February 28, 2008
It is Luna's birthday today. We didn't do much of anything special, but Silke did come over and gave her a potted flower as a gift. They were watching The Animatrix when I got home, because Silke came over earlier. For dinner we ate Chinese take out and Luna cooked some vegetables. Then we had a Sogo Bakery cake that we bought from 99 Ranch this past weekend. Later on we spent some time just sitting on the floor talking about random things, before it got a little late and Silke left.
February 26, 2008
Night at the Museum
Night at the Museum, starring Ben Stiller, is pretty much your run-of-the-mill family movie. Ben Stiller is a down-on-his-luck dad who is now divorced and not exactly the greatest role model for his son because he can't keep a stable job. He finds a job as night watchman at the Museum of American History in New York City, where he's surprised to discover everything in the museum comes to life at night. What follows are pretty much what you expect: having to impress his son, deal with his job and overcome his personal desire to give up, foiling a plot, and getting the girl.
There are some pretty big time actors in the film, including Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, and Mickey Rooney, but it's not like this is a film requiring any great acting. Just lots of antics and continual comic relief mixed with simple action. It would be interesting to know if attendance at the museum actually went up following the release of this movie. Things like that usually happen, and I suspect attendance did increase for a short time.
February 24, 2008
28 Weeks Later
I really liked 28 Days Later, and thought 28 Weeks Later should be pretty good too since it was supposed to closely follow the original timeline and looked very similar in style and visuals. I didn't know it was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo instead of Danny Boyle though. Perhaps if I had known, or I'd read a little bit more about the film, I wouldn't have been so excited to watch it. I'd heard generally good things after it was released in theaters, but the two films are very different in purpose.
Whereas I liked to call 28 Days Later a movie with zombies in it (specifically a science-fiction movie), 28 Weeks Later is decidedly a zombie movie and nothing else. It's so much a zombie movie that it really doesn't make sense at time, when it was convenient for adding to the chaos. There's no reason behind the plot, and the character development is extremely slim. I think there were some attempts at putting in things to think about, but they are pretty simple thoughts and aren't presented in a strong or unique way. Might as well ignore them.
If you're just looking for a zombie movie, 28 Weeks Later might be perfect for you, although I personally like the Resident Evil movies better for that.
The Lone Gunmen
I happened to notice that the DVD box set of The Lone Gunmen was on sale and picked it up, completing our collection. I thought this was a great spin-off show and was disappointed when it got cancelled, although I can understand it had limited appeal to the hardcore techies who watched The X-Files. The show's much more technical and focused on conspiracies, without the background that the general public can relate to. I sort of wonder what people thought about the show after 9/11, as the pilot episode was actually a government conspiracy to crash an airplane into the World Trade Center, and this episode was shown in March of that year.
I also knew that Luna would like watching The Lone Gunmen. She liked many episodes of The X-Files and especially those that were funny. The Lone Gunmen tends to have funny things in every episode, just because the characters are funny and they have absurd ideas about how to go about things. She especially likes Frohike because he acts so kawaii and looks moe.
February 23, 2008
Visit from Silke
Silke's back in San Jose again after about two years. She's the new team lead for development in Germany, and Karsten who used to be the team lead is now a manager. So IBM flew her out to meet some of the people she's working with in San Jose and for some training. This was her first time meeting Luna, although I'd mentioned Luna to her the last time she was here.
We went to eat at Sato Sushi. The food was good although a little pricey as usual for a Japanese restaurant. We mostly talked about how things are at IBM and what the people there that both of us know are doing now. Luna talked a little bit about her classes. Luna thought it was strange that Silke would go to live at a monastery and learn Kung Fu.
Afterwards, we came back home and played a game of Hunters and Gatherers. It was actually a very close game until I got lucky and pulled out the shrine which let me get all of the field, which we were previously sharing, to myself. If I hadn't pulled that I wouldn't have won, because I was trailing by a fair margin the entire time.
February 21, 2008
Patlabor: The TV Series
So whereas the Patlabor OVA was a little disappointing, the full length television series Patlabor: The TV Series isn't so bad. It's not great, but it's about what you'd expect from a Saturday morning cartoon. A bit of action, some laughs, and outrageous but likable characters. It's a little on the long side, at 47 episodes, but they go by fairly quickly and there are some interesting, although simple, stories.
Despite the franchise's tremendous success in general, I'm not really sure what it has going for it. I suspect it's more of a mecha action sort of appeal to younger audiences. Having recently watched You're Under Arrest! I have to say YUA is a much better show overall with more lasting appeal than Patlabor: TV.
February 17, 2008
When Luna first saw the trailer for The Holiday she laughed and then punched me in the face. Cameron Diaz's character had found out her boyfriend slept with his secretary and walked out the front door and punched him twice. I don't think Luna put it on her queue right away, but we saw the trailer again and that's probably when she did.
There's really nothing special about The Holiday in terms of plot, but it does have some very good actors and a little gimmick which thankfully isn't overused. Amanda (Cameron Diaz) happens to be a movie trailer director/editor/something and every once in a while imagines hearing voiceovers describing the drama in her life. That's the gimmick, and it's used a few times. Otherwise, it's your typical people in bad relationship find other people and everything works out in the end. Simple, straightforward, and it'll be the characters that make you like the movie or not.
I did kind of like Miles (Jack Black) because his view on the world is a little kooky. He sees a theatrical score in just about everything and that's a fun and cool way of seeing things. He's a composer in the movie, of course.
February 14, 2008
Strangers in Paradise
Strangers in Paradise, by Terry Moore, is a masterpiece. Every once in a while there comes a book that has everything and holds you so tight you forget to breathe and savor each page while being unable to turn to the next one. This is one of them.
I think there are some stories that can only be told right with pictures, and Strangers in Paradise really exploits the graphic medium to its fullest. You can't describe in words the smirk on someone's face or the burning in someone's eyes. Those simple words don't convey the whole and any attempt to describe it in words is like looking at a beautiful painting an inch at a time. You can only see those things by absorbing it all at once. In any other form, Strangers in Paradise would be just a pale rendering.
Moore's sense of composition and attention to emotional detail in each frame is perfect. It all comes together without once placing you in an uncomfortable visual flow or inability to fully understand the frame, the page, and the story. I'd love to read it in full color, but the black and white pocket books are really good anyway.
Katchoo, Francine, David, and their friends and enemies are wonderful. When you follow a person through good and bad, the rough spots and with all their emotions and thoughts fully exposed, you can't help by fall in love with them. They become part of you. Katchoo and Francine are soul mates in the real sense of the word. That doesn't mean they always get along and live in a perfect world. It means no matter what they're together and each carrying a part of the other even when they're apart, and that will never change.
There's all the stuff that makes life interesting, fun, exciting, and an adventure. Plus a whole other global conspiracy and criminal element that has them trapped and prevents them from being able to control their own lives. Those external events that you try to hide from the ones you love to protect them, or save them, when that means hurting them and sacrificing yourself or other people. Those sorts of hard but real-life decisions that many people face and struggle to overcome.
This is a story I'm going to read again. And I'm going to enjoy it just as much that time, and the time after.
February 13, 2008
Fear and Trembling
Tintin got me Stupeur et tremblements for my birthday. It's originally a French novelette by Amélie Nothomb that I believe is autobiographical in nature. Amélie immigrates to Japan for the purpose of working at a Japanese company for one year. The cultural and corporate differences coupled with her gaijin status create a uniquely amusing yet ridiculously horrific experience for her. What she thinks shows good initiative or understanding in fact results in suspicion or corporate loss of face. Those she thinks are nice are in fact quick to betray. Hopes will be casually dashed by the inadvertent comments of a superior. In sum, a world of social politics that is like a mine field for Amélie and her coworkers.
The translation reads very easily, and the book itself looks as if published for a young teen audience with large type and lots of white space. There isn't any difficult vocabulary and the sentence structure is simple. I wonder though, as it was originally written in French, just how well it translates. It seems like a lot of the amusement would depend a lot on how it was written by the author. So perhaps something was lost in the translation. I actually finished the entire book in one sitting, but it's not a whole lot of pages so that's not much of a feat anyway.
February 12, 2008
I saw Hyper Police in the manga section of a bookstore, and remembered it because it looked like it might be a fun read. It's an action-comedy taking place sometime in the future where cross-breeding between humans and animals has created a whole set of new species like cat girls and werewolves and turtle men. Natsuki is a cat girl working as a bounty hunter with a bunch of other human and non-human characters. They all have very distinct personalities and the author, MEE, has a lot of fun with creating absurd situations and lots of fan service. When taking a break from all the explosions and craziness, romance between the different characters starts to grow.
The manga is ten volumes, and doesn't really have an overall plot. Each chapter tends to stand on its own as a little adventure, although sometimes a story will take place over a handful of chapters. There aren't any amazing ideas or new things presented in the manga, and if you're going to remember anything special it would have to be the characters and hysteria. Unfortunately, while I think the artwork itself is good, the composition could use a little work. It wasn't bad, but every once in a while there was a frame where you couldn't figure out what was going on, or the directions between adjacent frames would conflict.
February 4, 2008
Infernal Affairs 2 & 3
Infernal Affairs 2 and Infernal Affairs 3 are the sequels to a great movie I watched a few years ago, Infernal Affairs. This first one was recently remade in the U.S. but I haven't seen it. The primary reason I liked Infernal Affairs was because of the competing tension between Yan and Lau both working for the other team while still trying to defeat each other. It's an excellent game of chess.
Wu jian dao 2 is different. This movie actually takes place before the first Wu jian dao, and focuses more on the relationship between the gangster Sam and police officer Wong, who are the leaders of the gang and police in Wu jian dao. We see their history, and what led them to who they became in the first movie. Yan and Lau are also there, but in their younger selves. The lack of tension and a somewhat confusing chain of events made it harder to like Wu jian dao 2. I felt the strength of focus found in the first movie was lost, even though the acting and characters were just as good and the story well tied into the series as a whole. (Brief glimpses into Yan's thing with watches and Lau's love of music are nice touches.)
Wu jian dao 3 is even more confusing than 2. This takes place some time after the first movie, as the police try to uncover who else might be gang moles. Lau is now a big time police officer, and involved in the investigation. However, things aren't exactly right. There are problems at home with his wife Mary, and his investigation seems to take odd turns. There are lots of flashbacks to new events that show more background on Yan and Lau. The psychiatrist played by Kelly Chen makes are reappearance. In the end, things make sense but you will have to piece things together. Unfortunately, the ending is disappointing but fitting with the whole series' idea of continuous hell.
February 1, 2008
Frozen in Grand Central
Frozen Grand Central has a fun little video clip and collection of photos of around 200 actors working together to create a surreal experience at Grand Central in New York City. Stuff like this makes life more exciting and fun.