The disc contains both the 2D and the 3D version of the film, presented in its theatrically correct 2.4:1 aspect at 1080p full resolution (L/R eye) - you, obviously, need the full 3D set up to enjoy the latter version.
This film was the second one made, at the time, with Sony’s REAL D's digital 3D format and, as such, was always meant to be seen in 3D. Therefore the 2D version never seems quite right. It is clean, bright and colourful but is also a little soft and lacking the depth or punch of other computer animated films (particularly Pixar). The pallet is warm imbuing the autumn tones with a lush balmy hue and once in the house the ‘evil’ reds and greens come across with some good depth. Contrast is well developed and blacks are glossy and deep, the animators allowing some shadow detail when needed. In all it’s a good image but one that doesn’t really stand out from the crowd.
However, we are here for the 3D, so let’s get on with that.
The 3D effect is immediate with the bright red credits floating on a sea of black. The opening scene follows a leaf through branches and over roof tops and here too is some very nice depth to the field of view, we then zero in on the little girl, who is suitably solid against the fence behind her. There is no doubt, this is impressive stuff. The filming style is not one of ‘in your face, pointy at the screen’ effects, it is far more subtle that that, relying on a depth of field which as far more natural. Look at the low shots of grass up close, waving in the wind, then look way off into the distance, or look at the branches of the trees overlooking the neighbourhood and you'll notice individual branches giving depth to the tree in the foreground and each successive level moving into the frame provides its own depth far into the background, which - in some cases - goes as far as the eye can see.
Some shots are particularly impressive - I found the shot when the house first wakes up, where the camera takes you flying up the chimney, and through the smoke overlooking Nebbercracker as he is being taken away; a simple shot but extremely effective – another was when our heroes and Nebbercracker are running from the house, it is a long shot down an alleyway and the kids run from left to right across the screen, again, extremely simple but massively effective. In fact, as stated above, most of the film looks this way, simple but very effective 3D effect, be it looking through a bottle at the House, or atop a crane swinging on the hook, or looking all the way down the House’s ‘throat’, or getting a good ‘tongue’ lashing!
No, there is no denying the effectiveness of the 3D. The problem comes with the standards and brightness issue. As most will already know there are no set standards for 3D viewing (even though THX have certified one set, these are, as yet, unknown parameters) and to get the 3D effect you need light – a lot of light, since you are looking through dark glasses. To overcome this, TV sets default to ‘standard’ mode which, when looked at normally is unbelievably garish and bright. However with a little user tweaking it can be tamed to something much closer to ‘standards’ but you cannot escape the light issue. So, where does this leave us? Well colours remain bright and deep, the same autumn hues are still available, the primaries are still as lush as ever they were. No problem there. But, blacks do suffer. This is unfortunate, but at this moment in time is a by product of the technology as it stands now. Blacks do tend towards grey at times; remember when I said the bright red credits float on a sea of black, well that still stands, but the black is not kuro, it’s more typically LG (obvious from the set I’m using), and that is not a slight on the TV, it highlights the limitation of the technology at this time. Also to gain the full emersion you have to watch in a near ‘bat cave’, something else which goes to highlight how bright the black can be. We are just never going to see those impenetrable blacks at this technological point in time. Perhaps the future will hold something different – let’s hope so.
With all that said, blacks are remarkable efficient, there is plenty of depth, even in the bowels of the house - look at the mountain of toys receding far into the distance, or the night time chase sequence on the building site. Shadow detail is once again visible when the animators wish to show it which serves to push the blacks deeper again.
Detail level is very sharp, I’d say more so than the 2D version, with sharp edges, skin and weathering defects highlighted by the animators tools really adding a realism to the image, despite the caricature nature of the characters.
As to digital problems, I didn’t notice any edge enhancement or banding issues, there was, however, a few instances of crosstalk, predominately with the credits or some of the faster moving scenes which was noticeable but nothing too distracting and in a suitably dark room this is mostly eliminated.
In all this is a superb entry into the 3D realm highlighting all the benefits of the technology in one action packed picture.
The disc contains an incredible amount of sound tracks; I will concentrate on the English DTS-HD master 5.1. One thing this disc always had going for it was an immersive surround track and that has been replicated here. Going back to that opening scene again we have wind and leaves and tricycle squeaks, peddling and singing all coming at you in one absorbing ambient wave. Not effects for the sake of effects, but a natural immersive front emanating from wherever the action is happening. When the girl gets trapped on Nebbercracker’s grass, the picture follows the leaf, the sounds says behind and to the right, where the girl now is. Simple effects like this happen throughout the film, when Nebbercracker is shaking D.J. we hear Chowder, frantic, behind us to the left, quiet but audible, as it would be naturally. Then we have the wonderful surround effects in the House, when the kids are swallowed, down the throat, deep and gurgling, terrific stuff!
Dialogue is natural sounding and given directionality when needed. There is plenty of depth and dynamics, with some hefty bass action when called for – the House makes plenty of use of the LF channel. The score is absorbing, light and frantic, when needed and clearly audible within the fabric of the track, never over powering the action, nor too light to be ignored. This is a wonderful surround track and deserving of a reference score.
Just a quick note about the subtitles - they to are presented in 3D, which is pretty cool!
With the exception of two 3D sneak peaks, the extras are replicated from the earlier DVD and Blu-ray incarnations; as such I replicate my original musings:
- The Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs scene is when the hamburgers first fall from the sky at the successful completion of the experiment – it is a bright and colourful picture with plenty of depth and a huge variety of 3D related goodness, each hamburger, as they fall, right in front of the screen to way, way in the distance develops a huge amount of depth. This is particularly effective from the low shot looking over the jetty as the two characters ‘dance’, the burgers fall, like rain, the lapping of the water and the distant clouds all develop a fully immersive picture.
- The Open Season 3 scene is when the animals band together to take on the hunters, when the skunks being held by the birds fly in formation and spray their victims is another very effective looking scene, along with the movement of the grass during the debagging and finally the charge of the stags, again shot from above gives a long distance shot that shows plenty of depth.
First up is an audio commentary by the 'film makers', but that's pretty much all I can tell you since no one actually introduces themselves. I think there are four, but there maybe one more, or one less. Anyway all are recorded separately and then edited together; the worst kind of commentary as you loose all the banter of a group. As it is there is some fairly static information given about various sections of the film making procedure, casting, acting in the suits, animation style etc, but it is all delivered without much enthusiasm and made worse by the pauses. I'd avoid.
Next up is a series of featurettes under the heading Inside Monster House, each entitled Imaginary Heroes, Beginner's Luck, The Best of Friends, Lots of Dots, Black Box Theatre, Making It Real, Did You Hear That that can thankfully be watched all together with the play all function. It runs for about 20 minutes and covers most of the aspects of the film. Each segment has interviews and behind the scenes film, but also lengthy excepts from the film itself, in the end it felt rather light.
The Evolution of a scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker section starts off with a three minute featurette explaining the steps needed to reach the final frame, from story boards through to animatics to performance capture; there is then the title scene that can be viewed from any of the six 'angles', the final one being the best as that has all the steps at the same time.
The Art of Monster House - Photo Gallery is an uncountable number of pictures from concept to finished product.
So, nothing really new to entice you to buy, but then the selling point of this disc is the 3D and that alone is worth looking into.
It looks like 3D is here to stay. With massive amounts of money being pumped into the technology this can only get better and better.
Sony are pioneering the content side of things with this feature, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (review pending) and later Open Season 3, and we hope to bring you as much content as we can.
As for Monster House, coming from Sony on this Region Free disc, it is a solid story, foot firmly entrenched in the horror camp and one that is especially creepy coming up to Halloween as we are. I still have some reservations about the character of Nebbercracker, acting out a part he may be, but he is so awful to the kids that trespass I’m sure he’d have been put on some sort of register if this were real life. As a story, though, there is nothing particularly original here, but it is displayed with such gusto, with the lead characters having such good chemistry together, one cannot help but be swept along with the madness of it all.
As a 3D film there is nothing to complain about, it is a fully immersive picture that doesn’t spend it’s time on gimmicks but rather plays it naturally, giving huge depth to the picture, which is one that you can, if you want to, get lost in. Picture and sound combine to give you that fully immersive experience. As a disc the extra content has little to expound upon, but as a value disc there is little to complain about – 3D needs content and this is the right way to show off what it can do.
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