Tagged: Peter Jackson

REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

THE_HOBBIT_THE_DESOLATION_OF_SMAUG_BLU-RAY_thumb_I first read The Hobbit back in high school, during the tail end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s renaissance, sparked by the Ballantine Books editions that first popped up in the 1960s. I later learned Tolkien wrote this as a children’s tale and when asked for a sequel went away for a decade and came up with the adult Lord of the Rings. A few thoughts come to mind starting with how far children’s literature has fallen since this debuted in 1937 so thinner and lesser works are now receiving acclaim.

msddrag-pa002-h-1It was lighter and sprightlier than its follow-up but in the hands of Peter Jackson, it has been uncomfortably shoe-horned into a cinematic continuity where it has struggled to find its way. In order to flesh things out, Jackson and his initial collaborator Guillermo Del Toro turned to the appendices to find supplemental story material, which worked out fine with the first trilogy. But the tone and approach to this children’s story has grown darker and certainly designed to act as a prequel trilogy to the more substantive LOTR. As a result, it’s almost impossible to judge the Hobbit films against the source material. The first, released in 2012, was maybe 60% from the novel and now The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, out on disc now from Warner Home Entertainment, is even less so.

the-desolation-of-smaugLooking at the second installment as a film and not an adaptation, it works wonderfully well, a stronger middle chapter, much as The Empire Strikes Back deepened the early Star Wars universe. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues heading for the Lonely Mountain and its protector, the giant dragon Smaug. He is there to help the brotherhood of dwarves and honor his commitments, emboldened by the experiences in An Unexpected Journey. As is his wont, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) has gone off with Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy), seeking to learn more of the dangers he senses, all prelude to the following trilogy.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-SmaugThis film is really less about our hobbit and far more about the coming of age, as it were, of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). While there are some thrills as they encounter Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) and an army of giant spiders in Mirkwood, his major test comes when the band is captured by a darker, more malevolent elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), accompanied by Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). By inserting Legolas here feels odd since at no time in the LOTR trilogy does he comment at all about having met Bilbo since the notion hadn’t yet occurred to Jackson but bothered me. And while the diehard loyalists decry the whole cloth creation of a female elf, she works just fine for the purposes of the story. As the captured dwarves are delivered to Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace), we finally get to see Bilbo uses the One Ring to affect a nifty recuse. The characterization that both helped and bogged down the opening chapter is lessened here, which is keenly felt at times.

1881268230_1359899548Finally, our merry band arrives at Esgaroth, setting up the confrontation with the amazing CGI creation of Smaug, voiced perfectly by Benedict Cumberbatch. Just like that, 2:40 slide by and you’re left with a cliffhanger that had fans stunned last December. This is a far stronger film than the first and feels justified as part of a trilogy, avoiding the sag many middle films suffer from.

As expected, the film transfer is gorgeous and glorious to look at from the couch. The sound is equally strong so you’re in good hands here.

What you have to decide now is whether or not having this version is all you need or should you wait for the extended cut edition no doubt coming next fall. The current set comes with the film on Blu-ray and DVD along with an Ultraviolet copy plus a Blu-ray disc of extra features. You get Peter Jackson Invites You to Set (40:36), four Production Videos (36:41), Live Event: In the Cutting Room (37:52), New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2 (7:11), and a Music Video for “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran (5:42).

John Ostrander: A Fair-to-Middling Earth

Ostrander Art 140126Different media have different demands, and adapting work done in one medium for another can be problematic. Comics, especially super-hero comics, used to be very difficult to make into films. We did not believe a man could fly; we believed he was lying belly down on a table with a fan blowing over him. However, CGI and other technology caught up with films and, today, some might say the superhero film is more faithful to the feel and spirit of the lead character than the comics are.

I think that’s the key, especially when adapting novels into films. Novels are too long to be strictly adapted into movies; Game of Thrones works fairly well, as does The Walking Dead, because they are TV series. The episodic nature allows for the kind of development that mirrors the length and structure of the source material.

It comes down to what do you keep in, what do you cut; what do you omit and what do you add; what plot elements are the most important, what are less important; what’s necessary to tell the story? What choices do you make? These are basic questions for any story but are even more vital when you’re adapting another person’s creation. How true must you be to the source material – to the letter or to the spirit? Who is the primary storyteller?

When it was first announced that The Lord of the Rings was going to be made into movies, I was hesitant, dubious, and worried. I love LotR and I just didn’t see how it could be done. However, director Peter Jackson made a believer out of me. His adaptation is not perfect, no, but the fact that it exists is damn near a miracle.

When The Hobbit was announced, initially I was very psyched. Originally, Peter Jackson was only going to produce, not direct, but due to delays he eventually wound up taking over the director’s reins again. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit initially as a children’s book and, while in the same setting of Middle-Earth as LotR, Tolkien only later amended the book to tie into the later work. Some characters appear in both works.

The Hobbit is a shorter book than LotR so I was only mildly concerned when it was announced it would be made into two films. It’s when Jackson announced it would become three films that I started to become apprehensive once again. Still, Jackson had earned my trust with LotR. I adopted a wait and see attitude.

Well, I’ve seen the first two parts of Jackson’s The Hobbit and I am somewhat less than thrilled. They’re not bad films per se but it’s been made very much into a prequel for Jackson’s LotR and not to the source material’s benefit.

Warning: spoilers of both the movies and the books follow.

The basic story is the same: the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is dragooned into a motley crew of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim their kingdom. Coming along is the wizard Gandalf the Gray. Woven into the story is how Bilbo won/stole the One Ring from Gollum. This, combined with an appendix Tolkien wrote, is the story of how the Great Enemy, Sauron, regrouped at Dol Guldur as the Necromancer until he was driven out by the White Council, including Gandalf (who disappears from The Hobbit’s storyline for a while to do this).

Adding this to the film makes sense and fleshing out that part of the story is fine. I also don’t have a problem with adding Legolas to the story or a new character, Tauriel, or even her possible romance with one of the dwarves. What bothers me is padding and bloating in the storyline. There’s a protracted running, jumping, yelling, fighting scene in the underground kingdom of the Goblins that could have been right out of the Mines of Moria sequence in LotR. It goes on way too long. Richard Armitage, as dwarf leader Thorin, is simply too good looking and something of a stand-in for Aragon in LotR. There’s a battle between the dwarves and the dragon, Smaug, within the mountain kingdom that simply never happened in the book and, again, goes on way too long.

For me, this is now less J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and more Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. It’s less about picking the elements to best tell the original story than what Jackson feels like doing. Some things he gets absolutely right, such as the aforementioned scene between Bilbo and Gollum. In that he keeps very close to the scene as written by Tolkien and it works wonderfully. A later scene, between Bilbo and Smaug, does not stick as closely to Tolkien and it suffers for it.

I will undoubtedly go to the third film when it comes out and I will have all three in DVD or Blu-Ray format as they become available, including the inevitable Director’s Cut versions which may be even more bloated. I understand this is Jackson’s vision of The Hobbit but it’s a lot darker than the book was. I’m very glad these films exist at all; I just would have liked it if they had been a little more Tolkien and a little less Jackson.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

The Point Radio: Ralphie Vs Smaug – Happy Holidays!

PT121313

The second film in THE HOBBIT trilogy is here and we talk with director Peter Jackson, new cast addition Evangeline Lily and the Man-Who-Is-Smaug (as well as Sherlock and Khan), Benedict Cumberbatch. And who doesn’t love A CHRISTMAS STORY? Breaking against child star tradition, “Ralphie” (Peter Billingsly) has done great in his career (IRON MAN!) and is bringing the classic holiday story to the live stage.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

Hobbit Unexpected Joruney ExtendedJ.R.R. Tolkien wrote a children’s book about a creature called a Hobbit and people in England seemed to like it. His publisher asked for a sequel, expecting something within a year or two, and instead it took fare longer and he received something far bigger and darker. It was worth the wait because the saga is engrossing and enduring. Thankfully, a series of events meant it wasn’t until the last decade or so before Hollywood could serve the words with fidelity. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was groundbreaking in sweep and production, an investment that could have bankrupted New Line Cinema and instead brought it untold millions in profit.

The original tale, though, took a lot longer to come to the screen and Jackson found himself back behind the director’s chair, turning collaboration with Guillermo del Toro into an encore performance. Eyes were raised when we heard this slighter tale was being turned into two films and then fans grew worried when that morphed into a trilogy.

Last December, we cautiously filed into the theater to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which appeared to be only 60% an adaptation of the novel with lots of filler. Jackson indicated all along he intended to bridge the two storylines, hence expanding to multiple films, but did it need the same sweep and grandeur as the Lord of the Rings? Probably not, but he made the creative choice to tonally link the two and as a chapter in a film series, it mostly works.

Now, mere weeks before the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, arrives, we get to revisit chapter one, in a just-released Extended Edition from Warner Home Video. The 183-minute extended cut has more of the things you like or loathe about the films. Since diehard fans and casual audiences alike are divided between whether this version works or not, the debate continues with thirteen more minutes of evidence to work with. While the previous extended versions added plot, character and more of Howard Shore’s terrific score, this one just adds….more.

the-hobbit-bilbo-bagginsThere’s no question Martin Freeman’s casting as Bilbo Baggins, the reluctant adventurer was excellent. Paired with Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Gray, they work well together, keeping to closer to the novel. It’s the baker’s dozen of dwarves that hew closer to the Rings trilogy and are far less defined, understandable given the size of the cast. On the other hand, with three films to work with, more should have been done beyond Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

Instead, cameos from other players are shoe-horned in so we revisit Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). What is welcome is the framing sequence to put this into perspective for the masses, wisely bringing back Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo and Elijah Wood as his cousin Frodo.

For me, it was entertaining but somewhat disappointing because I was not transported in the same way I was when I first visited Middle Earth. I was entertained but it was milder than enthralling.

The film fortunately is fit onto a single disc so you can enjoy it in a single sitting. For those who can’t get enough background material, there are two other discs chockfull of features. These are sumptuous for those who indulge and its interesting listening to Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens’ audio commentary, as they discussed the creative choices, pulling material from the Appendices to flesh out the novel.

imagesOne unconnected featurette is New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth (6:53) which is Jackson and company extolling the virtues of their homeland.

The bulk of the extras are The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey and The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth. The previous parts can only be found on the standard edition of the film. Part 7 takes up about four and a half hours comprising Introduction by Peter Jackson (1:54), The Journey Back to Middle-Earth (48:19); Riddles in the Dark (17:00); An Unexpected Party (25:28); Roast Mutton (17:12); Bastion of the Greenwood (10:41); A Short Rest (29:12); Over Hill (13:40); Under Hill (19:15); Out of the Frying Pan (16:07); Return to Hobbiton (18:35); The Epic of Scene 88 (8:28); The Battle of Moria (10:57); Edge of the Wilderland (22:37). Along the way we learn how the delays in financing and the near collapse of MGM led to del Toro’s departure than a hasty ramp up to get filming done to make international release schedules. We watch with exhaustive detail how scenes were shot, how cast and crew had to scurry across the island to get certain sequences completed and how Andy Serkis came back as Gollum to perform in what was essentially a one-act play set within the grander tale.

Part 8 is comprised of  The Company of Thorin (1:02:41), a six-part documentary including  “Assembling the Dwarves,” “Thorin, Fili & Kili,” “Balin & Dwalin,” “Oin & Gloin” and “Bifur, Bofur & Bombur”; Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member (16:10); Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves (57:25); The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (58:09); Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town (58:59); and, The Songs of The Hobbit (32:32). Here, we learn more about how the cast viewed their dwarf selves and we see more character than is revealed in the final cut and the segment on the music is fascinating.

Ultimately, you have to decide if you love extras or thirteen extra minutes will be worth the investment. The film stands on its own in its first form and this is really for the devotees of Tolkien and all things Middle Earth.

Extended Edition of The Hobbit is now Available for Download

HobbitAUJEE_TurnedThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson is available NOW on iTunes in the US with the rest of the world rolling out.  A production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, this new cut includes 13 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes, making this the must-see, definitive version for fans.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition  on iTunes includes exclusive early access to nearly nine hours of new special features as part of iTunes Extras*.

All-new special features on the iTunes release includes:

  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth
  • THE APPENDICES PART 7 – A LONG-EXPECTED JOURNEY: The Chronicles of The Hobbit
  • THE APPENDICES PART 8 – RETURN TO MIDDLE-EARTH

The Appendices is a multi-part chronological history of the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, covering pre-production in the various departments of the film in the months leading up to the start of principal photography, the boot camp training for the main cast, the work done on set chronologically through the three shooting blocks and in the world of its digital effects.

*iTunes Extras not available in all countries.

SYNOPSIS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated trilogy adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him; he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

The screenplay for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh.  The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), Present a WingNut Films Production, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  All three films in The Hobbit Trilogy, also including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the final film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production.  Warner Bros. Pictures handled worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution handled by MGM.

Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat And His Major Headlines!

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat

It’s a bit like the tale of the blind men and the elephant. An interview with Steven Moffat at the AdLib Comedy event in Edinburgh covered a plethora of topics on Doctor Who, and even one or two about Sherlock. And each response got its own headline in different corners on the Internet.

Some trumpeted that after an extended period of campaigning, Moffat has acknowledged the desire of Hobbit director Peter Jackson to helm an episode of the series. Jackson has famously claimed that he’d do the work for free, accepting only a Dalek as payment. “So we’ll give him a Dalek and he’ll direct an episode,” the showrunner said, going so far as to say that doing the episode in Jackson’s native New Zealand was “entirely possible.” Not exactly an official announcement, but quite a tantalizing maybe.

Some seized on his non-confirmational response when he was asked about whether or not JK Rowling was writing a story for the Doctor’s 50th anniversary event. His reply was a wry ” I can’t confirm that…right now.” Neil Gaiman was also rumored to be taking part in the anniversary story series, but as there’s only a couple more Doctors left, time seems to be running out for both to take part.

Steven also touched on a number of points concerning the continuity of the show as well. He absolutely closed the door on a return of the Time Lords, declaring them “dead in my mind. They died.” He also verified that the 12-regeneration limit is still in action, suggesting we’ll see it play a role very soon on the show. Depending on how John Hurt’s mysterious “other Doctor” is explained (or explained away), Peter Capaldi may well be playing a Doctor after his 12th, and normally last, regeneration.

While No More Time lords also means no return for Time Lady Romana, it does not shut the door on “The Doctor’s Daughter” Jenny, from the episode of the same name. He said that door was still open.

After so many Scots on the show, including two Doctors (McCoy and Tennant) some cheered the news that Peter Capaldi may well be keeping his Scottish accent when playing the Time Lord. “I’d be very surprised if he didn’t”, said Moffat, which isn’t quite a yes, but pretty damn close.

When asked about Sherlock’s survival, he made it clear that like Douglas Adams’ explanation of how to fly, it all comes down to how Sherlock avoided the ground. “He’s got to interrupt his fall before he hits the pavement”

More than anything else, two points must be kept in mind concerning all of these news tidbits.

One, the event was dedicated to comedy and wit, and it’s entirely possible that Steven was being flippant and glib in the spirit of the evening, and his comments must be taken as at least potentially tongue-in-cheek.

Two, and far more important…The Moffat Lies! He’s already said he’s been “Lying through his teeth” over the details of the anniversary special, likely in a vain and desperate desire to keep some surprises for the viewing public.  He’s not above simply making something up to get a response.

Details Announced for The Hobbit Extended Edition

hob_seeBurbank, Calif., July 31, 2013 – Fans of Middle-earth will have the opportunity to gain a broader experience of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, when the epic fantasy adventure is released as an Extended Edition on Digital Download October 22nd and on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on November 5th from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE). A production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, this new cut includes 13 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes, making this the must-see, definitive version for fans. All disc versions of the Extended Edition include nearly nine hours of new bonus features and will be available just ahead of the December 13 theatrical release of the second film of the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

“I’m thrilled that the Extended Edition will give fans the opportunity to experience certain key scenes in the film as they were originally shot, as well as an abundance of special features,” said Jackson. “It’s exciting to present this expanded and enriched version of ‘An Unexpected Journey’ to allow fans to fully immerse themselves in the movie, before seeing the second part of the trilogy.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition will be available as a 5-disc Blu-ray 3D set ($54.98 SRP) that features the Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray versions of the Extended Edition; a 3-disc Blu-ray ($35.99) and a 5-disc DVD ($34.99) The Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD all include UltraVioletTM which allows consumers to download and instantly stream the Extended Edition in high definition to a wide range of devices including computers and compatible tablets, smartphones, game consoles, Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players.*

The nearly nine hours of new special features boasts audio commentary with Peter Jackson, director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, and “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. Complete special feature details are provided below.

The first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit,The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was nominated for three Academy Awards®[i].

 

SYNOPSIS

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated trilogy adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him; he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

The screenplay for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh.  The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

 

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), Present a WingNut Films Production, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  All three films in The Hobbit Trilogy, also including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the final film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, are productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production.  Warner Bros. Pictures handled worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution handled by MGM.

 

ALL-NEW SPECIAL FEATURES ON BLU-RAY 3D, BLU-RAY AND DVD:

 

  • Commentary with Peter Jackson, Director/Producer/Screenwriter and Philippa Boyens, Co-Producer/Screenwriter
  • The Appendices – A multi-part chronological history of the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, covering pre-production in the various departments of the film in the months leading up to the start of principal photography, the boot camp training for the main cast, the work done on set chronologically through the three shooting blocks and in the world of its digital effects.
    • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth

 

 

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

Street Date: November 5, 2013

Order Due Date: October 1, 2013

Rating: PG-13

Run Time: 184 mins.

Blu-ray 3D: $54.98 SRP

Blu-ray: $35.99 SRP

DVD: $34.99 SRP

“Moth City” Brings Thrillbent Up To Five Days A Week

Moth City

We’ve been lax in telling you about the new stuff coming from Thrillbent, and with Tim Gibson bringing his stunning comic Moth City to Thrillbent starting today, we have our story hook.

Moth City is a compact manufacturing island given to an American tycoon, Governor McCaw, by the Chinese Nationalist government. In exchange, McCaw is to outfit the government’s vast army as it attempts to destroy the Communists and unite the world’s greatest nation. Now, after a brazen and brutal murder, McCaw must unravel the island’s secrets before everything he has built is wiped out by the warring factions. New issues will be posted on Thrillbent.com for free, every Tuesday. Here’s a video preview:

And here’s the first chapter:

Tim spent three years illustrating worlds, characters and monsters for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, with film credits including Tintin, District 9 and Avatar to his name. Moth City is the project he’s been secretly working on along the way. Tim lives with his fiancée in Wellington, NZ.

Moth City will be joining Thrillbent’s other continuing series, including:

Arcanum, written by John Rogers with art and colors by Todd Harris:

Insufferable, written by Mark Waid with art by Peter Krause and colors by Nolan Woodard:

The Endling, written by Jonathan Larsen, illustrated by Cecilia Latella, and coloring by Paul Mounts and Jenn Manley Lee:

The Eighth Seal, written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Jeremy Rock, and colored by Nolan Woodard

The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, written by Christina Blanch and Chris Carr, artwork by Chee:

All strips are lettered by Troy Peteri.

Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013

ray_harryhausenHe brought out dreams to life.

Raymond “Ray” Harryhausen (June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2013) died today at age 92, leaving behind a legacy of pioneering special effects work and a filmography that has deeply influenced writers, artists, and filmmakers for generations.

Dubbed by Starlog as “The Man Who Work Miracles”, he was one of the most influential movie makers who was himself inspired by Willis O’Brien’s stop-motion animation in King Kong. He took O’Brien’s efforts and improved upon them, branding it as Dynamation.

mjy0090Although he resided in England for the majority of his adult life, Harryhausen was born in Los Angeles. King Kong was the spark that set him on a course towards a career in film, meticulously creating miniatures that could be photographed a few frames at a time followed by the tiniest of movements, followed by more frames, until the model appeared to move across the screen. This was done with artistry and engineering know-how long before Industrial Light and Magic brought computer-aided technology to the process.

When the legend met the student, they bonded quickly and Harryhausen was given pointers to improve his work through trial, error and art classes. Along the way, he befriended fellow Angelino Ray Bradbury, just at the beginning of his fantastic career. Little wonder they both belonged to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Science Fiction League, linking the trio until their deaths.

beast-from-20000-fathoms02Like O’Brien, Harryhausen strove for realistic creatures to confront the live-action performers, drawing inspiration from the myths and legends familiar to people the world over. He began his professional career with George Pal, contributing to his series of Puppetoon shorts. World War II intervened and Harryhausen was assigned to the Special Services Division, continuing to make movies. This proved an invaluable tutorial and lab for experimenting with his animation techniques.

Soon after leaving the service, he embarked on the first of several dream projects that would dot his career. He did some demo footage based on H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds but the project never materialized. Instead, he was hired to work on Mighty Joe Young, letting the master and student work together and earning them earning them the Academy Award in 1949 for best Special Effects. Harryhausen was hired solo to provide the effects to The Monster from Beneath the Sea. When a connection was made to Bradbury’s story “The Fog Horn”, the film was renamed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the story’s original title and was released to acclaim and box office success in 1953.

By this point, Harryhausen had developed the technique that saw him shoot the actors then animate the creatures, splitting the image between foreground and background, the latter becoming a rear projection with the models before it. With mattes, the images were combined and Dynamation was born, although it was named later.

TheGoldenVoyageofSinbad-2Harryhausen continued to evolve his work and then made the leap to color with The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in 1958. By now, he was partnered with producer Charles H. Schneer – beginning with It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) — who helped him perfect the shift to color, experimenting with different stocks until the look was right. Given the requirements of the models, Harryhausen became far more intimately involved in the story than most effects men ever did, ultimately co-directing many features although Director’s Guild rules denied him his proper credits.

The Sinbad series of films found an eager audience in the later 1950s and early 1960s as all things fantastic played well on screen. It offered adults, and their children, a wholesome escape from the Cold War tensions. It wasn’t all fantasy and monsters as Harryhausen and Schneer also produced several science fiction tales, such as 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).

jasonandtheargonauts11-300x213They continued to produce works that stretched the imagination until 1963 and what is considered by many his finest outing, Jason and the Argonauts. Here, there was the amazing complex battle with the skeletons and the multi-armed gorgon. Little wonder that Tom Hanks, who first saw it as a kid, proclaimed years later, “Some people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane…I say Jason and the Argonauts is the greatest film ever made!”

Despite this pinnacle of technological achievement, tastes were changing and he endured a series of box office failures. After losing his contract with Columbia Pictures, he wound up in England working for Hammer Films’ One Million Years B.C. (1967). That film’s success allowed him to on to make The Valley of Gwangi (1969), a labor of love considering it was O’Brien’s unrealized dream project.

Harryhausen endured a lean 1970s, kept in the minds of readers thanks to Ackerman’s devoted retrospectives in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Finally, thanks to Star Wars, inspired in part by Harryhausen’s work, the appetite for fantasy was back and he revived Sinbad beginning with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.  This and its sequel Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger were suddenly feeling dated and jokey, not at all what modern day audiences found palatable.

gwangi_curiousHe put everything he had into his Greek myth opus Clash of the Titans (1981), working with protégés Steve Archer Jim Danforth, much as O’Brien mentored him. With a star-studded cast and the addition of the impressive Kraken, the film was a last hurrah but for audiences now used to computer-generated effects, it looked and felt dated. Harryhausen was effectively retired, like it or not.

Thankfully, his work was rediscovered with h advent of magazines like Starlog, the rise of cable television, and a new generation of fans enchanted by his creations. As a result, he released several lovely books about his career:  Film Fantasy Scrapbook, An Animated Life, The Art of Ray Harryhausen, and A Century of Model Animation. With the arrival of home video, Harryhausen personally oversaw the restoration and transfer of his films, from VHS to Blu-ray.

Clash-Of-The-Titans-Kraken-300x208Harryhausen relocated to England in 1960 and in 2005, donated his archive, some 50,000 pieces, to the National Media Museum in Bradford, England. His efforts have not gone unrewarded such as being given the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for “technological contributions [which] have brought credit to the industry” in 1992, handed to him by Bradbury, and a special BAFTA award, delivered by director Peter Jackson.

Hollywood didn’t forget Harryhausen either, with Columbia’s parent, Sony, naming their main screening theater after him and his receipt of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

His influence and spirit will live on for generations to come thanks to his films being available to enjoy and the generations of filmmakers he inspired.

 

Peter Jackson Sneaks The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on March 24

peter_jacksonAcademy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson will host a live first look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy, on Sunday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/12pm Pacific at www.hobbit.com/sneak.    The live event will now include a Q&A with Jackson and fans! Video questions can be submitted beginning March 12 through March 19 on “The Hobbit” Facebook page, or through the Vine mobile app using the hashtag #askPeterJackson. Fans can also Tweet links to video questions using the hashtag #askPeterJackson.  The live event will be limited to holders of an UltraViolet™ code, available by purchasing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and 2-disc DVD Special Edition on March 19.  Visit thehobbit.com/sneak for more information.