From the archives: July 2003

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When lightsabres fail, press charges

Friday, 25 July 2003 — 12:12pm

Straight from the BBC:

Star Wars video prompts lawsuit

Ghyslain Raza became known as the “Star Wars Kid” after a video of him using a golf ball retriever to emulate the light sabre slinging tricks of Darth Maul was posted on the net.

The video was hugely popular and some people even added effects to make the golf ball retriever look and sound like a light sabre.

But the public exposure of the clip proved a burden for Mr Raza, who has been through psychiatric care to cope with his unwanted publicity.

The lawsuit says that Mr Raza has had to endure harassment and derision from his school mates and the general public because of the publicity that the clip received.

It also says that Mr Raza is undergoing psychiatric care to cope with the publicity and reaction.

Lawyers for Mr Raza are claiming compensation of 225,000 Canadian dollars (£100,000) from the four boys who allegedly stole the video and put it online.

Personally, they really should put this kid in Episode III. He’s a martyr of the fan community, the first of the millions to be caught in the act of Star Wars fantasy.

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Latest shoveled by the Koopa Poopa Skoopa

Wednesday, 23 July 2003 — 7:51pm | Game music, Music, Pianism, Video games

This, contrary to popular belief, is not me. But in case you’re wondering, it is what I do on my spare time.

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Coming to the aid of those who languish in tyranny’s chains

Saturday, 19 July 2003 — 10:31pm | Comics, Literature, Michael Chabon

A bit late in the reporting, but nonetheless, here is the greatest and most exciting piece of literary news I have heard in a fair while:

Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael Chabon has signed on with Dark Horse Comics to publish Michael Chabon Presents…The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist. The quarterly comic anthology will feature characters created by Chabon in his critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Set primarily in the late ’30’-s and early ’40’-s at the birth of the comic book industry, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay tells the story of two young men who create a popular comic-book character known as “The Escapist.” The Dark Horse anthology will present tales of the Escapist and his cohorts set in the style of various comic book eras from the 40’s through today. Chabon will guide the direction of the series as well as contribute to writing original stories. Other artists and writers will be announced in coming months.

Read all about it here – there is a nice piece of promotional art there as well.

I am nothing even remotely close to a comic book aficionado, but this announcement has me wetting my pants with anticipation. Why? Well, for starters, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is arguably the best piece of contemporary literature I have ever read, for reasons that would fill several essays. Among the most vividly-written scenes in the piece are the respective origin stories of The Escapist and Luna Moth, comic book sequences inked with words alone; the panels leap off the page, and if they evoke one reaction, it’s exactly what Sammy Clay said upon the genesis of his creation: “I wish he were real.”

Suffice to say, an actual comic book of The Escapist is a dream come true – that is, if handled properly. Considering the extent of Chabon’s direct involvement, it is reasonable to expect it to live up to his grand vision.

And if you haven’t read Kavalier & Clay, then what are you waiting for? Go get it!

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One scoop Rowan Atkinson, one scoop bad movie

Saturday, 19 July 2003 — 9:53pm | Film, Full reviews

Rowan Atkinson’s performance as the title character of Johnny English is among his better work. The film itself is not.

There is no doubting that the former Mr. Bean is a gentleman’s Jim Carrey, a master of physical comedy, and it shows as he plays the role of a bumbling, incompetent secret agent. Atkinson is the primary draw of the film and its solitary heart and soul; true to form, he delivers fine comedy that acts as a magnet for laughter. He plays the role with a total lack of debonair suavity, and proves himself the perfect anti-Bond. His delivery of verbal humour is similarly commendable, and hearkens back to its Blackadder zenith.

Unfortunately, that is where Johnny English starts and ends. It is in effect a solo performance, or maybe not enough of one, as everything other than Atkinson’s comedic moments is completely forgettable. The screenwriting team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the pair who worked on the last two James Bond films, does well enough in constructing the occasional witty snippet of dialogue for Atkinson to deliver, typically relying heavily on well-executed dramatic irony; however, not as much can be said in the way of story. One does not expect a showcase of Atkinson’s talents to string an evenly-paced plot together, but low expectations do not excuse the paper-thin transitions from joke to joke, which often go on far too long. Whenever Johnny English is offscreen, the movie is a thundering bore. Even John Malkovich’s appearance as the uber-Frenchman Pascal Sauvage, over-the-top accent included, is a gag that gets very old very fast.

Most of the blame can be laid directly on director Peter Howitt, whose impressive curriculum vitae features such highlights as AntiTrust and Sliding Doors. What Johnny English lacks is a sense of style, an atmosphere of pulpish cool – elements critical to what it aspired to be. The movie almost never feels like a spy flick; we are only led to believe it is because we are told. In addition to being funny, a comedy movie – especially one of a spoofy nature – still carries the responsibility of being a movie. English is one of the many films that neglect this requirement, and does so much to its own discredit. There is very little that separates it from merely being television fare.

The moral of the story is that Atkinson alone is not enough to sustain an hour and a half on the big screen, let alone the ticket price. Actually, theoretically he is – but Johnny English is such a mishmash of clearly identifiable good parts (with him) and bad parts (without), you really couldn’t tell. English is enjoyable, but only in bursts, and it never comes close to demanding silver-screen presentation as a necessity. We learn nothing new about Atkinson as a performer, and there is far too much extraneous material that gets in his way. Until someone knows how to make use of him as the star of a feature film, his television work, with its thankful brevity and superior knack for timing, will suffice. He is an actor best described as silly and fun, but more often than not, this movie is silly and stupid.

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And for some reason, I would have blue hair

Friday, 18 July 2003 — 10:58am | Television

There is a veritable plethora of cartoons I watched as a child whose titles I don’t remember. This is mostly due to the fact that in addition to your standard repertoire of Inspector Gadget, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tiny Toon Adventures and Darkwing Duck – not to mention Golden Age relics like Rocky and Bullwinkle – a good number of them were Japanese productions overdubbed in Cantonese.

Naturally, through the power of the Internet, I managed to dig some up. Some of them were relatively easy to find, most notably Doraemon, which, as it turns out, is pretty much the biggest hit in the history of Japanimation. However, the majority of them are more obscure than a zyzzyva, which is why I was pleasantly surprised today when I actually found one of the shows I followed most closely.

As I discovered, its title is Pro Golfer Saru, and there also exists a video game of it for the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES) which is still busy preserving its legacy.

Now this was one heck of a show. The entire plot revolved around a golfer kid who marginally resembled a monkey, and whose quest was to become the best golfer in the world, by way of entering the most ridiculous tournaments – waylaid, of course, by some evil shadowy bad guy I can’t remember whose raison d’être was to set him back. Naturally, he was also aided by the assistance of his trusty caddy crew, about which I remember nothing except how among them there was one kid with swirly glasses.

The courses made the show, as they featured the most exotic and imaginative locations. This was a matter of avoiding not sand traps, but bottomless chasms shrouded with fog. At least one episode found our hero making his way across a narrow land bridge over the billowing plumes of fire of an erupting volcanic plain. Every chapter of this story culminated in a grand climax where he wound up for his Super Shot, and the best way to describe it is this: think of the fiery shot in Shaolin Soccer that rips the pitch to shreds. Now imagine that with a golf ball, and you’ve got it.

Japanese cartoons are weird, man.

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