Evans Above

Oct 09, 2021

Universal Classic Monsters Icons of Horror Collection 4K review

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

Night of the Animated Dead Blu-ray review

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 4k Blu-ray review

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.

Sep 07, 2021

Zack Snyder’s Justice League 4K review

For those of us who aren’t totally invested fans of the DC Universe, the whole #releasethesnydercut dust-up was a mystery. In a nutshell, the original director of Justice League, Zack Snyder, left the production due to the death of his daughter. At the time, Warner Brothers wasn’t happy with his version of the film, hired Joss Whedon, Whedon did reshoots and edits of his own, and the film was released in 2017. Fans weren’t happy with that version and online campaigns were started demanding they release the Snyder cut. Seeing a chance to make things right…I mean line their pockets with additional money and promote the new HBO Max streaming service, WB released the Snyder cut this year. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now available on 4K and I had a chance to preview it early. Since Batman requires a disclaimer, here goes: though Warner Brothers provided me with a review copy of the movie, the thoughts and opinions below are my own.

The native 4K 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded transfer with HDR10 is in the aspect ratio that Snyder intended 1.33:1 or 4:3, with some IMAX shot scenes in 1.85:1. Yes, you read that right, Snyder shot the film in the old Academy ratio that would be familiar to those who owned TVs before widescreens were introduced. The squarish image means that black bars will appear on the left and right of the screen. Do not adjust your set, this is Snyder’s artistic choice. This isn’t meant to be the most colourful presentation, but the dark tones and grays are well served by the HDR enhancement, as is the occasional pop of more vibrant colours. The image is highly detailed and every texture from facial features, costumes, and environmental details looks fantastic. Black levels are deep, though there is some occasional crush. Compression artifacts are undetectable, due of course to spreading the movie’s massive four hour runtime over two 4K discs. All in all, it just looks great.

On the audio side, Zack Snyder’s Justice League comes with English, French, and German Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks, an Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, as well as Spanish, French Canadian, Czech, Polish and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German, Italian SDH, Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Swedish. Snyder and his sound team make ample use of the Atmos soundscape, with the height channels put to good use. Sound effects and ambient noise fill your surrounds and move well, while the low end of things adds the oomph that so many of the scenes need. Tom Holkenborg’s score sounds great and the dialogue is clear and centred.

As mentioned, the movie is spread over two 4K discs and there is also a Blu-ray version included that is also spread over two discs. There is no digital code for this release in the US as WB is pushing subscriptions to HBO Max, but looking at Amazon Canada, I see there is a code in my home country. (I reviewed a US copy.) There is just one featurette included, a twenty-four minute series discussion with Snyder and the cast about his trio of DC films and the evolution of this new cut.

Obviously the fans who demanded and begged for Zack Snyder’s Justice League are going to love it. With amazing audio and video presentations, even the more casual viewer will enjoy it too. Just make a lot of popcorn.

Sep 05, 2021

Star Trek: Original 4-Movie Collection 4K review

Paramount is releasing the Star Trek: Original 4-Movie Collection 4K tomorrow to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the original TV series and I had a chance to look at it early. The collection brings together Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979 — ten years after the three season run of the series — some casual audiences found it a bit slow and plodding. Perhaps they were primed by the swashbuckling space fantasy action of 1977’s Star Wars, but the initial Star Trek film was more like a traditional science fiction story, exploring themes about the worlds of science, society, and technology and humans’ place within it. Hardcore fans were just pleased to see the old gang back together: Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), and Chekov (Walter Koenig).

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K transfer has both Dolby Vision and HDR10 and is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image has a great amount of detail, whether it’s the faces of the Enterprise crew, the textiles, or even the models used for the spaceships in the days before CGI. In a story set in the final frontier of space, deep, inky black levels are important and this transfer doesn’t disappoint. Darker scenes still have plenty of detail and there’s no sign of crushing. The colour palette from muted tones to popping hues looks great and the HDR really shines with elements like the lighting on instrument panels.

On the audio side of things, Star Trek: The Motion Picture has an English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, a German 2.0 Dolby TrueHD track, Spanish and Japanese 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital tracks and a French 2.0 Dolby Digital track. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), and Swedish. The mix is the same mix as was on previous Blu-ray releases and there wasn’t a remix done for Atmos. The soundscape is quite front-heavy and your surrounds are mostly used to add elements from the score. Both the movie and its musical score get added floor from the subwoofer. Dialogue is clear and well-prioritized in the mix.

A digital code and a Blu-ray copy is in the set. The 4K disc contains an isolated track of the film’s musical score as well as an audio commentary from Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman. The rest of the bonus features are on the Blu-ray copy and include Library Computer Viewing Mode, a look at the writing of the movie and the Star Trek Universe, a reunion featurette, “Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 001: The Mystery Behind V’Ger”, deleted scenes, storyboards, and multiple trailers and TV spots.

1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, reunited the crew with a character from the original series, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban). In the series, Khan was a genetically engineered superhuman who ruled a quarter of the Earth in the mid-1990s until he was removed in the Eugenic Wars. He escaped on a spaceship with a group of his followers and was found and revived from suspended animation by Kirk and the gang in 2267. After trying to takeover the Enterprise, he was exiled to a planet and many years go by before he and Kirk cross paths again in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The film actually is a little lighter on action but that is more than made up for by the character work of Montalban and Shatner as the two foes face off and confront their intertwined lives. It also features the emotional demise of one of the series’ most beloved characters. I’m being a little cute with my spoiler-free line there, as the name of the next film in the franchise gives it away. For me, this the most enjoyable film of the franchise.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K remastered presentation has both Dolby Vision and HDR10. The 2.39:1 aspect ratio presentation has fine detail across all the elements and black levels are deep with no loss of detail in the shadows or darker scenes. The colour palette is bold and certain hues really pop off the screen and there is no noise or compression artifacts to warn Starfleet about.

On the audio side, you have the choice of an English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well as Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, and French 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), and Swedish. The main mix is 7.1, so no height channels, but the surrounds are put to good use with ambient effects and the panning of action. Your subwoofer adds oomph where oomph is needed and dialogue is clear and well-prioritized in the soundscape.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan comes with both a 4K and Blu-ray and two cuts of the film, theatrical and director’s. As with the first film, extras are split between the 4k and Blu-ray discs. The 4K has an audio commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and a theatrical cut only commentary by Meyer and producer Manny Coto. The Blu-ray has the aforementioned commentaries plus a director’s cut only text commentary by graphic artists Michael and Denise Okuda. There’s a library computer viewing mode, a featurette on the Genesis Effect, various interview and production pieces, a look at the Star Trek universe, a tribute to Ricardo Montalban, storyboards, and a trailer.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan blends two cuts of a great adventure with excellent visuals, a solid audio experience and a good collection of legacy bonus materials. Alone or in this set, it’s recommended.

The third film in the set is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Written and produced by Harve Bennett and directed by Leonard Nimoy, this installment of the film franchise sees the Enterprise crew dealing with themes of aging, loss and resurrection while also go up against a new enemy, a Klingon named Kruge portrayed by Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded remastered native 4K transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The presentation looks great with amazing clarity and details in all elements, with only a few softer shots here and there. Deep black levels and contrast, with good detail in darker scenes and no evidence of crushing. The colour is bold across all hues and the HDR really helps elevate shots of lights, instrument panels, and fires. It’s a clean presentation with no real signs of digital noise or compression artifacts.

Again no Dolby Atmos, but we do get an English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well as German 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, Japanese and Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, and French 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles come in English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), and Swedish. It’s well-balanced mix and the action moves around your surrounds and ambient noise place you in the environments. Again, the subwoofer adds a little extra to not only fights and explosions, but also to the score which is bright and dynamic. Dialogue is clear and well-prioritized.

Once again, special features are mostly on the included Blu-ray version of the movie. The 4K has an audio commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, cinematographer Charles Correll, and actress Robin Curtis, who plays Lieutenant Saavik. There’s also an additional commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, who wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation and other franchise spin-offs. The Blu-ray has the aforementioned commentaries as well as a library computer viewing mode, production and Star Trek universe featurettes, photos, storyboards, and a trailer.

Just like the previous two, I’d recommend this movie as part of the set or as a standalone release.

Finally, the set concludes with 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which was once again directed by Leonard Nimoy. This film is actually home to quite a bit of comedy, playing off tropes and other elements the franchise’s fans are so familiar with. The crew has been living in exile on Vulcan, but later head back to Earth to face trial for their actions in the previous film. When they arrive, the Earth’s power grid has been disabled by a mysterious probe orbiting the planet. Spock deduces the probe’s signals are similar to the humpback whale’s and figures there’s a way to use the whales to translate what the probe is saying. Just one problem, the whales are extinct and the crew need to work out a way to time travel to 1986. This sets up the comedy of seeing Kirk and the gang try and navigate through what was 300 years in the past for them and contemporary for us at the film’s release.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K remastered transfer has both HDR10 and Dolby Vision and comes in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s another great looking transfer with excellent detail in facial textures, textiles, and environmental elements. The black levels are amazing and dark interiors show no sign of detail loss or crushing. The colour palette, which ranges from earthy tones to popping colours, looks great and once again the HDR brings an extra pop to ships instruments and other highlights. The image is clean, with no sign of digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side, the movie gives us an English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well as German 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, Japanese and Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, and French 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks with subtitles available for English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), and Swedish. No Atmos, so no height effects, but the surrounds once again put you in the action and the environment. The subwoofer adds a nice foundation to the score and action and dialogue is clear and centred.

There is an included Blu-ray copy, and that’s where you’ll find most of the legacy special features. The 4K has two audio commentaries, one with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and a new commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the 2009 Star Trek reboot. The Blu-ray has these commentaries as well as the Library Computer Viewing Mode, various production featurettes, more looks at the Star Trek Universe, in-depth looks at the visual effects, cast interviews with Shatner, Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley, tributes to series creator Gene Roddenberry and artist Mark Lenard, photo and storyboard galleries and a trailer.

Taken in the set or individually, all the movies contained in the Star Trek: Original 4-Movie Collection 4K have great video, audio, and bonus features. As a fan (but not a fanatic). I’d have to say I’d highly recommend adding this to your collection.

Sep 04, 2021

Spirit Untamed Blu-ray review

Nineteen years after the beloved Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, we get Dreamworks’ Spirit Untamed from director Elaine Bogan. Featuring the voice talents of Isabela Merced, Jake Gyllenhaal, Andre Braugher, Walton Goggins, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, and Julianne Moore, the movie received a Blu-ray release from Universal Studios and I had a chance to see it.

Merced plays Lucky, a free-spirited girl sent to spend time with her estranged father (Gyllenhaal) after her mother dies in a stunt riding accident. She discovers a wild mustang, Spirit, and begins to train it, connecting her to the legacy of her mother. Her father tries to protect her, but when a wrangler tries to capture Spirit and the herd, Lucky and her friends embark on an adventure to rescue them.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Though different in style and detail from its cinematic predecessor — the animation isn’t as detailed as higher budget productions – the presentation here is very good with the computer animation looking sharp on screen. The real star of the video side is the colour palette with everything from lush greens and blue skies to popping primaries and earthy tones of the Western landscape.

On the audio side, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound track as well as French and Spanish DTS-HD HR 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundtrack does a very good job of bringing the viewer into the soundscape, with the surrounds playing host to action effects and ambient sounds. The score is bright and dynamic. Dialogue is clear, centred, and well-prioritized in the mix.

Besides the Blu-ray, Spirit Untamed also comes with a DVD copy and digital code and a nice collection of bonus materials that will appeal to the whole family. There’s audio commentary from director Elaine Bogan, co-director Ennio Torresan, and producer Karen Foster, a look at the story and its themes, a song from Mckenna Grace, a how to make S’mores segment, deleted and extended scenes, interviews with the voice cast, a look at drawing the characters, some more how-to segments, and four sing-along videos.

Spirit Untamed is a bit of a mixed bag. Though it has good video and audio presentations and a nice collection of cute extras, the animation detail doesn’t match up to the level of Pixar’s latest, leaning more towards the animation styles of shows currently on children’s TV programming. While it will still engage the younger members of the audience and even tug a few heartstrings, it’s not the type of movie that will enthrall the whole family and lend to repeat viewings by everyone. So with that in mind, I’d still recommend it for the youngest members of the household.

Aug 18, 2021

Beverly Hills 90210: The Ultimate Collection DVD review

After an extensive logistical/shipping delay, I finally received my review copy of Paramount’s new DVD release, Beverly Hills 90210: The Ultimate Collection. The box set, spread over 74 discs, includes all 290 episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 as well as the 2019 six episode series BH90210, which reunited the cast except for the late Luke Perry.

Beverly Hills 90210 was a slow starter, but when Fox started airing new episodes in the summer of 1991, when the other networks were airing reruns, the show caught fire and became a huge hit with teens and young adults. At the beginning of the series, it followed Midwest teens Brandon and Brenda Walsh (Jason Priestly and Shannon Doherty) as they moved to a new city and high school in Beverly Hills, where they met fellow students Kelly (Jennie Garth), Dylan (Luke Perry), David (Brian Austin Green), Steve (Ian Ziering), Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) and Donna (Tori Spelling). Over the seasons some cast members like Doherty and Carteris left, while the show progressed to the college and post-college years and the cast expanded to include such names as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Kathleen Robertson, Vincent Young, Lindsay Price, Daniel Cosgrove, Vanessa Marcil, and Hilary Swank. Over the years, the characters survived more thrills, dangers and challenges then an entire community usually does.

The BH90210 reunion series saw the cast reunite to play heightened versions of themselves as the actors try to get a reboot going while old attractions and battles simmer below the surface.

The original series is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, with BH90210 presented in 16:9. The original series is obviously the softer looking of the two. This is not a remastered set and the earlier seasons of the original series aren’t as clean looking as the later seasons. Again, this isn’t a high definition Blu-ray or HDR-enhanced 4K, so don’t expect the colours to pop but it doesn’t look too bad and if you were a fan in the Nineties, you get to ogle the fashion choices made back then. BH90210 was of course shot in HD and downscaled for this release, so it does look a lot sharper and more colourful than the original series.

On the audio side, the original series has a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, while BH90210 has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that obviously makes some limited use of your surrounds. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

On the extras side, there’s the usual mix of commentaries, interview and promo segements, and bloopers that appeared on releases throughout the years.

If you’re a fan of the show and don’t want to be subject to the come-and-go licensing deals of streaming services then you’ll probably want to add Beverly Hills 90210: The Ultimate Collection to your home entertainment library.

Aug 12, 2021

Paramount Presents Nashville Blu-ray review

Director Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville has been given the Paramount Presents treatment with a new release from Paramount Home Entertainment. I was given a chance to review the disc. The movie traces the life of a large ensemble of characters over a five day period in Nashville as a music festival and presidential campaign take place in the city. The ensemble cast includes Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Chaplin, Gwen Welles, Ronee Blakley, Karen Black, Henry Gibson, Merle Kilgore, and Jeff Goldblum.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is newly remastered from a 4K scan of the original film elements. It looks great, with a fine film grain. The image is sharp, with facial textures, textiles, and environmental elements full of detail. Flesh tones are accurate and some of the clothing pops with bright colours. Black levels are deep and there’s really no sign of compression artifacts or noise.

On the audio side, we get a English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack with subtitles available for English, English SDH, and French. A lot of elements and conversations take place overlapping each other — we’re here in the moment, not necessarily eavesdropping — and it’s a clear though intentionally not always comprehensible soundscape. The music is dynamic and this is a very front-heavy mix, so don’t expect your surrounds and subwoofer to break out into a sweat.

Paramount doesn’t release the Paramount Presents packaging in Canada, so as a Canadian, I just had the basic Blu-ray case. If you get your hands on the Paramount Presents packaging, you get the Paramount Presents slipcover with the fold-open poster artwork as well as a digital code. The special features include an audio commentary by Robert Altman, a new featurette that explores the story development, the script, characters, cast and other behind-the-scenes info. There are also some theatrical trailers. If you happen to have any of the previous releases from Eureka and Criterion, you might want to keep ‘em in your collection as they had much more in terms of bonus features.

Paramount Presents’ Nashville release comes to us with a newly remastered beautiful video presentation, a great audio presentation, and a new retrospective featurette. As an Altman classic, this disc is highly recommended.

Aug 03, 2021

Luca digital code review

I thoroughly enjoyed Disney/Pixar’s Luca when I reviewed it in June. Disney, who are now releasing the movie on both 4K and Blu-ray, recently sent me a digital code. Keeping in mind that online codes and streaming services like Disney+ and Google Play don’t have the bitrate quality of physical media, I can give you some of my impressions of the streaming version coupled with info on the physical version.

The 1080p transfer for the streaming is in the original’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s just an amazing video presentation and I’d really like to see its 4K version as I think the HDR would be amazing with the colour palette. Speaking of colour, Luca is a vibrant splash of summer hues, from the blues of the water and sky, colourful homes and scenes, to warmer tones through the village of Portorosso. The image is clear and crisp and details are abundant in every scene.

On the audio side, my digital code came with an English DTS-HD HR 5.1 track, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio track, as well as a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles were available in English and French. If you spring for the Blu-ray, you’ll get three English tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DTS-HD HR 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0) as well as French, Spanish, and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, Italian, and Spanish. The fun and action of Luca are playfully mixed throughout the soundstage, with Dan Romer’s score being a bright and dynamic presence. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The digital code for Luca (which I used on Google Play movies, is a fun addition to your family’s home entertainment library. As a physical media advocate, I’d recommend you get the Blu-ray, or if you have a 4K TV and player, the 4K UHD version.

Aug 02, 2021

Shameless – The Eleventh and Final Season DVD review

Shameless, based on the British series of the same name, has the distinction of being Showtime’s longest-running scripted series. For the past eleven seasons, William H. Macy has led the ensemble cast as Frank Gallagher, a single father of six whose struggles with addictions lead him from one misadventure to the next. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has released Shameless – The Eleventh and Final Season on DVD and I had a chance to take a look. Though Warner Brothers provided me with a copy for review, the thoughts below are my own.

The Shameless Eleventh Season set contains 12 episodes spread over three DVD discs. It’d be nice to have a Blu-ray, but many studios are opting to release smaller series on DVD, opting to keep the HD versions available for streaming. The image is still quite good and, to be honest, given how much cable services and streaming services compress their image, a good quality DVD can sometimes look as good, if not better than what you see through your cable subscription. The DVD is presented in the original broadcast’s 16:9 ratio.

Here’s a list of the episodes:

  1. This Is Chicago!
  2. Go Home, Gentrifier!
  3. Frances Francis Franny Frank
  4. NIMBY
  5. Slaughter
  6. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good…Eh, Screw It.
  7. Two at a Biker Bar, One in the Lake
  8. Cancelled
  9. Survivors
  10. DNR
  11. The Fickle Lady is Calling it Quits
  12. Father Frank, Full of Grace

On the audio side, the discs come with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with subtitles available for English SDH. The soundtrack does a good job of placing ambient effects throughout the soundscape and your subwoofer adds a bit of bass depth to some scenes. Dialogue is clear and centred.

As for extras, there are deleted scenes as well as The Last Call, a post-finale reunion that due to the Covid 19 pandemic was shot remotely.

As the back of the box says, the Gallaghers may grow up, but they’ll never grow apart. If you’ve enjoyed the misadventures of Frank and his clan, then you’ll want to add Shameless – The Eleventh and Final Season to your collection.

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