Tag Archives: X-Men

Space Operatic: An Interview with Stephen van Vuuren by Kent Hill

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I applaud anyone who makes their way on this crusade, some might say foolish crusade, to make a film. It can be a long, arduous, laborious. And thinking on that word laborious, now consider making a film that has to be stitched together using over 7 million photographs with animation techniques pioneered by Walt Disney on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. No CGI. And I know that sounds sacrilegious in this day and age where a film without CGI is like a day without sunshine.

However, the film that Stephen van Vuuren has, albeit laboriously, constructed In Saturn’s Rings, is a unique master-work that is as beautiful and immersive on the small screen I watched it on as I can imagine it being played in its large format form.

Sparked by Cassini‘s arrival at Saturn in 2004 and the media’s lack of coverage, van Vuuren produced two films. Photos from space missions — including images of Saturn taken by Cassini — were included. But van Vuuren was not satisfied with the results so he did not release them.

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While listening to the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber one day in 2006, van Vuuren conceived the idea of creating moving images of Saturn based on a pan-and-scan 2.5-D effect. The technique involves creating a 3-D perspective using still photographs.

After discussion with audiences at IMAX conferences, van Vuuren decided the film title Outside In (the title of the short version) was not a good match for the film’s sensibility. The Giant Film Cinema Association had been publicising the film and surveys it conducted supported this. It was during a discussion in 2012 about the film’s climax where he was describing Earth “in Saturn’s rings” that van Vuuren realized he had found his new title.

Although narration had originally been removed in 2009, by 2014 van Vuuren realized that a sparse narration was necessary for the film. This amounted to 5 pages and about 1200 words in total. After listening to many voice actors one stood out and he asked LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) to be the narrator for the film.

The culmination of these elements, plus a lot of hard work, has resulted in something that is essentially more than a film. Like Kubrick’s 2001 which inspired him, van Vuuren has crafted an experience of what it may by like to drift through the far reaches of space to the planet that has always been the physical embodiment of his childhood fantasies. And I for one am grateful he stuck to his guns and made a movie that, even though it’s not a tale from a galaxy far, far away, it is the universe at its most wondrous…

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Making Epics and eating Subway with Patrick Stewart: An Interview with Shahin Sean Solimon by Kent Hill

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There is a filmmaker working in Hollywood right now, who is out to show the big boys that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movies you want to make. Shahin Sean Solimon is the man behind the movement. Together with his talented group of like-minded artists, he is forging new waves to achieve epic results without the big budget price tag.

“If I inspire some thirteen year old kid somewhere to pursue his or her dreams as I have, no matter what the nay-sayers say, I’ve done my job.”

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And getting the job done is exactly what Shahin has been doing.  Beginning with his first feature Djinn, Based on ancient middle eastern fairy tales written thousands of years ago, and passed down from generation to generation, Shahin crafted luscious, fantastical realms along with a pure and moving tale love and destiny.

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With his second film he took it to the next level, conjuring the days of high adventure and summoning cinema which brings to mind the heady days of Ray Harryhausen with: Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. When the Sultan’s first born is taken by an evil sorcerer, Sinbad is tasked with traveling to a desert of magic and creatures to save her. Add into this the talents of Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: The Next Generation), who offered his distinct vocal styling as the films narrator. He also turns out to enjoy Subway, but you’ll have to listen for more on that.

Now, for the next big thing. In his third feature Alpha: The Awakening, Shahin is tackling the sci-fi and post-apocalyptic genres with one mighty stroke. It is the story of a man, Apollo, who wakes up in the future to realize the human race has been wiped out because of an ancient virus.

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There seems to be no end to his creativity or his ability to realize his visions. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with this talented filmmaker who is, without a doubt, taking the bull by the horns and making the movies he wants to make.

“My inspiration as an artist is not about money, or fame…but about trying to project imagination, show a different perspective of life, and simply entertain.”

And entertaining us is what he has done and will, I believe, continue to do.

The Puppet Master: An Interview with Kevin McTurk by Kent Hill

They say in the film business, never work with children or animals. Of course you may find yourself working with dinosaurs, aliens, lions, beast-people, scrunts, kothogas, ghosts, morlocks, Batman, Spiderman, Hellboy, kaijus, wolfmen, clones, cliffhangers, vampires, giant crocodiles, homicidal maniacs, killer sheep, Predators, cowboys and mysterious brides out to Kill Bill.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But that’s just some of the astounding creations and magnificent beasts that Kevin McTurk has encountered in his eclectic career in the realms of special effects.

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Working under the banners of legends like Stan Winston, Jim Henson and the new titans like Weta Workshop, Kevin has had his hand in erecting and simulating everything from the real world as he has from empires extraordinary. And, while I could have spent the entirety of our chat talking about his adventures working on the countless films, which are favourites of mine, he has in his CV, his impressive effects background is only part of the story.

For Kevin McTurk is a bold and visionary filmmaker in his own right. His puppet films, The Narrative of Victor Karloch, The Mill at Calder’s End and now The (forthcoming) Haunted Swordsman are exercises in capturing a style from a bygone era with modern filmmaking techniques. The results are beautiful, not only in their aesthetic quality, but in the level of excellence from the many different disciplines on display.

There is still time for you to join Kevin in his latest cinematic offering (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935772123/the-haunted-swordsman-a-ghost-story-puppet-film), and to listen in now to the man himself talk about his movies, influences and career.

I give you the talented Mr. McTurk.

Visit Kevin’s website for more: http://www.thespiritcabinet.com/

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The Making of: A Conversation with Robert Meyer Burnett by Kent Hill

I love behind the scenes documentaries – always have. What began as 60 minute specials and from there graduating to EPKs (or Electronic Press Kits) have become full-blown features, at times several hours long. And the longer the better I say.

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Robert Burnett has been that guy. The guy behind the scenes. Armed with light-weight equipment and a small crew, he has captured the people who make the magic and the war it is to bring a dream to life on film.

He has been there to witness the making of the multi-Oscar winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has seen what it took to orchestrate Superman’s return. He has ventured back in time and brought us wonderful retrospective looks at films like Disney’s cult classic Tron.

But Robert is also a passionate filmmaker in his own right. Having made his own film Free Enterprise, directing episodes of the TV series Femme Fatales along with short films as well. He is a prolific producer having shepherded films like The Hills Run Red and Agent Cody Banks 2. And, just when you’re about to say, “Stop it Rob, you’re just too talented,” he is also an experienced editor; often times chopping his own work, whether it be for DVD special features content or the films he has worked on.

Beneath all of his success, Robert is a massive film lover, citing The Right Stuff, All That Jazz and The Godfather among the countless films he adores.

It was a real pleasure to chat with him about all he has seen behind the scenes, but more so to simply chat movies with a man who knows his stuff. Turns out he loved his time here in the great southern land (Australia), along with our beer and music. It is my hope Rob finds his way back so that I might take him up on my invitation to share a cold VB (Victoria Bitter) and talk movies…

…but until then, enjoy our chat.

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Lunch with the Equalizer: A Conversation with Richard Norton by Kent Hill

Richard was a young lad from Melbourne, Australia plagued by asthma who loved martial arts.

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As he grew in skill, he would eventually catch the eye of the legendary Chuck Norris, who extended an invitation to the young Norton to come and train with him. It was while working as a celebrity bodyguard that he finally found his way round to the home of Norris, and from there he was offered a part in The Octagon as the masked ninja, Kyo.

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This would be the first of more than sixty screen appearances for the action film star, stuntman, stunt/fight coordinator/choreographer and martial arts trainer. He has worked on fights for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, joined Suicide Squads, trained Scarlett Johansson  for the Manga turned motion picture Ghost in the Shell. He even braved the heat, dust and high-octane insanity on George Miller’s Fury Road.

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As a respected member of the martial arts community, Norton has remained close friends and has shared the screen with fellow industry luminaries such as Jackie Chan, Don “The Dragon”  Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.

When I spoke with him, Richard was on his way to train the X-Men for another big screen outing, so there is no sign that the humble 67 year old from Melbourne is slowing down.

Richard Norton is a man who remembers well his origins and what it took to climb the mountain of success, upon which he stands, victorious. It was really cool to chat with him. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

So, here he is folks, the ‘real’ action man . . .  Richard Norton.

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Episode 38: JACKMAN UNLEASHED

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This is a big episode for a few reasons.  No, we didn’t get to talk to Hugh Jackman, but joining Frank is an array of PTS contributors: Joel Copling, Kyle Jonathan, and Ben Cahlamer.  We spend an hour discussing James Mangold’s LOGAN, Hugh Jackman’s seventeen year; seven-year span playing Wolverine, and an overall assessment of Hugh Jackman’s filmography!  We hope you enjoy!

Jackman Unleashed Week: Gavin Hood’s X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

The idea behind this film was to franchise origin stories, including a Magneto film that turned into a soft reboot of the X-Men films with FIRST CLASS.  We were also supposed to get a solo Gambit film that is still currently in development limbo, and a Deadpool film with Ryan Reynolds that eventually took seven years to get off the ground.  What ended up happening was an unintentional Wolverine trilogy.

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This film has some major flaws and is an imperfect picture.  The two sequels, THE WOLVERINE and LOGAN, remain superior films to this, yet Origins still remains my favorite Wolverine film warts and all.  The X-Men franchise has never taken continuity into consideration.  Actors were recast in important roles, most notably in this film Danny Huston as William Stryker and Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed/Sabertooth.  Timelines get blurred, especially after the hard franchise reboot of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, and what ends up happening is reinvented origins for Wolverine.  Basically, the takeaway here is that the timeline continuity of the X-MEN films is almost as confusing as the TERMINATOR saga.

What saves this film for absolute failure are two important factors and why this remains my favorite Wolverine centered film.  Firstly, the opening credits sequence is phenomenal.   Spanning the course of every major American war from The Civil War to Vietnam we watch Jackman and Scheiber, brothers in arms, relentlessly fighting and almost single-handedly winning each war for America.  As the wars rage on, Logan observes and acknowledges Creed’s bloodlust and morality eroding.

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Secondly, which is encompassed in the opening credit sequence, the relationship between Logan and Creed.  They’re brothers, they share the same mutant powers.  Freakish regeneration and organic weapons from their hands.  What sets them apart is important.  Creed isn’t as strong as Logan when it comes to regeneration, he would not be able to survive the Adamantium process as Stryker tells him.  Most importantly, Creed lacks the morality that Logan attains.  Logan has empathy, Creed does not.

Violence is what both of them were born into, what their sole purpose became as they aged into warfare.  Creed’s bloodlust overtook him and what little compass of morality he had was disbanded, while Logan was more sensible – more in touch with humanity.  This comes full circle in the botched third act of the film that turns Wade Wilson into this super mutant Weapon X.  It is a silly ending that promises the future reconnection of Logan and Creed.  Regrettably, that never happened; which is a total and complete shame considering this year’s LOGAN was the perfect opportunity to do so.

Casting the dated CGI and third act aside, this film is still steeped with fertile X-Men lore.  We get a cool glimpse at Taylor Kitsh as Gambit, which leaves us wondering what could have been had he reprised his role in future films.  Taskforce X led by Stryker (who does Brian Cox’s original turn absolute justice) is a very fun aspect of the film yet is underutilized.  Aside from Logan and Creed, the team is made up with Reynolds as Wade Wilson (pre Deadpool), Daniel Henney as Agent Zero, Kevin Durand as Fred Dukes/Blob, Will.i.am as Wraith, and Dominic Monaghan as Bolt.

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This film could have been monumentally better, but if you take it for what it is, it remains an incredibly enjoyable picture.  Had the film focused more on Logan and Creed fighting their way through major wars, or made Taskforce X the focal point, this film would have been fantastic.  What we’re left with is an at times clunky vehicle with an easter egg packed third act that left most Wolverine diehards disappointed.  Regardless of keyboard warriors trolling of this film, it’s a lot of fun with colorful dialogue, heavy adult themes, and a once in a lifetime performance from Liev Scheiber as Victor Creed.  ORIGINS: WOLVERING rightfully earns its keep as the starter for one of the most beloved superhero trilogies in recent memory.