Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: ALPHA AND OMEGA

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Leo Kerr, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    May 10, 1999
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    Alpha and Omega


    Crest Animation and Lionsgate release a computer-animated feature. Written by Steve Moore, directed by Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck, it features the vocal talents of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover, and Christina Ricci among others.

    While the feature was produced for 3D theatrical viewing, this is a 2D presentation only. The 3D presentations were, according to the Internet Movie Database, formatted for 1.85:1. The 2D Bluray disc is a full-frame 1.77:1 aspect ratio, and runs about 88 minutes. The disc features DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio in English, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both French and Spanish. Subtitles are available for English, English-SDH, and Spanish. From inserting the disc, without interruption, the disc will play a Lionsgate trailer, a preview for Thor, an advertisement for a collection featuring an animated sheep called Timmy Time, a preview for Fred: The Movie, an advertisement for Thomas the Tank Engine: Misty Island Rescue, and an advertisement for Leapfrog, Alphabet Amusement Park. All of these things, however, can be skipped by pressing the Top Menu button. The disc operates under a slow-loading Java-based menu structure. On selecting the film from the menu, it will start with the DTS HD Master Audio trailer. There are other special features (detailed later,) included on the disc.

    The disc is a dual-disc set, including a standard-definition DVD release of the same, and a code for downloading a Digital Copy via iTunes. There is also a coupon for a discount to Great Wolf Lodge. The discs and inserts are in a fairly standard Bluray case, with a cardboard slip-cover. The feature is rated PG for “rude humor and some mild action.” Suggested retail for this set is $39.99, and was released in North America on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

    The Feature — •••½
    The feature centers on the wolves of Jasper National Park, in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. We are introduced to the two packs of wolves, lead by the voices of Hopper and Glover, as well as the major aspects of pack life, ritual, and organization between the leaders (alphas) and followers (omegas) of the wolf-packs. [Please not that while this is loosely based upon wolves and wolf-like behavior, it is not an accurate portrayal of wolf-like behavior!] The rising female alpha, Kate (Panettiere,) in an effort to unite the two packs, is betrothed to the other pack’s rising male alpha, Garth (Chris Carmack.) At an inopportune moment, Humans tranquilize Kate and an omega, Humphrey (Long,) and take them some 1400 kilometers to Sawtooth National Forest, in Idaho, in the United States, where, it is hoped, that they will, um, repopulate the species. Kate has an alpha’s sense of responsibility to her pack, and so they set out to return home to Jasper, with the assistance of two golf-playing birds, Marcel and Paddy (Larry Miller and Eric Price, respectively.) Meanwhile, back at home, another omega-wolf, Kate’s sister Lilly (Ricci,) is showing Garth around, while both are attempting to diffuse the tensions between the pack-leaders.

    The reviews, to put it mildly, are not positive, although the audiences seemed to like it a lot more than the professional reviewers did. While this film is not ‘great art,’ I found it generally enjoyable. Also, it provides a much more fair — they are not the bad guys! — portrayal of wolves in popular culture.

    The feature should be suitable for most audiences. There is some threatened violence, and the alpha female of Kate and Humphrey’s pack can make some pretty grusome threats, but the moments like that are relatively few. And for the boys, well, there aren’t too many kissing parts (with apologies to The Grandson in The Princess Bride,) and they are generally handled delicately.

    The Picture — ••••½
    Well, at least with computer animation, one rarely has to worry about the picture being in focus! The artwork is stylized, and is not at all ‘realistic’ in its portrayal of just about any aspect of the real world. But colors range from fairly bold and saturated, to much more muted tones of dusk and night-time, with a fairly broad tonal range. The picture is unmarred by compression or sharpness artifacts. The feature is encoded in the AVC format, at 24fps. Data rate varies from a low of about 20 megabits/second up to about 40 megabits/second.

    The Sound — •••½
    The DTS Master Audio track is clean, clear, and intelligible. While the soundtrack is front-oriented, there is a fair amount of expanse and immersion in the music and effects. This track also mixes down into a quite listenable stereo headphone track. The subwoofer is used in a generally subtle fashion to enhance presence.

    The Extras — •••
    There are several things identified as ‘extras’ on the disc. The first is a short deleted scene, that, while marginally expands the characterization and relationship between Kate and Humphrey, is not missed. High definition video and sound.

    The second is a roughly 25 minute feature in three parts, lead mostly by the producer, Richard Rich, who also seems to make it work as a feature. Part one focuses on the animation process, from character design, to ‘rigging,’ and so-on. Part two is about the voices, the talent, and the process, including the fact that, with computer animation, sometimes it is a viable option to re-record new dialog weeks or months later to fix something that just ‘doesn’t work’ — something much harder in traditional hand animation. The third segment is more about how the film was produced, such videomatics of the directors and producers acting out segments for the animators in India to implement. In HD.

    Third, there is a presentation by wolf-biologists and wolf-conservationists about real wolves, and how they or their actions are portrayed in the film, and the other way around. Also in HD.

    Next, a “personality test,” to determine if you are an alpha or an omega.

    There is also a “log slide” interactive game.

    Available as a subtitle track (although accessed from the Extras menu,) are “animal fun facts trivia.”

    And lastly, alternate copies of the film. The standard-definition DVD has the same feature with the same languages in subtitles and soundtracks (although all three in Dolby Digital 5.1; not DTS.) Going from the Blu to the DVD, it is almost shocking how softer the standard defintion content is, but the DVD itself does not, on a very brief survey, seem excessively noisy or edge-enhanced. I have not downloaded the Digital Copy.

    In The End — ••••
    Technically, this presentation of Alpha and Omega is more than a solid performer. From the perspective of the disc, my biggest complaint is the slow performance of the menu language; the long Java load at the beginning, and then the main menu often seems to lag in noticing button presses to navigate and select options. (This is both on an Oppo BDP-83, and a Panasonic DMp-BD60 player.)

    As a feature film, it is a fairly conventional love story involving people of different classes and different expectations of them by their friends and family. And how people can change.

    Oh, did I say people?
    But wolves are people, too.
    Aren’t they?

    I found this to be an enjoyable film. Don’t take it seriously; just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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