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Coraline (2009) Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Image"Coraline" comes from the director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," considered to be one of Tim Burton's best.  While I was never a fan of the latter, the former is a bit more appealing.  Still, there seems to be something lacking from the film for that perfect artistic work.  While Tim Burton did not join in on "Coraline," Henry Selick returns to direct and write the screenplay for this film.  The film is based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.

Having never read the book I cannot attest to the truth of the film as compared with the book.  However, I have the feeling that it faithfully represents the novel.  "Coraline" is the story of a little girl, Coraline (voice by Dakota Fanning) that is taken from her home and friends and moved to a creepy apartment complex in the forest.  Her parents are very neglectful.  Her father appears to be a writer of catalogs, while her mother seems be the editor or proofreader.  They bury their faces in their computers.

Coraline, a typical lost little girl sets out to explore the land.  She runs into a strange boy, Wybie that warns her of the house in which she lives.  On a stormy day Coraline explores the giant house in which lives, carrying around a doll that looks exactly like her, left on the doorstep.  She eventually finds a miniature door, sealed and locked.  After nagging her mother, she finally gets her to unlock the door, only to find a brick wall.  Disappointed she goes to sleep, lost in despair.

However, that night she is lured to the miniature door to find that a passage has opened for her to crawl through.  On the other side she finds herself in the same house but with different surroundings.  It is there that she meets her other parents.  They look the same as her real parents, but they have buttons for eyes.  At first she is scared, but it doesn't take long for her to feel like she belongs.  It is provided with attention and exciting events to see and do.  Each night when her other parents tuck her in she awakes in her real bed with her real parents.

From the first time that she traveled through the door she started receiving obscure warnings about crossing the passage.  Not understanding these warnings she continued her excursions to the other world.  Then, on one visit her other parents want her to stay indefinitely and in order to do that her eyes need to be replaced with buttons.  While being punished she runs into the ghosts of three kids who have previously been tricked by the other mother.  When she finally escapes to the real world it looks as if years have passed, cobwebs everywhere.  Her parents have vanished.  She realizes that the other mother has imprisoned them.  Returning to her other mother she strikes a deal.  If Coraline can find the eyes of the ghost children and her parents then she will be allowed to leave.

"Coraline" is one of the few modern stop-motion animated films.  Like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach" before it, "Coraline" truly shines, even amongst today's modern CGI animation. "Coraline" is presented on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc.  There are two versions of the film on the Blu-ray disc, 2-D and 3-D.  In terms of video quality, the 2-D version is the obvious choice.  The colors are bold and well supplemented by deep and rich black levels.  The black levels are impeccable.  Shadow delineation is picture perfect.  Every detail of the shadowy forest is discernible.  The contrast and brightness levels are also perfect.  Details are nicely represented.  Textures are somewhat hidden by the haze style of the film.  However, this is a stylistic choice and should not be deemed a problem with the transfer.  The haze imagery contributes to the creepiness of the story.  Nevertheless details are quite noticeable.

The film was originally shot in 3-D, so to have such a magnificent 2-D transfer is terrific.  The 3-D version cannot be judged by all the same characteristics as the 2-D version.  In the 3-D version, the colors are limited by the green/magenta 3-D glasses.  Still, the yellow of Coraline's jacket shines through.  The depth is amazing.  It is probably the most clear 3-D imagery of the ones that have been released on the Blu-ray, including the Hannah Montana concert and "Journey to the Center of the Earth."  It beats the 2-D turned 3-D animation of "The Polar Express."  The film doesn't have many audience popping 3-D moments, but the background depth is exquisite.  Foreground and backgrounds are clearly separated.  I thoroughly enjoyed this 3-D presentation, and I'm sure that kids will enjoy it as well.  Props to Universal for including this version on the Blu-ray disc.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The audio is surprisingly tame for such a creepy film.  There are a couple of intense moments, but nowhere near the sound design of "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  The surround channels feel empty, except during those intense moments.  There is rarely ambience in the surrounds.  However, the dialogue is perfectly clean and clear.  It is prominently featured in the center channel.  However, tricky voices do appear in the surround channels, which was a bit startling due to the otherwise limited surround usage.  The LFE channel was too low for my tastes.  The dynamic range doesn't change very much over the course of the film.  Overall, the transfer is fairly solid, but the film's intensity suffers due to the lack of powerful sound.  Nevertheless, the separation between the channels is unbridled.  It was truly surround by air.  For this reason the audio track gets bumped back up one half of one star.

Universals gives a pretty in-depth package in the Blu-ray release.  There are two discs in total.  The first disc is a Blu-ray disc that contains the 2-D and 3-D versions of the movie as well as the special features.  The Blu-ray disc is enabled with Universal's U-Control feature.  This function contains a Picture-In-Picture track, which allows you to watch the film along with the animatic, in addition to interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.  Also in the U-Control section is a section of voice sessions, allowing you to watch the actors speak their voice for their character.  The film comes with a feature audio commentary by director Henry Selick and composer Bruno Coulais.  This is a decent audio track but not as exciting as I hoped for.  There are four features that are presented in high definition.  First there is a collection of deleted scenes accompanied with director introductions.  "The Making of 'Coraline'" consists of several sections, each discussing different animation spects.  "Voicing the Characters" contains footage of the actors during their voice over sessions.  Lastly, there is "Creepy 'Coraline'" contains some brief footage with author Neil Gaiman.  The disc is also enabled with BD-Live and D-Box functionality.

Also included in this package is a standard DVD with the film, which doubles as a Digital Copy disc of the film.  Inside the packaging you will also find four pairs of green/magenta 3-D glasses.

"Coraline" is not as scary as "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  However, the film is creepy and might frighten the little ones so be cautious as a parent, despite the PG rating.  The video quality is impeccable on both the 2-D and 3-D versions of the film.  The audio track is not quite perfect but this is more due to the sound design than they transfer.  I would have to recommend this disc no questions asked.

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