Ten years ago this week The Fellowship of the Ring was released. Peter Jackson‘s first Tolkien adaption silenced a great many naysayers who said J.R.R. Tolkien‘s novels could never be properly translated to film. It also fostered a mainstream interest in fantasy movies that continues a decade later.

The development of a film based on Tolkien’s original Middle-Earth novel, The Hobbit, was the subject of speculation as soon as Jackson started work on The Lord of the Rings. Actually making the movie was a terrifically complicated process that involved rights deals, the financial solvency of MGM, a long period of development under original director Guillermo del Toro, and the eventual return of Peter Jackson to the director’s chair.

Now the first teaser trailer — a long teaser, at that — has been released for the first of two films based on the novel. Get the first look at footage from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, after the break. Read More »

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Oscar-campaigning is in full swing and one race many of us are keeping an eye on is Best Supporting Actor. The reason for the scrutiny on that particular category is that 20th Century Fox is pushing for a precedent setting performance capture nomination for Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Serkis, who also worked with the technology in Lord of the Rings, King Kong and the upcoming The Adventures of Tintin and The Hobbit, is absolutely brilliant as Caesar, but you never see him on screen. Even so, the whole film hinges on his non-verbal performance. Building the film around him obviously worked, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes grossed almost $500 million world wide.

Ads are now popping up all over trade magazines and websites that state “The Time is Now” for the Oscars to recognize performance capture with a photo of Serkis’ face and that of the CGI Caesar. Do you agree? Check out the add after the jump. Read More »

The question about actors qualifying for Oscar when performing under layers of makeup and prosthetics goes back years. The conversation has intensified in recent years with the rise of motion-capture technology, and since Andy Serkis helped incarnate Gollum in The Lord of the Rings there has been a push to give Academy recognition to actors, specifically Serkis, who aren’t directly seen on screen.

Serkis’ work in this summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a crucial part of that film’s best character, the ape Caesar. Since the film’s release the level of chatter about Oscar recognition for mo-cap work has definitely risen. And now Tom Rothman, the co-chairman and CEO of Fox, says that he will push for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Serkis. Read More »

I think it’s fair to say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised a great many people. (Myself included.) Powered by a nuanced performance from Andy Serkis as the ape Caesar and cutting-edge effects wizardry from WETA, Rise shrugged off assumptions that it was a hackneyed cash-in sequel to become that rare summer tentpole that scored both critical and audience approval.

Now Fox has announced that it plans to stage a campaign for Oscar recognition for Serkis, and has signed him to reprise the role of Caesar in multiple additional Apes films. Read More »

Paramount Pictures has released a new international movie trailer for the Peter Jackson-produced Steven Spielberg-directed performance capture animated adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin. If you were skeptical after the initial teaser trailer, this full length preview might just win you over. Its great to actually see more action this time around. I have to admit, the action sequences feel more like a modern Indiana Jones film than Crystal Skull. Watch the trailer now embedded after the jump. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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If you’ve seen either version of Planet of the Apes, the overall outcome of Rupert Wyatt‘s Rise of the Planet of the Apes shouldn’t have come as a huge shock — the end result is spelled out right there in the title, after all. But there was one key element of the ending that nearly turned out very differently, until a very late reshoot shifted the fate of one of its major characters. And given that the film ultimately wound up grossing $409 million worldwide, essentially guaranteeing a sequel or two, it was probably a pretty wise move on the part of the filmmakers. Read more about the alternate ending after the jump. (Spoilers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes follow, obviously.)

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‘The Adventures of Tintin:’ Loads of New Images

It’s been three years since Steven Spielberg last had a film in theaters bearing his credit as director. This year, however, we get two: the WWI stage play adaptation War Horse, opening on December 28, and the long-in-development The Adventures of Tintin, which hits Europe in little over a month and will play in the US beginning on December 23.

Both these films have had a low profile so far, at least in the US. There’s just one trailer for War Horse, for example. The film nerd crowd has been all over Tintin because of the fact that it represents a union between Spielberg, Peter Jackson and WETA, but even with that in mind I feel like US audiences are relatively ignorant of the film. A few preview rolls of footage have been shown at conventions and press events, but there’s a lot of audience awareness left to raise.

So for those who are still a bit in the dark about Tintin, or just want to see more evidence of what Spielberg, Jackson and WETA have achieved with the visual presentation, check out a massive gallery of new stills below. Read More »

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Andy Serkis’ work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes locks his position amongst legendary ‘monster’ actors such as Lon Chaney, Sr, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Boris Karloff. That might not seem to be the greatest compliment at first; that roster of actors shouldn’t be marginalized so. I think all would bristle at being considered as performers we take seriously only when they work behind makeup and prosthetics or their digital equivalents.

The fact, however, is that Andy Serkis’ best work has been done in conjunction with groundbreaking washes of pixels. Beginning with his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, continuing on through Peter Jackson’s King Kong and now culminating with Caesar, the ape at the center of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the partnership between the actor and effects house WETA has done far more than most to advance the idea of what the nature of screen acting really is.

Serkis and WETA lend Caesar a moving depth of personality that goes beyond the bounds we’re accustomed to seeing in non-human characters. And, as many of his interactions with the other simian characters are necessarily devoid of dialogue, the film displays a spirit that cuts closer to pure cinema than I expect from the seventh film in the 40-year old franchise. Read More »

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