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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 and the Coraline Blu-ray release, see Coraline Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 15, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David
Director: Henry Selick
» See full cast & crew
Coraline Blu-ray Review
An unexpectedly grim and gloomy cautionary tale...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 15, 2009
Long before the advent and rise of CG animation, stop-motion animation was king. It brought gods and monsters to life, immersed young minds in fairytale worlds of unspeakable danger, and delivered some of the most memorable images in cinematic history. Sadly, as Pixar and other CG heavyweights came to power, stop-motion animation fell by the wayside, deemed too expensive, too time-consuming and, to many, too archaic to resonate with modern audiences. Thankfully, filmmakers like director Henry Selick have refused to allow this time-honored art form to pass into the night. Not only have his collaborations with Tim Burton produced two stunning stop-motion gems -- The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach -- his work with acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman has resulted in Coraline, a startlingly dark trip down a nightmarish rabbit hole filled with leering dolls, dripping with alluring sweets, and ruled by a deadly demoness on the prowl for unsuspecting children.
Based on Gaiman's Hugo Award-winning 2002 novella of the same name, Coraline weaves the deceptively simple tale of a young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who uncovers a tiny, hidden doorway behind the wallpaper in her new apartment. At first, Coraline finds nothing behind the door but a brick wall, leaving her with little choice but to explore the rest of the building. Careful to avoid disturbing her perpetually preoccupied parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman), she meets her eccentric neighbors -- Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), a bothersome boy whose morbid sensibilities annoy her; Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), a lanky Russian acrobat who trains mice in his spare time; and Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (Dawn French), elderly fortune-tellers whose apartment smells of taffy, tea, and stuffed dogs. By the end of the day, she feels tired, lonely and, above all else, angry at the mundane trappings of her new life.
But everything changes after the sun goes down. Awakened by chittering field mice, Coraline finds a glowing tunnel behind the secret door, and carefully crawls through. On the other side, she finds a world much like her own, populated with oh-so-friendly doppelgängers of her parents and neighbors. They treat her to scrumptious food and marvelous sights, revealing the wondrous magic of their lively kingdom. Her "other mother" and "other father" give her everything she's ever wanted -- all of the attention, love, and support a young girl needs -- and ask nothing of her in return. That is until they ask her to let them replace her eyes with buttons. When Coraline refuses, her hosts begin to reveal their true nature and intentions. Before long, our wide-eyed heroine is scrambling to survive a ghoulish realm of needle-fingered demi-gods and dead children, desperate to escape the clutches of the evil creature responsible for her torment.
Despite parallels to Alice in Wonderland, Pan's Labyrinth, the Brothers Grimm canon, and a variety of other fantasy masterworks, Coraline forges a path all its own, reveling in the disturbing nature of its dual worlds, the outlandish behavior of its peculiar characters, and the dastardly dealings of its manipulative beasties. The story itself already has the makings of a classic -- a self-reliant girl learns she should be careful about what she wishes for -- but Selick pushes his central theme much farther, imbuing each frame with an unsettling sense of dread. Then, before anyone can possibly prepare themselves for the coming storm, he suddenly and swiftly transforms his colorful production into a full-blown horror film (at least as far as your kiddies will be concerned); a subversive, grade-school fright-fest that scoffs at the family-friendly fare modern children have been spoon fed most of their young lives. A loving mother melts away to reveal the spindly spider beneath, a trio of ghosts lament about their passing, a razor sharp hand claws at Coraline's ankles, a mechanical praying mantis lurches across a crumbling bridge, and reality itself disintegrates before our trembling heroine's eyes. Make no mistake, despite a relatively tame first act, Coraline will terrify younger children (and older kids prone to nightmares) who aren't prepared to run its gauntlet of button-eyed nasties and crumbling dreamscapes.
Of course, Coraline's riveting story and unexpected genre bait-n-switch would amount to nothing if it weren't for LAIKA's absolutely gorgeous stop-motion animation. Even when Selick's stomach-turning imagery is at its most hideous, an unwavering, nearly indescribable beauty graces every sinister garden, mangled monster, and decrepit tunnel that appears on screen. His character designs neatly encapsulate everything we need to know about each lonely soul -- Coraline's expressive eyes announce her every thought, her evil mother's bony arms and cracking skin create an ancient backstory we're never told, her parents' frumpy clothes and dour hygiene demonstrates just how distracted they actually are, her neighbors' dirty clothes and drooping skin reveals lives consumed with broken dreams, and Wybie's gloves and mask tell us everything we need to know about him before he has a chance to open his mouth -- while the landscapes, locales, and mirror-world dwellings scattered throughout the film emerge as characters in their own right. In fact, during my second trip through Selick's mesmerizing tour de force, I found myself pausing scene after scene to do some exploring of my own.
Coraline is one of the most refreshing, disturbing, and marvelous animated productions to come along in quite some time. Its storytelling prowess is inspiring, its stop-motion animation and design sense is unrivaled, and its grim sensibilities are startling (to say the least). Parents of young children would be wise to screen this one before sitting down with the whole family, but most everyone else will be enthralled with Coraline's rabbit hole excursion. I, for one, was enamored with every second.
Coraline Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Perfection" is a word I try to use as sparingly as possible when discussing video presentations, but in the case of Coraline's exquisite 1080p/VC-1 transfer, no other word seems capable of so adequately and concisely describing its every frame. Whether Coraline is picking at her food in her gloomy house or dancing through the burgeoning flowers of her evil-parents' garden, Selick's palette erupts off the screen, dazzling the eye with bold primaries, phosphorescent green light, and absolutely stunning skintones. Blacks are deep and inky -- everything from the night sky, to the tiniest sliver of shadow, to the bottomless wells of her other mother's black button eyes is rich and absorbing. Detail is impeccable as well. While Selick uses diffuse lighting in several scenes (resulting in a slight softening of the image), textures are exceedingly refined, edges are crisp, and every nuance of the animators' puppets is on full display at all times.
Universal's technical presentation is just as flawless. I didn't encounter any significant artifacting, banding (a regular offender in animated films), source noise, distracting artificial sharpening, or other post-production nonsense. A faint veneer of grain permeates the proceedings, but it only serves to enhance the filmic nature of the image. Simply put, Universal's video transfer is just as magnificent as Coraline's gorgeous animation. For once, I have nothing... literally nothing to complain about.
As for the 1080p/VC-1 encoded 3D version of Coraline, I decided not to factor its picture quality into my overall video score. As most of you might already expect, it's more of a gimmick -- a curiosity if you will -- than a legitimate way to experience the film (at least the first time through). Even though Coraline is the first stop-motion animated production to be filmed in 3D, and despite the fact that its immersive 3D theatrical debut wowed audiences and critics alike, the Blu-ray version is hindered by an anaglyped presentation, magenta and cyan lenses (which drastically distort the film's vivid palette), frequent ghosting, and depth-of-field inconsistencies (distant objects don't come together as precisely as they should). Granted, any shortcomings should be attributed to the limitations of home video 3D -- which hasn't come close to catching up with the technology currently being used in theaters -- but it's still a difficult, somewhat annoying way to watch a film, especially one as lovely as Coraline.
Even so, those who do plow through the entire 3D experience will be rewarded with at-times amazing depth of field and lifelike dimensionality. More often than not, I felt as if I could reach out and grab hold of Selick's puppets. If the transfer's best illusions were paired with the vibrant, sparkling visuals of the 2D presentation, I might consider the 3D version as something other than a supplemental feature. However, in my humble opinion, it's worth little more than a quick look.
Coraline Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's commanding DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is just as impressive. While it begins with a whisper rather than a roar, it soon embraces every screeching demon, splintering reality, and lumbering monstrosity that feeds on Coraline's fear. Dialogue is crisp, clean, and nicely prioritized in the mix -- when a thunderous praying mantis clatters after our fleeing heroine, her shrill cries for help are crystal clear; when she clambers up a teetering spiderweb, the distant calls of her feline companion ring true; when she attempts to spend time with her strange neighbors, her uncomfortable murmurs remain perfectly intelligible. Better still, LFE output is resonant and earthy, and the rear soundstage is as active as Coraline's mind. Ambience is enveloping and convincing, directionality is eerily realistic, and interior acoustics -- be they in a quiet house, a small prison cell, or an expansive gathering hall -- are as precise and immersive as they come. Just listen as a parade of circus mice rush to fill your home theater. Marvel at the smoking gravy-train that circles Coraline's doppelgänger family before arriving at her mashed potatoes. Tremble as a rickety balcony collapses onto the soft grass below. No matter what scene you choose, simply listen to it all unfold. Coraline may pack a tremendous visual punch, but its aural kick will leave its mark as well.
Coraline Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Coraline includes both 2D and 3D versions of the film, four pairs of 3D glasses, additional DVD and Digital copies, and a fantastic supplemental package (presented entirely in high definition) that's sure to delight filmfans and animation aficionados alike. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's all-encompassing -- parents may be disappointed to find the vast majority of the content is aimed squarely at adults -- but it nevertheless delivers an extensive look at the production.
Coraline Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I wasn't expecting Coraline to resonate with me nearly as much as it did, but its engrossing story, engaging characters, and chilling monstrosities drew me in and refused to let go. The Blu-ray edition is just as extraordinary. It offers fans 2D and 3D versions of the film, a top-tier video transfer, a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio track, three exclusive Picture-in-Picture tracks, and a satisfying supplemental package. This release will certainly find a spot on my list of the best Blu-ray releases of 2009. Don't miss this opportunity to add it to your collection.
Coraline: Other Editions
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Coraline Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Buy Despicable Me and Coraline Blu-ray, Save $7-$10 - December 3, 2010
Amazon is having a special bundle offer linked to the upcoming Blu-ray release of Despicable Me. If you preorder the BD/DVD/Digital Copy edition along with Coraline, you will get $7 off. Alternately, if you order the Despicable Me BD 3D/BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo ...
• Coraline 3D Blu-ray for General Release - November 12, 2010
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that, on January 4, 2011, it will commercially release the 3D Blu-ray of Coraline. This 3D BD was initially offered to buyers of Panasonic 3D TVs in June 2010, and later bundled with a Panasonic 3D Essential Pack. ...
• Deal Alert: Coraline Blu-ray for $9.99 - May 17, 2010
The price-tracking tools at blu-ray.com have made it unnecessary to post as many deal-related news as in the past, but this is just too good not to mention. Amazon has dropped the price of the stop-motion fantasy movie Coraline to $9.99 (63% off MSRP). There is ...
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