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Jan 19, 2023

The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 3 DVD review

Paramount and Nickelodeon Home Entertainment are releasing The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 3 on DVD and I had the opportunity to take an early look at this third part of the 2021 reboot.

Our three apple high heroes experience new adventures in this latest edition and, as always, find themselves trying to escape the clutches of Gargamel. Here’s a list of the eight included episodes:

  • The Smurfs Show
  • Smurfboards / Monkey See, Monkey Do
  • Flying Ace / Lab Assistant
  • Order of Merit / Smurfy Mother’s Day!
  • Leaping Lizards / Cover Story
  • Papa Times Two / Fake News
  • You’re Fired! / Mirror, Mirror on the Armoire
  • Smurfing Places / Poet Slam

As mentioned in previous DVD reviews of HD series, though the show was broadcast in HD market forces and its intended audience means that DVD is a better format for the studio. Despite the lower resolution of the video presentation it still looks quite good and the primary colours of the animation really pop.

On the audio side, the 5.1 soundtrack is mostly front-heavy. Dialogue is clear and centred and music is bright and clear.

Your young fans of the Smurfs will enjoy The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 3 on DVD.

Dec 30, 2022

Cloverfield 4K SteelBook review

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Matt Reeve’s monster flick Cloverfield, Paramount has released a 4K SteelBook and I had a chance to take a look. The 2008 found footage flick stars Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, and Odette Yustman as a group of friends trying to escape a giant monster attacking New York. So, just a regular night in NYC. It grossed over $170 million and spawned two sequels, 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and 2018’s The Cloverfield Paradox. An important note: The Cloverfield 4K SteelBook contains the same 4K disc as the 2018 4K release. The difference here is the SteelBook packaging which will be of interest to collectors.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded upscaled 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a found footage movie, meaning that it is meant to appear as if it was shot by the characters themselves during the events and, in this case, on 1080p cameras. So it’s a dark and gritty and shaky cinematic experience and that’s what the filmmakers intended. Though the upscaling to 4K does add some sharpness to items like textiles, some scenes are intentionally blurrier than others. The video presentation does benefit from the HDR, with deep blacks and brighter specular highlights.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well as French (Canada), French (Parisian), Spanish (Latin America), Portuguese (Brazil), German and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The soundscape makes good use of the surrounds and subwoofer, placing you in the centre of the action with the group of friends. Dialogue is clear. It would have been nice to see the soundtrack rejigged for Atmos for the 15th anniversary but, as mentioned, these are the 2018 discs in a new outfit.

The Cloverfield 4K SteelBook set contains the 4K disc, a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Extras, located on the Blu-ray, include audio commentary by Matt Reeves, some production and behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and alternate ending. The SteelBook packaging includes a transparent plastic slipcover which hides elements of the SteelBook case while showing a damaged Statue of Liberty through a lens. Removing it reveals the predominantly green SteelBook art. On the front, we see the monster attacking the city, with a distant fire giving some splash of orange-red tones with the elements of a video camera around the image. The rear of the case depicts more damaged buildings on fire. The interior of the packaging continues the green-tinted theme with a camera viewfinder depicting an action scene.

In case you were daydreaming while reading I’ll reiterate that the Cloverfield 4K SteelBook contains the same discs as the 2018 release with the new aspect being the SteelBook packaging. If you already have the 4K disc, you’ll have to make the decision if the collector’s packaging is worth the purchase. If you don’t own it, the packaging is a fun addition to a good presentation of a fun and fast-paced film.

Dec 22, 2022

Star Trek: Prodigy – Season 1: Episodes 1-10 Blu-ray review

Star Trek: Prodigy, which can be found on Paramount+ and Nickelodeon in the US, is an animated series that aims to get a younger crowd into the Trek universe. It’s the first 3D animated show in the franchise and follows a group of young alien outcasts who find an abandoned Starfleet ship, the USS Protostar. During their journeys, the young crew must learn to work together while facing a foe that wants the ship. The series features the voice talents of Brett Gray, Ella Purnell, Jason Mantzoukas, Angus Imrie, Rylee Alazraqui, Dee Bradley Baker, Jimmi Simpson, John Noble, and Kate Mulgrew. Paramount has released the first ten episodes of the shows first season on Blu-ray, which is aptly named Star Trek: Prodigy – Season 1: Episodes 1-10. It’s a bit of an odd release, as in why not wait to release the whole season, but let’s take a look.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The CGI animation looks really good here with a colourful palette and deep black levels. I did notice some aliasing and banding, but nothing that would really cause you to fly your ship into a star.

On the audio side of things, you can see that Paramount is reaching for a global audience, as not too many TV shows come with a choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, German and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, and Spanish. Dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized and the score is dynamic with really good bass. The surrounds are put to good use with atmospheric and action cues moving throughout the soundscape.

The two-disc set does not come with a digital code. There’s a selection of extras spread over the two discs, which cover Star Trek lore as well as character and production design.

The Star Trek: Prodigy – Season 1: Episodes 1-10 Blu-ray contains ten episodes that give you bursts of Star Trek in fast-paced 20+ minute bites. Fans of this new series and Star Trek collectors will be interested in this release, which features solid audio and video presentations.

Dec 05, 2022

Secret Headquarters Blu-ray review

In the family-friendly flick Secret Headquarters, a young boy, Charlie (Walker Scobell), is trying to reconnect with his father, Jack (Owen Wilson). When work calls his dad away once again, Charlie invites his friends over and they stumble upon something Charlie’s dad has been hiding: his secret lair. Turns out that Charlie’s father is a superhero. When two ruthless men (Michael Peña and Jesse Williams) come after Jack’s alien technology, Charlie and his friends find themselves in the middle of the action. Paramount has just released Secret Headquarters on Blu-ray and I had a chance to review it.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very good Blu-ray presentation with clarity and detail in all the usual suspects: hair, facial features, textiles and environments. The colour palette is broad and bright and the black levels are nice and deep.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack (which folds back to Dolby TrueHD 7.1), as well as Spanish, Italian and Polish tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Polish, and Romanian. The height and surround speakers put you in the middle of everything, while your subwoofer gives some extra oomph to the action scenes. Music is clear and dynamic and dialogue is centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The Secret Headquarters Blu-ray does come with a digital code. There are several short featurettes on the production as well as a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes.

Though not the most memorable film, Secret Headquarters is family-friendly fare that people of all ages can share some time and popcorn viewing.

Dec 02, 2022

Smile 4K review

Paramount has released the psychological horror film Smile on 4K and I had a chance to take a look. Written and directed by first-time feature director Parker Finn, it’s based on Finn’s 2020 short film Laura Hasn’t Slept.

Sosie Bacon plays a therapist who witnesses the suicide of a patient and begins to suffer from hallucinations that she begins to believe are supernatural. The movie also stars Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Kal Penn, Caitlin Stasey and Jessie T. Usher.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Vision is presented in a 2.00:1 aspect ratio. The image has excellent clarity with a stunning amount of detail in facial features, hair, textiles and environments. The colour palette is somewhat muted and fits in with what the characters are going through. The HDR colour grading makes for bright whites, while the black levels are deep with no loss of detail in the shadows.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack (which folds back to Dolby TrueHD 7.1) as well as French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, and Turkish. Horror films are perfect for modern soundscapes and the height and surround speakers will immerse you in every knock, bang, crunch and other terrifying noises you can think of. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The 4K disc of Smile also comes with a digital code. Extras include commentary by writer/director Finn, a look at Smile’s adaptation from short to feature, the aforementioned short, a look at the film’s score and deleted scenes.

Fans of horror will be rewarded by the Smile 4K and it’s excellent audio and video presentations.

Dec 01, 2022

South Park: Post Covid Blu-ray review

The raunchy and lovable quartet of Kyle, Kenny, Stan and Cartman return for two more specials in the Paramount Blu-ray release of South Park: Post Covid, which includes that title and the follow-up Post Covid: The Return of Covid. These roughly one-hour South Park specials take us into the future where our boys are now adults dealing with new realities like Kenny being a scientist and Cartman being a rabbi. Time may have passed, but that trademark South Park humour is still there. I had a chance to take a look.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As per usual the animation presents us with bold colours and good details that really shine in the Blu-ray format.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH. Dialogue and music are clear and the surrounds are give a nice workout with action cues and atmosphere.

This release does not contain a digital code and there are no bonus materials.

With solid video and audio, fans of South Park will want to add the South Park: Post Covid Blu-ray to their collection.

Nov 30, 2022

Reacher Season One Blu-ray review

Audiences will be familiar with Jack Reacher character either through the novels by author Lee Child or the two movies that starred Tom Cruise. The new Reacher series goes back to the beginning for the character and is based on Child’s book The Killing Floor. Paramount has released the eight episodes of Reacher Season One on Blu-ray and I had a chance to look.

Reacher, played by Alan Ritchson, is a retired military police officer who finds himself arrested for murder in a rural Georgia town. Released, he begins an investigation that leads to a web of corrupt police, politicians and businessmen. The series cast includes Malcolm Goodwin , Willa Fitzgerald, Chris Webster, Bruce McGill and Maria Sten.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.00:1 aspect ratio. It’s a clear and sharp image with excellent detail in facial features, textiles and environments. The colour palette ranges from popping primaries to more muted tones with bright whites. The black levels are deep and satisfying with no real loss of detail in the shadows and darker scenes. This is a very good video presentation.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French and German Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, and German. It’s a great track. Your surrounds will be filled with everything from ambient noises to action sound effects. Your subwoofer will add satisfying bass to both the score and the action, while dialogue is clear and centred.

The three-disc Blu-ray set does not come with a digital code. There are a couple of featurettes exploring the character and the production.

Well-acted and with great video and audio, the Reacher Season One Blu-ray is a good intro to the series.

Nov 26, 2022

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Series DVD review

Paramount and Nickelodeon are releasing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Series on DVD and I had a chance to take a look. This release is of the computer-animated series that ran for five seasons between 2012 and 2017. It features the voice talents of Jason Biggs, Dominic Catrambone, Seth Green, Rob Paulsen, Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, Hoon Lee and Mae Whitman.

The 124 episodes are spread over 20 discs and housed in a large plastic case that allows this collection to also be used to work on your bicep curls. The DVDs are presented in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The show was an HD broadcast, so you might be asking why this 10th anniversary set wasn’t released on Blu-ray. I’ve said this before with DVD releases: it boils down to numbers. The shows that tend to get Blu-ray releases are very popular shows with a rabid fanbase. If Paramount knew this would fly off the shelves, there’d be a Blu-ray. So DVD it is. The 20 disc set gives the 22 minute episodes room to breathe, so the DVD presentation isn’t suffering from bad compression. The animation looks fine here.

On the audio side, the set comes with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. Only disc two comes with French and Spanish stereo tracks. The dialogue is clear and centred, the music sounds good, and effects play around in your surrounds.

If you’re a fan of the 2012 series, you’ll want to grab a pizza and add the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Series DVD to your collection.

Nov 24, 2022

Star Trek: Discovery – Season Four Blu-ray review

Now in its fourth season, Star Trek: Discovery finds Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew taking on the Dark Matter Anomaly, which threatens the whole universe. Paramount has released Star Trek: Discovery – Season Four on Blu-ray and I had a chance to take a look.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image has a great amount of clarity in textiles, faces and surfaces, the colour palette is can be muted but certain elements pop with colour. Black levels are good, but the image can be noisy at times, especially in darker scenes.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. Dialogue is clear and centred and the score is dynamic and placed across the front and back channels with a nice amount of bass. The surrounds are busy in this soundscape delivering both action and ambient sounds throughout.

The 13 episodes of season four are spread over four Blu-ray discs. There is no digital code. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, featurettes on the story and production, a look at shooting during Covid-19 and a gag reel. One of the episodes features an audio commentary by Michelle Paradise, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala.

The Star Trek: Discovery – Season Four Blu-ray will keeps fans of the show happy with solid audio and video and a good collection of bonus materials.

Nov 08, 2022

Planes, Trains and Automobiles 4K review

At this time of the year it’s all about Christmas movies, but John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy that focuses on U.S. Thanksgiving. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is just trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. After a series of events he misses his flight and ends up seatmates on a new flight with Del Griffith (John Candy), a slovenly shower curtain ring salesman. When the flight is diverted to Wichita, they find themselves thrown together and sharing a series of mishaps during their attempts to get home. Martin and Candy are able to mix the comedy and the drama in a way only great comedians can. Paramount is releasing the movie on 4K and I had a chance to take a look.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Like some other Paramount 4K transfers — I’m looking at you Fatal Attraction and Saturday Night Fever — Planes, Trains and Automobiles seems to suffer from issues with grain management. One scene (or even one shot in a scene) the image is razor sharp with a pleasing grain structure and the next digital noise reduction seems to have been used to smooth out the grain resulting in an almost waxy image that appears to have an artificial grain added to it. When the image is great it’s the best the movie has looked but when it’s not …

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish (Latin American) and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono, and Spanish (Spain), German, French, and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The 5.1 soundtrack is recycled from past Blu-ray releases, which like many comedies is front heavy. The dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized and music cues are bright and dynamic. Your surrounds do get some work when the comic action calls for it.

The 4K comes with a digital code and a bonus Blu-ray disc. On the 4K disc, there’s a bunch of legacy extras including a press conference with Hughes, Candy and Martin, a couple of featurettes on Hughes, a tribute to John Candy and a deleted scene. The bonus extra Blu-ray is the real gem. Called Lost Luggage, it features 75 minutes of deleted and extended scenes recently found in Hughes’ archives. There’s also an audition scene from Dylan Baker.

John Hughes. John Candy. Steve Martin. A funny and heartwarming story. This should be a grand slam home run of a recommendation for a movie loved by millions. The video presentation is plagued with the smoothing issues I mentioned above, so it’s not really a huge upgrade over the previous Blu-ray release. If you don’t own it, I’d say the bonus disc with 75 minutes of extra Candy and Martin would be the selling point of this Planes, Trains and Automobiles 4K release.

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