'Valerian' Features 2,355 Visual Effects Shots, 600 More Than 'Rogue One'

From new alien species to a crab monster to a space station, the $180 million movie includes motion-capture performances and a luxury spacecraft designed in collaboration with Lexus.

The last time Luc Besson made a sci-fi film (1997’s The Fifth Element), it cost $90 million and contained 250 special effects shots, including Bruce Willis’ famous flying taxicab. Now, 20 years later, he has spent twice as much on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but for nearly 10 times the eye candy, with a whopping 2,355 visual effects shots, some 600 more than Rogue One.

“We were filming basically every day in front of a bluescreen,” says actress Cara Delevingne. “Out of six months, only two weeks were under normal circumstances.”

Effects include a 500-floor, cavern-like alien marketplace; a crab monster called a Megaptor; a space station known as Alpha; and a luxury spacecraft, the Lexus Skyjet, designed with the help of real-life Lexus engineers. There’s also a slew of new alien species, including the snout-nosed Doghans, the giant Bromosaur and a 7-foot-tall, human-ish CG creature named Igor Siruss, voiced by John Goodman.

But it’s the Pearls — an ethereal, willowy, semitransparent race — who play a crucial part in the story. “They live an idealistic life that’s horribly interrupted by a space battle,” explains Martin Hill, a VFX supervisor at New Zealand-based Weta, which did many of the film’s effects (Industrial Light & Magic and Rodeo FX were among the other contributors).

The Pearls are based on motion-capture performances, but “Luc wanted something even more alien,” says Hill. “So there’s augmentation to them. Their eyes are further apart and tilted, and their temples are sunk in. The less human you go, the more subjective beauty is; it was an interesting line to make sure we kept them beautiful.” Delevingne adds: “All of them [playing the Pearls] were friends. A lot are models whom I’ve worked with.” The Pearls also have a unique way of expressing themselves. “Luc wanted them to emote in different ways,” says Hill. “He wanted them to change color or have patterns rolling over their bodies.”

At least one effect in Valerian, however, isn’t new. Watch the film carefully, advises Hill, and maybe you’ll catch a brief shot of Willis’ flying taxi.

This story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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'Mary Poppins Returns': Emily Blunt Brings Charming First Footage to D23

“She’s rude, and eccentric and odd,” said Blunt of the character.

Fans at D23 got a magical first look at Mary Poppins Returns.

The film takes place 25 years after the 1964 original. The children of Michael and Jane Banks are now adults, and have just experienced a personal loss. Poppins (Emily Blunt) and her lamplighter pal Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) must step in to help.

Director Rob Marshall and Blunt came out to show off the first teaser for the film, whch is both a sequel to the Julie Andrews classic and draws on the books of P.L. Travers’ as well. The Disney Orchestra was onhand to play music from the film, leading into a teaser for the film.

“A place we hold dear, where laughter once dwelled, but soon from up above comes a new story to tell,” read text in the trailer as we see shots of the family looking sad.

We see Jack flying a kite with one of the children, and then suddenly up in the clouds, there’s Mary Poppins coming down with an umbrella (big applause from the D23 crowd).

At one point in the teaser, we see the film’s stars acting in front of a cartoon background, as in the original, as well as a look at a big chimney sweep dance number. And most impressively: Original star Dick Van Dyke even had a little dancing to do.

Earlier in the panel, Marshall said he believes the original was the first film he ever saw.

“I think it was many of our first films as kids, even if we weren’t alive in 1964, which I was,” said Marshall. “There’s something so amazing about it that lived with me my whole life. The wonder, the joy, the music in it.”

Blunt described taking on the role originated by Andrews as “daunting.”

“The idea of this magical, mysterious person whisking into their lives and making everything right again, was really comforting,” said Blunt of the original. “Children respond to the lack of sentimentality that he has. She’s rude, and eccentric and odd.”

Blunt said she had to learn to make Poppins her own. She said she watched 15 minutes of the original, but then stopped. She “needed to pay homage to what Julie Andrews did,” but also “carve out space” for herself.

“I just had to do my version of her,” said Blunt. “We were loyal to the books. I think she’s a little more acerbic and vein and weird in the books and we went that direction a little more in the books.”

Of his star Marshall said, “She was born to play the part.”

Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Emily Mortimer and Julie Walters are also featured in the film.

When Dick Van Dyke said “it feels exactly the same” when he visited the set, Marshall said, calling it “the highest compliment.” 

Mary Poppins Returns hits theaters Dec. 25, 2018.

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'Lion King': Disney Unveils Jaw-Dropping First Footage Of Jon Favreau's Remake at D23

The studio also offer offered a glimpse of Tim Burton’s ‘Dumbo’ reimagining and announced a release date for the live-action ‘Nutcracker and the Four Realms.’

A crowd of an estimated 7,000 went absolutely wild at D23 as Disney previewed the first clip from its live-action remake of The Lion King.

Exclusively screened for attendees and not simultaneously released online, the footage featured jaw-dropping photoreal shots of African landscapes, many types of animals (including elephants and, of course, lions), and ended with the iconic moment in which Rafiki introduces an adorable young Simba on Pride Rock, as Circle of Life played.

“We love this movie and we are working hard,” said director Jon Favreau, fresh off directing The Jungle Book. He’s making Lion King (scheduled for a July 19, 2019 release) in Los Angeles, again using virtual production techniques by reteaming with Jungle Book’s Oscar winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato and lead VFX house MPC.

This time, however, they are incorporating virtual reality tools and techniques. “We are going to use a lot of virtual reality tools so it feels akin to what you are looking at [if you were on a real set],” explained Legato during a keynote that he gave at NAB in April. “You can walk around the set like a cameraman. [Wearing VR headsets] the actors can now walk into a scene and see the other actors and trees … and because you are in 3D, you get a realistic sense [of the environment].”

Disney also teased its live action remake of its animated classic Dumbo, which has been given a March 29, 2019 release date. The studio rolled out a 3D model of Dumbo’s appearance — the first look at the character with his big ears, blue eyes and a sweet, emotive expression.

The film is currently in production in the UK, at Pinewood and Cardington Studios, and its “cinematic ringmaster,” director Tim Burton, sent a video greeting to the fans at D23, saying the 1941 animated classic is “one of my favorite of the Disney movies, and we are working to give this all the heart and emotion [of the original].”

In the clip, Burton sits on a train, a first set look (photo shown below). To make Dumbo, the director is reteaming with many of his collaborators including Oscar-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs and four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood.

During the presentation, Disney gave its holiday film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms — directed by Lasse Hallstrom and starring Misty Copeland — a release date: Nov. 2, 2018. It previewed clips with some visually-dazzling footage that showed off the cinematography of director of photography Linus Sandgren (Oscar winner for La La Land) and production design by two-time Oscar nominated Guy Hendrix Dyas. The segment also previewed some of the dance moves, with a performance by Lil Buck.

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Carrie Fisher, Stan Lee Honored in Emotional Disney Legends Ceremony

The late actress and the comic book icon, making his first public appearance since the death of his wife Joan, were among those feted at D23.

Carrie Fisher and Stan Lee are officially legends.

The Star Wars actress and comic book creator were among those named Disney Legends during a ceremony at D23 in Anaheim Friday, where her Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill was also honored. Fisher died Dec. 27 at 60, and her induction struck an emotional chord among those in the audience.

“Carrie has been an iconic part of the Star Wars franchise and will always hold very special place in our hearts,” said Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger. “We miss her talent and wit.”

Iger touted the humor Fisher brought as General Leia to December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, her final film performance.

“Carrie Fisher was an original and there will never be another,” said Iger, before reading a letter Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd.

“Getting to be a Disney princess and a Legend would have been her ultimate dream,” the letter read.

Iger then introduced Mark Hamill, saying his performance in Last Jedi is “worth the wait” and his “best performance to date.” 

“I know if Carrie was here this morning, she would have flipped me the bird at least twice already,” Hamill joked, fondly remembering his co-star. “I loved her and we were like siblings. We would fight — but we loved each other.” 

He thanked Star Wars creator George Lucas and the “thousands who worked on the film in front and behind the camera.”

In addition to the emotional tribute to Fisher, Stan Lee’s appearance took on extra poignancy. It was his first public appearance following the death of his wife Joan, who died earlier this month. They had been married nearly 70 years. 

Just before Lee’s honor, his longtime collaborator Jack Kirby was inducted as a Disney Legend. Iger saluted Kirby as “an industry icon who redefined comics.” Kirby is known for co-creating with Lee the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Hulk. His son Neil Kirby, accepted on his father’s behalf, and he began by offering his condolences to Lee and his family.

“My father didn’t create superheroes, he created super people,” Neil said in thanks to his father’s fans. Kirby, who died in 1994, would have turned 100 this year.

Next up was Lee, who was clearly emotional as he began: “I have never been known as a man of few words, but so I was so thrilled to see that testimonial to Jack Kirby.”

“I loved Walt Disney. He was more than a man, he was an inspiration. To think that today I’m standing here in the home that Disney built, that  paid tribute to Jack and all things Disney — it is so thrilling” Lee said, before giving his catchphrase. “And I can’t leave without saying ‘Excelsior!’ “

The Disney Legends ceremony has been a staple of D23 and dates back to 1987. Other honorees this year included Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Broadway director and filmmaker Julie Taymor, animator Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi, artist Manuel Gonzales, Disney Imagineer Wayne Jackson and the late Garry Marshall.

The ceremony began with Iger kicking things off by remarking, “This is the largest gathering of Disney fans in the world.”

First up was Winfrey, who spoke fondly of the honor, calling it a tribute to “the common experience that we share.” 

Marshall, who died a year ago, was remembered fondly by Iger, most importantly for his big heart. Marshall’s children, Scott and Kathleen Marshall, accepted the recognition for their father.

Jackson, known for his work on Disney attractions including The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, accepted his honor, saying, “In my 37 years with Imagineering, I had the honor of working with some very talented, creative architects and engineers that created attractions that have been enjoyed by so many people around the world.”

Geronimi’s sons accepted on their late father’s behalf, noting he was an immigrant who had compassion for the underdog. Dan Gonzlez accepted his fathers award, saying, “My dad was a very regular guy, in addition to being a world class father.”

More to come…

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'War for the Planet of the Apes': Steve Zahn On Joining the Franchise As Bad Ape

The story is “so relevant to today: The dangers of fear. The lack of empathy,” he says.

In Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes, audiences meet a chimpanzee called Bad Ape, played by Steve Zahn, who has been living in solitude after he escapes from a zoo, where the humans had scolded him, calling him a “bad ape.” The film marks Zahn’s first appearance in the Apes saga as he joined the existing cast, including Andy Serkis, who plays ape leader Caesar, and it was also his first experience with performance capture.

All of that made him nervous when he shot his first scene, which was set in an abandoned building where he meets Caesar and the apes for the first time. “Matt wanted that, because that’s the first thing you see of Bad Ape,” he recalls of why that was his first scene filmed during the production. “I remember walking in and seeing that set — an elaborate set with all that snow and chandeliers and three stories. I thought, I had to be really good, right away, and with guys who were on their third movie and had this down. I gained more confidence after that because the scene really worked between Andy and me. Andy Serkis is one of the best actors I have ever worked with. He might be the best actor I have ever worked with.

“I loved Bad Ape’s vulnerability. He was in solitude for so long and was yearning for companionship. Within the story, I thought that was so brilliant and would add levity,” he says. “Bad Ape’s also a Dad, and he’s alone. And he’s dealt with his pain through hoarding.” 

As for his introduction to performance capture, Zahn says he learned that acting is no different. “If you had asked me about performance capture before I got to know this process, I would have thought there would be things that would impede the way I usually work,” he admits. “But there isn’t any.

“That’s what scared me,” he adds. “Not only would I have to be believable as a character most importantly, but also you have to believe me as a chimpanzee. I knew playing a chimpanzee would need to be second nature, physically, so that I could get to a point where I could just play a character.

“There’s a lot of technology but it doesn’t impede you on set,” he continues. “The Weta people get really excited when they are watching the monitors and see two people in grey outfits with dots on their face makes them want to cry. That’s when they come up and say ‘this scene is going to be great.’ They are reacting in the same way as an audience.”

Of the larger story of the apes versus the humans, fighting for their civilizations, Zahn says, “This is so relevant to today: The dangers of fear. The lack of empathy. This general lack of not understanding others who are not like you. A changing world — maybe changing a little faster than we think it is.

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Will 'Avengers,' 'Frozen 2' and 'Star Wars' Dazzle at D23?

It’s going to be a magical few days for Disney fans.

The company’s D23 Expo is coming to Anaheim Friday-Sunday, bringing a stacked lineup that rivals next week’s San Diego Comic-Con in terms of the blockbuster footage that could show up. A few films have been confirmed, but many of the buzzy possibilities will be surprises if they do show up.

Possibilities include: Avengers: Infinity War; Frozen 2; Toy Story 4; Incredibles 2; Star Wars: The Last Jedi and many more. Here’s a look at what is confirmed to be shown (and what could show up).

FRIDAY (film presentation is 2:30-4:30 p.m.)

Pixar’s Slate

With less than a year to go before the June 15 release of Incredibles 2, fans are hoping to finally see some footage from director Brad Bird’s sequel to his 2004 Oscar-winning Superhero film. Bird, as well as producers Nicole Paradis Grindle and John Walker, are scheduled for a signing session on Friday, the same day as the slate presentation.

Disney has confirmed that it will show some exclusive new footage from Pixar’s Nov. 22 release Coco, its Day of the Dead-themed film directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and produced by Darla Anderson. Unkrich, Anderson and co-director and writer Adrian Molina are slated to appear for a signing event. The voice cast includes Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Edward Hanes Olmos and Anthony Gonzalez as the film’s protagonist, 12-year-old Miguel.

Fans are also hoping for some love surrounding Toy Story 4 (slated for a June 21, 2019), which marks a return to the director’s chair for John Lasseter, as well as the feature directorial debut for Josh Cooley (an Oscar nominee for the Inside Out screenplay). What Lasseter has described as a “love story between Woody and Bo Peep,” the Toy Story 4 script was written by Will McCormack and Rashida Jones, based on a story powered by Lasseter, as well as “Pixar Brian Trust” members Andrew Staunton (Wall-E), Pete Doctor (Up) and Unkrich. Oscar-winning songwriter and composer Randy Newman returns for the fourth film in the franchise, which launched the age of computer animated features with 1995’s Toy Story.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Slate

Disney has confirmed that its animation slate presentation will include Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, the sequel to the 2012 Oscar-nominated video-game-world-set hit that’s slated to open Nov. 21, 2018. John C. O’Reilly and Sarah Silverman are returning to voice Ralph and Vanellope. Rich Moore (who won an Oscar earlier this year for Zootopia) returns to the franchise to helm the sequel, along with Phil Johnson, who joined Moore as one of the writers on the original.

While not pre-announced, could we learn more about Frozen 2, the sequel to the 2013 Oscar winning hit, which is scheduled for release on Nov. 27, 2019? Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are among the returning voice cast members, and Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee are returning to direct. (Related: D23 will host a preview of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, a holiday-themed short also based on Frozen.)

Another film that might be featured during the slate presentation is Gigantic (slated for 2020), a take on Jack and the Beanstalk that’s being directed by Meg LeFauve (who is also writing) and Nathan Greno. LeFauve earned an Oscar nomination for Pixar’s Inside Out screenplay.

SATURDAY (film presentation is 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)

The Lion King and Dumbo

Will Disney show art or provide news of the live-action remakes of these animated classics, which recently started production? Jon Favreau, fresh off The Jungle Book, is making The Lion King (schedule for a July 19, 2019 release) in Los Angeles, again using virtual production techniques by reteaming with Jungle Book’s Oscar winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato and lead VFX house MPC. Announced this week, John Oliver will join the cast as Zazu. Cast members also include Donald Glover (Simba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and James Earl Jones (Mufasa). Meanwhile, Tim Burton has started production on Dumbo in the UK, reteaming with collaborators such as four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood. The cast includes Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell and Danny DeVito.

As THR reported this week, Guy Ritchie’s live action retelling of Aladdin — slated to enter production in August —has hit some casting bumps. Will Disney wish Aladdin to D23?

Star Wars

Considering that it’s been three months since the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and that there’s no Star Wars panel at next week’s San Diego Comic-Con, don’t be surprised if the Saturday “Live Action Films” panel features a new peek at Rian Johnson’s upcoming movie. The fact that Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Show promised “a ton of new Star Wars stuff” being revealed, including “something pretty interesting” just adds grist to that particular mill… unless audiences should prepare for an appearance from the cast of the troubled Han Solo movie, instead? (And perhaps, maybe, possibly, can we finally give that movie a title? It’s out in less than a year, people.) And how about revealing what the next anthoogy film? Boba Fett and Obi-Wan have been waiting for their time in the sun.


Quite what Marvel has planned for D23 is unclear — it wouldn’t be too surprising if footage from Avengers: Infinity War made its debut, if nothing else. Looks at Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok are also strong possibilities. (But don’t expect it to show up online afterwards, at least officially; Comic-Con is still a week away, after all.) There’s also a standalone “Cup O’Joe” panel in the D23 Expo Arena on Friday, which might mean some exclusive news about Marvel’s upcoming comic book rebranding, Legacy. That said, there’s also a heavy Marvel presence at Comic-Con, which might mean that much of the big news will likely be held over for a few days and a more targeted audience…

A Wrinkle In Time

Audiences have been eagerly awaiting footage from Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the beloved fantasy novel, and this is where they’re gong to get it: DuVernay has already spilled that there’s a trailer coming, and don’t be surprised if some of the cast end up making an appearance on stage, as well. The combination of director, cast and property might turn this into the sleeper hit of 2018, so consider this a chance to get in on the ground floor. (Well, you and the thousands of people watching in person, of course.)

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Emmys: How the Creative Arts Nominees Are Reacting

The Creative Arts Emmys will be handed out Sept. 9 and 10 for cinematography, editing, production design, sound and many other areas. Here’s what some of these nominees were saying on Thursday, as the Emmy nominations were announced. 

Andrew Seklir, Westworld, outstanding single-camera picture editing for a drama series

Westworld is one of the best creative and professional experiences I’ve had,” Seklir said, citing the collaboration of “all of the editors and creative professionals on the show. [Showrunners] Johah Nolan and Lisa Joy made us feel like we were a family and creative collaborators. And they valued our input. It makes everyone do their best work and feel empowered to try new things. To have it culminate in a nomination–it’s incredibly humbling and admitted fulfilling.”

Skip MacDonald, Better Call Saul, double nominee, outstanding single-camera picture editing for a drama series

“It’s amazing to get two nominations and to be part of show that gets so much recognition,” writes MacDonald.

Seamus McGarvey, Black Mirror, outstanding cinematography for a limited series or movie

“I am over the moon to receive my first Emmy nomination for a project I am really proud to have photographed,” McGarvey said. “It was such a great shoot in South Africa with Bryce Dallas Howard and my pal Joe Wright directing. I loved the energy and the speed of shooting for this film in the Black Mirror series. Thanks to Netflix for supporting us.”

Ben Grossmann, Mission: ISS, outstanding original interactive program

“The whole team is doing very slow zero-gravity cart wheels right now!,” said Grossmann, VR director on the virtual reality experience, which was produced by Oculus and his Magnopus. “We’re really excited that the Television Academy has expanded their nominations to include VR through interactive media. This is a huge encouragement to all VR developers and a big reward for the little team who wanted to bring the whole world to space.” (Grossmann is also an Oscar and Emmy-winning VFX pro).

Josh Earl, Deadliest Catch, double nominee, outstanding picture editing for an unstructured reality program (as supervising editor) and outstanding unstructured reality programming (as supervising producer)

“Oh man this is nuts! I started on Deadliest Catch in season 2 as an assistant editor. That was well over a decade ago, so getting a nomination for both series and editing is beyond crazy to me!,” Earl writes.

Rupert Gregson-Williams, The Crown, outstanding music composition for a series

Citing the series’ 13 nominations, he said, “I’m really thrilled for the team. Stpehn Daldry just tried to call me! We are workin on the secion series now. I’ll see them in a few hours. I’m sure we’ll have a drink.” It’s been great to work with talent like Stephen Daldry, and I’m thankful that Peter Morgan entrusted me with his score.”

Adriano Goldman, The Crown, outstanding cinematography for a single-camera series

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be nominated for an Emmy with my friends of The Crown,” he said.

Ivana Primorac, The Crown, outstanding hairstyling for a single-camera series

“I am thrilled that a show which I loved so much and worked so hard at has been recognized,” Primorac said.

Martin Childs, The Crown, outstanding production design for a narrative period program

“It was a great pleasure to work on The Crown, to be inspired by Peter Morgan’s words and Stephen Daldry’s vision, indeed by all the directors. This nomination is a wonderful honor not just for the nominees but for the whole art department, for their passion and commitment to such an exciting project.”

Ben Turner, The Crown, outstanding special visual effects in a supporting role

“We are absolutely delighted with our Emmy nomination for our work on The Crown,” Turner said. “It’s fantastic to be recognized for the incredible work our team at One of Us put into the show. Especially when it is very much about producing invisible and seamless real life VFX which are historically accurate but also help to give the series the scale and ceremony which the subject calls for.  We are completely thrilled to be recognized by The Academy.”

Elmo Ponsdomenech and Todd Beckett, Silicon Valley, outstanding sound mixing for a comedy or drrama series (half-hour)

Silicon Valley is a hysterical show,” said Ponsdomenech, who with Beckett are rerecording mixers at Sony Pictures Post Production Services. “It’s quirky, smart and topical. Our job is to stay out of the way of the comedy and help the timing. … We’re lucky to be on board with HBO. It’s been a fun ride.”

“We’re a well-oiled machine,” added Beckett of the team. They share this nomination with production mixer Ben Patrick.

Matt Meech, Planet Earth II, outstanding picture editing for a nonfiction program

“Truly honored and over the moon to be nominated! Excited for the whole team too –  it’s wonderful to have ten nominations alongside so many amazing films this year,” Meech said.

Pat Barnett, One Day at a Time, outstanding multi-camera picture editing for a comedy series

“I am thrilled and very proud to be nominated for One Day at a Time, a show that has my heart!,” said Barnett.

Nora Felder, Stranger Things, outstanding music supervision

“Wow!  I feel like I just entered a parallel universe!  Such fantastic news to be included in this historical Emmy first  that  acknowledges music supervisors as the music warriors that they are. Stranger Things is a huge phenomenon, and it’s an honor to be a part of the casting process of one of the shows main characters: The Music!,” Felder wrote.

Graham Wild, Planet Earth II, outstanding sound mixing for nonfiction programming 

“This program was really special to work on,” said Wild. “Right from our initial spotting session with director Freddie Devas, the whole sound team was excited about the possibilities. So many different soundscapes combined with so many different emotions. For me, starting with all those hundreds of separate tracks in the mix was like being given the best box of chocolates ever. I just had to choose carefully!”





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5 Things to Know Before Seeing 'War of the Planet of the Apes'

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Amid a summer strewn with tentpoles panned by critics before disappointing at the domestic box office, Apes boasts a steller 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten reviews that summer tentpoles don’t traditionally receive. THR’s Todd McCarthy raves about the movie, praising its visuals (“the sheer beauty of the film is intense,” he writes, noting that cinematographer Michael Seresin “intoxicatingly” captures the world around the apes), score and a story that dares to be morally complex instead of reductive for blockbuster audiences.

Similarly, The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw commends the movie for being “utterly confident in its own created world, and in the plausibility of its ape characters, who are presented quite unselfconsciously and persuasively.” IndieWire‘s Eric Kohn, who might be less wildly enthusiastic about the movie as a whole, still notes that War is, for large periods, “simply a marvel of morbid imagery rarely seen in this kind of American movie.”

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Echoes of Trump? New 'Apes' Movie Is "Weirdly Resonant of the Moment"

This latest talking-primate movie features a leader with authoritarian tendencies, a refugee crisis and a giant border wall (that Mexico is definitely not paying for).

A fierce leader with authoritarian tendencies. A refugee crisis. A great wall. If it all sounds vaguely familiar, it’s purely coincidental.

important thing was Caesar’s emotional performance,” says Weta’s Dan Lemmon, VFX supervisor on all the recent Apes mov- ies. “Caesar was fighting for his soul. And you really [need to] read that in the way his face is moving.”

All of the ape effects were done with motion capture on the sets — like an ape prison camp that took five months to build — but shooting was complicated by weather. “One day we shut down production because of a blizzard,” recalls Lemmon. “The performers wore Gore-Tex under the performance-capture suits, but it was bulky and their ability to move was a concern.” For Serkis, the weather set the mood. “It was a brutal, emotionally raw shoot,” he says. “But I had to be in that headspace. I was playing him very close to myself and my emotions.”

As for the movie’s eerie similarity with current events, Harrelson backs up his director: “You would think there are a lot of parallels,” he says, “but when we shot the movie, the idea of Trump becoming president seemed unlikely.”

This story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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'Despicable Me 3's' Debt to Grace Jones and Three Other Revelations About the Film

Illumination’s latest also includes a minion that takes a cue from Chris Meledandri.

Grossing $75.4 million from the domestic box office in its debut weekend, Illumination’s computer animated Despicable Me 3 brings back franchise favorite characters including Gru (Steve Carell) and his Minions, along with some new faces like Gru’s brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell) and villian Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker). Here’s some things you might not know about the new characters and the film, which was made at the Paris-based Illumination Mac Guff and directed by Pierre Coffin (the voice of the Minions) and Kyle Balda.

Minion Mel was inspired by Illumination head Chris Meledandri.

The minion that leads a revolt against Gru in Despicable Me 3 has an interesting backstory. “I designed a birthday card for Chris Meledandri a few years ago,” says co-director Eric Guillon, also a character designer on the Despicable Me films. “I drew Chris as a Minion, and I used the same design and haircut for Mel that I used on the birthday card.” (Meledandri produced Despicable Me 3 with Janet Healy.)

Gru’s new nemesis is one of Meledandri’s favorite Illumination characters.

Balthazar Bratt is obsessed with the ‘80s, when he briefly enjoyed success as a child star. “He can’t get past the fact that his fans don’t care about him anymore, and his motivation is seeking revenge on the world that turned its back on him…and doing it in the guise of a grown-up version of his childhood TV persona,” Meledandri explains.

Grace Jones helped inspire the look of Balthazar Bratt.

“If you google ‘haircut ’80s,’ you get a good understanding of all the different styles,” says Guillon. “I had the difficult task of trying to combine them. I chose Bratt’s erect hair and cut it straight on the top for a few reasons. Graphically, it’s radical and square, like Grace Jones’ style. When I was younger, I was fascinated by her and she is visually strong; I’m a big fan of Jean-Paul Goude [Jones’ longtime collaborator].”

Incidentally, another option he had considered was the style of ’80s singer Desireless.

Speaking of Bratt’s look, Guillon continues: “We gave him a bald spot to make him look older and to demonstrate a sign of weakness and relatability, while his mustache strengthens his personality and supports his expressions. Bratt is ’80s in the way that Gru is Gothic. His keytar is an emblematic musical instrument of the ’80s, and it’s also a secret weapon. Clive, his robot sidekick, and other details and textures round out those nods.”

Dru’s haircut was tricky.

Dru’s look — thick blond hair and a white suit — contrasts Gru, who’s bald and wears black. It was one of the first designs that Guillon created for Dru. “We went through different options after that, but eventually came back to the first one where the personality of Dru was more defined,” he says. “The most difficult part was the shape of Dru’s head. How can we create a haircut on a head that doesn’t have a forehead? I came up with the idea of a part in the middle, half-long hair — a bit cheesy, but it gives Dru a teenage look.”

Adds animation director Julien Soret: “He’s always smiling, and for graphic quality, we made Dru the yin to Gru’s yang. In animation we went more into an energetic, frantic character. While Gru is contained and introverted, Dru is emotional and more energetic.”

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