Apr 15, 2019
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass unites three characters that he’s introduced us to before. In Unbreakable, we met David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), two men whose physical attributes set them up to be the perfect hero and villain combo. In Split, we met The Horde (James McAvoy), a violent offender with multiple personalities. Brought together in an institution run by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), the trio are set for more superhero/supervillain stories that exist outside the DC and Marvel universes. With the home entertainment release you can now add Glass to your library. We had a chance to preview the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Download combo set.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is, in a word, excellent. Details, whether they be human or environmental, are crystal-clear with great textures on skin, clothing and structures. In lower light scenes there is only rare digital noise and contrast and black levels are well presented. The colour palette, depending on the scene or character can be neutral to richly robust. Skin tones are excellent as well. In terms of the video presentation, if you get bored with saying excellent, you can try awesome or perfect as well. It’s up to you.
On the audio side, your ears will get treated to English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Those with an Atmos setup will enjoy good overhead effects like rolling thunder. The other surround speakers will immerse you in the world that Shyamalan has created. Your subwoofer will also be put to good use with powerful responses to each punch and thud. The musical presentation is well done and dialogue is clear and centred. An excellent audio presentation.
On the extras side, you get a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code as well as a nice collection of short featurettes. There’s an alternate opening, a collection of deleted scenes, character studies and a look at various aspects of the production.
Combine a story that opens itself to more exploration with fantastic video, audio and extras and you know that Glass should be part of your home entertainment library.
Mar 19, 2019
When Mary Poppins Returns hit theatres, I said my quick take was this: “Emily Blunt and Mary Poppins Returns both had big shoes to fill. It’s a perfect fit.” You can now take the fantastic English nanny home as Disney releases both 4K and Blu-ray versions. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray combo pack.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation reflects the moods of the two real and fantasy worlds very well. The early London scenes are dark and dreary, populated with gray and washed-out blue tones, street lamps reflecting puddles left by the dreary clouds above. When Mary takes her young charges off to the more fantastical places and animated worlds, the colours pop. Details, whether it be on clothing, furniture, faces, or trees are crisp and complex and the animated lines are clean. Skin tones are natural and the black levels and contrast are spot on. Very little digital noise or artifacts are seen throughout.
On the audio side, your ears have their choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. Like all recent Disney home releases, the soundtrack is a little quieter than most reference levels, but again, the solution is just to turn it up a little. Just as Mary Poppins likes the children to be active for their health, your surround speakers will have a good workout, putting you in the centre of the action. It’s a musical and the soundtrack does not disappoint, with great tone in the music and clarity in the lyrics. Your subwoofer won’t get the same workout that it might in a Star Wars film, but when it is used it makes sense. Dialogue is clear and centred.
Mary Poppins was always able to pull amazing items out of her bags and her Blu-ray is stuffed with extras too. Besides a DVD version and a digital download code, the set also comes with a sign-along mode that puts lyrics up during the songs, a look at Dick Van Dyke’s cameo and the cast reactions, bloopers, a collection of shorts focusing on the shooting of the musical numbers, a deleted song, “The Anthropomorphic Zoo”, sung by songwriter Marc Shaiman, a lengthy featurette on the making of the film, and some deleted scenes.
Mary Poppins Returns is a lovely, sweet film that’s been given an excellent video and audio presentation by Disney. Well worth adding to your collection.
Feb 26, 2019
The Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is now celebrating its 30th year with the release of a 30th Anniversary Signature Collection Edition. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray combo version of the release, the eighth in the Signature Collection line.
The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This a new transfer and it looks great. The colour palette is full of deep ocean blues, bold reds and the rich purple of our villainess Ursula. The contrast is excellent and there’s a slight grain from its film stock origins. The lines of the hand-drawn animation are crisp and those beautiful Disney backgrounds look fantastic. This is a wonderful transfer with little evidence of encoding artifacts.
As it’s a musical, how does The Little Mermaid treat your ears? There’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. It’s a challenge putting an older film’s stereo soundtrack into the modern surround soundscape, but Disney’s sound engineers have done quite a good job. The dialogue and song vocals are crisp and clear and they’ve managed to move enough effects into the surround channels to create some good immersive moments. The low frequencies are also used sparingly but to good effect.
The combo pack also comes with a DVD and a digital download code. As with other Signature Collection discs, the extras get a bit of a makeover, with some new material introduced, some old material excised and some legacy material moved to digital only. A new featurette called Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies has Disney leading ladies Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Judy Kuhn, Lillias White, and Donna Murphy talking about their collaborations with Menken on various classic projects. There are new looks at the voice actors discussing their characters, looks at Walt’s collectibles collection, a new music video,as well as audio commentary from writers/directors Ron Clements and John Musker and composer Alan Menken. The digital-only content includes a plethora of song content including several karaoke tracks.
Couple a classic story, great songs and characters with a newly remastered video presentation, a great 7.1 update on a stereo soundtrack and a ton of extras and you’ll find that The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Signature Collection Edition is a worthy addition to your home entertainment library.
Feb 25, 2019
When Ralph Breaks the Internet was in its theatrical release, I said that it had “sugary visual delights for the youngest audience member and food for thought and big laughs for their older siblings and parents.” Now that fun is available for your home entertainment library. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray version of the film.
The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer comes in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. As the original is digitally produced, the resulting transfer is clean with crisp details throughout. The colour palette, especially in the cyber worlds, pops with bold colours in the more fanciful areas of the Internet. Contrast and black levels are excellent. There are no obvious digital noise issues in the visual presentation.
On the audio side of things, your ears get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. As is the trend with most recent Disney home entertainment releases, the soundtrack is a bit low when played at a reference volume, but cranking it up a bit rectifies the situation. Your surround channels are given quite the workout whether it be a subtle bit of placing you in the environment or subjecting you to some crazy part of the cyber scene. When low frequencies do kick in, they do so with quite a thump. Music is dynamic and the dialogue is clear and centred.
As for bonus features, Ralph Breaks the Internet comes with both a DVD copy and a Movie Anywhere download code. There’s a look at Easter eggs hidden within the movie, a piece on how music is used for structural and narrative purposes, cat videos, a half-hour featurette on the making of various scenes, a collection of deleted scenes, and music videos from Imagine Dragons and Julia Michaels.
Great picture, great sound, good extras and a sweet, funny, and emotional story. Ralph Breaks the Internet is a welcome addition to your home entertainment library.
Jan 28, 2019
Disney has delivered an excellent audio and video presentation with the home entertainment release of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. For those who love the story origins, love all movies connected to Christmas, or simply must have all of Disney’s output, here’s a look at the home entertainment release, available as a Blu-ray combo pack.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the theatrical release. Shot on film, it’s a gorgeous digital transfer. Textural details are amazing, whether it be faces, clothing or environmental details. The image is sharp and the colour palette works whether it’s the more muted confines of dusty attic to the more punchy colours of the Four Realms. Skin tones are accurate and black levels in the darker scenes are deep with good shadow detail. There’s no digital noise to discuss. Disney has done a stellar job with this Blu-ray transfer.
On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney releases, you’ll have to crank the volume a little bit more than you might with discs from other studios. The music, so important to this production, has excellent clarity and dazzles throughout the soundscape. The surround channels are given a great workout and envelopes the viewer in the fanciful lands our heroine visits. The low-end doesn’t blow you away, but provides the necessary oomph when needed. Dialogue is clear and centred.
Besides a DVD copy and a digital download code, the disc is a bit light on extras. There’s a conversation with ballerina Misty Copeland, a look at costumes and set design and a couple of music videos.
Big on eye candy and light on story, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is nevertheless a fantastic audio and video presentation for home entertainment. Avid collectors will no doubt pick it up, but casual viewers might want to give it a pass.
Jan 21, 2019
When I saw First Man at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, I was blown away. I thought director Damien Chazelle and his effects and sound teams captured every nut and bolt and bone-rattling moment of the launches and the claustrophobic confines of the barebones spacecraft that first took men to the moon. Meanwhile, I thought the cast — led by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy — captured the spirit of the space explorers and their families. With the 4K UHD and Bu-ray release, you can now take the space race home with you. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray edition.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, though the scenes on the moon change to a 1.78:1 ratio. First Man was shot on film and it’s the perfect medium as the grain and colour palette remind us of the TV and documentary footage of the time. The clarity and textural nuances are amazing, from the facial details of the actors to the spacecraft surfaces and clothing. Skin tones are accurate and the contrast and black levels are great, with good shadow detail. This is a first-rate Blu-ray transfer.
On the audio side of things, your ears are given the choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1, tracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. Aside from undergoing months of NASA training, the soundtrack is probably the closest thing to immersing you in the experience, with the surround channel enveloping you in every rattle, creak, stress moan and rumble of the spacecraft as the massive rocket engines rip the astronauts from the pull of Earth’s gravity. Dialogue is crisp and clearly presented.
Aside from a DVD copy and a digital download code, the disc also includes deleted scenes, audio commentary and a selection of short featurettes looking at the history of the Neil Armstrong and the production magic that went into presenting his story.
A stellar audio and video presentation, great performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, and a production that puts you in the middle of the action all add up to a reason why First Man should be part of your home video library.
Jan 14, 2019
It’s been four decades since Michael Myers went after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween and spawned a franchise of okay and forgettable sequels. Now, director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride ask us to forget all those follow-ups and view their 2018 Halloween as the one true sequel. The film scared the bejeezus out of audiences in the cinemas and now you can scream your lungs out in the comfort of your own home as it makes its home entertainment debut. I had a chance to look at the Blu-ray version of the film.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The production was shot digitally and the transfer looks great. Overall the video presentation is crisp and clean and detailed, with only a few bits of softness here and there. Facial features look great and environmental textures, whether they be natural or man-made, reveal their details perfectly. The colour palette is natural, whether it be the skin tones or the appropriately abundant amount of blood, and dark levels are excellent. Digital noise is also absent except for some tiny amounts that are barely worth mentioning.
Horror films scare as much with the ears as with the eyes, so let’s check out the audio side. The disc comes with an English DTS:X soundtrack, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The DTS:X soundtrack, for those with the right equipment, adds height to the soundscape, but except for a few moments, they’re not given much of a workout. However, the regular surround channels do put you in the centre of the action and music and dialogue is well presented too. The lower frequencies could use a bit more oomph here and there but this is still a great soundtrack.
On the extras side, Halloween provides us with a DVD copy and a digital download code. There’s a collection of extended and deleted scenes, featurettes on the making of the film, Jamie Lee Curtis’ character and Meyers’ mask and a look at how the original score informed the new one.
The 2018 Halloween has a fantastic video presentation, a very good audio presentation, all the while renewing interest in Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. If you like a good scream, you’ll want to add this to your collection.
Dec 28, 2018
Night School is the sort of lightweight comedy that’s perfect to watch at home on a weekend afternoon whether you’re just relaxing on the couch or doing something with it in the background. Kevin Hart stars as Teddy Walker, a high school dropout with expensive tastes and a girlfriend he wants to marry. When he burns down the grill store he was set to inherit, he needs his high school diploma to make sure he can get a better job. Joined by a group of misfit adults in his GED class, Teddy must survive both a drill sergeant of a teacher (Tiffany Haddish) and the school’s principal (Taran Killam), who was his high school bully. Can he pull it off? Well, with the Blu-ray release now available, you can take it home to study with him.
Digitally shot, the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is clean and detailed. Facial features, hair and clothing have great detail and textures. The colour palette is bright with rich primary colours. Black levels and contrast are also fine. Though there’s some sporadic banding, this is a very good video presentation.
On the audio side of things, the disc comes with an English DTS:X soundtrack, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, a French DTS-HD HR 7.1 track and a Spanish DTS 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The DTS:X track makes good use of the height effects and the full surround soundscape immerses you in the hijinks. Whether it’s a car crash or a school dance, the low frequencies get a good workout too. The musical score had good body and the dialogue is clear and centred.
On the extra side of things, the package comes with a DVD copy and a digital download code. The Blu-ray has both the theatrical cut and the extended cut, which is about 5 minutes longer. There’s an alternate opening, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a look at the characters, audio commentary and a few other fun goodies.
With very good video and audio presentations and a nice bunch of extras, fans of Hart and Haddish will probably want to add Night School to their collections.
Nov 21, 2018
Robin Willams: Comic Genius available from Time Life.
Fans of the late, great Robin Williams can rejoice with the release of Time Life’s Robin Williams: Comic Genius, which collects over 50 hours of his TV work, including all five of his HBO stand-up specials, talk show and late night performances, as well as backstage footage and interviews with friends like Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Martin Short and Jay Leno. There’s also eleven episodes of Mork & Mindy (including the two-part pilot), James Lipton’s ninety minute interview with Robin on Inside the Actors Studio, a collection of his USO shows before troops around the world, various promos and featurettes produced for this exclusive collection.
The 22 DVD collection also includes the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind that was directed by Emmy winner Marina Zenovich and produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney. The collection also includes a 24-page book with photos from Arthur Grace, tour notes and more.
Capturing this much of Robin’s electric energy is like shoving the sun into a soda bottle, but the folks at Time Life have carefully curated this amazing collection. Available exclusively at robinwilliams.com, the 50+ hour, 22 DVD set is $199.90 US or, if you prefer, five payments of $39.98 US. If you have a Robin Williams fan on your holiday shopping list or you want to treat yourself, then this DVD set is worth looking into.
Robin Williams: Comic Genius is also available as a 12 disc 30+ hour Collector’s Set, retailing at $99.95 US. This is the item that we had for review. It includes the five HBO specials, footage from the USO tours, the featurettes, archival footage of early stand-up work, the first six episodes of Mork & Mindy, the best of his work on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and SNL, interviews with Jay Leno, Pam Dawber, Lewis Black and David Steinberg and the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.
Depending on the era of the footage, aspect ratios range from 1.33:1 (4:3) to 1.77:1 (16:9), while audio can be either Dolby Digital Mono or Stereo. Transfer quality also depends on the age of the source material. The audio levels are good which is important with a comedian whose performances go a mile a minute.
Watching Williams spin his comic masterpieces at breakneck speed is eminently satisfying and whether he’s doing it on stage or on the couch next to a talk show host, he never fails to assault your funny bone. Williams gave us some great comedic and dramatic performances on film, but watching this collection takes us back to the genesis of his art. Whoopi Goldberg said “He’s kind of like Camelot, one brief shining moment known as Robin Williams and we got to see it.” With Time Life’s Robin Williams: Comic Genius, you’ll be able to see it again and again.
Nov 08, 2018
From director Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman examines race relations in America during the Seventies. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs’ first black cop, who begins to form a relationship with the local Ku Klux Klan chapter over the phone. When he obviously can’t meet them in person, he gets a Jewish cop, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to handle that end of things. The two men work to keep their identities a secret while getting closer to the KKK’s national leader David Duke, played here by Topher Grace.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot on film, the transfer to digital is nearly flawless. Details are sharp, whether they be the pores on faces, the textures of clothing or the natural and man-made locations. There’s a light film grain, which along with the colour palette, makes us feel a bit like we’re watching one of the politically-charged films from the Seventies. There are no compression artifacts to speak of and they only slight issue is some black levels in low light scenes. Other than that, this is a great film-to-digital transfer.
On the audio side of things, we get an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack as well as a French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape created on this disc puts the viewer in the centre of the action, from a rally to the busy clatter of the police station. Low-end frequencies give the required scenes the extra weight they need. The movie’s music sounds great and the dialogue, so important when phone calls are important plot points, is clear and centred.
Besides a digital download code, the film also contains interviews with the cast and production team as well as an extended trailer.
A great Spike Lee film with a great video and audio transfer, BlacKkKlansman is a worthy addition to your home video library.