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Fall VFX Movie Preview 2011

Rick DeMott breaks down the big vfx flicks coming at the end of 2011.

Summit's The Three Musketeers and Columbia's Anonymous bring 17th century action to the screen.

This fall we have boxing robots, ancient Greek wars, cunning detectives, super spies, 1930s Paris, singing chipmunks, alien invasions, aging-themed sci-fiers, an epic vampire marriage and two period adventures. Visual effects work range from the big to the subtle. Let's see the top 10* films on VFXWorld's radar.

10-tie. Anonymous (Columbia Pictures, Oct. 28) and The Three Musketeers (Summit Ent., Oct. 21)Watch the trailer for ÂnonymousWatch the trailer for The Three MusketeersTen films were just not enough to capture the full score of the fall so the number 10 slot has two films. Both take place in the 17th century so it's fitting.

Roland Emmerich dials down from his usual spectacle work for this conspiracy thriller, which proposes that Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, actually penned Shakespeare's plays. Adding suspense, the film is set against the succession of Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex Rebellion. Just from the trailer we can see the extensive set and crowd work on display. Volker Engel and Marc Weigert were the lead vfx supervisors on this intriguing historical caper. Uncharted Territory was the primary visual effects house.

Paul W.S. Anderson's brings his signature action style to an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic adventure tale. For those not familiar with the story, the hotheaded D'Artagnan teams with three musketeers to stop a female double agent and the Cardinal from stealing the French crown. Of course there is going to be some swashbuckling going on here, but vfx augments the physical action, ramping it up to today's standards. Mr. X and Rodeo FX provided visual effects work.

Sex and birth come to Summit's Twilight series.

9. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (Summit Ent., Nov. 18)Watch the trailer.Bill Condon returns for the first part of the final chapter of the Twilight Saga. Could this film feature the first major visual effects enhanced sex scene? And then there is the birth scene. We can assume that there will be more vampire-on-werewolf violence for this installment too. In alpha order, vfx come from Halon Ent. Legacy Effects, Lola Visual Effects, Method Studios, Modus Fx, Soho VFX, Tippett Studio and Wildfire Visual Effects.

Time is the new gold in Fox's In Time.

8. In Time (20th Century Fox, Oct. 28)Watch the trailer.Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) brings viewers this sci-fier set in a future where people stop aging at 25 and if you don't own time you are killed in order to control the population. After a rich man wills him a century before he kills himself, a poor young man must go on the run from the cops who believe he committed murder to extend his life. The evidence is on the young man's arm in the form of a digital clock ticking down the years. Dyspotian tales are always ripe for vfx. In alpha order, the vfx houses include Luma Pictures, Soho VFX and Wildfire Visual Effects.

Aliens go Russian in Summit's The Darkest Hour.

7. The Darkest Hour (Summit Ent., Dec. 25) Watch the trailer.Directed by Chris Gorak and produced by Timur Bekmambetov, a group of young Americans try to survive an alien invasion while on vacation in Moscow. The trailer gives use glimpses the vfx action we can expect. Invisible clouds turn anyone who touches them to dust. Inferred POVs from the aliens. Demonic-filled fireballs. The total shut down of the Russian capitol. You know the kind of film that puts you in the Christmas spirit. The vfx houses include BUF, Polygon Ent. and Soho VFX.

Alvin is the king of the world in Fox's Chipwrecked!

6. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (20th Century Fox, Dec. 16)Watch the trailer.Shrek Forever After director Mike Mitchell takes over the Chipmunks film franchise from Betty Thomas and Tim Hill before her. Rhythm and Hues is back though as the lead visual effect artists. This time around Alvin, the boys and the Chipettes have a high-seas adventure on a luxury cruise. The Chimpunks of course are the center of the vfx work, but this time the ship and the island they crash on open up all sorts of vfx possibilities.

Scorsese goes 3-D with Paramount's Hugo.

5. Hugo (Paramount Pictures, Nov. 23)Watch the trailer.Martin Scorsese takes on his first family film and it's in 3-D! VFX supervisor Rob Legato had the privilege of working with the film legend in this new chapter of his career. Set in 1930s, an orphan moves into a Paris train station where he sets out to unravel the mystery of his father and the automaton he left behind after he died. The orphan becomes friends with special effects pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès, who down on his luck now works at a toy store. In addition to the magical version of Paris the film creates, the subject alone is of interest to vfx pros and fans. In alpha order, the vfx houses include Lola Visual Effects, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Nvizage, Pixomondo, Plowman Craven & Associates and With A Twist Studio.

Paramount's Mission: Impossible franchise gets more animated with Brad Bird.

4. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures, Dec. 21)Watch the trailer.Animation vet Brad Bird makes his live-action feature debut with the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) brings us the super spy action. Tom Peitzman serves as the Co-Producer/Visual Effects Producer and John Knoll is the Visual Effects Supervisor. Ethan Hunt and his new team must go rogue when the IMF is linked to the bombing of the Kremlin. From this franchise, one can expect daring escapes, secret missions and master disguises. We know from The Incredibles that Bird can direct action, so expectations are high in both the worlds of vfx and animation.

New mysteries in Warner Bros.' Game of Shadows.

3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros., Dec. 16)Watch the trailer.Guy Ritchie is back for more sleuthing action with this Sherlock Holmes sequel. In this adventure, Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson must outwit their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty. As established in the first film, one can expect grand period sets, explosive action sequences and those stylized slow-mo fight sequences where Sherlock thinks out every move ahead of time to beat his opponent. Chas Jarrett is the vfx supervisor. BlueBolt, Framestore, Mark Roberts Motion Control, Moving Picture Company (MPC), Plowman Craven & Associates and The Visual Effects Company provided vfx work.

Relativity Media's Immortals looks like 300 on steroids.

2. Immortals (Relativity Media, Nov. 11)Watch the trailer.Tarsem Singh brings his unique visual style to this fantasy-infused tale of Greek warrior Theseus as he battles against imprisoned titans. VFX supervisor Raymond Gieringer was in charge of helping the filmmaker bring his vision to life. What does this film have in store for us? Massive sword battles, flaming whips, glowing arrows, flying gods, massive tidal waves. And that's just what was in the trailer. Presented in alpha order the vfx houses are BarXseven, Christov Effects and Design, Image Engine Design, Modus Fx, NeoReel, Prime Focus, Proof, Red/Fake Studios, ReThink VFX, Rodeo FX, ScanlineVFX, The Third Floor, Tippett Studio and XYZ-RGB.

Robot on robot fighting to the extreme for DreamWorks' Real Steel.

1. Real Steel (Walt Disney/DreamWorks, Oct. 7)Watch the trailer.This is Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots on acid and Red Bull. Set in the future where human boxing has been banned and replaced with robot fighting, an ex-fighter teams with estranged son to brings a run-down bot back into fighting condition. Night at the Museum helmer Shawn Levy brings this futuristic sports flick to the screen. Digital Domain leads the effects house, which also includes Giant Studios and Legacy Effects. Can they up the ante on ILM's Transformers 3 robot? I'm sure they'll give it a fighting chance.

Rick DeMott is the director of content for Animation World Network, VFXWorld and AWNtv. Additionally, he's the creator of the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks, which was recently named one of the 100 best movie blogs by The Daily Reviewer. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks