Getting More Immersed with Indiewire


  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor.  Beginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart


The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film


For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

Movies

Cowboys & Aliens VFX on IndieWIRE

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, James Bond, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

I’ve got an article about ILM’s space invaders from Cowboys & Aliens under my new Immersed in Movies moniker at IndieWIRE’s TOH.

Will Zemeckis’ Yellow Submarine Resurface?

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

With yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter announcement of Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers resurfacing at Universal with a two-year, first look deal, does this mean that his performance capture-animated Yellow Submarine is back on track? We’ll know soon enough.

However, when reporting on Mars Needs Moms in March, the last movie made for Disney at  ImageMovers Digital in Marin County, production designer Doug Chiang told me that Zemeckis was still very enthusiastic about re-imagining the 1968 Beatles classic and proud of the test, and apparently Paul McCartney was supportive as well. It was previously announced that the director had secured the rights from Apple Corps. to use 16 Beatles songs, and that Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell would portray the Fab Four.

So, even though the ImageMovers Digital gang has disbanded (Chiang wants to direct, Kevin Baillie co-founded Atomic Fiction in Emeryville, and Huck Wirtz launched Bayou FX in San Rafael and Louisiana), they confirmed that they’d be willing to regroup when Zemeckis has a new project. Then again, Zemeckis could return to Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he helmed Beowulf and The Polar Express and produced Monster House. (He’s currently attached as producer at Sony Pictures Animation to adapt Chuck Sambuchino’s book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack.) He could also make it at Digital Domain (Tron Legacy and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), with its own performance capture prowess.

Who knows? There still might be a new 3-D journey to Pepperland to fight the Blue Meanies.

Rainmaker to Animate Escape From Planet Earth

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies | Leave a comment

Coinciding with SIGGRAPH’s first venture outside the U.S. into Vancouver next week, Rainmaker Ent. and The Weinstein Co. announced production of the CG-animated/3-D Escape From Planet Earth for a 2012 release. Cal Brunker (story artist on Despicable Me, 9, and Horton Hears a Who!) directs this wacky comedy that’s a mash-up of Hoodwinked! and Avatar (yes, more blue aliens).

Donna Gigliotti, TWC’s president of production, and Catherine Winder, Vancouver-based Rainmaker’s president and exec producer, will serve as producers.  Escape was written by Brunker and Bob Barlen based on an original screenplay by Tony Leech and Cory Edwards (Hoodwinked!).

On planet Baab, admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA. When BASA’s no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission. But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (James Gandolfini), it’s up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing. As the interplanetary stakes rise to new heights, Gary is left to save his brother, his planet, his beloved wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) and their adventure hungry son Kip!

Blu Goes Blu for Rio

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, Trailers, Videogames | Leave a comment

There’s a lot of blue this week with The Smurfs hitting theaters for Sony and Rio coming out on Blu-ray today for Fox (with a lead macaw named Blu and Blue Sky doing the animation, no less). Happily, HD intensifies the craft and experience because Rio is really the star of Carlos Saldanha’s very personal tribute to his native country, despite the charming love birds (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway) and madcap adventure. And as much fun as the 3-D was theatrically, the colors pop even more on Blu-ray without the dimness factor. Also, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 really propels the bravura Carnival dance sequence.

As I reported previously for AWN, Blue Sky certainly raised its game to achieve the level of animation necessary to match Saldanha’s ambitious vision. “But even little things were complicated like populating the city with trees and flowers,” he said. “Those became our biggest problem complexity wise when the leaves were moving, and the technology we used had to be improved to handle this.”

Birds were the first challenge, of course. There are 12 bird species (chicken, crow, egret, frigate, goose, macaw, sparrow, spoonbill, toucan, cockatoo, cardinal and canary) and a total of 51 unique ones. The hero birds required special rigging for the wings, which double for gesturing when not used for flying. In the case of Blu, that’s most of the movie. In fact, Blu’s entire groom had around 5,000,000 individual hairs to make up all of the feathers.

“The wing rigs are complicated and you want to give them some personality and the ability to emote and articulate their feathers,” suggests Robert Cavaleri, CG supervisor. “And those are two very different kinds of control sets that you have to blend together in a way that allows to them to go from being like a normal bird and something that can be caricatured in a particular way.”

Extras include a deleted fruit stand scene, a tour of the real Rio, and three Angry Birds Rio offerings.

Trailering Twixt

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Following his eventful Comic-Con presentation, Francis Ford Coppola has launched the trailer for Twixt, his Cormanesque goth movie about tormented writer Val Kilmer tripping out with vampires in a seedy town. Capturing both a real and artificial look (thanks to digitally shooting live like a concert and editing on the fly in real-time), Coppola one ups his One From the Heart “electronic” experiment as well as his Rumble Fish music video and retro Dracula adventures. Hounded by an artistic mid-life crisis, Kilmer implodes in a cry for help. He’s haunted in his dreams by spirits (including Poe), and he’s seduced by Dern into collaborating on a book about a local serial killer.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.

Trailering Like Crazy

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Movies, Tech, Trailers | Leave a comment

Paramount Vantage has released the trailer for Drake Doremus’ indie sensation Like Crazy (Oct. 28), which nabbed the Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. As Anne Thompson relates in her informative interview with the director today at TOH, Like Crazy is a romantically voyeuristic adventure. Using the Canon 7 Digital SLR camera (photographed by John Guleserian), he captures an improvisational vibe inspired by jazz and the naturalism of Lars von Trier. Judging by the trailer, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones (The Tempest) are achingly sublime in their intimacy (it has been trimmed to PG-13 by Doremus). At first blush, Like Crazy harkens all the way back to Murnau and Borzage, for starters, yet it’s totally fresh in its post-modern take on first love, in which Brit college student Jones falls for American classmate Yelchin, only to be separated when she violates the terms of her visa. Immersive mise en scène comes in many forms, thankfully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnFKe9eWVMw

Trailering Happy Feet 2

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, Shorts, Tech | Leave a comment

The sequel to George Miller’s Oscar-winning Happy Feet has a new trailer and it looks as snappy and toe-tapping as you’d expect, along with even richer and much finer-detailed animation from Dr. D Studios in Sydney, under the supervision of former ILM vet Rob Coleman. In this one, Mumble’s (Elijah Wood) son Erik (Elizabeth Daily) who’s afraid to dance, and challenged by The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), who can fly. Meanwhile, the penguin world is shaken to its core and all the competing factions must come together to save their world. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt lend their voices to the tiny Krills. Happy Feet 2 opens Nov. 18 through Warner Bros (in 3-D, of course) with the Looney Tunes short, Daffy’s Rhapsody.

More Spielberg and Jackson on Tintin at IndieWIRE

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Books, Movies, performance capture, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

I’ve just posted more extensive Tintin coverage from my trip to Weta last week at IndieWIRE’s TOH. There will be more coverage to come from Weta about both Tintin and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Favreau and Craig Talk Return of ‘Classic’ Bond

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Books, James Bond, Movies, VFX | Leave a comment

Director Jon Favreau had fun chatting with his Cowboys & Aliens star Daniel Craig about Bond 23, which begins production in November (with India confirmed as a primary location) and opens Nov. 9, 2012. Craig was naturally coy about details, but admitted that it would contain some classic Bond elements (Naomie Harris is supposed to introduce Moneypenny) and had high praise for director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition).

“It’s a great choice because Sam has a fervor and energy to really direct a Bond movie with a capital B,” Craig enthused. “He’s read every book and just soaked up everything about it. I read the script the other day and I’m more excited about this than I was about Casino.”

Favreau admitted that he filled the gadget void with Iron Man given Craig’s grittier, more realistic reboot. Craig said that gadgets pose a challenge for Bond because they’re so ubiquitous today and that it’s harder to find something unique unless you have access to classified military hardware and equipment.

In terms of humor, Craig also suggested that less is definitely more with his Bond. In my first interview with Craig, he professed an affinity for gallows humor, which served him well as a defense mechanism in Casino Royale, so we can probably expect a continuation of this dry wit.

In fact, the highlight of the conversation was a discussion about how Austin Powers has helped kill the self-reverential Bond in this post-modern era. “It’s been killed because now you can’t wink at it — he’s double-winked,” Craig offered. “It’s like a bird that flies in smaller and smaller circles until it flies up its own ass,” Favreau quipped. It just makes it all the more challenging to layer in humor that’s organic to the character and situation.

Indeed, Bond has always been a delicate balancing act between danger and humor, trying something new and going to extremes and then switching gears and repeating the cycle. I’m smack in the middle of this right now with the chapter on Moonraker in my Bond book. So it’ll be fascinating to see how Craig continues to bring Bond full-circle back to Fleming, while at the same time being true to the franchise.

Meanwhile, Peter Caranicas of Variety reports that Steve Begg (Casino Royale) has signed on to Bond 23 as visual effects supervisor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pw7i82JUaw

Trailering Red Tails

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Great aerial action from ILM (supervised by Super 8′s Russell Earl) underscores Red Tails, exec produced by George Lucas, about the The Tuskegee Airmen: the first African-American fighter pilots in U.S. military history that helped turn the momentum in Europe during World War II. The Lucasfilm Ltd. production will launch on Jan. 20, 2012, from Twentieth Century Fox, directed by Anthony Hemingway (Treme, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica), and produced by Rick McCallum and Charles Floyd Johnson.

Red Tails stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Tristan Wilds, Cliff Smith aka Method Man, Kevin Phillips, Rick Otto, Lee Tergesen Andre Royo, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, Marcus T. Paulk, Leslie Odom Jr., Michael B. Jordan, and Daniela Ruah.

“I’ve wanted to do this film for a great many years,” said Lucas. “So it is especially gratifying to see it all come together. It has been a real pleasure to work with Anthony and the extraordinary cast on a project that we all passionately believe in. The Tuskegee Airmen were such superb pilots that it was essential for us to create visual effects that would live up to their heroism and put audiences in the cockpit with them. They were only in their early 20s when they performed these amazing feats,” Lucas added.  “They became the best of the best—the top guns. It is an honor to bring to the screen a story inspired by their heroics.”