monsters

All posts tagged monsters

Kong: Skull Island Brings Monster Mayhem!

Published March 13, 2017 by rmpixie

Kong: Skull Island (2017, 1 hr., 58 mins)

If you know me, you know this pixie loves her monsters. Big, small, ugly, or cute, I need a weekly dose of monsters and creepy crawlies to keep me going. The promise of that plus the iconic King Kong being revived for 2017 in Kong: Skull Island made me perk up in the hopes of some great monster action, and I definitely got my fill.

Set in the same universe as the 2014 version of Godzilla, government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) go to Washington in 1973 to beg for funding and a military escort to a remote island. It’s their hope to be the first to discover a whole new eco-system. The Viet Nam War has also ended, and their military detail is led by Lieutenant Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who, after the war, feels a sense of loss and displacement after the sacrifices he made for his country. Randa adds the surly and ruggedly handsome ex-soldier and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the weathered but plucky photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to be a part of their quest. They must all overcome personal agendas and fight for their lives as the island holds way more than they bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (sorry!) because we get one gigantic primate and his prehistoric friends (and foes). It’s a clever blend of traditional war movie, adventure and fantasy quest at its best with some not-so-subtle nods to Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (see various character names for proof), and even Platoon. These nods would normally distract me, but aside from some clichéd music choices, the writers somehow got the right balance without regurgitating the same old war stories. They also made the right choice with splitting up characters into teams with different agendas. It made for great adventure a la Jules Verne, and gave us a snapshot of who they were and what they wanted out of the expedition with the right amount of exposition; in fact, I thought the story and pacing made the almost 2-hour film seem a lot shorter.

Some interesting choices were made for the cast. Most of the supporting talent I could take or leave, but it was nice to see Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead don his nerd hat, Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham as the all-or-nothing Captain Cole and a woman of colour with Tian Jing as the biologist San Lin (Hey Hollywood, we need more, please!). I was thrilled to see John C. Riley in the trailers (he, aside from the monsters, was a huge draw for me) and he didn’t disappoint as the hilariously loopy fighter pilot Lieutenant Marlow who had been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  He was necessary for the plot, but at times I felt he was put into the story with a neon “comic relief” sign over his head. This is in part to the uneven treatment of tracker Conrad and photographer Weaver. They were so perfectly coiffed after each perilous moment, with glowing skin and shimmering lip gloss, that there wasn’t any room for their characters to be developed. The one actor that did surprise me was Jackson. In a rare moment he actually showed some range outside of his potty-mouthed villain shtick, showing us a conflicted, revenge obsessed man portrayed with a lot of passion.

And the monsters? Oh, the monsters!! Kong was a thing of beauty, with all the detail and emotion from a CGI character you could want. Terry Notary did the ape acting for Kong and is another simian movement expert alongside his colleague Andy Serkis. The horrifying “Skullcrawlers” made me jump for joy with their reptilian bodies and huge gaping mouths. Kong’s sensational fight scenes made me want to see more fantastic animals, but there was only so much time! Hats off to the long, long list of the incredible concept team and digital artists for a job well done. I also want to point out the “Iwi” people, the indigenous tribe of Skull Island that took Marlow in after he was stranded. The concept for them was really beautiful, although their silent society spoke volumes thematically. There are actually a lot of themes in this film, with Kong representing nature or the rage against war, and the indigenous people silenced against or perhaps because of the march of progress, but upon further reflection, this film just doesn’t have the legs for heady discussions.

Yes, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island despite the handful of issues I had with it.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first big budget movie offers an intro for the newly imagined Kong and his world, and I can only hope for meatier stories in the future. The film should definitely be seen on the biggest screen possible (I saw it in IMAX 3D thanks to the horror boyfriend), and stay for the end of credit scenes that made me squeal and clap. Godzilla and Kong met in 1962, and with this new “Monsterverse” where there’s a franchise afoot with all my favourite monsters, there’s a juicy re-match on its way!

Check out this cool website for Monarch, the research company in the Godzilla/Kong Monsterverse here.

 

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Face Off Season 11 Episode 3: Monster High Comes to Life!

Published February 9, 2017 by rmpixie

 

Even though I’m literally 900 years old and had only a vague idea of the subject matter for this week, the artists seemed really jazzed and it was a fun challenge.

The gang headed to Mattel Headquarters where they met McKenzie and V.P. of Design, Natasha Berling to find out their next Immunity Challenge. The popular characters of Monster High were up for interpretation this week. The artists had to create realistic versions of these kids of iconic monsters and they would have to be ready for the big screen. Natalie told them the characters were all about individuality, kindness and acceptance. Her advice to them was to focus on the doll’s uniqueness and push their styles. The teams also got help with their concepts with two of the lead designers at Mattel, Natalie Villegas and Rebecca Shipman. Oh and another catch: Instead of the regular judges, a focus group of Monster High “superfans” would help pick the winner along with Natasha.

Tyler and Emily got Draculaura. Natalie told them to go with a frilly look. Tyler made some bat wings that were morphing out of her collarbone and Emily created a wig for her pink and black hair. Things went smoothly for them, and the focus group loved her. One fan thought she was a cross between a Disney princess and Dracula, and the others like that they hit all the marks with the character with the organic bat collar and skin tone. Only one person thought she wasn’t casual enough, but the play on Draculaura celebrating her sweet 1600 got them into top looks.

Rachel and Gage brought Venus McFlytrap to life. They wanted to integrate vines with her look as well as a pet flytrap plant. Mr. Westmore helped them with an idea to tack hair and the appliance to the model but the face piece ripped in a few places so they had to repair it and scramble to put on a beauty makeup. I wasn’t a fan of this look. I thought the mouth was a bit harsh. The group liked it better up close, but some felt the paint was too flat (I agree). She did look like the doll to them so they were pleased with that.

Niko and Cat had Clawdeen Wolf. The wanted to create a fashionista with a wolf nose and beauty makeup. Mr. Westmore told them not to bury the wolf ears under hair and to go subtle with the face. Niko tried to lay fur pieces on the model but it looked weird, so they opted out for hair that he curled on the model’s limbs. I didn’t like the paint on the face as it looked muddy, and the group didn’t like the fur, but the nose worked for them.

Logan and Adam were lucky this was an Immunity Challenge week. They got Abbey Bominable. They didn’t have a full concept except that she was a snowboarder. Natalie loved that idea and told them to go towards a Yeti look. Mr. Westmore told them they had to work on the nose since she was a teen and it had to be pretty. They had to scrap the whole face piece in the end and start over again. They also worked on a pet mammoth in a carry case. I didn’t like the nose on the character. The group felt it looked too much like Harry Potter’s Voldemort.

Keaghlan and Melissa had Cleo De Nile. She was part mummy. They didn’t want to emphasize bandages, and wanted to create a full face piece. Mr. Westmore told them they had to have great edges for the face piece to work. When they put it on the model, it ended looking like a “bad drag queen makeup”, so during last looks, they took it off and did a beauty makeup. I didn’t like the paint as it also looked muddy. The group liked the subtle bandage details and the hieroglyphics.

Ben and Evan worked on Skelita Calaveras. They sculpted flat bone details to glue to the models’ arms and legs. She turned out beautifully with Natasha loving all the details. The group thought she stayed true to the character and they would definitely see a live action movie with her in it. They also loved how glam she looked and the shading done on the bones.

Cig and George got Lagoona Blue. The wanted to go all out and create gills, scales and fins on her. The guys hadn’t done a beauty make up in years if at all, but they had nothing to fear. After practicing on each other, they knocked it out of the park with metallic accents and a beautiful face sculpt. Natasha felt they captured the essence of the character and pushed her to another level. The fans loved the metallic touches and the overall fresh version of the doll.

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The team that won immunity was Cig and George!! Everyone loved that they had fun with the character and pushed her to a new level. The was a bonus prize as well: they would get a prize pack from Mattel, Monster High products and highlighted on Mattel’s social media network. I’m glad they won!

Face Off Season 10 Episode 10: Cyclops!

Published March 18, 2016 by rmpixie

This week, the remaining 5 artists headed back to the lab to find McKenzie with a selection of gruesome, otherworldly eyeballs in apothecary jars.  They had to create their own Cyclops character in the tradition of other Greek mythological creatures like the Kraken and Medusa.  They were all really excited for this Focus Challenge, and would be working with models 6’4 to 7 feet tall for that extra special cyclopean terror.  Their guest judge on the reveal stage would be Douglas Smith who played Tyson the Cyclops in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Mel got a more human-looking eyeball and decided to create a human/husky hybrid crossbred for the military.  She had trouble with the eye placement and tried to make it look natural.  Mr. Westmore suggested she veer away from the dog idea, since it could look silly.  He told her to work on the jowls more, and she came up with a more alien look.  She also attempted to create a Mohawk with a bald cap ala Dick Smith and Taxi Driver.  It didn’t quite work, and the eye looked googly.  She tried putting a gloss on the paint job for more dimension, but in her words, it was a “disaster”.  The judges laughed when they saw the character, but it wasn’t supposed to be funny.  There were too many strange shapes for them, and they didn’t like the jowls.  Glenn thought there were too many ideas going on, Neville thought it was silly, but Douglas thought it was an interesting idea.  She was in bottom looks.

Rob picked a brilliant blue eye with a pupil that made him think of an aquatic creature.  He created a cyclops that forged Poseidon’s trident.  Rob used an eye form and screws to create a permanent socket for the eye in the mold.  All the artists used this technique for their creations.  He decided to move the eye to the mouth area,  but realized that it didn’t work.  He had to start over 3 hours into the challenge, and was panicked.  Mr. Westmore suggested he make the mouth bigger and widen the eye.  There was also trouble with Rob seeing the symmetry in the makeup, so Yvonne helped him.  He felt pressured because he’s been in top looks so often he had to maintain his standing.  He was the last to go into the mold room, and Melissa was good enough to help him get the clay out of his mold.  His paint job involved a bright yellow and blue, which he liked, in fact, it was his favourite paint job so far.  He added quills that struggled to stay put, but the final makeup was really great.  Douglas thought the character looked regal and scary at the same time, and the judges loved the colour combo.  Neville thought there was a strong silhouette, form and graphics in the makeup, and this put Rob in top looks.

Walter picked a pink and purple eye.  His son of Hades would be a demigod.  He created wrinkles around the eye so the model could see, but that would come back to haunt him later.  Mr. Westmore suggested a lavender skin tone, and Walter added quills as well to his makeup.  He was first in the mold room, and practiced his painting techniques to get ahead of the game, but the bald cap wouldn’t stay down.  He also had an issue matching the body paint with the face, and took a risk because this was a Focus Challenge for the face, so he wasted time with the body painting.  The judges thought the wrinkles didn’t make sense, and they saw the lifting bald cap.  They thought it was a good attempt, but some anatomical issues made the eye look wrong.  He would be in bottom looks.

Melissa picked a reptilian eye.  She went with a reptilian monster warrior, using the eyelash viper as a reference.  She had always wanted to do a cyclops and a reptile makeup, so she naturally combined the two.  Mr. Westmore told her to keep the base coat of her paint job lighter so you could see all the detail of her sculpting.  She used yellows and greens to lighten up the paint, and also pulled from the reticulated python for a pattern.  She did an incredible job!  The judges were wowed by all the work she did in such little time.  Doug loved the hole detailing on the sides of the character’s face, and Glenn thought the melding of birds and reptile for the challenge was brilliant.  Ve thought it was beyond complex, and with these rave reviews, Melissa was in top looks.

Yvonne’s eye was purple, white and red, so she decided to go a more traditional route for her cyclops.  He was Satan’s blacksmith, and he would have classic devil horns.  Rob had to help her out with the design of the browbone.  She wasn’t pleased with the sculpt but had to move on to sculpting because she was running out of time.  She used classic Devil red and black for her paint job.  The eyelid drooped too much, but she had zero time to address it.  On the reveal stage, the judges thought the colours were monotone, and the horns contrived.  Douglas like that the makeup had full mobility of the mouth as an actor, and Ve thought it was a clean makeup with nice edges.  She was safe.

 

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The winner this week was Melissa for her incredibly detailed, set-ready work.  The person going home was Mel.  Her makeup didn’t come together BUT the judges decided to use the one-time immunity on her!! She was super grateful, and was warned to make it count.  She could now join the ranks of the other stressed-out artists as they make their way to the finale.

 

Mad Monster Party: The Best Halloween Ticket in Town

Published October 31, 2015 by rmpixie

Mad Monster Party

Mad Monster Party (1967, 1 hr., 35 mins.)

 

After searching for a party to attend this Halloween, I finally found the ultimate shin-dig, but I’m going back, way back, to a classic movie that some of you may remember.

When I was a kid, for several years in a row, Mad Monster Party aired on Halloween night, and I would always watch it as I got ready for trick or treating. Putting on my costume, I would giggle as Baron Von Frankenstein held court with his monster dinner guests, ready to reveal his crazy plans.  Directed by the king of animated specials Jules Bass, this “Animagic” feat is a heap of silly but I still marveled at the skill needed to create this wacky stop-motion film.

Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has completed his ultimate goal and is retiring. After mastering the secret to creation with his monster and his mate, he has now created a deadly elixir and would like to share the news with his monster colleagues and announce his successor.  He decides to throw a dinner party at his Isle of Evil where he’ll reveal his destructive formula and his human nephew, the allergy-ridden pharmacist Felix Flankin, as the new head of the World Wide Organization of Monsters.  Francesca (Gale Garnett) his secretary is not pleased with his choice, and when his ghoulish guests arrive, they are also upset a human will be taking over.  After a night of eating, dancing and rough-housing, everyone plots to get rid of Felix, and devilish double crossings throw all plans into chaos.

This is some silly fun that fills the nostalgia void. The characterizations of classic monsters such as Dracula, the Hunchback, and the Werewolf are beyond cute, and the relentless one-liners they spew are ridiculous.  Silly gag after silly gag, my favourite being the Baron’s assistant Yetch and his detachable head, make you chuckle, and the musical numbers are really clever, not to mention all the little horror details like the zombie bellhops and a skeleton band that pepper this old-school gem.

A cast of four was all it took to bring the monsters to life. Along with Boris Karloff, the always hilarious Phyllis Diller played the monster’s mate, Gale Garnett husky tones voiced the sultry Francesca, and veteran voice actor and impersonator Allen Swift mastered the rest of the characters, adding unique personalities such as Peter Lorre (Yetch), and Jimmy Stewart (Felix) to each horror icon.  Pay attention to the film’s theme sung by Ethel Ennis as well.  It’s a jazzy treat sung in a James Bond style.  This is entertainment through and through, and a must-have for any horror collector.

Mad Monster Party is a creature caper that will have you laughing in spite of yourself. It’s campy, sometimes sophisticated, but most importantly, a joy to watch every Halloween.

Have a safe and happy Halloween my creepy peeps!!

 

My favourite number in the movie.  The monsters are so cute!!

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