Ye Oldde Blogge

The blog of a person....yeah that sounds good.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

30 til 30.

30 days until I'm 30 years old. My life has gone mostly nowhere in the last few years. I have a rather comically long list of studios I've tried to get into. Several hundred at least. Might be approaching the 1k mark. But no can do, I suppose. I am fully aware it's not their faults obviously. I don't blame them. The industry is jam packed with new artists and laid-off veterans all looking for the same jobs all looking for the same work. And nearly all of them are far more capable than I am.

I've spent about 2 years trying to learn Blender now. I spend more time going back and re-reading guides and references than actually getting anything made because I honestly can't remember how to do things in the software. It's marvelously obtuse and I feel like a fucking idiot every time I fumble around in it.

I bought a surface pro 2 a couple months ago with what little extra money I still have. Sadly it can't do the 1 thing I really hoped it'd be good for which is run Flash CS3 decently. Flash runs like garbage on it and I'm still having to animate mostly on my ancient Toshiba M400 that I bought with Newgrounds prize money back in 2008. I don't mind animating on it but that tablet was already refurbished. I live in constant fear that it's going to just stop working one day and then I'll be truly fucked. Not that I'm not pretty fucked as it is. College loans from my shitty run at IADT still bleed me dry every month. Can't save up enough for a Cintiq, can't save up enough for a car. Much less an apartment.

I've even started asking around at video editing and theatrical places. Local ones in the ghetto. Seeing if they need someone who can just operate a camera or work with software packages. Compositing, green screen, anything. Nothing. And the one animation studio here that is close by is run entirely by two people and their site hasn't been updated since 2011. When I was a young teen I always thought eventually I'd be good enough to work at a real animation studio. Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky those sorts of places. I'd be happy just being a janitor at these sort of places. Sweeping up trash while watching the sorcerers make their magic. It was a rather laughable dream back then and I knew it. I knew I'd never have the skill to ever really get into a highbrow establishment. I'm a very slow learner. Only recently have my paintings gotten to a point where I can look at them and go "this doesn't look entirely shit. in fact its pretty ok.".

That's fine and all. I'm not the best. I'm not even good really. I'm astoundingly mediocre and that's better than quite a lot of people online. But that doesn't make the disappointment of how my career has turned out any less rancid. I can't even seem to find work at CRAPPY studios. You know the types. The ones whose reels look like a Tim and Eric sketch but it's not actually meant to be bad in an ironic funny kind of way.

Back in 2007 I was about ready to pretty much just quit. I was turning 22 and I hadn't managed to accomplish anything. The closest thing to an art job I had ever gotten was nearly getting into the now VERY dead Fatkat studios who closed due to legal issues and fraud. I figured if I hit 22 and didn't manage to get noticed I was just going to call it quits on the whole art thing. I would just stop. By some sort of miracle I got hired by Weebl mere days before I hit my 22nd birthday. And I was very happy to work for him because he was the only person who gave me a chance. A chance I would fuck up a multitude of times over the years. For the life of me, I do wonder how I've managed to keep that job. The amount of times I've screwed up a project and he's had to fix it are pretty numerous. The man has generosity in spades.

It's pretty much only due to him I really have anything at all. Freelance work comes few and far between when one is as mediocre as I. One can't live on occasional web work alone. Not without popularity to make those clicks and ads pay dividends. I knew I'd never be a Egoraptor or Happy Harry. I can't write funny things. I'm not really creative enough to be entertaining without being filled with hate. It's why my best Dustbunnies comics are mostly just me finding ways of viciously mocking something terrible. But without anger I don't amount to much.

Eight years later and I look at the little clock on my computer. It's August 30th. I've spent the last month working on a new Flash cartoon. It's been a long time since I made a Flash cartoon comprised entirely of my own ideas for the sole purpose of being creative. It's not a failed ad for mayonnaise, or a film produced for someone else. It's something "indie" for lack of a better word. Something based on a concept come up with entirely by me. And hopefully it's good. It's the first real burst of passion I've gotten for an idea in quite some time. I've put what's left of my heart and soul and joy into this little film. It's barely a minute long and it's not particularly original. I know there's films that have done similar concepts at much higher quality. But I don't really care. I love this film. And for all I know it may be my last film.

It's rare that I feel a need to produce things on my own that aren't paintings. Animation is a lot of work. Every frame is basically a painting. And many times I'd rather just open my surface pro 2, open Art Rage, and paint then animate something. It's why I've changed the sort of places I generally apply at from animation work to more design and painting jobs. Particularly since, and perhaps I'm wrong in this opinion, my paintings look much nicer than my cartoons. It's why for this new cartoon I've tried very hard to make it look at least somewhat as nice as a painting. Which is hard since Flash doesn't animate with bitmaps very well.

I think what few people who visit this blog will read this and suppose this whole speech is to feel sorry for myself. But it's not. Everything that's gone wrong with my life, and continues to go wrong, is a direct result of my own limitations and poor talents and poor decisions. I have nobody to blame but myself. And as I turn 30 years old this year and look at my comically bad resume and demo reel, I know that this is pretty much the best of it. This is the best my life will probably ever be. I haven't made a lot of money off a big project in a long time, and now that I can't find even crappy freelance work, I never will. Everything from here is mostly a downhill slide. And as I sit here looking at this almost finished cartoon I can't help but wonder if maybe I was wrong 8 years ago to change my mind. Maybe I was wrong to keep chugging along with this art thing and work for Weebl. He deserves better than me. Far better.

There's an alternate universe somewhere out there, beyond the void past the stars. In this universe I dropped the whole art thing at 22. I went to a normal community college, not an art college, and I got an actual degree for minimal cost, a normal white collar job, probably putting together .pdf files for some office here in florida. In this alternate universe I have a car, and an apartment. I have a social life, and maybe even a girlfriend. I get up every morning, feeling content. I don't make a lot of money in this alternate universe, but what I do make is consistent and reliable and I'm not competing with thousands of others online for it. In this alternate universe, Gerkinman and Weebl and Studio Yotta and College Humor and everyone else I've worked for continue to exist. But instead of me being there, taking up space and time and fucking up constantly, theres people there of real talent. Maybe Yotam Perel or Felix Cosgrave work for these kind people now, and now they have far better success and far more clients.

 It's a nice alternate universe where everyone feels useful. It's an alternate universe where I can look in my father's eyes and not feel like the massive disappointment I've become. Where he can retire because his rich son isn't locked in a spare room, trying desperately to salvage some sort of mangled art-related career.


What I'd give to trade places with that Nathan, even for a day.

Anyway, enough moaning about my shortcomings, the important thing you should take from all this is that I've been busy. I know it's been quite a few months since I last posted in this blog, and for that I apologize. And I also apologize that the first post in months is this incredibly negative sounding diatribe about how much I hate myself. I'm sure what few readers I have were hoping for something a bit more positive or uplifting, and in that sense I do have some things to deliver.

For starters one of the reasons my postings have been minimal is that I started up a Tumblr.
ZEKEYSPACEYLIZARD.TUMBLR.COM

This is where you can find me uploading garbage pretty frequently. Be it random bits of fanart, paintings, animated gifs I've made and other such things. I've been using it for maybe 2-3 months now and I quite like it. It's simple and isn't a bloated mess like blogspot has become. THANKS GOOGLE.

That doesn't mean I will be abandoning this blog however. This blog is pretty handy as a place for me to whine like a big fat god damn baby about my shitty life. Can't really do that on tumblr without looking like one of the weird sjw's there. No thanks to that!

I also totally REDID MY WEBSITE!!!
WEIRDURL.COM
I completely retooled it from the ground up. This year when I made my new demo reel and resume (which have both been colossal failures!) I decided it was time to redo my site as well. I don't understand actionscript very well so sadly the website doesn't really work on tablets or smartphones. And frankly I don't have the money to pay a programmer to fix all that so if the site doesn't work well NUTS TO YOU BUDDY.

 I also have been PAINTING. ALOT. Like a shit-ton. Now that I have my surface pro 2 (the first really good thing I've bought in a very very VERY long time), I've fallen in love with it. It's shitty as hell for animation but oh my god is it good for digital painting.
My work has had a noticable boost in quality now that I'm not struggling with every single stroke!
Look at that! I made that! Can you believe it? I can't!
Paintings are finally starting to look like how I envisioned them in my head instead of looking like steaming walrus turds!
Getting this tablet was pretty much the best thing to happen to me in a long long time. I can make LARGE paintings with lots of detail. I can finally use custom photoshop brushes! I was not able to do that before!
I could not have produced things like this previously on the old Toshiba M400.
Not that the old Toshiba was a bad pc. I still use it even today. Hell I spent 6 hours animating in it yesterday. I still need that thing for doing traditional animation. I wish I didn't but I'm stuck with it until I can get a Cintiq.
They make an 800 dollar Cintiq now. That's the one I want. It's why I've been on the warpath the last few months. Applying to dozens of studios a day. If I could get just one decent real paycheck I could finally get one of these. As a quick note: CINTIQ's used to cost 3000 fucking dollars. Let that sink in. You can see why I'm excited theres cheap ones now.
See right now I'm writing this from my very powerful desktop computer. You may wonder why not just get a cheap Wacom. I had a wacom. I won it like a decade ago. I couldn't get used to it no matter how hard I tried. The whole hand-eye-not-looking-at-the-screen thing hurts my head. My brain is not good at mastering it. So eventually I gave up and gave the tablet to my friend Bug.
That's why i was so excited initially to get the Toshiba. I knew it was the answer to my woes. And still is. But that thing runs hot when I animate with it. Pretty sure I could fry an egg on it. I need something to hook up to this desktop that performs the same function.

Anyway there's the first real blog post in ages.
The cartoon I'm producing is called DECOUPLING and I've posted quite a few pics from it on my tumblr. It should be done very soon.
 And now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to work on it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wow look a pie-chart! Digital Style!

Virtually real! But controlled by real you!

Okay so I've been a BUSY MAN.

Not alot to talk about so lets just start with the good stuff.
For starters I have a new DEMO REEL OUT.
Yes that's right. My 5 year old demo reel is now Defunct. Decrepit. Despondent. Dead.
It shall never be mentioned again, so help me god.
HERE IT IS!!!!!!!!


It makes it look like I know what I'm doing!
Fun Fact: Sony Vegas could NOT edit or render these clips for reasons unknown. Meaning I had to learn an entirely new piece of software. Adobe Premier.
And wow Premier is so much better than Vegas I feel like an idiot that I never used it before.
I've been like a caveman banging rocks together using the pile of crap that is Sony Vegas. Never again, Sony. Never again.

And now with this new reel out I can send it off to various studios and whatnot and pray they have standards low enough to give me a chance. (they dont!)

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!

I completely redesigned my website:

HTTP://WEIRDURL.COM
Yes!
Go check it out!
It's been entirely redesigned from the ground up!

And you may be thinking "but zekey, you never do any actual work! why would you redesign an entire website from the ground up?"

Well you see curious onlooker, I somehow, in my infinite omniscience, managed to lose the .FLA flash file that had my original website in it. I'm not quite sure HOW considering I never ever ever delete anything. But it happened.
Meaning when my new Demo Reel went up, I was unable to change the link on the site to the NEW demo reel! AINT THAT JUST THE FUNNIEST THING? >:C >:C >:C
So yeah I had to make a whole new site. Didn't wanna but I did.
 And I decided that as long as I'm doing it, I might as well make it a REAL site this time with several pages and buttons and sounds and interactive crap.

So there you go!
I hope the 6-20 google bots that read this blog enjoy those!
And I hope the small handful of dumbasses on the internet who apparently wind up on this blog when they search for 'minecraft hentai' enjoy those links as well. I'm sure they are far more interesting than a creeper with a poorly drawn vagina stuck onto it!


Speaking of videogames, Killing Floor 2 was giving out keys.
And despite being one of my favorite games I have failed to attain a key. My friend Bug did but because he uses a 32 bit operating system, the game doesn't run. So the key was wasted!
I drew a fleshpound in mspaint and sent it to the developers at Tripwire Interactive, hoping they would send me a key back if I begged! IT DIDN'T WORK!!
So yeah that happened. Everyone is playing but me. Can't even play the new sequel to my 2nd most favorite game. :C

And finally one last interesting thing that happened.
The other night me, Mike, and his ladyfriend Rachel were all sitting around about to watch Captain America when she goes into the kitchen to get a donut. Suddenly with the kind of agility usually reserved for people with the last name Baryshnikov, she flees from the kitchen screaming bloody murder and breaking down in hysterics. She cries there is a massive spider in the kitchen that leaped out of the donut box at her.

Which is no stretch of the imagination. Anyone who lives in Florida knows this place is swarming with absolutely massive insects. Wasps the size of your thumb, grasshoppers the size of your aunt, spiders the size of your cat. So me and Mike creep our way into the kitchen, peeking around corners and in drawers and in the sink etc. We start pulling everything out of the kitchen. We can't find shit. We both assume it's a Wolf Spider because wolf spiders in Florida get pretty big. They are like little tarantulas.

Well I start advising Mike to spray bug spray in all the cracks between drawers and furnishings in the kitchen, assuming the spider was a wolf spider that easily snuck into a crevice somewhere. As I do this, I get down on my hands and knees to take a look  under the dishwasher.

And that's when I see it.
 It's a motherfuckin' HUNTSMAN SPIDER.
I thought these things only lived in Australia. Or the Congo. Or Carcosa.
NOPE. Apparently they live in Florida too! HOORAY! As if we don't have enough horrific shit here! So anyway I hold completely still looking at this massive lobster-sized arachnid abomination and call for Mike to bring me my shoe. For those who don't know me, I wear size 16 shoes. My feet don't play around, and neither do my goddamn boots.
I spray the bastard with wasp spray but that only makes it enraged.
It unleashes a squeal, like a baby piglet being stabbed, and makes a sloppy dash across the kitchen, soaking in chemicals. With the kind of hatred I normally only reserve for myself, I struck it with my footwear, it took several CLOMPS to defeat it, and even then all it lost were two legs. It was like trying to smash a sack of marbles.

After that I stared at it, fascinated by how horrible and pretty it was. Then flushed it down the toilet.
And that was that.

The End!

If you are a fan of my work (all 3 of you out there) please link people to my new site! I'm very pleased with it!
And now that my story has been told, I'm off to do other things!
 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cheese, hats, boxes... they don't make you who you are. You make you.

Streets of Cage is out.
This is a project given to me by Weebl and #Mashed some weeks ago. It was quite complex to make, but the end result makes it well worth it.

I drew and animated very nearly everything in this short, with the exception of the city backdrop in the intro and the Cagea logo. The rest is all me. It was probably the biggest Flash project I've done in a very long time!


Weebl did the music and sound effects, while Brock Baker did Nick's voice. Weebl also did the neat pixellation effect that pervades the film's visuals.

The film has been on youtube for a bit over a week and in that time I've actually been pretty busy making a new painting.






Here's a proper hotlink to the piece on Deviantart so you can see it full sized.

Back in last September my friend Bug drew the Goblin Techies from Dota. I loved his sketch and asked if it was alright if I painted it. I got some base colors down but then I got busy with quite a few various projects, some of which panned out and some of which never went anywhere.
But regardless once Streets of Cage was done, I was ready to relax with something more my speed.
It's been a few months since I made a big painting.
So I vowed to finish this Techies thing.

My friend Avid said after it was done that I should make an animated .gif showing my process on how I got from original sketch to the finished piece. And I might still make the .gif, but in the meantime I took it quite a step further.

I made a video detailing how this piece came to be.



The three little birds that appear briefly in that video are actually extras from Streets of Cage.
Originally in Streets of Cage instead of drinking an energy drink, Nick was snorting cocaine. But apparently that is now allowed to be shown due to some sort of censorship standards of some such.
So to censor it we originally tried covering the cocaine up with something cute and harmless. So I made some baby birds. And from that point it looked like Nick was snorting baby birds.

But that still didn't meet the standards of censorship so we swapped all the coke for energy drink.
I didn't want the baby birds to go to waste so I made a quick dumb short with them.

I'll probably do more dumb things with these birds.

So now with Streets of Cage finished I can finally worry about something I've been meaning to worry about for a long time.

And that is making a new demo reel.
My demo reel is very nearly 5 years old. It's horribly out of date and is missing alot of footage from alot of projects that need to be in it.
- Various weebl and bob episodes
- Cabury Cream Egg ad clips
- Hellmann's Mayo ad clips
- Various Catface eps
- Streets of Cage
- Bearshark for College Humor
- Smash with Egoraptor and Starbomb
- Pokemon with Rubber Ross
- Swag Pie for Huha
- Rocketman for Huha
- Robot Fight for Huha
- Chips and Peas for Weebl
- Benedict Cumberbatch for Weebl
- Trains for History Channel
- Shiny Minecraft Tale stuff with Willva
- Yorkshire Inception for Weebl
- Like a Brother for Gotye/TheBasics
- plus clips from old cartoons like Created and Polypeptide

Gotta find the best bits and mash them up into 2 minutes of reely goodness.
The nice thing is that I've gotten quite a bit done in the last 5 years.
My last reel is mostly clips of personal cartoons (many of which have aged like milk) mixed with a tiny bit of Weebl and Bob. This new reel should be quite spectacular.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Won't someone tell me just how weird a weirdo's supposed to be?

It's been a while hasn't it?
Last post was before Christmas so I suppose I should start there. You'll wanna stay tuned in for this post because theres a cartoon at the end of it! Yes that's right. A whole new cartoon! Yeah I know it's shocking! And I didn't even get any dosh for it! And it has mayonnaise in it! Wow!

So for Christmas my brother managed to find a dvd of Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. He also found a DVD of the original Ninja Scroll. My dad gave me some cash (something I desperately needed). I got my brother a wifi stereo system that is portable and looks like a cassette player so he can watch movies off his smartphone. I got my dad one of these babies:

It was the first time in a long time he'd actually wanted something specific for a holiday. So I was more than glad to grab it. It sat under the tree for a couple weeks since we still had a huge mess. But we popped it open and gave it a shot.

And lemme tell ya. For something that was about 200 bucks this thing is WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD. I don't understand how it works. But it heats up the special frying pan and ANY stainless steel cookware in seconds with full temperature control.

We've been making eggs on it. It has been years since I've been able to cook and enjoy an egg. But I've had more eggs in the last few weeks then I've had since I was a teen. And there's no mess to clean. The nonstick copper-looking pan thing it comes with is actually nonstick. You just spray water at it and all the food residue flies right off.

TECHNOLOGY!

Cockatoo. Kangaroo. In Malibu!

In mid January I was contacted by some ad agency I'd never heard of to make an advert for a brand of mayonnaise. It was Hellmann's which is a very popular brand here in the south. It's also by far my favorite brand and me and my family go through quite a bit of it.

I later learned that it was a contest and I'd be competing against a few people. So I brainstormed for a while and tried to come up with something happy and joyful, since that's how this condiment makes my stomach feel. (it's good shit!). So I made a animated short and tried to keep it within the same themes that they'd already been using for the promotional images for the new squeeze bottle.

Quite a few entries (over 100) appeared. Very few were animated and most were bad. But there were a few brilliant genius ones. Particularly one that featured a somewhat crappy mayonnaise themed superhero who fights an equally crappy mayonnaise themed supervillain.

At the end of the contest's run, none of the ones I liked won. None of the ones I liked even got honorable mention. And I of course, did not either. It was quite a devastating blow. It's rare I feel inspiration to animate anything of my own accord anymore. And rarer still where I finish something and actually feel confident about it.

It's been a very depressing last few weeks. But on the plus side, I retained all rights to the animated short and I already put it up on my youtube channel for others to see. I also stuck it up on my Vimeo channel as well.

Here it is:


After that fiasco ended, my boss Weebl contacted me about a job. It's a cartoon about Nicholas Cage that should be online soon. I can't say too much about it outside that I've worked harder on it then anything else I've made I think. It's going to premier on the Mashed channel sometime in the future.
Here's some imagery from it before it's converted into pixel art.
If it's not entirely obvious the film is meant to look like the old Sega Genesis game, STREETS OF RAGE.


Speaking of video games I recently grabbed a game I've had my eye on for quite some time. The new Legend of Zelda game. And no I don't mean the Majora's Mask remake. I mean Link Between Worlds which is an all-new title that takes place in the same world as Link to the Past and has charming stylized graphics and a nostalgic birds-eye viewpoint for the camera.
It's been loads of fun so far and I haven't enjoyed a Zelda game this much since Wind Waker or the first half of the Minish Cap.

I have nothing much else of interest here to write.
A few months ago I posted about a newish painting I had made.
So I figured I'd post the WIP's of the painting to show the process I used to produce it.
It's a process I rather like now, actually and I will probably use for any future paintings.
So to start off over the original sketch I did the linework. I blocked in some basic shades of grey. Then I did some light shading. Some of the greys were tinted more towards certain colors to help with any color corrections I might need to do later.
Here's the original linework for comparison. Much plainer compared to the image above it. After that it was time to add some colors.
Chunk by chunk bit by bit adding in blobs and block of color and some sparse details and lighting here and there. Starting to look almost like a painting now.
Particle effects, brightening up of certain shades, properly shading some bits and areas. Lots of layers. Lots of editing of colors and color schemes. And after doing that for every bit of the environment and for every character, we arrive at the finished product.

For whatever reason the bottom of it gets cut off on this blog but if you've been to this blog over the last few months you already know what this thing looks like. So there you go, a weird kinda glimpse thing at the process I used to make this piece. My process changes a bit every time I bother making something like this. It's a LOT of work and it's not often I feel the energy to complete something of this magnitude.

And now I'm gonna play some Zelda.




Friday, December 19, 2014

WIPING YER BUM WITH A HOOK FOR A HAND IS REALLY HARD!

So Merry Christmas FALALALALLAA DECK THE HALLS WITH SNOWS OF HOLLY FALALALA COLD STUFF SANTA.

It's that time of year again.

Time where one kicks off ones sandals and puts on boots.
Boots of warmth.

Anyway I don't have much to say cause I have been a VERY BUSY BEE since the last post.
So I'm just gonna toss a bunch of stuff in a haphazardly way and you can go through it at your own leisure.

Okay for starters I did some cleanup animation on the new Starbomb music video from Egoraptor and his pals. Studio Yotta (who I also work for) were in charge of all the visuals. It came out pretty sweet.

Specifically I cleaned up and did some inbetweens for the show where Donkey Kong punches Wario in the face.


After working on that, I was put in charge of making a new Catface episode for Christmas.
I got to use alot of very old assets from past episodes in this one.


And finally, I finished compiling footage of the crazy overgrown backyard of the abandoned house that I live next to. That place was quite a creepy jungle. Then winter came and it somehow got even creepier.


I also did a christmas border for the /v/ board on 8chan. My good friend, who is a moderator there, asked me to do it, and it is currently up. If you've never been to an imageboard, as a forewarning they are usually not safe to browse at work. But then again neither is this blog. Why are you here and not working? You lazy asshole. You are going to get fired.

_________________________________________________________________


So that's what I've been up to.

Next orders of business:

Finishing a collaborative painting with a friend of mine.
Reviving Zekocraft which has missed at least 1 major update now and is horribly horribly out of date.
Updating Dustbunnies.

And now I must wee.
So long, farewell.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lips that shame the red red rose.

So for the last few years Disney has been trying this new thing where they make live action fairytales. All of which, so far, are based vaguely on animated films they made in the 50's. Those films of course were based on old folklore and fairytales from long before the 50's. So in a sense these films are adaptations of an adaptation.

And much like that happens when you proceed to keep remaking something and having a new person in charge each time, the end product tends to be all over the place. In movies, sometimes you can have, too many cooks.

Thus far the films that have been made have been Tim Burton's Alice, and Oz the Great and Powerful. I could rant for hours how both of those films are beyond fucking shit and how disappointed I was in both (especially Oz which broke my fuckin' heart m8) but I won't. Just know, they are why I had very VERY low expectations for the film I watched tonight.

MALEFICENT starring the fantastic Angelina Jolie.

When the original trailer for the film came out I was pretty impressed. Chances are you saw the original trailer at some point. It was everywhere. It was a gorgeous trailer. Dark, violent, and beautiful much like the film. And with a haunting rendition of "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty performed by Lana Del Rey, who is pretty goddamn fantastic on her own.

The idea behind the movie was that it was the TRUE STORY behind Sleeping Beauty and that Maleficent herself was actually misunderstood from the insane evil sorceress she was in the original animated film. Which is all well and good but in the back of my mind, dancing like Chernobog's minions around the Bald Mountain itself, were memories and reminders of just how bad Alice and Oz were.

So.

I finally saw the film, many months after it was released.
And it's ok.
Which considering I'm comparing it to Oz and Alice is pretty damn high praise.

It reminded me a bit of Kingdom of Heaven, Bridge to Terabithia, Clash of the Titans, and all these other expensive but mediocre fantasy action films that have been getting dunked out year after year. But obviously its not quite as bad as those.

In fact the film is relatively OK.
I'd give it a firm 7/10 at best.
What hurts is that this film came very close to actually being great.

In fact I think Maleficent might have had some of the most potential I've seen in a fantasy flick from big budget Hollywood in some time.
But tons of little issues build up over the course of the film that drag it into the mud and prevent it from being truly great.

And because I like to complain I will list them now and hopefully how they could have been better.


- The film begins with the narrator letting us know that there are 2 Kingdoms. One Kingdom is humans and its run by a greedy King. The other is The Moors and its nothing but fairy creatures. Apparently there was a war between these two Kingdoms. My question is: HOW?

- The fairy Kingdom is full of tiny harmless monsters. Water sprites, itty bitty pixies, and little toad and mushroom people who are clearly not fighters. Theres some big tree warriors but they only show up briefly and take out a small contingent of soldiers. So how was there ever a war? And for that matter how was there ever a STALEMATE between a Kingdom of heavily armed horsemen armed with polearms and swords, and a jungle full of innocent childlike pixie people who seem to lack any real self defense?

- Maleficent is a fairy. She meets a boy named Stephan. She mentions her parents are dead. But how? Did they die in the war? Were there other fairies? Did the other fairies die to the King? These are the sort of things the audience needs to know in order to for there to be character progression. There's no explanation at any point in the film why Maleficent is the ONLY FAIRY LEFT.

- Stephan is Maleficent's friend. Their relationship grows into a romance. The film vaguely tries to make it seem like Stephan is poor as a child. But this isn't explained at length. Later on we see that Stephan as an adult is a noble who works for the King so....what?

- Stephan seems like a nice guy until the King is dying. The King wants Maleficen't cool wings. So what does Stephan do? He chops them off after drugging Maleficent. Why? Why did this character go from nice person into disturbingly violent weirdo in a heartbeat? Why does he want to be King? He's in love with the QUEEN OF FAIRIES in a land that doesn't know poverty or strife. Why would he want to be King in the shitty land he was born in? And why would he cut off his best friend's APPENDAGES in order to be King?

- Also where is the logic? Stephan knows Maleficent is powerful. She kicks the ass of plenty of the King's men. Why would you EVER provoke a fairy queen who could easily beat the shit out of you with magic?

- Maleficent wakes up and sees her wings have been chopped off. She mourns for about one day. And then....

- She's evil! Yay? She just went evil like instantly. And what does she do with her new evil view on life? She....goes to the new King Stephan...and instead of getting revenge on him as he stands in front of her completely defenseless she.....curses his newborn baby. Why? He's right there.

- How did Stephan get a wife? Why does the wife have no purpose in the film? She appears in ONE scene and then dies offscreen. What a waste.

- Maleficent saves a crow. Cool now she has a crow buddy. She had a crow buddy in the original animated film too. Neat! Oh wait....she...turned the crow buddy into a man. Well...ok then.

- Crow buddy adds nothing to the film. He isn't Maleficent's conscious, he doesn't dispense advice, he doesn't have witty one-liners or funny dialogue. He isn't wise or interesting in any way. He also doesn't end up as her friend or boyfriend or anything. He literally just takes up space and screentime.

- Maleficent at one point turns crow buddy into a wolf to spook some armed knights. A troop of about 20 knights proceed to piss themselves over one single wolf. Why?

- In the original film Maleficent had no idea where Aurora was for 16 years. In this film Maleficent watches over Aurora as she is cared for by the 3 good pixies in the forest for 16 years. Somehow despite never directly interfering with Aurora, the girl notices and thinks Maleficent is her fairy godmother.

- The three pixies add nothing to the film at all. I think they were only there to entertain kids who liked them in the original film. Problem is, in the original film they have a purpose and save the day and drive the narrative forward and are fun to watch. Here they are dumbasses and comic relief and take up valuable screentime that could have been spent on Maleficent and Aurora's growing friendship.

- Prince Phillip is in the film for all of maybe 1 minute. He does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And the story quickly becomes all about him for no reason afterwards. His kiss isn't even the one that wakes Aurora. So he serves absolutely no purpose in the narrative and just wastes more time.

- Stephan turns into a crazy man. The less said about that, the better. But his transformation seems to make little sense and somehow despite treating his kingdom like shit for 16 years, he is never overthrown.

- Maleficent's wings are actually still alive. They are rotting in a glass box for more than a decade but actually fly out of the box at the end and attach to her back. Meaning AT ANY POINT Stephan could simply have given them back to Maleficent. There was 0 reason to keep them.

- Crow buddy becomes a dragon specifically for the sake of having a battle scene that invokes memories of the original dragon Maleficent turns into in the original film. While being very cool, it accomplishes nothing.

- Despite being a medievel film, Crow buddy dresses like a modern male. He wears black jeans, leather boots, a black trenchcoat, and a black open-chested tshirt underneath. He looks horribly out of place in every scene and looks like he's a few bad dates from tipping his fedora and uttering "m'lady" at every chance he gets.

- After Maleficent loses her wings one of the first things she does to recover is try to learn to walk. And rather than simply finding a long stick to prop herself up with, she takes an ordinary stick and turns it into a giant badass sorcerer stave. Which is cool to see but a pretty dumb obtuse way of explaining WHY she has the stick in the first place. Especially when we can see she's very capable of using magic without it. I hate to use the word fanservice when talking about a fucking walking cane but there it is.

- Aurora finds out she is cursed and instead of staying safe at home away from spinning wheels (which she knows now will kill her) she instead flees IMMEDIATELY to the Kingdom of Stephan, a place she has never been that she knows probably has spinning wheels in it. STUPID. DUMB.

- Stephan locks her in her room immediately so she is not near any wheels. Almost instantly one of the maids opens the other door and Aurora runs out and pricks her finger in what might be the dumbest series of events leading up to a finger injury ever in the history of film.

- Aurora is pricked by the spinning wheel and falls asleep. She is asleep for only a few hours before being woken up. She claims she earned the nickname SLEEPING BEAUTY from this. How? How does being asleep a few hours entail a legendary nickname? If I go to bed in this Kingdom and wake up will I be known as Sleeping Fatty?

- The cgi is really bad. You know how every year a movie is made of a beloved children's novel to try and catch the same fire of Harry Potter? And you know how every year when these movies get made they have really soft blurry cgi that looks out of place? Well that's every single special effect in Maleficent. It looks pretty bad. Like Ang Lee Hulk bad.

- The film is narrated by an adult Aurora. Somehow as an adult Aurora knows of the war between Kingdoms and all the other crap that happened before she was born in minute detail.

- In the final fight scene Maleficent is wearing her cool black cloak. Then a tiny net right out of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist lands on her. Then it gets yanked off by Stephan. Somehow in the midst of this the cloak vanishes. From this point onward, much like Crow Buddy, Maleficent is wearing weirdly modern clothing including tight leather slacks that look like something a female spy would wear. I can't imagine why this was done. To show off Jolie's legs maybe? I don't know. But it's weird and dumb and makes her look out of place as much as Crow Buddy.

- Stephan tries to tackle Maleficent after she has wings and tumbles off a tower to his death. Yes it sounds and looks as stupid as you imagine it does.

- The beautiful Lana Del Rey song from the trailer doesn't play at any point in the film. It plays during the credits.


AND DESPITE ALL THIS ITS STILL A 7/10 PRETTY ALRIGHT FILM.


Yeah.
Let that sink in.
Despite ALL those complaints it's still a movie that is somewhat worth watching. It's just interesting enough and just action-packed enough and just BARELY imaginative enough to make it a good popcorn film worth your time if you are bored.
 All those flaws and it's STILL ok.
That's what I meant at the beginning of this post when I said the film had potential. Because the good parts of the film ARE SO GOOD they almost make up for all the BAD parts. Which is pretty fucking rare with big budget Hollywood films these days. And for that alone I have to give Maleficent light applause for being enough fun where I can look PAST all those flaws and still enjoy the film for mediocre magical adventure it is.

And again it's a shame those flaws exist because if they didn't this film would have (and should have) been spectacular.
Oh well.

7/10 for Maleficent.
Compared to:

Tim Burton's Alice which I would give a 4/10 and Oz the Great and Powerful which gets a -6/10 because that film is literal garbage.


Hopefully the new live-action Cinderella is better than these 3.
Here's a raccoon:

I'M OUT.
PEACE.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I'm not one of your fried chicken tramps!

My last blog post was a gigantic rant about a movie I absolutely hated. Today's post will talk about some recent movies I like! And a couple I didn't.

I'll start with the good ones.


The first is a film called We Are What We Are.
When you look this movie up you may be keen to notice theres two recent films with this title. The one I've seen is the remake. Remakes tend to be very poor compared to the original source material, but We Are What We Are was so darn good I'm actually pretty eager to see the original.
The movie is about a family in Pennsylvania dealing with grief. During a rainstorm their mother, who is clearly very sick, starts coughing up blood. She panics, hits her dead, and drowns in a ditch, leaving behind her stoic and quiet husband, two teenage daughters, and very young son. It's evident from the start of the film that the family is very traditional and rides on old-tyme religion. But we only ever get to see glimpses of it. Odd sayings, odd proverbs, and little hints that let us know they aren't your typical family.

The town coroner and local doctor named Barrow investigates the mother's body and over the course of the film slowly realizes she was suffering from a disease that only people who practice cannibalism can get. Around the same time his pet dog finds a human bone in the forest, near a river that runs down past the grieving family's home. Over the course of the flick the doctor realizes what we, the viewers, have already been seeing. Which is that this family are part of some age-old cult that kill people, bless their dead body, then prepare them for consumption. The two teenage daughters hate it, but being raised to do it they agree to help the father one last time before they attempt to run away. But things quickly GET REALLY OUT OF CONTROL.

The film is not particularly violent but it builds tension nicely. Especially with the father who is a very quiet but constantly glowering man who seems filled with a constant silent rage at those around him. Occasionally its revealed in short loud outbursts but we don't see the true extent of it until the movie's final act when SHIT GETS CRAY-CRAY.

Probably one of my favorite bits in the film is when the father is having some conversation with the friendly next-door neighbor and he quotes an odd piece of scripture.
The neighbor asks, "Is that in the bible?"

And the father, without batting an eye just mumbles, "It's in mine."

Which references the old pilgrim journal about cannibalism that the family use as their holy book.
We Are What We Are is a pretty nice little horror film that manages to be creepy through tension and not through violence or jump scares.

It's not the best film I've ever seen but compared to a lot of the crap we get these days it might as well be made of pure gold.

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The next film is Europa Report.
This is a scifi film that me and my buddy Mike discovered by accident while searching through the "horror" section of the moviephone website. We don't use moviephone because we aren't neanderthals but sometimes it's nice to have an organized list of garbage to look at so you can scroll down and select the ones that interest you.
Europa report is one of those hard-scifi sort of horror flicks. There's not a whole lot of those, sadly. In literature there's tons and tons of amazing hard-scifi books and stories that would make your hair stand on end. But in the movie industry its a pretty untapped genre with very few titles. Luckily what few titles there are, are mostly fantastic.

Europa, while not fantastic, is good enough to sit with the rest.

Oddly when I first looked this movie up all I saw were people bitching about some monster in the movie which seemed to be at the end or towards the end of the film. It's particularly strange now that I've watched the film I can't really see why these complaints about it exist.

For starters Europa Report is NOT a monster movie. It's a movie about a group of astronauts who have been floating through deep space for months and months and months to get to the moon of Europa so they can drill under it's surface (where there is liquid running water) and see what life they can find. Along the way they lose a crew member in an accident who is played by the guy who was Vickus in District 9. He gets some chemicals on his astronaut suit while trying to fix something outside the ship and has no way of cleaning it off before his friend runs out of oxygen. So he helps his friend get back into the ship and he himself floats off into deep space to slowly suffocate.

Doomed forever to have his body float through the cosmos from the rest of time. Shit like that disturbs me. Anyway, as they approach Europa they start having radioactivity hit the ship and fuck with it's magnets and devices which causes it to land rather clumsily on the surface. They drill under the ice, find some bacteria and are happy. But one by one the astronauts start breaking through the ice and getting pulled deep into the subterranean ocean. Shit falls apart and eventually there's only one astronaut left. The ship sinks into the sea and we see that the radioactive thing that's been pulling people in is a big ol black tentacle monster. Sort of like an octopus but also covered in little lights much like the fish we have here that live deep deep deep in the sea where the sun can't reach.

Apparently this was REALLY hard for people to believe. I'm not sure why. It's a planet in the darkness, with giant pitch black oceans. Were people not expecting the monster to look aquatic? In a world where there's no predators on the surface would it not make sense that some sort of intelligent multilegged cephalopod or arthropod would be the apex predator?

Anyway, decent film. It's filmed in a pseudo-documentary sort of style which is popular these days. The only problems with the film really are the parts not focusing on the astronauts which are short snippets and interviews with the NASA scientists who funded and orchestrated the mission. None of their performances are believable and their grief over the dead astronauts is almost comical just because the performances are so bad.

But BESIDES that, it's a pretty decent scifi flick with some DAMN good cgi in a lot of parts.

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My favorite of all the flicks I've seen recently was The Signal.
I'm not even sure where to start with this.
The signal is one of those movies where you watch it expecting it to be some sort of artsty fartsy type of film with loaded symbolism and obvious metaphors cause the way its shot and made really make it seem very....hipstery. Like a college student film.

That said, it's so much fucking fun to watch you won't give a shit about any of that.
The movie is about 3 nerds driving across the country to beat the crap out of a hacker who has been bothering them for a long time. They find his house and break in, only to be promptly abducted by aliens in what might be the scariest and shortest abduction sequence I've ever seen in a movie.

From there we get to see these 3 kept in a laboratory somewhere in the desert and watched over by Laurence Fishburn who plays a scientist kept in charge of them. He's very vague about his motives but he explains the reason for his vagueness is because he really has no idea what happened to these 3 nerds. He wears a very thick spacesuit (as do all the staff) when he's near the kids cause he doesn't know whats wrong with them. Could they have alien viruses? Could they BE aliens? He doesnt know and even though these ideas are terrifying, Fishburn is very calm and nearly mockingly friendly with the victims of this abduction. And for the most part, despite a few attempts to escape the lab everything is going swimmingly.

Then the kids realize they have weird new superpowers.
And then they realize they aren't actually on earth.
Then shit goes bonkers. REAL FUCKIN BONKERS.

The movie is absolutely ridiculous and while it seems it might take itself seriously, the concepts are so outlandish and the soundtrack is so deliriously happy electronic music, the movie just feels like the filmmakers had as much fun as they could. The film even ends with watching a spaceship descend into some crazy alien world with gorgeous CGI and some party music playing with the bass pumped up so hard you wanna get up and dance, even though the context of the scene itself is fucking horrifying.

Amusing, silly, frightening, scary, and overall just pretty stylish.
The Signal was good.

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JUG FACE.
Watched this one last night.
What a ride. Similar sort of setting and theme with We Are What We Are; a bunch of very rustic old-timey-wimey folk living out in a very forested very rural area with some sort of cult.

With Jug Face the cult worships a thing called The Pit. The Pit is exactly what it sounds like. It's a big-ass hole in the ground about 7 feet deep full of mud and blood. The villagers are afraid of it but also respect it. One of the villagers is a man with some sort of learning disability but he is also the prophet. Every now and then his eyes go white and he falls into a stupor. In his stupor he takes some pottery clay and makes a jug. The jug also has the face of one of the villagers. Whoever that villager is upon the jug now will be the next sacrifice for the Pit.

What proceeds is a ritual where the person then has their throat cut open (one of those things I always get squeamish at no matter how fake it is) and their blood then pours into the Pit, apparently satisfying it.

The main character of the film, a young girl named Ada who has sexual relations with her brother, learns that she is the next person to be sacrificed to the Pit. She also learns she is pregnant with her brother's baby. So when the jug comes out of the kiln she quickly hides it away.

Well, this makes the Pit REALLY goddamn angry and it starts killing people.

You expect at some point in the film it's going to be proven the Pit is false or a hallucination or that maybe its real and the villagers will revolt against it since they are tired of losing loved ones to it. None of this happens. In fact, the film is resolved when Ada finally realizes (after being caught) that she HAS to die to the pit or its going to keep killing people, and she is sacrificed to it. And everyones lives return to normal and jug face's keep getting produced by the local retard priest guy.

Pretty neat film.
Certainly a very original concept and all the performances in the film are very good.
Plus it has Larry Fessenden in it, a really good actor who made one of my favorite horror films from a few years ago The Last Winter with Ron Perlman.

I highly recommend all of these.


I also saw two piles of absolute twaddle which I would only say to watch if you lose a bet.

1.) Last Days on Mars
This movie manages to have stupider astronauts than the ones in Prometheus. The amount of IDIOTIC decisions these people make is absolutely amazing. They are all so incompetent at their jobs it is absolutely remarkable. I've never seen a movie get so dumb so fast. I was watching it and thinking to myself "man why did so many people hate this? its ok so far..." and then this guy appeared.


And astronaut zombie man proceeds to not only kill several people despite not possessing any strength or otherworldly traits, he also knows how to drive a car, use power tools, and even set up remote explosives, all while being a zombie created by underground rock fungus. I'm not making this up it is actually that wild and dumb.



Crappy movie #2, which was actually a huge disappointment as I was expecting WAY more out of it was The Devil's Pass.

I grabbed this movie because it was about the Dyatlov Pass Incident which is one of my most favorite real-life scary stories ever. Sadly the movie is about as scary as the fart I'm holding in writing this.

I was really looking forward to this. Silly me!
So instead of being a cool story about a group of documentary filmmakers exploring the Dyatlov Pass mystery and becoming involved in the supernatural terror surrounding it, this is a movie about a bunch of douchebags.

Everyone in this movie is a douchebag. Every character is one of THOSE types. The ones who get drunk EVERY friday, go to a nice college completely off their parents money, have no practical knowledge, call each other Bro all the time, and who play games like Black Ops 2 and think its a masterpiece. Every character in the film is one of these types. They are all assholes and almost like caricatures of horrible americans. They possess every possible stereotype of awful american people and you will not emphasize with any of them.

They proceed to travel to Russia, unprepared, act like idiots, get drunk, meet a guy named Sergei (because Vlad and Ivan were too stereotypical) and then run off to the mountain. Through their own incompetence they managed to nearly all die in the snow and about 1 hour and 45 minutes into the film they get trapped in some underground military bunker. The film pick up here considerably with some good special effects, decent monsters, and gorgeous cinematography but sadly by the time this happens its too little too late and you will HATE the movie and everyone in it so much you'll be ROOTING FOR THE MONSTERS to KILL THEM.

I could honestly write an I, Frankenstein length rant about how this movie fucks up its own story, its dumb leaps in logic, and how it manages to shit on both the Dyatlov Pass and the Philadelphia Experiment all in the course of two hours but I won't.

I will simply say it is a pile of shit and not even worth grabbing from the 99 cent bargain bin at Walmart that it is destined to travel to.
 I hope everyone involved in the production of this film gets bitten by a spider on their genitals.
In happier news a new Aphex Twin album is coming out.
YOU BET YOUR ASS I'M EXCITED.