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2012 Summer Movie Round Up

“The Avengers” is currently ruling the box office. The mega-blockbuster exceeded $207 in domestic box office for its opening weekend, and this past Saturday, “The Avengers” churned more than $69.7 million in ticket receipts, making that the highest Saturday gross of all time. Name a box office record and “the Avengers” has either broken it, or has its eye on it.


Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…It’s the soaring box office totals for “The Avengers.”

I Believe I Can Fly
How high will “The Avengers” profits soar during its entire initial theatrical run? Some industry analysts are predicting that the film may not surpass the revenues produced by director/producer James Cameron’s one-two combination of “Titanic” and “Avatar,” but that “The Avengers” will probably blow by another superhero blockbuster, “The Dark Knight,” which made $533.3 million back in 2008.

Can anyone, or any film, defeat Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? There are plenty that are going to try – in addition to “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Avengers” will be competing with Spider-Man and Abraham Lincoln. But the summer has a slew of other great flicks lined up, let’s take a look at what’s adding up to be the best movie summer ever!

MAY

“Dark Shadows” is the eighth film Johnny Depp has done with director Tim Burton. (Warner Bros. 2012)

“Dark Shadows” (5/11)
Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, a vampire that returns to his ancestral home to find the current inhabitants (his descendants). Tim Burton directs the comedy, which is based on the 60s TV classic – the first horror soap opera.

“The Dictator” (5/16)
Sacha Baron Cohen–who made audiences howl with laughter as “Borat”–is back as the unhinged leader of the Republic of Wadiya (say it out loud). Directed by Larry Charles, of “Seinfeld” fame.

“Battleship” (5/18)
Aliens place a force field around a naval fleet and command them to battle it out. Part sci-fi action movie, part board game “Battleship” stars Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Liam Neeson.

“Men in Black III” (5/25)
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith return as the Men in Black – this time joined by Josh Brolin who plays a much-younger version of Jones – in the third installment of Barry Sonnenfeld’s popular sci-fi series. While script re-writes could have derailed production, early buzz and the trailer have fans eager to take on a whole new alien menace.

JUNE

Thor, uh, Chris Helmsworth plays The Huntsman in the updated version of the fairy tale classic. (Universal Pictures. 2012)

“Snow White and the Huntsman” (6/1)
Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron join a cast that includes Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins in the live-action reboot of the fairy tale Walt Disney made into a household name. Cast also includes Chris (“Thor”) Hemsworth, fresh from appearing in “The Avengers.”

“Piranha 3D” (6/1)
A year after ravaging Lake Victoria, our favorite prehistoric eating machines are back – and swimming through the town plumbing! Next stop: water park! The 3D horror-comedy features Danielle Panabaker, Gary Busey and wait for it…David (“Knight Rider,” “Bay Watch”) Hasselhoff!

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (6/8)
Produced by DreamWorks Animation, this “Madagascar” joins back up with Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo. This time, the gang is trying to return to the Big Apple despite detours to Africa, England and Monte Carlo.

“Prometheus” (6/8)
Call it what you like, Ridley Scott epic, sci-fi brain scrambler, but don’t call it a prequel to “Alien” (1979) – although it shares much of the same universe and references the movie. “Prometheus” is a sci-fi thriller that explores the dark corners of man’s origins.


“You think the Confederates are bad? Four score and seven years ago…I fought hordes of zombies.” (20th Century Fox. 2012)

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (6/22)
In the summer’s wildest movie concept, the beloved President does some serious moonlighting, taking the stake to legions of 19th Century undead. Set during the Civil War, the movie plays like “Sherlock Holmes” meets “The Walking Dead.” (Why are we not surprised that this adaptation of the popular novel is being brought to the screen by Tim Burton?)

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” (6/29)
Duane “The Rock” Johnson stars as Roadblock in the sequel to the 2009 dud, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” The trailer looks promising and co-stars like Bruce Willis and RZA (from the Rap group Wu Tang Clan) should help to bring much needed starpower to “Joe.” (UPDATE: G.I. Joe has been moved to March 2013, the studio says it’s so the movie can be converted to 3D.)

JULY

Spider-Man’s back! (Sony Pictures. 2012)

“The Amazing Spider-Man” (7/3)
More Marvel movie mayhem is set to pop in this reboot of the hugely successful film series. Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) plays Peter Parker/The Amazing Spider-Man with Emma Stone as famous love-interest Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, the geneticist who transforms into The Lizard. Rounding out the cast: Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field.

“Ice Age: Continental Drift” (7/13)
The fourth “Ice Age” film will be the second to utilize Digital 3D, as well as the first to be shot in the really wide widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This time around, Scrat goes nuts over an acorn, leading him and his wisecracking posse on a huge adventure that has “world-changing consequences.”

“The Dark Knight Rises” (7/20)
The last Batman film with Christopher Nolan at the helm has some mighty big shoes to fill. Not only will it finish the “Dark Knight” series, the movie hopes to shatter the record and expectations set by its predecessor, “The Dark Knight.” Christian Bale returns to don the famous cowl, joined again by heavyweights like Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This time Batman is the hunted villain, while trying to save Gotham from Bane, his latest super-foe.

AUGUST

Things get turned upside down when normal guy Douglas Quaid begins to think he’s actually a spy. (Sony Pictures. 2012)

“The Bourne Legacy” (8/3)
You almost need a scorecard to keep up with this franchise; this is the fourth film in this spy-action series, but Matt Damon won’t be returning as series protagonist Jason Bourne. Instead, Jeremy Renner (recently seen in “The Avengers”) plays the lead character against villain Edward Norton and with supporting help from Scott Glenn, Joan Allen and Albert Finney.

“Total Recall” (8/3)
Colin Farrell takes over the role of Douglas Quaid, first made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The “Total Recall” remake promises cooler special effects but sadly, no trips to Mars.

“The Expendables 2” (8/17)
With a call sheet that reads like an 80′s action hero who’s who, the sequel to the sleeper hit stars Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Summer of Entertainment Options
The world looks to Hollywood for its most popular entertainment. Summer blockbusters begin with ideas brought to life by talented creative professionals. Learning filmmaking can be your ticket to the show. Film production or movie-making camps can start you on the way to making your own blockbuster!

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Scorsese & Coppola: Old-school Directors Embrace Digital Filmmaking

They are two of the greatest directors in film history, each the maker of acknowledged movie masterpieces. Both Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese came to prominence during the 1970s, one of cinema’s greatest and most productive decades.


Hugo is director Martin Scorsese’s first film to use 3D.

But both directors are closely identified with the films they made thirty to forty years ago and that presents a small problem. Now each director has to compete with his own legend, and each must prove that he can make new films that are accessible to younger audiences. To that end, each director has a new project that takes advantages of new techniques in digital filmmaking.

Coppola: The Godfather of Cinema                       
Before he was known as a master filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola was a respected stage director and had directed a couple of films. But that was before 1972 and the release of the movie that would secure his reputation as a giant in cinema. The Godfather created a sensation and became one of the best-loved films of all time, and Coppola hasn’t been out of the public eye since. Along the way he’s made other masterpieces, including the Vietnam war drama,  Apocalypse Now.


From young lion to grand old man of the cinema: Francis Ford Coppola talks about his passion for film at the Toronto Film Festival.

For his latest project, Twixt, Coppola returned to one of his favorite film genres — horror. In the movie, a horror writer (played by Val Kilmer) visits a bizarre town which may or may not be inhabited by vampires. In one amazing scene, director Coppola has star Kilmer engage in a one-on-one conversation with the father of all modern horror, Edgar Allan Poe.

Coppola not only experimented with story elements but the director was also using an iPad for film editing. For example, when Coppola appeared at Comic-Con 2011 to showcase Twixt, he talked about his desire to take the film on the road and present it along with an orchestra — basically directing the film’s performance as a fresh audience experience each time out, even shuffling the order of shots as the mood of the performance struck him.

He told the Comic-Con faithful, “What I’d love to do is go on tour, like a month before the film opened…and go to all the cities myself, with my collaborators, with live music and actually perform the film for each audience uniquely for them — a different version for each audience.” The maestro also put his own unique stamp on using 3D. In Coppola’s case, that meant utilizing the effect selectively and only in certain scenes.

Coppola had seen a recent blockbuster and liked its use of 3D, but didn’t care for keeping on the special glasses throughout. “I enjoyed very much Avatar,” he said, “But I confess that I took the glasses off during much of the movie. And whenever I saw the images start to show that it was going to be 3D, I put them on and saw a wonderful sequence, and then I took them off again.”


Coppola not only paid tribute to early horror writer Edgar Allan Poe in Twixt; the 3D lenses Coppola handed out at Comic-Con 2011 were inset into Poe face masks. 

And although Coppola enjoys 3D, he doesn’t want to use it as a one-trick pony. “How dare anyone think that all movies have up their sleeve is more 3D. Cinema has many more surprises that you and your children will invent, because it’s at the beginning of this expression of image and sound.” While other art forms are thousands of years old, Coppola noted that film is still in its infancy as an art form. “Music and theater are thousands of years old. Cinema’s a baby.”

Scorsese: Genius Moves to the Third Dimension
Among major directors, few are as passionate about the craft of filmmaking as Martin Scorsese. Through landmark films like 1976’s Taxi Driver and 1980’s Raging Bull, Scorsese tackled tough subjects and did it all with a virtuoso’s artistry. His uncompromising vision has led him to a Best Director Oscar (for 2006’s The Departed), as well as other prestigious awards, such as the Cannes Film Festival’s highly prized Palme D’Or for Taxi Driver.

In 2006, Scorsese was presented the Oscar for Best Director for The Departed by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola…the other major American directors who came to prominence during the 1970s. Scorsese’s natural sense of humor was on full display when he asked the presenters to “Check the envelope, please.” (Scorsese had been nominated five previous times before winning.)


Few directors have made more great films than Martin Scorsese, and even fewer have studied film in depth as Scorsese has done.

Now Scorsese is back and with a different type of movie than he’s ever made. Hugo (which opens November 23rd) is an adventure/puzzle of a movie, and it follows the title character, a resourceful boy trying to unlock a secret left to him by his deceased father. A dazzling visual experience, Hugo is Scorsese’s first foray into making a 3D movie, and he recently talked about embracing the popular technology.

“Most people have stereoscopic vision so why belittle that element of our existence? Why not use it? We’re basically headed for holograms. You have to think that way.” He’s convinced of the screen power of 3D, although combining the technique with Scorsese’s patented perfectionism didn’t lead to quick results. “It really was an enjoyable headache,” the famous director said. “It demands respect. We just kept pushing it to see how far we could go. We would look at a shot and say, ‘What could we do to use the depth?’”

A Fresh Approach to Filmmaking
When Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were learning film production, the only real source of training (besides on-the-job experience) was offered by film schools. Today, anyone interested in filmmaking can pull out their smartphone and post a video up to their YouTube channel. Still, the professional world of filmmaking demands that you master new technologies; after all, it’s a digital filmmaking world.

Aspiring filmmakers can now study film production and learn how to make a movie at film camp without waiting to be accepted to a full-time film school. Digital Media Academy is a state-of-the-art, critically acclaimed digital media education company that offers personalized instruction from seasoned industry professionals. You’ll also get exposure to the latest film-production techniques and hands-on training in film production and how to use editing software (like Final Cut Pro). Interested in becoming the next Coppola or Scorsese? Learn how from DMA.

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Making Immortals: Special Effects Techniques & Pre-Production

This weekend, the 3D sword-and-sandal epic Immortals is set to make its bid as one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. In the film, Greek mythology receives the big-screen treatment with amazing special effects that help make the story larger than life.


Henry Cavill (who will star as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel) plays Theseus in the sword-and-sandal epic, Immortals.

The Road to Immortality
Immortals was brought to the screen by the same production team that made 300, that movie earned $456 million internationally. For this blockbuster, no expense was spared to create the stunning visions necessary to tell the tale. The supervising producer of VFX estimated that more than 100 shots within Immortals required special effects. And because the producers did not want their movie to look as though it was composed solely through CGI effects, some twenty enormous and intricate sets were actually designed and built.


In addition to amazingly complex battle sequences, there are stupendous visions of mountains falling, tidal waves being created and more.

Immortals’ Cameron Connection
All of the massive production was housed under one roof at film studios in Montreal. And if Immortals looks like no other adventure flick ever filmed, there are several technical reasons why. For starters, during pre-production, the filmmakers relied upon a green screen method called InterSense, which James Cameron used when making Avatar.

The technical system called Moses was used during production for similar purposes. For example, when composing a shot set in a monastery, the director was able to use Moses to look down from that monastery onto an enemy encampment and see exactly where CGI creations would be placed within the actual shot.


Another unique technique used in Immortals involves action speed; the gods featured in the films will be able to move and fight at speeds considerably faster than mere mortals.

Immortals will showcase its amazing visuals in 3D. However, unlike many 3D movies, Immortals was built from the ground up to be a 3D film. Foregrounds and backgrounds were designed specifically so the 3D effects could be shown for maximum visual impact. The filmmakers sought help from Prime Focus, a 3D effects house that had worked magic on blockbusters like Star Wars: Episode One –The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2.

All in all, more than 4,000 artists and technicians helped to create the 3D world shown in Immortals. And this figure doesn’t count the number of visual artists who contributed to the making of the film through their mastery of Maya, the software program now driving how characters are generated for films of all types.

Take a look for yourself with the official trailer for Immortals:

Immortals in 3D opens 11/11/11.

The Next Great Action Star
There’s another special effect in the film, in the form of actor Henry Cavill, who will soon be appearing as another larger-than-life character: Superman.

In Immortals, Cavill portrays a fatherless child (Theseus) raised in shame and ridicule who eventually meets a wise old man who counsels Theseus and trains him in combat and philosophy (kind of like the training Bruce Wayne received in 2005’s Batman Begins). Theseus’ mother is murdered and he is put into chains by the evil King Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke). This all leads to Hyperion facing off against rebel forces led by Theseus in an earth-shaking battle royal.

Cavill will next appear in the action blockbuster Superman: Man of Steel. Warner Brothers is hoping to use the film to rebrand the Superman film franchise and set it onto a fresh and new path, much in the same way that Christopher Nolan’s series of neo-Batman films has accomplished so successfully. There’s been a lot of excitement by fans who want a first look at Henry Cavill as the new Superman.


Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Henry Cavill in 2013′s Superman: Man of Steel.

The Future of Special Effects
Today technology allows filmmakers to make films they couldn’t have even imagined twenty years ago. Tools like After Effects and Final Cut Pro make filmmaking accessible for everyone. Film production is an amazing process that requires the time and expertise of hundreds of creative professionals who pool their collective talents in the service of a major project, such as Immortals.

Becoming a part of the film industry has never been easier for driven and talented professionals who’ve received the right training with the latest tools. You can start a career in special effects by spending your summer at a film camp that teaches visual effects. Summer camps like Digital Media Academy use cutting-edge software like Autodesk Maya to teach character creation and Final Cut Pro to teach film editing. With hands-on training from DMA, creating the gods on Mount Olympus is just a few keystrokes away.

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Stanford Summer Camp for kids 6-18

Stanford University’s innovation fuels creativity at Summer Camp !

Spring has sprung here in Silicon Valley, and before you know it, the school year will come to a close. We’re thrilled about Digital Media Academy’s summer camp lineup at Stanford and hope your 6-18 year old will join us for a week or two … or more!

Digital Media Academy offers both residential sleepaway and day summer camp options on Stanford’s picturesque campus, just minutes from downtown Palo Alto, in the heart of innovative, dynamic Silicon Valley. Whether you’re local, hosting grandchildren, or bringing the family out for a visit, Stanford University is the ideal location for US summer camps to explore filmmaking, game design, web design, photography and all the creative digital arts.

While the kids are soaking in the Stanford University summer camp experience, and learning to create visual effects for future careers with Avatar 6 or World of Warcraft, you’ll have prime access to all the Bay Area has to offer – San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s baseball, Wine Tours in Napa Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and beaches in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and Marin County.

As we’re an Apple Authorized Training Center, you can explore Digital Media Academy’s adult classes at Stanford University, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned pro or avid hobbyist.

One of our Stanford University summer camp instructors, Melanie Levy, is a professional documentary filmmaker and video producer. She recently reflected on the broad diversity of previous Digital Media Academy students, and she’s excited to guide this summer’s aspiring filmmakers through the documentary process.

Simply click here:  Stanford University Summer Camps to see class availability and instructor bios at Stanford. We look forward to meeting you and teaching your child this summer!

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