One (or two, depending on how you look at it) of the highlights of the past Newport Beach Film Festival was the Death Note movies, the latest in a powerhouse franchise from Japan that began with comics, then spawned an anime series and many toys, and finally these live-action adaptations. Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name are really more like one big story cut in a half than a story with a sequel; fans of the anime have been hard of them, but I wrote at the time that "for all the twists and reversals, the story is never confusing, and it’s refreshing to see a movie in which the lead characters are smarter than the viewer. It’s like Infernal Affairs/The Departed crossed with Devilman, Primal Fear and Drop Dead Fred. If that combination doesn’t scream “Watch me!” to you, well, you’re wrong."
If you've been wondering when and how you can see it for yourself, wonder no longer. Viz Pictures, who own the rights to the anime, recently acquired the live-action distribution rights as well. They're planning to take it to a few more festivals -- Austin's Fantastic Fest and Vancouver's Asian Film Festival being the first two -- before rolling it out theatrically and on DVD in 2008. Yeah, that's a long time to wait, though I have seen the import Japanese discs for sale at local anime shops, not to mention high-end mini-statues of the death-god Ryuk.
And will the U.S. releases be able to use the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs over the end credits? Stay tuned, but I'd call that unlikely.