Tag Archive | "Andy Serkis"

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Oscars’ Greatest Mistakes: Overlooking Performance Capture

Posted on 27 January 2015 by Rich Drees


The Academy Awards are not perfect and every year it seems that the decisions by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in terms of their nominees and winners leave movie fans scratching their heads. As we head towards the Academy Awards ceremony this year, we are going to take a look at just some of the mistakes, oversights, snubs and outright blunders that litter Oscar history.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has always been slow to embrace new innovations. Nineteen thirty-nine, six years after the release of the groundbreaking King Kong, was the first year that the Academy offered an award for special effects. It was also the first year that they instituted separate awards in the Cinematography category to differentiate between color and black and white photography, even though films had been shot on native color film (and not hand-tinted black and white films) for almost three decades.

Three years ago, critics raved about Andy Serkis’s performance as the ape Caesar in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and there was much internet bandwidth burned in speculating that perhaps he could be nominated for an Academy Award for his work. It wasn’t the first time that a performance capture performance was mooted for Oscar consideration, and unsurprisingly, previously it was for Serkis’s work as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films. Since that first time, performance capture has been utilized to provide photo-realistic aliens for James Cameron’s Avatar and a giant ape (Serkis again) for Jackson’s King Kong redo as well as more stylized screen characters for such films as Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin and Robert Zemeckis’s forays into CGI-animated films like The Polar Express and Beowulf.

This year, it’s Rise‘s sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes that has had some critics talking about motion capture performances, specifically Toby Kebbell’s performance as the ape Koba. Prior to his intelligence enhancement, Koba had been severely mistreated by his human handlers, the implication being that he was sadistically experimented on. This point, Kebbell brings home in one of the most powerful scenes in Dawn, when he points to scars on his body and repeats the phrase “Human work.” It is a great moment in the film and one that allows Kebbell to generate sympathy for the character and give us a solid motivation and understanding for his ultimately villainous actions later on. Just with that, the character was made more “human” than most other antagonists seen in cinemas in 2014. And achievement only realized in full thanks to Kebbell’s skill as an actor.

Unfortunately, there seems to be the perception among some Academy members that a performance capture performance is more a product of technology than the human actor involved. And while it is true that computers are used to replace the appearance of the physical actor with the appearance of the character they are portraying, I would state that this is no more of a change in appearance than what a costume or makeup may due for an actor creating a character. Is the work that John Hurt did for The Elephant Man under face-obscuring makeup on a fundamental level that much different from the work Serkis did in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes or Kebbell did in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes? I would say no and yet Hurt has an Academy Award for his work while the likes of Serkis and Kebbell don’t appear to come under consideration for a nomination.

(Tangentially, When Hurt won his Oscar for The Elephant Man, there was no regular category for regular. The resultant outcry from Academy members over the fact that the work done on the film wouldn’t receive any recognition lead the Academy to instate the category the following year.)

On the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes commentary track, director Matt Reeves spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the work of Serkis and the other ape character actors and how those performances are translated into what is seen on the screen. If Academy voting members don’t have the two hours to listen to someone in their profession educating them about the process, maybe than can spend just a few minutes watching a DVD featurette like this one –

Of course, if one considers the CG employed in a performance capture performance role on the same level as makeup and hair or costuming, this opens the door for a possible Award for the CG team that does this work, similar to those handed out for Makeup and Costuming. But with an Awards ceremony that currently runs at 24 categories and over three hours, I don’t see the Academy rushing to add more into what some already consider overly bloated.

The stumbling block for any of this changing, of course, is changing the mindset of the Academy members. Currently, the average age of an Academy member is something like 65, so if anything, this change will probably happen on a more generational level as younger filmmakers of today using the process become the older filmmakers of tomorrow running things at the Academy.

For films being released in this year alone, there have been rumors that the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens will feature motion capture performances, and we know that The Avengers: Age Of Ultron will. Undoubtedly there will be more and more films, growing in number each year, which will feature motion capture work. As this trend continues to grow, the Academy will be forced to seriously consider how it views performance capture and the artists who use to tell stories on the big screen. Perhaps not in next year’s Academy Awards or in the year after that, but at some point in the future we will see this new form of acting getting the recognition and consideration it deserves. And perhaps even some of its pioneers will get special awards commemorating the work they did to create the form.

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New Releases: July 11, 2014

Posted on 10 July 2014 by William Gatevackes

dawn of the planet ofthe apes poster1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Fox, 3,967 Theaters, 130 Minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language): So, after throwing a whole bunch of money at Tim Burton in an attempt to revitalize this franchise, it looks like the third time was the charm. Who would have thought starting before the first film would be a better idea that just remaking it.

This time around, there is no James Franco and Rupert Wyatt, but, then again, the first set of films  didn’t really have all that much star power after Charlton Heston left and it ran for several more films.

This time around, a group of human survivors come across a the ape’s encampment, and what could be a new found peace between the two species turns sour with sabotage on both sides. Will man and ape learn to live together, or does this mean war?

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STAR WARS VII Cast Announced!

Posted on 29 April 2014 by William Gatevackes

STAR WARS VIII Cast Table ReadI had a feeling when it got out that there was a table reading of the Star Wars VII script today, a casting announcement would be far behind. And I was right.

The official Star Wars Facebook page ran a picture from said table reading (which you can see above, click to make bigger) with a list of the players involved:

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Director J.J. Abrams says, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

I was going to give you a run down of the cast and where you might have seen them before, but Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat had already beat me to it. Suffice it to day, it’s the original cast minus Billy Dee Williams, one complete unknown, a bunch of actors who have been receiving buzz from much talked about projects over the past year or so, and Max Von Sydow.

Now the big discussion point will be who will is playing what. Adam Driver was long rumored to be playing a villain in the film, and it’s too bad that the Expanded Universe is no longer in play, because Domhnall Gleeson would be perfect to play Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker’s son Ben.

I’m sure more information will become known before December 2015.

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Andy Serkis To Direct Motion Capture Adaptation Of ANIMAL FARM

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Rich Drees

If anyone has singlehandedly shown the potential that motion capture performances can have, it has been Andy Serkis. First as the tortured Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy and then in Jackson’s King Kong remake and The Adventures Of Tintin and as Caesar in Rupert Wyatt’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, he has provided complex performances underneath the computerized digital “make-up” demonstrating that the process can be more than just a nifty special effects parlor trick.

Serkis is now going to be taking a further step in advancing what can be done with motion capture by stepping behind the camera as it were to direct a motion capture adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm.

The film is set to be the first from Serkis’s Imaginarium, the London-based studio he founded last year for motion capture projects.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Serkis described how the project would incorporate motion capture along with a number of other filmmaking techniques.

I think we found a rather fresh way of looking at it. It is definitely using performance capture, but we are using an amalgamation of filming styles to create the environmments. We are in proof-of-concept stage at the moment, designing characters and experimenting on our stage with the designs.

It is quite a wide canvas as to how much and how far we can take performance capture with quadrupeds and how much we will be using facial [capture]. We are not discounting the use of keyframe animation or puppeteering parts of animals.

Serkis has already racked up some directorial experience while working on The Hobbit when he was in charge of some second unit shooting. Given his own insights into the motion capture process, this is definitely going to be a project to look forward to as time goes on.

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Oscar Nominations: Who Will Make The Cut?

Posted on 23 January 2012 by William Gatevackes

It’s that time of year again. Tomorrow, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 84st Annual Academy Awards.

Every year there are snubs and surprises, thrills and controversies. There is no way of knowing who will be nominated, especially in a year when the Best Picture nominees could be 5 films, or ten films, or any number in between.  We here at FilmBuffOnLine, who believe the day nominations are announced should be a National holiday, are going to try and handicap the process for you.

We will try to tell you, in the most non-committal way possible, who we think are Almost Certain to get a nomination, who Definite May Be nominated, and whose nomination is a Outside Shot in the major categories (the four acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture). We are trying to cover all bases, but don’t come to us if you lose money on your Oscar Nomination pool.

Best Actor:

Almost Certain:

George Clooney, The Descendants; Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Definite Maybe:

Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method or Shame; Leonardo DiCaprio, J Edgar; Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Outside Shot:

Demián Bichir, A Better Life; Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid Love, Drive, or The Ides of March; Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Clooney and Dujardin have won the most hardware this year, which not only make them a lock to be nominated, but also likely one of them will be taking home the award.

Fassbender has been great in a lot of films (listing X-Men: First Class was a bit of a joke, he’ll most likely get the nod for Shame, but I think he gave an Oscar worthy performance in that film) so he is practically a lock for a nomination. The next two are about 50/50 of getting in. The Academy seems to have something against DiCaprio, and his performance as J. Edgar Hoover while not horrible (he got a lot of nods for other awards for it), was not amazing enough to overcome that film’s lackluster performance critically or financially. Brad Pitt eked out a couple of wins along the way (most notably, the New York and Boston critics), and while Moneyball was well received, I don’t see it as 100% Oscar material.

If DiCaprio and Pitt don’t get nominated, there are worthy choices waiting to take a spot. Bichir was great in a small film with a limited release that opened over the summer. These all work against him, but he is deserving of a nod. Gosling, like Fassbender, was great in a lot of films this year, and has been nominated before, but none of the films he was in seem to pass Oscar muster. Oldman was flat out amazing in Tinker Tailor, but his subtle performance might be lost on Oscar voters.

Best Actress

Almost Certain:

Viola Davis, The Help;  Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady; Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin; Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Definite Maybe:

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Outside Shot:

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist; Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene; Charlize Theron, Young Adult

On paper, this seems to be the category that seems to have the least wiggle room. Davis, Streep, Close, Swinton and Williams are all in the type of roles that Oscar voters seem to trip over giving nominations to. But in every round of nominations, there are bound to be surprises, and this category is ripe for one.

Bejo and Olsen have the best chance of breaking in, in my opinion. But Bejo is getting pushed for Best Supporting Actress instead of Lead, even though she essentially had a lead role. Olsen got good notices in her role, but suffers from the same “too early/too small handicap” that Bichir has. Theron has received nods for Best Actress in the Golden Globes (where there are nominations for comedy and drama) and the Critic’ Choice Awards (where there are six nominees). She has an Oscar pedigree, but Young Adult could very well be seen as less than Oscar worthy.

Best Supporting Actor:

Almost Certain:

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn; Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Definite Maybe:

Albert Brooks, Drive; Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Outside Shot:

Nick Nolte, Warrior; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method; Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes or The Adventures of Tintin; Armie Hammer, J Edgar; Tom Hardy, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Plummer has won the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice award Supporting Actor, making him a lock for an  Oscar nomination, if not the actual award. Branagh has been consistently nominated for his apt portrayal of Laurence Olivier, so he could get the nod as well. Slightly less certain but highly possible are nomination of two actors best known for comedy, Brooks and Hill, for playing against type. After that, place your bets. Will Nolte’s “sports mentor” role make the grade? Will Mortensen’s change of pace role as Sigmund Freud catch the Academy’s attention? Will the Academy make a statement and move towards the future by giving Serkis the nod for his superior motion-capture work? Does the Academy like J Edgar more than the critics and the general public do, thereby swing the nod to Hammer? Will Hardy represent Tinker Tailor‘s stellar cast with a nomination? Will it be another cast member? Or will the film be ignored?

Best Supporting Actress

Almost Certain:

Octavia Spencer, The Help; Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Definite Maybe:

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Outside Shot:

Jessica Chastain, The Help or Take Shelter; Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs; Carey Mulligan, Shame; Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

What I said for Christopher Plummer above also applies to Spencer. The only chance Bejo doesn’t get nominated here is if she gets nominated for Best Actress. But that race is crowded so I think she’ll land here. She is deserving.

The only thing keeping me from making McCarthy almost certain is the Academy’s apparent hatred of the comedy. They do not like to give nominations from comedies, no matter how good the role or film is. This time, though, I think they’ll make an exception.

After that, pick two. Chastain and Woodley might have a slight advantage, but McTeer has a good chance and Mulligan could sneak in.

Best Director:

Almost Certain:

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist; Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Definite Maybe:

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris;  Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Outside Shot:

David Fincher, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life; Bennett Miller, Moneyball; Steven Spielberg, War Horse or The Adventures of Tintin; Tate Taylor, The Help

Hazanavicius is definitely most deserving and Scorsese won the Golden Globe, so they should both be nominated. After that, Payne is almost a lock, as is Allen, due to the number of nominations they received. After that, well, ot depends. Fincher got a Directors Guild nomination, Malick has been on a lot of west coast critics awards list, which might be a barometer of how the Academy will go. Miller might ride the surprising accolades Moneyball is getting this award season with a nomination. And months ago, it looked like it wouldn’t be a question if Spielberg would be nominated, but for which film. Now, here he is, a long shot for any nomination at all. Weird. And Taylor has to be consider taking into account the number of great performance that came from that film.

Best Picture:

Almost Certain:

The Artist; The Descendants

Definite Maybe:

Hugo; The Help ; Midnight in Paris

Outside Chance:

The Tree of Life; War Horse; Moneyball; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Adventures of Tintin; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or just about any other film out there that has a miniscule amount of buzz.

Not having a definite number of nominees beforehand really plays havoc with the prognosticating business. I tried to pick out the five most likely films to get nominated, but with the possibility of five more, well, it could be any film of a certain stature.

So, what do you think? Am I on to something, or totally wrong? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

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Landis Skeptical Of Motion Capture Performances As Oscar Eligible

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Rich Drees

Last week, Twentieth Century Fox honcho Tom Rothman stated that he was committed to getting an Academy Award nomination for Andy Serkis’s motion capture performance work in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Rothman noted that part of the push would be to educate Academy voters as to how motion capture works and that what is seen on the screen is the work of an actor and not just some technological trick.

But that education may be a bit of an uphill battle.

Recently, while talking with director John Landis about his new book Monsters Of The Movies*, conversation tangented off to the topic of motion capture performances. Landis stated that he did not believe that an actor can be the driving force behind a motion capture performance.

I don’t think people understand how motion capture works. Andy’s performance is wonderful, but it’s the animators that make it work. It’s not like the actor performs and its fed into a machine and the machine realizes the picture. Look at the credits of any of these movies and you’ll see hundreds of names. It’s extremely labor intensive. And that’s down to the skill of the animators.

As much as I love Andy Serkis, I’ve worked with Andy [on the comedy Burke And Hare] and he’s great. He’s brilliant as Gollum. But it’s the animator that makes that work, it doesn’t matter what the motion capture performance is like if the animation is shitty.

Bob Zemeckis has done a number of these films. But the one with Tom Hanks? The Polar Express? Now I’m sure that Tom’s performance was great, but I thought that it looked like a weird robot in the movie. That just has to do with the skill of the animators.

Now, I have to admit that I have been a big John Landis fan nearly all my life. I’ve met the man at a couple of fan events and he has always been very gracious and nice. I have an autographed picture of him and myself hanging on the wall behind me as I type this. So it pains me a bit to say that I have to say that I disagree with him on this. While the role of the animators is important in the success of a motion capture performance, I’m not sure they are the make-or-break factor he believes them to be any more than a bad costume or shoddy makeup job would be.

And I would imagine that Landis is not alone in his view of how motion capture works. It will be interesting to see how Rothman and company push forward to change that perception.

*And we’ll have that conversation for you later this week.

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20th Century Fox To Push For Oscar Nom For Andy Serkis

Posted on 30 November 2011 by Rich Drees

Twentieth Century Fox Studio chief Tom Rothman once again voiced his intention of giving actor Andy Serkis a push for a Best Supprting Actor Academy Award nomination for hismotion capture performance work in this past summer’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on Monday, the studio exec confirmed what had been reported at the beginning of the month.

I think we may be at the place where we will see a first-ever in Hollywood this year, which is to see Andy Serkis get nominated for a best supporting actor for Planet of the Apes, even though his face never actually appears… But his performance appears, so we are going to push that hard.

Serkis has been at the forefront of the motion capture performance wave. His work as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was noted by fans and critics but ignored by the industry at awards time. A similar fate awaited his work on Jackson’s remake of King Kong when he played the titular giant gorilla.

But Roth man thinks that the Academy is smart enough to recognize that the computer generated image placed over a motion captured performance is no different than an actor’s use of costuming or make-up. They just need a little education.

I think part of what we have to do is help educate people to understand that that is 100 percent his performance. It is great emotional acting. Tom Hanks didn’t have to say any dialogue in Castaway for it to be a great performance… The emotionality – what you see and what you feel – he did it. I saw him. I watched him. Then they digitally overlaid – you can think of it as a costume – the skin and the hair of an ape. But I tell you the thing that people felt – and a lot of people where moved when they saw the movie – is because of his performance.

As we head into the awards season, it should be interesting to see how people react.

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Fox Locks Serkis For APES Sequels, Will Also Push For Oscar Nom

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Rich Drees

Twentieth Century Fox has secured a deal today for actor Andy Serkis’s services should they decide to move forward on any potential sequels on this summer’s hit Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Serkis’s motion capture performance of the chimpanzee Caesar was the lynchpin of the film’s success and it makes sense that the studio would want to ensure that they have him back if they decide to make a follow up film. Although director Rupert Wyatt and screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s deals for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes came with sequel options, Serkis’s contract did not, giving his reps the leverage with which they secured what Deadline has reported as a “healthy seven-figure deal.”

Whether James Franco or Freida Pinto will be back for future installments will depend on how the sequel’s story develops. The film’s ending certainly leaves avenues open that might not necessarily require their participation.

As of now, Fox has not made an official announcement stating that they are definitely developing a sequel though there have been reports that Jaffa and Silver have some ideas as to what direction a sequel might take. But when you couple today’s news with the fact that Rise pulled $453 million worldwide at the box office and is selling well on home video, it is seems like a no-brainer that the studio is going to bring us another chapter in the newly revived franchise.

Deadline is also reporting that Fox will be giving Serkis a major push for an acting Academy Award nomination. And honestly, I think it’s about time that motion capture be recognized not just as some visual effects gimmick but as a legitimate too used for acting, no different than any other actor’s use of makeup or wardrobe to help create a character. Serkis has already assembled a rather impressive body of motion capture just between his work on The Lord Of The Rings and King Kong. Later this year, he’ll adding the role of Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s all motion capture The Adventures Of Tintin to his motion capture resume.

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Reshoots Changed RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES’ Original Ending

Posted on 03 October 2011 by Rich Drees

It’s not unusual for a film to make changes after principal photography has ended that require some cast members to return for more shooting, and this summer’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is no exception. At a panel during the Visual Effects Society Production Summit, Fox’s president of postproduction Ted Gagliano revealed that the film underwent some last-hour reshoots that altered the finale and kept one character from meeting an untimely end.

“We shot for three hours and (Franco) was back on the plane,” Gagliano recalled, adding that this change led to a challenging final weeks of what was originally a 41 week post schedule that involved extensive visual effects work.

Gagliano stated that on July 4 of this summer, just a month before the film’s scheduled release, actors James Franco and Andy Serkis reshot the film’s climactic scene.

Originally, Franco’s biochemist character Will Rodman, who was responsible for artificially accelerating the chimpanzee Caesar’s intelligence, was supposed to die saving Caesar’s life. Since Will was a father figure to Caesar, his death would strike a parallel to the death of Will’s own father (John Lithgow) earlier in the film. (You can read that original scene at The Playlist.)

The producers and director Rupert Wyatt seemingly had a change of heart, however, and the actors were brought back to film the scene that played out in multiplexes this past summer in which Will tries to convince Caesar to come back home with him but Caesar declines indicating the woods he and the other apes from the wild life sanctuary have escaped to are now his home.

This certainly turned out to be a good thing for Franco. The film made over $400 million at the box office, a strong indication that studio Twentieth century Fox will want a sequel.

Of course, thanks to DVD and blu-ray disc, such cut and abandoned scenes are usually made available for the curious and Gagliano indicated that the original ending would probably show up that way at some point. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes doesn’t have an announced release on home video but is available for pre-order here.

Via Hollywood Reporter.

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Posted on 09 September 2011 by Rich Drees

Note: Burke And Hare was released last year in Great Britain and is just seeing a US release this weekendin theaters and OnDemand this weekend. Our review is a repost of our impressions of the film following a screening at a Lincoln Center Film Society event in New York City on March 3 with director John Landis in attendance for a question and answer session afterwards.

When John Landis made his last feature film, the virtually direct to video Susan’s Plan, he was in something of a slump. Many fans were scratching their heads, puzzled as to how the director of Animal House, An American Werewolf In London and The Blues Brothers could have made such disappointments as The Stupids and Blues Brothers 2000. But in the time between then and now, he has made two documentaries and a few television episodes, leaving fans wondering if he would return to making features at any time, and if he did, would we see some of that old Landis magic.

Burke And Hare is that return and there is definitely a hint of the old Landis magic to be found. If he was looking for a film with which to stage a comeback, Landis couldn’t have found much better material than what is here. A dark comedy with a tinge of pathos at the end, Burke And Hare is a tonal echo of American Werewolf. But what does one expect from a tale of two fairly inept murderers?

William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) are two Irishmen who moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to seek their fortune in the early 1800s. However, their fortune seems to be elsewhere as they soon find themselves broke and without prospects. However, when they find out that the city’s many medical colleges have an ongoing need for fresh cadavers for educational dissection, they think they’ve found a way to make a fortune. But after their first “sale,” an old tenant who died of natural causes in the boarding house that Hare’s wife runs, they realize that they’ll have to be a bit more assertive in their procurement of bodies for their client, Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson).

Though based on two historical figures, there’s not much depth to the roles of Burke and Hare, but Pegg and Serkis infuse them with enough life to keep things moving. Jessica Hynes also does some good comedic work with the small bits she is given as Hare’s wife. Isla Fischer does some nice work as the (fictional) love interest of Burke and it is nice to see her in a comedic role where her character isn’t portrayed as a fool. In his role as a rival doctor, Tim Curry not only shows that he has perfected the art of the contemptuous sneer, but also gives great subtle deadpan reactions to every scene he is in. And as always with Landis, you may also want to keep an eye out for cameo appearances from some his director friends.

Landis would be the first to admit that Burke And Hare is not a perfect film. In fact, at the Lincoln Center Film Society screening, he flat out said so during the question and answer session held afterward. He stated that he had some interference during the editing of the film and one of the producers had an objection to the historical accuracy of one character’s fate versus giving everyone a happy ending. Fortunately, Landis didn’t budge on this count.

A couple of scenes feel disjointed and have no real momentum to them. In one sequence, Burke and Hare are rolling a barrel with a body in it through the cobblestone streets of Edinburg. They lose control and have to chase the barrel down a series of hills and alleyways. Individually, there are shots that contain some slapstick humor but the entire bit doesn’t feel as if it flows organically.

And while Burke And Hare isn’t great, vintage Landis, it is still good Landis. It’s a good first step to rehabilitating his cinematic reputation and fairly enjoyable way of passing an hour and a half.

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