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Blu-ray Reviews
Blu-ray Disc reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (Blu-ray Disc)

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Monsters vs. Aliens
2009 (2009) - DreamWorks (Paramount)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on September 29th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: B+
Video (1-20): 20
Audio (1-20): 19
Extras: C


Color me amazed: DreamWorks has delivered its first truly good CG-animated film since Shrek! The plot of Monsters vs. Aliens is deceptively simple: A California girl named Susan gets hit by a meteor on her wedding day, causing her to grow to an enormous size.


The military promptly captures her and whisks her away to a secret facility, where its imprisoned a group of monsters deemed too terrible and dangerous to be allowed freedom, among them a super-intelligent cockroach, a missing-link fish man, a blob of goo and a giant, Godzilla-esque furry larva. Naturally, they're not so mean as you might expect. But Susan still fears she'll never see her family again... until the U.S. Government suddenly releases her and the other monsters to fight off an alien invasion. Hilarity and much destruction ensues.

The tone here is set right from the start, when the DreamWorks kid gets abducted by a flying saucer. Need I say more? The film features the voice talents of Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd and even Stephen Colbert as the President. (And how can you not like a film that features Stephen Colbert as the President?) But it's Seth Rogen who steals the show, gives it back then steals it again as B.O.B., the aforementioned blob of goo. ("I don't think your parents like me, and I think that Jello gave me a fake phone number...") An over-the-top homage to 1950s BD-movies - and just about every alien invasion flick since - Monsters vs. Aliens delivers plenty of laughs and fun, good for all ages.

This film was presented in theatres in full Digital 3-D, but DreamWorks' Blu-ray delivers a 2-D version only. (The studio is waiting for true Blu-ray 3-D to arrive next year, and will likely re-release the film on on the format then.) Still, the video quality is about as good as it gets. Clarity, color, contrast and detail are all perfect - just as you'd expect from a CG film mastered in HD directly from the original animation files. The lossless audio mix is also very good, presented in Dolby TrueHD format. (More standard audio options are also included.) The soundstage is big, wide and enveloping, with lots of over-active surround gimmickry that's appropriate to this kind of film.

Unfortunately, the disc's extras are the weakest link here. You get commentary with the filmmakers, a trivia track and an Animator's Corner viewing option - all of that is fine. You also get a trio of deleted scenes (mostly in storyboard form). The two behind-the-scenes featurettes (about 25-minutes of material) are a letdown, however. They're very EPK-ish, with too much Jeffrey Katzenberg product testimonial. There is one section of the disc in 3-D, and you're given 4 pairs of old-school red/green 3-D glasses in the packaging. 3-D contents include the original B.O.B.'s Big Break animated short, and an interactive game. You also get a 2-D game and a lame karaoke feature. The rest of the extras amount to seemingly endless previews for other DreamWorks animated titles. Much of this will appeal to kids, but anyone older than 10 is going to lose interest fast. Hopefully, the studio will do a little more with this title on the 3-D reissue.

Extras aside, Monsters vs. Aliens is a surprisingly fun and clever CG romp that should easily amuse you for most of its 94 minutes. If you have kids, and you can get a great sale price on the Blu-ray, it's well worth picking up on disc. At the very least, it's definitely worth a rental spin.

Bill Hunt, Editor
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com



South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Blu-ray Disc)

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South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
1999 (2009) - Paramount
Released on Blu-ray Disc on October 13th, 2009
Also available on DVD

Dolby TrueHD

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 18.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras: B


I'm definitely a South Park fan, but I'll confess... when I saw this film in the theater, my mouth just dropped open in shock for the first 15 minutes. Then I laughed good, hard and often. This film is rude, crude and extremely funny. It's probably the most politically incorrect film you'll ever see. And it's refreshing as hell.


If you followed the smack-down, grudge match fought in the media between South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and MPAA president Jack Valenti prior to this film's release, you probably know what to expect here. The reality is that the more Valenti trashed this film, the more people wanted to see it. Trey and Matt did everything possible to crank up the show's already foul attitude for its big screen debut, and after a while, they just started throwing things into this movie that they knew would piss off the ratings board - in your face filmmaking at its finest. To quote Kyle's mom, "Just remember what the MPAA says: Horrific, deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don't say any naughty words!" Point made. And the score is Cartman 1, MPAA 0.

Despite all that profanity, there's still a story here (silly though it may be). One afternoon, Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny sneak into a showing of the Canadian-import movie Asses of Fire, starring Terrance & Phillip. Soon after, their speech can be measured in Obscenities Per Minute, and their parents aren't too happy about it. When they discover that a movie from up north started the problem, the mothers of tiny South Park, Colorado declare war on Canada in retaliation (a standard theme on the TV show - parents never take responsibility for their kids if they can lay blame elsewhere). Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein and Satan are up to no good, with plans to bring on the end of the world. So naturally, it's up to Stan, Kyle, Cartman and the ghost of Kenny ("You bastards!") to save the day. And along the way, we're treated to tons of laughs, at least one good Jar Jar Binks joke, and a surprisingly entertaining (and Oscar-nominated!) batch of songs, featuring the likes of What Would Brian Boitano Do?, Blame Canada!, It's Easy, M'Kay and the dreaded Uncle Fucka (in which the F-word is used many, MANY times).

Presented in 1080p by Paramount, the video quality on Blu-ray is excellent. This isn't a movie that you'd expect would benefit from HD presentation, but the color and contrast are significantly improved here over the DVD. More importantly, the added resolution really helps all those "construction paper" textures on the characters and backgrounds stand out. (Which is funny, as the film - and show - has been animated by computer since the original pilot.) The TrueHD audio mix is also quite good, with a big wide front soundstage, smooth panning and excellent clarity that really makes the film's... *ahem* amusing... soundtrack sound great.

The original DVD release had no extras other than a trio of theatrical trailers. Those have carried over to the new Blu-ray in full HD. Better still, added exclusively for the Blu-ray is the music video for What Would Brian Boitano Do? and something that's rare on ANY South Park home video release... a new, full-length audio commentary track with Trey and Matt! This is one of the funniest commentaries I've heard in a while. The guys joke and laugh and tell some great stories, then start inviting in other staffers and just about anyone who happened to be in the building at the time... whether they worked on the film or not. ("Wow, I can't believe it's been ten years since I didn't work on this film!") You get the idea. The disc is worth having just for this track alone. It's a hoot.

When the DVD version first came out a decade ago, I was at a Target store and watched as a little boy no older than ten pointed at the disc on the shelf and shouted, "You killed Kenny!" His mother immediately grabbed the disc, put it in their shopping cart and headed for the checkout isle. Benjamin Spock must be spinning in his grave. Regardless, this Blu-ray is highly recommended.

Bill Hunt, Editor
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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