animation – cinema – design

Animation

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Netflix

I, Frankenstein

I have a really amazing stomach flu.  Let me just preface with that.  I’ve been up for days on and off excreting out my ends and fevering it up.  My wife and wondrous child have it as well.  If you’ve never taught a toddler how to puke, you’ve got some more living to do.  A real treat.

So I thought I’d relax, since they’re all passed out and the kitchen is clean, by watching a movie on the interwebz.

WOW.
What a freakin WOW.

I don’t think the cast of villains from Underworld was the secret to that franchise’s success, but I could be wrong.

They are certainly just as ineffectual here.

I keep wanting those dudes to win. Like… Keep them as villians, but do a remake of “Empire Strikes Back” or “Chinatown” right? They’re good actors, they know what’s up… They should get to win. Or at least perform. These wooden lines are doing nothing to help their careers. The camera though… Nice job guys.

I waited to watch this thing for a while. Previews made it look high “B” and Eckhart was great on Conan.
Mostly though I can’t stop thinking about how Aaron Eckhart and Thomas Jayne should do a brothers movie, but also because I was worried there wouldn’t be enough bang for my buck on the big screen.
I was totally right.

That said, get a projector and watch this as big as you can.  Bring friends.  Throw popcorn.
Not that it’s not really interesting to see Eckhart run around on different sets pretending to be in Paris, just that
when the forces of good and evil clash, it’s not necessarily IMAX material, know what I mean?  The best parts of this film are the little homages to the titles past films.  Great cinema turned into B roll that’s fun to recognize.  Make a game of it.

That guy can act. Just … REALLY REALLY GOOD you know? He almost makes this TV drama into a franchise.

But then you realize that something is wrong. Somewhere in the cinematography you realize that you’re watching a Turner and Hooch remake and while you want to root for the hero (who doesn’t like frankenstein’s monster? and that message about how we are our fathers sons whether we like it or not? Brilliant!!!) you’re never given an alternative.

Even the good guys are evil. It’s just stupid.

SO it starts out brilliantly; and for the first 30 seconds I’m SO pumped. Here comes the monster carrying a
body stumbling out of the frozen waste.
I’m waiting for the goodness and it’s starting to really get to me.  Does he have her?  Is it about love and revenge?
They turn it.
Go back to the novel.
So it’s not the girls body, it’s Frankenstein’s. Eckhart’s disembodied voice (+2 for voice over) tells us of how he’s
been pursued to the frozen north, but his makers body quits in the cold.
Weak.
So now the monster returns him to his families burial ground.
Weak.
So now some demons attack our hero, the monster.
WEAK
But it’s okay. He kills one of them with a grave marker and is rescued by some gargoyles.
Seriously.
They take him back to Notre Dame.
Seriously?
They name him “Adam”
SERIOUSLY!
It was at this point that my daughter woke up and I had three verses of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” with which to collect my
thoughts:
The cinematography is pretty good, with an excellent editor. They suffer from first gen super HD which nobody’s
accounting for yet, so all the animation is crystal clear and doesn’t match what they shot on set because who see’s
that level of detail? Used to be it would blurr out in the playback at the theater. But with the digital projectors
it doesn’t and nobody’s covering their asses the way they ought to be, so we can see every inch of amazing detail in
these masks, but they look like masks because we can see the seam.
ALso: shouldn’t demons be able to do more than stand around and be tough? I though they were demons… The
vampires in Blade can at least fly around with wire work.

Back to it;
So they imprison this monster. It’s made really clear that humans can’t be involved, thus saving production costs by removing all the background actors. This becomes important later.
Demons attack and then Adam escapes and falls for the scientist girl who of course is working for the demons to reanimate corpses.
Not so they can live as monsters, but so they can be possessed by demons because they don’t have souls.
Which leads to some moral problems.

So much of this plot rests on the idea that Adam is a lonely guy. But for 200 years he’s been “wandering” the earth and avoiding Demons. How much of the earth has he covered and he hasn’t gotten laid? Nobody has met him and befriended him? I feel like that’s a bit preposterous. Humans on the edges of society are the most open and exchanging when it comes to helping eachother survive. Here comes this indestructible dude with limited survival skills and he never makes friends with not even one crazy russian trapper? No Eskimo is like “Hey bro! Come get your grub on! What are you doing out here?” Never?
So then he goes back to join humanity and gets to Paris and kills a demon in the streets and gets captured by the Gargoyles and it’s like… He just never seems lonely to me is all.                      Never.

So later on when they’re killing everyone its’ made clear that this army of soulless monsters actually get reanimated, and that (SPOILER ALERT) and let me make this really clear, because it’s not very relevant to the plot in the dialogue at this point. Adam has a soul.
Now this means that he can’t be possessed. Great. It also seems to mean that he gets more power (at least a free healing bonus) from a demon trying to possess him because the cuts into his forehead are healed.
So then badguy dies and the whole works gets demolished in a very “sweep it under the rug” kind of way.
Which has some problems.
Because we just watched this dude not only rebuke a possession from a prince of hell, but get healed in the process.
Which means these dudes who are getting reanimated in his style…. Shouldn’t that have happened to them all?

SO now it’s a bunch of brand new creatures falling back into this pit and being crushed to death (or starving, etc) and it’s all I can think about while the gargoyle queen is defending her moral dilemma and Adam Frankenstein is monologuing over here.

Nobody talks about these monsters, not all of whom can have died in the fiery collapse that, at the very least, will have effected the Parisian train system. (see escape in act II)

I’m so upset I wrote a movie review.  I probably won’t sleep tonight, but instead wonder, in my fevered state, about the monsters awakening and emerging into the network of tunnels that my generation is so keen on exploring under Paris.  Now THERE”S a monster movie!
All in all, a pretty good new-age B movie. It’s no “Mummy” but I would watch the sequel on netflix, know what I mean?
***–

Chico & Rita

Hanging out with my friend Tina the other day (no you drugged out hipsters, this one) and we decided to double date at the TCA early in the week.
Spent the day shooting video for UNM and then walked from my office over to the theatre.

My girl was running late and showed up hungry. The ticket office only took cash (fail). So we snuck by our double date and drove down the hill to the grocery store to get our fried chicken fix for the month. Then back up the hill and into the theatre, where we sat down in the middle of a car chase.

This movie could be total crap until that chase and I would still tell you to go see it. See it big, let the colors and the music wash over you and scrub the jaded hipsterness off your soul until you weep tears of joy that other humans are as in love with life as you are and thank God (or whatever) that you’re blessed enough to appreciate the blessings heaped upon you.

I left totally elated and called my homie Oscar immediatly because the blend of 2d and 3d in this movie is pretty much exactry (link to the external world) as he called it at the dawn of our animation infancy. The producing of this movie used the same model that Book of Kells (link) took, which is pretty amazing. By cutting up the story into location sections, and handing those sections out to small animation houses across the globe, they are able to keep their production on schedule, and cover any drastic stylistic changes that may arise from using so many different animators. Because of the location change happens within the context of the story, the minds eye happily throws away visual inconsistensies about style, thinking they are part of the overall narrative of the piece. WHich, with proper planning, they are.

The star crossed love story is one of the hardest to pull off, and this narrative does an okay job of mixing together the lives of two artists who follow their bliss, letting the music and art do the heavy lifting when the script fails. I’ve yet to meet the girl who fights for her man in one scene, wins, then says nothing the next as he’s drunk and being carried home by her rival. I’m sure they’re out there; I just haven’t met them. This script also does a good job of minimalizing the communication methods of the day, and glamorizing the “reflection” period that artists today are going through. We all have access to cell phones with our email on them now, but apparently “letters” and “regular phone” just couldn’t get the job done back in the day. Which is why civilization advanced… I’m sure. And while I’m a big fan of reflection and the celebration of the artists that got us to the mindset we find ourselves in on the day to day, the glorification of that recognition seems to minimalize it in my mind, and it comes out as (upon reflection) a social theme; some kind of grasping last hope that we’ve done something with our lives. I’m a champion of hope, so i’m down, but it stinks of unreality.

All in all, great movie. Go see it. Share it with someone. Kiss them on the way home.

This world we live in, these lives we lead, after all is said and done; are more beautiful than we ever realize. And this film brought that out in me just by viewing it.

****1/2

Brave

The first five minutes of brave might be my favorite five minutes of film of all time.
I’m going to have to look around at a couple things (raising arizona, be kind rewind, ghostbusters) and find out what else it compares to. Starting with UP pixar has really dialed in the first five minutes of their movies.

A brief glimpse at the storyline reveals its thin veneer of americanized “tale” but upon closer inspection, it’s less of a remake of famous legends than it is a treatise on what makes a legend. The film is split in two pieces, action and context. The context pieces drive the story, while the action set follows the classic hero arc. The main speech at the beginning of the third act is the climax of the tale and a great start to the beginning of the action climax. All in all it’s a well put together script that allows the artists at pixar the opportunity to show off their skills.
The main characters hair bounces with a springyness that puts Rapunzel to shame, though it’s probably based on the same tech. The painted backgrounds and textures had an amazing storybook feel and the thing that really stuck out to me were the skies. Lots of animated movies either put a painted background cyclorama in, or they buy one of the several sky systems that are available as plugins, let some effects nerd (like me) dial them in for specific shots, and call it a day. Brave had really interactive weather elements (fog, coulds, skies, sunshine,etc) that just jumped right out at me. It was impressive.

Scale seems to have been an issue, however, as both the main character and her horse lose their sense of size as they interact with the world around them. A touch more subtle camera work might have been the culprit, but I’m willing to bet that if the models didn’t swap sizes at some point; somebody was crushing the camera lens in a way that regular camera’s cannot. All in all:  nitpicky.
Go see Brave, it’s an excellent look at the state of storytelling in America at the moment, and if you pay attention, you can almost hear them asking the rest of us to take up the call. Also;  bears fighting, and wearing cloths.
****1/2

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