Andy Serkis

Fox

The above image is what might happen if an actor forgets his lines on the set of The Jungle Book. According to THR, Andy Serkis is making the jump from playing apes of all sizes and second unit directing for The Hobbit to making his first feature. Just to be clear, this is the Warners Bros. live-action version and not the Disney live-action version being directed by Jon Favreau. If a third studio decides they want to have a say in Rudyard Kipling’s classic, it’ll get confusing. Warners has a steady history of taking interesting risks, and this is a perfect example of something that’s yawn-worthy being transformed by a left-field hire. The sound you just heard is attention being piqued. Or created altogether. Before Serkis, the prospect of another version of the little boy lost story was more what-happened-to-creativity nonsense, but that doesn’t mean that the project gets a stamp of approval all the sudden. Still, Serkis is an inspired choice. The rare actor making the jump to directing who has not only trained with a great talent, but who has worked alongside one in Peter Jackson.

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HER

I don’t know which critic first suggested Scarlett Johansson deserves an Oscar nomination for Her. That’s too bad, because a statement like that often initially comes from a place of attention-seeking. Not necessarily in a bad way, either. We like to and need to have fresh ideas in this business, and even more than that we like to get credit for those ideas. But it’s also too bad because I’m curious of the true intent behind the statement. It’s one thing to suggest — not in jest but in a way that’s not totally meant to be taken seriously so much as inspire a certain kind of discussion — and it’s another to really champion and campaign for the notion that a voice-only performance should be considered for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The conversation around the idea reminds me of the one a couple years ago in response to the suggestion that Andy Serkis‘s performance-capture work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination. It was actually residual build-up following the same idea more than a decade ago about Serkis’s performance as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Interestingly enough, there was no talk of such recognition a year ago when the actor reprised the role as the computer-generated character in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Had everyone just given up? Was it a lesser performance? Definitely not the latter. Perhaps it was that the novelty of […]

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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Shire, Warner Bros. has released the extended edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.The movie, which grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide is getting its second home video release in the course of the year, meant to prime the pump for the upcoming sequel in December. Director and all-around Tolkien movie guru Peter Jackson joins with his production partner Philippa Boyens to dissect the first installment in The Hobbit trilogy. It’s a long one, clocking in at just about three hours, the commentary was recorded in the summer of 2013 while they were in post-production of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This commentary track is exclusive to the extended edition of the film, and there is none available for the theatrical version, which came out in March of 2013.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Yesterday at Comic-Con, 20th Century Fox took the stage early in the afternoon with a massive task at hand: do something people will remember, even after they watch the Marvel Studios presentation in the evening. It took the entire casts of 2 X-Men movies and an aggressive army of talking apes, but they may have done it. The reactions were strong, including a number of attendees citing the scope of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the intricate nature of the apes’ development of communication. The photo above is the first released photo from the film, showing Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) leading his troops. After the jump, director Matt Reeves talks about what drew him to the project, what direction they took with the story and some chatting with the cast.

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Culture Warrior

The performance was so compelling, and the digital handiwork so real, that critics believed it would be a huge oversight if the Academy didn’t find a way to recognize this historical milestone. Audiences were compelled and engrossed with a CGI creature whose features and expressions were so detailed that he seemed to integrate seamlessly with his flesh-and-blood cohorts on the silver screen, occasionally even going so far as surpassing them in terms of the quality of his performance. The character was Gollum, the film was The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and the performer was a talented but then little-known British actor named Andy Serkis. Almost a decade since, Serkis has since found his rightful place as the premier motion capture performer working in Hollywood, but he is still yet to be recognized by the Academy for his work. I imagine that the debates over his snub for Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes will surmise yet again with another standout performance, just as this year’s debate closely resembles the one contested over Gollum nine years ago.

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Who is the Nielson Family?

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that is celebrating Monday Funday with what amounts to a bunch of shenanigans. Don’t worry though, we’ve slipped in at least one legitimate piece of news. We’ll get to that shortly. We begin tonight with something found a few weeks ago via Warming Glow, where an image from the Twitter account of Charley Koontz, best known as Fat Neil on Community, shows that Executive Producer Dan Harmon is just as bitter about Community‘s ratings as the rest of us. Seriously, who is the Nielsen Family? In other news, I hope Dan Harmon never changes.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr pulls out his screening schedule, which looks like a gambling addict’s racing form. He bounces from huge, mainstream releases to minor indie award contenders. Facing motion-capture CGI, tattooed bisexual investigators, cross-dressing waiters, silent film actors, and a lead star who is literally hung like a horse, Kevin tries to make sense of the seemingly countless releases this holiday week. Exhaustion from this process makes it impossible to buy a zoo or face the 3D end of the world, but his movie stocking is full, nonetheless.

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There’s not much one can really say about this first trailer for the much-anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As with Peter Jackson‘s three previous Lord of the Rings films, the project looks gorgeous, meticulous, epic, stirring, just plain wonderful, and true to its classic J.R.R. Tolkien source material. So, yeah, I love it. With The Hobbit, we again return to Middle-earth and the Shire, and to a much younger Bilbo Baggins (a very well-cast Martin Freeman), to learn (the first half of) the epic tale that started all this ring business to begin with. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes complete with an all-star cast, including Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, and Richard Armitage. It’s a testament to the world that director and co-writer Peter Jackson has created that so many of his Lord of the Rings cast came pack for this next go-round, journeying back in time to recapture some of that old magic. After the break, check out the first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Based on the comics by Belgian artist Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin follows a young reporter as he (along with his trusty dog Snowy) end up on a series of adventures in pursuit of his next story. Brought to the screen by director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, this may be the first time many audiences in America will be seeing and experiencing the world of Tintin (as the comic was first made famous overseas), but the series should have little trouble finding new fans this holiday season. Jackson’s skill with motion capture technology (as seen in his films like The Lord of the Rings and King Kong) is well-translated in Spielberg’s first animated project, creating an immersive world you can easily escape into, while the director’s love of telling an adventure story (and the series itself) bursts through each frame. The film begins with a series of animated scenes which work as a nice recall to the comics from which the story originated – even including a slight reference to newspapers as a nod to Tintin’s (Jamie Bell) job as a journalist and the format through which the comic first ran. The transition from to this the more standard style of animation into the full scope of the film’s 3D motion capture sublty helps audience realize just how impressive and vibrant this new technology truly is. Tintin may not look exactly as he does in the comics, but a clever wink at that iconic image is given early on, making it […]

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After months and months of thinking about it, I finally realized that the real question was “Why not Cookie Rocket?” Fox is thinking the same thing, because they’ve dropped a metric ton of Planet of the Apes news onto an unsuspecting citizenry who will soon be taken over by primates. For one, they’re committed to earnestly lobbying for Andy Serkis as Best Actor during awards season, and for two, they’ve signed him to “multiple future installments of the series.” Director Rupert Wyatt was already contractually on board for a second film, and it seems obvious that the success of the first did the heavy lifting of creating a new franchise out of an old one. A sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not far off. As Russ Fischer smartly opines over at /film, Serkis may have also, or may also discuss doing second unit for the second film since he’s doing that on The Hobbit, and because the entire world would probably watch a movie directed by Caesar. On second thought, if the man playing the world’s smartest simian also directs the second unit for the movie, then the apes really have taken over. Probably exactly what Fox wants.

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With Burke and Hare, John Landis has marked his return to the world of feature filmmaking. He’s kept busy the last few years, albeit not in the way his fans would prefer him to be, but still preoccupied nonetheless. However, this dark romantic comedy brings him back to the genre he once mastered. Like many of the director’s acclaimed comedies, Burke and Hare is about the unlikeliest of leads. The murdering duo (played by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) could easily slip into being nothing but despicable, but that has always seemed to be a fun challenge for Landis. The Blues Brothers, the Animal House gang, and so on, are not particularly “good” people. In most films, they would be the villains. Landis, on the other hand, always sets out to make them the heroes. Here’s what the personable John Landis had to say about how this isn’t his return, following antiheroes, being in the intimidating presence of Charles Bronson, and why he didn’t direct The Wolfman:

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Writer-director Rowan Joffe must love to challenge himself. With The American and his feature film debut, an adaptation of Brighton Rock, Joffe tackles the trickiest of characters: internal, cold ones. Like Jack (a.k.a. Mr. Butterfly), Pinkie is a lead that is always at a distance. He will never let anyone in. Everything remains internal. However, Pinkie is not a sucker for the ladies. Pinkie is a character that is not sympathetic, or likable, and is most likely insane. The gangster is a walking horror film; unpredictable, and will do anything he deems necessary out of fear. He’s insecure, which makes him a serious threat. This idea is, once again, expressed internally. Jack and Pinkie present their own challenges, both to the man behind the typewriter and the audience. Here’s what Rowan Joffe had to say about his enigmatic leads, writing a character-driven film versus a plot-driven film, and correcting Roger Ebert:

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Tim Burton‘s failed reboot/remake/whatever it is lacked everything that made the Apes series fun and interesting. His cheesy actioner was all about Mark Wahlberg running through empty set-pieces. The Apes franchise isn’t just the Statue of Liberty and Charleton Heston doing his awesome Charleton Heston shtick; they were morality tales loaded with social commentary. They were cynical films that declared human beings to be monsters, with exceptions being far and few between. For awhile, it seemed the franchise was dead in the water, and had nothing left to say. Fortunately, Rupert Wyatt has come along and made a real Planet of the Apes film. There’s a real darkness and cynicism to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I spoke to Wyatt a few ago months about Rise, and he labeled the film as being “hopeful.” That’s a questionable idea for a film that doesn’t close on the brightest of notes and is, basically, a symbolic horror film at times. There’s certainly some hope, but it’s still inherently bleak. But in a world of forced happy endings, you have to admire a summer tentpole that willingly sets out to wipe away and/or enslave humanity.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads into a lab to liberate some apes, but they rise up, beat him down and fling their poo all over him. He washes up and heads home to his family, secretly longing for the swinging lifestyle of fellow FSR staffers like Neil Miller, Robert Fure and Rob Hunter. But since he doesn’t get a chance to pee in a fountain with any of them, he doesn’t get a chance to switch bodies with them, a la The Change-Up. This is probably a good thing because few people can take the awesomessness of his body.

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I’ve never been much of a fan of prequels. The idea of exploring in depth a series of events which we’re already at least loosely familiar with has always seemed superfluous. Give me an original story, show me what happens next, take the story someplace new… And then 20th Century Fox released X-Men: First Class, which for all its flaws remains a fantastic film and the best comic-book movie of the summer (with Captain America a very close second). It took characters and events whose detailed destinies were already known to us and made them feel fresh, alive, and interesting again. It succeeded so well in fact that I’d prefer to see further X-Men stories with those characters/actors than see a return to the ones who made up the original trilogy. But surely that was a fluke, a rare case of synergy between director, writers, and cast that would not happen again anytime soon. Especially from a studio like Fox. And yet I’m happy to say I was wrong, again. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a prequel of sorts to the classic 1968 Charlton Heston original and gets right just about everything Tim Burton’s 2001 reboot got wrong. It’s smart, thrilling, and challenging entertainment that takes the familiar trope of man’s hubris paired with a story whose outcome is all but inevitable and manages to create an engaging, visually spectacular tale with a very strong human heart… that just happens to be beating beneath one incredibly hairy […]

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One of the great challenges of telling a story about apes is that you either have to have thousands of well-trained apes for the project, or you need superior technology to bring human actors to simian life through motion capture. Really, you have to do all that without making it look silly, so it’s fortunate that WETA has had so much experience in the past few years bringing mo-cap to the heights it’s at today. This quick, informative featurette shows off WETA’s talents alongside the blinding brilliance of Andy Serkis (with side-by-side video of his performance and what it would become) and seeks to shed a bit of light on where the tech is at this point, and how they utilized the emotions of a human to build Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s still unclear how they’ll conquer us considering we’ve got guns and tanks, and they have sticks, but this featurette is still very, very cool.

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In 1993, Peter Jackson was coming off Dead Alive and sitting firmly in the splatstick world of horror when he went into a theater to see Jurassic Park. The sights provided by Steven Spielberg, Stan Winston Studio and ILM had a profound effect on the freshman filmmaker from New Zealand – they propelled him practically mortgage his house in order to get a computer that could do the kinds of things he knew he wanted to do as a storyteller. The next year, he put out Heavenly Creatures. That was the first step in the road to buy dozens, then hundreds and now thousands of computers that make up WETA – the digital effects studio crafting The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn which is being directed by, of course, Steven Spielberg. The sphere of influence comes full circle here, and the footage and discussion offered up today by the two modern masters was an exciting promise that big adventure would soon be coming our way.

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With little sleep and almost zero vegetables eaten during the day, Robert Fure, Cole Abaius and Jack Giroux gathered in their hotel room overlooking the San Diego Convention Center and a giant cargo freighter loading container after container of bananas to discuss what their favorite moments were. After a quiet start to a roaring event, the day was filled with fantastic little moments that made us all wish you were right here in the hotel room with us. Each and every one of you. In one room. While we’ll be calling dibs on the bed, check out the 8 best things about Comic-Con‘s opening day.

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A significant portion of the 20th Century Fox Panel was dedicated to the upcoming August release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the popular Apes franchise that focuses on Caesar, a laboratory animal that first gets smart and then gets revenge. The panel started with a “research clip” that showed rebel soldiers in Africa teasing a chimpanzee by mocking it. Aping it, if you will. The chimpanzee got the last laugh, and most of the laughs in between, when he picked up an AK-47 assault rifle and within seconds figured out that pulling the trigger made it go bang, and the bang sound made all the mean men run away like little girls. After the clip played, director Rupert Wyatt came out and discussed animal rights before Caesar himself stole the show.

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Everybody knows Andy Serkis as being the man who provides the motion capture performances for the revolutionary CG characters in Peter Jackson’s films. He was responsible for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, he was the guy that made King Kong possible, and he’s playing the super smart ape Caesar in the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which Jackson’s company WETA did the effects work on. So news that he is being looked at to bring another computer animated character to life should come as no surprise. In the most recent issue of “Empire”, which includes a lengthy feature on Apes, they talked to the film’s director Rupert Wyatt about what he was planning on doing next. He says that he’s looking to work with Serkis again to bring a classic work of literature to the big screen. The two want to make an adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”; the story set on an English farm that details the overthrow of the farmers by the animals and the subsequent corruption of the pig Napoleon when he becomes mad with power. You see, the animals are proletariat, the farmers are bourgeoisie, and the pig is like Stalin… you know what I’m talking about, you probably read this in high school English and remember it better than I do. The potential project is a ways off still and will probably hinge largely on the success or failure of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But as […]

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published: 04.16.2014
B-
published: 04.14.2014
B
published: 04.14.2014
A-
published: 04.14.2014
C

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