There's a new threat from General Zod in Man of Steel's final "Fate of Your Planet" trailer.
Michael Shannon's Kryptonian baddie explains that he has "journeyed across an ocean of stars" to capture one his citizens that we are sheltering. Again, he gives Kal-El 24
The latest action-packed trailer for The Lone Ranger (July 3), featuring the mother of all train sequences, still happily looks like Rango meets Pirates of the Caribbean (with echoes of The Wild Wild West and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).
"If these men represent
A new Man of Steel (June 14) featurette explores Zack Snyder's new post-9/11 vision of Superman.
Playing off the alien angle for the first time Man of Steel first exposes the outsider in Clark Kent so we can be a part of his existential journey. Then once he becomes
The notorious John Carter gets a new lease on life on Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Ent.). Andrew Stanton took a big financial and creative risk, but I, for one, took the leap of faith with him. Read more
With John Carter opening on Friday, Disney has just released the 10-minute opening as a final enticement: Nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) arrives in London to inspect his late uncle’s diary after he inexplicably passed away in the best of health; the former Confederate officer, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), then relates how he was captured and pressured by the Army into joining the battle against the native Americans; he flees and has a bizarre Close Encounter…
After a special Los Angeles Times Hero Complex screening in Burbank last Monday, director Andrew Stanton told Greg Boucher that he’s the ultimate John Carter of Mars fanboy: he discovered Burroughs’ first week in 1977 — the same year he saw Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He waited and waited for someone to make the movie, and finally decided to take matters in his own hands. In the middle of making Wall-E, he suggested to Disney studio head Dick Cook that he buy the property from the Burroughs estate after Paramount decided not to renew the option. To his surprise, Cook informed him that Disney had not only purchased it but also wanted him to direct it.
For Stanton, it’s been a journey going back to the source of what inspired Star Wars, Dances with Wolves, Avatar, among other works of the last 100 years. It’s primal and mythic. What could be better than having a soldier with superhuman leaping ability, a beautiful and heroic princess (Lynn Collins), an alien best buddy (Willem Dafoe), and an ugly but faithful canine-like creature?
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Burroughs. That’s the mantra of Andrew Stanton’s John Carter (March 9). We have two new clips that attempt to bolster the naturalistic approach to material that’s been mined in everything from Star Wars to Avatar, to cite the most obvious examples.
In “Canyon Escape,” John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) leaps from a ridge into the ocean with Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) in his arms. Matai Shang (Mark Strong), leader of the Holy Therns, instructs one of his soldiers to intercept them and find out more about the man that jumps.
In “A Legacy (Pod),” Stanton and cast members discuss the Burroughs legacy of spaceships and creatures that has been embedded in the sci-f/fantasy culture of the last 100 years. Juxtaposed with wall-to-wall action that seems familiar yet set in a John Ford-like Mars setting.
Chris Nolan has given us the ultimate disaster movie, among other delights, judging by the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012) that posted today on Apple. Among the highlights: Tom Hardy’s Bane destroying a football field (a CG field day for onset supervisor Paul Franklin and Double Negative); a mysterious figure limping with a cane and his tiny reflection in glass fixture on a desk (Bruce Wayne?); Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle warning Wayne of a coming storm; Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon unable to stop the riot in the streets; Christian Bale as a brooding Wayne; a flashback or return to the League of Shadows from Batman Begins; a glimpse of the new Batwing in action. Plus more IMAX footage. Can’t wait for the July 20, 2012 release.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Burroughs. The new John Carter trailer shows off more action, more CG, and more of sultry Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah Thoris. Double Negative, Cinesite, MPC, and the other contributors have populated this Southwest-looking Mars with cool creatures, bolstered by sci-fi looking space ships, graphics, and pyrotechnics. Straddling fresh with familiar, Stanton’s naturalistic approach was probably the best after Avatar. Opens March 9.
Like Alice in Wonderland, this Snow White is a far cry from the Disney fairy tale; in fact, this is a far cry from Tim Burton’s Alice. As TOH’s Sophia Savage points out, Universal’s initial trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1, 2012) sells the sultry sex appeal of Charlize Theron’s evil Queen. But this sword and sorcery epic (the first in a trilogy) looks like Excalibur on steroids, with Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) locked in a ferocious power play. Lots of slicing and chopping, morphing, and other VFXy mayhem and transformations by the likes of Pixomondo, Rhythm & Hues, Double Negative, Legacy, The Mill, Baseblack, and BlueBolt.
Just as the Oscar race starts heating up, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came out on Blu-ray last week (Warner Home Video), bolstered by a compelling FYC trailer (see below). As expected, the exciting and sublime finale looks and sounds spectacular in the home theater. Director David Yates wanted to end on a stirring operatic flourish in 3-D and he succeeded. The question now becomes: What are the Oscar chances for the most successful film franchise?
Well, as I’ve already commented for TOH, Part 2 is a definite contender for VFX (supervised overall by Tim Burke). It’s the culmination of superlative work that put the London industry in Soho on the global stage, and is worthy of the highest honor. From the first-time CG Hogwarts by Double Negative (demonstrated nicely in the Blu-ray’s “Blowing Up Hogwarts” in Maximum Movie Mode) to the thrilling Gringotts break in and escape on a sullen dragon (also Dneg), to the Room of Requirements escapade with fire creatures (MPC), to the Hogwarts battle (Dneg and MPC), to the ethereal encounter with Dumbledore (Framestore), and the final confrontation with Voldemort (MPC).
“Environments, especially, have been a breakthrough, says Burke.” It’s all HDRI, and that way of photographing textures has given us incredibly detailed shots and the ability to relight things. It’s all based on the proprietary tools to stitch this stuff together and make it work.”
The biggest achievement, in fact, was Hogwarts, which was computer-generated for the first time both for budgetary and artistic reasons. “Basically, we were able to design and execute shots right up to final delivery,” Burke adds. “It gave us a lot of flexibility. We were able to render things quickly without fussing around. It seems to me that we can turn around iterations so much quicker than ever before.”
Since the ongoing war takes place at Hogwarts throughout the second-half of Part 2, it was essential that the battleground display sufficient detail and dynamic compositions, particularly since the final film is the first in 3-D.
“David wanted to create these fantastic, big shots that link different parts of the action in different areas, going from outside the school to inside the school,” Burke continues. “And all of the development that we’ve done and the extra high-resolution that we’ve corrected for have allowed us to fly around [immersively] during critical moments of the battle, and has made the whole experience very visceral.”
Aside from VFX, though, there’s plenty of other below-the-line Oscar potential, including sound mixing and effects. But Stuart Craig’s production design has progressed brilliantly throughout the franchise. Indeed, the eccentric retro wizard world has been a continuing character: Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, Gringotts. Plus the safe haven of the Weasley home, the Burrow, and, toward the end, the heavenly visit with Dumbledore at King’s Cross Station with white mist (also Framestore).
Finally, Alan Rickman’s mournful performance as Snape is a revelation along with Daniel Radcliffe’s ascension into manhood. Aren’t they Oscar worthy? And while Best Picture seems a long shot, we’ll have to wait and see how the nominations turn out.
Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life bows on Blu-ray today (Fox Home Ent.), providing the opportunity to dip into his brilliant summary statement about coalescing nature and grace. The imagery by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is stunning in HD (which is why he’s the Oscar front runner so far). Coupled with the superb DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (the score by Alexandre Desplat is magnificent along with the use of various requiems), this is reference quality.
The Tree of Life is a free-form, existential journey that captures fleeting moments of life. It primarily focuses on a Texas family in the 1950s, setting up a tension between nature (personified by Brad Pitt’s conflicted, talkative father) and grace (personified by Jessica Chastain’s peaceful and quiet mother). It’s bookended by a present-day segment about the alienation experienced by the eldest son, Jack (Sean Penn), a successful architect haunted by childhood memories. Early on, sparked by a moment of grief, the film suddenly leaps to a birth of the universe segment that addresses the meaning of the cosmos.
The bravura birth of the universe sequence can now be studied and appreciated more closely as well (also a VFX Oscar contender): “It’s a real coalescing of ideas and metaphysics about the history of the universe that takes us from [notions] of origins right through some semblance of the Big Bang to the early genesis of stars and galaxies and planets forming, ultimately life itself on planet Earth,” explains Dan Glass, the esteemed visual effects supervisor who oversaw the VFX-laden sequence.
The work was divided into three realms: Astrophysical, which dealt with the early cosmos and evolution of the universe, stars, galaxies and planets, principally handled by Double Negative in London (under the supervision of Paul Riddle); Microbial, the molecular and cellular origination of life, which was primarily done by the London boutique One of Us, with supplemental work by Method (the splitting off of DNA strands to form more complex organisms, supervised by Olivier Dumont) and the father/son team of Peter and Chris Parks, who shot interesting flows of colors; and Natural History, which focused on the much anticipated dinosaurs, created by Prime Focus/Frantic (supervised by Mike Fink and Bryan Hirota).
Editorially, Malick utilized what editor Mark Yoshikawa calls a “relay system of editing.” He adds, “He didn’t want the presence of the editors’ fingerprints on it. That is why he always had Chivo [Lubezki] and Joerg [Widmer, the camera operator] grabbing bits that we could never really use for traditional coverage. It was very challenging.”
In my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE, I analyze the five mid-year frontrunners for the VFX Oscar. Good thing there are five slots now, with next year’s bake-off expanding from seven to 10 (though the presentations have been trimmed to 10 minutes).
Walt Disney Pictures has released the John Carter teaser trailer this morning and it looks terrific, melding sci-fi and Western sensibilities (but uniquely different from Cowboys & Aliens). Coming off the heels of WALL•E, Pixar’s Andrew Stanton has made a smooth transition to live-action sci-fi with his visually striking adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars book series. Shot in Monument Valley, John Ford country, John Carter looks organic to the period.
Taylor Kitsch plays Confederate soldier John Carter teleported to Mars (or Barsoom), where he gets caught up in a civil war and the aggressors are 12-foot pale green, slim Tharks. Peter Chiang is the onset VFX supervisor and Double Negative is the primary vendor, with support from Cinesite, MPC, and others.
Definitely the forerunner to Avatar; however, this is no CG intensive movie. The VFX seamlessly blends in with the real world locations and exotic vibe in a photoreal way. The animated Tharks look dangerous and vulnerable at the same time.
The cast also includes Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Hayden Church, and Willem Dafoe. John Carter opens March 9, 2012