Thursday, October 18, 2007

Star Wars TV Series Coming Soon

The head Jedi confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that Lucasfilm has "just begun work" on a new live-action spinoff that will bring the Star Wars mythology to the small screen. Additionally, Lucas Animation is deep in production on a weekly computer-animated 3-D series dubbed Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which the filmmaker expects to shop to various networks when finished.

Lucas considers the live-action program to be the more ambitious of the two, because it will be completely Skywalker free and instead center on supporting characters.

He admitted he was taking a risk that viewers—save the die-hard geeks who turn up at the Star Wars Celebration conventions in Greedo and Princess Leia getups—might not warm to Jedis, Sith and droids largely unfamiliar to them.

"The Skywalkers aren't in it—it's about minor characters," the 63-year-old Lucas told the newspaper. "It has nothing to do with Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader or any of those people. It's completely different."

Nevertheless, the Star Wars mastermind maintained that "it's a good idea, and it's going to be a lot of fun to do."

Lucas characteristically refused to divulge details about the storylines or even which minor characters might turn up in either starring or cameos. (We're lookin' at you, Boba Fett.)

Star Wars prequel producer Rick McCallum is currently auditioning writers for the live-action series, which Lucas envisions running for at least 100 episodes.

As for the new Star Wars CGI series, this is not your average Saturday-morning cartoon.

Unlike its 2-D forerunner Clone Wars, an Emmy-winning series of shorts that aired on the Cartoon Network, Lucas says the 3-D Clone Wars will break new technological ground.

As a result, Lucas acknowledged that some network suits have been a little skittish about the projects—perhaps recalling the so-so ratings of Lucas' Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which eschewed the thrills of its big-screen progenitors in favor of history lessons. (At Celebration III two years ago, Lucas said the live-action series will be similar in tone to those tube adventures.)

"They are having a hard time," Lucas said. "They're saying, 'This doesn't fit into our little square boxes,' and I say, 'Well, yeah, but it's Star Wars. And Star Wars doesn't fit into that box.'"

If old-school Stars Wars and high-octane action is what you're looking for, fear not, young Padawans.

Anthony Daniels, who played C-3P0 in the original trilogy and its prequels, has signed on to voice the protocol droid in Clone Wars, alongside animated versions of R2-D2, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker, General Grievous, Princess Amidala and Count Dookoo. A trailer is now up at the official Star Wars Website.

In an interview with TV Guide last month, Lucas said his team of animators has completed more than 40 episodes and that he believed the CGI series needs "to go after 9 o'clock, and it can't be a kiddie channel."

These aren't the first Star Wars TV spinoffs. There were the animated Ewoks and Droids Saturday-morning cartoons, two live-action made-for-TV Ewok movies and, most infamously, the universally ridiculed 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.

For fans of the big screen, Lucas is also planning to tweak his Star Wars movies yet again and release all six episodes in a 3-D digital format. No word yet on a release date.

Madonna deal more about money than music

The deal confirmed Tuesday between Madonna and Live Nation tells us a lot about the future of the corporate music world. But it has very little to do with ensuring the future of great music or serving the dedicated music fan.

It's a deal for the few, the rich, the branded.

Unlike Radiohead's recent end-run around the music industry, which was about using the Internet to get music from band to fan as directly and inexpensively as possible, Madonna's global megadeal with the nation's largest concert promoter is all about maximizing revenue streams.As the first performer signed to the Artist Nation imprint, her agreement with Live Nation is built on the idea that an aggressive entertainment company can sell Madonna in more ways than ever.

It points the way toward a major-label system that will be even less about innovative music, and even more about innovative marketing.

Executives valued for their ability to find talented bands and artists who excel only at music, and not glamour, will become extinct at this mega-corporation level. Their future will be in smaller niche markets, on smaller labels, which cater to hardcore music fans. Those fans are still out there by the tens of millions, as peer-to-peer file sharing has demonstrated, but the Artist Nation model isn't for them. It's for and about celebrities, and the people who can't get enough of them.

No one can begrudge Madonna's business smarts. She saw this as a way to get even more rich and more famous, if that's possible. Live Nation is taking a huge risk investing so heavily in an icon who will turn 50 next year. It's betting on the idea that it can sell Madonna not just through concert tickets, where the two shared $86 million in revenue last year, but also through record sales, merchandising, fan clubs, Web sites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects, and sponsorship deals.

The deal likely means the rich will get richer if the music industry adopts the Artist Nation model. Multimedia stars such as Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, U2's Bono and a handful of other established performers for whom music is just one part of what they do, and how they sell, should be smacking their lips.

Meanwhile, it's more bad news for the established major labels. Live Nation presents a threat to the near monopoly once enjoyed by Warner Brothers, with whom Madonna has been contracted for 25 years, as well as Sony BMG, Universal and Capitol/EMI.

In the past, the majors have worked out Madonna-style partnerships with artists such as Robbie Williams and Korn to share not just in their record sales but in all their music-related income. But they have been slow to remake their business model, and some artists -- such as Radiohead -- are beginning to abandon the majors as a 20th Century relic and set off on their own. Last week, Radiohead started selling its new album as a digital download through its own Web site at a price determined by each consumer.

Madonna's decision strongly suggests that even the artists who benefited most from the majors' business-as-usual approach are no longer interested in living in the past.

Now the nation's dominant concert promoter has set itself up as a new breed of record company, gunning to sign the same big-name artists that have been the majors' meal ticket for a half-century and offering them one-stop shopping benefits. With Starbucks and Live Nation now in the music-label business, can other powerful corporations with music-related product -- such as Steve Jobs' Apple or Paul Allen's Microsoft -- be far from establishing their own labels?

But these multifaceted deals only make sense for a few artists. For a new or midsize band with a niche audience, the Live Nation-Madonna model has nothing to do with their reality, and probably never will. Artist Nation points the way toward a future where the biggest corporations will be about only the biggest stars and the most revenue streams. Smaller artists will likely gravitate toward some variation of the Radiohead model, a combination of touring, niche marketing and direct-to-fan sales that doesn't require the involvement of multinational conglomerate.

As for Artist Nation, celebrities only need apply. Hello, Madonna -- a celebrity with a profound understanding of who she is at this stage in her career. She no longer needs a record company. She needs a marketing machine that can help her cash in on all the business opportunities that her music made possible.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Leno, O'Brien lead late-night for another year

NBC still rules the roost in late-night.

"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" lodged its 12th consecutive broadcast year in the lead, with "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" winning 13 straight years in its time period, according to Nielsen Media Research data for the TV season ending last week.

"Leno" (5.5 million viewers) came out ahead of CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" (4 million) and ABC's "Nightline" (3.4 million) for the full year. "Leno" was down from 5.7 million viewers the year before, and "Letterman" down from 4.1 million. "Nightline" remained even.

ABC's "The Jimmy Kimmel Show," which airs at 12:05 a.m. ET, was up to 1.7 million viewers from 1.6 million.

NBC won again at 12:35 a.m. with "Conan O'Brien" (2.3 million vs. 2.4 million the year before). CBS' "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" (1.9 million) at 12:35 a.m., and "The Carson Daly Show" (1.4 million) at 1:35 a.m. were about even with the previous year.

Madonna nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Madonna and disco queen Donna Summer are among nine acts nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the hall embraces more musical genres.

Other nominees include rock singer John Mellencamp, Canadian poet-singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, 1960s English band The Dave Clark Five and instrumental rock band The Ventures.

Also nominated are New York-based funk group Chic, rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa and hip-hop group The Beastie Boys, reflecting the Hall of Fame's willingness to accept a diversity of genres.

Five-hundred music industry professionals will choose five of the nominees to be inducted at a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel next March.

Last year, rap group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip-hop artists to be inducted.

Chic, the Dave Clark Five and Mellencamp have been nominated previously.

Artists become eligible for Hall of Fame induction 25 years after the release of their first record and are represented at a permanent exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Madonna, 49, made her debut in 1982 and her first album "Madonna" included hits such as "Holiday," "Borderline" and "Lucky Star" which helped her become one of the best-selling pop artists, with more then 200 million albums sold worldwide.

Paris to pack her bags for Rwanda

Paris Hilton plans to visit Rwanda as part of her post-jail commitment to use her celebrity status to bring attention to social causes.

"I'll be going in November, after I get back from filming my movie," she teld E! Online in a story posted on the website.

"There's so much need in that area, and I feel like if I go, it will bring more attention to what people can do to help," Hilton says.

The 26-year-old US hotel heiress-actress vowed to use her fame to bring attention to social causes after serving a 23 day jail sentence earlier this year for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

"I want to visit more countries where poverty and children's issues are a big concern," she said. "I know there's a lot of good I can do just by getting involved and bringing attention to these issues."

Hilton co-stars with Paul Sorvino and Alexa Vega in Repo! The Genetic Opera, a movie about organ harvesting.

The horror rock opera, based on a stage musical, is set in a plague-ravaged future where people can purchase new organs on the installment plan from a corporation called Geneco.

The catch is that if the payments stop, the organs are repossessed.

Hilton also says she is planning to add eco-friendly touches to her new home in Beverly Hills, California.

"I just bought the house and haven't been able to work on it yet," she says. "But I intend to."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Preparing for another tumultous ‘Grey’s’ season

“Grey’s Anatomy” is like a rambunctious dog.

It never seems to do what you want it to, it makes a mess of things, but that sweet face reminds you of how dearly you love it, and that’s why you’ll never take it to the pound.

After a wild season that saw one character leave to start her own show while another left, well, under less glamorous circumstances, fans prepare for another season of frustration, heartbreak and — ultimately — reluctant acceptance. As the fourth season approaches (premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 26 on ABC), it’s a good time to catch up on where the storylines left off, what viewers are hoping for, what the writers should avoid, and what they’ll ultimately deliver.Cristina and, umm, what was that guy’s name?
Where it left off:
Cristina all but left that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned at the altar. He abruptly called the whole thing off, left their apartment empty, and was never to be seen again. Viewers now know this was no accident. The actor who played that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned had gotten himself into some hot water, and that pretty much doomed any future the two could have together.

What viewers are hoping for: Cristina getting back to her old self would be nice. Most fans didn’t have a problem with the career-focused Cristina who didn’t care to make room for someone else in her life so that she could concentrate on becoming a great heart surgeon. She needs to pull it together, make her career the priority, and love will come in time. One thing that-guy-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned didn’t take with him was his mother, played by Diahann Carroll, who is on board to make a return early in the season to collect a certain family heirloom.

What the writers should avoid: Dragging it on too long. Sure, Cristina is devastated by having her love life turned upside-down, but this is why TV life is so much more fun than real life. If they want to, they can have her get over it fairly quickly and move on like fans would expect Cristina to do.

What they’ll likely deliver: This could be where the promised “fun ‘Grey’s’” will happen. Cristina, while heartbroken, ought to bounce back nicely and maybe overcompensate for the brief departure from her selfish, wise-cracking self. Or she could hook up with George.

George and Izzie … and Callie
Where it left off: Strange that George’s “wife” seems like the third wheel, huh? Fans last saw George wanting to go to another hospital because he just couldn’t stand the constant presence of Izzie, who he really loves, because their affair threatens his marriage with Callie, who he also seems to love — as much as a lying cheater can. Turns out he can’t leave, even if he wanted to, because he failed the intern exam at the end of the year. If anybody will give him another chance, it’s Seattle Grace. That’s sure to keep George and Izzie crossing paths for a while. Meanwhile, Callie wants to get pregnant and it’s a little tough to do that when your husband’s off boinking someone else — although Callie doesn’t seem to know that’s what’s happened.

What viewers are hoping for: This, probably more than anything, is the one move fans seem to be universally behind: George and Izzie getting together was a bad idea and it should stop immediately.

What the writers should avoid: More George and Izzie sexual tension — if not outright sex.

What they’ll ultimately deliver: More George and Izzie sexual tension — if not outright sex. Sorry.

Meredith and McDreamy
Where it left off:
They’re the de facto power couple on this show, but their stock dropped big-time as Meredith and McDreamy were mostly a sleepy, uninteresting couple last season. There was some forced tension in the otherwise perfectly quaint relationship when Meredith famously didn’t try to swim to save her own life after falling into the frigid waters of Seattle’s Elliott Bay. That made McDreamy question his effort to save her when she didn’t even want to save herself.

Once Meredith came to after seeing her dead mom, Denny and Coach Taylor from “Friday Night Lights,” while hovering between life and death, the relationship began to sour. MerDer weren’t talking to each other much and McDreamy semi-threatened Meredith, who he doesn’t think is fully invested in the relationship, by telling her he “met a woman.” That woman just happens to be Meredith’s half-sister, Lexie, who is a new intern at Seattle Grace this season. Oh, the drama!

What viewers are hoping for: McDreamy snaps out of it, Meredith fully commits and stops whining, and they live happily ever after, so the other messed up couples on the show can get sorted out.

Scorsese to direct George Harrison documentary

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese plans to direct an authorized documentary about George Harrison, the former Beatle who died of lung cancer in 2001, Daily Variety reported on Thursday.

Interviews and early production will begin this year, and the film will take several years to complete, the trade paper said.

"It would have given George great joy to know that Martin Scorsese has agreed to tell his story," the paper quoted Harrison's widow, Olivia, as saying.

She will serve as a producer of the untitled project, and will supply archival materials. Daily Variety added that surviving Beatle members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr would participate, as would the Beatles' Apple Records label.

Scorsese, who won an Oscar this year for directing the crime saga "The Departed," is preparing for the April 2008 release of a concert documentary about the Rolling Stones, called "Shine A Light." He turned his attention to Bob Dylan in the 2005 documentary "No Direction Home," and depicted the Band's farewell concert in 1976's "The Last Waltz."

The Harrison movie will cover his time in the Fab Four, when he composed such memorable tunes as "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," his inconsistent solo career, his foray into movie production with such projects as "Monty Python's Life of Brian," and his enthusiastic embrace of Eastern mysticism, Daily Variety said.