Tag Archives: documentary

Beasts of the Southern Wild: The journey you’ve never taken

Pick up your copy of the award contending Beasts of the Southern Wild on December 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media

Pick up your copy of the award contending Beasts of the Southern Wild on December 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media

Independent films depend purely on the strength of their story, lacking access to flashy special effects and bloated budgets to hide imperfections. Instead, everything is stripped bare revealing the heart of the tale. Sure to be an Academy Award contender, Beasts of the Southern Wild is, at its core, an exemplary demonstration of the rawness that is the independent film.

In this semi-fantastical story, we follow six-year old Hushpuppy and her hot-headed father as they face the harsh realities of life in a bayou cut off from the rest of society.

It takes a while to really sink into this film. The characters are difficult to connect with and their thick Louisiana accents can be troublesome to comprehend at times. However, as the film progresses and you witness the predicaments of the people, you slowly begin to latch on to them – Especially little Hushpuppy, played beautifully by Quvenzhané Wallis.

(Quvenzhané Wallis)Wallis’ performance is astonishingly natural for a first time actor of five years old. Her innocence and strength keep you interested in the film, even if the story appears to drift at times.

Writers Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, who also directed the film, deliver a psychological look into the daily life of the neglected and underprivileged people of the world.

(Quvenzhané Wallis), (Benh Zeitlin)For the DVD home release, the original film is given good video transfer, even if there is an excessive amount of film grain. The audio, however, is top notch. Subtle details are everywhere to be found and the use of bass at the appropriate moments really adds weight to certain scenes. The special features are solid and include an in-depth, 18 minute Behind the Scenes featurette, Deleted Scenes with director commentary, some of the audition footage for the father and daughter leads, and the short that led to this movie, Glory At Sea.

(Quvenzhzé Wallis), (Dwight Henry)Bottom Line: This movie has Oscar nominations written all over it and the DVD release is one any movie fan will want to check out.

Movie Grade A-
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 93 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

Hysteria: History meets pleasure

Hysteria is available on Blu Ray September 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne

Injustice comes in all shapes and sizes. Hysteria examines the social injustice women had to bare in Victorian England where doctors treated women diagnosed with Hysteria (By today’s standards they just weren’t “getting any”). What resulted from all of this medical insanity was the invention of the glorious and renowned vibrator.

Director Tanya Wexler does a great job of including different facets of historical fact delivering both drama and humour. Where things fall short is in the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which faulted the credibility of the secondary story.

Outside of this folly, every member of the large cast delivered solid performances.

The most incredible part of the production were the brilliant sets and art direction that throw you head first into middle class Victorian England.

In the Blu Ray + DVD combo pack, you’ll find some excellent special features to accompany this beautifully shot film. They include Commentary with Tanya Wexler, “An Evening with Tanya Wexler, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce” Featurette, Hysteria: Behind The Scenes, and a set of useless Deleted Scenes. The best feature is a short documentary “Passion & Power: The Technology Of Orgasm”. This fascinating look at the history of female sexual oppression and the history of vibrators from their creation is a must watch!

Bottom Line: With an engaging film and interesting special features, this home release is definitely worth checking out.

Movie Grade B
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

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:



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

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope: Superheroes, and comics, and fanatics… OH MY!

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is available on Blu Ray + DVD Combo on July 10th. Courtesy of eOne Media

Let’s face it, when you hear about a comic book convention the first thing that comes to mind are socially inept guys who never leave their basements. These thoughts must go into overdrive for Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic book and popular arts convention in the world. What we don’t think about is the art, passion and fun that can be had in this multi-faceted gathering. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope takes us behind the scenes to view the lives of different attendees and how this great event affects them.

Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Harry Knowles, the father of Marvel Comics Stan Lee, and a host of artists, actors and enthusiasts give us a look at different aspects that encompass the 43 year old extravaganza by focusing on a handful of visitors.

Director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) delivers the event in all of its glory, and intersperses intimate interviews with a variety of industry professionals.

To accompany the beautifully shot feature, the Blu Ray + DVD combo pack holds a few tantalizing special features. To start, Morgan Spurlock takes you behind the scenes into what led up to the conceptualizing of the documentary. Next are a set of Deleted Scenes that are interesting however varying in volume, so keep your remote handy. Last, but not least, are a series of intimate interviews with Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Ellen Page, Harry Knowles and many more. Definitely worth checking out!

Bottom Line: As a fan of Comic-Con or comics in general, this is an absolute must see! If you’re unfamiliar with the art form, this is an eye-opening look at a world you’ll be unexpectedly drawn into.

Movie Grade A-
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtime: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Jaws: Restoration adds beauty to the terror

Catch the fully restored Jaws at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting June 29th. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

It is said that a fear of sharks is primal in most human beings. With masterful direction and one of the greatest musical scores, Steven Spielberg’s original run of Jaws terrified audiences and induced unprecedented phobias among moviegoers. Thirty-seven years later, this classic horror has been given a much needed restoration from the original beaten up stock and the results are impeccable. Rather than explain it all to you, I’ll let the professionals give you the scoop in the video below.

Simply put, the restoration makes the movie look like a period film shot today. They’ve also avoided any George Lucas style digital “upgrades” to replace any of the practical effects. While present day audiences have been desensitized to brutal violence, Jaws still manages to wrap you in a blanket of fear. Not something many horrors of today will be able to claim 30 years in the future.

The only problem with this movie is the lack of knowledge about the behavior of sharks during its production. Peter Benchley, author of the novel the movie is based on, has mentioned he would have never written the book had he known about the real behavior of sharks. This is important for all those who treat the fictional film as a source of facts.

With that in mind, you’ll want to treat yourself to a magnificent example of filmmaking. The Hitchcockian influenced direction from Steven Spielberg is brilliant, as is the editing by Verna Fields and the performances from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss.

Bottom Line: Jaws’ flawless face lift deserves to be revisited by every fan of great cinema.

You can find the restored re-release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto or in select local theatres on June 29th.

The Dictator: Hilarious social commentary

Sasha Baron Cohen strikes a pose in The Dictator. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The shock and awe of Sacha Baron Cohen hit the world in 2006 with his infamous portrayal of Borat, the inept Kazakh enduring Western culture. He made us laugh with his outlandish actions and now he’s at it again with his new survey into Middle Eastern cultural norms.

The Dictator takes us into the life of the ruler of the fictitious country of Wadiya, and his attempts to keep his tyrannical rule over his people. His journey is thrown into disarray when he is forced to live as an average peasant among the people of the United States.

To sum it all up, a moron who has power thrust upon him from birth, brings his absurd beliefs to Western civilization giving himself and those around him an unsympathetic culture shock.

There are few people who could conceive of these ideas and even fewer who can make them work. Sacha Baron Cohen is one of them. He has makes a bold statement in this movie that can only be seen as a social commentary.

His character, General Aladeen, is portrayed almost perfectly by Cohen. His accent was sometimes inconsistent (being nitpicky here) when compared to his performance as Borat. Regardless, his antics are hilarious and he keeps the laughter amongst the audience consistent.

With his incredible character acting, we are really looking forward to Cohen’s future portrayal of entertainment legend, Freddie Mercury.

For those who were disappointed with his last effort in Brüno, you’ll enjoy the political commentary as well as the craziness this almost lovable political maniac delivers.

Bottom Line: There’s a deeper message hidden amongst the humor. It will make you laugh, but also make you think about what we have as a society and how much further we still have to go.

Grade B

Runtime: 82 minutes
3D: No

Antarctica – The Human Edeavour: DVD Review

Antarctica – The Human Edeavour is available on April 23rd. Courtesy of eOne Media

Global Warming – Is it a threat to life on Earth, or something that is simply being blown way out of proportion. Canadian Jean Lemire and his crew venture aboard the SEDNA IV to the Antarctic for 430 days to confront what Global Warning is doing to the ecosystem.

This is a fairly interesting documentary; however, the science seems to take a back seat in an attempt to tug at heart strings by adding unnecessary back story of a lacklustre crew. If this is what you’re looking for, you’ll get exactly what you need from this home release.

For French speaking persons, this can be an enjoyable documentary to follow and learn from. However, English speaking viewers will most likely find the experience less than captivating and, for the most part, frustrating. Performers were brought in to dub the entire documentary in English, and failed to capture the crew’s tone and emotions. Instead, every line of dubbing is delivered with an obvious over-dramatized read that completely removes you from the otherwise riveting experience.

The film would have been greatly enhanced with the use of English subtitles instead of the “B” acting voice-overs.

The DVD release features the 13 episodes in both French and English languages with no extra features to speak of. To be fair, each episode seems to give you enough behind the scenes footage to negate the need for anything extra.

Bottom Line: A little less personal story and a lot more science would have made this documentary a winner.

Runtime: 308 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Chimpanzee: A swinging good time

Tim Allen narrates DisneyNature's latest documentary, Chimpanzee. Courtesy of Disney Nature

Seeing animals in a zoo is nothing like watching them in their natural habitat. Chimpanzees, while playful, are also territorial beings much like we humans are. This similarity paired with countless others makes DisneyNature’s latest documentary, Chimpanzee, simply intriguing.

This documentary follows a group of chimps (with which we share the most DNA) living in the forests of Africa as they try to keep their home safe from an invading clan of rival chimpanzees. 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 our distant genetic ancestors.

What really brings the entire production together is Tim Allen’s (Toy Story, <emThe Santa Clause) narration. The man who famously voiced Buzz Lightyear provides humour while simultaneously giving every moment the perfect emotional tone. He even throws in a hint of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor for good measure.

Directors , Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield who also directed DisneyNature’s Earth together, manage to give us a great deal of insight into the chimpanzees world. They even managed to show the darker side of the animal’s lives, but successfully cut everything graphic and disturbing out for younger and sensitive viewers.

To top it off there is a bonus making-of montage, so make sure to stay put when the credits start to roll.

Bottom Line: This is one of the best documentaries Disney has released to date. Don’t miss it!

Grade A+

Runtime: 78 minutes
3D: No