It's another stellar Blu-ray week with the release of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.), Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds (Paramount Home Ent.) and Joe Johnston's re-imagined The Wolfman (Universal Studios Home Ent.).
Alice looks even more stunning in 2-D at home (1.78:1 1080p AVC encode) than in 3-D in the theater, benefitting greatly from most of the movie being shot on video. The contrast between drab and colorful Underland is all the more apparent. Plus there's marvelous depth as well. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio offers some immersive sonic delights.
As Ken Ralston, Sony Imageworks' senior visual effects supervisor, points out, "Everything is designed very specifically, and as we started to figure out what all the different characters were and what we could do to make them interesting and maintain as much of our actors in the shots as we could, we wanted to blend them into this CG world. And with our animated characters, we walked a tightrope to keep it feeling like it's all happening immediately."
Animated characters such as the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Blue Caterpillar, Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky stand out among the "hodgepodge of tricks," including shooting large heads with the Dalsa Evolution camera and digitally enlarging Johnny Depp's eyes to enhance the look of the Mad Hatter.
Bonus features include:
- Finding Alice: this featurette includes Tim Burton's vision for the characters, differences from the book and Disney's version of Alice and how she evolves as both a character and actor as she takes an adventure through Wonderland.
- The Mad Hatter: audiences are provided with a deeper look into the world of the Mad Hatter. Check out Johnny Depp's early sketches, make-up, costumes and how they digitally enhanced his eyes.
- Effecting Wonderland: a behind-the-scenes piece on the different technologies used to create some of the most beloved characters in the film -- Stayne, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Bandersnatch and the Red Queen.
- The Futterwacken Dance: Futterwhat? Check out the making of the timeless dance called the Futterwacken (BD-exclusive).
- The Red Queen: the creation of the Red Queen from start to finish, including early Burton sketches showcasing costume designs, make-up and digital effects (BD-exclusive).
- Time-Lapse – Sculpting the Red Queen: a short time-lapse piece showing Helena Bonham Carter as she gets her make-up done. A three-hour process can be watched in just a few short minutes (BD-exclusive).
- The White Queen: an interview with Anne Hathaway, who plays Wonderland's good queen, about her character's journey throughout the process of the film (BD-exclusive). Scoring Wonderland: composer Danny Elfman and Burton discuss the music for the movie (BD-exclusive).
- Stunts of Wonderland: a featurette highlighting some of the biggest stunts in the film (BD-exclusive).
- Making the Proper Size: an inside look at the visual effects process of growing and shrinking Alice. See how filmmakers used different techniques to stay true to the storyline (BD-exclusive).
- Cakes of Wonderland: take a trip to "Cake Divas" where the creators of the EAT ME cakes provide viewers with details about how they made the smallest crumb to the largest cake in scale (BD-exclusive).
- Tea Party Props: tea cups, saucers, cakes and more. Prop master Doug Harlocker gives an overview of all the props used to bring the famous tea party scene together visually (BD-exclusive).
War of the Worlds joins the recently released Blu-rays of Minority Report and Saving Private Ryan (also from PHE) in providing a more adult kind of Spielberg HD eye and ear candy (1.85:1 1080p AVC encode; 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio): visually gritty in conveying humanity's fight for survival a family in crisis coming together. ILM's vfx is crucial under the supervision of Dennis Muren and Pablo Helman.
In keeping with Spielberg's reliance on realism, CG shots were kept to a minimum and had to seamlessly blend in with the live-action footage, which included lots of sets and models but no motion control work. The vfx shots of dust and broken glass occur behind smoke, ambience and camerawork. Taking their cues from Saving Private Ryan and Spielberg's directive that the entire movie be told from Tom Cruise's POV, the vfx crew was also limited in its reliance on blue or greenscreen work.
"This meant the camera setups and the feel were much more organic than the futuristic trappings associated with the genre." Muren explains. "This was a combat situation and we were trying to give it a feeling of dirt and chaos and to keep it intimately tied to Tom's character. It was tempting to look over his shoulder and see what was going on over the hill, so to speak, but Steven was adamant that we keep real and mysterious, which was much harder than the usual effects movie."
The BD carries over all the contents from the two-disc limited edition DVD.
Bonus features include:
- Revisiting the Invasion
- The H.G. Wells Legacy
- Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds
- Characters: The Family Unit
- Production Diaries
- Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens
- Scoring War of the Worlds
- We Are Not Alone
- Theatrical teaser trailer (in HD)
The Wolfman , starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, offers both the theatrical cut and an unrated one on BD (16 minutes longer and with more narrative bite in the first half). Overall, its restrained, gothic look is gorgeous and the sound is robust (1.85:1 1080p AVC encode; 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio).
MPC worked on fully animated Wolfman scenes, three gruesome transformations, all CG London rooftop scenes, enhancement of live-action Wolfman shots and the climactic waterfall environment.
Rhythm & Hues was called on for 150 shots, including some last minute adjustments; namely, having the Wolfman go from biped to quadruped.
Double Negative worked on 350 shots spread across multiple scenes, including the opening and the ending shots of the film, creating the iconic moon that is central to the theme, as well as some hallucination scenes. Much of the work, though, involved creating Talbot Hall.
Bonus features include:
- Take Control: Special Makeup Artist Rick Baker, Visual Effects Producer Karen Murphy-Mundell and Director of Photography Shelly Johnson take control of the viewing experience in this unique feature, offering a personal visual commentary by engaging with select scenes of the film to reveal details of the filmmaking process.
- Werewolf Legacy, Lore and Legend: This documentary gives viewers a visual tour through more than seventy years of Universal's Wolf Man films and thousands of years of werewolf mythology.
- Two alternate endings not seen in theaters
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Return of The Wolfman: This featurette will look at how the cast and crew behind this new retelling have tapped into the tragic roots of legend and cinematic lore to unleash a new terror for today's audience.
- The Beast Maker: A detailed look at how make-up wizard Baker transformed a classic monster into a modern nightmare!
- Transformation Secrets: Whether transforming werewolves, producing hallucinogenic nightmares or recreating the fog-covered streets of Victorian London, this featurette will look at how the visual effects team has created a haunting world of moonlit monsters and unsettling thrills.
- The Wolfman Unleashed: The team behind the stunt and action units share the physical challenges of bringing the Wolfman to life and creating a series of intense and action-oriented set pieces.
- BD-Live, pocket BLU app and UniversalHiDef.com:
- The first ever online streaming of the original 1941 classic The Wolf Man
- pocket BLU app: USHE's pocket BLU app uses iPhone, iPod touch, Blackberry, Android, PC and Macintosh to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray player and offers advanced features such as:
- Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live functions with ease.
- Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the movie.
- Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there's a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy exclusive content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
- Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU app-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray Hi-Def. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
- Keyboard: Enter data into a Blu-ray player with your device's easy and intuitive keyboard that will facilitate such Blu-ray features as chatting with friends and sending messages.
- social BLU: Connect with friends on your favorite social networks to share information about your favorite movies, enjoy Blu-ray community features and more.