Scanner Widens, Monster Sneaks

Though few major releases dare take on Disney’s mega blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the animated choices for your weekend entertainment have expanded with a wider opening for Warner Independent’s A Scanner Darkly and some sneak peak screenings of Sony Pictures’ Monster House. Scanner, which opened on 17 screens last week, jumps to 216 theaters today, while Monster previews in 712 theaters across North America on Saturday.

Director Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is based on the novel by famed science-fiction author Phillip K. Dick, who wrote the source material for the hit films Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. The film takes place seven years in the future as a new designer drug sweeps the nation and causes an epidemic of addiction, even among the enforcement officers tasked with controlling it. Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane, the movie was originally shot live-action on digital video and then painted over with an interpolated rotoscoping software dubbed RotoShop.

Similarly, Monster House was created with Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Performance Capture technology, a form of motion-capture that takes actors’ performances and translates them to animation. Directed by UCLA Spotlight Award-winner Gil Kenan, the movie tells the story of three kids who venture across the street to a mysterious house that they believe to be alive. The youngsters are voiced by newcomers Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Mitchel Musso, who are joined in the cast by Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner and Fred Willard. Produced by Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Jack Rapke and Steven Spielberg, Monster House will officially open on July 21, rolling out simultaneously in conventional 2D presentation and IMAX 3D.

Also opening in wide release today are Universal’s Owen Wilson/Matt Dillon comedy You, Me and Dupree, and Sony/Revolution’s Little Man. The latest laffer from the Wayans Bros., Little Man hinges on a visual effect that transforms Marlon Wayans into a vertically challenged criminal mastermind who eludes capture by posing as a small child. The film’s vfx work was completed by MPC, Cinesite, Hydraulx, Pixel Magic and Baseblack.