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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Fantasy > Adventure > CG Animation > Animals > Action > Murder > Japan > Drama > Hand Drawn Animati > Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012/New Line/Warner Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and DVD)/The Jungle Bunch – The Movie (2012/Universal DVD)/Mutant Girls Squad (2010/Well Go USA Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Secret

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012/New Line/Warner Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D and DVD)/The Jungle Bunch – The Movie (2012/Universal DVD)/Mutant Girls Squad (2010/Well Go USA Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

 

3D Picture: B-     Picture: B- & C+/C+/C+/B & C+     Sound: B & C+/C+/B- & C+/B & C+     Extras: D/C+/C-/C+     Films: D/C+/C-/B-

 

 

 

A recent set of titles aimed at children and families arrived, plus one that is meant as a dark send-up of such material and how such a spoof resonates when the “authentic” product does not work.  Franchises are part of the problem, with even the biggest companies so mindlessly trying to squeeze a few more pennies out of something that they’ll remake or sequelize anything.

 

 

Brad Peyton’s Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) is a bizarre, desperate and highly unnecessary sequel of sorts (so unnecessary, it is not even directly related to its predecessor) with Brendan Frazier being succeeded as the male lead by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson whose performance is more like “talk at slightly loudly” than anything anyone would define as actual acting.  Needless to say he has a family and they land up on an adventure that is more pointless than the Frazier version as this starts badly and just gets worse and worse and worse.  Even Michael Caine and Luis Guzman can’t save this one, so you know it’s bad when they get wasted.

 

So that leaves the 3D and visual effects, which are as phony and generic as the last film, which was a last minute 3D conversion.  This has nothing to do with any Jules Verne novel and even showing any of his books does not help.  Save the money and star power of Guzman and Caine, this is just an overblown TV movie and an illiterate quasi-adaptation at that.  Were they trying to make this Spy Kids?  If so, they captured its worst parts.  Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Hutcherson and Kristin Davis also star.

Extras include UltraViolet copy, lame Deleted Scenes, unfunny Gag Reel and an interactive map of the so-called island.  For more on other versions of the same material, try these links:

 

2008 remake

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/7741/Journey+To+The+Center+Of+The+Eart

 

1959 original hit film

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11617/A+Bullet+For+The+General+(1968/ak

 

 

Also involving an island, but more child friendly and smarter by default, The Jungle Bunch – The Movie (2012) is a straight-to-video release trying to capitalize on the Madagascar CG feature film franchise and though not able to compete with the budgets of those releases, is amusing enough that I could see younger children enjoying this John Lithgow is one of the voices here, so that helps.  The disc also has 26 shorts as extras, which makes this more than just a basic DVD release.  The zoo animals in this one are visited by penguins looking for something called “The Great Tiger Warrior” and mayhem ensues.  It could have been funnier or wittier, but overall, all the content in total is at least quality entertainment and that seems even increasingly rare in the children’s field.  Parents can feel safe about getting this one.

 

 

The failures of such fantasy fare inform darker spoofs and works thereof and in Japan, thanks to Anime, Manga and similar pop art, you get works like Mutant Girls Squad (2010) now in an unrated edition from Well Go USA.  Three young ladies (say teens) suddenly find themselves possessing powers and distorted body parts and though this has the visuals and some of the language of the other titles on this list, it is violent, gross and has a sense of humor about it that is in part linked to the idea that a safe child’s world has a darker underside.  Ironically, some of the phoniness of Journey 2 actually confirms this, but this work is also a throwback to the landmark Japanese TV classic Ultraman and the brilliant feature film spoof of that show and the entire giant monsters cycle: Super Inframan (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), both of which a make better viewing than this or Journey 2.

 

The problem with this spoof, besides having three directors, is that it is so one note, the visual effects are awful and event he violence seems confused.  Action and violence are so repetitious that even the staging keeps looking the same over and over to the point that all involved seem slap happy, drunk or too self-amused to make whatever they are trying to do work.  Very lame, only diehard fans of Japanese pop culture should even think hard before they bother.

 

Extras include a spin-off short, Interviews, Making Of piece, trailers and footage from the Opening Day of its release.

 

 

That leaves us saving the best for last with Hiromasa Yonebayshi’s The Secret World Of Arrietty (2010) from Studio Ghibli and the latest of many titles released by Disney in their distribution deal.  The title character is a young lady only a few niches tall living in the world of humans like us and with her also small parents.  One day, a young boy spots her and eventually discovers her and her world, but there are dangers to all of them in being discovered and he has his own dysfunctional family to contend with.

 

The result is simply a good version of the old fantasy standby of “what if very tiny people existed” which happens either naturally as in this case or if someone starts shrinking or someone else starts shrinking people.  It is smart, charming, well done and decent throughout.  I was intrigued when I heard right wing types call it left wing “pro nature” propaganda (some people need to get a life) and I just don’t see that here unless appreciating our natural world is an issue, so only a sick mind could dislike that.  However, this is smarter than that and also proof that hand-drawn animation is alive and well.

 

Extras include English voice lead Bridgit Mendler’s “Summertime” Music Video and a making of it in both format versions of the film included here, while the Blu-ray adds Original Japanese Trailers & TV spots, Original Japanese Storyboards and Cécile Corbel’s Music Video for “Arrietty’s Song”.

 

 

 

The 1.85 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Journey 2 is a mixed bag, no better than the phony 3D on the older Brendan Frazier version and no better than the Blu-ray 2D edition.  This has a phony look all around, studio-bound and not very exciting visually.  Whether this was a last minutes conversion does not matter, because the money just makes it look phony throughout instead of good, there are many soft shots with motion blur and we can also blame the poor CG effects throughout as well and the anamorphically enhanced DVD is softer still.  Weak all around.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Jungle is somewhat soft throughout, but is fine for a low budget CG presentation on DVD.  It actually can compete with the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Mutant Blu-ray which is a poor, sloppy HD shoot and you can see more flaws than on its anamorphically enhanced DVD version which is softer, but hides some of the other flaws.  Color is problematic on both as well and the visual effects make the situation worse.

 

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Arrietty Blu-ray is easily the visual champ among the releases here with a solid picture that is rarely soft, has consistent color, few flaws and is very pleasant viewing throughout.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD cannot compete and is much softer in comparison than expected, but the Blu-ray is the way to watch this anyhow and those who have Blu-ray players will not be disappointed.

 

All three Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and the best are Journey 2 and Arrietty, as the former eventually gets loud and has surrounds kick in its supposed action scenes and the latter is quieter, but very well recorded.  That leaves Mutant with a problematic soundfield and even some recording flaws, but also some good surround moments.  All three also happen to have DVD versions and they all feature lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that are no match for their DTS-MA counterparts, though it is a narrower gap in the case of Mutant.  Though limited, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the Jungle DVD is on par with the other three DVDs, good, but not great.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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