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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Animals > Superheroes > Children > Computer Animation > Children > Comic Strip > Comedy > Holi > Alpha & Omega (2010/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD) + Black Panther (2010/Marvel Knights/Marvel Comics/Shout! Factory DVD) + Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (Warner DVD)

Alpha & Omega (2010/Lionsgate Blu-ray w/DVD) + Black Panther (2010/Marvel Knights/Marvel Comics/Shout! Factory DVD) + Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (Warner DVD)


Picture: B- & C/C+/C+     Sound: B- & C/C+/C+     Extras: C-/C/C+     Features: C-/C/C+



Animation is all over the place, but that does not mean it is good.  It remains a big market and an expensive proposition to produce, so despite the advent of digital animation and what would seem to be other cost-cutting innovations, we are getting many animated releases that are really not that much better than the limited kind that TV brought in.  A look at three new releases shows us this.


Lionsgate has issued a new computer animated feature Alpha & Omega (2010) that is yet another animal-gets-lost-and-needs-to-get-home parable.  We have seen this a ton of times and at least doing a charming job would help, even if the CG animation is not the best, but the script has lame dialogue and the whole production relies too much on being a feel-good comedy that never works.  Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Danny Glover and Christina Ricci are among those who do voices, but the highlight is some of the last work ever by Dennis Hopper, who steals his voicing scenes and makes this more of a curio that it otherwise would be.  Too bad this is not too memorable.  Extras on this Blu-0ray release include the DVD with Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, animal fun facts trivia, Personality Test, Deleted Scenes, “Log Sliding” interactive game and four featurettes including Wolves In The Wild, The Alpha Of Animation, Voicing The Wolves and From Alpha To Omega.


Shout! Factory continues their Marvel Knights animated DVDs with Black Panther, voiced by Djimon Hounsou in a Reginald Hudlin/John Romita Jr. piece set in WWII with the older, original Panther including encounters with invading Nazis and a young Captain America.  This is not bad and I wish it had been longer, but I also thought it was better than the previous Iron Man installment (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and fans will be happy enough.  Extras include trailers, a Music Video and a Looking Back featurette with Hudlin, all worth seeing after watching the main program.


That leaves us with Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales, which offers more holiday fun with the Peanuts gang, though only the main program, an amusing 2002 follow up to the 1965 classic A Charlie Brown Christmas (on Blu-ray and DVD elsewhere on this site).  Fans will note that It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown is another sequel that is included on both format versions of that release.  Like that sequel, this has fun with the gang trying to find more happiness during the holiday and sometimes stumbling, but it is done in the tradition of the others and is entertaining, if short.  Longer is the bonus program, Is The Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983), in which Linus and Lucy are on their way to moving out of the neighborhood for good.  An interesting bonus and one worth seeing.  Trailers for other Peanuts on DVD are the only extra.


Alpha’s Blu-ray offers a sort of soft 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image that is like Legend Of The Guardians (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but worse with styling marred by a lack of definition.  The DVD of Alpha (watered down and weaker still than the Blu-ray) and Panther are anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1, but Panther looks a little better, though it too can be soft, the animation is simpler and actually is a little more effective.  That leaves the two 1.33 X 1 transfers on the Peanuts DVD that have good color, but can lack definition and detail, though it may be more so after seeing how decent some of the classics on Blu-ray look.  They also have the best color of these three releases.


Alpha has a limited DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless sound mix that does not have a consistent soundfield and is too much toward the front speakers, made worse in the thinner Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD.  Panther has a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that is not bad, but could be better, while the Peanuts installments have Dolby Digital Mono that is as clean as can be expected for the format.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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