Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

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Currently showing posts tagged Animation

  • 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

       

  • Cars 3 (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Cars 3 (2017)

    Director: Brian Fee

    Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt & Kerry Washington

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Riding high as renowned champion for years, Cars 3 finds racing legend Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris) being pushed out of the limelight by a new generation of hotshot racers.  Recognizing times are a-changin’, McQueen teams with an enthusiastic trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo, Cristela), to prove he still has what it takes to go the distance.

    Reverting back to the bluegrass roots of its originator, Cars 3 comes full circle as Lightning McQueen, the once arrogant rookie turned lovable champ, becomes the aging pro to face his biggest and most emotional challenge yet.  Continuing to enjoy a successful winning streak and unanimous respect amongst his peers, McQueen and others of his breed are quickly sideswiped by a new crop of determined and technologically superior vehicles with their eyes on racing glory.  Rattled by the speed and cockiness of his new foe, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer, The Lone Ranger), and the retirements of longtime pals, McQueen begins to feel his time may also be up after suffering a near fatal wreck.  Recovering in Radiator Springs and longing for guidance from his late mentor Doc Hudson, McQueen’s spirits are lifted by his Route 66 family and his determination renewed by new Rust-eze owner, Sterling (Nathan Fillion, Castle).  Teamed with spunky motivational trainer Cruz Ramirez, McQueen, through soul-searching and additional support from Doc Hudson’s mentor Smokey (Chris Cooper, The Muppets), navigates his way through the evolving world of racing while learning to see a future beyond just his own career.  

    Ditching the sillier espionage hijinks of its predecessor, Cars 3 is a leaps and bounds improvement, reverting the spotlight back onto Lightning McQueen in a tale that resonates with an aging audience who have grown much since happening upon Radiator Springs a decade ago.  While humor is in noticeably shorter supply with franchise mainstays such as, McQueen bestie Mater (Larry the Cable Guy, Jingle All the Way 2) surprisingly regulated to background decoration, the third installment recaptures the small-town charms and big city dreams that was sorely lacking in its internationally sprawling and mindlessly mundane sequel.  Taking over directorial duties from John Lasseter, longtime Pixar storyboard artist Brian Fee (Cars, WALL-E) paints a picturesque installment with photorealistic animation including, the most devastatingly heart wrenching sequence of the series and a tender core that reaffirms audiences deep-rooted love for these chatty cars.  Incorporating flashback sequences and previously recorded dialogue from Paul Newman as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, Cars 3 is a lightning fast return to form for the series that, in its presumable last lap, whizzes past the finishing line as the best effort since its 2006 debut.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Cars 3 with a pristine 1080p transfer, fitted in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Sparkling from start to finish, the wide spectrum of unique car colors burst off the screen while finer details appearing in rust and asphalt boast equal levels of crisp quality.  Matching its glorious high-definition picture, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 excels during high-speed races and heart-pounding wrecks with dialogue exchanges rightly prioritized for ideal listening.  Sprawled across two discs, special features on Disc 1 include, an in-depth Audio Commentary with Director Brian Fee, Co-Producer Andrea Warren and Creative Director Jay Ward, Lou (6:43), Pixar’s latest short film about a schoolyard’s magical lost-and-found bin and Miss Fritter’s Racing Sckoool (5:40), an exclusive new mini-movie/commercial attracting cars on how to get their mojo back.  Furthermore, Ready for the Race (5:40) sits down with actual race car driver William Byron on his passion for the sport and Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could (7:46) takes a deeper look into the evolution and vocal talent attached to Lightning McQueen’s new coach.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:32), Dolphins (1:16), Coco (1:37), Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (1:34) and The Walt Disney Signature Collection (1:33) are also provided.  

    Meanwhile, Disc 2 kicks off with an extensive five-part Behind the Scenes featurette including, Generations: The Story of Cars 3 (11:20), Let’s. Get. Crazy (7:41), Cars to Die(cast) For (5:21), Legendary (11:22) and World’s Fastest Billboard (5:30) that explores the film’s tricky development, new and returning characters, the making of the toys based on the film and the many logos and faux brands implemented in the sequel.  Furthermore, Fly Throughs puts viewers in the driver seat for some of the film’s digital environments including, Thomasville (1:10), Florida International Speedway (0:37) and Rust-Eze Racing Center (0:56).  My First Car finds cast and crew participants discussing their very own first ride in A Green Car on the Red Carpet with Kerry Washington (1:53), Old Blue (1:21) and Still in the Family (2:16).  Also included, Deleted Scenes (26:17) with optional director introduction, Trailers featuring Crash - North American Teaser (0:56), Icon - North American Trailer (2:33), Theatrical Payoff - Japan Trailer (2:02), All New - International Teaser (0:31) and Rivalry - Global Trailer (2:10).  Finally, Promos for Cars D’Oeuvres (4:27) and Cars Reveals spotlighting the characters of Lightning McQueen (0:39), Cruz Ramirez (0:41) and Jackson Storm (0:39) close out the on-disc supplemental content while a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    Speeding onto home video as Pixar’s next anticipated effort lights up theaters, Cars 3 is a true return to form for the franchise once thought to be left in the dust.  An endearing tale about the trials of aging gracefully, Lightning McQueen’s last lap is one that sends viewers off into the sunset with warm memories of the residents of Radiator Springs.  Unsurprisingly, Disney has once again ensured an extravagant audio and visual presentation while its bonus content covers considerable ground for fans of behind the scenes happenings.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 7th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Cars 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Vampirina DVD Review

    Vampirina 

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Isabella Crovetti, James Van Der Beek, Lauren Graham & Jordan Alexa Davis

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fangs never appeared more precious than in Disney Junior’s Vampirina.  Based on the book series by Anne Marie Pace, this brightly-colored animated series finds young Vampirina relocating to Pennsylvania from Transylvania and adapting to her new surroundings as a monster in a human’s world.  Presenting the program’s first four episodes consisting of two unique adventures each, Vampirina befriends her new next-door neighbors who graciously overlook her family’s monsterific appearances while, Vee’s parents attempt to open their own B&B without their spookier and more human clientele scaring one another off.  Befit with catchy musical numbers in each installment, Vampirina’s nerves get the best of her during the first day of school, an all-girls sleepover to win over Vee’s especially scaredy cat pal takes place while, Vampirina’s household conducts a different kind of surprise party and a viral video of Vee and best friend Poppy busting a move becomes a viral sensation leading to a dance off against Transylvania’s own Dragos the Dancer.  Featuring familiar voice talent from James Van Der Beek (Dawnson’s Creek) and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) to Wanda Sykes (Alpha House) and Dee Bradley Baker (Star Wars Rebels), Vampirina, arriving just in time for the Halloween season, joining the ranks of the Disney Channel’s Hotel Transylvania: The Series, Vampirina that continues to fill the void of more spooky-centric content for preschoolers.

    Although the program’s intended demographic may not be the most vocal of videophiles, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment offers Vampirina in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, relaying the blue skin tones of Vee and her family with crispness as well as the family’s gothic homestead with glowing allure.  Furthermore, the accompanied Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes on each episode are also perfectly serviceable making dialogue and song cuts an easy and satisfying listen.  Apart from  Sneak Peeks at Coco (1:38) and Disneynature’s Dolphins (1:17), no special features are included.  Pleasantly entertaining as much as it teaches valuable lessons about accepting others regardless of their appearances or social backgrounds, Vampirina is fangtastic fun for youngsters.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Vampirina can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Bambi (1942) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Bambi (1942)

    Director(s): David Hand, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield & Normal Wright

    Starring: Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, Peter Behn, Stan Alexander, Paula Winslowe, Will Wright & Ann Gillis

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Felix Salten’s novel, Bambi charts a young deer’s adventures in the wild from infancy to maturity as memorable moments and dangerous encounters shape him into the prince of the forest he was born to be.

    Intended to be Walt Disney’s followup to his critically acclaimed debut of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the tale’s bleaker tone and Disney’s perfectionism to capture realistic animated depictions of the characters required years of extensive development before fully coming to fruition.  A master of intuitive storytelling, Disney’s softening of the material for his family-friendly audience proved wise while, the slow and oftentimes demanding nature of bringing more lifelike expression to forest animals than ever before would payoff as one of the studio’s most visually dazzling sights.  Quieter on dialogue with the changing of seasons, complimented by musical orchestrations and the chimes of nature’s critters, unfolding the narrative, Bambi invites viewers to the miracle of a baby deer’s birth as we witness his first steps and words before befriending lifelong friends Thumper, the adorable scene-stealing bunny, and Flower, a bashful skunk.  Cared for by his protective mother and slowly learning how to survive the harsh winter seasons, the threat of gun-touting hunters alter the young deer’s life forever in a sequence long considered one of Disney’s most tragically effective.  Taken in by the fatherly great prince of the woods, Bambi comes of age, returning to the wilderness of his youth to reunite with old friends, falls for a fellow deer and faces his greatest challenge yet when his home is engulfed in flames.  

    The fifth of Disney’s cherished animated features only behind other such classics as Fantasia and Dumbo, Bambi excels through its gorgeous visuals and flawless animation that once again set a new bar of excellence for the studio.  A costly investment that failed to recoup its original budget, Bambi’s impact on audiences has never wavered and continues to delight viewers with its humorous moments of Bambi struggling to find his balance on ice and the tearjerking drama conveyed through its moments of personal loss.  A touchstone achievement with timeless themes of love and conservation at its core, Bambi stands as animation’s lasting love letter to nature and all its majestic inhabitants.

    Recycling their Diamond Edition transfer from 2011, Walt Disney Studios’ Home Entertainment’s 1080p transfer (1:33:1) of Bambi is just as marvelous as before with the gorgeous greenery of the woods, vibrants colors found in the various furs of the animals and fantastic background paintings looking flawless.  Meanwhile, the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is once again on hand delivering dialogue clearly and giving eloquent force to Frank Churchill and Edward H. Plumb’s beautifully dreamy score.  

    In addition to presenting the Original Theatrical Edition (1:09:50) with optional DisneyView and a thoroughly interesting Inside Walt’s Story Meetings: Extended Edition (1:35:55), new supplements include, Studio Stories: Bambi (4:56) featuring archival recordings of Walt Disney culled from interviews circa 1956, Deleted Scenes (7:25) with introductions by Animator Floyd Norman, an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Africa Before Dark (5:50) short film, The Bambi Effect (3:00) and Bambi Fawn Facts (3:34).  Furthermore, vintage bonus features carried over feature Classic Deleted Scenes (3:07), a Deleted Song: “Twitterpated” (1:52), The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born (53:15), Tricks of Our Trade (Excerpt) (7:18), Inside the Disney Archives (8:39), The Old Mill: Animated Short (8:58), The Golden Age (6:24) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12).  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Cars 3 (0:57) and Beauty and the Beast (1:38) round out the on-disc extras.  Additionally, Celebrating Tyrus Wong (8:56), available only digitally, examines the long life of the famed artist, who passed away only last year at the age of 106, and his lasting impressions on Bambi.  Fans are also treated to a Collectible Tyrus Wong Lithograph in the packaging’s interior while, a DVD edition and Digital HD are also provided.

    Retaining the same splendid audio and visual specifications as its previous outing on Blu-ray, Bambi’s Signature Collection Edition joins the line with several new worthy supplements including a new Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short while, a stash, albeit incomplete, selection of classic extras are also on-hand.  Lovers, young and old, of Disney’s golden age efforts will be delighted to add this quintessential feature into their collections if they haven’t already and cherish the breathtaking sights of Bambi and his furry friends for years to come.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Bambi can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mickey and the Roadster Racers DVD Review

    Mickey and the Roadster Racers

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Bill Farmer, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille & Nika Futterman

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Less educationally-minded than the preschool geared Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers whizzes into the fast lane of fun for a delightful serving of after school entertainment.  Set in the racer-loving community of Hot Dog Hills, Mickey Mouse and pals Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto compete in the pedal-pushing sport while finding themselves in a series of adventures at home and abroad.  Presenting two tales per episode, the gang sees their vehicles go loony after filling up with Goofy’s experimental gasoline while, Minnie and Daisy, as the Happy Helpers, find their petsitting duties go haywire and their search and rescue of an escaped ape from the zoo be anything but easy.  Also facing off against the infamously unfair Piston Pietro at an international race in Rome, Mickey and friends’ colorful new exploits are a blast from start to finish and ones that young viewers will be glad they took the ride with.  Collecting the program’s first three episodes and featuring appearances from beloved favorites such as, Chip and Dale, Pete, Clarabelle Cow and introducing racing emcee Billy Beagle (voiced by Jay Leno), Mickey and the Roadster Racers is a wildly fun return for the characters where their vibrant personalities and engagement in humorous scenarios takes first place.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents episodes of Mickey and the Roadster Racers in their widescreen (1.78:1) format.  While target viewers may be less enthused by the release’s technical merits than the quality of the show itself, Disney Junior’s latest boasts a colorful vibrancy throughout that makes the computer-generated animation shine nicely.  Likewise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes make for easy dialogue delivery and heightened sound effects, offering more than acceptable listening enjoyment.  Special features include, a Bonus Episode: “Mickey’s Perfecto Day!” / “Running of the Roadsters!” (the show’s fifth), Music Videos for the “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” Theme Song (1:15) and the “Happy Helpers” Theme Song (1:30) plus, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Tangled: The Series (0:18), Elena of Avalor (0:48), Born in China (1:16) and Cars 3 (0:59).  Lastly, a customizable Metal License Plate is included inside the disc’s packaging.  Screeching into high-gear with plenty of laughs, Mickey and the Roadster Racers is tailor-made for tikes looking to join Disney’s golden characters on a track course built on fast speeds and hearty good times.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Mickey and the Roadster Racers can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Moana 3D (2016) Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Moana (2016)

    Director(s): John Musker & Ron Clements and Chris Williams & Don Hall

    Starring: Auli’i Cravalho & Dwayne Johnson

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A mythic adventure like no other, Moana sets sail on a daring teenager (Auli’i Cravalho in her film debut) whose mission to fulfill her ancestors’ wish teams her up with the powerful and cocky demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas).  Charting the gorgeous seas together, the determined duo encounter waves of danger and immeasurable odds on their journey.

    From the talented twosome that helped redefine a Disney generation with such milestone hits as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Directors John Musker and Ron Clements, with co-direction from Big Hero 6’s Chris Williams and Don Hall, tell a richly original tale seeped in the culture and splendor of the South Pacific islands.  Once great sailors, the ancient islanders have seized voyages for a thousand years until their picturesque home begins to crumble.  Teenage Moana, spiritually connected to the sea since childhood and Polynesian princess to her people, rebels against her land’s reef-fearing rules and sets sails on a daring mission across the sea to restore balance.  Seeking out the aid of demigod Maui whose reputation has since been tarnished, Moana’s youthful ambition matched with Maui’s desire to redeem himself and live up to his heroic mantra make for an unexpectedly ideal combination to face the peril of cantankerous coconut warriors, lava monsters and their own self-doubt.  

    Continuing their virtually flawless streak of quality animation and instantly classic storytelling, Disney’s oceanic adventure adheres to the studio’s high benchmarks of recent years with the film’s uniquely proportioned character designs, mind-blowingly photorealistic settings and inventive interpretation of factual mythology all contributing to its arresting effect.  Creating harmonious chemistry with one another, newcomer Auli’i Cravalho’s range of fearlessness and innocence coupled with the inherent charm and full-of-himself humor of Dwayne Johnson bring true magic to the screen.  Serving as an invaluable component to the film’s rhythmic nature, the combined musical efforts of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda offer viewers culturally moving compositions and immensely catchy tunes including, but hardly not limited to, the terrific track “You’re Welcome” that showcases Johnson’s surprisingly solid singing chops.  Riding a current of immaculate artistic beauty and a moving story filled with unwavering heart and humor, Moana is yet another shining example of the very best of Disney animation that fans will happily be sailing with for years to come.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Moana with a pitch-perfect 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Thrusting viewers into the action with its depth-fulfilling 3D capabilities, the deep blue waves of the sea and Maui’s constant in your face moments are shining examples of the format solidly put to use while, its 2D transfer is an equally glorious sight of tropical colors, lifelike water effects and the deepest of black levels that are nothing short of reference quality.  Equipped with a striking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crisply relayed while, oceanic sound effects and the film’s delightful musical numbers seal the track’s fate as another first-rate Disney effort.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Directors Ron Clements & John Musker, Inner Workings (6:26), featuring an introduction by the filmmakers, Disney’s latest short feature examines the struggle between’s a man’s logistical and free-spirited sides in a gorgeous blend of animation styles, a Maui-Mini Movie: Gone Finishing (2:29) and Voice of the Islands (31:13), takes a detailed look at how the Pacific Island people and their vibrant culture impacted the film and its makers.  Additionally, Things You Didn’t Know About… (4:00) hosts Q&A’s with the voice cast and musical teams while, Island Fashion (5:13) catches up with Costume Designer Neysa Bové and her artistic approaches to the film’s garbs plus, The Elements of… (14:14) explores the effects work that brought to life many of the film’s supporting characters in this four-part featurette.  They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (12:37) hosts musicians Opetaia Foa’I, Marc Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda as they reflect on their life changing involvements crafting the memorable tunes, a Deleted Song: “Warrior Face” (3:41), Fishing for Easter Eggs (2:52) explores the hidden nods to other Disney features found in the film and Deleted Scenes (25:56) with optional filmmaker introductions are also found on the release.  Finally, the “How Far I’ll Go” Music Video by Alessia Cara (3:04), “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” (2:44), a multi-language reel of the song and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:17), Elena of Avalor (0:17), Disney’s Aulani Resort (0:32), Cars 3 (0:57) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) round out the on-disc supplements while, separate 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and DVD editions are provided alongside a Digital HD Code.

    With little else to add except you’re welcome, Disney has once again rode the waves into viewers’ hearts with Moana, delivering delightful characters, exceptional visual sights that seamlessly captures the splendor of the Pacific Islands and a phenomenal selection of songs that rivals the titanic popularity of Frozen’s biggest hits.  Dazzling audiences with yet another pristine presentation of reference worthy 3D and handsome supplements, Disney’s Academy Award nominated feature is a sight of beauty that will move the hearts of many like the rhythm of the sea.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available March 7th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Moana can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pinocchio (1940) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Pinocchio (1940)

    Director(s): Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Wilfred Jackson & T. Hee

    Starring: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards, Mel Blanc, Charles Judels & Evelyn Venable

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Walt Disney’s animated masterpiece, Pinocchio finds a magical wooden puppet coming to life and assisted by his conscience, the faithful Jiminy Cricket.  In an adventurous quest that tests the impressionable marionette’s bravery and honesty, the wave crashing events will determine his desire to become a real boy to his loving creator Geppetto.

    Based on, albeit severely deviating, from Carlo Collodi’s enduring tale, Disney’s followup to the spectacle of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs eclipses its predecessor in every way.  With the profits of Disney’s animated feature-length debut handy, technical advancements from blended color effects to animated underwater realism and a profound desire to prove his studio and artists were more than one-trick ponies, Pinocchio stands as the defining work of a creator unrestricted by his limitless imagination, never to be seen or experienced on such a grand scale again.  Yearning for a child of his own, lonely toymaker Geppetto wishes upon a star for his latest puppet to become a real boy.  Given life to his wooden body by the enchanting Blue Fairy, Pinocchio must prove himself honest and brave before the wish can truly come to fruition.  Narrating the film’s proceedings and serving as Pinocchio’s personal conscience, pint-sized Jiminy Cricket promises to guide the now stringless puppet on his journey of self-discovery.  As temptation rears its head and ignoring the advice of Jiminy, Pinocchio finds himself conned by the swindling Honest John and his feline companion Gideon before being sold to the heinous Stromboli as a moneymaker in his puppet sideshow and whisked away to the anarchic Pleasure Island by a devilish Coachman.  While Geppetto, along with his faithful pets Figaro and Cleo, frantically search for his son, Pinocchio is absorbed by the island’s seedy activities and ultimately transformed into a donkey.  Before long, Pinocchio’s family is swallowed whole by the ghastly whale Monstro, inspiring the wooden boy and Jiminy Cricket to risk life and limb to save them from certain doom and rightly earning his place as a real boy.

    A clear advancement over Walt Disney’s game-changing opus just three years earlier, Pinocchio is the fullest embodiment of Disney’s visionary style and also the studio’s bleakest effort produced during its Golden era.  Retaining the cautionary tone of age-old folktales, Pinocchio urges young viewers to mind menacing temptations and remain truthful while, at its core, is a heartfelt story concerning fathers and sons.  From its serene beginnings in Geppetto’s warm workshop to the foreboding downpours and unwholesome characters Pinocchio encounters on his road to righteousness, the film serves as a fabled account of prepubescent maturity.  Through the garishly intriguing sights of Pleasure Island and Pinocchio’s frightening confrontation with Monstro, the unrelenting suspense and drama captured in these sequences are unparalleled in Disney’s vast history.  Juxtaposed with touching yet, not overly sentimental warmth and comical sight gags at the expense of the puppet’s naiveté, Pinocchio runs the emotional gamut with ease and utmost precision.  With his money firmly placed where his mouth was once again, Disney spared no expense from the film’s grandest moments to its more rudimentary details presenting a feature eclipsing anything produced by its makers, earning its place as Disney’s gold standard for all other features to be compared to.

    Recycling the technical specifications of its Platinum Edition release, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Pinocchio with a 1080p transfer, retaining its 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  A mark of high-definition excellence, colors are vast and bold with age-related anomalies nonexistent and black levels appearing deeply rich.  Furthermore, the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix strongly relays the film’s dialogue levels and award winning score with only mild exchanges of softness that is less a complaint then an observation.  Newly produced supplements on this release include, the two-part featurette The Pinocchio Project: “When You Wish Upon A Star” with The Project (3:03) focusing on the recoding of the beloved track’s cover with interviews from the musical participants while, The Video (2:49) presents the finished music video of the completed song.  In addition, Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island (7:14) takes transcriptions from 1938-1939 story meetings and presents them with recreated narrations and stills to detail the development of this awe-inspiring sequence.  Also included, In Walt’s Words - Pinocchio (4:48) is an archival recording of Walt Disney from interviews conducted in 1956 and his thoughts on his animated followup.  Lastly, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” (5:19), an animated short featuring Disney’s pre-Mickey star rounds out the release’s new to disc bonus  features.

    Offering the film’s Original Theatrical Edition, DisneyView and Sing-Along with the Movie options, classic bonus features ported over include, No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio (56:09), Deleted Scenes (10:33), The Sweatbox (6:25), Geppetto’s Then and Now (10:57), Live-Action Reference Footage (9:57) and a Publicity section featuring the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52), the 1984 re-release Theatrical Trailer (1:25) and the 1992 re-release Theatrical Trailer (1:33).  Furthermore, “When You Wish Upon A Star” Music Video by Meaghan Jette Martin (3:14), A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio (5:06), a Storyboard-To-Film Final Comparison (4:04) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:17), Elena of Avalor (0:17), Born in China (1:14), 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) and Moana (1:37) round out the entirety of the disc’s supplemental offerings while, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Simply stated, the artistic majesty, adventurous storytelling and iconic characters of Disney’s Pinocchio make the film a direct result of wishing upon a star and witnessing true magic come alive.  Released in a golden era of unequivocal classics, Disney’s daring second feature is unlike anything else with a beauty and emotional core unmatched, soaring above the others as the studio’s towering achievement.  Retaining its Platinum Edition’s already flawless restoration, the Signature Collection’s handful of new and stockpile of vintage supplements make those without this essential slice of animated perfection a no-brainer.  

    RATING: 5/5

    Available January 31st from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pinocchio can be purchased via 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. 

  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) 25th Anniversary Edition: Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Beauty and the Beast (1991)

    Director(s): Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

    Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everheart & Jesse Corti

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Disney’s 30th animated feature, Beauty and the Beast finds independent bookworm Belle (Paige O’Hara, Enchanted) rescuing her father from an enchanted castle and a cruel beast’s (Robby Benson, Running Brave) captivity.  Sacrificing her own freedom and looking deep within to see the beast’s inner beauty, the blossoming love between the two unlikely housemates will prove magically invaluable in breaking the spell cast on the titanic castle and its residents.

    A tale as old as time and beloved by generations worldwide, Beauty and the Beast continues the triumphant return to form of Disney’s animation division following the runaway success of The Little Mermaid.  Once again combining timeless characters, brilliant musical arrangements by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, and a story of true love, the romantic fairy tale enchants viewers with its grace, humor and themes of acceptance.  Attempted several times throughout Walt Disney’s career to no avail, Beauty and the Beast continues the magical traditions of its golden age forefathers with mesmerizing art and catchy tunes while, charting its own breathtaking path earning itself the first Best Picture Academy Award nomination for an animated film.  Seeped in gothic romance with glitzy broadway style musical sequences, the valued vocal efforts of Jerry Orbach (Law & Order), David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H*) and Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote) bring impressionable life to their memorable roles as Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts but, more importantly make viewers feel warmly at home within their company.  In addition, brute Gaston (Richard White, House of Mouse), along with his hilariously buffoonish accomplice Lefou (Jesse Corti, Zootopia), make for some of Disney’s grandest antagonists while, the development of Belle and Beast’s evolving love may be the most beautiful of all the mouse house’s animated features.

    Showered in critical praise, deserved awards and box-office riches upon its initial release, Beauty and the Beast would continue to welcomes guests to its enchanted castle through a Broadway musical, two direct-to-video followups, an enduring Disney Park presence and a theatrical 3D re-release.  With its reputation graciously preceding itself after a quarter century, Beauty and the Beast’s impact and instantly recognizable songs can’t be understated.  A perfect storm of splendid storytelling and exemplary animation, Beauty and the Beast not only ranks as the crowning jewel of the Disney Renaissance that consisted of other such masterworks as Aladdin and The Lion King but, also one of the studio’s most treasured features of all-time.

    Repurposing their already flawless 1080p (1.78:1) transfer and sonically hailed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix from its 2010 release, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment once again supplies three versions of the film including the preferred Original Theatrical Edition (1:24:54), Special Extended Edition (1:31:44) and a Sing-A-Long Version (1:24:54).  Also recycling its Audio Commentary (Extended Edition Only) with Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, Producer Don Hahn & Composer Alan Menken, new on-disc supplements include, Always Belle (11:32) as Paige O’Hara reflects on her role and childhood love for the arts, Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration (19:06) where fellow Disney composers Stephen Schwartz (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana) and Robert & Kristen-Anderson Lopez (Frozen) rap with Menken about the film’s memorable music, #1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty and the Beast (9:36) details Disney’s earliest developments of the film, The Recording Sessions (3:48) invites viewers into raw footage of the actors laying down their lines and 25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Beast (5:24) hosted by Kayla Maisonet of Stuck in the Middle and Gus Kamp of Best Friends Whenever.  In addition, a Beauty and the Beast Sneak Peek (1:24) at the 2017 live-action feature, Song Selection (Sing-A-Long Edition Only), a Classic Bonus Preview (0:43) and Sneak Peeks at 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37), The BFG (1:38), Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), a Disney Princess Promo (1:32), Elena of Avalor (1:02), Moana (1:26) and Finding Dory (1:39) are also included.

    For better or worse, several more hours of supplemental content including such new featurettes as Character Development: Lumiere (2:50), Character Development: Beast (3:49) and countless others are available only digitally along with other vintage bonus features.  While their inclusion is plentiful, their lack of on-disc appearances is disparaging for physical media purists.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code round out the release’s extensive extras.

    Celebrating its 25th anniversary before asking viewers to be their guest in 2017 for its live-action counterpart, Beauty and the Beast remains as magical and captivating as ever.  With several newly created bonus features included and a reference quality presentation preserved, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has prepped a sumptuous meal of hi-def majesty for Disney lovers to partake in.  A towering animated achievement and simply one of Disney’s best, Beauty and the Beast deserves a spot in every collector’s west wing!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Beauty and the Beast 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.

  • 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.

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two reconvenes with the crew of the Ghost as they continue their pursuit for freedom under the rule of the Galactic Empire.  As young Ezra continues his own Jedi training under the disciplined Kanan, the rebels find themselves increasingly targeted by new threats from the dark side causing them to forge alliances with others on their journeys.

    Rustling the feathers of the feared Galactic Empire, Darth Vader, aided by fellow Inquisitors, make the capture of the Ghost crew a priority in this action-packed sophomore season of Star Wars Rebels.  With risks increasing and danger constant, the combative freedom fighters join forces with former clone trooper Captain Rex, much to the discontent of Kanan whose reminders of the doomed Clone Wars are far too fresh to initially trust Rex.  Establishing unlikely friendships and trusted alliances with those fighting mutual causes, the Ghost crew’s missions to aid those suffering around the galaxy is met with lethal force from a double threat of new Inquisitors (voiced by Philip Anthony-Rodriguez and Sarah Michelle Gellar respectively).  Richly conceived and crafting even stronger character developments, the second season of Star Wars Rebels finds common themes of teamwork and resisting responsibility central to the proceedings as Ezra’s continued Jedi education and conflicted emotions inch the character forward on his journey of self-discovery.  With appearances from fan-favorite characters including, Ahsoka Tano (who becomes a crucial ally to the rebels), Emperor Palpatine and Princess Leia who the crew aids on a secret mission, Star Wars Rebels continues the turbulent trials of the Ghost when Zeb must work with the evil Agent Kallus in order for both to survive a hostile planet while, the spunky Chopper takes kindly to an Imperial droid during a location scout for a new rebel base.  Unquestionably more intense than its debut season, Star Wars Rebels ups the ante with an epic conclusion involving Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka discovering a living Darth Maul at a sacred temple with the powers of the dark side tempting the young Padawan like never before.  Intensely cinematic, humorous and wildly exciting, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two raises the bar once again with its grandiose storytelling taking our characters into new and potentially darker territories in the future to come.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents all 22 episodes of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  As colorfully crisp as any theatrically released animated feature, Star Wars Rebels delights with flawless black levels and exceptional detail touches in backgrounds, spaceship interiors and uniquely layered costumes.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is well exchanged with the high speed pursuits of spaceships and lightsaber battles adding robust touches to the show’s sound effects.  Special features on Disc 1 include, Rebels Recon (43:31) where Star Wars Correspondent Andi Gutierrez acts as your guide in this 1-6 episode breakdown of the season.  Sneak Peeks at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43) are also included.  Next up, Disc 2 continues Rebels Recon (49:09) coverage on episodes 7-14 while, Disc 3 concludes Rebels Recon (37:27) on the season’s remaining episodes.  In addition, Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 (3:30) takes a look at the season’s unique references and hidden easter eggs with the Blu-ray exclusive featurette From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader VS. Ahsoka (6:08) finds Executive Producer Dave Filoni discussing the season’s epic showdown between the former teacher and apprentice.

    An intergalactically epic followup to last year’s explosive debut season, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two exceeds expectations and pushes the quality and emotion of episodic animation within the Star Wars universe.  Continuing to be Disney XD’s strongest and most throughly engaging program, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment weaves the power of the Force with their praiseworthy presentation.  While supplements could surely be more plentiful, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two easily earns a true Jedi’s recommendation.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 30th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two can be purchased via 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.

  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015) DVD Review

    Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)

    Director(s): Michael Hegner & Martin Skov

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the pint-sized adventures of the galaxy’s finest heroes, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is the exciting five-part mini-series centered around C-3PO and R2-D2’s many exploits.  As the gold protocol droid retells their tales to various listeners, his faithful companion is abducted by a mysterious figure prompting him to save his short, spunky friend.

    Taking place after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales finds the celebrating rebels gathering together as their dependable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 recall their many adventures dating back to the Clone Wars.  Voiced once more by Anthony Daniels, C-3PO engages listeners with the events unfolded in the prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones before R2-D2 is stolen away by a hooded figure.  Struggling with his own fears, the timid droid pursues the mysterious individual in order to reclaim his closest friend while, continuing to tell more of their many escapades to anyone who will listen.  Chocked full of hilarious commentaries on the films and never shying from flinging Jar Jar Binks into space for laughs, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales coasts too closely to events fans have long been accustomed to, making unique storytelling opportunities limited.  Fortunately, an early encounter with Kanan and the Ghost crew of Star Wars Rebels makes for some of the series’ finest moments while, the final episode leading C-3PO to the planet of Geonosis and a confrontation with General Veers makes for a fun sendoff to a mini-series that may lack originality but excels as usual with comedy and delightful animation.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales digitally mastered in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although not nearly as sharp or defined as high-definition, colors are plentiful and pop nicely while, black levels are quite respectable and lack any intrusions of crush.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally clear but may require increases in volume to capture their full extent.  Furthermore, Composer John Williams’ original music, along with his iconic reused themes, offer sizable boosts to the track’s limited capabilities.  Although scant, special features include Sneak Peeks (5:00) at Star Wars Rebels, Zootopia and Disney Movie Rewards.  In addition, an Exclusive Trading Card Set is included inside the packaging.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales 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.

  • The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave (2016) DVD Review

    The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave (2016)

    Director: David Doi

    Starring: Felix Avitia, Anndi McAfee, Aria Noelle Curzon, Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulsen, Barry Bostwick, Reb McEntire & Damon Wayans Jr.

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the latest prehistoric adventure of the long-running series, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave centers on young Apatosaurus Littlefoot (Felix Avitia, Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything), who after learning of his father’s disappearance, sets out to rescue him.  Joined by his faithful pals, Littlefoot travels across strange landscapes and encounters new friends, Etta (Reba McEntire, Charlotte’s Web) and Wild Arms (Damon Wayans Jr., Big Hero 6) on a courageous adventure that enriches their friendship.

    Following a near decade of extinction, the whopping fourteenth installment of The Land Before Time franchise invites a new generation of dinosaur lovers back to the Great Valley.  Centering once again on series mainstay Littlefoot (Avitia), the tiny, long-necked dino anxiously awaits the return of his father Bron (Scott Whyte, City Guys) and the rest of the herd on their annual visit.  Excitement quickly turns to panic when the comically coward Wild Arms (Wayans) alerts the village of a volcanic explosion that resulted in Bron sacrificing his safety for the others.  Too dangerous to trek back, Littlefoot, along with Cera, Ducky, Petrie and Spike, secretly journey to rescue Bron from impending danger.  Confronted with countless geographical obstacles and overwhelming risks at the hands of hungry Tyrannosaurs Rex, the gang encounter friendly Pterodactyl Etta (McEntire) to help aid in their search for Bron.  Singing their way to save Littlefoot’s father, the young dinosaurs develop a deeper appreciation for each other that will last a lifetime.

    Highlighting a newly recored tune by Reba McEntire, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave fits seamlessly into the franchise’s previous efforts that demonstrate the value of friendship and working together for more impressionable audiences.  With the advent of computer animation, the latest sequel stylistically adheres to the traditional, hand-drawn quality of its predecessors while, its vocal talent comprised of newcomers and guest celebrities entertain accordingly.  Although its plot is fairly paint-by-numbers in the context of the series, this harmless direct to video offering will easily appeal to younger viewers who will take delight in its colorful characters and cheery musical numbers.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave in anamorphic widescreen, boasting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking the sharpness of hi-def releases, the animated effort delivers nicely balanced colors of its many characters and backgrounds, making the viewing experience a perfectly suitable one.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is audible and efficient while, the film’s several musical moments have a slightly wider reach to get heads bopping along.  Appropriately catered to little ones, special features include, Sing-A-Long Songs for “Look For The Light” (2:01), “Today’s the Day” (2:56), “Hot and Stinky” (2:48) and “Better off Alone” (2:02).

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave can be purchased exclusively through Walmart.com and their respective retail outlets. 

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

    Director(s): William Cottrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce & Ben Sharpsteen

    Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Eddie Collins, Moroni Olsen & Stuart Buchanan

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Disney’s first feature-length animated production, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tells the timeless tale of pure and innocent Snow White who fears for her life when her vile stepmother the Queen, seeks to eliminate her from becoming the fairest in the land.  In order to evade capture, Snow White falls in the kind company of seven mining dwarfs who open their hearts to the young girl.  Falling for a charming prince and combatting the evil Queen, love conquers all in this seminal classic.

    Garnering worldwide acclaim for his Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies short subjects, forward-thinking Walt Disney was determined to push his studio’s abilities further into uncharted territories.  Developed over an astounding four year period and predicted by many skeptics to be “Disney’s Folly”, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would cost the thriving studio nearly $1.5 million on a project with unproven potential.  Inspired by Disney’s earliest cinematic encounters, the risky fairy tale adaptation would prompt Disney to mortgage his house and disregard the concerns of his wife Lillian and brother Roy in order to fully realize his vision.  Exploring new possibilities in the realm of animation and pushing his artists to the challenge of creating convincingly human characters, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became a daily struggle with its completion being the embodiment of groundbreaking artistry.  

    Simplifying its narrative and dazzling viewers with its storybook opening into the Queen’s lair, achieved by the newly created multiplane camera system, sets a fantastical tone ensuring a journey of indubitable beauty.  From its awe-inspiring backgrounds to the scope of the Queen’s castle and the quaint comforts of the dwarfs cottage, the animated debut feature equally serves as a moving piece of high art as it does a compelling tale.  As Disney’s inaugural princess, Snow White is the definition of purity with her jovial spirit and harmonious singing of “I’m Wishing” melting the hearts of viewers.  Memorably joined by the colorful personalities of the short statured miners, the seven dwarfs, whether digging for diamonds and whistling while they work or questioning the benefits of washing up before mealtime, comprise the film’s many adorable sight gags.  In addition to Snow White’s scary dash through the forest, the Queen and her wicked ways deliver other such effectively dark sequences including, the infamous apple eating moment cementing the evildoers cold heart while, Snow White’s courageous love interest, the Prince, feels noticeably one-dimensional in a production bursting with unforgettable characters.  Spellbinding in all its gorgeous technicolor and sending audiences through a gamut of emotions, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains Disney’s unprecedented achievement that captured the hearts of millions nearly eight decades ago with its magic still firmly intact.  Nearly perfect (Disney’s sophomore effort, Pinocchio, being his true masterpiece), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an artistic marvel that will forever stand the test of time.

    Repurposing its gorgeous transfer from the previously available Diamond Edition, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1080p, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any age-related scuffs or other such damage, Disney’s first fairy tale exudes perfection with bright colors leaping off the screen and handsome detail allowing viewers to further appreciate the glorious backgrounds.  In addition, black levels found in the Queen’s cape, the mischievous vultures and Snow White’s dash through the dreary forest are exceptionally inky.  Although no alterations are detected from its previous release, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can appropriately be filed under the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category.  Furthermore, DisneyView is once again included to optionally view the film with Toby Bluth’s (The Tigger Movie) artwork replacing the vertical black bars.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is prominently positioned with no distortion on hand.  Music is richly soothing while, the film’s climatic finale succeeds in drumming up appropriate excitement.  

    Newly included special features contain, In Walt’s Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:22), culled from archive recording interviews from 1956, Iconography (7:16) finds modern artists discussing the impact of the film’s long-lasting imagery and powerful symbolism.  In addition, @DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney’s First Princess (5:16) hosts Animator Mark Henn (Pocahontas), Art Directors Michael Giaimo (Frozen), Bill Schwab (Wreck-It Ralph) and Lorelay Bové (Big Hero 6) on the evolution of the film’s titular character and its striking design choices that continue to influence today, The Fairest Facts of Them All: All 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:37) hosted by Sofia Carson of Disney’s Descendants, Snow White in Seventy Seconds (1:12), Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White (3:39) and Disney’s First Feature: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (33:15) serving as an extended version of a previously available featurette conclude the release’s latest offerings.  Meanwhile, vintage supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Roy E. Disney and Historian John Canemaker with recordings by Walt Disney, Bringing Snow White to Life (11:35), Hyperion Studios Tour (30:36), Decoding the Exposure Sheet (6:49), Story Meetings: The Dwarfs (5:51), Story Meetings: The Huntsman (3:55), Deleted Scene: Soup Eating Sequence (6:28) and Animation Voice Talent (6:20).  Finally, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), The Disney Store (0:32), Disney Parks (0:32), Zootopia (1:38) and The Good Dinosaur (1:38) are included with a DVD edition of the release and, for the first time ever, a Digital HD Code.

    Appropriately kickstarting Disney’s new Signature Collection, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the defining tale that gave immediate acceptance to the animated feature.  Magical, frightening and heartwarming, the endearing classic not only stands as one of the mediums finest achievements but, also one of cinema’s most prized efforts.  Boasting its same spectacular presentation from its 2009 Diamond Edition release, newly included supplements join a plethora of vintage content for a satisfyingly packed high-def sophomore outing.  Mirror, mirror on the wall, Disney appreciators and lovers of all cinema should not fathom being without Disney’s essential first feature.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 2nd from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

    presents

    THE 2015 HOLIDAY GIFT

    • The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition: While the tikes of today rightly associate the artistry of stop-motion animation with the works of Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman), The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition presents viewers of all ages with timeless holiday entertainment from the influential Rankin/Bass Productions.  With such Christmas cartoon classics as UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns, this must-have collection also includes Rankin/Bass’ most beloved holiday-themed specials including, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  Joined by additional special features such as sing-alongs and how-to tutorials on drawing your own Rudolph or Frosty, The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition comes highly recommended and will undoubtedly enjoy heavy rotation by viewers this holiday season.  Available now!

    • Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Celebrating its unbelievable 25th anniversary, the original John Hughes produced classic returns to Blu-ray boasting a new superior-looking 4K restoration.  Collected in a paint can familiar to fans of the films, this excellently timed collector’s edition includes other treats such as, a collectible ornament, rubber spider, Battle Plan reproduction and a Wanted poster looking for the Wet Bandits.  While its equally beloved sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also included on Blu-ray, purists will be slightly disappointed that later installments, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist arrive only on DVD.  Although the lack of a complete high-definition collection is unfortunate, the original film’s highly improved transfer and conversation starting packaging makes Home Alone’s 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition well worth upgrading this Christmas.  Available now! 

    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Similar to Home Alone’s previous outings on high-definition, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has been the victim of dated masters leaving viewers with more to be visually desired.  Thankfully, Warner Bros. have heard fans’ calls and appropriately rescanned this Chevy Chase favorite in 2K from a brand-new interpositive.  Boasting a more filmic appearance and stronger skin tones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, carrying all previous supplements from its past releases, finally arrives in the presentation fans of the Griswolds rightfully deserve.  Available now!

    • Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy: Marking Marty and Doc’s infamous journey into the distant future of 2015, Universal Studios proudly celebrates the occasion with an exceptional high-definition repackaging of the historic time traveling trilogy.  With all three films looking and sounding stellar, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy comes overwhelmingly packed with vintage supplements as well as other goodies including, Doc Brown Saves the World! with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doctor Emmett Brown in this newly-produced short film.  In addition, diehard fans will be overjoyed with Universal Studios’ alternate limited edition release of Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures.  Housed in a light-up faux flux capacitor, this must-have set contains the film trilogy, a 64-page collectible booklet and all 26 episodes of the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon on DVD for the first time ever.  Hailed as one of the greatest franchises of all time, Christmas morning won’t be complete without journeying into the past with these ageless adventures.  Available now!

     

    • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Continuing the popular exploits of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) returns to the explosive franchise for his most dangerous mission yet.  When the IMF is shut down by the CIA, a dangerous network known as the Syndicate, comprised of former agents gone rogue, threatens the safety of the globe.  Wanted by their own government, Ethan and his loyal team, along with a mysterious double agent (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), must combine their limited efforts to bring the Syndicate down and restore their names.  Helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation combines death-deifying stunts, intense action and a suspenseful narrative that stands proudly with Ghost Protocol’s universally hailed installment.  Arriving with reference worthy high-definition specs and countless special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Christopher McQuarrie and Star Tom Cruise plus, several making-of featurettes, the fifth installment of Cruise’s exciting series is a mission all viewers should choose to accept this holiday season.  Available December 15th!

     

    • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Limited to just 3,000 units, Writer/Director Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Manhattan) love letter to cinema is an achingly moving achievement comprised of magic and romance.  Perfectly casted, Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) star in this Great Depression-set tale about a movie obsessed dreamer enchanted by the arrival of her movie star crush who leaps off the screen to woo her.  A bonafide gem in Allen’s rich catalog of classics, The Purple Rose of Cairo casts an enchanting spell on viewers while, Film Historian Julie Kirgo’s enthralling liner notes increase ones appreciation for the content.  Available now!

    • The End of the Tour: Based on David Lipsky’s best-seller, this probing character study of Lipsky’s journalistic road-trip interviewing Author David Foster Wallace in the wake of his successful novel is one of the year’s smartest and genuine features.  Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) are excellently matched as two intelligent creatives, butting heads as they explore fame and the desire for normalcy on a journey of unexpected friendship and understanding.  Humorous and heartbreaking, this indie favorite arrives with an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman and more.  Critically applauded, The End of the Tour is a moving piece of drama well worth taking the journey with.  Available now! 

    • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition: From the creative minds of Pixar, Inside Out marks their most unique tale to date centering on the many emotions of an 11-year-old girl as she copes with her unexpected move to San Francisco.  Starring an eclectically hilarious voice cast including, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Phyllis Smith (The Office), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Director Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc., Up) deeply personal exploration of the mind is endlessly charming with audiences young and old finding themselves profoundly moved by its  conclusion.  Presented with immersive 3D and countless bonus features, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year perfect for acquisition this holiday season.  Available now!

     

    • Aladdin Diamond Edition: Highly anticipated and finally unleashed from the Disney vault, Aladdin makes its domestic high-definition debut with jaw-droppingly colorful clarity and countless special features including, the desirable and never-before-seen Genie outtakes performed by the late Robin Williams.  A magical tour de force, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved features and a wish come true for all street rats and riff raffs this Christmas.  Available now!   

    • Minions 3D: In Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me prequel, the yellow colored tribe find themselves deeply depressed following the accidental losses of their last several evil leaders.  Set in the progressive 1960s and determined to find their next kingpin, optimistic Minion Kevin, along with Stuart and Bob, road trip to Villain Con International to join forces with evil diva Scarlett Overkill.  After traveling to England to overthrow the Queen, the Minions must devise a way to correct their deeds in order to save their fellow friends and the world.  Accompanied by vocal work from Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) and Geoffrey Rush (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Minions slapstick scenarios and soundtrack of rockin’ hits from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.  Packed with eye-popping 3D and three brand-new mini movies, Minions is the animated release making audiences go bananas.  Available December 8th! 

    • Cinderella: Continuing their successful string of live-action features based on their esteemed animated classics, Disney brings the whimsy of Cinderella to a new generation.  Bursting with magic and elegance, Director Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet, Thor) modernization pays homage while, surpassing its 1950 counterpart with its grandiose production design and exceptional performances from Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the titular role and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her wicked stepmother.  One of the finest films of the year, Disney’s Cinderella is the glass slipper that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.  Available now!

    • 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition: Although unhappy with the film’s visual outcome, Walt Disney’s dazzling London-based tale has long been cherished by adoring audiences since its debut in 1961.  Stylistically unique to the delicate precision of other Disney efforts, 101 Dalmatians offers an adventurous tale accompanied by memorable songs and one of Disney’s most beloved antagonists Cruella De Vil.  Shining brighter than ever on Blu-ray, reasons for scooping up 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition this season far exceeds the number of its lovable polka-dotted puppies.  Available now! 

    • Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection: A quarter century since its debut, Rowan Atkinson’s hilariously dimwitted character returns with all 14 episodes of his memorable television show.  Presented by Fabulous Films, in association with Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection provides viewers with suitable supplemental content while, the sheer silliness and physical hijinks of Atkinson’s predominately mum character in all his timeless sketches will most definitely tickle the funny bones of all viewers.  Available now! 

    • Star Wars Rebels - Complete Season One: With less than a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes hold of audiences worldwide, Disney’s first attempts at reestablishing the brand ensures that the Force is in very capable hands.  Taking place before the events of the original film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a ragtag crew of do-gooders determined to take down the Galactic Empire.  With guest appearances from Star Wars alumni such as, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Yoda, this computer-generated Disney XD series packs high-octane action and exciting new characters that have quickly become fan favorites.  With season two airing now, catching up with the crew of the Ghost in their first 15 adventures is the perfect training for young Padawans and Jedi Masters alike.  Available now! 

    • Manimal - The Complete Series: Airing for only a short-lived eight episodes, Fabulous Films and Shout! Factory welcome the animalistic adventures of Manimal: The Complete Series to DVD for the first time ever in the U.S.!  Centering on the wealthy and dashing Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws 3-D), Manimal finds Chase using his abilities to morph into any animal of his choosing to aid the authorities in solving crimes.  Scheduled against the soap opera titan Dallas, Manimal found itself quickly extinct due to low ratings but, has maintained a cult appeal for its over the top premise and impressive transformation sequences.  Wickedly fun, Manimal: The Complete Series also arrives with an interview with Series Creator Co-Creator Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.), Concept & Production Notes, an episode booklet and more.  With Will Ferrel (Elf) and Adam McKay (Step Brothers) actively developing a film version, reliving its goofy originator this holiday season will serve as an ideal journey down memory lane.  Available now!

    • Automan - The Complete Series: From the creative minds behind Tron and Knight Rider, Automan unashamedly melds the two contrasting concepts for this long lost gem of Generation X.  Including all 13 episodes and countless bonus content including, an all-new 42 minute retrospective, Automan centers on computer nerd Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnez Jr., House of the Long Shadows) as he minds his desk work at the local police department.  Using his programming skills, Walter develops an artificial hologram that can exist in the real world.  Accompanied by the computer engineered Automan and a small droid, Walter hits the streets to battle crime.  Cancelled prematurely, Automan: The Complete Series is a sci-fi spectacle of 80s technology and street crime that has thankfully resurfaced in its entirety for the first time in America.  Available now!

    • Agent Carter - The Complete First Season: Reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell stars as secret agent Peggy Carter as she attempts to cope with the loss of Steve Rogers and juggle her position in the male-dominated workforce of the 1940s.  After learning her friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has been framed for supplying weapons to the enemy, Agent Carter must fight to clear his name and recover the stolen goods.  Delivering one of television’s stronger and well-written female characters, Marvel’s Agent Carter is an engaging, tightly paced mini-series that  fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will find themselves instantly hooked on.  Available now!

    • Blood and Lace: Long desired and finally available for the first time on home video, Blood and Lace serves as a bizarre precursor to what would become the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s.  Following the grizzly murder of her prostituting mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is placed in an orphanage, fearful that she will become the next target of her mother’s hammer-wielding assailant.  With orphanage head Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life) and her seedy handyman concealing their share of disturbing secrets, Ellie’s safety becomes even more uncertain.  Filled with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a disturbing twist ending, Blood and Lace is joined by an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title, its theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  In a year of seemingly endless titles from Scream Factory, Blood and Lace stands out as one of their most coveted.  Available now! 

    • The Car: Powered by high-octane evil, this cult classic from Director Elliot Silverstein (Nightmare Honeymoon) stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as a newly appointed sheriff in a desert town disturbed by a devilish automobile hellbent on destroying anyone in its path.  Joined by new interviews with its director and Actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, a theatrical trailer, a newly designed cover art by Scream Factory favorite Justin Osbourn and more, The Car races to Blu-ray just in time for viewers to hitch a ride this Christmas.  Available December 15th! 

    • Eaten Alive: Continuing to impress domestic audiences with their diverse output, Arrow Video delivers another first-rate effort with Tobe Hooper’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Eaten Alive.  Set in the Louisiana wetlands at the seedy Starlight Hotel, owner Judd’s (Neville Brand, The Police Connection) homicidal tendencies run amuck as he feeds unsuspecting guests to his hungry alligator.  Bloody and bizarre, Hooper’s underrated gem arrives restored in 2K from the OCN while, bonus content runs deep with endless featurettes and an impressive 22-page booklet.  As if anymore bait were needed to lure viewers, Eaten Alive is one of the exploitation genres top releases of the year.  Available now!

    • Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, four elderly friends are haunted by a ghostly apparition in their wintry New England town.  Headlined by seasoned icons including, Fred Astaire (Swing Time), Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Little Caesar) and John Houseman (Rollerball), Ghost Story oozes atmosphere and supernatural tension.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory delivers this perfectly timed release with a filmic presentation and a slew of special features from an Audio Commentary with Director John Irvin and new interviews with key cast and crew to vintage trailers and a spooky reversible cover art.  Chilling and stylistically paced, Ghost Story makes for a frightening addition into your horror library this winter season.  Available now!

    • Goodnight Mommy: Hailing from Austria, twin brothers Elias and Lukas are troubled when their mother returns home from surgery, heavily bandaged and acting differently.  Growing more unconvinced of the woman who claims to be their mother, the twins take drastic measures to uncover the terrifying truth.  Similar to an unnerving fever dream, Goodnight Mommy seeps under viewers’ skin with an unsettling tone and an even more frightening finale.  Accompanied with a conversational interview with Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a shocking slice of foreign cinema that easily stands as one of the year’s standout contemporary horror releases.  Available now!

    • White of the Eye: All is not as it seems in 1987’s White of the Eye when an attractive woman falls victims to a demented killer of housewives who uses Indian rituals in his murders.  Helmed by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) and starring David Keith (Firestarter) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), this suspenseful thriller will keep viewers’ blood thoroughly chilled.  Repurposing U.K. distributor Arrow Video’s superb transfer, Scream Factory compliments its release with an Audio Commentary with Director Donald Cammell and Biographer Sam Umland, deleted scenes, an interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg, reversible cover art and more.  Available now!

    • Society: Nightmarish and bold, Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator) directorial debut arrives in a definitive high-definition release from Arrow Video.  Suspecting his wealth family and privileged peers are hiding sinister secrets, paranoid teen Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Days of Our Lives) uncovers a twisted subculture for the richies of Beverly Hills.  Sporting a virtually flawless presentation bursting with bold colors and exceptional clarity, Society comes dripping with newly crafted bonus content that leaves no stone left unturned.  Although its original flesh-covered packaging edition has since sold out, Arrow Video’s standard release of Society is unquestionably one of the best horror releases of 2015!  Available now!

    • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman: Celebrating its 75th anniversary, J.B. Kaufman’s definitive overview of Walt Disney’s animated followup to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a marvel to behold.  Containing over 200 pieces of art and culled from various interviews and recorded conferences, Kaufman’s expertly researched achievement is the finest of its kind and stands as our book of the year!  Available now! 

    • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk: Complimenting the 30th anniversary re-release of the famed trilogy, Klastorin and Atamniuk’s literary companion is a treasure trove for dedicated fans.  Packed with overwhelming insight into each film’s extensive shooting schedule and incredible imagery of production art, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History also treats readers to several removable posters and reproduction pieces.  Further documenting Back to the Future’s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and their exciting attraction at Universal Studios’ theme parks, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passion project is essential reading for all Back to the Future devotees.  Available now!

    • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt: Highlighting the eternally youthful enthusiasm of Writer/Director John Hughes, Honeycutt’s career spanning work contains interviews with Hughes collaborators including, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Buller’s Day Off), Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and more.  Providing insight into Hughes’ family life and heartwarming friendship with the late John Candy, Honeycutt’s humanizing and photograph-filled coverage of Hughes is one you won’t soon forget.  Available now!

    • The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie by Jerry Schmitz: Making their cinematic return this year, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang comes alive in their first CG-animated 3D feature.  Adapting the simplistic yet, treasured designs and wit of Schulz’s beloved creations was no easy task as covered in Schmitz’s enthralling read.  With a foreword by Director Steve Martino, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie describes the painstaking detail in bringing Charlie Brown and friends into a 3D realm while, cracking a story that would faithfully honor their 50-plus year legacy.  Unquestionably one of the year’s best making-of books, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is an invaluable resource for one of the year’s finest films.  Available now!

    • Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films by Douglas Brode: Chronologically ordered, Brode’s historical journey through science-fiction’s latest and greatest cinematic achievements are compiled in one passionate collection.  From 1927’s influential Metropolis to the many gems consisting of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wizardry, Brode’s analysis also awards George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Pixar’s Wall-E and Marvel Studio’s most recent Guardians of the Galaxy as sci-fi’s most remarkable efforts.  Accompanied with rare photographs, ratings and background information on each production, Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films will make a suitable stocking-stuffer for all sci-fi fans.  Available now!

    • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury: Considered one of our favorite films of the year, Mark Salisbury’s stunning look into Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance is breathtaking.  With inspired production art and intriguing character bios, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also explores the practical and digital means in bringing the film’s ghostly creations to life.  With several takeaway items including, a miniature film poster, Salisbury’s guide to one of the year’s most eerily seductive films is an exceptional entryway into del Toro’s fantastical imagination.  Available now!

    • Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke: As Walt Disney looked beyond the success of his short films to the future of animated features, the educational efforts to perfect his artists’ abilities were increased.  Dormant for nearly 80 years, Hahn and Miller-Zarneke’s latest effort resurrects the countless lectures and transcribed classes Disney’s artists were educated in leading up to the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Animation enthusiasts will be fascinated by its indispensable lessons and extraordinary artwork making it one of Disney Editions’ most outstanding gems of the year.  Available now!

    • Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One with Commentary by Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte: Serving as a bonafide nostalgia trip, Abrams Comicarts compiles all five collectible sets and stickers of Topps’ original Star Wars trading cards.  Presented in their entirety, first generation fans will be delighted to own the entire run in this wonderfully presented hardcover.  With welcome commentary from original cards editor Gary Gerani and four bonus trading cards included, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One will return fans back to a childhood from a galaxy far, far away.  Available now!

    • Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace: Akin to Harper Design’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, Insight Editions’ 30 year overview of the Ghostbusters franchise is a rewarding read that traces the pop culture phenomenon of the original two films, their animated television shows plus, the endless merchandise that exploded in their wake.  With interviews from key talent and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and other specialty items, bustin’ will make you feel good after reading Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual HistoryAvailable now!

     

     

  • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector's Edition (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Inside Out (2015)

    Director: Pete Docter

    Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black & Mindy Kaling

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Monsters Inc. and Up, Inside Out travels into the mind of 11-year-old Riley as she emotionally processes her move to a new city.  With the optimistic Joy (Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation) and her fellow emotions Sadness (Phyllis Smith, The Office), Fear (Bill Hader, Trainwreck), Anger (Lewis Black, The Daily Show) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project), the contrasting quintet brace themselves for an adventure of self discovery.  Richard Kind (Spin City), Diane Lane (Secretariat) and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) provide additional vocal talent.

    Breaking new ground in the form of animated storytelling, Inside Out takes viewers on an ingenious journey through the inner workings of an emotionally evolving young girl.  Abruptly whisked away from her idyllic home in Minnesota to the unfamiliar San Francisco, Riley’s once happy existence is traumatically challenged.  Processing the life-changing events are Riley’s gamut of emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust as the colorful characters strive to stabilize Riley’s rocky feelings.  Determined to right the ship, Joy and her fellow cohorts find themselves overwhelmed by the always gloomy Sadness as their control center begins rapidly changing with Riley’s increasing unhappiness.  As chaos ensues and previously happy memories are compromised, Joy’s frantic attempts at repair results in her and Sadness transplanted to the complex dwellings of Riley’s long-term memories.  While the remaining emotions only cause Riley to grow more distant from her parents, Joy and Sadness navigate the labyrinth of her subconscious and encounter imaginative characters while, learning invaluable information about their feelings in order for Riley to be whole once again.

    Complimented by a perfectly selected voice cast, Inside Out gives life to the ever-changing quirks that make us tick with knee-slapping humor and immense heart.  From Fear’s hilariously paranoid personality and Anger’s constant desire to curse to the film’s wickedly smart explanations behind our ability to retain selected memories, Inside Out explores the bowels of the human psyche unlike any film before.  Simultaneously absorbing Riley’s personal journey and her emotions own epic misadventure, audiences’ hearts are consistently tugged between characters they care the world for.  Following Joy and Sadnesses encounter with Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong (Kind) and his selfless fate, viewers will be unquestionably left teary-eyed.  Remarkably constructed and emotionally captivating, Director Pete Docter’s imaginative investigation of our feelings is a visual triumph and the latest in Pixar’s modern day masterpieces.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Inside Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing the boldly defined colors of its emotional characters and their sprawling control center, picture quality is immaculate.  Detail found in the illuminating glow of Joy and the lightly fuzzy skin of her co-stars is astounding while, black levels, most appreciatively during Joy and Bing Bong’s escape from the Memory Dump, are deeply inky and free of any crushing artifacts.  Echoing the high standards of previously released Pixar productions, Inside Out look flawless.  In addition, its 3D counterpart located on Disc 2 is beautifully immersive, inviting viewers into its unique world with remarkable depth easily making it one of the year’s finest examples of 3D entertainment.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is excellently prioritized with strong fidelity throughout.  The delicate key strokes of Composer Michael Giacchino’s score are beautifully relayed while, the crumbling sounds of Riley’s personality islands maintain a thunderous presence resulting in a universally applauded mix.  Special features located on Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Pete Docter & Co-Director Ronnie Del Carmen, Lava (7:12), Director James Ford Murphy’s short film about a lovesick volcano that preceded Inside Out theatrically looks lovely and contains a hauntingly beautiful ukulele tune but, lacks the memorability of past shorts.  In addition, the all-new short Riley’s First Date? (4:40) finds Inside Out’s human star embarking on possibly her first date much to the uneasiness of her father who hysterically bonds with her date over AC/DC.  Also included, Path to Pixar: The Women of Inside Out (11:22) is an inspirational look at the female artists and voice talent who share their childhood ambitions and sage advice with viewers.  Finally, Mixed Emotions (7:17) focuses on the intensive research developing the film’s emotional characters and their appearances while, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney: Infinity 3.0, Aulani - Disney Resort & Spa (0:32), Disney Movies Anywhere (0:40), The Good Dinosaur (1:14), Toy Story That Time Forgot (0:59) and Tomorrowland (0:50) round out the disc’s supplements.  

    Additionally, more special features located on Disc 3 include, a multi-part Behind the Scenes series comprised of Story of the Story (10:30), Mapping the Mind (8:24), Our Dad, the Filmmakers (7:25), Into the Unknown: The Sound of Inside Out (7:09), The Misunderstood Art of Animation Film Editing (4:43) and Mind Candy (14:26).  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes (16:53), Trailers for Remember (1:38), Experience (2:19) and the Japan Trailer (2:30) can also be found with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code rounding out the remaining extras.

    Following their timeless classics of talking toys and virtually speechless robots, Inside Out joins the ranks of Pixar’s most endearing and deeply original concepts.  Starring and conjuring a variety of emotions for viewers, Director Pete Docter’s most daring effort to date is a masterful accomplishment that blends imagination and heart effortlessly.  Exceptionally presented, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment delivers Inside Out with pristine technical grades, top-quality 3D and a handsome dose of additional bonus content.  Distinct and powerfully moving, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Inside Out can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014)

    Director: Steve Purcell

    Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Kristen Schaal, Kevin McKidd, Wallace Shawn & Emily Hahn

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    During a post-Christmas playdate, Toy Story That Time Forgot finds Bonnie’s toys in a prehistoric predicament when they encounter the hilariously delusional Battlesaurs action figure line.  Entangled in gladiator-like battles and their safe return to Bonnie’s room looking grim, Trixie the triceratops is the gang’s only hope at survival.  Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Tim Allen (Last Man Standing), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers), Kevin McKidd (Brave), Wallace Shawn (Clueless) and Emily Hahn (Toy Story 3) provide the vocal talent.  

    Debuting on ABC as a holiday-themed television special, Toy Story That Time Forgot finds Pixar’s finest, Woody (Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Allen), Rex (Shawn) and Toy Story 3’s Trixie (Schaal) in a land like no other during Bonnie’s playdate.  Surrounded by the deadly serious Battlesaurs action figure line, the gang are originally embraced by their fellow toys with Trixie taking a particular liking to the leader of the pack Reptillus Maximus (McKidd).  Before long, Trixie and Rex are equipped with battle-mode enhancements and forced to combat with their own friends to prove their loyalty to their fellow dinos.  While fan favorites Woody and Buzz take a noticeable backseat in this latest adventure, Toy Story That Time Forgot gives the adorably bubbly Trixie her time to shine as the heroine of the tale.  Introducing Reptillus and his fellow Battlesaurs to their awareness as toys, Trixie, along with an equally cute Angel Kitty ornament, reverses their apocalyptic way of thinking to allow joy into their hearts.  Excellently conceived, the Battlesaurs and their epic dwellings fit in wonderfully with the Toy Story gang while, Reptillus Maximus’ attraction to Trixie is heartwarmingly sweet.  Although visually stunning, Toy Story That Time Forgot feels too familiar to Buzz Lightyear’s own delusions in the original film to appear wholly unique.  Admittedly not as memorable as their Halloween-themed outing, 2013’s Toy Story of Terror!, Toy Story That Time Forgot still entertains and generously adds to the beloved characters enduring appearances.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Toy Story That Time Forgot with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Astoundingly crisp and vibrant, bright colors found in the toys’ outfits and the deep reds of the Battlesaurs make an impactful presence.  In addition, detail is immaculate with chipped paint in Trixie’s plastic and the various joints of the many prehistoric warriors appearing most clearly.  Awarded the same care as Pixar’s theatrical efforts, Toy Story That Time Forgot looks magnificent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, Composer Michael Giacchino’s (Tomorrowland, Inside Out) score greatly impresses.  More forceful moments of action give a splendid rise to the mix with Rex’s powerful stomps providing effective bass sounds.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Steve Purcell & Head of Story Derek Thompson, Reptillus! (10:51) finds many of the artists discussing the extensive background of the Battlesaurs, their visual development and the vocal recording sessions for their head dinosaur.  In addition, Toy Story Goes to Comic-Con (3:39), Karaoke: “My Unexpected Friend” (3:59) with Reptillus Sings/You Sing options, Battlesaurs - Animated Opening (0:50) and Deleted Scenes (9:25) with intros by Director Steve Purcell are also included.  Finally, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), The Good Dinosaur (1:14) and Inside Out (1:27) are joined by a Digital HD Code.

    Warming the hearts of viewers with yet another television special, Toy Story That Time Forgot finds Bonnie’s more prominent toys taking a breather while, the Kristen Schaal voiced Trixie takes center stage.  Introducing the barbarically cool Battlesaurs, the gang’s latest mini adventure may not be the most original but still offers ample entertainment during its short runtime.  Unsurprisingly, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment sprinkles their pixie dust to deliver a first-rate transfer, striking sound mix and serviceable supplements.  Unlike its suggested title, Toy Story That Time Forgot is hardly forgettable and a welcome addition to everyone’s favorite toy tales.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Toy Story That Time Forgot can be purchased via 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.

  • Cinderella (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Cinderella (2015)

    Director: Kenneth Branagh

    Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård & Helena Bonham Carter

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the timeless fairy tale, Cinderella centers on kind-hearted Ella (Lily James, Downton Abbey) whose world is turned upside down following the passing of her father.  Reduced to the equivalent of a servant by her cruel stepmother and her dimwitted daughters, a chance encounter with the prince and a touch of magic restores hope to the enchanting young lady’s life.  Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Stellan Skarsgård (Thor) and Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) co-star.

    In the successful wake of Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, Disney reaches new heights with their latest live-action revisionist tale of Cinderella.  Providing slightly more background on its title character than its 1950 animated counterpart, a young Ella is seen surrounded by her loving parents and picturesque household.  In a brief but charming appearance, Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) as Cinderella’s mother urges her daughter to keep courage and kindness forever in her heart as she lie on her deathbed.  As years pass and Ella’s father learns to love anew, Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and her two gaudy daughters move in, bringing with them a noticeable coldness towards Ella.  Away on business and falling ill, Ella’s father tragically passes away leaving his only daughter in the trenches of the now widowed Lady Tremaine.  Unloading an unspeakable wave of cruelty on her stepdaughter, Ella becomes the sole servant of the household, forced to wait on her wicked stepmother and selfish stepsisters.  Maintaining her promise to her late mother, Ella attempts to keep her spirits high while caring for friendly mice and always thinking of others first.  Overwhelmed with taunts by her new family leads Ella to a chance encounter with a dashing prince, known only as Kit (Madden).  Enraptured by her presence and urged by his father to wed a princess, Kit vows to see her again by inviting all citizens to the royal ball.  With the assistance of her magical Fairy Godmother (Bonham Carter), the newly nicknamed Cinderella enjoys a romantic evening with Kit, solidifying their love for one another.  With her royal-like appearance available for so long and fearing Kit’s reaction to her peasant status, Cinderella flees the castle as the definitive search for the prince’s true love unfolds.

    Beautifully realized, Director Kenneth Branagh’s captivating adaptation takes the simplistic fairy tale and enriches its narrative with majesty and rich visual grandeur.  Perfectly selected, Lily James casts a spell on viewers with her dizzying elegance as Cinderella while Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett offers humanizing new depth to the detestable Lady Tremaine.  Complimented by lush costume design by Sandy Powell (Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator) and gorgeous production design by Dante Ferretti (Gangs of New York, Hugo), Cinderella is the nearest example of a fairy tale come true.  Abundantly faithful to its animated predecessor, Cinderella manages to weave its own identity that can safely be praised and cherished as Disney’s finest reimagining to date.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Cinderella with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Much like its protagonist, picture quality is perfect in virtually every way.  Skin tones are warm and inviting while, the wide spectrum of colors found in costumes, most noticeably in Cinderella’s sparkling blue gown, pop beautifully.  Meanwhile, detail from settings to computer-generated creations are crisp with black levels always appearing deep and inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is flawless while more intense moments involving horseback chases and Composer Patrick Doyle’s (Brave) rousing score gives listeners a most exceptional soundscape.  Special features include, A Fairy Tale Comes to Life (9:23) where key talent including Producer Simon Kinberg, Director Kenneth Branagh, Screenwriter Chris Weitz and the cast discuss the impact of the timeless tale and the opportunities their adaptation has to add to its legacy.  In addition, Costume Test Fun (2:39), Staging the Ball (11:27), where the various creative departments discuss their roles in realizing the film’s key sequence, an Alternate Opening: Ella’s Childhood (3:02), Ella’s Fury Friends (3:43) and Frozen Fever (7:56), the Frozen inspired short film attached to the film during its theatrical release are also included.  Finally, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney Parks (1:02), Once Upon A Time (0:31), Monkey Kingdom (1:02), Born in China (1:14) and Inside Out (1:27) round out the supplements while, a DVD edition of the film and Digital HD Code also accompany the release.

    Bursting with magic and whimsy, Cinderella, while adjusting minor components, pays homage to Disney’s iconic animated masterpiece to deliver an even finer film.  Masterfully casted and beautifully designed, Disney’s latest live-action redo is a splendid accomplishment that will leave viewers entranced.  Exceptional looking with a vigorous sound mix, Cinderella sparkles in high-definition confidently leaving viewers of all ages happily ever after.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Cinderella can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • American Experience: Walt Disney (2015) DVD Review

    American Experience: Walt Disney (2015)

    Director: Sarah Colt

    Starring: Various

    Released by: PBS Distribution

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In PBS’ exhaustive documentary of their long-running series, American Experience: Walt Disney centers on the polarizing man who dared to wish upon a dream and built an empire of magic and timeless entertainment.  From his early beginnings in the midwest to the development of his own successful studio and beyond, Disney’s complexities and enduring legacy are discussed through countless interviews with biographers, animators and historians in this detailed document of one of the greatest visionaries of all-time.  

    Narrated by Oliver Platt (Bicentennial Man), American Experience: Walt Disney takes viewers back to the cherished midwest origins of Disney where his initial attraction to animation and filmmaking began.  Boldly teaching himself how to crudely animate, Disney, along with noted animation veteran Ub Iwerks, opened his own moderately successful studio before making the leap to Tinseltown.  Joining forces with elder brother Roy, the Disney brothers opened their own new studio leading to the successful Alice’s Adventures shorts before his most popular creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was swindled away from him by a blindsiding producer.  Driven by determination and sticktoitiveness, Disney’s creation of the rebelliously good-natured Mickey Mouse would become an icon to the public with popularity of the character’s technologically advanced sound cartoons booming.  Obsessed with pushing the boundaries of the art form, the Disney Studios quickly became a haven for hungry talent yearning to create within the walls of this unprecedented imagination factory.  As his Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies shorts infused color and other techniques, Disney continued to look towards the future.  Once considered not real art by critics, Disney and his talented stable of artists dazzled audiences worldwide with the first feature-length animated film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Following up his landmark opus, Disney’s studio churned out other golden age classics including, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi and Dumbo, each with vastly different styles but, all equally gorgeous representations of the now respected animated narrative.  

    While Disney’s many accomplishments are profiled in detail, Producer/Director Sarah Colt’s intimate look takes closer examination of the man himself and his strained relationship with his father, the financial woes struck by the studio during wartime and the animator’s strike of 1941 that Disney saw as a personal betrayal.  Crafting a humanizing portrait of the man many simply referred to as Walt, American Experience: Walt Disney delivers a deeply honest retelling of a brilliant yet, flawed individual told through interviews with Biographer Neal Gabler, Composer Richard Sherman, Veteran Imagineer Marty Sklar, Disney’s son-in-law Ron Miller and more.  As decades past, Disney’s ability to continuously revolutionize never waned in his later years as the legendary tycoon brought his whimsy to television screens across the country while crafting his most ambitious project of all, Disneyland.  Always delighted at the prospect of creating, Disney longed to develop an environment for families where fantasy ruled and the worries of reality were left behind.  Much like his impact in film and television, Disney changed the aspect of vacationing that continues to be felt nearly 50 years after his death.  Enthralling and inspiring, American Experience: Walt Disney stands as one of the most balanced and comprehensive examinations of Disney, allowing viewers to not only hold his many accomplishments in higher regard but, gain a stronger understanding of the American icon like never before.

    Presented in its 1.78:1 aspect ratio, American Experience: Walt Disney presents its newly shot interviews with a genuine sharpness that satisfies.  Although vintage footage of its subject alters in quality, clips from Disney’s many animated features arrive with nicely represented colors.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is clean and audible during interview sequences while, sound clips of Disney from decades past can be mildly hissy but, surprisingly still in fine shape for their age.  In addition, no special features have been included on this release.

    Cherished and complex, Walt Disney’s ideals and achievements continue to shape a culture still enamored by the game-changing genius.  Amidst criticism of over-sentimentality, Disney’s legacy thrives with new generations charmed by his revolutionary works and immersive worlds of fantasy.  Nearly four hours long and standing proudly with Bob Thomas’ “Walt Disney: An American Original”, American Experience: Walt Disney is an expertly crafted document juggling the flaws and unwavering optimism of one of history’s most creative minds.  Fascinating and personal, American Experience: Walt Disney is an essential work of striking depth for devoted Disney enthusiasts.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Premiering on PBS September 14th-15th and available on DVD September 15th, American Experience: Walt Disney can be purchased via ShopPBS.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set before the events of the original 1977 film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a crew, each individually affected by the Galactic Empire, but determined to change things for the better.  Led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr., Scooby-Doo), the crew befriends Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray, Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures), a teenage con artist with abilities of the Force to aid them in their rebellion against The Inquisitor (Jason Issacs, Peter Pan) and the Empire.  Vanessa Marshall (Young Justice), Steve Blum (Transformers: Rescue Bots) & Tiya Sircar (The Internship) also comprise the vocal talent.  

    Capturing the excitement and thrills of George Lucas’ original saga, Star Wars Rebels finds the galaxy disrupted following the rise of the Empire.  Focusing on the earliest origins of the Rebel Alliance, a crew, led by Kanan Jarrus (Prinze Jr.), does what they can to disrupt any further damage committed by the Empire.  Circulating the galaxy aboard their starship known as the Ghost, Kanan, along with Hera (Marshall), Zeb (Blum), Sabine (Sircar) and their spunky droid Chopper, crosses paths with the orphaned Ezra Bridger (Gray) struggling to survive, before welcoming him into their motley crew.  Stealing from the Empire in order to aid civilians, the low-profile crew quickly find themselves targeted by The Inquisitor (Issacs), a soulless henchmen of the Empire tasked with hunting surviving Jedi’s.  Conflicted with keeping his Jedi status a secret while training Ezra in the ways of the Force, Kanan must confront his destiny in order to restore balance to the galaxy.  

    With iconic characters including, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2, Yoda and Lando Calrissian making guest appearances, Star Wars Rebels propels Disney’s first tackling of the franchise into a hyperspace of adventure and nonstop action.  Highlighting a period of the saga never cinematically seen before, the debut season delights viewers with topnotch CG animation and well crafted tales that develop characters of continuously growing appeal.  Co-created by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Carrie Beck, Star Wars Rebels takes the very best elements of the sci-fi phenomenon fans have come to love and developed a new chapter of weekly adventures of equal worth.  Returning viewers to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels is an animated spectacle giving audiences young and old restored hope that the Force is very much back.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars Rebels with 1080p transfers, each bearing 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  On par with Disney’s respected animated releases, Star Wars Rebels greatly impresses with vibrant colors and nicely detailed textures while, black levels remain inky and pleasing throughout.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is audible and consistent, if not slightly underwhelming.  Meanwhile, action sequences with tried and true lightsaber sound effects and starship blasts along with the show’s Williams-esque music provides suitable boosts to the soundscape.  While not quite as impactful for such an adventurous show of its ilk, the mix is more than sufficient.  Located on Disc 1, special features include, Rebels Recon (36:10) providing behind the scenes insight into several episodes of the season and Sneak Peeks at Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52) and Aladdin Diamond Edition (1:19).  In addition, Disc 2’s supplements include, Rebels Recon (45:02) providing more in depth looks at the remaining episodes of the show’s debut season while, Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration (4:03) gives viewers a brief look at the events hosted this past year in Anaheim, CA in this Blu-ray exclusive featurette.  Furthermore, Star Wars Rebels: The Ultimate Guide (22:05), Rebels Season 2: A Look Ahead (7:06) and four promotional shorts - The Machine in the Ghost (3:02), Art Attack (3:02), Entanglement (3:02) and Property of Ezra Bridger (3:02) - round out the season’s bonus features.

    In Disney’s first attempts at restoring balance to the Force, Star Wars Rebels succeeds in delivering enthralling new tales centered around original characters that have quickly become fan favorites amongst Star Wars enthusiasts.  Matched with high-octane action and stellar animation, this prequel series has deservedly morphed into Disney XD’s must watch program.  Arriving with all 15 episodes of its inaugural season and a respectable batch of bonus features, Star Wars Rebels shines on Blu-ray proving the Force has indeed been awoken for the best.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Robot Jox (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Robot Jox (1990)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Danny Kamekona & Michael Alldredge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), Robot Jox takes place in a futuristic world where wars are outlawed and international differences are settled via human-controlled robot battles.  When a catastrophic disaster strikes an integral match, the undefeated warrior Achilles (Gary Graham, Alien Nation) must decide to either retire or face off against his reckless nemesis Alexander (Paul Koslo, The Omega Man) once more.  Anne-Marie Johnson (In the Heat of the Night), Danny Kamekona (The Karate Kid, Part II) and Michael Alldredge (The Entity) co-star.

    Continuing their successful working relationship, Director Stuart Gordon and Charles Band’s Empire Pictures would seek to recapture the Kaiju entertainment of yesteryear with their post-apocalyptic tale of giant robots.  Years after a nuclear holocaust decimates the planet, war has been ostracized with international disputes settled via bot vs. bot battles.  With fan favorite pilot Achilles (Graham) embarking on his final fight against Alexander (Koslo), tensions are running high to maintain control of Alaska.  Supported by the guidance of Dr. Matsumoto (Kamekona) and mentor Tex Conway (Alldredge), Achilles heroically attempts to protect civilians from a missile only for his robot to topple and crush hundreds.  Overwhelmed with guilt and the judges ordering a rematch, Achilles finds no reason to continue his career as a robot jox.  When the genetically created Athena (Johnson) is selected as Achilles’ replacement, a web of conspiracy and betrayal is exposed prompting Achilles to redeem himself and defeat Alexander once and for all.  Deemed the most expensive film produced by Empire Pictures, Robot Jox ultimately suffers from an unstable tone that can never decide what it wants to be.  Unsurprisingly, Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Joe Haldeman consistently clashed over the film’s direction resulting in a mishmash of kid-friendly shenanigans and overly serious moments.  While the stop-motion techniques used to create the robot battles are engaging, they are far and few between to keep interest afloat.  Wrapping production in 1987, Robot Jox would gather dust as Empire Pictures confronted bankruptcy woes before being released to unfavorable notices and disappointing box-office returns in 1990.  Developing a minor cult following in the years since its release, Robot Jox is a bland effort that greatly pales in comparison to Gordon’s Lovecraftian excursions.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory presents Robot Jox with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a filmic appearance, minor flakes and speckles are not uncommon while skin tones are warm and lifelike.  Understandably, the robot battle sequences project a slightly softer focus with bright colors found in the robot jox’s red uniforms popping beautifully.  Nicely detailed and natural looking, Robot Jox has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue is audible if not slightly underwhelming at times while the clashing of metal and laser blasts give more depth to their battle sequences.  Serviceable but far from stupendous, Robot Jox sounds as good as can be expected.  Meanwhile, special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon plus, a new Audio Commentary with Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rapport and Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel.  In addition, A Look Back at Robot Jox with Paul Koslo (10:14) finds the film’s antagonist reminiscing about the experience and his co-stars while, Archival Interviews with Director Stuart Gordon (7:27), Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (7:57), Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (7:14), Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (7:48), Animation & Visual Effects’ Chris Endicott & Mark McGee (9:29) are also included.  Lastly, Behind the Scenes Footage (14:16), a Theatrical Trailer (1:25), TV Spot (0:31), Still Galleries for On Location (7:00) and Illustrations (3:40) plus, a Reversible Cover Art round out the generous supplements.

    Well intended but, falling short of expectations, Robot Jox suffers from a scatterbrained tone and minimal robot battles that regrettably only bookend the film.  While Director Stuart Gordon’s futuristic opus of robowars has its admirers, Robot Jox remains one of his weakest efforts.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presents the film with an excellent transfer, adequate sound and a sizable assortment of new and vintage special features for this non-Collector’s Edition release.  Although meant to battle to the death, Robot Jox ends in a draw with its film disappointing but, its presentation satisfying.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Robot Jox can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002) Blu-ray Reviews

    Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002)

    Director(s): Hayao Miyazaki / Hiroyuki Morita

    Starring: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Susan Egan & David Ogden Stiers / Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliot Gould, Kristen Bell & Tim Curry

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their proud partnership, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes two more of Studio Ghibli’s animated spectacles.  First up, Director Hayao Miyazaki’s (Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo) Spirited Away focuses on a young girl named Chihiro as she journeys to her new home with her parents.  One wrong turn finds Chihiro trapped in a surreal world of spirits while her parents are mysteriously transformed into pigs.  Scared and longing to return to her own world, Chihiro discovers a profound courage as she navigates her way through countless adventures.  Daveigh Chase (Lilo & Stitch), Jason Marsden (Transformers: Rescue Bots), Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds), Susan Egan (Hercules) and David Ogden Stiers (Beauty and the Beast) comprise the film’s English vocal talent.  Next up, The Cat Returns centers on clumsy schoolgirl Haru whose ordinary routine is turned upside when she saves the life of a cat.  and Whisked away to an unusual world of speaking felines, Haru must learn to believe in herself in order to evade an unwanted fate.  Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), Elliot Gould (MASH), Kristen Bell (Frozen) and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) provide the film’s English vocal talent.   

    Long considered to be Director Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away finds spoiled ten-year-old Chihiro (Chase) uncomfortable about her family’s move to their new house.  After taking a slight detour to what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, Chihiro’s parents are quickly overtaken by the sight of endless food that transforms them into sloppy pigs.  Meanwhile, the frightened Chihiro is whisked away to a supernatural realm, home to a lavish bathhouse for spirits to replenish themselves.  Befriended by Haku (Marsden), a young male spirit, Chihiro is advised to find work within her new surroundings in order to devise a way to free her family.  After conforming to the world’s rules set forth by the wicked Yubaba (Pleshette), Chihiro nearly forgets her name, narrowly escaping a permanent stay in the fantastical environment.  As her work ethic grows and her independence develops, encounters with a notably stinky spirit and the mysterious No-Face take place.  When Haku, in dragon form, is severely injured following the theft of a magical seal, Chihiro embarks on a dangerous journey to return the stolen item in order save her friend’s life.  For all its magical mainstays, Spirited Away beautifully captures a child’s discovery of independence and transition into maturity.  Littered with wildly original creatures and a genuine sense of wonder, Chihiro’s transformation from frightened child to courageous young woman is an epic fantasy adventure with social commentaries on youth and society.  While its many characters may overwhelm viewers at times and their otherworldly abilities will undoubtedly fly over the heads of youngsters, Spirited Away remains a dazzling feast of animated majesty and compelling drama.  Becoming the most successful film in Japanese history and deservedly winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s most renowned pictures that effortlessly transports viewers to a dreamlike world like no other.

    A spin-off of 1995’s Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns centers on the ordinary life of quiet schoolgirl Haru (Hathaway).  When Haru saves an innocent cat from a deadly fate, the ditzy teenager learns the feline is anything but ordinary when he begins to speak.  Introduced as Lune, the Prince of the Cat Kingdom, Haru is overwhelmed when his kingdom praises her with gifts and the opportunity to marry the future King.  Cautiously contemplating the offer, Haru is advised from a whisper in the wind to seek support from the Cat Bureau.  Welcomed by the sophisticated Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (Elwes), the hefty Muta (Boyle) and the kind raven Toto (Gould), Haru is assured safety until she and Muta are abducted to the Cat Kingdom for a royal ball.  As the Baron and Toto rush to save their human friend, Haru begins to transform into a cat, further sealing her future as Princess.  Shamefully toting his superiority, The Cat King (Curry) is convinced his bridal selection for his son is a wise one until the Baron crashes the party leading to an adventurous final act.  Understanding the need to discover her true self to revert back to her human appearance, Haru and her friends navigate an intricate castle maze to return to the human world once and for all.  Considerably shorter than most Studio Ghibli efforts, The Cat Returns maintains the studio’s high animation standards while, its characters, although charming and humorous, lack a noticeable depth.  In addition, the film’s theme of believing in oneself is adequately conveyed but, never scratches beyond its surface for deeper subtext commonly seen in previous Ghibli efforts.  Set in yet another otherworldly realm inhabited this time by talking cats, The Cat Returns manages to deliver several moments of thrills complimented by worthwhile laughs courtesy of Muta and Toto’s constant bickering.  Although lacking a deeper emotional palette, The Cat Returns delivers top-notch visuals in its limited runtime that will resonate with dedicated Ghibli enthusiasts.                      

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment ushers both Spirited Away and The Cat Returns with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bursting with bright colors, both films arrive with blemish free transfers that allow viewers to fully appreciate the grand environments and uniquely crafted characters.  Black levels appear inky and absent of any crushing levels while, saturation is remarkably pleasing and depth, most noticeably in Spirited Away’s flying sequences, are nicely handled.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue is always audible and crisp while, sound effects and each film’s respective scores are relayed with excellent clarity.  In addition to each film’s English version, the original Japanese mixes with English subtitles are also included.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, Spirited Away’s special features include, an Introduction by John Lasseter (1:09), The Art of Spirited Away (15:12), Behind the Microphone (5:42) where the English cast and crew share their experiences working on the acclaimed film.  Plus, Original Japanese Storyboards (2:04:31), a Nippon Television Special (41:53), Original Japanese Trailers (18:26), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:57) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants are also included.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release round out the film’s supplements.  Also porting over its previously available supplements, The Cat Returns’ special features include, Original Japanese Storyboards (1:14:58), Behind the Microphone (8:59), The Making of The Cat Returns (34:11), Original Japanese Trailers (6:36), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:33) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants.  In addition, a DVD edition of the release is also included.  

    Rewarding viewers with more of Studio Ghibili’s rich history, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes Hayao Miyazaki’s long revered masterpiece to American shores.  Surreal and epically realized, Spirited Away’s examination of a young girl roaming a world of spirits is one of the master storyteller’s most impressive outings that stands as an animation milestone.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s shortest feature to date, The Cat Returns, introduces viewers to an equally peculiar world of talking felines and a young girl struggling to alter her fate.  Containing a heartfelt theme and impressive artistry, The Cat Returns lacks an emotional depth, trapping it in a state of unfortunate mediocrity.  Marking their domestic Blu-ray debuts, both films stun on high-definition with all their previously available special features ported over.  Eager to journey to magical worlds of wonder, Studio Ghibli’s efforts have left a profound impact on viewers that can now be gloriously recaptured on home video.

    Spirited Away RATING: 4.5/5

    The Cat Returns RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Spirited Away and The Cat Returns can be purchased via 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.

  • 101 Dalmatians (1961) Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

    101 Dalmatians (1961)

    Director(s): Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S. Luske & Wolfgang Reitherman

    Starring: Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, J. Pat O’Malley, Betty Lou Gerson & Ben Wright

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Dodie Smith’s beloved 1956 children’s novel, 101 Dalmatians centers on an adorable litter of dalmatian puppies as they are kidnapped by the bumbling accomplices of the wicked, fur-obsessed Cruella De Vil.  Determined to retrieve their children, Pongo and Perdita, with the assistance of other fellow city animals, brave their London surroundings before the puppies fall victim to Cruella’s cruel fashion fixation.  Rod Taylor (The Time Machine), Cate Bauer (The Third Man), J. Pat O’Malley (The Jungle Book), Betty Lou Gerson (The Fly), Ben Wright (The Sound of Music) & Lisa David (Queen of Outer Space) provide vocal talent.

    Struggling after the box-office failure of Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney heavily considered shutting down his animation division fearing its increased expenses would destroy the studio.  Nevertheless, Disney rebuffed the idea, remaining loyal to the artistry that his very empire was founded on and righteously continued to move forward.  After falling in love with Smith’s original novel, Disney quickly snatched up the rights, finding the property a perfect fit for his studio to weave their animated wizardry.  Cost conscience as ever, Ub Iwerks, in charge of special processes, modified a Xerox camera allowing drawings to be transferred directly to cels, saving immeasurable time and capital for the studio.  Able to capture the spontaneity of the animators work, 101 Dalmatians has more in common visually with the loose, free-spirited style of Dumbo than the delicate precision of Cinderella.  Told through the perspective of dalmatians Pongo and Perdita, 101 Dalmatians charms the viewer with cuddly characters and yet another memorable antagonist in Cruella De Vil.  Skeletal-looking and draped in a gaudy fur coat with a slimline cigarette holder always in hand, Cruella De Vil is the genius of Disney Legend Marc Davis whose endless talents brought such characters as Snow White, Alice, Tinker Bell and of course, Maleficent to life.  In addition, the film’s contemporary London setting, gorgeously realized by Production Designer Ken Anderson (Sleeping Beauty, The Aristocats), is a stunning sight, once again stylistically different from previous animated Disney productions but, perfectly fitting.  Aided by the support of several other local animals, the puppies are able to evade their dimwitted captors via hilarious, slap-sticking means retaining the heart and humor audiences have come to expect from a Walt Disney production.

    While, the film would prove to be a smashing success becoming the highest grossing film of 1961, Disney was apparently unhappy with the look and style of the finished product.  Meanwhile, audiences have adored the film for its noticeably unique animation, humorous characters and memorable songs, most famously “Cruella De Vil”, from famed songwriter Mel Leven.  Serving as one of the final animated films released under Walt Disney’s supervision before his untimely death in 1966, 101 Dalmatians has stood the test of time as a bonafide Disney classic where it will most assuredly remain for another 101 years and beyond.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents 101 Dalmatians with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Admittedly, there is minor digital tinkering at hand on the transfer, removing instances of natural grain making way for an intendedly squeaky clean presentation.  Far from deal-breaking, 101 Dalmatians still stuns in high-definition with bold colors, inky black levels, most appreciatively in Cruella’s hair and of course, the dalmatians‘ endless spots, along with fine detail allowing the viewer to appreciate the animators looser than usual pencil lines.  A solid sight from start to finish, 101 Dalmatians has never looked quite as vibrant before.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, 101 Dalmatians satisfies once again with crisp dialogue levels and the film’s soothing jazzy score nicely handled throughout its runtime.  No noticeable instances of hiss or distortion were heard throughout this well-handled mix.  In addition, the film’s original Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Celebrating its Diamond Edition status, newly added special features include viewing the film in optional DisneyView which incorporates artsy panels to fill out the otherwise black bars as the film plays, The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt, a brief episode of the Thunderbolt television show the puppies view in the actual film (1:46), Lucky Dogs interviews several Disney alumni including Floyd Norman, Lisa Davis, Burny Mattinson, Carmen Sanderson and more as they discuss what working at the studio was like (9:08), Dalmatians 101: Hosted by Cameron Royce finds Royce, star of The Disney Channel’s upcoming Descendants as he counts down the top five coolest anecdotes about 101 Dalmatians (5:20).  In addition, the best treat of the new supplements is Walt Disney Presents: “The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” (1961 Version), a vintage episode of the memorable television series presented in HD (51:05).  Finally, the Diamond Edition ports over the following classic bonus features from its previous DVD release with Redefining the Line: The Making of 101 Dalmatians (33:55), Cruella De Vil: Drawn to Be Bad (7:10), Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney (12:48), several Trailers and TV Spots (7:80), Promotional Radio Spots (1:40) and Music & More (33:46).  Finally, Sneak Peeks for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Dog With a Blog, Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Lost Missions, Big Hero 6 and Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast round out the bonus content.

    Long considered a Disney classic, 101 Dalmatians is unquestionably one of the finest efforts the Disney Studio produced in the 1960s, cementing its appeal with later generations through successful re-releases, a live-action remake, an animated television series and a belated direct-to-video animated sequel.  Possessing a stylistic departure from animated efforts before it, 101 Dalmatians is a dazzling sight with a story filled with charm and substance to match.  101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition makes its long-anticipated domestic Blu-ray debut with a colorfully bursting transfer, quaint sound mix and a robust spread of special features, both newly produced and vintage, that total over two hours worth of content.  Heart-filled and humorous, 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition is essential for Disney devotees and animation aficionados alike.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 10th, 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition can be purchased via DisneyStore.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #4 - STUDIO GHIBLI EDITION: Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Princess Mononoke (1997) & The Wind Rises (2013) Blu-ray Reviews

    Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

    Director: Hayao Miyazaki

    Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Janeane Garofalo, Phil Hartman & Debbie Reynolds

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the creative mind of Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), his timeless coming-of-age tale about a young witch celebrates its 25th anniversary.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, in conjunction with Studio Ghibli, proudly presents Kik’s Delivery Service on Blu-ray for the first time ever.  Newly remastered and accompanied with countless special features, this magical adventure invites you to take flight once again.

    Kiki’s Delivery Service centers on a young witch who on her 13th birthday must follow tradition and venture out into the world for a year of training and adventure.  Along with her faithful black cat, Jiji, Kiki lands in a beautiful new city where she forms her own personal delivery service while, learning responsibility and building confidence.  Kirsten Dunst (Small Soldiers), Janeane Garofalo (Reality Bites), Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live), Matthew Lawrence (Mrs. Doubtfire) and Debbie Reynolds (Singin‘ in the Rain) provide vocal talent in this English translation.  

    Based on the novel by Eiko Kadono, Miyazaki’s fantastic animated adaptation is bursting with colors and gorgeous production design.  Straying from common depictions of witches as evildoers, Kiki’s Delivery Service offers a charming adolescent witch that audiences can relate to and sympathize with.  In true coming-of-age-fashion, the young Kiki travels to a far away city where she can perfect her skills and develop her independence.  Intendedly unusual, Miyazaki took influences from Ireland, Sweden and San Francisco to craft a city of beautiful uniqueness and familiarity.  As she forms a friendship with a local baker and establishes her own delivery service, Kiki matures while, lacking self confidence.  After much hesitation, Kiki develops a friendship with Tombo allowing her to experience adventures unlike ever before.  Brewing with homesickness and struggling with her new environment, Kiki finds herself losing the ability to fly.  Miyazaki relays Kiki’s loneliness in gorgeous fashion, tapping into the pain all audiences experience while growing up.  Straying from the source material, Miyazaki incorporates an intense airship accident in the final act that finds Tombo in danger.  With no choice, Kiki builds her confidence to fly into action and save her friend from certain doom, allowing the young witch to shine again.  While, the relatable tale of growing up and finding your place in the world works on nearly every level, the alluring animation and paradise-like city setting are the film’s sharpest attributes.  In addition, the English-dubbed performances are lively and comedic.  Sadly, Phil Hartman’s contributions as Jiji would mark his final voice-performance before his tragic death in 1998.  Critically and financially adored, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a delightful effort that visually stuns and connects to those forever young at heart.  

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes Kiki’s Delivery Service with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Vibrant and dashing, Kiki’s Delivery Service makes its Blu-ray debut with flourishing colors and rich detail, allowing the viewer to better appreciate the city landscape of the film.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Kiki’s Delivery Service comes with both English and Japanese versions with optional subtitles.  Dialogue is crystal clear while, Composer Joe Hisaishi’s romantic and adventurous score is relayed with splendor.  Special features are aplenty with a newly included Ursula’s Painting (3:18) featurette joining classic DVD features such as, an introduction by John Lasseter (0:51), original Japanese storyboards (1:43:01), original Japanese trailers (8:06), Creating Kiki’s Delivery Service (2:26), where Miyazaki details his approach to creating the unique setting of the movie, Producer Toshio Suzuki offers insight on Kiki’s influences in Kiki & Jiji (3:27), Flying with Kiki & Beyond (2:50), Producer’s Prospective: Collaborating with Miyazaki (1:47) allows Miyazaki’s longtime producer Toshio Suzuki to shed light on their collaborative process.  In addition, The Locations of Kiki (29:11), reveals the real world locations that shape many of Miyazaki’s films, Scoring Miyazaki (7:18), Behind the Microphone (5:00), with English cast members Dunst, Hartman, Garofalo and Lawrence commenting on the dubbing process along, with a DVD edition of the film round out the impressive supplemental package.

    Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming tale of self discovery and independence.  A gorgeous sight of pastel colors and magnificently detailed settings, this coming-of-age story deeply connects with young audiences and those still young at heart.  Flawlessly remastered, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment have ushered Kiki’s Delivery Service with a Blu-ray debut fans won’t be disappointed with.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available November 18thKiki's Delivery Service can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Princess Mononoke (1997)

    Director: Hayao Miyazaki

    Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton & Jada Pinkett Smith

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Becoming one of the highest-grossing films in Japan’s history, Director Hayao Miyazaki’s vision of a fantasy world of gods would garner Studio Ghibli vast attention from the Western world.  Awarded Best Picture winner of the Japan Academy Prize, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, in conjunction with Studio Ghibli, proudly presents Princess Mononoke, newly remastered on Blu-ray.

    After contracting a deadly curse, Ashitaka, a young warrior, embarks on a journey through the forests in search of a cure.  Through his travels, Ashitaka becomes entangled in a fierce battle between Lady Eboshi and her loyal humans against Princess Mononoke, a brave woman, aided by animal gods.  Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Claire Danes (Homeland), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral), Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Keith David (The Princess and the Frog) provide vocal talent in this English translation.

    Throwing out the rules of movie making, Miyazaki blends the worlds of historical drama and fantasy on a grand scale.  Epic in its scope and runtime, Princess Mononoke emphasizes several themes including the environment and lost innocence.  Filled with mythical creatures and armies of warriors, Princess Mononoke enforces noticeably more violent imagery, compared to some of Miyazaki’s more lighthearted fare.  Showcasing chopped off limbs and decapitations, the mature content and dramatic storytelling serves as Miyazaki’s response to the horrors of the real world.  Throughout his search for a cure to his deadly curse, Ashitaka encounters several groups of characters all with their own desires and selfish agendas.  Surrounded by hostility and slowly being consumed by death, Ashitaka hopes to forge peace between Lady Eboshi’s human army and Princess Mononoke’s clan of animal gods.  Countlessly risking his life to see a better tomorrow for others, Ashitaka begins to fall in love with the Princess while, the hateful instincts of others begins to take hold.  Gorgeously animated with several computer rendered moments, Princess Mononoke is an astonishing sight that ranks as one of Miyazaki’s finest artistic achievements.  Complex and at times, convoluted, Princess Mononoke demands its strictest attention as its narrative is densely structured and difficult to follow for younger viewers.  Incorporating many characters who come and go, Princess Mononoke experiences pacing issues in its final act that tends to drag longer than necessary.  While, not exactly a narrative knockout, Princess Mononoke is a breathtaking event in animation history with character designs and battle sequences that amaze.  Clocking in at over two hours, Princess Mononoke is a consuming viewing experience and one that will most likely grow in appreciation with repeated viewings.

    Arriving with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Princess Mononoke is yet another gorgeous example of Miyazaki in high-definition.  Relaying crisp colors and a clear picture free of flakes or speckles, Princess Mononoke is a stunner that will make viewers marvel at the sweeping battle sequences found within.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Princess Mononoke comes with both English and Japanese versions with optional subtitles.  Presented with always audible dialogue, the violent battles and animal stampedes offer a considerable boost in the mix that will surely benefit the viewing experience.  Porting over previously available bonus features, Princess Mononoke provides viewers with original Japanese storyboards (2:13:21), original Japanese and English trailers (14:20), original TV spots (11:33) and the original English theatrical trailer (2:03).  In addition, a brief featurette with Jada Pinkett Smith, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Neil Gaiman and other creative talent offering insight on the English dub of the film is provided (5:05) along with, Princess Mononoke in the USA (19:57), a video record of Miyazaki’s US and Canadian travels to promote the film in 1999.  Finally, a DVD edition of the film rounds out the supplemental package.

    Masterfully animated and inhabited with deep themes, Princess Mononoke is an intensely epic animated film with few others like it.  Astonishing in its scope, Princess Mononoke challenges the viewers with characters who are not simply good or evil but, very much human in their layered personalities.  Complex and at times, difficult to follow, Miyazaki’s environmentally conscience picture can be a tough pill to swallow but, one that will surely benefit from additional viewings throughout the years.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment does domestic Miyazaki fans proud with another splendid transfer that preserves the elegance of this critically-acclaimed effort.  While, scant on newly produced content, the existing supplements suffice with Princess Mononoke in the USA being the package highlight.  Not quite Miyazaki’s finest effort, Princess Mononoke remains an animated epic with visuals ranking as some of Japan’s best from the last 20 years.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 18thPrincess Mononoke can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Wind Rises (2013)

    Director: Hayao Miyazaki

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci & William H. Macy

    Released by: Touchstone Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed as Miyazaki’s final film before announcing his retirement, a wondrous tale of a brilliant airplane designer would become the Academy Award-winner’s swan song.  Loosely influenced by actual designer Jiro Horikoshi and Miyazaki’s own manga of the same name, this inspiring story ends a five year silence since Miyazaki’s 2008 effort, Ponyo.  Touchstone Home Entertainment, in conjunction with Studio Ghibli, proudly presents The Wind Rises on breathtaking Blu-ray.

    The Wind Rises centers on the young Jiro Horikoshi who longs to become a pilot.  After realizing his poor eyesight will prevent him from doing so, Jiro is determined to become an aeronautical engineer and design the most beautiful airplanes.  Visualizing his goals through his dreams and working tirelessly for years, Jiro reconnects with a woman from his past and falls in love.  Conflicted by what his efforts have produced, Jiro looks within his thoughts for his hero, Giovanni Caproni, to guide him.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), John Krasinski (The Office), Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada), Martin Short (Frankenweenie), William H. Macy (Shameless) and Werner Herzog (Jack Reacher) all provide vocal talent in this English translation.

    Recently admitting he will continue making anime until his death, Hayao Miyazaki’s possible final feature film is yet another visual slice of perfection.  Set at the turn of the century, The Wind Rises casts a light on Jiro Horikoshi whose determined to make his goals a reality.  Brilliant and friendly, Jiro is reminiscent of every young soul who wishes to change the world with their ideas.  Crosscutting between Jiro’s daydreams where he meets his mentor, fellow engineer Giovanni Caproni, Jiro can visualize his ideas and see their pros and cons.  These dream sequences are not only beautiful but, offer insight into the creative mind of Miyazaki and how his genius operates.  With close friend Kiro Honjo at his side, Jiro works through the years to make a difference in his overwhelmingly poor and dated country.  After reconnecting with a woman from his past, Jiro asks for her hand in marriage, against somber circumstances.  Never giving up, Jiro continues his efforts and is conflicted with the results after witnessing the use his creations have been put to.  Coming under criticism for utilizing heavy smoking characters and a protagonist responsible for war machines, Miyazaki’s feelings are complex, much like the lives of his characters, and insists while he does not approve of the planes’ usage, they were one of the few creations the Japanese could be proud of.  Regardless of their wartime agenda, Jiro’s creation and passion is the central theme of the movie that urges viewers to follow their own dreams and find their happiness.  While, Jiro’s affection for his wife, Nahoko, tends to be dry and lacking in sincerity, Miyazaki crafts several sequences between the couple that are the very essence of romance.  Finding love and living life to its fullest are the defining messages viewers take away from this dreamlike journey into the mind of a creative soul.  Becoming Japan’s highest-grossing film of 2013, The Wind Rises is a captivating tale told through Miyazaki’s visually intoxicating imagery that define wonder and romance.

    Touchstone Home Entertainment presents The Wind Rises with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  As Miyazaki’s most recent effort, colors are thunderously bold and consistent throughout the runtime.  No anomalies of any sort intrude on the gorgeous imagery, allowing viewers to appreciate the countless flying sequences and early 20th century surroundings.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, The Wind Rises comes with both English and Japanese versions with optional subtitles.  Dialogue is rich and clear with the roar of airplane engines soaring through your speakers.  Composer Joe Hisaishi’s Italian influenced score comes across with wonderful elegance, setting the mood for the film.  In addition, a startling earthquake sequence offers a suitable rumble to the mix that adds nice emphasis to the visuals.  For what is considered to be Miyazaki’s final effort, special features are rather light but, still worthwhile.  The Wind Rises: Behind the Microphone (10:46) finds English Version Director Gary Rydstrom discussing the project along with fellow cast members Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stanely Tucci, William H. Macy, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski offering their flattering opinions on Miyazaki’s work.  In addition, storyboards (2:06:29), original Japanese trailers and TV spots (9:07), an announcement of the completion of the film (1:22:46) featurette which documents a press conference with Miyazaki, Voice Actor Hideaki Anno and Singer/Songwriter Yumi Matsutoya along with, a DVD edition of the film round out the supplemental package.

    Universally acclaimed, The Wind Rises is a gorgeously realized effort from Miyazaki’s never-ending imagination.  Brought to life by complex and layered characters, The Wind Rises is a dreamlike tale of chasing your goals and injecting beauty back into the world.  Touchstone Home Entertainment sends Miyazaki’s final work off on a high note with stunning picture, crisp audio and decent, if not, slightly light special features.  True to his inspiration, Miyazaki not only accomplished making something beautiful with The Wind Rises, but leaves viewers with a sense of determination to make their own dreams come alive.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available November 18thThe Wind Rises can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014)

    Director: Bobs Gannaway

    Starring: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, Stacy Keach & Hal Holbrook

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From DisneyToon Studios, Dusty Crophopper and a new gang of soaring characters take to the skies in this action-adventure follow-up.  Confronted with hard truths, accomplished racer Dusty, must adapt to his new situation in order to help those closest to him.  Dane Cook (Dan in Real Life) returns to voice the cropduster who could as he faces endless obstacles and dangers on his road to becoming a firefighter.  Above the world of Cars, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment proudly presents Planes: Fire & Rescue.

    Following the success of world racer Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), Planes: Fire & Rescue finds the noble former cropduster confronted with crushing news about his malfunctioning gearbox.  With his racing career halted, an accident caused by Dusty signals the inadequate firefighting capabilities of Propwash Junction airport.  In order to reopen, Dusty heads to Piston Peak National Park to undergo firefighting training by working side by side with seasoned vets and combating intense blazes.  Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Curtis Armstrong (American Dad!), John Michael Higgins (Bad Teacher), Hal Holbrook (Lincoln), Teri Hatcher (Coraline), Stacy Keach (American History X) and Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Following the underdog formula of Cars, the original Planes skyrocketed from direct-to- video captivity to become a theatrical box-office smash.  Released only a year later, Planes: Fire & Rescue ambitiously moves the story in new directions with unimaginative results.  While, avoiding repetition and implementing more action, the sequel lacks colorful supporting characters and bolsters a dull narrative.  Moments of genuine emotion are halted far too quickly to be effective and the intended humor fails to register.  Dusty’s lively friends and co-racers from the original film are nonexistent or regulated to cameos, making way for a squad of new unmemorable characters.  Training with an efficient team of wilderness firefighters, headed by Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), Dusty hopes to find a new purpose in life while, restoring safety to his hometown.  Filled with visually impressive sequences of fire blazing action, Planes: Fire & Rescue ultimately registers as all fluff and little flair.

    Incorporating rock tunes from AC/DC and various pop culture references (Howard the Truck), Planes: Fire & Rescue should be commended for its willingness to experiment but, fails to obtain the simple charms that made its predecessor a delight.  Headlined by an impressive voice cast, the performers find difficulty making the shallow story and weak characters gel.  As a professed fan of the original, Planes: Fire & Rescue offers splendid, at times gorgeous, animation with an action-heavy emphasis but, in the end, nosedives into mediocrity.

    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:

    Where its narrative falters, its high-definition appearance soars.  Arriving with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Plane: Fire & Rescue possesses the pristine charm of Disney’s newly released animated features.  Bright and bold, colors pop off the screen, ranging from the varying spectrums of the planes and the glorious scenery.  Black levels are handled with care, appearing with no crush or digital noise, allowing for optimal clarity.  In addition, scenes of intense inferno allow for impressive detail of the element to shine through.  Once again, Disney flies high with a pitch perfect transfer for viewers to marvel at.  

    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, Planes: Fire & Rescue registers loud and clearly with more than satisfying results.  Dialogue is crisp with only minor moments of sound effects and music dampening its volume.  The wailing wind as the planes soar by and the crackling fire are effective and balanced nicely throughout the mix.  Music including, Spencer Lee’s “Still I Fly”, is always given priority and forcefully invades your speakers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular (5:55): In this exclusive short, Dusty and Chug have to fill in for absent stunt show performers, Air Devil Jones and Vademonium, resulting in hilarity.

    • Welcome to Piston Peak! (2:49): Faux vintage commercial for the wilderness area seen in the film.

    • “CHoPs” TV Promo (0:45)

    • Air Attack: Firefighters From the Sky (4:47): Producer Ferell Barron and Director Bobs Gannaway tour a California Air Attack base giving viewers an inside look at the brave firefighters‘ rigorous training and complex equipment.

    • Deleted Scenes (4:32): Two scenes including Honkers and Dusty’s Dream No More are accompanied by intros from Producer Ferell Barron and Director Bobs Gannaway.

    • “Still I Fly” Music Video by Spencer Lee (1:31)

    • Animated Shorts: Dipper (1:45) and Smoke Jumpers (1:44).

    • Sneak Peeks: Promos for the Disney Store, Star Wars Rebels and Maleficent.

    • DVD Edition

    • Digital HD Code

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Hardly taking a breather after the original film’s success, Planes: Fire & Rescue zoomed into theaters less than a year later with lesser reverence.  Willing to spread its creative wings, this continuation ups the action but, substitutes humorous characters for uninspired ones.  DisneyToon Studios, predominately responsible for direct-to-video work including the popular Tinkerbell franchise, simultaneously delivers sensational animation and a hollow story.  Fortunately, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray shines in every way possible from bold colors to quality sound mixing.  With the exception of the enjoyable Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular short, special features are rather scant and uneventful.  Released theatrically in 3D, Planes: Fire & Rescue joins Maleficent as the latest Disney offering to unfortunately evade a 3D Blu-ray release.  While, Planes: Fire & Rescue may entertain younger audiences, its hasty release and monotonous narrative limit a wider appeal.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 4thPlanes: Fire & Rescue can be purchased through Disney.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review

    Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series 

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Paul Reubens, Lynne Marie Stewart, Phil Hartman & Laurence Fishburne

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking a creative revolution in children’s programming, Pee-wee’s Playhouse ignited a Saturday morning phenomenon unlike anything witnessed before.  Paul Reubens’ title character, along with his Playhouse pals, would educate and entertain viewers worldwide with their zany personalities and colorful environments.  Lovingly remastered from the original film elements and packed with over four hours of bonus content, Shout! Factory proudly presents Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Winner of 22 Emmy Awards and hailed by TV Guide as one of the top 25 cult television shows ever, Pee-wee’s Playhouse welcomes viewers, young and old, to the home of Pee-wee Herman, your hyperactive, childlike host, who along with his human and puppet friends teaches life lessons through wildly imaginative and fun ways.  

    THE SHOW:

    Following the runaway success of 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Paul Reubens yearned to transition his eccentric character to the small screen for a Saturday morning program akin to Captain Kangaroo.  Debuting in the Fall of 1986, Reubens would find a home at CBS for what would become Pee-wee’s Playhouse, creating an instant hit in the process.  Incorporating cast members such as Lynne Marie Stewart (Night Stand) and Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live) from his original 1981 stage production, Reubens would welcome new characters to his onscreen shenanigans including, Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix), Chairry, Globey and more.  Unlike other children’s programming, Pee-wee’s Playhouse immediately connected with its audience due to its unique production design and disinterest in talking down to its viewers.  Whether Pee-wee was teaching the finer aspects of preparing ice cream soup or introducing viewers to golden age cartoons, a lesson would always be learned with a sense of fun being the priority.  In addition, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is equally beloved for its varied and wild use of artistic styles ranging from stop-motion dinosaurs, jazz playing puppets or green screen usage allowing Pee-wee to roam imaginative worlds.  

    Airing for five seasons and consisting of 45 remarkable episodes, Pee-wee’s Playhouse assembled a roster of youthful talent that allowed their imaginations to freely run wild, bestowing audiences with one of the most creatively enduring and jovial shows of all time.  Like its charming and comical host, Pee-wee’s Playhouse possesses a magical charm that will forever keep the curious and fun-loving child in all of us alive.  

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored from the original film elements and personally supervised by Paul Reubens, Pee-wee’s Playhouse arrives with a 1080i transfer, sporting a 1.35:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting jaw-dropping brightness and clarity, the endless colors of Pee-wee’s environment pop like never before.  Complexions of the heavily made-up Reubens and his costars shine beautifully while, animated sequences including the Dinosaur Family and Penny can be fully appreciated in all their detailed glory.  Grain levels are wonderfully balanced with a natural appearance and instances of flakes or intruding aging defects are nonexistent.  As a testament to Reubens’ preservation of the materials and Shout! Factory’s efforts, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is simply one of the finest television shows committed to the Blu-ray format.

    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Audio mix, Pee-wee’s Playhouse sounds just as beautifully as it looks.  Dialogue is always clear and concise with the madcap music (composed by the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh, Danny Elfman, Todd Rundgren, Cliff Martinez and more) effectively crisp at all times.  With no distortion, hiss or any other setbacks, Pee-wee’s Playhouse sounds perfect.

    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Building the Playhouse (51:48): Cast and crew cover the genesis of the show and all its varied aspects that made it such an astounding success.  From artists, puppeteers, cinematographers and others who would go onto bigger success such as Security Guard/Production Assistant John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) all look back on the show with fond memories.

    • Opening the Playhouse (10:53): The artistic and creative challenges of crafting the memorable title sequence are detailed.

    • Writing for the Playhouse (18:42): Contributors of the show reminisce on the very freeing atmosphere of the writing process and their collaborations with Reubens.

    • The Look of the Playhouse (29:49): Focuses more deeply on the iconic production design, hair and make-up and various costume choices for the show.

    • Music of the Playhouse (17:39): Composers such as Mark Mothersbaugh (Rugrats, The Lego Movie) and Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, The Simpsons) offer their insight into their creative process while scoring various episodes.

    • The Cast of the Playhouse (48:19): Shines a light on Pee-wee’s pals that made the show gel, extended interviews from Laurence Fishburne, Lynne Marie Stewart, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Paragon and more are included.

    • Puppets of the Playhouse (30:19): A phenomenal peek at the magic behind the countless puppets and those who brought them to life.

    • Animating the Playhouse (20:39): A well-deserved and fascinating look at the various animation techniques used in the show with first hand accounts from Animators Peter Lord (The Pirates!  Band of Misfits), David Sproxton (The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and more.

    • A Very Merry Christmas Special (10:02): Debuting on December 21, 1988, cast and crew share warm memories about shooting the beloved Christmas special, many of whom claim it to be their favorite episode.

    • Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse (13:35): The merchandising juggernaut of the show and the unique items that were made available are discussed.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    Chaotic and insanely imaginative, Pee-wee’s Playhouse ushered in a new breed of Saturday morning entertainment that has never been matched.  Paul Reubens’ quirky and childish energy won the hearts of millions while, remaining true to an ambitious vision that was achieved by the creativity of countless minds.  A brightly colored jigsaw puzzle of humor, animation, music and above all, fun, Pee-wee’s Playhouse can now be experienced like never before.  Producer Brian Ward and Shout! Factory, in close association with Paul Reubens, have gone to painstaking effort to preserve this classic show with their efforts paying off in spades.  Overflowing with rich and informative bonus content, Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series is not only one of the best releases of the year but, also one of the finest efforts from television’s yesteryear to grace the Blu-ray format.  Today’s secret word is: BUY!

    RATING: 5/5  

    Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series is available now and can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Sleeping Beauty (1959)

    Director: Clyde Geronimi

    Starring: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy & Barbara Jo Allen 

    Released by: Disney

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the final animated fairy-tale to be produced in Walt Disney’s lifetime, Sleeping Beauty has charmed viewers for 55 years with its enchanting artistry and the inclusion of one of its most memorable villains.  Celebrating this animation milestone, Disney proudly welcomes Sleeping Beauty into its prestigious Diamond Edition line and allowing viewers to experience Princess Aurora’s tale like never before.  Available for a limited time, re-experience the magic and wonder of this timeless Disney classic.

    Sleeping Beauty opens on the birth of King Stefan and Queen Leah’s baby daughter, Aurora.  After the evil, unwanted fairy Maleficent places a deadly curse on Princess Aurora, three good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, plan to protect her.  Unfortunately, as Maleficent’s will grows stronger, only true love will save the young Princess from certain doom.

    MOVIE:

    Perfectly achieving Disney’s intended desire of medieval art, Sleeping Beauty would reach soaring new artistic heights that are still marveled at to this day.  Deemed the most expensive Disney feature at the time, costing an astounding $6 million, Sleeping Beauty would ultimately fail to recoup its budget at the box-office.  Often criticized for its lack of character development, Sleeping Beauty has effectively cast its charming spell on viewers for decades, earning praise as one of Disney’s most beloved animated features.  While, Princess Aurora may suffer from being far too two-dimensional at times, it is Disney Artist Eyvind Earle’s color styling and design skills that keep Sleeping Beauty a sight to behold.  In addition, Marc Davis‘ design and execution of the evil Maleficent is the true showstopper of the film, casting a brooding cloud of melancholy in every scene.  In addition, comical interactions amongst the three good fairies and an exciting battle sequence between Prince Phillip and Maleficent, in dragon form, sends Sleeping Beauty off on a breathtaking high note.

    In production for nearly a decade before debuting, Sleeping Beauty stands proudly as one of Disney Animation’s finest efforts.  A slice of artistic perfection, Sleeping Beauty is not only viewed as a cinematic landmark, but its impact is firmly cemented in the original Disneyland where Sleeping Beauty’s Castle serves as its central icon.  Experiencing a new generation of recognition courtesy of Disney’s live-action Maleficent feature film, Sleeping Beauty remains a timeless tale that only occurs once upon a dream.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Sleeping Beauty arrives with a 1080p transfer, capturing its original 2.55:1 aspect ratio.  Viewers searching for drastic differences in Disney’s Diamond Edition and their previous 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition release won’t find any.  Repurposing the six-year old transfer is hardly a negative as its existing appearance is quite remarkable. Colors are always bright and bold, the exquisite backgrounds are pristinely detailed and black levels impress with no crushing to be found whatsoever.  While, some digital tinkering may be at use, it is never harshly overused and stands as a solid example of how to properly execute its purpose.  Simply put, Sleeping Beauty looks perfect, leaving viewers beyond satisfied.

    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, Disney once again repurposes the existing mix from the 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition.  No cause for alarm as the mix relays crisp dialogue, effective sound effects and beautifully balanced music from Tchaikovsky.  Intense sequences taking place at Maleficent’s dark castle and her final battle with Prince Phillip offer some of the tracks finest moments with wide, booming authority.  Complimenting the impressive video transfer, Sleeping Beauty’s audio treatment will easily delight.  

    RATING: 5/5 

    EXTRAS:

    While, severely lacking several special features from the 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition, Disney has ported over the impressive audio commentary featuring Film Historian Leonard Maltin, Supervising Animator Andreas Deja and Chief Creative Officer of Pixar & Disney Animation John Lasseter.  In addition, three featurettes, The Sound of Beauty: Restoring A Classic (10:50), Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty (43:32) and Eyvind Earle: A Man and His Art (7:33) have also been carried over.  Meanwhile, the Diamond Edition has supplied the following new features:

    • Deleted Scene: The Curse is Fulfilled (2:58): An omitted scene told through storyboards as Aurora engages Maleficent, in disguise, at the spinning wheel.  

    • Deleted Scene: The Arrival of Maleficent (1:58): An alternate, storyboarded take of Maleficent’s grand entrance.

    • Deleted Scene: The Fair (7:48): The three good fairies cast a protection spell over the castle in order for Aurora to live in protection.  Bored, Aurora sneaks off to a local fair for some fun.

    • The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains (9:49): Lino DiSalvo (Bolt, Frozen) and Andrea Deja (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) discuss iconic Disney antagonists as well Disney Legend Marc Davis’ countless contributions and talent.

    • @DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion (4:27): Visual Development Artist, Brittney Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Paperman), crafts an impressive model of Maleficent entirely out of paper. 

    • Once Upon a Parade (8:49): Sarah Hyland of Modern Family fame guides a group of children on a whimsical tour of Fantasyland and Walt Disney World’s latest Festival of Fantasy parade.

    • Beauty-Oke: “Once Upon A Dream” (2:32):  A sing-along segment featuring the iconic song.

    • Sneak Peeks

    • DVD Edition

    • Digital HD Code

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:

    Although, lacking in more than several previously available special features, Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition will be an obvious purchase for Disney completists.  Keeping the out of print 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition handy for obvious reasons, the Diamond Edition of Sleeping Beauty offers the same, pitch perfect A/V specifications with a decent spread of new supplemental features.  Nearly unmatched in its artistic aesthetic and ushering in one of the most iconic Disney villains, Sleeping Beauty is a visual marvel that continues to dazzle viewers over half a century later.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition is available now and can be purchased through Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Adventure Planet (2012) DVD Review

    Adventure Planet (2012)

    Director: Kompin Kemgumnird

    Starring: Drake Bell, Bailee Madison, Jane Lynch, J.K. Simmons & Brooke Shields

    Released by: Arc Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a world overrun by endless technology and environmental carelessness, a trio of kids embark on an adventure to save it!  Set in the exotic reaches of Thailand, a tech-savvy boy scout is about to learn the beauty of nature and what must be done to ensure its safety.  From Bangkok’s Kantana Animation Studio, Arc Entertainment proudly presents Adventure Planet, an exciting tale about friendship and never underestimating the power of kids.

    Adventure Planet centers on Thailand based sister and brother, Norva (Bailee Madison, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and Jorpe who have the unique abilities to communicate with nature.  After bumping into tech-obsessed boy scout and son of Capital City president, Sam (Drake Bell, Drake and Josh), during an expedition, the trios personalities clash.  With the threat of global warming at an all-time high, Sam’s gadgets fail leaving him to respect his new friends as flaming creatures descend from the skies.  The kids race to Capital City to warn the president of the planet’s energy consumption before disaster strikes everywhere.  Turning off all power on Earth in order to regenerate is the only option, as long as the three adventurous kids can convince everyone.  Jane Lynch (Wreck-It Ralph), J.K. Simmons (Juno) and Brooke Shields (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Slightly more sophisticated but not nearly as fun as an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Adventure Planet attempts to carve an adventure tale with an environmentally conscience message.  While, the awareness of nature’s safety is an important one, this Thailand-produced, computer-generated effort is far too ambitious for its own good.  Directed by Kompin Kemgumnird, who previously contributed to Disney’s Tarzan and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Adventure Planet’s animation style feels stiff and dated compared to the highly-detailed and naturalistic quality of Dreamworks Animation and Pixar’s output.  Colors run rampant in the lush exotic landscapes with the camera respectably guided, but the characters’ dead pan, emotionless eyes offer little for the viewer to feel.  In addition, the preachy, personality clashing tale is as cliché as they come with a screenplay that is slightly overcomplicated and devoid of any humor.  Notable voice talent such as Drake Bell (Ultimate Spider-Man) and Jane Lynch (Glee) are all present and accounted for, but none offer anything memorable to this otherwise bland film.  Attempting to live up its name, Adventure Planet finds our heroes saving the day in the third act, underwhelming the viewer all the way to the end credits.

    With a tighter story and slicker animation, Adventure Planet could have been halfway decent.  Unfortunately, this independent effort bit off more than it could chew.  With the exception of a few wide shots of the Thailand vistas, Adventure Planet is not particularly well animated and suffers from a generic story that lacks excitement or a quality sense of humor.  Look elsewhere for true animated adventure.  

    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Adventure Planet is presented widescreen preserving its 16:9 aspect ratio.  With colors bursting from the film, Adventure Planet tends to underwhelm in an HD dominated world where other animated films truly come alive.  Lacking superior detail or sharpness, the film looks as decent as can be with nothing notable to speak of in the transfer.  As bland as the film’s quality, the transfer matches nicely.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Adventure Planet sounds halfway decent with dialogue never encountering any issues and more climatic sequences offering a suitable increase in volume and bass.  In addition, a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is also included.  A marginal increase over its video transfer, Adventure Planet’s mix will suffice just fine.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Trailer

    • Vudu Digital Copy

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    With a message audiences, young and old, could benefit from, Adventure Planet ultimately suffers from its stilted animation that prevents any emotional resonance for the viewer.  Furthermore, the story is uninspired and lacks much needed humor.  Arc Entertainment’s video and audio presentation is merely mediocre with only the inclusion of the film’s trailer and a Vudu digital copy code filling out the special features package.  In more capable hands, Adventure Planet could have lived up to its name of excitement and fun.  Sadly, this Bangkok-produced undertaking is best left for the recycling bin.

    RATING: 2/5  

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #8: Power Rangers, The Swimmer, August: Osage County, Beneath & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #8 includes:

    - Power Rangers Seasons 13-17 (0:44)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - The Swimmer (1968) (10:52)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Grindhouse Releasing: http://www.grindhousereleasing.com/

    - No Holds Barred (1989) (18:24)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Beneath (2013) (24:23)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - August: Osage County (2013) (31:53)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Little House on the Prairie Season One (37:47)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - The Jungle Book 2 (2003) (44:38)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo (2004) (50:19)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Dennis the Menace Volume One (55:51)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (1:00:44)

  • )

    Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #6: Phantom of the Paradise, Dead Kids, Transformers: Armada & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #6 includes:

    - Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (0:33)
    Street Date: February 24, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - In Fear (2013) (8:00)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Dead Kids (1981) (11:46)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - Thirst (1979) (16:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #1 (21:16)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Impulse Pictures: http://synapse-films.com/category/impulse-pictures/

    - Transformers: Armada The Complete Series (25:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:15)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #4: The Jungle Book, Arrow Video, Darkman, The Shadow & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #4 includes:

    - The Jungle Book (1967) Diamond Edition (0:34)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Rocky: The Heavyweight Collection (6:37)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    MGM: http://www.mgm.com/

    - Hellgate (1990) (13:27)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - Darkman (1990) Collector's Edition (20:48)
    Street Date: February 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987) (28:09)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - The Shadow (1994) Collector's Edition (35:33)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/