Archive for December, 2007

Silver Screen Review – National Treasure: Book of Secrets

December 31, 2007

The latest Disney/Bruckheimer collaboration (yes, the same team of Pirates of the Caribbean) is at times difficult to follow, but is still extremely entertaining, suspenseful, and a real . . . treasure.

By Blake

Originally posted December 31, 2007.

Being a Disney production, the success of 2004’s National Treasure called for an inevitable sequel. The new film National Treasure: Book of Secrets captures the same faced-paced, adventuresome flair of the original and delivers a multi-layered, somewhat hard to keep up with, storyline.

When we last left Ben Gates, he, his girlfriend (Abigail), his assistant (Riley), and his father (Patrick) had just uncovered a magnificent treasure and were appreciating their newfound riches. Well, as it turns out, a new character, Mitch Wilkinson, claims that Ben’s great-great grandfather planned the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Naturally, Ben, along with his the whole crew from the original film, set out to prove Wilkinson wrong. Eventually they come to the conclusion that the only way to prove Gates’ innocence is to prove the existence of a city of gold. Where is this hidden city? Well, the location is hidden in a top-secret book passed down to every president in office. How are they supposed to get a hold of this mysterious book? By kidnapping the president, of course.

Like I said, the plot is kind of foggy during your first viewing. You know WHAT’s happening, you just might not know WHY it’s happening. I’m sure a second viewing would clear up the indefinite parts, especially if you haven’t brushed up on your history in a while. And, no, unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean movies Disney and Bruckheimer have made together before, you don’t need to be very familiar with the original film to understand the concepts of the sequel. Other than trying your best to keep up with the plot, you’ll enjoy yourself more if you just sit back and tag along for the ride, because the film certainly keeps you awake, with not a moment of slowness. The 30-minute finale sequence (which takes place, story-wise at least, inside Mount Rushmore) was top-notch, with plenty of surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s very suspenseful and tense, and certainly had me clutching my face as every twist was revealed. And this time around, it’s more like an “International Treasure,” as the characters travel to Paris, France to examine the second Statue of Liberty (yes, there’s more than one!) and to London, England to examine an artifact from the queen’s resolute desk.

Next come the necessary questions that are asked after every sequel: “Was it better than the original?” and “Will there be another sequel?” Book of Secrets keeps to the same style as the original film, and has historical references and clues like the first movie. The characters are developed more, but not so much that they totally destroy the characters’ personalities. The sequel doesn’t take the first film to any new heights, but additionally it doesn’t butcher the original, either. So, I’ll say they’re about the same. As for the next question, the ending certainly leaves room for a possible further installment, though doesn’t leave us on a cliffhanger either. If there is another sequel, Book of Secrets certainly leaves an opening for one, though if this is the end of the National Treasure series, everything is already worked out that needs to be (story-wise) for the series to close.

For those of you that often run late to movies and walk in well after the film has begun, all I can say is DON’T DO THAT THIS TIME AROUND! There’s plenty to feast your eyes upon in the film’s preshow, including two premiere Disney trailers (a new teaser for Wall-E and the first-ever trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) as well as the return of Disney’s hand-drawn short division! This really caught me by surprise and I was utterly delighted when a brand-spankin’ new Goofy cartoon, How to Set Up Your Home Theater, began playing. At first I thought it was a rerun of one of the old 1940’s “How To . . .” Goofy shorts, but then I realized that it couldn’t be, since it deals with today’s modern technology and how to use it. It’s animated wonderfully – I honestly mistook it for a 40’s cartoon. It was simply classic Disney fun, and if you look close enough you’ll spot cameos of Mickey Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Walt Disney, and even a portrait of Goofy from his first-ever screen debut, 1932’s Mickey’s Revue.

Goofy is featured in an all-new animated short, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, which plays before National Treasure: Book of Secrets in theaters.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is by no means the next legendary Disney masterpiece, but offers two solid hours of fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, nonstop entertainment with characters you already have spent time with before. The Goofy short preceding the film is pure Disney fun and should provide plenty of laughs, and boosts the film’s value even further.

How do I rank National Treasure: Book of Secrets? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Aaaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

National Treasure: Book of Secrets will most likely please: Disney Fans – Historians – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Tweens (ages 11-13) – Teenagers – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; posted December 31, 2007. All images (C) Disney.


DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

December 29, 2007

Disney’s lost star finally returns home on a delightful 2-disc Walt Disney Treasures set that delivers rare and fun shorts though seems to be straining to come up with related bonus material.

By Blake

Originally posted December 29, 2007.

In the spring of 1928, Walt Disney went through a torturous experience that not only taught him an extremely valuable lesson, but shaped the motion picture industry forever by eventually leading to the creation of Mickey Mouse: he lost the rights to his first real cartoon star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In a treacherous move, the distributor of the Oswald animated shorts that Walt’s studio had been creating, Charles Mintz, pulled the rug from under Walt’s shoes by stealing nearly all of Walt’s staff and reminding Walt that the Disney Studio didn’t actually own the characters they were creating cartoons of. Meaning that at any time they could be taken away from the studio forever, just like what was about to be done to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Well, on the train ride back home while tossing around ideas for a new cartoon character, Mr. Disney thought of a plucky mouse whose head is shaped of three circles and, well, you can pretty much guess what that led to.

And that’s the infamous story of how Oswald was taken away forever and how Mickey was born. And that’s been the entire story. Until now, that is. In February 2006, in a slick move that no one, not even the Walt Disney Company, was quite expecting, Disney traded football announcer Al Michaels to Universal in exchange for the rights to the Oswald cartoons of the 1920’s, which Universal has legally owned all these years after Walt was jipped.

This brings us to today, when Disney has released their annual set of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, and this round one of these prestigious 2-disc sets belongs to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Unlike every other volume in the WDT series, Oswald is housed in a snazzy gold tin box, as opposed the silver tin box the other installments are kept in. Inside the case are an Oswald button, a collectible sheet of sketches, a certificate of authenticity that shows the number of your specific DVD out of the 120,000 made, and a code redeemable for Disney Movie Rewards points (a WDT first). And, of course, there are the DVDs themselves.

Disc One
Approx. Total Disc Running Time: 133 mins. (2 hrs., 13 mins.)
Highlight of Disc: The Oswald Shorts
Runner-Up Highlight: “Oswald Comes Home”

Disc One opens with a commercial for Pixar Animated Short Film Collection Vol. 1, followed by an introduction to the disc by our host for the WDT series, Leonard Maltin. The menus of Disc One are easy to navigate, with a distinct bold red star indicating your choice on the screen. There are 13 Oswald shorts presented on Disc One, and bonus features on this disc include an “Oswald Comes Home” featurette, audio commentaries for 5 shorts, a fragment of a missing Oswald short, and a still frame gallery. Having been silent cartoons when they were originally released in the 1920’s, the shorts have been set to music with a brand new score created for each one. Due to the shorts originally being silent, they are abundant with sight gags and physical comedy, making them a pleasure to watch. Additionally, some of the shorts aren’t in the very best quality, as several only existed in 16mm prints to transfer from.

The Oswald Shorts

Trolley Troubles, 1927 (about 6 mins.) – Oswald is the conductor of a trolley, and he’s having a difficult time getting everyone where they need to be in one piece! The trolley continuously is making stops, falling off the tracks, flinging passengers into the air, and eventually gliding nonstop down a hill through plenty of tunnels. This cartoon is just all-around fun to enjoy. You’ll find nearly every Oswald adventure relies on some sort of chase scene to end the short, and this is one of the best presented on the set. The different struggles the trolley goes through are humorous to see, and the way Oswald is resourceful of his surroundings (such as when he temporarily removes his foot to rub is on his face for good luck – get it?) make the cartoon creatively funny.

Oh, Teacher, 1927 (about 6 mins.) – When Oswald’s girlfriend is drowning in a pond, he rushes to save her only to have the credit taken away from him by a rival who soon wins the heart of the floppy-eared female rabbit. In another misinterpretation, the girl rabbit thinks Oswald beat up the rival bully and once again returns to Oswald.

Great Guns!, 1927 (about 7 mins.) – Oswald enlists in the war and terribly misses his rabbit girlfriend. When he eventually gets in a fight and is injured by the general, Oswald ends up in the hospital, in the care of a nurse who happens to be his girlfriend. This short relies heavily on the chemistry and reaction between Oswald and the general, who make a fun rivalry to watch.

The Mechanical Cow, 1927 (about 6 mins.) – As it turns out, Oswald owns a mechanical cow that has all sorts of snazzy contraptions and gadgets. While Oswald impresses his rabbit girlfriend with the mechanical cow, the girlfriend is kidnapped by a villain and it’s up to Oswald to rescue her. This ensues in yet another Oswald chase scene! Eventually the mechanical cow helps Oswald save his rabbit girlfriend and all ends happily. This is one of the shorts that is in somewhat poor quality due to the transfer from 16mm prints. This particular short shows much creativity due to the different uses that the mechanical cow has.

The Ocean Hop, 1927 (about 6 mins.) – Oswald and Pete (that’s right, Peg Leg Pete, the same Pete from the Mickey series!) are in a race by plane to Paris. Reminiscent of the 1928 Mickey short Plane Crazy, Oswald invents a contraption to make a plane and, of course, a chase scene occurs and eventually Pete is beat to Paris by Oswald, who is greeted by cheering bystanders. This cartoon takes a while to pick up speed, but once we get into the plot it’s delightful to watch.

All Wet, 1927 (about 7 mins.) – Even though he’s supposed to be selling hot dogs at the fair, Oswald takes the day off to “fill in” as the lifeguard at the beach (without the real lifeguard’s consent) to impress his rabbit girlfriend. However, when the rabbit girlfriend is drowning, Oswald doesn’t know what to do! Eventually (after much trial and error attempts) Oswald saves her and receives a kiss.

Rival Romeos, 1928 (about 6 mins.) – It seems as though Oswald has dumped his rabbit girlfriend, because in this cartoon he has a new gal, this time a cat. Trying to woo her, Oswald appears outside her window and plays some music for her, only to have his music sheets eaten by a nearby goat. Well, that’s okay, he can just crank the goat’s tail and the music can come out of the mouth (sound familiar, Steamboat Willie fans?). Soon, an angry neighbor gets mad at Oswald for playing disrupting music, and before you know it the plot completely changes as a passerby attempts to win the heart of the cat girlfriend. As Oswald and the rival constantly try to win the girl, she’s eventually taken off into the sunset by neither of them – a completely different guy! This cartoon might have been a better one if it didn’t completely change plots in the middle of the short . . . it went from a funny problem of a complaining neighbor to a totally different concept of competing boyfriends.

Bright Lights, 1928 (about 8 mins.) – Oswald repeatedly tries new ways to get past the guard to snag a free seat for a lavish show at the theater. After several failed attempts, Oswald finally makes it inside, where he ruins the show and accidentally lets many wild animals loose inside the theatre! This short has many uses of Oswald’s body changing form to fit his situation best, which makes it humorous to watch.

Ozzie of the Mounted, 1928 (about 5 mins.) – Oswald is sent to capture the notorious Peg Leg Pete during a snowstorm. Oswald sets out on the expedition with another mechanical pet, though this time it’s a horse. Thus, another Oswald chase scene ensues, first with Oswald chasing Pete, then with a bear chasing Oswald and Pete! This cartoon reminded me of the 1929 Mickey Mouse short The Klondike Kid. This cartoon is also a joy to watch because the chase scene provides plenty of sight gags to enjoy.

Oh, What a Knight, 1928 (about 6 mins.) – Oswald visits the castle where apparently his cat girlfriend lives to sing her a song, when he is interrupted by the cat’s father, an angry bear who doesn’t exactly approve of Oswald and challenges him to a duel. Oswald sword fights the bear and of course wins. This cartoon isn’t exactly one of the best comedy-wise or story-wise, but is nicely animated, with shadows reflected on the walls of the castle as Oswald and the bear fight.

Sky Scrappers, 1928 (about 6 mins.) – VERY much like the 1933 Mickey cartoon Building a Building (nearly down to the second), Oswald is working at a construction site, and his cat girlfriend brings him some scrumptious lunch. Pete gets jealous and eventually it’s another rescue mission to get the girl.

The Fox Chase, 1928 (about 5 mins.) (J) – Another Oswald chase scene! This cartoon is basically one long chase scene, as Oswald enters a fox chase. Once his stubborn horse (who looks very much like Horace Horsecollar) finally gets moving, it’s a mad dash to catch the fox!

Tall Timber, 1928 (about 8 mins.) (J) – Oswald is canoeing down a river and constantly is troubled by the forces of nature, including animals and a giant rock chasing him (ANOTHER Oswald chase scene!). After Oswald escapes the rock, he is again chased, though this time by a bear. This cartoon is very fun to watch, and reminds me somewhat of the Roger Rabbit short Trail Mix-Up.

Disc One Bonus Features
“Oswald Comes Home” (about 14 mins.) – A look at the history of Oswald and how he returned home to the Walt Disney Company. It includes interviews with Disney execs Bob Iger and Roy Disney, plus Diane Disney Miller, Don Iwerks, and several animation historians who pipe in to share info. A very fascinating feature on the disc, this is definitely one of the highlights of the set, as it shows us the evolution of the Disney studio and the importance the Oswald shorts were to the company’s future success.

Audio Commentaries (about 36 mins.) – Audio commentaries for six of the Oswald shorts (The Ocean Hop, Oh Teacher, Oh What a Knight, Bright Lights, Ozzie of the Mounted, and The Fox Chase) with WDT host Leonard Maltin and animation historians Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler. For the most part they only point out to us who animated the scene we’re watching, and tell us to pay attention to the way the characters are drawn. While a nice addition to the disc, after watching all six of them they do seem to get a bit generic.

Sagebrush Sadie (about 1 min.) – As it turns out, Disney wasn’t able to retrieve all of the Oswald shorts after they acquired the rights to them! Sagebrush Sadie is one of the “missing” Oswald cartoons that doesn’t anymore exist in its entirety, but Disney was able to retrieve this tiny bit from it, which is presented here.

Art Gallery (self-guided) – A pleasant feature that pops up often on WDT volumes, this is a selection of still frame artwork pieces from the Oswald shorts. While the art is very neat to see, the downside to this feature is that there’s no slideshow option, and so to see every piece of art you have to continuously push your remote control. Additionally, you can’t view all the art at once. After seeing every eight pieces, you have to return to the menu and select the next page of art.

Disc Two
Approx. Total Disc Running Time: 132 mins (1 hr., 12 mins.)
Highlight of Disc: The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story
Highlight Runner-Up: “After Oswald” Shorts

Disc Two is all bonus material, and its contents seem to be tied on a very thin string in relation to Oswald. Disc Two’s menus are more difficult to navigate than Disc One’s because your selection on the screen is identified by a white Mickey glove . . . which ends up somewhat difficult to see on a white background. Disc Two includes a full-length feature film, as well as “Before Oswald” and “After Oswald” shorts.

Disc Two Bonus Features
The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story (about 92 mins.) – An entire full-length feature film that was originally released by Disney in 1999, this is a biographical story of the man who virtually drew the entire Oswald and Mickey collection single-handedly (and the one who created the design for Mickey), Ub Iwerks. The only animator who didn’t turn on Walt when Oswald was stolen, Iwerks stayed loyal to the Disney Studio until Walt began getting the spotlight for Iwerks’ work. Eventually parting from Disney and setting up his own animation studio, Iwerks struggled to achieve the success he had had at Disney. A few years later he returned to Disney, where he continuously achieved technological heights, and changed the motion picture industry forever by inventing clever contraptions, such as the breakthrough that allowed those dancing penguins to duet with Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Eventually Iwerks died of a heart attack in 1971. The documentary is intriguing and fascinating, though gets a tad on the boring side by the end. Additionally, it doesn’t exactly relate to Oswald, the topic of this DVD. It does has a few minutes concerning Iwerks’ contribution to the Oswald shorts, but that’s about it. While the documentary is a welcome addition to the disc, it has me thinking that Disney was struggling to find bonus features while creating this DVD set.

Ub Iwerks animates Mickey Mouse. Iwerks was responsible for most of the animation in the Oswald and early Mickey shorts of the 1920’s and 1930’s and returned to Disney to provide innovative technologies to improve the entertainment industry.

“Before Oswald” Shorts (about 22 mins.) – Three shorts from the “Alice Comedies” series, a Disney cartoon series before Oswald that involved a live-action little girl in the cartoon world. Fortunately, the three shorts presented here aren’t repeats from the 2005 Disney Rarities WDT set, but unfortunately, they’re the same, dragged-on style as the other Alice shorts. I’ve never really liked the Alice series because they seem to have no real plot to them, and solely rely on slapstick gags for laughs instead of the story. On this set we have Alice Gets Stung (where Alice torments a bear, who sends a swarm of bees after her), Alice In the Wooly West (where animals hurt each other in the west, again with no real plot), and Alice’s Balloon Race (where animals continuously injure each other just to win a stinkin’ balloon race). I’ve never been a real big fan of the Alice Comedies anyway, and I don’t really see the relation between Alice and Oswald. Sure, Alice was made before Oswald . . . but why is that a reason to include the Alice shorts on this set?

The first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever released, the classic Steamboat Willie, is included on the “After Oswald” section of the Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit DVD.

“After Oswald” Shorts (about 20 mins.) – Again, these don’t really have anything to do with Oswald other than they were released after his cartoons were. Presented here are two Mickey shorts recycled from Mickey Mouse in Black & White Vol. 1, Steamboat Willie (the classic first ever appearance of Mickey and Minnie on a riverboat, as they play music using various animals) and Plane Crazy (where Mickey takes Minnie out for a flight in a home-made plane, much to Minnie’s dismay); as well as a classic Silly Symphonies short, The Skeleton Dance (where skeletons rise from their grave to perform random dance moves). While these cartoons are artistically and musically wonderful, they’re bonus material recycled from sets that I already own. I suppose the real incentive for these cartoons’ inclusion on this Oswald set is for those that starting liking the Walt Disney Treasures series after the first few rounds of installments were released (which included these early shorts) and haven’t already seen them, in which case this will be a real treat.

Wrapping It Up
It truly is wonderful to finally witness the legendary footage of Walt Disney’s long-lost cartoon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, after all these years of having it deprived from Disney. Oswald is plucky, resourceful, and courageous; and his shorts are fun and whimsical to watch. The cartoons are presented in reasonable quality for having been transferred from such poor condition and the shorts’ audio commentaries are a nice touch to give us a little more insight on the cartoons. It’s nice that Disney has included the full-length Iwerks feature and the bonus Alice and Mickey cartoons on the disc, but they really don’t seem to relate to the set’s topic much. Perhaps if the other 13 lost Oswald shorts were retrieved it would have made a nicer DVD package, though for the time it’s just wonderful that the found material was restored and presented here. It definitely is nice to have Oswald home again, when at one time we thought Walt Disney’s first ever lead cartoon character would be lost forever.

How do I rank Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? (Bolded is my choice.)

  • Aaaaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will most likely please: Disney Fans – Kids (ages 5-7) – Old Folks

By Blake; posted December 29, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – Pirates: At World’s End Limited Edition

December 9, 2007

The most highly-anticipated movie of the decade arrives on a 2-Disc DVD with a plethora of bonus features.

By Blake

Originally posted December 8, 2007.

The newest Pirates adventure, At World’s End, certainly had a lot to live up to when it opened last May in theatres. After all, its predecessor, 2006’s Pirates: Dead Man’s Chest, went on to become the second-highest-grossing film in movie history, just behind Titanic. Not only was the money aspect of At World’s End expected to be huge, it also had to live up to the brilliant characters and story of the first two films.

Luckily, there is no disappointment in the final (?) installment in the popular Pirates of the Caribbean series. The film is somewhat confusing story-wise, though second viewings should clear up the foggy spots for you. I called the movie fantastic though lengthy in my review of it when it initially released in theaters, so I won’t repeat myself by critiquing the film all over again. Today we’re here to talk about the new DVD release of the film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is being released in two different versions: standard and limited edition. The limited edition has 2 discs’ worth of goodies and is only available until September 2008; while the standard release has no time limit, though just has one disc with almost no bonuses. Here I’ll be reviewing the 2-disc limited edition.

Disc One

Total Disc Length Time: About 173 minutes
Highlight of Disc: At World’s End Feature Film
Highlight Runner-Up: Bloopers of the Caribbean

Disc one holds the feature film and one sole bonus feature. If you opt to buy the standard version, this is all you’ll get. Surprisingly, unlike the previous two Pirates DVD installments, there is no audio commentary whatsoever present on the disc. The commentaries for the first two films were very informative and entertaining, and I just wonder why a commentary wasn’t included for this round. Disc one’s menus are themed to Soa Feng’s map. This unfortunately doesn’t work out too well – since the map is cluttered with drawings and symbols, it’s difficult to see exactly what your remote is pointing at.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Feature Film (about 168 minutes) – Captain Jack Sparrow is trapped in Davy Jones’ Locker and is needed at a gathering of the world’s nine pirate leaders to battle against Cutler Beckett and the East India Trading Company. It’s up to Will, Elizabeth, Barbossa, and the rest of the crew to save Jack from the Locker and defend piracy once and for all. Don’t worry, it will all clear up as you watch it more 😉 (Read a full review of the movie itself here.)

Bloopers of the Caribbean (about 5 minutes) – A feature that’s become mandatory on every Pirates DVD, this is a set of hilarious outtakes. The bloopers are filled with hysterical physical and verbal comedy.

Sneak Peeks (about 10 minutes) – The advertisements from Disney. Nothing here is too surprising, as all of the projects previewed have already been previously announced by Disney. The commercials include the 101 Dalmatians DVD, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Pirates 1 & 2 on Blu Ray, the Underdog DVD, The Game Plan DVD, and the High School Musical 2 DVD.

Disc Two

Total Disc Length Time: About 85 minutes
Highlight of Disc: “Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom”
Highlight Runner-Up: Deleted Scenes

Disc two is abundant with everything a Pirates fan could ever ask for, and delivers in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes to explore the making of this massive film. Disc two’s menus are much more navigational-friendly, as they’re themed to Davy Jones’ locker, with a simple blue arrow pointing to the choice you want to make onscreen.

“Keith and the Captain: On the Set with Johnny and the Rock Legend” (about 5 minutes) – One of the few discardable features on the disc, this deals with the hyped-up appearance of Rolling Stones member Keith Richards as Captain Jack’s father, Captain Teague. It includes interviews with Johnny Depp about his original inspiration from Richards of evolving the Jack character in the first film, as well as interviews with Richards.

Keith Richards as Teague, Captain Jack’s dad in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
“Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom” (about 19 minutes) – If you only pulled one thing away from the movie, it was probably the colossal maelstrom battle sequence. This particular bonus feature is all about the creation of this immense scene, including the giant warehouse that stored replicas of The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman on a gigantic moving rig in front of a 360-degree blue screen, as well as the computer effects that went into making the battle seem believable. This in-depth making-of that’s nearly as long as the maelstrom scene itself is absolutely the highlight of the disc.

“The Tale of Many Jacks” (about 5 minutes) – Along with the maelstrom sequence, another “how’d they do that?” scene was “Multiple Jacks,” where Captain Jack is hallucinating many different clones of himself. As it turns out, at one point there were 12 Jack look-alikes running about on set for the scene, and many takes needed to be redone countless times get all the Jacks present. It certainly wasn’t the scene to be working on if you were impatient.

Deleted Scenes (about 6 minutes) – Another exciting bonus on the disc that we weren’t treated to for the Dead Man’s Chest DVD are the deleted scenes. Unfortunately, there are only 2 cut scenes present here, as opposed to the 19 featured on the first film’s DVD. While entertaining and definitely humorous, I can’t help but thinking that there had to be more than just 2 scenes removed from the movie. Optional audio commentaries for the 2 scenes are provided by director Gore Verbinski. While informative, the commentaries seem very rushed, as there is only so much information you can squeeze into a 1 ½-minute scene.

“The World of Chow Yun-Fat” (about 4 minutes) – Another discardable feature, this deals with actor Chow Yun-Fat who plays a minor role in the movie. Yun-Fat’s interviews are spoken in his native language, with English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. While somewhat enjoyable, I’m left wondering why bonus biographical features were made for the actors of very minor characters like Teague and Soa Feng, instead of some of the more primary characters like Jack and Barbossa.

From left: Chow Yun-Fat as Soa Feng, Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
“The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer” (about 11 minutes) – While this feature’s title might lead you to believe it’s a biographical journey of Hans Zimmer’s music career, it isn’t. Actually, it’s just a look his process of creating just the Pirates music. Informative and revealing, this shows just how much passion it takes to score a film, and all the different components that go into creating a score.

“Masters of Design” (about 25 minutes) – This is a set of five individual features that deal with five separate designer’s contributions to the film. They show the creation of Soa Feng’s map, Teague’s coat, the Pirate Code book, Davy Jones’ cursed crew, and the Singapore set. They show how amazing it is that so much work and dedication goes into just one tiny aspect of the movie.

“Hoist the Colours” (about 5 minutes) – What might have better been used as an integration of “The Pirate Maestro” DVD feature, this deals with the creation of the film’s song “Hoist the Colours”. As it turns out, if you listened closely when the song was sung at the beginning of the film, you might have had an idea of how it all turned out at the end.

“Inside the Brethren Court” (about 10 minutes) – A feature that will appeal most to younger viewers, this is a look at the biographies of each of the nine pirate leaders. I found it remarkable that the time was actually taken to develop each of these very minor characters’ stories, and quite pleased that we’re presented them all here . . . though the piratey-sounding narrator gets quite annoying after a while.

Wrapping It Up

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a fitting conclusion to the spectacular Pirates saga: fantastic filmmaking at its best with amazing special effects (sure to be granted an Oscar nomination). The movie itself would be an obvious buy alone, and the bonus features on the 2-disc limited edition with a plethora of behind-the-scenes goodies for Pirates fans only raise the film’s value. Although additional deleted scenes as well as an audio commentary would have been nice, the DVD is still a brilliant compilation.

How do I rank Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Limited Edition? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Aaaaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Limited Edition will most likely please: Disney Fans – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Tweens (ages 11-13) – Teenagers – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; posted December 8, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ – Shrek the Halls Review

December 2, 2007

The latest adventure in DreamWorks’ popular ‘Shrek’ series is short but sweet, and delivers a half-hour of fun family entertainment.

By Blake

Originally posted December 1, 2007.

OK . . . based on my articles from the past several weeks, you might be under the impression that I generally like every movie I see. Nearly all the reviews I’ve posted lately have been generally positive and you may think that I think every movie is great. I don’t. I can really slam a movie when I want to. But, lately, the movie business has been really on top of things and knows what their audience wants. So, as I give you yet another positive review here, just know that a 100% positive record for 2007 is an extremely rare case. Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx the movie business.

Anyway . . . when I sat down Wednesday night, November 28, to view the new holiday special Shrek the Halls, I was thinking what most viewers were probably thinking: “ANOTHER Shrek sequel?!” However, Shrek the Halls is only a 30-minute special and not a full-blown 90-minute sequel.

The special takes place after Shrek the Third, when Fiona and Shrek are preparing for their first Christmas with their new baby triplet ogres. As it turns out, Shrek hasn’t ever celebrated Christmas before and doesn’t exactly know what all the hubbub is about. When he attempts to please Fiona by throwing a Christmas party, mayhem breaks loose when his friends each tell their own version of “The Night Before Christmas.” Eventually Shrek becomes aggravated with his friends for ruining his first Christmas, only to discover that being with the ones you love during the holidays is part of what makes Christmas so special.

Shrek the Halls had the potential to be cheesy and sequel-ish, but fortunately it doesn’t overdo anything and gives each of the favorite characters their own bit of airtime. And, like every Shrek installment so far, Gingy steals the show. Like most Christmas specials, this one isn’t spiritual, though at one point when Shrek asks what the true meaning of Christmas is, I half-expected somebody to pull a Linus. They didn’t, though.

Although it’s not yet available for sale on DVD, you can probably bet it will be come next November. So, if you can, try to catch Shrek the Halls when it airs Tuesday, December 11, 2008 at 8:00pm on ABC. That’s the only airtime that’s currently scheduled for the special and you sure wouldn’t want to miss it.

By Blake; posted December 1, 2007. All images (C) DreamWorks.