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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Despicable Me - Recommended



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#1 of 9 Kevin EK

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Posted December 17 2010 - 04:36 PM

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DESPICABLE ME


Studio: Universal

Year: 2010

Length:  1 hr 35 mins

Genre: Animated Comedy/Spy vs Spy Spoof


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


BD Resolution: 1080p

BD Video Codec: AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)

Color/B&W: Color


Audio:

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.0 mbps, up to 5 mbps in the big scenes)

Spanish DTS 5.1

French DTS 5.1

English DVS (Descriptive Visual Service) 2.0


Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Film Rating: PG (Rude Humor, Mild Action)


Release Date: December 14, 2010


Starring the voices of:  Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer and Julie Andrews

Screenplay by:  Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio

Based on a story by Sergio Pablos

Directed by: Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin


Film Rating:    3/5


Despicable Me is a fun family comedy that doesn’t have a lot of depth, but does feature a keen sense of humor, particularly in terms of other movies.  Clearly designed as a 3D release, the film still works as a 2D Blu-ray, primarily on the strength of the voice cast and a few inventive set pieces that recall everything from 70s James Bond films to Dr. Strangelove to the Tom Cruise era of Mission Impossible.  The animation here is quite clever, investing each character with a specific look that either makes them stand out (like the lead character, supervillain Groo, who shares his long nose with his mother) or blends them in with the appropriate onscreen group (the many and varied Minions).  The plot here is quite simple, and if you’ve seen the trailer for the film, you already know how this will all go:  Supervillain Groo (Steve Carrell), worried that he’s being upstaged by a younger, newer guy named Vector (Jason Segel), plans a heist to steal the Moon itself.  As part of his nefarious scheme, he adopts three cute little girls, but winds up caring for them and questioning himself.   There’s a bit of spy vs. spy material here, as Groo and Vector steal a vital “Shrink Ray” back and forth from each other, and there’s a fine sense of scale at work in many of the sequences, including an opening at the site of the Great Pyramids.  Beyond that, there’s an equally inventive sound designer at work here, clearly channeling Ben Burtt as we can hear a “Wilhelm” scream lovingly inserted into the film as Groo’s mother (Julie Andrews) disposes of her trainer.  And there’s the collective voice of the Minions, which resembles nothing so much as the Jawas from Star Wars.  All of this is fun material, which doesn’t add up to a lot of substance, but certainly can make for an entertaining family movie night.                                                                                           


Despicable Me has been released on standard definition DVD and Blu-ray, as well as 3D Blu-ray as of this week.   The Blu-ray edition holds solid high definition picture and sound transfers, along with a raft of extras that include three “mini-movies” with the Minions, a commentary, some featurettes in high definition, a pair of interactive games, some cookie recipes, and a silly Gru-Control feature that gives Vector and the Minions control over your television at various points  during the film.  Further Blu-ray functionality is also part of the package, including pocket BLU, My Scenes, an online ticker and trailers.   The Blu-ray package includes the SD DVD as well, along with a Digital Copy disc.

                                                       

VIDEO QUALITY   4 ½/5

Despicable Me is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer that is a pleasure to watch.  There’s a lovely range of colors and details on display here.  The only better way to see this film, to my mind, would be to watch the 3D version.   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.


I should note that the standard definition DVD included with the Blu-ray, sports an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that is completely acceptable if you’re only using SD hardware. 



AUDIO QUALITY   4 ½/5

Despicable Me is presented in a fine English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, along with standard DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish.  There is also an English Descriptive Visual Service track available.   The HD mix is a lot of fun, including the aforementioned touches, like the “Wilhelm” scream and the Jawa talk.  There’s also a great sense of atmosphere throughout, with the surrounds constantly holding low level sounds appropriate to whatever setting we happen to see.  The subwoofer gets plenty of action here, usually when Groo uses one of his special rays, or when a special car or rocket crosses the screen.  As you might expect, the music fills all the channels, including some witty songs by Pharrell.


The standard definition DVD included here includes Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in English, French and Spanish along with the DVS track.  Like the video area, these mixes are perfectly fine if your only option is SD hardware.


SPECIAL FEATURES      3/5

The Blu-Ray presentation of Despicable Me comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, as well as pocket BLU and D-Box functionality.   To this is added a bunch of extras, including the “mini-movies”, some featurettes, the commentary, the games and the Gru-Control idea.  The standard definition DVD is included as part of the package.  A disc with a Digital Copy is also included in the packaging.  


Filmmaker Commentary with Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin and the Minions – This commentary works in fits and starts.  When the directors are actually discussing the movie and their ideas about it, this is an entertaining and informative discussion.  But for some reason, we also hear the Minions (who the directors voiced, albeit sped up a whole lot), which renders any such moment incomprehensible.  This idea is almost as strange as the notorious “Thermian Language Track” included on DVDs of Galaxy Quest… I mean, it’s one thing to enjoy a recording of Alvin and the Chipmunks destroying a Christmas Carol.  It’s something else entirely to make that a part of the only commentary on your movie.


Gru-Control – Here we have a version of the “Take Control” functionality seen on some titles over the past year, including Fast & Furious and The Wolfman.   In this case, the viewing experience is mostly controlled by the Minions, who break in at various times to try to adjust the picture or play various games onscreen.  Vector also gets into this act, pausing and rewinding an early speech by Gru.  I get the feeling that this feature could work well on the 3D Blu-ray, but I haven’t seen that disc to know.  (One early bit has a Minion trying to clean mud off the screen and ending up sticking his hand out at the viewer…)  I can’t say that there’s anything particularly informative here.  This is really just a fun way to watch the movie for a second time.  I don’t recommend watching it like this on the first run through – you could miss important plot information while the Minions do their thing.  But if you’re screening the film for a third or fourth time for the kids, this feature should keep them entertained.


Mini-Movies – (12:07 Total, 1080p)  Three new short films featuring the Minions are presented here in 1080p picture and SD DTS sound.  The first one, “Home Makeover”, also features the three little girls from the movie, as they get the Minions to clean up Groo’s house for an inspection by a social worker.  The second one, “Orientation Day”, shows what happens when new Minions come to work for the organization and literally bomb at their job.  The final one, “Banana” is a more abstract piece, somehow concerned with the Minions’ interest in various fruit…  There’s nothing really significant here, but these are nice added bonuses to amuse the younger members of your family.


The Voices of Despicable Me – (16:34, 1080p)  This featurette mostly consists of on-set footage of the voice actors working at the microphone with Chris Renaud, along with interview snippets with them and the film’s producers and directors.  There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun here, as they cover various subjects like Groo’s distinct and yet indistinct accent.


The World of Despicable Me – (15:16, 1080p)  This is a more general featurette about the making of the movie, including the design work.  The idea of making a movie focused on the problems of being a supervillain is brought up here, and is one of the more entertaining parts of this piece.


Despicable Beats – (2:48, 1080p)  This quick featurette focuses on the work of Pharrell Williams, whose songs fill the movie, particularly his witty title piece.


Super Silly Fun Land – This is actually a set of three interactive games that take the viewer to the title location from the movie to try various carnival booth activities for prizes.  This is another fun activity for kids going through the disc for the second time.


Gru’s Rocket Builder – This is another interactive game for kids, with an added educational value.  For this game, you need to match famous landmarks with hints and their geographic location to get the pieces Gru needs to complete his rocket.  As you correctly match each landmark, you’ll hear a little trivia about the site.  This game didn’t run completely well on the PS3 for me, in that the trivia notes were quite choppy.


Mrs. Hattie’s Top Secret Cookie Recipes – Yes, you read that correctly.  This is a series of five cookie recipes for the girl scout cookies peddled by the kids in the movie.  For the record, the options are “Minty Mints”, “Choco Swirlies”, “Coconutties”, “Toffee Totes” (not seen in the film!) and “Caramel Clumpies” (also not seen in the film!)  And no, I have not taken the time to try these recipes myself…


A Global Effort – (3:23, 1080p)  This quick featurette deals with the international nature of the production.  Via ISDN lines and air travel, the producers of this film were able to connect people from several continents at the same time to put the whole thing together.   From what I can tell, this is primarily a French production, but several European countries contributed talent (including Spain), and the voice talent primarily comes from the U.S.


Despicable Game Previews – (1:56 total, 1080i)  A pair of trailers for games based on the film are presented here.  The first game, Despicable Me: The Game, is a standard PS3, XBOX 360, Wii platformer.  The second game, Minion Mayhem, is an app for your iPod or iPhone.


BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. 


My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.


pocket BLU – The latest Blu-ray features of phone apps and social networking are included here for viewers with the right iPhones, Blackberries and other current hardware.


My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.


D-Box – D-Box functionality is included for viewers who have this capability in their home theater.


Digital Copy – A digital copy of the movie is included on a third disc in the packaging.


The standard definition DVD included in the packaging holds the commentary and some of the special features, including The World of Despicable Me, Despicable Beats, A Global Effort, the game previews and the Gru’s Rocket Builder interactive trivia game.


The usual promotional ticker is present on the main menu, but can be toggled off at your discretion. The film and special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.  Further, when you first put the Blu-ray in the player, several trailers will load from BD-Live, which you can get past by hitting the “Next Chapter” button. 


IN THE END...

Despicable Me is a fun family movie that has enough eye-catching set pieces and funny bits to make for a good family movie night.  Is it the deepest movie you’ve ever seen, or even at the level of a Coraline or Beauty and the Beast?  No, but it doesn’t need to be that to make for a simple night of fun.  The Blu-ray boasts a nice picture and sound package, along with multiple extras designed for kids to make for enjoyable repeat viewings.


Kevin Koster

December 17, 2010. 



#2 of 9 Adam Gregorich

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Posted December 18 2010 - 04:03 PM

Thanks for the review Kevin.  Great family movie is right.  My wife and I enjoyed this as much as the 5yo twins did.  It was a lot of fun.  The three new minion movies were a blast too. It looked fantastic on the 120+" screen.  The 3 additional minion cartoons were great too.  I'm looking forward to rewatching it in 3D.  Ron posted his thoughts on the 3D version here: http://www.hometheat...icable-me-in-3d



#3 of 9 David Norman

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Posted December 18 2010 - 05:24 PM

I think I like the movie a bit better than Kevin or maybe I went into it with low enough expectations, it seemed a lot better than I was expecting (definitely a significant

step above Megamind).    I sat down to spot check some scenes and to make sure I wasn't having any freeze/skips like another forum had reported and then

ended up 80 minutes into the movie before I thought about it along with several pretty large guffaws and a couple gut wrenching bursts that scared the other

occupants.   Yes, the overall plot was telegraphed from the opening credits, but it just didn't matter -- the how they got there was a lot more important.


I still can't believe they got Julie Andrews to voice Mama Gru, but damn if she didn't make me laugh.


The only weird thing as I was watching the Vector's "V"  symbol, I kept getting this weird recall of the Panama City council meeting and the nutcase with

the gun having almost that exact symbol on the wall.   I realize a V with a circle isn't exactly a unique calling card, but it was just a bit eerie having seen that

video several times the same day.


 

 


#4 of 9 Kevin EK

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Posted December 19 2010 - 05:32 AM

I didn't notice any freezing or skipping when watching the movie.   Of course, when the Gru-Control feature is turned on, there are moments where the picture gets frozen, sped up or rewound, but that's due to Vector or the Minions messing around...



#5 of 9 David Norman

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Posted December 19 2010 - 09:17 AM

Mine didn't skip either, but there were several reports on other boards.   The posters replaced the discs and apparently everything was fine.  If it had

just been one report I wouldn't have worried, but after the 2nd and 3rd poster reported the same issues at almost the same point it was a bit bothersome.


OTOH, it made me have a good time I wasn't expecting so fortuitous in the end.


 

 


#6 of 9 Aaron Silverman

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Posted December 20 2010 - 09:05 AM

Any comments on the Best Buy exclusive feature where you get a translation of the Minions' dialogue on your phone or something like that?  It sounds like it might be fun, but not if I have to use my phone. :)


"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick

#7 of 9 Kevin EK

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Posted December 20 2010 - 12:49 PM

I hadn't heard of that feature.  Sounds like a pocket BLU app.  I agree - if you have to use your phone to get it, it's not the same thing as having a movie viewing experience...


#8 of 9 StarTrooper

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Posted December 25 2010 - 11:39 AM

Well, I noticed skipping/freezing on my copy. Starts at 34:48 and last until 39:40. Tried it on two different blu ray players and problem still persists. Even updated the firmware on the newest player, but didn't make a difference. I'll be exchanging my copy when I go into work in the morning.



#9 of 9 Kevin EK

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Posted December 26 2010 - 07:39 AM

Absolutely exchange that copy.  This sounds like a defective disc, and they should give you a new one.