Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray’

3-D Blu-ray review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

June 29, 2012

[Released on 3-D Blu-ray in South Africa by Disney/Ster-Kinekor]

Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

Bonus features rating: *****

This 1993 stop-frame animation feature (converted – in 2008, I believe – to 3-D) tells of Jack Skellington from Halloween Land, who covets the conventions of Christmas (decorations, presents, Santa, etc) and inspires his peers to hijack Christmas. The trigger for this story came to its creator, Tim Burton, whilst he was watching a department store change their window display from a Halloween to a Christmas theme. The sight of this conceptual crossover prompted Burton to write a poem – a send-up of the beloved ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (‘Twas The Night Before Christmas). Next was the movie (see Bonus Feature # 2, below].

Although this is widely regarded to be “a Tim Burton movie” and is undeniably his brainchild, Burton was very busy with other projects at the time, so the director’s duties were handed to Henry Selick, who more recently gave us that superior stop-frame animated 3-D movie, Coraline. The project couldn’t have been put in safer hands.

Nightmare is a musical; a bizarre crossover between Sondheim and Gilbert & Sullivan, with songs by Danny Elfman, who’s perhaps best known for the theme of the TV show The Simpsons, though he’s also provided magical scores for numerous A-list Hollywood movies. He has almost exclusively scored Burton’s movies, and I would venture that these films would’ve been diminished without Elfman’s whimsical, eccentric input. And here’s a bit of trivia: the head you see inside the street band’s double bass is modelled upon Elfman – oh, and Elfman also provided Jack Skellington’s singing voice, as Chris Sarandon, who voiced the lead character, wasn’t confident with the singing.

The Disney company had initially released The Nightmare Before Christmas under their more adult Touchstone banner – understandable, as I wouldn’t recommend this gothic tale for the wee ones. This wicked, difficult-to-pigeonhole conceit is certainly entertaining, and it’s unique enough to warrant collecting, even though it doesn’t, in my book, make the ‘classic’ league.

Bonus features: These accompany the 2-D Blu-ray version of the film on the second disc of this set:

1) Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour
Every year from mid-October to January, DisneyLand’s Haunted Mansion ride gets Nightmare Before Christmas-themed. This extra gives you two options; the “On Track” (i.e the ride as seen from your ride buggy) and “Off Track”, which is a 37-minute documentary on the Nightmare Before Christmas-reboot of the ride; something that, as a Disney purist, I’m not wild about, incidentally. The “On Track” option allows for selectable trivia subtitles.

2) Tim Burton’s Original Poem
Read by the horror legend Christopher Lee, and accompanied by Burton’s original concept art. Well worth a visit.

3) Selectable Audio Commentary by Tim Burton, Henry Selick and Danny Elfman 

4) Selectable On-Screen Introduction by Tim Burton
This is no more than a sentence, during which Burton reassures us that this high-definition rendition of the film captures the artists’ every nuance.

5) Frankenweenie
Burton’s half-hour-long 1984 black & white short. It could be said that Burton was propelled him into the world of feature filmmaking on the reputation of this film. Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall play the parents of a boy who decides to resurrect his beloved dead dog, Sparky. Naturally, their surname is Frankenstein… This silly yet still quite stirring little Frankenstein homage is worth the price of the disc alone.
Look out for Burton’s feature-length, stop-frame reboot of Frankenweenie – in 3-D yet – later this year.

6) Vincent
A wildly expressionistic 1982 black and white cartoon by Tim Burton, about a young lad called Vincent Malloy who has macabre fantasies about being like the horror legend Vincent Price. Naturally, it’s narrated by Vincent Price himself…

7) Deleted Storyboard Sequences

8) Deleted Animated Sequences
Some interesting material here.

9)  The Making of Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
A 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

10) The World of Tim Burton’s  ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
a) Concept artwork on Halloween Town, Christmas Town and The Real World (within the movie, that is!),
b) A storyboard-to-film comparison sequence,
c) Posters and trailers. 

Soundtrack options: 
English 7.1 Dolby True HD
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English 2.0 Dolby Surround Audio Descriptive
French 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Italian 5.1 DTS
German 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Spanish 5.1 DTS


Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ 3-D

May 20, 2012

An Active 3-D review of the Ster-Kinekor 3-D Blu-ray release.

[An expansion of my review that appeared in the Johannesburg Saturday Star newspaper:]

Movie: *****

Disc set: *** 

“Allow me to waltz you around my newly dimensionalised library…”

The suits who run the show over at Disney are seldom afraid of recycling product, and this fine film has certainly done the rounds, having appeared in standard cinemas, on home video (in numerous formats), and on IMAX screens. Now, with the entrenchment of Digital 3-D on the theatrical scene, the studio’s taken to converting some of their older releases to 3-D for re-release. This movie recently opened on the 3-D cinema circuit in the States, but the option to do so locally was dropped – which is where this 3-D Blu-ray edition really comes into its own.

The story is a jazzed-up version of the original tale by 17th century French author Charles Perrault, and tells of a beautiful young lady who is held captive by a hideous creature, and who learns, in the course of her stay, to recognise the real, inner beauty of others, regardless of their external appearance. Apart from the extra characters that were created to flesh out the story for a feature-length movie, the tale was turned into a musical; and one that was good enough to be parlayed into a hit Broadway musical. Does it work in 3-D? In stiller scenes which involve lots of foreground and background interest, the 3-D is breathtaking. I found the faster-moving sequences not terribly easy on the eye, however. The original film used a mix of traditional 2-D animation and computer-generated backgrounds, and the 3-D process somehow heightens their differentness…

Extras: Some interesting featurettes, including a chat with the composer of the songs, Alan Menken, and a ‘story reel’ of the original visualisation of the first third of the film – which is worlds apart from the finished product. We also get four versions of the film to watch: the original 1991 cinema release, the same version with accompanying behind-the-scenes videos shown “picture-in-picture”, a slightly longer re-release cut, and – obviously – the 3-D edition. Sadly, this boxset still falls a flat in the bonus features department. Given the vast capacity of Blu-ray discs, one would expect Blu-ray releases to carry forward all bonus features from previous DVD releases. This carries some, but not all.

Also, the bonus disc promises the fascinating behind-the-scenes featurette called ‘Beyond Beauty’ (I’ve seen it on DVD) plus another extra or so, on some other “Disc Two” which doesn’t exist. It turns out that this bonus disc is nicked from the two-disc 2-D Blu-ray edition, in which it is Disc One… (Still with me?) A disappointing rush-job, which one doesn’t expect from a normally-meticulous studio such as Disney.

Three Toy Stories – in Three Dimensions

May 20, 2012

[My review that appeared in Johannesburg’s Saturday Star newspaper:]

3-D Nirvana for Toy Story fans!

Disney has recently been converting selected favourites of the last two decades into 3-D, with varying success. When Toy Story 3 was opened in 3-D, it was decided to release its predecessors (now in 3-D!) as a run-up; hence what we’re examining today. Beauty and the Beast and Lion King were combinations of traditional 2-D animation and computer-generated backgrounds, so their conversion to 3-D yielded predictably mixed results. All of the Toy Story movies, however, were entirely created within a three dimensional virtual world, so the process was easier for the techies – and more impressive for the viewer. The films are all separately available in two-disc sets (which include 2-D versions and bonus features). It’s a treat for stereoptiphiles (which is fancy-speak for 3-D fans).

Toy Story (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) *****

A pioneer; the first entirely computer-animated feature film, and an astonishing feat which rapidly has us empathising with the challenges and joys of being a child’s toy. It also establishes an ensemble of lovable, quirky characters headed up by Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) the intergalactic cop.

The bonus features offer interesting insights into the development of the lead characters, and how the guys at Disney came to accept the relative autonomy of the newly-formed Pixar team. There are some fun anecdotal shorts, but most the fascinating aspect for me was seeing how much the story’s look-and feel changed from the early days to the completed product.

Toy Story 2 (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) ****

As ‘middle child’ of the trilogy, it lacks the originality of the first film and the emotional ‘end of an era’ feeling of the last. It does, however, expand the toys’ social circle by throwing a sassy cowgirl, Jessie (Joan Cusack), and sinister prospector, Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) into the mix. And let’s not forget Al, the sinister toy collector, voiced with aplomb by Wayne Knight (perhaps best known for being Jerry Seinfeld’s nemesis, Newman).

Bonus features include a profile on Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, and a moving tribute to the beloved Pixar staffer Joe Ranft. There are also heaps of other extras, too numerous to detail here, but, if you’re interested in behind the scenes info, the extras packed with first two Toy Story movies won’t leave you wanting!

Toy Story 3 (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) *****

This closing chapter asks what any toy would do, had it the sentience to contemplate such existential issues: “What will become of us now that ‘our child’ has grown up?” In doing so, it speaks to the issues of moving forward into adulthood and deserting the magic of our childhood fantasies as much as it addresses the issues of looking back; and of loyalty. Cloaked in grand adventure, it’s actually a five-tissue tear-jerker!
Bonus features are lean in this package, seeing as Pixar’s process has already been so well explained in the earlier discs. They’ve thrown in the Oscar-nominated cartoon, Day & Night, that accompanied the film on its theatrical release, but a big let-down is that it isn’t the original 3-D version.

‘Up’ Falls Flat on its Disc

August 19, 2009

Up 3D posterThe Disney/Pixar 3-D family movie Up opened in the States on May 29th, but local audiences are going to have to… well… hang in there, until September 11th. (Apparently, it’s well worth the wait!)

Walt Disney’s home entertainment unit has announced that, when they release the movie on disc (which, in the States, will be on November 10th), it will only be available in 2-D. Bolt, Disney’s recent computer-animated 3-D hit, was also released in flat ol’ 2-D only.

Disney doesn’t seem sure which way to turn when it comes to 3-D releases on DVD/Blu-ray. Other recent Disney 3-D theatrical releases such as Miley Cyrus: Best of Both World’s Concert and The Jonas Brothers 3-D Concert Experience gave the public the opportunity of seeing the films in 3-D at home. The easiest way to achieve this on the average TV set, however, is to use the anaglyph system (such as we’ll be using in our Active 3-D Galleries). This uses those glasses with the coloured lenses – not the most satisfactory solution, but the cheapest and most accessible to all consumers. And at least you’re getting your 3-D kicks!

Yes, many critics and consumers have expressed their dissatisfaction the anaglyph system, but the 3-D discs which Disney released always contained the 2-D option as well (for the more churlish family members!). In fact, I remember that the Miley Cyrus movie was also available in a 2-D-only pack. But at least consumers were offered the choice. Now, it’s a flat nada…

Of course, there are higher-quality 3-D systems being mooted for the Blu-ray format, so maybe Disney is waiting for those to be finalised. They’re probably hoping that we’ll buy the 2-D versions of these films, and then, when the Blu-ray 3-D versions are finally released, we’ll buy those as well. Talk about lessons in retail recycling of the same title…