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.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

My book has been released!

My book of short stories, Indifference: Short stories by No One in Particular is no for sale on Amazon! There is a Kindle and a paperback version.

These stories are based on earlier versions and notes about various things that have been lying around since the late 80s and through the mid 90s as well as some screenplays turned into short stories.

The subject matter does have an 80s punk/new wave feel to them and the humour is a little... odd, as some might say. I have spent almost two years putting this together so if you are a copy and make every person you have ever seen in the entirety of your life buy one as well. If you like it, please write stunning review and rate it so it has a chance of others finding it. If you don't like, we need never speak of it again.

I do not have any social media accounts, so feel free to tell people on Facebook, Instagram etc about it. To be honest I have no idea how to promote this thing other than what I am doing here, right now.

Amazon paperback: 9.99$ USD
Kindle: 7.55$ USd

Friday, November 1, 2019

Missing Link (2019) directed by Chris Butler

Budget 100 Million $
Box Office 24.7 Million $

Laika is one of the most innovative and high quality animation studios out there. They have not yet fallen into the sequel trap or remaking old ideas that other studios have these days. Original stories are hard to come by, animated films with original stories even harder. I have seem all their films to date and they are all beautiful, intelligent and well worth watching, buying and throwing your support behind.

Rant over. For now.

A hunter of mythical beasts, Sir Lionel Frost has not had much luck convincing the "Society of Great Men" to accept him into their club. Not because he isn't finding what is looking for, but more because he keeps messing up on the bringing back proof part. His latest subject is the Sasquatch - who has sent him a letter asking him to help him find his "cousins" the abominable snowmen in the Himalayas. This sets off the leader of the club who absolutely rejects any suggestion that evolution is a thing and makes a bet, one he is sure Frost will loose, of allowing entrance to the club on proof the creature exists. When he is told it does... he does everything in his power, including trying to kill Frost to make sure the news never gets out.

The characters, the animation and story are charming. The sasquatch is really funny, adorable and relatable. The set pieces are amazing, like in all Laika films, beautiful executed and they bring you into the world created. The romantic interest turns out to be less interested in romance than in having her own adventures and the creature brings out a side of Frost he never knew he had. The villains are pretty nasty, one is a crazy killer killer and the main one will stop at nothing to keep his worldview intact.  Well children will like parts of this, it's squarely aimed at teenagers and adults I would say.

This is not a perfect film to be sure but it's amazing, fun and wonderful and certainly worthy of your attention and support. If we want to get original films and not cookie cutter remakes, supporting this sort of movie is essential simply because it's a good movie, if for nothing else,.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Wolfman (1941) directed byGeorge Waggner

Part of the original classic Universal Horror series of films, the Wolfman is an iconic film from that era. Larry Talbot returns to his home town after his brother's death, meets a pretty girl, get introduced of the local legend of a man who turns into a wolf and quickly gets attacked by one and acquires that trait.

If you haven't seen this movie in a long time you might want to revisit it. It's probably not exactly how you remember it. Many aspects of werewolves we take for granted now are not in the movie or in a form that is very different from what is taken to be "true" legends. A fascinating thing about this movie is much of the lore in it was made up completely for the movie by the screenwriter and some of the more famous elements you might expect are missing, having been added in sequels to the film.

Two examples:
The little poem recited thought the film:
Even  man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at might; may become a wold when the wolfs bane blooms and autumn moon is bright. 

No mention of the full moon. That came in later movies. It is mentioned that the transformation takes place several times  a year but the full moon is mentioned as the cause.

The werewolf is not killed by a silver bullet. In fact, silver bullets are not mentioned. Both werewolves we see are beaten to death by the same silver headed cane.

Most of the cast is great, Maria Ousenskaya, Bela Lugosi, Claude rains are fantastic. Lon Chaney Jr is pretty terrible, though. You have to give him credit for sitting for up to 6 hours in makeup for the transformation, but he is not the actor his dad was. The effects are pretty good, the wolfman make up has become iconic and for good reason. The exterior sets are just so-so, you know are in a studio. The interiors are much better.

This film is.... not good overall - can you say that about such a classic? The editing is really inconsistent. No matter what Talbot is wearing when is becomes the werewolf, he is next seen an outfit we only see when he is in full make up. Does the werewolf make a fashion choice to change clothes before going out on each killing spree? Larry Talbot is a creep, spying on the romantic interest who is already engaged to a nice guy and pursues her anyway. The first time we see a werewolf... its just a wolf, but when Chaney transforms he is a different creature entirely. The dead Talbot brother's death is never fleshed out - he just died and both his father and brother seem pretty nonplussed about it.

Should you see it? Even after that last paragraph I would say yes. Parts are cringe worthy, but it is a classic and the makeup alone is worth seeing for yourself in action. The blu-ray restoration is excellent and the 180,000$ budget was put mostly to good use. In any case, it's MUCH better than the  2010 remake!

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Twilight Zone is 60 years old!

It's the 60th anniversary of the Twilight Zone TV show this year and it's another show I can not believe I did not think of before when doing this icons series. Rod Serling is a personal hero of mine, as much as I have heroes. Not just his writing and creativity, but his moral and intellectual stances are all things we should strive to integrate into our lives. His war experiences coloured everything he did afterword and he suffered that trauma by being a better person and giving us fantastic art with messages we can still learn from.

I tried to give the items in the illustration a glow, similar to what we would see on out black and white TV when I originally watched the show.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

L'aigle à deux têtes (1948) directed by Jean Cocteau

This film was based on the play, also written by jean Cocteau and was based very loosely on the deaths of Ludwig the second of Bavaria and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.


A queen whose king has died has kept her faced veiled in public for a decade life is changed and given a rather morbid direction when an anarchistic poet enters her chamber with the intention to kill her. She falls immediately in love with him, mostly because he a dead ringer for her dead husband but also because he is played by Jean Marias- Who wouldn't fall in love him?

Political intrigue ensues but there is a fatality about their love they can't escape. The queen states quite plainly they will be each other's demise at the start. She embraces this idea more than we think as, at the end, she angers the poet enough to stab her while he has taken poison to save her from political ruin. She thanks him for the knife in the back as she dies.

While not as sumptuous in style as Cocteau's more well know films, this film looks beautiful, not in small part because of the beauty of its stars - Edwidge Feuilliére and Jean Marias. Both are fantastic in  their roles and the cinematography shows off the countryside and castle sets in the best light possible. The story moves along a decent pace, taking time to build the characters that are both iconic and real feeling at the time.

A nice rare behind the scenes shot.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Raspberry Reich (2004) directed by Bruce LaBruce

WARNING: Explicit subject matter! 

This film tells the story of a would be terrorist group who kidnaps the son of a rich businessman for blackmail purposes. However, the son has recently come out as gay and was disinherited which complicates their plans. The group is led by a woman named Gudrun who constantly and I do mean constantly, spouts off radical philosophy histories and slogans - going so far as yelling "Fuck me for the revolution" as her boyfriend fucks her off the bed, out of the apartment and into the elevator. As this is happening, Che (another main character) is preforming oral sex on various firearms and finally shoots his wad - and a gun - in unison. Gubdrun is, in effect the only woman in this film save for a neighbour in the elevator and the rest are all young, sexy boys (mostly gay porn stars) who spend much of the runtime fucking each other. This film has an "unedited version" but maybe that's the version I saw both in the cinema and on DVD because, honestly, nothing is hidden or cut away from sexually. Full on oral and anal sex, cum shots - it's all there. In the end the hostage escapes with a member of the the group who has become his boyfriend and they spend their days robbing banks owned by his father. The other members end up in gay bars and less revolutionary jobs while Che is hired by middle east terrorists to film practice kidnappings. Gundrun and her boyfriend have a kid, hoping he will continue the revolution when he grows up.

To be fair to Bruce LaBruce, this movie falls inline with his other films, falling squarely into comedy/parody territory and while it's not a good film in many ways, it is fun to watch. Sure the explicit sex isn't exactly a minus but the slogans and  dialog, though delivered in a wooden manner, is pretty funny. The boys are sexy and hung and the lead actress gives an over the top performance that is both annoying and somehow captivating. It looks like a 70's low budget exploitation film and sounds like one as well. That is likely 1) on purpose and 2) because LaBruce films are known for having very, very low budgets. The music is interesting at points, but can be annoying and doesn't always fit with the action on screen. The opening segment is far too long and drawn out with strobing title cards  creating an epileptic's nightmare. You could probably cut 20 minutes from the total time and have a much more tight and evenly paced movie.

Like I said, it isn't good, but it does stick with you. The slogans like "The revolution is my Boyfriend!" and dialog such as "homosexually must only be used for revolutionary purposes" might find themselves being used by you in everyday conversation. Well, if you have conversations like I do. You might also find yourself declaring what is  "counter-revolutionary" after seeing this. According to the film that would include things like: Madonna, hip hop, cornflakes and masturbations among other things.

This film is not everyone's cup of tea but it is honest about what it is and thanks you "watching this porn" in the end credits. Bruce LaBruce is a singular filmmaker and keeps on making the things he wants to make and he should be admired for that alone. Plus he is Canadian like me so I am maybe little biased in his direction.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Portrait of Dorian Grey (1945) directed by Albert lewin

A classic film from a classic novel that explores the obsession with youth and beauty and how they can hide evil, hideous interiors. Basically a horror story, Dorian grey is a young beautiful boy who, while having his portrait painter falls under the corrupting ideas of the artist and his friend. He realizes that youth is not forever and makes wish on an Egyptian cat statue that he will remain the same while the portrait ages and changes. This  wish is granted and as his desires and actions become more and more corrupt and terrible, he finds he must hide the image in a locked room so no one can see how he "really" looks. 

The films follow the books fairly faithfully and the cast, which includes a very young Angela Lansbury as Sybil Vane is great. Hurd hatfield as Dorian looks the part. Innocent, you, pretty and manages to give the impression that is all a mask as he becomes colder and callous as the decades pass by. 

The cinematography is decent but if you see this film, be sure to see the retired blu-ray version that has the technicolour insets. The first time we see the painting, it's a beautiful colour shot and when we see it later... let's say the portrait is much less beautiful but the image is stunning and shocking in colour. So shocking, in fact, I won't put an image of it here in case you have never seen the movie, it's really better to first see it context. 

I had not watched this movie in along while and it was surprising how much I had forgotten, not in plot details but how they worked themselves out. I like how we see the corrupted version of the painting long before the film ends so we have an idea of how "wicked" the lovely Dorian has been all these years. We don't see many of his deeds but his treatment of Sybil Vane is so devastating and cold, you can easily believe the painting is relflecting Mr. Gray's  soiled soul. 

This is the best of the adaptions of Oscar Wildes book that i have seen and it focuses on all the right things while later versions use the story as an excuse to show more explicit sex and violence, this film opts for letting the viewer imagine the corruption that can happen when you can place all your sins somewhere out of sight. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Podcast round up and odds and ends

It's been hard to make posts this summer, lots to do and no money to see movies. I have been keeping up with my podcasts and have a few recommendations.

Eager to Know
An old Boston friend moved to Chicago and started podcast about art, those who make it and their thoughts about it. It's very good, it has an NPR vibe to it in the best way possible and Ricky is really engaging as a host.

Max, Mike, Movies
Slammer alumni... released on good behaviour, Mike Love and his friend Max Levine talk about movies! They are pretty funny, sometimes drunk and group their discussions into series of related films.

The Projection Booth
The behemoth of film podcasts as far as I am concerned. Deep discussions, long interviews and varied opinions. One of those shows and can and should listen to the entire catalogue.

Monster Talk
The science show about monsters. The puns are terrible, and I do mean terrible but the show is really interesting as it discusses legends, monsters and cultural myths.

Kolchak Tapes
Are you as old as I am and watched "The Night Stalker" on TV in the 70s? Is the show as scary as you remember... or even good? Find out how this classic and influential show holds up to today's standards.

Twilight Zone Podcast
Really interesting takes on the classic series by Rod Serling. Reviews and synopsis of each show with trivia, history and the occasional reading of the original stories an episode was based on. They also did an excellent discussion of Serling's involvement in the film "Planet of the Apes".

Bone and Sickle
Part history, part weird visit with an eccentric millionaire collector of strange objects. From the man who literally wrote the book on the Krampus has a unique way to present folklore, really strange and sometimes gross history lessons and covers the bizarre spectrum of human beliefs and legends.

Anyone have any suggestions of their own to add? Let us know in the comment section!

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Twilight Zone (TV show) 2019 show runner: Jordan Peele

There have been a few attempts to recreate Rod Serling's Classic anthology show, The Twilight Zone. The original is a highlight in TV history and a monument to how good writing  and acting can produce truly remarkable and important art that can change how people think and feel. Those that followed were lesser shows, not always bad, but Serling is an act impossible to follow.

When the 2019 version as announced with Peele in charge I was reticent, but excited. He seemed a good choice. He was a Serling fan and had a sense of how to mix social commentary with great entertainment that made you think.

I won't be spring anything, just making a general comment of the show for his 10 episode run.

Overall: Pretty damn good. Great acting, actors, cinematography and the ideas were all solid. Does it live up to the original? Of course not, or not yet, anyway. It's a different show in a different time and Peele does not shy away from that while at the same time reminding us he knows he is treading on eggshells with fans and new viewers alike. Everyone has an idea what the Twilight Zone is - including those who have never seen even one episode. The entire season plays with the idea of recreating the original, then years off into its own thing, a smart move in my opinion.

Not every episode is successful but that can be said for the 60s version as well. We all know the classics stories over its 5 year run, but they weren't all classics. Some were pretty bad in fact, like every other show with 156 episodes and filmed on a time and money budget. The 2019 version looks fantastic and casting was amazing, but not every story will appeal to every viewer and I think most would have profited from a 30 minute over and hour format. There are plenty of Easter eggs to keep long time fans happy and it does not shy away from some biting social commentary. Sometimes it's way too on the nose for it's own good. There are connections from one episode to another and it seemed there was a theme beyond the stated "When the truth is not the truth - what dimension are you even in?". These connections and themes come around in the last episode which is totally meta commentary on the show itself and what it is trying to do.

One thing I wanted more of and didn't get were twists that hit me like they did in Serling's incarnation. Even knowing what the twist was, on repeated viewing they repeatedly shocked you. I had the opportunity to watch some Serling episodes with people who had somehow never seen the show and the look on their faces and how those twists suddenly opened them up to new ideas was amazing.

There is time for this show to do all that - it has been renewed and I have to say I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The legend of Leigh Bowery 2002 directed by Charles Atlas

Leigh Bowery was one of those 80s club and fashion legends whose name seems to have been, like too many others, lost because of time and the avalanche of death caused by the AIDS crisis. This movie goes a long way to remedy that and give the current generation a better idea of the world that allowed people like him to flourish, a world that is lost forever it seems.

The 80s were crazy in ways the 60s and 70s were not, they were self-aware and in your face - all things Bowery exemplified. He was outrageous, but his work was his art and he was a true artist. I would put him in the same drawer as Klaus Nomi as they were both outcasts with immense talent that were able to steer their eccentricities into a sort of fame. It's impossible to believe that if they came around today that they would succeed at all in their world of easy offence, nuance and context. Watching this documentary brought back memories of how subjects like Nazism, black face, gay sex and fashion were sometimes combined as a form a parody and the back lash was minimal because we at the time knew the context and intent of what was being presented, but not promoted.

He made the way for some current drag performers and fashionistas but was able to go much farther than they could dream of going.

Thanks to Michael Z. Keamy for finding this complete documentary online.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dog & Weasel: Occurrence at Lake Mess 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

A new cartoon done! This time I tried to make the motion slightly smoother and avoid having too much movement, I sometimes get in the habit of making an action for each sentence spoken and that is just too hectic to be effective much of the time. Poor Mike Luce did 2 voices this time!

If you like it, let us know and pass it around. We are running out of money to feed the immates here at the slammer so maybe more exposure will get us more work and avoid a prison riot!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Horrifically Real Virtuality

The Horrifically Real Virtuality is hard to categorize. It's a theatre piece mixed with a 3D movie mixed with audience participation in a virtual world. It when a small group (us) enters what looks like a cheap sound stage to witness Ed Wood filming a scene for his latest movie starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, however, is only seen on the monitor screens as a 3D character, in the real world, he is played by an actor in virtual reality suit that transfers his movements to the 3D puppet. The audience is asked to help in the production which goes wrong, of course, while Wood enthusiastically declare it's all perfect and great. I began to think this was the experience the show was going to give me and was pretty disappointed. Not badly done, but hardly what I imagined a VR experience to be.

Then it all changed. We were escorted to a small hallway, suited up in VR gear with VR headsets and told to enter the cinema for the premiere of the film we just aided in the filming of. The world is now in black and white and appropriately suited up, the hallway is now the entry to the screening room, we walked through the virtual door, sat down and the film started. There were virtual spectators and real ones, we were all... aliens? ... basically we had very similar faces and costumes with our lower bodies replaces by floating flying saucers. You couldn't tell who those you came in with were anymore. The film titles stop and we then could walk directly into the film, a cemetery set with a strange box that had a reproduction of the set we filmed in inside of it. You can touch the box with your virtual hands... a very strange thing to see hand that you move but aren't your own. Then the house in the distance move forward and we enter it, into the set and Bela Lugosi exits the toilet and starts giving us instructions on how we can save his bring his wife, kidnapped by aliens back to him. You can sit on the couches, turn the TV on an off and interact with Lugosi. At the end, you take the headsets off and you are still in the hallway you put them on in.

What just happened? It was amazing and really disturbing and totally fun.

Critiques are minor. The writers obviously did a lot of research on Wood but ignored and managed to somehow miss the mark on the feel of his life and films, I thought. Much of that can be explained by the enormous task of bringing it to a live audience in a virtual set up I would guess. Still, I do think he should have been in an angora sweater at the end while reading the terrible reviews the film got as we exited the show. Despite that not happening we left feeling giddy, excited and unsure what was real or not.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Fox and the Whale (2018) directed by Robin Joseph

Many animations and short films are personal endeavours, but few come close to the beauty of the Fox and the Whale.  This 12-minute contemplative film is so full of amazing imagery that the only to show how beautiful it is to show the film to someone. A still shot doesn't come close to the refined compositions and the painterly look of every scene as they unfold.

If you want to learn more about the production,  Cartoon Brew has a great piece on it. Click the link, it's worth reading.

Not exactly a "one-man show" there is a surprisingly small list of people involved and it's clear that is the deeply persona work of animator Robin Joseph. It combines 2D and 3D animation techniques, lovely music and tells a story that has humour and melancholy combined in an original way.

It’s the sort of film every animator wishes they could make.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Comments are back!

Not sure what changed, but comments seem to be working again!  Feel free to leave one!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Dog &Weasel: Conquest from Space! 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

A new little animatedseries. Mike Luce does the voices and it's a lighter fim from the Raven for sure. Jon Bellette (weasel) and Watson (dog) must fight off an invasion from a robot from space. The weasel's voice was inspried by Paul Lynde and the dog was inspired by my dog, Watson. I have the voices ofr a second one recorded so there will be at least two in this series!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lion 2016 directed by Garth Davis

Based on the non-fiction book, The Long Way Home  by Luke Davies , this film is a tear jerker to be sure. Unlike some other films with multi-Oscar nominations, the tears are well-earned. As the story of 5-year-old boy in India who gets lost and eventually adopted by an Australian couple unfolds, the plight of young missing children from the country is made real for the viewer. You realize that where we are in life is pretty much completely by chance and you can't help but feeling for the main character. 20 years after his adoption, a random memory surfaces after having some food from his native country at  a party and he begins a journey to find his birth mother, whom he is convinced must be looking for him still.

I won't go into spoilers because if you haven't seen this film already, it's good to go into it fresh and let it unfold at it's own pace. The performances, especially by Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo. his performance is real and pulls you in. Nicole Kidman is also great as is everyone else.

On a critical level, there isn't much to say against this film. I would have liked to know more about Saroo's adopted brother with the behavorial issues and his adopted parents, though.  I understand time is limited in a movie but just a little more information would have gone a long way I think.

I would say this movie is somewhat a "feel-good" film... but not 100%. there is too much strategy in this life story and the ending is satisfying, but not completely uplifting. A good thing since while Saroo may have been lucky, there 80 000 young children missing every year in India who are not.

Lo and Behold 2016 directed by Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is a truly great, f not unique film director and his documentary work stands out for its presentation and subject matter. Into the Abyss and From One Second to the Next are two more recent of his documentaries that show how powerful that medium can be. Lo and Behold, sadly is not in that league or even close to it. It rambles, but goes nowhere and it shows, to me at least that Herzog has little to know understanding of the subject matter.

That is not to say it doesn't have it's moments. It does. I particularly liked the interview with Lawrence Krauss who comes across as reasonable person while some of the other experts, like the guy giving the tour of the birthplace of the Internet come across as total crackpots. Elon Musk makes his points well and a couple others refute some of his ideas in ways that I think show there is more than one way to think about the subjects discussed.

My biggest problems are two parts I find offensive or irresponsible, respectively.  The first is the interview with the family who lost a daughter in an accident and then started getting emails of her decapitated body in emails with truly horrible statements about her. That situation is bad enough but Herzog lets the interview include a clip of the mother going all "the Internet is real the Antichrist" and it makes her look foolish and not like the grieving parent she is. I also don't see how they can blame the Internet for what happened... it didn't cause the crash and even the emails are not something new... people would sent horrifying photos and letters to people in the mail before it could be electronically. People have always been inhumane to each others in ways that are hard to understand. I find her being used in a way that is unfeeling and unnecessary.  The second is the group who live in an area where the placement of radio telescopes forbids electronic devices, and all wifi signals. Some are there for work but he concentrates on a few that talks about their sensitivity to wifi... it's not a real thing. Humans have no ways to sense that sort of low level radiation and they HAVE been tested to see if there is an affect they can somehow sense something somehow and they never have, not even once. I think it's pretty obvious these people are suffering but giving them a made up answer just prevents them from finding a real one. That is harmful to them and it continues one of the most basic misconceptions about how these things work and encourages being willfully ignorant of real world physics.

So with a heavy heart, I have to put this Herzog film as one of his few disappointments for me.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Witch 2015 directed by Robert Eggers


An overly devout family, in 1630s New England is too extreme, even for their Puriton town, and are banished to the woods where they build a small farm and live as they see fit. One day youngest child, a baby, suddenly disappears and it is revealed pretty much right away that it is killed and ground up for use by a witch in the woods. This sets in motion a series of accusations, spiritual doubts and strange occult events that end in violence and destruction for all but one member of the clan. 

Made for only 4 million dollars, this movie proves that budget is not everything when it comes to making a great film. Horror movies in general are masters of small budgets but this takes it to another level. The performances are dead on, the cinematography is amazing and the shots are lit entirely with natural light and candlelight. It is slow moving but never dull and relies on creeping you out and disturbing ideas over gore and jump scares. It uses the language of the era it takes place in, which, to be fair, might be hard to understand for many people, and it also goes DEEP into actual witch lore from that period. That was a detail I personally appreciated as someone who finds actual folklore much more fascinating than the water downed versions of tales we have to suffer through at Halloween every year. The use of animals in this film is pretty horrifying. I never though a bunny rabbit woudl be the stuff nightmares by simply looking into the camera. 

While the fact of witches existing or not is never a question in the film, who they are is left mysterious and also why they are attacking the family is up for debate. My take was it was the father's pride that got them banished and starving that attracted evil and doomed his own family. The lead character, Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy is the soul survivor - but only because she surrenders to Satan in a scene that is too wonderfully disturbing, subtle and visual to describe here. 

Do you want to live deliciously? See this movie. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Isle of Dogs 2018 directed by Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson's animated film is more than a little odd. It is also more than a little amusing, intriguing and daring in its presentation.  It is visually stunning as one might expect from any of his films at this point but it also takes some risks by having some of the dialog in Japanese and remain untranslated, letting non-speakers having the figure out what is going on visually.  While some people seemed to think this was "cultural appropriation" a term with no specific meaning anyone can seem to define these days, I would argue it might be the opposite as it puts the target audience (English speakers) in the position of the foreigner having to parse out what is being in said in a place they do not understand the language.

The story is simple enough. A mean dictator type mayor is holding on to power by making dogs the enemy of the people, sending them to a trash island and demonizing them at every turn. His young ward, however, has flown himself to the island to search for the dog who was charged with protecting him and much of the film is concerned with the search for the dog by the boy and the search for the boy by the government. Little plot details liekthe young girl who is trying to prove the dogs are not dangerous and in the process falls in love with the young boy and the lives of the dogs move the film along at a good pace and keep it lively. The animation is great and unique in its application. The voice actors are pretty good, including Yoko Ono! There are many twists and turns and revelations along the way.

One thing to note: this is not a children's film by any means. There is violence they might find a little shocking and the plot gets pretty dense in parts, not to mention people and dogs get killed and die, throughout.

So while not for everyone, I highly recommend at least giving this movie a try.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Zero Theorem 2013 directed by Terry Gilliam


Cohen, a man working for "mamagement" in a distopian future who always refers to himself in the plural is requesting a disability status so he can work from home. The reason for this is he thinks he will recieve a telephone call that will tell hime what his meaning in life is.

He does eventaully get to work from home where he is joined by another programmer, Bob, who is ill and  his somewhat of a love interest, Bainsley who he shares a VR fantasy with.

In the end Cohen discovers that "Management" wants to prove there is no meaning of life. Choen destroys the machine and jumps inot the black hole within it, ending up back in the VR simulation, seemingly content despite management's biting statement that he has basicalling destroyed any meaning life did have for him by waiting for a phone call to tell him wha tthey meaning may have been.

Terry Gilliam is a brilliant dirextor. It's hard to deny that wiht his incredible body of work and he often returns to the same well for inspriation and ideas. This film, however, it pretty terrible. Despite some great actors, set peices and wonder Gilliam imagery, the movie comes off as a cheap copy of a Gilliam fim done by a much lesser filmmaker. The lead is good enough but the overall lavk of sympathy generated for him, or anyone else drags the story down. In Brazil the protagonist is relateable  and we care what happens to him. The world is a knockoff of the world of Brazil or maybe 12 Monkeys and never quite seems liek a real or interesting place. I do like that we see it in braod daylight so it doesn't fall into the distopian trope of "always raining and night".

Overall, a disspointing entry into the director's mostly great catalog of work.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Raven 2019 directed by Vincent-louis Apruzzese

Based on the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, this was my longest single animation to date at 9 minutes. Michael Z. Keamy did the narration and it was a solid 5 months of full time work to get it done. 

This time out with the addition of simple sub-titling tools added to Final Cut X, I was able to add French and English captioning so more people can watch and understand it. I tried for a sombre but realistic tone to present to poem. I have seen a few animations that go wild with abstract shots and ideas but I wanted this to keep grounded. It was a challenge to make something that is basically some depressed dude yelling at a bird in one room for nine minutes until he passes out! I started with longer, lingering shots and then made them shorter and shorter as it progressed to give it a faster pace while keeping the ideas of grief and depression to the forefront. 

Comments, etc with Blogger not working

If you have tried to leave a comment on this site, or my home page... or any blogger site it seems, you likely were prevented from doing so over the last few months at least. I have tried to contact google but no response and while there are rumours of improvements coming, I would not hold my breath. It seem likely blogger will cease to exist at some point and this version of the blog will dissappear.

If you want to comment still, please do, just send it to

If you have suggestions for free blog sites like blogger to switch to, I'm all ears!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sons of Star trek

For the Love of Spock (2016) directed by Adam Nimoy
Trek Nation (2011) ditected by Scott Colthorp

Eugene "Rod" Rodenberry and Adam Nimoy were the sons of gene Rodenberry and, the creator of Star Trek and Lenord Nimoy who played the iconic alien Mr. Spock in the franchise. Both got through not only the history and accomplishments of famous fathers but also the cost thier familys paid by having such well known and publically well loved figures as dads.

I can reccoemnd both documentaries highly. I will say, for the Love of Spock has better production values overall, which is not a surprise as Adam Nimoy is a film director. Trek Nation is not badly made either and tackles a much thornier subjects such as his dad's womanizing over the years with a very open interview with Majel Barrett, Gene Rodenberry's wife and Star Trek icon in her own right.

Oddly two films with strong connections to the history of Star Trek, a show that has been written about, discussed, parodied to infinity at this point, should be expected to have lots of repetative information and spill over from countless other projects about the subject, but they both are fresh takes on a juggernaugt franchise that only the sons of men who many consider to be giants can give us.