Sunday, January 30, 2011

James Cameron ‘I’m king of the [water]world!’


Should you ever meet James Cameron, look at his fingers. We’d bet anything they’re seriously pruned.

The filmmaker has spent more time underwater than the lost city of Atlantis. Whether it’s his deep-sea documentaries, including “Ghosts of the Abyss,” “Expedition: Bismarck” and “Aliens of the Deep,” or feature films, such as “Titanic” and “The Abyss,” Cameron has always been drawn to the world of waves.

On Friday, he wades in again with “Sanctum.” Cameron, an avid scuba diver, produced the thriller about a group of Australian explorers who are forced to swim their way out of a cave after a freak flash flood.

The experience is claustrophobic, dark and wet. Or as Cameron would probably call it, “heaven.”

The story was inspired by actual events. In 1988, Andrew Wight — a longtime Cameron buddy and the film’s co-writer — was leading a diving expedition into an underwater cave system beneath Australia’s Nullarbor Plain.

“A freak storm hit the area and what started as a trickle of water into the cave turned into a torrent, which then started to collapse the entrance of the cave,” Wight says.

Luckily, all survived, and in 2006, he pitched to Cameron the idea of making a film loosely based on the experience.

Cameron was, of course, game, but he had one stipulation: that the film be conceived and shot in 3-D, not hurriedly post-converted, like many movies these days, including “Clash of the Titans” and “The Green Hornet.” After his experiences with “Avatar,” Cameron believes that 3-D is the future.

The only problem was, “Sanctum” would have the same budget as the catering on “Avatar,” as Wight joked.

“Truthfully, one of the things that attracted me to this particular production was the challenge of shooting high-quality, live 3-D on a relatively modestly budgeted film,” says Cameron, who as producer had to monitor the bottom line. “Compared to ‘Avatar,’ all movies are modestly budgeted, but this movie was made for one-fifteenth or one-twelfth of what ‘Avatar’ cost.”

Not that they completely skimped. Elaborate underwater sets were built in a Queensland, Australia, tank that measured 130 feet long, 100 feet wide and 23 feet deep. It held 2 million gallons of water.

The actors spent weeks in diving training, because director Alister Grierson insisted on as much realism as possible.

“It was pretty hard-core diving to say the least, and it’s amazing to think that many of the underwater stunts you see in the film were done by the actors themselves,” says co-writer John Garvin.

The shoot’s physical requirements didn’t come without some bellyaching from the cast.

“If they’re not grumbling, you’re not doing it right,” Cameron joked.

By the time the cameras got rolling, Richard Roxburgh, who plays expedition leader Frank McGuire, was capable of doing stunts at which some professional divers might balk.

“On some days, I would think, ‘If I mess up this face rebreather exchange in this particular stunt sequence, then I’m going to drown,’” he says. “Even though there’s a stunt safety person who’s only four or five meters away, it was genuinely hard work and frightening.”

Great work. Now someone get that man a towel.

James Cameron hoping to work with Jessica Alba again


James Cameron has hinted that he would be interested in reuniting with actress Jessica Alba on a new project together in the future.

The two originally worked together on the post-apocalyptic science fiction show Dark Angel, which aired for two seasons between 2000 and 2002, and saw Alba take on the role of a genetically modified super-soldier.

Cameron, who only joined Twitter earlier this weekend, wasted no time in getting to grips with the site by messaging Alba to suggest that they work together again.

"Jess, we have to do another kick butt project together soon!" Cameron tweeted.

Alba's most recent role was in the Ben Stiller comedy Little Fockers, while Cameron is currently set to begin work on the sequel to Avatar.

'Avatar' sequels to help fund green charities


James Cameron elaborates on how the next two movies will benefit environmental initiatives.

Back in later October, when James Cameron announced that he was formally engaged in writing the next two movies in the "Avatar" trilogy, he mentioned that Twentieth Century Fox had sweetened his involvement by making a large donation to his "environmental green fund."

That was a little puzzling, since Cameron doesn't have his own designated fund. But after a few more nuggets of clarification slipped out earlier this week, it's all now very clear — and it has the potential to be an absolute game changer for green charities favored by the 56-year-old director.

"Some percentage of the presumably-massive 'Avatar' sequel gross will go to charity," he said in a recent interview. "Fox has partnered with me to donate a chunk of the profits to environmental causes that are at the heart of the 'Avatar' world."

"Percentage of gross" and "chunk of profits" are huge statements that I believe have slipped under the media radar. Cameron and FOX have already gone beyond their 1 million tree planting initiative for the first "Avatar" — so it makes sense that they'd aim higher with the next two. But assigning a percentage to charity is just unheard of.

Consider this: The first "Avatar" grossed more than $2.7 billion worldwide. Dedicating even a small "chunk" of final box office numbers to funding environmental initiatives would be a huge donation. We've seen similar fundraisers using ticket sales before from Disneynature's documentary films, but nothing on this scale. It goes even deeper when you realize this applies to two films with the potential for record-breaking profits.

Of course, the next two films could be something awful — but history tells me that anticipation will be high and plenty of people worldwide will cough up cash for a return trip to Pandora. It's great to think that some of that green will benefit initiatives back here on Earth.

“Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3” will be released winter 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

James Cameron announces 'Avatar' sequel release plan


Director is currently writing parts two and three in the franchise

James Cameron has revealed that he plans to shoot Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 back-to-back, and is currently busy writing the scripts for both sequels. The director told Entertainment Weekly that the third sequel would probably come out a year or so after the second.

"I am in the process of writing the next two Avatar films now," he said. "We are planning to shoot them together and post them together, and we will probably release them not quite back-to-back, but about a year apart."

Cameron said that he's planning for the two sequels hit the cinemas in December 2014 and 2015 respectively.

As well as saying "all" of the original cast will return for the new films, Cameron explained that a percentage of the sequel profits will be given to charity.

"Some percentage of the presumably-massive Avatar sequel gross will go to charity," he said. "Fox has partnered with me to donate a chunk of the profits to environmental causes that are at the heart of the Avatar world."

He added: "I didn't want to make more Avatar movies without a grander plan in place."

Avatar was released in 2009, and is the highest-grossing film of all time in the US and Canada.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Up-and-coming 'Avatar' stars radically transform their careers


Sam Worthington had winnowed his possessions to two duffel bags — one for clothes, the other books — when he got a call from his agent asking if he'd like to read for a James Cameron movie. Suddenly, Worthington concedes, it seemed less urgent to quit the business and wander the roads of Australia, as was his original plan. "That's a call," he says, "that you have to take if you're serious about being an actor."

Zoe Saldana didn't need as much convincing. The actress, 31, had been pursuing a role in the sci-fi soap opera since she heard Cameron was returning after a 12-year commercial film hiatus following Titanic. "He was why I got into movies," she says. "His female heroes — Ripley (from Aliens) and Sarah Connor (from the Terminator franchise) — showed me an actress can be an action hero."

Seriousness has never been an issue for Worthington, a frank-talking Australian who worked as a bricklayer before taking an acting class to support a friend. Born in Surrey, England, the 33-year-old found most of his success before Avatar on Australian TV dramas such as The Surgeon and Love My Way.

But he was disillusioned with poor scripts and empty celebrity, and vowed to leave acting after the 2007 flop Rogue. "I was burned out," he says. "I wanted to control-alt-delete my life. I don't like being out of control of my life. I wasn't being rebellious. I was standing up for myself." Still, Worthington's intensity almost cost him the job. Like other stars of Cameron's films, Avatar's actors weren't given whole scripts, only a few select scenes. They aren't even told the title. The secrecy wore on Worthington, who during one read stormed off while "uttering some choice words.

James Cameron: 'Avatar' sequels coming Christmas 2014 and 2015


James Cameron has spoken frequently about his intention to turn his mega-hit Avatar into a trilogy. Now, according to the director himself, those two sequels have release dates. Cameron tells EW, “I am in the process of writing the next two Avatar films now. We are planning to shoot them together and post them together, and we will probably release them not quite back to back, but about a year apart. Christmas ’14 and ’15 is the current plan.” Of course, it’s probably best to take those release dates with a grain of salt, since the first Avatar had several release dates before its December 2009 release. Still, now fans know that they’ll have to wait at least three more years for a return to Pandora.

Cameron also notes that we’ll see some familiar faces return. “Basically, if you survived the first film, you get to be in the second film, at least in some form,” say the director. One thing’s for sure: some percentage of the presumably-massive Avatar sequel gross will go to charity. “Fox has partnered with me to donate a chunk of the profits to environmental causes that are at the heart of the Avatar world,” says the director. “I didn’t want to make more Avatar movies without a grander plan in place.”

James Cameron jets in for Avatar party


Avatar director James Cameron threw a party at the weekend to thank Wellington film workers for their part in the blockbuster film.

The Oscar-winner's trip, which was veiled in secrecy, has fuelled speculation he will soon confirm two sequels – already announced – to the world's biggest movie that will be made in the capital.

Photographs taken during the party, held at the Overseas Terminal on Friday, show a relaxed-looking Cameron mingling with staff from Weta Digital, which created the special effects in the first Avatar film.

He co-hosted the event with Avatar producer Jon Landau. "James mingled with everyone for hours and answered tons of questions," a Weta staffer posted on Facebook.

"James Cameron just touched my shoulder. Pretty awesome," another wrote on social media site Twitter.

Avatar has taken a record US$2.8 billion (NZ$3.68b) at box offices since its December 2009 release. It generated more than $100m of economic benefits to Wellington and more than 1500 people worked on it throughout the country.

A Weta Digital spokesman confirmed Cameron attended the party but would not comment on how long he stayed in Wellington or how he arrived.

Sir Peter Jackson's private jet was seen at Wellington Airport earlier in the week.

Twentieth Century Fox said last October that two Avatar sequels would be made, scheduled for release in 2014 and 2015.

However, Cameron and Fox are yet to say whether Weta Digital will be involved, or confirm if the films will be made in Wellington.

Weta Digital boss Joe Letteri said last year that Cameron had expressed a desire to shoot the sequels in Wellington. "I don't think there is any great longing on Jim's part, or on Fox's part, to do the movie anywhere else."

He did not return calls yesterday.

However, Cameron's company, Lightstorm Entertainment, which will produce the sequels, was given planning approval just last week to go ahead with a massive digital movie studio in Agoura Hills, California. Project architect Brian Poliquin told local news site Agoura Hills Patch that Avatar 2 and 3 "are going to be happening in this building".

"This is probably some of the most technologically advanced studio filming that will be done."

Cameron wanted the studio built as fast as possible, Mr Poliquin said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Planning Commission Gives James Cameron's Studio Green Light


The city approves a zoning permit for Lighthouse Entertainment's digital movie studio.

Acclaimed director James Cameron’s state-of-the-art Lightstorm Entertainment studio was approved on Wednesday by the Agoura Hills Planning Commission as a city-sanctioned digital movie studio.

The Commission voted unanimously to consider the studio at 29901 Agoura Rd. to be within one of three permitted Business Park-Manufacturing zones in Agoura Hills.

"I see this as a great opportunity for Agoura Hills," said commissioner Illene Buckley Weber. "It’s going to employ people . . . It’s a vision that Agoura Hills always wanted.”

Despite concerns over potential traffic to the area, Brian Poliquin, architect of the Lightstorm Entertainment project, assured the Commission that the 52,000-square-foot studio's operations would be conducted indoors, with equipment vehicles parked on-site.

“Most of the movie studios today don’t have the activity that you see in the old Warner Brothers and Universal lots," Poliquin said. "Everything is very controlled . . . You won’t see a lot of activity outside."

The proposed building will be used strictly by the directors, producers, actors and other personnel. Inside the studio, blue screens, wires and pulleys, and live action sets will be used by actors and film makers to capture movement, said Poliquin.

“Avatar 2 and 3 are going to be happening in this building. This is probably some of the most technologically advanced studio filming that will be done,” Poliquin said. "The future studio building along with video game developer THQ, which is already on site, is going to turn the whole area into a digital entertainment campus."

Doug Jacobsen, an executive with Realty Bancorp Equities, who is leasing the former Line 6 property on Agoura Road for studio use to Lightstorm Entertainment, is hopeful about the project's development.

“We are going to move mountains to make this happen,” Jacobsen said. “He [Cameron] wants to get this done as fast as possible.”

James Cameron Says Filmmaking Is About Absorbing Storytelling


January 17, 2011: 56-year-old James Cameron’s imminent movie is titled Sanctum, which is a 3D submerged thriller, in which Cameron has exhibited again his inclination for the fighting spirit. Also, Cameron has remarked that genuine movie making refers to ideas, pictures and thoughts instead of the excellence of technological equipments. Cameron, who has conquered the Oscar on three occasions historically, has stated that the cameras constructed for and employed in Sanctum were the same as that in Avatar. His squad was conscious that, if the viewers had to be wholly dipped into the underwater world, it had to be perpetrated with 3D.

Cameron has asserted to IANS that his squad gradually manufactured a fresh photographic system that could function in these extreme surroundings and bequeath a stunning cinematic experience. However, notwithstanding the magnificence of these technological instruments, Cameron has verbalized that film-making is about absorbing storytelling.

Cameron has vocalized that the viewers would undergo a dissimilar journey in Sanctum as opposed to his magnum work, Avatar, which, as per Cameron, possessed numerous wide vistas, which did not make the difference between viewing in 3D and 2D that enormous. The rationale is that the more extensive the imagery, the less you feel in intimate contact with the objects and personalities. The difference between viewing Sanctum in 2D and 3D is bigger since the 3D will be regularly enlightening the viewers about the experience of observing the movie, with the feeling of claustrophobia.

Cameron has asserted about Sanctum that it consists of Richard Roxburgh enacting the character of the male protagonist. Roxburgh, present previously in Moulin Rouge, has to execute some difficult decisions in the movie. It will be interesting, as per Cameron, to witness whether the audience will appreciate and comprehend Roxburgh’s character. Sanctum refers to the psychology of endurance and to reactions of the folks, who are pushed right to the tip of what they can endure. Cameron has mentioned that his film-making yearns to make the viewers experience involvement with the hazards the movie’s characters are encountering. Cameron acquired global fame with stupendous film such as Titanic, Avatar and Terminator.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

China is now offering 'Avatar'-themed weddings!


Let's take a break from all the tech hoopla of CES 2011, shall we? It's a Saturday, anyway. Think out of this world. Think Avatar-themed weddings in China. Wait, what?

Forestry officials of Wulingyuan, an area found in the Chinese province of Hunan, have started what is called "Tours of Pandora" and even wedding ceremonies based on the hit movie Avatar. If you don't know it yet, the mountain formerly known as Southern Sky Column and is now called Avatar Hallelujah Mountain bears some resemblance to the floating mountains on Pandora.

Some fans of Avatar may have already gone through this whole Avatar-themed wedding, but one of them, a bride named Xiao Tsao, described it as pathetic, with the Na'Vi being a couple of forestry workers dressed in long underwear dyed blue. We can't blame her. Maybe they should have included those ginormous war machines and exotic, man-eating plants and animals to seal the deal. Now that would be brownie points for the forestry officials – or maybe not.

Enter James Camerons secret Sanctum 3D


JAMES CAMERON has gone underground - or at least his latest movie has.

And I've reached into the deep to bring you an exclusive clip from Sanctum.

The Avatar director is executive producer on the disaster flick, which sees a team of cave divers cut off in the most inaccessible system on the planet.

Master diver Frank McGuire, played by Aussie star RICHARD ROXBURGH, leads a party, including his 17-year-old son, into the South Pacific's Esa'ala caves.

A tropical storm leaves his exit impassable and the group are forced to find an alternative route to safety.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Avatar director James Cameron Loves The 3D Tech Found In Crysis 2


Few studios are more confident about their project. We've seen a whole lot of positive talk from Crytek before...and we're assuming they can back it up.

Crysis 2 will boast stereoscopic 3D and last year, Crytek boss Cevat Yerli said he hoped gamers would associate Crysis 2 with 3D gaming. He's gone even further in more recent comments to Edge, saying the upcoming sequel would be a "super high-end 3D experience on all formats." Thing is, it seems the team is well versed in the new technology; they've been working with it for several years now. One previous project was "developed exclusively in stereoscopic 3D" and that happened over two years ago. Added Yerli:

"So we've done a lot of research into 3D experiences, the UI and whatnot. And a lot of this knowledge is now in the Crysis 2 3D experience. That's why we have, in my opinion, a benchmark 3D implementation.

I'll even claim it's the same as Avatar's status in 3D. James Cameron has seen Crysis 2, and he loved what he saw because his eyes are trained for 3D more than anyone else's, and that makes me confident that we have a super-high-end 3D experience on all formats."

Wow, we didn't know Cameron had gone eyes-on with the game. And if Crysis 2 is anything like "Avatar" in terms of impressive 3D visuals, it really could be a benchmark 3D experience for the gaming industry. On the other hand, we sort of have to see it before we believe it, and we know that Crytek and Yerli like to boast a bit.

The Avatar Home Tree Initiative exceeds its goal


An initiative that stemmed from the core message of James Cameron's "Avatar" has been more successful than even organizers had hoped. Here's the release from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment:

Washington, D.C. – Jan. 19 - Earth Day Network announced today that it has exceeded its one-million-tree goal for The Avatar Home Tree Initiative with the planting of 1,006,639 trees on six continents in 2010. The resulting reforestation, sustainable development and increase in environmental awareness will last far into the future. The project was made possible through the generous support of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and its "Avatar" Blu-ray & DVD. It was accomplished through the tireless work of 17 partner organizations. Over 31,000 individuals were directly involved in the massive planting effort.

"In creating this project, we wanted to make every tree count. That´s why we selected ecosystems around the globe where we believed trees were most crucial to protect, and partners we were confident would work the hardest to get strong healthy trees in the ground and nurture them to maturity. While our requirements were high, in the end, the results of this project surpassed our expectations," said Kathleen Rogers, Earth Day Network President.

"Planting trees fights global climate change and is the essence of service inspired by Earth Day. We want to thank our partner Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for making this meaningful project possible."

"At the core of "Avatar" lies an inspiring message of empowerment and self-discovery, said Mike Dunn, President Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. "Our program to plant one million trees resulted in fans around the world fervently getting involved to promote a healthy, sustainable planet. That alone has made this initiative a huge success."

Earth Day Network reports that the trees planted for the Initiative protect some of the world´s most bio-diverse and threatened forests; restore acres destroyed by fire, flood and wind; enable local and regional governments to rebuild communities devastated by disaster; engage tens of thousands of children and youth in learning about the environment; create career opportunities in the green economy; and provide hands-on service opportunities to volunteers of all ages.

In one of the most compelling projects, in Haiti, Trees for the Future worked with local citizens under the Avatar Home Tree Initiative to address urgent needs to reforest degraded hillsides, produce fruit and biodiesel fuel and establish intensive hillside farming practices. Over 500,000 trees have been planted in Haiti.

Within the U.S., the Avatar Home Tree Initiative supported city reforestation efforts in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, shaping urban tree canopies that improve air quality, provide shade, cool the ground, save energy, attract birds and other wildlife, beautify landscapes, grow free fruit for residents and even increase homeowner property values.

Each of the million trees planted under the Avatar Home Tree Initiative has been added to Earth Day Network´s Billion Acts of Green campaign, a global service project to log one billion sustainable actions in advance of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012. Additionally, the trees planted in this initiative have been pledged towards the Billion Trees Campaign, a worldwide tree planting initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme.

The tree planting was also a part of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment´s parent company News Corporation´s Global Energy Initiative, a company-wide commitment to reduce impacts on climate and engage global audiences with environmental issues.

Trees were planted in 16 countries under the following partnerships:

Australia
Landcare Australia, Ltd. worked with national parks and land care groups to help restore vulnerable areas of metropolitan New South Wales and Victoria, focusing on areas with unique and threatened animal species.

Belgium
Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen, or Organization for Forests in Flanders, helped combat the environmental effects of intensive livestock and agricultural production by working with private landowners in Flanders to reforest their properties.

Brazil
To combat agricultural expansion and urban sprawl, SOS MATA Atlântica Foundation worked with local communities to plant native trees as a means to restore the Atlantic Forest, one of the most biologically diverse and severely threatened forest ecosystems in the world.

Canada
Tree Canada joined the Avatar Home Tree Initiative to restore 800 hectares (1,976 acres) of pine forest of southeastern Manitoba on land that was devastated by hurricane-force winds in 2005.

France
With its bi-cultural mission, KinomĂ©´s Trees & Life program will help nine and 10 year old children in southern France plant their own trees. For every tree the children plant in France, children of the same age in Senegal will plant two trees, thus advancing both global reforestation and inter-cultural awareness.

Germany
The Berlin Energy Agency´s environmental youth organization, ClubE, planted trees in southern Berlin as part of its mission to raise awareness among young people about sustainable development and lifestyles and to promote job opportunities for young people in the green economy.

Haiti
Trees for the Future, a U.S.-based organization that works with Haitian farmers to bring degraded lands back to productivity through the planting of beneficial trees, worked with communities to plant fruit and other native trees using sustainable agroforestry practices. Their work will help combat centuries of environmental degradation and natural disasters, including the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake.

Italy
The community and Municipality of San Giovanni in Persiceto have recently taken on the Cassa Budrie reforestation project. They restored and preserved a local wetland and forest located on a major flood plain, helping to promote local water security and prevent soil erosion. Other objectives of the project are biodiversity recovery and the creation of a local carbon sink to combat global climate change.

Japan
To create a sustainable future, a tailored tree-planting project in a Japanese school gave students and teachers the opportunity to plant trees on their campus and engage in related environmental education and school greening activities.

Mexico
Sierra Gorda Ecological Group (SGEG) has been working since 1987 to protect the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the most ecologically diverse protected area of Mexico. The SGEG will work with local communities and farmers to reforest both agricultural land and pristine forests. Local communities will also directly benefit as local watersheds are restored.

The Netherlands
Stichting Aarde, or the Earth Value Foundation, worked with local youth to plant trees in areas around Amsterdam and Utrecht. The trees planted will not only engage youth and communities in learning about their local environment, but will also improve air quality, create healthier outdoor spaces and restore urban habitats for wildlife.

Spain
Plantemos Para el Planeta, or Trees for the Planet, ambitiously aims to reforest Spain by planting one tree for every Spaniard. The group worked to reforest the southeastern Costa del Sol, which was ravaged by wildfire in 2009, and to create recreation spaces for individuals to appreciate the beauty of nature.

Sweden
Under Sweden´s Forest in School program, children and their teachers traveled on excursions to plant spruce, pine, birch and beech trees in northeast Sweden with professional guidance and intensive environmental and reforestation education.

United Kingdom
The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only four percent native woodland cover. Leading woodland conservation charity, The Woodland Trust is encouraging community groups across the UK to transform their local areas by planting native trees for the benefit of local people, wildlife and the environment as part of the Trust's 'More Trees, More Good' campaign. Communities were able to apply for free tree packs and receive support via Woodland Trust´s advice centre.

United States

New York City
MillionTreesNYC plants trees throughout New York City´s five boroughs, focusing on low- to-middle-income neighborhoods to increase green spaces in the community and improve urban environmental health for area residents. MillionTreesNYC participated in the Initiative through their fall Reforestation Day´s city-wide tree plantings.

San Francisco
Since 1981, Friends of the Urban Forest has helped San Franciscans to plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens, thereby supporting the health and livability of the urban environment. The organization is currently focused on plantings in low-income neighborhoods, resulting in increased community interaction and cooperation.

Los Angeles
TreePeople is a Los Angeles based non-profit whose mission is to improve the urban environment of the city by planting trees. TreePeople´s Fruit Tree Program helped provide low-income families, school children and community residents with a source of free fruit to help alleviate hunger, address childhood diabetes and obesity, improve nutrition, and provide shade, beauty and cleaner air now and for decades to come.

Through the planting of over one million trees in these target countries, the Avatar Home Tree Initiative helped create a more sustainable planet for all living things across Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. Individuals learned more about their role in nature, low income families have access to a better quality of life, communities have taken action on behalf of the planet and the local and global environment has been restored for generations to come.

About Earth Day Network
Earth Day Network was founded on the premise that all people, regardless of race, gender, income, or geography, have a moral right to a healthy, sustainable environment. Our mission is to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle for promoting a healthy, sustainable environment. We pursue our mission through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer activism campaigns.

Earth Day Network´s campaigns and programs are predicated on the belief that an educated, energized population will take action to secure a healthy future for itself and its children. The organization has a global reach with a network of more than 22,000 partners and organizations in 192 countries. Earth Day Network is a 501(c)3 organization located in Washington, D.C.

About Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

James Cameron sees a future of nothing but 3D movies


Heralded director James Cameron thinks that within a few years, advertising that a movie is available in 3D won't be such a big deal anymore...because almost every single film in theaters will be presented in the new format.

"My guess is that within the next five years we'll be almost completely in 3D in theatres," said Cameron in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. He's been doing local promotions in Australia because that's where his latest film, Sanctum, was shot. Cameron didn't direct Sanctum, but his name is plastered all over the trailers because he lended his expertise in 3D production to the project.

James Cameron is a big fan of 3D, probably because his 3D sensation Avatar made him richer than most humans could ever dream of becoming.

Since the release of Avatar, he has become the self-appointed ambassador of the 3D industry, always willing to speak his mind about how others are doing and what will and won't work in 3D.

Cameron looks at the transition to 3D the same way movies went from black-and-white to color, or the way continuous improvements are being made - and then widely adopted - to surround sound quality.

Sanctum is filmed with the same 3D cameras that were used in Avatar. It's "inspired by true events" from a 1988 caving expedition when 15 explorers were trapped underground due to a storm that prevented their escape.

The Sydney Morning Herald also confirmed, incidentally, that Cameron is working not only on Avatar 2, but on Avatar 3 as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Avatar and Titanic director says Qld floods 'horrific'


Director James Cameron says his heart is going out to the people of Queensland whose lives have been devastated by this week's "horrific" floods.

Cameron is in Australia to promote Sanctum 3D, which he executive produced. The film, shot in Queensland, tells the story of a group of cave divers who become trapped when a torrential downpour blocks their escape.

He has a vast experience of working with dangerous bodies of water - having shot Titanic, The Abyss and a series of documentaries about ocean exploration.

He says these experiences have taught him to respect the devastating power of water.

"People always underestimate the power of water. Water can crush you," Cameron, who also directed Avatar, said.

"Whether you spend a lot of time in the water or underwater, as we have in the ocean, or indeed made films when you have to move large amounts of water around, people always consistently underestimate the power of it.

"I think that gives us collectively a great respect for what people are up against in Queensland and, of course, our hearts go out to people who are losing their homes.

"The scope and scale of it is really horrific."

Sanctum's director, Alister Grierson, agreed, adding it was difficult to make a connection about shooting a movie about a flood and people who were actually experiencing one.

"It's a frivolous pursuit, in a sense, what we do for a living - so it's difficult to compare to people's real lives," he said.

"And we've all got friends and family in Queensland who are suffering through this."

Producer Andrew Wight says most of the crew that worked on Sanctum live in Queensland.

"If there's any message to be taken from it, it is that mother nature unleashes and you have to pay attention," Wight said.

"But we will recover and we will rebuild and we will stick together.

"And out of these disasters often comes a lot of good - people take a fresh look at their lives and realise that a lot of the stuff that we surround ourselves with isn't that important."

James Cameron dives deep for Avatar


Only once before has anyone made the seven-mile descent into the Pacific's Mariana trench, the deepest point on earth. Now film-maker James Cameron wants to repeat that incredible journey for his Avatar sequel

In the grim-grey light before sunrise on 23 January 1960 a stick of TNT exploded somewhere beneath the waves in the western Pacific and shot a plume of white water high into the sky with a shuddering ker-ump.

The crew aboard the USS Lewis, a Navy destroyer, had spent the past few days lobbing more than 800 charges overboard and were using the blasts to sound the ocean depths. The echo from the latest detonation took a full 14 seconds to bounce off the seabed and back to the ship. The vessel was 200 miles off the coast of Guam and directly above the deepest chasm in the world's deepest ocean.

As daylight broke, American sailors tossed buoyant flares into the water to mark the spot where Captain Don Walsh, a US Navy submariner, and Jacques Piccard, a Swiss engineer, would embark on their descent into "Challenger Deep", the name of the deepest fissure in the Pacific's Mariana trench.

Inside their steel submersible, the Trieste, the two men, sat on two little stools, descended for five hours into the gloom, unsure of what they would find and uncertain of whether they would return. A small bulb inside cast enough light to read the depth gauge, a thermometer and dials that monitored the water currents, but the powerful mercury vapour lamps on the submarine's hull were switched off most of the time. Any marine life that happened by might have seen a gentle glow in the darkness as the dimly lit hulk plunged deeper into the abyss.

As a tale of naval derring-do, Walsh and Piccard's journey to the deepest spot in the world's deepest ocean is all the more nerve-racking for the half-century old technology they relied on. Despite great leaps in underwater exploration, so far no one has attempted to repeat the descent. But that is about to change.

Film director James Cameron – the man behind Avatar, Aliens, and aptly, The Abyss – has gathered a team of engineers and given them the job of building a submersible capable of returning to the Mariana trench. Cameron, who has filmed on the wreck of the Titanic, has said he plans to use his new submersible to gather footage for a sequel to Avatar. The vessel is being assembled in Australia and tests on the hull are already completed. Insiders say a trial dive could be on the cards later this year.

The prospect of a return to the Mariana trench comes as scientists are just beginning to understand the importance of the deepest realms of the oceans. These are habitats with extraordinary and unique lifeforms; places that behave like deepwater stores for the carbon locked up in marine life when that life comes to an end and gravity drags them down.

Cameron's engineers will have pored over the details of Walsh and Piccard's descent in the hope of avoiding the kinds of glitches and heart-stopping moments that put the mission somewhere on a line between bravery and bravado. Less than an hour into the descent, at a depth of 4,200ft, a dribble of water appeared and meandered down the wall of the vessel. It soon stopped. At 18,000ft the vessel sprang another leak but it too sealed itself again. At 32,400ft, which is deeper than Mount Everest is high, there was a dull crack and the Trieste's cabin shook hard. For a few minutes, Walsh and Piccard stopped everything on board that made a noise. Tiny cracking sounds came from all around, but the submersible seemed OK. The echo sounder used to locate the bottom of the ocean revealed nothing but more water beneath. "Let's go on," said Piccard.

At 12.56pm, the echo sounder quivered and scrawled its first trace as the ocean floor came within reach. Walsh and Piccard switched on the Trieste's lamps and peered into what turned out to be crystal-clear water. The traces on the echo sounder got stronger and stronger, until at 13.06, the Trieste landed on the bottom, kicking up a cloud of white ooze. The depth was recorded as 35,800ft, just shy of seven miles and as deep as a transatlantic passenger plane flies high. The pressure of all that water on the cabin was around 200,000 tonnes.

Walsh and Piccard spent only 20 minutes on the bottom of the ocean – enough time to eat a Herschey's chocolate bar and test their experimental acoustic telephone system – but their descent into the Mariana trench set a record for man's deepest dive. Jacques Piccard died in November 2008; but Walsh, now 79 and living in Oregon, advises a company called Deep Ocean Expeditions, which arranges trips in submersibles to iconic wrecks including the Titanic. He recalls why he signed up for the Trieste mission with what turns out to be characteristic understatement. "I had to get away from my desk job," he says. "And it seemed like interesting work."

Walsh and Piccard's ascent back to the surface went without a hitch. The crack that made the vessel shake on the way down was a Plexiglas window fracturing, not from the pressure but the cold. The cracks sealed themselves as the Trieste rose into warmer waters and eventually broke through the waves, in time for two navy planes to zoom overhead and tip their wings in salute. Getting out was a relief. "By the time all our kit was inside, there wasn't much room for us," says Walsh. "It was about as much room as you get inside a large household refrigerator. And about the same temperature."

When Walsh and Piccard talked about the record dive later that day they agreed that someone would be back in those waters, doing the same descent, within a year or two. But the Trieste's mission to explore the deepest ocean on Earth turned out like Nasa's Apollo project to the moon. Once it was done, no one went back.

The Mariana trench is not a small crack in the ocean floor. Research vessels have mapped the trench at close to 2,500km long and around 70km wide. The huge scar is a testament to the violence of plate tectonics. This is where the vast Pacific plate bends steeply beneath the Philippine plate, leaving a huge groove in the Earth's crust. The deepest part of the trench, named Challenger Deep after the Royal Navy's HMS Challenger II vessel that surveyed the region in 1951, may be a tear in the Pacific plate. To oceanographers, Challenger Deep is beyond the what they call the Abyssal zone. Go deeper than 6km and you enter the Hadal zone, named after Hades, the God of the Greek underworld.

Deep ocean trenches are not teeming with the diversity of life seen in shallower waters. Sunshine cannot penetrate this deep, though many organisms generate their own meagre light, through a process known as bioluminescence. There is little or nothing in the way of seaweed or kelp. The towering walls of the trench are bare and rocky in places, but overwhelmingly they are covered with sediment that builds up as dead plankton, the glass skeletons from algae called diatoms, and the excrement from all the marine life swimming above, descend and settle. Some of the sediments are so soft that oceanographers are careful to make sure that any equipment they send down does not trigger vast underwater avalanches.

Though humans have not descended into the Mariana trench since Walsh and Piccard, the technology used to explore the ocean depths has transformed. The Trieste was designed by Jacque Piccard's father, Auguste, a physicist, inventor and hot air balloon enthusiast. In the 1930s, Piccard Sr flew a series of air balloons with pressurised gondolas capable of soaring to record altitudes. Before the decade was out, he realised that, using the same principle, he could build a machine to drift through the ocean depths. The Trieste was a natural progression of this thinking: instead of a basket held aloft by a balloon of hot air, the Trieste was a steel cabin kept buoyant by 32,000 gallons of lighter-than-water gasoline. The Trieste sank with a ballast of tonnes of iron pellets. To ascend, Piccard simply jettisoned the pellets by cutting the power to an electromagnet that held them in place.

Walsh and Piccard came back without any pictures of the bottom of the Mariana trench. The cloud they kicked up as they touched down obscured their view from the port holes and made photography impossible. "It was like being in a bowl of milk," says Walsh. But shortly before reaching the bottom, Piccard saw what he believed to be a flat fish, resembling a sole, about a foot long and half as wide, on the seafloor. The claim was contested almost immediately by a Danish biologist, Torben Wolff, who thought Piccard had probably seen a sea cucumber. Today, many marine biologists are sceptical that a flatfish would venture so deep.

In the 50 years that have passed, oceanographers have developed sophisticated underwater robots that can plumb the depths of deep trenches such as the Mariana and bring back stills and video. Robotic "landers" operated by Aberdeen University have filmed fish at a record-breaking depth of nearly 8km. Hordes of ghostly white snailfish, which resemble foot-long tadpoles with suckers on their bellies, appeared when one lander released bait in front of its onboard camera.

"The startling thing is that we see so many of them," says Monty Priede, director of Aberdeen's Oceanlab. "These fishes are deep-sea specialists. In each trench we explore, there seems to be a different species of snailfish." For scientists, this poses a tough question. How did the deepest parts of the oceans, which are effectively isolated from one another, become home to such subtly different versions of these peculiar creatures?

Shrimps abound at extreme depths. The steep walls of undersea trenches funnel dead marine life and other organic matter down into the deepest crevices, gathering the food so the shrimps don't have to. "This is the end of the world. This is where all the rubbish from above is going to end up, and all these shrimps are waiting for it," says Priede.

A few days before Christmas, Ronnie Glud, who holds academic positions at the University of Southern Denmark and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, returned from an expedition to send a robotic lander to the bottom of the Mariana trench as part of a broader project to map carbon in the world's seabeds. The lander confirmed Glud's suspicion that deep ocean trenches store a disproportionate amount of carbon, making them an unrecognised, but major component in the planet's carbon cycle. "We need to know how much is being stored down there. The more carbon that is captured in the seafloor, the more oxygen there is in our atmosphere," Glud says. Expeditions to other deep-sea trenches are in the pipeline.

There is a fallacy that life cannot survive the crushing pressures at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches. To humans this is profoundly inhospitable territory, but fish, microbes, sea cucumbers and small crustaceans, including shrimps, have adapted. One oceanographer described how as follows: a human is like a party balloon – taken down to great depths it will be crushed to nothing; but a deep-sea fish is like an untied balloon – take that down to the bottom of the ocean and the pressure has little effect. Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that intense pressure causes nerves to stop working, a problem that deep-sea life has side-stepped by evolving a more robust physiology at molecular level.

Last year, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts steered their Nereus robotic vehicle 10,902m down into Challenger Deep. The robot spent more than 10 hours on the seafloor, beaming video back to the surface via a hair-thin optic fibre. The expedition collected sediments and rock samples, but was intended as a trial run ahead of a comprehensive scientific mission to explore the trench sometime in the next two years.

"Every time people look they make new discoveries about these deep regions of the oceans," says Andrew Bowen, director of the National Deep Submergence Facility at Woods Hole. "Think of the Earth as a puzzle. Only through scientific understanding and exploration can we begin to understand the shapes of the pieces and fit them together into a coherent view of the world."

Cameron's plans to descend into the Mariana trench are more about the technical challenges of building the submersible and filming at depth than a route to scientific discovery. But Bowen believes that repeating Walsh and Piccard's record-breaking dive can only be a good thing. "Exploring such an inhospitable and extreme realm of the deep ocean is hugely valuable, because it creates a chance for people to engage their imagination. There is nothing quite like being there," he says.

Back in Oregon, Walsh says he wasn't anxious about his descent in January 1960, and adds that going so deep that day meant just "a longer day at the office". He is more than happy about Cameron's plans to repeat the dive. "I wish him luck," Walsh says. "I'll be cheering him all the way down."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

James Cameron's New Studio Could Come to Agoura


Known for feature films spanning Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Titanic, and Avatar, James Cameron's production company may be moving into a studio site in the business park district of Agoura Hills.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Agoura Hills City Council approved an agreement to have Rincon Consultants prepare an environmental study for the construction of a motion picture studio for Lightstorm Entertainment at 29901 Agoura Road.

The property owned by Realty Bancorp Equities, which includes the former Line 6 building, standing at 38,000 square feet, will be replaced by a proposed 52,000-square-foot, 54-feet high studio, according Doug Jacobsen, an executive with the company. Jacobsen anticipates the demolition of the Line 6 building some time in late March, early April.

Almost the size of a football field, the new building will house 80 to 200 occupants, according to the production company's Jan. 4 letter to the Agoura Hills Planning Commission.

Lightstorm's proposed building will be used by producers, directors, actors, and other production personnel for digital filming activities, according to the proposal. The space will also feature a commisary, gym, and exterior break areas for employees.

On Jan. 20, the Planning Commission will be reviewing Realty Bancorp Equities' request to be considered within the permitted Business Park-Manufacturing (BP-M) zone, which is designated for larger scale businesses involved in light manufacturing, assembly or distribution, and requires operations conducted indoors, with equipment vehicles parked on-site.

"Staff finds the BP-M zone to be the most conducive zoning district in the city for this [the studio's] use," reported city staff in a preliminary analysis. If approved, the project would not require an amendment to the zoning ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Kuperberg is concerned about the possible landscaping and height of the proposed building, but is optimistic.

“This studio could be a tremendous asset to our community—economically, environmentally, and could establish Agoura Hills as a destination for these kinds of projects, specifically within the film and television industry,” Kuperberg said. “The studio will bring good jobs and probably have limited impacts on our infrastructure."

No public hearings have been scheduled at this time. The Agoura Hills Planning Commission will meet on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers to discuss Realty Bancorp Equities' request.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Zoe Saldana: Avatar sequel will be 'amazing'


Zoe Saldana has been trying to get the gossip on the sequels to both Star Trek and Avatar.

"You can expect them to be amazing but we're going to have to wait," the actress admitted at the Hollywood premiere of her new film Burning Palms.

Having starred in both of the box-office smashes, the 32-year-old confessed she's been pestering James Cameron and JJ Abrams to find out what the plots will be.

She explained: "I email Jim and JJ to see if I can get a little bit of information and I don't know if it's a trend of mine or if I just psychologically gravitate towards these directors that are very secretive, but they're definitely talented."

In Burning Palms, Zoe has to go to a much darker place psychologically, playing a rape victim who decides to go and confront her attacker after realising he left his wallet in her home.

Talking about how to deal with such a sensitive storyline, Zoe said: "You focus a lot on your work and you try to make it as best as you can, especially when you're dealing with something that can be very real."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Avatar boosts Chinese box office to $1.5B


Chinese box office receipts surged 64 per cent to the equivalent of $1.5 billion US in 2010, but film officials said the figure lags more developed markets and urged local filmmakers to make movies that can compete with Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar and Inception.

China's Film Bureau also said in a report issued late last week that the country added 313 movie theatres and 1,533 screens last year, for a total of just over 6,200 screens.

The box office figures were boosted by the huge success of Avatar. The James Cameron 3D sci-fi epic was the biggest hit in China last year with a total take of $204 million.

The top-grossing Chinese film in 2010 was the Feng Xiaogang summer earthquake epic Aftershock, which earned $100 million. Jiang Wen's political satire Let the Bullets Fly, released in December, was also a big local hit, with Chinese media saying its latest earnings surpassed $75 million.

The Film Bureau, however, said the Chinese box office is still developing and urged local directors to improve the quality of their work.

China's box office total "is still far from the value of a movie world power and is still far from keeping pace with the country's economic growth," the report said.

North American box office receipts totalled $10.6 billion in 2009, according to the latest statistics from the Motion Picture Association of America.

Chinese releases have increased in volume and popularity. There were 526 local releases last year — up from 456 the year before — with 59 of them bringing in more than $1.5 million and 17 surpassing the $15 million mark. But the Film Bureau said "there weren't enough Chinese productions that were truly critically acclaimed and were truly able to meet market demands and the cultural demands of the audience."

"The variety of Chinese movies isn't rich enough. The development of genres still remains at the stage of simple imitation and duplication. It still lacks an improvement in creativity and localization. ... We lack a basic response to the creative pressure presented by new genres created by Avatar and Inception," the Film Bureau said.

Critics have complained that Chinese filmmakers have gravitated toward generic star-studded kung fu and historical epics that are easy crowd pleasers, instead of coming up with new ideas.

The Film Bureau added that Chinese producers are too reliant on the domestic market and didn't do a good job of promoting their work abroad.

The comments came despite a prolific year for Chinese cinema's biggest names. Most of the industry's top directors had releases.

Zhang Yimou released the romance Under the Hawthorn Tree in September and Chen Kaige directed Sacrifice, the story of an orphan who avenges the death of his family. Besides Aftershock, Feng, China's most successful commercial director, also released a sequel to his 2008 romantic comedy If You Are the One in December.

Hollywood's ability to make inroads in the Chinese market comes despite a quota system. The Chinese government only shares revenue for 20 foreign imports a year — a formula that effectively limits the country to 20 foreign blockbusters per year.

Avatar director James Cameron calls Battleship and sequels 'ridiculous'


Avatar director goes off on one again

Avatar helmer James Cameron doesn't hold back when it comes to directing his ire at any movies he considers substandard.

You can't really deny the man the chance to voice his opinion, as he has been behind the two most successful films of all time.

Having previously ranted about the substandard 3D conversions of Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he's now slagged off Peter Berg's upcoming Battleship movie, as well as Hollywood sequels in general.

Worst Previews translated an interview Cameron recently had with Spiegel Online.

He said: "We have a story crisis… Now they want to make the 'Battleship' game into a film. This is pure desperation."

"Everyone in Hollywood knows how important it is that a film is a brand before it hit theaters. If a brand has been around, Harry Potter for example, or Spider-Man, you are lightyears ahead."

"And there lies the problem. Because unfortunately these franchises are becoming more ridiculous. Battleship. This degrades the cinema."

Cameron actually has two sequels to his mega-hit Avatar in pre-production, and he has previously launched the Terminator franchise, and directed sci-fi sequel Aliens.

Many years ago, the uber-director wrote a Spider-Man script and came close to bringing the webslinger to the big-screen, before Sam Raimi launched the superhero franchise.

Cameron is set to be acting as a '3D mentor' to Marc Webb, who's directing the Spider-Man reboot.

Read more: Film news James Cameron calls Battleship and sequels 'ridiculous' | TotalFilm.com

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One Year Later: Avatar


It seems a bit hard to remember that Avatar is just one year old; for some reason it feels as though it, and the 3D revolution that it spawned, has been around for at least a couple of years now. 3D has had a bumpy ride this year, as we've seen the box office numbers evolve over just a nine or ten months from 3D means we'll make an extra $20 million! :) to Shitty 3D doesn't actually mean our movie will do any better :(. We're almost at the end of that hump, or so we can hope; by this time next year, it's hard to imagine that movies will be coming out with post-conversion 3D; the 3D camera tech has theoretically penetrated the filmmaking community to the point that natural 3D will be dominant for films that choose to utilize the technology.

But if 3D has had a bumpy year, that doesn't mean that Avatar did. After its launch on December 18, 2009, Avatar spent a full eight months in theaters of various sorts, racking up $2.76 billion dollars in revenue worldwide. For comparison's sake, the second highest-grossing film in history, Titanic, managed to make around $1.84 billion dollars at the box office, putting it almost a billion dollars behind Avatar. Avatar also relied on the American marketplace the least for its record haul, with just over 27% of its total revenue coming domestically, the lowest percentage of any of the top 30 all-time grossing films. That's not to say that the American audiences didn't dig Avatar, mind you; even with that paltry percentage, the film is still the #1 all-time film in America, beating Titanic by $160 million dollars, or, in other words, making 25% more money than James Cameron's earlier film did.

On its one-year anniversary, the staff of Screened decided to take a bit of time and reflect on the successes and failures of Avatar, since the film came out well before we started our little endeavor. (True story: the Avatar page was our proof-of-concept for movie pages before our site launched. Read on for our thoughts, and be sure to comment below to join the discussion.


Rorie Says:
The numbers related to Avatar's grosses might be difficult to digest, but that's perhaps thanks to a film that is relatively simple to understand. It's easy to mock Avatar for being Pocahontas in Space, but there's obviously nothing wrong with Cameron's drawing from history to plot out a film. What surprised me about Avatar's success was the magnitude of its popularity when it was a stridently anti-colonial and anti-war film in the middle of what seems to be an immensely divisive era of world politics. The notion of a film about an invading force being frustrated and ultimately defeated by the scrappy locals being released, at a time when that outcome is still quite plausible in, say, Afghanistan, and then becoming more popular by far than any film that had been released henceforth, is surprising; when the film depicts the locals as being the moral superiors to the occupying forces, well...


Of course the film does simplify things a bit: the fact that only Michelle Rodriguez' character, among all of the Marine forces on the planet, is willing to act in a moral fashion and disobey an order to slaughter hundreds of innocents, is a bit of a cynical statement on Cameron's part, and one that doesn't lend his argument much credence. This is a film about Black versus White, Good versus Evil, with nary a shade of grey in-between; a recipe for popularity, perhaps (see: Star Wars), but not for fostering intelligent discussion. Cameron seems an intelligent sort, but his films do tend to the epic fights between absolute good and absolute bad, with Avatar perhaps being the apotheosis of that trend. They are, in the end, money-makers on a hyperbolic scale, and interesting artifacts of the early days of CGI (when you consider that there are hundreds of years of films yet to come), but they also seem destined to be footnotes in the histories that will be written about the films of this era.

Pope Says:
In the lead up to Avatar 's release last year, I'd maintained what could best be described as a steady state of cautious excitement. All of us are writing for Screened because we love movies, and I'll admit that love occasionally takes me weird places. Against every instinct in my body, I found myself strangely enjoying Avatar 's pre-release hype. I like the idea of films as events, and whether you love it, like it, or hate it, you can't dispute that Avatar was certainly an event. There's something about the excitement of what could be that's fun and makes you feel like you're going to be part of something special. Why else did people line up days in advance for Episodes 2 and 3 of the Star Wars prequels? They'd seen Episode 1, they knew it wasn't going to get better, yet they still showed up each time to see it opening night. It's why Piebald wrote that song, American Hearts, right? Hey, you're part of it.

So, sure, I bought into the possibility of Avatar being something damned special. And why not? Whatever the haters will say, James Cameron has a fairly unimpeachable feature film portfolio. Where would '80s cinema be without The Terminator, The Abyss, and Aliens?? (Or Michael Biehn's career for that matter...) These, along with Terminator 2 and Titanic, weren't simply big, stupid blockbusters, but rather films that pushed the envelope of what was possible in the medium.



More importantly to me, Cameron's movies were never afraid to be imaginative. Since the 1980s, fantasy/sci-fi movies have become rather passe, with a few standout exceptions, unless they're either deep contemplations on the nature of humanity, or supremely stupid video game adaptations. What excited me most about Avatar was the thought of a big budget sci-fi action movie that would take us to somewhere we'd never seen before, populated with creatures we'd never seen before. That's what Terminator, Aliens and Abyss did, in their own ways, and I love them so much for that. There should be a place for these types of films still nowadays, and Avatar was going to make that point for me.

So then it came out and I saw it. It definitely pushed the technical envelope with its use of 3D, CG, and motion capture. I've heard some argue that its use of 3D "wasn't that great", but that just doesn't hold water with me. It also introduced us to a new world and new creatures. Two for two!

The problem, for me, was with the goofiness of those creatures and their world. I had a hard time enjoying watching the Na'vi onscreen, let alone empathizing with and investing myself in them. Cameron's reliance on how "lifelike" his CG aliens were blinded him to the possibility that it's a lot harder to connect with a giant blue cat person than a human actor. Again, I don't mind using aliens in your movies, but if you imagine The Abyss done entirely from the underwater aliens' perspective, which Avatar basically is, it loses everything. CG being so good as to hold an adult's imagination for 2 1/2 hours without feeling silly is a cute concept, but we're not there yet unless your entire film is CG.

I will always have respect for what Avatar did, and I do hope it spurs Hollywood to take more chances on imaginative sci-fi tales. It's the type of movie I probably would have loved as a kid, and I get why it ended up being so popular. I just think that had Cameron focused a little more on the basics of storytelling we would have ended up with a much better product.


Andrew Says:
When I saw the first trailer for Avatar I was pretty unimpressed. Months later, I caught a new one that listed every big film James Cameron had done and I warmed to the project. I ending up watching it at the Navy Pier IMAX in Chicago, in 3D of course, and walked out blown away by what I had just witnessed.

James Cameron has always talked about putting asses back in the seats and Avatar accomplished just that. He gave people a real reason to go to a theater. I think that’s a point that often gets overlooked in discussions about the film. If you read my articles, you know I’m a little wary of the Netflix/home theater revolution that’s going on. I don’t doubt it’s the future, because anyone with any common sense knows it is. But, I think people actually going to the theaters is still extremely important for the business and filmmaking in general (I’m not going to get into reasons why, because that’s an article in itself). Cameron created something that you could never experience fully at home. I don’t care how big your TV is, or if it has 3D. Years from now, the industry will be thanking him for this.

I’ll be the first to admit that Avatar's story isn’t very unique or overly complex. That being said, I think it was exactly what it needed to be. The first silent, black-and-white films were basically one-note scenes. Even the stuff a few years later was still overly simplistic. The reason behind this was two-fold. First, the filmmakers were still trying to learn the medium, but more importantly, audiences were trying to adjust to this new type of storytelling. If you presented a complex story to the first audience to ever see a motion picture, they would have walked out confused and unhappy with the experience.

I think this same idea applies to Avatar. Cameron’s a smart guy and knew he had to win over a mainstream audience, because if he didn’t the film would have been a colossal financial failure. Audiences were already going to be in awe of the images they saw, so jamming a big story down their throats would have been too overwhelming. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t have been to some of you, but we’re talking about the masses in general. If you’re doing over $700 million at the box office, a lot of your business has to come from people who don’t see films that often. Cameron understood this, so he told an easy to follow story and let the visuals take care of the rest.


On the subject of the visuals, I’m with Pope. I think it’s a cop-out if you say you weren’t wowed by the 3D of the film, because prior to Avatar no one had ever done anything this immersive in 3D. The deep-focus shot of the Marines waking up from cryo at the start of the movie was worth the price of admission alone. Everything about this film was gorgeous to look at, especially the absolutely stunning scenery. My cinematographer friends constantly rave about how well it was photographed. Countless filmmakers were heavily influenced by the technology the film made use of and wanted it for their own projects. Most films, for better or worse, are coming out in 3D now because of the success of Avatar.

Lastly, I’ll just say that I really appreciated how much research Cameron put into the science behind the film. A lot of times filmmakers use creative license as an excuse to completely abandon believability in their stories. I’m a fan of those who can tell a fantastical story, while still grounding it in some measure of reality or scientific fact. Everything that you see in Avatar is at the very least scientifically possible on a theoretical level. If you don’t believe me, check out this Notre Dame professor talking about how the “floating mountains” weren’t that much of a stretch.

All in all, Avatar is one of those landmark films in cinema history that people are always going to look back on. It truly was a game-changer.

Alex Says:
I have an almost preternatural resistance to "event films." Same goes for massively hyped new bands, TV shows, video games, or anything else in the entertainment world. There is absolutely no good reason for it. I think it's a holdover habit from my brief turn as an anti-corporate teenage punk rock wannabe. I had the "Corporate Rock Still Sucks" t-shirt and everything.

For that reason, I resisted Avatar for a good, solid month past its initial release. All the talk of the movie's incredible visual presentation, thrilling action, revolutionary 3D technology, and whatever else was impervious to my barely reasoned and altogether stubborn refusal to accept that I needed to see a movie that everybody was seeing. I don't recall exactly what it was that finally got me to cave in. It wasn't even a particularly momentous event. I think I was in New York with my girlfriend, and the subject of seeing a movie came up. I believe I said something to the effect of, "I feel like we should probably see this at some point." I mean, with so many people still talking this thing up, and its likelihood of being the highest grossing movie ever growing by the day, I think I just came to a point where I felt like I needed to understand for myself what everybody was showering with endless superlatives. I needed to see the movie that even my most cynical film-going friends were talking up like the biggest, best thing ever made.

I'm still waiting to see that movie, by the way.


Sorry to be the giant sour puss of this feature, but Avatar to me is the very definition of all flash, no substance. That might sound weird coming from me, considering the fact that I just gave a fairly positive review to TRON: Legacy (which most certainly fits that definition as well), but the key difference is that TRON didn't feel the need to cudgel me into submission with three goddamned hours of the most base-level anti-colonialist, pro-environment messaging ever put on a movie screen. Avatar is like that really pretty girl you meet in college who, at the time, seems entirely worldly and interesting, until you realize that all her ideas and causes are largely regurgitated from stuff her professors told her and the stacks of Cliff's Notes books littering her dorm room. At least with that girl, you probably got to make out with her once or twice. All you get in Avatar is to watch some blue people plug their organic USB ports into each other.

Understand that I wanted to like Avatar. As I furrowed my brow at every stump-dumb thing said on screen, as I scowled at the charisma-vacuum that is Sam Worthington, as I slapped my forehead in disbelief at the ridiculous turn that turned JAKESOOLY from a pariah into the Na'vi's savior, I kept trying to focus on the positives and have some fun. Yes, this is an exceptionally attractive film. It is the best example of what can be done with digital world building, and the 3D is nothing short of exhilarating at times. But none of that prettiness really adds up into an experience I would ever want to see again. I am of the mind that when you set out to make a movie, specifically one that is a work of fiction, featuring actors (digital or organic) and a script of some fashion, you need to make the story compelling.

Note that I didn't say brilliant. I am more than willing to be taken for a ride with a story that's on the dumb side, so long as that story still remains compelling, be it through specific action, character moments, or just sheer fun. Cameron can be a very compelling storyteller. Even in his most action-oriented films, he has a gift for creating memorable characters and memorable events. Avatar has some memorable events, but mostly for the wrong reasons. I remember specific visuals--most notably that tree getting blown all to hell, and the evil army dude's mech suit with the bowie knife the size of a Buick--but I'd be hard pressed to recall any particular character moments or significant events that didn't stick out as a negative to me. Everything that happens in Avatar feels like a foregone conclusion, because it likely already was a foregone conclusion in other movies.

Of course, nothing I'm saying here means a thing. This movie already changed the game so many times over that any words I might have on the subject might as well be buried under the gobs and gobs of cash this thing raked in. I just felt like sharing my feelings on the movie, since I've never had a good opportunity to do so on the site. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Cameron's filmography, and I think that what he did in this film from a technological standpoint is every bit as revolutionary as people make it out to be. I just wish he'd put that technology into a script that was even remotely worth producing. Andrew's point about telling a simple story is a salient one, but simple doesn't have to mean brain dead--not to mention patronizingly messagey. As it stands, Cameron might as well have just put a giant text block on the screen that said ARMY BAD, ENVIRONMENT GOOD, made it 3D, and called it a day. Maybe it wouldn't have made as much money, but it probably would have saved a lot of time and effort, too.

Tom Says:
I have something of an unusual, semi-insider perspective on Avatar because I read the feature-length “scriptment” for it about five years ago. This was back during the period when Cameron had effectively abandoned the project in favor of his undersea documentaries and it was floating around the internet with the reputation of one of the best unproduced screenplays alongside the likes of David Franzoni’s George Washington, the Wachowskis’ Carnivore and David Lynch’s Ronnie Rocket. I picked the right time to read it because it was only a year or so later that the project was officially restarted and the legal teams started sending out cease and desist letters to whomever had the scriptment up.


Going back even further than that, I remember reading interviews Cameron did in American Cinematographer where he commented on his unusual decision to direct the T2 3-D--the “movie ride” at Universal Studios. He was intrigued by shooting in 3D because he figured it was the future of movies, reasoning that the only way theaters could put butts back in the seats and combat the threats of piracy and home video was to give audiences an experience they simply couldn’t get anywhere else.

Cameron said that in ‘96. A lot of directors claim to see the future; he actually saw 14 years ahead of time. The proof’s really in the pudding when the grosses of flicks like Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans get a significantly boost from 3D shows.

Terminator 2 is my all-time favorite movie. I’ve seen it at least a hundred times. And Aliens and the first Terminator are right up there. While my imagination’s been shaped by those movies, I think my appreciation of Cameron’s filmography in total is more accurately described as a respect. I never really got into True Lies. I think The Abyss is kind of boring. I only saw Titanic once, enjoyed it well enough and never looked at it again. My experience with the Avatar scriptment was again a case of respect, not enjoyment.

I thought the concept of the world was highly imaginative, and the phantasmorgia of Pandora’s flora and fawna was quite impressive (there were twice as many creatures in the script as there were in the movie.) The story was a little too touchy-feely environmentalist for my tastes, though. I described it to friends as feeling like Dances with Wolves meets Ferngully by way of Starship Troopers and they all nodded, disinterestedly, only to make the same comments years later on their status updates. This was maybe the only time in my life where I’ve had the dubious accomplishment of my snark being ahead of the curve.


The movie itself was better than the scriptment I read. The broad strokes were basically the same, but the execution was much tighter. Cameron’s a smart guy and he has a canny ability to draw an audience into a new world with some safe and familiar identifiers (and no, the “going native” archetype definitely didn’t start with Disney’s Pocahontas.) It’s telling that he removed the edgier ending where Jake Sully makes a (bluffing) threat to the corporation not to come back lest he unleash terrible alien viruses on Earth. Becoming the highest grossing movie ever is probably hinged on keeping things mostly safe.

I’m talking about this more like a removed observer because, good or bad, Avatar simply didn’t capture my imagination. For my money, it was a solid thriller, but Pandora just wasn’t alien enough to make me feel awed in visiting it. Some wondered aloud if seeing it was akin to witnessing technological-breakthroughs like Star Wars or The Jazz Singer for the first time, but there was honestly never a showpiece that made me go “Holy crap! What am I watching?!?!” like I used to get every few months between entries in the Matrix, Lord of the Rings and new Star Wars trilogies. In many ways, it felt like a National Geographic Imax movies. Impressive? Yes. Educational? Perhaps. But there was nothing that stuck in my head after I walked away from that giant dome. I really wasn't even compelled to participate in any party conversations about it later--"It's white man's burden in outer space. Unobtanium is a silly name. Blah blah blah"-- except to say I was amused that millions a viewers had just watched a take-off of Hinduism's epic Ramayana without even realizing.

My real hope is that this has instilled enough confidence in studios to pursue original sci-fi content on screen. While that final frame of an Na'vi eye opening didn't get me jonsing for a sequel, I suspect (and want) Cameron to pursue some edgier material in Avatar 2 now that he's successful won over a world of casual viewers.