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Friday, April 12, 2013

Review Time! - The Croods (2013)

Ok,  a new review! Yay! Truth is, I wanted to try something new and record a review for the blog. It's a little unorganized but this is me fresh from seeing it moments ago. I'm also planning on reviewing the Dreamworks films in 2013, but I'll probably do my reviews like this. Hope you like this format and enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

कोबरा और नेवला

A little something to keep the pulse of this blog alive during my very busy schedule. But good news! I got a Blue Yeti microphone and might record a little something later this month. See ya then!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Siggraph 2013

A poster I had to make for a desktop publishing class. You can read about the Siggraph Conference here. Think I should actually enter it?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Plans and a rewrite.

Hey guys.

First off, I've been crazy busy lately, so sorry for not posting in a month. Anyway, I wanted to bring up some things.

1) I rewrote my Home on the Range review from Disneyear to make it less angry. To be honest, it may be kinda bad, but it's honestly not as terrible as I originally wrote it out to be. So I felt like I could make it a bit more honest. If you'd like to see the reedit, check it out here. I think it turned out a lot better than before.

2) I started work on a website for my artwork and I need some opinions about it. Visit it here and feel free to tell me what you think. Keep in mind the domain only lasts three weeks, so visit it when you can!

3) I'm still planning on doing more movie reviews. The big plan is to do a Studio-Ghibli theme beginning in January and buying a podcast microphone to provide some commentary on short films on the side.

Hope to see you guys soon. Oh, and enjoy a drawing of Benny the squirrel in the 1930's.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disneyear: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Well folks, here it is. The final film of Disneyear, Wreck-It Ralph. I'll be honest here, I was a little iffy when I first heard of this movie. I read the basic plot of it somewhere (I bet it was Wikipedia) and thought "Okay, it's like Megamind but in a video game... it might work." But then the trailer came out and my anticipation grew. I saw the main character jumping around different video games and thought this was a really neat idea. On top of that I noticed other video game characters were there too. If you look on the poster the trailer showcased a lot of video game characters like Bowser from Mario Bros., Major Bison from Street Fighter, Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man, Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, even Q-Bert made it in the movie! God was it nostalgic! Then I thought it over and said "it's more like Roger Rabbit then... this looks cool!". So as it was advertised more and more, the more I got sucked into it and the more I wanted to see it. It just seemed like the coolest damn thing ever! Then Nov. 2 came along and I got to catch it this weekend. And you know what? It really surprised me. Not by how bad it is but by how damn brilliant this is. I went from thinking this was a maybe to thinking that it's a serious contender for Best Animated Film of the Year! Yeah people, it's that good! So you're probably wondering what I think makes it so good? Well guys, I have to warn you again that this is going to have MAJOR SPOILERS in here so if you don't like those, just wait till you see it then come back. Otherwise, get your quarters ready to play Wreck-It Ralph. 

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is actually the villain of an 8-bit arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr, which is kind of like the original Donkey Kong. Feeling unappreciated, he decides he simply wants more out of life even though the other characters typecast him as a villain in real life. So he gets the idea that if he somehow gets a medal for being a hero, then maybe the others will respect him more. So he sets off to win a medal after bumping into a character from the first-person shooter Hero's Duty (similar to Halo) who mentions that heros get medals in his game. Ralph enters the game via The Central Game Station (which is a power outlet that connects many consoles together) and meets it's no-nonsense leader, General Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Ralph tries to fight and survive the game's enemies, alien parasites known as Cy-bugs, but he causes a game over by interfering with the game's user interface. Between game sessions, Ralph climbs the game's central beacon and collects the medal, accidentally hatching a Cy-Bug in the process. The Cy-bug clings to Ralph as he stumbles into an escape pod that launches him out of the game. Meanwhile, Ralph's absence has not gone unnoticed, as a girl tells Litwak that Fix-It Felix, Jr. is malfunctioning. Since broken games are unplugged, leaving their characters homeless, Felix (Jack McBrayer) sets off to find Ralph. The escape pod lands in literally a candy-coated racing game called Sugar Rush and meets with a glitch character called Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). The two dislike each other at first since Vanellope steals Ralph's medal and uses it to enter the next race to which the King Candy (Alan Tudyk) objects simply because she's a glitch in the program. She and Ralph start to form a bond once they figure out they can fix each other's problems: Ralph can make a cart for Vanellope while she can use it to win back Ralph's medal. They also discover that they're not so different  Meanwhile in Hero's Duty, Felix meets up with Calhoun to find Ralph and restore order because the Cy-bug that departed with Ralph in the escape pod acts as a virus and can potentially spread to all the consoles and have the games unplugged. So it's up to Ralph to fix what he accidentally started and save the arcade from certain destruction. End spoilers.

Remember when I said in my Roger Rabbit review that the film was a love letter to our childhoods? Well this film is a love letter to video games. There's no better phrase to describe it. As a gamer, I waxed nostalgic for this movie. The whole film is scattered with references to video games from glitches and viruses to secret easter eggs hidden inside. There's also a ton of third party characters that make it in like Bowser, Pac-Man, Dr. Eggman, Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Q-Bert, even Sonic the HedgeHog. Oh and Mario gets mentioned briefly. Sucks... would have loved to see him in this movie. The environments are jaw-droppingly beautiful and offer a variety of moods from cheerful and colorful to dark and unsettling. The video game setting offers an amazing amount of creative possibilities for the Disney animators, from the way the characters are drawn and animated (note the Nicelanders' limited movements and Vanellope's occasional glitching), to the way their lives are portrayed outside of their own game. What Ralph does is apparently called "going Turbo" where if you leave your own game, you have a chance of unplugging both your game and the one you enter. It's considered taboo and highly frowned upon in the arcade. Again, what a brilliant and brilliant concept.

As far as complaints go, I kind of wish the cameos were utilized better. In Roger Rabbit, other cartoon characters conversed and interacted with each other throughout the film. Here, we only get a bad-guy seminar (which was a funny scene, btw) and Q-Bert does play sort of a major role. Other than that, they're just there. But it was fun to try and spot them all, I'll admit. And it would have been cooler if the movie explored more than three games. It sticks with one a little too long, but at least it's a visually pleasing world.

As far as the story goes, it's your basic "I gotta be me" tale, but it's still a strong story. What sets it apart however are all the environments, creativity, and of course the characters. John C. Reilly does a fantastic job as Wreck-It Ralph and the character himself is really likeable. He's really a nice guy at heart that just wants a little respect, which is something we all can identify with. Jane Lynch plays another tough-ass character but again, is kind of likeable. They give her what the film calls "programmed with the most depressing back-story ever" (which I honestly thought was kind of funny as it should.) and she does show through the bond she develops with Felix that she's not so tough. Kind of nice. Speaking of Fix-It Felix, oh my God! He was single-handedly the funniest character here. I haven't laughed at a character this hard since Maximus in Tangled and part of it comes from the dorky charm of Jack McBrayer playing the role. Vanellope, played by Sarah Silverman, was kind of annoying. But to be fair, I think she was kind of supposed to be like that. The character actually grew on me later and I dare say it was perfect casting on Silverman's part. The villain is definitely one of the femmiest and funniest I've seen in awhile. He's sort of like if The Mad Hatter became evil somehow. How he's the villain and his backstory I dare not ruin for you, so go and see it for yourself. When the scene reveals it near the end, I'll admit I didn't see this odd twist coming!

While Wreck-It Ralph isn't the all-out Super Smash Brothers movie I was expecting, the movie comes with loads of surprises that are sure to delight and entertain a wide audience, gamers and non-gamers and kids and adults. There's a little something for everyone in Wreck-It Ralph. With a clever concept, good jokes (though some were a little juvenile to my tastes), great characters and voice-acting, fantastic animation and art direction, and nostalgia for gamers, this movie's a sure fire winner. I think it may of found a way in my top 10 Disney films overnight. I really enjoyed it and chances are you will too. Go see it when you can and come to your own conclusions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New ideas for the blog and some more characters!

Hey hey, readers. I know I haven't posted reviews in a while, but I will when I get a chance. But in the meantime, I'd like to share what I plan on doing here from now on. I'm actually considering a new series of written reviews on here called "Animated Animosity" where I review the animated films that are... less than good. I wanted to try this for a while after Disneyyear and Pixargust was over. I'll also try out other animated movies too because there's a bunch that deserve to have a look. Those will usually be in some sort of theme to it and I'll likely do what I did in Pixargust and keep posting in the span of a month or more. Whatever I review will normally be up to me but if I get enough requests to review a certain movie, I'll do it. Oh, and expect a surprise Disneyear review in a month or so!

 I'm also planning on buying a microphone soon for video posts that will have me talking over a random theatrical short and even some TV cartoons from past and present while I talk about what I think of them. It'll be basically like a live commentary. I'll also post the original short or episode without my voice over it in case you haven't seen it yet. I'll also keep posting my artwork as well. There's lots more coming soon, so keep tuned here.

In the meantime, here's my star character, Ralph. Ralph is like any mouse: quiet, timid, and curious. But since Ralph is very small, he has to use his brain instead of his brawn to get himself out of trouble in a calm, collected manner. Ralph has Ralph also is a cultured person, preferring the arts, classical music, and some jazz over today's standards. He's pretty talented at creating art, has a nice singing voice, level-headed, a MENSA member, and modest. Ralph also has a very friendly persona, helping anyone out so long as they don't hurt him. He comes from a long line of laboratory mice, which is why he's white with blue eyes and likely explains how he's so smart. Ralph is a mix of myself with a little bit of Dean Martin's wit. The tail design just came to me.

Then there's Benny, a devious little squirrel that's full of fun and energy. Benny has a usually happy, up-beat persona. He may be a wee bit nuts and may come across as annoying to his neighbor Gordon, but he does use his head occasionally when there's trouble. It's just easier for him to be energetic and popping up at random moments. He has the ability to pull cartoon weaponry out of thin air. He also has a speech impediment where whenever he hits an "s" sound, it comes out as a whistle. He also has a dark side to him, showing extreme animosity towards someone that does him any kind of harm making him want to get even by any means necessary. Benny's one of my favorite characters that I made and he'll be loads of fun to make cartoons for in the future.

Finally, we have Bear and Eli, a pink toy panda and 
elephant brother and sister duo. Bear is a toy panda that acts acts as Eli's big sister. She is a sweet, caring individual but isn't afraid to take on responsibilities. She doesn't mind baths and respects rules. She is authoritative and has a more realistic approach to things than her brother. It's her seriousness that can make her frustrated with Eli sometimes, but she still loves her brother all the same and will do anything to keep him happy and safe. Eli is a toy elephant and is Bear's little brother. He is all heart and extremely playful and child-like in temperament and it's because of this that he can get frustrated easily and doesn't always know how to handle his emotions. He loves to play and makes friends but hates veggies and baths. Overall, he's a big bundle of love. Their origin story is an interesting one. Back in high school, I had a friend, Vicki, who had these two pink stuffed animals named Bear and Eli. Respectively, they were a bear and an elephant. So after she made a short play script for our Children's Theater class based off of the two toys, I thought about what they would look like as cartoons. These designs were my end results and I continue to draw and write stories for them to this day.

Like I said, stay tooned for more (sorry for the pun!) in the future! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More characters!

I've been playing around on Photoshop for a while and made some more portraits of my characters. I figured I'd at least introduce these character for new comers this time, so I'll give some details here. 

First up is Bhim and Ambika, the cobra and mongoose duo. Bhim (the mongoose) is sort of a jerk. He's extremely pugnacious and hard-headed, but easily wimps out if he winds up fighting something bigger, like a tiger or a python. Ambika (the cobra) is the opposite. She's friendly and shy. She's sort of a wildflower and has figured out that the Bhim is actually hypnotized by her beautiful dancing and singing, which she uses to her advantage in tight spots. They have a kind of frienemy-ish relationship.

I got inspiration for these two after watching Animal Planet and saw a mongoose and a cobra fight in real life. Most of the time, the mongoose is the winner of these fights but I always wondered if the cobra would ever win and how. The musical numbers are also inspired by Eartha Kitt when she was younger with the visual style of Bollywood films. The point of this series is to hopefully have people change their thoughts on snakes. In reality, most snakes are like Ambika: they don't want to fight or bite. They just want to be left in peace.

 Then we have Chilé, a chinchilla with a very fiery personality. A tad brash, Chilé will always act before thinking about it making him believe he can do anything. Even if he comes off as cocky, he's far from it. Chilé is actually very chivalrous and always willing to help even if the odds are against him. Especially for a woman. Chilé is also an amorous creature who's up to sacrificing himself for any pretty face. He happens to have one certain weakness: he also is a habitual cleaner. He'll clean anything that looks dirty with his long, bushy tail since he dislikes filth. Chilé needs to keep his fur away from water which is why he prefers to bathe in volcanic dust.
Chilé was inspired by my pet chinchilla, Kirby, and several viewings of Disney's The Three Caballeros. His outfit is based on a huacho, the Chilean equivalent of a cowboy.

More characters will come later. Keep tuned!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gordon portrait

Hey hey, readers! I recently decided to join my art blog with this one, so I can share my reviews and ideas for characters and stories. So here's a portrait I made of one of my characters: Gordon the Scottish Capuchin monkey. If you want to learn about his character, just search Gordon in the search bar and you'll find him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pixargust: Brave (2012)

We now come to the final film of Pixargust: Brave. I think we all remember the trailer and we were looking forward to an epic adventure from Pixar, especially after the disappointment from Cars 2. I mean wow! It only showed our lead out in the wilderness and then this huge bear pops out of nowhere and she only has a bow and arrow to protect her. It looked awesome! So I was hyped to see this in theaters. Me and a few friends of mine went to the midnight premier and we eagerly awaited for it to start. When it ended, we were all happy we saw it but one of my friends commented "Something was off about it, but I liked it." So I saw it again with another friend and after the second viewing, I think I know why my first friend said that. It still was as good as I remember it, but there is a small problem with it. Now before I go on, I want to address that there are major spoilers in this review so if you have not seen this yet and don't want my review to ruin it for you, you may want to just reread another review of mine. And I know it's not on DVD as I'm typing this, so I'm going to have to use what clips I can find on YouTube. So if you're still here, then here we go: let's see if this will change Pixar's fate with the last film of Pixargust, Brave.

Set in medieval Scotland, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) presents his daughter Merida (Kelly Macdonald) with a bow and arrow and ever since, she's become something of a tomboy, riding off into the woods to practice archery and be a free spirit. That is until her mother, Queen Elanor (Emma Thompson) announces that Merida will be betrothed by one of three allied clans. She's not really ready or willing to go through this despite her mother's pleas for keeping tradition. The clans arrive to compete in the Highland Games to compete for Merida's hand. She announces that she will compete for her right to remain single, but this causes a dispute between her and Elanor. She cuts her family tapestry in anger and flees to the woods where a group of will-o-wisps lead her to a witch's hut in guise of a wood carver's shop. She agrees to give Merida a spell to change her fate if she buys all of her carvings with a family medallion. She gives it to her in the form of a cake, which she gives Elanor. It causes her mother to transform into a bear, catching Merida off guard. Turns out Elanor is now in danger because of her husband's hatred of bears from a big demon one named Mor'du got his leg and has since seeked vengeance. They escape thanks to her brothers and overtime in the woods, mother and daughter have to work together to break the spell. The witch isn't there, but leaves behind a riddle, "mend the bond torn by pride". Merida theorizes that she can reverse the spell by repairing her family tapestry. They set off back home until the wisps lead her to an ancient ruins, where they find out that Mor'du was the emperor from a legend Elanor told Merida. They escape the demon bear but now have to sneak Elanor as a bear, but losing control of her human personality, back in her room. Fergus finds the bear thinking it's Mor'du and chases her to a Stonehenge like clearing. Merida rushes to defend her while sewing back the tapestry, but the real Mor'du shows up. Elanor kills Mor'du by luring him to one of the stones and crushes him, releasing his spirit. Merida covers bear Elanor with the tapestry and when it doesn't seem like it's working, she returns to normal. The two now have a better relationship with each other, the clans depart, and we end with the two riding horses in the wilderness. 

Let's start with what my friend considered "off": the story. It's not a bad story by any means, but it's one that we've seen before in other animated movies. It's a princess that wants her freedom. If you read my Disneyear reviews, then you know now what I'm talking about. This story and main character have been used a dozen times before. Not only that but there's a few elements from Brother Bear in the mix too. It lacks the creativity and magic Pixar is so famous for. There is depth and some interesting twists in the movie, but it's not as groundbreaking as the other Pixar movies, so it comes off a little bit of a disappointment. Again, it's not a bad story, but it is the weakest aspect of the film. 

But are the story flaws overly distracting? Honestly, no. The rest of the movie is really good. The animation for starters is some of the finest you'll see in the movie. I mean wow. This environment looks so photo-realistic. The designs of some of the characters are a little cartoony, but it does work since it's a fairy-tale movie. I also love the attention to detail not just in the animation, but in the voice acting. Every actor in this movie actually does have Scottish heritage. That's really cool and something pretty rare to find in animated movies. There's also the aspect of this culture. Just like in Brother Bear, you get hooked to these people and culture from minute one and whether or not the culture is correct, it still make for interesting fables and myth. But unlike Brother Bear, it does stick with this aspect all the way through. In fact, legends are what drive the story from start to finish. It's almost as if Pixar looked at Brother Bear, saw it's potential, and fixed all it's errors from the middle of that movie. 

I like the designs of these wisps, by the way.
Some of the characters may have been done before, but they're still enjoyable. Merida, for starters, may be someone we've seen in other Disney films before: she's the fiery free spirit that wants to make her own choices and fights her own battles and so on. But I think what makes her stand out though is that she has quite a bit of bratty teenager in her, as evidenced by the lack of morality she displays in trying to change her mother's mind about her upcoming betrothal and yet heaps of bravery, as she shows when confronted with what she's done to her Mother. She does realize her choices have consequences and does what she can to fix them. I also love Kelly MacDonnald's performance too. There's such a genuine sweetness in her voice that transfers well to Merida.

King Fergus is a great comedic character, as expected when Billy Connolly plays him. He's a lot of fun and the scenes with him and the other clan leaders does make for fun comedy. Merida also has these three brothers that are mischievous and do get some good scenes. The best character, by far though, is Elanor. As a queen in a fairy tale, her role could have been type-casted for the villain or just unlikable. But the movie shows that she does indeed love her daughter and only wants to keep tradition in her kingdom. She does know her relationship with her daughter is on the rocks, but what's interesting is that both characters are kind of stubborn at first. It's after Elanor turns into a bear is when it gets even better. The scenes where she tries to act proper as a bear just kill me! The two begin to learn about and from each other as they bond while trying to fix the spell and their relationship turns out for the better They also added this interesting aspect where she would constantly revert personality from human to ursine as the spell progresses. Like I said, this is Brother Bear done right. It's far, far more engaging and timeless. This is really where the heart is.

Brave doesn't quite hold up to the other Pixar films because of a rather weak story, but it comes close. These are memorable characters with a compelling world and culture they live in. The animation is some of the best from the studio, but I wish that the film had more creative energy and magic to back it up. This could have been a masterpiece if it didn't have such a been-done story, but it's still enjoyable as is. It's not a great movie, but it is good. If you're still interested in seeing a Pixar fairy tale or just want an entertaining film to see this summer, I'd say go check it out while you still can.

And this is where Pixargust ends. Again, thank all of you so much for sticking with me this month and sharing your thoughts and ideas about these movies with me. I'm sure you have your own opinions out there so get out there and share them so I can see them. And remember: even the worst from Pixar is still better than the best from Michael Bay. I guess when Monsters University comes out next year, I'll be sure to share my thoughts here. Thank you so much and take care.