Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eye Gore

In my last post, I went off on a bit of a tangent about Igor (Eeee-gor).
An elaboration was inevitable.

I posted one picture in particular that was of interest because it ripped off the "how the hell do I pronounce this" thing from Ratatouille, a move worthy of Ratatoing.

Well, I found out that they had a very good reason for doing it. This movie really is Eye Gore.

Considering how low budget this film is ($25 mil), I'm amazed that it suffers from all the same mistakes as the big budget failures it steals from.
  • An unrelenting assault of totally unfunny gags.
  • A binary of humour too high-brow (or rude) for children and too moronic for adults.
  • A heavy-handed, brazenly moralistic ending.
  • A plot that involves a love interest or friend misunderstanding the situation, being misled by the villain and eventually forgiving their friend (this point shouldn't be common enough in animation to warrant a dot point here, but depressingly, it is).
  • Confusing, unfocused pacing.
  • Cutesy characters (which is fuck-tarded as this is supposed to be a film about monsters, mad scientists and hunchbacks).
  • A star-studded cast, as though that will save this film.

(Guess where all the money went?)

Steve Buscemi happens to be one of my favourite actors, and to hear his voice in this piece of shit was insulting (especially as I wasn't aware he was in the film until I recognised his voice). The worst part is, apparently he was one of the first big names to sign on for the movie and this snowballed others into joining in on the PHUN.
What is John Cusack doing here? No, really? John Cleese, I can understand. Old, established actors are always excused for making cash-grabs in their late career, because their alternative is basically retirement. But GOD.
Even Eddie Izzard. Maybe if they gave him a decent character to play (which they didn't). They were so desperate they even hired Christian Slater to voice one of the Igors. I need to move onto the next point or I'll punch something.


(De burning you feel? Eet ees shame.)

Alright, onto the design.

Igor may have the worst character design I have ever seen in a 3D movie. And that's up against Robots and Shark Tale.

(I assume by 'Monster Hit', he means 'Monster Flop'. It made $30 mil at the box office, just five million more than its budget.)

That big one is called Eva. Yes, Eva.
They actually stole the name from Wall-E (and I'm not just saying that, in the scene where she decides her own name, they actually spoof the Wall-E scene where Eva introduces herself).
She's supposed to be a female Frankenstein monster. But I take serious issue with her design from an aesthetic standpoint.
Her neck is massive, like a lumberjack's. She has a solid, barrel-like body, one solid, barrel-like leg, one moderately sized leg (it doesn't seem as though she could support her own weight), one gigantic arm and one tiny one. This could work for a comedic character, but Eva is a) the love interest and b) unfunny.

Characters like Brain shouldn't even be there. He is supposed to form a comedic duo with the rabbit, but neither of them are funny. Brain in particular is just irritating.

Also, I know I've already gone over this in the previous post, but let's recap: what's with Igor's design? It's an Igor. Why is he cute??
I have a hunchback sidekick-character called Igor. To put a spin on him, I made him a sophisticated Russian scientist with a massive superiority complex who was the second in charge of an empire. I didn't make him cute.

I don't take issue with the rabbit design, it's one of the only decent-looking characters in the whole film. On the other hand, his character (which is scarcely surprising in this paint-by-numbers movie) is completely one-dimensional. "Heh. He's invincible, but he's also suicidal. Geddit?"

It may stun you to know that there are actually uglier designs in this movie.

What the fuck is that thing??? We're led to believe it's human. This is, as usual, some clever cock's attempt to be 'designy' and trying so hard as to actually destroy any simplicity - and beauty - in what they were attempting to create. Igor's cuteness is mismatched, but at least he's cute. Bu this isn't cute, it's just hideous.

As for the animation, well, it's terrible. You only have to look at the trailer to find that out. Funny, really! I always figured there would be plenty of out-of-work 3D wizards floating around America who would kill to work on a big budget movie. What's their excuse?

Well, maybe you ought to take a look at the credits. You will see names like "Li Quang Tãum" and "Mien Mish Phulong" and "Taii Pei Phuç" appear over and over and over again.

Turns out the company that was responsible for realising this travesty, Sparx*, is a French venture (for shame, the country that gave us Gobelins...) with a vast outfit of slave labour situated in Viet Nam.

(I imagine the Viet Nam studio must look something like this, but with Macs)

2D animation companies have been outsourcing their labour to other countries since time immemorial; in the days of Hanna Barbera, it was the only chance Australians got to practice animation at all. Then the Chinese and just about every other Asian country north of us said they'd do it for cheaper, and what do you know. Is it any wonder the Australian animation industry is laughable? It hasn't had time to grow.

In any case, the animation in Igor was done partly by a crew of French key animators, and filled up and polished by an army of Vietnamese animators who I doubt were paid very much. Unfortunately, it shows.

I found this out after watching the whole film, so a warning to all of you with consciences: if you rent Igor, you are funding globalisation and sweatshop labour. It's actually EVIL to make people pay to see this movie.

But then again, I probably would have thought that anyway.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Covers and posters - an analysis

So after my last post, Adam aka. NitWitt from AblinoBlackSheep and I got into a discussion about how different companies handle DVD covers and poster designs. It couldn't be helped with the three-in-a-row assault of bad DVD covers.

What follows is a case study of promotional cleverness vs. redardation.


What I like about this picture:

  • It has good composition. It is impossible for your eye to get lost, it can only travel in one direction.
  • There are no unnecessary characters. You have to squint to see the bird and we aren't treated to any of the unimportant characters.
  • It leads us to ask questions about the film. "Why is there a flying house, what's the deal with this old man and kid? I'm intrigued."
  • It's a candid snapshot. They are captured in a moment in time. They don't know you're there.

Wait, what is this movie about??

The characters haven't been photographed by an unseen photographer like in the Up poster. They were there for a photo shoot. A publicity photo shoot.
It's just a triangle of the main characters. And why is Scrat there?
On a slightly unrelated note, the concept design of that sloth or whatever the fuck he is should have probably gotten to a second or third draft before they settled on this.


Like many Pixar films, Australia saw the totally unremarkable videogame adaptation of this title arrive on our shores long before the actual movie. Thankfully I didn't play it, but the cover (which is the same picture they used for the film posters) made me want to see the film.

"Hm. That robot looks really lonely. Looks like he's the only robot left on the planet. But hey! There's a robot there in the background that he doesn't even seem to notice. What is that thing?"

It's a totally uncluttered design that drops in a few points of focus: Wall-E, the ship, and Eva. That's it.


So wait a minute, why is the corporate asshole bad guy standing next to all the goodies? Oh yeah. Because this is a publicity photo shoot that has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of the movie.
It's sheerly and solely an attempt to sell the characters. To remind the kids which happy meal they are supposed to buy. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it, because these characters are ugly as sin.


The top two thirds of this picture are consumed by the two most important characters. The rest of the cast are delegated to where they belong. Woody looks both fearful and skeptical, and Buzz really believes he is a flying superhero. You've summed up everything you need to know in one clean snapshot.


Umm. Okay.

So, uh...

Well, at least they're not looking at the camera. But still, I guess it's about a bunch of... animals escaping in a minecart from. A pair of...

...ghost... cowboys??


Cluttered? Maybe. But you will note that our main characters are still immediately visible as the colourful dots in the middle. Good placement and colourscheme still give them the spotlight, despite their utterly insignificant size, which emphasises their vulnerability. Their vulnerability in an entire ocean full of snarling, dangerous creatures. Even when Pixar do it wrong, they do it right.


It's generally agreed that this movie is pure scum, and everything about it is a perfect example of what not to do in a movie. But this cover somehow manages to make it even worse.
It's another one of these dull, cluttered, busy, pointless photoshoots where they have tried to fill every ounce of space they can with a sellable character. They've even managed to squeeze in the rasta jellyfish on the side! They didn't even DO anything! And good god. Get a load of the Robert De Niro shark. There's a reason sharks don't flex their fin muscles, it's because it looks fucking wrong.

Hey, wait a minute.


Wow. WOW.

They must have been designed by the same guy on his lunch break. He must have REALLY been under the gun. I bet his initial design brief must have looked something like this.


  • Narratively charged props (the knives) also act to draw the viewer's eye.
  • Bad pun that still gets the point across perfectly.
  • We know what this film is about. But we don't know enough. Makes me want to see it.
There really is nothing wrong with this picture. It says everything.


So wait, are those things in the foreground the aliens? No wait, they must be monsters. I guess the aliens are the things in the weird ships.
So what's this movie about? It's just a bunch of monster things standing around looking at the viewer. Oh wait. I guess the movie is about monsters vs. aliens. Now there's a plot and a half.
And what is with that fishman on the right? Who died and made him the King of Cool? Maybe the Fonz. I dunno.

You get this face a lot, actually. I won't go into it but it's omnipresent, like a disease.

(The skunk annoys me the most, I think)

And while Ratatoille is still fresh on our minds, how many of you had difficulty pronouncing it the first time you saw it on a poster? I sure as hell know I did. Those wacky French. Oh, but wait! They've kindly guided us to the pronunciation underneath: "rat-a-too-ee". Oh wow, even a kid can manage that.

Obviously everyone must have had as much trouble pronouncing "Igor".

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't even know where to begin.
Apart from the film looking quite horrid in general (I have only seen the trailer, but this alone has alerted me to the terrifyingly bad animation and character design found within), have you ever met anyone retarded enough not to be able to pronounce Igor? Did they think everyone would be pronouncing it "Eye Gore"? The ultimate irony is that Igor is an Eastern European name that is actually pronounced Ih-Gor. Emphasis on the second syllable, not the first. Being a linguistics nerd helps sometimes.
Clearly, the only reason they snuck that bullshit in was because it would remind people of Ratatouille, a film actually worth seeing.

And this is kind of tangential, but why the fuck did they make him look so cute? It's a film about Igors, for fuck's sake. In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, the Igor clan is described as a slobbering pack of ugly, demented hunchbacks that live in the mountains. Frankly, I've never seen or heard of a typical "Igor" being described or portrayed in any other way.

But I'm sure if he looked like this, he wouldn't have sold quite as many lunch boxes.

It would be too challenging for the scriptwriter to invite the children to sympathise with him. Because kids are stupid and writing a good story with sympathetic characters is apparently really, REALLY hard.

They could have made Igor look like this.

He's ugly, but he's also cute. There is something very appealing and functional about this design, it's funny and I'm sure the kids would lap it up. If you want to go all soccer mum focus group on us, maybe give him some pupils. But make sure they poke in different directions like the Igor from Young Frankenstein and we're set.


Okay, I'm not a fan of Alvin and the Chipmunks. I've outgrown the original cartoons, and modernising them is not only wrong in a disrespectful way, but it's also wrong in a very real "viewing experience" way.
I think if I had to babysit some kids I'd rather snap the disc in half and tell the parents the kids did it by accident than actually watch it with them. Even if they were really well behaved kids and asked nicely.
But this cover isn't all bad.

  • The guy from "My Name Is Earl" doesn't take up too much of the frame. All we see of him is that he is the literal doormat of the chipmunks, and that he is distressed and confused.
  • The location sets the scene. Oh, okay. So it's a film about the chipmunks wreaking havoc.
  • Alvin's pose is interesting. He's like, shouting triumphantly. He looks pumped.
  • Alvin's brothers suffer the Fonz ailment. I guess they're 2 kool 4 skool.
  • The angle is straight on. That's very lazy.
But what's this?? The Squeakquel poster looks suspicously familiar.

Copypasta, anyone? The one on the right is fucking identical, and the one on the left has only been tweaked enough for a corny otaku peace sign.
They also decided it would be 'cooler' not to give us any clue whatsoever what the film was about. Apparently the fact that it has the chipmunks looking smug in it is enough.

Somehow, they managed to actually remove everything that was good about the poster of the original.

Poster design 101, folks. I hope you learned something today.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Up Yours

Okay, so this movie came out a while ago, it was one of those 3D movies for kids.
Maybe you've heard of it, it's called Up.

No, not the one with the gay cock! I meant UP. The Pixar one.

This movie didn't frustrate me. Something else did. The people who saw it before me.
The dialogue consistently went something like this.

Up viewer: "Man. Up came out and it was amazing/boring. I really loved/hated it."
Me: "Oh yeah, what was it about, exactly?"
Up viewer: "Well, uhh. It was about this old guy who like, put lots of balloons on his house and it flew up into the air."
Me: "..... that's it?"
Up viewer: "Oh, well there was a fat boy scout who he became friends with. Cause at first he was all grumpy."

If I was lucky, I would be treated to the extended explanation, which went thus.

Me: "Okay, so a grumpy guy flies his house up with a bunch of balloons and he meets a boy scout, then what?"
Up viewer: "Oh! Well, you know. Uhhm. There's like, this bird that they meet, it looks really weird. And there's a dog in it too."

And that would be what they told me. In full.


My sneaking suspicion that I still cannot let go of (I only saw the film two days ago - I mean did you expect me to rush out and see it with an explanation like that??) is that these people never actually saw the movie. They were just so fucking lazy that they wanted to pretend to be the Pixar fanatics they're not and relayed what they saw in the trailers of another movie.
So maybe you could argue that by giving away more of the movie, you'd be ruining the surprise.

What surprise?! Was there really anything to spoil in this movie?!

In case you're retarded, I won't bother explaining the oh-so-difficult twists and turns packed into this totally unguessable movie. Yeah okay, I'm getting cynical, but this is aimed more at the human red herrings that fed me this bullshit storyline than Pixar.

Wait, what the fuck - there are planes in this movie? And a blimp? Well gee, who do they belong to? The bird? Or the dog, maybe? Did the scouts come looking for the little boy who got trapped in the flying house with the old man? This sounds like a story. Maybe some kind of adventure.
Well, if you're like me and have taken an ice age to see this movie, let me let you in on a little secret.
Up is a lot better than the trailers make it out to be.

Okay, so maybe it isn't Shakespeare. And by Shakespeare, I mean The Incredibles and Wall-E, which were perfect in every way. But for a good old Pixar thrill ride, it was pretty good.
The old man doesn't start out grumpy like these asshats told me. He actually starts off a pretty nice guy, and becomes grumpy. For what I would call a pretty good reason. And he didn't just inflate these balloons in his house for no reason two minutes into the movie. Why don't you watch this film before explaining the plot to me?

It reminds me of a funny story involving a certain game for the original Playstation X, called "Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver".
My brother and I were addicted to the game that came before it, the original in the series: "Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain". Now many of you will know that I love vampires, but I fucking hate vampyres. Whiney emo pussy romantics have ruined these once brutal, savage creatures of the night by fetishising them into beautiful faggot goths, but Blood Omen was the real deal. Vampires that could turn into bats, mist or wolves, and drank blood by telekinetically sucking the blood in a stream from their victim's slashed-open bodies into their mouths.

Oh, god yes. Forget your sexual metaphors and romanticised fang-hickies. This was it.

At the very beginning of the intro of the sequel, Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver, we are even teased into thinking that the new hero is some kind of lipstick wearing goth. He looks more than a little bit gay.

But wait a minute! He doesn't look like that on the cover of the game!

Whoah, my mistake. The hero is BADASS. How did THAT happen?? My brother happened to have a friend who had the game, and he told us that the story involved some new bad guy creating a race of super zombies by throwing winged slaves into a vortex that changed them into weird superbeasts. But the hero decided to secretly defect! Hmm, okay. Then we played the game for ourselves.

Uhh, no. That's not what happened at all.

It was about Kain ruling the world for thousands of years after the events of the first game and Raziel, one of his loyal servants, had grown a pair of wings and Kain hated this so much that he broke the guy's wings and threw him into a portal of certain death. Then Raziel was resurrected yet more thousands of years later by a mysterious spirit who wanted to use Raziel as a tool to destroy Kain.

So how the fuck did he get THAT from THIS?
The answer is simple.

Watch for the actual story. Then watch it again with the sound turned off to get this other guy's fucked up version.

Gee, wow! This guy must have played the game with a broken set of speakers but still wanted to impress us by pretending to know what the story was.

The point of all this is that I felt the same sense of bafflement when I watched Up. Except this time it felt good. Because the movie wasn't as boring as all these idiots who had obviously never watched the movie made it out to be.

See, the thing about Up is, I think a lot of people were disappointed in it because they were expecting it to be The Incredibles or Wall-E. Well Jesus Christ. Give the man some credit. Peter Docter didn't direct those movies, Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton did, respectively. Docter's last film was Monsters Inc. It wasn't my favourite movie, but I still liked it, and personally I think Up is an improvement.
You get this old prick who's had it with everyone still alive, who devotes his life to what initially appears to be a noble cause but winds up being a pointless, even selfish persuit. The film is indeed packed with action, adventure, and characters other than the old man, the Asian kid and a couple of weird-looking animals.

Perhaps the bad guy lacks the emotional depth we are beginning to crave for animated characters. I mean come on, Pixar have pulled it off before. But his intentions are believable enough; he's just a secluded old man with a murderous obsession and a really bad case of paranoia. We've all met one before. You may have even had to live with one at some stage.

The only thing I don't like about the villain is that he is apparently a zillion years old and the dynamics of this are never really explained. Shouldn't he be in a wheelchair or something by now?
Anyway, I think people are beginning to get a little harsh on Pixar. One thing I like about this studio is that they never fuck things up.
They might come out with a movie that wasn't as heart-poundingly exciting as the last one, or as heart-tuggingly emotionally involving as the one before that. But is that a reason to call it a boring movie? You might as well say The Fifth Element was a bad movie because it lacked the complexity of the dialogue in Citizen Kane. Personally, I like the fact that Pixar are always pushing the boundaries by giving different directors a spin and taking the settings in unexpected directions. And focusing on making sure the story is coherent rather than how much the models look like the voice actors who play them. And having the team of artists and the team of programmers in separate divisions. And talking to animation magazines about how proud they are of their story team, and not their suite of computers that run Linux. You know, things that other studios DON'T do.

This movie was like rape without the confusing physical pleasure

Holy shit this movie sucked for so many different reasons

No, seriously, was I the only one who hated all these fucking cowpats?

Now for the real shocker, Up is actually a good movie. Sure, it has some of the usual Pixar eye-rollery (the "cross my heart" theme felt really lame, but maybe that's just me), but Pixar eye-rollery is forgivable. It's not like Blue Sky eye-rollery where the reason your eyes are rolling is because you are physically convulsing in disgust at what you are watching.
The story made sense, it was fun, I ended up really liking all the characters, there were a lot of really funny moments and it had a heartwarming conclusion that (thank GOD) didn't bash our brains in with some kind of moral lesson.

I just wish I hadn't been inflicted with all those half-assed reviews from people who hadn't seen the movie or I might have been able to watch it in 3D.

Awww, the dog misses out on the 3D experience. But then he probably doesn't have very good depth perception anyway. But I'm not a vet so I wouldn't know