Bill Desowitz previews some of the top movies that VFXWorld will be covering this holiday season.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince may be missing from the holiday season, but there are still plenty of VFX goodies, ranging from the CG facial capture aging of Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is also the prime Best Picture contender; Frank Miller channeling Will Eisner for his next-gen treatment of The Spirit; a 21st century organic take on The Day the Earth Stood Still with all the CG bells and whistles; all the CG heroics that Adam Sandler can muster in his Bedtime Stories; and raising the Bond bar beyond Bourne in Quantum of Solace. VFXWorld offers a glimpse of some of the most anticipated movies we'll be covering this holiday season.
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount Pictures, Dec. 25)Director and former ILMer David Fincher tackles F. Scott Fitzgerald's novella about a unique man (Brad Pitt) born in his 80s during World War I and ages backwards all the way to the 21st century. His life is complicated enough without falling in love with Cate Blanchett. Digital Domain handled the CG challenge of aging Pitt to complement the special makeup (including a CG head on another body: see above image). Eric Barba (Zodiac) and Dan Abrams (Monster House) served as vfx supervisor and CG supervisor, respectively.
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Twentieth Century Fox, Dec. 12)Director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) reworks the '51 sci-fi classic from Robert Wise with a more sinister alien Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), a more environmental theme, and more organic ship and Gort robot. Weta Digital performs primary vfx duties with additional work from Cinesite and Jeff Okun serving as the overall visual effects supervisor.
3. The Spirit (Lionsgate, Dec. 25)Frank Miller makes his solo directorial debut adapting Will Eisner's pulpy crime story about a rookie cop (Gabriel Macht) who returns from the dead to battle the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). The Orphanage is the lead house under Stu Maschwitz's supervision with help by Entity FX and others. By the looks of it, The Spirit is a next-gen, stylistic flourish in the vein of Sin City and 300, leveraging greenscreen shooting techniques with synthetic environments and other dramatic vfx.
4. Bedtime Stories (Walt Disney Pictures, Dec. 25)Adam Sandler's outlandish tall tales to his niece and nephew about being a gladiator, cowboy and having an alien encounter start to magically come true in slapstick fashion, with CG characters and environmental support from Cinesite, Tippett and others.
5. Quantum of Solace (MGM/Columbia Pictures, Nov. 14)Daniel Craig returns as 007 to find the baddies and closure from Casino Royale. Indie fave Marc Forster directs the 22nd James Bond adventure in breathless fashion while exploring the superspy's psyche for the first time. Kevin Tod Haug serves as vfx designer and revs up nearly 1,000 invisible effects with the help of Double Negative, Framestore, MPC, Machine FX and MK12.
6. Twilight (Summit Ent., Nov. 21)Catherine Hardwicke directs the phenomenally popular teenage vampire love story from novelist Stephenie Meyer. Richard Kidd (Hancock) served as the overall vfx supervisor with CIS Vancouver handling lead duties under Geoff Hancock's supervision.
7. Australia (Twentieth Century Fox, Nov. 26)Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) directs Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in this class conscious adventure/love story set in northern Australia before the outbreak of World War II. Rising Sun Pictures, Animal Logic, Framestore and others provide digital mattes along with other 3D environments and CG animal herds.
8. Valkyrie (UA, Dec. 26)Bryan Singer (Superman Returns) directs Tom Cruise in this suspense thriller based on the true story about World War II German officer Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, wounded in North Africa, who joins the daring and ingenious plot to assassinate Hitler. Sony Pictures Imageworks provides vfx enhancements with Rich Hoover (Superman Returns) serving as senior visual effects supervisor along with CG supervisors Peter Nofz (Spider-Man 3), Dan Eaton, Theo Bialek (Speed Racer) and Patrick Witting (Ghost Rider).
9. Transporter 3 (Lionsgate, Nov. 26)Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin, the ex-Special Forces operative who specializes in high-risk deliveries. Expect a lot more high-octane effects thrills, with Thomas Duval (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) serving as vfx supervisor and work from Paris-based Mac Guff Ligne.
10. Bolt (Walt Disney Pictures, Nov. 21)There's definitely a place on this list for the animated feature about eponymous canine TV superhero (voiced by John Travolta) that discovers he doesn't really possess super powers. VFX Supervisor John Murrah (Lorenzo, The Rock), who knows a thing or two about Michael Bay movies, helps conjure an opening thrill ride as if it were directed by the king of action. And Technical Supervisor Hank Driskill worked as the main liaison to the technology groups, which included R&D for new look rendering methods, normal painting techniques, a raypainting system and painterly shadow work.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN and VFXWorld.