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Currently showing posts tagged Adventure

  • Home Video Highlights: DuckTales: Destination: Adventure (2018) Review

    DuckTales: Destination: Adventure! (2018): Gearing up for another round of excitement and hijinks, DuckTales: Destination Adventure! finds everyone’s favorite mini ducks and their wealthy grandfather Scrooge McDuck together again in a handful episodes taking them from ancient tombs to the dangerous Mt. Neverrest and beyond.  Equally as fun as their delightful pilot episode, over two hours of death-defying hilarity across six episodes await fans with a penchant for globetrotting thrills that only Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby can deliver.  While younger viewers will enjoy the offerings of episodes no questions asked, keen-eyed fans may be confused and slightly disappointed by the disc’s random selection and sorting of episodes kicking DuckTales’ home video beginnings off to an uneven start.  While their inclusion and placement may be a bit messy, there’s no denying that the fun contained within DuckTales: Destination: Adventure! is another worthy artifact deserving of a spot in fans’ home video museums.  As an added bonus for elder fans who grew up with the original DuckTales, classic episodes from seasons 1 and 4, “New Gizmo-Kids on the Block” and “Ducky Mountain High” respectively, are included to keep you woo-hooing just a little while longer.  Furthermore, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), DisneyNOW (1:03) and Incredibles 2 (1:01) round out the disc’s supplemental material.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DuckTales: Destination: Adventure! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Home Video Highlights: DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017) & Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day (2017) Reviews

                          

    DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017): 30 years later, Disney XD revives one of the original Disney Afternoon’s cherished properties with DuckTales.  Based on Carl Banks’ iconic comic strips, DuckTales: Woo-oo! finds clumsy Donald Duck leaving his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie with his Uncle Scrooge while attending a job interview.  Unimpressed with their elderly family member, the triplets are introduced to the young Webby Vanderquack who reveals the many adventures conquered and relics secured by McDuck.  After accidentally unleashing and daringly recapturing evil spirits within the mansion, Scrooge’s sense of adventure is awakened and rounds up his young spectators to recover the Lost Jewel of Atlantis.  Confronted with his nemesis Flintheart Glomgold who is also after the jewel and aided by a clueless Donald, hilarity and excitement ensue in this phenomenal pilot installment to its equally strong first season.  Led by spot-on vocal work by David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones) as Scrooge McDuck, exceptional animation and a newly recorded cover of the memorable 80s theme song, DuckTales: Woo-oo!, accompanied by 6 “Welcome to Duckburg” bonus shorts and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards, DisneyNOW and Disneynature’s Dolphins, is a splashing good time for fans of all ages.

    Available now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DuckTales: Woo-oo! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    RATING: 4.5/5      

    Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day (2017): In this epic hour-long episode, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day finds Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) looking over the kingdom while her parents take a royal getaway.  Overwhelmed with her role as acting queen and each decision for the kingdom backfiring, Rapunzel is faced with a dire winter storm that pits her parents in mortal danger while young Varian’s pleas to aid his father who is being encased by the recent uprising of mysterious spiky rock formations fall on deaf ears, making Rapunzel’s test run at leading the kingdom her hardest challenge to date.  Perhaps the most dramatic installment of the series to date with its enchanting, brushstroke-like animation continuing to be a feast for the eyes plus, four “Inside the Journal” Shorts as well as the same recycled Sneak Peeks as its fellow animated DisneyXD release, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day is a magical highpoint for the longhaired fairy tale saga.

    Available now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    RATING: 4/5

       

  • Tangled: Before Ever After (2017) DVD Review

    Tangled: Before Ever After (2017)

    Director(s): Tom Caulfield & Stephen Sandoval

    Starring: Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore, Eden Espinosa, Clancy Brown, Julie Bowen & Jeffrey Tambor

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Taking place after the events of the original film but before the lead characters’ eventual marriage, Tangled: Before Ever After brings the charming heart and humor of Rapunzel and beau Eugene to the small screen in this original movie event, kickstarting its new episodic series.  Exchanging its slick computer-generated animation for a more traditional 2D style that echoes an illustrated storybook come to life, Rapunzel, although thrilled to be back home and surrounded by loved ones, struggles to adapt to her new royal lifestyle and the responsibilities it demands.  Temporarily turning down the love of her life’s proposal in order to explore sights beyond her castle walls, the barefoot beauty teams up with her resourceful aide Cassandra and encounters a mystical rock formation that returns her lengthy locks.  Attempting to fulfill her coronation ceremony, danger is not far behind as the vengeful Lady Kaine and her ruffians seek to infiltrate the castle leaving Rapunzel and Flynn, along with their animal friends, leading the defense.  Welcoming back the voice talents of Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore, Tangled: Before Ever After sets the stage for the Disney Channel’s seemingly surefire followup to the much loved feature.  Introducing new characters, familiar locations and retaining the enchanting tone audiences fell in love with several years ago, this anticipated return for Corona’s favorite couple, complimented by new original songs by legendary Disney composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), is a romantically fun adventure fans will looks favorably upon.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Tangled: Before Ever After in a widescreen format, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally mastered and warmly preserving its very vibrant color scheme, characters and busier castle backgrounds look solid making the watching experience a satisfactory one.  Joined by a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently handled while, the Menken penned song numbers give the track a subtle but, gracious boost in quality.  Bonus goodies include, four Short Cuts mini movies including, Checkmate (2:32), Prison Bake (2:22), Make Me Smile (2:32) and Hare Peace (2:27).  Furthermore, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Elena of Avalor (0:48), Descendants 2 (0:34) and Born in China (1:16) are also included.  Lastly, an Exclusive Replica of Rapunzel’s Journal, as seen in the film, is also included in the packaging.  Fans awaiting for more fairy tales to be told from the world of Tangled, fear not, as this humorous new beginning for the beloved characters is on par with the magic of its 2010 originator.  With its formal series now airing and already renewed for a second season, Tangled: Before Ever After is the perfect start to catching up with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, making for a prime Easter basket treat for young viewers this holiday season.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tangled: Before Ever After can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • A Game of Death (1945) Blu-ray Review

    A Game of Death (1945)

    Director: Robert Wise

    Starring: John Loder, Audrey Long, Edgar Barrier & Russell Wade

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Readapting Richard Connell’s thrilling tale just over a decade after its pre-Code movie makeover from the directors of King Kong, A Game of Death is a briskly paced and suspenseful jungle-based adventure where the hunter becomes the hunted.  Starring John Loder (How Green Was My Valley) as noted author and respected hunter Don Rainsford who after becoming shipwrecked, finds shelter in Erich Kreiger’s (Edgar Barrier, Macbeth) exotic island homestead.  An isolated locale hosting fellow shipwrecked siblings Ellen (Audrey Long, Born to Kill) and Bob (Russell Wade, The Body Snatcher) Trowbridge, their welcoming host proves sinister as his homicidal tendencies to hunt humans across his vast land are revealed.  Tensely orchestrated by the masterly Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting) while recycling selected footage from The Most Dangerous Game, A Game of Death never wanes in its excitement with commendable performances put forth by the respectably gruff Loder and deliciously wicked Barrier as the German human hunter who prefers a bow and arrows over rifles.  Climaxing with a fog-entrenched pursuit through the island’s jungle greenery with hungry bloodhounds on Don and Ellen’s coattails, A Game of Death is a thoroughly entertaining catch, tonally reminiscent of the weekly film serials of the era with an unquestionably cinematic punch drawing viewers into its horrifying island of danger.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics proudly presents A Game of Death with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing age-related traces of speckles and scratches to varying degrees, the 1945 black-and-white remake overwhelmingly impresses with its conveyed detail in Kreiger’s prize room and the dirt and blood stains found on Rainsford’s attire.  Meanwhile, black levels bear strong deepness while, recycled footage from the ship’s destruction to instances of the hounds pursuing Don and Ellen show obviously grainier levels.  Equipped with a basic-sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is decently relayed with increases in volume recommended to fully capture their entirety.  Furthermore, mild instances of hiss are present but never deal-breaking on the track while, obscene cracks or pops are thankfully excused.  Special features include, a richly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and Trailers for The Quatermass Xperiment (2:13), The Earth Dies Screaming (2:14), 99 River Street (2:13) and No Highway in the Sky (2:09).  An excellent second stab at Connell’s revered short story, A Game of Death keeps its suspense high and runtime swift ensuring a pulse-beating good time for all.  Bestowing a solid HD remastering on the RKO thriller with a recommended audio commentary, KL Studio Classics have claimed another keeper in their hunt for film’s treasures.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, A Game of Death can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Finding Dory (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Finding Dory (2016)

    Director(s): Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane

    Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba & Dominic West

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to the undersea world of the 2003 hit movie, Finding Dory focuses on the loveably forgetful blue tang (Ellen DeGeneres, Ellen) as memories of her family slowly resurface, inspiring a new quest to find them.  Assisted by a wave of new sea creatures, Dory’s journey won’t be simple but, one of unforgettable adventure.  

    In its long overdue followup, Finding Dory shifts its attention to the fan-favorite costar of the original with her role as the seeker now substituted as the lost traveller in her pursuit for her family.  Treading familiar waters with a less epic journey ahead, Finding Dory’s routine calculations are thankfully offset by DeGeneres’ charisma and the film’s hilarious new supporting players.  A year after reuniting Nemo (Hayden Rolence) with his father Marlin (Albert Brooks, Drive), Dory is struck with memory flashes of the parents (Diane Keaton, Annie Hall and Eugene Levy, American Pie) she became separated from as a child.  With assistance from the bodaciouslly cool sea turtle Crush, Dory, Marlin and Nemo find themselves at the Marine Life Institute in California where the blue tang is certain she resided with her loved ones.  Before long, Dory is separated from her clownfish pals by marine biologists and forced to navigate the interiors of the aquatic development on her own.  Luckily encountering Hank (Ed O’Neill, Modern Family), a particularly crabby octopus with desires of living his days solely in an aquarium, the two find mutual benefits in sticking together while, meeting hilariously lazy sea lions Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba, The Jungle Book and Dominic West, John Carter respectively), a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and a bulbous beluga whale known as Bailey (Ty Burrell, Muppets Most Wanted).

    Warming hearts with flashbacks of an adorably young Dory and rescuing her best friends from a permeant stay in Cleveland during a high-speed truck pursuit, Finding Dory never stumbles in relaying saccharine charm yet, its narrative plays itself too safely that although entertaining, halts the sequel from exceeding the quality of its original.  With Dory and Hank’s at first contentious turned sweet friendship being the film’s finest asset along with its stunning visuals, Finding Dory may not be the next Pixar masterpiece but, remains a throughly fun ride, no matter how simple-minded its journey is.  

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Finding Dory with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Nothing short of perfection, the oceanic environment from the murky, dimly lit depths of the sea to the colorful shades of blue in the waters of the film’s California setting shine beautifully with strong presence and exacting detail.  Furthermore, the bolder hues found in characters such as Hank, Nemo and Dory pop exceptionally while, black levels never falter in relaying the inkiest of depths.  Disney once again has made a high-definition splash viewers will find the utmost delight in.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal clear with the splashing of waves, bubbling ambiance and the film’s lovely musical score all presented with effective priority.  Featuring well over two hours of additional content, Disc 1’s special features include, an Audio Commentary with Directors Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane and Producer Lindsey Collins, Piper (6:05), Pixar’s latest short subject revolving around a baby sandpiper coping with his fear of water, Marine Life Interviews (2:04) featuring humorous sit-downs with the supporting sea creatures about their encounters with Dory, The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar (9:05) deals with the complexities of bringing the tentacled character of Hank to life and What Were We Talking About? (4:31) finds the creative team discussing the titular character and the trickiness of her short-term memory loss.  In addition, Casual Carpool (3:47) finds Director Andrew Stanton chauffeuring Stars Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy and eventually Ed O’Neill as they hilariously fail to discuss fish facts, Animation & Acting (6:57) explores the art of voice acting with the cast and creators while, Deep in the Kelp (3:20) finds Jenna Ortega of Stuck in the Middle hosting a look into Pixar’s oceanic research developing the film and Creature Features (3:02) catches up with the cast as they share tidbits on their real undersea counterparts.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks for Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Elena of Avalor (0:32), Disney Store (0:32), Disney on Ice (1:02), Moana (1:26) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) round out the supplemental smorgasbord.

    Next up on Disc 2, bonus content includes, a Behind the Scenes section of several featurettes covering Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer (4:14), Dory’s Theme (4:57), Rough Day on the Reef (1:11), Finding Nemo As Told by Emoji (2:47) and Fish Schticks (3:35).  Secondly, a selection of bonfire-like ambiance for your television screen featuring unique Living Aquariums are included such as, Sea Grass (3:03:52), Open Ocean (2:48:30), Stingrays (2:48:42) and Swim to the Surface (1:02:20).  Finally, Deleted Scenes (50:15), Trailers ranging from the Sleep Swimming United States Trailer (1:43), Theatrical Payoff Japan Trailer (2:09), Can’t Remember Spain Trailer (1:22) and the Journey Russia Trailer (2:31) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Over a decade since Finding Nemo swam its way into the hearts of audiences worldwide, its belated sequel may have arrived with open arms but, strays too closely to formula to be considered as impactful.  While its dynamics may seem wholly familiar, the returning characters make for delightful company with the hilarious supporting players being responsible for the better part of the film’s laughs.  Falling short of the greatness of Pixar’s Toy Story sequels, Finding Dory keeps its agenda simple and breezy with depths of fun still to be had for audiences who can’t stop swimming for these beloved characters.  Meanwhile, Disney admirably stretches its tentacles to deliver another first-rate high-definition release with hours worth of bonus content to keep viewers drenched in entertainment.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 15th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Finding Dory can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

    Director: James Bobin

    Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter & Sacha Baron Cohen

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Producer Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Frankenweenie), Alice Through the Looking Glass finds the yellow-haired heroine (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) on a quest to save her ailing friend, The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise).  Reuniting with old friends, Alice must run against the villainous Time (Sacha Baron Cohen, Hugo) to right a past wrong before all that she knows seizes to exist.  James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted) directs this fantastical followup to the 2010 box-office hit.

    Sailing the seas since her last wondrous adventure, Alice Through the Looking Glass welcomes the titular character back down the rabbit hole for another dreamlike journey into Underland.  Escaping the realities of her own world where her home and beloved ship are jeopardized, Alice is informed of the Hatter’s deteriorating state due to the loss and assumed death of his family.  Determined to restore her friend’s muchness, Alice sets a course to visit the embodiment of Time in order to return to the past to save Hatter’s loved ones from their grim future.  Resistant to accept the notion of impossibility, Alice steals the powerful Chronosphere to travel through time, igniting a wave of repercussions and revived vengeance from her former foe, The Red Queen (Bonham Carter).  From the clown-faced Johnny Depp to the late Alan Rickman in his final role returning to the psychedelic festivities, newcomer Sacha Baron Cohen adds a complimentary touch of eccentricity as the film’s surprisingly layered and not-so evil antagonist while, Helena Bonham Carter once again bobs her bulbous noggin and uncontrollably shouts as the film’s returning baddie.  

    Featuring a gothic fairy tale-esque score from Composer Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands), extravagantly loud costume designs and zany computer-generated environments, Alice Through the Looking Glass remains true to the spirit of its predecessor while forging a daring new tale for our characters with a well juggled balance of humor and magic.  While its narrative may not be wholly groundbreaking, Director James Bobin’s apparent love and enthusiasm for the works of Lewis Carroll is evident in his approach that whisks viewers on a journey where time is of the essence.  Although detractors of Burton’s original film may find its sequel of little value, like-minded viewers of Alice Through the Looking Glass will find its results most entertaining and even improving in various cases on its financially successful yet, widely divided originator.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Alice Through the Looking Glass with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exceptionally capturing the natural tones of Alice’s facial features to the rainbow colored makeup of the Hatter and the unpigmented appearance of The White Queen, clarity is nothing short of astounding.  In addition, detail in Time’s gear orchestrated dwelling is top-notch while, black levels found in his attire and Alice’s thunderous journey on sea is deeply inky and absent of any crush.  Bursting with a wide variety of colors through costumes, VFX driven sets and characters, their bold appearances are always in the healthiest of contrasts.  Continuing to lead the pack for best consistently handled transfers from a major studio, Disney delivers yet another exemplary effort.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, sound quality is of the highest order with ideal dialogue levels and a handsome handling of thematic moments including, crashing waves, the Jabberwocky’s fire breathing blasts and Danny Elfman’s effective score all making grand impressions.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James Bobin, Behind the Looking Glass (8:39) with insight from Bobin and his talented cast, A Stitch in Time: Costuming Wonderland (4:24) where Costume Designer Collen Atwood discusses the trickiness of approaching a sequel, Characters of Underland (4:47) explores the otherworldly costars of the film and their importance in the story and Time On… (1:46) featuring a humorous interview with Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Time.  Also included, Alice Goes Through the Looking Glass: A Scene Peeler (2:27) and Alice Goes Through Time’s Castle: A Scene Peeler (1:33) showcases the blue screen shooting of the sequences and their finished appearances in the film.  Next up, a “Just Like Fire” by P!nk Music Video (3:58), Behind the Music Video (3:02) and Deleted Scenes with optional Audio Commentary with Director James Bobin (8:56) are also on hand.  Finally, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43), Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (0:32), Once Upon a Time (0:32), 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) and Finding Dory (1:39) round out the on-disc supplements while, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also accompanied with the release.

    Although not the billion dollar success its previous entry was, Alice Through the Looking Glass may appear upon first look to be more of the same yet, repeat tumbles down the rabbit hole prove the sequel to be even more charming.  With a visually rich design and entertainingly over the top performances, Disney’s fairy tale followup is fine tuned for those as mad as the Hatter himself.  Hosting a flawless visual and sonic presentation with a satisfying slate of supplements including, an appreciated commentary track from the enthusiastic Bobin, Alice Through the Looking Glass is littered with magical muchness worth exploring.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Alice Through the Looking Glass can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016)

    Director: Sean O’Reilly

    Starring: Christopher Plummer, Ron Perlman, Jane Curtin & Doug Bradley

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the graphic novel series, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom finds introverted Howard Lovecraft disregarding his father’s warnings and entering a strange new world plagued by an endless winter.  Befriending a frightening looking creature, the unlikely duo brave immense danger and horrifying creatures to return the chilled environment to its former glory.  Christopher Plummer (Up), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Jane Curtin (Saturday Night Live) and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) comprise the film’s vocal talent.

    Comic book publisher turned animation upstart, Arcana Studio brings nightmarish realms and fantastical creatures to life, inspired by the atmospherically peculiar works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Following a visit to his father in the local sanitarium, quiet and reserved Howard Lovecraft ignores emotional ramblings to fear the powerfully scripted Nerconomicon, opening a portal into a dark underworld where a once marvelous kingdom has been overtaken by an eternal blizzard.  After outwitting a hungry tentacled creature, the gloomy-looking child and beast, nicknamed “Spot”, forge an unexpected friendship as they trek across the deathly cold land, encountering a pack of helpful children along the way.  Forging ahead to the Kingdom of R’yleh, Howard and Spot find themselves in the graces of royalty where everybody is not quiet who they claim to be.  Between snowball fights and rounds of hide and go seek, the daring duo’s death-defying mission to end the kingdom’s frozen state pits them against razor-toothed terrors and the occult while searching for a way back home for Howard.  Crafted with a clear passion for the works of its inspirer and monster movies, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom’s crude animation design lends itself nicely to its surreal, fairytale sensibilities while, its plot, heavily reliant on Lovecraftian lingo, may leave younger viewers puzzled.  Gothically colorful and featuring impressive vocal work from terribly underused talent, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom falls short on substance but earns praise for its less refined and refreshingly different animated approach.

    Shout! Factory presents Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing minor occurrences of digital noise, the computer-generated creations radiate striking colors, most prominently in the neon green and purple lighting hues while, black levels are deep and exacting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently audible with sound effects and the film’s accompanying soundtrack, although neither forceful or grossly impressionable, are adequately handled.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sean Patrick O’Reilly, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (3:36) and its Trailer (1:13).  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A passable Lovecraftian toon for tikes with a sequel planned, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom stumbles narratively with greater appreciation to be had for its rough around the edges yet, effectively appealing character designs.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory ushers the animated effort onto home video with a most pleasing hi-def treatment, just in time for younger trick or treaters to welcome in the spookiest time of year.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Iron Giant (1999) Signature Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Iron Giant (1999)

    Director: Brad Bird

    Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald & M. Emmet Walsh

    Released by: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the small town of Rockwell, Maine circa 1957, The Iron Giant centers on imaginative nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal, American Pie) and his magical friendship with an extraterrestrial robot (Vin Diesel, The Fast and the Furious franchise).  When government officials investigate suspicious happenings, the giant’s protection becomes Hogarth’s prime responsibility.  Jennifer Aniston (Friends), Harry Connick, Jr. (Dolphin Tale), James Gammon (Major League), Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein), John Mahoney (Say Anything…), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) and M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) comprise the vocal talent in Director Brad Bird’s (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) feature-length debut.

    Capturing the golden age of American suburbia juxtaposed with the tenseness of Cold War paranoia, The Iron Giant stretches its impressive gears to deliver an animated spectacle, unafraid to tackle heavier themes while uplifting viewers to awe-inspiring heights.  After a lightning crash-landing strikes the fictional town of Rockwell, incessantly curious neighborhood tike Hogarth Hughes investigates his wooded surroundings with army helmet and toy rifle in tow.  Happening upon a skyscraper high iron giant feasting on electrical metal generating the town, Hogarth saves the colossal being from a near-fatal shock, forming the basis of an unexpected bond and quite likely the greatest discovery since television.  Teaching his new friend simple phrases and keeping him hidden from a panicky public, Hogarth befriends local beatnik and shrap metal yard owner Dean (Connick, Jr.) in order to better conceal their unsubtle pal.  As the otherworldly robot learns the value of friendship and the painful truths of life and death, investigative U.S. agent Kent Mansley (McDonald) arrives in Rockwell to validate recent reports of unexplainable phenomena and extinguish any potential threats.  Following an innocent game that reveals the giant’s intended purpose of construction, the nosey Kent catches onto Hogarth’s secret prompting troops to storm the idyllic community in search of the so-called national threat.  Through soul-searching and recognizing one’s destiny and true purpose in life, The Iron Giant navigates through emotional highs and lows while weaving a beautifully constructed anti-violence theme that celebrates the best in humans and those we open our hearts to.

    Underbudgeted and brought to fruition by a team of inexperienced animators, The Iron Giant would generate historic pre-release buzz that would be jeopardized by an uneventfully bland marketing campaign and a scatterbrained release date.  Based loosely on the book by Ted Hughes, Co-Writer/Director Brad Bird would take personal tragedy and his experience in breakneck episodic animation to mesmerize viewers with an underdog feature fueled purely on heart.  Touching the souls of all who experienced the film during its financially disappointing theatrical run, The Iron Giant has aged gracefully and appears even more potent in the troubling times of today’s violence.  Channeling the fears and childlike fascination of the Atomic Age with a Rockwellian design approach and seamless computer-generated artistry, The Iron Giant dazzles visually and relates universally to all audiences as one of the great under appreciated classics to be seen, animated or otherwise.

    Presenting both its Signature Edition (1:29:58) with two new scenes instated and its Theatrical Version (1:26:39), Warner Bros. Home Entertainment debuts The Iron Giant on high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Masterfully transferred with gorgeous color grades and a handsome handling of nighttime sequences, this filmic-looking presentation spares any unsightly anomalies and awards viewers with an ideal watching experience, worthy of its director’s approval.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed with perfect clarity while, the iron giant’s heavy stomping, outdoorsy ambiance and the film’s ammunition geared finale shows off its impressive dynamics with the highest of praise.  

    The vast assortment of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Brad Bird, Head of Animation Tony Fucile, Story Department Head Jeff Lynch and Animation Supervisor (Giant) Steven Markowski.  Furthermore, the newly-crafted The Giant’s Dream: The Making of The Iron Giant (55:47) is a first-rate, deeply personal retrospective that charts Bird’s initial interest in animation to his Disney internship and subsequent firing from the company to the long, challenging road developing The Iron Giant.  Told predominately through animation, vintage footage and narration from invaluable players of the production team today, this heartfelt full circle is essential viewing for fans.  Meanwhile, vintage supplements from 2003 include, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Brad Bird (15:16), Teddy Newton: The X Factor (5:38), Duck and Cover Sequence (2:23), The Voice of The Iron Giant (8:16), The Score (4:49), Behind the Armor (17:31) and a Motion Gallery (4:22).  Accompanied with a “Brad Bird” Trailer (1:29) and Signature Edition Trailer (2:32), 1999’s The Making of The Iron Giant (22:05), Vintage Easter Eggs (1:48), The Salt Mines (7:06) where Digital Effects Artist Andrew Jimenez travels to the underground Kansas storage facility where the film’s original art is held and Hand Drawn (1:40) featuring Bird expressing his eternal devotion to the art form concludes the virtually endless quantity of extras.

    Aesthetically and narratively perfect, The Iron Giant survived the fallout of box-office ruin and persevered to be rightly embraced for all its outstanding qualities.  Appreciated more than ever by curious new audiences and revisited by original believers, Director Brad Bird’s ironclad adventure of friendship and nonviolence bravely explores emotionally dense themes leaving viewers all the richer for its commitment.  Answering the pleas of devoted fans and its passionate creators, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment issues The Iron Giant in a long-awaited and flawlessly presented high-def debut, lovingly equipped with a generous share of nuts and bolts supplements.  Also available in a desirable Ultimate Collector’s Edition variant, The Iron Giant crash lands as one of animation’s greatest gifts and one of the year’s premier releases!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, The Iron Giant can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Captain America: Civil War (2016)

    Director(s): Anthony & Joe Russo

    Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen & Daniel Brühl

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the cataclysmic destruction of The Avengers’ last battle, Captain America: Civil War finds the government and international leaders urging the powerful team to fall under order.  Creating a sharp difference of opinion between Captain America (Chris Evans, Snowpiercer) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes), the two friends become each other’s worst enemies, simultaneously dividing their fellow teammates.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Community) return to helm the exciting followup to their 2014 smash hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  

    Carrying on from its politically-charged and throughly action-packed sequel, the star-spangled hero returns in top form as governmental pressure creates a dividing rift between the Brooklyn native and his billionaire ally.  As the world recovers from the devastation at Sokovia, Captain America and select members of The Avengers experience another tragedy of civilian lives lost during an enemy pursuit in Lagos.  With worldwide pressure mounting, a controversial agreement is proposed amongst the United Nations that would sanction the actions of the mighty team creating unexpected friction amongst its members.  Haunted by the guilt of their unintended harmful actions, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) seeks to oblige by the orders of the world governments by supporting the motion while, Steve Rogers (Evans) refuses to stand back if a global threat arises and The Avengers are ordered to not intervene.  Agreeing to disagree, supportive Avengers prepare to sign the peaceful accord in Vienna when an explosion takes the lives of many and holds Rogers’ childhood best friend and the ruthless Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes (Stan) as the culprit.  Fearing for his friend’s life and adamant on finding him first, Captain America, now considered a fugitive, locates his former foe who insists he was not responsible for the attack.  Apprehended alongside Cap’s loyal comrades, Barnes finds himself at the mercy of the mysterious Helmut Zemo (Brühl) after confidential Hydra documents are recovered revealing insight into Barnes’ psychological triggers.  Breaking out of custody and once again reuniting with his friend, Captain America, joined by Falcon (Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Olsen), Hawkeye (Renner) and the tiniest of titans Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, Role Models), go rogue to reveal the truth before Zemo’s reign of terror continues.  Meanwhile, forced to do battle, the accord agreeing Iron Man, alongside War-Machine (Cheadle), Vision (Bettany) and others, seek to bring their former friends to justice for the safety of the world.

    Righting the ship of its character abundant and narratively choppy Avengers predecessor with ease while, maintaining the high standards of The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War raises another notch in quality for the impressively depth-filled cinematic universe.  Covering a global scale and containing explosively action-packed sequences throughout, the third Captain led adventure keeps the film exceptionally balanced with a loaded cast that never fight for screen time or loses the focus of its titular hero’s emotional path.  Injecting perfectly timed touches of humor natural to the Russo’s sensibilities and pushing The Avengers into complexities not seen before, Captain America: Civil War also marks the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42) and the high-school web-slinging Spider-Man (Tom Holland, In the Heart of the Sea) who rob scenes from their fellow costumed performers, leaving viewers yearning for more.  In addition, while Brühl compliments the film with his calculated presence, his antagonists motivations feel generally contrived and one-dimensional in a film that otherwise burns brightly.  Arguably containing Marvel’s most exciting battle sequence to date that finds the divided Avengers dueling on an airport tarmac and Ant-Man growing to mammoth heights, Captain America: Civil War will leave audiences anything but split on its outcome.  Terrifically paced and infectiously entertaining, Marvel’s juggernaut threequel lives up to expectations and emerges as one of their best efforts yet!

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Captain America: Civil War with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Stunning in every frame, skin tones are naturally balanced while saturation is exceptionally handled.  Colors are sharp and exacting with the ever-changing locations of the sunny Lagos to the snowy Siberian climax beautifully relayed.  Crisp and devoid of imperfections, Marvel’s latest looks showstoppingly strong.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while, Cap’s metallic sounding shield, missile blasts and building explosions rock the track in all the right ways.  Furthermore, hand-to-hand combat, street ambiance and high-speed car chases are equally prioritized, offering the mix a universally balanced and reference quality presentation.  Wonderfully packed, special features include, An Audio Commentary with Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, United We Stand, Divided We Fall - The Making of Captain America Civil War Part 1 (22:25) and Part 2 (23:18) expertly covers the development and cinematic arc of the character with interviews from key Marvel talent and behind the scenes footage.  In addition, Captain America: The Road to Civil War (4:11) and Iron Man: The Road to Civil War (4:27) chart the unique paths and emotional challenges each character has gone through leading up to the 2016 sequel while, Open Your Mind: Marvel’s Doctor Strange - Exclusive Sneak Peek (4:02), Deleted & Extended Scenes (7:52) and a Gag Reel (2:53) are also included.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Doctor Strange (2:03), an Audi Promo for Captain America: Civil War (2:10) and Marvel Contest of Champions (0:32) are joined by a Digital HD code.

    Earning over $1 billion at the worldwide box-office, Captain America: Civil War is the latest of Marvel’s laborious universe stretching achievements that also ranks as one of its greatest.  An expansion to the universally hailed Winter Soldier storyline that delivers where Age of Ultron fell short, Team Cap’s battle with Team Iron Man is emotionally tested and rollercoastingly intense with a star-studded cast of fan favorite heroes and colorful newcomers on hand for the battle of the century.  Continuing the ascension of Marvel’s commitment to quality and popcorn bursting entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment delivers the superhero blockbuster with quintessential technical grades and a superior assortment of bonus features worthy of investigation.  While its heroes may be left divided, Captain America: Civil War will surely unite fans with its spectacle and edge of your seat spirit. 

    RATING: 5/5                      

    Available September 13th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Captain America: Civil War can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Jungle Book (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Jungle Book (2016)

    Director: Jon Favreau

    Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken & Neel Sethi

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the timeless tale, The Jungle Book centers on young Mowgli (Neel Sethi in his film debut), a man-cub raised by wolves, as he embarks on an adventure of self-discovery where great danger and unexpected friends lie.  Featuring the talented voice work of Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Ben Kingsley (The Walk), Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Giancarlo Esposito (Once Upon a Time) and Christopher Walken (Hairspray), Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directs this modern adaptation.

    Seamlessly blending the magical whimsy of Walt Disney’s animated classic with cutting-edge visual effects, Director Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s masterwork balances emotional gravity and awe-inspiring moments of marvel for a mesmerizingly audacious experience.  Scripted by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), The Jungle Book remains true to the spirit of its cinematic predecessors while, injecting more of its source material back into its finished product.  Raised by wolves in the Indian jungles, man-cub Mowgli struggles to keep up with the daily challenges of his adopted family.  Plagued by a dry spell, the animals of the jungle congregate at a peaceful drinking location where the feared and severely scarred tiger Shere Khan (Elba) voices his animosity and desire to kill Mowgli.  After much deliberation, the young man-cub solely decides to leave his family for their own safety with assistance from the trusted panther Bagheera (Kingsley).  Journeying to the nearby village, Shere Khan strikes, separating the two and leaving the child to navigate exotic depths of the jungle unknown to him.  Following a near-death encounter with a hypnotic python, Mowgli is rescued by the lovably lazy bear Baloo (Murray), forging a new friendship built on ingenuity and honey consumption.  After reuniting with his former protector Bagheera and news of tragedy is reported, Mowgli overcomes a labyrinth of monkeys and their royal King Louie (Walken) to face his destiny back in the only home he knows.

    Retaining the beloved musical tunes of Terry Gilkyson and the Sherman Brothers, The Jungle Book guides viewers through a computer-generated realm of unbelievable reality populated with photorealistic animals that break new ground in movie magic wizardry.  Stunningly realized by a voice cast of Hollywood’s finest including, the pitch-perfect Bill Murray as Baloo and the briefly seen yet, wholly impactful Scarlett Johansson as the seductively sneaky Kaa, newcomer Neel Sethi brings a youthful energy and wide-ranging charisma to his role as the film’s only central human character.  Epically conceived and pushing the boundaries of adventure to new heights, The Jungle Book delivers far more than the bare necessities, ensuring a heartwarming and intensely packed avenue of escapism for all ages.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Jungle Book with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Flawless in every aspect, the lush greenery of the jungle to its more rainy and overcast skies read with exceptional clarity.  Meanwhile, Mowgli’s skin tone breathes with natural ease while, scars and the delicacy of all animal furs appear with impressive detail.  Finally, black levels found in Bagheera’s coat and King Louie’s dilapidated kingdom are exquisitely inky and deep making Disney’s latest transfer yet another mark of visual perfection.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is solidly relayed with the natural ambiance of a jungle setting nicely supported.  In addition, John Debney’s (Sin City, Iron Man 2) score packs immersive depth while, animal roars, bass heavy stampedes and of course, Murray and Walken’s renditions of “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You”   making reference quality statements.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau that is both highly informative and passionate, The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02) presents a roundtable discussion with Director Jon Favreau, Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato on the long, rewarding process of making the film, I Am Mowgli (8:18) explores the charming qualities that earned newcomer Neel Sethi his role in the film and his unique interactions working on an imagined set while, King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer (3:14) presents a nicely edited rendition of “I Wan’na Be Like You” juxtaposing from Walken’s recording, the computer-generated developments of the sequence and John Debney’s conduction of the music.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43) and Zootopia (1:37) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    A visual splendor from start to finish, The Jungle Book continues Disney’s long, storied tradition of timeless tales and breathtaking adventure.  Achieved through dazzling technological advances, Director Jon Favreau’s modern rendition honors its animated forefather with the utmost respect while, pushing cinematic boundaries that Walt Disney himself would be impressed by.  Serving its feature rightly, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment delivers a pristine high-definition experience with a delightful dose of supplements including, a highly enjoyable commentary with Favreau that will leave viewers swinging from the trees in excitement.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 30th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The Jungle Book can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)

    Director(s): Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon

    Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala & Jayson Lamb

    Released by: Drafthouse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Transfixed by Director Steven Spielberg’s trailblazing 1981 blockbuster, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made documents the journey of three 11-year-old boys from Mississippi who took home movies to an unprecedented level with their own shot-for-shot adaptation, filmed over the course of seven grueling years.  With the exception of the film’s explosive airplane sequence, the tenacious trio and their loyal supporters reunite 20 years later to complete their ambitious project.

    A testament to childhood dreams coming true and quite possibly the most disciplined example of sticktoitiveness, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made recounts the unbelievably true tale of Mississippi youths who, from the wreckage of divorced families and introverted personalities, escaped their realities to capture the greatest adventure of their lives on videotape.  After bonding over their mutual love for Spielberg’s archeological hero and his cinematic debut, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos would forge a friendship built on their love for film and their desire to helm their own grassroots adaptation.  Teaming with fellow eccentric Jayson Lamb and a revolving door of younger siblings and neighborhood kids, Zala, acting as director in addition to playing multiple onscreen roles while, Strompolos dons the iconic fedora and whip as Indiana Jones, sacrifice summer vacations and weekends over several years to do their treasured feature justice.  Risking life and limb with little to no interference from overprotective parents, Zala and Strompolos leap and drag themselves from moving vehicles while nearly burning their house and selves on fire to capture the perfect shots during the pre-Internet days of youth.  Juxtaposing the two friends detailing the early origins of the film and their regrettably final missing sequence, filmmaker Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles and Raiders of the Lost Ark star John Rhys-Davies make talking head appearances expressing their admiration and discovery of their diamond in the rough accomplishment.

    In addition, Zala and Strompolos’ parents, wives and supportive crew members are on hand to shape the narrative that is littered with as much agony as there are triumphs.  Endless frustration, high school romances, jealousy and an eventual fallout between the two friends would halt production for years creating two very different life paths that would merge once again following the cult popularity of their circulated childhood tape.  Potentially sacrificing their day jobs to fulfill what they started in their southern backyards years earlier, Zala and Strompolos, tighter than ever before, attempt to finally wrap their long in-development shoot with the highly explosive airplane sequence from the original film.  Plagued with horrendous weather conditions, ballooning budgets and a frightening onset accident, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is emotionally riveting and overwhelmingly inspiring.  Living vicariously through the colorful subjects who never lost sight of a vision that seemed impossible, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made will leave viewers joyously teary-eyed and tipping their own fedoras at real-life heroes that will make you feel that all dreams are within reach.

    Drafthouse Films presents Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Produced in the high-def digital age, footage is pleasingly sharp and well-detailed during the predominate interview sequences and onset footage with only snippets from the VHS sourced Raiders adaptation being of expected lesser quality.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is excellently captured while, the chaotic footage of the airplane sequence boasts several explosions that bode nicely on the track.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tim Skousen & Producer/Director Jeremy Coon plus, a second Audio Commentary with The Raiders Guys Eric Zala & Chris Strompolos.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes (32:39), Outtakes from the Adaptation (19:33), the Q&A at Alamo Drafthouse Premiere of the Adaptation (40:43) captured on May 31, 2003, Trailers for Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’s Theatrical Trailer (2:08) and other Drafthouse Films features including, 20,000 Days on Earth (2:15), A Band Called Death (2:12), The Final Member (2:02) and I Declare War (1:47) are also included.  Lastly, a 16-page booklet containing reproductions of Zala’s hand drawn storyboards for the adaptation, a DVD edition, Digital HD Code and Reversible Cover Art round out the supplements.

    Akin to Indy defying the Nazi’s and heroically saving the day, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is the embodiment of movie magic come to life.  Retracing their ambitious, troubled and above all, dedicated passion project from their preteen years to its midlife conclusion, John Williams’ goosebump-inducing anthem will no longer conjure images of just everyone’s favorite archeologist but also, the Mississippi boys to men who dared to dream with the Holy Grail always in their mind’s eye.  Drafthouse Films’ acquisition and top-notch presentation of this first-rate documentary makes for one of the most emotionally uplifting chronicles of the year!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Drafthouse Films, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made can be purchased via DrafthouseFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

    Director: W.D. Richter

    Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Smith & Ronald Lacey

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A cocktail of genre mashups, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension stars Peter Weller (RoboCop) as the titular, jack of all trades hero who dabbles in neurosurgery while, fronting a popular rock band and saves the world for kicks.  After his breakthrough matter traveling device, the Oscillation Overthruster, is sought after by a threatening squad of aliens, Banzai and his pals seek to protect humanity from the wrath of their thick-accented leader Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow, Raising Cain).  

    Bodaciously bizarre and quirky as can be, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cinematic odyssey of science fiction insanity coupled with rock n’ roll style and madcap extravagance.  After the exceedingly cool and brilliant Buckaroo Banzai breaks the sound barrier and travels through solid matter to return with an alien organism in tow, the enviously unhinged and incarcerated Dr. Emilio Lizardo, whose failed experiment into the 8th dimension from years past, caused his mind to be consumed by the wicked Lord John Whorfin prompts the physicist to spring himself from the looney bin to snatch Banzai’s working invention.  As leader of the martian-esque Red Lectroids who operate under human disguises, Whorfin seeks to overthrow their nemeses, the Black Lectroids, reclaim their home Planet 10 and annihilate Earth.  Respected for his brains and beloved for his rockin’ six-string skills, global hero Buckaroo Banzai, joined by his loyal comrades The Hong Kong Cavaliers and a peaceful Black Lectroid with Jamaican flavor, stand in Whorfin’s path of inter-dimensional dominance.  After falling for his former flame’s twin sister, Whorfin’s abduction of the blonde barfly makes Banzai’s protection of the great state of New Jersey and the rest of the planet extremely personal and chaotically action-packed.

    An otherworldly product of its time, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension abolishes standard categorization, thriving on its unusual tone, skyrocketingly over the top performances and colorfully cooky inclusions of space aliens, scientific jargon and Star Peter Weller successfully pulling off blindingly red framed eyeglasses and bowties in his mission to save mankind.  Further complimented by appearances from Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption) as Banzai’s piano playing lieutenant and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) hamming it up in a cowboy outfit, the film’s villainous trio including, the brilliant John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns) are a trifecta of planet invading fun.  While the film appropriately arrives with no adherence to any one genre, Banzai’s head over heels interest in his late wife’s literal doppelgänger (Ellen Barkin, Sea of Love) and determination to rescue her feels forced and largely underdeveloped.  Promising a sequel that would never come to pass, a scatterbrained marketing campaign and a difficult to peg plot left the eccentric effort lost at the box-office.  With repeat viewings sometimes necessary to fully embrace its full absurdity, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension would rightfully explode into the cult charmer that it is.  Tuned with a dizzyingly catchy synth score from Composer Michael Boddicker (Get Crazy), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is understatedly unlike most pictures.  Akin to a wild and crazy improvisational guitar solo, this little bit of everything feature easily ranks as one of the 80s most bonkers times put to celluloid.

    Shout Select presents The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Looking notably clean and absent of age-related damage, skin tones are exceptionally natural and well-detailed while, bold and softer colors alike burst in every frame.  In addition, black levels boast welcome inkiness with beautiful natural film grain apparent throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisp and easily heard while, Banzai’s brief rock club gig and Composer Michael Boddicker’s equally satisfying score shake things up nicely.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Kicking off the Blu-ray disc, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Director W.D. Richter & Writer Earl Mac Rauch plus, a second Audio Commentary with Michael & Denise Okuda.  Unquestionably, the true gem of the release is the newly produced Into the 8th Dimension (2:08:16).  This exhaustive eight part featurette covers the origins, visual effects, casting, design work and many other aspects of the film and its lukewarm release before its acceptance as a cult classic.  With insight from Director W.D. Richter, Producer Neil Canton, Stars Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, Composer Michael Boddicker and countless others, this first-rate achievement from Producer Brian Ward is the holy grail for Buckaroo devotees.  

    Presented in standard definition on its DVD counterpart, additional special features consist of the vintage making-of featurette Buckaroo Banzai Declassified (22:41), an Alternate Opening (7:12), 14 Deleted Scenes (14:11), the New Jet Car Trailer (2:25) and the Theatrical Trailer (1:17).  Lastly, in addition to Paul Shipper’s top-notch new design work, the Reversible Cover Art hosts the film’s original 1-sheet imagery.

    Fun, flashy and enjoyably insane, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has always been an acquired taste for many, leaving others perplexed by its inter dimensional zaniness.  A one of a kind original, W.D. Richter’s sole directorial effort concocts a sloppy joe of genre touches with an eclectic cast having the time of their lives facing off against reptilian spacemen with oddball tech, ingenuity and the power of rock n’ roll as their tools of defense.  For the inaugural release of Shout! Factory’s film fan driven Shout Select line, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Collector’s Edition blasts to soaring heights with its virtually flawless presentation and jaw-droppingly impressive special features that have raised the bar in terms of fan service and definitive documentation.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 16th from Shout Select, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011)

    Director: Gilles Penso

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Spotlighting the revered career and immeasurable talents of one of the industry’s most influential artists, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan features insight from the man himself as he reflects on his many works and techniques with other noted filmmakers including, Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Joe Dante (Gremlins), James Cameron (Avatar) and countless others celebrating the magic of their collective hero.

    Capturing the imaginations of audiences and future moviemakers like few before or since, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan expertly documents the mastery of cinema’s stop-motion wizard from his earliest days as an apprentice for distinguished animator Willis O’Brien through his own fairy tale claymation shorts to his escalating talents that would shape the lauded feature films of his career.  Retold in remarkable detail from the elderly yet, razor-sharp artist himself, Harryhausen provides insight into the painstaking aspects and concentration required for his craft and the many technical advancements he crafted through each one of his pictures.  Long before the days of digital playback, Harryhausen’s imagination and improvisational skills guided the creature crafting genius through grueling months of long sequences that would ultimately be rewarded as the highlights of their respective films.  Spending respectable time on each of the legend’s timeless classics from his gorilla designing work in Mighty Joe Young to his monsterific destruction in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other impressionable sci-fi efforts of the 1950s to his dazzling feats found throughout the Sinbad trilogy, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan leaves no stone left unturned as the master’s body of work is handsomely honored.  Equally as impressive as Harryhausen’s own recollections and invaluable commentary are the plethora of industry leaders from John Lasseter (Toy Story), Phil Tippett (Star Wars), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Dennis Muren (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Henry Selick (Coraline), Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), lifelong friend Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and many more who graciously appear as talking heads to express their awe and admiration for Harryhausen’s boundary pushing efforts.  As loving and thorough as a career-spanning examination can be, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan does the impossible and creates a new dimension of appreciation for the late genius’ iconic achievements.

    Arrow Films presents Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a commonly spotted 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While quality of each interview sequence surely differs with Harryhausen’s appearances possessing a noticeably cloudy tint, other talking head moments emerge equally as soft or only moderately sharper (Dante and Landis’ interviews ranking among the best-looking) yet, none burst with notable detail.  Joined by vintage footage and unsurprisingly worn trailers for Harryhausen’s films, the documentary appears serviceable at best, leaving more to be desired.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently recaptured with each interview recorded crisply and free of any cracks or pops.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Gilles Penso, Producer Alexandre Poincet, Co-Producer Tony Dalton & Timothy Nicholson, A Treasure Trove (13:36) featuring a tour of the Harryhausen Archives where relics from years past are uncovered and Interviews (13:36) with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Peter Lord (Chicken Run), Rick Baker (Ed Wood) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek).  In addition, Interview Outtakes (55:24) featuring many of the film’s participants, Message to Ray (2:16) finds appreciators Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and others sharing their warm praise for the artist while, Deleted Scenes (8:19), On the Set of Sinbad (2:59), the Paris Cinematheque Q&A (18:39) and the London Gate Cinema Q&A (8:58) are also included.  Finally, the Original Trailer (2:48), a Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel (22:15) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the appreciatively stocked supplements.

    Previously released abroad several years back, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan explores the admirable talents and enduring legacy of stop-motion’s grandfather in applause-worthy detail.  Listening to tales from Harryhausen’s own mouth regarding his masterworks and techniques proves equally as enthralling as his most spellbinding sequences while, the flood of Hollywood royalty on display to talk shop about the man is profoundly inspiring.  Although quality appears more dated than expected, Arrow Films compliments the documentary’s loving examination of Harryhausen with a handsome clay mound of bonus features that far exceed the film’s own running time.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Films, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Blu-ray Review

    10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

    Director: Dan Trachtenberg

    Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & John Gallagher Jr.

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A distant cousin to Producer J.J. Abrams’ 2008 found footage thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane focuses on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) who after experiencing a near fatal car accident awakens inside the underground bunker of survivalist Howard (John Goodman, Argo).  Assured that she was saved from an apocalyptic attack, Howard’s questionable motives and short-temper leaves Michelle determined to learn the truth.

    From its frantic opening where Michelle is seen packing her belongings for a fast getaway, 10 Cloverfield Lane wastes little time establishing its theme of escape from forces deemed uncontrollable.  Shortly after suffering a severe car accident, the dark-haired beauty finds herself chained in a concrete room before being introduced to her savior Howard.  Overcome with shock, the doomsday planner informs his new bunker guest of the cataclysmic fallout that has occurred above ground, coldly reporting that no survivors remain.  Unwilling to believe her odd host, Michelle savagely fights back only to confirm her own fears that the world she once knew is no longer what it was.  Joined by kindhearted local boy Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., The Newsroom), the three unlikely roommates must forge a union in their new underground home in order to survive a new tomorrow.  Continuously suspicious, Michelle suspects Howard’s motives to be deceitful as his unstable personality and chilling paranoia increases the longer time passes, prompting the resourceful survivor to go above Howard’s head and escape her reportedly safe surrounding.

    After conquering a galaxy far, far away, Producer J.J. Abrams’ top-secret project would unsuspectingly sneak attack the public a mere two months before its theatrical premiere.  Bearing a similar title to its loosely connected predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an entirely different beast that ditches its Kaiju-inspired roots for a far more contained, character-driven tale that relies on razor-sharp suspense and thrills.  Tightly budgeted and featuring a cast of only three, Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a riveting performance of an understandably terrified civilian who overcomes her fears in more ways than one.  In addition, as Hollywood’s unofficial good luck charm, John Goodman taps into the rarely seen dark recesses of his craft, arguably establishing one of the best and most surprising performances of his career.  Best experienced as it was initially promoted with as little information as possible, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a heart-pounding watch with exceptional tension that will leave viewers fighting for air by its conclusion.  Vastly unique from its previous feature, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not only a far superior being but also one of 2016’s best surprises.

    Paramount Pictures presents 10 Cloverfield Lane with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Cast in rather subdued colors, clarity is impressive while, the soft-lighting of the underground bunker is exceptionally balanced allowing for strong detail in skin tones and background props to be crisply represented.  In addition, black levels, most notably during the film’s final act, are perfectly inky, ensuring a spectacular viewing experience from start to finish.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly clear with foreboding music cues, rumbling bass notes and even the film’s few oldies hits making impactful marks.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Dan Trachtenberg & Producer J.J. Abrams plus, seven Featurettes (34:42) ranging from Cloverfield Too, Bunker Mentality, Duck and Cover, Spin-Off, Kelvin Optical, Fine Tuned and End of Story that do a solid job covering the many different aspects of the film’s making.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Materializing from what seemed like nowhere with its brilliantly mysterious marketing campaign, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a refreshingly original stranglehold viewing experience that keeps its grip tightly fastened.  Tensely absorbing, newcomer Dan Trachtenberg’s feature film debut unquestionably stands as one of the year’s most satisfying features with an exceptional high-definition release and an informative special features package to go along with it.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Paramount Pictures, 10 Cloverfield Lane can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • My Summer Story (1994) Blu-ray Review

    My Summer Story (1994)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Charles Grodin, Kieran Culkin & Mary Steenburgen

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the followup to the seminal Christmas classic, My Summer Story centers once again on the Parker family and their many seasonally festive adventures in the Midwest.  Determined to best his schoolyard bully, Ralphie Parker (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) seeks out the perfect spinning top while, The Old Man (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) and Mrs. Parker (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III) combat hilariously noisy neighbors among other suburban hijinks.  

    Released as It Runs in the Family before reverting back to its original title for home video, My Summer Story is a sweet, coming of age tale about family values and the boundless adventures had by children.  Based on Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical stories, Director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story) returns behind the camera with the sights and sounds of 1940s Indiana seamlessly recreated from the Parkers’ wintertime predecessor produced a whopping 11 years prior.  With Shepard providing his eternally charming narration, the recasting of the Parker clan may be jarring at first glance yet all parties make the roles their own, delivering worthwhile performances in the process.  With the changing of the seasons, new adventures await the Parker's as Ralphie (Culkin) seeks to overthrow his arch rival Lug Ditka (Whit Hertford, Jurassic Park) at the competitive game of spinning tops after obtaining an exotic one from the World’s Expedition.  Meanwhile, The Old Man’s (Grodin) never-ending battles with hillbilly neighbors the Bumpus’ heats up after a rickety outhouse is constructed sending the foul-mouthed Parker up in arms.  In addition, Mrs. Parker’s (Steenburgen) own comical exploits to failingly obtain a free weekly piece of dishware from the local theater converges with the housewife arrested for instigating a hilarious revolt against the swindling theater owner (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice).  With Tedde Moore briefly returning as Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields, My Summer Story develops a stronger bond between The Old Man and his oldest son as their early morning fishing trips become a delightful focal point of the film.  Overcoming the hurdle that this is not the same Parkers we last saw in A Christmas Story, accepting My Summer Story on its own merits allows viewers to bask in its many charms and appreciative attention to detail in whisking audiences back to familiar surroundings.

    Olive Films presents My Summer Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining its soft focus to recapture its antiquated time period, skin tones are lively and detailed while, colors in costume choices pop most nicely.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences during The Old Man and Ralphie's fishing excursions offer pleasant black levels with no crushing detected.  Possessing scant instances of scratches, My Summer Story makes a commendable leap to high-def.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is easily relayed with Composer Paul Zaza’s (Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine) familiar music queues from the original film making quaint appearances.  Unfortunately, no special features are included on this release.

    Largely forgotten with many unaware of its connection to Clark’s original holiday classic, My Summer Story may never attain the cultural appeal as its predecessor nor should it be unfairly compared to.  Recast from the ground up, the belated sequel has its heart in the proper place with sufficient fun to be had for those willing to give it an unbiased spin.  Although arriving featureless, Olive Films upgrades the film with a satisfying high-definition makeover.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, My Summer Story can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

    Director: J.J. Abrams

    Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew & Max Von Sydow

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finds the galaxy confronted with a new threat in the form of the First Order.  When a rebellious young heroes are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war, resistance fighters from the past aid them in their battle against the dark side.  Featuring franchise veterans and impressive up and comers, J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Stark Trek) directs the anticipated seventh episode of George Lucas’ enduring saga.

    Cinematically dormant since the concluding chapter of Lucas’ prequel trilogy in 2005, fans worldwide came to the unfortunate realization that further adventures set in a galaxy far, far away were to be left only to the imagination.  A force was truly awoken in 2012 following Disney’s purchase of Lucas’ illustrious company and the Star Wars franchise with the intent of continuing the beloved legacy set forth in 1977.  With scripting duties by its director, franchise favorite Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns viewers to a world not quite seen since the fall of Darth Vader and the destruction of the evil Empire.  Perfectly encapsulating the dirty, lived-in environments we remember while, setting its course on a journey yet unknown, the latest installment finds the galaxy at the mercy of the ruthless Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Girls) and the First Order, both born from the ashes of the Empire.  Following the disappearance of sole Jedi master Luke Skywalker, lonesome scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley, Scrawl) and Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block), a former stormtrooper gone rogue, team up with war hero Han Solo, Chewbacca and the Resistance to locate Skywalker and restore balance to the Force.  Joined by the accomplished Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) as rebel pilot Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens welcomes back its seasoned cast of original stars including but not limited to, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Harrison Ford who, after years of resistance returning to his famed role, has an absolute blast as everyone’s favorite smuggler.  Juggling the delicate realms of nostalgia and forward-thinking storytelling, Star Wars: The Force Awakens accomplishes both in spades as familiar faces are integral to its narrative yet, never outshine the new and exciting characters introduced to carry the franchise’s respected torch.  

    Furthermore, Abrams and his talented crew restore the charming practicality of the original trilogies special effects and creature designs while, flawlessly injecting modern techniques such as, motion-capture and CG into its narrative that feels both seamless and visually stunning.  Although detractors have sighted the film’s similar structure to A New Hope as a grave flaw, the reoccurring theme between the light and the dark is ever-present in all Star Wars films and can hardly be viewed as a setback in a film crafted with so much heart and obvious respect for its source.  From its scroll defining intro blessed with John Williams’ iconic score to its thrilling cliffhanger conclusion, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wildly exciting adventure bursting with action, heartbreak and nonstop fun.  Through the power of the Force, Abrams and company have magically transported viewers back to a euphoric state of youth where old friends have gathered to welcome us as we warmly embrace the path of our new heroes.  An absolute return to form for the beloved franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has restored the magic for all generations to marvel.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Impressive from start to finish, skin tones are naturally presented with impeccable detail picking up perspiration caused on Jakku and Poe’s blood-spattered face.  In addition, the film’s unique environments from desolate desert landscapes to the lush greenery of Maz Kanata’s planet leap off the screen while, the delicacies of shadowy sequences, prominently seen in the film’s opening battle, are handled beautifully.  Meanwhile, black levels found in the film’s many space battles and Kylo Ren’s costume are brilliantly inky with no disruptions.  A remarkable accomplishment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ transfer is the epitome of perfection.  Equipped with an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is exacting and crisp while, the whizzing noises of high-flying TIE Fighters, X-Wings and of course, the Millennium Falcon make thunderous impressions on your speakers.  In addition, explosions, laser blasts and the thrashing of lightsabers provide ample activity in their respective scenes with the mix only enriching their impact.  Presented on their own Blu-ray disc, special features include, Secrets of the Force: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14), a four-part overview of the making of The Force Awakens from pre-production to its completion with interviews from cast and crew, The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01) finds the cast reflecting on the first group reading of the script with footage from the actual day, Crafting Creatures (9:34) showcases how the various creatures were brought to life using a multitude of different techniques, Building BB-8 (6:03) documents the complicated process of realizing the franchise’s favorite new droid, Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02) explores the making of the film’s climactic lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren while, ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force (7:55) dives into the film’s magnificent digital effects work.  In addition, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51) spotlights the iconic composer as he reflects on his enduring involvement with the Star Wars saga, six Deleted Scenes (4:15) of trivial value and Force For Change (3:22) exploring the series’ humanitarian initiative across the globe round out the healthy assortment of bonus features.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A marvelous journey back to a familiar world plagued with new dangers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens sends viewers on an exhilarating ride that reignites a 30 year old magic like never before.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment awards the box-office juggernaut with pitch perfect technical grades and an equally pleasing spread of bonus content which, although not entirely definitive and sure to be expanded in future rereleases, still offer tons of enjoyment.  Easily the standout feature of last year and a shoe-in for one of this year’s most impressive home video releases, Star Wars: The Force Awakens achieves our highest recommendation!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 5th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Good Dinosaur (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Good Dinosaur (2015)

    Director: Peter Sohn

    Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand & Steve Zahn

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an alternate timeline where the astroid that forever altered life on Earth missed, The Good Dinosaur centers on scaredy cat apatosaurus Arlo (Raymond Ochoa, Mars Needs Moms) who after suffering a personal tragedy is lost in the far reaches of the wilderness.  Joined by an unlikely companion in rambunctious cave boy Spot (newcomer Jack Bright), Arlo must confront his deepest fears while journeying back to his family.  Sam Elliot (Grandma), Anna Paquin (X-Men: Days of Future Past), A.J. Buckley (CSI: NY), Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale), Frances McDormand (Fargo) and Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) comprise the film’s additional vocal talent.

    Plagued with directorial switches, story overhauls and cast changes, The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s second feature of 2015 following the universally loved Inside Out, found itself against near-insurmountable odds and a ticking clock to adhere to the expected quality of past Pixar productions.  Admittedly possessing themes familiar from past efforts, The Good Dinosaur’s coming-of-age tale of soul searching and fear facing still packs the emotional mark audiences have come to rely on with Pixar’s narrative whimsy.  Following the loss of his father, undersized apatosaurus Arlo is whisked away by nature’s ferocious elements, far away from the farm he calls home.  Alone and fearing for his life, Arlo, much to his initial dismay, finds himself in the company of the nonverbal cave boy Spot, leading the two to become co-travelers.  Spot’s unwavering loyalty and fearlessness to protect his new friend opens Arlo’s eyes to a new understanding and acceptance on their long journey home.  Withstanding dangerous weather conditions, Arlo and Spot find themselves in the good graces of a trio of T-rex as they battle velociraptors to protect their herd of longhorn.  With his confidence boosted and spirits raised, Arlo and his human companion face greater struggles when carnivorous pterodactyls capture Spot to quench their appetite.  Inspired by the spirit of his Poppa (Wright), Arlo will stop at nothing to rescue his best friend and return home to his mother and siblings.

    While perhaps lacking the originality audiences have come to expect annually from the animation studio, The Good Dinosaur is unquestionably Pixar’s most stunning looking production to date with its photorealistic environments setting a new standard high.  In addition, the heartwarming friendship and adventures shared between Arlo and Spot are equally as emotional and thrilling as anything Pixar has achieved before.  Furthermore, humor is plentiful as Arlo’s fear of critters is demonstrated while, the two companions’ psychedelic trip after feasting on unusual berries boasts bizzaro animation and absurd facial features of the characters.  Although slightly off-color during initial viewings, the sequence grows funnier with repeated watches.  In their first year producing two features, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur may have had difficulty following its other “emotional” picture while, its own narrative arguably lacks pizzazz.  That said, Arlo’s journey of self discovery matched with the film’s awe-inspiring animation makes The Good Dinosaur Pixar’s greatest underdog that will leave viewers teary-eyed several times over.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Good Dinosaur with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Set in impressive photo-real environments where greenery, blue skies and mountain vistas appear natural and richly detailed, Pixar’s prehistoric feature is nothing short of breathtaking.  In addition, bolder colors found in Arlo’s green skin, the reddish textures of his T-rex friends and the illuminating glow of fireflies pop magnificently while, the shadows of the night skies boast perfectly inky black levels.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is consummately relayed while, Jeff (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and Mychael (Life of Pi) Danna’s earthy, bluegrass score is beautifully balanced.  Furthermore, the ambiance of the wilderness and the capturing of splashing waves and thunderous rainstorms offer great effectiveness.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Peter Sohn, Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann, Animation Supervisor Mike Venturini, Director of Photography and Lighting Sharon Calahan & Supervising Technical Director Sanjay Bakshi.  Also included, Sanjay’s Super Team (7:07), Pixar’s latest Academy Award nominated short from Sanjay Patel, True Lies About Dinosaurs (1:56) where humorous notes are made regarding the film’s fictional liberties, Recyclosaurus (6:19) showcases Pixar employees as they embark on a competition to fashion dinosaurs with left over goods, The Filmmakers’ Journey (7:54) is a brief yet, effective look into the making of the production from first time director Sohn.  Furthermore, Every Part of the Dinosaur (6:08) details the visual development of the film’s dinos, Following the T-Rex Trail (6:58) showcases the filmmakers studying a cattle ranch for research purposes, Deleted Scenes (10:41), Dino Bites (4:15), Hide and Seek (0:59) and Trailers for Moment: North American Trailer 2 (2:25), Courage: Russian Trailer (2:30) and Different: German Trailer (2:03) are also available.  Finally, Sneak Peeks at the state of Wyoming (3:41), Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney Parks (0:32), Disney Store (0:32), Finding Dory (1:43) and Zootopia (1:38) round out the supplements with a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code also included.

    Although casting familiar narrative shades from other Pixar features, The Good Dinosaur still manages to pack ample emotion with its grandiose animation leading the pack as the studio’s most gorgeous achievement yet.  Faced with many production obstacles, Pixar’s latest may not have resonated immediately with audiences yet, demands praise for its beauty and heartwarming friendship between its lovable leads.  Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Good Dinosaur with high-definition perfection and a generous spread of supplements including, an informative commentary, Pixar’s latest short film and several other making-of featurettes.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 23rd from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The Good Dinosaur can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Goosebumps (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Goosebumps (2015)

    Director: Rob Letterman

    Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan & Jillian Bell

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the best-selling book series, Goosebumps centers on new kid in town Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) who strikes a friendship with his neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush, The Giver), daughter of the mysterious author R.L. Stine (Jack Black, School of Rock).  After Stine’s countless manuscripts are accidentally opened, all the monsters of his stories are unleashed upon their small town with only the author and his young companions to stop them.  Ryan Lee (Super 8), Amy Ryan (Bridge of Spies) and Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) co-star in Director Rob Letterman’s (Gulliver’s Travels) family friendly adventure.

    In development since the conclusion of its Fox Kids television series in 1998, Goosebumps takes a noticeably meta approach to its source material by incorporating an exaggerated version of its creator as a central character.  Shortly after arriving in Madison, Delaware, Zach Cooper (Minnette) develops an attraction to his neighbor Hannah (Rush) before being warned by her overprotective father R.L. Stine (Black) to stay away.  Concerned for her safety, Zach, along with his less than cool new sidekick Champ (Lee), sneak into Hannah’s house, learning the true identity of her grumpy father.  After an accident causes Stine’s locked manuscripts to open, the countless monsters and creatures from his Goosebumps books emerge from the pages.  Led by the rude dummy Slappy (voiced by Black) of Stine’s popular Night of the Living Dummy installments, devilish lawn gnomes, gigantic insects, an abominable snowman, the walking dead and others seeks to take control of Madison.  In order to return the monsters back to their rightful place, Stine and his teenage comrades must develop a new story to trap them.

    Filled with laughs and frightfully fun action, Goosebumps follows our young heroes as they combat the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena on a hockey rink, evade the razor-sharp teeth of The Werewolf of Fever Swamp with supermarket carts and hastily zigzag through the streets of Madison to outrun the destructive praying mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street.  With monsters from all of Stine’s 62 books included, only so many, with Slappy rightfully getting top-billing, get ample screen time while, others are unfortunately regulated to background noise.  Concluding with an exciting showdown at a rundown amusement park and a ghostly twist involving one of its characters, Goosebumps is a haunting adventure style story in the vein of Joe Johnston’s Jumanji.  Although a financial smash and a hit with audiences, the incorporation of all its antagonists in its first outing may eventually prove difficult in sequelizing such a promising franchise.  Nonetheless, Goosebumps will undoubtedly resonate with lifelong readers of the popular books while, its narrative is tailor made for the monster kids of today.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Goosebumps with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing impeccable skin tones with rich detail, colors found in the rambunctious lawn gnomes and costume choices of its cast pop excellently.  Meanwhile, the hairy textures of the abominable snowman and the supermarket dwelling werewolf are most exceptional.  Taking place predominately at night, black levels are strikingly inky in both backgrounds and Black’s appropriately dark attire, showing no signs of digital noise.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is flawless and nicely balanced with Composer Danny Elfman’s (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas) effective score.  In addition, action sequences from an explosive school bus, street destructing praying mantis and a rolling ferris wheel play strongly on the disc’s impressive mix.  Supplements include, a Cast Blooper Reel (3:08), Alternate Opening (3:28), Deleted Scenes (12:39) and All About Slappy (4:44), an entertaining featurette hosted by the devilish dummy with interviews from the real R.L. Stine and Jack Black plus, additional insight on the puppetry and CG effects utilized to bring the character to life are also explored.  Also included, Beginner’s Guide to Surviving a Goosebumps Creature (5:47) hosted by Stars Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee, Strange Things are Happening… On-Set (3:30) showcases Minnette’s haunted video diaries while filming, Creaturefield! (8:56) finds Make-Up and Creature Effect heads Steve Prouty and Fionagh Cush as they teach young viewers homemade make-up techniques and a Cast Screen Test Gallery (7:16).  Finally, Previews for The Goldbergs (0:31), Pixels (2:42), Hotel Transylvania 2 (2:42), The 5th Wave (2:20), The Angry Birds Movie (2:33) and Open Season: Scared Silly (1:32) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Long anticipated by fans who grew up addicted to Stine’s fictional frights, Goosebumps delivers a cinematic counterpart balancing harmless scares and kid friendly humor.  Furthermore, Jack Black adds another entertaining performance in his long line of family suited outings while, the young cast and the film’s creature effects, handled by Sony Pictures Animation, do the film great service.  While some may be disappointed that their favorite monsters were not better represented, Goosebumps aims to please all with younger viewers being most entertained.  Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers a stellar presentation of its latest spooky offering with a supplemental package catered to youngins.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 26th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Goosebumps can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Ice Pirates (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ice Pirates (1984)

    Director: Stewart Raffill

    Starring: Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roberts, Anjelica Huston & Jack Matuszak

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an intergalactic future where water is of utmost value and controlled by the evil Templars, The Ice Pirates centers on a motley crew of swashbuckling adventure seekers who dare to rebel.  Accompanied by an attractive princess, the unlikely heroes charter a mission to locate her missing father on a rumored planet engulfed with the prized resource.  Robert Urich (S.W.A.T.), Mary Crosby (Dallas), Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man), Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) and Jack Matuszak (The Goonies) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Influenced by George Lucas’ Star Wars saga and the post-apocalyptic insanity of Mad Max, The Ice Pirates protrudes its tongue into cheek for an inherently comic space adventure.  Ravaged by the villainous Templars, the future of the galaxy appears grim with water in short supply.  Led by the daring Jason (Urich) and his loyal team of pirates, the understandable thieves attempt to steal ice from the regime before crossing paths with the royal Princess Karina (Crosby).  While others evade capture, Jason and best friend Roscoe (Roberts) are sentenced to slavery where the unpleasant procedure of castration is performed before joining other high-pitched, leotard wearing prisoners.  Fortunately, the princess has other plans when she hires Jason and his soon to be reunited crew on a dangerous mission to recover her father.  From valiant sword fights to destructive droid battles and a trippy time-warp conclusion, the fate of the universe rests on the futuristic pirates discovering a mythical water planet that may or may not exist.

    Modestly successful at the box-office, The Ice Pirates adheres to the tropes of other such space epics of the era while, taking itself none too seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers.  Marking an early appearance from Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as one of Jason’s fellow cronies and one of the respected John Carradine’s (House of Frankenstein) final efforts, The Ice Pirates delivers top-notch special effects magic and enthralling production design that unashamedly caters to its over the top decade.  Packed with hilarious racial jokes and sexual innuendoes that unquestionably flew over the heads of its intended PG-rated audience, The Ice Pirates is a bonafide cult favorite that keeps its action rolling while laughing all the way to the end credits.

    Warner Archive presents The Ice Pirates with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, detail is sharp with textures in costumes choices and skin tones pleasing throughout.  Colors found in the neon buttons of various space shuttles and other robotic characters pop nicely while, black levels waver from moments of satisfaction to instances of speckles and mild noise.  A healthy upgrade from previous releases, The Ice Pirates makes an impressive high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and audible with action sequences involving laser blasts, explosions and other chaos registering with a slightly restrained presence.  Meanwhile, special features include, the film’s Trailer (2:20).

    Although imperfect, The Ice Pirates is a genuinely fun and engaging exploration of 80s science fiction that aligns impressive visuals with harmless mockery of its very genre.  Warp speeding to Blu-ray for the first time ever, Warner Archive presents the cult hit with an overly pleasing presentation sure to quench the thirst of the nostalgic and first time curios.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, The Ice Pirates can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Aladdin Diamond Edition (1992) Blu-ray Review

    Aladdin (1992)

    Director(s): John Musker & Ron Clements

    Starring: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman & Gilbert Gottfried

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Centering on a local street thief in the Arabian city of Agrabah, Aladdin finds its title character falling hopelessly in love with the Princess Jasmine while utilizing wishes from a powerful genie to transform him into a prized suitor.  Hunted by the devilish Jafar for possession of the genie’s lamp, Aladdin must learn to accept his true self in order to win the heart of Jasmine and protect the kingdom from the evil sorcerer’s dark forces.  Scott Weinger (Full House), Robin Williams (Good Morning, Vietnam), Linda Larkin (Joshua), Jonathan Freeman (The Ice Storm) and Gilbert Gottfried (Problem Child) comprise the film’s vocal talent.

    In the wake of celebrated hits including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin would continue to whisk audiences away to new, exotic locales and exciting adventures while elevating the era known as the Disney Renaissance to soaring new heights.  Originally pitched by the late Lyricist Howard Ashman (Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid), Aladdin perfectly blends fantasy and romance with a stunning array of beautifully rendered characters each bursting with personality and humor.  From the frantic marketplace sequences of Aladdin evading pursuing guards to the high-octane, computer-generated journey through the Cave of Wonders and Aladdin and Jasmine’s enchanting carpet ride among the stars, Aladdin dazzles with magnificent artistry.  Complimented by gifted voice performances, the late Robin Williams’ turn as the beloved blue Genie eternally tickles audiences funny bones with his quick-witted energy and hilarious, if not slightly dated, impressions of celebrity personalities including, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arsenio Hall, Jack Nicholson and Peter Lorre.  

    Earning two Academy Awards for Best Music (original song and score respectively), Composer Alan Menken and Lyricist Tim Rice’s enchanting melodies and irresistible songs for “A Whole New World” and “One Jump Ahead” cement the film’s legacy as one of Disney’s most cherished achievements.  Enormously praised and credited as the most successful film of 1992, Aladdin continues to bring joy to a new generation of viewers with its immense heart and highly regarded animation demonstrating the very best of Disney’s seemingly endless talents.  

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes Aladdin into its illustrious Diamond line with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bursting with bold colors that erupt on screen while black levels read exquisitely inky, the results are most satisfying.  Furthermore, detail is top-notch while the computer-generated workings of the Cave of Wonders offer exceptional depth and clarity.  Long awaited for its domestic high-definition debut, Aladdin’s appearance is a wish come true.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is excellently delivered with the delicacies of Menken’s score expertly prioritized while song numbers provide powerful punches leaving listeners singing in their seats.  Newly crafted special features include, The Genie Outtakes (8:53), Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic (18:53), Unboxing Aladdin (4:40), Genie 101 (3:59) and Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me (5:36).  In addition, vintage supplements include, Deleted Songs (13:57), Deleted Scenes (5:43), Music Videos for “Proud of Your Boy” Performed by Clay Aiken (2:20) joined by its Original Story Reel (2:18) and a Behind the Scenes of the Music Video (3:20) plus, “A Whole New World” Performed by Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey (4:14), a Behind the Scenes of the Music Video (3:46) and “A Whole New World” Performed by Regina Belle & Peabo Bryson (4:07).  Additionally, Disney Song Selection (11:28), Inside the Genie’s Lamp: Guided Tour (6:13), The Genie World Tour (3:14), an Audio Commentary with Producers/Directors John Musker and Ron Clements & Co-Producer Amy Pell as well as an Audio Commentary with Supervising Animators Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane are also included.  Finally, A Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin (1:10:52), Alan Menken: Musical Renaissance Man (19:55), The Art of Aladdin: Art Review with Filmmakers’ Commentary (8:45), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:50), The Return of Jafar Trailer (0:43), Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney Parks (0:32), The Muppets (0:32), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52), The Good Dinosaur (1:14), Inside Out (1:27) and Tomorrowland (0:50) along with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code conclude the extensive extras.

    Beloved more than ever by audiences of all ages, Aladdin is a magical tour de force that stands out as one of Disney’s most respected and crowd-pleasing efforts of the 1990s.  After much time, Disney’s overdue Diamond Edition release is well worth its wait with gorgeous sights, grandiose sound and sizable supplements to satisfy all street rats and riff raffs.  Desires for a high-definition magic carpet ride will have their wish granted with this essential release.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available October 13th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Aladdin can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Land That Time Forgot (1975) Blu-ray Review

    The Land that Time Forgot (1975)

    Director: Kevin Connor

    Starring: Doug McClure, John McEnery & Susan Penhaligon

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Based on the story written by fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land that Time Forgot is the first of four movies that were produced by John Dark, directed by Kevin Connor and starred Doug McClure.  Each film’s main theme was traveling to lost continents with others to discover new races of people, dinosaurs and other giant monsters.  The other three movies are At the Earth’s Core, The People That Time Forgot and Warlords of Atlantis.  Each of the other films, save for Warlords of Atlantis, were offerings from Amicus Productions who had been known for horror anthologies such as Tales from the Crypt, From Beyond the Grave and Dr. Terrors House of Horrors.  Beginning with the Amicus/AIP co-production, The Land That Time Forgot, Amicus’ main focus was to have films that included giant prehistoric monsters. 

    The setting for The Land That Time Forgot takes place during World War I, where a German U boat, commanded by Captain Von Schoenvorts, played by John McEnery torpedoes and sinks a ship.  Among the survivors are Doug McClure as Bowen Tyler, scientist Lisa Clayton (played by Susan Penhaligon) and a few British officers.  The German U boat goes off course and continues to drift onward for at least several weeks until they land on a lost continent called Caprona.  When the submarine emerges from underwater, they are welcomed by a Plesiosaur and other aquatic dinosaurs.  Once on land, the cast struggles to survive, trying to avoid being a tasty treat for the dinosaurs including an Allosaurus, Styracosaurus and Pteroldactyl.  In what was probably a nod to an earlier dinosaur thriller, One Million Years BC, we get a fierce fight between a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  As with all films with dinosaurs, there are some cavemen which also cause trouble for the crew until the climax when a volcano erupts, threatening all life on Caprona. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is co-presented by Kino Lorber Studio Classics and Scorpion Releasing (who produced the extras) and the results are excellent.  The film has never looked better on home video.  In its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this is a beautiful 1080p AVC coded release.  Colors are vivid with excellent contrast and great details during the daylight scenes.  In addition, black levels are spot on while the grain structure is also really strong.  The resolution is so good that it actually spoils some of the special effects work!  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the audio quality is excellent with all the dinosaur roars loud and clear.  While there is not a ton of extras on the disc, what we do get is really outstanding.  This is where quality of the bonus material outshines the quantity.  We are treated to an Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Connor, a making of featurette that is over 10 minutes long, plus the original trailer. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is a great, entertaining fantasy adventure-filled movie that eventually led to a sequel, The People That Time Forgot, also starring the late Doug McClure.  A well-known actor who went on to star in a few horror movies, such as Humanoids from the Deep and later on several television shows and sitcoms, McClure would ultimately pass away in 1995 at the age of 59 due to lung cancer.

    The dinosaur effects in The Land That Time Forgot consisting of puppets and mockup models are hit or miss with the more realistic creatures being the Triceratops and Styracosaurus.  Others such as the Plesiosaur (well the neck of it anyway), the odd shaped wobbly Allosaurs and Pterodactyls on visible wires are less than convincing, but that’s what gives these films their charm.

    In The Land That Time Forgot, we get another fun fantasy film from the seventies. While the effects work for the film is just average, it is a commendable effort considering there was no CGI effects during that time.  It took a lot of work and craftsmanship to bring forth movies such as this.  The Blu-ray is just a fantastic release with few but impressive extras and great audio and video quality to boot, this movie was an instant day one purchase that comes highly recommended!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available June 16th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Land That Time Forgot can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Big Hero 6 (2014) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Big Hero 6 (2014)

    Director(s): Don Hall & Chris Williams

    Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung & Damon Wayans Jr.

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Combining the action and adventure of Marvel Comics with the heart and style of Disney animation, Big Hero 6 focuses on the young Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter, Senior Project) after a devastating accident costs his older brother’s life.  Comforted by Baymax, a lovable robotic health companion, Hiro, with the help of his loyal friends, become an unlikely group of superheroes, determined to bring a diabolical villain to justice.  Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch), Damon Wayans Jr. (New Girl), Genesis Rodriguez (Tusk), Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Alan Tudyk (Frozen) and James Cromwell (The Green Mile) provide voice talent.

    Following up on the massive success of Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios would take full advantage of the recently acquired Marvel Comics for inspiration.  Deviating from its comic book source material, Big Hero 6 would become the first animated Disney production to incorporate Marvel characters into its timeless tradition that has birthed such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the more recent Wreck-It Ralph.  Carving out a tale with a strong emphasis on brotherly relationships, child prodigy Hiro Hamada mourns the death of his older brother, Tadashi, with the help and comfort of Baymax, a robotic nurse developed by Tadashi before his passing.  After learning of a kabuki mask-wearing villain who is violating Hiro’s own groundbreaking technology, the young genius is certain his brother’s death was no accident.  Upgrading Baymax and himself with state of the art armor, Hiro drafts Tadashi’s college friends to aid him in bringing the masked man down.  Encompassing a unique group of individuals including, speed demon Go Go (Chung), safety cautious Wasabi (Wayans Jr.), chemistry ditz Honey Lemon (Rodriguez) and comic nerd Fred (Miller), Hiro forms a team of six unlike any other before.  Filled with hilarious humor and emotional depth, Big Hero 6 flies with soaring colors in virtually every department.  The loss of Tadashi and Hiro’s immediate melancholy tugs at viewers before melting their hearts away at the introduction of the cuddly Baymax.  Adorably clumsy and endlessly caring, Baymax is the breakout character of the film that will leave audiences delighted for knowing him.  

    With solid characters and top-notch action sequences, Big Hero 6 may be slightly predictable in its narrative but, never quits entertaining.  From the cocktail blending setting of San Fransokyo to the brightly colored eye-candy costume designs, the film’s visuals leave a lasting impression and undeniable mark of the highest quality that Disney animation is accustomed to.  Critically acclaimed and taking the best of both Marvel and Disney’s imaginative worlds, Big Hero 6 is a resounding success that takes viewers on a sky high ride of excitement and fun.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment debuts Big Hero 6 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Expectedly, vibrant colors burst off the screen in every shot with picture perfect clarity always on display.  Showcasing exceptional inky black levels in Hiro’s microbot creations and its antagonists‘ black attire, Big Hero 6 is nothing short of perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, the film’s soundtrack is yet another work of flawlessness with crisp dialogue levels, explosive action sequences handled accordingly and music, including Fall Out Boy’s “Immortals” title track, offering a solid bass sound that will leave you bopping to the beat.  Special features included are the Oscar nominated theatrical short Feast (6:13).  Marking the directorial debut of Patrick Osbourne (Tangled, Paperman), this uplifting tale focuses on the relationship of an adorable puppy and his owner throughout the years.  Without question one of the finest Disney shorts to emerge in recent years, Feast will leave you teary-eyed and longing to hold your own K9 best friend.  Furthermore, The Origin of Big Hero 6: Hiro’s Journey (15:10), hosted by Jamie Chung (Go Go), finds Directors Don Williams & Chris Williams, Producer Roy Conli and other creative talent discussing the film’s early beginnings and the long road to its completion.  Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters (6:39) sits down with the animation team as they discuss their earliest passions for animation and their specific roles in the production.  In addition, Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams (13:10), a Big Hero 6 Theatrical Teaser (1:41) and a Sneak Peeks reel including promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Infinity 2.0, Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Lost Missions are included with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code rounding out the supplemental features.

    Yet another knockout effort for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Big Hero 6 packs heart, humor and action with outstanding results.  Crafting an important focus on brothers and friendship, the Marvel Comics adaptation is an often touching piece of stunning animation, sealed by its well-received characters.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment issues their Oscar nominated opus with impeccable technical features and a decent lineup of bonus content including, the also Oscar nominated and highly recommend short, Feast.  Released theatrically in 3D, Big Hero 6 is unfortunately the latest contemporary Disney release to not carry its extra dimensions over for home viewing, much to the dismay of enthusiastic fans.  Regardless, the strength and sheer entertainment factor of Big Hero 6 and its fabulous presentation on Blu-ray allows it to pack a solid punch for the whole family.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 24th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Big Hero 6 can be purchased via DisneyStore.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) Blu-ray Review


    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
    Director: Ben Stiller
    Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine & Sean Penn
    Released by: 20th Century Fox

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, Director Norman Z. McLeod (Monkey Business) previously adapted the tale with leading man Danny Kaye in 1947, much to the dismay of its original creator.  After two decades of development and the likes of Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Ron Howard (Rush) circling the project, a remake was finally realized with Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents) starring and directing.  Does Stiller’s modernization of this much beloved work live up to anticipation or is it a daydream best left forgotten?  Let’s explore shall we...

    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller as an introverted magazine photo manager who is constantly swept away in his own daydreams until real-life adventure draws him into situations he would have never imagined.  Co-starring Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment) and Sean Penn (Milk), the film was scripted by Steve Conrad (The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness).

    MOVIE:
    The highest compliment that can be made to this adaptation is Stiller’s slickness behind the camera.  Renowned for his comedic abilities, Ben Stiller has been yelling “action” since 1987, helming such notable efforts as The Cable Guy, Zoolander and 2009’s Tropic Thunder.  Interestingly enough, the Tower Heist star hasn’t trekked into dramatic territory of this ilk since his 1994 cult appreciated, Reality Bites.  It’s comforting to see Stiller return to such a character-driven property that allows him to stretch the camera’s range as much his on-screen counterpart.  Mitty is a quiet character searching for love through eHarmony while he tends to his photo managing position at the prestigious Life Magazine.  Mitty finds himself daydreaming on a regular basis about a more courageous and heroic version of himself in adventurous situations.  The announcement of Life magazine’s final paper issue sends Mitty on a stressful course to locate the cover photo that was mailed in by noted photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).  Simultaneously, Mitty is falling for co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) as he chooses to abandon the big city for the adventure of a lifetime.  Consumed with locating O’Connell and his photo, Mitty treks to the far reaches of Greenland and Iceland to discover the confidence he thought was only possible in his dreams.

    Stiller, along with Director of Photography Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano), consciously keep the camera grounded and focused early on before finding more rapid movement as Mitty expands his horizons.  Beautiful cinematography is captured on ice glaciers and the jagged mountain peaks of the Himalayas as Mitty searches for O’Connell.  Stiller plays Mitty with the quiet realism of a man uncomfortable in his own skin but with the skills to hold a position with Life Magazine.  Mitty’s high-octane daydreams boarder on the absurd and charming as he longs to stand up to his snobbish superior (Adam Scott) and win the girl.  The sudden death of Mitty’s father during his teenage years is touched upon, but not explored nearly enough to understand the depth of his melancholy.  Unfortunately, this dismissal backfires resulting in less sympathy for an awkward character attempting to inject life back into his soul through his travels.  The supporting cast, while competent in their roles, do as they are required but nothing more making this a vehicle entirely for Stiller.  A clichéd love connection is weaved between Stiller and Wiig but never makes it to center stage, insisting that this is a story about courage and the road to obtaining it.  Stiller’s directorial skills shine in what is arguably his most ambitious film to date and a welcome return to a more dramatic storytelling style.  The film charms and taps into a fantasy-filled section of all daydreamers‘ imaginations but, stumbles by not fully realizing Mitty’s somber past.  While, at times heartwarming and entertaining, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may leave you wishing for a bit more meat to chew on emotionally.
    RATING: 3/5   

    VIDEO:
    20th Century Fox presents The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with an impressive 1080p transfer in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The sleek and almost sterile look of the Life Magazine offices are captured in ripe clarity.  Dryburgh’s impressive cinematography dazzles during Mitty’s travels to Iceland and Greenland as the viewer will think they are witnessing breathtaking documentary footage.  Contrast is strong as can be with skin tones relayed beautifully and a solid sense of detail in close-ups.  A pitch perfect video presentation that truly shines!      
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty sounds mighty fine.  Dialogue is captured with zero hiccups and absolute clarity while, some of Mitty’s exciting daydreams will rumble your speakers with sounds of shattered glass and such.  The character-driven nature of the film allows you to appreciate the quieter moments of nature picked up by the mix as much as the more intense.  A solid sounding audio treatment that will leave the listener more than pleased.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes

    - Behind the Scenes: Broken down into a variety of mini-featurettes that delve into the many aspects of the filmmaking process.

        - The History of Walter Mitty

        - The Look of Life

        - That’s a Shark!

        - The Music of Walter Mitty

        - Nordic Casting

        - Titles of Walter Mitty

        - Sights and Sounds of Production: Reveals two sub-featurettes including Skateboarding Through Iceland and Ted-Walter Fight.

        - Pre-Viz: Directs the viewer to another featurette entitled Ted-Walter Fight Pre-Viz Early Version.

    - Gallery: Reference Photography

    - “Stay Alive” Music Video by Jose Gonzales

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Ben Stiller’s adaptation of Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an exploration of courage and the dreamer in all of us.  Stiller fits nicely into the shy, introverted character of Mitty and handled the directorial duties with a beautiful and attentive eye.  Although briefly seen, the supporting cast handled their roles well achieving the needed effects.  While, the film’s message is charming, its emotional impact is lessened due to Mitty’s past never fully being explored.  20th Century Fox’s presentation is not only gorgeous to look at and listen to but sports a wonderful array of special features with only an audio commentary from Stiller missing that would have been the icing on the cake.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a cheerful, albeit not perfect, film that reminds viewers Stiller is far more capable and talented than most “fockers” give him credit for.
    RATING: 4/5

  • The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013) DVD Review

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    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013)
    Director: Jonathan Newman
    Starring: Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Ioan Gruffudd, Aneurin Barnard & Sam Neill
    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Weaving the worlds of magic and adventure, a young hero facing unstoppable odds must retrieve his younger brother while, a diabolical villain intends on possessing a relic with supernatural powers.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box packs limitless imagination and colorful characters in a Victorian era setting in London.  Available also on Blu-ray, Image Entertainment proudly presents the fantastical film adaptation of the G.P. Taylor best-selling novel.  Let us explore the mystery and excitement of this heroic tale...

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box centers on teenage Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) as his life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and younger brother are kidnapped.  Teaming with trusted agent and family ally, Charity (Michael Sheen), the duo follow clues to the Prince Regent Hotel where the monstrous Otto Luger (Sam Neill) is feverishly searching for an ancient relic.  The lost artifact could bring devastating results to humanity if Mariah and Charity don’t retrieve it.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box co-stars Lena Headey (300), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) and Keeley Howes (Death at a Funeral).

    MOVIE:
    Shot on the relatively low-budget of $25 million, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box looks and feels far more in tune with other Hollywood blockbusters.  Invoking the youthful charisma of Young Sherlock Holmes and the adventurous tone of the Indiana Jones franchise, the film dares to fill the void of the recently deceased Harry Potter series.  Surprisingly, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box succeeds in delivering a compelling story and a charming sense of excitement that most films of this stature often miss.  While, not boasting a cast of A-list names, the performers play their roles admirably and offer a sense of gravity to each part.  Michael Sheen’s eccentric Charity is a humorous and intelligent agent who retrieves lost antiques from falling into the wrong hands.  With shades of Robert Downey Jr.‘s Sherlock Holmes, Sheen plays the role with a true sense enthusiasm.  In addition, Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) plays the villainous role of Otto Luger with a dry wit that serves his performance well.  Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) appears as Neill’s second in command and plays the part with a devilish charm while Ioan Gruffudd (Horrible Bosses) makes a brief turn as the young lead’s father.  Aneurin Barnard portrays the heroic protagonist, Marich Mundi, with all the necessary chops and emotion to give the audience a hero worth rooting for. 

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box does a remarkable job in creating a world of Victorian era beauty and ancient wonder.  The film also offers a sensational amount of action set pieces, considering the limited budget.  A fun, albeit short, final sword battle between Sheen and Neill taking place aboard a moving steampunk inspired drill while, Barnard hangs from a chain feels not far removed from Pirates of the Caribbean.  The unnoticeable uses of CGI to create certain set pieces are a true testament of how best to use the overly dependent technology. 

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is an effectively told, magical adventure tale shot on a wildly modest budget.  While, looking and feeling like other similarly themed projects, the film dons its own personality and rewards the viewer with charming performances and wonderfully orchestrated actions sequences.  Hinting at future adventures in an early end credit scene, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box has all the potential to expand its world as long as later installments contain the same delightful sense of mystery and excitement.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Image Entertainment presents The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box in a vibrant 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Flesh tones are accurately presented with detail looking sharp especially in wardrobe and the majestic Prince Regent Hotel.  Black levels are reasonably decent while moments in darkened caves leave more to be desired.  Presumably, the Blu-ray edition will only enhance the pros and improve the very minor cons.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box never disappoints in relaying dialogue but action-filled moments could have benefitted from a louder push.  Overall, the mix is a serviceable one.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - The Making of The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box: What appears as a typical promotional fluff piece, turns out to be a rather interesting featurette.  The cast, crew and author all share their input on the film as well as admitting that filling the void of Harry Potter films was intended.  Fly on the wall footage is captured of the crew battling treacherous weather conditions and the cast rehearsing stunt pieces.  A far more informative behind the scenes look than expected.

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is an entertaining, imaginative tale suited for the entire family.  With shades of National Treasure, Young Sherlock Holmes and the Indiana Jones films, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box maintains its own unique spirit and is conveyed by a marvelous cast.  With its heart in the proper place, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box has all the potential to follow in the tradition of Harry Potter by delivering future installments that exceed the original.  Image Entertainment’s DVD release is equipped with more than decent AV quality that will surely be eclipsed by its Blu-ray counterpart.  In addition, the behind the scenes featurette provided informative insight to the film’s creation.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box pleasantly surprised with its old school approach to magical storytelling that sadly, seems to be fading from today’s cinema landscape.
    RATING: 4/5