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Nov 08, 2022

Planes, Trains and Automobiles 4K review

At this time of the year it’s all about Christmas movies, but John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy that focuses on U.S. Thanksgiving. Neal Page (Steve Martin) is just trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. After a series of events he misses his flight and ends up seatmates on a new flight with Del Griffith (John Candy), a slovenly shower curtain ring salesman. When the flight is diverted to Wichita, they find themselves thrown together and sharing a series of mishaps during their attempts to get home. Martin and Candy are able to mix the comedy and the drama in a way only great comedians can. Paramount is releasing the movie on 4K and I had a chance to take a look.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Like some other Paramount 4K transfers — I’m looking at you Fatal Attraction and Saturday Night Fever — Planes, Trains and Automobiles seems to suffer from issues with grain management. One scene (or even one shot in a scene) the image is razor sharp with a pleasing grain structure and the next digital noise reduction seems to have been used to smooth out the grain resulting in an almost waxy image that appears to have an artificial grain added to it. When the image is great it’s the best the movie has looked but when it’s not …

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish (Latin American) and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono, and Spanish (Spain), German, French, and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The 5.1 soundtrack is recycled from past Blu-ray releases, which like many comedies is front heavy. The dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized and music cues are bright and dynamic. Your surrounds do get some work when the comic action calls for it.

The 4K comes with a digital code and a bonus Blu-ray disc. On the 4K disc, there’s a bunch of legacy extras including a press conference with Hughes, Candy and Martin, a couple of featurettes on Hughes, a tribute to John Candy and a deleted scene. The bonus extra Blu-ray is the real gem. Called Lost Luggage, it features 75 minutes of deleted and extended scenes recently found in Hughes’ archives. There’s also an audition scene from Dylan Baker.

John Hughes. John Candy. Steve Martin. A funny and heartwarming story. This should be a grand slam home run of a recommendation for a movie loved by millions. The video presentation is plagued with the smoothing issues I mentioned above, so it’s not really a huge upgrade over the previous Blu-ray release. If you don’t own it, I’d say the bonus disc with 75 minutes of extra Candy and Martin would be the selling point of this Planes, Trains and Automobiles 4K release.

Nov 05, 2022

Halo: Season One Blu-ray review

Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing Season One of the Paramount+ series Halo on both 4K and Blu-ray. I had a chance to get a look at the Blu-ray version.

Based on the insanely popular video game franchise, the series follows a 26th-century war between the UN Space Command and the Covenant, an alliance of alien races who want to eradicate humanity. It stars Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a genetically engineered supersoldier and Jen Taylor as Cortana, a AI implanted in the Master Chief’s brain to influence his decisions. The series also stars Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Olive Gray, Yerin Ha, Bentley Kalu, Kate Kennedy, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Bokeem Woodbine, and Natascha McElhone.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.00:1 aspect ratio. Facial features, armor and sets have excellent clarity and detail whether they’re real or CGI creations. The colour palette ranges from golds and greens to cool blues. The black levels are deep with details in the shadows. Though there is some occasional noise, it’s a very good transfer.

On the audio side of things, there is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack with subtitles available for English SDH and Spanish. Though there is generally good immersion with the surrounds though the soundtrack does feel a bit subdued at reference levels. The music is clear and dynamic while dialogue is centred and well placed in the mix.

The nine episodes of season one are spread over five Blu-discs. There are several hours of bonus material with each episode getting a piece that includes recaps, fan reactions and cast and crew interviews hosted by Sydnee Goodman. There are also several pieces looking at the characters and production design. The package also includes several collectible character cards.

Halo: Season One comes with excellent video and good audio plus a ton of extras. I haven’t seen the 4K but I imagine that fans of the series and video game will want that version for the higher image resolution.

Nov 04, 2022

Yellowstone: The Dutton Legacy Collection Giftset Blu-ray review

The neo-Western drama Yellowstone, created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, has been a cultural phenomenon spawning both water cooler conversations about the Dutton family and a spin-off, 1883, that tracks the ranch’s origins. Corrupt politicians, corrupt businesses and family chaos have kept people glued to the TV. The original series stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, and Gil Birmingham while 1883 stars Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Sam Elliott, Isabel May, LaMonica Garrett, Marc Rissmann, Audie Rick, Eric Nelsen and James Landry Hébert. To get newer fans up to date — and to extract some more money from collectors — Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing Yellowstone: The Dutton Legacy Collection Giftset Blu-ray. It bundles together seasons 1 — 4 of Yellowstone and 1883 into a decorative cardboard case and adds some Yellowstone coasters for your binge-watching whisky.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfers are presented in a 2.0:1 aspect ratio. They’re really good looking Blu-rays with a clear, sharp image. Details are sharp from facial features and textiles to the interiors and landscapes. The colour palette is well saturated, from the many hues of terrain and foliage, the wide open blue skies, and the muted tones of the ranchers’ clothing. Black levels are nice and deep with detail in the shadows. It’s a great looking collection.

On the audio side, the discs come have an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and English SDH subtitles. The track is heavily favoured to the front with the surrounds used sparingly to add some atmospheric effects and action. The score is dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

Yellowstone: The Dutton Legacy Collection Giftset totals sixteen Blu-ray discs and packages the original seasons in their individual clamshell cases as well as including the aforementioned coasters. There are no digital codes. Each disc contains various episode overviews and behind-the-scenes production featurettes.

If you or someone you love has somehow managed to not yet see Yellowstone, then the Yellowstone: The Dutton Legacy Collection Giftset would be a nice way to get up to date with the show.

Top Gun: Maverick 4K review

It’s been 36 (!) years since Top Gun gave film-goers a shot of high speed, high altitude fun and audiences and critics alike have said that its sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, was worth the wait with a perfect blend of action and poignant moments. A huge success at the box office, the film is now available for your home library with Paramount’s 4K release. I had a chance to take a look.

Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is now a test pilot pushing new plans past their limits. His antics have always seemed to have him on the verge of dismissal, but this time around he’s called back to the Top Gun training facility to prepare a new batch of pilots for a very dangerous mission that will require the skills that Maverick has to teach. One of the pilots, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) is the son of Goose, Maverick’s late radar intercept officer and best friend. Rooster blames Maverick for his dad’s death and the pair frequently clash. The movie also stars Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, and Ed Harris.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio for most scenes and the IMAX aspect ratio of 1.90:1 for action sequences. The video presentation looks amazing with fantastic detail in facial features, environments and textiles. The colour palette and contrast is amazing as well, with bright blue skies, white clouds, and scorching sunlight. The HDR adds to the highlights of fiery explosions and metallic reflections, while the black levels are deep and allow for detail to remain in darker moments and shadows. I’m going to say it again, it looks amazing.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack that folds back to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 as well as Czech, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French Canadian, Italian, Hungarian and Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, and Thai. I’m going to use that word again: the audio on this disc is amazing. The Atmos soundtrack places you in the cockpit and in the middle of every scene with perfection. You subwoofer will rock you with every explosion or knock you back as the jet engines thunder fighter jets through the sky. The score is powerful and dynamic, while dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized. This is the type of movie that people will use to show off their home theatres.

The 4K disc comes with a digital code. Bonus features include featurettes on the flight sequences and training the cast went through, a look at the production complexities of shooting the aviation scenes, a look at Cruise’s love for flying, a piece on the creation of the test vehicle Maverick flew, a 49 minute interview with Cruise at the Cannes Film Festival, and music videos from Lady Gaga and Onerepublic.

I’ve used the word amazing a lot, but the Top Gun: Maverick 4K deserves it. Of course it’s recommended.

Nov 03, 2022

Saturday Night Fever 4K review

Saturday Night Fever is an iconic film that truly transitioned John Travolta from TV sitcom star to big screen leading man. It’s an iconic film that captures the disco era and since its release so many shows and movies have paid tribute to or parodied its iconic scenes. The Bee Gees-led soundtrack was a giant hit but the movie isn’t all white suits and throbbing lights, with a darker side to the story. It’s not every day that you get a gritty dance film with amazing dramatic performances. Paramount has finally released the film on 4K for its 45th anniversary and I had a chance to take a look.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation reminds me of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem where he wrote “And when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.” The movie does have some soft focus and diffused shots and with an excellent transfer it might have made the transition. The movie is razor sharp in some scenes and in others it looks like they took the digital equivalent of sandpaper and smoothed out all the grain. Your head spins as scenes and even individual shots move from crystal clear to waxy. On the bright side, the dance scenes seems to have avoided the ugly stick and the HDR makes the colours look amazing. Black levels are deep and there’s detail in the numerous darker scenes.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack as well as French, German, Japanese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Norwegian, and Swedish. Oddly, the 4K has an issue with audio as well. While the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray from 2017 have the same audio track, the 4K’s is more subdued at reference sound levels.

The Saturday Night Fever 4K comes with a digital code and a copy of the 2017 Blu-ray disc which includes both the theatrical and director’s cut. The only bonus content on the 4K disc is an audio commentary by director John Badham. The Blu-ray contains the audio commentary, some featurettes looking at the production, a dance lesson and a deleted scene.

Saturday Night Fever is a classic movie with an amazing performance by John Travolta that should have received a classic 4K transfer. It’s frustrating that the video presentation swings from excellent to bad and back while the audio can sound thin. I can probably recommend it if you don’t have the 2017 Blu-ray already, but if you own that, this does not present a major upgrade. Travolta’s dancing is amazing but this 4K trips over its own feet.

Wayne’s World 4K review

Paramount is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Wayne’s World with a 4K release. Schwing! I had a chance to take a look.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very good video transfer and if you’re a huge fan of the movie and the 90s nostalgia it brings back, you’ll be thrilled at the upgrade to the visuals. The image has excellent clarity and detail, a realistic colour palette and good black levels and details in the numerous darker scenes as Wayne and Garth explore the nightlife in Aurora, Illinois.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack that folds back to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, as well as French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks.. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Getting an Atmos upgrade is an unexpected touch for a comedy but the additional height channels are used to good effect in certain scenes. Obviously dialogue and music are the focus of this soundtrack and they are both served very well by this mix.

The 4K disc also comes with a digital code. The disc features an audio commentary from director Penelope Spheeris, a look at the production by Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Rob Lowe, and a theatrical trailer.

With excellent audio and video, fans of Wayne’s World will want to pick this 4K up.

Oct 10, 2022

Ray Donovan: The Complete Series DVD review

The Showtime series Ray Donovan ran for seven seasons from 2013 to 2020. The show was supposed to end with an eighth season, but it was abruptly cancelled by network’s new regime when CBS merged with Viacom. After a loud outcry by fans on social media, the powers that be thought it best to offer showrunner David Hollander and chance to wrap the show up with a two-hour movie. Ray Donovan: The Movie premiered on Showtime in January 2022.

Liev Schreiber plays the title character, a “fixer” who makes problems for his celebrity clients go away through various illegal means including bribes, crime scene clean ups and threats. When he’s not making problems go away, he’s devoted to his family, but not so much his wife. And then there’s his dad, Mickey (Jon Voight), recently released from prison. With no intent to reform, his reappearance complicates Ray’s life further. Paramount and CBS Home Entertainment are releasing the series and movie together as a Ray Donovan: The Complete Series DVD set. I had a chance to take a look.

The video for the series and movie is presented in a 16:9 aspect ratio. I’ve mentioned this in previous TV DVD reviews: as a 2000s era HD series it would of course have been nice to see it released on Blu-ray, but the economics of TV home media releases often see them released on DVD only. Still, the release is very good for DVD, with as much detail as the format can handle. The colour palette is pleasing and there are only minor compression artifacts evident here or there.

On the audio side, all seasons and the movie have an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Seasons one and two also have French and Spanish 2.0 tracks while season three has only an additional Spanish 2.0 track. The other seasons and the movie are English only. Seasons one through three have English subtitles, while the remaining seasons and the movie also have English SDH subtitles. Dialogue is clear and centred, music used sounds good, and the surrounds are put to good use for action and ambient sounds.

The 29-disc DVD set is housed in a large plastic case with the DVDs stacked on multiple spindles. The set does not include a digital code. There are several production featurettes and commentaries spread across the seasons, but the set also includes a couple episodes from a few Showtime series: Billions, The Affair, Penny Dreadful, and Happyish.

With very good audio and video for the DVD format, fans of the show or the curious who like to collect will be happy picking up Ray Donovan: The Complete Series on DVD.

Oct 06, 2022

Walker: Season Two DVD review

Jared Padalecki stars in Walker, a reboot of the popular Chuck Norris show Walker, Texas Ranger which aired in the 1990s. Padalecki plays Cordell Walker, a legendary officer in Texas’ investigative law enforcement agency. He’s a widower and a father of two. In the show’s second season, Walker finds himself having to deal with new neighbours, the Davidsons, who have moved back to the ranch next store. This development dredges up a childhood trauma shared between the two families. Series regulars include Lindsey Morgan, Ashley Reyes, Molly Hagan, Keegan Allen, Violet Brinson, Kale Culley, Coby Bell, Jeff Pierre, Odette Annable and Mitch Pileggi. Paramount is releasing Walker: Season Two on DVD and I had an early look.

The first season was initially released on DVD but later on Blu-ray so there’s a chance that Paramount will do that again but just wanted to cover both bases in the market. The DVD video is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s quite a good looking DVD transfer with a pleasing colour palette and as much detail as the DVD format can offer.

On the audio side, the release comes with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and English SDH subtitles. Dialogue is clear and centred and though not totally immersive, the surrounds do provide some extra spacing during action sequences.

The twenty episodes of season two are spread over five discs. The extras consist of some deleted scenes and a gag reel.

As mentioned, Season One was recently released on Blu-ray, so you might want to wait and see if that happens here. If you’re a fan of the show and still on the DVD format, then the Walker: Season Two DVD is a good buy.

Star Trek: Picard – Season Two Blu-ray SteelBook review

In the second season of Star Trek: Picard, our hero (Patrick Stewart) and his companions are trapped in an alternate reality by his old nemesis Q (John de Lancie). The season also stars Alison Pill, Jeri Ryan, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Orla Brady, Isa Briones, Santiago Cabrera, and Brent Spiner. Whoopi Goldberg also appears in her TNG role of Guinan. Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing a limited-edition Star Trek: Picard – Season Two Blu-ray SteelBook. I had a chance to check it out.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image has a great amount of detail in facial features, textiles and environmental surfaces and the prosthetic work looks amazing in this transfer. The colour palette thrives with muted greens and bright exteriors and the black levels allow for detail in the shadow though there is some minor crush. Banding is also present but it and compression artifacts are not a major problem.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, as well as German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The surround channels have action elements moving seamlessly throughout them and the ambient sounds will place you in the environment so well that you’ll apply for a Star Fleet pension. The score is clear and dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix. It’s an excellent audio experience.

The 3-disc set comes with a nice collection of extras, including deleted scenes, a gag reel, and some nice featurettes exploring the characters, props and production. The SteelBook case is black and features black and white images of Picard and Q with the show’s title in gold letters. The rear of the case features a Federation emblem while the inside features a series of highways that echo the appearance of the Federation’s emblem.

A nice, understated collectible case, excellent audio and video, and a good collection of extras make the Star Trek: Picard – Season Two Blu-ray SteelBook an easy pickup for fans of the show.

Oct 05, 2022

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Blu-ray review

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Blu-ray is harmless family film that treads the familiar territory of martial arts master and student. The filmmakers say it’s an homage to Blazing Saddles and Mel Brooks is an executive producer as well as voicing a samurai.

Michael Cera plays Hank, a hound who dreams of being a samurai. His dream comes true when the town of Kakamucho needs a samurai and Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais), a high ranking government official with ulterior motives, sends him there. He figures the cats of Kakamucho will send Hank packing and his thugs can move in, but with the help of a catnip-addicted samurai named Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), Hank works to win the trust of the cats. Other voice talent includes George Takei, Aasif Mandvi, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Hounsou and Michelle Yeoh. Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the movie on Blu-ray and I had a chance to take a look.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The CG animation looks great here with detail in the environmental textures and character. The colour palette ranges from popping primaries to muted earth tones. Black levels are deep with no crushing and the video does not exhibit any signs of compression artifacts.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack as well as French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai. The Atmos track is an unexpected surprise for a lightweight family film, but the height speakers and surrounds really bring the action scenes and atmosphere to life. Dialogue is clear and centred, music is bright and dynamic, and your subwoofer will add some extra oomph to some scenes.

The Blu-ray disc also comes with a digital code. There are three bonus: a discussion of the characters by the cast, a look at the voice recording process and a longer featurette where director Rob Minkoff shows how to draw Hank and Jimbo.

Though Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank isn’t going to be in the hallowed halls of animation classics, it’s a fun film for the family and boasts excellent audio and video.

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