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The Spiderwick Chronicles(2008)
From the beloved best-selling series of books comes The Spiderwick Chronicles, a fantasy adventure that reveals the rest of the world around us. Peculiar things start to happen the moment the Grace family (Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom) leave New York and move into the secluded old house owned by their great-great-uncle, Arthur Spiderwick. Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seem to be happening on a daily basis, the siblings investigate what's really going on and uncover the extraordinary truth of the Spiderwick estate and the creatures that inhabit it.
For more about The Spiderwick Chronicles and the The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray release, see the The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, Joan Plowright
Director: Mark Waters
» See full cast & crew
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray Review
This delightful fantasy adventure is worth buying on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 14, 2008
This book will give you the tools and techniques to lift the veil and see the unseen.
A fantastic fantasy film, The Spiderwick Chronicles effortlessly blends real-life with the realm of invisible hobgoblins, ogres, griffins, and other assorted friendly and not-so-friendly creatures whose existence is known to only a select few humans, namely those residing in the old Spiderwick Estate, an isolated house that seems to be the focal point of the merge between the natural and the supernatural, the real and the fantastical, and the known and unknown world. What makes The Spiderwick Chronicles so engaging is that, despite its young adult stars and sometimes funny goblin good-guys, the film takes a more serious, darker approach to its theme than do other fantasy films geared towards children (The Neverending Story comes to mind as a similar film that is decidedly opposite The Spiderwick Chronicles in feel). In fact, this movie is probably best enjoyed by those of a similar age (or older) as its stars. The Spiderwick Chronicles represents a nearly perfect fantasy film for young adults as its locales, antagonists, writing, and darker, somewhat disturbing themes may be too much for or lost on the youngest of audiences, but for more mature children, or for those of us who are still children at heart, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a magically engaging and entertaining adventure.
The Grace family is moving away from New York and into a secluded home nestled amidst the beauties of fall foliage and plenty of fresh air. Once occupied by the Grace children's great-great uncle, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn, We Are Marshall) and his daughter Lucinda, this estate holds the secret to another realm of existence where that which had only previously lived in our nightmares is a frightening reality. Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore, August Rush) is angry at his mother (Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds) about the move, and while his twin brother Simon (also played by Highmore) and his older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger, Tara Road) aren't thrilled, either, they're willing to help their mother settle into their new life in the old, isolated home. When Jared stumbles upon a secret room within the house, he finds in it a musty old handwritten book entitled Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Cracking open the book, despite its attached warning, he is introduced to the characters residing in the invisible world of the Fantastic where Arthur's Field Guide and the wealth of knowledge contained therein is sought after by both the forces of good (including the book's keeper, the diminutive Thimbletack [voiced by Martin Short, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause] and the bird-loving Hogsqueal [voiced by Seth Rogen, Superbad]) and evil (led by the ogre Mulgarath [voiced by Nick Nolte, Farewell to the King]).
Among the many aspects that makes The Spiderwick Chronicles a solid outing is the anything-but-pretentious approach to the story. There is no overt or hidden agenda, no blatant sentimentality, no cookie-cutter, one dimensional characters, and no gimmicky, quirky, or contrived plot devices to move the story along. No, The Spiderwick Chronicles is good old fashioned storytelling with modern conveniences and special effects, and the result is a purely magical and wholly entertaining movie with no aspirations to be anything but fantasy come to life. Actor Freddie Highmore is deservedly the star of the show. Fresh off the success of August Rush, Highmore proves himself again to be a fine young actor, and he unequivocally succeeds in bringing both characters he portrays to life. The special effects that allow him to share the frame with himself work seamlessly, and while his characters appear identical, he brings a unique persona to each one; once the audience is familiar with who each character is, there is never any question as to who is who, not only through context clues and dialogue, but through the way Highmore carries himself in each role. I also found myself impressed by the work of Sarah Bolger. She plays the role of snotty, authoritative teenage-girl-turned-heroine very well. Regardless of her character's place in the movie, be it the angst-ridden, little-brother hating older sister or the courageous ally to the forces of good, Bolger carriers herself with both confidence and charisma, easily standing out amidst a movie filled with standout performances, effects, and direction.
For a special effects-laden fantasy, The Spiderwick Chronicles manages to maintain a sense of realism and believability throughout. The creature effects aren't perfect, but they are darn-near close to it, and anytime we see a creature, be it Thimbletack downing another bottle of honey, a horde of goblins encircling the house, or a close-up shot of Hogsquel, our mind remains in the story and not focused on an obviously phony effect. In fact, I only spotted one instance where the special effects stood out as noticeably poor, that being a brief scene where Simon is petting a Griffin's beak. The film's color scheme and setting, with the backdrop of the multicolored fall leaves outside and the musty, dim interior of the house allows the creatures to blend in a bit and the look of the picture aids in masking any deficiencies in the effects. Perhaps the best "effect" in the film is the charm of the characters and their effortless transition from page to screen. Based on the series of short novels by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, The Spiderwick Chronicles changes or excludes several plot devices, locations, and story lines from the books, maintaining only a semblance of accuracy in recounting the original story. However, taking the film on its own (assuming the viewer has no foreknowledge of the series of novels), The Spiderwick Chronicles works remarkably well as a standalone film, and any changes made to the original novels seamlessly fit into the context of both the overall story as well as the movie itself.
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Spiderwick Chronicles can now be discovered on Blu-ray in a fairly good 1080p, 2.35:1 framed transfer. This image seems to be intentionally lit in such a way so as to lend a slight golden tint to the proceedings, a look that blends well with the antiquated house and the numerous outdoor shots that are saturated in the color of fall leaves. Colors, at least in the first half or so of the film, aren't exactly bright and vivid, but are rather somewhat dull and lifeless, taking on the slightly darker tone of the movie. That's not to say the film is devoid of color. We see plenty of it, it's just that the the film never over-saturates or blows them out of proportion, instead allowing them to pervade and become part of the scene rather than dominating it. Colors do pick up in intensity and vividness later in the movie, as seen when Mallory and Jared visit their aunt in chapter 8 where the Sprites are particularly bright and colorful. The look of the picture on the whole lends to the belief that this is the look the filmmakers were after and not the result of a sloppy transfer. Grain is noticeably absent, but the somewhat dark look of the movie allows it to retain a theatrical look and feel. Fine detail isn't remarkable, but only moderate. The dusty, cobweb-filled secret room has many unique and exciting nooks, crannies, and treasures to be discovered by the adept and eagle-eyed viewer, but we can only make out so much in the background, unfortunately. The various outdoor shots look fantastic with their multicolored fall leaves adorning both branches and the ground. One drawback that I noted is that the image is decidedly lacking in crispness in many places. Some longer shots look to be just the slightest bit fuzzy, and while close-up and medium-wide shots are solid, they never appear to be completely sharp and defined, either. Flesh tones look natural, although they take on the characteristically soft, golden hue of the movie. Black levels are also notably strong. While The Spiderwick Chronicles isn't the most gorgeous transfer I've seen, it rates highly and should please most Blu-ray fans.
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Presented in a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a somewhat reserved yet wholly engaging listening experience. It's definitely not the sonic extravaganza that is a film like Cloverfield, but there is a natural grace to the soundtrack that places it firmly in the realm of "excellent" mixes. The film's score (courtesy of composer James Horner, Apocalypto) blends into the back channels for a pleasing, natural, and theatrical experience. Throughout the movie, you'll hear sounds pan effortlessly across the entirety of the soundstage, especially the scampering of creatures in various locales, from the dark secret room to the great outdoors. Dialogue is just about perfect if not the slightest bit muted, but then again, so is much of the soundtrack, at least early on. One thing I really enjoyed about listening to The Spiderwick Chronicles was that even the slightest of sounds, like a cell phone ringing off to the side, sounded like it was somewhere off the the side of my room where I don't even have a speaker, resulting in some wonderful imaging scattered here and there. The first truly impressive and loud moment of the soundtrack is when the goblins first summon the ogre Mulgarath in chapter 6. Deep, penetrating bass and excellent surround presence mark the moment. From here on out, the track picks up a bit in intensity. A troll attack on Mallory and Jared in chapter 7 is another exciting, well-played listen that adds to the tension and entertainment of the sequence. The Griffin ride in chapter 9 is also dynamic and well-played. In fact, the film's final act, without giving away anything, is excellent -- it is loud and powerful, yet crisp and clean, packing just the right punch for the entire sequence. The final third of the track on the whole is pleasing and wondrous, and just about represents sonic perfection. The Spiderwick Chronicles is quite the listen. It won't devastate your ears, but its pleasing and natural use of sound, and reserved quality that only brings out the "big guns" when needed, makes it one of the finer tracks on the market today.
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Spiderwick Chronicles allows viewers to explore the movie's magical world more in-depth thanks to the plethora of special features crammed onto this disc. The festivities begin with Spiderwick: It's All True! (1080i, 7:04) which features a highly entertaining introduction from director Mark Waters about the "truth" behind the story (and the novels) and some items you'll need to "survive" the special features, including salt, honey, tomato sauce, and a seeing stone. Waters also introduces us to the characters in the film and their defining characteristics. This is a fun an informative feature. There isn't a whole lot of information here that cannot be gleaned from watching the movie, but it serves as a great recap or refresher to the film. Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide (1080p) allows viewers to peer inside the famed book and read up on and see artist's depiction of some of the wonderful creatures and objects found in the movie, including Boggarts, Brownies, Sprites, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Ogres, Griffins, Trolls, the Seeing Stone, and various Protections from Magical Creatures. Viewers can also click a link on each page to see the creature or object in the movie. Neat.
Field Guide: In-Movie Mode is a pop-up trivia track with a twist. When a factoid appears on-screen, viewers may press "enter" on their remotes to learn more from the Field Guide as described in the previous supplement. Spiderwick: Meet the Clan! (1080i, 13:54) looks at the film's cast, beginning with Freddie Highmore's wonderful performance and going through the rest of the cast. Cast and crew heap the praise on one another (and deservedly so, in most cases) and there is also some behind-the-scenes and technical information regarding the process of shooting the movie in the scenes where the Grace twins both appear. Making Spiderwick! (1080i, 20:53) takes a fairly detailed look at the making of the film, focusing on the sets, props (including the Field Guide), special effects, and the like. The Magic of Spiderwick! (1080i, 14:23) examines the post-production work that went into creating the final product and the process of "directing" the film's animators. A Final Word of Advice! (1080i, 1:51) is a closing remark from the articulate and engaging director Mark Waters. A series of four deleted scenes (1080p, 8:14), nine Nickelodeon television spots (480p, 5:04), and two theatrical trailers for the film (1080p, 2:04 and 2:32) conclude the special features.
The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This film adaptation of The Spiderwick Chronicles is nothing short of first-rate entertainment. Combined with excellent acting and special effects, not to mention a neat, tidy, and interesting story with likable heroes and despicable villains, all capped by a brisk 95 minute runtime, family night at the movies is back. Director Mark Waters has created a new favorite of mine, a magical and entertaining look at a world we never see outside of the silver screen, but a world that may very well exist -- and it comes to remarkable life here. With a solid video presentation, an exceptional audio mix, and a set of supplements that are far superior to similar efforts on other discs (and in high definition to boot!) The Spiderwick Chronicles is an easy movie to get into and a Blu-ray disc to treasure. Highly recommended!
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Other Editions
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The Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Spiderwick Chronicles Blu-ray Gets Detailed - April 30, 2008
The hits just keep on coming from Paramount today! The Blu-ray release of 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' will be coming to everyone's favorite high definition format with full 1080p video and Dolby TrueHD audio. Paramount isn't revealing video codec specifications ...
• Paramount Further Details Their Blu-ray Plans - April 30, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment today revealed further details about their upcoming Blu-ray plans and in addition to releasing 'Bee Movie', 'Face/Off' and 'Next' on May 20th, they will also be releasing 'Blades of Glory', a quirky comedy about the competetive world ...
• Paramount Reveals Initial Blu-ray Titles - April 29, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment have finally unveiled their long-awaited first wave of catalog and recent hit titles that they'll begin releasing May 20th. "We will have a strong slate of titles for Blu-ray release throughout the year, worldwide, and are enthusiastic ...
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