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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Music > CG Animation > Live Action > Crime > Fantasy > Fairy Tale > Drama > Heist > Teens > Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015/Fox DVD)/Pineapple Express (2006/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Smurfs 2 (2013/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Two Hands (1998/Umbrella Import

Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015/Fox DVD)/Pineapple Express (2006/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Smurfs 2 (2013/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Two Hands (1998/Umbrella Import Blu-ray)/Undertow (2004/United Artists/MGM/Olive Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C/B/B-/B-/B- Sound: C+/B+ & B/B+ & B/B-/C+ Extras: C/C+/C/D/C- Films: C/C+/C-/C+/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Two Hands Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can play on all Blu-ray players and can be ordered from the link below.

He is an interesting intersection of comedies for young and some strictly for older audiences, some children-aimed releases, a serious drama and more releases in the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format...

We start with one of two franchise films that combine animation (now all CGI) with live action, Walt Becker's Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015) was somehow made despite legal rumblings between the owners of the characters and Fox, but here's the latest installment and especially at a long 96 minutes, there is little (including the tiro's female counterparts) new that this romp offers. Nothing much is funny here and will all the resources at the fingertips of the makers, they couldn't find a better script?

Of course, they go on a road trip, something that should be about discovery and self-discovery, but this is just about more and more of the same. Jason Lee looks bored back as Dave and even turns by the naturally funny Katie Cuoco, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate just fall flat. Needless to say no expense is spared in making the film, especially animation-wise, but this was no better than its predecessors and the mixed reaction was understandable. For young fans only.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the DVD adds a compilation of best songs from all the movies in the series to date (I can remember NONE of them) and a 'Story So Far' featurette. All that reaching back is a bad sign.

David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express (2006) is back as one of the very first releases from Sony in the great new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format and includes a standard Blu-ray. We reviewed the film first as an uncut DVD at this link...


Both cuts are here, along with the same extras, but I think if you are going to see this one, the uncut version is the way to go. More on what a nice improvement the 4K Blu-ray is below.

Raja Gosnell's The Smurfs 2 (2013) has also just been issued by Sony in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format and includes the 2D Blu-ray we reviewed in the 3D Blu-ray set at this link...


The film is just poorer than the Alvin film above, but what is amazing is how the 4K playback outdoes the Blu-ray (which did not impress me much) and the 3D edition, but more on that in the tech section below. Again, the 4K Blu has no extras, so the Blu-ray repeats the extras we covered from the previous set.

Gregor Jordan's Two Hands (1998) is a curio that has not arrived in the U.S., partly because some mighty have trouble following the dialogue, but this import Blu-ray is sonically clear enough as a young Heath Ledger (gone too soon) plays a young guy looking for the next thing that will help him out from job to job, agreeing to deliver $10,000 for a small group of criminals led by a well-known local (Bryan Brown of Breaker Morant and the FX films). Unfortunately, the delivery does not happen because the woman never answers the door... because she dies as he is knocking on the door from health-related issues!

Disgusted, he has to explain this to the gang, but instead goes to the beach where a young woman (Rose Byrne) who likes to take pictures and he is suddenly deeply into turns up at that beach. He decides to go swimming, but has nowhere to put the money, so he hides it in the sand with his clothes on top of it! Of course, it goes missing and things get wackier.

The problem with the script is the plotting is too predictable and it is comical too often with things that might not always be funny, yet it ha some nice moments, nice camera shots and seeing a Ledger performance few have seen alone is worth seeking this one out. It would also make a nice double feature with Pineapple Express.

There are very sadly no extras, though this one deserves a few.

David Gordon Green's Undertow (2004) is one of his early dramas with Jamie Bell (now on the underrated TV series TURN: Washington's Spies, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and was a follow-up to his impressive film George Washington (issued by Criterion no less) and another one of our writers really liked, as the link to this review will bear out...


Unfortunately, it was not a hit or even the critical success the makers were hoping for, but I was not as enthused about it as I thought it was too much of what we had seen before, even if it dared to be gritty filmmaking like we rarely see. The actors are good here, which is all the more reason to be disappointed it did not work as well as it should have. Thus, Green moved into more commercial filmmaking with Pineapple Express which remains one of his better successes since moving out of indie territory. Still, despite my misgivings, you should see this one at least once for yourself and despite the ratings I give versus my colleague for the DVD, the Blu-ray is the way to see this one now outside of a good film print.

A trailer is sadly the only extra.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Alvin has decent color, but this transfer is way too soft, even for this format, so it is the dud performer here, though a Blu-ray is also available. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is also underwhelming.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on our two 4K Blu-rays are the highlight here as expected, as good as the there newer Fox releases we debuted our coverage of the format with. Though the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray of Express outdoes the passable DVD we covered a few years ago, it was a bit strained in certain ways and is definitely an older Blu-ray transfer by today's standards. It is fine and was shot on Kodak Vision 2 35mm film (the company now makes Vision 3 series stocks), but you can see some color and detail limits as minor as they are. This is not a problem with the 4K Blu-ray, which looks much more natural, less strained, opens up how great the film stocks can perform and the humor of the performances come across as much funnier as a result, so this is not just some pandering release issued early to be hip. This looks really good.

I was not happy with the 3D Smurfs 2 Blu-ray and especially disappointed by the detail issues and other problems with the 2D Blu-ray, but this new 4K Blu-ray more than corrects any issues with the 2D and, in a surprise, actually outperforms the 3D version with even better depth, detail and color range. The film might not be great, but this looks really good and has some nice demo shots for this kind of commercial film.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hands and Undertow can show the age of the materials used, but both also have some nice shot and even demo-quality shots with Hands coming up with amazing location shots of Australia at the time, while Undertow can definitely outdo the DVD version and you can see how well this one was really shot. I can only imagine how both would look in 4K transfers, originally shot so well on 35mm film.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless mixes on Express and Smurfs 2 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) opens up the soundmasters nicely enough that they are now the preferred ways to hear the films over the still-solid DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on their regular Blu-ray versions. Of course, Express is the bigger surprise here since it is a comedy and I could not imagine it sounding better, but Smurfs 2 has a pronounced 11.1 soundmaster and that helps make it more watchable.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Hands and Undertow can show the age of the original recordings, along with the budget limits of the time, but the latter has some more issues and limits, though it is a quiet film often. This is likely the best these films will ever sound, though I was particularly happy with the nice touch of Hands ending with a Crowded House song.

To order the Two Hands Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many other hard-to-get releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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