DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

UP DVD/Blu-ray Review



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Oh the pressure of working for Pixar! The animation house is on a run of nine Oscar nominations... a flawless nine-for-nine. Imagine being on the team responsible for the next Pixar feature to not be nominated for an Oscar. Yes, the bar is that high, meaning anything less than an Oscar nod should be considered a failure. A tough position to be in for sure, but competency truly is a bitch.

One day a Pixar film will â"fail," but there should be no concern about Pete Docter and Bob Peterson (co-directors) spoiling the run of excellence with Up. The film is one of the most emotionally impactful films they've made to date. The studio has always been about telling great stories inhabited by deep characters that resonate with the audience. And this one's no different. It's charming and lively, but also sad and heavy. But most of all it's just plain fun to watch. Walt Disney often said, â"For every laugh, there should be a tear." It's clear the makers of Up believe in that because the film will have you rolling in the aisles and quietly drying your cheeks. It teaches us that big adventures in life are all the small things that happen to us every day.

UpThe film gets off to a glorious start via a silent sequence when a shy, young boy named Carl meets rambunctious tomboy Ellie, who dreams of one day visiting the enchanted land of Paradise Falls in South America where her favorite famous explorer calls home. We immediately sense the two are kindred spirits and in a splendid time-lapse sequence, the decades fly by as the boy and girl grow up, get married, and grow old together. Their dream is still to one day take that adventure, but life's little dips and potholes get in the way and before they know it, their lives together have passed them by.

In Carl's (voiced by Edward Asner) later years he has not only aged into an incredible animated likeness of an elderly Spencer Tracy, but he's also turned into a curmudgeonly old cuss - not unlike Gran Torino's Walt Kowalksi - who finds a certain amount of pleasure in wallowing in his own grumpiness. But when faced with the prospect of infirmity in an old folks home, Carl naturally takes the more adventurous route when he attaches thousands of balloons to the roof of his house a la Danny Deckchair - and takes off for South America, a photo of his dear wife Ellie lovingly tucked in his shirt breast pocket.

Seeing the balloons lofting skyward from Carl's house and ripping it up from the foundation is a truly brilliant animation sequence. The breathtaking sight marks Carl's literal and figurative release from his miserable life. He's now back in control as he activates the numerous gadgets and contraptions to steer the rickety, creaking airship. This is Pixar imagination at its best.

Carl gets an unwelcome surprise mid-flight, when he discovers a stowaway in the form of an 8-year-old overachieving Wilderness Explorer scout named Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), who just wants to help the senior so he can earn another scouting badge for his crowded sash. Their airborne journey takes them to the spectacular mesas of South America where the screen comes to life with an exotic environment that reminds us of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. There they meet a mysterious bird, a strange canine named Dug, a pack of wild dogs whose high-tech collars translate their thoughts into human speech, and the famous ageless explorer who Carl and his little friend Ellie so eagerly yearned to visit when they were children. Yes, things are getting a bit weird and this is definitely the film's weakest segment - save for the spectacular visuals. But soon enough things get back on track and we're once again wallowing in all good things Pixar.

As I exited the theater, the noise and bedlam emanating from the summer flicks playing on adjacent screens, I was struck with a couple of thoughts. Would the Pixar team be able to maintain such an impressive run of success if they were to branch out into live-action films? After all, a great story is a great story. Or do they make animated films for a reason, finding a creative mojo that somehow only manifests itself in a medium with no practical bounds? On second thought, who cares? Let's just sit back and see how long it takes moviemakers to realize that it's not about whiz-bang graphics and shiny special effects. A great story can be told in the simplest of mediums.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
5 Stars
5 Stars
DVD Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

DVD Details:

The 4-disc combo pack has an internal flapper tray that includes a blu-ray disc with the fetaure film, a blu-ray disc with bonus features, a DVD with the feature film and another disc with a Digital copy that is compatible with both Mac and Windows. Good for on-the-go movie fans who like to watch on their laptops, iPod Videos, or iPhones.

This is an outstanding release chock-full of interesting extras, supplements, and features. One of the few must-own blu-ray collections of the year. Attention all BD authoring specialists - this is how BD authoring is done! It includes several exclusive features (one of which is an excellent Picture-in-Picture video commentary).

We're glad to see that Disney opted to not go the forced-trailer route with this release. Previews for other Disney features do begin playing upon insertion of disc, but the "top menu" button remains active throughout. Thank you for listening Disney.

Screen Formats: 1.78:1 / 1080p

Subtitles: English SDH' French; Spanish.

Language and Sound: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD; Frenchand Spanish 5.1 Dolby.

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; alternate scenes; making-of featurette; additional featurettes and shorts; 8 all new documentaries, expanded charcter backstory, a geography game and more!

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Cine-Explore Commentary (HD, Disc 1, 96 minutes) - with Director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson. Picture-in-Picture video commentary that features an array of animated storyboards, concept art, early renderings of the characters and locales, and some of the video footage the animators used for reference.

Featurettes:

  • Adventure Is Out There (HD, Disc 1, 22 minutes)
  • Partly Cloudy (HD, Disc 1, 6 minutes)
  • Dug's Special Mission (HD, Disc 1, 5 minutes)
  • Married Life (HD, Disc 2, 9 minutes)

Deleted Scenes:

  • The Many Endings of Muntz (HD, Disc 1, 5 minutes)

Documentaries:

  • Geriatric Hero
  • Canine Companions
  • Wilderness Explorer
  • Our Giant Flightless Friend
  • Homemakers of Pixar
  • Balloons and Flight
  • Composing for Characters

Games:

  • Global Guardian Badge Game (HD, Disc 2) - BD-Live Activity

Up Promo Montage (HD, Disc 2, 6 minutes)

Worldwide Trailers (HD, Disc 2, 4 minutes)

Video and Audio Calibration Tools (HD, Disc 1)

BD-Live Functionality

Number of Discs: Four-disc set - 50GB Blu-ray Disc (+DVD); Digital copy BD-Live

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