Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Blu-ray Review
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
With an incredibly high standard of animated BD releases hitting the shelves over the past couple of years, it would take a pretty special release to snatch the crown from the Pixar team. Although this release doesn't quite achieve the levels of quality of Pixar's previous releases on BD, it looks simply stunning. The one aspect which really impressed me was that sought after “3D-pop” factor. Almost every piece of CGI food which fell from Flint's machine had an almost tangible quality, as did some of the primary characters. The spaghetti twister, as it lobbed enormous rotund meatballs at the inhabitants of Chew and Swallow, was a high point and really looked as though it could leave the confines of the image and travel into my living room. The image also had a very impressive depth and clarity, which contained some beautiful long shots, such as the meaty storm brewing on the horizon over Swallow Falls.
The colour reproduction is incredible and the range of colours and their vibrancy are some of the best I have seen on BD. The myriad colours of the palette ranges from multi-coloured jelly beans, deep red cherries, magnificent pinky/purple sunsets and a full selection of ice cream flavours. The highlight for me was the climactic explosion, which produced an amazing rainbow of colour. The contrast ratio is also reference quality, with the pitch dark scenes producing some wonderfully cavernous blacks. All aspects of the presentation are handled with aplomb and this is a beautiful looking release.
Unfortunately this transfer falls a little short of top marks as there is simply not enough fine detail on show. Clothing detail is bland and uneventful, which pales in comparison to the likes of 'Final Fantasy: The Advent Children', which contained some wonderful textures. Yes, this flaw is partly to do with the style of animation on the release but in the aggressive animation market a release has to be something very special indeed to get top marks. I also noticed a slight smear of banding on a one of the facial close-ups but I did not notice this flaw at any other points in the movie. A well deserved nine is awarded here.
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' comes packed with a monstrous dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
Right from the opening scenes it's obvious that this is going to be a stellar audio mix. Stereo separation is superb, with various audio effects and various vocal effects moving from left to right sound field with ease. The centre channel also puts on a solid performance but the vocals are not locked to one speaker and frequently roam freely around the listening position.
The surrounds are pretty much constantly active for the duration of the movie, with effects such as rainfall, giant meatballs and a range of other enormously noisy foodstuffs making full use of the surround channels. There are also lots of other scenes worth mentioning, such as the jelly castle scene, where the wibbly-wobbly jelly effects can be heard (and felt) almost continuously. The various explosions of electrical energy from Flint's lab bring forth waves of delightful bass, with the epic food storms bringing some power to the track. The scene where Sammo's fish bowl rolls out of control was another highlight, with superb involvement from all six speakers, as it passed over the listening position.
The entire piece is accompanied by a wonderful score from Mark Mothersbaugh, who has been a firm favourite of mine since his work on 'The Life Aquatic'. His composition is incredibly engaging and suits the piece for the duration, the pace rising and falling in perfect complement to the on screen action. Even the main theme is very catchy and instantly recognisable. There are some excellent instances of surround bleed and stereo reproduction, with the sub springing to life on numerous occasions to deliver very satisfying mid range tonality as well as deeper rumblings (which are more subtly weighted in the mix).
This really is a track to show off your surround system as is a prime example of how good high definition can sound.
The additional supplements, like the main feature, are aimed squarely at the PG market and although there's some interesting content in here, it's a little bit weak overall. As is becoming the norm on animated releases on BD there's also a digital copy of the movie (region free) for downloading to your PC and BD Live, with its usual slew of trailers, also features.
The disc also comes with a commentary track, whose participants include Bill Hader, Phil Lord (writer/director) and Chris Miller (writer/director). The three expand on how the movie was put together and the concepts for the plot and the characters. The director also goes into detail on the animation process, which is mildly interesting. They do say the word “awesome” too many times though and Bill Hader thinks he's a lot funnier than he actually is. They give the talented cast a lot of underserved props (for their performance in this movie) and seem to really enjoy watching their finished product, even though it's not nearly as good as they make out.
Splat Mode - This viewing mode allows the viewer to lob eggs, pie and meatballs at the screen as the movie plays. Pointless but will keep the kids occupied for five minutes.
Flint's Food Fight Game - Another additional feature aimed squarely at the under eights - take control of Flint's flying car and shoot food; I finished the game by staying in the one spot and rapidly pressing the fire button!
“A Recipe for Success: The Making of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (HD 10mins) - The cast and crew explain what the movie is about and expand on all the characters involved. The directors even have a lame “making of meatballs” introduction. There's backstage and post production footage, as well as plenty of interesting content on the animation and design process.
“Key Ingredients: The Voices of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (HD 12mins) - This feature takes a look at the actors behind their animated counterparts. Lord and Miller speak about the characters and how wonderful the cast are. James Caan, Bruce Campbell and Mr. T do feature but only briefly. I found the presentation a little bit self gratifying for my liking and this is another feature that is aimed squarely (with regards to the presentation) at younger audiences.
Extended Scenes (HD 2mins) - Here we have a two extended scenes from the movie, “Elevator Joke” and “Twister”. The former is in unfinished quality and neither is noticeably different from the scenes in the finished product.
Early Development Scenes (5min HD) - This feature offers two very basic storyboard styled scenes, “Flint's Letter to Super scientist Vance LaFleur” and “Twister”, which don't really add any insight into the movie itself.
Progression Reels (HD 8mins) - Visual FX Supervisor Rob Bredow (who worked on 'Spiderman 3') talks us through how the movie was created from conceptual drawings, lighting techniques for the roofless restaurant, the giant meatball cloud, the spaghetti twister and the food avalanche. This is an interesting and worthwhile feature, offering a better understanding of how animators put the scenes together.
Miranda Cosgrave's “Raining Sunshine” (HD) - An awful music video for an awful song; includes an awful behind the scenes feature and even more awful sing-a-long version. So cheesy I nearly puked.
Make it Rain Food - A advertisement for the organisation Feeding America, which wrongly lures viewers into watching it's propaganda by posing as a fun additional supplement on this BD.
Trailers - A collection of HD trailers for 'Open Season 3', 'Bach', 'Planet 51', 'Open Season', 'Open Season 2', 'Surf's Up', 'Monster House', 'The Water Horse' and 'Daddy Day Camp'.
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' was released in 2009 and was directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The cast comprises Bill Hader, Anna Fairs, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T and James Caan. Certainly a powerhouse of vocal talent but the plot is weak and the characters are shallow and one dimensional. In saying that, this certainly is a stunning piece of animation to behold. If a little more time was taken to flesh out the characters and add some depth to the plot, instead of focusing on the “food physics” of the animation process, then maybe this movie would have been something that viewers could have gotten their teeth into. I would have to place this one firmly in the 'Transformers 2' category, beautiful to watch but not much else to hold the attention after one viewing and instantly forgettable.
The audio and video presentation is where this release really comes up trumps. The image is razor sharp, produces some very impressive three dimensionality (even though this release does not feature a 3D option) and some of the best colour reproduction I have seen on a BD release. The audio track is equally as engaging, with constant use made of all available channels. This really is a reference quality mix, which is topped off with a sublime score by Mark Mothersbaugh. The extras package contains some worthwhile features and mini-games but it's aimed squarely at the under ten target audience. As a package this release scores a seven, as it ticks all the right boxes for some decent content, it's just a shame that the feature presentation didn't have a little more substance.
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