from the H.A.M single artwork, and the reverse side spells out the production credits and lyrics for every track. What’s neat is that the lyrics specify when Jay-Z and Kanye rap in each song with the markings JZ and KW. Overall, the packaging manages to elicit what Jay and ‘Ye were originally going for with Watch the Throne: grandiose rap. Tisci successfully channel his aesthetic touch that consists of symmetry, lightness, darkness, sharpness, and 3D. If you’re going to buy a physical copy of the album (and you should!) it’s definitely worth the extra pennies to go deluxe.
At Comic Con 2011 in San Diego, the cast and crew of AMC’s The Walking Dead took the stage to talk about the fantastic new series and reveal season 2. Here are the highlights:
- The panel consisted of actors Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, Steven Yuen and Jeffrey DeMunn; makeup artist Greg Nicotero; executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Robert Kirkman; and showrunner/writer/director/producer Frank Darabont.
- Hurd confirmed that The Walking Dead will return Sunday, October 16 at 9PM on AMC. One phenomenal (and lengthy) season 2 trailer was screen twice during the panel; watch it in full after the break.
- Holden said, “If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead graphic novel, I think you’re going to be really happy this season.”
- Kirkman admitted, “There’s a bit of pressure. There’s an expectation now. It’s just made everyone work harder. It’s empowered us to try harder. To cross more lines, to tell bigger stories, knowing that there is a rabid fanbase out there.” He later joked that he’d hire Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neill to play a new character next season if casting were up to him. “My second go-to is John Stamos,” he chuckled.
- Wayne Callies said, “The scripts this season are unprecedented…the best TV scripts I’ve ever seen. This season really shows that the most dangerous things out there are the monsters inside.” Holden added, “Every character is pushed to the max this year. People are going to be so thrilled. The writing is so superb and every script is gold.”
- Little Carl Grimes (played by Chandler Riggs) is going to kick things up a notch, according to Wayne Callies. “I was brought to tears by how proud I am of him,” she said. “He did a scene the other day that I can’t tell you anything about, but it will take your breath away. He is going to blow your mind this year.”
- And where will season 2 pick up? Exactly where you want it to. The October premiere “picks up about five seconds, in an overlap, with the end of the first season,” Kirkman revealed. So there’s none of this bulls–t six months later stuff!” He added, “The plan is not to rush [Rick Grimes' story], just like I did in the comic book series.”
- *Shortly after Comic Con ended, AMC announced that Frank Darabont has stepped away from his showrunner duties for reasons unknown at this time. Walking Dead executive producer and writer Glen Mazzara (The Shield) has assumed Darabont’s duties as #1. An official statement read like this: “AMC is grateful to executive producer, writer and pilot director Frank Darabont whose contributions to the success of The Walking Dead are innumerable. We continue to discuss his ongoing role with the series.”
Check out the gallery below to view pictures from The Walking Dead panel at Comic Con. Note that security did not allow attendees to take pictures of anything shown on screen.
The Fringe panel at Comic Con contained the greatest amount of energy of all the panels I attended. Even though the panelists kept season 4 secrets closely guarded, the attendees made it known how much they love and respect one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever produced. Onto the highlights:
- The panel started with a sizzle reel highlighting major events that happened throughout the series so far. Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson) was not present in the clip.
- When the clip ended the stage filled up with actors Anna Torv, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, and new series regular Seth Gabel (he plays Lincoln Lee); and executive producers and showrunners J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner. Again, Josh Jackson is no where to be found.
- Immediately the panel turned to the audience for a Q&A session. Pinkner confirmed, “It’s not that Peter’s consciousness is anywhere. There is no Peter. Peter doesn’t exist. But we’ll let you know when he shows up.” An astute fan asked how a lovechild between Bolivia and Peter could exist if Peter never existed. “The question is, is there a child?” replied a cryptic Anna Torv. Interesting…
- Cue another clip. This time it’s Peter Bishop audition tapes! The video features famous actors ranging from Lost‘s Michael Emerson to Community‘s Dani Pudi wearing a fake mustache. It ends with a shot of Joshua Jackson dressed in an Observer suit with pale skin asking, “What do you want me to do?” Watch it after the break.
- And the crowd goes wild! Josh Jackson emerges from stage right and sits down next to his TV father on the panel. He’s looking rather dapper donning an Observer-esque hat. Are all of these hints of what’s to come in season 4? One can speculate…
- When asked if Jackson will ever get to encounter an alt-universe version of himself he replied, “I don’t think Peter will ever have an alternate, but however he gets folded back into this season, it will be a very different version than what we’ve seen before. He’s in a different place now.”
- It was also brought up that viewers haven’t seen an alt-version of Nina Sharp. “I’m not sure that [she] isn’t an inanimate object like a lightbulb or a toaster,” Brown hinted. She mentioned that since we still don’t know which side Nina lies on (good or bad), perhaps she will reveal herself as something destructive on the other side if it turns out she’s working against our heroes.
- And what about Astrid? Nicole shared, ”[We'll see] a different kind of Astrid then we’ve seen before.” Then she belted out a rendition of Aerosmith’s classic tune with the words “Astrid’s got a gun.”
- When a viewer asked whether or not Olivia will learn to control her Cortexifan-intensified powers this season Pinker dropped this: “I’m not sure we’ve seen all of her powers yet.” He cushioned this with, “What’s going to happen is really hard to answer because we think it would spoil letting the show unfold.” And this was the theme of the panel; not much could be revealed and so we’ll have to wait until September to be fed answers.
- I cannot end this panel highlight post without mentioning Noble’s kind words that opened the panel. “Seriously, without your efforts, your rabid support, we wouldn’t be here right now. You are the best fans that ever existed.” He proclaimed that Comic Con “is our Emmys” and every single fan in attendance showered the panel with love.
Scrub through the gallery below to see pictures from the lovefest that was the Fringe panel.
Like the Fringe panel, the Game of Thrones panel was not heavy on upcoming season spoilers. In fact, much of the panel was just Jason Mamoa (he played Khal Drogo) and Peter Dinklage (The Imp) making jokes and George R.R. Martin geeking out over his own creation. Anyway, here are the few takeaways from the packed panel:
- The panel consisted of actors Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, a brunnette Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Jason Momoa; showrunners/executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff; and author George R.R. Martin, who served as a knowledgeable moderator. Star Sean Bean was noticeably absent.
- Benioff shared, “Well, those who’ve read the books know what to expect, but we’ve got a bunch of new characters coming in. It’s time to meet the Red Priestess. It’s time to meet Stannis Baratheon. There’s bad stuff lurking north of the wall. This will be a season of exploration.”
- The Battle of Blackwater will take place in season 2, and Martin is penning the script for it.
- The panel discussed the nature of the show and how it will follow the books in terms of how much each season will cover. Book 1–Game of Thrones–managed to fit into ten episodes. A Clash of Kings will likely also fit nicely into a ten-episode arc, but by the time they get to the beefy A Storm of Swords that story will likely encompass one-and-a-half or even two seasons. Benioff said that as long as the team behind the show makes it through the pivotal event he referred to as “RV” (so as not to spoil it for non-readers) he will consider the HBO adaptation a true triumph.
- The season 1 DVD & Blu-ray packages won’t come with any deleted scenes simply because the creative team managed to stuff everything they shot into the season. The cast’s audition tapes will be included.
- When a fan asked why so many characters get killed in his A Song of Ice and Fire series Martin replied, ”I’ve always believed that I want people emotionally involved in my stories. I want the readers almost afraid to turn the page because they don’t know who’s going to win.”
Pictures from the Game of Thrones panel below.
The biggest idiots to hit the airwaves after the cast of The Jersey Shore are back. After being offered to make a sequel to Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, creator Mike Judge (King of the Hill) ultimately decided it’d be best to bring back the characters in their true form–made for TV. Here’s the highlights from the panel that was moderated by beer-sippin’ Jackass star Johnny Knoxville:
- On why he quit the show in 1997 and then decided to bring it back Judge said, “I quit because I was getting a little burnt out. I kept writing ideas down and kept thinking about doing a movie. King of the Hill was done and they came to me. And I thought this would be pretty fun to do. I guess the answer is: I like doing it. Also, I like to feel like they’re kinda timeless.” Man, was he right. After screening never-before-scene clips from the upcoming season, fans in attendance didn’t hold back their affection for the show; the cheers were deafening, and I was part of it.
- Rather than screen an entire episode, Judge previewed scenes from the upcoming season. In a clip titled “Werewolves of Highland” Beavis and Butt-Head are on the hunt for girls; Judge says that the boys still haven’t scored with the ladies yet. After gaining inspiration from watching Twilight they decide they want to become vampires to help them score. They encounter a “werewolf” on the street (a hairy homeless man) and make him bite them. After the “transformation is complete” the idiots proclaim, “let’s go get some girls.” Moments later they are diagnosed with Hepatitis C.
- Next the boys were back on the couch watching TV, ready to satirize (what else?) reality TV. Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Cribs were all featured here. All of these shows are ripe for B&B satirizing, and Judge nails it. The crowd loved it. Judge promises that the show will also poke fun at UFC fights, YouTube videos, and of course, music videos.
- In another extended scene screened, Judge resurrects Beavis’ alter-ego Cornholio. In “Holy Cornholio” Beavis screws a plastic doll into his hand and has to go to the hospital. A series of events leads the entire town worshiping him as the Messiah. Watch the clip after the break.
- When asked if a new B&B video game will release following the TV revival, Judge said that one might be coming soon. I remember playing the B&B game for Sega Game Gear and it was a ton of fun. Glad to hear a new one’s being conceptualized. And here’s a fun fact: a B&B ride was once in the works; it involved Butt-Head driving a cab and running things over, but unfortunately it never came into existence.
- Overall the panel was one helleva nostalgic ride. It really feels like the idiot duo never left us. The crude animation style is virtually the same, and the boys’ attitude towards all the crap out there today carries over from the their past life. The material screen at the panel was genuinely funny, and I am genuinely excited for the long-awaited return Beavis and Butt-Head.
See shots from the Beavis and Butt-Head panel below.(Click here for more…)
Here are Comic Con panel highlights from a couple of Seth Macfarlane cartoons and that one from Matt Groening.
- The panel kicked off with a revealing clip that shared a bunch of upcoming story lines involving the Griffins and their friends. Ready, set…
- Meg turns 18 and Quagmire hits on her; Brian takes shrooms and goes on a crazy trip; Stewie and Brian travel back in time to the pilot episode (the original crappy animation is still in tact; “It’s very “All Good Things” for you Star Trek fans,” Macfarlane says); a new Viewer Mail episode is in the pipeline; somebody tries to kill Chris; Stewie runs away from home and lives with the housekeeper Consuela; Stewie drives; Lois kidnaps a kid; Peter gets in a tussle with the Amish; Peter embarks on a road trip with Joe, Quagmire, and Cleveland; Peter and Quagmire get arrested by Joe.
- So many guest voices next season and they include: Ricky Gervais (he’ll voice a dolphin), Cate Blanchett, Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, and Mark Harmon.
- Macfarlane confirmed that a Family Guy movie is happening. It’s just a matter of when. “We’ve actually had meetings about it, which makes it real,” he said. The team is trying to figure out how to keep spitting out quality episodes and work on the feature film at the same time. The Simpsons managed to do it, so I have full faith Macfarlane and co. will get it done.
- Macfarlane and the Family Guy voice actors spotted the American Sign Language interpreter during the panel and took advantage of him by forcing him to sign all kinds of curse words and foul situations. Funny stuff, but the joke was stretched out far too long (as FG jokes tend to do, also).
- The Simpsons kicks off its 23rd season this September, can you believe it?! The 500th episode (!) falls on February 19.
- A bit from this year’s “Treehouse of Horror” was shown; it features Ned Flanders in a wonderful parody of the Dexter opening credits.
- The other clip shown was from an episode in NMA-style animation (that’s the Taiwanese company that produces CGI reenactments of popular news stories).
- In last season’s finale Marge urged viewers to vote on whether or not Ned Flanders and Mrs. Krabappel should be together. The producers promise that the issue will be laid to rest in the premiere. If they end up together (and they likely will), Groening promises that their relationship will stay consistent in all future episodes. Groening himself admitted that he’s pro-Nedna since Ned deserves love and “Bart deserves his teacher living next door.”
- The Simpsons family is traveling to the one continent they haven’t been to yet: Antarctica.
- In the end, Lisa will end up with Milhouse. “I don’t know how the show will end or when, but in my heart, I think they’re going to be together,” shared producer Al Jean.
- Check out this list of guest stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Andy Garcia, John Rivers, Jane Lynch, Jonah Hill, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric, Neil Gaiman, Gordon Ramsay, Armie Hammer, Michael Cera, and Jeremy Irons (he’ll voice Mo’s bar rag). Also, they’ll be using audio from a 1918 President Theodore Roosevelt speech in an episode where we find out Superintendent Chalmers’ hero is Teddy. Said Jean, “I thought, ‘Finally! We can put a president in the show. And a good one too. We’re going to give him a little credit at the end.”
- When asked if we’ll ever see the Simpsons age, Groening replied “we may do it when we run out of ideas. That may be the last sad season of The Simpsons. Bart will turn 11.”
- Though the voice cast (including Seth Macfarlane) came out for the panel, the bulk of it was taken up by the screening of the season 7 premiere episode “Hot Water.” Cee-Lo Green guest stars as a singing maniacal hot tub and Asa Taccone (brother of SNL’s Jorma) wrote the music. Michael Peña (Crash) guest stars as the hot tub salesman. So that they could screen in the episode in its entirety, the first half of the episode was screened in black and white storyboard format as per FOX’s request. Watching this was pretty neat, actually. Character movements are not fluid, but you can really see all the hard work that the animators put into making an episode. Eventually a refreshing splash of color was introduced and the episode played out like we’re used to. Overall, the premiere is a solid episode. Cee-Lo croons over catchy Asa-produced beats throughout, and the story involving a hot tub with a mind of its own getting in-between Stan and Francine’s relationship works well.
- During the season there’ll be an episode where a ship from outer space comes to get Roger; in it Shannon Sharpe will voice an alien bounty hunter.
- Other guest voices include Dr. Dawg and Charles Barkley.
- There will be plenty of musical numbers sprinkled throughout the season, too.
At Comic Con I was afforded the opportunity to watch the Alcatraz pilot not once but twice. Warner Bros. held a screening on preview night, and then during Comic Con proper I sat through the screening plus panel featuring the show’s stars Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia, showrunner/writer Liz Sarnoff, and director Jack Bender. Here are my initial thoughts:
Alcatraz is from J.J. Abrams; the ending credits begin with the Bad Robot squeal. It takes place on an Island. It’s overtly mysterious. It makes use of flashbacks and a loud sound like closing prison doors clanks before and after each time jump. It stars Jorge Garcia, known to most heavy TV viewers as Hurley Reyes. It is extremely hard not to compare this show with Lost. The plot elements and even the behind-the-scenes pedigree (Sarnoff and Bender wrote and directed pivotal Lost episodes, respectively) radiate elements from the arguably the greatest mystery piece of our generation. At the panel, Sarnoff admitted that they’re “embracing Lost similarities” but at the same time “we’re our own show, we want to do our own thing.”
So how did their “own thing” work in the pilot? Pretty well, actually. By no means is this pilot grander than what Abrams directed for Lost back in 2004. That said, it still managed to pique my interest enough to have me recommend others to tune in when it premieres midseason (Sarnoff confirmed it’ll begin its run in January). I am not going to recap the entire episode; I think it’s best for you to watch the mystery unfold when the episode airs. However, I will reveal that the pilot generates a ton of mythology from the get-go and hopes that bits of it (if not all of it) sticks and pulls you in so that you’ll tune in again the following week. The pilot introduces a story where Alcatraz inmates disappear from their cells in 1963 and mysteriously reappear in modern day society. Sam Neill (Twin Peaks) plays Emerson Hauser, a man who heads a secret task force with Parminder Nagra (ER) aiming to figure out exactly why the inmates are coming back and who’s pulling the strings to make it happen. Strong female lead (J.J. knows how to find them) Sarah Jones is Rebecca Madsen; she teams with Jorge Garcia’s Dr. Diego Soto (an Alcatraz expert) to investigate the disappearances and reappearances. Eventually they get caught up in the middle of Neill’s long on-going investigation and they agree to help Neill and Nagra forge onward. That’s essentially what’s set up in the pilot. Sarnoff explained that the show will act like a procedural (there’ll be an “inmate of the week” that wrecks havoc in present day) with serialized elements (flashbacks will explore Alcatraz history and slowly reveal the mystery behind the reappearance of the inmates). My hope is that the inmates, especially the one featured in the pilot (Jack Sylvane played by the suave and sophisticated Jeffrey Pierce), are factored into the story more than I think they will be. Without spoiling the pilot’s conclusion, I will say that it seems like we won’t be seeing Sylvane in the present all that often (and no, he doesn’t get killed).
I can’t reiterate this enough: comparisons to Lost will be made when Alcatraz premieres early next year. Thing is, the core audience that’ll give Alcatraz a try are coming from Lost and they want a show that can compete with that great achievement in TV history. Like almost all genre shows, if Alcatraz wants to succeed and step out of the shadow of Lost it’ll have to balance plot mythology with deep character exploration. Sarnoff need only look at another Abrams show Fringe for an idea on how to do that. If the promising and intriguing Alcatraz manages not to get lost in confusing mythos (no pun intended) and puts character development and relationships first, I have high hopes that it’ll shine as the next great genre story that network TV has been desperately trying to tell once more.
Stills from the panel hang below.
Like the Alcatraz panel, The River‘s consisted of a pilot screening and an extremely brief session with the cast and crew. Producer Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) led the panel discussion, but before I get into that, I want to give my initial impressions surrounding the spooky premiere episode. In my humble opinion, the pilot is a raging success. Why? One simple reason: it is extremely engaging. It manages to not only introduce viewers to the heap of main characters, but it also get them emotionally invested in their actions and purpose. And all the while the situation that these people are placed in is horrifying, mysterious, and intriguing all at once.
In a nutshell, The River is about a man who goes missing (Emmett Cole played by Bruce Greenwood) and the rescue mission led by his wife (24‘s Leslie Hope) and son (Joe Anderson) to find him. Peli borrows immensely from his Paranormal Activity style of shooting; lots of shaky-cam footage is used here. You see, before Emmett Cole went missing he was a well-know TV personality who hosted a nature show called The Undiscovered Country for nearly 20 years; a camera crew led by another 24 alum Paul Blackthorne is documenting and paying for the rescue mission. Another page ripped out of Paranormal: this show is set up to be a supernatural, genuinely scary series. In the first episode alone the Cole family has to deal with a ghostly demon of sorts that’ll make you jump off your couch more than once. I won’t say more beyond that, but you get the idea.
In the pilot, Peli has masterfully transferred his ability to spook viewers from the big screen to network TV. ABC assured Peli that he can “go as scary as [he] wants to go.” Peli said that he wants viewers to “experience real fear” while watching his new show. But don’t expect The River to be a gory bloodbath. Peli described the show as “less Saw and more Poltergeist” and you definitely get that sense after watching the pilot.
It seems obvious that this show will be highly serialized, and viewers will have to tune in each week to discover the mystery behind Cole’s disappearance. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s something that the crew finds shortly after they embark on the rescue mission that’ll likely pull you in for the ride. Shaky-cam, spooks and all, The River is primed to be a must-see TV event this midseason.
I admit, I am still a SpongeBob fan. After all these years, there’s nothing like tuning into Nick and watching the flamboyant yellow sponge do his thing. And so I sat through the SpongeBob Squarepants panel at Comic Con (which took place immediately before the panel for The River in the same room) with a wide-eyed smile from ear to ear. Highlights comin’ right atcha:
- On the panel were creative director Vincent Waller (he comes from Ren & Stimpy) and writers Paul Tibbett and Mr. Lawrence (he gives Plankton a voice).
- During the panel they previewed upcoming SpongeBob episodes and specials using clips and rough storyboard images.
- In “Mermaid Man Begins” we will learn the origin story of the underwater superhero and his sidekick Barnacle Boy; In “Bubble Buddy Returns” SpongeBob’s Leif Erikson Day friend comes back to Bikini Bottom and Sponge offers to babysit his kids; Plankton and Man Ray will join forces (and Man Ray will get fat from eating too many Krabby Patties); Plankton will steal SB’s DNA so that he grows a second eye; in “InSpongeiac” Mr. Crabs has a nightmare and turns into a mustard dispenser; SB and Patrick will house sit for Sandy; in “Ghoul Fools” the Flying Dutchman returns and funnyman Chris Elliot will voice the First Mate ghoul; the “Runaway Roadtrip” special is an anthology episode airing this fall that will follow each of the main characters going on vacation; in the clip titled “Patrick’s Staycation” SpongeBob encourages his best friend to stay home for vacation and he caters to his every whim.
- In the Christmas 2012 special “Tis the Season to be Jerky” the Bikini Bottom gang are reimagined as puppets. They played a clip from the special and the live action puppets matched with the animation works really well. The puppets were sculpted and painted specifically for this episode.
- When a fan asked how the creative team manages to cater to the younger demographic and yet still keep hold of an older audience the scribes said that “[they] don’t write [the show] for any one demo, [they] write for everyone.” They admit, like I did, that they are simply “grown up kids.”
- And here’s a neat little fun fact: when he was creating the character SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg turned to Jerry Lewis and Pee-wee Herman for inspiration!
On Tuesday June 28 the newest members of Kanye West’s music label G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams) headlined the Heineken Red Star Access concert in New York City. The private concert was invite-only and it was located at Santos Party House. Hot 97′s DJ Camilo spinned the beats before the main guests arrived. Adrienne Bailon of 3LW fame introduced Cyhi Da Prynce who performed eight songs from his Royal Flush mixtapes. After his too-brief stint on stage, main attraction Pusha T was showered with cheers as he performed a bunch of songs ranging from classic Clipse tracks to more recent tracks off Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the Fear of God mixtape. P confirmed that his next mixtape Fear of God 2 is complete and it will be released later this summer in August. Also, fans can anticipate his first studio album to hit stores on Black Friday (that is late November).
The concert was a raging good time. Thanks to Heineken’s sponsorship free beer was flowing all night, and the speaker setup inside the venue was phenomenal. Standing literally inches from Cyhi and Pusha T made the experience all the more engaging, though I could have done without the onslaught spit and sweat that came my way. Check out pictures from the concert below (please excuse the poor quality, only had iPhone in hand) and jump after the break to find a collection of the night’s performances in video form.(Click here for more…)
Today Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. So many game trailers, demos, and Xbox Live and Dashboard updates to talk about. Ready, set, bullet points!
- The press conference got started with a demo of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is described as being “the biggest, most exciting and epic Call of Duty ever.” I can confidently back that statement up. MW3 downloadable content will be available first on Xbox 360. Due out November 8, 2011.
- Crystal Dynamics showed off the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is getting down and dirty in this game that shares style and gameplay with Uncharted. The developers explained that the game reveals “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor.” Due out Fall 2012.
- EA Sports president (and former Xbox honcho) Peter Moore announced that four sports games will support Kinect this year and they are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA, and Mass Effect 3. ME3 utilizes Kinect with voice control. Kinect’s built-in mic will pick up your commands. RPG decisions and tactical team controls can be carried out by your voice. Due out March 6, 2012.
- Next up was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This title will also feature Kinect support, but this time it’s hand and arm gestures in addition to voice control. You can create various weapons by exploding them into their small parts using Minority Report-style gestures. This demo really wowed the crowed. Voice commands like “optimize for long range” will also piece together a weapon for you. The weapon customization process with Kinect looks very fluid, fast, and super cool. Ubisoft announced that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will support Kinect in some way or other.
- The Dashboard is getting yet another facelift. Somehow Microsoft has made it cleaner and more streamlined. It was built from the ground up specifically with Kinect voice in mind. For example, saying “Xbox, music” will bring you directly to the Music section. The new UI contains the following sections: Home, Social, Live TV, Video, Games, Music, Apps, and Settings. That’s right–I said live TV. Microsoft is forging new partnerships to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the US and around the world, adding to their current partnerships with Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FOXTEL in Australia. TV listings and a DVR manager will be accessible from the Dashboard. Also coming to Xbox is YouTube, UFC, and Bing search. UFC president Dana White came out to show off the interactive UFC content. You can call fights and compare results with your friends. “You say it, Xbox finds it” is the new Bing motto when it comes to searching for and discovering content on the console. “Xbox, Bing, X-Men” will prompt the console to bring up all games and videos (including movies and TV shows) related to your query.
- The following upcoming games are Xbox 360 exclusives: Ice-T joined Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski for a demo of Gears of War 3 (due out September 20, 2011); Crytek’s Ryse will take advantage of Kinect as you violently slash your way past enemies in Rome; To celebrate Halo’s 10 year anniversary a remastered version of the original game will release November 15, 2011 and it’s called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (co-op over Xbox Live and classic multiplayer maps included); Turn 10 Studio’s Forza Motorsport 4 releases October 11, 2011 with Top Gear content and Kinect support for voice and headtracking; Head of Lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux hopped on stage to reveal the next Fable subtitled The Journey (this game too will come packed with heavy support for Kinect, due out in 2012); Minecraft is coming to support Kinect this winter; other exclusives include Kinect-based kids games Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and Kinect Star Wars.
- Microsoft’s bearded man with designer shades Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the latest updates of his pet project the Kinect. He announced that Kinect Fun Labs is a permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dashboard and it will serve as a portal for the developer community to share their latest Kinect innovations. Three Labs games were shown off. Kinect Me will capture your face and clothing to create an avatar that looks just like you; in Kinect Sparkler you make poses for the camera, it captures them, and then you can use your fingers to draw sparkling lines of light in the image in three dimensions (you can manipulate the image to make it appear as if it contains two layers); Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to scan real-life tangible objects using Kinect and them manipulate their actions on-screen (at the conference a plush toy was scanned without issue). Kinect Fun Labs is accessible today to all Xbox Live members.
- More Kinect games coming to Xbox include: Kinect Sports Season 2 (baseball, skiing, golf, darts, tennis, football); Dance Central 2 (which now features a campaign mode, voice controls, and a revamped Break it Down mode, and simultaneous multiplayer dancing…plus all songs from the original an be imported into the sequel).
- And then came the “dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360″…it’s Halo 4! A brief teaser trailer was played. Master Chief returns Holiday 2012.
And that was the Microsoft press conference. Though most of the game trailer and demos were stimulating, the overall presentation was lacking in explosive, heart-stopping content. The Dashboard update is nice, the Xbox exclusives are impressive, and the push for Kinect is full speed ahead. It will certainly be interesting to see developers make new and exciting uses of the Kinect peripheral; Microsoft seems to be goading developers into incorporating it into their games somehow. Voice control seems overly gimmicking, but at least new approaches are being made to interactivity. And I gotta say, ending the event with a tease at the birth of a new Halo trilogy was a nice touch.
I attended the press conference this morning, so make sure you check out the pictures I snapped in the gallery below!
Are you the ultimate LOST fan? I know I am, and that is why I purchased the LOST: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray. Besides the 36 Blu-ray discs, the detailed and textured set is packed with tons of Lost related goodies including a “recovered Black Rock journal entry”, the senet board game complete with black and white stones, a replica image of the Island, and an exclusive episode guide. This being a LOST package, it comes to little surprise that hidden easter eggs are aplenty. The included ankh stores a “secret message from Jacob” and a Dharma branded black light torch can be used to search the set for clues.
I invite you to look after the break and watch my encompassing unboxing video; I detail all of the set’s contents and reveal the hidden easter eggs. Also, peer into the galleries below to gander at still images of all the content. The first gallery is an extensive look at every item; the second gallery focuses on the Blu-ray sleeves for each season.
And just like that E3 2010 has come to a close. Oh, was it a wonderful three days of gaming. Things kicked off with Microsoft’s bizarre “Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience” Cirque du Soleil event where we learned Natal’s true name, Kinect. The Big Three’s press conferences proved to be eventful and packed with awesome new games. Microsoft showed off exciting trailers and demos for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear: Rising, Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, and Fable III. Kinect was finally detailed at length, and we got a sneak peek at the Kinect Hub and many of the casual launch titles including Kinect Adventures!, Kinect Sports, Kinect Joy Ride, Kinectimals, Dance Central, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Sports fanatics were happy to hear news that ESPN content is coming to Xbox Live. And to conclude the conference Microsoft unvield a refreshed Xbox 360 model that features a sleek, black finish and “whisper quiet” internals. Nintendo harnessed the power of nostalgia to excite the long-time fanboys (and girls). Appearences by The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, GoldenEye 007, Kirby’s Epic Yarn Metroid: Other M, and Donkey Kong Country Returns did not dissappoint. Before Nintendo’s conference could come to a close the Nintendo 3DS was officially unveiled. 3D glasses are not required to experience the 3D effect and Kid Icarus: Uprising is a launch title; I want one. Sony’s press conference pushed for 3D gaming with an impressive demo of Killzone 3 in 3D (glasses (unfortunately) required). Sony’s turn at motion-based gaming with PlayStation Move was demoed and titles like Sorcery and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 utilized the new controllers well. The introduction of PlayStation Plus (Sony’s subscription based online gaming service), a fantastic trailer for Portal 2, and demos of LittleBigPlanet 2 and Twisted Metal rounded out the conference. All in all, the Big Three were successful in making gamers ’round the world happy with their upcoming offereings.
After the press conferences ended, the show floor exploded open with hundreds of game demos. Fortunately almost every booth was filled with knowledgable game developers who were kind enough to speak with me about their creations. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, SOCOM 4, Fable III, the Kinect games, Super Scribblenauts, Tron: Evolution, and the OnLive service impressed me to no end. But there’s one game that stands out the most. My favorite game of E3 2010 is Epic Mickey. The various types of gameplay, visual style, and controls made for an extremely fun and rewarding experience. I can’t wait for it to release on the Wii this holiday season.
To sum up E3 2010 in so many words–motion-controlled gaming (w/ Kinect & PS Move), 3D gaming (w/ PS3 & 3DS), and fantastic titles (that are both classic and new). I had such a great time attending this event for the very first time, and I hope you found my extensive coverage to be interesting, informing, and engaging. I look forward to attending next year’s show and I already have plans to make my coverage even more exciting and comprehensive! I’d like to give a huge thank you to Regina Durkan and Talia Chriqui for their help on the show floor and behind the scenes.
If there’s any E3 content you missed or like to read/watch again, take a look at the links below. Or you can always click the “[experience-it-all] at E3″ coverage button that’s located at the top right-hand corner of the home page.
Pre- E3[experience-it-all] @ E3 2010 E3 2010: What to expect Preview: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience
Pre- show floorDay Zero: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience E3 2010: We’ve arrived Microsoft press conference highlights: Kinect, ESPN, Xbox slim Nintendo press conference highlights: Nintendo classics make a comeback, plus 3DS handheld Sony press conference highlights: Move, 3D gaming, PS Plus, Portal 2
Hands-onHands-on: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Hands-on: Nintendo 3DS Booth tour: Nintendo (plus hands-on) Hands-on: Kinectimals Hands-on: Joy Ride Hands-on: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Interview + hands-onInterview + hands-on: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Interview + hands-on: SOCOM 4 (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: TV Superstars (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: The Fight: Lights Out (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: Fable III Interview + hands-on: Super Scribblenauts Interview + hands-on: Epic Mickey Interview + hands-on: Tron: Evolution Interview + hands-on: OnLive
Booth toursBooth tours: Capcom & Sony Online Entertainment Booth tours: 2K, Konami & Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Booth tours: Square Enix, Ubisoft & Disney Interactive Studios Booth tours: Sega, THQ & EA Booth tours: Microsoft & Sony Booth tours: MTV Games/Harmonix
And that marks the end of the interview + hands-on content. Now it’s time for the booth tours! On the last day of E3 2010 I decided to hit record on my camcorder and capture the highlights of almost every booth on the show floor. I did it so you can get a real sense of how each booth was set up and what it all looked like from the perspective of an attendee. Sure E3 is all about the games, but game studios put a ton of effort into making extravagant booths to attract those in attendance; the booths (and requisite booth babes) play a big part in making E3, well, what it has come to be. No, there’s nothing like actually being there and speaking with all the developers and playing all the games. But the following videos and pictures will bring you pretty darn close to the action.
Here’s how the booth tour posts are set up. You’ll find an embedded YouTube video at the top; this video will contain 2-3 booth tours. Below you will see various picture galleries separated by company. Next to each company’s name I hand-picked the most popular games featured at that booth. And that’s it, really. So go ahead and dive into this first one here–it’s Microsoft and Sony, two of the biggest booths on campus.
Microsoft: Kinect games, Fable III, Crackdown 2, Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3
Sony: PlayStation Move games, SOCOM 4, LittleBigPlanet 2, Twisted Metal, Killzone 3