Tag Archives: oscars

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


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


Killing Them Softly: Potential slaughtered by director

Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Ray Liotta star in Killing Them Softly. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Amazing movies have that uncanny ability to feel as if time just flew by. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a movie that seems intriguing on the surface but in execution falls short forcing us to check our watches every five seconds. Sadly, Killing Them Softly is one of these films.

Not all is lost as there are some positives in Andrew Dominik’s (The Assassination of Jesse James) latest film.

In Killing Them Softly, a couple of young knuckleheads rob a mob protected poker game only to find themselves hunted by a hired enforcer.

The adapted story has a great deal of promise, but Andrew Dominik’s direction seems to belay the entire film’s plot. Subtlety is clearly not one of Dominik’s strengths as he endlessly beats us over the head with the political speeches of Bush and Obama in an attempt to provide poignant social commentary. It just doesn’t work.

The cast is solid with Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy (Argo), Ben Mendelsohn, and James Gandolfini putting forth a great combination of dramatic and comedic performances.

The brutally, vivid violence was given a great deal of thought behind shooting at interesting angles and variable framerates.

In the end, the slow pace and lack of tension throughout most of the film forces the audience to nitpick on the faults rather than rejoice in the otherwise thought-provoking story.

Bottom Line: Not worth a trip to the theatre. However, there’s enough potential to give this a chance as a cheap rental.

Grade C

Runtime: 97 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Brave: Blu Ray Review

DisneyPixar’s Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Brave is available to own on November 13, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Standards have been set extraordinarily high for animated films over the last decade. We’ve been spoiled with spectacular work from DisneyPixar studios, with movies that went far beyond the usual fairy tales of the old days (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up). After the pitiful Cars 2, Disney and Pixar have returned to glory with their latest film, Brave.

In Brave, we follow a young Scottish princess named Merida’s desperate battle for freedom from the claws of tradition and her unrelenting mother.

Surely enough, a simple story with phenomenal attention to detail and a talented production team make this movie an absolute delight.

All of the voice actors squeezed everything out of their acting arsenal to deliver the perfect trio of humour, emotions and fantasy. Most impressive of all is 36 year old Kelly MacDonald (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), who plays the young and feisty Merida. She managed to perfectly portray her adolescent character, without becoming a caricature of an annoying teenager. Luckily, the studio avoided a disaster when they lost out on their first choice of Reese Witherspoon for the lead character.

This jam packed Ultimate Collector’s Edition features stunning 3D and 2D Blu Ray copies, DVD and a digital copy. On top of that, the special features list is as impressive as the film. Here’s a list of the features that you’ll want to check out:

• “La Luna” Theatrical Short

• “The Legend of Mor’du” Short

• Brave Old World

• Merida & Elinor

• Bears

• Brawl in the Hall

• Wonder Moss

• Magic

• Clan Pixar

• Once Upon A Scene

• Director Commentary

• “Fergus & Mor’du” An Alternate Opening

• Fallen Warriors Montage

• Dirty Hairy People

• It is English…Sort Of – One of the funniest features!

• Angus

• The Tapestry

• Promotional Pieces

Hours of fun stuff for fans to dive into.

Bottom Line: This Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a must own for fans of DisneyPixar animation!

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A+

Runtime: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1


CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT A FUN GAME AND MAZE!

BRAVE Coin Archery Game PDF

BRAVE Merida Wisp Maze PDF


360: Blu Ray Review

360 is available to own on Blu Ray, November 6, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Entertainment


Infidelity makes up such a large portion of entertainment in our society. Soap operas, movies and even reality TV are riddled with some form of adultery.

Fernando Meirelles’ latest film, 360, connects the lives of various sexually corrupt people from different areas of the world.

The crippling factor in this film rests in the story. Unlike brilliant films such as Closer or Little Children, this movie tries especially hard to tell far too many stories (I stopped counting at 7), without ever fully developing any of them.

Luckily, the performances are solid. The star studded cast including Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Jamel Debbouze, Lucia Siposová, Gabriela Marcinkova, and Ben Foster showcase their abundant talents commendably. Foster’s performance as the paroled sexual offender in particular, is fantastic, albeit chilling.

The Blu Ray release delivers the solid cinematography and thoughtful score nicely; however, the special features are fairly thin. Both The Making-of 360 and A look at 360 featurettes feature the cast and filmmakers synopsising the story and its characters. Behind-The-Scenes, however, actually lets you stand behind the camera and watch scenes being filmed or hear discussions between the actors and director Fernando Meirelles. Very cool stuff!

Bottom Line: Unless you’re a fan of the film there isn’t any reason to add this Blu Ray to your collection.

Movie Grade C+
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1


Moonrise Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Pick up your copy on Oct. 16th. Courtesy of eOne Media


With the Oscars only months away, Moonrise Kingdom, with its quirky and affecting appeal was a solid contender. While the movie is definitely worth watching, the Blu Ray/DVD release could have used some tweaking.

In Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, he collaborates with Roman Coppola to tell the tale of a young couple’s escape from the watchful eyes of their guardians in order to be with one another.

This straight-faced, off-beat film tells its story in a very minimalistic fashion. Instead of being attacked with endless details, Wes Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola unassumingly ask the audience to decipher this decidedly interpretive story.

Every member of the cast brought their A-game, delivering performances both eccentric and memorable. The young first-time actors playing the love-struck couple, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both displayed a very natural, youthful innocence.

Despite all of its romantic naïveté, Moonrise Kingdom is not a perfect film. Firstly, Wes Anderson clearly neglected necessary (some might say obvious) emotional reactions from the actors, both young and old, which will certainly alienate a large demographic of movie goers. There’s also the lack of enunciation from both Hayward and Gilman; something Anderson should have caught during the shooting process as it was difficult to understand the youngsters during multiple scenes.

For the Blu Ray + DVD release, the audio mastering is perfect. However, Anderson’s choice to shoot the movie with 16mm film, rather than 35mm film, has left the high definition transfer looking like a decent DVD – not a stunning Blu Ray. The special features are also very limited to what boils down to faux “behind the scenes” advertisements for the film. Not what this fan of the film was expecting.

Make no mistake, this is a very good film, it simply is not Oscar winner worthy.

Bottom Line: This Blu Ray is only worth owning if you like the film.

Grade A

Runtime: 94 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Moonrise Kingdom: Trivia and Insights


With the Blu Ray + DVD release of the brilliant Oscar Award contender Moonrise Kingdom due on Oct. 16th, I’ve decided to compile some fun trivia and insight from the cast and crew. Enjoy!

 
 


During filming, Wes Anderson rented an old mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for himself, editor Andrew Weisblum, and director of cinematography Robert D. Yeoman, in which they had a room set up for editing the film. It had been arranged for the cast to stay in a nearby hotel, but eventually some of the actors also decided to stay at the mansion, including Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Murray later joked that the theory was to have everyone close by so that they could all work “ungodly art-movie hours.”
Sounds like fun to me!

Fun Fact about Wes Anderson: When asked where audiences would find the next Martin Scorsese, he said to look to Wes Anderson, the young director of Rushmore (1998).
I would cry like a big bald baby if Scorsese said that about me!

The filmmakers wanted the physical production to be focused, not bloated. Accordingly, there were no big trucks, and no actor or filmmaker trailers. Actors were encouraged to arrive camera-ready, requiring them to don their costumes in their hotel rooms before coming to set.
Nice to hear that greatness can be achieved at humbler budgets.

Bill Murray remembers, “My first day at work was on a camp set, and I realized that they didn’t have trailers and so forth. We had tents, pup tents. It was about 40 degrees outside and raining, but once you get 51 people crammed inside a tent, it gets plenty warm. We were cozy after a while.”
That must have been a giant tent to house that many people.

“The director, Wes (Anderson), he wears his pants very short. So he likes everyone in the film to wear them really short. Just a little bit like the kind of person you’d want to mug.”
– Bill Murray
Yes sir, the men all look ready for a flood in this movie.

You can find Bill Murray’s real son in the film as one of the scouts in a Native Indian feathered headdress.
Easier to spot in the special features where they point him out to you.

After an initial audition and three more call-backs over the course of six months, young star Jared Gilman remembers, “I was getting in the car with my mom on the way home from school, and I asked her if she had any news. She didn’t answer; she called up my father instead, and he pulled a Ryan Seacrest [/American Idol results buildup] on me, before he told me I got the part. I screamed, I laughed, and I cried. It was probably the happiest day of my life.”
That’s mean… I love it!

Before filming, neither Kara Hayward nor Jared Gilman had ever seen a typewriter in person. Hayward later said, “Fran (Frances McDormand) had a lot of fun with that. She couldn’t believe it. She showed me that the keys are in the same place as now (on computers).”
This, sadly, is probably the case for most every child in their generation.

As homework for his character, Wes Anderson assigned Jared Gilman to watch Escape from Alcatraz (set in 1963), starring Clint Eastwood.
Proper education.

The film opened in only four theaters, two in New York and two in Los Angeles, but earned $167,250 per screen, the all-time record for highest per-theater box office average of a non-animated film.

You’ll find the Moonrise Kingdom Blu Ray + DVD online and in stores on October 16, 2012.

Bill Murray’s overview of the movie:


All information was taken from eOne’s press notes and IMDB.com


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


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