Tag Archives: animation

Up: Blu Ray Review

Grab your copy of Up on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

Grab your copy of Up on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

Finding those complete films that deliver on all accounts is rare these days. When I first watched Up, I laughed, cried and was taken on a rollercoaster ride with the oddly paired old man and his accidental sidekick. As I reviewed the all new Blu Ray release, I was amazed as I relived all these emotions for a second time around. Now that’s a powerful film in my book!

Up 1In DisneyPixar’s Up, Carl Fredricksen deals with his loneliness and a promise to the love of his life by flying his house to the Venezuelan wilderness with the unwelcome assistance of a good-intentioned Boy Scout, Russell.

The team behind this movie provided such incredible depth of character; you see right past their cartoony shells and dive into the soul of a real person. Combine this with a highly entertaining adventure and what you have left is a timeless classic.

Up 3Edward Asner and first time actor Jordan Nagai are perfect together. Director Pete Docter did a fantastic job in getting a very natural performance out of the young Nagai – Not an easy thing to do when working with brand new actor.

Not only will kids love this movie, but as an adult, you’ll be glued to the screen beside the little ones as you watch Carl and Russell’s quest unfold (Just be sure to have a box of tissue handy).

Up 2As far as the Blu Ray release is concerned, this is one of the best. DisneyPixar has included both 3D and 2D Blu Ray discs, a DVD copy and a Digital Copy to future proof you as your home theatre evolves. The video in both the 3D and 2D copies is magnificent. While the 3D copy adds the expected immersion, it is shocking how much depth of image is in the 2D Blu Ray. On top of that, Michael Giacchino’s Academy Award winning original score sounds beautiful alongside the amazing audio design.

There isn’t a single special feature not worth watching in this home release. Included in the vast array of high definition features you’ll find:

• Cine-Explore Commentary

• Adventure Is Out There

• Partly Cloudy

• Dug’s Special Mission

• The Many Endings of Muntz

• Documentaries – A series of behind the scenes featurettes.

• Married Life

• Global Guardian Badge Game

• Up Promo Montage

• Worldwide Trailers

Not only do they include behind the scenes of the making of the film, they also provide a fun educational game for kids (just as much fun for adults).

UPBottom Line: This is how Blu Rays should be done. With a movie this good, why wait to let the fun begin? Pick up your copy today and go on a ride of a lifetime with your wee ones.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray Grade A+

Runtime: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Finding Nemo: Blu Ray Review

Pick up your copy of Finding Nemo on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

Pick up your copy of Finding Nemo on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

The story of an overprotective father’s desperate search for his lost son captured audiences worldwide like few films ever have. Unhindered perfection is the best way to describe what DisneyPixar produced in 2003 with Finding Nemo. Nine years after grossing over $900 million worldwide in theatres and Oscar Award acclaim, Nemo and Co. received the 3D treatment and is now available on Blu Ray.

Finding Nemo 1For those few of you who haven’t seen the movie, Finding Nemo is the story of a father and son clown fish that are quickly separated and spend the rest of the movie engaging the help of a variety of quirky sea creatures as they attempt to find their way back to one another.

It should go without saying, but for that sole individual who has yet to embark on this incredible journey, this movie is inspiringly original, and features some of the best voice work to date.

Finding Nemo 3Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneres’ performances are sublime. Degeneres’ portrayal of the memory addled Dori is absolutely hilarious with just the right amount of emotion to provide an unforgettable character.

The all new Blu Ray release is fully loaded to future proof you (from a technology standpoint). Included are 3D and 2D Blu Ray discs, a DVD copy and a Digital Copy, ensuring that you can enjoy the film anywhere. The image quality is great, only topped by the immersive and dynamic audio design/mastering. Finding Nemo 4If you have the equipment to watch the movie in 3D, you’ll definitely enjoy the added depth the third dimension adds to this deep sea adventure. If you don’t, the 2D experience is no slouch, delivering a crisp, clean image.

There are a lot of special features to go through, including:

• Cine-Explore

Finding Nemo: A Filmmakers’ Roundtable

• Reinventing the Submarine Voyage

• A Lesson in Flashbacks

• Deleted Scene

• Knick Knack

• Trailers and Sneak Peeks

• Art Review

• Making Nemo

• Exploring the Reef

• Studio Tour

• Old School

• Deleted Scenes

• Outtakes

• Publicity Pieces

• Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia

• Aquariums

Most of these features combine comedy, educational elements and a good deal of insight into the making of the blockbuster film. My only complaint would be with the lack of a “play all” option, as some of the features are a concise 10 seconds long, but take almost 30 seconds to load. Other than that, fans will have fun going behind the scenes with the cast and crew.

Finding Nemo 2Bottom Line: A must own DisneyPixar adventure that you’ll want to dive into time and time again.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Wreck-It-Ralph: Smashes its way to your heart

John C. Reiley and Sarah Silverman star in the video game bonanza, Wreck-It-Ralph. Courtesy of Disney Pictures

Who remembers the original gaming consoles like ColecoVision, Atari, Nintendo, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc…? For many boys, and a fair number of girls, video games and the characters we battled were a vital source of our entertainment during childhood. Reminiscent of Toy Story, Disney Animation’s latest feature, Wreck-It Ralph, brings an old fantasy to life: What happens to the video game characters when we aren’t playing with them?

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a gigantic video game baddy who tires of his thankless existence and ventures off into other games to find his heroic moment.

Let’s make something clear right away, this movie will be a hit. The incredible story will push all the right buttons and keep you locked in for the journey. Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston manage a near flawless story arch, with intricate twists and lovable characters. The only downside to their script is the lack of humor. There are a decent amount of jokes, but also a lot of missed opportunities and jokes that fell flat.

Casting was solid in this film. John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) are great together, as is the rest of the cast. The benefit of the actors recording their dialogue together, as opposed to the norm of doing them individually really shows.

You’ll definitely want to pay extra for the 3D option that will be sure to take you on an immersive roller coaster ride.

Bottom Line: Ralph and Vanellope’s story will touch your heart, while the pedal-to-the-metal action will rock your world.

Grade A-

Runtime: 93 minutes
3D: Yes

Cinderella (1950): Blu Ray Review

Disney’s Cinderella is available to own on Blu Ray for the first time ever on Oct. 2nd, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures

When Disney’s timeless tale Cinderella was released in 1950, the film had the financial future of Disney studios resting on its shoulders. As we all know, the movie was a smashing success and propelled Disney into the world of gargantuan movie mogul.

Disney’s telling of the humble, beautiful orphaned girl, shunned into slavery by her wicked stepmother and wretched step sisters has never been told better. What sends this fairy tale to the stratosphere of a true classic is the inclusion of a secondary set of animal characters and their complimentary storyline. The humour, suspense and grandeur of the entire production means this film will continue to entertain movie goers for generations to come.

With a complete digital restoration for its Blu Ray + DVD release, this classic looks and sounds as if it were recently animated. They’ve polished the fuzzy animation cells and scratchy soundtrack without adding anything that doesn’t belong. If only George Lucas thought this way.

If you’re a fan of special features, you’ve hit the jackpot! There is a plethora of goodies to dive into, even if the best ones are tucked into the recesses of the menu. You’ll find everything from behind the scenes making-of featurettes that take you into the conception of the film, casting, and musical inspiration. You’ll even hear from the people who animated the characters! There’s also a storyboarded alternate opening sequence, as well as animated shorts, and even a preview of Walt Disney World’s new addition to their theme park: Disney Princess Fantasyland.

Bottom Line: This incredibly remastered, bonus feature laden fairy tale is a must own on Blu Ray for kids and past kids alike.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray Grade A+

Runtime: 75 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

ParaNorman: Paranormal fun

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as the “parNormanly” gifted in ParaNorman. Courtesy of Alliance Media

Like Cole from The Sixth Sense, Norman has the paranormal ability to speak to the deceased. Norman’s story differs as he tries to help the friendly ghosts break an ancient curse that threatens to destroy his town and its inhabitants.

ParaNorman pioneers new and innovative techniques in stop motion animation taking on massive sets and action packed sequences never seen before in this medium. It also tells a heart-felt story combining laughter, horror and poignant social commentary regarding the way people are treated when they don’t fit the “norm” (hard not to pun).

Chris Butler and Sam Fell successfully bring Butler’s massive dream to the screen. The movie powers forward with wonderful pace, only slowing down at stirring moments to deliver their impactful message.

The talented Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road, Let Me In) delivers a solid voice-over performance alongside his cast members. There are only a few moments when the dialogue suffered from feeling read and not acted.

Speaking of the visuals, you’re in for a real treat with easily one of the best stop-motion animation experiences you’ll ever have alongside Coraline. On top of that, you’ll definitely want to immerse yourself in the palpable 3D option that really helps draw you further into the already first-rate film.

Bottom Line: Without a doubt, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from ParaNorman.

Grade B+

Runtime: 93 minutes
3D: Yes

Interview with ParaNorman director Sam Fell

Courtney, Alvin, Mitch, Norman, and Neil in PARANORMAN, directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, the new stop-motion comedy thriller from LAIKA and Focus Features.

ParaNorman tells the story of a young man gifted (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the ability to talk to ghosts. The movie strikes an excellent cord between, comedy and horror, while instilling a sense of heart and morality.

I’m very lucky to have sat down with one of the directors, Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux, Flushed Away), to find out how this great story came to be.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

I believe there is more to us than flesh and bone. There’s obviously something in our consciousness that’s beyond what we see. I haven’t seen a ghost, but I’m happy to just know that there’s more. I’ll come back and haunt you to let you know that they do exist.

How would you react to having Norman’s ability to see and speak to ghosts?

I think it would be cool to see those ghosts that he sees because they’re friendly ghosts. I’d probably go look a few people up. I never got to meet one of my grandfathers, so I’d like to talk to him.

Can you briefly describe what differentiates the way you shot ParaNorman versus other stop-motion animated movies?

At its heart, it’s the same process. Build a miniature world, light it, build miniature puppets out of clay, and then it’s one frame at a time. You start in frame one and days or weeks later you’re finished that shot. One of our shots was about 1000 frames long and that took about ten weeks to shoot!

That’s insane!

Tell me about it! It’s a living performance, captured very slowly. What made our process different is we used a 3D colour printer to create thousands of faces to switch for each frame. Amazingly innovative stuff!

I’ll let the pros show you how they did it:

Is this the future of animation?

I think there are multiple futures for animating a film. I’ll never forget that moment when I saw Toy Story on the big screen for the first time, when CG animation was new, exciting and novel. It blew me away! I don’t get that feeling very much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I really like a lot of animated films. It just feels like the genre has been dormant for a long time. It wasn’t until Coraline where we got to see this tactile world in stereoscopic 3D for the first time that I got a similar sensation again. Felt uncanny. I actually hope hand-drawn animation makes a comeback.

Me too!

So far in your career, you’ve only directed animated films. Do you have any interest in taking on some living actors?

I would consider it. Actually, before this movie came along, I had been dabbling in writing and had some live action stuff in development. So I’ve touched on that world. In many ways, shooting ParaNorman has been sort of a live action film on a smaller scale. I think you should want to tell a story more than just entering a medium for the sake of it.

Are you very selective when it comes to the projects you take on?

I’m as selective as I can be, you know. It’s tricky, because on one side it’s a business and I’m a working director who wants to work. I want to make films. So I hold off as long as I can and read a ton of scripts. I actually develop my own work too. But somewhere along that road, you’re just itching to make another film and you grab the best one you’ve been presented with and you go with it. Directors aren’t built to sit around, you see.

For the voice work, did you do the traditional method of every actor doing solo recordings or did you manage to get them together to record?

We were lucky to get some of them together, actually. We got Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin, the Babcock parents together. They were great at ad libbing. We also got Casey Affleck and Anna Kendrick together, which was great since neither had done animation before, so they got to find their way together. And we got Kodi Smit-McPhee (Norman) and Tucker Albrizzi (Neil) together. They were so good together, that we didn’t even edit out their mistakes. It just made it more beautiful.

Were there any whacky mishaps that happened during production?

It’s weird, but there weren’t any big mishaps that happened on this movie. The only difficult aspect of this movie was the ambition of it. Crazy ambition! In the first year when we were planning and storyboarding it, we got carried away. We were so excited about doing car chases with multiple cameras and the big storm in the sky to connect to the zombies. On top of that, we wanted a mob! Halfway through, it all started to hit us just how much we wanted to push everything. That was the only moment when we gulped at the vastness and scale of the project.

Did the final product deviate from the original script in anyway?

No, actually. We just turned a great script into a great movie.

That you did, Sam! Check out ParaNorman in 3D in theatres everywhere on August 17, 2012.

Here’s another look at how they brought this movie to life:

Babar – The Complete First Season: DVD Review

The complete first season of Babar is now available on DVD. Courtesy of eOne Entertainment

The stories we read as children can play an important role in shaping the individuals we grow up to be. In 1931, Jean de Brunhoff published the first of many children’s books about a lovable elephant named Babar. Eight decades later, the beloved series which debuted in 1989, is ready to own and enjoy on DVD.

Babar tells the tale of a young elephant who witnesses the murder of his mother by a hunter and ventures off into the world of humans gaining knowledge of our civilization in the process. He eventually returns to his community of elephants and because of his new-found knowledge is declared king. We experience Babar’s miraculous life when he recollects his past to his children as lessons for them to use in their varying problematic situations.

Unlike many children’s shows of today which force feed our youth overtly obvious, ethical life lessons, watching Babar brings you back to a time when the method of moral teaching subtly shaped the minds of young toddlers into upstanding human beings.

The first DVD release, BABAR – The Complete First Season, includes the first 13 episodes in their entirety on two discs. The age of the original animation cells have left the show looking fairly aged, but this does not hinder the enjoyment of this truly inspiring classic program.

There are no special features included in the release, but hopefully there will be a few extras included in the second season.

Bottom Line: Babar’s timeless tales will have a joyous effect on your little ones and quite possibly you as well.

Runtime: 302 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Languages: English and French

Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns DVD + Digital Copy Review

Jake and his pals help Peter Pan in a full length adventure. Courtesy of Disney Jr.

Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie created the iconic character of Peter Pan back in 1902. Over the years Pan has appeared in many films, television shows, plays and story books. His latest appearance is in Disney Jr.’s one hour special Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns, a television show aimed at 2-5 year old children.

In this special, Jake and his three pirate companions help Peter Pan retrieve his mischievous shadow from the dastardly Captain Hook and his swash-buckling crew.

This musical series features some eye-catching animation mixing hand-drawn with 3D digital renderings. The adventures in which the characters take part are interactive, asking toddlers to participate without talking down to them like other shows which shall remain respectfully unnamed (Dora the Explorer).

In this special home release, there are a lot of goodies for your little ones to dive into. In addition to the Peter Pan Returns special, five additional episodes of the show are also included along with a music video at the end of each segment. There are also two special features, including Yo Ho, You Ready To Find Peter’s Shadow?, an extra adventure for kids to follow along and interact with, and Pirate Party With Pirate-oke, which allows viewers to watch the music videos in a karaoke style.

As an additional bonus, an inflatable pirate sword just like Jake’s is included to help your child make-believe with his pirate friends.

This is a jam packed DVD + Digital Copy release that fans of the show will be able to enjoy time and time again.

Bottom Line: Pick up a copy for your young, heroic pirate-to-be today and revel in their jolly good times.

Runtime: Approx. 169 minute
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: Gimmick-heavy entertainment

Danny DeVito and Ed Helms star in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Coutesy of Universal Pictures

Dr. Seuss’ books, with their whacky imagination, have touched the lives of millions of people around the world. So far, two of the three films based on his classic books have been box office successes. This adaptation however, is less likely to make the cut.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax takes us into a city where trees are extinct and the citizens buy oxygen from a tyrannical business tycoon. However, one love-struck twelve year old boy ventures out to find The Once-ler – An elderly man who is his only hope in finding a tree to impress the girl of his dreams.

This story admirably tries to embed its critical environmental message into the audience. However many aspects of the production are not up to scratch compared to previous works.

The most disappointing of these shortcomings is the voice acting. There was barely enough energy in every actor’s line delivery giving the dialogue a corny, Saturday morning cartoon feel. Danny DeVito, who is normally excellent in anything he does, delivers one of the most unsatisfactory performances of the group as the mustached Lorax, along with Taylor Swift (Audrey), and Rob Riggle (Mr. O’Hare).

There are also too many lackluster and unmemorable songs, that could have been trimmed from the final cut.

Fortunately, the vibrant colours, cuddly animal characters, solid animation and the screen-popping 3D should keep your little ones entertained.

Bottom Line: Bare minimum entertainment available for the young target audience and nothing more.

Grade C

Runtime: 94 minutes


3D: Yes