Thor Ragnarok BTS - Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth

When we sat down to talk with Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi on the set of the Marvel Studios sequel in Brisbane, Australia in September of 2016, one of the first things he playfully said while holding a prop weapon from the movie was “I liken the filmmaking process to going into battle.”

If that’s the case, Taika Waititi must be one cool customer in the face of danger, and he’s not beyond dressing snappily while he’s in battle either. I joined a group of reporters to chat with the filmmaker in between takes during a climactic scene from Thor: Ragnarok (don’t worry, we don’t spoil that in the interview), and we asked him about his approach to Thor, striking a balance between his own style and the mandates of a corporate-owned movies studio, improvising with the actors, learning lessons from superhero movies, and much more.

Read our full Thor Ragnarok Taika Waititi interview below. Read More »

Thor Ragnarok Director

It was nearly two years ago that director Taika Waititi was reported to be in talks to direct Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the god of thunder’s solo franchise. The filmmaker wasn’t the most obvious choice for the blockbuster sequel, having only directed Eagle vs SharkBoy, and the outstanding mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. And we hadn’t even seen the fantastic Hunt for the Wilderpeople yet. But Marvel Studios knew exactly what they were doing, because everything we’ve seen from the sequel looks fantastic so far.

So why did Taika Waititi get the job? Producer Brad Winderbaum says it was Boy that ultimately convinced them he was the right person, “It had the a combination that we always are striving for at Marvel, which is a great sense of humor that ran through the whole thing, but also moments of real drama and melancholy that the characters had to deal with.” It also helps that Taika Waititi wanted to do something completely different from the first two movies, stripping down the very franchise itself to create something that felt new.

Find out what Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi had to say about his approach to the sequel below. Read More »

Thor Ragnarok - Hulk, Thor, Valkyrie and Loki

Back on September 14, 2016, myself and a group of online reporters found themselves hopping through space from the golden realm of Asgard to the vibrant, space trash city called Sakaar. No, we didn’t figure out how to traverse the galaxy, but we did make quite the long journey down to Brisbane, Australia to visit the set of the Marvel Studios sequel Thor: Ragnarok.

As we’ve seen in the trailers for the latest adventure following the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth), this time we find Thor a little out of his element. First, his trusty hammer Mjolnir is broken by Hela the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett), who has also started a reign of terror and destruction throughout Asgard. Then he’s been captured by a bounty hunter named Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) on a strange planet called Sakaar, given a haircut and forced to compete in gladiatorial combat against Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), which is controlled by a man called The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who’s hanging around with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). That’s the gist of what we already know about the movie. Would you like to know more?

Below, read out full Thor Ragnarok set visit report with tons of new details about the movie, but beware of potential spoilers. Read More »

coco teaser poster

What’s a Pixar movie without a lovable sidekick? Up had Dug and Kevin, Inside Out had Bing Bong, and Ratatouille had — arguably — Linguini. Of course, these sidekicks serve as more than just comic relief or witty one-liner machines. Pixar has been consistent in its generous handling of all of its characters, with some of these sidekicks receiving more of an emotional arc than other animated protagonists.

For Coco we have Dante, who has a few more layers to him than you’d expect for a street dog with only a few scraggly hairs on his head.

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skeletons in coco

Skeletons are no stranger to animation — or reanimation. One of Disney’s earliest short films, Skeleton Dance, featured some surprisingly dexterous skeletons dancing in a graveyard, and animated films throughout the years have kept up the spooky tradition, from the 1993 classic Nightmare Before Christmas to 2005’s The Corpse Bride.

It was not even the first time these bags of bones would be rendered in CGI animation, with 2014’s The Book of Life bringing skeletons into the modern age. However, this was the first time that Pixar has attempted to animate skeletons, so they tackled the challenge with the meticulous precision that the studio is known for.

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world of COCO

In Pixar’s Coco, the Land of the Dead is a stunning piece of animation, embedded with tiny pinpricks of light scattered throughout precarious towers of houses stacked upon houses. And springing out of this land are luminescent bridges made of marigold, bridging the way from the Land of the Dead to the Land of the Living.

It’s a majestic sight that’s all at once familiar and unfamiliar, as the production and set designers of Coco wanted to forge their own paths independent of animated films that evoked the afterlife before them — like The Book of Life or The Corpse Bride — but at the same time pay homage to the rich Mexican landscape in which the film is set.

“Mexico is a designer’s dream and I knew that we would feature the rich colors and textures that we saw there,” production designer Harvey Jessup said.
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COCO set visit

Is it possible to “Pixar-ify” an entire cultural tradition and transform it into a family-friendly, merchandise-ready movie? Those are the fears that some might have about Coco, Pixar’s upcoming film centers around Mexico’s beloved Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos. But those fears can be put to rest, as Coco is as respectful in its treatment of Día de los Muertos as it is eager to share the joyous Mexican holiday with the rest of the world.

Coco follows a Mexican boy named Miguel (voiced by relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) whose overwhelming passion for music drives him to disobey his family — who, after a traumatizing incident from the past, has banned all music in their household — and attempt to prove himself as a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But a series of rash decisions causes him to be stuck in the Land of the Dead on Día de los Muertos. There, he teams up with a ragamuffin skeleton named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) on a mission to find de la Cruz, who he believes can help him return to the land of the living.

As fantastical a story as it sounds, Coco actually touches on more universal values than you would think: family, nostalgia, music, and adorable dogs. But amazingly, it tells this tale in a bilingual tongue, with the setting placed firmly in the fictional Mexican town of Santa Cecilia and its afterworld counterpart. The cast is entirely Latino, and Spanish phrases are sprinkled throughout the movie — with nary a subtitle to be seen. But rather than being alienating, these aspects of multiculturalism only serves to make Coco more authentic, serving as a bridge to a culture that hasn’t often been explored in mainstream animated films.

Earlier this month, I visited Pixar to get an early glimpse of the footage of Coco, as well as insight into the process of Coco’s long journey to the big screen from its directors, animators, and artists.

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Inhumans teaser

The Inhumans are an odd bunch. While making my way over to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit the set of the latest Marvel show along with other bloggers and reporters, I enjoyed the oddities of Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee‘s take on Marvel’s Royal family midair. Perhaps it wouldn’t translate to the most accessible or financially responsible series, but the comics (and the family contained within) went to some fantastical, out-of-this-world territory. The ABC series is still set out of this world, at least partially, but is looking to ground the genetically super-powered characters. But they’re initially going big, though, by shooting the first two episodes on IMAX cameras.

Below, check out our Inhumans set visit report.

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It MPAA rating

It is the story of a shapeshifting monster that takes on the form of a clown named Pennywise so it can murder children. And yet, millions of people first encountered this tale as a television miniseries. In 1990. On ABC. To say that the beloved television adaptation was watered down from the source material would be an understatement.

For the new big screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s classic novel, director Andy Muschietti has embraced the R-rating, aiming for a version that can capture the uncomfortable darkness of the source material. During a set visit to the film’s Toronto set last year, he and producer Barbara Muschietti shared the details on why they’re embracing the rating…and focusing on practical effects whenever possible.

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The It Losers Club Interview

Some kids spend the summer playing video games. Others go to camp. But for the young cast of It, the summer of 2016 was spent battling an evil entity that takes on the form of a clown so it can prey on the children of Derry, Maine.

And just about all of them called it the best summer of their lives.

When we visited the set of director Andy Muschietti‘s adaptation of Stephen King‘s classic horror novel last year, we were able to meet the entire “Losers’ Club,” the ensemble of young misfits and dorks who come together to battle Pennywise the Dancing Clown and its various other hideous guises. As you’d expect from seven young kids working on a horror movie set, they had stories to share…and no filter to keep them from being interesting.

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