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3D Blu-ray Reviews

ParaNorman Blu-ray 3D Review



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#1 of 15 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted November 29 2012 - 04:52 PM

ParaNorman has emerged onto Blu-ray both in 2D and 3D this week in an edition that spotlights this unusual film in the best way possible.  The movie, which focuses on a young boy who can see the dead a la The Sixth Sense has a truly interesting idea at its core.   Unfortunately, that idea doesn’t become clear for far too long, meaning that there’s an extra-long windup before we really have a solid skeleton of a story to follow.  The movie is a strange hybrid of animation processes, combining traditional stop motion work with hand drawn animation and CGI, and presenting all of that in 3D in the full version.  The last film to try something like this was Coraline, which was a lot more successful at it.  Here, the visual rewards are fewer, although there are some great moments along the way.  The Blu-ray will make for a curiosity rental for 3D and stop motion fans.





PARANORMAN

Studio: Universal/Focus Features/Laika

Year: 2012

Length: 1 hr 33 mins

Genre:  Stop Motion Animation/Comedy/Living Dead/3D


Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, (AVC @ 25 mbps on the 2D) (MVC @ 25/17 mbps on the 3D)

Audio:  English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.3 mbps, up to 5.1 mbps), Spanish DTS 5.1, French DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Content Rating: PG (Scary Action and Images, Thematic Elements, Some Rude Humor and Language)


Release Date: November 27, 2012


Starring:  The Voices of:  Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill and John Goodman

                                              
Screenplay by:   Chris Butler

Story by:  Arianne Sutner and Stephen Stone

Directed by: Sam Fell and Chris Butler


Film Rating:  3/5


ParaNorman is not exactly what it appears to be.  If you watch the trailer, you’d likely think this was a new kid-friendly stop-motion animation comedy about a little boy who sees dead people.  And part of that is true.  The movie is about little Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who indeed sees and talks to spirits of the dead on a regular basis.  There’s a flavor to the movie of trying to keep the storytelling appropriate for younger children – what with the all the child characters, almost all of whom are the usual caricatures of school kids.  But there’s also something far darker going on here.  Without spoiling anything serious, I’ll say that the movie centers on Norman’s ability being the key to his Salem-like hometown’s salvation from a terrible curse that involves witchcraft and the raising of the dead.  There’s some fairly serious and unpleasant ramifications in the story which to my mind take it past the PG rating and more properly to a PG-13.  I recommend any parents who are planning to watch this with their children keep that in mind.   Past that, I’ll also say that between the 3D and the 2D editions available for this movie, I’d recommend the 3D – although not for the reason you might think.  The 3D edition doesn’t actually have a lot of depth for much of the movie.  When we get to the big climax, the 3D really does kick in, but even then it’s nowhere near the levels of depth seen in other titles.  This is a more subtle 3D experience, to say the least. 


MAJOR SPOILERS HERE:  My issue with the movie is that it takes a long time to set up its main idea – that Norman must save his town from a witch’s curse from long ago, and then takes a longer time to get to the real idea lurking underneath the main thread.  For around an hour, we get an extended introduction to Norman and his town, including an extended look at how badly the kids at school and even his own sister treat him.  When the task of saving the town is handed to Norman, we then spend another long period watching Norman fumble with the responsibility, with the result that the witch “wakes up” and proceeds to raise the dead – namely the seven town elders who had her executed back in the 18th century.  A lot of the usual horror and zombie movie memes are played out to comic effect as Norman and his growing band of friends and helpers alternately run from the walking dead and race to find the actual resting place of the witch to effectively read her to sleep.  And at about an hour or so into the 90 minutes, the movie finally shows the main card of the story – that the evil witch was actually a little girl about Norman’s age, with the same abilities.  (And if you really pay attention, you’ll see that Norman is likely a descendant of hers…) 


MORE MAJOR SPOILERS HERE:  Once the audience knows that primary bit of information, the whole point of the film becomes clear, and it’s actually a strong one.  What everyone has feared as a force of evil is actually the result of what ignorant people did to a gifted little girl and themselves when they executed her.  This ties directly in with how everyone has treated Norman throughout the story and allows all the characters to have a real teachable moment before the story is done.  If Norman can reach the little girl inside the angry spirit, the town really can be saved, in more ways than one.  And that’s a good lesson for the movie to examine.  But I’m not sure that the execution of an eleven-year old girl and the raising of the corpses of her executioners is quite PG material.  The movie compounds this issue with a throwaway comic line about sexuality that feels a bit out of place.


NO MORE SPOILERS, SAFE TO READ NOW:   The Blu-ray presentation of ParaNorman is available in a 2D edition and a 3D edition.  Both editions come with a copy of the standard definition DVD as well.  All three editions come with some preliminary animatics, a 40 minute “Making of” collection, and a 15 minute collection of shorter featurettes.  Instructions and a code for downloading a digital copy and getting an Ultraviolet copy are included in the package.




VIDEO QUALITY  4/5


ParaNorman is presented in 2D in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that shows a lot of detail to the stop-motion animation work – almost to the point that the viewer may actually be seeing a bit too much.  There’s a lovely range of color and a great use of contrasts between dark environments and bright animation.  But there are plenty of shots where the animation shows through in a less satisfying manner than has been seen in other presentations, like Coraline.   In 3D, things get a bit more complicated.  The 3D presentation is a two channel 1080p MVC affair that doesn’t provide a lot of depth for much of the movie.  There’s some dimensionality, with some foreground elements brought out and with some layering here and there, but until the big theatrical moments start erupting, the 3D just doesn’t have a lot to do.  Now, I said before that the 3D is actually my preferred way to see this film – and that’s because the 3D glasses and even the very subtle depth effects when they are present actually work to slightly obscure the image, thus making many dicey shots look a lot more effective than they really are.



AUDIO QUALITY   5/5


ParaNorman is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, as well as standard DTS mixes in Spanish and French. This is another fun mix, given that the sound designer is not only creating a really spooky landscape and working with a fine Jon Brion score, but is also playing some very interesting games with volume.  At several points, major crescendos of sound will be immediately followed by the complete absence of any sound, followed again by a gradual adding back in of the atmospherics.  This is nice stuff, indeed.  This is not just the usual cattle-prod theatrics – there’s some real thought going into the mix here, and it is appreciated.



SPECIAL FEATURES   3 ½/5


The Blu-Ray presentation of ParaNorman comes several special features, including a scene-specific commentary, some pre-viz animations and two featurette collections.


My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.


BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.  


pocket BLU – This Blu-ray includes the usual pocket BLU functionality, enabling viewers with appropriate laptop, iPad or smart phone integration to remotely control their Blu-ray player and access some of the bonus content from the separate device.  Also, a digital copy is available for download via the pocket BLU application.


D-Box – D-Box functionality is available on this disc for those viewers that have the capability in their home theaters.


Feature Commentary with Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This scene-specific commentary with the directors is a fairly breezy affair.  The two men talk at length about the various concepts they were examining and point out many details that might get overlooked on the first viewing.  It’s also a pretty funny commentary, as the guys are clearly enjoying their movie and their time together.  As a nice touch, the commentary is available on all versions of the movie,


Preliminary Animatic Sequences (9:09 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Three pre-viz sequences are presented here:  “Walking With Ghosts”, “Bromance” and “Missing Ghosts”.  The first one is the opening establisher of Norman walking to school and talking to the town dead along the way.  The second two are deleted sequences that would have added more material to Norman’s friendship with another outcast kid and an unnecessary diversion about what happens to the town’s usual dead when the zombies come out of their graves.  The sequences can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.  The sequences can be viewed with optional commentary by the directors, or not.


Peering Through The Veil (40:49, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a collection of nine featurettes:  “That’s ParaNorman”, “Creating a World”, “Voicing ParaNorman”, “Building Characters”, “Making Faces”, “Rigging the Game”, “Bringing the Undead to Life”, “Angry Aggie” and “Weird and Wonderful”.  Together, they provide a pretty thorough look at the making of the movie, from the creation of the stop-motion sets and characters to the adding of animation and CGI in post-production to the voiceover work.   The featurettes can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.


Additional Featurettes (14:53, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is a shorter collection of seven featurettes, almost all of which are very quick:  “You Don’t Become a Hero by Being Normal”, “A Norman Childhood”, “Playing as a Profession”, “Making Norman”, “This Little Light”, “Have You Ever Seen a Ghost?”, and “The Zombies of ParaNorman”.   The featurettes can be viewed individually or via a “Play All” option.


DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard definition DVD of the movie.  It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English, French and Spanish (448 kbps).   All of the special features from the Blu-ray are included on the standard definition DVD


Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device, as well as for obtaining an Ultraviolet streaming copy to be placed up in the cloud.  I did not see an expiration date for the code in the packaging, so this may be a new wrinkle in the land of digital copies in the Cloud...  I note again that the pocket BLU online menu also includes an option for downloading the digital copy.


Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.


IN THE END...


ParaNorman is a good movie, but not exactly the one viewers may be expecting.  It’s another experiment in stop-action animation with a 3D application, and it doesn’t completely work as either.  But there is a very interesting story here, once you can get to it.  Fans of stop-motion should definitely rent this, as probably should fans of The Sixth Sense and other horror movies looking for something with some light in the darkness.  I’m not sure that this is really a PG movie so much as a PG-13 movie, but discerning parents will be able to decide for themselves if the subject matter is appropriate for younger viewing.  I want to be clear that I did enjoy this movie and the special features on this Blu-ray presentation – I just want readers to understand that this isn’t exactly the 3D animation spectacular or the children’s fantasy it appears to be.


Kevin Koster

November 29, 2012.

Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:


Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at ISF picture mode

            -Set professionally calibrated by AVICAL in June 2012

Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver

Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player

PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)

5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)

2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)

Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer



#2 of 15 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted November 29 2012 - 05:05 PM

I left the theater feeling entertained, but that the film did suffer from pacing issues. And I agree with the idea that themes are a bit mature for tykes. Great review! I bought it because I love the animation and the pacing will be less problematic for me in the comforts of my own couch. :)

Paramount, please release DRAGONSLAYER on Blu-ray

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Vermithrax Pejorative deserves to be seen in high-def.


#3 of 15 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 03 2012 - 06:55 AM

Oh, how I disliked this movie.  Just finished watching it.


Just didn't do it for me.  Slow, boring, and the 3D was pretty

non-existant, particularly for the fact that the film was very dark.


Not happy I wasted $30 buying this blindly, but those things tend

to happen.


Would not recommend this title at all.


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#4 of 15 OFFLINE   AlexF

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Posted December 03 2012 - 12:10 PM

I agree about the 3D, it wasn't as obvious (or as well used) as I was hoping (with a couple of exceptions), however, we really enjoyed the film and thought that it was a lot of fun.

#5 of 15 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted December 03 2012 - 01:10 PM

Count me among those who really liked the film.

#6 of 15 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 03 2012 - 03:41 PM

I can see this is gonna be another movie that instantly divides viewers.  I remember Rutger Hauer saying something like that about the early screening of Blade Runner he attended, how there was almost no middle ground - either people liked the movie, or boy did they not...



#7 of 15 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 03 2012 - 09:41 PM

Kevin,


Good point.  BLADE RUNNER was another film I never really cared for.


 

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#8 of 15 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted December 04 2012 - 01:37 AM

Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein 

Kevin,


Good point.  BLADE RUNNER was another film I never really cared for.


Wow.  So I'm not alone in that!

ParaNorman was fun, but I was bored halfway through.  I appreciate the look and the work that went into it; the story just fell flat for me.



#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted January 04 2013 - 04:51 AM

I thought it was a decent film. I didn't feel like it dragged at all. It is amazing how people complain that modern films are all fast cuts,choppy editing and too action orientated. Then when a film actually takes its time to tell a story and introduce the main character they complain about that too. I also disagree with the assertion that there is not much going on visually as compared to CORALINE. Visually, this film leaves CORALINE in the dust, especially in the textures that give the faces of the characters a more dimensional feel than the characters in CORALINE. The film also has more depth and detail in its outside environments than CORALINE had. Edit: I just want to add that where CORALINE outshines this film is in its musical cues. The musical cues in CORALINE were very successful in creating an atmosphere that was a mixture of melancholy and whimsy all at the same time. It is memorable. The music in this film is less successful in that it doesn't really stand out. It is basically your typical unmemorable movie soundtrack.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#10 of 15 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 04 2013 - 05:04 AM

Edwin, I agree with you that this is indeed a decent film.  I also agree that there's more detail in some shots than in Coraline.  But I do think that Coraline had plenty of detail, and a much more satisfying use of the 3D process to lend depth.  I think both films are very interesting on a visual level - given the challenges and rewards of making a stop-motion animation feature in the modern world and in 3D.



#11 of 15 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted January 04 2013 - 05:54 AM

I have to admit that I didn't take the 3D process into account when it came to comparing the two films on a visual basis. I have watched both in 3D but I find that the process, for me, doesn't really stand out from film to film. To me, almost all 3D really looks the same to me. It does add a dimension of "depth" but I find it hard to tell when it has been incorporated as part of the design process and when it hasn't. I'll have to watch both films again to compare the effectiveness of the 3D process in both films. An exception was FINDING NEMO. I thought the 3D in that film did stand out for the most part. I not sure this film did too well at the box office which would be a shame, because I really do enjoy seeing stop-motion work of this caliber and definitely would like to see more of it. It is a nice change from CG animation. It would be nice to see more traditional cel animation as well, but it seems that theatrically that art form is dead.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#12 of 15 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 04 2013 - 06:48 AM

ParaNorman opened okay, but didn't sustain.  According to Wikipedia, it was budgeted at 60 million and has made 99 million to date, not counting the home video sales.   Assuming it does good Blu-ray business, it will wind up either making its money back or coming up a little short of that.  I totally agree that it would be nice to see more work like this.  ParaNorman is interesting for being a fusion of multiple techniques, just as Coraline was before it.  You have a primary stop-motion animation base, but then they add in some cel animation and some CGI as well.  This is a unique niche in the world of animation, and one the artists will continue to explore.  But without much box office, the projects will be fewer and farther between.


I also agree that the 3D in Finding Nemo was incredible.  I found the Blu-ray and the 3D on it to be a revelation for that movie.  As I understand from Robert Harris' assessment, they rebuilt that movie from the original files, repurposing everything into depth in quite a satisfying manner.



#13 of 15 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted January 04 2013 - 01:40 PM

With movies like ParaNorman, I always have to wonder how much the studio is looking to recoup immediately and how forward-thinking they are in how the movie will be received years down the line. Let me explain: Nightmare Before Christmas and Polar Express were not massive successes right out of the gate.  However, there is a plethora of Nightmare merchandise on the market now, not to mention a cult-like reverence for the movie.  Same goes for Polar Express.  Not a hit, but it consistently plays on television, on disc and, I'm sure, in some theaters every single Christmas.


A Christmas Story...a movie almost every man, woman and child in America has seen at least once didn't bring much in during its theatrical run.  It dropped off the face of the Earth in four weeks.  Guess what?  It's right there with It's a Wonderful Life as a Christmas staple.


The revenue may not come initially; if the movie is good enough and speaks to enough people, it will have extremely long legs.



#14 of 15 OFFLINE   Sky Captain

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Posted January 10 2013 - 06:57 PM

I thought it was a decent film. I didn't feel like it dragged at all. It is amazing how people complain that modern films are all fast cuts,choppy editing and too action orientated. Then when a film actually takes its time to tell a story and introduce the main character they complain about that too. I also disagree with the assertion that there is not much going on visually as compared to CORALINE. Visually, this film leaves CORALINE in the dust, especially in the textures that give the faces of the characters a more dimensional feel than the characters in CORALINE. The film also has more depth and detail in its outside environments than CORALINE had. Edit: I just want to add that where CORALINE outshines this film is in its musical cues. The musical cues in CORALINE were very successful in creating an atmosphere that was a mixture of melancholy and whimsy all at the same time. It is memorable. The music in this film is less successful in that it doesn't really stand out. It is basically your typical unmemorable movie soundtrack.

I loved this movie, especially for one scene involving Norman's sister (I won't say what it is, you all will have to guess what it is!)

#15 of 15 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted September 07 2014 - 07:43 AM

Oh, how I disliked this movie.  Just finished watching it.


Just didn't do it for me.  Slow, boring, and the 3D was pretty

non-existant, particularly for the fact that the film was very dark.


Not happy I wasted $30 buying this blindly, but those things tend

to happen.


Would not recommend this title at all.

 

Only $9.99 on Amazon but since the 3D sucks, I'm not buying it.


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