The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ian McDairmid, Sam Witwer, Episodes III & IV in 3D… and FOUR Star Wars TV shows!?...

I attended Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando this weekend (I'll be mixing the worlds of entertainment and travel a lot through 2013, including covering the premier of The Hobbit in New Zealand). This was my first Star Wars convention and it gave all the attendees a bountiful supply of information on Lucasfilm’s upcoming film and tv projects.

First and foremost was the Season 5 premier of the 3D-animated television series, Clone Wars, which takes place between Episodes II and III of the film franchise.

The premier showed the last two episodes of Season IV, followed by the first of Season V, thus competing a three-episode story arc of the return of Darth Maul, who it turns out didn’t really die at the end of The Phantom Menace. The character, now voiced by Sam Witwer (Being Human), has brought intensified interest in the series from fans. Warning, SPOILER ALERT in the next paragraph:

Actor Sam Witwer, voicing a character in a 'radio drama' 
created for the convention, titled 'Smuggler's Gambit.'

In Season V, Episode 1, we find Darth Maul and ‘brother’ Savage Opress haphazardly raising an army of pirates to take on Obi-wan Kenobi and the Jedi Order. Opress however doesn’t like Maul’s assertion of dominance and tests Maul, who puts Opress in his place and, as actor Sam Witwer explained, Maul would henceforth refer to Opress as ‘apprentice’ rather than ‘brother.’ In an early scene we see an appearance by a Kenner-style ‘Blue Snaggletooth’ character. Director David Filoni said that fans of the original action figure line will be happy to find other Kenner-style characters making appearances this season. The fighting in this episode was far more intense than in previous seasons, and the stakes much higher. Late in the episode Opress head-butts and kills a well-known jedi before Kenobi cuts off the left arm of Opress. Maul too loses a mechanical foot before the two barely escape. Filoni indicated it would be later in the season before we see Maul and Opress again. Likewise, he noted that while the night sisters have been diminished, they would return in force later on.

Following the premier was an extended new trailer for the season, featuring a Mandalorian civil war enflamed by Maul and Opress. Darth Sideous himself arrives to take on Maul and Opress in a light saber duel, reminding them that ‘there can only be two, and you [Maul] are no longer my apprentice.’ We see a darker Anakin, driven by jealousy and anger. Assage Ventress returns masked, though her new role unclear now that she has left the Sith. There were vague hints regarding the anticipated demise of Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka. Indeed, Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, and Dave Filoni all indicated that the two had voiced top-secret scenes between Anakin and Ahsoka regarding her fate, which the other actors were not privy. Whether she is killed by Ventress (which could tie up the much-anticipated fate of both characters), or Maul, or Count Duku (which would go a long way in explaining Anakin’s new brutality in Revenge of the Sith), is yet to be revealed... or maybe she merely goes into hiding like Yoda?... not likely.

In other trailers we see Darth Maul wearing special red Mandalorian armour, as well as fighting green-skinned Falleen of the Black Sun (think Prince Xizor from Shadows of the Empire). This all happens in the midst of growing anti-Jedi sentiment within the republic. We see a battle on the planet Onderon and a female rebel leader, Steela, who features prominently in previews. Could she fill the niche left by a likely demise of Ahsoka?

Ian McDairmid, in his first US convention appearance.

Actor Ian Abercrombie, who voices Palpatine in Clone Wars, passed away earlier this year. When asked if Ian McDairmid would replace him, Dave Filoni declined to answer out of respect for Abercrombie, however he said that Abercrombie had voiced most of Season 5 already and that he would announce the replacement closer to the time new scenes are recorded.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), McDairmid was asked by a fan if he would be voicing Palpatine in the hotly anticipated Star Wars live-action tv series tentatively titled ‘Underworld.’ McDairmid’s reply:

“What do you think?” he laughed, concluding “I would hate it if I was alive and someone else got the part.” This may suggest he is also open to resuming the part for the 3D animate Clone Wars. Though whether there will be a Sixth Season has not been announced.

However, McDairmid confirmed that ‘Star Wars Underworld’ had been shelved for the time being, do to overwhelming costs and time needed to produce the level of computer effects desired by George Lucas. According to sources connected with the series, as many as 50 scripts had already been written for the series, some casting had begun, and concept art had been approved by George Lucas.

In a separate screening announced for families, Lucasfilm showed a 3-episode story arc from Season 5 of Clone Wars, titled ‘Young Jedi,’ and cut as a short movie. It followed the training of a group of new padawans, including building their first light sabers, and eventually taking on the dreaded General Grievous.

Clone Wars Season 5 premiers September 29 on the Cartoon Network.

A new 3D animated, slap-stick comedy series entitled Star Wars: Detours was also announced by Seth Green and the team behind ‘Robot Chicken’ at the convention. The series features characters from the movies in whimsical forms and settings, reminding me of a cross between family guy, the Muppets and… Robot Chicken.

George Lucas himself made a surprise appearance at a morning panel with Dave Filoni. He talked about what appeared to be yet another Star Wars tv series in development and aimed at young children, which was neither Young Jedi, nor Star Wars: Detours. What exactly this series is remains to be seen.

The convention concluded with the announcement of the release of Episode II and Episode III in 3D for September and October 2013.

Photos copyright 2012 Adam Bray. Videos are the property of Lucasfilm via YouTube.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day Two with Ghosts & Monster Hunters

Below are more photos from my first paranormal conference, held this weekend at the Kewadin Casinos. It was a fun time and Kewadin was a cosy and welcoming setting. I loved the free gift bags for attendees too! I'd be happy to come back for future events at Kewadin any time.

Joshua Gates and Rex Williams had a fun Q&A looking back on their show, Destination Truth. The discussion included a horrifying paranormal experience involving their cameraman in Romania, Rex getting choked by a ghost in Thailand, and the whole group getting detained at a military border checkpoint in Senegal. I can sympathize with the last one, regarding my own experiences in Vietnam. Josh said his most amazing experience was spending the night alone in King Tut's tomb; something arranged by a rather amazing local Egyptian fixer.

Joshua Gate, Rex Williams and I.
You can order the Destination Truth DVDs and bookat Amazon.

'Paranormal Rockstar' Dustin Pari and Barry Fitzgerald of SyFy's Ghost Hunters International gave a funny and informative talk on their experiences with the show and discussed new discoveries and techniques in the field of ghost investigations. Particularly interesting were their comments on how different types of lighting/radiation seemed to disrupt and inhibit ghost activity, and how the foods we eat can disrupt or enhance our own senses, important in investigation of the supernatural.

Dustin Pari, Barry Fitzgerald and I. Dustin is no longer with the show, but does continue to do ghost hunting on the side, and doesn't seem to have ruled out a return to tv, in perhaps another form later on. He has also founded the Christian Patch Ministry. Dustin and Barry have a new book, 'So My Home is Haunted... Now What?' Get their previous book, 'The Complete Approach-The Scientific and Metaphysical Guide to The Paranormal' at Amazon.

Me with Amy Bruni (SyFy's Ghost Hunters) and Kris Williams (SyFy's Ghost Hunters International). Kris was involved in a bit of a controversy when she spoke out against an episode of GHI this season. A member of the team volunteered to participate in a Mayan Blood-letting ceremony to communicate with spirits at an ancient ruin in Belize. I appreciate that Kris spoke up and stood firm on her beliefs. Although my own experience with tv has been more limited, I understand what it's like as a writer when an editor changes my own words without informing me, and comes out making statements that I don't agree with--when my own name is the one on the story. Within travel media It's also bothered me when travel tv hosts set their beliefs aside to do things for ratings that would otherwise pose ethical, moral and even legal dilemas if they did the same activity in their home country.

Kris said that there's been no news about whether there will be a new season of Ghost Hunters International, but that she doesn't expect to continue with the show. I wish her well in whatever comes next. She's a talented lady with a good head on her shoulders and I'm sure she'll have  a bright future. Best wishes to Amy too, who has a baby on the way!

You can order or download seasons of Ghost Hunterson Amazon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Squeezing in Some Ghosts, UFOs and a Vietnamese Bigfoot

Speaking of which... This weekend I happen to find myself at my first Paranormal Convention! I'll save most comments and stories for tomorrow's post, as bed-time is fast approaching, but I thought I should throw a few photos out from today's activities before I sign off.

John Zaffis from the SyFy Channel's 'Haunted Collector'

John's son, Chris Zaffis, also from SyFy Channel's 'Haunted Collector'

Travis Walton giving a presentation on his infamous UFO abduction experience

Author Travis Walton and I. Mr. Walton's book, 'Fire in the Sky' was made into a movie starring D B Sweeney, Robert Patrick and James Garner.

Amy Bruni from SyFy's 'Ghost Hunters' (with baby bump!)

The lovely Kris Williams from Syfy's 'Ghost Hunters International'

The ladies answered nearly 2 hours of questions, ranging from the role of women in ghost hunting, to working with celebrity guests, to a certain infamous episode this season.

Stay tuned for more details tomorrow, including appearances by Rex Williams and Joshua Gates from SyFy's 'Destination Truth' and Dustin Pari and Barry Fitzgerald from SyFy's 'Ghost Hunters' and 'Ghost Hunters International.' Joshua Gates was recently in Vietnam hunting for an elusive giant primate. We'll see if I can pry any behind-the-scenes info on that from him...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

From Indiana Jones to Jedi and Hobbits

Me in Hobbiton, earlier this year. 

As if trekking through jungle mountains, visiting lost tribes, discovering ancient temples and searching for fabled antiquities in the wilds of Southeast Asia isn’t enough, I’ll now be moving on to adventures in time and space…

During August 23-26 I’ll be covering Lucasfilm’s ‘Star Wars Celebration VI.’ The event, hosted by the creators of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, is held every two years and is an opportunity to meet the original cast and crew from the movies and tv shows. It also is an opportunity for George Lucas to give sneak peaks at upcoming projects as well as address rumours of a new live-action tv series and spin-off Star Wars movies. The event will also host the premier of Clone Wars Season 5.

Attending the event will be Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2D2, Time Bandits), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Warwick Davis (Wicket, Willow, Harry Potter’s Professor Flitwick), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett from the original trilogy), Daniel Logan (Young Boba Fett from the new trilogy and Clone Wars), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) and many more.

Then in November, it’s off to New Zealand again to cover the world premier of  The Hobbit on the 28th in Wellington. There will be a week-long festival in the nation’s capital, capped off with a massive, star-studded parade. I’ll be reporting on all the activities and the red-carpet event, as well as the filming of the recently-announced third Hobbit movie. Reprising roles from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy are Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Elijah Wood (Frodo),  Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and many more.

View some of my previous articles on Middle Earth Tourism in New Zealand here:

So stay tuned here for exclusives info and photos, and follow me on Twitter at: @fisheggtree. Media inquiries welcome.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Carnivorous Plants of Bokor Mountain

Earlier this month I visited Bokor Mountain, near Kampot, Cambodia. Below are select photos from the adventure.

A karst wetlands in the middle of the mountain. The limited soil in this limestone environment lacks necessary nutrients for most plant life to thrive, so the plants that grow here (such as carnivorous plants) have special adaptations that allow them to get their nutrients in unique ways. Though the particular species may be unique (even exclusive to this single location), the families of plants and general make-up of the ecosystem is much the same here in tropical Cambodia as it would be in a wetlands in North America. You could find similar (though different species) of carnivorous plants and orchids here as you would in Canada, for example.

Flowers in the wetlands.

A pitcher plant. The pitcher grow at the end of what otherwise look like normal leaves. The pitchers trap and digest insects and possibly other animals. The plants grow about 4.5 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

A different species of low-growing pitcher plants.

A tiny sundew entices ants and other insects with sweet droplets on its leaves, which stick to the prey and wrap around them. The plant then digests them.

Orchids are common in these sorts of wetlands.

A different species of sundew with tall stalks.

A giant millipede. He is curled up as a defense mechanism. When unravelled, he is nearly as long as my hand. Unlike predatory centipedes, millipedes (which mostly eat decaying plants and fungus) are relatively harmless, unless you try to eat them. In this case, they have a tendency to release cyanide...

For those that dreamed of chasing Matt Dillon with firearms through abandoned ruins on a misty mountain top, you might be disappointed that the filming location for City of Ghosts has been 'restored to its former casino glory.' There's actually a very cozy lobby cafe inside, and though rather pricey, the coffee and deserts are spectacular, and the free wifi rather handy. It make a good pit stop after a long, cold, wet drive up and around the mountain.