Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I therefore grabbed up my laptop and hoofed it north a few blocks through downtown LA, until I got to the Wilshire Grand -- which, I had found out on another occasion, has free wi-fi in its public areas. I settled down in Point Moorea, a true watering hole -- a bar. WFWH etiquette demanded that I buy something, so I got a ginger ale -- for a measly $3.50. (At least I got to keep the can of Canada Dry after the bartender poured the golden liquid into a pilsner.) I managed to locate the single table that abutted an electrical outlet, and went to town. The Wi-fi signal was satisfyingly strong; and the waitstaff left me alone.
When I initially arrived, around 2:30 pm, the place was empty. As the afternoon wore on, and the neighboring high-rises released their wage-slaves, the joint filled up with 20-something proto-yuppies -- the kind who bounced Nerf footballs off of the pool tables while their pals were playing. I left for the concert just about the time when, I'm sure, the waitstaff were eyeing my table for customers who would actually buy booze.
Maybe next time I'll try the coffee bar there.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
-- The City Attorney's wife is having further problems.
-- A jury has convicted Police Brutality Bar star Steve Yagman on multiple counts of tax evasion and fraud. And:
-- Phil Spector's former defense attorney has only temporarily avoided imprisonment for refusing to testify against her client before a jury.
Mike and his wife Deb went to Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.
Meanwhile, Steve, his significant other Dawn, and their dog went to Seaside, Oregon.
The first post was painful for me to read; and I suspect that the future ones will be too. But I will read them. They are not only crucial pieces of my families past; they are a plea for medical care that does not punish the spirit as it heals the body.
We had nosebleed seats, but they were directly above and to the left of the stage. We were in a perfect position to look down into the drum set and watch Stewart Copeland commit exquisite and brutal assault by blunt force upon the taut-skinned tools of his trade.
I saw Sting in concert at the Greek back in 1993, and he did several Police numbers during that show, but that could not match the experience of seeing and hearing him perform -- indeed, re-engineer and re-imagine -- them with his original accomplices, Copeland and Andy Summers. The interaction of Copeland's athletic, Protean drums and percussion, and Summers's guitar (one of those guitars that seems to be singing solos all by itself), along with Sting's throbbing bass lines, is what made these songs compulsive listening back in the '70's and '80's, and what kept them on turntables, cassette players, cd players, and Ipods in the years between then and now.
Sting looked like every gram of body fat had been boiled from his body, leaving a thing of blond sinew and muscle. Copeland, his grey 'fro confined by a MacEnroe-like sweat band, resembled Jeff Conaway on TAXI. Summers's face was a bit chubby; he at least showed the effect of the two decades since the Police had last toured together.
The playing and showmanship was dazzling. The band created new versions of some songs -- like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "Walking in Your Footsteps" -- that I liked better than the album originals. In particular, during "Wrapped," Copeland got out racks of wind chimes, metal bits, and other fantastic pieces of percussion that he wove together into a mesmerizing rhythm track. As for "Walking in Your Footsteps," it had always annoyed me as a preachy specimen of one of Sting's "Hey Mister" songs -- I just can't take seriously lyrics like, "Hey, Mister Dinosaur, you really couldn't ask for more." But the band broke into a serious rock version of the tune that alleviated the, er, sting of the lyrics.
The cherry on the sundae was the big smile I saw on Sting's face (via the big-screen monitors -- faces were blobs from the stands). If there's anything better than seeing a master rock musician at work, it's seeing a master rock musician playing with sheer glee.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The Galactus story, like most memorable superhero stories, tied into a legend deeply ingrained in western legends and mythology: The destruction of the world. The world sees all sorts of Revelations-type phenomena, such as the skies turning to flame, before the herald The Silver Surfer floats to earth and summons Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds -- a cosmic being (who appears, at least to human eyes, as a giant in purple armor) who feeds on entire worlds to survive.
The theme of the story is a recurring one in Lee/Kirby works: that mankind is a primitive race with the potential to either become magnificent, or to destroy itself. That was a particularly powerful concept in the sixties, which saw the proliferation of nuclear weapons simultaneous with the space race. In the story [mild spoiler warning for an over forty year old story], the Four and their pals win the day by impressing first the Surfer, then Galactus with humanity's potential, so that they cease to see people as merely ants crawling on the picnic spread that is Earth. They impress the Surfer when the Thing's girlfriend, Alicia Masters, persuades him that humans possess spirit and courage. They impress Galactus in a rather thuggish manner: Reed Richards holds a gun (a really, really, powerful gun) to the Big G's head and makes him an offer he can't refuse.
Over forty years later, the movie FANTASTIC FOUR 2: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER combines that story has combined with two other Lee/Kirby FF epics (the FF Annual in which Reed Richards and Sue Storm get married; and a later multi-issue story in which Doctor Doom steals the Surfer's power). Last night, we saw it in the Cinerama Dome -- a Hollywood theater that is older than either the stories adapted or me.
My opinion: Fun! Much more fun than the first FF movie (which I enjoyed, though it did not greatly impress me). The story benefits from not containing an origin. The first movie was too consumed with explaining how the Four get their powers and become world-saving heroes, which takes time away from the real attraction: Seeing them act like world-saving heroes. With that out of the way, this one is all hero-action, all the time.
It also benefits from far better performances from the weak points in the previous movie, Ioan Griffud as Richards and Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. (Since the actors are probably at the same level as before, I would credit the direction -- by Tim Story, who also directed the first movie -- with the improvement.)
Moreover, by drawing on the Galactus story, the movie expands the scope of the film beyond that of any previous Marvel adaptation -- or, indeed, beyond that of any previous superhero movie. While comic books think nothing of throwing in other planets and dimensions, movies have been more cautious about going there, concerned that they will ask the movie-going populace to believe too many impossible things before breakfast. Here, the movie postures the Four as heroes dealing with threats on a galactic -- indeed, universal -- level.
The movie's biggest asset, however, is the guy in the title: the Silver Surfer. Although Hollywood has tried to adapt the Surfer to movies before (in the early '80's, a Surfer movie was in development as an Olivia Newton-John project, believe it or not), it really took modern motion-capture technology to create a Surfer who truly lives up to those Kirby drawings from the mid-sixties. And the movie really does show us the Silver Surfer of the comics. This Surfer does not speak as much as his four-color counterpart -- and, mercifully, he does not whine like him -- but he is, truly, The Surfer. And the combination of Doug Jones's physical acting, Lawrence Fishburn's voice acting, and millions in technology make us believe that a Silver man can surf the cosmos.
As an adaptation of the comic book story, the movie does not really work. It does not follow the themes outlined above -- except to the extent that the Four impress the Surfer with humanity's potential. (Meanwhile, the military do much to teach him humanity's darker side. Think "extraordinary rendition.") In particular, Galactus comes off far differently than in the comic -- not only in physical form (giants in purple armor theoretically won't work as well in movies as in comics) but also in general attitude. The movie works best if those who know the original story forget it.
The bottom line: This is a terrifc movies for those who want to step out of the summer heat and watch cinematic simulicrums of Lee and Kirby creations slug it out on the silver screen.
All of the images are copyrighted by Marvel Comics.
A purported reader who goes by the mysterious moniker "M.I., San Antonio, Tex." (I believe the use of initials indicates that the letter was actually written by the column's staff) asks whether Gerard Butler has "plans to do a sequel to his smash hit 300, the movie about Greek warriors based on Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name?"
Responds Edward Klein, or whichever of his staff is masquerading as Walter Scott: "Miller says he'd be more than happy to write future installments of his popular creation."
One has to question not only whether the column's staff actually talked to Miller (the lack of quotation marks makes me suspect that even if they did, this is more a paraphrase than a quote) but whether the staffers know that 300 is (a) not Miller's "creation," but a retelling of an historical event; and (b) ends with [spoiler warning?] Butler's character, and his warriors, dying!
I suppose we could have "future installments" featuring the gradual decomposition of their remains, or perhaps zombie Spartans rising from the wine-dark sea to seek their revenge (damn, those guys are hard to kill!). But I somehow doubt Frank Miller -- who, after all, wrote and drew 300 back in the 1990's -- will be writing or drawing future installments.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Now, Mr. Cutler is a successful trial attorney, and he's been at it a lot longer than I have. So he presumably has a reason for revealing confidential conversations with his client's defense team, and seemingly undercutting their efforts in the court of public opinion. He also presumably has reason to believe a savage cross-examination of a woman relating an experience where a gun was thrust in her face -- a cross-examination which draws a rebuke from the trial judge -- will not only win over an LA jury, but is so essential to his client's defense that he must be allowed to "Brucify," as he has put it, other witnesses.
My experience is that LA juries don't like to see sympathetic witnesses treated roughly on the stand. Perhaps New York juries are different.
After Admiralty park swings around Fiji Way (and Fisherman's Village); then crosses a bridge over to the beach.
After all the time I spent trying to get to the beach, I only rode on the thing a short distance. That day Heal the Bay was holding a beach clean-up; which was fine except for all the pedestrians who loathed walking on sand, and preferred instead to walk on the "bikes only" bike path.
After my beach adventure, I gave Amy a call. She had been picking up her own bike -- her Kawasaki Specter motorcycle -- from the shop. I invited her to lunch at Fisherman's Village. The village is a collection of restaurants (including, purportedly, the original El Torito), hamburger stands, and a little mall with a tchotcke shop, a bicycle rental/sale/repair place, and booking offices for charter cruises. Besides the restaurants and shops, the primary attractions are the slips and docks for such commercial lines as Horblower Dinner Cruises and the ferry to Catalina Island. (Not to mention fishing charters.)
The village takes full advantage of its position at the crossroads of the Ballona Creek Bike Path and the South Bay Coastal Bike Path. A sign at the entrance welcomes bicyclists; and in front of the restaurants are several of the finest bike racks -- the ones on which you hang your bike up like a jacket.
We at at The Angler's Choice -- a seafood restaurant, with an upper-class menu but lower-class nautical decor, complete with plastic lobsters and sharks on the walls.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Story tells the Times he's concerned about what the guys at Comics Ink will think of his movie. As one of those guys, I'll find out when I see it.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Bah! Stupid black screen! Stupid Journey song go away! Hulk hate ending. Subtlety make Hulk's head hurt.
Hulk want to smash Fat Duck Man. He want to smash whiney Duck Man's son, Duck Man Junior. He want to smash Walnut Man. (His hair remind Hulk of Stupid Magician.)
Hulk want to smash stupid Phil Leo --
Phil WAS smashed.
That quality television.
Hulk renew subscription to HBO.
Our local Anime shop, Power Anime, continues to evolve.
Just three years ago it was a cart at the Westside Pavillion shopping center. Since then, it has gone through two storefronts; and has now taken over the primo position in the mall once occupied by Suncoast.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
One word of advice I'd add -- or make that two: Peanut butter. If you bring a sack lunch with some non-perishable food, you won't go hungry if you're stuck at a panel or in a line for hours; and you won't have to settle for high-priced, low-quality convention center food. I favor peanut butter and honey, or sometimes Nutella, on multi-grain bread, with some dried fruit. That provides protein, grains, and vegetable matter. (Plus lots and lots of sodium and fat. That's why you should walk around the convention location as much as possible.)
This morning, I had the two flat tires (the front one had a slower leak, so I didn't discover it was flat until today) on my bike fixed -- and thorn-resistant inner tubes installed. I celebrated by riding my bike over to Duquense Street in Culver City, and then taking the Ballona Creek bike path for about five-six miles, all the way over to Playa Del Rey just north of Loyola Marymount University and south of the LAX courthouse. As you can see, the scenery (captured on my Treo's camera) is not quite as nice as that seen from the beach bike path (bodies of water always look better when they're surrounded by concrete, don't they?), but it is a pleasant ride (with lots of rises and dips), and it cuts across Culver City and Playa Del Rey. I could have taken it all the way to Marina Del Rey, but I wanted to get home to Amy.
I saw lots of bikers on the path, along with pedestrians, joggers, baby walkers, and lots of ducks.
If there were more bike paths in LA (and the general plan indicates that more will be put in), I could see them being used for general commuting all over the city. The miles definitely fly by when you're on one -- even when the headwind picks up as you near the ocean.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
And still luckier, the first episode of CAT's EYE was waiting for me on the DVR when I came home.
It provided the delights of old-school (circa 1983) Japanese animation, which is far less slick than today's computer-ink-and-paint anime, yet had soul in every line and brushstroke. And I was delighted to see that it was well-subtitled -- a definite improvement over the awful Hong Kong unlicensed dvd set I bought a few years ago. (One quibble: The script repeatedly referred to a full-of-himself museum curator as a "tanuki" -- a mythological Japanese raccoon-like creature -- yet the subtitles translated this as "old fox." That made ideomatic sense, except that a plot point in the episode involves a statuette of a Tanuki that the curator owns.)
Something I found amusing: Imaginasian TV's Website for CAT's EYE promotes the series by noting that its theme song is featured in the DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION videogame.
Before-and-after promo pieces featured both the Japanese voice actors and the American ones. We could see that several of the younger Naruto fans were startled to see that the title character, a rambunctious 13-year-old boy, is played by a woman in Japan; and by Maile Flanagan, another woman, in the US of A. Believe it!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
More on Imaginasian TV's broadcast plans for two of my favorite '80's anime series, CAT'S EYE and ORGUSS:
-- Iatv has started running commercials for each individual series, and also for the TMS programming block.
-- Iatv has also posted broadcast schedules for the TMS block. One series, "Nobody's Boy Remi" (which looks sort of like a male version of HEIDI) started broadcasting today. CAT'S EYE starts at 9:30 a.m. Thursday; and ORGUSS starts on June 11.
-- Right Stuf has preorders available for the first and second volumes of the DVDs of each series -- at the ridiculously low price of $12.99 for the first volume/case and $9.99 for subsequent volumes.
Looks like it'll be a fun summer in front of the tube.
The picture on the case is probably copyright TMS, Tsukasa Hojo, and maybe IATV.
Given that "Comic-Con," as capitalized, generally refers to Comic-Con International: San Diego, and there is just one of those a year, one is left to wonder what Goldstein means by "Comic-Con festivals" and "Comic-Con conventions." Has he decided that Comic-Con is so publicized -- particularly in Hollywood, which has increasingly turned to the convention as a way to start viral campaigns for movies via Web-augmented word of mouth -- that he thinks that there are several a year? Is he referring to all comic book conventions with the label "Comic-Con" because it's the one he thinks his readers will recognize?
Or perhaps he just needs a thesaurus.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Responding was actually a bit of an adventure. We had said goodbye to our Utah friends a little after noon; and a couple hours later I took a bike ride south. I was hanging around a store in Fox Hills (about 4.5 miles from home) when I got a call from Amy at around 3:15 telling me the movie would be at 4:10. I hopped on my bike and navigated the oft-treacherous street and sidewalks of Sawtelle (why do so many people park their SUVs in driveways, blocking the sidewalk?) and managed to make it to the Westside Pavilion at about 4:05.
DAYWATCH is the sequel to NIGHTWATCH, the hyperkinetic anything-goes urban fantasy from Russia, in which good and evil "Others" (witches, vampires, shapechangers, etc.) are engaged in a millenium-long cold war with each other -- the truce being kept by sets of cops on each side, the Daywatch for the evil folk and the Nightwatch for the good. Of course, the whole apple cart gets massively upset (otherwise you wouldn't have a story). As with the first film, DAYWATCH throws all sorts of concepts at you without much concern over whether you'll understand it -- you have to just grab what you can and hang on. It's an exhilarating and exhausting experience.
After the movie, our friend asked about one of the high-end goodies at the concession stand -- coconut candy bars dipped in dark chocolate. He wondered how it compared to a Mounds bar. I said that if it saw a Mounds bar in the street, it might toss a dollar at it. He bought his wife one of the high-end bars.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Satoshi Kon's new film, Paprika, brings these questions to mind. In this science fiction movie, researchers have developed psychotherapy machines, the most advanced of which enables them to not only visually record dreams, but to enter them. The repressed scientist Dr. Atsko dives into other people's dreams, where she becomes her alter ego, Paprika, who is as adventurous, uninhibited and flirtatious as Atsko is reserved. The problems start when the technology is misused -- threatening reality itself.
Among the many themes this smart movie explores is the connection between movies and dreams -- particularly for one of Dr. Atsko's clients, a police detective who professes to hate movies, yet has recurring dreams that conjure images from "Roman Holiday," "The Greatest Show on Earth," "Tarzan," and "From Russia With Love." It's an apt subject for Kon, who showed his fascination for movies in the Hitchcockian psychological thriller "Perfect Blue" and the John Ford tribute "Tokyo Godfathers," among other movies.
The art style of the lush animation also played into the theme. The characters were rendered in a stylized-realism form, incorporating slight caricature, reminiscent of American comic books -- themselves highly influenced by (and in turn influencing) cinematic storytelling.
The Internet also plays a strong part in the movie. The film points out that the Web often serves the same purposes as dreams -- providing us with an emotional outlet, or a place where we can become other people in a dreamscape.
I don't want to give the impression that "Paprika" is a philosophical snore-fest. Instead, it's a fast-paced action film, which uses animation to play with shifting perspectives and fantastic visuals, to illustrate dreams and what happens when dreams and reality collide.
We saw "Paprika" with friends in the new Landmark cinema, which had just opened the day before. It turned out an apt venue. Several of the scenes in "Paprika" take place in movie theatres, and the characters are often shown in darkened theatres watching other scenes unfolding on the screen. At moments like those, the line between reality and the animated world on the other side of the screen seemed to blur.
"Paprika," like several of Kon's films, is a perfect answer to those who believe that intelligent, mature stories cannot be told in animation -- or that Japanese anime consists solely of game merchandising, giant robots and porn.