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Doctor Who: The Movie (II)

16 11 2011

Announced Director David Yates

A couple of days ago Variety, one of the leading trade publications for those working in Hollywood, announced that a big budget Doctor Who movie is in the works in cooperation with BBC Worldwide.  Though no script or actors have been announced, the film will be directed by four-time Harry Potter alumnus David Yates.

According to Yates, the film is planning to be a stand alone venture, separate from the current sixth series of the reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the time traveling Doctor.  Furthermore, both American and British writers will be considered for the scripting duties; being a main stay of British culture, an American writer could upset fans.  However, Yates points to the precision of American writer Steve Kloves in capturing the British element of the Harry Potter films expertly as reason for leaving stateside writers in contention for the film.

I find the news to be both exciting, yet also quite worrisome.  In the past, two features starring Peter Cushing in the 1960s were made that are not considered part of the standard canon; in 1996, a telefilm starring Paul McGann was released in cooperation with the FOX Network, which is considered as part of the canon, counting McGann as Doctor number eight.

The excitement lies, of course, in the mere idea of Doctor Who getting royal treatment with a large budget and mass audience release.  Yet, the worry also stems from the same reasons for excitement.  Doctor Who has long been a cult program in some regards, with legions of fateful fans.  As a television series, it is just now somewhat breaking into the mainstream with the popularity of the 2005 reboot and younger, exciting Doctors like David Tennant and Matt Smith.  To fully commercialize on the series, I feel that a sacred aspect of this now nearly 50-year canon of two series and a telefilm might be dismantled.

To be fair, however, if there is one person that can pull this off, I think that the BBC made a wise decision in choosing director David Yates.  Yates, a National Film and Television School graduate, had early success in television before directing his first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  His adaptation was such a success, that he continued on as the director for the following three films.  He seems to have a good knack for understanding the sacred nature of beloved cultural icons such as Harry Potter or the Doctor.  In my opinion, his idea to split the seventh book into two movies to better serve the source material was an excellent choice.

Though it looks like the project may be three to four years away from release, it will be interesting to see how it is handled.  Hopefully, the production will not stray too far from the 50-year history to upset long-time fans, but will be able to be commercialized enough to recruit more fans for the beloved Time Lord.  After all, the more fans there are for a fictional character, the longer that character seems to stick around in popular culture.  As a huge fan of the series, I know we would all hate to see another nearly 16 year gap with no Doctor on television or film.

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Remembering Steve Jobs and Preserving His Legacy

6 10 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I know this will likely be one of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of blog posts regarding the passing of Apple co-founder and figurehead Steve Jobs yesterday.  Jobs passed away at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer.  Unlike many other posts, however, I’m not going to recount a biographical essay of Jobs’s life or historically chronicle his time with Apple.  What I want to look at is what he gave us and the legacy that will continue even after his passing at such a young age.

When I think of Jobs, the word that most comes to mind is: visionary.  This was a man, whose sometimes ego-maniacal persona in regards to business, pushed products that were from the deepest points of his imagination.  Unlike many other companies whose primary creative decisions come from a web of corporate “suits”, Apple’s vision was dreamt largely from one mind and then implemented by the many departments of the corporation.  During his tenure at Apple, the company continuously released products that were 2-3 years ahead of their time, paving the way for the next generation of media consumption.   Since 2000, Apple has strategically eliminated nearly every form of popular tangible media.  With iTunes and the iPod, mp3’s have taken over the compact disc market; with the iPhone, the first integrated touch sensitive smart phone with heavy application reliance revolutionized the cell phone market; and with the iPad, tablet hardware has come to a forefront, replacing the laptop computer in many homes and just now is becoming a favored educational tool for schools around the globe.

For the first 20 years of home computing, advances were minimal in design and functionality of the systems.  However, in just over 10 short years since Apple’s introduction of the iPod and all-in-one iMac computers, Apple has effectively changed how we interact and experience many forms of media on a day to day basis, from movies, to watching television, to music, and beyond.  Being a hands-on entrepreneur, Jobs’ position in Apple has been crucial to its success in the world market.  Under his leadership, the company grew from a secondary contender in desktop computing to the largest technology company in the world.  Knowing of the severity of his illness, I’m sure Jobs has laid out a very concrete game plan for the future of Apple; one that will, hopefully, keep his vision and spirit alive, much like that of the pioneering legacy of Walt Disney.

It will certainly be a lonelier place in the technological world without Jobs’s vivacious enthusiasm and keynote addresses.  Yet, what he was able to show us could be done when you have a dream and a vision, will hopefully be preserved by not only Apple, but serve as a precedent for young minds and inventors to come.





Warner Home Video to Release Citizen Kane Blu-Ray

16 06 2011

Copyright Warner Home Video

Warner Home Video will be releasing a special 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray of Citizen Kane on September 13, 2011.

Long considered one of film’s classic treasures and twice voted by the American Film Institute as the Best Film of All-Time, Citizen Kane was the brain child of 25-year-old Orson Welles, who produced, directed, co-wrote and took the leading role in the film.  After the passing of newspaper magnet Charles Foster Kane (closely modeled after William Randolph Hearst), a newspaperman is sent to find out the meaning of his infamous final words, “Rosebud.”  In doing so, he finds a much more complicated and complex man behind the myth than he could have ever imagined.

The Blu-Ray packaging will include a host of extras including: a 48-page collector’s book, lobby cards, audio commentary by Welles’s friend and accomplished film director Peter Bogdonavich and film critic Roger Ebert, deleted scenes, full-length documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane, HBO docudrama RKO 281 with Liev Schreiber and James Cromwell, a DVD copy of Welles’s follow-up film The Magnificent Ambersons (which, narratively, The Royal Tenenbaums borrowed heavily from) and much more.

This marks the first time that the classic film has appeared on Blu-Ray and the first time that The Magnificent Ambersons has appeared on any digital medium.  Pre-orders are available now through Amazon.com for $49.99, or minus The Magnificent Ambersons for $44.99.





R.I.P. Gunnar Fischer (1910 – 2011)

12 06 2011

Gunnar Fischer (1910 - 2011)

Legendary Swedish cinematographer Gunnar Fischer passed away yesterday at the age of 100.  Fischer’s lighting and camera techniques brought to life some of Ingmar Bergman’s most iconic films from the director’s early period.  Though not as well known as future collaborator Sven Nykvist, Fischer’s style and visual eye has dazzled cinema-goers for nearly 60 years, though his general recognition remains mostly silent.

Born in Ljungby Vasternorrlands Lan, Sweden, on November 18, 1910, Fischer originally studied painting at Otte Sköld.  Following his education, he enlisted as a chef with the Swedish Navy, before turning to a career in cinema at Svensk Filmindustri. His first film credit was as assistant camera on Smålänningar in 1935, and his first feature as a director of photography came in 1942.  He worked with several international directors including Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer and British director Anthony Asquith.  However, his most endearing and remembered artistic partnership was with Bergman from 1948 to 1960.

The fruits of Bergman and Fischer’s collaborations include such films as Harbor City, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician and their final collaboration, The Devil’s Eye.  Like many fellow Swedish cinematographers of the era, Fischer was a master of practical lighting and operated his own camera on all his films.  Such classic images as Max von Sydow playing chess with Death or the wide dancing chain on the hill side from The Seventh Seal still move and touch viewers of all generations.

Bergman and Fischer went their separate ways after The Devil’s Eye in 1960.  Bergman went on to form another strong artistic partnership with cinematographer Sven Nykvist which lasted through almost the rest of the director’s professional career.  Fischer continued shooting feature films until 1979 when he retired.  In retirement, he continued to be close to his craft by serving as an instructor of cinematography at several prestigious Scandinavian universities.

An interesting article and interview regarding Fisher’s time working with Bergman from the Washington Post in 2008 can be found here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020100903.html





Silent Film Released in 2011 A Possible Oscar Contender?

27 05 2011

Copyright 2011 La Classe Américaine

This film was recently brought to my attention by a co-worker and I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear about it.  Directed by Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist was completely shot in black-and-white, in Academy Ratio (1.33:1) and is completely silent!  Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and Penelope Ann Miller, the film takes place in 1927 and centers around silent film star George Valentin.  At the dawn of sound, he’s worried his career might fall into shambles; whereas, in contrast, young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) sees the transition as an opportunity to propel to stardom.

The film made it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival the other week and won Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.  In addition, the Weinstein Company have negotiated to bring it to wide release later this year, both domestically and internationally.  Could this film possibly be the first silent film in Oscar contention for Best Picture in nearly 70 years?   Could it be the first silent film to win Best Picture since the beginning of the Academy Awards in 1927 with Wings?  

Being a huge fan of silent films, I can only hope for such happenings.  I can’t wait for the release to see if this film really is as good as so many critics say it is.  In the meantime, I will have to be happy with the trailer, which is available in HD at:





Yvette Vickers and the Dark Side of Fame

4 05 2011

Vickers from a 1950s Photo Shoot

Hollywood is legendary for red carpet events, epic parties, glitz and glamour, but it has always been the underbelly of this faux front that has in some ways interested me.  Hollywood, like the film industry itself in many ways, is very plastic and fake in so many ways; one day you are a star, the next you are forgotten.  The old phrase still rings true in so many ways, “You are only as good as your last picture.”

Why this type of post today?  Well, I recently read an article on the death of actress and former Playboy pin-up Yvette Vickers.  These are stories that you don’t hear as much about, the ones that show the sad, lonely side of fame.  Vickers, who was born on August 26, 1928, is probably best remembered for her lead role as Honey Parker in the Sci-Fi/Exploitation classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in 1958.  However, her career also included bit parts and other work in such classic films as Sunset Blvd., Hud and a host of guest roles in a variety of television programs.  In addition, she was Playboy’s Miss July in 1959, with photos by B-movie trailblazer Russ Meyer.

In her prime, Vickers was about as beautiful as they get: blue-eyed, blonde haired and very shapely.  As time went by, however, her roles became less and less and, by the mid-1960s, her career had squandered to only sporadic appearances.  According to IMDB, her final role was as “Neighbor” in a low budget horror film entitled Evil Spirits from 1990.

Largely forgotten by all but the most dedicated of science fiction and horror fans, Vickers body was found in her Benedict Canyon home last week.  Coroners were unable to pinpoint exactly how long she had been dead, as her body had mummified.; sources say it could have sat in her upstairs bedroom for as long as a year.

She had lived in the 1920s-era home in which she was found for decades, but over time, the home had fallen into a state of disrepair and even been exposed to the elements in some areas.  Noticing cobwebs and yellowed mail spilling out of the mailbox, neighbor Susan Savage decided to investigate further.  Savage looked in through the windows and could see blonde hair, which turned out to be a wig.  She entered the home which was purportedly filled with boxes of old mail, clothes and junk and maneuvered her way upstairs.

Copyright 1958 Woolner Brothers Pictures, Inc.

In a small room, cluttered as the rest of the house was, Savage found Vickers body next to a small space heater that was still running.  The body was unrecognizable and completely mummified.  According to Savage, she remembered her neighbor as a kind, older women with a warm smile who had friends.  Where were all these friends though to allow a death to go unnoticed for so long?  Everyone wants to make excuses, but in reality, poor Yvette Vickers was just a forgotten soul that few people outside of some fans across the nation remembered.

On a small scale, this is truly the bad side of fame, the part that forgets you after you are no longer in the spotlight.  On a large scale, this is the sad truth that likely much of our geriatric population without children go through, famous or not.  It hurts to see someone forgotten, someone no one seems to remember or care about anymore.

As for filmmaking as an industry, why don’t we take care of our own?  If you didn’t know already, the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital that had long been a service of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, is closing down.  No one new has been admitted for several years and after the passing of those currently occupying, the facility will close for good.  Many former staples of the industry have spent their last days in this facility and some would have had no where else to go but a demise such as Vickers had they not had this facility to rely on in their old age.

Maybe I’m biased because my father is older and always has been a senior citizen since I’ve been alive, but these people deserve to be cared for and treated properly.  If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have many of the things we take for granted today.





Apple Announces Final Cut Pro X for $299

13 04 2011

I’ve been cutting with Final Cut Pro as my primary editing software of choice since my early days in college.  When I started using the program, we were using Final Cut Pro version 3 on Apple G4 towers.  Needless to say, the workflow was painfully slow (and we were only using DV and VHS footage!).  The latest release of the program before last night was Final Cut Pro 7 in 2009 as part of the Final Cut Studio 3 package; it came bundled with other applications such as Soundtrack, Color, Compressor and DVD Studio Pro.  The combined price for the entire Studio package was $999.

Last night in Las Vegas, as part of the annual NAB festivities, Apple announced the new version of Final Cut, entitled Final Cut Pro X.  It is a complete, from the ground-up redesign of the program that has largely been formatted the same since its inception over 10 years ago.  Many were concerned that the new release would be a dumbed down version of the program, similar to the less professional-based software, iMovie, which comes standard on macs.

It looks, however, that those concerns have been allayed.  Final Cut Pro X looks to be a pretty interesting program re-design and still sharply aimed at the professional user.  Updates to the program include: support for 64-bit processors, the ability to utilize more than 4GB of RAM with the program, new smart collections for grouping similar types of media, clip connection for keeping audio and video in sync, a magnetic timeline and the ability to begin edits on the video before the ingest is complete.  Furthermore, transcoding issues have been addressed, easy color balancing options have been added in the timeline, background rendering will run with available CPU and the ability to import and handle 4k files is now an option.

The screenshots from the program itself looks quite sleek and the aforementioned updates sound very enticing.  Perhaps more enticing than anything though is the price tag that accompanies the program – $299.  Having before only been available for purchase as part of the Studio package at $999, this price drop and ability to download from the Apple App Store make it a lot more affordable for everyone, especially students and small production companies.  No news, however, on if the rest of the Studio suite programs are going to get a redesign like Final Cut, but Apple said in the unveiling last night for everyone to “stay tuned.”  Final Cut Pro X will go on sale in June; I can’t wait to get my copy and see what the hype is truly about.








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