July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Nighy, Will Arnet, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Hoyt Yeatman (debut)
Written by: Cormac Wibberley (“National Treasure”), Marianne Wibberley (“Bad Boys II”), Ted Elliott (“The Legend of Zorro”), Terry Rossio (“Déjà Vu”), Tim Firth (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”)

Hear that laughter? There might be a few children in the audience who are easily-entertained by the antics of the fluffy computer-generated guinea pigs that star in the new family adventure “G-Force,” but most of the giggling is coming from producer Jerry Bruckheimer as he strolls all the way to the bank.

As unbelievable as it is, the producer, who is known mostly for mindless action flicks like “Armageddon” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” has found another way to fill his pockets all while releasing projects with the entertainment value of a rusty jack in the box. Earlier this year, Bruckheimer jumped genres and released the subpar romantic comedy “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Now, it’s on to live-action/animation with “G-Force.”

It’s true, Bruckheimer has been down this avenue before, but a computer-generated kangaroo really didn’t do well for him in 2003’s box office and critical bomb “Kangaroo Jack.” In “G-Force,” he and first-time director and visual effects icon Hoyt Yeatman (he won an Oscar for “The Abyss”) shrink the heroes into cuddly rodents with “Mission Impossible” tendencies. Did we mention it’s in 3-D?

The story follows a group of secret agent guinea pigs – voiced by Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, and Penelope Cruz – who try to stop an evil home appliance industrialist (Bill Nighy) from taking over the world. Zach Galifianakis plays the FBI agent who trains the furball trio and the rest of the team, which includes Speckles the Mole (Nicolas Cage, who does some nice voice work) and a housefly named Mooch. Galifianakis, the star of the surprise summer hit “The Hangover,” however, is wasted as is the rest of the human cast. All are lost in a pointless script that relies on stale pop-culture references most kids won’t understand. And don’t say those references are there so parents in the audience don’t go crazy from boredom. If the mental well-being of moms and dads was really a concern, the rest of the movie would’ve at least tried to be entertaining for someone above the age of five.

While the guinea pigs themselves are impressive in terms of quality of graphics, the five screenwriters who churned out “G-Force” don’t give them much to do or say other than the basic action-star drills, stereotypical dialogue, and more than occasional act of flatulence. Guinea pigs were just so much cuter when they were voiceless pets who slept most of the day.

Francisco X. DeJesus – G-Force

July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

When Francisco X. DeJesus moved to the U.S. from San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1988 to attend Tulane University in New Orleans, he knew he wanted his career to lead him into the entertainment realm of computer graphics.

“I wanted to leave the nest and explore on my own, so that’s what I did,” DeJesus told me during a phone interview last week.

Twenty-one years later, DeJesus has developed an impressive portfolio in Hollywood where he has worked on such films as “Monster House,” “Charlie’s Angels 2,” “Men in Black 2,” and all three “Spider-Man” movies. He is currently a senior computer graphics supervisor for Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he has been for the last 10 years.

In his most recent film, “G-Force,” DeJesus leads a team of 50 other animation artists to create a story about a team of guinea pigs trained by the government to be spies. “G-Force,” which is the first 3-D film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), features the voices of Sam Rockwell (“Moon”), Tracy Morgan (“First Sunday”) and Academy Award winners Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”).

What made you first become interested in computer-generated animation?

I became interested because of videogames. This was in the early 80s so I’m talking about the original Atari 2600. I was interested in playing the games, but I also wanted to write games. That led to computer graphics. Movies that made an impact on me were “Tron” and “Terminator 2.”

Is there something specific that you’ve enjoyed the most during the decade you’ve worked with Imageworks?

The thing I enjoyed the most is that every project that I’ve worked on is completely different. Every movie is unique. It’s not a job where you go in and do the same thing year after year.

How did guinea pigs become the next project?

Well, I chose this movie based on who was involved. It’s a Disney movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. I’ve loved all his action movies. Then the director, Hoyt Yeatman, is a legend in the visual effects industry. He won an Oscar for “The Abyss.” So, basically I was like, “Those are the people involved? Great! Oh, by the way, what’s the project?”

Is the first step in creating these computer-generated guinea pigs to study real guinea pigs?

That’s exactly what we did. We got four guinea pigs and we studied them and photographed and videotaped them. We studied everything from their motions to how light reflects on their fur to how they act when they’re nervous. We really got to know them even before we started to build them on computers.

When you think of guinea pigs, you usually don’t think of an animal that could be an action star.

That’s the funny part of it. They’re these tiny little critters and their action heroes.

What did you learn about the animal?

Well, the first thing I learned is that they’re really cute so we had to make them look cute with our graphics. The real ones are very nervous. That’s where we had to take some creative license and deviate from realism. We wanted our guinea pigs to be trained and confident and have attitude. Each one had to have a personality.