If you’ve watched a movie with any sort of special-effects-laden creature in the last century, you’ve watched a film influenced by Ray Harryhausen. Inspired by watching King Kong (1933), Harryhausen went on to pioneer the use of stop motion effects and created what he called Dynamation in which he super imposed his stop-motion effects onto a previously shot scene, enabling real life actors to interact with his puppets.
His films often fall into the science-fiction/fantasy gutter of the 1960s era, and I’ve honestly not seen the majority of them, but just seeing clips of those effects is jaw-dropping. Knowing that he’s making little puppets out of whatever material he could find, painstakingly moving them in the slightest of ways, picture after picture, frame after frame, thousands of times over is incredible. That the final product turned out so effectively real is a thing of wonder.
His films went on to inspire thousands of special-effects crews and big-time filmmakers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Lasseter, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton. Though the industry has moved on to CGI effects, you can still feel Harryhausen’s touch all over.
I don’t know much about him or his films as I feel I ought too and I expect that Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan will fill me in on the pieces that are missing about this great man. It's filled with footage from his films, behind-the-scenes moments, and interviews with folks like Terry Gillam, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro, and loads more. After watching, I think I’ll have to hunt down all of his films and marathon them all.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Kung Fu Panda 3: Po’s father returns to the scene and the two travel to a secret panda paradise where they must train a new band of misfits to defeat yet another supernatural villain. The first two were loads of fun and I’ve heard good things about this one.
Eye in the Sky: Helen Mirren stars as the commander of a drone operation who learns of a terrorist plot to bomb a strategic place. A nine-year old girl enters the kill-zone triggering an international crisis. Plot sounds a bit overdone but I love me some Mirren and it's also got Aaron Paul. [See the contest below.]
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: Tina Fey stars in this based-on-a-true-story tale of a fancy TV reporter who decides to cover a “real” story in Afghanistan. She quickly finds herself way out of her depth and reporting a much bigger story than she thought she’d find. It's got a lot of talent (Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Martin Freeman, and Margot Robbie) and there’s a lot of potential in the plot, but the reviews have not been particularly kind.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Criterion Collection): Normally, Stanley Kubrick’s brilliantly funny, black comedy about nuclear annihilation would easily be my pick of the week. However, having just recently purchased a very nice Steelbook copy of the film, I can’t see myself shelling out more dough for this one (even it if is from Criterion).
Return of the Killer Tomatoes: Arrow Video presents a very nice package of this ridiculous film. You can read my full review here.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Rust Never Sleeps: Neil Young’s classic concert film from his legendary 1978 tour gets the Blu-ray treatment.
Clouds of Sils Maria (Criterion Collection): Juliette Binoche plays an actress at the peak of her career who is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous. But this time she plays the older role against a Hollywood starlet (Chloe Grace Moritz) playing the part that made her famous. Also stars Kristen Stewart.