As part of the Warner Bros. Blu-ray Elite program, Fat Guy Kevin Carr was sent a batch of free children’s Blu-rays to enjoy. Thanks to Warner Home Video for giving him a chance to watch and review Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Happy Feet Two and The Wizard of Oz again.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
What it’s about: This sequel to the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth is loosely based on the writings of Jules Verne. Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is trying to find his grandfather (Michael Caine), whom he believes is on Verne’s mysterious island. With the help of his step-father Hank (Dwayne Johnson), he travels to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to discover the amazing island hidden in a storm. However, volcanic activity threatens to destroy the island, and they must escape before catastrophe happens.
The movie: Kinda rocks! – I enjoyed the first Journey to the Center of the Earth because I saw it with my young sons, and it reminded me of the old Saturday morning adventure serials on television when I was grown up. Journey 2 takes this to a greater level, ditching Brendan Fraser for Dwayne Johnson. It plays out silly and contrived, but the brilliant animation and fun 3D made it more of a throwback to Land of the Lost than the Land of the Lost movie from several years ago. It’s not a deep film, but it’s a fun one for the family to enjoy.
The bonus material: Kinda rocks! – Extras on the Blu-ray includes a gag reel and deleted scenes with unfinished effects. An interactive guide to the island features behind-the-scene spots about the production of the film. Finally, for the tech-minded, he Blu-ray is also UltraViolet compatible, which allows streaming and download to a compatible Android, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: This is the kind of movie that you want to buy a Blu-ray for. It’s got great CGI and exciting action sequences. When they’re on the island, it looks gorgeous, and if you spring for the 3D treatment, it’s all-the-more immersive. The non-island sequences don’t look as sharp, but considering all the money shots happen with the effects, that is forgivable.
Happy Feet Two
What it’s about: The sequel to the Oscar-winning Happy Feet features a grown-up Mumble (Elijah Wood) who is trying to bring his young son Erik out of his shell. Unable to dance like the rest of the herd, Erik heads off with some other chicks. A glacial event ends up trapping the herd in the ice, and it’s up to Mumble and the kids to find a way to save them, getting help from a humbug puffin, some elephant seals and a sea vessel of humans.
The movie: Kinda sucks! – I wasn’t a big fan of the first Happy Feet, and this was more of the same, only more to the extreme. What was good in the first film is better here, but what was bad in that first film is now worse. The characters are forced, and they don’t flow together well. A threat is shoehorned into a script to make things bigger but it becomes silly. Fortunately, the animation is beautiful and breathtaking, and the musical numbers are enjoyable though there are too many of them.
The bonus material: Kinda rocks! – The Blu-ray comes in a set with the DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy. An interactive “Happy Feet Two” Movie App is available for next-gen iPhones and iPads, allowing additional features during the film. Other special features include a behind-the-scenes look at Antarctica with Lil’ P-Nut, a tutorial on how to draw Erik the Penguin and a look at Alecia Moore’s involvement in the film. Finally, there’s a commentary track as well as sing-along music videos.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: While this isn’t my favorite film, and it’s the lesser of the two Happy Feet movies, it’s still a hit with the kids. And if you’re going to buy a copy for home viewing, it’s worth getting the Blu-ray because the animation is so brilliantly done.
The Wizard of Oz
What it’s about: This timeless adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s literary classic follows young Dorothy (Judy Garland) who wishes to leave Kansas and travel over the rainbow. Thanks to a twister, she gets her wish, as she is transported to the magical land of Oz. There she befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), and Tim Man (Jack Haley) and a Cowardly Lion (Burt Lahr). Together, they travel the Yellow Brick Road to Oz to ask the Wizard if he can help them get home, get a brain, get a heart and get some courage.
The movie: ROCKS! – Of all films, this is one of my favorite from my childhood. It was an annual event to watch back in the day before VHS when the networks would give the film a yearly airing. It is dedicated to those young at heart, and it continues to charm me and my entire family. The music is still catchy, even if it’s overplayed through the past 70+ years. I can watch this film multiple times over the years and still find something wonderful about it.
The bonus material: ROCKS! – Released along with the DVD set as a 70th Anniversary Edition, the Blu-ray includes a commentary by historian John Fricke. There’s a restoration featurette and a video storybook as well as supporting cast profiles. Additional features include home movies, outtakes, deleted scenes, loads of stills, audio recording sessions, radio shows, promos and theatrical trailers.
Notes on the Blu-ray experience: Like Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane, this restored classic looks fantastic in the Blu-ray format. The color pop, and the image is beautiful. The sound runs a bit low, especially in the lower-key Kansas sequences, but it’s still quality work.