ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH ZE MOVEEH dvd review

Philippines NTSC Region-free DVD

Letterboxed Widescreen (non-anamorphic) 1.85:1

Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Tagalog

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 6.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 7

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 5

 

The Philippines are known to make the worst films in the whole wide world. I’ve seen a few films from this country and I have to agree with that belief. So in turn, I only frequent Philippines online DVD stores (for example, www.pinoymovierentals.com) once every 2-3 years. If I see an interesting-looking DVD cover, I’ll IMDB and YouTube the movie for reviews and trailers. Usually, the Filipino film would probably get a score of 3 out 10, and the trailer would look like some kids made a home-made video in a parking lot. That’s what I usually expect from the Philippines. But after checking out the cover and description of ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH and seeing the trailer, I HAD to see this film as soon as possible. Just watch the trailer to this movie and you will understand why.

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is based on a famous Filipino graphic novel created by Carlo Vergaro. It has a huge cult following in the Philippines. It’s even been made into a successful stage musical over there.

I’m happy to report that ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is not only a good, stylishly-filmed, professionally-made Filipino film, but it’s also one of the best original gay films I’ve ever seen! Pretend that DC Comics approached Pedro Almodovar and said “Pedro, I want you to make a Wonder Woman film. You can do anything you want with it.” That’s what ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is – an Almadovar superhero film.

The best gay-oriented films that I’ve ever seen are Amee & Jaguar (lesbian lovers during WW2), Bound (lesbian thriller), The Birdcage (both French and American versions), Forever Enthralled (a Chinese movie about the Peking opera), The Kids Are All Right, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cracks, Philadelphia, Far From Heaven, and The 24th Day (an AIDS thriller). Now, I can add ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH to the list.

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is a genre film that’s more at the same level as an early Sam Raimi (Evil Deads), early John Carpenter film (Big Trouble in Little China), or any of Almodovar’s early comedy films (when I liked him. I don’t like Almodovar’s post-1991 films). The acting is surprisingly very good in this film. The comic relief is played by an ugly cross dresser, but it’s okay that he/she is annoying, because he/she is playing the worst kind of flamboyant drama queen. The actors also switch to English a lot as well. Usually in Asian films, actors speak poor English. But in this film, they speak all their English lines flawlessly. Another great thing about the acting in this movie is that the actors are having fun and are really a part of this film. They don’t seem like people trying to act. So I was totally thrown off by the good theatrical acting in ZSAZSA – totally unexpected since Filipino films usually have embarrassing acting.

The story and characters are all excellent as well, following the pattern of your basic Superman/Spiderman/Wonder Woman type story. Only in this case, the main character is a homosexual cross-dressing beautician that loves a hot dude. And that hot dude loves the homosexual cross-dressing beautician’s super-hero alternate identity ZsaZsa (basically Wonder Woman). The superhero alternate identity ZsaZsa is played by a different actress – a hot Filipino pop star/actress named Zsa Zsa Padilla (ironic that it’s the same first name). And the villainess is played by hot Filipino pop star/actress Pops Fernandez. Both are not only extremely hot, but they are also in their early 40s! They certainly don’t look old. They are both very Monica Belluci-hot. Even though the film has a lot of local humor, most of it can be understood by outsiders. And the humor isn’t annoying. After all, the main characters are two homosexual cross dressers, so any of their flamboyant behavior is totally normal to their characters. I don’t want to say too much about the story, but it’s just a great concept: “What if a flamboyant homosexual man got super powers and turned into a hot superhero lady? How would he/she react with those superpowers and what would he/she do?” This is just great stuff.

The movie has tons of action and great special effects for the movie’s budget (pretend you are watching an old fantasy film from the 80s or 90s. If you are expecting perfect special effects, then you will be disappointed. The director and creative team did an excellent job with what they had. There is nothing wrong with old school special effects as long as they are used in a creative and charming way). This movie is crazy – ZsaZsa fights a giant frog, skeleton warriors, zombies, and hot Amazonian alien babes!

ZSAZSA ZATURNNAH is more than an hour and a half long, but there is not one wasted shot in here. I hate movies with filler, and this film did not have one ounce of filler. It just chugged along quickly and stuck to the story – very good screenwriting for this kind of genre film. I’m very impressed!

I forgot to add that the film is also a musical! There’s about five or six songs in the film, which get better as the film progresses. The villains had two songs which were awesome catchy songs.

I’ve also seen a lot of Japanese movies that adapt comic books which are pretty bad. I was expecting a lot from Japan’s live-action versions of CUTIE HONEY and YATTERMAN, and those films turned out to really suck. I never read the graphic novel ZsaZsa Zaturnnah (it’s never been translated into English) so I don’t know if it’s a good adaptation, but all I know was that the movie is awesome and it seemed like a great adaptation of a famous comic book.

So if you are interested in seeing an excellent, well-done, action-packed, Wonder Woman-type superhero, musical gay Filipino film, then this film is for you!

There are only two DVD versions for this film:

I bought the Filipino NTSC Region 1 DVD which is non-anamorphic letterboxed and has Dolby Surround audio. The video quality is good enough, but you can’t really zoom in to fill your HDTV because the video will get pixilated. If you buy this version, you have to watch it with a black bar frame (horizontal and vertical black bars). The audio is good as well with very active subwoofer. The English subtitles were excellent. The extras are trailers, deleted scenes, alternate ending, background feature on the original graphic novel, and photos.

After watching and extremely enjoying this film, I discovered that there is also a Thai DVD version of this film which is also non-anamorphic letterboxed, DD 5.1 Tagalog, and has English subtitles. I ordered that Thai DVD as well and it’s the exact same DVD quality as the Filipino NTSC version. The back cover shows “anamorphic, Thai audio and Thai subtitles. But it’s all wrong – still the same letterboxed version with English subs as the Filipino version.

What a totally entertaining genre film and the best Filipino film I’ve ever seen! I especially love the fact that USA would never release a film like this in mainstream movie theaters. Thailand and Philippines may not make the best movies in the world, but the fact that they respect gays and transsexuals, in which they can become popular movie stars, pop stars, and politicians in their society, that’s very progressive and impressive! I’m disappointed that I didn’t hear about this movie earlier since I only came across it accidently.

Advertisements

TEARS FOR SALE dvd review

Australia PAL DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1

Dolby Digital 5.1 Serbian

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 9.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

Tears for Sale (aka Charleston and Vendetta) was well worth the wait after discovering the trailer for it two years ago. This is the best Serbian film that I have ever seen (that wasn’t an Emir Kusturica film)! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a well-done male-fantasy film as in TEARS FOR SALE (not male-fantasy as in gay, but a total fantasy film for men). This movie just kills all those B-movies that star an all-female cast of hotties and ass-kickers. The sisters and the rest of this female-cast film are all hot! If I was a porno director, I would definitely steal the storyline from this film to make the best porno ever. Here’s the basic story to the movie: Due to the majority of men killed off during war after war, two cursed sisters have to bring a man back to their village so that the other village women can have sex with him anytime. The only way for the sisters to break their curse is to complete this mission, but of course, things go a bit off track during their search for a man.

Since this is a professionally-made, well-written great movie (rather than a porno), there are deeper themes in this film, which involve ideas about love and an anti-war theme (which is quite a popular theme in many former-Yugoslavian films). TEARS FOR SALE is fast paced, funny, and has an amazing filming style a la Jeunet and Gilliam with great music and special effects. Just a perfect movie!

After waiting forever for an English-subtitled DVD to be released, i’m not so disappointed that the Australian PAL DVD video quality turned out to be just okay. After all, the first DVD of this film released in Serbia was chopped up to be full screen and had no English subtitles, so the Australian DVD is better than nothing. The video quality is 2.35: 1 anamorphic widescreen, but it’s a bit washed out and full of ghosting. At least it’s not pixilated or interlaced looking, but the video quality isn’t that great for such a visual film like this. It’s not problematic enough to ruin the movie-watching experience, but if this movie gets a better DVD version elsewhere, I’ll be all over it. This movie was created for blu-ray – it needs a blu-ray release badly. As fair as the video quality may be, at least the Dolby Digital 5.1 Serbian audio option rocks! It has a totally immersive audio that fills the room very nicely. The English subtitles are perfect, but they are a bit small. You may have to squint, but once again it’s not a big deal since this DVD is the only way to watch this movie. There are no extras on either DVD.

The UK PAL DVD that is also available is exactly the same (same video/audio quality, same small English subtitles, and same lack of extras) as the Australian PAL DVD, only that the UK PAL DVD is cheaper.

This DVD is a definite blind-buy!

MAI MAI MIRACLE dvd review

Hong Kong Region 3 DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1

DTS 6.1-ES Japanese, DD 6.1 EX Japanese, DD 6.1 EX Cantonese

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 7.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 9

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

MAI MAI MIRACLE is a decent animated film – sort of like a cross between MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (only without the Totoro characters) and STAND BY ME.  The movie could have been excellent but it turned a little too dark in the third act, which was quite unnecessary and hurt the film. The movie had such a nice consistent tone in the first and second acts and then the tone was totally thrown off by some melodramatic dark elements in the last part. This would have been an excellent children’s film if they left out the suicide/mafia elements. It’s as if the director wanted to be special and different from Miyazaki by throwing some radical change in the third act – big mistake on his part. The animation was beautiful though, and the director certainly learned a thing or two working for Miyazaki.

The DVD quality is excellent – anamorphic video and DTS 6.1-ES Japanese, and the English subtitles were perfect. If you are a fan of animation and Hayao Miyazaki/Ghibli films, it’s certainly worth a watch despite the melodramatic dark elements in the third act that hurt the movie’s charm.

DARR blu-ray review

India Region A Blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2.20:1

Hindi DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Hindi Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English, Arabic

IMDB

MOVIE: 10

VIDEO QUALITY: 10

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

Finally. All I can say is finally. I have finally seen a real Bollywood film.

After all these years of thinking that I have been watching Bollywood films, I now understand that I haven’t been watching real Bollywood films until watching DARR. DARR is an example of a prototype Bollywood film that puts everything I’ve seen in the past to shame. All the typical Bollywood films that I have seen mainly from post-2000 have been put to shame. I started with Mission Kashmir and Devdas in the early 2000s to jump start my interest in Bollywood. But after those two films gave me a good first impression of Bollywood, I was usually disappointed there after – not that I wasn’t entertained by many Bollywood films, but I usually averaged about one impressive Indian film per year since the year 2000. I have always known that I should be watching pre-2000 Bollywood movies, but it’s hard for non-Indians to watch them due to the DVDs that have been available. I don’t consider myself too picky and I still enjoy watching DVDs, but pre-2000 Bollywood DVDs are pretty awful – the video and audio quality is fair to poor, but the main negative factor is that the English subtitles on pre-2000 Bollywood DVDs are painfully translated with grammatical errors. I can’t watch a movie with bad subtitles. I know that there may be many great old Bollywood films on DVD but I just can’t watch them due to those poor quality DVDs. And I do know it’s better than nothing to have a poor quality DVD with awful English subtitles, but I know that the poor DVD quality will kill the enjoyment of a potentially good Bollywood film for me.

But now here is Yash Chopra’s DARR released on blu-ray by Yash Raj Films. A perfect Bollywood movie released on a perfect Indian blu-ray. Finally. This blu-ray is why we all upgraded from DVD to blu-ray. And if you haven’t upgraded to blu-ray yet, this DARR blu-ray is the blu-ray that should change your mind if you are interested in Bollywood films.

I don’t know what to talk about first – the movie quality or the blu-ray quality first? DARR seems to be a Bollywood masterpiece that I would have assumed that many people would have been waiting for to come out on blu-ray for a while. I blind-bought this blu-ray based on postive reviews of the movie and blu-ray, but I didn’t sense that Bollywood fans were telling others online that this is a must-have blu-ray? I’m assuming that most people that buy Bollywood blu-rays would buy this blu-ray since this is a masterpiece. This film has ironically come out on blu-ray during the same time as the STAR WARS blu-ray. This film is like STAR WARS, a film that seems to have also influenced so many Bollywood films, but all these other Bollywood films cannot capture the essence and charm of what DARR has:

1. Yash Chopra.
Within the first couple frames, you know you are watching a real film, instead of a current Bollywood movie that’s trying real hard to be a real film. I always thought that Bollywood filmmakers were trying to copy Hollywood. Maybe. But i’m now starting to believe that current Bollywood filmmakers are trying to capture the filmmaking style of old Bollywood. I haven’t seen enough old Bollywood films to make a statement like that. I’ve seen DARR. I’ve seen DIL SE…and i can’t think of too many other 1990 Bollywood films I’ve seen. But I know that Yash Chopra represents Bollywood. This is the first Yash Chopra film I’ve seen. I feel like an idiot as if I have just watched a Steven Spielberg film for the first time at the age of 34. I have always heard of Yash Chopra and I always knew that I should be watching all of his films if I like Bollywood. And now they better put the rest of his films on blu-ray. I have a feeling I will now be blind-buying Dil To Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara on Bollywood blu-ray next. I do hope they release more of his older films on blu-ray though. Yash Chopra is a real classy filmmaker. His direction is perfect. In DARR, the supposedly cheesy scenes in this film – such as some of the fight scenes, the 80s music, and the absolute gullibility of everyone of not knowing that Shah Rukh Khan’s character is the villain – are actually not cheesy at all. Whatever magic Yash Chopra does as a filmmaker makes all of his scenes gold. While these scenes would be typically cheesy or negative in another Bollywood film, it’s not found in DARR. It’s Bollywood charm.

2. The story.
DARR is interesting from beginning to end. It’s not even a rip-off of any Hollywood film. The ending may look similar to Cape Fear, but there have been many showdowns in a boat. One could have said it’s like a remake of Dead Calm (it’s not). And it’s not a remake of Cape Fear. I didn’t think that DARR was a remake of a Hollywood film. I thought that the movie is very Alfred Hitchcockian which is a plus, and I also thought of The Talented Mr. Ripley mainly due to both Damon and Khan playing memorable and similar creepy villains, but it’s far from being some knock off. DARR is original and it’s a special movie for Bollywood. I just get a kick out of the story that these two lovers just want to be happy, they want to sing and dance, but they can’t get this annoying creepy a-hole out of their lives who won’t let them frolick around the Swiss flower fields as in another Bollywood film. This film is like a cross between The Sound of Music and a horror movie. This is the first time I’ve seen a Bollywood film with violence that makes sense. I think other Bollywood filmmakers are confused and have been inspired by this film – they make a masala film for everyone, but the violence in those films just seems out of place. It’s as if they saw DARR and said, “hey, let’s throw some violence in our film too because it is possible to have a cheerful charming love story mixed with a violent story.” But in other Bollywood movies, it just seems out of place. And furthermore, Bollywood filmmakers seem to have loved Khan’s bad-ass, villainous performance so much that they think his character should inspire future protagonists in Bollywood films – STALKERS! His character shouldn’t be transferred to the good guys. His character should have inspired more three-dimensional villains in future Bollywood films. Khan’s creepy villainous character is so memorable that it’s as if other Bollywood filmmakers think that Khan’s perfect example of an antagonist should actually be transferred into protagonists (aka leading men…the good guys). No, don’t do that. It’s creepy. That’s one of the worst aspects of Bollywood screenwriting nowadays – making the protagonist (aka the good guy) the stalker? Stalk the girl and then she will finally fall in love with you? Please don’t do that, it’s poor writing. This is why the story is so good – it’s as if Yash Chopra is addressing that stalking protagonists in Bollywood films are creepy and weird.

3. Juhi Chawla.
I always thought that Ash and Madhuri Dixit were the main two female stars that are not only hot, attractive, and sexy, but also great actresses. I didn’t know of Juhi Chawla. I have only seen her before in Luck By Chance and I thought that she was pretty hot and looked like an older Ash, but I had no idea how talented she is. She is amazing in Darr. She’s not only an amazing performer, she surprisingly has a comic talent. The funniest scenes in the whole movie are subtle quick scenes which involve her – whether it is to kick off her shoe and lands on her head or to cross her eyes, she understands humor. So she’s hot, sexy, attractive, good actress, and funny – the perfect package. It’s a shame that she doesn’t get big roles anymore since Bollywood likes to use youngsters for their leading ladies. Her Kiran is a great character and it’s understandable why Khan’s character is obsessed with her.

4. Shah Rukh Khan.
“I love you, K-K-K Kiran!” I’ve never seen a more memorable three-dimensional villain in a Bollywood film. Now I understand why Shah Rukh Khan is a star. He should play more villain roles. It’s too bad he turned down a role to play a villain in a James Bond film, because he would be a great villain.

5. Music.
Great songs one after another. The best song is the final one with Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla.

6. Everything else is great in this film too – Sunny Deol is a reliable leading man, playing it cool and chill (as the way Bollywood leading men actors should be), the scenery especially of Switzerland (I loved the scenes of Geneva where I used to live), the action (the chase scenes in this movie are the best I’ve seen in a long time, as good as chase scenes in Point Break or the beginning of District B13), and the brother and sister-in-law whom are both actually funny too. It’s so nice for a change when “funny scenes” in Bollywood films are actually funny and not forced. I love the final, final scene in the movie which may be a bit jarring to some but just shows that it’s good to laugh about crazy and negative experiences that happened in our lives, even if it may seem to soon to laugh about them.

The Yash Raj Films blu-ray is just about as perfect as it can get. First, start off with the first beautiful front cover I’ve ever seen for a Bollywood blu-ray. That is how a blu-ray cover should be – a nice painting of imagery that captures the essence of the film. Second, the back cover shows clear blu-ray specs and a grammatically correct summary that doesn’t give away the movie as in most Indian blu-ray back cover summaries. Third, turn on the blu-ray to see a charming menu. Fourth, play the movie and watch what blu-ray is all about – perfect video quality. Nothing is more impressive than an old movie getting a perfect remastered video quality. The result is a movie with more 3D depth, sharper edges and more visible detail and textures. DARR has been brought back to life in 1080p. The image and colors are rock solid and clean. The audio is another story. Overall the audio is excellent, especially during the song scenes, but the dialogue has a sort of echo-sound. And it’s throughout the whole movie with both audio tracks. I’m not even sure which one is better sounding – the DTS-HD or the Dolby Tru track. And once again, the songs sound perfect. It’s just when characters are talking. It sounds like they are talking in some echo chamber. But it has that type of acceptable audio which one would hear on an older film. I’m assuming it sounds that way because the actors dubbed in the dialogue later? I’m not sure but the audio is totally solid other than that aspect.

There are no extras and the English subtitles on the movie are….drum roll…..perfect! Yay! This is one of the rare Indian home videos released by an Indian movie company that actually put perfect English subtitles on their blu-ray. Keep it up!

I’m going to say it again – Yash Chopra’s DARR is a prototype Bollywood film. It’s not a film to watch with kids, but this is a perfect Bollywood film and if you are a Bollywood movie fan, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t buy this blu-ray. If you are tired of the current trend of lazy filmmaking in Bollywood, DARR is an example of how a Bollywood movie should be filmed. DARR is a must-have!

THE GREAT YOKAI WAR dvd review

Hong Kong NTSC Region 3 DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

Japanese DTS-ES, Japanese DD 5.1 EX, dubbed Cantonese DD 5.1 EX

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 8.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 8.5

EXTRAS: 0

 

I made a huge mistake – I bought the single disc version of Takashi Miike’s THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, thinking that I don’t care about extras and wasn’t sure if the DVD was going to be anamorphic or not (not exactly stated on the back of the DVD cover – it just says “widescreen”). I don’t usually care for extras in a film unless the film is extremely interesting. I’m almost tempted to give this single disc version away only for one reason – I should have bought the 2-disc DVD version of this fantasy masterpiece! THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is a fairytale nightmarish fantasy film that is pure genius and one hundred percent eye candy. And this was marketed as a Japanese family film? That’s nuts. Those Japanese kids are tough, because this movie is freaking scary if labeled as a children’s film. This movie is so unique, amazing, and I just learned about this film a couple days ago. I haven’t had such a cinematic surprise since watching MIND GAME and NIGHT WATCH. I really don’t want to give too much away about this film, but here’s how I would break down THE GREAT YOKAI WAR:

1. A live-action Hayao Miyazaki film

2. Japanese mythical folklore

3. The nightmares of Terry Gilliam and Guillermo del Toro

4. A Mathew Barney CREMASTER movie made for your average person

5. A G-rated JACOB’S LADDER

6. GAMERA

7. Industrial sci-fi

8. Monsters straight out of  the Mos Eisley Cantina bar in STAR WARS

9. Monster robots from that TWISTED METAL video game

10. Sexiness a la LABYRINTH and LEGEND

11. Gogo from Kill Bill dressed all in white, kicking ass with a whip

12. An R-Rated WIZARD OF OZ and NEVERENDING STORY

13. The best parts (robots/machinery coming alive) of Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy

14. A Japanese EVIL DEAD film

15. Jim Henson studios on a combination of cocaine, speed, heroine, and extacy

Even though Takashi Miike is an extremely talented director, I have never really been a fan of him. I saw ICHI THE KILLER, the DEAD OR ALIVE trilogy, YATTERMAN, AUDITION, THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, and THE CITY OF LOST SOULS. I wasn’t crazy about any of them. These movies had some interesting and creative-filmed scenes, but they did not add up well to a whole. All I saw was a talented director without direction or balance. I think that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is his first real masterpiece. This movie is a perfect balance of Takashi Miike’s brain – horror, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, nightmarish imagery, elegant pretty imagery, memorable characters, excellent CGI and trippiness. The movie is a masterpiece for its genre and Takashi Miike is a genius. I love this movie and I’m dying to watch it again.

The Hong Kong DVD (Universe, NTSC Region 3) is overall very good. The back cover only states that the DVD is “WIDESCREEN,” which made me think it could be letterboxed, but don’t worry, it’s anamorphic widescreen. The video quality is very nice looking, not perfect but pretty solid. The audio has a totally involving reference quality sound – sending out all the sound effects all across the room one would expect from a horror-action-fantasy genre movie. The audio options are Japanese DD 5.1 EX, Japanese DTS-ES, and a dubbed Cantonese DD 5.1 EX. The English subtitles are pretty good with some letters missing from words here and there, but the translation is very good. If you want the plentiful extras (Another Story of Yokai, 2005 Yokai Conference, Short Drama of Yokai, Making of Yokai Movie, Interview with Main Casts, Visual Records of Promotion, Documentary of Ryunosuke Kamiki, The Introduction of Yokai), buy the 2-disc DVD version, which I should have done. For one, I’m dying to see the creation of all the costumes/character make-up they made for this movie. Trust me, these aren’t Mighty Morphin Power Rangers costumes/characters – these are characters that are reminiscent of the original STAR WARS movies.

Although I think that THE GREAT YOKAI WAR is the director’s best film, I’m sure many will disagree and say that AUDITION is (it is a good horror movie, but I’m not too crazy about horror films), but it’s certainly a totally entertaining work of art, with not one boring scene in the film.

There is a USA NTSC Region-Free DVD now available but the audio is only DD 5.1 Japanese and DD 5.1 English. If you like English dubs or if you can’t play a NTSC Region 3 DVD, then buy the USA version.

M.A.S.K. COMPLETE COLLECTION dvd review

Australia PAL DVD

4×3 Full Screen

DD 2.0 Stereo English

IMDB

THE SHOW: 8.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 7

AUDIO QUALITY: 6.5

EXTRAS: 3

 

I finally folded and couldn’t wait any longer for the UK/USA DVD releases of the classic 1980s cartoon series – M.A.S.K. – so I finally bought the M.A.S.K. COLLECTION 1 & COLLECTION 2 DVDs from Australia for about a total of 80 bucks. I usually don’t buy DVDs without reading DVD video/audio reviews beforehand, and I’ve unsuccessfully searched for DVD reviews of these Australian PAL DVDs (even at the biggest M.A.S.K. fan site www.matt-trakker.com, but they didn’t really review the DVDs as well), so I finally took a chance and bought them.

As a kid, I religiously watched M.A.S.K., G.I. JOE, and TRANSFORMERS – M.A.S.K. was always my favorite. I thought it was an awesome show and had the best toys ever. I held onto all of the toys, and ironically, the only toys that my mother gave away while I was at college were my M.A.S.K. toys, of course without my permission. Even in junior high when I stopped playing with toys and put them in the basement, I had told her not to touch them, not give them away, or throw them away, but somehow my M.A.S.K. toys didn’t apply and she ended up giving those away. So now that I’m 30 years old, I wondered if M.A.S.K. is as great as I remembered. On a side note, I did buy the G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS DVDs when they were released, and I was surprised that they aren’t that dated and both of those shows are still as entertaining as I remembered. Although many may disagree, the voice acting, storylines, dialogues, and character development are still pretty damn good in the old TRANSFORMERS cartoon (Generation 1) and G.I. JOE – not bad for a 20-minute toy commercial episode. I was hoping to feel the same with M.A.S.K., but this show is the most dated out of my three favorites, and ranks below TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE for me now as an adult. I’m seeing things in this cartoon that I was not aware of as a child:

1. The voice acting is overall pretty terrible. They seem more like YouTube cartoon fan dubs rather than professional voice actors. For example, the main female baddie, Vanessa Warfield, is voiced by some generic-sounding actress whom is just lowering her voice, as if she is trying to imitate a man’s voice. This is what she considers evil? No, that’s not a character or voice acting, that’s just a woman talking with her voice lowered. She ain’t no Baroness. Then there’s some annoying dude who talks like a redneck. There’s an Asian guy who is painfully stereotypical with his annoying Asian proverbs. And the leader of the good guys, Matt Trakker, is voiced like a zombified Optimus Prime/Duke with no character or soul. Once in a while, there is some good voice acting of course, but not that much.

2. I have no problem with a cartoon taking place in some Arizona desert (Cheaper for animators? Easier to avoid collateral damage?), but this desert is treated like a typical American suburbs. The main kid in the show, Scott Trakker, is connected to all the people that live in this vast desert as if it’s one quaint suburbs. It’s just creepy and weird that he knows every neighbor that is about fifty miles away.

3. The lack of continuity in the M.A.S.K. cartoon (created for syndication benefits) is also a negative. I know it’s a toy commercial cartoon, but continuity does create emotions and empathy – there are quite a few touching TRANSFORMERS storylines thanks to continuity and character development. Even though the show starts with a clean slate after each episode, I felt like I was watching some type of bizarre continuity in which it shows some kid, Scott Trakker, constantly getting in danger with the bad guys. The single father, Matt Trakker, is one of the most irresponsible fathers in a cartoon series. Lock the kid up in the house already or give the poor kid one of those powerful masks to defend himself already!

4. The writing of the dialogue, humor, and storyline is pretty horrible. With no help from the poor voice acting, all the characters lack chemistry nor have souls. Yes, I know it’s just a toy commercial cartoon, but in contrast to G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS, the positive or negative chemistry among the characters in G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS are pretty damn good and entertaining – those two cartoons have some excellent writing and a variety of creative characters, which I think is pretty underappreciated by 1980s cartoon critics. The majority of the M.A.S.K. characters just seem like they don’t give a crap about each other and they are just there for the job. There are a couple bad guys, Sly Rax (with the Jack Nicholson voice) and Nash Gorey (strong nerd), whom get some juicy lines and interactions, but that’s about it. I even think the kid and robot (Scott and T-Bob), whom are considered to be annoying by critics, are really not that annoying and actually have some soul.

5. As a kid, I always looked forward to a cameo by a new M.A.S.K. or Venom agent for kicks. Watching the show now, I still looked forward to a cameo by a new M.A.S.K. or Venom agent, because I’m more aware now that the main cast of good guys and bad guys are just sort of boring. The cameo characters are more interesting than the main ones – not a good sign for cartoon writing. In TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, I looked forward to cameo characters as well, but I liked the main cast of characters in both of those cartoons.

6. And finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that M.A.S.K. had, and still has, amazing toys. I think that the toys in TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE are as equally as enjoyable as the cartoon. But watching M.A.S.K. now, I think that the toys are better than the cartoon.

So what’s left to like about this show you may be wondering? Well, besides the nostalgia factor, the cartoon is still pretty entertaining. Now that current animation is over-saturated with CGI/computer animation, I do appreciate more hand-drawn animation from the past. In M.A.S.K., the designs of the characters masks, outfits, and vehicles are still pretty amazing. They even have cool transforming-type sounds when the vehicles transform to battle vehicles, which I don’t remember as a kid. So that was a pleasant surprise. I love that 1980s hand-drawn cartoon animation where nothing is that smooth or perfect, or dialogue isn’t exactly moving in synch with their lips. I think it’s charming. The M.A.S.K. theme song played at the beginning of the show and played as different orchestral versions of it during the show is pretty good too – better than that “You’ve Got the Touch” crap song from TRANSFORMERS. Another new thing I’ve noticed is that in some scenes the animation is very simple, while other scenes the animation is pretty complex – so I do like how the animated style is slightly a bit different in scenes, and not perfectly consistent. Furthermore, I do like the fact that it’s like a combination of TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, my two other favorite 1980s cartoons.

These are the complete M.A.S.K. series on PAL Australian DVDs released by MADMAN. M.A.S.K. DVD COLLECTION 1 features episodes 1 -38 and has a running time of 950 minutes. M.A.S.K. DVD COLLECTION 2 features episodes 39 – 65 and all ten episodes of the M.A.S.K. Racing Series, and has a running time of 925 minutes. Each box set is spread out onto 4 discs.

The video is Full Frame. The video quality is watchable – at least it’s not pixilated and is overall clean. I don’t think MADMAN cleaned up the colors as was done by RHINO on their TRANSFORMERS boxsets. The colors could get a boost. It’s almost like watching a faded piece of artwork. I don’t remember if the cartoon was originally like that, but overall, that’s okay. I watched the episodes set to SMART WIDESCREEN (no animation lost) on my 37 inch LCD Sony HDTV. I even took a look at the video while watching it at ZOOM (losing animation) and it’s not pixilated. The more zoomed you watch it, the more faded the artwork looks. There’s some ghosting but it’s a 1980s cartoon that didn’t get the works a la TRANSFORMERS DVDs. So overall, it’s the best I’ve seen M.A.S.K. on an HDTV. It obviously looks the best watching it at Full Frame instead of zooming in to fill your HDTV.

The audio is English DD 2.0. Everything sounds pretty clear – certainly not as crisp as I would have liked. It’s sometimes a bit muffled (and i’m not talking about when characters have their masks on), but once again, it’s acceptable. Unlike blasting the TRANSFORMERS or G.I. JOE DVDs with a surround sound setup, which sounded good with either 5.1, mono or 2.0 audio options, these M.A.S.K. DVDs don’t sound that great if you blast the audio. The louder you play these M.A.S.K. DVDs, you will hear more faults with the audio. Subwoofer is pretty non-active as well. If you watch these M.A.S.K. DVDs at a little higher than normal volume, they sound good enough. But it would be nice of course for M.A.S.K. to get a DD 5.1 treatment.

The Extras are only on COLLECTION 2 – small quantity yet good quality – nice toy gallery, profiles of M.A.S.K. agents and Venom agents, and some artwork worth looking at.

There are no subtitles available on these DVDs.

The complete M.A.S.K. series is now available on USA NTSC DVD as well, cheaper than the Australian DVDs but with same video/audio quality.

Overall, it’s a great 80s cartoon. As dated as it may be, there are hours of nostalgia entertainment here!