- DreamWorks celebrates 20th anniversary
- Palm Dog prize: Movie star dog has its day at Cannes
- 'KL Gangster' franchise hits the mark again
Posted: 25 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT
Animated movie hit maker looking to the future with changing formats and lucrative new markets.
DreamWorks Animation, one of the biggest successes of recent Hollywood history, is celebrating its 20th birthday with eyes firmly on the future, both in terms of changing formats and lucrative new markets like China.
Jeffrey Katzenberg's studio, a Croisette regular which chose Cannes to premiere the first two movies about lovable ogre Shrek, presented the spectacular How To Train Your Dragon 2 out of competition at the Palais des Festivals a fortnight ago.
It also took the opportunity to fete its 20 years of animated hits.
Born in 1994 with the creation of DreamWorks SKG – founded by Steven Spielberg, Katzenberg and David Geffen – DreamWorks Animation separated from its parent company in 2004 to become an autonomous studio focused exclusively on animated films.
In two decades it has produced 28 features including the blockbuster Shrek and Madagascar franchises as well as one-offs like 1998's Prince Of Egypt and Chicken Run (2000), which have in all made over US$11bil at the global box office.
The studio also landed the first animated feature film Oscar in 2002 with the first Shrek movie, and repeated the trick in 2006 with Wallace And Gromit.
But the studio, like its competitors, is not immune to missteps – like last year's Turbo, which failed to take off as expected at the box office.
And that is why Katzenberg, a former Disney executive, stresses the need for his company to keep diversifying, notably by investing in animated TV series and the Internet.
"Movies are not a growth business," he told a recent conference in Beverly Hills, adding that in 10 years' time films will only spend about three weeks in cinemas, before transferring to other formats.
The other major challenge for Katzenberg is the Chinese market, which all the major Hollywood studios are trying to conquer.
In 2012, DreamWorks Animation created Oriental DreamWorks, a studio based in Shanghai, with the aim of releasing films from 2016 with "Chinese DNA".
In an interview with AFP, Katzenberg said at the time that "what is unique (about China) is that in five to seven years they will be the number one market in the whole world.
"They are going actually to have a marketplace that, if you could succeed at creating a great family brand, the value of that would be tremendous," he added. – AFP
Posted: 23 May 2014 06:15 PM PDT
Feher Isten's Body wins outstanding performance by a pooch at film festival.
A gentle Labrador mix named Body won the "Palm Dog" award on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Friday (May 23), a pat on the head from canine-lovers and film critics for the outstanding movie performance by a pooch.
Body starred in Feher Isten (White God) by Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, which features more than 250 dogs.
The lead character is "Hagen" – a role shared by Body and a second hound named Luc – who is abandoned by his family and picked up by a man who trains him to be fighting dog.
At the film's festival premiere earlier in the festival, Body attended a photocall, walked the red carpet and was invited onstage – wearing a bowtie.
The Palm Dog award is a play on the Palme d'Or, the Cannes festival's top prize.
"What an honour, what a historical hound!" said Palm Dog organiser Toby Rose, who called the film a cross between "Inglorious Barksterds" and "Ben Fur". It had been a golden year for dogs on film, Rose said.
"This Cannes has seen a raging outbreak of dog-risma," Rose said, citing Jean-Luc Godard's real-life dog, Roxy Mieville, who stars in his film Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language) and Yves Saint Laurent's French Bulldog Moujik in Saint Laurent by director Bertrand Bonello.
The supporting role of Moujik takes a tragic turn as the dog consumes the party drugs intended for his master and dies.
In another canine cameo, a fuzzy English sheepdog appears in David Cronenberg's critique of Hollywood, Maps to the Stars and is accidentally shot by a teenage movie star.
"It was the biggest and best range of dog performances I think I've ever known," Rose told Reuters TV.
But in terms of the number of canines on screen at any one time, Feher Isten takes the biscuit.
In its opening scene, a pack of 250 barking dogs, none of them created by computer simulation, chase after the protagonist, barking and snarling.
Most of the dogs used in the film were rescued in real life from an animal shelter, then adopted by cast members and friends after the shoot.
Although Body was not on hand to accept the award, director Mundruczo accepted the stuffed bone prize on his behalf, saying it was an "uplifting" experience working with his canine stars.
"They live in Los Angeles," he said of Body and Luc, promising to send the bone to their trainer. – Reuters
Posted: 23 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT
Syafiq Yusof proves his mettle once more as the KL Gangster franchise spreads its wings to Stephen Chow-like comic heights.
IN 2012 the whole country was abuzz with the release of SAM, the debut film from director Syafiq Yusof, who was all of 18 at the time and was officially named Malaysia's youngest feature film director in the Malaysia Book Of Records.
SAM did not exactly set the box office alight but it made many people sit up and take notice of Syafiq's natural directing talents.
The son of Datuk Yusof Haslam and younger brother of Syamsul Yusof, who set box-office records with their films Sembilu II and KL Gangster respectively, Syafiq did not stop at just writing and directing the film.
He also handled the editing, sound design and even some of the CGI and visual effects himself.
From a debut that saw him venture into the difficult psychological thriller genre, observers thought he would follow it up with something just as adventurous. Imagine the surprise, then, when his second film turned out to be a spinoff from his brother's successful KL Gangster franchise – the action spoof Abang Long Fadil.
Starring comedian Zizan Razak, continuing his role as the comic sidekick Fadil from the KL Gangster movies, the movie takes place after the events of KL Gangster 2 (which was technically a prequel to KL Gangster) and tells the story of Fadil's life after his best friend Malik (Aaron Aziz) is sent to prison.
Wanting to quit the gang, he is told to conquer the unconquerable Kampung Berani and deliver it to lead gangster Shark (Syamsul Yusof) before he will be allowed to leave. Fans of Stephen Chow's comic masterpiece Kung Fu Hustle will, of course, see a kind of resemblance between the kung fu masters of that movie's Pigsty Alley and the silat warriors of Kampung Berani. A quick look at Abang Long Fadil's brilliantly hilarious opening scene will confirm Syafiq's debt to Chow's brand of Looney Tunes-inspired comic lunacy.
Syafiq confirms that he did watch many Stephen Chow films for reference, but he also watched movies with Indian superstar Rajnikanth to get just the right mix of over-the-top action and comedy.
"It's a privilege and also a big responsibility to be trusted with a franchise as big and successful as my brother Syamsul's KL Gangster, especially when I'm taking it into a totally different genre altogether. So I hope I did Syamsul proud with this film," Syafiq said after the premiere of the film earlier this week.
To this, Syamsul replied: "Every filmmaker has his own style of shooting and cutting, so of course I had a different Abang Long Fadil playing in my head when I first thought of how the film would turn out. But I love what Syafiq has come out with, especially how he turned it into something really comic."
Even his dad was beaming with pride at the final result.
The journey was quite a tough one, though. Costing RM3.2 million and taking 53 days to shoot – a long time compared to the average Malaysian film's 20- to 30-day shoot – the film also boasts plenty of CGI and visual effects to boost its many neatly choreographed fight scenes to even greater heights of humour.
With a keen interest in visual effects ever since his days of making short films, Syafiq has now taken it a step further by forming his own visual effects company, Viper Studios, which handles all the CGI in the film.
Effects aside, the big question is still whether or not the film is entertaining and funny. Syafiq is savvy enough to recognise this fact by explicitly stating that unlike SAM, this movie was not made to challenge the audience with anything heavy.
His intention was to entertain the audience with something light and funny. Judging from the film's many inspired scenes of comic mayhem and the copious amounts of laughter heard throughout the premiere screening, it is indeed "mission accomplished" for the young filmmaker.
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