Mac OS X: 10.5 Leopard is due at some stage in the next 31 days. If you’ve been living away from Apple civilization for the last 18 months, you’ll want to head over to Apple’s Leopard features pages, and check out what we can look forward to with the release. But what can we do in the interim, whilst we sit and wait for Steve to announce a launch date? Here’s four things to bear in mind to whet the appetite (and potentially empty the wallet) in advance of the Leopard launch.

Apple is once again holding their Insomnia Film Festival (which they began last year), and they want you to enter. The idea behind the festival is simple, Apple will post a list of elements you can use in your film, you pick three of them, and then take 24 hours to make a 3 minute movie. If your film is a winner, as picked by Apple’s judges or as judged by visitors to Apple’s site, each member of your team will receive a MacBook Pro, Final Cut Studio 2, Logic Studio, and Shake.

The fun starts on October 13 at 9:00 a.m. EST.

I should mention this is for college and high school students only.

Captain Jack Sparrow in the hit Pirates of the Caribbean movies has been voted the UK’s favourite big-screen character.

Captain Jack, played by heartthrob Johnny Depp, beat Star Wars’ villain Darth Vader into second place in the poll of 4,000 movie fans.

James Bond, played by Daniel Craig in the most recent spy thriller Casino Royale, is third in the survey by Total Film magazine.

Boy wizard Harry Potter (68th), singleton Bridget Jones (16), and caped crusader Batman (11) fail to make it into the top ten most-loved movie characters.

As Hollywood’s studios rush to shoot movies before contracts with actors and directors expire in June, strategists for the industry’s writers, facing an earlier deadline of their own, are considering whether to force a stop to the action.

Over the last few days, negotiators for the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East, whose contract with entertainment companies expires on Oct. 31, have been taking a hard look at the almost 150 feature films that are candidates for production by early next year, according to people involved with the talks who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The Academy of Art University makes more money off students than any other art school around. So what’s the problem?

In late August, the Star Motel closed down after 47 years on the Lombard strip. A week later, the first student-resident was having a smoke on the patio atop the carport. The red neon flickered “No Vacancy” – the Academy of Art University had staked a beachhead on the Marina. got word that vfx guru Phil Tippett and crew at Tippett Studio landed the job of creating effects for producer J.J. Abram’s as-yet-untitled giant monster movie. Details on the film, code named Cloverfield and 1-18-08, are being well guarded by Abrams, who created the popular ABC television series Alias and Lost, and directed the successful Mission: Impossible III.

Based on a teaser trailer that recently accompanied DreamWorks/Paramount’s Transformers in theaters, the movie apparently has some kind of very large creature attacking New York City. The premise evokes visions of radioactive, overgrown lizard Godzilla, which terrorized the Big Apple in Columbia Pictures’ infamous 1998 remake.

Starz, LLC, Chairman and CEO Robert B. Clasen today unveiled the U.S. media company’s state-of-the-art animation studio in Toronto, and announced the appointment of veteran animation executive David Steinberg to run it. The studio will be one of Canada’s largest, with 150 employees in 2007 and growing substantially as new projects begin production.

The studio will produce computer-generated animated feature films and more.

“Starz Animation Toronto is a key piece of our strategy to be a full-service production and distribution company worldwide, and to be a major presence in the Canadian entertainment business,” Clasen said. “The talent and technical support in Canada are second to none in the world. And we’re kicking off the production schedule with a feature produced by Tim Burton, one of the world’s top film artists.”

IT’S been 25 years since the release of “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s science fiction cult film turned classic, but only now has his original vision reached the screen.

“Blade Runner: The Final Cut” — as the definitive director’s cut is titled — was scheduled to play at the New York Film Festival Saturday night, opens at the Ziegfeld in New York and the Landmark in Los Angeles on Friday, and comes out in December in a five-disc set with scads of extra features.

An earlier director’s cut played in theaters 15 years ago to great fanfare and is still available on DVD. But the new one is something different: darker, bleaker, more beautifully immersive.

When “Blade Runner” came out in June 1982 it received mixed reviews and lost money. The summer’s big hit was “E. T.,” Steven Spielberg’s tale of a cute alien phoning home from the tidy suburbs. Few wanted to watch a movie that implied the world was about to go drastically downhill.

“Here we are 25 years on,” Mr. Scott said, “and we’re seriously discussing the possibility of the end of this world by the end of the century. This is no longer science fiction.”

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For the past two years, American-based visual effects companies have been opening Vancouver offices to take advantage of the 15-per-cent digital animation/visual effects (DAVE) tax break and a cheaper Canadian dollar. But now that other jurisdictions offer similar tax breaks, and the dollar has risen steadily over the last year, has the move been worthwhile?

“We don’t regret coming to Vancouver at all,” says Margaux Mackay, executive producer of Gray Matter FX, a Venice, Calif., visual effects house which opened a 15-employee Vancouver studio last September. “We work on movies which have invisible effects, not huge budgets, and they want to get as much bang for their buck, with the same quality of work. “Whatever goes up to Canada, the studio gets a rebate on,” says Mackay, whose Vancouver studio is currently at work on 21 for Columbia. “It’s business as usual for us.”

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