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Jul 13, 2022

The Lost City 4K review

With a dollop of action and a ladle of romantic comedy, The Lost City reminded me a bit of Romancing the Stone. Sandra Bullock plays Loretta Sage, an archaeologist turned romance novelist, whose covers always feature the chiseled good looks of male model Alan (Channing Tatum). Loretta finds herself kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who believes Loretta can lead him to a priceless jewel. Alan, who thinks he’s just like the heroic character he represents in the books, believes he can rescue Loretta with the help of a former Navy Seal friend (Brad Pitt). Can Loretta be saved? Can her heart be won? Well, now you can find out at home as Paramount has released The Lost City on 4K.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s a beautiful looking video transfer with impressive detail in flora, fauna, fashion, and faces. The real standout is the colour palette with bright primaries, rich greens and browns in the jungle, dazzling blues in the ocean and sky, and the sparkling purple of Bullock’s sequined outfit. Whites look great and the black levels are deep with excellent detail in the shadows. There are no problems with digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side of things we get an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack that falls back to TrueHD 7.1 for those without Atmos. There are also English Descriptive Audio, Czech, German, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), French (France and Canada), Italian and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, German, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), French (France and Canada), Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Finnish, Swedish and Thai, so you can lend the movie to your friends at the United Nations. The Atmos soundscape is well used with weather, explosions and aircraft using the height speakers. The surrounds, well, surround you with ambient sounds, while action effects move throughout with great directionality. The score is bright and dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The 4K disc also comes with a digital code. The disc has just under an hour of bonus materials, including a slew of small featurettes with cast and crew discussing production elements, scenes and characters. There are also deleted scenes and blooper.

The Lost City 4K is a fun romp with a great cast, excellent audio and video, and a nice selection of extras, Recommended.

Jul 10, 2022

Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon DVD review

Reno 911!, the Cops-inspired Comedy Central mockumentary about one disastrous police squad, has now spawned its second feature film, Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon. This time around the squad, led by co-creator Thomas Lennon as Lieutenant Jim Dangle, have been tasked with serving papers on ‘Q’, the leader of the far-right nutjobs known as QAnon. After discovering the conspiracy-loving group is having a convention at sea, the officers buy tickets and set sail. Joining Lennon on this excursion are Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Cedric Yarbrough, Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, and Ian Roberts. As always, the show skewers politics and society and crosses the line on an equal opportunity basis, so if you’re easily offended and own a fainting couch, this DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment is not for you.

Shot in HD at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the video presentation downsizes cleanly to the DVD resolution. It’s a bright clean image, with good detail and a nice bright colour palette. The black levels are quite good with no evident crushing. You might actually forget you’re not watching a Blu-ray.

On the audio side, the disc comes with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and English SDH subtitles. The effects in the surrounds are playful and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The DVD disc does not come with a digital code but in terms of extras we do get some hilarious deleted scenes.

If you want to watch a great troupe of comic actors skewer the current world for 85 minutes and you’re not easily offended, then Reno 911! The Hunt for QAnon is a fun diversion. Recommended.

Jul 09, 2022

Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2 Blu-ray review

Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2 on Blu-ray. I was able to review this release which contains the season’s ten episodes on two discs.

For the uninitiated, Star Trek: Lower Decks is an animated series that airs on Paramount+ and focus on the lower decks crew of the starship USS Cerritos. This is the gang that handles the menial tasks on the ship. Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells, and Eugene Cordero voice these crew members, while Dawnn Lewis, Jerry O’Connell, Fred Tatasciore, and Gillian Vigman voice the Cerritos’ senior officers.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image is crystal clear with sharp lines in the 2D animation. The colour palette pops with great primaries. Black levels are deep with detail in darker areas and the transfer is clear of digital noise or artifacts.

On the audio side, you have a choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. The surrounds put you in the thick of the action or even just the whirs and beeps of the ship while your subwoofer adds some extra oomph to the proceedings. Dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

Both discs come with extras that include audio commentaries by cast and production staff on some of the episodes, as well as Easter eggs, conceptual animation, a look at the sound, and a detailed breakdown of the second season.

If you’re a Star Trek fan, it’s always fun to see an expansion to the universe. The Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2 Blu-ray has great audio and video plus a nice selection of extras. Recommended.

Jul 08, 2022

Good Burger Blu-ray SteelBook review

It’s been twenty-five years since Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell graced the big screen in Good Burger. Since that time the movie – which started as a sketch about two fast food workers on the Nickelodeon series All That – has gained a bit of a cult following. Kenan and Kel play Dexter and Ed, whose hi-jinks over the summer include trying to save their jobs from the rival Mondo Burger. To celebrate the movie’s anniversary, Paramount Home Entertainment has released a Blu-ray SteelBook. Let’s take a look…

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very good video presentation with clarity and detail in the facial textures, textiles and environments. The colour palette is natural with some good popping primaries. Black levels are good too and though there might be the odd bit of noise here and there, compression artifacts and print issues are infrequent.

On the audio end of things, Good Burger comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH and French. It’s a great soundtrack with bright dynamic music. Your surrounds have some work to do with atmospheric effects and there’s some low-frequency activity so you’re subwoofer doesn’t feel ignored. Dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized.

The anniversary SteelBoook case is a light blue and features Kenan and Kel in their uniforms behind the film’s title and a delivery vehicle. The back features another shot of the duo superimposed over a milkshake spill. The inside artwork features Kenan and Kel in their uniforms holding a food tray on the left and a big splat on the right with “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger can I take your order?” on top. Both images are over images of burger ingredients. The disc includes a digital code and a video of the original Good Burger sketch from All That. It’s a bit sad that no new material was shot to celebrate the film’s 25th.

Fans of Kenan and Kel who are nostalgic for Good Burger will find very good audio and video presentations in a collectible SteelBook case. Though some new extras would have been nice, nostalgia for your youth will probably override that. Keep in mind that if you already own the previous Blu-ray, the only difference here is the SteelBook packaging.

Jul 06, 2022

Downton Abbey: A New Era 4K review

The British historical drama Downton Abbey, which follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their staff in the post-Edwardian era, ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2015. It has since spawned two big screen follow-ups, the latest of which – Downton Abbey: A New Era – has just been released on 4K by Universal. I had a chance to review a copy.

Downton Abbey: A New Era takes place in 1928. The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) reveals she was bequeathed a French villa by the Marquis de Montmirail and most of the characters head across the channel to check the place out and maybe learn how the Countess came to be the recipient of such largesse. Meanwhile, back at Downton, a film crew is using the estate to shoot a film. Though the fees will cover the costs to repair the leaking roof, the production proves to be more than disruptive.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 digital transfer with Dolby Vision is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image has amazing clarity and detail with facial textures, environments and textiles looking amazing and enhancing the locations that the story unfolds in. The overall colour palette is subdued. Black levels are very good and there is no loss of detail in the shadows.

On the audio side, your ears have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos track which converts to English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those without the height speakers. There are also French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish. This isn’t a Marvel film, so the more gentle use of surrounds is mainly for ambiance. The score is dynamic and clear and dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

The 4K set also comes with a Blu-ray disc and a digital code. In terms of bonus materials, there’s an audio commentary from director Simon Curtis, a “we’re happy to be back” featurette from the cast, another piece from cast and crew discussing the shoot, a piece with the cast gushing about Maggie Smith, a look at the film within the film, a piece on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, and a tongue-in-cheek Q&A piece.

The Downton Abbey: A New Era 4K has excellent audio and video presentations and an okay selection of extras. With such a large cast of characters and a six season back story, it’ll probably be hard for non-fans to get into it without having seen the show first. Fans of Downton Abbey will no doubt want to add this to their collections.

Jun 30, 2022

Morbius Blu-ray review

As if the world isn’t polarized enough right now, Morbius has viewers dividing into love it or hate it camps. (Okay that might be like it or hate it, but who has time to nitpick?) Directed by Daniel Espinosa, the film stars Jared Leto as Michael Morbius, who has lived with a blood disease his entire life. As a child, he befriended a surrogate brother, Milo, who had the same condition. As an adult, he has become a scientist whose research into the condition is being funded by a now wealthy Milo (Matt Smith). He develops a cure with the help of some vampire bat blood. Instead of side effects like itchy skin and a dry cough, this cure’s side effects turn him into a vampire with superhuman strength and a lust for blood. He tries to curb his appetites, but will other’s wanting the cure be able to do so? Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the movie in 4K and Blu-ray. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray version.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s a sharp image with excellent detail in textiles, facial features and environments. The colour palette is wide with some scenes bathed in silvers, greys and blues, while others have a more natural palette and of course, the blood is a vivid red. Black levels are pretty good, with the occasional move towards purple and some details can be lost in darker scenes. There is some occasional noise in the image, but no compression artifacts to speak of.

On the audio side, a Dolby Atmos track is reserved for the 4K UHD release, while this Blu-ray release comes with English, French and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional) and Thai. Your surrounds get a nice workout as effects and ambient sounds move throughout the soundscape and your subwoofer gets to add some serious oomph to the proceedings. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

The Morbius Blu-ray come with a DVD copy and a Digital code. Bonus features include outtakes and bloopers, a look at director Espinosa, an exploration of Mobius’ anti-hero status, looks at the stunt work and supporting cast, a “cheat sheet” on the movie’s Easter eggs, a look at the visual effects and some trailers. Please note that the version I received had a digital code. I understand some international versions might not, so check with your retailer.

The Morbius Blu-ray comes with excellent sound and video and an okay collection of extras. If you saw it in the cinema or via streaming and enjoyed it, then you might want to add this to your collection.

Jun 29, 2022

Edge of Tomorrow 4K review

Doug Liman’s 2014 sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as Major William Cage. Though mostly a desk jockey with limited combat experience, he is made to join a battle against aliens and finds himself stuck in a time loop. Based on the 2004 Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, it also stars Emily Blunt as Sergeant Rita Vrataski, a celebrated hero in his new unit. Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson are also in the cast. The film was released to positive reviews and grossed over $370 million US. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has now released a 4K version, which I had a chance to review. The WB likes disclaimers, so here goes: Though Warner Brothers provided me with a copy of this release to review, the thoughts and opinions below are mine.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded upscaled 4K transfer with HDR10 is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is sharp with great detail on facial textures, textiles and locations. The HDR10 really improves the colour palette with the highlights of flames and explosions looking great and the earthier tones looking very natural. The cinematography aesthetic for this film leans towards steely blues and greys, but the increased gradients even give those hues a chance to shine. Black levels are deep and there’s good detail in the shadows but sometimes, especially near the end of the film, the blacks tend to border on crushing. Digital noise and compression artifacts are generally absent.

As with many big budget action flicks trying to succeed in multiple markets, Edge of Tomorrow has a lot of audio choices. There’s an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack which folds back to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. There’s also an English Descriptive Audio track as well as a French (Canadian) and German DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and French, Italian, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), Chinese, Czech, Hindi, Hungarian, Polish and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Dutch, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Roman, and Swedish. The Atmos track makes good use of the height speakers with explosions, aliens and weapons fire inhabiting the height channels. The surrounds enlist you into the action and your subwoofer adds the needed oomph for battle scenes. The score is powerful and dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The Edge of Tomorrow 4K comes with a digital code and the 2014 Blu-ray release of the film, which is where you’ll find the extras. There’s an introductory featurette hosted by Liman which includes an alternate cut of the Operation Downfall sequences, a look at the armor and arms by the cast and crew, a look at the aliens, deleted scenes and a 43 minute behind-the-scenes doc.

The Edge of Tomorrow combines a great video presentation with an excellent audio presentation and adds in a nice selection of extras on the included Blu-ray. A great cast and great action. Recommended.

Jun 24, 2022

The Brain from Planet Arous Blu-ray review

The Film Detective has released 1957’s The Brain from Planet Arous on Blu-ray and courtesy of them I was given a chance to look at it. It’s the type of ridiculously silly B movie sci-fi films that were all over the Fifties. It may seem odd that it’s getting a Blu-ray release, but this was a popular genre and though it’s not The Godfather, it’s still a part of film history that would otherwise disappear if labels like The Film Detective didn’t work to preserve it and place it within its cultural context. The film is directed by Nathan Juran, who also brought us The Deadly Mantis, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Gor, an evil brain from outer space, is hellbent on world domination and possesses the body of scientist Steve March (John Agar) to implement his plans. Of course, the only thing that can stop an evil brain from outer space is a good brain from outer space, or at least that’s what Ted Cruz would have us believe. Enter Vol, the aforementioned good brain, who tells March’s fiancee, Sally (Joyce Meadows), that he can save March’s life by possessing her dog. Which brain will win? Will the Earth be saved? Don’t worry, it only takes a goofy 71 minutes to find out.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in two aspect ratios: the original 1.85:1 and a widescreen 1.33:1. I much prefer it in the original aspect ratio. The image, understandably, does have a heavy grain pattern but I found that the details were quite sharp for a Fifties B flick. Sadly, the print that was scanned wasn’t in the best quality so there are quite a few scratches and blemishes on the print.

On the audio end of things, we have an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. The score by Walter Greene sounds great and dialogue is clear.

The Film Detective gives us some nice extras in this release. There’s a 12 page booklet with an essay by Tom Weaver. Weaver also provides an audio commentary that discusses the production and includes input from David Schecter and star Joyce Meadows. She also appears in a 12 minute piece where she discusses her part, her work with Agar and other great tidbits. There’s a biographical look at director Nathan Juran, and another Juran featurette with C. Courtney Joyner.

If you think that The Brain from Planet Arous doesn’t deserve a Blu-ray upgrade, I’d have to disagree with you. The sci-fi B movies of the Fifties influenced many filmmakers, including Tim Burton. Preserving these works gives us the context for the movies we watch today. The Film Detective’s release of The Brain from Planet Arous preserves one of these films and the extras it comes with gives us an historical understanding. If that intrigues you, then I’d add this to your collection.

Jun 23, 2022

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore 4K review

Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has released Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore on 4K and I had a chance to review it courtesy of them. Since WB are a fan of legalese, here goes: Though Warner Brothers provided me with a copy of this movie to review, the thoughts and opinions below are mine alone. This third entry in the Fantastic Beasts prequels to the Harry Potter franchise sees Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlisting the aid of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a team of wizards and witches to try and stop the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) from taking over the wizarding world.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation has excellent detail and clarity in its facial textures, textiles and environments. The colour palette is full of a lot of grays and other darker colours but where there are brighter colours, they really come alive. The HDR grading helps the variety of muted tones very well. Black levels are generally pretty deep and the dark scenes and shadows maintain their detail. There’s no sign of digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side, the disc comes with a choice of multiple Atmos tracks, which isn’t that common. There are English, German, and Italian Dolby Atmos tracks as well as an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track, English and German Descriptive Audio tracks, and English, French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Cantonese, Danish, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. The Atmos track is put to good use with various height effects, while the surrounds will put you in the action so well you’ll pick up a wand. Explosions and crashes will rock your subwoofer, while dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore also comes with a Blu-ray disc and a digital copy code. The bonus materials are located on the Blu-ray disc. There’s a Dumbledore family tree, a look at the character and the actors who have played him, a guessing game with cast and crew, a look at the Hogwarts set through the eyes of the actors, a look at the fantastic beasts, a look at Newt Scamander, a piece on German locations, a quartet of scene examinations, deleted scenes and a promo for the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that is running in multiple cities.

Studio machinations will decide if this less successful franchise will see more films. The Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore 4K comes with very good video and audio presentations and a large selection of extras. Fans of Harry Potter who want to have everything in its universe in their collection will probably be picking this one up.

Jun 17, 2022

Through the Decades 10 Film Collection: 2000s DVD review

Mill Creek’s Through the Decades 10 Film Collection: 2000s DVD set presents a sampling of ten films released between 2000 and 2009. Spread over four discs, these movies cover the spectrum from comedies and thrillers to dramas. The ten included films (with synopses from Mill Creek) are:

  • Nurse Betty (2000) – Obsessed with her favorite soap opera character, Dr. David Ravell, Betty (Renée Zellweger) travels across the country to meet the man of her dreams while pursued by two hired killers.
  • One Night at McCool’s (2001) – Three different men recall how the beautiful Jewel (Liv Tyler) came into McCool’s one night and brought chaos with her. The problem is their stories just don’t seem to line up.
  • Spy Game (2001) -Retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) works under the table against agency politics to free Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), the agent he mentored, after Bishop is captured in China during a mission gone wrong and sentenced to death in 24 hours.
  • The Emperor’s Club (2002) – Idealistic prep schoolteacher William Hundert (Kevin Kline) takes it upon himself to mentor the unruly, troublemaking son (Emile Hirsch) of a U.S. Senator.
  • The Shape of Things (2003) – A quiet, unassuming man (Paul Rudd) begins to change in a major way after meeting and falling for a beautiful art student (Rachel Weisz), and his new personality doesn’t sit well with his best friend.
  • 21 Grams (2003) – A freak accident intersects the lives of a dying man (Sean Penn), a grief-stricken mother (Naomi Watts), and an ex-con (Benicio del Toro) who found God in this gripping drama about consequence and human connection.
  • Baby Mama (2008) – After learning that she has slim chances of getting pregnant, successful businesswoman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) clashes with her surrogate Angie (Amy Poehler) on how best to behave when you’re expecting.
  • State of Play (2009) – The killing of a congressional aide sends Washington, D.C. Journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) down a path of cover-ups, corruption, and corporate conspiracies.
  • The Hitcher (2007) – When a young couple (Sophia Bush and Zachary Knighton) picks up a seemingly harmless hitchhiker (Sean Bean), a good deed becomes a brutal, edge-of-your-seat fight for survival with the open road as the battlefield.
  • Cry Wolf (2005) – Eight students at a well-to-do boarding school find that their usual games of lies and deception are no laughing matter when people start dying and no one can be trusted.
Let’s be clear, there are ten films spread over just four DVD discs. DVDs don’t have the resolution or bandwidth of a Blu-ray disc so the video presentations are not crystal clear and there are compression artifacts here and there. If you’re willing to accept that, the presentations are okay.

On the audio side, the movies come with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH. Again, because of the quantity of films, these are not lossless tracks but they get the job done.

The collection does not come with digital code or bonus materials.

The Through the Decades 10 Film Collection: 2000s DVD set is a perfect sampler plate for the 2000s, especially if you haven’t seen many of the titles before. Mill Creek’s collections give you a chance to check out some movies from the decade at a very reasonable price per film.

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