Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Update from the Couch

Gil and I haven't been particularly active on the blog for a while now. Life had gotten a little in the way. But, we should be getting into the swing of things again. We have planned to do a series based off of the 30 days of Video Games posts going around facebook. It should start sometime next week, maybe. We're in the process of moving and we wanted to wait until we were settled before we started. We composed draft lists today and we found that having all of our stuff in boxes made it a bit hard. Once we have everything unpacked and put away coming up with some of the answers will be easier.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It takes 2 sides to get Tangled

We just returned from what the reps from Disney told us was the first ever showing of the completed version of Tangled, Disney's 50th animated feature. I'll cut to the chase. It's good. Really GOOD. As many of you know, Tangled has pretty much spent the past 20 years going through development hell, under many different rendering styles, animation styles, and even titles. Well, it's finally completed and totally worth the wait.

Tangled feels more like a princess movie than last years Princess and the Frog did. But that's not a bad thing at all, the film does just as good a job of staying accessible to boys, girls, adults, and parents. The male lead, "Flynn Rider," is just as important and shares the screen equally with Rapunzel, the princess. Rapunzel fits in perfectly well with Disney's group of tiara-bearing girls, despite her added dimension, and "Flynn" holds his own as a male lead with his sarcastic wit and heart. The animal characters are incredibly entertaining as well, while I knew going in that the chameleon, Pascal, would be a show stealer, I was not expecting him to be completely upstaged by the horse, Maximus. The villain, Mother Gothel, was a decent threat, and helped to move the story forward, but ultimately the story was complex enough that you could not label her as the source of the major conflict in the film, just an antagonizer. I'll admit that the story is at times predictable, but there are a few unexpected moments, and the great voice acting helps to keep you as an audience member on your toes, it's really the meat that surrounds the skeleton of the story that really makes the film unique. The humor is great, largely universal, and there is a lot of good, heartfelt, emotional scenes, on par with some of the best scenes in classics such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.

The movie does have a few songs, it does not have as many songs as most Disney musicals typically do, but the songs that are there are excellently staged, well varied, and accompanied by engaging visuals. They may not be seem as memorable at first in comparison to some Disney classics, but upon repeated listening they WILL grow on you. I will say that I was pretty impressed by the singer for Mother Gothel, I'm not sure whether or not it was Donna Murphy singing the role as well as voicing it, but if so... props to her! Also, the love ballad is destined to become a favorite. Something that surprised me though, is how the instrumental music took the center stage just as well as the musical numbers. There were some great pieces of score in this film, particularly during a montage around the halfway point of the film. Another thing I'd like to commend the film for are the pantomime characters. Maximus and Pascal were perfect, they said more without opening their mouths than they ever could with a voice. There are actually a lot of really good dialogue free scenes in the film between many of the characters.
On the technical side... my god. Where to begin?! This. Film. Is. GORGEOUS. The animation is astounding... fluid, lifelike, and ... just pure Disney magic. There's some really great character pieces in this film that should serve as great reference material for character animators. I was going to try and single out a character as my favorite, animation-wise, but I can't bring myself to choose just one, they're ALL great. There is one musical number that takes place in a bar that comes to mind as being a smörgåsbord of little character moments, each attempting to top the last. The characters are modeled exceedingly well, and clearly gave the animators a lot to work with. The lighting in the movie is also worth noting, if you couldn't already tell from the trailers. There are some beautiful environments throughout the film, and all of them are given an extra helping of life by the tremendous lighting. There's also some great effects animation in this film, specifically some sweet water effects, and obviously some superb hair effects, those hair effects technicians really earned their paychecks. Another aspect of the film that is worth paying attention to is the cinematography. This film feels like a 2D film that jumped off the paper, the camera language just makes you feel like you're watching a traditionally animated Disney film, it just makes the action on the screen feel that much better. Although the showing wasn't in stereoscopic 3D, I could tell that this film would be worth the extra admission price to see it so. We've already decided to see the film again opening night just to see it in 3D.
Overall I'm really glad that this film didn't turn out to be a waste of time for the studio. They should be proud to add it to their library, and so should you! I WILL say that it's probably not as good as Toy Story 3, it's definitely up there with How To Train Your Dragon as one of the best animated films of the year. I strongly recommend Tangled to you all, especially if you appreciate the Disney legacy, or animation in general. Whether on the entertainment side, or the technical side, this film has something for everyone. There's a lot there, so please, come Wednesday, November 24th, go see this film.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Right Side

Not really, I love Scott Pilgrim. June 5th marked 5 years since I first started reading the series, having read the first two volumes at a friends loft while waiting for him to take a shower and get ready for a party. I've been hooked ever since.

The main reason I'm making this post is because of the latest trailer for the movie adaptation of the comics, named after the 2nd volume of the series: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I've seen so many comments from people on different websites, people who say they don't "get" it, or that it looks stupid to them. I understand where they are coming from, Scott Pilgrim is an interesting beast...

For those who have not read the comics, I strongly recommend you do so. The series starts out "ok" but the story really picks up with each consecutive volume. Right now the series is at it's penultimate volume, which ended on a cliff-hanger. The story has reached a point where you are left begging to know what happens next. We have to wait till July 20th to find out how the comic ends though.

The series kicks off like a typical "slacker boy tries to get with unattainable girl" scenario, but quickly subverts this when the slacker boy gets the girl by the midpoint of the first volume. The series is more about the challenges he has to face in order to keep the girl, and the internal journey he goes through to understand why he should fight for her, and what it says about him. The humor in the series is pretty bizarre, as there are many unexplained facets about the world that the series does not explain, it just expects you to roll with and do your best to keep up. Many common video game tropes exist in the world of Scott Pilgrim, and while this is a shock to the reader initially, the characters treat it as second nature. Enemies burst into piles of coins when defeated, Scott gets experience, levels up, and sometimes gets an item after winning a fight. There are many references to 8-bit and 16-bit games like Mario, Sonic, Zelda, etc.

The story is easy to follow even if you aren't familiar with the video game elements, but if you know your games, you will appreciate the series on another level. When you first start reading the series, it's easy to pass it off as an immature, nerdy comic about love and video games. But if you stick with the series, you'll realize that there's a lot more to it. Sure it's about love, and Scott getting to keep the girl and what not. But it's also about Scott slowly making the realization that in order to drop his slacker nature, and succeed at anything, he has to grow up, take a step back and look at himself. The girl, Ramona Flowers, has to let go of the past. It's enthralling to see how they do so...

Many people who have not read much of the comic ask: "What makes Ramona special? What's so great about her?" As if being able to travel through sub-space and having a league of evil exes isn't enough. She's not really special in the context most people might be looking for. But really, that's kind of open for interpretation right now. She's mysterious, Scott finds it intriguing, and in the duration of the series is slowly starting to pick up on what makes her special, if anything. Little things the characters learn about themselves, whether spelled out for the reader or not, are what keeps the series smart and entertaining.

That's all I'll really say about the comic though, I'm sure that was hard to follow, but this post is supposed to be about the movie.

Based on the two trailers that have been released, this film looks to be extremely faithful to the series. Many of the comic book panels are expertly translated to the screen, and it looks like much of the video game elements have been kept in. Though... I am disappointed that that trailers have already given away several surprises that shocked readers of the series. That being said, the movie should be fun, entertaining, hilarious, and AWESOME.

A lot of people are put off by the fact that the titular character is being portrayed by Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno), many automatically assume be will be playing "Michael Cera" or, the same character he's played in every movie. These people have not seen enough movies with Cera in them. Yeah, he's been typecast as the awkward, shy boy who manages to get the girl through his sheepish charm, BUT... have you seen him in Youth in Revolt? Arrested Development? Have you seen him actually BEING himself in behind the scenes videos, special features, or audio commentaries? He has a soft voice, but he's not shy and meek. He's quite confident, and he's actually pretty funny and at times obnoxious. This is why I think he will be great as Scott Pilgrim. Scott is awkward, but he doesn't know it. Scott thinks he's the coolest guy in the world and nobody knows it yet, Scott is unintentionally funny and obnoxious.

I think Michael Cera is great for this role. To be honest, he wasn't my first choice, and it wasn't until I saw him outside of film that I warmed up to the idea. There are times in the series when Scott is a bit of an ass, he can be pretty unlikeable, you need an actor and a face to play him, one that audiences will still get behind even when the character he's playing isn't being a nice guy. Also, the series is set in Canada; Ramona is the only American character in the series. Michael Cera is Canadian which gives him a bit of an edge in the role. Just as there's a difference between British humor and Asian or American humor, Canadian humor can be pretty distinctive. It's not about cultural reference, it's the point of view. When crazy things start happening around a character, American humor would dictate an over exaggerated reaction. Canadian humor would call for a laid-back reaction, one that undercuts the situation at hand. Truth be told, I can't think of anyone who I would have cast in his place anyway. Just... don't let your petty hatred of Cera prevent you from seeing this movie, and hopefully enjoying it.
That aside, I must say the casting for this film looks phenomenal, all the characters look like they're graphic novel counterparts. That rarely happens in adaptations of games and comics.

Another reason I'm pretty excited for this film is because Edgar Wright is directing it. If you've ever seen the show Spaced, it's like a European Scott Pilgrim, full of ridiculous set pieces, and spot on movie/game/comic references. Wright handles surreal pop humor well, and given his love for the source material, I have no doubt he'll do the same for this film. Also, the movie went into production around the release of the second volume of the series. The film is supposed to follow the first three volumes for the most part, before branching off. The ending of the film is supposed to be different from the books, because the last books had not been written by the time the film was made. Normally that would worry me, but Wright has stated many times that he has been in close communication with the series creator, Brian Lee O'Malley. The ending is supposed to be based off O'Malley's original idea for the series finale, so it'll still feel right I'm sure.

Yet another reason I'm sure this movie will be great? A special screening of the film was held for Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Legend of Zelda series, Mario Bros., etc. The screening was held to request permission of the use of Legend of Zelda music in the film. Miyamoto granted his permission without a second though, and showed great satisfaction in the use of the music and the film itself. Optimism +1

I'm also excited for the special effects in this film, they look just like comic book stylings but with an air paint sort of feel. The fights look very neat, speed ramps giving each connected hit extra emphasis, single frame flashes of black and white, line art, and inverted colors to give it all that extra ooomph. I also noticed that certain weapons, like Ramona's Large Hammer, are pixelated and have a mosaic overlay which makes for an interesting effect. The cool thing about having video game graphics and effects in the movie is that multiple generations of people have grown up playing Mario, Donkey Kong, and various other classic games. These people will latch onto the video game culture aspects of the film because everyone knows bad guys drop prizes when they die, or what have you. The 8-bit graphics used in the film (and tie-in video game; which looks like a loving throwback to River City Ransom, Streets of Rage, and the like) were done by phenomenal 8/16bit artist Paul Robertson of Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 fame. All that's missing is an awesome chip-tune soundtrack composed by punk band Anamanaguchi.... OH WAIT. They're doing the soundtrack for the game? Day. One. Buy.
If you can't tell, I'm excited about this film. Kim and I don't know any people who had read this series before now, hopefully with this movie coming out more people will take interest in the books and feel the shame in almost missing out on such an awesome series. Read the books people! See the movie! Go in with an open mind, and don't take everything at face value. There are deeper messages than most people realize with these books... that's why there's such a large rift between the people who enjoy the series, and those who don't "get it". I don't mean to sound elitist... so I'm sorry if it came off that way... but I do encourage those who have written off the series to give it a second chance before dismissing it altogether.
Ugh... I just looked back on all that. I have shite writing skills.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making a Home

Tomorrow I get added to Gil's lease and the two of us will sign the new lease for another 8 months. We have slowly been moving my stuff over from my apartment, slowly been adding my books and movies to his. We are starting to build our home together.

After getting our couch, we got me a desk that can fit in the living room, some chairs for the kitchen table, and hung up some of the items that have sitting on the mantle.  And now that those are up we have more room to display all of Gil's figures and collectibles. We had to buy another DVD shelf to fit all of our stuff combined. I brought a few shelves from my place and have already put them to good use. I still have most of my larger furniture at my other apartment. I did manage to get one of my larger bookshelves here all by myself. Yeah me!

We finally decided to put stuff on the walls since we won't be moving anytime soon. Gil has a lot of posters, most of which we won't be putting up. There are a few we want to hang up, but we would like to frame them first. Mostly movie posters like the Incredibles, and The Princess and the Frog. We're kinda at a loss for what to put up in the bedroom. We don't really have anything we want to hang in there. 

Jeremi finally was able to move his stuff out of our sun room. We have blocked off the door in the living room that goes back there. We needed the space. We still have access to it through our bedroom. Which is another good reason to have my computer desk in the living room. The sun room is quickly turning into a library. As soon as I get my larger bookcase over here we'll have quite the collection. Now that I think about it I'm gonna move some stuff around back there. Hm.


Also, we have been wanting a pet for some time now and finally he managed to get one. Say hello to Ted Danson. Isn't he adorable. 
Yes he is snuggled in my cleavage.

He is the perfect pet for us, he doesn't bark or make a mess. We would like a real pet but, right now this is the best we can get. 

Couch update

So it's been a little over a month since our last post, or more specifically my post. We were in the process of maybe getting a couch or futon. We were very afraid that once we made the decision to get one there would be none for us to get. Just like last time. Because Wal-mart is a place of disappointment. But more on that later. We made the decision and went to go get our couch. Then we realized that neither of us has a vehicle that is capable of transporting a couch, assembled or not. Or so we thought. We decided to go and see if the box that the couch would come in would fix in my car, as it is a hatch back and could maybe work.

So we got there and looked at the boxes and thought, 'Sure that would fit in Kim's car, but how the hell do we get it there and up the damn stairs when we get home?' You see, our problem wasn't size or weight, our problem was the fact that everyone of those boxes looked like shit. There was no way for us to lift the damn thing, they looked like they were kept together with spit and lots of cheap tape. So, with sadness settling in our hearts we looked around to see if they had more of those futons. Not surprising they didn't, what they did have was a nicer one for forty bucks more. Only problem was that the nicer slightly more expensive one had a bigger box.

We had no idea what we could fit in my car, and neither of us had any thing to measure it with.

Oh wait! We were in Wal-mart! So after a trip to the hardware section, we measured the box, then bought the tape measure( it was $1) and then went out to measure the car. After a few measurements we decided we could fit the box in the car. So, back into Wal-mart we went, to get our selves a futon.  

Getting that thing to the car was a bitch. We had to get it on top of a cart, which sucked. I managed to crush my hand in the process. Then we had to wheel it to the front, while we couldn't see around it. We ended up pulling it backwards all the way to the front. We paid, and then got it to the car where we found out that we were right in believing that we didn't have a vehicle that would fit a couch in.

I had forgot to measure the spot in my car where the seats fold down. That one spot managed to be less that an inch too small. The couch was soooo close to fitting in the damn car. I had wanted to buy some twine or rope to see if we could tie the hatch closed, but there wasn't anything we could tie it to. Nothing.

So, I had to drive home with the hatch of my car all the way up. not even partially closed. Our only saving grace was that the Wal-mart we frequent is pretty damn close to our apartment. I mean, it's about a five minute drive.

So we get home and have the craptastic job of getting all the way to our apartment on the second floor and in the only building without direct access to the parking lot.  It sucked. Add to that the fact that the box started falling apart two thirds of the way up the small set of stairs that lead to our apartment. When we finally got to the stairs for out building we ended up rolling the damn thing up the stairs.

After we got it into the apartment, I had to put it together. Which took a while, but was totally worth it. Now we don't have to sit on the floor. And it was a huge step to making our place feel like a home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Couch in the future?

We here at Observations are hopefully getting a couch sometime this week. YEAH!

We used to have a nice purple couch, but when we moved from the nice furnished apartment we had no furniture. At least not any that we could sit on. The funny thing about us moving is the fact that the apartment we left and the arpartment we are in now have the same layout. So when we first moved it felt like some one had stolen our couch, because everything else was in the same exact place.

So this whole time we have had no couch. Why didn't we just buy one, you may ask? Beside not having a lot of money, we only planned on staying in this apartment for seven months, then moving to a much nicer and bigger place. That plan won't be going into effect, as we 1) don't have the money; 2) can't find a place that fits enough of our criteria, and 3) it's a huge pain in the ass to move. Another big reason is that we both have about a year left at school. And if we stay for another seven month term, we will know if we should be graduating on time or not. This is important because we don't plan on staying in Dallas. We plan on moving to Austin if we can't move to the West Coast.

But now that we're staying we need a couch. Mostly for me, and my craptastic back. And my habit of going into the bedroom to sleep/read. It'll also make having people over better, no one will have to sit on the floor unless they want to. We're gonna get a futon so, if need be, people can stay over. Yay!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Without the Right Side

This past week The Right Side has been out of town. Gil had to go be with his family during our one week off from school, leaving my all by my lonesome. And I have to say, it wasn't bad.

That's not to say I didn't miss him, because I did. It wasn't like the times I had to go stay at my "real" apartment because the parents where coming to visit and they don't know about my living with Gil (I think they do, but they're gonna let me bust my ass pretending I'm not). Most of the times I have to leave him for a few days  it sucks. Part of it is, I believe, is that we are so close but still apart. The apartment we share is in Dallas, my other apartment is in Grand Prairie. Close, but so far away. It's a really easy drive to make, and that makes it harder.

The other thing that makes it more difficult to be apart during those times is that that place is no longer "home" to me. Gil is now my home, being with him is being at home. Wow that was weird, he just called me as I finished that sentence. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Right now I'm in a place that is connected to Gil, his stuff is here, the bed we share is here. I still feel connected to him, even though he is not here.

So this time apart hasn't effected me as it has him (He's rather homesick), but it has made me realize how much I love him and what he has come to mean to me. And while to hasn't been bad, I can't wait till he get back tonight.

P.S-Happy Birthday honey! I love you.