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.

Trailering In Time

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

Fox previewed the trailer for Andrew Niccol’s In Time, at Comic-Con (Oct. 28). Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried star in a futuristic thriller in which people stop aging at 25 and must buy more time to survive. When Timberlake has more time than he can imagine, he becomes the pursued pursuer in a corrupt world. Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy (as the time keeper) also shine. Roger Deakins’ gritty cinematography is up to its usual high standards, as is Alex McDowell’s grounded production design, evoking a Fight Club-like underworld.

Coppola Returns to Comic-Con

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

Aside from Friday’s Spielberg/Jackson Tintin panel at Comic-Con, I would’ve loved to have been there today for Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt presentation. Passing out Edgar Allan Poe masks with 3-D lenses to the crowd in Hall H, Coppola revealed that his experimental goth movie is about Val Kilmer tripping out with vampires in a seedy town, and is visited in a dream by “The Godfather of Goth,” as John Cusack described him in his previous Poe-inspired Raven presentation.

Only, Twixt would be shot live on various stops like a concert and edited on the fly in real-time as a spontaneous experience, only partially in 3-D, and accompanied by composer Dan Deacon’s music.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s a new twist on Coppola’s One From the Heart, which was a different kind of “electronic” experiment in the ’80s. However, Twixt raises the stakes with new digital technology, and combines his Roger Corman roots with a touch of the surreal from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the last film he touted at Comic-Con). Coppola explained that it’s all about reinvigorating the theatrical experience, which is under siege by bad movies and mediocre 3-D.

Speaking of spectacle, Abel Gance’s silent masterpiece, Napoleon, expanding on Kevin Brownlow’s superlative restoration in the late ’70s, will screen with a live orchestra (Carl Davis conducting his score) at Oakland’s Paramount Theater March 24, 25, 31, and April 1, 2012. It will also screen in LA at The American Cinematheque. I bring this up because Coppola owns the U.S. theatrical distribution rights, and there had previously been a bone of contention about using his late father’s score instead of Davis’ (a Blu-ray is also in the works).

Spielberg and Jackson Tout Tintin at Comic-Con

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

Sorry I’m unable to report directly from Comic-Con’s Hall H in San Diego to bring you Steven Spielberg’s historic appearance, but, rest assured, I will have some very privileged Tintin access very soon. However, according Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times, Spielberg showed off some action-packed footage of Tintin engaging in both a gun fight and fist fight, and pursuing some baddies on wet cobblestone streets. The celebrated director also discussed raising the performance capture bar at Weta with his surprise guest, Peter Jackson, who still plans on directing the second installment if The Adventures of Tintin proves popular after its North American release on Dec. 23.

“Do I shoot this live-action with a digital dog or do I shoot this computer animated?” he originally questioned. “This was the medium which was begging us to use it.” While he wanted to capture a physical resemblance to the Herge comics, he didn’t want them to look cartoony, which is why the photoreal skin textures were applied to the characters.

Like Cameron, Spielberg had a virtual camera to see the rough performance capture renders and shot the whole thing using the V-Cam; this gave him a lot more freedom with action sequences than he’s accustomed to with a real camera. He also enjoyed the intimacy with the actors: “This is much more of a direct to canvas art form.” He was amazed at the emotion they were able to achieve with the animation. As for the virtual technology, he praised it for being “realistic to the point where the animators can create the musculature, nerves, and replica of a human body which responds the same way as we do.”

Oh, by the way, Spielberg took the opportunity to announce that, among his many projects, is Jurassic Park 4 (Universal Home Ent. releases Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy on Oct. 25).

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

Trailering Contagion

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

Talk about timing. Steven Soderbergh’s lethal virus outbreak thriller starring Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, and Laurence Fishburne is the perfect post 9/11 metaphor for the 10th anniversary. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic as ordinary people struggle to survive in a society tearing apart. Contagion (Sept. 9) looks like the kind of gripping political conspiracy thriller my generation grew up with in the ’70s, which Soderbergh is definitely channeling. Can’t wait to see it in IMAX.

Nuke & Mari Showcased at DreamWorks

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

The Foundry showed off the latest integration of Nuke compositing and Mari paint at the DreamWorks Animation Glendale campus last night (July 21). Artists I spoke with were especially impressed with the potential now for full Photoshop/Mari layering

Brandon Fayette, CG supervisor at Bad Robot Prods., demonstrated the denoise tool on noisy plates in Super 8 as well as the efficiency of the new Nuke/Mari bridge workflow; Joe Farrell, compositing supervisor from Scanline VFX in L.A., revealed the layering complexity achieved by Nuke on last year’s The Hereafter. Judging by the host venue and the fact that DreamWorks screened a trailer for Puss in Boots (Nov. 4), we look forward to learning more about how Mari played a role in its latest animated feature.

Now shipping, Mari 1.3v2 delivers a focused workflow to provide Nuke artists with dedicated 3D paint tools, making digital environment and projection work more efficient and final composited scenes more believable. This was especially attractive to artists working in Photoshop that require better layering.

Released this week, Nuke and NukeX 6.3 offers Deep Image compositing, 3D particles, Planar Tracker, updated Denoise with cutting edge algorithms, updated and redesigned spline & grid warping, and audio scratch track.

Star Wars Saga Deleted Scenes Trailer

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

Fox Home Ent. has released a Comic-Con exclusive deleted scenes sizzle reel for the upcoming Star Wars Saga Blu-ray set. Enjoy the fun until the set gets released on Sept. 16.

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

Peter Jackson Unveils Hobbit #3 Production Diary

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

Peter Jackson is unable to make Comic-Con this weekend to show off The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, writing on Facebook that the timing is too premature, but anticipates making an appearance next year. However, yesterday he launched the third video production diary for The Hobbit. You can view all three below. Meanwhile, here’s a new image of the dwarves. Speaking of which, I chatted with motion choreographer Terry Notary (The Hobbit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Avatar), and he confirmed that there will be plenty of CG performance-captured characters, including dwarves, elves, goblins, wargs, and orcs. In fact, he teased that the goblins will be quadrupeds with arm extensions and will move in a unique style. You can look forward to reading about insights into his fascinating craft. The Unexpected Journey opens Dec. 14, 2012.

Amazing Spider-Man Trailer Leaked

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

Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man trailer has been leaked (originally sourced at movie-list.com) ahead of its Comic-Con premiere in Hall H this weekend. Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) has definitely slinged a nerdier and creepier reboot with Social Network’s Andrew Garfield in a Zuckerberg-like reversal of iconoclastic empowerment. Co-starring Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Dennis Leary. VFX looks more low-key as well, but Sony Imageworks will certainly make use of new HDRI advances with the Spheron digital camera for quicker and superior integration of CG environments. Coming July 3, 2012.

 

Sony Animation Goes Chickenhare

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Education, Movies | Leave a comment

Sony Pictures Animation and Dark Horse Ent. will develop an animated feature based on Chris Grine’s graphic novel series, Chickenhare.

Chickenhares hero is half-chicken and half-hare. The eponymous graphic novels in which Chickenhare was introduced, originally published in 2006 and 2008 by Dark Horse, follow him and his shelled sidekick, Abe, on their adventures in an amazing fantasy world filled with monstrous creatures, demonic critters, and danger lurking around every corner. The two pick up a few more friends and a few more problems, all while exploring themes of identity, family, and friendship.

Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg will exec produce for Dark Horse. Michael Lachance will oversee the project for Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) with president of production Michelle Raimo-Kouyate.

“Sony Pictures Animation is always looking for original characters, and Chickenhare is a true original,” said Raimo-Kouyate.  “This story has everything we want in an animated film — broad comedy, heartfelt emotion, universal themes, and a one-of-a-kind hero that audiences will love.”

“Chris Grine’s Chickenhare is one of the quirkiest characters we’ve ever published,” added Richardson. “We’re excited that the good people at Sony Pictures Animation responded so enthusiastically to what has to be one of our greatest comics-to-film projects yet. The more animated movies I see, the more I want to make them, and in Chickenhare we found a character so colorful and three-dimensional that he could only exist in an animated world.”

Grine, a graduate from Ringling School of Art & Design, is also the creator of 165 Bots withStuff, which were featured on the Shoebox blog.

Captain America Sets the Table for The Avengers

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

Marvel saved one of the best for last with Captain America in setting up The Avengers (May 4, 2012). And Joe Johnston returns to form, channeling The Rocketeer as well as October Sky, with his affectionate comic book rendering of World War II occultist megalomania and mayhem. Yes, it evokes Raiders of the Lost Ark, but without the tongue-in-cheek irony that made Steven Spielberg’s serial adventure so unique 30 years ago (as IndieWIRE’s Anne Thompson rightly points out). But when Joss Whedon rolls out The Avengers, the dynamics should work out just fine with earnest, patriotic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) complementing the snarky Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

So, just when superhero fatigue was setting in, Captain America: First Avenger blows in like a breath of fresh air like a real movie and not just a Marvel franchise. Scrawny, orphaned, Rogers just wants a chance to join the fight against the bullies, and gets his chance with some superhero juice that does the trick better than spinach, going up against Teutonic master of delusion Red Skull (the ever reliable Hugo Weaving), who’s found his own supernatural Lost Ark with which to rule the world. The VFX (overseen by Chris Townsend) is seamless and unobtrusive; in fact, this doesn’t seem overly vfxy at all, despite more than a dozen vendors involved. However, the 3-D conversion leaves much to be desired and turns out to be more distracting than enhancing. Now we have to wait and see how this all plays out with The Avengers next summer, with the members of S.H.I.E.L.D. fitting into place and Thor’s Loki (Tom Hiddleston) going after the MacGuffin for world domination.