Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cowboys and Aliens: Cables for Tractor Beams?

Cowboys and Aliens is a film about "cowboys" in the 19th century fighting off an alien invasion in a town in Arizona. The cowboys and indians theme is so passe and politically incorrect these days, which is probably why the producers of this film opted to go for the far-out story angle - using aliens instead of Native Americans as the bad guys. In fact, in this movie, the Arizona natives help the cowboys out a bit.

Cowboys and Aliens presents extreme contrasts, with 19th century technology against super advanced weapons of destruction from outer space. What can a lowly cowboy do against an alien fighter ship that's got an arsenal of ray guns and grapplers that snag people up into its belly? In the movie, actor Daniel Craig's character has the answer attached to his wrist. It looks like a fancy flashlight, but it's got a secret. But, that's not what this post is all about. It's about the cables used by the aliens in kidnapping people. Why no use tractor beams?

In Cowboys and Aliens, there are scenes where the alien ships kidnap people at random. The victims are lifted up, or rather pulled up, into the air by what appears to be a cable. The cables appear to be those used in movie stunts where a harness is used to support the stunt person or actor, but in the trailer of Cowboys and Aliens, it would seem that the cables are part of the technology used by the aliens. It's strange that cables are used when those aliens are supposed to have technology that gives them command of gravity. The tractor beam is reasonably the better choice. But the producers of Cowboys and Aliens probably opted to use cables instead of optical effects to give the alien ships a more industrial "feel." If that's not the answer, it could be that the special effects people only forgot to digitally remove the cables during post production. =)

Cowboys and Aliens also stars Harrison Ford as a grumpy sheriff-like figure.

Cowboys and Aliens lighting effects blooper 

Cowboys and Aliens trailer

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ryan Reynolds As Green Lantern: Slim Superhero

Ryan Reynolds plays The Green Lantern sans big muscular arms.

Superheroes are supposed to be heavily-built and muscular, right? That's how that always appear in the comic books. But of course, such physical attributes aren't really realistic in real life, so when actors play superheroes like Superman, you can expect their physiques to be less than defined, unless they're computer-generated, of course. But computer-drawn characters are only good for animation, and critics and awards judges may not give the actors who voice and portray them much thought, even when "emotion-capture" technology is used, like in the case of James Cameron's Avatar.

Now here's the Green Lantern movie (starring Ryan Reynolds) that had taken so long to be realized. This DC Comics character is one of those that had to wait for movie-making technology to catch up in order that the effects - particularly those used for the hero's power ring, becomes convincing enough for viewers and not campy and crude. The makers could easily have given Reynolds enough bulk to match the green suit, but instead, they chose to keep the actor's slim body and just "texturize" it with an organic-looking suit generated by the Green Lantern ring. Compared to other super hero characters played by other actors, Reynolds's Green Lantern is relatively slim with lightweight arms.

Is that bad or good? 

Judging by the looks of the character, it's not bad at all. One can imagine how artificial Reynolds's body would be if it's beefed up more with the use of computers. His slim but chiseled look makes him more believable and down-to-earth - like he's a real person who bleeds and uses the ring only to give him a boost, so to speak. Even with lightweight muscles, Reynold's is pretty convincing as The Green Lantern, given the very human attitude he projects. Yes, he's got a sense of humor which lends fun to an otherwise serious movie. Definitely a hit for kids and adults alike!

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is It Resident Evil: Afterlife or Another Matrix Movie?

Scenes from The Matrix series are hard not to recognize. They are very stylized and the visual elements are distinct. Of course there are the black leather outfits, shades, and blazing guns while running. Movie fans would think that Matrix movie visuals would remain with The Matrix and it's spoofs. Who would have thought they will be used in another movie that has no connection with The Matrix? Spoof, yes, but a movie that's should have been unique by itself? It's either the director, or someone in production, must really be a fan or has been involved in the making of The Matrix.

What movie are we talking about? Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. Yes, this installment to the Resident Evil series has Matrix-like imagery and action. If you watch the trailer and didn't know that it was Resident Evil, you will definitely think it's another Matrix movie. It's produced, written, and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, who is really a fan of Ridley Scott. He's made spin-offs of movies like Aliens and Blade Runner - Alien Vs. Predator and Soldier respectively - but it seems he also likes The Matrix so much that he also made Resident Evil: Afterlife matrix-like. It's not at all bad, generally, as long as audiences are still entertained, but some fans are not happy about it. Nevertheless, this movie will still be watched because it uses the same Fusion Camera system of James Cameron that was utilized in Avatar. It should be cool, especially with Milla Jovovich appearing in 3D.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Outstanding Motion-Capture Acting Not Fit for Oscars?

It's already old news that the acting of the cast of the James Cameron all-time blockbuster, Avatar, were ignored by the 2010 Oscar Awards voters and failed to earn nominations. There could be a number of reasons why the Avatar performances were ignored, but what comes at the top is the fact that the movie's characters are "animated" and do not really show the actors themselves acting.

Director James Cameron disagrees. At the Producers Guild Awards, he says people simply confuse what they have done in the film with animation. "It's nothing like animation," he says. "The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator." Co producer Jon Landau agrees with Cameron, saying it was a disappointment, but then he he adds, "I blame ourselves for not educating people in the right way. He explains that the system used in Avatar isn't simply motion capture, but rather emotion capture. He says the breakthrough involves photographing the facial features and expressions of the actors during performances which captures "every twitch and muscle movement."

Watching the cast of Avatar perform as computer-generated characters is really amazing. Even when they didn't look human, their faces definitely showed nuances that could only be portrayed by real actors. In the scene where Zoe Saldana's character, Neytiri, confronts Sam Worthington's, Jake, for betraying her trust, her expression is so real and true you'd feel the alien woman's hurt and denial at the same time. See how Saldana's acting is faithfully captured in the photo on top? For all it's worth, that one scene is already enough to win Saldana a best supporting actress award at the Oscars. Oh, those green dots on her face isn't chicken pox, nor are they bioluminescent Na'vi alien facial dots. They're emotion-capture markers.

But where does this all lead? Will awards organizers recognize and qualify motion-capture acting in future Oscars? Or will there be a new category for the acting awards? What's clear is that with more movies using the kind of motion (or emotion)-capture technology in Avatar, the Oscars may have to adapt with the changing times. In that light, I'd like to add there was a time when actors only performed on a stage. When motion-picture technology came about, the "acting" of the actors was then "captured" by a camera into film rolls which were played in a movie house. I believe critics in those days may have said that "film acting" is not the same as "stage acting." Well, times have changed and life goes on.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

James Cameron Movie on Japan Atom Bombings in the Idea Mill

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (left), the only person officially recognized as the only survivor of the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan was visited by film director James Cameron in the hospital before he died. He was 93. Yamaguchi was on a business trip on August 6, 1945, when the first bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. He suffered serious burns on his body. He went home to his hometown in Nagasaki and the next bomb was dropped there three days after Hiroshima. The city government of Nagasaki mourned him as their precious storyteller.

Cameron was reportedly considering making a movie about the bomb droppings. If we consider Cameron's style, the movie's story may revolve around common people in a tense drama that takes place amidst the bigger historical backdrop of the Second World War. Unlike in the Titanic tragedy where people knew what was coming, in this movie, the event would literally be portrayed to drop like a bomb and tragically change the world and people's lives as it did in history. On the other hand, instead of a period drama, the movie may be a documentary.

The movie may involve Yamaguchi's tale. If it goes into production, we may have a bomb disaster movie like Titanic that's unlikely to bomb. It could be another moneymaker and success story for Cameron, who's worked on film projects about World War 2 before like the Discovery Channel Quest documentary special on the sinking of the German DKM Bismarck.

Story of another Hiroshima Atomic bomb survivor.

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