February 5, 2007
The Amazing Screw-On Head (DVD)
Where the animated version of Hellboy benefited by not using the original aesthetic of comic creator Mike Mignola, with a well thought-out, equally compelling design, the pilot episode for The Amazing Screw-On Head keeps Mignola's angular, shadowed look to good effect. While the animation is fairly good—not great, the smaller budget is apparent—the timing and story will keep you watching. Fans of the original comic will enjoy it, but some of the concessions to a new medium will be apparent. The voice acting keeps the entire show together, and it's pleasing that while the famous typically live-action actors get the billing, their work stands up with the trained voice actors and cannot be written off as an attempt at stunt casting. —Tamu Townsend

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (DVD)
Cinderella III: A Twist in Time is the latest direct-to-DVD sequel from the Walt Disney studio. It follows 2002's Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and the original Disney film, 1950's Cinderella. While I have not been a fan of Disney's sequels to its classic film roster, I will admit that this particular film was a pleasant surprise. —Noell Wolfgram Evans
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Escaflowne: The Movie (Anime Movie Classics) (DVD)
One of the nice things about the better anime productions is that they're not afraid to take chances, even at the risk of displeasing fans. This is exactly what Escaflowne: The Movie did. Most of the familiar characters are there, but with a twist. The overall tone is grimmer than the TV series: Upbeat Hitomi is now a depressed schoolgirl with no psychic abilities, Van is more aggressive and violent, the redesigned Escaflowne itself now gets its energy from the blood of its pilot (much like a semi-mechanical vampire). The production values are still top-notch, and some will prefer the new character designs by Nobuteru Yuki. The soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is also another high point of the film. —René Walling

Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (Anime Movie Classics) (DVD)
This three-episode OVA is a great watch for a Gundam fan, because it provides viewers with the one thing that is irresistible to any good-natured otaku: backstory. There are many things to like about Endless Waltz—new villains, new mecha, old rivalries—but the opportunity to learn of the backstory of the five lead Gundam pilots is probably the sweetest of them all. —Aaron H. Bynum
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Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Anime Movie Classics) (DVD)
Jin-Roh, haunted equally by Japanese post-WWII social history largely unfamiliar to most Westerners and by the fairy-tale images of wolves twisted into a grisly variation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, may be the most dazzlingly noir anime ever made, if such melancholia can be considered dazzling. The film, by taking its dual themes of loss and despair very seriously, achieves a gut-wrenching emotional depth. —Amy Harlib
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The Last Unicorn, The: 25th Anniversary Edition (DVD)
The Last Unicorn has been a cult favorite among fantasy lovers since the publication of Peter S. Beagle's novel in 1968. The animated version released in 1982 spawned new generations of fans. Although it is an American film, Rankin-Bass contracted all their animation to Japanese companies (going all the way back to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which was done in a warehouse on the outskirts of Tokyo). The Last Unicorn was done by a Japanese contract studio called Topcraft whose other claim to fame was that right after The Last Unicorn, they were hired by Tokuma Publishing to animate the film Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind under Hayao Miyazaki. (Topcraft disbanded afterward and most of the staff joined the newly formed Studio Ghibli to work on Miyazaki's next film, Castle in the Sky: Laputa, so I have always considered The Last Unicorn to be a "proto-Ghibli" film.)

Although a cult success in the US, The Last Unicorn became a mainstream hit in Germany where its annual showings on TV became a tradition much like the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz used to be in the US. Sadly, all the video releases in the US (both videotape and DVD) have been cropped and based an inferior print. Only the German Region 2 PAL DVD release was in the original widescreen format using a restored print. Now the 25th anniversary release of the film on DVD in America finally allows us to see the movie in its full glory for the first time since it played in theaters. In addition to the restored film the DVD also has a "making of" documentary including interviews with Peter S. Beagle, who wrote the screenplay based on his own novel.

But that brings up the one lingering controversy about the film. Despite the million copies of the film sold on home video since the mid-80s, Beagle has never been paid any of the royalties he was contractually owed. Read more here about the controversy and find out how buying the DVD through the link above helps Beagle. —Marc Hairston

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles (DVD)
There are many things that can be said about Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles: here are three. First, Louie Nichols' character still has some of the best lines whenever he is in a scene. Second, the battle scenes were compelling in the earlier incarnations of the Robotech series, but now they are entirely lacklustre. The poor 2D/3D integration makes these scenes disjointed and cold. It is a great example of things not being better simply because they are CG.

And the most frustrating, final point: Blame it on my old age, but I simply do not remember that many characters with double-D cups and scenes with gratuitous crotch shots in the earlier series. We know young men like stories in space, and they like pretty women, too, but there are plenty of female viewers who will be turned off. If this is the way the producers aim to rope in a new generation of viewers, I seriously hope it fails, so that fewer creators use the same model, pointing to this series as a precedent. If they improve the story, encouraging viewers to look in the Robotech back catalogue, I sincerely hope they meet their goals. —Tamu Townsend

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