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

Aliens in the Attic [Blu-ray]

 

(John Schultz, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Josephson Entertainment

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 1:25:48.143

Disc Size: 32,068,115,582 bytes

Feature Size: 18,462,517,248 bytes

Video Bitrate: 22.28 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video  1080p / 23.976 fps

 

Bitrate:

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3656 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3656 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, none

 

Extras:

• Introductions by Ashley Tisdale

• The Ashley Encounters – in HD (4:09)

• Animated Short: Behind the Zirkonians – in HD (15:26)

• Lights! Camera! Aliens! – in HD (9:31)

• Meet the Zirkonians: Interactive fun facts

• Kung Fu Grandma

• Brian Anthony

• Fox Movie Channel Presents x Josephson – in SD (27:31)

• 3 Deleted Scenes – in HD (3:34)

• Alternate Ending – in HD (2:48)

• Gag Reel – in HD (4:54)

• Digital Copy Disc

 

 

The Film:

Rare in this environment of political correctness, and given every opportunity to be otherwise, Aliens in the Attic is unabashedly message and irony- free. It's a fun piece of completely frivolous, though not particularly silly family entertainment. It's a sort of Invaders from Mars meets E.T. by way of English-speaking Gremlins – but without the terror or the tears. On the other hand, it's really not much of a movie. It has little suspense or punch, and it takes too long for the lead character, Tom Pearson (Carter Jenkins), to find his worth. Even so, I enjoyed the time I spent with it, though I doubt it has strong rewatchable credentials.

I'm otherwise entirely unfamiliar with the director, John Schultz, but I see that the IMDB lists a few family films to his credit. From the special features, he hardly looks old enough to have any background at all, but seems he does. Aliens in the Attic has not proven itself to be a lucrative proposition, unable to make much more than half its budget in ticket sales in the U.S. in the first three months since its release.

The Movie: 5
The set up is that while the Pearson family is vacationing at a rented summer home, aliens land on their roof who threaten to invade the planet. To make sure that humans are conquerable, the Zirkonians send a quartet of little green who engage in relentless intrateam rivalry. Most on the outs is Sparks, their young engineer, who hasn't an antagonistic bone in his body and soon befriends some of the kids who the aliens first want to control. The main device the Zirkonians use is a kind of video game console that controls the behavior of humans. As it happens, anyone under 18 is immune to its effects, which give the kids time to defend the territory and protect the adult - most of them anyways.

The kids may have saved the planet from an alien invasion, but it is Robert Hoffman's amazingly rubbery performance that steals the show, whether he's playing older sister Ashley's two-faced boyfriend or under the mind and body bending control of the aliens.
 


 

Image: 8/9    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
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.

Never having seen this movie in the theatre I can't say how much of its increased black level and saturation is an original effect, pressing shadows into near non-existence at times. On the other hand, perhaps this was the filmmakers' way of creating a certain element of suspense, which the movie otherwise lacks. Elsewhere, there is a stunning almost surrealistic look to the image, especially outdoors in natural light, with beautifully rendered contrast and no evidence of electronic haze. A normal film grain is present, appropriately so depending on the lighting. In other respects the transfer appears to be intact and artifact-free, without evidence of tampering or carelessness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
The uncompressed DTS HD-MA mix is certainly clear enough, with its crisply expressed dialogue of natural sizes and true timbres, and its dynamic music score and effects. But, the mix was curiously uninvolving, resulting largely from a certain carelessness to the placement of surround information. Most disheartening was any sense of the attic above our heads when heard from the floor below. The kids would hear sounds from the ceiling and look up, but we don't. On the other hand, most of the environmental sounds (wind, rain, crickets) come into play nicely.
 

Operations: 7
Hidden windows for the Extra Features, but what is there is easy to read and access.

 

Extras: 7
Clearly Fox knows who the public wants to see here, and it ain't the aliens or the director or the boys – it's the one and only Ashley Tisdale, who we will remember as one of few reasons to have indulged in the High School Musical saga. Ashley is only a supporting player in this movie, with little to do but function as the older sister – a princess in gestation. But as our M.C. she's just the right person to put us in the right frame of mind for the extra features. She even has a kind of video blog of goings on the set – in HD, no less – titled "The Ashley Encounters".

Elsewhere, there is a clever 15-minute animated comic book "Behind the Zirkonians" which details the backstory of their arrival on Earth. "Meet the Zirkonians" is a less stellar interactive contribution that describes details about each of the alien characters. The "Gag Reel" is just your routine series of flubs and outtakes. It's in HD, though, for what it's worth. The alternate ending is shown with incomplete animated aliens woven into the segment. It's worth more as a work in progress than an alternative ending.

In place of an audio commentary, Fox offers several features in high def, only one of which, "Lights Camera Aliens", purports to be a production essay. It's on the short side, but entertaining and covers the ground of special effects. In SD, but also in an attempt to cover production, at least in theory, is a Fox Movie Channel presents Barry Josephson piece.
 

 

Bottom line: 7
Targeted for the pre-teen set, Aliens in the Attic is a harmless bit of fluff, not nearly as dull nor as insulting as I expected. For what it's worth, I rather enjoyed it. The image quality is quite good, though the audio is hardly the stuff aliens are made of. Extra features are fun with lots of Ashley for all.

Leonard Norwitz
November 9, 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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