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.
Nov 07, 2018
In Christopher Robin, Ewan McGregor is the adult version of the titular character. Now a manager at a company facing layoffs, Christopher is dealing with a great amount of stress when he gets visited by his honey-loving childhood friend, Winnie the Pooh. Pooh helps him reconnect with his inner child and, more importantly, his family. The story is now available to take home in a Blu-ray combo pack, which includes a DVD and digital download code.
The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is very good and Winnie the Pooh and the gang blend perfectly with their live action surroundings. The detail on these characters is excellent and the fur fabric hairs move independently and realistically. The colour palette is muted, but again details are very clear and the movie just looks charming.
On the audio side, we get an English 7.1 DTS-HDMA soundtrack as well as a 2.0 descriptive audio track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish.
Besides coming with a DVD and digital download code, the extras include looks at how the characters are brought to life, a history of the voice actors who have played Pooh, and a look at the love Walt Disney had for this iconic character.
Great for families, and with good video and audio presentations, Christopher Robin is a good addition to your Disney home library.
Fourteen years after The Incredibles introduced us to the Parr family, Incredibles 2 revisits our favourite superheroes to see what’s up. Apparently, superheroes are on the outs with society and the Parrs find themselves out of a job. When the family matriarch, Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl, gets offered a new gig fighting crime, Bob (Mr. Incredible) must deal with his jealousy and brood of superhero kids. You can take their adventures home now, as Disney released a Blu-ray, DVD, digital download multi-screen edition on November 6th, 2018.
The disc’s 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is released in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Details in this transfer are great, whether they be fabrics, scene environments, or aspects of the characters. The colour palette is bold and vibrant, which befits the whole superhero theme and comic book inspiration. Black levels are nice and deep, especially in night scenes and any digital noise and banding is so brief as to not be worth mentioning. So why the heck did I mention it? All in all, you’ll be pleased with this presentation.
So, your eyes will be pleased, but what about your ears? The Blu-ray comes with multiple soundtracks, including an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and Dolby Digital 2.0 descriptive audio track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. On the subtitle front, there are English, English SDH, French, and Spanish captions. Like many recent Disney titles, the output volume mix is a little lower, which means you’ll have to crank your system up a little more than recent non-Disney discs. Once you’ve done that, the surround speakers are put to good use, though low end frequencies that boost the explosions, punches and superhero antics could use a little more oomph in the mix. The dialogue is centred and clear.
On the extras side, there are extras on the main disc as well as a second bonus disc. The combo pack also comes with a DVD and a digital download code. The main disc includes the animated shorts BAO and Auntie Edna as well as a lesson in animation from director Brad Bird and his commentary track. The bonus disc includes a series of featurettes exploring the making of the film and the short BAO, as well as the production design. There are also deleted scenes, vintage toy commercials, promos and trailers and cast and crew interviews.
When you take a story the whole family can watch and toss in great video and audio presentations, adding Incredibles 2 to your home entertainment library is a no-brainer.
Oct 23, 2018
I was never a big fan of ABBA. At least that’s what I told my friends and myself, but strangely I seem to know a lot of the lyrics and find my foot tapping when they come on the radio. Maybe I have to deal with this, but the therapy can be helped by the Blu-ray release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: Sing-Along Edition on October 23rd, 2018.
The movie’s AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The digitally shot production results in a transfer that is full of crisp details. The colour palette pops off the screen and the ocean water looks particularly beautiful. The video presentation doesn’t exhibit any compression issues and it’s a joy to look at.
On the audio side of things, your ears have a choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. You’d expect that a musical would pay attention to the sound and your expectations will be met. The music and lyrics are crisp and clear and rich and your surround speakers will immerse you in the Greek environment so much that you’ll be checking your credit card bill for airline tickets. In addition to the music, dialogue is also clear and centred.
When it comes to extras, you won’t be disappointed, starting with a DVD copy and a digital download code. There’s a bunch of deleted and extended scenes and songs, about 46 minutes of sing-alongs which offer onscreen lyrics to help you test your vocals, and various featurettes that cover costumes, choreography and cast interviews. There are also a couple of commentary tracks.
With dazzling vistas and toe-tapping numbers presented with an excellent soundtrack, fans of the Swedish pop stars will not be upset adding Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again to their home entertainment libraries.
Oct 15, 2018
When Ant-Man came out in 2015, I found it a nice blast of fresh air. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as the next fan, but I guess Paul Rudd’s comedic energy was a nice addition to the genre. A sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, was out earlier this year and will be released for home entertainment on October 16th, 2018. I checked out the Blu-ray edition.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is great, with sharp details on natural and man-made items and in the computer-generated effects. Skin tones look good, contrast is excellent and the black levels nice and deep. The colour pallete is dazzling and there really isn’t anything to complain about in terms of digital noise or artifacts. All in all, it’s just a stunning visual presentation.
On the audio side of things, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The soundtrack is immersive, making good use of the surround soundscape to put you in the centre of the action. The low-end could use a little more oomph in some of the action scenes, but then again, “oomph” isn’t a scientific term so who’s to say? Dialogue is clear and centred and the musical store has very good clarity and tone. A very enjoyable audio presentation.
As far as extras go, there’s a few things that come with the disc and a few more that can be downloaded when you redeem the included digital code. There’s a director’s intro from Peyton Reed, interviews with the cast and crew about the vibe on set, a look at Evangeline Lilly and her Wasp suit, a piece on Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas, gag reels, some additional featurettes and deleted scenes. Using the download code, you also have access to a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s past decade, the Online Close-Up Magic University and director Peyton Reed.
A gorgeous visual presentation, a very good audio mix, laughs and action. You’ll want to add Ant-Man and the Wasp to your home library.