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I love Pixar Animation Studios movies in general and have come to really enjoy the decidedly more mature qualities of Pixar's storytelling in their later films like WALL•E, RATATOUILLE and UP. Pixar's latest film, BRAVE ($50), is also representative their more mature storytelling, and is a highly enjoyable film in its own right, but the movie doesn't always fill the shoes of some of studios best efforts. So while BRAVE may not be Pixar's finest cinematic achievement, this delightful film still is infinitely more beautiful and more entertaining than the best efforts of some other animation studios. As stories go, BRAVE offers up something along the lines of a Scottish folktale/faerie tale, which is ideally suited to the stunning animation that Pixar can provide to embellish the fable.

Set in a simpler time, when there was still magic in the highlands of Scotland, BRAVE tells the story of a wee young Scottish Princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), who is given a bow as a birthday present by her rough and tumble father King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly), much to the disdain of her all too proper and traditionalist mother Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson). While practicing archery, Merida encounters a will-o'-the-wisp that she follows off into the forest. In the forest, Merida has another encounter... this one with a giant demon bear named Mor'du. Although Merida and Elinor escape unscathed, the encounter with Mor'du costs King Fergus one of his legs. Time passes, and Princess Merida grows into a fiercely independent young woman, who is continually at odds with her mother, who maintains a traditionalist view on how a young princess should behave. Further straining the mother daughter relationship is the announcement Merida is to be betrothed to a first-born son, of the leader, of one of her father's allied clans. Of course, Merida wants nothing to do with any of the three first-born sons competing for her hand in marriage, and the wily Princess finds a way to use the rules of the Highland Games to her own advantage... thus winning her own hand. In winning her own hand, Merida embarrasses the leaders of her father's allied clans and causes a major falling out between mother and daughter.

Fleeing the castle, Merida encounters another will-o'-the-wisp, which this time leads her to the home of an eccentric wood carver (voiced by Julie Walters) with a penchant for bears, who just happens to be a witch. Merida strikes a bargain with the wood carver, agreeing to purchase all of her carvings, if she will also throw in a spell that will change her mother. With the bargain struck, Merida returns to the castle with a peace offering for her mother in the form of a cake. Of course, the cake is enchanted and contains the spell provided to Merida by the wood carver. Unfortunately, the spell not only changes Queen Elinor, it transforms her into a bear- an animal not particularly welcome at the castle. The remainder of BRAVE finds Merida trying to unravel a riddle left for her by the wood carver, one which will undo the spell, before time runs out and Queen Elinor becomes a bear forever. Of course, the irony of BRAVE is that Merida comes to have a greater understanding for her mother while she is a bear and unable to articulate her thoughts, than when she was human and the young Princess would not listen to what the Queen had to say. The vocal talent behind BRAVE also features Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Sally Kinghorn, Eilidh Fraser, Peigi Barker, Steven Cree, Steve Purcell, Callum O'Neill, Patrick Doyle and John Ratzenberger.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (and Pixar) has made BRAVE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec, while the 3D version is presented MVC codec. What can I say about any Pixar Blu-ray release that doesn't include a phrase like- absolute visual perfection. BRAVE features an utterly flawless 1080p presentation that is an exquisite jewel of high definition visuals. Like each and every other Pixar Blu-ray mastered off the original digital computer files, BRAVE delivers a CGI image with astonishing clarity, superb depth and extraordinary detail. Once again, the texture mapping on objects, characters backgrounds are incredibly detailed and make every frame of BRAVE eye-popping. Merida's unruly red curls had to been an immense technical challenge, but they are a flawless and captivating visual element. Colors are fully saturated, with the prominent greens, golds, oranges, reds and blues standing out in clarity and complete stability. Blacks are inky perfection, while the whites have pure digital clarity. Additionally, contrast demonstrates the kind of smoothness that can only be created in the digital realm. As I stated above, the presentation comes directly from the digital files, so there is no grain, nor will one find any visual imperfections in the image. As for the 3D version of the movie, it maintains all of the best qualities of the 2D image, while adding an immense sense of depth and space to many sequences, as well as adding a rounded fullness to characters and objects within the image. The 3D never comes across as overly gimmicky, but really enhances the lush animation with an open spaciousness.

BRAVE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Again, like the visuals of any Pixar movie on Blu-ray, the sonics also achieve perfection. BRAVE is pure sonic gold. Sound effects can be aggressively or subtly deployed throughout the entire soundstage, depending on any given moment in the film. Of course, the outlying channels engage nearly continuous fashion with the bigger moments having a larger impact than when the sound design strives a more subdued, but wholly magical sense of engagement. During the larger action set pieces, sounds whiz around the soundstage and leap out at the viewer from all directions. At all times, sounds move effortlessly through the soundstage and maintain pinpoint placement. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is terrific for both the musical component and sound effects. The bass channel is weighty, percussive and adds all the necessary impact to the sonic elements. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand, despite the Scottish accents. Additional soundtrack options include an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track, a French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus track, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks, a 2.0 Near Field Mix, as well as an English descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell, plus story supervisor Brian Larsen, as well as editor Nick Smith. We also have the Theatrical Short LA LUNA that accompanied BRAVE in theaters, as well as the short THE LEGEND OF MOR’DU, which fleshes of a character in the film. Disc one Featurettes and other programs include the following: Brave Old World (thirteen minutes), Merida & Elinor (nine minutes), Bears (six minutes), Brawl In The Hall (six minutes), Wonder Moss (three minutes), Magic (seven minutes), Clan Pixar (five minutes) and Once Upon A Scene (eight minutes). Four Extended Scenes close out disc one. Disc two Featurettes and other programs include the following: Promotional Pieces (fourteen minutes), Fergus & Mor'du: An Alternate Opening (three minutes), Fallen Warriors (two minutes), Dirty Hairy People (four minutes), It Is English... Sort Of (four minutes), Angus (three minutes) and The Tapestry (four minutes). Four Art Galleries close out disc two.

Disc three contains a DVD edition of BRAVE. Disc four contains a Digital Copy of the film.  Disc five contains the 3D version of BRAVE.

As I stated above, BRAVE may not be Pixar's finest cinematic achievement, but this delightful film still is infinitely more beautiful and more entertaining than the best efforts of some other animation studios. The Blu-ray presentation is pre-packaged perfection. Definitely recommended.


Brave (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy) (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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