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ENTERTAINMENT
August 30, 2012 | By Robert Abele
Imax 3-D is hardly a passive moviegoing experience, especially if Hong Kong action impresario Tsui Hark is the one in charge of your field of vision. His latest wuxia extravaganza, "The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate" - already a massive hit in Asia - is a spiky, over-the-top whir of the usual ingredients. The film, which picks up where the 1993 epic "Dragon Inn" left off, features cruel Ming Dynasty imperials (led by Cher Kun's evil eunuch), dedicated warriors (including Jet Li) and mysterious personalities, all of whom converge at a rowdy desert inn that might sit atop a buried city with endless treasures.
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ENTERTAINMENT
March 6, 2014 | By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
As much performance art as movie, "300: Rise of an Empire" unfolds as beautiful, bloody, slow-motion machismo. Torsos bared, swords flashing, another 300 rock the leather skirts and loincloths with pounding, passionate music perfectly underscoring this latest round of the "beautiful death" the ancient Greeks were so poetic about. Though it is hard to replicate the freshness of the first, "Rise" is almost as visually stunning as 2006's "300," when Gerard Butler as King Leonidas sacrificed Sparta's finest abs in a no-win battle against the Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro)
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ENTERTAINMENT
August 25, 2012 | By Cristy Lytal, Los Angeles Times
One of the main characters in "Robot & Frank" looks like a robot, walks like a robot and talks like a robot, but it isn't a robot. It's a suit created by makeup and special effects designer Tony Gardner and his company, Alterian Inc. The futuristic film stars Frank Langella as a retired jewel thief who makes a new friend who has more servos than scruples. Gardner's robot suit makes a convincing costar, thanks to the voice of actor Peter Sarsgaard and the movements of dancer Rachael Ma. Gardner developed his talent for creating believable illusions as a child growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 19, 2014 | By Betsy Sharkey
There has been so much talk of the heights director Alfonso Cuarón achieves with "Gravity's" groundbreaking 3-D effects, I fear the merits of its heart-pounding story and Sandra Bullock's and George Clooney's moving performances are being overlooked. It's worth a mention as "Gravity" fights to the Oscar finish line in the running for best picture, actress, director and seven other categories. So I decided to put the ethereal cosmic odyssey written by Cuarón and son Jonás to the ultimate test: 2-D, 35-inch screen, dogs on the couch.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 10, 2013
Sentimental and jokey until it rains hell on its high-rise-trapped characters, the Korean action epic "The Tower" recalls the heyday of Irwin Allen's '70s reign as the Master of Disaster. When a pair of luxury skyscrapers is set to open with a lavish Christmas party involving helicopters raining snow on partygoers, signs of schematic drama lurk: a kind-faced building manager/widowed father (Kim Sang-kyung) forced to work the party instead of be with his moppet daughter; faulty architecture that a real estate kingpin would rather ignore; a dedicated firefighter (Kang Young-kee)
BUSINESS
May 8, 1989 | BRUCE HOROVITZ
What is the most expensive special effects commercial of all time? No one seems to know. But several ad executives say one of the most costly--$1 million to create and air just once--has to be a 1984 ad for Apple Computer that aired during the Super Bowl. The spot, which showed a futuristic vision of George Orwell's 1984, featured hundreds of actors and required numerous effects. Among them was a Big Brother character illuminated on a big screen. A woman in Olympic garb, apparently competing in the hammer throw event, tossed a ball-and-chain hammer at the giant screen and destroyed it. More special effects commercials are filmed in Los Angeles each year than anywhere else in the world.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 6, 2009 | BETSY SHARKEY, FILM CRITIC
Have you ever wanted to strangle a ghost? You may well feel the urge after seeing "A Christmas Carol," Robert Zemeckis' exasperating re-imagining of the Dickens classic as a 3-D action-thriller zooming through Victorian London and the fever dreams of that most miserly of men, Ebenezer Scrooge. The "it's better to give than receive" moral to this story is almost lost under the snowdrifts of special effects. Then there is the blizzard of Jim Carrey's theatrics to weather. The actor voices eight characters, including Scrooge at all ages as well as the three ghosts who haunt him -- you can just see him in the recording studio pingponging manically around during one of the Scrooge-ghost tête-à-têtes.
BUSINESS
December 7, 1998 | KAREN KAPLAN
Special-effects wizards learned the latest tricks of the trade last week at the first annual Digital Content Creation conference and exposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The conference, sponsored by Fairfield, Conn.-based trade magazine publisher Advanstar Communications, was geared toward the decidedly Southern California combination of technology and entertainment.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 27, 1998 | KEVIN THOMAS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
As part of its "Hollywood Real to Reel" series, American Movie Classics tonight presents Richard Schickel's "The Harryhausen Chronicles," a delightful and informative one-hour documentary on Ray Harryhausen, whom Schickel aptly describes as having become as much a legend as the wondrous creatures, dinosaurs and mythical monsters he envisioned as one of the movies' greatest special effects geniuses.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 9, 2004 | Chris Lee
The filmmakers call the sequence the Big Freeze. In director Roland Emmerich's big-budget action epic "The Day After Tomorrow," which comes out May 28, global warming sets off a chain of devastating tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. But even in a movie littered with eye-popping computer-generated special effects sequences, the most impressive one involves a gigantic frozen hurricane that sweeps into New York. Action begins at the tip of the Empire State Building.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 23, 2013 | By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
Leveraging the wildly anticipated, international, multimedia debut of the "Doctor Who" anniversary special, BBC America is smartly following "The Day of the Doctor" with the premiere Saturday of "Atlantis. " The new fantasy-action-adventure series is a crazy, narratively exasperating yet still quite appealing mess of Greek mythology, early mathematics (Pythagoras is a character) and vague Mediterranean history. It nicely capitalizes on the sly humor of icon tweakage, the growing popularity of genre heroes and the success of the Percy Jackson series.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 24, 2013 | By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times
WILMINGTON, N.C. - Inside a 10-foot-tall cylinder a few miles from the beach, actress Britt Robertson is chained to a bedpost. The petite 23-year-old is being held captive by her (fictional) ex-boyfriend, a possessive young man named Junior who's played, with a kind of hair-swooping spaciness, by newcomer Alex Koch. "I brought you some eggs," Koch tells Robertson in the scene, sounding at once nurturing and creepy. Her wrists tightly bound, Robertson nonetheless lets her face soften from anger to seduction and helps him dress a wound.
ENTERTAINMENT
May 8, 2013 | By Dennis McLellan
The work of special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died Tuesday at 92, was chronicled in a 2004 memoir he wrote with British film historian Tony Dalton titled “Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life.” In the book, Harryhausen noted that he was especially proud of the skeleton sword fight in the 1963 film “Jason and the Argonauts.” The complex sequence illustrates the time, patience and concentration such work entailed. PHOTOS: Ray Harryhausen - Career in pictures “I had three men fighting seven skeletons and each skeleton had five appendages to move in each separate frame of film,” he wrote in his book.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 7, 2013 | By Dennis McLellan, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion animation legend whose work on "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms," "Jason and the Argonauts" and other science fiction and fantasy film classics made him a cult figure who inspired later generations of filmmakers and special-effects artists, has died. He was 92. Harryhausen died Tuesday in London, where he had lived for decades. His death was confirmed by Kenneth Kleinberg, his longtime legal representative in the United States. In the pre-computer-generated-imagery era in which he worked, Harryhausen used the painstaking process of making slight adjustments to the position of his three-dimensional, ball-and-socket-jointed scale models and then shooting them frame-by-frame to create the illusion of movement.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 7, 2013 | By Dennis McLellan
Ray Harryhausen, a stop-motion animation pioneer who became a cult figure for creating special effects for “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” “Jason and the Argonauts” and other science fiction and fantasy film classics, died Tuesday in London of natural causes. He was 92. His death was confirmed by Kenneth Kleinberg, his longtime legal representative in the United States. Harryhausen, a Los Angeles native who lived in London for more than four decades, inspired generations of filmmakers and special-effects artists.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 21, 2013 | By Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times
Long before the age of computer-generated special effects, Marcel Vercoutere helped create a scene widely considered among the most terrifying in movie-going history. In "The Exorcist," the 1973 horror film that became a pop-culture phenomenon, the head of a helpless young girl twists completely around as a young priest battles the demon that inhabits her body. With its wild, animated eyes, the life-size robot used as a stand-in for actress Linda Blair was built by Vercoutere, the film's special effects director, with help from its chief makeup artist, Dick Smith.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 13, 1988 | CHARLES SOLOMON
The most impressive effect on Monday night's Academy Awards telecast (Cher's dress not withstanding) was Mickey Mouse's surprise appearance to help present the Oscar for best animated short. At the end of a clip from the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence of "Fantasia," Mickey leaped out of the screen and conjured up a giant package that burst to reveal Tom Selleck. The cartoon mouse exchanged banter with the live actor, walked across the stage and announced one of the nominees.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 21, 2013 | By Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times
Long before the age of computer-generated special effects, Marcel Vercoutere helped create a scene widely considered among the most terrifying in movie-going history. In "The Exorcist," the 1973 horror film that became a pop-culture phenomenon, the head of a helpless young girl twists completely around as a young priest battles the demon that inhabits her body. With its wild, animated eyes, the life-size robot used as a stand-in for actress Linda Blair was built by Vercoutere, the film's special effects director, with help from its chief makeup artist, Dick Smith.
BUSINESS
March 29, 2013 | By DiAngelea Millar, Los Angeles Times
The gig: Todd Tucker, 38, is co-founder and president of Illusion Industries Inc., a special effects makeup company in Los Angeles. He helped create the Brad Pitt baby in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the pirates in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Upcoming films that feature Illusion Industries work include Paramount Pictures' "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and Sony Pictures Animation's "The Smurfs 2. " First break: Steven Spielberg was a huge inspiration for Tucker, who grew up loving movies.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 17, 2013 | By Cristy Lytal
For director Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," the story of a spiritual Indian boy stranded at sea with a tiger, Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer, who is nominated for this year's Oscars, started with shots of actor Suraj Sharma alone on a lifeboat in a water tank against a blue screen. Working with 1,200 visual effects artists at several companies, he transformed this footage into the character of Pi Patel and a Bengal tiger on a vast, changeable sea. Rhythm & Hues, where Westenhofer works, conjured up most of the animals, seas and skies; other effects companies tackled everything from creating storm sequences and a sinking ship to making Sharma skinnier and Pondicherry, India, look like the 1970s.
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