DVD Review: RETURNER
by David Blackwell
RETURNER is a good sci-fi film with cool characters and some of the best computer Generated effects I have ever seen. The
story revolves around three characters: Milly (a time traveller from the 2084), Miyamoto (a skilled gunman and martial arts
expert, and Mizoguchi (a local crime lord who can dodge bullets and Miyamoto wants to kill). Milly has come back to 2002 to
prevent the Daggra (aliens) starting a war with the human race, and she tricks Miyamoto into helping her. A alien spaceship
has crashed and it is taken to the Center of Space Research, and Mizoguchi is told to retrive the alien spaceship and it's
pilot. The three characters collide as the race to alter the future is ticking down. Mizoguchi wants the spaceship for it's
powerful weapons while Milly wants to stop the war from starting (and Miyamoto wants to get the job done while having his
shot to kill Mizoguchi for kidnapping his best friend 15 years ago).
Mizoguchi is such a cool bad guy. At times, Mizoguchi seems aloof while he is a sociopath at other times. The plot may
not be original, but it is an entertaining movie. The action is one part The Matrix and one part John Woo.
The transfer is great on this DVD with good color range, but the only fault of the movie is the sound mix. The director
should havee fixed it before the movie was transferred to DVD. Sometimes, the music and sound effects try to drown out what
people are saying.
The movie is interesting to see in English sicne some of the words the characters say are changed, but I also recommend
that you watch it in the original Japanese (with English subtitles and some English in parts of the movie). I do wish the
subtitles didn't show up when someone is speaking English, but sometimes it helps in some scenes due to the sound mix. The
movie can be heard in English, Japanese, and French with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The language
tracks are in 5.1.
The disc was mastered in High Definition with the movie being presented in 1.85:1/ 16x9 anamorphic widescreen.
There are over 70 minutes of special features on the DVD. There are three featurettes and a production diary with optional
commentary from the director Takashi Yamamazaki and actress Anne Suzuki.
The three featurettes are Action Coordination, Art Direction, and Visual Effects- Before And After. Action Coordination
has a talk with the action director, and you get to see rehearsal of action scenes (used to help show the director what is
being planned for the action scenes) and behind-the-scenes video during production. Art direction has a talk with the Art
Director of the movie who usually does art direction for commericials (and Returner was his first film as Art Director) and
you see artwork of the sets and props.
The final featurette, Visual Effects- Before and After, shows comparsions of some effects shot before (with crude computer
animation in some shots) and the finished shot at the same time. Looking at the before and after shots has me convinced RETURNER
has went through tons of digital grading. Digital grading can change a scene from day to night, change the color of the skies,
and the colors of the movie. The featurettes are subtitled in english
The production diary is 54 minutes long. You see footage from the production during various days of the shoot at various
locations. The optional commentary (with English subtitles) by Yamazaki and Anne Suzuki does provide some information on the
production along with some production stories. You see some of the on-set effects work in the production diary, see how some
of the shots were done (including a wheeled dolly to get some of them), and here on the commentary how cool Mizoguchi is.
Also on the DVD are trailers for RETURNER, SO CLOSE, CYBORG 009, and COWBOY BEEBOP: THE MOVIE.
RETURNER is a movie you should check out on DVD because it is a good sci-fi movie from japan. It is a good way to spend
two hours instead of watching some of the bad movies that get made by Hollywood.
DVD Review: TOKYO JOE
by David Blackwell
TOKYO JOE is one of the movies Humphrey Bogart did for Columbia under his Santana Productions company. TOKYO JOE is about
Joe Barrett who returns to Japan after World War 2 to check out the night club he left behind to find out his wife Trina is
still alive. Joe is blackmailed by the Japanese criminal underground to fly three Japanese war criminals back to Japan or
his wife will be exposed for the propaganda she did for the Japense during WW2. The stakes are raised when Joe's seven year
old daughter is kidnapped.
The film print is good on the DVD in most places except for a few speckles and 4-5 shots in the second half where the film
print is in horrible condition (each instance is about 1-5 seconds). Columbia should have spent a little more money in improving
the problem areas in the print and to remove some of the speckles (like the last shot before th movie fades to The End. The
problems to the film print happen mostly when a scene is taking place at night or in the dark. The blacks are really dark
and deep on the DVD.
TOKYO JOE isn't one of Bogart's finest movies like THE BIG SLEEP, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE ENFORCER,A and others. The movie
is good to watch because you have a great performance from Humphrey Bogart. If you're a Humphrey bogart fan, buy the DVD.
If you're looking for a classic, TOKYO JOE isn't one. It is just an average movie that has a fine performance from a great
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