Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor
  • Director: Stephen Herek
  • Format: AC-3, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

  •             My childhood was filled with many repeat viewings of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as well as the outrageous sequel. It is an irreverent time travel comedy which uses historical figures for amusement in a way that is far more enjoyable than anything within Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Just in time for the theatrical event in which Steven Spielberg brings us a historically accurate presentation of the former president, enjoy a humorous Abraham Lincoln in this 1980s comedy classic starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin.

                Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are burnout high school students with more aspirations in their rock band than anything taught to them in history class. When their grades and futures depend on one school project, the guys take drastic measures to learn about history firsthand. A guardian angel from the future named Rufus (Carlin) arrives in a time machine telephone booth, and explains that they must travel through history in order to learn about history’s most iconic figures.

                From Napolean to Lincoln, the adventures are across time and space, and there is even time remaining for the guys to pick up a couple of French maidens to bring home with them. The entire 1988 comic adventure is presented in high definition for the first time in this Blu-ray release. The special features include a number of fairly irreverent additions, including an air guitar tutorial with Bjorn Turoque & The Rockness Monster.  


    Pixar Short Film Collection Volume 2 Blu-ray review

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: Disney-Pixar
  • Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • Run Time: 75 minutes

  • Walt Disney Pictures proudly stamps its name on Pixar products as often as possible, and for justifiable reasons. If it weren’t for the creative computer animation team in Northern California, Disney would certainly have lost the title it has held in the animation world for so very long. Pixar seemed from the beginning to understand what everyone had forgotten in animation.

    Perhaps it was the forced restrictions of three-dimensional computer animation that really did it, but Pixar learned to simplify. The short films begin with very simple ideas, and even as the animation had progressed to allow far more freedom, they stuck with the same theme for each of the shorts. They each oozing with human life and expression, regardless of whether the film is focuses on a lamp, bird, or a human. That being said, I found Brave to be rather unfulfilling. The best work I have seem from Pixar in the past few years has been in the short films which are included in this set.

    Watching these films together is fascinating, both in the way that the animation progresses over time and with experience, but also because of the amazing versatility and creativity in the chosen subjects. Some of the films in this collection are just piggybacking on the success of previously established characters. There are several Toy Story cartoons, a couple Cars shorts, a few more for Up and other feature films also have extra short films as well. These are fine, and probably more what the children are likely to enjoy. What made the set for me, however, are the original shorts which try something new. There seems to a theme in these newer shorts, many of which show nature in a mystical or fantastical way. A moon’s shifting light is a family business, a cloud can have an attitude and in my favorite cartoon Day meets Night.

    Though there are more shorts in the first volume that I am likely to watch again, the second volume does far better with the special features. Along with commentary tracks from the filmmakers, there are also seven additional short films from three Pixar filmmakers which were made while they were still students.

    Rec 3: Genesis DVD review

  • Actors: Diego Martin
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 6, 2012
  • Run Time: 80 minutes

  •             This Spanish horror franchise began with a frightening and creative first film, one which inspired a Hollywood remake, Quarantine. Both films utilized the ever-popular found-footage style of horror which began with The Blair Witch Project over a decade ago, but purists would argue for the quality of the original franchise. The franchise has shifted focus in this third outing, pulling away from found footage to a more polished approach, which actually looks more like a Hollywood film. The main difference is in the brutality of the horror violence, which increases three times as much in this third film in the franchise.

                Rec 3: Genesis may veer away from the found-footage that has previously defined the franchise, but it keeps the even more important element of quarantine. The monster in these films is a contagion, and one which turns people into demonic zombie-like creatures with the ability to spread the disease by bite. The film begins as found-footage through the use of wedding videos. Clara and Koldo are about to share their special day with family and friends when an outbreak of a virus causes mass panic at their reception. Soon the entire party is quarantined and those remaining must struggle to survive.

                There are two opposing elements which set Rec 3 aside, though somehow they manage to compliment each other. One is the romantic subplot between Clara and Koldo, who spend much of the film trying to find each other amidst the carnage, and the other is the graphic nature in which that carnage is displayed on camera. There is more romance in this film, but it is also more graphically violent and disgustingly gory than the other films in the franchise. These opposing elements work together, but this has been utilized before in similar films, whether The Signal or 28 Days Later.  

                The DVD release includes a select number of deleted scenes, as well as some outtakes.

    Vamps Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Richard Lewis, Kristen Johnston, Justin Kirk
  • Director: Amy Heckerling
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • Run Time: 93 minutes

  •             Vampire films have moved beyond any level of seriousness and what we have remaining is Clueless with fangs, however dull they may be. Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone reunite with this girl-power vampire comedy, attempting the same levity of their previous success without the strength of a structure taken from literary legend Jane Austen. There are moments of successful humor in the storyline that attempts to blend “Sex in the City” with Twilight, but more often than not it feels like a film best suited for thirteen-year-old girls.

                The mythology of vampires is about the same as you would expect from traditional horror movies. There is no diamond glistening skin, but a more traditional combustible reaction to the sun. But the gruesome aspects of Vamps are played down in favor of more romantic aspects of story. Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) each have different problems, though each romantic relationship is complicated by their condition. Goody runs into a lover (Richard Lewis) she had years earlier and must explain the fact that she has not aged in over a decade. Stacy falls for the son of Van Helsing, a legendary family of vampire hunters.

                There is an impressive cast here, including Sigourney Weaver as something of a villainous character and Malcolm McDowell in an underused capacity. Unfortunately, none of the star power is enough to provide focus for this vampire rom-com. The Blu-ray doesn’t do a great deal to enhance the film, which looks to have been quickly shot on a budget. There are also no special features to speak of.

    Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Arletty, Marie Dea, Fernand Ledoux, Alain Cuny, Pierre Labry
  • Director: Marcel Carne
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: September 18, 2012
  • Run Time: 121 minutes

  •             Before Marcel Carné went on to make Children of Paradise, a masterpiece in French cinema and an epic tale of the nuances in early 1800 romance and theater, he made a fantasy film which is every bit as impressive. Though the scale in Les Visiteurs du Soir is much smaller, the impact is just as impressive. Even more remarkable is the fact that this film was completed at all considering the limitations of the times

                Made in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, there are often interpretations of this film which compare the tyranny of the devil within the storyline to that of Adolph Hitler and his troops. Even without this symbolism there is a wonderful fantasy film in Les Visiteurs du Soir, and the difficulties in making a film during a time of harsh occupation is impressive enough. The technical aspects are a bit more minimalist than Carné’s Children of Paradise, but this is mostly due to the harsh conditions put to the filmmakers. Even with sets that look a bit simpler, this medieval fantasy has enough heart and soul to outlast any spectacle onscreen in times of peace.

                The film begins with the arrival of two strangers dressed as minstrels (Arletty and Alain Cuny) at a castle during court festivities. They pose as siblings and musicians, though their true relationship seems romantic and even more disturbing is their mystical origins. They are emissaries of the devil, dispatched to spread heartbreak in the kingdom by seducing and splitting a royal couple. The mission is only endangered when love begins to encroach on their mentality, giving them the strength of free will from the devil’s will.

                The Blu-ray release of this classic includes a new digital restoration with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack and improved English subtitles. Also included is a 2009 documentary about the making of the film, a trailer and a booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson.

    Children of Paradise Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur, Pierre Renoir, Marcel Herrand
  • Director: Marcel Carne
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: September 18, 2012
  • Run Time: 190 minutes

  •             Children of Paradise is widely considered one of the greatest French films ever made, a masterpiece of technical achievement blended with an emotional connection to unforgettable characters. At 190 minutes, Children of Paradise can afford to allow depth and layers in the construction of the characters, which adds weight to the love triangle at the center of the tale. It is an homage to an antiquated form of entertainment, a lovingly portrait that is paired with a breathtaking beauty who must choose between the old way of entertaining and the new one.

                Although Marcel Carné’s masterpiece has a love triangle which compliments the already existent themes of the changing entertainment world of nineteenth-century Paris, there are many other threads to the tapestry of this world. Our main female protagonist, Garance (Arletty), is admired by all. Throughout the film she has as many as four different men pursuing her, using whatever means they have to obtain her beauty, though there is only one man that truly has her heart.

                The men within the film all seem to be symbols for the changing times, and it is no coincidence that though Garance’s heart belongs to a man representing an antiquated form of entertainment. Baptiste Deburau (Jean-Louis Barrault) is a mime who makes a sudden rise to fame in the 1820s Paris theater scene. Children of Paradise deals with ever aspect of theatrical entertainment in Paris, from high to low. At the same time that Baptiste is making his rise with the emotions of mime, an actor named Frédérick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur) makes his own way up to the top. Though each are in a different medium of theater and not exactly in competition, they are constantly in competition for the heart of Garance. Their love triangle is a civil one, unlike many of the other suitors that come into Garance’s life.

                The quality of the story and its underlying symbolism is astounding, which increases infinitely when the details behind the construction of the film are learned. Made in Nazi-occupied France during the end of World War II, there were many pitfalls and difficulties. Carné previously had success working under these conditions when he created Les Visiteurs du Soir.

    The Blu-ray release of Children of Paradise includes a fantastic second disc filled with special features about the film’s production and every aspect of admiration since then. There is a video introduction by Terry Gilliam, a 2009 documentary about the making of the film, a new visual essay and a 1967 documentary about the film. This is all on top of the fact that this is the 2011 restoration, which is the best possible presentation of this masterpiece, and in high definition. The first disc, with the film, also comes with optional audio commentaries by film scholars Brian Stonehill and Charles Affron. The package also comes with a 40-page booklet with an essay by film scholar Dudley Andrew and an excerpt from an interview with Carné.

    Arthur Christmas Blu-ray review

  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 6, 2012
  • Run Time: 97 minutes

  •             Christmas films are the one category of movies which usually take a year to find their way to home video. Nobody wants to buy a Christmas film in March, so they usually just wait an entire year to release it. Last Christmas Arthur Christmas was in theaters, but this year it will make the perfect holiday gift for children and families alike. Arthur Christmas isn’t an instant holiday classic, but I would have no problem adding it to the list of annual holiday movies. It is fun-filled and creative, bringing entertainment to every age group in the family.

                The creativity in the story comes from a practical explanation for the miraculous existence of Santa Claus. No longer does Santa travel by sled or go down the chimneys himself. The answer for so many toys delivered is a state-of-the-art spaceship sled and an army of trained elves to deliver the gifts quickly and efficiently in each city. This newer system seems to be working wonderfully for the latest Santa and his crack team that includes an innovative son to ruin the spaceship and another who simply embodies the spirit of Christmas.

                Arthur is not the most efficient worker in the North Pole, but he is tolerated because of the fact that he is the son of Santa. Nobody seems to think Arthur is worth much, but he has a chance to change all of that when the high-tech present delivery system fails to visit one child. With a missed child, Arthur sets out to deliver the last present on his own, using the old fashioned method of a sled and reindeer. In the process, Arthur is able to teach his family what Christmas is really about, rather than the efficiency that they have been focusing on.

                The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a DVD and Ultraviolet copy of the film. The special features include a number of making-of featurettes, including a progression reel to see how the animation advanced from step to step. There are also plenty of features for the younger fans, including one which goes into greater detail about the Claus family in the film. There is also an elf recruitment video.