MATINEE blu-ray review

France Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.85:1

English: LPCM 2.0

French: LPCM 2.0 (dub)

Subtitles: French (removable)

IMDB

 

MOVIE: 9

VIDEO QUALITY: 9.5

AUDIO QUALITY: 9.5

EXTRAS: 8.5

 

Joe Dante is a very underrated director – I don’t understand why he doesn’t get more work. I always thought he was like a darker Steven Speilberg when I watched Gremlins and Innerspace. While Gremlins is probably his most watched film, I think that Matinee is his most mature film that he has made. It’s an entertaining period piece that takes place during the Cuban Missle Crisis and incorporates real news footage. Matinee pulls this off so much better than how that was done in the recent X:Men First Class. Matinee is a real touching, entertaining film with tons of great performances from the kid actors, Goodman, and Moriarity. Matinee is just another film proving what a great screen presence John Goodman is. I know it’s hard for him to actually headline movies nowadays since he’s a bit overweight (even after his diet) and older, but I really wish he continued to headline movies as he did in the 90s. He can carry a film as the main lead (Matinee, Babe) or he can steal the show as a supporting actor (The Big Lebowski).

The French Region B blu-ray of Matinee (called “Panic sur Florida Beach” in France) is practically perfect. The image is totally colorful, crisp, and sharp from beginning to end. The English 2.0 LPCM audio is one of the best active ones I’ve heard – it sounded much better than many DTD-HD 5.1 audios. The dialogue is clear, the subwoofer is totally active – just a great job with both video and audio. The French subtitles are removable with everything (movie and extras). The extras are interesting, with a 30 minunte interview with Dante, a 10 minute making of, a trailer, and some photos. The slipcase cover is one of the prettiest I’ve seen and it comes in black blu-ray case. So this is definitely one of the nicest overall blu-ray packages I’ve imported from France.

Matinee is a great, rewatchable period piece film from beginning to end and I highly recommend this blu-ray!

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MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY LEGEND THE MOVIE dvd review

Japan Region 2 DVD

Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

DD 5.1 Japanese

Subtitles: English

IMDB

MOVIE: 7.5

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 8

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 0

 

MEGA MONSTER BATTLE: ULTRA GALAXY LEGEND THE MOVIE (MMBUGLTM) is one epic Ultraman movie. If you want to see a non-stop action movie which is like a mish-mash of Green Lantern, Star Wars, martial arts, Godzilla-style monsters, then this movie is for you! If you’ve watched commercial Japanese movies, then you know what to expect from the story and the depth of characters…meaning, there is none. But at least the filmmakers stick to what they know how to do best – just make anime-style action. I’m also glad that there is not an ounce of filler in this film – it’s just straight-up non-stop action mayhem.

Since Ultraman is one of Japan’s most popular superheroes, I was curious to see this movie. I’ve never seen an episode of the Japanese show, and I’ve only seen another Ultraman movie, ULTRAMAN THE NEXT, which was released in 2004. That movie was somewhat entertaining. After seeing this new Ultraman film, I now perceive ULTRAMAN THE NEXT as a Japanese interpretation of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern origin story. In ULTRAMAN THE NEXT, the main character is a pilot that becomes Ultraman, so it’s very similar to Hal Jordan’s origin. With this new Ultraman film, MMBUGLTM is basically Green Lantern and Corp fighting Sinestro and his henchmen monsters in outer space to prevent Sinestro from taking control of the universe. There’s even a supreme light power in this film just as with Green Lantern’s Central Power Battery.

There are tons of Ultramen superheroes (which I was not aware of and explains the countless different-looking Ultramen Japanese action figures) – they are basically a race of Earthling-type people that have to live as Ultramen (it’s not a suit, it’s something they transform into) on their planet because of their bright sun or something dangerous in their environment. The villain of the movie was a former Ultraman (a la Sinestro) and just tries to kill all the Ultramen throughout the whole film. There are even some Star Trek-like space travelers that help out the Ultramen. MMBUGLTM has tons of characters and it’s a bit hard to keep track of all the different kinds of Ultramen, but it doesn’t really matter because this movie is all about the action.

For Japanese commercial movie standards, the special effects are excellent in this film. It’s a lot of green screen CGI, which is not up to standards of Hollywood CGI, but what it has is creativity, so the special effects are worth seeing, especially since outer space and different planets are used as the main backgrounds.

MMBUGLTM is directed by Koichi Sakamoto, the director of the Power Rangers tv show. Not surprising, the movie is a bit like a big-budget tv episode, but it works just fine. MMBUGLTM is mainly impressive for its visual creativity. If you are looking for story, character arcs, and originality, don’t even watch this film. I’ve realized long ago that good Japanese screenwriters for commercial films are non-existent in Japan.

This Ultraman movie makes a good double feature with any of the Green Lantern films (one live-action, and two animated films).

The Japanese DVD is pretty good quality. The anamorphic widescreen and DD 5.1 Japanese audio are all solid – just what you would expect from an outer space action flick – crisp, clean video and with very active surrounds. The English subtitles are excellent as well. There’s a Japanese Region A blu-ray release of this film as well, but that would cost a fortune. There are also cheaper Hong Kong DVD and blu-ray versions but with no English subtitles available. If you are not a huge Ultraman fan, then just stick with the Japanese DVD.

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.

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!