Up [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th November 2009).
The Film

Very few movies can draw a tear from it's viewers in the first ten minutes and then deliver a rousing, hilarious and heartfelt adventure tale for the rest of the run time... and Pixar are just about the only studio that can do it, "Up" is exactly that film. It's one of my favorites of the year and I'm so pleased it's made it onto Blu-ray so quickly.

Just when you think they can't possibly do it again, they go ahead and surprise viewers with another beautifully rendered story that'll reach a universal audience. I have to say the trailers and previews for "Up" didn't excite me, and the trick was really in how Pixar could turn a film about an old man into something that not only kids would be interested in seeing but also adults that loved their previous films. And after the first few minutes of what's essentially one of the most heartbreaking opening scenes in any film, director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson have crafted an adventurous and thrilling film filled with a wide-eyed imagination that'll capture the most cynical of audience members.

"Up" tells the story of curmudgeon old man Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), Carl recently lost the love of his life, and is living alone in his big old house now in the center of a thriving city block. As a child Carl dreamt of adventure, his hero Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) sought adventure all over the world, and Carl was enamored by the idea of exploring long lost parts of the globe. One day a young Carl (Jeremy Leary) meets Ellie (Elie Docter) a wide-eyed and adventurous girl who catches Carl's gaze and they soon develop a lasting and loving relationship. They dreamed of going to South America and living out their adventurous fantasies. But, upon her death, Carl has become a shut-in, but all that changes when a plan he's been hatching for sometime comes to fruition, he's going to travel to South America in her memory, and with a ton of balloons he lifts off and sails his house across the world... the only problem is that a precocious young boy, Russell (Jordan Nagai) has tagged along for the ride. Carl and Russell experience the adventure of their lives encountering a clingy bird, a bunch of talking dogs and Carl's childhood hero, Charles Muntz.

Pixar has a knack for creating identifiably lovable characters and crafting simple yet well told stories that engage audiences throughout, it's evident in their catalogue of films and "Up" is another to add to it's growing list. The filmmakers at Pixar seem to have the finger on the pulse of its audience giving amply to it's child viewers and offering adults something to smile about as well. Carl is not your usual animated character, after all he's an old man that has a bit of a sour disposition, but through his interactions with Russell his true personality comes out and we see him as the vulnerable character who simply wants to live out his dreams he once had with his beloved Ellie. Matching Carl with the energetic and loquacious Russell offers up some comedic moments that'll be sure to please. The humor comes in the mismatching of personalities much like Felix and Oscar's relationship in "The Odd Couple" (1968).

"Up" is a film that knows how to show viewers a good time, the sheer sense of fun is evident in every frame of this film. From the character designs which are bound to illicit some laughs to the ridiculousness of the situations both Carl and Russell find themselves in. The rare bird named Kevin (Pete Docter) offers up some goofy fun, essentially the slapstick character that's a bit of a dim wit but with a heart of gold. The talking dogs also provide additional moments of hilarity, from the malfunction voice box of Alpha (Bob Peterson) to the distractions from squirrels, the dogs are my favorite supporting characters in this film, especially their failed attempts at capturing Kevin.

"Up" is a film you'll want to see again and again, it's repeat value, much like other Pixar films is priceless and every viewing will offer up something new you missed the previous time. One of these aspects is the lush and beautiful animation, the detail will impress, from the depth of the film's locations to the intricate animation applied to the characters. Despite the cartoony look of the film, the character's display human emotion better than most real life actors. The animator's attention to detail, broad scale and choice of framing, matched with the story and characters make this a memorable experience.

"Up" is one of the ten best films of the year, if you missed it theatrically then shame on you, but you can redeem yourself by picking up this stunning Blu-ray package, sit back and enjoy.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 high-definition 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. This transfer was created using the film's original HD digital source, the advantages of this are that viewers get a flawless digital image. This HD image is about as good as they come, the sharpness is unparalleled and detail will astound you showing off the splendid animation from the intricacies in the character's faces to the detail and texture of the backgrounds in very location of this film. The interiors look aged and lived in, while the skies are blue and beautiful and the jungles of South America appear lush and vibrant. The colors stand out especially well, blacks are deep and show no evidence of noise. The image is clean of dirt, specks, and there is no evidence of compression problems, no edge-enhancement. This is a top notch reference quality image.

Audio

This film features six audio tracks (combined on both Blu-ray and DVD editions), there's the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround track, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (Blu-ray & DVD), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Blu-ray only), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (Blu-ray only) and an English Audio Descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (DVD only). For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio. The audio of "Up" is not an explosive package, there aren't action elements every second like in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (2009), but that's not to say this isn't a complex and rich audio track. This audio mix is nicely composed to make use of the surrounds in a subtle manner to create ambiance. environmental sounds, directional effects and the film's score add further layers to the film's audio. If you could describe this track in one word it'd be sweeping. While the adventure sequences pop off the screen with a nicely rich and balanced mix that immerses the viewer. While dialogue remains clean, crisp and free from distortion. This audio track perfectly shows off the sound design of the film and delivers a satisfying experience.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Disney have packed this set with four discs, included in the lot is an audio commentary, a picture-in-picture video commentary, two short films, nine featurettes, an alternate scene, montage clip, an interactive game, a couple of theatrical trailers, bonus trailers and a digital copy of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE: Blu-ray

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson. These two provide a richly informative track that takes us through the genesis of the film, developing the story and characters, as well as aspects regarding the animation, working with the voice actors among other things including the themes of the film, their inspiration of many of the story elements, and on how this was an entirely collaborative effort to bring this film to life. It's a totally engrossing track that provides fans with a wealth of information and worth listening to.

"Partly Cloudy" is the first short film which runs for 5 minutes 46 seconds, this film was originally shown before the film during its theatrical run. Directed by Peter Sohn, this cool little film tells the story of how storks get their bundles to deliver, while some are lucky are deliver cute babies others aren't so lucky having to deliver more dangerous babies like electric eels among other things. It's dialogue free, but the humor is sharp, biting and another in a line of largely funny shorts from Pixar.

A second, all new short film is also included entitled "Dug's Special Mission" which runs for 4 minutes 42 seconds, directed by Ronaldo Del Carmen. This is a sort of prequel about our furry dog companion Dug. Created for this home video release, this short is another funny clip that'll put a smile on your face.

The first of many featurettes is "Adventure Is Out There" which runs for 22 minutes 16 seconds, this clip takes a look at how Pixar staff went to Venezuela, South America on a research trip. They reflect on the experience, influences, and how it relates to the thematic elements of this film.

"Alternate Scene: The Many Endings of Muntz" is the next featurette which runs for 4 minutes 55 seconds. This is a look at the various ways the filmmakers tried to kill off the film's main villain. It's a nice little peek at what could have been.

The only major Blu-ray exclusive extra on this disc is the "Cine-Explore" picture-in-picture video commentary accessible on profile 1.1 players or greater. This features incorporates the audio commentary (reviewed above) along with pop-up windows that feature a plethora of concept and development art work, as well as storyboards, various stages of animation, and also reference photos and behind-the-scenes footage from the creation process. This is a good way to delve deeper into the production and learn about how such a film is created.

Bonus trailers are also included for:

- "Toy Story 3" which runs for 1 minute 44 seconds.
- "The Princess and the Frog" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.
- "Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws" which runs for 51 seconds.
- "Dumbo: 70th Anniversary" which runs for 1 minute 14 seconds.
- "Prep & Landing" which runs for 1 minute 1 seconds.
- "Ponyo" which runs for 1 minute 32 seconds.
- "Disney Movie Rewards" which runs for 20 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" which runs for 1 minute 13 seconds.
- "DisneyFile" spot which runs for 1 minute.

You can also connect online via the BD-Live access to Disney portal for additional content, those with profile 2.0 players will be able to access this feature.

DISC TWO: Blu-ray

The "Geriatric Hero" featurette runs for 6 minutes 23 seconds and takes a closer look at the development and design of Carl Fredricksen, viewers are given access behind-the-scenes of Pixar as they design and model the character, work out the animation and facial characteristics among other things that involve bringing the character to life.

Next up is the "Canine Companions" featurette which runs for 8 minutes 27 seconds, here we get a look at the development and design of the dogs in the film, each one's characteristics are broken down, their movements and animation worked out among other things.

"Russell: Wilderness Explorer" featurette follows and runs for 9 minutes 2 seconds, much like the previous clips this examines the character Russell, the design concept, development, characteristics and also takes a look at casting Jordan Nagai to voice the character.

"Our Giant, Flightless Friend Kevin" featurette runs for 5 minutes 6 seconds, this looks at the creation of the dim witted bird that offers up most of the prat fall hilarity in the film, we get a look at the process of how the final look was created.

"Homemakers of Pixar" featurette runs for 4 minutes 34 seconds, because Carl's house is as much a character as he is in the film, this clip takes a look at the production design that went into creating the house's exterior and interiors.

"Balloons and Flight" featurette runs for 6 minutes 26 seconds, this clip takes a look at how the animators created realistic balloons and the challenges that posed for the creative team among other things.

"Composing for Characters" is a featurette which runs for 7 minutes 40 seconds, this takes a look at the breathtaking score composed by Michael Giacchino, breaking down the thematic elements of the music and creating musical components for the various characters. There's some good behind-the-scenes footage in the studio for interested parties.

"Married Life" is an alternate scene that runs for 9 minutes 12 seconds, this takes a look at the alternate ideas the filmmakers tried out for the opening moments of the film, seeing the abandoned idea makes you appreciate the final version all the more, as it's vastly superior.

"Up Promo Montage" is a montage clip which runs for 5 minutes 51 seconds, is essentially a promo reel created for the film, potentially to show to exhibitors...

"Global Guardian Badge Game" is an interactive game, is a game that can take up to three players in this geographic game, personally I got a bit bored in the end, but kids will get a kick out of this.

A section entitled "Worldwide Trailers" features:

- Theatrical trailer #2 which runs for 1 minute 51 seconds.
- Theatrical trailer #3" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.

DISC THREE: DVD

This is a DVD edition of the film and some of the same extras as reviewed above on the Blu-ray discs are ported over here. They include:

audio commentary by the film's director Pete Docter and co-director Bob Peterson.

"Partly Cloudy" and "Dug's Special Mission" short films are also included as are the "Adventure Is Out There" featurette and "Alternate Scene: The Many Endings of Muntz" featurette and the same bonus trailers as seen on the first disc of this set.

DISC FOUR:

This is a digital copy of the film.

Packaging

This 4-disc set is packaged in a deluxe Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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