Monday, October 8, 2012

'Monsters University' viral site

Briefly: Pixar's viral marketing division hit a home run with its just-released Monsters University website.

The site is incredibly detailed, featuring tons of images that glorify their campus, a large map, news articles highlighting their teachers and students, and even a store where you can pick up a hoody or coffee mug. They offer majors ranging from "Creative Roaring" to "Door Technology" and "Canister Design".

It is awesome stuff like this that makes me love Pixar. The keen attention to detail they share with the world makes you know that they are passionate about their films. And that's really cool.

Monsters University will be the next film we see from Pixar, in June 2013.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

My 'Brave' Review (and it's spoiler-free!)

Being a diehard fan of Pixar's films, I had high hopes for Brave. Even when it was still The Bear and the Bow, I decided that I would love it. This may seem like I set myself up with unfair expectations, but Pixar has consistently made heartwrenching film after heartwrenching film, always dishing out not only well-crafted stories, but stunning animation and hilarious scripts.

Needless to say, when I settled into my seat with popcorn in hand, I was anticipating a truly great film.

And I was painfully disappointed.

Brave let me down because it's story was not on par with other Pixar films. It just didn't have heart. This section of the review is about Story, but don't worry - it's spoiler-free. I'm not going to discuss any specific story details because I don't want to give any of it away, but also because it is hardly a story worth retelling. And that's just too bad from a great storytelling company like Pixar.

The set-up of the film is great. The very real family relationships are serious and deep. The mother-daughter relationship is immediately understood and dynamic. However, Brave becomes muddled in the second act. There is far too much reliance on coincidence, deus ex machina, and other storytelling shortcuts, like the over-manufactured flashback to Merida's childhood. Pixar takes the notion of “fairytale” too seriously, utilizing exposition, magic, and on-the-nose plot devices to the point where all I could do was shake my head in disbelief. The storyteller's hand is all too prevalent – which is even worse when the story you're telling isn't good. The characters aren't given enough time to make the change that they have to make.

The final act is as good as the first, tying up loose ends and showing the character transformation well (although the Queen's line “We have both changed,” is just depressingly bad, especially for Pixar). The climactic action is exciting and fun. But you just aren't all that invested in it, since the characters aren't developed enough.

While watching, you can definitely feel the hand of Disney's corporate hounds. The triplet boys are distressingly manufactured as comic relief and merchandising powerhouses. There is no reason at all to have them in this story, except to fulfill Eisner's silly little dated list of things that audiences (apparently) want.

But for all of those shortcomings, I'd still sit through the film again.

Yes, the story was Cars 2 material. Sure, it was frustrating to see such unforgivable tactics of audience manipulation, so underhanded it made me scan the credits for “Katzenberg”. But the movie is genuinely funny (with some surprise base humor thrown in, too), with good animation and acting, and a stunning setting.

The crowning achievement of Brave is its character design. From the King's massive bulk of a body to the witch's bug eyes to Merida's wild, red locks, the characters are a joy to watch. They're all unique and vibrant. The acting is subtle and realistic, yet also outlandishly slapstick and exaggerated at times, creating a surreal, dynamic mood. Which is exactly what you want from a fairytale – it's a believable world, with just a touch of unpredictable wonder. And physical humor that'd make even the great Buster Keaton let out a chuckle.

There's also genuine fear and suspense. There are visceral bear attacks, real sword fights, and a good deal of grounded violence. Although Pixar used its fair share of Disney tactics and fairytale plot devices, they certainly didn't attempt to sugarcoat any of the action. And that keeps Brave exciting, with more of that delicious unpredictability.

Brave is beautifully cinematic. The rolling hills of Scotland are lush and vivid. The action is big, and feels very real. The story will let you down, but no other part of the movie will. Especially if you see it on the big screen with booming sound. It creates a comprehensive, dreamlike world of staggeringly real action combined with slapstick and overstated movement. The jokes are funny, the characters are each a work of art in their own right, and it is entertaining.

But I'll still never be able to completely fill the void that its lack of Story has given me. I expected more from the creators of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up. Pixar's dedication to Story over the years is what inspired me to become a storyteller, and it is just too bad that Brave couldn't carry the torch of Pixar's trademark heart.

See Brave when it comes out on June 22. But just know that it very well might be the end of an era.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

'The Avengers' smashes box office records more efficiently than the Hulk

The Avengers has officially passed the billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office, after only a week and a half in theaters.

That means that it has shattered 23 records, and is set to break even more as attendance shows no sign of slipping. These records include best opening weekend, best second weekend, best 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, 7-day, and 8-day gross, and the fastest film to gross every amount between $100 million and $350 million.

Avatar is the current all-time champ, having made $2.7 billion worldwide, but that took over 34 weeks to achieve. In the same time that The Avengers broke $1 billion, Avatar was going steady at a measly $300 million.

And not only is Joss Whedon's blockbuster on track to become the biggest movie ever, but it has widespread critical acclaim, with a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Check out my quick review here.

And go see The Avengers right now! It is a great movie, and I can't think of any storyteller more deserving to take the throne of box office king than Joss.

Art: 'Where The Avengers Are' by AgarthanGuide on DeviantArt


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Viral Marketing for Pixar's 'Brave': Kilt by Ruff McLauren

Posted just moments ago to Brave's iTunes video page is a surefire viral marketing masterpiece, Kilt.

It is a faux advertisement for Kilt, by Ruff McLauren (as opposed to Ralph Lauren). "What makes a man feel like a man? . . . The freedom a man feels when he wears a small plaid skirt . . . Stylish, sexy, strong. . . Kilt. Are you BRAVE enough to wear one?"

This spot is just downright funny and clever. I was surprised that Disney took the marketing into the realm of such blatant satire, especially with humor edging on the adult. Still, I think that it will payoff in the end. I certainly enjoyed the sarcastic and over-the-top nature of it. And Brave!

Be sure to pay close attention during the video. You'll spot some great-looking new footage from the film, as well.

Brave hits theaters June 22, 2012.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Some Spoiler-free Reasons Why 'The Avengers' is Great (Hint: JOSS)

I didn't quite know what to expect from The Avengers. Yeah, I love Joss Whedon's work. All of it. But when you're tackling a huge summer blockbuster film like this one, it's tough to get your way and have your style really shine through with all those suits breathing down your neck. Disney suits, too, even. On top of that, I wasn't a huge fan of the second Iron Man, and Mark Ruffalo is a dweeb.

Let it suffice to say that I didn't go into this film with the highest of expectations.

However, get yourself ready to heighten your own expectations: The Avengers is a very good film. And the main reason is Joss Whedon.

More often than not, tentpole films like this one get destroyed when a half-baked story ends up drowned beneath a pile of special effects, pop stars, and an edgy soundtrack with electric guitar-ridden Bob Dylan covers. But Writer/Director Joss Whedon is a talented storyteller, and it really shows.

The subtleties of each character come across as they individually trudge through their own emotional journeys. The debonair Tony Stark is as deliciously snarky as ever (and man is he cool). Captain America's stoicism, Thor's family issues, Bruce Banner's anger management, and even Fury's political struggles (and shiny eyepatch) are all poignantly portrayed. There is intense inter-personal drama and complication. While nothing got as heated or in-depth as it could have, and the villain could have been more motivated for his villainy, it all served its purpose of getting the audience emotionally-vested in what's going on.

But the important thing is that this quality character development is balanced perfectly with what the audience is really there for: explosions and capes and laughs. There are countless fight scenes, each with their own unique twist for added suspense and visual stunnery. You are constantly thrown for a loop as each character is dealt the next impossible task they have to accomplish. The shots soaring through the sky with Iron Man or jumping between buildings with the Hulk leave you feeling like you just took the wildest ride of your life. Like a super awesome roller coaster. With punches and flying. And more awesome.

And not only are the fights and effects spectacular in every sense of the word, but the writing is genuinely witty and the character interactions hilarious. I don't remember the last time I laughed in a movie theater that much. The film plays with audience expectations, exploits superhero stereotypes, and is just plain smart about the way it approaches its combination of high and lowbrow humor.

Without giving any plot detail or specific situations away, I am going to tell you, dear reader, that you should go see The Avengers. Whether you are familiar with the caped heroes or not, you'll have a blast. The writing is clever, the story is fleshed out Joss-style, the jokes are beyond funny, and the action is so action-packed that it should be illegal. It won't win an Oscar, but it will win the hearts of countless Americans with its unique brand of charming action and rakish dialogue.

This movie will break box office records. Everyone can enjoy it, and word of mouth will ensure that everybody will. A sequel will definitely be on its way, if it isn't already. And I'll be the first in line to see it.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disney's 'Paperman' poster and details

At CinemaCon earlier last month, Disney revealed an up-and-coming animated short, Paperman.

It is an experimentation in the medium, seeking to redefine what animation can be. It involves "seamlessly merging computer-generated and hand-drawn animation," and in just black-and-white. Here's Disney's pitch:

Introducing a groundbreaking technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with Paperman. 
Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him. 
Created by a small, innovative team working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Paperman pushes the animation medium in an exciting new direction.
See the poster, released on Disney's Facebook page, at the top of the post. A really great, clean, unique design.

Expect to see this shopped around festivals before (most likely) seeing shown before Wreck-It Ralph in November.

I am excited to see this. It will be awesome. And I can't wait.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New 'Brave' trailer

If you're as excited as I am for Brave, then you'll be all over the new trailer, released mere hours ago. It showcases some new characters - such as the rascally triplets - and reveals some more plot details.

The film is looking more and more cinematic. Initially, I was afraid that Brave would be too one-noted. But now I have laid my fears to rest.

This will be a movie worth seeing.