Practical Effects

Edge of Tomorrow BTS

As you all know, Edge of Tomorrow is the story of a man facing a grueling mid-life crisis who can only save himself by escaping a workday grind where every day poses the exact same set of existential irritations and wide-mouthed aliens who want to blow him into tiny bits. We’ve all been there. The movie required a lot of projectiles and explosions for Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt to run away from (or to), and this B-roll footage (via ScreenSlam) shows the pair doing their own stunts while practical fireballs blaze in the background. It’s tough to say whether Edge of Tomorrow had more practical special effects than other big action flicks (I once saw a car thrown at another car while driving near the Transformers set), but it definitely feels like it. The kind of explosions and stunts they’re pulling off without CGI are really fantastic. The body-flinging segment at 3:00 is genuinely startling, and I’m waiting for someone to explain how they safely shot rockets (missiles?) above the heads of dozens of extras and movie stars. That’s the kind of phone call Ned Ryerson waits his whole life for. Questions aside, this video is damned impressive, and it makes me want to see Cruise and Blunt star in a Zhang Yimou movie as soon as possible.


Don't Look Into Its Eyes

Oh, Twilight. Just when it seemed we were free from the grip you had on pop culture, with your sexy vampires and sexy werewolves and so much insipid, dead-eyed romance, you find a way to claw back into the spotlight one final time: through the magic of DVD bonus features. And one bonus feature in particular manages to be truly, legitimately frightening – something strangely absent in a series of vampire movies. Exclusive to Yahoo! is a glimpse at “Chuckesmee,” the unfortunately nicknamed and unfortunate-looking abomination that appears at the top of this article. You may remember (and if you don’t, be grateful) that the last two Twilights featured protagonist Bella (Kristen Stewart) giving birth to a soulless bundle of CGI that she dutifully raised until it became human(ish). Well, “Chuckesmee” (a portmanteau of the killer doll Chucky and the embarrassingly awful Twilight moniker Renesmee) was originally how Bella’s vampire progeny was to be portrayed in the films. Go ahead and watch the clip below to see just how unsettling this thing looks in motion.



Seeing as Star Wars fandom is a thing that goes back a good 36 years now, its community of enthusiasts have, over time, become an eclectic group who represent a multitude of different age groups, backgrounds, and opinions. Just go to any Star Wars message board around the Internet and you’ll see a steady and healthy stream of debate about a whole host of subjects, from classic arguments like why George Lucas had Luke kiss his sister in A New Hope, to more modern debates around which changes made to the Special Edition films were positive and which were negative, to immediate concerns about whether or not JJ Abrams is going to include any known characters from ancillary Star Wars novels in his upcoming Episode VII. Two things that pretty much every Star Wars fan can agree on, though, are that a Star Wars movie just wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without John Williams handling the music, and that Lucas—heady with the possibilities presented by new technologies—went way overboard with making everything in the Prequel Trilogy CG, to the point where he ended up making a series of live action movies that largely look like glossy, crappy cartoons. Well, some new announcements coming out of Star Wars Celebration Europe address both of these issues, and they’re the kind of announcements that will likely be seen as reason to celebrate for Star Wars fanatics.



Sometimes the best solution is also the easiest. When it comes to making movies, however, nothing tends to be easy. Then again, there have been a few instances where the solution – while still not anywhere close to easy – was at least simple. Cheap, even. Check out the following big budget effects that you could theoretically recreate in your own basement.


Gremlins Gizmo

Vulture has a super vague rumor that Warners is attempting to coax Steven Spielberg into giving his blessing for a remake of Gremlins. It’s not the first time, it probably won’t be the last, and so far there’s no reason to believe that this trial balloon will soar where others have failed before it. But if the studio really wants to recapture a bit of Amblin magic, they’re going to need drop the eternal sticking point that kept Joe Dante from making Gremlins 3: the insistence of switching to CGI (a point succinctly argued by Quint in his open letter to Spielberg). Quints main parallel is perfect — how would audiences react if the new Muppets movie was going to feature a CGI Kermit? Regardless of whether technology has made fantastical leaps and bounds, Gizmo and the gang are rooted in that practical puppet look. On the fan side, making them CGI will be heresy. From a business standpoint, if you’re going to trade off the name-recognition of the characters, you have to respect the iconography, or you’re ultimately just launching a new unknown anyway.



Not to take anything away from the fine people who create digital effects in films, but there are certain things that just look better when done for real. One of which has and always will be chases, crashes, and explosions. Trains are a solid example of this, so I’ve opted to share what I consider to be the best train crashes done primarily through practical methods such as model work or – in some cases – by just blowing up a damn train.



Welcome back to Junfood Cinema. We break laws for meat. Column-owner Brian Salisbury is currently further North than the Northest of the Dakotas covering the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal. If he knew what Canadians really did he might have rethought his trip. The most I know is that he was alive and well two days ago. Or do I? Canadians are weird and they harbor weird things. I know that because I’ve seen today’s movie that’s set in Calgary, directed by a famous author who writes famously weird stories and starring a famous director who directs famously weird movies in Canada and that makes me a certifiable expert on 1990 Canada. Everything else I learned about Canada I got from Dear Zachary and dammit things just got real and now I’m crying. But back to Canada being South of normal and North of Dakota, if today’s film is any indication as to the happenings of what goes on with the dead in that region of the world then, well, free healthcare is making a ton of sense. I know I’m supposed to plug something clever about how we integrate food in with the movie that we write about, but I just finished re-watching this movie and there is a big pile of man-poo-blob-cyst-slobber creature thing that resembles a Pod fusion between the Brundle Fly and a bowl of clam chowder. So, thank you Clive Barker and David Cronenberg, because appetite destructed. Now about this movie Nightbreed…


Michael Caine The Dark Knight Rises

Speaking specifically about the success that Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies have earned, and the secret behind why The Dark Knight Rises works, Michael Caine recently pointed to the real stunt work, practical effects, and minimal computer manipulation that went into the production. “For me, it was incredible because the great thing about it was – and the secret of the success of this picture as opposed to those massive blockbusters out there – is the stunts and special effects are real. There is very, very little computer generated imaging in it. All these other ones you see a million people marching towards you, you know they’ve photographed ten and just kept doubling it up and up and up. In ours, when the stuntman falls off the roof, it’s a real man falling off the roof and hitting the bottom.And I think that is very important. It’s very human and I suppose the class of acting is a little better… For a start both Batman and the butler are Oscar-winners! (laughs). Gary Oldman, who’s the chief of police, nearly became one himself, do you see what I mean? So it’s a very high standard of acting, and a very high standard of reality. That’s the secret of that series, for me.” Funny. It all sort of boils down to having a huge human factor involved in a massive movie. I wonder if any studios are paying attention, because Caine just nailed it. [Empire]  


The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Yes, there’s some great CGI at work in Clark Baker‘s Vessel, but it’s a movie that also celebrates atmospheric horror greats with its practical creature design. That blend is the bedrock for a solid science fiction trip. It follows a group of passengers on an airplane that come into contact with another ship midair and end up fighting back a group of tentacled baddies who definitely aren’t from around here. “Here” being, you know, our atmosphere. Everything about the short is pro-level. The score and strong performances from leads Brandon Bales and Julie Mintz are among the highlights, but it’s all here. Right on down to the sound design. Baker isn’t afraid to put his creatures front and center, and the design definitely pays off as the giant gooey roach/pig mutants are a thing of terrible beauty. Plus, the  script from Ross and Matt Duffer has just the right amount of chemistry and chaos. Overall, it’s an excellent film with plenty of fear and adrenaline. What will it cost? Only 12 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films


Total Recall Banner

It’s fair to say the reception for the Total Recall trailer has been positive. Nathan Adams notably went over the moon for it, declaring the visuals “mind-blowing.” While that might a bit extreme, the trailer was pretty damn cool, and certainly more impressive than most skeptics were expecting. Now, courtesy of MTV, director Len Wiseman provides a commentary for the trailer, in which he discusses the world of the film, the unique opium den take on Recall, and how that one shot is an all-practical effect.


Boiling Point

If you tried, you could probably find a bigger Evil Dead fan than me. It might take a little bit, but you could. I mean, I’ve got my three T-Shirts, my Necronomicon copies of the movies on DVD in addition to several other versions, including Blu-ray transfers, I’ve got my toys, books, comics, and video games too. So while I’ll never claim to be the biggest Evil Dead fan, I can say I’m a pretty big one. For years I’ve waited on a continuation to the story. I remember my first experiencing watching the original movie at a sleepover. It was Steve’s house, but he fell asleep early after playing too much Command & Conquer. Only me and Matt were awake and he, no joke, got a boner from the tree rape scene. There was always something off about Matt. But it wasn’t long after that I found the second. I remember Army of Darkness in theaters. Everything Bruce Campbell wrote or said about the franchise, I ate up. Waiting to hear about Evil Dead 4. When talk turned to a remake instead of a continuation, I was upset but hopeful. Maybe Campbell would be in it. Maybe they would cast Seann William Scott and that wouldn’t be all that bad, would it? Now we have firm news that the Evil Dead reboot is moving forward – time to praise the lord? Hardly. What we know sucks and here’s why.


Mad Max Fury Road

I imagine the children of the next generation will be forced to slam together green blocks and head for a computer to add in the cars afterward. CGI has grown up considerably in the past decade, but it’s also become prevalent to the point of fault. It’s great to see advancements, but it’s not great to see technology used as a crutch when practical filmmaking is so much more exciting to watch. Cars flying down the crackling asphalt of highway is one of those occasions.



Sometimes a great shot can be attained through the wonders of visual effects — the fine folks at ILM can do just about anything with a computer these days. But there is a certain brutality, a certain aesthetic beauty that can only be achieved in the practical realm.



Have you ever wondered how makeup artists go about making an actor or actress look as though he or she has aged 30 or 40 years? Probably not, given the fact that until recently most Hollywood age-jobs were so horrible that you could tell exactly how they had made the actors look older—with bad makeup.

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published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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