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Where the Wild Things Are(2009)
The adventures of a young boy named Max who, after being sent to bed for misbehaving, imagines that he sails away to where the wild things are. Max is loved by the wild creatures who make him their King, though he soon longs to be back home with his family.
For more about Where the Wild Things Are and the Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray release, see Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 23, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Max Records, Pepita Emmerichs, Max Pfeifer, Madeleine Greaves, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Spike Jonze
» See full cast & crew
Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray Review
"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 23, 2010
Remember when children's films tackled lofty issues, delved into dark waters, and didn't shy away from death, loneliness, heartache, and other challenging subject matter? Filmmaker Spike Jonze certainly does. Adapted from author Maurice Sendak's short-and-simple 1963 classic of the same name, Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is a haunting, poignant depiction of childhood anxiety; a touching reminder that kids aren't the oblivious creatures of habit so many adults seem to think they are. Both a children's film aimed at adults and a mature drama for the tepid tots among us, it's a perilous journey into the mind of a young boy coping with his parents' divorce, fears of being abandoned, uncontrollable anger, overwhelming feelings of helplessness, and more. Yet his Max is so disarming and endearing, his creatures so remarkably human, his world so mesmerizing and multifaceted, that his Where the Wild Things Are shatters expectations at every turn, producing a tender masterpiece that, quite simply, moved me to tears and impressed me to no end.
Having been rejected by his older sister (Pepita Emmerichs), unsettled by the presence of his mother's new boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo), and scolded by his distraught mother (Catherine Keener, incredibly effective in a small but crucial role), a defiant young boy named Max (first-time actor Max Records) runs away from home, the tattered tail of his white-wool wolf suit disappearing into the darkness of the chilly night air. Climbing into a private boat near the water, Max sets sail, in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, to where the wild things are. Spotting a roaring fire in the forests of a rocky island, Max pulls his boat ashore and makes his way toward the distant light. There he sees a band of monsters arguing, pacing back and forth as one of their own tears apart their huts. Bravely introducing himself to the carnivorous beasts, and instantly gaining the favor of the most temperamental creature among them, Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini), Max weaves a tale of Viking adventures and kingship, tells them he has supernatural powers, and claims he can prevent sadness from ever entering their midst again; lies so alluring that the monsters give him a crown and scepter, and declare him king of all wild things.
At first, the lumbering monstrosities -- no-nonsense agitator Judith (Catherine O'Hara), her gentle boyfriend Ira (Forest Whitaker), avian peace-keeper Douglas (Chris Cooper), timid horned-goat Alexander (Paul Dano), sweet-spirited wanderer KW (Lauren Ambrose), and introspective giant Bernard the Bull (Michael Berry Jr) -- are overjoyed by the boy's presence, particularly when he rejuvenates their relationships. But they soon begin to realize Max is failing to maintain the peace among their ranks. Carol loves KW, but frequently allows his temper to get the best of him; Judith complains about everything, including each of Max's decisions; Alexander continually feels overlooked and ignored; Bernard has trouble trusting anyone; KW has found new friends elsewhere on the island; and Douglas is finding diplomacy to be increasingly difficult. It doesn't take long to see where Jonze is going. The creatures are complex incarnations of Max's fears and doubts; manifestations of the arguments he's overheard, a divorce he couldn't mend, dismissals he's felt, emotions he can't seem to resolve, and other abstract pressures of a nine-year-old life already teetering on the edge of inescapable sorrow. Carol is his boiling rage, his absentee father, his misunderstanding of his parents' separation, his unwillingness to let go. KW is his noble defender, his doting mother, his fledgling hope, his secret counsel. The other creatures slip in and out of various roles as well: Max's sister, her unruly friends, his classmates, his family and, more importantly, his dreams, desires, and needs.
Pint-sized cinephiles -- at least those who can endure Jonze's sometimes frightening imagery and intense encounters (parents with little children should screen this one long before watching it with their entire family) -- won't need to understand the film's finer points to enjoy it. For them, the story of a boy who spends time with a pack of rowdy monsters will be entertaining enough. Yes, Jonze's slowburn pacing and deeper themes may bore them on occasion, but dirt fights, squawking owls, and forest games constantly lie in wait around the corner. Meanwhile, adults (whether they have kids or not) will quickly discover Where the Wild Things Are is a different beast entirely. Analytical minds will latch onto every line and expression, stone hearts will be broken, Lance Acord's gorgeous cinematography will enchant the most discerning viewers, Carter Burwell and Karen Orzolek's music will burrow into the brain of anyone willing to listen, and the actors' staggering performances (especially that of little Max Records) will leave a number of lasting marks. Even the film's special effects, a wondrous blend of practical costumes and set pieces brought to vivid life with fantastic CG-enhanced touches, will draw filmfans deeper and deeper into Max's splintered psyche. Records doesn't clutch a computer-generated arm, he clings to real fur, trembles at the sight of real claws, and locks eyes with seemingly real creatures. His belief becomes our belief, his affection becomes our affection.
More than anything though, Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers accomplish the one thing so many others have failed to do: expanding something as simple as a 338-word children's book into a dynamic, captivating tale of anguish and woe. Somehow the pair retain the heart and soul of Sendak's text while creating a story all their own. Somehow they take the pieces of a sketchy riddle and give it meaning and relevance. Somehow they translate the author's artwork into a disquieting reality; his fable of forests and monsters into a nuanced island of terrible truths and cathartic revelations; his trailing poetry and unforgettable drawings into a fragile fortress built upon the inspiration of a wounded boy. That being said, I can't speak for everyone. I've read reviews as impassioned as mine, and still others that loathed the film's forsaken desert plains and daunting subtext. I've read comments from parents whose children were enamored with Max and his newfound friends, and others whose offspring were bored to tears rather than moved to them. Ah well, perhaps simply calling the film divisive will suffice. Regardless of what some might think, Where the Wild Things Are struck me as a magnificent masterstroke; one everyone should experience and judge for themselves. Again, I wouldn't recommend blindly showing it to young children -- even my son, who's made of some stoic cinematic stuff, had a bit of trouble with a few scenes -- but I also don't think parents should shelter their kids from such conversation-inducing subject matter. Personally, I hope to revisit it again, and then again and again, the moment the opportunity presents itself.
Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray, Video Quality
Faithful and filmic, the Blu-ray edition of Where the Wild Things Are boasts a striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer that complements the tone and tenor of Jonze's disquieting vision. Mired in rough-hewn browns, winter-cast yellows, and languishing oranges, cinematographer Lance Acord's bleak palette isn't brimming with the lush greens and glowing primaries filmfans might expect. But it is beautiful -- breathtaking even -- in its own right. Trapped beneath searing white skies and imprisoned in bottomless shadows, Max and his monsters seems as much a part of their world as it seems a part of them. Skintones and furshades are lifelike, depth is commendable, contrast is strong and stable, and blacks are well-resolved. A handful of nighttime scenes (primarily those involving Max's arrival and the aftermath of his manufactured war) are a tad problematic, but any shortcomings trace back to Jonze and Acord's at-times jittery handheld photography, not Warner's technical transfer. Likewise, soft shots litter the proceedings, but each instance appears to be inherent to the original print. Frankly, Where the Wild Things Are will never be a tack-sharp film, nor should it be. Even so, textures are quite clean and refined, the creatures' unwieldy hair is nicely rendered, delineation is as revealing as it should be, and the cracks and crevices of Max and Carol's spherical fortress look amazing. Moreover, I didn't notice any artifacting, aliasing, ringing, unintentional source noise, DNR, or edge enhancement. Some fleeting banding and crush appeared during two late-night conversations, but neither issue became a distraction. All things considered, Warner's high definition efforts should please anyone who appreciates Where the Wild Things Are for what it is: a decidedly dark, fittingly mature take on a classic children's tale.
Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Wild rumpus, indeed. Where the Wild Things Are bounds onto Blu-ray with a commanding DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track; one that revels in every romp, roll, and roar Max and his monsters have to offer. From crashing waves to toppling trees, from forest races to ravine wars, the LFE channel is resonant and earthy, granting explosions and scattering debris convincing weight and presence. Rear speaker activity is just as impressive, readily enveloping the listener in Max's world through absorbing ambient effects and haunting acoustics, and celebrating Carter Burwell and Karen Orzolek's unforgettable music with each lingering melody, percussion flourish, and dissonant chord. But Warner's mix also proves itself to be a refreshingly subtle sonic powerhouse, striking a near-perfect balance between its creatures' chaotic misadventures and Jonze's sobering stretches of silent heartache. Dialogue, regardless of Max's emotional state, remains crisp and intelligible from beginning to end, prioritization is impeccable, and directionality is eerily precise. Wind whips across the desert plains and rustles a smoke-swept canopy of trees, a dusty breeze pelts a brambled fort, and the oceans wave lull and crash near the shore. It's all a breathtaking experience, undermined only by the occasional mismanaged pan. As startlingly real as Max's imaginary world is, Warner's stirring lossless audio track makes it even more so. I was utterly entranced.
Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Normally my score for such a modest selection of special features wouldn't drift this high, but the Where the Wild Things Are supplemental package manages to do more in 75-minutes than most do in four or five hours. Rather than delve into the technical minutia of the shoot, the featurettes evoke the feelings of those on the set, reveal the familial nature of the production, and capture the very real emotions than clearly found their way onto the screen. Of course, it helps that everyone involved is so intensely likable. Don't get me wrong, a commentary, a Picture-in-Picture track, and a lengthy look at the film's amazing special effects would have all been fantastic additions to the release, but I came away from Jonze and Warner's high definition supplemental package with a massive grin plastered across my face.
Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Where the Wild Things Are will strike countless people in countless ways. Simplicity and complexity abound in every scene, making Jonze's dark children's film accessible to all ages, providing you have the stomach and the heart to endure its more challenging themes. Thankfully, Warner's Blu-ray edition effectively embraces the film's artistry and resonance. It features a faithful video transfer, a strong DTS-HD Master Audio track, and an unexpectedly engrossing selection of unassuming special features. Easily one of my favorite films of 2009, Where the Wild Things Are deserves to be seen, owned, and cherished.
Where the Wild Things Are: Other Editions
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• Today on Blu-ray - March 2nd - March 2, 2010
If Hollywood needs something blown up, Roland Emmerich is the man to do it; he has made a very successful career in destroying the world over and over again for the amusement of film fans. For his latest film 2012 - which is out on Blu-ray today – Emmerich uses ...
• Where the Wild Things Are Blu-ray Announced - January 12, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced that it will release 'Where the Wild Things Are' on Blu-ray on March 2. This adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book, directed by Spike Jonze, will come in a BD/DVD/Digital copy combo pack. The Blu-ray will exclusively include ...
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