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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 10, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.
    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.
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
  2. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    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.
  3. RyanChristoffel

    Oct 21, 2002
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    Sounds like a really good movie. Darn you Disney, why no widescreen? [​IMG]
    Good review though! [​IMG]
  4. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

    Dec 30, 2001
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    Ugh[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  5. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

    Dec 29, 1998
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    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?
  6. Tony-B

    Tony-B Producer

    Jun 30, 2002
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    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 [​IMG].
  7. Brenton

    Brenton Screenwriter

    Jun 25, 2002
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    *snickers at the widescreen menus*


    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. streeter

    streeter Screenwriter

    May 24, 2001
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    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?
  9. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

    Aug 25, 2000
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    Abilene, TX
    Real Name:
    Joshua Clinard
    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. [​IMG]
  10. Josh Sieg

    Josh Sieg Second Unit

    Oct 27, 2002
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    I made the mistake of purchasing Ernest Goes to Jail. [​IMG] The only pan and scan videos I accept are ones such as 'cky', and 'bumfights'.
  11. LukeB

    LukeB Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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  12. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

    Apr 25, 2002
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  13. LukeB

    LukeB Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    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. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

    Dec 31, 2001
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    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.
  15. Martin Fontaine

    Martin Fontaine Supporting Actor

    Aug 15, 2001
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  16. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

    Apr 25, 2002
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  17. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

    Feb 8, 2002
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    Real Name:
    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?
  18. Michael Allred

    Michael Allred Screenwriter

    Aug 13, 2000
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    Real Name:
    I won't even rent this POS "Disney DVD".
  19. Leif Wall

    Leif Wall Second Unit

    May 4, 2000
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    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. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

    Jun 27, 1999
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    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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