Saturday, February 27, 2010

Illustration remakes for Fred, part 2

Here are a couple more commissions I finished this week.

This is a redo of this piece.

Here's a widescreen take on "Looner," which in turn was inspired by this one.

And finally, a new version of "describe it to me!". This time, the writing should mean "monkey."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Illustration remakes for Fred

A friend commissioned me to create some originals for him based on past work. (These are all potential t-shirt ideas.)

First up is another re-do of "flee!" (which you'll also recall from this post and this post). Pretty fun to draw, and I like the way the "monster" turned out. His body is a nice size and proportion.

Next up is my first ever re-do of "hug?". I still like the original a lot, but I was very happy with this one as well.

Finally, we've got my third rendition of "lost tooth." (Original here, second version here.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Giant Size Movie Round-Up: Pt. 2

On to a second part.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986) - I rented this one after seeing a trailer at Movies On The Fox and discovering that Bill Murray and Steve Martin were in it. As a kid I was always aware of this movie's existence because of the giant talking plant image (don't know where I saw it, though). So the movie is a musical, and was apparently a stage play first, which would have been something to see. Overall, I didn't really care for it. I loved the puppetry (really impressive!), Bill Murray's scene was great, John Candy too, and it was fun seeing Christopher Guest, but the plot didn't do anything for me, and Ellen Greene's voice was excruciating. I've only seen Greene in this and "Pushing Daisies," but she has the same wilting voice and speech impediment in both. Is that just how she speaks? Or is it a deliberate character choice? As a choice, it's terrible. I had to fast-forward through all of her scenes after the first few, because it was like a mite burrowing into my brain.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) - It's ok. Has a couple of very funny moments. The inverted mohawk on Mr. T's character made me chuckle. There were some fun animation moments. The story is nothing special, so the best you can hope for are some good moments, and Cloudy delivers on that front.

Junebug (2005) - I didn't realize why this was rated R and watched it with my family, which, due to the numerous sex scenes, was a mistake. I only remembered that I had read a blog by John-Mark Reynolds a while back where he recommended it. I found that post (after some digging - Scriptorium doesn't have a friendly archive) after we'd finished it, and noted that Reynolds did caution about the sex; I just hadn't remembered that.

Anyhow, to the movie: the basic story is that a young couple is returning to the husband's hometown in North Carolina so that the wife can secure a weird and reclusive painter's work for her Chicago art gallery. The wife is an elite cosmopolitan woman with a British accent, very much out of her element in North Carolina. The husband's family includes a slacker younger brother and his pregnant wife (Amy Adams).

Adams is indeed as radiant and charming as I'd heard. I was also really impressed with Benjamin McKenzie's performance as the younger brother. Beyond the actors, the movie deserves praise for an even-handed portrayal of the people of the Carolinian community (is that the right term?). The young pastor character in the church basement was perhaps the best modern characterization of a religious figure I've ever seen in a movie. He's authentic and genuine. Every other pastor I've seen sounds really artificial; they sound like they were written by someone who'd never spent any time in a Protestant church. Like if I were to write a rabbi, or a Catholic priest.

Also worth noting is the contrast between the Southern folk and the gallery owner. Reynolds keenly observes that only a New York elite would seek out the deranged paintings for display in a high art gallery. My favorite moment came when the sister of the artist, who at first comes off as meddling and greedy, gives the art dealer a sincerely tearful and heartfelt condolence for a family loss. Not the sort of treatment you usually get in a Hollywood movie of a character with a Southern accent.

Fun note: Embeth Davidtz, who plays the gallery owner, was the princess in Army of Darkness! Despite knowing this, I cannot reconcile the fact in my mind when I picture both characters.

Overall, it's a good movie that says good things. But the sex made for a very uncomfortable viewing experience.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Axe Cop!

So my buddy Ethan posted these comics on TenNapel's forum around Christmas. They were called "Axe Cop," and he'd done them with his five-year-old brother Malachai while home visiting his family. He made them as a lark, but now it's the newest, biggest, and best thing on the internet, so I thought I'd share it with you in case you hadn't stumbled across them yet. The comics feature Ethan's excellent and hilarious drawings, and are written entirely by Malachai's brilliant child's mind. An idea so simple you wish you'd thought of it (and were as funny as the Nicolles).

Giant Size Movie Round-Up: Pt. 1

It's only been a MILLION YEARS since my last review went up, so I'm going to gather a bunch and give (probably short) thoughts on them.

Avatar (2009) - I enjoyed the spectacle and the 3-D, but the story had nothing new whatsoever, and the ham-fisted moralizing made me roll my eyes quite a bit. Even though Stephen Lang (who was Ike Clanton in Tombstone, by the way!) is great in his role as cartoon military man, every line he had was mind-numbingly bad. This guy sums it up all the problems I had, and is funnier to boot. (See also his seven-part series on The Phantom Menace. It's very insightful.) And now a Best Picture nod?? Come on!

The Big Country (1958) - This one was great. It's really really good all the way up to the final scene, where it falls a bit short. A genuinely unique Western. You've got Gregory Peck as a former ships captain who has come out west to marry the daughter of a big-time rancher. He discovers that a war has been brewing between his future father-in-law and another rancher (played by Burl Ives).

So what's unique about it? For one thing, the sea-captain angle. For another, Peck never uses a gun. Ever. (As I watched, I wanted to be Peck. He's just the coolest guy. Always in control, always knows exactly what he wants and what he's capable of, never lets himself be manipulated by anyone else.) Then you've got the rest of the supporting cast. You immediately fall in love with Jean Simmons. Burl Ives utters all the lines you always wondered about in the "Happy Happy Joy Joy" song from Ren & Stimpy. Chuck Connors plays a great sleazy weasel. And Chuck Heston is in there too! He and Peck get into a fight in the middle of the night on a dusty prairie. It lasts forever, and there's no music during the scene. And it ends in a draw. There's also the love story, which doesn't go where you'd expect. And that really goes for the rest of the movie. It's unexpected. It surprised me, and most of the time I honestly did not know where it was going to end up. Compare that to Avatar, where I called out each and every plot point before stepping into the theater. Also deserving a shout-out is Alfonso Bedoya, Peck's best buddy on the ranch. He's a great character, and it's always good to see an actual Mexican rather than Jack Palance performing such a role in an old movie.

The only weak points are the music and the final confrontation. The music is generally very good, but there are a few scenes where it is ill-suited to the mood. The final confrontation between the two barons is a bit of a let-down, mostly because it plays out exactly as you expect it to. Given everything else that has come before, I was left with a "that's it?" feeling. It's logical and serves the story, but I was hoping for one last surprise.

Final note: this needs a Blu-Ray release. I didn't at all mention the fabulous titular setting. The DVD is decent, but you could definitely see where a bit of work and a hi-definition transfer would bring the movie back to glorious new heights in a home theater setting.

Ichi (2008) - A fun take on the Zatoichi world, this time with a captivating young girl as the new blind swordsman. Not a great movie, but certainly decent. I liked the guy who couldn't draw his sword, though I found the explanation for his condition wanting. The action scenes are well-done, though they aren't in traditional Zatoichi fashion. Zatoichi's scenes were always in real-time, but Ichi slows it down. You get to enjoy the choreography a bit more, I suppose, but there's something to be said for the long single-take action shots in the originals.

Moon (2009) - A really good little sci-fi movie. Sam Rockwell gives several great performances. The movie really makes you care about him, too, which doesn't sound significant, but I suppose that because of the ethical subject matter of the movie it hit me a bit deeper. Definitely worth watching.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) - Great movie. Boy, I've been on a Capra kick lately. As you'll see below, I finally saw It's A Wonderful Life for the first time. (I know.) And I love his sentiment and morals. It's done so well.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) - I can't believe I've been missing this my whole life. It really is one of the best movies I've seen. Such a great story, great characters, great message. This is up there on my list now.