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Crystal Ball 2001: Upcoming Big Movies


Written by: Herb Lash
Date: October 4, 2001

BMZ Reviewer Herb Lash reports on the exciting slate of films in progress from this year's GSTA Conference.


Category: Columns

All babies are beautiful, even the ugly ones. It's impossible to know what they will become or where they are headed - but they are the future and who doesn't love the future? The Chicago 2001 Giant Screen Theater Association's exhibition of Films In Progress provided a brief glimpse of Large Format films still in the nest, but ready to test their wings. Some look great, some look good and some look alike. Here is the future. . .

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Spring 2002
It's difficult to conceive of a better point-and-shoot subject than space travelers at work (and a little play) aboard the evolving International Space Station. A 3-D look past an astronaut's boot tips gives a stunning/jaw dropping/heart stopping/inspirational view of our impossibly beautiful planet. Among other things, the film promises a ground zero blast-off point of view, astronaut/cosmonaut ballet and a comprehensive look at this marvel of technology and international cooperation.

November 2002
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 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.

March 2002
Extreme vistas and extreme physical feats are longstanding staples of the Giant Screen - no other medium makes the experience 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, COURAGE 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. COURAGE 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? COURAGE argues in the affirmative - no matter the conclusion the argument looks to be smart, hip and intriguing.

Winter 2003
Imagine a first glimpse of alien life - fantasy demands mind-boggling shapes and astounding behavior. No need for overheated fantasy or imagination, the alien world has already been discovered and captured on film - bugs are alive and doing things that must be seen to be believed. The Big Movie BUGS! follows in the footsteps of the 35mm art house hit MICROCOSMOS in proving that we only need to change our vantage point to travel to other worlds. A thousand-fold magnification gives each of the featured bugs human seeming personalities - the beautiful, the grotesque, the vicious and the humorous all look to be represented in this exciting film.

September 2002
In 1878, pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge was enlisted to help settle a bet: are all four legs of a galloping horse ever off the ground at the same instant? Muybridge's historic stop action photos settled the wager in the affirmative and also gave birth to the study of motion on film. MacGillivray Freeman's SCIENCE OF SPEED looks to continue in this tradition and to investigate the psychology behind going fast and faster. IMAX cameras will be trained individuals such as Olympic sprinter Marion Jones and professional skydivers as they press body and mind in search of speed.

Spring 2002
Tigers are arguably the most photogenic of the big cats and there is no doubting the ability of even a sleeping tiger to mesmerize on the Giant Screen. More difficult is the task of creating a wild life film that does not fall into too-familiar narrative patterns and techniques. The strategy here looks promising. INDIA: KINGDOM OF THE TIGER will feature the story of tiger hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett, plenty of tigers and the beauty of sprawling/varied/unknowable India. The human faces and culture seem as intriguing as the title subject. Biography, wildlife photography and travelogue - a combination of three standards that will hopefully result in a fresh approach to educational/conservationist filmmaking.

March 2003
Spielberg's TWISTER featured a corny story wrapped around the most astounding special effects of its time. FORCES OF NATURE seeks to leave out the corny story and let nature do most of the talking. Superstars of natural power and destruction, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions will be featured. Watching the eerie, inexorable flow of magma on the Giant Screen is in this early glance haunting and beautiful. The filmmakers are also talking about driving a specially designed armored vehicle into the fury of a tornado. Good luck - come back alive (with pictures)!

May 2002
The film does looks to do more than 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.

May 2002
Glass-jawed boxer Slim is the featured star of this walk through the latest innovations in computer animation. The film seems to follow the CYBERWORLD 3-D and ENCOUNTER IN THE THIRD DIMENSION - not so much story as it is an infomercial for emerging technology and animation skills. Fortunately, Slim is an immensely entertaining oddball and the filmmakers have poured a great deal of irreverent charm into his slight, virtual body.

April 20, 2002
Most recently, Lewis and Clark's epic journey of discovery received the Ken Burns treatment. This National Geographic Large Format production suggests a more condensed, visceral telling of the tale. The always tricky art of dramatic recreation will be employed along with a steady dose of the historical record. Like SHACKLETON'S ANTARCTIC ADVENTURE, authenticity in the appearance of people and objects of the era is given paramount importance. This early look features a time-machine sort of experience as countless bison are seen moving across a vast and unspoiled plain - truly inspiring.

October 2002
Helicopters are the stars of this adrenaline heavy Big Movie; recreated drug busts, rescue efforts and high flying daring serve to demonstrate the specialized tasks that are enabled by and evolved from vertical flight. Some of the more exciting images feature utility workers stepping off of helicopter platforms and onto high voltage power lines; a Big Movie case where almost being there is a better option than the real thing.

Fall 2002
Not the loveliest or liveliest of animals, the manatee 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.

Fall 2002
The dramatized journey of three separate horses will serve to demonstrate the unique and centuries-old bond between man and horse. Running wild, running around a race track or working through running rivers - man and the natural world will be seen from the horses point of view. MAJESTIC WHITE HORSES proved an original and captivating look at a particular breed of horse. This Big Movie promises to be a bit more comprehensive.

Febuary 2003
As beautiful as they are delicate, the planet's relatively few giant coral reefs are a universe unto themselves. The film follows Howard and Michelle Hall as they cruise beneath the waters of the South Pacific and capture on film reef life in Fiji, Tahiti, Rangiroa and Australia's Great Barrier Reef. A strong spirit of conservation and appreciation inform the film. Like DOLPHINS, CORAL REEF ADVENTURE looks to have a soundtrack that ensures a fluid, easy pace.

Summer 2002
Australia is another world all its own. There is the familiar (kangaroos, koalas) and there is the truly bizarre (duckbilled platypus.) This early look promises a variety of beautiful images (scores of kangaroos leaping across golden hued landscapes.) The mystery of migration, life and death across the 4 billion year-old continent leaves plenty of room for exploration.

March 2002
Five young trekkers and an African guide serve as our traveling companions as the film takes on an ascent of the fabled Mount Kilimanjaro. The filmmakers are intent on getting behind the legend of the mountain Hemingway wrote about. The educational adventure will take the viewer past glaciers, natural formations and eco-systems specific to this wondrous place.

Late 2003
For those fortunate enough to have seen the Big Movie CHRONOS, it is a given that director Ron Fricke is not interested in delivering the typical LF fare. It is difficult to get an exact grasp on what the long-in-the-making SEARCH FOR INFINITY is going to be - but this second preview of the film again dazzles. Arthur C. Clarke's animated liquid-metal head floats and spooks as he entrances us with the romance and complexity of infinity in nature. The film drops the viewer into a black hole of order and abstraction - a kaleidoscope juiced up with a supercomputer - difficult to describe. It might take a PhD in fractal geometry and higher mathematics to create this stuff - but just a pair of eyes to enjoy it.

The straightforward travelogue looks to feature the natural beauty and man-made relics of the cradle of civilization. There can be no shortage of educational content or awe-inspiring vistas as the IMAX cameras take in the lush and sun-drenched colors of magnificent Greece.

Venturing forth, colonizing and laying the foundation for new civilizations - humans have been doing it on foot, on horseback, by sea, by wagon, train, car, plane and most recently by spaceship. All of these journeys take place in the mind first - none requires more imagination, sophistication and daring than blasting out of this atmosphere and into the greatest last frontier. SPACE JOURNEY aims to get at the heart of the human need to leave this planet, to discover new worlds. . .The Space Shuttle is perhaps the Giant Screen's biggest star and with the MacGillivray Freeman touch it is sure to be shown off in its best light. Mars, astronauts and the individuals who have made the Space Age possible will also get their due.

Editor's Note: Footage was not shown at GSTA for the following films, but BMZ feels they are important upcoming releases. All descriptions are provided by the film producer or distributor, and do not in any way reflect the opinion of the author of this article.

Technology, artistry and imagination join forces to make the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Pictures' timeless animated classic, "Beauty and the Beast," a real cause for celebration. On January 1, 2002, "Be Our Guest" as one of the most popular Disney titles of all time debuts exclusively in IMAX® and other Giant Screen Theatres around the world, featuring an all-new musical sequence with the original song, "Human Again," by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. The song was written for the original version and storyboarded, but not animated.

May 2002 (Canada)/Fall 2002 (wide release)
A giant screen film journey with the world's most famous field researcher into the hearts, minds and world of the wild chimpanzees. The film chronicles Dr. Goodall's more than 40 years work among the chimps at Gombe Park on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Also of note:

  • From Disney: The Young Black Stallion, a prequel to the Disney classic film, "The Black Stallion; and Ultimate X, both scheduled for release in 2003.
  • From IMAX Corporation and the Wolper Organization: Race to the Pole (2003), a "Survivor"-style real-life race brought to the Big Movie Screen.
  • From MTV Films and L-Squared Entertainment: Enigma 2013 (2002), a "virtual world" of electronica music and techno-dance artists that "will take viewers on a visual journey through the human consciousness."


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