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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Elf

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted November 08 2008 - 01:08 PM

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Release Date: Available now (original release date October 28, 2008)
Studio: New Line Cinema
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h34m
MSRP: $28.99

MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURES
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1May be in standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Spanish 5.1, German 5.1Audio standards my vary
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, German (movie and select bonus materials)


The Feature: 3.5/5
Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a human living in an elf's world, but he doesn't realize it until he's 30 years old. When his adopted elf father (Bob Newhart) finally tells him the whole story of how he came to live in the North Pole with Santa's elves, Buddy is compelled to search out his birth father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan), in far off New York City. But there's one more awful truth Buddy must know before he leaves - Walter is on Santa's Naughty List. Still, no one is hopeless - even though Buddy was only raised as an elf he just might have what it takes to get Walter onto the Nice List, as well as restore the Christmas Spirit in the lives of those he meets along the way.

Directed by Jon Favreau, "Elf" took Ferrell's familiar man-child schtick and put it in a vehicle that both made sense for the story and played well for families. Though the character arc of Caan's supposedly "naughty" Walter is pretty shallow (the only thing he seems guilty of is being grumpy), it's hard to deny the infectious quality of Ferrell's portrayal as the perenially sunny and innocent Buddy. A scene-stealing moment that revealed the beauty of Zooey Deschanel's singing voice also goes a long way toward helping us overlook the film's somewhat contrived set of conflicts, predictable trajectory and resolution. As far as holiday films go, "Elf" is worth being added to the pile, though probably somewhere close to the middle than at the top of it.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
Though labeled as 1.85:1 the image fills the entirety of my 16x9 display. The VC-1 encoded transfer is largely free of blemishes and shows excellent color depth and fidelity. Black levels are a little inconsistent - the interiors of the Hobbs's home show some mild black crush and the flying sleigh effects shots in the finale look a little washed out. Fine object detail is decent - particulary with particles of falling snow - but there also appears to be some grain reduction in play. Though cloth textures, fur and hair don't look too adversely affected, more problematic in my eyes is the noisy stew found in many midtone background areas. Sharpness doesn't seem severely impacted though, producing a picture with nice overall clarity and depth.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The Dolby TrueHD audio track is a mostly front-heavy presentation, with dialogue consistently clear and intelligible. Surround channels provide subtle support for the score and the occasional directional or ambient effect. LFE is largely non-existent until the finale, though until then the audio sounds suitably full in the lower frequencies.

The 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track by comparison sounds a bit more constrained, though I imagine most would be hard pressed to differentiate between the tracks without some aggressive A-B switching.


Special Features: 4/5

The special features package carries over the most of the more adult-oriented pieces from the 2004 "Infinifilm" DVD release, leaving off the DVD-ROM features and "Buddy's Adventure" games. It appears that all the video is in high definition, though the documentaries are obviously upscaled. The only items that look truly high definition are the trailer and deleted scenes.

Commentary by Director Jon Favreau: Favreau provides a generally informative and engaging track filled with technical detail and production anecdotes, though he does have a tendency for scene description.

Commentary by Will Ferrell: Ferrell is surprisingly serious and sincere - not the goof one would expect, meaning he knows when to turn it off. Consequently his commentary holds one's interest, though it proves somewhat repetitive after some of the information shared by Favreau in his track.

Documentaries (1h28m): Of the nine featurettes totaling almost 90 minutes, the most instructive is the "Film School for Kids," which offers a nice primer on the different jobs on a film set. Viewers should also be interested by the pieces on set design, stop motion animation and post-production. The rest of the documentaries look at the various ways people celebrate Christmas.

Fact Track: Subtitle track provides background information and various pieces of trivia over the course of the film.

Focus Points: For those who don't mind taking diversions during their viewing, the branching feature makes accessible the special features videos at select points during the film. This is the Infinifilm feature under a different name.

Elf Karaoke: Includes tracks for "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells."

Theatrical Trailer (2m30s): In high definition with stereo audio.

Additional Scenes (11m26s): Eight deleted or alternate scenes with optional commentary by Favreau. In high definition with stereo audio.

Digital Copy: Download a digital copy for playback on computer or portable video device. Compatible with both Mac and Windows.


Recap

The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

A popular, modern holiday film gets decent audio and video treatment and a very good set of special features that carries over those DVD items most likely to appeal to adults. For those who own the DVD, the overall treatment on Blu-Ray will likely be a hard sell for a double-dip given the lack of major improvement across the board. Those who have yet to add it to their collection won't necessarily be disappointed by going with the Blu-Ray, but they may also want to consider tracking down the DVD for the complete package at a bargain price.
One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 3 Mike Frezon

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Posted November 09 2008 - 09:12 AM

My inclination, Cameron, is to want to upgrade...but I doubt the difference will be too noticeable...especially on my smaller display. I usually upgrade now for audio purposes and the down-the-road potential for screen expansion.

Maybe, though, I'd be best served to save my money for something I don't already have.

This IS a holiday staple in our home each season, though. (If only the ending wasn't so lame... Posted Image )

Decisions...decisions...

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#3 of 3 JediFonger

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Posted November 10 2008 - 03:07 PM

i'm glad i'm not the ONLY one who noticed the selective DNR. if u freeze frame certain parts it can look decent, but this DNR business is getting quite out of hand. on the other hand, the lossless is quite good when the sleigh comes down =P. other than it's just a typical comedy =).





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