5.31.2009

New iMac bliss

Although I use my MacBook 90% of the time, I still like having an additional desktop Mac to encode DVDs, download torrents, and other long-haul tasks like editing videos. I've been using a Power Mac for the past four years, which was a screamer when it came out, but lately I just felt so behind the times using a non-Intel Mac. I've been eyeing the new iMac for a long time, since I love its simplicity, and last week I finally got one! I thought it would take forever for me to get everything moved and setup how I want, but I actually blazed through the job in a couple evenings. There are lots of things I'm really happy about, starting with the 24-inch screen, plus I hooked up my old Cinema Display as a second monitor (which just worked like magic the moment I plugged it in). The new tiny keyboard took a few minutes to get used to, but I love the small footprint. Although I've avoided iPhoto for years, I've finally decided to use it now, and I'm having a blast running through my entire photo collection and watching it do face recognition on my pals! I've also decided to start using Time Machine, so I won't have to mess with my usual monthly backup (except for my MacBook, but I may remedy that in the future). This weekend I've really enjoyed using it and enjoying that elegant Apple feeling - I'm really happy with my iMac!

Memorial Day starving

On Memorial Day my pals Jonathan & Anne-Marie had a fantastic cookout at their house, which was a lot of fun! Amazing looking food was everywhere, but believe it or not, I didn't eat a bite of it since I'm dieting right now. Of course, I still had some wonderful drinks (the bar was setup for mix-your-own Mint Juleps and Mohitos), and Jonathan bought a couple nice cigars for us to enjoy. It was a simple, relaxed, and peaceful time with friends, followed by a great Memorial Day nap!

View photos: Memorial Day 2009

5.30.2009

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla : 3 of 5

I can't believe I'm already up to the 26th Godzilla movie, released in 2002. This is the fourth Godzilla film to feature Mechagodzilla (hence the somewhat awkward title), so I was really curious to see how he would be re-imagined this time around. It turns out he's just a massive weapon developed by the Anti-Megalosaurus Force (AMF) to fight Godzilla, and he even gets a name this time, Kiryu. The twist is that he's controlled by advanced "DNA computers", and they use bits of Godzilla's own DNA (obtained from his actual bones after his destruction in 1954 - yes, this is yet another reboot!). This one little fact sets up the best scene in the movie - when Kiryu hears Godzilla's roar, his DNA goes berserk and Mechagodzilla goes on a rampage (definitely a little embarrassing for the AMF)! The characters are a little sappy this time, since Akane (an AMF soldier looking for a reason to live) has some moments with the scientist's daughter that seem pulled right out of a Japanese TV drama, but the kaiju fighting is fantastic (I've become a connoisseur by now!). I loved the fierce contact and the rotating camera moves, which must have been really difficult to pull off, but unfortunately it seemed all of the aircraft were completely computer-generated. Kiryu's ultimate weapon is the Absolute Zero Gun, and there's an incredible shot where a misfire takes out three buildings instantly! There are also a few special scenes for Godzilla fans of all types, including flashbacks from Mothra and War of the Gargantuas, a cameo by Kumi Mizuno (my favorite Godzilla actress), and even baseball great Hideki Matsui knocking one out of the park (of course, his nickname is Godzilla!). Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is a fast-paced, action-packed film, and although I prefer a slower, more menacing pace, I could definitely watch it again anytime. Two more Godzilla movies to go!

5.28.2009

Up : 5 of 5

Thanks once again to lucky Melinda (who seems to my source of free sneak previews now!), I got to see Up a couple days early (and we even got press seats this time). Being the first animated feature to ever open the Cannes Film Festival, there were lots of reviews for me to read beforehand, and since all of them are so positive, I was prepared to be amazed. All I can say is that I'm completely impressed that Pixar is a studio that can totally focus on the art and storytelling of a truly great film, creating movies that can speak to everyone without compromising for Hollywood's money-making schemes. Up is so wonderful that I'm practically speechless, and it's a perfect example of Pixar's solid integrity. There won't be a lot of kids wanting to play with a 78-year old man action figure, yet Carl Fredricksen is an incredibly compelling character. Of course, animation has to include some suspension of belief (so we have to accept a house flying to South America on helium balloons), but the situations and emotions of falling in love, growing old, losing a spouse, and finding something to live for are all intensely real, and definitely intended for an adult audience. That's not to say there aren't tons of laughs to be had, because electronically-talking dogs ("Squirrel!") and great dialogue from Wilderness Explorer Russel make for some hilarious moments. Just about every detail is fantastic, from the beautiful score (which you can actually hum as you leave the theater), to the subtle use of 3D (which adds a little to the movie, but certainly isn't abused). I know I've said this before, but I'm so glad that Disney bought Pixar so their logo is on this film, because Pixar is without a doubt making the movies that Disney could have only made in the past. Up is not only a triumph of animation, but also a success in every element that makes a great film, period!

5.26.2009

Day Jobs original: Get Go-Getter

Time for another time capsule post about my old swing band, The Day Jobs! Some of the old files that I recently discovered were song lyrics, since we had several original tunes written by Dae and Ernesto. For a few songs, after the guys wrote the melody, I got to write some lyrics to go along with them, and it was really fun to see what I could come up with, and even better to hear Matt sing them with the band. One my favorites was Get Go-Getter, which Ernesto wrote and titled, so I had to write around that idea. At the time I was into the complex and funny rhymes of Lorenz Hart (lyricist of My Funny Valentine and a million other songs you know), so I wanted to be clever with lots of three syllable rhymes. Some of them aren't so hot, but they're close! By the way, this song isn't about anyone I've ever known (although I remember I did have a car battery problem back then!). You can actually listen along to The Day Jobs performing live at Speakeasy on February 25th, 2000, thanks to Club Cast Live (a now defunct website that used to broadcast Austin music on the net)!

Play Get Go-Getter
She's a get go-getter, you ought to see her go
She's a hip jet-setter, flyin' to her French chateau
She's a maestro on the Wurlitzer
All her fiction wins the Pulitzer
She's a get go-getter
Goin' after me

She's a dancer - a romancer
You won't believe your eyes
A mediocre - stock broker
A recipient of the Nobel Prize

She's a get go-getter, she drinks the finest wine
She's a high stakes better, rolls seven every time
Though she may not care for flattery
She can change your car's dead battery
She's a get go-getter
Goin' after me

She's a get go-getter, she dresses so sublime
She's a cashmere sweater, top of the line - so fine
She's a thrice-degreed colle-gi-an
She can tell you in Norwe-gi-an
She's a get go-getter
Goin' after me

A navigator - of the equator
She can sail the seven seas
She's a doctor - so don't mock her
She performed her own appendectomy

She's a get go-getter, she could have any guy
She's a sweet love letter, the kind that makes you sigh
I'm a nice guy, don't get mad at me
But the lady's got anatomy
She's a get go-getter
Goin' after me

5.24.2009

Night at the Museum / Battle of the Smithsonian : 4 of 5

I really enjoying seeing the original Night at the Museum a few years ago, so I was kind of excited to check out this sequel, even though this movie is just pure goofy entertainment. I can't really pin down the reason why, but I just had a fantastic time! It has nothing to do with the characters, since there is practically no development (even though they try to get a brief moral across about doing what you love), and while the special effects are cool, they aren't miles ahead of anything else you can see these days. I guess it's just the magic of the idea that makes these movies click for me - I love seeing museums I have visited and real works of art and history that I've seen in person actually coming to life! Something new this time around is living paintings and photos - it was awesome to recognize so many famous ones and see them moving, and I loved the scene where Ben and Amelia Earhart jump into the classic VJ Day photo (which leads to a funny scene during the closing credits). Speaking of Amelia, Amy Adams was super-cute and hilarious in the role, and I got a kick out of her cliched slang and adventuresome attitude. Seeing the whole Air & Space Museum filled with activity was pretty awesome, and I enjoyed the exciting flying scenes (it makes no difference to me that the Wright brothers' flyer could never make those moves - remember, this is magic!). I think they could have done more with the Darth Vader scene, but Oscar the Grouch totally made up for it. It was also kind of interesting to see no less than three cast members of The Office in small roles in a single film. There's no doubt this movie is all fluff, but it's high quality and exceptionally fun fluff, and I hope they figure out how to make a third one!

5.23.2009

BoA / BoA : 3 of 5
Utada / This Is The One : 4 of 5

Two of my favorite Jpop/Kpop superstars coincidentally both decided they should break into the US market this year with English language albums, so of course I had to support these artists by buying them both (it's pretty nice to be able to pay ten bucks rather than the usual $25 or so!). The first is BoA, the beautiful Korean pop singer that I have been listening to since I bought her CD in Japan (she often releases Japanese language albums), with her US debut CD titled BoA (so original). When I first heard the single Eat You Up, I was a little disappointed since the song didn't showcase her great voice, but I had hoped the album would fix that problem. Unfortunately, that's not the case - BoA's producers made the terrible decision that she needs to sound like every other generic American hip-hop artist, so the album is filled with electronic vocal effects. Let me tell you, BoA does not need to sing through an Auto-Tune! Several of the songs are kind of duets with other ethnic singers, and there are no ballads (which I think are BoA's best songs!). I really wish she would have continued her normal music progression into the US, but now she's just going to blend in with the crowd (I think Lose Your Mind would have been a fantastic hit). However, even after saying all of that, I can't make myself dislike this album - for what it is, it's a totally awesome dance-fest that I can listen to over and over. I don't think the true BoA shines through, but the hip-hop BoA can kick it out.

The second artist is Utada Hikaru, who is such a superstar in Japan that her debut album is still the number one selling album ever. Utada actually attempted to break into the US market a few years ago with the album Exodus, which was kind of a disaster (even though I still enjoy the CD) with its embarrassing lyrics (Easy Breezy comes to mind), but now she's ready to try it again with This Is The One. Unlike BoA's complete 180 style change, this Utada album is a natural progression of her musical feel, and the results are totally fantastic (maybe not as good as her previous Heart Station, but still wonderful). The melodies show off her voice, the production is lush, and the mood is perfect - listening to Utada in English feels something like Everything But The Girl crossed with Sade. If you look at the translation of some of Utada's Japanese songs, you quickly realize that she is a talented poet (so much deeper than your average Jpop!), and although her English lyrics are a little more shallow, they are still filled with beautiful metaphors that go far beyond BoA's dance floor urgings (though I have to say Dirty Desire is way beneath her!). This Is The One is a solid album that I'll be listening to a lot. I hope both of these artists accomplish what they want with these US releases, although I have to admit it feels a little cooler to buy import CDs directly from Japan!

5.21.2009

Batman: The Animated Series Vol 4 : 4 of 5

For the past few weeks I've been enjoying this final volume of the Batman animated series (yet another Christmas DVD set), although I prefer the first few seasons more than this one. This time around (from 1997-1998) Warner Bros. went with a completely new design of the show in more ways than one - all of the character looks were updated to be more angular and modern, and Batman operates much more as a "team leader", since Batgirl, Nightwing (the original Robin) and Robin (now Tim Drake) are all full-fledged crime fighters. This season doesn't have quite the same level of style (no more beautiful title cards, for example), but there are still several classic episodes that everyone loves. Over The Edge is a brilliant dream sequence that explores the end of Batman (and even includes the death of Batgirl), and Old Wounds does a great job of explaining the Dick Grayson split and transition into becoming Nightwing. Holiday Knights is a really fun set of vignettes, including the hilarious Harley & Ivy Christmas spree, and this multi-part style is also used in the fantastic Legends of the Dark Knight, which features a glimpse of the campy 60s Batman as well as the gritty Frank Miller Batman! Watching these episodes again was really fun, since I remember how shocking the visual redesign was to me in the beginning, which now seems totally normal. Most of the designs are successful (especially Scarecrow, who went from silly to terrifying), although reducing Mr. Freeze to a living head was a little much (and I also think the female characters like Batgirl and Poison Ivy were sexier before). It's nice that almost all of the rogues gallery is used in this season (most likely to show off their new looks), so overall there's an episode for everyone. The bonus features are wimpy as usual, with only three half-hearted audio commentaries (which I totally enjoyed anyway!), but this is still an essential DVD set if you're a Batman fan!

5.19.2009

Maximum space and book swapping

Back when I organized all my books and manga, I made a firm commitment to the concept of "maximum space", meaning that when a defined space is full and I want to buy more, I have to get rid of things to make room. This idea has been guiding all of my collections and their growth for quite a while, so I know they will never get out of hand! I have two small shelves designated as my maximum space for manga, and recently I reached the limit. Since I'm still buying and enjoying manga, I had to find a way to lose some old series. The problem with manga is it's worth next to nothing for trade-in (I found a place online that would do one dollar per volume, but it just wasn't worth the effort). However, I remembered reading about a site called PaperBackSwap, which basically just acts as a broker of one-for-one book trading, which seemed like a good fit for manga. It turns out there were tons of people who wanted the books I decided to offer, since I had about 10 requests in minutes! PaperBackSwap actually knows the weight of the books you're sending, so it can print out Media Mail postage (pretty cheap) for you, which is super handy. You can actually wrap the book in printer paper if you want, but I found it easier to use brown paper and just tape the postage on. Anyway, it was really simple, and now I have lots of credit to use to get swapped books. The site has over three million books registered, but you can even put books they don't have yet on a wish list, so if someone offers them you can snatch them up. Since you pay the postage when you send books, you don't pay anything to receive them, and today I just received my first book, a Steve Martin novel that has been on my Amazon Wish List for ages! It will take me a long time to "spend" the credit I have built up, but I'm definitely sold on the idea!

5.18.2009

Fun festival, frustrating camera

This weekend I was asked to be a photographer at the Japan-America Society of Greater Austin Sastuki Matsuri (May Festival). It was kind of cool that someone discovered my website and photos and figured out how to contact me (via my pal Kumiko), so I was happy to do it. Several years ago I went to this festival with my pal Barron, when it was held at the Zilker Botanical Garden, but thank goodness it was in a middle school cafeteria this year, since it poured rain all day. I had a good time trying to capture all of the various events, from taiko drums to kendo sparring, but it was pretty challenging, and made it clear that I really need to upgrade my ancient Canon SD400, which is completely beat-up and starting to physically malfunction every now and then. My biggest problem was white balance, since the lighting appeared to be florescent, but I think it was actually tungsten, so most of my photos are too orange even though I thought I was doing the right thing (I think I was using the wrong metering mode, too, but there's not much you can do after 600 photos!). I also had to shoot everything in grainy 400 speed with my pitiful zoom, which certainly didn't help! It was still fun, though - I enjoyed the performances, and it was nice to see the huge crowd of people interested in Japanese culture. (But I'll definitely be buying a new camera before the next photo taking opportunity!)

View photos: JASGA Satsuki Matsuri 2009

5.17.2009

Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack : 5 of 5

It's interesting how the Millennium series Godzilla films are either hit or miss, but I'm happy to say that this 2001 movie is definitely a major hit - maybe one of the best Godzilla movies ever (which is a big complement since I prefer the Showa series)! Just like the previous film, the entire timeline is thrown away yet again, leaving the past with only the original 1954 Godzilla (plus a brief mention of the US fiasco), but it's worth it because it allows other classic kaiju to be re-imagined as mystical "guardian monsters" who have been sleeping, waiting to protect the Earth from Godzilla. This movie features the meanest, most destructive Godzilla ever (he even has creepy white eyes), and there are several scenes that focus on his victims just long enough to establish how evil he is, which is necessary since you have to root for Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah (yes, he's a good guy now!) during the climactic battle! The main character is a cute reporter named Yuri, the daughter of the military commander who remembers the 1954 attack (as shown in a nice flashback), and it's incredible how easy it is to get attached to them and their coworkers during the course of the film. After a fantastic build-up, the huge battle is simply fantastic, featuring some of the best effects I've seen in a kaiju movie! The use of CG and digital compositing that wasn't possible in previous movies is pretty incredible, making for some truly awesome and realistic shots (although at times the effects are so crystal clear that it doesn't have that Godzilla film look!). Mothra is truly beautiful as she hatches from her cocoon, and King Ghidorah is almost majestic! Because of the great characters, the wonderful pace of the plot, and the awesome effects, watching this movie was an engaging experience, and I can't recommend it enough. If you're someone who has blown off Godzilla movies as being silly, it's time for you to watch Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!

5.15.2009

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Vol 5 & Vol 6 : 4 of 5

I'm really enjoying this awesome anime series, and I can easily see how so many fans have been obsessed with all the amazing technology - everything has a intricate design and a cool code name (and new vehicles and weapons are introduced in almost every episode!). But along with the action, the character development on this series is stellar, since they always manage to focus on both sides of the war, showing the conflict inside each character doing what they feel they must do, even though they may be a kind soul with no desire to kill. That point is made clear in two key battles: first with Kira's defeat of the Desert Tiger (it was a shame to see this interesting character go so soon), and next with the huge face-off between Kira and Athrun, during which two of the most likable personalities are killed (Nichol's death at Kira's hands is particularly sad, since Nichol's sensitive and artistic nature is brought out in the previous scenes). On the female side of things, Flay (I still don't like her) is jealous of Cagalli, who befriends Athrun while they are stranded on an island, and we also learn of Cagali's connections to Orb, the neutral nation who made the new mobile suits in the first place. There's also some big news mentioned by Kira's parents about his sibling, but it's no surprise to me (I'm just waiting for the inevitable to be revealed!). Action-wise, I loved the undersea battle, and the Archangel's huge barrel roll was pretty spectacular! Although Volume 6 has a few obligatory flashback episodes, they're definitely well done (and the switch to Nami Tamaki's new theme song is pretty awesome!). I'm really looking forward to seeing where this series goes next, but I have to take a break to complete my Godzilla goal!

5.13.2009

Manga Mentions 5/09

Kaze Hikaru Vol 11: This series continues to be one of my favorites, since it always does an amazing job of combining factual (and researched) history and culture with Shojou emotion! This volume has the story of Mabo, a boy who finally learns to speak by using the Iroha poem (awesome cultural reference!), and also contains the baffling seppuku of Yamanami (leaving behind poor Akesato), which left me in tears. Bushido seems so complex at times, but watching it lived through these characters is fascinating!

Hikaru no Go Vol 14: I'm getting a little tired of this story, but the artwork is so spectacular that I've got to keep reading it. Toya Meijin (Akira's father) gets to play Sai online (to keep Hikaru's involvement secret), and there's also an interesting game where Hikaru is challenged to "one color Go" (they have to memorize which stones are their own!). I feel like they really need to move the plot along, rather than spending page after page showing people holding stones, but I'm still enjoying it!

Appleseed Vol 2: Since I'm getting close to finishing a few series, it's fun to continue this one for a great change of pace! This volume has some great action, and there's so much detail on every page that I have to stop and study it awhile, especially since I love futuristic cities so much. Strangely, this volume kind of ends the main story (and "appleseed" has a somewhat different meaning from the movie version), so I'm interested in finding out what Deunan and Briareos do in the next volume.

Video Girl Ai Vol 12: This manga is a great example of a story that went on for too long, so I decided to just knock out the last few volumes and get it over with. The Gokuraku bad guy completely turns into a Wizard of Oz kind of character, and Moemi cuts her hair to be more like Ai, even though she doesn't have a chance at this point. The only touching scene is Yota's celebration for Ai's imaginary 17th birthday.

Video Girl Ai Vol 13: This final volume has a bunch of crazy conflict between the Gokuraku bad guy and the kind old clerk, which really seems out of left field this late in the story. The ending isn't too bad, although the brief wrap up of all the other characters is a little forced, but it took so long to get here that the finale was disappointing. Video Girl Ai is a good story overall with some excellent moments, but it would have been much better as an 8-10 volume series!

5.12.2009

Grand Canyon adventure

Last weekend I took a four-day vacation to visit my pals Ryan & Jennifer in Phoenix, which included an incredible adventure to the one-and-only Grand Canyon! After I arrived, Ryan and I spent the first day enjoying the Phoenix Zoo, which was so unusual since I've never seen a zoo in the middle of the desert before. Even though most of the animals were hiding from the hot sun, they have a fantastic giraffe habitat and a cool enclosure were you can hang out with squirrel monkeys. The next morning we got up early to drive to the canyon, and on the way we found a crazy Flintstones RV park, plus an aviation museum with an old Constellation (Dad navigated on this plane in the Air Force, and I had never seen one in person)! After checking out our hotel, we entered Grand Canyon National Park and saw the canyon itself. It was the first time Ryan and I had been there, and the sight completely blew me away - it's just so huge and expansive that I could hardly believe it was real! At Grand Canyon Village we took a look at all the buildings there, then had lunch at the El Tovar (and got a window table!). After that, we started driving east along the South Rim and stopped at every observation point. Each one was different and beautiful, and we had a great time taking photos at each one! Speaking of photos, Ryan got a new digital SLR and really gave it a workout (with three cameras going, we actually took over 1,000 pictures!). The famous Watchtower was the feature of the last point, and it's a really interesting (if somewhat strange) structure. We ended the day by watching the sunset (incredible!), then went back to the hotel for drinks, which made it hard to get up the next morning to catch the sunrise, but we made it! Even the drive back to Phoenix was fun, and we stopped in Flagstaff to check out the downtown area. The trip was really amazing, and it was great to share such an incredible nature experience with my pals Ryan & Jennifer!

View photos: Phoenix Zoo
View photos: Drive to the Grand Canyon
View photos: Grand Canyon
View photos: Flagstaff

5.07.2009

Last of the Jedi Vol 6 / Jude Watson : 3 of 5

I'm still enjoying this series of Star Wars books, and I'm definitely not ashamed to be reading these Scholastic big-print mini-novels (except in public)! Our hero Ferus Olin is now fairly established as a double agent, so there's lots of creepy interaction with the Emperor and Darth Vader, which is the best part of the story, since Anakin and Ferus grew up together in the Jedi Temple. Ferus doesn't know who Vader really is, but of course the opposite isn't true (and Vader even says "I know you" to Ferus in a particularly tense scene!). The plot is a seamless transition from the previous book, and is kind of overflowing with planetary political intrigue that gets a little tedious at times, but there are still some good action-packed moments to break up the monotony. It's interesting to read about pockets of resistance forming and their various plots, but the main theme of this book is the danger of Ferus being so close to the evil of the Empire and his worries about the dark side, which Ferus counters with memories of his Jedi training and his old master in some poignant flashbacks. I love how Jude Watson constantly switches the point of view character in each chapter, so the reader gets to see things through the eyes of Ferus, Trever, and even Vader at times - internal dialogue and characterization has always been a strongpoint of these books that keeps me coming back for more. Overall, this volume wasn't spectacular, but of course it was good enough to make me want to keep reading the series!

5.05.2009

Austin Symphony / Sarah Chang : 3 of 5

I don't think I ever realized the importance of a symphonic program as a whole until I experienced the Austin Symphony's latest concert, which featured three works that were individually OK, but became kind of a disjointed mess when put together. I think this was probably just a case of bad timing, since the first work was a modern symphony written as a gift for Maestro Peter Bay's 10th anniversary with the symphony, and Sarah Chang was probably scheduled to appear way in advance, so there was only room to throw in some quick Tchaikovsky to fill out the evening. Unfortunately, each work was a little disappointing, starting with the world premiere of Welcher's Symphony No. 5, which should be called the "use every crazy percussion instrument you can find" symphony. It was almost laughable to see the four percussionists constantly switching between everything from bongos to bowed cymbals, and truthfully it was a bit trying to listen to the whole thing (although I did enjoy many of the musical themes). It was really nice to see Sarah Chang perform, since she is such a renown violinist, but her stage presence was a little less refined than I had hoped (I liked the passion behind her walking around the stage, but her uncontrollable bow flourish got old quickly). Of course, she was technically magnificent, and I would definitely enjoying hearing more of her playing on CD! Finally, Tchaikovsky's Capiccio Italien is like a musical cartoon, which is wonderful on it's own, but was simply bizarre sounding after the first two works of the evening. My pals Matt & Kumiko and I still had a wonderful time at the symphony, but we all agreed that this strange program left us hoping for some better choices next time.

5.03.2009

Star Trek : 5 of 5

I can hardly believe it myself, but yesterday I got to see a sneak preview of the new Star Trek movie (thanks to my pal Melinda and her lucky free passes again)! I promise this will be a spoiler-free review (even though it will be tough!), but I want to get my thoughts down while they are fairly fresh, since this is such an important movie to Star Trek fans like me. The best thing I can say about the film is that I want to see it again right now! I don't know how they did it, but JJ Abrams managed to create an awesome story that should make long-time fans happy, while brilliantly (and simply, I might add) making possible an entirely new future of Star Trek adventures in the years to come. Although the other Star Trek series were all enjoyable and fun to watch, nothing will ever top the original series characters for me, so even though this is an entirely new, younger cast, they immediately became the Enterprise crew that I know so well. Their youth (Chekov is only 17!) is pretty cool, but even though they can be wild and full of fire, there's no mistake that they are also brilliant scientists and serious about Starfleet! I was happy with the entire cast, except for Winona Ryder's small role as Spock's mom, just because it was jarring to see a well-known face. It was a blast to catch the many references to the series and previous movies, but also fun to see the updated Enterprise, which looks cool both inside and out. There's hardly a need to mention the special effects, since everything looks amazing these days, but I will say that I really enjoyed the glimpses at Starfleet Academy in future San Francisco as well as the Vulcan city where Spock grew up, just because I have a thing for sprawling futuristing cities. I'm sure more demanding Star Trek fans will be more negative than me, but I'm totally into this movie as both a satisfying trip with my Enterprise friends, as well as a starting point for new movies I can get excited about!

5.02.2009

Godzilla vs Megaguirus : 3 of 5

It's been way too long since I continued with my quest to watch every Godzilla movie, so it's time to step up the pace since I only have five more to go! I actually stumbled upon this 2000 film on TV and watched it several months ago, but it was cool to see it again in Japanese on wide-screen DVD and pay more attention this time. Just when it seemed like the Millennium timeline was coming together, this movie decides to change it all again with a long recap of flashbacks, including retrofitting the modern spiky Godzilla suit into 1954 black & white footage, and continuing with some crazy history that ends up with Osaka as the current capital of Japan! After that's in place, we learn about G-Grasper (anti-Godzilla force) and their new weapon called Dimension Tide that actually fires miniature black holes, which they hope to use to swallow up Godzilla. Of course, the testing of that weapon releases some prehistoric dragonflies that start out as eggs, hatch into big bugs that kill people (with some of the most disgusting deaths in any Godzilla movie), change into their flying form, and later bring forth Megaguirus, a giant insect that looks way too much like Battra from Godzilla vs Mothra. The story is pretty interesting, and includes some unique situations like Godzilla battling a swarm of thousands of flying dragonflies, plus the complete (and fairly convincing) flooding of Shibuya (I love it when Megaguirus lands on top of the well-known 109 building)! Some of the effect shots are pretty magnificent, including some incredible compositing of the monsters into helicopter shots of actual locations, and the amazing scene where Kiriko (the female soldier main character) actually rides on Godzilla's back as he swims in the ocean (a truly impressive effect). Kirkio and Kudo (the hot-shot cocky scientist hired by G-Grasper) aren't particularly great characters, but at least they keep the plot moving well. Godzilla vs Megaguirus isn't super popular among Godzilla fans, but I really enjoyed it since I had seen my kaiju friends in quite a while!