Wizards of Hollywood

July 11, 2012 | 2:55 p.m.

‘Amazing Spider-Man': The secrets of off-the-wall visual effects

Andrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man." (Columbia Pictures)
What’s the most effective way to depict a teenage superhero swinging through the urban canyons of New York City, trudging through subterranean tunnels and battling a 9-foot humanoid reptile? Such were the questions faced by “The Amazing Spider-Man” director Marc Webb and the visual effects artists at Sony Imageworks. For many key scenes, the answer was to create and animate fully digital environments and actors, which allowed for a great deal of creative freedom but presented their own artistic and practical challenges. We caught up with digital effects supervisor Dave Smith to talk about his team’s vision for Spidey’s return to the big screen. The exclusive video below (narrated by David Schaub, supervisor of additional animation) demonstrates how digital effects were used to bring some of Spider-Man’s classic comic-book poses to life and to re-create New York streetscapes in painstaking detail. HC: […]
July 05, 2012 | 7:58 p.m.

‘Dark Knight Rises': Christopher Nolan takes Batman to new place

The Cardington sheds, home of Gotham City. (Credit: Tony Crowe, courtesy of TheStudioTour.com )
From a distance, Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City sure doesn’t look like much. The “skyline” begins to emerge over the horizon in the rolling green farmlands about 50 miles north of London, but there are no gothic spires or granite citadels, just the slanted, pocked roofs of two boxy metal buildings. But nearing the complex on a winding two-lane road, the immensity of the filmmaker’s make-believe metropolis comes into focus: The structures that looked squat from afar are actually 15 stories tall — and as long as 81-story skyscrapers lying on their sides. Constructed more than 85 years ago to house Britain’s Royal Airship Works, the giant coffin-shaped sheds sat unused or ignored for years, and waiting for some great undertaking, after the nation’s flagship dirigible went down in flames in a horrific 1930 crash in France. The field mice had […]
June 06, 2012 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Transformers’ taking new shape with Universal ride and fourth film

tranformers-ride2a
This post has been corrected. See the note below for details. Film critics who put down Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies by calling them theme-park rides in disguise won’t change their mind after hopping on Transformers: The Ride — 3D at Universal Studios, but they might have a dramatically improved opinion of theme-park rides. The $100-million ride, which officially opened May 24, is being hailed as a game-changer by the reviewers and bloggers who cover such things (yes, there is quite a bit of room on the Internet), and even rivals at Disney Imagineering have, in private, acknowledged that the shiny new kid on the block is pretty impressive and possibly, well, transformative. Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, opening this month, has been the big theme park story this summer due to the scale of the project and […]
May 24, 2012 | 9:46 a.m.

‘Avengers’ deconstructed: Helicarrier, Stark Tower design secrets

The Littoral Combat Ship program influenced "The Avengers" production designer. (United States Navy)
“The Avengers” is closing in on $1.2 billion in worldwide box office and has passed “The Dark Knight” to become the biggest superhero film in Hollywood history. The scale of the movie feels as big as those numbers, and one major reason for that is the work of James Chinlund, the production designer whose credits include Darren Aronofsky films “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream.” The New York native has a fine arts background and studied at Cal Arts but also learned a lot in the pages of Marvel Comics. We caught up with him to talk about making a universe big enough for a cosmic team of box-office heroes. HC: What did you see as the biggest hurdle when you first took on the movie? JC: In May of 2010, when I was first approached by Marvel about the […]
May 24, 2012 | 8:53 a.m.

‘Men in Black 3’: Rick Baker’s ongoing search for alien life

Rick Baker (featured image)
Once you saw past the stage smoke and secret curtain, the great and powerful Oz seemed like a pretty lonely guy whose citadel had too many hallways and not enough heartbeats. It’s hard not to wonder if the same applies to Hollywood wizard Rick Baker, but maybe that’s just because of the giant hourglass and the flying monkeys that decorate his shadowy office. “It’s quiet around here until the next job,” said the seven-time Oscar winner. Baker is the most celebrated creature creator in movie history, but he now has reached a career chapter where he only will take on projects that possess a special challenge or sentimental appeal. This summer Baker is celebrating his 40th anniversary in the business of makeup, visual effects and monster construction — he was an apprentice to makeup master Dick Smith on “The Exorcist.” […]
May 20, 2012 | 12:16 p.m.

Rick Baker’s ‘magic scissors’ made monster movie history

Special makeup effects artist Rick Baker shows off an alien mask his studio created for "Men in Black III" at the Hero Complex Film Festival Saturday. (Alan Heitz / Los Angeles Times handout)
Special makeup effects wizard Rick Baker surprised Hero Complex Film Festival attendees Saturday afternoon, dropping by to answer questions about his prolific career, and carrying an alien head in a garbage bag. Baker, 61, is a seven-time Oscar winner whose credits include “Planet of the Apes,” “Hellboy,” “Ed Wood,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and dozens more. The Q&A — at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles — followed a screening of a featurette about Baker’s work for “Men in Black III,” which hits theaters next weekend. The audience oohed appreciatively as Baker pulled an alien mask from the bag he was toting — one of 127 alien creations for “Men in Black III,” he said. “The aliens are just kind of glimpsed in the background many times, so rather than putting people through the makeup process, a lot of […]
March 09, 2012 | 11:55 a.m.

‘John Carter': Creating Woola, lizard-dog Lassie of Mars

'John Carter' (Disney)
Never work with children or animals, the Hollywood adage goes, because they steal every scene. A fantastical addendum for the Martian action-adventure epic “John Carter” might be: Never work with a 10-legged, giant lizard dog either. Woola, the homely, Martian canine creature called a Calot in director Andrew Stanton’s new Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation, was little-seen in the promotion or marketing for the film, but has emerged as an early fan favorite. “It’s sort a boy and his dog,” Stanton said, explaining Woola’s appeal. “Who wouldn’t want a dog that could run like the Roadrunner in the Warner Bros. cartoons and go that fast?” A kind of Barsoomian man’s best friend, Woola quickly cottons to Taylor Kitsch’s flinty Confederate Civil War veteran, following him loyally across the Red Planet’s sandy dunes. Like his master, Woola travels with unearthly speed. The […]
Jan. 23, 2012 | 12:49 p.m.

‘The Hobbit': Andy Serkis says Gollum is ‘printed into my DNA’

With Academy Award nominations looming Tuesday morning, there’s been a lot of buzz about a possible supporting actor Oscar nod for Andy Serkis, the performance-capture pioneer who played the resistance fighter chimpanzee Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Serkis, who helped put motion-capture technology on the map a decade ago with his portrayal of Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” films, received a Critics’ Choice Movie Award nomination for his Caesar performance, and “Apes” co-star James Franco has been campaigning on his behalf for awards recognition. Hero Complex sat down with Serkis earlier this month in a video chat with readers to talk about “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and his other projects — including Peter Jackson’s upcoming two-part adaptation of “The Hobbit” and Steven Spielberg’s current release, “The Adventures of Tintin” — and what […]
Jan. 06, 2012 | 6:24 a.m.

Action Movie FX: Bad Robot app delivers big bangs for your buck

bad robot
The week before Christmas was a big one for J.J. Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, with the wide release of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” which quickly gave Bad Robot the bragging rights to the biggest hit of the holiday season. But the week was also notable for another landmark: Bad Robot is now in the iPhone app business. The app is called Action Movie FX and it gives users the ability to insert special effects into any video they take with Apple’s smartphone. The two effects included with the app are a missile attack and car smash, allowing anyone to get all Michael Bay on unsuspecting family members, sleeping pets or the guy who cut them off on the 405 Freeway. In an e-mail interview, Abrams called Action Movie FX the first of a “slew” of “cool projects” that his […]
Dec. 14, 2011 | 8:09 a.m.

‘Tintin': Jamie Bell and Nick Frost get ‘loaded into the Matrix’

Tintin (featured image)
Two stars of  “The Adventures of Tintin,” Jamie Bell (who plays the title role) and Nick Frost (who plays Thomson, the daft policeman), joined us Monday night for a free screening of the film in Burbank and talked about working within “the volume,” the performance-capture space that was used by director Steven Spielberg and his crew to create the world of the young adventure hero. Here’s the first video installment of the on-stage interview. Check back for more from Bell and Frost. — Geoff Boucher RECENT AND RELATED ‘Tintin’: A beginner’s guide to the European classic Hergé: An animated (and complicated) life The hopes (and fears) of one longtime ‘Tintin’ fan ‘Tintin’: Spielberg on the Indiana Jones connection ‘Tintin’: Catching up with a globetrotter ‘Tintin’: Spielberg felt ‘more like a painter than ever’ Andy Serkis’ Haddock is ‘shipwreck of a human’ Spielberg touts ‘Tintin’ […]
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