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Simon Fraser University

WEEK: October 1-7, 2012

BIG READ: Making of UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

Published February 7, 2012 on Vancouver is Awesome

The return of Kate Beckinsale and her cat suit powered supernatural thriller Underworld Awakening to a weekend North American box office win of $25 million+ for its late January opening but critics blasted the fourth installment of the franchise for its weak storyline. U4 box office halved for its second weekend and then halved again last weekend. I saw the film last week in 3D and enjoyed watching Beckinsale and her stunt double playing kickass-cool vampire Selene and Simon Fraser University as its unmistakable self playing nefarious bio-tech company Antigen.

Vengeance Returns is the Underworld Awakening tagline. Here is a plot synopsis with spoilers: Not long after the events of Underworld Evolution, vampire Selene and her hybrid vampire/Lycan lover Michael Corvin are captured during The Purge, a crusade by humans to rid the world of vampires and Lycans (evolved werewolfs who can shift between wolf and human form). Twelve years later, Selene is freed from cryogenic suspension in Antigen headquarters by her and Corvin’s vampire/Lycan hybrid daughter Eve — a daughter Selene never knew she had with a lover who appears to be dead. Antigen claims to be developing an antidote for the virus that creates vampires and Lycans, but is really run by Lycans who are injecting Eve’s hybrid blood into themselves to create a race of super Lycans, impervious to silver and with enhanced abilities and size.

Unfortunately Scott Speedman declined to return as Selene’s lover Michael Corvin in the fourth film so we only see him in flashbacks or as a blurred figure in Underworld Awakening. New to this Vancouver-shot movie franchise about vampires and werewolves that predates the Twilight craze is human Detective Sebastian played by Michael Ealy of The Good Wife (see photo below).

After a brief recap of the Underworld saga so far, the new film opens with scenes of a genocide of not one but two species — vampires and Lycans — that was filmed mainly downtown. For example, crew set up a security checkpoint with police/SWAT extras on Hamilton Street outside Pappas Furs for filming on May 1st last year. Read More »BIG READ: Making of UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

BIG READ: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING at Simon Fraser University Redux

Published June 9, 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

I first photographed the Underworld vampire/Lycan film franchise at Simon Fraser University in early March when crew transformed Convocation Mall (Convo Mall) into nefarious bio-tech company Antigen with a large grey corporate reception area on the dais and fake Antigen doors at the top of the stairs leading into the Academic Quadrangle. Underworld 4 returned there two months later in early May to rebuild the set and this time filmed franchise star Kate Beckinsale as vampire Selene in her signature black leather/latex skin-tight cat suit, not her stunt double.

While I didn’t get to see any action scenes I did spot Kate Beckinsale in a North Face jacket and her black catsuit on Convo Mall laughing with her grey-suited co-star Michael Ealy (The Good Wife). Ealy plays a police detective hunting Beckinsale’s vampire Selene, who later teams up with her to stop bio-tech company Antigen from “creating super Lycans that will kill them all”. The two leads took turns sitting for on-camera interviews on a south walkway above the mall and Ealy is said to have given the camera crew a set tour of Antigen headquarters later that Sunday afternoon. As @ParrotGirl put it on Twitter: ” SFU probably hasn’t been this popular since X-Files.”

The fourth film in the Underworld franchise wrapped last week in Vancouver after almost three months of shooting here. Swedish director duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein must like concrete slabs because locations ranged from the iconic concrete architecture of Simon Fraser University to scenes below the concrete Georgia Viaduct and many days of filming inside the Coal Harbour Community Centre’s concrete parking lot. So much so that when I heard Underworld 4 crew had been spotted Read More »BIG READ: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING at Simon Fraser University Redux

BIG READ: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING at Simon Fraser University

Published March 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

I am happy to confirm the Kate Beckinsale catsuit is back and in 3D for the fourth film in the Underworld series. I didn’t get to see Kate Beckinsale in it but her Selene stunt double wore it when she jumped off the top floor of the Simon Fraser University Library last Friday night onto a moving truck — twice.

Underworld Awakening marks a return to the story of vampire Selene who, according to a leaked plot synopsis, finds out she has a teenage “vampire/Lycan hybrid daughter” and together they must stop bio-tech company Antigen from “creating super Lycans that will kill them all”. For those who missed the earlier Selene films and the gory Underworld: Return of the Lycans, a Lycan is an evolved werewolf who can shift between wolf and human form. In other words, Underworld is a movie franchise about vampires and werewolves that predates the Twilight craze and films partly in Vancouver.

Students at Simon Fraser University spotted WORLD production signs late last week. One fortunate enough to be enrolled in a librarian program there had a prime seat to watch an Underworld 4 stunt woman do some camera test jumps off the library’s top floor a week ago. Although the stunt crew had planned to do three jumps last Thursday, a roll of thunder claps delayed the third one, the stunt woman told me. Then a sudden snow squall on Burnaby Mountain forced the crew to pack up entirely to return the next day for the last camera test. At nightfall Friday, Underworld 4 lit up the east side of the grey concrete library with klieg lights and the blonde stuntwoman put on Selena’s black cat suit and a black wig to do two jumps for the camera, one after the other, to a burst of applause from the crew and a few bystanders.

Despite rumours, Kate Beckinsale herself did not appear at SFU. She had left Vancouver to celebrate her director husband Les Wiseman (who is producing but not directing the fourth film)’s birthday. That didn’t stop two male students from yelling “Kate” Read More »BIG READ: UNDERWORLD AWAKENING at Simon Fraser University

BIG READ: Jeffrey Dean Morgan in THE POSSESSION (formerly Dibbuk Box)

Published February 24 , 2011 on Vancouver is Awesome

I had no idea what I was unleashing when I tweeted the location for horror flick Dibbuk Box’s first day of filming in Vancouver on January 31st. But then, I had no idea that its easy-going star Jeffrey Dean Morgan was such a magnet for the kind of female fans who would steal his discarded cigarette butts on location (funny and true).

The Seattle native became a fan favourite when he played three beloved and now dead TV characters almost simultaneously: Izzy’s dying Denny on Grey’s Anatomy; dead-after-sporadic-appearances John Winchester, father of Dean and Sam in Supernatural; and Nancy’s dead husband on Weeds. Dean Morgan went on to star in several films including the Vancouver-shot and Zack-Snyder-directed adaption of the iconic graphic novel Watchmen but he didn’t leave his Vancouver TV sons behind. When in town he still socializes with Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, telling me happily after Dibbuk Box wrapped its first day of shooting that he’d just talked to “Jensen” on the phone and made plans to “see my boys”.

Sam Raimi`s Ghost House Pictures developed Dibbuk Box, a “based on true events” story of the terrible, inexplicable things happening to people who buy this haunted European antique on eBay. On the first day of shooting, I managed to photograph the pivotal scene where the young girl played by Natasha Calis runs to the car with the box she purchased at the yard sale, filmed at a corner ranch house near Lanagara College. She will refuse to give it up and so force her divorced parents – Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgewick (the Emmy-winning star of The Closer) – to work past their hostility over the next 29 days to save their youngest daughter from the malicious, ancient spirit which inhabits it.

When I next found Dibbuk Box a week later on location at a corner arts-and-crafts house in Kerrisdale, I witnessed plenty of hostility to get through. While their daughters wait in the car, Kyra Sedgewick chases after Jeffrey Dean Morgan (carrying suitcases) in her slippers to hector him with a list of instructions on how to care for them, such as no pizza and vegan diets. Her new boyfriend played by Grant Show (best known for Melrose Place and his porn-star mustache on cancelled-too-soon 70s series Swingtown) scraps with Dean Morgan on the lawn on the second day of filming at this house. Read More »BIG READ: Jeffrey Dean Morgan in THE POSSESSION (formerly Dibbuk Box)