The economy has gone to hell, but you can still afford to splurge on the latest in High Definition treats. The CHUD Home Entertainment Team has taken upon themselves to draft the Top 25 Blu-Rays released in Region A thus far. From the 1st of December until Christmas, we’ll count down to the greatest Blu-Ray release of all-time. Join us and marvel at the treasures of the 1080p set..

LIST POSITION: #14
TITLE
: Up
DIRECTOR: Pete Doctor
CAST: Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft, Josh Cooley, John Ratzenberger
MSRP: $45.99
RATING: PG
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Global Guardian Badge Game
  • Cine-Explore: The making of
  • Dug’s Special Mission
  • The Many Endings of Muntz
  • Partly Cloudy
  • Adventure is Out There
  • Geriatric Hero
  • Canine Companions
  • Russell: Wilderness Explorer
  • Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin
  • Homemakers of Pixar
  • Balloons and Flight
  • Composing for Characters
  • Married Life
  • UP promo montage
  • Theatrical trailers

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WHY IT’S ON THE LIST:

When I first saw Up, I expected to see a movie about a crotchety old man and an annoying little boy on a misadventure, an odd couple if you will. That is what every trailer leading up to the movie showed me and it seemed Pixar might be pushing something out lower than the bar they had set for themselves. I was wrong.

Pixar has always gone above and beyond the typical children’s animated movie storylines. This isn’t just a movie about friendship and loyalty and discovering oneself. Yes, those traits are on display in this film but it also shows us very real, very adult topics such as the treatment of the elderly in today’s society, the loss (read: death) of a loved one, the realization that all your dreams have not come true, the lack of parental love for a child, and the disappointment when you finally face your heroes.

Up is the one of many Pixar masterpieces and might be the best of them all.


Carl Fredricksen is a young, awkward boy when we first meet him. He is wearing aviator goggles and is watching a movie about his hero, explorer Charles Muntz. Muntz has just returned from Paradise Falls in South America with bones proving the existence of a giant creature. However his hero was embarrassed when anthropologists claim the bones were fabricated and Muntz left for Paradise Falls once again, determined to prove the creature exists, never to be seen again.

On his way home, an excited young Carl comes across an old, abandoned house and hears a voice inside, excitedly talking about Charles Muntz. He sneaks in and meets the owner of the voice, a young girl named Ellie. Ellie proudly gives a very nervous Carl a badge and announces they are now part of an exclusive explorer’s club. She makes Carl promise her that they will take a trip to Paradise Falls to explore and shows him a book she will document their adventures in.

The next ten minutes are possibly the sweetest, most heartwarming and tender scenes ever displayed in a Pixar movie. Wall-E proves that Pixar can make a silent film and keep kids interested throughout. The opening of Up is not a silent film, but is as close as you can get with minimalistic dialogue and the most magnificent musical score I have heard in a long time.


Michael Giacchino, who previously worked with Pixar on Ratatouille, deserves all the credit in the world for how well this film works. His music is beautiful, minimalistic and fits the moods of the movie, changing throughout from sorrow to adventure to loneliness to tenderness, never missing a beat. The man should be standing at the front of the line come Oscar season and deserves all the accolades he receives. This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest scores I have ever heard in a motion picture. It is the music, as much as the silent narrative of this sequence, which breaks your heart before the main story of the movie gets underway.

What makes kids happy are the crazy hijinks and humor of an animated film. Up is filled to the brink with humor and I was shocked and surprised at how much I laughed during this movie. There is a scene early where we meet the main core of the pack of dogs and once the leader of the pack begins to speak, I lost it. Dug, the outcast dog that latches onto Carl and Russell, possesses the funnier lines in the movie and will have kids repeating the lines ad nauseum after seeing it. The action is fast and furious, from the pack of dogs chasing our heroes through the jungles to the final sword vs. cane fight aboard a Zeppelin, there is never a lack of intense adventure.

Humor and adventure can be all an animated film needs to be a success to the kids but it takes much more to cater to the adults. Toy Story possesses a story of abandonment, as the toys find themselves no longer needed by their beloved master. Wall-E is, at its core, a tale of environmental devastation with the loneliness and desolation of the robot to top it off. Monsters Inc. is a story of overcoming your fears while Finding Nemo is a tale of being separated from your parents. Pixar has specialized in ignoring pop culture references just for the sake of seeming cool and has perfected telling poignant stories that both tug on the heart strings while also making you think.

Up continues that tradition and might top everything that came before. With strong, emotional character arcs for both Carl and Russell and heartbreaking moments, 70 years difference in age doesn’t mean anything if you are still young at heart. For adults, animated films are for people still holding the memories of youth in their hearts and souls and this is a movie rewarding that joy. Carl needs Russell and Russell needs Carl. It is the relationship between two individuals who on the outside look like complete opposites but on the inside are two sides to the same coin that makes the movie special. They take the adventure of a lifetime and, while it is Russell who is trying to aid the elderly, both characters complete each other.

Pixar has created odd couples in the past that play off each other in memorable ways. Woody and Buzz give each other what they need to survive and move on to the next stage in life. Wall-E and Eve complete a union that not only helps save all humanity but also finds the actual meaning of their existence. In Up, Carl and Russell find each other broken and in pain and by the end of the film have given each other the pieces missing in their lives. It is a fantastic story amplified by a magnificent musical score that works hand in hand to take you from heartbreak to excitement to contentment in what might be the best movie of the year. Up is perfect.


As normal, Pixar also does not skimp on the special features. This Blu-Ray is immaculate in both look and sound spread out over two discs. The Blu Ray is advertised as a 4-disc set, but the other two discs are the DVD and digital copy.

The Blu Ray special feature I enjoy the most are picture-in-picture commentary tracks and there is one included on the Blu Ray for Up. The commentary is great and informative, with Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson and includes pictures, art work and more to emphasize what they are talking about. It is a great track that is only bettered by Wall E’s two tracks.

Pixar also includes a couple of short films on the Blu-Ray, including Partly Cloudy and Doug’s Special Mission. Partly Cloudy is the short that showed before the theatrical release of the film and Doug’s Special Mission is a sweet short showing how Doug ended up meeting his new humans.

The second disc offers a ton of behind-the-scenes features looking at the making of the movie, the themes of Up and the creation of the story. No stone is left unturned, as expected from Pixar.


WHY IT DIDN’T RANK HIGHER:

Up, while one of Pixar’s greatest achievements in storytelling, is not the best Blu Ray that the company has released. Wall-E features much of what Up offers plus even more goodies. It is also important to understand that, much like Tony mentioned with Criterion in The Leopard discussion, these quality efforts are expected now from Pixar, whether that is a fair comparison or not. There is not much better in the world of animated Blu-Rays, but the collections listed above this up-the-ante even more.

THE BEST SUPPLEMENT:

The best supplement on this Blu-Ray is the movie itself, but that is expected. Even more Pixar animated goodness makes me even happier. Both animated shorts are great additions and add to the value of the Blu Ray. However, the best extra feature on the Blu-Ray is the picture-in-picture commentary track. It never gets boring and the extra art adds so much more entertainment to the viewings.

SCREENSHOTS:


Ed Asner finally did it. He made a human centipede out of Rhoda, Mary and Ted.


ABC won’t let Charles Widmore rest. Coming in Fall 2011 is a brand-new LOST animated adventure. Guided by a magical elf named Barney, Widmore will find his way back home one day!

If they start screwing, try not to look them in the eye.


The greatest romance in American Cinema during the Aughts.

9.5 out of 10