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Blu-ray Reviews: Coraline

Originally published in Sound and Image, May 2010, v.23#06
Last updated 25 February 2012
See below for review of Blu-ray 3D version

2009 - Universal Pictures (Australasia) Pty Ltd
Director: Henry Selick
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., Ian McShane, Aankha Neal, George Selick and Hannah Kaiser

Movie: 4.5 Picture: 4.5 Sound: 4.5 Extras: 4.5

(The following review was published as part of a combined review with 9.)

Coraline and 9 are both science fiction movies made by exceptional talents. But both miss the mark as movies.

How weird that 2009 should have seen two animated movies appear in which rag dolls have a central role. In one of them -- 9 -- the rag dolls are the main, indeed virtually the only, characters. In Coraline, a rag doll modelled after the titular character merely exercises a malevolent influence over her, leading the girl to put her family in danger.

In 9, the rag dolls are in a retro-post-apocalyptic world (modelled on what might have been had humanity self-destructed in the late 1930s). 9, voiced by Elijah Wood (and a small scavenged speaker which is belatedly fitted to him by 2), is the focus of the story. 1 (Christopher Plummer) is the leader who insists they must stay hidden to survive, and uses his massive henchman, 8, to enforce things. 9 challenges his isolationism.

Coraline, meanwhile, is feeling very neglected by her parents, and so is pleased to discover that she has, sometimes accessible though a creepy tunnel behind a locked half-height door behind the wallpaper, an 'other' mother and an 'other' father, who are more demonstrably loving. They look the same as her real parents, aside from the buttons sewed where their eyes would normally be.

9 is animated in the increasingly conventional way of CGI, and surprisingly did not appear to have been released in a 3D format, even though 9 and friends spend a lot of time running away from aggressive skeletal robots whose actions seem tailor-made for leaping from the screen. But its look is somewhat reminiscent of the first half of 'WALL-E'. Not quite as hazy to be sure, but still adequately conveying decrepitude and desolation. The picture quality was simply glorious, with nearly 30Mbps lavished on it in VC1 format. The movie seems better than what it is, simply because it looks so good.

The sound -- entirely artificial of course -- does the job well, with good dynamism in parts and well-steered directionality. Both sound and picture conformed to the highest standards, but didn't really advance them. Although distributed by Madman Entertainment, this is clearly a cut-down version of the Universal US release, and it lacks the BonusView PIP element contained in that version, for which it loses half a star for 'Extras'.

Coraline uses stop motion animation, and is shot entirely in 3D as well as for regular presentation. And you get both on the disc.

Don't get too excited: the 3D version uses coloured glasses (there are four sets provided in the box), so while you get depth you lose most of the colour. Coraline's hair retains some blue highlights, and her yellow raincoat is still identifiable as such, but generally the picture becomes largely black and white. The 3D effect seemed more pronounced in the world of the 'other' family than in the girl's real world, and was really quite effective. I would not be surprised to see this disc reissued in a proper 3D version when these start appearing later this year*.

The 2D version was absolutely glorious, with the still photography being used to capture the image allowing a beautifully shallow depth of field, without the grain and such that the otherwise necessary low light levels produce. There was one irritation: presumably for reasons of economy, the movie makers fairly regularly sketched character movements at 12 frames per second rather than 24. That is, their position was simply duplicated across two frames. There was more of this as movement became slow, presumably in the belief that it is less noticable then. Less, perhaps, but it was still very noticable when the judder would abruptly commence as a movement slowed.

As to sound, the quality was in general very good, as it typically is with such movies, except for the thunder storm. That wasn't very good at all, it was excellent! It was demo material for how a thunder storm should sound in a movie.

* And as it happened, Panasonic 3D TVs when they were first released were bundled with two proper 3D movies, one of which was Coraline.

Running time: 100 minutes
Picture: 1.85:1, 1080p24, VC1 @ 17.24 (17.10 for 3D version)
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 3449kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps; Commentary (Selick/Coulais): Dolby Digital Surround 2/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese, English (Commentary), French (Commentary), Italian (Commentary), German (Commentary), Spanish (Commentary)
Extras: 3D version of movie (colour separation style 3D); 2 U-Control BonusView PIP (480p24, VC1, 1 x DTS Express 24/48 2.0 @ 192kbps); Deleted Scenes (480i60, MPEG2, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 9 mins); 12 Featurettes (480i60, MPEG2, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 52 mins); My scenes; 4 sets of 3D coloured glasses
Restrictions: Rated PG (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graphs were generated by BDInfo 0.5.3. This one is for the 2D version:

Coraline 2D video bitrate graph

These two are for the two PIP streams within the 2D version:

1st Coraline PIP video bitrate graph

2nd Coraline PIP video bitrate graph

This one is for the 3D (coloured) version:

Coraline 3D video bitrate graph

Blu-ray Reviews: Coraline on Blu-ray 3D

Originally published in Sound and Image, May/June 2011 - v.24#06
Last updated 25 February 2012

This remarkably creepy 'kids' movie first appeared in 'anaglyph' 3D on Blu-ray (ie. using colour filters), along with a 2D version. It was also one of the first real Blu-ray 3D titles available, but only to Panasonic TV purchasers for it was bundled with those alone. But now Universal has released it for purchase. If you have the bundled version, I'm told it is identical to the bought one.

This is a stop-motion animated movie, with the action captured natively in 3D through the use of twin HD cameras. It looks gorgeous, except for a slight judder in the motion due to some sequences only being animated at 12fps.

The blank-eyed 'other mum' looks all the more impressively disquieting in 3D than in 2D, and the picture just seemed sharper, somehow, in three dimensions.

It comes with full DTS-HD Master Audio sound, but no special extras at all.

Running time: 101 minutes
Picture: 1.85:1, 1080p24, 3D MPEG4 AVC/MVC @ 29.51/17.62Mbps
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 3449kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Dutch: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps
Subtitles: English
Extras: Nil
Restrictions: Rated PG (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graphs were generated by BDInfo 0.5.7. This one is for the AVC stream:

Coraline 3D AVC stream video bitrate graph

while this one is for the MVC stream:

Coraline 3D MVC stream video bitrate graph

© 2002-2012, Stephen Dawson