Society of synthetic linguists explain to court, in Klingon, why Klingon shouldn't be copyrightable

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Last month, I wrote about Paramount's lawsuit against Axanar, a crowdfunded Star Trek fan-film. Read the rest

Futurististic computer screens are mostly blue

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Chris Noessel and Nathan Shedroff demonstrated that in movies depicting computers in the future, the screens are mostly blue.

Some interesting exceptions: 1991's Terminator 2 made red popular, and the Matrix Trilogy made green the in thing for a while. But within a couple of years, we were back to blue. And it's been this way since the 60s.

I think that green usually signifies "old" computers, perhaps? The Matrix was clever in that way.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I'm struck by the thought that the first and third Alien movies (which were British haunted house movies, sort of) used green screens, whereas the second one, Aliens (an American action movie) used blue. Google Images isn't entirely helpful.

Guardians of the Galaxy (above) appears, of course, to be both. Read the rest

Scottish Terror on Film: Darkfall

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This week, Kodak and Kickstarter announced a joint venture to support low budget film projects that want to shoot on celluloid (that means real film, as opposed to digital). Of the four films Kodak is supporting, psychological horror movie Darkfall is the most interesting to me.

Written, produced, and directed by my long-time buddy magician R. Paul Wilson, Darkfall returns to the classic filmmaking techniques inspired by our fellow conjuror Georges Méliès—that means using magic methods and illusion secrets in place of modern CGI. Inspired by classic horror movies like Cat People, The Haunting and Halloween, Paul hopes to produce a powerful experience using psychology, audio effects, and “in-camera” trickery to terrify the audience.

Special effects and cinematic storytelling were pioneered by Méliès, whose life story was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s film, Hugo. Méliès produced and directed over 500 films in which he invented new effects and techniques to tell fantastic stories, leaving an invaluable legacy for future filmmakers. Wilson is a huge fan and, during a visit to an exhibit of Méliès’s work in Madrid, it occurred to him to use modern conjuring methods in the same way.

Paul says, “Filmmaking has evolved at an amazing pace and so has the art of magic, but the two have grown apart, especially with the introduction of digital effects. I began to wonder what Georges Méliès would do with modern magic and the idea grew from there.”

The Darkfall story revolves around how perception can be distorted. It’s a supernatural tale with a killer twist inspired by Paul’s time working on television. Read the rest

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a terrible movie, say critics

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The hot trend in Hollywood is to recast fairy tales as gritty, pathos-driven tragic emofeasts: Maleficent was symbolically raped as a youngster, Peter Pan was a lonely British schoolboy, and so forth. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the latest and it's "90% terrible," reports Annalee Newitz.

There is something fascinating, in a purely sociological sense, about watching a movie like this. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones may have reinvigorated epic fantasy filmmaking, but they are also inspiring their fair share of stinky knockoffs. Some of those knockoffs are silly fun, like the first Huntsman film. But this prequel-sequel abomination is barely good enough for hate-watching unless you want to see the purest expression of paint-by-dollars filmmaking to come out this year.

Great Evil Queen outfits, though! Also remarkable is the degree of lifting it does – of images and even phrases — from Game of Thrones. No-one's accusing it of plagiarism; it's just tacky, a dollar-store laser sword with a Star Wars price tag.

Steven Rea appears to be the only critic who likes it, if you'd like a second opinion. Read the rest

TRIPMUNKS: all the CGI Chipmunks movies overlaid, at half speed

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Neil Cicierega took the four (!) Chipmunks movies, superimposed them upon one another, and slowed them down. If CGI remakes of cartoons can be seen as the pigs of our cartoon childhoods ushered into the rendering plant, this is the psychic slime left gluelike under the vats. [via]

Previously: Chipmunk Christmas, slowed down to original speed Read the rest

Just look at this banana chestburster shoop

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Just look at it. Read the rest

The Divide: important new documentary about income inequality based on "The Spirit Level"

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Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson's 2011 book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger was an instant classic for the way it described the impact of wealth inequality on the lives of both poor and rich people, driving them both to completely unsustainable working lives that destroyed their families and made them deeply unhappy. Read the rest

Piracy dooms motion picture industry to yet another record-breaking box-office year

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Once again the MPAA has released its box-office numbers for the year, and once again, this year has smashed all records (as has been the case throughout our young century) (really!). As always, the astronomical rise-and-rise of their fortunes is somehow used to launch a call for more publicly subsidized enforcement against "piracy." Read the rest

How could Lex Luthor beat the import controls on kryptonite?

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The new, evidently terrible Batman vs Superman movie turns on Lex Luthor's evil plan to lobby the US government to grant a variance in its import controls on kryptonite (making the movie part of the pantheon whose creators bravely decided to make the major plot points revolve around regulation, see, e.g., the Star Wars prequels). Read the rest

Inside Industrial Light & Magic's virtual reality lab

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Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB) is a newly-formed supergroup of artists, engineers, sound designers, and storytellers prototyping the future of interactive, immersive cinema for Lucasfilm. Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, I wrote about my visit to the xLAB where The Force is quite strong:

"The way we do technology development here is really hand-in-hand with the creative goals,” says (Lucasfilm CTO Rob) Bredow. “The R&D is always in service to the story.”

For example, to port the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars film universe into the interactive realm, the Advanced Development Group engineers first had to figure out how the VR hardware could render the massive 3D model in just milliseconds, compared with hours or days for a film shot. Then Skywalker Sound built a surround system that realistically rumbles and whooshes as a Corellian starship should. Meanwhile, game designers and the storytellers hashed out the most compelling way for a Jedi-in-training (you) to battle an army of Stormtroopers with a lightsaber.

"THE SUPERGROUP REMAKING STAR WARS AND JURASSIC WORLD IN VR" (Bloomberg Businessweek) Read the rest

Watch Jurassic Park, the delightful nature documentary

A feel-good film for the whole family. (Mashable)

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Review: 'Pee-wee's Big Holiday' (loved it)

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Last night my eight-year-old daughter and I enjoyed Pee-wee's Big Holiday. This is a fantastic return for Pee-wee Herman, and Paul Reubens has done a masterful job. Pee-wee's charm, innocence, and awesome moral compass are still keeping him out of trouble, despite a cast of delightfully troublesome characters that pop up along the way.

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Movie scenes before CGI effects often look very odd and ridiculous

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Above, "Game of Thrones" before the computer graphics.

Guardians of the Galaxy:

Pirates of the Caribbean:

Life of Pi:

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse:

See more at Design You Trust. (via Neatorama) Read the rest

Read Gene Wilder's feedback on Willy Wonka costume concepts for the 1971 film

After Gene Wilder saw early sketches of his costume for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, he had some strong opinions to share with director Mel Stuart. From Letters of Note (via Dangerous Minds):

July 23rd

Dear Mel,

I’ve just received the costume sketches. I’ll tell you everything I think, without censoring, and you take from my opinion what you like.

I assume that the designer took his impressions from the book and didn’t know, naturally, who would be playing Willy. And I think, for a character in general, they’re lovely sketches.

I love the main thing — the velvet jacket — and I mean to show by my sketch the exact same color. But I’ve added two large pockets to take away from the svelt, feminine line. (Also in case of a few props.)

I also think the vest is both appropriate and lovely.

And I love the same white, flowing shirt and the white gloves. Also the lighter colored inner silk lining of the jacket.

What I don’t like is the precise pin pointing in place and time as this costume does.

I don’t think of Willy as an eccentric who holds on to his 1912 Dandy’s Sunday suit and wears it in 1970, but rather as just an eccentric — where there’s no telling what he’ll do or where he ever found his get-up — except that it strangely fits him: Part of this world, part of another. A vain man who knows colors that suit him, yet, with all the oddity, has strangely good taste.

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Dire Straits' "Walk of Life" is the best ending to any movie

Above, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Below, "The Graduate," "The Shining," and "Star Wars: A New Hope." Many more at The Walk Of Life Project" (via WAXY)

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See Spiderman in the new Captain America: Civil War trailer

I like how cartoony Spidey looks but he's got nothing on his late-1970s predecessor seen below.

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Movie cuts and transitions 101

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I enjoyed learning about match dissolves, cross cuts, jump cuts, fades, and many other movie cuts and transitions. The video uses examples from famous movies. Read the rest

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