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Miyazaki Not Retiring After All

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Rich Drees


Animation legend Hayao Miyazaki isn’t quite as ready to attend a retirement party in his honor as had previously indicated. In fact, he is now stating that we can forget about having such a soiree for him at all.

Last week, while in Los Angeles to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Miyazaki indicated that previously reported statements about him retiring were premature, telling an AP reporer –

I’m going to continue making anime until I die… I like creating stories and drawing pictures.

Well, that’s just fine by me. And I hope that it his ultimate “pencil down” date is not for several years to come.

But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Soon after the news came out of the 2013 Venice Film Festival that Miyazaki was going to retire, Toshio Suzuki, a producer at Studio Ghibli which Miyazaki had helped to found, stated that what had been reported was based off a misinterpretation of something he had said.

Reports vary as to what Miyazaki’s next project may be. We do know that Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno may be working on a sequel to Miyazaki’s 1984 film Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, though it remains uncertain if Miyazaki will have any participation in the project.

Via Rocket News 24

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Don’t Go Mourning Studio Ghibli Just Yet

Posted on 04 August 2014 by Rich Drees


Late yesterday, news started to spread that the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli was closing its doors following the retirement of its main superstar director Hayao Miyazaki. But it appears as if those reports may be premature, stemming from a mistranslation of a statement from Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki.

In an appearance on the Japanese television news show Jounetsu Tairiku this weekend, Suzuki was reported to have said that the studio will be closing its doors and maintaining a small staff just to manage the company’s trademarks. The news came vie the anime tumbler fansite Oh-Totoro, but it turns out that their translation of Tairiku’s comments may have been misconstrued.

Asian geek media site Kotaku is reporting that Tairiku actually stated that the studio is considering restructuring their business, not definitively shutting down. If the studio were to be shutting its doors, it would have been all over the Japanese mainstream media due to the popularity and success of its films in the country.

In the interview, Tairiku does admit that Miyazaki’s retirement is “significant” and in light of that the studio does need to consider what its options are going forward. Tairiku stated that the copany would be taking “a short rest” but did not rule out “continuing to endlessly create like this” being “impossible.”

Granted, Tairiku does not preclude the possibility of them deciding to close their doors, it is just not a forgone conclusion yet. Studio Ghibli’s identity is so closely tied with Miyazaki that the two are often times referred to interchangeably. I could certainly see an argument for shutting down the studio in light of Miyazaki’s retirement. But I can also think of no better way than to honor the legacy of Miyazaki than to continue to create films inspired by his creative visions.

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More Writers Hired To Try Live Action AKIRA

Posted on 08 September 2009 by Rich Drees

AkiraPerhaps the news that Warner Brothers attempt to make a live-action version of the classic anime film Akira was dead was perhaps a bit premature.

Collider is reporting that Children Of Men and Iron Man scripters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby are the latest writers to take a crack at adapting the popular animated film. Previously, Gary Whitta was working on a script that would split the original film into two parts for Leonardo DiCaprio’s production shingle Appian Way. Prior to that, Stephen Norrington took a crack at the script for producer Jon Peters.

I have to admit that I admire Warner’s tenacity in trying to get a live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic anime up and running, no matter how much of a bad idea I think it is. The success of the original film can be traced to its careful balance between visual style and story substance. To try and capture that particular lightening in a bottle twice, especially when moving from the animated realm to the live action, seems doomed to fail.

But I have to wonder at the amount of development costs that the studio has accrued so far. Is there a point where the bean counters decide that the studio has spent enough and just pulls the plug on the whole thing, or do egos come into play and demand that the film be greenlit, that too much has been spent to NOT not go forward, incurring further expense on the gamble that the film will ultimately be a hit and recoup the already large layout of cash. (I have a feeling that this may have partially informed Warner’s decision to proceed with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns after years and millions of dollars spent on various attempts to get a Superman franchise relaunched.)

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Restoring AKIRA For Blu-Ray

Posted on 15 February 2009 by Rich Drees

AkiraKatsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 groundbreaking classic Akira is coming to Blu-Ray disc at the end of the month, and news is starting to circulate about the restoration that the film has undergone for the upcoming release. From the sound of things, fans of the film have every reason to look forward to the new transfer., which has a comprehensive story on the work that was needed to be done on the film, reports-

Even though Akira had major restoration work done for the 2001 DVD release, including a 1080p theatrical quality master, advances in digital restoration and film transfer technologies have increased to the point where a brand new transfer was warranted. As with the audio, a new inter-positive was struck from the original film negative for a new scan into a digital intermediate (DI); the master computer file upon which all of the remastering work was performed.

The article does into detail (Warning: Some mid-to-high level tech talk involved) about how the film was restored. It also talks about how the restoration producers tackled one of the on-going dilemmas of transferring film to Blu-Rau- How to accurately represent the cinematic experience of a film in a medium that can substantially change the look of that film-

Even though modern audiences have grown used to computer painted animation it is very easy to go overboard during the cleaning process in an attempt to come closer to that look and feel, as has been the case with some Hollywood films where processing and noise reduction has been used to excess. Subsequently, AKIRA was given a thorough color correction and [restoration producer] Mr. Takei believes the restoration team has gotten very close to the luster of the original animation cels, restoring the picture to a condition that allows AKIRA to be experienced as its creators had intended.

The Blu-Ray release of Akira hits shelves on February 24. You can pre-order it at

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Posted on 04 January 2009 by Rich Drees

Imagi, the studio bringing us the big screen update to the classic anime series Astro Boy, has posted a few new images from the project on their website.

Astro Boy first hit American shores in the 1970s, one of the first Japanese series in what would be a veritable flood of cartoon and live action science-fiction and fantasy series. I never saw much of the series myself, but was captivated by many of the other shows hitting the airwaves at that time – Speed Racer, Starblazers, Battle Of The Planets, Ultraman, The Space Giants, etc. – so I don’t have any particular attachment to the material. The designs look reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka’s original designs, so that should please the more die hard fans.

Astro Boy hits screens on October 23.

Via ComingSoon.

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Posted on 27 October 2008 by Rich Drees

Leonardo DiCaprio must like the idea of turning anime into live action.

First his production company, Appian Way, bought up the rights to do a live action adaptation of the classic Japanese animated film Akira. Now, according to a story in Variety, Appian Way has secured the rights to make a live action version of the 1993 animated feature Ninja Scroll. Set in fuedal Japan, the film revolves around a ninja-for-hire trying to stop an old enemy from toppling the government.

There had been some rumors that the upcoming, Wachowski Brothers-produced Ninja Assassin was actually a live action version of Ninja Scroll, but this news puts those rumors to rest. The Wachowski’s film is being directed by James McTiegue and was written by Changeling scripter J. Michael Straczynski.

Alex Tse, who recently worked with director Zack Snyder on his epic comic book adaptation Watchmen as well as an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s seminal short story collection The Illustrated Man for Snyder to direct at Warner Brothers, has been hired to write the screenplay. No director has been attached to the project and it is doubtful that DiCaprio is looking at this as a vehicle for himself.

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Posted on 05 August 2008 by Rich Drees

Nearly a quarter of a century since it last flew across screens, the popular Japanese animated space opera Space Cruiser Yamato, known in the United States as Starblazers, is making a return. Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who produced the original television series as well as the franchise’s four theatrical spinoff films, has announced he is planning on returning the series to theaters in 2009 with a new installment.  

According to Variety Asia

Set in 2220, the pic will depict the evacuation of 300 million people from Earth to avoid certain death from an expanding black hole. The Yamato, a space battleship, is leading the rescue fleet when it is attacked by an alien force.

Nishizaki has established an animation studio for the project, called appropriately enough Yamato Studio, in Tokyo and has already staffed it with 40 people. Character designer and animator Tomonori Kogawa, whose career traces back to such anime classics as Gatchman (i.e., Battle Of The Planets) and Robotech is set to be the film’s animation director.

The original Yamato series premiered in syndication in the United States in 1979 under the title Starblazers. Riding the science-fiction craze sparked by the popularity of Star Wars, the show was one of several Japanese imports that sparked an interest in that country’s genre output. In the mid-1990s, Disney developed a live action version of the cartoon, but the script was terrible and it never went into production.

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DiCaprio To Do Live Action AKIRA Remake

Posted on 20 February 2008 by Rich Drees

AkiraLeonardo DiCaprio may be getting fitted for a red leather jacket soon as his production company, Appian Way, is developing a live action remake of the classic anime feature Akira for Warner Brothers.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Gary Whitta, who wrote the Hughes Brothers upcoming The Book Of Eli, has been hired to transform the futuristic story of a teenage bike gang member who is subjected by the government to an experiment which gives him uncontrolable powers into aworkable live-action film. Whitta has his work cut out for him. A live-action Akira has been in development at Warners for a long time with producers like Jon Peters and Basil Iwanyk and directors Stephen Norrington and Pitof taking a shot at the material.

Variety is also chiming in on the story, stating that the adaptation will actually be two films, with the first fasttracked for a summer 2009 release. The films setting of Neo-Tokyo, a city rebuilt after a nuclear explosion years earlier that figures into the plot, is being changed to New Manhattan. Ruairi Robinson is set to direct.

I first saw Akira in the fall of 1990 on a bootleg video with no English dubbing or subtitles. The friend who brought it to my college apartment sat there and tried to fill in the backstory on who was who, but there was no need. Director Katsuhiro Otomo’s visual sense conveyed the story in a way that never relied on dialogue to explain relationships and plot. I’ve gone back to the film several times since, including seeing it digitally projected in New York City a few years back, and it never fails to impress.

Can a live action version live up to the standard set by the original?

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The Trouble With Lists

Posted on 07 February 2007 by Rich Drees

Well, I guess I can die then…

The Houston Chronicle’s tech writer, Dwight Silverman, has posted on his blog a list of 15 films he considers essential film geek watching. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen all films on the list.

I’d also have to say that I’m not that impressed with his choices overall. Sure, I’ve enjoyed every film named to one degree or another and 12 of the titles sit on my DVD shelf at home. But Silverman’s list is an awfully narrow slice of science-fiction, fantasy and horror genre films that arguably are pretty well known to the general public. I mean really, two Star Trek films? Even a die-hard Terry Gilliam fan like myself is wondering at the inclusion of 3 of his films. Likewise, Sam Raimi gets two of his films named to the list with Silverman even admitting that Army Of Darkness is “a more mainstream and approachable film” than the first two Evil Dead flicks. How, exactly, can a movie be both “mainstream and approachable” and worthy of being placed on a list of “geek films”? It seems to me that the two are mutually exclusive.

In an effort to provide some more geek film titles for his readers, Silverman also links to another blog that contains the title of 81 geek movies “that do not suck.” While this new list does traffic in roughly the same science-fiction/fantasy/horror milieu that Silverman’s list, it does deserve some credit for trying to expand things a bit with the addition of the “Obsessive Nerd-Chick Stalker Geek,” “Cult Film Geek” and “Nostalgia “I was a nerd kid in the 80s” Geek” categories.

But still the list is problematic. There are a few titles – An Evening With Kevin Smith and Children Of Dune – which aren’t films but made for DVD specials or television mini-series. There also seems to be a lot of padding on this list- naming both Spider-Man films, four separate Star Trek films (though the original Star Wars trilogy gets grouped as one entry), and films like Constantine and Swordfish. Swordfish?!

Ultimately, while both lists attempt to be something that starts discussions among film fans (See, we’re doing it here), they fail in that their scope is limited to however the writer chooses to define “film geek.” In both instances here, the writers clearly think that geekdom (Geekatude? Geekosity?) is clearly confined to a few narrow genres. But what about those people whose unabidding love is the movie musical or westerns or silents? Don’t they get their geek lists too?

No art can be judged in a vacuum and if one only exposed themselves to films considered “classics,” one would rapidly loose any standard by which to judge said films. It’s much better to have knowledge of a wide range of films from all genres in order to be able to better appreciate any movie they may watch. Soderberg’s recent The Good German invariably invites the viewer to draw comparisons to Casablanca. But how are those comparisons tempered when the viewer also factors in the Pam Anderson film Barb Wire, which also drew inspiration from the Humphrey Bogart classic?

I’ve always tried to steer clear of “Best Of” or “Essential” lists here at FilmBuffOnLine. It’s not that I’m afraid that someone is going to disagree with my choices. It’s that there are too many choices to narrow a list down to manageable levels. That’s why if pressed for a list of movies that one absolutely must watch by friends or family, I always answer “As many as you can.”

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