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The 50th Anniversary of James Bond: The Best Bond Movies

This year a major British institution celebrates a major milestone: It’s been 50 years since James Bond first exploded onto movie screens. The cinema’s greatest action hero has been on the job ever since.

This summer, Daniel Craig stars as Agent 007 in “Skyfall,” the 23rd James Bond film.

Licensed to Thrill
The Bond character has been played by seven actors in 23 movies (including the upcoming “Skyfall,” due out later this summer). James Bond has endured as a movie mainstay because he always delivers the goods. And while not every Bond flick turns to cinematic gold, audiences keep coming back because he’s one of the best-drawn and most complex film characters ever created.

And for anyone interested in learning how to make a movie or learning film production and special effects, Bond flicks are showcases for how big-budget action movies were meant to be made.

As part of our extended tribute to “Bond…James Bond,” we’ve watched all the Bond films and selected our picks for the top five Bond movies:

1. “Goldfinger” (1964) 007: Sean Connery

Sean Connery as James Bond, wearing his signature white cocktail tuxedo. 

Why It’s On The List: ”Goldfinger” is the “gold standard” in the film franchise, and the film all other Bond flicks are still compared with. One reason for its success: timing. By this point, Bond mania was everywhere, rivaling only The Beatles as a pop-culture phenomenon. “Goldfinger” is pure film excitement.

Key Scene: It’s known on the Internet as the James Bond laser scene. Bond, abducted by villain Auric Goldfinger, is strapped to a table while Goldfinger aims an industrial laser at him. Sweating bullets, Bond defiantly asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No, Mister Bond…I expect you to DIE!”

The action eventually lands in Fort Knox, Kentucky—and a 24-karat robbery of all the gold in the U.S. reserves located there. Add in a woman murdered by being covered completely in gold paint (she dies of skin suffocation), a massive and deadly silent henchman named Oddjob and the first appearance of Bond’s tricked-out Astin Martin sportscar (complete with passenger ejector seat) and you’ve got possibly the best vintage Bond ever.

2. “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) 007: Roger Moore

Roger Moore takes aim as James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only.”

Why It’s On The List:  “For Your Eyes Only” is the only serious-minded and less gimmick-happy Bond film of the 1970s. During the 70s, the Bond franchise starred Roger Moore, who made seven movies. And while Moore had a near-impossible job in replacing much-beloved Sean Connery, the decade wasn’t Bond’s best. ”For Your Eyes Only” returned the secret agent to a more serious tone.

Key Scene: During the opening sequence, Bond is strapped into a helicopter being flown by remote control by Blofeld, head of the evil society known as SPECTRE. After climbing into the cockpit (from outside the chopper) and disabling the remote control, Bond starts flying the whirlybird. He uses the helicopter skid to hook Blofeld’s motorized wheelchair, then flies it to the top of a factory smokestack. Bond tilts the chopper’s nose downward, releasing the villain into the smokestack’s narrow opening. We hear Blofeld’s echoing screams as he takes the big plunge all the way down. Now that’s entertainment…

3. “GoldenEye” (1995) 007: Pierce Brosnan

“GoldenEye” not only made Pierce Brosnan an action star, the film also spawned a hit Nintendo video game that still has a cult following today.

Why It’s On The List:  It’s the first Bond flick not based on one of Ian Fleming’s series of Bond novels. “GoldenEye” was also the first time the role was played by dapper Pierce Brosnan, who may actually have been closest to the author’s idea of the Bond character.

Here Agent 007 is working overtime to keep an evil arms syndicate from causing a global financial meltdown by using the GoldenEye satellite weapon against London. This film marks the first Bond picture made after the fall of Communist Russia, causing Bond to hang up his Cold War efforts against SPECTRE and become more of a global policeman working against rogue villains who operate without a political agenda.

Key Scene: Bond’s about action, right? Well, it’s hard to find more thrilling action than during the breathtaking bungee jump in the opening sequence. Shot at a Swiss dam, the 720-foot leap into oblivion was voted the best movie stunt of all time in a 2002 Sky Movies poll. At the time, it set a record for the highest bungee jump ever successfully completed off a fixed structure.

4. “Casino Royale” (2006) 007: Daniel Craig

At first, Bond fans protested the casting of actor Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.” Now it’s almost unthinkable that anyone else could play him as well.

Why It’s On The List: By the time the franchise turned 40, it was in sore need of rejuvenation. Luckily, actor Daniel Craig entered the picture, bringing some much-needed muscle and menace back to the part. Less suave and witty, Craig’s Bond is more athletic and somber. The film that introduced Craig as Bond was a franchise reboot in the best possible sense.

Key Scene: There are quite a few in this film: the brutal torture Bond suffers while being interrogated, the final fight scene where Bond battles baddies as a building in Venice, Italy collapses in on him. But the best scene in the film—and the one that made fans believe in Craig as Bond—happens at the beginning of the movie, as James Bond parkour chases a terrorist down through the streets of Madagascar. And yes, that’s Daniel Craig doing all of his own stunts.

5. “Thunderball” (1965) 007: Sean Connery

“Thunderball” culminates with a massive underwater war, with teams of spear-gun carrying divers. A pair of armed nuclear weapons hangs in the balance. Check out the “Thunderball” trailer.

Why It’s On The List: In terms of sheer movie coolness, no Bond was ever frostier than Connery in the fourth flick. Much of it takes place in the Bahamas (a key Bond locale) and “Thunderball” features a sensational villain in the eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo and one of the most gorgeous of all “Bond women” in French actress Claudine Auger.

More than any other early Bond flick, this one (the all-time box office champ among Bond movies) provides the blueprint for the modern action film. It’s stuffed with amazing action sequences, including one of the biggest underwater combat scenes ever filmed, complete with spear-gun warfare.

Key Moment: In the opening, Bond attends a funeral, only to later go into hand-to-hand combat with the “widow,” who is actually a male SPECTRE agent in drag. After Bond snaps the villain’s neck with a fireplace poker, he casually grabs a handful of flowers and tosses it on the dead man’s corpse—strictly for his own amusement. Then Bond straps on a Bell Rocket Belt jet pack and flies away as the villain’s henchmen stare in dazed wonder.

Coming up next in our extended tribute: 50 pieces of James Bond trivia.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Celebrating 100 Years: Paramount Studios

Before the credits roll on the new Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol you’ll see the logo for the studio that was responsible for financing Tom Cruise’s latest action flick – the studio? Paramount, who in May 2012 will celebrate 100 years of movie making.

The Paramount logo has gone through many changes over the years. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol will be the first film to feature the new 100 year logo. (Click the graphic above for a larger image)

It’s a White Christmas
The Paramount production White Christmas (1954), was the first Paramount picture to be shot and released in VistaVision – or wide screen. Vista Vision was a process that essentially doubled the visual size of the movie. For the film, Paramount produced a new logo or vanity card for VistaVision. The new logo featured the iconic mountain with canyons and trees around it and overall was more realistic. The logo, and mountain would be tweaked slightly but was the basis of the company’s brand for more than 30 years.

The Beginning & Beyond
Founded by Adolph Zukor on May 8, 1912 as Famous Players Studios (Zukor believed in talent and hired such Golden Age Hollywood luminaries as Mary PickfordDouglas Fairbanks, and Rudolph Valentino), Paramount would go on to become one of the major studios in Hollywood. It was William Wadsworth Hodkinson though (then president of the studio) that created the iconic logo.

The original Paramount logo created by the man who would be credited with inventing Hollywood. 

The studio would go on to become a filmmaking giant, with such blockbusters as Love Story, Chinatown, Saturday Night Fever and The Godfather. The studio also holds the distribution rights to the Star Trek and Indiana Jones franchise. The studio has a long history and is now owned by Viacom.

It all started with an idea to entertain people – and Paramount has done that for going on a 100 years. The craft of digital filmmaking is way beyond what Adolf Zukor could have imagined. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to make a movie – and you don’t have to start a movie studio to make a film, in fact you can go to film camp or just pull out your phone and shoot.

We proudly salute Paramount Studios and a 100 years of great films!


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Walking Dead Episode Guide: TV’s Hottest Zombies

The second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has begun. And if the first couple of episodes of the new season are any indication, the show has lost none of the intense power (or popularity) it gathered last season. (No wonder the show has already been renewed for a third season.)

Happy Halloween! Looks like this trick-or-treater took a fall coming off the steps.

For a few years now, cable outlets such as AMC have been home to some of the most engaging shows on television. In its debut season, The Walking Dead quickly rose to the top of the cable ratings. The program is so popular that AMC now features a talk show immediately following Dead‘s Sunday night time slot, where panelist and fans discuss the latest Walking Dead episode and all things “zombie.”

Why has AMC’s The Walking Dead been such a huge hit with audiences and TV critics? Part of it is the show’s excellent production values – from the writing to the acting, it’s one of the best-made shows on TV right now. The other part? The “scare factor.” Combined, they make The Walking Dead possibly the best horror series to ever to appear on television.

High Production Values = High Ratings
The production values are extremely high for serial television – this is how digital filmmaking is done – and it pays off in the ratings. TV has waited a long time for a show this consistently scary; at times it’s even more frightening than many horror movies now playing in theaters.

While the zombie apocalypse is the underlying theme (and one key reason for the popularity) of The Walking Dead, it’s the relationships and journey the characters experience that are the heart of the show. You genuinely care about the cast and the predicaments they face.

The Walking Dead began life as a hugely popular graphic novel.

Making The Walking Dead
It all started with a comic book…er, graphic novel. Robert Kirkman, the creator behind the series, already had huge success with the graphic novel, which has seen a resurgence in popularity due to AMC’s series.

Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) developed and launched the series, but a good part of the show’s success has to go to the astounding special effects. The zombies in The Walking Dead will turn your stomach, and their impeccable timing will never bore you: They always show up at just the right moment to peak the suspense and terror.

Sure, zombies don’t always move lightning fast, but when hundreds show up at once (as often happens), it creates an overwhelming effect; everywhere you turn, there’s another dead guy (or gal) – and from every walk of life – with a decomposing face.

The survivors (led by sheriff Rick Grimes) have more than they can handle: a world of undead who are always on the move…and always hungry.

So what if you’re interested in the show but are getting to the party late? No problem; we’ll get you caught up:

The Story
American life as we know it has slipped off the rails. A tide of death—whether from disease or supernatural forces (nobody knows for sure, which makes the premise even that more frightening) has swept the land. Hordes of human undead are now roaming the land in search of flesh to satisfy their zombie hunger. There aren’t many survivors left, but one group in Atlanta has banded together to take on the zombie menace. The group’s priorities are simple: 1) keep themselves alive 2) find a safety zone where they can exist zombie-free; and 3) find the answer as to why all of this zombie madness is happening in the first place.

The Characters
The group changes (based on who lives through the episode) week after week, but here are the major characters you’ll get to know:

  •  Rick: A deputy sheriff from a small Georgia town, Rick serves as the group’s unofficial leader.
  •  Shane: Rick’s partner in law enforcement, and best friend since high school.
  •  Lori: Rick’s wife.
  •  Dale: A retiree, who owns and drives the RV that leads the group’s convoy.
  •  Andrea: A former attorney, she watched as her sister Amy died from a zombie attack.
  •  T-Dog: A former thug, who has become friends with Dale.
  •  Daryl: A survivalist whose favorite zombie weapon is a crossbow.
  •  Carol: A woman who has lost her husband to zombies; her daughter is her only known surviving relative.
  •  Sophia: Carol’s young daughter.
  •  Carl: Rick and Lori’s young son.
  •  Glenn: A former Atlanta pizza-delivery guy, whose navigation skills come in handy.


The Walking Dead Episode Guide

Season 1

Episode 1: As the series begins, county sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes comes out of a lengthy coma to find himself alone in an empty hospital. He slowly realizes that he’s been reborn into a world where the dead—the walking dead—have taken over. He leaves the hospital and starts wandering. Along the way he meets other (live) people, all of whom are living under the threat of imminent zombie attack.

Episode 2: Surviving bands of hungry zombies isn’t easy, as Rick learns when he unknowingly enables a group of survivors to be trapped and savaged by “walkers.” Tensions and accusations follow with the small group of survivors that Rick now leads, and criminals within the group threaten to blow any chance of living through the zombie nightmare.

Glenn and Rick work their way through the undead heard by blending in with the zombies.

Episode 3: Rick doubles back to Atlanta to save a man’s life and get a bag of weapons. Along the way, he is reunited with his wife, Lori, who had assumed that Rick was dead. During that time, she became romantically involved with Shane, Rick’s friend. Now that Rick’s back in the picture, Lori and Shane vow to not tell Rick about their affair and pretend as if nothing had happened between them. (And Rick’s son, Carl, doesn’t know the extent of his mother’s involvement with Shane.)

Episode 4: More things go wrong on the path back to Atlanta, where the group is headed to find the headquarters of the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), hoping to find scientists alive who can help them. Tensions are escalating, and people are starting to become unglued by all the stress of living in this horrifying new world.

Episode 5: After being attacked by walkers, Rick successfully leads the group to the CDC, but there’s no time to relax. And the group learns that getting to the CDC doesn’t really solve their mounting problems.

Episode 6: After the group makes its way inside the heavily fortified building to temporary safety, the members discover that there’s only one scientist there. What’s worse—he isn’t altogether sure what caused the zombie epidemic…or what to do about it.  

Rick takes a wrong turn on the streets of Atlanta and finds a group of undead in his path. 

Season 2

Episode 7: Season 2 begins in Atlanta at the CDC, with the group realizing that the lone CDC scientist (seeing no solution to the situation) has rigged the massive building with explosives and a timer and the whole thing is set to self-destruct. Making it out with seconds to spare, the group takes its convoy of vehicles out of Atlanta. They soon find the highway jammed to the hilt with abandoned vehicles. Then they are besieged by hundreds of walkers, with one of the survivors (Sophia) being chased by zombies through woods. At Carol’s urging, the group stays camped in the area while the members search for Sophia. As the episode ends, Carl is accidentally shot by a deer-hunting survivor of another group that lives nearby.

Episode 8: In order to save his life, Carl is taken to another group’s farmhouse, where (despite the lack of ample medical supplies) he’s treated. In order for him to be saved, however, they need more supplies and medical equipment- which can only be found at a medical facility in a zombie-infested part of town nearby. The man who accidentally shot Carl leads Shane head to the abandoned medical facility, where they retrieve the supplies. Now there’s just the matter of getting them and themselves back to safety…

Episode 9: The group desperately awaiting Shane’s return, but he can’t get out of a school he’s trapped in (and which is surrounded by the walking dead). Meanwhile, the search continues for Sophia…but the group knows it can’t remain in this area for much longer.

What’s going to happen next?  Tune in to AMC on Sunday nights to find out.

Zombie Comeback
Zombies are white hot right now, and The Walking Dead is one of the reasons why. But zombies have been making a comeback for a few years; videogames like Resident Evil, Dead Rising and the recent Dead Island have been stoking the fire, as well as movies like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and 28 Days Later. Sure, the material isn’t for the faint of heart (or the younger set), still the subject matter makes for some great suspense.

You never know where the undead will turn up next – so you better be ready, especially this Halloween.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Ghostbusters 3 Begins Production

It’s probably one of the most anticipated films in movie history – at least since the first Terminator sequel went into production. Fans of the Ghostbusters will only have to wait about a year more for their beloved ghost hunters to come out of retirement, as star Dan Aykroyd has officially confirmed: “We will be doing the movie and hopefully with Mr. Murray.”

The original Ghostbusters: Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis).

Bill Murray, who starred in the first two films, has vocally expressed concerns about previous proposed scripts and has matched wits with studio heads that seem to not have the best interest of the franchise in mind. The film, which already has a Ghostbusters 3 listing on the Internet Movie Database, will start shooting in Spring 2012, hopefully for a Holiday 2012 release.

Who Ya Gonna Call?
Aykroyd, who was recently interviewed on The Dennis Miller Radio Show, gave some interesting points of view, including some insight on who might star in the film. “The concept (of Ghostbusters) is much bigger than an individual role, and the promise of Ghostbusters 3 is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.”

Bill Murray talks Ghostbusters 3 on David Letterman.

In the interview, Aykroyd was quick to speak to the possibility that his friend and fellow actor Bill Murray may not be along for the ride. “What we have to remember is that Ghostbusters is bigger than any one component – although Billy was absolutely the lead and contributed to it in a massive way, as did the director and Harold (Ramis), myself, and Sigourney (Weaver). The concept is much larger than any individual role.”

Aykroyd went on to reveal script details, including that his character, Ray Stanz, becomes blind in one eye, and due to a his physical condition, “can’t drive the Cadillac anymore.”

Ghost Story
It’s no surprise that GB3 has taken this long to get made. Film production in general is a political and labor-intensive process. As far as the script goes, in one early version Aykroyd wrote, the Ghostbusters found themselves in Hell. It’s a unique take on the ghost-hunting formula, which even Murray has commented needs a fresher take.

Murray was actually more attracted to a script that had him becoming a zombie or possessed, and needing to be rescued by the Ghostbusters. It’s also been rumored that Sigourney Weaver’s child in the second film (named Oscar) would help take over the reigns as a new Ghostbuster. Everyone from Ashton Kuchter to Jesse Eisenberg has been attached to the role.

Dan Aykroyd has spent quite a bit of time working on a Ghostbuster sequel. Most recently, he helped game developers with a script for the incredibly successful video game Ghostbusters, which also featured the voices of Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis.



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The Greatest Back-to-School Movies of All Time

Headed back to school? Looking for a movie to get you in the mood, or bring you closer together with your new class or roommates? No worries, we’ve rounded up the best “back-to-school” films of all time:

Election (1999)

What’s It About? A student and teacher go head-to-head for control of an Omaha High School.

Why It’s Great: The film stars two great actors – Matthew Broderick plays Jim McAllister, a level-headed high school history teacher while Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a human dynamo with ambition to burn – and features some of the funniest high school moments you’ll ever see on screen. Ranked by critics and entertainment publications alike as one of the funniest film based around high school, it’s perfect for back-to-school. The story? Tracy Flick is running unopposed for the high school student election. McAllister, who wants to see Tracy face a challenger (and then some), talks popular varsity football player into running against her. The rest of the film follows Flick and McAllister as they go head-to-head, again and again.

Trivia: Look for the Apples, which foreshadow major events. Matthew Broderick’s role reversal; in Election he plays a teacher while Broderick skipped school as a student on the lam in the 1986 film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Back to School (1986)

What’s It About? A millionaire goes back to college and ends up teaching the students and teachers a thing or two.

Why It’s Great
Iron Man’s Robert Downy, Jr. stars as a New Waver with a multi-colored “Flock of Seagulls” haircut. But what really makes Back-to-School great: Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon, a successful clothing store chain owner. Upon a visit to his son’s university, Melon begins worrying that junior is bombing out, so Thorton decides to enroll. Want to shake up your university? Then watch how it’s done, by a pro.

“Yeah, I took out an English teacher. That didn’t work out at all. I sent her a love letter… She corrected it!” BMOC (Big Millionaire on Campus) Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) talks with fellow classmates.

Dangerfield turns the entire university system upside-down. He hires NASA scientists to help him with his Astronomy homework, he gets help from author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (who makes an actual cameo) with a book report. From renovating his dorm room into a luxury pad to the epic parties he throws, Thornton Melon is a master at work. Dangerfield, who was one of stand-up comedy’s all-time greats, also co-wrote the story for Back to School, which ensures the one-liners never stop.

Trivia: Dangerfield helped mentor young comics, like Sam Kinison who plays Professor Terguson – but up-and-coming Jim Carrey, also was considered for the role. He was ultimately considered too young by casting directors.

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

What’s It About: A college fraternity stirs up trouble at college.

Why It’s Great: It features one of the greatest all-time comedy scripts and director John Landis’ Animal House still slays audiences whenever it plays. It is the ultimate college comedy – just as Caddyshack is the ultimate golf comedy.

John Belushi plays Bluto. Belushi flew between Oregon (where Animal House was shot) and New York during filming, as he was still a key player on Saturday Night Live.

The story? It’s 1962 at Faber University and fraternity rush is in session. But this year, university dean Vernon Wormer wants to shut down the loudest, most obnoxious frat house on campus: Delta house. However, the Deltas won’t go quietly or without a fight, even after the evil dean places the house on “double-secret probation.” John Belushi achieved instant screen immortality as “Bluto” Blutarsky, the loudest and most obnoxious Delta of them all. More classic comic moments than can be inventoried in an entire blog. “This situation requires a really stupid and futile gesture,” says Otter (Tim Matheson). Bluto: “And we’re just the guys to do it.” Boy, are they ever.

Trivia: Harold Ramis (Egon from Ghostbusters), co-wrote the film, and based many of the jokes on his own college experiences. When it debuted, this early National Lampoon-branded feature broke the bank (earning $141 million). It was made for only $2.7 million.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

What’s It About: Napoleon Dynamite, what’d you think it was about? Gosh!

Why It’s Great: Long before Glee started making high school misfits feel warm and understood, this film celebrated the King Kong of nerds. Preston (Idaho) High School student Napoleon Dynamite…his name all the funnier because it sounds like it should belong to a double agent out of a James Bond film…oozes nerdiness from every pore.

A nerd for the ages: Napoleon Dynamite has skills. “You know, like nunchuku skills, bow-hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.”

With his perpetually dulled expression, monotone voice and must-have school accessories (Trapper-Keeper notebook, a pants pocket full of cafeteria tater tots and the action figures he dangles from a string off the back of his school bus), Jon Heder was born to play this role. As Napoleon Dynamite progresses, it’s revealed that he’s surrounded (both at home and at high school) by others who are just as goofy, although sometimes in different ways. It’s incredibly quotable (“I’ve caught you a delicious bass,” “Pedro offers you his protection”) and has a unique Rogue’s Gallery of wigged-out characters. And just when you think Napoleon has been out-nerded by his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), then his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) appears and the competition really begins.

Trivia: Napoleon Dynamite showed nerds have box office muscle; this modest $400,000 film earned $46 million.

Grease (1978)

What’s It About: A pair of students who fell in love over the summer come to grips with seeing each other daily in school.

Why It’s Great: Grease is the original high school musical. And must be considered among the best back-to-school movies, because it’s set during one complete school year in 1959, starting with the end of summer vacation and plowing forward until graduation in late spring. Beyond that, Grease remains a blast of pure energy, still fun to watch more than three decades after its massive box office run.

Audiences continue to bond with Grease, the Grease Sing-A-Long is now a yearly standard at many outdoor music festivals.

The story? Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton John) fall in love during summer vacation, then find each other attending Rydell High that fall. Will Danny and Sandy stay together? Few expected the screen version of the hit Broadway musical (which ran for nine consecutive years and numerous revivals) to hold up as well as it has, but director Randal Kleiser’s movie perfectly captured the show’s infectious energy and all the cameo appearances from actors and actresses who were actually TV and movie stars during the movie’s time period are a hoot.

Trivia: At least three money-making hit songs came from the catchy soundtrack, including Frankie Valli’s title song.


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

First Look: The Amazing Spider-Man Appears at Comic-Con 2011

The movie Spider-Man 4 was set to release sometime in 2011. However, creative differences between director Sam Raimi and Sony Pictures caused Raimi and his stars – Tobey Maguire, James Franco and Kirsten Dunst – to say goodbye to the record-breaking franchise after 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man 4 almost happened, and with John Malkovich confirmed to play the role of the villainous Vulture.

The star of   The Amazing Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield appears in costume to meet fans at Comic-Con and promote the film. He later tossed the red and blue outfit into the crowd.

Raimi’s departure allowed Marvel and Sony Pictures to reboot the franchise, and honestly, it probably was for the best. With Spider-Man 3, the franchise had become bloated and cartoonish. Hardcore fans that once supported Raimi had turned against him, primarily for his treatment of the key villain Venom, who was relegated to a supporting role.

The New Spider-Man
“Spider-Man will always be an important franchise for Sony Pictures and a fresh start like this is a responsibility that we all take very seriously,” Michael Lynton is the Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, and Lynton seems to be a man of his word.

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man.

In the footage Sony showed at Comic-Con, Garfield’s Peter Parker is seen using his mechanical webshooters (just like the original comic book) and getting used to his newly acquired superpowers. A first-person sequence (which copies the videogame Mirror’s Edge) puts moviegoers in Spider-Man’s shoes as he jumps from rooftop to rooftop. The sequence is truly “amazing.” Add to that the fact the movie will be in 3D!

The film also stars Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, Sally Field as Aunt May, Emma Stone as love-interest Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as D. Kurt Connors/The Lizard. Sony unveiled the new Spider-Man at Comic-Con 2011 in San Diego and the trailer not only wowed attendees, it re-instilled faith in hardcore fans:

The Amazing Spider-Man will release July 3, 2012, and stars The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield. Garfield was originally discounted by fans. Those sentiments have started to change though, as Garfield’s underwhelming physical appearance harkens back to Spider-Man’s roots and it looks as if the new film will more closely follow the early comic books drawn by legend Steve Ditko.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Comic fans still have some doubt about casting Garfield as the hero, but what fans don’t take into account is that Garfield is a BAFTA (the British equivalent of the Oscars) award winner – and he looks just like Mark Bagley’s Peter Parker. Garfield was born in the United States but grew up in England, and has been named by many industry publications as a rising star.

Creating comic book characters isn’t easy. Neither is digital filmmaking, but Marc Webb, the director of The Amazing Spider-Man is (who also a huge fan of the comic-book character, in particular, The Spectacular Spider-Man) seems to have firmly stood up to the challenge. What do you think? Are you looking forward to the reboot of Spider-Man?


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Professional Focus Adjustment For Your DSLR

You’ve seen the effect before in movies and television – someone is talking in the background, then as their conversation finishes, the scene quickly transitions to the foreground, and all the cameraman did was adjust the camera’s lens focus. It’s a quick and almost seamless transition, and you can achieve the same effect too, using just your DSLR camera.

Using an inexpensive kit called Follow Focus, you can now adjust your shots with professional perfection. The kit, which is sold for $59, is easy to use and replicates the same photograph technique it’s named after, follow focus.

The kit includes a Velcro strap and metal focus markers that are actually used as stop points to set the proper focus. Having the two points allows you to switch back and forth between the multiple focus points with the accuracy and precision of a professional photographer or filmmaker. If you don’t want to spend the $59 dollars, you can build a kit without much difficulty, using metal clips, velcro and steel wiring, but we thought the Follow Focus kit was well worth the money considering the professional results you get.

Created by DSLR Solutions, the Follow Focus kit allows follow and rack focusing without a rail or other accessories.

Getting Photography in Focus
Are you serious about photography? Then learn how to use a DSLR camera. You can get professional results with just a few expert tips, and improve your picture-taking skills. Take a summer course, or attend a summer camp at Digital Media Academy and you’ll truly get the most out of your DSLR.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Photography,News Blog and have No Comments

Ferris Bueller Turns 25: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”

It wasn’t a movie that overwhelmed you with its plot: a popular teen tries to outwit his high school principal, ducking class and other responsibilities for a glorious, what-the-heck day with his best friends. Nonetheless, John Hughes’ 1986 teen classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” had so much offbeat charm that nobody ever seemed to mind its simplicity.

Hughes, the director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, made a career out of 80′s teen-angst comedies.

The film’s many, many fans are now celebrating Ferris Bueller turns 25. Released on June 11, 1986 the movie influenced countless films with its wit and character. For fans of the film, Ferris is not only teacher of life’s lesson but a student as well. In the end the film isn’t so much about skipping out on life and responsibility but to take a chance every once and while and enjoy it.

10. Location, Location, Location Part of the fun of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is its whirlwind tour of Chicago. Actual locations included Wrigley Field, the Sears Tower and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The parade that Ferris single-handedly takes over is the town’s Von Steuben Day Parade.

Meet Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago.

9. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? While the movie starred Matthew Broderick a nasally nerd named Ben Stein nearly stole the show, Stein played the Economics teacher with the personality of a sleepwalker. Stein voiced the movie’s most quoted line, turning a class roll call into numbing torture. Stein has since been a recognizable presence in movies and television commercials, as well as being a political pundit – a role that makes total sense. Why? His first job was writing speeches for President Richard Nixon back in the early 1970s.

8. Famous Fans Fans of the film include filmmaker Kevin “Clerks” Smith, Simon “American Idol” Cowell and Justin Timberlake, each of whom has listed the movie as their favorite film of all time. Another fan, Charlie Sheen, also made a brief appearance in the film as bad boy. Funny how life imitates art.

7. Home Alone In the film, Ferris’ pal, Cameron, lives in an modernist house. Later, in a jaw-dropping scene, a vintage 1961 Ferrari GT250 (really a modified MG sports car) is driven directly into the iconic residence. It’s not a set but a real house. Use Google’s street view to see how it looks today: 370 Beech Street, Highland Park, IL 60035. Ferris’ house isn’t actually in Chicago, it’s in California: 4160 Country Club Drive, Long Beach, CA.

Edward Hopper’s 1942 masterpiece, “Nighthawks,” co-starred in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

6. Classic Art Ferris made taking in a museum cool. The famous paintings shown in the movie’s Art Institute of Chicago scene included the iconic diner painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper and Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” as well as works by Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Marc Chagall.

5. Music Makes A Movie “Ferris Bueller” contained a mixed bag of offbeat tunes, from the Beatles’ manic “Twist and Shout” to Wayne Newton’s lounge classic, “Danke Schoen” to New Wave cuts from the 80s, like Yello’s “Oh Yeah.” The blend of songs was so offbeat (and probably a licensing nightmare) that no official soundtrack album was ever released. Why? Sadly, Director John Hughes said he felt it would have had no commercial appeal and didn’t work as an album.

4. Big Screen Blockbusters Make Good TV After the movie’s surprising success, NBC rushed a television series based on the concept into production. Only thirteen episodes aired. A young actress named Jennifer “Friends” Aniston played Ferris’ TV sister. (In the film, the same role was played by Jennifer Gray, she would later become a star in another 80s classic: “Dirty Dancing.”)

Ben Stein shot to stardom on the basis of one line.

3. Script Supervisor At the time “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was nearing shooting, a looming writer’s strike threatened to halt production. So Director Hughes, eager to get his script finished before the strike began, hammered out the script – in less than one week.

2. Connect With The Audience Part of what made “Ferris” unique is the way Ferris speaks directly to the audience. Although certainly not the first movie to employ this technique, it’s probably one of the most memorable. (Way back in1966, Michael Caine became a star in the original “Alfie” by doing the same thing. Ray Liotta also talks directly to the audience in “GoodFellas”.) Even today, this technique (called “breaking the fourth wall“) is only used rarely in film, although it’s been turning up in plays since theater’s early origins.

“Life moves pretty fast…”

1. Ferris Makes Bank Instantly beloved upon its release, “Ferris” has become even more respected over time. “Entertainment Weekly” magazine named it number 10 among “the 50 best high-school movies,” while film channel Bravo listed it as number 54 among “the 100 funniest movies.” In 2000, readers of “Total Film” magazine voted the movie the 23rd greatest comedy film of all time. And “Ferris” delivered big-time at the box office: Made for around $6 million, the movie earned more than $70 million in its domestic release. Not too shabby for cutting class.

When John Hughes passed away in 2010, he left behind a personal body of film work that defined “teen” movies, with a filmography that included hits like “Pretty in Pink,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Weird Science,” as well as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” A multi-talented writer and director, Hughes coupled his passion for filmmaking with an unbeatable set film production skills. Are you an aspiring filmmaker looking to sharpen or develop your movie-making skills?

This summer, Digital Media Academy will be teaching Digital Filmmaking Summer Camps and courses using Final Cut Pro, the industry standard among editing software. Take a week-long or three-day certification course or a film & video production course and start your career as a filmmaker.

Cover Final Cut Pro from all the angles – everything from an overview of the software all the way through advanced editing courses that put you in the editor’s chair. See for yourself why legendary filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Murch and the Coen brothers use Final Cut Pro – John Hughes may have even used it if Final Cut were available when he was shooting “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,Featured,News Blog and have No Comments

Film & Video Production: A Constant State of “ACTION!”

Course: Film & Video Production

DMA Instructor: Neal Dhand

Education: The University of Chicago (Major: Interdisciplinary Studies, combining Film Theory and English Literature). Master of Fine Arts degree: Rochester Institute of Technology; Rochester, NY (Major: Film and Video Production)

Professional Portrait: Filmmaker Neal Dhand has six short films and several music videos under his belt (like his video for the band SPiN, which aired on the Fuse Network). But now the writer/director’s credits also include “Second-Story Man,” his first full-length feature film. Since March, it’s been playing the festival circuit throughout the U.S., scoring good reviews and being chosen as an Official Selection at the Indie Spirit, Cinequest and 360-365 film festivals – and prompting discussions of a distribution deal. Neal demonstrated his versatility by helming “Second-Story Man” as the film’s director, co-producer, co-writer and co-editor. He also has impressive teaching credentials, having served as an adjunct lecturer at Ithaca College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester. A dedicated student of cinema’s past who’s working hard to become part of its future, DMA Instructor Neal Dhand is definitely someone who’s going places.

DMA Courses: Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects

DMA Campus Locations: Harvard, Drexel and Swarthmore


Filmmaking has never been bigger, more complex or more thrilling. And if you ever wanted to learn film production, you’ve never had a better time to do so. DMA Instructor Neal Dhand can tell you all about the excitement that accompanies making a movie, because he just directed a full-length feature film that’s now getting lots of notice on the festival circuit. After that, who knows? Perhaps his movie, “Second-Story Man,” will be coming soon to a theater, DVD or a video-stream near you. (Visit for info.)

Film director and DMA Instructor Neal Dhand makes a point while shooting his new feature film, “Second-Story Man.” The tense crime drama involves would-be bank robbers, and was shot on location in upstate New York.

As he has in past summers, Neal will again be teaching DMA courses in Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects. Each course involves a whirlwind of activity, and that suits the filmmaker fine. “I like the DMA’s energy,” he says, “And the energy the students bring to it. It’s a great combination of fun and technical know-how. In past years, some of my favorite parts have been when we’ve gotten really creative and experimental with film techniques.”

Neal’s formal training in film (including a Master’s degree in Film Production) makes him the perfect instructor for DMA’s digital filmmaking courses. He understands the key components of filmmaking that make movies work, which he lists as “great acting, interesting camera moves, tight editing, and beautiful sound and music.”

His DMA courses are hardly dry “Film Theory” classes, either. Students enrolled in Neal’s courses receive hands-on instruction in actually holding and operating a movie camera. In addition to shooting film, students learn how to cut and assemble footage using Final Cut, the industry standard in editing software. Young Spielbergs-in-training also get instruction in directing – including directing short scenes as well as directing scenes for use with special effects. Because, let’s face it – no modern course in film production would be complete without training in the creation and use of special effects. In Neal’s classes, students use After Effects to explore green-screen/compositing techniques – the same special effects that allow movie stars to do the impossible and appear to be posed against any kind of background you can possibly imagine.

Shooting any kind of modern studio-quality film requires state-of-the-art equipment and professional personnel. DMA’s Film Production programs show you the ropes and help get you started creatively.

As Neal explains, imagining’s the easy part. “A ‘green screen,’ is used for many shots. Using software like Final Cut Pro and After Effects, our goal is to take away the green background and replace it with something else. We want to make it look like our characters are somewhere else entirely. This isn’t as easy as it might sound. We need to pay careful attention to things like costuming and lighting. Then, once we have everything set up, we go in and ‘key’ the shot to get rid of that green background.”

It’s tricky technology, but green screens and After Effects can give directors an infinite number of possibilities when shooting. “The fun things about shooting and trying effects like this are all the possibilities,” Neal says. “If we want, we can place the characters anywhere, as long as we can either find that place ourselves, or find an image of it somewhere.”

These days, film directors have to be as comfortable working in front of a computer as behind a camera. As shown in this production still, director Neal Dhand checks a shot via a laptop.

Digital Media Academy students get to experience the possibilities first hand when they take the creative ride of their lives in DMA’s filmmaking summer camps and two-week filmmaking academies. As DMA Instructor Neal Dhand puts it, “The film industry is dominated by people who know both ends of filmmaking: behind the camera, in front of a computer…and everywhere in between! We’ll be experiencing some of all of that, this summer.”

Tailor-made for young talents who have a love of movies and are eager to master actual production techniques now, DMA’s programs vary by age and prior training. But no matter your level of interest and experience, there’s something for every type of aspiring filmmaker at Digital Media Academy.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Shooting and Editing From Soup to Nuts

My classmates and colleagues and I have a particular way of speaking to each other when we discuss film and filmmaking, and after three years of film school the language we share is fairly rich and fairly idiosyncratic.  One of the expressions we like to use is “from soup to nuts,” which means from beginning to end (back in the early 19 somethin-or-others, a meal at a restaurant started with soup and ended with nuts).

How long is the movie, from soup to nuts?

How much is the camera package going to cost, from soup to nuts?

Wow!  She took first prize at Sundance!?  How much did she win, from soup to nuts?

You get the idea.  You’ll notice that the three examples I gave all have to do with money.  That’s because, to be perfectly honest, film school is an expensive endeavor.  I’m sure I speak for all my classmates when I say that we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  We’re doing what we love, we’re getting better at doing it, and we’re surrounded by people who support and believe in our work, and we know that once we enter the professional filmmaking world we probably won’t be in such a comfortable environment.  That’s not to say, though, that everything about filmmaking is prohibitively expensive.  The actual equipment one needs to make a film, from soup to nuts, is very affordable.  Chances are, you already own the major components.  They are:

A video camera:

Most new video cameras shoot onto memory cards.   The new handheld, consumer grade cameras yield a really impressive image, and they shoot in HD, but cameras that shoot on standard definition mini-DV are great, too.  They’re just as easy to use, they have all the ports necessary to edit footage, and the fact that you’re shooting onto tape gives you the added security of having actual masters, meaning a tangible copy of the original footage you can archive.

A computer with at least 100 gigs of hard drive space:

For the Digital Filmmaking for Teens courses we use Apple computers because Final Cut Studio, the editing and finishing software we teach, only runs on Macs.  I personally have a MacBook Pro with 4 gigs of RAM, and it edits High Definition footage like a champ.  Before that, though, I had a PowerBook G4, and if I didn’t start getting professional editing work that requires a more robust processor I’d still be using it.

For now, a computer with a lot of hard drive space, at least 100gigs, will suffice.  But once you start getting serious about your film projects, you’re going to want to invest in an external hard drive.  Something in the 250 gig range is perfectly acceptable.  Just make sure that the drive spins at 7200 rpm and that it has a FireWire port (as opposed to just a USB port).  Glyph hard drives are really reliable and come with a great warranty.  Here’s the drive that just about everyone at NYU used during first year.  You’ll notice that it works out to less than a dollar per gig:

Glyph Hard Drives

Editing Software:

We teach Final Cut Studio at Digital Media Academy, and it is in my opinion the best editing software on the market today.  The interface is very intuitive because most of the editing is done on the timeline; you trim the clips, move them to where they belong in the story, and before you know it you have a movie.  Final Cut Studio comes with the programs Color (a great color correction tool), Compression, Live Type, and DVD Studio, which is such a powerful program that I’d pay up to $500 dollars for it if it were sold separately.

Blank DVD’s:

To screen your movie!  Look for bundles of DVD-r; they also work great as back-up storage media.

And that, from soup to nuts, is what you need to make a movie:  a camera, a computer, editing software, and blank DVD’s, and much of this equipment can be purchased at DMA at a considerable discount.  In my classes, I make it clear that the important part about making a movie—the writing and storytelling—is free.  It’s entirely within you.  Now, with cameras, computers, and editing software at such reasonable prices, the expensive part isn’t all that expensive, either.

I am teaching DMA’s Digital Filmmaking for Teens courses at Harvard and Brown University this summer. 

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments