Saturday, 26 January 2019

4K Ultra Blu-ray Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

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Arriving on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital form Disney Home Entertainment on January 29th is fantasy adventure The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG; 99 minutes).

Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, the film stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, with Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.

Based on the short story"The Nutcracker and the Mouse King"by E. T. A. Hoffmann and the play "The Nutcracker" by Marius Petipa, the film centers around Clara Stahlbaum receiving a locked handcrafted egg-shaped box as a Christmas gift from her late mother. (Actually, Clara's father gave it her, but her mother had gave him instructions to do so before she died.) Her mother also left behind a note, which stated the egg is all she would ever need.

While attending a Christmas Eve ball, Clara visits her godfather, Drosselmeyer, who happens to be an engineer. She learns Drosselmeyer had made the egg many years ago and had given it to her mother as a gift. After having a brief argument with her father, Clara finds a string with her name on it. She follows the string into the forest which takes her to a parallel world where she locates the egg's key. However, before she can grab the key, a mouse snatches it away.

Within minutes of losing the key, Clara meets Captain Philip Hoffman the Nutcracker, Sugar Plum Fairy of the Land of Sweets, Shivers of the Land of Snowflakes, and Hawthorne of the Land of Flowers, who are all at war with the Land of Amusements, otherwise known as "the Fourth Realm."

To recover the lost key that will unlock her mother's gift, Clara must battle an army of  life-size toy soldiers and somehow restore peace to the Realms.

Blu-ray Special Features are:
  • On Pointe: Misty Copeland - Copeland shares the thrill of portraying one of her favorite characters in a whole new way.
  • Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms - Dive into the production design, sets, costumes and more that helped transform a beloved ballet into an adventurous movie.
  • Deleted Scenes
    • The Stahlbaums Arrive- As the Stahlbaums enter the Christmas Eve ball, the butler attempts to announce them to the assembled guests.
    • Follow Your Ribbon- Drosselmeyer encourages a reluctant Clara to go find her gift.
    • Deleted Scene: Clara Asks About Her Mother - Sugar Plum gives Clara a tour of her mother’s bedroom.
    • Left, Left, Left, Left, Left - Wandering lost in the forest, palace guards Cavalier and Harlequin quarrel about which way to go.
    • Out with the Old- Sugar Plum makes sweeping changes to the palace decor.
  • Music Videos
    • “Fall on Me” Performed by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Matteo Bocelli - Experience superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo Bocelli performing their first duet together in this uplifting song.
    • “The Nutcracker Suite” Performed by Lang Lang - Get swept up in a series of images from the movie, set to Tchaikovsky’s music and featuring world-renowned pianist Lang Lang.
Exclusive Digital Bonus Feature:
  • Unwrapped: The Visuals Effects of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms - Get swept up in a series of images from the movie, set to Tchaikovsky’s music and featuring world-renowned pianist Lang Lang. 

Final Thoughts

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was released to theatres just in time for the holiday season last year, but it bombed at the box-office due to horrible reviews from both critics and moviegoers. Personally, I never let anyone else's opinions prevent me from watching a movie, especially from mainstream critics who only like forgettable artsy films. With that being said, I had a clear mind when I started watching The Nutcracker and the Four Relams on 4K Ultra HD.

Visually, the film looks incredible with amazing CGI effects. There are a few big names in this flick - Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman and all of them give good performances, as well as the rest of the cast.

I have only two major problems with the film. First, the script borrows too heavily from other movies, such as Chronicles of Narnia and Babes in Toyland; where in this story the teenager travels to a magical world. Lastly, there are very few dancing sequences. Considering it's loosely based on The Nutcracker play, one would figure there would be dancing and music all throughout the film. That's not the case here. There's only one ballet scene featuring Misty Copleand and few others, and then the ballerina returns for a bit of dancing during the ending credits.

The picture and sound quality on the 4K Ultra HD disc is topnotch, but there are no special features of any kind on it; there's only the feature film. The bonus extras are only on the regular Blu-ray. Plus, the digital also has an exclusive featurette.

Overall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a cute family-friendly fantasy that deserves to find a second life on Blu-ray. Yes, it's a bit silly with plenty of flaws, but the film has its charm and will easily appeal to younger viewers. 

*Note: I received a review copy from the studio.
All opinions are my own.

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