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post #1 of 24 Old 10-20-13, 12:22 PM Thread Starter
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Monster's University - Blu-ray Review


Title: Monster's University

Movie:
Video:
3D:
Audio:
Extras:


HTS Overall Score:95




Summary
It used to be that sequels to Pixar films were the exception rather than the norm. Back in the day “Toy Story 2” was an oddity of nature when Pixar would move from one individual universe to the next instead of milking the cash cow dry with sequel after sequel. However, with Disney taking the ownership reigns that particular anomaly is no more. Now we have “Toy Story 3”, “Cars 2” and several other sequels on the way. The question is, does this compromise the integrity and quality that Pixar has been known for these last few decades? I have to say that this is both a yes and no answer. While the addition of so many sequels has drawn the creativity down a bit it is NOWHERE near a horrible thing. Sequels naturally have to stretch a bit more into the created universe to bring more story to light and that stretching can show, but Pixar has ALWAYS been known for quality and even their lesser stories are light years ahead of every other animated sequel out there and that still shows. “Monster’s University” is not AS touching and warming to the heart as its predecessor, buy it still tells a solid story that looks and sounds fantastic on our home cinemas.

Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) were not always the best of friends, back in their college years they had a rather shaky relationship. Poor Mike Wazowski was a bit of a dreamer, he had very little scaring ability and still had his heart set on becoming a world class “scarer”. As a result he enrolled in Monster’s University, one of the premier universities with a degree in scaring and is ready for greatness. The problem is, that he just isn’t that scary. On a technical degree he’s excellent. Mastering the specifications and classroom tests with relative ease, but when the rubber meets the road in real life he just can’t seem to be that scary. Now Sully, one of the famed “Sullivan Scarers” has come to the same university, but is the complete opposite from Mike. Resting on his old man’s credentials Sully skates through the classes without bothering to learn anything, BUT his roar is so scary he feels that he doesn’t really need to do any work. The crux of the whole situation falls upon one little accident. In their little rivalry the two monsters accidentally destroys the only memento left of the University’s headmaster, Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), and the two are kicked out of the scaring program.

Determined to get into the program the two join the lowest and most “lame” fraternity on campus in order to win the fraternity scare competition and earn their way back into the program. The problem here, is that the members of this fraternity are out of the scaring program for a reason. Even Mike seems scary in comparison to these guys, but that doesn’t matter to Mike. Pushing ahead he whips them into shape and instead of relying on pure fright teaches them how to use their unique skills to work together and accomplish the tasks instead of using brute force “fear”. Unfortunately their whole progress is for naught when Sully decides to cheat in order for Mike to seem scarier than he normally is. With their chances for being a scarer seem to be flushed down the toilet, Mike has to find out once and for all just how scary he actually is, which unleashes a cataclysm of events that have hitherto been unknown at Monster’s University.


I loved “Monster’s Inc”, the camaraderie and touching story with the child “boo” was unparalleled at the time. I still remember sitting in the theaters, on Nov 2nd with my girlfriend watching it unfold on the big screen in Tigard, Oregon. The magic was every bit as pure and glorious as “Toy Story” was a few years earlier and I remember not being able to wait for the DVD to hit shelves. Mike and Sully worked together flawlessly (or shall I say John Goodman and Billy Crystal did). John Goodman is always fantastic and when Billy Crystal really applies himself he can be one of the funniest voice actors out there. I was a bit worried when I saw the sequel, since sequels are noticeably weaker than their counterparts in my experience. When I saw the voice cast my expectations were raised quite a bit. Adding Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion (the nerd in me did cartwheels when I saw that addition), Alfred Molina and Helen Mirren to the list just made me giggle in glee. As expected “Monster’s University” can’t compete with the original, it just lacks that sort of heartwarming and touching magic that the first one carried with it. Here the story is a bit more straight forward and deals with “doing your best” rather than the intricate and well-crafted relationships that the early Pixar films do so well. Now that does not make it a bad movie by any means, it is still a fun fun movie that stands head and shoulders over a majority of animated films out there today (and that includes Disney films). It just should be noted that the pitfalls of the simplicity and “been there, done that” nature of the plot dragged it down from being a sure fire hit. The amount of stuff that is crammed into the film makes it seem a bit rushed and lacks some of the emotional “punch” the first film had. Now the animation is light years better than “Monster’s Inc” and the ending of the story was VERY well done. I like the fact that they kept the ending from being the clichéd “if you do your best everything will work out” ending that gets bandied about so often. Instead they went with a more realistic ending that showed that you may not always get everything you want in the way that you want it, more often than not. That hard work, and payoffs come in different forms and even when you buck the odds, you have to pay the consequences of bucking the odds in terms of labor and payoff.



Rating:

Rated G: for all ages



Video
Being that this is a Pixar title I was expecting a great video transfer, but I was truly dazzled at the 1.78:1 AVC encode that Disney pulled off here. This is just pure and clean digital animation straight from the source. No tampering, no manipulation, just pure, unadulterated beauty. The detail is simply stunning to say the least. Sully’s fur is intricate and detailed and even monsters with scales, or texture to them look almost lifelike in their precision and attention to detail, and don’t get me started on the colors. From the moment the picture began my tongue was hanging out of the side of my mouth like a wolf, just salivating over the gorgeous array of bright and rick colors saturating the screen. Blues, greens, reds, pinks, mauve’s they were all there and ranging from soft pastel colors to rich primaries and everything in between giving us one of the most color rich pictures I’ve seen in a long time, and this one even beats “Wreck it Ralph” and “The Croods” for beauty (and that’s saying a lot). Black levels are deeeeep and inky with some fantastic night shots. The cabin “scare” in the human world looks straight out of a camp crystal lake scenario and keeps the dark ambience without losing detail in the shadows. Easily one of the best looking animated films I’ve ever seen, Pixar/Disney knocked this one out of the park





3D
The 3D was almost as good as the actual picture, in my opinion. I usually am leery of 3D presentations due to cheesy pop out effects and the addition of artifacts like ghosting or crosstalk on a lot of home displays. That was luckily not the case here, with some of the most realistic and gimmick less 3D presentations I’ve seen. There’s a few “pop outs” but they were seamlessly blended in with the film instead of creating a “boo” moment that makes the audience roll their eyes if they’re not seeing it in 3D. The depth was fantastic and created a sort of dimensionality that is hard to replicate in the 2D world. I’m usually a person that thinks that 3D presentations are a nice gimmick and a cute special feature, but this time is one where I’d say that watching the movie in 3D was actually a benefit to the film. Again, Bravo Disney/Pixar.






Audio
To keep the great scores on a roll, I’ve got to say that we have another home run here. Disney’s 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track is a monster of a track (pun intended) and doesn’t let up from the moment it starts. With beautiful clarity it sounds about as crystal clear as one could hope for with the dialogue locked firmly in the front soundstage and some AMAZING panning effects. Dynamic range is through the roof with soft vocalizations coming through warm and clear and the next moment punctuated by the thunderous footsteps of a giant monster ripping through the quad. Surrounds were used with wild aplomb the whole film, with the sounds of racing monsters, the skittering of feet on a scare run and the crash and bang of books in a wild library scare challenge. For an animated film I always expect a good LFE track, but “Monster’s University” gives us a wall destroyer here. Thunderous footsteps with the roar of nasty beasts the create a powerful LFE channel experience that is sure to please the bassheads out there. Easily a 5/5 track and one that will be used as demo material for sure.

Now there IS an issue that I can’t really attribute to the track itself, but it IS an issue with certain hardware. If you’ve been a fan of Disney for a while then you know that certain Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Disney titles have been experiencing audio dropouts and the occasional sync issue recently. “Finding Nemo”, “Brave”, and a few others have been experiencing these issues and I hate to say that “Monster’s University” also suffers from the issue. No one is sure just WHAT is the weak link in certain setups, but with certain hardware the issue can be more or less noticeable. On “Monster’s University” and my new Yamaha receiver I noticed it every 30 seconds, with my Onkyo 605 system I didn’t notice it, but once or twice. Many people may NEVER notice it, and to be clear it is only a problem with bitstreaming the audio, change the player settings to output PCM audio and the issue clears up. Until Dolby and Disney get this sorted out I’d expect this issue to crop up in future 7.1 Dolby TrueHD titles and it something to warn people about in case they experience this problem in 7.1 DTHD Disney titles (so far it hasn’t cropped up in NON Disney 7.1 DTHD titles to date).








Extras

• Blue Umbrella
• Audio Commentary
• Campus Life
• Story School
• Monthropology
• Scare Games
• Welcome to MU
• Music Appreciation
• Scare Tactics
• Color and Light
• Paths to Pixar: MU Edition
• Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective
• Deleted Scenes
• Promo Picks
• Set Flythroughs
• Art Galleries













Overall:

“Monster’s University”, while not as perfect as its predecessor, is still a cute outing for Pixar and sure to please the children everywhere (and that includes us adult children who have refused to grow up) with some stunning audio and video specs and a SHOCKINGLY large array of special features. Lately I’ve been noticing a steep decline in special features and the inclusion of so many special goodies in both “Pacific Rim” and “Monster’s University” gives me hope for future releases and moves this even higher into the “must buy” category.


Additional Information:

Starring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi
Directed by: Dan Scanlon
Written by: Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English DD 2.0, French DD+ 7.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Pixar
Rated: G
Runtime: 104 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Oct 29th, 2013



Buy Monster's University 2D Combo Pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Monster's University 2D + DC Combo Pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Monster's University 3D Combo Pack Blu-ray on Amazon



Recommendation: Buy It


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post #2 of 24 Old 10-20-13, 01:02 PM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

Thanks Mike for an awesome review. We saw this movie in the theater. It was great fun. The entire family enjoyed this movie. We will get our copy soon once available. Worth keeping in one's collection!
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post #3 of 24 Old 10-20-13, 11:14 PM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

GREAT review, Mike! I really enjoyed this film in theaters. I actually thought it was a good prequel to Monster's, Inc. The wife and I saw this in 3D and thought it did a fantastic job, but I was even more enthralled simply by the animation. The animation, backdrops, lighting, etc. looked so real at times that I even questioned whether they used practical sets at times, but that's just a testament to how far animation has come. I knew this was going to be a must-own, but your review just makes me that much more eager to pick it up!

I really hope they sort out the audio dropout issue though, it does get annoying having to switch back and and forth from bit streaming and PCM.

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post #4 of 24 Old 10-20-13, 11:34 PM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

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Jon Liu wrote: View Post
I really hope they sort out the audio dropout issue though, it does get annoying having to switch back and and forth from bit streaming and PCM.
What's wrong with leaving the player in PCM output? Not like the lossless decoder in the player will yield different results than the lossless decoder in the receiver.

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post #5 of 24 Old 10-20-13, 11:54 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
sdurani wrote: View Post
What's wrong with leaving the player in PCM output? Not like the lossless decoder in the player will yield different results than the lossless decoder in the receiver.
It really depends. If your receiver or processor is better than your player than you can definitely a notice a difference
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post #6 of 24 Old 10-21-13, 12:06 AM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

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It really depends. If your receiver or processor is better than your player than you can definitely a notice a difference
How would that possible? A lossless soundtrack is bit-for-bit identical to the original. Otherwise it wouldn't be "lossless", by definition. So it's not like the lossless decoder in the receiver or processor can result in PCM that is somehow 'more identical' or 'more lossless' than the one in the player. The output from both decoders is 100% identical to the original, which means they're identical to each other. How can one be "better"?

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post #7 of 24 Old 10-21-13, 12:10 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
sdurani wrote: View Post
How would that possible? A lossless soundtrack is bit-for-bit identical to the original. Otherwise it wouldn't be "lossless", by definition. So it's not like the lossless decoder in the receiver or processor can result in PCM that is somehow 'more identical' or 'more lossless' than the one in the player. The output from both decoders is 100% identical to the original, which means they're identical to each other. How can one be "better"?
It all depends on the DACs in the player vs the receiver. Plus many receivers automatically apply processing to PCM that can't be changed. Some people like that sound. Others dont
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post #8 of 24 Old 10-21-13, 12:42 AM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

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It all depends on the DACs in the player vs the receiver.
Outputting the signal as PCM doesn't involve the players DACs, since unpacking a TrueHD bitstream to PCM doesn't require digital to analogue conversion.
Quote:
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Plus many receivers automatically apply processing to PCM that can't be changed.
What sort of processing?

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post #9 of 24 Old 10-21-13, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

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sdurani wrote: View Post
Outputting the signal as PCM doesn't involve the players DACs, since unpacking a TrueHD bitstream to PCM doesn't require digital to analogue conversion. What sort of processing?
depends on the brand. Onkyo is famous for smoothening the response of the bass and requires some re-calibration to get it near the bitstream settings. Yamaha is actually one of the best with the most natural sounding PCM vs. DDTHD sound. I've compared DOZENS of receivers on the old "pcm vs. bitstream" debate and even when level matched there is usually a DISTINCT difference between the two.
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-21-13, 01:21 AM
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Re: Monster's University - Blu-ray Review

Basically what Mike has already explained. There is more than just bit-for-bit transfer. There is still processing done, there's still post-processing occurring that alters the sound. The audio DACs in my pre/pro are more to my liking than the DAC in my Oppo. I'm not an expert by any means at being able to tell what exactly is going on, but I can say that in my own experience there is, indeed, a difference. I did extensive testing back and forth at the beginning of HD-DVD and Blu-ray inception and even done some back and forth since then and have always come to the conclusion that bitstream to my pre/pro yields a more satisfying sound.

You talk about digital being identical and lossless being the same, but if that truly were the case, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-Master Audio tracks of the same source should sound exactly the same, correct? They don't. It's just different processing, decoding, compression, de-compression, implementations, etc.

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