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June 13, 2006

Worth a Mention - June 13, 2006

Disney Downshifts Cars Take - Stock Tumbles

Disney downshifted its reported grosses for the animated film Cars to $60.1 million from an initial estimate of $62.8 million, indicating it had a weak Sunday.

As a result, Disney's stock tumbled as opening-weekend estimates failed to reassure skeptics who think the studio overpaid for Pixar, the studio that produced Cars and other recent animated hits.

Shares closed down 1.5 percent at $28.90 after recovering from a sharper 3.5 percent dip earlier in the day, the trade paper reported.

Cars' $60.1 million take is well behind the $62.6 million opening of Monsters, Inc., and Cars is now number four out of Pixar's seven animated features for opening-weekend gross, the lowest since Toy Story 2 in 1999.Variety reported.


Paramount Switches Tim Burton Pics

(empireonline.com) Scratch another Jim Carrey movie from active development – Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is following Used Guys back into limbo.

The culprit, Paramount head Brad Grey, who has shoved the biopic of Ripley that Carrey was to star in and Tim Burton was to direct, off the schedule for a re-write. “In a world where we wanted to do more work on the script, this seemed to make more sense,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. The sticking point apparently came about the budget, which, given the hefty visual effects load, was looking at the $150 million range.

But despite having already started pre-production on the Ripley tale, Burton won’t be cooling his heels… Paramount has simply swapped Believe It Or Not for Sweeney Todd. Adapted from Stephen Sondheim’s musical about the throat-slitting, pie-filling “demon barber of Fleet Street” by John Logan, the film will start its journey towards getting the green light.

And guess who Burton is considering for the lead? His surname rhymes with “step”… Yes, to exactly no one’s surprise, Johnny is top of the list.

If you were disappointed by the news, take heart: this won’t be the end for Believe It Or Not according to Paramount’s Gail Berman. "We love this project and look forward to making it with Tim and Jim - just later than originally planned," she told the Hollywood Reporter.


60% Infection Rate In PCs

(forums.cgsociety.org) Microsoft on Monday said that it found and removed malicious programs - called "bots" - from six out of 10 Windows computers checked during a recent 15-month period.

The disclosure, announced in a report at the Tech Ed conference in Boston, is the strongest proof yet that bots are contaminating wide swaths of the Internet. Bots infect PCs with software that allows them to be controlled by an attacker to spread spam, attack websites or steal identity data.

"We're seeing an extremely active level of activity," says Matthew Braverman, Microsoft product manager. "Most malicious software we see today affecting Windows customers is more tied to financial gain."


'Prettier World' of Computer Modeling

(hindu.com) Taking issue with the perception that computer models lack realism, a Sandia National Laboratories researcher told his audience that simulations of the nanoscale provide researchers more detailed results - not less - than experiments alone.

The invited talk by Eliot Fang was delivered to members of the Materials Research Society at its recent semiannual general meeting.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory. Fang derided the pejorative "garbage in, garbage out" description of computer modeling - the belief that inputs for computer simulations are so generic that outcomes fail to generate the unexpected details found only by actual experiment.

Fang not only denied this truism but reversed it. "There's another, prettier world beyond what the SEM [scanning electron microscope] shows, and it's called simulation," he told his audience. "When you look through a microscope, you don't see some things that modeling and simulation show."

More: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/008200606131440.htm


Man of Steel Not Gay Says Director

(nzherald.co.nz) After weeks of internet speculation that the new Superman movie portrays the Man of Steel as gay, the director of the film has issued a strong denial, saying it is the most heterosexual character he has filmed.

Superman "is probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I've ever made", said Bryan Singer, director of Superman Returns, a new movie about the crime-fighting superhero that opens at the end of this month.

"I don't think he's ever been gay."

In recent months, the movie's ability to lure its target audience has been questioned by internet buzz probing the superhero's sexuality.

Young men are the movie's target audience and the film needs to attract millions of them to earn a profit and relaunch the Superman film franchise.

A major gay magazine, The Advocate, ran a cover story with the headline: "How Gay is Superman" and the Los Angeles Times weighed in with its own story on whether being gay might hinder or help the movie's box office takings.

After all, gay romance Brokeback Mountain won awards and raked in US$178 million ($281.7 million) worldwide.

So he wears a leotard and flies around in a red cape. Big deal, Singer said, noting Spider-Man wears tights. The X-Men do too, and they aren't gay. Singer ought to know, he directed 2000's X-Men movie and 2003's X2: X-Men United.

Singer said his version of the Man of Steel, who is played by Brandon Routh, is a "very romantic icon" - handsome, virtuous and vulnerable.

In the movie, Superman comes back to Earth after a five- year absence. Early on, audiences learn the love of his life, hard-charging reporter Lois Lane, has moved on from her infatuation with him. She has a new boyfriend and a child.

Yet when he re-enters her life, Lois still has that sexy gleam in her eye, and he can't wait to fly her to the moon.

"We were all scratching our heads," said Paul Levitz, president and publisher of Superman owner DC Comics. "He's not a gay character."

Happy Birthday Ralph McQuarrie

(Theforce.net) Today is the birthdayof the man responsible for the look and feel of Star Wars itself. From all of us at TheForce.net and across the entire fan community, we wish a very Happy Birthday to Star Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie.

Check it: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Chateau/9532/sw.htm

French Animation Undergoes "Renaissance"

(ca.today.reuters.com) The winning feature film at this year's Annecy International Animation Festival was director Christian Volckman's striking black-and-white futuristic thriller "Renaissance."

The film's title is an apt reflection of the unprecedented boom taking place in the French cartoon business.

A report released last week by the Center National de la Cinematographie showed eight French animated films were completed in 2005, double the number in any of the previous four years.

The lineup at Annecy, which wrapped Saturday, bears testimony to the bursting health of the French animation industry. Two of the five features in competition were French-made, while the fest opened with another local picture, "U," the tale of a princess rescued from misery by a unicorn, directed by Gregoire Solotareff and Serge Elissalde.

Michel Ocelot's dazzling Arabian adventure "Azur and Asmar" also unspooled after its premiere at Cannes in Directors' Fortnight, and "Piccolo, Saxo and Company," based on the best-selling musical children's story, had its premiere in the Alpine lakeside town.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as French producers known for traditional live-action movies are increasingly becoming involved in animated projects.

More: http://ca.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=entertainmentNews&storyID=2006-06-13T024356Z_01_N12355534_RTRIDST_0_ENTERTAINMENT-ANIMATION-COL.XML&archived=False


Fighter Wing Commander Learns About Transformers

(alamogordonews.com) Tularosa Basin movie fans have been keeping a close eye on certain goings-on at Holloman Air Force Base and other locations recently. And during a press conference Friday morning, officials were finally able to let the public in on exactly why.

Lt. Col. David Moore, 49th Fighter Wing commander, welcomed the press to the event, explaining what was happening.
"As you know, we have been working in collaborationwith Dreamworks studios over thelastmonth ortwo preparing to support them in filming a major Hollywood motion picture out here at Holloman ... we see thisas a perfect opportunity to showcase all ofthe great capabilities ... our airmen in action, our base," Col. Moore said.

The film, "Transformers," is based on the morphing 1980s Hasbro toy.

For some time, the name of the film was officially withheld by Dreamworks. Friday's press conference was the first time Holloman officials were able to confirm the titleof the film.

"We have been anxious to talk about what we're doing out here," Moore said. "We're happy to finally have the opportunity to discuss the movie publicly."

Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks have been working in the area, preparing for the 10-day shoot for approximately a month. However, the process of actually bringing the filmmakers to the area has taken much longer.

1st Lt. Christian Hodge, who worked with the Department of Defense to bring this film to the area,said he actually began looking at Air Force locations for the filming of "Transformers" last summer aftercoming upon the idea almost accidentally.

"I first found out about the moving surfing around online," said Hodge. "In July of last year I first read about it, thinking, 'Hey, jets that change into robots ... Air Force jets.' So I called over to the studio (Dreamworks), got a high ranking executive on the phone ... about two or three months ago we got a call from a location scout."

Holloman was just one of many bases being looked at in the beginning, said Hodge.

"They looked at seven Air Force bases. Holloman happened to be lucky," he said.

But in saying that Holloman was lucky to get the film shoot, Hodge explained that luck had very little to do with it.

"These guys are working so hard," he said."It's a huge endeavor. This is the best choice because of White Sands ...Holloman itself has been so engaging, arms wide open to try to help them."

Hodge admits that he was a big fan of Transformers when he was a child.

"I grew up watching those cartoons," he said,"I had those toys. I think I played with them a little too long.

"My mom was worried about me," Hodge said, grinning broadly. "She kept saying, 'Why don't you go outside and talk to some girls.'"

Moore said now that Holloman will take a big role in the film -- he estimates approximately one-third of the film will be shot in the local area -- he and his staff have learnedjust how much alikebig movie project and military operations are.

"We have been very excited to see exactly how a major motion picture unfolds," Moore said. "We've discovered something that frankly surprised us, andthat is the great similarity between a major motion picture filming operation and a military operation. There were many commonalities that we were unaware of. We have discovered that they, like us, go to great lengths to organize and prepare to set up their shots to film, considering the camera angles, considering the light, considering when everything will be ready, making sure it's prepared. There is enormous similarities between that and a military operation."

Moore also addressed concerns some may have about folks in the fighter wing slacking up on their jobs in defense to take part in the filming process.

"How is it that we possibly have time to work to support a movie? Well, let me tell you, our overriding position going into this has been that we will not do anything to compromise our readiness," Moore said.

"We see this as a fortunate convergence of talent. We have seen the Dreamworks team come onto our base with many professionals with many different capabilities all coming in working toward a common goal."

There are many issues to consider when bringing a major film production to a base such as Holloman. But one of the most important to the Department of Defense, said Army Lt. Col. Paul Sinor, lead public affairs representative for the DOD, is military image.

The Army will also have a role in the upcoming filming, with a set having been built on White Sands Missile Range. When it came time to give permission to Dreamworks for the shoot, Sinor said the DOD looked at just how the military would be portrayed in the film.

"The DOD gets numerous requests to support TV production and films," said Sinor."And because of the number ... we have to be very selective about the (projects) we support."

Sinor said the production of "Transformers" will be the largest film project the DOD has supported since the film "Blackhawk Down," released in 2001.

"The reason this was selected is "it's a realistic portrayal of what the military does," Sinor said. "That's one of the first criteria of military support, it has to be a realistic portrayal of the military. So this film, even though its somewhat "science fiction," what the military does in this film is a realistic portrayal of actual Air Force and Army personnel. We've worked with the director, Michael Bay, on a film before -- "Pearl Harbor " -- so we understand how (Bay and his team) operates, he understands how the military operates. We have a very good relationship."

The relationships being forged by Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures in Otero County aren't limited to on base, however.

According to Kathleen Curtis of the Otero County Economic Development Council, the impact of such a large film production is also being felt downtown.

"We're really excited that they're here in Alamogordo," Curtis said. "We are most appreciative of the time that they took to scout us out, to look around, to analyze what was here and to really see the advantage (to using) the locations in Alamogordo.

Like Moore, Curtislikened the influx of personnel and equipment to the military.

"It's not unlike a small army," she said.

"Production has needed building supplies, catering services, rental cars, equipment rentals, cleaning and laundry services, dining and eateries ...utilities, everything that you can imagine, they've needed, and our community has been able to respond to that," she said.

Curtis also touched on the economic impact "Transformers" has had on Otero County.

"The easiest way to measure (the economics)is probably the hotel rooms," Curtis said. "If anybody has tried to get a hotel room recently they know that there's been a tremendous impact."

Curtis believes the film's economic impact could number in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"During the shooting period, if we were just to have a 10-day shoot ... in that 10 days we know that there will be about a half a million dollars spent," she said.

And the monetary benefits could wind up being long-term, Curtis believes.

"We're also well aware that having the opportunity to have such a film production here in Alamogordo and inOtero County will have a lasting effect," she said. "Not only will we have an increase in tourism and all the things that follow through that, it will also provide great exposure in the long term because of this film production. (We hope it will)serve to encourage other productions to come to this area and make great use of the wonderful locations we have in Otero County."

Otero County Film Liaison Joan Griggs agreed.

"We're excited to have them here in Otero County," Griggs said. "We appreciate Dreamworks and Paramount, specifically director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg for bringing to us the largest production ever made in the state of New Mexico. We see the film industry as taking New Mexico very seriously at this point."

Griggs said she believes Dreamworks picked Otero County for their latest project because "Otero County is film friendly," she said.

But she gives much credit to Holloman.

"This new Transformer movie simply could not happen without Holloman Air Force Base," she said.

When it comes to finances, some have raised concerns that using Air Force and other military resources in a film might be sucking up taxpayer dollars. But Sinor said that is not the case.

"There is no cost to the taxpayer for these films," Sinor said. "If you see them flying this airplane on the film, whatever that airplane costs per hour, the production pays it. It does not cost the American taxpayer a dime. The military you see in the film working as extras, they're on leave on that day and they're paid by the production. So it's not that this is our regular work day, but instead of working for national defense we're playing soldiers and airmen in a movie."

It's a difficult balancing act, Sinor said, keeping military priorities at the top of the list.

"I'm working between the two biggest bureaucracies in the world, that being the military and Hollywood," Sinor said, grinning. "It's a wild job, a wild life."

Moore admits he's thrilled to have Dreamworks and Paramount use his base as the location for this film.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to showcase our terrific airmen and our amazing Air Force capabilities," he said.

-H

Posted by dschnee at June 13, 2006 06:55 AM

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