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Zathura: A Space Adventure(2005)
In this heart-racing sci-fi adventure two squabbling brothers are propelled into deepest, darkest space while playing a mysterious game they discovered in the basement of theirold house. On their fantastic journey, they are joined by a stranded astronaut and must survive meteor showers, hostile lizard-like aliens, a rocket-propelled robot run amok and an intergalactic spaceship battle. Unless they finish the game and reach the planet Zathura, they could be trapped in outer space forever.
For more about Zathura: A Space Adventure and the Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray release, see Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jonah Bobo, Josh Hutcherson, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins, Frank Oz
Director: Jon Favreau
» See full cast & crew
Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 16, 2011
Take your turn.
Every now and then a movie comes along that delivers a completely satisfying throwback cinema experience that reminds audiences what it really means to be entertained, pulled into another realm where the filmmakers have visualized a figment of the human imagination with care and a great sense of excitement and honesty. Zathura is one of those movies. It might not be perfect in the strictest sense of the term, but Director Jon Favreau's film exudes energy like nothing else and delivers pure cinema as wholesome and mind-bogglingly bigger-than-life fantastical entertainment. It's so well made and so good at being purely loud and fun that its various shortcomings -- most of them scientific, which in this case in no way hurt the final product -- just disappear as many a kid's every fantasy comes alive on the silver screen. Zathura is a wonderfully-realized and completely engaging film that's focused like a laser beam on fun. It's also large in scope, oozing with enthusiasm, built with seamlessly-constructed special effects, not at all lacking in charm, solidified by strong characterization, and infinitely watchable thanks to contagiously youthful energy that never lets up.
Brothers Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo) compete to monopolize their busy father's (Tim Robbins) time. They only have a few days a week with him, and despite the best laid plans of mice and men, he can't escape the call of duty of the office while they're in his care. The brothers compete amongst one another, with older brother Walter finding himself increasingly frustrated with the juvenile, uncoordinated Danny who turns to his older brother for attention when dad can't offer his time. In an effort to pull Walter's attention away from the latest rerun of Sportscenter, Danny drags out an old-fashioned board game called "Zathura" that he conveniently finds in the basement. No sooner does he set it up and take his turn does the game transport the brothers and their entire house, big sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart) included, to the rings of Saturn where the playing area -- the family living room -- comes under attack from a deadly meteor shower. Danny has Walter's attention now, and they learn that only by playing the game to completion can they restore things to the way they were. The only question is whether they can keep taking their turns while their house crumbles around them and death threatens with every game move that takes them further towards the unknown.
Zathura may be big and loud and lacking much meaning, but its purpose is clear. Here's a movie that's been lovingly crafted to speak to the kid in everyone, a movie that's capable of delicately balancing the deadly and dangerous with the warm and fuzzy. This is classic Fantasy come to life, a movie that's the perfect representation of boyhood make-believe that works not only because it features aliens and robots and explosions, but because its characters are so well developed and brought to life with that same energy and enthusiasm and realistic balance that's evident throughout the film. Sure parts of Zathura may make the logical side of the brain try and force the viewer to dismiss the movie -- it's a nightmare in terms of ignoring hard science -- but in a movie like this, staying true to the laws of nature don't apply through the veil of fantasy. Everything about Zathura is aimed at tickling the fancy and waking the inner child. While it's certain to entertain younger audiences who see in it all of the sweeping superficialities while reveling in the excitement and noise, it's also sure to pull older viewers back into a time and place where it seemed the imagination was capable of going anywhere and doing anything. The film oozes heart and sincerity; it's touching and smart, fantastical to be sure but grounded in an honesty that's rarely achieved anymore in moviemaking.
Director Jon Favreau employs smooth yet kinetic direction that keeps Zathura's pacing high, accentuates its fantastical storyline, and injects it with a sense of unmistakable purpose. His slick and lean yet steady and precise camerawork gives the picture a polished and modern edge, yet he effortlessly captures an old-fashioned feel at the same time, aided in large part by superb production design and practical special effects implementation that gives the movie a unique and accomplished combination feel that's both modern and throwback. The characters and the set come from what is easily recognized as current times, the boys speaking with modern colloquialisms, but they deal with a game, ideas, and designs that are straight out of the 1950s. The sleek implementation of yesterday's futuristic visuals proves both charming and highly effective both visually and thematically. The cast of Zathura proves up to the challenge of solidifying the picture and adding the final touches to what is already a memorable combination of story, style, and special effects. Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson play their parts as brothers with a contagious enthusiasm and a belivability that even veteran actors portraying siblings don't often accomplish. Theirs are wide-eyed and often fearful but also begrudgingly understanding and even loving characters, and the actors convey each emotion -- both as they are needed on an individual basis and together as brothers -- with striking ease. Dax Shepard turns in an accomplished and underrated performance as a traveling astronaut with a secret whom the game gives to the boys as a helper at one point, and Tim Robbins is spot-on perfect as the boys's divorced father who must always find that delicate middle ground of keeping both of his sons on an even keel while maintaining his busy lifestyle and work schedule.
Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray, Video Quality
Zathura zooms onto Blu-ray with an eye-catching 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer from Sony. The studio simply knocks this one out of the park; it's a beautifully filmic transfer that offers pristine detailing across the board and in every environment, whether the bright outdoor shots in the family front yard, the warm wooden-accented interiors inside the home, or the crisp star fields of outer space. Clothing and facial textures are also superb as well, as are the smallest little intricacies seen around the frame such as pavement, wood grains, and the battered brushed metal body of the deadly robot that appears in the film. The transfer is naturally sharp and very crisp; the image retains its strong detailing and accuracy even out to a distance, and it's made all the better by the retention of a fine layer of film grain. The color palette -- skin tones included -- appears a bit unnaturally warm, but such seems the picture's natural state and not a problem with the Blu-ray itself. Black levels are rich and exhibit great shadow detail. This is a wonderful transfer in every regard; Sony continues to exhibit dominance in its ability to deliver the best-looking discs on the market.
Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Zathura's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is every bit the match for the crisp visuals. The picture enjoys a big, sweeping, even heroic old-timey Science Fiction-style score that features seamless and rich delivery, natural spacing, and plenty of surround support. The entire soundstage is constantly engaged in the film's many action sequences, with sound effects traversing here and there and everywhere, never losing their authority or clarity as they bombard the listening area with sonic goodness, whether meteorites devastating the house, a robot tearing through it, or aliens shooting deadly projectiles into the now space-based abode. There's always something going on, and Sony's soundtrack handles the most precise little supportive elements and the heaviest action effects alike with equal clarity and ease. The low end delivers some heavy thuds that never overwhelm the rest of the track, instead remaining focused on the job and tight in feel. Dialogue is well-balanced, whether Danny's higher pitched voice, Tim Robbins's even-keeled delivery, or the robot's metallic and penetrating vocals. This is an exciting, well-executed soundtrack that's the perfect compliment to a kid's boisterous fantasy come to life on film.
Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Zathura launches onto Blu-ray with a nice assortment of extras, with an audio commentary track and several featurettes leading the charge.
Zathura: A Space Adventure Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Zathura may share with Jumanji the basic common threads of its storyline, but Director Jon Favreau's film is not only the superior of the two in terms of raw craftsmanship and fun factor, it's also pretty much a perfect little kid-centric adventure film that's suitable for the whole family. Sure it flubs some basic scientific truths, but this is a Fantasy/Adventure film, not a dissertation or treatise on how things work in outer space. Zathura is one of those rare movies that just somehow gets everything right, and few movies are as flat-out entertaining, relaxing, and infinitely watchable as this. Sony's Blu-ray release of Zathura is also technically flawless. A pristine 1080p transfer and a wonderful lossless soundtrack make this disc a must-buy, but throw in a nice assortment of extras, and it's up there with some of the best catalogue releases of the year. Zathura earns my highest recommendation.
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