I remember back in '88 our school went on a field trip to The Science Museum where they were featuring a Hollywood Monster prop exibit. Of the two that stood out for me were the animatronic wolf head from An American Werewolf In London and the almighty queen alien from Aliens.
She was in the center of the museum posed fighting with the powerloader. Her tail was suspended around the whole exibit. I swear to God it was 100 feet long. My 14 year old jaw dropped to the floor. It was other worldly. The only other time I felt like that was witnessing the Pieta in St. Peter's Cathedral at the Vatican.
It's a shame kids today can't witness the awe that practical film magic can bring. I doubt the exibit would have been the same with a hard drive that designed the Na'Vi placed in the center for all to marvel at.
OK, I think I need to clarify something about my last post. I wasn’t wholeheartedly endorsing using CGI for The Walking Dead, I merely stated that amongst the sea of latex and practical zombie appliances and effects, I wasn’t going to fret over the CGI blood used.
Yeah, I’m a little biased since I’ve been dying for this to be turned into a show since 2004. It’s a show heavy on story and atmosphere. The fact that they used practical effects at all in this day and age was a bonus. For all intents and purposes, CGI will not be going away, like Katy Perry and Jack Black, it will be forced into our culture to the point where we have to cave a bit. Screw you! I liked Nacho Libre.
I also loved Lord of The Rings even though it had CGI infused throughout. I still won’t recant on my previous statement. I believe you have to pick your battles. Let’s all worry less about CGI blood in the Walking Dead and focus more on upcoming abominations like the prequel of THE THING.
Prepare yourselves. I am about to say something that may shock and disturb you. Get your vomit bags ready…
…I am not going to poop bricks over the CGI blood in the Walking Dead. I know, start unsubscribing now. It’s true though. In the greater scheme of things, the use of CGI in the show didn’t matter. It was minimal. Granted, squibs would have been a bonus, but what you get in the hour and a half premiere was pure practical effect heavy rotting gore with digital enhancement. Locations and mattes were digital, but hey, it was a TV show. Their budget was more limited. They have an excuse to cut corners. I will take a bit of CGI blood here and there if it means keeping the network from shelving the show due to inflated production costs.
The Walking Dead is everything a zombie TV show premiere should be. I was worried that they would tear through the first six issues of the Robert Kirkman comic, but they really did a hell of a job stretching out the story which in turn stretched out the dread. It gave you the, “what would you do in this situation” feeling that many current films of a similar genre lack. The emotions were layered. There was sympathy for the undead. I think it’s pretty safe for me to say that all my zombie film needs were met.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of gore that was allowed for an AMC show. I figured this series would have been perfect for HBO or Showtime, but AMC has proven to be a worthy competitor. The amount of prosthetics and guts and brains were completely satisfying.
…and the flies… dear God, the flies.
I know where I’ll be every Sunday night. Thank you AMC.
Yes, this deviates a bit off the track, but Kurt Russell is a valuable member of the practical effects film canon. He has starred in some of the best non CGI special effects films out there. That is why this post feels justified for this blog.
We can all agree that Hollywood is on a remake rampage. One thing that sticks out for me though is the insane amount of remakes of Kurt Russell films. The Thing, Escape From New York, Overboard. Yeah, so far that's only 3, but who's to say that Big Trouble In Little China, Used Cars and Breakdown aren't on the horizon? We Russell fans need to make our voices heard. We need to let Hollywood know that Kurt Russell is better than them!
I have designed this logo in the hope that the word can be spread. Shirts, stickers, posters, whatever! copyright withstanding of course.
We stand with you Kurt. Hollywood will not erase your films from us with their re-imagined garbage.
Why, oh why would you make a film in “Blair Witch” documentary style, and make the monsters absolutely craptastically CGI? I’m talking about SyFy quality. It’s really appalling and insulting to look at. We’re supposed to get into a “documentary” film about trolls when the trolls they show are 2D cartoons?
New “Death To CGI” rule: If you are making a shaky cam documentary and need to have obscured humanoid shapes appear from time to time, spend time to MAKE THE FLIPPIN’ COSTUMES! I guarantee the audience will laugh less.
So, on the Disney Channel they have the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It's an all CGI cartoon that is fun for kids but excruciating for adults to watch. Seriously it's just like Dora the Explorer but without the multi-cultural learning.
Anyway, the boy was watching it and after the show was done, to fill the few minute gap, they played an old 40's Disney cartoon. My three year old was fixed to the screen. I could not tear him away. So now every time the new CGI show comes on, he asks me, "where is the other Walt Disney show? I want the other show!"
AMC's The Walking Dead which will premiere in October is something I've been wating for for almost seven years now. I can only hope that the effects on the show will all be practical, but for budgetary reasons, esspecially for a TV series, that doesn't seem feasable.
It looks like they putting the non CGI effects to good use though. The zombie craze just got a new life again thanks to these guys...
The shot was called “SB19”. The 19th shot in the final space battle of Return of the Jedi (1983). The amount of designing and physical rendering of this piece was literally exhausting. Ken Ralston and his team at ILM were told by Lucas to make an eye popping and spectacular shot. I think they pulled off a little more than that.
As you can see in this video from a BBC documentary, Ralston, though thoroughly drained, had a great sense of accomplishment when it was all said and done, even though the scene lasted for only three seconds.
Sure, CGI could simplify all of this, but watch the space battle in Jedi compared to the confusing mess of a chase scene at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith(or was it Attack of the Clones? I seriously can’t remember!) and tell me which one has more heart.
One left you in awe while the other left you looking down in your box of Milk Duds trying to pry that last one out and then asking the person sitting next to you if they know what is going on because this space chase scene makes no sense and you know it’s supposed to establish that Anakin is an ace pilot, but the amount of shit that has been presented on the screen makes it unwatchable, like mixing every color of paint together to create the color diarrhea but you know the diarrhea must have a point so you look closer and closer but all you see is more diarrhea…
Anywho… hats off to Ralston and team for photographing one hell of a space battle. It actually holds up so well that Lucas didn’t really add anymore garbage to it in the Special Editions. For Lucas to hold back like that, it’s saying a lot.
Larry Cohen's 1982 film "Q: The Winged Serpent" is a perfect example of how far we have come in filmmaking... and by "how far we have come" I mean, "how less creative we have become".
Principal photography lasted 10 days. No bluescreen... no nets... all the actors & crew actually had to climb up New York's Chrysler Building and perform. Apparently, the arial photography wasn't traditionally shot for stop motion placement so animator David Allen (Laserblast, Freaked, Equinox) had to work around that.
When all was said & done, the film was a success at the box office further proving Cohen's talent and ambition can win over audiences.
Sadly, David Allen passed away from cancer in 1999, but his work lives on in many spectacular CGI-free works.
There is a new and dangerous epidemic sweeping the Republic of Uganda. Now that the HIV spread has been quelled, a fast growing and more lethal threat to the people has emerged. The Ugandan film commission had unearthed and discovered CGI.
I know right? Seeing the commercials on TV, I just dismissed it as another talking animal CGI crapfest in the vein of Marmaduke.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I might be so bold as to say, this film might mark the comeback of practical effects in mainstream Hollywood studios. Warner Bros. seems to have allowed animatronics to be used in Cats & Dogs 2 INSTEAD of CGI. A choice that seemed to please the director who must have gotten tired of watching a silver ball pass in front of a green screen. The animatronics are supervised by Dave Barclay and Lee Romaire Studios.
Granted, not all the animals are animatronic obviously, but the ones that are definitely look way more entertaining.
The infiltration has begun! Thanks to people like Lee Romaire Studios who still believe that practical effects can bring movie magic alive again.
Yes, I love to dwell in the past. I miss the days of air bladders, latex, hoses and hydraulics. I miss those effects of long ago that made a big mess on the set. Most of all, I miss the “ugh!” “Ahhh!” “Ewww!” and “Ha ha!!!” reaction people had to those scenes. Incredibly over the top, or just ridiculously messy, these scenes are by far better than anything CGI can come up with.
I present to you a top ten list of some of the most innovative pre-CGI transformation scenes in cinema history. Feel free to disagree or comment on your favorite, and if I left any out that you feel absolutely need to be on this list, too bad.
#10: Demons (1985) The Italians love their gore loud and messy. Maybe it goes back to the theater, where makeup and gestures had to carry to the whole amphitheater. They love to exaggerate and we love to watch.
#9: Demons 2 (1986) Trying to one up the scene from the first film, and doing a hell of a job at it.
#8: Clash of the Titans (1981) It’s not much. Hell, you don’t even get to see him, just his animated shadow. But that’s all it took to stay burned into my 8 year old impressionable mind.
#7: From Beyond (1986) You know when you mix Stuart Gordon with H.P. Lovecraft you are going to get some awesome goopy scenes. Kudos to Barbara Crampton for putting up with it.
#6: The Fly (1986) Absolutely gory, but somehow gut wrenchingly sad thanks to a great performance by Geena Davis.
#5: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) The only film on the list that’s not from the 80’s. It is a masterwork of editing and composition. A transformation so subtle and so surreal, my mind can barely comprehend it… and no, LSD won’t help me to comprehend it either.
#4: The Beast Within (1982) I’m mentioned this one before. Tom Burman’s best. Actor Paul Clemens puts everything he has into this performance.
#3: The Howling (1981) Some may argue that Rick Baker’s “American Werewolf in London” scene is the king of all werewolf transformation scenes. While it is amazing and innovative especially for it being shot in stark light, it just doesn’t hold up terror wise to Bottin’s scene. I mean, just look at those air bladders go! Also note werewolf Picardo’s mid transformation creepy “smile”. This is the stuff of nightmare folks.
#2: The Peacock King (1989) I have yet to see this film, but this scene has convinced me that this could very well be the second greatest transformation scene ever filmed. What the hell is that?! I must buy this film now.
#1: The Thing (1982) The pinnacle of all transformation films. I’ve touched on the Dog scene before, but I would have to say that the Palmer scene wins out of sheer “WTF?” appeal. It is so frantic and chaotic. You feel like MacReady does just watching it. Absolute head-munching madness.
Take this review for what it’s worth because I quit watching this film half way through. I took in everything I needed to know about what is wrong with horror filmmaking today just from the first half. I have never seen the 1981 original, but I figured out the end twist right away, which leads me to one of the main reasons American remake horror sucks today:
They dumb everything down for you. Like, really down.
The plot twists are dumb. The acting is Jr. High School quality and the effects… my God THE EFFECTS! Let’s just say the effects crew probably moved on to higher things like the SyFy Channel. Seriously, you get inventive kills reduced to laughable CGI cartoonery…
Using CGI in horror films is the equivalent of CGI nudity in porno. It shows lack of creativity and talent. When all you have is a crap remake, and you offer us CGI, we doze off. Some of the worst bad 80’s horror was redeemed with some creative prosthetics or hacked limbs and REAL fake blood. When you have to rely on CGI blood for your horror film, you’re in the wrong business.
Another headache inducing treat this piece of garbage had to offer me was its painfully obvious post production filter treatment. The colors are so washed out to the point of actually being black and white. There was no definition of depth. Outdoor shots were just as flat as the interiors. I kept fighting the urge to adjust my TV. It became unbearable.
Avoid this film at all costs. You are better off bleaching your anus than sitting through this. I tried to use restraint in reviewing this, but it just isn’t gonna happen. Everyone involved with this film needs to actually watch some movies.
I can never truly hate something 100% (Janeane Garofalo ranks close). It's just not in my nature. That is why I give you 3 examples where CGI actually works for me:
1) Pixar Productions. CGI is always less offensive in cartoon form. There are many exceptions though, mainly involving horrible children’s programming. For me, Pixar holds the reigns on quality. The one major flaw of CGI is that it looks dated way too soon. The first Toy Story definitely has a dated look especially when it comes to the “human” characters. All the other “toys” are pretty much identical to Toy Story 3. If you stop with the realism and rely heavily on style, the end result holds up. A good example would be The Incredibles which is human characters, yet they are very stylized animation wise. The film does not look dated, and thus kicks ass.
2) Inanimate objects. No matter how good you are at computer animation, laws of physics will always render you amateurish. Leave the CGI to things that don’t move so fluidly. Robots are a good example, unless they jump, or twirl, or kung fu kick or breakdance, or….
I hate Michael Bay so.
3) Tron. You can still hate CGI and love Tron because they figured it out. The story line is built around CGI. Even though the entire film is live action, it’s the computer world around them that becomes a computer artist’s playground. There’s no way you can say Tron looks too CGI’y. That’s like saying Twilight is too teenage’y. I welcome the new Tron movie with open arms. I’m hoping Jeff Bridges will be less sweaty than he was in Crazy Heart though.
That’s it for now. I could only think of 3 positives. There might be more down the road if I open up my cold heart to them, but for now, grumble grumble.
4) Politically, I tend to be strongly conservative. I really abhor hero worship, especially in politicians. That's a game you'll never win. Although I do skeet shoot poodles and crap bags of money, so...
5) As a kid, I always thought I'd be a cartoonist or a special effects makeup artist. Neither followed with me. I got the guitar at age 14 and stuck with music instead.
6) I love movies, especially behind the scenes stuff. Just hearing about how John Carpenter made the title card for "The Thing" gives me goosebumps.
7) I use Lady Speed Stick deodorant because it's the only kind that doesn't give me a rash.
Now for some fun blogs that are definitely worth your time:
1) Kindertrauma An excellent page of the TV/cinema creepiness that scared the hell out of you as a kid. I got a few traumafessions posted on there. It's the only site that will make you go, "HOLY CRAP, I REMEMBER THAT!"
The very cool Brian from coolasscinema.com gave yours truly a nice mention on his site. coolasscinema.com has some of the best and thorough film reviews out there. His knowledge of great obscure sub-genres is impressive. Definitely worth checking out.
Also, he won the Versatile Blogger Award! Congratulations!
(by the way, I should have a new post up soon in which I DEFEND CGI!)
For years, watching interviews with George Romero berating the industry for not giving him the means to make films anymore, I thought to myself, “He’s right!” The zombie craze is in full swing and Hollywood won’t even bat an eye for the father of the genre. What is this world coming to?
…then I see “Survival of the Dead” and I understand.
Throughout the 90’s I was in full zombie mode. I drenched myself in Romero and Fulci undead cologne. When I wore them out, I would expose myself to more obscure Italian zombie films, so I wasn’t a stranger to taking the genre and putting it into bizarre locals and periods. By the time Hollywood got in the game, I was tired of it. I had exhausted my viewings of entrails snacking. I consider Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead one of the most pointless and juvenile attempts at a film ever created.
Honestly, I believe that this genre really doesn’t belong in this generation. Something about it always seems to be lost in translation. No matter how “X-TREME” you make the zombies, they just don’t seem to fit in to this modern film going era. Just like Macramé, zombie films are a time capsule into that long past society that existed throughout the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s.
Romero’s newest attempt is Survival of the Dead. It has all the key elements in place. Limited locations, over the top acting, slow shambling undead and blatant social commentary. Two things it does lack however is a point and squibs. All the squib shots are done with CGI and it looks ridiculous. Making a zombie film where the gore is done CGI is about as pointless as tits on a boar. 1985’s Day of the Dead may have been a very flawed film story wise, but at least you had some amazingly gory effects to fall back on. “Survival” has none of that. All it has is an awkward story about feuding Irish clans on an isolated New England costal island… with zombies.
Yes, you heard that right.
Maybe Romero’s message was “Whatever differences we have between us, let it go, because there are zombies about” or maybe he just hates the Irish. Whatever the message was, I missed it. I was too distracted by the annoying douche bag teen that was thrown into the story just for the sole purpose of having a douche bag teen in the film to say douche baggy things like, “Vinyl? Gag me!” when he searches a cabin and finds an old record player.
Gag me indeed.
Yes, I will be the first to declare that the zombie genre has officially died thanks to its dear leader and a little help from good old CGI.
Hopefully, unlike the films the genre represents, it won’t rise up even uglier than before.
An odd little film from 1983 that pretty much homages 1950's small town paranoia sci-fi films. I remember renting this a few times as a kid at the local video store. I dont really remember the plot as much as I remember the effects. This film has some great borderline gore effects that stayed with me... sometimes in nightmare form.
Latex faces being ripped off exposing slimy animatronic alien heads, shriveling bodies getting their life force sucked out of them. Pretty intense stuff for a PG rated film, but then again, this was 1983. A great time to be a kid. Movies got away with a lot more back then, and I've always been grateful to have my impressionable years exposed to all these early 80's practical effects heavy productions.
Critically and publicly, this film was mildly received. I think it gained better legs through home video by kids like me. Siskel & Ebert were divided on the intention of the film. I love how Siskel decries the annoying "gloop & glop" effects that the "kids" love these days. It makes me wonder what he would have thought about the massive CGI infestation that has clogged modern cinema.
I remember this being quite the big deal in animatronics when it came out. I saw this in the theaters many times. Maybe that's why Jurassic Park did nothing for me. The Brachiosaurus scene in JP looked really bad in my opinion. These brontos had mass to them. even though they were scale, when they fell, they FELL. The physics were real, not rendered. The head movments still were a little tight, but it didnt matter, because they were real objects that interacted with their real surroundings.
I think when you're dealing with "unreal" things such as dinosaurs, it's better to create them in the real world so the actors have something to work with instead of a green screen. Much more effective.
There’s something about this picture that almost makes me weep tears of nerdly joy.
Maybe it’s the simplicity of rubber bands and tape. Maybe it’s because there was a lot of thought and work going into something that really was never in the final film. Maybe it’s because this was one of the films that shaped my view of action and adventure and the imagination of filmmaking. Maybe it’s because I never knew that they tried to make the damn idol’s eyes move!
Whatever it is that I love about this picture, I guarantee you this much work wouldn’t have been done today. All this would have been reduced to, “We’ll CG the eyes in post.”
Some CGI is not completely crap. My big problem is the disregard and or utter lack of knowledge of physics when making a CG character move. They never seem to get it right. The whole basis of CGI is to make the unreal blend with the real. If it wasn’t, then we’d still have stop motion and cartoons with live action. So why all the fakey jumping and flying around? (I’m looking at you Spider-Man & Transformers)
When a well done CG character is still, it seems more effective, but when it starts jumping around, the realistic illusion is completely shattered. The best example for me was Gollum from the Lord of the Rings films. The facial detail was marvelous. His expression was very well rendered. Even when he crawled along the ground he almost seems to have some mass to the image. When he started jumping around, that’s where the flaws became apparent.
Look, CGI is never going to look 100% real. I know that, but the artists that use it for the sake of wanting it to be “more realistic than a puppet or stop motion” are just fooling themselves. Nobody watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the graphically accurate depiction of cartoon and real life co-mingling; they saw it for the fun story told a creative way.
CGI added for the purpose of creating something unreal real, is not creative. It’s a lazy illusion that seems hollow to the viewer. We get nothing from it. It’s like eating a pot pie full of air.
So next time you young filmmakers want to add a giant monster in your shot, set the mouse down, got to the hobby store, get some models, get your hands dirty and read up on forced perspective techniques.
Us the viewers appreciate seeing hard work up on the screen.