Tag Archives: CGI

Special Effects you won’t believe were done for real

Here at The Filmsmith we have a great love for all the hours that go into practical special effects, those pieces of wizardry that aren’t created by computer animators.  These guys have to battle the restrictions of the real world (time, space, gravity) in order to do their job well, because when they do, you feel the term movie magic.  So here are some of the highlights from Cracked’s, “8 Special Effects You Won’t Believe Aren’t CGI.” Continue reading

Tron Legacy as sterile as its environment

Over the last decade, blockbusters have been slowly leaving the big kid’s pool of the summer season to capitalize on Holiday ticket sales and a schedule usually clogged with award winning dramas and foreign films (and less blockbuster competition). This December, Disney rolls out a sequel to a film released almost 30 years ago. The results?  Fun to look at, but lacking narrative pulse. Continue reading

Summer Movies: July-August (Part I)

Immediately following my coverage of the 2010 Edinburgh International Film Festival, my wife and I packed our tiny flat and moved back to the U.S.  We spent a month home and then finally moved to Iowa where she is now working on her PhD.

Thus, the summer was very busy and scattered; I left many films in my wake with nary a commentary post.  I will now provide a quick rundown of what you should check out and what you should chuck out. Continue reading

How they shot Inception’s hallway scene without CGI

Back in February I had a chance to talk with one of the crew members from Inception.  Turns out that hallway fight scene was not CGI, they did that for real:

However, more interesting were his comments on Christopher Nolan (a bit chaotic in his shooting style), since he worked with him on Inception and The Dark Knight. He showed me a video of the rig they used for a hallway scene in the film, which was larger than a semi-truck’s trailer, that completely rotated. He went on to explain that they rubberized everything inside and painted it so the actors inside could roll around and fight. They also locked down a camera inside the hallway and used a camera crane that could go inside the moving rig. Evidently I’m one of the only guys outside of the film industry to see his little cell phone video of this rig.

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“Predators” is a damn fine sequel to the original

The original Predator (1987) is one of those films that is a defining moment for masculinity.  I saw Predator when I was 8 years old and the mixture of mass muscled men, “bad” words, bullets, and bravado introduced me to what it meant to be male. The film is not a traditional work of art, but like director John McTiernan’s Die Hard, Predator is a quintessential action/sci-fi film. Continue reading

“Monsters” leaves audiences in shock and awe

When you start watching films for a living, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” becomes the haunting muzak filling the background of your consciousness.  Films quickly pile up in the mediocre category, with few hitting genius, or even atrocious levels.  When Monsters finished, however, I was covered with goose bumps and wanted nothing more than to sit quietly in the dark to mull it over. It is a film so powerful, fascinating and personal that it is a celluloid definition of why we go to the cinema.

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Animated film The Illusionist is must see cinema

When Pixar’s Up! came out I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.  Both Up! and Wall-E strayed into dark, adult thematic areas, but had to hop over to the kid’s table to maintain commercial viability.  Thankfully, there are countries in the world where animation is held in equal regard to traditional filmmaking.  The Illusionist is filled with a romance and poignancy that hits you in the gut and lets you deal with it sans cute adventuring.  Thank God.

The year is 1959 and the world hasn’t become completely dominated by English as the “universal” language.  When a French magician sets out to the U.K. to find work, he finds himself at a small village in Scotland, entertaining Gaelic speaking revelers.  After his routine, one of the girls maintaining the inn becomes enchanted by his fancy handiwork.  Separated by their respective lingua francas, the pair interact via noble gestures and find themselves in Edinburgh, where he practices his magic, and she eyes shop displays…

Directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) and written by Jacques Tati, this tale of characters connected without language and destroyed by globalization, is a film for which the term “gut wrenching experience” was created and is made all the more fascinating by its audacious move to be silent.  I don’t mean pre-sound film recording silence, but that one full sentence is uttered in the entire film.  Chomet brilliantly uses this silence to convey humor and the undiluted sentiments of his characters.  Though this may sound daunting, we forget film is a visual medium after all, and Chomet knows how to milk it for all it’s worth (this is not a film for people who enjoy the exposition lane on the film freeway).

Chomet spent five years working on The Illusionist, even creating a production studio in Edinburgh to handle the work.  The visuals are beautiful,  accurately capturing the awe inspiring presence of the Scottish Highlands, but it’s also a love letter to Edinburgh, with its attention to detail and an array of famous locations on full display.*

Unfortunately, I must also add that there are some uncanny valley moments.  1) I could swear they used some motion capture to get some movements realistic, which could be unsettling when combined with an animated human. And 2) All moving objects look removed from their settings.  Sure, you watch old school Disney films and objects that move are brighter and the still background is darker–but my unease stemmed from something different.  Instead of both background and character being hand drawn, the involvement of computers elbows the animations into another area that doesn’t blend well.  These are some of the issues I picked up on, but it still didn’t completely undercut the stunningness of the world presented.

The film’s message, “We’re all waiting for our talents to be exploited by capitalism and our relationships replaced by consumer objects,” is the type of damning conclusion that settles in your belly with its veracity. Spending almost an hour and a half with these characters without words provides a unique window into their psyche, which is how The Illusionist pulls off its sucker punch coupe commentary in a  believable and  un-soap box manner.

The Illusionist‘s engrossing visuals and intelligent message trumps the $400 million dollar wizardry of Avatar, but is accessible to that same audience just as easily as the art house kids.  If you weren’t already in love with Chomet for  The Triplettes of Belleville, this should solidify your affections

*I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a full year and the film spoke of its romance in an honest way that had me realizing how much I’ve taken the city for granted (seagulls, wind, rain, but also the sunny green grass days with Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat dominating the skyline)