Friday, August 27, 2010

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 9.32 GB
Film Sizes: 4.45 GB/4.25 GB
Film Ratings: Not Rated
Release Date: September 7th, 2010
Region: ABC
The Video
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ and ‘The Mayflower Voyagers’ come to Blu-ray with 1080p VC-1 video presentations. The high-def encodes are small, but they get the job done nicely, and without technical issues I might add.

‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ is first. The video presentation looks quite good, although quite dated as well. The film features plenty of grain (which is a good thing), but also plenty of dirt and specks which pop up from time to time.

‘Mayflower Voyagers’ came years later and of course looks years better. The print is much cleaner and the animation looks much more recent. The presentation does feature dirt and specks on occasion as well, but not nearly as much.

Colors on both films are very nice, but they do stand out much more in ‘Mayflower Voyagers.’ The character outlines also get a significant boost in high-definition and they look much more natural and sharp compared to the DVD.

Overall I think both provide excellent high-def presentations considering the material. These are made for television specials, not even ‘feature’ films so I actually think they look much better than they could have.

I do hope one day that Warner properly can remove the remaining dirt and specks present, but I am glad they left the grain intact. Both specials are noticeable improvements from their DVD counterparts and ultimately do look quite good considering age. 8.5/10.

The Audio
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is the lossless and only audio option included for both specials. Optional subtitles include English (SDH) and French.

I am so incredibly happy that Warner has included a lossless mix, a big improvement from Blu-ray releases last year and hopefully this is a trend that continues with all future releases, regardless of the type of the content on Blu-ray.

The audio does sound significantly better, particularly dialogue. Dialogue has a nice level of clarity which just isn’t there on the DVD versions. Dialogue does have a few small issues with ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ in which it cracked a little. I did expect this so it wasn’t much of a surprise.

Both films are very front heavy, but expectantly so. There is some light surround use from time to time, notably from ‘Mayflower Voyagers’ but it is all very light and fitting, The music is also quite nice, although plays second to the dialogue/effects.

The mixes will sound very dated to those used to mainly new release animated films in which surround use is incredibly robust. Neither special stands out among lossless mixes whatsoever, but if you take age and source elements into consideration it is easier to appreciate them. I really don’t think they can get any better than they are now despite some disappointing aspects, the lossless tracks are an improvement. 7.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1: (Blu-ray Disc)


Mayflower Voyagers (HD)
I did include the video/audio portions in my review, considering this release is basically a double feature. The second TV special is technically a ‘bonus’, although it is a respectable TV special.

Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic (12:27) (SD)
I love this featurette. The voice cast and crew share their memories from working on the special as well as unique challenges that came with the production.

Disc 2: (DVD)

DVD copy of the film

The ‘Popcorn & Jellybeans’ feature is the only option under features on the Blu-ray disc, although technically ‘Mayflower Voyagers’ is a bonus as well included separately on the menu as well as in a play all option with ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.’

The addition of a DVD copy of the film is also a nice addition, making the price point a bit easier to accept. Like with the Blu-ray release of ‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,’ my favorite extra is the inclusion of a second TV special. 5/10.

The Films (TV Specials)
Both ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ and ‘The Mayflower Voyagers’ are included on this release. ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ first aired as a television special on CBS in 1973. ‘The Mayflower Voyagers’ is the first part of an eight-part mini-series called ‘This is America, Charlie Brown,’ which aired between 1988 and 1989.

I am a BIG fan of ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.’ Growing up it is something I watched every year in elementary school before Thanksgiving break and then again on Thanksgiving Day. The story is cute and fun like previous holiday specials ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

What I especially love about ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ is how well it has stood the test of time. Plenty of animated classics just don’t appeal to children like they used to, but I find that Charlie Brown always captivates even the newest and youngest of audiences to this very day.

‘The Mayflower Voyagers’ may be just part of an eight-part mini-series, but can definitely be enjoyed on its own as each part was a different American adventure, from NASA to the Transcontinental Railroad. The story is a cute and harmless story in which the Pilgrims (Including Charlie Brown and crew) first meet the Indians and share their first Thanksgiving together.

‘The Mayflower Voyagers’ is far less memorable than ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,’ but I suppose that is why it is more of a bonus instead of a major selling point on the packaging. Like ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ I am sure most of you have already seen ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.’ It is a classic and I love it. 10/10.

The Blu-news Summary
‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ is a classic TV special with a very good Blu-ray release. The video and audio presentations are true to the source, and while not perfect they do impress overall. The extras are lacking, but the second special and DVD copy are nice additions. Overall this Blu-ray release is easily ‘Recommended’ to all.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 9.55 GB
Film Sizes: 4.44 GB/4.30 GB
Film Ratings: Not Rated
Release Date: September 7th, 2010
Region: ABC
The Video
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ and ‘It’s Magic, Charlie Brown’ come to Blu-ray with 1080p VC-1 video presentations. Each film runs just under 25 minutes so it there isn’t very much content, or very big encodes.

However, I found the high-def encodes for both films to be quite good actually. Those familiar with the Blu-ray release of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ will know what to expect regarding the visual experience. The animation is definitely dated and it shows, but there is a high-def look present throughout that is hard to be disappointed by.

There are some who may wish the grain was scrubbed away as done with Disney classics on Blu-ray (which are done nicely by the way), but grain really isn’t so bad. I understand that grain can be more distracting in animated releases compared to live action films, but I would much rather have grain filled animated presentations than one altered by a negligent grain removal process.

Colors are extremely strong and look beautiful at all times. The character outlines as well as their surround environments are well outlined and look very natural in high-definition. Comparing the release to the included DVD was also very nice, the animation may be simple but you can still see a noticeable improvement between the two formats.

The films have aged, but overall I think the presentations are both extremely solid and even impressive at times. The Blu-ray release won’t necessarily amaze, but there is an improvement that cannot be denied. No, this does not compare to a new release animated title whatsoever, set your expectations accordingly (they aren't exactly new productions) and you will be very pleased. 8.5/10.

The Audio
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the lossless option for both films. A Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital track is also included. Optional subtitles include English (SDH), French and Spanish.

The mixes are very front heavy, but expectedly so. The films are older and I expected to be less impressed, particularly for ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.’ While the mix certainly sounds dated, the dialogue is given a significant boost and the clarity is nice.

The film’s music and effects do sound a bit less than desirable from time to time, with a bit of cracking and hissing that I noticed….however I actually expected more. The second special ‘it’s Magical Charlie Brown’ has a better audio mix, but being a later special it was no surprise.

Both mixes do the job nicely as a whole. The audio has its issues, but it can all be linked back to the source itself and not an issue with the mix. These animated specials don’t feature very much surround use, but I don’t think they were produced that way to begin with.

The audio experience is a good one and fans of the films will appreciate the upgrade that is had by the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. Comparing this release to the readily available Blu-ray release of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with only 5.1 Dolby Digital audio was even more appealing, and more disappointing (they really need to re-release ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ with lossless audio).

I definitely think the audio mixes included are about as good as it will get, they are dated and not everything is in superb condition, you can’t just magically alter it to sound amazing. The dialogue clarity though is very nice to hear and fans of the specials will appreciate the difference. 7.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1: (Blu-ray Disc)

'It's Magic, Charlie Brown' TV Special
I did include the video/audio portions in my review, considering this release is basically a double feature. The second TV special is technically a 'bonus', although it is a respectable TV special.

We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown (13:58) (SD)
This is a very entertaining and informative behind-the-scenes feature about the film. We hear great stories about the pressure put on the animators/writers in creating another blockbuster as well as changes and issues that happened during production.

Disc 2: (DVD)

DVD Copy of the film

The blockbuster feature is the only option under features on the Blu-ray disc, although technically 'It's Magic, Charlie Brown' is a bonus as well included separately on the menu as well as in a play all option with 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.'

The addition of a DVD copy of the film is also a nice addition, making the price point a bit easier to accept. I mostly enjoy the inclusion second TV special though. 5/10.

The Films (TV Specials)
Both ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ and ‘It’s Magic, Charlie Brown’ are included. ‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ first aired in 1966, as a television special for CBS. ‘It’s Magic, Charlie Brown’ first aired on CBS in 1981, so there were definitely more than a few years between each production.

‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ is the the highlight of the disc and I don’t think anyone could deny that. The story was a follow-up holiday special to the now infamous ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ so there was definitely some pressure to live up to expectations.

‘It’s Magic, Charlie Brown’ isn’t a bad film whatsoever either, but it just doesn’t have the charm that The Great Pumpkin has. It is the better of two delicious meal options, sometimes you can have both. But if you have to choose, you take the one that is just a bit more appealing.

Both can be enjoyed by audiences all ages, but it is The Great Pumpkin which has stood the test of time, becoming a Halloween classic for audiences new and old. The story is short but cute and the characters are just as lovable as ever, including the man himself, Mr. Charlie Brown.

Let’s face it, there is likely a 99.9% chance that you have seen ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.’ The special is extremely popular and airs on television on a yearly basis. Whether you have seen it on television, home video or even at a friend/family gathering, chances are good that you have seen it and made up your mind. You love it right? I certainly do! 10/10.

The Blu-news Summary
‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ and ‘It’s Magic, Charlie Brown’ are both very enjoyable specials which to this day appeal to both new and old audiences.

The Blu-ray release is good, featuring an accurate video presentation and dialogue clear audio mixes. The extras are lacking, but at least nothing is missing from a previous release. Overall the Blu-ray release is easily ‘Recommended’ to all.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monster House 3D Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 38.3 GB
Film Rating: PG
Region: ABC
The Video
Monster House 3D comes to Blu-ray 3D with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation, with both 2D and 3D viewing options.

Unfortunately at the time of review, I did not have a copy of the original Blu-ray release on hand to compare it to. However, I did find the 2D viewing mode to be very strong and likely the same viewing experience found on the original release.

The animation style looks good on Blu-ray, but the technology does seem fairly outdated in so little time. Regardless, the transfer was free of technical issues and presented everything accurately. I did have a DVD copy on hand to compare and the upgrade is incredibly clear.

The 3D viewing mode is fantastic and actually better than I anticipated. The film being older than other 3D titles on the format, I thought it would be far less impressive to be honest. However, this film is actually just as impressive as currently available releases.

Monster House’ is one of those films that were definitely made with 3D in mind and the made-for-3D moments are obvious regardless of viewing mode. From the opening title ‘Monster House’ to the house pulling in someone as they reach out towards the screen, it is all quite impressive.

The 3D effects are more in your face this time around, not like other films in which the 3D is more intended for a bit of added depth. Yes, there is added depth throughout this one as well, but those looking for things coming out at you will be very pleased by this release.

The only real issue I had with the release is that the film’s animation does look a bit outdate, making it look very cheap compared to animation today. The 3D pop is very strong and I found it much more impressive than Monsters vs. Aliens while comparing to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (which ultimately has a better high-def presentation, 3D effects aside).

Overall, 3D viewers will love this presentation, but those viewing in 2D will find better animated demo material on Blu-ray. 8/10.

The Audio
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio are the lossless tracks included. Also included is a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. Optional subtitles include English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

The film’s audio mix is fairly front heavy, but when a scene gets more exciting the mix gets more exciting. What I really liked about the DTS-HD Master Audio track is the impressive clarity and overall balance.

Dialogue is presented as crisp and clear as one could imagine and it truly sounds great. The film has plenty of audio effects throughout which also are surprisingly crisp and lifelike; the mix also has great direction.

The film’s music comes through clearly as well and balances nicely with the rest of the mix. Everything about the track impressed me. We definitely have heard better audio mixes on Blu-ray, but there is no denying that this is one impressive audio mix. Any viewer will be more than pleased by the high-def clarity. 8.5/10.

The Extras

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 3D Sneak Peek (1:32) (HD)

Open Season 3D Sneak Peek (1:30) (HD)

Audio Commentary
By the filmmakers.

Inside Monster House (24:40) (SD)
Imaginary Heroes
Beginner’s Luck
The Best of Friends
Lots of Dots
Black Box Theater
Making It Real
Did You Hear That?

Evolution of a Scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker (20:01) (SD)
Featurette
Story Reel Animatic
Performance Capture
Layout Stage
Animation
Final Film
Composite

The Art of Monster House (Image galleries)
Conceptual Art
People
Places & Things

Bookmarks
Save your favorite scenes and return to them later via the bookmarks feature.

BD-Live Portal
Download the latest trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures theatrical and Blu-ray releases.

The extras on this release are all ported over from the previous Blu-ray release and DVD release. There are many featuretes, available as separate and play all options under their categories. The featurettes are interesting, particularly the motion capture footage.

The audio commentary was confusing as there was not one specific person(s) on the track, I later found out it is a bunch of different interviews, etc. put together to make an audio commentary track. Lame. Commentary subtitles include English, Spanish and Portuguese.

There are also 3D sneak peeks for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 3D and Open Season 3D. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is already on Blu-ray (3D Review), Open Season 3D is expected closer to the Open Season 3 theatrical release. 6/10.

The Movie
Monster House, the 2006 film which I still feel is quite overlooked and under-appreciated is back on Blu-ray with a 3D viewing mode. The film didn’t appeal to everyone upon its release, particularly due to its scary story and alienating younger viewers in the process. The film was nominated for an Oscar, so it isn’t to say that the film was completely unrecognized though.

The film is actually very smart and very entertaining, one which is actually a great family film. If you have younger viewers who scare easily, then this one probably won’t be the best idea quite yet, but anyone over eight should be fine and likely enjoy the film despite scarier moments.

The film is directed by Gil Kenan and includes a fairly impressive cast of voices. Mitchel Musso voices lead character DJ, with a supporting cast that includes Sam Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Katharine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner and Fred Willard.

The movie’s story is far from perfect, but I really enjoyed the characters and the story overall. The film is very much like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘The Monster Squad’, and while not necessarily as good it is still incredibly enjoyable. I loved the mystery and adventure in the film, which ultimately make the film very enjoyable for adults as well.

The film experience in 3D is actually very fun and adds to the movie experience as a whole. The Blu-ray video quality with the impressive audio track added to the mix makes this one incredibly immersive experience.

Monster House is just a fun little adventure which does have some notable storyline flaws, but I still find myself very impressed by this animated title. Fans of the film will likely want to experience the movie in 3D, recreating the theatrical experience. New viewers to the film will likely be equally enchanted and surprised by Monster House in 3D. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Monster House 3D is fun movie which may be even more entertaining to the adults in the family then it is to the kids. The Blu-ray release features a good video presentation, an even better 3D experience, and an incredibly crisp audio mix.

The extras are all ported over from the previous Blu-ray and DVD release which is great. A DVD copy would have been a nice addition, but likely not an issue for those with 3D setups already/fans of the film. Overall the Blu-ray 3D release is ‘A Must Own’ for those with a 3D setup, ‘Highly Recommended’ to fans and easily ‘Recommended’ to everyone else.

Additional Screenshots: (From the Blu-ray 3D Disc)

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 8.17 GB
Film Size: 7.65 GB
Film Rating: Not Rated
Region: ABC
The Video
Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. I didn’t really have set expectations when going in, so I was quite surprised by quality of the Blu-ray release. The film looks quite beautiful in high-definition.

Colors are visually striking and leap off the screen, the film’s animation style also lends itself well to high-definition and gives a surprising amount of depth. Black levels are extremely solid throughout as well.

The animation is quite decent for a straight-to-video film. There is some slight banding throughout, but this has been an issue that doesn’t bug me too much with the type of animation. We have seen it with practically every Warner Bros. DC Comics release and we see it here on occasion.

Comparing the Blu-ray release to the DVD was also nice. The quality difference is significant and viewers will notice that right from the start. Blu-ray is all about upgrade and this is one strong example of that. While the transfer isn’t perfect, there was nothing very disappointing to mention. 8/10.

The Audio
English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital audio tracks are included. Optional subtitles include English (SDH), Castellan and Spanish (also available for the special feature).

I was disappointed to see the release only included Dolby Digital audio; this is Blu-ray not DVD. Regardless, I didn’t go in prejudging the track despite my disappointment, the result is fairly positive. The film isn’t one which demands for very much surround use; in fact it is fairly minimal.

Dialogue (when presented) is very clear and does have a nice oomph to it, likely because of the way it was recorded. The film’s audio effects take place mostly within the front left and right speakers, but they did sound pretty decent.

Animated titles perhaps aren’t as demanding as live action titles when it comes to audio, but it still would have been nice to have a DTS-HD Master Audio track included. Blu-news.com has a rule in which any lossy track cannot get more than a 5/10 simply because it is lossy, however this track isn’t half bad for a simple animated release. 5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1 (Blu-ray Disc):


How to Draw Tom and Jerry (7:21) (SD)
Spike Brandt of Warner Bros. Animation shows us to draw Tom and Jerry. Exciting right?

Disc 2 (DVD):

DVD copy of the film

Digital Copy of the film
Compatible with Windows Media only.

The extras are incredibly lacking, but it is nice that a DVD copy is included for a children’s film. Aside from the ‘how to’ there really is nothing to be found. In this case though, a DVD copy was a smart addition as this is a new release, it will help those on the fence go with the Blu-ray edition. 1/10.

The Movie
Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes is a film I really had no idea about until it showed up at my doorstep. I didn’t recall a news announcement; cover art release or trailer for that matter. I quickly checked my Warner Bros. product release resource and found that the title was indeed announced.

I was always a mild fan of Tom and Jerry, sure they were entertaining when I was younger, but I always thought there were better cartoons out there. This film was totally unexpected (straight-to-video) and years since the original cartoon, needless to say I went in with fairly low expectations.

So did I like Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes? Sure, but there really isn’t anything special about it. The film is very short, with a runtime just under 50 minutes. The story is cute for younger audiences and will certainly keep them entertained….but don’t expect much substance.

I will say that the film could have been much worse; I also thought that the Sherlock Holmes take was a fairly fun idea for the movie, which includes some other familiar faces. Ultimately I think the movie is just a bit too short and would have benefited from a longer story and better character development.

The film is harmless fun for kids and I am sure most kids will enjoy the movie very much. The runtime is the biggest issue I have with the content really. This is something that will be great for those with shorter attention spans and disappointing for parents who hope it will give them even an hour of a break from their children. Cute movie, just wish it was longer. 7/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes is a cute film that is strictly intended for younger audiences. The Blu-ray release features a strong video presentation and satisfying audio mix. The extras are lacking, but the addition of a DVD copy is great for this type of content. Overall the Blu-ray release is ‘Worth a Look’ for those with children.

Additional Screenshots:

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Escape from New York Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 31.4 GB
Film Size: 31.0 GB
Film Rating: R
Region: A
The Video
Escape from New York comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentation. The film is certainly a mixed bag, however having seen a UK import of ‘Escape from New York’ on Blu-ray this is certainly a welcome upgrade.

The U.S. Blu-ray release while far from perfect either at least features a high-def look throughout. The film is dark and at times muddy looking; however the Blu-ray presentation does seem to present everything accurately.

The Blu-ray encode itself is actually very healthy and free of any actual tech-related issues. Unfortunately the film’s look makes it hard for the Blu-ray release to ever really impress. Detail levels certainly aren’t as strong as I would have hoped, but there is no denying that this is the best the movie has ever looked.

Grain is thankfully present throughout and colors look natural and appealing. Black levels are generally solid, although there are a few scenes in which I wish they were just a bit inkier. Overall I do think the film looks pretty good in high-definition, the source limits this one from standing out among catalog releases however.

The Blu-ray release is a clear upgrade compared to the DVD version as well as the available U.K. import and I am happy for that. At the end of the day, I think Fox did a great job with the transfer. Could it been better? Perhaps, if touched up a little (and properly). That being said, this is one movie that will never make for demo material. 7/10.

The Audio
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is the lossless track included. Also included is an English Dolby Surround track and French 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Optional subtitles include English (SDH) and Spanish.

The audio mix is certainly far more front heavy, but I expected it somewhat. The audio actually does sound quite good through. Dialogue is presented front and center and sounds crisp and easy to understand for the most part (there were just a few moments which were a bit muddier).

The film’s audio effects usually come through the front left and right speakers, but they also have a decent oomph to them (certain audio effects themselves are just a bit cheesy though). The film’s retro style music comes through clearly as well.

While I did say the mix is quite front heavy, there are some nice surround use moments throughout. When surround use is present, the mix features fantastic direction as audio effects travel throughout. Smaller details to the environments are also present through the surround speakers.

Overall the audio mix is a very solid one. I wasn’t always amazed, but it certainly was better than I expected. Fans of the film and audiophiles in general will find the audio mix included to be very pleasing for a catalog release. 7.5/10.

The Extras

Disc 1 (Blu-ray disc):

No extras are included on the Blu-ray disc.

Disc 2 (DVD):

DVD copy of the film

Theatrical Trailer (SD)

The Blu-ray disc itself does not include any extras, which is extremely disappointing. A DVD copy is included to make up for the lack of extras, but is almost as big of a fail, including only a theatrical trailer.

I do have some information regarding this release though and why extras are not included. The film’s encode was created in the first half of 2009, as well as menus, etc. When the disc itself was pressed I am not sure, however I do know that this disc has been prepped for quite some time.

Regardless, that is not an excuse for a lazy port. But it does make it easier to understand as many Fox/MGM releases have been released as featureless discs in the past couple of years on Blu-ray. Had the disc been prepared now, surely we would have seen features included. Oh well, this one is unfortunately not one of those.

I will give the extras a small score boost, simply for including a DVD with at least the theatrical trailer. 0.5/10.

The Movie
Escape from New York is directed by John Carpenter and stars Kurt Russell as lead character Snake Plissken. At the time of theatrical release (1981), the film was a futuristic adventure about the year 1998 in which crime-rates increased nearly 400% and criminals were contained on Manhattan Island with no way of getting out.

The film’s story begins when Air Force One is hijacked causing the plane to crash in Manhattan Island and killing almost everyone. The President of the United States is a survivor and is held hostage. This causes the police to recruit Snake Plissken to rescue the President of the United States, in doing so he would be pardoned and be a free man….however if he fails to rescue the President within 24 hours he will die.

To those who have not seen the film, the overall story may sound a bit familiar as the crime-infested city theme has been reused for some recent films (Including Doomsday). That being said, Escape from New York is certainly a better effort.

The film is fun and despite being lower budget, I actually like it very much. The sequel, Escape from L.A., is bigger in every aspect, however that doesn’t make it any better than Escape from New York. The film definitely feels dated, but there is still plenty to enjoy about Escape from New York. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
Escape from New York is a fun action/adventure film which is still incredibly enjoyable. The Blu-ray release is pretty good, featuring a respectable video presentation and pleasing audio mix. The extras (or lack thereof) are extremely upsetting and make this release a bit less desirable. Overall the Blu-ray release is still ‘Recommended’ to fans of the film, but only at a great price.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

National Lampoon's European Vacation Blu-ray Review

Disc Size: 18.4 GB
Film Size: 18.2 GB
Film Rating: PG-13
Region: ABC
The Video
National Lampoon’s European Vacation comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 video presentation. The film doesn’t look particularly amazing on Blu-ray, but there is upgrade to be had, although not always as much as with National Lampoon’s Vacation.

This time the film looks a bit more dated, colors a bit more subdued but fine. The level of detail is nice throughout, but there are sequences which look fairly bland and undefined. The film’s grain is all here and luckily no DNR or edge enhancement has been included for the release.

Comparing the Blu-ray release to the DVD was interesting. Some scenes did not feature that much of an upgrade to be honest, while other scenes had a very clear difference. The film definitely looks very dated in high-definition, but then again the film always has looked dated.

The transfer was free of any technical issues; the issues were really with the source itself. Before release, I imagined the film would not look very good in high-definition and while I wouldn’t say it looks bad, it doesn’t stand out compared to your average catalog release.

Ultimately this is a hard transfer to judge. The video presentation isn’t entirely appealing, but certainly respectable. The high-def encode itself didn’t have any issues and maybe we have to accept that the film really won’t look much better than it does now. Perhaps a slight clean up would have been appropriate, but even then I don’t think it would have made for a drastic difference whatsoever.

Ultimately National Lampoon’s European Vacation looks fine on Blu-ray. I can’t say I was ever amazed, but there are some good looking moments throughout and does provide a pretty decent upgrade from the previous DVD release, especially when compared on my high-def projector. 7/10.

The Audio
An English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is the lossless option included. French, German, Castellano and Spanish 1.0 Dolby Digital audio tracks are also included. English (SDH), French, German (SDH), Castellano, Spanish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitle options are included.

The audio is luckily uncompressed, but unfortunately doesn’t do much for this very dated audio track. Dialogue is perhaps the most disappointing aspect. While dialogue is generally easy to understand it does sound quite flat and lifeless overall.

The film’s music and effects are a bit more impressive. Everything goes on front and center, but for the most part everything was quite easy to understand, I just had issues with dialogue sounding quite muddy from time to time.

The audio is what it is; I don’t think much could/can be done to help improve what is included on the Blu-ray release. Yes it sounds incredibly dated, but perhaps this is as good as it gets for the comedy. Overall the mix gets the job done, but don’t go in expecting to be impressed whatsoever by this comedy. 6/10.

The Extras

Audio Commentary
By Chevy Chase.

An audio commentary is the only extra included on this Blu-ray release. The commentary while decent is far less entertaining than the one found on the first Vacation film. I do wish new extras were included, but this was a just a random catalog release after all. 1/10.

The Movie
The Griswolds are back on another wacky vacation, this time in Europe in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The film comes two years after the original Vacation film and both Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles, but the kids have been replaced (I actually like the switch).

Also new to the series is Director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, Look Who’s Talking). The screenplay is once again written by the late John Hughes. The film starts off with the Griswold family participating in a game show called ‘A Pig in a Poke’ as they attempt to win the grand prize. I find the opening sequence to be one of my favorites from the Vacation films.

The European Vacation isn’t as widely loved as the original Vacation film, but I certainly loved it. Yes, the humor doesn’t always work and many scenes could have been much funnier, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had by this second outing.

As I said, the humor mostly delivers, but there just are times when it was plain dumb or underwhelming. The dream sequences while on the plane for instance, I also thought Ellen Griswold’s reaction in the hotel bathtub scene was entirely underwhelming. The anticipation of her realizing who was in the bathroom was great, but her reaction when she realizes could have been much funnier.

Despite the film’s shortcomings compared to the original, there is also plenty to love about the movie. The kids I actually enjoyed more this time around, I especially loved Audrey Griswold (Played by the late Dana Hill) and her overemotional/clinger personality.

The film while not as great as the original is certainly enjoyable for what it is. The film is loved by many and I think most that enjoyed the original will also like European Vacation. The movie may not be as relatable to U.S. audiences as the original Vacation film, but I still think this is one super fun and wacky adventure. 8/10.

The Blu-news Summary
National Lampoon’s European Vacation is a fun follow-up to the first Vacation film, the Blu-ray release features a satisfying video presentation and decent audio tracks. Extras are once again lacking, but they always have been unfortunately. Overall the Blu-ray is ‘Recommended’ to fans of the film who can find it for a low price and ‘Worth a Look’ to all others.

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