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A Christmas Story: Ultimate Collector’s Edition – Blu-ray Disc Review

November 7, 2008 – 10:19 PM - Posted by: James Segars

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Blu-ray Disc Review

4 out of 5 starsThe Movie Itself has an average rating of 8.0 on IMDb
3 out of 5 starsVideo Quality 1080p in VC-1 on a 25gb disc
2 out of 5 starsAudio Quality
Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
3 out of 5 starsBonus Materials are decent.
Rated:PG
Year: – 1983
Length: – 93 minutes
Studio:Warner
Region:Region 1 (A)
This uses 18.2GB for the movie out of 20.3GB total.


Overall VerdictClassic Film / Mixed Disc

Buy it for $34.95 @ Amazon.com
Buy it for $34.95 @ Amazon.com


— Review written by: James Segars

Clip from the film:


The Movie Itself is directed by Bob Clark, of “Black Christmas” and “Baby Geniuses” fame.

I’ve always been a fan of “A Christmas Story.” It’s one of those films that you simply can’t avoid, no matter how hard you try. In many ways, I suspect that’s part of the reason why the fan-base finds it so endearing, and memorable. It will forever be inextricably linked to the Christmas holiday, whether we like it or not.

Fortunately, I find the movie to be entertaining, but I am aware that there is an equally powerful group of dissenters who despise the movie. While I can’t say I agree with them, I partially understand where they are coming from. Clark’s film isn’t your typical “feel good” Christmas flick. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s not really a “feel good” film at all. Much of this can be attributed to the satirical and downbeat source material, and through the adaptation of the memoirs of Jean ShepherdIn God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash — much of the biting sarcasm, and unpleasantness of the holidays is ever-present in the film. As you might expect, this inevitably turns away much of the “happy-go-lucky” crowd that simply wants to snuggle up by the fire, and sip their non-alcoholic eggnog. No, this movie appeals to the dysfunction in all of us, and for this reason it shatters everyone’s expectations for a cuddly family Christmas flick.

Come to think of it, I recall thinking the movie wasn’t quite what I had expected when my Grandmother sat down to watch the film with me for the first time. I vividly remember a number of scenes that disturbed me. The foremost was the “frozen flagpole” scene, which genuinely freaked me out, as well as my younger brother. Also, the film was morally ambiguous in a lot of ways — not that I understood what that meant back then, but I certainly felt it. I was confused by a number of things, but to this day, the main thing that still eludes me is Ralphie’s borderline-unhealthy-obsession with acquiring a gun. Real or fake, the quest for a gun strikes me as slightly suspect, especially when there is no purpose or need for having it, outside of hunting — and obviously he wasn’t planning on hunting anything with a BB gun. I know, I know, it’s the very crux of the film — childhood obsession — but perhaps that’s one of the reasons why so many families opt out of the annual “Christmas Story” viewing whenever it hits the airwaves, or is viewed on your home video format of choice — hopefully by reading this review, yours is Blu-ray. ;)

Despite my reservations about certain aspects of the film, and regardless of how you may or may not feel about the film, I believe everyone should be willing to agree that it is unique. It’s ability to separate itself from the typical fun-filled, sugarcoated sap-fests has given it unsurpassed longevity in the home video market, and in the minds of consumers everywhere. It may forever polarize or delight audiences, but if for no other reason, it will be remembered just as long.

While “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” still takes the #1 spot as my all-time-favorite Christmas film, “A Christmas Story” follows in closely behind in second place. It may not be everyone’s favorite, but it suits me just fine, and unlike most holiday films, it only seems to get better with age.


Video Quality on this release is 1080p in VC-1 on a BD-25 (25 gigabyte Blu-ray Disc) and presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

First and foremost, we want to be abundantly clear that this presentation is identical to the HD DVD/Blu-ray release of 2006. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I actually think the previous release was a decent improvement in visual quality over the DVD release, and therefore worthy of the upgrade on Blu-ray. However, for those of you that were hoping that this new set would boast an all-new transfer/restoration, you are out of luck.

With that being said though, I still maintain that this presentation is pleasant, if not good. It certainly won’t blow you away, and as far as HD visual quality is concerned, it is definitely below average, but let’s be honest, this movie was never shot with the intention of being eye-candy. Also, for those of you that have seen the film, you’ll know all too well about the diffused glow that runs throughout much of the film’s running time. This warm, soft look was intentional, and it does a lot to strengthen the aesthetic aspirations of the film, but it also inherently shrouds much of the fine object details present on screen. Because of this, I can see many people turning up their nose at Warner’s restorative/transfer efforts, but in all seriousness, this is the best the film has ever looked, and there’s no sense in putting off this purchase any longer if you’re a fan of the film.

This disc is one of the last I would consider throwing on to impress my guests (unless of course it’s Christmas), but it should satisfy and impress most fans.


Audio Quality on this release is ONLY in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. This is no improvement what-so-ever from the last Blu-ray Disc (and HD-DVD) release of this title from last year in terms of audio. It’s using the exact same source in fact.

The purist in me is delighted that the original mono track is presented here, but the 7.1 fanatic in me is rather perturbed. Ok, so obviously no one will want or need eight channels of audio on “A Christmas Story” but surely a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix would have been feasible, if for no other reason than to provide consumers the option to choose one or the other.

In Warner’s defense, there really isn’t much here to work with. Surround usage would be virtually non-existent even if they had managed to throw together a new mix.

Much like the video presentation though, the audio is the best it will ever be. It’s hit a plateau, and no matter the audio codec or surround configuration, it just isn’t going to get any better. Therefore, it makes perfect sense why Warner would save themselves the trouble and the headache of re-mixing the film, and opt for the original source audio instead.


Bonus Materials are all presented in 480i Standard Definition using the MPEG-2 codec.

  • Feature Commentary w/Bob Clark and Peter Billingsley
  • Daisy Red Ryder: A History” (5 minutes, 17 seconds) A brief, but worthwhile mini-doc about the history of the famed BB gun featured in the film.
  • Get A Leg Up” (4 minutes, 30 seconds) A bizarre, yet hilarious video about the infamous Leg Lamp.
  • Another Christmas Story” (18 minutes, 18 seconds) This retrospective piece is easily the most worthwhile feature on the disc, outside of the feature commentary. Fans and fair-weather viewers alike should give this a watch.
  • Leg Lamp Spot” (48 seconds) Precisely how it sounds. A “TV Spot” advertising the Leg Lamp.
  • Script Pages” – A deleted scene presented in script form.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Overall Warner has adequately repackaged its film in this Ultimate Collector’s Edition. While everything is a direct port, from the video to the featurettes, the new cookie-tin packaging, and leg lamp lights do make for some unique and enticing collectibles for uber-fans of the film. If you don’t already have the film, and you’ve been dying to get it, you could do worse than this new set. Then again, if you could care less about the collectibles, then proceed directly to the standalone disc. Either way, you can rest knowing that your favorite childhood film is in the best shape it’s been in years.


Blu-ray Disc packaging:


Screenshots:

NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Bare with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.

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  1. 3 Responses to “A Christmas Story: Ultimate Collector’s Edition – Blu-ray Disc Review”

  2. As much as I love “A Christmas Story,” it’s one of those films I’ve often wondered if it’s actually necessary to own on a home video format… only because it has a regular spot on TNT these days around the Christmas holidays. So, I believe I’m gonna stick with TNT HD this year for the 24-hour marathon… again.

    CC

    By ccfixx on Nov 9, 2008

  3. Enjoy those 15 screenshots

    By Justin Sluss on Jan 23, 2009

  4. No one ever got the “Baby Geniuses” joke… :(

    By James Segars on Mar 24, 2009

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