3D Blu-ray Review “The Smurfs 2”

Actors: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Brendan Gleeson, Christina Ricci and J.B. Smoove
Directors: Raja Gosnell
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Run Time: 105 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
3D: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I saw “The Smurfs” back in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised. I grew up watching the animated series and have always had a special place for those little blue people. Of course Sony scored big with the first film and a sequel was inevitable. I just wasn’t really dying for another one so soon, especially since the first was enjoyable but still nothing amazing. The sequel doesn’t match the fun of the first film. It is worth checking out most definitely for kids since it is quite entertaining for them. I might be a little harsher on this film than it deserves but I just feel like this is a bit too sloppy for me and a little bit lazy (and the box office showed this). Hopefully they will improve on this for the again inevitable “The Smurfs 3”.

Official Premise: Evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) creates Hackus and Vexy, a pair of mischievous Smurf‑like creatures, hoping they will let him harness the magical Smurf‑essence. However, he soon discovers that he needs the help of Smurfette, who knows the secret to turning the pair into real Smurfs. When Gargamel, Hackus and Vexy kidnap Smurfette from Smurf Village and bring her to Paris, it’s up to Papa, Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity to reunite with their human friends, Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris)and Grace Winslow (Jayma Mays), to rescue her.

Sony is know for delivering some of the best Blu-rays that are being released today. This three-disc combo includes Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy. The 1080p transfer is actually quite amazing, which is not surprising since this film was mastered in 4K for maximum picture and expanded color (not though this is only for the 2D version of the film). Like with “The Smurfs”, I was quite the fan of the 3D transfer. Same goes for this sequel, the added dimension really works for this film. It is a little cheesy but I feel that it works well with the type of film this is. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also delivers quite well, which the zany antics and fun action.

In terms of special features, they are pretty impressive. Only included on the 3D and Blu-ray combo packs is the Sony Pictures Animations’ animated Smurfs mini-movie, “The Legend of Smurfy Hollow.” This was previously released on DVD earlier this Fall and luckily now is available with this release. There are two featurettes including “Daddy’s Little Girl: The Journey of Smurfette” and “Animating Azrael”, which are available on the Blu-ray and DVD. There are also three Blu-ray exclusive featurettes including “The Puurrfect Companion: Azreal’s Tail”, “Evolution of the Naughties” and “The Naughties! The Tale of Hackus and Vexy” included. Lastly Sony has been integrating smart phone apps with their Blu-ray releases. With this release we get “Smurf-O-Vision 2 App”, which allows you to play fun activities with your favorite Smurfs and sync with your Blu-ray to expand even more fun extras from the film.

DVD Review “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow”

Starring: Jack Angel, Fred Armisen, Hank Azaria, Gary Basaraba, Alan Cumming, Tom Kane, John Oliver, Melissa Sturm, Frank Welker, Adam Wylie, Anton Yelchin
Director: Stephan Franc
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 10, 2013
Run Time: 22 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I grew up watching “The Smurfs” as a kid back in the 80’s and have always loved watching them. In 2011, “The Smurfs” was made into a CG/Live-action movie, which because a huge hit.  “The Smurfs 2” was released this past summer and did not follow the same path as the first one.  I guess they smurfed up on it or something. “The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow” is a 22-minute short that continues the Smurfs adventures this time in a seasonal special.  Cute special for kids and could be a fun to revisit each year.

Official Premise: When Brainy Smurf is favored to win the annual Smurfberry Hunt for the ninth year in a row, Gutsy Smurf sets out to discover how Brainy wins every year. Gutsy’s investigation takes him into spooky Smurfy Hollow-and right into Gargamel’s trap! Can Brainy and Gutsy, with the help of Smurfette, put aside their rivalry before Gargamel captures them-or worse, they come face-to-face with the legendary ghost, the Headless Horseman?

The short film features the returning cast of Jack Angel (Papa Smurf), Fred Armisen (Brainy Smurf), Hank Azaria (Gargamel), Gary Basaraba (Hefty Smurf), Alan Cumming (Gutsy Smurf), Tom Kane (Narrator Smurf), John Oliver (Vanity Smurf), Melissa Sturm (Smurfette), Frank Welker (Azrael), Adam Wylie (Panicky Smurf), Anton Yelchin (Clumsy Smurf). So the effort is definitely there to bring back everyone involved and only left is Katy Perry (who probably costed to much) and the late Jonathan Winters.

I have admit, I was a little taken back at the fact that this DVD’s cover art suggests a CG animated short like the 2011 and 2013 films. The opening and closing of the show is in CG but the bulk of the story is a traditional animated short. This might disappoint the kids that are introduced to these new films and looking for a new chapter. There are no additional bonus features included here besides some Sony trailers. So the question becomes this is worth the $4.99 that it costs (via Amazon), which is very cheap but you are also getting a 22-minute film on DVD with no special features. So it is a toss up.

Todd Tucker talks about working make-up effects for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and The Smurfs 2"

Todd Tucker is the owner of special make-up effects studio, Illusion Industries. He has worked on films like “Hannibal”, “Pirates of the Caribbean  The Curse of the Black Pearl” to TV shows like “Soutland” and “Hannah Montana”. 2013 is a very busy year for him with seven projects aiming to be released including “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and The Smurfs 2″.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Todd about these projects and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s breakdown your projects for 2013, first let’s chat about your role working on “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”?
Todd Tucker: Unfortunately with this film, I can’t tell you exactly what we did yet but I can describe our experience. What I can say about “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is that I think the fans are really going to dig what we did on this one. We did a number of different aspects including character looks etc. The first film was cool but it felt a little too much like a video game. It was very CG heavy. Jon Chu, the director, really made this film look like it was happening. Everything is very practical and it feels like you are really experiencing what you are seeing, as oppose to playing a game. The actors are really good at locking in their characters and not making it cheesy. I think this film is going to be very cool and also visually off-the-charts.

MG: Tell us about your work on “The Smurfs 2” and how does it compare from the first film?
TT: It cool since right when I started Illusion Industries, we got called to work on “The Smurfs” and we designed and created the look for Hank Azaria. We made all the appliances. He has a fake nose, dentures, ears, eyebrows and hair. So he looks pretty different. For the first movie, I wasn’t able to be on set. We created everything, did the make-up tests and then handed it off to somebody else. For “The Smurfs 2”, I got to go to Montreal and worked on Hank Azaria’s make-up for the whole show. It was interesting since we started to used the same nose and ears from the first film but Hank had lost some weight and was a little more buffed out. So we had to go in and re-sculpt the nose and downscale it a little bit to adjust for the look. For that point on, we had to just maintain him daily. He is just such a great actor and perfect for the role. He really brought it to life for sure.

MG: We go from action to animation to drama, tell us about your role in “The Iceman”?
TT: Originally we were going to do all sorts of character age make-ups for this film but then we found out it was not going to help the film. We then created all these period looks. We made all the wigs, mustaches and hairpieces. We did a few things on the lead actor, Michael Shannon, for the film. I can tell you this, I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival and I am not a big mafia movie fan but this movie is intense and the performances are great. I was very proud to have my name at the end of this movie.

MG: If you had to choose out of these three films above, which was the biggest challenge?
TT: The most challenging was “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”. We have our main studio here in Burbank but I also have another in New Orleans. The only problem is for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, the build was kind of big and they wanted us to relocate everyone to our Burbank studio to there. So we had to all relocate and move into a haunted house for three months [laughs]. So that was a fun but also a challenge. But it was a really cool project to work.

MG: Can you give us an idea about your work on “Fright Night 2”?
TT: The DP on the film I co-wrote and directed “Monster Mutt” is also the DP on “Fright Night 2”. They were filming the movie in Bulgaria around Christmas time last year. They were going through some changes and need us to come up with a creature design for the finale scene. So two of my guys here put it together very quickly and traveled it down. I think it is going to be very cool.

MG: With the films mentioned above and TV shows like “Southland”; do you enjoy the variety of genres?
TT: The thing that is cool is that all different movies and TV shows that we have coming out this year are ranging all across the board. We have family, horror, action, drama and TV shows. We occasionally work on “Sons of Anarchy” and do a lot for the Disney Channel. We are also working currently on Conan O’Brien’s show doing these zombie skits. So yeah, we really like to dapple in all the different genres.

MG: Tell us what else you got planned for 2013?
TT: This year alone in 2013, we have seven films coming out. We got “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “The Smurfs 2”. We just finished “Fright Night 2”. we did a movie called “Deadlock Pass”, which was shot in Russia by Renny Harlin. Just did a film called “The East”, which I saw at Sundance and it was a really great flick. Also did a movie called “Fort Bliss”, which is a drama. We are still also doing some TV with Disney Channel. We also have an in-house production company that we produce, direct and come up with in-house projects. We did a family film that I mentioned called “Monster Mutt”, which just came out on DirecTV, iTunes and Vudu this month. It is also available on Walmart.com, Target.com and Amazon.com. So that is doing pretty well. We also have two in-house projects that I am directing this year. One of them is an action/horror film and the other is a very dark fantasy. We are looking forward to that.

3D Blu-ray Review “The Smurfs”

Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Hank Azaria
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Rating: PG
Running time: 102 minutes

Overall Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I have to start with “The Smurfs” was one the biggest surprises of the summer if not the whole year.  This film was funny and just down right fun.  I know most critics if not all definitely feel the complete opposite but regardless I enjoyed this film.  The performances in the film are over the top and fun which adds to the overall feel of the film. On this release it includes not only the 3D Blu-ray (which includes both 3D and 2D versions) but also DVD and digital copy. The 3D on this Blu-ray is phenomenal and really pops out of the screen. The color on video is crystal clear and really sharp.  The audio is also notable and really pops with the action and the film’s effects.  Besides the effects in the film, Hank Azaria is easily the second best part of the film playing the evil wizard Gargamel.

One of the coolest features, which needs to be recognized is called “Smurf-O-Vision: Second Screen Experience”.  It is an application available for download on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.  It is a one-of-a-kind experiencing to have the Smurfs sing and dance along with the film.  You are also able to interact and engage with the Smurfs throughout the film.  This is a really cool feature and this also makes the experience of watching the film much more fun. Another feature that is brand new is the cloud streaming UltraViolet digital copy. This is catching very fast with studios and is going to be the new norm very soon. Recommend you checked this two features out ASAP.

The rest of the 3D Blu-ray special features great and this disc is jam packed. First since this is a kids movie, there is an interactive game called “The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game” played with the remote control. There is an audio commentary with the director Raja Gosnell. It is very informative and covers a lot of the behind the scenes from the film. There is another audio commentary from producer Jordan Kerner, VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover, and writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn. Some of this one gets covered in the first commentary but it is still worth a listen. There are about eight minutes of deleted and extended Scenes. They are worth checking out especially “Gargamel Enters FAO Schwarz”. “The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen” is short running about 8 minutes but information taking us from the beginning to today with the Smurfs.

Like I said this disc is packed with features, some more include
“Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast” is a decent chances to meet the voices from the film. I like when this is showcased in an animated film. One of my favorite features is “Going Gargamel” which really goes into Hank Azaria portrayal of this character. I am very upset with the gag real or “Blue-Pers” as it is called as it runs less than 30 seconds. “Happy Music Montage” is just a montage with music and scenes from the film. There are four “Progression Reels” that cover the lighting, CG Smurf work and the effects. Lastly since this is a 3D film, we have some great 3D trailer for “Arthur Christmas”, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.


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DVD Review “The Smurf’s Holiday Celebration”

Studio: Warner Home Video
Episodes: 2
Run Time: 48 minutes

Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Got to admit I am a sucker for a Holiday special and to top it off I love me some Smurfs. This DVD comes with not one but two specials from “The Smurfs” television series.  Warner Home Video is known for keeping The Smurfs alive through releasing numerous volumes over the last year.  This DVD definitely does the job and gets you in the holiday spirit.  If you are a fan of The Smurfs and looking for a little holiday cheer this is a no-brainer.

The first episode included is  The Smurfs’ Christmas Special, originally aired on December 12, 1982, shows its age a little bit but delivers the smurfing goods.  It is the classic story featuring Gargamel plotting to destroy Christmas for the Smurfs.  This is easily the better of the two on the disc.  The second special is called “‘Tis The Season To Be Smurfy”, originally aired December 13, 1987.  It follows Sassette Smurf who helps an elderly human couple celebrate Christmas and discover the true meaning of the season.  This one is missing my favorite character, Gargamel, but does contain some decent holiday spirit.

Available on DVD 10/4 at http://bit.ly/qKLgIs
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Synopsis: Deck the halls with Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Jokey and all the other true blue friends in these absosmurfly charming animated specials from The Smurfs TV series. In ‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy, young Sassette Smurf discovers the true meaning of the season when the Smurfs befriend an elderly human couple who have no money to celebrate Christmas. Then, in The Smurfs Christmas Special, the wicked Gargamel plots to ruin Christmas for the Smurfs and with the help of an evil stranger, he destroys the Smurf’s village. But even with no Christmas decorations or holiday feast, the Smurfs still have a smurfy song in their hearts. Will Gargamel feel the Christmas spirit this year? Dash through the snow to give your family the smurfiest gift of the season!

Film Review “The Smurfs”

Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Hank Azaria
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Rating: PG
Running time: 102 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

La la la-la la la, Sing a happy song, La la la-la la la, Smurf your whole day long. Now that song will get stuck in your head hopefully like it has mine. I grew up watching “Smurfs” and have always been a fan of the series. But the movie on the other hand…I was very skeptical. I was even convinced that it was going to be terrible and they would ruin my childhood blue heroes. Well all of that was laid to rest as the film was very surprisingly funny and enjoyable.

The film starts with the evil wizard Gargamel (marvelously played by Hank Azaria) as he discovers the Smurfs’ village. The Smurfs scatter into a “forbidden” grotto and due to the fact that it is a blue moon, a magical portal within transports them into present-day Central Park. Once they arrive in this strange place with Gargamel still on their trail, they luckily meet Patrick and Grace Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays). With the help of their new friends, The Smurfs needs to find a way back home.

Neil Patrick Harris is very hot right now and I was afraid he was going to ruin his career with this film, but it doesn’t. He is really funny and the film itself has a lot of heart. Hank Azaria has a role that was simply made for him to play…perfect job. The 3D effects are some of the best I have seen all summer and the blend of CG and live-action works so well and seamless. The story is simple like it should be and given it is not perfect but it is fun. That is the best way to sum this film up it is just simple fun…nothing more.

DVD Review “The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure”

DVD Release Date: July 19, 2011
Number of discs: 2
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Extras: None

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Gearing up for their first feature film in theaters July 29th, this “super-Smurfy” collection features 10 episodes from the hit ‘80s Saturday morning cartoon series. If you ever watched Smurfs they you will love this “best of” compilation which everyone’s favorite Smurfs, including Lazy, Brainy, Smurfette, Hefty, Clumsy and of course, Papa Smurf. I grew up watching this show and it is great to see it on DVD. Hopefully this is only part one of many since I would love to see more best of collections releases.

The 10 “Smurftastic” episodes included are: “Smurf Van Winkle” – Lazy is tricked into believing he’s slept his life away, “Revenge of the Smurfs” – The Smurfs try to get even with an army that’s stormed their village, “Magic Fountain” – The Smurfs search for a magic fountain, “Smurf Me No Flowers – Lazy is led to believe he has only a few days to live, “The Cursed Country” – An evil master captures Smurfs to work in his diamond mine, “The Blue Plague” – Brainy gives the Smurfs a meal that makes them feel like chickens, “The Ring of Castellac” – The Smurfs return a drugged duke to his rightful place, “A Mere Truffle” – Tracker loses his memory while leading the Smurfs on a truffle hunt, “Gormandizing Greedy” – Greedy gains weight after a diet of sweets and desserts and lastly, “Sister Smurf” – Smurfette and a young girl are held captive by an old hag.

It would have been nice to see some extras on this set. Since it is not really a complete season and it is getting released to time with “The Smurfs” movie, it makes sense why it is bare.  It would have been cool to get some commentary as to what the “smurf” they were saying having all the time…or maybe some Smurf subtitles. Overall, if you are feeling nostalgic then this is a must.

Available on DVD: July 19th
Click here to purchase “The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure”

Synopsis: Get your Smurf on with this 2-disc set of 10 Smurftacular Episodes! In a hidden village dwells a clan of magical creatures, living in mushroom houses and taking showers with dewdrops. They’re those international celebrities known far and wide as the Smurfs — and they’re back on DVD. This itty-bitty powder-blue crew, including Brainy, Lazy, Vanity and Smurfette, is led by the wise, gentle and 542-year-old Papa Smurf. Gargamel, the local evil wizard, is forever scheming against the tiny team but our little friends outsmurf him every time! The Smurfs may only be three apples high, but they left miles of smiles on the faces of Saturday morning cartoon fans from 1981 to 1989!  Smurf it up again with this colorful collection of superior Smurftainment!