As my home-programmed film festival continues, I'd like to look at a fistful of Blu-ray titles that could ostensibly be called "kid's films" that have all arrived here at the house recently.
Have I mentioned yet how much I love anyone who includes both a Blu-ray and a regular DVD in the same package? I think it's vital in most households. For example, I've got the Blu-ray set-up in my office, while the other rooms in the house only have regular DVD players still. We had a second Blu-ray player, but it just gave up the ghost. That's what you get for buying a cheapo Best Buy in-house brand. Next time I buy a player for the living room, I'll probably just get a second PS3. I've had great luck with the machine so far, and I love the way it handles firmware updates.
In the meantime, I like having a copy that the kids can play and having a gorgeous Blu-ray copy for my own use. In the case of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," the format really allows you to analyze and admire the exquisite work that was done by all of the animators as they put the film together. I reviewed the film theatrically, and if anything, my love for it has grown with a few repeat viewings. The Blu-ray is technically amazing, as rich a transfer as you'll find on anything today. It's also got a fair sampling of extra features, the most ridiculous of which is "A beginner's guide to whack-bat."
Fox also sent over "Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel," which I personally wasn't excited about. Here's one of the truths of being a parent... there are films you have no interest in that you will see anyway. There are even times when you are dead set against seeing something, and yet you'll take the bullet and you'll see it because it matters to your kids. And if you're the sort of parent who thinks it's cool to impose your taste on your kids, let's just say we do things differently. I would never want to make my four year old feel bad because he's a fan of something I find insipid or poorly written. And I can't blame a four year old for buying into the marketing machine that sells a film like this one. I didn't like anything about the first film, and the second film is pretty much more of the same. I can see the appeal for little kids, though. It's very basic, obvious humor, and the Chipmunks (joined by the Chipettes this time) are 50 years worth of test-marketed adorable. Throw in a bunch of music and pratfalls, and that's pretty easy stuff. It helps that Betty Thomas is the director this time around. She has a knack for breezy mainstream silly, and the nicest word I can use to describe this one is "painless." The disc is technically quite nice, and looks and sounds great. I can't imagine I'll ever sit through it a second time, but as long as it makes both of the under-five kids in the house dance, it's fine by me.
Like Fox, Disney has embraced the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, and their release of "Ponyo" makes me impatient for the inevitable release of the rest of the Studio Ghibli library on Blu-ray. I really like "Ponyo," one of the most gentle and quiet Miyazaki films since "My Neighbor Totoro," and just like the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" Blu-ray, it offers an opportunity to study the hand-crafted work of the Ghibli animators. The craft of the filmmaking is incredible, and the transfer is so clean that it feels like you're looking at the actual drawings that were used to bring the film to life. And if you'd like to look at the actual drawings, there's a storyboard version of the film included as one of the extra features. Overall, it's a fairly standard package by Disney standards, but since their standards are so high, that's a compliment.
Finally, when "IMAX Under The Sea" came out theatrically, I took Toshi to an early screening of it. It's a gorgeous piece of nature photography, and it looked remarkable in 3D. It freaked Toshi out a bit dealing with 40-foot-high sharks, but he couldn't stop talking about the film for weeks afterwards. It's a great disc, with some extra features that genuinely expand the picture's scope. I do wonder, though, what value there is in branding the disc with the IMAX name repeatedly considering there's no way to reproduce that experience at home, even with a well-photographed film rendered in 1080p. And since this wasn't just IMAX, but also 3D, this is one of those films that simply can't be duplicated with a home video presentation. It's worth seeing, especially if you have kids who are at that curious age where they are starting to ask questions about the world around them.
Next up in the I-Need-To-Write-About-This Film Festival: teens who sing as I finally review "Glee," one of the most-requested reviews of the year so far.
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