Mad Max

I really loved Mad Max Fury Road in the cinema and while it was still fun at home on BluRay it lacked some of the grandeur of the giant screen. What a fascinating film it is, such a simple plot that is a few hours of incredible car chase with moments of emotional or expositional breathing space slotted in - yet it works oh so well. The cinematics, stunts, colour, music - just a wonderful piece of action and emotion on the big screen.

We actually had Peter Pound, one of the principle artists, in to do a guest lecture for one of the courses here at UNSW Built Environment recently. It was great to not only see the original drawings but to get a better glimpse behind the scenes. As he works principally using traditional media, each revision of the design for say the War Rig was a new drawing - and a beautiful drawing at that.

Peter Pound Concept Piece

Some links to cool things:
Mad Max Fury Road Official Site
Art of VFX Article
WIRED VFX Article
WETA Workshop Article

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After watching again I am a little more inspired to try the Apocalypse World game in its original setting - the book is superb. Would give us as players a chance to delve deeply into our own version of this style of world, to see how humanity and individuals might deal with such the hardships of such a time...


LoL CG and Such

I feel as though I may have done a post not entirely unlike this some time ago, but that doesnt seem to be stopping me. While I dont play much League of Legends at all really, I do love to watch it: just like other team sports this has it all - heroes, drama, spectacular plays and thrilling comebacks. RIOT esports have done a great job of building up everything around their events with all the commentators on the analyst desks and the casters themselves.

The recent Oceanic server event which will actually see us have a Nautilus Champion artificial reef is a pretty cool example of how they are engaging with fans of all types. Plus how cool is the new Music of League of Legends :-)

I feel like I should be supporting one team but there are so many cool personalities out there. I like how smiley some of the guys are like WildTurtle and KiwiKid and all of CLG look like they are having a good time. OCE is starting tonight and it has been fun seeing the EU and NA superteams doing their stuff.

Anyhow, as I get to know the game and the champions and the world a little better very cool videos like this one actually hold more meaning as the moves and character of everything is amplified or refined. Plus seeing how they went about making the video inspires me to knuckle down and learn some more 3D CG apps!!

While we are here, what about another pair:

Here are a few links to people modelling: VID1 VID2 VID3

Aaaand some images from the New Dawn cinematic (check the site for more incl drawings):


Division05 Videos

Over the last day or so I have really enjoyed the video series put up by Corey Smith over the last 10 months as Division05. His video series (which I really hope he continues for us) walks through a whole heap of design principles using examples and projects to illustrate concepts and the techniques to bring them out. The videos are literally overflowing with useful tips on how to do design work of various kinds in relations to motion graphics, video, graphic design etc from loose concepts around framing and colour to real detail around shot cutting and texture layers.

You basically have to watch these, they are compulsory!


Construct realtime CG

James Cameron is the most famous champion for providing a way to shoot mocap actors with a virtual camera. Below you can see Kevin Margo working with the latest version of this sort of technology (V-Ray, NVIDIA, BOXX and more) to shoot his film Construct. The actors are replaced in realtime with their respective realtime robotic selves. Perhaps the fidelity could be better, but it is still very cool.

Maybe check the teaser video as well - this really shows how spectacular the mocap was - translating some lovely performances into very anthropomorphic bots. Engadget reported the rig sported 3 NVIDIA K6000 GPUs to get this level of processing done live.


3D IMAX Supersand the VFX

Over the last few weeks I was treated by two of the latest Marvel film blockbusters in the form of Captain America: the Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man: Rise of Electro. I was inspired enough to watch Cap's latest outing at a nice big IMAX in 3D and loved it. The characters and their treatment came together in a tight film that delved deeper rather than finding a heap of new villains and heroes from obscure origins. The film brought together big action fun with plenty of thought provoking ideas. I like the way they used Rogers being displaced in time as a way to look at society and the characters around him. The film brought, drama, emotion, fun and more together into a great ride for one and all. On the BIG screen it was a treat and the 3D added to the immersion without being distracting.

Spidey is one of the great superheroes, young intelligent (come back to this in a sec), vulnerable, confused, funny, sarcastic and cheeky. He is an approachable hero, the kind of vigilante we may all dream of being. There is alot to like about all the Spider-man films so far and the latest reboot tightens the world around Oscorp and their experiments. One of the things I was most looking forward to was the webslinger zipping around the city and flying through battles in 3D with the world and debris flying around the cinema. In this we we got a real treat and it was wonderful, but I was a little annoyed that they left the 3D amped up so high for the rest of the film, it was distracting in the other scenes for my money. But I love scenes like the coffee cup bit outside the elevators - wonderful.

Oh and I wanted to mention a conversation we had over lunch the other day where we were talking about how insanely smart Peter is meant to be. I was complaining that we may be meant to see him that way, but as a viewer we are often shown him in relation to a vast array of even smarter people and their inventions and experiments while Peter is a bit of a dropout. With Osborn, Gwen, Octavius, and more all around, how smart does Peter really look :-)

I do have to give some serious props to the special effects work in both films, extraordinary what we are treated to on the screen now. I really wish I had seen Gravity in 3D at IMAX as well having only just watched it the other day on DVD. It looks built for the format and maybe the simple tale would have been a 3D majestic ballet with all the spinning and graceful motion...

Here's a vid showing some of the tech going behind the shots of these titanic films to break things down a little for us, in this case for the Winter Soldier and the helicarriers:


Danielle

Artist Anthony Cerniello has crafted a pretty remarkable video, Danielle. He took the opportunity at a family reunion to capture generations of people and then use the most similar of them as a starting point for his animators to create this seamless ride through the ageing process.

There is such loving attention to detail here with the gentle life added to the character, keeping everything calm and allowing the casual change to slowly wash over her for the full 5 mins. I would love to see a behind-the-scenes look at how this was made - how do you inject that much natural life into photos and keep it all hanging together so nicely. Bit more info on the process in the Colossal article.

So somehow a suite of photos can be transformed using After Effects, 3ds Max and Nuke to create this!


Into Darkness

Yesterday we headed into the darkness armed with our 3D glasses and tickets to the Entertainment Quarter Hoyts IMAX screening of Star Trek Into Darkness. Because I love to have cool films on DVD/BluRay I just don't go and see much at the cinema to save cash. But I was so impressed - now I am a little torn as that $26 delivers a pretty epic experience. JJ delivered for us with an action romp through the perils of the Star Trek universe - was it a big commentary on American politics - who knows - but the plot was fun to see unfold with around characters we love. There were predictable pieces of course, but that works for Star Trek, and enough twists and surprises to keep us engaged.

The trailers before the film are an absolute treat for me as I have a soft spot for a good trailer. No question the Into Darkness trailer was one of the triggers for us gathering together for the film. The fact that we got together for lunch beforehand for pizza and a board game (team Flash Duel which was super fun) was another part of the lure.
The Man of Steel trailer gave me chills, can it really be that good. Other things like Pacific Rim, After Earth and such look like delivering for us.

As with the first film in this new rebooted Star Trek universe, things are different, but the cast we have for our principle characters who are all human apart from half a Spock and a few nameless extras is stellar. The 3D was wonderful, they showcased it a few times for effect, but for the most part was just part of the experience. Even the first part of the credits at the end were a 3D visual treat as we zoom around the galaxy to a host of weird and wonderful worlds. The sound in that cinema is big, loud and visceral, Giacchino's soundtrack and the wonderfully trekky sound effects are a treat. The CG effects were top shelf - fully integrated with the live action - there are no cardboard boulders here.

All up a pretty intense Star Trek experience that stays focused on these signature characters in the context of a violent and dangerous space opera.

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While we are here, how good does Romeo and Juliet look:


Dvein - wonderfully gloopy digital wizardry

Now that I am working with my 3D tools much more for the Loch Dreagan elements it is nice to see the incredible wizardry that people display with these very same tools that still feel rather clumsy in my hands. So lets take a look at some inspiration from Dvein - their project page has more, but I love these three!

[Magma pic via the project pages on the Dvein site]

The Vein / Magma
This short but breathtaking little vid shows off the talents of the Dvein studio with a range of digital tools, but 3ds Max is at the heart of things. There is a complex blend of live action shooting with digital elements that come together to make the music video. See their project page for more on Magma.

Eva - Film Main Titles
I love seeing this sort of complexity brought to life, a joy to watch and engaging right from the get-go. The opening titles for Eva are a lovely example of something simple, followed through with grace and dedication.

Morbidus
A quirky little piece for IdN that shows how cool blobby things can be, Morbidus.


Paths

I will work out a way to post some more info on Loch Dreagan game mechanics soon, in the meantime lets take a look at two clever pieces that deal with paths through space and time.

First, Universal Everything (a creative UK studio) have crafted a stunning video using a motion-captured dancer to generate digital forms in 3D space that was then displayed in all its glory in the Hyundai Vision Hall. Using mocap data from dancers is something I am keen to explore at some point as it is a lovely intersection of real physical prowess and digital wizardry.
And secondly a cool piece of javascript that visualises various PathFinding algorithms for us. You can set the start and end points, create a set of walls and then choose/tweek the various algorthms to see how they work and the various speeds. PathFinding.js is by Xueqiao Xu and shows us how neatly these complex pieces of code can be presented for us.


Amazing Spider-Man

Finally got to see the Amazing Spider-Man (on Blu-Ray) and it was a real treat. There was a beautiful balance of comedy and the serious heroics/message. Some of the sequences were pure joy to behold, the fun the film makers had really shined through - when Peter wakes up with his new strength is perhaps my favourite scene in this respect.

The graphics, CG and compositing work is exceptional, read the article in CG Society for lots of detail. It is still remarkable to me how seamlessly complex the digital work is on films of this calibre. We are treated to whole shots where digital characters, environments and cameras are flailing around and giving us a remarkable view of these imagined characters.

With a comic realisation there is always a good chance of some groovy concept art. Here are a few source sites and examples: Ed Natividad on ConceptArtWorld ; Aaron Sims, Eddie Yang and George Hull on ScreenRant and Josh Nizzi on ConceptArtWorld.


Voile Noir

This short film brings along a nice blending of CG and live action shooting to deliver a single strong message. Voile Noir was created by ArtFX School students using primarily Maya with help from tools like V-Ray, Z-Brush, Photoshop, Mudbox, After Effects and Nuke. There is a great little 'Making of' video as well which shows the construction of several scenes and assets used to bring them to life.

[Voile Noir promo poster pic via cgranjon]

The final compositing and grading and look of the film are perhaps the finest qualities, though that work was done atop good bones with decent footage and some nice models and effects (fire, smoke etc). This is a pretty good student film as they kept is short while taking on a big topic and grand outlook. They used live action integration to handle the more complex characters and animation which also gave them practice with that compositing side. Plus they really finished it, it looks, sounds and feels complete which makes it a treat for all of us now.

3DWorld Mag has an interview with Michael Balthazarts, one of the co-creators. This is a good example of what should be achievable by students and I really need to get onto my project so I can show off the things I have learned through the MDM thus far - big projects are scary though...


The Hobbit

Peter Jackson and the crew crafted some of the greatest films of all time in his treatment of the Lord of the Rings, bringing Tolkien's tale and world to life for us all. So with the decision to make the hobbit films came much enthusiasm from fans everywhere. So the first of the films to grace our screens is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and while it can be seen in 3D in 48 frames per second quality, I saw it with the family in a very basic 2D cinema.

I admit I had very high expectations and while some of those expectations were met, alas there was much to be confused or disappointed by as well. Maybe the intent was to bind this film into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but in many ways it felt more like rehashing instead. Right from the intro we are presented with a sameness - merging it with the other films so much it all but vanishes. Also, while there are things that must remain from the book, I thought the writers from the LotR films did a super job of changing things from the books to improve the films - here in the Hobbit perhaps they should have done more. Yes, giant Eagles are cool once, certainly twice, here for the third time, not so much without adding something more to their appearance. The method used to intro the film, again was just too much of the same, there must have been another way to bring us into this world again without using the same story telling idea.

[The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey promo imagery vis the official site]

The film suffered from an identity issue, many films mix light hearted even comedic sequences with real drama and action, this creates the places to breathe and gives a beat to a piece of cinema. Here however we don't get this, we get confusion. In the Fellowship of the Ring the happy home of the Hobbits is presented with a real function, to highlight the contrast that is the world of men and the darkness that is coming. This not only gives us the audience a sense of what will be lost if evil prevails, but allows our heroic Hobbits to think back on their happy lives and where there place in the world should be. Alas in The Hobbit movie, we get a watered down version of this followed by the intro of the Dwarves which aren't that contrasted - they are jolly fellows really - even though they are frustrating for Bilbo. They don't seem that hardly done by, the reason for the quest isn't conveyed well enough to us to get behind the group.

The Dwarves are confusing as well, sometimes they possess super-hero-comic like prowess, tossing plates or hordes of goblins around but at other times they are clumsy and helpless as in the second encounter with the warg goblins or against the trolls. This made them hard to bond with, are they silly cartoon characters or are they something we should try to invest in emotionally.

[The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey promo imagery vis the official site]

Splitting up the film as it was with a 'come back for more' ending also made the whole film fall flatter than it might have, as a setup movie there might have been no choice, but we should have had something epic resolved at this mid-point which then leads into an even greater challenge. The action sequences that are the staple of the film are a confusing bunch as well, are we meant to care about these characters, they are often silly with no fear for our heroes. Even the Trolls are amusing rather than dangerous, it feels like Bilbo just needed to pad out the conversation for a few minutes and hey presto the sun comes up and all is well.

That was all a bit ranty, there is quality here of course - the special effects, costumes, attention to world detail and musical score are all gorgeous. While these elements could be what saves the film in my head, they aren't anything new either, matching the wonders from the Lord of the Rings films. The HobbitBlog site has some super production videos that give a glimpse of how vast an undertaking it is to craft a film of this scale and visual quality. In Vid #9 you get a feel for the insane number of talented people all doing their part, even the musicians playing on the soundtrack just play straight off the music - inspired. There are other CG articles of course - this one on herocomplex has some nice visuals of the Goblin King.

There were things I did like of course, Radagast the Brown was great fun with his racing about the forest and slightly disturbed mental state. Even if the film missed the mark on a bunch of things, making cinema on this scale is still remarkable and I hope people keep at it. Final remark, Rivendell feels truly special, magical and remarkable in LotR - mainly because of the reactions of the characters, they imparted that special sense to us, in the Hobbit it was much less so somehow ... oh well.

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Check out the new article on CGSociety on the CG for the film, from teh 48fps, to Gollum and multiple sets.


2012 CGawards

The world is full of CG artists and works, so when 3DWorld unveil this years CG Awards all we get is supreme class on all levels. Blender picked up the software update award which just shows the dedication to  continue to take on the big guns in this space. I kinda find it interesting in this time of touch and even cintiqs that the refinement of the Intuos tablet picket up the tech innovation award.

I might just walk through the Creative awards as they really are a cavalcade of talent:

Animated Feature Film Award > The Adventures of Tintin (Weta Digital)
Animated Short-Form Award > Ruin (Wes Ball)

VFX Feature Film Award > The Avengers (ILM/Weta Digital)
VFX Short-Form Award > Game of Thrones (Pixomondo)
CG Commercial Award > Audi 'Hummingbird' (The Mill)

Arch-Viz Render Award > House on the Coast (Notos)
...
Arch-Viz Animation Award > New World Trade Center (Piranha)

Videogame In-Game Graphics Award > Batman: Arkham City (Rocksteady Studios)
Videogame Cinematic Award > Mass Effect 3 'Take Earth Back' (BioWare)

There how is that for inspiration. Lastly the living legend that is John Lassiter is now a Hall of Famer.


Cinematic Wax

As promised a little drive-by of some of the cool cinematic trailers, cut-scenes, TVCs etc coming out of Sydney's Plastic Wax. First up lets just sit back and enjoy their 2012 showreel that shows off the breadth of work and the quality they build on each project.

I like that we have a studio right down the road that can step up and deliver CG worlds and animations of this quality. Here is the list of titles represented here (via notes on the youtube site): Neverwinter, Darksiders II (various projects), Civilization V - Gods and Kings, Inversion, Rift, Warhammer 40K - Retribution, Warhammer 40K - Dawn of War 2, Warhammer 40K - Space Marine, Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen, Saints Row - The Third and Warhammer 40K - Kill Team.

Here are some of the full sequences to drool over:

See the CGSociety article on their Cinematic for Transformers. Revenge of the Fallen.
VID

VFX Breakdowns

With all the CG wizardry up there on the big screen these days and the complexity in layering up shots with digital characters, sets, extensions, masks, lighting and more it can be extra cool to see videos like these that break down all the compositing. Here are a few recent vids that show off this complexity and the sheer talent of the various specialists it takes to bring sequences like these to life with such quality.
First one from Imageworks then a few from Rodeo FX.


Caprica CG

Just finished watching Caprica and it was a classy continuation of the Battlestar franchise. The characters, plots and production values were very high and it really drew us into the world of Capricans, Taurans and the fanatical STO. There were many more interesting explorations of belief and the singular god and I particularly liked the end logic where the promise of heaven for all would destroy the incentive to behave well in life - paralleling the New Cap City storyline.

One of the key aspects of the series was the CG work, for a TV show the effort and quality of the effects and digital scenes are inspirational. We are treated to full digital realms in v-world like the chaos of New Cap City with its attach zeppelins and fighter planes, the cylons, foreign worlds, cities. Having the characters situated in locations that emphasise the nature of all these worlds help build the narrative for this prequel to the major conflict to come later while tackling important issues in our real world earth.

These images are from the submission for a Visual Effects Emmy in 2009/2010 (CSI won). They not only show off the CG work of the episode and series but delve a little deeper for us on deign and integration with story telling. Check out the full post on the Drex Files blog for the originals, more images and lotsa credits.

[Caprica Emmy Bid Panels vis the Drex Files blog]

This video also comes via the Drex Files blog and showcases how much compositing into digital sets was done for the show, again - super stuff for television (well DVD for us now).

Lastly you should check the images on the arkinet blog post on how the CG team build Caprica City from Vancouver. There is something very cool about futuristic city visuals, the extrapolation of the sky-scraper and all the signature architectural statements.


Olympics CG

With the London Olympics 2012 getting awfully close now, we are seeing more advertising and promotion from sponsors, media outlets and the games themselves. Here is the official CG promo video for the games which was just released and shows off a more cartoony feel. It presents the power and grace of the athletes with the superhero vibe along for the ride.

The digital work is by Passion Pictures, it lacks something but has some nice elements. The games produce more CG than promo pieces like this though, all the public works and grand architecture create a wealth of renderings and visualisations for us. Here are a few images of stadia and public spaces from various sources that show off some serious visualisation skills and in so doing some cool architecture. iedm even made this proposal for using the site after the games for F1, just to show off that they could.

[London Olympic architecure CG]

Here is a cg fly-through, well fly-over of the Olympic park as well.

To finish up, we like the Australian Foxtel tvc for the games which nicely transforms one athlete into the next. Super super stuff.


Snow White and the Huntsman

Family outing to see Snow White and the Huntsman at Event-vmax and it looked and sounded superb up there on the big screen. While the film has a few elements that I think could have been better, it is filled with great uplifting moments fuelled by superb effects and a lushly watchable cast.

First up we have a classic fairy tale which draws on this for the basic script and to bring us a world of evil magics, natural spririts and honest purity of love. The cast is superb, they all bring the exaggerated nature of their roles to the screen and I think that is what works here for a fairy-tale telling. In much the same way that the comic characters need to be big and bold, here we have the same but with the twists and flaws either backgrounded or highly fore-grounded for us.

[Snow White and the Huntsman promo imagery via desktopexchange]

The production was wonderful, from the lighting and cinematography to the dramatic soundtrack. Seeing the armoured knights on horseback storming into battle was a standout for me along with the majesty of the enchanted forest sequences. There are shortcomings, I think Snow White would have come across better if the character grew or had to overcome something of herself as our primary protagonist. In this regard the Huntsman was superior and a more honest and relateable character (plus he has a cool set of axes).

The CG effects work on the film is one of the highlights with exceptional work in a host of areas and doubtless a whole set of places that we cant even tell. First up the dwarves are superb, with normal-sized actor performances dwarfised for us. All the magical effects from mirrors to crows and trolls to fairies and some lovely ageing and youthfulising of the evil Queen. The computer work in films like this allows the creators to take us deeper into a fantasy world, to bring to life the vile, the monstrous and the magical.

[Snow White and the Huntsman CG by The Mill via CGSociety article]

Articles like the one on CGSociety show how a range of CG houses brought these CG sequences to life. The Mill used Maya, Houdini and Softimage to create the guts of the transforming mirror. Check out the article for some nice Troll mocap and info on ncam.

The costumes, armour and basically everything worn by everyone was lovely to watch and so some special credit should go to Collen Atwood. Check out these articles of the work on MovieFanatic and Ecouterre for more details.

Lastly lets draw a little inspiration from the concept artists, looking at the credits there was a small army of them brought on to deliver the visual feast. As always I love how these artists manage to imply detail while executing so much depth of feeling. Here is some work by Annis Naeem and Sebastian Meyer.

[Snow White and the Huntsman Concept Art by Annis Naeem via their blog]

[Snow White and the Huntsman Concept Art by Sebastian Meyer via his blog]

All up I loved this little fairytale film despite it being a little shallow in places - perhaps a real treasure for home-spun trailers as it is a superb looking piece of cinema.


Iron Sky

When I first found out about this little film (not that long ago) it had the feel of an internet piece - armed with a cool premise that they ran with to extremes and some gorgeous special effects, where could Iron Sky go wrong. This is no big budget epic, but if you go in with the right mind-set it is a fun ride chock full of ideas from zany through cool to ridiculous.

OK, so we have Nazis invading from the dark side of the Moon with Sarah Palin presiding over the US in 2018. The ensuing battle is on multiple fronts is certainly fun with the US (and others) coming in for lots of satirical carnage. I went in (Cinema) with the idea that even if it felt like a long long trailer then it would be worth every minute. The film is actually much slower in pace than that, taking its time with things. For the most part it works and there are enough memorable moments to make it a talking piece which is more than many films can boast. All up, a cool ride overflowing with ideas.

The CG work is impressive for a film of this magnitude, As detailed in the CGSociety Feature, they use Maya, Lightwave, Nuke, Creative Suite and RenderPal at the core of their pipeline with just 20 people creating all the wizardry we enjoy up on the big screen. To think that CG has stabilised to the point where effects work of this quality can be done with only a small group of humans and computers is impressive. The space battles are great to see, both for the design of the craft as well as the quality and dynamics.
These 2 vids show off the CG/VFX work in the film:

Here are a few images including some concept illustrations that would have been so fun to do, great material to work with.

[Iron Sky images via the official site]

Avengers Assemble

A few days now since we charged off on opening day to see Joss Whedon’s
the Avengers (cinema 2D) on Australia Day (maybe Marvel, Stan and co should get
some credit as well). We are still talking about it, to be truthful mostly
about how awesome the Hulk was, Joss really excelled at bringing the big green
guy to the screen. Mark Ruffalo was fun in both forms and was interesting to see how he evolved. The best parts of the film for me were the team fighting
(verbally and physically) amongst themselves, Joss is clearly good at this sort of thing and with these big icons to play with he seems to have enjoyed it.

The stunning trailers:

All the characters are very watchable, they are big and all
lovingly competing for our attention as the team slowly forms up to take on
Loki (who is a great fun villain following on from his defeat at the hands of
Thor). For those that haven’t seen the film yet, the now classic moment between
Loki and the Hulk alone is worth the admission price. The film isn’t so much
about this conflict though, that is just the backdrop for  bringing the superheroes together, so much so
that the military don’t even figure in this conflict with the alien army.

The special effects are simply remarkable and demonstrate
just how accomplished the 3D effects houses are at creating all manner of
mayhem and characters for these films. A whole cabal of talented folk worked on the film (wikipedia ref): Cantina Creative, Evil Eye Pictures, Fuel VFX, Hydraulx, Industrial Light & Magic, Legacy Effects, Luma Pictures, The Third Floor and Weta Digital
The audio/soundtrack and production values are top shelf and
with the mix of super and more down-to-earth characters, we have the whole
super-hero-action-banter extravaganza. Alas, for a comic based film there is a
real shortage of concept art for us to enjoy, but these promo images are still superb and bring the actors into the mix for us. These are the Avengers Desktop Backgrounds via ToysRus:

So, all up a truly super-enjoyable film that I look forward to
seeing again, indeed it may be one of those films that grows on me even more
after the repeats - Avengers Assemble!