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HTF REVIEW: "The Country Bears" (with screenshots)


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#1 of 64 Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 10 2002 - 10:38 AM

Posted Image

The Country Bears






Studio: Walt Disney
Year: 2002
Rated: G
Film Length: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English




They're legends. Bearly


I tell yuh, for the fast few months I have been
doing nothing but talking about how great Walt Disney
Home video has been to the DVD format. In fact, they
were my personal pick for Best Studio of the Year.
All my praises for the studio have just come to a
screeching halt after watching their upcoming release
of The Country Bears on DVD. You had to see
my face when I popped in this DVD and was greeted by
a full frame presentation. Now I not only have
to turn this review into an ugly rant against Disney,
but I have to take flack from the membership for doing
a full-frame review.

Disney really blew it on this one! I watched The
Country Bears
, and thought it was an absolutely
sensational movie. Not only that, but the video
and audio presentation is top-notch. Had this been
an anamorphic transfer, I would have given it
my highest praise.

Instead, I have to sit here and chastise the studio
for making a totally idiotic decision in releasing
this title in full frame only. I could have
helped the studio sell thousands of more copies with
a positive review -- especially for the fact that this
is one of those family films that appeals to both
kids and adults. In fact, this is one of the most
entertainingly "fun" movies I have seen all year.

Posted Image

Part road picture, part musical, The Country
Bears
is a wonderfully fun film that features
both human and bear characters (courtesy of Jim
Henson's Creature shop) in a rather heartwarming
adventure. The star of our film is 11-year old
Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) who
is starting to realize he is different from his
human big brother Dex (Eli Marienthal) who rather
cruelly who tells him that he's adopted and doesn't
belong as part of the family.

Posted Image

So where does Beary really belong? That's the
question that is posed as Beary packs his bags in
the middle of the night and sets out in search of
his heroes, The Country Bears. Problem is, the
musical group of bears broke up long ago, and their
Country Bear Hall is about to be demolished. Beary
has an idea to get the Bears in the band back
together for a benefit concert to save the hall
before the local banker (Christopher Walken) calls
in the demolition crew.

At first, the idea of creating a film out of a
Disneyland attraction called the Country Bear
Jamboree seemed sort of desperate. But as I watched
this film, I couldn't help but be entertained by
this rather neat adventure that features musical
performances by real-life rock-and-roll legends such
as John Hiatt, Brain Setzer, Pete Thomas, Willie
Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and others. If that wasn't
enough, there are some cameo appearances in this
film that will take you completely by surprise. Of
course, I never get tired of watching Christopher
Walken, even when he has to embarrass himself just
a little bit. I'm telling you -- this is a really
cute film.


How is the transfer?


It's a damn shame (can I say "damn" in a G-rated movie
review?) that Disney opted not to make a secondary
anamorphic release, because the transfer would have
been amazing. This full-frame transfer is stunning
as is, with a crisp detailed picture that shows off
its vividly beautiful colors. The exterior outdoor
scenes are very sharp, and the darker interior scenes
are well detailed. The only slight problem I see
here is that the color of the film has been pumped
up a little too high. This causes the facial tones,
particularly those of Christopher Walken, to be
overly red. Otherwise, I was extremely impressed
with what I saw.

The film really struts its stuff with a toe-tappin'
5.1 mix that really adds flavor to this film. From
start to finish, you always seem to feel as if you
are part of an enveloping musical experience. I often
thought about The Blues Brothers movie while
watching this film. Not only is the story similar,
but the manner in which the 5.1 music mix is utilized
is also very similar. The music always seems to wrap
itself around the listening area with superb direction
that puts vocals in the front and chorus in the rear.
As the film begins, you find yourself in the midst of
the Country Bear's final concert where you take a
front row seat to the crowds of cheering fans that
surround you. The dynamic range of this mix is just
terrific, and in addition to the bass-heavy response
of the front channels, you have additional bass from
the LFE channel. This creates a floor-shaking
musical experience that is just delightful to hear.
In addition, this is one of the rare mixes that
properly utilizes voice direction. If someone is
in another room, you hear their voice distinctively
in the rear channels. At times, the rears even place
voices in their exact location, so you may hear a
character responding from the rear left channel only.
Sure, this sort of thing should be normal of any mix,
but this is the first time I have heard such distinct
voice direction used since Disney's George of the
Jungle
.

Now you see why I am so utterly upset that this
entertainment experience has been ruined by the fact
that Disney chose not to include an anamorphic
transfer. Had they done so, this could have been
one of their highest rated live-action DVDs to date.


Special Features

Posted ImagePosted Image

First up is a full-length audio commentary
with director Peter Hastings and his bear guests,
Ted and Zeb. Anyone looking for anything technical
here should look elsewhere -- this commentary is
totally played for kids. Not that this is a bad thing.
In fact, I really like the fact that for once, a
kid's film has a commentary for kids. The entire
commentary belongs mostly to Ted and Zeb, who play
this out entirely in character. It's very rare
that Peter Hastings gets any filmmaking information
out, but he does often offer antidotes about working
with his human actors, mainly Christopher Walken.
This is something kids are actually going to listen
to.

Posted Image

Making me more sad about this release, The Country
Bears out of the Woods
is a highly enjoyable
"mockumentary" about The Country Bears who had fame,
but eventually fell apart under the pressures of
super stardom. Not only are there interviews with
the various bear band members, but with the legends
of music who were inspired by them, including Brian
Setzer, Willie Nelson
and Queen Latifah.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)

Here's something else I thought was quite cool....

Video Mix Jamboree lets you put together your
own Country Bears music video by selecting 5 different
scenes and inserting them in any order you wish as
many times as you wish throughout the song. The end
result is a customized music video that you can play
back and call your own.

The Country Bears Concert for America looks
to be a possible Disney Channel featurette, and is
ultimately another fun mockumentary, this time hosted
by "downtown" Julie Brown. Crowds of fans await the
arrival of the Country Bears tour bus. As the bears
arrive, we learn how group rose to stardom complete
with interviews from some musical legends themselves.
The featurette ends with an extensive concert
performance from the Country Bears as the play
their music mix of country, rock and blues.
(length: approx. 22 minutes)

Sing with the Movie is an option that when
turned on, adds text to all the musical sequences
allowing kids to sing along with their favorite song.
There's also a Music Video, The Kid in You,
performed by Krystal Marie Harris.

There is no trailer to be found anywhere for this
film. There is, however, a handful of Sneak Peeks
that gives you previews of upcoming Disney theatrical
and DVD product including Spy Kids 2


Final Thoughts

Posted Image

I am sure that I sound like a broken record by now,
but Disney really goofed on this DVD release. The
Country Bears
would have been an outstanding
anamorphic release -- perhaps their best live action
DVD to date. Instead, Disney continues to believe
the age-old myth that children don't want their films
in widescreen when in fact, it's their ignorant
parents that do all the complaining. It's also
further unfortunate that parents of this forum will
be catering to their child's desires by purchasing
this DVD only to have to sit through a full-frame
presentation while trying to teach their child the
value of proper film presentation.


Release Date: December 17, 2002


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 64 Kenneth Cummings

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:01 AM

Good job on sticking it on Disney for this bad move. Why did they have to release it in pan and scam. Ugh, I like Disney, but sometimes I just have to shake my head in disbelieve. Wasn't really looking forward for this, but I bet others were, but since it buther, no one will care for it.
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#3 of 64 RyanChristoffel

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:03 AM

Sounds like a really good movie. Darn you Disney, why no widescreen? Posted Image

Good review though! Posted Image

#4 of 64 Andrew_Sch

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:09 AM

UghPosted Image Posted Image Posted Image
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#5 of 64 Lance Nichols

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:20 AM

Is it me, or is this one of those weird ones where the film has been presented in "glorious" full frame, while the menu's are wide-screen, anamorphic.

Wasn't Big Fat Liar like that too?

What the *beep* are they thinking?

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it."

--...

#6 of 64 Tony-B

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:31 AM

Yes, Disney deserves to be bashed for all eternity thanks to this "release". I use the term release very loosely. Otherwise, glad to hear that the audio is good. Oh and sure, the menus are widescreen Posted Image.
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#7 of 64 Brenton

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Posted December 10 2002 - 11:45 AM

*snickers at the widescreen menus*

Disappointing.

The whole trend in Disney doing full screen only hadn't really affected me until their two Muppet films. It's not funny anymore. (not that it ever WAS funny)

#8 of 64 streeter

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Posted December 10 2002 - 12:16 PM

With what aspect ratio was this film shown in theaters? Maybe it was composed for 1.33:1. It's not P&S, is it?
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#9 of 64 Joshua Clinard

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Posted December 10 2002 - 12:57 PM

I will NOT be picking this one up! I will also NOT be buying The Moon Spinners, The Absent Minded Professor, or The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides again, because of the bone-headed decision to make them P&S only!

Instead, I will patronize Warner Bros., who IS supporting OAR on it's Family Films. I will be purchasing Free Willy and it's two sequels, and Dennis the Menace and it's sequel. All in animorphic widescreen!

Several other Disney flicks that I have refused to purchase are Max Keebles Big Movie, Blackbeard's Ghost, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I blew Up the Kid, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Jungle 2 Jungle.

I'm having to add more and more Disney Films to the NON-OAR DVD list, which means I'm buying less and less Disney DVD's!

Since you haven't yet released the specs of First Kid, Blank Check, Operation Dumbo Drop, Man of the House, and That Darn Cat, let me encourage you to release them in their proper OAR, or I will not be purchasing any of them either.

Disney has already lost 13 DVD sales from me, and If they do not start releasing movies in thier OAR, they will lose 6 more in the next month or two, and anything else that is relased down the line.

Let me end with this. Posted Image

#10 of 64 Josh Sieg

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Posted December 10 2002 - 01:14 PM

I made the mistake of purchasing Ernest Goes to Jail. Posted Image The only pan and scan videos I accept are ones such as 'cky', and 'bumfights'.
My favorites:

#11 of 64 LukeB

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Posted December 10 2002 - 01:40 PM

Quote:
Several other Disney flicks I have refused to purchase are Max Keebles Big Movie, Blackbeard's Ghost, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I blew Up the Kid, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Jungle 2 Jungle.

Since you haven't yet released the specs of First Kid, Blank Check, Operation Dumbo Drop, Man of the House, and That Darn Cat, let me encourage you to release them in their proper OAR, or I will not be purchasing any of them either.


Jungle 2 Jungle is apparently non-anamorphic widescreen, but mismarketed and mislabeled as pan & scan.

I'm weary of the March/April/May releases as well and will only be buying if it's widescreen. Specifically hoping that Man of the House and Life with Mikey are widescreen.

Tom and Huck and Operation Dumbo Drop are 2.35:1 films, and would look awful in P&S.

#12 of 64 Randy A Salas

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Posted December 10 2002 - 02:17 PM

Quote:
I tell yuh, for the fast few months I have been
doing nothing but talking about how great Walt Disney
Home video has been to the DVD format. In fact, they
were my personal pick for Best Studio of the Year.


Ron, Disney has been releasing full-frame-only family and catalog titles all year long--Country Bears is simply the latest--and you were going to pick it as Best Studio of the Year?
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DVD Columnist & Feature Writer
Minneapolis Star Tribune daily newspaper

#13 of 64 LukeB

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Posted December 10 2002 - 02:38 PM

It's problematic to label Disney as a great or terrible studio, because they've got this Jekyll/Hyde method to releasing DVDs.

Jekyll's giving us great stuff - all the 2-disc sets, the Treasures, the Vault Disneys, the Monsters, Inc., Tarantino sets, Platinum Editions, grade-A one discs like The Rookie and Lilo & Stitch.

But, then Hyde's been taking the catalogue of live-action films of the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s and just been treating them like dirt. Barebones, fullscreen, looking like a truck ran over it, etc. Natty Gann, Blackbeard's Ghost, White Fang, Cheetah, etc. Plus, there's the Max Keeble, Country Bears, and Snow Dogs releases that were all high-profile blunders as well.

As such, I'm more likely to regard them lowly as a studio, because there's simply no reason for them to pull such crap when they are clearly capable of doing releases right. More people are interested in the new, high-profile releases, I'd imagine, but they really tick me off individually.

#14 of 64 Vickie_M

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Posted December 10 2002 - 02:40 PM

I really wanted to buy copies of this movie as Chrismas presents, but I've just crossed it off my list. Thank you for saving me the money Ron.

No OAR, no Sale, as they say. The kids I know don't care that a movie is widescreen. As you said Ron, it's their ignorant parents who are causing this problem.
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#15 of 64 Martin Fontaine

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Posted December 10 2002 - 02:44 PM

Quote:
Disney continues to believe the age-old myth that children don't want their films in widescreen when in fact, it's their ignorant parents that do all the complaining.
I think you are wrong here. I believe is that they know that kids won't notice black bars (Or lack thereof) so if it's butchered they won't boycott it so why bother!

A stupid move because I liked this movie, I would more or less call it Bubble Boy meets Josie And The Pussycats in a sense... I probably would have passed anyway because of Back To The Future, Minority Report and Crocodile Hunter being released on the same day (Maybe I would have bought it later on a week where releases are slow and that my bank account is not suffering from gifts shopping hehe!) but now I have a more important reason.Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Oh, and I have living proof that some kids ARE educated about Widescreen. My friend bought his kids Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo and Ice Age (All Widescreen) and his kids not only see the black bars, accept them but they were even taught to believe that if there are no black bars, something is wrong with the picture! It's all because when their father got the DVD Player and played a DVD, the picture was filling the screen but the picture was stretched. He called me and I explained him how to fix it. His kids were watching him the whole time and he was explaining them that if there are no black bars, either the people are too tall, or the sides were cut-off and that can be fixed in the menu...

Many months later, they wanted to watch Air Bud (The one that came in Cereal boxes) and to their horror, the black bars were missing so they played with the remote (Yes, 5 Years Old and he knows his way into a DVD's Setup Menu!) but none of the settings worked. When their daddy came to see why they were saying things didn't work. He then explained him that this particular disk the sides were cut off before they wrote the disk and that nothing could be done to fix it. They said something about them being evil or something!
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#16 of 64 Randy A Salas

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Posted December 10 2002 - 03:23 PM

Quote:
It's problematic to label Disney as a great or terrible studio, because they've got this Jekyll/Hyde method to releasing DVDs.

The "Why letterbox?" feature on Pearl Harbor: Vista Series comes to mind.
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#17 of 64 Malcolm R

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Posted December 10 2002 - 03:27 PM

Sad, sad, sad. A friend and I caught this in theaters and had the best time! Ron hit it exactly on the head, that it's a fun movie. We laughed so hard we cried.

I was looking forward to the DVD. Now am supremely disappointed that I cannot buy it and enjoy the movie again at home.

Funny how Disney is bitching about lower profits and having to cut costs, yet when I want to give them my money they won't take it.

It's time to wake up and smell the 21st Century, Disney. HDTV??? Anamorphic DVD??? Ring any bells?
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#18 of 64 Michael Allred

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Posted December 10 2002 - 04:09 PM

I won't even rent this POS "Disney DVD".

#19 of 64 Leif Wall

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Posted December 10 2002 - 06:06 PM

I REALLY wanted to buy this. Mainly for the "weirdness" factor. However... NO OAR = NO SALE. That's what my 53" Panasonic widescreen tells me.

#20 of 64 Mark Pfeiffer

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Posted December 11 2002 - 12:15 AM

As much as I thought this seemed like a terrible idea for a movie, I was really surprised when I saw it theatrically. Disappointing that Disney hasn't seen fit to present this properly, especially because the offbeat humor does hold appeal for adults. Stranger still, it does appear that the menus are in anamorphic widescreen. Absolutely perplexing. From what I've seen of the disc so far, it seems well done, all except for that pesky aspect ratio.
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