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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Satire > Automoblies > Computer Animation > Children > Animals > Literature > Cars 2 + Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) + Winnie The Pooh (all 2011/Disney Blu-ray + DVD)

Cars 2 + Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) + Winnie The Pooh (all 2011/Disney Blu-ray + DVD)

 

Cars 2

Picture: A/A/B+

Sound: A/A/B

Extras: B

Film: B

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Picture: A-/A-/B

Sound: A-/A-/B

Extras: B-

Film: B

 

Winnie the Pooh

Picture: A-/B

Sound: B+/B

Extras: C+

Film: B-

 

Here we explore three very different films that are oddly very similar.  Though one film is CGI, the next is live action, and the final a classic 2D animated feature; all three embody the same core.  They are all sequels that do little to further the mythos or already established storyline, but nevertheless are well done and enjoyable.

 

 

Cars 2

 

Cars 2 attempts to recreate the same hype and astonishment that the Toy Story Sequels created and Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo will apparently do in the future.  Sadly Cars 2 falls short of creating that classic Disney/Pixar wonderment we have all come to expect.  The film is beautifully animated and has a storyline that is far from a Disney “straight to video” sequel, but something about it lacks the heart and creativity of the original.  With that said (though I enjoyed it) I was never one who sang TOO MANY praises of the original Cars.  Again it was beautifully animated and I could understand why others appreciated it, but I just didn’t get the fascination with the cars and the somewhat shallow storyline.  Cars lacked the heart of say Toy Story and especially UP, so it is no wonder as to why I would be somewhat skeptical about the sequel.

 

The story takes fan favorites Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) across the sea to compete in the first ever World Grand Prix.  The Grand Prix is to determine the world’s fastest car, but along the way Mater gets caught up in an odd adventure of his own; and there is where the trouble occurs.  Cars 2 makes the conscious and daring decision to switch gears (pun intended) and focus the film on Lightning McQueen’s seemingly inept friend Mater.  The film has Mater being mistaken for an American spy and in turn gets wrapped up in a devilish plot of some forgotten “lemon” cars to release their wrath upon the world.  The film plays on Mater’s clumsiness and somewhat “offensive” American ways; to the point where it is almost insulting.  The film is like a one trick pony as it uses the “fish out of water,” case of mistaken identity shtick to the max.  I find Larry the Cable Guy annoying in general, the unwavering “in character” model wearing thin, and didn’t enjoy his participation in the first Cars that much more.  So needless to say the emphasis on his character in Cars 2 was less than welcome.

 

What does work for the film is the homage to spy films, gathering aspects from a variety of source material that the keen eye/ear will certainly spot.  In totality, however, the film’s focus on Mater was off putting and whereas I give props for creativity, the film is my least Pixar adventure.

 

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

 

The Pirate films seem to be the cash cow that Disney can keep milking; with a very solid success rate.  The truth of the matter is that the films were never expected to do so well (come on, they are based on an amusement park ride!), but with the help of Johnny Depp, a great supporting cast, and an excellent backdrop the films have been runaway hits.

 

The first film was groundbreaking in this reviewer’s opinion and I have no doubt that it will go down as a classic; the sequels, however, have been less than stellar.  I will not say they were bad, but they weren’t as inspiring as the original and lacked the creative insight the first film embodied.  The sequels relied heavily on what was established by the first film and added layers of fantasy.  Like the Shrek films that just seem to dig up fairy tale characters that haven’t been used yet, Pirates writers must sit back and say “what pirate things haven’t we said?”

 

With all of that said, I do enjoy the Pirate sequels; they are good popcorn films through and through.  Not all too deep, but thoroughly entertaining.  The fourth installment On Stranger Tides has Johnny Depp returning as Captain Jack Sparrow and without the likes of Knightly or Bloom (too pricey I guess).  Jack Sparrow has been enlisted (mostly against his will) to seek the fountain of youth in the name of the British crown.  The Spanish are in hot pursuit of the fountain as they have acquired the journal of Ponce De Leon in a strange set of events; and if that was not enough competition, the evil pirate Black Beard desires the power of the fountain as well.  The only one who does not seem to want the treasure of eternal youth is Jack, who would rather just have his ship back and be on his way.

 

Geoffrey Rush returns as the disgusting nemesis of Jack Sparrow, Barbossa.  Barbossa has found it in his best interests to loan his services to the crown in exchange for protection and a ship; but his disdain for Sparrow remains.  A former love interest of Jack’s surfaces as Penelope Cruz stars as Black Beard’s long lost daughter; but as with most of Jack’s personal encounters, this one was not left on good terms.

 

The film is fun, adventurous, and presented on a very grand scale.  It lends itself well to the 3D format and though Johnny Depp’s once inspirational performance has turned into a caricature of himself, he remains extremely talented and brings the film to life.

 

 

Winnie the Pooh

 

Yes, the title is confusing.  This is not the ‘original’ Winnie the Pooh film re-released or even a remake; it is a completely new film that has chosen to go with a very dismissing title.  Like that of the new Rambo film or Rocky Balboa, the film industry (even Disney) has gotten to the point where they retrofit film titles as to make us either forget the errors of the past or be so nostalgic that we will somehow flock to theaters.  Sadly, the suckers we are, have done exactly that.

 

Though only a minor success in theaters the new Winnie the Pooh film (Winnie the Pooh) takes the audience back to 100 acre woods for a new adventure.  The whole crew returns with Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Owl, Eeyore, Piglet and yes Pooh setting out to find Eeyore a new tail.  Owl puts this challenge upon our old friends with the reward being a big pot of honey; while concurrently they try to save Christopher Robin from the mysterious Backson.

 

There is not much more to the tale than just that.  As in the past Winnie the Pooh embodies a ‘child like’ simplicity that focuses more a heart warming tale of friends, than of action or intricate storylines.  This film introduces Pooh and friends to a whole new generation, as younglings may have seen the Disney favorite plastered all over this world of ours, but had little idea where he came from.

 

Winnie the Pooh has an updated style of animation that holds true to the classic animation structure, but updates it slightly with cleaner colors and lines.  The voices are new (as most of the original cast has moved on) and John Cleese narrates in an exuberant, entertaining way as only he can.  The ‘hip’ music you will hear throughout the film is from actress/songstress Zooey Deschanel; adding that new wave hipster edge to the classic tale.

 

Technical Features 

 

All three films look amazing on Blu-ray, with Cars 2 and Pirates looking even more stunning on Disney 3D Blu-ray.  Unlike recent releases of The Lion King and Beauty & the Beast on Disney 3D Blu-ray, Pirates and Cars 2 were both always intended for the 3D format.  The films in both 2D and 3D are nearly flawless in presentation; and whereas I feel Cars 2 is a picture of perfection in 1080p High Definition 2.39 X1, Pirates live action is not always as crisp, clean, and smooth as its CGI counterpart.  Pirates is presented in a 1080p 2.40 X1 format and has great light/dark balance that never gets murky and concurrently has brilliant reds, blues, and yellows.  Cars 2 is demonstration material for sure and never disappoints as all the colors of the rainbow explode from the screen and the crisp clarity are unrivaled.  The 3D image in both films is well done and though not as restrained as The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast with lots of screen bursting moments, they do a solid job in entertaining without cheap tricks or overuse.

 

Winnie the Pooh is Grade ‘A’ material and is a pleasant return to classic Disney 2D animation.  The colors burst to life and the crisp clean lines demonstrate Disney’s technological advances.  Purist may argue that the ‘grittiness’ that gave the Winnie the Pooh tales some depth and character is stripped away, but I find it works just find and nothing disappoints here in the 1080p 1.78 X 1 presentation.

 

The DVDs included with all three of these films just seem to be throwaway discs at this point, as they only cater to those fans who want to buy the “triple disc” sets on Blu-ray even though they don’t have a Blu-ray player, with future thoughts of getting one.  It all seems rather silly as they are clear quality downgrades as my rating of the discs reflect above.

 

Extras

 

Cars 2

  • Cars Toon: Air Mater (available in standard and 3D)
  • Hawaiian Vacation theatrical short (another short adventure with the Toy Story 3 cast)
  • World Tour (navigate through different locations [Radiator Springs; London; Paris; Tokyo]
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Documentaries
    • Animation
  • Director’s Commentary [here we get a very good look into John Lasseter’s love for the franchise and cars in general]

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

  • Disney Second Screen (explore extra features on your iPad and other devices as the film plays; very distracting I found)
  • Audio Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Executive Producer John DeLuca (the crew seems to have a lot of fun and could make these films forever…God help us)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes with introduction by Rob Marshall (neither add nor detract from the film, but for time I understand as to why they were cut)
  • Legends of On Stranger Tides – Go Behind the scenes of the making of the film
  • In Search of the Fountain – Explore the Magical Place from conception to mythical reality
  • Under the Scene: Bringing Mermaids to Life
  • Johnny vs. Geoffrey – Depp and Rush explore their inspirations for the characters and what it takes to be a pirate
  • Bloopers of the Caribbean
  • Lego Animated Shorts: Captain Jack’s Brick Tales

 

Winnie the Pooh

All the extras here are a bit more ‘childish than informative, but fun never the less and the youngsters will find them fun, as they are not as mind numbing as they may seem at first glance.

  • Winnie the Pooh and his Story Too
  • Sing-A-Long with the Movie
  • 5 Deleted Scenes with Director Intro
  • “The Ballad of Nessie” Theatrical Short
  • Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: “Pooh’s Balloon Short”

 

So in the end they all may seem like very different Disney ventures, but in reality they all continue to propagate the seem Disney heart, soul, and ability to peak back on old friends that audiences have come to cherish.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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