Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Art of Tron: Uprising (Part 4 of 4): Landscapes

In this final post of this four-part series devoted to the art of Tron: Uprising, we'll be taking a look at the various Grid landscapes in the world of Uprising.

Of the many aspects of Tron: Uprising that I've covered in this series, the Grid landscapes illustrate the paradoxical nature of the Tron universe. It is a world-within-a-world, something that is both infinitely vast and infinitely small, something that is derived from common technology we can see, hear, touch and use yet remains invisible to almost every human being. Adding to the Grid landscapes' ethereal aura is the omnipresent neon glow that appears to emanate from the Grid itself. Since the Grid and everything within it exists in a sunless, electronically-generated space, it is up to the Grid itself to provide light sources for its virtual inhabitants.

Emphasizing the artificiality of the Grid in both Tron: Legacy and Uprising is the contrast between the cities where the programs live and the wastelands that exist in between the cities. The sleek, multi-leveled environments of the cities represent virtual space that has been organized by careful construction, while the harsh, formless wastelands represent the ostensibly endless amounts of virtual space that has yet to be refined and given purpose by programming. As such, there is no real "natural" world within the Grid; everything is artificial, and therefore anything that has no foundation in programming is inherently crude and discordant. This is what made the arrival of the isometric programs (a.k.a. ISOs) from the wastelands such a surprise to both Kevin Flynn and the programs he produced--that structure, function and intelligence could arise from an unformed space and without deliberate creation.

Click below to see the portfolio of Grid landscapes from Tron: Uprising.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Art of Tron: Uprising (Part 3 of 4): Buildings and Interiors

In this third of four posts devoted to the art of Tron: Uprising, we'll be taking a look at the buildings and interiors that the characters inhabited in Uprising.

Even though Tron: Legacy is a direct continuation of the events in Tron, it differed greatly from the first film in terms of the programs' behavior and environments. The programs in Tron adhered to the programming that their users at Encom gave them, while the programs in Legacy behaved according to how Kevin Flynn structured the environment that he built for them in the stand-alone Grid. Tron: Uprising gave fans a closer look at the relationship between the Grid programs and their environments, and what Flynn might have had in mind when he originally built the Grid.

Unlike the Encom programs in Tron, the Grid programs in Uprising build, populate and maintain locations that are akin to locations built for humans: offices, garages, medical facilities, night clubs and shipping container yards. By building human-like environments for the Grid programs, it would appear that Flynn hoped to foster humanoid behavior among the programs (e.g., emotions and free thought). Nevertheless, the Grid is still a virtual, digitally-constructed environment with its own unique properties, such as the Escheresque area of compressed space that was seen in the Uprising episode "The Stranger".

Click below to see the portfolio of buildings and interiors from Tron: Uprising.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Art of Tron: Uprising (Part 2 of 4): Vehicles and Equipment

In this second of four posts devoted to the art of Tron: Uprising, we'll be taking a look at the vehicles and equipment used by the characters in Uprising.

The original Tron movie revealed a selection of vehicles and equipment that became closely associated with the franchise. The Light Cycles, Recognizers, Light Tanks, and Identity Discs of Tron were also featured prominently in the movie's tie-in arcade games and would reappear later with updated designs in Tron 2.0 and Tron: Legacy. Uprising featured these same items as well, along with new vehicles and equipment that are analogous to things in the real world: boats, helicopters, rail transportation, and hand-held tools. Of particular significance is the Recoder tool used by Beck, which gave fans a look at how programs assemble, disassemble and repair the virtual machinery within the Grid. Click below to see the portfolio of vehicles and equipment from Tron: Uprising.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Art of Tron: Uprising (Part 1 of 4): Characters

This month marks the one year anniversary of the cancellation of Tron: Uprising, which aired on Disney XD for 19 episodes. Set between the events of Tron and Tron: Legacy, Uprising chronicled the events shortly after Clu’s rise to power within the stand-alone Grid created by Kevin Flynn.

Personally, I think that Tron: Uprising got a raw deal from Disney. It’s a fantastic addition to the Tron saga that went on to win both Emmy and Annie Awards, yet Disney clearly had other priorities and was willing to toss Uprising aside without so much as an official cancellation notice. Even to this day, Uprising has yet to be released on DVD or Blu-ray and I’m wondering if it ever will.

In honor of this amazing animated series that was cut down in its prime, I have decided to do something that Disney won’t. Since there will never be an official Tron: Uprising art book, I have searched across the Internet to find a selection of art from Uprising that I can share here on my blog with fellow fans. Today’s selection of artwork will focus on the characters of Uprising, while the next three posts will cover vehicles and equipment, buildings and interiors, and landscapes. Click below to see the Tron: Uprising character art portfolio.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

V/H/S/2, Occult, and Special Effects in Found Footage Movies

One of the things that I love about the horror genre is its unique relationship with low-budget filmmaking. Cheaply-made terror trashfests have been a dime a dozen for decades, but on the other hand I cannot imagine where horror films would be today without low-budget classics such as Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Thus, it makes sense that the subgenre of found footage films, films that deliberately look rough and amateurish, has made its home in horror. There are exceptions to the rule (such as Cloverfield, which relied on high-quality CGI effects and green screen composite shots), but the found footage subgenre has largely been populated by filmmakers of limited resources.

With that in mind, what happens when a filmmaker decides to make a found footage film due to budgetary limitations but also wants to include special effects? This post will look at that question through the approaches taken by two found footage titles, V/H/S/2 (2013) and Occult (2009). Both incorporated special effects outside of the usual blood-and-guts stuff, each with varying levels of success. Read on for my analysis, with minor spoilers for both films.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Paper Airplanes Become Remote Controlled Toys with Power Up RC Conversion Kits

When I was growing up, the most reliable toys were the ones you could make yourself: paper airplanes. It didn't matter how much money you had in your pocket, because all you needed was a sheet of paper to have a few minutes of amateur flying fun. There were books you could buy that featured sleek, complex designs from engineers who wanted to take the paper plane to higher levels, but anyone who had basic paper-folding skills could produce at least one type of paper plane to throw around until it became to damaged to go anywhere. Of course, if you wanted a battery-powered flying toy, paper planes just couldn't compete ... until now.

Meet Power Up Toys. A while back, Power Up was selling "Electric Paper Airplane Conversion Kits" that consisted of a durable, lightweight and rechargeable propeller that you could attach to a paper plane to make it fly for longer distances. I've seen the first two versions of this kit for sale on a number of sites, and I've also seen video footage of Power Up modified paper planes posted on YouTube. However, with the success of the previous conversion kits, Power Up Toys is taking it to the next level with the Power Up 3.0 kit, the kit that will allow you to convert a paper plane that can be controlled remotely through a smartphone.

The Power Up 3.0 kit started as a Kickstarter campaign that reached its initial funding goal of $50,000 within hours of its initial launch. With its baseline goal met, the Kickstarter campaign continues to this day to fund more options that can be added to Power Up 3.0's main remote control feature. These options include:
  • Remote controller software for multiple smartphone platforms;
  • Multi-control 3.0 kits that will allow you to mount more than one 3.0 kit to a paper plane but control all of them simultaneously with just one smartphone controller;
  • A "dogfight" feature that will allow users to have a mid-air battle between two 3.0 modified planes; and
  • A pin camera attached to the 3.0 battery/Bluetooth receiver that can record footage of flights.

As someone who spent his youth wishing for paper planes that could fly greater distances, I think that Power Up 3.0 looks like hours of fun. Go to the official Power Up Toys site and the Power Up 3.0 Kickstarter page for more information about putting more power into your paper planes. See the Power Up 3.0 kit promo video in the window below.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Three Excellent Examples of Horror Anime: Another, Moryo no Hako, and Shiki

The face of madness revealed in Moryo no Hako.

As someone who lives in a country where animation is overwhelmingly aimed at children and general audiences, I'm fascinated by the amount of freedom that animation has over in Japan. In particular, I'm still amazed at how anime is used as a means of telling serious horror stories, something that you'll never find here in the U.S. In this post, I will look at three horror anime series--each of which are based on a novel--that are great examples of how hand-drawn monsters, murders and mysteries can chill the soul of even the most jaded horror fan. Read on ...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

20th Century Fox and Sega Get Alien: Isolation Ready for Launch

A few weeks ago, I did an update post about the Alien franchise that listed new projects that are currently in development: comic books, a trilogy of novels, and a video game. The video game in question, Alien: Isolation, got a significant push forward this week in terms of media publicity, with a few articles, interviews, video clips, and an official Web site and Facebook page. According to the new information, Isolation should be ready for release by the end of this year. Read on for additional details about Isolation and what it could mean to the future of the franchise's video game titles.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dark Horse Returns to a Familiar Future War in Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle

Given the number of comic book, movie, novel and TV series that I've followed over the decades, I'm used to having key questions, plot developments and character fates remaining unresolved. I don't like this--I much prefer to explore interesting ideas in further detail instead of forgetting them--but I suppose it comes with being a horror and sci-fi fan.

That said, Dark Horse has brushed the dust off of its Terminator license and is currently publishing Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle, a 12-issue miniseries that's written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Pete Woods. The first issue arrived last month and the second issue is currently available at comic shops, newsstands, and other places that carry Dark Horse titles. The miniseries sets itself up to answer certain questions posed in the first four Terminator movies, questions that will probably not be addressed when the franchise is rebooted in 2015. So far, Final Battle looks to be the most ambitious Terminator comic book miniseries since Malibu Comics' two-part Cybernetic Dawn and Nuclear Twilight miniseries. Read on for my complete review, and why Final Battle is worth a look for any Terminator completist.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Preview of Jaws Estuary Attack Diorama by Sculptoria Studio

In September 2012, I did a two-part interview with Nigel Humphreys, sculptor and founder of Sculptoria Studio, about a selection of collectible dioramas that he was preparing for avid horror and sci-fi geeks like me. I recently received word that one of these dioramas, which depicts the Estuary Attack scene from Jaws, is ready for sale. Click below for more pictures of this amazing piece of Jaws art.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Republics, Empires and Rebellions that Might Have Been: A Star Wars Art: Concept Book Review

With 2014 just beginning, I'm going to kick off this year’s posts the only way a geek like me knows how: by talking about some of the swag I got for Christmas. For now, I’ll be taking about Star Wars Art: Concept which was recently published by Abrams Books. Read on for my complete review.