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post #1 of 21 Old 03-05-2018, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
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The Dark Crystal Ultra HD Blu-ray Review



Making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray, this fantasy, from the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson, tells the tale of a young hero who must find a legendary relic in order restore harmony to the universe.



The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

85



Details:

Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 1982
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 93 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC @ 4000 NITS
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Directed by: Jim Henson & Frank Oz
Music by: Trevor Jones
Written by: David Odell
Region Code: A,B,C


Release Date: March 6, 2018


" Another World, Another Time…in the Age of Wonder"


My Take:

I reviewed The Dark Crystal’s 2009 Blu-ray release, and have included my comments from that review here. New ratings/comments for the video, Ultra HD video, Dolby Atmos sound, and added bonus content are below.

In another time, The Dark Crystal was the Balance and Truth in the Universe, but it was destroyed, dividing the world into two factions: the wicked Skeksis and the peaceful Mystics. Now as the convergence of the three suns approaches the Crystal must be healed or darkness will reign forever. It is up to Jen, the last of his race, to carry out the prophecy that a Gelfing will return the missing chard of crystal and destroy the Skeksis’ evil Empire. But will Jen be up to the challenge of battling the unknown?

From the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson, this masterpiece of animation recounts the timeless tale of good vs. evil and has become a cult favorite of children and grown-ups alike. The story is straight forward with easily discernible lines drawn between good and evil in the soft spoken and inherently good Mystics and by contrast the violent, greedy and power hungry Skesis. Having been raised by the Mystics Jen believes that he is the last of his kind. On his death bed Jen’s Mystic master tells him that he must fulfill his destiny by recovering the lost shard of the dark crystal and venture to the crystal’s location to heal it by replacing the shard before the great conjunction of the three suns. Jen sets out on his quest and after locating the shard discovers that he is not the last of his kind. In the jungle he meets Kira, a female Gelfling, who also believed she was the last of her kind after being raised by the pod people after her family was killed by the Skesis.

The two join up and Kira agrees to help Jen. While he is clearly drawn as the story’s hero Kira is definitely the brains between the two. As things progress she firmly establishes herself as an equal ally with the ability to communicate with animals and other species as well as being able to think quickly on her feet. She proves her courage under dire circumstances during the climactic finale in the palace of the Skesis as she and Jen attempt to replace the missing shard, and heal the crystal which will restore balance and avoid giving eternal power to the evil and monstrous Skesis.

I never saw this film theatrically but watched it numerous times on cable TV when it aired back in the mid-eighties. I found the story and the characters enchanting and loved the expressive attributes that Jen and Kira exhibited. I love Fizzgigg, Kira’s pet (?) who adds a wonderfully integrated air of levity to the story. Having not seen it in years I think it holds up quite well. The special effects are pretty dated, but the elements have a timeless feel thanks to the great work by Jim Henson, Brian Froud (conceptual design) and screenwriter David Odell. The film has a charming appeal that those who remember it growing up can now share with their children. I watched it with my daughter, who shares my love for movies, and we both enjoyed it. I can’t imagine higher praise and I think that The Dark Crystal speaks volumes about the legacy of the great Jim Henson.

**This beloved fantasy comes to Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD (reviewed here), with the Blu-ray available within a gorgeous 24-page Digibook package that includes rare photos and a look behind the scenes.


Replay Value:


Parental Guide:

The rating is for frightening images, peril and thematic material that may not be suitable for younger viewers.


AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


UHD Presentation: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution:
  • Visual Impact:



Dolby Atmos Rating: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Level of immersion:
  • Soundstage integration:
  • Audio object placement:
  • Effectiveness:
  • Entertainment factor:


The Dark Crystal comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) sound.

Sony remastered The Dark Crystal from the original 35mm film elements, and its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that 4K image and the results are quite good.

It's important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like The Dark Crystal has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain, visual effects, and the use of optics that won't result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of today’s big budget productions. This isn’t a problem and shouldn't be seen as such.

Looking at the film's opening sequence, the improvement in depth, definition and color rendering was immediately noticeable. I was struck by the finer details present in the Skesis castle. Later, once Jen begins his quest, and enters the forest, its world and the variety of colors represented in the backgrounds, characters and effects appeared vivid and pleasing to the eye. The addition of high dynamic range added a visual element that subtly enriched the presentation.

Dark highlights were rendered with excellent dimension especially when coupled with brighter visual elements, such as the scene where Aughra’s lair is destroyed. The sequence shot in the tunnels below the Skesis castle looked quite good, as the streaming light set against the shadow laden backgrounds looked natural with an enriching level of depth. The image isn't consistently sharp, which appears innate, but detail rendering is very good overall. As I watched I felt as though I was rediscovering this film all over again.

Hands down, this is the best The Dark Crystal has looked on home video. Kudos to Sony for giving this the treatment it deserves. I am so pleased to see this type of attention given to catalog titles coming to Ultra HD Blu-ray.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be a fairly entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done quite well, and where applied, creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. I noticed that the front overhead channels were used for adding depth to the soundstage while the rear overhead channels contained more discrete sound objects/effects. In addition to things like overhead pans where sounds move through the soundstage, there are several sequences that bring everything together. The aforementioned scene where Jen enters the forest, and the finale in the crystal’s chamber, are good examples. I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this Dolby Atmos presentation was, adding a complimentary element that elevated the experience of watching the film.



For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:


Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:


Audio: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:


The Dark Crystal comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.5 Mbps.

According to the press documentation Sony remastered Th Dark Crystal from the original 35mm film elements, and that same 4K restoration was used for the 1080p rendering.

This is a pleasing, and apparently faithful restoration, that features clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. The earth tones appear very natural as the green grass, various shades of brown and blue look great. Resolution is solid, with varying degrees of refinement that can be scene dependent. Sharpness wavers, results in some scenes offering lucid clarity while others are lacking clearly defined edges and finely rendered detail. Again, fidelity appears intact as these issues are innate, and attributable to the use of visual effects, lighting, hazy environs, and the film stock used. Black and white levels are stable which gives a fair level of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low-lit segments looking noticeably punchy with crisp, quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. Grain is present with a prominent texture, and film like essence that occasionally takes on heavier emphasis, but it never bothered me. All in all, The Dark Crystal looks very good in high definition.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix has no trouble conveying the elements present in this soundtrack. Dialog sounds great as it has ample weight and clarity which give it good articulation and prominence within the front soundstage. The soundfield isn’t the broadest, and the dynamic range doesn’t provide impressive sonic impact, however this track sounds just fine. Trevor Jones’ music has appreciable warmth, and presence, that is viably rich amid the other elements contained in the mix. The surrounds are used exclusively for environmental ambience which helps extend the front channels reach. This is fine, offering a bit more atmospheric enhancement, while remaining faithful to the film’s original audio elements.


Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: The Dark Crystal Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Dark Crystal Blu-ray
    • ALL-NEW: The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes of this iconic film with stories from Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Commentary with Brian Froud
    • Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track
    • Original Skeksis Language Scenes with Introduction by Screenwriter David Odell
    • The World of The Dark Crystal Documentary
    • Reflections of The Dark Crystal: “Light on the Path of Creation” & “Shard of Illusion”
    • Photo Galleries
    • Theatrical Teaser & Trailer
  • Digital HD Copy



Final Thoughts:

The Dark Crystal is a wonderfully charming fantasy adventure film from the creative world of the great Jim Henson. It tells an age old and classic tale of good versus evil and does so using strong visuals in an elaborative style that can be enjoyed from one generation to the next. It’s making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that features beautifully restored video, a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and new, and legacy bonus content. If you’re a fan, and the improvements in video quality, and immersive sound are important to you, this is a must have addition to your Blu-ray collection.












Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews



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post #2 of 21 Old 03-05-2018, 11:27 AM
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Ralph, you rated the video on the BD higher than that on the UHD, so are you saying it's not worth the upgrade of UHD over BD for this film?
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post #3 of 21 Old 03-05-2018, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthJersey View Post
Ralph, you rated the video on the BD higher than that on the UHD, so are you saying it's not worth the upgrade of UHD over BD for this film?
Greetings,

No. The rating parameters for UHD and BD are different. If you're set up for UHD, and are interested in this title, that is the one to get.


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post #4 of 21 Old 03-05-2018, 03:23 PM
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I've seen this film several times, and it is not a traditional "good versus evil" story. Rather, it is about "balance".


I saw it in a theater when it premiered. I was writing an article about Dolby Surround for a small magazine (4Quad), and the projectionist was kind enough to explain the setup. The sound was typically British, with nearly incomprehensible dialog. It got in the way of (this viewer, at least) engaging with the characters and story. It appears that this transfer represents a major improvement.


Jim Henson was an experimenter, often treading unfamiliar ground. "The Dark Crystal" has many clumsily staged scenes, due to the mixture of conventional puppets and puppets of a new type, which Henson hadn't yet mastered. The film is the product of his highly creative, but not properly disciplined imagination. I hope the improved sound makes it more appealing.


PS: I have nothing personal against Jim Henson. I grew up watching "Sam and Friends" on WRC, and being delighted by his unbelievably brutal Wilkins Coffee commercials, which had the Muppet characters mutilating and even killing each other. You can find these on YouTube. Be prepared to be appalled, or collapsing in uncontrollable laughter.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrizzledGeezer View Post
I've seen this film several times, and it is not a traditional "good versus evil" story. Rather, it is about "balance".


I saw it in a theater when it premiered. I was writing an article about Dolby Surround for a small magazine (4Quad), and the projectionist was kind enough to explain the setup. The sound was typically British, with nearly incomprehensible dialog. It got in the way of (this viewer, at least) engaging with the characters and story. It appears that this transfer represents a major improvement.


Jim Henson was an experimenter, often treading unfamiliar ground. "The Dark Crystal" has many clumsily staged scenes, due to the mixture of conventional puppets and puppets of a new type, which Henson hadn't yet mastered. The film is the product of his highly creative, but not properly disciplined imagination. I hope the improved sound makes it more appealing.


PS: I have nothing personal against Jim Henson. I grew up watching "Sam and Friends" on WRC, and being delighted by his unbelievably brutal Wilkins Coffee commercials, which had the Muppet characters mutilating and even killing each other. You can find these on YouTube. Be prepared to be appalled, or collapsing in uncontrollable laughter.
I've watched this several times myself over the years and I'm looking forward to the 4K version.
What part of Jims imagination needs to be disciplined here when it comes to The Dark Chrystal ?
Maybe you're referring to the scene where the essence of the podling was being drained ?
That was pretty scary, even for an adult to watch.
I think it would easily give a little kid nightmares; hence the warning.

And yeah, those coffee commercials could be construed as out right violent, but so was the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
Does that make it OK, maybe not, but they're just puppets and animation coupled with slap stick humour.

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post #6 of 21 Old 03-05-2018, 11:55 PM
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Ralph, the review and a really good pre-order price made me order the 4K disc. You sold another copy. Seriously, I have a greater appreciation of fantasy now that I'm older. Thanks for bringing this release to our attention.
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post #7 of 21 Old 03-06-2018, 03:49 AM
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This movie was playing as part of a double feature at a drive in along with E.T. The Extra Terrestial. Unfortunately no matter how much my brother and I protested, our parents were set on getting us home and in bed on time, so I missed the theatre run. Years later I saw The Dark Crystal on VHS and wished even more that I had been able to enjoy it that evening at the drive in. I currently own and enjoy this on Blu-Ray, which is worlds beyond that craptastic VHS rental. Even though this movie is on the shorter side I enjoy the heck out of it. To this day I'm still in awe of the puppeteering work that went into The Dark Crystal. I believe this UHD release will be a must buy for me. Thanks for the review Ralph.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GrizzledGeezer View Post
PS: I have nothing personal against Jim Henson. I grew up watching "Sam and Friends" on WRC, and being delighted by his unbelievably brutal Wilkins Coffee commercials, which had the Muppet characters mutilating and even killing each other. You can find these on YouTube. Be prepared to be appalled, or collapsing in uncontrollable laughter.
If those commercials involve Gonzo, chickens, and explosions I really need to see them. Big fan of The Muppet Show.
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I do not think I have seen this on anything higher than DVD, and love it. Cannot wait to view this.
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This was one of the films I watched over and over as a kid. I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival on my doorstep, since Best Buy emailed me last week to tell me they shipped it. The end of the day cannot get here soon enough.
As always - thanks for the review (and setting the expectations) on this. Can't wait to watch this tonight.
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post #10 of 21 Old 03-06-2018, 09:39 AM
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Disci;line!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffR1 View Post
What part of Jim's imagination needs to be disciplined here when it comes to The Dark Chrystal? Maybe you're referring to the scene where the essence of the podling was being drained? That was pretty scary, even for an adult to watch. I think it would easily give a little kid nightmares; hence the warning.

The "discipline" I'm thinking of is not jumping into a project or new technology before having mastered conceptual and physical control of it. For me, The Dark Crystal is a rather "sloppy" film -- and "Labyrinth" is even worse.


I agree that the podling's draining is a squirm-inducing scene, even for adults. Like Disney, Henson wasn't afraid of showing frightening or disturbing scenes. Unlike Disney, he didn't hold back from the sadistic. It's hard to understand how such a sweet-faced Irishman could be so ill-tempered. (The original Kermit was short-tempered and irascible, which has been lost.)
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I remember the DVD not being the best example of this 35 mm film production. This has really been cleaned up in regards to picture quality for its 35th anniversary. As the commentator says everything in this film was hand made which was the most impressive aspect of the film, and yes it is a dark children's production. I imagine the 4K version is fairly impressive.

Lots of example of the increased PQ in this youtube video

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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrizzledGeezer View Post
The "discipline" I'm thinking of is not jumping into a project or new technology before having mastered conceptual and physical control of it. For me, The Dark Crystal is a rather "sloppy" film -- and "Labyrinth" is even worse.


I agree that the podling's draining is a squirm-inducing scene, even for adults. Like Disney, Henson wasn't afraid of showing frightening or disturbing scenes. Unlike Disney, he didn't hold back from the sadistic. It's hard to understand how such a sweet-faced Irishman could be so ill-tempered. (The original Kermit was short-tempered and irascible, which has been lost.)
Are you are puppeteer by trade or hobby or something? I've seen both movies a hundred times and never once have I noticed anything that took me out of the story.

I just saw the remaster in the theater. Fantastic revisit with much better visual quality. My girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.
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post #13 of 21 Old 03-06-2018, 06:29 PM
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I'm an annoyingly analytical person, extremely critical of just about everything. I'm also 70 years old, and have my own set of experiences that influence my reactions.


I can understand someone liking The Dark Crystal. But Labyrinth is a disaster, on multiple levels. When previewed, it got highly negative reactions from Henson's friends and co-workers. He was dismayed -- arguably heartbroken.


Shall we discuss Dragonslayer, one of the all-time great fantasy films? I have to defend it from people who gripe that it doesn't show how people really lived (and talked and thought) in the Dark Ages! I'm certain it doesn't. But that isn't what the story is about.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthJersey View Post
Ralph, you rated the video on the BD higher than that on the UHD, so are you saying it's not worth the upgrade of UHD over BD for this film?
I had the exact same question. I already made my decision on 4k when I moved to that format. I decided I would not replace a single BR or HDDVD in my library to UHD. But instead, just upscale them to UHD after Darbee processing them. And to my eyes they are spectacular! I buy only UHD BR on new titles, so I don't have duplication anymore.
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@Ralph Potts

Can you expand some more on your grading of this release? You give it a B- while bordering on a C+. Yet, you really didn't have much in the way of negative remarks when reading your review.

Why is that? Is it just because it's such an old film? So different from digitally shot ones we have today that just have much more pop? Or something else?
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post #16 of 21 Old 03-07-2018, 04:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by biliam1982 View Post
@Ralph Potts

Can you expand some more on your grading of this release? You give it a B- while bordering on a C+. Yet, you really didn't have much in the way of negative remarks when reading your review.

Why is that? Is it just because it's such an old film? So different from digitally shot ones we have today that just have much more pop? Or something else?
Greetings,

Sure. The innate quality of a film like this won't truly be able to take advantage of the strengths of the format. That isn't a slight in any way, but, when scoring it, generally speaking, it won't push each of the parameters to their highest.

It looks great, but, this is as good as it will look on home video. If it's a faithful reproduction, and I believe it is, that's perfectly fine with me.


Regards,
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post #17 of 21 Old 03-07-2018, 04:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barrelbelly View Post
I had the exact same question. I already made my decision on 4k when I moved to that format. I decided I would not replace a single BR or HDDVD in my library to UHD. But instead, just upscale them to UHD after Darbee processing them. And to my eyes they are spectacular! I buy only UHD BR on new titles, so I don't have duplication anymore.

Greetings,

Answered in post # 3. As to your idea of not replacing catalog titles with their UHD counterparts, that's of course up to you. I will say that there are some UHD catalog releases that you are truly missing out on.

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post #18 of 21 Old 03-07-2018, 05:38 AM
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So to help some here...echoing Ralph, the movie has the innate grain to it, that's not removed with UHD (as it shouldn't, IMO). But what you will see is amazing color.
The translucence is vivid on the shells of the garthim. I honestly didn't even know they were anything but black, until last night.
The color depth on the skesis robes and within their castle is extraordinary.
The planet color on Augrah's planetary model was very cool. Again, didn't remember there being such color, in the old version (HDX streaming or DVD) I've watched.

There is also greater depth in the shadows, which is huge for all scenes filmed in the skesis castle.

Overall, I would say this is a definite upgrade and worth investing in the UHD version.

Again, this is all my opinion and YMMV.
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post #19 of 21 Old 03-07-2018, 07:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfwilliams1 View Post
So to help some here...echoing Ralph, the movie has the innate grain to it, that's not removed with UHD (as it shouldn't, IMO). But what you will see is amazing color.
The translucence is vivid on the shells of the garthim. I honestly didn't even know they were anything but black, until last night.
The color depth on the skesis robes and within their castle is extraordinary.
The planet color on Augrah's planetary model was very cool. Again, didn't remember there being such color, in the old version (HDX streaming or DVD) I've watched.

There is also greater depth in the shadows, which is huge for all scenes filmed in the skesis castle.

Overall, I would say this is a definite upgrade and worth investing in the UHD version.

Again, this is all my opinion and YMMV.
Greetings,

What he said...


Thanks for chiming in with your impressions jfwilliams1.


Regards,
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post #20 of 21 Old 03-09-2018, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by GrizzledGeezer View Post
I'm an annoyingly analytical person, extremely critical of just about everything. I'm also 70 years old, and have my own set of experiences that influence my reactions.


I can understand someone liking The Dark Crystal. But Labyrinth is a disaster, on multiple levels. When previewed, it got highly negative reactions from Henson's friends and co-workers. He was dismayed -- arguably heartbroken.


Shall we discuss Dragonslayer, one of the all-time great fantasy films? I have to defend it from people who gripe that it doesn't show how people really lived (and talked and thought) in the Dark Ages! I'm certain it doesn't. But that isn't what the story is about.
Well that, and Dragons are fantasy creatures so we have already a fictional work, so it doesn't matter how people lived.

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post #21 of 21 Old 05-12-2018, 10:35 AM
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Bought it when it came out because I'm a sucker for Henson stuff, but just got around to finally checking it out last night. Having seen it a million times as a kid I found this one just doesn't quite hold up for me as a movie in the way Labyrinth does, though some scenes cleaned up quite nice visually. I went in to it not even remembering what your review scores were and I have to say I think you were a little harsh on the Atmos score. For an older movie, I thought it really shined at times with the ambiance and occasional little critters flying around. Guess it grabbed my attention more because I didn't expect it.
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