Tag Archive for 'My Movies'

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (3/9/14) Chesterfield 14 (2014 ***1/2) Directed by Rob Minkoff, based on the series created by Jay Ward, featuring the voice talents of Ty Burrell (Peabody), Max Charles (Sherman), Ariel Winter (Penny) and Allison Janney (Ms. Grunion). The world’s smartest dog invents a time machine so he can teach his adopted son world history. (Please see my 3/3/14 review for more commentary about the film itself.) I happened to have planned a trip to the St. Louis area to visit my mother on the same weekend that Peabody opened, and so, thanks to special theater tickets provided by Dreamworks Animation, we went to an early showing. As is always the case, watching the film I’d worked on a second time, I was able to appreciate even more of the hard work and talent that had gone into it by all my colleagues in Redwood City and Glendale.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (3/3/14) DWA Glendale Crew Screening (2014 ***1/2) Directed by Rob Minkoff, based on the series created by Jay Ward, featuring the voice talents of Ty Burrell (Peabody), Max Charles (Sherman), Ariel Winter (Penny) and Allison Janney (Ms. Grunion). The world’s smartest dog invents a time machine so he can teach his adopted son world history. Once again I find myself in the unenviable position of giving an objective review to a film I worked on. In this case, I worked on Peabody (as most of the crew called it) for sixty-eight weeks, working mostly on hair setup. With five historical periods represented in the film, there was no shortage of hair to be rigged. My interest in the project goes back several years, back to the mid-2000s, when I saw some of the early conceptual work in one of the conference rooms. Prior to that, the idea of a feature film based on these two classic characters didn’t make a lot of sense, but after I saw the artwork and saw the visual potential, I changed my mind. As a matter of fact, I asked specifically to work on the film and was quite happy when my request was granted. I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of early versions of the movie, mostly in storyboard form. I knew early on that the film had to do two things right in order to be successful: It had to have plenty of “fun and games” with time travel and it had to tap into the sincerity of emotions between a single dad and his adopted son. I was happy to see that in the end the filmmakers managed to do both, to varying degrees. Having said that, I do wish that the conclusion of the film had been just a little more emotionally satisfying.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 (11/6/13) DWA Screening (2011 ***1/2) Directed by Jennifer Yuh, featuring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Duston Hoffman and Gary Oldman. Po, the Dragon Warrior, must take on a villainous peacock named Lord Shen, who’s intent on taking over China, one fiery cannonball at a time. This was a special screening for the Kung Fu Panda 3 crew, of which I’m a part. Even though I’ve been working on the film series’ next installment for 40+ weeks, it was a good reminder of the level of detail and artistry that went into the second film (on which I had also worked). I particularly marveled at the sheer quantity of high-speed Kung Fu action. The choreography, animation and camerawork of that was breathtaking. While I still felt a stronger emotional resonance in the first film, the second was a truly thrilling ride and a worthy successor.

The Croods

The Croods (3/16/13) L.A. Live — Friends & Family Screening (2013 ****) Directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman. A family of cavemen face extinction and must learn to trust a slightly-more-evolved homo sapien named Guy. This was my second viewing of this film, and after seeing it again, I was even more moved by its emotional notes. I was also doubly proud of the work that I and my colleagues did on it. I genuinely hope it finds an audience that appreciates its depiction of Grug and Eep’s father/daughter relationship. It would be a wonderful film to watch on Father’s Day.

The Croods

The Croods (2/28/13) Crew Screening — L.A. Live Regal Cinema (2013 ****) Directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman. A family of cavemen face extinction and must learn to trust a slightly-more-evolved homeo sapien named Guy. The action-packed opening sequence establishes within the first few minutes that the The Croods ain’t no “stone age family” like their Hannah Barbera animated cousins. You know what? I’ve been in this position a few times before. How can I objectively review a film I worked on for eighty-one weeks? The simple truth is, I can’t. But I will say that for most of the “grunts” in production, we rarely know whether the film we’re working on is really any good. After we leave the production, as I did in September of 2011, most of us deliberately avoid watching too much of the film, so that we can better enjoy the finished result. And so, I honestly did watch the film with a pair of fresh eyes, and I was very happy with that result and am sincerely proud of the small role I played. Following the screening, my wife and I drove to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History for a swingin’ stone age wrap party, complete with custom cocktails, rock candy and temporary tattoos (I got the Tripgerbil). At the party I saw most of my fellow Dreamworkers who’d worked on the film and there was a definite sense of pride. I only hope this film finds the audience it deserves. While I loved last year’s Rise of the Guardians (which I did not work on, though many of my friends did), it didn’t get nearly the critical praise I felt it deserved and its box office was disappointing. Hopefully Croods will fare far better on both fronts.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 (5/20/11) Cast and crew screening, Gibson Amphitheatre (2011 ***1/2) Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, featuring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Gary Oldman. Po discovers his secret origin and must defend Kung Fu from a deadly peacock with a cannon. Full disclosure: This film was the 8th film I worked on while at Dreamworks (I’m currently finishing work on my 9th), and so there’s no way I can be objective about it. Having said that, I was so happy this film ended up as good as it did. First off, I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was: I laughed out loud more times than I could count. The animation was amazing and there was plenty of kung fu fighting action. Finally, KFP2 also worked on an emotional level, and while it didn’t leave me sobbing like Toy Story 3, it still resonated with me. I’m very proud to have worked on this film and I hope it does well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel.

Monsters vs. Aliens (3D)

Monsters vs. Aliens (3D) (3/22/08) DWA Crew & Family Screening, Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal Studios (2009 ***½) Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon. Jeffrey Katzenberg prefaced the screening by saying that our group of about 2,800 crew members and their families was likely the largest audience ever to see a digital 3D film. I’m anything but objective about this film; I worked as a character technical director on B.O.B. (voiced by Seth Rogen) for two challenging, sometimes stressful, years. My wife lovingly refers to B.O.B. as the third person in our marriage for that time. I’m quite proud of how good he looks in the final film, and he’s undoubtedly my greatest achievement professionally. The film itself isn’t bad either, even if the story is a bit simple. At first I felt having a female protagonist (Susan/Ginormica, voiced by Reese Witherspoon) was a real gamble, but over time I’ve definitely warmed to the idea and to the film’s “girl empowerment” message, and hopefully filmgoers will as well. On a certain level, any film called Monsters vs. Aliens (unless it’s a real dog) should be more or less review-proof. It’s not exactly a film you go into expecting to have to do too much thinking.

Bee Movie

Bee Movie (10/18/07) DWA Crew Screening (2007 ***½) Directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner. It’s always a little dodgy reviewing movies I worked on. How could I possibly be objective? The simple truth is I can’t. For the record, I worked on Bee Movie for eighty-two (sometimes long) weeks and saw multiple screenings along the way. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. The character design, production design and execution was beautiful in a way different from any of Dreamworks’ previous films. Each movie project is a process and this was no exception. It was interesting observing the effect of Jerry Seinfeld’s involvement on the project: Having a personality as well-known as Seinfeld contribute not just his time but his personality to an animated film was an experiment that had never been tried before. Considering he was more or less a novice to the world of animation before the project began, it could have been an awful disaster, but instead it became something pretty special. Jerry Seinfeld isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but that’s true of any great comedian. The bottom line is that if people are predisposed to like or dislike Seinfeld they’re going to bring that to Bee Movie.

Shrek the Third

Shrek the Third (5/12/07) Sherman Oaks Galleria (2007 ***) Directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui. The third installment in the Shrek franchise was truly gorgeous to behold. I was stunned by how many different locations there were and the overall high quality of the film. There was a visual richness in the world that was quite impressive. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the film was, the story left something to be desired. The key to the story working on an emotional level was making the relationship between Shrek and the young King Arthur real. I hate to say it, but that never worked for me. The original Shrek did a near-perfect job of hitting all the right emotional notes; unfortunately Shrek the Third suffered by comparison.

Over the Hedge

Over the Hedge (5/15/06) Universal Citywalk (2006 ***½) Directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick. I just watched and reviewed this recently, so I won’t bother with any of my normal critiques. Instead, I’ll describe the experience itself: The movie hasn’t opened yet; this was the friends and family screening at the Universal Cinema Theater at the Citywalk. It was fun seeing it a second time, and it was nice to see it with a lot of kids in the audience. Their reaction was pretty positive overall, I thought. Seeing it on the big screen again, I found it engaging throughout; the characters seemed to grow on me, actually. Hopefully that will translate to nice box office numbers a week from now. It’s really going to have its work cut out for it, opening against one of the most anticipated films of the summer, The Da Vinci Code.