Movie Magic: The Black Panther (Captain America: Civil War)

These days as a mover goer I know full well that practical effects combined with CGI can create virtually any type of effect imaginable. 

Though what I find infinitely more interesting is when a movie’s special effects are so seamless that I don’t know that what I happen to be looking at is a special effect, which brings me to Captain America: Civil War.  


There were two scenes where I recall the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was a full-on CGI character: when he was sliding down the side of a building when chasing the Winter Soldoer (Sebastian Stan) and another when he was slowing hinself down after momentum carried him beyond the Soldier in a second confrontation.

Beyond those two instances, I assumed that the character–as well as many of the locations–were entirely practical.  

Imagine my surprise to learn that virtually every scene featuring the Panther had three or four layers of CGI over a practical stuntman, and most of the locations were CGI enhanced as well!

Movie magic indeed.  


Zoombies – Review

While I’m cobbling together a review for Captain America: Civil War–which won’t probably be ready before Saturday–I figured that I might as well write up something for Zoombies, which turned recently up on Netflix.

Despite the title they’re no zombies present–of either the human or animal variety (though you probably noticed the extra ‘o’ in the title, which isn’t a misspelling.  That’s what you get when you combine the word ‘zoo’ with ‘zombies’) in the entire movie.

Instead what we get is a movie in the vein of Outbreak and Contagion, combined with the premise of Jurassic Park.

And seeing that we’re talking about The Asylum, it goes without saying that it’s going to be almost painfully bad.

The CGI–which is used for virtually every animal in the movie–is initially decent, but gets progressively worse pretty fast.  The acting is on a continuum from decent to terrible, and like the CGI, trends toward the latter.

Though what’s worse is that it could have been at least decent if they’d abandoned the Jurassic Park parody, minimize the often horrid CGI (which would mean that while there would be less of it, that which remained would be of better quality) and send the script though a few more rewrites then you might have something that is at least interesting and people would watch for more reason than to see how bad it was going to be.



Gods Of Egypt – Trailer 2

I meant to post the latest Gods Of Egypt trailer yesterday.  I didn’t because I haven’t gotten around to changing my iMac’s hard drive–I don’t own any Torx screwdrivers, though I intend to remedy that over the weekend. 

As a result this is my first post made entirely on an iPad.  From images to video, it’s all assembled with the (free) WordPress application. 

And while the controls don’t feel as precise as I am accustomed to dealing with, it does the job admirably. 

As I’ve said before, Alex Proyas is a talented director, but as far as I am concerned there’s nothing about this trailer that makes me want to see Gods Of Egypt

And that’s not to say that the visuals, though a bit gaudy at times, aren’t up to snuff because we’re talking about Alex Proyas here, who’s other movies (The Crow, Dark City, I Robot) also tended to be effects-heavy. 

Never mind white-washed Egypt (my intent is not to minimize diversity behind and in front of the camera, though there are far more knowledgable people writing about that very thing) more so than a narrative that  appears to be one we have seen before:  a young person faces near-insurmountable odds in an effort to stop an evil from taking over the world. 

It’s a story older than Star Wars because it works, though the key to using such a well-worn trope effectively is that people can’t immediately know that what you’re throwing at them they have seen–in one form or another–hundreds, if not thousands of times prior. 

And that’s where Gods Of Egypt falls short: Despite that it’s not yet been released in theaters, it already feels too familiar. 

The Legend of Tarzan – Trailer

I’ll readily admit that when I learned that Warner Bros. was making a movie based on Tarzan, I seriously wondered if Kevin Tsujihara was a bit out of his mind.

After all, Tarzan has turned up numerous times–which leads me to believe that the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs is in the public domain–but he’s not easy to make not only relevant, but grounded in a convincing reality.

Another potential minefield is that Tarzan can be, depending upon the approach, uber-offensive, racially speaking (and I know skin color is a differentiator of personhood only in the dictionary of racists and people with an eye for the obvious, but it’s the language we use) though I am curious as to how the character will be approached.

The trailer looks good, though there’s apparently a bit of CGI that looks like CGI; never a good thing.

But it looks epic enough, which should help with box office returns, though I have a sneaking suspicion that Warners may have another flop on their hands.

Postmortem: The Thing (2011)

With John Carpenter’s The Thing–based on Christian Nyby’s 1951 movie The Thing From Another World and the original John Campbell short novel, Who Goes There?–we got to see a director at the peak of his powers.  Carpenter was able to combine Rob Bottin’s extraordinary creature effects with a taut story of an otherworldly threat that had the ability to mimic whomever it killed.

So you can imagine that when Universal Pictures decided to do a sequel in 2011–without Carpenter’s input–that fans would probably not be too keen on it.

And that’s a bit of an understatement, with many–myself included–hating the movie on general principal.

Having recently re-watched Matthijs van Heijningen’s prequel, it’s actually pretty good.  And while I wished that it had more in the way of practical effects–though as far as I can tell the CGI is based on designs from Alec Gillis and Bob Woodruff (who are credited) and while it’s not as innovative as the practical special effects of Rob Bottin, They’re okay.

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Warcraft – Official Trailer

Universal and Legendary released their official Warcraft trailer, and it’s a HUGE improvement over the teaser.  That’s the good news; the not-so-good news is that–at least in the trailer–the CGI is looking particularly gamey, as in video gamey.

That’s not to say that it looks bad, but the Orcs don’t look as realistic as Hulk from Avengers: Age Of Ultron, either (and I am aware that orcs aren’t real, but you know what I mean) and live comfortably in the uncanny valley.

What I am also not seeing is it being a huge hit, which I attribute to the timing of the release more than anything else (if this came on the heels of the Lord Of The Rings movies it might be a different story) though I am not sure that Legendary wanting a movie to be an event is the same as the movie actually being an event.

We’ll see.

Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm – Puppet Movement Tests

I am genuinely psyched for movies like Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice but what I am even more interested in is something that we won’t be seeing on the big screen, and that’s Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm.

Originally sold by creators Anderson and John Needham to a Japanese company, it was developed into anime.  The rights have reverted back to Anderson’s estate, and his son, Jamie, is developing it into a series.

To anyone familiar to Anderson’s productions, a strong suit tends to be the technology on display, and Firestorm won’t be any different( if the cartoon inspired by Anderson and Needham’s work is any indication).  That being said, I am more interested for what has been absent from Anderson’s productions for a long while, and that’s actual puppets.

Below is a motion test, where they’re putting one through its paces, and it looks glorious.  There’s something about an actual object–as opposed to an accumulation of pixels–that’s so cool.  And sure, there’re lots of things that you can do with CGI that you can’t with puppets (though they benefit from improvements in technology like anything else), but I am okay with that because hopefully it will never turn to an either or type of situation.

Puppetry reminds me of a something hand-crafted, that refuses to go easily into the mists of time.  As a result, it manages to be retro and and modern all at the same time, and I can’t wait to see it.