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For the first time, an entire feature film will be projected digitally in 4K resolution when Sony Electronics debuts its next generation digital projector with a screening of Spider-Man 2. Set to take place Jan. 13 at the Hollywood Pacific Theater, the ground-breaking d-cinema exhibition offers two different divisions of Sony -- Sony Electronics and Sony Pictures Digital, along with its Sony Pictures Imageworks and sound mixing units -- the opportunity to come together to display their most advanced technologies. Fortuitously, the screening also will permit Sony to show off a pristine digital print of Spider-Man 2 to an important cross-section of industry cognoscente in the midst of awards season. Sony's first full-length 4K d-cinema display will be preceded by a behind-the-scenes presentation and panel discussion on Spider-Man 2's sound design, editing and visual effects work at the industry screening hosted by the Entertainment Technology Center's Digital Cinema Lab. »
The shortlist for the 2004 visual effects Academy Award pits Martin Scorsese's reality-based The Aviator against six films that offer various degrees of VFX-assisted fantasy: Spider-Man 2, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Day After Tomorrow, I, Robot and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The seven bake-off contenders for the 77th Annual Academy Awards, which were announced Friday, were culled from an intermediary list of 18 films drawn from an initial qualifying list of 250 films, according to Richard Edlund, chairman of the visual effects branch executive committee. "Our list gets longer every year," Edlund said. "Visual effects are more and more part of the glamour of filmmaking." Industrial Light + Magic garnered the most attention, having contributed to four of the seven films. The Marin County, Calif., shop was the lead house on Potter and Lemony and contributed last-minute shots to both Day After Tomorrow and Sky Captain. »
Seven major studio releases are in the running for the achievement in visual effects Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday. They are The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I, Robot, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Spider-Man 2. Fifteen-minute clip reels from each of the seven films will be screened for the Visual Effects Award Nominating Committee on Jan. 19, the Academy said. The members will pick three of these seven films for the Oscar consideration. Finalists will be announced along with nominations in 23 other categories on Jan. 25. »
Adding its voice to the growing chorus of year-end kudos, the American Film Institute has selected 10 films and 10 television programs to receive its AFI Awards 2004. The choice of films, announced Sunday, is an eclectic group, ranging from critical favorites like Fox Searchlight's Sideways -- which also was chosen as the year's best picture over the weekend by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. -- to such popular successes as Columbia Pictures' comic book-inspired Spider-Man 2 and Pixar/Buena Vista's animated hit The Incredibles. The AFI Awards, which are chosen by jury and are bestowed upon the creative ensemble behind each project, cited a number of other specialty division offerings: Focus Features' Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Seachlight's Kinsey and Fine Line/HBO Films' Maria Full of Grace. It found room for two studio features released earlier this year: DreamWorks/Paramount's Collateral, director Michael Mann's noirish thriller set in an L.A. taxicab; and Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment's Friday Night Lights, director Peter Berg's look at high school football in a small Texas town. Two features that will be released in the coming days complete the list: Miramax Films' The Aviator, Martin Scorsese's look at the life of Howard Hughes; and Warner Bros. Pictures' Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood's boxing drama. »
Adding its voice to the growing chorus of year-end kudos, the American Film Institute has selected 10 films and 10 television programs to receive its AFI Awards 2004. The choice of films, announced Sunday, is an eclectic group, ranging from critical favorites like Fox Searchlight's Sideways -- which also was chosen as the year's best picture over the weekend by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. -- to such popular successes as Columbia Pictures' comic book-inspired Spider-Man 2 and Pixar/Buena Vista's animated hit The Incredibles. The AFI Awards, which are chosen by jury and are bestowed upon the creative ensemble behind each project, cited a number of other specialty division offerings: Focus Features' Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Seachlight's Kinsey and Fine Line/HBO Films' Maria Full of Grace. It found room for two studio features released earlier this year: DreamWorks/Paramount's Collateral, director Michael Mann's noirish thriller set in an L.A. taxicab; and Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment's Friday Night Lights, director Peter Berg's look at high school football in a small Texas town. Two features that will be released in the coming days complete the list: Miramax Films' The Aviator, Martin Scorsese's look at the life of Howard Hughes; and Warner Bros. Pictures' Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood's boxing drama. »
Bridget Fonda and her composer husband Danny Elfman are celebrating after discovering the actress is pregnant with her first child. The member of the famous Fonda clan is due to arrive in February. Fonda's husband is a founder member of rock legends Oingo Boingo, but he's most famous for scoring films like Batman, Spider-Man 2 and The Nightmare Before Christmas. »
NEW YORK -- Sony Corp. may be seeing revenue weakness in its video games and electronics business, but the company still reported a 62% boost to its fiscal second-quarter profit on strong film results, driven by Spider-Man 2. The electronics giant, whose fiscal second quarter ended Sept. 30, said Thursday in its earnings call that its quarterly profit was ¥53.2 billion ($500 million), up 62% from the ¥32.9 billion recorded a year ago. Revenue, however, fell 5.3% to ¥1.702 trillion ($16 billion) on lower revenue from its video game and electronics operations. Sony attributed its improved profit largely to its pictures division, whose Spider-Man 2 brought in $780 million worldwide from June 30-Oct. 17. "Every single movie made money", Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton said. »
ORLANDO -- The Man of Steel has a new home in Culver City where Sony Pictures Imageworks has been tapped to provide the visual effects for director Bryan Singer's 2006 release Superman Returns. Lensing is expected to begin in Australia early next year on the Warner Bros. Pictures film with Gil Adler, Jon Peters and Singer producing. Mark Stetson is supervising the visual shots for Warner Bros. production. Imageworks has yet to confirm an internal supervisor, and a digital effects shot breakdown is still pending. However, sources said the early estimate for Superman is about 800 shots, comparable to Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 2. Effects artists are likely to provide a similar emphasis on heroic live-action effects and digital doubles. »
American President George W. Bush has topped an unlikely poll in Britain - as this year's top screen villain. Bush won the dubious accolade for his unauthorized appearance in Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. The politician beat out the likes of Doc Ock, played by Alfred Molina, in Spider-Man 2; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Leatherface; Andy Serkis' Gollum from Lord Of The Rings trilogy; and Elle Driver, the assassin played by Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill. Almost 10,000 people voted in the poll, conducted by Total Film Magazine. »
Popular movies rubbed shoulders with quirky, highbrow fare as the Hollywood Film Festival unveiled its nominees for movie of the year for the 2004 Hollywood Film Awards, to be announced Oct. 18. The 10 nominees are Michael Mann's Collateral; Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11; Zhang Yimou's Hero; Jared Hess' Napoleon Dynamite; Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon's Shrek 2; Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2; Paul Greengrass' The Bourne Supremacy; Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries; and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. »
DreamWorks' Shark Tale opener made quite a splash this weekend, though not as big as originally predicted. The film's revised gross of $47.6 million still managed to claim the title of second-best opening ever for DreamWorks -- an important milestone considering the company's upcoming IPO for its animation unit. Unfortunately though, the new gross, $1.5 million less than originally estimated, did not best last year's Scary Movie 3 from Dimension Films, the record-holder for biggest October opening ever. For DreamWorks, the underwater mob hit is second only to Shrek 2's opening this year of $108 million and more than the original Shrek's $42.3 million opening in 2001. Shark Tale also opened super wide, bowing in 4,016 theaters, third only to Shrek 2's bow of 4,163 theaters and Spider-Man 2's 4,152 theaters. The second spot on the weekend's boxoffice leaders box belonged to Buena Vista's Ladder 49. The post-Sept. 11 firefighter film starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix bowed to $22.1 million. Together with Shark Tale, the top two films generated more coin than all films combined last weekend. »
SYDNEY -- Spider-Man 2 spun the final touches on his international web in spectacular style during the weekend, and local favorites continued to perform well, while The Village made it four straight weeks at No. 1, narrowly beating The Terminal, according to weekend estimates. Sony's Spider-Man 2 opened big in Italy, taking in about $9.6 million (including previews) from a huge release on 800 screens, marking the biggest release ever in both print numbers and dollar terms for the territory. Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International expects a record-breaking $8.3 million for the three-day weekend. Elsewhere, Spidey spun about $10 million from 1,600 prints for a cume of $390.3 million. BVI's The Village held the top spot overall for the fourth consecutive weekend, the first to achieve that mark since Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, grossing about $11.5 million for a cume of more than $80 million. The M. Night Shyamalan thriller opened at No. 1 in Mexico with about $2.8 million from 300 screens, triple its No. 2 competitor, A Cinderella Story. »
Actress Kirsten Dunst hopes she'll rekindle her romance with actor Jake Gyllenhaal one day - because he'll always be the love of her life. The Spider-Man 2 star has found the break up impossible because she's still besotted with the Day After Tomorrow hunk and hopes they can get back together when they've experienced single life and are older and wiser. Dunst admits, "He's (Gyllenhaal) an amazing man. What makes it so complicated is that I don't think this is the end of the story. Maybe someday it will work out, but I can't see that being for quite some time. Jake was the love of my life - he was, is and always will be. But I'm so young, he's so young, I just keep thinking how young we are. I'm still completely connected to him and we are friends, which is fantastic. It's just that, right now, both of us have stuff we need to go through and it's important, especially now, for me to be on my own." »
The 77th Annual Academy Awards may be more than six months away, but Columbia Pictures already has begun its efforts to lure Oscar voters into the Spider-Man 2 web. While most competing studios are still verifying Academy members' addresses for the coming awards cycle, Columbia this week sent voters a coupon entitling a member and a guest to see the movie on the big screen at any AMC Theatres location or at Regal Cinemas in Manhattan. "While we will be sending an awards-season screener of Spider-Man 2 later this year," the mailing promised, "we encourage you to visit a theater and appreciate the movie as the filmmakers intended it to be seen -- on the big screen." »
A combination of better weather and a trickle of returning vacationers -- with the Olympic Games showing little immediate effect on the boxoffice -- saw overseas moviegoers, especially in Europe, turn out solidly to see seasoned summer holdovers as well as new entries leisurely moving into the market. Films in release in Japan also enjoyed the benefits of the Oban holiday. 20th Century Fox's I, Robot passed the $100 million benchmark at its third weekend of offshore release, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban became the 10th film in industry history to exceed $500 million at the overseas boxoffice, King Arthur kept making up for its domestic disappointment, Spider-Man 2 showed increases in 10 holdover territories and Shrek 2 continued to set records for an animated film. Exhibiting promise in early dates were The Bourne Supremacy, Alien vs. Predator, Collateral and The Village as they ventured slowly into a crowded marketplace. »
Hollywood beauty and Spider-Man 2 star Kirsten Dunst has revealed the reason behind her high- profile split with Jake Gyllenhaal - the movie hunk couldn't keep up with her partying lifestyle. The 22-year-old actress loves going out with friends to dance and drink and found it difficult dating the Donnie Darko actor, because he wanted to relax at home, and so they parted ways last month. Dunst says, "He's a stay-at-home boy. I'm an out-on-the-town girl. I'm sad, but I want to make the most of every moment. It couldn't last." »
Film exhibition chain Carmike Cinemas on Wednesday posted lower earnings as operating expenses rose 2.4% to offset a 2.1% revenue gain. The company's profit of $10.4 million in the quarter was down 23% from $13.5 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $133.1 million because of higher admission and concession prices. Carmike said Shrek 2 was its top-performing film of the quarter, while Spider-Man 2 and The Bourne Supremacy will boost results in the current third quarter. »
Hollywood has refined and redefined the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table so many times over the generations that one would imagine this war horse craves retirement from the world of remakes. Then along comes King Arthur to completely revitalize the legend. Like Spider-Man 2, this is a smart action movie, allowing its impressive sets, costumes, effects and battles to serve as handmaidens to story and character. Screenwriter David Franzoni supplies a much more historically plausible tale than previous forays into Camelot, while director Antoine Fuqua brings the gritty naturalism of Training Day to this story of men -- and one woman -- at war.
The film should attract a wide demographic, for despite male orientation there is enough of the romance and legend of Arthur to interest women of all ages. A PG-13 rating positions King Arthur to be the most successful Arthurian film at the boxoffice yet.
The Jerry Bruckheimer production plunges us into an early Dark Ages of furious violence. Battles are fought with vastly different weaponry -- highly accurate archery, heavy swords and spears, balls of fire, axes, shields, hefty body armor and body-paint camouflage. It's a savage, intolerant time where religion is a tool for subjugation, yet concepts of justice and heroism do flourish.
Franzoni's historical revisionism moves the tale back to 452 A.D. The Roman Empire is waning. Barbarians threaten frontier outposts, successfully skirmishing against Roman troops eager to return home and the Empire's mercenary cavalry made up of Samaritan warriors, who came from the area now know as the republic of Georgia. One such unit in Britain fights under the command of Roman officer Lucius Artorius Castus, or Arthur (Clive Owen).
These knights, a sort of Dirty Half-Dozen, include the level-headed Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), strongman/family man Bors (Ray Winstone), young and passionate Galahad (Hugh Dancy), stolid traditionalist Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), inveterate fighter Gawain (Joel Edgerton) and moody and elusive Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), whose main companion is a hawk.
On the day the knights' 15 years of service to Rome supposedly expires, the group of weary fighters is ordered on a virtual suicide mission. They must journey north of Hadrian's wall, the great dividing line that protects southern Britain from northern barbarians to rescue a Roman nobleman and his family. (Why a Roman would be living in hostile terrain is a mystery.) This means venturing into woods filled with their traditional enemy, heavily tattooed guerrilla fighters known as the Woads led by the mysterious shaman Merlin (Stephen Dillane). Much worse, they will probably confront the invading Saxons led by Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard) and Cynric (Til Schweiger), who mean to take over Britain once the Romans decamp.
It is on this mission that Arthur not only meets his Guinevere (Keira Knightley) and learns that the privilege of being a subject of the Roman Empire can mean slavery to many, but he also discovers his soul. As he joins forces with Merlin to take a stand against the Saxons -- early practitioners of "ethnic cleansing" -- he shocks himself with the realization that he is more a Briton than a Roman.
"I belong to this land. Where do you belong, Arthur?" demands Guinevere. His Rome no longer exists except in his mind. Corrupt and dissolving, Rome has fallen to totalitarian instincts and decadence. So Arthur quickly reinvents himself as a freedom fighter who will stand by the British people to turn back the Saxon hordes. (The notion of Arthur as a freedom fighter rings false historically because 1,000 years of feudalism lie ahead for the British people.)
In most epics, we barely meet characters before they are off and running. Here, carefully written dialogue scenes (a few a tad pedantic), all wonderfully played by the excellent cast, establish characters and situations before battles rage.
Owen is very much associated with contemporary roles, so it's initially a jolt to see him in fifth century armor. But this is very much a contemporary take on the Dark Ages, and he is most effective playing against the usual heroic gallantry one associates with King Arthur. Instead, we get a conflicted leader, struggling to find the right path through an unknown ethical battlefield.
Gruffudd's Lancelot is less a son to Arthur than alter ego and his conscience. He is ever on hand to point out Arthur's dilemmas and urge pragmatic solutions. Knightley's Guinevere is, admittedly, a male fantasy figure. A damsel in distress when first we meet her, she suddenly transforms into a warrior princess, possessing furious guerrilla fighting skills and outfitted most fetchingly in a skimpy leather get-up, armbands and henna-like body makeup more at home at a fetish club than in hand-to-hand combat with men in full body armor. But Knightley is sexually alive in every scene, even when lying in filth in a dungeon, and gives the film an eroticism it would otherwise lack.
The villains are terrific. Skarsgard's bearded Saxon leader, looking like a foul priest, is cruel and sadistic but with high intelligence and a zeal to encounter the great Arthur. Schweiger is pure Teutonic evil, his eagerness to kill almost comical.
Fuqua encourages most of his male warriors to play their parts with a heavy-limbed lassitude, reminding us that these guys have lived on battlefields for years. His battle scenes are brilliantly staged so we can quickly surmise the strategies that will win the day and feel the ruthlessness of fighting in close quarters. One especially dramatic encounter on dangerously thin ice in a mountain passage is one of the great cinematic fight scenes of all times.
Slawomir Idziak's moody, elegant cinematography of a wintry Britain -- actually Ireland -- sets a somber, tense tone where enemies lurk in the mist and behind every bush. Hans Zimmer's fulsome orchestral score nourishes the accelerating dramatic stakes. Dan Weil's sets are notably rustic, but costumes and hairdos supply a touch of glamour. After all, King Arthur and his knights still have a reputation to maintain.
Buena Vista Pictures
Touchstone Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: David Franzoni
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Director of photography: Slawomir Idziak
Production designer: Dan Weil
Music: Hans Zimmer
Costume designer: Penny Rose
Editors: Conrad Buff, Jamie Pearson
Arthur: Clive Owen
Lancelot: Ioan Gruffudd
Tristan: Mads Mikkelsen
Gawain: Joel Edgerton
Galahad: Hugh Dancy
Bors: Ray Winstone
Dagonet: Ray Stevenson
Guinevere: Keira Knightley
Merlin: Stephen Dillane
Cerdic: Stellan Skarsgard
Cynric: Til Schweiger
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 126 minutes »
Opens June 30
In only his second movie outing, the makers of Spider-Man 2 have decided to give their superhero an identity crisis and to deepen the emotional complexity of a series that started off on such a light-hearted note. Why else would you hire screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Julia, Ordinary People) to pen a summer action movie? This proves a smart move because Spider-Man's inner conflicts are at least as interesting as his physical battles and serve to strengthen his romantic ties to the woman of his life, Mary Jane Watson, the girl who may have lived next door but seems always out of reach.
With Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst recreating these roles and director Sam Raimi and much of his production team returning to the job, Spider-Man 2 once again should climb into the boxoffice stratosphere. The first film grossed more than $820 million worldwide. This highly anticipated follow-up is poised to reach a similar figure.
The movie opens with Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, suffering the consequences of leading a double life. On one hand, he is New York's crime-fighting hero. On the other, Peter is getting failing grades as a science student at Columbia University and loses his job delivering pizzas -- both because of constant interruptions to chase down bad guys.
Even more troubling, his love for M.J. has grown along with his determination that a superhero cannot have a soulmate since that woman will always be threatened by enemies. (Given the number of times M.J. is in jeopardy in the two movies without being Spider-Man's girlfriend, one wonders what the difference would be.) So M.J. has moved on to establish an acting career and new boyfriend in astronaut John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), son of the blustering, Spider-Man-phobic newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons).
Peter also suffers lingering guilt over the death of his uncle in the first movie, for which he feels at least partially responsible -- a fact he has yet to disclose to his debt-ridden aunt (Rosemary Harris). Then his old pal Harry Osborn (James Franco) still broods over his father's death at Spider-Man's hands and vows revenge.
Peter's struggles with his identity result in diminished powers. That super-strength cobwebby thing he does as he swings and spins through the urban jungle occasionally fails him. He even wrenches his back in one fall -- though, given that it's a 60-odd-story plunge, this still is a testament to pretty good genes.
All this is bad timing because New York is terrorized by a new supervillain. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a mild-mannered though brilliant scientist, is experimenting with "fusion" as an alternate energy source. He also has developed a mechanical suit that when fitted into his spinal cord gives him four monstrous tentacles that respond to his brain's command and become an integral part of his body. The trouble is, for reasons that remain vague, the contraption transforms his personality into a diabolically evil scientist, mad with power and determined to harness energy from his other experiment so that the "power of the sun is in the palm of my hand."
Despite this emergency, Peter decides to get out of the Spider-Man business. Crime skyrockets 75%, but at least he can reveal his love to M.J. with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, she is already engaged to John. Who knew a superhero's life could get so complicated?
No, Spider-Man 2 doesn't really dive into a deep-dish psychological drama. There is plenty of action here. Spider-Man and Dr. Ock -- as Jameson's newspaper dubs him -- battle on the side of a skyscraper with Peter's aunt held hostage and later on top and inside an out-of-control elevated train. Dr. Ock robs a bank in flamboyant style, and the two enjoy a climatic duel at the scientist's lab, built for no reason other than metaphoric geography on a dark and decaying pier.
All mental confusion and divided loyalties in Sargent's screenplay -- based, of course, on Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's comic book characters and a screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon -- manifest themselves in comic book terms. Spider-Man's momentary decline is no different than Barry Bonds going into a slump for a few days.
Still it's refreshing to witness a superhero with doubts. Maguire and Dunst again display the depth of talent they bring to these roles by injecting such everydayness into larger-than-life characters. They feel like friends rather than remote creatures of fiction. Most other roles are still played at the cartoon level, but Raimi knows that Spider-Man is, after all, a live-action cartoon. Only at its central core does the movie series maintain the beat of the human heart.
Production values exceed those of the earlier film in creating a comic book world with design, costumes, cinematography and CG effects that deliver the "wow" factor in spades. Danny Elfman once more contributes a rousing music score.
A Marvel Enterprises/Laura Ziskin production
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenwriter: Alvin Sargent
Based on the Marvel comic book by: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Producers: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad
Director of photography: Bill Pope
Production designer: Neil Spisak
Music: Danny Elfman
Co-producer: Grant Curtis
Costume designers: James Acheson, Gary Jones
Visual effects: John Dykstra
Editor: Bob Murawski
Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Tobey Maguire
Mary Jane Watson: Kirsten Dunst
Harry Osborn: James Franco
Dr. Otto Octavius: Alfred Molina
Mary Parker: Rosemary Harris
J. Jonah Jameson: J.K. Simmons
Rosalie Octavius: Donna Murphy
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 127 minutes »
Despite slips of 10%-50% at the boxoffice in many European territories, a number of key films continued to chalk up solid returns in the face of a period of especially pleasant outdoor weather. Twentieth Century Fox's I, Robot joined the blockbuster parade as summer tentpoles Spider-Man 2, King Arthur, Shrek 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban added to their overseas laurels. In addition, the documentary phenomenon Fahrenheit 9/11 and the German sci-fi spoof (T)Raumschiff Surprise -- Periode 1 maintained a strong pace. Smaller pieces of the weekend boxoffice action went to Garfield, The Stepford Wives, Home on the Range and early dates of Catwoman. »
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