Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Roddy McDowall's home movie from The Planet Of The Apes

By most accounts, when Roddy McDowall appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in full Planet Of The Apes (1968) makeup, the host was genuinely frightened, a testament to the extraordinary work of legendary, Academy Award® winning makeup artist John Chambers – who as Ben Affleck's Argo (2012) reveals, also did work for the CIA. The character actor McDowall spent a good portion of his film career in makeup, most memorably as the characters Cornelius, Caesar, and Galen on the Planet Of The Apes series. A home movie buff and photographer, McDowall documented the lengthy process of his Apes' makeup, applied here by artist Don Cash and his assistants.

Shot and edited by McDowall, and set to excerpts from the dramatic Jerry Goldsmith film score, the footage also includes a quick shot of Maurice Evans in the first minute, gamely smoking a cigarette in full Dr. Zaius makeup.

The Planet Of The Apes franchise is one of the most successful and long running science fiction series of all time. Adapted from a 1963 novel by French writer Pierre Boulle, the original 1968 film spawned four sequels, Tim Burton's 2001 remake, the 2011 prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, its sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) and War Of The Planet Of The Apes, which is out in cinemas now.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

New one sheet for The Dark Tower arrives online

Sony Pictures have just released their latest one sheet for Nikolaj Arcel's (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) The Dark Tower.

Finally headed our way after several versions failed to ignite, the cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's epic The Dark Tower series is finally heading to screens.

The Dark Tower promises a subtly different origin story for the conflict between Roland Deschain, know as The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), and warlock Walter, The Man In Black (Matthew McConaughey), who brought chaos and destruction to a realm known as Mid-World. Walter's current target is the Dark Tower, which maintains order in the various realms and multiverses, and Deschain's target is... Walter.

The first movie finds Walter on the hunt for Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who posses 'The Shine' (you might recognise the power from another slightly well known King story), which could help destroy the Tower's support and allow Walter to bring his particular brand of apocalypse to other realms.

The Dark Tower will arrive in cinemas 28 July.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Is Neill Blomkamp about to revolutionise the film industry?

Hollywood is a business in which there are no guarantees. Filmmakers and producers pour huge amounts of time, energy and money into projects in an industry where success is measured in box office dollars. But what if you could make an entire catalogue of short films and select the best for feature development? This is the idea behind Oats Studios, an experimental new production company seeking to take unpredictability out of the equation.

Created by South African-Canadian writer and director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) in early 2017, Oats Studios is a creative collective with a focus on nurturing both emerging and established talent. Oats Studios: Volume 1 is set to contain four 20 minute films, all within the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, interspersed with shorter, even stranger films.

So far the first two main shorts have been released, Rakka and Firebase, alongside a two-minute spoof of an American infomercial. All are free to watch at oatsstudios.com, as well as Steam and YouTube. Blomkamp has also made all components of the films – from raw footage to computer generated 3D models – available to download to encourage users to create new films or even video games.

The potential benefits of this scheme are twofold – first it enables Blomkamp to obtain feedback from a much broader audience via online forums and YouTube comments; second, the collaborative nature of the studio's creative process will allow him to, in his own words, "interact with the audience directly, in a way that Hollywood doesn't really do."

Going further than this, Blomkamp says he wants to build up an archive of work much like a sculptor or painter, who might typically have "three or four hundred incomplete oil paintings or half-done sculptures lying around in their house." Clearly willing to experiment, Blomkamp's studio has opened up the doors to such possibilities.

This doesn't feel like a vanity project but a genuine attempt to do something radical within a risk averse industry. In terms of his own filmmaking career, Blomkamp is hopeful that Oats Studios will enable him to deliver his next feature to a ready made fanbase. Yet while the prospect of a mainstream director effectively bypassing Hollywood is certainly intriguing, at this early stage it remains to be seen just how practical it is.

It is worth noting that Blomkamp has a history of transitioning from shorts to features, having developed his viral hit, Alive in Joburg (2005), into the critically acclaimed District 9 (2009). Although this is common practice for filmmakers nowadays, what Blomkamp is attempting here is much more ambitious than your average upscaling project.

Of course one glaring problem, which Blomkamp has openly admitted, is that Oats Studios' "business model is to set fire to money right now." Funding the company out of his own pocket is clearly not sustainable in the long term, so a steady revenue stream will need to be established soon. One option (and possibly the most viable) is that after Volume 1, all future films will be released behind a paywall. With enough audience support to eventually fund the first feature that could in turn fund follow-up Volumes, Oats Studios could feasibly become self-sustaining within the next few years. This is a fairly big gamble, however, and is being treated as such.

Of course, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have already proven that traditional theatrical distribution isn't necessarily the safest model. Oats Studios' trial and error structure, on the other hand, is a lot more unstable – but if Blomkamp's next feature is a success, it will be interesting to see whether or not other filmmakers and studios follow suit. In any case, we are certainly excited to see what kind of impact Blomkamp's latest venture will ultimately have on the industry.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

New trailer and one sheet for Coco arrives online

Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios' have just released a new trailer and one sheet for Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina's Coco.

Written by Molina, Coco is the story of young Mexican Miguel (Antony Gonzalez), who wants to be a music legend like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But there is a problem – music has been banned in Miguel's family for years, but no one will quite tell him why.

Yet when our hero (accompanied by loyal canine Dante) accidentally finds a way into the Land of the Dead, he teams up with a trickster named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and sets out to discover the truth.

Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Renee Victor and Sofia Espinosa also feature in the voice cast for the film, which is heading to US cinemas for Thanksgiving, but frustratingly now won't reach UK screens until 19 January next year.

New one sheet for Rough Night arrives online

Sony Pictures have just released their latest one sheet for Lucia Aniello's (Broad City) Rough Night.

With Bridesmaids (2011) and Bad Moms (2016) finding success at the box office, it is good to see more female led comedies hitting screens. The latest, launched with a silly, riotous, red band trailer finds Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) having a Rough Night.

Formerly under the title Rock That Body, Rough Night stars Johansson as Jess, a bride-to-be heading with her college friends for a wild bachelorette trip. Joining her on the trip are Zoë Kravitz's (Mad Max: Fury Road) Blair, Jillian Bell's (22 Jump Street) Alice, Kate McKinnon's (Ghostbusters) Pippa and Ilana Glazer's (The Night Before) Frankie, intending to drink, party and otherwise have a good time. But events take a darker turn when the male stripper they hire for some entertainment accidentally dies... And then the question becomes whether they cover up the death or admit what happened.

Coming across as movies such as the aforementioned Bad Moms, The Hangover (2009) and Very Bad Things (1998), blended together in a cocktail shaker, Rough Night is directed by Broad City veteran Lucia Aniello, who also wrote the script alongside fellow City writer Paul W. Downs, who appears in the movie.

Rough Night will arrive in cinemas 16 June.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Listen to a new compilation album of cover songs from Sofia Coppola films

Next months sees the release of American director Sofia Coppola's (Somewhere) latest film The Beguiled. To celebrate the film's imminent release, Super Fan 99 Records have announced a movie themed 50th release inspired by the films of Coppola, comprising covers of songs featured in her movies.

"We've been long time admirers of Sofia Coppola's movies since renting The Virgin Suicides (1999) from our local Blockbuster," says the record label about the release. "Film after film was soundtracked with the most impeccable selections playing a key role in the overall aesthetic of her movies. It seems the part the music plays in transporting you to her worlds has not gone unnoticed with the vinyl soundtracks of Lost In Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006) sometimes selling for up to £300 a piece.

"We asked bands from our label and beyond to choose songs from the soundtracks and cover them for this unique release and the response was great. Bands from as far a field as China, New Zealand and Scotland have contributed tracks ranging from lo-fi bedroom 4 track recordings to full band studio versions and we are now very excited to present 'Sofia Songs' The compilation marks the 50th release on the label and perfectly marries our love of film and DIY music culture."

Illustrator and long time Super Fan collaborator Kieran Gabriel has designed the sleeve and each boxed cassette copy will also include a movie script style guide book with detailed facts on each movie and it's music. Songs by Air, Phoenix, Frank Ocean, My Bloody Valentine and many more have been reworked by popular Super Fan bands.

Sofia Songs will be released via superfan99records.com on 7 July. You can check out the full track list below:

1. Sugar Candy Mountain - Playground Love (Air cover from The Virgin Suicides)
2. Winter - City Girl (Kevin Shields cover from Lost In Translation)
3. JUNKS - Hong Kong Garden (Siouxsie and the Banshees cover from Marie Antoniette)
4. Mooncall - I'll Try Anything Once (Julian Casablancas cover from Somewhere)
5. The Pooches - What's So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? (Elvis Costello cover from Lost In Translation)
6. Lips - Super Rich Kids (Frank Ocean cover from The Bling Ring)
7. Dot Plaza  - Too Young (Phoenix cover from Lost In Translation)
8. Mtbrd - So Far Away (Carole King cover from The Virgin Suicides)
9. Calvin Love - I'm Not In Love (10cc cover from The Virgin Suicides)
10. Free Cake For Every Creature - Just Like Honey (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover from Lost In Translation)
11. Patsy's Rats - More Than This (Roxy Music cover from Lost In Translation)
12. Queen of Jeans - Cool (Gwen Stefani cover from Somewhere)
13. Husband Material - Bad Girls (MIA cover from The Bling Ring)
14. Matt McKee - What Ever Happened? (The Strokes cover from Marie Antoinette)

The Beguiled, meanwhile, arrives in cinemas on 14 July.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

From Johnny Depp to Kurt Russell: How de-aging stars has become Hollywood's digital effects trick du jour

When a young version of Johnny Depp's zany Jack Sparrow appears in a flashback in Walt Disney Picture's Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, it became the latest example of the use of digital effects to de-age an actor for the purpose of having them appear in a flashback.

Moviegoers saw another example of the technology being used last month, when James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 introduced a young Kurt Russell as his character, Ego. Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel are clearly comfortable with taking this route, as they have also brought audiences a young version of Michael Douglas in Ant-Man (2015) and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

"It definitely seems to be a trend," says Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel, who won an Academy Award® for Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and recently completed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). "It may be because it's been done successfully and filmmakers realize it's an option in telling a story, or maybe it has opened up an option that they need."

For Ed Ulbrich, president of visual effects and virtual reality at Deluxe (the parent of visual effects houses Method an Iloura), the use of this sort of work can be attributed to this "age of franchises, and the franchises are prequels and sequels and spinoffs. These stories go omnidirectional in time. Some of the characters become iconic. But we all get older."

"It's very unforgiving – you either get it right or it's glaringly obvious," says Weta visual effects supervisor and two-time Oscar nominee Guy Williams (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2) of these techniques.

So how exactly does it work?

Methods vary, but Christopher Townsend, visual effects supervisor on Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, explains the creation of the digital Kurt Russell, created by one of the film's digital effects houses, Lola, which has earned a reputation for specialising in this sort of work. It started with collecting and examining 1980s photos of Russell as well as his films from that period, such as Big Trouble In Little China (1986), to come up with the desired look.

Next, director James Gunn and Lola cast actor Aaron Schwartz – in making the decision, Lola identified several actors with similar facial structure and Gunn brought them in for screen tests.

For filming, both Russell and Schwartz were identically dressed and makeup was applied to Russell to give him a younger appearance, with both actors wearing tracking markers on their faces for reference. First Russell performed the scene, and then Schwartz would step in and perform the same scene, mimicking what Russell did. Through visual effects, these takes were combined with some additional digital effects to create the final look and performance, frame by frame. "We cut and pasted pieces of Aaron's geometry," Townsend explains. "The geometry of the face changed, for instance his neck became fuller. We reshaped the jaw, chin, neck, lips – very specific details. It involved understanding the physiology of the human face.

"The technology is getting better, but it's really the artists, that's the key," he emphasised. "It was a huge amount of work – months and months of artists working at computers."

The digital Robert Downey Jr. from Captain America: Civil War and digital Michael Douglas in Ant-Man were both used for flashbacks and achieved in much the same way, says Townsend, who was also visual effects supervisor on those films.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

New one sheet for The Handmaiden arrives online

Curzon Artificial Eye have just released their latest one sheet for Park Chan-wook's (Stoker) The Handmaiden.

If The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook's follow-up to US set thriller Stoker (2013), takes the filmmaker back to his Asia roots, it still has a strong Western thread running through it. Sarah Water's novel Fingersmith is the source material for a byzantine period thriller full of twists and turns.

The Handmaiden tells the story of a beautiful Japanese heiress (Min-hee Kim), the young con artist (Kim Tae-ri) hired as her handmaiden, and the puppet master behind a scheme designed to relieve her mistress of her fortune.

Waters' book had already been adapted by the BBC in a 2005 miniseries. Park Chan-wook's version, a terrific potboiler filled with stunning visuals and elegant storytelling, shifts the setting from Victorian England to Korea under Japanese rule.

The Handmaiden is out in cinemas now.

New character one sheets for Cars 3 arrive online

Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios' have just released a new batch of character one sheets for storyboard artist Brian Fee's directorial debut Cars 3.

They may not enjoy the same critical, and indeed commercial reputation as some of their Pixar stablemates on purely theatrical terms, but there is no denying that the Cars films bring in serious dollars when it comes to toys and other spin-offs. But the Emeryville team doesn't just think of that aspect, and the story for Cars 3 seems to be headed down a slightly darker path.

Darker, of course, is relative, but this is a series of films that hasn't strayed from oddly dark themes – witness a car being tortured in the James Bond riffing Cars 2 (2011). This time around, the film is focusing on Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), once the young hotshot of the track, now an older veteran struggling to keep up with the competition. He is especially challenged by newcomer Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and will need a little help from technician Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) if he is to match up.

Cars 3 will arrives in UK cinemas on 14 July, crossing the cinematic chequered flag a little under a month after its US debut on the 16 June.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

"You got one job, make sure swimming happy white people don't drown."

On paper, Baywatch sounds ripe with guilty pleasure – an update on one of the most popular, and cheesy, TV shows of all time, played for giggles and filled with beautiful people wearing very little. On screen, however, Baywatch flounders. If you are hoping for the meta yet mainstream, smart and stupid fun of the Jump Street movies, lower your expectations. Better still, re-watch the Jump Street movies instead...

It starts slickly enough, with an extended homage to the show's signature slow motion style. A sea rescue climaxes in the movie's title rising with tacky grandeur from the ocean, behind the rippling physique of alpha lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson).

Oddly, such over the top flourishes turn out to be few and far between. A couple more might have eased the overstretched plod of the plot, which has two strands – one centred on a drug trafficking operation masterminded by slinky villain Victoria Leeds (Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra), the other on drafting and moulding new recruits to the squad.

The 'thriller' side of the story is sub CSI stuff whose mysteries are resolved with feeble ease, while the character driven scenes don't actually have much character, or drive. For all the chatter about the importance of working as a team, Baywatch is really a bromance between Mitch and bad boy newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) – no one else really gets much of a look in.

There is an almost endearing beauty and the geek flirtation between C.J. (Kelly Rohrbach) and 'tech guy' Ronnie (Jon Bass) – but they, like several others, flit in and out so much that you almost forget who they are.

Alexandra Daddario's (San Andreas) earnest Summer gets a slightly better deal – or at least more screen time, though she mostly just tags along with Mitch and Matt, offering wide eyed reaction shots at their exploits.

Daddario's presence alongside Johnson conjures the spirit of San Andreas (2015), a disaster flick defined by its inadvertent hilarity. Alas, Baywatch isn't a film to be laughed at, let alone with. Any flair for comic timing director Seth Gordon flexed on Horrible Bosses (2011) is absent without leave here.

It hardly helps that the script is awash with zingers with no zing and lines that aim for edgy but are just in poor taste: "You're like the Stephen Hawking of swimming, without the paralysis part." Similarly off colour is a strain of casual homophobia that reaches its nadir in a morgue set piece.

So, are there any signs of life here? Well, there is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) as a cop whose exasperation at Mitch's antics is Baywatch's best – and only – running joke.

Unfunny, unthrilling and unsexy, Baywatch doesn't even reach the incredibly low bar set by the source material.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

These film scenes alongside the paintings that inspired them will change how you see movies

We often talk about movies paying homage to other movies. If you have ever seen a Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) movie, you have basically seen a collage of Kung Fu, Grindhouse, and classic film scenes repurposed into his chopped and screwed narratives. But we don't often talk about movies lifting scenes from classic paintings. Images jumping from the canvas to the screen is not an easy association to make, yet directors often do so all the time.

These calming compilations created by UK based photographer and director Vugar Efendi shows some beautiful shots from movies lifted from classic works of art. Some of these you may have known, like William Friedkin's use of L'Empire des Lumieres in The Exorcist (1973), but others – like Jutta by John Kacere and Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003) or Jeune Homme Nu Assis au Bord de la Mer in There Will Be Blood (2007) – might be new revelations.

Now you have something new to look for every time you watch a good movie.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

New one sheet for Wonder Woman arrives online

Warner Bros have just released a new one sheet for Patty Jenkins (Monster) Wonder Woman.

Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on the sheltered island of Themyscira, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that is raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

With Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), Robin Wright (House Of Cards), David Thewlis (War Horse), Danny Huston (Children Of Men) and Lucy Davis (Shaun Of The Dead) among the cast, Wonder Woman will be out in the UK on 2 June.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

New one sheet for Wonder Woman arrives online

Warner Bros have just released a new one sheet for Patty Jenkins (Monster) Wonder Woman.

Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on the sheltered island of Themyscira, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that is raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

With Connie Nielsen (Gladiator), Robin Wright (House Of Cards), David Thewlis (War Horse), Danny Huston (Children Of Men) and Lucy Davis (Shaun Of The Dead) among the cast, Wonder Woman will be out in the UK on 2 June.

New character one sheets for Despicable Me 3 arrive online

Universal Pictures have just released a fresh batch of character one sheets for Kyle Balda (Minions), Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me 2) and Eric Guillon's Despicable Me 3.

As the latest trailers have revealed, the Minions find themselves in jail in the latest Despicable Me, and these latest posters feature the six lead Minions as inmates, with cute tattoos to boot.

Despicable Me (2010), its sequel and spin-off Minions (2015) have all been huge box office surprises, so no one should be shocked that a third outing for Gru (Steve Carell) and the little yellow troublemakers is on the way.

While not much is know about the plot, we do know that it will see Gru and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) still working for the Anti Villain League. And this time, the threat comes from weird supervillain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star gone rogue who is obsessed with the 1980s, when his fame was at its peak.

Despicable Me 3 is set for release on 30 June.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

New one sheet for Megan Leavey arrives online

Bleecker Street have just released their latest one sheet for Gabriela Cowperthwaite's (Blackfish) feature debut Megan Leavey, the true story drama about a young marine corporal who forms a lifelong bond with a military dog.

The film stars Kate Mara (127 Hours) as Megan Leavey, a U.S. Marine who was assigned to clean up the K9 unit in the Iraq War where she formed an unlikely bond with a particularly aggressive dog, Rex. The two ended up serving together and completed more than 100 missions before both were injured in a 2006 IED explosion.

Leavey received a Purple Heart and was honorable discharged after her recovery, while Rex was kept on active duty. Leavey spent the next five years fighting to adopt the dog even while Rex was scheduled to be euthanized after developing a palsy.

With Edie Falco (The Sopranos), Tom Felton (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes), Bradley Whitford (Get Out) and Common (Selma) also in the cast, Megan Leavey arrives in US cinemas 9 June but has yet to secure a UK release date.