What if your best friend was a giant tree monster?
Peter and the Colossus (US-2013) is an independent feature-length film written, directed and produced by Mitchel Viernes. It stars Aubrey Robbins and new child star Marcus Lavatai.
Rachel, a young woman who was estranged from her family for several years, returns home to take care of her little brother Peter after the sudden passing of their parents. Ever since the traumatic experience, Peter refuses to speak, making a social connection with anyone extremely difficult, including his sister. Between work, finances, and trying to handle her own love life, Rachel finds making a connection just as much of a challenge. Things change when Peter turns to the forest near his house as a means to escape the real world, and it is there he meets a tree giant. Despite the verbal barrier and obvious difference in size, the two form an unlikely friendship.
The Colossus, it seems, has been created using suitmation, in the style of the original Gojira and other Japanese kaiju eiga. It is a gigantic tree-creature, somewhat akin to the Ents of Lord of the Rings fame perhaps — though this one is not the product of CGI technology.
“The giant for the film was inspired when I was walking on a hike and was looking at all the different trees,” director/writer Mitchel Viernes explained. “I wanted a very naturalistic and practical way of approaching the giant, so a suit was made by our costume designer Vanesa Furnari, and an actor in the suit was filmed against a blue screen, which we later composited into the film.
“The giant develops a very close connection with Peter and ultimately helps ease him out of his shell and relieve some of the grief and trauma that has been weighing him down.”
Shot entirely in Hawaii, the film’s cast and crew are completely Hawaii-based as well, including Aubrey Robbins as Rachel and Marcus Lavatai as Peter.
“We’re aiming to release the film into the various festivals,” Viernes added, “specifically targeting the Hawai’i International Film Festival.”
For more images from Peter and the Colossus and its production, go and like its Facebook page. On the strength of its trailer, not to mention its suitmation FX, this is definitely a film to look out for.
It’s official. CGI hasn’t totally killed off the latex suits and miniature sets. Undead Backbrain, in the person of monster-film hound Avery Guerra, has unearthed a new, good-looking daikaiju eiga (giant monster film) being made using traditional Japanese SFX techniques.
It’s called Zella: Monster Martial Law and features three kaiju — the Good, the Bad and the … Cyborg. The monster effects are being done via suitmation and miniature sets.
There’s no denying that the creation of SFX via digital means (whether in conjunction with more traditional techniques or not) has revolutionized the cinematic depiction of giant monsters, taking them to a new level of acceptance. However, we tend to forget that no matter how realistic they look, they are nonetheless unreal and hence dependent on the viewer’s willingness to accept the inherent artifice involved in their creation. All fiction, in fact, is artifice. It’s just that CGI is currently favoured by the cultural zeitgeist and hence more easily accepted by audiences. Yet we readily accept the fictional “reality” of such stylised characters as Homer Simpson and family. So why not old-style monster suits?
I love what CGI has to offer. Once it (as a FX technique) worked its way through its more primitive stages, it certainly allowed filmmakers to delve into cinematic worlds that were previously a lot harder to create successfully. Is it a coincidence that superhero movies are currently both prolific and box-office gold? I think not. Yet at the same time it’s good to see that older monster-creating techniques have not been totally abandoned. Stop-motion animation and suitmation/model-work are still being used, and both have an attraction of their own. This is especially relevant in the world of the kaiju.
Giant monsters (known as kaiju or daikaiju in Japan) weren’t invented by the Japanese film industry. But in their most extreme form — and within certain almost ritualistic contexts — they are most readily identified by such Japanese creations as Gojira (Godzilla), Gamera, and all their often bizarre opponents and allies. The tradition reaches a pinnacle of monstrous weirdness in the unending line of creatures that populate such franchises as Ultraman and other lesser-known tokusatsu TV series. Generally speaking, the giant creatures in these Japanese films and TV series are filmed using miniature sets and complex (or cheapjack, depending on the budget) monster suits (with added CGI enhancement in more recent times). Nevertheless, it was with Guillermo del Toro’s epic kaiju vs giant robot film Pacific Rim (2013) that full-on CGI came into its own within the genre outside of Japan, despite the many Western CGI giants that cameoed beforehand in films such as Men in Black, Hellboy, Skyline, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Clash of the Titans, and headlined in the 1998 US Godzilla remake and in Cloverfield (2008) — not to mention all the giant snakes, dragons and other rampaging giants that created low-grade havoc at a B-grade level. In the pipeline, of course, is a much-anticipated second Hollywood Godzilla film, one that fans are hoping with be more artistically successful and more respectful of its origins than the last.
Yet despite Del Toro’s success in kaiju creation, there’s still an undercurrent of old-school enthusiasm, no longer within the bigger studios perhaps, but readily adopted by the indies — buoyed as they tend to be by cinema geeks. Through them, suitmation and miniature city destruction, Godzilla-style, is likely to continue.
Such a film is Zella.
An independent production made by students from Osaka University of Arts, Zella: Monster Martial Law follows the exploits of a group that comes together to deal with a demonic-looking kaiju named Zella — all done with suits, make-up FX and miniature buildings.
Zella’s monstrous co-stars are the good-guy kaiju Zen, and a super cyborg named Isoroku.
Directed by Shingo Maehata, Zella runs for a mere 41 minutes, but it promises to be jam-packed with giant monster goodness. Helping the students is Hiromasa Mitsudome, who has worked as special effect supervisor for the Ultraman TV series and began teaching at Osaka University of Arts in 2013, offering to assist the film students with his FX knowledge. So far, it’s looking good. Check out the teaser below. There are no subtitles, but go with it through to the end to view some spectacular scenes of combat and destruction:
Some of Godzilla’s mates may have been strange — and the monsters that Ultraman regularly wrestles with may cross the “strange” boundary into outright bizarre — but the real-world Quetzalcoatlus northropi — a winged critter from the Cretaceous period — shows yet again that the giants of our past were more than capable of boundary-pushing strangeness in their own right.
At nearly 5 metres tall [16 feet], with a wingspan of about 10 metres [33 feet], and with a beak bigger than the average human, this member of the pterosaur family would have been a monster not to be trifled with.
We all know that despite humanity’s profligate populating of the planet, we are still vastly outnumbered by the insects. It is said there are more insects in a few random acres of practically anywhere than there are people worldwide. Fortunately, each individual bug is rather small. But what if they weren’t?
There’s a grand tradition of giant bug movies that seek to remind us of our true status in the scheme of things — the heyday of the genre being the 1950s, when such classics as Them! (US-1954; dir. Gordon Douglas), The Black Scorpion (US-1957; dir. Edward Ludwig), The Deadly Mantis (US-1957; dir. Nathan Duran) and Monster from Green Hell (US-1957; dir. Kenneth Crane) sought to metaphorically put us in our place. Add the giant arachnids, and let’s face it! We’re doomed.
The tradition lagged for a time, but the Big Bugs do crop up again every now and then, in films such as Ticks (US-1993; dir. Tony Randell), Mosquito (US-1995; dir. Gary Jones), Bugged (US-1997; dir. Roland K. Armstrong), Centipede! (US-2004; dir. Gregory Gieras) and the more recent Infestation (US-2009; dir. Kyle Rankin). Even the King of Monsters, Godzilla, has had his fair share of trouble with mega-giant insects, such as the prehistoric throwback Megaguirus from Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jii Shômetsu Sakusen [trans. Godzilla vs. Megaguiras: G-Eradication Command] (2000; dir. Masaaki Tezuka).
Well, it seems that another insectoid gargantua is on the way. Twitch reports that director Benni Diez is well advanced in the production of Stung, a slice of reel-life drama about giant wasps.
The film stars Matt O’Leary, Jessica Cook, the inevitable and always welcome Lance Henriksen and Clifton Collins — and a host of rather nasty stingers. From the conceptual trailer below, they’re smart little buggers, too.
Though it’s no doubt everywhere on the web by now, here’s some footage of the new Godzilla film as shown at San Diego Comic-Con. It was taken on someone’s smart phone and is, no doubt, test stuff — definitely not finished. But be patient and you’ll get more than a glimpse of the Big G.
[It didn't take long. Warner Bros. has caused the clip to be removed. However, I downloaded it before they did. Stay tuned.]
[Addendum: Meanwhile I have learned that the "clip" was actually a special audience participation "preview" created just for Comic-Con -- a sequence in which YOU the audience were caught up it an evacuation, and got to see through first-person pov the Big G through the window as a bonus when he turned up to trash the place... I'm a bit relieved, because I'm not a fan of found-footage, shaky, camera-verité style films generally and I feared the new film might be taking that route. But apparently the "clip" isn't part of the actual movie.]
At least he’s looking like the real Godzilla. Let the whingeing begin!
Read Dread Central’s interview with Gareth Edwards about his Godzilla: click here.
Answer: Very. And it’s some of the messiest diplomacy you’ll ever come across.
Due for release at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International is a book like no other — the much-anticipated Zombies vs Robots: Diplomacy, fourth volume in IDW and editor Jeff Conner’s epic ZVR fiction project.
With original stories based in the world of Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood’s unique comic franchise, this project is awesome in scope, having corralled a vast array of top genre writers from across the planet (including yours truly) — giving them (almost) free rein to play not-so-nice in a world where clunky robots have been developed to deal with the now iconic undead plague we all know and love.
But if you think the just-released World War Z movie is the be-all and end-all of the subgenre, and that when it comes to the zombie apocalypse you’ve seen it all, think again! Zombies vs Robots: Diplomacy offers eight amazing tales set in Russia and the UK — plunging the Lion and the Bear into an international diplomatic disaster like no other. How cold can the Cold War get?
And in the end which is worse: the zombies or the robots?
On Friday, July 19, artist Mike Dubisch and editor Jeff Conner will be signing freshly minted copies of ZVR: Diplomacy at Comic-Con International, specifically at the IDW booth (#2643) from 2pm to 3pm. It’s a magnificent book, too. As well as some truly imaginative work from a fantastic bunch of writers (check out the list on the cover above), it is illustrated by renowned artist Mike Dubisch, whose Lovecraftian graphic novel WEIRDLING was published in 2007 to much acclaim.
In short, if you can be there, go for it! If not, the book should be for sale generally in about two weeks.
Despite the bizarre (though sadly predictable) rash of internet naysayers who seem intent on burying Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim before it even premieres, I am so looking forward to this. The following video shows you, at least in part, why.
As for those who insist on comparing it to Transformers, try to get some sort of historical perspective before you open your digital mouth and make a complete ass of yourself. Read an article on Japanese mecha, for example!
And incidentally, Pacific Rim isn’t Neon Genesis Evangelion any more than Neon Genesis Evangelion is Gundam. Or High Noon is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
With the release of World War Z (US-2013; dir. Marc Forster), the popularity of zombies continues apace, spreading with the speed and cultural voraciousness of the more athletic end of the zombie spectrum. Latest zombcon news, however, concerns the Walker Stalker Con — of most immediate interest, perhaps, to all those within shambling distance of Atlanta, GA, in the US, or anyone willing to shamble by car or plane. The Con will be held in America’s Mart connected to the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, GA on November 1,2 and 3, 2013.
The Walker Stalker Con — a by-product of a popular podcast series run by two guys called James and Eric, the Fans of The Walking Dead podcast, known as The Walker Stalkers — is touted (by the organisers) to be “THE BEST, most fan-centric zombie and horror-themed convention ever”. A big call! They plan to fulfil that ambition by getting together an awesome array of guests. Already confirmed to attend are: The Walking Dead cast members Lauren Cohan (pictured below), Travis Love, Lew Temple, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jose Pablo Cantillo and more, Judith O’Dea (of Night of the Living Dead fame), as well as assorted undead actors from Dawn of the Dead (the original) and Holliston and lots of actors who have played zombies in the past. Check out the website for more.
Above: Judith O’Dea, in Night of the Living Dead
According to the organisers, the Walker Stalker podcast continues to be popular for connecting fans to the celebrities and actors of the TV Show The Walking Dead. “We hope to continue this same kind of access and involvement in our first ever convention,” say James and Eric. “We want fans of TV shows, films and comics in this genre to have a chance to have real interaction with their favorite celebrities – not just a 10-second hand-shake and photo opp.”
Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad Coleman and ex-zombie in The Walking Dead
Of vital importance right now is a Kickstarter program the Walker Stalkers have set up in order to help fund the convention. There are only 7 days left, with a long way to go for the campaign to reach its target, so they’re keen to get the information out to give fans every opportunity not to miss the deadline. Pledge rewards include passes for the con itself, so what have you got to lose?
More Information (from the official press release):
The convention kicks off on Friday, November 1 at noon. The exhibit floor will be open all three days featuring games, toys, comic and other memorabilia for true fans of zombie, horror and science fiction. Friday night, there will be a special Fan Meet and Greet for all VIP ticket holders.
On Saturday we will host the “Dead Party” – a night of dressing up and meeting/mingling with the celebrity guests.
In addition, a tour bus will leave from the hotel to tour area film and TV filming. The tours will be hosted by Atlanta Movie Tours.
For more information, guest announcements and regular updates about the Walker Stalker Convention visit:
Artist Todd Tennant, who is still plugging away at his much anticipated (and now official) graphic novel version of the Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio 1994 Godzilla screenplay (the one that wasn’t filmed in a ludicrous quibbling over budgetary issues and ended up being “replaced” by the non-Godzilla Godzilla film of Roland Emmerich in 1998), has been working with Australian 3D artist Elden Ardiente to produce the spectacular version of his Godzilla ’94 design that appears below (click on it to enlarge):
When I showed Elden’s great 3D art to Terry Rossio, he agreed to commission him to make 3D models of both G’94 and the Gryphon. I will be eventually using them myself for the Godzilla ’95 graphic novel. This will definitely help me finish the G’94 GN quicker).
Looking good! The prospect of this graphic novel remains a future high point on any Godzilla fan’s calendar and would make a terrific companion release to follow-up from the upcoming Godzilla blockbuster being directed by Gareth Edwards. Keep at it, Todd!
With the latest rendition of the zombie apocalypse about to hit screens worldwide, it’s perversely comforting to know that one’s hometown hasn’t been spared. World War Z (US-2013; dir. Marc Forster) is due for release on June 20, so the film’s Australian distributors WayToBlue have sent the Backbrain a local City Destruction poster publicising the event, in which the zombie hordes join the tourists visiting Sydney’s iconic destinations: Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Circular Quay. Click on the image to enlarge it.
If you have decent bandwidth, click here to check out the really big version, in which the exquisite detail is given full reign.
I’m still not sure how I’m going to react to the apparent action-thriller aesthetic of this Hollywood tentpole adaptation of Max Brook’s excellent novel, but I have to say that I’m getting more interested as the days go by.
In the meantime, here are the First-Look Featurette: