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When I'm working on my computer on a project, like wireframes or sketches or just writing, one of my favorite CDs to pipe through my headphones is Ghost In The Shell: Original Soundtrack by Kenji Kawai. I'm not sure why it sells for $57 on Amazon. Perhaps because it's an import. If you can find a cheaper copy somewhere, perhaps on eBay or on your next trip to Tokyo, I recommend it.


Andrew Stanton consulted with Johnathan Ive, Apple design guru, on the design of Eve, the white robot in Wall-E.

A call from Stanton to Jobs in 2005 resulted in Johnny Ive, Apple's behind-the-scenes design guru, driving across the San Francisco Bay to Pixar's converted warehouse headquarters to spend a day consulting on the Eve prototype. Stanton said that it was a "lovefest" with Ive, but that the notoriously tight-lipped design wizard offered few specific modifications. "Apple is so proprietary and so secretive that he couldn't even really allude to where the future of technology was going," says Stanton. "The most he could do is nod his head to the things we said we wanted to do." (Through a spokesman, Ive declined to comment.)


Speaking of Wall-E, a bunch of us caught the midnight showing Thursday night at the El Capitan theater. No surprise, I enjoyed it on many levels, in particular the early scenes on earth. With a score by Thomas Newman and Roger Deakins-consulted cinematography, the creative talent was A-plus-list. Comparing it to Hellboy II, which I saw Saturday night at the LA Film Festival, helps to illuminate why the latter fell flat for me.

Wall-E and Eve, though they are robots without mouths or noses or much in the way of facial muscles other than articulated mechanical parts and blue digital LEDs for eyes, respectively, move with a fluidity and expressiveness that was lacking in most of the characters in Hellboy II. Under all that makeup, Hellboy is working with a more limited facial muscle repertoire than a middle-aged actress on her tenth round of Botox. The fish character, Abe, and a new character, Johan Strauss, have even less expressive faces. Abe wears a rubber fish mask that can do little other than blink, while Strauss has no face at all, just a glass dome for a head. Voice work can only take you so far.

Hellboy II also suffers from what plagues stories for most sequels, which is a sort of character stasis. Sequels that are conceived of only after the success of the first installment tend to be "the further adventures of..." rather than stories with any character arc. From the first movie, we know Hellboy is a sarcastic, wisecracking brute who likes to pummel monsters first, ask questions later. In this movie, he still is. The screenplay has several storylines, including one about Hellboy's uncomfortable relationships with the humans he protects, but the mix of fantasy and real-life isn't organic and tightly woven the way it was in, say, Pan's Labyrinth.

I look forward to more work from Guillermo del Toro, but I hope it's original stories and not more installments of Hellboy.