Sky High (Mania.com)

By:John Sinnott
Date: Sunday, December 31, 2006

It has been another slow week for HD news this week.  The week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally dead as far as DVD releases and announcements go, and the same seems to apply to HD video too.  The most exciting thing is that someone may have broken the AACS copy protection that is used on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.  I’m not entirely convinced that this has happened yet, as hoaxes are frequent on the internet.  I’ll keep you posted as this develops though.  In the mean time, have a happy new year. 

Reign of Fire coming to Blu-ray:  While it has a horribly dumb premise and plot holes that you could fly an Imperial-class Star Destroyer through, Reign of Fire is a movie that has some good moments. Buena Vista Home Entertainment has announced that it will release the goofy dragon film on Febuary 13th, and it will contain many of the same features that the SD DVD has including the featurettes "Breathing Life into The Terror: The Making of The Dragons," "Below The Line: If You Can't Stand The Heat", and "A Conversation with Director Rob Bowman".  This is one of those movies that it’s fun to hate, and I’ll try to review the disc as soon as it comes out. 

Spotlight of the week: Sky High on Blu-ray: 

Disney hasn't been having a lot of luck with their animated features recently, and so they've been churning out some live action movies too. In 2005 the movie that they really pushed was the Lindsey Logan vehicle Herbie Fully Loaded. It didn't do as well as expected, and Disney's other big film for 2005, Sky High, didn't get a very big advertising budget. That's too bad, because Sky High is a fun family flick that would have done better during its theatrical release if more people had known about it. This light comedy has now been released as a Blu-ray disc which is worth picking up.  

A lot of teenagers have trouble living up to their parent's expectations, but Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) really has it bad. You see, his parents are The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), the two greatest super-heroes the world has ever known. Many children who have just one super-powered parent go on to be heroes themselves, and with both The Commander and Jetstream in his family tree, everyone expects grand things from Will. The problem is that Will doesn't have any superpowers. All the other kids got their powers earlier, sometimes years earlier, but Will's still an ordinary kid.  

Not having the guts to tell his father that he's non-powered, Will gets sent off to Sky High, the high school for superheroes, along with his friends Zach (Nicholas Braun) and Layla (Danielle Panabaker). On the first day all of the incoming freshman get tested to see if they will follow the super-hero track or become side-kicks, and non-powered Will is chosen as a sidekick. He doesn't mind too much though. The other sidekicks are nicer and more down to Earth than the heroes anyway.  

Things change when Will is attacked by Warren Peace (Steven Strait), a kid whose mother was a hero but his father was a villain. The Commander put his father away in jail (with no hope of parole,) and Warren sees Will as his enemy. When Warren attacks, Will starts to run, but when the flame throwing youth turns his attentions onto Will's friends, the youngest Stronghold is forced to fight back and discovers that he has super-strength, just like his dad.  

Having a real power gets Will promoted to the hero track of classes. There he makes friends with the popular people, starts going out with the prettiest girl in the school, and soon forgets his old 'side-kick' friends. When a villain attacks the school and neutralizes just about all of the heroes, it's up to Will and the side-kicks to save the day.  

This is an enjoyable movie. It reminded me a lot of those John Hughes high school films from the 80's like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles but with superheroes instead of normal people. The plot was similar in a lot of ways; the relationship between the outcasts and the cool kids.  The only difference is that some of these kids can bend steel with their bare hands.  

Of course the story was pretty transparent, most people will see what's going to happen long before it does, but in this movie the ride is more fun that arriving at the destination. There are a lot of funny scenes sprinkled throughout the film and these make it worth watching. The sorting segment, where freshman are segregated into 'heroes' and 'sidekicks', is great. Bruce Campbell does a great job as the coach, Sonic Boomer. He decides if someone has what it takes to be a hero by dropping a car on them. If they catch it, they're a hero. The movie is filled with cute scenes like that, which really make if fun for the whole family.  

One thing that does rub viewers the wrong way is the music used in the film. The soundtrack consisted of many very cool 80's new wave and alternative hits. Unfortunately instead of using the original artists, the wise powers-that-be at Disney decided to hire unknown groups to cover the songs. This basically means the soundtrack sucks. While the cover bands did an adequate job it was incredibly distracting to hear a favorite song sung in a different manner, and none of these covers were better than the original. This was a very bad choice on Disney's part.  

The 1080p encoded 2.40:1 image looked very good for the most part. The two things that have plagued some Blu-ray releases, grain and posterization, are very minimal in the case of the former and almost totally missing when it comes to the latter. The definition and detail are very good, though some of the scenes that are heavy with special effects are a tad softer, and blacks are solid. There is a good amount of depth to the image that is sure to please viewers. The only problem I really had was with the colors. They were bright and solid but they also looked like they had been tweaked in post-production. This gave some objects a slightly unnatural look. The Commander's uniform is a good example of this. The color is too even and it looks a little cartoonish. This wasn't a major problem, but studios are artificially adjusting colors more often now, and it's a practice that I don't think enhances a movie.   That shouldn’t make you stay away from this fine disc however. 

Upcoming High Definition Discs:  
 
 

January 02, 2007 

Blu-ray 

The Covenant 

HD DVD 

(none) 

January 16, 2007 

Blu-ray 

GoodFellas

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Scooby-Doo (2002) 

Winged Migration 

HD DVD 

The Mummy Returns

Poseidon

Scooby-Doo (2002)

The Sting 

January 23, 2007 

Blu-ray 

Alien vs. Predator

Black Rain

Casanova

Chicago

Courage Under Fire 

Gridiron Gang

The Guardian

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Manchurian Candidate

Men of Honor

Saw II

Saw II (Unrated)

Saw III

We Were Soldiers 

HD DVD 

Black Rain

Brokeback Mountain 

January 30, 2007 

Blu-ray 

Flyboys

Hart's War

Open Season 

HD DVD 

Half Baked 

February 06, 2007 

Blu-ray 

American Psycho

Failure to Launch

First Blood

Glory

Reservoir Dogs

Running With Scissors

The Tailor of Panama 

HD DVD 

Failure to Launch

Hollywoodland