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Tuesday - May 1, 2001
- Private Screening Review - The Mummy Returns
- Radio Disney - "No Shrek Ads!"
- Digital Media FX Newsletter Tonight
- News Link of the Day - Virtual Actors Not Just a Fantasy

The Mummy ReturnsPrivate Screening Review - The Mummy Returns (Editorial)
(by Joe Tracy - Last night I had the opportunity to attend a private screening of The Mummy Returns with my wife (Vicki) and 98 other people. The event was sponsored by Kids Cancer Connection, which auctioned off tickets on eBay for people to be able to see the screening, mingle with the stars of the movie - "including The Rock" - get autographs, free refreshments, and experience other surprises. The event was to begin at 6:45PM PST in the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Having won a pair of tickets, Vicki and I looked forward to this event with great anticipation. We arrived at 5:45PM and waited in the long line that was already forming outside the Universal Studios Backlot Security Gate. We weren't allowed in until nearly 7:30PM due to a film still being edited in the Alfred Hitchock Theater (where we were to see The Mummy Returns). When we entered the theater, one by one, we were thrust in front of the stars, had our picture quickly taken, then told to immediately enter the theater without getting refreshments. We decided to sit in the very front row and could already hear the disappointed murmurs from people who were talking about how they were herded past the stars like cattle.

Oded Fehr (who plays Ardeth Bay in The Mummy Returns) was the Master of Ceremonies for the event (in which he did an excellent job). He introduced the stars who each came forward and joked with each other and the audience. Being in the front row gave us the opportunity to get some great pictures (click here for set one and here for set two).

The real treat came when Oded Fehr introduced John Berton of Industrial Light and Magic. Berton is the visual effects supervisor for The Mummy Returns. Berton talked about the behind the scenes process and even showed video clips of ILM's FX process for The Mummy Returns (feature on this process forthcoming by Digital Media FX).

After Berton's presentation, the movie began.

The Mummy Returns Mini Review (may contain a few minor spoilers)
If you enjoyed The Mummy and its unique brand of movie humor, you will enjoy The Mummy Returns, which features two evil forces more interested in "fighting" each other than destroying the world. The movie attempts to do things on a grander scale, but unfortunately comes up a little short (even though it doesn't disappoint).

The Mummy Returns opens well in the past, giving the audience the history on The Scorpion King (portrayed by The Rock). After the audience is caught up to date on the history of this villain, it fast-forwards to the movie's modern times, tracking the adventure of Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser who was at the screening), his wife Evie (they've married since the first film), and their son Alex. While some of the villain characters are busy resurrecting the original villain (Im-Ho-Tep), the heroic trio manages to accidentally give The Scorpion King a new beginning.

Audiences will be a bit surprised at the lack of screen time by The Scorpion King. You will only see the character (or a version of the character) at the very beginning of the movie and the very end. He doesn't play as prominent a role in the movie as the marketing suggests.

There is one consistent problem with The Mummy Returns that was not a problem, to the same degree, with The Mummy. The Mummy Returns mimics so many other movies that it keeps pulling you out of the story. Just A FEW of the movies it mimics scenes from are E.T., Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The scenes are so blatantly obvious that it keeps pulling you out of the movie causing you to think of another movie instead of the character's current predicament. This removes a lot of the originality and enjoyment of the film and becomes one of the film's only major stumbling blocks.

The FX in The Mummy Returns are well done. You wouldn't expect anything less from Industrial Light & Magic. From tens of thousands of Anubis warriors charging about a hundred human defenders to pygmy mummies acting as raptors in a jungle, the effects are one of the main reasons to view the film. The FX could have really shined had there actually been a major battle between the two forces of evil (the Anubis and the Mummies).

The Mummy Returns is definitely an FX film with many funny moments (if The Mummy kind of movie humor is your cup of tea). As long as you don't enter the film with massive expectations, you are likely not to be disappointed. It is definitely entertaining.

Back to the Private Screening
After the credits had concluded, none of the stars of the movie, except one, were anywhere to be found. The only star that stayed afterwards was Oded Fehr, who was very gracious to sign autographs, allow pictures to be taken with him, shake hands, etc. As Vicki and I exited the screening, we passed by several people who were planning on demanding a refund. Everyone had been told to bring items for the stars to sign and none of the stars, except one, stayed at the end to sign material. People were herded through quickly at the beginning of the event, not even allowed to grab the free popcorn and soda before entering the theater. In addition, the event started 45 minutes late. As one person wrote in an email to other attendees:

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I am extremely upset with what happened tonight. What I went to was not what I thought it was; what I went to was not what I bid on and what I went to was not what I had agreed to pay 300 dollars for. I was ASSURED many many times that there would be enough time to meet all of them, get their autographs and takes pictures with them. I had my camera snatched out of my hand, pushed into a group of people, FLASH, handed my camera back and told by a security guard that I had to enter and take my seat NOW. It went by sooo fast I couldn't tell you who was in the picture with me or anything like that."

I would like to make a couple of observations on these points. First, Kids Cancer Connection should do something to help make up for the numerous problems surrounding the screening (particularly about the promises of getting autographs and meeting the stars).

Second, I don't think anyone should ask for a refund. It is important to remember that the benefits of this screening went to a very important cause - to help families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. This is worth donating to even if there wasn't a screening. The people that work for Kids Cancer Connection are very pleasant and were the reason that such a screening was possible. I believe that meeting halfway (where those who attended are sent autographed posters or something similar) would be the best outcome.

Vicki and I wish to thank Kids Cancer Connection for making this event possible and Oded Fehr for his excellent interactivity with those in attendance.

The Mummy Returns roars in theaters nationally this Friday.

Note of Interest: The Rock was suppose to be at the private screening, but couldn't make it due to extended filming of his big 2002 movie, The Scorpion King, which is an spin-off of The Mummy Returns. Look for it in theaters next Memorial Day.

The Mummy: The Mummy was the 8th biggest hit of 1999 and number 31 on the list of all-time box office champs, having grossed more than $404 million worldwide. It was also the top-selling live home video action title of 1999, debuting at the top of the Billboard sales charts, where it held the number one spot for three consecutive weeks. In addition, The Mummy was the second best-selling DVD title of 1999, shipping more than one million units.

Click here to see the first set of pictures from the private screening!

Click here to see the first set of pictures from the private screening!

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Radio Disney - "No Shrek Ads!"
(by According to Inside Magazine, Radio Disney affiliates have been told not to accept any ads for DreamWorks new animated film, Shrek. According to Inside, a newsletter sent to all affiliates stated the following:

"'Due to recent initiatives with the Walt Disney Company, we are being asked not to align ourselves promotionally with this new release [Shrek]. Stations may accept spot dollars only in individual markets. Please call your affiliate relations manager, should you have any questions."

Affiliates that already had contracts to air Shrek ads canceled those contracts, according to Inside Magazine.

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Digital Media FX Newsletter Tonight
(by Tonight a new edition of the free Digital Media FX newsletter will be emailed to those who are subscribed. The Digital Media FX newsletter, which is delivered on the first and 15th of every month, contains additional animation/fx news and sneak previews of new features and columns. Click here to subscribe.

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News Link of the Day - Virtual Actors Not Just a Fantasy

According to The Irish Times:

"The Screen Actors' Guild, the US union to which most film stars belong, is poised to go on strike in June. But one summer release may be pioneering the way to make future thespian walkouts an irrelevance. Final Fantasy, due to reach European screens in August, uses state-of-the-art virtual actors - sometimes known as vactors or synthespians..."

Click here for the full story.

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