Thursday, May 22, 2008

Motion Capture Ready to Bring Next-Gen Avatars to Gaming, Movies, Medicine, the Military and More (With Video!)

For his biweekly "Buzzword" column, PM’s senior tech editor subjects himself to a new version of the F/X rig you’ve seen before. This isn’t Chris Paul strapping on EKG-like suction cups for some sports game—it’s the geeks who brought real faces to GTA4 mapping Jackie Gleason onto Peter Griffin, and the innovators who tracked sick bodies building better a better golf swing (and maybe a whole robotic army).
The author’s transformation may look silly frame-by-frame, but the facial mapping software at Image Metrics—already implemented in Grand Theft Auto IV—could someday take performances by dead actors and sync them up with CGI characters. (Stills courtesy of Image Metrics; photo illustration by Anthony Verducci)
Only a few years ago, movie and video-game companies set out to redefine the science of special effects and makeup artistry with a new technology called motion capture. Instead of spending hours in a makeup chair each day, an actor could don a spandex body suit studded with markers that resembled ping-pong balls, step in front of the camera for a scene, then let the costume and makeup get layered on digitally. The creative possibilities were stunning: Heretofore impossible effects could be mapped onto an actor’s body while allowing for serious freedom of movement. Mere mortals were transformed into a slivering Gollum and monstrous King Kong (the same guy, actually). The graphical possibilities of movies and video games experienced a quantum leap. And, perhaps most importantly, our eyes believed.
And so, it’s testament to the speed of digital imaging innovation that what was considered revolutionary just a few years ago is already being superseded by a new generation of motion-capture technologies. Two companies in particular, Image Metrics and Organic Motion, are improving and simplifying the process in ingenious ways—and potentially opening up the field to applications way beyond the scope of merely the high-tech entertainment industry. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to test out both of these systems, morphing myself into a variety of digital characters. [Check out in-the-lab video here; “Buzzword” continues below ...]

Image Metrics focuses on one of the traditional weaknesses of motion capture: natural facial expression. For his face to be rendered with conventional motion capture, an actor would have a series of dots painted on as reference points for postproduction software to later attach a digital “skin” to follow his expressions. This technique was used to great effect in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, in which Bill Nighy played the aquatic Davy Jones, complete with a beard of slithering octopus tentacles. Nevertheless, painting a face full of markers can be as time consuming and laborious as traditional makeup work, and the back-end CGI is time intensive and takes a lot of processing power.

Tracking all aspects of a face’s motion (including eyes and lips, which are difficult to attach markers to), Image Metrics then sets its software loose to automatically map that motion to a template character. Changes in the actor’s expression automatically create changes in the expression of the avatar. Here at PM headquarters, we filmed a close-up video of my face with a garden-variety camcorder (OK, not that garden variety—this is our test lab after all). We then e-mailed the movie file to Image Metrics, who used it for the video above to turn me into what I can only assume was the company’s most embarrassing set of characters.

But I was just a test dummy after a string of game developers already used Image Metrics in extensively in titles such as Top Spin 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. And it’s starting to gain a foothold in Hollywood, with films such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix already taking advantage. In many ways, however, this kind of facial mapping motion capture is still nascent in its potential. It could, for instance, take performances by long-dead personalities and map them to new, computer-generated characters, creating an intellectual property conundrum that could be entertaining (Jackie Gleason’s face driving Family Guy’s Peter Griffin?) or profoundly disturbing (Benito Mussolini speeches mapped to the face of SpongeBob SquarePants?).

What Image Metrics is doing for the face, Organic Motion is doing for the body. The company’s $80,000 Stage system allows clients to create a 12 ft. x 12 ft. x 7.5 ft. studio with 14 cameras facing inward from its perimeter. Once the equipment is rigged and ready, the process couldn’t be simpler. At a demonstration Stage setup in Organic Motion’s offices here in New York, the system instantly calibrated itself to my body, matching my physique (what’s there of it, anyway) to a virtual skeleton, which then animated a 3D avatar.

As I moved around the Stage, my animated alter ego followed my every motion like a marionette. Conventional motion-capture systems allowed for freedom of movement without lengthy makeup application sessions, but Organic Motion’s system requires no preparation whatsoever. Plus, the fact that it can map the body in real-time makes it useful for applications above and beyond the entertainment industry. BioStage, a version of the system with specialized medical analysis software, has already been field tested at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to track the gait of children with cerebral palsy.

As to other applications, the company has been playing their cards pretty close to the vest, saying only that a retail application will be announced very soon (“think golf-swing analysis,” said company spokesperson Chris Michaels). But given Stage’s ease of use, it’s not hard to imagine a future for it in the military and telecommunications space—control of robotic weaponry, telepresence and the like.

In fact, if the costs come down, Organic Motion’s creators even see a mass-market future for the technology. “In three to five years, we see this as an in-home system,” says Michaels. Which brings to mind a setup that would map your every movement—jumping, punching, kicking—directly into the game, making today’s Wii controller seem as quaint as an old Nintendo Power Glove.
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The 7 Most Epic Rickrolls Ever

It seems these days that almost everything is made easier with the aid of the internet, and that notion certainly holds true when it comes to pranks. One recent phenomenon that can attest to this growing trend is the humiliating gag known as the Rickroll. If you don't know what it means to be Rickroll'd, then I welcome you to the world wide web, internet virgin. And if you do, then here are 7 examples of some of the best Rick Astley pranks that have been pulled and then documented.

7- Olympic torch procession

We can only guess that the sole reason people would protest the recent Olympic torch relay through San Francisco would be in objection to the recent inhumane treatment of Tibetan monks by the Chinese government. And not simply because they are 22 and unemployed, and their mother gave them permission to have the car for the day, and they think that mocking the establishment with a kooky internet fad will make them hip, local celebrities. Fortunately, for these creative jokesters, their effort to prank a symbolic relay runner and a couple police escorts was caught on film, increasing their gag's punch-line ten-fold, and in turn giving them some credence regarding the prank's potentially admirable motives.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: Maybe 3 if you're counting the relay runner and the cops, however, if you include the Country of China it's about 1,321,851,891.

6- Scientology protest

If you plan on mocking an unbelievably ridiculous religious denomination/cult, what better way to do so than with an equally ridiculous prank. This gag saw the annoying power of Rick Astley face off against idiots who are possessed by victimized alien spirits that died at the hands of the evil Galactic Federation's leader Xenu. And as if those Martian-embodied morons didn't have it bad enough just going up against Mr. Astley's generic 80s easy-listening tunes, they also had the music delivered to them by a real life werewolf of London (sporting a light blue jacket and backpack no less). It's rumored that Tom Cruise was so angered by this demonstration that he plans on making that stereo-holding werewolf the villain in the soon-to-be summer blockbuster Mission Impossible 4: This Mission Just Got a Hell of a Lot More Impossibler.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: If you just want to count the church/compound being targeted for the protest maybe about 100, but since the prankers are probably including all Scientologists/nuts worldwide it's probably around 50,000

5- Eastern Washington University College Basketball game

An Eastern Washington women's basketball game was the subject of this massive Rick Roll, when a gentleman garbed in Mr. Astley's striking black outfit and unbuttoned trench coat proceeded to confuse many middle-aged attendees. On this day, the high-flyin' Eagles roundball team took second stage to what was, by the looks of it, a much more entertaining spectacle as the power of music transfixed a feverous mob. Strangely enough, it appears that the cheerleading squad was also in on this prank that perplexed numerous fans, since they danced to a seemingly choreographed routine. Apparently Rick Astley's enthralling songwriting has the ability to mesmerize even those who seem the most opposed to following superficial trends.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: Judging by the sparse attendance I would guess that the Fightin' Eagles aren't doing very well this season, and around 75 people are getting "Roll'd" as a result.

4- London's Liverpool St. train station

On April 11, 2008, the Liverpool train station in London England heard "Never Gonna Give You Up" pour out of thousands of poorly maintained mouths and teeth. Unfortunately, since there were so many pranksters involved in the gag, the number of victims that could still fit into the prank space was reduced. Still, it isn't too tough to imagine an older and fatter Rick Astley shedding a tear or two of joy, after having so many people be willing to sing his outrageous lyrics after all these years. If there is one train station on the planet that truly understands what it means to "Rick Roll," then the station at the corner of Primrose and Sun Street in London, England is that place. God Bless you and all your patrons, you strange mass transit system hub.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: There weren't any exact or scientific measurements taken duringing this particular prank, but it's been specualted by some Rickroll experts that maybe a thousand or so people attended this mobroll.

3- Albany News anchor

"Wow, you guys really got me," says a mortified anchor woman as she's made a fool on national TV by her hate-filled peers, who obviously know not the power of the Rickroll (Did the prankster really call him "Rick Ashley?" Amateur.) These are the upsetting reactions of Rick Astley's many victims and it won't be long before these casualties start retaliating with violence. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to think that seconds after this show rapped, that blonde news anchor viciously killed the entire Fox 23 news team including the sportscaster who is peculiarly absent. The horrible thing is, isn't every viewer of this news cast getting Rickroll'd as well, since we are all witnessing the same atrocities as the blonde anchor woman? If that's the case, it won't be long before a massive mob lines up outside Fox 23's doors armed with torches and pitchforks, ready to do the unthinkable to the responsible party.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: If we are simply counting just the news anchor than I'm confident in estimating that 1 person was pranked, however, if we also include all the viewers of Fox 23's local news coverage then it's maybe a couple dozen.

2- Youtube's April Fools Day prank

Remember when Youtube pranked everybody by making each video on their front page link to a Rick Roll.? If you don't, then you're probably a liar because they got everyone. On April Fool's day of 2008, the site responsible for starting this whole crazy fad showed appreciation to it's many users by repeatedly pranking them with Rick Astley's incredible gift of song. With Youtube claiming to get 100 million hits a day that could stand as potentially the biggest Rickroll ever. The only problem is if there isn't a witness to the gag is it really a prank? I mean, would anyone really be all that embarrassed if they didn't have a friend or group of strangers standing around laughing and pointing? If a tree is Rickroll'd in a forest with no one around to laugh at it, is it still getting pranked?

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: According to Youtube 100 million people traffic their site each day, so lets say maybe 9 out of 10 Youtube patrons fell for the gag making some 90 million people feel like an ass this 1st of April.

1-Shea Stadium

The New York Mets (a.k.a. the unpopular New York baseball team) decided to hold a progressive internet vote to determine a new team song that would be played during their remaining home games. Regrettably for them, the internet proved to be more divisive than progressive, and as a result many non-Met fans and tech-savvy troublemakers swamped their electronic ballot boxes with Rick Astley's chart-topping hit. Then on April 7, an obtuse Mets organization announced and then played the contest winner, much to the chagrin of this mediocre baseball team's fans. Shea Stadium was not only filled with Rick's generic voice and inane lyrics, but with the disgust and boos that can only be created by a fan base so willing to embrace mediocrity.

Estimated Rickroll victim tally: Since Shea Stadium holds about 57,333 apathetic fans,lets say about 57,400 people were pranked including both team's players, coaches, and staff.

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Throw me the idol!: 16 elusive movie objects of desire

1. Gray's Sports Almanac, Back To The Future II (1989)

Objects don't come more pedestrian than the dull recitation of facts and figures comprising Gray's Sports Almanac—unless, of course, you have a time-traveling DeLorean, in which case it's a ticket to untold riches. Perpetually shortsighted when it comes to maintaining the space-time continuum, Marty McFly recognizes the chance to make his fortune with a few "sure thing" bets—an egregiously greedy plan, considering that his most recent tinkering with the fabric of time already bumped him up a couple of tax brackets—but he's shot down by the ever-conscientious Doc Brown, who once again warns the myopic Marty of the dire consequences inherent in toying with the past. Multigenerational bully Biff Tannen provides a more concrete illustration: He steals the almanac, the DeLorean, and Marty's plan, then returns to 1955 to give his teenage self the chance to rewrite his life. Never has so much hung in the balance over a mere collection of sports scores—except perhaps in a Martin Scorsese movie.

2. The Fountain Of Youth, The Fountain (2006)

Since his debut feature, Pi, about a mathematician's attempt to find a numerical formula for everything from patterns in the stock market to God's presence in the Torah, director Darren Aronofsky has been interested in impossible quests. In his madly ambitious studio fantasia The Fountain, Aronofsky follows mankind's desire for immortality throughout the ages, as seen in a scientist convinced that death is a disease that can be cured, and a tai-chi-practicing astronaut who floats around in space inside a bubble full of magic. Or something like that. But the third story, about a 16th-century Spanish conquistador, is inspired by Ponce De León's actual quest to find the Fountain Of Youth in what's now known as Florida, except here, the conquistador succeeds in finding the "Tree Of Life." Pierce it with a Mayan dagger, and you get the healthiest maple syrup in creation.

3. Treasure map, Treasure Island (1920, 1934, 1950, etc.)

With his first novel, Treasure Island, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson almost single-handedly put together all of the major elements of the still-thriving pirate genre. (Except for their longstanding antipathy to ninjas.) And just as the story's swashbuckling sailors and parrot-bedecked scurvy dogs are spurred into action by the discovery of a secret map showing the location of long-lost buried pirate loot, the book itself was inspired by a map drawn by Stevenson's stepson. His creativity piqued, Stevenson elaborated grandly on the boy's initial watercolor painting with tantalizing place names like "Skeleton Island" and "Spyglass Hill," not to mention a chest of stolen gold—it's from this map that we get the phrase "X marks the spot." He eventually spent weeks spinning the tale into a full-fledged, much-adapted-to-film novel featuring the unforgettable one-legged, treacherous rogue Long John Silver. And with it, he sailed into literary history.

4. White Castle burgers, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)

It's said that one of marijuana's negative effects is that it robs a person of ambition. So when a couple of young eggheads—Indian medical student Kal Penn and Korean investment banker John Cho—smoke their weight in weed in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, their life goals are downgraded significantly. Suddenly, a simple trip to square-mini-burger paradise becomes an epic journey fraught with perils, including bad directions, vicious animals, skinheads, a racist police officer, the Asian-American Students Association, and Neil Patrick Harris as a manic, horndog hitchhiker named Neil Patrick Harris. For anyone who's spent a lazy hour trying to motivate themselves to go get that bag of chips a few feet from the couch, this is a movie that understands how hard it can be.

5. A bike, The Bicycle Thief (1948) and Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

On the surface, Vittoria De Sica's neo-realist classic and Tim Burton's rollicking, cartoonish comedy seem to have little in common, but under the surface… well, they don't have much in common there, either. But they do share lead characters who believe a bike is the most important thing they own, and who are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to find it once it's been stolen. For a poor laborer and his son in post-war Rome, the bike represents their livelihood and survival; as they conduct a needle-in-a-haystack search for it, De Sica tours through a devastated city and into the hearts of fundamentally decent people forced into a shameful act. Pee-wee's beloved bicycle is a more tricked-out, one-of-a-kind creation, but finding it takes him on a circuitous journey where he survives run-ins with leather-clad biker toughs, an escaped convict, and the ghost of a trucker named Large Marge. All roads lead to The Alamo, in the basement.

6. The Mysterious Briefcase Of Doom, Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and Pulp Fiction (1994)

Robert Aldrich's 1955 pulp masterpiece Kiss Me Deadly pushes the darkness and brutality of film noir and pulp fiction to surreal extremes. Big slab of beefcake Ralph Meeker stars as Mickey Spillane's iconic Mike Hammer, a tough-as-nails shamus chasing down a mysterious nuclear valise that just might bring about the end of the world. In the process, Aldrich gave the world the very first atomic detective and provided a haunting metaphor for the free-floating paranoia and apocalyptic danger of the Cold War. Thirty-nine years later, pop-culture magpie Quentin Tarantino "borrowed" the concept of a mysteriously glowing briefcase for 1994's Pulp Fiction, this time putting it in the loving care of a pair of philosophical, wisecracking hoods (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) who inhabit the same hardboiled universe as Meeker's unsentimental gumshoe. In paying homage to his pulp predecessor, Tarantino once again embodies the old adage that the good borrow, while the great steal.

7. The Maltese Falcon, The Maltese Falcon (1941)

For his 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett constructed a labyrinthine plot of murder and deception in which all paths lead to a black statue of a bird. Filmed three times—most famously by John Huston with Humphrey Bogart as Hammett's iconic private eye Sam Spade—the story follows the pursuit of a priceless, long-lost, bejeweled bird later covered in enamel to hide its value. In the climactic scene of Huston's take, the bad guys get their coveted bird, only to find nothing of value beneath the black coating. All that in pursuit of a worthless trinket. Or maybe it was, in Bogart's famous closing lines, truly the stuff that dreams are made of.

8. 1964 Chevrolet Malibu, Repo Man (1984)

In the grungy world of Alex Cox's caustic cult classic Repo Man, products like beer and food come in generic white packages labeled with their contents in big black letters: "BEER." "FOOD (meat-flavored)." Which could be taken as an anti-consumerist, anti-merchandising message, or just an indication that nothing in the movie's grimy world is particularly special or significant—neither the products nor the worn-down people using them. But one item does stand out: the 1964 Chevy Malibu that all the film's repo men are trying to get their hands on, for the remarkable $20,000 bounty. The FBI wants it, too. Why? That's the point of the film, and the key to its bizarre, transcendent ending. But here's a hint: It's glowing, dangerous, and another clear reference to that nuclear briefcase in Kiss Me Deadly.

9. The Holy Grail, Excalibur (1981)

The Holy Grail isn't the original elusive object of desire, but it's undoubtedly the one that's dominated the Western imagination since the popularization of Arthurian legends began in the 12th century. It's been in countless films, but few played up its symbolic value to the degree of John Boorman's Carl Jung- and Golden Bough-informed Excalibur. The Grail quest comes relatively late in the film as Arthur lies sickened and sends his knights out on a desperate quest for this earthly token of Christ's time on Earth. Only the purest of them, Perceval (filling the role usually played by Galahad), makes it to the Grail and obtains it, only after realizing that the King and England are one, and when one is healed, the other will return to greatness. Cue blossoming flowers. Cue "Carmina Burana."

10. The Ark Of The Covenant, Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

Though Raiders Of The Lost Ark opens with daredevil archaeologist Harrison Ford escaping an impossible series of traps to get his hands on a golden idol, the idol is only the first in a string of treasures that Ford and an assortment of Nazis and fortune-hunters hotly pursue. At the end of the trail: a legendary golden box which is said to contain the remnants of the original Ten Commandments. Those who possess it wield the power of God and shall smite all enemies. (Unless God doesn't want them to have it, in which case… It's face-meltin' time!) The ultimate fate of the ark provides Raiders' creepy ending: The U.S. government seizes the property from Ford, crates it up, and wheels into a warehouse full of secrets, effectively re-burying it in a bureaucracy that no action hero can overcome.

11. The Necronomicon, Army Of Darkness (1993)

Reluctant monster-slayer Bruce Campbell—and his Oldsmobile—get dropped through a time warp and land back in the 14th century, where Campbell is imprisoned. A priest advises him that he can return to his own time if he retrieves the ancient Book Of The Dead and beats back the encroaching hordes of demonic "Deadites." All he has to do is say three magic words: "Klaatu barada nikto." When he messes up the spell, supernatural mayhem ensues, so Campbell grabs The Necronomicon and mounts a defense against the armies of the undead, led by an evil version of himself. All of which only proves—as if the first two Evil Dead movies hadn't already—that maybe some books are better left unopened.

12. The "intercostal clavicle" of a brontosaurus, Bringing Up Baby (1938) The mild-mannered paleontologist played by Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby might just be able to extricate himself from the smothering attentions of flibbertigibbet socialite Katharine Hepburn, if only he could get his hands on the rare dinosaur bone that Hepburn's dog has stolen and buried. Over the course of one long outing in Connecticut, Grant ducks Hepburn's other pet—a leopard named Baby—and the attentions of the local authorities, in order to complete his brontosaurus skeleton and land a million-dollar grant for his museum. Now where did that dog bury that bone?

13. The treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

It's an old story: Poor, desperate men go searching for gold, and end up driven insane by all-consuming greed once the treasure is found. The definitive cinematic telling of this classic morality tale is unquestionably John Huston's masterful The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, where buried gold ends up being as fleeting as the wealth and status it represents to three destitute Americans (played by Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt). A parable about the dark side of capitalism, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre suggests that the pursuit of money ultimately leads to betrayal, hatred, and death. Worst of all, the riches you've attained end up scattered to the wind, like dirt or lost dreams.

14. The One Ring, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

For all their epic, larger-than-life stateliness, it's easy to forget that the Lord Of The Rings films are essentially one long (really long) chase movie, and what's being chased is the destructive, all-powerful Ring. But unlike most stories featuring an elusive object, the point of getting the Ring isn't to possess it—at least not for our hero Frodo—but to destroy it. Holding out against the persuasive powers of the Ring prove difficult, however. After finally making it to Mount Doom, the only place where the Ring can be annihilated, Frodo is overcome with a desire to keep it for himself. In the end, though, it's Gollum, the Ring's most committed pursuer, who ends up both winning and losing the great Ring sweepstakes.

15. The gold watch, Pulp Fiction (1994)

Sure, the mysterious glowing briefcase gets plenty of deserved attention in Pulp Fiction, but if Bruce Willis' cutie-pie French girlfriend hadn't forgotten his gold watch when packing for their escape, a good chunk of the film wouldn't exist. First there's the incredible backstory: Christopher Walken's monologue about the watch's history, from its purchase generations before to its notorious travels ("I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years") is one of the film's most memorable moments. And of course there's the major plot point: If the watch didn't mean so much to Willis, he never would have gone home to retrieve it, thus never going on his little "adventure" with Ving Rhames.

16. Declaration Of Independence, National Treasure (2004)

The Declaration Of Independence isn't all that interesting in and of itself—it's just some old piece of paper that constituted the backbone of American government. Sure, it's a heavily guarded historical artifact kept under thick glass at the National Archives in Washington DC, but really, all that security is just for show. No one would ever want to steal it… Unless, of course, it also happens to include a secret hidden treasure map only visible through Benjamin Franklin's bifocals. Which just so happens to be the plot of Jon Turteltaub's adventure movie National Treasure. Nicolas Cage and his unstoppable band of American-history buffs waste no time in stealing the Declaration Of Independence/map-to-the-most-overblown-treasure-in-the-world, and then spend the rest of the movie carrying it around in a special sling, and fighting to keep it out of the hands of evil people who are always interested in things like secret treasure maps.

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10 Ways George Lucas Can Ruin Indiana Jones

indianajones_narrowweb__300x430%2C0.jpgBy Rebecca Kelley

Well folks, the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones movie series debuts tomorrow. Fans young and old have been anticipating this film for years, so you can imagine that there's some high expectations of Star Wars prequel proportions. Coincidentally, the sole factor that could ruin the movie for even the most hardcore Indiana Jones supporter is the same man who molested, defiled, and ruined the Star Wars prequel trilogy with unabashed glee on his chinless face. That man is George Lucas, who just so happens to be executive producer of the Crystal Skull movie. Oh, and he also has a story and character credit. Thus, it goes without saying that Lucas will undoubtedly bastardize some portion of the movie, but we here at Topless Robot are sincerely hoping he keeps the franchise raping to a minimum. Below, we outline the 10 biggest ways George Lucas can ruin Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Here's hoping he commits no more than three of these cardinal sins.

10) Releasing bullshit “Special Editions" of the previous Indiana Jones movies right before the fourth movie's release date

At this point we're fairly accustomed to lame recycled DVD releases that coincide with a sequel coming out in theaters, and, in fact, the first three Indiana Jones movies were recently re-released just last week so they can ride on the coattails of the newest theatrical venture. Did anyone watch them to make sure Lucas didn't add in any bullshit CG characters and scenes, as he did with the generally terrible Star Wars special editions? We can all too easily imagine a super ultimate extended edition where instead of a boulder, a giant T-Rex chases Indiana Jones out of the temple (which is now a fortress completely encased in adamantium). Then we imagine losing all faith in humanity.

9) Adding a Sean Connery Impersonator to Crystal Skull
We've all heard the rumors that Sean Connery was offered a cameo as Indy's dad in Crystal Skull, and Connery turned it down. But cold reality has never stopped Lucas before. Terrifyingly, Saturday Night Live's Darryl Hammond does a decent Connery impression, and was surely available for filming; we have no doubt Lucas would have added a Hammond-as Connery scene, but did he? Even worse, any of Darryl-as-Sean's lines would inexplicably consist of some sort of remark regarding Alex Trebek's mother being a whore. Oh, and he would say “schwards” a lot during sword-fighting scenes.

8) Inserting a CG River Phoenix in a “Indy as a young boy” flashbacks
River Phoenix appeared in Last Crusade as the young Indy, and it's all-too-feasible that Lucas would want a similar scene in Skull. The fact that Phoenix has been dead for a decade or so wouldn't stop Lucas from having his ILM monkeys making an all-CG River to appear in any young Indy scenes, which would cause confusion of “Tony Soprano's mom who died in real life yet appeared in an episode by way of stock footage” proportions. Also, Lucas would surely have to steal some Phoenix footage from My Own Private Idaho to make the model, which would just be awkward in an action-adventure film.

7) Pretending Harrison Ford isn't in his 60s
The only way to forget Ford's many wrinkles and graying hair would be through CG the likes the world has never seen. We envision it being extremely creepy, in a “Polar Express train conductor” sort of way.

6) Explaining why Indiana Jones is so awesome

George Lucas isn't stupid enough to feel he needs to rationalize the supreme, pristine awesomeness of Dr. Indiana Jones, who had been promoted to bad-ass status the first moment we laid eyes on him in Raiders of the Lost Ark...right? I mean, that would be like going out of your way to superfluously and tediously rationalize why Jedis are so fucking rad...oh...shit.

5) Inserting Short Round into various scenes for comic relief
Imagine a little Asian kid popping in and exclaiming to Cate Blanchett's badass Russian officer, “Hey, lady! You call him Dr. Jones!” and responding to Shia LeBouf shouting “Are you nuts, Indy?” with “He no nuts, he crazy!” Now imagine that happening every few minutes throughout the course of a two-plus-hour film. Now imagine yourself gouging your eye out with a makeshift knife fashioned out of a box of Junior Mints. That's about how your evening will turn out.

4) Considering an N-Sync cameo
We really have nothing to add to this. It was a bad, bad idea for The Phantom Menace, and a bad idea here.

3) Forcing popular quotes from the previous movies into the script.

Remember how every third line in the Star Wars prequels was "I have a bad feeling about this"? remember how it was funny and fun the first time, and then made you die inside the 18th time it happened? It's all too likely that every line any audience has ever enjoyed from the first three Indy movies will be ham-handedly forced into Crystal Skull.
Shia LeBeouf's character: “Indy, this raft is going awfully looks like the river is snaking!”
Harrison Ford: “Snakes...why did it have to be snakes?” *winks at camera, grins broadly*
Movie audience: *collectively sobs*

2) Ever releasing a Crystal Skull special edition
G. Luc (I can call you that, right?), technology is always going to keep getting better. Some day we might even be able to get out of the uncanny valley and make an entirely creepy-free movie with CG characters. But until then, just be satisfied with what you've got, and don't be embarrassed by the fact that maybe your special effects looked silly two decades ago. The movie will still be a classic if it tells a great story.

1) Thinking that movie audiences are dumb enough to enjoy a movie based on its technology rather than its compelling storyline

We're not. Speed Racer pretty much proved that.

Want more Indy-related reading? Try The 10 Grossest Indiana Jones Moments written by TR editor Rob Bricken over at Westworld.

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The Incredible Hulk Preview!

Hello everyone, I just got back from visiting Universal Studios' backlot (a privilege when you buy an annual pass to the park. I think...) where I was treated to some footage of Universal's upcoming Incredible Hulk movie.

Director Louis Leterrier and Producers Kevin Feige and Gale Anne Hurd introduced a few scenes from the movie then later talked about the feature and about their vision of The Hulk. I'm not allowed to talk about specifics until a later date, but the footage I saw looked great. We saw about three scenes and they are almost finished mixing the movie, getting it ready for its June 13th release.

For those of you worried about how this film will turn out, and even I had doubts at first, I don't think you'll have anything to worry about. The scene I saw between the Hulk and Abomination was, pun intended, incredible. On the way out of the mixing room I had to say to Louis, "Holy shit, that was awesome."

After seeing these scenes, I'm really looking forward to this film. The Hulk has always been one of my favorite super heroes. And in case you were wondering about how he would be portrayed, I can honestly say that this Hulk seems far more brutal and aggressive in response to a threat than Ang Lee's version. From the few scenes I saw, the insurance companies for this comic book universe are going to have their hands full once the smoke has cleared.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Universal (That means you Lindsey) for the opportunity to get a sneak peek at a few action packed minutes from the movie. Stay tuned for the upcoming interview with Louis, Kevin and Anne and also another article describing what I saw on screen. And yes, they threw in some Marvel universe easter eggs. ;)

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Six Degrees of Paris Hilton: The Global Reach of One Vagina

They say we're no more than six degrees of separation from everyone in the world. So, for instance, you don't know Harrison Ford, but you know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy who knows Harrison Ford.

What you probably haven't heard is that you most likely are no more than six degrees of sex from Paris Hilton's vagina. Pick any random person, and if you dig hard enough you'll find that they had sex with somebody, who had sex with somebody, who had sex with Paris.

We'll demonstrate. Let's start with an easy one, say, '70s porn star John Holmes:

Paris Hilton to John Holmes

So the chain of boning goes ...

From Paris Hilton to Tom Sizemore
She denies even knowing him, but Tom Sizemore claims in his homemade sex tape, Tom Sizemore's Sex Scandal, that a teenage Hilton seduced him in his home gym after a party. There's a photo of the two getting close at the party in question, and she does like guys who make homemade sex tapes.

From Tom Sizemore to Heidi Fleiss
Sizemore was also engaged to infamous Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. He also liked to smack her around, leading to a 2003 jail sentence for assault and battery. Tom Sizemore's Sex Scandal also reveals that he has her name tattooed in inch-high letters above his genitals. If you ever run into Tom, it's probably best to just take his word on this.

From Heidi Fleiss to Charlie Sheen
Speaking of people who nailed the Estevez/Sheen clan, Fleiss' most prominent client was bad-boy actor Charlie Sheen, who testified in her tax-evasion trial that he spent $50,000 on the services of 27 of her escorts. Did he sleep with the madam herself? She still holds such a degree of ill will toward him that it's almost impossible not to think he literally screwed her over.

It hardly matters--it's trivial to link Sheen back to Hilton (through Robin Wright Penn and Colin Farrell is just one way) so let's just move on.

From Charlie Sheen to Ginger Lynn
Not only did Charlie Sheen hook up with '80s porn star Ginger Lynn, but he managed to hold down a relationship with her from 1990 to 1992. They also did a stint in drug rehab together, which, for Charlie, means real commitment.

Charlie and his dad, Martin, even wrote letters to the court in support of Lynn during her 1991 tax fraud trial, though this didn't stop her from spending four months in jail, most of which we can safely assume featured a lot of showering, cat-fighting and situational lesbianism.

From Ginger Lynn to John Holmes
Ginger Lynn had a sex scene with Holmes early in her career, in the film The Grafenberg Spot. The real-life inspiration behind Dirk Diggler, Holmes claimed 20,000 partners in his lifetime. But while he may have had Wilt Chamberlain's numbers, he had Magic Johnson's luck--he died of complications from AIDS in 1988, at 43.

Actually, it seems kind of obvious now that we point it out. Let's up the degree of difficulty a notch.

How about a member of the royal family from the notoriously sexless United Kingdom?

Paris Hilton to Prince Charles

Paris Hilton to Colin Farrell
It was bound to happen: First, Paris Hilton and Colin Farrell bumped into each other while he was promoting Alexander and she was being filmed for Barbara Walters' TV show The Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004, and then they bumped uglies. Farrell being perhaps the preeminent man-whore of his day, the hookup was inevitable. Also, 2004 must have been a pretty dry year for fascinating people.

Colin Farrell to Elle MacPherson
Only a month before Elle MacPherson dumped Swiss financier Arpad Busson, she was spotted on a beach in the Bahamas with Farrell. Shortly thereafter, she went on a romantic dinner date with Al Pacino. She denies anything happened with Farrell, but if you were hanging around one of the greatest actors of his generation, you wouldn't own up to having anything to do with a scrub like Farrell either.

Elle MacPherson to Bryan Adams
The best move Bryan Adams ever made was to put down his old six-string and pick up a camera. That's because his hobby put him in the prime position to romance MacPherson, who's got a taste for photographers, having been married to French fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon in the mid-'80s. (It's also because his music started to suck.)

Bryan Adams to Princess Diana
Had the pockmarked pop star been any other musician in this article, his biggest hit might as well have been titled "(Everyone I Do), I Do It For You." But Adams went for quality over quantity. Adams laid his groundwork by cutting a b-side named after Princess Diana in 1985, then bode his time for 11 years, finally making his move after her divorce.

It's comforting to think that at least one photographer brought a few moments of pleasure to the late princess's life before his paparazzi brethren hounded her to her death.

Princess Diana to Prince Charles
Well, no mystery about whether these two hooked up, since their marriage was watched by 750 million people worldwide and produced two handsome princes. It's not even a mystery that the jug-eared royal scion would cheat on the beautiful princess with Camilla Parker Bowles, whose looks can be charitably described as "dowdy." The heart wants what it wants, after all. No, the real mystery is what Prince Charles thinks of Hilton's galling pronouncement, "I think every decade has an iconic blonde--like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana--and right now, I'm that icon."

Happy now? Now you know Prince Charles is just five sexual partners away from having the same sexually transmitted diseases as Paris Hilton.

Seriously, we can do it with anybody. Pick anyone, the most outrageous, remote possibility.

Osama Bin Laden, you say?

Paris Hilton to Osama Bin Laden

From Paris Hilton to Lindsay Lohan
Hilton and Lindsay Lohan notoriously feuded after a heated nightclub argument. The tiff gave the world the word "firecrotch," coined in a verbally explicit video by Hilton's pal, oil heir Brandon Davis, who also made the improbable claim that Lohan's clitoris is seven-feet long. Judging by the widely available upskirt photos, it's not.

But her fellow vagina-flasher Hilton should know for sure: The publicist who claims Hilton had a Sapphic fling with Britney Spears says she walked Lohan's well trodden red carpet as well.

From Lindsay Lohan to Jude Law
One video reveals Lohan taking time between lines of cocaine to brag of her plans to fly to New York to have sex with Law, and widespread media reports of them together suggest that she made good on her boast.

From Jude Law to Cameron Diaz
Law and a recently single Cameron Diaz bonded while making The Holiday in 2006, resulting in the two enjoying a week-long series of dinner dates the following year, and then a vacation to Hawaii. Though they denied reports of a relationship, eyewitnesses report the two nuzzling and Diaz kissing Law's neck.

"Jude is charismatic, fun, open and charming," Diaz told the press. "It is very easy to fall in love with him." How couldn't you love every little hair left in his head? It's certainly easier than enduring his wooden acting.

From Cameron Diaz to Djimon Hounsou
In 2007, Diaz showed that diamonds are a girl's best friend by hooking up with Blood Diamond star Djimon Hounsou on the dance floor of an LA club. "They were dancing really close, bodies pressed together," a source told People. "They were totally vibing each other, lip-on-lip action."

According to the New York Post, the couple cozied up to each other at a table before leaving together in Diaz's black Prius, with her all smiles and him with his head down, hiding his face under his cap. We're assuming that "face" here is a polite replacement for "visible erection."

From Djimon Hounsou to Kola Boof
A woman claiming to be Hounsou's girlfriend says Sudanese author Kola Boof slapped, punched and threw her to the ground after she discovered Hounsou and Boof in a torrid embrace next to his bed. Ingrid Lessey told the Associated Press, "This woman is nuts! For the last eight months, she has called me a white bitch, thrown a Frisbee in the street and then locked me out of the gate of my own boyfriend's home when I went to get it, slapped me, thrown ice cubes at me and my sister, killed my goldfish, stolen jewelry that Djimon bought for me and refused to give it back, and she's just a total evil, vicious person. She's bonkers! She needs to be in a mental institution."

From Kola Boof to Osama Bin Laden
Speaking of totally evil, vicious people, Boof is also notable as the former mistress of terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

Morocco's Prince Fabrizio Ruspoli confirms that bin Laden imprisoned Boof as a sex slave at Ruspoli's estate for six months in 1996, where she says he raped her violently and repeatedly. Just in case you needed confirmation that he was a bad guy, this is about as bad as it could possibly get--almost.

Well, that just about does it. If that doesn't convince you that all of humanity is really a single organism connected by the common thread that is Paris Hilton's vagina, then nothing will.

Oh, all right. One more.

Paris Hilton to Adolf Hitler

From Paris Hilton to Robert Evans
Hilton is also rumored to have broken up the sixth marriage of septuagenarian Hollywood playboy Robert Evans, after wife Lesley Ann Warren grew jealous of his spending too much time with the socialite.

Hilton conspicuously shouted, "You're so sexy, Bobby!" and "Bob, you're so hot right now!" while Evans gave a speech at a party for Hilton's former fling, Brett Ratner. But frankly, this affair is hard to believe. What could an ambitious young starlet like Hilton possibly get out of sleeping with a famous old film producer?

From Robert Evans to Grace Kelly
And now we come to some hard choices. Truth be told, this article could have been populated wholly with names leading from the myriad paths stemming from Paris Hilton's unholy union with Evans, including such unlikely choices as Dracula actor Bela Lugosi and playwright George Bernard Shaw. But then it would have been an article about Robert Evans' legendary skankiness, not Paris Hilton's. And so we must choose one path to follow. Here we go.

From Grace Kelly to John F. Kennedy
Before marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco, Grace Kelly enjoyed what Dennis McDougal's The Last Mogul calls "a distinguished history of Hollywood promiscuity," with collaborators including Evans, Bing Crosby, David Niven and the Shah of Iran.

Another notable tryst took place in the early '50s with randy future president John F. Kennedy, who was then using Hollywood as his personal playground. (Incidentally, JFK Jr. links to both Madonna and Princess Di--a chip off the old block.)

From John F. Kennedy to Inga Arvad
Of course, from JFK, one can easily link to Jacqueline Kennedy, and then to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, the predecessor of Hilton's former beaus Paris Latsis and Stavros Niarchos III. Or one could link to Marilyn Monroe, whom Hilton considers her own predecessor. And from there, one could link to slugger Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, and JFK's brother Robert F. Kennedy.

But instead, let's link to Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist whom JFK dated as a young naval officer from 1941 to 1942.

From Inga Arvad to Adolf Hitler
Inga Arvad is also known for having one of the best seats in the house when Jesse Owens shattered the idea of Aryan racial superiority by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, as she was there as Adolf Hitler's companion.

Hitler said she was the perfect example of Nordic beauty. In return, she said, "You immediately like him. He seems lonely. The eyes, showing a kind heart, stare right at you. They sparkle with force." She later claimed that nothing happened between them, but so would you.

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