10.31.2006

The Prestige : 4 of 5

I first heard about this movie when I saw the trailer before The Illusionist (which is pretty funny, considering they are both films about magic in roughly the same time period), and I was intrigued right from the start. This movie is really difficult to write about (even for a short and sweet WEBmikey review!), because almost anything could end up revealing some of the many plot twists, and believe me, there are a lot of them! The Prestige (which refers to the final act of a magic trick) is about two magicians who work together at first, but later become involved in a bitter and sometimes violent rivalry, mostly focused on Hugh Jackman trying to discover the secret to Christian Bale's ultimate illusion. Because of the way the story is revealed, there's quite a bit of time-jumping in the movie, but it does a great job of using this device to make the plot extremely fascinating, and even to lead the audience into solving puzzles (which is always fun when watching a movie like this). Everyone gives fine performances (even David Bowie as Tesla, which at first made me groan), and the pace of the film is just perfect. I really enjoyed watching this movie, which has just enough "real magic" to go along with the reality. Once again, a fantastic story proves to be the essential ingredient to a really entertaining film!

10.30.2006

Nana : 5 of 5

During my 2005 trip to Japan, I saw lots of posters advertising this movie, and I had only just read about the popularity of this story (which was originally a hit manga). Since then, I've been reading the manga in Shojo Beat every month, and since I enjoy it so much, I decided to break down and buy the DVD of the movie - my first Japanese movie purchase without English subtitles! Since I already know the plot, it wasn't difficult to follow the movie at all, and I could actually understand a good bit of the dialogue, so it was a ton of fun to watch. This is a really well-made movie with great acting, awesome music, and of course, a wonderful story. It's about two girls both named Nana, who happen to meet on the train when they're both moving to Tokyo. One is a cute, dreamy-eyed, emotional girl, and the other is a hardcore rocker, but they become the closest of friends when they end up as apartment roommates. The movie is really faithful to the manga, although some of the characters are kept in the background to keep the plot flowing smoothly. I though it was great how the Nana/Ren relationship was told completely via flashback (unlike the manga), and they picked a nice place to end the movie (even though the manga keeps going). I decided to get the special edition DVD (since I can't resist!), which has a bonus disc of behind the scenes clips, plus a cool mini-photobook. I really enjoyed watching a Japanese movie completely in Japanese!

10.29.2006

Yet another Heroes Halloween

Happy early Halloween from the Greatest American Heroes! Last night we played our annual Halloween show at the Carousel Lounge, decked out in costumed craziness. I decided to go simple this year with a Fred Flintstone outfit (which was really comfortable, except for the stone underwear), which turned out great since Wilma & Betty showed up! Francis was a nice Clark Kent/Superman combo, Kirk was Mork from Ork, and Chris resurrected his Greatest American Hero costume from a few years back. Ernesto was by far the star, though, taking Chris' dare to go with an I Dream of Jeannie ensemble (and Jonathan was Major Nelson to go along with the theme)! Plenty of folks in the crowd were dressed up, too, which made for a great costume parade during our third set. It was a really fun night, but don't take my word for it, take a look at the photos!

View photos: Heroes Halloween 2006

10.28.2006

れいぶん

あめ なら、そとに でかけません。
レッスンに ぼこの しゃしんを つれて くる。
ディズニーランドに いく とき、いつも カメラを つれて いく。
ぼくは しょっぱい たべものと チョコレート いっすおに たべるのが すき。
とっくに にほんごを べんきょう して いる。

Tale of two denshas

Since I enjoyed the Densha Otoko series and movie so much, I was really happy to see that two different manga series have finally been translated, and the first volumes from two different publishers are out now! I read them both back to back, and it's really fun to compare the two (just like it was fun to compare the series and the movie). The first one I read by CMX Manga has really cute artwork (which I love), so Densha and Hermes tend to look really young. There are a few changes to the story, too - Densha has a simple job stocking in a bookstore, for example. This version is also integrating the other netizens well (for example, one of them turns out to be the stylist who ends up cutting Densha's hair). The second one from VIZ Media took some getting used to, because the artwork style makes everyone tall with pointy-noses. However, the story is much closer to the drama I already know, and they seem to be using the original BBS posts much more closely (and do a great job of explaining Japanese emoticons!). The VIZ version gets all the way into the second date, but the CMX version ends right as the first date is beginning. I think I like the CMX version better, since it's a little more fresh, but I can't wait to keep following both of these!

10.27.2006

Tons of photos

As you probably know, one of my obsessive habits is taking close-up shots of new toys and PEZ dispensers, but I'm often lazy about getting them uploaded to Flickr. I always think it would be cool to upload one or two each day to keep things fresh, but actually I just end up forgetting about shots I took months ago. So, I decided to just catch-up with tons of older photos, so this is a good time to remind you about my ongoing photo sets! Most of the new shots are of PEZ, especially Japanese Mini-PEZ (since I've been buying lots of the sets I missed on eBay lately), but there are also some new toys to see, too. As always, I'm still working on my "technique" - I really want to capture the personality of each toy!

View photos: PEZtastic
View photos: Toys on Stage

10.26.2006

The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D : 5 of 5

One of the best ways to start getting into a holiday mood is to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, since it does such a great job of making Halloween fun and beginning Christmas anticipation! My pal Melinda and I were really excited to hear about the new 3D re-release, and it was a blast to see again - I couldn't even remember seeing it on the big screen back in 1993, since I've watched it a million times on DVD since then. The added 3D effects are really subtle, probably because transforming an existing movie into 3D has got to be a new and bizarre process (I can't even imagine how they do it), and also because most of the scenes weren't really designed with depth in mind. It's still very immersive, however, and some sequences have many distinct layers (especially Jack's solo in the graveyard, since the many tombstones provide lots of depth opportunity). The songs are all just as wonderful as the first time, and I'm always impressed by what a fairy-tale quality story it is - it's really like a modern mini-opera! It was fun to see all the crazy monsters again, too - I always crack-up at the roly-poly kid with his eyelids sewn shut (what's up with that?!). As an extra bonus, the movie begins with a super-3D version of Pixar's classic short Knick Knack, which looked fantastic in spite of it's ancient graphics technology!

10.25.2006

Goodbye, New Caprica

I just watched the third episode of the new season of Battlestar Galactica (I'm a little late since I see it on TiVo), and I'm so psyched that the big rescue mission was a success and everyone's off that miserable planet. I was really worried at the end of last season - skipping a year in the timeline and changing the whole dynamic of the story really bugged me, and I was worried that this entire season would just be about life under Cylon rule (although the pre-season webisodes definitely made that look intriguing). To me, the show has to be about the "ragtag fugitive fleet", and now everything is back to normal (so to speak). The entire rescue was pretty amazing, too, and I enjoyed every minute on the edge of my seat (it was so exciting that I can forgive them for not giving any scenes to Callie)! Back to the search for Earth - I'm definitely looking forward to rest of the season!

10.24.2006

Morning Musume Sakura Gumi & Otome Gumi / Sakura Mankai & Yuujou - Kokoro no Busu niwa Naranee! : 4 of 5

Back in 2003 (before I was a diehard fan), Morning Musume was split into two smaller groups called Sakura Gumi and Otome Gumi, and this DVD includes the videos for both subgroups second singles they each released. Besides being interested in seeing Otome Gumi, I had to buy this DVD for Sakura Mankai, which is one of the Morning Musume songs ever. It's just a perfect song with beautiful instrumentation (using traditional-sounding Japanese instruments) and wonderful lyrics, and the video is definitely a masterpiece. Everything about it is breathtaking, from the falling blossoms to the kimono designs, and I could watch it over and over. There's also a close-up version included! Otome Gumi provides a great contrast with their cutsy-punk song, and it's a blast to see Sayumi sing the intro with gusto. Reina gets lots of lines, too, and everyone looks great in their black & white outfits and perfectly messed-up hairdos. Yuujou is a high-energy song, and their dance moves are lots of fun (especially the air guitar strumming). The Making Of segments aren't really extra special, but it's cool to see the pinwheel contraption they built to film some of the scenes. It's nice to have this bit of Morning Musume history to watch when I feel like it!

10.23.2006

Pals and pumpkins

Wow, this is the most days in a row without posting in a long time! I'm back from Los Angeles, so it's time to get back to WEBmikey. My trip was a lot of fun (of course!), so I think I'll go over the highlights in some detail.

After I arrived, Dae and I went to the Farmers Market, a really cool collection of shops and stalls with all kinds of food. We checked out a cool toy store, then ate some incredibly yummy treats for breakfast (bypassing the healthier fruit). After that we tried to catch a studio tour, but it was sold out! Next we thought we would see a movie at the El Capitan, but it was closed for the day for a special event that evening! So, we decided to visit the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, and it was pretty fun (totally cheesy, but great!). Next was ice cream at the Disney Soda Fountain (my first time), and then it was naptime (after some nice scotch). Later we went to a sports bar to watch the Mets lose and eat some oh-so-tasty food.

The next morning was Disneyland, bright and early! The Halloween decorations were everywhere, and they were pretty cool. The new Jack Sparrow-ized Pirates of the Caribbean was great, although I still wish I could step back into the original attraction. The biggest surprise for me wasn't the new effects or figures, but instead it was the changes in music! The dramatic movie music (especially during the Wicked Wench attack) really makes the ride more adventurous. Injun Joe's Cave wasn't so exciting, but now I can say I've been there! There were some great new music acts (Mary Poppins and the Pearly Band, plus a pirate band) that were really entertaining. As expected, we had a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious twelve hours!

The next day we walked around Venice Beach and had lunch there. I really enjoyed being there with so many different kinds of people (every extreme imaginable), yet everyone seemed to have an accepting attitude - it was a cool vibe. After that we visited the Giant Robot store (that I've always wanted to see) so I could buy some cool T-shirts. That night we had dinner at a great tapas restaurant with Dae's friend Selina (whom I've met on past LA visits), his friends Steve & Sonja, plus our pal Jerry, my official career-changing, Spidey-animating hero. It was so much fun talking, drinking, and just enjoying the evening, and it was a fantastic finale to my trip!

View photos: Los Angeles October 2006

10.17.2006

Fun conversation

I had some great Japanese conversation practice with Mikie-sensei tonight! We finished talking about my 2003 trip to Japan (by looking at my photo book), and it was so much fun. For some reason, I was able to make a few longer sentences than usual, and it really felt nice. I really didn't study much last week, so maybe it's from listening to JapanesePod101 or watching Hello! Morning episodes (which I have been hooked on recently). Whatever the reason, it was good to feel I'm still making progress.

Although completely unrelated, I might as well mention that I'll be making my usual second Disneyland trip of the year later this week! I'm excited about seeing Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, and I'm also looking forward to all the new Halloween decorations. I'm also planning on taking a stroll on Tom Sawyer Island, too, especially since there are rumors that it could be re-themed soon (to a pirate island). I've got to experience Disneyland history while I can! My pal Dae is always a fantastic host, so I'm looking forward to other fun Los Angeles adventures with him, too.

10.16.2006

Deadly yo-yos

I recently got to watch the new movie Sukeban Deka: Codename Asamiya Saki, and it was pretty fun! I was surprised at how fast this was fan-subbed (though some of the subs were a little hilarious with non-existent F-bombs), but I'm sure that has to do with the Jpop idols in the staring roles. Until now, I didn't know anything about this series (including several TV shows and movies), which is about a delinquent high school girl who becomes an undercover cop and fights with a deadly yo-yo! It's campy and goofy, but sometimes those kind of stories are the best. In this new movie, Matsuura Aya plays the lead, and she does a fantastic job of looking pissed off (while still looking great, of course) and fighting the bad guys (from the behind-the-scenes clips, it looks like she did a lot of stunts that I sure wouldn't want to attempt!). The main villian is Ishikawa Rika, and although the fan world was excited to see her in her evil leather outfit, she doesn't do so great as a bad guy - there's just too many layers of cute that she can't hide. The other girls of Biyuden make appearances, too, so it was cool to see so many faces I know in a current movie. Still, I was a little disappointed overall - I definitely enjoyed the story, but I think the fighting scenes were kind of lame. There so much build up to the big Aya/Rika yo-yo battle, and when it finally happens, it's over in a minute! Oh well, I'm still hoping it's a success so they might make some more Sukeban Deka movies.

10.15.2006

Musume Dokyu! Vol 4 : 3 of 5

After watching this DVD, I'm caught up with the current Musume Dokyu! releases (at least until Volumes 5 and 6 are released in a few days), and I'm still enjoying the show. I think Volume 4 was just a little better than Volume 3, mainly because a few of the episodes featured things a little more unexpected than just the girls cooking and eating (although there's a little of that this time around as well). First, Koharu works some problems with an abacus (and she's really fast with it), then plays with some other toys and shoots some darts (into the wall). This was my first time to really see Koharu chat with the camera, and she's amazingly relaxed and natural when she's telling a story, but slightly crazy when she's pushing the cute into overdrive. Next, Mikitty has to handle a pet monkey for her entire segment, where she chats with an English teacher and illustrates a story. Miki always seems kind of elegant to me, but when she says a sentence in English, it's shocking how she suddenly seems like any other 20-something girl (I guess my love of Japanese has a transforming power). Finally we get out of the house (so to speak) with Reina as she takes on several different amusement park rides. She definitely plays it cool at first, saying it's no big deal, and then totally freaks out with fear! Next, Mako-chan cooks up some pumpkin stew in an outdoor setting, and finally Yossie gets the embarrassing challenge of dressing up in the frilliest, girliest outfit imaginable (complete with giant teddy bear), which is pretty hilarious considering her cool, boyish style. I'm looking forward to the next DVDs in this series!

10.14.2006

Ten Cool Tunes 10.2006

Well, I've been getting progressively later in putting out a monthly mix, and usually the reason is that I was limiting the amount of Jpop, since I've been creating iMixes of these on the iTunes Store. This month I'm tossing that idea! This month's mix is full of relaxing, mellow stuff - definitely not all ballads, but everything has a laid-back feel. The first track is the best song from an amazing album by Keane (which I heard for the first time at church, believe it or not) - Hopes and Fears is full of fantastic songs like this one. After that, it's all Jpop! Yes, even Heartsdales and Morning Musume can contribute a song to this peaceful mix (actually, there are several down-tempo MoMusu songs I love, but Stay is the only Heartsdales song that I know that fits here). Several of these songs are of the "begins with a solo piano" variety, but I mixed them up with some Koda Kumi jangly guitar and an Anna Tsuchiya power ballad. The last track doesn't even have a name, but it's hidden on Sasuke's single of Eien no Natsu (another great song). It's a nice sentimental love song with easy to understand Japanese, so I listen to it all the time. I've been listening to this mix a lot today, and I really like it!

10.2006 Mix (Song / Album / Artist)
  • Everybody's Changing / Hopes and Fears / Keane
  • Watarasebashi / Best 1 / Matsuura Aya
  • Stay / The Legend / Heartsdales
  • Koe ga Todokunara / Hane / Kotoko
  • I'll Be There / 4 Hot Wave / Koda Kumi
  • Karenai Hana / Full Metal Panic Soundtrack / Soundtrack
  • Frozen Rose / Taste My Beat / Anna Tsuchiya
  • Mushoku Toumei na Mama de / Rainbow 7 / Morning Musume
  • Everlasting / Outgrow / BoA
  • Secret Track / Eien no Natsu CD Single / Sasuke

10.13.2006

Robot Vol 1 : 3 of 5

I've been intrigued by this book series for quite a while, so I finally decided to check out the first volume recently. Some reviews refer to this as manga, but it's much more than that. Robot is like a super-high quality graphic novel (very large format and full color), except that it features a collection of stories by many different artists with varied styles. Some pages are complete works of art that must have taken weeks to complete (with amazing, fully-rendered detail), while other stories have more traditional comic style drawings. The stories themselves are quite mixed, combining everything from humor to dark violence (this is definitely an adult book, but in a much more artistic sense - it's like Vermillion Pleasure Night in book form). I really enjoyed Picnic, a story of two girls in the future visiting what used to be Shibuya (now almost completely covered in grassy hills), and Hemo Hemo is a goofy tale about a weird cuddly animal. I also enjoyed Eventyr, written and illustrated like a fantasy storybook. Many of these stories will be continued in the next volume, definitely making me want to continue the series! Robot is a great showcase for artists to push themselves and create stories that might not work anywhere else, so I'm looking forward to seeing what other beautiful, fascinating, or disturbing things come next!

10.12.2006

Girls Bravo Vol 6 : 2 of 5

All good things must come to an end, and thankfully, that even includes meaningless anime series like Girls Bravo! This last volume has four episodes instead of the usual three, but it only increases the feeling that a plot has been tacked on the end of an otherwise pointless show. The first episode focuses on Koyomi and her father, and we learn that her parents were a Seiren/Earth couple just like Yukinari and Miharu seem destined to be. Next, Yukinari finally is "cured" of the hives he gets around women, but Miharu gets a little sad, since she used to be the only one who didn't cause Yukinari's condition. This episode has some fun scenes of Miharu buying gifts for everyone, which makes for some sentimental moments after she's kidnapped and taken back to Seiren (gasp!). So after tons of episodes just goofing around, we finally hear the backstory about a plot to make Seiren "male-free", and Miharu is captured because she has the power to open a gateway to Earth (using the bathtub, if you'll remember way back from the first DVD when this show was interesting!). Everyone in the gang, including Fukuyama and his bodyguards, goes to Seiren so Yukinari can rescue Miharu, and then the show just ends. There's no resolution to the Kirie love triangle or anything, which is really disappointing. I'm definitely looking forward to brief anime break before jumping into something more substantial!

10.11.2006

So many bookmarks

I spent some time tonight trying to organize my bookmarks in Safari, and lately I've been overwhelmed with sites to check out further. My usual method is to put a site on my main Bookmarks menu, eventually take a look at it, then file it away in other folders. The problem is when I'm short on time (or lazy), my Bookmarks menu gets super long and scrolls like crazy! (I also use del.icio.us to bookmark things when I'm not at home, but for now I still like Safari bookmarks for regular use.) Anyway, I organized everything I could, but I still have plenty of sites that I feel I need to explore further!

Staying on web topics, I'm giving Google Reader a test run this week, even though I'm still a huge fan of Bloglines. I just wanted to give it a try since I've read about all the recent improvements, and it just looks cooler (sometimes I'm a very shallow user). So far I like it - I think it has some features that could really come in handy, although it's a smidge slower on my iBook. We'll see what I stick with after a week or so.

One more thing (not really a Steve Jobs quote, I promise) - I'm declaring Disney lent (meaning a personal lent with Disney as a reward at the end!) from tomorrow until next Thursday, when I will be in Los Angeles and Disneyland. This means no sweets or fast food for Mikey for a week - I'm just posting it here to keep myself honest!

10.10.2006

Dance Dance Revolution Supernova / PS2 : 5 of 5

At last the DDR drought is over with the latest official release from Konami, which is so much better than playing those lame knock-off games that I get sucked into! There's nothing like starting a fresh DDR release - checking out the new songs, new graphics, unlocking stuff, and trying to get A's on every song in every mode (even the boring easy stuff!). My biggest shock so far in DDR Supernova is the new dancers, who have all been re-created with really "human" moves - the new Emi character is so cute that I missed a bunch of steps the first time she was on-screen! There are also several songs with full motion video backgrounds, including old hits like Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles and Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper (and now I've seen that video at least 47 times). Several new concepts from DDR Extreme 2 have returned, such as the Shop where you buy (unlock) items with points you earn from dancing, but the new mission mode, now called Stellar Master Mode, is so much better. There are several tasks in checklists that you have to complete in each Stellar Joint (what a bizarre name), and then you can attempt to win a showdown for a VIP pass. The showdowns unfortunately include the weird tasks that I don't like - I hate being rewarded for playing "wrong" (such as complete this song, but never use the up arrow), but it's no big deal. Playing Stellar Master Mode puts new things in the Shop, and that's essential to keep unlocking new stuff. I can't wait to unlock Endless mode, but I think I have a lot of playing ahead of me! I don't think DDR will ever get old for me - I just hope Konami keeps it coming for years to come.

10.09.2006

Hirugohan

Today I had lunch with Barron and Ryan, and we went to a place called Origami Express. Normally anything with "express" in the name spells trouble, but this place is really cool, because you can get Japanese food that's not really available anywhere else! Most Japanese restaurants in Austin try to be a little fancy or formal, so they don't have anything as simple as yakisoba, for example. But Origami Express is just a simple counter restaurant that has tons of things that I've eaten and enjoyed during my trips to Japan! I had okayodon, which I haven't eaten since my first trip to Japan, and it really brought back some Kyoto memories. I'll definitely be going back to this place to try lots of other stuff! After lunch we shopped at Terra Toys for the first time, and we were totally amazed at the selection of stuff at this store - it was like stepping back in time. It was great to have such a nice lunchtime - it made the whole day much more fun!

10.08.2006

Matsuura Aya / Single V Clips 2 : 4 of 5

On one of my trips to Japan, I asked my pal Matt to pick out some music for me to buy, and he pointed me to the CD single of Matsuura Aya's Ne-e?, which I really enjoyed. Since then I haven't really listed to Aya much, but after hearing more about her and seeing her in so many Hello! Project shows, I decided to check out some of her videos (I got the second collection since it included Ne-e?). This is a really fun DVD with seven videos, plus several bonus features, including some fantastic "close-up" versions of the songs - I have to admit, it's quite hypnotizing to stare at a single long shot of a beautiful face singing into the camera! I think I could really become an Aya fan, because she knows how to mix crazy-cute with serious emotion, such as on amazing ballads like The Last Night, which is a truly fantastic song (one of my new favorites). Aya really knows how to sell a song, even when she's acting like a funky music box and making goofy expressions (which she does in Ne-e?, cracking me up every time). I really like the relaxed feel of songs like Sogen no Hito and Hiyashinsu (which is a lot of fun to sing), but not all the videos are great - Goodbye Natsuo is totally crazy, and seeing Aya dressed as a dude with a beard is kind of kimochi-warui! Overall, this is a fun collection that I've watched several times now, so I guess I'll have to check out her first clips DVD soon.

10.07.2006

Saturday stuff

Sometimes I really enjoy spending a Saturday by myself, just doing regular things and enjoying all my hobbies. Today I did all kinds of stuff and really had a fun, relaxing time! I built my new LEGO Slave One, which was really cool because of all the hidden features, and it was nice to build it while watching a Star Wars documentary on TiVo. I spent time on-and-off all day burning files to DVD so I can clear a ton of space off my hard drive in preparation for my yearly Christmas video project, and I also spent some creative time brainstorming it, too! I got out of the house a little bit to get a few groceries, and I also bought a paper shredder, since my filing cabinet is overflowing with old, old stuff - shredding is pretty fun! I had a nice macro photo session, too, so I'm caught up on all the Mini-PEZ I've been buying recently - I'm still improving on my lighting situation, but I think I need a mini-tripod so I can really get into the sweet spot of my "studio". In between all this stuff, I started my Christmas catalog shopping and read some comics, and then topped off the evening by watching the two-hour premiere of Battlestar Galactica, which was pretty intense! I didn't study Japanese today (unless you count watching old Futarigoto episodes), but there's always tomorrow!

10.06.2006

Jackass Number Two : 3 of 5

It's hard to explain why anyone likes seeing guys getting hurt just to be funny, but whatever twisted reason we all come up with, I can't deny that I used to like watching the show on MTV. The first Jackass movie was just OK, because I think they went a little too far (because they could do just about anything they wanted in a movie), but it was still kind of fun. Jackass Number Two gets it just right, though! I wasn't even planning on seeing it (and I was surprised they even made it, since the popularity has died down so much), but the guys and I decided to take it in at the Alamo Drafthouse (a perfect environment for this movie), and I have to say that I laughed the entire time! The best thing about the movie is that this time they decided to do stunts that are just way off the scale for everyday people, which was much more interesting. No one is going to be able to build a giant rocket and strap themselves to it (just like Wile E. Coyote) and shoot themselves out into the middle of a lake, which makes it even more amazing to see Johnny Knoxville do it! There are definitely some super gross-out moments, but at least they are spaced apart well enough so we don't have to linger on them. It's also really cool that the opening and closing segments have some real studio production value, beyond the usual handheld video quality - no matter what you think of these guys, they really know how to make fun of themselves, right down to parodying their own silliness in a big Broadway style number. This is totally crazy-ass stuff, but I dare you watch the whole thing without laughing!

10.05.2006

Open Season : 3 of 5

It's always a good thing when a new animated feature is released, and I love going to see them in the theater. Lately I haven't been too picky - I don't expect too much from these movies (since there have been so many this year), but I always enjoy myself anyway. Open Season was nice because it was much funnier than I was predicting! Of course, this is definitely another talking animal movie, and because it has to do with a domesticated bear learning his way in the "wild" forest, you can almost compare the basic plot to The Wild or even Madagascar. Open Season has a much different feel, though, because Boog the bear and Elliot the deer turn this into a buddy movie, and it's their crazy dialogue that really had me rolling. When Boog wants to find a toilet because he's never used "the woods", Elliot actually tells him, "Come on, it's just like riding a bicycle, except you're crapping on it." That line has to go down in history, don't you think? As far as animation goes, I was happy with the character design (nothing made me cringe, though I think McSquizzy the squirrel was just plain ugly), and there were plenty of nice effects (I was really impressed with how they rendered wet fur!). There aren't any teary-eyed moments here - just lots of making fun of hunters (fine with me!) and a crazy "animals versus humans" action scene finale. This movie seems a little more aimed at adults than your typical animated film, but I really enjoyed it!

10.04.2006

Threadgill's night

Last weekend my pal Francis and his band, which also features my pal Chris (both Chris & Francis are also in the Greatest American Heroes, since all of my friends mix together in our various music projects!), played a show at the outdoor stage at Threadgill's downtown. For part of the show they were the band for Maryann Price, who was really crazy and entertaining, and they also had a pretty amazing ancient sax player who was incredible to hear. It was a fun show, and it was nice to sit outside in the evening breeze and drink with Ernesto & Jonathan and everyone else - it was a nice relaxing night with friends! As usual, I enjoyed taking some photos and playing around with different simulated film speeds. I really like a few of them, so enjoy the set!

View photos: Music at Threadgill's

10.03.2006

Walt Disney Treasures / Disney Rarities : 4 of 5

I've finally finished enjoying last year's wave of Walt Disney Treasures, saving the best set for last! This collection combines all kinds of Disney short cartoons spanning a huge segment of Disney animation history, starting with Disney's earliest work and ending with some really modern, stylized shorts. The first disc begins with several of the famous Alice comedies, which featured a live-action girl in a cartoon world, which was pretty amazing back in the silent film era. Disney made over 50 of these films, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed them! Some of them have lots of live action, such as Alice's Wild West Show, so they seem a lot like a Little Rascals short, but eventually the cartoon world shows up and it's pretty funny. (By the way, the music that has been added to these silent films is fantastic!) After the Alice shorts, there are tons of other cartoons to enjoy, some as long as twenty minutes each. The title of this collection isn't really accurate in this case, since hit cartoons like Ferdinand the Bull or Lambert the Sheepish Lion aren't "rare" at all, but whatever you call it, it's wonderful to have all of these in a single collection. Some of my new favorites are The Brave Engineer, full of impossible antics that remind me of Warner Bros. shorts, and The Little House, well-known for Mary Blair's amazing design and color work (I've always wanted to see it, so it was a treat!). It was also nice to see Ben & Me again, because I remembered lots of it from my childhood - it's wonderful how little Disney memories stick with you. Of course, there's nice bonus material (including a fascinating Disney silent film timeline), but the real stars are the cartoons, and I can't get enough of them!

10.02.2006

Clicking the time away

One of my favorite time-wasting activities is browsing through Amazon recommendations, where they suggest products you might like based on a variety of factors (your ratings, your wish lists, your past purchases, and so on). They make it so easy to adjust things since you can click the rating stars next to each item - it's interesting how accurate the suggestions can be after you click around for a while. My suggestions really reflect what I buy now (Disney stuff, anime, manga, language books, LEGO, and so on), and I've actually discovered some cool products, since you can limit the suggestions to stuff that isn't even out yet. Anyway, it's fun to browse around there (kind of like window shopping), and I usually end up checking it several times a week! The ratings method is really similar to Netflix (I think Amazon adopted this method after it became popular on Netflix), and I'm just as obsessive with movie ratings - I've rated over 1,500 movies (since it only takes one click)!

10.01.2006

Hello! Morning Theater Vol 8 : 3 of 5

Since I decided to try out this series by watching Volume 9 (which I really enjoyed), I guess I'll be watching these backwards! It's really not a big deal, since these comedy stories seem to run for a few episodes and then move on to something else, but it is kind of interesting to see the introduction of some characters that show up the next volume. Anyway, this is another two hours of goofy sketch comedy featuring the gals of Hello! Project (though without Reina and Sayumi this time), and I had a blast watching it. Most of this DVD focuses on three apartments in Haromoni (the fictional town), and they have some pretty crazy inhabitants, like the messy lady whose place is overflowing with junk, or the backwards girl (Risa wearing all her clothes backwards!). There's also a long segment with the funny monk characters, with the main monk played by Goto Maki, always tapping on her bald head. The Sachi Usue and Sachi Usuko gags are really funny this time, and there are a lot of them - basically, when anyone says something that sounds like those names (such as Shatsu ga usui, which means "thin shirt"), these bizarre starving pilgrim girls show up - you just have to watch it to see the humor. I think I laughed the most at Yaguchi Mari on this disc - she's pretty funny when her character freaks out! I really like watching these sketches, so I'm sure I'll be checking out Volume 7 soon!