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Article Type: Review

Comedy Blogs

Blu-ray: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011)

I've been reading a lot of reviews of this Blu-ray release hating the darkness of it, but then saying that it's part of the film. When reviewing the quality of a transfer the only thing to really take into account is the intent of the filmmakers and has that been brought to the home entertainment experience. With Disney's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer of the fourth PIRATES film, they have done this masterfully. Yes, some of the early scenes are dark and mysterious, but that was director Rob Marshall and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski point. Even in the darkness you can relish in the inky blacks and remarkable detail. It has been described as smoky, which is true, but nothing is lost. When the film sails into the day, the details jump from the screen in the clothing and sets. The color palette is muted, but uber natural, which provides some of the visual awe. Digital anomalies are minimal. There is some faint digital fuzziness in the darker scenes and edge enhancement ringing can be found if you're looking for it.

Animation Blogs

BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2011) (***)

Despite having the superhero in the title, this animated feature seems less like the Dark Knight’s story and more like that of James Gordon, who at this time is new to the Gotham police department. Based on what is hailed as a seminal comic series from writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli, the transition from the page to the screen is faithful, but also highlights the differences between mediums.

Blogs

Blu-ray: BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2011)

Visually this is one of the better looking DC Direct animated titles. The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer contains a muted color palette that sets the somber mood. Neon signs pop, while not creating digital interference. Banding issues that have been on all of the DC Direct titles are reduced and are only visible if you're really looking for them. The 2D animation is cleanly presented, but the integration of cel-painted CG does stick out because of the sharpest (and movement). Other digital problems are minor and like I said of the banding, you really have to be looking for it.

Blogs

Blu-ray: THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)

Certainly one of the very best films of the year, now is one of the very best Blu-ray releases of 2011. Fox's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer captures every nuance of Emmanuel Lubezki's poetic cinematography. Shot in both 35 and 65mm, the picture has the filmic grain expected for a film that was made with natural light. The noise, however, is light and never dampens details. Colors are are a heightened natural feel, almost painterly. Blacks are deep and rich. The big bang sequence shines with an even richer color palette. The lava explosions glow with rich reds. The CG dinosaurs blend perfectly into the soulful imagery. Digital issues are non-existent.

Production Blogs

Paradigm Shifting at the VES Production Summit

By Dan Sarto | Friday, October 7, 2011 at 4:24pm

Last Saturday the VES hosted its third annual Production Summit, this time at the quaint Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Despite all about VES 2.0 and the Bill of Rights to help facilitate quality of life improvements for artists and VFX companies, the purpose was to address the paradigm shift going on and to discuss better biz practices.

Blogs

THE IDES OF MARCH (2011) (***1/2)

It’s not surprising that George Clooney would make a political film. What might be surprising is how cynical the film is about our political process. For sure Clooney works in liberal ideas, but it’s not the point. His character just happens to be a Democrat. The political policies his character talks about easily be switched to the other side and it wouldn’t change the central theme, which is that politics is completely compromised with flawed humans looking out for themselves.

Comedy Blogs

THE LION KING (1994) (****)

From the moment the sun rises over the savanna and we hear the African chant, THE LION KING grips the audience's attention. Combining fable with Greek tragedy, this film has a serious undertone that many Disney animated features do not have. The studio dealt with the death of a parent before, but not like this. This is a world with real consequences, which is the basis to all classic children's tales and what makes this film not just for the kids.

Comedy Blogs

Blu-ray: THE LION KING (1994)

This 1080p/AVC-encoded Blu-ray is about as good as it gets. On it's picture and audio alone, it's one of the must-own Blu-rays of the year. From the first moment when the sun rises over the savanna, the richness of color is impressive. Black levels are solid as well. Details really make the artistry of the animation stand out. During the wildebeest stampede, nothing gets lost in the chaos as dust swirls around the air. The fires at the end with their striking reds, yellows and oranges make a powerful impact. The presentation is clean from both dust and digital anomalies.

Blogs

Blu-ray: DUMBO (1941)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 5:09pm

This restoration of the Disney classic is brought to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer exquisitely. Unlike some restorations, this one doesn't turn the hand drawn feature into something that looks like TV animation. The subtleties remain, especially in the watercolor backgrounds, where the artists' touch really pops in hi-def. Color is a huge element in this film and the range is kept under control in that nothing seems unnaturally bright. Black levels are inky. Digital anomalies are absent from the release as far as I saw, but others have pointed out some ringing.

Comedy Blogs

50/50 (2011) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 1:10am

A 27-year-old man is out jogging early in the morning. He stops for a traffic light. There are no cars in sight. Another runner races past him and crosses the intersection against the hand. The young man waits. He doesn’t drive or smoke or drink. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would get a rare form of spine cancer.

Blogs

TAKE SHELTER (2011) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:43am

What if you couldn’t trust your own thoughts? Curtis begins to believe this might be the case. He is starting to have dreams so vivid that he doesn’t know what is real and what was just in his head. Mental illness runs in his family. He seeks help, but is it enough to make him aware of the line between reality and his delusions?

Blogs

Ottawa 2011 – And So It Begins…Again

By Dan Sarto | Friday, September 23, 2011 at 7:26am

I know it must be Ottawa Animation Festival time because it’s been roughly a year since my last verbal manhandling by an airport customs agent. Happy Anniversary! I seem to be a magnet for every disaffected flak vested agent looking to brush up on their 12-step time mismanagement drill.

Comedy Blogs

MONEYBALL (2011) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 5:29pm

How can you not be romantic about baseball? That's what Brad Pitt's Billy Beane says in this great baseball movie, which is more about the business of baseball than the game. And that said the film still does stir the desire to grab some peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack and head out to the ole ball game.

Comedy Blogs

DUMBO (1941) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 9:29am

The economy of storytelling is the most impressive element of this slight animated feature. Following the poor performances of PINOCCHIO, BAMBI and FANTASIA, the lavish production values were toned down. Less spectacle but not less character. This story of an elephant with jumbo ears fills the big top with emotion in only 64 minutes.

Blogs

Review: ANIMATORS How Did You Do That?

By Dan Sarto | Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 8:03am

If you have ever watched an animated film and wondered “How did they do that?” then Tobias Wengert’s ANIMATORS how did they do that? is the book for you. Wengert has transcribed in print his conversations with twelve diverse members of the Stuttgart, Germany animation community who reveal the secret techniques behind the magical images they create.

Blogs

DRIVE (2011) (****)

Albert Brooks' character was once a movie producer. He describes his films as action-filled and sexy. Once a critic described them as European, he says. I'd call this intense actioner European as well, but not for the same reasons. The action is precisely planned in bursts in an otherwise quiet film. The tone never shifts but depending on what is going on it can be ominous or romantic. It's artful and bloody. It's visceral and elegant.

Blogs

INCENDIES (2011) (****)

What if upon your mother's death you learned that your father was still alive and that you had a brother you never knew about? Then you were asked to find them. Through the process you learn shocking details of your mother's past. What if the woman that always seemed a little weird was actually a legend in her native country?

Blogs

Blu-ray: INCENDIES (2011)

Mostly filmed using natural light, this Oscar nominated film benefits greatly from the detail of this 1080p transfer. Andre Turpin's cinematography could have come off dim and murky in a bad transfer or heaven forbid DVD, but this first rate job has keep its visual integrity. The color palette is natural and the black levels are solid. The natural lighting does dampen the crispness of the image, but that doesn’t mean details don’t pop.

Blogs

Review: The Lion King in 3D

By Joe Strike | Monday, September 12, 2011 at 5:02pm

Saturday morning at the movies, watching a cartoon – what could be more reminiscent of the joys of childhood? Well, the cartoon this particular Saturday morning (September 10, 2011) was not exactly the kind of matinee I used attend back in Brooklyn when the theaters had ‘matrons’ who kept the kiddie section in line. Today I’m wearing polarized lenses and watching Disney’s upcoming 3D re-release of The Lion King.

Blogs

Blu-ray: IN A BETTER WORLD (2011)

This Blu-ray looks amazing. Sony's AVC encoded 1080p transfer is as flawless as you can get. The colors are vibrant and evocative. Toward the end of the film the picture takes on a warm glow, which is fitting in context. There isn't a single digital anomaly due to compression anywhere to be seen. Details are crisp. Even dust kicked up by trucks in the African sequences have nuance. Beautiful is the most fitting way to describe the picture quality. Cinematographer Morten Søborg should be enthralled with the way his film looks.

Blogs

IN A BETTER WORLD (2011) (***1/2)

The original Danish title is directly translated as "The Revenge." I feel the American title is more fitting in that it encapsulates the humanistic ideals the film portrays. However, the original title reflects the real world that we live in. Director Susanne Bier puts her main character's ideals up against the harsh realities that he is forced to deal with.

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