Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is the latest Studio Ghibli release from acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Dustin and I saw the film with its original Japanese dialog and subtitles at one of the theaters here in town.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the movie. It was as beautiful as Spirited Away and as mysterious as Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki has the incredible ability to create a modern animated film that looks like it was originally drawn decades ago during the early years of animation.. on the surface. Suddenly, though, you see the enormous amount of detail each and every scene incorporates. On animation alone I’d be tempted to say that this film surpasses Spirited Away.

It’s the story, however, that differentiates the two. While Spirited Away had a fairly straightforward plot, Howl’s Moving Castle has a plot full of twists, turns, subplots, and dead-ends. Overall it is a fairly simple story: Sofie, a young girl working in her late father’s hat shop, gets cursed by the Witch of the Waste and turns into an old woman. Sofie then sets out to find Howl to have the curse removed. I won’t give any more of the story away, as you should definitely see it yourself. I will say however, that there are plot elements that just do not seem to flow well with the rest of the movie. At some points, I was left wondering what I had missed.

This confusion led me to read the book by Diana Wynne Jones that was the basis for the movie. It is an excellent book and an easy read; I think it took me around five to six hours straight to finish it. The book differs greatly from the movie and while it does provide some useful additional information, most of the more puzzling movie scenes are not in the book at all. If you do read the book before you see the movie, don’t be surprised when the two bare little resemblance to each other.

Overall, I think I still think Spirited Away is my favorite Miyazaki film, with Howl’s Moving Castle coming in a close second. Perhaps if I see it again, or in English, I might change my mind. If you have not seen it yet, it is definitely worth the eight plus dollars of admission to see it in the theater.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Finally! Fullmetal Alchemist premiered on Cartoon Network last night. I hope you all watched it and now have your Tivos, Replays or (Heaven forbid) VCRs set up to record it every Saturday. While I tend to strongly dislike the English dub of most anime, Funimation did a pretty good job. The dialog is fairly true to the original Japanese, which is always a plus. Also, as far as I can tell, they didn’t edit the show for either content or time, at least with episode one. Overall I’d say this is one of the better dubs I’ve watched. The DVDs are not supposed to be out until February, so for all of you who haven’t seen the first few episodes in Japanese, you better double check those record settings.

Halo 2

So, here I am, sitting in the Alamo Drafthouse, watching people play Halo 2 on the movie screen. While I’m not a huge Halo fan, I must say this is pretty cool. I actually got to play for a while, and the dual wielding is awesome. This is actually an event from the end of the whole “ilovebees.com” saga. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but apparently a lot of people were really, really into it. So, the Microsoft PR machine set up four locations across the country for a “training” event. Basically, it just means you get to come out and watch/play Halo 2 all night, with an Xbox Live connection to the other three locations. Another reason the Drafthouse is the best theater in Austin is the free wireless access, which is allowing me to bring this post to you straight from the source. When we get home, and I feel like it, we’ll post some pictures. Yes, you all have my permission to turn green with envy now.

Bleh, Dustin does not have anything with spellcheck installed, so any misspelled words are all his fault. :)

Drool Worthy

Well, as I’m sure you all know by now, Apple has announced a new “iPod Photo.” This handy little contraption comes in 40 and 60 gig versions with a color screen for viewing your photos. I’m not exactly sure who has 60 gigs of photos, considering that is bigger than the hard drive in my Powerbook, but I’m sure someone out there probably has 60 gigs of music. Crazy music freaks.

Besides featuring a “razor sharp LCD” screen, Apple has also managed to increase battery life to 15 hours for the new model. However, the downside of the new improvements are the slightly increased thickness and weight of the iPod. Not that I think you’re going to notice 0.06” or 0.2 ounces (compared to the previous 40 gig model), but hey, you might.

If you’re a big U2 fan or you just want to pay a premium for a black iPod, Apple is now offering the U2 Special Edition iPod, which sports a black case, red scroll wheel, and the band’s signatures on the back. It’s only available in a 20 gig model (guess you U2 fans don’t have much music?) and you’ll pay $349 instead of the normal $299. However, if are planning to buy “The Complete U2” from the iTunes music store anyway, then you’ll be happy to note the U2 Special Edition iPod comes with a $50 off coupon. Oh, and a special edition poster. Yippee.

Now for the most drool worthy news of the day. Tootsie Roll has finally, finally created an entire bag of Vanilla Tootsie Rolls. As everyone knows, vanilla was previously worth the extra effort of digging through a huge bag of mixed candy to find. Well, dig no more. Just run over to your favorite supermarket and pick up a bag of “limited edition” vanilla Tootsie Rolls. Mmmmm…

Ok, I seem to be having some difficulty typing this evening, so if you see typos, just ignore them. Must be the Project Management class; apparently if I go more than a few hours without using a computer I guess I forget how to type…

Sleep Is For the Weak

So, with the addition of Fable into our Xbox collection, my daily routine has changed from “work, eat, sleep” to “work, eat, play Fable, play Fable, play Fable, oh crap! it’s 2 AM, well… ok, one more second, play Fable…” This has consequently changed the “work” portion of the day into the “sleep” time. So to counteract that, the “work/sleep” time has become the “YAYAYAYAYAY CAFFEINE IS GREAT!” time. Yes, I have everything perfectly under control. jitter twitch jitter

Well, let’s see. Fable. It’s not quite what I was expecting. It’s a lot more linear than I would like, especially after hearing all of the hype. I was hoping for a Morrowind type experience, which is probably why I was disappointed. The other disappointing thing is you can only play through the game as a guy. Not a terrible flaw, but it would’ve been nice to have the option to choose.

The game itself is beautiful. The graphics are well done and the changing of your character’s appearance is a very cool feature. Since I am playing as good, my character’s hair has lightened into blond and now I have a halo and ethereal butterflies hanging around. Dustin is playing as evil and his character’s complexion is turning dark and his horns are sprouting. You also acquire scars when you get hit in battle. After eight hours of play my poor guy is looking pretty sad.

I’ve heard the game is fairly short, by RPG standards, around 10-12 hours. That means I’m looking at about 2-4 more hours before the end. It seems much shorter than that. I really have a hard time believing I’ve played 8 hours already. At least the game seems like it will have high replayability (is that a word? it is now).

Should you buy it? Yes, definitely. Will you become addicted? Yes, definitely.