DVD Purchasing 101: April Decisions

On a personal level, I hold April 12th as one of those days in me-history that’s helped make me a better person. For the rest of you, it’ll be one of the more interesting DVD-Tuesdays we’ve had in a while.

While I’m sure a number of you can name a good handful of other releases to be looking out for in the coming days, three particular titles have caught my interest: The Incredibles, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and of course The King’s Speech.

But, of course, being a poor college student that still has the decency to buy nice things when he can just so he can say he supports official releases, you can see the problem here. No way in hell would I ever buy all three in one go, but being able to buy at least one of them on release day would be enough to satiate my fanboy needs. So, like all complex conundrums in the world, things would be better if they were split up into easier, more digestible, chunks.

Let’s start off with the easier to deal with of the three: The King’s Speech. As much as I loved the movie (read: “loved the movie before it won for best film”) I will say that as a general rule of thumb, live action movie dramas are one of the first DVD releases to put on hold. As a whole, the expected demographic that would be interested in purchasing such a movie (as demonstrated by the demographic that was in the theater I was watching it in) are older types that aren’t as aggro about the things they’re interested in. And as such, this is without a doubt bound to be one of the better movies that will be getting a price drop in less than a year’s time.

On the complete polar opposite of the spectrum is the release for Deathly Hallows Part 1. WB, especially WB with a franchise as big as the Harry Potter series, absolutely loves milking what they’re presented with. Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure the preceding HP films have at least five different releases, from standard releases, to boxed sets, to combined special edition boxed sets… It’s a franchise with so many different types of releases to choose from that best takes advantage of those aforementioned aggro fanboys with their quick-draw purchases. Add to this the highly likely fact that they will be releasing some kind of Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 set in the near future and this is definitely one of those times when the waiting game will pay off in the (short) long run… though that snazzy $16 Blu-Ray listing on amazon is tempting.

Enter the release for The Incredibles. Pixar has not only made an excellent job with their movies, but have also had an equally excellent track record when it comes to releases for said movies. The Incredibles’ initial release on DVD in 2005 still stands out to me as a release with special features that are just as good as the movie itself—having a commentary that actually keeps me interested throughout the entire movie including the credits definitely says something.

But wouldn’t already having such a release automatically null out any possibility of me daring to double dip with the upcoming Blu-Ray? Not necessarily. For one, I had the misfortune of getting the DVD release in full screen, which would be another beast entirely if you don’t get what the difference in aspect ratio means to film. Furthermore, it’s because of having the older release that I’d even have enough money to pay for this new release in the first place. As much as I hate Disney releases just because of that whole concept of “The Vault” keeping the prices for previous DVD releases at an all-time high, I will say that they do have their bases covered when it comes to double dip buyers. Currently, Disney’s movie rewards site has been giving out $10 discounts for double dip purchases, as long as you’ve got the UPC code for your older purchase, thus finally taking down the List Price in this case from a ridiculous $45 to Best Buy’s alright $25 to a downright cool $15. Of course, this is all relying on the fact that Best Buy will be willing to accept the coupon and all its vague limitations. Generally speaking, Disney/Pixar is fully aware that their films are awesome in smexy true 1080p and have been incredibly stingy with the price tag on most if not all of their releases because of such. So when it comes to getting any kind of deal on those titles, you take it even if it means brown-bagging it and biking to school if you have to. Yes, it’s that important.

… And Beyond-er! Toy Story 3 Spoiler-Free Review

For the last couple months, I don’t think it would be an understatement to say that the hype behind Toy Story 3 is comparable to that of any Star Wars movie. Just the other day I was at Target to find that I literally couldn’t turn a corner without seeing some product from batteries to apples (seriously) advertising the second sequel in Pixar’s Toy Story series. But given the number of “3” movies not exactly coming out at their most spectacular (:coughcough: Spider-Man 3) was all the hype honestly worth it?

Lemme first start off with one particular way the movie has been hyped—in particular to college-aged students. We live in a very strange society in which aspects seen as punishable by excommunication back in the day are now slowly becoming more acceptable, if only slightly. That said, today’s young adults are growing up in a time when aspects of their childhood, from cartoons to toys and videogames are being taken by the media and being re-packaged in a way that is appealing to the type of person they are today. In some senses, the advertising campaign for Toy Story 3 really played up said description, resulting in, well…

I’ll just say that considering how my demographic is seen in the eyes of corporate suits (redundant?), I really, really hate being pandered to.

Besides tangible flyers being put up around select college campuses disguised in forms such as “Now Hiring Pizza Planet Drivers” and “Senor Buzz Spanish Tutor,” college-specific hype drowned the internet, especially on facebook. There, Pixar’s official page would put up trailers for the movie filled with synth/R&B music as well as internet slang seen in the form of a chatroom conversation. Personally, I think the fact that the guys down at advertising think that people my age must be swayed by such dumbed-down advertisement is just insulting and very much works against the messages brought up in Pixar’s films in the first place—a big “for shame” on all of you.

But advertising aside, if the movie’s something to talk about, I guess I can put all that aside.

Entering the theater just a few hours ago, floods of people came in from all ages, covering children, young and old, as well as adults, young and old. Conclusion: college-age-centric ads are a load of, especially for Pixar films which rake in all demographics anyways.

As for the movie itself, it very much lived up to the hype. I would have said “the hype and much more,” but I wouldn’t go that far—it was a good movie that knew its bounds and exactly what audiences wanted from a second sequel movie. With it being a whopping eleven odd years since the release of Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 takes a rough time jump, with Andy about to head off to college and the main cast of toys simply learning to deal. Certain lines and scenes were obviously made to explain what’s happened in the toy’s lives so far, but none of it came off as blatant, all coming off playing up the audience’s nostalgia factor, with mentionings of “the claw” as well as familiar elements such as “Pizza Planet,” the cloud wallpaper from the younger Andy’s bedroom, and a guest-appearance of a certain old character (you’ll know him when you see him). Though, that’s not to say that the film is completely ripe with the nostalgia and the nostalgia alone (this isn’t exactly, Turtles Forever).

While we see a handful of throwbacks and references here and there, the main force driving the film is the story and even moreso the themes surrounding it. In a nutshell, Woody, Buzz and the gang find themselves in Sunny Side Daycare and need to find their way back home to Andy—an alright enough plot that at least makes sense for the toys at this point in their lives. Now while a majority of the themes surround Andy and his ultimate decision in relation to his remaining toys, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the story itself focuses on him. In classic Pixar style, the toys have the center stage, with everything told from their perspective. Having seen better days, the toys are now in a slum of sorts. With their duty as playthings to their owner now long past them, they are at an odds as to just exactly what they’re meant to do next.

While a great deal of new toys have been introduced to the cast, very few of them donate to the overall movie—just a minor gripe. Unlike Toy Story 2, which made full use of its new cast of characters, TS3’s new cast is used more as a stepping stone for the old cast to make use of in their overarching story. Lots-o’-Huggin’-Bear (interestingly hyped up with a fake retro commercial posted up on YouTube) acts as one of the only major characters, and while he has an oddly similar backstory to the last sequel’s new character, Jesse, it’s different enough not to come off as a re-hash.

As advertising for the movie has made a point to demonstrate, the movie tagline this time is “No Toy Gets Left Behind.” With owner Andy having grown apart from his toys, the main cast has shrunken and has no one else to rely on but themselves. That said the point of family and sticking together through thick and thin is played off rather well. Also taking into consideration the time jump for this sequel, certain elements are at an all-time high this time around. We trade in the risk of disappointing a child Andy if his toys aren’t back home in one piece with the risk of the toys themselves in a world where they’re unsure just where they stand in the world now. Without Andy as a cliffhanger-cushioner, climaxes in the story reach their peak, with even the viewers unaware of what’s ultimately in store for the toys this time around.

As a whole, Toy Story 3 acts like any conclusion to a series should, taking its time to calmly work its way through the plot, saving its energy until the very end to deliver a satisfying conclusion for our favorite cowboy, space-ranger and crew.

External References:
– Pixar’s Fan Page (facebook.com)
– Other TS3 Campus Fliers (DaemonCorps’ Photobucket)

… And Beyond! Toy Story Blu Ray Reviews

As of this writing, my local Fry’s is having a deal on Toy Story and Toy Story 2: $20 each, or buy both and get an additional $10 removed—that’s $30 (~$32 with tax), or $15 for each movie… on Blu Ray! Considering how both releases have both the DVD and Blu Ray version of the movie (that’s a rant all its own) and that the retail price for each release is $40, I must say two things: 1) buy both releases on Blu Ray now, (even if you don’t have a Blu Ray player, you still get a DVD copy of the movie); 2) I can actually do a somewhat early review of the releases… at least early in comparison to most stuff I review.

For the uninitiated, there was actually a time when CG wasn’t the norm for a majority of things. That said, Pixar was the first group of people to create a movie that was entirely CG in the form of their first full-length film, Toy Story. And unlike its quasi CG predecessors (like, oh iunno :coughcough:TRON:coughcough:) Toy Story actually holds up over time, not using its nifty graphics as a crutch for the story, but as a different means to express itself.

The plot of both movies (and based on trailers, the upcoming third one as well) revolves around the concept of toys “coming to life” when the humans aren’t around, and goes off from there covering just exactly what a typical toy goes through on a normal basis, and in particular the role they play to their owners and how that role changes as their child owner grows up. I honestly can’t say more than that since well… if you honestly haven’t seen these movies yet, then for shame.

Now being the head honchos when it comes to CG movies, Pixar has always gotten the better end of the stick when it came to Disney releasing their films to DVD. That said, both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 have already been released to DVD five years ago for the first movie’s 10th anniversary.

… so is it really worth making the double dip purchase?

Honestly, when it comes to movies of this caliber, I say that re-buying the movies is perfectly fine. Then again, I was too cheap to get the DVDs when they first came out.

Both the DVD and Blu Ray menus have a theme focusing more on the behind the scenes stuff than anything else. And while this doesn’t lead to any compromising of the movies themselves (both the Blu Ray and DVD versions of both movies are crystal clear), it does make it clear that these releases were trying to appeal to the double dip customers with “ooh, look, new special features!” In terms of new special features, however, they are somewhat shallow. Besides an audio commentary track, both films have a handful of new things, going into slightly more detail about the production of the movies, including some personal stories some of the staff went through during the production of each movie in the form of a cutesy doodle-style animation.

And while seeing Pixar’s creative process in action is something I never get tired of, I have to admit that these new special features seem to be more of a last second tag-on than anything else.

The one new bit of information I was glad to see was the “Black Friday” animatic that made Disney threaten to shut down production of the first Toy Story. I would always hear Pixar staff talk about how bad Woody was originally in other Pixar special features, but it wasn’t until now that the actual animatic has been released… and for good reason. Man, Woody was a douche.

… and for those wondering about the special features on the original 10th anniversary DVD releases, the guys at Pixar were nice enough to also include all those in this new release as well for the non-double dippers out there. Sadly, they can only be accessed from the Blu Ray discs, and not the corresponding DVDs packaged alongside them (could they possibly be included in these DVDs coming out in May?), but that was probably done more so to further push for Blu Rays being the future, which is something I’m not surprised Disney would pull off.

Conclusion? Pixar never seems to disappoint, both in their movies and their home releases. And considering that the Fry’s deal for both movies on Blu Ray is good until November, I say you have no excuse to pick both of these up. Now.

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