Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - November, 2011

ARTICLE INDEX

"Captain America: The First Avenger" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-november-2011-capt-america

Synopsis

In 1943, a scrawny (but brave) military reject named Steve Rogers is enlisted in a super-secret experiment masterminded by a kindly scientist and skeptical military commander. Rogers emerges, taller and sporting greatly expanded muscles, along with a keen ability to bounce back from injury. In both sections Rogers is played by Chris Evans, whose sly humor makes him a good choice for the otherwise stalwart hero. The film comes up with a viable explanation for the red-white-and-blue suit 'n' shield--Rogers is initially trotted out as a war bonds fundraiser, in costume--and a rousing first combat mission for our hero, who finally gets fed up with being a poster boy. How do we incorporate a 1940’s hero into the present day Avenger’s team? See this flick and find out!

Specifications

  • Paramount Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 124 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell
  • Directed by Joe Johnston
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

This is about the best Marvel action flick since Ironman. Lots of action ensues as our hero mops up on the nasty Nazis. The story sets up how a puny Steve Rogers becomes the nearly indestructible hero through a military science project. The same actor portrays the 98 pound weakling (how do they do that?) as well as the muscle bound Capt. America. If you like your heroes as underdogs with big hearts, you'll love this guy. Weaving played the evil Red Skull to a “T”, and without a good anti-hero, you can't have a good guy to root for. This movie seemed to fly by and was a lot of fun to watch. Of course, this is all just a big set-up for the upcoming Avenger flick due out earlier next year, but it is an entertaining ride none the less, so just sit back and enjoy the show.

Technical

The PQ is first rate with lots of details, especially the close-ups of Capt. America’s leather and cloth outfit. Skin tones are spot on and the contrast of the picture presents a lot of depth of field. I saw no noticeable digital artifacts or blocking. The color palette reminded me of The Rocketeer (which also took place at the onset of WWII), with some scenes exhibiting a soft nostalgic glow. HD does nothing to soften the craggy face of Tommy Lee Jones, whose face looks like a bag of melted caramels. Though the sound was well mixed, I was a bit surprised that it was not more impressive. Explosions were not quite reference and the surrounds could have had more bullets zinging by. That’s not to say the sound mix was bad in any way, but it did not really tax my system the way I had expected.

Extras

Commentary with director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson, and editor Jeffrey Ford; “Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer,” “Outfitting a Hero,” “Howling Commandos,” “Heightened Technology,” “The Transformation,” “Behind the Skull,” “Captain America's Origin,” deleted scenes with optional commentary, 2 theatrical trailers; also a digital and DVD copy of the film.


"Horrible Bosses" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-october-2011-horrible-bosses

Synopsis

Three working stiffs Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) are totally miserable at their jobs due to their horrible bosses.  Nick's boss is the psychotic Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) who seriously torments Nick while making him work crazy hours.  Kurt's boss is Bobby (Colin Farrell) a cokehead who wants to milk his company for as much cash as possible.  And Dale works for Dr. Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a dentist who is bent on seducing him one way or another.  The only thing that would make the daily grind more tolerable would be to grind their intolerable bosses into dust. Quitting is not an option, so, with the benefit of a few too many drinks and some dubious advice from a hustling ex-con, the three friends devise a convoluted and seemingly foolproof plan to rid themselves of their respective employers...permanently. There’s only one problem: even the best-laid plans are only as foolproof as the brains behind them.

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 98 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jason Batemen, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland and Jamie Foxx
  • Directed by Seth Gordon
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I found the first act of this movie to be inordinately raunchy and over the top.  This was because the bosses' behavior was just so extreme that it defied any sense of reality.  I also thought one bar scene with P.J. Byrne was so totally foolish.  I can only imagine the scene made the final cut because it established an important plot element.  But hang in there, because this movie hits its stride about 1/3 of the way through.  This transition happens around the time the guys decide how they should handle their various workplace issues.  That is when the ensemble cast pretty much takes over the film.  Once this happens, the movie moves along at a good pace while providing some genuinely funny moments.  The guys' surveillance methods and the scene at the police station come to mind as great examples of this effect.  I also felt that Kevin Spacey did a very solid acting job throughout as Jason Bateman's crazed boss.  This disc would make a good rental choice for a decent laugh or two.

Technical

The picture quality is generally good throughout.  Skin tones can be oversaturated in some scenes and there is some loss of detail in the darker scenes.  The audio is about average for a comedy.  There is good voice reproduction.  However, the bass is bloated on much of the music and I turned down the sub a few db's to compensate for this.  The action scenes near the end had good dynamics, impact and a balanced sound.

Extras

This three disc set is loaded with special features.  Disc 1 contains the Blu-ray of the extended version.  Disc Two is the Blu-ray of the theatrical version with these special features - "My Least Favorite Career", "Surviving a Horrible Boss", "Being Mean is So Much Fun", "The Making of the Horrible Bosses Soundtrack" and Deleted Scenes.  Disc Three is the DVD of the theatrical version.  The set also contains an Ultraviolet Digital Copy access code for online streaming of the movie.

Beauty and the Beast (Blu-ray)

"Toy Story 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2011-toy-story-3d

Synopsis

Woody is a toy cowboy, and the leader of a group of toys belonging to Andy.  They live a fairly peaceful existence until Andy receives a new toy for his birthday, Buzz Lightyear.  Unfortunately Buzz isn’t clued into how things are and believes that he is actually a spaceman on a mission to a different planet and not a simple child’s toy.  His features and new toy status threatens Woody’s position as the favored toy for Andy.

One night when Andy and his family go out to Pizza Palace he takes both Woody along for the trip.  Buzz comes along for the trip as well and confronts Woody about his attempts to have him replaced, but in their argument and fight they wind up falling out of the car and being left behind at a gas station.  Now they must both try to find a way back to Andy’s house and safety.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1995, Color, Rated G, 1 hr 21 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks
  • Directed by John Lasseter
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

The film that launched the Pixar empire is back, and with a 3D makeover.  The Pixar films are one the wonderful things left behind by Steve Jobs, and Toy Story is certainly a fantastic one.  Accessible to both kids and adults of all ages, the story is both touching, and fun, and a poignant reminder of childhood for everyone.  It really holds up now as it did before, even after repeated viewings.

Technical

In giving Toy Story a 3D makeover, Pixar didn’t decide to go and throw things at your face as many 3D films do, but instead they just rendered every scene with depth that stays inside of the frame.  While some people might want to have Buzz Lightyear fly out of the screen at them, I personally find the lighter touch of rendering for depth inside the screen to be more enjoyable.  Scenes go from looking almost real, to looking incredibly real with depth and shading that makes everything look very lifelike.  The overall visuals aren’t as good as the recent Pixar films, since this was their first feature over 15 years ago, but it still looks very good.

The soundtrack doesn’t disappoint either.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen Toy Story in the theater that I can’t tell you for sure if anything has changed, but the soundtrack is very well done.  Great use of the surrounds, clear dialogue, and a very immersive experience are what you expect from Pixar and they do a wonderful job here.

Extras

This comes as a 4-disc set, with the Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy each having their own disc.  The Blu-ray features commentary, countless featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.

Beauty and the Beast (Blu-ray)

"Toy Story 2 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2011-toy-story-2-3d

Synopsis

Picking up where the first Toy Story left off, the toys are now living together peacefully, with Woody and Buzz no longer in constant competition with each other.  As Andy is now older, his mom comes around to have a garage sale to get rid of some of the older toys in the house.  As Woody takes off to rescue Wheezy the Squeaky Penguin, he is spotted and stolen by an older toy collector.

Woody wakes up to find himself now encased in glass, as a doll to be admired rather than played with.  He has some new friends that are also on display, including Jessie the Cowgirl, but Woody really wants to be back with Andy instead of admired in a box.  Back at Andy’s house, Buzz assembles the rest of the toys to go on a rescue mission for Woody.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 1999, Color, Rated G, 1 hr 32 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks
  • Directed by John Lasseter
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This is probably my overall favorite in the Toy Story series.  More touching than the first, not as dark as the last, it really is one of the high points for Pixar, which is saying a lot.  Everyting about the sequel is a bit more developed and in depth than the original, with the benefit of having an initial film to help define the characters and environment of course.  A truly wonderful film for the whole family.

Technical

The opening of Toy Story 2 has Buzz Lightyear flying through a canyon with meteors floating around on a strange planet.  While Pixar still decides to keep the 3D limited to behind the screen instead of in front of the screen, the canyon effect was very nice and I re-watched it multiple times.  The illusion of depth and the detail is very well done, and the use of 3D by Pixar really helps most of the time.  I still find that the opening credits drive my eyes a bit crazy (text and active 3D don’t really work well for me), but the film itself is well done.

The soundtrack is probably even better than the video.  Here I can’t really pick on anything that bothered me, as it’s just so wonderfully done.  Great use of surrounds, clear dialogue, tons of ambient sounds and effects to draw you into the film and make an animated world feel totally real.

Extras

This comes as a 4-disc set, with the Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy each having their own disc.  The Blu-ray features commentary, countless featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.

Beauty and the Beast (Blu-ray)

"Toy Story 3 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2011-toy-story-3-3d

Synopsis

Many years after our last Toy Story movie, Andy is all grown up and getting ready to head to college soon.  As he goes through all his belongings and sorts out what to keep and what to get rid of, the toys are accidentally donated to the local daycare center.  Inside they find that the toys there are run by Lots’-o-Huggin bear, a giant purple teddy bear who is pleasant on the outside, but cold and sinister on the inside.  After they are abused by the toddlers, the toys set out to make an escape and return to Andy.

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 2010, Color, Rated G, 1 hr 43 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks
  • Directed by Lee Unkrich
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Toy Story 3 is a very good film, and one that made me a bit sad to watch, but it’s also much darker than any of the other Toy Story films.  Lots’-O-Huggin bear is a really mean, evil character that might scare children, even if he does get some comeuppance in the end.  I still highly recommend it, as I do the other Toy Story films, but it might not be one I show my son for a bit longer than the others.

Technical

Being the most recently made of the films, it’s far and away the best looking out of the whole bunch.  Textures and details are far superior to the other films, and the 3D is even better as it was already becoming mainstream with Pixar released this in theaters, so it was designed with it in mind.  The 3D effect here is the best of the films, and nothing bothered me watching it.

While I don’t have the rear surrounds to use the full 7.1 soundtrack, the audio was impeccable.  It’s hard to find words to describe it beyond being flawless and perfect, so I’ll pretty much just leave it at that.

Extras

This comes as a 5-disc set, with the Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Bonus Features Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy each having their own disc.  The Blu-ray features PIP commentary, audio commentary, countless featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.


"Cars 2 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Adrian Wittenberg

movie-november-2011-cars-2-3d

Synopsis


British intelligence agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) is on a reconnaissance mission, investigating a clandestine plot involving a gang of clunker cars and an electro magnetic pulse emitter that is disguised as a camera. Meanwhile, best friends Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) are having fun in Radiator Springs exploring the surroundings and barely staying out of trouble.  While McQueen is on a date with his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Mater overhears a Mel Dorado (Patrick Walker) television show discussing the World Grand Prix, an international car race sponsored by Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) to promote his alternative fuel called Allinol.  When Mel Dorado and formula race car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) comment on the show that Lightning McQueen won't be competing in the race because of needing some time off, Mater quickly calls into the television show and boasts that his friend Lightning McQueen is the fastest race car in the world and could race circles around Berrnoulli.  With the gauntlet thrown down,  Sir Miles Axelrod invites McQueen and his pit crew to compete in the race.  McQueen accepts the challenge and together with Mater, they depart to Tokyo Japan, the location of the first race.  While McQueen concentrates on winning the race, the clunker car gang plans to use their E.M.P. weapon on the cars in the race to make Allinol look like an unsafe fuel alternative.  Mater is mistaken for a special intelligence agent and becomes distracted from helping McQueen win the race as he helps Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) discover the unknown villain who is behind the plot to make Allinol look bad.

Specifications

  • Disney/Pixar
  • 2010, Color, Rated G, 1 hr 46 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
  • Michael Caine, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy
  • Directed by Brad Lewis, John Lasseter
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary


Cars 2 is all about expanding the cars world, introducing new characters, and putting the familiar characters that are loved from the first Cars movie into places that you would never expect to see them such as Tokyo Japan, or London England.  Seeing Mater fumble his way through Japanese culture is often times hilarious such as when he has mistaken wasabi for pistachio ice cream. New characters such as Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell, and Professor Zundapp are completely stylish and would transition to becoming fun child's toys very easily, something that Pixar loves to do. While many Pixar films have a deeper emotional impact and spend quite a bit of time on character development, Cars 2 is more of a straightforward spy action flick that feels like a good 007 adventure.  Pixar films appeal to all age groups and many of the situations and quick comedic timing make this film one that can be enjoyed by the whole family, however younger viewers will probably enjoy this film greatly.  Michael Caine was great as Finn McMissile and his interaction with Larry the Cable guy added some dimension to the movie.  While the film is lighthearted and the voice acting talent brings the film to life, fans of the Cars series will be completely satisfied by the immaculate attention to detail and extent that Pixar has car-i-fied the different environments in the film such as with Tokyo and the Italian Riviera.  My favorite instance of this is when Mater in Tokyo comments to the car zen worker who is tending to the sand/stone garden "You done good, you got all the leaves out."  Cars 2 is a 3D release and the 3D effects in the film are primarily used to add depth and dimension to the film rather than create any kind of gimmicky effect.  That being said, watching this film looks spectacular in either 2D or 3D.  The 3D effects are used most often to extend the landscapes of the scenes such as when Mater and McQueen are riding back on the road into radiator springs and the sunset and horizon seem to go on forever.  Another one of my favorite 3D scenes is when Finn McMissile and Mater are escaping the airport while being chased by some of the lemon cars out to get them.  Like some of the other recent Pixar releases Cars 2 doesn't need 3D to make it a good movie, however it is easily Pixar's best implementation of 3D to date.

Technical


Pixar, not only produces reference quality video and audio in their films, they raise the bar for everyone else to follow.  The level of detail in Cars 2 is truly amazing and the picture quality is absolutely stunning from start to finish.  There is a wide color palette with scenes offering bright saturated colors such as in the many neon signs that populate the Tokyo nighttime environments as well as more subtle relaxed tones such as in the plains and grassy areas of Radiator Springs.  The amount of realism that is present in the opening scenes with the ocean, boats, and the oil derricks is a tribute to how intricate computer animation has become.  The blacks and darker scenes in Cars 2 have great depth and variation and give the film enough of a pop so that watching it in 2D will have that three dimensional wow look.  The video quality on this film is as good as it gets.  Sound presentation in the DTS 7.1 Master Audio film is reference quality and there is excellent use of surrounds as well as the LFE channel from either the race car work or from the plot line of the spy adventure.  The sound presentation in the race scenes in particular is absolutely stunning. Voices sound immaculate and are blended into the film perfectly.  Cars 2 is my new reference title for both sound and video.


Extras


The five disc version of Cars 2 is chock full of extra features ranging from audio commentary, to short films, to making of featurettes.  The entire package has a ton of material and I found much of it entertaining and enlightening.  Pixar fans will be happy to receive both the Air Mater short film as well as Hawaiian Vacation, a Toy Story short in which the Toy Story characters create a mock up Hawaiian vacation for Barbie and Ken.  Air Mater, directed by Robb Gibbs is also presented in 3D, and is a very entertaining short film where everyone gets to see Mater take to the skies. 


"The Change-Up" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-november-2011-changeup

Synopsis

One drunken night, two friends admit that they wish they had the others life. Mitch (Reynolds) thinks Dave has it all: a beautiful, loving family and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. But Dave (Bateman) thinks Mitch's stress-free life without obligation or consequence is the real dream come true. The next morning they wake up, hungover, in each others bodies, and proceed to freak out! With time not on their side, Mitch and Dave comically struggle to avoid completely destroying each others lives before they can find a way to get their old ones back.

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 1 hr 57 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MPEG-4 MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Staring: Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde, Jason Bateman
  • Directed by David Dobkin
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This movie is similar to Disney’s Freaky Friday except with a more adult twist. You have the successful lawyer who is “all work and no fun” kind of guy swapping bodies with his exact opposite friend, a pot smoking, carefree sex addict. You can almost predict what is going to ensue, can’t you? The first half of the movie starts out with plenty of crass (read raunchy) humor and goes down hill from there. The second half of the flick actually gets better as the guys learn how to deal with family, life and what it means to be a responsible human being. I guess any movie that takes the main flawed characters and transforms them into better people can't be all that bad, but why do adult comedies have to rely so heavily on swearing or getting baby poop in your mouth as a substitute for real comedy? And what’s up with the CGI’d female body parts? If you liked Hangover, you'll like this film, but it is not to be viewed with your pre-teens.

Technical

In spite of the silly subject matter of the film, the picture quality is outstanding. Reynolds apartment abounds with bold colors and wonderful details. Contrast is generally very good with colors that pop. Fine details show up clearly in the close-ups (note the small scar on the right cheek of a stunning Ms. Wilde). Sound was equally up to snuff with the picture quality. Clear dialog is mixed in with a nice soundtrack. The surrounds and sub come to play when called for.

Extras
Audio commentary with director David Dobkin, Family Matter: Behind-the-scenes featurette with the special FX team, Time for a Change: Featurette with cast and crew, gag reel and deleted scenes.


"Crazy, Stupid, Love" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-november-2011-crazy-stupid-love

Synopsis

The movie opens with a married couple having dinner at a restaurant.  The mood is somber as Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) tells her husband, Cal (Steve Carell), that she cheated on him with a co-worker and wants a divorce.  Cal moves out, gets an apartment and starts spending lots of time at a local bar where he meets a young womanizer, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling).  Cal and Jacob strike up a major bromance when Jacob offers to help Cal meet women.  Jacob helps Cal re-vamp his wardrobe and his attitude.  Along the way, Cal and his friends and family learn the value of real love and connectedness through a series of inappropriate crushes and  hilarious plot twists.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 118 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, John Carroll Lynch, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon
  • Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

I pretty much liked everything about this movie.  I liked the story, the screenplay, the directing, the acting, the music, the cinematography, etc.  It was a welcome relief over the all too common cookie-cutter romantic comedies of today.  This movie has a genuine, mature and real quality that I found to be downright infectious.  The movie does have some twists and turns that are a little out of the norm which was good, but it bordered on being too predictably unpredictable down the stretch.  I did feel touched at the end of the film and I highly recommend this movie for a romantic date night.

Technical

The video quality was well above average in comparison to many other modern romantic movies.  The colors were natural and only oversaturated in some scenes.  The contrast was solid with good black levels and shadow detail.  The audio was about as good as it gets with crisp, intelligible dialogue and well balanced music.  The scenes with room ambience and audio effects make good use of the surround channels.

Extras

This is a two-disc Combo Pack with a Blu-ray disc and a DVD featuring an ultraviolet streaming digital copy.  Other extras include the "Steve and Ryan Walk into a Bar" featurette, "The Player Meets His Match" featurette and deleted scenes.


"The Nutcracker: The Untold Story" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-november-2011-nutcracker

Synopsis

Experience the classic holiday tale of the Nutcracker brought to life like you have never seen it before. Join Mary on a magical adventure when her toy nutcracker comes to life and whisks her away to a magical kingdom filled with fantastical toys, sugar plums and dancing fairies. Mary soon discovers the evil Rat King is threatening the kingdom and in order to save the Nutcracker, Mary must uncover a hidden secret to free the prince and restore his kingdom. Based on the story that inspired Russian composer Tchaikovsky to create the music for the iconic ballet, the film includes eight new exciting songs written by Oscar®-winning lyricist Tim Rice (The Lion King, Evita).

Specifications

  • Universal Studios
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG, 110 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, John Turturro
  • Directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

As a lover of Tchaikovsky’s music, I was disappointed in this movie which is “loosely” based on the actual story most of us have grown up with. Yes, Tchaikovsky’s music is sprinkled in here and there (and some of it isn’t even from his Nutcracker suite) but what really fails is the attempt to add words and make the music “singable”. Add some mix of rats with jet-packs, motorcycles with Gatling guns and you have…well, this. Usually I also like the music of Tim Rice, but there isn't a single memorable tune from this film. Since the Nutcracker story is so much a part of Christmas, why did it have to be re-invented into an action flick with flying machines and explosions? Maybe I am missing the point, that this movie is catering to kids in the 8-10 year old bracket. Perhaps I am just being an old fart, but maybe this story should have remained untold. Bah Humbug!

Technical

Most of the movie looks good except for some of the darker scenes. What should be jet black looks dark grey. The actors look fuzzy, with grain becoming almost fog-like in the darkly lit scenes. Details otherwise look fine. The CGI works well for the most part, but it fails to set the standard set by most other films that are out in theaters now. Colors are solid and often vivid throughout. The music and sound effects are well done…except when the characters attempt to sing the music from the ballet. Surrounds and sub join the fun during the action scenes.

Extras

The making of The Nutcracker: The Untold Story.


"Chicken Little 3D" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-november-2011-chicken-little

Synopsis

Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is growing up in the small town of Oakey Oaks.  By "growing up" I mean that he is getting older but not any bigger the way his school mates are doing.  He lives with his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), a burly, insensitive ex-jock.  One day Chicken Little rings the school bell to sound the alarm after he was struck by a piece of falling sky.   Pandemonium ensues, but when the piece of sky can no longer be found, Chicken Little and Buck must apologize to the town.  Chicken Little goes on to be ostracized by much of the townsfolk. 

So he decides to join the school's baseball team to show his Dad that he can measure up.  Will Chicken Little be able to prove to his Dad that he can overcome the disgrace of the events that opened the film?  Was the sky really falling after all?

Specifications

  • Walt Disney Pictures
  • 2005, Color, Rated G, 1 hr 21 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring the voices of Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack and Wallace Shawn
  • Directed by Mark Dindal
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Comic
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This movie is the story of a sensitive little boy who is trying to connect with his father on a healthy, emotional basis.  Nothing seems to be working out for Chicken Little.  He caused mayhem in the town with the whole sky is falling thing.  His entire group of friends at school are misfits.  Meanwhile, his father can't seem to accept his little son regardless of what he tries doing. 

This movie worked on some levels.  There are some funny shtick moments.  Some of the music is entertaining.  The action scenes near the end of the movie are fun.  But the movie didn't work on a lot of other levels.  It was hard for me to genuinely care about many of the characters.  The more touching scenes between Little and Buck are contrived and overly sweet.  This movie would make a  good rental for kids or for some who are kids at heart.  Just don't go into it thinking that there will be many genuinely touching moments.   They are not to be found here.

Technical

Many aspects of the video presentation are acceptable.  The detail in the image is about average for a Blu-ray.  The colors are very bright and well saturated.  But since this movie was originally mastered in 3D for its theaterical release, I was surprised to see prevalent ghosting in a number of scenes.  Also, the sense of depth in the image is inconsistent.  The dynamic contrasts are surprisingly better in 3D than in the 2D version. 

The audio has legible voiceovers, but the dynamics in the music and special effects is subdued while the bass response is lacking in the lowest fundamentals.

Extras

This three-disc package comes with the 3D Blu-Ray, a 2D Blu-ray and a DVD.  There are tons of Special Features on the 2D Blu-ray - Filmmakers' Q&A, About Filmmakers' Q&A, Audio Commentary, Movie Showcase, Alien Invasion Game, Deleted Scenes, "Hatching Chicken Little" - Making of Featurette, "Shake a Tail Feather" - Music Video Performed by the Cheetah Girls, "One Little Slip" - Performed by Barenaked Ladies, "One Little Slip" - Karaoke and "One Little Slip" - Sing Along.


"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

movie-november-2011-harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2

Synopsis

Resuming the final book in the Harry Potter series, Voldemort had just retrieved the Elder Wand from the tomb of Dumbledore, giving him one third of the Deathly Hallows.  Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are continuing on their quest to find and destroy the horcruxes that contain bits of Voldemorts soul.  Their next task is to retrieve one from the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange deep inside of Gringotts Bank.

Back at Hogwarts, the students and teachers rebel against the leadership of Snape, and set the stage for a final showdown with Voldemort and his forces, as they hope to destroy Harry Potter and his friends once and for all.

Specifications

  • Warner Brothers
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 hr 10 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: MVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
  • Directed by David Yates
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I never read the books, but I’ve been going to the films with my wife for years now and have really enjoyed them as time went on.  Aside from one scene set in a train station that just didn’t seem to work, the rest of the film was very entertaining and a good wrap up to the series after all these years.  Not nearly as kiddy as the first couple of films, and much better for it, but nothing really too objectionable for the kids to watch either.

Technical

Much like the first film, the tone is a little bit drab and most color has been removed from the image.  However, that is how it looked in the theater and overall the picture looks very, very good.  There were a couple of shots that were not as sharp as they could have been, but overall a very good image.  The soundtrack, however, spares nothing and sounds just fantastic.  The ride through Gringotts surrounds you, and when Voldemort speaks to the school his ghoulish voice moves all around your head, really brining it home.  I only wish the new subwoofers I was evaluating were here in time for some of the scenes, but I’ll just watch them again in a week!

Extras

The extras are contained on a separate Blu-ray disc, which features the Maximum Movie mode that Warner Brothers has done recently, as well as multiple featurettes, additional scenes, a conversation with Daniel Radcliffe and J.K. Rowling, as well as a DVD copy of the film.  This is also one of the first films with the Ultraviolet digital copy scheme, so you should be able to register your copy and then watch it on other devices, including an iPhone or iPad and a PC.


"Conan the Barbarian" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

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Synopsis

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

Specifications

  • Lions Gate
  • 2011, Color, Rated R, 113 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC MPEG 4
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols
  • Directed by Marcus Nispel
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: No

Commentary

Having grown up reading Howard’s books, this adaptation falls far shorter than even Arnold Schwarzenneger’s portrayal. Momoa displays the muscles, but little wit or humor. The biggest problem was the chopped up story line that jumps around from one scene to the other without any purpose other than getting ready for the next action sequence. Fake blood splatters and limbs (even a nose!) fly through the air, but ultimately, the action lulls the viewer into the Kingdom of Boredom. Topless wenches are sure to keep the interest of your teenage boys.

Technical

The picture quality was very good, but the CGI effects were a little heavy. Every city looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings; too big, too intricate. Details are abundant (such as rich leather grain and intricate chain-mail) and colors are well saturated. Even the dark scenes looked good with plenty of depth. The sound is very aggressive and engaging. Battle scenes raged all around you as Conan hacks his way to victory. Very deep bass kicks in throughout the show. The sound effects guys worked overtime on this project, making it a demo quality sound spectacular. Too bad the sound doesn't make up for the poor scripting.

Extras

None, by Crom!