Tag Archives: Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: “Alice in Wonderland” (60th Anniversary Edition)

Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition (Disney, 2011)

Never one to let an anniversary pass without some sort of commemoration, Disney is celebrating Alice in Wonderland‘s 60th birthday by bringing its adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s classic tales to Blu-ray for the first time. Disney aficionados will note with disappointment that Alice received a DVD upgrade last year (the appropriately titled “Un-Anniversary” edition) — a strange bit of rapid-fire double-dipping for a movie with a mixed legacy, to say the least. Is it worth owning again? Read on.

Synopsis: This Disney feature-length cartoon combines the most entertaining elements of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Chasing after the White Rabbit, who runs into view singing “I’m Late! I’m Late!,” Alice falls down the rabbit hole into the topsy-turvy alternate world of Wonderland. Continue reading

Blu-ray Review: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 (Disney, 2010)

Even if you’re the type of person who thinks of Disney as a soulless princess factory, you’d be hard-pressed to deny that 1940’s Fantasia is one of the most ambitious animated films of all time — and its sequel-ish thing, Fantasia 2000, was a gutsy-albeit-neutered attempt to recapture the freewheeling, untrammeled creativity that once defined the studio. Arguably Disney’s all-time creative peak, Fantasia now comes to Blu-ray with a 7.1 soundtrack — and Fantasia 2000 in the bargain. With Disney’s spotless hi-def record and the classic source material going for it, it’s got to be a must-own, right?

Synopsis: Fantasia, Walt Disney’s animated masterpiece of the 1940s, grew from a short-subject cartoon picturization of the Paul Dukas musical piece The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Mickey Mouse starred in this eight-minute effort, while the orchestra was under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Disney and Stokowski eventually decided that the notion of marrying classical music with animation was too good to confine to a mere short subject; thus the notion was expanded into a two-hour feature, incorporating seven musical selections and a bridging narration by music critic Deems Taylor.

The first piece, Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” was used to underscore a series of abstract images. The next selection, Tschiakovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” is performed by dancing wood-sprites, mushrooms, flowers, goldfish, thistles, milkweeds and frost fairies. The Mickey Mouse version of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is next, followed by Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” which serves as leitmotif for the story of the creation of the world, replete with dinosaurs and volcanoes.

After a brief jam session involving the live-action musicians comes Beethoven’s “Pastorale Symphony,” enacted against a Greek-mythology tapestry by centaurs, unicorns, cupids and a besotted Bacchus. Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” is performed by a Corps de Ballet consisting of hippos, ostriches and alligators. The program comes to a conclusion with a fearsome visualization of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” dominated by the black god Tchernobog (referred to in the pencil tests as “Yensid,” which is guess-what spelled backwards); this study of the “sacred and profane” segues into a reverent rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Continue reading

Blu-ray Review: The Sound of Music (45th Anniversary Edition)

The Sound of Music (20th Century Fox, 2010)

One of the most enduring musicals and family films of all time, The Sound of Music celebrates its 45th anniversary by making its Blu-ray debut — and not just any ol’ debut, either: Fox has pulled out all the stops with this transfer, adding a new 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack and tons of bonus material to go with the meticulously remastered footage. They might be middle-aged now, but the hills are still alive, and they’ve never looked or sounded better.

Synopsis: One of the most popular movie musicals of all time, The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Trapp Family Singers. Julie Andrews stars as Maria, a young nun in an Austrian convent who regularly misses her morning prayers because she enjoys going to the hills to sing the title song. Deciding that Maria needs to learn something about the real world before she can take her vows, the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sends her off to be governess for the children of the widowed Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Continue reading