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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Toy Story 2 3D / 2D Blu-ray Review

From the filmmakers behind Finding Nemo, Cars, and Up comes the celebrated comedy, Toy Story 2.  Watch your favorite characters jump off the screen as you rediscover the humor, heart and friendship of this hilarious adventure that goes to infinity and beyond in astonishing Disney Blu-ray 3D!  Enter Disney and Pixar’s incredible world with Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Bullseye in the movie that shows us what being a toy, and a friend, is all about.  This must-have comedy classic is the perfect addition to your Disney-Pixar collection, and, now on Disney Blu-ray 3D, you can get closer to the fun and excitement than ever before!  It’s magic in a new dimension.  While Andy is away at cowboy camp, Woody is toynapped by Al McWhiggin, a greedy collector who needs Andy’s favorite toy to complete his “Woody’s Roundup” collection. Together with Jessie, Bullseye and the Prospector, Woody is on his way to a museum  where he’ll spend the rest of his life behind glass.  It’s up to Buzz, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex and Slinky Dog to rescue their friend and remind him what being a toy is all about.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)  

The film opens with a bang as we finally see Buzz Lightyear  (Tim Allen) actually being a space ranger.  Buzz is flying through space to find his nemesis The Evil Emperor Zurg’s hidden base. Buzz rockets through a canyon only to find himself trapped by hundreds of killer robots which he dispatches with a nice homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In fact one of the reasons I love this opening is that just about every sound effect is taken from the Star Wars movies and it references a lot of other movies too.  We will understand why when the sequence ends after a battle between Buzz and Zurg who vaporizes Buzz to reveal the “Game Over,” screen and we see that Rex the T-Rex (Wallace Shawn) has been playing a Buzz Lightyear video-game.
By this point, all of the toys are great friends with the difference between Woody and Buzz worked out.  They are the best of friends now and things are going well for the toys despite Andy getting a puppy at the end of the last movie. Andy is preparing to go to to Cowboy Camp and since he always takes Woody (Tom Hanks) with him, Woody is very excited to go.  When Andy does one more round of playtime before leaving for camp, he accidentally rips the seam on Woody’s arm which means that Woody is shelved on the broken toy shelf by Andy’s mom.
This is something that neither Woody or the other toys expected would ever happen and Woody is very depressed since he believes he is finished with Andy now that he is broken.  When Andy and his family return, his mother has a yard sale and collects all of the broken items including a toy penguin named Wheezy, but she spares Woody since she knows how much he means to Andy. While Woody is relieved that he wasn’t junked, he still can’t allow another toy to be sold and bravely tries to rescue Wheezy from the yard sale.  Woody succeeds in smuggling the penguin out of the yard sale, but is accidentally found by a rotund toy collector (Wayne Knight) who immediately recognizes Woody and his collector item status.  After he is rebuffed by Andy’s mom when he tries to buy Woody, the toy collector distracts her long enough to steal Woody and run off without her noticing.
While Andy’s mom may have missed the theft, the other toys including Buzz Lightyear saw it all and Buzz immediately attempts to rescue Woody but he is unable to free Woody from the toy collector’s car in time.  Returning back to Andy’s room, the toys join forces to try to figure out the identity of the the thief and they suddenly figure out that the man is named Al because he stars as a chicken for his toy store Al’s Toy Barn commercials.  With Etch-A-Sketch quickly drawing the map to the store, the toys now have the location of where Woody is being held and they mount a rescue mission with Buzz in the lead.
For Woody, being kidnapped is an eye opening experience since he discovers in Al’s apartment that he is a collector’s item and that he once was a star on a western show for kids a long time ago.  Al is planning on selling Woody along with the other toys from the show as a complete set to a toy museum in Tokyo, and Woody meets all of the other toys.  There’s his former horse Bullseye, a yodeling cowgirl named Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer).  The other toys that Al has finally found Woody and completed their set since it means they will no longer be stuck in storage and will be on their way to Tokyo.
At first, Woody is happy to learn about his past and his new friends but as soon as he hears about Tokyo he wants nothing to do with it since he wants to return to Andy and his friends.  Fairly soon he discovers that one of the other toys will do just about anything to force him to remain part of the collection.  In the meantime, the rescue team makes it to Al’s Toy Barn where they are assisted by Tour Guide Barbie (Jodi Bensen).  When Buzz spots the latest version of the Buzz Lightyear toys, he can’t help himself from trying to take one of their new utility belts which gets him caught by one of the other Buzz dolls and he’s strapped in a box while his friends mistake the new Buzz for the friend and they continue on their mission.  Of course Buzz escapes and goes after his doppelganger and  his friends to help rescue Woody from the clutches of the evil collector. What Buzz doesn’t realize is that the toy store also has The Evil Emperor Zurg in stock who also escapes and begins hunting down Buzz.  It won’t be long before all of these conflicting interests will intersect with each other and it will take all of the toys’ bravery to overcome these serious odds.
This is my favorite Toy Story movie because it’s perfect in just about every way possible.  It has a lot of humor, a lot more action than the other two movies, and a lot of heart which is what really makes this series work.  This is a movie about friendship and the lengths that friends will go to help each other.  I love how each Toy Story movie builds on each other and raises the stakes each time.  By the end of Toy Story 3, the stakes will appear to be insurmountable and that ending works as well as it does because of how well the first two movies made us care about these characters. There’s a reason that Pixar is so successful and that’s because of the way they develop their characters and their relationships with each other.  This is also the first time we learn that not all toys are as nice as Andy’s toys which also sets up the events in the third movie.
This is a movie about accepting the idea of loss which is something you don’t see in a lot of family movies.  We learn how Jessie was abandoned which only reinforces Woody’s fears that he will suffer the same fate, especially when his arm is damaged. Over the course of the movie, Woody learns that loss is a part of life and how you face it determines your future.  He knows that at some point Andy will stop playing with him and he accepts that when he decides that he would rather spend whatever time he has left with Andy than to run from that eventual fate to avoid the feeling of loss when it happens (which it will in the next movie).  In a touching moment at the end of the movie Woody tells Buzz that he’s no longer worried about what will happen since no matter what they will always have each other for company “for infinity and beyond”.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)  

3D Video (5 out of 5 stars)   2D Video (5 out of 5 stars)

As good as the Toy Story 3D Blu-ray looked, both of these 1080p (1.78:1) transfers are even better. The 3D for this movie works even better than it did for the first movie and it seems as if the movie was conceived with 3D in mind. From Buzz’s flying through space and asteroids to reach Zurg’s hidden base to the shelves containing  Buzz Lightyear toys that seems endlessly long, this is a fantastic experience.  Ghosting isn’t really a problem at all here here and I didn’t really notice any other detractions either.  Detail is absolutely amazing here and so sharp that you can read the title of every book on the broken toy shelf.  The colors are dazzling in their beauty and variety, the black levels are solid, and there’s also excellent contrast as well.  Both versions are reference quality and should make anyone extremely happy and the 3D will most likely create a lot of new 3D fans and spur a wave of 3D equipment purchases. As astounding as these transfers are, it would stand to reason that they couldn’t get any better, but I’m happy to report that by some miracle it does with Toy Story 3!  As a side note, I’ve noticed some sites erroneously reporting my 3D scores as non-existent since I used one score in the past when they were the same quality.  Since they were the same quality-wise, I only used one score but because they assumed it was blank for some reason, my scores were mistakenly transferred incorrectly.  To prevent that from happening again, I’m adding both scores this time even though they both received a perfect score.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)  

Wow. Even hours after watching this, I’m still amazed at how freaking good this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix sounded.  This powerful mix grabs you by the throat as soon as the movie starts and doesn’t let go until it’s over. One of my favorite parts of the movie is the opening sequence and just listening to the titles come onscreen and Buzz rocketing through space and canyons is so good that I kept watching it over and over again.  This is one of those mixes that will shake our house to its foundations and is also guaranteed to get me in trouble with my wife who can feel the LFE across the house.  It’s that damn good!   With crystal clear dialogue coming from the front channels and an active rear channel that is so powerful and aggressive that it transforms the home theater experience into a first hand experience where you are dodging cars with Buzz or escaping a moving airplane with Woody.  Directionality is also amazing with pin point accuracy that adds complete immersion into the movie.  I can’t say enough good things about this demo worthy mix. Throw away your DVD version of the movie and pick this up as just the audio is worth the money alone!

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars)  

As usual, Disney has loaded up the disc with a bunch of special features that contain many that continue on from where they left off of from the first movie.  Once again there’s  a mix of new extras along with all of the previously released extras that are ported over to here in standard definition.  The first seven extras below are in high definition while the rest are in standard definition.
  • Audio Commentary – Another great commentary with Director John Lasseter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and co-writer Andrew Stanton.  They talk about the transition from the first movie to this one and the challenges of doing a sequel as well as the technical achievements made since the last movie.  They also talk about the story and how important it was to go in a new direction while remaining true to the characters and how they tried to develop them even further.  This is a fun and engaging track that I highly recommend.
  • Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Characters – Another peek at the characters to be found in Toy Story 3 which at this point is pretty pointless since the movie has been released already but at the time, it was pretty cool to get a glimpse of the once future movie.
  • Studio Stories – Another collection of humorous studio stories told through animation.  This collection includes “TS2 Sleep Deprivation Lab” talks about the fallout from the first version of Toy Story 2 being dumped; “Pinocchio” offers a look at Pixar’s beginnings; and “The Movie Vanishes”  gives a glimpse of what could have been a devastating loss for the studio if luck and some help hadn’t intervened.
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station – A short that has Buzz and friends show off the space station in an effort aimed and children.  This was a lot like the NASA extra off of the first movie’s extras.
  • Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists – Another look at the paths that some Pixar employees took to reach their dream job at Pixar.
  • Pixar’s Zoetrope – A look at the very cool three-dimensional zoetrope that Pixar created.  I believe you can still see the actual one they built in California Adventures.
  • Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft – This a touching tribute to Joe Ranft who started at Disney and was a indispensable part of Pixar’s success.  He was a story man, a gag man, and also provided voices for the movies as well such as Heinrich the caterpillar in A Bug’s Life.  His life was sadly cut short in a car accident whose loss affected the company because as John Lasseter says, he was “the heart and soul of Pixar.”
  • Making Toy Story 2 – A short look at the behind the scenes process of creating a sequel to the highly successful first film.  A lot of the same ground is covered in the commentary but this is still interesting.
  • John Lasseter Profile – A look at John Lasseter and how his example and influence have made Pixar the success that it is.
  • Cast of Characters – A quick look at the various characters that make up Toy Story 2 for those people that haven’t seen the first movie in awhile.
  • Toy Box – A collection that includes the “Outtakes” that were shown at the end of the film; an Easter egg called “Jessie’s Gag;” a “Riders in the Sky Music Medley;” some “Autographed Pictures,” and a battle between Tom Hanks and Tim Allen over “Who’s the Coolest Toy?”
  • Deleted Scenes – There’s three scenes including a “Deleted Animation Intro,” “Godzilla Rex,” and an alternate version of the “Crossing the Road” to Al’s Toy Barn sequence.
  • Design – A collection of several galleries, 3-D visualizations, and tests in this almost thirty minute extra.
  • Production – A nice collection of featurettes that include “Designing Woody’s Past, “Making Woody’s Roundup, “Production Tour,” “Early Animation Tests,” “International Scene,” and “Special Effects.”  There’s a lot of good info here that’s pretty interesting.
  • Music & Sound – More featurettes but this time they are focused on the the sound and music of the movie.  The featurettes include “Designing Sound,” “Making the Songs,” “Woody’s Roundup Music Video,” and Randy Newman’s demo of “Jessie’s Song.”
  • Publicity - Like the previous movie, this extra details the many advertising efforts to promote the movie.  The collection includes a “Character Interview,” two trailers, a bunch of TV Spots, twenty different posters that were created for both domestic and international patrons, and an animated stadium ad titled “Baseball Woody.”
  • Maximize Your Home Theater – A video and audio calibration tool to help you set the correct levels for the ideal presentation.
  • BD-Live

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars) 

This is my favorite Toy Story movie so I am little biased in favor of it.  It’s full of action, adventure, humor, and a cold dose of reality that makes the sweeter stuff even sweeter.  The cast does another incredible job in their roles and combined with a fantastic script and direction, this movie really couldn’t lose.  Now that this has been packaged with a new 3D transfer that looks and sounds perfect, this movie is even better and can safely be categorized as a must own title.  Pick this movie up and you won’t be disappointed!
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