Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Star Wars poster series

Well... why not?  Click to see larger versions.

* A quick update on pushing the idea  a little further.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

2001: A space odyssey Poster series

I had an itch to do something with 2001, one of my favourite films but didn't think doing one of my icon drawings would work. Instead I imagined a new set of posters and used information from the original posters such as the studio logos and the credits. I decided not to use the two tag lines on the 60's posters... too wordy. I wanted to really highlight one element and make it front and centre. I used 3D models - positioned and lit them instead of trying to find and alter images from the film. This way I was able to get exactly what I needed. I felt they needed an insane amount of detail. The star field is real, I took it in Colorado a few years ago.

Not all of these work as well as the others but I decided to show all 4 just for comparison.  The first two are my preferred images. The second are sort of runner ups, but I like them and put a good amount of effort into all of them.

Click any image to see more detail.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Rise of Skywalker (and the end of Star Wars) 2019 directed by J.J. Abrahms

I won't belabour too much of the plot of this film which pretty much everyone in the known universe has seen already it. It ends the 43 years long Star Wars Saga and opens the way for new stories while tying up the loose ends for the original series characters. The First Order it turns out is being controlled by the old, presumed dead Emperor from the middle trilogy of the series and that Rey is somehow his grand daughter. The resistance must find his hiding place and hope that they can inspire the regular people to rise up and help them destroy a new fleet of star Destroyers, each with the ability to destroy a planet much faster than the previous Death Stars could. Klyo Ren is trying to turn Rey to the dark side of the force and have her rule the galaxy with him. This all ends in a SPECTACULAR space battle.

This film suffers from cramming in too much plot as most blockbusters these days do. Things move so quickly and back forth that its becomes hard to keep track of what is important or even what is going on all the time. The film is chock full of fan service as well, which would be more annoying if this wasn't the end of the saga and there was no escaping pulling every reference and minor character they could out for the final outing.

Even for a movie that takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; there is a lot of inconsistency in the world building and far too many convenient plot points and red herrings designed to pull at the heart strings that lead to nothing. I am not sure there was ever going to be a way out of those problems as tying up a generations spanning storyline in a pleasing for everyone is an impossibility. We do get a solid enough, exciting film with great effects decent acting and a conclusion to most of storylines introduced over the last 40 years. It avoids going to three prequels for much source material or inspiration which is truly the best decision they ever made. I tried to rewatch that trilogy and ended up tossing all three. They don't add anything, and in fact, take away from the series as whole. The film's pace and dependence on action does rob us of moments that should have been more impactful. The death a Lea was handled well enough and since it was brought about because of the real life death of actress Carrie Fisher before this film was made, it cannot help but bring a tear, but the relationships even after three films were not established enough to give a real emotional punch. We were promised that Carries Fisher would not be replaced by a digital double and they didn't... sort of. There is no CGU replacement for the current version of Princess Lea but in a flashback there are digital versions of Luke and his Jedi in training sister that leaps right out of the uncanny valley and into your nightmares.

Ranking this within the current trilogy I would say the first "The Force Awakens" was the least successful as it simply rehashed "A New Hope" from the first film. "The Last Jedi" was pretty fairly unpopular among super fans but I think it went in some interesting directions "Awakens" should have gone. This one is more on par with "Last Jedi" for me but with better acting and higher stakes. It should be noted that the "controversy" of this last trilogy is mostly overblown twitter nonsense and trolls looking for attention. They all made a boatload of cash and brought in new and old fans. They were never going to satisfy everyone, everywhere as basically the entire planet has ideas what Star Wars is about. To say any of them were terrible or silly means you never saw the prequels or know what an Ewok is. The entire storyline has always had its problems since the start.

Overall this isn't a bad film by any means and likely the best sort of send off these characters were ever going to get. I was surprised at how little was spoiled for me ahead of my watching it, months after the release. To me, that says many people who may not have got the film they imagined, liked it and those who followed the series enough not to ruin it for new viewers.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Has the Marvel Cinematic Universe ruined the movies?

There is a lot of talk going around that the Marvel superhero universe has ruined the film industry and movies in general. The basics talking points seem to be that they have overtaken the industry with films that lack depth or artistry, have budgets so high they leave nothing left for smaller films, take over multiplexes and cinemas in general so no other films can be shown and cater to the lowest common denominator of film goer.

There are some good observations in there but I'm not sure they add up to Marvel Studios having "ruined" cinema as we know it any more than the sci-fi rush after Star Wars, any number of the horror eras we have survived or the big western fads of times past. There is also an argument to be made they are more a sign of the changing habits of the average movie goer, who now has other things vying for their attention like streaming services and the sudden rise in high quality TV shows.

We have been here before and survived but this time there is new technology and new ways to watch things that rival the arrival of television on the scene in the 50s. Marvel movies have a long, interconnected series of films now behind them which more to come. This is more like a TV model than a film model, which traditionally had sequels that did not have to follow a storyline throughout. (See the James Bond series, for example.) Marvel movies are forged in comic book fandom, a group of people notoriously hard to please and meticulous in their opinions of what is or isn't canon in a series. Most of the properties in the films have many decades of history behind them and any changes or mistakes are debated endlessly among fans. It limits what they can do with a story. On the streaming side of things,  services like Netflix offer very high end productions and no real limitations on the content they offer. In many ways they are much freer than the film world with its hierarchy, studio controls and rating system and they take full advantage of that.

Money for smaller independent directors has been moving to online platforms where they have money and more freedom while the cineplexes are selling spectacle and HUGE stories that would have impossible to pull off even 15 years ago. So independent and middle range films are without a doubt being squeezed out of the big venues and with many repertory theatres already closed for a decade now, streaming has started to scoop them up. This does rob us of seeing these projects in a communal setting on a large screen, but it has given us another way to see them at least. The average ticket price now is ridiculously high and while we cry and moan that Herzog's latest documentary can't get shown on the big screen, the truth is - not many of us would pay that price to see it larger than life anymore.

Marvel films overall are not bad films by any definition. In fact, many are fantastic, visually exciting with compelling characters even if the plots are complicated in some ways but pretty generic in many others. Even some of the worst of them are entertaining and the best are inspiring and affecting millions of viewers, except perhaps the strictly art house set. Many of the same things can be said about the Star Wars franchise, though those films seem to be in their own world, pun intended.

Are they a fad? Well a decade plus into it... maybe. But it's a long term fad and to Marvel's credit they are not just churning out sequels of the latest popular films like we used to get. Instead they are putting a large effort into each one, trying to make them as different in tone and scale to keep them for getting too repetitive even if they don't always succeed. The budgets are, however, the roof and there is something to be said abut making 100 smaller films less effects driven than one 600 million dollar Affinity War movie. It would be nice to see some of that cash go to ideas that don't need to break a billion to be a hit. There are still smaller films that manage to break out and rule the box office from time to time which shows the audience is there for new and more grounded (or totally off the wall) films to be shown.

I am sure a day will come when the public is tired of spectacle and goes into something else, something more personal and smaller. This sort of happened in the 70s when films were slower and more personal even as the trend started giving into the blockbuster phenomenon. Until then, the films we used look for are now on TV, computers and other devices in various forms, unhindered by time limits and getting bigger budgets than ever was allotted to them for the big screen. I say we can enjoy them both and be aware that the entertainment landscape has changed not because Marvel is an evil supervillain but because WE (the general filmgoing public, that is) have changed the terrain with our viewing habits and need for convenience over shared experience. Not sure where it will end up but we do have some say in where and how we spend out money. That might not be enough to beat market forces currently in play, but in some ways we gained some things while losing other things and blaming superhero movies for all of these changes seems simplistic and ignores everything else going on around them. I guess the moral is to support the films we love, wherever they are found.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Lost in Space (2018- 2019) Netflix TV series

I will admit I was never a big fan of the original Lost in Space TV show. The first season was dead serious and then it went into high camp without warning. This new version of the show does a great job updating the basic idea, letting the family Robinson be lost but not alone. There are a ton of colonists lost for them to play off of.

While I will love Jonathan Harris forever, his Dr. Smith was super campy and shrill. This reboot sees Dr. Smith played by Parker Posey who really shines as a psychopathic version of the character whose real name (June Harris) is a nod one of the original series actors. She is truly scary at times. The robot, one of best known elements of the original show is now and alien robot who befriends the youngest Robinson, Will and has its own complicated back story.

It is a life changing  experience? No, not at all. It is a ton of fun with beautiful visuals and engaging enough characters. The situations they get in, one after another, after another do make you wish for an episode of them just sitting around playing space "go fish" or something but the characters themselves reference how over the top it is often enough that you just go along with it all.

The crew of the Jupiter 2 et al are of course all super attractive including sexy smart mommy Robinson and hot ginger daddy Robinson

Sunday, March 29, 2020

J'ai perdu mon corps (I lost My Body) 2019 Directed by Jeremey Clapin

This traditionally animated film (2D with some digital elements) is an odd one to be sure and some attention for its originality and skilled animation, all well deserved.

The story is that of a young man who loses his hand in an accident and the detached hand's attempt to be reunited with him. Along the way we are treated to his tragic life story from his childhood up to the point where the accident happened and slightly beyond. It's at time macabre, humorous and touching. My father had a similar accident a few years back and I found that aspect hard to watch personally, but discomfort aside, as strange as this movie is it does captivate and draw you in. The characters are relatable and real feeling, even the hand has a personality of its own.

The poetry of the story and its presentation keep it from seeming campy or gory. Its pace is fairly slow, but deliberate and it never drags. I guess the subject alone says this isn't a movie for everyone but I think many more people than one might think would get something from it if given a chance.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Godzilla Raids Again (1955) directed by Motoyoshi Oda

This is the second Godzilla film, coming only months after the first was released and it already gave us a signal of what was to come next for series in the next decades. While the first was a moody, political tale of the atom bomb, this one goes in the simple "giant monsters fighting"  direction pretty much immediately.

A plane is down on an isolated island and the pilot's best friend has flown there to save him. They immediately run into Godzilla, who has inexplicably survived dying in the first film, fighting Anguirus who resembles a porcupine/dinosaur hybrid. They fall into the ocean and soon are taking their personal issues to the coast of Japan. At first Godzilla arrives and is lead away from the sure by "light bombs" but that plan falls short when escaped convicts crash a truck into some sort of oil refinery causing a much bigger sours of attention for Godzilla to latch onto. Anguirus arrives and they go on a rampage, destroying everything in their paths.

There is a love story of sorts where the bridegroom gets killed trying to stop Godzilla and a big company relocates as a result of the monster damage so we get to hear about that... but who cares about the human parts? Unlike the first outing where human interactions actually meant something, this movie created the path all others would follow... threadbare human story to pad out the master battles. And there are plenty of monster bottles in this one! Known for "man in a monster suit" effects this film seems to have its share of that mixed with equal amounts of hand puppets. I would not say it is ineffective, however. The effects overall are pretty good for such a quickly produced, low budget production.

In the end Anguirus is defeated and kill by the king of the monsters and the king himself is buried in a mountain of ice. Never to return again, Well until 1962 when Godzilla VS King Kong came out.

I had to confess this was the first time I saw this film. I grew up seeing the Godzilla series at the local Everett Park theatre just outside of Boston and on TV when we got a TV in the side 70s but I somehow missed this gem. I think the local movie house limited itself to colour films and this is black and white and this might have somehow fallen through the cracks in the TV creature double feature distribution deal.

If you like Godzilla films... you'll love this one. It is not to be taken seriously but it's a lot of fun and doesn't disappoint for monster on monster action.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Won't You Be My Neighbour? (2018) directed by Morgan Neville

It would be easy to dismiss the work of Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers as he more commonly known as frivolous children's TV fair, but as this documentary shows , his work was so or important and cutting edge than many remember.  Fred Rogers was a TV icon and trailblazer for children's entertainment.  His understand and unflinching dedication to the needs of the young people of the nation was nothing short of amazing.

We all have memories of the show, the puppets, the sweater, him taking off his shoes and putting on his sneakers when entering the set - but the show, as this documentary shows, he went far beyond anything we have today in terms of what subject matter is acceptable for those youngest minds among us. Rogers tackled discrimination because of race like no one else could. He invited his black mailman to share his kiddie pool with him, going as far as to dry the man's feet when they were taken out of the water. This was at a time public pools were throwing bleach on black people who dared to cool off with white folk on hot days. He discussed the assignation of Robert Kennedy... what kiddie show could even attempt to tackle that now? Mister Rogers was often the subject of parody (which he found often funny) and the work he did was often overlooked but the impact he had on generations is unmistakable. He was a tireless advocate for fairness and accepting people as they are, Oddly he shared many philosophical traits of the Satanists in the film "Hail Satan" I just reviewed here at the Slammer. His way of getting his point across was MUCH less aggressive, however.

The film goes farther into his life than the recent Tom Hanks film does and even covers his conflict over the actor playing the policeman being gay which isn't really covered in the Hollywood version of his life. As you can imagine, Rogers walked the walk and talked the talk when it came to accepting people as they are. Sadly, there weren't and certainly aren't many like him out there and I would say none like him in the present media landscape. How many of them would you want to have as neighbour?

Did I mention the Fred Rogers pretty much saved PBS single-handed by appearing before congress? Seriously you owe it to yourself to see how wonderful this man was, flaws and all. It will make you want to be a better person and that was all Mister Rogers would ask for as his legacy.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

25 Years Later (2020) directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

This took a while and a lot out of me. Lots of sad memories and a few happy ones thrown in for good measure. Thanks again to Mike Luce for his wicked laugh, and he didn't even ask what it was for!

This is sort of more "epic" as well as personal for me in animation. 15 locations that all had to be designed and made and then populated with two real-ish looking humans.

This is not a documentary. I wish I was still in shape like the cyclist in the animation is 25 years later after taking care of my friend but many of the events did happen. I won't bike to Boston as I planned but I will go there this spring/summer. A bike tour would take almost a week and I don't have the funds for a week in hotels, then time in Boston and then find a way to get back home with my bike. In a way this is my attempt to come to terms with the events all those years back, it was a very tough time and I though I helped out one friend for six years, there were  others for shorter periods and some of that is reflected in this as well.

Some of you might recognize certain locations... like my office, street, the bridge and several locations in Boston. Nothing is slavishly reproduced but even the biking scenes are based on several trips from Boston to Montreal.

If you see this and have opinions, tell me and watch it on You Tube, give it likes etc. I would like it to be seen and promoted somehow so please refer others to it if you think it's appropriate.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Divided by One ()2020 directed by Jacob Kafka

This short film was made by a developer of the app "rough animator" which I own but haven't used yet. It has a lot to recommend about it.  T

he short poignant and very done and since we always encourage these one man bad sort of projects here in the Slammer, I thought it would be nice to share it here.

If you have even a passing desire to try out 2D animation... BUY IT! It's only 5$ and well worth many times that!