Monday, November 30, 2009

Four Christmases Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 19.8 GB
Film Size: 15.0 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: Free

Video
Four Christmases comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. Upon first impression of the film, it does indeed look very good. Colors are vivid, black levels are solid, the overall upgrade in clarity is also pleasing.

My dislike is the actual look of the film, I felt it looked a bit too digital looking at times. My biggest concern is that everything is so sharp and clear, yet detail isn't alway so great. Facial and clothing textures are minimal at times, although they do shine from time to time.

Often times detail does shine and provides high-def moments that can easily be appreciated. I don't think much edge enhancement and DNR was applied, although at times it did look slightly present, but it is not enough to really upset me.

The film has a bunch of three dimensional pop moments and the aspect ratio of the film will truly allow the video presentation to leap off the screen. The look of the film itself isn't so bad, just felt a bit off at times. If you can get past that, I'm sure you will certainly be pleased by the film on Blu-ray. 8/10.

Audio
A 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is included and sounds fairly good for the most part. The film is consumed mostly by the dialogue, which of course is always front and center although clear and easy to understand. Effects are also generally front heavy, but do expand to the surround area when a more open environment scene is on-screen.

They do a great job at trying to create environment, it's just too bad they reserve it for mostly certain parts of the film. The mix definitely feels lacking in quieter situations, when there were clearly moments for at least subtle use.

In the end though the mix isn't too important, it never reaches demo materials, surround use or not. It's a good audio track, and I certainly appreciate Warner provided a high-def audio track for this release over the previous 5.1 Dolby Digital habit for films. 7/10.

Extras

Four Christmases: Holiday Moments (10:50) (HD)
Featuring cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and footage from the film to create a short making-of.

HBO First Look - Four Christmases: Behind The Madness (13:03) (HD)
A look inside the homes of Brad and Kate's four dysfunctional families during Christmas.

Seven Layer Holiday Meals In A Flash (10:09) (HD)
Celebrity Cook Paula Deen and Actress Katy Mixon whip up a holiday recipe, this is actually so stupid and random that it becomes hilarious.

Gag Reel (2:35) (HD)
A very solid gag reel that you may enjoy.

Additional Scenes (8:21) (HD)
Seven additional scenes are included, presented in high-definition.

BD-Live
Additional features are touted as being BD-Live exclusive. Listed extras include personal and candid cast Christmas memories, as well as outtakes with Celebrity Cook Paula Deen and Actress Katy Mixon.

Digital Copy
Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media.

There are not too many extras on this release, but the included features are fun although a bit light when it comes to depth. If anything I appreciate the extras are all included in high-definition. 6/10.

Blu-news Summary
Four Christmases is a film I was definitely excited to see for various reasons. I love me a good Christmas themed film and I do enjoy most of the work from the actors in the film. Was I pleased by the film? Well, in a way.

I went into the film with my mind left at the door, I mean this is a Christmas comedy, if you want serious there are more serious options available....well at least on DVD. The biggest issue with the film is the plot itself, definitely feeling more like a Simpsons Christmas special rather than an actual theatrical release.

I thought the actors in the film were very enjoyable, I feel they presented the lines and story as well as they could. The supporting cast is also very funny and adds a lot to what could have been an extremely dull movie.

The movie at times can be a bit too goofy for it's own good, but it's all in good fun. If you are not a fan of the mindless comedy then this won't do anything to change your mind. It's a simple story that is made a bit too complex for an actual film but it's certainly decent.

I would not recommend you go out and purchase the film until you have actually seen the movie and have made your own opinion regarding it, but I definitely wouldn't recommend you skip it completely due to negative reviews.

I think people (critics especially) can be a bit too harsh on the type of film that it is, but I'm sure most casual audiences will at least find mild amusement from Four Christmases. Wait for the film to drop in price a bit before biting or give it a rent first. 6.75/10.

The Blu-ray release is quite good, featuring pleasing visual and audio presentations. Extras are not too in-depth, but they are simple and fun. The film makes this Blu-ray release hard to recommend, but it's certainly 'A Solid Rental.'

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The Monster Squad Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 44.4 GB
Film Size: 23.9 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: Free

Video
The Monster Squad comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. I am actually very pleased by the high-def presentation, aside from a few issues. While the film isn't excessively dirty, specks and dirt do pop up at quite a constant pace. I felt the film could have been cleaned up a bit more, but then again I'm more happy to have this film on Blu-ray over waiting years like we did for the DVD release.

The film's colors are actually quite nice and there is great depth present at times, creating a slight 3D pop for the 80s horror flick. Grain is always present, although not as excessive as I had expected, rest assured it is there though. My biggest issue overall though is the black levels, they definitely vary from scene to scene with some that are impressive and others that are quite disappointing.

Regardless of the issues, the upgrade from the DVD release is quite clear from the very beginning and will leave fans thrilled by it's high-def presentation. Based on the amount of time it took to come to DVD, I have serious doubts we will see a re-release of the film on Blu-ray. Overall though this is a good high-def presentation. 7.5/10.

Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included as well as the original 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track. I wasn't expecting much of the 5.1 lossless mix due to obvious limitations from the original source. What we get on Blu-ray is nothing special, but improvement is also clear from the 2.0 Dolby Digital track.

Dialogue and effects stay front-heavy for the most part, but it does expand to a more aggressive surround use when the mixers felt fitting. I actually think the surround use was well placed, while still retaining the classic campy feel of the film. The track is hardly aggressive but it's certainly pleasing. 7.5/10.

Extras

Audio Commentary
with Writer/Director Fred Dekker & Squad members Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert & Ashley Bank.

Audio Commentary
with Writer/Director Fred Dekker & Director of Photography Bradford May

Monster Squad Forever! (HD)
An extensive five-part retrospective presented in high-definition.
The Monster Master (9:05) (HD)
The Monster Makers (17:06) (HD)
The Monsters and The Squad (19:51) (HD)
Lights, Camera, Monsters! (20:13) (HD)
Monster Mania! (10:01) (HD)

A Conversation With Frankenstein (8:40) (SD)
Footage recorded in 1986 druing the last week of shooting, an interview with Frankenstein.

Deleted Scenes (14:00) (SD)
Both deleted and extended scenes are included.

Animated Storyboard Sequence (1:40) (HD)
Collection of original storyboards designed for the final fight in the film. They are presented above the finalized product.

Still Gallery (5:40) (HD)
Production photos and more are included.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:56) (HD)

TV Spot (:31) (HD)

Also From Lionsgate (2:40) (HD)
A trailer for Stargate: 15th Anniversary as well as a montage trailer for horror films available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Bookmarks
A place where all your bookmarks from the film are placed, making it easy to return to where you left off in the film.

We get some very nice extras on this release, particularly the 'Monster Squad Forever!' retrospective, which is presented in high-def and features many steps of production as well as interviews with the cast and crew.

The audio commentaries are also quite fun, as are the deleted and extended scenes. There is plenty of features to enjoy on this release, the fact that there are actual high-def features on this release makes me ecstatic. 8.5/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Monster Squad is best described as The Goonies meets Ghostbusters. a group of children who form a group to fight monsters and call themselves 'The Monster Squad.'

The film features many of the monsters made famous from Universal Studios horror productions of the 40's and 50's, although slightly different as Universal Studios had passed on the production of this film when it was originally pitched to them.

The film is very humorous but mixed with intense action scenes quite well. It never reaches the point of feeling like a spoof film, which I think is what's so great about it. The characters in the film are pretty much awesome, as are the monsters who certainly steal the show.

The lines in the film are great, as is the final battle in the scene between the Monster Squad and the monsters. This is a fun film that can certainly be enjoyed by kids and adults, despite some mildly inappropriate but funny jokes and words. 8.5/10.

It's amazing to see the film on Blu-ray so soon in the format's life and it comes with very few issues. The Blu-ray release features good video and audio presentations, with a very nice amount of bonus features included. The Monster Squad is such a fun film, it's easily 'Recommended' to anyone and everyone.


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Bloody Valentine Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 42.2 GB
Film Size: 19.5 GB/18.6 GB
Film Rating: Unrated/R
Region: FreeVideo
My Bloody Valentine comes to Blu-ray with two 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentations. Both the extended and theatrical versions are included on this release, and both look quite stunning in high-definition.

If I had anything bad to say about the extended version is the deleted scenes that were put back into the film are definitely in need of a cleanup, you will go from a perfectly clean print to a speckle mess throughout the film. If you choose to watch the theatrical version, you will of course not have to see the uglier looking scenes.

Aside from the few deleted scenes put back into the film, the transfers are actually quite flawless. They are so much better than I had anticipated and far less grainy than I expected. Not to worry though, there always is grain present, although naturally it becomes much more clear in darker scenes.

Colors on this release are easily impressive, each so strong and vibrant and really leaping off the screen. Black levels were also surprisingly solid, particularly when compared to other recent Lionsgate horror releases.

Detail is quite amazing, and features an overall upgrade in clarity as well. The textures of clothing, hair, environments are all improved. I am happy to report that Lionsgate did a top notch job for the high-def release of the original My Bloody Valentine. It easily impresses and is truly an amazing looking horror catalog title. 9/10.

Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for this release, though the mix is so front heavy to notice. I'm not surprised by the mix as the film has always been presented with monaural audio, it has limitations to say the least.

Despite the lack of surround use I thought dialogue was about as good as one could really demand from the film. Everything was usually quite clear and seperated, although at times the vocals did feel a bit limited.

I don't have too many complaints about the audio as we are provided with a lossless mix, I don't see how much could be improved about the mix, but I certainly was hoping for a better surround use at times that certainly called for it. Overall this is a solid mix that will certainly please fans of the film. 6.5/10.

Extras

Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film (20:37) (SD)
Director and crew interviews regarding My Bloody Valentine and how it stood out among slasher films during it's time. This is certainly a very informative release for anyone interested in how the film came to be and the issues that came with production.

Deleted Scenes (HD)
Includes optional director and crew introductions in standard definition. Ten deleted scenes are included and presented in high-definition.

Bloodlines: An Interactive Horror Film Story
See many definitions used in horror genre now and certain examples.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10) (HD)
From a dirty print, but nonetheless in high-definition.

Also From Lionsgate (1:06) (HD)
A montage of clips from many different Lionsgate horror releases on Blu-ray.

Bookmarks
A place where all your bookmarks from the film are placed, making it easy to return to where you left off in the film.

There are not too many extras, but what is included is entertaining. I definitely enjoyed the featurette regarding the impact of My Bloody Valentine as well as the deleted scenes. Lionsgate also included both versions of the film, which I consider a nice bonus. 6.5/10.

Blu-news Summary
My Bloody Valentine is an 80's horror classic, there's really no denying it. The film definitely compares to other horror favorites including Halloween, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street and Black Christmas. While the film's plot isn't very unique, they did a great job with incorporating the holiday and making it scary.

The film's extended cut is certainly superior to me, there is a significant amount of gore that was cut from the theatrical release that adds quite a bit to the film. It's not a film to be taken seriously, it uses a plot that has been used over and over throughout the years, but it's the campy feel of the film that makes it stick out among the average horror flick.

If you have never seen the film I definitely think you will enjoy it, it's certainly a lot of fun to be had by all. By today's over the top kill standards, some scenes will definitely be cheesy, but I actually think some of the death scenes still hold up quite well.

The film is a fun and memorable horror classic, if you are a fan of the film you already know what to expect. If you are new to the film, definitely give it a chance before writing it off. 8.5/10.

The Blu-ray release is great, featuring a stunning high-def video presentation, decent audio, and a small but interesting set of features. The release is 'Highly Recommended' to fans of the film and 'Recommended' to those new to the film.

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Is Anybody There? Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 21.2 GB
Film Size: 18.8 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: A
Video
Is Anybody There? comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. The film has a rather murky subdued look to it, something that lends itself mostly to stylistic choices and time setting for the film. Colors for the film are very muted and the high-def release presents them nicely.

The film is actually fairly dark, with many lower lit scenes than a regular film. There were some scenes that were not appealing at all in high-definition, but I would definitely blame the actual source over the transfer in this situation. The transfer did not feature any technical issues during the presentation, and film grain is always present.

This release won't really impress most high-def fans, rather than please, but it's definitely more to do with the actual style of the movie. It's quite bland looking when compared to most films, but there is still upgrade in overall sharpness and detail to be had by this high-def effort. 7/10.

Audio
Magnolia Home Entertainment has included a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Like the film the audio mix is quite quiet but surround use is terrific. I have to admit, I was not expecting it to be very immersive at all.

Surround use definitely adds to the experience of the film, it may be light but it's still immersive. We get a sense of the home, the many people throughout the home and everything going on in the home.

Take a moment and turn down your music, television, etc and try to listen to another family member in the room next to you. Those little noises, some very random and some very distinct add to our environment. The mix also does this very well and we get a sense of a fairly active home with many people rather than bland lifeless scenes.

While the audio isn't exactly the type of demo material most would use for their friends, particularly since it's of a light and quiet nature, it's still very pleasing and much better than I expected considering the type of film that it is. 8.5/10.

Extras

Deleted Scenes (7:07) (SD)
Five deleted scenes are included and presented in standard definition.

Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray (7:13) (HD)
Includes trailers for:
The Answer Man
Food, Inc.
World's Greatest Dad
HDNet

Bookmarks
A place where all your bookmarks from the film are placed, making it easy to return to where you left off in the film.

BD-Live
Currently unavailable.

There are not many extras at all, with deleted scenes the only actual bonus feature I consider an actual extra. The trailers are nice for those who are interested in other Magnolia releases, but they also play prior to the menu. Bookmarks have become a pretty common and basic feature for Blu-ray releases, while BD-Live is unavailable at time of writing. 2/10.

Blu-news Summary
The film stars the fantastic Michael Caine and while I didn't love the movie I did enjoy it. The film is about a ten-year-old boy named Edward whose home also happens to be a retirement home run by his parents.

The poor kid lives quite the dull life, there's not too much excitement to come from this retirement home, but he does make a friend with a retired man named Clarence. The movie is mostly about their friendship, but also tries to add a bit more depth with a few more characters and issues on the side.

The film also involves issues with Edward's parents, with his mother and their struggles with the business and his father and his mid-life crisis. Other senior citizens in the home are also given very distinct personalities but ultimately add nothing to the film besides running time.

The film can get a bit cheesy and unrealistic at times, but I suppose it does add to it's charm. Not everything can be nor should be believable, just smile and accept it for what it is. The film has very sad moments as there is much struggle the characters face and have had to face, but ultimately the film is a pleasant experience. 7/10.

The Blu-ray release is about as good as it gets considering certain stylistic choices. Video is fairly average among high-def releases due to it's very strict palette and style. Audio is actually very surprising and immersive, while extras are disappointing.

Overall this release is 'Worth A Look,' although whether it be a purchase or a rental is ultimately up to you.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Cujo: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 20.1 GB
Film Size: 17.5 GB
Film Rating: R
Region: Free
Video
Cujo comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The film can look very strong at times, but it certainly has some weak scenes in comparison. Detail isn't always as strong as I would have liked, but in this case it's more than likely due to the lower production values of the film over any digital manipulation for the high-def release.

The picture is not razor sharp or filled with detail, but it never did. For a lower budget film celebrating it's 25th anniversary there's not much more one could expect from the film in high-definition. The level of detail varies from scene to scene and of course the lighting conditions, but nothing ever looked wrong with the film.

Right from the start you will notice the film is very grainy, something that I was very happy to see, as I definitely went in thinking there was a chance all grain would be removed. DNR is something I don't think many casual consumers understand, one of the complaints I got from someone who viewed Cujo's high-def presentation was 'sometimes the pictures looks really grainy' as if it were a bad thing.

While my friend has much to learn about the negative effects about DNR, he was certainly disappointed by the Blu-ray release. The print is not always very clean, but it's natural and looks better than I expected it to look in high-def considering the film's budget. It's not going to be ANYONE'S high-def demo material, but I don't see how the transfer itself could have been much better. 7/10.

Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for the release, and while it certainly sounds good overall I found the mix slightly unbalanced. Dialogue was generally as crisp and clear as one could expect and effects are well placed overall. The issue for me was when effects and dialogue were put in more intense scenes together, effects definitely became overpowering to the dialogue.

Despite it's flaws, the mix does have much to enjoy about it as well. The overall step up in clarity is easy to appreciate, and effects were well placed aside from the few volume issues. The track will please any fan of the film as it has never sounded better, but don't go in expecting miracles. 7/10.

Extras

Audio Commentary
with Director Lewis Teague.

Dog Days: The Making of Cujo (42:48) (SD)
Available in 3 part viewing or play all options. It features cast and crew interviews remembering the film, as well as interviews with the film's composer to Stephen King's biographer.

Also From Lionsgate (1:06) (HD)
A montage of clips from many different Lionsgate horror releases on Blu-ray.

Bookmarks
A place where all your bookmarks from the film are placed, making it easy to return to where you left off in the film.

For a '25th Anniversary Edition' release, extras are very underwhelming, but what is included is enjoyable and welcome. 3/10.

Blu-news Summary
Cujo is a film I have always liked but have not seen in a years. So now comes the 25th anniversary and we get a Blu-ray release, I was certainly excited to give the film a spin for the first time in high-definition.

Like a few films, Cujo doesn't stand the test of time as much as I would have hoped. I never considered the film a horror classic, but it certainly was more unique in nature and what Old Yeller could have been had they given the film a horror spin, kidding.

The film is still fun and it will certainly give younger kids a reason to be more afraid of big dogs than they already may be. The effects at times can be quite disappointing, but I did expect them to be considering the film was fairly lower budget when produced.

Cujo is a fun ride that doesn't hold up like I remembered, something that becomes more and more common when viewing many older horror favorites on Blu-ray. If you are a fan of the film though, there's still so much entertainment that comes from the movie. If you are new to the film, I definitely suggest giving it a chance rather than skipping. 7/10.

The Blu-ray release is slightly mediocre, but certainly pleasing when compared to the DVD release I own. Extras are also underwhelming, but at least we get something. Overall this Blu-ray release is 'Recommended' to fans of the film.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Santa Buddies Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 31.9 GB
Film Size: 24.9 GB
Film Rating: G
Region: A

Video
Santa Buddies comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The release is quite impressive, but I have never liked the softer look present when a talking dog is the focus of the scene. The softer look is placed to make the computer generated mouth movements not look as fake and blend in a bit better.

Colors are strong and vibrant like almost any high-def Disney release, and black levels are always solid. Texture of environments, clothing, and human facial details are always sharp and pleasing from beginning to end.

The biggest complaint about the high-def presentation isn't even fault of the Blu-ray transfer. There are quite a few computer generated effects, from icy environments to Santa's reindeer, and the Blu-ray brings out the low quality effects so much it's distracting.

Of course the release was intended for kids mostly, so I doubt they will pay attention too much to the effects or even care. The Blu-ray transfer appears to be free of any technical issues, the cheesy effects just don't translate well to high-def. 8/10.

Audio
A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included. The mix is quite front heavy, but it never feels too limited. Dialogue on this release is fantastic, always as crisp and clear as can be. The film's score is actually not too bad either and comes through beautifully.

We even get a special performance by Kaityln Maher who plays Tiny the dog. For those who don't know of her, she was a 4 year old contestant on America's Got Talent. No offense, but the kid has nothing but the cute factor going for her, because vocally she's certainly average among children.

The quality of the DTS-HD MA track is quite impressive, particularly when compared to the DVD release. Everything just gains a significant boost in overall quality, despite being a front heavy mix. For a straight to video release, the track is actually quite strong. 7.5/10.

Extras

Disc 1:


Sing Along (3:35) (HD)
Sing along to Christmas carols with the Buddies.

"Santa Clause Is Comin' To Town" Music Video (2:33) (HD)
Performed by Steve Rushton.

Disc 2:

DVD copy of the film.

There are not very many extras at all on this release, but being a straight to video release I didn't expect too much. It would have been neat if they included a behind-the-scenes featurette to show how they did certain things in the film. The DVD copy included is extremely smart, it seems Disney has learned their lesson since Space Buddies, which had minimal sales on the Blu-ray format. 4/10.

Blu-news Summary
By now it seems the Buddies have done everything! They have played basketball and soccer, they have been on a snow adventure, traveled to space, and now helped out Santa. There comes a time when enough is enough, but clearly sales have been strong enough to warrant more and more releases.

If you are reading the review this far, it's most likely you have children. The release is intended for kids only. I can't even say it's that great of a family film necessarily, as you may find it a struggle to get through if you are an adult. On the other hand it's possible you may find it cute, or have had to sit through even cheesier things.

If your children are fans of the Buddies they will certainly enjoy this film. Aside from the extra bad special effects, there really isn't much different from the previous films. The Buddies each have their own distinct personalities, perhaps a bit stereotyped to different types of children. The film also has quite a few notable actors including Christopher Lloyd.

If your kids did not like the previous Buddies films, this really won't help change their mind. If anything the release works as the perfect babysitter for 88 minutes of relaxation time. For a kids release it's actually not too terrible, I won't be so harsh on the film score as much as others will, especially since it's not intended for adults anyway. 6.5/10.

The Blu-ray release is strong, featuring nice video and audio. Extras are quite weak, but it could have been worse. Overall this release is 'For Kids Only.'

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