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Cocaine does things to you.
Oh boy, Jem. Part of me wants to go easy on this show, because, after all, it's just an eighties cartoon, designed to sell toys, so story is secondary. Still, it irks me in a way most poor kid's cartoons from that era don't. There are a few certain things that really get under my skin.

The concept is simple enough; a record mogul and philanthropist dies and his daughter Jerrica tries to find a way to save his home for young girls (... yeah.) She decides to start a band with her friends, and tries to take this to one of his second in command, but for some reason he is evil now and decides INSTEAD to sign a new band that he conveniently found; the misfits, who essentially look like Cinderella's step family if they were assaulted by a mob of ganguros. This leaves Jerrica no choice to start the band on her own, only she uses the magical technology Synergy to become Jem for... some reason. Now, actually, one of the better parts of this show are some surprisingly catchy music videos. Every now and then (i.e, at least 3 times in an episode) there is a Pink Elephants (dancing about in some disconnected dreamspace) style musical number that talks about one of the major themes of the episode. These are really quite fun if you are amused by 80s pop like myself. Unfortunately, the rest of the show is sorely lacking. I've never really understood the motivation behind Jerrica insisting that no one at all know the true identity of Jem. Even Rio, the purple hair ditz of a manager doesn't know, and she had the stupidity to flirt with him AS Jem. Way to go, girl. Another thing that irks me is that every single episode focuses around their dealings with the Misfits. Now, sure, other shows have had central villains that have been challenged every episode, but these are actually ACTION SHOWS. To have a show about a friggin girl band always butt heads with another girl band just gets kind of old; are there no other conflicts they could get into? It doesn't help that the misfits are some of the WORST VILLAINS EVER. Again, it seems like the writers thought they were going to be doing GI Joe or something only to learn that this a girl's show, so they change everything except one thing: the antagonists are pure, dangerous evil. Every episode centers around the Misfits looking for more publicity or trying to ruin Jem and the Holograms. The thing is, Eric and Pizzaz do not care AT ALL how they do this, so more often than not their schemes involve them breaking something we in the real world call THE LAW. They're constantly trespassing, breaking into concerts, interviews, etc. They steal property, they commit sabotage and vandalism. Worse yet, they have, on occasion, KIDNAPPED either members of the Holograms or their hangers on. Hello? Excuse me?! KIDNAPPING IS A SERIOUS THING. You DON'T go around kidnapping people because you want a boost in record sales! Morrisey and Robert Smith hate each other, but the Smith's have never tried to lock the drummer from the Cure into an AIRTIGHT TRUNK and LEFT HIM THERE for an entire concert! Not only does it seem they don't realize or care what they do, Jerrica never once does the smart thing and-- say-- presses charges against them!

Jem is just another product of the eighties, but I will give it this... it's totally outrageous, but in a BAD, BAD way.


King of the Playground Which is Saturday Morning Television
Now, I know almost nothing about the inner workings of the standard Elementary K-6 school, being home-schooled, but I certainly hope it's like the sometimes harsh, often absurd, but always hilarious society-within-a-society of Third Street School presented in Paul and Joe's Recess. When I was around 9 and Animaniacs was going off the Air, I quickly turned to Recess to meet my SMC needs. And boy did it meet them. The best thing about recess is the world, which is a richly defined and fleshed out as the world in your average fantasy novel. Kindergarteners are a savage, Golding-esquire tribe of natives. Similarly named cool-girls dwell in a tire-pile clique house. A girl decked out in goggles and a flight jacket spends every moment of recess trying to go over the bar. Fifth and fourth graders are embroiled in a fierce class war. Nerds and injured children retreat to a basement to play d20 games and use strange construction toys. Popular stickers become a form of currency. A shady trench-coat-clad kid doles out contraband goods and a turban-clad boy doles out useless Zen animal proverbs. Ruling over all this chaos is King Bob, a Steely-Eyed sixth grader with his own secret service.

The characters within this world are great, as well. The central cast is a group of sixth; T.J Detweiler, a cap-wearing mischief maker and schemer is the de facto leader of the group. Mikey Blumberg is a rotund boy with a poet's soul and Robert Goulet's singing voice. Vince LaSalle is a trash-talking, competitive athlete. Gretchen Grundler is a bespectacled Renaissance girl. Spinelli is a stocking-capped,pigtailed tomboy with a love of pro-wrestling and a penchant for violence. Finally, Gus "The New Kid" Griswold is a dorky, wet-behind the ears transfer student and an army brat. The adventures they get involved in never cease to be fun. As fun as the students are, the Teachers are just as delightful. Muriel Finster is a savage dictator, ruling over the playground with an iron fist, seeming to always be right where T.J and the gang DON'T need her. Miss Grotke, the fourth-grade Home Room teacher, is a progressive, new-agey teacher. Finally, president Peter Prickley (brilliantly and stuffily voiced by veteran character actor Dabney Coleman), rounds out the central faculty, ineptly attempting to run the school with Finster always trying to pull the strings.

For some reason, Disney has decided to release more cruddy "Dinsey Channel Star" albums and DTV sequels of their movies instead of DVDs of this brilliant show. When it comes, though, I heartily recommend checking it out.

Reservoir Dogs

Brutal Epic Poetry
Quentin Tarantino is the most colorful director of his time, standing apart from the other directors of the nineties and 20-aughts. Though he is arguably a one-trick pony in some ways, (releasing almost only non-linear crime thrillers with poetic dialog and sadistic violence and gore), it has yet to fail him, and sets him on a winning streak with his first film, Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino takes a sub genre of crime films that is tried and true, the heist flick, but adds new touches to it that glow with his brilliant touch. Most heist flicks involve three distinct acts- The setup, the execution, and the fallout- but Tarantino mixes this up; he throws act two out the window completely, leaving the heist a complete mystery save one thing; we know it went horribly, killing one of the six guys and leaving another missing. Secondly, he switches back and forth from the two remaining acts; in one scene, we're with the three survivors, hearing what went wrong and witnessing the flimsy bonds of loyalty slowly unravel. The next, we see the doomed heist come together, watching the characters talk about their plans and joke with one another. These are some of the best scenes in the movie; Quentin is a master at dialog, giving his characters profane poetry exchange in a Shakesperean fashion. Watching grown men sitting around the table talking about top-40 Maddonna, arguing about tipping or pseudonyms, and describing humorous anecdotes from previous jobs is delightful. It really gives a chance for the actors to shine. Steve Buscemi, my perennial favorite, Harvey Keitel, and Tim Roth in particular are incredible, and Chris Penn proves that the acting gene didn't just get passed to Sean.

You have to see Reservoir Dogs. It's one of the best movies by one of the best directors of the 90s.

The Wild Bunch

The Definitive Modern Western
Sam Peckinpah, John Woo, and Quentin Tarantino are three directors who are probably often mentioned in the same breath. The reason? Their films are very similar one sense: they are brutally, shockingly and graphically violent. Unfortunately, this often prevents people from seeing another similarity: their films are almost all brilliant, and The Wild Bunch is no exception.

The Wild Bunch is the story of two groups of outlaws; one, a group of aging bandits led by Pike Bishop (William Holden), fleeing from a botched bank holdup and reduced to being gunrunners for a Mexican general. The other, a ragtag bunch of hoodlums sent to catch the Wild Bunch. They are barely held together by Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), who has old ties to Bishop. As Thortnon's group chases the bunch through Mexico, Pike and the rest of the old outlaws learn slowly but surely that this is the new west; it is a west of technology. It is a west where killing, once a necessary evil, is quick, efficient, and for the new generation, fun. We see this early on, as the bunch rides into to town watching children callously throw scorpions to be ripped apart by ants. Later, Thortnon asks the Railroad boss who sends him to get Pike, "How does it feel t'be so damn right all the time?!", being able to sit back and let other do the killing for him.

The film is paced brilliantly, and the flashbacks in the director's cut are vital to the understanding of the characters. All the performances, from vets like Holden, Ryan and Earnest Borgnine, are fantastic. Then, of course, there is the issue everyone goes back to; the violence. This is one of the most graphic films I have seen, even by today's standards. blood, bullets and bodies fly through the air in slow motion, probably lighting the fire in John Woo's belly. The final scene is one that sticks with you for days, a ballet of squibs and red paint.

This is a western that is not to be missed.

Los nuevos extraterrestres

B Movie Scum With A South-Of-The-Border Kick.
Hoo dawgies, what can I say about this movie that has been said before and better by other people? I'm not sure. Well, I'll try

To start off with, I'm not sure why the aliens in the film are the Titular "Pod People". The "pods" they come from look very much like overlarge chickens eggs. When I think of pods, I think of long sacs or chrysilii (whatever the plural for that is) that the aliens burst out of. Thus, we get no Pod People. We get Egg People. Secondly, while we're on the alien kick, FEEL I HAVE BEEN CHEATED. The opening sequence shows scenes of green, sinister-looking aliens putting hurt on some camper-type people. Unfortunately, it seems this is the only point in the film we see these scenes. The aliens we get are not green and menacing, but brown, hirsute, and ALF-rip-offing. Sure, they can put up a fight and leave glowing spots on their victims foreheads for no other reason than to give the special effects department something to do, but most of the time they just jam with a Simon game and make stop-motion stuff happen all around an effeminate boy's room. And the campers they encounter couldn't be more irritating. There's a pop group and friends that sings a confusing song, three clumsy poachers of varying scary facial-hairyness (one having too much, one having none at all, and one just looking "blah"), and a family consisting of said girlboy (who has a pet for each day of the week, plus "Trumpy" the alien.), his mother (who always seems to call him from the door entering the hallway to his room, rather than stand in his doorway OR ENTERING THE FRIGGIN HALLWAY HERSELF), and a grumpy old uncle (who loves his booze.)

I'm not sure what else to say. It's just a mess. If you're with a group and you're rather giddy, you might have some fun taking potshots at it. If not, "It STINKS!"

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Purer Cagney than any of his thug roles combined.
Jimmy Cagney is quickly becoming my favorite past actor. This relatively stocky Irishman, appearing in 60+ films, is an amazing well of talent. The world knows him best playing "dirty rats", vicious, (often insane) thugs epitomizing the brutality of Gangland in the 20s through post-depression, but his first love in show biz was the musical. Cagney was a song and dance man at heart, and it comes through brilliantly in "Yankee Doodle Dandy". He chronicles the life of George M. Cohan, a prolific vaudeville showman turned Broadway star/writer/composer/director/producer "born on the 4th of July" (though it was probably really the 3rd.) and not afraid to show it. For decades, he with his family dominated Vaudeville. On his own, he became the king of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, making fantastic, patriotic songs still sung today, like "You're and Grand Old Flag", "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and the rousing Great War anthem "Over There". Cagney plays Cohan with respect and passion, dancing with such unbridled enthusiasm that Tom Powers, Cody Jarret and Rocky Sullivan might vanish from your mind entirely. He sings incredibly, as well, blending genuine singing with a Rex Harrison-style "Songspeak". Finally, he acts phenomenally. His final scene with his father was a tear-jerker on the set (it tugged on my heartstrings as well), setting the stage for the emotional energy he shows in the prison riot scene in "White Heat". Go out and see "Yankee Doodle Dandy". I'm sure Cagney would rather bury his gangster movies and have this recognized as his greatest achievement.


A film that makes me proud of my heritage, history and name.
I'm an American (hate me if you must). I am primarily of German descent, with some English, Swiss and Irish thrown in. But a good deal of my father's side is Scottish. I am descended from the Murrays, the Turnbulls and the Jacksons, and I am proud of it. This movie has only further cemented my pride. Mel Gibson (say what you want about his world-view, his directorial style, his factual accuracy) has created one of the greatest epics in cinema since "Spartacus" (I know, I know, usually it's "Lawrence of Arabia", but I've never seen that. I have seen "Spartacus", though, and loved it.) The story told is of one of the greatest national heroes of Scotland, William Wallace. He, like many, wanted a peaceful life; love, land, and a line, but he was willing to sacrifice that so that others may have that and something else as well: freedom. He lead an army of commoners against the mighty armies of England and King Edward "Longshanks" the I, and struck fear in the heart of tyrants and those who blindly serve them. Gibson plays this hero with courage and passion, bringing to life this man whose real life is still shrouded in uncertainty and mystery. Ultimately, he dies (in a fashion reserved for the highest traitors, but Gibson goes light for the sake of those who have already weathered over two hours of the bloodiest 14th century combat.) but his death inspires the men of Scotland to fight and die for the one thing Wallace chose to cry out for in his last breath. There are great performances across the board by Patrick McGoohan, the pagan king of England, Peter Hanly, his weak, homosexual son, and Angus Macfadyen, as the powerful Robert the Bruce (who is not officially my namesake; my grandfather's middle name was Robert, but I would be proud if Bruce was my namesake.) Macfadyen portrays a man born to power and authority, torn between his conniving father and Wallace. Ultimately, he chooses to follow in the footsteps of the fallen Wallace, saying the film's most powerful line: "You have bled with Wallce, now bleed with me!" Braveheart, though a hard film to watch due to it's sheer brutality, is now one of my favorite films. It makes me proud to be a (part) Scot, it makes me proud to be named Robert, and it makes me proud that my ancestor William of Rule (purportedly) saved Bruce from a raging bull, thus earning his clan their name.

Schindler's List

A brilliant, sobering film
Schindler's List is a profound film that gives an eye opening look at one of the darkest, most despicable periods of the 20th century, the Halocaust. It unflinchingly tells the story of 1,100 Jews, who, when millions upon millions of their brethren were systematically murdered by the Nazis, survived, due to the actions of a greedy businessman. Steven Spielberg definitively proved his talents to the world when he made this film. No longer was he merely a sap-seller who made visually stunning summer films about alien landings, swashbuckling archaeologists, and sadistic Semi Trucks. He proved he could direct a harrowing, serious film which from every corner oozes artistry. I can't tell how much I love the fact that the film is in black and white. The medium works perfectly in presenting this grim time many of us only know of in shocking old photographs. More brilliant still are the sporadic uses of color. Much has been said about the moment when Oscar Schindler watches a young girl in a red dress walk quietly through the horror of the Krakow Liquidation, but not as much has been noted about my favorite instance of color. In the first scene, a Jewish family is gathered around a table to observe the Sabbath. The Father reads a prayer, and the camera slowly moves in on the candles on the table as the family fades out of the scene and color slowly dissipates. Soon, only the orange flame of the candles are in color, and they are soon extinguished. This, to me, represents the hope that was snuffed out by the Nazis during the Halocaust. Later in the film, Oscar Schindler, at his new artillery factory, allows some of the Jews to observe the Sabbath. They too gather around a candlelit table to read a prayer, and the flames of the candle glow orange; now that these Jews are safe, this is hope for them again. The performances are fantastic. I both applauded and scolded Liam Neeson as the alternatively brave and selfish Oscar Schindler, seethed with anger at Ralph Fiennes as the detestable SS Officer Amon Goeth, and felt immense pity for Ben Kingsley as the sorrowfully noble Itzhak Stern. Of course one of my favorite things about the film is the music. Not the traditional plagerized pomposity of John Williams earlier scores, the music for this film is carried by a gentle, sorrowful melody, often played by master violionist Ithzak Perlman. This is a film I believe all should see. Schindler's List will, hopefully, open your eyes to the immense evil that man carried out against his fellow man during the Halocaust.

The Lord of the Rings

Good for a laugh, if nothing else.
I must admit, I have never read the books that this film is based on, but I know almost everything about them, and I have a habit of taking issue with films that take gross liberties with the plot. Sometimes, I'll forgive the film if it is well done, as I did with the preliminary script for Holes done by the director/screenwriter for Donnie Darko. But is this a good film? Absolutely not, I'm afraid. The plot resembled a certain ethnic cheese. For example: Elrond says that on the one hand they cannot destroy the ring, but on the other hand, they cannot keep it. They must take it Mount Doom where it was made, he say, but he never says that that is the only place it can be unmade, and based on what he said he said before, those who do not know this detail will think that nothing can be done to destroy it. So, once they take it to Mount Doom, what are they going to do with it? File it away in some curio cabinet? As for audio/visual, the film is a disappointing mixed bag. The music is intrusive and overblown, and the several of the vocals sound oddly -reptillian, resembling the gravelly, high-pitched voices omnipresent in the dubs of Sergio Leone films. The film switches from traditional animation to rotoscope so often it is nausea-inducing. The all-roto orcs are seriously disturbing to look at. Here are a few memorable weak spots: Boromir, in his final confrontation with the Uruk-Hai, takes three arrows TO THE HEART, yet battles on. Two arrows later, he decides to expire. Sam, who has become oddly effeminate, makes eyes at Frodo when Aragon tells them the story of Beren and the elf woman who's name eludes me. The Rohirrim And The Orcs decide to have a slow-paced, one-sided life-size (my apologizes to hyphen haters out there.) chess match in place of a traditional battle, in which the orcs allow a lone horseman pick them off for a while... until he gets too close. Then the gloves come off. Gandalf, when he shows up to end Helm's Deep, goes Tarantino on the Uruk's sorry hides. He slashes their heads off, and at that minute, their hearts decide to work overtime to pump blood out of their bodies like a Roman fountain. A cute and cuddly Balrog that should have got it's own plushy toy. That said, rent this and chuckle at it. Don't expect anything else, though.

Kaubôi bibappu

If you ask me why I love animation, I'll give you one word: Bebop
I am an animation fanatic. I love the work from Disney's two golden era's (particularly Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty), I have seen almost every Miyazaki film (with the exception of Kiki's Delivery Service and Howl's Moving Castle), and have had the privilege to view three of Winsor McCay's early animated shorts. Whether eastern or western, for young or for old, I love animation. And Cowboy Bebop is a stunning testament of why I love this art form so. It shows that animation can feature lush locales, from the asteroid metropolis of TJ to the Hong Kong inspired Alfa city on Mars. It shows that it can have strong characters, with chilling villains like Vicious and Mad "Tongpu" Pierot, charming (anti?)heroes like Spike, Jet, and Faye and just plain cute supporting players like Ein and Ed. It unflinchingly shows that it can have sequences of both stunning and shocking action. The heated gun battles of the final episode left me in awe of their brutality and the fisticuffs are astounding. Some say that the martial arts in Bebop make the Matrix look like ballet, but they are both resemble ballet, only the Matrix resembles a studio of 8th graders, and Bebop resembles a troupe of Russian masters who have trained all their lives. Bebop also shows us, rather, makes us hear, the kind of music a high quality piece of animation can have. Yoko Kanno is a genius, and no more needs to be said. Finally Bebop shows us what kind of complex stories animation can carry. It tells us of an eccentric child genius, a beautiful gambler who has lived for decades but has no memory of her past, a gruff, parental ex-cop, and two ravenous beasts, one of whom has lost his fangs and blood lust but still survives. Simply put, it is one of the most incredible pieces of animation I have ever seen.


Beauty and power in Plasticine
More seems to get better and better with each viewing. Maybe it's because I come closer to tears each time. This story is the classic story of someone who finally is able to reach his dreams, but ends up using it as a means to get material gain, and finally, loses his soul. The gray of the drab, industrial world our everyman lives in is brilliantly and hauntingly contrasted by the colors of the "Happy Product", his world's artificial joy Du jour, the colorful, traditionally(yet so unconventionally) animated dream world of his "Bliss" goggles, and the tragically joyful children of his dreams, which drive him mad. The mood is set incredibly by New Order's "Elegia", a beautiful instrumental piece. This piece deserved the Oscar, which the good but just plain odd "Bunny" won instead. I mean, it was nice, but like most early Blue Sky works, the animation is clunky, and... rabbits becoming moths after death... but I digress. This is an incredible piece. Watch it online. Better yet, buy the new 2-disc DVD set, crammed to the bin with gooey clay features.

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos, thou of primal darkness, mud-wrestling, and drug-addled easy listening jazz.
Behold, children, if you dare, Manos the Hands of Fate. The literal brainchild of star, director, writer, producer and crap-salesman Harold P. Warren, this is the Necronomicon of modern film; as you view it, your sanity is slowly nibbled away. It would seem given the experience of the crew, one shouldn't bash this film so badly. Wrong. A 10 year old could make a marginally better film than this stillborn brainchild of a fertilizer salesman. The characters and settings are so clichéd one of the only original things about this movie is it features a mini documentary of various bean fields and hills hosted by an Alto who sounds as if she's in extreme pain. Tor-goat seems like a bum they pulled out of the streets and slapped prosthetics onto. The "wonderful" subplot of him being a Satyr is killed by a deadly team of bad camera-work and sloppy writing. To those not in the know, he's just a creepy beard-man in serious need of more comfortable kneepads. He and the master's "eerie" presence is denoted by "eerie-er" free-style jazz that sounds like something Charlie parker threw up, Tito Puente cooked and Kenny G garnished and ate. No, that applies to the rest of the movie. It's just so mind-bogglingly bad that it's impossible to watch without heckling it. Probably the best way to watch this is with the help of Joel Hogsdon, Kevin Murphy, and Trace Beaulieu in the MST3K version.

Ao no roku go

An animated Waterworld with some furry ridiculousness added in.
My father got this for me from the library when I was beginning to gain an interest in anime. At first, my attitude was "cool, it sounds interesting." Then I started watching it, and most of the excitement wore thin. There's not a lot of bad here, but there isn't a lot of good, either. The whole the Earth-is-Flooded business has been done before, and what we got was "Fishtar". Still, this was anime, so it ought to be good, right? Not necessarily. The characterization was almost non-existent. Hayami is a stoic greeny drug addict, but we barely have any clue why. Huang is a cute sonar expert and I think she would make a great little sister, but we barely know anything about her. The captain's characterization is limited to him looking longingly at a picture of his family. If you want to find out anything about the characters, get it on DVD and read the character bios, but skip the behind the scenes thing on the Playstation game thing (I hope I'm not the only one who's wanted to strangle that squeaky bobble-head girl.) The story is a bit of a mess. Basically the villain thinks, "Humans are destroying the world, so if I destroy the world, maybe they'll learn." yeeahh... Hayami's hopeless buddy-buddy ideas are irritating (I could almost hear the chorus to Kansas's "The Preacher" during his confrontation with Verg, who's reverb/octave dub is hellishly annoying. I couldn't tell if he was male or female.) Then, of course, there are the Muteo. You know it isn't an anime until there are half-naked cat-women, right? But these half-naked cat-women are special. They can swim and hum the theme from Dream Theater's "Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper"! I felt like going "Ditdit doo doodoo ditdit doo doodoo ditdit doo doodoo doo ditdoo ditdoo!" In conclusion, if all you want is half-naked anthropomorphic women and homages to the greatest rock song since Supper's Ready from your anime, you're in the right place. If you want something more though, turn to Miyazaki and Cowboy Bebop.

Treasure Planet

Mediorce, and a studio killer
I was excited when I first heard of this. I saw, and I thought it was good. Then, I saw it again; okay, but not as good as I thought. Then, I saw it AGAIN for a cartooning class I was taking; this, from the studio that gave us the amazing Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan? This film had some great background animation, yes, but the humor, story and writing fell flat. Of course, there is the question, to quote a certain grey, sad elephant man, "But why are they in space? There's no reason for them to be in space!" Finally, Disney's attempt to draw both children and teens in failed miserably, because today's anime-ignorant teens think animation is kid's stuff, and little children's eyes were averted from the action-violence. And an alienated base means little box office support. This drove my pal Mikey (yeah right) to close a studio and made the remaining company focus on computer animation. Personally, I don't think Eisner knows who's he's competing with, even though he did work with one for the better part of about 13 years. Pixar is who I'm talking about. Then there's also Dreamworks, if they can recapture what they had with Shrek 1 for Madagascar. And of course, Blue Sky's just getting started, but you can't rule those guys out. Anyway, this was pretty much one of the next to last nails in the coffin of Disney, Eisner himself holding the hammer.

A Detective Story

Watanabe is in home territory.
I've seen three of the Animatrix episodes, and this is my favorite of all of them. The Second Renaissance provided a flimsy back story to the already flimsy universe. Program was a stylistically impressive number, it just felt kind of silly. I guess what gives this one it's special touch is the direction from Shinichiro Watanabe, director of the incredibly popular (and for good reason) series Cowboy Bebop. It has some of the best elements of Bebop: slick, sci-fi adventure, a no-nonsense, slightly apathetic hero working for hire, a bounty-head (more or less), and a chase scene, all wrapped up in an excellent film-noir packaging. Watanabe's Tarantino-style slickness comes through here full throttle.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The book is superior
I saw the film in summer 2002 on video, and have recently read through the entire series in less than a month. Upon reading the Philosopher's Stone, I learned how the film doesn't match up the this great book. Several characters are diminished or removed. The sorting hat sequence is shown to be much shorter as well. Yes, Susan and Draco's sorting is shown, but Lavender, Millicent and Neville are left out. Are there only five first years coming to Hogwarts this year? Are the others sorted privately? At the end of this sequence, Dumbledore's "Few short words" are sadly absent. Fred,George and Percy's parts are reduced and Bill is absent, leaving Norbert to be taken quietly and mysteriously during a scene change. Lee Jordan is cast much too young and basically becomes "Quidditch Announcer boy," and his ad-libbed commentary is gone. Countless other changes are made to reduce time, yes, but rather sloppily. At times I could tell it was a Chris Columbus film. How about Harry and the gang screaming Kevin-style at the sight of Fluffy, or the lackluster job at adapting the British humor? As for the casting, most of it is well done, with some exceptions. Daniel Radcliffe is OK as Harry, but Rupert Grint's Ron isn't too great. Emma Watson is one of the prettiest child actresses I can think of, but therein lies the problem. I envision Hermione to be a bit of a weird cross between Asimov's Susan Calvin (plain, shy and book-smart) and Alexander's Elionwy (pretty, VERY talkative and oddly intelligent), having tiny bits of each. She's decent looking, but not as much as, say, Parvati or Lavender. She's a buck-tooth, remember. John Cleese's Nearly Headless Nick is poorly adapted, but he strangely receives top billing. All in all, it's better for those who have read the books. Prisoner of Azkaban is said to be a bit more accessible. I have yet to see this... I now wait for July and November.


Beautifully done.
Another film by Hayao Myzaki, Princess Mononoke is a prime example of what a skilled animator can do at the prime of his career.

Plot: Like the best of his work, with the execption of Castle of Calligostro, is based heavily upon Japanese Shintoism and Mysticism. Myazaki was enchanted as a child by the traditions of his island country, and it has been an endless source of inspiration. Although a monotheist and a Christian, I enjoyed the film because the god characters, much like the gods of Homer and Aesop, act upon such human feelings as blind hatred and jealousy. Though probably unintentional, Hayao shows what happens when imperfect beings try to create perfection: a god in their image, male and female. The rest of the plot is a standard Man-with-no-name wanderer-type story, whos travels to a mining town to find a feud he's caught in. More time could have been spent on the histories of Moro, San, and Nago, but in the end, Hayao creates an enjoyable time.

Animation: For one of the first times, Miyazaki uses digital animation in his films, and very tastefully so. The forest is given his trademark another world look, which I cannot describe beyond it reminds of the Como Conservatory (minnesotans will know.) The Kodamas are adorable, and the animation of the Ape clan at night sent chills up my spine.

Voice characterization: Like most translated anime, not perfect. Don't get me wrong, Billy Crudup is talented. Any Big Fish fan will tell you that. He just has trouble with pacing the translated script. He reads very quietly and quickly, lacking clarity sometimes. Claire Danes is slightly better, but still suffers. Minnie Driver, familiar with animation through Tarzan, is very good. The real gems, however, are Billy Bob Thornton and Gillian Anderson. Thornton, a musician, reads his script with amazing clarity and pacing. Jigo's, his character, mouth matches almost all of the time. Anderson, on the other hand, has one of the most beautiful voices of a animation vocal talent I've ever heard. Her haunting, slow reading of the words of the tortured wolf goddess Moro is perfect.

Overall: Miyazaki has made family adventures with Castle in the Sky, growing-up films with Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro, and even slick, 70s crime romps with The Castle of Calligostro. He successfully adds a Yojimbo feudal Japanese epic to his belt with Princess Mononoke.


Why does everyone hate this?
For crying out loud, it's stylized! That's why the soundtrack is jazz and blues and stuff. That's why the character animation is "crappy".

Look at a comic book from the twenties/thirties, namely Herge's Tintin books, or Tezuka's manga (fifties actually), which this is based off of, DANG IT! The characters are designed to look like comic book character's from that era. Shinsaku looks like one of the Thompsons. Kenechi looks like a cross between Tintin and Astro Boy.

It's meant to be like a Prohibition era Chicago or something.


Great black comedy
This 11 year sitcom is one of the greatest things to ever happen to TV. The jokes were quick: usually stunts pulled by Hawk and Trapper/BJ or one liners, and the show effectively (In the later years gratuitously) portrayed the horror of war. My favorite serious moment is when Dr. Freidman puts a medic under time-regression therapy and finds out he had been repressing his identity because of the loss of his younger brother in combat. A close second is when in the final episode Hawkeye is in the sanitarium and tries to remember what happened on a bus trip that made him unstable, and is reduced to tears when he remembers what happened: a mother killing her own child to avoid detection by the Chinese. That said, the series still delivers great laughs. Gary Burghoff was excellent as Walter "Radar" O'Riley the somewhat psychic company clerk, and his successor, Jamie Farr, as the section eight seeking, cross dressing Max Klinger, was just as brilliant. The series was not without it's flaws. The episode "Dreams" was repetitive, and stress too much that "War is bad." Larry Linville's Frank Burns was a hypocritical emotionless whiner, and I was glad to see him replaced with the superb David Ogden Stiers. Watch the reruns.

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