'Violent Cop': Beat Takeshi Kitano as a Japanese Dirty Harry

Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki (Japanese title)

*** mild spoilers ***

He's not ready with the witty verbal quips – just the opposite, actually – but Detective Azuma is otherwise not all that unlike Dirty Harry. He slaps teenage punks around, would rather beat up than arrest drug dealers, and doesn't hesitate to run down a cop killer.

The plot eventually becomes about Azuma's investigation of a drug syndicate and how it's controlling more than it seems. But I have to warn Dirty Harry fans: This is no Magnum Force. In some ways, the Dirty Harry films are fairy tales compared with this movie. They are also much more sharp and focused in the western cinematic tradition. Violent Cop is very Japanese in understatedness of plot.

For those who like to see other cities, other cultures, like I do, there are lots of scenes on the streets of what might be Kyoto. (Filming location info is not currently found on Wikipedia or IMDB.) Much of the story takes place during the daytime, so there's much to see. (City streets at night could be almost anywhere.)

In 'Brother', Beat Takeshi shows LA hoods Yakuza style

This movie is interesting. Very dry. Very understated, for all the violence. Beat Takeshi Kitano directed this movie, his first outside of Japan.

Beat Takeshi Kitano
(If you don't know Beat, you may still recognize his face.)

Wikipedia currently remarks:

Brother (2001), shot in Los Angeles, had Kitano as a deposed Tokyo yakuza setting up a drug empire in L.A. with the aid of a local gangster played by Omar Epps. Despite a large buzz around Kitano's first English language film, the film was met with tepid response in the US and abroad....

Between the disappointing response to Brother and Dolls [another movie he directed], Kitano became a punching bag for the press in the United States, who wondered if he had lost his ability to make a good film. Criticism was less severe in Europe and Asia though many commentators were not as lavish with their praise as they had been with previous Kitano films.

Laura's unofficial sci-fi geek Lords of Kobol lineage DVD collection

Some items are must-haves for any science fiction fan (and aren't all geeks and geekettes to some extent sci-fi fans?). We already know that Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. Now we can celebrate not just this fabulous show in high-definition video, but those shows and movies that led to its creation (according to me -- Ron Moore may have different ideas).

Let's start at the top:

  1. Battlestar Galactica - Season One [HD DVD]

    If you've stumbled across the show broadcast in HDTV on the UHD cable channel, you know that Galactica is really something else when you can see all the detail.

    Price: $69.95

Fighting piracy one Scout at a time

When it comes to digital copying of copyrighted works, the old-media conglomerates' automatic reaction has been to clamp down -- make

One would think that, with the exploding cultural, communications and market-driven phenomenon of online media, these international corporations run by very-well-paid executives would be all over it, bringing their vast libraries of creative content to new markets, leveraging their dominance in the 20th century economy into great advantage going after 21st century opportunities.

Instead, it seems their energy has gone into what Freud would call anal-retentive behavior: adding more "security seals" and un-clickable FBI and Interpol warnings to DVDS, producing slick ads propagandizing the evils of what they consider illegal copying, and, of course, suing consumers to keep them -- us -- in line.

Women kicking butt in Aeon Flux

Warning: Spoilers. (Not much, but hey, I warned you.)

So I saw Aeon Flux on DVD the other night. Given the mediocre reviews and lack of box-office love the film, um, enjoyed, I really didn't expect much. I wanted to see it mainly because of the production design I saw in the commercials. And because of Charlize Theron. And (okay okay) because I'm something of a scifi nut.

What I didn't quite expect was the heart of the story being driven by female characters. As you know, the norm in sci-fi movies is to have maybe a couple of interesting, perhaps powerful women who have their moments of personal power, but in the decisive cumination leave matters to the (male) hero. Not so in this movie. Aeon is unmistakeably the motivator of just about all the action here, and she's the one who comes through again and again, all the way up to the conclusion. (And, for the most part, the other major action characters are women as well.)

Special effects: The Final Frontier

Why is it that the studios cannot leave enough alone? Apparently, Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS to Trekkers and Trekkies out there [I'm of the latter, thank you very much]) is getting a makeover, not only being remastered for HDTV but also getting all the effects shots redone.

There's no direct link to the email update I received, so I will simply quote from the SciFi news page the entire PR blurb:

The original 1960s Star Trek series will receive a high-tech makeover and return to broadcast syndication for the first time in 16 years, with digitally remastered episodes, Paramount announced. In honor of the show's 40th anniversary, CBS Domestic Television is releasing all 79 episodes with new special effects and music on 200 stations, beginning Sept. 16. The first batch of episodes will be chosen from a list of fan favorites.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of how HDTV might change movies

They don't make movies like this anymore. Like many kids my age, I saw it may times on Saturday afternoon television, full frame with lots of cuts and lots of car commercials (which somehow weren't so obnoxious back then). It was fun enough just because of the characters. For a western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly didn't take itself so seriously -- mainly because Eli Wallach's weasely Tuco was so compelling.

But what I saw wasn't the real movie. Sergio Leone made widescreen movies, and he used the entire frame. What I saw, with pan-and-scan and interstitial advertising, was a Cliff's Notes version of the film.

Having recently watched on my 20" iMac the DVD of the restored version of the film, I can say it is a different movie. The iMac is not HDTV, and standard DVDs, though they have much more resolution than televisions can provide, are not HD DVD -- but even so, the movie offered what a lot of more recent movies do not:



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