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The story of a young girl who unlocks a mysterious door in her new home and enters an adventure in a parallel reality.
For more about Coraline 3D and the Coraline 3D Blu-ray release, see Coraline 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David
Director: Henry Selick
» See full cast & crew
Coraline 3D Blu-ray Review
Previously available only as an exclusive hardware-tied release, 'Coraline' 3D is now available everywhere. Now with extras!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 13, 2011
So sharp you won't feel a thing.
Kudos to Universal for being one of the first out of the gate to offer a previously-exclusive Blu-ray 3D title for sale at general retail, behind only Disney's Alice in Wonderland. Coraline's wide release debuts with the same stunning 1080p Blu-ray 3D transfer and mesmerizing lossless soundtrack as was found on the aforementioned release, but this time the final product is accompanied by a handful of extra features and a second disc sporting DVD and digital copies of the film. Universal couldn't have chosen a more fitting title for their first ever wide release of a previously-exclusive title; Coraline remains one of the best movies available in 3D both in terms of content and technical presentation. Director Henry Selick's picture is a fantastically dark tale that looks at the twisted line between reality and fantasy, yielding incredible stop-motion animation and an even better high definition 3D presentation. Now with the inclusion of some high quality bonus content -- notably an informative audio commentary track in which Selick discusses not only 3D in general but how it was used to emphasize certain aspects of the film -- the Coraline Blu-ray 3D experience is complete.
Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a young girl recently relocated with her parents from Pontiac, Michigan to the Pink Palace Apartments located in a cold and seemingly barren area of the Northwest. Bored with her new surroundings and upset that her parents have already reverted to workaholic mode, she explores the run-down home and discovers a small door that's been covered with wallpaper. She pesters her mother into opening it, only to find a hardened brick wall behind it. A disappointed Coraline dreams that night that through the wall lies her perfect world. There she finds carbon copies of her parents who are in this universe friendlier, happier, and more willing to spend time with their daughter and, best of all, do all they can to cater to her every desire. Their world is brighter and happier, but there's one unmistakable difference: her mother and father in this world have buttons where their eyes should be. It's odd, yes, but Coraline shrugs off the peculiarity as she revels in the joy she's found away from her real life. When Coraline wakes up in her old bed and in the same house as her typically dull mother, father, and existence, she only longs all the more for the world that seems to exist behind the door and beyond the brick wall; little does she know, however, that something sinister awaits, and that the price for "true" happiness may be more than she's willing to pay.
Ray Harryhausen would be proud. Coraline boasts a wonderfully-realized stop-motion animation technique that's beautifully seamless and only looks better in 3D. The worlds of Coraline are dark and unforgiving, obviously reflective of the film's themes that explore the dangers of sacrificing reality for fantasy and the consequences of accepting at face value anything that promises the moon but usually comes with obscured and out-of-sight stipulations and vague consequences that negate all that's good on the surface. The film's visual structure and stop-motion animation allow for the story to further exaggerate its themes by engendering a surreal look that's somewhere between reality and digital animation; employing the former might have made the picture too intense for younger viewers, while the latter seems better suited to Comedy and light Horror motifs, found in something like Monster House. The stop-motion effects seem to offer more in the way of artistic license for the filmmakers to get away with delving into the truly bizarre in an effort to further demonstrate the story's psychological undertones and complex characters. Whatever the reason in choosing stop-motion over live action or digital animation, Coraline excels as a visual wonder; even when viewed as a 2D presentation, the worlds prove remarkably and intricately detailed while also appearing dimensionally extravagant, these features only accentuated by a 3D viewing.
Coraline's dark visuals and somewhat complex themes dont exactly make it something that seems primed to replace those well-loved copies of Monsters, Inc., Cars, and Kung Fu Panda in the kids' movie rotation, but it will satisfy adults in search of a more involved and thought-provoking animated title that explores themes that might be presented from a child's perspective but certainly prove relevant for most all viewers of any age. The picture plays out with a delightfully intriguing air of mystery about it. Characters are developed in due time and to an extent that makes Coraline's decisions later in the film seem to stem naturally from her upbringing, attitude, experiences, and surroundings, but the picture manages to build up these points-of-reference without relying on dull actions, extreme circumstances, boring dialogue, or humorless moments in the process. Coraline succeeds in large part thanks to the filmmakers' ability to keep things moving at a wonderfully robust pace whether during scenes of intense action, dramatic relevance, or gut-busting humor, and each of these elements play a natural and understandable part in taking the picture from its humble-but-oddball origins to a chilling conclusion that brings its motifs full circle with plenty of excitement and age-appropriate scares in tow.
Indeed, the mystery surrounding the events depicted in Coraline prove riveting by themselves, but the film generates enough visual eye candy, dramatic overtones, and exciting action and horror elements to make the journey that takes viewers from the introduction of a curious circumstance to an all-out and terribly intense conclusion well worth the effort. No doubt Coraline seems like something from the mind of Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam, and the film is more likely to appeal to audiences that are more open to untraditional cinema on both visual and psychological levels. By design, nothing about Coraline seems quite right; whether distorted figures or frightening creatures, talking and dancing animals or barren and darkened landscapes, the film revels in the peculiar but does so in an effort to better illustrate its themes. At its most basic, Coraline is about the want for something that seems unobtainable, at least in the world as it exists in the little corner in which Coraline resides. Hers is a bleak and lifeless world both outside and inside; her parents are workaholics who don't have time to play with or cook proper meals for her, seeing her more as an obstacle than an object of affection. She longs for a more cheerful life, tastier food, and loving parents, but her foray into a world that offers her those things comes with a price. She is ultimately required to have buttons sewn over her eyes should she wish to remain in her fantasy world forever, an act which can be seen as the ultimate in surrender, sacrificing the gift of sight -- the ability to assess, to enjoy, and most clearly and unmistakably sense and understand the world around her -- so she can be forever blind to the realities of her true existence. Coraline warns viewers that while it's OK to dream, it's potentially harmful to ignore reality -- no matter how good or how bad it may be -- in favor of escapism that will, in this case literally, suck the life out of those that seek it at the cost of everything they know to be true.
Coraline 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
And now for the best part. Coraline's 3D Blu-ray release is a show stopper. Viewed on Panasonic's TC-P50VT20 50" Viera Plasma, Coraline's 3D transfer -- seemingly identical to the previously-released bundled exclusive version -- has "wow" written all over it. It's important to note that the film's style of animation and 2D presentation already yields one of the stronger images on Blu-ray and one that is itself of considerable depth; some scenes in the 3D version aren't even all that distinguishable from their 2D counterparts, but that's actually reflective of one of Blu-ray 3D's strengths: it's not at all gimmicky and it doesn't try and dazzle when it doesn't need to. Rather than try to incorporate as many trick shots as possible, these new 3D films instead go for a more natural feel, and the Blu-ray 3D presentations captures that wonderfully. That doesn't mean that the 2D and 3D versions are indistinguishable. Quite the contrary, there's a noticeable depth of field from the opening seconds of Coraline forward. The picture's title sequence features a lace material bordering the screen that seems to hover over the rest of the image. It's during the credits that the film's most obvious "poke something out of the screen" moment comes, but it's used to good effect and is wholly integrated into the scene and not at all forced into the film as a cheap effect.
Beyond the title sequence lies an entire world ripe for 3D exploration. Of note is the tunnel through which Coraline crawls to move about the two worlds; it's perhaps the best example of how well modern 3D technology works as the tunnel seems to begin at the front of the screen and almost begs for viewers to stick their hands inside. It seems to go through the TV and well out beyond the back of it; it's another one of the exceptionally-realized moments that might not immediately jump out as a shot that would stand out from the rest, but again, it seems that those more ordinary moments are the ones that truly define the strength of high definition 3D presentations. Of course, the tunnel scenes also remind viewers of the inescapable shortcoming of the technology; these and other awe-inspiring elements demand the largest screen possible, and while they look great on a 50" display, there's no doubt that they each cry out for something far larger. Other scenes, such as those in Coraline's kitchen, appear nicely done and very perceptibly deep, but then again, that particular environment appears quite dimensional in the 2D version as well. Additionally, Coraline rarely falls victim to "ghosting" or double images that don't quite mesh to create a seamless 3D effect. Those instances that stood out could be counted on one hand, and only one -- a shot at the 1:22:23 mark -- appeared excessively distracting.
Coraline's 3D presentation might be a hair darker than its 2D counterpart; it's a dark film to begin with, but colors seemed to be just a tad bit brighter in the 2D version. Nevertheless, the coloration in the 3D version dazzles, whether Coraline's blue hair or yellow slicker or the many vibrant hues that dot the unforgivingly dark elements across the two worlds. Additionally, black levels are excellent, every blackened frame delivering a strikingly inky shade that reinforces the visuals and themes splendidly. Detail is positively striking; the title sequence boasts some breathtaking close-ups of cloths and fabrics that reveal so much texture that the material may as well be glued onto the TV screen and not a digitized image inside it. There's a seemingly endless parade of eye candy in Coraline, and both the 2D and 3D versions are treasures of the format that are among its finest offerings. Granted there's only a few dozen 3D Blu-ray titles out there, but Coraline is among the best of the bunch. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is no slouch, and both prove superior to Monsters vs. Aliens. Coraline's style, perhaps, translates a bit better to 3D, but viewers will be more than impressed with most any of the animated titles currently available.
Coraline 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Coraline boasts a wonderful DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. It's the perfect companion to the dazzling visuals; it's a track that's effortlessly variable between the film's quietest and most audibly-intense moments. Music is wonderfully smooth and free-flowing across the soundstage with each note a profile in seamless integration through a sound system and into a listening environment. Likewise, the track does wonderfully well in capturing the ambience of the area in and around the Pink Palace Apartments, whether the chilling breezes and booming thunder in one early scene or the slightest creaks and pops around the house during various interior sequences. Many of the more aggressive effects heard throughout the film seamlessly traverse the entire soundstage; imaging is exceptional and the track delivers an experience that seems to erase the boundaries of the speakers and engulf the listener into Coraline's dual worlds. Additionally, the track features a pitch-perfect low end that's dynamic and strong but never excessively overbearing. Finally, dialogue never misses a beat; it's focused in the center but never cramped and, just as important, never lost underneath the track's other elements. Coraline sounds as good as it looks.
Coraline 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Coraline's wide-release 3D version carries over most of the extras found on the standard 2D-only release. Notably absent is the trio of U-Control picture-in-picture video tracks. The Blu-ray disc features both the 2D and 3D versions of the film. All supplements are in 2D. This two-disc set also contains a hybrid DVD/Digital copy disc.
Coraline 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Coraline is a beautifully dark and alluringly peculiar picture with wonderful animation, well-developed characters, and a message that speaks on the importance of coping with reality rather than falling victim to the dangers of reality-destroying fantasy. The picture boasts an excellent voice cast on top of its gorgeous visuals and pertinent themes, and while it may not be the film small children will play on a loop with every waking hour, it's a must-see picture for mature viewers of all ages, particularly those who will be able to understand its themes within the context of the bleak visual picture it paints. Universal's Blu-ray 3D release of Coraline excels from the top down. Great movie, stunning technical presentation, and now an honest and even, arguably, necessary assortment of extra content makes this a complete must-own package that's already one of the best among the limited Blu-ray 3D releases. Hopefully, it's only a matter of time before other exclusive titles like Monsters vs. Aliens, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Avatar also become available for general sale and offered with the necessary extras intact. As for Coraline 3D? Very highly recommended.
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