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Jon Turteltaub
Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Omar Benson Miller, Monica Bellucci
Writing Credits:
Lawrence Konner (story), Mark Rosenthal (story), Matt Lopez (and story), Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard

It's The Coolest Job Ever.

Magic is everywhere in Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice - the fun family adventure from the creators of National Treasure. Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a modern-day sorcerer with his hands full defending Manhattan against dark forces. When a seemingly average kid shows hidden potential, Balthazar takes his reluctant recruit on a crash course in the art and science of magic to become the ultimate sorcerer's apprentice. Experience more extraordinary thrills, heart-stopping action and spectacular special effects than you can imagine as these unlikely partners show us that the real world is far more magical than we ever knew!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$17.619 million on 3504 screens.
Domestic Gross
$63.143 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Video 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:
Mandarin Chinese
Cantonese Chinese

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/30/2010

• “Magic in the City” Featurette
• “The Science of Sorcery” Featurette
• “Making Magic Real” Featurette
• “Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic” Featurette
• “The Fashionable Drake Stone” Featurette
• “The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art” Featurette
• “The Encantus” Featurette
• “Wolves and Puppies” Featurette
• “The World’s Coolest Car” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Sneak Peeks
• Bonus DVD


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Sorcerer's Apprentice [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2010)

While remakes remain a staple of the Hollywood diet, I doubt anyone ever suspected that Disney would create a new version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice - as a live-action film! Heck, it seemed unlikely they ever create an animated remake of the 1940 Fantasia sequence, but the notion of a live-action Apprentice wasn’t something I think ever occurred to many fans.

Someone clearly thought it was a good idea, though apparently moviegoers disagreed. With a US take of $63 million, it wasn’t a true bomb, but it certainly failed to become the summer blockbuster Disney wanted. I’d guess they wanted Apprentice to launch another Pirates of the Caribbean-style franchise, but instead, it was another one-and-done ala The Haunted Mansion.

Apprentice starts with two flashbacks. A prologue in 740 AD introduces to the apprentices of legendary wizard Merlin (James A. Stephens). Balthazar (Nicholas Cage), Horvath (Alfred Molina) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) learn Merlin’s secrets and battle sorceress Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige) as she attempts to bring dead magicians back to life so she can take over the world.

Betrayal and bloodshed ensue, as Horvath turns on his colleagues. Eventually he, Morgana and Veronica all end up trapped inside a nesting doll called the Grimhold. Over the centuries, an immortal Balthazar hunts for the Prime Merlinian, a talent who will become Merlin’s successor.

When we arrive in the year 2000, that plot thickens. Semi-nerdy elementary school student Dave Stutler (Jake Cherry) gets separated from his class during a field trip, and he enters Balthazar’s musty shop. There he shows that he might be the Prime Merlinian, but all hell breaks loose when Horvath appears and engages Balthazar in battle. A frightened Dave flees…

…to re-emerge a decade later as a bright NYU physics student. Eventually his minor magical past catches up with him and he becomes engaged with Balthazar. This leads him to cope with his destiny and inevitably become the sorcerer’s apprentice, all while they try to stop Horvath from releasing Morgana and unleashing Armageddon.

When I went to see Apprentice theatrically, I did so with low expectations. After all, it dragged at the box office, and critics seemed to dislike it. I also thought that a movie based on a Mickey Mouse short probably wouldn’t have much to offer.

To my surprise, I kind of liked it. At no point did I think it turned into anything truly special, but it delivered reasonable entertainment.

And it probably shouldn’t really be seen as a remake. Yes, it does connect to the 1940 short beyond its title. In one part of the film, the live-action version offers its own take on Mickey’s Roosevelt-era adventures.

Beyond that short homage, however, the two have little to do with each other, and that’s for the best. A more literal attempt to stretch the short out to feature length would’ve been a disaster, so it’s good that this one tips its hat for a few minutes but otherwise just works on a basic similar premise.

Which is a decent – though not especially original – one. We’ve seen many movies about young students and their tutors; heck, isn’t that a large part of the Harry Potter franchise? But that doesn’t mean another take on that concept isn’t welcome.

Probably the film’s biggest problem stems from its murky plot. The film digs into an excessively complicated backstory that it just doesn’t need. I think the movie could’ve streamlined a lot of its elements and worked as well, if not better. The prologue almost overwhelms with its threads and characters – it’s a lot of ado about little.

Once the movie gets to the present day, however, it picks up some steam. For all intents and purposes, the film presents a long action reel. Sure, it slows at times, but those moments remain brief; we rarely go more than a few minutes without magic and/or mayhem.

Though this could make the film a head-inducing assault ala Tony Scott’s recent Unstoppable - a movie that treats even coffee breaks like action climaxes – instead Apprentice manages to keep the situation in check. It integrates magic into its exposition, so we get fun along with character/story development. This helps keeps the tale in the fantasy realm while it moves along different elements.

For the most part, the actors do reasonably well. Cage and Molina seem to be slumming a bit here, but they don’t phone in their work. They don’t look especially engaged, but they appear invested enough to bring more life and heft to the roles than we might otherwise expect.

I remain somewhat torn about Baruchel. As I noted when I reviewed She’s Out of My League, I think he’s talented, but his reliance on stammering and broad mannerisms can make him annoying. Baruchel continues those patterns here, though he does tame his act as the film progresses. I suspect he did so intentionally to depict Dave’s growing maturity, which makes sense. All I know is that Baruchel becomes less irritating as the movie moves, which is a good thing.

While I don’t want to leave the impression that I think Apprentice provides a great flick, I do think it achieves its goals. It gives us a generally inventive, exciting romp that keeps us entertained for 109 minutes, and that’s good enough for me.

Footnote: stick around through the end credits for a little teaser. It hints at a sequel – a sequel I suspect we’ll never get.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a good but not exceptional transfer.

Softness caused the only noticeable problems, and those were minor; occasionally, I thought some shots were a bit on the ill-defined side. Those remained modest, but I thought I saw enough of these to create a negative impact. Still, most of the movie offered very nice delineation, and I witnessed no issues with jaggies, shimmering or edge haloes. Source flaws also remained absent.

In terms of colors, Apprentice went with what has become a standard modern sensibility: amber and teal. Those tints dominated the flick, so expect a lot of them. A few more dynamic hues emerged at times – such as during the Chinatown scene – but these stayed the focus. They looked fine within the design parameters, and blacks appeared deep and dense. Shadows also came across as clean and smooth. The softness knocked my grade down to a “B”, but I still thought the movie usually looked solid.

No inconsistencies affected the excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Apprentice. With all its magic and action, the film unleashed many exciting sonic opportunities, and it took good advantage of them. Various elements spread around the room in a dynamic manner and blended together smoothly. I couldn’t identify anything that seemed most memorable, as the entire film used all five speakers in an active, engaging way.

No issues with audio quality emerged. Bass response seemed especially good, as the mix offered deep, firm low-end. Effects benefited from this, and those elements also displayed nice accuracy and clarity. Music was vivid and full, while speech seemed natural and concise. I felt pleased with this involving mix.

Most of the disc’s extras revolve around a collection of featurettes. These include “Magic in the City” (12:51), “The Science of Sorcery” (10:27), “Making Magic Real” (11:44), “Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic” (10:12), “The Fashionable Drake Stone” (2:08), “The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art” (3:45), “The Encantus” (2:21), “Wolves and Puppies” (3:06) and “The World’s Coolest Car” (1:32). Across these, we hear from director Jon Turteltaub, executive producer/actor Nicolas Cage, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, executive producers Mike Stenson, Chad Oman and Barry Waldman, 2nd AD Peter Thorell, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director George Marshall Ruge, supervising art director David Lazan, special effects coordinator Mark Hawker, production designer Naomi Shohan, Asylum visual effects supervisor Phil Brennan, art director George DeTitta, Jr., visual effects supervisor John Nelson, Double Negative visual effects supervisor Adrian de Wet, screenwriter Matt Lopez, special effects supervisor John Frazier, Asylum additional visual effects supervisor Jason Schugardt, 2nd unit director of photography Patrick Loungway, Double Negative 3D supervisor Graham Jack, Double Negative 3D lead Zoe Cranley, Asylum animation supervisor Craig Van Dyke, Asylum CG supervisor Bret St. Clair, stunt double Thomas DuPont, director of photography Bojan Bazelli, Double Negative 3D leads Georg Kaltenbrunner and Jeremy Hardin, Double Negative animation lead James Lewis, composer Trevor Rabin, costume designer Michael Kaplan, property master James Mazzola, animal trainers Steve McAuliff and Mike Hodanish, visual effects data wrangler Tyler Ham, Rolls Royce coordinator Dan Dietrich, picture car coordinator Michael D. Antunez, and actors Jay Baruchel, Toby Kebbell, Teresa Palmer, Alfred Molina, and Monica Bellucci.

The shows cover shooting in New York, stunts and set design, various visual and practical effects, adapting the “Apprentice” sequence from Fantasia, costumes and props, cars and working with animals. These maintain a fairly frothy tone, but they nonetheless manage to deliver a pretty good range of information. Much of this focuses on technical elements, so expect to learn a lot about that side of things. Overall, the featurettes tend to be enjoyable and useful.

Five Deleted Scenes go for a total of seven minutes, 40 seconds. These include “A Candidate in Calcutta” (1:10), “A Model Student” (1:11), “Balthazar Recruits Dave” (1:58), “Oh No, It’s Andre” (1:58) and “Man’s Best Friend” (1:13). We see a snippet from “Candidate” in the released movie; this piece fleshes things out in a mild manner. “Student” shows Dave as teaching assistant, and “Recruits” offers more of Balthazar’s hard sell on Dave. “Andre” features Dave’s apparent rival for Becky’s affection, and “Friend” gives us a little more background on Dave. None of these are bad, but none seem particularly important, either. I can’t say that any of them would’ve added anything to the movie.

Finally, we get a collection of Outtakes. It fills three minutes, 14 seconds with the standard roster of goofs and giggles. Actually, a few mildly interesting improv bits emerge, but don’t expect anything great.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for TRON:Legacy and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. Additional promos appear under Sneak Peeks for Disney’s a Christmas Carol, Phineas and Ferb Across the 2nd Dimension, DisneyNature: African Cats, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, The Incredibles, The Lion King and Alice in Wonderland (1951). No trailer for Apprentice appears here.

A second disc provides a Bonus DVD. This offers a full-featured disc, not a barebones one. It even comes with one extra not on the Blu-ray: The Making of Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It runs 22 minutes, one second and features notes from Bruckheimer, Cage, Baruchel, Turteltaub, Oman, Palmer, Waldman, Shohan, DeTitta, Stenson, Nelson, Molina, Frazier, Hawker, Bellucci, Ruge, de Wet, and 1st AD Geoff Hansen. We get notes about the flick’s origins and the adaptation of the short, shooting in NYC, production design, various effects and stunts,

“Making” essentially distills many aspects of the Blu-ray featurettes into one piece, though that doesn’t mean it turns into one-stop shopping. You’ll get more depth across all those Disc One programs, but a few unique elements pop up in “Making”. I don’t think it’s crucial viewing, but it’ll add a little to your impression of the filmmaking processes.

At no point does The Sorcerer’s Apprentice approach greatness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver fun. While it lacks real originality, it has a good time with its subject and provides a fairly entertaining experience. The Blu-ray comes with pretty positive picture, excellent audio, and some decent supplements. This becomes a perfectly nice release for a likable movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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