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“Dark Knight Rises” Sequel

Okay, so it’s not actually a sequel. In fact, it’s not even a movie yet, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood voices from discussing the next Batman movie—three or four years ahead of time.


If you’re a video gamer the next Batman movie may look very familiar.

While “The Dark Knight Rises” continues to climb at the box-office (with total global earnings now officially above $1 billion), there is already lots of industry talk about what will happen next to the Caped Crusader. Christopher Nolan has already stated “DKR” will be the last film in the trilogy the director started with 2005’s “Batman Begins.” So, as massively successful as this franchise reboot has been, it’s time to start re-imagining the next series of Batman films.

Unfortunately fans eager to see a new Batman movies will have to wait – a new Batman movie isn’t expected to hit theaters until 2016.

Lunatics in the Asylum 
That main rumor circulating the fan sites is the newly rebooted franchise will be based on the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” video game produced by Eidos Interactive/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (and developed by Rocksteady Studios on the Epic Games Unreal engine). Reportedly, Warner Bros. movie executives have been wowed by the mammoth popularity of the “Arkham Asylum” game, which spawned a sequel.

Both games received raves from game sites and top game magazines. The original dynamic, third-person action/adventure found our old friend, The Joker, running a demented asylum full of Gotham’s most diabolical and dangerous criminals.

A League of Their Own
The Batman 2016 project looks to be just one in an entire new series of blockbusters featuring the stalwart superheroes of the DC Universe. According to rumors, the Batman movie will be preceded by a Justice League film due for release in 2015, not to mention the next Superman movie—“Man of Steel,” now scheduled for 2013 release. (Also in the pipeline: films featuring Wonder Woman and The Flash.)

Guest Scars
The Joker figures prominently in “Arkham Asylum,” which has comics fans wondering if Batman’s greatest villain will return in the 2016 reboot. This could prove tricky for any actor bold enough to take on the role, which was made unforgettable by Heath Ledger in his final (and Oscar-winning) film performance in “The Dark Knight.”


Batman’s main nemesis, The Joker, is the head madman in charge of “Arkham Asylum.”

Fans are also wondering if arch-criminal Bane—who’s still battling it out with Batman in theaters, by the way—might show up in the next Batman project. Bane (played in “DKR” by Tom Hardy) appears in “Arkham Asylum,” so there could be some basis for bringing back the grate-faced villain in the next Batman blockbuster.   

Never Can Say Goodbye
Even though director Christopher Nolan has now finished his Batman trilogy, he is still being consulted by Warner Bros. concerning where and how the franchise should move forward from here. Industry people in the know expect Nolan to serve as an Executive Producer on the next Batman films. If the mortals who run the DC Universe have their way, the next few years will see an explosion of movies starring DC characters.

Reportedly, producers instructed the digital filmmakers who will bring The Justice League to the big screen that this new film should have a unique visual look…and look nothing like 2012′s “The Avengers.”

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Behind the Scenes of “The Avengers”: The Storyboarding Process

“The Avengers” continues to set box office records. The reason? It’s a fun and well made movie. Behind the film were literally hundreds of artists (both traditional and digital) who brought the director’s vision to life.


A scene from “The Avengers,” in storyboard form.

For any special-effects movie (including “The Avengers”), after the script has been written, one of the first parts of the pre-production process is visualizing what the scenes will look like. For this process, storyboarding is essential; set designers, filmmakers and digital artists will all use the storyboards as a blueprint.

What are Storyboards? 
Storyboards are hand-drawn panels that show filmmakers how each scene will look. Storyboards usually look almost like comic-book panels, except without those little word balloons. Storyboards are primarily used for camera setups and effects shots where the effect will be created later, but they extremely helpful for the entire process.

For Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers,” the filmmakers enlisted artist Federico D’Alessandro.  D’Alessandro is the Head Storyboard Artist and Animatic Supervisor at Marvel Studios. He’s currently overseeing storyboards for “Iron Man 3,” but is also known for his work on “I Am Legend,” ”The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” ”Where the Wild Things Are,” ”The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “Thor” and ”Captain America: The First Avenger.”


Federico D’Alessandro, Head Storyboard Artist and Animatic Supervisor, at his desk in Marvel Studios.

“A storyboard artist can progress to working as a director, which is something I always wanted to be. What I enjoy most is having control over how my vision is conveyed to the viewer,” D’Alessandro said in a interview. ”That means not only representing what the scene looks like in my head, but how it feels. When I create an animatic, I want the viewer to have an emotional experience. That means having control over not only the visual storytelling, but the pacing, the sound design and the musical cues. When all of that comes together and I’m able to show the viewer the same scene I imagined, that’s enormously gratifying.”


The battle sequence between Iron-Man and Thor was planned out using storyboards (click image for a larger view).

The Origins of Storyboarding
The storyboarding process was first developed by Walt Disney in the 1930s at Walt Disney Studios. In the biography “The Story of Walt Disney,” Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller remembered that the first complete storyboards were created for the animated short “Three Little Pigs.” The process evolved from “story sketches” that Walt would have artists create to set up key scenes.

Disney artist and animator Webb Smith was credited with the idea of drawing scenes individually and then pinning them to a bulletin board (hence the term “storyboard”). Within a few years, the idea had been adopted by other studios and by 1938 storyboarding was a standard practice.

“Gone With the Wind” (1939) was one of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded. William Cameron Menzies was hired by producer David O. Selznick to design each shot. The great suspense director Alfred Hitchcock relied heavily upon storyboarding, so much so that a myth emerged that he never bothered to look through the camera’s viewfinder to set up any shots.

In addition to storyboards, animatics are also used to help filmmakers visualize the story. Animatics are animated storyboards. These give filmmakers a way to see the action in real time, so shots can be planned.


For a sequence in “The Avengers” in which Black Widow attempts to take down an airborne alien, several drawings were required to convey the action.

Creating the Action
Learning movie making is not as simple as learning to point a camera. There are several skills that go into making a film, including scriptwriting, editing and, of course, storyboarding. Good directors (and for that matter, good filmmakers) understand that it takes more than one person to make a film and to use the latest technology available, while not forgetting the tried-and-true techniques that have worked for years.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

How Did They Create Iron Man’s HUD?

Iron Man’s Heads Up Display (HUD) is one of the cooler effects in “The Avengers.” To create it, filmmakers turned to a special effects house to re-imagine Tony Stark’s new toy.


Robert Downey Jr. plays the billionaire Tony Stark (and Iron Man).

The computer graphics wizards at Cantina Creative were one part of the visual effects team of “The Avengers.” The company helped create not only Iron Man’s HUD but also assisted in the development of the screen graphics for the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, lab sequences (like those featuring Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner) and other cool technology used by Tony Stark.

Making Iron Man Fly
Designer Jayse Hansen of Cantina Creative told fxguide how he created the effects for the Helicarrier’s computers. “I started by researching real aircraft carrier screens and then designing based on what purpose each had…Fury’s screens would be the overall screens and he would have a high-level view of basically everything in the Helicarrier and the world. There would be map screens with globes. It also had security cam footage and video feeds from news footage.”

For Iron Man’s HUD, the digital artists used After Effects to create the visual display that keeps Tony Stark informed on what’s going on when he’s in the air. After Effects is the movie industry standard for adding computer effects to live images and learning After Effects can lead you to a job in the movie industry.


Iron Man’s HUD was created using After Effects (click the image for a larger view).  

Iron Man’s Next Outing?
The success of “The Avengers” assures not only a sequel for “The Avengers” but for Iron Man, too. “Iron Man 3″ is scheduled for release on May 3, 2013.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Marvel’s Plans for The Hulk

The Incredible Hulk has been smashing his way through television and movies since the 1970s and now there’s more green goodness on the way, courtesy of Marvel Studios.

The Hulk teams up with the Avengers.

Mark Ruffalo owns the role of the brooding scientist/wrecking machine in “The Avengers.” So much so, he recently signed on for more movies (six of ‘em, in fact) to play the Hulk. And despite some past headaches with the franchise, Marvel is ready to (yet again) re-start the green machine.

“If Hulk’s successful turnaround continues,” Marvel’s Paul Gitter recently told Forbes magazine, then Marvel “will spin him off to a stand-alone program next year.” A new Hulk movie is slated for 2015. But before that, don’t be surprised if you see the Hulk making some cameo appearances in commercials. Marvel reportedly is interested in having Hulk represent one or more companies in a manner similar to the way that “Peanuts” character Snoopy has become the corporate icon for MetLife Insurance Company.

A new Hulk television show created by film director Guillermo Del Toro, of “Hellboy” fame has also been rumored. Some have wondered how well a Hulk TV show would perform against a new Hulk movie series starring Mark Ruffalo.


The birth of a giant: The Incredible Hulk #1. (Marvel Comics, May, 1962)

The Hulk is a creature of constant change, and he’s gone through quite a bit in the past:

“The Incredible Hulk” (1978-1982) 
The highly-rated television series starred TV icon Bill Bixby as the genetics researcher altered by his experiment. Part of CBS’ Friday night ratings juggernaut (along with “Dallas”), the program ran for 82 episodes over five seasons.

Journeyman TV actor Bixby was the producers’ first choice for the role of Bruce Banner, but much casting went into finding the right Hulk. Arnold Schwarzennegger auditioned for the role was thought to be too short. Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno finally won the role – and three-hour makeup sessions (his green wig was made out of yak hair). After five seasons, CBS sold the TV franchise to NBC, which went on to make three made-for-TV Hulk movies, two of which were directed by Bill Bixby himself.


The original Incredible Hulk: Bill Bixby played troubled scientist David Banner, while Lou Ferrigno dominated the screen as the Hulk in the 1970s TV show of the same name.

“Hulk” (2003)
Directed by Ang Lee, this film was the first time the raging green monster made his way to the big screen. “The Hulk”made an impressive $245 million worldwide but had more than its fair share of film production headaches.

The project began back in 1990 and went through several re-writes (at one time or another, at least ten different screenwriters were working on the project). In addition to Eric Bana, the film featured Sam Elliott, Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte, as Bruce Banner’s father, David. In the end, mixed reviews and upset fans caused the film to be removed from the Marvel Universe…


Eric Bana plays the alter ego of the green giant.

“The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
After Hulk fans expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the 2003 film, Marvel reacquired the film rights and began making a movie that would meet fans expectations. One of those fans was actor Edward Norton, who liked the original comic book, as well as the original television series. When Norton was brought on board the movie (directed by Louis Leterrier), he not only took on the role of Bruce Banner but also served as script doctor, rewriting large chunks of Zak Penn’s script.

The movie grossed $263 million worldwide, scoring $58 million of that from DVD sales alone. As the production began, there became increasing conflict between star Norton and the film’s producers. Eventually it was decided that despite his major acting chops and writing talents, the Hulk franchise and Edward Norton would not work together again.


Edward Norton – a fan favorite – parted ways with the franchise due to conflicts over creative control with Marvel Studios.

“Untitled Hulk Movie” (2015)
Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton in “The Avengers” after negotiations between Norton and the studio broke down. Joaquin Phoenix was also rumored to be considered for the part, but in the end, Ruffalo stepped up and not only played the role, but owned it. For the voice of the Hulk in “The Avengers,” the filmmakers tapped Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the original television show, and who has often voiced him in other versions.


Ruffalo and “the other guy,” his new alter ego, The Incredible Hulk.

Actor Ruffalo spoke about playing the character(s) recently and had this to say, “(Bruce Banner is) a guy struggling with two sides of himself, the dark and the light; everything he does in his life is filtered through issues of control.” What does he think about the “hulking” alter ego? “(He’s) a loose cannon – he’s the teammate none of them are sure they want. It’s like throwing a grenade into the middle of the group and hoping it turns out well!”

It looks like it will turn out well – Ruffalo enjoyed playing the Hulk so much, he has a six-film deal. And based on audience reaction, it appears fans have finally found their not-so-jolly green giant.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Official Trailer: “The Dark Knight Rises”

Barreling upward through floor after floor of Gotham’s blue/gray skyscrapers…the camera rises steadily, acting out the verb in the movie’s title. Then come the words, whispered with urgency. “If you make yourself more than just a man…if you devote yourself to an ideal…then you become something else entirely. A story…a legend.”


Christian Bale suits up for a third – and last – time as Batman, Gotham’s protector.

The rapid-fire action comes hard and heavy—with a caped crusader using superior fighting skills and hot-shot technology to wage a one-man war on crime. There are jaw-breaking brawls. Things are exploding. And we’re getting a better look at “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final installment in director Christopher Nolan’s wildly popular “Dark Knight” series, which releases everywhere on July 20th.

The Bankable Batman
As with “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” the caped crusader will be played with total intensity by Christian Bale and his performance will be supported by Hollywood heavyweights like Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The last Batman movie created a full-blown international sensation. “The Dark Knight” (helped by its IMAX presentation) dominated the 2008 box office, earned more than $1 billion worldwide, and served up Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Sound Editing. That film remains the eleventh highest-grossing movie of all time and features a performance for the ages—delivered by the late Heath Ledger (who won an Oscar posthumously for his performance). His turn as The Joker electrified theater audiences and redefined super-hero villains.


Brains and brawn, Bane (Tom Hardy) brings the pain mentally and physically. 

Bane vs. Batman
This time out, Batman faces the brutal arch criminal Bane, portrayed by actor Tom Hardy. To bulk up for the role, Hardy gained 30 pounds. “Bane, to me, is something we haven’t dealt with in the films,” commented director Nolan. “We wanted to do something very different in this film. He’s a primarily physical villain.”

The actor was even more specific about what Bane is capable of: “The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it’s nasty,” said Hardy in a recent interview. “Anything from small-joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. He is a terrorist in mentality as well as brutal action.”

In one clip, Bane has beaten Bruce Wayne nearly to death, then taunts the caped crusader, “When Gotham is ashes…you have my permission to die.”


Anne Hathaway roars into “The Dark Knight Rises” as Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman.

Trailer Frenzy
The Dark Knight Rises” had some big shoes to fill, but Warner Bros. responded by unlocking its war chest and giving Nolan a $250 million budget for the final installment. In May 2011, Warner Bros. launched the film’s official website and recently released the third trailer for the film.

Like “The Dark Knight” (not to mention Nolan’s “Inception”), the new official trailer for The Dark Knight Rises contains plenty of elaborate set pieces and mind-blowing effects:

Expectations are running high for the third Christopher Nolan Batman film. Will it surpass the whopping billion-dollar box office of “The Dark Knight”? Stay tuned to this Bat Channel…

The End of the Beginning?
One of the most intriguing aspects of Warner Bros.’ marketing of “The Dark Knight Rises” is the slogan on the film’s poster: “The Legend Ends.” Is this the end of Batman? Unlikely, a money-maker like Batman will be rebooted by another director in the years ahead.

Superheroes and movie franchises are constantly being reinvented for new generations of film audiences. Effectively taking beloved characters and relaunching them with today’s latest Hollywood visual effects requires lots of creative energy, as well as a solid education learning how to create special effects. Why not spend your summer at film camp and learn how you take million-dollar ideas and transform them into box-office blockbusters? Maybe in future years we might be lining up for your big Hollywood premiere.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

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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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

A Roundup of Reviews for “The Avengers”

“The Avengers” is officially the biggest comic book movie of all time. Name a box office record and the film has either broken it or is preparing to break it.


“The Avengers” is packed with action…and star power. The cast includes (from left): Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye) and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk).

But what are critics saying about the movie? We gathered comments from some of the nation’s top writers about film and here’s what they had to say about this summer’s mega-movie event…

Peter Travers, movie critic of “Rolling Stone,” had nothing but raves in his review:
“‘The Avengers’ has it all. And then some. Six superheroes for the price of one ticket: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow and the Hulk. It’s also the blockbuster I saw in my head when I imagined a movie that brought together the idols of the Marvel world in one shiny, stupendously exciting package.”

Owen Gleiberman of “Entertainment Weekly” awarded the flick a B+ rating in his critique:
“In terms of storytelling, ‘The Avengers’ is for the most part a highly functional, banged-together vehicle that runs on synthetic franchise fuel. Yet the grand finale of CGI action, set in the streets of New York, is—in every sense—smashing. True, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Michael Bay movie, but no Transformer was ever as transfixing as this leaping, flying, pummeling superteam. It makes you eager to see what they’ll do next, now that they’ve defeated a threat even bigger than their egos.”

In her Avengers review, Associated Press critic Christy Lemire praised the movie, especially the script:
“Whedon has come up with a script that’s cheeky and breezy, full of witty banter and sly pop-culture shout-outs as well as self-referential humor, one that moves with an infectious energy that (almost) makes you lose track of its 2-1/2 hour running time.”

Richard Corliss, of “Time Magazine,” gave the film a generally positive review, due to its sheer entertainment power:
“Reworking Zak Penn’s original ‘Avengers’ script, Whedon sat on his usual impulse to go meta; instead he served as expert mixologist for this all-star cocktail party. The movie guarantees fast-paced fun without forcing anyone to think about what it all means…”


“Hulk smash box-office records!” Ruffalo digitally bulks up for his role as the Hulk.

In his movie review, Michael Phillips of the “Chicago Tribune” gave it 3 out of 4 stars and called it “143 minutes of stylish mayhem”:
“So is this Marvel Comics franchise alumni reunion a full-on Hulk smash? Financially, yes, most likely (‘The Avengers’ is already killing ‘em overseas.) If the film is more solid and satisfying than terrific, so be it. Cleverly, writer-director Joss Whedon combines and recombines its various intramural rivalries. If you were a fan of two or three or more of the movies directly feeding into this one, you’re already planning on seeing ‘The Avengers’.”

Even Roger Ebert, the dean of American film critics, found much to admire in the movie, rating it 3 out of 4 stars in his write-up about the super-hero movie:
“‘The Avengers’ is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy. It provides its fans with exactly what they desire.”

Build Your Own Blockbuster!
It looks like “The Avengers” is well on its way to winning a huge chunk of this summer’s box office. But what about next summer? Young people can start learning the movie industry this summer, thanks to digital filmmaking camps offered by Digital Media Academy, which are taught by seasoned Hollywood professionals using the latest, cutting-edge software. We’ll see you at the theaters this summer for “The Avengers.” And next year, who knows? Maybe we’ll be lining up to see your hit movie.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

More Marvel-ous Movies: Avengers, Captain America 2, Thor 2

“The Avengers” has wowed audiences and broken box offices records. And in the not-too-distant future, “The Avengers” will be joined by even more movies from the Marvel Universe.


“The Avengers” assemble at Comic-Con in San Diego. From left: Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo.

How about an”Incredible Hulk” franchise helmed by Mark Ruffalo? For now, all eyes are turned toward “The Avengers,” which is expected to be the blockbuster of Summer 2012.

Assembling a Cast of Heroes
“The Avengers” trailer features Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Mark Ruffalo (The Incredible Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton), Stellan Skarsgard (Dr. Erik Selvig), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury).

The story, written by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon tells how the Avengers came together to fight Loki and an alien army he brings to Earth to destroy mankind. Whedon wrote the screenplay and directs the film.


On the set of  “The Avengers,” director Josh Whedon looks on while the actors relax between takes. 

The film, which was first announced in 2005 has taken a long road to completion. Originally delayed by the release of “Iron Man” in 2008, “The Avengers” was pushed back to July 2011. Then actress Scarlett Johansson signed on and the film was delayed again to accommodate her schedule.

Fine-tuning the script (which director Whedon rewrote after joining the project in 2010) additionally delayed production. And finally, there was the much-publicized substitution of Mark Ruffalo to portray the Incredible Hulk – after actor Edward Norton left the cast. (Longtime Hulk fans may be pleased to learn that the Hulk’s voice will come from none other than Lou Ferrigno, who played the not-so-jolly green giant on TV back in the 1970s.)

So much for the art of digital filmmaking, still both the studio, cast and director understand the urgency to get it right, because multiple sequels are riding the film’s success, like…

Thor 2
In November 2013, moviegoers can look forward to the arrival of “Thor 2,” which will again star Chris Hemsworth as the hammer-swinging Norse god from Asgard. His last screen outing, 2011’s “Thor,” earned nearly a half-billion dollars ($449 million internationally). Suffice it to say, Marvel already has high hopes for the follow-up film.


Immediately on the heels of “The Avengers,” release, Hemsworth will start shooting “Thor 2.” 

Filming on “Thor 2″ is set to begin late this summer in London and while several big-name directors have been attached to the project, it appears Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones”) will get the assignment. The screenplay is being written by Robert Rodat (“Saving Private Ryan”). Along with Hemsworth, Natalie Portman is scheduled to return for the sequel, along with Tom Hiddleston, who will again portray Thor’s evil brother, Loki.

Captain America 2
Last summer’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” also scored big at the box office, raking in more than $368 million worldwide. The film was a solid hit with critics, too. Critic Roger Ebert wrote, “I admired the way that director Joe Johnston propelled the narrative. I got a sense of a broad story, rather than the impression of a series of sensational set pieces. If Marvel is wise, it will take this and ‘Iron Man’ as its templates.”


The good Captain will return to movie screens in April 2014.

Marvel has been listening. The publisher/studio (now owned by The Walt Disney Company) has been planning a Captain America sequel since before the first film was released, they’ve even camped out a release date: April 4, 2014.

Captain America 2 is rumored to take place mainly in the present day, with the Cap’n adjusting to his new surroundings, although the screenwriters have said they’re experimenting with flashbacks to the World War II period.

Get Your Hero On!
Whether it comes to saving the universe or dominating movie screens, superheroes rule. And today’s superhero movies finally deliver the explosive, larger-than-life hollywood visual effects that comic books can only depict through illustrations. Creating comic book characters isn’t the easy and bringing them to life on screen is even more difficult. We’ll be headed to a theater to see if earth’s mightiest heroes “The Avengers,” really do save the day.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Total Recall Remake & The 5 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

With just a couple of months left in 2011, moviegoers are already looking toward 2012. And why not? 2012 looks to be a banner year for big-screen blockbusters. Not only do superhero fans have The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man to look forward to, but sci-fi fans are anticipating the remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic too.

1. The Avengers (May 4, 2012)

Featuring a comic-book store full of A-list actors, fans are counting down the days until The Avengers premieres.

What do you get when you take the world’s hottest superheroes and assemble them for a film? The Avengers, of course! This spring, Marvel Studios will release a superhero action flick that has been in development for years.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), The Avengers will bring together the superhero talents of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner),  and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


On the set of The Avengers with Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans.

The superheroes are assembled to defeat the extraterrestrial invaders led by the super villian Loki, who has come to earth to destory it. The first film to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, The Avengers is the culmination of years of groundwork by Marvel Studios. Even the actors know the importance of the film in the Marvel movie mythos and stepped up their game too: Actor Jeremy Renner took archery lessons for his role, while actor Chris Hemsworth maintained his two-chickens-a-day diet for his Thor psychic.

Shot in locations around the country like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City, the film promises to blow audiences out of their seats. Need more proof? Check out the official Avengers movie trailer.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012)

If  The Avengers doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Marvel superheroes, The Amazing Spider-Man will.

Spider-Man is no stranger to movie screens, especially after a trio of well-reviewed, record-breaking, big-budget action flicks, which starred Tobey Maguire as the world’s greatest swinger. Now Sony, the studio behind Spidey, are hoping to reboot it for a whole new generation.

The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and this time around Marc Webb is directing the film. The rest of the cast includes Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field as Aunt May and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben.

Garfield, who made an appearance in costume at Comic-Con 2011, is a longtime fan of the comic book; his turn as the web slinger is hotly anticipated by not only screaming 16-year-old girls but by longtime Spider-Man fanboys. Mainly because, like The Avengers, this film will return to the roots of our favorite web-head and will focus more on Parker’s high school experience. Accordingly, the grumpy Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson will not appear in the new movie.

Someone who will be making an appearance, is Marvel Comics genius Stan Lee, who probably created (or co-created) more big-name superheroes than any other comics giant. SPOILER ALERT: “Stan the Man” will have a cameo in the new film as a librarian plugged in to his earbuds and is oblivious to a battle between Spider-Man and arch foe, The Lizard. The Amazing Spider-Man will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D.

3. Total Recall (August 3, 2012)

Collin Farrell takes over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in the new Total Recall.

Easily the most anticipated sci-fi flick of 2012, the much-rumored remake of the 1990 sci-fi/thriller Total Recall casts Colin Farrell in the role of Douglas Quaid, originally played by Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Not a lot of info has been released about the film, but that still hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about why Ethan Hawke makes a cameo. The original film was well ahead of it’s time, from full-body X-ray video machines to wall-sized televisions; the technology alone made it a cult classic. The latest version will continue that trend, with a futuristic look at a nation-state called New Shanghai. The film also stars Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.


On location in Toronto, Canada, this futuristic police cruiser gets a little help chasing down Quaid. 

What won’t be appearing in the new version, which will be directed by Len Wiseman, is the planet Mars, which was the main location of the original movie. Instead, this Recall will take place on earth in nation-states called “Euromerica” and “New Shanghai.” As before, the plot will involve a factory drone (Farrell) who comes to believe that he’s being used as a spy, although at this point we don’t know much more than that.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14, 2012)

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in the prequel to The Lord of The Rings.

It’s time to return to Middle Earth with director Peter Jackson and the characters you fell in love with in The Lord of the Rings. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins must journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim a treasure taken by the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is joined by a group of dwarves, while appearances by new/old friends, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) will keep fans riveted to the screen.

The film itself is eagerly awaited for several reasons, in part because it was in limbo while producer Peter Jackson and the rights were sorted out in a high-profile Hollywood drama. Director Guillermo del Toro (HellBoy, Pan’s Labyrinth) will helm the film.

5. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)

Batman takes on Bane in the latest Dark Knight saga.

Following hot on Spider-Man’s heels in July is Batman – that is, Christopher Nolan’s version of the caped crusader. In what many have said may be the final chapter in Nolan’s Batman series, Batman takes on Bane, another comic-based villain.

With an estimated $250 million budget, The Dark Knight Rises is rumored to be best of the bunch. Two new characters are introduced: Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman, Tom Hardy plays the unstoppable Bane, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays John Blake. The formula must be working, because this is the first Batman trilogy to have the same director and actor (Nolan and Bale, respectively).

Making Movies Super
What other movies can we look forward to in 2012? How about a Star Trek sequel, the 23rd James Bond film and Men in Black 3? Movies are still greatest America’s cultural export, and next year’s crop of blockbusters reflect how important digital filmmaking techniques have become to modern cinema. Learning to use powerful editing software such as Apple’s Final Cut Pro is key to getting a foot in the door at today’s hottest film studios. Creating comic book characters isn’t easy either, and neither is digital filmmaking, but the crop of 2012 films listed here seem ready to take on the challenge. What do you think? Are you looking forward to these films?

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments