Hold on to the beard…

Very vague memories of this movie popped into my head today. (I was working on my novel and had a character say the phrase “land of far away” which suddenly conjured up half-remembered images from this film.) I was able to Google around figure out what it was… though this particular scene was far less cheesy and much more mysterious and magical in memory.

Short Limitless review

limitless My little review of the 2011 film Limitless, which I just watched.  Might be some spoilers…

"You know how they say you can only use 20% of your brain?  Now you can use it all!"

Or something like that.  The movie’s about a drug that helps you remember stuff, stay focused, and make rapid and accurate logical conclusions based on your subconscious perceptions.  The "20% of your brain" thing is such a common cliche myth, I wouldn’t have put that in the movie.  I’d either think of some more scientific way to explain the increased intelligence, or just left it completely mysterious.

What does the main character do with the extra mental power?  The first thing I would try to do is figure out how the drug works so I can keep using it forever.  He saves that for later, and is never really able to do it.  But he writes a brilliant book.  OK.  I would do that too.  But then he gets into the stock market, with plans to go into politics later.

It’s amusing but annoying how some people seem to think that there are secret patterns to be found in the stock market, and if only they could find them, they’d be rich.  Even this movies makes a reference to an "algorithm for the perception of stocks."  Um… no.  Even if there was a pattern, or an algorithm, finding it would change it because you’d have to factor in your own finding of it.  It’s ultimately just a silly daydream.  Silly because it emerges from misunderstandings about how the world works.

And then he wants to go into politics?  Why?  I can only guess it’s because he’s less concerned about using his intellectual drugs in pursuit of science and creativity, and more concerned about climbing the social ladder and gaining power.  Vanity!  All is vanity!  For many daydreamers, I suppose that’s the real value of intelligence.  It gives you a social advantage.  You achieve fame and power, and other people admire or envy you, and that makes you feel good about yourself.  The main character enjoys getting attention, and having intellectual arguments with people, in which he participates in a laid-back I’m-so-cool kind of way.

I’d be more inclined to keep the increased intelligence a complete secret, using it to have fun (write books and symphonies and program things) and pursue other areas of intellectual interest (artificial intelligence, unsolved math problems, philosophy).

The writing was a bit odd in some parts.  There were some weird metaphors in the movie.

Something like, "One minute you’re his best friend, the next you’re a leaper."  A leaper?  I guess it gets the point across, but it conjures up the image of a leaper.  Why would you want that in the context of the scene?  (It sort of reminds me of a metaphor they mentioned on the podcast Writing Excuses, something like: "Her skin was the color of a 3-day old corpse."  It might be technically accurate, but conjuring up the image of a corpse might not exactly set the tone properly.)

Later in the movie: "… like Oliver Twist begging for gruel."  I don’t remember Oliver Twist begging for gruel.  He was forced to ask for more after drawing lots.  He didn’t beg for it.

There were some other weird ones, but I forgot them.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it was nothing very amazing either.  I can see how some people might like it, though; it was very fast-paced and captivating.  The cinematography was pretty interesting, with these weird perpetual zoom-ins every now and then, which were a lot of fun.  For example, here are the opening credits:


In Time trailer

I am looking forward to seeing this film In Time (formally called Now); looks like a really fun idea for a sci-fi. Although most of those actors definitely look older than 25.

By the way, wouldn’t it be better to stop aging even before 25?

The original Planet of the Apes ending – a twist?

I just read a blog that said that the original Planet of the Apes film had a “phenomenal twist ending.” What? No it didn’t. When I first watched the original Planet of the Apes, the ending did not surprise me. Maybe it had somehow already been revealed to me (it must’ve been 20-something years old by the time I first saw it). But the crew crashes on a planet with an earth-like atmosphere (the air isn’t toxic or anything, and is just the right temperature), the animals are just like animals on earth, except the apes are the ones who can talk (albeit using many less facials muscles), they all speak English, and, as if that wasn’t enough, they dig up some old human relics. It should be plainly obvious where they are. I never thought the ending was meant to be a “twist” as if the audience was supposed to realize anything new; it was just a powerful way for the main character to at long last face the painful truth.

I do, however, remember Darth Vader revealing his fathership to Luke being a genuine surprise to me, even though the film must’ve been out for almost 20 years by the time I first saw it. I thought that was the coolest twist ever; I never saw it coming.

Got a Wacom tablet… and other random things I’d like to say at this point in time thank you very much and how long can I make this title anyway? I guess this is too long already so I’ll just stop

Animation studies

Whew, busy month! It’s week 3 of class 4 of Animation Mentor. Last week I got through blocking out another practice shot, which I’m continuing to add breakdowns to and I hope to start splining soon; next week will consist of polishing. I’ll upload a video eventually… maybe.


In other news revolving around the self, I bought a Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet! I can’t draw very well at all, but this device should at least make it much more fun and convenient to practice, if I can ever find the time. (I am still quite interested in learning the craft.) But it’s also great for animating in Maya; it’s just easier to move around the screen than a mouse. There’s so much more precision you can get in your cursor movements, and it’s much more comfortable for the arm, hand, and wrist when you’re animating for hours on end (though my back posture is still awful since I have no way to get a monitor at eye level or higher). I really should’ve bought one earlier.

I also bought Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics, which I’ve been scanning through. It seems to give a great beginner’s overview of the comic-drawing process, but I wish it went into more depth; it sort of just touches the surface of a bunch of topics. It’s still nice as an intro, but I’m going to want more eventually… If anyone out there knows of any good drawing books, let me know! Especially if they’re oriented to the more cartoony side. Or good drawing videos on YouTube… I found a few, though I haven’t spent any time with any of them.

My eventual amibition (perhaps years or decades down the road, if I actually put in the practice hours), aside from trying some simple 2D animations, would be to write and draw a graphic novel. Maybe even turn the novel I’m writing now into a graphic novel; it’s very visual, especially since it takes place in non-Earth worlds. It could be so much fun to come up with a look and feel for different worlds, yes?

I don’t have any fancy drawing software like Photoshop yet, but since I’ll just be practicing, I can probably just make do with some simple free programs.

Google plus

Thanks to Luke for Google plus invite! A while back, somewhere, I blogged about how Facebook needed to allow you to “follow” strangers and celebrities as you can on Twitter, instead of having to mutually friend everyone. Google plus allows just that, along with privately organizing friends into “circles.” For example, you could group some friends into “old annoying high school classmates.” Then you can easily hide their boring annoying updates and shared links, hide your own updates from them if you want, and they’ll have no idea that they’re in such a group. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook soon steals this concept.

So I like the overall concept of Google plus; it’s just the kind of social network I want. But they still need plenty of more features (something like Facebook’s “fan” feature, “tag” feature, verified celebrity accounts, integration with more stuff so it’s easier to share links, etc.) and more users, and if it doesn’t get them soon enough, people will lose interest and it’ll quickly become archaic. I’ll be interested to see where it goes.

Hugo trailer

The trailer for Hugo (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) came out recently. Aside from some awful cheesy dialog here and there and some awful cheesy feel-good pop music accompaniment which does not at all go with the magical mysterious spirit of the book, the trailer looked interesting. Visually, it was quite good; I think they really captured the look and feel of the world, and the casting seems good. I hope Howard Shore’s score suits the film better than the trailer music. Shore is responsible for the brilliant Lord of the Rings scores, but most of his other scores have been more standard; I hope his work for Hugo is more melodic and fantastical. I look forward to hearing what he’s come up with. And I do hope to see this film in 3D.

Cars 2

I saw Cars 2 the other day. Despite hearing many bad reviews, I thought it was good! It just doesn’t try to make you cry like many other Pixar films do, which is fine with me, because those sentimental moments tend to seem forced and cheesy to me anyway. (Finding Nemo and Ratatouille are the ones that really work for me; the beginning of Finding Nemo just gives me shivers, as does Ego’s flashback.) But the story was fun and the humor, though sometimes corny, had me laughing out loud like a big dork. (“That’s right Mater, you are the bomb!”) Overall, the movie reminded me of being a kid playing with toy cars. You don’t imagine them going through some Doc Hollywood story about a small town in troubled times; you imagine them racing and shooting and crashing and falling off cliffs and flying, and that’s what Cars 2 delivers; it’s what the first Cars should’ve been. Pixar is still standing strong in my books.

(Although that Toy Story short that preceded the film was as awful as watching the Disney Channel.)

The Lion King 3D

Preceding Cars 2 was a trailer for The Lion King 3D rerelease. I have mixed feelings about it. Some scenes looked really awesome in 3D, when they were really able to separate the different layers. Other scenes just look funky, especially facial close-ups. It looks like they just “bubbled” the characters, stretching them out in one direction for one eye, and the opposite direction for the other eye. The overall effect is: “Uh… hmmm… huh? Eh…” My overall judgment: Disney, you either have to put more effort and money into 3D-izing something like this, or forget it. But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ll probably still go see it.

Memorial Day weekend

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend (or regular weekend). I spent the three-day weekend sleeping in, watching movies, reading, and working on a new piece of music. This is so far the only piece I’ve had time to write this year of 2011. Feels great to write some music again. After I write music, I sort of become obsessed with it and listen to it over and over a bazillion times…

Movies watched include: The Roommate (creepy and ultimately kinda pointless, but a good movie to make fun of while watching with others), The Fighter, Momento (a fun movie, but not as amazing as everyone says… kinda gimmicky… still a good movie, but all of Christopher Nolan’s later movies are better in my opinion), Gnomeo and Juliette (what producers thought this was a good idea?), Despicable Me, and Kung Fu Panda (hilarious film… will probably go see Kung Fu Panda 2 sometime soon… great 2D animation at the beginning and end as well).

Yeah, that was pretty much the weekend. Movies and music. Went by way too fast. Later today, I’m going to let the rest of my frogs go.

Interesting movies for 2011

Here are the 2011 movies I’m most interested in. Some I definitely want to see in theaters (the ones with a star), and some I just want to keep an eye on and I’ll decide after watching previews and hearing other people’s reactions. (Animated films I almost always want to see in theaters.


March 4, 2011 – *Rango – Industrial Light and Magic finally tried its hand at animating its own feature instead of just doing effects work. I’m very interested to see what they’ve come up with. The movie seems to be about a chameleon who goes on and wild west adventure of some sort…


March 11, 2011 – *Mars Needs Moms – These motion capture films always look a bit wonky to me, but I do have a special place in my heart for 3D CGI spaceships.


April 1, 2011 – Source Code – IMDb says: “An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.” Supposedly when he fails the mission, he gets to go through it again, so it’s like Groundhog’s Day sci-fi thriller style. Or maybe not, who knows… but it definitely sounds interesting.


April 15, 2011 – *Rio – Finally some new stuff from Blue Sky Studios! Supposedly the plot of Rio was too similar to Pixar’s previously planned film Newt, causing its cancellation; the film is about a bird of rare species who must breed to save his kind. Nothing like an animated romantic comedy to make forced arranged marriage seem OK. But I have no idea if that’s really the story or not…


May 20, 2011 – *POTC: On Stranger Tides – Yes, I know the sequels were awful, but maybe the absence of certain characters will be a blessing for this one. Plus I want to see what it’s like in 3D.


May 27, 2011 – *Kung Fu Panda 2 – I actually haven’t seen the first one yet, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from my animation friends, so I will be sure to check this out.

ET Super 8

June 10, 2011 – Super 8 – I don’t know why J. J. Abrams thinks it’s so cool to not reveal plots before the movie comes out. I don’t find it interesting or compelling, I find it annoying. Maybe he doesn’t want people to pre-judge the logline, or maybe he just likes the mysterious attention it gives him? Anyway, the teaser during the Super Bowl looked interesting, so I’ll keep a watch on this one.  Personally, I think this is a film based on the classic Magic 8 Ball toy and has nothing to do with cameras, though I did find this description online: “Set in Ohio in 1979, the movie follows six kids who are using a Super 8 camera to make a zombie flick. One night, they end up filming near a set of train tracks and capture a calamitous wreck — the same one first revealed in last year’s teaser trailer — and the alien creature that emerges from the wreckage.”


June 24, 2011 – *Cars 2 – It’s Pixar, so I have to go, even though the idea of talking cars still seems too “Putt-Putt” for me.


July 29, 2011 – *Cowboys and Aliens – Because it’s cowboys and aliens. (So that’s where Thirteen has been…)


October 28, 2011 – Now – From the director of the awesome sci-fi film Gattacca, this sci-fi film takes place in a world where people stop aging at 25 (why, that’s my age! ZOMG!), but then they die at 26 or something weird. And then this guy gets accused of murder or something. The details are sketchy to me. But I definitely want to see this one. (So that’s also where Thirteen has been…)


November 23, 2011 – The Muppets – I love the Muppets, but The Muppet Christmas Carol was the last good Muppet movie. Disney bought the Muppets and I’m sure they want to do something with the franchise. I just hope they can keep that “Henson charm” even though Henson has been gone for so long. These characters are so easy to ruin with the wrong kind of humor.


December 9, 2011 – *Hugo Cabret – My family members were reading the book and recommended it to me. A children’s book?! I scoffed at such an idea. OK, not really. I started reading it, and was immediately pulled in to the magical mysteriousness of the world and the characters. It is truly a fun book, almost like Victorian steam-punk. But what really excites me about the movie is that it will be directed by Martin Scorsese, who is awesome.


December 28, 2011 – Adventures of Tintin – I’m not sure about this at all, but it’s a Steven Spielberg directed motion capture animation, I think? I’ll be interested to see what it will look like, but I won’t hold my breath for a compelling story.


Sometime 2011? – Power of the Dark Crystal – A sequel to the 80’s film Dark Crystal? It sounds interesting, but it would be easy to come up with a lousy story, so I hope they’ve got something compelling… IMDb says: “An evil mysterious girl named Thurma made of fire who lives in the blazing center of the planet steals a shard of the crystal in hopes of reigniting the dying sun! There is only one thing powerful enough to heal the star – a shard of the crystal.” Um… OK. Hmmm… and please don’t overdo the CGI. Keep it looking tangible?

Overall, looks like a fun year for movies!

UPDATE: I almost forgot, *Atlas Shrugged: Part I is scheduled to come out this April.  I’m hoping there will also be a part 2?  While I think the book is great, I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of faith in a film version; I just don’t think it will translate well.  It would be better as a TV miniseries.  Still, I’ll definitely watch it.

Oh, and I’ll also be looking out for *Death Note, based on the manga series.  (I never actually read the manga, though I’d like to someday; I only watched the anime series based on the manga series, which is awesome.)  The story revolves around a student who finds a powerful book (the “Death Note”) that allows him to easily kill people by writing their names in the book.  He can also control how they die (with limits).  So he sets off to use the book to rid the world of evil; what a lofty noble goal!  Meanwhile, the police realize something extremely weird is going on, and try to hunt him down.  This has the potential to be a brilliant film, but it also has the potential to be completely awful.  Not just because it’s easy to hire awful writers, but because the material itself is kind of… delicate, in my opinion.  That is, it’s easy to get the spirit of it wrong, if that makes any sense.  Anyway, I’m predicting this will actually be pushed back to 2012 or later or never, because I don’t think there have been any developments on the production at all; I think it’s currently in limbo?  We’ll see.  The franchise is popular, so I don’t think they’ll forget about it completely.  I just pray that they use some of the O Fortuna-esque choir music themes they used in the anime, but they probably won’t just to make me angry.  And really, to do the entire series justice, there should be at least a trilogy of films, but I’ll doubt they’ll do that.

Finally, I do want to see what Pixar director Brad Bird handles live-action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

And there will be a Happy Feet 2?

What else did I miss?

Some Christmas gifts…

As they say: “Christmas is when you get stuff! You need more stuff!”

Well, Christmas is over… it came and went as fast as a day goes by.

I got some great stuff – here’s a picture! Here are my favorite gifts…

Dollhouse: Season Two [Blu-ray]. I only saw two episodes from the second season, and then the show got cancelled and I decided to just wait until it came out on DVD… or blu-ray in this case. So I’m really looking forward to watching this.

Drawn to Life: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures Volume 1 and Volume 2. These books are about drawing for animation. But even if you’re like me and stink at drawing, these books are still very interesting, and many of the principles still apply to 3D animation. I checked the first volume out from the library and read the first 30 pages a few months ago and knew that I definitely wanted to own them. I can’t wait to read more.

To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios. The story of how Pixar began. Unfortunately it ends at Cars, I think, so it feels like there should be a sequel in another decade or so. (I suppose it’s always better to wait for a couple decades when people are more willing to talk about past projects more openly.)

Speaking of animation history, Waking Sleeping Beauty is a must for all animation lovers. It’s not really about animation itself, but the business and the people behind it; more specifically about the Disney animation studios from about 1984 to about 1994. It is very interesting… one of the highlights are animator Randy Cartwright’s home movie studio tours, in which he strolls the halls and nonchalantly introduces future-big-names, like a young Tim Burton, Glen Keane, Joe Ranft, John Lasseter, Eric Larson, and some guy who asks if he’s allowed to be recording with that camera. It’s an awesome gem. I wish it was longer! Oh, there’s also part of a lecture by Howard Ashman on why he thought musicals went so well with animation, which was very interesting. I wish I could’ve heard the whole thing!

The How To Train Your Dragon score. It’s just awesome.

Inception: The Shooting Script. Because it is also awesome. Has some great handwritten notes by Nolan, an interview with him, and some concept art. A true Inception fan should get it.

Great stuff! Woohoo!

Pan and Worldshaker … future movies?

I also found this article to be interesting:

If you saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 this weekend, then you most likely marveled at the gorgeous animated sequence where Hermoine tells the tale of “The Deathly Hallows”. … Variety is now reporting that the director of that sequence, Ben Hibon, is attached to direct the fantasy action thriller Pan. Based on a script by Ben Magid and originally set up as a directing vehicle for Guillermo del Toro, “The film puts a dark spin on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan with Captain Hook as a haunted former police detective in pursuit of a childlike kidnapper.”

Hibon, along with his producing partners Renee Tab and Tarik Heitmann, have also optioned Richard Harland’s steampunk novel, Worldshaker.

That Harry Potter animation was the best part of the otherwise disappointing film. (The nude kissing was the worst part; entirely inappropriate for a Potter film; it’s awful how they’ve been trying to sexualize these stories, shame on you filmmakers! Shame shame shame!)

Anyway, Pan sounds very interesting, I look forward to it.

Worldshaker sounds even more interesting. I now really want to read that book. Then again, Hollywood tends to mess up steampunk-type books, like City of Ember and The Golden Compass. Something stylistically they just can’t get right about it… though they might actually get Hugo Cabret right, considering its director, who usually knows how to make a good movie.