Evans Above

Oct 02, 2015

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron Blu-ray review

When I reviewed the theatrical release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I likened it to a roller-coaster ride with a few issues and the Blu-ray release of the film seems to follow that pattern technically as well. Though the issues shouldn’t have stopped you from seeing the film, the same goes for adding the Blu-ray to your collection. One note, Disney has released a 3D Blu-ray combo pack. We’ve reviewed the 2D version of the disc that Marvel sent to reviewers.

On the video end of things, we get a 1080p transfer with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It’s a moody film, with some dream sequences, so there are quite a few dark scenes and in a few, some of the characters disappear just a little bit. However, I really don’t have complaints with the colour palette, which has rich, realistic tones and good black levels. Textures are amazing whether we’re talking live action or CGI effects and the blending of characters both live action and computer animated is done very well.

The place where we get some issues – and a lot of noise in forums and on Twitter – is when we head to the audio side of things. Let’s get the details out of the way first. The disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. As for subtitles, there’s English SDH, French and Spanish. The surround tracks are immersive, dumping you in the world of Tony Stark and his pals, while never losing the clarity of the dialogue. What many people are quibbling about is that this particular disc seems to be a little less powerful on the bass and low-frequency end of things compared to other action discs played at the same volume. Though the solution is to pick up the remote or head to your receiver and manually adjust the low end volume to your liking, we’re just giving you a heads up that you might have to put the popcorn bowl down for a second and make the adjustments. Why the disc is quieter than others in these frequencies is a mystery…or maybe just a mistake.

On the extras side, we get the usual “making of” featurettes, deleted scenes and gag reels as well as detailed commentary from writer/director Joss Whedon.

If you want to keep your Marvel Universe complete, you’ll want to add this one to your collection.

Sep 15, 2015

Sony releases Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of Jumanji

It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Robin Williams jumped out of a board game in Jumanji, but the Anniversary Edition released by Sony Home Entertainment confirms that it has been two decades.

If you already have Jumanji on Blu-ray, you might not need to buy this version – since the video and audio transfer are the same. Sony has added a few anniversary extras, which we’ll get to shortly.

On the video side, the Jumanji disc does have a few issues that deduct some marks, but it still gets a passing grade. The images are a little excessively processed, so we get edge halos and some occasional detail and texture issues, but otherwise, it’s pretty good. Colours are bright, the flesh tones are natural, and the black levels are stable. If you ever saw DVD versions of Jumanji, you’ll appreciate this transfer more.

What do you get on the audio side? There’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Thai. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Thai. As this is an adventure with a lot of animals and other things assaulting our heroes, the surround tracks get quite the workout and you are immersed in the action, while the never losing the clarity of the dialogue.

On to the extras. Owners of the previous edition will recognize the older extras that include a look at the production design and storyboards, a “making of” featurette, commentary from the effects crew, a look at the digital animals created for the film, and a virtual version of the board game. New extras added to this version include a reading by the book’s author Chris Van Allsburg, two episodes of the animated series that ran for three seasons, a look at the original teasers and trailers, and a trailer for Sony’s upcoming Goosebumps film and a way to try an tie this promo in to Jumanji by having the cast of Goosebumps reflect on the older film.

As previously stated, if you already own Jumanji on Blu-ray and don’t care for the new extras, you don’t need to pick this one up. However, if you missed the previous version and want a complete Robin Williams library, you’ll want to order it.It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Robin Williams jumped out of a board game in Jumanji, but the Anniversary Edition released by Sony Home Entertainment confirms that it has been two decades.

If you already have Jumanji on Blu-ray, you might not need to buy this version – since the video and audio transfer are the same. Sony has added a few anniversary extras, which we’ll get to shortly.

On the video side, the Jumanji disc does have a few issues that deduct some marks, but it still gets a passing grade. The images are a little excessively processed, so we get edge halos and some occasional detail and texture issues, but otherwise, it’s pretty good. Colours are bright, the flesh tones are natural, and the black levels are stable. If you ever saw DVD versions of Jumanji, you’ll appreciate this transfer more.

What do you get on the audio side? There’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Thai. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Thai. As this is an adventure with a lot of animals and other things assaulting our heroes, the surround tracks get quite the workout and you are immersed in the action, while the never losing the clarity of the dialogue.

On to the extras. Owners of the previous edition will recognize the older extras that include a look at the production design and storyboards, a “making of” featurette, commentary from the effects crew, a look at the digital animals created for the film, and a virtual version of the board game. New extras added to this version include a reading by the book’s author Chris Van Allsburg, two episodes of the animated series that ran for three seasons, a look at the original teasers and trailers, and a trailer for Sony’s upcoming Goosebumps film and a way to try an tie this promo in to Jumanji by having the cast of Goosebumps reflect on the older film.

As previously stated, if you already own Jumanji on Blu-ray and don’t care for the new extras, you don’t need to pick this one up. However, if you missed the previous version and want a complete Robin Williams library, you’ll want to order it.

Disney’s Monkey Kingdom Blu-ray doesn’t, um, monkey around

I’ve always been a sucker for Disney’s nature films and Monkey Kingdom doesn’t change that. Narrated by Tina Fey, the story follows Maya, a resourceful mother monkey who works hard to keep her son Kip safe from all the dangers and adventures the jungle holds.

The 1.85:1 1080p is beautiful and easily transports you to Maya and Kip’s world. Colours win across the board, with natural hues in the forest and excellent earth tones. Textures are also amazing from the hairs on the monkeys to the dirt, rocks and leaves. The whole Blu-ray transfer serves the excellent Disneynature cinematography.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The disc also offers English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The narration from Tina Fey is clean and easily understood. The surround tracks immerse us into the very real world of Maya and Kip, letting us hear the rushing waters, rustling leaves and distant animal calls while also making effective use of the low-frequency channels.

The Monkey Kingdom Blu-ray also comes with a handful of extras. They are:

  • A Special Thank You from Disneynature
  • Tales From The Kingdom
  • On The Set of Monkey Kingdom with Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus
  • Disneynature Monkey Kingdom: The Conservation Story
  • “It’s Our World” Music Video Performed by Jacquie Lee

You’ll not go wrong adding Monkey Kingdom to your collection.

Disney’s live-action Cinderella now available on Blu-ray

Cinderella, the live action remake of the classic Disney animated movie, as directed by Kenneth Branagh, takes the beloved tale and with a dose of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo turns it into a fresh look at the classic story. The new Blu-ray disc has the added benefit of not turning into a pumpkin at midnight.

The Fairy Godmother’s magic was at work during the video transfer, which comes to us in a 1080p 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The colours pop when needed but don’t overwhelm. While Ella’s dress is a dazzling blue and the evil stepsisters pop in pinks and yellows, we also get great earth tones in the forest and dusty dirtiness in Ella’s quarters. Skin tones, textures and black levels are all pleasing to the eye. There is some grain but it’s not distracting and only a few CG effect moments will catch your eye in a slightly negative way.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Dialogue is clear and the surround track immerses us in Ella’s world. Low frequency effects are used sparingly, but they add oomph when oomph is called for.

The disc comes loaded with extras. We get A Fairy Tale Comes to Life, a behind-the-scenes look at production with Kenneth Branagh, a look at the costume tests done by designer Sandy Powell, a look at the sets, costumes and choreography needed to stage the elaborate ball, a look at Ella’s animal friends and an alternate opening for the film. Fans of Frozen will also be excited to see Frozen Fever, a short with the Frozen voice cast that screened before Cinderella in theaters.

A hit with fans and critics alike, the new Cinderella belongs in your Blu-ray library.

Aug 25, 2015

Roku 3 media player review: powerhouse streaming in a compact device

As I’ve mentioned before, I cut the cord back in the spring of 2011, instead getting my broadcast TV channels via an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. Still, as a pop culture pundit I needed to be able to look at some of the streaming options and Netflix was top of my list. I had a Blu-ray player with a built-in Netflix app, but frankly it was pretty terrible at it, stopping shows to buffer video, exiting unexpectedly, or sometimes just refusing to launch.

Roku 3

The Roku 3 media player.

Enter the Roku 3. Depending on your level of physical activity, it’s either the size of a hockey puck or an ice cream cookie sandwich. The only way installation could be easier would be if it jumped out of the box and did all the connections for you.

No really, it’s that simple. You attach the Roku 3 to an HDMI port on your TV (HDMI cable not included). You plug the power cord into the back of the Roku 3, plug it into an outlet, put the included batteries into the remote and follow the onscreen setup instructions which include choosing either 720p or 1080p HD output and setting up your internet connection.

Speaking of internet connections, you can either use the Roku 3’s internal Wi-Fi adapter, or, if your router has a spare port available and you have a network cable, you can use the Roku 3’s ethernet port to wire it into your home network. I’d always recommend the wired option over the Wi-Fi one as it just makes for a faster connection with less lag. Once you’ve made your internet connection, you’re instructed to go the Roku site and make an account, which will then be mated to your Roku 3 unit. Since some of the Roku channels are of the pay variety, a credit card is required to setup the account, but nothing is charged to your card unless you use any of the options that require payment.

From taking it out of the box to watching my first Roku screen on the TV took me less than ten minutes. Seriously, the coffee I made before beginning hadn’t even started to cool. The remote in Canada has handy one-step launch buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and rdio, while U.S.-targeted units have launch buttons for Netflix, Amazon, rdio and Hulu. Before exploring other channels (Roku’s TV-centric name for their apps and video gateways), I decided to give the Netflix channel a try.

Again, setup was dead simple. I simply linked my Roku 3 to my Netflix account and I was in. Unlike my Blu-ray player, the Netflix playback was smooth as silk, the fast-forward and rewind options were great, and it was easy to access the closed caption and language controls. Top marks for using Netflix on the Roku 3.

Next up, I checked out Crackle, an ad-supported streaming site that is most famous for being the home of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Setting up a free account on Crackle.com meant I could be elsewhere and add programs to my watch list and they’d be easily accessed on the Roku 3 when I got home. This sort of sign in and link the player feature was also available for YouTube and various streaming music sites.

The remote has some great features too. First of all, it’s actually a Wi-Fi device, not an infrared transmitter, so you don’t even have to be in the same room to control the Roku. Okay, I’m not actually sure why I’d want to control a TV-connected device if I’m in another room, but I’m sure I now sleep better knowing that I could if I wanted to. Secondly, the Roku 3 comes with a set of ear buds. Plug them in to the remote and it mutes the TV, which is great if you want to watch Netflix at 3 a.m. without disturbing other people in the home. Thirdly, you can press the Search button on the remote and speak into it and speech recognition software will take your search term and scour multiple channels. So say “Jennifer Lawrence” and it will show you what Roku channels her films can be found on. The speech recognition is pretty darn accurate, though I suppose if you’re bored you can give it really complex names and try and trip it up.

While most of the Roku channels are free, there are some pay-per-use or subscription channels. Obviously, using the Netflix channel requires that you have a Netflix account. If you’re in the U.S., the same goes for Hulu. There are also sport subscription channels for oodles of MLB, NHL, MLS and NFL action. Some of the pay options are limited in Canada, but obviously my U.S. readers have no issues signing up for Hulu, HBO on the Go, etc. There are also some free (and some pay) game options and yes, I found myself playing the poker one occasionally. Several TV stations also have Roku channels showing news broadcasts, so if you’re an OTA TV user who misses out on 24 hr news when you’re away from your computer, you do have a few options to grab the headline-grabbing stories.

There are also many specific, very niche, private Roku channels out there. A private channel is one that isn’t listed in the official Roku directory, but can be added to the Roku 3 by entering a link code. If you’re the creative type, you can also sign up for a developer’s kit and create your own Roku channel.

The Roku 3 also has a slot for a MicroSD card and a USB port. Adding a MicroSD card allows you to store more channel or game play information on the Roku, while the USB port allows you to connect either a USB stick or even a full USB external hard drive, giving you access to your own collection of photos, videos and music to enjoy on your TV.

If I had one quibble with the Roku 3, it’d be the bright white LED light on the front that illuminates while the unit is accessing the ‘net. The light is bright enough to help ships navigate stormy seas, so if your Roku 3 is sharing your bedroom with you, it might be a good idea to find a way to cover the LED, unless you like a night light.

Dead simple to set up, easy to operate, and cute to boot, I can’t find any reason not to recommend the Roku 3.

Aug 18, 2015

The Blacklist Season 2 Blu-ray review

Fans of the always intriguing Raymond “Red” Reddington can now binge-watch more of his activities as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases a 5 disc Blu-ray of the second season of the hit NBC series The Blacklist.

To catch you up, James Spader plays Red, a criminal mastermind who turns himself into the FBI in exchange for immunity. He offers up a way to go after a list of the most dangerous and corrupt criminals, terrorists and politicians. All he asks in exchange is to work with a rookie FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

Critically-acclaimed and a bona fide hit for NBC, the second season began airing on September 22nd, 2014 and NBC even aired an episode in the coveted post-Super Bowl slot.

So is the video and audio presentation worthy of a touchdown? I’d say so. The video, which is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, is transferred from material shot on Sony’s PMW-F55 4K cameras. The results are beautiful. The images are crisp, details like clothing and other materials are sharp, and the black levels are extremely satisfying. Some of the CGI effects look a bit off, but the viewer has to remember that this is being shot on a TV budget.

On the audio end, we have an English and dubbed French 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack as well as subtitles for English, English SDH, and French. The discs give us a good level of immersion, with good use of the rear tracks and low-frequency moments during explosions and gunshots. Dialogue is crisp and understandable.

Extras on the discs include deleted scenes, four featurettes interviewing James Spader and members of the production staff, and commentary from series creator Jon Bokenkamp and executive producer John Eisendrath on a couple of the episodes.

If your FBI profile says you’re a fan of The Blacklist, you’ll want to add this set to your home entertainment library.

Lambert & Stamp Blu-ray review

Director James D. Cooper brings us the documentary Lambert & Stamp, which tells us the story of two fledgling filmmakers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. They figured if they could find a band to make a doc about, it might lead to bigger film work. The band they found for their project became The Who, and Lambert and Stamp’s management was so instrumental in their success that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey often refer to them as the band’s fifth and sixth members. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has just released a Blu-ray of this music documentary.

Cooper’s documentary shows how the two managers helped shape the band, teaching them the importance of stage presence that turned them into the larger-than-life band we know. As is the case with so many music stories, we see the rise of Lambert and Stamp from two guys with an idea, to heady success, and the destructive spiral of excess and personal politics that ended their affiliation with The Who.

Lambert & Stamp is presented in a 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio, though the archival footage often takes us below that ratio. Keith Moon died in 1978, Kit Lambert in 1981 and John Entwistle in 2002, so the most recent footage comes from Daltrey, Townsend and Stamp, who died in 2012. As we’re dealing with mostly old film footage, we are of course dealing with grain and scratches and other issues of transferring old, not necessarily pristine, footage to a high-def medium.

This is also an interview film, as opposed to a remaster of concert footage, so the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is mostly there because, well, the technology’s there, but your surround system is not going to get a workout. The archival footage still has its pops and crackles. Subtitles are available in Czech, Hindi, Russian, Slovak, French, Polish, Estonian, Croatian, Korean, Slovene, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, Romanian, Thai, English, Ukrainian, and Serbian.

None of that will stop me from recommending Lambert & Stamp, a great look at two of the figures responsible for one of the greatest bands in history. If you’re a fan of The Who, you’ll love Lambert & Stamp. If you’re not a fan, well, what’s wrong with you?

Jun 16, 2015

A trio of Disney Blu-rays: McFarland, Spirited Away and The Cat Returns

I quite enjoyed McFarland when I saw it in theaters and now you have a chance to take this inspirational film home with you as it gets released on Blu-Ray. I actually just got back from an Alaskan cruise and this film played on the ship to a warm reception.

Once again, Disney has released it with the title McFarland, USA in the States and McFarland in the rest of the planet. Maybe Americans thought it was about a leprechaun without the geographical addendum?

The disc’s 1080p resolution transfer matches the theatrical release’s aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The colors are warm and while it may often look sun-bleached, this is intentional, as the heat and conditions these young men had to face was a bigger challenge than the teams they had to race against.

On the audio side, the disc features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Spanish, and Portuguese, while the Canadian version of the disc has a English and French tracks and subtitles, but not the other languages.. Dialogue is clear, This isn’t the most immersive 5.1 track out there, while the low frequency channel is well used for foot falls during the races.

The extras are a bit light, with the standard music video and behind-the-scenes packages.

An animated classic was also waiting for me, in the form of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which won the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards. The film tells the story of Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl whose parents are turned into giant pigs in an amusement park used by the spirit world to get a break from the earthly realm. The girl must work for a witch in order to free her parents.

The 1080p transfer features a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very nice presentation that’s lovely to look at. Colors are stunning, the contrast and black levels perfect. Every aspect of the animators’ craft is lovingly presented here.

On the audio side, the disc has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks in both the original Japanese and an English dub, while the Canadian disc also has a French two track dub. The dialogue is very clear and the 5.1 tracks immerse you in the spirit world while the low frequency channel also gets a wonderful workout. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Extras on the disc include the story as told through the original Japanese Storyboards, a look at the animation studio and artists, a look at the work behind the English dub and a Japanese TV special interviewing Miyazaki and the rest of the animation team.

I also got a chance to take a look at The Cat Returns, another Studio Ghibli release from Miyazaki disciple Hiroyuki Morita. It’s the tale of a young girl, who saves The Cat King and then takes a journey into his Kingdom of Cats.

The 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer is clean and crisp with good colors and contrast. The production level isn’t as high as Spirited Away’s — this feels more like a TV release rather than a cinematic masterpiece — but the quality of the transfer work is still good.

On the audio side, there’s English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks, while the Canadian release also has a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English and French. Dialogue is clear but the 5.1 soundscape isn’t as immersive as Spirited Away’s.

Extras include a look at the story through the original storyboards and a behind the scenes look at the English dubbing process.

May 14, 2015

SiliconDust’s HDHomerun CONNECT makes adding OTA TV to your home theater a breeze

HDHomeRun Connect

I recently added SiliconDust’s HDHomeRun CONNECT a.k.a. the HDHR4-2US to my over-the-air (OTA) test setup.

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the CONNECT and its older brother, the HDHomeRun Dual (HDHR3). The Dual is black with grey sides. The CONNECT’s grey with black sides. They both have network-attached dual ATSC/Clear QAM tuners.

The real difference lies under the hood and the improved tuners inside the CONNECT. As I’ve mentioned, my OTA setup is challenging, using reflected and side signals to get channels from both Toronto and Buffalo.

Though the HDHR3 handled this situation like a champ with most of the signals, some, like Buffalo’s WKBW and WNYO, did have problems with pixelation. However, these two stations are 83 and 79 miles away. So, given my odd situation and adding in that the Antennas Direct C2V is rated for about 50+ miles, means that the fact that the HDHR3 is grabbing them at all is a testament to the little tuner box.

I was eager to get my hands on the newer HDHomeRun CONNECT and see how the new kid on the block would compare to his older brother. It’s the Mark Wahlberg of tuners to the HDHR3’s Donnie.

The box it arrives in is small. About the size of a hardback dictionary. Safely packed inside, the HDHomeRun CONNECT is no bigger than a slightly wider pack of cards. How can something so small be so helpful to your home theater setup? But it is.

I checked it out with my reflected really-shouldn’t-be-working-but-it-does antenna config. I looked at SiliconDust’s configuration software, which includes details on signal strength, signal quality and symbol quality, The latter two show how clearly defined the digital data is and the amount of correct or corrected data over the last second. I could immediately see several improvements and those problem channels, WKBW and WNYO, were rock solid.

Antennas Direct had also sent me their DB4e antenna to check out. This beauty of an antenna, rated for 65+ miles was going to give the HDHomeRun CONNECT a different workout.

I decided to aim the DB4e southeast, pointing at Buffalo and Rochester. Again, this was going to be a challenge for any setup. As I mentioned here, by balcony is not facing south toward any of the Toronto or Buffalo towers. I’m facing east. So aiming southeast toward Buffalo meant that the antenna was pointing through a window on my balcony, through a curtain, into the dining area, though another curtain and finally another window. Grabbing signals this way would be a job for Harry Houdini.

Or it would be a job for the SiliconDust HDHomeRun CONNECT and the Antennas Direct DB4e. My Buffalo signals came in even stronger and rock solid. The closest one is 52 miles away. I was now solidly getting WPXJ in Batavia. It’s 89.3 miles away and is classified at my location as 1Edge, which means the signal is not line-of-sight but has a single edge diffraction on its way to my place. Previously, I would only get it on the warmest days due to a phenomenon known as tropospheric propagation. The HDHomeRun CONNECT locked it in steady and i’s now a regular in my channel lineup. With the southeast-facing setup, the Toronto signals are due south through the aforementioned glass and curtains, a wall, one more apartment unit and another wall. All but one of my Toronto signals were reachable with this setup.

I’ve been testing it for a few weeks now and the HDHomeRun CONNECT and its DB4e partner have even been close to locking in WBXZ and that’s even on cold spring nights when tropospheric propagation isn’t really a factor . It’s a low power 15kW station that’s 62 miles away and like WPXJ, a 1Edge. Very few people in Toronto get it on a regular basis. The fact that the HDHomeRun CONNECT is this close to locking into it — through two sets of glass and curtains — gives you an idea about the tuners.

So in both the reflected and obstructed southeast-facing setups, the HDHomeRun CONNECT was an improvement over the HDHR3, which is by no means a slouch in any category either. The HDHomeRun CONNECT is a champ at locking in previously troublesome stations, with measurable improvement in signal and symbol quality.

Why is the HDHomeRun family so good for OTA setups? There are tuners available that can be inserted into your computer, just like you would insert a video card. This means that you have to run the coax cable from your antenna all the way to your computer. There is a loss of signal quality over long lengths of coax. In the case of the HDHomeRun series of OTA tuners, they are network devices just like routers or print servers. So you can place the HDHomeRun right at the point where your coax cable enters your home. This means you can get the shortest run of coax possible, reducing the amount of signal loss. The HDHomeRun then converts the TV signal into one that can be transferred over your home network and there’s no loss of quality at that point. Being a networked tuner also means that depending on the software, you can watch the TV signals on a variety of networked-attached devices in your home. The HDHomeRun EXTEND, also adds in transcoding, which makes the resulting signals easy to stream wireless to, say, someone sitting on the couch with a tablet. SiliconDust is also working on their own PVR software. Finally multiple HDHomeRun’s can also be used to increase the number of tuners available to record or watch TV.

As an Antennas Direct Ambassador, I’ll be testing their new antennas as they come out. The HDHomeRun CONNECT is a great addition to my test bench and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to add over-the-air TV to their media center setup.

May 06, 2015

The Wedding Ringer and Mr. Turner: from the ridiculous to the sublime

Today’s reach into the mailbox goes from the ridiculous to the sublime as I get a chance to look at the comedic talents of Kevin Hart in The Wedding Ringer and the Academy Award nominated cinematography of Dick Pope in Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. We were sent DVD review copies of these titles by Sony.

In The Wedding Ringer, Kevin Hart plays Jimmy Callahan, a best man for hire, a niche job that helps the less socially connected groom come off as a star on his big day. In this raunchy comedy, Hart gets hired by Doug Harris (Josh Gad) who is getting ready to marry Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). Along the way, Callahan actually befriends Harris, just as Harris begins doubting his bride-to-be is actually “the one.”

First time director (and co-writer) Jeremy Garelick intersperses the predictable physical gags with some glimmers of chemistry between Hart and Gad, manages to set Cloris Leachman on fire and tosses Cuoco-Sweeting on to the pile of forgettable bridezilla roles that could have been played by anyone other than The Big Bang Theory star.

While The Wedding Ringer may be an OK diversion on a rainy day, it’s probably not a must have for your home entertainment library.

From there we swing over to Mr. Turner, director Mike Leigh’s look at the life of eccentric British landscape painter J. M. W. Turner, played here by actor Timothy Spall.

Turner’s a larger-than-life character and while Spall handles the chore of portraying the man, cinematographer Dick Pope handles the task of showing off the man’s work and he handles the task of showing off the artist’s explorations of light and color with such skill that it earned him an Academy Award nomination.

This critically-acclaimed film is definitely worth getting your hands on. Sadly, I only got a DVD review copy. If you really want to see Dick Pope’s cinematography in all its glory, go grab the Blu-ray version.

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