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SPIDER-MAN

[Spider-Man]John Dykstra, visual effects supervisor for the Spider-Man movie, addressed a packed room at last weekend's Wizard World convention in Chicago. The F/X wiz presented fans with the now-familiar teaser trailer and also the same five-minute clip that director Sam Raimi unveiled in San Diego last month. Following the presentations Dykstra went into a very informative Q & A session.

Dykstra made a name for himself with his ground breaking effects for the first Star Wars movie. He's enjoyed continued success right up to the recent CG laden Stuart Little. Dykstra told the crowd that with Stuart Little "we created our first computer generated, completely synthetic, live-action character and integrated it in a photographically realistic fashion into a live-action film, which I think is part of the reason, I ended up where I am with regards to Spider-Man."

"This is a character that we can all relate to," Dykstra told fans. "The story is a genuine story about people. What you can see from this small sequence, because it is the origin story, is you get a sense of who this guy is, and what he's going to have to go through when he becomes a superhero, and boy are those guys who are giving him trouble going to be sorry."

He estimated that there'll be some 400 effects shots in the film. "It's hard to say because we've had some very good success with more practical techniques of photographing the Spider-Man character. As a result we may not have to use a computer as frequently as we would have in the past. It's gonna be up to you to figure out which are which."

The effects guru talked about the difficulties of animating a character that will also be played by an actor in a costume. "The toughest thing about this show is that we're going to make a character who is indistinguishable from a live character," Dykstra told fans. "The fact that we don't have a face to work with in order to create the emotional content for the character means that we have to use body language. So, for everyone: for the actors who are involved with the scene, and the director of course, and the animators who have to subsequently animate the computer generated version of this character, all have to have the same mindset. It's a tough thing to do. And to keep that personality of body motion throughout the picture is going to be the hardest thing."

Of course, there's difficulty in animating a human character doing simple, human things. But the web slinger isn't a simply human being. "He does stuff that people can't do. So, to keep the reality quotient high, so you don't come out of your seat going, 'oh, yeah they just did a CG guy there,' we have to try and make sure even though he's 10 times stronger than a human being, that he's capable of doing these things within the mechanics of a human move."

One fan asked if the Green Goblin character would receive a CGI repaint over his costume in the movie. "The costume exists, in reality, as a costume. He's complete. He's three dimensional. He's there. At this point he can walk around without any CGI enhancements," Dykstra said. "When it comes to flying his glider, in as much as that technology doesn't really exist, When he flies, generally speaking, he's either a stunt man on a rig of some kind that supports the glider, or a CGI character. So in terms of the Goblin's costume, there's not much that is added CG or will be replaced by CG."

Continuing on the subject of Goblin effects, Dykstra told fans, "The glider itself, when you see it in flight, will half the times be either a composite...or it will be computer generated." Dykstra also said that computers will be used to allow the Goblin to move with some speed and grace. The effects time is also challenged with making sure the body language of the animated character conveys his emotional state."

When asked how Peter Parker first discovers his new ability Dykstra said, "The story of Spider-Man is a parallel for the story of kids going through adolescence. He starts out the character you saw in the clip, a very intelligent but not fully matured person, both physically and mentally.

"He ends up, after the bite of the spider, changing physically. He becomes stronger. He becomes more agile by a huge factor, more than just a normal human being matures during his adolescent change. He also goes through mental change. He has to think about things in a different way. He has a new responsibility.

"He wakes up in the morning. The first thing he sees is that he doesn't need to use his glasses anymore. That's his first discovery of his new capability. From there he goes on as you would if you'd discovered something had changed significantly to try these things out. That's a fun part of the story is learning how to use his Spider capabilities."

One fan asked if Spidey will be able to use his webs in the same diverse ways as we're used to in the comic books. "He has all the capabilities that he will have in the comics and hopefully capabilities that would fall to a character who has the capabilities that you would know about," Dykstra replied. "In other words, there's no limitation to what the character's going to be able to do with his webs. He'll sling them and use them in hopefully all the fashions you've seen before and maybe some innovative new ones."

One fan was still fixated one question: "Will Sam Raimi either go at the last minute go for mechanical web spinners or is he dead-set on the organic?"

Dykstra's adroit response was, "Yes."

He told fans that Spider-Man, like most F/X movies, would have to break new ground in order to please audiences. "If you begin a movie that takes 18 months to 2 years to make, using only known technology, by the time the film is finished it will be obsolete," Dykstra said. "So going into any film, whether it's Spider-Man or another movie, you must promise to do more than you have any hope of achieving, through a clever combination of baffling them with bull and actually being successful with some of the things you attempt, you've got a composite of existing technologies and innovation that results in the final images. There's a lot of happy accidents."

One fan asked about Raimi's style of filming frenetic action sequences, pointing to the trailer where a floating camera follows a swinging Spidey through the city. "The thing that's fun with Sam is that he's not afraid to try things that other people wince at," Dykstra said. The F/X guru also pointed out that the dynamic camera movies were important to capturing the excitement of web-slinging.

"You do have a responsibility to not sit back and watch this from a distance. It doesn't work," Dykstra said to fans. "He's a little tiny guy and then he gets big. But it happens very quick. So, unless you travel with the character you start to lose the ability to create the emotion that I was talking about with relation to body language.

"It's not a joke. It's true. You have to figure out how he looks swinging if he's sad or when he's swinging if he's happy. It's tough to do from two blocks away," he continued. "That's why we're tracking the camera a lot and Sam [is] choosing to have that happen."

One fan asked in they intentionally gave Spidey a costume that was less cumbersome than the rubber armor seen in recent comic book adaptations. "It's a form fitting costume. You see all of his contours. He is flexible beyond human capabilities," Dykstra said.

Dykstra said he's not an avid reader of the Spider-Man comics, but has become a fan of the character. He also said that the filmmakers are keenly aware of fan interest, but ultimately it's Raimi who is charged with bringing the character to on-screen life.

Marvel has also had significant input in the movie, which Dykstra praised. "It hasn't been a limitation, in fact, if anything it's been a resource for the people working on the film. If they'd just put their fingerprints on everything I'd say it, but they didn't. That's a tough line to walk, but they've done a terrific job of being contributors and collaborators."

Dykstra emphasized that, in spite of the costume and technology being utilized, the movie will succeed or fail on the merits of the story and the character development. "This is a movie that is being made by Sam Raimi. It's his interpretation of Spider-Man and I don't think that the fans will be disappointed."

BLADE 3, GHOST RIDER, HARD BOILED

Variety reports that comic-to-filmmaker David Goyer has signed a two picture deal with New Line Cinema which kicks off with the writer producing and developing a screenplay for Blade 3. Fans know well that Goyer penned the scripts for the first two Blade movies and is a producer on the second film, which is due out in March.

Although he's best known as a writer, Goyer is eager to stay behind the camera after making his directorial debut this year with Zig Zag. "After Blade 3, I'm done writing for other directors," Goyer told Michael Fleming of Variety. "I've had enough frustrations over 10 years that I've realized, I can do it myself."

The second picture in the New Line deal calls for Goyer to direct a film that he will also write. Also as part of the deal, Goyer will raise a shingle for his new production house called Ghostlight. The filmmaker is also writing and directing Murder Mysteries, based on Neil Gaiman's short story, for Miramax, and may write and direct Dr. Strange as well.

Goyer also commented on the status of Ghost Rider, which ran into trouble when director Stephen Norrington opted to helm Tick-Tock first. Although star Nicolas Cage recently said he may bail on the project, it appears Dimension/Crystal Sky are working to keep him on. Goyer, a producer on the movie, told Variety that they're seeking a new director for the project in hopes Cage will stay on board.

Cage may not have heard the news yet when he recently talked to Cinescape.

"I don't know what's going to happen with [Ghost Rider] right now, because the director went and took another job," Cage told Cinescape. "We were going to go, and I don't know what happened. So now I'm not doing it."

Cage told the magazine that he grew up on comics and learned to read through them. He's been attached to appear in comic book adaptations in the past, like Spider-Man, Hellblazer and, of course, Superman.

All is not lost for the four-color-loving actor. Cinescape reports that he is working to develop Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow's Hard Boiled through his Saturn Films production banner. "It's really an interesting character – sort of a cyborg," Cage said. "We're trying to develop that at Warner Bros., so that might happen."

The property was published by Dark Horse Comics.

Is the actor determined to keep trying until he lands a comic book role? "I don't know if it will ever really happen, it was just an interesting genre that for some reason I keep getting derailed by," he said. "Maybe that's a good thing."

2000AD PROJECTS

Comics2Film recently heard from Jason Kingsley, C.E.O. of Rebellion, the U.K. based game developer responsible for hit games like Aliens Vs. Predator and Rainbow Six. The company also acquired the complete 2000AD stable of comics last June, a library that includes the likes of Judge Dredd.

Rebellion has been working to set up various 2000AD concepts as movie and TV projects for the past year. Kingsley gave us a progress report on some of them.

"Almost all our major titles have at least one suitor right now, but making sure we get the right deal is of paramount importance to us at this early stage," Kingsley said. "We have our own production company too, so are looking at the way forward there."

Outlaw was among the first projects set up. Late last year Fine Line Features picked up the feature film option on the property. The film is budgeted at $10 million - $15 million. Andrew Upton is expected to direct from a screenplay by Lloyd Foneville. Kingsley tells us the option is still current on the movie and the most recent draft of the script was good and they're waiting to hear from the studio.

Strontium Dog was previously in development as a TV pilot. However, Kingsley reports that the rights on that property have reverted to Rebellion and they are working to set that up on a different development path.

Likewise Bad Company has many interested parties. "We want to find the best match both creatively and financially," Kingsley tells us. Sam Slade: Robo-Hunter and ABC Warriors are also said to be generating lots of interest.

Finally, the crown jewel of the 2000AD empire may be due for a movie comeback. "Dredd is gathering a lot of attention right now," Kingsley told C2F. The futuristic Judge Dredd was previously the subject of a critical and box-office bomb starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider.

FERRET & PARROT

Scott Morse's animated Ferret & Parrot made its debut on Cartoon Network a few weeks back as part of the cable net's The Premiere Premiere Show. Viewers were shown 10 new shorts that had the potential to go on to become a regular series.

If you missed the pilots you can catch them again this weekend. The Big Pick Show will air all 10 shorts at 9pm on Friday, 9am and 9pm on Saturday and 9am on Sunday (all times ET, PT).

Then viewers are asked to vote on the favorite of those shows, and pick which one will turn into a regular series for fall 2002. Fans can vote starting now at CartoonNetwork.com. Voting continues until 12pm on 26th.

Morse is the creator of Volcanic Revolver, Soulwind and the upcoming Magic Pickle. He's up against some stiff competition so show your support by voting!

WITCHBLADE

[Witchblade]The Witchblade limited series on TNT wrapped with Tuesday night's episode. Fans who missed any of it can catch the marathon recap on Sunday, August 26. The marathon begins on TNT at 10am (ET) with last year's two-hour original movie. All 11 episodes of the mini follow after that.

In an article article reviewing the progress made by newly appointed Turner Networks chairman Jamie Kellner, The Hollywood Reporter indicates that the series has been drawing an average of 1.7 million households a night. That's a bit below the 2.0 rating that Marc Silvestri mentioned in San Diego. A 2.0 would have made a follow up series very likely.

However, Silvestri recently told the Comics Continuum that he's optimistic about a renewal. "We're waiting for the word," Silvestri said. "It looks strong. Keep your fingers crossed."

Fans of the show are invited to send e-mails to witchblade@turner.com.

The Continuum also states that Top Cow's Matt Hawkins announced there will be a Witchblade DVD that will feature the two-hour movie and bonus material. The disc is targeted for Christmas this year, but Hawkins thinks early 2002 is more likely.

Comics2Film reader Dex tells us that fans who enjoyed episode #10, "Convergence" can find an interesting download on the show's official site. A deleted scene from the episode has been posted for download. The photo gallery for the site is also populated with a number of new images from episodes #10 and #11.

MUTANT X

[Mutant X]Has the MutantX.net website has been hacked by a conspiracy nut known as TAGC? No. Not really.

Visitors at the Mutant X site are invited to try the MX Gateway, which takes us into the world of the show. However, after entering the gateway, our uplink gets hijacked by TAGC and rerouted to his own site, hosted at GenomeCities. There, we learn TAGC is an acronym for There's A Genetic Conspiracy. The website details the genetic manipulation of the human race and the involvement of the shady Breedlove Foundation. TAGC even links to the official site for the Breedlove foundation.

It's all good fun, and reminiscent of the X-Men movie website. That site also linked to the mock website for one mutant-hating Senator Kelly. Fans of the movie will remember that Kelly's own website was also "hacked" by a mutant liberation group. Of course, Mutant X is not related to X-Men.

STATIC SHOCK, JUSTICE LEAGUE

Comic scribe and Milestone Media founder Dwayne McDuffie recently posted a few interesting announcements on his official website.

According to McDuffie, Static Shock will start its second season in September. So far there's no official date.

The writer also reports that will be writing several episodes of the Justice League animated TV show. Check his website for future updates about his episodes of the show.

SMALLVILLE

[Smallville]Craig Byrne's Kryptonsite.com has the latest news on the upcoming Smallville show. According to that site episode 2 of the show is called "Metamorphosis" and involves a nerdy bug collector with a crush on Lana. Episode 3 is entitled "Jitters" and features the return of Lex Luthor's father.

KryptonSite also directs fans to Zap2It.com. That site features several downloadable clips from the show, as well as interviews with the actors.

HELLBOY

According to the Ananova website, director Guillermo Del Toro has a meeting set up with actor Vin Diesel to talk about the Hellboy movie. The pair are said to be meeting on Thursday to discuss the possibility of Diesel starring in the title role.

Ananova also reports getting a look at Del Toro's designs for the character, which is described as having a face that looks "a lot like Frankenstein but also has two circular spirals above the eyes."

Will Diesel be up for all the makeup involved? "He will if he wants to be in it," Del Toro said.

BATMAN ANIMATED FEATURES

ToonZone.net reports that there may be a slate of animated direct-to-video Batman films in the near future. Citing none other than Paul Dini, who is said let the news slip at Wizard World, ToonZone states there are a number of scripts that have been greenlighted by Warner Bros.

The site offers various suggestions about what the movie may be about. One thought is that a movie will tie up loose ends from The New Batman Adventures or Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

Another possibility is that the movies will feature team-ups with other heroes. An unnamed source at Warner Bros. told ToonZone that the slate of films would include: Batman & Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman, Batman & Plastic Man, Batman & Green Arrow.

DAREDEVIL

Last week Variety reported on the latest chapter in the unfolding drama of Daredevil vs. the ACTRA union. As has been previously reported, the $60million movie from 20th Century Fox/New Regency was slated to begin production in Montreal later this year. However, the threat of a strike from the Canadian actors union had caused the studio to pull the production out of Montreal.

Now Variety reports that the production has found a new home in Vancouver. According to the write-up, actors in British Columbia have a separate contract that won't expire until March 31, 2002. This gives the comic book movie time to wrap production before any strike would hit.

Although ACTRA had been making efforts to keep the production in Montreal, offering strike waivers for the film, Fox told the union that it was too late. The studio had already put a deposit down at Vancouver's Bridge Studios.

Producer Bernie Williams said: "We're in a business situation. We love Montreal and we wanted to film there. But we have a committed start date of Nov. 19 and we have no room for delay. So we acted on ACTRA's rejection of us Thursday. Deposits were put down Friday to beat the other studios' rush to Vancouver. And we have to pay because they've turned down other films."

In their weekend coverage of the ACTRA/Daredevil flap, the Montreal Gazette reveals some potentially interesting casting news for that movie. According to their article Al Pacino is starring in the movie in an unspecified role.

However, Comics2Film checked in with director Mark Steven Johnson's Horseshoe Bay Productions to see if there was any truth to that element of the story. According to a representative at that company, there has been no casting done on the film and no production office has been set up at this point.

BONE

Alex Brunelle recently provided Comics2Film with a pair of audio clips of Bone creator Jeff Smith talking about the demise of the animated Bone movie with Paramount/Nickelodeon, and the future possibilities of a film. Smith made the statements at last April's Pittsburgh Comic Con.

"I wasn't willing to make it as commercial as they wanted," Smith said of the previous movie project, which he abandoned late last year. "They wanted Britney Spears songs in it and some of the things that I thought wasn't right for Bone."

Smith said he doesn't fault Nickelodeon for the project going south. "When we first signed up with them to start doing it, they understood Bone and wanted to do it," Smith said. "But about two months later the first Rugrats movie was released.

"It was a huge success and Paramount who is the umbrella company, Paramount said you're going to make all movies like the Rugrats movies." After that the efforts to get the Bone movie became increasingly frustrating.

However, Smith is still optimistic about making an animated feature based on his comic. He reports having some interesting talks with other outlets, but stopped short of naming names.

Another possibility would be for Smith to product the movie independently. He mentioned that he and Jim Kammerud had founded the Character Builders animation studio and still remain friends. Karmmerud's star is on the rise after directing the direct-to-video Little Mermaid 2, which Smith said was one of 2000's top-10 highest grossing movies, including live-action and theatrical releases.

"Between us we might be able to raise the money ourselves now and just do it the way we want to. Once we get going I think we could find a studio," Smith told fans. The creator also cautions, "but that's all pie in the sky."

Thanks to Brunelle for delivering the goods.

FROM HELL

[From Hell]The official website for the Toronto International Film Festival posted an announcement that the movie version Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell is set to screen there. Here's the press release:

From Hell, directed by The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society), receives its North American premiere as a Gala presentation at the 26th Toronto International Film Festival. From Hell recounts the infamous case of Jack the Ripper, and stars Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, and Robbie Coltrane.

Based on the popular and widely acclaimed graphic novel, From Hell speculates on the identity of the notorious 19th century killer. When a prostitute is found brutally murdered, the case falls into the hands of Scotland Yard Inspector Abberline (Depp). A brilliant yet deeply troubled man, his investigative work is often aided by his psychic abilities, which flourish through a haze of grief and opium. Abberline befriends one of the women (Graham) whose life is endangered once the pattern of killings becomes increasingly obvious. As the mystery unravels, a chilling alleged conspiracy involving the highest powers in England emerges.

With astute attention to period detail, From Hell unfolds in foggy London streets with a palpable atmosphere of suspicion and dread. Reveling in the macabre and fashioning a tense and haunting tone, the film is an intense psychological spin on the horrific legend of Jack the Ripper made all the more unsettling by its faithfulness to the actual facts of the case.

Twentieth Century Fox presents From Hell, directed by Allen and Albert Hughes, and starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, and Robbie Coltrane. The film is produced by Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher, and is written by Rafael Yglesias and Terry Hayes, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.

Thanks to Eric Lurio for the lead.

BLADE 2

Coffee-loving Widgett over at The Last Comic Site alerts movie fans to online footage from the set of the upcoming Blade 2. The clip appears on Mamisi, the website for a company offering digital media services to film production teams that may be scattered around the globe (a la Blade 2, which filmed in Prague for New Line Studios in L.A.).

The less than 1 minute of footage features Wesley Snipes who looks to be setting up for and then filming a fight sequence.

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