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'The Hobbit' movies wrap filming


Peter Jackson just made it Facebook official. After 266 days of shooting, the director of the two upcoming Hobbit films announced the end of principal photography with a photo on his Facebook.

“Thanks to our fantastic cast and crew for getting us this far, and to all of you for your support!” Jackson wrote. “Next stop, the cutting room. Oh, and Comic Con!”

We interviewed Jackson, along with Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf), for this week’s cover story about the upcoming movies, which expand the world of the original 1937 book by drawing from the lore of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s other works.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theaters Dec. 14. The second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again is slated for a Dec. 13 release in 2013. It has been nearly a decade since the last of the Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings trilogy films, The Return of the King, was released.

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'2001: A Space Odyssey' tech pioneer on 'Hobbit' footage: 'A fabulous and brave step in the right direction'

Douglas Trumbull knows a little bit about movie visual effects. In his mid-20s, he worked with Stanley Kubrick to create the look and feel of the final frontier in 2001: A Space Odyssey. He later helped craft the effects for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the gorgeous futuristic visuals of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Last year, after nearly 30 years away from the Hollywood business, he collaborated with Terrence Malick for the symphonic visuals in The Tree of Life.

Trumbull has always been an innovator. For decades, he’s been tinkering with technology to enhance the audience experience, and he knows all about the recent hubbub over frame-rate after Peter Jackson unveiled the first extended footage of The Hobbit — An Unexpected Journey last week at CinemaCon. Jackson is shooting his Lord of the Ring prequels at 48 frames per second, twice the industry standard since the advent of talkies. But when audiences expressed skepticism about the new viewing platform — complaining of a glossy “TV soap opera” effect — one of Hollywood’s surest things suddenly found its Oscar-winning director asking for some faith and patience.

Trumbull must be chuckling a little to himself. Back in the early 1980s, he developed the Showscan system that filmed movies at 60 frames per second. Imagine if the CinemaCon crowd knew he was now plotting his own movie — a giant 3-D space epic shot digitally at 120 frames per second! The Oscar winning effects guru recently chatted with EW about his friend Peter Jackson’s ambitious movie, his own filmmaking, and the future of movies.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been wrangling with these frame-rate debates for decades. Why did you initially look in this direction and what did you learn?
I got hooked on immersive cinema when I worked on 2001, which was initially shown on these Cinerama screens, which were all 90 feet wide and deeply curved. It was a spectacle that we don’t see today at all, even in IMAX. I was just an impressionable kid, and Kubrick was doing these lengthy sequences of pure visual effects — they called it the ultimate trip because it abandoned conventional cinematic wisdom in favor of a pure experience. That profoundly effected me, and I’m saying, “Holy sh–, this is so cool. I want to make movies like this, and I want to explore this cinematic language.” READ FULL STORY

Peter Jackson responds to complaints about 'The Hobbit' footage -- EXCLUSIVE

Peter Jackson says the negative reaction this week over new technology he’s using to shoot The Hobbit won’t hold him back, and he hopes moviegoers will give it a try and judge for themselves.

“Nobody is going to stop,” he said. “This technology is going to keep evolving.”

When Warner Bros. showed off 10 minutes of footage this week at CinemaCon, the annual convention for theater owners, many attendees complained that this version of Middle Earth looked more like a movie set than the atmospheric, textured world seen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

There was a lot of love for Jackson’s storytelling — the scenes of young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, from the British version of The Office) battling a trio of goblins, and Ian McKellen’s Gandalf exploring the tombs of the now-reanimated wringwraiths, received universal praise. Complaints only centered on the technology used to capture and project the footage.

Jackson hopes critics of the format will change their minds when they see the finished film, but notes that it will also be available in traditional formats in many theaters.

“At first it’s unusual because you’ve never seen a movie like this before. It’s literally a new experience, but you know, that doesn’t last the entire experience of the film–not by any stretch, [just] 10 minutes or so,” Jackson tells EW. “That’s a different experience than if you see a fast-cutting montage at a technical presentation.”

So what does he say to people who just decide they don’t like the glossy new look of the format he’s using?


CinemaCon 2012: Dim reaction to high-def look of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit'

Based on the deflated reaction to 10 minutes of footage shown today from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson’s state-of-the-art high-definition epic may or may not forever change the way we view movies, but it will definitely revolutionize the way we talk about that strange, hard-to-describe fluorescent look HD video can sometimes have.

There are two ways to look at the clips featured at the annual gathering of theater owners: As storytelling, the first half of Jackson’s two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is perfectly in sync with the tone and quality of his groundbreaking The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But as a platform for new cinematic technology, the clips received an underwhelming reaction at best. Read on for more details after the jump.


Dispatches from 'The Hobbit': How much meat does a Hobbit eat? -- VIDEO

That’s just one of the insider tidbits revealed in the latest production video released by Peter Jackson from the set of The Hobbit: There and Back Again. The 12-minute spot, filmed last fall across New Zealand, is a geek’s fantasy come true of mystical creatures aplenty and stunning landscape porn. There’s also inside scoop from Bilbo Baggins himself (Martin Freeman), Andy “Gollum” Serkis (who pulled double duty as the film’s second unit assistant director), and a deliciously pink-shirted Sir Ian McKellen, to name a few. If that’s not tantalizing enough, you can even see a dwarf take his first-ever helicopter ride! Click through for the full video. READ FULL STORY

'West of Memphis' picked up by Sony Pictures Classics


West of Memphis, director Amy Berg’s chronicle of the effort to exonerate the West Memphis Three, was acquired today by Sony Pictures Classics in a deal for the global distribution rights.

Produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, the film focuses a great deal on Lorri Davis, the wife of Damien Echols, who was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of three young boys in Arkansas, and was released last year after 19 years in jail, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. (who were serving life sentences for the crime). “We are excited and quite frankly overwhelmed at the chance to tell our own story,” Davis and Echols, who are also producers of West of Memphis, said in a statement about the acquisition. “Working with Fran, Peter and Amy has been the most powerful and fulfilling of experiences for us. We see this film as a source of inspiration, and it carries our heart and soul with it.”

The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival to strong reviews, including EW’s Owen Gleiberman, who said the film “casts a hypnotic dark spell.”

No release date has been set yet.

Read more:
Peter Jackson, Damien Echols, and Amy Berg on ‘West of Memphis’ — VIDEO
Sundance review: Even if you’ve seen all three ‘Paradise Lost’ films, ‘West of Memphis’ casts its own dark spell
Peter Jackson talks about his innocence project: ‘West of Memphis’

Peter Jackson going straight from directing 'The Hobbit' to 'Tintin 2'

Look alive, Tintin lovers! You won’t have too long(ish) of a wait for the The Adventures of Tintin 2. Peter Jackson’s Tintin co-producer Steven Spielberg tells Total Film that Jackson will not take a break between the two Hobbit films — which are being produced simultaneously — and the as-yet-untitled sequel. “We made a deal,” said Spielberg. “I said, ‘I’ll direct the first one, you direct the second one.’ Peter, of course, is going to do it right after he finishes photography on The Hobbit. He’ll go right into the…performance capture.”  READ FULL STORY

Sundance: Peter Jackson, Damien Echols on 'West of Memphis,' and visiting 'The Hobbit' set -- VIDEO

One of the most high-profile debuts at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival has to be director Amy Berg and producer Peter Jackson’s documentary West of Memphis. Largely a chronicle of the effort, bankrolled by Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, to exonerate the West Memphis Three — a.k.a. Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols — the doc is already winning critical praise and media attention for the new witnesses Berg only just interviewed on camera last week.

I talked with Jackson and Berg about that dramatic development when they stopped by EW’s Sundance studio with two of the film’s central subjects (and producers): Damien Echols and Lorri Davis. Echols was released from death row just last year after 18 years in prison, in large part thanks to the steadfast dedication of Davis, who met and married Echols after he was in prison. It was easy to see in our interview that the glamour of Sundance has been a bit of a shock for them, but I loved hearing about their two-month trip to New Zealand to visit Jackson and Walsh on the set of The Hobbit. Check out our interview below:  READ FULL STORY

Peter Jackson talks about his innocence project: 'West of Memphis'

In 1993, three 8-year-old boys were murdered in West Memphis, Ark. It was a horrifying, sensational crime. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. — who’d become known as the West Memphis Three — were painted by prosecutors as devil-worshipping metalheads and convicted. Echols, then 18, was sentenced to death, while Baldwin, 16, and Misskelley, 17, got life sentences. The trial struck many as a sham, and an HBO documentary about the case, 1996’s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, outraged and inspired celebrity supporters such as Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Johnny Depp, and Lord of the Rings director Peter ­Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh. (Two more Paradise Lost films have since been made; the third just aired on HBO.) In 2004, Jackson and Walsh quietly began financing investigations to get the men released. Then, last August, after 18 years in prison, Echols, ­Baldwin, and Misskelley were finally freed — but not exonerated. In exchange for their freedom, they agreed to an “Alford plea.” The upshot is that they can tell the world that they’re innocent, but the state can tell the world that they’re guilty — and never get sued for wrongful imprisonment.

Now Jackson and Walsh have ­produced West of Memphis, a new ­documentary directed by Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) that will premiere at Sundance on Jan. 20. (The film does not yet have a distributor.) EW spoke with Jackson, Walsh, Berg, and Echols and his wife, Lorri Davis.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Damien, what did you think of West of Memphis?
Damien Echols: I loved it, which kind of amazed me. After you deal with anything long enough, it sort of — I don’t want to say it loses the edge — but you just reach a point where you have to let it go or it’s just going to eat you alive inside. READ FULL STORY

'West of Memphis' trailer: Peter Jackson's doc about the West Memphis Three -- EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK

A freight train’s whistle sounds. Then a voice. “Nothing ever happens in West Memphis, Arkansas.” If only that were true.

For the past seven years, director Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh have quietly financed investigations to help free Jason Baldwin, Jesse Misskelley Jr., and Damien Echols — a.k.a. the West Memphis Three — who were convicted in 1994 of murdering three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark. On Jan. 20, West of Memphis, the documentary Jackson and Walsh produced about their findings, will premiere at Sundance. Until then, Jackson has provided EW with an exclusive first look at the film’s trailer.

Back in August, Baldwin, Misskelley, and Echols were released after 18 years in prison, marking the culmination of a long campaign that began with the 1996 HBO doc Paradise Lost: The Child Killings at Robin Hood Hills. Now, Jackson and Walsh’s film (which was directed by Amy Berg and whose poster was exclusively revealed here yesterday) shows why they never should have been arrested in the first place. Says Echols, who is also a producer on the film, “When Peter and Fran came onto this case, that was the first time that I had the feeling of, ‘Okay, something is finally being done. Finally someone is looking out for me. Someone is trying to move this mountain.'” READ FULL STORY

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