Friday, January 22, 2016

Behind the Scenes at Creating Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens

Below is a short video that provides a behind the scenes peek at the visual effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with an emphasis on the creation of Maz Kanata using Lupita Nyong'o's motion capture performance. Thanks to Feris O. for the link.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Star Wars Episode VIII Bumped to Christmas 2017

The original plan for the new Star Wars trilogy was to release the movies every other summer but that idea was forced to be adjusted when it was clear that Star Wars: The Force Awakens wouldn't be able to meet the deadline of essentially completing a CGI heavy film in just 18 months. Now it appears what was a decision forced by circumstance has become the norm for upcoming Star Wars films as Star Wars Episode VIII was bumped 7 months to December 15, 2017 instead of May 26, 2017. Star Wars Rogue One is the next film set for release on December 16, 2016. The decision was driven by the near $2 billion box office take The Force Awakens has enjoyed and likely would not have reaped in the highly competitive summer movie season.

Personally I have long been confused on why the studios don't stake out the December corridor more often. Its no accident that the three top movies of all time were released during the holidays. The competition is much lighter (unless Oscar bait type films) as there are traditionally few tent pole level movies released then. If think about this last month, if you were in the mood for an action film, or a science fiction film, or just a fun film (that wasn't Oscar bait), your option was Star Wars or nothing. And this has been typical for years now. Assuming Disney plans on staking out mid-December for the next five years for each of their Star Wars films it will be interesting to see if the other studios respond by possibly moving what would have been summer films into the holiday time frame to try to soak up some of the Star Wars bucks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Force Awakens Passes $1 Billion Box Office

The box office news remains solid for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the film is no longer number one in the US it still is making the kind of numbers in its 5th week of release that most movies consider a great opening with a total of $32M for the US holiday bring its US total to $858.5M. Internationally the film made $47.3M bringing its total past $1 billion for a worldwide total of $1.86 billion. On the all time list this places past Jurassic World's $1.669B total to the number three slot just behind Titanic's $2.18B and Avatar's $2.78B totals.

As for passing Avatar, that simply isn't going to happen and now it looks like it will not pass Titanic's total either. This is due to the movie not being the success Disney had hoped for in China. While the film's first weekend was an excellent $53 million, bad reviews in the country caused a whopping 72% nosedive for a $14.8M take this past weekend. Disney needed the film to make close to $500M in the country to pass Titanic, now it looks like it will barely make $125M there. If such a nosedive occurred in the States the film would be considered a complete failure, studio stock would suffer and probably a few careers would end. Fortunately China isn't that important to Hollywood's fortunes (yet) but it did put the kibosh on any new box office records. My best guess is the nostalgia factor that was a selling point in the United States and elsewhere actually went against the film in China. The Force Awakens in a substantial number of ways is essentially a remake of A New Hope. Here that generated high praise, in China that nostalgia vein simply doesn't exist. Chances are Disney will continue to spend substantial amount of money in the country to improve Star Wars familiarity in the country so the Episode VIII doesn't suffer the same fate.

As of now, it looks like the film might just go over $2 billion but its going to be close (~$900M US, ~$1.1B international) by the time it exists most theaters by mid-February. Definitely something to brag about over at Lucasfilm and something to build on for the next five or so years of Star Wars films that are in the pipeline.

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Trailer Reveals Cloverfield Sequel (of sorts)

Before this blog focused its attention on Star Wars, it started with the movie Cloverfield. In screening of Michael Bay's 13 Hours revealed that JJ Abrams secretly produced a sort of sequel to the movie called "10 Cloverfield Lane". The movie was filmed around two years ago by director Dan Trachtenberg with stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. Judging by the trailer, the movie occurs concurrent to and just after the Cloverfield. In a statement to Collider, JJ Abrams said "The idea came up a long time ago during production. We wanted to make it a blood relative of Cloverfield. The idea was developed over time. We wanted to hold back the title for as long as possible." Winstead offered a brief description of the film where her character wakes up in a bunker with a stranger (Goodman) saying "He tells me that basically the world is over outside because there’s been a nuclear fall-out. It does have similarity to Faults, in some ways, because you don’t know who’s telling the truth or who to believe. There’s a lot of, who’s manipulating who, and all of that. Tonally, it’s very different, but it has some of those same themes." Update: Added poster for movie.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Receives 5 Nominations

Today the Oscar nominations were announced and Star Wars: The Force Awakens scooped up 5 nominations including John Williams getting nominated once again for a Star Wars score. The full list of nominations can be found here. The winners will be announced on February 28.

Film Editing
The Big Short, Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road, Margaret Sixel
The Revenant, Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight, Tom McArdle
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey

Original Score
“Bridge of Spies” Thomas Newman
“Carol” Carter Burwell
“The Hateful Eight” Ennio Morricone
“Sicario” Jóhann Jóhannsson
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” John Williams

Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Mark Mangini and David White
“The Martian” Oliver Tarney
“The Revenant” Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender
“Sicario” Alan Robert Murray
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Matthew Wood and David Acord

Sound Mixing
“Bridge of Spies” Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
“The Martian” Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth
“The Revenant” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects
“Ex Machina” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett
“Mad Max: Fury Road” Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
“The Martian” Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner
“The Revenant” Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Colin Trevorrow Hints At Episode 9

In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow spoke a little bit about some of his plans for the film which isn't due until summer 2019 (and likely will not have a script until around 2017). Suffice it to say its so early in the process that its great he is thinking about it but whatever he is saying is pretty much meaningless. For example one quote "spoils" that Luke and Leia survive Episode VIII but that film is still in the scripting stages so...
On wrapping up the trilogy
A lot of scribbling and a lot of notes thinking about the story that I want to tell"

Is she actually Rey Skywalker, daughter of Luke (Mark Hamill)? Or could she be Obi-Wan Kenobi's granddaughter?
We're going to make sure that that answer is deeply and profoundly satisfying. Rey is a character that is important in this universe, not just in the context of The Force Awakens, but in the entire galaxy. She deserves it. We'll make sure that that answer is something that feels like it was something that happened a long time ago, far away, and we're just telling you what happened.

Creating new characters
What's interesting is I'm not creating a host of new characters. I have a lot of characters that people really love that we're going to make sure are all honored. No one's going to be left behind.

Leia and Luke in Episode IX
[wants] to find new places that we can take those characters. They are icons, but they're also people that have suffered tremendous loss and challenge over the course of all these films. [Episode IX] is something that needs to honor a story that's been told over a period of 40 years. I don't want to ignore any of it, and I respect all of it. It's something I think the fan base is going to embrace.

Friday, January 8, 2016

JJ Abrams Confirms Copying A New Hope for Force Awakens Intentional

In an interview for The Hollywood Reporter Chatter podcast, director and writer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens JJ Abrams confirmed that he wanted "history repeating itself."
“Ultimately the structure of Star Wars itself is as classic and tried and true as you can get. It was itself derivative of all of these things that George loved so much, from the most obvious, Flash Gordon and Joseph Campbell, to the [Akira] Kurosawa references, to Westerns — I mean, all of these elements were part of what made Star Wars.”

“I can understand that someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!’” he said. “We inherited Star Wars. The story of history repeating itself was, I believe, an obvious and intentional thing, and the structure of meeting a character who comes from a nowhere desert and discovers that she has a power within her, where the bad guys have a weapon that is destructive but that ends up being destroyed — those simple tenets are by far the least important aspects of this movie, and they provide bones that were well-proven long before they were used in Star Wars.”

“What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards. So I understand that this movie, I would argue much more than the ones that follow, needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain, and using a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies — which is, again, I would argue, not a brand new concept, admittedly — but use that to do, I think, a far more important thing, which is introduce this young woman, who’s a character we’ve not seen before and who has a story we have not seen before, meeting the first Storm Trooper we’ve ever seen who we get to know as a human being; to see the two of them have an adventure in a way that no one has had yet, with Han Solo; to see those characters go to find someone who is a brand new character who, yes, may be diminutive, but is as far from Yoda as I think a description of a character can get, who gets to enlighten almost the way a wonderful older teacher or grandparent or great-aunt might, you know, something that is confirming a kind of belief system that is rejected by the main character; and to tell a story of being a parent and being a child and the struggles that that entails — clearly Star Wars has always been a familial story, but never in the way that we’ve told here.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Force Awakens Passes Avatar in US

After 20 days of release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens passed Avatar to sit at the top of the US box office roost. In its US run Avatar made $750 million while Force Awakens is at $760.5M as of Wednesday with at least a month of strong days to go. My guestimate is the film will top at $900 million in the states. As for the film's chances of passing Avatar in the world wide all time list at this point the outlook is unlikely.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Climbs to #4 On All Time Worldwide List

Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues to climb the box office worldwide chart having landed in the 4th spot after just a touch over two weeks of release with a worldwide total of $1.5B ($750.2M from US; $786.1M international). In the US it the film will sit at the top of the heap by the end of the week as its only $10.5M from passing Avatar's $760.5M US total. The continued climb was assisted by a strong third weekend of release with an $90.2M weekend in the US. The relatively small 39.5% drop (60% and up bad, around 50% average, 40% or less is good) indicates the film might cross the $900 million mark in the US.

The continued strong US showing is no longer being matched internationally as the film only took in around $14.5M for a significant 63% drop. While the US sales will easily allow the film to pass Jurassic World's $1.7B worldwide total, it will not be enough to push it over the top to pass Titanic ($2.2B) and Avatar ($2.8B). The only chance of that occurring is if China embraces the film when it is released this weekend in the country. Star Wars and China get along ok but it historically has not had significant support there but then again the last time that was tested was over 10 years ago with the prequels and the volume of Chinese moviegoers for American films was significantly smaller.

By my rough guess, the movie would have to break the Chinese single weekend box office record (currently Furious 7 at $182.4) to boost the film enough to pass Titanic. Most American releases in China only are allowed a few weeks of release which is why despite the strong first weekend, the total gross for Furious 7 was $390.9M. Assuming the laws there have not changed that indicates a record weekend for the movie (~200M+) with the limited release window would put the film at ~$500M from China. Assuming that best case scenario here is my guesstimate on where The Force Awakens might land on worldwide gross: ~$500M China + ~$900M US + ~$850 rest of world = ~$2.25B worldwide total which is enough to pass Titanic but not Avatar. Oddly my guess seems to match what the paid professionals say.