Tag Archives: Vacation

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


People Like Us: Blu Ray Review

Find the dramatic comedy People Like Us in stores on Oct. 2nd, 2012. Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures


How many perfect families are there? The honesty presented in a film like People Like Us gives us a glimpse into the dysfunctions that plague a modern family, all the while, keeping us readily entertained.

In People Like Us, we follow a struggling salesman, Sam (Chris Pine), as he deals with reconciling with his family after his neglectful father’s passing. When settling his estate, Sam discovers a half-sister and his dad’s secret life.

Witty, truthful, and heartfelt all describe this drama. From the guys who wrote Transformers and Star Trek (2009), both Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci find a completely different angle in which to tell a story. Both writers, with the aid of Jody Lambert, piece together a multitude of character studies in this tightly knit film.

Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde and Michael Hall D’Addario deliver true to life dramatic and comedic performances. It’s one of the truest example of genuine acting I’ve seen in a long while.

The Blu Ray + DVD release features a decent set of special features to accompany the fantastic film. They include a behind the scenes look at how the story came to be and the production footage in Number One With A Bullet: The Story Behind People Like Us. There’s also Taco Talk, which gives you Chris Pine’s and Elizabeth Banks’ complete improvisational and hilarious scene at the taco stand. Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel and Audio Commentary are also included.

Bottom Line: Come for the comedy, stay for the heart. Well worth owning.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


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


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

 


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
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


The Odd Life of Timothy Green: Blooming disappointment

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN stars Cindy (Jennifer Garner), Timothy (CJ Adams) and Jim (Joel Edgerton). Courtesy of Disney Pictures


When we’re presented with a premise that shows promise it’s only logical to think that the final product should be mildly entertaining, at the very least. When it comes to The Odd Life of Timothy Green, that logic is thrown into a bottomless pit and we’re left with one of the most lackluster films of 2012.

In Disney’s latest film, a married couple who are unable to conceive, write down the ideal child on paper and plant it in their garden. Their dreams are realized as a fully grown boy named Timothy.

Without much effort, you’ll be able to effortlessly predict the remainder of this lazily written story.

Well known writer turned director, Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), displays absolutely zero talent on either front. Every facet of this film lacks drive. Instead, events just casually take place without any drama or suspense.

There weren’t even performances worth mentioning in a positive light. Jennifer Garner gives us her usual exaggerated attempts at acting and amplifies the annoying tendencies of an already overly irritating character.

The one positive to take away from this film is that it was shot beautifully, featuring a stunning palette of vibrant colours in most every scene.

Bottom Line: Unless you want to fall into a well of disappointment, stay away from this movie.

Grade D-

Runtime: 100 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


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


Street Dance 2: Blu Ray Review

Street Dance 2 available on Blu Ray Combo Pack July 24th. Courtesy of eOne Media


When you watch a movie about dance, how high do you set your expectations? Given the recent history of the genre, expectations are deservedly set at rock bottom. Street Dance 2 serves only to continue this horrible trend, while hitting the right notes when it came to, yes you got it, the dancing.

In this sequel, a humiliated street dancer has to venture across Europe to put together the best crew in order to win the world dance battle and redeem himself.

The performances and script are just hard to sit through. There are some adequate moments, but they are few and far between. As an actor, the only person worth their paycheque is British comedy legend, Tom Conti (The Dark Knight Rises, Derailed). While his French accent left something to be desired, his performance gave realism to the otherwise predictable dialogue.

On a positive note, the dancing in this movie will make you want to get up and jam with the incredibly talented performers. What the dancers lack in acting ability, they make up for with their tremendous dance experience. The movie features break dancing, popping, locking, Latin dancing and, most intriguing, all of them mixed together for a Street-Latin fusion. The entire movie was shot in 3D, which keeps the dancing the focal point of every dance scene.

The Blu Ray + DVD combo pack includes only the beautifully shot feature with its excellent audio track. It’s sad that there are no behind the scenes featurettes to give us insights into the choreography which would have been nice.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of the movie or street dancing, you’ll have fun with this movie. Otherwise, keep your distance.

Movie Grade C
Blu Ray Grade C

Runtime: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1