Sunday, March 18, 2007

Media catchup

Some stuff I wanted to talk about but didn't due to Will Eisner Week:

Oh, first I wanted to link to Jog's news about the anime anthology film Genius Party, from Studio 4°C. It includes stuff by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo), Koji Morimoto (Memories, The Animatrix), and Kazuto Nakazawa (the anime part of Kill Bill), among many others. Check out the YouTube links Jog provides for examples. I'm super-excited about this movie.

Anyway, on with the commentary:

300 (2007, directed by Zach Snyder):

I just saw this yesterday, and it was pretty enjoyable. I don't have much to add to the general discussion, although I wasn't offended by any supposed political symbolism; you pretty much have to be looking for it to read that sort of message into the film. No, the real message of the movie is that it's fun to watch manly men kick ass in an awesome manner. I thought the visuals were very nice, often replicating Frank Miller's comic pages, although not as slavishly as in the Sin City adaptation.

In fact, most any complaints I have are about the material added to the story. There's one scene in which the Spartans come across a Greek village that has been razed by Persian scouting troops. It's not bad, until the find what the Persians did with the villagers: they killed them all and nailed their bodies to a tree. It's a nice image, the tree covered with bodies, but it kind of ruins the impact of the later scene when the Persians discover that the Spartans had built their rock wall with the bodies of the Persian scouts. That scene was pretty cool and horrific in the book, but it's lessened here because it seems like revenge for what the Persian scouts did earlier.

But that's not really that big a deal compared to the other subplot that gets shoehorned into the movie: Leonidas's wife trying to convince the council of elders in Sparta to go to war. It's incredibly boring, only serving to provide rest between intense battle scenes. There's none of Miller's trademark dialogue or narration, and there's an ugly scene where [SPOILERS, if you care] a corrupt councilman won't help her unless she offers herself to him. So she does, and he shoves her up against a wall, saying something like, "This will not be over quickly, and you will not enjoy it." Then when she speaks to the council, he calls her an adulterer, saying she tried to seduce him. Oh, he's such a jerk. I'm sure we're supposed to boo and hiss. So he's having guards throw her out of the council, but she grabs one of their swords and stabs the him, repeating his line back to him. Yeah, go girl! (sarcasm). And then a bunch of coins fall out of his tunic, and they all have Xerxes's head on them. Get it, he was being bribed by the Persians. So everybody calls him a traitor and decides to go to war. Yawn. [End Spoilers].Plus, poor Dominic West is stuck playing the villainous councilman. I think he's excellent in The Wire on HBO, but he can't seem to catch a break in movies, ending up in stuff like this and The Forgotten. Also, he's British in real life, but his faux-British accent in 300 sounds more fake to me than his American accent on The Wire. Weird.

So, anyway, I had a good time and enjoyed the movie, for the most part. I just wish they would have stuck to Miller's story instead of adding their own stuff to pad out the running time.

Andy Barker, P.I.:

This is a new show that debuted last Thursday on NBC (in place of 30 Rock, which I hope is not a bad sign for that show), and it's hilarious. Andy Richter (Conan O'Brien's former sidekick) plays an accountant who becomes a Private Eye because a client confuses him for the detective who used to work out of his new office. Richter plays the character perfectly; he starts doing the detective job out of boredom, and we see him start to get really interested, but he's ridiculously naive about the world he's getting into. He's searching for a guy, and when he finds him, a bunch of Russian gangsters pull up, grab the guy, and shove him into a van. Andy says to them, "Hey, no need to be so rough!" He projects that aura of innocence very well. He plays the part of a boring accountant well also. When he's first researching the case (on Google), he comes across an article mentioning the guy's tax return. His eyes light up, and he says, "Ooh, this just got interesting!" Funny stuff. Other good additions to the cast include Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development) as the guy who runs the video store downstairs from Andy's office and gets involved in the case (and, presumably, future cases); and Harve Presnell as the P.I. who used to work in Andy's office that Andy goes to for advice. They both play their parts excellently. It's an incredibly enjoyable show, and I'll be following it to whatever night it moves to once 30 Rock comes back to Thursdays. I recommend checking it out!