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Previews from LFCA 2002


Written by: Herb Lash
Date: June 2002

At the 2002 LFCA Conference, the films-in-production session offered a sneak peak at what's in store. There were little bits of everything to be seen on the Giant Screen - nature, thrills, science, laughs, tears and Disney.


Category: Columns

The May 2002 LFCA convention in Los Angeles provided a brief sneak peak at the next generation of Big Movies. There were little bits of everything to be seen on the Giant Screen - nature, thrills, science, laughs, tears and Disney. The variety of films being made can only be a healthy sign - unless limited screens mean we never get to see the variety. Some of the films have been Coming Soon for a while now - and some mark breakthroughs in Large Format technology. But the film clip that left the greatest impression and gives Ben Stassen a one to nil lead in the Stassen versus Disney match up is: SOS PLANET.

Above the fray of competition was the single reel shown from the Cannes premiered restoration of Jaques Tati's PLATYIME. Fans of the film will be glad to see their old friend looking good. The restoration by Mikros Image and Gulliver lab honors the soul of the film with a look that is timeless and crackles with life. The gentle Monsieur Hulot looks ready for an evening on the town that will last forever.

Some thoughts on what was shown. . .

There was no soundtrack to the film clip, but there was live accompaniment from the audience. Oohs, Awwes, laughs and expressions of delight were the rule - this from a clip that featured not much more than the continuous shot of a sea turtle's lazy swim. SOS PLANET looks to be one of the best ever marriages of animation and 3-D technology. This little sea turtle emotes, connects and interacts with the audience in the sort of way that could inspire word-of-mouth gold. The film almost guarantees not to get bogged down by spoon-fed science - a powerful, earth-friendly vibe is the more likely approach. Details matter when the canvas is a Giant Screen - Stassen and nWave know how to use their technology. Witness the surface of the sea as seen from underwater - it undulates and shimmers and fascinates - and it's a background effect. This is a Big Movie to look forward to.

Disney chose to preview its animated Big Movies before the screening of ULTIMATE X. All of the Disney/Buena Vista fare could be seen in a single serving - reasonable and convenient. I showed up late and missed TREASURE ISLAND - I heard it looked good. But I did see the LION KING, ALADDIN and TARZAN offerings. Just like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST the colors were bright, sharp and wonderful - not much is lost in the increased size. But, there is no escaping the fact that these repurposed animated films were not made with the Giant Screen in mind. Particular scenes like THE LION KING's water buffalo stampede do translate nicely - but more often than not the dull and imprecise 35mm background animation is exposed as unworthy of the Giant Screen. It takes a great deal more effort to create the images in SOS PLANET than it does to clone up the images in THE LION KING - the truth is in the films. The Disney name and the Disney-quality stories will sell tickets - at least a good thing for LF theaters.

Judging by a very brief APOLLO 13 clip - IMAX's Digital Re-Mastering technology (DMR) is for real. The images are rich and sharp - clearly better than anything simply projected bigger in 35mm. APOLLO 13 is a good and obvious choice to inaugurate this powerful new technology. The film is full of wide-open vistas and images of impressive scale - but it was not conceived or shot as a 70mm film. Does this matter? Core LF film fans will notice the difference in image quality and composition. But others might simply be taken in by the spectacle of size. Perhaps future LF filmmakers will include DMR as another in a growing list of hi-tech creative tools - or maybe DMR has nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with processing soulless Giant Screen Clones…Audiences and filmmakers will decide.

Rocket-powered reindeer with TOP GUN attitudes and STAR WARS spoof-battles will keep Santa's hands full. The latest clips from this first ever Holiday Season 3D family film continue to look great. . .Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, the Island of Misfit toys, The Abominable Snowmonster, Sam the Snowman, Hermey the Dentist, Yukon Cornelius, the Little Drummer Boy - these are the beloved Bass/Rankin stop action animated characters that have set the gold standard in Christmas/Holiday themed family entertainment for the last forty years. SANTA VS THE SNOWMAN seems to come from this same tradition of irreverent, sweet and good old-fashioned storytelling. There is nothing old-fashioned about the 3-D animation here though, and creator Steve Oedekerk brings more than a little Hollywood magic to the table. It looks like the sort of fun that could win the Giant Screen some new fans.

ADRENALINE RUSH: The Science of Risk
The title has changed (previously COURAGE,) but this Big Movie is still coming across with swagger and smarts. The filmmakers guarantee the greatest (most insane) BASE jumping shots ever captured. Extreme vistas and extreme physical feats are longstanding staples of the Giant Screen - no other medium makes these experiences so immediately vital. But in order to make these sorts of images more palatable to the museum and field trip crowd, Big Movie makers often resort to sandwiching slight bits of "educational content" between the more spectacular scenes. At first glance, ADRENALINE RUSH looks to buck this trend. Big thrills promise to center this film, but they are presented as a natural outgrowth of a genuine scientific/intellectual quest. ADRENALINE RUSH seeks to make the case that brain chemistry is the reason why some dare to do and dare to dream where others shrink back. Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Alfred Nobel, Henry Ford and B.A.S.E. jumpers - birds of a feather? ADRENALINE RUSH argues in the affirmative - no matter the conclusion the argument looks to be smart, hip and intriguing.

Francis Ford Copolla set the standard for helicopter cool in APOCOLYPSE NOW! with his shots of a swarming air cavalry. STRAIGHT UP! looks to take a more sober approach to these flying machines - but it's tough not to look cool while sporting the latest in chopper technology. Recreated drug busts, rescue efforts and high hovering spectacle will be served up with lessons in the practicality of vertical flight.

This film does not look to merely reproduce the acclaimed "Stomp" stage show - PULSE - A STOMP ODDYSEY is a rhythmic jaunt around the globe. A Brooklyn Human Beat Box, Brazilian marching drummers, urban rooftop dancers and Japanese giant drums are just a few of the stopovers on this worldwide hunt for good rhythm. Big Movie sounds might rival the visuals here.

Not the loveliest or liveliest of animals, the mermaid compensates with a soulful beauty as it lolls about in shallow waters. MANATEE - THE FORGOTTEN MERMAID seeks to give a natural history of this sea cow that was once revered as a mermaid and is now an endangered species. The film is clearly an effort at education in hopes of saving this gentle creature.

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