Archive for March, 2009

Monsters Vs. Aliens

Many critics have already railed against this film for being gimmicky. I’m here to tell you they are right. But most of those critics saw the film for free, meaning that they didn’t get the full experience that I had last night. Freya and I decided to see the film on the IMAX screen in 3D, and we might have rethought that if we’d asked the price before purchasing the ticket. The tickets were $14.50 apiece – $6 more than your regular movie ticket.

When you go see 3D movies on IMAX, the theater gets to add two upsell fees – $3 for IMAX, and $3 for 3D. If the film were good, if it were interesting, I’m fairly sure I’m ok with paying $6 extra dollars per ticket to enjoy the film on the biggest screen possible. And 3D on IMAX was definitely cool.

Monsters vs. Aliens was not good or interesting though. I guess when one takes inspiration from B-Movies and then attempts to write a kids movie, one cannot make anything more than a B-movie. And when a studio undertakes the effort, with its legions of writers and focus on the bottom-line, and when the film becomes the Studio-head’s seminal effort to show off the awesomeness of a new technology, well you can guess that there are a couple things that fall to the wayside in making that film.

Those things are plot, characterization, plot, and refinement of plot. Monsters vs. Aliens is, when it comes down to it, a demo-reel for 3D technology. There are some funny gags and a few laugh-out-loud lines or scenes, but overall, there is very little substance to this movie.

You shouldn’t misunderstand either; I love a good kids movie. I was all about suspending some disbelief and having some fun with Monsters Vs. Aliens. But the writers through every possible idea they could come up with into a bucket, and it just kind of came out looking like mud. Here’s some of my main complaints:

  • The monsters are lame. The supporting monsters are all cardboard characters that we don’t really get to know at all. The filmmakers couldn’t decide if they should be “realistic” (meaning they could be explained by “science”) or if they should be monster-ish, so they are both. And it doesn’t work.
  • The humans vary between cartoonish (see next point) and attempts to be real (like with the monsters). The President is a pointless character as are the general and Susan’s parents, but Susan herself is an attempt to bring a moral to the movie so they can’t make her too cartoony. It just feels stupid.
  • The General is a clear mish-mash of every General in every war film that was already a parody – most obviously that I saw was Gen. Buck Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove. Apparently when you parody a cartoonish character by making him more cartoonish, no one finds it funny.
  • And last of all, the battles were lame. I mean, with a title like Monsters vs. Aliens, there’s an expectation that you’ll have a battle of epic proportions, something like the old Godzilla movies. Nope, no go.

But honestly, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if not for those ticket prices. It just wasn’t worth it at all.


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This morning as I drove to work, the clouds were temporarily ripped around the Nashville Metro area to allow sun in. And as the early morning sun streamed down, and the clouds reclaimed some of the liquid that they have given us the past few days in a hazy steam, I was reminded of my travels.

It made me remember the time that Drew and I drove across the US and watched storms from a distance in the desert, miles and miles away. Storms don’t look like that in the south.

Then I thought about all the other things I’ve been blessed to see in my youth thus far, just the US. Travelling from San Francisco to Portland to Chicago to New York and Boston to Florida and Texas, I’ve seen lots of corners of this beautiful land.

But I really want to see more; really really. I want to hop in the car, grab Freya, and and take off to see more and more and more.

And then yesterday Wired arrives with this article and makes me want to go buy a cheap RV, fit it out with some cool technology (mobile edit studio, amirite?) and leave for a few years.

That big button labeled adventure gets pushed like every three weeks in me these days. I’ve got to hit the road.

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Poem from John Updike

Fine Point
December 22, 2008

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel’s defeats-
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely – magnificent, that “surely” –
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life
, my life, forever.

(Published in the New Yorker, Mar. 16, 2009)

RIP Mr. Updike

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Today I’ve had a few people ask about learning Final Cut Pro so while I have a ton of videos compressing here at work, I’m going to search the web and try to compile some good resources for FCP.

First of all, you should know that if you want to make a video like I did here:

Final Cut is not enough. It is a powerful program, but it has limitations. That’s why included with Final Cut is Motion; a motion graphics program. It’s not near as powerful as After Effects, but it is powerful none-the-less and has a lot of the typical Apple flair for ease-of-use and deep features.

The thing about Final Cut pro is that while it has vast and powerful features; there is no good way (that I know of) to briefly introduce it. You just learn as you go. Need to do something with the project you’re working on? Well, FCP probably has 3 or 4 ways to do it. So the best thing to do is to get a project and start working; and with every bridge you cross, Google it.

With that said, check out these, I think they are a great overview:

Apple’s Tutorials

Apple has basic tutorials for all of their professional programs on their site. The tutorials are great overviews of the powers of the FCP studio. They won’t teach you how to do exciting things, but it will give you a good handle on the basic capabilities of editing in the suite. Start here if you are new to the program.

As for Motion, your best bet is to visit this site:


And just start going through the tutorials. Rather than doing everything all at once, be selective on topics, so that you can slowly flesh out your understanding of Motion. Since I am unable to go through all the tutorials and choose the best ones, here’s some of the capabilities in Motion you’ll want to learn about over time:

  • Text
  • Replicators
  • Particle Emitters
  • Motion Paths
  • Animation Modes (Keyframes, Recording, Behaviors)
  • Masks
  • 3D Space

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Nashville Film Festival

As I return from the SXSW film festival, I’m looking forward to what’s upcoming. Here’s some highlights from Nashville’s Film Festival, which is running April 16-23 this year, and looks to be very strong.

Narrative Competition:

Documentary Competition:

  • For the Love of Movies
  • Garbage Dreams
  • Living in Emergency: Stories from Doctors without Borders

Special Presentations

  • 500 Days of Summer
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Trimpin: The Sound of Invention

I was thinking of trying to catch the Atlanta Film Festival, because it is showing some films I missed at SXSW like Goodbye Solo, Alexander the Last, Beeswax, and a film that I did catch and I want Freya to see called it was great, but i was ready to come home. I hope to write some more on that film soon. It’s playing April 18 in Atlanta, and might just be worth the drive to see it. For some reason I just kind of loved the film.

Anyways, that’s all for now, I’ll do some SXSW thoughts in the coming days hopefully and get some more posts up on this blog.

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    Learning about being Human

    Films I’ve seen thus far at SXSW:

    • New World Order
    • Medicine for Melancholy
    • True Adolescents
    • Artois the Goat
    • Sin Nombre
    • it was great, but i was ready to come home.

    They’ve ranged from american new wave (the second and the latter) to indie/mainstream mixes (the third and fourth) to  really affecting Indie dramas (Sin Nombre). Coming to this fest has taught me a few things. 

    First, I’m never coming to a film festival without my wife again; or some other film loving geek who I have a preexisting relationship with. I’ve struck up conversations with people nearby and had a couple decent convos, but there’s nothing quite like friendship and knowing where someone stands to help promote deeper conversations about the films I am seeing.

    Secondly, the last piece of my understanding of why film fell into place. As in, why do I have such a strong desire to make film? What is it I love about watching films? And this is obvious, but in my usual behind the curve way, it just now dawned on me; I love film, i watch and analyze film, to learn about being human. Not just to learn more about myself, but to learn more about others.

    It seems simple, but it was kind of eye-opening to me to put it into such exact terms. I’ve even had the thought many times before, but I think in light of the wonderful films I’ve seen recently, from Silent Light to Medicine for Melancholy to it was great, but I was ready to come home. have all clearly emphasized that goal. They have opened my eyes to what it means to be human. 

    And so, In light of all the trouble I have writing official reviews, from now on I’m just going to examine films from that light; what did this film open my eyes to about the experience of being human? What do I miss, that this film opened my eyes to?

    I’m not stopping attempts to critique films, that is obviously necessary to my better understanding and appreciating them, but it has helped me today in trying to crack these films apart from just an “are they good; why or why not” aspect, which is always frustrating to me. 

    So, look for more thoughts in the coming weeks, on these films, and others that I’ve seen this year. (Like, Silent Light and The Wrestler)

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    Job Opening at my company

    cj Advertising, the company that I work for (and might I add, love) is hiring a web designer. Here are the job specs. If this is you (and they are pretty serious on these specs) hit me up at peacefulchaos at gmail. I’ll give you the rest of the info and put in a good word for you with the hiring squad.

    Job Requirements:
    • 3+ years working as a professional interface designer with excellent samples of design ability
    • Extensive knowledge of XHTML, CSS, effective design techniques and current SEO best practices
    • Detail-oriented with strong organizational skills
    • Self-motivated, disciplined, and able to work effectively as part of a team
    • Ability to maintain ownership of individual projects while also working on collaborative projects
    • Exceptional communication and project management skills

    Job Functions:
    • Maintain awareness and familiarity with changes in online marketing best practices, including (and not limited to) Web design methods, mobile marketing, and social marketing.
    • Create complex, standards-compliant Web sites utilizing CSS, HTML/XHTML and PHP
    • Develop cutting-edge user interface designs for Web sites in the legal industry
    • Develop and implement online marketing strategies and tactics to increase Web site traffic and improve conversion rates
    • Develop and monitor email marketing initiatives
    • Review and analyze client sites to improve online marketing strategies
    • Conduct competitor analysis/research

    This job, by the way, is based in Nashville, TN and no commuting will be considered.

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