Tagged: James Cameron

Mindy Newell: Who’s The Real You When You’re Writing?

“Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness then I send forth Myself.”
—Lord Krishna to Prince Arjuna,[[[The Bhagavadgita]]] (Song of God)

Sanskrit in origin, and a central principle of the Hindu religion, an avatar is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the incarnation of a deity in human or animal form to counteract an evil in the world.  A central principle of Hinduism, it usually refers to 10 appearances of Vishnu, including an incarnation as the Buddha Gautama and the Buddha yet to come, called Kalkin.”

In the 21st century, it has also come to mean that little picture that represents the user, blogger, columnist, commentator, gamer, or fan on the Internet, and (usually) will tell you something about that person, whether it is whom that user, blogger, columnist, commentator, gamer, or fan admires or identifies with, or even their sense of humor about themselves.  (See my avatar on my Facebook page, for instance, which is from the artwork of Anne Taintor and reads “I plead insanity.”)

James Cameron’s [[[Avatar]]] blended the two definitions in his hero, Jake Sully—Jake is both the “user” behind his genetically engineered Na’vi body (Jake’s avatar) and the “incarnation” of the savior of the Na’vi civilization.

Writers can also use avatars. (more…)

From The Muppets to Richard Parker, Animated Animals in Film

Life of Pi TigerIt’s been a very good week for Ang Lee and novelist Yann Martel. Lee, of course, won the Best Director Oscar for The Life of Pi, adapting Martel’s magical novel. The film itself was warmly received, earning it admiration from the Academy. The film is being released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on March 12.

Based on the acclaimed best-selling novel from Yann Martel that has been published in 40 languages, and brought to life by visionary Academy Award winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), this magical adventure of hope, wonder, survival, and the power of the human spirit has been celebrated by critics all over the world.

Much was made of the animals brought to life through digital legerdemain but the film was far from the first to bring artificial animals to the screen, dating all the way back to Windsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur. In more recent times, puppetry was the way to go, pioneered in numerous ways. The first commercially successful film to use puppets, of course, was from Jim Henson.

THE MUPPETS

The Muppets castThe first Muppet movie came to our screens in 1979 and these lovable characters were created without the use of CGI. Each Muppet character was carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or other felt-like material. Muppets represented a multitude of species including animals, humans and aliens. Even in this modern age, when interacting with Muppets, children still tend to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they can see the puppeteers.

STAR WARS

The original Star Wars trilogy contained over 100 alien animals spanning a multitude of planets without using CGI. The first film in this epic saga provided audiences with a multitude of film-firsts, including the first ever animated 3D wireframe graphic. Star Wars: A New Hope was made with a relatively small budget by today’s standards and many of the animals and aliens looked surprisingly familiar, check out the very Wolfman-like alien from the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina scene below. This character was changed using CGI for the special edition re-release in 1997.

LABRYNTH

Blink and you will miss the first use of a realistic CGI animal in a feature film.  The 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth showed off a flying digital owl in the opening credits. The opening sequence of Labyrinth was created by animators Laryy Yaeger and Bill Kroyer and won its animators the NCGA Best Computer Animation award of 1986.

JURASSIC PARK

the-lost-world-the-lost-world-jurassic-park-32533948-1800-1013-300x168Lucasfilm’s ILM division provided the Oscar-winning visual effects wizardry in this classic film. The studio used CGI along with animatronics and stop-motion miniatures to create the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The iconic first glimpse of those Brachiosauri was voted in the top 30 most magical moments in film by Empire magazine and broke new ground in CGI animation of animals on the big screen.

RISE OF PLANET OF THE APES

Rise of the Planet of the ApesThe latest addition to the Planet of the Apes franchise did not use a single real-life ape during filming. Working with WETA Digital the studio created lifelike apes through revolutionary motion-capture technology and visual effects. The film highlights the journey of an ape named Caesar, a fully CGI creation realized through a brilliant motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis, who used body suits and cameras to create the realistic movement we see in the film. This is the same technology Serkis used to play Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

LIFE OF PI

Ang Lee’s award winning adaptation Life of Pi relied on the use of CGI to create the Bengal tiger “Richard Parker” which shares the lifeboat with Pi. This was a tough task and so Lee brought in James Cameron and his team from the blockbuster Avatar to make sure that the CGI was the best it could be. To put this into context, the production team employed 15 artists to work only on Richard Parker’s fur, combing and placing all 10 million hairs on the tiger’s body to create the beautiful creature pacing across the screen.

REVIEW: The Terminator

REVIEW: The Terminator

Terminator RemasteredIn 1984, The Terminator was a relatively low budget ($6.5 million) action-adventure film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, hot off Conan and Linda Hamilton pre-Beauty and the Beast. Written by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, it was a fun little science fiction film of a potential future that needed to be avoided. Things blew up and Arnold stoically told a cop and the audience, “I’ll be back.” No one knew at the time that the film would trigger such an enthusiastic response, giving us sequels, comics, novels, and a television series. Suddenly, SkyNet, John Conner, Sarah Conner and the Terminator T-800 model would become a part of the social fabric of pop culture.

It also got Cameron sued by Harlan Ellison, who successfully argued that the story lifted a lot from the classic “Soldier” story penned for The Outer Limits.

Little wonder then, that when Blu-ray discs started showing up, it would be among the first from Sony in June 2006. Since then, it periodically gets dusted off, cleaned up, and rereleased, most recently in 2011.  Now, 20th Century Home Entertainment assures us the latest edition, out now, is “the ultimate high-definition experience”.

Looking back, the film feels small, just as it did then, hinting at the apocalyptic future and tossing around concepts and elements that would be explored later. This was all about Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) traveling back in time from 2029 to find and protect Sarah Connor (Hamilton) from the android killing machine. We’re told the machines have taken control of the world and humanity is fighting for relevance and survival. Connor, a single waitress will give birth to mankind’s salvation. Also in the mix are police detectives Lt. Traxler and Det. Vukovich (Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen, respectively), trying to stem the mayhem.

The film is definitely a product of the early 1980s as seen in the wardrobe and hair styles, but that makes it all the more charming in some ways, when 2029 seemed so awfully far away.

The Terminator‘s transfer compared with the 2006 release shows that a fine improvement with better contrast and black levels so the film’s visual clarity is superior. The film, surprisingly, was shot with a mono track so only so much can be done to improve what was there so Cameron went back and remixed it later. And it is that soundtrack in DTS-HD MA 5.1 that we find yet again.

Included on the disc are special features matching the 2006 release: Deleted Scenes, the short piece on Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects & Music, and Terminator: A Retrospective. The fun pieces that were included in the 2001 DVD version, such as the Other Voices documentary, remain AWOL, meaning this is not quite “ultimate’ at all. Still, if you don’t have it in your library or have not seen this in a while, the new edition is well worth your time.

REVIEW: Prometheus

Ridley Scott rarely repeats himself, avoiding formulaic sequels, useless prequels, and remakes. Instead, the stylist conjures up new works and attempts to be thought-provoking time after time. You might have bought into the hype that this year’s Prometheus is an out and out set up to his Alien, but you’d be wrong. While tangentially connected to the first successful science fiction/horror film hybrid, this film is a pure science fiction film owing plenty to Stanley Kubrick.

The movie, now out on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment, is an ambitious production with a strong cast, surrounded by amazing visuals. While we laughed at how weak the story and characterizations were in James Cameron’s Avatar, here, we are merely disappointed the story isn’t a match for the visual virtuosity on display. While far from Scott’s best, he deserves credit for trying something different and challenging his audience.

Scott sets his story in 2093, optimistically thinking we will be regularly working in space and ready to traverse the distant reaches of the galaxy. Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find a map as part of a 30,000-year-old cave painting on the Isle of Skye, confirming there is sentient life elsewhere in the universe. Dubbed The Engineers, they seemingly beckon mankind to find them. The audience has already met them in an opening sequence that suggests they arrived on Earth with some goo that ignited the spark of life (and was also seen as the mummified Space Jockey way back in 1979). To discover the answer, deep-pocketed Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce) funds the construction of The Prometheus, which is thusly launched, its crew in hibernation en route to moon LV-223 and the evidence of intelligent life.

Heading up the crew is Mereditch Vickers (Charlize Theron) alongside the ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) with android David (Michael Fassbender), geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), and biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall). One trick he does reuse from Alien is that before long, things go horribly awry. The story has gaping, starship-sized plot holes and the grand themes – where do we come from? — do nothing to mask them. It would have been nice if the crew had more depth of character or interacted in more interesting ways.

Fassbender has the toughest job, making his eight generation android different than the others seen in earlier films making up the Alien universe. Theron is strong with her work but Rapace gives us the more interesting, nuanced performance.

Scott shot this for big screen 3-D, framing things to pop just so, and dazzle us with detail. Thankfully, that all transfers pretty nicely to the home screen and 2-D. The transfer is pretty spectacular both audio and visual.

The Combo Pack offers you the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet (a larger Combo Pack with 3-D Blu-ray is also an option, with a fourth disc containing an amazing three-and-half-hour documentary by Charles de Lauzirika). The special features provided on the standard Blu-ray begins with Scott’s audio commentary, supplemented with one from co-writers John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.

There are thirty-seven minutes of Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes which you can on their own or with audio commentary by editor Pietro Scalia and VFX supervisor Richard Stammers. These are all interesting to watch, several of which would have made the film stronger. The Peter Weyland Files (18:57) are culled from the Internet.

Martin Scorsese and James Cameron Talk ‘Hugo’

Martin Scorsese and James Cameron Talk ‘Hugo’

In case you didn’t notice, the forthcoming adaptation of Brian Selznick’s [[[The Invention of Hugo Cabret]]], Hugo, will be a 3-D movie. Since this is the first family friendly movie and first 3-D effort from director Martin Scorcese, it’s certainly going to be worth a look.

Here, Scorsese chats with 3-D pioneer James Cameron talking the use of 3-D in the movie.

Avatar Goes Blue

I didn’t see Avatar, but I’ll bet you a boatload of lawyers will be seeing its X-rated sequel this fall.

Larry Flynt’s Hustler porn empire just finished making
what is said to be the most expensive porn flick in history, and it’s called This Ain’t Avatar XXX, and, of course it’s in 3-D. Perhaps they want to be faithful to the original.

This is awesome, although some fans of the medium might
think it’s a remake of the hit 1968 arthouse classic I Am Curious Blue. Me, well, I’m not so curious. Ever since The Stewardesses (1969; the first single-camera 3-D movie), porn has long been the most logical subject matter for 3-D movies, unless you’re really into small-breasted women or are easily frightened by money shots.

As it turns out there was an alien sex scene in Avatar, but it was cut because somebody thought showing the two leading blue characters hooking their tails together on-screen would jeopardize the movie’s rating or the merchandising licensees’ delicate sensibilities.

Maybe the parody will incorporate James Cameron’s environmental message. That would make This Ain’t Avatar XXX relevant… something that the original was not. We can find out in September. I can hardly wait for the IMAX screening.

The Point Radio: ‘Avatar’ Acting In A Virtual World

The Point Radio: ‘Avatar’ Acting In A Virtual World

The biggest hurdle James Cameron had to face in getting AVATAR to screen was waiting for technology to catch up with his imagination, but even harder was the job actors like Zoe Salanda had to face acting in an almost virtual set. We talk to them today as AVATAR continues to build big box office. Meanwhile, Neal Adams turns in an amazing cover and
Fox takes a shot at CHUCK.

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The Point Radio: James Cameron On Life With ‘Avatar’

The Point Radio: James Cameron On Life With ‘Avatar’

For years now, James Cameron has been toiling on some form of the film we now see as AVATAR. In our exclusive interview, Cameron shares how he learned to both love and let go of his latest creation. Plus Marvel gives it up for the girls and Singer talks early X-Men.

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ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for December 17, 2009

ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for December 17, 2009

Six more windows to close… at this rate, I’ll be down to only two hundred open windows by the end of the year. Sigh…

The Point Radio: James Cameron On Making AVATAR

The Point Radio: James Cameron On Making AVATAR

Years in the making, the anticipation is building for AVATAR, James Cameron’s 3-D epic. In our exclusive talk with James, he tells us how the process of creating the effects for the film began. Plus Tom Arnold explains his connection with MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 and the Summer Box Office whimpers to a close.

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