I think the technical term for this is EGADS! Please be patient as we curse and yell at a database mixup that deep sixed dozens of our database entries. We need to clean up or recreate them one by one. Should be fun...
May 06, 2022
Meeting Point is a powerful doc that explores what happened to the fathers of filmmakers Alfredo García and Paulina Costa. Directed by Roberto Baeza, Meeting Point screened as part of Hot Docs’ Made in Chile program.
García and Costa were just babies when their fathers, Alfredo García Vega and Lucho Costa Del Pozo — protesters against the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — were arrested and imprisoned in a tiny cell in Villa Grimaldi, one of Pinochet’s infamous torture centres. Only Costa’s father survived the ordeal, but through the use of actors, and aided by painful interviews with family and friends, they hope to gain an understanding of their final days.
As the filmmakers enter pre-production, building sets and auditioning actors, the events they are recreating are given additional power by the fact that Chile is undergoing the Estallido Social, a series of protests across Chile against social inequity that were met by aggressive measures by the government of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.
Director Baeza gives us a very powerful documentary. It’s impossible to watch unaffected as García’s mother relives the last moments with her husband or Lucho painfully describes the routines of torture that he and García’s father were subjected to on a daily basis. The actors in the documentary are also deeply affected by the history they are trying to recreate.
The cinematography by García and Alejandro Carrasco deftly moves between capturing the making of the movie within the doc and the recreations done by the actors that transition from homes to claustrophobic, inhumane prison cells.
Meeting Point is a reminder that the events of the past are just a slippery slope from being the conditions of the present.
On Suspicion Zokunentu
Screening as part of Hot Docs’s Made in Chile program, Daniel Díaz’s On Suspicion Zokunentu is a very personal look at the effect of the ingrained racism of Chilean society towards the indigenous community. When he as younger, Díaz’s uncle, celebrated Mapuche artist Bernardo Oyarzún, was arrested on suspicion of jewelry theft. Oyarzún bore no resemblance to the suspect, but the local police didn’t care. He was Mapuche, and that was the only thing that mattered to them. This same profiling also happened to his maternal grandfather. The brutal treatment by the police was to suit their own racist narrative.
The exploration of this topic leads Díaz to explore his indigenous culture and family history. He uses archival footage and family photos combined with the powerful sculptures, photos and art installations of his uncle to tell the tale of their treatment while celebrating both his family and the culture, language, and traditions of the Mapuche.
On Suspicion Zokunentu is a very proud and personal doc. When I watched it, I was captivated by the culture. It’s maddening how so many are threatened by diversity instead of celebrating it.
May 05, 2022
Screening as part of Hot Docs’ Made in Chile program, Yerko Ravlic’s Desert Space follows Leonel Codoceo, who works as a mining company security guard in the town of Copiapó, located in northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.
His job and life may seem lonely at first, with an ex he’s trying to reconcile with in Australia, but he has a circle of friends that share the same passion that he has: UFOs. Pretty much every night, Leonel spends hours watching and recording the night sky, looking for light or movement that may indicate that we are not alone. He and his friends then pore over the recordings, carefully tagging possible sightings in a spreadsheet that he maintains. This group supports and cares for his work and his passion is leading him to organize a vigil of fellow skywatchers.
Ravlic’s direction moves at a pace that gives us a feeling of the quiet effort that our subject expends every night. This is not a documentary that comes at you with narration or interviews. We are bystanders quietly accompanying Leonel on his nightly watches and you’ll find yourself scanning the night sky looking for something as well.
And what a sky. Nathaly Cano’s cinematography captures the star-filled sky perfectly. If you’re a city dweller who has never ventured from the light polluted skies, you’ll be amazed by how much of the cosmos is unfolding above us. Just look carefully, you might miss something.
Apr 06, 2022
2012’s Jack Reacher has been given the 4K UHD SteelBook treatment by Paramount. The video and audio content is identical to the 2018 release, but since I have not seen that release I will review it below.
Jack Reacher, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie and based on Lee Child’s book One Shot, stars Tom Cruise as the titular character. Reacher, a former Army MP who has mostly dropped off the grid, finds himself involved in the investigation of a series of murders that point to a former Army sniper. Cruise is joined by Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Joseph Sikora and Robert Duvall.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded video presentation with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image looks great, with sharpness and clarity that really stands out with facial textures, fabrics and environmental elements. The colour palette is vibrant, whites are bright and the black levels are nice and deep with excellent detail present in shadows and darker scenes.
On the audio side, your ears have a choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track as well as Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, and Swedish. The audio track is the same 7.1 track from a previous Blu-ray release, so if you have Atmos speakers, they can take the night off and catch up with family and friends. The 7.1 soundtrack is no slouch and provides an excellent experience. Your surrounds put you firmly into the action. Gunshots are powerful. The score is rich and dynamic and dialogue is clear and well-prioritized.
As far as extras go, the new thing with this release is the SteelBook collectible case, which features Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher against a dark background. It conveys an ominous mood without going overboard. The actual 4K disc contains two commentary tracks while the rest of the special features are on the included Blu-ray disc. They include the two previously mentioned commentaries from Cruise and McQuarrie and composer Joe Kramer, an almost half-hour featurette with the cast and crew, a look at the fight choreography, and an interview with author Lee Child. A digital code is also included.
If you collect SteelBook editions or don’t have the previous Jack Reacher 4K then this is for you. Excellent audio and video presentations coupled with a nice little set of extras makes this a nice get for fans of Tom Cruise or action films in general.
Apr 05, 2022
It’s been 25 years since the original Scream and its Ghostface Killer terrified and amused us and now directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett revisit the franchise with a project that’s part remake, part reboot and part sequel. While the original Scream contained plenty of nods to the framework of slasher flicks, this Scream is fully aware of the tropes and plots of its predecessors and includes three of the original’s most important characters: Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette). This is a meta Scream. The Ghostface Killer is navel-gazing. The new teen characters – played by Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Dylan Minnette, Mikey Madison, Mason Gooding, Sonia Ammar, Jack Quaid and Jasmin Savoy Brown – are all variously connected to the prior Woodsboro killings and ponder which one of them might be involved in the new deaths. Thanks to Paramount, I had the chance to review this new 4K release.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K video transfer with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision is released in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very good video presentation with impressive detail and clarity from the actors’ faces to the sets and textiles. A film like this has plenty of dark, jump-out-of-your-seat scenes and the black levels are deep with no loss of detail in shadows or nighttime. Skin tones are accurate, primary colours pop, and the Ghostface mask is vividly white. There’s no image noise or compression artifacts to speak of.
On the audio side, the disc offers an English 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack as well as English Audio Description, and French, French (Canada), German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish (Spain) and Spanish (Latin America) Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Cantonese, Dutch, French, French (Canada), German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America) and Thai. Oddly, Paramount decided not to do a Dolby Atmos mix for the home entertainment release but the 7.1 mix does a great job. The surrounds are well-used with effects and ambient sounds moving around the soundscape and low frequency effects give some extra oomph to the various jump scares. Dialogue is clear and well-prioritized in the mix.
The 4K disc also comes with a digital code. There’s a small handful of extras including audio commentary from the filmmakers, a few deleted scenes, a reflection on the original Scream, a look at the transition to the younger generation, a tribute to Wes Craven and a trailer for the original’s 4K release.
Whether the 2022 Scream holds a candle to the original will be a long debate between fans of the franchise. With very good video and audio presentations and a humble but good collection of extras, you’ll probably enjoy adding this to your collection.
Mar 23, 2022
Lionsgate’s For the Love of Money did have a limited theatrical release in November of 2021 where it earned just under $500,000. I’m sure the fact that it has a home entertainment release is a last ditch attempt to try to earn some money back for the investors. The film stars Keri Hilson as a single mom trying to keep her Atlanta home and her daughter in private school. When her need for money is desperate, she ends up being involved in a life of drug running and money laundering. The cast is filled with other singers like Keith Sweat, Jazzy Jade, D.C. Young Fly, and Rotimi, so there is the occasional musical break. Comedian Katt Williams also has a cameo and appears to be the only person who considered coming up with a character. The plot has more loose threads than a cheap fast fashion knock-off, the acting is pretty awful, and the film’s only saving grace is a pretty short 98 minute running time. I had the chance to check out the Blu-ray release of the movie, so let’s take a look at the technical aspects.
The 1080p AVC encoded video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The visuals do contain a nice level of detail, especially on the colourful outfits worn by the female cast and the bright colour palette pops on the screen. However some shots in the film do have issues like aliasing. So while it’s not a great video presentation, for the material it’s supporting it’s good enough.
On the audio side, there’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are available for English SDH and Spanish. The surrounds get the occasional usage in crowd or club scenes and dialogue is clear throughout the movie.
Wrapping things up, the Blu-ray I reviewed also comes with a US-only digital code. Unless you are a huge fan of Keri Hilson, simply must have everything Katt Williams appears in, or need a new coaster, I don’t think you’ll want to add For the Love of Money to your home entertainment library.
Mar 18, 2022
Film lovers and physical media collectors can often be heard talking in their sleep. Nine times out of ten what they’re mumbling is “When is The Godfather coming out on 4K?” Wake them up now, because Paramount has released a newly-restored 4K set of the entire trilogy to celebrate the first film’s 50th anniversary. The set contains The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II and The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, which is Francis Ford Coppola’s preferred cut of the third film. It also contains the theatrical and 1991 cuts of what was then called The Godfather: Part III. I had a chance to take a look at a review copy of The Godfather Trilogy 4K courtesy of Paramount.
Let’s take a look at the video presentation first. The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded transfers with HDR10 and Dolby Vision for all three films are presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. All three films have been lovingly and meticulously restored, looking over multiple source materials and spending thousands of hours cleaning up stains and scratches. The results are just beautiful. The clarity and detail of the visuals are spot on. Facial textures, hair, textiles, sets and outdoor locations have an amazing amount of detail. The original film grain is slightly more pronounced in the first film, but who cares? Black levels and contrast are spot on and there’s a really good amount of detail in the shadows and darker scenes. Colours are natural but pop where needed and the HDR really enhances fire and neon elements. Digital noise and artifacts are not noticeable at all. Again, just a beautiful video presentation.
On the audio side, The Godfather has an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and 2.0 Restored Mono Dolby Digital soundtrack as well as Spanish, French, and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and French, Italian, and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese Spanish, and Swedish. The Godfather: Part II has an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Restored Mono soundtrack as well as French, Japanese, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and French and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone has an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack as well as Czech, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (Spain and Latin American) Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and a Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Roman, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, and Thai. The Godfather: Part III (Theatrical and 1991 cuts) have an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, soundtrack as well as French German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish (Spain) and Spanish (Latin America) Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Roman, Simplified Chinese, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, and Thai.
Phew! Still with me? Okay, so how is the sound? The 5.1 mixes make good use of the soundscape with ambient sounds and effects placed and moving throughout. For purists, the first two films also come with their original mono soundtracks. The subwoofer adds extra weight to not only effects like gun shots but also the scores which are rich and dynamic throughout the three movies. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized in the mix.
The Godfather Trilogy is a five-disc set. The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II and The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone each get a 4K disc. A fourth 4K disc contains the theatrical and 1991 cuts of The Godfather: Part III, while the fifth disc, a Blu-ray, contains the special features. Digital codes are included for the three main versions. The extras are a mix of legacy materials from previous releases and some new featurettes for this release. The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II 4Ks include audio commentaries from Coppola and there’s an additional commentary on Part III 1991 cut. We get looks at the restoration work, a piece on the late set photographer Steve Schapiro, multiple production featurettes, behind-the-scenes looks at the music, the cinematography, and screenwriting, additional scenes, photo galleries, and interviews with the filmmakers. It’s a great set of extras.
Stunning visuals, great sound and a plethora of bonus materials in The Godfather Trilogy 4K leaves me with just one question: What are you waiting for? Go! Add this to your collection!
Oct 09, 2021
Universal is home to some of the most celebrated horror icons of all time. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man are all staples of pop culture and a constant go-to for Halloween costumes, movies, and TV shows. Universal has just released the aptly-named Universal Classic Monsters Icons of Horror Collection on 4K and I had a chance to review it. The set contains four classic movies: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and The Wolf Man.
1931’s Dracula stars Bela Lugosi as the titular vampire. The film, directed by Tod Browning was apparently a bit of a disorganized shoot, with cinematographer Karl Freund shooting some scenes which has led to some film historians listing him as an uncredited co-director. 1931 also saw the release of Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff in the role of the mad scientist’s stitched-together monster. Despite being layered below makeup, Karloff’s performance is stellar, moving from the monster’s innocent curiosity to frightened rage with ease. Moving ahead two years, Universal then released The Invisible Man, which starred Claude Rains in this adaptation of the H.G. Wells story. Hats go off to the early visual effects team that created the process to make the Rains invisible in the production. The final film in the set, 1941’s The Wolf Man, stars Lon Chaney Jr. in the titular role. Chaney’s legendary father was already a huge figure in Universal’s horror world, having starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera in the 1920s.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K transfers with HDR10 are presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. All of the films have benefited from some tender loving care to reduce scratches and other source defects. All of the movies have very evident film grain, especially the 90-year-old Dracula and Frankenstein, so if grain really bugs you, you might prefer the Blu-ray versions that are also included with the set. I think the grain is okay given that the real treasure in the 4K presentation is the enhanced clarity of the image, the deep inky blacks and the improved contrast and variations in gray that the HDR gives these films. Of the four, the “younger” two films are the best looking of the bunch.
On the audio side, each film features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack with a variety of additional languages dubs and subtitles available with each title. The mono tracks are clear except for some hissing in the high end but otherwise dialogue and musical scores are clear. I like that they didn’t mess around and try and jazz up 80+ year-old soundtracks with an Atmos mix.
The discs (four 4K UHD and four Blu-ray) are housed in a hardcover book with poster art and publicity stills inside a slipcase. Sadly, instead of individual spindles for each disc, the discs are in a slot at the end of each page. Getting fingerprints on the discs is therefore almost unavoidable. If you have a disc that skips in your player, check it for fingerprints. The set also comes with digital copy codes. The bonus materials are included on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs.
The Dracula disc is notable for the inclusion of the Spanish-language version, Drácula. At the time, Universal was making foreign versions of some of its projects. At the end of each day of shooting, a Mexican crew and cast were brought in and shot their scenes using the same sets. This version is slightly longer than Lugosi’s version. The disc also contains a couple of audio commentaries, an alternate score written by Philip Glass and performed by the Kronos Quartet, a 35 minute featurette with filmmakers and historians discussing the film’s influence, another lengthy piece on Bela Lugosi, a look at the film’s restoration, a slideshow of posters and promotional artwork, trailers for the film and some of its sequels, and an option to watch the film with trivia.
The Frankenstein disc comes with two audio commentaries from film historians Rudy Behlmer and Sir Christopher Frayling, a 45 minute piece hosted by historian David J. Skal which looks at the source material, its adaptation, the stage play and the characters, another lengthy featurette on Boris Karloff and his legacy in the genre, a 95 minute doc on the Universal horror catalog, a slideshow of promotional artwork, a parody short from 1932 titled Boo!, a collection of trailers, a look at Universal’s restoration work and a trivia option.
The Invisible Man’s disc comes with an audio commentary from film historian Rudy Behlmer, a featurette on the source material, its themes and adaptation, production photos, a trailer gallery, and a look at iconic characters in the Universal horror catalog.
Finally, The Wolf Man disc has an audio commentary by film historian Tom Weaver, a retrospective look on the film and its influence hosted by An American Werewolf in London director John Landis, a piece on the werewolf myth, a look at the life and career of Lon Chaney Jr., a piece on makeup artist Jack Pierce and his work on the Universal monsters, a slideshow of promotional artwork, a trailer gallery and a look at the famous Universal back lot.
The Universal Classic Monsters Icons of Horror Collection on 4K gives these movies excellent video and audio presentations and a great amount of bonus material. Whether you’re a collector, a film buff, or a fan of the horror genre, you’ll want to add this to your collection.
Sep 26, 2021
Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is releasing director Jason Axinn’s Night of the Animated Dead on Blu-ray on October 5th (with a digital release appearing earlier on September 21st), just in time for Halloween. I had a chance to review it, and since Warner Brothers likes disclaimers more than zombies like brains, here goes: though Warner Brothers provided me with a review copy of the movie, the thoughts and opinions below are mine alone.
George A. Romero’s legendary Night of the Living Dead has seen its share of remakes due to the fact that a copyright filing error left the film in the public domain, with no fees needed to remake or reimagine it. Axinn gives us an almost shot for shot animated remake that features a voice cast that includes Josh Duhamel, Dulé Hill, Katharine Isabelle, Katee Sackhoff, Will Sasso, Jimmi Simpson, Nancy Travis, and James Roday Rodriguez. One word kept occurring to me: Why? That was soon followed by three other words: No really, why? The film marries a quite good voice cast with a style of animation that looks like the work of a novice animator using a fifteen year-old copy of Flash. If you look at the cover graphics, it looks like the detailed work of a graphic novelist, but the actual animation is nowhere near that. It’s a cinematic bait and switch.
Ignoring whether or not this film should have been made, let’s look at the video presentation. The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp, the colours pop, but the style of animation is really making look for detail. The black levels are deep and whatever detail there is survives darker scenes and there’s no sign of crushing. No digital noise or compression artifacts to speak of in this presentation.
On the audio side, zombies have a choice of an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack as well as French, German and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, German SDH. Dutch, French and Spanish. The soundtrack’s surrounds do a good job of placing you into the scene, which helps heighten the horror factor. The low end effects give added power to items like explosions and gun blasts. Dialogue is clear and centred.
The Night of the Animated Dead Blu-ray also comes with a digital code and a short featurette with the director and some of the voice cast discussing the project and showing some of the recording sessions.
The Night of the Animated Dead Blu-ray come with excellent video and audio presentations, but the animation they’re supporting sadly doesn’t do the source material justice nor take it in a new direction. It’s sole purpose appears to be squeezing out a few more dollars and cents from a public domain original. Unless you simply must have every version of Night of the Living Dead, I’d give this disc a pass.
Sep 23, 2021
The Boss Baby: Family Business has just been released in 4K by Universal Home Entertainment and I had a chance to look at a review copy. In this follow up to 2017’s The Boss Baby, Ted Templeton (voiced by Alec Baldwin) and his brother Tim (voiced by James Marsden) are adults when they discover that Tim’s baby daughter Tina (voiced by Amy Sedaris) is working as an undercover BabyCorp agent. Tina’s working on a secret mission to stop an evil plan to turn babies into brats and Ted and Tim need to be turned back into kids to help her.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded upscaled 4K presentation with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image is clear and sharp, with great detail in the computer animated characters and environments. The colour palette really pops and the HDR colour grading boosts the detail in darker scenes and spectral highlights. It’s a great looking video presentation.
On the audio side, the disc offers an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack or a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for those without Atmos. There’s also a Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track and French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish. The Atmos track is truly immersive with the height and surround channels put to good use with panning action and ambient sounds, while the subwoofer adds some extra weight to the proceedings. The score is bright and dynamic, while dialogue is crystal clear, centred, and well-prioritized in the mix.
The Boss Baby: Family Business Combo Pack comes with a 4K, Blu-ray and Digital copy of the movie and some family-friendly extras. There’s an animated short “Precious Templeton: A Pony Tale”, a deleted scene with an intro by director Tom McGrath, the cast and crew talking about what they would do as spy babies, their characters, and how they dealt with COVID during the production. There is also a look at the key voice actors, some science projects to do with your family, a lesson in drawing the characters, a lyric video for “Together We Stand”, and an audio commentary by director Tom McGrath, producer Jeff Hermann and production designer Raymond Zibach.
If your family liked the first Boss Baby movie, then the excellent video and audio presentations and cute extras of The Boss Baby: Family Business should be welcome in your home entertainment library.