Sunday, December 20, 2009

What It's Like to Watch Avatar in IMAX

Director James Cameron's science-fiction visual opus, Avatar, was highly anticipated in 2009 not so much for it being his first film since the blockbuster Titanic, but primarily because of its use of his new IMAX Fusion Camera System developed in large part by his company, Hemdale Pictures. Unlike the old IMAX camera, Cameron's version mimics the way the eyes focus and promises a new visual treat that plays well with the eyes.

Apart from the new IMAX camera, Cameron also used a more advanced performance capture technique popularized by director Robert Zemeckis in films like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. This advanced system allowed more of the subtle actions and expressions of the actors and actresses to be captured for the animated characters to display.

Cameron promised realism in Avatar, a film that mostly has computer-generated images and characters. It can be hard to tell which things are real and which are not. And even when you know that the blue-skinned N'avi are animated, you don't think it while watching the movie. The texturing, expressions, movements, and other subtle nuances that let you "know" what you're watching is real, are all present and there's hardly a moment in the film where you'll say, "Hey, that looks computer-animated!" But, you may notice that the N'avi don't sweat (or it wasn't obvious) even when they should.

In an IMAX theater, you see everything bigger than life. The sharpness of the picture together with the brightness of the projector and the surround sound, all make for a convincingly and virtually real experience in the confines of a theater. All you have to do is keep your head straight with your eyes looking straight ahead at the screen. But at nearly three hours long, it can be a really tiring show and the viewer's bottom and neck will definitely experience discomfort after an hour or so. When the back of your neck starts to tire, you'd likely look for a knob under your seat to make the backrest lean back a bit. But of course, you'd not find it and you realize that you have to endure the discomfort until the movie ends.

Avatar also has plenty of camera movement. It's not a lot, and they're never overdone. These make action scenes more dramatic and dynamic, but in big-screen IMAX 3D, the viewers will experience the kind of motion sickness felt when riding a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and octopus rides. If you've ever experienced being stuck in traffic and thought that your car is moving backward, when in fact, it's the vehicle next to you that's moving forward, then you have an idea of the kind of motion sensation you can experience in Avatar. It's also like the sickness you will feel when playing a first-person shooter (FPS) game for the first time.

The aerial sequences in Avatar can cause nausea and viewing the movie in IMAX will magnify this sensation, especially when the camera spins. In the opening scenes, for example, our space travelers wake up inside a space ship and the camera slowly swivels - making you feel like you're also weightless in space. Director Cameron kept the slow spins to no more than two or three seconds, but they're enough to make your head spin just slightly and make you close your eyes for fear that you'd vomit on the floor. For those viewers who like to play FPS video games, this sensation may not manifest as they are already used to that kind of visual effect.

An hour and a half in IMAX is enough to make you realize that Avatar is making you sick. You may tend to close your eyes more often for some dizzying scenes. But the need to do this becomes less as the story and the action picks up. There could be a number of reasons why you'd feel less nauseous and one explanation is that your body could be masking the dizziness as it emotionally responds to what's happening on the screen, and there's a lot to see!

The story of Avatar isn't really unique. You've seen it before in Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves and the ending can be predictable with problem resolutions anticipated from previous story element revelations. But it's watching the whole story getting to the end that's the thrill of Avatar in IMAX. If you last without puking, then you'll likely get your money's worth, if it's just to see the new face of 3D movies that began with Avatar. Don't worry, Cameron said that if the first one is does well, there's likely going to be a second and a third one. Let's hope he makes the scenes less sickening with less camera spins and movement. Audiences would definitely prefer to be entertained more than sick in a movie house.

This is a limited edition artwork of one of Avatar's aerial battles. It's a paper giclee and limited to only 125 pieces worldwide. It's illustrated by Ryan Church, and comes with a certificate of authenticity. Click here or on the image to make this a part of your collection. Or, if you prefer, you can get this fine action figure of Neytiri. Click here or on her to make your purchase!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hidden R2-D2 In J.J. Abram's Star Trek Found

R2-D2 of Star Wars seems to have become a favorite robot to cameo in films. The cute but precocious robot has appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark before (left) together with circuit-buddy C-3PO (do you see them?), but that film's also by George Lucas. This time, however, it's been included by J.J. Abrams in his Star Trek prequel (above; click image to view larger picture). Everyone knows that there's always been the debate on which space opera franchise is better - Star Wars or Star Trek. Now, Abrams' seems to want to bring the fans of the two franchises together as one happy family.

R2D2 only appears in the battle scene for a split second and it took the Gizmodo blog a while to find it. People who have watched the recently released DVD in slow motion also claimed seeing the droid gliding through space amidst the chaos, as if it has an "it's been there and done that" attitude.

Hidden things, or "Easter eggs" are fun, and Disney often uses them in it's movies, sneaking in Mickey Mouse's ears in scenes. Now other producers are also doing it and it seems the guys at Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) special effects company are having lots of fun doing it. It helps in marketing, no doubt about it, and it's also become part of the off-theater entertainment of films, now that portable movie players are easily available and now that movies are easily viewed, replayed, and watched repeatedly online.

Did I mention that R2-D2 also has a cameo in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (above; effects also by ILM) and that director Lucas also added a cameo of E.T. in The Phantom Menace? Wouldn't you like to see a "Where in Space Is R2-D2?" book published?

Yes, R2-D2 is everywhere and it seems he can also be there beside your computer as a nifty USB hub! Click here or on the image to place your order.

Want to read about more cinema secrets? Click here to go to the Cinema Secrets blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monsters in Clash of the Titans Inspired by Guillermo del Toro's Palm-Eyed Monster in Pan's Labyrinth?

Monsters come and go in movies, but great monsters never leave people's imaginations and inspire other designs of movie monsters. Take for example the palm-eyed monster in Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (left). That's a creepy one and a lot of people will agree that it's horrific with an eyeless head, loose pale skin, and palms with eyes that should have been on the face, which this creature doesn't have. This monster apparently inspired the monsters in the new Clash of the Titans (2010).

Here are the monsters (there's a horde of them) in the re-imagining of the 1981 classic, Clash of the Titans. There's another picture on top that shows a palm-eye. There's no mistaking the resemblance to the del Toro monster. It's definitely inspired by the one in Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro has a fascination for creepy eyes. But while the one in the Guillermo del Toro masterpiece looks gaunt and sedentary, these "gourd" creatures in Clash of the Titans are warriors. They're like the orcs in The Lord of the Rings - mean and fearless.

We can only wonder how these monsters are able to see and fight at the same time if they are wielding weapons in both hands. I guess they carry only one weapon at a time. The hair and forehead kind of reminds us of John Lithgow. Another inspiration, perhaps? Just kidding. Anyway, despite the resemblance to the Pan's Labyrinth creature, the "gourd" monsters are still scary and effective in this movie. Clash of the Titans (2010) stars Sam Worthington (Avatar) as Perseus, Alexa Davalos (The Chronicles of Riddick) as Andromeda, and Gemma Arterton (The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) as Io.

This is the toy version of Sam Worthington's Perseus. He looks mean, but at least he's also cute as a vinyl figure with five points of articulation. Click here or on the image to place your order.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Talk of a Manny Pacquiao Hollywood Biopic - Probable Cast: Johnny Depp as Pacquiao?

After Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao's huge win over Puerto Rican slugger, Miguel Cotto, there's been talk on who could possibly play Pacquiao in a Hollywood movie biopic (if such a movie is ever made). With the popularity of Pacquiao rising like a tsunami, it's likely that there will be a Hollywood movie about his life in the future. But who are the actors and actresses who can play Pacquiao and the people around him?

During training at Coach Freddie Roach's (left) Wild Card gym, actor Mickey Rourke came in for a visit. A documentary or news report on Pacquiao was also being filmed and he joked about him playing the now famous trainer "ten years from now". Those are the actor's own words. Rourke was apparently kidding about Roach's old age. Rourke is a frequent visitor to Roach's gym and has watched Pacquiao train in ad out of the ring.

Rourke (left) used to be a professional boxer and had Roach as a trainer. They became good friends in the partnership. A lot of the boxing equipment in Roach's Wild Card gym came from Rourke after he retired from his brief career in boxing. Pacquiao certainly made good use of them in his bid to become the only boxer to win seven titles in seven different weight divisions.

Anyway back to the Pacquiao movie. One likely pick on who can play "the Pacman" convincingly, even if he's not Asian, is actor Johnny Depp. This actor is so versatile. He can easily morph his appearance, character, and manner of speech as he sees fit for a character. He's played so many interesting characters in his career, like in the movies of director Tim Burton, there's no doubt about his acting abilities.

Depp (left) certainly has what it takes to play Manny Pacquiao very well. If you compare his appearance to Pacquiao's, you can see that he can definitely pull it off, especially with his mustache and goatee. While it's true they do not really look alike, Depp will only need to trim his hair a bit and add a little makeup, and you've got a Manny Pacquiao character for a Hollywood movie. Depp and Pacquiao even have the same taste for hats!

Another actor who's been picked by don in Yahoo! Answers, is Jason Scott Lee, who's also Asian like Pacquiao. Lee, who's more Chinese than South East Asian, also has what it takes to play the Filipino champion. He's already played Bruce Lee before and has the physical attributes of a boxer already that would look good on film.

Well, a Pacquiao movie will not be complete without the boxer's mother, who's popularly known in the Philippines as "Aling" Dionisia (left). The Pacman's mom is known to pray the rosary every time her son has a match. After the fight against Cotto, she asked her son to call it quits. It's really a dangerous sport. The role is right for actress Victoria Principal.

We all know beautiful Victoria Principal (left) from the hit series Dallas from the 1980s. She only needs to change her hairdo, add some defining features, and she's perfect. Of course, as she'd be catering to a Western audience, her looks would likely be tailored to meet expectations in a Hollywood movie. You can view another picture of Victoria Principal here.

Of course, if the mother's there, the wife, Jinkee Pacquiao (left), should also be a major character in our hypothetical movie. She's always there to support her husband in his fights and played a big role in his success. The ideal actress for this part is undoubtedly Fairuza Balk. Most of you will remember her from the witchcract movie, The Craft.

Fairuza Balk (left) can obviously play Mrs. Jinkee Pacquiao very well. They already look alike to start with. In fact, if you didn't know Fairuza is an actress, you'd swear she's the sister of Jinkee. With or without makeup, they look alike enough to be twins! You'll see the resemblance even more in the couple of pictures that follow below. The difference in eye-color can be fixed with colored contact lenses.

There are lots more characters around Manny Pacquiao who we can choose our favorite actors and actresses to play these roles. Floyd Mayweather, for example, can be played by Will Smith. Not everyone will agree, but Smith is still a good choice since he already played legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Another pick by cessyboo in Yahoo! Answers is Jamie Fox. But until Manny and Floyd "Money" fight, there might not be a story that's worthwhile enough to be turned into a movie. If there's ever going to be a Manny Pacquiao movie, it's likely going to be made many years from now.

Great boxers are honed by time. Let this wall clock remind you of that fact. Click here or on the image to place your order.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

People Look for the A.I. Teddy Bear Toy

It's been a long while since the movie A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) was released (2001). It was a tag team project between directors Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick (who failed to see completion of the movie; he passed away in 1999). It was based on the short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long by award-winning science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss.

The way a short story was made into a full length feature film is amazing enough, but what's more amazing is how Teddy, the robotic teddy bear in the story was made real using motion-capture technology and other mechanical special effects wizardry by the Stan Winston Studios.

Teddy, the "mecha" robot toy bear voiced by Jack Angel, is really smarter elbeit unemotional compared to David, the robot boy, in the movie. He served as David's "Jiminy Cricket" sidekick in the movie. Cute, cuddly, and animated, it was a toy that movie-goers sought to have. The problem was that the commercial toy based on the character was difficult to find and even years after the movie, people have been looking for that robot bear toy. Fact is that a toy based on the A.I. bear was created but it wasn't released in the U.S. and was limited.

The toy "A.I. Teddy" bear is now a collector's item. It was made by Tiger/Hasbro Electronics (where Furbies came from) and can be found in the this link: Rare electronic toy based on A.I. movie Teddy bear. It's not exactly an exact duplicate of the movie Teddy with its lighter-colored fur and less defined facial contours (like the flame-shaped tuft on the forehead), but it does talk with a similar electronic voice. The toy did not target young children due to the adult nature of the film, but it is now a movie collector's dream.

here is an A.I. developer's attempt to make a teddy bear that moves its mouth while talking: Talking mouth A.I. teddy bear plans

Here is a link to a talking GPS teddy bear for the car that points the driver in the right direction: GPS car navigation A.I. teddy bear

Here's A.I.'s Teddy from Pepsi and Warner Bros.: A.I. plastic Teddy dangle

Here is a real robot bear with no skin or fur: Hykim the robot bear

Watch the end part and theme song music video of the movie A.I.

A.I. movie ending clip

A.I. theme song MTV - For Always by Lara Fabian

This may not be the A.I. Teddy, but this is still one of the cutest and most lovable 11-inch teddy toys out there! Click here or on the image to place your order now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scrat from Ice Age Sighted in Original A Nightmare on Elm Street Poster

I came upon this classic poster of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street poster in Wikipedia and I saw a familiar face in it. It's the bug-eyed creature at the top left. I don't know exactly what it is but it looks like our lovable and clumsy fanged squirrel Scrat from the Ice Age movies!

Who could have known that the saber-toothed squirrel was already active in show business as early as 1984, when the original Nightmare written and directed by Wes Craven came out. Interestingly, that was also star Johnny Depp's first feature film.

The reemagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) is directed by Samuel Bayer and stars Jackie Earle Haley in the role of Freddie Kreuger. He also played Rorschach in Watchmen.

Who would not choose a Freddy Krueger costume for Halloween when they have these metal claws of the nightmare crasher himself! Yes, they're metal and as nasty-looking as the prop in the movie! Click here or on the image to place your order.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aliens Are Green and Time Travelers Are Naked

For a long time, we've all known that aliens are green, right? But who ever told us that? The entertainment industry, of course! It's what's been popularized all through these years with science-fiction shows and movies like Star Trek depicting aliens as green. Well, things may have changed a bit in how aliens are portrayed (there's more variety these days), but the idea of aliens being green has stuck and even the latest Star Trek directed by J.J. Abrams had a green alien girl making out with Captain Kirk as a nod to the original green girl (see photos at left) in the first series.

Keanu Reeves played a green alien in the updated version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. What? Reeves' character wasn't green in that movie? No, his character was so "green" that he was willing to get all humans destroyed just to save the Earth. His character was the ultimate "green" environmentalist! Just kidding.

Anyway, it's funny how some pop culture things like aliens get a definite look that we've all come to accept as "true" just because we often see them depicted in the same manner in television shows and movies. Apart from aliens, there's also time travelers who are now beginning to be popularly shown as naked after traveling through time. I think it all began with the Terminator series where they had Arnold Schwarzenegger naked just to show his bodybuilder body and perhaps to solve some problems in the storytelling.

A recent movie starring Eric Bana also depicted the time traveler as naked. It's called The Time Traveler's Wife and it's about how a wife copes with life with a time traveler for a husband. It's a love story and while the ending is predictable, it's really an interesting one when you realize just how much is possible if a husband can travel through time and visit you as an old or younger version who's not yet married.

There won't be any big spoilers here but it's interesting to note how the writer (the movie's originally a novel) just had to make Bana travel in time naked. Is this a trend now for movies with individual time travelers? It's funny that when Bana's character sires a daughter, the girl appears to be able to travel with her clothes on and is able to control the time and place of her destination.

So these days we now have green aliens and naked time travelers in movies. What are the other things that you think are starting to be popularized by the entertainment industry that may soon be regarded as the stereotypical "norm" in the coming years?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This is FilmTake Reviews

FilmTake Reviews takes up the topic of movies from the viewer's perspective - mostly mine - instead of the usual commercial hype. Movies will not always be viewed through rose-tinted glasses. It's a fact that there are lots of movies out there that some people may consider good and there are those that some may consider as bad. But it's really just a matter of personal choice. Generally, movies serve to succeed in entertaining audiences, no matter what people's opinions about them are.

Take for instance the three Star Wars prequels. Fans of the old trilogy had a lot to say about the origin story of Darth Vader. Most said it wasn't necessary and that the prequels ruined the franchise. George Lucas, on the other hand, said the last three movies were part of his grand plan for the series and that they were "just movies" that shouldn't be taken seriously. Despite the mixed reactions, the movies still earned a lot of money and fed the associated franchise business with more fuel to burn for many years to come.

Another example is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Old fans also didn't like it and advised other fans to pretend it didn't exist. It still made a lot of money nevertheless and was still good entertainment for a new generation of viewers. Movies will still be movies and people will still be watching and making money from them no matter what reviews they get and llong after their time on the silver screen has passed.

Well, there will be more posts later. This is but a teaser of bigger posts to come. Enjoy your stay and have some popcorn and soda.


The Ark of the Covenant is lost, but you don't have to lose your money in this replica of the Raiders of the Lost Ark Ark of the Covenant bank. Yes, this ark may not the Ten Commandments, but it certainly can carry ten dollars. Click here or on the image to purchase.