Evans Above

Feb 27, 2017

Doctor Strange Blu-ray review

I loved Marvel’s Doctor Strange when I saw it in the theatre and now all of the visual delights are available for the home as Disney releases it on Blu-ray on February 28th.

I had a chance to look at the 2D home release of this film (a 3D version is also available for those with the right equipment) and the visual quality of this release does not disappoint. The 1080p transfer is in the cinematic version’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Digitally captured, the movie transfers well with only some mild crush in the black areas. The image is very detailed, with great facial and surface textures. The film’s palette matches many of its moody, darker scenes, though of course the metaphysical dimension moments exhibit great colours but nothing that pops as unrealistic, which is a strange thing to say when you’re talking about metaphysical dimension scenes.

On the audio side, viewers get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Though the whole surround environment immerses you in Doctor Strange’s world, the low end gets a great workout here, with its deep tones adding to the mind-bending visuals. Dialogue is centred and crystal clear.

The disc also comes with a nice assortment of extras, including featurettes on the cast, locations and filming, a look at the supporting characters both in the film and comics, a costume segment cleverly titled “The Fabric of Reality”, as well as looks at the score and fight choreography. There’s also an update on the Marvel Universe, a Thor scene, as well as the usual deleted scenes, gag reels and a commentary from director Scott Derrickson.

A top-notch film experience coupled with a top-notch presentation means that the Doctor Strange Blu-ray deserves a spot in your home library.

Jan 12, 2017

Homeland Season 5 Blu-ray review

I recently had a chance to take a look at season five of Showtime’s Homeland, which is now available on Blu-ray. Its events take place about two years after those in season four. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the former CIA intelligence officer, is living in Berlin and working as part of the security team surrounding Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch), a wealthy German philanthropist. Carrie finds herself interacting with her old co-workers as the twelve episodes deal with themes like Edward Snowden, ISIS, and the migrant crisis.

This 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release has an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colours are very good, especially in the European locales, though some of the darker scenes that are stock for spy stories have some loss of definition. Fine detail on fabrics, skin, etc. are quite good.

On the the audio side of things, viewers get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as Japanese, Spanish and Italian DTS 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH as well as French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. The surround tracks are put to good use, immersing you into the crowds and camps Carrie finds herself in. Low frequency effects are also put to good use in some of the more explosive action scenes. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

Extras are a little on the thin side, which is par for the course for most TV releases until you finally get the complete series box set. Season 5 gives you The Evolution of Carrie Mathison, a short look at our heroine’s background, and a look at the season’s main locale in Homeland in Berlin: Beyond the Wall.

Fans of Homeland will want to add this technically well done Season 5 release to their collection.

Nov 28, 2016

Pete’s Dragon Blu-ray review

As Disney reaches back to make live action versions of some of its animated classics like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it now tackles Pete’s Dragon. The 1977 version combined animation and live action, but this new release, available on Blu-ray on November 29th, 2016, uses CGI to perfectly blend the dragon into Pete’s world.

The 1080p release is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. In a film with quite a few scenes taking place in the dark reaches of the forest, you better get the black levels right and this transfer does, with details in fur and skin holding up under the conditions. The greens of the forest palette thrive when we’re in more sunlit situations and the details on everything from skin to clothes and surfaces is excellent. Though there might be a few moments of some digital noise, it’s nothing to write home about, so put away the stamps.

The disc has an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The tracks quite subtly surround you with the film’s soundscape and the lower frequency channel is well-used in action scenes. The dialogue is centred and clear, though at times seems a bit quiet in relation to the rest of the audio.

The disc comes with a variety of extras, including a DVD and a voucher for a digital copy. You’ll also get the director’s commentary, a look at creating the dragon, deleted and alternate scenes, bloopers and a couple of music videos.

A joy to watch for the whole family, Pete’s Dragon is waiting to be a part of your home theatre library.

The BFG Blu-ray review

When I reviewed the theatrical release of The BFG, I said that it was “suited for kids of all ages, even the ones that pretend to be grown-ups.” Now you can share the experience at home as Disney releases it on Blu-ray on November 29th, 2016.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Digitally shot, the movie looks simply magical and the CGI giants and other effects come out looking great. Nothing in the transfer seems to distract from the presentation. Black levels are very good, and the detail on clothing, faces and environment are excellent. The colour palette is vibrant but not overpowering and despite going to a land of giants, the video just oozes realism.

Your ears will be treated to an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The surround tracks put you right in the middle of the adventure with Sophie and BFG, while the lower frequency environment is put to good use in a world where over-sized feet go stomping through the action. Dialogue is clear and centred so you’ll have no problem hearing each of BFG’s mispronounced words and phrases.

The BFG has some nice extras. Actress Ruby Barnhill, who plays Sophie, hosts a 27 minute featurette that shares her experiences on set as well as looking at the film’s production and talking with director Steven Spielberg. There’s also a brief animated version of the story, a look at his unique words, a look at casting the giants, and a tribute to the film’s late screenwriter, Melissa Mathison.

I truly enjoyed The BFG and think that it will make a great addition to your home movie library.

Oct 18, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass now available on Blu-ray

When I reviewed the theatrical release of Alice Through the Looking Glass, I said it was a mess. So as Disney releases the Blu-ray version, I’m in the odd place of saying that it’s a storytelling mess that’s a beauty on its technical merits.

The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is released in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Simply put, it’s just stunning to look at. Fabrics, structures and natural elements all have striking detail and wear and tear that bring them to life. Colours are loud and pop off the screen when they need to and are naturally balanced in other scenes. Black levels are deep and there’s so little digital noise in just a few low light scenes that it is hardly worth mentioning.

The audio side gives us an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The audio presentation is equal to this disc’s video side. The surround tracks take us deep into Alice’s adventure, from the booming cannons in sea battle to all of the elements in the Hatter’s world. The low end gives the soundtrack a strong floor whether it is in the ambient affects or the music. Dialogue is clear throughout.

As for extras, viewers will get audio commentary from director James Bobin and the usual collection of deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

So, here’s the conclusion: If you loved Alice Through the Looking Glass in the cinema then this Blu-ray disc will knock your socks off. If you didn’t love the film, but really like a technical presentation that will knock your socks off, then you’ll want this in your home library. If the film was so-so to you and you can’t tell a Blu-ray from a stingray, then give this one a pass.

Sep 27, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Blu-ray review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, starring Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, places this talented cast in a raunchy comedy about two ne’er-do-well brothers who get more than they bargain for when they place an ad to find two “nice” girls to take to their sister’s wedding. The flick is now available in a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD combo pack from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented with a 2.391 aspect ratio. The film’s Hawaiian scenes are a nice test for the video quality and the sun-drenched waters, lush foliage and sunny skies pop with accurate colours. Details in fabric and foliage are very good, as are the contrast and black levels. Some noise can be seen in a few darker scenes, but it’s nothing that’s going to make you take the umbrella out of your tropical cocktail and throw it at the screen.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish, French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and a Russian DTS 5.1 track. As for subtitles, there’s English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, and Ukrainian titles available. On a side note, I always wonder how the studios choose which languages to subtitle for. Looking at the list here, I have to ask if this film did well in the Scandinavian and Baltic states. As far as the soundscape goes, the surround tracks do their job of putting you in the middle of the party scenes. Dialogue is also clean and properly levelled.

A comedy usually has a lot of stuff that didn’t make it in the movie, so the extras provide us with deleted scenes and gags, commentary by director Jake Szymanski, as well as some Funny or Die shorts and theatrical trailers.

If you’re looking for a raunchy, mindless comedy with a great technical presentation then you might want to add Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates to your collection.

Sep 20, 2016

Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Blu-ray review

Disney’s 1991 animated musical Beauty and the Beast was a cultural phenomenon, earning over $400 million dollars worldwide and becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. On its 25th anniversary, Disney is now releasing it again on Blu-ray as part of The Signature Collection. The set includes three versions of the film: the original theatrical release, an extended edition with an extra six minutes or so, and a sing-along version for viewers to join in on the Oscar-winning songs. Sadly, the 2011 3D version is not included in the set.

The disc’s AVC encoded 1080p transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, differing slightly from the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical release. The video presentation is definitely a beauty. The whole rich colour palette is beautifully represented whether we’re in a forest scene or a dazzling ballroom. The details of the animation are all there, and the lush, traditionally painted backgrounds of the animation look gorgeous. The transfer faithfully captures the artistry of Disney’s animators while not introducing digital artifacts that would distract from the presentation.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape is not a beast either. We’re pulled into this animated world and surrounded with its ambience. Dialogue is clear from the softest whisper and loudest shout to the best sung chorus. Low frequency effects are used well. The songs and music of Beauty and the Beast are well-served by this soundtrack.

The disc comes with a variety of supplements though some of them are only available digitally online and not on the discs themselves though they had been included on previous releases. You get the usual grab bag of behind-the-scenes looks, discussions with cast and artists and looks at the musical process. One of the new supplements, “Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” features Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Lin- Manuel Miranda, Stephen Schwartz, and Alan Menken discussing and performing songs from the film.

On the Beauty side, the audio and video presentation are impeccable. On the Beast side, I would like to have seen all of the previous extras on a supplementary disc as opposed to being made available for digital download and in the sake of previous version completeness I would like to have had the 3D version included. Still, my review has far more Beauty than Beast, and if you don’t have the previous Blu-ray versions, than The Signature Collection 25th Anniversary release of Beauty and the Beast belongs in your home entertainment library.

Sep 13, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Blu-ray review

Captain America: Civil War mixes in some socio-political weight with the superhero action, creating on of the best Marvel films yet. Disney know lets you take the adventure home with its Blu-ray release.

The AVC-encoded 1080p release with a 2.391 aspect ratio is essentially flawless with just a hint of aliasing in some shots that’s hardly worth mentioning. Detail and textures don’t disappoint, whether we’re talking about the detailing on Captain, America’s uniform, the dings and scrapes on Iron Man’s suit or the structures that they battle in. Skin tones and natural textures are also well-served in this transfer. Black levels are deep and image clarity never suffers. An excellent video presentation.

Moving from the eyes to the ears, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish. Considering this is a civil war, the audio end of things is more of a skirmish, sometimes lacking the low end oomph that would really add some punch to the action scenes, Minus that issue, the surround tracks do get a workout and put us in the centre of the action.

The extras on the disc give us some background into the characters and the positions they have taken, as well as looks at the comic book origins of the story, a gag reel, deleted scenes and a sneak peek at Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange flick.

Again, Disney and Marvel have given us an excellent presentation, making Captain America: Civil War a must add for your home entertainment library.

Aug 30, 2016

The Jungle Book Blu-ray review

Director Jon Favreau brought us the live action version of the beloved animated classic The Jungle Book and now Disney let’s us bring the jungle into our homes with the release of the Blu-ray.

The 1080p AVC-encoded video transfer is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The movie was shot digitally and that source media captures the jungle in all of it beauty and detail from the textures of the earth and rocks to the richness of the foliage. The live action scenes blend perfectly with the computer generated animal characters, whose digitally created fur moves realisitcally. Nighttime scenes benefit from the discs excellent black levels.

The sounds of the jungle are presented to us in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, with French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks also available. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The film story takes place in a jungle and the soundscape doesn’t let us forget it. The surround tracks immerse us in the story, from birds to insects to water. The musical score soars and has amazing clarity as does the movie’s dialogue. Your system’s low end will be given a workout during action scenes.

In the extras, we get commentary from direcotr Jon Favreau as well as featurettes that take us behind the scenes.

You’ll not go wrong adding The Jungle Book to your collection.

Aug 16, 2016

The Angry Birds Movie Blu-ray review

When I reviewed the theatrical release of The Angry Birds Movie, I called it a fun diversion that was tailor-made for fans of the game and suggested that the action might even create some new players. Sony has now released the film on Blu-ray.

The 1080p transfer comes in a 1.851 aspect ratio and the colours just pop off of the screen. The island setting gives us a chance to bather ourselves in ravishing reds, gorgeous greens and beautiful blues. Each species of bird gets to dazzle us with their own palette of feathery brilliance. Speaking of feathers, the detail in the video is great and each bird’s individual plumage is displayed with perfect texture, with the attention to detail continuing to the surrounding scenes. Black levels are very good and there are no nagging issues with compression to speak of.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, soundtrack, a Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Korean, Spanish Thai and Vietnamese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, a testament to the game’s global reach. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Thai, and Vietnamese.

The soundtrack is full of a lot of recognizable music and the clarity and low-end power packs a punch. The surround tracks immerse the viewer in the manic action while never overpowering the dialogue, which maintains its clarity.

The disc also comes with a plethora of extras. From deleted to scenes to discussions with the Hatchlings, we also get some craft instructions, behind-the-scenes featurettes and, of course, promos for upcoming Angry Bird games and Sony movies.

Again, The Angry Birds Movie is a fun diversion for fans of the game and little ones will be enthralled by the colour and action, so I’ll give it a recommendation for your home library.
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