Evans Above

Apr 29, 2021

Hot Docs 2021: Dark Blossom review


Dark Blossom

Danish director Frigge Fri brings her first feature-length documentary film, Dark Blossom, to the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Dark Blossom looks at the lives of three young Danish Goths — Josephine, Nightmare, and Jay — as they navigate the evolution of their world and their friendship.

Read our review.

Feb 22, 2021

The Croods: A New Age Blu-ray review

Universal Pictures has just released the sequel to 2013’s The Croods, the aptly-named __, which follows the prehistoric family in a new adventure that has them coming across a more advanced family. I had a chance to take a look at the Blu-ray combo set, which includes a digital code and a DVD.

The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray disc is in the original’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image looks great, with an amazing amount of detail in the computer-animated characters and the world they live in. The colour palette pops with rich colours across the whole spectrum whether it’s characters, clothing, or flora and fauna. Sharp edges and deep black levels complete the picture. If it looks this good in Blu-ray, the 4K version will look even better.

On the audio side, your ears have a choice between an English Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track and, in Canada, a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, and Spanish. Those with an Atmos setup might wish for slightly more use of the height speakers for atmosphere but other than that this is a very enjoyable surround track that places you into the Croods’ prehistoric world and even your subwoofer gets a nice workout in this soundscape. The dialogue, supplied by a voice cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, Clark Duke, and the late Cloris Leachman, is clear, centred, and well-prioritized.

As mentioned earlier, the Blu-ray combo set comes with a DVD copy and a digital code. There’s a nice selection of extras including audio commentary by director Joel Crawford, producer Mark Swift, head of story Januel Mercado, and editor Jim Ryan as well as two new Crood short films, Dear Diary: World’s First Pranks and Family Movie Night: Little Red Bronana Bread. There’s also a gag reel, another Dreamworks short, deleted scenes, a look at the voice actors and illustrators, and some other short features that are fun for the family.

A fun story, a great visual and audio experience, and a nice selection of extras make The Croods: A New Age a fun addition to your family’s collection.

Feb 14, 2021

Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season Blu-ray review

The horror-drama Lovecraft Country, which combines paranormal and racist horrors, premiered on HBO in August 2020. Produced by show developer Misha Green, who co-produced with Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, the series is set in the segregated Jim Crow America of the 1950s and draws inspiration from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft as imagined by writer Matt Ruff. Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season, which stars Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Courtney B. Vance, and Michael K. Williams, has been released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. WBHE sent me a copy of the season for review, but as always, the views and opinions expressed below are my own.

The 1080p AVC-encoded set is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The show looks great with excellent detail in clothing, hair, textiles, and facial features. The colour palette looks good and some of the outfits’ primary colours really pop. CGI creatures blend in well with the live action and black levels are deep and details still exist in the darker scenes. No sign of digital artifacts or compression issues. If you love a show, physical media will always be head and shoulders above streaming and cable TV in terms of video quality and this set just looks great.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack with subtitles available for English SDH, Spanish, French, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. The show makes great use of the surrounds, which is always good in horrors, as a bump in the night is scarier when it’s coming from behind you. The score is dynamic and dialogue is clear and centred. Your subwoofer adds dramatic heft and gets a workout.

The set comes with a digital code (U.S. only) and a small collection of supplemental materials. These include a look at the graphic novel being created within the show, a look at the series’ gothic elements, a looks at the production side and visual effects, an overview of the characters presented by the cast, and the craft of the series as explained by the crew.

Great actors, great themes and a great video and audio presentation means Lovecraft Country: The Complete First Season is highly recommended.

Dec 03, 2020

The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone Blu-ray review

The Godfather Part III hit theatres thirty years ago. Director Francis Ford Coppola decided that milestone should be marked with an edit that was closer to his initial vision for the film and a title that he and writer Mario Puzo originally wanted: The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. This edit rearranges several scenes, adds a new ending, and gives the story a more focused vision. I was lucky enough to get a look at Paramount’s new Blu-ray release of Coppola’s vision.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and clear and retains a fine grain from its film source. The image is detailed, with facial features, hair, textiles, and environmental elements giving up a treasure trove of visual information. Colours are rich and accurate with a pleasing, natural palette. Black levels are very good too and their isn’t much loss of detail in darker moments. It’s just a beautiful video presentation.

On the audio side, the main soundtrack is English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with additional Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), German, Italian, and Japanese. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, French SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Swedish. The sound engineers make beautiful use of the soundscape using the surrounds for ambient atmosphere and effects, whether it’s hushed conversation or violent action that’s aided by the subwoofer. Carmine Coppola’s score is dynamic and each instrument is allowed to sing. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized. The movie sounds as beautiful as it looks.

If you’re looking for extras, keep looking because there aren’t any beyond a digital code and an intro to the new edit by Coppola.

My recommendation? You want The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone in your collection. The new edit improves the movie and it looks and sounds gorgeous.

Dec 01, 2020

Mission: Impossible: The Original TV Series Blu-ray review

The classic TV series Mission: Impossible ran seven seasons from 1966 to 1973 and inspired a 1988 TV reboot and the popular Tom Cruise film franchise. It follows the adventures of the members of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), a team of secret US agents who undertake covert missions against dictators, crime lords, and I’m assuming fascist real estate developers. Paramount has now released a Blu-ray transfer of the show in a 46 disc box set containing all 171 episodes. I had a chance to look at this set a bit early.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the series’ original 1.33:1 (4:3) aspect ratio, so if you’re not used to older TV shows, be aware that this won’t fit the width of your screen. Originally shot on film for broadcast, the source material is up to the task of a Blu-ray transfer. The image is very detailed and shows every facial feature and bead of sweat during the covert missions. The details on everyday clothing and uniforms are excellent and the sets and scenery show off a lot of detail as well. The colour palette is rich throughout and the flesh tones are natural. Black levels and contrast are quite impressive, There are some very rare issues (a speck here, a quick splotch) from the source material but they quick and rare. There are no digital or compression artifacts to speak of. This is a beautiful presentation of a vintage show. Kudos to Paramount.

On the audio side, your mission – should you accept it – is to choose from an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack or French and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and German. The audio team had done a good job placing the original soundtrack into a 5.1 environment. Though the soundscape is still very front dominant, atmospheric effects have been nicely placed into the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and centred, and the score, which includes the memorable theme tune, has never sounded better.

The set contains no extras. It would have been nice to see some original promos or interviews in the set, but hey, we’re getting a beautiful looking vintage series, so that would just be icing. Each season is presented in a stiff paperboard case with character profiles and images. The discs do slide out of the sleeves fairly easily. It would be a luxury to have each disc on a nice plastic spindle, but this is the compromise for presenting such a comprehensive box set at a price that doesn’t require a mortgage.

The Mission: Impossible: The Original TV Series Blu-ray is a must have for lovers of TV history. The show has never looked or sounded better.

Collateral 4K review

Michael Mann’s 2004 thriller Collateral stars Jamie Foxx as a Los Angeles cab driver named Max who thinks his next fare, Vincent (Tom Cruise), is an easy way to make five stops followed by a run to the airport. That easy fare soon turns to fear as Max realizes he’s ferrying a deadly hitman to five different assignments and clocking off won’t be that easy. Paramount has just released the movie – which also stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, and Peter Berg – in a new 4K release that I had a chance to look at.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded upscaled 4K transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, just a hair off the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. By choice this is a gritty film, exploring the underbelly of Los Angeles at night. Detail is abundant, from facial textures and clothing to the claustrophobic interior of the taxi and the variety of locations throughout LA. Low light scenes are everywhere and the UHD presentation shows more details and gradients in the shadows. Grain and noise only add to the chaotic visual atmosphere and its muted palette. Black levels are good, though sometimes there is some crushing. No encoding artifacts raise their ugly head. This seedy night has never looked better.

On the audio side, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as French and German Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, and German. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is the same track as the previous Blu-ray release and it’s a shame the 4K upgrade didn’t come with an Atmos track. Don’t get me wrong it’s a very good track, but the upgrade would have been nice. The surrounds are full of ambient effects that put you in the scene and there’s some low-end oomph when required. Dialogue is clean, centred, and well-priortized.

The 4K comes with a Blu-ray copy of the 2010 home release and a digital code. The supplements are split between the 4K and the Blu-ray. The 4K has an audio commentary by Mann and a 4K theatrical trailer, while the Blu-ray disc contains commentary, a making-of featurette, a look at Cruise’s prep for his first bad guy role, a deleted scene, a look at one of the location shoots, a featurette of Foxx and Cruise rehearsing, a look at the visual effects in one scene, and theatrical and teaser trailers.

Collateral 4K improves upon previous video presentations of Mann’s thriller while still delivering a solid soundtrack and a good selection of extras. Recommended.

Nov 30, 2020

Hawaii Five-0 (2010): The Complete Series DVD review

Paramount has just released Hawaii Five-0 (2010): The Complete Series, a box set of the Hawaii Five-O reboot that premiered in 2010. The series starred Alex O’Loughlin as Detective Steve McGarret, a former Naval office that heads a team of police going after the biggest criminal targets. He’s teamed with Scott Caan as Detective Danny “Danno” Williams, while Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Chi McBride, Jorge Garcia, Meaghan Rath, Beulah Koale, and Adam Noshimuri round out the team. I had a chance to review this DVD box set.

The DVD set contains all ten seasons — 240 episodes in all — spread over 60 discs with an additional bonus disc. The set also includes the crossover episodes that the show did with fellow CBS hits CSI: Los Angeles and the Magnum P.I. reboot.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a Blu-ray presentation, which would have been great considering this is a high definition show with amazing establish shots of the tropical paradise that it’s set in. Still, for a DVD box set it looks quite good. The set is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Compression issues aren’t too evident, which can be a problem with some sets as studios try to cram series on as few discs as possible. Details are good for a DVD, as is the colour palette, but black levels aren’t as good and we do lose some details in shadows and nighttime scenes. Still this is a good looking DVD set.

As for audio, you have the choice of an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English stereo track. A French audio track is only available for season 1. While English SDH subtitles are available for all 10 seasons, Portuguese and Spanish are only available for the first few seasons and French subtitles for season one. Perhaps Paramount didn’t feel the series had foreign appeal? Anyway, the 5.1 track is quite good. Dialogue is clear and centred while atmospheric effects place you in the action quite well.

Each of the seasons has a great variety of bonus features with everything from gag reels, deleted scenes, Comic-Con appearances, interviews, promo materials, behind-the-scenes looks, audio commentaries and so much more. This set cannot be accused of being light on bonus material. In fact, there’s a whole disc just of bonus material to celebrate the ten year run, including a 53 minute retrospective special, music videos, and a look at the shows combined 50 year history.

I didn’t watch the show during its initial run, but after spending some time looking through this set, I’m going to make some room for it. Fans of the show will definitely want Hawaii Five-0 (2010): The Complete Series.

Nov 29, 2020

Paramount Presents Trading Places Blu-ray review

Director John Landis’ 1983 comedy Trading Places placed SNL alumni Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in a buddy comedy where two men of opposite economic classes team up to take on the two rich brothers who played with their lives on a whim. I watched and watched and rewatched this movie when it first came out. Great performances by Aykroyd, Murphy, and their co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Ameche, and Ralph Bellamy. Paramount has now released it as part of their Paramount Presents Blu-ray line and this new transfer is based off a 4K restoration. Paramount Presents’ special packaging is not available in Canada, so I had a chance to review the standard package.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio compared to the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 ratio. Quite simply, this is the best Trading Places has ever looked in a home theatre release. The image has so much detail from facial features and clothing to the finely-crafted offices of the Duke brothers. There’s a light film grain, the colour palette is rich and warm, and the black levels are deep. Digital noise and compression artifacts are nowhere to be seen. Just an excellent video presentation.

On the audio end, there’s an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack as well as French, German, and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. There’s also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track of just the score. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, German, and Japanese. The audio team have done a great job of moving the original front-heavy audio mix and moving environmental and ambient effects into the surrounds to place us in the middle of the action. There’s even some good low-end support from the subwoofer. The score is lively and dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred, and well-prioritized.

As for extras, the US Paramount Presents version comes with a digital code (not in Canada) and a special slipcover with a fold out of the original poster. On the disc, there’s a “Filmmaker Focus” with John Landis reminiscing about the shoot, a trailer, a making-of featurette, a deleted scene, some original junket interviews, and pieces looking at the costumes and commodities trading.

Excellent video and audio teamed with good extras and a ton of laughs make adding Trading Places to your collection a no-brainer.

Popeye 40th Anniversary Blu-ray review

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Robert Altman’s Popeye, Paramount has released a 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of the movie that starred Robin Williams as the spinach-eating cartoon hero and Shelley Duvall as his love interest, Olive Oyl.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, just off from the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 ratio. Detail on this video presentation is very good especially in the environment of Sweethaven, where you can see every bit of wear. Facial features and textiles also look very good. Grain is light. The colour palette looks natural but pops when necessary. The black levels are deep and there is still detail in darker areas. A few speckles here and there but no real evidence of digital noise or compression artifacts. It’s just a fun image to look at.

On the audio side, you’re presented with two English soundtracks: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, and French. The production has made good use of the 5.1 soundscape with lots of ambient effects spread throughout the surrounds. The musical numbers are bright and dynamic, as is the score. Everything brings you into Sweethaven so well that you might get hit up for a money for a hamburger. But don’t worry, Wimpy assures me he’ll pay you next Tuesday.

On the extras side, the disc also comes with a digital code. The special features include a look at the production elements and cast, a gallery from the premiere set to music, a method to jump to all the songs, and the theatrical trailer.

Popeye is intriguing for its design and the collaboration between Robert Altman and Robin Williams. Toss in excellent video and audio presentations with a smattering of extras and this disc is a recommended addition to your collection.

Nov 28, 2020

Coming to America 4K review

Released in 1988, Coming to America teamed Eddie Murphy up with director John Landis and the pair crafted a fish out of water story perfect for the comedian’s talents. Murphy plays Prince Akeem, whose father, King Jaffe (James Earl Jones), makes sure he leads a pampered life. His entourage even includes Royal Wipers, a job that I’ll let your imagination describe. King Jaffe wants Akeem to marry the woman who had been groomed to be his wife since birth, but the prince has other ideas. He convinces his father to let him see the world first. He goes off on his own secret mission to find a soulmate and heads with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to the one place a future king should find a bride: Queens, New York. Paramount has released a 4K version of the flick and I had a chance to review it. Let’s take a look.

The 2160p native 4K HEVC / H.265-encoded digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 comes in the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This transfer, done from a 4K master supervised by John Landis, is, well, fit for a king. It looks fantastic. There is a natural grain to the image and that image is incredibly detailed. Faces have so much character and the ornate costumes and environments from palaces to apartments are full of detail. It’s a vast improvement over past home releases. The HDR expands the depth and breadth of the rich colours that cross this movie’s palette. It’s a feast for the eyes.

On the audio side, your royal ears are offered the choices of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French and German Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, and German. The lossless soundtrack makes great use of the soundscape, with the surrounds working hard to give an ambient environment. The music in this track is rich and dynamic and the dialogue is clear and centred.

The 4K UHD disc also comes with a digital code. There are no new extras, but all of the previous extras are on this disc and they include looks at the cinematography, the costumes, the character makeup, the music, an interview with Eddie and Arsenio, and a theatrical trailer.

Paramount’s Coming to America 4K is highly recommended. It combines hilarious comedy, stunning video, excellent audio, and a good array of extras into one package waiting to be added to your home library.

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