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A Christmas Carol 3D(2009)
Ebenezer Scrooge begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk and his cheery nephew. But when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye- opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it's too late.
For more about A Christmas Carol 3D and the A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray release, see A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jim Carrey, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman
Director: Robert Zemeckis
» See full cast & crew
A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray Review
Does the lack of Blu-ray 3D releases have you saying "bah! humbug!"? You'll change your tune after spending time with these three-dimensional ghosts of literary past, high-def present, and 3D future.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 15, 2010
God bless us every one!
"Charles" and "Dickens" may be two of the most feared words in high schools around the world. The A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations author has made many an English class the worst of times for students who find themselves struggling to get through his verbose prose and understand the finer points of his stories that lie beyond chaotic revolution and orphan boys. Behind the many pages and small print lies timeless treasures of literature that prove far, far better than the sum of their Cliffs Notes. Vividly-drawn characters, handsomely-realized worlds, and smartly-penned lyricisms are all ever-present companions on every page, and they're the defining attributes of one the author's greatest stories ever told and a seminal Holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol. First published in December of 1843, the story has become a staple of the Christmas season, it's tale of the protagonist/antagonist Ebenezer Scrooge a treasure trove of heart and spirit that sees a man transformed not only out of fear but by the very goodness that lies within him, long since dormant but nevertheless awaiting an opportunity to erase decades of "bah! humbug!" that came to define a man and shape the Christmases of those unfortunate enough to be within earshot of his stilted views of that most cherished of holidays. 2009's A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express), retells the story with a bountiful display of new technology whilst retaining the same old-world charm that's made Dickens' tale a giant amongst its peers, even more than 150 years after its first publication.
It's been seven years since Ebenezer Scrooge's (Jim Carrey, The Truman Show) longtime associate, Jacob Marley, died on Christmas day. The aged Scrooge refuses to acknowledge the joys of the holiday season, seeing it as an inconvenience at best and a money-losing distraction that has no place in the world if he's in a particularly bad mood. Scrooge hordes his wealth, refusing to give to charity, while nearly losing control at the mere thought of spending the holiday with family. Scrooge reluctantly gives his trusted employee, Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker's Dracula), the day off, and heads home to lament the wasted day and pass his time nestled in solitude in front of his fireplace and in his trusty leather chair. Suddenly, he's faced with a frightening figure: the ghost of his old associate, Jacob Marley (again, Gary Oldman), appears before Scrooge covered in chains and, he says, forced to carry a burden that's a physical manifestation of his earthly greed and bad attitude. Marley's spirit foretells the visit of three ghosts -- Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come -- who will lead Scrooge on a personal journey that's meant to show him the error of his ways, and only through his repentance and a changed attitude will he find redemption and a future free of the bonds of misery that will forever haunt his long-since deceased associate.
First, the film's technical prowess. In a word, A Christmas Carol is striking. That the filmmakers have so effortlessly recreated an old-world charm within the digital realm of new-world technology is an amazing feat, and better still is that they've ensured that quality of story has superseded even the pitch-perfect computer effects, effectively bringing the magical Dickens story to life like never before. The London backdrop is splendidly realized; the filmmakers have used shadow and a general lack of vibrancy to reinforce Scrooge's sour outlook on the holiday season to absolute perfection. Better yet, the rickety old locales -- accentuated by overbearing fog, slushy roads, dark clothes, and a generally cheerless atmosphere -- lend an underlying support structure that's obvious in purpose but seamless in presentation. Robert Zemeckis may very well have found the definitive Dickensian-era look for his film; no other adaptation has done so well in that regard, but none of them had the horsepower under the hood and the limitless digital resources to make it happen. It's the seamlessness between the perfect digital throwback world and the way the animation disappears under the importance, scares, charm, and heart of the tale that makes this version so good. Indeed, most elements merely blend into the story; whether the simplest of things like Scrooge's trademark pajamas and sleeping cap or the more complexly-realized ghosts that haunt him, the film manages to perfectly recreate the world of old London while having some fun with the capabilities of CGI and motion capture technology, meshing both with a wonderful telling of a classic tale that may very well redefine how the story is perceived from here on out.
Also of note is Jim Carrey's wonderful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge. Though his live performance may have looked like something out of the Holodeck on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and his digital recreation a bony old codger who resembles Jim Carrey about as much as Danny DeVito resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor's physical performance -- aided by his high-flying, physics-defying, and age-progressing digital helpers -- gives life to the miserly curmudgeon (it wouldn't be a true review of any interpretation of A Christmas Carol without those words) in a way never quite before seen on film. Carrey certainly owes the digital artists an assist, but his unique brand of physical humor and ability to lend quite a bit of genuine heart and emotion into his performances make him the perfect choice for the dour penny-pinching geezer. With the ability to rework his efforts into a perfectly-realized digital creation that replaces Carrey's looks -- but not his acting -- with Scrooge's toothpick legs, bony old fingers, elongated nose, and jutting chin, the proposition seemed like a can't-miss, and indeed, never has there been a Scrooge with so much character and such a perfect look as Carrey's. A Christmas Carol is additionally populated by several other superbly-realized characters -- many of whom are also played by Carrey -- that not only pull off the material wonderfully, but look about as close to real as today's technology allows.
Best of all, A Christmas Carol tells an ever-timely tale that transcends place and time and technology and the means of telling it, forever retaining that core principle that speaks on man's innate goodness that might not always be obvious but is nevertheless ever-present, even if buried somewhere deep in the subconscious and long since abandoned in light of life's many challenges and hardships. It's a simple story that combines humanity and that most special of holidays, playing one off the other to better emphasize not just the spirit of the season but the importance of finding cheer, contentment, and family both at Christmastime and year-round. Director Robert Zemeckis' picture holds up as an honest adaptation of Dickens' classic by emphasizing not the unique visuals but instead the crux of the story by capturing all of its raw emotion -- both of the good and bad varieties -- that comes with it. It's a story that's both maddening and heart-wrenching, but one that's ultimately of the feel-good variety that posits that within every man lies a humanity and a prevailing goodness that sometimes take a little bit of nudging to let free. Of course, the "ghosts" are but devices meant to steer Scrooge in the right direction, and even considering some of the otherworldly overtones that might be read into the story -- not to mention the rather large role played by "death," both of characters and the dark spectre itself -- A Christmas Carol is still a family-friendly (but age-appropriate) holiday story meant to bring out the best in viewers and inspire not just holiday cheer, but a better life.
A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
A Christmas Carol 3D features a wonderful full HD 3D Blu-ray presentation that's pushed its way towards the top of the currently-available 3D titles. The picture satisfies on several levels, not the least of which is its faultless detailing. Although much of the film takes place in darkened or shadowy locales, black crush is never a problem, and fine details are free to strut their stuff with a precision that's undeniably Blu-ray. Few, if any, transfers have achieved this level of excellence in terms of sheer detailing; whether Ebenezer Scrooge's heavily wrinkled skin, the texture of an old leather chair that's nestled the old curmudgeon by his fireplace for what had probably been decades, the impeccable "reach-out-and-touch-it" surface of various brick façades, or even the finest ridges on a sheet of paper seen in one extreme close-up shot early in the film, there's no shortage of immaculate detailing to be seen throughout the film. Bright and cheery colors are limited to a few scenes; most of the film works through shades of gray, white, brown, and, of course, the overlying darkness that permeates much of the experience, but the film's several more front-and-center colors -- particularly the blue shading of the ghost of Scrooge's old business associate Jacob Marley -- stand out nicely and evenly, particularly when seen against dark backgrounds or during those few brighter shots that immediately stand apart from the film's generally bleak visual structure. The image appears free of any troublesome anomalies, save for very light banding seen around the glow atop the Ghost of Christmas Past. This 3D transfer's general attributes impress a great deal, and they're matched by the marvelous and practically faultless accompanying 3D elements.
Despite a few instances of "ghosting" or "crosstalk" that sees objects outlined by a transparent mirror image of themselves, a phenomena that has in some way and to some varying degree plagued most every 3D Blu-ray release to date, A Christmas Carol 3D delivers an otherwise seamless and generally breathtaking 3D image. The ghosting issues are apparent every now and then -- beginning with a few red berries adorning a green Christmas wreath and appearing intermittently throughout the film with only one or two instances where the effect is even moderately severe -- but never prove a distraction to the overall 3D presentation. Better yet, the picture never breaks down during several fast-motion sequences where much of the screen is in a state of flux; the 3D imagery holds form and delivers a consistently glorious image, no matter whether the camera is lingering on an extended steady shot or covering a fast-paced flyover of the city. The image delivers plenty of perceptible depth as the camera traverses down a narrow London street and as it passes overheard in a rooftop-grazing flyover sequence early in the film. Locales both interior and exterior seem to stretch on to their physical limits, be they across a room or across town. Several objects seem to protrude from the screen, particularly seen when characters point towards the camera, their fingers and arms seemingly extending beyond the panel and into the living room. Disney's disc also handles snowflakes extraordinarily well; they seem to float on by at various distances and, in some cases, on past the screen. The transfer's best attribute, however, comes in the way it handles the ghost of old man Marley; it would seem a great challenge for 3D to give dimension to a deliberately transparent entity, and that's exactly what it does. The result is what is probably the best and most interesting imagery yet found on a 3D release, and there's nary a hint of any sort of problem associated with it. Disney's 3D transfer is a thing of beauty and is currently the definitive wide-release Blu-ray 3D transfer.
Please note that 2D playback on this 3D disc has been disabled; to see the 2D image, viewers are forced to play the included 2D-only Blu-ray disc.
Disney's 2D transfer is every bit as amazing as the accompanying 3D image. The higher score is in no way related to the 3D transfer; it's judged on its own merits and considering the 2D image has less criteria to analyze, it is absent those few bugaboos that dragged down the 3D score by the slightest of margins. This standard 2D image is exemplary from start to finish. Although much of the film is cold, gray, and dark, fine details abound, showing off the incredible work of the film's digital artists who have created characters and locations that look remarkably real, right down to the finest nuances in faces that show freckles, wrinkles, pores, and even rosy red cheeks that are a result of the chilled London air. London exteriors and the various interiors seen throughout the film also deliver impeccable texturing on brick façades and wooden accents, whether those cheery and snowy outdoor scenes or the palest of interiors lit only by candles inside and the faint glow of moonlight out the window. Colors are fantastic; they're heavily affected by the presence or absence of light, but the transfer handles every hue -- whether pale skin, gray nighttime exteriors, the orange and red glow of a burning fire, the mahogany walls and doors of Scrooge's home, or the bright blue/green glow of the ghost of Scrooge's deceased partner -- with incredible precision. Blacks are impeccably true and perfectly balanced in every scene. Depth is quite strong, too, though obviously limited by the 2D elements and not nearly as mesmerizing as what's to be seen on the 3D transfer, but nevertheless exquisite for a traditional image. Of course, the image is immaculately clean and sharp, no doubt a perfect copy straight off the hard drive. Banding is kept to a bare minimum, and there are no other anomalies to report. A Christmas Carol is sheer digital bliss and quite possibly the year's finest transfer.
A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Christmas Carol 3D boasts a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that's up to the challenge of supporting the incredible 3D visuals. The track excels at both ends of the sonic extreme, whether offering pinpoint and hushed elements or the loudest of effects and music. The film offers up a nice mixture of both, but it's those quieter moments and dialogue-driven scenes that seem a bit more dominant. Dialogue is handled effortlessly by the center channel, and the sides and surrounds chip in with plenty of ambience, particularly in those moments where Scrooge's old house creaks and cracks and audibly shows its age. Directional effects are expertly handled, too; as Scrooge walks towards a group of carolers in one early scene, their song seems to slowly inch from left to center as he approaches. It's a subtle but very nicely done effect that adds a great deal of realism and sonic dimension to the track, both of which make for fine accompaniments to the astounding 3D visuals. The entire soundstage supports plenty of aggressive music and more pronounced sound effects, such as a cacophony of ringing bells and blaring clocks, backed up by creaking doors, creepy footsteps, and clanky chains dragging across an old wooden floor. The back channels offer several strong echoing effects throughout, notably as the Ghost of Christmas Present's voice bounces around the listening area. Heavier sound effects are supported by a fair bit of tight and balanced bass. A Christmas Carol's lossless soundtrack is exceptional; it's strong in every area but it's not likely to go down as one of the year's most memorable. Nevertheless, fans should be thrilled with Disney's efforts; the studio hasn't forgotten about the sound on this release that's sure to be dominated by its 3D visuals.
A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Disney's A Christmas Carol features a nice array of extra material, the package headlined by Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience (1080p, 1:35:48). This is a picture-in-picture supplement that offers viewers the opportunity to watch A Christmas Carol both in its finished version and the on-stage motion capture processes and performances. This amazing supplement allows for a comparison between the physical human performances and the final digital rendering; it's a novel experience to be sure and a fascinating study in how modern technology is capable of so finely capturing the performances, both the large, sweeping gestures and movements and the most subtle of nuances -- eye raises, wrinkles in foreheads, and other slight movements that tell a story, build a character, and sell a scene as much so, if not more than, the more generalized efforts -- alike that make up the whole of the performances behind A Christmas Carol. Viewers have the option of watching either the finished picture with the motion capture efforts in a small secondary window, or expand the motion capture footage to fill the screen and remove the finished product. Also included is a strong and invariably engaging commentary track with Director Robert Zemeckis who passionately tells the story of the motion capture process behind the movie and touts it as the next great technology. He also fills in plenty of gaps and shares the other benefits of the working in both the physical and digital realms. The Full Motion Capture Experience is best enjoyed with the commentary track turned on as Zemeckis offers scene-specific insights that pertain to both the film and the motion capture process, and both together are almost worth the price of this set alone.
Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling (1080p, 14:43) is a well-produced and slightly humorous piece that offers an interesting look at why this cinematic telling of the story best captures the spirit of Charles Dickens' tale while paying special attention to the process of recording the actors' work via motion capture technology. Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar (1080p) allows users to count down the days until Christmas by selecting numbers from one through twenty-five, but jumping ahead in the process will result in a verbal wrist-slapping by Ebenezer Scrooge. Next is On Set with Sammi (1080p, 1:52), a brief piece that follows young Actress Sammi Hanratty's experiences on the set of A Christmas Carol. Also included are two extras that aren't film-specific. Discover Blu-ray 3D with Timon & Pumbaa (1080p, 4:23) is an extended advertisement for Blu-ray 3D technology, hosted by the two characters from The Lion King. Learn How to Take Your Movies on the Go (1080p, 1:04) touts the benefits of digital copy. The standalone 3D disc contains two extras: Mr. Scrooge's Wild Ride (1080p, 2:33, full HD 3D), a brief featurette on the making of the film; and Disney Blu-ray 3D Sneak Peek (1080p, 1:25, full HD 3D), an ad for upcoming Disney 3D Blu-ray titles, including Bolt, A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, Tron Legacy, and A Nightmare Before Christmas. Disney's four-disc set also features DVD and digital copies of the film.
A Christmas Carol 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Robert Zemeckis' motion capture/CGI take on A Christmas Carol doesn't shed any new light on the story; nevertheless, audiences won't think of Ebenezer Scrooge, his family and colleagues, old London, or the three Christmas ghosts in quite the same way again. A Christmas Carol perfectly captures the traditional look, feel, and appeal of Charles Dickens' timeless classic while still managing to spruce it up for the 21st century with a dazzling computer-aided visual scheme that has to be seen to be believed. Visually, A Christmas Carol seems far more seamless than even Zemeckis' own The Polar Express and Beowulf. That, combined with the honest and heartwarming adherence to the story's themes and principles, makes this a burgeoning new holiday classic suitable for the entire family. Disney's 3D Blu-ray release of A Christmas Carol features the best overall Blu-ray 3D experience yet. Combining a fantastic full HD 3D transfer, an equally strong lossless soundtrack, and several extras -- including the amazing commentary/picture-in-picture combo supplement -- this is a must-own set for all Blu-ray 3D owners and the perfect Christmas gift for the Blu-ray and 3D fan. Highly recommended.
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