ParaNorman DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman DVD

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

New this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Alliance Films is the stop motion animated wonder, from the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline, which scared up some decent box office this summer, ParaNorman. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell bring us the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. So what does the DVD have in store for us?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his role in order to save the day. But when all hell breaks loose it’s up to Norman, his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman is a film that actually works even better at home. It remains a smart film that doesn’t pander to the audience while never getting scary enough to truly frighten its target audience. The script is smart with the more adult targeted humor playing better on the small screen. The story does borrow from films like the Sixth Sense quite a bit, but the endearingness of Norman and his friends more than compensates for some of the more familiar story beats.  The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic. It does not try to be anywhere near photo-realistic thankfully and I found it very reminiscent of the old Rankin/Bass TV specials I grew up on and still watch around Christmas every year. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. Kendrick’s work as Courtney is really solid here as well, as the nuances of her character play better on the small screen.

The DVD is packed with a ton of great features to check out as they really go deep behinds the scenes and into all aspects of the production. We get a feature length commentary track going into all aspects of the filming with Directors Butler and Fell along with some pre-visual animatic sequences used for the filming. At around 40 minutes in total, the multi segmented Behind the Scenes package “Peering through the Veil” is full of informative and fun facts. And if that weren’t enough there are 7 additional featurettes covering other aspects of the film. A great pack for adult and child alike.

Sure to be present under many a Christmas tree this year, if you can hold out that long, ParaNorman is a treat and delight for the entire family. Loaded with special features and featuring a brilliant crisp and clean digital transfer, the DVD really becomes a can’t lose package. Based on this, ParaNorman on DVD is a must buy DVD and will be a fun holiday watch for the whole family.

You can read my original ParaNorman review HERE

Also Noteworthy : Rise of the Guardians Review  and Wolf Children Review

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Pitch Perfect Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Pitch Perfect Hits the High Notes

Starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and Rebel Wilson

Directed by Jason Moore

Pitch Perfect is what I expected Rock of Ages to be… FUN!  All caps!  This was particularly surprising to me since Glee is not historically a television show that I can stand – I don’t pine for ‘90s RnB, and no one has ever accused me of enjoying a capella anything (aca-anything?).

Anna Kendrick plays against quirky type as Beca, an aspiring music producer who has reluctantly agreed to give University life the old college try after her father promises a fully paid trip to LA if she still feels school life isn’t for her at the end of the year. She volunteers at the campus radio station and makes awesome mash-up after mash-up in the hopes of getting airplay. When prodded by her father to try harder Beca decides to be social by joining The Bellas, a hitherto comely competitive a capella team that was decimated by the shame of their ill fated finals appearance last spring. Enter a motley crew of second tier selections lead by Aubrey, the obligatory uptight senior looking for redemption (a perfectly cast and aptly named Anna Camp), and we’re off.

Pitch Perfect doesn’t take itself too seriously, perhaps a symptom of not being set in high school, and while most of the team is composed of caricatures they are remarkably consistent in their motivations. For the most part the audience buys what the actors are selling.  I do however need to ask why we required so very many reaction shots from designated “lewd yet funny fat girl” Rebel Wilson.  I didn’t make it past the 15-minute mark in Bridesmaids, but apparently it is to that cinematic triumph that I owe this complaint.  While mildly amusing when used sparingly, Chris Farley she is not, and a little less Rebel Wilson would have gone a long way.

Moving on to love. The romantic subplot eschews the tired old love triangle and our love interest Jesse isn’t a nebbish dweeb, nor is he the captain of the football team. Refreshingly, the obstacle to true love is also the most authentic part of the story, with our heroine’s conflicted emotions and frustrations preventing her from seeing the light.

I am going to go ahead and hazard that it isn’t a spoiler to reveal that Beca gets the guy in the end.  Kudos to director Jason Moore and screenwriter Kay Cannon for not falling back into cliché and relying on an overt public spectacle in order to patch our lovers up.  Instead it is a well chosen song and an inside joke that seals the deal… at the finals of course. I will not lie, I melted at that moment and as a result actor Skylar Astin suddenly seemed more subjectively appealing than he had just moments before.

Lest this review become too positive I do have a serious complaint, but it centres on the film going experience rather than the film itself. Film is a visual medium but the sound design is equally important, and my experience at the multiplex really underscored the growing problem of inadequate quality control that has arisen as a result of unqualified staffers replacing professional projectionists.  The bass was non-existent and I’m pretty sure the surround was not even on! I found myself repeatedly thinking a) where can I get Beca’s tracks and b) I need to play this at Projection Booth to hear it in all its surround sound glory.  This of course lead to another epiphany- theatre proprietorship is spoiling me rotten.

Expect more comments about the exhibition of films as the fall progresses – a move to digital exhibition is no excuse for substandard projection.  Bullshit like this at a time when ticket and concession prices have never been higher only serves to drive people out of the cinemas, and no one should want that because film, unlike television, is made to be enjoyed with an audience.

If you haven’t already, get your friends together to see Pitch Perfect and then go for cocktails and maybe even some dancing after! I know I’m headed back for a second go.

BONUS SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

Where are Beca‘s mashups? The production obviously shilled out some serious coin for them and frankly I want them more than the catchy a capellas. Any leads are appreciated.

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ParaNorman Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman (2012)

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

From the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline we get a new stop-motion animated film also dealing with the slightly macabre, ParaNorman. From directors Chris Butler, storyboard artist on Coraline, and Sam Fell, director of Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away, comes the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. But can these two directors live up to the brilliance that was Coraline?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his duty and read from a sacred book in order to save the day. Unfortunately, due to a run-in with Alvin, Norman is late and all hell breaks loose. It’s up to Norman, with the help of his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin, to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman works on almost every level. A smart film and script that doesn’t pander to the audience and also never gets too scary that it might frighten its target audience. The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic, not trying to be anywhere near photo realistic and reminiscent of old Rankin/Bass TV specials, allowing for the fact that it is a classically animated film to shine through. The story is solid, containing many of asides for the adults while remaining completely accessible for kids, although it may not be completely unoriginal with equal parts Sixth Sense and Scooby Doo mixed in. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. The screening I saw of the film was full of youngsters of all ages, some I had pegged no older than 5, and they all were pretty quietly and intently focused on the film throughout, a good sign that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. In fact, my friend’s son triumphantly declared after the screening that ParaNorman was better than Dark Knight Rises, high praise indeed.

ParaNorman is fun for all ages and for my money the best family entertainment out there at the moment. ParaNorman is a very strong recommend.

ParaNorman is in theaters nationwide starting Friday August 17th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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