Movie: The Croods

The Croods is a fairly fast paced action adventure story that is essentially the caveman version of a road trip movie.

It tells the story of a displaced family, the Croods, forced to leave the safety of their cave in order to survive a cataclysmic event upon the world they've come to know.

Their journey is guided by a young stranger who shows them that there's much more to life than staying safe.

If you like slap stick, cartoon humor and can suspend disbelief far beyond anything you may have seen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull then this may be just your thing.

It's a film filled with interesting ideas at specific moments as well as quite a number of fantastical prehistoric animals and plants I don't recall seeing in a science journal anywhere, ever (though this may be due to the over the top design to make them more colorful and stylised).

Nicolas Cage does a great job voicing the Dad, Grug. Emma Stone is convincing as troublesome teen, Eep and Ryan Reynolds as Guy plays the knowledgeable stranger and ideas man just right. The rest of the cast have their moments but the story pretty much revolves around these three.

Dad, Grug is the 'one rule', straight laced protector of the family. Eep suspects there is so much more to life than what Grug has taught them. Guy comes along, on his own quest to out run impending doom, and shows Eep and her family a whole new way of thinking as they join forces to find somewhere safe to resettle.

I do have a few criticisms but if you haven't seen the film stop reading now as the rest of this post contains spoilers. None of my thoughts should stop you from seeing the film. It's fun, laugh out loud and you'll have a good time.

Spoilers (Thoughts about the film)...

From the moment Guy appears it's obvious he's different, more worldly, knowledgeable and further advanced with his technical skill and know how. It's not just that he knows about fire, its so many other things as well, like shoes, deception, trap making, pets etc.

The biggest question I had on my mind that the movie never really answers is where did Guy come from and how did he get so advanced? He does take a moment to tell a bit of his own back story but only how his family died, with no information on who they really were and why he knows so much.

I also kind of wondered why Guy thought the mountain they were headed to was likely to be safer than anywhere else given the whole landscape around the Crood's cave literally fell apart revealing a very colorful tropical landscape below them. Hence they were already on higher ground and apparently living next to paradise without knowing about it due to living in a deep valley.

Guy's whole logic was to follow the light, which they never really made it to, and I'm not sure why where they did end up wasn't subject to everything falling apart like the rest of the landscape either? Did they just get lucky about their choice of destination?

Dad, Grug, is depicted as a man with few ideas, except there's a whole sequence in the film where he comes up with some really creative inventions. Perhaps it took Guy to get him using that part of his brain but considering just how creative he is, you'd think he'd have a much better plan for hunting food than the one displayed at the start of the film.

Once the landscape changes into the more colorfull, tropical landscape with the more fantastical creatures all I could think about was Pandora from Avatar rather than prehistoric Earth. It seems like, for some of the creatures at least, the film makers took some inspiration from Pandora.

The film resolves its self reasonably well. You won't be wondering what happens next or if they will make a sequel. Though this is DreamWorks, with the success of The Croods at the box office so far, you can bet a sequel is already planned. They got four films out of Ice Age - which also resolved its self fairly well at the end.

My only other thought was from an animation point of view. 3D animation has come such a long way. You don't even really think about how all these characters are computer modeled and animated anymore. You just sit back and enjoy a good story.

There were a few moments towards the end of this film where the characters looked convincingly real and felt like they were in a real world environment rather than a computer generated one. Those moments really stood out to me because it didn't feel like I was looking at computer generated characters at all. I could almost believe that they actually existed as real cave people.

As I said though, it's a fun movie. Nothing really to complain about. Not even Grug suddenly becoming a cat person with a seemingly trained cat that wanted to eat his whole family earlier on in the film.

Enjoyable.

Lego and Paper Aeroplanes - Two of My Favorite Things

Paper Plane that I designed several
years ago. Yes it flies!
Two of my favorite things that have persisted from my childhood is building Lego models with Lego Technic and trying to design realistic looking paper planes that fly.

Lego bricks are something that my parents introduced me to early on. As I got older I gravitated towards Lego Technic where I spent many years trying to create my own, fully working version of a car chassis.  Even though I was lucky enough to own Lego's version two car chassis (set 8860) - which I think was loosely based on a Volks Wagon, with the motor in the rear.

Even today I own a modest collection of Lego Technic sets which I potter around with, mostly trying to build car chassis' with but occasionally other things, like robots too (though I've never gotten far with robots because I don't have any motors or any of the Lego Mindstorm kits).

Designing realistic paper planes (ones that look more like real planes) that fly was something I got into during secondary school, usually at the end of a day when teachers would hand out school notes to take home to parents. Often these notes would be accompanied by long boring monologues by teachers, adding further information. A lot of my notes got folded into paper planes.

Just to make it more interesting I set myself a challenge to try and make planes that looked more like actual planes, and they had to 'fly' to be a success. They didn't have to fly well. The just had to fly in a controlled glide of reasonable distance, remaining the correct way up until they landed. One other rule I had was no tearing of the paper. The plane had to be folded from a single sheet of paper.

I've designed several working paper planes along with a series of 'conversion' folds that can be applied to a couple of standard planes that'll turn them into more realistic looking planes that still fly reasonably well, even outdoors. I used to even have a website complete with folding instructions.

With the above in mind, imagine how cool it was to me to come across someone who has made a Lego Technic, Paper Plane Folding Machine. See the video below.



Granted the paper plane it makes is one of the worst paper plane designs ever (isn't heavy enough in the nose section to really fly well) but still, it's very cool.

I think I just found a new challenge with my own Lego Technic bricks... make a paper plane folding machine for a better design of paper plane. That would be quite a challenge!

Dog Star Football and Fringe Benefits - Final (Part 4)

After a couple of weeks break from painting (read: busy with client animation work) I set aside some time to continue my painting, Dog Star Football, having finished the other painting, Fringe Benefit, in my last studio session.

If you want to see previous parts in this series click the links for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

When I left Dog Star Football I'd pretty much finished the background and all the base colors. All that was left was to add the darker details and apply shading, as well as adding little details like the collar tag.



This last session only took around an hour and a half to two hours to bring the painting to completion.

If you've ever wondered why I paint cats and dogs more than people then the comparison between painting Dog Star and Fringe Benefit, in terms of time and detail, should give you some clue. No curse words or broken brushes during this session!

Dog Star Puppy - Acrylic on Canvas.

Team Nolan in Talks for Justice League - Could Bring Christian Bale Back

Could these two have bumped into each other?
The Batman, DC, comic-movie-verse was has been a buzz for the past day or so with a pretty strong rumor from Latino Review that Christopher Nolan, David Goyer, Zack Snyder, Henry Cavill and Christian Bale could all be on board for a Justice League movie. Latino Review have a reputation for being right on their exclusives so it's hard to pass this off as some journalist taking a shot in the dark.

The team over at Modern Myth Media recorded an extensive podcast discussing the implications on Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, the soon to be released Man of Steel and the possible future for DC Universe on film if this all comes to pass.

Essentially Christopher Nolan is said to be going beyond his role of overseeing Man of Steel to overseeing the entire DC Universe on film. David Goyer will continue writing (he co-wrote The Dark Knight Trilogy and wrote Man of Steel). Whilst Henry Cavill is the next actor to play Superman in what's looking to be a more realistic take of the character in Man of Steel.

Nolan had said he was done with the Batman franchise so this would be a kind of about face for him. However I don't think anyone would be disappointed considering that Warner Brothers have been floundering around with a Justice League movie since at least 2007 - and have watched Marvel's Avengers pass them by in a cloud of money.

What's really upsetting some fans is the idea of Christian Bale reprising his role as Batman since Bruce finally found a way to retire from the suit and live happily ever after. It's as if Bruce isn't allowed to change his mind.  Not to mention Bruce is a genius with a very active mind. Somehow I think waking up from his permanent holiday retreat to try his hand at the daily newspapers crossword puzzle is going to get old really quick.

But that isn't the point of this post. I couldn't care less what other fans think. I'm hoping the rumor turns out to be true because I'm looking forward to how a more realistic treatment of Superman pans out and then how that would follow through into a Justice League movie.

Speculation is that Man of Steel is in direct continuity with the Dark Knight Trilogy. Therefore Superman would have to at least be on Earth during those films still searching for his place in the world (could Clarke Kent and Bruce Wayne have met in their travels to find their purpose?).

I don't know how old Superman is compared to Batman in the comics but it seems to me if Batman is to become the strategist for the Justice League he would need to have some years and experience on his colleagues in order to have their respect. In that group Batman's superpower is his mind.

I digress... Bale is not my favorite Batman. I was actually looking forward to a new interpretation and a new body in the suit. However, all along 'Team Nolan' has done interesting things with not just Batman but also his rogue gallery.

For years we've mused and speculated at which villains we'd like to see get the Nolan treatment. Well the ultimate, I think is seeing how Nolan's team bring Superman and Batman together using Bale's version of Batman to set the tone and style of things to come.

How anyone can complain about the most successful Batman on film coming back is beyond me. Thankfully Christian Bale has said he's still interested in reprising the role (in an interview with Empire Magazine).

Of course we're not there yet. Until some official announcement is made, it's all rumor. but here's hoping. In the meantime I'm looking forward to Man of Steel, which is only a few months away.


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