The PhilmGuy's DVD Review: Miyazaki Week & 'The Neverending Story'

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Mar. 2 2010, Published 6:19 a.m. ET

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The NeverEnding Story Blu-ray – This 1984 fantasy classic blooms to gorgeous life on Blu-ray, which lets you appreciate the outstanding special effects –not only for the era, because they stand up well today — in high definition. The story follows a bullied boy who reads a fantasy novel,about a world being consumed by oblivion, and discovers he can influence the characters with his own will. It’s trippy stuff, and well worth revisiting. Oddly, the disc has no special features.

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Alice – The peppy, cyberpunk-style SyFy miniseries stars promising up-and-comer Caterina Scorsone as a martial artist who gets sucked into a wonderland-style underworld presided over by a cruel overlord played by Kathy Bates. Things get silly, as old-fashioned archetypes are shoe-horned into modern conventions, but the drama never loses its steam. Alice is out on both Blu-ray and DVD, and both versions include commentary from Scorsone and writer/director Nick Willing.


ElvisKurt Russell plays the King in this sprawling, 150-minute 1979 TV movie, a warts-and-all look at Elvis Presley’s rise and fall. Director John Carpenter, who made this just after he made a name for himself with Halloween, handles the mythology well and along with Russell’s help makes the icon seem relatable. The DVD includes commentary as well as 1979 interviews with Carpenter and Russell.

Miyazaki Classics Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service are all landmark anime from the Japanese Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, that were licensed by Disney and dubbed in English. The movies come in two-disc special editions with live-action introductions, storyboards and interactive games based on the worlds of the films. Each two-disc set, sold separately, is a treasure, but it’s a shame Disney didn’t see fit to put the movies out on Blu-ray.

Ponyo – Miyazaki’s latest is a fresh take on The Little Mermaid myth, about a boy who develops a close, platonic love with a fish-girl who runs afoul of her domineering father and leaves her family to live as a human. The gorgeous hand-drawn animation pops in Blu-ray (the movie is also available on DVD) and gets a blowout special features treatment with several behind-the-scenes docs,

Phil Villarreal’s humorous money-saving book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, is available on Amazon.


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