Evans Above

Oct 07, 2019

Toy Story 4 Blu-ray review

When Toy Story 4 was released in theatres, I said that “old and new characters alike are facing some major existential issues” and that the story’s layers worked for audiences of all ages. . You can now reunite with the gang in the comfort of your own home as Disney/Pixar has released it for your home library. We had a chance to review the Blu-ray combo pack, which also comes with a DVD and digital copy code.

The 1080p AVC-encoded disc is presented in the original’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is very detailed and the computer-animated characters show the wear and tear of years of childhood play on their surfaces and textiles. Environmental details, from the antique toy store to the rides in the carnival, show just as much textural detail. The colour palette is as wide as the selection of toys and the image also has deep black levels and excellent contrast. There are no evident flaws or digital noise. If Bonnie took this video presentation to class, she’d get a gold star.

On the audio side of things, your ears have the choice of English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and DTS-HD HR 5.1 soundtracks as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio track. There is also the choice of French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. (An English Dolby Atmos soundtrack is available on the 4K release.) Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney releases, the volume needs to be upped a bit over reference levels to fully appreciate the tracks. Though your surround speakers are used, you won’t find this presentation as fully immersive as, say, a Marvel or Star Wars movie. Music is fairly dynamic and the music is clear and centred.

The Toy Story 4 combo pack comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code. Extras are spread over the movie’s Blu-ray disc as well as a bonus item Blu-ray. On the movie disc you’ll find a look at Bo Peep’s transition to a main character, interviews with the cast and crew about their favourite toys, and audio commentary from director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen. The bonus disc takes us behind the scenes of the voice recording process with Ally Maki (Giggle McDimples), examines the relationship of Woody and Buzz, shows us a production breakdown of one of the scenes, introduces us to the new characters, and also gives us deleted scenes, trailers, and promos.

Toy Story 4 gives us a touching tale of purpose and change. Coupled with an excellent video presentation, a good audio package and a bunch of extras, you’ll want to add this one to your collection.

Oct 02, 2019

True Detective: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray review

In the third season of True Detective, two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali plays Detective Wayne Hays in three different decades, starting in the 1980s and 1990s and finally in 2015. In the latter timeframe, Hays, now suffering from dementia, is interviewed by a documentary on the Purcell case he worked on with his partner (Stephen Dorff). You can now reexamine the case yourself as True Detective: The Complete Third Season is available for your home library. HBO gave us a chance to review this Blu-ray release.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the series’ original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the show presents us with a very clean video presentation. Like a good detective’s case notes, the image is full of great detail, whether it be skin and hair, textiles, or natural and man-made environmental details. The colour palette is drab and dreary, matching both the weather and the subject matter. With a digital to digital transfer, there is really no evidence of digital noise or artifacts.

The set comes with a large selection of soundtracks and subtitles to choose from, turning the audio/subtitle menus into a veritable United Nations. On the soundtrack side, you have an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, French, Castilian Spanish, German and Italian DTS 5.1 tracks and Latin Spanish DTS 2.0 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German, Italian SDH, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Like a hard-working detective the soundtrack does its job but isn’t flashy. There a decent amount of surround usage to give you some ambient placement. In a procedural drama, dialogue is king and the dialogue here is clean and properly prioritized in the mix.

Besides a digital copy code, the set’s extras are spread out over the three Blu-ray discs the season is presented on. The first disc includes some deleted scenes and two featurettes. “Designing the Decades” looks at the production design challenges of telling the story over three decades, while “A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett” looks at the use of Burnett’s music in the season. On disc two, you’ll find some more deleted scenes, while disc three contains deleted scenes and an extended cut of the final episode with new and extended scenes.

A great lead performance by Mahershala Ali coupled with an excellent video presentation and very good audio presentation makes True Detective: The Complete Third Season a worthy addition to your home entertainment library.

Sep 23, 2019

Yesterday Blu-ray review

At first glance, Yesterday appears to have a simple story. What if you were the only person to remember The Beatles and could have fame and fortune passing their songs off as your own? But writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle dig a little deeper. What does it mean to live a lie? Do the trappings of fame and fortune replace the contentment of love? You can now explore these questions at home as Universal releases Yesterday for your home library. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the result is a very good video presentation. The image is crisp and has excellent detail in skin, textiles and environmental settings. The colour palette is natural and the image has deep black levels. There is some digital noise in some lower light shots but nothing that takes away from an enjoyable look on the screen.

In a film that relies heavily on music, the audio presentation is very important. You have your choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The music is dynamic and perfectly balanced, setting the perfect environment whether Jack is playing in an intimate setting or large venue. Surround speakers subtly put the viewer into the environment and the low frequencies give some added floor to the proceedings. Dialogue is very clear and well-prioritized. An excellent audio package.

Moving on to the extras, Yesterday comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital copy code. There’s audio commentary from Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis, an alternate ending and opening, deleted scenes, performances by star Himesh Patel at Abbey Road Studios, bloopers, and a handful of character and performer featurettes.

Combine a great story with excellent video and audio presentations and a good amount of extras and you’ll travel the long and winding road to add Yesterday to your collection.

Sep 10, 2019

Disney’s live action Aladdin Blu-ray review

Though some fans questioned the need for a live-action remake of the animated classic Aladdin, Will Smith took on the task of filling Robin Williams’ genie shoes with his usual star power and force of personality. You can check out the bright, energetic spectacle at home as Disney has now released it in 4K and Blu-ray. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the cinematic release’s 2.39:1 ratio. The colour palette in this presentation simply explodes off the screen, especially in the “Prince Ali” musical number. Red and blues and golds shimmer while black levels are nice and deep. The terrain, textiles and structures have remarkable detail and clarity and CGI effects blend well with the live-action components. There really aren’t many digital artifacts and only in the darkest scenes is there a minimal amount of digital noise. This is an excellent video presentation.

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 several recent Disney releases, the volume must be turned a bit up from reference levels in order to get the full audio experience. The surround speakers are given plenty to work with here and place you so far into the bazaar scenes that you’ll probably start haggling for a rug. The low-end frequencies provide added weight when needed. The music is clean and dynamic and dialogue and vocal during the songs are clear and centred. So kudos to the audio side of things.

On to the extras, where you get a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital copy code. There are deleted scenes, a video journal shot by Aladdin himself, Mena Massoud, Alan Menken introducing the deleted song “Desert Moon”, a look at director Guy Ritchie’s approach to making the film, and a discussion with Will Smith on the challenges of taking on Robin Williams’ iconic role. There are also three music videos and bloopers.

Aladdin had big curly-toed shoes to fill and the production does its best to live up to the legacy with energy, spectacle and a good cast. With an excellent video and audio presentation, Disney fans will want to add this to their collection.

Aladdin Signature Collection Blu-ray review

Disney has now re-released its classic and iconic animated feature Aladdin as part of its Signature Collection. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack.

The main change to the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is its aspect ratio. The previous home releases were in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while this Signature Collection release is now in the cinematic version’s 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Other than that change, the video presentation is near identical to the Diamond Blu-ray edition. The transfer is, in a word, gorgeous. There are some digital artifacts and colour banding but they don’t detract from the dazzling colour palette, the inky blacks and excellent contrast. As I said in my review of the Diamond Blu-ray “If you asked a genie for one wish regarding the video presentation, he’d deliver this.”

The audio is also the same as the Diamond release. Your ears will be treated to an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. To reiterate my comments on the audio you’ll find the songs and action are well-served by the surround speakers and the low frequency output gives a firm floor to every joke and musical number. The dialogue is very clean and intelligible, which is so necessary to keep up with Robin Williams’ lightning-fast ad libs. It’s an excellent audio presentation.

The main change you see with most Signature Collections is in the extras. There are some new ones and others that have been removed or migrated to digital only. New extras include Aladdin voice actor Scott Weinger reconnecting with people involved with the production to talk about the movie and catch up. There also a new look at the voice recording sessions, a look at the digital-only extras and some alternate endings. You can sing-along with the movie, a look at the Broadway show, audio commentary from the producers and audio commentary. Digital-only extras include a look at composer Alan Menken, a look at Supervising Animator Eric Goldberg as he discusses his work and draws the Genie, the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes, music videos from Clay Aiken, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, and many more behind-the-scenes looks.

As with many of the Signature Collection releases, it boils down to extras. If you don’t own the Diamond Edition of Aladdin, then the Signature Collection is for you and you’ll want to add it to your collection, giving you the original aspect ratio, and excellent video and audio presentations. If you do have the Diamond Edition, then the main change is the aspect ratio and some slight changes in extras.

Sep 09, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum Blu-ray review

They say death and taxes are the only sure things, but I’m thinking that when you’re a semi-retired hitman who does an unsanctioned kill of a crime lord who is part of a mysterious syndicate you can be sure that there will be attempts at retribution. That’s exactly where John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself at the beginning of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. With a legion of assassins hoping to cash in on the $14 million bounty on his head, Wick needs to fight back and the audience knows that they’re in for a thrill ride. Those thrills can now be taken home with Lionsgate’s home entertainment release. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras, this digital transfer is pretty amazing. A lot of this movie’s scenes take place in dark and stormy locations and so you’d expect it to have good depth in the black levels and you won’t be disappointed. There is only the occasional loss of detail in the shadows and you can put your stationery away because it’s nothing to write home about. The colour palette is infused with a lot of purple and blues. Brighter scenes have amazing detail.

On the audio side of things, your ears have the choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track optimized for late night listening a.k.a. not waking the neighbours up during the chases and battles. There are also French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. Those with an Atmos setup will notice that this soundtrack makes good use of the height elements, while the other surround speakers are given quite the workout too. This soundscape will surround you with so much ambient detail that you may find yourself desiring an umbrella and a firearm. Your subwoofer will also clock in a workout during the many bone and metal crunching battles. Dialogue is clear and centred.

On the extras side, the Blu-ray also comes with a DVD copy and a digital code. There’s a decent collection of cast and crew interview and behind-the-scenes featurettes, theatrical trailers, and looks at the John Wick: Hex game.

If you’re a fan of quaint, quiet films where people discuss their feelings in pastoral settings then John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum may not be for you. If you like to sit on the edge of your seat for heart-pounding action scenes with excellent video and audio presentations, then this Blu-ray is right up your blood and rain soaked alley. You’ll want to add it to your home entertainment collection.

Aug 27, 2019

The Secret Life of Pets 2 Blu-ray review

In The Secret Life of Pets 2, our furry pals find themselves facing new challenges and adventures the moment we leave them to their own devices. Max and his pal, Duke, must deal with their owner’s new toddler while negotiating a vacation on a farm. Gidget must rescue a toy entrusted to her by Max from a house overrun by cats. And the over-confident rabbit, Snowball, dreams of being a superhero and tries to make those dreams a reality when he helps a Shih Tzu rescue a white tiger cub from an abusive circus owner. All of these hijinks can be yours as Universal now has them available for your home entertainment library. I was able to review the Blu-ray, DVD, digital download combo pack.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This computer-animated film’s video transfer is gorgeous. The colour palette just pops off the screen, whether it be bold primaries or all the shades inbetween. Textures are amazing too, from the fur details on our animal friends to environmental elements from rural farm to big city. Contrast is good and the black levels nice and deep. No evidence of banding or noise. This video presentation gets an A+, a star sticker, and no final exam.

On the audio side of things, you’ll find English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The audio presentation saw how well the video side was doing and rose to the occasion. The Atmos track makes good use of the height speakers, the surround speakers put you in the middle of the madness, and the low-frequency elements, from bass music to moving cows, hits with the right power. Music is bright and dynamic, while dialogue is clear and centred.

The combo pack I reviewed also came with a DVD version of the movie as well as a Movies Anywhere digital download code. Two mini-movies, Super Gidget and Minion Scouts, are joined by an impressive array of extras, including a look at the making of the aforementioned shorts. We get deleted scenes, a look at the process of editing and voice acting, a lesson in how to draw three of the characters, a lesson in making flip book animations, the actors talking about their characters, a look at cast and crew with their pets, a choose your own adventure sort of piece featuring Snowball, a short doc on service animals, instruction on how to throw a pet party, a lesson on massaging your pet, a look at Kevin Hart trying to train a puppy, and two karaoke style videos.

With excellent video and audio presentations, a plethora of extras and a fun story for the family, you’ll want to add The Secret Life of Pets 2 to your home entertainment library.

Aug 13, 2019

Avengers: Endgame Blu-ray review

If you’re one of the handful of people on the planet who didn’t see Avengers: Endgame during its theatrical release, I’ll refrain from saying much about the film except to say that this latest installment of the Avengers story took the audience on an action-packed emotional rollercoaster five years after Thanos destroyed half of the life in the galaxy at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. This epic tale is now available to enjoy at home. I had the chance to review the Blu-ray version, which also comes with a digital download code.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is quite flawless, with no discernible noise or encoding artifacts. The real and CGI elements blend well and detail and clarity — whether we’re talking about textiles, surfaces, facial features or natural environments — is excellent. Black levels are great, low-light scenes have detail and the colour palette across environments and superhero costumes is pleasing. It’s just an all around great presentation.

Moving on to audio, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound track as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Those looking for a Dolby Atmos soundtrack will have to look at getting the 4K release of the film. Unlike many recent Disney releases, this one plays well at reference volume levels and doesn’t need a volume boost to show off its full dynamics. As you’d expect, the soundscape makes full use of your surround speakers and places you in the centre of the action. The low-end frequencies give oomph where oomph is needed. Music is nicely presented and dialogue is clear and centred in the mix. An excellent audio presentation.

The presentation contains so many extras that a second disc just of extra material is included. The first disc contains audio commentary by directors Anthony and Joe Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, as well as an introduction by the two directors. The second disc includes a tribute to the late, great Stan Lee, a look at Robert Downey Jr.’s work in the MCU, explorations of the characters of Captain America and Black Widow, a look at the Russo Brothers’ work on several of the MCU films, a look at the Women of the MCU, an exploration of Thor’s character arc, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will definitely want Avengers: Endgame in their collection. With a thrilling, emotional story, great video and audio, and a good amount of extras, you’ll want this one in your home entertainment library.

Jun 27, 2019

Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection available in a Premium Blu-ray Set on December 3rd

If you or a family member are lamenting the end of Game of Thrones, fear not, as Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection will hit store shelves on December 3rd, 2019.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection

Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection limited-edition collectible set

Avid collectors will want this premium version, a limited-edition set packaged in a wooden shadow box case, featuring beautiful, multi-layered panel designs by Robert Ball that summarize the Game of Thrones story. Each season is represented by a different layer, showcasing iconic characters and memorable moments from the show, all clambering toward the Iron Throne. The set also contains a “Hand of the King” pin clasp, which holds all nine custom plated disc sleeves.

This premium edition’s Blu-rays also feature an exclusive two-part Game of Thrones: Reunion Special hosted by Conan O’Brien. Shot in Belfast in front of an audience, the special features cast members from the final season including Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner and more, as well as previously departed fan-favorites like Sean Bean, Jason Momoa, Mark Addy and others.

Additional bonus content includes all-new deleted and extended scenes, animated histories and lore pieces, fascinating behind-the-scene featurettes, audio commentaries and the documentary featured on DVD in two parts, Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay.

HBO will also release Game of Thrones: Season 8 in a stunning 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Steelbook, and the single season DVD/Blu-ray. Additionally, Game of Thrones: The Complete Series will also be available on DVD/Blu-ray without the collectible packaging. These sets are loaded with extra content and will also be available to own on December 3rd.

Please note, fire-breathing dragons are not included. They kept melting the Blu-rays.

Jun 22, 2019

Cinderella Signature Collection Blu-ray review

Cinderella, Disney’s 1950 animated classic, is now the ninth film to be given the Signature Collection treatment. I had a chance to look at the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo. As with most other Signature Collection releases, the video and audio presentation is the same as the previously released Diamond Edition. The difference lies in the extras, which includes some new content and removes some others.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, just slightly different from the theatrical release’s 1.37:1 ratio. Film purists might notice the pretty complete removal of film grain, but this is probably necessitated by a modern audience used to digital-to-digital transfers. It’s a beautiful transfer. The colour palette is attractive, whether presenting the pop of primary colours or the subtlety of pastel hues. Contrast and sharpness are on point. The edges of the animated line art are crisp and the beautifully painted backgrounds this era of Disney is known for couldn’t look more gorgeous. There really aren’t issues with digital banding or artifacting either. To put it simply, it’s a presentation worthy of Disney’s talented cel animators.

On the audio side of things, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, an English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Film purists will be happy that this release comes with DTS-HD Master Audio version of the movie’s original mono audio mix. Dialogue, music and effects all are clean and crisp despite being in the same mix. Those who want their surround sound to get a bit of a workout will be happy that the team at Disney also gives them a 7.1 surround track and manage to put a 1950 soundtrack into an ambient soundscape.

So, on to the extras, which is where this set differs from the previous Diamond Edition. First off, a DVD version of the disc is included as well as a Movies Anywhere digital code. There are two new extras: an audio commentary comprised of archival discussions by Walt that also features picture-in-picture storyboards and artwork and a short trivia presentation hosted by Ruth Righi and Ava Koelker from Disney’s Sydney to the Max. Removed from the previous edition are extras like a personalized digital storybook called Bibbidi-Bobbidi-You, Tangled Ever After, deleted scenes, a look at songs that didn’t make the cut, a tutorial on digital copies and a look at 3D Blu-ray’s with Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King. Losing these is probably not a big deal. Legacy extras that did make it to the disc include an intro from Diane Disney Miller, a 38 minute making of doc, an alternate opening sequence, a series of featurettes on the animators, storyboards, theatrical trailers, a look at Fantasyland and clips from the Mickey Mouse Club. A handful of other extras are available online.

If you own the Diamond edition, you may want this one in order to get the “commentary” extra with Walt and the storyboards. If you don’t own the previous Diamond Edition, then you will want this version as to call Cinderella an animated classic is an understatement and the film is a must have for lovers of the genre and Disney.

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