Friday, July 28, 2006

Ant Bully in Theaters NOW!

Right this very moment The Ant Bully is playing in a theater/IMAX theater near you...yes you! Why are you sitting here reading the internet when you could be out enjoying this fine film?

Perhaps you have already seen it and are at this very moment emailing all your friends and relatives telling THEM how they should run right out and see it. And if so...I applaud you. You are indeed good and kind. Only a mean, evil person would withhold the joy of seeing The Ant Bully from their friends and family.

Now you are wondering.."Ray what shots did you do on this fine piece of entertainment?" Well if you head over to my revamped animation area you can see a sampling for yourself.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ant Bully Opens Tomorrow

Yes it is true. Opening day is almost here. Over the next three days stop what you are doing and run out to your local cineaplex or IMAX theater and watch the Ant Bully.....over and over and over. Reviews are slowly trickling in and apparently the movies message of "teamwork" and being part of a "community" is being interpreted as a sinister communist plot to warp the minds of children.

I wish I was kidding.

Well comrades I don't know what to think of these comments. I mean I didn't think everyone would dig the movie, but one reviewer compared Lucas to Osama Bin Laden and said the movie was like a communist manifesto for kids, while another said the movie was a slap against humans and humanity. Whoa nellie. People really need to go easy on their meds before going out to the movies.

We leave in a world where people, kids and adults, are becoming more and more cut off from one another. Technology has advanced to the point where we don't really need to spend much time among other humans. In the film, Lucas is a kid wrapped up in himself. He is sort of a self made loner who stays locked away in his room, away from his family, playing video games. Through his journey he learns the value of being part of a community, to think of others and not just himself, the importance of working as a team and that his actions do have consequences.

Yeah what a bunch of crap.

That's just the kind of BS I don't want Wonder-pea learning. No indeed. I want her to be selfish and self centered, not giving a hoot about anyone else and only worrying about herself. Oh no you don't Ant Bully, you won't warp my daughter's mind with your evil message of tolerance and understanding.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dead Man's Chest Part 2

So I last time I wrote about what bothered me about Pirates 2, but what did I like? Well everything else. The end. Oh.... alright...

I liked that the characters were expanded in this film and that each one had their own agenda. In this film, not only Jack, but every main character rides the line between good guy and bad guy. What will this character far will he or she go...what are they willing to sacrifice, to get what they want. I really liked that. For me it added a bit more complexity to the characters around Jack, who in the first film, were all straight arrows.

The action scenes were done well and fun to watch. The three man sword fight on/in the wheel was inventive and different and the Kraken sequences were super cool. I was nervous about how the Flying Dutchman crew would look on the big screen, but with the exception of maybe conch shell head guy, they were all pretty cool looking and worthy successors to the skeleton pirates. Which brings us to the special FX highlight of the film...Davey Jones.

Actor Bill Nighy, who plays Davey Jones, spent his shoot with his face covered in motion capture dots, with the crew at ILM giving him the squid face. As I understand it director Gore Verbinski wanted to keep Nighy's real eyes, but the ILM team opted to do them digital as well. The amazing thing is how well all the emotion and subtlety of Nighy's performance meshes with tentacle moving squid face of Davey Jones. It was totally believable and demonstrates the arena in which motion capture performance and animation truly shine.

James Horner takes over musical duties this go around and some of the new music he wrote, particularly for Davey Jones and the Kraken, was just fantastic. The score for the 1st film by Klaus Badelt I really love, however it does suffer from too many repetitions of the familiar. For Pirates 2, Horner did a good job of blending what Badelt established with the new music.

Now if you buy the soundtrack there is a remix track at the end. In fact if you buy it from Best Buy there are 3 remix tracks. Apparently the folks at Disney marketing were trying to think of where else they could promote the film..."Hey why not Pirate dance tracks!! So when the kids go out to their favorite clubs Mr Dee Jay can play some hip hop pirate beats...maybe a new dance would break out kinda like the Teen Wolf but it would be the Jack Sparrow". These people were immediately promoted and given shiny cars.

Finally, I have been reading Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among Pirates by David Cordingly. It is really cool how much of the reality Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio blended into this movie and its predecessor. Tortuga existed and was a town run mostly by pirates. Pirates were incredibly superstitious and believed women would bring bad luck if on a ship. Many pirates were former Royal Navy officers who had been discharge or had grown disillusioned much like what happens to Norrington. Cutler Becketts offer to pardon Jack and make him a privateer, which was a nice way of saying sanctioned piracy, happened back in the day all the time. There are other examples. I found added fun seeing how the facts were woven into the fiction.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pretty Pictures

Over at you can view a plethora of pretty images from the upcoming release of the Ant Bully. This one here is sorta based on a shot I did. I saw sorta because I never had Hova holding any crystals and I am pretty sure I didn't have Spindle (the firefly) looking at Zoc's butt.

Dead Man's Chest Part 1

So Pirates 2 opened the other week and what's this....I have not written about it on the ole blog. Truth be told I wanted to see it again before writing anything. When I saw the first Pirates I left the theater thinking "that was pretty good". But when I watch it again on DVD I really liked it quite a bit more. And now it is probably one of my favorite movies ever. When I left Pirates 2 I felt pretty much on par with with Pirates 1 "that was pretty good". So I am curious how I will feel when viewing it again. Ya best stop reading now mates because there be big, nasty spoilers ahead.

I did have some complaints about Dead Man's Chest. The big problem for me is the middle movie problem, or better still "the middle movie that was shot back to back with the next film" problem. Each time this has been done (Back to the Future 2, Matrix Reloaded) the results have been less than satisfying because it is the first half of a movie. Events are set up, plots lines introduced and nothing is resolved. I really wanted Pirates 2 to be more self contained with cliff hangers that lead into 3, ala Empire Strikes Back or Wrath of Khan, but sadly that is not the case here; more on that later.

Where the first film had a nice spirit of fun, the 2nd is much more serious and dark ala Empire Strikes Back but without asteroids and Yoda. Not that this is a bad thing. It's just different. If you haven't noticed by now my movie reviews tend to focus on what I didn't like and while Pirates 2, for me, wasn't the "I could complain all day" that Superman Returns was, I had some issues.

But first, the things that bothered a lot of other people, that didn't bother me. I have heard complaints about the movie length, Depp's performance not being "fresh", Jack being a jerk and too much Kraken. The movie is long, but for me it flew by. I was really enjoying being back in the world of these characters. There was quite a bit of action and neato visual f/x this time around and I was glued to the screen or at the very least stapled to it with some of those big industrial staples.

As far as Jack Sparrow goes some of the magic is lost because it is a sequel so we are revisiting characters we know and some of the spark of originality is gone. I don't think Depp can suddenly start playing Sparrow as Carol Channing or anything. He really needs to stay true to what he established in the first film, which he does. In this film Jack does come off as less likeable at times but that is because the stakes are higher this go around. In the first film his ultimate goal is to reclaim his ship, in this film he is trying to save his soul from yeah he is a bit more desperate, willing to do whatever it takes to save his own skin. He is a pirate after all.

The Kraken (which I thought was usually a sea serpent in mythology) really only makes appearances in 2 sequences. We don't see it when it engulfs a merchant ship in the first act. Here it is more of a whoosh and the ship is gone. The first time we see ole Krakey is when it attacks the ship Will is on. This encounter is key for the 3rd act battle with the Kraken, when the crew of the Black Pearl blows the crap out of various tentacles a couple times. I dug the Kraken. It reminded me of the squid attack in 20K Leagues only with no wires or James Mason.

Now on to the bits that could be improved. Cannibal Island. While the sequences here are entertaining there really isn't a need for them to have been there. For as long as they are on cannibal island this part of the film only does 2 things to move the story along. #1 this is where Will meets up with Jack for the 1st time in the movie #2 the reintroduction of Pintel and Ragetti, the two pirates who were part of Jacks crew, then Barbossas crew...and now uh..Jacks crew again.

While I didn't really have a problem with these 2 pirates being in the sequel, I didn't like how they show up and no one bats an eye...sure Elizabeth almost says something when she see them, but you'd think Jack would have something to say considering these 2 took part in a mutiny that led to him being dumped on an island, left for dead. Tortuga would have been a better reentry point. Jack and Gibbs are there trying to recruit a bunch of pirates that will be "sacrificed" to Davey Jones, wouldn't Jack gladly welcome these 2 back knowing that he would be getting even so to speak. "Join me crew hard feelings...all is many does that make Gibbs" that sort of thing.

I would have done that in the bar and then had Norrington's reentry at the dock when they were getting ready to make way. But hey that's just me.....

The last thing that bothered me was the ending. Very quick. Jack has just been incased in carbonite..oh wait no my mistake...died saving the wait..apologizes....eaten (collected) by the Kraken. So this happens, everyone goes back to see voodoo lady..snap, crackle, pop.. Barbossa is standing there eating fruit..and the movie is over. While Barbossa being alive is nothing short of miraculous, it is sorta cool because I loved Geoffrey Rush's performance in the 1st film; he is just so fun to watch. I am a bit concerned, however, that in the 3rd film he will now be everyone's buddy. Hey remember when I was undead and I tried to kill all of you ...hahahahahahaha boy were those good times. Oh Barbossa you screwball.

So yes a few things that could have been improved. But you never know I could watch it a 2nd time and none of this stuff could bother me. Guess we will see.

Next time the things about the movie I really dug.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ant Bully Crew Screening

So last weekend we had our Dallas premiere screening of The Ant Bully. It's funny because you work on a film for over a year and you still don't really know how the film is going to be until you are sitting in a theater. I was really happy with how the film turned out. The film is beautiful with some really great animation; kudos animation dept. The story tweaks and pacing felt right on and seeing it with sound effects and a finished score really adds so much more depth to everything.

It got a big thumbs up from my daughter Wonder-pea. We were actually nervous about bringing her to the premiere. She made it about 85% through Over the Hedge and maybe 60% through Curious George. During CG she began pointing at the screen and announcing quite loudly "its Curious George daddy! see, its Curious George" ever time the monkey was on screen. And as you can imagine, given that the movie was called Curious George, the monkey was on screen....a lot.

But when the Ant Bully started she pointed and said "daddy's movie" and then sat on my wife's lap, transfixed, the entire time. When the movie ended she actually got a little upset because she wanted to see more.

The after party was a lot of fun and it was great seeing so much of the old crew. They had a fun Ant Bully photo dealie set up that everyone seemed to be enjoying. Yes that is me in the front doing my terrified T-Rex.

A big congratulations to everyone involved with The Ant Bully. It turned out great!! Be sure to run out and see it July28th!! You will be glad you did.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ant Bully on CNN

We are about 2 weeks from release of the Ant Bully and the marketing is starting to really pick up. CNN has a free 8 minute video interview with John Davis which is supposed to be pretty cool. I have yet to watch it because for some reason I can not get it to play. Perhaps you will have better here and give it a look.