Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Video Making Quest

I've been plotting to have what I've been referring to as an "elaborate slide show video" for sharing my thoughts both before and after seeing Princess Bride. My scheme was to put it all together in Flash and convert it to an appropriate format for Blip.

I'm used to Flash and don't have much else in the way of editing software, so this seemed like a good idea, but I've made a dramatic discovery: Flash + sound + movie export apparently = disaster.* It's not like I was working with terribly good sound quality to begin with, so it's a pretty significant issue.

As such, I'm downloading a 30-day trial of Adobe Premiere Elements. I figure, you know, April is long enough to figure out whether I'll be making more videos and if the program is worth my while to own.

I'm not jumping right into the Princess Bride video, however. I've made some art for it already, but I'm starting off with a cheesy 45 second "How To Draw A Dragon" video. Yes, I know Strong Bad's done it, but the point isn't to make an awesome video, but rather to work out a process and get technical feedback.

I'm not sure when that'll be done, but I'm hoping soon. I had actually predicted today prior to discovering the Flash sound issue, so it's pretty much going to boil down to how quickly I adapt to the new program and get sound results that don't burn my ears. Considering the conditions I recorded under (screw you, ice cream truck!) and the equipment used, the sound quality is actually pretty decent and lacking in background noise. Pretty much any loss of quality. however, tips the scale towards horrible. I'm hoping Elements can preserve it better, or even improve it.

In conclusion, I officially declare the last week of March to be "Dragon Week" for this blog, as this is the fourth post in a row having something to do with dragons and it's getting somewhat ridiculous.

* EDIT: Yeah, I should've tried .avi instead of .mov. The .avi files are huge, but I can reduce them down and change the format easily. So the real conclusion is that I was being stupid and I should definitely have the dragon test video done this week ^^;

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Defense Of Astrid

Yes, this is another How To Train Your Dragon post, but there's actually more to it than that. One of the comments to my previous post expressed disappointment in Dreamworks over having Astrid, a strong female love interest, in the movie. The reasons given were that she wasn't in the book and the "strong female love interest" angle has been done many times before.

(Although, to be fair, 99% of the film wasn't in the book)

I feel this is something I need to counter. Not only do I believe that Astrid is a good character, I believe she's an example on how to present a character like this without being tired and cliché.

I'm avoiding major spoilers here, but I am discussing a character and how they fit in the plot, so yeah. MINOR SPOILERS be ahead.

 1 - She is not out to prove what girls are capable of. With the exception of the main character, the village is full of badasses. Male, female, adult, child, they all either kick ass or aspire to, and the only one who is told they're a fool for doing so is the male lead, Hiccup. Nobody questions whether girls can kick ass. They know they can and respect them for it.

 2 - She is not a jerk. Movies and TV shows often seem to think that the only way to portray a strong female character is to make them an uncaring, self-centered jackass. We as an audience are supposed to view them as strong and possibly even as role models, but if you took those same characters and made them men, they'd simply be jerks. There are, however, plenty of shows and movies that understand that being strong doesn't mean you have to be a jerk, and this movie is one of them.

 3 - She is not tacked on. Astrid is a key character in the movie and is not an afterthought. She contributes to the story and isn't just there for Hiccup to fawn over.

 4 - Relative to the rest of the vikings, she is fully clothed. While her outfit is unique, so is Hiccup's. It helps them stand out as main characters. I question the lack of a fur vest or cape, but at least she's not showing off her midriff. A lot of strong, action-oriented women wind up in skimpy outfits, but Astrid is not one of them. This is an especially good thing considering she looks like she's at most fourteen years old.

I would not mind seeing more characters portrayed as Astrid was with the rest of the characters treating them as Astrid was. I can understand the "she wasn't in the book" complaint, particularly if one was fond of the supporting male character whose role she effectively fills. Independent of that, however, I think she was a good character and a good example of a strong female character.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Different Way To Train Your Dragon

Note: Blogger's images seem to be having trouble showing up. If you can't see the image for this post, click here to see it on DA.

As I've stated, I loved the How To Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) movie. While watching the end credits, I noticed that it claimed to be based on a book. Given that I had become an instant HTTYD-fanboy, I decided to look into it.

It turns out there's a series of children's novels, and they've gotten good reviews on Amazon. What they are not, however, is the same as the movie. After a bit of research, it's very clear to me that the movie was more "inspired by" than "based on" the books.

There is common ground between them, but if you changed the names of the movie and its characters, I suspect the only significant things they'd have left in common is the presence of vikings and dragons. I have not read the books, so there may be subtle similarities that I am not aware of, but it really does sound like they're the apples and oranges of family friendly viking-themed dragon fiction (a genre I am certain is massive in stature).

I find this interesting, as book fans have historically been strongly opposed to movies that deviate heavily from the source material. There are Harry Potter fans who foam at the mouth with rage over the general lack of house elves in the movies and Lord Of The Ring fans who want the head of Peter Jackson, but those movies are guilty of very minor divergences relative to the HTTYD movie. Given the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the HTTYD movie, I wonder what fans of the books think. It also makes me wonder what the author of the books, Cressida Cowel, thinks.

Of course, these might not be like the Harry Potter books with readers of all ages. If it's mostly just kids reading them, I doubt there'd be as much fanboy rage in the face of unfaithful adaptations. I've also never seen a bookstore overflowing with people as a result of a HTTYD book release or people getting lynched for revealing HTTYD spoilers. Nonetheless, there's probably someone, somewhere out there who is gritting their teeth with rage over this movie.

Personally, I liked the movie as it was, and I'm glad they deviated from the source material as much as they did. It's a little weird to be saying that. I'm generally okay with movies deviating from their source material in order to make movies that, frankly, don't suck. What I usually do want to stay faithful, however, are the themes and the characters, and it doesn't sound like HTTYD did that.

That said, the movie is still awesome, and I still plot to see it in 3d.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

It's late and I need to get some sleep, so this is going to be a very quick review. Fortunately, my review ultimately boils down to five words:

It's awesome. Go see it.

How To Train Your Dragon is the definition of a good family movie. It has something for everyone. I honestly can't think of a single person I know who I wouldn't recommend this movie to. Granted, it's 1:30 in the morning and there are likely some curmudgeons I could think of if I were more awake, but it's rare I can say that of any movie while in any state of mind.

I don't want to give the impression that it's the greatest movie of all time or anything. I'm sure there are plenty of nits one could pick. Thing is, I don't care about those nits or the picking thereof. This movie was fun, cute, relatable, action-packed... it was simply good.

I saw it in 2d, and plan to go back and see it in 3d. I will be acquiring it on DVD when it comes out, and, merchandising willing, I will have a figurine of the main dragon sitting on my desk sometime in the near future. In case it's not obvious, I liked this movie.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In Hot Duck Soup

My recent movie suggestion request has resulted in a few people suggesting Marx Brothers movies, and this in turn has reminded me of an incident from  High School.

Back in the day, I was in a film class. We mostly watched movies and abused having access to film equipment, and I sat in a corner with three friends. It doesn't sound bad, and yet I still somehow managed to find the class aggravating (I was super good at finding high school classes aggravating). This was mostly due to the discussions we'd have about the movies.

One movie we watched in particular was Duck Soup. It wasn't a bad movie, and I'm sure it was hilarious back in its day (as opposed to my day), but the movie has one major flaw that is in no way its fault: a lot of its jokes have been used repeatedly in Looney Tunes cartoons. Watching it felt like watching a black and white live action version of Bugs Bunny. Combine that with sitting in a classroom and it being the last class of the day, and I barely laughed. My friends didn't laugh much, either.

The rest of the class, however, found it hilarious. They laughed throughout the film, and this somehow made it even less funny for me. Maybe they were secretly laughter vampires, draining the funny and keeping me from laughing, too. I don't know.

When it came time for the mandatory class discussion, the majority of the class was singing the movies its praises and talking about how unpredictable it was. When I was called upon to give my opinion of the movie, I was honest about not finding it funny. The class defensively insisted that I defend my lack of enjoyment, and in the course of trying to do so, I let slip how their laughter had made it worse. You can guess how well that went over.

I have many reasons for not holding it against people when we aren't in agreement about liking or disliking certain things. I suspect that one of them is remembering what it was like being backed into that corner and neck deep in hot duck soup.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The LOLCat Pokémon

First off, many thanks to everyone who have suggested movies! Please keep them coming; I scheme to get through at least one of these suggested movies a week and post about them here, DVD rental shop willing. I just hope they're not playing hockey on the roof when I get there.

Anyway, a few of you have asked for updates on my Bellsprout, which I initially thought was odd until I looked at that cursed sketch again (went for another long walk after that). I've actually walked close to 10,000 steps with Bellsprout, more than half of which were after that post, so you can rest assured that the ones and zeros that make up its being are happy.

Earlier today, however, I wanted to use the Pokéwalker as a pedometer but had nothing in it. It still functions as a pedometer without a critter in it, so I snagged it and went on my way. When I later checked my steps, I discovered that some Wooper (pictured) had started following me around. How's that for awesome?

Frankly, I love Woopers. They're of an advantageous combination of types and are hilarious. Every time they enter battle, they make a noise and hop as they quickly turn back to look at you before facing their enemies, all while making the face shown here. It's so cute and silly that some deranged part of my brain can't let it go without hearing something like "OMG!", "ONOES!", "OH YEAH!", "ROCK ON!", and so forth.

Similarly, one thing I like about simplistic RPG games where they don't show detailed battles is picturing them myself. When I'm playing these games, there's action-packed epic duels going on in my head even if all it's saying on screen is "Wooper used Water Gun". In my mind, it's more along the lines of after slamming into his opponent, Wooper is thrown backwards by his foe's counterattack! Distance now between them, Wooper blasts water out of his mouth, K'Oing his enemy before he even hits the ground.

Anyway, enough gabbing about Pokémon. I need to go watch nostalgic movies to prove to everyone that I'm a geek!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ow, My Geek Cred!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a bone chilling revelation to unveil. Or, well, repeat, assuming you follow me on Twitter. Clarifications that undermine the dramatic tension of what I am trying to say aside, my point is this:

I have never seen The Princess Bride.

If you are anything like most people I know, that sentence rocked you to your very core and blew your mind. It's not that I specifically haven't seen it, but that anyone hasn't. It would be similar to saying I haven't seen Apocalypse Now, Tron, Labyrinth, Planet Of The Apes or Rocky.

By the way, I totally haven't seen Apocalypse Now, Tron, Labyrinth, Planet Of The Apes or Rocky.

As you  may have guessed, I've missed a lot of movies. I don't see every movie that comes out, and I'm not big on renting them. I'm more likely to watch TV shows on DVD and play video games when with friends.

That said, however, there are certain movies I really should see. My geek cred is crumbling all around me, and it must be salvaged! Readers of this blog, I ask you: What nostalgic movies must I see to redeem myself, assuming I have not already? You know, beyond what I've listed.

Please let me know here, via e-mail or Twitter what you think I need to see. Based on these suggestions, I will gradually make it my mission to seek out and watch the most suggested movies, posting my thoughts about them here as I do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keeping Them Real

According to TV Guide, Disney is banning breast implants from Pirates Of The Caribbean 4. Or, at least, for a particular group of actresses. From the sound of the requirements, the women will likely be involved in dancing or some other form of activity where the presence of implants could be obvious. From the article:
The potential ladies will also have to undergo a test involving jiggling and jogging to determine their breasts' authenticity
I am 100% certain the only concern here is historical accuracy. After all, it's common knowledge that silicone implants of this nature weren't used before 1962.

The obvious joke here is "I wish I was the casting director!" I believe that's a bit shortsighted. What if you're not sure about someone? What if an actress misreads the look on your face and accuses you of suspecting something? What if she's not misreading your face? It's a scenario where you'd potentially have hundreds, if not thousands, of attractive young women knowing for certain that you're staring at their chests and judging their authenticity. The hostility generated could power all of LA.

...Okay, yeah, I'd still totally take the job. I'm only human, after all.

In all seriousness, while I was made aware of this via, there are a lot more details in the original source of this information, The New York Post. It's actually somewhat disturbing what they went through to "enhance" Keira Knightley. I'm sure she would have been just fine without it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tears Of A Pokemon

I neglected my Bellsprout today.

I transferred it to my Pokewalker last night and told it we'd be going for a walk on the beautiful beach today, but I've continually forgotten to put the Pokewalker in my pocket. It's been sitting there all day wondering when we're going to go to the beach, and now it's gotten pretty late. I could put the Pokewalker in my pocket now, maybe get a few hundred steps in before the day's over, but it just seems so awkward now.

I'm sorry, Bellsprout. I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Gah! Okay, okay! We'll go jog a frikkin' mile or two, just... gah!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Monster That Challenged The World

I recently stayed up late watching an old monster movie called The Monster That Challenged The World. I tweeted as I did so, and while those tweets contained many spoilers, this movie was made in 1957. I think the statute of limitations on SPOILERS! has passed. (Incidentally, all of my tweets about this movie are compiled at the bottom of this post)

They don't make movies like this one anymore, and that's probably a good thing. This wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen and it was probably pretty good by old-school standards, but there was plenty of horrible, horrible things about it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

ALICE In Wonderland! ALICE!

I follow several RSS feeds about movies, TV, games, etc in an effort to stay on top of pop culture and not look like a dang fool. As a result, I have been keeping tabs on the performance of Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, a movie I found I really enjoyed.

I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks to the marketing of the film, I expected the focus to be unduly on Johnny Depp and the Mad Hatter. He was focused on in the commercials, every poster I saw focused on the hatter... I fully expected this to spiritually be Willy Wonka 2: The Wonkening.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Plants vs Zombie Sketches

Note: This was originally part of a second blog I decided I don't need as the labels allow me to mark all posts with artwork so it will be easier if I just keep it all in one blog.

These are some old Plants vs Zombie sketches that I already shared on Twitter, and I may post some other old artwork as well, but I scheme to draw plenty of new stuff as well.

Oh, The Shame, The Shame Of It All!

So, yeah. I recently acquired the latest incarnation of Pokemon and tried out the Pokewalker. These facts have inspired this sketch (as always, click for full size):

THE SHAME! Although, in reality all I would have to do would be have an Eevee follow me around and women would flock to it. I'd be ignored entirely, of course, but there'd certainly be less shame.

This Dan Was Made For Walkin'...

...and that's just what I did. As I said I would in my previous post, I brought my Pokéwalker along with me when I went out for a bit earlier. I transferred some random Pokémon from storage (only had three in there; I choose you by default, Bellsprout!), and was on my way.

In theory, I walked close to 4,000 steps. I say "in theory" because I have no idea how accurate this thing is. For all I know, every pothole I encountered while driving was a "step". One earns "Watts" by walking, and can exchange them to try and catch more critters or find items by way of very, very simple mini-games.

I didn't expect to get anything I would actually care about, but then I ran into, and caught, a Kangaskhan. That's a fairly decent and rare monster there, and now I have one in my party with only one gym badge under my belt without having to trade. I have the sinking shameful feeling that this cursed Pokéwalker is going to be on my person whenever I go for walks from now on, or at least until I forget it's in there and it gets washed like my old cell phone.

*sniff* Poor cell phone... it died so young...

Anyway, I have to say that this seems like a pretty decent video game accessory for younger audiences to have. There's limits to how much you can do with it at a time, and it rewards walking. I would be concerned about it being a source of distraction at inappropriate times, but Pokémon is already played on portable systems and most people, even kids, have cell phones these days. At least this thing is encouraging exercise.

It's Official: I'm Still a Pokémon Geek

I recently acquired one of the "new" Pokémon games (in quotes because it's a remake and they're all basically the same game), and it has subsequently dawned on me that I am still a Pokémon geek.

This fact crystallized for me earlier today when I was looking up the moves for Mareep, an electric sheep Pokémon. Looking that up is in and of itself a bad sign, but what really emphasized the point was when I actually got excited about discovering that my mighty sheep could learn a decent bug-type move at level 32. That is simply not something a normal, decent human being cares about.

As for the game itself, I haven't played much of it yet. I have one badge by virtue of that electric sheep I mentioned zapping the gym leader's birds to oblivion, but given that I've only been playing it while waiting to fall asleep, it will likely be a slow journey. I am, however, confident saying that if you've liked previous Pokémon games that you'll like this one, assuming you're not sick of them. As I've said, every non-spin off Pokémon game is essentially variations and upgrades of the same thing.

These latest versions do come with something new: a "Pokéwalker" dealie that you can transfer Pokémon to and carry around with you for various benefits and mini-games. I've yet to try it, but it functions as a pedometer, so I might take it with me when I venture out later today in my ongoing efforts to fend off cabin fever. I only hope I don't get hit by a truck or something, as it would add insult to mortal injury for the medics to find that thing in my pockets.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Real Life Ad

This is a custom ad I made for advertising at Real Life, a comic by Greg Dean (click for full size). It is worth noting that this Greg mentioned in this ad is THAT comic's Greg, and not the Greg from my comic.

I intend to make more custom ads to be used with specific sites, as those seem to perform better than my generic ads. It's difficult to sum up EGS in a 160x600 pixel ad, but I can sure as heck get people's curiosity going.

I will be posting additional ads made here, and might also make a new section on the site for them. I would just post them as Sketchbooks, but as with the whole "not this Greg, that Greg" thing, there's a LOT of room for confusion when referencing other people's comics.

Incidentally, this is probably the closest I'm likely to get to doing crossover comics...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Objective Dismissal Of Subjective Views

A while back, I watched the movie A Series Of Unfortunate Events with some friends of mine. I didn't particularly enjoy watching it. The cinematography was nice, but the general concept of "kids point out the obvious, adults don't listen" grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. It's simply something I find more frustrating then fun to watch. When I expressed this feeling after watching the film, one of my friends had this to say:

"What you have to keep in mind is that this is a children's movie."

I will post here essentially what I said then, and that is "no, I don't." Were I asserting that the movie shouldn't have been done that way, or that it was a foolish choice on the part of the writers, then yes, pointing out that it's a children's movie as a counterpoint would make sense. Children easily find themselves in scenarios where adults are dismissive of what they have to say, and having such a plot in a film geared towards children makes objective sense.

Monday, March 1, 2010

There's A Zombie On Your Lawn!

I recently shared a screen shot of an end game of mine from Plants vs Zombies on Twitter. This is that screen shot:

If you are not familiar with the game, you will have no idea what's odd about this. ...Okay, what's odd from a GAMEPLAY standpoint. For those of you in the know, what's odd is that there are no sunflowers present, which provide power to add plants, and the lawn is filled with powerful, expensive plants.