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Article Type: Review

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Blogs DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (2011) (**1/2)

This remake of a 1973 TV movie has all the classic haunted house qualities. Gothic location. Creaking doors. Dark halls. Secret rooms. Ominous help. Benevolent creatures living aside a family. By putting the youngest of the family at the center of the story, the film develops an inherent tension. The issue is how long can you buy this little girl in peril?

Blogs HOODWINKED TOO!: HOOD VS. EVIL (2011) (*1/2)

Narratively the original HOODWINKED was a mess, but there were moments of general inspiration within cliché and tired routines. The sequel is just cliché and tired routines. The original was done independently on the cheap and looked it, but this one feels cheaper because it has no purpose other than to cash in on the surprise success of the original.

Blogs RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) (***1/2)

This reboot of the venerable sci-fi franchise doesn't try to remake the original classic like the Tim Burton film tried. It takes a page from CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and starts the story with the rebellion of the apes against man, only without the time paradox element. The last part of that statement is for fans of the series, who will find great joy in this new installment. Like the original this is a film based around characters and ideas.

Blogs Blu-ray: RIO (2011)

Whatever your opinion of the film is, there is no doubt the quality of this Blu-ray release. I liked the film in its theatrical release, but this AVC encoded 1080p transfer made me appreciate it a bit more. The vibrant color palette just radiates. The picture is gorgeous with detail and no signs anywhere of digital compression issues of any sort. You can make out the individual feathers on these CG birds. No aliasing, even in lively action sequences in lush jungles, was witnessed by me. I was thoroughly impressed.

Blogs THE SMURFS (2011) (**)

I watched the animated SMURFS TV series religiously as a child. I was like many kids who grew up in the 1980s. Outside of the general facts – they’re blue, they’re names match their personalities, there is only one girl in the whole village – I don’t remember their adventures at all. For this live-action/animation feature, I wasn't expecting much going in and I didn't get much coming out. Like the TV series, I won't remember much about this film either.

Blogs COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011) (***1/2)

In all honesty it's surprising this wasn't been done sooner. Beginning with STAR WARS, the sci-fi genre has been borrowing Western motifs. Jon Favreau's comic book adaptation puts sci-fi smack dab into a Western. Even the sci-fi has a Western tingle to it. The heart of this film is in the Wild West and most importantly with its characters.

Blogs CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. (2011) (***)

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the directors of the Jim Carrey comedy I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS, have tackled an ambitious romantic comedy for their second directional effort. The story attempts three multigenerational love stories. Because of it, the film never delves deep under the surface. What the story lacks in depth, though, Dan Fogelman's script certainly makes up for in craft. How all the pieces come together is crazy.

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