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December 31, 2004

Casshern

Okay, in the 70's there was an anime, Casshan, about an extraordinary human who battles robots to free an enslaved mankind. Now we have a live-action movie containing some of the key elements of this story, but as it turns out, a lot more depressing.

I saw the trailers for this a while ago, and Tom got me the movie to watch. Kelly and I just finished watching it. All I can say is, MEGA-BUMMER. It was at times hard to follow, but I think we figured out most of the storyline. The ending seems to be a symbolic rebirth of humankind after most are wiped out in a war that's escalated until humanity's ultimate ancestors are destroyed, reborn and turned against us. Hows them apples?

Anyway, if you care, here's a link to the official site.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:13 PM

December 29, 2004

HOFD

Well, my tolerance for long, melodramatic Wu Xia remains undiluted. Jean gracefully allowed me to join my friends Tom and Alan downtown this afternoon/evening to see a theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou's second Wu Xia movie, after Hero.

Turns out that there were a couple other people I recognized as well. James was there, with his friend Jeremy (and one other guy I confess I didn't recognize). So we had a little crowd in our own row.

All the principals (Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jin, Andy Lau as Leo and Zhang Ziyi as Mei) were great. The action sequences were fun, sometimes lyrical, and almost always over the top, though usually more polished and believable than in classic flying people movies like Deadful Melody. In the last few years, the bar seems to have been raised for credible special effects and martial arts stunts. I'd credit Storm Riders and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for this shift, though what do I know?

This seems to be my week for seeing movies about blind martial artists, as Zhang Ziyi plays a blind daughter of a now dead revolutionary. Or is she really blind? Zatoichi had folks asking the same thing...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:04 PM | Comments (2)

Dead Lines

I finished Dead Lines by Greg Bear last night. To call it a horror novel as the jacket blurbs did is a bit of an exaggeration. Overall a quick, light read, and fun. I thought the ending two or three pages were kind of weak, though.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:32 AM

December 28, 2004

Phantom of the Opera

Wowser. The kindest critics really dislike this musical, if not the movie made from it. After having sat through it, I suppose I can understand that. You have to like Andrew Lloyd Webber a lot to start with, as this is not his best musical. I do like him a lot, having gotten started back in high school with Jesus Christ Superstar, and taking samples over the intervening years.

The critics were mixed in their response to Evita as well:

"The music, like most of the Webber/Rice scores, is repetitive to the point of brainwashing. It's as if they come up with one good song and go directly into rehearsals."

That's Roger Ebert, one of the fans of the film adaptation of Evita. I liked it enough to buy the 'repetitive' soundtrack, and I still listen to it. 'Phantom' is not as memorable. Maybe two songs stand out, including the title song. But I was entranced while watching it, and glad that a movie version was made, since I'll never get to Broadway.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:30 PM

December 27, 2004

HOFD

One last post tonight. I've still got several days until my schedule at work precludes it, so I need to get my bod downtown and see the theatrical screening of House of Flying Daggers at the Fox Tower Stadium 10. This is the second Wu Xia movie by Zhang Yimou, the first being Hero, about which I wrote here recently.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:11 PM

Ocean's Twelve

Can you tell I'm taking holiday time right now?

Today I took Kelly to Christmas Camp at the YMCA, and then I decided to treat myself to a movie. I went to see Ocean's Twelve. I'd seen the previous movie as a NOVA movie, I think, so I was prepped for the premise.

This movie, like the previous one, rests more on the banter than on the high tech heist flummery that is also liberally strewn about. I won't pick favorites as it is an ensemble cast and that's what makes it work. I laughed out loud several times, as did the couple who were sitting next to me in the theatre. If you've seen the first, this is more of the same, but if you liked the first, you won't be disappointed with the sequel.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:07 PM

The Office

One of my Christmas presents to Jean and myself was The Office Christmas Special. We have seen both of the two seasons of the show, and it ended badly for several characters. That's kind of the point of the show, that it is not a sugar-coated comedy, but rather raw and pointed. Sometimes it went over the edge into the most uncomfortable of situations, which I generally don't care for, but most of the time, it was very amusing.

They broke with the tradition of the series, and allowed two characters happiness, and one a ray of hope. I think that's only just for a Christmas special, and I was never satisfied with the raw deal, however realistic, Tim received at the end of the second season. So I'm happy, and Jean's happy. Merry Christmas, fictional people!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:01 PM

Six Feet Under

Last night, Jean and I watched the first episode of the first season of Six Feet Under, which I more or less bought to watch with her over the Christmas break. It's too soon to tell, but I'm intrigued enough to want to see another episode (or thirteen, given that we've got the first season).

This is the second HBO series that I've sampled in the last few years. Jean rented the first season of the Sopranos a year or so ago. All I can say is that you can tell immediately that you're not watching regular television. Lots more swearing, sexual references. But also generally quite interesting writing. Maybe I'll update more as we progress, but for now, color me interested.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:30 PM | Comments (1)

Zatoichi

Christmas night I made a nest in the den, curling up on the captain's bed with a comforter and my iBook. I loaded Zatoichi, given to me by one of my anime friends (John Jackson) for Christmas. I watched it beginning to end in the dark with headphones on. I'm gonna have to do that more often!

The movie itself is entertaining, with Takeshi Kitano giving a sometimes subtle but charismatic performance as the blind masseur Zatoichi. I'm giving away my age here when I compare this character, somewhat tongue in cheek, to Jim Bronson, in Then Came Bronson. The basic story line goes: exceptional man sees all the mysteries and tragedies of the world, stands tall after every disappointment, but one day tires of working within the system. He sheds his old life like a discarded skin and embarks on a pilgrimage. Where it leads and how it will end, he doesn't know. But in the meantime, he wanders from town to town, and being the exceptional man, cannot help but aid the downtrodden where he meets them. Bronson did it from the saddle of a Harley motorcyle, Zatoichi shuffling along on tattered sandals. Bronson with his wits and fists, Zatoichi with his wits and his cane/sword.

But no, I'm also reminded of Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films. Particularly Fistful of Dollars, where the nameless stranger enters a town and plays two greedy families against each other to his own advantage. That's not the plot of Zatoichi, but captures the amoral, elemental nature of his character. I wonder if the creators of Zatoichi hadn't read Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett (published in 1929). In it, the nameless detective in the employ of the Continental Detective Agency brings a tower of corruption crashing down by guile and playing on peoples' greed. Neither of these stories has anything to do with Zatoichi's storyline, but I kept coming back to the central characters, essentially amoral, unjudging, yet always seeming to come down on the side of the weak.

There have been a couple dozen Zatoichi series movies. He's a popular character in Japan. Kitano's movie is an irreverent tribute to this original series. Now that I've seen it, I'll almost certainly have to check out some of the originals.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:57 PM

Antidisestablishmentarianism

Yes, it is a real word. Kelly watched most of Mary Poppins last night and was singing the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious doggerel, so I decided to share a 'real word' with her. Took her til today to pronounce it correctly. "Now, you must learn it's meaning!"

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:52 PM

December 24, 2004

Now There's Something You Don't See Everyday

Me without a beard! Don't worry, it'll grow back. We just wanted to see what I looked like without one after wearing one for over twenty years.

I should scan in some of my wedding pictures. I didn't have a beard then, in fact that was the last time I was without a beard. Coincidence? I think not!

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

Christmas Play

Okay, it's like a week later, but I finally got off my butt and processed the photos I took at Kelly's church, where she participated in the yearly Christmas performance. Public photos, at Flickr, as usual...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:35 AM

December 17, 2004

Creaky

So I'm officially no longer middle aged. I'm late middle aged.

Only a few days ago, some Gen Y clerk offered me the senior discount. I graciously corrected him.

Today, I went to visit Dr. Selby to see if he could do anything about some painful welts I had on my back and side. He stepped in and said "so you have some sort of rash? Lift up your shirt and let's have a look."

So I barely get the shirt above my ribs and he says "that's shingles."

Yes, just like that. Quickest diagnosis in my life. So I'm taking Acyclovir to block replication of the virus, and Dr. Selby swears that I should see dramatic improvement in five days (good thing too, as the prescription runs out in seven).

So just like that, I get the one two punch. See you in the managed care apartments.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:12 PM

December 13, 2004

QOTD

A friend asked me to explain how we were adapting the movie for the stage, and I thought about it and said, "O.K., you know how, in the movie, there's a cow that flies out of a castle and lands on a page? Well, in the musical, the cow has a singing part."

Mike Nichols on "Spamalot", the 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' Broadway Musical

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM

December 11, 2004

Breakfast with Santa

I took Kelly to the Sherwood YMCA this morning for breakfast with Santa. I snapped a few pictures, and the banner is my favorite.

If that's not enough for ya, I uploaded a few to my Flickr page. They're all public, so enjoy. Season's Greetings!

Posted by dpwakefield at 02:10 PM