Tag Archive: special effects


It’s not very often that someone comes along and changes the way that films are made. There are rare moments in the modern movie industry where such significant leaps are made to enhance movie viewing. Ray Harryhausen is one of the most famous pioneers of special effects technology ever to grace the industry. Unfortunately, the sad news has been broken today that this pioneer has passed away at the wonderful age of 92.

Ray Harryhausen was a visual effects legend (and that is no less than he deserves) and he pioneered the stop motion movement. He brought stop motion to the big screen; hand crafting and painting his figures and then shooting them frame by frame in a long, tedious process that eventually ended up contributing to some of the most famous films of all time.

Harryhausen’s work can be seen in films such as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, but his two most famous contributions were to Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, it seems even the incredible CGI advances can’t help make a modern Clash of the Titans better than the stop motion original. Jason and the Argonauts produced some of the best special effects seen at the time: the multiple headed Hydra and the skeleton soldiers rising from the ground to name but two.

Compared to modern special effects Harryhausen’s work does look dated, but his contribution to the movie industry cannot be underestimated and his presence will forever be recognised. He may not have been a director but when the films featured Harryhausen’s animation work, they were HIS films.

This brilliant video puts together all of Ray Harryhausen’s creatures together…

Advertisements

With the shock announcement that Disney have bought Star Wars and plan to release a completely new trilogy beginning in 2015 it is no wonder that speculation has already begun about who would be the best choice for director. Let’s look at some of the contenders:

Christopher Nolan

Fresh from directing one of the most lauded trilogies of all time in The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan could pretty much get any gig that he wanted which, let’s be honest, makes complete sense. Every one of Nolan’s films so far has gone down a treat and with Inception he certainly showed that he is more than capable of making a truly magnificent science fiction piece and this is something that the next instalment of Star Wars needs to be!

 

Bryan Singer

In a world as big as the one that Star Wars has built for itself the ability to handle and direct an ensemble cast is a must. With X-men and X2 Singer took on a similar challenge and managed to make a couple of the best superhero films to date. Therefore, this shows that Singer has what it takes to work with a large cast and bring out specific characters. Although, with the recent announcement he is set to helm Days of Future Past then he may be out of the question.

 

Brad Bird

Bird made his name at Pixar where he was given the go ahead to direct The Incredibles and obviously because it is Pixar, as well as the fact that it is brilliant, he received a lot of praise for his work. Earlier this year Brad Bird was responsible for reviving the Mission: Impossible franchise with Ghost Protocol and made the Tom Cruise franchise a relevant and important one once more; could he do the same for Star Wars?

 

Guillermo Del Toro

The fan knows fantasy, he knows special effects and can create huge blockbusters. Del Toro is well known for his ability to draw up strange creations and to let him loose on the world of Star Wars would be, for want of a better word, pretty orgasmic. Most notable for Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth Del Toro is set to announce his return to the world of huge blockbusters with Pacific Rim next year.

 

Jon Favreau

It was Favreau’s work with Iron Man that convinced Marvel (and importantly Disney) that superhero films were worth backing and proceeding with, culminating in The Avengers. With Iron Man 2 perhaps Favreau did have too much to do and it may be a case of that happening again with Star Wars: it would be a risk but one that could be worth taking, especially as the name of Star Wars is going to bring in the audience anyway.

 

Joss Whedon

A God among geeks. Does much more need to be said about the man’s talents? It is practically impossible for Whedon to direct Star Wars unfortunately as he has a pretty tight schedule with Marvel’s Phase 2 in place at the minute but a future Episode of the huge science fiction franchise, why not?

 

Duncan Jones

The least well known of all of my choices but not at all less talented. With Moon and Source Code in his back catalogue Jones has shown that he is more than capable of telling some brilliant science fiction stories. I would love to see Jones achieve some success and get a chance to show mainstream audiences his talent although maybe this would be a step too far a little too early.

 

Obviously, most of these directors are very commercial and well known to audiences already with a proven record of directing hit films and creating believable and memorable characters whilst exploring the world that their films inhabit. This is an important trait when deciding who is going to continue the Star Wars franchise but there may be some hidden gems hiding in cracks and crevices somewhere… or even in plain sight. So let me know, who would you like to see direct the seventh instalment of Star Wars?

“Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been” says Joe, who is himself living in the year 2044 it is worth noting. Joe is a ‘looper’ which means he works for a mafia in Kansas City and the man running the city is from the future. Loopers are people who are hired by the mafia of the future to kill targets sent back in time and dispose of the bodies. There is but one rule: never let your target get away, even if your target is you. So only bad things can come from Joe’s newest target being the future version of himself.

If you get that then you have the very basic knowledge needed to sit down and watch what is most certainly a thinker of a movie. As two of the characters mention throughout the film ‘time travel fries your brain like an egg’ so it is probably best that with already so much going on Looper doesn’t give us a whole definition of time travel for us to get our heads around in one go; instead, information is sort of dripped out to the audience as we go along and it all starts to make sense (providing you don’t go into this with rules about time travel already set in stone in your mind because of other films as time travel does not exist). The way time travel is handled here is very clever.

Anyway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe from 2044 and playing Old Joe is Bruce Willis. It is clear that Joseph Gordon-Levitt put a lot of effort into his performance and did a lot of research on previous Bruce Willis films to be able to act more like his on screen future self. This research combined with the remarkable prosthetics placed on his face make it very easy for the audience to see how the young Joe becomes Old Joe. Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t disappoint and puts in one of his best performances to date, once again showing his versatility while Bruce Willis certainly looks and feels at home once he gets a hand on a machine gun. Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels and Noah Segen all provide excellent back up to the main stars. But Looper is stolen by one actor in particular: Pierce Gagnon. At just ten years old Gagnon is absolutely terrific and shows that without a doubt he is one for the future. It is so incredible to see such a young boy put in such an emotional performance; at times harrowing and so often adorable. It is not a performance you will forget any time soon.

The world of Looper is a very different one to the world we live in at the minute and we are given a brilliant introduction to the world via narration provided by Joe. This is a very simple and easy way to place the audience in the centre of the action and be able to comprehend what is happening. Looper is full of thrills, the action is great to watch, the character development is obvious, the character’s themselves are incredibly well created, the special effects are outstanding… everything about Looper is just stand out perfection of the highest order.

Looper, if there is any justice, will become a staple in film history. It is without a doubt one of the greatest science fiction films I have ever seen, the best time travel movie ever made and one of the best films of this year!

My Rating: 10/10.

John Carter of Mars

UK Release Date: 9th March 2012.

There has been a lot of hype about this film within the comic-book community, despite it being based on a novel. The story follows John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a civil war veteran who is transported to Mars, or Barsoom as it is known. Here, he becomes involved in the conflict between the various nations of the planet. Carter then takes it upon himself to save the people of Barsoom.

It is clear that Disney is attempting to find another franchise that will make them as much money as the Pirates of the Caribbean series has so far (despite now owning Marvel and milking the merchandise as much as possible) and where they failed in 2010 with the Prince of Persia film, John Carter may just succeed. The visuals look great and the special effects used on the creatures that we see in the trailer look terrific.

The cast is not full of stars but it does carry some recognisable names: Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Thomas Haden Church and Lynn Collins among others, whilst Taylor Kitsch gives his audition to become a Hollywood leading man after his small part in the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Andrew Stanton is directing and has co-wrote the screenplay and he has a very successful career behind him so hopefully this will be another great film that he can add to his list.