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[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13377[/img]

Title: Monster's University

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :5stars:
3D: :4.5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:95




[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13378[/img]
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.

[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13379[/img]

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 :5stars:
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13380[/img]
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 :4.5stars:
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 :5stars:
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13381[/img]
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 :4.5stars:
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=13382[/img]

• 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: :4.5stars:

“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




More about Mike
 

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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #5
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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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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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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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.
Plus many receivers automatically apply processing to PCM that can't be changed.
What sort of processing?
 

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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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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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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.
You're describing anecdotal differences in receivers, like equalization ("smoothening the response"), that aren't involved in decoding (unpacking) a lossless bitstream in the player. Same as your DAC example earlier; not part of the unpacking process.

Since we are discussing bitstream out from the player vs PCM out, let me ask you: do you believe that those two settings result in different data being transmitted to the receiver or do you think it is the same data just unpacked vs packed (to take up less space)?
 

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Basically what Mike has already explained. There is more than just bit-for-bit transfer.
So you're saying that decoding in the player isn't lossless?
The audio DACs in my pre/pro are more to my liking than the DAC in my Oppo.
Whether you transmit the signal as bitstream or PCM, the DACs in the player are bypassed. Why would the signal be converted to analogue before being transmitted digitally?
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.
Do you believe that one of them isn't lossless (bit-for-bit identical to the source), as they claim to be? Which one?
 

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Let's get this back on track here. Thanks for the review Mike. This is a day one buy for me and I loved the original. Pixar always seems to put out quality stuff and rarely have I not enjoyed one of their movies. Your review was excellent as usual and has me excited to pick this up.
 

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As I said, it is very possible that the decoding of the lossless signal in the player itself is being handled differently than in another component. It's just a matter of where that process is taking place and what technologies and implementations are doing that processing. Do you know for a fact that the lossless signal is being untouched in PCM before being sent down the chain?

"In conventional PCM, the analog signal may be processed (e.g., by amplitude compression) before being digitized. Once the signal is digitized, the PCM signal is usually subjected to further processing (e.g., digital data compression)."

My understanding of what is happening with DD-THD and DTSHD MA is they are implementing a form of Meridian Lossless Packing. So the audio file is packed up "compressed." So for the case of sending the sound via conventional PCM, the sound is first unpacked and processed into analog and then RE-packed in order to be sent to the next source.

Also, we haven't even taken into consideration bandwidth. PCM signal generally takes considerably more bandwidth to send than DTS-HD MA or DD-THD. So even if the processing is equally the same in the player or in the receiver/prepro, it still has to be sent from one to another. Because PCM digital takes more bandwidth, do we know for sure that it isn't being bottlenecked further before going to the receiver/prepro?

This is all purely speculative speaking since I don't know exactly how every technology, hardware, and/or software system works. As I said before, All I know is what I experience. To me, listening to a soundtrack does not really consist of what is taking place between my components; I am trying to experience the soundtrack in the most pleasing way. If there is a difference in how I experience it, I am sure as going to go with what I feel gives me a better experience.

And honestly does any of this really matter, anyway? So many individuals have decided for themselves that they experience a difference between PCM and bitstream. You don't experience any difference (or maybe you do experience a difference and are simply just arguing for the sake of argument), therefore you can be completely content leaving your player in PCM and I can be content bit streaming. What an individual does within their system to enjoy a movie is their own prerogative.
 

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Do you know for a fact that the lossless signal is being untouched in PCM before being sent down the chain?
Otherwise it wouldn't be lossless (i.e., if a particular chipmaker's decoder wasn't bit-for-bit identical to the original, neither Dolby nor DTS would certify them with a license).
"In conventional PCM, the analog signal may be processed (e.g., by amplitude compression) before being digitized. Once the signal is digitized, the PCM signal is usually subjected to further processing (e.g., digital data compression)."
Decoding a lossless bitstream to PCM is like extracting a zipped document. Data that was packed to take up less space is simply unpacked. There is no conversion to analogue at any point in the process.
My understanding of what is happening with DD-THD and DTSHD MA is they are implementing a form of Meridian Lossless Packing. So the audio file is packed up "compressed." So for the case of sending the sound via conventional PCM, the sound is first unpacked and processed into analog and then RE-packed in order to be sent to the next source.
Dolby TrueHD uses Meridian Lossless Packing as its compression algorithm. DTS uses their own data packing algorithm (unrelated to MLP). Again, unpacking a lossless soundtrack doesn't involve any analogue steps. Rather than taking my word for it, you can fire off a quick e-mail to Dolby or DTS to confirm what I said.
Also, we haven't even taken into consideration bandwidth. PCM signal generally takes considerably more bandwidth to send than DTS-HD MA or DD-THD. So even if the processing is equally the same in the player or in the receiver/prepro, it still has to be sent from one to another. Because PCM digital takes more bandwidth, do we know for sure that it isn't being bottlenecked further before going to the receiver/prepro?
No bottleneck, since even the earliest versions of HDMI can transmit 8 channels of PCM. Also, taking up more space or more bandwidth doesn't change the data itself. If I fold up a newspaper so that it fits in my coat pocket, I haven't changed the contents of the newspaper compared to when it was spread out on my desk.
And honestly does any of this really matter, anyway?
That was my original point: why keep switching from bitstream to PCM when it doesn't really matter anyway? Doesn't change anything to leave the player's output as PCM.

If I have to give you a letter, I can unfold it before handing it to you or you can unfold it when I hand it to you. Does it really matter who unfolds it? Either way, you get the exact same letter. That's how lossless audio works.
 

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I'm gonna bring the mod thingy into this conversation and steer it back to the review. Not because it's a bad conversation... on the contrary it's a great conversation and if someone wants to open it in the audio section I'm more than happy to participate. in an effort to keep the conversation on track to the actual review of the movie etc I say we've gone far enough in this particular thread regarding the differences between Bitstreaming and LPCM
 

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As I think back on this movie, I think they did a fantastic job with the Dean Hardscrabble. Her entrance was so creepy and her character just kind of gave me the chills.
 

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I'm going to grab this one on a rental. Monsters Inc. was excellent.
 

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Thanks for the review Mike - Monsters Inc stills holds a special place in my wife's and my heart as this was the first movie we ever took my oldest to and we loved it as much as he did. We still pop it in from time to time just to watch it ourselves. Blind buy for us!
 
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