Saturday, January 22, 2011

Movie Review - Up

by Alex Popp

Carl Fredrickson has dreamed of adventure throughout his life and now his adventure is finally taking off in Disney/Pixar's "Up," directed by Pete Doctor, who previously directed the insanely clever "Monsters, Inc."

Tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl sets out into the air, on his way to an unknown land in South America. But Russel, the 8-year-old wilderness explorer is in the wrong place at the wrong time--- he's on Carl's front porch.

There seems to be a number of people that disagree with me on this one, probably just because it's a Pixar movie and they have better stuff. We have seen this especially in "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc,," "Finding Nemo," "Cars," and "Wall-E." But quite frankly, this was Pixar's worst. The screenplay is so lousily written. Through nearly the entire movie, they just try too hard to be funny, although, like most Pixar movies, there are parts that are improbable not to laugh at. But even the animation looked slightly cheap, which is surprising considering how the animation in the "Toy Story" series improved in "Toy Story 3."

The first ten minutes of the movie is Carl in his younger years when he meets his future wife, and they plan their juvenile adventure to this South American land. Later, they get married and we see their fifty-something years as husband and wife until the girl dies. Then it gets back to the main part of the story and we find that Carl is still intending to fulfill those plans.

Overall, I don't think Pixar was even trying with this one.

Rated PG for some scenes of violence.

Two stars (out of four) for "Up," which also, by the way, has one of the most ridiculous titles of all (though it doesn't beat "The Neverending Story II").

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

I guess I'm one of those people who disagrees. They definitely made some of the animation a little more stylized, especially on Carl (so they intended the look that feels a little cheap). And yes, I agree that I would have preferred the greater detail of humans found in Incredibles (still a little stylized) and Toy Story 2.

And the beginning 10-minute sequence was ingenious. Most people don't know that the #1 audience you should go for in these movies is the mother (and second is the daughter). If you can win the mom, then she's far more likely to take the family. And I don't think I saw a mom with a dry eye in the theater during the climax of that 10-minute sequence at the beginning. Then they spend the rest of the film coming full circle back to the original source of the emotion. It was impressive and one of the most emotional Pixar movies yet (with the other being Finding Nemo, another road film).

So, yes, the plot was very straight-forward, and the characters were tossed together as they ran into each other (without any real connection), but they fed off of all that emotionally, and it worked, making Up the #2 most successful Pixar movie, behind Finding Nemo (at the time; now Up is #3 and Toy Story 3 is #1). (In contrast, The Princess and the Frog also featured a lot of great characters who randomly ran into each other, but it didn't work because they were never connected emotionally like the characters in Up were.) Plus Up won the Academy Award for best animated film of the year, which was also because of the emotional power in the film.

So while I started out as huge critic of Up (I really don't like road-trip films where characters are tossed together), I quickly became a huge fan of the humor, excitement, joy, and emotion found in Up.

Four out of four stars from me (obviously). Highly recommended. I took my four-year old daughter, and she was scared of the dogs a little, but other than that it's great for little ones.

- The Emperor

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movie Review - My Sister's Keeper

by Alex Popp

Abigail Breslin, from "The Ultimate Gift" (and Sunshine) plays a girl who was genetically designed to save her sister from dying from leukemia in "My Sister's Keeper."

The girl is now 11 and her sister needs a kidney transplant but she refuses to donate her kidney to her. She seeks a successful lawyer trying to hire him to earn medical emancipation. She tells the lawyer the story of her family after the discovery that her older sister has had leukemia; how she was conceived by in vitro fertilization to become a donor; and the medical procedures she has been submitted since she was five years old to donate to her sister. But the girl's mother is still determined to force her to help hers sister.

If you're aiming for a good and moving flick with not-in-vain optimism, then do not be fooled by other reviews that say this is the one you're looking for. This is a crass and deeply depressing movie. We thought that this movie would mean a lot to us, because my sister, who is 21 right now, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five and she made a remarkable recovery. My mom and I both hated it though and my mom remarked afterwards, "I did not need to go back there."

I didn't really see much point in the movie at all. It was just wrong. For the start, I can see that the girl and her sister loved each other greatly. But the girl clearly did not love her sister enough. In my opinion, if she did love her that much, she should have done whatever it took to keep her alive.

(SPOILER WARNING!) But the real thing with this movie is that it just ends with the girl's sister dying. The family grieves it, but the girl says at the very end that she knows she'll see her again, so they are clearly believers in Heaven, but it's apparent that they aren't Christians. It just makes the movie the more sad.

Rated PG-13 for language, disturbing images, and references to teen suicide, sex, and drinking.

One and a half stars (out of four) for "My Sister's Keeper," which no brother or sister will want to keep.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movie Review - Shorts

by Alex Popp

Not so TALL tales from the director of "Spy Kids."

In "Shorts," a young boy's discovery of a colorful, wish-granting rock causes chaos in the suburban town of Black Falls when jealous kids and scheming adults alike set out to get their hands on it.

Take my word for it. Choose a different movie! Despite its name, this ubnoxious film feels like longer than its "short" hour and a half running time. It limps through the movie in a random order and none of the characters even make sense in what their doing. The acting is nothing like what someone would literally be doing and the whole plot is pointless and unoriginal with rubbish effects. I want to know what the moviemakers were thinking.

Rated PG for mild action.

One star (out of four) for the senselessly stupid "Shorts," literally the worst movie I've ever seen.

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.


Hahaha. Yeah, it's pretty bad, but it was still fun, slightly clever in the way they presented it out of order, and my kids couldn't stop talking about the booger monster. So I'd give it 3 stars out of 5.

- The Emperor

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movie Review - Angels and Demons

by Alex Popp

Tell the world the truth.

Tom Hanks reprises his role and symbolist, Robert Langdon, in the impressive follow-up to "The Da Vinci Code,"Angels and Demons."

When a murder of a physicist, Leonardo Vetra, finds a symbolist, Robert Langdon, and Mr. Vetra's daughter, Vittoria, on an adventure for a secret brotherhood, The Illuminati. Clues lead them all around the Vatican, including the four alters of science, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. An Assassin, working for the Illuminati, has captured four cardinals, and murders each, painfully. Robert and Vittoria also are searching for a new very destructive weapon that could kill millions.

This was a real turn-around after the disappointment and anti-catholicism of "The Da Vinci Code." It far less offensive to Christ religions and is far more watchable. I was shocked that it has the same director, Ron Howard. What the heck happened?

Anyhow, the action gives you fair suspense and the guy who made an intriguing performance was Ewan McGregor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in the late Star Wars trilogy. The ending is a bit of a twist, but the film already satisfies you up until that point.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and some pretty gross and slightly shocking images.

Three stars (out of four) for "Angels and Demons."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Movie Review - Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

by Alex Popp

When the light go off, the battle is on.

In "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," Ben Stiller reprises his role as Larry Daley, who has started his new organization "Daley Devices." The former security guard for the Museum of Natural History travels to the Smithsonian Museum, where several exhibits of the museum he used to love working for have been shipped to. There he encounters the Pharaoh, Kahmunra who teams up with other famous evil figures to take over the Smithsonian. With some help from Amelia Earhart, well played by Amy Adams, he rockets from one museum to the next to stop the Pharaoh, where there are other appearances by Ivan the Terrible, Al Capone, Napolean Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and hilariously, Oscar the Grouch and Darth Vader.

If you enjoyed the first "Night at the Museum," as I did, you will most certainly like this one. A lot of fun action and battle scenes and plenty of good laughs make this a very enjoyable film.

The basic message in the movie is that the key to happiness is doing the things you love with people you love. At first I didn't think this was true, but you guys showed me something after events like broomball and the movie night back in February. Happiness is worldly. The key to joy is excepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Thanks buds.

The movie is rated PG, but should be suitable for most young kids, with only mild violence.

Three and a half stars for the enjoyable, funny, and completely satisfying, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Movie Review - Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

by Alex Popp

The sub-zero heroes are back, on an incredible adventure... for the ages in "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."

After the events of "Ice Age: The Meltdown", life begins to change for Manny and his friends: Scrat is still on the hunt to hold onto his beloved acorn, while finding a possible romance in a female sabre-toothed squirrel named Scratte. Manny and Ellie, having since become an item, are expecting a baby, which leaves Manny anxious to ensure that everything is perfect for when his baby arrives. Diego is fed up with being treated like a house-cat and ponders the notion that he is becoming too laid-back. Sid begins to wish for a family of his own, and so steals some dinosaur eggs which leads to Sid ending up in a strange underground world where his herd must rescue him, while dodging dinosaurs and facing danger left and right, and meeting up with a one-eyed weasel known as Buck who hunts dinosaurs intently.

If you enjoyed the first two "Ice Age" movies, as I did, this one will make you explode with laughter. The humor has gotten even better in this third installment, which doesn't usually happen. I hear "Shrek the Third" is a counterexample. There isn't much more I can say, but see it for the humor.

Rated PG for peril and some mild crude humor.

Three and a half stars for the hysterical animated romp, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.


I thought it was good, but I think it was still the worst of the three. I think adding the dinosaur story and threat just wasn't as interesting as the character-driven themes of the first two films.

- The Emperor

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Movie Review - Star Trek

by Alex Popp

The future begins in "Star Trek," the alternate reality/prequel to the classic TV series, directed by J.J. Abrams.

On the day of James Kirk's birth, his father dies on his ship in a last stand against a mysterious alien vessel. He was looking for Ambassador Spock, who is a child on Vulcan at that time, disdained by his neighbors for his half-human nature. Twenty years later, Kirk has grown into a young troublemaker inspired by Capt. Christopher Pike to fulfill his potential in Starfleet even as he annoys his instructors like young Lt. Spock. Suddenly, there is an emergency at Vulcan and the newly commissioned USS Enterprise is crewed with promising cadets like Nyota Uhura, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Chekov and even Kirk himself thanks to Leonard McCoy's medical trickery. Together, this crew will have an adventure in the final frontier where the old legend is altered forever even as the new version of it is just beginning.

At first, it just looked like Hollywood was running out of ideas, but I am looking forward to the sequel. You don't need to be a huge fan of the series to enjoy this prequel. This was one of the most highly acclaimed films of 2009, and one of the best of that year. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, who do the lead characters, play the parts so well, it was funny. Simon Pegg, who will be voicing Reepicheep in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," also made a neat performance. I was surprised that it wasn't nominated for any award for acting. The visual effects are great and the makeup is very well done; I would almost say the pointy ears for Spock put "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Lord of the Rings" to shame. The movie isn't really about the battle scenes, although there is one in particular when a planet is being drilled into. This scene is very thrilling. But the real thing about "Star Trek" is the whole premise about what happened prior to the famous stories from the seventies. Although, if you haven't seen any episodes from the television series, you may be a tad confused.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some unnecessary sexual content.

Three and a half stars (out of four) for the slick and well-written "Star Trek."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

YouTube Tips 15: What's in a Title?

It took us awhile to nail down any sort of system with the title, and it's a good system, but it also shows some vagueness within the system (which is why it is so accurate; YouTube is a chaotic place when it comes to which titles seem important).

So it started in a conversation on this video from GagaManMusic...

Saw this one again and made me think. To slowly increase the views, put "Flinstones Parody:" at the beginning of this title. =^)

Great job!

- TheAnimationEmpire

Then Andrei changed his title to "Flinstone parody" and left this comment to respond:

that's a good idea. Thanks :)

Thanks! Yeah, it worked for your Cow and Chicken (and I do stuff like that, such as our Zelda Parody). So you might want to add the "Barney's..." bit back as a subtitle like "FLINSTONES PARODY: Barney's..." or Flinstones parody - Barney's..." or something like that (I forgot what you had after "Barney's"


I see what you mean - it was barney's invention

Ah yes. =^)

Cool. I think the idea is that the title (Flinstone Parody) makes people interested in that aspect. For example, our Zelda Parody. Then the subtitle might mention another name for a good keyword in searches like you have now. Or another example is our Zelda Parody: Link's a Moron. So "Link" is also a keyword in searches, and then "Link's a Moron" is interesting or controversial. Interesting to some, and then offensive to others, so they might click to watch it.

Oh, and then I see you also made the "P" in "parody" uppercase. This is also a good move. I did limited research, but I've seen VERY similar videos, and title casing (where the first letter of the word) seems to get better clicks than sentence casing (no caps on the first letters of the word). I'm still trying to decide with all caps. I think All Caps is good to lead with (or to put focus on a word later in a title) if the lead word or words aren't long.

Continuing title topic and using all caps... For example, "ZELDA PARODY: Link's a Moron" is probably good. Overall, I can't prove that this helps any with views (it might help a little, but not a huge amount), but it certainly does seem to catch the viewers attention more on the capitalized words, especially if not all the words are in caps. If all the words are in caps, then it doesn't seem to help any at all.

So here are our FOUR RULES TO TITLES:

1. Begin with the easiest sell to brand it.
EXAMPLE: Flinstones Parody
EXAMPLE: Kiera and Johnny! (this was a short series from LisaNova)

2. Use title case instead of sentence case.

3. Use caps to grab attention on specific words (either at the front or in the title somewhere).

4. Don't use all caps through the whole title, unless the all caps makes the title interesting, because it also makes the title slightly harder to read.

5. Use all lowercase when you have multiple words that are intriguing somehow.

6. Make sure your title is interesting or controversial. (Or includes a reference to something popular, which then becomes interesting or controversial.)

What is "interesting" or "controversial" is VERY subjective. In other words, you can argue about it all day and not make any progress. However, here are examples to paint the picture.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Movie Review - Iron Man 2

by Alex Popp

Yes, I finally saw it.

Six months after the events of the first Iron Man, Tony Stark's life has become more tense than ever. Now that his secret has been revealed, everyone wants in on the Iron Man technology, whether for profit or power. But for the Russian, Ivan Vanko, it's revenge. Tony suits up with his new sidekick, played by Don Cheadle, to face his most challenging battle. But he has another problem on his mind: the shrapnel in his chest is causing him blood toxicity.

Nothing could beat the first "Iron Man," but this is a pretty good sequel. The first was definitely more original, but there were plenty of entertaining battle scenes, which I'm sure was what most fans went to see it for, but there was also pretty good acting that was the top of the critics' minds, believe it or not. After trying so hard to find a time to see this in the theater, I won't waste a minute to see Iron Man 3.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some language (the worst of which is bleeped out).

Three stars (out of four) for the uncomplicated but not disappointing "Iron Man 2."

Review by Alex Popp for The Animation Empire blog.

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