Author Archive for

23
Feb
13

Space Nazis from the Moon

Space Nazis from the Moon come to attack Earth in Zeppelin like spaceships.

Iron Sky (2012) has a brilliant B-movie high-concept and its trailers—with punchlines like “We come in peace!” and “The Earth is sick, we are the doctors!”—promise something either really funny or really offensive. Imagine my surprise that the resulting film was neither. Rather, it’s a bore. I wanted to like it, yet I found myself repeatedly looking at the clock and marveling at how long the film seemed and how uninterested I was.

Image
This movie should be funny. The premise is perfect for satire or black comedy, but the tone is all over the place and inconsistent from scene to scene and moment to moment. The actors are mostly okay but they exhibit neither comic timing nor that play-it-so-straight-it’s-funny quality that makes movies like Airplane! or The Naked Gun fly.

That the film wants to be a Dr. Strangelovian black comedy is written all over it, right down to its U.N. fight sequence (that screams of the frequently described but never released pie-fight in the War Room at the end of Strangelove) and its nuclear Armageddon finish whilst a pleasant tune plays. Despite these aims, as satire Iron Sky’s got no teeth, and as comedy it’s got few laughs. It’s a mishmash of strangely inert scenes punctuated by potentially humorous but underexploited comic sequences that mostly fall flat. An example is a scene when an opened airlock causes some of character Renate Richter’s clothes to come off. This could have been made into a sendup of the way exploitation films always seem to find some preposterous way to get a buxom woman disrobed—as Monty Python’s “Scott of the Sahara” sketch did to hilarious effect—but here it just happens and there’s nothing humorous about it. This bit is the film’s problem in a nutshell: it’s as if its makers think the funny idea is enough without actually working out the comic business that would actually get a laugh.

Furthermore, some of the setups make it evident that the film wants to be outrageous but it hasn’t the smarts or guts to do so. It pokes tentatively at the edges of brazen and shocking without ever seizing the opportunity to really go over the top.  A mad scientist turns a black astronaut’s skin white and the Nazis then assume by making him “Aryan” they’ve made him one of them. This should be either offensive as Hell or at least satirically biting, but here it just…is. A Mel Brooks could have spun comic gold with such a scenario but director Timo Vuorensola can only manage lead.

The best moments are those about the out-of-touch citizens of the Nazi Moon citadel whose understanding of the Earth is both behind the times and based on octogenarian propaganda. They are puzzled at a cell phone as a “computer” and can’t comprehend of non Aryan skin color. There’s a clever conceit in which the Nazis think  Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” is a great short film about how Hitler loved the world, as their copy is only one scene long. It’s a funny enough idea, but it’s not developed or milked. There was a wonderful opportunity to illustrate how anything out of context can be misused and misinterpreted, but the film doesn’t do that. Too bad. But even as a throwaway gag it backfires. The film actually includes a brief clip of Chaplin-cum-Hitler dancing with a globe of the world, but those 30 seconds of actual comic genius stand in stark contrast to the would-be humor surrounding it and leaves you longing for Iron Sky to Muster even one such iconic moment. It’s a task it can’t rise to.

The premise of space Nazis from the Moon should have yielded either something really good or so good it’s bad. Instead, it’s just mostly bad. Iron Sky lands with an Iron Thud.

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15
Jun
12

Fanfilm Review: STARSHIP EXETER, “THE SAVAGE EMPIRE”

Arguably, STARSHIP EXETER, “THE SAVAGE EMPIRE” is the mother of all modern Trek fan films. Yes, Voyages of the USS Angeles was made in 1999 and 2000, followed by Hidden Frontier (which premiered in 2000), but Exeter was the first one to get significant attention, famously overloading the mac.com servers from the number of hits it was getting, and inspiring a lot of other wanna-be fan filmmakers to actually do it.

WATCH IT HERE!!!!

Produced over a seven-year period before finally bursting onto the interwebs, it remains one of the most carefully crafted love-letters to the original Star Trek ever made. It’s clumsy and ham-fisted, painful, charming and fun all at the same time.

The plot, which concerns the titular starship Exeter crew stumbling upon Klingon political intervention on a Federation member world, is fairly straightforward. The crew arrives on a mission to collect medicine, but are thwarted in this goal by the machinations of the Klingons, leading Captain Garrovick to make a Kirk-like speech before resorting to physical action to resolve the problem via an extended fight sequence.

“Come get some!”

In the wake of all the Trek fan films that have come over the past eight years it’s difficult to remember how exciting this was when it first came out, and it’s easy to laugh at its perceived technical naivety.

We won’t pick on the acting here. In fact, we generally won’t critique the acting in fan films because, frankly, the actors are usually amateurs with no training, working for directors with little or no serious film/TV experience, with results that are about what you’d expect. They do their best, and so we won’t pillory them for that.

One of the best things about Exeter is its basic conceit: it’s as if Star Trek had a spin-off, or as if the show was rebooted with a new cast back in 1969. The style, the photographic look, the music is all of that era, with no attempt to modernize. In fact, the show is stubbornly old school. But within that box its makers create their own distinct characters that don’t fall into the familiar roles or personalities of Kirk, Spock, etc. This not only deflects comparison, but also makes the show kind of exciting because we are meeting new characters that aren’t mere simulacra. Captain Garrovick’s not a charmer like Kirk, in fact, he’s brusque and sometimes rude. Cutty is an affable, chummy guy who you’d like to have a cuppa Joe with. Harris is a no-nonsense executive, cool under fire. But the best character is B’fuselek, who—whatever you think of the acting—comes across as being the odd-Andorian out and feels different from all the humans around him. His odd speech patterns and body language are great.

Lt. B’fuselek: the best character in the episode.

Each character is different from one another, with distinctive worldviews that don’t always mesh well with the other characters. That’s something that’s sorely missing from many other fan film productions, which tend more to a “band of brothers” atmosphere where everyone is so chummy that it could be an 80s sitcom. Here, the characters disagree with one another and we don’t even know where B’fuselek’s loyalties lie for a majority of the episode.

The scope is impressive. There’s effective use of exterior locations and nicely done —if cramped—modular sets portraying the Andorian underground complex. The one thing that suffers is the starship Exeter herself, which is portrayed only via a corridor set (whose scuffed concrete floor is too obvious) and a limbo bridge fragment with a obviously superimposed background, but these are forgivable as such sets are expensive to produce.

Using greenscreen to build a bridge

The show’s biggest failings are with the photography, which is often improperly exposed, especially in the exterior scenes. There are the usual problems with incorrect eyelines and directional continuity mismatches commonplace in amateur productions.  Some of the set dressing looks ready to fall off the walls at any moment. Then there’s the script.

The script.

On it’s plus side it’s a fairly direct story. The through-line is easy to follow, and it’s pretty obvious why the characters are acting the way they do.

On the downside, it pays homage to Star Trek perhaps a little too well, imitating its less-wonderful aspects and clichés a tad too often. The plot sort of pokes along at an uneven pace, and there are things that happen to fill-up the action-adventure quota without really moving the story along. There are loose ends galore (the Lipthor monster set up at the front should have factored into the ending). A lot of the dialogue is clumsy and overwritten. And, like many of Trek’s weaker stories, Garrovick has no real stake in what’s going on. He’s meddling in order to get what he needs, not because what he’s doing is right.  In fact, Garrovick’s impassioned speech not only goes on too long but it takes place at the wrong point in the story. Worse, it’s irrelevant because it moves no one and makes the audience think not one bit (in Star Trek parlance, it should have been one of those “We’re not going to kill, today,” type speeches that tell us a little something about the human condition, even if no one but us listens).

Garrovick and crew in the Andorian Underground (which sounds like a good band name)

The script also suffers a little from that fan-fic and fan-film staple: trying to connect too many things from the shows/movies. There are two starships we’ve seen before (Exeter and Lexington). The Shakespeare quoting Klingon leader is named Chang, whom Garrovick apparently blinds in one eye at the climax of their battle, thus “explaining” why General Chang wears an eyepatch in the movie Star Trek VI. It’s unnecessary and makes the universe feel small.

While most of the visual effects are fairly rudimentary and sometimes only barely effective, what’s striking is that many of them were produced in-camera. Producer Jimm Johnson’s insistence on trying to make the effects without computer graphics where possible lead to the use of lots of old fashioned tricks that could have been done on film on the original series. Such effects include custom built optical gizmos like beam splitters to superimpose phaser beams “live” onto shots, model spaceships instead of CGI, etc. In the show’s most impressive effects shot a really grade-A forced perspective trick convincingly portrays a giant monster foot crushing a phaser while a fallen character watches in horror. This was done live, in-camera. No superimpositions. No split screens. It remains to this day one of the most convincing creature shots in any Trek fan-film. (The scene only becomes a joke at the end, when a lifeless, hasty substitute for an intended articulated puppet derails the sequence.) To attempt such effects instead of taking the CGI path of least resistance was ambitious, even if arguably sometimes less effective. But this handmade quality adds to the charm of the film.

“My phaser!”
Beautiful, practical trick shot. Look, ma, no visual effects!

In the end, “The Savage Empire” is a loving homage to Star Trek, and, if you can get past its amateur league aspects, it can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s obvious the people making it are having a blast. That enthusiasm comes right through the screen. Sure, it’s groan-worthy in spots, but its heart is in the right place…whether that be in your chest or where your liver should be depends on your species.

reviewed by Maurice Molyneaux and Ryan Thomas Riddle

20
Sep
11

892 movies

For a while now I’ve been compiling a list of films I know I have seen start to finish at some point in my life.  Every week or so I think of some “duh, obvious” movie I forgot to include.  In other cases, there are films I’ve seen only on TV and sometimes edited, or missed bits, so I haven’t included those.  Here are the 892 films on this work-in-progress list as of today.  For some films I’ve put their release year next to the title. You may recognize a lot. Some will probably have you going “huh?”

1776
(A)sexual    2011
101 Dalmations
1941
20 Million Miles to Earth
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
2010    1984
300
5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., The    1953
7 Faces of Dr. Lao
A.I.
Abyss, The
Adaptation    2002
Addams Family Values    1993
Addams Family, The
Adonis factor, The    2010
Adventures of Prince Achmed, The    1926
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The
Adventures of Robin Hood, The    1938
Aelita (Aelita: Queen of Mars)    1924
After the Thin Man    1936
Airplane II: The Sequel    1982
Airplane!    1980
Aladdin
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More
Alice in Wonderland    (Disney)
Alice in Wonderland    2010
Alien    1979
Alien 3
Alien Nation
Aliens    1986
All of Me
All the President’s Men    1976
Allegro Non Tropo
Altered States    1980
Amazon Women on the Moon    1987
Amélie
American Beauty    1999
American Graffitti
American Pop
And Now for Something Completely Different (Monty Python)
Andromeda Strain, The    1971
Angry Red Planet, The    1959
Animal Farm    1954
Animal House    1978
Another Thin Man    1939
Antz
Apollo 13
Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The    1979
Apple Dumpling Gang, The    1975
Arabian Knight (The Thief and the Cobbler)
Aristocats, The
Around the World in 80 Days
Arsenic and Old Lace
Art of the Steal, The    2009
Arthur
As Good as It Gets    1997
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atonement    2007
Austin Powers in Goldmember    2002
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Avatar    2010
Babe    1995
Back to the Future
Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part III
Bad Day at Black Rock    1955
Bambi
Bamboozled    2000
Baraka
Barbarella
Barefoot in the Park    1967
Batman    1966
Batman    1989
Batman Begins    2005
Batman Forever    1995
Batman Returns    1992
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Battle Beyond the Stars    1980
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Battleship Potemkin (Bronyenosyets Potyomkin)    1925
Bear Cub
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The
Beautiful Mind, A    2001
Beauty and the Beast
Beavis and Butthead Do America
Bébé’s Kids    1992
Bedknobs and Broomsticks    1971
Beetle Juice    1988
Beggars of Life    1928
Beginners    2011
Being John Malkovich
Bella Martha (Mostly Martha)    2001
Ben-Hur
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Best In Show
Big Lebowski, The    1998
Biloxi Blues    1988
Birdcage, The    1996
Birds, The    1963
Black Cauldron, The    1979
Black Hole, The    1979
Black Pirate, The
Black Scorpion, The    1957
Black Swan    2010
Blade Runner
Blazing Saddles    1974
Blue Bird, The    1918
Blue Thunder    1983
Boatniks, The    1970
Bob le Flambeur    1955
Bonfire of the Vanities
Bonnie and Clyde
Boogie Nights    1997
Bourne Identity, The
Bowfinger    1999
Boys, The: The Sherman Brothers’ Story    2009
Boyz n the Hood    1991
Brady Bunch, The
Brainstorm    1983
Brazil
Breakfast Club, The
Breaking Glass    1980
Bringing Up Baby
Buck Rogers    1978
Bug’s Life, A
Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie, The
Bull Durham
Bullitt    1968
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Caddyshack    1980
Can’t Stop the Music    1980
Cannibal! The Musical
Cannonball Run, The
Capote
Carmen    1915
Cars
Cars 2    2011
Casablanca
Casino Royale    2006
Casper
Cat’s Meow, The
Catch-22    1970
Cats Don’t Dance    1997
Celluloid Closet, The
Chain Reaction    1996
Champ, The
Charlotte’s Web    1973
Chicago 10
Chicken Run
Children of Men    2006
China Syndrome, The
Chinatown
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Ciao    2008
Cinderella
Cinema Paradiso    1988
Citizen Kane
Claire    2001
Clash of the Titans    1981
Cloak and Dagger
Clockwork Orange, A
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Clue
Cocoon    1985
Colma: The Musical    2006
Color Purple, The    1985
Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The    1969
Conan the Barbarian    1982
Conan the Destroyer    1984
Concorde, Airport ’79, The    1979
Conquest of Space, The    1955
Contact    1997
Continental Divide    1981
Cool World    1992
Corporation, The
Cowboy Bebop, The Movie
Cradle Will Rock    1999
Creature from the Black Lagoon    1954
Crowd, The    1928
Crumb    1994
CSA: The Confederate States of America
Damnation Alley    1977
Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Dark Crystal, The    1982
Dark Knight, The    2008
Dark Passage    1947
Das Boot
Day the Earth Stood Still, The    1951
Days of Heaven
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid    1982
Dead Zone, The    1983
Deliverance    1972
Demolition Man
Der Schweigende Stern (The Silent Star)    1960
Despicible Me    2010
Destroy All Monsters!
Dial M for Murder    1954
Diamonds Are Forever
Diary of a Lost Girl    1929
Dick Tracy
Divine Madness!    1980
Do the Right Thing    1989
Doctor Dolittle    1967
Don’t Look Now    1973
Doppelgänger (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun)    1969
Dr. Strangelove
Dracula    1979
Dragnet    1987
Dragonslayer
Dreamscape
Drive    2011
Driving Miss Daisy    1989
Duck Soup
Duel
Dumbo
Dune    1984
E.T.    1982
Earth Girls Are Easy    1988
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers    1956
Ed Wood
Edward Scissorhands
Elephant Man, The    1980
Elizabeth
Emperor’s New Groove, The     2000
Enemy Below, The
Enemy Mine    1985
Eolomea    1972
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Event Horizon    1997
Excalibur    1981
Exorcist, The
Eyes Wide Shut
F for Fake
Face in the Crowd, A    1957
Fahrenheit 9/11
Fantasia
Fantasia 2000
Fantastic 4    2005
Fantastic 4, The    1997
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Voyage
Fargo
FernGully: The Last Rainforest    1992
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off    1986
Fiddler on the Roof    1971
Field of Dreams
Fiend Without a Face
Fifth Element, The
Fighter, The    2010
Film Unfinished, A    2010
Final Countdown, The
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Finding Nemo
First Blood    1982
First Men in the Moon    1964
First Monday in October    1981
First Nudie Musical, The
Fish Called Wanda, A
Fistful of Dollars, A
Five Obstructions, The
Flash Gordon    1980
Flesh Gordon
Flight of the Navigator
Flying Ace, The    1926
Fog of War, The    2204
For All Mankind
For Your Consideration
Forbidden Planet
Force 10 from Navarone    1978
Forest Gump    1994
Foul Play    1978
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The    1921
French Connection, The
Frisco Kid, The    1979
Fritz the Cat
Fruit Fly
Fugutive, The    1993
Funny Thing Hpppened On the Way To the Forum, A    1966
Galaxy of Terror
Galaxy Quest    1999
Gallipoli    1981
Gattaca    1997
Gay Purr-ee    1961
Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters II
Giant Spider Invasion, The
Gigantic
Gigi    1958
Girl Shy    1924
Glen or Glenda
Gloria    1980
Gnome-Mobile, The    1967
Go West    1925
Godless Girl, The    1929
Gods and Monsters
Gods Must Be Crazy, The
Godzilla    1985
Godzilla    2000
Godzilla vs. Megalon
Gojira (Godzilla)    1954
Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The    1974
Goldfinger
Gone With the Wind
Good Night and Good Luck
Good Old Naughty Days, The
Good Thief, The    2001
Good Will Hunting    1997
Good, the Bad, And the Ugly, The
Gosford Park    2001
Graduate, The
Gray Gardens
Grease    1978
Great Dictator, The
Great Mouse Detective, The
Greatest Story Ever Told, The    1965
Green Slime, The    1968
Gremlins
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes    1984
Grinch, The    2000
Groundhog Day
Gulliver’s Travels    1939
Hairspray    John Waters
Hamlet    1990
Hard Day’s Night, A
Hardcore    1979
Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth    2008
Harold and Maude
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Heartbeeps    1981
Hearts of Darkness    1991
Heavy Metal    1981
Heavy Traffic
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hell’s Heroes    1930
Hellboy
HELP!
Her Wild Oat    1927
Hercules
Hey Good Lookin’
Hidden Fortress, The (Kakushi toride no san-akunin)    1954
High and Low
High Anxiety    1977
History of the World, Part I    1981
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid    1992
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Hook    1991
Hot Lead and Cold Feet
Hot Shots
Hot Shots Part Deux
Howard the Duck
Hudsucker Proxy, The
Hulk
Hunchback of Notre Dame, The
Hunt for Red October, The
I Go Pogo    1980
I Married a Witch    1942
I Wanna Be A Republican
I’m Gonna Git You Sucka    1988
Iceman    1984
Ikiru
Illusionist, The    2006
Illusionist, The (L’illusionniste)    2010
Illustrated Man, The
Im Straub der Sterne (In the Dust of the Stars)    1976
In and Out    1997
In the Heat of the Night    1967
In the Shadow of the Moon    2007
Inception    2010
Incredible Mr. Limpet, The
Incredible Shrinking Man, The
Incredible Shrinking Woman, The
Incredibles, The
Independence Day    1996
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Inglourious Basterds    2010
Inlaws & Outlaws    2005
Invaders from Mars    1953
Invaders from Mars    1986
Invasion of the Saucermen
Invisible Boy, The    1957
Iron Giant, The    1999
Iron Horse, The    1924
Iron Man    2008
Iron Man 2    2010
Island at the Top of the World, The    1974
It Came From Outer Space
It Happened Here
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World    1963
J Men Forever
Ja Zuster, Nee Zuster (Yes Nurse! No Nurse!)
James and the Giant Peach
Jason and the Argonauts    1963
Jaws    1975
Jeffrey    1995
Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again    1982
Jerk, The    1979
Jesus Christ Superstar    1972
Jewel of the  Nile, The    1985
Jinxed!    1982
Journey to the Center of the Earth    1959
Journey to the Center of the Earth    2008
Judas Kiss    2011
Jungle Book, The    1967
Jurassic Park    1993
Kentucky Fried Movie, The    1977
King Kong    1933
King Kong    1977
King Kong    2005
King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, The    2007
King’s Speech, The    2010
Kinsey
Kinsey Sicks. The: Almost Infamous
Kitchen Stories    2003
Kronos    1957
Krull
Kurosawa
Kurt & Courtney    1998
L.A. Story    1991
L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad)    1961
La Bamba
La Ronde    1950
Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves)    1948
Lady and the Tramp
Ladyhawk
Land Before Time, The
Land That Time Forgot, The
Last Detail. The
Last Picture Show, The
Last Remake of Beau Geste, The    1977
Last Starfighter, The
Lawnmower Man, The
Lawrence of Arabia
Leap of Faith    1992
Legend
Legend of the Guardians, The: The Owls of Ga’Hoole    2010
Legend of the Lone Ranger, The
Les triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville)    2003
Lethal Weapon
Life of Brian, The (Monty Python)
Life of Reilly, The    2007
Limey, The    1999
Lion in Winter
Lion King, The
Little Mermaid, The
Little Shop of Horrors
Little Shop of Horrors, The
Live and Let Die
Living Daylights, The
Living Desert    1953
Logan’s Run
Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run)
Looker    1981
Lord of the Rings    1978
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lost In La Mancha    2002
Lost in Space    1998
Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, The
Lost Weekend, The
Lost World, The    1927
Lost World, The: Jurassic Park    1997
Love at First Bite    1979
M*A*S*H
Maciste    1915
Mad Max
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: The Road Warrior
Mad Monster Party
Madonna: Truth or Dare
Man On Wire
Man Who Knew Too Much, The    1956
Man Who Laughs, The
Man Who Wasn’t There, The
Man With A Movie Camera    1929
Man With the Golden Gun, The
Man With Two Brains, The
Manchurian Candidate, The    1962
Manchurian Candidate, The    2004
Mars Attacks!
Martians Go Home    1989
Mary Poppins
Mask    1985
Mat i syn (Mother and Son)    1997
Matrix, The    1999
Max Manus
Me, Myself & Irene    2000
Meaning of Life, The (Monty Python’s)
Meatballs    1979
Megaforce    1982
Megamind    2010
Memento    2000
Memoirs of an Invisible Man    1992
Memphis Belle    1990
Men in Black    1997
Men in Black II    2002
Messenger, The: The Story of Joan of Arc    1999
Metoroporisu (Metropolis)    2001
Metropolis, (The Complete)    1926
Mexican, The    2001
Microcosmos    1996
Midnight Cowboy
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil    1997
Midway
Mighty Joe Young    1949
Mighty Wind, A
Mikaël    1924
Milk    2008
Miller’s Crossing    1990
Missionary, The    1982
Model for Matisse, A    2005
Modern Problems    1981
Mommy Dearest
Monster Zero
Monsters, Inc.    2001
Monty Python & The Holy Grail
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl    1982
Moon    2009
Moonraker
Mothra
Mr. & Mrs. Smith    2005
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Much Ado About Nothing    1993
Muppet Movie, The
Muppets from Space    1999
Muriel’s Wedding    1994
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
My Fair Lady
My Perestroika    201???
Mysterians, The
Mysterious Island    1961
Naked Gun 2 1/2
Naked Gun 33 1/3
Naked Gun, The
National Lampoon’s Vacation    1983
Network    1976
Never Say Never Again
Nice Girls Don’t Explode
Night of the Hunter, The    1955
Nighthawks    1981
Nightmare Before Christman, The
Nikita (La Femme Nikita)    1990
Nine To Five
No Time for Sergeants    1958
North by Northwest    1959
Now Voyager
Now You See Him, Now You Don’t    1972
Nude Bomb, The
Nuns on the Run
Objectified
Ocean’s Eleven    2001
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
Oh, God!    1977
Oh, God! Book II    1980
Oh, God! You Devil    1984
Old Dracula (Old Drac)    1974
Old Yeller
Oliver!
On Golden Pond    1981
On the Waterfront
One Million Years B.C.    1966
Orgasmo
Out of Towners, The
OutFoxed
Outland    1981
OutRage    2009
Oxygono (Blackmail Boy)    2003
Pandora’s Box
Paragraph 175
Patsy, The
Patton
Pecker
Penalty, The
Pennies from Heaven
Persepolis    2008
Peter Pan    1953
Phantom of the Opera, The
Phantom Tollbooth, The
Philadelphia    1993
Pi    1998
Pink Flamingos
Pink Panther, The
Pinocchio
Pixar Story, The    2007
Plan Nine from Outer Space
Planet of the Apes    1968
Planet of the Apes    2001
Plaster Caster
Pleasantville
Pocahontas    1995
Point of No Return    1993
Poltergeist
Pornographers, The
Poseidon Adventure, The
Predator
Pretty Maids All in a Row    1971
Primer    2004
Princess and the Warrior, The
Princess Bride, The
Private Benjamin    1980
Producers, The    1968
Pufnstuf    1970
Quatermass and the Pit (Five Million Years to Earth)
Quest for Fire
Rabbit-Proof Fence    2002
Raiders of the Lost Ark    1981
Ran
Rango    2011
Ratatouille    2007
Rear Window    1954
Red Dawn
Reluctant Astronaut, The
Repo Man    1984
Requium For a Dream    2000
Rescuers Down Under
Rescuers, The
Revenge of the Creature    1955
Rhinoceros
Richard III    1995
Right Stuff, The    1983
Risky Business
Road to Perdiditon, The
Road to Wellville, The    1994
Robin Hood    1973
Robin Hood: Men in Tights    1993
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Robocop
Rocky    1977
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The    1975
Romancing the Stone    1984
Rose, The
Rosemary’s Baby
Rotaie    1928
Run Silent, Run Deep
Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, The    1966
Ruthless People    1986
Rutles, The: All You Need Is Cash    1978
S.O.B.    1981
Same Time Next Year    1979
Saturday Night Fever    1977
Schindler’s List
Score, The
Secret of NIMH, The    1982
Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The    1958
Shadow of the Thin Man    1941
Shadow, The    1994
Shakedown, The    1929
Shakiest Gun in the West, The    1968
Shape of Things to Come, The    1979
Shark Is Still Working, The
Shelter    2007
Shiraz    1928
Shock Treatment    1981
Shootist, The    1976
Short Circuit    1987
Short Cuts    1993
Shortbus
Silent Movie    1976
Silent Running
Silver Streak    1976
Silverado
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger    1977
Single Man, A    2009
Sister Act    1992
Sita Sings the Blues    2007
Six Degrees of Separation
Sixteen Candles
Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow
Slaughterhouse-Five
Sleeper
Sleeping Beauty    1958
Slumdog Millionaire
Smokey and the Bandit
Sneakers    1992
Snoopy Come Home    1972
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
So’s Your Old Man    1926
Social Network, The    2010
Solaris    2002
Solyaris    1972
Some Like It Hot
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Son of Godzilla    1967
Son of Kong
Song of the South    1946
Sordid Lives
Sound of Music, The
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Soylent Green    1973
Space Cowboys    2000
Spaceballs    1987
Spaced Invaders
Spanish Prisoner, The    1997
Sphere
Spider-Man
Spider-Man II
Splash    1984
Spray of Plum Blossoms, A    1931
Spy Kids    2001
Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams    2002
Spy Who Loved Me, The
Star Trek    2009
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan    1982
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock    1984
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home    1986
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier    1989
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country    1991
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek: The Motion Picture    1979
Star Wars I: The Phanton Menace    1999
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars IV: A New Hope    1977
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back    1980
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi    1983
Starcrash    1978
Stardust
Stardust Memories
Starman    1984
Starship Troopers    1998
Start the Revolution Without Me    1970
State and Maine
Steamboat Bill Jr.
Straight Story, The    1999
Stranger, The    1946
Strike (Stachka)    1925
Stripes    1981
Strong Man, The    1926
Strongest Man in the World, The    1975
Sullivan’s Travels
Sunrise
Sunshine    2007
Sunshine Boys, The    1975
Super 8    2011
Superdad    1973
Supergirl    1984
Superman and the Mole Men
Superman II    1981
Superman II: The Donner Cut    2006
Superman III    1983
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace    1987
Superman Returns    2006
Superman: The Movie
Supersize Me    2004
Swamp Thing    1982
Swing Shift    1984
Sword In the Stone, The    1963
Talented Mr. Ripley, The    1999
Tales From the Script    2009
Tarantula    1955
Tarzan    1999
Team America: World Police
Ten Commandments, The
Terminal, The    2004
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator, The
Terror of Mechagodzilla    1978
Terrore nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires)    1966
Thank God It’s Friday
That Thing You Do!    1996
Them!
There Will Be Blood    2007
Theremin
Thief and the Cobbler. The: Recobbled
Thin Man, The    1934
Thing from Another World, The    1951
Things to Come    1936
Third Man, The    1949
This Film Is Not Yet Rated    2006
This Is Spinal Tap    1984
This Island Earth    1955
Three Kings
Three Musketeers, The
Thunderball
THX 1138
Time Bandits    1981
Time Machine, The
Times of Harvey Milk, The
Titanic
To Catch a Thief
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Live and Die in L.A.    1985
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar
Tootsie    1982
Top Gun
Top Secret!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Torch Song Trilogy    1988
Total Recall
Touch of Evil
Touch of Pink
Town Called Panic, A (Pannique au Village)    2009
Town, The    2010
Toy Story
Toy Story 2
Toy Story 3    2010
Tremors
Trial, The
Trick
Tron    1982
Tron: Legacy    2010
Tropic Thunder
True Grit    1969
True Grit    2010
True Stories    1986
Truman Show, The
Tsubaki Sanjuro (Sanjuro)
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Twelve Chairs, The    1970
Twelve Monkeys
Twice Upon a Time
Twister    1996
Two Jakes, The
Uchu kara no messeji (Message from Space)    1978
UHF    1989
Under the Rainbow    1981
Unforgiven, The
Unholy Three, The
Universe of Keith Haring, The    2008
Unknown, The
Up    2009
Valley of Gwangi, The    1969
Valley of the Giants    1927
Very Brady Sequel, A
Victory    1981
Villain, The    1979
Visions of Light
Visit to a Small Planet    1960
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Waiting for Guffman
Waking Sleeping Beauty    2010
Wal-E
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit    2005
Walt & El Grupo
Waltz With Bashir
War of the Worlds, The    1953
Wargames
Wasp Woman
Watchmen    2009
Waterworld
Way Back, The    2010
Wayne’s World
Wayne’s World 2
Wedding March, The    1928
West Side Story
Westworld    1973
Whale Rider    2002
What Happened to Jones    1926
What’s Up Tiger Lily?
What’s Up Doc?
When Worlds Collide
Who Framed Roger Rabbit    1989
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?    1966
Willow
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Wind, The    1928
Winged Migration    2003
Wings    1927
Witness    1985
Wizard of Oz, The    1939
Wizards
Woman Chaser, The    1999
Women in Love    1969
Word Is Out: The Story of Some of Our Lives    1978
World According to Garp, The
X From Outer Space
X-Men
X-Men: First Class    2011
X-Men: The Last Stand
X2 (X-Men II)
Yearling, The
Yellow Submarine
Yentl
Yojimbo
You Only Live Twice
Young Doctors in Love    1982
Young Frankenstein    1974
Your Highness    2011
Yours Mine and Ours
Zardoz
Zelig
Zoot Suit
Zorro the Gay Blade    1981

18
Sep
11

making it move pt. 7: cut, print, moving on

Once all the MovieMaker animations were completed on the Atari there then came the need to get them all organized and on videotape, as, after all, that was the medium these were designed for.  What I should have done was sought out a professional video house to transfer everything to pro-grade NTSC tape.  Well, instead I used the services of an acquaintance who had a relatively high-end VHS deck with a flying erase head (why does that sound like a band name?), so what I got was so-so quality.

But even if I’d gone to the higher-end tape, there were still some serious problems with using these kinds of computers for video production that ultimately would have been a problem.

Virtually all home systems that worked on CRT monitors/TVs were designed so that the actual usable area of the screen was smaller than the full display, leaving empty borders all the way around, ergo everything you animated had a “vignette”.

The video output was limited to Composite Video, which wasn’t particularly good. To have gotten professional level video out of a home computer would have required serious hardware modifications by an engineer.

The limitation of four colors in MovieMaker was not crippling, but it would have limited the graphical options one could have offered to potential clients.

One thing I didn’t think to try was to find a video production place that could do chromakey and make a demo to see how that would have worked. I could have set a background color in one animation to green or blue and had such a place composite the animation on top of another video source. Video titling could have been an important part of any actual business.

Nothing much happened with this video. I don’t recall much happening with the couple who had the contacts at the Fitzgeralds casino. I also didn’t make much of an effort to do anything with the resulting work myself, because by the time this video was put together the writing was on the wall about using the Atari 8-bit computers for this work. I already had a 16 bit computer that could display four times as many colors in four times as many pixels. All I needed were the animation tools to make it possible.

 

29
Jul
11

Making it Move pt. 6: Bits N Pieces

Continuing on the earlier posts about my early animations on the Atari 8-bit computers using MovieMaker.

Loose Ends

To round out the pitch video I pulled out the bulk of the other animations and animation tests that I’d done in the time since I’d first gotten by hands on IPS MovieMaker (at some point after I first got it, the software was republished by Electronic Arts, with a few audio compatibility issues added, just for fun). They were:

ANALOG BOINK!

The Amiga computer launched during the period these animations were being produced and virtually everyone was aping their (then-impressive) BOING! demo, featuring a spinning ball bouncing back and forth across the screen. I was writing for ANALOG Computing magazine at the time, so I got the idea to do a twist on “Boing!” that would have the magazine’s “A” initial bouncing around the screen. All the boing type demos I’d seen up to that point were very flat and there was no attempt at dimensional shading, so I decided to make my bouncing “A” flash through a series of color to enhance the idea that it was an object reflecting light (much as I’d done on the 2nd Artek logo mentioned in a previous post). Because MovieMaker animations couldn’t really loop seamlessly, instead of starting the animation with the letter on-screen I had it enter, bounce around, then exit before the 300 frame limit.

The ANALOG Computing “A” gets bouncing.

Click to start animation (opens new window).

One thing I don’t recall is why I decided to have the letter bounce off all four sides of the screen instead of bouncing in an arc like the ball on the Amiga… but possibly it was just laziness of my part!

BIRTHDAY BLASTS

Since my sister and brother had Atari 8-bit computers, I made a few digital birthday cards to send to them using MovieMaker.

Birthday Blast is simply a match lighting a candle on a cake, which then explodes, leaving the message “Happy Birthday!” to drop in from the top of the screen. Nothing much notable about it except that animating the flickering flame was the most work…albeit I don’t think I did it very well.

Another birthday “card” repurposed.

Click to start animation (opens new window).

A more elaborate animation was based on my love for Warner Bros. cartoons, so I decided to let Marvin Martian finally use his “Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator” to blow up that pesky Earth as birthday fireworks…with predictable results.

“Low resolution makes me very angry!”

Click to start animation (opens new window).

I was pretty happy with the simple but effective vista I was able to create, especially the gun and the Earth. In contrast to the rolling waddle I’d done on the Opus animation, I recalled Marvin walked in in a very stiff fashion with everything but his legs stationary. I did do this, but I didn’t get the feet right. At the time I didn’t have home video (hard to believe in this day and age) and had no easy easy way to study how the cartoons animated his feet (fact: they’re just a blur of too many tennis shoes).

I dunno what this fascination with explosions was…probably just a cheap way to get a punchline across. Hey, it worked for the Muppets!

SAME CAT TIME. SAME CAT CHANNEL.

One other animation I’d done was a test to see how well I could make simple facial expressions read. For this I repurposed a Batman parody I’d created for a comic I’d drawn in high school: Catman (before I knew there was a DC comics villain with that name). All I did with this was animate the eyes, eyebrow stripes and mouth, and moved the head up and down a bit. I also used the ZOOM feature again, this time to go from a medium wide to a medium shot (with the accompanying halving of the resolution).

CATMAN: Nag nag nag…

Click to start animation (opens new window).

The thing I like most about this animation was my using the MovieMaker musical tones to create sound in sync with his lips, and to emphasize the eyebrow actions. It keeps the animation alive.

A GRAPHIC (IF INACCURATE) HISTORY OF HOME COMPUTING

This was actually a series of animated segments making fun of computer development. These included a 2001: A Space Odyssey sendup in which the monolith is revealed to be a Univac mainframe than can’t add 2 and 2, and an Apple logo being sliced in two by an arrow and reveal to be “rotten” because it was “too expensive” (lame). I could be wrong in my recollection of the order of these events, but I believe that those were added as “prequels” to the animation below: a silly piece in which the logos of various home computer brands slugged it out in “The Big Shakeout”. It was inspired by an Atari computer demo called “Apple Kill” in which an Atari logo takes down its Apple counterpart (wishful thinking on an Atari user’s part to be sure).

“Apple Kill” goes WW III

Click to start animation (opens new window).

I like the animation in this because it’s so simple. The most fun things to animate were the Texas Instruments logo clip clopping around, the Atari logo playing Space Invaders cannon, and the Commodore logo first squeezing down so it’s “flag” shoots off as a projectile, and then animates like a Space Invader.

The full animation isn’t included in this clip, but it ended with Atari triumphant. Wishful thinking, indeed.

08
Jul
11

Making it Move pt. 5: Place Yer Bets

Continuing on the earlier posts about my early animations on the Atari 8-bit computers using MovieMaker.

Betting on Computer Animation

As I recall, the aforementioned couple who were interested in trying to find some business outlets for computer graphics had some contacts with someone at the Fitzgeralds casino in downtown Reno, and as we discussed that we talked about the idea of pitching a computer-animated video that could play on a loop on a casino hotel’s TV system that would not only plug the casino’s facilities, but would also have little tutorials on how to play some of the more complex games, like craps.

As part of this, I animated a few segments related to casinos. For example, animating the clover floating down and landing in place in the Fitzgeralds logo. I imagined this would be an interstitial that would appear between other segments.

You always win at a place with a 4-Leaf Clover emblem, right?

Click to start animation (opens new window).

I used the very limited musical scale in MovieMaker to create a short descending motif that I thought worked well.  I don’t recall exactly why I went for a blue background, but I suspect it was so that the clover could light up in bright green upon landing.

Next up was demonstrating a casino game, and I picked the hardest game to explain: CRAPS. There were two parts to this animation, only one of which appears in the video linked here.  First up was the title card, in which a floating glove picks up dice on a craps table and rolls them right into the camera and then the name of the game would appear.

Crap(s)!!

Click to start the animation (opens new window).

The dice rolling and bouncing in perspective was fairly easy to do, and I settled on the floating glove because the MovieMaker program’s limitations didn’t leave much room for animating a largish human figure.

What does come back to me about the process of making these animations, when looking at this one, is that I recall drawing a lot of the elements outside of MovieMaker (which used a joystick as a drawing tool) using the AtariArtist software and an Atari Touch Tablet (click to see Alan Alda hawking it). AtariArtist had more sophisticated (by the day’s standards) paint tools (lines, rays, circles, ellipses, etc.), but the problem was it drew in the Atari’s mode 7-plus not the mode 7 that MovieMaker used, so the vertical resolution was twice that of MovieMaker. I don’t recall what tool I used to convert the files back and forth, but I remember doing it. So I’d draw the art in AtariArtist, downscale it, and then do cleanup tweaks inside MovieMaker.

Atari Artist interface...watch out PhotoShop!

Anyway, the second part of the animation used text and animated spinning dice to explain how the rolls worked in craps, but the way I did it would have probably been more confusing rather than enlightening, and I’d have needed to rethink it in order to convince any casino that it was a good idea.

The final animation was a slot machine, but I don’t recall if I did this before or after the animations mentioned above. I don’t like it very much as the drawing of the machine is very flat and uninteresting, and I should have put some sort of payout chart on the front instead of the logo.

If only...

Click to start the animation (opens new window).

Speaking of that logo, HiSUG was the High Sierra Users Group, a Reno-based computer club. I wrote for its newsletter a few times.

Since this video was outmoded by the time it was finished none of this material had any obvious payoff. One might argue that I’d placed some bad bets, but everything I learned working within the strict confines of MovieMaker and the Atari 8-bit would serve me in good stead in work that would pay off, and, surprisingly, many of those skills would come back into play 15-20 years later when working on graphics for mobile phones.

04
Jul
11

Making it Move pt. 4: Crass Commercialism

Continuing on the earlier posts about my early animations on the Atari 8-bit computers using MovieMaker.

THE SOUND OF MARSHMALLOWS/OASIS VIDEO

During the period I was making these animations I got together with a couple who were likewise interested in trying to find some business outlets for computer graphics. With them I solidified the idea of taking some of the animations I’d been playing with and assembling them and some new ones into a demonstration presentation. One of the ideas was to figure out how to make commercials for local TV to advertise local businesses.

I wish I could remember how this idea popped into my head, but I’m sure it was simply a matter of literalizing “the hills are alive” from the opening number of The Sound of Music. This lead to the idea of animating a parody of the opening of the film, and then using that as a hook for a video rental business.

Julie Andrews gets what's coming to her.

Click to start the animation here (opens new window)

Due to Moviemaker’s limits, this actually consisted if three separate animations. One was the title card (not shown here) that read “The Sound of Marshmallows”, followed by this segment of Julie Andrews being devoured by the lively hills, and finally the plug for the company. In this case it was a fictional video store called “Oasis Video” (which was the name of the video business belonging to the guy who did the taping of the animation for me). For this I animated a completely stereotypical Hollywood dancing girl, paying no mind to anything real or realistic.

Just where in the world is this?

Click to start the animation here (opens new window)

In retrospect while this is a moderately funny gag, it doesn’t really sell the idea of a commercial spot because I didn’t make the plug at the end feature basic stuff like an address or phone number. The logo I came up with is also, frankly, terrible, and the scratchy little weeds around the bottom left don’t help matters one bit.

Two additional notes:

  1. The colors in these animation clips and the frame grabs aren’t quite accurate to the way the original animations looked because I “recovered” these animations by running them through an Atari emulator which does a great job but never gets the colors quite the way they looked on a NTSC TV (for instance, the sky in “Marshmallow” was actually a bit more purplish than seen here).
  2. The voiceovers you hear in these clips are all replacements done by the amazing Erik Braa, since the original audio on the VHS copies I have is awful.