Universal’s “Battleship” out on Blu-ray with extended Special Edition interactivity

Universal Studios’ early summer action blockbuster “Battleship” hit Blu-ray on August 28th, and critic and fans alike are well in for a treat. Director Peter Berg, of “Hancock” and “The Kingdom” fame, helms this action–adventure experience with industry-standard mind blowing effects, thrilling battles and an all star cast with Liam Neeson, Rihanna and the lovely Brooklyn Decker as Samantha Shane. This action epic follows a young naval officer and his heroic crew as they launch an all out military showdown against a superior alien force with amazing results.

Bullz-Eye was recently invited to an exclusive Blu-ray preview in San Francisco at the legendary special effects studio that makes it all happen in this film, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Founded by George Lucas in 1975, ILM has set the standard for visual effects in film with a chain of classics including “Star Wars,” “E.T.,” “Indiana Jones” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” to name just a few. ILM has played a key role in seven of the top-10 world-wide box office hits of all time.

Upon arriving at the impressive ILM production campus on the former grounds of the U.S. Army Presidio complex near the Golden Gate Bridge, we were escorted to the preview screening of the Blu-ray release of “Battleship.” Here, in arguably the best screening room in the world for special effect films, we watched the film along with the new bonus features exclusive to the Blu-ray release. These included a remarkable “Visual Effects of Battleship” feature, featuring the ground breaking water simulation programs and the cutting edge motion capture effects where ILM pushes the boundaries to bring the aliens to life. The fascinating “behind the scenes” footage here is techie heaven!

Even more unique is the innovative Second Screen feature, which provides an interactive viewing experience that lets you control, interact with and explore “Battleship” with your networked tablet or computer, all in synchronization with the movie on the television screen . . . very cutting edge! With “flick view,” you can interact with the movie by moving content from your tablet to the television screen during the film and compare storyboards, animatics and other exciting content by “flicking” them from tablet to TV screen, by gesturing fingers upward on the tablet. Far out! The “Battleship” box set has more ways to store, collect, download and feature the film, including a Blu-ray disc, a DVD disc, a digital copy for downloading and the innovative UltraViolet version, where you can collect your movies on a “cloud” for instant streaming and downloading anywhere, any time on computers, tablets and smart phones.

After the screening, we were taken through the impressive production compound and grounds with its many iconic models and props of some of the greatest films of our era. You can see some of these props in the slideshow above. Members of the press were then treated to a green screen immersion of ourselves in the climatic “Battleship” deck scene, where an alien gets blown off the ship by main cannons on deck. It was wild! Here’s the clip they created with me in the scene and you can see the green screen setup in the first photo above.

Some of the individuals who brought this action-adventure film to life were members of the top special effect team with ILM. Grady Cofer and Pablo Helman acted as Visual Effects Supervisor and Second Unit Director, respectively. These two skilled craftsman have an amazing wealth of experience behind them, with epic sci-fi and action films to there credit including “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “Star Trek,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Bourne Supremacy,” “Terminator 3,” “Men in Black,” “War of the Worlds,” “Titanic,” “Apollo 13” and more. During our time with them, they both described their personal influences and their approach to this film, as well as thoughtful tips on how budding graphics designers and visual programmers may break into this world of computer visual effects. We also spoke with Animation and Digital Supervisors Glen McIntosh and Willi Geiger. They described their breakthrough animation techniques for the fluid “water” effects, with blasts of water particles expelled onscreen with breathtaking realism.

The extra features in the Blu-ray set are absolutely worthy of a film with these incredible special effects. The Second Screen feature definitely stands out and the entire package will keep you entertained hour after hour.


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The latest “Friday Night Lights” movie update from Peter Berg

Peter Berg came to JEB Little Creek today to introduce the Virginia premiere of “Battleship,” but before doing so, he took a few minutes to chat with the press – including yours truly – about the film. I held my tongue for the duration of the questioning by the other journalists, but when the inevitable “we’ve got time for one more question” announcement was made, I figured it was fair game to ask the one off-topic question I’d come armed with: what’s the status of the “Friday Night Lights” movie.

“We’re getting a script in next week, so if the script comes in well…” Berg hesitated for a moment, then admitted, “The problem with ‘Friday Night Lights’ is when I started it, all the actors were all young up-and-comers. Now they’re all big stars, and I can’t get them to return my phone calls. So if I can find the actors and the script comes in good, then we’re ready to go.”

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the sort of news that means a whole heck of a lot, given that there are a lot of actors in the mix for this thing, meaning that the scheduling is going to be a bitch no matter how you look at it, but it’s just another nugget of information to give us hope that the “Friday Night Lights” story ain’t over yet…


Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to May

I remember a simpler time when May was still considered part of spring, but these days, the studios are so eager to beat the competition to the punch with the first big blockbuster of the season that it’s now widely accepted as the start of summer. That’s all fine and well, but by extending the season by an additional month, it also increases the chance of disappointment, which is looking pretty likely based on the May release schedule, despite the fact that a certain superhero film will be kicking off the festivities.


Who: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson
What: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers in order to save the Earth from Loki and his invading army.
When: May 4th
Why: The idea of an Avengers movie may not sound like much of a gamble today as it did four years ago when Marvel first announced its ambitious master plan, but it’s a risk that certainly seems to have paid off. Anyone that considers themselves a fan of comics or the recent Marvel solo films has undoubtedly placed this movie at the top of their must-see list. After all, the prospect of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of the Avengers sharing the screen is simply too awesome to ignore, and the decision to bring back Loki as the main villain (hands down the most interesting of the Marvel film baddies) only makes things that much more exciting. Sure, Joss Whedon has never taken on a project of this scale before, but as a self-professed geek with a great track record of managing ensemble casts, there’s no one more qualified for the job than him.


Who: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel
What: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel, only to find that it’s less luxurious than its advertisements.
When: May 4th
Why: It’s hard to imagine a better piece of counterprogramming to “The Avengers” than this John Madden dramedy, because although studios have typically put a chick flick up against a surefire blockbuster to lure female moviegoers in the past, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a film that both sexes can enjoy. And the best part is that it actually looks pretty good, although that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the cast includes four of the most respected British actors working today. While the movie could have easily come across as being too schmaltzy in the hands of another director, Madden appears to have struck the right balance between comedy and sentimentality.


Who: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter
What: An imprisoned vampire is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.
When: May 11th
Why: I’ve never seen the late ‘60s TV show that serves as the inspiration for this big screen adaptation, but based solely on the early reaction to the trailer, it’s not exactly what anyone was expecting. Though it may seem strange that director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp, both of whom claim they were massive fans of the gothic drama as kids, would re-imagine it as a comedy, their version seems to be less about damaging the show’s memory and more about embracing its campiness. While they admittedly might have taken it a little too far (cue Alice Cooper cameo), the cast is simply too good for “Dark Shadows” to be a complete disaster. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

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