Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cowboy Be-boppin'... Live!

What would you took a story about a band of bounty hunters and filmed it in the style of a comedic, dramatic, film-noirish science-fiction western? Oh, and did I mention it would be animated? Well the answer is Cowboy Bebop, one of the best regarded anime, at least on this side of the Pacific. With its cross-genre style, bizarre blend of characters, and catchy tunes it engages even those who would normally turn their back on non-childish animation. (I would use the term adult, but then certain people would get the wrong idea.)

The fairly short series (only about 26 episodes) covers the lives of a quartet (quintet if you count the adorable corgi Ein) as they struggle to make ends meet bringing in the worst of the stellar criminals while figuring out how to deal with their peculiar pasts. It is one of the few anime that I would recommend regardless of whether you enjoy that genre. Well, you might be able to enjoy it without watching a single cartoon. As of July, Producer Edwin Stoff with Fox is coordinating an adaption of the series into a live action film. Among others, Stoff was a producer (or exec.) on films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Constantine (2005), and The Matrix (1999)... see any other similarities between these films? Woah! ... Keanu Reeves. In fact, an MTV movie blog already has reported his interest.

Now, I am not a Keanu hater. I think he is a fairly safe choice for the role of Spike Spiegel, at least for one film; beyond that, he (along with the rest of the film) would need to prove himself as the bushy-haired bounty hunter. Sure, there might be better folks out there, but there are far worse as well. He does have a sci-fi background and has had his hand in an action film or few. He has a dry style like Spike and even looks a bit like him, but what he seems to have in most of his roles that he should not is a touch of cluelessness. He would need to soak in a ton of confidence and speed up his speech. He needs to play it confident, sometimes cool, sometimes boastful - that cocky smile he has at the beginning of the dojo training program in The Matrix... that is spot on. He does not need to sound exactly Steve Blum from the series, but it would help if it does not sound like he is contemplating every word that he utters. Spike is confident and assertive, bordering on aggressive, yet relaxed and fluid.

As for the movie as a whole, I have mixed feelings about such an adaptation. Adaptations, reboots, sequels have gotten a bad rap in the past years; these less-than-original retreads of previous material have existed for many years, decades, centuries! Writers and story-tellers remade tales in their own settings or told new tales of old heroes long before movies ever came along. That said, Cowboy Bebop is an early classic, and it while it would be a shame to stain it with a bad adaptation, I do not believe that such a stain could not be washed out and forgotten... and that is only assuming it does not go well.

I am trying to keep my expectations beyond low, but my hopes are creeping up very quickly. As terrible as a poor adaption would be, leading non-fans of anime to one of the golden series, could be an eventual boon for the genre as well as the other "geeky" genres the film incorporates. But "whatever happens, happens."

Oh and if "Tank!" is not the theme song, someone should be run-over by the just mentioned military vehicle.

"See you later, Space Cowboy!"

P.S. Would anyone care to guess how much supervalue seats still are at the Monster Jam? I get such a kick out of those radio ads.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'll Go Get My Ball

I find it interesting how supporting characters manage to steal the scene... or rather the entire movie. I saw Bolt over the weekend, make that Bolt 3D. The story was acceptable as were most of the characters. While admittedly, I am not a fan of John Travolta, I still did not think his voice was a good match for Bolt; a younger, higher pitched would have been better. The animation was pretty good and the 3D effects were not overbearing like some films: HEY! Look at stuff come AT YOU and away from you and BACK AT YOU. WoooOOOOooooOOOOooah!

But much like the penguins of Madagascar, it is the crazy antics of the overly confident sidekick that make the movie. Maybe an entire movie of this raging ball of fur would be annoying, but Rhino the hamster steals nearly every scene he's in with his energetic confidence.

If you love animated films, this one is is probably worthwhile, but it wasn't very memorable, showing how Disney definitely needs the boys & girls at Pixar. I'd probably give it a C+

And any animated film leads me to wonder when the next film by Hayao Miyazaki will be released. His latest Gake no ue no Ponyo or for us westerners, Ponyo on the Cliff, came out in Japan last year and with big names like Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman reportedly attached a month ago to the english dub, it can only be a matter of time before a date is announced.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NY Wrap

...and we had a good time. The End.

Okay, a little more happened than that: We stayed with Lena and the in-laws who were also in town. We visited Northampton, a quaint college town where I saw someone's pet duck outside a store. And we walked around a water reservoir where I took more cool shots.

Barely making it onto the train for our next two legs, we reached New York. We stayed with an awesome couple in Brooklyn to start our final stage. They took us to Grimaldi's near a waterpark for outstanding pizza. But first we made a trip to Times Square; I actually found Midtown Comics by memory and picked up a few trade paperbacks - more on those later. The Plaza de Sanrio was pretty funny, but I knew my honey would love it - an unexpected treat.

Mega Kitty!

Over the next couple days we visited a couple museums, first The Met for a repeat visit. I think we still missed a section or two. I particularly liked some of the smaller asian sculptures and the Tiffany jewelry.

They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Next up was the MoMA; there I saw some modern art that I actually like. I really enjoyed it even though some others were less than impressed. Not everything was inspirational... like the slanted, quadrangle of string. [Come on, really?! Uh, here I suspended this fork. ART! Ta da! Now give me some candy!] Still, it was a great collection.

A friend and I were really struck by "alien girl" - not the title of the sculpture, by the way.

We saw a preview of the parade's balloons, called Float Night, and had dinner with a co-worker and fellow Techie at Ocean Grill. It was very good and very reasonably priced for NY. Quite possibly the best gin and tonic I have ever had. That of course led into the parade... the Macy's Thankgiving Day Parade! We had a wonderful time. It was fun to see the Georgia Tech Marching Band and all of the floats and balloons up close - a very uniquie experience. Unfortunately, I had some camera issues, so I didn't get a full video of the band, but it was a learning experience. And while we did not get there as early as I recommended (Tip: Show up NO LATER than 6:30am.) we were not too far back and we had a pleasant crowd around us.

We ended the trip with a visit to Lombardi's in Little Italy. I'm really not sure which one I liked better, but they're both better than anything in this town. Maybe I'll need to go back and see. We drove back which didn't seem nearly as long as I thought it would be; the Tech-Georgia updates along the way sure didn't hurt either. It was a great season, Jackets! Way to go!

Oh, and check my honey bunny's page for more details of the trip.