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Jonathon Turner "Jon Turner" RSS Feed (Highland Park, NJ USA)
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Fist of the North Star: The Movie
Fist of the North Star: The Movie
DVD ~ Wally Burr
Price: $19.99
25 used & new from $14.16

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars THIS is a classic?! I beg to differ., June 5, 2016
FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: THE MOVIE is simply awful. The storyline is lacking in any coherency or nuance, the characters are all mono dimensional and uninteresting, and the presentation is turgid. Taking a 100-episode series and trying to squash it all into a two-hour movie (never a wise decision when adapting any such lengthy source material) may be part of the problem. But the major issue with FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is that it is, simply put, not at all interesting. It's basically scene after scene of blood-splattering violence, with few breaks in the action, and a virtually nonexistent plot. Characters come in and out at various times, over cluttering an already busy movie. We are never given a specific reason to care about anybody in one way or another because of that. The end result is a boring, and frankly, not very compelling train wreck that doesn't make any sense. Apparently there are two different endings to this movie, but because the movie provides very little reason to care one way or another, it's hard to know WHAT could have made it any better. The English dub, provided by Streamline Pictures, is even worse; a dreadfully wooden, robotic, stiff, and all around boring train wreck with disappointingly underwhelming turns from everyone involved, despite the presence of names like Michael McConnohie and Greg Snegoff. In fact, it gets my vote for being one of the worst dubs of all time. Carl Macek and company have done so much better. I've ripped into this movie long enough for you to get the idea. There are far superior animated movies to invest in than this joyless, unpleasant film.


Star Fox Zero + Star Fox Guard - Nintendo Wii U
Star Fox Zero + Star Fox Guard - Nintendo Wii U
Price: $49.79
84 used & new from $32.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging controls and recycled storyline somewhat hamper (but only slightly) Fox's long awaited return., April 26, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
So is STAR FOX ZERO the equivalent of the classic STAR FOX 64? No. It has it share of problems, primarily the sometimes dodgy controls that may come across as off-putting (as evidenced by a lot of complaints). Unlike other games, where the motion controls are an option, in this game they're mandatory. I think it would have been wiser for Nintendo to implement a more traditional controller scheme as opposed to the forced motion controls, as it would make the game less frustrating.

Controls aside, the presentation of the game is well done. The graphics, while perhaps not as orgasmically breathtaking as other WiiU titles, like XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X or BAYONETTA 2, are still very solid for this game and the framerate is smooth at 60 fps (for the most part, there are some minor dips in quality at places). The characters are all well portrayed, many by their respective voice actors from the original. (Some, however, were not able to return.) The introduction of new vehicles such as the Gyrocopter and the Walker bring some interesting diversity to the game, but again, the controls take some mastering. The sound is actually the best asset of the game. Aside from the voice acting (primarily heard through the Gamepad speakers), the soundtrack is excellent, provided by the sound team who provided BAYONETTA 2's distinctive style.

On the flip side, the story is, well, basically the story of STAR FOX all over again. We've heard this story told before, and aside from some occasional deviations, it's not hard to see where it's going. The game is obviously meant to be an homage to STAR FOX 64, and it has its heart in the right place, but at times it's not hard to wonder how this project could have gone differently.

Still, warts and all, STAR FOX ZERO is sizzling fun and I can recommend it, but with reservations; it has a steep learning curve and is surprisingly more challenging than you would expect (many of the stages will cost you lives). It falls short compared to both the original, but at the very least it feels a lot more like STAR FOX than the previous three entries. Hopefully Fox's next adventure will return to a traditional control scheme and opt for a more original plot without jumping out of genre.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD)
DVD ~ Harrison Ford
Price: $24.96
34 used & new from $19.99

7 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior to the prequels and an overall great film, but not quite on the same level as the original trilogy., January 1, 2016
Ten years after the lesser STAR WARS prequel trilogy wrapped up with the mostly solid if not perfect REVENGE OF THE SITH, George Lucas' ever-popular space opera saga gets yet another trilogy in the making, this time in the hands of J.J. Abrams, the man behind the magnificent SUPER 8 and the equally enthralling STAR TREK reboot.

This time, he reunites most of the original cast members (including Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and yes, Peter Mayhew as Luke, Han Solo, Leia, C-3PO, and Chewbacca, respectively) while introducing a welcome host of newcomers. These include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and even LORD OF THE RINGS' Andy Serkis. Rather than relying on the mostly CGI approach of the prequels, Abrams also opts to use models, bizarre aliens, and lots of action as well as surprise twists out of nowhere.

Does it all work? For the most part, the answer is yes.

This is certainly a much more spirited and lively chapter than the more sluggish prequels, emphasizing humorous byplays between its characters over sometimes overdone CG effects. As impressive as the visual effects are, they never overcome the way of the story. More importantly, the acting is consistently great from everyone involved: something that could never be said for the prequels. Both Ridley and Boyega get into their roles and exchange rapid-fire chemistry in the same manner as the original, and of course Ford, despite being older, obviously hasn't lost his swagger and badassery as Han Solo. Although villains Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are missed, the mentally unstable, bad-tempered Kylo Ren makes for a promising villain (Driver), and his big boss (Serkis) also emerges to be just as menacing as the late Darth Sideous.

Some have quibbled that the plot line for THE FORCE AWAKENS is mostly a retread of the original STAR WARS movie "A New Hope", what with the usual destructive space weapon + secret map + hidden weakness formula as well as a little bit of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. In that aspect, the movie is probably the least "original" of the movies. But the end result of a movie isn't measured upon its originality or derivativeness, but in its delivery. While the prequels were not guilty of repeating themselves, they still suffered from stiff acting and dialogue. On that level, this movie improves on both of those weaknesses by far. The return to the jokey banter atmosphere is more than welcome, and while there is humor, it's never of the juvenile kind.

All in all, THE FORCE AWAKENS IS better than PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES (as well as even REVENGE OF THE SITH; good as that film was, it was still held back by flaws), but I cannot recommend it as highly as the original trilogy as I would like to because it just slightly misses the mark due to a shocking and less effective final third. Having said all this, though, you'll of course want to see this first entry in a new trilogy; even with my quibbles, it does show promise.


Legend (1986) - Director's Cut
Legend (1986) - Director's Cut
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Offered by Expedited Warehouse
Price: $7.07
49 used & new from $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuously beautiful but tattered fantasy., November 5, 2015
Ridley Scott's first fray into fantasy is one of those movies that *could* have been a classic if not for some unfortunate shortcomings that harmed its chances. After making darker, sometimes horrifying fare such as ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, the director wanted to make a less intense, accessible story. Teaming up with writer William Hjortsberg, Scott fashioned a fairy tale fantasy involving loss of innocence, unicorns, dwarves, temptation, redemption, and occasional Biblical overtones. Thus, LEGEND was born.

Following an atmospherically haunting opening sequence in a nighttime forest, the movie follows two innocents: Jack (Tom Cruise), a "forest boy" who communicates with animals, and his girlfriend, a princess named Lili (Mia Sara). Against his better judgment, Jack takes Lili to a forbidden grove where she is entranced by the sight of unicorns. She reaches out to touch one of them -- a fatal mistake which eventually leads to the unicorn having its alicorn severed by a trio of nasty goblins (their ringleader played by the raspy-voiced Alice Playten). Almost instantly a blizzard showers down on the forest, and Jack and Lili are separated. It turns out that the ringleader behind the plot is the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry), a horned, demonic presence who wants to destroy sunshine and spread his evil across the world. Soon Lili is kidnapped, too, and Jack must get her (as well as the unicorn's alicorn) back. He's accompanied by Honeythorn Gump (David Bennett, voiced by Playten), a sprite-child who strums a violin, a pair of bickering dwarfs (Cork Hubbert and the late Billy Barty), and an emotionally distraught fairy.

LEGEND aims to be an atmospheric fantasy epic, and in many ways it succeeds. The production design is staggeringly spectacular, even for a movie shot primarily on sound stages. The colors in the forest scenes are lush and rich with detail, and the set/creature/costume designs perfectly encapsulate the mood of the subject. The goblins and dwarves look pretty much how you'd expect, but Tim Curry's Lord of Darkness is easily the triumph of the film. Completely unrecognizable in prosthetic make-up supplied by Rob Bottin, Curry not only looks terrifying, but his delivery is truly evil personified. Every scene he's in is an unbridled delight.

Unfortunately, as mentioned, the film has its share of problems. For one, it moves at a snail's pace (Scott's movies tend to do so, but for some reason that's a drawback here), never really coming alive until the end of the film. Secondly, the characters are pretty much archetypal and lacking in depth. Finally, as good as Curry is, the rest of the cast doesn't quite reach the same heights. Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, and Robert Picardo all embrue their characters with quirky, goofy humor and in the cases of Miss Playten and Mr. Picardo, nasty and brittle. David Bennett conveys the sprite-child effectively (although his voice is sometimes grating, dubbed by Alice Playten). Tom Cruise, unfortunately, is the weakest link of the cast. In all fairness, it's not his fault; he has shown himself to be a solid actor in many other productions, but his role as the hero doesn't provide him the opportunity to showcase the talent that made him truly famous. It is not by any means a bad performance; there are moments when he does deliver, but even Cruise admits that he isn't particularly proud of his work in this movie. It's serviceable, but not great. Mia Sara actually fares better as the princess, especially in the latter scenes of the film where she dons a revealing costume and is wooed by Curry. (Her scenes with Cruise aren't as effective, but again, that's down to the writing of both roles than the actress.)

But there were other shortcomings even when production wrapped up. Scott's director's cut of approximately two hours was so poorly received by test audiences, that Scott ended up cutting the movie down to 95 minutes. Furthermore, Scott had commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to write a luscious, deeply haunting score which arguably enhances the whole movie, but Universal executives, fearing the film needed to be more "mainstream", displaced it with an inferior and ill-fitting synthesizer/rock score by Tangerine Dream. To add insult to injury, the film was recut in the style of an MTV video to barely an hour and a half. The result was a messy, confusing, choppily edited trainwreck that unsurprisingly died at the box office. (The cutting also affects the credibility of Tom Cruise's performance, making him seem more monodimensional and confused than his character actually is in the director's cut.) Although the movie has since earned a cult following, the damage had already been done.

Thankfully, Universal has provided the Director's Cut on DVD (thought to be lost forever until recently discovered); having seen both versions, I can safely say that the film works better in its longer, symphonic version than the American cut. Goldsmith's score is a ravishingly gorgeous, haunting work of art that compliments the atmosphere of LEGEND far better than the synthesized rock score. (On the flip side, there is at least one scene where there is temp track music that feels out of place, but luckily not as gratingly distracting as the Tangerine Dream score.) Some people may take issue with the inclusion of some singing, but it's at the very least a more fitting alternative to the misplaced rock songs at the end of the U.S. cut.

Of course, LEGEND is not a perfect movie even in its restored form--the faults still exist--but at least it adds more depth and feels more "complete" as an overall experience. The U.S. version, for the curious, can be found on the "Bonus Material" DVD (and it DOES add a scene that unfortunately didn't make it into the director's cut -- the restoring of the unicorn's alicorn), but personally I recommend the Director's Cut--it's a better experience by far. Also worthy of note is the 45-minute documentary on how the making of the film and its unfortunate fate due to the cuts and score swapping.

LEGEND has polarized audiences to this day, and even the director's cut has received is share of detractors. It remains an oddity in Scott's portfolio, but it's an intriguing source of fascination regardless.


Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water - Wii U [Digital Code]
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water - Wii U [Digital Code]
Price: $49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Spooky and unsettling entry in the Fatal Frame series, although not without faults., October 30, 2015
The unfortunate censoring of one scene is the only minor drawback of this otherwise creepy, unsettlingly enjoyable horror adventure. There are times when the controls feel a bit stiff, particularly in the more dramatic sequences. However, the game remains consistently compelling, and the concept of taking pictures of attacking ghosts is executed very naturally with the Gamepad. Graphically, the game looks mostly really good, although some parts look unpolished. The use of moody, atmospheric silence is the real triumph of the game, lending a spooky tone to the proceedings. The only thing I wish Nintendo would have done differently was not distribute this game as a digital only purchase. It would have been far more ideal to have a packaged release. Also, while the notion to censor sexual costumes is somewhat understandable, it's disappointing to fans who would prefer to see their imports from Japan uncut. Having said that, though, this is still one of the better horror games available on the WiiU (which may not be saying much, considering the woefully small amount of such games on the system). You might need to get a HDD to install the game, though, as it is a 16GB download. It's well worth checking out though.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 6, 2015 9:53 AM PST


Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust [Blu-ray]
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Andy Philpot
Price: $18.29
25 used & new from $13.89

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably superior to the original and gorgeously animated. A tad too loud, though., September 3, 2015
Based on a horror book by Japanese author Hideyuki Kikuchi and with character designs by FINAL FANTASY's Yoshitaka Amano, 1985's VAMPIRE HUNTER D was a low-budget, B-grade direct-to-video release was criticized by many for its cheap production values and simplistic story. Even so, it still managed to find an audience that was gradually garnering interest in Anime thanks to being exposed to edgier, more violent works than one would expect from the West, such as AKIRA, WICKED CITY, etc. Sixteen years later, a second film was made, helmed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the man behind the aforementioned WICKED CITY as well as the similarly popular NINJA SCROLL. It's also very loosely based on the third book Kikuchi has written, called "Demon DeathChase." Not having read that book in question, my review will not be comparing this movie to its source material, but in terms of how it stands as a film.

If you were among those who found the original VAMPIRE HUNTER D underwhelming, then this semi-sequel should serve as a better alternative. It's arguably superior to its predecessor in many respects. For instance, the animation is stunningly rendered and rich with gothic colors, shadows, and lights. The cheaper, cruder animation style of the 1985 OVA could never even hope to compare. Its storyline, too, is a step above the more simplistic, forgettable plot of the original. This time around, D is on the trail of Meier Link, a charismatic vampire who has apparently captured a lonely woman. But has she really been taken against her will? Further complicating matters are competition from the rough and ready Markus brothers, a suspicious, troubled bounty hunter named Leila, monsters, and ultimately, the ghost of the bloody countess Carmella.

The characters' motives in this tale are much more complex, and not the simplistic archetypes the first tale depicted as. D, in particular, gets a bit more depth; while his primary motive is to protect the innocent, it is implied that he harbors other emotions. Being a "half-breed" vampire/human offspring (awkwardly transliterated as "dunpeal" as opposed to "dhampir"), he is against the existence of his own kind, to the point that he does not wish to see another such offspring occur. It's also implied that greed is a bit of a motivation; he gouges the bounty price in order to accept the job, for instance. More intriguing is the dynamic between Meier and his "captive", Charlotte, which can be best alluded to as a "Romeo and Juliet" style romance. Meier, incidentally, despite his seemingly cold demeanor and feral nature, is not the major villain; he is simply a tragic figure who simply wants to live a peaceful life with his new love without being surrounded by hatred or bigotry. Which also brings the question over whether all vampires are evil incarnate or not. This brings an edge of ambiguity to what could have otherwise been just another chase/slasher movie. Charlotte is probably the least interesting character in the movie, but that's mainly because she is given very little to do. The Markus brothers get to have more screen time, and they are clearly portrayed as in it mostly for greed. Even so, one of them, the frail Grove, seems to possess a somewhat softer side. Leila is arguably the most interesting character in the movie; she starts off as antagonistic and aggressive, but as the movie progresses, we're given traces of her backstory and are permitted to see a softer side emerge. The change of heart she undergoes is intriguing to watch.

Kawajiri's past films such as NINJA SCROLL and WICKED CITY sometimes had a rather nasty, misogynistic vibe, particularly in their handling of otherwise competent female characters and were rather heavy on gore. BLOODLUST, thankfully, is free of any such offensive bits, making this arguably the director's most accessible work. Which isn't to say that this is a movie that children can sit through, on the contrary. This is still very much a violent movie, with plenty of battles involving stabbing, brief decapitations of zombies (bloodlessly), arrow showers, and of course the occasional blood spurts. Luckily, it's not overdone, although some of the monstrous creatures in the movie can come across as intimidating. Particularly intriguing are a trio of hybrid demons called "Barbarois." These include the jester-like Benge with a voice like Mark Hamill's Joker who can attack by sliding through the shadows of unsuspecting prey, Caroline, a witch whose threats include merging herself into spikes or camouflages with trees, and a werewolf named Mashira. Although brief, these three prove to be quite a formidable trio. There's also a brief scene involving an ancient crone riding a unicycle who is implied to be leery toward our hero, as well as a briefly tense confrontation in a stable. Although the primary antagonist, Carmilla, doesn't show up until the last reel and as such, comes across as a rather minor character, she is nonetheless a sneaky, manipulative villain.

The overall tone of the movie is one of genuine darkness and melancholy, but there are brief moments of humor which, depending on the viewer, could either break the mood or at least lighten the tension. Much of it comes from D's left hand, which occasionally shifts into a spooky looking face and proves to be a capable force to be reckoned with. Mostly, however, he's there to mostly badger his "master" for fighting against his instincts and provide laughs. These are supplied by Mike McShane, who brings a lot of personality and life to this bizarre character with pure smugness to boot. His last line in the movie is also the best: "You're not so bad after all. You just DRESS bad." While some folks may find the hand to be a jarring character, he does provide an amusing contrast to his often stoic counterpart.

It should also be mentioned that VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST, despite being animated by Japan's MadHouse, is also something of a Western co-production. The thunderously powerful music is provided by Marco d'Ambrosio, whose score is rendered by both a full orchestra and chorus and in the manner of a dramatic action-thriller. Nonetheless, it's a great accompaniment to the picture, especially the organ-powered, vocal-chanting cues during the climactic scenes. In another unusual move, the movie's primary language is English. That's right, a Japanese animated movie whose English language voice track might not be considered a dub at all. It was even released in Japan with Japanese subtitles! While opinions on the matter of voice acting may be subjective, I found this particular movie to have solidly good performances, easily superior to the laughable corny dreck of Streamline's 1992 dub of the original VHD. This English language cast is helmed by Jack Fletcher, who has provided great dubs for titles such as PRINCESS MONONOKE, CASTLE IN THE SKY, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, and TENCHI MUYO, as well as FINAL FANTASY X. Andrew Philpot brings a quiet, understated tone to the title character which is eerily fitting, while not holding back on some of the more action-packed scenes. McShane, as mentioned, is hilarious as his left hand. But the best performance by far is John Rafter Lee as Meier Link; with a rich voice that oozes with charm and charisma, he is simultaneously chilling and sympathetic as this character. Pamela Seagall has a few stiff moments as Leila, but otherwise is solid, and Julia Fletcher is a suitably sultry, villainous Carmilla. All in all, I have nothing bad to say about this cast, although it should be noted that their performances are still very much "post-synching" as opposed to pre-lay, so there are some occasional stilted lines. For the most part, though, the script flows fairly well. (For purists who would rather hear this movie in Japanese, there IS a Japanese language track in existence; disappointingly, though, it's only available on import DVDs from Japan; neither Urban Vision nor Discotek were able to get the rights to it.)

If there is any complaint to be made against VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST, it might be that the sound mix is unbalanced. The voices are mixed a bit too low in the center channel, while the music and sound effects come across as blastingly loud, to the point where the viewer is required to turn up the volume on and off at the more quieter moments. Perhaps a bit more consistency in the sound levels would have been welcomed, but it is a bit of a problem regardless.

All in all, however, VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST has aged gracefully well and works as a much more complicated and interesting vampire story than the original did. Originally released on DVD by Urban Vision, the film has since fallen out of print, but it was reissued on BluRay by Discotek Media this year, shortly on the heels of Sentai's remastering of the original. For anyone fearing that there are voice changes to this movie, fear not; the English track is unaltered here. As mentioned, though, purists might express disappointment at the lack of a Japanese language track. The bonus features are more or less the same from the first DVD, so you aren't missing much. The video quality, however, hasn't been quite been given the same care as the original. Certain scenes look great and overall the transfer is free of any macro blocking or pixellation, but the picture is also very grainy in places and obviously hasn't been cleaned. It still looks great overall, but it is a bit of a disappointment when the original VHD received such a superb transfer.

Even so, I still highly recommend this movie; even if you're not a fan of the original, chances are you won't be disappointed with this.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2015 4:41 PM PDT


Pete's Dragon
Pete's Dragon
DVD
Price: $3.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only marginally enjoyable and little else., August 8, 2015
This review is from: Pete's Dragon (Amazon Video)
Without their beloved founder, the Walt Disney Studios fell into some rough times during the 1970's. Much of their output was going downhill and lacking the magic touch that made them so memorable, and a lot of promising projects ended up misfiring. The studio did have a few successes during this era, though, but even then, such hits were a double-edged sword. One of these was 1977's PETE'S DRAGON, which came at a time when the demographic for family films was not resonating with the kind that Disney was putting out. George Lucas's STAR WARS had conquered both the box office and imaginations of moviegoers alike, so much so that this movie as well as Disney's other release that year, THE RESCUERS, paled in the light of the competition.

PETE'S DRAGON was never really meant to be the live-action/animated musical hybrid it ended up becoming. Originally, it was supposed to be a psychological drama in which the title character is a figment of an abused orphan's imagination. It would have been an edgier story that would have appealed to then Disney animator Don Bluth, who ended up with the job of animating the title character (more on that later). But somehow it got decided that this movie COULD work as another MARY POPPINS. It even received a similar marketing campaign and premiered at Radio City Music Hall. Unfortunately, as with BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, PETE'S DRAGON, while commercially successful, had nowhere near the same impact as its far superior "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" predecessor achieved.

The film opens in Maine where we see a runaway orphan named Pete (Sean Marhsall), escaping from his mean adoptive family, the Gogans (their leader portrayed to shrill extremes by the late Shelley Winters). His only companion is Elliot (voice of Charlie Callas), an animated (by Bluth) emerald skinned dragon who can reappear and disappear at will. The pair end up at Passamaquoddy, where Pete gets into trouble with the townsfolk as a result of his dragon friend's clumsiness. Eventually he finds a home in a lighthouse kept by the tipsy, alcoholic Lampy (the late Mickey Rooney) and his daughter, Nora (Helen Reddy), while Elliot is relocated to a nearby cave. Unfortunately, the Gogans are still on the hunt for Pete and will stop at nothing to get him back. Matters become further complicated when a fraudulent "medicine man" referring to himself as Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) and his sidekick Hoagy (the late Red Buttons), appears in town, learns about the dragon's existence and sets up a trap to capture the beast for exploitation, using Pete as bait. When an approaching ship on the harbor gets caught in a storm which takes out the lighthouse wick, it's up to Elliot to save the day.

The major selling points of PETE'S DRAGON is the animated title character. Perhaps because he's animated, Elliot comes across as much more interesting and engaging than most of the human cast. He's genially sweet, behaves like a puppy dog, possesses a childlike innocence and playful nature. Communicating only with a series of grunts and gibberish talk, he is endearing from the start, in major part because of the chemistry he shares with Marshall. It helps that Marshall actually believes that the dragon is actually there since he was animated in post-production. Although Bluth expressed dissatisfaction with working on the picture, his work here is commendable, as he does succeed in breathing fire to a character who blends in well with the rest of the atmosphere. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when a drunken Rooney and superstitious Buttons venture into his cave, describing a horrible monster of sorts, and an unsuspecting Elliot, tiptoes along with them and gets terrified of his own shadow! Another sweet moment is when he plucks a tear from Marshall and holds it up to his eye. Not only is this a great technical achievement, it exudes genuine heart.

Technically, the movie cannot be faulted for its effects. Aside from Bluth's animation, the movie generally succeeds in its technical wizardry of giving the illusion of an invisible dragon treading across town, making footprints in wet cement, knocking over a fence, colliding with strangers, and whooshing underwater like a torpedo to demolish an approaching boat of opposing bullies. The scenes where he picks up Pete and rocks him around during a musical number are also well executed; never once does the viewer spot anything in the way of visible wires that would destroy the illusion. Most impressive is a climactic showdown at a warehouse where Elliot's would-be-captors drop their nets on the dragon and try to bound him. The dragon's figure is flawlessly rendered in the tangle of nets, even when we don't see him, to the point that where he's turning around, we genuinely believe that he is there.

Despite all this, however, something is missing from PETE'S DRAGON. Although the scenes between Elliot and Pete are memorable, the storyline, as mentioned, could have used more interesting, fully fleshed out characters. The villains are one-dimensional, and a potentially neutral character like a harsh schoolteacher is too nasty to be believable, especially in the unsympathetic manner she runs her class and strikes students unfairly for punishments they don't deserve. Lampy serves more as comic relief with only a few moments where he's allowed to exude other warmer emotions, and Nora is too bland a character to truly register with audiences.

The primary problem with PETE'S DRAGON is that it drags at an unnecessarily overlong two hours. Its storyline lacks depth and emotional sophistication to justify its length, with many scenes coming across as padding more than anything else. In particular, the subplot involving Terminus feels unnecessary, and frankly, is not very interesting, especially since his character little more than just a moustache-twirling buffoon. A similarly pointless subplot involve Nora's long lost boyfriend Paul, which, if not for the aforementioned lighthouse climax, otherwise feels superflous.

The songs by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, although pleasant for the most part, are also guilty of stalling the momentum and add very little to the movie. The only songs that resonate are a gentle duet between Pete and Nora "It's Not Easy" as well as Reddy's "Candle on the Water", which was lucky to get an Oscar nomination. "Brazzle Dazzle Day," although catchy, feels both irrelevant to the movie and out of place with the narrative. The remainder of the songs, which include the Gogans' intolerably obnoxious "Happiest Home in These Hills", Terminus and Hogey's "Every Little Piece" are not particularly memorable, or frankly, even engaging. I think PETE'S DRAGON would have worked better if it was portrayed as its initial concept, because the end results of making this a musical feel tacked on instead of genuine, unlike MARY POPPINS.

Another fault is that too much of the movie is played primarily for shrill comedy. Part of this is down to a majority of the acting, which, for the most part, borders on ridiculous hamminess to the point it of caricature. This is especially true of Winters, Dale, and Buttons spend so much time chewing so much scenery that their roles never come across as genuinely scary or menacing. They're just too goofy to be believable baddies. Rooney is genuinely likable when he is down-to-earth and warm in scenes such as where he is teaching Pete to paint and in a few moments of intimate discussion with Nora. Otherwise he is required to do little more than overact, which unfortunately is the majority of his screen time. Only young Marshall's sincerely believable turn as Pete rings true, in part because of his scenes with Elliot, but also because he plays it mostly straight for the most part. Reddy is pleasant enough as Nora and she at least brings some warmth, but her specialty is in singing, not acting (although her actual performance isn't as bad as declared).

PETE'S DRAGON is by no means a bad movie. It's pleasant enough for the most part and has its share of charming moments. Kids will certainly enjoy it, particularly ones who don't demand sophistication when it comes to family movies. Sadly though, it's no Disney classic.


Wicked City
Wicked City
DVD ~ Gregory Snegoff
Offered by SpReAdLoVe
Price: $47.04
15 used & new from $6.93

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Wicked" in all the wrong ways., July 31, 2015
This review is from: Wicked City (DVD)
Yoshiaki Kawajiri's WICKED CITY, based on a similarly titled book by Hideyuki Kikuchi (who also wrote VAMPIRE HUNTER D) has its share of devoted fans who consider this a classic in the halls of Anime, but I stand firmly behind this review.

This is a disgustingly vulgar, reprehensibly distasteful, and needlessly gory animated mess with little in the way of genuine appeal. Despite a promising start and a potentially interesting plot, WICKED CITY goes all out on shock value at its most repulsive level -- to the point that whatever virtues it may have are all but forgotten. It's misogynistic as well, with extensive scenes involving a female character being raped (three times!), and other two femme fatales who use their sexuality as a weapon to deceive and/or kill unsuspecting prey. As mentioned, it's also quite violent, with plenty of moments involving blood splattering, again for no specific reason other than violence for the hell of it. Shock value for shock value's sake does not a good film make, animated or otherwise.

Too bad, because WICKED CITY does have a few moments of redeeming qualities, although as mentioned, they aren't enough to elevate my star rating.

The film's opening half hour is arguably the best; sans again another sequence that will make one queasy. The sequence in question involves Taki Renzabur', a salesman by day, spy by night, who lands a "date" of some sort with a pretty girl at a bar after winning a bet. She takes him to her home, and, after an extensive sexual intercourse session, she transforms into some sort of monster with spidery legs. Her VAGINA, of all things, even transforms into a fearsome maw with sharp teeth! Taki survives the encounter, and his boss reminds him to "be a little more sexually cautious from now on." Shocking and revolting as that opening scene is, it is practically nothing compared to the other graphic bits that happen throughout this seemingly never-ending 80-minute "thriller."

Following that unpleasant episode, we learn that Taki is a spy for some sort of "Black Guard", which apparently helps keep tensions between humanity and the "Black World" (in other words, monsters and ghouls) in check. He is assigned to protect an ancient (200 years old) midget named Giuseppe Mayart who has come to sign a peace treaty that will ensure public safety. Taki also meets Makie, a beautiful but skilled Black World woman who becomes his partner and something much more besides. Their mission to keep Mayart safe from attacking "Radicals" who want to sabotage their efforts proves to be anything but easy. Mayart, incidentally, is a most unpleasant character. He's a repulsively lecherous, crude, and generally foul-tempered pain in the butt who arguably proves to be more troublesome than one would expect. He refuses to stay put when his guardians take him to a hotel for his own good, goes off gallivanting to a "soapland" where he gets into trouble with a demon posing as a slut, and acts contemptuously toward the people who are in his best interests.

At this point, the film devolves into a back and forth series of violent confrontations involving nasty, nightmarish creatures, mostly in the form of rapists and seductive temptresses. The most sickening of these creatures isn't even the last obstacle our heroes have to encounter. Midway through the film, Makie and Taki are attacked by some sort of "parasite" no bigger than a tongue (I kid you not) which burrows its way into the former and bursts from her stomach, transforming into a phallic tentacle which takes the unfortunate girl captive and begins to sexually assault her. As if that isn't enough to make one uneasy about seeing more, we are also treated to two other such scenes, both of which involve Makie being violated, and our hero coming to save her. And so on and on it goes, to the point where it becomes tiresome.

If this is the sort of stuff viewers of Japanese animation demand, then WICKED CITY certainly delivers, but I found it to be very off-putting and too overdone. Part of this may be because I am of the standard that works involving violence and sexual assaults should present the material in question if the plot commands for it, or at the very least doesn't do so gratuitously. Satoshi Kon's far more interesting and arguably more terrifying PERFECT BLUE found the right balance in its effort to tell a "break the innocent" sort of story in which the protagonists is subjected to such atrocities and feels rightfully terrified because of it. Here, however, the unpleasant bits are thrown at the viewer in non-stop fashion that whatever story it tries to convey ultimately becomes forgotten. That, to me, is poor filmmaking, and it's a shame that Kawajiri's efforts are wasted on such a wretched work.

To Kawajiri's credit, however, WICKED CITY does sport an appropriately gothic, smoky atmosphere. The animation, although at times limited, is smooth and legitimately frightening as opposed to being cheap and nasty. Produced by the folks at MadHouse, who are legitimately known for lavishly animated and often times disturbing series, the monsters are imaginatively drawn and while the transformations may again rub viewers the wrong way, they are at the very least convincingly depicted without looking hokey. On that level, WICKED CITY does at least excel. Kawajiri also treats the picture like a live-action movie, and it shows from the skillfully edited and choreographed action bits. It's almost enough to make the viewer forget that they're watching an animated feature.

The film, interestingly, received two different dubs around its release. The version most American viewers are familiar with are done by Streamline Pictures, while international audiences had to endure a somewhat censored cut by Manga UK. Neither is a particularly outstanding effort, but of the two, the Streamline dub, surprisingly, is more effective, which is not something I usually say when it comes to their output. Their dubs have often been hit and miss, with most of their efforts (with the exception of Fox's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO) being in truly dreary territory. This is actually one of their better ones, with appropriately cast voices and smooth-sounding dialogue. Greg Snegoff gives Taki a very natural, tough-guy persona to match his personality, while Gaye Kruger, Mike Reynolds, and the late Jeff Winkless all excel. The Manga UK dub, on the other hand, is a seriously awful, laughable, choppy, stilted embarrassment with both bad acting as well as phony (and out of place) accents. Save for some characters like Makie and Taki's boss, everyone else is miscast. The dialogue adaptation is also needlessly profane, with smatterings of f-words every fifteen seconds as well as lines that come across as either rushed or so bad they're funny such as "Don't ever think you can win this battle, you pathetic ANIMAAAAAAAAL!" Not having seen the Japanese version, I can't say how either version compares, but if it's English you want to hear this movie in, the Streamline version is the less cringeworthy one.

Discotek Media has recently rescued WICKED CITY from the morgue of oblivion and will be including both dubs in their rerelease, with superior video quality to boot. Considering the company's track record, fans will surely be pleased. I, on the other hand, absolutely detest this film and I can not recommend it to anyone who is faint at heart or even for pleasurable entertainment. Or for ANY reason. So... take my review with a grain of salt.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 12, 2015 11:27 PM PST


Vampire Hunter D [Blu-ray]
Vampire Hunter D [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Artist Not Provided
Price: $17.99
23 used & new from $11.99

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fan favorite given a fresh new coat of paint… er, blood., July 28, 2015
VAMPIRE HUNTER D has always been a cult favorite of many Anime fans dating all the way back to what historians would call the "dark days of Anime". Back then, Anime had limited exposure to American audiences, aside from the occasional showing of children's cartoons often mangled and edited. But with the release of Katsuhiro Otomo's controversially violent but nonetheless brilliant AKIRA, an interest in edgy, darkly animated, gritty features from the Land of the Rising Sun was ignited, and so it followed with several titles imported. This low-budget animated direct-to-video feature from 1985 was one of them. Based on a book by renowned Japanese Horror author Hideyuki Kikuchi sporting smoky-hazed illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano (who would later gain cult status for his work on the classic FINAL FANTASY series and later, Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman"), VAMPIRE HUNTER D aimed to be an edgy thriller, a horror movie, and even a love story all rolled in one. That said, critics were not unanimously ecstatic. Reviews were mixed, with most criticisms centered on the somewhat stilted animation or sometimes inconsistent characters. To this day, VAMPIRE HUNTER D has its share of detractors. But it also has its share of devoted fans, many of who had grown up in the West with a dubbed version produced by the late Carl Macek and his company, Streamline Pictures.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where vampires and mutants have overrun a human world, VAMPIRE HUNTER D begins on a dark night with a deftly choreographed action scene. Here we see Doris Lang, a courageous werewolf hunter's daughter stalking her gardens in pursuit of a T-Rex like monster with sharp teeth and scarlet eyes. Chasing it into the forest on horseback, Doris finds herself face to face with an even more imposing threat -- a hulking, shadowy vampire known as Count Magnus Lee. Naturally, the bloodthirsty aristocrat takes a drink from our heroine's jugular vein. The following day, Doris encounters a lone figure on a cyborg horse -- a mysterious cloaked stranger called "D." Desperately, she hires him. The rest of the movie involves D doing everything in his power to slay the evil count to save Doris from an eternal life as a walking undead. Meanwhile, Doris must protect her impulsive little brother, Dan, and fend off the advances of an unwelcome suitor, the arrogant mayor's son Greco. Matters are further complicated when D also has to deal with L'armica, Count Lee's jealous daughter, and the ambitious Rei Ginsei, a deadly noble wanna-be who will do anything to earn his master's favor. During all this, Doris falls madly in love with D -- but it turns out that her rescuer (surprise) is half-vampire himself. (This explains why his left hand has a creepy-looking face that can talk to its master or even suck up nasty creatures.)

Despite its promise of multi-threads, VAMPIRE HUNTER D turns out to be a much more simplistic story in execution, even bordering on predictable. Somehow the viewer knows that the lead character is going to triumph in the end in spite of the obstacles he faces in his quest. More problematic to viewers expecting flashy visuals might be the animation. As mentioned, this is a low-budget animated feature, resulting with a cel count that borders on choppiness in places. As such, the dramatic style of Amano's character illustrations loses a lot in the transition to screen. Furthermore, the backgrounds, although dark and appropriately imaginative, lack detail at times. As such, the film can seem visually dated to many viewers. Likewise, the soundtrack shares similar qualities. Although the sound effects are appropriately haunting and scary, at times they do sound cheesy, particularly the synthesizer sound effects when Count Lee sends rays from his eyes. The musical score from TM Network's Tetsuya Komuro is fittingly epic and sometimes spooky, although it is obviously driven by synth instruments from the '80s.

Faults aside, VAMPIRE HUNTER D still delivers some entertainment value for viewers willing to overlook such technical shortcomings. In spite of its aforementioned predictability (some might argue this movie was tailor-made for Western audiences), VAMPIRE HUNTER D delves into some complex issues: D's inner struggle to resist his own instincts when Doris makes sexual advances on him and his inability to express his true compassion to others results from some very understandable emotions. It is also intriguing to discover that the villainous Count Lee's actions are motivated mostly by the desire for sport rather than malice, although he still does exude evil in every scene. The action and fight sequences are also skillfully choreographed in the style of a samurai-slasher.

It's also important to note that this movie has its share of graphic violence--there are quite a bit of gory swordfights, resulting with stabbing, amputating, or slicing in half. There is also one particularly disgusting moment toward the end where a character's head explodes, exposing his insides. (A character's face is also briefly stabbed in the eye in the subsequent scene.) While all this may sound pretty extreme for squeamish viewers, the cheap production values actually make the violence less gruesome and more campy, making it easier to sit through than most bloodfests. (Even so, both Sentai's release and Streamline's version are guilty of censor in one instance; a climactic character's graphic death at the end is interspersed by a flashing red cut which feels out of place and jarring.) There are also a few very inoffensive nude scenes. This is a movie best appreciated by an adult audience; parents should think twice before considering showing this to children.

Perhaps it's partially because of this graphic nature that VAMPIRE HUNTER D succeeded in crossover success from its native country of Japan to the West. Dubbed in 1992, Streamline Pictures' release has been a nostalgic favorite for old school Anime fans to this day. Having said that, critics and many fans of the time still staked it with scathing reviews. I at one time appreciated this older dub, but over the years I have grown less and less fond of it. I'm not sure what it was that turned me off from it over the years, but then I figured it out: it sounds dreadfully stiff and stilted. In all fairness, Michael McConnohie, Barbara Goodson, Jeff Winkless, Lara Cody, and Kirk Thornton are all fine voice actors. The problem is that they were saddled into a production that veered on pure cheese and a lot of choppy-sounding dialogue ranging from mundane to laughable. There were also instances when Macek did a bit of tampering with the music, extending Komuro's score longer than usual sometimes sounding out of place with the visuals. Most infamously, the opening scene in which Doris is confronted by the Count has a rather corny "permit me to introduce" myself monologue which not only diluted the mood, it gave a very laughable quality that sadly would be exacerbated by phony Transylvanian accents and even a groan worthy love confession ripped off from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Doris: I love you. D: I know.) The sound quality was quite bad, too, although that may be on the fault of the equipment used at the time, so I wouldn't dock the dub against it. This same dub was retained on Urban Vision's DVD release, which likewise used Streamline's cut of the film (which aside from the aforementioned censor, was otherwise uncut), resulting in a lot of heavy over saturation and muddy images.

Now, thirty years after its debut in 1985, Sentai Filmworks has brought this title back from the dead and given it a fresh new coat of paint… er, fresh blood. (Get it?) Remastered from the original film elements, this movie has never looked better. The colors literally spring to life off the screen and sequences compromised by an overuse of darkness are brighter. It really does feel like a totally new movie in and of itself. The only drawback of the transfer is the occasional sight of speckles on the print (mostly dust particles accumulated on the cel before the camera photographed it), but otherwise, the video quality is amazing with a capital "A."

In what may be a controversial move to fans of the Streamline dub, Sentai Filmworks has opted not to include that version on its BD release, but instead provide a brand new version. This will likely be a point of contention, as a lot of Streamline titles which received new dubs (AKIRA, CASTLE IN THE SKY, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, NADIA--THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER, CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, GETTER ROBO, 3x3 EYES) have often been harshly maligned by old school fans, even though some might argue in the cases of some of those films, these newer versions were sorely needed, as a lot of these older dubs hadn't aged well at all.

I do have a couple of minor issues regarding Sentai's newer dub, but unlike the Streamline version, this revamp, headed by Matt Greenfield of ADV fame, does a very commendable job of bringing the movie closer to its more serious intent, stripping it of much of the unintentional humor. The script is a fresh new translation of the original Japanese and sounds much better written and more natural, giving a more "adult" vibe. As far as the voices are concerned, the weakest voice of the dub is the same character that I had similar issues with in the Streamline version: that of Dan, Doris' little brother. In all fairness, Shannon Emerick does bring a bit more spunk to the role, but her voice, like her older dub counterpart, still strikes me as unconvincing for a little boy (at least she's not as distractingly feminine, though, thank goodness!). Otherwise, the rest of the cast is appropriate and well-fitting for the most part. I will always prefer Andrew Philpot and Mike McShane as D and his chatty left hand from Yoshiaki Kawajiri's later semi-sequel VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST; however, John Gremillion's performance as the title character is still a big improvement over that of McConnohie from the original, sounding far less cheesy and more natural throughout. As D's left hand, Andy McAvin, who also plays Rei Ginsei, is also thankfully less nasally than his Streamline counterpart, and even gets the best line: "This guy is quite a HAND-ful." Luci Christian also sounds much more convincing and puts a lot more emotion into her role as Doris, making her a sympathetic character and her dialogue is thankfully free of any Kate Capshaw-isms. However, it's David Wald who really steals the show; as Count Magnus Lee, Wald has a smooth, regal-sounding baritone who sounds somewhat similar to Keith David. He's also very charismatic and dripping with pure evil; a HUGE improvement over Jeff Winkless' laughably stilted turn in the Streamline dub (the fake sound vocal effects not even helping). Surprisingly, both he and his daughter, L'armica (Brittany Karbowski) are both given upper-class accents as opposed to the Transylvanian ones in the older one; frankly, though, I think it's all the better for it. It's a bit of a surprise that the people of Doris' village, including Greco, are given Southern accents until one remembers that this is supposed to be a "Western" vampire. It takes some getting used to, particularly in the case of Jay Hickman's drawling Greco, but having said that the actor does provide a bit of a slightly humorous touch to the role, giving him more character than Steve Bulen's too wispy-sounding and not forceful enough turn. The sound mix also sounds really good; not only are the voices better recorded, the music and sound effects also much more crisper than the Streamline version -- even mixed to 5.1, on the DVD it still sounded very muddy. As mentioned, Streamline's dub was not well received by the Anime community; time will tell if Sentai's newer dub gets better recognition (although Streamline loyalists will find it jarring either way), but as far as I'm concerned, this is a huge improvement over the original. (And yes, purists, the Japanese version IS still on the Blu Ray, complete with subtitles -- and for the first time, the ending song "Your Song" is translated!)

The only slight negative about Sentai's otherwise stunning BluRay is that there aren't enough extras. Urban Vision's DVD has the upper hand when it comes to that; aside from the Japanese trailer (the only thing from that release which is still retained here), there was also a "making of" featurette featuring director Toyoo Ashida and members of the original Japanese cast recording their roles. That is sorely missed, as is a video game preview and a gallery from Amano. If you still have your Urban Vision DVDs, you might wanna hold onto them just for that.

On the whole, though, Sentai deserves a shootout for their reworking of this fan favorite. Not only does it look amazing, it sounds better than ever. More importantly, it gives what some might consider a lesser animated feature new life. I still maintain that Kawajiri's VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST is the superior version of this tale -- much more complex and ambiguous -- but having said that I recommend this newer edition of the original. It truly prowls the night.


Xenoblade Original Soundtrack
Xenoblade Original Soundtrack
Offered by MEGA Media
Price: $38.21
186 used & new from $26.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behold the musical power of the Monado., May 24, 2015
Monolith Soft's epic, groundbreaking JRPG XENOBLADE is blessed with an equally outstanding soundtrack, contributed by two veterans and some newcomers. Comprised of 91 tracks over four discs, the creative forces involved have spared no expense in providing this score all the depth, richness, and texture that fans nowadays demand of such ambitious projects.

The hauntingly gorgeous title track which opens the score, penned by KINGDOM HEARTS veteran Yoko Shimomura, provides an auspicious tone to what promises to be a grand adventure. (Perhaps coincidentally, the song will remind many of "Dearly Beloved" from KINGDOM HEARTS.) Highlighted by a wondrous-sounding piano motif and a violin solo, this massively rendered central theme (which also doubles as a love theme for protagonists Shulk and Fiora) milks every second of its nearly four-minute running time with dynamic range and with inspiring passion. This and Shimomura's other compositions only makes up about twelve percent of the soundtrack, but even so, they showcase the composer at her best. "Hometown" in particular is a standout, with its gentle background guitar and subdued tapping percussion providing a welcome contrast to the more bombastic "prologue" tracks which follow the main theme.

The real attention-grabber of the score is how each area is provided with a "daytime" and "nighttime" version of its chosen motif. This is noticeable beginning with "Hometown / Night", which cleverly reprises the theme heard in its predecessor at a slower tempo and with reduced orchestration. Following this approach for all the areas has a potential danger for tediousness, but XENOBLADE steers around this problem by providing just enough variation to make the two arrangements of each stage stand out. "Colony 9", to give another example, has a thumping, percussive tempo in its daytime version, while its nighttime version isn't just a slower reprise, but is transposed by several octaves and performed in a style that recalls Hiroki Kikuta's guitar work for SECRET OF MANA.

The other famous name in the soundtrack is Yasunori Mitsuda, whose soundtracks for CHRONO TRIGGER and XENOGEARS remain classics to this day. Here he contributes to one of the highlights of the soundtrack, the ending song "Beyond the Sky." Sarah Lim's soft, lyrical voice beautifully compliments the pop-style orchestration, rendering the sometimes awkward-sounding lyrics into something truly engaging. The piano-guitar-snare accompaniment is icing on the cake.

As great as Shimomura and Mitsuda's efforts are, the compositions by Manami Kubota and ACE+ (Tomori Kudo, Chiko Yamanaka, and Kenji Hiramatsu), which make up the bulk of the soundtrack, are often the ones that really stick with you. Much of the credit for the area songs goes to these guys. With themes ranging from rousing ("Gaur Plain", "To The Final Battle"), to majestically grand ("Alcamoth"), to soft and soothing ("Valak Mountain", "Agni Ratha", "Eryth Sea"), to primitive ("Makna Woods" and "Frontier Village"), the spectrum is impressive, and even the interlude songs are no less creative.

The battle themes boast similar variety and style. With aggressive energy and a gritty edge, ACE+ tracks like "You Will Know Our Names", "Searching Glance", "Crisis", "Pursuit of the Enemy", and "Into the World of Zanza" all succeed in conveying danger, determination, and dread. Other tracks like "Engage the Enemy" and "Tragic Decision" have a more melancholy feel, while later bits like "Mechanical Rhythm" and "Irregular Bound" have wild electric guitar solos that sometimes border on dissonance but are fitting nonetheless. Kubota, while mostly responsible for event/cinema tracks and a few stages, gets her chance to display an aggressive edge with her two battle tracks, delivering a chanting chorus and throbbing electric guitar for "Zanza", and the more symphonic but no less powerful "God-Slaying Sword".

While listeners of game soundtracks may say that the "event" tracks are not generally the standouts of a JRPG score, XENOBLADE strives to break that stereotype. One standout in particular is the thunderous "Awakening of Bionis" - with its choral chanting and organ-driven second half, this track is attention-grabbing and effective. Only in character themes is XENOBLADE deficient, in number at least. Aside from the aforementioned "Shulk and Fiora", there is "Riki the Legendary Heropon", with its goofy-sounding melody and intentionally quirky instrumentation, and a dark, moody theme for Egil, which starts with grumbling bass instruments before delving into a sort of minimalistic style. It's one of the least engaging themes, but hardly a detriment.

All in all, the praise heaped among XENOBLADE's score is well-deserved. It's hard exactly to say where in the ranks of great achievements in game music that XENOBLADE stands, but it's easily up there. It's also a rarity to find a soundtrack album released for any Nintendo-published game, aside from the occasional "exclusive" from Club Nintendo, so it's pleasing to see XENOBLADE receive the full treatment. With its mixture of young and old providing a breath of fresh air throughout, XENOBLADE ranks not only as one of the best scores of 2010, but as a new contender among the best game soundtracks ever made.


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