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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Race to Witch Mountain (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

 

(Andy Fickman, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Walt Disney Pictures/Gunn Films

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A-locked

Runtime: 99 min.

Chapters: 12

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/flippage & slipcover

Release date: August 4, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit). Dub: French, Spanish & Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, et al.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Malay, Bahasa and more.

 

Extras:

• "Which Mountain?" – Discover hidden references to the original movie. – in HD (8:20)

• Deleted Scenes with Introductions by the Director – in SD (23:21)

• Bloopers – (3:37)

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• Disc 3: DVD of the feature film

 

 

 

The Film: 6
It's been a few years since Disney closed the door on Witch Mountain. The first movie, Escape to Witch Mountain, was way back in 1975; the sequel, Return from Witch Mountain, followed three years later. Each employed the talents of a number of major actors (Eddie Albert, Ray Milland and Donald Pleasence in the original; Bette Davis and Christopher Lee in the second.) Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann played the same children in both movies, and are seen in cameos in the new film. There was also a made-for-TV remake of the original story in 1995, not as well received. These were all family-friendly live action movies that centered on a brother/sister duo with mysterious powers and the attempts of those who would exploit them.

Some of that naiveté is captured in the new movie, but the effects and noise level tends to take center stage in these proceedings. In the latest update, the children, while persistently humanoid, evidently arrive on Earth in a spacecraft (at Shipwreck, Nevada – a nice touch). They are still some distance from their destination where they must retrieve a gadget of galactic importance and locate their spaceship before a Terminator-type machine from their planet gets to it first.

Who ya gonna call but a cab in Vegas to get you there - and who should be driving it but Jack Bruno, an erstwhile thug, now trying his best to go straight after a stay as a guest of the state! The mob has other plans and makes life a little difficult for him. Nothing he can't handle, wouldn't you know, because Jack is played by none other than the GREAT Dwayne Johnson. I mean that kindly as well as figuratively. "The Rock" is actually rather charming in the role of rescuer, and the perfect foil for Sara's and Seth's inflexible way of presenting themselves.

If the Terminator (unhappily underdeveloped) and the Vegas mob (unhappily present in the first place) were not enough, the main irritant presents in the form of Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds), a federal agent reminiscent in mission, if not style, of Richard Jaeckel's character in Starman. Undaunted, Jack enlists the aid of Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino – what's not to like!), a UFO scientist in town for a nerds' sci-fi convention.

 


 

Image: 6/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I guess for the target audience there is little to complain about here and, indeed, except for some occasional EE and shadowless blacks, the main difficulty is a kind of grainy flatness that dulls the imagination. Sharpness is good, but humanoid flesh is lifeless.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/6
The audio fares better than the image: we are not disappointed in an uncompressed DTS-HD MA mix that features car chases, explosions, a little gunfire and a train wreck. Directional cues in the surrounds are less than specific but, through it all, the dialogue remains clear.
 

Operations: 8
I do like menus that tell me what I'm about to get into, especially with the bonus features. These do. Yeah, team.

 

 

 

Extras: 3
The extra features consist of a few extended deleted scenes, smartly introduced by Director Fickman, a few pointlessly included bloopers, and a featurette where Fickman unmasks some of his cameos - most significantly Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann from the original movies (my, how they've aged!) - and other petit tributes to Disney.

 


Bottom line: 5
Harmless Family entertainment that's hard to imagine youngsters wouldn't enjoy. The image is so-so, the audio better, however, the whole enterprise is a little overpriced unless you can take advantage of the two bonus discs.

Leonard Norwitz
August 3rd, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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