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Astro Boy returns for a new generation

Date: 9/21/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

This week an animation superstar returns to DVD and a Spanish film provides thrills.

Fermat's Room

Some of the DVDs I review I request from the various studios that send me release notices while others movies are sent to me with the hope they will make it to the top of the pile.

"Fermat's Room" is one of the latter and if you enjoy a well-written thriller, you need to put this at the top of your pile as well.

This Spanish production - yes, you'll have to read subtitles - was written and directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopena, who both obviously understand how to construct a thriller.

The film involves four mathematicians who all receive an invitation to attend an exclusive evening of entertainment and discussion from someone named "Fermat." The mysterious quality of the invitation intrigues them and appeals to their ego. Following instructions sent to them they make their way to a remote grain warehouse in the country where they find a beautifully furnished room.

Their host eventually comes to greet them, they eat a supper and then the host has to leave. The four math whizzes find they are locked in the room. With them is a PDA device that displays a math problem. They have to solve it in the required time or the walls of the room begin to close in on them.

The film is about how they discover just why they were grouped together, who is their host and why he want to kill them.

A solid film that uses a clever script and good performances to capture our attention, "Fermat's Room" should be sought out by anyone wanting a good adult thriller.

Astro Boy, seasons one through five

With the imminent release of the new Astro Boy feature film, Sony Home Entertainment has released five volumes of the 2003 remake of the venerable and highly influential Japanese animation - known as anime - series.

Created for Japanese comics manga in 1951 by Dr. Osamu Tezuka, "The Mighty Atom" told the story of a powerful robot created to resemble a scientist's dead son who develops human emotions.

Essentially, if you can imagine Pinocchio - a puppet who wants to be a boy - as a fighting hero set in the future, you have Astro Boy.

The manga series was hugely popular and Tezuka, also a very highly influential figure in anime, brought his creation to television animation in 1963. The series was imported to the United States as well and the character was renamed "Astro Boy."

In 2003, a re-make of the series was released, and this series may not have the crude charm of the original, it is a lot of fun, especially for younger audiences. I'm sure some anime purists might wince a bit at the new series, which has a lot of the conventions of more current anime - big intricate robots and monsters, explosions, slow-motion action sequences - but it's not a bad introduction to anime.