I know right? Seeing the commercials on TV, I just dismissed it as another talking animal CGI crapfest in the vein of Marmaduke.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I might be so bold as to say, this film might mark the comeback of practical effects in mainstream Hollywood studios. Warner Bros. seems to have allowed animatronics to be used in Cats & Dogs 2 INSTEAD of CGI. A choice that seemed to please the director who must have gotten tired of watching a silver ball pass in front of a green screen. The animatronics are supervised by Dave Barclay and Lee Romaire Studios.
Granted, not all the animals are animatronic obviously, but the ones that are definitely look way more entertaining.
The infiltration has begun! Thanks to people like Lee Romaire Studios who still believe that practical effects can bring movie magic alive again.
Yes, I love to dwell in the past. I miss the days of air bladders, latex, hoses and hydraulics. I miss those effects of long ago that made a big mess on the set. Most of all, I miss the “ugh!” “Ahhh!” “Ewww!” and “Ha ha!!!” reaction people had to those scenes. Incredibly over the top, or just ridiculously messy, these scenes are by far better than anything CGI can come up with.
I present to you a top ten list of some of the most innovative pre-CGI transformation scenes in cinema history. Feel free to disagree or comment on your favorite, and if I left any out that you feel absolutely need to be on this list, too bad.
#10: Demons (1985) The Italians love their gore loud and messy. Maybe it goes back to the theater, where makeup and gestures had to carry to the whole amphitheater. They love to exaggerate and we love to watch.
#9: Demons 2 (1986) Trying to one up the scene from the first film, and doing a hell of a job at it.
#8: Clash of the Titans (1981) It’s not much. Hell, you don’t even get to see him, just his animated shadow. But that’s all it took to stay burned into my 8 year old impressionable mind.
#7: From Beyond (1986) You know when you mix Stuart Gordon with H.P. Lovecraft you are going to get some awesome goopy scenes. Kudos to Barbara Crampton for putting up with it.
#6: The Fly (1986) Absolutely gory, but somehow gut wrenchingly sad thanks to a great performance by Geena Davis.
#5: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) The only film on the list that’s not from the 80’s. It is a masterwork of editing and composition. A transformation so subtle and so surreal, my mind can barely comprehend it… and no, LSD won’t help me to comprehend it either.
#4: The Beast Within (1982) I’m mentioned this one before. Tom Burman’s best. Actor Paul Clemens puts everything he has into this performance.
#3: The Howling (1981) Some may argue that Rick Baker’s “American Werewolf in London” scene is the king of all werewolf transformation scenes. While it is amazing and innovative especially for it being shot in stark light, it just doesn’t hold up terror wise to Bottin’s scene. I mean, just look at those air bladders go! Also note werewolf Picardo’s mid transformation creepy “smile”. This is the stuff of nightmare folks.
#2: The Peacock King (1989) I have yet to see this film, but this scene has convinced me that this could very well be the second greatest transformation scene ever filmed. What the hell is that?! I must buy this film now.
#1: The Thing (1982) The pinnacle of all transformation films. I’ve touched on the Dog scene before, but I would have to say that the Palmer scene wins out of sheer “WTF?” appeal. It is so frantic and chaotic. You feel like MacReady does just watching it. Absolute head-munching madness.
Take this review for what it’s worth because I quit watching this film half way through. I took in everything I needed to know about what is wrong with horror filmmaking today just from the first half. I have never seen the 1981 original, but I figured out the end twist right away, which leads me to one of the main reasons American remake horror sucks today:
They dumb everything down for you. Like, really down.
The plot twists are dumb. The acting is Jr. High School quality and the effects… my God THE EFFECTS! Let’s just say the effects crew probably moved on to higher things like the SyFy Channel. Seriously, you get inventive kills reduced to laughable CGI cartoonery…
Using CGI in horror films is the equivalent of CGI nudity in porno. It shows lack of creativity and talent. When all you have is a crap remake, and you offer us CGI, we doze off. Some of the worst bad 80’s horror was redeemed with some creative prosthetics or hacked limbs and REAL fake blood. When you have to rely on CGI blood for your horror film, you’re in the wrong business.
Another headache inducing treat this piece of garbage had to offer me was its painfully obvious post production filter treatment. The colors are so washed out to the point of actually being black and white. There was no definition of depth. Outdoor shots were just as flat as the interiors. I kept fighting the urge to adjust my TV. It became unbearable.
Avoid this film at all costs. You are better off bleaching your anus than sitting through this. I tried to use restraint in reviewing this, but it just isn’t gonna happen. Everyone involved with this film needs to actually watch some movies.
I can never truly hate something 100% (Janeane Garofalo ranks close). It's just not in my nature. That is why I give you 3 examples where CGI actually works for me:
1) Pixar Productions. CGI is always less offensive in cartoon form. There are many exceptions though, mainly involving horrible children’s programming. For me, Pixar holds the reigns on quality. The one major flaw of CGI is that it looks dated way too soon. The first Toy Story definitely has a dated look especially when it comes to the “human” characters. All the other “toys” are pretty much identical to Toy Story 3. If you stop with the realism and rely heavily on style, the end result holds up. A good example would be The Incredibles which is human characters, yet they are very stylized animation wise. The film does not look dated, and thus kicks ass.
2) Inanimate objects. No matter how good you are at computer animation, laws of physics will always render you amateurish. Leave the CGI to things that don’t move so fluidly. Robots are a good example, unless they jump, or twirl, or kung fu kick or breakdance, or….
I hate Michael Bay so.
3) Tron. You can still hate CGI and love Tron because they figured it out. The story line is built around CGI. Even though the entire film is live action, it’s the computer world around them that becomes a computer artist’s playground. There’s no way you can say Tron looks too CGI’y. That’s like saying Twilight is too teenage’y. I welcome the new Tron movie with open arms. I’m hoping Jeff Bridges will be less sweaty than he was in Crazy Heart though.
That’s it for now. I could only think of 3 positives. There might be more down the road if I open up my cold heart to them, but for now, grumble grumble.
4) Politically, I tend to be strongly conservative. I really abhor hero worship, especially in politicians. That's a game you'll never win. Although I do skeet shoot poodles and crap bags of money, so...
5) As a kid, I always thought I'd be a cartoonist or a special effects makeup artist. Neither followed with me. I got the guitar at age 14 and stuck with music instead.
6) I love movies, especially behind the scenes stuff. Just hearing about how John Carpenter made the title card for "The Thing" gives me goosebumps.
7) I use Lady Speed Stick deodorant because it's the only kind that doesn't give me a rash.
Now for some fun blogs that are definitely worth your time:
1) Kindertrauma An excellent page of the TV/cinema creepiness that scared the hell out of you as a kid. I got a few traumafessions posted on there. It's the only site that will make you go, "HOLY CRAP, I REMEMBER THAT!"
The very cool Brian from coolasscinema.com gave yours truly a nice mention on his site. coolasscinema.com has some of the best and thorough film reviews out there. His knowledge of great obscure sub-genres is impressive. Definitely worth checking out.
Also, he won the Versatile Blogger Award! Congratulations!
(by the way, I should have a new post up soon in which I DEFEND CGI!)