Daryl Surat went out of his way to recommend Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame to me, so the least I could do was check it out. It is an unusual hybrid martial arts mystery movie. Surprisingly enough it succeeds on both fronts quite well. The mystery is well executed and follows Knox’s rules to the letter expect for the 5th rule. But the story takes place in China there is no way to get around it. Also Knox’s 5th has always been very silly and is clearly a product of its time. I figured out most of the details of the mystery as the story went along but I felt the answers were not glaringly obvious while still being solvable if you were playing attention. The fights were fairly cool and whenever they try to kill Detective Dee they do so with extreme prejudice. They don’t send an archer to assassinate him. They send a legion of archers to cover ever inch of the house he is staying with arrows. I did find Dee’s choice if signature weapon unexpected but in a good way. His weapon actually says a lot about him as a man and a detective. The only problem is that the special effects range from competent to horrifically cheesy. The effects never ruined the movie but they did make me chuckle on occasion. Dee himself has a gentle charm with just enough bite to mix it up. His Detective work is clean and he has a good mixture of scholarly knowledge, keen perception, and street smarts. His two assistants/rivals oscillated between being annoying and being cool especially when it came to the albino Shatuo (who I called the Chinese Malfoy.) I highly recommend it to anyone who likes martial arts movies, detective stories, or just wants something a little bit different. If they made a sequel I would definitely give it a look.
Despite my misgivings about Tangled‘s trailer, I went to see it over Thanksgiving weekend. I found myself pleasantly, and surprisingly, enchanted by the movie which I was giving the benefit of the doubt thanks to some articles I had read. The story is of course a familiar one, but it has its own additions like rouge thief Flynn and Rapunzel’s pet chameleon. Rapunzel is humorous and strong in her varying moods, and she is quite handy with her weapon of choice, a frying pan, which provides loads of laughs throughout the film. Though I will say that the humor is hit and miss especially when it comes to Flynn. While ignored in the trailer, the film does have musical numbers though they are integrated a little differently, such as Rapunzel’s introduction piece which for the most part doesn’t feature her visually signing. Actual on-screen singing is notably absent during the stunning boat scene between Flynn and Rapunzel, too. The songs themselves felt forced in the first half of the film, but really pulled together in the second part. In fact, the whole film is just much better in its later half. The visuals are the best I’ve seen in CG animated film and the scenes in town, the dancing, and the lights filled me with warmth and awe. The film rounds out with the right amount of magic and a happy ending. Also loved the ending credits with old-style story boarding. While Tangled won’t go down as my new favorite Disney film, if this is the level of quality that Disney will produce and make money, I’m more than pleased.
Since Steam had an amazingly cheap Black Friday sale with 5 games for 5 dollars I had no choice but to pick up these games. The fact that I have two people almost simultaneous jump on AIM telling me to buy Recettear helped quite a bit. Despite not being the game I bought the pack for I first played through Jolly Rover. The summation of the game is simple, Monkey Island but with dogs. The creators of the game are obviously paying homage to the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood with a few subtle winks and nods throughout. I mean a silly pirate adventure in the Caribbean with voodoo, a corrupt governor, a ghost pirate, and an effeminate protagonist with an awkward name all point to one source. The game is never as hysterical as a good Monkey Island but it was consistently amusing. The puzzles are never super hard which is good and bad. One one hand I beat the game in one day which means anyone who wants a high level challenge will be disappointed but on the other hand I also never felt any of the puzzles were unfair with answers that come out of nowhere. It is a nice little time killer and fairly priced normally for 10 dollars. I am curious to go back and play the game with the creator commentary on just to see what they say. It would also give me a chance to go back and get all the unlockable content.
I don’t even really know how I came to have Wolverine Evolution, probably picked up in a random sale, so I finally got around to reading it. Jeph Loeb tells us a story about Logan’s past which he is having dreams about but can’t quite see a mysterious figure. As most are aware Wolvie has been alive quite a while but these memories are different to him. Other beasties appear in the series and it features Sabertooth quite prominently, no surprise. The artwork by Simone Bianchi is pretty unappealing throughout, minus some well-worked splash pages, proportions seem crazy and the expressions are equal to it plus the digital coloring is horrendous. In short, it wasn’t very good and utterly forgettable.
While I was on vacation I decided to head down to my local library and check out what manga they had and their copy of A Drifting Life caught my eye. Since I had a free evening I sat down to read the 840 page book in one go. As odd as it may sound I found Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s life story and his road to creating gekiga more intriguing than gekiga itself. It is the story of how Yoshihiro became a manga artists and how he was instrumental in the creation of a unique and influential style of comics in Japan. Along side his life story are little snippets of historical events to frame his story. This is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about the history of manga. The insights into how early manga magazines operated is fantastic. I knew vague details of what manga was like before and after Tezuka but this is a level of detail you can only get from someone who lived through the changes in the medium. It was also interesting to see what were the popular genres of the time and how the medium matured as the artists did as well. I know that Narutaki was amused that there was a time when mystery manga were kings. His personal relationships were as fascinating as his history in manga. He delves into his love/hate relationship with his brother who was also a manga artist, his sketchy dad, and the colorful and somewhat insane people he has worked with. My biggest complaint was whenever he touched on his romantic relationships it seemed the most underdeveloped part of the story. He should have either went into greater depth about his relationships or just left them out all together. Also Tezuka is a rather prominent figure in the first third of the story. The insight into Tezuka and how other manga artists viewed him is invaluable by itself.
Finally got around to reading the first volume of Red River which has a Shogakukan Manga Award for shojo under its belt. It originally started in 1995 when transporting girls to mysterious land, where they play an important role, was at an all-time high. While I am not averse to such a scenario, it is hard to say that this book does it well or takes it further within just one volume. At the moment Yuri comes off as pig-headed but helpless which causes all kinds of trouble including some deaths already. The prince is such an almost-rapist that I have trouble imagining liking him. With such a long series I feel I should give it a chance to warm up to me, but this first volume did not inspire confidence.