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Disney Blu-ray Wrap Up

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

It’s hard to trust a movie that requires as much speedy back-story as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I immediately find myself reminded of the unfortunate Korean Dragon movie D-War. Fortunately, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has huge advantages over the Mystery Science Theater 3000-worthy D-War, namely its massive budget, and professional actors. The excessive plot actually works here because the storytelling never really lets up, and rarely gives the audience proper time to realize how silly the whole thing is. The production design is also top notch, better than expected, and the special effects are honestly among the best I’ve seen in 2010. The most enduring surprise is the film’s sharp sense of humour, which plays strongly to the lead cast’s strengths (though even Jay Baruchel and Nic Cage can’t stand up against the wall of charm named Alfred Molina). I actually enjoyed this brief and light adventure quite a bit, and readily admit I didn’t want to. It’s a much more fun and engaging adventure than Bruckheimer’s other summer flop Prince of Persia (which also featured a scene stealing Molina) thanks to a sharper focus on character rather than slow motion action. The love stories are predictable and disappointing, but entirely acceptable within the confines of the plot’s needs. Good performances, strong special effects, and a cheeky tribute to Fantasia make The Sorcerer’s Apprentice worth a look. Who would have predicted Jon Turteltaub making a better movie than Mike Newell?

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice looks good in 1080p, and I’m sure such news doesn’t surprise anyone. Much of the film takes place under cover of darkness, which leads to some really sharp contrast, and beautifully deep blacks. That said, the most impressive looking scene takes place in broad daylight in New York’s Chinatown district, which is simply overflowing with warm colours. The DTS-HD Master Audio follow suit with warm, incidental surround sound equaling the impressionably action packed scenes. The action scenes, however, are more likely to excite, with their powerful LFE support, zippy directional effects, and well integrated musical score. Extras include ‘Magic in the City’ (HD, 12:50), a fluffy chat about production, covering mostly technical aspects, ‘The Science of Sorcery' (HD, 10:30), about the special effects, ‘Making Magic Real’ (HD, 11:44) about practical effects, ' Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic' (HD, 10:10) is all about the Sorcerers Apprentice of Fantasia, ‘The Fashionable Drake Stone’ (HD, 2:00), 'The Grimhold: an Evil Work of Art' (HD, 3:50), ‘The Encantus’ (HD. 2:20), ‘Wolves and Puppies’ (HD, 3:00), and the ‘World’s Coolest Car’ (HD,1:30). Next up are 3 deleted scenes (HD), an outtake reel (HD), and Disney trailers.

Disney Blu-ray Wrap Up

Step Up 3

Picking up roughly where Step Up 2 ended, all the street dancers are moving on to college. Once again dancing is something that can change the world, and is mostly verboten, dark like a knife fight, and gambled on. As expected Step Up 3 isn’t so much a plot driven film, but more of an excuse for dancing set-pieces (or the occasional Parkour run). The basic set up is the usual ‘we need money to keep some important community project going’, so just substitute dancing for kung-fu, or a singing competition. The screenwriters really do their best to inject drama, and the dancers do they’re best to be actors, but it’s all about the dancing, which is once again over-edited. I enjoy watching dancing, but don’t really dig trying to put the movements together after the fact because the camera won’t hold still on an image for longer than a few seconds. Fortunately, this time around there are a few numbers that are shot entirely head-on to maximize 3D. Still, it boils down to annoying characters, a predictable plot, and 3D style that doesn’t work as well in 2D. Only recommended to huge fans of the series. The colourful costumes and production design, and speeding pacing are appreciated.

So it’s not in 3D like it was in theaters, but this is an extremely sharp 1080p transfer. The fact that every scene is an excuse to thrust something colourful into the frame for the 3D audience certainly helps. Occasionally the extreme lighting schemes separate the elements so much the frame is kind of artificial looking. There also aren’t many wide shots, so the frame feels pretty cramped, The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is very aggressive, specifically when it comes to the grinding, bass-heavy beats, and surround sound enhanced musical tracks. Directional effects aren’t super common, but the occasional dialogue scene features plenty of ambient noise. The gear grinding noise they give the guy that does the robot is a nice touch. Extras include ‘Born from a Boombox’ (HD), the film made within the film, ‘Extra Moves’ (7:20, HD), a look behind the scenes montage, 8 deleted scenes with option director’s commentary, 8 music videos, and ‘Making of the Music Videos’ (7:10, HD), along with a few Disney trailers.

Disney Blu-ray Wrap Up

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue

So far Disney’s Tinker Bell brand STV movies have been shockingly watchable, even, gasp, entertaining. As long as the viewer can stomach the little-girl-friendly songs that accompany the films they probably won’t want to slit their wrists while watching the series with their kids (there’s no real reason to own these films otherwise, unlike some Disney animated releases, which are ‘must owns’ for Blu-ray enthusiasts). The Great Fairy Rescue isn’t quite as much fun as the more adventurous Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (which was infinitely more boy-friendly), but is genuinely funny, and fills out some members of the supporting fairy cast far beyond the last two films, especially ‘bad grrl’ Vidia. This episode includes a few human characters, who are, unfortunately, not very well animated, which is odd since the fairies basically look the same, just with more pronounced features (though when wet they do look kind of like plastic Barbie dolls). When the little girl that captures Tink speaks it’s clear that this isn’t exactly the studio’s biggest monetary investment. The creature animation once again stands apart, and is likely the film’s most charming visual.

Great Fairy Rescue follows the tradition of the other two CG Tinker Bell staring movies, and looks pretty much perfect on Blu-ray. The animation style is smooth, and not as finely textured as a big budget Pixar release, but for an STV quickie it looks great, especially the more detailed background material. Colours are more important than clarity here, and these are noticeably brighter than the included DVD copy, which also features compression noise around the most vibrant hues. This transfer features no noticeable compression artefacts. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound doesn’t really compare to the studio’s theatrical releases, but everything is clear, cleanly separated, and obvious directional effects (like a character moving from screen left to right) work fine. There’s even a collection of decent ambient effects, but the majority of the track is devoted to the score, which continues the series’ delicate balance between traditional, whimsical animation music, and traditional Celtic jigs. Extras are brief and include a sneak peek at Tangled, five deleted scenes with optional director and producer introductions (14:40, HD), ‘How to Believe’ music video, a ‘Fairy Field Guide Builder’ game, ‘Design a Fairy House’ featurette (1:50, HD), and Disney trailers.