February 02, 2008

Notes From A DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Hello again. February already. For Valentine's Day, be sure to check out a complete series box set of one of the most iconic anime shows of all times -- "Cowboy Bebop". Bounty hunters Spiek and Jet, and (yes, you knew this was coming, right?) Faye Valentine get their groove on -- on the space ship Bebop. If you haven’t experienced the joy that is "Cowboy Bebop", do so now.

Staying with the Valentines Day theme, I wanted to point out the funniest Bill Murray movies of the nineties . . . no . . . not "Scrooged" . . . I’m talking about "Groundhog Day". This little romantic comedy from '93 featured a classic "Twilight Zone" motif . . . repeating the same day over and over until you finally get it right. This probably isn't as funny as I remember it, but it seems like a strong possibility for a Valentine’s Day date film. It's cute and sweet and creepy all at the same time.
Turning back to anime for a moment, I wanted to point out that the "Moonlighting" of anime TV series has been re-released on DVD, and you can start picking up full seasons. "Ranma 1/2" is the story of a boy, who turns into a girl when doused with cold water, and his father, who turns into a panda when likewise doused. Did I mention they are both martial arts masters? Ranma's betrothed to the daughter of the head of the Tendo Dojo, but, well, Ranma and his some-day-maybe-bride don't really get along that well, except that they DO like each other, despite themselves. It's a classic "Moonlighting" set up, with some gender-bending hijinks. Definitely worth a Valentine's Day marathon. I can't get enough "Ranma 1/2", because, you know, he gets splashed with water, and changes into a girl, and hijinx ensue! Over and over again. It never stops being funny. Some people think the show jumped the shark in season four, when the panty-stealing dirty-old-man-kung fu-master showed up, and he does have some “Gazoo” like qualities (no, he’s not green, but similarly proportioned). But be that as it may, "Ranma 1/2" Is. Always. Funny.

Another release this month that really stands out is the classic Danish television series by Lars von Trier, "The Kingdom," (series one and two). Ignore the really bad US television remake, and go directly to the original, now available for one low price. Creepy old hospitals should never be this much fun.

Another non-Valentine release this month is "Nightmare Detective". This one is a cut above your average J-horror film, by Japanese indie director Shinya Tsukamoto, featuring two seemingly-unrelated bloody murders, and the detective who links them together. The detective is played by Japanese pop singer Hitomi, and while the results could have been dreadful, they weren't. I'm happy to give this one a couple thumbs up.

Finally, while we are in Japan, I wanted to point out that it just wouldn't be another month, unless there was a new Takashi Miike film released on DVD. This time around, it's "Zebraman", an action comedy superhero flick that only Miike could deliver. If Hollywood superhero movies had half as much energy, improv and zaniness as a Miike movie, I might actually talk about them here, in this column -- But since they don't, I'll simply say "ZEBRAMAN"!

Until next time, keep watching weird old Dutch and Japanese TV shows on DVD!

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