Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Nuclear Man (story)

The Nuclear Man
        I have no idea what I’m doing. I should do, being the former apprentice of a world-renowned nuclear physicist - surely he picked me for a reason - but something tells me this is a situation no scientist ever really prepares for.
        First there was that accident at STAR Labs, with the particle accelerator, and then again with Dr Stein...I think I’m hexed. The universe can prove me wrong by letting Doc be alive, somewhere, somehow, though I know the chances are slim.
        Right now, it’s hard to focus. As if trying to control atomic superpowers wasn’t difficult enough on it’s own, I have to do it with Emily stuck in my head. Our head. Whatever.

(Click for detail)

        I should probably explain. After the particle accelerator malfunctioned, I went looking for Dr Martin Stein, to see if he could help me understand these new ‘fire’ powers I’d developed. He called me a meta-human, and it turned out not be fire at all - I was literally making atomic energy, like a living nuclear reactor. Dr Stein’s lab was built right on top of one, and he was trying to tap something called a ‘firestorm matrix’ when a hired gun tried to steal his work. Thank God the whole facility didn’t go up, but whatever Stein was working on blasted him, his assistant Emily Sung and me. Something impossible happened; my powers saved me and Emily, who was standing next to me, but Stein was gone. And when I say Emily and I were ‘saved’, I mean we were...fused.
        I’m not even kidding. We’re currently sharing a superpowered body (my handsome body, to be exact) and while I control the arms and legs, Emily’s the brain. We’ve only just begun to see what this body can do, but already we’ve been able to transmute metals. How sick is that! It’s mainly Em’s work - I direct the power, she does the calculations, remembers formulas, blah blah important stuff.
        But right this moment, I have no idea what I’m doing. Em’s gone silent and this headcase in a hood just did something impossible too; he threw out a miniature black hole. You can’t transmute a black hole! There’s all this energy ‘round my hands, and I’ve got no clue how to use it.
        Unless I go for the guy. I might be able to throw some of this energy, like a fireball.
        I aim through the black hole, which has started to weaken, directing my atomic fire towards the perp. I just want to knock him down, not damage (or kill).

(Click for detail)

A vicious jet of atomic energy fizzes through the air, ignoring the now-fading black hole’s pull and tearing a hole through the other guy’s outstretched hand.
        Ronnie! Careful!
        Oh now Emily chooses to resurface.
        The black hole is completely gone, as is Headcase’s hand; there’s a smouldering stump in its place. Oh my god, I did that. Thankfully, the wound’s cauterised, but I still just took a guy’s hand off.
        What were you thinking?
        Shut up, Em.
        Sirens. I need to go. The police will take care of his wound, but if he uses his powers on them...
        Oh man. I. Have. No. Idea. What. I’m. Doing.

To be continued?

So for anyone not too familiar with their DC heroes, this is Firestorm. I wanted to do something with him after seeing this week's episode of The Flash and thought a photomanip was the best way to go. The second image and the story was me getting a bit carried away. Officially speaking, this does tie into Countdown to Justice, though I have no idea how as I only did this as a spur-of-the-moment project yesterday. Nonetheless, I hope you've enjoyed this story!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Istari Adventures: Back In My Day

Back to Middle-earth for my latest brickfilm. What did Gandalf get up to in his youth?


This video was technically a long time in the making. I first had the idea for it this time last year, and wanted to make a Hobbit brickfilm in time for the release of The Desolation of Smaug. I put it aside because I had no orc minifigures at the time and went to work on An Istari Halloween, but that failed and I was left without any Middle-earth mischief for a while. Sometime later I found 79014 Dol Guldur Battle and 79011 Dol Guldur Ambush at supermassive discounts, then in July I finally scripted the thing...and filmed it last week. Procrastinating seems to be strong in this one, mmmmm.

I also really wanted an excuse to use that Bilbo minifig. It was an exclusive with the pre-order of the LEGO Hobbit video game, so I thought I'd missed my chance of getting it, and then found a bundle at GAME with the minifig and a DLC, for half price! I won't be able to play it until I go home for the Christmas holidays, since I couldn't bring my PS3 to uni, but I've already got some use out of that minifigure.

"By the power of Grayskull!"

The fight scene was a lot of fun to do. Parts of it are in homage to Fancy Pants' amazing LEGO The Force Unleashed brickfilm, which you need to go and watch right after you've finished reading this blog post. I tried grading it a greenish tint, to make it feel more like how Dol Guldur appears in the films, and between that and the very dark lighting I think I got the tone right. Some of the effects are a bit dodgy, though. Next time I do lightning, I shall definitely be spending some time getting to be more familiar with After Effects' 'advanced lightning' function. It came out looking okay, but not amazing.

There's not much more to say about this brickfilm. It's just another short bit of lighthearted fun, and I hope I get around to making another episode of Istari Adventures (I have the lines collected for three more, though I have no idea which order or when I'm going to film them). Thanks again to Jorden Davis for voicing Bilbo, and I hope you enjoyed the video!

I leave you with a cut frame, of another hobbit going about his daily hobbit chores.

"Are those pumpkins or carrots?"

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Green (BRAWL 2014 entry)

After a week of work, it's done!

And, as with many of my recent animations, here is some added canon I whipped up. Note that this is meant to enhance the film, but you don't need to read this to understand it, nor does it serve as an explanation of my somewhat shaky plot.

The Crystal Conspiracy: When the Torang Prime mine was first opened, fifty years ago, a few green crystals were found in a volcanic area on the planet’s surface. Tests revealed that a green crystal would produce cleaner, longer-lasting energy than the same amount in orange crystals, and so the company director Sorven Crick (direct descendent Hareton Crick, then president of Octan and nicknamed ‘President Business’) organised a cover-up. The green crystals were hidden, all data pertaining to them was destroyed, and scans of the upper layers of the planet were done to ensure that the robot miners were only 13% or less likely to find them. This was intended to keep consumers buying more of the orange crystals, rather than buying the more efficient green in smaller quantities. 

Following Sorven Crick’s death twenty years ago, all knowledge of the cover-up and the purpose for the specified ‘mining zones’ passed out of memory, and so the company began digging across previously-unexplored parts of the planet. By this time, the upper layers of the surface in which the robots had been mining had been mostly eroded away, and so the rediscovery of the green crystals was inevitable.

Torang Prime: Far out in the Dark Reaches, Torang Prime is the largest planet in a vast system, orbiting a grey sun. As such, there is no organic life on Torang Prime or any other planets in the Torangi system, save for the mining operation that has come to this world. It is similar to what scientist descibe as a ‘canonball world’, where intense pressure has crushed the planet’s surface into diamonds (only on Torang Prime, much of the world’s surface has been crushed into orange crystals instead).

So as not to damage the structural integrity of Torang Prime (as a rival corporation did on the planet Xamathamax, which exploded just minutes before the miners reached the planet’s core), the company planned a hundred year tenure on the planet, which would ensure that the planet would not be damaged or stripped totally bare. Even with the discovery of the green crystals, and increased production in previously unexplored ‘zones’, the company is predicted to fall short of their Maximum Mining Gain by 30%, a prediction which won current company director Orvin Klank the Miner’s Guild Environmental Award. This tenure ends in thirty years.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Vampire Owls

New animation! Party time!


Vampire Owls isn't anything special. I've wanted to do a vampire-based animation for a while now - and this won't be the last either - and I decided to make it in my revision breaks over the last couple of weeks. Oh yeah, I'm in the middle of my exam period right now. Which isn't fun. At all.

As with pretty much all of my animations, there are some problems with Vampire Owls. My light flicker issue has returned, and though I could remove the worst of it in After Effects, it's still visible now and then. I hope that doesn't detract from the video too much.

And now, for your reading pleasure, here is some additional canon about the world of the vampires that this video is set in. This is also BrickFilm Cinematic Universe material too, so expect the vampires to go genre-bending some time soon, though I'm saving those projects until well after exams have finished.

A relatively young vampire from the south of Italy, Naldo’s greatest regret is losing his accent. The problem was, it used to be so thick that nobody could understand him! Not good, especially if you’re supposed to be threatening mortals. Naldo spends a lot of time outside the vampire realm, in the human world, working with mortal criminals. He is always on the lookout for a new crimelord he can possess. Some of the other members of the Vampire Council believe he is trying to build an army, but that is mere speculation.

Postal Vampire
Nobody knows the Postal Vampire’s real name, and he is as old as the postal tower he inhabits. Though his menagerie of delivery creatures is mostly befitting of vampires - bats and werebats, blackheart dragons and insects - he occasionally hires other creatures, much to his compatriots’ horror. His latest aquisition is Targarioth the Black, a snowy owl who is about as intimidating as a marshmallow. Though he claims that “her speedy of delivery is unparalleled”, the residents of Vampire Town have yet to be convinced.

Blackheart Dragons
Created by dark magic from a dragon egg, beetles’ wings and a Magnus Gem, blackheart dragons are small but fast, agile, and every bit as malicious towards the living as a vampire could want them to be. They are just the right size to carry a single minifigure, have silky black hides and insect wings, and can spit balls of evil, purple lightning from their mouths. Like their vampire masters they are undead, and must feed on animal blood once every two months to survive. They are named after the creator of the first of their kind, an ancient Spanish vampire called Lord Blackheart, who was slain when he dropped a galleon in a ray of sunlight and foolishly bent to pick it up.

That's all for now. I'm going to do a proper post on Avengers Tower soon, and explain a few things about that, and in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this animation!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Why I Love Mayan Mythology (explained)

When I saw that the latest Animation Challenge on was to 'kick a ball', a Mayan myth immediately sprung to mind and, with the deadline only a day away, I figured it was worth taking a few hours out of my revision (*cough* *cough*) to turn this relatively mundane challenge into something odd. I created something odd indeed.

I released this with the description "If you don't know Mayan mythology, this probably won't make sense. If you know Mayan mythology, this probably won't make sense. Don't worry - the gods give Hunahpu a replacement head later, and then he steals the real one back. Oh, and that bat guy is a vampire god." While I made this video with the intention of being hard to understand, I thought I'd do a quick run-through of what this myth actually is.

Soooooo long story short, in Mayan myth there were these two heroes called Hunahpu and Xbalanque (and no, I can't pronounce them). They were playing football (or the Mayan equivalent) in their favourite ball court when the underworld gods - the Lords of Xibalba - got annoyed by the racket. They invited the twins to play in the underworld ball court, which was a ruse and designed to kill the twins. However, Hunahpu and Xbalanque (and I still can't pronounce their names) were smart enough to avoid the traps, and so got sent through a series of houses, which were again filled with traps.

The last house was the Bat House, home to Camazotz the vampire god (the bat guy with the black armour in the animation). To avoid the deadly bats that were flying around the house, the twins stuffed themselves inside their blowguns and waited it out until morning. Eventually, Hunahpu made the mistake of popping his head out of his blowgun to see if the sun was up, and his head was snatched off by a bat and taken to Camazotz. What happened next? Well, to add insult to injury, Hunahpu took part in another ball game with the Xibalbans, only this time with his head as the football!

Don't worry, the gods weren't totally evil - they shaped him a replacement head and planned to give it to him as an early birthday present. Xbalanque, being craftier than they, decided enough was enough and stole back Hunahpu's real head and put it back onto his brother's body.

After that long and hopefully-not-boring explanation, here endeth the lesson.

(Not the interior design you'd expect from the Vampire God.)

Avengers Tower episode 2 is finished and should be up on BrickUltra's channel some time this week, and when it is, it'll get posted here too. As for more mythology animations...we'll have to wait and see. Next time, it'd be more than a quick animation meant to seem like it has no narrative XD

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Amazing Spider-man 2 (review) *SPOILERS*

Time for another review! This week, I'm talking about The Amazing Spider-man 2.
I took a look back at some of my old blog posts and realised that my movie reviews are a bit lacking. From now on, they're going to be veeeery different and hugely spoileriffic, hence the massive spoiler tag in the title.

Aaaaaanyway, onto the review. Considering what this new, rebooted franchise has developed into, I think it's worth going over a little backstory.

The Amazing Spider-man came out two years ago (my, they've gone quickly) and as much as I enjoyed it, it was completely unnecessary. Yes, I'm all for another superhero movie, but it was just Sony flailing around, trying to hold onto Spidey's film rights. It had some good character development regarding Peter, Gwen, Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and although the CGI Lizard was fantastic (notice how I avoided saying amazing there, that would be too punny too soon in the review) he wasn't a memorable villain. The film freshened up decade-old ground regarding Pete's transformation into Spider-man, and sat snugly in the box office despite a lot of cynicism from Marvel fans and cinemagoers alike.

It was a standard superhero movie. Enjoyable, and perhaps slightly above average in quality, but nothing special. Still, I was looking forward to the sequel, and the reumours that surfaced about seeing Green Goblin onscreen again were fairly enticing.

Then the trailer for the sequel dropped. My jaw went with it. Jamie Foxx as Electro? And the guy from Chronicle's in it too? Is that Chris Cooper on the cast list? Is Emma Stone wearing the clothes Gwen Stacy died in? Hot off the back of all of this, December 2013 brought more Spidey news: as well as third and fourth installments, we would be getting a Sinister Six movie and, most intriguing of all...Venom. As in a movie about Venom. The anti-Spider-man, and possibly the most popular Spider-man villain of all time (please don't quote me on that). Fans have waited for a Venom movie for a long time, but it looks like one may finally be out of production purgatory.
Finally, last week, I saw the film, and it met most of my expectations. Aside from an underwhelming and farcical backstory for Max Dillon/Electro which bordered on absurd, and an underdeveloped subplot regarding the creation of the Sinister Six, The Amazing Spider-man 2 delivered everything that it promised: high-octane action, the continued development of Pete and Gwen's 'complicated' relationship, the return of Spider-man's notorious banter, and a springboard for potential spin-offs (all of which I welcome with open arms). Free of the need to establish Peter Parker's character, as the first installment did, The Amazing Spider-man 2 swung into new territory, and the franchise is so much the better for it.
I'll get my two gripes out of the way quickly. First off, Max Dillon was stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. He meets Spider-man once, then becomes a bit of a nut and starts pretending that Spidey's his best friend. He plasters his wall with pictures of the web-slinger. He even make-believes that his birthday cake was left by Spider-man. Contrast that to the confident, slick, gravelley-voiced Electro that we get after the Times Square sequence...I'm not sure it works. It's not as well-crafted a 'villain's journey' as Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus in Spider-man 2 (back in the mists of time, in 2004, which is an age in cinematic terms) and doesn't feel cohesive. It's like watching two separate characters. The other gripe was with Harry's transformation into the Green Goblin. There's very little development, and although it fills its purpose well, you can't help feeling that there should be more to it.

What really set the film apart was the chemistry between Pete and Gwen. No surprises, since Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a couple in real life; that spark comes across so strongly in the film that you start to feel like a third wheel. Therein lies The Amazing Spider-man 2's greatest success: it creates lovable, believable characters, Max Dillon excluded. Pete, Gwen, Aunt May, even Harry Osborn (to an extent) seem like they could be real.

So it's heartbreaking when Gwen Stacy dies.
(you were warned about spoilers)

I'm going to talk about that in a separate post, since the death of Gwen Stacy is...well,  just wait for the article. Instead, I'll round this off by talking about what I consider to be the best sequence in the film, which is the Times Square sequence. Max, having woken up from his eel-related accident blue and electrically-charged, wanders into Times Square, hungry for more electricity. He's scared, terrified of himself and his new abilities, and just as frightened of the police, who do their utmost to subdue him but to no avail. Spider-man arrives on the scene to talk him down, and it goes well until a pesky sniper sees his moment.

There are several aspects of this scene which make it so memorable. Firstly, we see what makes Spider-man more of an individual than most other superheroes: he takes the time to know the people he saves, to truly be their "friendly neighbourhood Spider-man". He repeatedly calls Max his "buddy" and creates a sense of friendship to try to calm him, and it actually works for a good long time. Had it been Superman, he would no doubt have solved the problem by levelling a block on Electro's head.

Speaking of Man of Steel, it's important to note just how many times Spider-man puts saving civilians before fighting the bad guy. He stops a group of pedestrians getting electrocuted by a Max-charged handrail, and saves an old man and a cop from being hit by the same car, thrown twice, and all of that's just in one scene. "Friendly neighbourhood Spider-man" is definitely ringing true now.

So, that's my opinion on why The Amazing Spider-man 2 was, wait for it, amazing. Sure, it had its flaws, but so do plenty of Oscar-winning films. As far as superhero movies go, The Amazing Spider-man 2 is a fine example, and probably one of the best Spider-man movies to date. Honestly, I'd say it's joint-first with the original Spider-man 2. Best of all, there's plenty more to look forward to.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 is currently in cinemas worldwide, unless you're in the USA, in which case you have to wait until May 2nd. Not long, my friends. Not long.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

BFCU Canon: Lavaloga

This post is the beginning of a series of nuggets of canon for the BrickFilm Cinematic Universe, which anyone is free to add to or use for BFCU films. Starting this series is some canon based on the island seen at the end of La Conquista, an island I will now reveal is called Lavaloga.


(Pictured: Chief Cherufe, La Conquista)

The island, off the coast of South America, that is home to the cherufe - huge lava monsters, made of, uh, lava. The cherufe are big but also big-hearted, and speak a broken, simplified form of Spanish. They do not age or die - if one is ‘killed’, they will quickly reform in the heart of the island’s biggest volcano: Monte Fumar (‘mount smoke’). There are two other volcanoes, and all three are in the centre of Lavaloga. Around them is a series of lava fields and rivers, and (strangely) beyond that is a jungle and the sandy shoreline.

Chief Cherufe
One of the oldest cherufe, Chief Cherufe is not actually the chief anymore (even though everyone, himself included, calls him that). His mind is fragile, and he often wanders the island, mainly the shores, talking to animals or humming old tunes, leaving one of the younger cherufe to take charge. Occasionally his frail body breaks apart and he won’t be seen for weeks, but he reforms eventually and carries on wandering around.

A young cherufe who likes nothing better than to sit in a nice lava pit and wait for the pressure to shoot him high up over the island. He’s quite small for a cherufe, only a few bricks over minifigure height, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to prove his worth to the other cherufe.

El Consejero
The cherufe who normally steps in when Chief Cherufe goes walkabouts, El Consejero (the counsellor) may just be a nickname, but he’s been guiding the other cherufe for so long that everyone’s forgotten his real name! He acts as a shoulder to lean on, a friend to all, especially those in need, and is good at reading the emotions of others.

That's all for now - I hope you've enjoyed these extra bits of canon for La Conquista, and look forward to more in the near future.

Reactions to The LEGO Movie

I saw The LEGO Movie earlier this week and decided I had to do some kind of homage to it. I mean, for brickfilmers at least it's a huge event, and not something to let pass without a big fuss. This is the first of what may be a few celebrations of The LEGO Movie; here, we ask the LEGO public what they thought of the movie (and show you a few other little bits of fun).

The Taco Tuesday guys may become regulars in my animations...thoughts?

The LEGO Movie - review
I absolutely loved it (but then again, I would, wouldn't I?). As a film in itself it was hilarious, well-written, heartwarming, and subversive unlike anything you expect to see in a kids movie. Technically speaking the film was also marvellous: the visual aesthetics (all the hyper-detailed bricks, the fact everything was made of LEGO) were stunning, and...well, I don't want to spoil that bit. There're a couple of brilliant plot twists, but one in particular makes this film awesome. As a brickfilmer, I was speechless. The movie is designed to look at least in part like it's stop-motion (and the directors say that some of it actually is) and there are even some references to actual brickfilms (most notably a reference to The Magic Portal, purported to be the first brickfilm).

Overall, this is a cracking film (see the video above) and worth a watch for just about everyone. I can't think of any major gripes, so I'm going to give this an 8.5/10.

That's it for now. Remember to like, share and subscribe!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

La Conquista

An age old question is answered: who are the better explorers? The conquistadors or the vikings?

This turned out almost as well as I'd hoped. There's a bump or two, some light flicker and because of software issues, a couple of perfectly smooth shots have come out choppy, but overall I'm happy with this.

Behind the scenes
Vikings didn't really have horned helmets, but I wasn't going for realism here. Aside from the scared viking at the end (and the face of the green viking) they're the generic minifigures from the Vikings theme.

The big lava monster was called Chief Cherufe in the script. A 'cherufe' is a Chilean, humanoid lava giant. They were typically evil, demanding young girls to be sacrificed to them, and were originally conceived as an explanation for volcanic eruptions.

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