June 21, 2007

Danny DeViWho?

Danny DeVito is lending his name to a newly-opened restaurant:

The actor has opened [sic] DeVito South Beach, an Italian chop house on trendy Ocean Drive. The signature meal: a $325 trio of steaks from Japan, Australia and the United States that serves three people.

Which is all well and good. But according to DeVito's IMDB entry, he's a vegetarian.

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June 13, 2007

Me and Chris

I've mentioned that I read Chris Beveridge's reviews as a bit of a guideline to figuring out whether a series is crap or not.

Elsewhere, the anonymous author of Ani-nouto writes:

One specific side note to add is how reviewing on a DVD boundary is meaningless in context of anime series. Steven likes how Mr. Beveridge does it, but I am getting an impression that he only likes to look at the set of letter grades.

Based on some recent posts here, I can see how someone might get that impression, but it isn't correct. The difficulty is that Chris loads his reviews up with spoilers. So if there's a series I'm sure I won't watch, or that I don't care if gets spoiled, or if it's a series I've already seen, then I can read his reviews.

But if it's something that I think I might be interested in, and if I don't want it spoiled, then I have to avoid the body of his reviews. In that case, I look at his letter grades alone and skip the rest. That gives me at least some hint of whether he thought it was any good without risking ruining anything in case I decide to watch it later.

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June 12, 2007

No payola here

Dan writes about the newest advertising gimmick to come along with blogs.

This new scheme apparently pays per undisclosed sponsored link. Include a link from a blog post to whatever dodgy dealer likes the idea of buying these kinds of ads, absolutely do not reveal to anybody in any way that you’re getting paid for it… and get paid for it. Genius!

Harry says he’s now seeing… unusual… links popping up on a number of blogs that also run Text Link Ads.

That really is pretty shabby. But I understand the motivation, unfortunately. A paid testimonial is usually discounted by readers; what seems to be a spontaneous one will be worth more because readers will assume it's sincere. So they're trying to fake sincerity.

You may have noticed that I have said a lot of nice things about Robert's Anime Corner Store. He doesn't give me any money, and our only business relationship is my occasional orders. A couple of times he has tossed in something extra with larger orders, but it's not routine, and I get the impression they do that for other regular customers as well.

The reason I say the things I say is because I think they're true. I praise him and his service because he earns that praise and deserves it. If he ever ceases to deserve that praise, you'll hear that, too.

I don't take payola from anyone, and I never will. As a reviewer, I'm small potatoes -- but I'm honest.

UPDATE: Dan's post was a followup to this post, about pay-per-post advertising. That's pretty scummy, too.

UPDATE: So what about the question of receiving free review copies of DVDs and/or mangas? I think it depends on how that's handled.

I read Chris Beveridge's reviews and I rely on him as being an honest reviewer. I don't always agree with him but I do always believe that he says what he thinks, even though every DVD he reviews is a free review copy.

Perhaps that's due to weight and volume. He's important enough as a reviewer at this point that all the release companies routinely send him free copies of DVDs, and they can't stop doing so even if he pans some of what they send. So such pressure as there might be on him to be positive is slight enough that he doesn't have any difficulty ignoring it. When something really stinks, he says so.

On the other hand, a couple of months ago Basugasubakuhatsu started running reviews of free DVDs and mangas, and I don't think I've seen one yet that wasn't given at least a partial positive review. I don't trust him anymore, and I don't believe what he says. I've largely stopped reading his blog because of it.

I will give him credit for one thing: he admits each time that he's reviewing a free review copy. Even so, it's really hard to believe that everything he's given is as good as he says it is. He may not be under overt pressure to turn out positive reviews, but I sense a conflict of interest: if he starts panning titles, the flow of free goodies may stop.

Myself, everything I've ever reviewed I also paid for. So I have no conflict of interest.

UPDATE: Hung has responded to this on his blog, here.

Just to clarify something: I never thought, nor meant to imply that I thought, that Hung was accepting money for writing positive reviews. Given the context of the earlier part of this post, I can see where that could be inferred, and it's my mistake for not making it more clear.

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June 11, 2007

Which end?

Ani-nouto eats taiyaki purchased in San Francisco. But we aren't told the answer to that most-critical of questions: Does Ani-nouto eat the head first, or the tail first?

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June 10, 2007

Ubu Roi's perfect series

Ubu Roi talks about his perfect series (and includes numerous big-time spoilers, like revealing the ending of Cowboy Bebop).

I just got through watching his perfect series. It's called Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars.


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June 01, 2007

Autobiography, or auto-something anyway

This is hilarious. (And NSFW.) It would be moderator bait except for one big thing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 04:18 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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May 28, 2007

Mortal Kombat! Duh-duh-dede-duh-duh-dede-MORTAL KOMBAT!

Some performers in martial arts films are already trained in martial arts. In a lot of cases they don't have any skill at all, and their fights are choreographed dances. In a few cases (The Matrix) the actors go through intensive training, but that's expensive and they don't usually bother.

You can usually tell when the actors are or are not trained. Those who really do know their stuff do the moves better. Their motions are more crisp; their forms are cleaner. The actors who are just dancing tend to look rather sloppy. It's usually pretty obvious. (Not invariably, though. Zhang Ziyi had no martial arts training before doing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and I thought her fights were excellent. It perhaps helped that she was a very accomplished dancer.)

When David Carradine did the original Kung Fu series, when I was in college, he was just doing dances. But he got interested in martial arts and spent several years studying and got reasonably good, and his later martial arts sequences are noticeably different.

I have a weakness for the movie Mortal Kombat. As video game adaptations go, this particular one had less to work with than average. The game has only the barest of a story; there's a tournament, and the player's avatar competes in it and tries to win. That's pretty much it.

To make a movie out of it they needed a bit more than that. So they rather arbitrarily decided that Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage would be the heroes. Rayden got promoted to deity, as "guardian of the Earth". Shang Tsung became the enemy "boss". It's cheesy, but what makes it work for me is Linden Ashby's performance as Johnny Cage. (And Lambert chewing the scenery, which is always fun.) The Cage character is the source of a lot of comic relief, though the character is also a great fighter and never loses a fight in the film.

It's cheesy. It's a guilty pleasure. I would never claim that it is in any way excellent, but the budget was pretty large, and the special effects are about what they should be for a B-movie like this, and generally the fights are pretty good. But there's quite a wide variety of levels of experience in the martial arts among the performers.

Christopher Lambert doesn't have any experience with martial arts, but the Rayden character never fights. (Or not with his fists; he fights with special effects.) Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade) is cute and bouncy but has no martial arts experience at all, and her fights were the worst in the film. (She also gave the worst performance.) Talisa Soto (Kitana) also has no fighting experience, but she only had one fight and got trounced, so it wasn't a problem. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung) was also not well trained, but he did a moderately good job of faking it. (He might have studied some; I'm not clear on that.)

On the other hand, a lot of the actors have a great deal of experience in martial arts. Robin Shou (Liu Kang) has extensively studied a Chinese form called Wu Shu. Chris Casamassa (Scorpion) has a 7th degree black belt in Karate. François Petit (Sub-Zero) has multi-level black belts in four Japanese fighting forms, including a 7th degree black belt in Karate. Keith Cooke (Reptile) is a master of Karate and Wu Shu.

What I can't figure out is Linden Ashby. His bio on IMDB doesn't mention any martial arts training, but his fights are too good for me to believe he hasn't studied. I recall at least one spinning kick, and that's a really tough move to do well. His was fast and crisp. (Of course, I don't know how many takes they had to do.)

If, in fact, Ashby really didn't have any martial arts training then it makes one of the running gags in the film particularly funny. Johnny Cage is portrayed as a movie actor who does martial arts films and is portrayed by a hostile press as being a phony, though he isn't. "You can't fake those moves." But was Linden Ashby, the actor in this martial arts film who portrayed Johnny Cage, actually faking it?

UPDATE: By the way, I really do like the first Mortal Kombat film, but words cannot express just how utterly shitty the sequel was. The only thing about it that was any good was the lady who replaced Wilson as Sonya Blade. Not only was she better looking and a better actress, but her fights were a hell of a lot better. But everything else about the movie sucked more than you can possibly believe.

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May 27, 2007

Kaneda Tomoko

I'm not one to become fanatical about unimportant things, but I'm on the edge these days of raging fanboyism for Japanese seiyuu Kaneda Tomoko. I am rewatching Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite so that I can listen to her performance as Grace, having recently heard her as Bel-bel in Petite Princess Yucie. She's probably most famous for doing the voice of Chiyo-chan in Azumanga Daioh and I would say that if someone else had been cast in that role I think the series would not have been as popular as it turned out to be. Irrespective of the other virtues (or faults) of that series, her performance is the standout. I cannot imagine Chiyo-chan with any other voice.

Kaneda's voice is amazing and unique, of course. She's a character actress, because her voice just isn't appropriate for many kinds of roles. (Can you imagine her doing the voice of Yomi? Eek!) But there are a lot of roles she is suited for and in those roles there just isn't anyone better. That's why she's been so busy.

There was a YouTube posted recently somewhere, which I didn't keep the link to, which showed a dubbing session for one complex scene from Azumanga Daioh. The Japanese do those scenes with all the seiyuu together, each having their own mike, and in this case it was the five main characters all at once. (I think it was one of the "hiccup" scenes.) That puts a premium on the seiyuu not screwing up and requiring retakes. If you've got five of them and each of them has a 30% screw-up rate on a long scene, you're going to do a lot of takes, since on average you're only going to get one good take out of seven.

Japanese women tend to the small, of course, but one of the startling things about that video was just how tiny she was compared to all the others. I swear, it looked like she was a head shorter. Tanaka Rie ain't all that tall, at 5'4", but she towered over Kaneda.

There are seiyuu who have put in performances I really like who don't get a lot of work. It occurs to me that the reason is that they need a lot of retakes. Word of that will get around in the industry, I suspect.

Kaneda Tomoko clearly doesn't have that problem. I don't think they'd cut her that kind of slack even with her unique and marvelous voice.

But another reason she gets a lot of work is that she is genuinely talented and has a very broad range. Though the voice is recognizably the same as Bel-bel and Chiyo-chan, one reason I like her performance as Grace is because Grace is so much different of a character, and gives Kaneda an opportunity to stretch as an actress. Smug satisfaction, frustration, fear, anger; Grace is a complex character and the performance must have been a challenging one. Kaneda was brilliant in the role, and in fact she's been brilliant in everything I've ever heard her in.

There's one scene in Petite Princess Yucie where Bel-bel (a pixie) gets netted by Glenda (a demon princess) and as the net swings Kaneda does a kind of vocal riff that was perfect. The guys in the control room must have been in stitches listening to her.

She reminds me of Gene Hackman, as strange as that sounds. When I look at a description of a movie and see that Gene Hackman is in the cast, I know that the film won't be a total loss. He is supremely versatile, and can play any kind of part. And no matter how bad it might be in other ways, Hackman will bring out the best in whatever part he's given, and he'll always be worth watching.

Kaneda Tomoko strikes me that way: any anime she's in can't be all bad. At least I'll get the pleasure of hearing her voice again, and whatever part she plays will be outstanding. In fact, it's enough to make me wonder about series I otherwise haven't heard anything about.

Maybe I should pick up Magikano when ADV finally gets around to releasing it. I see panchira in the teaser art, and Kaneda Tomoko is in the cast. How can I go wrong?

UPDATE: I just checked my own "Future Series" list and see that I had already included Magikano in it, with the notation "ecchi fluff". It's sounding better and better. I wonder when ADV will get around to releasing it?

Also, ANN's trivia says:

This is the second consecutive 2006 anime in which voice actress Nogawa Sakura (as Ayumi Mamiya) plays a hateful and psychotic black-magic-using-girl who is attacked by a tentacle monster in a swimming pool. Mai Otome is the first, in which she plays Shiho Huit.

Yikes! Meanwhile, this is the character Kaneda does the voice for. That's no surprise; because of her voice she is typecast doing little girls and cute animals. It's our good fortune that there are so many such parts so that we can enjoy her work.

UPDATE: The Magikano license was just announced. The first DVD is scheduled for December.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 05:25 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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May 17, 2007

Scary-cute, that is

Don's new site motto is "There's a fine line between kawaii and kowai."


Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 08:18 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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