Archive for December, 2009

The Princess and the Frog: JAMMIN’ WITH THE BIG BOYS~

December 24, 2009

Let’s face it, when people think of animation, they don’t think of Akira or obscure Czech stop-motion animators or even My Neighbor Totoro. They think Disney. And with good reason! Classic Disney animated features such as Fantasia, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty are among the most technically accomplished and beloved animated movies ever made. Hell, there was even a bit of a renaissance in the late 80s and early 90s when Disney was spurting out movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. (Can we include The Great Mouse Detective in that, too? {:3) But the momentum couldn’t last, as the features started to become pretentious and a drag (Pocahontas), adapted from sources that were increasingly incompatible with Disney’s values and audience (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and eventually abandoning their musical roots (Atlantis: The Lost Empire). When the best you can come up with is Roseanne as a cow (the most modest creative leap I’ve ever seen), perhaps it is best to just tear it all down and start anew. And that’s exactly what Disney did, shutting down their fabled 2D animation studios in favor of computer-generated animation features. Unfortunately, it seems the stagnation and creative bankruptcy went deeper than just the medium of animation, because I’ve hardly heard any recommendations from people I trust for Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons or Bolt.

Thank god that Disney had partnered up with Pixar, eventually buying them up. Pixar honcho John Lasseter was wisely put in charge of Disney’s animation studio and mandated a return to the stuff that Disney was known for and actually good at. And it would star a black characterWAIT WHAT

sick how they're promoting bestiality

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Phantasy Star IV – The End of the Millennium: What They See in the Final Days

December 13, 2009

It’s been quite a whirlwind, grumpeteers! Over half a year of catching up with Sega’s underappreciated classic RPG series Phantasy Star. Why, you ask? Partly because of their historical significance to role-playing, especially Japanese role-playing, games. Partly to experience and describe to others a series of games they most likely missed out upon but always wondered what they were like. And partly because I was unemployed, taking a relatively untaxing curriculum and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection came out for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 (which my circle of online friends refer to as Spinhog’s Software Pile) with all four iterations bundled neatly together for the first time in the West. In fact, I wouldn’t be lying if I said most of the reason I bought the collection was to be able to give Phantasy Star the sort of attention I thought it probably always deserved from me. It seems I have a sort of lingering condition from my days as a little lonely kid who only owned a Genesis where I feel like I must do everything in my power to try to like a Sega franchise. After completing this leg of my journey, the next logical step is trying to chronicle the Shining series and working up the nerve to start Yakuza again. But those are stories for a later time. For now, onwards with the story of Phantasy Star IV! Forget everything you knew about Phantasy Star III. Really. Just do it. You’ll feel better.

TASHA YAR: THE YARPG

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(grumplet) Where The Wild Things Are – That’s It?

December 2, 2009

I watched the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are a couple of times convinced I couldn’t wait to go see it, and that upon seeing it I would enjoy it greatly. Director Spike Jonze’s name ensures a stylish, existential journey. With his cockamamie track record how could I not get excited? In reality I waited a month and a half or so to finally see it, paid $12.50 for the ticket, nodded off through a good chunk of it, then walked out feeling ripped off. And sleepy.

2009 has been an uninteresting year so far, so I’m a bit miffed the one movie that grabs my attention – and my dough – ended up pretty boring. It starts out well. Max in the wolf suit, running around, freeze frame, scratchy font title – groovy. All the character introductions are handled well. When Max stumbles upon the monster village, it’s mysterious and frightening. When he proclaims himself king and gets on James Gandolfini’s good side, I was still along for the ride.

Once the second act begins the movie treads water, forever. It turns into plodding whatever, a dirt clod war that goes on way too long and an unsatisfactory emotional climax. It’s pretty basic stuff. Max befriends monsters, Max betrays monsters’ trusts, monsters get mad, they eventually come around and make up with Max. If you asked me for many details I couldn’t provide them. One of the monsters befriends some owls, another feels ignored and … feelings get hurt. Whatever was happening onscreen, I couldn’t buy into it.

uh, still waiting for the movie to start

I tried to focus on something else to admire like the set design or the camerawork or cinematography, and besides a lot of nice shots of the sun with Luke Skywalker-y silhouettes against it, there wasn’t a whole lot there to grab me either. The movie looks drab. The monsters look a step above Fraggle Rock creatures. I realize the technology must be far beyond what Henson did, so why are the results practically the same?

The writing failed to grab me. The voice actors, with the exception of Gandolfini, sound as bored as I was. The soundtrack starts up in fits and bursts, keeping things kind of interesting, but only because the soundtrack is the most interesting thing about the whole thing. Looking at the trailer now after seeing the movie I realize it’s the Arcade Fire song that kept my attention.

If it wasn’t for the dull, forever-long second act Where The Wild Things Are would’ve been something special. It ends on a nice note, something the rest of the movie could’ve used. The movie’s clearly not for kids – the ones in the theater were restless and clearly had no idea what was happening onscreen – and the adults were just as nonplussed. After watching the final product I can understand why studio execs reportedly panicked over Jonze’s cut. He didn’t deliver a bedtime story, he made a sleeping pill.