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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Where the Wild Things Are



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#1 of 2 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted February 28 2010 - 04:40 PM

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Where the Wild Things Are

Release Date: March 2, 2010
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover
Year: 2009
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:41:00
MSRP: $35.99



  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 High definition
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Stereo
Subtitles English SDH, French and Spanish Variable

The Feature: 3/5

Nine-year old Max (Max Records) is a howling ball of energy and emotion. While radiantly joyful at play, melancholy and frustration can be just as potent when he encounters life's varied frustrations and disappointments. One night, his spirited nature - augmented by a still-developing self-awareness and self-control - leads him to an emotional and physical battle of wills with Mom (Catherine Keener). Shocked and embarrassed by his own behavior, Max runs away from home to an island inhabited by a welcoming but dysfunctional family of monsters. Max immediately bonds with Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), who seems to be suffering from a broken heart. But there are some obvious tensions between all the creatures, in particular between Carol and KW (voiced by Lauren Ambrose), but Max appoints himself their king and promises to make everything better. Though things go great for a time, old problems work their way back into the fold, showing Max that whether human or monster, families will always have their problems. The trick is learning how to work them out.

Adapted by David Eggers and Director Spike Jonze from the beloved children's book by Maurice Sendak, "Where the Wild Things Are" offers a worthwhile message for younger audience members, but ironically doesn't tell it in a way that will make them want to listen for long. Though the pace of its storytelling is probably fine for adults, the weight of its metaphors tends to come off as overly pedantic for those who already understand that life has problems. Longtime lovers of the book will undoubtedly be pleased by the aesthetic qualities of the film, with its hip indie rock soundtrack and production design that seems wholly consistent with the source material, but those wanting more than just impressive visuals will be left feeling a little empty.

Video Quality: 4/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Consistent black level is the most obvious problem with the image, though the outright murkiness of Max's first nighttime encounter with the monsters doesn't happen again, thankfully. The picture fares much better in daytime settings, showing the full range of contrast and excellent detail in fine pattern areas like hair and clothing. With its muted and earthy palette, colors won't bowl anyone over, but they are deep and nicely saturated. The picture also shows no obvious signs of edge enhancement or noise reduction measures.

Audio Quality: 4/5

Surround channel activity in the DTS-HD Master Audio track consists mostly of balanced and detailed support for the score, with environmental and directional effects showing up here and there for the action-heavy scenes. LFE is quite robust with crashing waves, falling objects and monstrous footfalls and dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. Offering very good sonic detail and dynamic range, the track is an effective complement to the visual presentation.

Special Features: 3/5

The behind-the-scenes featurettes by Lance Bangs are entertaining and the short film adaptation of another Sendak work is a nice (if sometimes surreal) touch, but there is a rather notable hole in the special features package. Perhaps something detailing the impressive work by the Jim Henson Creature Shop? Or the theatrical trailer that made everyone so excited about the film in the first place?

Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life (23:30, HD): Adapted from Maurice Sendak's book by the same name, the short film seamlessly fuses live action puppetry with stop motion animation to tell the story of Jennie the Dog (voiced by Meryl Streep) as she leaves her home to find out what the world has to offer. The tale can be rather surreal, especially in regards to a baby she's put in charge of, but this shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the source material.

HBO First Look (13:02, HD): Overview of the production covers the adaptation, cast rehearsals and voice recording, the search for the actor to play Max and on-set relationships. The piece was created by filmmaker Lance Bangs and features interviews with Maurice Sendak, Spike Jonze, Max Records and Catherine Keener.

Shorts by Lance Bangs: A fair amount of the material was used for the HBO First Look piece, so there's some redundancy here. Still, it's nice to have a more extended look behind the scenes.
  • Maurice and Spike (3:15, HD): Sendak and Jonze talk about how they met and their working relationship.
  • Max and Spike (6:37, HD): Records and Jonze talk about their relationship and what it was like working together.
  • The Records Family (6:45, HD): Records's father Shawn describes Max's audition and what it was like to be on the set.
  • Carter Burwell (4:39, HD): Composer Burwell talks about the score.
  • The Absurd Difficulty of Filming A Dog Running and Barking at the Same Time (5:32, HD): Humorous piece looks at the many attempts to get a dog to do what seems like a pretty simple thing.
  • The Big Prank (3:23, HD): The crew play a practical joke on Jonze involving a Vespa scooter.
  • Vampire Attack (:51, HD): Records and Jonze's short film about being attacked by a vampire.
  • The Kids Take Over the Picture (4:57, HD): A look at the on-set dynamic from having the cast and crew's children present for and involved in the production.
DVD: For playback when there's not a Blu-ray player around. Includes the feature only.

Digital Copy: Incorporated into the DVD "Combo Disc" and compatible with Mac and Windows. Offer expires February 28, 2011.

Recap

The Feature: 3/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5


Warner Brothers turns in a fine presentation of a film, based on a beloved children's book, that doesn't quite pay off for either children or adults. The special features package offers some interesting behind the scenes material, but ultimately feels incomplete.






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#2 of 2 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

    Executive Producer

  • 10,273 posts
  • Join Date: May 09 2002
  • Real Name:Cameron Yee
  • LocationSince 2006

Posted March 04 2010 - 04:39 PM

Movie Haiku

Max's emotions
Feed his imagination
And it proves monstrous


One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com





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