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Smurfs: The Lost Village (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”. Recommended for the entire family!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Smurfs: Lost Village

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Mild Action and Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017


Based on the Characters by Peyo

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Written by Stacey Harman, Pamela Ribbon

Producer: Mary Ellen Bauder, Jordan Kerner

Co-Producer: Veronique Culliford, Mandy Tankenson

Executive Producer: Raja Gosnell, Ben Waisbren

Co-Executive Producer: Ben Haber

Music by Christopher Lennertz

Edited by Bret Marnell

Casting by Mary Hidalgo

Production Design by Noelle Triaureau

Art Direction by Dean Gordon, Marcel Vignali


Starring:

Demi Lovato as Smurfette

Rainn Wilson as Gargamel

Joe Manganiello as Hefty Smurf

Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf

Danny Pudi as Brainy Smurf

Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf

Dee Bradley Baker as Monty

Frank Welker as Azrael

Michelle Rodriguez as SmurfStorm

Ellie Kemper as SmurfBlossom

Julia Roberts as SmurfWillow

Ariel Winter as SmurfLily

Meghan Trainor as SmurfMelody

Bret Marnell as Snappy Bug

Brandon Jeffords as Cauldron

Kelly Asbury as Nosey Smurf

Jake Johnson as Grouchy Smurf

Gabrielle Iglesias as Jokey Smurf

Tituss Burgess as Vanity Smurf


In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a roller coaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of THE biggest secret in Smurf history!


Back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs. A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983. The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011. The film which was budgeted for $110 million received lackadaisical reviews from film critics but the film was popular among the younger viewers and earned over $559 million in the box office ensuring the film as a success for Columbia Pictures which would ensure a sequel.

In 2013, “Smurfs 2” would go on to earn over $374 million in the box office, making it another success.

But wanting to create a full 3D CG animated film, the film series was rebooted (now no longer featuring the live action portion), this film (unrelated to the previous two films) is directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”, “Gnomeo & Juliet”) and co-written by Stacey Harman (“The Goldbergs”) and Pamela Ribon (“Moana”, “Samantha Who?”, “Bears”) and the film would go on to make $194.7 million in the box office.

And now “Smurfs: The Lost Village” will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in July 2017.  The version I am reviewing is the 4K Ultra HD version which comes with the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet Digital Code.

In this latest film, we are introduced to the story of Smurfette, the only girl in the Smurf Village and how she was created by the wicked wizard Gargamel from a lump of clay.  Despite being created for the purpose of evil (as he in search of the Smurf village to steal all of their essences to become the most powerful wizard in the world), she was given a chance by Papa Smurf and became part of the village.

One day, Brainy Smurf is creating an invention that can determine one’s energy.  As Hefty Smurf was tested, the invention showed that his energy was strength and Brainy was able to extract that into a liquid.  But when tested on Smurfette, because she isn’t a true Smurf, she drew in energy and so the invention didn’t work on her.

As Smurfette, Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy Smurf go out for some playtime, while flying out with a leaf, a gust of wind carries her to the Forbidden Forest where she crashes.  Smurfette sees a smurf watching her and it runs off past the wall leading to the Forbidden Forest.

But when Smurfette tells the three of what she saw, she is grabbed by Gargamel’s vulture, Monty back to his lair.

This leads Brainy, Hefty and Clumsy to go on a rescue mission to save Smurfette and when they get her out to go to the village, they want to tell Papa Smurf about her discovery.  But when Papa Smurf forbids them and punishes them for going out there, the four sneak out to search if there is a “LostVillage”of Smurfs aside from theirs.


VIDEO:

“Smurfs: Lost Village” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and this latest animation is fantastic.  Presented in 2160p (1:85:1 aspect ratio), it’s a different style compared to the previous two films which tries to add skin texturing but for the most part, the animation is done very well with great hair physics and for the most part, it’s an animation style that is respectful to Peyo’s original work and also for those who remember the animated series.   Meanwhile, environments are well-rendered with amazing detail.  The picture quality of this film is fantastic!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Compatible), English – Audio Description Track, Catalan, Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch (Netherlands), Finnish, French, German, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Vietnamese 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Considering that this animated film has a good number of action sequences, the lossless audio utilizes the surround channels.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while action sequences sound magnificent through the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Smurfs: The Lost village” on 4K Ultra HD comes with the following special features:

  • Emoji Sneak Peak – (2:04) A sneak peek for the upcoming “Emoji” film.
  • Filmmaker Commentary– Featuring audio commentary by director Kelly Asbury and Allan Hawkins (Animation Supervisor) and Brandon Jeffords (Head of Story).
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:35) Featuring four deleted scenes.
  • Kids at Heart! The Making of Smurfs: The Lost Village – (9:09) The making of “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and behind-the-scenes at Sony Pictures Animation.
  • The Lost Auditions – (4:07) Voice talents auditioning for other Smurf roles.
  • Demi Lovato Meets Smurfette – (:58) Smurfette interviews Demi Lovato.
  • Lost Village Dance Song  – (3:10) Featuring children dancing to the “Lost Village Dance Song”.
  • Smurfify Your Nails – (2:18) A featurette on how to smurfify nails.
  • Baker Smurf’s Mini Kitchen – (4:05)  A featurette featuring Baker Smurf narrating one preparing a baked dish.
  • Meghan Trainor “I’m a Lady Music Video”
  • Making the Song “You Will Always find Me In Your Heart” – (3:00) Christopher Lennertz discuss making the music for a certain scene.
  • The Sound of The Smurfs – (3:42) Kelly Asbury and Christopher Lennertz discuss the music for Smurfs: The Lost Village”.
  • Draw Your Favorite Smurfs – (7:40) How to draw various Smurf characters.
  • See More Smurfs! – (5:48) “Smurf” film trailers

EXTRAS:

“Smurfs: The Lost Village” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Having grown up with watching “Smurfs” on television and reading the comics, and since 2011, it was cool to watch the films alongside my young son who pretty much grew up not with the animated films but the two previous films.

And he were are now in 2017, we have an animated film which will no doubt entertain families but I feel it’s a film that is much easier for me, as an adult to watch, versus watching Smurf and human collaborations onscreen.

Part of the entertaining factor of the original series is the adventures that the Smurfs are involved in and the various characters to work with.  While “Smurfs: The Lost Village” features primarily Smurfette, Brainy Smurf, Hefty Smurf and Clumsy Smurf, the film does a great job of incorporating other Smurfs but most importantly answers a question of what if there is a village of other Smurfs out there?

What if Smurfette wasn’t the only female Smurf around?

And sure enough, “Smurfs: The Lost Village” is quite fun to watch because we see another village but instead of all male, it’s all female.  And similar to Papa Smurf and his village of male smurfs, we see Mama Smurf and her village of female smurfs.  And needless to say, it makes for a fun, entertaining story.

As always, Gargamel is the primary antagonist.  Still trying to search for Smurfs to capture their essence in order to make him a powerful wizard.  Sure there is quite a bit of peril and rude humor (thanks to Gargamel) that raises the rating to PG but parents watching alongside their children need not worry at all.  It’s a great animated film that the entire family can enjoy!

As for the 4K Ultra HD presentation, animation is fantastic.  While much different compared to the previous two films, this time around, the animated film is much truer to Peyo’s work.  Especially for those who grew up watching the animated series.  Movements and hair physics to the way the characters move were well-animated and the detail of environments are full of detail.  In fact, this film looks absolutely vibrant in HD.

The lossless soundtrack is just as impressive.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music but also great use of the surround channels during the action sequences.  And last, there are a good number of special features included as well.

Overall, for those who enjoy the Smurfs and videophile/audiophile parents looking for an animated film that looks great in 4K Ultra HD, who also want to entertain their children or the entire family, you can’t go wrong with “Smurfs: The Lost Village”.  Recommended for the entire family!

 

Aladdin: Diamond Edition (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

aladdin-a

If you are looking for a Disney animated classic for the children, or if you love the film and are young at heart…or perhaps you are a person who just wants to experience this Disney classic in HD, you can’t go wrong with this release!  It is the definitive version of “Aladdin” to own and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!


TITLE: Aladdin: Diamond Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1992

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 2.0, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Disney

RATED: G (For General Audiences)

Release Date: October 13, 2015


Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Story by Burny Mattinson, Roger Allers, Daan jippes, Kevin Harkey, Sue C. Nichols, Francis Glebas, Darrell Rooney, Larry Leker, James Fujii, Kirk Hanson, Kevin Lima, Rebecca Rees, David S. Smith, Chris Sanders, Brian Pimental, Patrick A. Ventura

Produced by Ron Clements, John Musker

Co-Produced: Donald W. Ernst, Amy Pell

Music by Alan Menken

Edited by H. Lee Peterson

Cinematography by Claudio Miranda

Edited by Walter Murch, Craig Wood

Casting by Albert Tavares

Production Design by Richard Vander Wende

Art Direction by Bill Perkins


Featuring the voices of:

Scott Weinger as Aladdin

Robin Williams as Genie/Peddler

Linda Larkin as Jasmine

Jonathan Freeman as Jafar

Frank Welker as Abu/Cave of Wonders

Gilbert Gottfried as Iago

Douglas Seale as Sultan

Charles Adler as Gazeem

Corey Burton as Prince Achmed

Jim Cummings as Razoul/Farouk


In Disney’s riveting mystery adventure TOMORROWLAND, a jaded inventor and an optimistic teen embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space.


aladdin-b

From the team who brought audiences the successful Disney film, “The Little Mermaid” (1989) in 1992 would hope that they can achieve the same success with “Aladdin”.

An animated film that is inspired by the Middle Eastern folk tale.  The film became the 31st Walt Disney Animation Classic, and would be released the year after the successful “Beauty and the Beast”.

And while the film debuted in theaters at #2, the film would have a long life, eventually reaching #1 for weeks and being in the top of the box office for weeks, making it the most successful film of 1992.  The film which was budgeted at $22 million, would go on to earn $504 million.

The film would win two Academy Awards for “Best Music, Original Score” and “Best Music, Original Song” for “A Whole New World”.

And now Disney’s successful animated film “Aladdin: Diamond Edition” will be released on Blu-ray in October 2015.

“Aladdin” begins with the introduction of Jafar, the Grand Vizier to the Sultan, who is trying to retrieve a magical oil lamp containing a genie from the Cave of Wonders.  When he tries to get a thief to steal it, the thief fails, but he and his parrot Lago learn that only a “Diamond in the Rough” can enter the cave.

We are introduced to a thief named Aladdin, who is accompanied by his little monkey, named Abu.  The two steal food in order to survive but end up giving their bread to children who are in need of food.

Meanwhile, Jasmine, the daughter of the Sultan is tired of her life and that her father is trying to make her get married, so he heads to the Agrabah’s marketplace.  While being accused of stealing, Aladdin comes to her rescue and they become friends.

Jafar spots Aladdin and believes he is his “Diamond in the Rough” and orders him to be captured and executed for kidnapping the princess.

While Jasmine orders him to be released, Jafar tricks her into thinking that Aladdin is sentenced to death, but in reality, he makes Aladdin (and Abu) go to the Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp for a reward.

But what happens when Aladdin and Abu go on their adventure to find the lamp containing the genie?


aladdin-c

VIDEO:

“Aladdin: Diamond Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film is what I would expect from Disney, nothing less than perfect, “Aladdin” looks amazing on Blu-ray.  Colors are vibrant, animation looks recent due to its clarity and detail.  In fact, one of the biggest tests would be the lava scene as Aladdin and Abu are in the Cave of wonders, due to the reds and oranges, while I did see some banding, it’s only if you are trying to look for any flaws, that they become a little apparent, but really, not many people will catch these.  In fact, if anything, they will be more pleased with how sharp and gorgeous the film looks in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Aladdin: Diamond Edition” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The lossless soundtrack is very immersive.  One can expect crystal clear dialogue and music, while surround channels are effectively used throughout the film, utilizing panning and directional audio.  Also a great use of LFE during the more action intensive scenes.  Audiophiles should be pleased with this fantastic lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Aladdin: Diamond Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentaries – Featuring audio commentary with directors Ron Clements and John Musker and co-producer Amy Pell.  The second audio commentary features supervising animators Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg and Glen Keane.
  • The Genie Outtakes – (8:53) A featurette showcasing Robin Williams outtakes.
  • Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic  – (18:53) “Glee” star Darren Criss showcases the Broadway adaptation and production of “Aladdin”.
  • Unboxing Aladdin – (4:40) Disney Channel’s Joey Bragg discusses the Easter Eggs showcased in the film.
  • Genie 101 – (3:59) Aladdin voice actor Scott Weinger talks about Genie in early cinema.
  • Ron & John: You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me  – (5:36) Directors Ron Clements and John Musker talk about their time working for Disney during the ’90s.
  • Deleted Songs – Featuring four deleted songs.
  • Deleted Scenes – Featuring two deleted/alternate scenes.
  • Music Videos – Featuring Clay Aiken’s “Proud of Your boy” plus the original story reel and behind-the scenes footage of “Proud of Your Boy”.  Also, featuring the music video for former married couple Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey for “A Whole New World” and also a behind-the-scenes of “A Whole New World”.  And the classic Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle music video for “A Whole New World”.
  • Disney Song Selection with Optional On-Screen Lyrics – Sing songs from the film with on-screen lyrics.
  • Inside the Genie’s Lamp: Guided Tour – (6:13) Inside the “Genie World Tour” hosted by Jafar’s parrot Lago.
  • The Genie World Tour – (3:14) The tour hosted by Jafar’s parrot Lago.
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Aladdin: Diamond Edition” comes with a slipcover and Disney Movie Rewards code.  A Blu-ray and DVD version of the film is included and with the entering of the code, will give you access to Digital HD version online.


aladdin-d

There was no doubt that “Aladdin” is one of the most anticipated releases from Disney to be released on Blu-ray.

With many of the Disney ’90 films released on Blu-ray, good things come for those who wait as the Diamond Edition of “Aladdin” is a fantastic release.

From its comedy (thanks to the late Robin Williams) but also its characters and adventurous storyline, “Aladdin: Diamond Edition” is a Walt Disney animated classic that will entertain generations upon generations.

Back in the ’90s, the film was considered a rare Disney gem, thanks to its comedy that appealed to both children and adults, one can easily be captivated by Aladdin, Abu, the flying magic carpet, the genie and their adventures.  But the animation was a major highlight at the time as the colors were vibrant, the character designs managed to stay within Disney’s consistency of quality animation.

But with that being said, I’m going to be truthful and say that I enjoyed Ron Clements and John Musker’s “The Little Mermaid” much more.   As well as “Beauty and the Beast”, mainly because of the combination of a deeper storyline and its music, back in 1992, “A Whole New World”, while popular, was a song that I grew sick of quickly, that even listening to it in 2015, I’m still not enjoying the song and can’t sit through the entire song.  But also, at the time, and I must say first that I have always enjoyed Robin Williams as an actor and comedian, I felt at the time that the genie bits were overdone.  But that was my opinion at the time and I was only a teenager at the time, but as an adult and as a parent, watching this film again, I found myself appreciating it much more.

But watching “Aladdin: Diamond Edition”, I must say that this film looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray.  The film is clean and vibrant, the backgrounds and surroundings are beautifully painted and show amazing detail.  The lossless 7.1 soundtrack is immersive, crisp and crystal clear.

And for those who owned previous versions of the film, there are new special features included in this “Diamond Edition”, but also the classic featurettes from previous releases are also included in this fantastic release.  So, it’s a packed Blu-ray release and also an excellent Diamond Edition Blu-ray!

Overall, if you are looking for a Disney animated classic for the children, or if you love the film and are young at heart…or perhaps you are a person who just wants to experience this Disney classic in HD, you can’t go wrong with this release!  It is the definitive version of “Aladdin” to own and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

The Smurfs 2 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

shootthesun

If you are a parent looking for a fun, enjoyable family film for the holidays, “The Smurfs 2” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Smurfs 2

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1, English and French DTS-HA MA 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Some Rude Behavior and Action)

Release Date: December 3, 2013

Directed by Raja Gosnell

Screenplay by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the Characters and Works by Peyo

Produced by Veronique Culliford, Jordan Kerner

Executive Producer: Ben Haber, Paul Neesan, Ezra Swerdlow

Co-Produced by Benita Allen

Associate Producer: Maricel Pagulayan

Music by Heitor Pereira

Cinematography by Phil Meheux

Edited by Sabrina Plisco

Casting by David Rubin

Production Design by Bill Boes

Art Direction by Vincent Gingras-Liberali, Michelle Laliberte, Emma Pucci

Set Decoration by Marie-Soliel Denomme, David Laramy

Costume Design by Veronique Marchessault, Rita Ryack

Starring:

Hank Azaria as Gargamel

Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick

Brendan Gleeson as Victor

Jayma Mays as Grace

Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette

Christina Ricci as the voice of Vexy

Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf

J.B. Smoove as the voice of Hackus

George Lopez as the voice of Grouchy Smurf

Anton Yelchin as the voice of Clumsy Smurf

John Oliver as the voice of Vanity Smurf

Fred Armisen as the voice of Brainy Smurf

Jeff Foxworthy as the voice of Handy Smurf

Alan Cumming as the voice of Gutsy Smurf

Gary Basaraba as the voice of Hefty Smurf

Tom Kane as the voice of Narrator Smurf

Frank Welker as the voice of Azrael

Jacob Tremblay as Blue

Nancy O’Dell as herself

Evil wizard Gargamel creates a couple of mischievous Smurf-like creatures called the Naughties hoping they will let him harness the magical Smurf-essence. However, he soon discovers that he needs the help of Smurfette, who knows the secret to turning the Naughties into real Smurfs. When Gargamel and his Naughties kidnap Smurfette from Smurf Village and bring her to Paris, it’s up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity to reunite with their human friends, Patrick and Grace Winslow, and rescue her!

With the success of the first “The Smurfs” film back in 2011, which earned over $563 million in the box office, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made.

With the same cast and same director, Raja Gosnell (“Scooby-Doo”, “Big Momma’s House”, “Never Been Kissed”) each making a return for the sequel (the film would also be the final film for Jonathan Winters, voice of Papa Smurf, who passed away in April) , with the addition of Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove providing the voices of the “Naughties” and Brendan Gleeson as Patrick Winslow’s father, the new film would also be released in 3D.

And the sequel “The Smurfs 2”, would go on to earn over $342,000 earned in the box office.  And now “The Smurfs 2” will be released on Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray in Dec. 2013!

For those not familiar with “The Smurfs”, back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs.  A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

 

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were  created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

 

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983.  The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

 

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011.  The film would star Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), Jayma Mays (“Glee), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”) and the following talents lending their voices for the film which include George Lopez, Katy Perry, Alan Cummings, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, to name a few.

And with the sequel featured in 2013 and the third film planned for 2015, with the success of the first two films, the popularity of “The Smurfs” continues to entertain a new generation of young fans.

“The Smurfs 2” begins with a group of Smurf’s being read a story about how Smurfette joined the village.  We learn that Gargamel had created Smurfette to infiltrate and cause problems in the Smurf village.

When she came to the village, she was grey with black hair.  But despite how much troubles she had created, Papa Smurf embraced her and made her blue with blonde hair using a special chemical.  And that is how the Smurf village had their first female Smurf.

Meanwhile, Smurfette begins to have nightmares of her past and that she is reverting back to her gray self.

Meanwhile, everyone in the Smurf village is planning a surprise birthday party for Smurfette.  And as Smurfette tries to see if anyone will remember her birthday, everyone behaves as if they don’t know what had happened.

Feeling dejected, Smurfette begins to wonder if the Smurf Village has come to accept her.

Back in France, Gargamel has become a popular star magician, using his powers to create great illusions and to fund his projects.  As for Patrick, he and Grace who live in New York, are having a birthday party for their older child Blue.  But the birthday party is not as easy, as certain children are allergic to peanuts and some parents are concerned of what kind of plates they buy.  But when Patrick’s estranged step-father Victor (portrayed by Brendan Gleeson) comes to visit Blue for his birthday, he gives the kids a corn dog from his popular restaurant, unfortunately cooked in peanut oil.

Suffice to say, it causes problems at Blue’s party and continues to hurt the relationship between Patrick and his father.

As for Gargamel, he has created two more gray Smurf-like beings known as “Naughties”.  The “Naughties” duo includes Vexy and Hackus, Smurf experiments that Gargamel looks as failed experiments and really has no love for them but uses them in his quest to kidnap Smurfette in order to gain access to the chemical that made her blue.

But he depends on his gray smurf-like experiments, Vexy, who is a punk-style female who adores her father, while Hackus is a not-so-smart goof and loves having fun.  Each day, both need to be fed a drop of blue essence by Gargamel, who is about to attempt another experiment for him to get back home and terrorize the Smurf village.

As he takes Vexy and Hackus along with Azrael with him, his experiment doesn’t go as planned as the portal is too small, so he sends Vexy to the Smurf village to kidnap Smurfette.

And in the process, Vexy goes to the Smurf Village and for the first time, meets Smurfette and tricks her by pushing her into the portal to be captured by Gargamel.

Hearing Smurfette’s scream and encountering Vexy, who escapes back to the portal, Papa Smurf plans a rescue team to go back to the human world and rescue Smurfette.  But as he has Brainy Smurf, Gutsy Smurf and Hefty Smurf as part of the team, one of the Smurfs ends up eating the transportation crystals meant for the three.  As they give a Heimlich procedure on the Smurf, the three crystals fly out of the Smurfs mouth into the mouths of Vanity Smurf, Grouchy Smurf and Clumsy Smurf.  So, the three along with Papa smurf end up traveling back to the human world.

In the process, they end up back at Patrick’s home and encounter Victor who tries to swat them.  But Patrick manages to save the Smurfs and learn about Smurfette’s kidnapping.  Knowing that the Smurfs need their help once again, the entire Winslow family including Victor and the Smurfs fly to France in order to save Smurfette from Gargamel.

But will they save her in time or will Gargamel’s and the “Naughties” convince Smurfette that she belongs with them?

VIDEO:

“The Smurfs 2” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film is absolutely vibrant but what will impress you is the clarity but also the much better texture effects for this sequel.  You can see the skin pigments much more clearly, so clear and detailed that you can see the hair coming out of Papa Smurf’s ears.  The clothing textures especially the hat of Papa Smurf and others are so detailed, you can see the threading.  But also the strands and the movement of hair for Smurfette and Vixie is also well-done!   The film was mastered in 4K and overall, picture quality for “The Smurfs 2” is excellent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Smurfs 2” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English and French – Audio Description Tracks. As for audio, the lossless audio features a lot of dialogue, music and also special effects for the action sequences.   From ducks and birds flying, glass shattering, things falling or breaking and also a good amount of crowd ambiance during Gargamel’s shows, there is a good use of the surround channels and also LFE during the more active scenes.   Dialogue and music are crystal clear but the lossless audio for “The Smurfs 2” is very good!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Smurfs 2” comes with the following special features:

  • The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow – (22:15) A special CG and 2D animated special about “The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:52) Featuring a total of five deleted scenes.
  • Daddy’s Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette – (6:21) A featurette about Katy Perry playing Smurfette and the director and producers talking about Katy Perry’s voice acting performance.
  • The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy – (5:42)) An introduction to the creation of the two new smurfs, Vexy and Hackus.
  • The Puuuurfect Companion: Azrael’s Tail – (4:40) Hank Azaria and crew talk about the connection between Gargamel and Azrael.
  • Animating Azrael – (3:24) How cats were motion digitized for the film.
  • Evolution of the Naughties – (3:41) How Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Imageworks made the Naughties.

EXTRAS:

“The Smurfs 2” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and an UltraViolet Digital Copy code plus a slipcover.

As an adult who grew up watching “The Smurfs” animated series, it’s great to have a new sequel continue where the last left off and entertain the new generation of Smurf fans.

I watched the film along with my son who enjoyed the first film and for the most part, as a family film, we both enjoyed it.

The film does answer the big question of how did Smurfette come to be part of the Smurf village and why there is only one female.  And so the writers did a good job of establishing the creation of Smurfette but also the creation of Vexy and Hackus.

The film features the return of the Winslow family, who were a big part of the first film but also the second as the second storyline deals with Patrick’s troubled relationship with his father.

While part of the enjoyment of the first film was the adventure especially of Patrick trying to keep the Smurf’s a secret and yet, somehow they up in his office and in stores, this time around the film focused more on Smurfette spending time with her new sister and brother than visiting many fun places.

And the fact that the film goes from New York to France, while Smurfette, Vexy and Hackus have fun at a bakery, the film tries to break up the story by focusing on two rescue teams.  One featuring Patrick and his family, while Papa Smurf and the other Smurfs try to find a way to save Smurfette.

Because of the shenanigans with the Winslow family in the first film, I felt the Winslow family was subdued because of the family issues that Patrick and his father were having, while for the Smurfs, while Papa Smurf, Clumsy and Grouchy Smurf make their return, instead of Hefty, we get Vanity Smurf, who spends most of his time looking at the mirror and loving himself.

So, as we see these two rescue attempts, we are taken to Smurfette’s family dilemma.   As the two “Naughties” are seeing a kinder, loving side that they never experienced with Gargamel, they start to realize how much fun they have with Smurfette.  But also experiencing  the feeling of having a family and wanting to live with one another.  But the question is whether Smurfette will stay with them or go back with Papa Smurf and her Smurf family.

Gargamel and Azrael are the same but we get to see a bit more of the bad side of Gargamel and what he wants to do with the Smurfs.

While the film is quite predictable of what decision Smurfette will make, “The Smurfs 2” does have its moments of fun and caught my 10-year-old laughing at some of the jokes.  But the film does put a lot of focus on Smurfette this time around and those wanting the fun adventures of the Papa Smurf and the rescue team, it’s not as crazy and fun as the first film and the focus of Patrick and his father’s relationship problems took away precious screentime from the Smurfs.

With that being said, this film did give Katy Perry a chance to showcase her voice acting skills and she did a very good job as Smurfette.  And the addition of the two new characters, Vexy and Hackus was also a plus.  But the whole relationship problem between Patrick and his father, took away precious screen time away from the Smurfs.  And I just felt that the pacing and the Smurf adventures was much more exciting in the first film than the second.

While I hope the third film features on an adventure that takes place in the Smurf Village rather than the land of where humans live, I just hope the writers stay away from the banality and feel they must reunite with the Winslow family with each film.  They don’t.  There are a good amount of stories that can take place in that leafy Smurf village and like the animated series from the ’80s which showed these characters having adventures near their home, it would be great to have more adventure featuring more Smurfs for the third film.

Overall, for those who grew up watching “The Smurfs”, the sequel is an enjoyable family film.  I’m not going to be overly critical as this film was created for children and by watching “The Smurfs 2” with my ten-year-old, I can tell he really enjoyed it and as a parent, the fact that he enjoyed this film is all that matters.  As long as the film makes children laugh or put on a big smile on their faces, the film eventually is a success for achieving that goal, despite how a few parents or critics may feel about the film.

If you are a parent looking for a fun, enjoyable family film for the holidays, “The Smurfs 2” is recommended!

Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

transformersprime-dawn

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet! “Transformers: Prime” features awesome CG animation, an exciting, action-packed storyline, great voice acting and a wonderful series for the next generation of “Transformers” fans. But most importantly, this is a series that can be enjoyed by both young and old.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast

TV RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p Anamorphic 1:78:1, English 5.1/2.0,

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: October 8, 2013

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian, Scooter Tidwell

Written by Steven Melchin, Marsha F. Griffin,Duane Capizzi and Mairghread Scott

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafael Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Stephen Davis

Co-Executive Producer: Duane Capizzi

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the Voices of:

Sumalee Montano as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Frank Welker as Megatron

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

James Horan as Wheeljack

David Sobolov as Shockwave

A resurrected UNICRON has taken over the now-lifeless body of MEGATRON to seek vengeance on the AUTOBOTS and ultimately, the destruction of Cybertron.  This formidable enemy forces an unlikely alliance between the AUTOBOTS, DECEPTICONS, PREDAKING and two new PREDACONS, who come together in an epic battle to help protect their newly restored planet.

Optimus Prime has been the leader of the Autobots and he has led them well in trying to protect humanity from the Decepticons.  But now, after their base is destroyed, Optimus Prime is badly damaged and near death, meanwhile Shockwave has made his return from Cybertron and introduces a new threat to the Autobots, Predaking, a reptilian creature created to hunt down the Autobots.

With no leader, the high-ranking Autobot general known as Ultra Magnus has arrived on Earth in hopes to revive the scattered members of Team Prime!

Find out if the Autobots can survive against the Decepticons in “Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast”!

What is “Transformers: Prime“?

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series. And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers. With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

With two seasons having aired on television, in 2013, the third season known as “Beast Hunters” began airing on television.

Featuring the first four episodes of season three (episodes 53-56), the Autobots and the humans have gone into hiding after their base is destroyed.  As the Decepticons plan to hunt down the Autobots, Smokescreen manages to find Optimus Prime who is near death.

As the Autobots regroup and know they will need new leadership if Optimus Prime has died, they receive help from the Autobot general Ultra Magnus, while for the Decepticons welcome Shockwave who has come back to join the Decepticons and introduce his latest creation, Predaking.

As the Autobots led by Ultra Magnus try to find the scattered members of Team Prime, will the Autobots survive the Decepticon hunt for the Autobots?

VIDEO

“Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” is presented in 1:78:1. The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots. While obviously, the Blu-ray edition shows much more detail and better colors, the CG for mountainous terrain, buildings, sunlight, overall surroundings are just incredible for a television animated series. For one, Polygon in Japan really did a fantastic job with the CG animation but most importantly, as the series progresses, not only does the series get better but there is also an improvement with the overall CG.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper (and even Optimus Prime during the virus episode), I was quite pleased with how this series looks on DVD.

“Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. For a series with this much action, I admit that I, personally was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack. But while there are some ambience that can be heard through the surround channels, and some booms that can be heard at times, it’s not as powerful or as immersive as I was hoping for it to be.  The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers: Prime – Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” comes with the following special features:

  • DARKMOUNT, NEVADA Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by producer Jeff Kline and writing staff Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Mairghread Scott.
  • SCATTERED Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by producer Jeff Kline and writing staff Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Mairghread Scott.
  • PREY Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by producer Jeff Kline and writing staff Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Mairghread Scott.
  • REBELLION Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by producer Jeff Kline and writing staff Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline and Mairghread Scott.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” comes with a slipcover.

For any longtime “Transformers” fan, whenever there is a storyline of a possible demise of Optimus Prime, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

For those of us who experienced his loss through the animated film but to see his comeback in the TV series, Hasbro teeters with Optimus Prime and death once again in “Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters”.  Similar to the animated film, Ultra Magnus makes an appearance and for the Decepticons, Shockwave makes his entrance bringing back a new creation known as the Predaking which was created to hunt down Autobots.

While there is no Rodimus Prime, I found it interesting to see Wheeljack put in a position to be the Autobot to help Optimus Prime in his time of need.  Always known to be a speedster, to tell you the truth, I’ve never seen the character of Wheeljack play such an important role until “Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters”.

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains. Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

But with “Transformers Prime”, part of its efficacy is due to its slightly darker storyline.   Nothing comes easy in war between the Autobots and Decepticons and both have endured major losses.

And with the beginning of season three, these four episodes comprise an ongoing storyline between good vs. evil and if the Autobots and their human friends can protect themselves and beat the Decepticons, knowing that they are the hunted.

There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and by listening to the audio commentary for each episode, I was amazed. For one, a lot of the people involved in the making of this series, grew up with “Transformers” and they appreciate and respect the series. They also mention how fans have had some impact as well, so that is great that they do listen to their fans.

As for parents who are wondering, “how old should my child be to watch this series?”. Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.  Especially for the fact that your child may be freaked out if they see Optimus Prime in such bad shape and to see him literally dying.  So parents, should be aware of that.

As for the DVD, the CG animation for this series is great! Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments. So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful! I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters. Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back. They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper, Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler. But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

Also, a major plus is that all four episodes come with audio commentary.

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” is an enjoyable, beautiful and well-acted series. While I know there are fans who have their preference of which season is their best “Transformers” series, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating a series that will appeal to the new generation of “Transformers” fans but also many of us who older but are still young at heart.

“Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Dawn of the Beast” is recommended!

Transformers: Prime – Season Two (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Transformers Prime: Season Two” is highly enjoyable, exciting and a series full of action!  The series is well-acted and the episodes are well-written and it helps that you have people who are fans of “Transformers” and respect the past, previous “Transformers” versions but worked to create something enjoyable for older fans and also the new generation of fans who are getting into “Transformers” for the first time.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Prime: Season Two

TV RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 10 Hours

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p Anamorphic 1:78:1, English 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2012

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melching, Nicole Dubuc, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi, Marty Isenberg, David McDermott, Mairghread Scott

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

 

Featuring the Voices of:

Sumalee Montano as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Frank Welker as Megatron

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Adam Baldwin as Breakdwn

Nolan North as Smokescreen

Daran Norris as Knock Out

Gina Torres as Airachnid

Tony Todd as Dreadwing

Clancy Brown as Silas

James Horan as Wheeljack

Alexandra Krosny as Sierra

John Noble as Unicron

David Kaye as Hardshell

Unicron is defeated, but what was thought to be the end of the Autobots’ darkest hour is actually proving to be just the beginning! The centuries-old war rages on, pitting Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his team of heroic Autobots, alongside their most trusted human allies, Jack, Miko, Raf and Special Agent Fowler (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters) against Megatron (Frank Welker) and his nefarious Decepticons. The action heats up with a boldly exciting climax you absolutely have to see to believe!

From Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writing team behind the megablockbuster Transformers feature films, and executive producer Jeff Kline comes a brand-new season of the Emmy Award winning series that Crave Online describes as the show die-hard fans have always wanted. Now you can catch all 26 episodes of the outrageous second season!

The award-winning “Transformers Prime”, regarded by many fans as one of the best looking and also best written “Transformers” animated series so far, the series is being planned for a third season release for 2012-2013.

With a Blu-ray and DVD release of the first season of “Transformers Prime” having been released earlier this year, the conclusion left “Transformers: Prime” fans in suspense as the first season concluded with Unicron the Chaos-Bringer attacking the autobots and in a surprising move, Optimus Prime and the Autobots form an uneasy alliance with Megatron.  But in the process, something bad has happened to Optimus Prime, to the point that Optimus Prime has reverted back to his pre-prime identity, the Cybertron librarian known as Orion Pax.

With this second season, the Autobots are tested as Orion Prime now as Orion Pax is being used by Megatron in order to pinpoint areas where Autobot relics may be located.  Meanwhile, Silas of M.E.CH. has targeted both Autobots and Decepticons and found their weakness and try to steal Cybertron T-Cog technology in order to create their own secret army.

Meanwhile, what happens when Starscream and Araichnid go rogue on the Decepticons?  And what happens when M.E.C.H. develops a clone of Optimus Prime known as Nemesis Prime?  Also, what happens when the Insecticons attack the Autobots and who is the newest member of the Autobots?  And what happens when Megatron tries to convert Earth into a new Cybertron?

Find out in “Transformers: Prime – Season Two”!

What is “Transformers: Prime” about?

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.  Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

Fortunately the Autobots have some help from their human friends Jack, Miko and Raf, while Agent William Fowler occasionally calls in the Autobots whenever he is in need of help.

But meanwhile, Starscream and his Decepticons is doing all he can to make sure they get the Energons and to find the secret location of where the Autobots are hiding.

As the Autobots take on various new Decepticons who have shown up on Earth, they quickly learn that there are humans, just as dangerous as the Decepticons known as M.E.C.H., a terrorist organization led by Silas who has been in search of “living technology”.

As for Megatron, despite his body being out of commission, he is trying to be revived by his fellow Decepticons, but will the power-hungry Starscream allow it? And an unforeseen nemesis by the name of Unicron returns.

With season two, what will happen when Megatron tries to set his plans into motion, meanwhile Starscream and Araichnid turn rogue?  As Optimus Prime and the Autobots try to stop the Decepticons from finding any Autobot technology, together, they must work as a team as they must deal with new recruits, Decipticons plus the now, powerful M.E.C.H. who have been successful in their attempts to neutralize Autobots or Decepticons and steal their technology.

“Transformers: Prime – Season Two” featured the following episodes (spoilerless summary) on four Blu-ray Discs:

  • EPISODE 27 – Orion Pax, Part 1 – Optimus Prime has reverted back to his previous self Orion Pax, The Autobots try to find out a way to bring Orion Pax back!
  • EPISODE 28 – Orion Pax, Part 2  – Orion Pax starts to doubt Megatron.
  • EPISODE 29 – Orion Pax, Part 3  – Jack and Arcee are attaced by an Insecticon.  Meanwhile, Orion Pax discovers Megatron’s lies!
  • EPISODE 30 – Operation: Bumblebee, Part 1 – M.E.C.H. steals Bumbleebee’s T-Cog which allows him to transformer to vehicle mode.
  • EPISODE 31 – Operation: Bumblebee, Part 2 – It is learned how Bumblebee lost his voice and the Autobots tries to get back his T-Cog.
  • EPISODE 32 – Loose Cannons – Wheeljack pursues Dreadwing, but he starts to show his recklessness in battle.
  • EPISODE 33 – Crossfire – Megatron sends Airachnid on a mission, but also orders Breakdown and Dreadwing to kill her.
  • EPISODE 34 – Nemesis Prime – M.E.C.H. creates a clone of Optimus Prime known as Nemesis Prime.
  • EPISODE 35 – Grill – Agent Fowler must convince General Bryce that the Autobots are good.
  • EPISODE 36 – Armada – Bulkhead is trapped in the Decepticon warship, the Nemesis.
  • EPISODE 37 – Flying Mind – Jack, Miko, Rafael and Agent Fowler must save the Autobots who have been frozen in stasis.
  • EPISODE 38 – Tunnel Vision – Four lacon relics have been hidden around the globe and the Autobots must split up into teams and find them.
  • EPISODE 39 – Triangulation – Optimus Prime tries to find the second lacon relic in Antarctica.
  • EPISODE 40 – Triage – Ratchet calls Wheeljack to help him find the third lacon relic.
  • EPISODE 41 – Toxicity – Bulkhead goes to a volcanic island on the Equator to find the fourth lacon relic.
  • EPISODE 42 – Hurt– Bulkhead is in critical condition after a fight against the Insecticons.
  • EPISODE 43 – Out of the Past – Miko is growing angry that Bulkhead is taking too long to recover, so Arcee tells her a story about Cliffjumper
  • EPISODE 44 – New Recruit – The Autobots bring in a new recruit, Smokescreen.
  • EPISODE 45 – The Human Factor – What happens when Silas is merged with Breakdown’s body.
  • EPISODE 46 – Legacy – The Autobots look for the relic, The Star Saber.
  • EPISODE 47 – Alpha/Omega – Megatron goes to Cybertron to create more trouble for Optimus Prime.
  • EPISODE 48 – Hard Knocks – Optimus Prime and the Autobots try to look for the second Omega Key.
  • EPISODE 49 – Inside Job – Smokescreen is brought on board the Nemesis and Megatron finds out that the final Omega Key lies within him.
  • EPISODE 50 – Patch – Starscream tries to approach Megatron and call for a truce, but will Megatron allow him to join with the Decepticons.
  • EPISODE 51 – Regeneration – Dreadwing does something unexpected.
  • EPISODE 52 – Darkest Hour – Megatron tries to convert Earth into Cybertron, can the Autobots stop him?

VIDEO

“Transformers: Prime – Season Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic). The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots. You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection. But one thing I want to add is that watching this Blu-ray release, there are details that I never saw on the DVD. You can actually see particles, dust, smoke much clearly. You can see scuff marks and even dirt on the robots much more clearer.

The keyword for this Blu-ray release is detail. Having reviewed the original DVD version, having watched the series on television and now watching it in HD, the colors are vibrant, they pop! The CG for mountainous terrain, buildings, sunlight, overall surroundings are just incredible for a television animated series. For one, Polygon in Japan really did a fantastic job with the CG animation but most importantly, as the series progresses, not only does the series get better but there is also an improvement with the overall CG.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body, I was quite pleased with how this series looks! But also the amount of detail that was put into this series.

Many TV Series tend to keep things within their budget, especially with the amount of time they have for production. But I was quite thrilled to see how the quality but also hearing the enthusiasm of the staff (as heard on the audio commentary) in the production of “Transformers: Prime” and how they listen to their fans.

With that being said, I will say that the series does have its fair share of banding, so videophiles who are expecting pristine quality may be disappointed. Fortunately, not enough to deter people, as majority of fans and children will probably not care. Also, these scenes with banding are short and not long. Typically seen during orange/red backgrounds primarily.

But overall, picture quality is very good. Plenty of detail can be seen on Blu-ray and the clarity is outstanding but most importantly, black levels are nice and deep and colors are absolutely vibrant!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Transformers: Prime – Season Two” is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo. For a series with this much action, I admit that I, personally was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack. But while there are some ambience that can be heard through the surround channels, and some booms that can be heard at times, it’s not as powerful or as immersive as I was hoping for it to be. The lossless soundtrack does provide crystal clear dialogue and the musical score sounds incredible but the soundtrack does sound very good, moreso during the action sequences.

The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers: Prime – Season Two” comes with the following special features:

Disc Three:

  • Brand New Interviews with The Creative Team (22:37) Interviews with the Hasbro Studios crew about the making of season two and what they wanted to do differently from the first season.
  • Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal – (28:04) A San Diego comic-Con International 2012 featurette with Peter Cullen being interviewed by Larry King and a Q&A with the audience.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Season Two” comes with a cardboard slipcover.

After season one, I proclaimed “Transformers: Prime” as possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet.  But great series can be awesome for the first season and easily tank by the second season.  So, does “Transformers: Prime” pass the test?

The answer is a resounding yes!

There are major differences that are seen in the second season of “Transformers: Prime” and that is more focus on the Autobots/Decepticons but also showcasing the second antagonists, M.E.C.H. and less reliance on the three human characters, who played a big part in the first season.

No doubt that the first season was trying to establish the characters and also trying to test out the waters of what is working and what is not but also what are fans responding too.

Season two of “Transformers: Prime” kicked off things with a bang!  With Optimus Prime reverting to Orion Pax, it definitely made you anxious to see where the writers were taking this storyline.  Will something bad happened to Optimus Prime once again?  We have seen how the character has been treated in a various of series in order to capture the attention of audiences.

But the second season tries to bring some of the classic traits of the characters but also bring something new.  Wheeljack as a reckless Autobot was quite interesting to see, to see Megatron intent on killing one of his own was quite surprising and you had some of the Autobots face grave danger with substantial injuries.  You also have a few new characters show up and join the Autobots and the Decepticons and for the most part, building on its storyline and making things a slight bit more mature for the old school fans, but also including Jack, Miko and Raf a bit in order to reach out to a more younger demographic.

So, for the Autobots, there are quite a few things that made things intriguing such as Sylus and the M.E.C.H. now becoming more familiar of Autobot technology, to the point where Sylus now has the upperhand.  You have Starscream doing things on his own once again and almost a nod to the 2005-2007 “Transformers: Cybertron” series, the search for keys and relics.

So, suffice to say that season two of “Transformers: Prime” has been highly entertaining thus far!

But I know I’m among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the ’80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the “Transformers” series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains. Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

With “Transformers: Prime”, I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured. Similar to “Transformers: The Animated Series”, we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I’m so used to more characters, the merrier.

Fortunately, as the series progressed, the series not only provided newer characters (even if they appeared in a standalone episode), but what I loved is the modern progression of the series. There was a lot of thought that went into the series rather than just creating a series around the toyline. For example, for the episode “Predatory”, this was unlike any “Transformers” episode I have seen. It was darker, but it fit the character of Airachnid.

For anyone who remembers her character, she has always been deadly and menacing, but this time around, we get to see how dark this Decepticon was in actually torturing the Autobots. And how she collected the heads of those she killed, in a very “Predator” (for those old enough to remember the movies) way, as a form of trophy. I admit that I was surprised that the writers were able to pull it off, considering that “Transformers” is watched by many youngsters.

But there are other stories that were crafted as if they were targeted towards the older crowd, but safe enough that children can watch it.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great! Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments. So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful! I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters. Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back. They are joined by Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler. But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

As for the Blu-ray release, the animated series looks great on Blu-ray!  I didn’t notice any major scenes that had too much banding nor did I see any major use of edge enhancement.  I do wish the audio was much more immersive in terms of LFE (subwoofer usage) and more use of audio (ie panning audio or surround sound usage) during the action sequences, but once again, that is me being picky. Otherwise, the lossless soundtrack is still very good for a TV animated series.

If there was one thing that was a bit of a bummer for “Transformers: Prime – Season Two” on Blu-ray, it was the lack of an audio commentary (which the first season had).  But fortunately you do get interviews with the Hasbro Studios production staff and the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con interview featuring Larry King and Peter Cullen, which was a lot of fun to watch!  But it would be great to have more audio commentary included.

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: Season Two” is highly enjoyable, exciting and a series full of action!  The series is well-acted and the episodes are well-written and it helps that you have people who are fans of “Transformers” and respect the past, previous “Transformers” versions but worked to create something enjoyable for older fans and also the new generation of fans who are getting into “Transformers” for the first time.

If you are a fan of “Transformers” or a father who wants to experience the series with their children, I highly recommend “Transformers: Prime – Season Two” on Blu-ray!

Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” was an enjoyable and fun family film that will continue to entertain generation after generation.  Fans of the film will enjoy its beautiful presentation on Blu-ray and the fact that this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  But more so, that you are getting two films on Blu-ray for the price of one!

Image courtesy of © 2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

MOVIE RELEASE DATE: Pocahontas (1995), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998)

DURATION: Pocahontas (81 Minutes), Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (73 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G

DVD RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2012

Pocahontasd

Directed by Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg

Written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik

Story by Glen Keane, Joe Grant, Ralph Zondag, Burny Mattinson, Ed Gombert, Kaan Kalyon, Francis Glebas, Rob Gibbs, Bruce Morris, Todd Kurosawa, Duncan Marjoribanks, Chris Buck

Based on an Idea by Mike Gabriel

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Directed by Tom Ellery, Bradley Raymond

Screenplay by Allen Estrin, Cindy Marcus, Flip Kobler

Produced by Leslie Hough

Co-Produced by Jeannine Roussel

Associate Producer: Gina Shay

Supervising Producer: Alan Zaslove

Music by Lennie Niehaus

Production Design by Dennis Greco

Art Direction by James Gallego

Pocahontas

Featuring the Voices of:

Irene Bedard as Pocahontas

Judy Kuhn as Pocahontas (Singing Voice)

Mel Gibson as John Smith

David Ogden Stiers as Governor Ratcliffe/Wiggins

John Kassier as Meeko

Russell Means as Powhatan

Christian Bale as Thomas

Linda Hunta s Grandmother Willow

Frank Wekler as Flit

Bill Connolly as Ben

Danny Mann as Percy

Joe Baker as Lon

Michelle St. John as Nakoma

James Apaumut Fall as Kocoum

Gordon Tootoosis as Kekata

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Featuring the Voices of:

Irene Bedard as Pocahontas

Jim Cummings as King James

Donal Gibson as John Smith

Linda Hunt as Grandmother Willow

Russell Means as Powhatan

David Ogden Stiers as Ratcliffe

Jean Stapleton as Mrs. Jenkins

Billy Zane as John Rolfe

“Pocahontas” tells the story of a free-spirited girl (voiced by Irene Bedard) who wonders what adventures wait “Just Around the River Bend.” Pocahontas – along with her playful pals Meeko the raccoon and Flit the hummingbird – relies on the guidance of her loving and wise Grandmother Willow (voice by Linda Hunt) when English settlers arrive on the shores of her village. Her meeting with the courageous Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) leads to a friendship that bridges the gap between two cultures and changes history.

For many people unaware of Pocahontas, many learned of her thanks to Disney.

In 1995, the 33rd Walt Disney Animated Classics feature “Pocahontas” was the first Disney animated film to be based on a real historical character and suffice to say, the animated film was a tremendous success.

Directed by Mike Gabriel (“Oliver & Company”, “The Rescuers Down Under”) and Eric Goldberg (“Aladdin”, “The Princess and the Frog”, “Fantastia/2000”), with a screenplay written by Carl Binder, Susannah Grant and Philip LaZebnik.  The film would also feature the following voices by Irene Bedard (“Smoke Signals”, “The Tree of Life”), the singing voice of Judy Kuhn (“Enchanted”, “Mulan II”), Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”, “Signs”, “Lethal Weapon” films), John Kassir (“Tales from the Crypt”), Christian Bale (“Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”), Russell Means (“The Last of the Mohicans”, “Natural Born Killers”) and Linda Hunt (“Dune”, “Kindergarten Cop”).

Budgeted at an estimated $55 million, “Pocahontas” would earn over $346 in the box office and even more through home video sales.

The animated film would go on to win all three Academy Awards it was nominated for in “Best Original Song”, “Best Original Music Score” and “Best Animated Feature”.  As well as winning the Golden Globe Awards for “Best Original Song” and a Grammy Award for “Best Songs Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media” for its song “Colors of the Wind”, sung by Vanessa Williams and its soundtrack reached number one in the Billboard 200 and earning a triple platinum certification.

Despite film critics being critical of how the animated film was not historically accurate, the film did introduce audiences to Pocahontas and for Walt Disney, the film was a financial success that would lead to an animated direct-to-video feature titled “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

And now, both films will be released together on Blu-ray in August 2012.

“Pocahontas” is set in 1607 as British settlers led by Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) and the voyage leader Governor Ratcliffe (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), are sent to the “New World” in search of gold.  There is a belief that the local Native American Indians have a vast collection of gold and the British want it.

As for the Native Americans, a local tribe led by Chief Powhatan (voiced by Russell Means) has given his daughter, Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard/singing voice by Judy Kuhn) news that she must wed Kocoum (voiced by James Apaumut Fall), a brave warrior in the tribe.

But Pocahontas is not too interested as he is too serious, while she is more of a free spirit.  But the Chief knows its is custom for his daughter to marry the brave warrior and gives her a necklace that belonged to her mother.

As Pocahontas goes out with her friends, a mischievous raccoon named Meeko and a hummingbird named Flit, they visit Grandmother Willow, a spiritual and talking willow tree who has warned her that the British settlers are now in their land.

As the British settlers are setting up their base and building a fortress that would be named known as James Towne (note: Jamestown, was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, in the colony of Virginia), Governor Ratcliffe has his crew searching and digging for gold.

For John Smith, he’s more of an explorer, so he takes off to see the wilderness with his own eyes.  And sure enough, John Smith encounters Pocahontas.  Both try to understand each other’s differences and the two end up falling in love.

Meanwhile, back at James Towne, the Native American Indians  of the Powhatan Tribe and the British settlers engage in a fight, as the Native Americans have been warned that these men will try to take away their land.

Despite warnings from Chief Powhatan’s order to keep away from the British settlers, Pocahontas tries to keep her new relationship with John Smith secret.  But what happens when the man Pocahontas is to marry, Kocoum, finds out that she has been seeing John Smith secretly?

For the direct-to-video sequel, it is known that the real Pocahontas married a man named John Rolfe.  But in the first film, she is shown to have fallen in love with John Smith.  So, the writers began working a sequel to show how Pocahontas would meet the man she would eventually marry.

The second film would be directed by Tom Ellery (“The Princess and the Frog”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Chicken Little”) and Bradley Raymond (“The Lion King 1 1/2”, “Tinker Bell”, “The Phantom”) and featuring the same voice talent of the first film, with the exception of Mel Gibson, who has been replaced by Donal Gibson as Captain John Smith and the addition of actor Billy Zane (“Titanic”, “Back to the Future” films) as the voice of John Rolfe and actress Jean Stapleton (“You’ve Got Mail”, “All in the Family”) as Mrs. Jenkins.

In the sequel titled “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”, Governor Ratcliffe has framed John Smith as a traitor by blaming him as the person who was responsible for declaring war against the Powhatan tribe.  Ratcliffe has his soldiers ambushing John Smith to issue a warrant for his arrest, but he manages to escape.  But to the soldiers, it looks as if John Smith has died while trying to escape.

Worried about British and Powhatan relations and the problems that John Smith may have caused, the King sends a diplomat name John Rolfe to escort Chief Powhatan to England for negotiations.

Meanwhile, at the “New World”, Pocahontas mourns the death of John Smith but knows she must move on.  She then meets John Rolfe at James Towne and learns that Chief Powhatan is requested to visit England for negotiations of the land.

But their first impression towards each other is not good as she feels he is too serious and always wanting to take charge, while he does not like Pocahontas’ free spirit.

As John Rolfe explains that England is requesting negotiations with the Powhatan tribe and want Chief Powhatan to go back with him to England, Chief Powhatan has no desire to leave his land.  But Pocahontas volunteers herself, despite how her father and others from the tribe may feel.  So, Chief Powhatan has a bodyguard named Uttamatomakkin sent with Pocahontas to England, meanwhile Pocahontas doesn’t know that she is some friendly stowaways as Meeko, Flit and Percy have snuck on the ship.

When they arrive in England, Pocahontas is amazed by this new world.  But King James is insulted that the Chief Powhatan did not come to the negotiations.  So, with prodding from Governor Ratcliffe, a proclamation is signed that an Armada will set sail to the “New World” to go to war against the Powhatan Tribe if he is not impressed by the Powhatan Ambassador.

Understanding what is at stake, Pocahontas with the help of Mrs. Jenkins, learns of the way of the English, from etiquette to mannerisms.

As a test for King James, Ratcliffee tells him that Pocahontas should attend the Hunt Ball and there, the King can decide if Pocahontas is a savage or an ambassador that can show the king that she is “civilized”.  The King reminds Ratcliffe that if  she proves that she is “civilized”, he will cancel the order for an armada to set sail, which upsets Ratcliffe who wants to see the Tribe annihilated by the British.

As Pocahontas continues to be cultured, she also finds herself getting closer and closer to John Rolfe.   And both start to enjoy each other’s company. But what happens when out of nowhere, John Smith arrives?

VIDEO:

“Pocahontas” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  And I was hoping that this film would look incredible on Blu-ray and sure enough, the film looks absolutely amazing.  Despite being a film created in the ’90s, the film is detailed and looks beautiful.  The film is colorful, vibrant and black levels are nice and deep.  Everything from its lush scenery to the clarity of the film, makes “Pocahontas” a must-own on Blu-ray.

And “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is no slouch either.  Yes, it’s a direct-to-video sequel but the film looks very good.  Granted, you can tell the difference between the amount of detail from a major feature film vs. direct-to-video film but  the animation is still crisp and vibrant, just not as gorgeous as the original film but still looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish. “Pocahontas” is crystal clear when it comes to dialogue and music.  From its ambiance of the wilderness to the sound of traveling on the ocean, there is good use of the surround channels and better dynamic range.  The direct-to-video sequel is good but similar to the video, you can tell the difference in the lossless soundtrack quality of the original film vs. the direct-to-video sequel.  But that’s not to say “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is bad, because it’s not.  It’s good, just not as great as the original film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Pocahontas” comes with the following special features:

  • Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story of Hiawatha – (11:49)A never before seen tale that inspired the “Pocohontas” filmmakers.  Featuring director Eric Goldberg and historian Charles Solomon as he discusses the long-lost animated feature film “Hiawatha” and a read-through of what the story was about, including sketches from the Disney archives from “Hiawatha”.
  • “Little Hiawatha” Cartoon Short – (9:11) The 1936 Silly Symphony Short of “Little Hiawatha” which inspired Walt Disney.
  • Deleted Song: “If I Never Knew You” – (4:51) A deleted song from the film featuring optional audio commentary by directors Eric Goldberg, Mike Gabriel and producer James Pentecost.
  • Deleted Scenes – (15:19) Featuring nine storyboard deleted scenes from “Pocahontas”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by James Pentecost (producer) and directors Eric Goldberg and Mike Gabriel.
  • The Music of Pocahontas – (7:08) Producer James Pentecost talks about the music of Pocahontas.
  • Pocahontas II DVD Storybook – (6:03) A storybook version of “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

EXTRAS:

“Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” comes with a slipcover case and a DVD version of both films.  Presented in widescreen (1:78:1), audio is presented in English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Back in the mid-90’s, I remember watching “Pocahontas” and being amazed by its visual style but also its character design.

Featuring beautifully painted backgrounds, the visual and spiritual style that mimicked the free spirit of Pocahontas herself and in addition, having this near-Romeo & Juliet style storyline in which Pocahontas and John Smith were two individuals that could never fall in love because of their backgrounds.  Or can they?

I also do remember having watched the film and then doing my research to find out more about her and eventually finding out that she married to a man named John Rolfe.

Surprisingly, I was a bit confused until I realized that Pocahontas’ and John Rolfe’s storyline would be explained in the direct-to-video sequel “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World”.

I enjoyed the sequel and its lively storyline as Pocahontas tries her best to become civilized by learning the etiquette and fashion of English culture.  And even more enjoyable to see the return of other character, from Pocahontas’ little friends to even the return of John Smith, which would feature the intriguing love triangle storyline.

But of course, the primary difference between the two film is one was a feature film with a bigger budget and the sequel was not.  But fortunately, what made the sequel’s storyline work is its use of characters but a storyline that was fun to watch.  And it’s a safe family film that can easily be enjoyed by the entire family.

I am quite aware about the criticism that the film has had because of its portrayal of the characters.  Yes, Disney and the writers did not show the suffering that the Powhatan Indians had to endure from the British settlers nor was there anything dark featured in both films, aside from its antagonist Governor Radcliffe trying to start trouble between the settlers and the Indians.  But this is a Disney film, aimed at children but also a storyline that can easily be enjoyed by families.

For me, the film helped introduce me to Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians.  But also to learn the true story of Pocahontas, to learn that there was no relationship between her and John Smith, to find out the account of Pocahontas mourning for John Smith is true, but also that she did meet John Smith once again in England is also true.  But the only thing that is never featured in the films that relates to the true story of Pocahontas is that before she met John Rolfe, she was actually kidnapped by Captain Samuel Argall, who he and his men were fighting against the Powhatan Tribe.

She was actually used as a bargaining chip and used as a way to secure the release of English prisoners held by Chief Powhatan but also the return of stolen weapons and tools.  And despite Chief Powhatan returning the English prisoners, dissatisfied by the returned weapons and tools, Pocahontas was kept as a prisoner.  Supposedly, she was able to meet with her tribe but chose to stay with her British captors.

So, there is quite a bit of story that relates to Pocahontas’ life that is not featured in the film.  But still, the film was good enough to capture my interest in learning more about her, John Smith and John Rolfe.  And for the adults, there are plenty of stories that relate to Pocahontas’ life, as well as John Smith and John Rolfe to look into.

But for children alone, these two films are fun and entertaining family films.   While the film for the most part is safe, there is a scene in “Pocahontas” where a person is killed.  No blood is shown, but he does die from a rifle shot.  So, for parents, it’s really up to you if you want this scene to be shown to your children.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Pocahontas” has never looked so much better than it does in HD.  From its beautiful, visual presentation to its immersive soundtrack, it’s a colorful, fun and entertaining film that takes on cultural differences but also a watered-down, happier Disney version of Pocahontas’ life.  The direct-to-video sequel is also entertaining and looks good on Blu-ray but is not as well-detailed as its original counterpart.  There are a good number of special features, a few new, while some are from the original DVD release.

And also, you do get the two DVD’s for “Pocahontas” and “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” included with this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Pocahontas and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” was an entertaining family film that will continue to entertain generation after generation.  Fans of the film will enjoy its beautiful presentation on Blu-ray and this is the best looking and sounding version of the film to date.  And to make this Blu-ray release quite enticing is the fact that you get two films for the price of one.  So, if you are a fan of the film wanting to upgrade or a Disney fan or parent curious about this Blu-ray release, I definitely recommend it!

Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet! “Transformers: Prime – One Shall Stand” takes the final four episodes of season 1 and the first three episodes of season 2 and puts them together to make one action-packed, enjoyable story arc featuring Optimus Prime and Megatron in an uneasy alliance to take on Unicron.  Also, what happens when Optimus Prime loses his memory and reverts back to Orion Pax? “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand

TV AIR DATE: 2012

DURATION: 154 Minutes

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

RELEASE DATE: Ju;y 31, 2012

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melching, Nicole Dubuc, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi, Marty Isenberg, David McDermott, Mairghread Scott

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the voices of:

Sumalee Montano as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Frank Welker as Megatron

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Alexandra Krosney as Sierra

John Noble as Unicron

With UNICRON’s awakening, extreme measures needed to be taken. An unlikely alliance formed between AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS to defeat UNICRON, a foe who could spell the end of the Earth. The action unfolds as the AUTOBOTS battle alongside MEGATRON against the evil UNICRON. Enemies became allies, allies became confidantes, and with the Matrix of Leadership, the planet Earth was saved.

Though at immeasurable personal cost, when OPTIMUS surrendered the Matrix, he lost more than the collective wisdom of the PRIME. He lost himself. With the power of the Matrix no longer within him, it would stand to reason that OPTIMUS has reverted to his pre-PRIME state as the historical archivist ORION PAX. MEGATRON manipulates the impaired OPTIMUS into joining the DECEPTICONS. But does the OPTIMUS and AUTOBOTS’ true key to salvation lie in the trusted hands of a teenaged boy named Jack?

The award-winning “Transformers Prime”, regarded by many fans as one of the best looking and also best written “Transformers” animated series so far, the series is being planned for a third season release for 2012-2013.

While a Blu-ray and DVD release of the first season of “Transformers Prime” has been released, many were kept in suspense as the first season concluded with Unicron the Chaos-Bringer attacking the autobots and in a surprising move, Optimus Prime and the Autobots form an uneasy alliance with Megatron.

But in the process, something bad happened to Optimus Prime.  Is he alive?

While a season two will likely be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the near future, for fans who want to know how the storyline involving Optimus Prime/Unicron/Megatron ends, will get to see it in the seven episode arc titled “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” which will be available on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory.

So, what is “Transformers”?

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime” and because the series is CG-animated, many have hoped for a Blu-ray release.  And it appears that Shout! Factory has listened to the fans and are releasing “Transformers: Prime – Season One” on Blu-ray in March 2012.   The Blu-ray features  all 26 episodes including the 5-episode “Darkness Rising” mini-series.

A quick summary of “Transformers Prime”

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

And this leads us to the remaining 20-episodes of the first season of “Transformers Prime”.

The series takes place after the events of “Transformers Prime – Darkness Rising”.  Megatron’s death has now given Starscream a chance to be leader of the Decepticons, but not many of the Decepticons respect him and thus, hope they can revive Megatron by finding Energons on Earth.

Jack, Miko and Raf continue to work with the Autobots, while Agent William Fowler occasionally calls in the Autobots whenever he is in need of help.

But meanwhile, Starscream and his Decepticons is doing all he can to make sure they get the Energons and to find the secret location of where the Autobots are hiding.

As the Autobots take on various new Decepticons who have shown up on Earth, they quickly learn that there are humans, just as dangerous as the Decepticons known as M.E.C.H., a terrorist organization led by Silas who has been in search of “living technology”.

As for Megatron, despite his body being out of commission, he is trying to be revived by his fellow Decepticons, but will the power-hungry Starscream allow it?

And an unforeseen nemesis by the name of Unicron returns.

Which leads us to “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand”…

Note: If you have watched season one, you may want to skip this summary

At the conclusion of season one, Unicron has been reborn.  But as Megatron is powerless to fight against Unicron and Optimus Prime and the Autobots, surely not being strong to take him on by themselves.  By joining forces, perhaps they will have a chance in fighting back against Unicron.

But with young Raf being injured by Megatron earlier, will Optimus and the Autobots want to help Megatron?

Unfortunately, they have no choice and thus, both Optimus and Megatron must join forces in order to fight against Unicron.  But doing so, comes with a price.

With the Matrix of Leadership being used, Optimus Prime has now lost all memory of being a Prime and his memory has been reset.  Thus making him think he is still the Cybertron data clerk, Orion Pax.  And because Optimus/Orion have been separated away from the Autobots, Megatron is taking advantage of the situation by telling Orion that he is a member of the Decepticons and that the Autobots are the true enemy.

Meanwhile, the Autobots must find a way to rescue Optimus before he is led astray even further by Megatron!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is presented in widescreen format. The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots. You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.  From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper, I was quite pleased with how this series looks! But also detail is featured in the overall scenery as well.

Bare in mind, having watched “Transformers Prime” on Blu-ray, for videophiles, you will of course see much more detail and clarity when season two is released on Blu-ray (the Unicron season one episodes are now available with “Transformers Prime: Season One”).

But overall, great detail and lighting for this TV series on DVD.

As for audio, dialogue is presented in English and Spanish Dolby Digital stereo and dialogue is clear and understandable. The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” comes with the following special feature:

  • A Look at One Shall Stand – (12:12) Jeff Kline, Duane Cappizzi and Steven Melching talked about the challenges but also the preparation that the writing staff had in creating the story of “One Shall Stand”.
  • One Shall Rise, Part 2 – (22:06) Sketch animatics from the episodes featured on “One Shall Stand”..

EXTRAS:

“Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” comes with a slipcover case.

Is “Transformers Prime” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet?   I asked this question to “Transformers” fans and I know it’s subjective for every fan that has grown up with “Transformers”.  I grew up with G1 and I know friends who grew up with “Transformers: Beast Wars” and felt that was their best series ever.

But I know I’m among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the ’80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the “Transformers” series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron.  And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

With “Transformers: Prime”, I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured.  Similar to “Transformers: The Animated Series”, we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I’m so used to more characters, the merrier.

There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and I feel that these later episodes for season 1 and the earlier episodes of season 2 tend to look even better than when the series first started.    And as a “Transformers” fan, when you have someone as powerful as Unicron involved, you know these episodes are going to be exciting.  Especially when Optimus Prime and Megatron must join forces.  That was fascinating but also a story exploring Optimus Prime when he was known as Orion Pax, a data clerk.

There are far too many things (cool things) that happen throughout this seven episode arc and not only is it action-packed and exciting but you really get good character development, especially showing how much the Autobots and their human companions need each other.  How strong their bond is!

So, I absolutely enjoyed these episodes!  But…and there is a but… this applies to fans who grew up with the original series and the first “Transformers” animated movie, and that involves Unicron.  I expected a major battlest against Unicron, something so amazingly difficult and something that was so huge, that it would take many episodes to tell the story.  Unicron is way too powerful and while the storyline arc involving Unicron does work for this series, as a longtime fan, I felt the stories dedicated to Unicron was too short and should have been a major threat than he was featured in this series.

Yes, they talk about how powerful Unicron is but the overall confrontation went too quickly that I would have liked.  But other than that minor criticism, I enjoyed the episodes featured on this DVD.

As for parents who are wondering, “how old should my child be to watch this series?”.  Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.

For example, the first episode of this arc has the youngest human friend, Rafael, getting injured in battle and could have died. Granted, there is no way Hasbro would have a child be so injured, let alone die in a series targeted towards people of all ages and many young viewers.  But there is a scene where Jack’s mother, a doctor, had to save Raf’s life by giving him medical attention.  Other than that, the series is child is pretty much accessible for children.  You get the robots fighting with each other, but that’s about the extent of how things get in these episodes.  Nothing too frightening.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful!   I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

It’s important to note that this is a seven-episode arc that features the final four episodes of season 1 and the first three episodes of season 2.  These episodes are tied together seamlessly, so it seems as if you are watching a movie.  But If you want the full collection of “Transformers Prime”, season 1 is available on Blu-ray and DVD and when the third season comes out, expect the second season to be released on Blu-ray and DVD as well.

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand” is an enjoyable DVD featuring the battle against Unicron but also featuring episodes of Optimus Prime losing his memory and reverting back to Orion Pax.    Featuring awesome visual CG graphics with a well-written storyline, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating the “Transformers Prime” series that will appeal to the new generation of “Transformers” fans but also many of us who are older but are still young at heart.

If you can’t wait for the “Transformers Prime” season two box set and want to watch these episodes now (which does make a great commuting DVD for the children during summer vacation), then I definitely recommend “Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand”!

Transformers: Prime – Season One – Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime” features awesome CG animation, an exciting, action-packed storyline, great voice acting and a wonderful series for the next generation of “Transformers” fans.  But most importantly, this is a series that can be enjoyed by both young and old.  As for the Blu-ray release, awesome bonus content, plenty of audio commentaries that will surely please “Transformers: Prime” fans.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Prime: Season One – Limited Edition

TV RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 10 Hours

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p Anamorphic 1:78:1, English 5.1/2.0,

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2012

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melchin, Nicole Dubuc, Marsha F. Griffin, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the Voices of:

Sumalee Montano  as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Frank Welker as Megatron

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Cliffjumper

Transformers Primedeepens the epic mythology of both the Autobots and Decepticons, while starting fresh for a new generation of fans. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and many others are back to “roll out” against Megatron’s latest attempt to conquer Earth. And Megatron proves to be more powerful than ever, having acquired a rare element that allows him mastery over life itself. ‘Team Prime’ may be few against the Decepticon hordes, but they find increased strength via bonds forged with three human teenagers. Make no mistake, Transformers Prime delivers heavy metal action, and nail-biting suspense – but it also takes the human drama to levels as yet unseen by the franchise

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime” features awesome CG animation, an exciting, action-packed storyline, great voice acting and a wonderful series for the next generation of fans, but most importantly a series that can be enjoyed by young and old.

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime” and because the series is CG-animated, many have hoped for a Blu-ray release.  And it appears that Shout! Factory has listened to the fans and are releasing “Transformers: Prime – Season One” on Blu-ray in March 2012.   The Blu-ray features  all 26 episodes including the 5-episode “Darkness Rising” mini-series.

A quick summary of “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

And this leads us to the remaining 20-episodes of the first season of “Transformers: Prime”.

NOTE: The synopsis of episode 6 and forward, may spoil your viewing of the mini-series, so you may not want to read the summary even further.

The series takes place after the events of “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”.  Megatron’s death has now given Starscream a chance to be leader of the Decepticons, but not many of the Decepticons respect him and thus, hope they can revive Megatron by finding Energons on Earth.

Jack, Miko and Raf continue to work with the Autobots, while Agent William Fowler occasionally calls in the Autobots whenever he is in need of help.

But meanwhile, Starscream and his Decepticons is doing all he can to make sure they get the Energons and to find the secret location of where the Autobots are hiding.

As the Autobots take on various new Decepticons who have shown up on Earth, they quickly learn that there are humans, just as dangerous as the Decepticons known as M.E.C.H., a terrorist organization led by Silas who has been in search of “living technology”.

As for Megatron, despite his body being out of commission, he is trying to be revived by his fellow Decepticons, but will the power-hungry Starscream allow it?

And an unforeseen nemesis by the name of Unicron returns.

VIDEO

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic).  The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots.  You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.  But one thing I want to add is that watching this Blu-ray release, there are details that I never saw on the DVD.  You can actually see particles, dust, smoke much clearly.  You can see scuff marks and even dirt on the robots much more clearer.

The keyword for this Blu-ray release is detail.  Having reviewed the original DVD version, having watched the series on television and now watching it in HD, the colors are vibrant, they pop!  The CG for mountainous terrain, buildings, sunlight, overall surroundings are just incredible for a television animated series.  For one, Polygon in Japan really did a fantastic job with the CG animation but most importantly, as the series progresses, not only does the series get better but there is also an improvement with the overall CG.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper (and even Optimus Prime during the virus episode), I was quite pleased with how this series looks!   But also the amount of detail that was put into this series.

Many TV Series tend to keep things within their budget, especially with the amount of time they have for production.  But I was quite thrilled to see how the quality but also hearing the enthusiasm of the staff (as heard on the audio commentary) in the production of “Transformers: Prime” and how they listen to their fans.

With that being said, I will say that the series does have its fair share of banding, so videophiles who are expecting pristine quality may be disappointed.  Fortunately, not enough to deter people, as majority of fans and children will probably not care.  Also, these scenes with banding are short and not long.  Typically seen during orange/red backgrounds primarily.

But overall, picture quality is very good.  Plenty of detail can be seen on Blu-ray and the clarity is outstanding but most importantly, black levels are nice and deep and colors are absolutely vibrant!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Transformers Prime: Season One” is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.  For a series with this much action, I admit that I, personally was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack.  But while there are some ambience that can be heard through the surround channels, and some booms that can be heard at times, it’s not as powerful or as immersive as I was hoping for it to be.  The lossless soundtrack does provide crystal clear dialogue and the musical score sounds incredible but the soundtrack does sound very good, moreso during the action sequences.

The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers: Prime – Season One” comes with the following special features:

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary

Darkness Rising, Part 1″: Executive Producer Jeff Kline, Hasbro Studios Developer Mike Vogel, Animation Producer Therese Trujillo and Art Director David Hartman

“Darkness Rising, Part 2”: Jeff Kline, Mike Vogel, Therese Trujillo and David Hartman

“Darkness Rising: Part 3”: Hasbro Studios Executive Director Brian Lenard, Actors Tania Gunadi and Ernie Hudson and Art Director José Lopez;

“Darkness Rising, Part 4”: Brian Lenard, Tania Gunadi, Ernie Hudson and José Lopez

“Darkness Rising, Part 5”: Composer Brian Tyler; “Masters and Students”: Production Manager Mathias Dougherty, Animatic Artist Meghan Burleson and Production Assistants Nathan Johnson and Jacob Rivera;

“Scrapheap”: Production Manager Sonya Park, Production Coordinator Meredith Rogers, Production Assistant Kathy Cavanaugh and Post Supervisor Austin Block.

Disc 2:

  • Audio Commentary

 – “Convoy”: Actor Peter Cullen, President of Hasbro Studios Steve Davis, and Producer Rafi Ruthchild

– “Predatory”: Director Todd Waterman and Actors Sumalee Montano and Josh Keaton.

Disc 3:

  • Audio Commentary

“Shadowzone”: Supervising Director David Hartman, Actor Andy Pessoa, Editor Mike Miles, and Bumblebee.

Disc 4:

– “Stronger, Faster”: Actor Jeffrey Combs, Writer Mairghread Scott, and Director Shaunt Nigoghossian

-“One Shall Fall”: Writers Joseph Kuhr and Nicole Dubuc, Director Vinton Heuck, and Character Designer/Prop Designer/Colorist Augusto Barranco

– “One Shall Rise, Part 1”: Nicole Dubuc, Jospeh Kuhr, Vinton Heuck, and Augusto Barranco

– “One Shall Rise, Part 2”: Supervising Producer/Head Writer Duane Capizzi, Staff Writer Marsha Griffin, Supervising Color Designer Christophe Vacher, and Background Design Supervisor Vince Toyama

– “One Shall Rise, Part 3”: Duane Capizi, Staff Writer Steven Melching, Christophe Vacher, and Vince Toyama.

  • Making-Of “Transformers: Prime” – (11:02) A history on the making of “Transformers” and creating a series for a new generation.
  • Toy Featurette – (16:31) A featurette on toy design and the crew talk about what characters they would like to see in the show and creating new ones.
  • Season 2 Teaser – (:20) Second season teaser for “Transformers: Prime”.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Season One- Limited Edition” comes with a slipcase which holds the Blu-ray case and a “Transformers Prime” graphic novel.

Is “Transformers: Prime” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet?   I know it’s subjective for every fan that has grown up with “Transformers”.  I grew up with G1 and I know friends who grew up with “Transformers: Beast Wars” and felt that was their best series ever.

But I know I’m among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the ’80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the “Transformers” series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron.  And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, “Transformers: Prime” is wonderful series.

By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved “Transformers: Cybertron” because of how many characters were integrated.

With “Transformers: Prime”, I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured.  Similar to “Transformers: The Animated Series”, we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I’m so used to more characters, the merrier.

Fortunately, as the series progressed, the series not only provided newer characters (even if they appeared in a standalone episode), but what I loved is the modern progression of the series.  There was a lot of thought that went into the series rather than just creating a series around the toyline.  For example, for the episode “Predatory”, this was unlike any “Transformers” episode I have seen.  It was darker, but it fit the character of Airachnid.

For anyone who remembers her character, she has always been deadly and menacing, but this time around, we get to see how dark this Decepticon was in actually torturing the Autobots.  And how she collected the heads of those she killed, in a very “Predator” (for those old enough to remember the movies) way, as a form of trophy.  I admit that I was surprised that the writers were able to pull it off, considering that “Transformers” is watched by many youngsters.

But there are other stories that were crafted as if they were targeted towards the older crowd, but safe enough that children can watch it.

There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and by listening to the audio commentary for each episode, I was amazed.  For one, a lot of the people involved in the making of this series, grew up with “Transformers” and they appreciate and respect the series.  They also mention how fans have had some impact as well, so that is great that they do listen to their fans.  But when it comes to the enthusiasm, you tend to expect guys being more excited about a character but when you listen to the audio commentary, not only are the female voice talent excited, but also the female staff.  They were just as passionate and excited about what they saw onscreen and just mesmerized by various actions and so forth.

I loved hearing that enthusiasm and excitement shared by the staff and it extends to their work for this series.  And speaking of audio commentary, rarely do I watch an episode, listen to the commentary, watch an episode and listen to the audio commentary back-to-back, but with “Transformers: Prime”, I was watching, listening and doing it for every episode with a commentary.  The audio commentary was fantastic and it’s one thing to hear the crew and cast, but for “Transformers fans, to listen and have Peter Cullen involved in an audio commentary track for an animated series is fantastic!

As for parents who are wondering, “how old should my child be to watch this series?”.  Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.

For example, the first 5-10 minutes of the first episode of “Transformers: Prime” makes things clear that this is not the same type of series that many of us have grown up with.  This time around, robots…do get killed and destroyed in battle.  And while the humans will never be put in any major life threatening danger for a children’s animated series, still, “Transformers: Prime” definitely has some darker elements.

In “Predatory”, Airachnid sees a camper and looks at the person as her first prey.  In “Speed Metal”, people are drag racing and their are some moments where you felt, wow…is someone going to die?  But of course, no humans are going to die in this series, but as for the robots, you will see death coming to a few.  So, parental guidance is suggested if you have a young child with you, otherwise, the series is quite safe.  And granted, parents may remind their kids to not follow the actions of the three human characters (ie. getting aboard freight trains, breaking into museums, etc.).

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned for the special featuers, the audio commentary is fantastic.  A lot of information that a viewer can learn about the actual process of making the series.  While there are some banding issues during some scenes with a lot of red and orange, these scenes are very short and if anything, most people would probably not notice, but for those of us who review Blu-rays or videophiles who really look for it, then you will see it.  I do wish the audio was much more immersive in terms of LFE (subwoofer usage) and more use of audio (ie panning audio or surround sound usage) during the action sequences, but once again, that is me being picky.  Otherwise, the lossless soundtrack is still very good for a TV animated series.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, animation for “Transformers: Prime” was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious “Transformers” animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.

And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful!   I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

For those who purchased “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” on DVD, it’s important to note that the five mini-series episodes featured on this Blu-ray are five episodes and not the combined episodes that would make an uninterrupted movie which was featured in the DVD release.  Also, the special features that were on that DVD, are not included on this Blu-ray release.  So, for those who own “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”, you definitely want to hang on to it!

Overall, as a longtime “Transformers” fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, “Transformers Prime: Season One” is an enjoyable, beautiful and well-acted series.  While I know there are fans who have their preference of which season is their best “Transformers” series, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating a series that will appeal to the new generation of “Transformers” fans but also many of us who older but are still young at heart.

As for the Blu-ray release, I found “Transformers: Prime – Season One – Limited Edition” to be a fantastic release especially with the amount of content included.  If you are a fan of “Transformers” or a father who wants to experience the series with their children, I highly recommend “Transformers: Prime Season One” on Blu!

The Smurfs (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A fun family film that children will love!  Featuring an all-star cast and wonderful CG animation, “The Smurfs” definitely pays its respect to the original comic and animated series in bringing these characters to life.  And as an adult who grew up as a child watching the animated series, I found the film to be quite entertaining!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Hemisphere – Culver Picture Partners I, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Smurfs

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 103 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Frencha nd Spanish

RATED: PG (For Some Mild Rude Humor and Action)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2011

Based on the stories by Maxwell Grant

Directed by Raja Gosnell

Characters by Peyo

Screenplay by J. David Stern, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Story by J. David Stern, David N. Weiss

Produced by Jordan Kerner, Executive Producer: Ben Haber, Paul Neesan, Ezra Swerdlow

Music by Heitor Pereira

Cinematography by Phil Meheux

Edited by Sabrina Plisco

Casting by Richard Hicks, David Rubin

Production Design by Bill Boes

Art Direction by Chris Shriver, Christian Wintter

Set Decoration by Regina Graves

Costume Design by Rita Ryack

Starring:

Hank Azaria as Gargamel

Neil Patrick Harris as Patrick Winslow

Jayma Mays as Grace Winslow

Sofia Vergara as Odile

Tim Gunn as Henri

Mr. Krinkle as Azrael

Jonathan Winters as the voice of Papa Smurf

Alan Cumming as the voice of Gutsy

Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette

Fred Armisen as the voice of Brainy

George Lopez as the voice of Grouchy

Anton Yelchin as the voice of Clumsy

Jeff Foxworth as the voice of Handy

Kenan Thompson as the voice of Greedy

John Oliver as the voice of Vanity

Wolfgang Puck as the voice of Chef

Paul Reubens as the voice of Jokey

Gary Basaraba as the voice of Hefty

B.J. Novak as the voice of Baker

Tom Kane as the voice of Narrator Smurf

John Kassier as the voice of Crazy Smurf

Joel McCrary as the voice of Farmer

Frank Welker as the voice of Azrael

When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they tumble from their magical world and into ours — in fact, smack dab in the middle of Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Back in the late ’50s, Belgian cartoonist Peyo created the comic strips featuring small blue fictional characters known as the Smurfs.  A big success in France, the Smurfs would receive various adaptations.

The first were in Belgium via TV animated shorts that were  created in 1961-1967, a few of the shorts would be featured in the 1965 in the black-and-white animation “Les Adventures des Schtroumpfs” and then followed by a 1976 animation titled “La Flûte à six schtroumpfs” (The Smurfs and the Magic Flute) which would receive an English version that would inspire more full-length Smurf animated films.

But in America, where the Smurfs gained its popularity is through the 1981 animated TV series which was nominated many times for a Daytime Emmy Award and won the “Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series” for 1982-1983.  The animated series would broadcast on television through 1989.

In 1997, producer Jordan Kerner has been trying to get a “Smurfs” film created but it wasn’t until 2002 when Peyo’s heirs accepted Kerner’s offer and people were able to get their first look at the film via leaked footage on the Internet in 2008.

And in 2011, the first live-action/CG Smurf film of a planned trilogy was released in theaters in 2011.  The film which was budgeted for $110 million received lackadaisical reviews from film critics but the film was popular among the younger viewers and earned over $559 million in the box office ensuring the film as a success for Columbia Pictures. It also helps that the film features all-star talent for the live-action scenes and the voice acting scenes including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), Jayma Mays (“Glee), Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”), Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”) and Tim Gunn (“Project Runaway”).  For the voices of the Smurfs, a few of the talent featured are George Lopez, Katy Perry, Alan Cummings, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Paul Reubens to name a few.  And the film is directed by Raja Gosnell (“Big Momma’s Hosue”, “Scooby-Doo”, “Never Been Kissed”) and a screenplay by J. David Stern (“Shrek 2”, “The Rugrats Movie”), David N. Weiss (“Shrek 2”, “All Dogs Go to Heaven”) and writing duo Jay Scherick and David Ronn (both wrote “Zookeeper”, “Guess Who”, “Norbit”).

And now, “The Smurfs” will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on December 2nd.

“The Smurfs” revolve around life in the Smurf village as the Smurfs are preparing for the Blue Moon festival but Papa Smurf has sees a vision of Clumsy Smurf getting into trouble and making the Smurfs nemesis Gargamel (played by Hank Azaria) quite powerful. Gargamel meanwhile is planning to steal Smurf essence in order to make his power increase.  But he needs to capture them and now knows where they may be located.

So, while the Smurfs are collecting Smurf roots, Papa Smurf tells Clumsy to stay in the village.  Of course, Clumsy doesn’t really listen all that much and goes on his own to collect Smurf roots.   In the process, he is nearly captured and runs away from Gargamel and his cat Azrael.  But what Clumsy ends up doing is leading Gargamel to the secret hidden Smurf village where he tries to capture one of them.

As the Smurfs run into hiding, Clumsy ends up going the wrong way (the dangerous way) and in order to help him, Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Grouchy, Brain and Gutsy go after him.  But Clumsy ends up near a cliff area and falls off, fortunately the Smurfs end up rescuing him but each of them end up being sucked into a huge vortex which leads them to New York City.  Both Gargamel and Azrael jump into the vortex to catch the Smurfs.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Patrick (played by Neil Patrick Harris), an advertising marketing manager for a major fashion corporation owned by Odile (played by Sofia Vergara).  As Patrick is in charge of coming up with new identity for the company and is under a lot of pressure to deliver, he is also worried for his pregnant wife Grace (played by Jayma Mays), mainly because he is not sure if he’s ready to be a father.

While Patrick is packing up boxes to take back home for work, Clumsy Smurf ends up falling in one of the boxes.   While Grace is sleeping and Patrick is working late on a logo, Papa and the other Smurfs sneak inside Patrick’s apartment and try to rescue Clumsy.  But Clumsy ends up going into the bathroom and creating a ruckus.  Meanwhile, as Grace goes to check on the ruckus, she finds Clumsy, while the other Smurfs are defending themselves against Patrick, who they think is an enemy.

But both Patrick and Grace are freaked out that small little blue creatures are in their apartment and talking to them, they learn that the Smurfs are trapped in New York City and must get home.  But in order to get home, they need a stargazer and a blue moon which will re-open the vortex in order for them to return back to their village and re-build.

Meanwhile, Gargamel has taken control of the Belvedere Castle in NYC and begun using his magic to create a device that will replenish his magic but to also extract the essence of a Smurf to make himself powerful. But now he must find the Smurfs and capture them.

The following morning as Patrick leaves for work, he is unaware that the Smurfs have followed him in hopes of gaining access to a stargazer.  But they end up causing him problems at work and Grace ends up having to bring them home.  But while in the taxi to go home, the Smurfs see a star gazer (a telescope) at a nearby toy department store and leaves Grace inside the taxi.  But with so many people around them and Gargamel not far behind, will the Smurfs survive in the streets of New York City? Let alone many kids who want to buy them at the toy store?

Meanwhile, what will happen to Patrick’s marketing campaign when Clumsy Smurf accidentally gets into a bit of trouble once again?  And what about the vision of Papa Smurf about Clumsy Smurf doing something wrong and making Gargamel extremely powerful?

VIDEO AND AUDIO:

“The Smurfs” is presented in 1:78:1 Anamorphic widescreen and English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (and English-Audio Description Track).  If you want the best presentation of “The Smurfs”, you definitely want to go for the Blu-ray release, especially the Blu-ray 3D release if you have a Blu-ray player and television set capable of 3D playback.  But for the DVD version, you can still see quite a bit of detail from the threaded caps that the Smurfs wear, the strands of hair on Smurfette’s head to the pigmentation on the blue skin of the Smurfs.  Possibly not as detailed as the Blu-ray version but still visible on DVD.  For the most part, on DVD, the picture quality is very good.

As for audio, the audio features a lot of dialogue, music and also special effects for the action sequences.  On Blu-ray, the lossless audio will definitely take advantage of the surround channels but on DVD, the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also pretty good as there is good amount of LFE during the bass-driven sequences, the music – may it be the Smurfs singing or even Neil and the Smurfs playing “Guitar Hero Aerosmith”.  The Dolby Digital soundtrack sounds very good but on Blu-ray, you definitely want to go for that version if you want a more immersive soundtrack and to hear the ambiance much more clearly.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Smurfs” come with the following special features:

  • Find the Smurfs Game – Featuring a hide-and-seek remote control game in which you are shown a Smurf and with other Smurfs in the village, you need to find out where a certain smurf is hiding.
  • Audio Commentary 1 – The first audio commentary features director Raja Gosnell who talks about the challenges of bringing the Smurfs to CG, the shooting process, scouting and shooting on location.
  • Audio Commentary 2 – The second audio commentary features producer Jordan Kerner, writer J. David Stern, David N. Weiss , Jay Scherek, David Ronn and VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover.
  • The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen – (8:16) Featuring the challenges in taking the Smurfs for a CG film, creating different personalities for each Smurf and more.
  • Going Gargamel – (10:01) Hank Azaria talks about playing Gargamel and we see how much time it took to make the actor into Gargamel and behind-the-scenes footage and also the challenges of playing the role.
  • Blu-Pers – (:26) Two very short bloopers.
  • Happy Music Montage – (1:51) Short music montage of clips from the movie.

I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the trailer for “The Smurfs” in the theater.  It’s been a long time since I have watched the cartoon on television but I was a big fan of the animated series and owned several of the toys when I was younger.

And while the animated series is dear to me because I watched it from grade school and even when I was in high school, here we are decades later and now I have a child in grade school, who has become interested in “The Smurfs” not so much because of the animated series (which he has never seen) but primarily because he enjoys the iPad video game.

So, it’s quite interesting how the younger generation have found about the Smurfs, may it be the video game or through the Happy Meal toys but needless to say, despite the big names attached to this live-action/CG film, my main interest is how much they writers strayed from the original storyline or in this case, from the cartoon.

And when it was all done, I can say that as a family film and a film for the children, it was a fun film!  My eight-year-old enjoyed it a lot and for me and the wife, I’m a bit more easy on family films especially “The Smurfs” because they are targeted for a younger demographic.  With that being said, my wife was turned off by the “Guitar Hero” scene and I admit, that was possibly the cheesiest part of the entire film.

But for me, there was a lot to love about the film.  First, I think it worked in the favor of producer Jordan Kerner that this film was made in 2011 versus 1997 or in the early 2000’s because CG has developed a lot in the last decade and for the most part, I found the computer graphics to be very well-done.   Loved the detail on the skin of the Smurfs, loved the detail on the knit caps to the thorough planning on the color of the Smurfs to creating living beings via CG on the film (the special feature goes into details about how much the crew wanted the characters to come alive).

It helps to have popular TV talent such as Neil Patrick Harris, Sofia Vergara and Jayma Mays also involved with the film, especially the talent of Hank Azaria who is spectacular as voice talent for “The Simpsons” (and also the ’90s “Spider-Man” animated series) but even before then, he was fun to watch on “Mad About You” and “Friends”.   He did a fantastic job as Gargamel.  And of course, you have a lot of voice talent involved in this film from singer Katy Perry to a long list of talent which include Jonathan Winters, Alan Cummings, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Kenan Thompson, Jeff Foxworthy, Wolfgang Puck to name a few.  And heck, you have voice acting legend Frank Welker (who also did the voice dub in the earlier Smurf’s animated films and TV series as “Hefty Smurf”) doing the voice of Azrael.

So, I appreciate the dedication of the crew honoring the original animated series and comic books but also giving new life to the characters for this live action/CG film.

With that being said, I know a major criticism by reviewers was that this film was “too kiddy” especially since it’s a rated PG film, not rated G.    But for me, “The Smurfs” was originally conceived for children back in the late ’50s, was targeted towards kids in the ’80s and I never expected anything dark or low-beat for this film.  I was not expecting the writers to stray far off from the original storyline and expected a family film that would feature a lot of laughs and also cheesy moments (I sort of liken it to the live-action/CG animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films).

Sure, Neil Patrick Harris and the Smurfs rockin’ it to Aerosmith via “Guitar Hero” was possibly the lowest point of this film for me, but aside from those scenes…everything else was pretty fun and hilarious and for the most part, my son and I had fun watching it (although my wife wasn’t into the film all that much).

As for the DVD release, the DVD release features a good amount of special features and commentary and the DVD does look good.  But if you want the best presentation in sound and audio, you want to go for the Blu-ray release, especially since it contains more special features than the DVD release.

Overall, for those who grew up watching “The Smurfs”, the good news is that the writers did fans a service by not straying to far from the original concept.  Sure, there are some cheesy scenes but as a family film, I’m not going to be overly critical as this film was created for the kids.  And as a fan of the original animated TV series, I had a fun time watching it as well.

With the holidays coming up, if you are looking for a fun family film to keep the kids busy during winter vacation or even during those long traveling commutes, I recommend give “The Smurfs” a try!

Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising (a J!-ENT Children’s DVD Review)

November 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” takes the five-episode mini-series and puts them together to make one film.  Featuring awesome CG animation plus an exciting, action-packed storyline, “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising

TV AIR DATE: 2011

DURATION: 106 Minutes

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2011

Directed by David Hartman, Todd Waterman, Vinton Heuck, Shaunt Nigoghossian

Written by Steven Melchin, Nicole Dubuc, Marsha F. Griffin, Joseph Kuhr, Duane Capizzi

Producer: Mandy Safavi, Rafi Ruthchild, Steven Puri

Executive Producer: Stephen Davis, Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Supervising Producer: Duane Capizzi

Animation Producer: Therese Trujillo

Music by Brian Tyler, Matthew Margeson

Edited by Michael William Miles

Casting by Lorena Gallego

Art Direction by David Hartman

Featuring the voices of:

Sumalee Montano  as Arcee

Kevin Michael Richardson as Bulkhead

Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime

Jeffrey Combs as Ratchet

Tania Gunadi as Miko Nakadai

Josh Keaton as Jack Darby

Frank Welker as Megatron

Andy Pessoa as Rafael “Raf” Esquivel

Steve Blum as Starscream

Ernie Hudson as Agent William Fowler

Markie Post as June Darby

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Cliffjumper

Transformers Prime deepens the epic mythology of both the Autobots and Decepticons, while starting fresh for a new generation of fans. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and many others are back to “roll out” against Megatron’s latest attempt to conquer Earth. And Megatron proves to be more powerful than ever, having acquired a rare element that allows him mastery over life itself. ‘Team Prime’ may be few against the Decepticon hordes, but they find increased strength via bonds forged with three human teenagers. Make no mistake, Transformers Prime delivers heavy metal action, and nail-biting suspense – but it also takes the human drama to levels as yet unseen by the franchise.

“Transformers”, the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.

Needless to say, since the early ’80s, millions have experienced “Transformers”, especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.

But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as “Transformers Animated” becoming the latest “Transformers” animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.

Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?

In 2010, the video game “Transformers: War of Cybertron” was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.

And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled “Transformers: Prime”, a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series.  And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.

And it’s this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers.  With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation” for background design and color design.

As many fans have waited for a video release of “Transformers: Prime”, fortunately, Shout! Factory has decided to release “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”, a year after its premiere.    The DVD would featuring all five-episodes combined to make an uninterrupted movie.

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” would take place three years since the Decepticons have lasted attacked Earth and the Autobots have awaited their return.

One day, Arcee and Cliffjumper went to search for Energon near a rock cliff.   But not long after arriving, he is attacked by the Decepticons and in the process, all the Energon is destroyed but Cliffjumper is captured.

Upset about the Energon, Starscream confronts Cliffjumper and kills him.

But by the time Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Bulkhead arrive to help Cliffjumper, they realize they have arrived too late.  But now they know the Decepticons are back and they are the only five Autobots that must defend and protect humankind.

As Arcee goes to town to let off steam after her friend Cliffjumper has died, a human named Jack Darby who works at a burger shop sees a motorcycle (which is Arcee) and hopes to purchase one when he makes enough money.  And as Jack gets on the motorcycle, he is unaware that Decepticons have arrived and are going after Arcee.

So, now Jack is brought into the fray and Starscream wants both Arcee and Jack dead.  But while trying to escape from the Decepticons, two more humans: a young genius named Rafael “Raf” Esquivel and the mouthy foreign exchange student Miko Nakadai see all the action taking place and now their lives are in danger.

Optimus Prime now wants these three to be protected as the Decepticons are after them as they are thought to be assisting the Autobots.

But while Starscream is intent of leading the Decepticons, Megatron, who has been missing for three years, has returned.  And this time, he has Dark Energon and plans t use it to raise an undead army of Cybertronians in order to defeat his nemesis Optimus Prime and the Autobots.

Will five Autobots be enough to defeat Megatron or the Decepticons?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is presented in widescreen format.  The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots.  You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection.

From Optimus Prime’s glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron’s steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper, I was quite pleased with how this series looks!   But also detail is featured in the overall scenery as well.

While I do feel the robots are much better looking than the humans, in terms of detail and overall look, I do like the characters designs on the three human characters, it just that they look a bit rubbery for me.

But overall, great detail and lighting for this TV series for DVD and hopefully Shout! Factory will consider giving “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” the HD treatment in the near future.

As for audio, dialogue is presented in English and Spanish Dolby Digital stereo and dialogue is clear and understandable.  The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original “Transformers” animated series are back for this series…Fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising” comes with the following special feature:

  • A Look at Character Design – (5:00) Character design sketches for “Transformers Prime”.
  • A Look at Set Design – (4:31) Featuring the sketches and finalized backgrounds and set design for “Transformers Prime”.
  • Animatic for Episode 1 – (22:07) Sketch animatics for episode 1.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” comes with a slipcover case.

Is “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!  Well, I know that question is quite subjective but in terms of overall look and storyline, this latest series is action-packed and definitely will captivate viewers of all ages.

While the storylines of “Transformers” tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains.  Especially Optimus Prime vs. Megatron… And with every new series, you often wonder how the writers will keep the series fresh, especially for every new generation that has just become a Transformers fan.

I’ve literally grown up with the series, collected the toys and then to watch my son become a Transformers fan (his first was “Transformers: Cybertron” followed by Shout! Factory’s awesome release of the original series on DVD) and now watching him enjoy “Transformers: Prime”.

With this latest series, what I enjoy about it is that there are not so many robots thrown into each episode.  Several years ago,  “Transformers: Cybertron”, an animated series that would throw in so many robots and while it was great for the toyline, with so many characters, it could get a bit confusing.

This time around, going by a similar theme of the previous”Transformers Animated” series, the series focuses on five primary Autobots and staying with the recurring theme of humans who go on to help the group in someway or form.

But the first 5-10 minutes of “Transformers: Prime” makes things clear that this is not the same type of series that many of us have grown up with.  This time around, robots…do get killed and destroyed in battle.  And while the humans will never be put in any major life threatening danger for a children’s animated series, still, “Transformers: Prime” definitely has some darker elements.

And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great!  Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there is a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments.   So, it was more than I expected for an animated series as “Transformers: Prime” is possible the most ambitious animated series yet.

In fact, the acting is also well done for this series and what I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters.  Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker (“G.I. Joe”, “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”) are back.  They are joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of WWE fame and “Fast Five”) as Cliffjumper,  Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for “X-Men”) as Starscream and Ernie Hudson (“Oz”, “Ghostbusters”) as Agent Fowler.  But for any longtime “Transformers” fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!

But the series definitely sets the storyline for the exciting first season of “Transformers: Prime” (which I hope Shout! Factory releases on DVD as well).

Overall, If you haven’t caught the five episode mini-series before or are not familiar with the latest “Transformers” animated series, I highly recommend “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising”. It’s full of action, excitement and it looks so darn awesome!  And for me, it’s possibly the best “Transformers” animated series yet!

And because this DVD is coming out right in time before the children’s winter vacation, if you’re looking for a safe DVD to keep your kids occupied during a long commute or for their vacation, or you are an adult who is young at heart and is still passionate for this long-running “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Prime – Darkness Rising” is definitely recommended!

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