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Jonathon Turner "Jon Turner" (Highland Park, NJ USA)

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Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water: Collection 2 (6 dvds + 2 cds)
Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water: Collection 2 (6 dvds + 2 cds)
DVD ~ Noriko Hidaka
4 used & new from CDN$ 76.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The good, the bad, and the ugly of NADIA. It's all here!, May 20 2004
Hot on the heels of their first 5-DVD+2-CD Collection edition of NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER, ADV Films releases the second "collector's" installment of the franchise, in a 6-DVD+2-CD package. However, while NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER COLLECTION 1 was brilliant -- featuring the best episodes of the show -- I'm afraid that COLLECTION 2 is weaker by comparison. Although the package DOES include some more must-see treasures, it also houses a very strange mixture of mediocre to awful episodes and a totally useless, unnecessary movie.
You see, NADIA was originally intended to be a 26-part TV series, but because the show was so popular in Japan, backing distributor NHK Enterprises requested animation studio GAINAX to produce more episodes, extending the episode count to 39. GAINAX wanted no part in this, which is partially why they subcontracted the animation to other studios in Korea and Japan. Regrettably, no thought was given to the story either, resulting in some of the worst batch of filler episodes ever produced. It's a shame that a show as exceptional as NADIA would suffer from this fault, as it DOES end with a bang, but it would have been better if the filler crap remained in the trash can where it belongs. It's bad enough that NHK almost sank NADIA with such poor episodes, but two year after the show completed its first broadcast, a theatrical feature was made: an attempt which failed miserably and is almost universally hated to this day.
So what's good about this set? Well, the first two episodes on the sixth DVD (which wrap up the Nautilus arc) are some of the best you'll ever see in NADIA. Herein lies a spectacular showcase of animation, music, action, and an emotionally charged confrontation where some of the secrets we've been waiting to discover are revealed. Even better are the final five episodes (35-39), which end the show even stronger than it starts (in a way that literally blows the filler crap out of the water as though they never existed). The artwork in these episodes is amazing, and the climactic showdown features more suspense, unexpected surprises, dramatic staging, and a tearjerking ending that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
The leftover 12 episodes, however, are something of a mixed bag. Only about 30% of the content seems to keep the show on topic (landing on a floating island which turns out to be a spaceship, learning of Nadia's birth origins, as well as Jean singing a song which causes Nadia to think twice before she throws another temper tantrum for no good reason at him) and is worth watching.
The remainder of the content should very well have been cut from the show, as it's mostly the product of greedy studio executives wanting to make more money out of the show, therefore forcing the writers to churn out pointless (and some truly awful) filler material. The adventurous spirit, gorgeous artistic merits, and well-conceived character interactions are all gone from the studio-imposed episodes, which contain the following: painfully stupid and uncharacteristic antics from our pals, extraneous and poorly conceived sequences, stuff that should never have been written, and awful animation. It's probably best to skip the crap and pretend they never happened, for I cannot imagine anybody finding much to enjoy when the story reduces itself to churning out garbage and not moving along -- the Lincoln Island sequence, the King VS. King race, and some of the moving island content, in general. Some of it is funny and/or nice but too much of it is horrible. The real stinkers, however, are 1] any scene where Nadia is portrayed as an unlovable bitch and not as a confused young girl; where her actions completely contradict everything that she's ever done in Episodes 1-22, and 2] the two African episodes. They don't suit the story, they don't add anything to the show, and they don't work at all.
And then there's the Motion Picture. I haven't seen this movie, but as far as I know, just about EVERYBODY hates it. From what I was told, about 30 of the 90-minute feature consist of recycled footage from the TV show, while the remainder of the movie consists of a story which is both contrived and inconsistent with not only the series, but with itself, too. The animation, in addition, has the same inferior, cheap and rushed quality as the infamous island episodes, making the movie an altogether waste. I have no plans to watch this movie anytime soon, and my strongest recommendation is to AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.
But I do have to give credit to ADV for finally releasing this collector's set, since most people probably can't afford to shell out over a hundred bucks for all ten individual DVDs. I won't deny that there are some episodes which provide for some first-rate, delightful entertainment. As mentioned, however, there are too many mediocre to hideous filler episodes overflowing with uncharacteristic stupidities and ludicrous writing, and a movie that falls flat on its face.

Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water: Collection 1 (5 dvds + 2 cds)
Nadia: Secret Of Blue Water: Collection 1 (5 dvds + 2 cds)
DVD ~ Noriko Hidaka
5 used & new from CDN$ 12.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The best episodes of NADIA in a conveniently priced pacakge!, May 20 2004
Combining elements of Jules Verne's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA with Hayao Miyazaki's CASTLE IN THE SKY, this 39-part TV Anime series (which had originally been conceived, interestingly, by the man himself but produced by GAINAX) has proven to be a popular favorite with millions of fans since its initial 1990-1991 broadcast in Japan. In particular, Nadia, one of the most interesting (and occasionally annoying) characters ever to be realized, has shown up on the Japanese Animage polls as favorite Anime heroine, dethroning Miyazaki's NAUSICAA. Despite having an impressive fan base, NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER has had little exposure to U.S. audiences, but ADV Films has recently released the entire TV show (plus the infamous, ill-fated theatrical version) to introduce this charming, involving, and sometimes traumatic fan favorite to budding Anime fans.
What makes NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER so much fun are the characters that propel this action-adventure set in 1889 Europe. First off, I absolutely ADORE the main character, an endearing 14-year-old aspiring aviator named Jean; he displays an incredible depth of bravery, confidence, and brains -- he handles EVERYTHING by using his intelligence. He's also consistently sweet, honest, loyal, and compassionate -- probably the sort of Best Friend or Love Interest ANYONE would ever want to have. He treats everybody with kindness and respect, and, as such, everyone likes him, too. Actually, the primary reason why the show keeps us interested is BECAUSE of Jean.
Nadia herself, by contrast, is, as stated above, not always the most likable character in the show. She is the sort of girl who has her own share of problems and really has a lot of growing up to do. While Nadia is capable of showing goodness to her friends and finds herself falling in love with Jean, she does not know how to express herself to him. Nor does she know how to talk about her problems; she often reduces herself to fits of anger and frustration which, of course, damage her relationships (thankfully Jean is loving and patient enough to forgive her). Nadia has never had any experiences trusting anybody other than animals, and, as such, is socially inept. She's also, at times, frustratingly stubborn and impossible to reason with -- particularly when it comes to her rather shrewd opinions about eating meat, killing, and/or especially grown-ups. However, she DOES do a lot of things which show that she cares deeply about Jean throughout the show, and it is endearing to watch her self-centered, distrusting, suspicious, strong-willed nature slowly change as a result of her love for the boy.
The rest of the characters are richly created and developed. There's Marie, a cheerful and happy little girl who shares some of the best moments with Nadia's pet lion cub, King, as well as a howlingly funny trio of bandits who at first are enemies but later prove to be true friends -- loud-mouthed Grandis Granva and her "boys", vain, arrogant Sanson and mechanical nerd Hanson. Where NADIA feels like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA is that it employs the submarine, Nautilus, (and yes, the captain's name is Nemo) as a character. This Nemo is portrayed not as a cold-blooded killer, but a benevolent figure fighting for peace in the world who, too, suffers from his own set of mistakes. He is aided by his Bridge Crew and overprotective (not to mention easily jealous) First Officer, Electra. What's most unusual, though, is the series' chief bad guy, Gargoyle, a misanthropic doppleganger who desires world conquest. He hides his face behind a mask (ala Darth Vader), covers his head in a tall hood, and wears a red suit and tie. Manipulative, sarcastic, and very deadly, he threatens to kill anybody he pleases, and taps into other people's weaknesses in order to make them do his bidding. This mixture of his calm, soothing voice and inner malice makes Gargoyle all the more terrifying a villain, even when he displays surprisingly casual manners.
Yet for all its likability, NADIA does not always stay afloat. It gets off to a great start and for a while, rides high on a plateau of adventure and imaginative animation, but things get completely out of hand in the second half and do not return to its initial roots wherein lies its appeal until the last five episodes. Fortunately, the first five DVDs out of ten feature the fantastic first eight episodes and the slightly slow-going but nevertheless entertaining Nautilus episodes (Episodes 9-22). My one complaint is that the last disc on the set ends at an unsatisfying cliffhanger, leaving one anxious for more (and the Nautilus arc concludes on the Second Collection which then, sadly, delves into stupidities).
Also included are the first two soundtrack CDs from the TV series. Major kudos to ADV Films for putting together this convenient collector's set at a nice price.
I should also mention that while serious hardcore fans would rather watch the series in Japanese, the English dub made by ADV Films' Austin-based Monster Island studios is not bad for what it is. Three gifted young children, 14-year old Meg Bauman (Nadia), 12-year-old Nathan Parsons (Jean), and 11-year old Margaret Cassidy (Marie) all produce fantastic chemistry with the more experienced adult members of the cast. Granted, the dub is not perfect -- the French accents do take some getting used to -- but on the whole, this is a commendable English track, and one to which I do not mind listening.
The DVDs themselves have great visual transfers and the audio on both Japanese and English tracks are well mixed, but the extras are a bit lacking; the later DVDs have more meat in the form of the voice actor/actresses interviews. Presented here are the creditless opening and ending sequences and some character profiles, which aren't bad, but they don't feel like enough.
Still, this is a great collector's box for longtime fans and newcomers to the series, as well as a solid purchase. Just be warned, though, the second collection isn't as good.

My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro
DVD ~ Hitoshi Takagi
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 107.88
11 used & new from CDN$ 14.72

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful movie finally getting the treatment it deserves., April 2 2004
This review is from: My Neighbor Totoro (DVD)
Given that I've already given a rave review of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO for the recently released FOX DVD version, I won't be going too much into detail about the film on this page. However, I will say that the only thing which will be missing from Disney's long-delayed but finally evitable DVD release will be the dated yet extremely well-done English version by Streamline Pictures. Although that dub is hailed, even by longtime Carl Mecak deriders, as an excellent dub (and I agree wholeheartedly), its sound quality was sadly mono, and not as strong as the recent Disney dubs have been. On that level, it might be nice to grab the FOX release as well.
That said, I'm still willing to give this new English dub a chance. Although I don't think it will replace the Streamline version, I still think it will be enjoyable on its own merits. Produced by the same folks doing the dubs for SPIRITED AWAY, PORCO ROSSO, and NAUSICAA - writers Cindy and Davis Hewitt - (the earlier yet still excellent dubs by Disney, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, PRINCESS MONONOKE, and CASTLE IN THE SKY, were directed by Jack Fletcher), I have no reason to doubt that it will be another worthwhile addition to the top-quality translations Disney made. The voice cast includes two actual sister actresses playing Satsuki and Mei, which is a very clever choice on Disney's part. I bet this'll make them sound all the more authentic. Dakota Fanning is set to play Satsuki, while Elle will voice little Mei. There's no shortage of talent in the cast, either. Timothy Daly (WINGS) is going to be the girls' dad, and, surprisingly, Lea Salonga (wonderful in her performances as the leading role in MISS SAIGON and the singing voices of Jasmine in ALADDIN and the title character in MULAN) will be their mother. I had a bit of trouble adjusting to it, but Carroll has said that she previously played comic and/or supporting roles, so I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt. I expect that, like CASTLE IN THE SKY, there will be unfavorable comparisons from purists between the two English versions (not to mention the original Japanese), but if you're like me, who loves the dubs and doesn't care about what naysayers think, you'd probably do best to ignore these guys and watch the movies however you like.
That said, this new Disney release is said to be including the original Japanese language track (which the FOX release didn't have)... as well as an anamorphic widescreen presentation (the FOX DVD was pan & scan), so this version comes as an unquestionably highly recommended purchase even before it's released. I'll be updating this review when I get my hands on it, but in the meantime, animation buffs, mark your calenders for August 31!

Porco Rosso (Bilingual)
Porco Rosso (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Michael Keaton
Price: CDN$ 24.88
26 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Even a weak Miyazaki film is still a masterpiece., April 2 2004
This review is from: Porco Rosso (Bilingual) (DVD)
Alternately known as THE CRIMSON PIG, this film was the highest grossing movie of 1992 in Japan, beating out Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and Steven Spielberg's HOOK. It's even popular to this day with animation buffs and fans. But I'm going to take an unpopular stand and say that I was actually disappointed by this film. Sure, it's as gorgeously animated as Miyazaki's other films, the story is well told, and Joe Hisaishi's music is fabulous as always - but PORCO ROSSO ended up being my least favorite Miyazaki movie for various reasons.
For one, it lacks the adventurous spirit and imagination of NAUSICAA, CASTLE IN THE SKY, and PRINCESS MONONOKE and doesn't have even half the whimsy or charm of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO nor the surrealness of SPIRITED AWAY. Instead, it concentrates on telling an adult-oriented story about a disgraced World War I air pilot turned into a pig because of a tragic accident. A rival pilot is competing with him for the love of a lovely nightclub singer who entertains folks at the Hotel Adriano; later, Porco is befriended by a young airplane engineer whose romantic crush on the pilot slowly makes him look beyond his self-loathing. I don't consider this kind of tale a bad thing; after all, it is important for one to explore more than one genre, but the overall film is not as memorable or magical as Miyazaki's other movies. Part of the problem, too, is the characterizations, which are not as well fleshened out or sympathetic. I'm sorry, but I didn't remember any particular character that I found myself liking by the end of the movie. Perhaps it is because PORCO ROSSO just didn't cut it for me, or maybe I've been spoiled by Miyazaki's other films, but I consider this movie to be the weakest of his works.
That said, it is still a very good film, with much to marvel at (not to mention laugh with); the artistry is breathtaking, especially the ripples of the water. Such effects can be found in KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, and the flying sequences where we see Porco Rosso in his plane are beautifully painted and layed out. If there's anything about PORCO ROSSO that is likely to be remembered after an initial viewing, it must be its visual graphics and music, and not necessarily the story or characters. But despite such quibbles I have, even a weak Miyazaki movie is still worthy of my highest rating, as it's better than a lot of the worst movies out there.
It's about time this movie was finally released in America, too. Ever since 1996, Disney had obtained the rights to this film (along with Miyazaki's other works), but plans of an English dub never surfaced until SPIRITED AWAY won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Produced by the same folks responsible for its equally fantastic English language track (longtime fan John Lasseter and scripters Donald and Cindy Hewitt), this upcoming English version is set to be yet another first-class dub on a Miyazaki masterpiece from the Mouse House. The voice cast includes Michael Keaton (an odd choice for Porco Rosso, but I'm gonna give the guy some credit), Susan Egan (Gina the barsinger), Cary Elwes (Donald Curtis the rival pilot), Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Fio the young engineer), David Ogden Stiers (Fio's grandfather, Piccolo), and Brad Garrett (not sure what role he's playing). I have yet to see this dub (I previously saw it subtitled at a museum in New York), but given that I've been spoiled by just about every dub Disney has made for Miyazaki's films (even though some folks dislike the dubs for various reasons and would rather watch them in Japanese; but that's their preference), I have no reason to doubt that it will be every bit as excellent as the ones they've done before.
I will update this review when I obtain my copy of the DVD. Meanwhile, however, I have to say, if you're a Miyazaki fan, then go for it. Even if I don't consider this movie one of his best, you're inclined to disagree and, as mentioned, even Miyazaki at his least is still highly recommended; you could definitely do a whole lot worse by missing out on such a less memorable but still fabulous film.

Monster Squad [Import]
Monster Squad [Import]

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A monster of a movie (in a bad way)., Jan. 13 2004
This review is from: Monster Squad [Import] (VHS Tape)
A hundred years ago in Transylvania, Count Dracula survives an assault from Van Helsing. In present day, the wicked Count (aided by the likes of the Wolfman, Gill-Man, Mummy, and Frankenstein) seeks to obtain a magic amulet which will allow him to take over the world. Nobody except a couple of earnest youngsters led by an especially surly prepubescent Sean (who mistreats his younger sister and causes trouble) believes in the madness about to stir and they set out to save the day.
Describing the plotline of THE MONSTER SQUAD is almost a chore in and of itself. An obvious attempt to clone both THE GOONIES and THE GHOSTBUSTERS, this effects-laden, noisy action-horror flick is just about as cliche, corny, and dated as far as B-movies go. Regrettably, it's also loaded with profane phrases (which jump in more frequently than they should), uneven acting, and dialogue which sounds like it could have been written by a precocious ten-year-old. In addition, it relies on kiddie humor (the objectionable kind at that) for its appeal. The only time anything exciting happens is toward the end of the (mercifully short) 83-minute movie. Otherwise, it'll take a lot of tolerance on one's part to sit through a lot of mumbo-jumbo, nonsensical lines ("Kick the Wolfman in the nards!"), and all sorts of stuff you'd expect from a cut-rate production. There are some surprisingly good special effects (supervised by Richard Edlund, who worked on the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES films) and some of the youngsters are OK if occasionally obnoxious, but these things, in addition to the camp-induced background music by Bruce Broughton, are sadly outnumbered by one too many cringe-worthy flaws.
THE MONSTER SQUAD may have its fans, however, I couldn't get involved. I figured this movie would be good for a laugh, but instead it comes across as a guilty pleasure. One would assume from reading this review that this is the worst movie I've ever seen. Hardly. But if you're expecting something more exciting and scary, well, chances are you won't find it here. THE MONSTER SQUAD has its moments, but it's no fun way to pass the time.
To those of you who may feel like flaming me for this review, I'm sorry, but I am entitled to my opinions just as you are to yours. If you're a fan of this sort of material, then THE MONSTER SQUAD delivers. But I would rather watch better movies rather than this cheap excuse for a horror flick again.

Akira: Special Edition (Widescreen)
Akira: Special Edition (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Nozomu Sasaki
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 69.46
14 used & new from CDN$ 13.94

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular DVD release of a controversial Anime classic., Dec 8 2003
Katsuhiro Otomo's ¥1.1 billion animated adaptation of his 2,000+ page graphic novel, AKIRA, is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Japanese animation, but I'm going to take an unpopular stand and say that I can't bring myself to consider it one of my favorite movies. The animation is spectacular, yes, and the music by the Geinoh Yamashiro Gumi is a fitting compliment to this post-apocalyptic tale about juvenile delinquents, corrupt politicians, and supernatural powers going wrong. Where it falters, however, is in the story department. In trying to squeeze the number of pages Otomo wrote into a two-hour movie, the plot is rather convoluted and almost difficult to follow. It's also not for the squeamish of viewers much less young children; there is an extreme amount of graphic violence and bloodletting, and there are some truly gruesome sequences toward the end. (And by gruesome, I mean, one character -- our anti-hero, Tetsuo -- has his arm amputated by a space satellite, and we see the bloody results of it; later he gets an artificial arm, which goes out of control, and he transforms into a gross, indistinguishable mass of flesh and gore.) I don't hate this movie by any means; as mentioned, the animation and music are both things to marvel at, but there are far better Anime movies around which at least don't overdo the graphic violence, and have a more coherent plot to follow. Need I mention, too, that I was only thirteen(!) at the time I first saw the movie.
Five years later, when I saw it again, it wasn't the bloodletting or labyrinthine story that offended me. What did it was the English dub released by Streamline Pictures more than ten years ago. I understand this dub has its fans, but I can never bring myself to listen to it. Ever. It's arguably the absolute worst English language production I've ever heard; the voice acting was terrible and offensive, and the script was poorly written, and for its biggest shortcoming, ABSOLUTELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE. This only made watching the movie even more difficult, especially its rather daring (and equally confusing) conclusion.
However, I do have to give Pioneer Entertainment credit for putting a lot into remastering this movie for a better audience as well as this Special Edition DVD. The video quality is amazing, but not quite perfect; there are still some specks I could spot on the print, but these are very insignificant considering how gorgeous the print looks. The biggest improvement, however, has to be the English re-dub. Made by AniMaze, Inc., with direction by Kevin Seymour, it is superior to the Streamline dub in every way. The voice acting is extremely good; I found myself liking some of the characters I initially didn't care for as a result of the old dub. More importantly, the script is MUCH, MUCH BETTER. Its lines are not laughable, and IT MAKES SENSE, TOO (well, except for the ending, but then again, I guess there isn't much one can do to improve it). I also noticed that it's close in spirit and meaning to the subtitled script. Sometimes using a direct word-for-word literal translation in an English dub can result disastrously, but thankfully, the new translation is well written and equally comprehensible. Strangely, some disgruntled purists say that the OLD DUB is better than the new dub! I find this totally ridiculous, especially when the first dub was so unlistenable, but then again I've heard similar complaints about other Streamline-released productions being redubbed, such as THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, and CASTLE IN THE SKY, both of which had excellent redubs. And this is from someone who didn't even see the FIRST English dubs of these two titles. Plus, you sub fans should at least be happy that the Japanese language track is on here, too. It may only be 2.0 and not 5.1, but at least it's there for you to listen to. (Note: A recent Pioneer release has the Japanese track remastered to DTS 5.1.)
Its the special features, however, that make this edition of AKIRA deserve its subtitle. There's absolutely everything you'd want to know about this film, including a 45-minute "making-of" documentary, a 20-minute featurette on the creation of the music, an interview with Otomo, three excellent featurettes about the remastering process (and where three talented actors from the English dub -- Johnny Yong Bosch as Kaneda, Joshua Seth as Tetsuo, and Wendee Lee as Kei -- get to speak their thoughts, too; an exciting feature considering that I'm into dubs), and a glossary. The latter feature helps make the movie more comprehensible, as it explains some of the terms found in the film -- not to mention the cryptic ending. There's also a "capsule feature", where a capsule appears once in a while on the screen, and you can highlight it to learn even more interesting facts on the film.
AKIRA may be a movie that I have problems recommending as a good introduction for Anime (Miyazaki's movies come to mind for me), but this DVD release is so well done that it comes across as an essential. Even for a non-fan!

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight [Import]
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight [Import]
DVD ~ Crispin Freeman
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 288.41
8 used & new from CDN$ 56.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the OVA, but fine fare for LODOSS fans., Nov. 4 2003
No, this isn't a sequel to the fabulous OVA series, but rather a remake of the events that occured after the death of Ghim (and the disappearance of Woodchuck). It is also more accurate to the novels that inspired this wonderful series, which is why characters (namely Orson and Shiris) are reintroduced, and why the story may seem slightly different to those used to the OVA. (The booklet included in the set provides excellent answers to such questions, as do various online sites.) The first eight episodes of this 27-part TV series focus on the fateful battle at Demon Dragon Mountain. The remaining 19 episodes introduce us to Spark, a blue-haired knight wannabe who identifies with Parn, and his ragtag team of misfits as they attempt to stop the Dark Wizard Wagnard from resurrecting Kardis the Destroyer.
While it isn't quite the equivalent of the original LODOSS WAR (we all love the finale where Parn saves Deedlit from Wagnard, don't we?), this TV follow-up is still great fun for fantasy fans. Even if the animation is limited (and a step down from the artistic streak of the first LODOSS), this 27-part series has much to offer. Irresistable characters, engaging storyline, magic, romance, and a superb fantasy soundtrack scored by Kaoru Wada of NINJA SCROLL, make this an enjoyable experience.
This 4-DVD set by Central Park Media has a disappointingly mediocre visual transfer -- the picture is rather jumpy, and there are moments where it almost looks like a videotape with a hole in it - that is, I saw a few static lines every now and then. It's not a terrible transfer by any means - the picture still looks pretty good in spite of its shortcomings - but I've seen far better transfers than this, particularly on the PRINCESS MONONOKE DVD. But what the video quality may lack in clarity, this DVD set certainly makes up for on every other level. The audio quality on the English language track (which I listen to a lot of the time) sounds every bit as good as the Japanese language track (which I only heard bits and pieces of), despite occasional static pops. The sound mix is very big and boomy, and a solid experience of truly experiencing the magical atmosphere of LODOSS. There are also plenty of DVD-ROM features, including the dub script and cast credits.
The English dub, made in 1999-2000, has a lot of the same qualities that made the OAV dub so memorable, but is less polished than its predecessor. It was great to hear the old cast return, but it took me a while to get used to Billy Regan's take on a more mature sounding Parn. His voice came off as a bit grating for the first eight episodes (and some anti-dub fans immediately dissed the dub because of it), but by the time Spark and company take the stage, I found his voice better matched when he gets "older". Also, not everyone from the OAV dub returns. Jayce Reeves only voices Wagnard (terrifically) for one episode; he's replaced by Pete Zarustica for the whole show, who gives a gravel-voiced, but still over-the-top and malevolent performance. Anthony Cruise as Kashue, on the other hand, sounds a little too old and out of it for the first episodes, but he gets better after about five episodes or so. Oliver Gregory is probably the most effective as Orson.
I found a lot of my favorites in the new cast of characters, including Crispin Freeman (Spark, Maar, Garrack -episodes 16-27-), Roxanne Beck (Little Neese), Meg Frances (who voices Pirotess in the OAV but also voices Ryna -- excellently -- as well as Karla) and especially Angora Deb (who rocks as Leaf the Half-Elf). The rest of the cast isn't terrible by any means, but a little more uneven than the OAV dub. Some voices are OK (Hobb, Aldonova, Greevus) while others are lackluster (the guards, etc.) and few were awful (Rabido and Astar). In fact the lack of aural continuity (some cast members get new voices for some unexplained reason by the time we get to some of the later episodes) is one of the problems of the dub. Others include less memorable and more awkward sounding dialogue, uneven synchronization, and finally (I apologize in advance to the fans of this) the LODOSS ISLAND segments. These offbeat, super-deformed interludes at the end of each episode will either amuse or drive you batty. Admittingly, I at first found them to be a major nuisance, but they sorta grew on me after a while. (Besides, there are some showstoppingly hilarious lines such as "I'm King Kashue, and this is my CASHEW! I'm REALLY quite a nut!") These flaws do hamper an otherwise decent English dub, ranking it a notch just below the OVA dub.
If you're wondering if the Japanese language track is better than the English on CHRONICLES, well, guess what? The Japanese language track has its good points and bad points, too. While some voices are less annoying than the English language track, I found others to be less appealing than the English equivalents. Plus, I should mention that the Japanese cast is NOT THE SAME AS THE OVA. Because the series was made seven years after the original, all but one (Sho Hayami) of the cast members are replaced by new ones. Although they do a respectably good job, it may be a major annoyance for those who were used to the Japanese OVA cast. Shows that not everything in Japanese is better than English, eh?
Despite its flaws, CHRONICLES OF THE HEROIC KNIGHT is still a fine series which deserves to hold its own ground. Even if there are some occasionally rough spots, there are enough good points to counter the bad.

Record of Lodoss War: Episodes 1-13 (Collector's Edition) [Import]
Record of Lodoss War: Episodes 1-13 (Collector's Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Hideyuki Tanaka
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 209.49
10 used & new from CDN$ 69.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely entertaining fantasy adventure tale, Anime-style!, Nov. 4 2003
Okay, I'm gonna start off with a personal note: RECORD OF LODOSS WAR is probably one of my all-time favorite series ever. At the time that I was just getting warmed up to Anime (thanks to witnessing Miyazaki's wonderful artistry), I happened upon this title in my local videostore. Instantly, I fell in love with this thirteen-part direct-to-video series -- being a fan of the SNES game FINAL FANTASY III and J.R.R. Tolkien in general, watching RECORD OF LODOSS WAR was like a dream come true. It's a hybrid of these two great works filled with just about everything any fan could ask for -- dragons, elves, dark gods, a band of unlikely yet loyal heroes, villains you'll love to hate, action, suspense, romance, a small touch of humor, and engaging from start to finish.
The story is hardly original, but it's done very well for this kind of show. In fact, the one minor flaw of this series is the way the plot "jumps around" from one event to the next. However, it's the characters which make RECORD OF LODOSS WAR so much fun, and much of the best scenes belong to Parn and Deedlit; especially the dance sequence. Ghim and Deed also get to bicker about each other's differences while Parn, on a quest to clear his disgraced father's name, finds a father figure in Kashue. Ashram has a Dark Elf named Pirotess (the opposite of Deedlit) who'll do anything to prove her loyalty to him... including sacrificing herself, Karla is shifty and cunning, while Wagnard is just plain evil -- an over-the-top, maniacal monster equivalent of Kefka from FF III who cackles fiendishly as he puts his dark plans into action. The chemistry between this cast of characters is so well done and the show is so engrossing that it's easy to forgive its occasional shortcomings, notably the jumpy plotting and the animation, which, although gorgeously drawn, uses a low cel count which results with some stiff movements. It may take a while for one to warm up to the music, but by the end, it really grows on you. For fantasy buffs, RECORD OF LODOSS WAR is simply great fun.
Central Park Media made a DVD release of this title a few years ago, but have since rereleased it in a more beefed up package, with some new bonus features to speak of, including the behind-the-scenes featurette we saw on the VHS tapes as well as a Promotional video (dubbed in English), which sounds, I'm sad to say, awful. There's even some DVD-ROM features (identical to those on the CHRONICLES set), including the dub script and credits for both casts. As far as I'm concerned, the visual transfer is very well done, but then I've never seen the old release so I can't compare it with that. (I was told, though, that CPM used a new Digital Video Remastering process to clean up the visuals for this release.)
For purists, the Japanese language track is on here with clear, easy to read subtitles, and an optional English dub. Considering that it was recorded at a time when dubs had a very bad reputation, this English production is surprisingly good. It got somewhat mixed reviews; some say it's fake and/or mediocre while others find it annoying, but here's a better review from one of its many enthusiastic fans (that's me!). No, it's not perfect, and some lines do come off as a bit awkward, but a lot of the voiceovers are really good. In particular, Billy Regan (Parn), Lisa Ortiz (Deedlit), Al Muscari (Slayn), Jacques Le Can (Woodchuck), Simone Grant (Karla & Leylia), John Knox (Ashram), Jayce Reeves (deliciously malevolent as Wagnard), and Alexander J. Rose (Wort and the Narrator), are among my favorites. Plus, the dialogue is close to the subtitled script and packed with some memorable one-liners (Parn: "Quick, Deed, what's [the dragon]'s weak spot?" Deedlit: "I'm not a dragon expert! How should I know?!") and great chemistry between the actors. I especially loved the interactions between Parn and Deedlit, the banter between Ghim and Deed, and a lot of other things. Which is why it saddens me that some would find all of this "inferior" to the Japanese language track. I listened to parts of the Japanese language track, too, and while I did find it to be of top-quality, I find that the dub still holds its own position decently. Of course, it may be in danger of being overshadowed by some of the better dub productions of today, but for a dub made in 1996, its a rather decent, if unspectacular listen. I'm still fond of it, as a matter of fact, even after hearing some better ones.
Whatever language you choose to watch it in, you'll still be experiencing one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. Highly recommended.

Hercules (Bilingual)
Hercules (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Barbara Barrie
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 49.01
23 used & new from CDN$ 6.11

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The only Disney movie that I hate with a vengeance...., Oct. 24 2003
This review is from: Hercules (Bilingual) (DVD)
If there is one Disney movie that I dare to call a disgrace, it would be this take on the Greek myth of Hercules. I understand that the movie has its fans, but I stand strongly by this rating. The biggest problem that this movie has is the overemphasis on too much comedy rather than true heroism. Even in ALADDIN (another inferior Disney movie which nevertheless got lucky thanks to Robin Williams' Genie), the humor was better balanced than in here. There is stuff to laugh at, yes, but jokes such as the "wearing HIS MERCHANDISE!!!!", "is my hair out?", and all others are packed so much within the film that it ultimately ends up becoming unfunny. Even the movie's so-called funniest character, Hades (voiced over-the-top by James Woods), falls flat on his face, delivering more comedy than malice. (And I wonder, did Disney even know that Hades was NOT a bad guy in the original Greek mythology?) I was also getting tired of seeing the references to the "Hercules" merchandise ala Disney style -- it makes the movie look, and feel, no doubt, like a commercial, not a movie. Obviously, Disney was trying to outdo ALADDIN by injecting all the jokes they could into this movie, and their failure is so spectacular. It's no wonder the movie was a major disappointment at both the box office and on video. I enjoy over-the-top comedy, but here it just didn't FEEL together, especially for scenes where there is NO comedy.
But there are other problems besides the forced comedy -- for one thing, Hercules is a HORRIBLE exaggeration of a muscular strongman. He starts out as a sympathetic young boy who is unable to control his strength but when he becomes a grownup... therein lies the intense dislike for him. So one-dimensional, so boastful, so annoying is Hercules that he ends up becoming the most unsympathetic character in the entire movie. Even the leading lady, Meg, is a disappointment. Sure, it's nice to have a character who changes from being cynical to a true friend, but it's handled so mechanically and so forced that she, too, is an unlovable character. All of this is not helped by a script which not only bastardizes the Greek myth (Odysseus, Jason, and Achilles failed Hercules' trainer? Hera LOVED Hercules? Zeus is a nice guy? Hades is evil?), but fails to engage in any way. The film's ultimate message that "a true hero is not made by the size of his strength but by the strength of his heart" is so poorly depicted that we actually find ourselves wishing that Hercules would indeed continue to be called "JERK-ules". Sorry, but a film which tries to be so funny and at the same time take itself seriously does not -- I repeat -- does NOT work.
Arguably the hugest injustice on the film is its soundtrack. Unlike some people, I actually enjoyed the gospel songs, but the inclusion of them in the film is only one other huge mistake on Disney's part. As fun as the songs are, they don't suit a film about Greek gods and heroes. I respect Alan Menken as a composer, but here he misfired. The other songs are not much better. "One Last Hope" sung by Danny DeVito is funny for a while, but is poorly composed and ill-suited. Meg's number is condescendingly weak, and even Hercules' song is awful. (I may have used it for a school alma mater, but that was before I truly realized how much of a dud it was.) Usually, songs are what make a Disney movie, but in HERCULES, it only is one more slapping insult to this joyless film.
I admit that I enjoyed HERCULES when I first saw it, but I began looking upon it with harsh skepticism when I saw that everybody else was. When I saw it again on video, I realized just how rotten a movie HERCULES was. I cannot recommend it to anybody. Before I even close off this review, I must say that there are few movies that offend me so strongly, but HERCULES did it for me. Disney has done so much better than this, and the film is so inconsistent as a whole that it only drives the final nail in the coffin. Search some of Disney's better movies instead -- HERCULES was, and still is to this day, a disgrace to come from the Mouse House, and a fine example on how NOT to make a masterpiece. Funny moments, good voiceovers and some occasionally amazing pieces of animation (the Hydra battle) cannot make up for a poor script, lackluster soundtrack, and unsympathetic characters.

Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Widescreen Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Widescreen Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Hayden Christensen
Offered by Smoke Signals Sales
Price: CDN$ 45.95
31 used & new from CDN$ 3.35

5.0 out of 5 stars "Begun, the Clone War has....", Sept. 27 2003
It seems as though there is no way to dispel negative atmosphere once it has been started. George Lucas's STAR WARS trilogy was well-loved by audiences (even though critics were split) but for some reason (and I can't figure it out), the first entry in the prequels, THE PHANTOM MENACE, earned a HUGE onslaught of critically negative posts just about everywhere in the world, from the press to the internet to fans in real life. Only a few enthusiastic voices greeted it favorably as an impressive achievement, including myself.
The same thing has happened to the second of the STAR WARS prequels, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, released in 2002. Many predicted that this movie would satisfy those who disliked EPISODE I with a vengeance, but alas, such was not the case. Once again, critics damned the movie for one reason or another, and the heated debate on whether Lucas "trashed the original trilogy" or not is still going on.
As someone who liked THE PHANTOM MENACE, I find it very sad that Lucas would still receive unfair critical attack, even after making a much darker, somber, and ominous movie in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I'm guessing that such naysayers will continue to say nay to Lucas no matter what just like rabid fans of Anime would continue to slamdunk dubs... even if a lot of them have recently proven to be excellent.
This is not to say that ATTACK OF THE CLONES is a flawless film. There are some minor problems that THE PHANTOM MENACE didn't have. For one, the film is extremely slowgoing and sometimes it takes awhile before the next big action sequence comes along. And the dialogue, although nowhere nearly as bad as critics and some disgruntled fans say, lacks the spark of the original trilogy. The love story between Anakin Skywalker and Amidala Padme dominates most of the film, and I think this made EPISODE II a difficult film to shoot. This particular one is overall effectively told, and it succeeds in building conflict in both lovers, but at the same time it does slow the pace of the movie.
But I don't want to dwell too much on the negative; once again, with ATTACK OF THE CLONES, Lucas does AMAZING things with the technology he has. Every location in the movie, from the metropolis skyscrapers of Coruscant to the water planet where prototypes of Stormtroopers are being constructed literally bursts with imagination and eye candy. Hayden Christensen strikes every right emotional cord with his moody, mixed-up, angst-ridden portrayal as Anakin Skywalker. You can feel the anger and frustration in his motives and jealousy of Obi-Wan Kenobi (who often criticizes his young Padawan for being so eager); it's so obvious to tell that he will become evil. Natalie Portman, on the other hand, makes for a lesser but competent portrayal as Amidala, and Ewan McGregor is even better this time around as Obi-Wan. Christopher Lee makes a surprise appearance as the new villian, Count Dooku, and once again he delivers first-rate evil with this character. And it's great to see C-3PO and R2-D2 up to their usual banter again (although sometimes some gags occur when not necessary). Ultimately, however, the film belongs to Jedi Master Yoda, played to perfection by Frank Oz. His appearances in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI featured him as a rubber puppet (and a delightful creation), but in this movie he really comes alive, thanks to first-rate CG effects. His mouth is perfectly in sync with every word he says, and the final showdown between him and Dooku (in addition to the other action sequences -- a dizzying chase through Coruscant on floating cars, manuevering through a dangerous asteroid field near a planet, and the climactic finale) is an absolute highlight.
All of these are arguably the biggest boost to yet another underrated entry in the STAR WARS saga. And, for a change, there are some answers to questions, and, as with the first film, it leaves one waiting for EPISODE III, even if it is a long way off. Say all you want about whether or not this lives up to the STAR WARS saga, but the fact remains that this is a great movie. Films are, after all, ART, and I think this is what Lucas had in mind when he made ATTACK OF THE CLONES.
Shooting the movie entirely in digital video also provides for an even better 2.35:1 visual transfer in this DVD set, in addition to speaker-thundering sound-quality and plentiful extras. Even if you hate the movie, this DVD release of ATTACK OF THE CLONES is, like its predecessor before it, a remarkable achievement.

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