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!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Behemoth media demo reel 2020

Update for 2020, includes some unfinished projects I thought might be interesting. 
Hire me !

Saturday, February 1, 2020

28 Young Men (2020) directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese, narrated by Michael Z. Keamy

28 Young Men, a short poem by Walt whiman read by Michael Z. Keamy and animated by me (Behemoth media).

The project has been several years in the making. Originally we wanted to do live action and scouted and filmed several locations. As time went on, it became clear that getting 28 make men to splash around on a beach for free was not really a realistic option. We needed a secluded place and no trouble from local authorities. So animation was the voice in the end.

The men barely move, (and no there are not really 28 of them but I am not exactly Pixar so we never see them all at once), the idea being they are frozen in the woman's fantasy as she imagines herself moving amongst them. The beach and house are loose representations of Newburyport where Keamy are up and had specific locations in mind. So the advanced filming came in handy when it came to making the sets.

The water effects were done with X-particles for Cinema 4D and look pretty good to me. they are not meant to look like real water and match the cartoon look of the ocean waves.

Warning, I guess... cartoon nudity.

Hail Satan (2019) Directed by Penny Lane

When you hear the word Satanism, what do you think? Since the ridiculous "Satanic Panic" in the 1970s, the word has brought to mine child abuse, murder, demons from board games and  variety of other things that - to be clear - have NO basis in fact.  So promoting the Satanic Temple as positive force in the world seems like an uphill battle, to say the least. Penny lane's excellent documentary does just that, however.

Started more or less a joke, the temple has expanded by leaps and bounds, mostly due to their work in promoting religious freedom in the USA. In some sense they are the ultimate trolls, when a city or state decides it needs a 10 Commandments monument or giant cross on state property, something that is 100% illegal and against the constitution, the Satanic Temple steps in with a massive, beautifully done Baphomet statues to go beside the Christian symbols. It is an effective way to get the point across that one religion should not be promoted over all others.

The spokesperson for the Temple is Lucien Graves and while he looks the part, talks the talk and walks the walk, you get a clear impression he does not like the role or the attention on him personally.   "Are you excited about the protest today?"the interviewer will ask. "No" is the one word response from Graves. He does, nevertheless make an effective spokesperson for the movement and handles hostile interviewers with a reasonable calm I am not sure many other people could.

Well paced and not one sided, in the sense that is covers schisms in the Satanist movement and goes over it's often spotty history, the film give the viewer a solid sense of what the actual beliefs of Satanism are and what they are trying to achieve in a country the reads of christian religious privilege. Satanists are not perfect as a religion by any means but their rules to live by are more than reasonable, fair and based in the real world. If you read them without knowing they were the rules of the Satanic Temple, you might think all religions should adopt them immediately.

Satanist as promoters of justice and equality might seem like a strange idea after decades of misinformation, but you will likely be convinced by the end of the 95 minute run time. You may not want to run out and join your local Satanist Temple chapter, but you will more likely than not agree with most of things that are trying to accomplish.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Dracula (2020) Netflix series by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss

Spoilers galore.

This version of Dracula can be lauded for playing with all the tropes and original story elements in new and surprising ways. As a three part series, each 90 minutes, there is plenty of time to horrify, shock and surprise even someone like me who is sort of a fan of Vampire lore. What the show does best is it takes some barely touched on sections of the Stoker Novel and expands them into a new main story. The first past takes place in the convent where Johnathan Harker is recovering... well recovering is not the right word in this version. In the novel he just spends some time there and then goes home to his fiancĂ©. In this version, he is basically dead and turning into a vampire after having been feasted non by Dracula and then "killing himself" but jumping off the castle tower and into the river below. The set up is very much like the original story and then takes this turn into batshit craziness. He does not survive the first episode.  Sister Agatha, Agatha VanHelsing we find out is questioning him until Mina stakes him and Dracula arrives to collect Johnathan? It's not really clear why he is there but it works.

The second part starts with the good sister and Dracula playing chess and him explain to her how he survived on so few people while travelling from his home to Britain on the ship "The Demeter" which before a bloody game of "ten little Indians"  as the passengers and crew are quickly used for food and become suspicious, not of Dracula, but of the mysterious guest in room 9 who no one sees. As it turns out, it's Agatha who's chess game with the count is in their minds as he uses her for a steady food source. She does get the better of him as they try and hang her killing the missing crew when she spit blood at the vampire and his true nature is exposed. The episode is not fast moving but I thought it was effective and again, it's turned a detail in the novel into a main story. It ends in the most crazy way possible. The ship is blown up, Agatha drowns and Dracula hides in a remaining coffin on the ocean floor until he walks to shore where he is met by a helicopter, military looking personnel and... Agatha?

So now in modern day the end of the series pits Dracula against the ancestor of VanHelsing who has him imprisoned in a high security vampire facility. Well not all that secure, and thesis where the series starts to fall apart, as Dracula is somehow allowed to go free because... the law? Plus Zowie the new VanHelsing manages to just take a vile of vampire blood and drink it for... reasons. She is dying of cancer, but it doesn't help with that. It does let her communicate with the count in some sort of dreamworld. Meanwhile the Count Dracula falls for an egotistical millennial chick who let him feed of her for the eventual gift of eternal life. She gets her wish in the worst way as when she dies and is laid to rest... she get cremated, something Dracula didn't know was a "thing" in this new era and she escape, but is quite the gory mess. Up to this point the story is getting messier but it is still interesting and it remains that way, mostly due the excellent performances of Claes Bang (Dracula) and Dolly Wells (VanHelsing). The ending, to me a least, was a big letdown. Dracula throughout has been an unfeeling monster. Cold, cruel, inhuman. Seriously, he deserved to go out with bang and be punished for his actions, but instead he drinks the blood of Zowie which is poisonous to him after she reveals he ashamed of his immortal existence and most of his mutation, including being burnt by the sun are mostly self imposed.  It's a let down. When VanHelsing tears down the curtains in the vampires penthouse exposing him to the light he should have exploded in the rays of the sun, or suffered in some way that punished centuries of unforgivable behaviour. Nope, they lie in each other's dying arms in the light of the sun.... WTF?

Should you see it? I would say yes because it's pretty great until the last five minutes. there is much to recommend about the the majority of it. It is a shame the ending just doesn't live up to lead up.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Klaus (2019) Directed by Sergio Pablos

This Christmas story produced for Netflix and featuring a leap forward in 2D animation might just be the thing that gets studios back into 2D animated movies. Disney's last attempt was "The Princess and the Frog" and while that film was AMAZING, it just couldn't push the ball to the top of the hill and beat the slew of 3D animated films that were taking over animation everywhere. Well, not quite everywhere. TV and independent filmmakers still were and are harnessing the magic that hand drawn animation can bring to a movie and I think while not wildly promoted like Pixar and Disney films, they lurked in the background reminding us that animation is more than one thing.

In comes Klaus, a sort of re-imagining of the Santa Claus legend with stupendous visuals and a story that really walks the line between light and dark in a way I haven't seen in a "children's" film before. It even give the late Jim Henson a run for his money in that regard. the story of never-do-well rich kid who is shipped the worst place on earth to teach him a lesson is fairly standard the stuff. It's the details that make this story stand out.

This project first released a teaser trailer in April 2015, 4 year's before it's release and all those years of work show in the final product. the backgrounds are beautiful and the characters have a depth to them not seen in even the most famous of Disney productions. Things changed from the teaser and previews, including the lead character's voice and the cutting of a series of gags where the postman keeps getting snow dumped on him while trying to make his rounds to the less than friendly population. Those cuts were a shame because they were fully animated and quite funny but I won't second guess the writer/director's choices in the final edit because the finished movie works so damn well.

This is one of the best and innovative animated films to be released in a long time. For an animator like myself, it's inspiring.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Old Man and the Sea (animation) 2000 directed by Alexander Petrov

If you have never seen anything by Alexander Petrov, this is a good starting point. his work is simply amazing. Done by painting with oils on glass - erasing and repainting sections for each frame to give the impression of movement - this painstaking technique truly looks like paintings come to life.

The short documentary below explain his work and process.

Personally this sort of work proves that no matter how advanced CGI becomes, it is not the be all end all of animation. Frame by frame, done by hand Petrov's work transcend mere technical achievement and moves animation into the real of fine art.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody 2018 directed by Brian Singer (mostly)

This is an entertaining film, that is certain. What it isn't is a good bio film of the band Queen or it's lead singer Freddie Mercury. I am no Queen expert and didn't follow the career or life of Mercury but even I could pick out the many timeline shifts and fudging of the facts in this film.

Most, if not all bio-pics, are full of inaccuracies, condensed time lines and merged characters - it's part of making a life into a 2 hour movie. This movie plays loose with the facts but in ways that really feel disingenuous to even a casual viewer. Everything comes easy to Queen, Mercury shows up, sings a minute and is the band's lead singer from then on. Songs magically get written and no one seems to need to learn instruments or practice. The film is a by the numbers drama that in many ways could have been about any band with the exception of the inclusion of Queen-centric trivia.

Performances are all good but Rami Malek runs away with his portrayal of Mercury. Even if it sounds like he is channeling Tim Curry in Rocky Horror at points, the sheer charisma of Malek in the role  captivates you throughout. It's a shame that plot points that should have been an acting tour de force are cut short or glossed over. The portrayal of Queen's lead singer is far too confident and surface ( I would say this is a script problem over and not an acting one). The editing of the film is a mess, in my opinion. There is an obvious effort to cut it in a way that made it easier to remove sections that might be controversial in other markets. A huge part of the film is spent on the relationship between Mercury and his seemingly mostly platonic girlfriend and very little with the guy who was with him until his untimely death. In fact, we learn very little about anyone and come away remembering the painstakingly reconstructed Live Aid concert at the end more than anything personal about the band and those in it. That concert was at points fun and at other points an overly ambitious CGI recreation that resembled a video game scene insert over the filming of a real event.

Then there are - the teeth. We all might remember Freddie Mercury's teeth were not great but the way the fake teeth extend Rami's upper lip makes him look like an extra in the original Planet of the Apes movie. (Thanks to my friend Keamy for that little description.)

So overall, this movie is lightly entertaining but far from enlightening. Good performances are wasted with by the numbers plot points and accuracy was jettisoned for mundane mendacity. It might be an easy film to watch, but Queen and the it's story deserves better.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Invisible Man (1933) directed by James Whales

This first film version of the H.G. Wells novel is true to the source material in most regards and gave audiences of the time a visual treat in terms of special effects. It is both funny and horrifying at the same time as the main character slips not just further into madness from the drugs that made him invisible but he also becomes violent and cruel.

While a film well worth watching, it does has its problems - some of them coming directly from the novel. The invisible man is in the book and movie - a total douche bag. I read the book again recently and watched the film just this past week for comparison. Wells' mad scientist is pretty much a horrible jerk and terrible person throughout while Whales' version is supposed to be more sympathetic. But he isn't. He has a fiancee in the screen version and she and her father inexplicably try to protect him throughout. We never see couple together until the death scene at the very end and the dialogue about him before he mysteriously left to work on his experiments seems to strongly suggest that while the invisibility drugs made him mad, he was a jerk long before he took them. Not to mention they are protecting a man who has killed over one hundred people over the course of the screenplay! Including a co-worker who of the father who was the a friend of the daughter! It is really impossible to fee anything but relief when he dies at the end with his fiancee by his side. We also never see him, literally, until he dies so it's hard to make any sort of connection with him.

Apart from the plot and character issues I had, the opening shot is amazing and the effects still work. There was a lot more care and skill put into the invisible effects than in the following sequels and the supporting cast is mostly humorous which makes it seem extra cruel when the invisible man kills some of them without a thought. As in pretty much all the Universal horror classics, the look of the invisible man is the one we all know and is the default representation of the character to this day.

It is easy to see how this film became a classic and it was pretty risky to make such an unlikable character as the main focus of the story. Oh, and if that theme music seem really familiar it was reused in the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon series, which sort of adds an unintended camp flavour to it here.