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HTF REVIEW: The Incredibles -- INCREDIBLY RECOMMENDED!!!



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#1 of 187 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 06 2005 - 02:55 AM

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THEINCREDIBLES

2DiscCollector'sEdition

Studio:Pixar (DVD via Buena Vista)
Year:2004
RunTime:115 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.39:1 (OAR)[i]Note: separate 1.33:1 "full screen" version also available...beware and give clear instructions for gift purchasing!
Audio:5.1 DD EX English, French & Spanish
SpecialFeatures:2 Feature Commentary tracks, "Jack-Jack Attack" Short, "Boundin'" Short, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers/Outtakes, Behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, "Mr. Incredible and Pals" original cartoon (must be seen to be believed), Character interviews, Sarah Vowell actress essay, Trailers, more...
ReleaseDate:March 15, 2005







Feature...


Story...

Something of a cross between True Lies, The X-Men, and Shrek, The Incredibles succeeds marvelously.

If you haven't seen The Incredibles, I'll start off by saying that in my opinion this is not a children's film. That's not to say that it contains anything inappropriate for kids. Nor do I mean that kids won't enjoy watching it--they will. But I mean to suggest that this movie is written, drawn, and acted as an action-comedy for teens and adults (much like Shrek); The fact that it's handled tactfully enough that kids can still enjoy it without parents having to keep a keen finger ready by the fast-forward control--an added bonus. I'll venture to say that out of the suite of computer-animated films put out thus far (including those by Pixar, Dreamworks, and Fox), The Incredibles is the most "adult" oriented of them all. Two themes stand out in particular for me in this regard: real-world marital issses and actual movie-violence.

The movie is really about the marriage between the two lead characters and ultimately how they relate to and support one another (and their children). Though subtle enough to pass over young children without cause for alarm, we're treated to a look inside this couple's world that deals rather candidly with real issues: infidelity, fighting, and sexual playfulness. Do I find any of this disagreeable? Not in the least; the folks at Pixar have tactfully and tastefully woven these points, intended for more mature audiences, into the fabric of the story such that only the audience members who should know what's going on are able to pick-up on it. Younger viewers watch the animation and enjoy the action completely unaware.

In my opinion, this sort of multi-level storytelling is the definition of sophisticated scripting and the mark of truly gifted artists. I'm not suggesting that the more a film pushes controversial topics the better it is, but I am suggesting that we're seeing a wonderful new genre of animated "family" feature films emerging that are designed with a great deal of intelligence to appeal to all members of a family without necessitate the feeling of compromise for any given group. The whole family watches. The whole family enjoys. Bravo. Another great accomplishment of the writing/acting team is how "real" the character-relationships and dialogue play off each other...it sounds like a conversation between a real husband and wife...who just happen to be animated super heros. The more times you watch this film, the more impressive it becomes. Bravo again.

One thing I will add is that the level of violence in this film is greater than what you might be accustomed to if you're letting Toy Story and Finding Nemo be your guide. Human characters appear to really get zapped from time to time in this film...and there's no "G.I. Joe after-school cartoon band aid" of having pilots parachute out of their cockpit a split second before the missile hits. Realistically, there's nothing more violent here than anything your kids have probably seen before, but I did take notice and think to myself on more than on occasion "hmmm...I think I just saw someone get boni-fide killed in a cartoon." Again, this is not a criticism, and I respect the film makers for taking a more realistic approach to some of these typically glossed-over issues of traditional animation. It just made an impression on me that seemed substantial enough to warrant a bit of discussion.


Style...

In an animation-genre that many feared would be the end of "art", it's wonderful to see such diversity of style. Pixar delights in giving each of its films a "look" that characterizes it. The Incredibles makes the most dramatic use of a codified visual language to date, and this is expressed in several ways. The first way that impressed me was the gloriously "1960's modern" theme of the material objects: architecture, automobiles, clothing, furniture, etc. The adherence to this theme is not literal--it's more impressionistic; Tapered-legged sofas sit contently next to 60" wall-mounted flat-screen monitors. Music plays on compact discs and computer keyboards clack away next to narrow-tie suits and fin-tailed cars. The way that the artists keep all of these things coexisting nicely is to re-invent post-60's icons of technology in a 1960's style. Those of you who enjoy this mid-60's era of American design as much as I do will have a lot to sink your teeth into in the visual world of The Incredibles.

In terms of animation style, the design of the characters and environment seems to flow from the angular/curved lines of the mid-60's lounge furniture. Fine-object detail is not as richly textured as what you might be used to having watched Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 (especially Shrek 2 which really pushed the limits of computer-animated detail) as the Pixar animators are intentionally going for a more abstract, somewhat streamlined appearance. Hues and color tones are also generally subdued...reflecting the softer color palette of a post-1950's era.

Perhaps the most impressive visual-stylistic element of The Incredibles is the innovative and dramatic use of "the moving camera". In a digitally-modeled world, any angle, any movement of the "eye" of the camera is possible. The animators of The Incredibles make striking use of this freedom like no computer-animated film to date. The effect is bold and often awe-inspiring: Ridding through the evening jungle brush suspended beneath a speeding monorail car; running along a catwalk getting pelted from cannon fire from every possible angle; racing across the surface of the water through spirey pillars of rock--in each case the moment is made visceral, engaging, through the use of a moving "camera" eye able to do things and go places in the binary world of The Incredibles that no real camera ever could. The effect goes beyond raw action...subtle camera movements zooming in and slowly circling around the room add intensity to still and dramatic moments alike. In this brave new world of digital imagery, the rules of movie-telling are changing as animators and effects designers are set free from the physics of a boom and lens. The Incredibles takes us farther than we've gone before. Two thumbs up.

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Picture...



You want me to say it. You know I'm going to. You want a cliché? You've got one:

Yes, the image quality of The Incredibles is...INCREDIBLE...

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However, I will not say that the picture of The Incredibles is "perfect" because I don't think that it is. Incredible...YES. Perfect...no.

Colors are exactly as they should appear. Soft and understated when appropriate. Bold and vivid when intended to be so. If your display is properly calibrated then however the colors of this DVD appear on your screen is how they were intended to look by the animators. In comparison to many other recent digitally animated features (Shrek 2/Nemo) the color palette of The Incredibles may at first appear a bit drab and understated. Don't be alarmed...watch how the colors change scene by scene, and vary widely throughout the various stages of the movie. When we meet our protagonist Bob, he's mired in a world of bureaucracy living a life out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil...and his world is correspondingly subdued with grays and soft tones. The effect is intentional. Contrast this during the montage of Bob's "glory days" playing with his kids and pinching his wife...golden hues of sunshine richly saturate a warm and green world suddenly lush with tonality. Every moment of this film, every place, has been carefully "lit" by the animators for the precise intended effect. And this DVD communicates those subtleties perfectly.

Shadow detail, contrast, and dynamic range are also stellar. There are many darkly-lit evening scenes (in the jungle) and the softly expressed image detail is never lost. Never a sign of MPEG noise that I can see (even in darker scenes which often challenge MPEG codecs) and the image always feels rock-solid and confident. Black level is "perfect" (for a guy who said that the image quality wasn't perfect...he's using that word an awful lot...well various aspects of the image do happen to be "perfect" in and of themselves...) as well. Normally I would effuse a bit more in this area for a transfer this well delivered. However, it's so good in regards to contrast/dynamic-range that it almost has the reverse-effect on my prose...what more can I say? Folks...for an image that is just as solid as it can get with "perfect" contrast and black level, here's your demo disc.

I've read a few other reports by some very well-respected reviewers about how utterly "perfect" the DVD transfer is and I have to say that this is where I slightly diverge. While I attest that the level of detail and perceived resolution is outstanding for the DVD format...I still can't help but feel that there is the slightest degree of filtering taking place. And I do mean slight. For some reason, to my eyes, the image just doesn't have that last nth-level degree of clarity that starts to push the "is it Hi-Def?" envelop for me. By comparison, a DVD that does do this for me is Shrek 2. In no way am I suggesting that the image looks "filtered" as I commonly complain about with Miramax titles. On the contrary...detail is outstanding and on my 106" screen the 2.39:1 (that's what it says) image looks grand. However, there's a 3-dimensionality that Shrek2 has to my eyes that The Incredibles just barely falls shy of attaining. There are three reasons why I don't think I'm making this up:
    [*]When I first watched the feature-film straight through, I kept thinking to myself "it ought to look sharper..." without any A/B comparison to any other material of any kind (I never had that run through my mind watching Shrek 2).
    [*]There is some extremely low-level edge-enhancement in the image in the vertical domain...affecting very (very) mild ringing along strong horizontal lines. This can be seen as a slight white halo immediately in the image running along the lower letterboxing bar of the 2.39:1 image, for instance. Moving closer than 1.3 screen widths I can also see some very (very) minor ringing at other times...over the tops of the staircase descending into Edna's laboratory for instance. Relax...do not be alarmed...the ringing I'm talking about is so minimal that it would not be detected by anyone seated at any sane viewing distance...and Standard-def DVD source material cannot be properly viewed close than 1.5 screen-widths IMO no matter how perfectly mastered it may be, and the fact that I need to move up to about 1.3 screen-widths away to discern any ringing makes the "problem" of EE a moot point. However...it does lead me to suspect that some very (very) mild filtering may have taken place...as usually a bit of EE goes hand in hand with HF filtering.
    [*]When I view many of the scenes from the feature film in the bonus material on Disc 2 (16x9 OAR!!!)...I'm suddenly hit with "WOW! That's the razor-sharp 3-dimensional image I was waiting for!!"

I'm not suggesting that there is any "problem" at all with the image of this DVD. I'm only suggesting that it's possible, despite many of the rave reviews to the contrary, that the image quality might actually have a small bit of room for improvement on the DVD format.

Jason has a HTPC (Home Theater P.C.) at his place and if we're able to connect soon I'd love to do some better A/B comparing of the sequences that caught my eye from the feature film that are contained in the bonus material. It's difficult on my set-up to get a good, objective impression because the discs take so long to load up you're forced to wait quite a while between the "A" and "B" image. Also, the human eye tends to auto-calibrate its perceptions to the baseline of the average data taken in...and so (on disc 2) after watching long segments of blurry video-cam Pixar interviews and suddenly "BAM!" you're hit with a pristine 16x9 direct-digital image from the final rendered feature film the effect it may have on your perception may be that it's much "sharper" than it really is because of the stark contrast with what your eye was used to...whereas a whole movie of the same clarity can cause your perception to auto-adjust to be less "wowed" by the experience. To be really sure that my impressions are on the money, I'm going to find a way to do some real A/B comparison. Hopefully Jason and myself will be able to coordinate soon to do some screen-captures at full resolution and do just that.

But it really does look INCREDIBLE!

Putting everything into perspective folks, the image really is amazing. Colors exactly as they should be, contrast and gray-scale tracking to set the standard, and a very satisfyingly detailed image free from all "electronic" artifacts like MPEG noise or EE from anything greater than 1.3 screen-widths distance. I can't imaging anyone being disappointed, and despite my hypothesis that some very, very, very minor filtering/EE may be taking place...even on a 106" diagonal screen viewed from 1.6 screen widths distance, the image is by all accounts a reference picture. Shaving off just a sliver of a point until I'm able to verify or disprove my questions about that nth degree of image detail that the DVD format might have been able to provide...


Picture Quality: 4.9 / 5

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WARNING!: a separate 4x3 "full frame" p/s version of The Incredibles is available as well. Shoppers beware and double-check before you rip that shrink-wrap off the cover! Be sure to give clear and unthwartable "widescreen" directions to any gift-purchasers--wouldn't want little Johny to unwrap a P/S DVD for his birthday...now would we?...


Rating Rationale...

In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

Rating Key:

SCORE Description
1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" or MGM's R1 "Jean De Florette" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, MPEG or PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts)-- truly horrid.
2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain or (the non-anamorphic) The Abyss
3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think Phantom Menace (great except for filtering and EE) the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring (also decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos)
4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the King, Shrek 2, or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans any edge-halo on 5th E.).






Sound...



This was the first film since moving into my new apartment that prompted my upstairs neighbor to stop by and introduce herself...and ask me to please turn down the stereo. That should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Sound quality is exemplary: a crisp, highly directional mix that's authoritative, involving, and will give your amp a real workout. The Incredibles manages to do all of this and at the same time remain listenable--never getting harsh or overly-bright in the top end. Low-level detail is also outstanding, and many soft passages are rife with subtle acoustic information that reveals some real sensitivity on the part of the mixing engineers...every opportunity is taken to simulate the acoustic environment of the on-screen action...not just pummel the listener with overblown effects. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and sounds natural and full-bodied. Directional dialogue also evinced itself when appropriate (like an actor moving off-screen to one side or the other) which is a welcome treat in an age of modern movie mixing that tends to just toss all spoken dialogue into the center channel without any regard for context (Personally, large-screen RP and front-projection systems become more and more commonplace, I hope that directional dialogue begins to have a resurgence in home-theater mixes. The reason that most HT 5.1 mixes are so center-heavy on spoken dialogue is that the studio is expecting you to be watching the movie on a 27" TV screen with your center speaker placed neatly above it with your L/R front mains far off to each side.)

Bass...

Bass. Hmmmm. This is the area of the sound that most impressed me (and my upstairs neighbor Posted Image). And ironically it's an area where I've read a few on-line criticisms as well. I think I understand from where the different perceptions might be stemming: The bass on The Incredibles isn't the loudest I've ever heard (why they might be reacting to), it's the tightest I've ever heard coming out of a 5.1 "movie" mixed soundtrack...and that's no lie. The bass on this mix is so tight, it snaps back like a rubber band. It's also deep and solid, so don't be nervous (talking about bass being tight isn't like saying "she has a nice personality"...it's not a euphemism to focus your attention away from another flaw). But where the bass in the Return of the King DVD just sounded loud and rumbley...like low-frequency effects that had just been "tacked on" to flesh out the bottom end and provide subsonic emphasis for explosions and elephant footsteps, the bass in The Incredibles sounds like it extends naturally from the midrange frequencies above...it's perfectly integrated into the overall sound and oh-so-tight. If you have a decent subwoofer that can cleanly reproduce bass frequencies without any boom or muddy overlay (or if you use full-frequency main speakers that reproduce low-bass properly) you're in for a treat. And so is your upstairs neighbor if you have one.


EX?

I should also note that despite my best intentions for my last "Lord of the Rings" parties a few weeks back, I have not managed to figure out how to mount a center-rear speaker array for ES/EX mixes. My sofa is pushed flat up against the back wall of my living room so any "rear" effects would have to be mounted directly above the listening area (I'm using side-wall mounted dipole surrounds at present). If any of you have any suggestions on the best way to make this work let me know. In any case, I feel compelled to tell you that the "rear center" EX effect is something that I can't comment on directly given the current configuration of my audio system. However, I do hope to remedy that in the not-too-distant future. In any case, I'll try to pay special attention to the rear channel in this evening's screening. Since the center-rear information of a DD 5.1 EX track is extracted via the sum of the two rear channels, it shouldn't be to hard to extrapolate what sounds might go there.


Surround...

When the movie ended and the credits were rolling after my first viewing, I suddenly thought to myself "hmmm...I don't remember any surround effects". Upon my second viewing of the film (having pre-warned my upstairs neighbor to secure a good time when it wouldn't cause a disturbance... Posted Image) I paid special attention to the surround channels to determine what was going on in the mix, and the result is that my respect for this 5.1 mix has increased even more. While the surround channels rarely draw attention to themselves in a gimmicky or "effects" sort of way, they are used to tremendous...and tasteful...effect.

There are indeed a few notable instances where "rear effects" can be clearly heard...when Bob yells to his wife from within the house "I'll get it!" when the phone rings etc. But most of the surround information is so seamlessly woven into overall mix that it just blends beautifully without standing out and trying to assert its own separate identity. Remember the days of early ProLogic surround when we watched (***shudder***) Hi-Fi VHS (well, maybe *you* watched VHS but *I* was watching laserdisc...Posted Image)? Remember how we watched the movies with our heads turned sideways just *waiting* for that moment when the surround "effect" would kick in so we feel satisfied that our equipment was worth the while? Well my friends, those were the days of "Ping Pong Surround"...where most mixers knew that they had to throw gimmicky effects your way to sell surround systems in the showroom at your AV shop. What we're seeing with The Incredibles is the maturation of a 5.1 concept...where each channel is treated as just a part of a complete 360 degree soundfield without any one channel standing out of character with the whole. At first your impression might be that the rear channel isn't very active...but keep listening...it's there and it serves to pull the sound of the front mains out into the room and extend the soundfield when called for. Just like many modern excellent stereo recordings don't "WOW" you with right-left ping-pong transitions...a muture and well developed 5.1 mix isn't necessarily going to try to constantly catch your attention with distracting "effects" that don't serve the goal of the overall presentation. I'm very pleased and in no way slighting the audio on this disc for not providing a more "active" surround channel...I'm commending it.




Sound Quality: 5 / 5


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Special Features...



This is the part of the review that I dread. Not because I don't like the special feature content but just because it's so challenging to write write write about it! I'll start off by saying that the bonus content on this DVD set is absolutely as reference as the image and sound...fans will not be disappointed and many of the features go beyond the usual plethora of commentary and documentaries...we've got some nice bonus shorts (16x9 OAR) that are show-pieces all on their own. And we've even got some 16x9 OAR movie trailers for the feature film. In fact, one thing worth mentioning apart from the individual elements is that most of the special feature content on this disc is 16x9 encoded. Yes folks...try to stay calm as you read onward...

Note: Many of these bonus features contain 16x9 2.39:1 OAR snippets from the feature film and I couldn't help but feel that the level of detail and depth I'm seeing in those final-film shots here on Disc 2 look sharper and more detailed than what I'm seeing in the feature film on Disc 1 (which I mentioned in my PQ review section earlier). I'll be doing some critical A/B evaluation to try to discern that this isn't just my imagination and I'll update the results here when I do.


Disc 1:

    [*]Feature Commentary: There are two commentary tracks on this disc. The first is with Director Bar Bird (who also did The Iron Giant as well as the voice of "Edna" in The Incredibles) and Producer John Walker. The second Commentary track features discussion between several key animators. I very much enjoyed both of these commentary tracks though I tended to favor the first with Director Bird and Producer Walker. These guys are very creative and they approach their work as artists. Their commentary style is also professional without sounding stuffy, and each insight that they offered genuinely interested me. The discussion between the animators on the second commentary track was also interesting, but I found the more jovial banter between the group members distracting. Both commentary tracks do cover both artistic and technical areas of interest for fans of the film so be sure to check them both out and not dismiss either one until you've given it a go. As with most Buena Vista DVDs, toggling audio tracks...including commentary (and DTS when available) is a simple matter of hitting the audio button on your remote...so no need to head back to the main menu if you feel like momentarily switching from the feature film soundtrack to the commentary etc.[/list] That's it for Disc 1! Seems that Pixar/Disney decided to take more of a "Super-bit" approach to the feature film which is fine-by-me...

    Oh...one thing I should add (and don't choke when you hear me say this) is that you should be sure and check out the movie-previews on Disc 1...because there is a gorgeous 16x9 OAR trailer for Pixar's next feature film "Cars" that you'll want to see. To whom it may concern at Disney...please make an effort to properly present trailers (when applicable) in 16x9 WS like this. It really gives home-theater enthusiasts a reason to actually watch them (when the production, image, and sound quality are that impressive) rather than spring their wrists trying to reach for the menu-button to avoid them altogether...


    Disc 2:

      [*]Posted ImageJack-Jack Attack: Though touted as "short film" this is really more of a "deleted scene" that details the babysitting episode of the Incredibles' baby "Jack-Jack" while the rest of the family is off saving the world. When Helen is checking her phone messages riding home in the limo after a long day stretching her super-hero legs, we get a hint of this short's content during the feature film. This sequence really had no place to "fit" into the flow of the film but it's great to have here as a bonus feature and is a natural companion to the feature film. In fact, I'd suggest watching it immediately after the feature film is over while folks are still in the "movie" mode. Think of it like the dance-party break-down number at the end of the credits on Shrek...it's really an addendum to the feature film that folks should stick around and watch before turning the lights back on and breaking the spell.

      This feature is about 5 minutes long, is 16x9 encoded (1.78:1), and has a nice 5.1 DD soundtrack. The animators deviated from the 2.39:1 aspect ratio of the feature film but this doesn't bother me, and in fact I like seeing the 16x9 screen filled with all that Pixar beauty... Picture quality is outstanding and looks as good or better than the feature film in terms of clarity and DVD encoding. Enjoy!!!


      [*]Deleted Scenes: There are six (if I counted right) deleted scenes and alternate-story concept scenes here totaling about 30 minutes of content. We have some very nice introductions from Director Bird for each sequence and his comments are very insightful for fans interested more than just the usual "what scenes did they leave out" objective. For the most part, these are not finished, digitally-rendered sequences ala the feature film; They comprise storyboarding and occasionally partially-animated digital imagery, but that's not a criticism...the effect is marvelous and it's remarkable to see just how effective a story-telling tool that storyboarding can be...especially when accompanied by an audio track as all of these scenes are. One very thought-provoking sequence (and the longest...over 10 minutes long) is an alternate opening for the film which has the Incredibles trying their luck at a neighborhood cookout (with a bent on "home-making" as a valid career choice which I really enjoyed and would have appreciated showing up somewhere in the feature film even if in some other form). It also introduces the antagonist character in an entirely different way from what we see in the finished film.

      There are two scenes in particular I would have liked to see incorporated back into the film: Bob in traffic and the "Vipers" scene after the jet crashes into the ocean.

      All of these scenes...storyboards included...are 16x9 encoded and presented in 2.39:1 OAR...just wonderful. There are also some finished-film snippets included briefly here during Bird's introductions that seem to look "sharper" and more dimensional to my eyes than the same segments in the feature film on Disc 1 (Bob in traffic, for instance).

      [*]Incredi-blunders (Bloopers and Outtakes): These are not "fabricated" bloopers like on a Bug's Life...these are rendering and animation errors for the most part and the segment is assembled into a montage that plays through like a mini-featurette. It's just a few minutes long and cute but not anything life-changing. If you're pressed for time skip this one and come back later.

      [*]Top Secret Files on all the Supers: This area contains an interesting layout of characters and groupings that you can select and read about in more detail. Fans may enjoy exploring this area in detail...there's quite a bit here.

      [*]The Making of The Incredibles: 16x9 encoded and lasting about half an hour...this is a marvelous feature rich with content. You can skip from section to section or watch the entire feature through. While this area does deal with technical and artistic matters behind the animation, it tends to focus on the artists and actors themselves...with lots of behind-the-scenes touring of Pixar studios. You'll really feel like you're getting to know these people after watching this very worthwhile feature.

      [*]MORE Making of The Incredibles: 16x9 encoded and lasting about 20 minutes...this feature tends to focus more heavily on the technical and artistic challenges behind the animation and may actually be of greater interest to animation fans than the first "Making of" documentary. This is another Disc 2 bonus item that had lots of scenes from the finished feature film appearing here (16x9 2.39:1 OAR) and I kept finding myself scratching my head thinking "wow...I think they look better here on Disc 2...". The scene with Edna standing on the kitchen counter looked so three-dimensional I almost thought it was HD (I did not have that same impression watching the feature film on Disc 1). I'll be doing more critical A/B eval and post back.

      [*]Mr. Incredible and Pals: This must be seen to be believed. It's a 4x3 OAR (16mm?) original cartoon featuring the characters of Mr. Incredible and Frozone...and a rabbit?!? Put on your Science-Fiction-Theater-3000 cap and sit back and *howl*. You can listen to the original audio or the commentary of Characters Bob Incredible and Frozone. I recommend you listen to their commentary the first time through. It's truly brilliant, and bound to make your guests laugh out-loud.

      [*]Vowellet - An essay by Sarah Vowell: This is the gal who performs the voice of Violet (Incredible daughter) in the feature film. She's quite a character in real-life, and quite a historian. I admired her unabashed geekinees and passion for history, assassinated presidents, and their memorabilia. This feature was a lot of fun and I give Sarah two thumbs up for her own self-defined sense of coolness... Posted Image Posted Image Sarah, if you're ever out in D.C. let me know and we'll hang and tour the sites and you can educate me about American History.

      [*]Posted ImageBoundin': A nice short...16x9 1.78:1...about a sheep and a Jackalope and what it means to be comfortable with who you are and not get distracted by the crap life throws your way. Story, script, style, and execution are all first-rate. This short is awesome in my humble opinion, and I'm giving it a thumbs up. There is also a separate feature called "Who is Bud Luckey" about one of Pixar's animator legends who created the Boundin' short.

      [*]Posted Image[b]Publicity: We get some nice "Character interviews" which are fun though not as well developed as I would have liked. But what most fans will be coming here for are the two trailers for the feature film. Both are 16x9 OAR 2.39:1 and both are gorgous. Bravo to Pixar/Buena Vista for putting them here. Oh, in case you missed it earlier...one of the very few times I'll ever say something like this...be sure to check out the sneak previews on Disc 1 for the trailer for Pixar's next full-length feature film "Cars"...16x9 OAR and oh-so-pretty...[/list]

      [b]All Together...




      Yes...it's all that and a bucket of cherries. The Incredibles is a great story...sort of a digitally animated fusion of the X-Men and True Lies. This is definitely the most adult-audience-oriented film to come out of Pixar thus far, but it is still family-friendly and all ages can enjoy watching it (though I suspect that parents and teens may actually enjoy this one more than the kids). Stylistically, The Incredibles really defines itself, and the technical brilliance of the DVD is reference-setting in both picture and sound. Bonus materials are substantial in quantity and quality...and several of them (such as the "Jack-Jack" short) I recommend you consider as "part of" the feature film and watch immediately afterwards while others (Boundin') are easily stand-alone features all their own. Put it all together and you have a 2-disc SE set that needs to be on your shelf when it's not spinning away in your DVD transport.

      Yes...that cliché is headin' your way...


      [b]INCREDIBLY RECOMMENDED







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#2 of 187 ONLINE   TravisR

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Posted March 06 2005 - 03:08 AM

Awesome movie and great review!

Is it March 15 yet?

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#3 of 187 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted March 06 2005 - 04:02 AM

Just some thoughts on the animation...

After seeing John Lasseter's CGI animated feature Toy Story in 1995, I wrote in my review, "The critics have got this all wrong. They're comparing [Toy Story] to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Toy Story is not Snow White. Toy Story is 'Steamboat Willie' - it is only the beginning."

If Toy Story was the equivalent of "Steamboat Willie", then Pixar's latest film, The Incredibles, is their "The Skeleton Dance". In "Skeleton", the first of Disney's acclaimed Silly Symphonies, Walt moved away from the endearing comedy of Mickey Mouse to experiment with subject matter that was more overtly adult-oriented and frightening. Parents complained it scared their kids. Walt, thank goodness, didn't listen to them - he wasn't making films for toddlers, he was making films for a general audience. The success of "The Skeleton Dance" allowed Walt to continue the Silly Symphonies, which led to further innovation, until Walt reached the zenith of the hand-drawn animated feature medium with the Golden Age features of the late 30's and early 40's, namely, Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi.

I think the last nine years have proven me right - that Toy Story was not "the zenith" of CGI feature animation, but only the beginning. And now, with The Incredibles, we're seeing the Pixar studios starting to branch out into more overtly adult subject matter and push the boundaries of what people should expect from them.

A quick word on that -- Pixar does not make films for children, they make films that young people as well as older people can enjoy. That was Walt's philosophy, but he would occasinally make films that were too intense for very young viewers. Bambi, Pinocchio, Snow White and many others all feature moments of horror and violence that remain too frightening for small children. Likewise, though Pixar makes movies for general family audiences, their films do occasionally feature moments that can scare the pants off the very young and easily frightened. Think of the mutilated toys that hide under Sid's bed in Toy Story, the violence of Hopper and "Thumper" in A Bug's Life, the corporate scream factory of Monsters Inc., and the various ocean dangers of Finding Nemo. The Incredibles is probably the least-accessible film for the very young that Pixar has yet made - but that's a good thing. Like "The Skeleton Dance", The Incredibles is still a family film, but it is not one appropriate for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers should take the PG rating seriously.

The Incredibles is the most fun I've had at the movies in years. It is the sort of film that you watch and and before the end, you realize your facial muscles are getting sore because you've been smiling non-stop for two hours. It is a dazzling showcase for human imagination and technical innovation. It is at once a warm blanket of comic nostalgia and a sharp criticism of modern politically-correct appeals to equality. People in their thirties might remember what it was like to see E.T. for the first time back in 1982 or Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. The Incredibles is the first film I've seen in my adult years to give me that exact same feeling.

When James Cameron wrapped Titanic, he told Premiere magazine that movie ticket prices should be raised for "event" pictures -- I think Pixar could get away with charging $20 a seat for The Incredibles, and leave few people complaining.

To discuss the particulars of the movie would be to spoil the many wonderful surprises contained within, so I'll leave a discussion of the plot for others to pick over. Instead, I'd like to single out a few aspects of why this film is so special.

The first is the most subtle, but the single biggest factor in the film's success. If I were teaching a college class, at about this time, I'd start showing some of the previous attempts at animating humans in CGI animated films such as Toy Story, Jimmy Neutron, Shrek and Finding Nemo.

And then I'd show the dining room sequence in The Incredibles.

I hate to keep using comparisons to the hand-drawn tradition animation legacy, but they're the most apt in these instances. Throughout the 30's, Disney struggled with the balancing act of animating a human being. Make them too real, they clash with the more abstract characters in the film (see Snow White). Make them too much of a caricature, they lose all believability (see "Goddess of Spring"). Pixar has struggled with this since their animated baby in "Tin Toy", which did not achieve believability in either animation nor design.

Now, over a decade later, here we are with The Incredibles, a landmark animated film in that human characters have finally been achieved in CGI equalling the grace, freedom of expression and caricature seen in 101 Dalmatians. This achievement should not be understated. Because the characters are presented with such naturalism, because the acting is so good, we come to believe in these characters -- in their world, in their pain. They gain empathy in this way, and they endear themselves to us. You take that achievement in CGI character animaton and marry it to outstanding vocal work and a firecracker screenplay, it isn't too hard to see how The Incredibles has a legitimate claim to the throne of "best CGI animated feature film" to date.

Another subtle achivement - though no less important and no less a breakthrough - is Brad Bird's work as director of this film. A protege of Disney animator Milt Kahl in the early 70's, Bird has always been respected in animation circles, but I wasn't introduced to him until his "Family Dog" episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories in the mid-80's. Even then, he showed gifts for staging and imaginative use of his "camera", traits he would refine working on "The Simpsons", and then showcase with his acclaimed animated feature, The Iron Giant.

In The Incredibles, Bird's gift for staging is unleashed -- from epic city battles, to the dilemna of ElastiGirl trapped in multiple corridors, to even small, quiet scenes, such as a husband driving out of a garage leaving behind a wife who thinks he might be cheating on her. This is a film directed by a man as confident in his storytelling abilities as Steven Spielberg, and as gifted in his staging and composition as Michael Curtiz.

Finally - and this is not so subtle - the look of the film and the period settings are a major contribution. The art direction and settings of the film are solidly rooted in the 1960's, which allows the film enough distance from the modern age to not be burdened by slavish realism while still allowing the film to retain a certain "Johnny Quest"-era believability to the space-age technology. Naturalism is the word for The Incredibles, not Realism, and the world-builders at Pixar look to have had an absolute field day designing a "retro-future". From wall clocks to business cards, from airplanes to living room furniture, from volcanic lairs to office cubicles, we are presented with the look of an age from the American past, but not so distant as to make the technology utterly implausible (see the Will Smith western Wild Wild West for an example of misjudging technology and setting).

In fact, fans of the James Bond films of the 60's and 70's should find much to delight in here. The villain of The Incredibles has a secret base on a tropical island more stunning than the lairs of Drax, Scaramanga, Blofeld, Stromberg, and Dr. No combined.

I've often written that there is no such thing as a perfect movie, except for Chuck Jones' "One Froggy Evening". Brad Bird's The Incredibles comes pretty close to being the second. When the character Dash is finally allowed to be all he can be, the liberation is an amazing thing to behold.

Free to move into PG territory, Pixar's liberation is also a wonderful thing to experience -- and like Toy Story in 1995, I tell you now that this is not the height of their powers. Toy Story was not Snow White, and The Incredibles is not Pinocchio. In fact, The Incredibles strongly hints at a future a decade from now where "action films" shot with live stuntmen and actors may become increasingly irrelevant. Historians will look back one day and say that this was only the beginning.

-- Ernest Rister

#4 of 187 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 06 2005 - 04:04 AM

David,

Once again....you have left me speechless.

A terrific review and I am certain, a
terrific viewing experience in store for
all of us when we receive this DVD.

Thank You

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#5 of 187 OFFLINE   Francois Caron

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Posted March 06 2005 - 04:17 AM

"The Indredibles?"

DaViD, are you still writing your reviews in the middle of the night? Posted Image

Definitely will be buying this one.

BTW, for your EX center speaker set-up, have you considered pointing them upwards to have the sound bounce off the ceiling and back to the seating area?


#6 of 187 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted March 06 2005 - 04:37 AM

Quote:
Toy Story is not Snow White. Toy Story is 'Steamboat Willie' - it is only the beginning."


Wouldn't it be more logical to compare "Luxo Jr" to "Steamboat Willie"? Toy Story to Snow White makes perfect sense - one was the first full-length cel-animated flick, the other was the first full-length computer-animated flick...
Colin Jacobson
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#7 of 187 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted March 06 2005 - 04:39 AM

Considering the length and detail of the Miyazaki reviews, the Bambi review, and now the Incredibles review, I'm surprised the upstairs neighbor wasn't complaining about the constant non-stop "clack-clack-clacking" sound of David's keyboard the past week.

UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR
(to landlord)
You don't understand! He NEVER STOPS TYPING!!!

#8 of 187 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted March 06 2005 - 05:04 AM

Wouldn't it be more logical to compare "Luxo Jr" to "Steamboat Willie"?

I'd compare "Luxo Jr." to something like "Gertie the Dinosaur" in that "Luxo" (like Gertie) has no plot, and is just a movement and character demonstration. "Gertie" is actually the better of the two.

Toy Story to Snow White makes perfect sense - one was the first full-length cel-animated flick, the other was the first full-length computer-animated flick...

You mean feature? The first animated features were made in South America, long before Snow White, and were made in the silent era. They were harsh political screeds -- think of them as animated Fahrenheit 9/11's -- and were produced while Walt was just getting his feet wet. Snow White was not the first animated feature, and when you listened to Walt, he always said "This was going to be OUR first animated feature" or "Then we made OUR first animated feature", not "THE first animated feature". One could rightly say that Snow White was the first seven-reel animated narrative, but that's a mouthful.

Regardless, you're missing the context. When "Steamboat" first appeared, it was the culmination of all Walt had done prior. And every year, year after year, Walt continued to top himself, everything building towards the greatest works of hand-drawn character animation of all time -- Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. With these, he reached the mountaintop. He couldn't climb any higher.

I don't think these first CGI features are going to be considered the zenith of this young medium -- compared to The Incredibles, look how crude Toy Story already looks. These first CGI features are not the mountaintop. They are only the beginning. Somewhere out there lies the Citadel, but this young medium has only begun the climb.

#9 of 187 OFFLINE   Kris Deering

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Posted March 06 2005 - 05:06 AM

Hey David

Great Review!! Summed up the experience perfectly for me.

As for your EX issue, I would skip it. The benefits of EX or ES are completely wasted when you sit up against a boundary like that. The panning sensation just goes away completely and by mounting the speakers above you, you will get an off pan that will extend up and over instead of around. It's the price we pay for space limitations!!

I also have to agree with your bass comments. This film has insane infrasonic information. Most people's subs won't even approach those low levels of bass so they may never even hear it. I tested this soundtrack on two different systems and both of them have the ability to go well below 20Hz, and the sheer amount of infrasonic bass is astounding. You won't hear it, but oh you'll feel it.

Keep up the great work with the reviews!!

Contributing Editor/Writer
Sound and Vision Magazine

 


#10 of 187 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted March 06 2005 - 05:26 AM

"...both of them have the ability to go well below 20Hz."

Sweet. Have you tested Fantasia/2000 on that system?

#11 of 187 OFFLINE   Jeff_L

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Posted March 06 2005 - 05:41 AM

As soon as I saw The Incredibles on Nov 5th, I knew no better movie would be coming out for the rest of the year. The best movie of last year far and away! Saw it in the theaters more times than any other that I can think of, 10. The most entertaining movie on every level from start to finish that I have seen in a hell of a long time. But what else should I expect from Brad Bird? The holy trinity of family films in my opinion is now E.T., The Iron Giant, and The Incredibles, so way to go Brad for 2 out of 3! As far as the violence is concerned it is no worse than the 1st Star Wars Trilogy, it is rated PG after all. Michael Giacchino, you got shafted my friend. How he wasn't nominated for Original Score was a crime, he should have won for goodness sakes. Maybe a snob factor, looked him up on IMDB, and a lot of the work he previously did was for video games, but that music was good too!:S

#12 of 187 OFFLINE   Bryant Trew

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Posted March 06 2005 - 05:53 AM

Watched this last night - It's the first movie to make me question the maximum potential of DVD. Yes, I know it's easier to make an animation look better than real life, but this is ridiculously good. I had no idea my RPTV was capable of looking so awesome.

As for the sound, I did find it very clear, but a bit low. I even broke out my Radio Shack meter to check it. Most peaks hit around 80db, and the average sound is much lower. For the best action flicks I get peaks in the 90's. All it requires is that I punch the volume up though...
Matrix Reloaded isn't deep at all. It's a simple, rehashed concept dressed up in fancy words and designer outfits...

Real World: "I'm hungry as hell, so I'm going to run my ass down to Micky D's to get me a burger and fries."

Matrix 2: "I need sustenance, ergo, move I shall expeditiously...

#13 of 187 OFFLINE   Casey Trowbridg

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Posted March 06 2005 - 06:16 AM

This is the only movie I've ever seen in a theater more than once. I saw it November 6 and again November 9 and it didn't get any less cool the second time I saw it.

I've not looked forward to a DVD coming out this much in quite a long time, and I was really eager for Star Wars but not as much as I am for the Incredibles.

Reviews like this from DaViD just make the wait all the more painful. Please 3/15 hurry up and arrive.

Ernest's first post in the thread was also very well put and I find myself in agreement with a lot of it. Toy Story really was just the beginning, and the Incredibles is just a rest stop on the journey so to speak.

I love this movie...

#14 of 187 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted March 06 2005 - 07:12 AM

Just finished reading David's review and Ernest's follow-up essay.

Wow!

We are truly fortunate to have these two gifted writers gracing this forum.

It's gonna be a long 9 days...

Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

 

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.

* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.


#15 of 187 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted March 06 2005 - 07:37 AM

I think we're all far more fortunate to have two of the greatest animated films ever made released on home video in spectacular fashion within 14 days of each other. Bambi and The Incredibles are landmarks of character animation and we're blessed to receive such great home video presentations of both, releases separated by a mere 336 hours.



#16 of 187 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 06 2005 - 08:28 AM

So, has anyone found the 9-10 Easter Eggs?

DaViD? Posted Image

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#17 of 187 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted March 06 2005 - 08:36 AM

David - again thanks for a great review. Your Bambi review was the cause of me purchasing it last night. Posted Image

I saw this twice in the theater (one with a friend and once with my parents) and I found the latter half, in particular, fantastic. When it went into full superhero mode, it was a rush, and left me smiling widely. And that doesn't do it justice. It was jaw-droppingly, exhilirating. One of the best 40 minutes of movie action I've seen in a long time. They could have looped that three times and called it the move. Posted Image

But, I found the introduction a bit slow and the character tensions not as interesting as I'd hoped. I kept comparing it X-Men, which I still find the best superhero movie since maybe Superman I/II.

And so I question Ernest's suggestion that one day animation will replace live-action superhero movies. To me, it's like saying one day animated characters will replace all actors. But it could be. Final Fantasy attempted it. Tom Hanks tried it with Polar Express.

But perhaps Ernest's right: Arguably, we're there already. SpiderMan is all CGI for the big stunts. The motion of the X-Men, their powers and feats of strength, are all shown with the help of (computer-generated) animation. The burly-brawl of The Matrix: Reloaded is fully CGI Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving.

Of course, the important thing is the story. You can draw it with crayons and animate with a flipbook, and it will be a success if the story and acting are there. And Pixar clearly knows this, putting their incredible technology in the service of the story.

#18 of 187 OFFLINE   TheLongshot

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Posted March 06 2005 - 09:50 AM

Quote:
Hopefully Jason and myself will be able to coordinate soon to do some screen-captures at full resolution and do just that.


I did send you an E-Mail yestderday, which did have my home phone. Did you get it?

Jason

#19 of 187 OFFLINE   Nkosi

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Posted March 06 2005 - 10:54 AM

I agree with Craig S that we are really fortunate to have HTF as a place where we can learn so much from such great and insightful people. DaViD- the review was incred... I won't do it Posted Image DaViD- the review was awesome!! And Ernest, thanks for the follow up essay. Man, I simply can't wait for this DVD. The movie blew me away last year and was my favorite film from 2004. The movie is just a true celebration and display of the power of cinema and storytelling. Unbelievable. And DaViD's DVD review has me pacing... trying to wait until the 15th. Great movie!

#20 of 187 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted March 06 2005 - 11:52 AM

Incredible review David! Posted Image
Forget M$B this was easily the best film of 2004, looking forward to my copy soon.Posted Image

Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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