Big Hero 6 Review

This is way long overdue. I originally watched Big Hero 6 back when it first came out but life was hectic and I never got to talk about it. Today I was planning on going to see Selma since I got an early screening pass but the theater filled up before I could get in. I wasn't too bummed out since I saw that Big Hero 6 was still playing at the theater and I was way more excited to see that again.

I had almost forgotten that Feast played in front of Big Hero 6 so I got really excited when it came on. I had already seen a rough cut prior to the full release and then once again the first time I saw Big Hero 6. When I saw it in front of the movie, for some reason I had felt that Feast played somewhat faster, as in a shot or two might have been cut, than what I originally saw. It was mainly in the beginning when the man and the woman gradually fall out of their relationship. Now that I saw it again I didn't feel that as much, particularly as I was able to focus on what was going on in the background instead of Winston, the dog, and his food. Other things that I really enjoyed was the visual storytelling. The color green was used so well as it being associated the woman and unwanted foods, but then turns around at the end with the baby on a green chair. I loved the shot with Winston opening his mouth wide and we get a shot down his throat during the football game and is then mimicked again when the baby drops the meatball.

Big Hero 6. I loved it the first time. It was hilarious and also so sad. All the feels! I felt them all again watching it this second time around. During the scene where Hiro is first introduced to Baymax and had to say "I am satisfied with my care" I already lost it and was crying.

I am also currently obsessed with finding a San Fransokyo hat like the one that Tadashi has. If anyone knows where I can get one, let me know!

The skin texture/shading/material is so interesting that I kept looking at it throughout the movie. They're stylized and simplistic and different than what I'm used to doing. The skin is smooth and there's some beautiful color variations with blush and lights and darks which makes it interesting to look at but not overly detailed. Generally for skin I've always had to use a speckle in the specular map and a noise in the bump to give it that skin texture with pores look.

Lighting. Disney has their new Hyperion render engine and I've read a few articles about it and it sounds awesome. More importantly though is that some seem to claim that with Hyperion only a primary light source is needed to light the entire scene of Big Hero 6 and then everything else is left to the render engine to calculate global illumination. I'm not quite sure how true that is as there were a lot of light sources in each scene in and there were clearly primary and secondary lights; otherwise it wouldn't be possible to have both a specular highlight in the eye and a rim light coming from behind. It would probably be more accurate to say that the amount of lights necessary to light a shot has dramatically been decreased and more calculations are handled by the render engine which in turn also decreases some inconsistency of light and color between shots.

Generally I cringe at the thought of sequels but I really want to see a sequel to Big Hero 6!

Book of Life Review

Coming all the way from Texas, Reel FX brings us a new movie after Free Birds. The general consensus that I got about the movie was that the movie was good, can be a bit corny, but a good movie. Hearing that I was looking forward to Book of Life, especially seeing how pretty the Land of the Remembered is from trailers. The movie starts off as triangle love story where two boys/men fall in love with a girl and vie for her attention and hand in marriage. The catch is that the gods of the afterlife, La Muerte and Xibalba, have a wager going on of who wins the girl, and the prize being the one who gets to rule over the Land of the Remembered, which is far more appealing than the Land of the Forgotten. The story quickly becomes a whole lot more of growing up, becoming who you are, and creating your own life. The movie itself is told through an interesting way as the main plot is told as a story to a group of kids by a museum tour guide. I find it an odd choice as I did not feel the "present" world contributed a lot significantly to the plot and the movie could have probably just been told through the main story alone. The method does explain the artistic direction and stylized approach to why everything looks like wood figures but an art director could have just as easily said "I want the film to look this way and this is how it will be" without the whole preamble of being a story within a story.

I don't know a lot about the holiday Dia de la Muerte other than it is a Mexican holiday to celebrate/remember the dead. I took the characters and the representation of culture at face value. Now that I have the time to do some research, I've found that La Muerte is actually the figure Catrina popular in modern Dia de la Muerte and Xibalba is actually a place from Mayan mythology and not a figure at all. I haven't heard anyone become horribly offended and cry bloody murder for misappropriation of culture so all seems to be fine. La Muerte was beautiful and my favorite character. Xibalba was interesting with his skull eyes however I found him to be slightly too comedic for my tastes. I prefer my villains to be cold and haughty, like Maleficient, but Xibalba read more like Hades from Hercules. I am extremely iffy about the Candlemaker. I love the textures and shading on him as he looks amazing but there is already a large cast of characters and the Candlemaker character doesn't feel like he contributes anything significant. His character could have been cut out and the movie would have moved along fine without him. During the movie I had assumed that it might be because the Candlemaker was a central figure to the holiday but I could not seem to find anything about such a mythological figure.

The animation and humor involved a lot of slapstick. I generally enjoy a good pun but some of the comedy got me laughing. However what was somewhat disappointing though was that the only ones laughing seemed mainly to be the older audience, such as those who I went with. There were quite a number of children in the audience but they seemed to be generally silent through the movie. Maybe it's the Sunday morning crowd but most of the time I didn't hear them laughing and usually kids love slapstick.

Pixar had a Dia de la Muerte movie in the works but any news of it seems to have fallen silent. I don't know if it's still in the works or not as Inside Out and Good Dinosaur seems to be their current main focus or if it has fallen to the wayside and may end up similar to Newt that was ultimately cut and then got taken by Blue Sky to be remade into Rio.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

I usually don't review live action movies since my focus is in animation but I like X-Men this much so I'll do it. It also helps that I got to see it twice. First time in theaters and once again through a special invite from VES to watch a private screening of the movie at Dolby Labs' theater. It's nice that I got to enjoy the movie as it is the first time and then focus on analysis the second time around instead of thinking about every scene as it happens and jotting down a memory of note so I can review it later. Really enjoyed the movie. Go see it if you haven't already! I was never a big superhero fan as a child growing up and am only more into it now as I'm in the animation and visual effects industry. I didn't grow up reading the X-Men comics or watching the cartoon so I don't have a lot of back history with the series; I only started to become a fan after the first movie in 2000. I've read some of the comics in recent years, but the timelines were all after the House of M devastation. What I did learn from those few series is how bleak and depressing the world for the mutants is. The mutants are despised, feared, segregated, and discriminated heavily against and often killed through some of the most horrific means. To top all that off, in order to end the timeline and to start a new plot the comic often ends with all the mutant killed either by the hands of others or by themselves through someone going berserk. I have actually cried through reading some of the issues and makes me wonder exactly what the Avengers were doing. Particularly in New Mutants when a mass homicide happened to kill a bus full of children.

This is one factor that I really liked about Days of Future Past. The movie captured that bleak future and devastation of the comics that I remembered. However they then turned it around with a message of hope saying that there can be a better way instead of living in fear and discriminating others.

Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we need a little help.

Getting to see the movie a second time enabled me to watch for the little things and those little things were really fun and made me appreciate the movie much more. First up is when Wolverine is talking to the mafia thugs trying to intimidate them. I just found it hilarious that Hugh Jackman was flexing his chest while talking, adding to the "intimidation" factor. The other one that I really like is when Magneto hits his head on the pavement from being attacked by Beast. It's not a major or even a minor part to the plot and in no way affects anything but the movie remembers to make Magneto bleed while he's held underwater in the fountain and then him stitching himself back up afterward.

However, being able to analyze the movie a second time also means that I can spot plot holes and continuity issues. First up is Magneto's ability. Magneto's power is to control magnetism not to control metal. It's fine if the non-mutants chalk up Magneto's ability to control metal since they don't know that much but for Quicksilver to say that he was told that Magneto can control metal is strange since Xavier and Wolverine should know way better than that. Continuing on Magneto's abilities, he threaded metal through the Sentinels so that he was able to control them but in no way is he able to overwrite their system. Thus, it makes no sense when Magneto gives a voice command to a Sentinel to go "do what you're made for". As Magneto is saved from prison, the rescue finds themselves facing a group of security with plastic/ceramic guns and Xavier doesn't have his powers. Quicksilver comes to the rescue with his super speed and diverts the trajectories of the bullets and the guards' bodies. It was a fun and hilarious scene but the issue is that Quicksilver is listening to music as it happens. Unless he has a super sped up song it kind of can't happen. A confusing continuity issue is the jump from Paris, right after Mystique attempts to kill Trask, and then to Washington DC, when the President is having a meeting to discuss the issue. It looks like the same day and time and if a major issue of having mutants show up in public I assume that the President is responding immediately instead of waiting a few days to review the issue. The problem is that Trask is also at the meeting. How did he get from Paris to Washington DC in seemingly no time, assuming it's the same day and probably only soon after the event? Even more puzzling is to why is Trask at the meeting at all. This was a private meeting between the President and his council members. Trask is a businessman and developer but seeing as how the President knew nothing about the mutants or the Sentinel program, there would be no reason to have knowledge of inviting Trask to the private meeting.

Assuming all the movies thus far are on one singular timeline, as it seems to be from the flashbacks, there are some questions left. Mystique was captured by Trask and then experimented on to create the Sentinels but then she somehow escapes or is rescued but all in one piece even though Trask wanted to take brain tissues, spinal fluid, and bone marrow at the very least. After the future is fixed does the first X-Men movie still happen with Magneto kidnapping Rogue so he can turn the entire world into mutants? At the end it shows Stryker pulling Wolverine out of the water but it turns out it was Mystique impersonating. I assume Wolverine still gets his metal claws in the new future since it's party of his signature but then how did Wolverine get from being saved by Mystique to being back in Stryker's hands to be tortured and pumped full of adamantium?

Apparently Rogue was suppose to play a part in the movie. After Kitty Pyrde got cut by Wolverine, Magneto and Xavier were suppose to go rescue Rogue out of prison so that Rogue can take Kitty's powers and take over holding Wolverine in the past. I was glad that this part got cut out as it doesn't seem extremely necessary in the larger part of the story, it doesn't break the already going on continuity to go to a third location, and it adds to the urgency of the situation.

Effects and CG wise I thought they looked great. I wish they had Blink with her purple skin, even tinted slightly, and that Sunspot looked more like the comic book version with him being largely black with a fire-y halo/glow around him as I feel the current version looks somewhat like Human Torch from Fantastic Four. Small nitpicks though and not all that important. I can see why they decided to go with the direction of Sunspot as everything was really dark in the future and he would have been hard to see. Loved the future Sentinels and how they would ripple when changing. As always, love Mystique's transformation effect. Props to Jennifer Lawrence and the make up team for having to go through seven hours of prosthetic makeup to create Mystique. The only part that I felt was awkward and not integrated completely was when the metal tracks were flying alongside the train. I think the specularity on them may have been too high or the black and white values were somewhat off.

Remember to stay to the end, not only for respect of all the artists who worked on the movie, but there's also a sneak peek into the next movie, X-Men: Apocalypse. We get a teaser with Apocalypse building a pyramid and then off in the distance are the silhouettes of four people on horses!

I'm glad that the movie is doing well as that means it paves the way for more movies to be made. X-Men movies are probably ridiculously expensive to make as not only are there all the visual effects needed for every mutant but there are quite a few large named actors which most likely costs a pretty penny and they can't really be replaced as they've long been established as their characters already.

Frozen Review

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I got over my cold right on time for it and what's just as exciting is finally the release of Frozen! It's been quite a while since I've went to the theaters as I skipped Turbo, Planes, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and Freebirds. I have been eagerly waiting for this movie to be released and haven't been able to see any early screenings of it either, at ILM or CTN. I don't care about some people saying the characters look too homogenized, looking too much like Rapunzel from Tangled, or how they dislike the sidekick character, Olaf. This movie is completely for me. Frozen has two princesses and lots of singing which is, even though I still loved it, something that I found sadly missing from Wreck-it-Ralph. After the official release, there's even been a review with a headline, that I quickly glanced at,  saying that Frozen is the new best movie since Lion King. This is a tall, tall, order to make as Lion King is my favorite Disney movie. While Lion King doesn't lose its spot, I loved Frozen. I've cried many times throughout the movie and, while For the First Time is easier to sing, Let It Go is my favorite song.

First off is trailers! Animal Logic is making another movie, The Polar Bears, and it features the polar bears from Coca-Cola. I don't know. It looks cute with polar bears and it seems like a standard happy family movie but at the same time it may fall into the trap of making a giant hour long advertisement for Coca-Cola. The Nut Job, by ToonBox Entertainment and Red Rover International, is something new but unfortunately doesn't really spark my interest with squirrels and rats trying to break into a nut shop. I was kind of iffy on The Lego Movie before but seeing this new trailer made it look pretty good. The movie is directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and it really comes across with all the hilarious gags.

The short that comes before Frozen is Mickey Mouse in Get a Horse. I had already seen Get a Horse previously at Animation Show of Shows but it was unfortunately just in 2D. 3D does make it better, it was more visually appealing as the characters play with the different levels of space. Not only is there the 3D foreground space of the theater and the 2D space of the projected movie screen but there is another 3D space behind the screen which further suggests the authenticity of the characters and the world that they inhabit, recalling back to my days from DxArts.

Frozen is based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen. Loosely. Which I love. Just like with Princess and the Frog and Tangled, I love seeing how Disney can take a classic story and put a new twist on it that is exciting, intriguing, and appealing. Instead of a girl traveling to snowy lands to save her kidnapped brother from the snow queen, Anna and Elsa are sisters and Elsa, who becomes the snow queen, is frightened of her powers and ends up running away after an incident to protect those she cares for from herself. Anna must journey to find her sister and resolve the issue, casting Arendelle into eternal winter, accidentally caused by Elsa.

Since the trailers, people have been giving a lot of grief over the snowman sidekick character, Olaf. Many complaints were that he was annoying and doesn't contribute in a significant way other than to provide comedic relief. In the movie, while he does provide comedic relief, I actually find Olaf coming across as very endearing. This is partially built upon by the history he has between Elsa and Anna as Olaf is the snowman that Elsa built for Anna in their childhood, while they were still friends and Anna hadn't had her memory wiped.

I love Elsa, she is fierce. I do wish she had more screen time. Her character cinched it for me when she sang Let It Go. The sequence was beautiful and the song really hit home as she sang about how she had to keep herself hidden all the years past and become the normal girl everyone expects of her. She's had enough hiding herself and it's time to open up and be proud of who she is. One confusion I do have though is her issue of being unable to control her powers. She looked like she was able to control them perfectly well as she creates a bridge of ice and an entire palace. It's only when there are other people around does it suddenly become "Oh no, stay away from me, I can't control it!" However, I'll attribute this more to that Elsa isn't so much as can't control her powers as she has too much powers and it is bursting out of her, especially after being stoppled for so many years.

There is one point with the story that I take issue with though and that is the romance angle. It was great that Hans isn't who he really seems to be and of course Anna can't just up and marry a guy on the first day they meet but turning around and saying she's in love with Kristoff also felt like a stretch. Through their journey together there was a sense of camaraderie but I would not say feelings were developed. The love angle was more so pushed at the last minute between Olaf and Sven as they attempt to push Anna and Kristoff together in necessity of true love's kiss.

The snow dynamics was amazing and beautiful. I believe Disney is calling it Matterhorn, which they presented at SIGGRAPH. There were multiple scenes where the characters would be covered in snow and I wondered if they had to create separate rigs that are covered in snow or if they just used the snow particles and stuck it to the characters.

For animation, the one shot that struck me the most is during Elsa's coronation. She had to take her gloves off to pick up the scepter and an orb(?), but her gloves are what she wears to keep her powers at bay. As she takes off her gloves you can see the little tremors in her hands which was beautiful and says so much.

The lighting is beautiful throughout the film. I wish a color script or a render script is somewhere for me to gaze upon. The movie starts out strong with a beautiful sunset back lighting the mountain men as they sing Frozen Heart and harvest blocks of ice. Following the beautiful and almost painterly tones and style of the world, the lighting was typically kept soft. While the land was covered in snow and ice, to keep the movie going sad and cold, a lot of vibrant blues and warm purples were used. It wasn't until when Elsa was captured and locked up did the world turn a stark and gray only to have that shadow be cast away when the protagonists emerge victorious.

I love staying through the credits, not only to support the artists, look for names of people that I know, and to stay for the often ending clip. I found Kira Lehtomaki (animator), Robert Showalter (lighter), and Dawn Rivera-Ernster (director of talent development). While reading through the credits there was also a fun little disclaimer. In the movie, Kristoff made the statement that all men eat their own boogers. The disclaimer said that Kristoff's views were his own and does not reflect upon Disney. When I got up to leave the theater I noticed that I was the only one left. Everyone else missed the ending clip with Marshmallow coming on screen to put on Elsa's tiara. They missed out!

Epic Review

It seems that whenever I try to get somewhere for something important at a very specific time, and even leaving myself an extra 20-30 minutes just in case, I get the bus with the driver that goes stupidly slow making me late for whatever engagement that I have. As such, I barely made it to Epic this morning while unfortunately missing the trailers. I don't think there's anything too surprising coming up. In the animated films category we got Monster's University (June 21), Despicable Me 2 (July 3), Turbo (July 17), Planes (August-ish), Sunny with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (September 27), Frozen (November 27), and Walking with Dinosaurs (December 20). I'm sorry but I'm really not looking forward to Planes. It really seems rushed as Disney was first working on Frozen and then Planes was announced to be released but at an even earlier date than Frozen. Plus, it's probably being made for the same purpose of Cars 2 and that's because it sells a lot of toys. "Fun" thing that happened, the movie projector broke 5 minutes before the end of the movie. They did finally fix it and I got to see Epic all the way to the end and all the credits. It broke the "experience" somewhat but I got a free movie pass out of it! By Blue Sky studios, Epic is based off of the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. It was great seeing Blue Sky pushing what they are able to do. They have only started to introduce human characters in Rio but have yet to do a movie with a full cast of human characters. It is similar to what Pixar does, each film isn't really just about making a film but a continuous learning and developing process and applying the techniques and technology created in a format to be shown off. I'd have to say that my favorite character was Mub, the slug, voiced by Aziz Ansari. He was just hilarious.

Epic was epic-ly beautiful. First, please watch it in 3D as it was amazing. I know there are people out there who don't think it's worth paying the extra few dollars to see a movie in 3D as it is just a sort of gimmick but I will argue artist intentions. Animated movies are being specifically made in 3D and seen as such. The 2D is just another process that the studio will put out for those who don't wish to see it in the 3D format. Looking at something in the original format is so important, especially to me as an artist. Taking classical fine art for example, you don't get the same experience and feeling of color, texture, and the tactile quality of the materials of looking at a painting in person versus in a photograph. Seeing a Rothko or even a Pollock in person is vastly different compared to a photograph. Rothko's color fields will completely surround and envelope you as you look into it and Pollock's splatter paintings are layered so heavily and in such an exact way that it achieves depth and perspective. In Epic, Blue Sky has layered many elements of the foliage together and really pushed the depth of field to make the audience feel small in a vast and large extending forest. If anything else, support the industry! Stereoscope creates another field of job opportunities for people to get in.

The textures were beautiful. There was one scene were a deer comes in and so we look at it overall in large but then it comes close and we get to see all the details up close from a tiny person's point of view. I loved the details on the slug's back and it was all nicely moist and slimy. The human characters' skin textures were somewhat safe and plain in my view, especially when compared to the patterns, wrinkles, and such of the Boggans' (the evil rot people). I can understand going human for MK (the female protagonist) and her father but I do wish that something more interesting could have been done with the leaf people as they mainly just looked like tiny humans wearing green leaf patterned armor. Particularly as everybody else in the world were clearly insects or plants but the leaf men were clearly not.

For animation, the one that stuck out the most to me were the slug and snail. Particularly the eye-stalks and how they would move around and act also as limbs as times were interesting and hilarious. I don't know if it was hard or not, but something interesting that the animators had to do was animate in super slow motion. In the world of the leaf men, bugs, and the rest of the magical creatures they experience time in an accelerated format so when the two worlds meet, from the point of view of MK and the leaf men, the normal world that is inhabited by MK's father and dog move at a ridiculous and hilariously slow speed.

I had two small qualms with the story. First was why the queen had to run away. It has been mentioned that she is extremely powerful, with a wave of her hand she can undo all of whatever the Boggans destroy. There was a large hoard of Boggans coming to attack her so I suppose it may have been too many to fight off but she is queen of the forest and in her own realm. She did a little bit of ass-kicking here and there but I felt like the queen could have done so much more, such as calling all of the forest to rise up and strike the Boggans. Maybe there was a limit to her powers or maybe her powers were waning as it's time to pass it on to her heir, but it was never explained so we just need her to be chased down so the story can move on to focusing on MK's journey. The second point would be to why MK could suddenly jump incredible distances. Sure, maybe the leaf men can do it because they're magical creatures that might be part grasshopper but I don't think being shrunk down would suddenly give a normal human super leg strength.A slightly bigger issue that I have is the love relationship aspect between MK and Ronin. They went on an adventure together and I did feel that they started to like each other but not really to the point of love, where there's a spark, and the kiss scene. At the end, when MK returns, there was no continuation of that love, they were just video chatting like two friends keeping in touch. To me, the movie felt more about MK reconnecting with her dad and to do so by learning about how everyone is connected and not alone through the leaf men and so this barely perceptible tangent of love relationship between MK and Ronin was meh.

I forgive the above because there was a musical number in the movie. I'm a sucker for those and was so disappointed when there wasn't one in Wreck it Ralph.

It's great. Go watch it. Go watch it in 3D.

Zambezia Review

Courtesy of Animation Magazine, I recently learned of and watched a not very well known but interesting, nice, and worth watching film called Zambezia. It is the first full length 3D animated film that hails from Triggerfish Studios located in South Africa. With some unique African flavors that comes from a full South African crew, Zambezia tells the story of a young falcon who leaves home for the big city to find fame and experience a new world.

While coming from overseas, Triggerfish looks to the American story guidelines and follow a pretty straightforward telling of the plot. While certain scenes can become somewhat cliche and predictable, they do still effectively engage the viewers and tug on their emotions.

Very interesting is that the film was rendered in mental ray. There is nothing wrong with it being so except for the fact that while it is a beautiful render, it is terribly integrated in Maya to the point of being ridiculously convoluted. Even without using something as heavy as Renderman, there is VRay which is amazing, easy, and beautiful.

Unfortunately, the movie is also guilty of failing of having correct eye specular highlights. After having learned about the eye specular issue, the problem irks me a greater deal than it used to have. While it doesn't entirely destroy the movie, as a friend has pointed out, in terms of Polar Express, it looks like a post apocalyptic world filled with the walking dead.

The texturing style reminds me a lot of Madagascar from Dreamworks, which was also confirmed by a friend who happened to glance over while I had my Animation Magazine open. I think it may be due to the softer painted style of the characters with a lack strong specular and bump differences of the textures.

I do wish that the lighting had stronger contrasts and was more dynamic in direction, mood, and storytelling. At times it felt like everything was very lit. Particularly the scenes at night seemed to be lit as well as the ones that take place during the day just with a blue hue.

Zambezia is hitting the global market as it got picked up by Sony for international distribution. It has apparently been doing pretty well, despite the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and even picked up two Annie Award nominations for its music and voice acting. While on a role, Triggerfish is plans to produce a movie every 18 months and is currently working on their next film called Khumba, which is planned to be released in December 2013.

The Croods Review

March has finally come and there was a great lineup of movies that I wanted to see. I haven't gone to the theaters since Les Miserables so I was looking forward to something worth going out for. In March we got "Jack the Giant Slayer", "Oz: The Great and Powerful", and "The Croods". Unfortunately the reviews for Jack and Oz turned out to be terrible so that was quite a disappointment, especially Oz as I was looking forward to something fun like Wicked. Now The Croods, by Dreamworks, has finally been released, and I have been looking forward to this for quite some time. When I first saw it, my reaction was "ugh, dirty grimy ugly people and how can you make a story about cavepeople interesting", but after seeing some artwork at CTN-X I got really excited as the environments and creature designs were beautiful.

The movie turned out better than I expected. It was good but I probably still like How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians better. For one thing, the themes and storytelling was very similar to How to Train Your Dragon. It starts out with a first person narrative that talks about Eep's, the main female character in the tiger skin, life and so jumps back in time, then the movie starts through their journey, and then the movie ends again with another first person narrative about everything that has changed and what everybody has learned. They even all got pet animals similar to how everyone in Dragon got their own pet. I wish the movie could have been more serious or have had more depth. The movie was filled with gag after gag after gag. While I did laugh and cry at some of them it did make each shot scene very short lived. Additionally, the ending was also botched. Even worse, it was botched at one of the most critical emotional scenes. Towards the end when the The Croods were all blowing their seashells, crying out to Grug, the father, Thunk, the son, also had his seashell. This is wrong as he lost his seashell earlier when his crocodile dog thing, Douglas, fell off the tree. Later when Grug picked up Douglas while escaping the crumbling of the world behind him, Douglas even had the seashell in his mouth. Therefore there was no way for Thunk to have his seashell at the time when they were all crying out to Grug.

The animation was interesting due to how animal-like they treated the human character and how human-like they treated the animal characters. Additionally, the characters also moved extremely fast and a bit spazzy. In fact, with the extreme comedy of both the animation and gags, the movie reminds me more of the Tex Avery Loony Tunes style of animation. It would be interesting if Dreamworks starts moving towards animation purely as pushing animation and comedy which was what was developed at Warner Bros. With Tex Avery instead of the path of Disney and Pixar where it is more about realism and drama.

I was somewhat disappointed in the creatures. Not in the designs but the usage of them. The creatures were not populated throughout the world, there are no creatures hanging around in the back or birds flying across the sky. The world is actually dead and the creatures only show up in shots when they are needed and pretty much as a gag. Then they go away and aren't seen again until they might be needed.

While I didn't get to see it in 3D, I would highly recommend doing so as the movie is about environments and 3D would enhance that experience.

Be sure to stay till after the credits! You are treated to three adorable mouseaphants playing their nose trumpets to a song.

Life of Pi Review

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, is one of my favorite books. With my love for tigers, it caught my eye back in 2001 as I was wondering a bookstore and the blue cover with a contrasting orange tiger caught my eye. When I heard that Life of Pi was getting a movie adaptation I was extremely excited and had high expectations for Ang Lee to do the book justice. Seeing the movie today I would say that the movie is visually stunning, I love Richard Parker the tiger, but I do feel that the story does fall a bit flat when compared to the book. The comparison may be unfair as film has to present in an alternate format; by itself the movie is wonderful but with biases and preconceptions of what I loved and what I wanted to see the movie did not work as well for me. One major point that did not work well for me was the flow of time presented in the movie. Pi spent 227 days lost at sea and Pi retelling the story happened over the span of a few days. In the film, the retelling of the story all took place within one day which already made the story feel shorter instead of a long gruesome suffering that Pi had to endure. While towards the beginning it was shown Pi marking notches on the side of the lifeboat to record days, the continuation was not shown so without reading the book the audience would not have known that Pi was lost at sea for over 7 months. Instead it felt like it was merely two or three. While in the book, Pi kept all his food and water but had ended up eating them all, which helped signify how long he was lost, the movie simply had him lose his stores of food and water. It also did not help that in the film the lifeboat looked pristine and white for the most part and was only noticeably aged at the end when Pi finally finds land and drags the lifeboat ashore. It is understandable that a lot has to be cut out for the film due to the audience wouldn't want to watch uneventful days with mundane occurrences, a lot of it was internal monologue in the book, but the pace of the movie with events happening right after each other made the flow somewhat too fast. There were many days when Pi cycled between having a bountiful harvest of food to days when there was no water nor food and was starving but that effect did not come through at all in the film. The film did well with composition in showing the solitude of Pi though with many repeated shots of a small boat in a vast seascape.

An important theme in the book is spirituality. Spirituality, not religion. Through the naivety and innocence of a young boy, the book goes more in depth of Pi finding God in Hinduism, Muslim, and Christianity. Pi sees faith, love, honor, and respect in all three religions and confounds the leaders of the religions in Pondicherry when questions why he was not allowed to just love God. While lost at sea, Pi keeps up his practice of loving God. He has a set routine and he prays and meditates for a significant portion of his days. It would have been nice to seen some of that devotion in the movie but for the most part it was reduced to Pi shouting to God during a storm.

The book was additionally more violent than the movie. Originally the hyena was already in the lifeboat and later on Pi figured that the officers on the ship threw him onto the lifeboat in order to distract the hyena instead of the film showing someone already on the boat and the officers attempting to save Pi. The zebra suffered a lot more and longer in the book. The zebra still had a broken leg but later on the hyena tore it off and ate it. The zebra was still alive and the book describes the missing limb as a "bloody stump with a flap of skin covering over it". Not satisfied with just killing off the zebra and letting it be eaten, later on the hyena tore open the underside of the zebra, stuck its head in and started eating the zebra alive from the inside out. That would be extremely traumatizing to any children in the audience but it does well in describing the predicament of Pi and the loss of innocence. An event that was cut out from the movie, which was reasonable for it would have been confusing to do, was when Pi went blind and met a French castaway who was also blind and starving. In the end as the French man tried to kill Pi, Richard Parker came out from under the tarpaulin and ate the French man. The event was significant in increasing the fantastical aspect and wonder at Pi's story for the odds of meeting another blind man drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean might be about zero, but it happened. While I would have liked the event to be included in the film with the banter of the two characters, showing a black screen for an extended period would not work well in theaters.

While it differed slightly in the film, I was glad that Pi's alternate story was included. The alternate story with no animals was what really made me love the book at the end for it brings up the issue of relative truths. Both stories do not explain how the boat sunk and both stories end up with Pi's family dying and Pi being lost at sea. Neither can be proven, and neither consequences matter, so why does it matter other than which one is the better story. To Pi, the first story may be the actual truth but the Japanese men who came to interview him would not believe him and wanted a story that they would be able to believe in the confines of what they know of the world. I was slightly disappointed that the interaction was cut short though for the interview actually went on for a long time with Pi disproving the notion of facts that the Japanese men had. In the book, for the most part, Pi was very calm during his interview and only became agitated when the Japanese men would not believe his story. However, in the film, with the second version of the story, Pi was crying with the retelling which made the original story seem more like a protection of his psyche by trying to suppress the events that happened with substitution. I'm not sure if this is better or worse but I do like the first story better.

The visual effects used throughout the movie were quite stunning. Two companies that I know of that worked on the film were Rhythm and Hues and The Motion Picture Company. When Pi killed the dorado, the flashing of colors was subtle but apparent and beautiful. The animals were well done but what I loved the most was the water. Both under and above were stunning to look at. Under the water had magnificent swirls as waves crashed on top, the scene of the sunken ship, and a beautiful luminescence. Above water there were the gigantic crashing waves and the still surface mirroring the sky. The effects worked well in helping progress the storytelling and the big showoff with the whale glowing and jumping out of the ocean was written in well to have a cause and effect instead of a simple showcase. The event with the whale was well done and integrated nicely which I was pleasantly surprised about since I knew that the occurrence never happened in the book.

I loved the lighting in the film. The luminescence blue underwater and the golden lights in a few shots were beautiful. While subtle, the lighting helped direct the storytelling and inspired hope in addition to the darker bleakness of Pi's predicament. Then ending with the jungle so desaturated instead of a lush green was somewhat strange but possibly acceptable. While Pi had finally found land, which should be a joyous occasion, Richard Parker had entered the jungle and left Pi without a farewell and so Pi would possibly see the jungle as a source of his sorrow.


I haven't gone to see a live action movie in the theaters in a long time so I finally got to see some different trailers than the ones they put in front of animated films. While it's still an animated film, the one that stood out to me is Epic. By Blue Sky it is about a girl who shrinks and goes on an adventure with Leafmen. The humanoid plants look good and well designed, but mainly I'm glad to see that Blue Sky is finally doing something other than the Ice Age series.

Movie good, book better. Watch the movie, read the book.

Paperman and Wreck-it-Ralph Review

I have been waiting for today for forever! Forever being since February when I got to go to Disney for Inspire Days and see them work on the movie. First off, SPOILER ALERT. While there are super awesome technical things that I would love to talk about, there are story points that I would like to also bring up, and that would be hard to do without giving away certain parts of the movie.


Paperman is an amazing short in front of the main movie. It tells a beautiful heart warming love story of the destiny between a man who works as a paper pusher and a woman he met one day by chance. The story was simple and sweet and yet still grounded in what felt very much like reality; meeting love, attempting to achieve love, but then having to slip from your grasp. From here the contrasts between the two characters really showed. While the man fought against the paper airplanes, with annoyance and attempting to go in an opposite direction, the woman showed excitement and actively pursued the paper airplane to follow where it would lead her. I do have a small qualm with the paper airplanes when they start swirling, dancing, and following the man in a line, though. The setting of the world felt very realistic that when the paper airplanes started swirling it felt very out of place and unnatural. Maybe it was a gust of wind moving in a circular fashion which is causing it but the way the planes moved did not look that way and that illusion is broken when they start lining up behind the man. However, it is a small qualm and I don't mind it very much as I watch the journey that slowly brings the man and woman together to form a beautiful ending that warms your heart and make you smile both inside and out.

Done in a stunning black and white, with a single red accent, the short was as visually appealing as the story was beautiful. What's more intriguing to the style was that the short is a blend of both 3D and 2D. Things were modeled, simply shaded, and then lit in Maya.  With Disney's proprietary software, Meander, they drew 2D over the 3D which can be seen as the contour lines around the characters and the detail in the hair. What else is amazing about Paperman, the software, is that it is able to interpolate between two poses, using some fancy mathematical formula and coding, so that the 2D is as smooth as the 3D without animators having to go in and draw out each frame. If you're going to CTN, be sure to go to the event on Sunday, Nov 18, 12:00 to 12:45pm where the creators of Paperman will be having an event!


The movie was awesome. There were many extremely fun parts, lots of laughter, and a few parts that tug at your heartstrings. As another review that I had previously read, there is something for the adults, as it references many old school games, and something for the kids with fun and exciting characters. I do find it slightly disappointing though that there were no awesome in movie songs that will become favorites to sing along to, like Tangled's When Will My Life Begin, Mother Knows Best, and Now I See The Light. The many songs that Disney has in their long history of classic animated movies is the one thing that I love about them over Pixar movies.

From seeing the trailers, you generally know what the movie will be about and how it will end. A video game character who is the antagonist in his game gets tired of being treated as a genuinely bad person and goes off to try to prove himself, but without an antagonist, the game isn't unable to function and thus ultimately he will realize he plays an important role and go back to his game. I was a bit worried about how the movie will end because if it just follows that simple plot line it would be boring and cliched. I liked how the issue was resolved in that Ralph didn't just realize that he was important in his own way and go back in resignation but rather Ralph came upon the understanding that, in Zangrief's words, "You are bad guy, but not a bad guy". I started tearing up at this moment as Ralph was falling toward Cola Mountain. While I find myself really liking the Fix-it-Felix Jr.'s character due to a dorky cuteness that he has as he crushes on Calhoun, I find his transition of perspective towards Ralph not articulated very well. First, when asking for Ralph from other game characters, Felix describes Ralph as just his coworker, but then without any clear motivation on a change of mindset, when he knocks on the door of the Candy Castle, Felix calls Ralph his friend. Then at the end of the movie Felix suddenly got extremely chummy with Ralph kept repeating "my brother". Meanwhile, Venellope von Schweetz was a slightly harder character to watch in that she is a glitched character and she describes her condition as "Pixlexia". While the pun was funny, what happened after was harder to watch as due to her "disability", Venellope was shunned and bullied by the other candy kids. It succeeded in making the audience feel sorry for Venellope and hate the bullies but it also made you stop and think a little about the actual world. Other than that, the reveling that Venellope is the princess of Sugar Rush is a little offputting and feels like it came out of nowhere. From the glimps that we get of her on the side of the game station, Venellope looks like a possible top racer, but she looks like her glitched version and nothing at all like the princess version of herself. She's not wearing the royal dress, she doesn't have a fancy car like King Candy did, and moreover the candy in her hair is the version from her glitch appearance instead of the red candy dots that she has in her princess version. She is adorable though (and she knows it!) and Sarah Silverman was great as her voice actress.

I love Sugar Rush, it was pretty and pink and glitter all over! It was so fun to see not only the landscape and buildings being fashioned out of candy but the citizens and various items being fashioned out of candy and snacks as well. Knowing a little bit about the concept development story, I know that a team got to go to Barcelona to review inspiration from the buildings there by the architect Antoni Gaudi, and as Gaudi is my favorite architect I had already fallen in love with the world of Sugar Rush. The gumdrops though were one of the most beautiful elements of the world as not only were they coated in grains of sugar but it also achieved the translucency that gumdrops have and a beautiful shadow that shows the light refracted through it. Another big achievement is how the design of the characters. There are so many different worlds in just this one movie, both the outside human world and the various inner game worlds. While the characters still stay true to themselves and the classic icons are still clearly recognizable, the characters all look like they belong in the same world space of the movie, even the ghost from Pac-Man.

Lighting is a big part of a movie in addition to the animation itself due to how it can tell a story and exhibit the mood of events or characters. I loved the part where the "out of order" sign was put up on the Fix-it-Felix game station and the light immediately changed from that to reflect upon the fear and uncertainty of the Nicelanders. It gives a reason to a change in color to further the story telling instead of just having colors to mimic emotion which can become confusing as to why the light source is changing.

While animated films, such as those from Pixar and Dreamworks, tend to focus on more realistic animation, the movements from Wreck-it-Ralph were very interesting. One example that could be clearly seen is the Nicelanders from the Fix-it-Felix game. The game itself is styled as an 8bit game and the Nicelanders, even though are fully 3D modeled, still move in that jerky 8bit style which was not only interesting to watch, but really sells the idea of the world being a game instead of it just being there is a world behind a game.

Wreck-it-Ralph was a great movie and I would definitely want to go watch it again.