Thursday, 8 June 2017

Listen to a new compilation album of cover songs from Sofia Coppola films

Next months sees the release of American director Sofia Coppola's (Somewhere) latest film The Beguiled. To celebrate the film's imminent release, Super Fan 99 Records have announced a movie themed 50th release inspired by the films of Coppola, comprising covers of songs featured in her movies.

"We've been long time admirers of Sofia Coppola's movies since renting The Virgin Suicides (1999) from our local Blockbuster," says the record label about the release. "Film after film was soundtracked with the most impeccable selections playing a key role in the overall aesthetic of her movies. It seems the part the music plays in transporting you to her worlds has not gone unnoticed with the vinyl soundtracks of Lost In Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006) sometimes selling for up to £300 a piece.

"We asked bands from our label and beyond to choose songs from the soundtracks and cover them for this unique release and the response was great. Bands from as far a field as China, New Zealand and Scotland have contributed tracks ranging from lo-fi bedroom 4 track recordings to full band studio versions and we are now very excited to present 'Sofia Songs' The compilation marks the 50th release on the label and perfectly marries our love of film and DIY music culture."

Illustrator and long time Super Fan collaborator Kieran Gabriel has designed the sleeve and each boxed cassette copy will also include a movie script style guide book with detailed facts on each movie and it's music. Songs by Air, Phoenix, Frank Ocean, My Bloody Valentine and many more have been reworked by popular Super Fan bands.

Sofia Songs will be released via on 7 July. You can check out the full track list below:

1. Sugar Candy Mountain - Playground Love (Air cover from The Virgin Suicides)
2. Winter - City Girl (Kevin Shields cover from Lost In Translation)
3. JUNKS - Hong Kong Garden (Siouxsie and the Banshees cover from Marie Antoniette)
4. Mooncall - I'll Try Anything Once (Julian Casablancas cover from Somewhere)
5. The Pooches - What's So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding? (Elvis Costello cover from Lost In Translation)
6. Lips - Super Rich Kids (Frank Ocean cover from The Bling Ring)
7. Dot Plaza  - Too Young (Phoenix cover from Lost In Translation)
8. Mtbrd - So Far Away (Carole King cover from The Virgin Suicides)
9. Calvin Love - I'm Not In Love (10cc cover from The Virgin Suicides)
10. Free Cake For Every Creature - Just Like Honey (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover from Lost In Translation)
11. Patsy's Rats - More Than This (Roxy Music cover from Lost In Translation)
12. Queen of Jeans - Cool (Gwen Stefani cover from Somewhere)
13. Husband Material - Bad Girls (MIA cover from The Bling Ring)
14. Matt McKee - What Ever Happened? (The Strokes cover from Marie Antoinette)

The Beguiled, meanwhile, arrives in cinemas on 14 July.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

From Johnny Depp to Kurt Russell: How de-aging stars has become Hollywood's digital effects trick du jour

When a young version of Johnny Depp's zany Jack Sparrow appears in a flashback in Walt Disney Picture's Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, it became the latest example of the use of digital effects to de-age an actor for the purpose of having them appear in a flashback.

Moviegoers saw another example of the technology being used last month, when James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 introduced a young Kurt Russell as his character, Ego. Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel are clearly comfortable with taking this route, as they have also brought audiences a young version of Michael Douglas in Ant-Man (2015) and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

"It definitely seems to be a trend," says Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel, who won an Academy Award® for Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and recently completed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). "It may be because it's been done successfully and filmmakers realize it's an option in telling a story, or maybe it has opened up an option that they need."

For Ed Ulbrich, president of visual effects and virtual reality at Deluxe (the parent of visual effects houses Method an Iloura), the use of this sort of work can be attributed to this "age of franchises, and the franchises are prequels and sequels and spinoffs. These stories go omnidirectional in time. Some of the characters become iconic. But we all get older."

"It's very unforgiving – you either get it right or it's glaringly obvious," says Weta visual effects supervisor and two-time Oscar nominee Guy Williams (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2) of these techniques.

So how exactly does it work?

Methods vary, but Christopher Townsend, visual effects supervisor on Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, explains the creation of the digital Kurt Russell, created by one of the film's digital effects houses, Lola, which has earned a reputation for specialising in this sort of work. It started with collecting and examining 1980s photos of Russell as well as his films from that period, such as Big Trouble In Little China (1986), to come up with the desired look.

Next, director James Gunn and Lola cast actor Aaron Schwartz – in making the decision, Lola identified several actors with similar facial structure and Gunn brought them in for screen tests.

For filming, both Russell and Schwartz were identically dressed and makeup was applied to Russell to give him a younger appearance, with both actors wearing tracking markers on their faces for reference. First Russell performed the scene, and then Schwartz would step in and perform the same scene, mimicking what Russell did. Through visual effects, these takes were combined with some additional digital effects to create the final look and performance, frame by frame. "We cut and pasted pieces of Aaron's geometry," Townsend explains. "The geometry of the face changed, for instance his neck became fuller. We reshaped the jaw, chin, neck, lips – very specific details. It involved understanding the physiology of the human face.

"The technology is getting better, but it's really the artists, that's the key," he emphasised. "It was a huge amount of work – months and months of artists working at computers."

The digital Robert Downey Jr. from Captain America: Civil War and digital Michael Douglas in Ant-Man were both used for flashbacks and achieved in much the same way, says Townsend, who was also visual effects supervisor on those films.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

New one sheet for The Handmaiden arrives online

Curzon Artificial Eye have just released their latest one sheet for Park Chan-wook's (Stoker) The Handmaiden.

If The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook's follow-up to US set thriller Stoker (2013), takes the filmmaker back to his Asia roots, it still has a strong Western thread running through it. Sarah Water's novel Fingersmith is the source material for a byzantine period thriller full of twists and turns.

The Handmaiden tells the story of a beautiful Japanese heiress (Min-hee Kim), the young con artist (Kim Tae-ri) hired as her handmaiden, and the puppet master behind a scheme designed to relieve her mistress of her fortune.

Waters' book had already been adapted by the BBC in a 2005 miniseries. Park Chan-wook's version, a terrific potboiler filled with stunning visuals and elegant storytelling, shifts the setting from Victorian England to Korea under Japanese rule.

The Handmaiden is out in cinemas now.