DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Muppet Treasure Island - RECOMMENDED

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Nov 22, 2005.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]

    Muppet Treasure Island

    (Kermit's) 50th Anniversary Edition

    Studio:Buena Vista (DVD Release) Year:1996 RunTime:100 minutes Rating:G Aspect Ratio:16 x 9 encoded 1.85:1 (OAR) & 4x3 encoded 1.33:1 (P/S) on same disc Audio:5.1 DD English (& French on P/S version) Subtitles:English (Hearing Impaired) SpecialFeatures:Pepe Presents: Fozzie Bear Profile ReleaseDate:November 29, 2005





    On DVD…Again...




    When Disney first released this title on DVD in Pan-and-Scan-only just a few short years ago, you and/or several hundred of your DVD collecting brethren contacted Disney to express their displeasure and requested a 16x9 WS OAR DVD re-release. It took a few years, but it’s finally here.

    And it looks gorgeous.

    This DVD is somewhat of a mixed blessing (omitting the Director’s Commentary found on the previous DVD edition), but I still feel it is well worth the purchase for those of you who’ve been waiting the past six years to finally own a copy of this film worthy of being displayed on your 16x9 HDTV or projector.

    My thoughts…




    The Movie...



    When Brian Henson took on the task of producing and directing this fifth Muppet film, Muppet fans were wary that the outcome might lack the “edge” that made Jim-directed comedies such fun. A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) had been well received by many fans, but admittedly had a more polite, tender character which worked well with the context of the subject matter for that film, but didn’t make clear whether Brian Henson would be up to the task of delivering a shaper-edged comedy in keeping with Christmas Carol’s predecessors. I was among the critical Muppet fan clan, and I’m pleased to say that Muppet Treasure Island is a respectable addition to the “Muppet Movies” line-up which compliments Jim’s original legacy and at the same time reveals Brian’s own unique and talented directing style.

    Like the original Muppet films, Trasure Island entertains both child and adult audiences with equal success. Writing is skillful, and the jokes, gags, and dialogue are well conceived. Pacing is adept, and the film manages to keep a sense of momentum even during the less action-driven periods. Actors are outstanding. Tim Curry is the perfect Long John Silver, and he and Kevin Bishop (playing Jim Hawkins) produce a believable bond. Brian also takes some new risks with his movies, and chooses to bond human and Muppet characters in on-screen relationships that feel convincing; Kevin, Gonzo, and Rizzo (the rat) portray a tangible trio… not just characters that interact sporadically but then spin off to operate in their own independent human/Muppet spheres. Brian also dares to express Muppet Treasure Island through the musical genre and does an outstanding job—the music and score are first-class and this is a CD soundtrack that many of you will want to own if you don’t already.

    My favorite Muppet film of all time is The Great Muppet Caper, followed by The Muppet Movie and (very closely) by Muppet Treasure Island. That’s high praise coming from a serious Muppet fan, and I give Muppet Treasure Island an enthusiastic thumbs up:

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    Picture...


    It’s gorgeous. I mean stunning. It’s beautiful.

    The wait has been worth the while, and those of you who were morally incorruptible and passed on purchasing the pan-and-san-only previous DVD edition have been duly rewarded.

    It appears to my eyes that (unlike The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper) this new DVD edition of Muppet Treasure Island is mastered from a new film-tape transfer, which I suspect is hi-definition. The image is silky, detailed, and beautifully film-like. It’s free from any “electronic” signature with no visible edge-ringing or excessive high-frequency filtering from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance on my 106” screen.

    Colors are generally subdued, which is reflective of the intended look of the film. Scenes tend to exhibit more saturated colors as the crew sets sail for the Island (did I spoil the story for you?), and when appropriate, hues are rich, vibrant, and video-noise-free. Fine film grain can be seen from time to time (neither good nor bad, just pointing it out) and doesn’t seem to challenge compression to the point of obvious artifacting (there were a few moments where I may have seen MPEG artifacting if I looked for it, but nothing that intruded when watching the movie). Even the most challenging sequences (Cabin Fever with all its fast motion and dim lighting) are surprisingly well handled.

    Black level is rock solid, if just a tad crushed…which looks to my eyes to be the appearance of the film elements and helps to make the image look richer and more saturated than a perfectly “flat” grayscale. Shadow detail is outstanding (a good thing given all the darkly lit nighttime scenes) and blacks are clean which is an impressive feat for a generally dark film compressed onto one layer of a dual-layer DVD.

    Any room for improvement? Picture detail, while very good, could still be a tad better. However, a slight softness is much preferred to noisy edge-ringing and hardened detail, and I think that the image on this DVD will satisfy even big-screen/wide-angle viewers nicely until 108024P Blu-ray sports MTI in reference style…


    Picture Quality: 4.75 / 5

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    Rating Rationale...

    In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE) or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.



    Viewing Equipment:
    Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.






    Sound...


    Wow. This is a reference 5.1 soundtrack in many respects. The mix has a dynamic and robust character that sounds “DTSish” to my ears. I wonder if this DD presentation has avoided the compromises of dialogue normalization? Dialogue is clear and natural…never sounding strained. Frequency response is broad: from deep bass to open and airy highs. The musical score has a tangible 3-dimensional sense of depth, with instrumental placement coming from well behind the front main speakers without any sense of being tethered to a speaker point-source. This trait of “speaker-free” sound placement extends to the full 5.1 channel array—sound seems to surround the listener and fill the room without betraying the location of any particular speaker in your listening room. This is just the way “surround sound” ought to be…seamless and integrated…neither being underexploited nor being too aggressively self-aware. Surround activity is present in almost every scene, and is used effectively to wrap the listener in ambient sound, allowing the sound to be “set free” from the font mains and fill the acoustic space convincingly. About the only item on my audio wish list would be a DTS presentation—but just as with the video, I look forward to a future Blu-ray incarnation to address these subtle areas for possible improvement.



    Sound Quality: 5 / 5

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    Special Features...


    Let me rephrase: Special Feature.

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    Ok, get used to this “special feature” because you’ll see it on all four of the Muppet DVD releases (Only Muppet Christmas Carol offers more). We get a “Pepe Profile” which, in the case of the Muppet Treasure Island, profiles Fozzie Bear. It’s cute. It’s about 5 minutes long. It’s all you get.

    Sadly, this new DVD does not contain the director’s commentary heard on the previous P/S DVD, which is an odd and lamentable omission. In all honesty I’m a bit baffled why Disney would exclude such an obvious feature given the demand for commentary from fan bases in general and the fact that it appeared on the previous DVD version (also released by Disney). Really now, would a 1.0 DD track have taken up that much bandwidth?





    All Together...


    The Basics:

    Great Movie. Great picture. Great Sound. Not-Great Extras.


    Except for the missing Commentary by Brian Henson, this DVD edition finally delivers what the fans have been waiting for—a reference setting 16x9 widescreen OAR picture to go along with that already-great 5.1 sound. Despite the missing commentary, I can’t imagine any Muppet fan passing up this DVD edition. Keep your first DVD release (if you were so easily seduced by the dark side and bought that P/S-only edition) for the commentary and buy this new edition for the impeccable image and sound presentation…A Muppet Treasure Island home-video presentation has finally come to your shores worthy for the aspect-ratio conscious. Fare ye well you matees!


    RECOMMENDED
     
  2. Adam Sanchez

    Adam Sanchez Supporting Actor

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    I'm going to get this because I love the movie and recently got my first widescreen TV so have been replacing movies like non anamorphic ones as needed. This is a no brainer replacement for me.

    Your review is not linked from the main page. just an FYI.
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Just posted the review...

    Ron usually gets them linked on the home page within a day...

    [​IMG]
     
  4. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review David. It's about time they did this one right.

    Actually, that's Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition. Lest anybody think the movie itself is 50 years old.
     
  5. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    There's no commentary on the laserdisc (the analog track has the film soundtrack in mono), and the AC-3 track on it has no .1 track.

    I wonder why they agreed to do a commentary track for a pan&scan release?
     
  6. Matt Czyz

    Matt Czyz Supporting Actor

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    Great review, DaViD. Muppet Treasure Island is one my favorite movies (Muppets? Tim Curry? What's not to love?!) and I'm very happy that this release apparently looks and sounds great. Any chance of somebody putting up some screenshots?
     
  7. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Jesse, thanks for the correction. I'll update accordingly.
     
  8. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Thanks for the review. Another nail in the coffin of P&S!
    DaViD, isn't Disney also releasing HD-DVD's? Which will look better than MPEG-2 BD's.
     
  9. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    To my Knowledge, Disney will only be releasing on Blu-ray/BD and not HD DVD.

    BTW, Blu-ray/HD incorporates VC1 video compression along with MPEG2. It's up to the studio to decide which video codec to use. Naturally, I hope most BD titles will be authored with VC1 because of its superior quality and generous compression-ratio making more room available for audio and extras. I bet Disney will make use of it for those reasons.
     
  10. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    This is more like it. Since I was one of those that complained and emailed my lack of pleasure with the last release, I will be picking this one up. Thanks for the review.
     
  11. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    Here's hoping (fingers crossed)!!!
     
  12. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    Well, once some of the rabid anti-MS folks on the group find out that VC-1 is a standardized Windows Media 9 you'll see people campaigning for MPEG2 because "Micro$oft is teh evil".

    Me, I want the best codec possible, MS VC-1 is excellent. That and Dolby TrueHD will make for an awesome Home Theater Experience.
     
  13. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    Arghhh me harties!!!

    Starz runs this one in HD occasionally. You won't have to wait for HD DVD to see it that way. ARGH!!!!! [​IMG]
     
  14. CameronMcC

    CameronMcC Second Unit

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    the menus on the original dvd were great as well...no commentary makes me so sad.
     
  15. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    Just picked this one up. Thanks for the review
     

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