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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Holiday > Telefilm > CGI Animation > Animals > Music > A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Lion King 4K (Disney 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/VeggieTales: The Best Christmas Gift (Universal DVD/all 2019)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Lion King 4K (Disney 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/VeggieTales: The Best Christmas Gift (Universal DVD/all 2019)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B Picture: B- & C/B-/C+ Sound: B- & C+/B+ & B/C+ Extras: C-/C/C Main Programs: C-/C/C+

With the holidays arriving, here come a new cycle of family releases and these are three of them, though not as good as one might ask for...

We start with a 'was this a sequel?' Michelle Johnston's A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is yet another entry in what seems like a bottomless pit of would be TV movie comedy/holiday films where everyone is happy and any sadness is quickly solved, this time with Laura Marano as a would-be singer/songwriter and Gregg Sulkin as her live interest. She even meets him when being forced to play an elf in some gaudy Christmas fiasco. Any 'music' is obnoxious and it gets worse from there.

Any humor early on was insulting and condescending and I felt bad for the actors about as much for myself for losing 86+ minutes of my life on this one. Hate to be so negative, but who is this aimed at? Isabella Gomez from the solid One Day At A Time revival is also here, but even her likability and talent cannot overcome the odd/bad teleplay and mess.

Extras include Digital Copy and two behind the scenes pieces in The Looks and Costumes of Christmas Wish and The Mic and The Stage.

Next up is John Favreau's new practically, totally CGI remake of The Lion King 4K (2019) which was a big hit, another of Disney's new live action/CGI remakes of their animated feature film classics and even sports a voice cast of actors I like, including Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfie Woodard, singer Beyonce and James Earl Jones. They had a huge budget, all the songs that made this a hit (a few of which are now standards and maybe classics) and a ton of money to produce it.

So there is money on the screen, talent, the best CGI technology from Disney (and their subdivisions LucasFilm and PIXAR, the latter of which was a spinoff of the former and as part of their split, share all their technical innovations with the former) and the people who made this obviously loved the original, so why does this not work? What happened? Why is it being called soulless and even Elton John just stated his disappointment?

It is because it is too soon, not energetic enough, also has to now compete with the wildly energetic stage version that is constantly touring and has other issues. Favreau, a good actor in his own right, is also a good director, whether an outright comedy/drama (Made) or juggling people and tech well (the first Iron Man film, one of the more cinematic Disney/Marvel feature films, but he loses control of his films to various extents when he is overwhelmed to various extents by tech that he likes, but overwhelmed nevertheless.

No doubt after the opening shot (the only live action shot here, of a sunrise), the rest of the long 118 minutes tries to keep in the same 'Lion Orange' color aesthetic the franchise has ad since day one. However, this remake then puts itself in a corner by not having the color range of the original animated film and that can say this new version is accusing the original of being too colorful, which most fans would disagree with. As well, just because this is intricate CGI animation, it does not mean its technical proficiency makes it superior to the older original.

Why? Because it has lost the naturalism the original still has over this version. The makers are totally consistent with the style chosen to their credit, but I kept watching and asked why this was so problematic. Then it hit me. There is no flowing hair, flowing plants or anything else you would see in the wild where the wind was unhampered by buildings and even larger mountains. The result is that these characters are living in a nature and wild where there is no summer breeze or any other breeze, the hair of the characters hardly moved because they are all somehow pre-groomed (how? A secret species of animal beauticians?) so it also implies there is only so much oxygen in this world, so no wonder the critics of it feel a bit suffocated.

Then this extends to an unexpected issue, how the mouths look when they move to the voice actors. I never bought this either and it looks phony, so much so that it reminded me of an upscale version of poorer 1960s animated TV where the mouths hardly moved. All together, that makes this one of the oddest and strangest CGI productions of any kind I have ever seen. Thus, if you are interested and have not already seen it, this is what you get along with new performances of the songs that did not work that well to me either. Now you can see for yourself if you want.

Extras include Digital Copy, plus (per the press release) DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Pride Lands Pedia - Dung beetle shares the importance of his 'roll' in the African Savanna in a fun, bug's eye view of the land and its inhabitants. The Blu-ray adds...

  • The Journey to 'The Lion King' -

    • The Music - Go inside the studio with the cast and crew as they work to honor and elevate The Lion King's beloved music.

    • The Magic - Discover how the filmmakers blended the traditional filmmaking techniques with virtual reality technology to create amazing movie magic.

    • The Timeless Tale - Filmmakers and cast reflect on the story that has moved generations and share how this Lion King carries a proud legacy forward.

  • More to Be Scene - Recording studio and layer-by-layer progressions of some of most iconic moments in 'The Lion King.'

    • 'Circle of Life' - Peel back the layers of effects and go behind the scenes of this iconic musical moment from the film

    • 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King' - See all the effects, talent and fun that went into creating this vibrant version of 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King' for the movie

    • 'Hakuna Matata' - Join Donald Glover (Simba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and Billy Eichner (Timon) in the studio for the making of this memorable scene.

  • Music Videos

    • 'Never Too Late' (lyric video) by Elton John

    • 'Spirit' performed by Beyonce Knowles-Carter

  • Filmmaker Introduction

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary by Director Jon Favreau.

  • Song Selection

    • 'Circle of Life'

    • 'I Just Can't Wait to be King'

    • 'Be Prepared'

    • 'Hakuna Matata'

    • 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'

    • 'Spirit'

    • 'Never Too Late'

and Protect the Pride - Director Jon Favreau, the Lion Recovery Fund and conservationists highlight efforts to protect the majestic lions and their home.

Finally, we have a program that is also all CGI, only an hour long and with a much lower budget, but VeggieTales: The Best Christmas Gift (2019) is the best release here by default, a half-decent, latest entry into a very long and successful series that has always been amusing, child-friendly and not bad overall. There is limited repetitiveness in these programs and they are pleasant enough and do not hit the viewer over the head with anything. This is in line with that.

Like the Cinderella release above, the characters here (regulars from the franchise) are trying to put on a show at a theater, but what a difference. This one is not insulting, loud, obnoxious and unfunny when it tries to be funny. It just is funny in a regular way without trying so hard. Though it still plays like a lesser Charlie Brown Christmas like all these shows do, but this one is watchable. It might still be for fans only, but those unfamiliar with these characters have a decent introduction with them here if interested.

Extras include a trailer, music remixes and audio commentary.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the film, the 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.78 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Lion King is the best performer here, though it was actually issued in choice theatrical screenings in better 12-bit color Dolby Vision. This still plays well enough, but is not the best CGI on 4K I have seen no matter what. Definition is solid for the most part, but it has minor flaws. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray has more motion blur and more of the flaws I see in the 4K edition.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Cinderella is not that well shot, has more blur than either Lion King disc and is a little sloppier than the shoot ought to be. This is made much worse on the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the DVD version that is very hard to watch.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on VeggieTales actually looks better as a DVD and has better color all around, though you can see its budget limits.

As for sound, Lion King 4K has sound as its biggest highlight it its Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) soundmix that is far form the best such sound mix I have heard, but it is professionally done just enough to gain its letter grade, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on its Blu-ray edition is not that bad by comparison, though it is still not the greatest soundmix. It also means the poorer music is clearer.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Cinderella is weak and barely has a soundfield, which dissipates even more on the DVD's lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. Flat and boring.

That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on VeggieTales sounding at least as good as Cinderella and is a little more consistent to boot.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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