Home Video Spotlight Mar 12-18: Disney Classics, Life of Pi, Hitchcock and more

Blu-Ray and DVD releases for the week of Mar 12 – 18

Here’s a rundown of this week’s highlighted releases with links to full reviews on all of them.

Disney Dual Pack Blu-rays

Disney released three dual pack Blu-rays for three of its animated films this week with Mulan 1 and 2, the Hunchback of Notre Dame 1 and 2 and Brother Bear 1 and 2. These are the first time these films have been released on Blu-ray as a dual pack with their direct to video sequels included.

Mulan Collection

Mulan 1 & 2

Disney’s classic tale of the Chinese fable that sees young Mulan secretly take her father’s place when he is conscripted to the Emperor’s army comes to Blu-ray with a beautiful looking transfer. Mulan 2 takes Mulan and her now fiance Shang on a secret mission from the Emperor himself delivering his princess daughters to arranged marriage designed to strengthen China.

Mulan is one of Disney’s classic tales from Disney’s very fertile mid 1990s which also produced another one of the packs released this week and other classics like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. The film looks glorious on Blu-ray and makes some of the more special scenes pop even more. Mulan 2 is actually one of the better direct to video sequels, even without the return of Eddie Murphy, as the animation is still solid and the story, while goofy, still retains some fun. The Blu-Ray pack is a must buy.


Hunchback of Notre Dame Collection

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1 & 2

Disney’s interpretation of the classic Victor Hugo tale of the deformed orphan Quasimodo also comes from the 1990’s era of Disney animation but is usually criminally overlooked and features one of the more dastardly Disney villains in Quasimodo’s master Frollo. Hunchback 2 tries to bring in a love interest for Quasi in the form of circus girl Madeline and also introduces her scheming and thieving boss to the mix.

The original Hunchback is a very underrated achievement with some gorgeous animation and a loveable hero at its core. Often lost in the crowd of the titles mentioned earlier, Hunchback is a title that deserves a lot more credit and spotlight. Hunchback 2 however should be forgotten. The step down in animation is terrible, even our main character Quasimodo looks different between the two films, and its story is pretty lame. The Blu-ray pack is a recommend based on the strength of it first film alone.


Brother Bear Collection

Brother Bear 1 & 2

Brother Bear was released during the leaner years of Disney’s animation in the early 2000s when Pixar had really taken over. In fact the film about a young man being transformed into a bear to learn a lesson was bumped from the traditional Disney summer slot for Finding Nemo that year. Brother Bear 2 also tries to find our protagonist in a love story situation, this time even throwing the supporting characters in to situations of their own to boot.

Brother Bear is one of the lesser of the Disney animated films, and Pixar has since done a similar tale in Brave that has a much better story and moral attached to it. Brother Bear 2 unfortunately does not fare any better, having to replace the non-returning Joaquin Phoenix with Patrick Dempsey as the lead Kenai and working in non-credible ending, even for a film involving such mystical elements. The Blu-ray pack is a non-recommend.


Life of Pi Blu-ray

Life of Pi Blu-ray

The Oscar winning Life of Pi makes it Blu-ray debut with an impressive looking pack. The tale of PI, the sole human survivor of a shipwreck,  lost at sea with only the company of a 450lb Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker has been captivating audiences and readers ever since the book debut back in 2001. Many felt the book to be un-filmable until director Ang Lee came along and delivered his award winning adaptation this year.

The film looks amazing and Lee’s determination to make the scenes look like living pieces of art really comes through on the home screen. The performance from Irrfan Khan as the older Pi is brilliant; it’s the true heart of the film and totally engaging. The effects work here is some of the best put to film last year and why Lee won the best director Oscar become crystal clear when you realize just how well these elements come together and that it was all shot in front of a blue screen. Lee’s imagination is on full display and the audience is the benefactor. Life of Pi on Blu-ray is a must own.


Hitchcock Blu-ray

Hitchcock Blu-ray

Hitchcock also hits Blu-ray this week. The tale of the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife Alma was met with a mixed reaction last year upon its release. Focusing more on a lighthearted treatment of the story than a hard hitting, 100% accurate biopic, the film is much more about the relationship between Hitchcock and his beleaguered spouse and features a strong turn from Helen Mirren in the role of Alma.

Hopkins does a decent turn as Hitchcock, not completely morphing in to the character but assuming the tone and essence of the man pretty robustly. The film does play better on the smaller screen that it did in the theater, but still has its issues and Hitchcock aficionados are likely to have strong feelings about the films outcome. The film itself looks excellent on Blu-ray and the disc is packed with special features galore. Hitchcock on Blu-ray is a recommend.


Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps DVD

The newest Gerard Butler rom/com Playing for Keeps is out this week on DVD and Blu-ray. The film about and former soccer star who has blown his relationship with his son and former flame trying to make amends features an all-star cast. Of course Butler’s George can’t simply sweep into town and save the day by coaching his son’s soccer team and has to contend with a group of lonely, aroused and attractive soccer mom’s determined to get a piece of George for themselves.

Playing for Keeps is sadly bland and unoriginal and quite frankly we’ve seen this before from Butler far too many times. The film is not terrible; it’s just very average. Jessica Biel and Judy Greer managed decent performances while the rest of the cast seems content to toe the line and phone it in. The DVD is also without any additional features; just the film itself is included. Playing for keeps is a mild non-recommend.


Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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Wreck-It Ralph Blu-ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Wreck it Ralph Blu-ray

Wreck-It Ralph Blu-Ray Review

Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Denis Haysbert, Skylar Astin and Ed O`Niell

Written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee based on a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon

Directed by Rich Moore

New to DVD and Blu-Ray from Disney Home Entertainment is the Oscar nominated animated feature film Wreck-It Ralph. The classic 8-bit video game inspired film was a smash hit when it was released in theaters last year and proved to be one of the front runners in one of the best years for animated feature films in a long time. Featuring a smorgasbord of cameos from famous classic video game characters and the newest and possibly most adorable ‘Disney Princess’ to date, the only question that remains is how awesome will the film transfer to home video.

For decades, Ralph (Reilly) has played the bad guy in his popular video game. The main villain in the game ‘Fix-It Felix’, Ralph has been thrown off the top of a building into a puddle of mud more times than he can count. But in a bold move Ralph embarks on an action-packed adventure and sets out to prove to everyone that he is a true hero with a big heart. As he explores exciting new worlds, he teams up with some unlikely new friends including feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman). But Ralph’s actions carry consequences dire for the Fix-It Felix (McBrayer) crew and Felix himself, who with the aid of Sgt. Calhoun (Lynch) must go after Ralph and try to bring him home.

Wreck-It Ralph is a sweet and endearing story that will delight gamers and non-gamers alike. The story and script are unique and smart, incorporating games and electronic accessories like a simple power bar in ways that have never been seen before onscreen. By allowing characters to go between games as well the filmmakers incorporate things into other games you would never see. Like Pac-Man ghost Clyde hosting a ‘Bad-Anon’ meeting inside the center box of the Pac-Man board with participants like Street Fighter’s Zangief and M. Bison, Dr. Eggman and Mario’s longstanding nemesis Bowser. The concept behind game central station is inspired and leads to some of the best cameos in the film.

Reilly is pitch perfect as the voice of Ralph. His work brings an earnestness and charm to Ralph that undermines any harshness that Ralph may carry. Even when Ralph is mad and does bad things we are still cheering for him. Silverman’s Venellope is the true heart of the story, a loveable and pesky runt known as ‘the glitch’ because of her unstable properties that cause her to occasionally scramble to code with unpredictable side effects. Add in McBrayer as the love-struck Felix and the object of his desire the scrappy Sgt. Calhoun, who has been ‘programmed with the worst back story ever’, pairing up to track down Ralph. And Tudyk as the irrepressible and maniacal King Candy, sounding very much like Roger Rabbit on a permanent sugar high, gives a great performance filled with underlying menace.

Wreck it Ralph 2

The environments and backgrounds in Wreck-It Ralph are brilliantly rendered and executed. From Fix-It Felix’s delightful throwback style, clearly inspired by Donkey Kong, to the hyper realistic Hero’s Duty. Sugar Rush may be the most visually impressive with everything involved in the world being candy and edible meaning sweet treat hounds will be salivating. And the aforementioned Game Central Station which looks much like New York’s Grand Central Station but with power outlets instead of terminals. Of course there is also Litwick’s Arcade, where all the games exist, which looks exactly like the many arcades that were wildly popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Over an hour of all-new bonus material is featured on the Blu-ray combo pack, including deleted and alternate scenes, a behind the scene featurette about the environments of Wreck-It Ralph plus the Oscar winning animated short Paperman and fake commercials made for each of the three games in the movie. Paperman is an exceptionally cute and well-crafted short that was well deserving of its Oscar win and the fake commercials are fun to watch. The best special feature though is the Disney Intermission feature that when activated kicks in whenever you pause the Blu-ray. Hosted by Stand-Up comedian and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph takes the viewers through the hidden Easter eggs and cameos that are present throughout the movie. The amount of information and fun stuff unveiled here make it by far the most fun 10 minutes of special features on the disc.

Wreck it Ralph 3

Wreck-It Ralph makes a brilliant transition to the home screen as the film actually looks more like a game than before on a television screen where most games nowadays are played. The transfer looks excellent and the special features shine, Wreck-It Ralph is a must own on Blu-ray and DVD.

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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Peter Pan Diamond Collection Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Peter Pan 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition

Peter Pan Diamond Collection Blu-Ray

With the voices of Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Paul Collins and Tommy Luske

Written by Ted Sears, Erdman Penner, Bill Peet, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Milt Banta, Ralph Wright and Bill Cottrell based on the play by Sir J.M. Barrie

Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske and Jack Kinney

The classic animated feature film from Disney, Peter Pan, hits its 60th ‘Diamond’ anniversary this year and celebrates with a brand new, fully loaded Blu-ray release in stores this week. The timeless tale of Peter and his ‘lost boys’ in considered one of the greats from Disney’s golden age of hand drawn animation and is based on the 100 year old stage play from Sir J.M. Barrie. As a young child, Walt Disney saw a travelling production of the play and it stayed with him for decades until he was finally able to produce his own version.

The story has been told many times. Wendy Darling (Beaumont) and her brothers John (Collins) and Michael (Luske) are visited in the night by Peter Pan (Driscoll), the star of their bedtime stories, as Peter is looking for his runaway shadow. Peter whisks the children away to Neverland, the magical place where Peter lives, with the help of his fairy companion Tinker Bell and her fairy dust. The kids meet up with the lost boys, tussle with Indians and are captured by the nefarious Captain Hook (Conried), Peter’s mortal enemy. Peter comes to the rescue and takes the children safely back to England and their bedrooms as their parents come home for the evening.

Peter Pan 1

Disney’s Peter Pan has never looked better in a home presentation as the Blu-ray picture is crystal clear and looks great. The story of Peter Pan is one that is more mature than other Disney fairy tales in that Peter is a complex character that comes off as slightly cocky and reckless in parts of the film. Captain Hook is a ruthless villain, killing his own men as he sees fit, obsessed with capturing Peter after a violent encounter in which Hook lost his hand. Combine that with kidnapping and interrogation and you don’t get your typical family adventure. But Peter Pan has endured over the years because of the earnestness of the characters and the voice work behind them. The animation is classic 2D style but still seems to pop off the screen in this beautifully re-mastered edition. The shots of London and Big Ben in particular are brilliantly realized and still look fabulous 60 years later.

Peter Pan 2

The Blu-Ray is stuffed with special features as the disc includes new features as well as all of the features from the previous DVD collector’s edition as well. Among the new special features is a fascinating documentary about the children of Walt Disney’s main crew of animators, dubbed the ‘nine old men’, out together by one of the children himself entitled “Growing up with Nine Old Men”. The 45 minute documentary tracks down the grown children of these men as they discuss the work of their fathers and their own work, a really fascinating watch. We also get two deleted scenes, including an unused alternate ending, and two original songs that were omitted as well. With the classic DVD features the disc features a “Disney Song Selection” feature, which is just a jump to a song option, some more deleted songs and some music videos and ‘Classic Backstage Disney’ which is a series of five behind the scenes featurettes about the making of the movie. Lastly we get the during the movie features which are a feature length audio commentary hosted by Roy Disney and special games and bonus scenes when the film is paused known as Disney intermission.

Peter Pan 3

All in, the Peter Pan Diamond Edition Blu-ray is a fantastic disc bursting at the seams with special features to engage for hours of fun and discovery. The film has never looked better in an at home format than it does now and still retains a lot of the charm and whimsy it contained from childhood days gone by. Peter Pan Diamond Edition Blu-ray is a strong recommend and for Disney fans should not be considered anything less than a must own.

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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Brave Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Brave (2012)

Starring (voices) – Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson

Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell

Brave is a big surprise.  The Pixar produced and Disney distributed film is a story about mothers and daughters.  There is no handsome Prince, but there is a Princess, a Queen, magic and a pesky witch.  Oh and some bears.

Pixar films are technically wondrous but can lack the warmth of the animated Disney Classics. With Brave they have finally broken that barrier. The film delivers a personal story and not, as the trailers seemed to suggest, Braveheart with a warrior princess.

Our protagonist Princess Merida boasts an intricately animated mane that would make Rapunzel jealous.  Merida is a tomboy and a rebel and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to grow up.  While her father King Fergus indulges her, mother Queen Elinor tries to teach her responsibility and constantly admonishes her to be a lady.  Tensions ensue, particularly when Merida is faced with having to do her royal duty and keep the kingdom together.

The plot twists into unexpected territory here – for good and bad depending on one’s personal tastes, but it is refreshing nonetheless.  Too many modern heroines are all “girl power” and not much else.  Merida is a far better realized character, growing and maturing before our very eyes, and this is probably why the ending strikes such a false note.  One suspects the resolution is more a result of pandering to modern tastes rather than organic growth in the characters.

Nevertheless, credit goes to the script which truly captures the incredible complexity and tensions that characterize the mother-daughter dynamic, however fantastical the yarn gets.  Brave sticks to a far more timeless storytelling style than most animated features today, with the now staple contemporary wise cracking of  supporting characters kept to a minimum, and thankfully so.  Not only do these jokes strike discordant notes that pull viewers out of the story,  they ultimately serve to date these films far before their time.

It will be particularly interesting to see how the film is received and reviewed internationally.  Set in Medieval Scotland and clearly created with Western sensibilities in mind, the film has nonetheless harnessed some universal themes.  I am South Asian, and the tensions between familial duty and individual desire resonated particularly well.  I swear I’ve had the same confrontations with my own Mother.

Is the story for everyone?  No.  The second half falls apart a little for anyone that doesn’t care for (wo)man vs. beast, but ultimately this is an emotionally authentic film and worth a visit to the local cineplex.

Take your Moms.

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