Category Archives: Aug. 2012

The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under: Blu Ray Review

The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under on Blu Ray + DVD combo available on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Thirty-five years ago, Disney’s animation studios delivered an original tale of two mice risking their lives to save a kidnapped girl from the clutches of a cruel woman. Thirteen years after the success of The Rescuers, Disney delivered one of its first sequels to an animated film in The Rescuers Down Under. For The Rescuers three and a half decade anniversary, both films have been included in the Blu Ray + DVD combo release.

The Rescuers is such a hit simply because it veers away from what so many other films do—talk down to children. Instead, it delivers a darker story everyone can enjoy. Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart work magic together as the unlikely pair of mystery solving, lovable rodents.

In The Rescuers Down Under, the adventure is brought to the other side of the globe where Bernard and Bianca must stop a ruthless poacher in the Outback of Australia. All new characters and phenomenal animation make this sequel a fun ride. Story wise, it just falls short of the first film – But not by much.

This Blu Ray release looked far better than I thought it would on my 60” television and sounded surprisingly good as well. Included you’ll find a wide array of special features to enjoy: “Peoplitis” a deleted song, “Someone’s Waiting For You” Sing-A-Long, and The Making Of The Rescuers Down Under. On top of those, Disney has also included “The Three Blind Mouseketeers” – Silly Symphony Animated Short, and the best feature of all “Water Birds” Disney True Life Adventure. This last feature is a fun video about real birds in nature and how they differ from each other. A must watch for wildlife lovers!

Bottom Line: You and your children will have a blast delving into these timeless mysteries alongside two heroic mice and their companions.

Movie Grades: The Rescuers: A-/The Rescuers Down Under: B
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtimes: The Rescuers: 78 minutes/The Rescuers Down Under: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1


Pocahontas/Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World: Blu Ray Review

Pocahontas and Pocahontas II Blu Ray + DVD combo available August 21, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


It’s hard to watch a childhood favourite when you’re all grown up, only to realize it is not nearly as good as you once thought it was. This is exactly what I had to come to terms with when watching Pocahontas for its Blu Ray release 17 years after its theatrical release.

Disney has included a duo of Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World, both remastered in high definition for the Blu Ray release.

For the few of you who haven’t seen the first film, Pocahontas tells the story of the British traveling to North America in search of gold, only to fall into quarrels with the Native Indians they meet upon their arrival. A love affair begins when John Smith befriends Pocahontas and it is up to them to bring peace to the warring sides.

What I failed to notice when I was a child is how basically flawed the entire story is. Character motivations are highly contrived, while the endless campaign of poorly sung musical numbers becomes tired very quickly. The saving grace is the Academy Award winning Best Original Song “Colours of the Wind” brilliantly sung by Judy Kuhn.

In part 2, Pocahontas travels as a peace ambassador to England, only to discover an old foe attempting to sabotage her visit.

Oddly enough, the sequel delivered a more satisfying film than its predecessor. The humour is about the same, whereas the story and characters seem less contrived. Not a brilliant film by any stretch of the imagination, but descent enough for this adult to sit through.

For this Blu Ray + DVD combo pack, both films look better than they ever did before. The special features are not the most impressive set, but there are a few interesting ones to check out. The Audio Commentary and The Music Of Pocahontas really gives us insight into the making of the movie. The other features, while interesting, only serve as distant relatives to the feature film. They include Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story Of Hiawatha, “Little Hiawatha” Cartoon Short, Deleted Song: “If I Never Knew You”, and Deleted Scenes.

Bottom Line: Unless you’re a huge fan of the film or need it to complete your collection, you would be better off renting this Blu Ray release.

Movie Grades: Pocahontas: C-/Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World: C
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtimes: Pocahontas: 81 minutes/Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World: 73 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Chimpanzee: Blu Ray Review

Chimpanzee is available in stores on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyNature


As our genetic ancestors, chimpanzees give humans a glimpse into our extremely distant past. In DisneyNature’s documentary, Chimpanzee, we follow a group of chimps living in the forests of Africa as they try to keep their home safe from an invading clan of rival chimpanzees (Remind you of anyone you know?). Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this film is the story of baby Oscar and the unlikely relationship he forms with the alpha male of his group, Freddy.

This beautifully shot documentary delivers a powerful story of both spirit and family. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, as is the in-depth camera work the crew managed to achieve in order to bring us intimately close to this group of playful primates.

Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield managed to show the darker side of the animal’s lives, but successfully cut everything graphic and potentially disturbing out for those younger and ever so sensitive viewers. With the assistance of Tim Allen’s (Toy Story, The Santa Clause) playful narration, younger audience members will be thoroughly engaged in this astonishing world of survival.

DisneyNature has included a fantastic array of special features for the Blu Ray + DVD release. Every minute of the On Location: Making Of Chimpanzee featurette is a must watch. It chronicles the pain-staking efforts the crew went through to deliver this astonishing footage. Also included is “Rise” Music Video By McClain Sisters, Behind The Scenes Of “Rise”, See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzee, Disney’s Friends For Change, and Disney’s Conservation Legacy.

Bottom Line: Whether you live alone or have a large family, everyone will be captivated by this heartfelt documentary and its phenomenal cinematography.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Here are some fun activities for you to download and print for your little ones to enjoy:

CHIMPANZEE Activites

 


Monsieur Lazhar: Canadian filmmaking at its finest

Oscar nominated Monsieur Lazhar is available to own on August 14, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media


Canada has produced some of Hollywood’s finest actors over the last half century. Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s Oscar nominated film, Monsieur Lazhar, shows that we can produce high quality films as well.

After suffering a tragic loss at an elementary school in Montreal, Bachir Lazhar takes on the unwanted job of substitute teacher to a class dealing with uninvited grief.

It’s an absolute delight to review a film so original, thought provoking and well scripted after being bombarded with tired, unoriginal ideas for the past few months. Philippe Falardeau adapted Évelyne de la Chenelière’s one character play, Bashir Lazhar to perfection. As a writer and director, he was unafraid to look at real world issues and make valid social commentary on the state of the current education regulations.

On top of all the accolades from the production, you’ll find equal brilliance from the cast. Mohamed Fellag and Sophie Nélisse both deliver captivating performances, showcasing their ability to produce every ounce of emotional nuance demanded by their characters.

This DVD presents the film beautifully from both an audio and visual standpoint. Unfortunately, being a French film has limited the special features to only those who understand the language. When you consider the high quality of the movie, it’s tragic that only French speaking audiences will be able to dive deeper into the making of it.

Bottom Line: Even with the lack of special features, this movie is still well worth owning on DVD just for the incredible viewing experience of the film itself.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade B

Runtime: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


Flowers of War: DVD Review

Flowers of War is available to own on August 14, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media


It is odd when a movie can be panned by critics, but enjoyed by most audiences. Yimou Zhang’s Flowers of War did exactly this and I’m glad audiences didn’t listen to most critics.

The film depicts Japan’s rape of China’s then capital, Nanking, through the eyes of an alcoholic Westerner (Christian Bale), innocent school children and a group of rowdy prostitutes (A very colourful band of survivors to be taking refuge in a church, to say the least).

Chinese writers Heng Liu and Geling Yan, and director Yimou Zhang created a fictional tale rather than basing the story on documented events. After reading some of the historical documents on the massacre that took place in 1937, I think they made the right decision. They crafted relatable characters and brought us into their horrid world effectively.

I had a hard time watching the grotesque acts of the Japanese soldiers, but it did not deter my enjoyment of the film. It actually motivated me to research this stain on human history.

Having a fictitious Westerner as the ultimate hero in this film no doubt ruffled a few critical feathers. Regardless of the historical inaccuracy, Christian Bale added dimension with his first-rate performance which justified this imperfect character’s inclusion. Not to be overshadowed by Bale, every child and adult actor gave the same level of commitment to their roles.

For the DVD release, we’re treated to one of the best special feature sets I’ve ever seen. The features include The Birth of The Flowers of War, Meeting Christian Bale, The Newborn Stars, Hard Time During War, and finally, Perfection of Light and Colour. Each feature gives you an in-depth look into every aspect of production, from casting, training, shooting, colour design, make-up, etc. This is a wonderful experience for all those interested in the filmmaking process.

Bottom Line: This DVD release hits a home run with a fantastic film and bountiful special features to boot!

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 143 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1


Marley: Documentary hits all the right notes

Marley is available on DVD August 7, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media


Living as a man of mixed heritage, Robert Marley looked beyond race, colour, creed or status. His ideals flowed through his innovative music to invoke peace, love and harmony around the world. In Kevin MacDonald’s documentary, Marley, we’re given the most intimate look yet into the legend’s life.

It’s easy to think of most biographical documentaries as one long special feature detailing varying aspects of someone’s life. Kevin MacDonald doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with his movie, but lets us gather a glimpse into Bob Marley’s world, who he was and how he spent his days from birth through to his untimely death.

Knowing only the popular basics of Marley’s life, I was blown away at what I learned about the man, his passions and his music.

For the DVD release, the video quality is perfectly decent, and the audio is simply delightful. The filmmakers have also included a plethora of excellent special features to compliment this feature documentary. The special features include EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH BUNNY WAILER, CHILDREN’S MEMORIES, which was my personal favourite as Bob’s children tell fond stories from their childhood of growing up with their father. There’s also LISTENING TO “I’M LOOSE” where those closest to Marley listen and reminisce to a late recording of him writing a song, AROUND THE WORLD looks at how Bob affects people across the globe, and over 10 minutes of footage from his performance from the MANHATTAN CENTER 21ST JUNE 1975.

Bottom Line: After watching it once, you know you’ll want to watch it again… It’s just as addictive as his music.

Movie Grade A-
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtime: 144 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1