R2D2 actor Kenny Baker has died

first_imgEnglish actor Kenny Baker, best known as R2-D2 from the first six Star Wars films, has died at the age of 81.The 3’8″ tall actor hadn’t been in good health for quite a while, having had to decline a trip to the Los Angeles premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last December due to lung issues. He did manage to attend the film’s London premiere and meet up with George Lucas soon after.The sad news was first reported by his niece, Abigail Shield, who talked about his legacy.“It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless,” said Shield. “He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”Born in Birmingham in 1934, Baker was told that he probably wouldn’t survive past puberty since little people didn’t have much in the way of life expectancy back then. Fortunately he was cared for by a group named The Shaftesbury Society, which helped him overcome his stature and realize his goal of becoming a performer. At the age of 16 he achieved his goal by joining “Burton Lester’s Midgets,” going on to join the circus as a clown and shadow Ringmaster. He eventually ended up touring the country doing pantomime and ice shows, even meeting the Queen over the course of it.Besides his iconic turn as the most beloved, loyal, and brave character in the entire Star Wars universe, Baker had a long career acting in sci-fi and fantasy films. Perhaps his most notable role was as Fidgit in Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Time Bandits. (We only hope you will all be watching that in honor of him this week.) He performed roles in such classics as Flash Gordon, Amadeus, The Elephant Man, and Labyrinth. In Return of the Jedi he also played Paploo, the gutsy Ewok who takes a joyride on a speeder bike.Baker last acted as consultant for R2-D2 on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His presence will be missed in future installments and, indeed, by the whole world. So sorry to hear about this. It was lovely working with Kenny. Kenny Baker, Star Wars R2-D2 actor, dies aged 81 https://t.co/9HW6f3MWZl— Ewan McGregor (@mcgregor_ewan) August 13, 2016Image courtesy of StarWars.com Goodbye #KennyBaker A lifelong loyal friend-I loved his optimism & determination He WAS the droid I was looking for! pic.twitter.com/rd94OEYaHi— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) August 13, 2016last_img read more

A Brief History of Princess Leias Bikini

first_img Carrie Fisher remembers Princess Leia’s metal bikini all too well. Besides the fact she had to wear it, her face and body are almost always associated with it.“I remember that iron bikini I wore in Episode VI: what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of Hell,” she said in a 1999 Newsweek interview.The bikini itself, sometimes called the “Slave Leia” costume or the “Hutt Slayer,” is one of the most recognizable costumes in all of Hollywood history, up there with Dorothy’s red slippers from the Wizard of Oz or Darth Vader’s helmet. But for a costume that appears briefly in one movie, it does open a mixed bag of feelings for Fisher, the people who worked on Return of the Jedi set, and the fans who covet it.The costume itself was created mostly by designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, who had some input from George Lucas himself. Lucas apparently wanted something “special” for the scene in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace.“His eyes started sparkling when we talked about it,” Rodgers said.The bikini was inspired in part by the work of Frank Frazetta, an artist who designed covers for comics such as the Buck Rogers series, along with movie posters. Rodgers said that his framing of the female form was done out of a love and respect for it. If you look at his works, you can see a distinct attention to detail when drawing all human bodies, especially when it came to naked or exposed muscles. His science fiction and fantasy artwork, along with his use of metal clothing, also has some clear inspirations on the costume. Specifically, the outfit resembles the one pictured on the cover of the 1970 version of the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.Courtesy Starwars.comThe men on set, like Lucas, had a similar reaction to the costume.“Most of the crew are men, and they really enjoyed being on the set,” Rodgers added.There were multiple versions of the bikini that Fisher would wear for certain scenes. There was the aforementioned metal one, but there was also a rubber one that Fisher could comfortably perform stunts in. Each version was lined with leather to prevent chafing, but that didn’t make it easy to wear. Fisher said that she had to lose weight and tone up to even put the bikini on and sit in front of Jabba. It was unwieldy, didn’t cooperate with the rest of her body, and made her the subject of some weird attention.“This was no bikini. It was metal,” Fisher said in an interview. “It didn’t go where you went. After the shots, the prop man would have to check me. He’d say, ‘Okay tits are fine. Let’s go.’ So I started checking for any bounce or slip after takes. Then it was, ‘Cut. Hey, how they doin’, hooters in place? Tits all right?’ I was embarrassed at first with a hundred guys going crazy over my revealed self. Dignity was out of the question.”And it wasn’t just the crew. In certain scenes, Fisher said that other actors could see…a little more than they were supposed to.“I was lying next to Jabba the Hutt…The actor who played Boba Fett stood behind me while I was wearing the bikini, and he could see all the way to Florida.”A lot of work went into the bikini, which was only around for a few minutes of screentime, but it’s had a long-lasting impact, specifically in the minds of the fans and in the merchandise that made Lucas into a billionaire. Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford received a small percentage of merchandising sales (which nobody thought would amount to anything), and that included in the figures that would bear their likenesses.Of course, back then, it wasn’t clear as to what would happen when Fisher signed that away. In hindsight, it strikes her as strange.“In those days, there was no such thing as a ‘likeness,’ which is a funny thing to say coming from the family that I came from. There was no merchandising tied to movies. No one could have known the extent of the franchise. Not that I don’t think I’m cute or anything, but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t think I was signing away anything of value,” she wrote.Seeing your face on a plastic figure would be weird for a lot of people, but it has to be disassociating to see your face on a figurine many deem exotic or as a male fantasy.“George sent me [a figure] for my birthday. So I sent him a message saying like, I know he owns my likeness but did [his ownership] go that far?” Fisher said in the 2008 television series Bring Back Star WarsCourtesy Starwars.comThe debate on whether the bikini is a sex fantasy, an empowering outfit for women, or something else entirely has followed the bikini in the following decades. It’s a convention cosplay mainstay, an easy shorthand in media for a nerd’s teenage dream, and a constant bane in Fisher’s side. On one hand, the outfit itself is a fetish piece, put on Leia to make her subservient to Jabba. On the other, Leia manages to break out of her chains and help to shut down Jabba’s operation, all while in the bikini. Throughout the scenes, she’s never exactly a victim, even though Jabba thinks she is. She’s just waiting for the right moment to strike. The bikini can serve as a sexual fantasy for the viewers, but they have to realize that they’re sharing that same fantasy with a gross blob monster. The context of the scene and Fisher’s performance is what gives it a positive, empowering spin, not the outfit itself. It’s why so many people (not just women) wear it to conventions. Star Wars x Adidas Ultraboost Photos Have Leaked’Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball Form Stay on targetcenter_img That chain only”enslaved”me until I could use the frabjous thing to KILL THAT DROOLING SWOLLEN SUPERTONGUED SLUG&whirl him off into infinity— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) July 15, 2015Critical analysis of the scene and the outfit is also reflected in the merchandise. In 2015, at the height of marketing for The Force Awakens, many inside sources reported that Disney was discontinuing the outfit in comics and on toys. Seeing a half-naked woman with a chain around her neck arguably isn’t the best image for children (especially if her moniker includes “slave”), but considering the cultural definition of the outfit, it’s not pure fantasy.There was a petition going around at the time to change the name from “Slave Leia” to “Hutt Slayer.” In the 2016 Star Wars novel Star Wars: Bloodline it made the name change official and a part of the canon. Writer Claudia Gray said that she made the change to associate the outfit with this more empowering, positive interpretation.“Not only did I like recasting that outfit as a memory of Leia being really strong and kick-ass, but think about it—for a human being to kill a Hutt with her bare hands? That’s unbelievable,” Gray said. “Anybody who would be able to pull that off would be remembered for it. That would be legend.”So we’ve gone from Slave Leia to Leia the Hutt Slayer, but the bikini is still the same. It’s had a long half-life, has gone through multiple interpretations, and caused people either discomfort or joy. For such a small piece of metal, it’s large and polarizing in our cultural minds.But what became of the bikini itself? One version was sold in an online auction for $96,000. Gus Lopez, a Star Wars collector, revealed following the auction that he is the proud owner of the costume. Now you know where to direct your jealousy.More on Geek.com:‘Star Wars Always’ Trailer Is Topher Grace’s Moving Montage10 Cool Gifts for Every Star Wars JunkieLuke Skywalker’s Original Light Saber Can Be Yourslast_img read more

Researchers Developing AI Program That Makes Games More Difficult

first_imgStay on target It is very rare to see a game featuring adaptive difficulty. This is certainly true of classic games, which almost never adapted their difficulties. But what if games like Doom or Super Mario Bros. featured evolving difficulty? As reported by The Register, this is something AI researchers are testing out with a system called “general adversarial networks” or GANs.GANs is a system of two networks called a generator and a discriminator. The generator builds false training data samples while the discriminator discerns whether the samples are real or fake. These two compete with one another. As the process continues, the generator creates increasingly realistic samples in an attempt to deceive the discriminator. AI researchers used GANs to create new levels for both Super Mario Bros. and Doom. The hope is that this research will help game creators develop games with better level design.“Level design usually heavily relies on domain expertise, good practices, and an extensive playtesting,” said the Doom paper. “To deal with these issues, several game researchers are spending considerable effort on studying and designing procedural content generation systems that, exploiting machine learning and search algorithms, can model the level design process and assist human designer.”GANs isn’t a full-proof system by any means. The researchers ran into some problems while creating Super Mario levels. “MarioGAN generates new levels very quickly but occasionally makes structural mistakes such as incompletely assembling pipe tiles,” says Adam Smith, co-author of the paper and an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “This project benefits AI research by helping us to map out the space of which techniques work where and when they fall apart when a hidden assumption they make is broken.”At the time of this writing, both of these AI-created games are merely prototypes. However, the code for the Super Mario GAN is available. The team wants to eventually create levels that constantly adapt their difficulty to the player. If this research pans out, perhaps we’ll eventually see more games with adaptive AI. It certainly would make titles interesting.Make sure to check out the article over on The Register for a more technical breakdown of how GANs works. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.center_img McDonald’s Plans to Serve AI Voice Technology at Drive ThruCIMON Returns to Earth After 14 Months on ISS last_img read more