Saturday, July 26, 2008

More From Anime Expo

I'm still recovering a bit from Comic Con and judging by how long it took me to write about AX, I should get to Comic Con by late August.

Imagi had a booth promoting their upcoming CGI film based on Osamu Tezuka's classic Astro Boy. There were screens displaying images of the film. The only notable difference between the film's design and his classic appearance is that the film's Astro Boy lacks anime styled eyes and suffers for it. I tried to take a picture but the image on the screen didn't show up on camera. I did get a shot of this statue they had in their booth.
Bandai Entertainment had arguably the most impressive set-up in the exhibit hall. They projected an ongoing loop of their shows' opening sequences on a big screen. A couple of enthusiastic booth babes sang along with the lyrics of "Colors", the first opening song of Code Geass. It's an experience which will haunt me until the end of my days.

One booth was selling sword replicas. Everyone should recognize Link's Hylian sword and shield, but I'm much more interested in the sword on the right. It's Lion-Os Sword of Omens, resting on a stand with the Thundercats symbol.

Funimation's booth had a little section closed off with what looked like a little tea room. It had something to do with Ouran Host Club. I just thought it looked amusing.

I attended Funimation's panel and had a pretty good view of the power point presentation. Of course the big news was their distribution of the Geneon titles and the Sojitz titles previously held by ADV. I've decided to sum up these events with images of men in red coats brandishing guns. Interestingly, neither of them are Vash the Stampede.

This shot was taken towards the end of day. I sat in a corner of the floor of the gaming room. I quietly rotted away as the sounds of a Para Para game blared in the distance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Memories of Anime Expo

The above is a picture of the line to get into the exhibit hall at this year's Anime Expo. It seemed like a relatively short line but I already had my badge and we got there at a good time. It wasn't until we got closer to the entrance that I noticed there were actually two parallel lines that were quite long. Anime Expo went quite smoothly although it got pretty rough once we left the convention premises. I got lost but hey that's my fault.

I do think the con was negatively affected by the current state of the anime industry. The only studios with large booths were Bandai Entertainment and Funimation. Manga companies, Viz and Tokyopop, didn't even have booths. Plus there wasn't that much swag to be had. Tomorrow I'm going to the San Diego Comic Con so I'm prepping myself for another overload of excitement and exhaustion. But never mind all that, here are some cosplayers! Click on the pictures to embiggen the image.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Images of The Dark Knight

To celebrate the opening of The Dark Knight tomorrow, I'm sharing this collection of promotional artwork that I've compulsively collected online these last several months in anticipation of the film's release.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

There Was A Firefight

I've had a lot of free time recently and I've spent most of that time watching a lot of movies. Two of the more recent movies I've watched were a pair of cult films from 1999, both of which are known to inspire some contentious reactions but are otherwise unrelated. I felt like writing about one of them, but didn't want to exert the effort to write about both of them. I ultimately decided to focus on The Boondock Saints. Sorry Mystery Men.

The Boondock Saints was written and directed by Troy Duffy, who effectively ended his star making opportunity through the sheer power of his ego and irascible behavior. His collapse is shown in painful detail in the documentary Overnight. I first watched Overnight years before seeing The Boondock Saints. This is unfortunate in retrospect because knowing that The Boondock Saints was crafted from the mind of a douchebag unfairly tainted my perspective of the movie.

The movie is about a pair of brothers with the super power of being Irish, who go on a holy mission to rid Boston of its criminals through vigilante violence. They go on a series of wacky misadventures taking out various mobsters in ways that are ridiculously over the top but result in the brothers looking like skilled assassins. They manage to find a way out of every impossible situation, eventually getting into some serious trouble when they allow their Italian friend to join them. That's what happens when you commiserate with the non-Irish.

The film's dialogue actually acknowledges the less than grounded approach to the violence. I think this bit of self-awareness works against it. If the other aspects of the movie were working as well as they're supposed to than it'd be easier to accept Instead it feels like the movie is trying too hard.

Willie Dafoe plays the only detective competent enough to understand just what went down and each and every crime scene, for the most part anyways. He's able to recreate the brother's shoot-outs and in one of the movie's highlights he's inserted into a flashback, playing along with the action. Dafoe completely chews through the scenery to the point that his character doesn't seem like he could be human. His character is also gay although that may only be as a reason to excuse his flamboyance.

Billy Connolly plays Il Duce, an unstoppable assassin for hire. I'm assuming Connolly only got the role in the first place because he was the most famous person willing to accept the part. He doesn't have to do much. They could have casted anyone to stand there and hold six guns. Although for what it's worth most of the actors in the movie do a decent job, despite the material they're working with.

The movie exists in a world where the cops are dunces, the laws are useless, and the streets are wrought with evil men who deserve to be punished. The problem comes with trying to accept this as our own world. The media dubs the brothers The Saints and many see them as doing good work that should be lauded. Even DaFoe's character believes in their cause. Duffy knows that not everyone sees the world in such a black and white way and he ends the movie with news footage of people arguing about The Saints' actions. This scene feels like a concession to the people who were expected to object to the movie.

This is a movie that is smart enough to understand its own proclivities and differing viewpoints but not smart enough to just be a better movie. A lot of people dismiss the movie as yet another Tarantino-esque crime film with atypical dialogue, but this is a weak entry even by Tarantino rip-off standards. The movie itself is completely forgettable and is overshadowed by the story of Troy Duffy's career trajectory. Duffy may not be a nice person but it's almost too bad we'll likely never get to see what he'd do for a follow-up. I don't understand why the movie has the cult following that it does. There are plenty of movies that cover the same ground but do it better. I did enjoy the movie to the extent that I laughed quite a bit. I'm just not sure the humor was intentional.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happiness is a Happy Meal

I've been really enjoying the Transformers Animated series. The best part of the series is how it reinterprets classic Transformers mythology and puts its' own spin on it. It's similar to Smallville in this regard, but unlike Smallville it doesn't suck the other 98% of the time when it's not dealing with classic characters and storylines.

Some of the stuff that's appeared in Transformers Animated include Blackarachnia as a corrupted version of Elita One, Waspinator as Bumblebee's rival, and Shockwave being able to transform into an Autobot and act as a mole. In the recent two-part second season finale they introduced the Seekers as clones of Starscream each with a single aspect of Starscream's twisted personality. Admittedly the show isn't perfect. I admire that they try to introduce original villains who are more along the lines of typical cartoon bad guys, but I don't think they're quite as effective as they could be.

McDonalds currently has Transformers Animated transforming toys available as part of ther Happy Meals. They're definitely better than last year's Burger King toys for the live action movie. However they do seem to be designed to favor one mode over the other. So the robots that don't look so good, look better in vehicle form and vice versa. I think Optimus comes the closest to looking decent in both forms. I do find Bumblebee endearing for having nearly the same transformation as the classic Bumblebee figure. What you paid money for in the 80s is now free with a burger and fries in 2008.

On August 15th McDonalds will have toys to tie-in with the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The toys will be super deformed characters riding in vehicles, with a mix of Clone Wars era and Original Trilogy characters. The inclusion of the latter seems unnecesary but hey whatever. There are some odd matches between character and vehicle, like a Stormtrooper riding an AT-AT or R2-D2 in the Naboo Starfighter. I'm not sure what Wicket the Ewok is riding but I'm sure it's weird.

Finally, there was a recent McDonalds DragonBall Z promotion in Japan
featuring what appears to be figures inside cases. I don't think they're still available as the Japanese website now features toys of iDog and something called Mezzo Piano. At the very least it shows that DBZ still draws interest years after the series' end.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Anime Expo Hangover

I went to Anime Expo yesterday. It was big and awesome and I left feeling severely drained. I tried to keep updating Twitter while I was there but I'm coming to the conclusion that Twitter sucks. Not only do a few messages not go through but some are inexplicably listed out of order.

Here are a few con highlights concerning the state of the anime industry. Bandai licensed Hayate the Combat Butler. Nozomi licensed Gakuen Alice. Manga Entertainment has the U.S. license for Ghost in the Shell 2.0. A.D.V. is alive but not very well. They lost all of the titles they were distributing for Sojitz and now Funimation has them. Funimation is basically unstoppable at this point. And all because DBZ is that popular.

I'll have much more details about the con later but for now enjoy these previews.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Funimation Resurrects Geneon

Today is the first full day at Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Funimation has already "won" the convention with a press release. Funimation will be distributing several titles for Genenon. Geneon ended their own distribution last year, and has been in an inert state ever since. Funimation seems to be focusing on titles that had their release interrupted during Geneon's issues as well as titles that were announced but had remained unreleased. There's still no word about Geneon's older catalog titles. While I agree the newer titles are of more importance, I think there's a chance Funimation or even another company might be able to rescue some of those older licenses.

Obviously this is going to be the biggest news coming out of Anime Expo this year but it might not be the only surprise. There have been quite a bit of rumblings that ADV has been going through some troubles. Might they align themselves with another company? Before today a Funimation acquisition of ADV was rumoured. Funimation could emerge as the one hundred pound gorilla of the North American anime industry.

I wouldn't rule out Bandai Entertainment either. In the last few months they've stood out to me as the most exciting and interesting of the anime companies. There should at least be some licensing announcements from them.

Also as I type this Evangelion 1.0 You Are Not Alone is minutes from premiering at Anime Expo. The Japanese licensors may be the ones exhibiting it, but it's also in the realm of possibility that a U.S. company has licensed it and is about to make an announcement. It should be an intriguing next few days.