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Brave 3D Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 37 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted November 06 2012 - 10:01 AM

Pixar reclaims a giant chunk of its formerly sterling reputation (after the disappointing Cars 2) with Brave, a princess story with a decided and delicious difference. The usual hallmarks of Pixar are very much in evidence: brilliant, breathtaking animation, sound design that’s second to none, and the humor and heart that works in such complementary ways with one another. It’s something of a coming of age story with a young girl at the center, but its lessons about growing up and one’s continuing love but slowly relinquishing reliance on parents speak to us all. It’s a beautiful film.







Brave 3D (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell

Studio: Disney/Pixar
Year: 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 93 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 49.99



Release Date: November 13, 2012

Review Date: November 6, 2012




The Film

4/5


Chafing under the domination of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) isn’t interested in being groomed for the throne and is definitely not ready to be betrothed to one of a trio of grisly young men from three other Scottish clans. So, she happens on a witch (Julie Walters) in the forest who offers her a spell-ridden cake for her mother which Merida hopes will change her mother’s point of view about her daughter’s future. But as is often the case with magic, what appears foolproof on the surface goes awry as one bite of the cake turns her mother into a bear. With the fearsome bear Mor’du having bitten off her father’s (Billy Connolly) leg as a young man, Merida knows bears aren’t popular around the castle, so she hastens to get her mother away from the clans and hopes she can find the witch to reverse the spell. When that fails, Merida and her mother find their bond becomes stronger in their common search for an answer to her dilemma, but time is running out to change her mother back as the spell becomes permanent after two days.


Though four names appear in the credits for the screenplay (directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell along with Irene Mecchi), the story flows smoothly as we watch Merida grow from a young girl to a young woman becoming a proficient archer along the way. Even with the setting of 13th century Scotland, much about the dynamics between the parents and children in the movie have a distinctly modern ring to them, and Merida’s recalcitrance at being forced into something she’s not emotionally ready to undertake with no possibility of stating her own case will be easy to identify with for almost any audience (Merida’s showdown with her three suitors in an archery tournament is one of the film’s high points). While the writers get a bit too cutsey with the Witch’s personality in her two sequences, she’s undeniably entertaining if a bit too modern to fit comfortably among these rustic warriors of old. The film’s production design, however, is simply jaw dropping as Scotland comes alive in these majestic, detailed CGI renderings, and the directors use their ravishing settings to stage a number of memorable sequences. The highlight of the film remains a bucolic sequence when Elinor as Mum-bear learns to forage for food in a stream where gorgeous animation provides both tender moments and slapstick comedy in the best Pixar tradition.


Kelly Macdonald is full of feisty sass and plenty of pluck as Merida, and her Scottish brogue (as is the case with the other Scottish actors hired for the film) is never too thick to prevent understanding of what she’s saying. Emma Thompson has a noble carriage and the gentle art of diplomacy as Elinor while Billy Connolly’s braying, clumsy Fergus is always a treat. The three Scottish clan leaders putting their sons up for selection are played in the expected extroverted manner by Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson. Julie Walters has all kinds of fun with the eccentric witch who moonlights as a wood carver, bears a specialty.



Video Quality

5/5

3D implementation – 4.5/5


The film’s theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Whether in 2D or 3D, the images are breathtakingly beautiful. The details in hair, clothes, a tapestry (where you can see individual strands), trees, moss, stone, and other objects just defy description. Colors are bold and deeply saturated with Merida’s red, red hair coming close to but never quite blooming. Black levels are rich and deep, and the image is as perfect as one should expect. The film has been divided into 37 chapters.


As with most Pixar 3D films, outward projections are not of primary importance to the animators though there are arrow tips and hands that reach beyond the frame for split seconds. But the sense of depth in the image is often quite staggering, and the 3D version of the film is much more interesting visually with its complex placement of people, animals,  and objects within their environments which 3D exploits to the maximum.



Audio Quality

5/5


The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound mix is a miracle of audio design with split sound effects occupying the fronts and rears at an almost constant pace. There are pans across and through the soundfield, and the rear back channels are used to make smooth transitions for sounds at the rear of the field. Patrick Doyle’s music and the Gaelic ballads of Julie Fowlis get remarkably fluid renderings in the fronts and rears aiding immeasurably in establishing the time and place of the action. Dialogue has been beautifully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features

5/5


The 3D disc contains 3D promo trailers for Monster University, Finding Nemo 3D, and Planes.


Also included on the 3D disc is La Luna, the Oscar-nominated 7-minute short which accompanied Brave in theaters as three generations of Italians go about their family business tending to the phases of the moon.


There are two 2D Blu-ray discs in the set. All video bonus features are presented in 1080p on these discs. The first disc contains the following features:


An audio commentary is provided by directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen, and editor Nick Smith. Despite having four men in the same room, the commentary is never a free-for-all. Andrews does the most talking but all have interesting information to offer about the production of the movie.


La Luna is also offered in 2D on this disc running for 7 minutes.


The Legend of Mor’du is another animated short offering background on how the film’s enchanted and ferocious black bear Mor’du came into existence. It runs 6 ¾ minutes.


“Brave Old World” details the location trip which members of the production team took to Scotland to sketch and photograph the countryside and get inspiration for the look of the movie. It runs 12 ½ minutes.


“Merida & Elinor” features actresses Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson as well as director Brenda Chapman discussing the two leading characters of the film in this 8 ½-minute piece.


“Bears” takes a close-up look at the movie’s two principal bears: Mum-bear and Mor’du and how their different personalities were crafted for the film.


“Brawl in the Hall” finds director Mark Andrews explaining his direction and choreographing of the fight scenes in the movie with other animators explaining their methods for giving the battles a life of their own. It runs 5 ½ minutes.


“Wonder Moss” has Pixar artists describing how important the use of mathematics was in creating the different mossy textures used in the movie. This runs 2 ¾ minutes.


“Magic” focuses on how the will-o’-the-wisps were created for the movie and explains the legends surrounding these fantastical occurrences. It runs 7 ¼ minutes.


“Clan Pixar” shows how the entire staff got into the spirit of the film during its production with the wearing of kilts on Fridays and participating in company games during break times. This runs 4 ¾ minutes.


“Once Upon a Scene” is a 7 ¾-minute discussion of the dozens of deleted scenes and storylines that were drawn and discarded during the making of the movie. Story supervisor Brian Larsen narrates.


There are four extended scenes introduced by director Mark Andrews and presented separately. They run 3 ¼, 3 ¼, 4 ¼, and 1 ½ minutes respectively.


The disc contains promo trailers for Peter Pan, Monsters University, and Planes.


The second 2D Blu-ray disc contains the following bonus material:


An alternate opening for the movie is presented in partially rendered fashion featuring the initial face-off between Fergus and Mor’du. It runs 2 ¾ minutes and is introduced by director Mark Andrews.


“Fallen Warriors” is a 2 ¼-minute tribute to fully animated bits of the movie that got cut for time.


“Dirty, Hairy People” discusses the development of the Scottish clan characters with particular attention to their loads of hair, their clothes, and their dirty skin. It runs 3 ½ minutes.


“It Is English…Sort Of” is a lighthearted look at the Scottish brogues used by the characters in the movie with four of the primary Scottish actors talking about playing their parts. This runs 3 ¾ minutes.


“Angus” pays tribute to Merida’s beautiful and trusty Clydesdale horse Angus as the arists who animated him discuss his design and animation. It runs 3 ½ minutes.


“The Tapestry” is a 4-minute featurette focusing on the importance of the tapestry in the movie and how its intricate threading was rendered in the film.


There are eight promotional pieces with five fully animated CGI teaser sequences with characters from the movie and three theatrical trailers: one each from the U.S., Japan, and the United Kingdom.


The interactive art gallery offers hundreds of drawings, models, and art for the viewer to peruse.


The fourth disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.


The fifth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie.



In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)


A glorious return to form for Pixar, Brave is a bracing adventure story that uses an evolving mother-daughter relationship to provide plentiful amounts of humor and heart to its exciting story of ancient Scotland. Reference quality video and audio along with copious bonus features make this a Blu-ray release that comes definitely highly recommended!




Matt Hough

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#2 of 37 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted November 06 2012 - 01:19 PM

Nice.  Of course, we expect no less from Pixar.

The rendering of Merida's thick, curly red hair is truly amazing.  It almost steals the film!  Posted Image  It's more impressive than Sully's blue coat in Monsters, Inc.!


I'm a little partial to red heads since both of my kids have red hair! 


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#3 of 37 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted November 06 2012 - 01:39 PM

This was the first movie released theatrically in Dolby Atmos. I saw/heard it, and did not hear that much of an effect, despite speakers being located overhead, Thanks for the review, I can't wait for next week to get here!

#4 of 37 OFFLINE   dmiller68

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Posted November 06 2012 - 03:00 PM

This was a great Bluray! I enjoyed the movie a lot.


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#5 of 37 OFFLINE   JeremyLG

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Posted November 06 2012 - 03:08 PM

Really looking forward to this, thanks for the review. Really glad La Luna is included. I was hoping that Pixar would still include it since they released it on their Pixar Shorts Vol. 2 collection.

#6 of 37 OFFLINE   Ted Van Duyn

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Posted November 06 2012 - 03:56 PM

This movie.... Ugh. I like the movie well enough and I'm so freaking glad that Pixar finally made SOMETHING with a female lead. But this film's history is just too disappointing to look past. When I look over the career of Brenda Chapman and her history in animation, it almost reads like a successful tale of disappointment. She gets hired by Disney not because of her work in animation, but because she's a woman. She almost makes history by becoming Pixar's first female director, but gets fired during production. She leaves Disney to pursue a career at Lucasfilm, which is later bought out by Disney. She's like the world's most put upon animator. Brave could have been so much more for everyone involved, but instead it ended up being the film that everyone declared "Better than Cars 2". It was going to be Pixar's first 'anything' with a female lead, their first fairy tale, and their first film directed by a woman. It also had a far more appropriate title, The Bear and the Bow. There's a lot to be proud of in those details, but something didn't go right. Somewhere down the line, Pixar decided to 'let her go' and give the directing reigns to someone who's work in animation is like a cat to a lion compared to Chapman. I have many things I could say, but I'll just leave it with the film's title. Brave. That's the most vague, uninteresting and generic title I've ever seen used for a film. It doesn't work because this film's themes and morals have nothing to do with bravery. Merida does not want to change her fate because she's brave brave, [SPOILER=Warning: Spoiler!]she changes it because she's selfish. She gets a cake from a witch to give to her mother that could very well be poison, but she doesn't care. She just wants her mother to eat it so that her mother can see things her way. Taking the easy way out is not bravery. And the last half of the story where she tries to correct her mistake isn't about being brave either. It's about redemption and acceptance. Any moment that showcases our characters being brave during this act is never the focal point. Especially since these acts of bravery can be attributed to ANY character in ANY story where the characters must overcome a challenge. It's like if a studio renamed a movie to "Climax" simply because the story had a climax in it. Brave doesn't say anything about this movie. The Bear and the Bow does. [/SPOILER]

#7 of 37 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted November 07 2012 - 05:18 AM

Can't wait, imo, this is top three pixar (up there with Incredibles and Up), some of the best, most emotionally true powerful storytelling that is firmly centered in the character relationships, just incredible work and amazing writing.


 

#8 of 37 OFFLINE   Dave B Ferris

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Posted November 07 2012 - 05:52 AM

Nice.  Of course, we expect no less from Pixar.  The rendering of Merida's thick, curly red hair is truly amazing.  It almost steals the film!  :D   It's more impressive than Sully's blue coat in Monsters, Inc.! I'm a little partial to red heads since both of my kids have red hair! 

Have you seen any side-by-side pictures of Merida and Rebekah Brooks, the (former) Fox executive in the U.K. who was involved in the phone hacking scandal?

#9 of 37 OFFLINE   jim_falconer

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Posted November 07 2012 - 07:08 AM

Great review Matt, and definitely in my top 5 of Pixar films.  Saw it twice in the theaters, and can't wait till the blu arrives.  (* and yeah, great comment about them boucning back after Cars 2 *)



#10 of 37 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted November 07 2012 - 08:23 AM

Deep discount shipped my copy today. So oepfully I'll have it in a few days.
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#11 of 37 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted November 08 2012 - 02:02 PM

I thought it was good. I guess I was bothered by some of the vertical lines having a halo around them in the background watching this in 3D. Probably caused by my Sony 3D TV. The 3D will probably look better when I get a 3D front projector.

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#12 of 37 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted November 09 2012 - 08:25 AM

This movie.... Ugh. I like the movie well enough and I'm so freaking glad that Pixar finally made SOMETHING with a female lead. But this film's history is just too disappointing to look past. When I look over the career of Brenda Chapman and her history in animation, it almost reads like a successful tale of disappointment. She gets hired by Disney not because of her work in animation, but because she's a woman. She almost makes history by becoming Pixar's first female director, but gets fired during production. She leaves Disney to pursue a career at Lucasfilm, which is later bought out by Disney. She's like the world's most put upon animator. Brave could have been so much more for everyone involved, but instead it ended up being the film that everyone declared "Better than Cars 2". It was going to be Pixar's first 'anything' with a female lead, their first fairy tale, and their first film directed by a woman. It also had a far more appropriate title, The Bear and the Bow. There's a lot to be proud of in those details, but something didn't go right. Somewhere down the line, Pixar decided to 'let her go' and give the directing reigns to someone who's work in animation is like a cat to a lion compared to Chapman. I have many things I could say, but I'll just leave it with the film's title. Brave. That's the most vague, uninteresting and generic title I've ever seen used for a film. It doesn't work because this film's themes and morals have nothing to do with bravery. Merida does not want to change her fate because she's brave brave, [SPOILER=Warning: Spoiler!]she changes it because she's selfish. She gets a cake from a witch to give to her mother that could very well be poison, but she doesn't care. She just wants her mother to eat it so that her mother can see things her way. Taking the easy way out is not bravery. And the last half of the story where she tries to correct her mistake isn't about being brave either. It's about redemption and acceptance. Any moment that showcases our characters being brave during this act is never the focal point. Especially since these acts of bravery can be attributed to ANY character in ANY story where the characters must overcome a challenge. It's like if a studio renamed a movie to "Climax" simply because the story had a climax in it. Brave doesn't say anything about this movie. The Bear and the Bow does. [/SPOILER]

Do you know for a fact that that Chapman was hired because she's a woman? Do you know that she was not fired due to incompetence? Your first statement would indicate that perhaps she shouldn't have been hired. Then you seem to say she shouldn't have been fired. If I restricted my movie viewing to only movies that were produced without any personnel turmoil, how many would that be? Damn few I bet. What I care most about is what gets up on the screen.
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#13 of 37 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted November 09 2012 - 08:33 AM

BTW, those who ordered this when the $8 Amazon coupon was available, will get the 3D version for a net of $20.
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#14 of 37 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 09 2012 - 09:03 AM

What I care most about is what gets up on the screen.

You're weird. I'm first and foremost concerned about what kind of genitals the director and the fictional characters have. After I deem there to be enough women involved (which, amusingly enough, is its own form of sexism), I then worry about the movie. At least, that's the kind of crap that I tell chicks so I can bang them by sounding all sensitive to the plight of women.

#15 of 37 OFFLINE   Ted Van Duyn

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Posted November 12 2012 - 10:19 PM

Do you know for a fact that that Chapman was hired because she's a woman? Do you know that she was not fired due to incompetence? Your first statement would indicate that perhaps she shouldn't have been hired. Then you seem to say she shouldn't have been fired.

Chapman: "I was hired [at Disney] because I was a woman" I only bring that up to illustrate how awkward her whole career has been, not to say she shouldn't have been hired in the first place. I'm sure that there are talented individuals out there who have been hired for various reasons that doesn't involve their work in the profession.

If I restricted my movie viewing to only movies that were produced without any personnel turmoil, how many would that be? Damn few I bet. What I care most about is what gets up on the screen.

First, I saw the movie in the theater knowing about it's troubled production, so I don't know why you're bringing up "restricted viewing" into the conversation. Second, while I also care about what we see in the theater, there will always be that tiny bit of curiosity where I ask what the movie could have been. And for all the things that Brave is thanks to Brenda-
  • First Female Director for Pixar
  • First Female protagonist for a Pixar story
  • First Pixar Fairy Tale
- I don't think it's a stretch to say that the film would have been very different if they hadn't replaced her.

#16 of 37 OFFLINE   Greg_D_R

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Posted November 13 2012 - 04:08 PM

I'm torn about buying Brave, because although it is beautiful, it simply doesn't live up to Pixar's standard of 'story first'. The opening scenes are great, but the slapstick and stale fish out of water humor of the latter part make it feel like a completely different movie. It felt disjointed and unfinished, like it needed more rewrites, and for Pixar, that's a huge letdown.

#17 of 37 OFFLINE   Ted Van Duyn

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Posted November 14 2012 - 02:43 AM

I'm torn about buying Brave, because although it is beautiful, it simply doesn't live up to Pixar's standard of 'story first'. The opening scenes are great, but the slapstick and stale fish out of water humor of the latter part make it feel like a completely different movie. It felt disjointed and unfinished, like it needed more rewrites, and for Pixar, that's a huge letdown.

I believe that's where the change of directors comes in.

#18 of 37 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted November 14 2012 - 04:38 AM

I believe that's where the change of directors comes in.

And it's just as likely that she was taking the movie down the wrong path and by changing directors, they salvaged what they could. Or more to the point, if they hadn't fired the one director, the movie could have ended up much worse.

#19 of 37 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted November 14 2012 - 05:57 AM

I think Brave met Pixar's high standards, matching the high bar of Up and WallE in recent years.  interestingly enough, every pixar movie I can think of has slapstick and fish out of water elements, should we take those elements out of those movies as well?  Or do those elements somehow become bad and the story become less interesting to certain audiences if the protagonist is female and the supporting cast is male? ;) (note winky face!)


 

#20 of 37 OFFLINE   Greg_D_R

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Posted November 14 2012 - 01:15 PM

I think Brave met Pixar's high standards, matching the high bar of Up and WallE in recent years.  interestingly enough, every pixar movie I can think of has slapstick and fish out of water elements, should we take those elements out of those movies as well?  Or do those elements somehow become bad and the story become less interesting to certain audiences if the protagonist is female and the supporting cast is male? ;) (note winky face!)

It's not just the fact that those elements were there, it was how poorly they were executed. To me, the handling of "My Mom, the Bear" was totally ham-fisted, in that every gag was exactly what you would expect. Pixar is renowned for taking setups that seem conventional, in unexpected directions, and that didn't happen for me at all with Brave. Also, everything about the witch (tone, jokes, characterization) was straight out of the most mediocre releases from Dreamworks. Up and Wall-E are miles above Brave. Merida is a fine character, and the conflict between her and her mother was set up well. After that though...





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