Life of a Stick


  • Category Archives Animation
  • Movie Reviews

    I watched a lot of movies a while back and wrote down the names, but never got around to reviewing them. I’ll make a short review of each one now, using my movie rating scale.

    In alphabetical order:

    3-Iron – 4.2/5.0
    Originally seen during a film class. This is a foreign film, and as with any foreign film, I recommend viewing it subtitled, not dubbed. I can rant later about how awful the average dubbing is. The movie has a wonderful exposition, where it draws the viewer in, curious about what’s going on. I don’t want to give this movie away, as it’s even cooler when you know nothing about it.

    I’m tempted to buy it, and I recommend you at the very least rent it.

    Anonymous Rex – 3.0/5.0
    I’m not sure what’s wrong with this movie, but it’s got that “why did they make it?” kind of feel going on, even though it’s a decent movie. Worth a rent. It’s a “not rated” movie, and I usually stay away from those because they’re X rated, but it was made by Fox, so I gave it a chance.

    When Andrew Jones (aka Android, co-founder of Concept Art dot org) of Metroid concept art fame visited DigiPen, he gave a critique on some of the student’s works. Someone had created a gorilla, who was a chef, who wore a biohazard suit because he dealt with the ebola virus. Android said that he broke the rules of three and made it confusing. A gorilla and chef, sure. A chef who makes ebola meals, sure. All three just gets too confusing.

    Anonymous Rex either suffers from the “three things is too much” problem, or another problem that I haven’t been able to put a name to yet. It goes something like this: Normally “odd” situations have to be funny to be acceptable. If you take an odd situation, like dragons acting as taxis in New York, then if you don’t make it funny people are going to think it’s stupid. Why? I dunno. It sounds kind of cool to me. And maybe if you built up to it or gave it enough backstory it would be acceptable. But that’s the problem Anonymous Rex suffers from.

    It’s a good movie, worthy of a rent. But if you can’t stand slightly odd things that aren’t trying to be funny, then maybe it’s not for you. I’d rate it higher… but it’s made-for-TV and has a low budget. It would be much more awesome with better CG.

    There’s also a couple books out, where this started from. Might just be best to stick with those.

    Appleseed – 4.5/5.0
    If you’re an anime or animation collector, then you probably already own this. If not, you should go buy it.

    Ghost in the Shell is the “classic” anime movie, as I understand it. While Appleseed isn’t classic, because it’s not old enough, it’s got the same feel as Ghost in the Shell, but with less metaphysical exploration of the psyche and more explosions.

    They did a beautiful thing to separate the figure and background, too. The figures look like bright cell shaded 3D models. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered, dark and detailed.

    Again, go subbed so they can explain what they want, instead of what fits the mouth movement at the time.

    AvP – 4.6/5.0
    For those that have seen the Alien and Predator movies, and also know a lot about fan fiction, then you should understand what I mean when I say this movie is Alien and Predator fan fiction. The good part is, it’s GOOD fanfiction, which means it’s an enjoyable story. I think my main problem with it is that it tries to have so many main characters. They should have had a lot more generic speechless people, like the ones that die first.

    Very enjoyable. Enough suspense, fights, and all that to keep me happy. If you like the franchise, be sure to buy it.

    Brother Bear – 3.5/5.0
    This is one of the movies one of my animation professors, Jazno Francoeur, worked on. While it is a children’s movie, it’s deep and entertaining enough that I enjoyed it.

    Also, the moose are great. Rent it some time.

    Entrapment – 4.8/5.0
    Wonderful movie about thieves. This was the second time I saw it, and I didn’t remember the leading lady as being so whiney. It took a bit out of the movie for me. But the action and surprises and the whole “mission impossible” feel of the thievery was awesome.

    Eragon – 2.5/5.0
    If you’re an animator, rent it. You want to see the CG baby dragon, and the last battle. If a friend already bought it, go ahead and see his copy.

    Otherwise, stick to the book.

    Flight of Dragons – 5.0/5.0
    This is as classic as classic can get. I was jaw-dropping stunned when I saw this animated movie. It’s a children’s movie from my childhood that I never saw, but it’s so scientific and the world is so explored and fleshed out, it’s absolutely incredible. Has a very Lord of the Rings feel to it, in a good way. The animation is dated, but I couldn’t help but think how ahead of its time this movie was. If only it had been made today, they probably would have done it live action with CG. And what a movie that would be.

    Hackers – 4.5/5.0
    If you don’t know what a black box is, or the different between pulse and tone dial, or how hacking really works, then this movie is not for you. You’d probably enjoy it, but you wouldn’t get half the references they make. The “hacking” is Hollywood style, so it’s very pretty, and it’s hillariously inaccurate how they present hacking.

    This is a classic tech movie that records a lot of modern underground computer history. Very fun stuff.

    Laputa: Castle in the Sky – 5.0/5.0
    Another anime. This is actually the first foreign animated movie I’d ever seen. I saw it pure, out of someone’s VCR. No subtitles, no closed caption, no translation — just animation, and Japanese audio. And I loved it.

    I’ve seen it about five times since, because I bring it up and find out people haven’t heard about it. It’s really wonderful. Go get it. And watch it SUBTITLED, not dubbed! The kid doesn’t scream “Sheeta” near the same in English, and the movie wouldn’t be the same without him screaming her name all the time.

    League of Extraordinary Gentleman – 4.0/5.0
    What odd is that this movie has that “weird” feel to it, much like Anonymous Rex up there had, but this movie is much more widely accepted as a “good movie.” Probably because it had prettier CG. I found things a little confusing between they mixed half a dozen legends together without explaining any of them, and legends tend to have twisted versions of themselves lying around so I was never sure which version they were using.

    Probably looked a lot more awesome on the big screen, but it’s long out of theaters.

    Madagascar – 3.2/5.0
    A decent movie. Worth renting on a lazy afternoon. It wasn’t as funny as it thought it was, but it was entertaining. Smight told me it’s great once you start watching it like a Looney Tunes cartoon. It does that have ridiculous tune to it, but I never found myself actually laughing at Looney Tunes very often.

    Matchstick Men – 4.9/5.0
    This movie is awesome. I don’t want to give anything anyway, but it’s also one of those movies where watching it more than once doesn’t work so well. Definetly check it out, and if you like it, give it a buy so you can show it to someone who might rate it 2.x/5.0.

    My Super Ex-Girlfriend – 1.1/5.0
    This movie is not my kind of movie. Too many sex scenes.

    If you watch it, the shark scene in the apartment is neat.

    National Treasure – 5.0/5.0
    Exciting, smart, funny, and entertaining. But be careful — you may actually learn something. If you’re paying attention, at least.

    In the movie a man mishandles the clutch on an expensive car. My mom, a car buff, started freaking out like nails on a chalkboard. It was funny.

    Night at the Museum – 4.5/5.0
    A good movie about working together and being a good father. I’ve always hated the scenes where something is supposed to happen and it doesn’t, embarassing the main character. Fortunately, there was a quickly explained fully rational reason for the irrational to not happen.

    Reign of Fire – 4.1/5.0
    The first I heard of this movie was someone saying that people didn’t like it because they were expecting a comedy and the movie took itself seriously. I went into it expecting a serious movie, and got one. The dialog was a bit quiet at times (I hate when they don’t modulate whispers and you have to keep fiddling with the remote) so I didn’t get the whole story, but it was straightforward enough.

    If you like post-apocolyptic movies, and you like dragons, then this is for you. I may buy it some day, but I have others I’d spend money on first. Not enough dragons and action to warrent an expedited purchase.

    Secret of Nymh – 5.0/5.0
    I last saw this animated “children’s” movie when I was a child. I didn’t follow the plot at all, and lost interest before it was over. But I do remember the mouse lady cutting herself and BLEEDING. Talk about tramatic.

    I went back and saw it again recently, and this movie is absolutely wonderful. Some people say that animated movies are targeted for children. And in general, they are. But there are movies like this which don’t really seem targeted towards children at all. Yet somehow they end up in the children’s section at rental places. Go figure.

    This is a classic. Get it, and put it at the top of the shelf with Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, Laputa, Fantasia, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Grave of Fireflies, Princess Mononoke, and Flight of Dragons.

    Signs – 4.3/5.0
    A great movie about family, faith, and… well, I guess there’s some aliens, too. But they’re not as important. This movie is a case of bad advertising. People thought it was a monster thriller, but it’s a heartwarming movie about coincidence. And aliens.

    See it. And if you like it, give it a buy. A little calm for my tastes, but still very good.

    The Emperor’s New Groove – 5.0/5.0
    Comedy! Comedy gold! I haven’t not seen a movie this funny in ages.

    I’ll turn him into a flea, a harmless little flea… and then I’ll put that flea in a box and then I’ll put that box inside of another box… and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives… I’ll smash it with a hammer! Hahahaha!

    It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!

    Or, to save on postage, I’ll just poison him with this.

    Get it, watch it, love it.

    The Last Mimzy – 3.1/5.0
    An interesting tale of to small children in the present saving the future. A friend recommended it to me, and I enjoyed it. It’s worth a rent, but lacks that umph that pulls it out of the children’s movie category.

    The Man Who Knew Too Little – 4.2/5.0
    I forgot and organized the “The” movies into the T section. So sad!

    This is a great comedy with lots of action and stuff. The main hero thinks it’s just a show, and everyone thinks he’s a spy. Great stuff. Kind of like the opposite of If Looks Could Kill (4.8/5.0).

    The Road to El Dorado – x.x/5.0
    I was about to rate this, but then I realized that I never saw the ending, and the ending looked like it was very redeeming. DVD was horribly scratched and it was Blockbuster’s last copy. Next.

    TMNT – 2.6/5.0
    These two reviews are gonna get me in trouble with fans. I always loved the happy-go-lucky team of the old turtles. When I heard about all this fanfiction with these angsty, older, disunified turtles that grew bitter and apart over time. The movie followed that fanfiction’s train of thinking, and I didn’t like it. I wanted a happy story of action and adventure, not a story of recovery.

    If you liked the old turtles, it may be worth a rental to see where they’re going since you saw them as a child. Otherwise, catch a friend’s copy if it’s handy.

    Transformers – 4.0/5.0
    It’s worth seeing it in the theater, because everything’s better on the big screen. Just don’t sit too close. Oh wait, too late. Now you have to rent it. Get a big screen first.

    It’s fun with lots of action. It’s also a shame the secret military guy did such a great job acting. It wasn’t until the third time I saw it that the full force of his character stood out. He needed three times as much dialog for him to really shine. Otherwise, he just seemed out of place and should have been pushed into the background more.

    The camera sucked a lot, though. I mean, you’ve got CG where you can control just about everything, and you choose to make things blur and crop so far in and fast that you can’t see what’s going on? And you make the camera SHAKE? Why are all the movies these days using shakey cam? We’ve got so much technology devoted to making a smooth camera for a reason!

    The clearest scene in the movie was when Megatron morphed his arm into a giant canon and these big pistons came out. Megatron was simply designed — you had the copper innards contrasting with the shiny silver armor plates. Very simple, easy to see, and easy to make out. It was one of the only parts that actually read right the first time I saw it. The rest of the Transformers were so complicated that it was difficult to see anything in them. “Select Detail” is one of the seven goals of animation for a reason.

    Anyway, that’s a rant. But the movie got 4.0/5.0, so go ahead and see it. I won’t be buying it, but I did see it three times in the movies. The hype is fun to ride. Hope you did.

    War of the Worlds – 5.0/5.0
    An absolutely wonderful movie. It plays like Apocolypse Now, but keeps the surreal feeling without the nonsense. Tons of action and empathy. The moods in the movie are awesome. Watch it, and feel it play with your emotions.


  • Transformers Review

    So I went and saw Transformers, the movie. I saw a few things done right, and I saw a few things done wrong. At least, in my opinion.

    The biggest thing they did right was capitalize on the 80s. True to Transformers, the movie was about big robots shooting at each other.

    The next thing they did right was play on the whole secrecy thing. Sure, you can have giant robots storming about. But if you’ve got giant robots storming about that no one’s supposed to know about so they try to “hide,” that makes the tension rise, and can play good for comedy.

    One of the things done wrong is a “trend” that Hollywood has decided is awesome. That is: shaky cam. The writer of Faulty Logic said “apparently every action scene was filmed by a geriatric Parkinson’s sufferer who was afraid for his life.” That’s a bit extreme, but that’s comedy. At least it wasn’t as bad as that last Borne movie.

    In their defense, they did have a few “slow motion” scenes where you could really see what was going on. Those were awesome, and I wish they’d done it more.

    A friend on the Booster Logic team said that a lesson can be learned from the video game industry: just let the main character and enemy be in sight at all times, and then you can actually tell what’s going on.

    On a side note, a friend of mine was complaining the other day about the mech fighting games people have made. Supposably, in the future, wars will be fought with giant mechs against giant mechs. If you think about it logically, it would start with one side using them, maybe just a couple thrown in, with standard military fair on its side as well as the enemy side. You wouldn’t get clean mech-on-mech battles for a while, if ever.

    Transformers did a good example of illustrating just how possible that concept is, and how well it can work, too. Even though “movie magic” was in effect and people didn’t even get injured when they probably should have died.

    Using my standard movie rating, I would give this a four point five. Dependant, of course, on if you like action movies and Transformers. See it in the theater if you can (just… don’t sit close to the screen) and buy the DVD if you’d like.


  • Movie Reviews

    I think I’ll create a movie rating scale:
    1: Don’t bother seeing it
    2: See a friend’s copy
    3: Rent it
    4: See it in theaters
    5: Buy the DVD

    So last Friday I got an email from one of my professors at DigiPen. The faculty was skipping school to see a movie, and the students were encouraged to follow.

    The movie was Ratatouille (pronounced “rat-a-tooie”). It’s Pixar’s latest, and is the story of a rat who wants to be a cook. The animation was wonderful, and I loved the story.

    There were a few odd parts. For example, the rat can’t magically talk to the humans, so when he’s interacting only with humans he doesn’t speak. Then we get some narrative overlay of the rat talking, and it’s a bit startling, as you haven’t heard his voice in a while. They also played loose with some time transitions using a narrative overlay to pass time, which felt a little out of place.

    The movie was hilarious, heartwarming, and had great lessons in it. I couldn’t help but parallel the rat’s learning to cook with my learning to draw.

    Raratouille is a definite must-see. I’ll be buying it when it comes out on DVD. I’ll give it a five.

    Then, on Saturday, Mort and Bin from Booster Logic fame invited me over to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I’d heard a couple negative reviews about it, but went and saw it anyway. It wasn’t a waste of my money, as I enjoyed seeing it.

    It wasn’t a meaningful movie like Ratatouille, but it managed to keep itself interesting enough most of the time. My friend Ryan wrote a review that said there wasn’t enough action. I complain that what fighting there was is difficult to follow.

    The movie did the typical “stretch time out way too far” when the horrible things were happening at the end, but I’ve gotten so used to it that it didn’t bother me that much and I was able to enjoy the movie without it doing more than slightly irritating me.

    If you like comics, the Fantastic Four series, or “save the world” movies, then you should see this in theaters. Otherwise, it’s probably worth a rent later. Three point five.


  • My Animations – Fall 2006

    These are the animations I’ve made for Animation 101 at DigiPen.

    Edit: I am including links to my unlisted/private versions I put up on Google Video so they can easily be seen any time and any place. The dixv avis are below.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3061544535842370130 – Bouncing Ball
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=817870938005487690 – The Beast (Inbetween Only)
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8956344487598838048 – Floursack
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1534687071570096214 – Effects – Splash
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-628925158489199123 – Mr. Generic Walk
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7234690906684692788 – Mr. Generic Run http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5366979854963548521 – Lift and Throw

    Originals:
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/ball_divx.avi (70KB)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/beast_divx.avi (230KB) (Inbetween Only)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/floursack_divx.avi (250KB)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/splash_divx.avi (580KB)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/walk_divx.avi (330KB)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/run_divx.avi (500KB)
    http://stickman.mach5.org/temp/lift_and_throw_divx.avi (430KB)


  • Videos, Mine and Theirs

    Here’s a neat animation some random people did of some dragons:

    And here’s a neat animation I did of a flour sack:
    Stickman’s Floursack Animation

    I’ve got a long ways to go.



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