"Gnomeo & Juliet" Blu-Ray Review

gnomeo
Tangled  

Company: Touchstone Pictures
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Running Time: 84 minutes
Buy It: Amazon.com
Official Site

Plot Summary

gnomeoandjulietThe greatest love story ever told, starring…garden gnomes? In the upcoming “Gnomeo & Juliet,” Shakespeare’s revered tale gets a comical, off-the-wall makeover. Directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”) and showcasing both classic and original songs by Elton John, the film features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as Gnomeo and Juliet, who have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. But with plastic pink flamingos and thrilling lawnmower races in the mix, can this young couple find lasting happiness? (from MovieWeb.com)

Film Review

When Touchstone Pictures released Gnomeo and Juliet to theaters earlier this year, the film flew a bit under the radar, so it’s kind of surprising to see the home entertainment release get stamped with Disney’s name on it (Disney is the parent company of the Touchstone imprint). However, after viewing Gnomeo and Juliet, it’s obvious why the movie isn’t an official Disney release. Adapting William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for children isn’t an easy task, and Gnomeo and Juliet does its best to do so in a family friendly way, but director Kelly Asbury (the guy who brought us the excellent Shrek 2 alongside a couple other directors) somehow manages to get an animated film of PG-rated quality under a misleading G rating.

gnomeoandjuliet
Gnomeo and Juliet will probably connect with a young audience best, but Asbury is definitely hoping to win over some parents with the edgy tone of the film. Some of the comedy is pretty risque at times (well, for a G-rated film at least) and I even picked up one usage of the word “d*mn” when I had the Blu-Ray’s subtitles turned on (typically you shouldn’t find a single profane word under the “G” banner). It’s also just a bit more than bizarre to have an animated film that has its cast of characters entirely consisting of… garden gnomes. It’s something you can get past as you watch the film — and something that grows funnier when you realize how fragile the ceramic characters are — but the approach is very Toy Story meets Over The Hedge, with less effective results. You start to feel like you’ve seen this idea before and it was done better. The other problem is that the script just isn’t quite smart or sharp enough to strongly pull it off. Maybe that has to do with being limited to contemporizing a Shakespearean work, but in the end, the movie isn’t really all that funny and isn’t all that memorable.

In all fairness, Gnomeo and Juliet is a cute film. The thing it has going for it most is some really fantastic animation. It’s not the absolute best I’ve seen, but it’s very good and several moments (especially when water is involved) really impressed me. Also, the voice acting is good. Emily Blunt and James McAvoy are charming as the title characters, while Michael Caine does what he does best in his role and Jason Statham is appropriately menacing as the evil Tybalt. However, my personal favorite is Disney Afternoon cartoon alumnus Jim Cummings (who voices Tigger and Winnie The Pooh these days) who channels his Don Karnage voice from TaleSpin for the lovable pink flamingo Featherstone. Finally, Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men) has a great cameo as a statue of William Shakepeare who warns Gnomeo that his love affair with Juilet won’t end well. But since this is a children’s film, you can bet that things will get a happy ending despite its source material.

gnomeoandjulietAside from the aforementioned “d*mn” that I caught in the subtitles, there is no other profane language, aside from the occasional subtle innuendo (like saying someone’s “tulips look limp” or Nanette asking Juliet if Gnomeo’s hat is “big and pointy”). In addition to that, there’s this creepy little male gnome in a onepiece almost-thong bikini and a romantic montage shows Nanette the frog laying on a bed of roses with petals covering her chest and crotch (although her character doesn’t wear clothes anyway, since she’s a frog) like the iconic scene in American Beauty. In another scene, a gnome pops out of a washing machine with a large human woman’s bra on his head, and he then uses it like a rope to climb a chair. All of this might sound minor or even silly to mention, but it felt inappropriate and out of place for a G-rated film for “All Ages.” Lastly, there is some violence where a character dies by being shattered (after all, they’re ceramic garden gnomes) and another one is briefly believed to be dead. To alleviate the intensity of a character actually dying in the film, we do see the shattered victim all put back together as assembled broken pieces during the celebratory dance sequence at the end (because, of course, every “good” kids movie needs a dance number at the end……. right?).

Again, in all fairness, Gnomeo and Juliet is hardly a train wreck and is still watchable, but the fact remains that there have been better and more clever animated films released in the past year. And with Pixar’s latest venture, Cars 2 and DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 both upon us this summer, it would be best to just save your money to take the kids to see either of those than purchase a copy of Gnomeo and Juliet. It may be worth a rental on a rainy afternoon, but you can skip adding this one to your collection — unless, of course, you happen to be a sucker for garden gnomes.

– Review date: 5/22/11; Written by John DiBiase

 

Blu-Ray Special Features Review

gnomeoandjuliet
As I said before, Gnomeo and Juliet looks fantastic in HD on Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray release comes with a DVD as well, and there are a few extras on the disc for those interested in going a little further with their Gnomeo and Juliet experience. The discs are light on the extras, but let’s take a gander at what one could expect from the Blu-ray disc…

Elton Builds A Garden (5:47) – This short behind-the-scenes featurette talks about how “Rocket Pictures” is actually a company that is co-owned by musician Elton John and how he became involved with the movie after the film company decided to work on it. They also talk about the song “Love Builds A Garden,” which is featured in the most heart-moving moment in the film where the flamingo tells of how the couple who had placed him in their garden had stopped loving each other and separated, and how the song was created for this film. It’s also interesting to learn about how Elton enlisted the help of composer James Newton Howard and how Howard integrated a lot of Elton’s classic songs into the theatrical score.

Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen (1:46) is a very brief video dedicated to Ashley Jensen being chosen as the voice of Nanette. It’s so brief, in fact, that I’m not really sure why they even bothered to include it.

The Fawn of Darkness (1:29) is dedicated to Ozzy Osbourne’s portrayal of the lawn fawn in the movie. It’s interesting to see Ozzy involved in anything for children, really, but he does a good job as Fawn and it’s funny to hear him talk candidly about how easy the job was.

Alternate Endings with Filmmaker Introductions – These are just two different animated storyboard sequences, both very brief, that show a little bit differently how the dance number at the end could go. The one in the finished film is definitely better and I’m not sure it was even necessary to include these on the BD release.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions (42:25) – There are eight alternate and deleted sequences that are included here in animated storyboard form. Each have introductions from the filmmakers and include scratch voice recordings and some film score mixed in. The alternate opening is actually a pretty amusing option for how they were planning to open the film originally. It features these odd occurences of the Reds damaging stuff in the Blues’ yard and vice versa, emphasizing the extent of the feud between the two rivalries. “Featherstone’s Game” is a silly scene where Featherstone tries to get Gnomeo to play a game that he makes up consisting of pieces from a smattering of different real games (like Twister, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Trouble, etc). It was best left out. Another alternate introduction to Featherstone shows him as a complete hippie… and is a mess of an idea. The next scene shows the actual moment where Tybalt destroys the blue gnomes’ prize flower. There’s an extended alternate scene of what takes place after Tybalt gets smashed that runs over nine minutes. It’s over the top – paying homage to CSI where a murder investigation is launched upon the finding of Tybalt’s remains. It makes Gnomeo’s exhile pretty dark and dramatic. The next scene is an elaborate “Wedding Ruse” scene where Juliet plans a fake wedding (and I’m not sure it makes sense). The next scene has the flamingo interrogating a penguin garbage can about Gnomeo (and it features Jim Cummings doing the voice here). It’s silly, but a cute scene. Lastly, there’s a scene where a couple weathervanes help Gnomeo find his way home.

Crocodile Rock Music Video (1:32) is a minute and a half-long music video featuring Nelly Furtado and Elton John doing the film version of “Crocodile Rock” set to scenes from the movie and shots of Nelly and Elton singing in the studio. I’m not really sure why it’s so short…

Overall, the bonus features don’t do a whole lot to build on the film. Little insight is given into the making of the movie and interviews with the main cast are sorely (and clearly) missing. The kids might dig this one, but you can definitely do better in childrens’ entertainment.

John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/22/11)

Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content

. Sex/Nudity: A gnome narrator makes reference to “loins;” A character calls another “illiterate,” but he thinks it means “illegitimate” and responds “my parents were married!”; Nanette tells Juliet that she has “junk in the trunk;” We hear an adult human woman singing the following lyrics to herself: “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?”; A male gnome wears a tiny thong-like bikini that shows part of his butt in the back; Benny crawls into a washing machine and ends up inside a large human woman’s bra. We see it again after he gets out of it; During a romantic montage, we see Nanette the frog laying on a bed of roses with roses covering her chest and crotch (although her character doesn’t wear clothes anyway, since she’s a frog) like the iconic scene in American Beauty; Gnomeo and Juliet try to kiss several times and finally do twice at the end of the film; Juliet tells a gnome his “tulips look limp;” When Juliet tells Nanette she met a gnome, Nanette asks if his hat is “big and pointy.”

. Vulgarity/Language:
1 “d*mn”

. Alcohol/Drugs:
None.

. Blood/Gore:
In two instances, we see some shattered pieces of ceramic which are either the remains of a gnome or believed to be.

. Violence:
During a lawn mower race, Tybalt menacingly tries to run Gnomeo off the road; In another scene, Tybalt flies into a wall and presumably dies; We see a truck nearly hit Gnomeo and then see some shattered ceramic on the street. We later see that it’s a broken pot and not Gnomeo; A huge lawnmower plows through a yard making a large mess of things and then demolishes a tower where two gnomes are, presumably killing them, but we later see that they are OK.

Special Gnomeo & Juliet Extras!

Bonus Clip- Alternate Ending Dance Routine

Film Clip- Terrifirminator

Film Clip- Damage

Film Clip- Featherstone

"Extraordinary Measures" Comes To DVD May 18

“A feel-good, touching and terrific movie.

Believe again in the power of the human spirit.” -Jan Wahl, KRON-TV, San Francisco

“As inspirational and uplifting as THE BLIND SIDE.” -Jeanne Wolf, PARADE

“Harrison Ford’s finest performance in years!” – Scott Mantz, ACCESS HOLLYWOOD

“You feel not only moved, but enlightened. SEE IT!” – A.O. Scott, AT THE MOVIES

Brendan Fraser, Academy Award®-Nominee Harrison Ford

and Golden Globe®-Winner Keri Russell Star in

Extraordinary Measures

Available on Blu-ray™ and DVD May 18

CULVER CITY, CALIF. (March 29, 2010) – Extraordinary Measures, the remarkable film inspired by a true story, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD May 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Brendan Fraser (The Mummy films, Journey to the Center of the Earth), Academy Award®-nominee Harrison Ford (1985, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Witness) and Golden Globe® winner Keri Russell (1998, Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Drama for “Felicity”) star in the inspiring, touching drama about a man who defied conventional wisdom and great odds to pursue a cure for his children’s life-threatening disease. It’s a race against time as John Crowley (Fraser), an idealistic father, and Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), a reclusive medical researcher, battle the medical establishment to find a cure for John’s children before it’s too late. Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas, Starter For 10) directed the screenplay by Academy Award®-nominee Robert Nelson Jacobs (2000, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published for Chocolat), based on the book The Cure, by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Geeta Anand. Extraordinary Measures will be available for $28.95 SRP for the DVD and $34.95 for the Blu-ray.

Synopsis:

Fate and determination push idealistic father John Crowley (Fraser) into joining forces with reclusive medical researcher Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford). Together, this unlikely pair faces impossible odds as they battle the entire medical establishment and time itself to find a cure before it’s too late. Also starring is Keri Russell as Crowley’s wife Aileen. Extraordinary Measures is inspired by the true story about the power of love and faith against impossible odds.

Extraordinary Measures, a CBS Films picture, was executive produced by Ford and Nan Morales (Youth in Revolt) along with an all-star team of producers: Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher (Freedom Writers, World Trade Center, Erin Brockovich) and Carla Santos Shamberg (Erin Brockovich). Extraordinary Measures has a run time of approximately 106 minutes and is rated PG for thematic material, language, and a mildly suggestive moment.

Blu-ray & DVD Special Features include:

· Extraordinary Measures: The Power to Overcome Featurette

· Meet John Crowley Featurette

· Deleted Scenes

Blu-ray Exclusives:

· movieIQ+sync™ and BD-Live™, which connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!

DVD

DVD Catalog # 33526

DVD UPC Code: 0-43396-33526-4

DVD Order Date: 4/15/10

DVD SRP: $28.95

Blu-ray

BD Catalog #35131

BD UPC Code: 0-43396-3513-8

BD Order Date: 4/15/10

BD SRP: $34.95

Artwork and digital clips are available for download at http://www.sphepublicity.com
Visit Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on the Web at http://www.SonyPictures.com

The Blu-ray Disc™ version of Extraordinary Measures is BD-Live enabled, allowing users to get connected and go beyond the disc via an Internet-connected Blu-ray player. Download content, give feedback through an exclusive survey, and register for rewards.

Get rewarded for registering your Sony Blu-ray Discs! The Sony Pictures Blu-ray Club rewards consumers in the U.S. for purchasing and registering BD-Live enabled Sony Blu-ray movies. By accumulating points, members are then able to redeem those points for cool Sony products. Visit http://www.sonyrewards.com/bluray for more details.

“Academy Award®” is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “GOLDEN GLOBE®” is the registered trademark of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

ABOUT SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. SPE is a division of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in more than 100 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.sonypictures.com. For more info on Blu-ray Disc, visit hollywoodinhighdef.com

The Princess & The Frog

princess-and-the-frog

Planet 51

– for not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Jim Cummings
Theatrical Release Date: November 25, 2009
DVD Release Date: March 16, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Buy It: Amazon.com
Official Site

Plot Summary

Princess and the FrogWalt Disney Animation Studios presents the musical “The Princess and the Frog,” an animated comedy set in the great city of New Orleans. From the creators of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” comes a modern twist on a classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose), a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana. (from MovieWeb.com)

Film Review

Last year, Disney returned to hand-drawn animation, after a 5-year hiatus, with The Princess and the Frog. From the first animation cel, it’s obvious that this project was a labor of love from Disney animators who first got into the business due to a love for 2D animation. With the success of Pixar’s computer animated projects and its successors, CGI animation has, sadly, made hand-drawn work a thing of the past. But Disney hopes to bring it back, starting first with The Princess and the Frog.

The Princess and the Frog, from the get-go, has the look and feel of classic Disney animation, but with a bit of a supersized feel. While it’s touted as a return to hand-drawn animation, it’s obvious that some effects are still rendered with a computer, but the characters and the heart still remain hand-crafted. And in the end, we have a modernized classic… Disney style! Set in New Orleans in the USA instead of a far away distant land, our heroine, Tiana, is an American working girl hoping to make a name for her family and unite the people in her city by owning her own restaurant someday. However, when a prince from Maldonia shows up in New Orleans, Tiana’s friend Charlotte hopes to snag his hand in marriage. But local Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier, entices the broke prince and his assistant to agree to accept the villain’s help in turn for riches and prosperity. What results is prince Naveen becoming a frog, while his assistant becomes the prince, giving Facilier prime opportunity to have a puppet rise to power in New Orleans. The story is filled with humor and fairytale elements, but the grounding in reality – a New Orleans setting – makes its villain’s background in Voodoo a little unnerving. All the “magical” elements in The Princess and the Frog are because of Shadow Man’s
Voodoo dabblings with “the other side,” and quite a few truly creepy scenes are born out of this.

And really, the only significant problem with The Princess and the Frog lies in the “Louisiana Voodoo” elements. While the black magic of the Shadow Man paints the Voodoo practices in a negative light, a sort of “fairy godmother” found through a 197 year old Voodoo practicing woman named Mama Odie is more like the white witch of the story (she even wears white, while Facilier wears black). And while the story doesn’t come out and tell kids to practice “good” Voodoo, it’s a little weird to be watching a fairytale that brings a real pagan belief system into its story. Perhaps I’m just more sensitive to this kind of thing as an adult Christian rather than just a child watching a cartoon story, but both my wife and I were a little unsettled by this plot point that we were not aware of going into watching the movie. And throughout the story, we see Voodoo dolls (and one is almost used, apparently to kill an innocent character), a shrunken head, and African tribal Voodoo masks, as well as evil shadow spirits. It all adds up to some intense imagery, the most creepiest being impish, fang-drawn shadows that are likely to scare the socks off of the younger audiences. On the other hand, none of the film’s heroes practice Voodoo or act like they intend to at some point – other than having a sort of Wizard Of Oz hope that Mama Odie could help them out of their troubles in the same way that The Wizard would be able to help out Dorothy and the gang.


Aside from the Louisiana Voodoo plot point, the actual story of The Princess and the Frog is a creative and fun one. The voice talents across the board are fantastic, while the mix of CGI elements and hand-drawn characters is a real wonder to behold. I didn’t catch the film in the theaters, but instead saw it first on blu-ray, and it certainly looks gorgeous in this medium. The colors are vibrant and the animation is crisp. The directors – who also brought us Aladdin and The Little Mermaid – know how to put together an all-star animation team, and you don’t have to watch the behind-the-scenes special features to be able to tell that those working on the film love what they do and believe in this art form. In fact, you can almost get the feeling just by watching the movie that the filmmakers are setting out to prove that there is still a desire and market for hand-drawn works. And The Princess and the Frog successfully proves it through its execution. The film also brings back the Disney musical format and the songs chosen are rather fun. This story isn’t specifically for kids OR girls and the songs help bring a sort of Americana nostalgia to the film too. From ragtime to jazz to even gospel, there’s an array of musical flavors incorporated into this story. I couldn’t help but think of the sadly-banned 1946 Disney film Song of the South that I saw as a kid while watching this one. However, while that movie was banned due to racial stereotypes (which I don’t believe were ill-intended), this film safely avoids any of those stereotypes and, in fact, does a great job uniting the different cultures.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality and end result of The Princess and the Frog. It’s a great Disney fairytale, although parents might want to screen it first to check out the Louisiana Voodoo content for themselves. Also, the shadow spirits make for multiple frightening and eerie scenes, so don’t let the G rating lure you into a false sense of security (it probably should have at least been PG for “thematic elements” or “scary images”). There are plenty of intense moments to take into consideration here. Otherwise, the rest of the story is a fun fairytale that encourages its audience to dream and pursue those dreams to fruition. Hopefully this marks an unending return to hand-drawn animation from the Disney Studio!

Blu-Ray Special Features Review

There are quite a few goodies included on the blu-ray release of The Princess and the Frog. For starters, there are two versions released on blu-ray — one is a single disc version, while the other is a combo that also includes a regular DVD and a digital download copy of the film (the latter of which is clearly the better buy). The blu-ray disc offers the most extra goodies. Besides a brilliant picture for the feature film, the bonus featurettes dive into the making of the animated movie.

The most comprehensive featurette is “The Making Of A Princess,” which takes a look at Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation, the story of The Princess and the Frog, and some of the voice actors (especially Anika, who voices Tiana). The subsequent featurettes dive a little bit deeper into the villain, our newest princess, and the music behind the film. We’re treated to lots of insight into the progression of the hand-drawn animation as well as some of the history of animation at Disney (including old photos of the original “Nine Old Men” who were the very first Disney animators!). The only thing I thought was missing was a little bit more interaction with the voice actors. But I’m, admittedly, a stickler for that. I love to get to know more about who voiced what characters and to hear them talk about their roles. I was pleased to see a little bit of Disney voice actor Jim Cummings talk about his role as firefly Ray, since Cummings has voiced characters in some of my favorite Disney cartoons of the 80s and 90s, including TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck. Unfortunately, it was exceptionally brief, but I was happy to see him in the flesh for a change.

One of the most intriguing featurettes is “Bringing Life To Animation,” which places live action reference footage, involving real actors acting out scenes to give the animators something to work with, side by side with the finished footage from the movie. Two scenes (including a musical number) are featured and it’s just enough to be satisfying without losing the viewer’s interest. And if the behind-the-scenes insights weren’t enough for you, there’s a feature-long version of the movie that allows you to view The Princess and the Frog with a picture-in-picture look at the rough sketches and pencil work on top of the finished product. Of course, this does take away the ability to see part of the actual movie since the rough work is literally shown in the upper corner on top of the feature film, but those familiar enough with the movie already will especially enjoy this bonus nugget. And it’s the kind of thing animation buffs will love.

All in all, Disney does a great job bringing home their return to hand-drawn animation to fans of the film company. Blu-ray is still the ultimate home viewing experience and Disney’s home video release of The Princess and the Frog looks especially great in high definition.

– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/21/10)

Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content

. Sex/Nudity: Charlotte shows some cleavage in her dress, as does Tiana a little bit. In one instance, Charlotte quickly pulls up the top of her dress (adjusting herself), showing a little extra cleavage; As frogs, Tiana and Naveen accidentally lock tongues while trying to catch a bug. They then get intertwined really badly and a firefly comes along and jokes that the two got a bit carried away

. Vulgarity/Language: None.

. Alcohol/Drugs: There are people drinking wine at a party. We see a guy in an octopus costume with each arm holding a glass of wine. He’s visibly drunk and when the alligator runs by, he thinks it’s because of his drinking and pours out the wine

. Blood/Gore: A small African mask talisman is briefly show cutting human Naveen’s finger and we see a drop of blood on his finger for a second. The amulet is then seen with outlines of red in it at different times throughout the film; Dr. Facilier briefly holds up a shrunken head; In Mama Odie’s place, we see a jar with eyeballs floating in it, along with another jar with a set of teeth (like dentures) floating in it; A hunter in the bayou is called “Two Fingers” because he only has two fingers on his right hand (the rest of his hand is wrapped up to make it less obvious or gross)

. Violence: Naveen is tied up, his finger is sliced, and then turned into a frog; We see shrunken heads and such at Dr. Facilier’s place; Three goofy hunters hit each other on the head with logs and fire their shotguns at each other, as well as our animal heroes. One accidentally shoots another in the crotch and we see his heart-shape designed underwear through his torn pants; After the three unintentionally beat each other up, we see one with huge lumps on his face; A man steps on a frog’s tongue; SPOILERS! We see a man dragged away by even spirits into a mask-like opening which, when it disappears, reveals a tomb for that person; A man steps on a bug which leads to its death (but it allows him to be with the one he loves)