What is Animated versus Live Action in Alita – Battle Angel

battle angle alita movie image
You can never have eyes that are too big. Not even as an animated superhero.

Alita: Battle Angel is one of my most-anticipated films of the year.  However, the trailers have been driving me crazy. My eyes can’t quite comprehend what they’re seeing.  What’s animated and what isn’t? Everything looks real and surreal at the same time, and two or three minute bursts of short clips are too quick to comprehend.  

A little research cleared up my biggest question:  Alita (played by Rosa Salazar) is CG. Christoph Waltz and most of the other actors are live-action.  

Weta did visual effects for the film.  They are famous for their work on Avatar, the Planet of the Apes prequels, and Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Salazar wore a performance capture suit for Alita. A Weta crew member followed Salazar around with a computer attached to a camera on Salazar’s face.  They made sure the dots on her face were all in the right place, and that they were collecting all the right information for her facial capture. Salazar says of the suit, “I was a piece of technology walking around.”  

Much like her character.

“The way the performance capture process worked,” says producer Jon Landua, “is we had a number of cameras placed around the set that would record markers on the actor’s physical body.  The system would interpret that marker and put it into three dimensional space. [And then] create a skeleton to go inside a CG model to drive that CG model’s performance.” (To see how this works, see the video below.)   

Landau explains the advances Weta made in facial animation.   “What they’ve really worked on is on the inside-out. Working on a system that is not driving the facial performance from the outside, but understanding what the muscles are doing under the skin, and then moving the skin…One of the artists talked to Rosa about all of the idiosyncrasies she does that we’re not supposed to be able to do, this eyebrow will go up but this lip will go down.  No one else does that, but Rosa does it…It was Weta learning and teaching their system from the inside out, which is a brand new thing they’re doing and really pushing the technology.”

Eric Saindon, visual effects supervisor for Weta and two-time Oscar nominee for The Hobbit films, expounds further on this topic.  “We’re now able to work at the level of the facial musculature—so it’s no longer about just moving the surface skin, but moving the underlying muscles.  You can see it in how the movements of Alita’s face look so much like Rosa’s. We spent hundreds of hours just working with Alita’s mouth, because what makes even a big action scene work, is getting the most human expressions, and Rosa has a very expressive face.”    

Instead of using computer graphics, a live set was constructed.   “We’re in a live-action world that has digital characters brought into it,” says Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for Weta.  

“Rosa’s not performing against a green screen,” says Jon Landau, “We put a 97,000 square foot set on the back lot of Troublemaker Studios, where Keean could go on a bridge in the rain with Rosa right there, and tenderly touch her cheek in a romantic scene that you couldn’t do before.  But Weta pushing the technology is allowing the actors to really do performances with each other.”

Rosa Salazar confirms, “I was given the gift of…existing in a practical environment with practical props and practical people and, with the exception of one day working on a green screen stage, all the other days were in the real true environment of that set.”   

One of the main sets is Iron City, a future metropolis which has gone to waste, though Alita sees it as beautiful.  “Since she has no memory, she sees everything in a beautiful way,“ says director Robert Rodriguez. Creating Iron City fell to Steve Joyner and Caylah Eddleblute, production designers who have worked with Rodriguez ever since From DuskTill Dawn.  “We knew going in that Robert is all about depth,“ says Joyner. “We knew he would want a city that seems to go on forever. So we knew we would have to create an intricate network of streets, alleys, and corridors that all interconnect. Ultimately, the sets were so complex there were nooks and crannies even Caylah and I didn’t know were there!”  

A scanning crew would scan every environment, so they would have a 3-D model for every set they shot in.    

Of course, not all of the preparation for the movie has been effects-based.  Salazar started physical training for the demanding role the day after being cast.  “You don’t want to cast someone and then you get two takes out of her, and then she’s exhausted,” she says.“  You want to get your endurance level up for something as physical as this. I went into training the very next morning and I trained for close to five months for a few hours every single day.  I did some muay thai, some kung-fu, staff work, kick boxing.”

If you’re as excited for Alita as I am, you’ll want to stay connected with RunPee.  Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Alita review, and get the Peetimes for Alita through the RunPee app.  

 

Note:  The quotes used in this article came from the 20th Century Fox panel at New York City Comic Con, and from the production notes.  

Are the Four Lego Movies Sequels, Prequels, or Stand-Alone Films?

chris prat is emmet brickowski in the lego universe
Emmet and his awesome Lego world.

As an adult, I’m surprised at how fun these Lego movies are. Are Legos considered kids’ toys? Or are Legos  nostalgic and expensive boxed kits for adults who refuse grow up?

Let’s take a look at how each Lego movie fits into the series so far. They all have adult humor mixed in with exciting kiddy fun. Some are better than the others, narratively.

So there are four Lego movies in total, right now. But do you need to see each of the previous three to appreciate the “official sequel”? Here’s what you should know:

 

  1. The Lego Movie — This film introduces the characters in the main Lego storyline.  You need to know Emmet, Lucy, Lego Batman, Benny the Spaceman, Unikitty, and Metal Beard. This film is so much fun that you won’t regret making a watch happen to prep for the sequel. This is technically the ‘origin story.’
  2. The Lego Batman Movie – Although this seems like a standalone film about Batman and the Bat Crew, it’s difficult to place, since Will Arnett does the Lego Batman voicing in three films. Before Lego 2 came out, I was wondering how this would fit in, or if it would just be a confusing mess that viewers would have to ignore/live with. I was happy to note Lego Batman had a nice little throw-away line early in The Lego Movie 2, about how he went through love and loss in his own movie (thus being available to continue his story in the “Second” part). I’ll take anything to help me determine continuity, because my geekhood knows no bounds. If this seems confusing, just think about it this way: after Batman’s first appearance with Emmet in Lego 1, he goes on to have his own side-film. Then canonically, he returns in Lego 2, which is either the 3rd or 4th Lego movie in the series, depending on whether you include the Ninjago film. This flick can go either way – you can see it as a stand-alone ‘spin-off’ film about the earlier Batman character, or a sort of side-story that squeezes between Lego 1 and 2. 
  3. The Lego Ninjago Movie – This is the most problematic entry. Not one character from before or after appears in the other flicks (at least on the big screen; apparently there are small-screen Ninjago shows for the fans on Netflix). I’d say this is a stand-alone in the movie franchise, unless future films add the Ninjagos to the larger arc with Emmet and friends. Another note: The Lego Ninjas are teenagers, and the characters in the other films are adults. And they all live on different continents. Just saying – I’m not sure the Ninjas will be brought into the fold. A stand-alone film.
  4. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – This picks up immediately after the original Lego film with Emmet and Lucy (and yes, Batman)…then quickly makes a five-year jump into an apocalyptic future, with our Bricksburg characters battling the super sweet, creepy Duplos from space. The official Lego sequel.

So, what Lego Movies do you need to watch before Lego 2: The Second Part?

  • You have to watch The Lego Movie (the original) to understand what’s happening with the Lego crew in 2. You just do. I’m not sure you’d understand the sequel at all if you don’t know the backgrounds of Emmet’s pals. There are so many in-jokes and half-hidden Easter Eggs; it was so full of visual gags that we had trouble finding good Peetimes. [pullquote]This is the only previous film you NEED to be up to date on in the Lego series. So that’s okay — you can safely ignore the next two.[/pullquote]
  • You can skip the Lego Batman Movie, since it has no relation to the main narrative…although if you CAN see this, you should. It’s hugely amusing, and Lego Batman’s story does continue in the Lego 2 film. Will Arnett voices all of the Batman roles, and does a bang-up job in his three films. The meta Batman voiceover during the opening logo credits is worth the ticket price right there! Good fun.
  • You can pass on The Lego Ninjago Movie entirely, since it has zero to do with the main arc, and is quite a bit more juvenile in tone, characterization, and plot. I’d say it lies within the Lego Universe, but only loosely.
[pullquote position=”right”]Altogether, all you NEED to see is the first Lego movie to understand Lego 2. [/pullquote]You can watch Lego Batman to fill in some extremely minor gaps, or miss it completely and be fine. Lego Ninjago doesn’t fit at all into the main  narrative, so feel free to ignore it entirely.

So, easy peasy. Just watch the first Lego film at the minimum to get ready. Do you agree with our assessment?

Movie Review – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Chris Pratt and the Lego Cast go to Space Camp

The Cast of Voices for The Lego Movie 2 – The Second Part

Lego Movie 2 Holiday Short – Christmas is Awesome

Movie Review – The LEGO Ninjago Movie (the least exciting Lego film for adults)

Quiz – The Lego Ninjago Movie – Fun kid action in the shared Lego movie universe

The Cast of Voices for The Lego Movie 2 – The Second Part

Jason-Momoa-as-Aquaman
Jason Momoa
LEGO2 - Aquaman
Aquaman
Best known for Game of Thrones and Aquaman 
Alison-Brie-as-Unikitty
Alison Brie
Alison-Brie-as-Ultrakatty
Unikitty
Best known as Unikitty in 2 the Lego movies and is the voice of Diane in the animated sitcom BoJack Horseman
Chris-Pratt-as-Emmet-Brickowski-and-Rex-Dangervest
Chris Pratt
Chris-Pratt-as-Emmet
Emmet Brickowski
Chris-Pratt-as-Emmet-Brickowski-and-Rex-Dangervest
Chris Pratt
Chris-Pratt-is-also-Rex-Dangervest
Rex Dangervest
Best known and loved for Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World
Stephanie-Beatriz-as-Sweet-Mayhem
Stephanie Beatriz
Stephanie-Beatriz-as-Mayhem
Sweet Mayhem
Known for the voice of Gina in the animated sitcom BoJack Horseman
Gal-Gadot-as-Wonder-Woman
(Not Gal Gadot)
LEGO2 - Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
UPDATE: Gal Godot did NOT voice any of the three wonder woman Legos in the movie. (But anyway, Godot  is best known as DC’s own Wonder Woman and the voice of Shank in the animated movie Ralph Breaks the Internet)
Elizabeth-Banks-as-Wyldstyle
Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth-Banks-as-Lucy
Lucy
Best known for Pitch Perfect and The Hunger Games
Jonah-Hill-as-Green-Lantern
Jonah Hill
LEGO2 - Green Lantern
Green Lantern
  Best known for Moneyball , 21 and 22 Jump Street, and Wolf of Wall Street 
Nick-Offerman-as-Metal-Beard
Nick Offerman
LEGO2 - Metal Beard
Metal Beard
Best known for his role in the sitcom Parks and Recreation
Channing-Tatum-as-Superman
Channing Tatum
LEGO2 - Superman
Superman
Best known for the movie Magic Mike, G.I. Joe: Retaliationand also both 21 and 22 Jump Street
Tiffany-Haddish-as-Queen-Watevra-Wa-Nabi
Tiffany Haddish
Tiffany-Haddish-as-Queen-Whaterva
Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi
Known for Night School and Nobody’s Fool
Charlie-Day-as-Benny
Charlie Day
LEGO2 - Benny
Benny
Best known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Will-Arnett-as-Batman
Will Arnett
Will-Arnett-as-Batman
Batman
Best known for Arrested Development, and is the voice for the title character BoJack Horseman

Everything is Awesome – Video and Lyrics to The Lego Movie Theme Song

Movie Review – The LEGO Movie

Movie Review – The LEGO Batman Movie – One of the BEST Batman films, ever

Movie Review – The LEGO Ninjago Movie (the least exciting Lego film for adults)

Happy Death Day – Every “Day” We Watch, and Rewatch (Spoilers)

happy death day 2 U is a horror sequel
Live to die another day. Wait, isn’t that also from a James Bond film?

In the movie Happy Death Day, Tree is murdered on her birthday.  Instead of dying, she wakes up and has to relive the day all over again.  Tree relives the same day (and gets murdered) seventeen times. (We only see eleven of the murders because a montage is used to compress time.  We only get bits and pieces of those days.)

Here is a summary of all seventeen days and eleven murders (okay, technically one’s a suicide):

 

Tree wakes up hungover in Carter’s dorm room.  

 

During the walk of shame back to her sorority house, Tree is confronted by creepy stalker Tim.

 

When Tree gets to her room, she changes clothes and grabs her book for the class she’s running late for.  Her roommate Lori gives her a cupcake with a birthday candle in it.  Tree blows out the candle and trashes the cupcake.  “Too many carbs.”  

 

After class, Tree goes to the hospital to see the doctor she’s having an affair with.  She runs into Lori who is working a double shift as a nurse and who tries to warn her about the consequences of her actions. 

 

At the sorority meeting at lunch, Danielle and Tree embarass Becky for bringing a huge tray of food.  Carter accidentally bumps into Becky, sloshing chocolate milk all over Tree.  He further embarrasses Tree by giving her back her bracelet, confirming he’s the boy she “slept with” last night.  

 

Tree and Gregory (the sexy doctor) are almost caught when his wife makes a surprise visit to his office. 

 

That night, Tree watches TV and paints her toes while Danielle quizzes here on when she’s coming to the party.  

 

On her way to the party, Tree gets distracted by a birthday music box.  It’s a trap set by a killer wearing the school mascot mask (a creepy baby) who chases her and stabs her. 

 

Tree wakes up and is confused to be in Carter’s room again.  She does the walk of shame again.  When Tim pops out this time, she asks him what day it is.  

 

Tree leaves Lori’s cupcake on the dresser this time, the breeze from the closing door blowing the candle out. 

 

At lunch, Tree is too lost in thought to pile on Becky.  She is distracted by the spooky mascot masks for sale nearby.  Catching on that everything is repeating, Tree tries to warn Becky to look out but it’s too late.  Tree ends up covered in chocolate milk again.  This time, Carter forgets he has the bracelet and Tree has to prompt him to give it to her. 

 

At the hospital, Tree locks the door to Gregory’s office.  She tries to tell him what’s happening to her.  He starts kissing her instead.  And his wife interrupts on cue.  “Thank God you locked the door,” Gregory says.

 

That night, Tree avoids the music box and takes another path.  When she gets to the frat house, the party is a surprise party for her.  She goes to Nick’s room where he plays loud music in a dumb frat boy attempt at seduction.  While Tree’s distracted on her phone, the killer kills Nick behind her.  After a struggle with the killer, Tree is stabbed with a bong shard.  

 

Tree wakes up screaming.  She does a run of shame.  She confesses to Lori she thinks she’s going crazy.  She has already lived through this day twice.  And someone is going to kill her.  Lori convinces her to skip class and relax.  

 

That night, Tree barricades the windows and the door to her room.  Danielle’s conversation with her is from the other side of the door this time instead of face to face.  

 

Tree looks for the TV remote and finds a creepy birthday card instead.  When she looks up the TV is off.  She turns it back on.  It turns off again.  The killer sneaks up on her and stabs her.  

 

Tree wakes up screaming again.  She runs out the door.  The world is a confusing blur.  Carter comes out to give her the things she left behind, she clings to him for dear life.  

 

Tree tells Carter what’s happening.  He tells her to make a list of suspects and use her unlimited number of lives to narrow them down.  

 

This leads to a montage.

 

Tree stalks Tim for a change.  She stands outside his window and sees him watching gay porn.  Then she gets stabbed by the killer.

 

Tree wakes up and throws her phone in the trash can.  

 

Tree experiments with some pink highlights.  

 

Tree spies on Gregory’s wife from a fountain with a pair of night vision goggles.  

The killer drowns Tree in the fountain.   

 

Tree wakes up and spits out water.  

 

Tree finds the incriminating birthday card from day 3 in Danielle’s things when a passerby knocks her books out of her hands.  Tree grabs Danielle’s hair and starts a catfight.  The two girls end up in the street and a bus runs them over Final Destination style.   

 

Tree wakes up screaming.  

  

Tree does the walk of shame shameless and naked.  

 

Tree accidentally hits Becky with a bat instead of the killer.  The killer hits Tree with the bat when she leans down to check on Becky.

 

Tree wakes up in a lot of pain and has trouble standing.  She passes out before she can get out the door this time.  

 

At the hospital, Gregory tells her she should be dead from the amount of injury she’s sustained.  

 

Tree steals Gregory’s car keys, outruns the killer in the garage, and drives away.  Until she’s stopped by the police for speeding.  Thinking she’ll be safe in jail, she tells the cop she’s drunk and high so he’ll lock her up.  When she’s cuffed and trapped in the back of the cruiser, another car speeds past, killing the policeman.  Guess who’s driving?  The cop car is leaking gasoline.  The killer drops a single candle to set off an explosion.  

 

Tree takes an entire bottle of Tylenol. 

 

Carter follows her on the walk of shame and she does the Groundhog Day thing where she calls everything right before it happens.  

 

A news story about a murderer named Tombs comes on the TV while Carter and Tree are at a restaurant.  He’s at the same hospital where Gregory works.  

 

Tree rushes to the hospital.  Tombs has already killed the security guard and has a gun.  Tombs ends up cornering Tree and has her at point blank range.  Until Carter tackles him.  Tombs breaks Carter’s neck then chases Tree.  She has a chance to kill him, but then Carter will be dead forever.  So she hangs herself and resets the day one last time.  

 

Redemption Day

Tree greets Carter with a big hug. 

She borrows his pillow to cushion the fall of the frat boy who passes out from hazing every morning. 

She finally signs the petition to stop global warming.  

She tells Tim it’s okay to be gay. 

She waves back to the girl in front of the sorority house.  

She apologizes to Lori for not being a good roommate. 

She dumps Gregory. 

She brings a huge tray of food to lunch too.  And pours chocolate milk on Danielle for being a bully.  

She kisses Carter and asks him out.  

She has lunch with her father who she has stood up for the entire movie. 

 

That night at the hospital, Tree holds a knife to the throat of the guard outside Tomb’s room in order to take his gun.  

 

“This is a really bad idea,” he tells her.

 

” So is dying for the sixteenth time.”

 

Tree shoots Tombs.  

 

Then she finally eats Lori’s cupcake with Carter.  

 

Tree is distraught to find herself stuck in the same day again. 

 

Tree starts packing her things.  She’s going as far away as possible.  When Lori offers her the cupcake, Tree realizes it’s poisoned.  She died in her sleep.  Lori had access to Tombs and he was the perfect scapegoat.  Lori reveals she’s been killing Tree out of jealousy over Gregory.  

 

Tree forces the cupcake in Lori’s mouth and pushes her out the window. 

 

Carter fakes Tree out and makes her think it’s the same day again.  

 

It is Tuesday the 19th.  She made it!

 

Happy Death Day is one of my favorite recent horror films.  It’s a movie that has a lot of fun with its concept. And it rewards repeat viewings.  The scenes with Lori are a lot of fun when you know what’s going on beneath the surface.  Happy Death Day 2 U will be wicked fun with the whole cast vulnerable this time, not just Tree.  Remember to check this blog for a movie review when it comes out. And use the RunPee app to get Peetimes! 

Happy Death Day – All the Clues to the Killer (SPOILERS)

Movie Review – Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day – All the Clues to the Killer (SPOILERS)

happy death day 2 U is a horror sequel
Who’s the masked killer? I don’t care — just stop wearing that hideous thing…

On first viewing, the twist in Happy Death Day seems to come from nowhere.  But the filmmakers have played fair all along.  If you watch it a second time, all the clues are there for an observant audience member to piece together what’s happening.

(I’ve said it in the the title and this should be clear by now, but be aware this article contains spoilers for Happy Death Day 1.)

1.  The Killer:  There are two big moments in the movie that hint at who the killer is. 

 

On day 4, Carter tries to help Tree narrow down the list of suspects.  He asks her who knows it’s her birthday.  Thinking of the surprise party later that night, she says the whole campus.  But the only person who’s made a big deal about her birthday is Lori. 

 

Later, the killer uses a candle (or is it the whole cupcake?) to light the fire that blows up the cop car Tree is trapped in.  The only person we’ve seen in the entire movie with a birthday candle is Lori. There wasn’t even cake at Tree’s party.

2. The Motive

Lori tries to warn Tree away from Gregory when she visits him the first time.  She tells Tree her affair with the married doctor is bound to have “some pretty serious consequences.” 

 

At the surprise party, Danielle tells Tree Lori’s “boning” some mystery guy. 

 

Later, when Tree apologizes to Lori for being a bad roommate, she says she wants to hear about Lori’s mystery guy. 

 

All of Lori’s scenes are either in the dorm room or at the hospital.  And the only hot guy at the hospital is Gregory.

 

Lori’s affair with Gregory is all but spelled out.  The filmmakers make sure to bring up the “mystery guy” the second time because it’s close to the end.  That way we’ll make the connection when Gregory’s named is dropped at the climax. 

3. The Weapon

So it was Lori in the dorm room with the cupcake all along!  (And my money was on Colonel Mustard in the study with the lead pipe.  Drats!) 

 

Tree throws the cupcake away on day 1, sets it aside on day 2 without even blowing the candle out, and unwraps it on day 3 but sets it down to look for the remote.  (In a deleted scene, she drops it when she gets startled during the blackout before she has a chance to eat it.)  It’s only on Tree’s next-to-last day in that Sixteen Candles tribute scene that she finally eats the poisoned cupcake.  Who doesn’t eat a cupcake the moment it’s presented to them? A careful observer would catch on that something suspect is going on with the cupcake.

 

Happy Death Day is one of my favorite recent horror films and I love analyzing it and seeing how they put it together with a horror spin on the Groundhogs Day theme.  Stay tuned to this blog for a review of Happy Death Day 2 U, coming out on Valentine’s Day this year.  Remember to get the Peetimes for it from the RunPee app!

Movie Review – Happy Death Day

18 Groundhog Day Type Movies – the Ultimate Repeating Day List

Movie Review – Happy Death Day – Very Fun, Almost Cute Horror Film

Movie Review - Happy Death DayI was really surprised with this movie. I thought it was going to be totally predictable and played out. They surprised me; it was really good. I loved how the same day would start over and over again. You’d think that it would get boring, but the way they kept switching things up kept you on the edge of your seat. I thought twice that I had figured out who the killer was, but they kept spinning a great story, and I was wrong both times. The ending was a surprise and really fun to watch. There was an underlying message to the movie; it wasn’t just a slasher flick. This would make a great date night movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Two Peetimes were submitted for this movie. Both work equally well, but I’ll warn you, after the second Peetime you shouldn’t leave your seat. 

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Happy Death Day. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

18 Groundhog Day Type Movies – the Ultimate Repeating Day List

Happy Death Day – Every “Day” We Watch, and Rewatch (Spoilers)

Happy Death Day – Every “Day” We Watch, and Rewatch (Spoilers)

Quotes Quiz – Movies with Groundhogs Day Themes