PictureIf, after unwrapping the movie you feel a little disappointed, the picture quality on this dual layered Blu-ray disc may just put a smile on your face...
Correctly framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080P VC-1, there are times when this disc looks so good, you forget just how bad the film actually is - OK, maybe not that good, but it is reference material...
As you can imagine, being set in the North Pole, there are many scenes in the film that have a lot of white in them. Normally when reviewing discs, I find that if the disc is going to fall down on the picture quality front, it will be in dark scenes - in particular, shadow detail. However, with this disc, we have the total opposite. White scenes contain a lot of detail as well. If your system is incorrectly calibrated, you can “crush” the white detail and things will disappear from the screen. If you have one, I would recommend that you run a calibration disc before watching this movie to ensure this doesn't happen to you.
What we do have on this disc though is an astonishing amount of detail. Colours are extremely bright and vivid. They are solid with no hint of colour bleed anywhere. Video noise in non-existent., as is edge enhancement.
Flesh tones are spot on and all the characters have bright red cheeks to over emphasise the cold of the North Pole. During the odd dark scene, blacks are deep and the disc manages to keep pumping out detail after detail.,
If this disc does have a reason to keep you going back to it, it's to show off the picture quality to your friends. If this doesn't convince them to rush out and buy a Blu-ray player, nothing will. We have a new reference disc.
SoundComing by way of an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 or a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the soundtrack on this disc was always going to struggle to keep up with the picture quality - and to be honest, it does struggle.
That's not to say it's a bad soundtrack. The film is full of Christmas music. In turn, that music has many “Christmassy” sounds in it - sleigh-bells and a choir to be more precise. The top end is spot end and each and every bell and chorister can be heard.
The fact that I'm waxing lyrical about the score to the film may tell a story on its own...whilst there appears to be plenty going on screen, the soundtrack fails to back it up with any authority. There's very little use of the LFE channel apart from in the one or two big set pieces.
Surround effects are also few and far between - but when they are used, it is to good effect. On the odd occasion that the soundstage does let rip, it all sounds a little like Tim Allen's and Martin Shorts performances - reigned in.
Dialogue is anchored to the centre channel and is clear and concise. Separation is absolute so there is nothing wrong with the sound engineering...maybe it was kept subdued because of the target audience. Anybody here have a five year old with a high-end system in his or her room...?
ExtrasJust like Santa himself, the extras package on this BD-J Java Enhanced disc are something of an illusion. What appears to be a bulging Harrods Santa's sack turns out to be more of an Arndale shopping centres job - complete with false beard and wig...The following are Blu-ray exclusive extras.
Feature Audio Commentary With Director Michael Lembeck is first out of the sack. Wow! And I thought I was boring! If your Christmas dinner doesn't send you off to sleep on Christmas afternoon, run this track and you'll be out like a light. OK, it's fast paced with very few gaps - but it's full of remarkable uninteresting titbits that you are probably better off not knowing...
The Tour Of Elfsberg is nothing more than an opportunity to show off the BD-J java Enhanced features of the disc. Select this and you'll be taken on a tour of Santa's grotto and end up being snowballed for your troubles. It's a very pointless exercise and to make things worse, once you select it, there's no going back...you have been warned.
Deck The halls is a half decent attempt of utilising the BD-J feature that may well trip up your player in the first place. Aimed squarely at the little people (and I don't mean elves!), it lets you decorate a room and Christmas tree using your remote. You can save your effort to show your friends over a Christmas drink...and let them ridicule you to their hearts contempt!
Movie Showcase selects what the makers think are the best scenes from the movie for you to show off your system again.
The remainder of the extras are a direct port from the SD DVD and come in as follows...
A Blooper Reel (2.58) shows the usual fluffing of the lines and people breaking down into fits of laughter. There's another one of these over the closing credits.
An Alternate Opening (3.43) that really wasn't that different from the one used in the movie...still, makes a change from an alternate ending...
Jack Frost & Mrs Clause: A different look (4.02) shows how, after two days of filming, the production was closed down to change the looks of the two characters. It actually was for the better if I'm honest...
The New Comedians: On set With Tim and Marty (2.59) is an all to brief look at how good the two main stars go together - most of which appears to have been cut from the final movie. Go figure...
Creating Movie Magic (4.03) is a bog standard special effects vignette.
Christmas Carol-oke is a selection of Christmas songs that you can sing along to - the problem is, there's not a complete song here. Just the first couple of lines of each tune. Pointless exercise.
Greatest Time of The Year Music Video by Ally & AJ. No, I haven't heard of them either...
While it may appear to you that I have my best scrooge head whilst writing this review, if you add up the featurette timings, it comes in at just over twenty minutes - and that includes the music video. I'm sure the BD-J extras will soon lose their novelty - particularly outside of the festive season.
For the BD-J Java enhanced features, I suppose they have to start somewhere and I'm pleased to announce that they all worked on my Japanese PS3 without a hitch. But in the end, it seems that Disney have been a bit tight in the extras present department on this particular disc.
VerdictThe amount of sequels, prequels and threequels that Hollywood is churning out lately is proof that they have run out of ideas. The one original film that they do produce for this festive season, The Golden Compass has turned out to be a complete turkey. It would appear that this year is not unique in that quarter. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause was released in theatres last Christmas and was received by the public and critics alike with less enthusiasm than a young three year old on his first visit to Santa's grotto. Aimed squarely at the younger generation, adults may get a little agitated watching this and may well be told off by their children.
As a Blu-ray disc, it's a mixed sack. The picture quality is sublime throughout and is the new reference disc. Blu-ray seems to be getting better with every disc I watch if I'm honest - and it's because of this that I with-held the ten out of ten mark. One day, the definitive disc will come along that cannot be bettered - until then, this gets a very solid nine.
Graced with a very ordinary LPCM 5.1 lossless track, this disc is never going to get you in trouble with you home buildings insurance company or your neighbours - though it does have its moments, they are few and far between..
The extras package is a bit like opening a present on Christmas morning and finding its last season's football shirt. Full of promise before you open it, but a total disappointment when you try them on. Very nicely disguised by Disney to look like a treasure chest, they amount to nothing more that four or five rather poor vignettes. Add that to the fact that the BD-J Java Advanced features may well trip your player at the first hurdle, and it's a disappointing package and one that I can only recommend as a rental
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