FX Movie News: 10-27-06


Today’s Headlines: ‘Star Wars Kid’ Cuts Deal With Tormentors; Will WB or Paramount Pick Up Halo?; E.A. Opens Chicago Studio – Looks For 100 Hires; Narnia Sequel is “Hush Hush”; Landis To Direct Bat Boy; Transformers Movie: Megatron’s Head Has Been Changed; Dreamworks Animation Rises From “Buy” to “Neutral”; Superman Returns Hits $200M; Pixels To The People; Sony Games Drives Down Profits; Aardman Animation Talks CGI at SAND 2006; AMD Plans New Generation Of Graphics Chips; Hellboy 2 Leads to Hellboy 3;

‘Star Wars Kid’ Cuts Deal With Tormentors

(freerepublic.com) As Ghyslain Raza recalled, whenever he walked by his high school’s common areas, other students would jump on tables and chant, “Star Wars Kid! Star Wars Kid!”

There would be a commotion as they shouted and poked at him, trying to get a reaction. “It was simply unbearable,” he said.

An otherwise ordinary teen in this Quebec small town, Mr. Raza had become a worldwide object of ridicule when schoolmates put on the Internet a video of him clumsily pretending to be a Star Wars character.

Three years later, Mr. Raza and his parents this week reached an out-of-court settlement with the families of three former schoolmates they had sued for $351,000 in damages.

Related to this article Latest Comments Comments are closed for this story The settlement annuls a civil trial set to begin on Monday that would have scrutinized one of the world’s first and most-publicized cases of cyber-bullying.

“It was simply unbearable, totally. It was impossible to attend class,” Mr. Raza said.

He said the situation left him feeling drained of energy, and that he let himself go and no longer lifted weights to keep fit.

He said he was diagnosed with depression by a pedopsychiatrist at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital and his lawyers, in their fillings, said they wanted to have a psychiatrist and a psychologist testify, along with producing his medical file.

Under questioning, Mr. Laflamme and Mr. Rheault conceded their role in spreading a video that Mr. Raza, then 15, had made of himself and left on a shelf in the school TV studio.

Mr. Laflamme said he discovered the tape in April of 2003, when he took school equipment to film a varsity football game.

He showed the tape to Mr. Rheault, who made a copy of it.

“I thought it’d be an interesting prank . . . I wanted Ghyslain to know what I knew of him, what I had seen,” Mr. Laflamme said.

“All I did was take the cassette, digitize it on the studio computer to pull a joke on Ghyslain. After that, I had nothing to do with it,” Mr. Rheault said he later told the school principal after the controversy erupted.

More: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1694278/posts

Will WB or Paramount Pick Up Halo?

(comingsoon.net) Now that both Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox have backed out of financing Halo, producers and Microsoft have concentrated their efforts this week on Warner Bros. and Paramount, reports Variety.

Sony, whose PlayStation is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Xbox, was never a possibility; Microsoft’s rivalry with Apple made Disney a difficult fit, because Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the company’s largest individual shareholder and a Disney board member. And New Line is still engaged in a dispute with Halo producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh over “The Lord of the Rings” proceeds.

Warner Bros. and its financing partners are coming off a tough year, and they’ve so far balked at the deal terms proposed by the Halo, team, adds the trade.

The Universal/Fox deal gave the movie a $128 million budget. Microsoft and the producers would have received 19% of the gross.

Prep work continues at Jackson’s Weta studios in New Zealand. An Alex Garland script, already rewritten by Ender’s Game scribe D.B Weiss, will get another rewrite by A History of Violence scribe Josh Olson.

E.A. Opens Chicago Studio – Looks For 100 Hires

(news.awn.com) Electronic Arts put on line today a new studio in downtown Chicago to focus on next generation videogames. Housed at 215 West Ohio Street is the development team is best known for the hit EA SPORT Fight Night franchise. The group is working on three state-of-the-art games for the PlayStation3 and Xbox 360, including the hip-hop lifestyle game, DEF JAM: ICON, as well as a licensed title and a new intellectual property in the fighting videogame genre.

EA Chicago, hoping to attract new talent from the Midwest, is one of the fastest growing studios at EA with 150 employees currently on staff. EA is planning to increase the number of developers by 100 into next year.

Narnia Sequel is “Hush Hush”

(comingsoon.net) The HooK talked to William Moseley, who played Peter in Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The actor says that shooting on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian will still start in January:

A sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, is in the works, but its producers are keeping details under wraps. “We’re going to shoot in January, and that’s going ahead,” Moseley says, and shooting is slated to continue through the summer. “I haven’t seen a completed script yet,” he says. “They’re keeping it really hush-hush. Whether it’s even finished, I don’t know.”

The follow-up is scheduled for a summer 2008 release.

Landis To Direct Bat Boy

(cinematical.com) Having had a success with wolfmen, moving to the field of batmen was a natural for John Landis. The Guardian notes that Landis has been signed to direct Bat Boy; though Landis has been directing shorts for jibjab.com, he has otherwise been cinematically idle since Blues Brothers 2000. Bat Boy is the film version of the tabloid-inspired hit West End musical. Devin May will star as the big-eared, blood-thirsty fugitive, running for his life; May’s previous credit is starring in the rock musical film Temptation. (While I never heard of it, I had to laugh at the comments on the IMBd; there, a correspondent was crowing about the extreme novelty of a rock musical based on Faust. How soon they forget. …)

This gross parody of Andrew Lloyd Weber is loaded with those matinee crowd-pleasers: Incest and bestiality. Bat Boy the musical debuted at Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Theater on Halloween 1997, and has since become a hot potato when high school theater arts students wanted to perform Bat Boy instead of Grease; Wikipedia chronicles the various free-speech squabbles over the musical’s performances in the SF Bay Area. Despite this age of rogue franchising, it’s a matter of personal happiness to have Bat Boy be the first film based on articles from the Weekly World News, the only newspaper in America that has any guts.

Transformers Movie: Megatron’s Head Has Been Changed

(seibertron.com) In his traditional Sunday post the ever cordial Don Murphy has revealed that the head of Megatron from the forthcoming Transformers Movie, will not look like it did in the leaked concept images, and he credits us with making it happen!

I CAN tell you that Megs’ head will not look like he did in the leaked pics. This was done solely because of the leader of Seibertron.com’s delicate work on the process. He is so revered throughout fandom, Hollywood and the world that we decided to make the change. It was NOT because we were trying to make the fans happy. NO SIREE.

However you read his rather sarcastic post it does appear the changes were made for the sake of the fans, and possibly due to the largely negative fan reaction over the leaked Megatron images we saw a couple of months back.

Source: http://www.seibertron.com/news/view.php?id=8657

Dreamworks Animation Rises From “Buy” to “Neutral”

(chron.com) A Merrill Lynch analyst lifted her rating on DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. Friday, in anticipation of future box office success coming out of the animated film maker’s two-year release schedule.

Analyst Jessica Reif Cohen upgraded DreamWorks to “Buy” from “Neutral,” with a $31 target price. Having traded between $20.05 to $28.80 for the past year, the stock is ready to rise, wrote Cohen.

Shrek 3, which features the lovable green creature avoiding a call to a kingship, includes voice talents from Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and other well-known actors. It is scheduled for release May 18.

Cohen believes the third Shrek film will generate $683 million through domestic and international box office sales. Shrek 2 generated $920 million worldwide, she noted.

However, possible poor performance from Shrek or other releases poses a concern, in part due to competition from a crowded release schedule, wrote Cohen. For example, the third Spiderman and Pirates of the Caribbean films, which follow wildly successful initial releases, are also debuting with Shrek 3 in May.

Superman Returns Hits $200M

(sliceofscifi.com) Superman Returns has finally hit that magic bullet number grossing over $200 million domestically. Will this be enough for Warner Bros. Pictures to green light a sequel? If director Bryan Singer has his way, the answer is yes, and rumor control has it that the follow-up flick has already been given the thumbs up with filming to start in the Fall of 2007.

One thing Singer will have to deal with is a slashed budget. His first attempt at reviving the Man of Steel set the studio back $260 million big ones, and even Superman can’t justify that kind of cost. So, look for the next installement to be a little over half of that cost.

Pixels To The People

(boston.com) How to animate a horde of orcs has finally found its way to the little guy.

Not so long ago, digital animators had to be members of the big three — Disney’s Pixar division, DreamWorks Animation, and Fox’s Blue Sky Studios — to produce credible feature films. But in just a few short years, the field has been blown wide open.

With the increasing power of computers and availability of sophisticated software, animation techniques such as motion capture and interpolated rotoscoping — the “painting over film” look seen in this summer’s Richard Linklater film, “A Scanner Darkly” — make eye-popping visuals significantly more affordable. High-tech animation techniques have spread from CGI-powered studio releases to videos and commercials to shorts on the festival circuit and now to indie features.

Even teenagers goofing off with a video camera and processing the footage with off-the-shelf software can produce striking work, says Christopher Perry, assistant professor of media arts and sciences at Hampshire College and graphics software engineer at Pixar.

“That’s because the skills, the tricks used in big studios, there’s a pretty good route the way they trickle down from Hollywood and other places to people who don’t [have Hollywood ties],” Perry says. “That’s exciting.”

First-time feature director Christian Volckman made “Renaissance,” which opens Friday, in a place far from Hollywood: France. At just $18 million, the picture’s budget was a pittance compared to mainstream CGI blockbusters — “Cars” cost $120 million, and even a middling effort like “The Ant Bully” set its makers back $50 million.

“I was trying something else,” Volckman says, describing his all black-and-white, futuristic thriller set in Paris of 2054. The film was made using motion capture, in which the performances of real actors, pinpointed with hundreds of sensors, were videotaped and then digitized. Then, dozens of animators manipulated the images frame by frame. The effect is cold, calculated, and a little eerie, but also visually arresting. “I was thinking about film noir,” the French director says.

More: http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2006/09/24/pixels_to_the_people/

Sony Games Drives Down Profits

(businessweek.com) On Oct. 26, Sony said it had eliminated 10,100 jobs (6% of its workforce) and sold off an estimated $1.1 billion worth of assets. Sony’s boss is making good progress on other fronts as well. He’s trimmed costs, focused product lines, and shut underutilized factoriesu2014all of which is expected to be completed by the March, 2008, deadline.

What’s the problem? In the latest quarter, it was Sony’s poorly performing video game and movie businesses as well as the massive global recall of batteries. That led to an operating loss of $175 million for the July-September period, despite the 8.3% rise in sales to $15.6 billion from the previous year. (Robust gains at Sony’s mobile phone joint venture, Sony Ericsson, aren’t counted in overall earnings.) At Sony’s core consumer-electronics division, three-month operating profits through Sept. 31 fell 71% to $67 million, from $236 million the previous year.

Things are bound to pick up in the second half, say Sony execs. The costs of the battery recall, absorbed in the second quarter, won’t weigh down earnings. Sony’s movie studio is expected to get a boost from sales of DVDs. And the company’s loss-making TV business could finally break even after years of red ink, providing a lift to the electronics division. “The restructuring is on schedule,” Chief Financial Officer Nobuyuki Oneda told reporters. “We expect the recovery to continue into the next fiscal year.”

Nonetheless, Sony still expects full-year earnings to fall short of the previous year’s. The company is forecasting that for the fiscal year ending in March, 2007, operating profit will fall 78% to $422 million, while sales edge up 10% to $69 billion.

So what still needs fixing? Stringer’s biggest headache is the games biz. It’s mainly to blame for the decline in overall profit margins in the past six months. Sony’s decision to delay the PlayStation 3’s launch from spring until November has caused all kinds of problems, including dampening demand for the company’s existing consoles and software.

Aardman Animation Talks CGI at SAND 2006

David Sproxton, co-founder of Ardman Animation , will be speaking on Friday 17 November as part of the Swansea Animation Days (SAND) 2006. He will present the latest computer animated comedy from Aardman Features and DreamWorks Animation, Flushed Away, due for release in December.

The film marks a unique new look for the artform, as it brings together Aardman’s trademark style and characterisations and DreamWorks’ computer animation.

David Sproxton, co-producer on the film, says: Flushed Away has a great deal of water and water effects in it, which is a nightmare to do in stop frame, as well as a huge canvas on which the story is played out. So in terms of sheer geography and FX, using CGI is easier.

CGI is a very different process to stop-frame and DreamWorks have a process which was pretty new to us, which we needed to get our heads around. We drive on the left, they drive on the right. It’s that sort of difference. They have a brilliant pool of talent and an incredible pipeline so they can create extraordinary scenes. Having all that at our disposal has been terrific.

Commenting on the benefits of events such as SAND, Sproxton says: [It] can be very helpful to new entrants into the industry as they give the opportunity to hear how things are in the real world and, of course, offer a great opportunity to meet people who might help in their career. This is probably the most important aspect and it’s worth planning ahead who you want to meet and what you want to show.

He adds: Clearly having work showcased at such events is great step forward. Further, it can be an eye opener seeing what the competition is and who you are up against.

Sproxton and school friend, Peter Lord, established Aardman Animation in 1976, at a time where little help was available, no CGI-focused event existed and the animation industry was very small, he says.

He explains: The most help we got was from Ivor Wood of Filmfair, when we were able to look around his studio and chat to him about how he made the Wombles and later Paddington Bear. Channel Four, when it eventually came along, made a big difference.

Also attending SAND is DreamWorks European representative, Shelley Page, who, together with Sproxton, will give an insight into the creation of the big screensu2019 next animated classic.

Sign up for SAND: http://www.sand.org.uk/

AMD Plans New Generation Of Graphics Chips

(msnbc.msn.com) Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday completed its $5.4bn acquisition of graphics chip maker ATI Technologies of Canada and said it would produce “Fusion” u2013 a new kind of processor that integrates graphics processing with a computer’s central calculating functions.

The news came as industry data showed larger rival Intel regaining market share with its latest processors, even though AMD had won its first orders from Dell.

AMD said the new combined company would have 15,000 employees and be a “processing powerhouse”.

Hector Ruiz, AMD chief executive, said: “In the near term, customers gain a new level of choice, and in the long term, we believe the possibilities for innovation are truly limitless.”

Currently, PCs rely on a central processing unit or CPU to drive most functions and a separate graphics chip or card to handle display data. AMD said it planned to make a new class of processor integrating AMD’s own CPU microprocessor with ATI’s GPU (graphics processing unit) at the basic silicon chip level.

The Fusion processors, which are expected by late 2008, would need less power and give greater performance, AMD said. “With the anticipated launch of Windows Vista, robust 3D graphics, digital media and device convergence are driving the need for greater performance, graphics capabilities and battery life,” said Phil Hester, AMD’s chief technology officer.

Intel introduced processors with two cores or brains over the summer, and this appears to have translated into market share gains, according to the industry research firm Mercury.

Intel’s share of the dominant “x86” microprocessor market grew from 73 per cent in the second quarter to 76 per cent in the third, according to Mercury data cited by analysts. AMD’s share increased from 22 per cent to 23 per cent, as Taiwan’s Via fell back.

Hellboy 2 Leads to Hellboy 3

(movies.ign.com) Director Guillermo del Toro will likely be enjoying the Oscar limelight in early 2007, as his Pan’s Labyrinth is expected to be a shoe-in for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination, but the filmmaker may be too busy to enjoy the accolades at that time. That’s because production on his long-awaited sequel to Hellboy is currently scheduled to start shooting in January in Europe.

“We are in preproduction,” del Toro tells IGN of the film, which many observers had come to believe would never get a greenlight. “Both with Hellboy 1 and Hellboy 2, they happened right at the moment when we said, ‘They’re not happening. It looks like we better move on.’ And at that moment something happened that made them go ahead. We have Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Wayne Barlowe, TyRuben Ellingson, [and] Mike Mignola designing creatures right now, and we have the movie being budgeted in London and in Budapest. We hope to start shooting next year.”

Most of the stars of the 2004 film will be back, including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones, though del Toro says that Jones might actually get to voice his Abe Sapien creature-sidekick this time out (David Hyde Pierce dubbed over Jones in the first film): “He’ll get another chance and I am, let’s say, 90% sure that he’ll nail it. But I don’t want to get the pressure off the guy yet!” Additionally, del Toro says that in a rare show of Hollywood restraint u2014 the sequel’s budget will be around $70 million, which is very close to that of the first film.

“Universal came to us,” the director recalls. “When they read the script and heard the number, they were interested. Because people saw that we gave a lot of value for the $66 million of Hellboy. We essentially had an O.K. theatrical run, nothing spectacular, but we did incredibly well on DVD, so the movie made its money and some. We did very good in ancillary markets. We did very good in replay on cable and so forth, and toys and this and that. And I think that Universal is interested in the fact that now they can have a franchise that they enjoy for a price they will never feel guilty about.”

The question must be raised then: Does that mean a Hellboy 3 is in the works? Del Toro concedes that he has an idea of where he would take a third film in the series.

“I’ve talked to [Hellboy creator Mike] Mignola about the third one. He seemed to like [my idea], and that is that the way the love story would pay off in the third movie would be completely unexpected,” hints del Toro. “I knew what I wanted to do on the first one, but I had no idea if we ever would get to do a second one. And now that we are I really am laying down the breadcrumbs that will lead you to a very, very hopefully powerful denouement of that loving couple.”

Which isn’t to say that Hellboy 2: The Golden Army will be a cliffhanger. Whether or not a third film in the series gets made will come down to how part two performs financially (after all, Universal had no problem killing another would-be franchise recently, Josh Whedon’s Serenity, when it underperformed), and del Toro knows that better than anyone.

“The second one is self-contained and if we never get to do the third one there’s only one element that people will have hanging where they will go, ‘Oh Jesus, I wish they had done a third one.’ But if not, it’s fine,” says del Toro, before adding with a grin, “If anyone listening has $80 million, we can assure you we can do a third one.”