Sunday, May 27, 2007

Anime worth watching: Black Lagoon

Let's start by saying that Black Lagoon is not worth watching for people offended by ultraviolence in pop culture: if Sin City & Kill Bill aren't your cup of tea, avoid Black Lagoon.

For those who enjoy such films, this anime is "Hallelujah, amen, peanut butter."

Nicely designed and cleanly drawn with lovely seascapes and tropical colors, this story of modern pirates in the South China Sea combines fast action with a riveting soundtrack in a manner unlike anything since Cowboy Bebop. Indeed this wouldn't be far afield from Quentin Tarantino's Bebop.

The story begins with a simple Japanese salaryman transporting data. He winds up in the company of a disreputable crew of mercenaries aboard a WW II PT boat. Included are the commander Vietnam vet Dutch -- who not coincidentally resonates of Jet Black, weapons specialist hot babe Remy -- full of issues and attitude, and mechanic/computer tech Benny. Naturally it's not long before the erstwhile salaryman, now dubbed Rock, graduates from cargo to hostage to crew member.

All of this flows along as a fairly well-produced, if violent, action-adventure until the fourth episode, when the modern-day narrative becomes interspersed with an extended flashback showing the final voyage of a Nazi submarine. The added complexity and the doomed sub crew add an unexpected poignancy that kicks Black Lagoon to another level. Combined with hints of a slowly evolving back story, there's plenty of reason to look forward to future disks in the series.

This is definitely for mature audiences, however, due to extensive violence and profanity.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Music and Lyrics

This Hugh Grant / Drew Barrymore romantic comedy vehicle is as irresistible as a pop song with a great hook. The opening credits are a 1980s music video for an apparently younger Hugh Grant's career with a Brit pop band. Flash forward to the present time, when Hugh is subsisting on oldies gigs at theme parks and hopes to land a TV spot on "Battle of the 80s Has-Beens."

When a hapless plant attendant enters his life to over-water his houseplants, he does not suspect a pending songwriting partnership nor romance. Though the movie is almost completely predictable, it is also completely likable. Grant & Barrymore are both earnest and funny and they make these characters not only likeable, but believable, there's a cast of colorful supporting types and the music is consistently entertaining.

Recommended for all but the cynically discriminating.