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Article Type: Review

Blogs Blu-ray: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

Those damn, dirty apes look quite amazing in this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 Blu-ray. This is certainly one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year. The picture quality is crystal clear adding great depth and detail. Weta's CG apes really stand out from fur to skin textures to their realistic looking eyes. The color palette is natural and clean with black levels inky throughout. There is a light film grain that runs through the picture, which does not increase during night scenes. Crush in those night scenes is also nonexistent. As for compression issues and other digital artifacts, they are completely absent.

Blogs DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (2011) (***1/2)

What I love about so many Chinese historical epics is how they blend history and myth. Now famed director Hark Tsui, who created the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series, brings the real life story of Chinese historical icons Detective Dee and Empress Wu to the screen in a big budget, vfx-driven spectacle that includes spontaneous human combustion, high flying kung fu and a talking deer.

Blogs Blu-ray: DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (2011)

This transfer of Hark Tsui's epic fantasy is gorgeous. The MPEG-4 AVC Blu-ray has colors so rich that they actually took me aback, especially in the film's elaborate vfx sequences. Because of the detailed clarity, some of the wide matte-painted backgrounds look strikingly realistic. It shows off the impressive quality of Korean vfx firm AZ Works and their partners' work. The rich golds and reds of lavish costuming pop and the detail even reveals threads. When the film descends into the underground Phantom City, the contrast of shadow is represented nicely without any noticeable crush. Grain is practically nonexistent in daylight scenes, but does creep up in lower lit sequences. Digital anomalies like banding, aliasing or pixelization were not evident to me.

Blogs On The Road to SIGGRAPH ASIA 2011

By Dan Sarto | Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 8:10pm

18 hours in planes, 8 hours in airports, 2 hours in shuttles, all in the quest for a chance to meet some of Asia’s brightest computer graphic technologists and to once again eat roast pork overlooking the majestic Hong Kong harbor. A worthy goal, I must say.

Blogs YOUNG ADULT (2011) (***1/2)

Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody last collaborated on the Oscar nominated JUNO. Cody won the Oscar for her screenplay, her first produced script. Some thought she was a one hit wonder following her entertaining, but not all that original, horror flick JENNIFER’S BODY. YOUNG ADULT proves them wrong.

Blogs TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (2011) (***1/2)

Tomas Alfredson, who directed the wonderful Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, adapts John le Carre's classic spy novel into a slow burn thriller. His film is as laconic as his central character, played with great reserve by Gary Oldman. From its Cold War setting to its visual style, the film at times conjures up memories of Hitchcock's latter day thrillers.

Blogs CTN-X: A Student's Perspective

By Dan Sarto | Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 2:00pm

CTNX is for the young and hungry, boasting a crowd of current students and the recently graduated, who are looking at an angle into their beloved, but notoriously tough, contemporary animation industry. There’s no doubt the event will keep on drawing in professionals, studios, and students, but it remains to be seen whether it can live up to high expectations. Seeing young talent engage with their idols, and feeling their way into a field they are clearly passionate about, is where CTN truly shines.

Blogs THE ARTIST (2011) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 11:11pm

Michel Hazanavicius' effortlessly charming dramedy is really like discovering a lost film from the silent age. The director of the popular French OSS 117 spy spoof series recreates every aspect of a black and white silent film of the 1920s. From the classic 1.37:1 aspect ratio to the title cards to the dramatic pitch, he gets all the details right. His performers nail the acting style, which is a key to the film's success. But it's not just a gimmick. It's a reminder that sometimes words get in the way of visual storytelling.

Blogs Blu-ray: ANOTHER EARTH (2011)

Your appreciation of this AVC transfer relies heavily on knowing the source of this indie sci-fi drama. Filmed with a 720p camera on a next to nothing budget, the picture contains a great deal of grain that increases exponentially under low lighting conditions. One scene in the snow at night really highlights its digital origins. Banding and aliasing often creep up in higher contrasted scenes. Color are muted and natural, which fits the cool mood. But when compared to the DVD version, clarity is greatly increased with the grain issue minimized. All things considered this 1080p release is about as good as this material can look.

Blogs HUGO (2011) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 6:13pm

What could a 3-D family film from Martin Scorsese be like? With HUGO now as an example, the answer is magical. And it's a magic that Scorsese is best suited to bring to life — the magic of the movies. At one point, a young boy visits a movie studio and the director leans down to him and tells him if he's ever wondered where his dreams come from this is where they are made.

Blogs Perry’s Previews: Happy Feet 2

By Perry Chen | Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 3:06pm

I found quite a few flaws in this film, although they are mostly on the scientific side. First of all, male elephant seals do not stay with and care for their young. Also, puffins, which live in the Arctic, cannot fly the great distance to Antarctica (which is about 22,000 miles away). Puffins are not built for flying long distances and are better adapted for swimming.

Blogs A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011) (***1/2)

David Cronenberg is not director shy in exploring the strangeness of sexuality. So it seems obvious that he would tackle psychoanalysis pioneers Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Based on Christopher Hampton's screenplay adaptation of John Kerr's book, the conflict between Freud and Jung centers around their relationship with patient / future psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein, who will challenge their thoughts on repression.

Blogs THE MUPPETS (2011) (***)

Jason Segel has made his love letter to the Muppets. This nostalgic comedy is clearly made by fans. It takes some vibe from the TV series and some from the features. While it might not have the spark of the original MUPPET MOVIE or the very best of THE MUPPET SHOW, it respects those origins and presents a heartfelt film for a cynical world.

Blogs THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 (2011) (**)

By Rick DeMott | Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 11:37am

This is a movie for fans. While I haven't read the books it feels like every detail is here, because it's a slog to move through. If you don't care about these characters going in, it's not really going to change your opinion. For non-fans it really is like getting invited to a stranger's wedding.

Blogs HAPPY FEET TWO (2011) (**)

If George Miller's original dancing and singing penguins film has a happy surprise than its sequel is the opposite — nothing about it is surprising. The story borrows a little from the original and attaches it to a familiar family/action plot. The first incorporated popular songs into the fabric of its world and the characters, while the songs here are uninspired, obvious or just not that good. Not even two krill that sound a lot like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon can save the day.

Blogs IMMORTALS (2011) (***)

Tarsem Singh brings his unique visual style from his previous films THE CELL and THE FALL to this Greek myth epic. Within his surreal CG landscapes and strange, but beautiful, costumes, he gives us a classic hero and a maniacal villain. These elements worked for me. If you allow the simple man vs. man story and the visuals to sweep you along, you will find enjoyment in this 300-inspired actioner.

Blogs J. EDGAR (2011) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 10:45pm

Interwoven throughout Clint Eastwood's biopic of J. Edgar Hoover is Hoover dictating his "Untitled FBI Story" to a series of young agents. One agent asks if the story of Hoover and the FBI can be separated. It's hard to say because for better or worse Hoover was the FBI for most of its existence. He became the Bureau's head in 1924 and stayed there through eight presidents. He asks another agent who the most famous man in the world is and the agent replies, "You, sir."

Blogs MELANCHOLIA (2011) (***1/2)

Depression is an oppressive force. It filters all light through murky waters that the sufferer is drowning in. Lars von Trier finds a metaphor for it that seems so obvious and yet it comes off ingenious. A mysterious planet is headed for a collision course toward Earth. That's a big weight on your shoulders.

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