Joker – Movie Review (spoilers)

I recently joker-poster-main2went to see the new DC film ‘Joker’ and wanted to share my thoughts. I won’t keep this spoiler free as the movie has been out for a few weeks and if anyone reading this really wanted to see it they would have by now. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a man down on his luck dealing with some form of mental illness that he is attempting to treat. Throughout the film he gets mugged, which his boss doesn’t believe so he gets fired. He loses his assistance for therapy and his multiple medications. Basically most of the film shows a man spiraling out of control with no one to help him, as he is even taking care of his mother, who also seems to suffer from some delusions. Arthur ends up killing a few people on a subway which spawns a movement of the lower class protesting against the upper class. He then kills someone who wronged him as well which at this point he’s decided who he is. I don’t want to forget of course that he also wants to become a standup comedian throughout the film, but he’s no good at it. His illness makes it difficult for him to understand what most people find funny, as well as he struggles with laughing throughout the film at unusual times. When he gets on a stage he bombs his set, but ultimately it gets him invited to the Gotham equivalent of The Tonight Show, because he was so bad. This is where he dons the makeup, says to call him Joker, and ends up giving a good speech about different opinions of what’s funny, as well as admitting on camera he killed those men, but they don’t fully understand some of what he’s talking about because they didn’t experience everything that we did with him. He ends up killing the host, gets arrested, then while in a cop car get hit by a truck and he’s out again all while Gotham society has decided to take to the streets rioting in Joker’s name.

This is where I think most people have had problems with the film. Sure it’s dark, gritty, violent, we’ve had those films before. This movie however takes the main character who by a mixture of not his fault and some purely his fault is really just a loser of a person. The only thing he’s good at is causing chaos, so that’s sort of where he finds himself. He’s not a hero, he’s not someone I want to root for, I didn’t care at that point whether he escaped, or got killed. He ended up inciting riots and almost encouraging a war of the wage gap. While his points of how the wealthy couldn’t care less about the poor may be true, the movie is almost advocating that violence may be the only answer. For that reason I can’t say I loved this movie, it also didn’t feel like the Joker I grew up with.

I prefer the Joker to be someone that it doesn’t matter whether he grew up wealthy or poor, he just simply enjoys chaos and mayhem. That’s why he’s dangerous, because he’s not after your money, your love, or fame. He’s just after having the most fun he can at anyone’s expense. The Dark Knight had it almost right, he does want to see the world burn, but not because he hates it or is upset at how it’s treated him. He wants to burn the world down just to see if he can.

Reproduction Artwork

As I said in a past blog post I’m going to be writing some posts about showing some of my past artwork. I’m trying to mix it up by showing different categories of work I have done and from different periods of my life. This time I thought I would share what I used to do in high school before I went to Nossi College of Art. When I was a kid I always drew what I saw, so if I had a toy I liked I would try drawing that, I would also draw our pets, furniture, and cartoon characters I saw on TV. Pretty much anything I had a good reference for I would try. Doing this from such a young age I feel gave me the ability to reproduce almost anything which came in handy when around my other artist friends because some of them were naturally talented at original art but couldn’t reproduce anything. This of course is all pencil/pen drawing, nothing like paint, water color or media that was more advanced, don’t forget we’re talking about when I was still a kid. I have distinct memories of being in church sitting on the floor and trying to draw a Ghostbusters mummy action figure I had and the drawing turning out fairly accurate. I remember staring at my dog to get his face right. I stared for hours at pictures and other drawings meticulously analyzing every detail so I would get my picture right. It was just something I did and I believe is how I naturally trained myself into becoming an artist, which of course led into many other artistic areas.

Below I’ve included a few drawings I managed to hang on to that range from my freshman year in high school to before I went to Nossi. I would remind you though to keep in mind none of these pictures are traced. When I said I would reproduce almost anything I meant purely looking at the object/image and drawing freehand from what I saw. The He-man picture I drew is actually the only He-man picture I remember drawing my entire life, which is really funny considering how much of a He-man Fan-boy I am. The Thundercat image are ones I drew in my freshman year when I had a rediscovered my fascination with Thundercats because they had JUST been put back on TV. There are a few Dragonball Z characters as well that were a part of my early days learning to draw a bit of anime/manga style which I’ll talk about more in another blog post. Then lastly there are a couple more random ones of the wrestler Sting that I decided to draw and a pair of hands I really liked from the cover of a music album.

To wrap this post up I will say I just about don’t draw anymore due to my job as a Graphic Designer. I also think it’s due to all of my time now is devoted to work, wife, son, house work, and friends. What little tiny bit of my time I get I try to play a video game here and there so drawing has taken a backseat to everything else unfortunately. Hopefully when my son gets older we’ll sit and draw some together and maybe I will rediscover my passion for drawing.

My Star Wars Galaxies Youtube Series

Most people that know me already know how much of a nerd I can be, so if you read this prepare for a bit of geek speak. Back in 2003 a game came out right around or before the hugely popular World of Warcraft called Star Wars Galaxies. It was an amazing online multiplayer game based on the Star Wars franchise. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not but I have a co-worker who was into it and he got me hooked. Long story short I played this game from 2003-2011. I played the game off and on and became among the most knowledgeable people in the game as well as one of the wealthiest players with the most in-game credits. My peak had me at over 600 million credits, that didn’t count all the items I had in game which when I added up the value once was well over 1.5 billion credits. I had three characters that I played throughout my time. My blue skinned, short, rodian named Kargo, who was an expert crafter/reverse engineer. My He-man and the Masters of the Universe clone and beast master named ‘He-man’, who I would walk around in game dressed as He-man and would roleplay to everyone as if I was that character in Star Wars. Then lastly my primary character that I named Charles’ and later renamed to Chuckster, who was an amazing Evil Sith Lord, he even got a small following of being known as one of the few Jedi on my server who could solo many missions and was an amazing tank for a group. If you are reading this and know of this game then it might interest you to know that Charles’/Chuskter had completed 4 holocrons, the entire aurillian village, and completed most of the game’s final Heroics.

Around 2008 I started toying with the idea of making a video series for Youtube about Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) but couldn’t decide if I wanted to make a tutorial series or just a let’s play series or recording myself doing some of the toughest things in game. I finally decided that due to how much time I spent in game helping people that I would be best at doing a how to/tutorial series. So I came up with “How to Play SWG”. I did over 30 videos of different topics in game from common knowledge to some of the very complex pieces that not many people were very good at. My specialty in game had become Reverse-engineering which started spreading in game by simply word of mouth. Around 2009 I started getting a feeling from articles I read and how the game was progressing that SWG could possibly be shutdown soon. That was when I decided to make most of my videos because I felt otherwise I would have nothing else to remember this game from as well as give others something to look at and remember what they could do in such a game. So in a sense this was sort of my farewell to a beloved game that I had shared so many years with. I greatly enjoyed SWG, I miss the connections I made with other players, and yes even at times the confidence a game can give you when you become a top player. Goodbye SWG you were fun while you lasted.

Replacing my PS3

I have been a gamer nearly all my life. For me it started way back with the Atari, I still remember bringing it over to a couple of different friends houses and playing some of the worst looking games ever and thinking it was awesome. I’ve gone through system after system, from Nintendo to Sega to Sony. However I’ve never had a system just completely fail on me and break. That is, until the day my Playstation 3 decided to flash it’s yellow light and go into a coma. My PS3 was not your typical PS3, mine was a rare 60gb system that had a short factory run made by Sony that had the actual PS2 chip inside. This was rare because all the newer systems were not truly backwards compatible. Being backwards compatible means you can play PS1, PS2 and PS3 games all on the same system. I had intentionally purchased the rarer version from ebay because I knew down the road I’d stand a better chance at selling it when the day came to upgrade. However what I did not count on was the yellow light. This yellow light, otherwise known as the yellow light of death, is when the system’s cpu overheats and shuts down. The problem is when this shutdown occurs it is for good. I was shocked when this happened as I had taken extra care to protect my PS3 from getting too hot, but being the nerdy gamer that I am, I knew of a fix. A fix that was risky, but the rewards were great if it worked. The risk was that you had to completely take apart your system, all the way down to the cpu, however there were more than enough guides online explaining how to do this, so I felt confident. I purchased a couple of items that I needed and began to disassemble my beloved PS3. The pictures I have included can barely describe the mess that befell our kitchen table.

After nearly two hours of taking this apart, applying the new thermal paste to the cpu’s and putting everything back together, I hooked up the system to the TV and turned it on. Voila! It worked, for about a week! I then decided it was time to sell my system to someone, anyone, that would take the system and not bother me if it messed up on them. I wasn’t wanting to screw over someone but I also felt like I had been screwed over by having a system just fail on me. I lucked out and by chance found an ad in the paper of a game trading store offering $150 of in-store credit if you traded in an old PS3 and used that money towards purchasing a new system. How on earth could I pass this up? I then performed the second tear down of my former PS3 and put it back together, and yes another two hours later I turned it on and it worked again. I knew that I needed to take it to that store, allow them to test it, see that it worked and beyond that if it failed, that wasn’t my problem. I didn’t feel too bad for the company because they already get my business with games, and they are also known for screwing over a lot of people on buybacks. I also knew that if they figured out it was broken they could send it to a professional to have it fixed. They tested it and I was able to get a brand new PS3. The only problem was that it was a PS3 slim. It still did everything that my old system did minus the backwards compatibility, but it had minor differences.

As you can see it’s not the same system, it’s a little louder and it has two fewer USB ports on it. However it is a lot lighter weight and physically takes up less space. My old system actually had a 320GB hard drive in it that I had swapped out so when I traded it in I took that out and was able to put that into my new slim. So I have a PS3 Slim with a 320GB hard drive. All in all with coupons, and other discounts I got I spent $40 cash to replace my broken PS3 which is pretty darn good if you ask me. Let’s just hope this system lasts me till a new and better PS3 comes out.

Life Sketching – in class work

I thought since my blog here is directly tied to my professional portfolio I should start incorporating some of my artwork. Most of my best pieces are in my portfolio of course but I have other that I am also proud of and don’t want to completely forget about. During my time at Nossi (my art school) I was required to take a few sketching/drawing classes. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best, but I’d like to think some of what I did in school was nice enough to share.

The first two pieces we did in our sketching class were portrait shots of a famous person we admired and one self portrait. You’ll see in the first picture, Genndy Tartakovsky, who was a well known illustrator with Cartoon Network. He was responsible for Dexter’s Lab and also the creator of Samurai Jack. He is also the initial creator of the cartoon mini-series Star Wars Clone Wars before it was digital animation. In the second picture is of course myself, I think I rushed myself a bit because my face doesn’t have as good shading applied to it and there’s overall a lack of even lights, midtones, and darkness to it. Otherwise it was a fun piece, but not something I felt too proud of.

After those projects we went on to sketching live models. At the time I felt very fortunate to not have to sketch nude models but looking back I wish I had the opportunity because it is difficult to sketch a body when having to also sketch clothing. Clothing isn’t a natural part of the body so it tends to break the natural curves and that often makes it difficult. The rest of the images here are the decent sketches I have left over from that class. Most sketches are incomplete due to only having so much time with the models. We often didn’t have time to complete the entire sketch before moving on to a new pose. So enjoy looking at the women in swim wear that I had to sketch. Soon I hope to dig out my live sketches that I did at the mall because those had to be done in a matter of a few minutes that I had while a stranger sat there being sketched unknowingly. It was a part of a series of sketches we were required to do that counted as a large part of our grade.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Movie Review

I feel like I have to comment on this movie because I personally haven’t seen many people talk about it or say they saw it. I will start off by saying I am a fan of the original 5 movies that were made based on the Planet of the Apes story, yes I did say 5. While I enjoyed the attempt at a reboot back in 2001, it didn’t have enough in the story to deserve any sequels. This newest film, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” really gives a better explanation for the absolute origin of how the apes could have progressed to being the dominate species. If you’ve seen the classic films you may understand what I mean by that statement. This newest installment to the Planet of the Apes franchise totally deserves a sequel or two to expand the story and to tell parts that haven’t been told yet.

The main character throughout this film winds up not being any of the human characters. Caesar, the main Ape in the film, becomes the one you are interested in. You find yourself caring about how he is treated, what life will he live and by how much will he evolve beyond a normal ape. Caesar is an amazing character and is played well by Andy Serkis who you might recall also did the acting for Golem in Lord of the Rings. James Franco is of course good, and delivers a believable scientist who genuinely cares about Caesar. Franco’s character also has a father who has Alzheimer’s disease, which is the reason for the drug testing on apes in this film, who is well played by John Lithgow. David Oyelowo plays Franco’s boss and is focused on his drug making the company money. Tom Felton who you should remember from playing Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, plays a similarly mean spirited person keeping watch over the apes where Caesar is held captive for awhile. He’s the closest thing to a villain this movie has and he does it well.

These films have often touched on civil rights issues, however they never bring them up beyond that of human and animal relations. This film sort of does that as well because you eventually find Caesar in a place where many other normal apes are kept caged, sort of like a zoo. You feel for him being locked up because you know he’s more than an average ape and he realizes his situation. Without this experience however he would know nothing about his own kind and the results at the end of the movie would never happen. I hate to ruin much more of this film because I think it is a MUST see. The movie does have a little bit of a slow pace in the first half, but it totally works because during that time they are building the characters. The rest of the film is fun and exciting. You will find yourself cheering for the apes as they rampage through the city and outsmart the humans. There are also plenty of nods to the previous films and they fit in well. I highly recommend seeing this and you do not need to see the classics to enjoy this one.

Designing of the TSU Centennial Logo

A few months ago at work I was called by the assistant to the new President of TSU, Portia H. Shields, and was asked if I could begin working on a logo for Tennessee State University’s Centennial Celebration. I found out later that the President had actually asked for me specifically because she had seen my work, and after some unsuccessful student designs, she wanted me to give it a shot. After meeting with my department and coming up with many drafts we presented some to the President’s Assistant. She liked what I had come up with and we then began the tedious, but necessary, process of fine tuning the logo. After seeing my final version the President liked my ideas and eventually selected my design to be the official TSU Centennial Logo.

What this ultimately means is that this will be printed on billboards, flags, banners, posters, cards, flyers, brochures, made into a statue, put in emails, on the website, and many other things. I have already seen it on a billboard and some flags. This is the biggest thing I have done in my over five years of being a Graphic Designer and I’m very proud that my design was chosen. I’ve included at the bottom a look at the color and black/white version of the logo. I just wanted to share this with anyone who reads this blog and keep a record of my professional accomplishments. Thanks for reading.

The Green Lantern – Movie Review

This seems to be a film that many are having strong feelings about. Critics and those alike are not enjoying it, and saying it does many things wrong. Fans however are saying it’s great because of how close it is to it’s comic origins. While I think it’s up to each individual to see this film and make their own opinion, it is my opinion that this is a fun super hero origin film, that deserves a sequel.

I’m glad they started this movie off from the beginning by explaining what the Green Lanterns are, and then jumping into who Hal Jordan is. Throughout the film it is constantly explained to us that Hal is a man who has a great deal of fear in his life, we learn that it originates from the death of his father. A Green Lantern’s job is to be without fear, which as you can tell becomes the whole inner struggle that Hal Jordan deals with in this film. It’s not that he’s a wimp, but that he’s afraid of having something wonderful in his life, he’s afraid of committing to something and then having it taken away from him, like his father was. This is why he struggles with every relationship in his life. Hal Jordan’s career choice is as a test pilot who continues to fail at that as well. Just when everything seems to have gone wrong in his life he is chosen by the ring of a dieing Green Lantern to be its’ new wearer. Hal learns about the Green Lantern Corps and how to use his ring. Unfortunately we are given a short look at other Green Lanterns, however I suspect if there were to be a sequel that there would have to be a substantial increase in the other GL’s screen time. If you’re looking for a lot of space battles and scenes, just remember that this movie is focused on Hal Jordan’s origin and his beginnings of being a Green Lantern. Ultimately the villain in this film is a character called Parallax who feeds on fear. You could almost say it’s a monster but through it’s origins I wouldn’t call it that. There’s also a minor human villain, Hector Hammond, that provides some entertainment but gladly is not the main focus.

All in all I understand some of the arguments about this film. For me I wanted to see more of the Green Lantern Corps in action, more of Sinestro, and more space overall. I did at times think the scenes between Hal and the love interest lasted too long but if they hadn’t had those there would almost be no females in this film. Something that hurt this movie was having to deal with Hal’s origin because unlike Batman or Superman, your average consumer doesn’t know much about Green Lantern. I don’t understand the complaints about the suit, I thought it was amazing. I don’t understand the complaints about the action sequences because I really enjoyed them and they made sense. What this movie did extremely well however is that it gave us a true comic book styled movie that delivered everything I would expect out of a comic book. This movie offers action, drama, a little comedy, aliens, superheros, and CG out-the-wazoo. I don’t think I could ask for much more out of a summer movie, but I can’t fault others for simply not liking it. However this film will be on my shelf when it’s released! Personally if I had cast Hal Jordan my pick would have been and still would be Nathan Fillion. I’m actually not a Firefly fan but I think he has what it takes to embody the Hal Jordan character.

All Star Superman – Movie Review

Before I get into this review I should probably start off by saying I’m heavily biased towards anything Superman. I’m not a fanatic, and I really don’t collect anything Superman, but I am a really big fan, so much in fact that I’ve got the Superman seal tattooed on my right arm. I absolutely love that DC has been coming out with a lot of great cartoon movies based on DC superheroes, and that they aren’t aimed at children. The movies they’ve been making are well written, animated, and do justice to their heroes.

At first I was not aware that this particular film was based on a comic series as I’ve not been an avid reader of comics for some years now. If you are a classic Superman fan, then I think you will love this film. The basic plot from the beginning is that Lex Luthor arranged for an accident to cause Superman to be over exposed to the sun’s radiation. This causes his cells to be super charged, he is more powerful than ever but as a result the stress of the increased power is breaking down his body into pure energy. Superman discovering that he will soon die, decides to do a number of things he’s always wanted to, Superman’s Bucket List if you will. In this film we get to see a number of things such as, Super Lois, Superman’s star-eating pet, Kryptonian Astronauts, a glimpse into Superman’s future, and also cameos by super villains, Parasite and Metallo.

The voice acting in this film is great and is very similar to past Superman movies/cartoons. There are a few unusual characters in this film that I am sure are from the comic series that took place over a few years. You also get a look into the Fortress of Solitude, which is more like how the comic books portray it, with robots, rare weapons and animals, and more. Ultimately in the end it is a battle between Superman and Luthor. With Superman feeling much weaker than he ever has, he still must put a stop to Luthor’s plans. The end of this film really took me by surprise and I don’t want to ruin it but it really is great, and a wonderful ending for Superman.

I think one thing above all else in this film is the animation. Past cartoon movies about Superman have either been too simple or too complex for my taste. The style they chose to go with is realistic enough to not feel like a kid’s cartoon, I really enjoyed it. They have pulled this off with other cartoon movies such as Batman : Red Hood, and the recent Green Lantern cartoon film. If you aren’t aware of these DC films, you should keep your eyes open for them. You can find most of these including this one, on Netflix and sometimes at a Redbox machine.

Tron: Legacy – Movie Review

I have watched the original Tron movie a few times over the years but I don’t believe I ever watched it all the way from the start to end, although I’ve seen it all collectively. From the moment I heard they were making a sequal I knew I had to see it. Being a techy myself this kind of film just speaks to me. I had unfortunately heard a number of bad/mediocre reviews from online and friends so I was sort of set up to think I wouldn’t like this film. I did a little research before seeing it to check if it was one that would be worth seeing in 3D. I discovered that the real world portions were shot normally and anything else in the digital “Tron” world was shot in true 3D. So luckily there was no post-conversion garbage like most “3D” movies are.

So on to my true feelings about the film. I LIKED IT! The effects were great, they truly showed off how 3D should look. The acting may have left you wanting, but while watching it you have to keep in mind that this is a sequal to a movie made only two months before I was born. Saying that also remember that because the majority of the film doesn’t take place in the real world it has this feeling of a comic book type movie with an extreme good vs evil storyline. Those types of movies are meant to feel corny and have one liners. For me the whole time I was thinking this film is just a futuristic type of story like ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.’ The hero is basically transported from his world/time to a totally different place. This type of story has been done time and time again in books and movies and rarely gets old.

After learning from some past movies about how to tell a story and how not to tell a story, I remind myself often during action films like this to see if they truly kept the best action scene for the end of the movie. I feel they did this well because towards the end they took a new twist to what made the first Tron so memorable. They took the light-cycles to a new level by making light-planes that also do the whole light trailing behind you as you drive/fly. This made for some very cool air fights at the end. Overall I enjoyed the film, I would see it again, but I would recommend seeing this in theater while you can because it is amazing. It’s not as crazy or as ground breaking as something like Avatar, but at least it wasn’t completely predictable like Avatar was. I can’t wait for it to come out on disc and getting a Tron/Tron:Legacy movie combo pack all on Blu-ray.