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Pete’s Dragon (Blu-ray Review)

Petes-DragonThere were a lot of disappointments and film that tended to underwhelm many this summer at the movie theater.  A couple biggies happened to show up here and there that both hit big with the money and the critical success, but not a whole lot of them did much of both.  But then, there was the post-Suicide Squad August.  All of a sudden, summer was finishing out quite strong with the likes of films akin to Kubo and the Two Strings and Hell Or High Water.  Many a surprise here or there.  One of them happened to be this film, Pete’s Dragon, the remake of the 1977 animated classic.  Unfortunately though, while it was met with some very high critical praise, like Disney’s other family live-action meets CGI character hybrid The BFG, it didn’t pick up the dinero over at the box office.  Its okay, though, you’ll get a second chance now on home video.

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Film 

Mr. Meacham, a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. His daughter Grace believes these are just tall tales, until she meets Pete, a 10-year-old orphan who says he lives in the woods with a giant, friendly dragon. With help from a young girl named Natalie, Grace sets out to investigate if this fantastic claim can be true.

I remember the original Pete’s Dragon from when I was a kid, but not much.  Then there was the VHS box, which was one of those lackluster ones that had the cool clam shell case but the art was just a shot from the movie.  The dragon was a design that I still have burned into my brain.  But the film?  I watched maybe twice and I couldn’t tell you a thing about it.  Not an idea of the plot.  A boy named Pete?  He has a dragon?  So, I suppose I’m not too bias coming to this movie.

And what a charming little movie it is.  The film proves to be one of those really wholesome, family films that can make us either sick to our stomach or have us in awe and burning with every turn.  This film is strongly toward the latter.  When films like that are done well, they really work.  No new ground is really broken here, but its just done at the top of its game.

Helping to do that are some top notch performers.  Maybe he’s just in that old man stage, but Robert Redford is terrific here.  He’s always terrific in things, but man does he give this movie some weight.  Helping along too is Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I’ve always been a fan of.  She’s one who is really easy to root for.  Karl Urban steps in for some good licks too.  The kids are okay, but they are really anchored by these stronger adult performances which assist in their own.

Pete’s Dragon was a fun little movie.  I wasn’t blown away by it, but I was very surprised.  Its got some good family stuff going on to go along with a really fun, friendly and impressive CGI dragon.  Unfortunately people didn’t go see it (End of summer fatigue? Needing to see Suicide Squad multiple times to confirm disappointment?), and people sort of wonder where films like this have gone.  Well, they happened twice in the summer, but both times nobody went to see them.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:01

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Well, Disney…like The BFG, I wish you were on the 4K trail with this.  One day, I’m sure you will be.  Instead, we get a terrific video presentation from this Blu-ray.  Detail is rampant throughout every frame.  The hairs on Elliot look very impressive as well as the detail forestry from tree bark, to leaves, to water and to the surface like dirt and gravel.  Its a sharp, crisp image that looks both friend, warm and full.

Depth:  The film features a really smooth look in regards to the character, camera and dragon movements.  Its helps build to the depth and feel of distance between an object and the environment.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and rich.  Shading, shadows and dark scene still accentuate plenty of good detail.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Oh boy…Disney, hop the 4K train, please.  Pete’s Dragon has some fun and gorgeous color work especially with greens.  Plenty of saturation and different tints and shades.  Blues and yellows look really good too.  This pushes regular Blu-ray, but man, would have lit up the place on 4K UHD.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones look natural and stay consistent throughout the length of the feature.  Wrinkles, stubble, scuffs, make-up and other facial features come through good in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, Enligsh 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: Pete’s Dragon features a more than solid 7 channel experience.  Even just hanging out in the woods with Pete and Elliot is a entertaining surround experience.  This features many effects, be it a dragon or construction work, even destruction.  The sounds are fully realized, layered and give a good sense of realism to them in this balanced mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Stomping from Elliot, as well as his gruffing, growling and howling all rumble the sub.  Big trucks, construction and simple things like doors opening and shutting are things that get the subwoofer some work.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The workaround from all the speakers is both impressive and feels like there could have been a little more to it in some scenes.  There are some great moments in deep impact with the rear and side channels, but I feel like they could have been utilized more.  However, this is still quite good, top tier, and front movements are grand and accurate.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, clear and crisp.

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Extras 

Pete’s Dragon comes with the DVD edition and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director & Co-Writer David Lowery, Co-Writer Toby Halbrooks and Actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence

Notes To Self: A Director’s Diary (HD, 7:31) – Behind the scenes footage with director David Lowery reading some sort of essay he wrote himself before going into production.

Making Magic (HD, 2:12) – A very quick piece on how they shot Elliot, with voice overs from different members of the cast as well as director David Lowery on what its like to do a scene with the dragon.  Features raw and on set footage.

“Disappearing” Moments” (HD, 9;12) – Deleted/alternate/extended scenes montage, hosted by director David Lowery.

Bloopers (HD, 1:28) 

“Nobody Knows” Music Video By The Lumineers (HD, 3:12) 

“Something Wild” Music Video By Lindsey Stirling Featuring Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness (HD, 3:45)

Welcome To New Zealand (HD, 1:56) – Director David Lowery and Bryce Dallas Howard discuss why New Zealand was chosen to film in and how beautiful and amazing it is there.

Summary 

Even though I had heard so many good things, Pete’s Dragon still took me a little bit by surprise.  Its an incredibly enjoyable wholesome family even.  This Blu-ray gives it a very good presentations with the best in audio and video (Man, Disney could be killing it in the HDR dept right now if they wanted to).  The extras are kind of a little bit of nothing, but are solid enough.

Petes-Dragon-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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