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VFX Fall Preview: 10 Movies to Watch

Wild things, natural disasters, robots, freaks, werewolves are just some of the highlights in our fall sneak peek.


To push the button, or not? That is the question in The Box. © Warner Bros.

Between the summer blockbusters and the holiday movie tentpoles, comes the films of the fall. While many studios focus on vfx light Oscar nominees, it does not mean there is a lack of visual effects spectacle coming to theaters between September and Thanksgiving. So without further ado, here are our top 10 fall picks:

10) The Box (Warner Bros., Nov. 6) Richard Kelly's horror thriller finds Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple presented with a twisted gift. Inside a box is a button, if they choose to push it they will receive $1 million, but as a result a stranger will die somewhere in the world. Providing vfx for this Twilight Zone-like tale are Pixel Liberation Front, Gradient Effects and Quantum Creation FX. Thomas Tannenberger, who worked on Kelly's previous film Southland Tales, is returning to work with the director as the visual effects supervisor. The trailer boasts some quick flashes of the gruesome scarring work done for the film's mysterious Mephistopheles character, played by last year's Oscar nominee Frank Langella.


Gamer puts kids in control of real humans. © Lionsgate.

9) Gamer (Lionsgate, Sept. 4) Furious FX, LookFX and yU+co are among the vfx houses that worked on the sci-fi actioner Gamer. Set in a world where game players can control real humans, Gerard Butler plays the best fighter around who becomes hell bent on stopping the billionaire who pulls the strings, played by Michael C. Hall. Visual effects highlights include the technology of the players controlling the humans, along with lots of explosions and warfare. But, hey, it's all just a game, right?


Crashing planes are one of the many hazards in Whiteout. © Warner Bros.

8) Whiteout (Warner Bros., Sept. 11) Antarctica is a prime location for visual effects work. Kate Beckinsale plays a U.S. marshal investigating the continent's first murder. Hybride Technologies, Mr. X, Invisible Pictures and Anibrain are among the visual effects houses providing blizzards, storms and additional snowy mayhem. VFX Supervisor Dennis Berardi of Mr. X will have a busy fall film lineup of his own, having supervised the effects on Love Happens and produced the vfx for Amelia.


The Road is only one film this fall that envisions the end of the world. © Dimension Films.

7) The Road (Dimension Films, Oct. 16) Fans of Cormac McCarthy's bleak post-apocalyptic tale have been waiting for a year. Australian director John Hillcoat's film version of the story follows a father and son trying to survive in a world where ash rains down from the skies. DIVE, Crazy House Effects and Invisible Pictures all had a part in creating this dreary world where cannibals haunt the countryside. Mark O. Forker, who supervised work on The Lord of Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Peter Pan, knows the demands of creating fantastic worlds.


Hot vampires and werewolves fight it out for the heart of Bella in New Moon.

6) The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Ent., Nov. 20) For the female teen crowd, The Twilight Saga: New Moon is like getting Thanksgiving a week early. Tippett Studio, Frantic Films, Prime Focus and MastersFX were part of the increase in werewolves for this popular franchise. Legendary Phil Tippett and Susan MacLeod (vfx producer on the Oscar-winning Golden Compass) supervised the vampire on lycan action, which of course is for the guys.


Jim Carrey performs as Scrooge and the ghosts in Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol.

5) A Christmas Carol (Buena Vista, Nov. 6) Robert Zemeckis and his ImageMovers (with some help from Gentle Giant Studios and Plowman Craven & Associates) have crafted another performance capture epic. This time Jim Carrey takes on Scrooge of all ages as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in this stylized version of Charles Dickens' classic. With each film, Zemeckis fine-tunes the process, so we eagerly await where he takes performance capture this time around.


The circus of freaks in The Vampire's Assistant has some amazing powers.

4) Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (Universal, Oct. 23) Based on Darren Shan's young adult book series, this film has a host of various freaks, creatures and fantastic events provided by Rhythm & Hues Cube Effects and others. Vampires, a bearded woman (played by Selma Hayek, no less), a snake boy, a giant, a skeleton man, and more haunt the corners of this scary movie. For vfx fans, this one looks like some nice eye candy just in time for Halloween.


Putting a pretty face on robots in Surrogates.

3) Surrogates (Buena Vista, Sept. 25) Industrial Light & Magic, The Moving Picture Co., The Layersmith Digital, Lidar Services, Sandbox F/X and Synthespian Studios are all involved in this sci-fi offering, starring Bruce Willis. The film is set in a future where humans live in isolation while robotic surrogates roam the world in their place. Lots of impressive digital humans and robot work in this thriller. Graphic novels always serve as wonderful source material for some amazing vfx work.


In 2012, the world comes to an end.

2) 2012 (Columbia, Oct. 13) Sony Pictures Imageworks, Double Negative, Digital Domain, Gradient Effects, Hydraulx, Scanline VFX, Evil Eye, Pixomondo and many more help Roland Emmerich destroy the world. Based on the conspiracy theory that the end of the world will come when the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, this thriller brings floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, you name the natural disaster and this one's got it. When it comes to the fall flick with the most visual effects, this one has all the rest beat, for sure.


Spike Jonze captures the wild side of children in Where the Wild Things Are.

1) Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros., Oct. 16) But the visual effects that are usually the most beloved each year are the ones that move us. Framestore, Digital Rain, Iloura and Quantum Creation FX are all part of bringing Spike Jonze's version of Maurice Sendak's classic children's tale to the big screen. Judging from the trailer, the combination of digital faces and detailed costumes for Wild Things make this one of the most effective uses of visual effects this year. Did you get chills when you first saw them? Did they make you want to go see the movie? If your answer is yes, like us, then the visual effects are engaging an audience already.

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. 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.